That Hideous Strength – Chapter Fourteen – “Real Life is Meeting”

Goodness occurred and he tasted it. And that was all. (303)

“Real Life is Meeting”

The title of this chapter is in quotation marks in the book. It comes from a book by Martin Buber. (Pointed out to me on this really cool website which makes me question the existence of Mr Bultitude’s Musings.) (Or maybe Lewis met it through a book that dealt with Buber’s book, a 1942 book actually called Real Life is Meeting by JH Oldham.) Despite the regrettable last name, Buber was kind of a neat guy with a great beard. He was an Austrian Jew who studied philosophy. As the Nazis rose to power he fled Europe and settled in Jerusalem where he continued to teach and philosophize? He published a book in 1923 called I and Thou, from which this quote is drawn. The idea deals with the importance of relationships and interactions with others. I haven’t read it and may not even be able to “get it.” So I won’t say anything else about it.


The Objectification of Mark – An unlikely companion – Preparing the lodge – Normal risks of marriage – Impossibly hot – The red lady and dwarfs – Mr Bultitude’s Musings – Escape? – Arrest – An Idea – A remarkable record – The Inner Circle – The Director clarifies some things – Agree with your adversary – Ivy’s trouble continues – In the gooseberry patch


This chapter is hard due to its density. You should really just read the chapter over and over. I’m reminded of a Flannery O’Connor quote: “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.” Hard to beat that. And yet…

Marriage and Sexuality

Perelandra. Venus. That goddess of love. Lewis really plays with the ideas here. I’ve mentioned the planets before. Its a twisting together of the pagan with the Christian which can be syncretistic but I really don’t think it is here. It’s not as though God didnt make the whole world and show himself within it. When a pagan culture recognizes part of God’s revelation in His creation, that’s good. The Christian can point to the same thing that the pagan has been pointing at for years and say, Oh, yes, that’s His handiwork.

Enter Venus, that goddess of love. In Lewis’s imaginings, and probably in pagan culture as well, she is the goddess of love complete, not an empty eroticism, but a fruitful fulfilling loving relationship. This is seen in growth as well as heat (302) as well as in laughter. “the real universe might be simply silly” (302). Love and laughter, fruitfulness and growth, new life. The whole world is fruitful – if creatures stop being fruitful they merely die and are not replaced.

Section 5 (311-314) really hammers this out. This image of Venus, this earthbound Perelandra is “a little like Mother Dimble” (311).  But Jane receives this Perelandra as one unchanged by Maleldil and so she is “demoniac” to Jane. Just as Merlin is of the Earth but submissive, this Perelandra is of the Earth but lacks the submission that is expressed in the life of Mother Dimble. There is a danger and a wildness that received differently than it would be if Jane was a follower of Christ.

All life is sexual, is fruitful, is divided. And that is by design by the One who did the dividing, the creating, the ordering. The Director points out that “what is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it” (313). This is quite consistent with Christ being the groom and the church being his bride. As God made man and woman, a picture of authority and submission, he made the world. The man and his wife is a picture. It is an image of a much greater reality. God is the authority. He came first. The creation submits to him. All of creation is feminine in its submission to the truly masculine God. This is not to say that God is male. It is only to say that God displays perfect masculinity in his authority and leadership. It is our part to submit to him, to display femininity. Of course we do so poorly, so “[we] had better agree with [our] adversary quickly” (313).

God has made a sexual world. Its in the nature of the created order. Its expressed everywhere and Jane is finally seeing that to submit to Him she must, on some level – if possible, if Mark has not already submitted to the dark side – submit to Mark as well. Lewis makes clear that this isn’t the case of all women. Some can bypass the male (312) but they still can’t bypass the masculine. But Jane, married, can bypass neither.

Jane’s Journey

This visit by “Perelandra’s wraith” (314) and her conversation with the Director pushes Jane to a point of conviction. She must submit to the Masculine, to Maleldil. “At one particular corner of the gooseberry patch, the change came” (315). This came as “a kind of sorrow mixed with splendour or both (316).

Jane’s “defenses” against “religion” immediately sprang up. There were three specific types. This reminded me again of Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and how he “gets” temptation. The first was to keep a clear head. Don’t let this conversion sink in. It was an effort to try to avoid letting her conversion “stick.” Best to think about something else. The second was to intellectualize it. She’d had a “religious experience.” Thats very interesting and would help her to understand Donne, and similar poets. The third was to try to return to the “experience” for herself and to please others, to turn the conversion from something objective into something subjective. The merely subjective can be argued away. “But her defences had been captured and these counter-attacks were unsuccessful” (316).

Mark’s Journey

Mark, on the other hand, is being exposed to a nearly constant barrage of what Frost calls “objectivity.” This is misnamed. It isn’t objective at all. Frost is attempting to pull away from Mark any idea, any belief, that he might have that cannot be demonstrated or proved. But that’s only a small part of what is truly “objective.” For next to nothing can really be proved. Most of what we know is unprovable and yet we know it. Right and wrong. Love and hate. Goodness and wickedness. There may be blurry lines at times, there may be greys, but there are always the clear blacks and whites. These things are known and they are objective. And they are known because they have been weaved into our world by our Creator, in a similar manner to the way sexuality has been weaved in.

Interspersed among all this “objectivity,” Mark is getting to know this tramp. This is a man who, I can honestly say, is the most enigmatic figure in the book. I think I’m overthinking him. But consider what the tramp knows – the goodness of food and drink and “baccy” (tobacco). There is no pretense with this man except to keep the ruse up – a ruse he doesn’t fully understand – and to keep the food and drink coming. The tramp is so anti-intellectual that he grounds Mark in reality – not Frost’s pseudo-reality.

So Mark becomes “a member of a ‘circle’ as secret and as strongly fenced against outsiders as any he had dreamed of” (310).

The interaction between Mark and the tramp is also the most comical section of the book.

“I got a plan”

“What is it?”

“Ah,” said the man winking at Mark with infinite knowingness and rubbing his belly.

“Go on. What is it?” said Mark.

“How’d it be,” said the man, sitting up and applying his left thumb to his right fore-finger as if about to propound the first step in a philosophical argument, “how’d it be now if you and I made ourselves a nice bit of toasted cheese?”

“I meant a plan for escape,” said Mark.

“Ah,” replied the man. “My old Dad now He never had a day’s illness in his life. Eh? How’s that for a bit of all right? Eh?”

“It’s a remarkable record,” said Mark. (309)

The entire interaction between these two, it elicits many a belly laugh.

But it was Frost himself that helped Mark. His path was very different from Jane’s and yet lead to the same place, the Source.

The knowledge that his own assumptions led to Frost’s position combined with what he saw in Frost’s face and what he had experienced in this very cell, effected a complete conversion. All the philosophers and evangelists in the world might not have done the job so neatly. (293)

I can’t help but feel this is at least somewhat autobiographical for Lewis. Still, I think Mark’s conversion is only complete inasmuch as he has completely left Belbury behind. He has begun to grasp Truth but he has not yet submitted to Maleldil. Again, this seems autobiographical – if Lewis’s Surprised by Joy is to be believed.

Real Life is Meeting

I just can’t get over this phrase. And I don’t want to put words in Lewis’s mouth but I can’t help thinking that he may be talking about conversion. Real life is meeting God. Only in meeting God can you truly meet others, truly meet yourself, truly meet the world around you. It is only there that you are free to really be who you are – made in His image and glorifying him purposefully. It reminds me of a line from Perelandra – I will not look it up now – “Only Maleldil sees any creature as it really is.” It reminds me of Orual in Til We Have Faces finally taking down her veil, her mask, and really meeting and really living. I don’t think this is what Buber meant when he wrote but I think Lewis liked the phrase and made it his own.

Or maybe I’m just crazy.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Thirteen – They Have Pulled Down Deep Heaven on Their Heads

Their own strength has betrayed them. They have gone to the gods who would not have come to them, and pulled down Deep Heaven on their heads. Therefore, they will die. (291)


The Magician and the Pendragon – Talking birds – “Three questions, if you dare” – Next steps at Belbury – The company meet Merlin – Jane’s head – Dimble’s musings – Old things – “A wonderful woman” – Planning


Marriage and Sexuality

Everything in this chapter, save one page in section 2, is from the viewpoint of the company at St Anne’s, so Jane plays in here quite a bit. We also get Merlin’s view on some things, a decidedly pre-modern view.

While Merlin and Ransom are testing each other there is a series of three questions. The first regards the identity and implications of “Sulva.”

Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half of her orb is turned towards us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would he be who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her further side. On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place. (271)

There’s a lot in this paragraph. I wouldn’t get it all if I tried. So I will just hit an overview and a couple of points. Medieval cosmology is key here. Under the medieval world view, earth is fallen and has “our curse.” They understood the other planets to orbit the earth, the closest being the Moon (which actually does orbit the earth). The Moon lay on the border of the curse. The side facing us was dead, marked by our curse. The opposite side, which faced what we call “space” or what is above called “Deep Heaven” – and at other times in the Ransom cosmology is called the Fields of Arbol. So the Moon is split – half good and half bad. (Filostrato has previously mentioned this dual-natured moon (173) though his understanding is a little bit twisted.)

So Ransom is describing the Moon and the effects of the curse within our “sphere.” The moon’s orbit is the border of our sphere. The second half – beginning “On this side…” – describes people on earth, our fallen or cursed people. We are focused on self, worried about equality and such. We don’t give ourselves to each other – even in marriage. This is THE relationship – when two become one flesh. This should be where love is most manifest and instead is where selfishness is most manifest. The marriage relationship is the place for sexuality to be lived out in its fullest expression – in fruitfulness. But alas. We hate fruitfulness. What God called good and told us to do – be fruitful and multiply – we have decided is bad.

We still want sex, yes, but we want to use it for self-satisfying eroticism instead of for producing the fruit that God intended. Our marriages are cold because we only care about ourselves. Our wombs – our marriages – are barren, fruitless. We embrace a form of the sex that God gave us but not sexuality in all its beautiful fruitfulness. We are “dainty” or delicate in our sex. We don’t want the real thing in all its fruitfulness; we only want to feeling. For some it is the orgasm. For some it is the closeness. Wanting only the orgasm seems more crass, and may be less noble, than wanting the closeness, the “oneness” that sexuality can produce. But why reject the fruit?

Lewis, at the time of writing THS, was “pre-pill.” Oral birth control wasn’t invented until the early ’50s. He saw the future, the “liberation” of women from the fruitfulness of sex. He saw the hatred of that fruitfulness. Lewis was wading into the edge of this and we are swimming in it. (Now I don’t want to condemn oral birth control pills categorically. They have place – and that is assuming they aren’t abortifacient. I guess that remains to be seen. Its grey enough that I wouldn’t recommend it, but also grey enough that I wouldn’t categorically reject it. And there are a lot of uses for the same medicines to do things beside preventing the birth of children.) The “pill” has come to represent the eroticism of sex without the fruitfulness, which is a very hurtful understanding of it. The pill itself is not evil. If it disappeared tomorrow we would still have the sin.

This passage is calling us back to the fruitfulness of sex, calling us to love the fruitfulness, to see fruitfulness as a gift. The whole world is fruitful. Life is fruitful. Without reproduction of organic life, all life loses its meaning. Look at other visions, other contemplations of this in literature. Consider PD James’s Children of Men where mankind completely ceases to be fruitful. Consider the fallout from the end of the fruitfulness of the plant kingdom in McCarthy’s The Road. All life is fruitful. God made it that way. We ought not turn against it.

More could be said of this paragraph, but I’m moving on. I think I hit the main points. (Then I’ll come back to this in three years and wonder what I was thinking.)

There are a couple more things I want to hit on though while in this category. The first is really in line with the idea of fruitfulness above. This shows up again when Merlin wants to execute Jane for her willful unfruitfulness. The conversation runs of the be bottom of 275 to midway down 276. I will quote only this short section:

Of their own will they are barren: I did not know till now that the usages of Sulva were so common among you. (276)

I’m certain that willful barrenness predates the actual time that Merlin may have lived (if he was an actual historic person) because even the ancient Egyptians pursued it. But I guess it was less common in 5th century Britain (England) than in the 1940s. Merlin found it scandalous, but deserving death? I would point only to the Old Testament episode involving Judah’s son Onan and his relationship with Tamar. (You might call it a marriage.) Is it wrong of Merlin to think Jane has forfeit her life because of her willful barrenness? I don’t know. It seems so. But all sin is serious. All sin is deserving of death. Ransom explains that she is “like all of us a sinner.” Of course we all deserve that ultimate penalty for our sin. To single Jane out for this sin seems harsh. I will with-hold judgement. Lewis seems to with-hold it: “We’ve all been imagining that because he came back in the Twentieth Century he’d be a Twentieth Century man. Time is more important than we thought, that’s all” (279).

And finally Dimble with his wife: they’re just great. Two people who have been married for years, have grown together and yet are still each unique. They’ve come to dance in a way that few of us will ever know. “His wife waited as those wait who know by long experience the mental processes of the person who is talking to them” (280). “‘Do you know,’ said Dimble, ‘I think you are a wonderful woman.'” (283).

White Magic?

There is a lot of talk in this chapter of older things, things that are of the spiritual realm but aren’t, strictly, for God or against Him. Cecil Dimble is behind much of this while speaking to his wife. Since “good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse” (281) there was a time when there was magic done that wasn’t, strictly speaking, good, but also wasn’t bad. When Merlin lived the first part of his life, there were more “Neutrals knocking about” (281). So Merlin practiced magic that was in between good and bad. Such in-between doesn’t exist – or there is much less of it – in the 1940s when the book is set. But Merlin is still acquainted with it. It has either gone good or bad, or else has sort of fallen asleep. Such reminds me of the sleeping Ents of Tolkien lore. Dimble compares this type of marriage to polygamy, morally (282). Maybe it used to be OK but now its unacceptable.

Ransom also speaks of Merlin as “one whose mind is opened” (288) though not a “black magician.” He needs a man experienced in magic but not the black arts. Its all very vague and somewhat troubling. I guess you could say it works in the book. But the moral implications are questionable. It may be akin to the witch of Endor. It is, however,  consistent with the Authurian legendarium in which Merlin turns Arthur into different animals in order to teach him wisdom. Not wicked but not wholly Christian either.

Medieval Ideas

I’ve already discussed the Moon above. That is very medieval. There are a few other ways that Merlin reflects Medievalism as well. One is his insistence that they get help from different authoritative figures. He mentions the King of England (289), the church (289), foreign Christian princes (290) and finally powers beyond Christendom (290). In The Discarded Image, Lewis explains that the Medievals put everything into a hierarchical structure. A lot of this, he says, was based in the writing of someone we refer to as Pseudo-Dionysius.

Secondly, the Medievals allowed for all kinds of angelic beings. Merlin also brings this up. Previously (p29) Dimble had referred to Merlin as a “devil’s son.” Now we have Merlin saying “I am not the son of the Airish Men” (289). By this he means the spiritual beings that aren’t bound to earth, nor are they welcome in heaven. In this Ransom Cosmology that would probably be the eldils. The Medievals would think of them as something like spirits, part good, part bad. They are who was spoken of as the “powers of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). You might call them fairies. Lewis calls them the Longaevi in The Discarded Image.

I have no great point to make regarding this hierarchy and these “Airish Men.” I just want to point out Lewis’s heavy use of the Medieval Worldview. He certainly appreciated and respected their culture, though he didn’t necessarily consider their ideas correct.

The Planets

Just a couple things here. Several mentions of planets: Lurga/Saturn, Perelandra/Venus, Viritrilbia/Mercury, Mars/Malacadra. There is also the mention of Ransom and Merlin coming together like “two drops of quicksilver” (275). Quicksilver is also called Mercury – the element and the planet/Oyarsa Mercury’s representation on Earth. Lewis is laying down threads that will be woven together later.

And I love how Lewis describes Merlin and Ransom as “the man who had been dug oup out of the earth and the man who had been in outer space” (275). Heaven and earth have come together. Merlin’s earthiness is his essence.

No mention of bacon in this chapter though. Sad.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Twelve – Wet and Windy Night

It is idle to point out to the perverted man the horror of his perversion: while the fierce fit is on, that horror is the very spice of his craving. It is ugliness itself that becomes, in the end, the goal of his lechery; beauty has long since grown too weak a stimulant. (265)

The chapter is merely the tightening of the screw, everything is ramping up. The drama is on its way to 11, so to speak.


The hunt – Stone debriefs the Deputy Director – A simple medium – The horseman – Mark under arrest – Conviction – Objectivity – The cat and the bear – Two visitors – First contact – Attack on Mark


Sexuality and Marriage

Overshadowing this chapter is Lewis’s idea that women ought not be army combatants. This was not a new idea that Lewis was putting forth. It was and is a very old idea that Lewis has re-asserted. It is present in his Chronicles of Narnia as well. It is only explicitly  hinted at in this chapter, though it is demonstrated throughout. At one point Mrs. Denniston remarks on her desire to be “out in it” (259) with her husband and Dimble and Jane. Though she was not allowed to be on the front lines – as it were. Jane, however, was required; there was really no other way since she alone had the “vision” that gave them their clue.

Then later in the chapter Mark has finally entered the fight against Belbury “with Jane and with all she symbolised. Indeed, it was he who was in the front line: Jane was almost a non-combatant…” (265). I’m not sure what to say about the idea that Jane was “almost a non-combatant.” She’s out traipsing through the mud, looking for Merlin. And she is in danger. Is this sloppy writing on Lewis’s part or is it merely Mark’s limited viewpoint? I’m inclined to think it the latter.

Recall that Lewis was on the front line during the first World War. He very well knew the horrors of combat.

There is a short discussion on lust and other sin on 265 which I will revisit when I write about temptation below. There is also a strange and mercifully short exposition on animal love/friendship and how it compares to human on 258. I’ll just let that be. I think the book could do without it. Did this Lewis guy not have an editor?


Mark seems to have finally taken the step. He has at least aligned himself against Belbury. Now, that doesn’t automatically put him in good with Maleldil. (See McPhee for evidence.) But a man like Mark would not oppose Maleldil on McPhee’s principles. With Jane (taking similar steps) on his side, it seems turning from Belbury is a victory.

Still there are temptations to turn back. “An attack,” as it is described. The macrobes, the fallen eldils, are certainly playing a role. Frank Peretti might call this “spiritual warfare.”

Mark finally thinks he has found the innermost circle…

For here, surely at last (so his desire whispered to him) was the true inner circle of all, the circle whose center was outside the human race – the ultimate secret, the supreme power, the last initiation. The fact that it was almost completely horrible did not in the least diminish its attraction. (257)

… and it seems he rejects it. He wavers later in the chapter, but again rejects Belbury. But it stumbles him. It makes him wonder how much he can hold out against.


I think Lewis is good on temptation. I think his Screwtape Letters prove that. Not my favorite of his work. A great conceit, to be sure, but it drags on so, like most modern cinematic comedies. Still, Lewis seems to have great insight into how people think and what brings them down. Even when his works may display a striking ugliness – and even falseness – on the nature of God, they often are quite insightful on the nature of man. (Til We Have Faces would be a prime example.)

The lead-quote of this article (above) addresses temptation and the truly dark heart of man. People love darkness, love sin, love twisted wickedness. That is where much of our temptation comes from. Temptation can be from without and is no less temptation but so often it is birthed from our desire for the unholy.

He uses lust as an example of temptation, which I think is fine – and probably the easiest – but he doesn’t limit temptation to lust, to some type of misplaced or twisted sexual desire.

What Lewis says above is so obvious and yet very easily missed until its pointed out. We sin because we love sin and as long as we see the ugly thing as desirable it does little good to point out its ugliness. So, its ugly, and its what we want. Its true with sexual sin but also very true with pride and self-aggrandizement. Of course I want to be seen as important, as right, as true and good, because that’s exactly what I am. Except we aren’t. Only Christ is any of those things, and guess what – he’s not busying himself pointing that out. A striving for equality, as Lewis has already shown, is not his goal.

God’s Nature.

This irked me a little and maybe wrongly. Of course I think I’m right, but I’d be wise to listen to others.

God is often thought of as vindictive and harsh in the Old Testament but loving and gentle and forgiving in the New Testament. I disagree. I think he is very gentle in the Old Testament. Why did he let Adam and Eve live and proclaim that the serpent would one day be crushed? How was that harsh and vindictive. I wouldn’t have done it. I would have created a hell for those two and left them there. I thank God that he is merciful, longsuffering and forgiving. He’s not like me. I pray that I would become more like him. The whole idea that God’s nature changed is false and it bothers me that people portray him in that way. I don’t think Lewis is above error – not even close. And I think his view of God as portrayed in the OT is slanted in the way I described it above. Some of his writings in Reflections on the Psalms are very problematic, at least. Which brings me to this passage from THS:

“Do you know,” said Ivy in a low voice, “that’s a thing I don’t quite understand. [The eldils/angels] are so eerie… But I don’t feel like that about God. But He ought to be worse, if you see what I mean.”

“He was, once,” said the Director. “You are quite right about the powers. Angels in general are not good company for men in general, even when they are good angels and good men. It’s all in St. Paul. But as for Maleldil Himself, all that has changed: it was changed by what happened in Bethlehem.” (259)

Just a few observations here:

Regarding Ivy’s observation that God “ought to be worse.” I assume she means because God is Holy, like really Holy, like He is the source of Holiness. If the angels are holy, its because He made them that way. Habakkuk tells us he’s too pure to look at sin. Isaiah saw God in a vision and pronounced himself “undone.” Samson’s father thought he would die, as sure as the sun rises, because he had seen the angel of the Lord. And he was not alone in scripture in thinking like this. And consider Uzzah. Holiness, man. Holiness.

Ransom’s words seem to say that God’s nature changed. This is something I cannot accept. God’s nature did not change at the time of the Incarnation. But our understanding of Him did change.  We saw Him more fully than we previously had. Before that, we had seen Him in His creation, in His Law and in His direct messages through the prophets. These are incredible revelations of God. But they are incomplete. And without seeing Him in Christ Incarnate, we do not see him completely. And even now I would not say that we see him completely, but as completely as our infinite minds can see in the Infinite God.

It’s hard for me to know exactly how Lewis wanted us to take this. And I think it likely he wanted us to take it with a little bit of ambiguity. Because he was great with words. So he might be saying something problematic here, or maybe he’s being very helpful. Regardless of his intent, we can be helped by stopping to think about the Incarnation and how much of a gift it truly is. How much does he teach us in that way! And do we deserve it? Certainly not. I would venture to say that if it weren’t for the Incarnation being part of His plan (and how does God experience time?) then He never would have promised to crush the serpent.

Lastly I just love how he refers to the Incarnation: “what happened in Bethlehem.” Its the most monumental moment of all human history: Oh, you remember that one time, that thing that happened in Bethlehem? Yeah that. Pretty cool, huh?


Lewis says a lot about the planets and draws from pagan thought. I’ve mentioned that before. I don’t think this is on that level, but I liked the way he threw Orion in. “It had turned into a fine night: Orion dominated the whole sky” (247). They were hunting after all.

And this last quote. Any quote that mentions bacon is OK with me. And it was so funny.

“Whoever heard of trying to make bacon out of a bear?”

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Eleven – Battle Begun

His “scientific” outlook had never been a real philosophy believed with blood and heart. It had lived only in his brain, and was part of that public self which  was now falling off him. (244)


Stumbling into the dark – Stumbling into religion – A tramp – What to do about Mark – A withering frost – Embraced – Mark takes a look – Enter Frost


Marriage and Sexuality

The game is afoot. The time for action has arrived. Thus, there is less exposition in these last chapters than has been previously. As such, there is little on marriage or sexuality. At its core, THS is a fictional narrative hashing out the ideas of his essay, The Abolition of Man, with a discussion of sexuality thrown in and set against a reimagined version of the medieval worldview. It is the ideas of Abolition that take the lead later in the book.

We see Jane has not thought much of Mark these last few days, because those thoughts “aroused feelings of pity and guilt” (231). Pity because Mark was empty and she knew it and she felt sorry for him, pitied him. And guilt because she sees its been partly her fault for not respecting him and not loving him.

Mark on the other hand, thinking his life will soon come to an end as a punishment for killing Hingest, a crime of which he is totally innocent, believes that his death is all the better for Jane. Good for her, he thinks. She’ll be free to grow and thrive even. She was someone “who could enjoy things for their own sake” (245). Marks longs for his wife, his other half, bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.

She seemed to him, as he now thought of her, to have in herself deep wells and knee-deep meadows of happiness, rivers of freshness, enchanted gardens of leisure, which he could not enter but could have spoiled. (245)

Well.. I dont know if you say this reflects true love. But you can’t say definitively that it doesn’t. I’ll leave it there.


Jane finds herself finds herself traipsing through the mud on a dark and rainy night, searching for Merlin the magician. This is all in support of some creatures (?) called eldils and the bidding of a great Authority known as Maleldil. This is what could be called “the obedience of faith.” Jane does not really stop to consider whether Maleldil “might be the reality behind what she had been taught at school as “religion,” she had put the thought aside” (231).

We see Jane submitting to an Authority she cannot prove even to the point of risking her life. It is hard to say this is not a “religious” act or an act of “faith.” Jane, though she doesn’t fully realize it, is becoming a true follower of this divine Character that makes major claims on our lives.

Because, really, it now appeared that almost anything might be true… Maleldil might be, quite simply and crudely, God. There might be life after death: a Heaven: a Hell. The thought glowed in her mind for a second like a spark that has fallen on shavings, and then a second later, like those shavings, her whole mind was in a blaze.

This, I think, is the moment – if one could say there is “a moment” – of transformation for Jane. This blaze is what we, the readers, have been waiting for.


Meanwhile Mark has sunken into despair. His life is over. He is sorry he’s hurt the only real friends and family he’s ever known (244-245). He realizes the error of his way, the error of his whole life – always only caring to be part of the “in-crowd.” Where did it begin? “Was there no beginning to this folly? Had he been utter fool all through from the very day of his birth? Even as a schoolboy…” (243). But will this turn for Mark’s salvation or his doom?

At the end of the chapter when we meets Frost once again, he can no longer understand how he could have possibly ever trusted him or found him anything but objectionable. Mark is at least starting to want good things – his wife – and hate bad things – Frost.

Wither Weirdness

I’ve mentioned Wither Weirdness before. Such odd descriptions of the man. Appearing everywhere. Is he a ghost (210)? Now we have his conversation with Frost. I admit I dont know what to make of this. It seems he is being controlled by an outside, or inside, source. There are his vague eyes, his odd expression – almost as if there is something inside him mimicking actual human expression. It is really not unlike the Un-man of Perelandra.

The conversation between Wither and Frost has them oddly, almost automatically, gradually moving toward each other until they are close (239), now touching , now even embracing (240):

…with a sudden swift convulsive movement the two old men lurched forward towards each other and sat swaying to and fro, locked in an embrace from which each seemed to be struggling to escape. And as they swayed and scrabbled with hand and nail, there arose, shrill and faint at first, but then louder and louder, a cackling noise that seemed in the end rather an animal than a senile parody of laughter. (240)

Very strange.  And like I said, I don’t know quite what to make of this. It seems they are being controlled by an unseen spiritual force. But it is still just weird.


“Maleldil… whom the Director obeyed, and through him the whole household, even MacPhee” (231).

This reminded me of New Testament descriptions of households coming to faith and obeying the Lord. Even MacPhee, who claims to be a total skeptic, not believing in these spiritual beings, ends up obeying them, because of the head of the household, the Director.

How much more to fathers in our day and age need to obey the Lord, and our households along with him?

Head and Heart

The article’s lead quote above ties into Lewis’s Abolition of Man quite well. Section 1 of that essay is called “Men Without Chests.” He describes a man as having a “belly” representing the animal and the appetites – the visceral man; a head representing the intellect and spirit – the cerebral man. But these are mediated by the “Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment” (CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man, Harper Collins 2001, p 25). The chest then is the seat of conviction which moderates between the two and rules over them. Intellectuals are “Men without Chests.”

As above, Mark had never held his beliefs in his blood or his heart – one could say in his chest. It had always been merely the brain, intellect, paired with his desire to be “in.” And that’s no way to live. I consider the heart to be the organ of conviction which is, I think, consistent with Lewis’s description. I know I got the idea from him, though I’m not 100% sure he described it using the word conviction. Conviction is a firmly held belief or truth-claim that drives one on. Al Mohler says that convictions are “foundational beliefs that shape who we are and establish our beliefs about everything else. Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip” (Al Mohler, Conviction to Lead, Bethany House Publishers, 2012, p21)

Mark lacks any such belief, any conviction at all. Or at least he has. Maybe, like the Grinch, his heart has grown three sizes.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Ten – The Conquered City

Your revolver in your hand, a prayer on your lips… (225)


The Mystery of the Missing Wallet – Informal Accusations – Momentous decision – The presence of a lady – Ultimatum – Escape – Spectral? – At the Pub at Courthampton – Empty home – A new man – Interview with a college professor – Enlightenment – Barganing – Apprehension – Dimble – A new dream – Plan of action – Language herself – Many partings


Marriage and Sexuality

Very little in this chapter. We see Mark take an actual interest in the well-being of his wife. There is also Wither cautioning Mark about how he speaks “in the presence of a lady” (208) which happens to be the Fairy. She’s not one to consider herself “a lady.” Chuckle-worthy but little more here.

Mark’s Journey

This chapter commences with Mark being non-accused by Wither and the Fairy of murdering William Hingest, who you may recall met an untimely fate just as he was preparing to leave Belbury. Of course Wither and the Fairy know perfectly well of Mark’s innocence. The evidence was planted – if they even went to that much trouble – so that they would have something on Mark to persuade him to bring his wife in. They obviously know Jane has this ability to “see” things, and they want it. (And they may not even know why they want her, at least the Fairy may not.)

Mark is rightly indignant at this accusation. And we know he’d never have the ambition to commit murder. Further, he rightly realizes this is a police matter, a real police matter. A crime like murder should not be left to the institutional police. All of these appropriately rankles his feathers. This is good. Mark is taking some steps in the right direction – not necessarily a straight line but generally in the right direction. “He’s getting warmer.”

He comes to a somewhat appropriate conclusion about Wither “Of course, that was the way Wither managed things: he liked to have something hanging over everyone. It was only a way to keep him at Belbury and to make him send for Jane” (214). But Mark consider’s this manipulation an excuse for Wither, not another reason to distrust him.

He works all his frustration up into a reason to be mad at Dimble. Typical. His conversation with Dimble is quite remarkable. The whole conversation wounds his pride. But he does come to a serious moment where he strongly considers leaving the NICE and going with Dimble. But he’s not willing to take that step. He needs to think it over. Dimble warns him there may not be another chance but Mark does not heed this warning and instead goes out for some whiskey and is promptly arrested by the NICE for the murder of Hingest.

I would say this almost certainly will show Mark the error of his ways and birth in him some remorse. But will that lead him toward fruitful repentance or rotten bitterness? Lets trust Lewis on this one.

As Mark is on his way to speak to Dimble, Lewis describes him as feeling that he’s “a different man” (214). Lewis says that from here on, he would be many different men, all “skidding violently” at war with each other. Finally he would “begin to be a person.” This seems hopeful, and I like the way Lewis describes it. What has he been until this point? Not a person? In some ways a person, but certainly not a man. He’s taken no responsibility for himself or for others around him. He’s only been trying to get “in” and he doesn’t even know why.  The paragraph on pp 220-221 illustrate these different people within him push, pulling him in different directions.


Dimble also is somewhat at war with himself, questioning himself, asking if he was right in his conversation with Mark or was he just trying to “hurt and humiliate” (221). His words were harsh at times, stern, indignant and angry. But he meant well. Still Dimble wonders if there is a “whole Belbury” inside of him. I think this illustrates the Romans 7 man quite well. We always have a war within us, between the flesh and the Spirit. If we are in Christ the Spirit wins out, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t trouble getting there. Christ himself struggled, though not sinfully, in going to the cross. How much more will fallen man struggle and in such a sinful manner. We will never be sinless this side of glorification. Nor will we ever fully know ourselves. As Lewis points out in Perelandra, “only Maleldil sees any creature as it really is.” (Perelandra, 173).


In Dimble, Mark meets for the first time real actual indignant anger. Not the whining, the back-biting, the puny complaints that he has known in academic life and at Belbury. I found this quite interesting. Anger itself is not wrong, but often our expression of it is. In Dimble, anger was perfectly righteous, though we can doubt, as Dimble does, that his expression of it matched that righteousness. Just wait til Mark meets actual Love.


I’ve mentioned the planets before. Feel free to check out Lewis’s poem on the planets paying attention to Mercury. Mercury or Hermes was a messenger god. He was fast and he spoke. Those were two of his most important traits. Of course the transition metal Mercury (Hg) gets its name from this god. It is liquid at room temperature. It moves, divides, comes back together. Lewis’s description (225-226) of the Old Solar language that Dimble speaks and his association with the planet Mercury is noteworthy. It fits the Ransom Trilogy cosmology – blending the medieval worldview with modern astronomy and Ransom’s travels.

For this was the language spoken before the Fall and beyond the Moon and the meanings were not given to the syllables by chance, or skill, or long tradition, but truly inherent in them as the shape of the great Sun is inherent in the little waterdrop. This was Language herself, as she first sprang at Maleldil’s bidding out of the molten quicksilver of the star called Mercury on Earth, but Viritrilbia in Deep Heaven. (226)

He also describes the tongue as sounding “like castles” (225).

The Wanderer

I like that post-apocalyptic U2-Johnny Cash song, The Wanderer. One line states, “I went out walking with a Bible and a Gun/The word of God lay heavy on my heart/I was sure, I was the one.” I like that imagery. The lead quote of this article reminded me of it.


One criticism that gets leveled at Lewis, with reason, is that he was a Universalist. Universalism teaches, basically, all roads lead to God. A line in this chapter brings the conversation up:

“He always takes you to have meant better than you knew” (227).

It reminds me of the portion of Lewis’s The Last Battle where some of the people who followed a different god than Aslan are still welcomed into “Aslan’s country.” The logic is that the devotion and goodness they showed to Tash is meant toward Aslan instead. Others have sought to answer the question of Lewis’s belief including Doug Wilson here. I appreciate his perspective. Some are less… forgiving.

Lewis deals with this question in some of his other work, including Mere Christianity. He states that people are saved only in the name of Jesus. Lewis denied Universalism, but there is a difference between that and being “Inclusive.” And Lewis admired certain aspects of paganism.

I’m not going to hash it all out here. It has been hashed before by smarter people than me (see the Wilson link above, for an example.) I will only say that inasmuch as one may take these writings of Lewis to believe that there is a salvation apart from Christ, that is wrong. The only thing that gets you Christ is Christ. I do not think Lewis thought there were other ways to God. Though I’m happy to say that some of his writing is imprecise and points to that possibility.


That Hideous Strength – Chapter Nine – The Saracen’s Head

“If you two quarrel much more,” said the Director, “I think I’ll make you marry one another.” (197)


Jane sees the Head – Mark’s reaction – The morning after – Mark’s letter interrupted – the Fairy strikes – DD? – Mark makes a break – Foiled! – Talking with McPhee – A brief summation of parts one and two – Meeting of the company – Merlin – A junction between two kinds of power


Marriage and Sexuality

The lead quote above just kills me. CS Lewis was not married when he published THS and wouldn’t be for some years later (15ish). But it would appear he had eyes in his head and saw that married people fuss at each other. And why not? We are all sinners after all. Time and sanctification (mostly sanctification but that takes time) changes the amount of quarreling, the object of the quarreling, and the nature of the quarreling, but it does not eliminate it.

This passage reminds me of a passage out of Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy:

Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.

Lewis takes a high view of marriage and sexuality in THS, but that does not stop him from poking fun at those things from time to time, in a good-natured way.

On a more serious note, we see Mark struggling along. We’ve already established that neither Mark nor Jane loved each other very much at all (87), that they each predominantly loved themselves and wished to be admired. (And who can’t see him or herself in that picture?)

Now we have Mark, seeking to write to Jane… about what, exactly? He wanted her to come to Belbury, because that’s what the NICE wanted. He considered it a matter of life and death – his own. He seems afraid that they may just kill him if he fails to get Jane. But as he tries to write to Jane, he wonders what they would want Jane for. He found the letter “almost impossible” to write. He wanted Jane to come for his own sake but worried about her safety and well-being at Belbury.

Formless fears stirred in his mind. And Jane of all people! Would they take her to the Head? For almost the first time in his life a gleam of something like disinterested love came into his mind; he wished he had never married her, never dragged her into this… (183)

Wishing he hadn’t married her is love? Well, Lewis doesn’t say it is pure perfected love, just that it is a gleam. Mark has a desire for Jane’s well-being and not just his own. And it is well-being for her sake, and not just his own. Sure, it seems like bringing Jane in would increase his status at Belbury, but at what cost to Jane. He is hesitant. The Fairy ends up interrupting such that Mark doesn’t write the letter though he doesn’t consciously decide against it. That’s for the better as I’m not sure he’d have decided to do the right thing.

But the Fairy, who Mark (to his credit) “hated and dreaded” (183) interrupted and pushed Mark to what looks like an increased love and concern for his wife. Alarmed that she could be in trouble, he resolves to go and see about her. All good for Mark and his journey through this time of his life, his journey toward salvation.

Wither Weirdness

What is going on with Wither in his office? (185) His body is there. His mind? He speaks but is it Wither? He seems confused as to who Mark is. Then he’s outside on the edge of the grounds wandering about when Mark is on his way to Edgestow. Its previously been shown that he’s always showing up at inopportune times and puttering about.

Is this some type of Astral Projection? Does Wither “channel” other… beings. Has it anything to do with the eldila.

I don’t recall if there is an answer later in the book or not, but I think there is. We’ll press on for now, only noting the weirdness.

Mark and Jane

Two of the trails I’ve tried to follow in this blog are the journeys of Mark and Jane toward their salvation, the happy endings. After all this is a modern fairy-tale for grown-ups. The main characters are bound to come out on top. So lets take a quick look at them.

Regarding Mark, as I’ve already discussed, he feels his first disinterested love. That’s a good step, along with hating the Fairy, as she’s quite “hatable” and was someone he admired at first, at least on some level. His reaction to the Head is in his favor. He couldn’t “take it” (182), however that was a point of shame for him, when it should have been pride. But progress if progress; we’ll take it in any form.

Then he simply had to get away from Belbury to check on Jane, and though it wasn’t explicit, I got the feeling it was for Jane’s sake, not simply concern that she would make him look bad in front of his progressive friends. Sadly his conviction fails him. We must wonder how many chances he will have.

He also has the general feeling that he needs to be cleansed and thinks Jane might be a part of that:

He was devoured for a longing for Jane which was physical without being at all sensual: as if comfort and fortitude would flow from her body, as if her very skin would clean away all the filth that seemed to hang on him. (186)

It would be a mistake to think that Jane could clean him in some spiritual way. I don’t think Lewis is arguing that she could. (But I’m not sure. His view of the divine in erotic love seems to have been somewhat off, maybe heterodox.) It is not, however, a mistake to think that he could derive some “comfort and fortitude” from his wife. That would be appropriate. For though husbands and wives often quarrel, they also reap great benefit from each other.

Regarding Jane, there is less in this chapter regarding her. She has done well to help the Company at St. Anne’s in sharing her “dreams” (178). She is not yet a member but seems to be accepting the underlying realities as being important, true, and worthy of fighting for (192).

Merlin and Logres

Now I had never heard the term “Logres” before coming to this book. But the concept has been brought up – by Camilla, no less: “[Ransom is] a man, my dear. And he is the Pendragon of Logres. This house, all of us here, and Mr Bultitude and Pinch, are all that’s left of the Logres: all the rest has become merely Britain” (192).

I don’t even know how to say Logres. But I can look it up on Wikipedia and then make some inferences into Lewis’s novel. Keep in mind that Lewis was a good friend of JRR Tolkien who was working on the Lord of the Rings and all that, sort of constructing a modern-ancient mythology of England, a mythology Lewis mentions in this chapter (198). Logres comes from a Welsh word and refers to southern England and involves the idea of King Arthurs governed realm. That was before the invasion from France and all the Normans and what-not. (I’m not up on early medieval British history either).

At any rate, we are talking early British legendarium/mythology which involves King Arthur – hence the idea of the Pendragon (Uther Pendragon was Arthur’s father) and Merlin. Merlin, as you may recall from an earlier conversation (back around page 29) between Jane and the Dimbles, is suspected to have been buried below Bragdon Wood. And some say that he is not quite dead. Here’s Dimble:

Has it ever struck you what an odd creation Merlin is? He’s not evil; yet he’s a magician. He is obviously a druid; yet he knows all about the Grail. He’s ‘the devil’s son;’ but then Layamon goes out of his way to tell you that the kind of being who fathered Merlin needn’t have been bad after all… [Merlin is] buried but not dead, according to the story. (29-30)

Ransom connects, conceptually, the Head at Belbury to “whatever is under Bragdon Wood” (196) which he suspects has to do with Merlin, or is Merlin. He wants to prevent the meeting of the “new power” at Belbury and the “old power” of Bragdon (197).

Middle Earth

As I referred to above, Lewis mentions Tolkien’s work in this chapter. He’d previously mentioned it in the preface. He describes Merlin’s magic as something “brought to Western Europe after the fall of Numinor” (198). We can forgive his misspelling as LOTR was not published until about ten years after THS. Numenor was an island home of men many years prior to the main events of LOTR, and was translated Dunedain by that time, Aragorn was one of the few men left who was descended from the Dunedain. But lets not get into that. Lets just say Lewis gave a shout-out to his good friend JRR Tolkien, and lets wonder if Tolkien appreciated it. (He seems rather a curmudgeon to me.)


Lastly, I want to discuss the scientism of Belbury again and bring in some outside sources. And I’ll use the St. Anne’s discussion of Belbury for my starting point. Here is Ransom speaking of Belbury’s “Head,” their reanimation of Alcasan:

“It means that if this technique is really successful, the Belbury people have for all practical purposes discovered a way of making themselves immortal.” There was a moment’s silence, and then he continued: “It is the beginning of what is really a new species – the Chosen Heads who never die. They will call it the next step of evolution. And henceforward, all creatures that you and I call human are mere candidates for admission to the new species or else its slaves – perhaps its food.” (194)

Indeed, Straik and Filostrato have already been describing the Head as “the first of the New Men,” and “Man Immortal.” (174-175). It is the next step in evolution, as some would see it.

This is much of the major issue which the Company at St Anne’s has been brought together to fight, or prevent. The arising of this new man, this new power, this next step in evolution.

With my first reading of THS, the cosmic and cataclysmic nature of the events at Belbury escaped me. It felt like a few little people trying to do their little experiments and being foiled. This was in part my fault, but in part it was Lewis’s. I think he could have emphasized the scope of Belbury’s plans – and its effect on all humanity – a little more. But he lived and wrote before the Marvel movies, among other films, where the whole world and humanity is obviously at stake for two hours (Terminator, Armageddon, 12 Monkeys, Independence Day…) So people were probably tuned in to the more subtle details and implications. They were used to thinking instead of having everything spelled out in a couple of minutes’ exposition.

I would like to turn now to the writings of Ray Kurzweil, noted American inventor and futurist. I don’t wish any ill will toward Mr Kurzweil. I wish him the best, and that is mostly that he would know Christ. Still, he is brilliant. I have learned a lot from his writings and benefited from his ingenuity. Still, I have reservations with certain of his ideas and that is what I wish to pick at here.

Turning to his The Singularity is Near (a great read), he recounts the history of information in six epochs (his title and my summaries as follows):

Epoch 1 – Physics and chemistry – the physical properties of the elements in the chaotic universe bring molecules together.

Epoch 2: Biology and DNA – the complexity of the molecules advance until DNA is formed.

Epoch 3: Brains – DNA encodes life which advances to the point that the human brain has formed.

Epoch 4: Technology – Humans use our ingenuity to invent tools to aid us; the complexity of those tools grow to the level of modern computers (the iPhone appears! Yay!)

Epoch 5: The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence – the ability to blend our minds with computers increases our abilities and computers abilities; think enhanced brains and AI.

Epoch 6: The Universe Wakes Up – We break out of our solar system and spread our intelligence to the far reaches of the galaxy and universe; this involves surpassing the speed of light.

One underlying thread here is that the speed at which information is advancing is continually speeding up. Take Moore’s Law as your paradigm.

Now, with Ransom’s words that Belbury will call their work the “next step in evolution” (194), let me quote Kurzweil on the 5th Epoch:

Looking ahead several decades, the Singularity will begin with the fifth epoch. It will result from the merger of the vast Knowledge embedded in our own brains with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our technology. The fifth epoch will enable our human-machine civilization to transcend the human brain’s limitations of a mere hundred trillion extremely slow connections.

The Singularity will allow us to overcome age-old human problems and vastly amplify human creativity. We will preserve and enhance the intelligence that evolution has bestowed on us while overcoming the profound limitations of biological evolution. But the Singularity will also amplify the ability to act on our destructive inclinations, so its full story has not yet been written.  (Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, pp 20-21)

The Singularity is Near is really an interesting book. Kurzweil is a compelling and interesting guy, a self-described futurist who has plans of some type of immortality. His How to Create a Mind is also a really interesting look at how our brains work and how that can contribute to AI. (A mad scientist? Striving for immortality? hmm… maybe he’s a modern fairy-tale.)

So Belbury truly plans to revolutionize life on planet earth. This is not some small group piddling around in a science lab. These guys are bringing about a Singularity, a fundamental change in life. The people who live on this side of the Singularity cannot imagine what life will look like on the other side. Artificial intelligence. All human intellect swollen into one hypertrophied brain. Eradication of life that doesn’t contribute to this intelligence. Sterilization of our planet. Advancing to other planets and stars.

I don’t think Lewis foresaw these computer advances. I know he personally disliked typewriters and cars in general. He approved of a simpler life. But I think the technological singularity lines up well with Belbury’s plans.

That Hideous Strength may well be a modern fairy-tale for grown-ups, but it deals with things that could become reality, or at least things that come people want to become reality. Lets consider it a fable as well. Lewis definitely considers the subject material worthy of serious consideration.

That Hideous Strength – Chapter Eight – Moonlight at Belbury

My friend, you have already separated the Fun, as you call it, from fertility. (170)

Whereas chapter 7 concerned Jane and St. Anne’s almost exclusively, chapter 8 focuses primarily on Mark and the goings-on at Belbury.


Wither discusses Jane with the Fairy – The Fairy to see the Head – Mr Bultitude – Mr McPhee – Mrs Maggs – “In” at Belbury? – A conversation with Wither about Mrs Studdock – Back on Wither’s bad side – On trees – Filostrato explains – Lunacy – Enter the mad parson – Mark to see the Head


Marriage and Sexuality

This chapter doesnt have a lot specifically designated for this chapter. But its addressed and there are some gems here if you read between the lines.

The first and most obvious point is the way the household chores are divided between the men and women at St. Anne’s. The explanation is from Mother Dimble, who explains that “Men can’t help in a job, you know. They can be induced to do it; not to help while you’re doing it. At least, it makes them grumpy. (164)”

This is because men are so awesome… I kid. Men aren’t good at helping women. Men are created to be leaders. God saw that Adam needed a helper and so he created Eve. Now I think it is painting with too broad a brush to say that men can’t help, especially on something like household chores. Though I’ll be the first to admit that women are often more detail oriented. Men just aren’t good at getting things done without help. I clean the kitchen happily, and then my wife spends 10 more minutes cleaning the kitchen. There are just things to do that I don’t see. I take the kids out. I remember the diaper bag, I just forget to make sure the diaper bag is “loaded.” Its the details. And I can learn to do a good job on things. But remembering the details is not my forte. I am good with the big picture. I find this is generally true of men. Big picture. More romantic. Women – details, more practical.

Now before anyone tries to tell me I’m a chauvinist, let me just say that God never said a woman couldn’t get a job done and needed help. He said it about the man. Men aren’t better than women. Men are incomplete without women. Men need women. Don’t call me a chauvinist for saying that men are better than women because that is not what I am doing. (But if you want to call me a chauvinist for saying men are leaders, go ahead.)

And poor Mark. Lets look at him for a minute where sexuality is concerned. The paragraph that begins at the bottom of 167 and ends midway down 168. I won’t quote it all. The DD has asked Mark to bring his wife to Belbury and Mark has declined. His reasoning is that there are so many things at Belbury that Jane wouldn’t understand, so many conversations that would seem silly to her, even gutless. He could not face trying to get Jane to keep the DD in a good temper.

Mark is a doormat at Belbury. He knows his wife would not be willing to see that. Mark’s cowardice, his desire to be in the inner ring, his effeminacy can only go so far. He would not be able to perform appropriately in front of his wife. It is to Mark’s credit, and Jane’s, that this would be a bridge too far. His effeminacy on that kind of display before his wife is unthinkable. He would not ask her to do such a thing as partner in his not “showing himself a man.” I have heard stories of men who ask their wives to sleep with someone else in order to sweeten a business deal. Disgusting. This is the same type of thing, though not to the same degree.

And little does Mark know that it is actually Jane they want, and not himself.

Then there is the conversation that begins with the destruction of the trees. It is an effort to sterilize the area around Belbury, and eventually the whole world. But trees are only the early stages. Eventually… “There will never be peace and order and discipline so long as there is sex. When man has thrown it away, then he will become finally governable” (170). Filostrato makes this argument. He wants to rid the world of the organic, and make it mind only. The organic has done its work via evolution in producing the mind, but it is time for men to take over and refine the mind. We no longer need the evolution. We no longer need the fruitfulness. We no longer need the sex. The “Fun” lasts, for now at least. But we will eventually shed even that.

This is a weird modern gnosticism. I will return to that shortly. The point here is the sex. Man is innately sexual. We are made as two different sexes. Male and female. We are made to be fruitful. Like the rest of creation we will not survive without fruitfulness. Everything lives and grows and reproduces. It is who we are.

The Moon

CS Lewis was big on the planets. I previously mentioned Jupiter – sometimes called Jove (149). The Moon is discussed on page 172 and 173. Lewis brings the Moon into his fiction here and moreso toward the end. The thing to take away from this portion is the Moon’s dual nature. One side faces us, while the other is always facing away, obscured from our vision. In the medieval worldview, because of Earth’s sin, the visible, close, side of the moon was barren, empty, dead, but the far side was vibrant and life-like. Lewis borrows that idea here, giving the Moon two natures.

Filostrato prefers the “lighted” side of the moon because it is clean and sterile. No eroding organic life. He also mentions the “savages” of the far side with their ever-shrinking territory. (Like the cleaning of “tarnished silver.”) Lewis seemed to have an (unhealthy?) fascination with paganism. These savages fit perfectly. Ransom visited Mars in OOTSP, but never the Moon. I think Lewis draws a bit from HG Wells’s The First Men in the Moon as well.

Lewis revisits the moonlight on 175: “In that disastrous light [the faces of Straik and Filostrato] looked like masks hanging in the air.”

Mark’s Journey

Poor, poor Mark. He’s finally getting to do some work for the NICE. He seems to be “in.” Way past some others that had previously made him feel “out.” He’s doing work. He’s involved in the library conversations. He’s getting somewhere. He’s in. Or is he?…

If a mere arrest could have secured the – er – good will and collaboration of Mrs. Studdock, we should hardly have embarrassed ourselves with the presence of her husband. (158)

So this whole thing with Mark is just to get to his wife. He’s been completely used. They care nothing for him. He is means to an end. They despise him. They tolerate him, but for how long?


It really gets mixed up here. Filostrato’s science. Straik’s religion. I can’t hope to do it justice; you really must read the last few pages for yourself. The big reveal is that Alcasan – the executed French scientist – is being brought back… or rather his head is being reanimated. He/It will be kept alive with a bunch of science-y machines and it will be purely intellectual, purely logical. It will absorb other intellects to gain more and more knowledge. It will be a god.

(Hence the name of the book – reference to the Tower of Babel – men striving for divinity.)

“It is the beginning of Man Immortal and Man Ubiquitous,” said Straik. “Man on the throne of the universe. It is what all the prophecies really meant.” (175)

For Straik this is the “real resurrection” (78). He had previously told Mark he would see it for himself.

Filostrato takes a less religious attitude – at least on the surface – regarding Alcasan, the Head. Its all about progress for him. Its about sweeping the world clean of the dirt of life and making way for pure intellect. Its less religious for him, but its no less eschatological. He desires progress, universal change, what one might call a heaven on earth.

Still, he is OK with realizing the dreams of certain forms of religion: “does it fallow that because there was no God in the past that there will be no God also in the future?” (176).

Using science to change all of society, to invent God, to revolutionize the world – that is scientism. Using science to attempt what science cannot do and should not try.

And Mark is to go and meet the Head? But why? We’ve established they don’t care anything about Mark. What could they want?