Monday, March 26, 2007

Thy Will Be Done

Moved by a desire to change the subject, I asked why the Solid People, since they were full of love, did not go down into Hell to rescue the Ghosts. Why were they content simply to meet them on the plain? One would have expected a more militant charity.

'Ye will understand that better, perhaps before ye go,' said he. 'In the meantime, I must tell ye they have come further for the sake of the Ghosts than ye can understand. Every one of us lives only to journey further and further into the mountains. Every one of us has interrupted that journey and retraced immeasurable distances to come down today on the mere chance of saving some Ghost. Of course it is also joy to do so, but ye cannot blame us for that! And it would be no use to come further even if it were possible. The sane would do no good if they made themselves mad to help madmen.'

'But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?'

'Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.'
~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, Chapter 9 (1946)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hiking Walton Castle

Thursday 27 March, 1924-I went eastward and had almost begun to despair of ever escaping the residential streets beyond Dial Hill when suddenly as in a vision the whole thing, so to speak, fell to pieces before me. Ahead was a smooth grassed down with a ruined castle on top - Walton Castle they call it. To my right was a long level bank of a wooded hill with a sudden sheer gorge through whose V shape I could see the inland country, flat as a table and blue with distance. I scrambled up the green hill to my left, which is occupied by a golf links and open to all men: that is the one good thing I know of golfers, that they keep stretches of fine country from being spoiled.

After a stiff climb over spongy, rabbitty grass with grey stone showing through here and there, I reached the castle. Its appearance and position are more like a boy's dream of a mediaeval castle than anything I have ever seen. After I had walked all over the shaved turf of the courtyard and been into the roofless keep and watched the clouds hurrying across the circle of open sky at the top, I came out into the wind again and continued my walk on a path which runs along the very top of this long hill, so that I had a good view of the valleys on each side...

Then by road to my left till I struck the coast and began coming homewards across fields that sloped down through gorse to the water's edge. [...] I ran down nearly to the rocks and sat down for a moment amid the gorse. I was out of the wind. The sun grew hot. A big tramp [steamer] was anchored just below me. I have seldom had a better moment...
~C.S. Lewis, All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C.S. Lewis 1922 - 1927, edited by Walter Hooper (1991)

Link of the day: Rent Walton Castle

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No Such Thing as a Bad Impulse, Just Bad Timing

If the Moral Law was one of our instincts, we ought to be able to point to some one impulse inside us which was always what we call 'good,' always in agreement with the rule of right behaviour. But you cannot. There is none of our impulses which the Moral Law may not sometimes tell us to suppress, and none which it may not sometimes tell us to encourage. It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses--say mother love or patriotism--are good, and others, like sex or the fighting instinct, are bad. All we mean is that the occasions on which the fighting instinct or the sexual desire need to be restrained are rather more frequent than those for restraining mother love or patriotism. But there are situations in which it is the duty of a married man to encourage his sexual impulse and of a soldier to encourage the fighting instinct. There are also occasions on which a mother's love for her own children or a man's love for his own country have to be suppressed or they will lead to unfairness towards other people's children or countries. Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the 'right' notes and the 'wrong' ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or set of instincts: it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 2 (1952)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Propriety of Miracles

In other words, there are rules behind the rules, and a unity which is deeper than uniformity. A supreme workman will never break by one note or one syllable or one stroke of the brush the living and inward law of the work he is producing. But he will break without scruple any number of those superficial regularities and orthodoxies which little, unimaginative critics mistake for its laws. The extent to which one can distinguish a just 'license' from a mere botch or failure of unity depends on the extent to which one has grasped the real and inward significance of the work as a whole. If we had grasped as a whole the innermost spirit of that 'work which God worketh from the beginning to the end', and of which Nature is only a part and perhaps a small part, we should be in a position to decide whether miraculous interruptions of Nature's history were mere improprieties unworthy of the Great Workman or expressions of the truest and deepest unity in His total work. In fact, of course, we are in no such position. The gap between God's mind and ours must, on any view, be incalculably greater than the gap between Shakespeare's mind and that of the most peddling critics of the old French school.
~C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Chapter 12 (1947)

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Day with a White Mark

All day I have been tossed and whirled in a preposterous happiness:

Was it an elf in the blood? or a bird in the brain? or even part
Of the cloudily crested, fifty-league-long, loud uplifted wave
Of a journeying angel's transit roaring over and through my heart?

My garden's spoiled, my holidays are cancelled, the omens harden;
The plann'd and unplann'd miseries deepen; the knots draw tight.
Reason kept telling me all day my mood was out of season.
It was, too. In the dark ahead the breakers are only white.

Yet I--I could have kissed the very scullery taps. The colour of
My day was like a peacock's chest. In at each sense there stole
Ripplings and dewy sprinkles of delight that with them drew
Fine threads of memory through the vibrant thickness of the soul.

As though there were transparent earths and luminous trees should grow there,
And shining roots worked visibly far down below one's feet,
So everything, the tick of the clock, the cock crowing in the yard
Probing my soil, woke diverse buried hearts of mine to beat,

Recalling either adolescent heights and the inaccessible
Longings and ice-sharp joys that shook my body and turned me pale,
Or humbler pleasures, chuckling as it were in the ear, mumbling
Of glee, as kindly animals talk in a children's tale.

Who knows if ever it will come again, now the day closes?
No-one can give me, or take away, that key. All depends
On the elf, the bird, or the angel. I doubt if the angel himself
Is free to choose when sudden heaven in man begins or ends.
~C.S. Lewis, Poems, Edited by Walter Hooper, (1964)
(1st published in Punch, August 17, 1949)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

English Literature in the Sixteenth Century

The rough outline of our literary history in the sixteenth century is not very difficult to grasp. At the beginning we find a literature still medieval in form and spirit....Their prose is clumsy, monotonous, garrulous; their verse either astonishingly tame and cold or, if it attempts to rise, the coarsest fustian. In both mediums we come to dread a certain ruthless emphasis; bludgeon-work. Nothing is light, or tender, or fresh. All the authors write like elderly men. The mid-century is an earnest, heavy-handed, commonplace age: a drab age. Then, in the last quarter of the century, the unpredictable happens. With startling suddenness we ascend. Fantasy, conceit, paradox, colour, incantation return. Youth returns. The fine frenzies of ideal love and ideal war are readmitted. Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Hooker--even, in a way, Lyly--display what is almost a new culture: that culture which was to last through most of the seventeenth century and to enrich the very meanings of the words England and Aristocracy. Nothing in the earlier history of our period would have enabled the sharpest observer to foresee this transformation.
~C.S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama, Introduction (1954)


Links of the day: Una and the Lion, Stories from the Fairie Queene by Mary Macleod
Text of The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1596)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fear and Courage

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy's motives for creating a dangerous world--a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.
~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter 29 (1942)

He made a strong resolution, defying in advance all changes of mood, that he would faithfully carry out the journey to Melidorn if it could be done. [...] The silent, purple half-light of the woods spread all around him as it had spread on the first day he spent in Malacandra, but everything else was changed. He looked back on that time as on a nightmare, on his own mood at that time as a sort of sickness. Then all had been whimpering, unanalysed, self-nourishing, self-consuming dismay. Now, in the clear light of an accepted duty, he felt fear indeed, but with it a sober sense of confidence in himself and in the world, and even an element of pleasure. It was the difference between a landsman in a sinking ship and a horseman on a bolting horse: either may be killed, but the horseman is an agent as well as a patient.
~C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, Chapter 14 (1938)

Thursday, March 08, 2007


His hosts seemed to be a long time away, and Ransom fell to thinking of Devine. He felt for him that sort of distaste we feel for someone whom we have admired in boyhood for a very brief period and then outgrown. Devine had learned just half a term earlier than anyone else that kind of humour which consists in a perpetual parody of the sentimental or idealistic cliches of one's elders. For a few weeks his references to the Dear Old Place and to Playing the Game, to the White Man's Burden and a Straight Bat, had swept everyone, Ransom included, off their feet. But before he left Wedenshaw Ransom had already begun to find Devine a bore, and at Cambridge he had avoided him, wondering from afar how anyone so flashy and, as it were, ready-made, could be so successful. Then had come the mystery of Devine's election to the Leicester fellowship, and the further mystery of his increasing wealth. He had long since abandoned Cambridge for London, and was presumably something 'in the city'. One heard of him occasionally and one's informant usually ended either by saying, 'A damn clever chap, Devine, in his own way,' or else by observing plaintively, 'It's a mystery to me how that man has got where he is.'
~C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, Chapter 2 (1938)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bonus Post: The Process of Posting

Someone asked me via email about how I go about choosing entries for the blog, so I thought I'd write a little note explaining my thought process so you can sympathize understand what I do each time I post.

Usually, I sit down to the computer without a clear thought of what the day's quotation should be. I'll thumb through my copy of The C.S. Lewis Index, and pick a topic. Or sometimes I'll find that a particular scene from one of his books has been on my mind (like today's post about Charn) and I'll hunt down the chapter and re-read it to see if I want to quote from it. Often I'll end up reading four or five chapters, and have to remind myself that I need to get back to posting. This is usually interrupted once or twice by a) one of my cats climbing up on the desk and interposing themselves between me and the monitor, or b) one of my children in crisis because they can't find the top they want to wear to school tomorrow.

Once I've chosen my topic, typed in the quotation, and looked up the date of publication, I try to find a suitable image to go with the post. This is generally where I really run off into the weeds. I'll start with one of my favorite royalty-free stock photo sites, try a few different keywords, get side-tracked, start Googling something else, and some time later remember that I'm looking for an image to go with my post. And of course, once I find something I usually can't resist fiddling with it in Photoshop. Today's illustration was from a photo of a temple--I cropped it, took out the figure of a man in the foreground, darkened the sky, applied a bronze filter layer, then added a lens flare to mimic an "old sun". Once I'm finally happy with it, or realize that dinner is burning downstairs, I'll slam it into one of my photobucket accounts (I think I've got four of them now) and insert it into the post.

Last, I push the Publish button, then spend the next 15 minutes re-editing to take out the typo's and wondering why I always forget to do a spell-check.
Post accomplished.

And you wonder why I don't get a post up here every day! :D

One last note: For those of you getting my feed via LiveJournal, I've created a new feed link, with a more descriptive name. Tell your friends! :)

LiveJournal Syndicated Feed: Daily C.S. Lewis.

Cheers, and thanks for the encouraging comments.

P.S. I'm getting so used to typing Lewis's spellings, I used the British form of "sympathise". I had to go look it up on because I can't trust myself to know the difference any more.

Not Exactly

"Was it the Deplorable Word that made the sun like that?" asked Digory.

"Like what?" said Jadis

"So big, so red, and so cold."

"It has always been so," said Jadis. "At least, for hundreds of thousands of years. Have you a different sort of sun in your world?"

"Yes, it's smaller and yellower. And it gives a good deal more heat."

The Queen gave a long drawn "A-a-ah!" And Digory saw on her face that same hungry and greedy look which he had lately seen on Uncle Andrew's.

"So," she said, "yours is a younger world."

She paused for a moment to look once more at the deserted city - and if she was sorry for all the evil she had done there, she certainly didn't show it - and then said: "Now, let us be going. It is cold here at the end of all the ages."

"Going where?" asked both the children.

"Where?" repeated Jadis in surprise. "To your world, of course."

Polly and Digory looked at each other, aghast. Polly had disliked the Queen from the first; and even Digory, now that he had heard the story, felt that he had seen quite as much of her as he wanted. Certainly, she was not at all the sort of person one would like to take home. And if they did like, they didn't know how they could. What they wanted was to get away themselves: but Polly couldn't get at her ring and of course Digory couldn't go without her. Digory got very red in the face and stammered.

"Oh - oh - our world. I d-didn't know you wanted to go there."

"What else were you sent here for if not to fetch me?" asked Jadis.

"I'm sure you wouldn't like our world at all," said Digory. "It's not her sort of place, is it Polly? It's very dull; not worth seeing, really."

"It will soon be worth seeing when I rule it," answered the Queen.

"Oh, but you can't," said Digory. "It's not like that. They wouldn't let you, you know."

The Queen gave a contemptuous smile. "Many great kings," she said, "thought they could stand against the House of Charn. But they all fell, and their very names are forgotten. Foolish boy! Do you think that I, with my beauty and my Magic, will not have your whole world at my feet before a year has passed? Prepare your incantations and take me there at once." [...]

"Perhaps you fear for this Uncle of yours," said Jadis. "But if he honours me duly, he shall keep his life and his throne. I am not coming to fight against him. He must be a very great Magician, if he has found how to send you here. Is he King of your whole world or only of part?"

"He isn't King of anywhere," said Digory.

"You are lying," said the Queen. "Does not Magic always go with the royal blood? Who ever heard of common people being Magicians? I can see the truth whether you speak it or not. Your Uncle is the great King and the great Enchanter of your world. And by his art he has seen the shadow of my face, in some magic mirror or some enchanted pool; and for the love of my beauty he has made a potent spell which shook your world to its foundations and sent you across the vast gulf between world and world to ask my favour and to bring me to him. Answer me: is that not how it was?"

"Well, not exactly," said Digory.

~C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew, Chapter 5, "The Deplorable Word" (1955)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

The Devil Screwtape writes to his nephew Wormwood:

But since your patient has contracted the terrible habit of obedience, he will probably continue such 'crude' prayers whatever you do. But you can worry him with the haunting suspicion that the practice is absurd and can have no objective result. Don't forget to use the 'heads I win, tails you lose' argument. If the thing he prays for doesn't happen, then that is one more proof that petitionary prayers don't work; if it does happen, he will, of course, be able to see some of the physical causes which led up to it, and 'therefore it would have happened anyway', and thus a granted prayer becomes just as good a proof as a denied one that prayers are ineffective.
~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter 27 (1942)