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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 29 November 2018

"The Great Divorce" by C S Lewis

This is a thought-provoking book on how to be a good Christian written in a very readable and entertaining manner. It is written by the great C S Lewis who also write:
Works of Science Fiction (or as he might have called it scientifiction) which are Christian allegories:

The Narnia books for children (which are also Christian allegories):

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Prince Caspian
  • The Magician's Nephew
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • The Horse and His Boy
  • The Silver Chair
  • The Last Battle
Mediaeval literary criticism (the day job):
CSL imagines a bus trip from the dreary and lonely town of Hell through the sky into Heaven. And he imagines all the excuses the inhabitants of Hell make either not to get on the bus in the first place or to return to Hell after their journey.

His thesis is that in order to enter and stay in Heaven you have got to relinquish your self-centredness. As he says in the Preface: “You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys”

Some people use excuses not to get on the bus:
  • A moment later two young people ... also left us arm in arm. They were both so trousered, slender, giggly and falsetto that I could be sure of the sex of neither, but it was clear that each for the moment preferred the other to the chance of a place in the bus.”
  • Others don’t like the company on the bus.
  • Some don’t think there will be room for them.
The newcomers in Heaven are Ghosts. They are greeted by the more substantial Angels who try to persuade them to stay. The Ghosts who can’t be persuaded include:
  • Those who insist on their rights and don’t want Charity.
  • Those who insist on their own opinions if they feel justified in them. 
  • Those who think that their lives would be improved if the Management changed the system: “What would you say if you went to a hotel where the eggs were all bad; and when you complained to the Boss, instead of apologising and changing his dairyman, he just told you that if you tried you’d get to like the bad eggs in time?
  • Those who are too ashamed to be seen in the company of angels.
  • Artists who are too in love with Art: “If you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you'll never learn to see the country"
  • Mothers who love too fiercely.
  • Those who try to make others sorry for them and use this to manipulate others: “Pity was meant to be a spur that drives joy to help misery. But it can be used the wrong way round. It can be used for a kind of blackmailing. Those who choose misery can hold joy up to ransom by pity.”

The problem is that this means it is very hard to get into Heaven and CSL is worried by this: “If these Solid People were as benevolent as I had heard one of two of them claim to be, they might have done something to help the inhabitants of the Town - something more than meeting them on the plain ... How if this whole trip were allowed the Ghosts merely to mock them?” One answer offered is that “The sane would do no good if they made themselves mad to help madmen.” Another is that the great spirits of the blessed are just too large to squeeze into the narrow and cramped confines of Hell. I'm not sure that either truly address the question.

To enter Heaven CSL says we have to lose our self-centredness:
  • The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven’. ... There is always something they prefer to joy ... Achilles’ wrath and Coriolanus’ grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit and Self-Respect and Tragic Greatness and Proper Pride.
  • Did ye never know a collector of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them?
  • No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.” 
  • There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It's not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels."
  • The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.
  • What we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved.” 

Other great aphorisms include:
  • To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.” with the answer “If that were true, and known to be true, how could anyone travel hopefully? There would be nothing to hope for"
  • "Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.
  • Jesus ... was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he’d lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience.
  • "Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.

But one of the best things about a C S Lewis book are the brilliant descriptions:
  • Time seemed to have paused on that dismal moment when only a few shops have lit up and it is not yet dark enough for their windows to look cheering.
  • My attention was caught by my fellow passengers ... Now that they were in the light, they were transparent ... They were in fact ghosts: man-shaped stains on the brightness of that air.
  • One gets glimpses, even in our country, of that which is ageless - heavy thought in the face of an infant, and frolic childhood in that of a very old man.”
  • The bus was full of light. It was cruel light. I shrank from the faces and forms by which I was surrounded. They were all fixed faces, full not of possibilities but of impossibilities, some gaunt, some bloated, some glaring with idiotic ferocity, some drowned beyond recovery in dreams; but all, in one way or another, distorted and faded. One had a feeling that they might fall to pieces at any moment if the light grew much stronger. Then - there was a mirror on the end wall of the bus - I caught sight of my own.” 
  • If a corpse already liquid with decay had arisen from the coffin, smeared its gums with lipstick, and attempted a flirtation, the result could not have been more appalling.
Biographies about C S Lewis reviewed in this blog include:
November 2018; 118 pages

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