Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Fifteen

SUMMARY

Ransom meets a sorn, who seems friendly. His name is Augray, hence Augray’s tower. They have a long conversation and Ransom sees earth through the sorn’s “telescope” and discovers that it is known as Thulcandra by the Malacandrians.

SCI-FI ASPECT

On Other Planets:  Ransom, the sorn deduces, is from Thulcandra. He doubts Ransom could be from a planet he calls Glundandra, because it is so heavy its natives would be “flat like plates.” Maybe he is speaking of Jupiter. Jupiter is thought to have some kind of solid or liquid core, though its exact makeup is still much of a mystery. (Come on, NASA!) Jupiter’s gravity is about 2.5 times earths, but that wasn’t known in Lewis’ day. Only its impressive size was known. With the contemporary scientific knowledge of the late 1930s, I don’t think the description is bad for Jupiter, but it probably wouldn’t hold up to what we know today. Would a creature be “flat as a plate?” Probably not. But likely shorter and “squattier” than earthlings. Its probably Jupiter that he calls Glundandra.

He also doubts Ransom could be from “Parelandra.” (Now the title of the second book is Perelandra with an “e,” not Parelandra with an “a.” But my book has an “a” in its spelling on p91. Possibly a later spelling revision was done, though this could be an error by the book-printer.) Augray thinks Perelandra would be very hot and a native would not survive on Malacandra. This leads me to believe he is speaking of Venus or Mercury,  but likely Venus since Mercury is so very cold at night with thousand degree swings in temperature. It really doesn’t matter much more for this book anyway. It is just knowledge Augray possesses that he uses in his deductions. At this point we have no idea how Augray gained this knowledge though he does have a telescope of sorts we’ll see later. It may just be that and deductive reasoning – planets closer the sun are warmer, larger planets have stronger gravity.

On the Seroni:  It does seem that the seroni are much more intelligent than the hrossa, as the hrossa have previously said, in their own way. Though the hrossa excel with “poems and fish and making things grow.” More evidence of the seroni’s intelligence follows, medicine, more advanced food, animal husbandry, knowledge of Oyarsa, and of the other planets as we have seen.

When Ransom mentions that he has trouble breathing at this geographic location – thin air at this altitude – Augray gives him some type of medicinal inhalation which helps him immensely. Albuterol?

For food, Augray gave him the usual vegetables along with an agreeable drink and some type of cheese made from the milk of the tall yellow animals Augray had previously encountered. The seroni herd and milk these animals, which was at once encouraging and frightening to Ransom as he recalled Homer’s Cyclops was a herdsman as well.

The sorn was whitish or creamy in color, very tall and with very long limbs. Its knees stuck up higher than its head when seated. And it was covered with a feathery coat. Its face was “too long, too solemn and too colourless,” but otherwise similar to a human face. And the sorn does not place the initial “h” at the beginning of words.

Miscellany:  They also discuss Oyarsa. He is the greatest of the eldila, doesn’t die or breed. There is apparently one such being on each planet, though on earth there seems to be none. Why Oyarsa wants to see Ransom we don’t know but Augray assumes Oyarsa would want to meet anyone from another planet. He also explains that earth is the silent planet because earth’s Oyarsa – if there is one – never speak’s to Malacandra’s Oyarsa.

In the end, Augray shows Ransom earth through his telescope-like device. Ransom sees the earth floating there, seemingly upside down and recounts that as the “bleakest moment in all his travels.”

It would seem, at the close, that there are other inhabited planets, at least by an Oyarsa to rule them. Glundandra is not a silent planet and neither is Perelandra. What of the others in our solar system? We can only speculate that they have Oyarsa. Only earth is “the silent planet.” But why? That mystery is yet to be revealed.

METAPHYSICAL ASPECT

On the Oyarsa:  A couple questions come to mind from this chapter; the main one being why does earth lack, or seem to lack, an Oyarsa? Lets consider Oyarsa’s nature and role and Lewis’ background. Lewis is writing from a Western Christian worldview. So what are these Oyarsa and what is going on here? They seem to be what we would call incorporeal or angelic type beings tasked with ruling a planet’s intelligent, and likely non-intelligent, inhabitants. Each planet has one, making them a type of oligarch. They have power or authority from their creator, presumably from Maleldil the Young. The other eldila seem to be their messengers or servants. The Oyarsa are not worshiped but seem to encourage worship of Maleldil – that would be part of their role in keeping order.

But earth is the silent planet. Why? Maybe the line of communication is broken, or maybe there is no Oyarsa. Maybe earth’s Oyarsa doesn’t want to communicate with the others. The Fall may come into play here. Due to earth’s inhabitants, men, turning away from their creator, as accounted for in Genesis three, earth has become silent. (This is speculation at this point; it has been years since I’ve read OOTSP.) Maybe earth had no Oyarsa and men (and women) could communicate with the other Oyarsa. Maybe earth’s Oyarsa left, died, or was bound by men’s decision to rebel and worship themselves. Maybe his privilege of communicating was revoked. At worse it may be that Lucifer was earth’s Oyarsa but he rebelled and was cast aside – though that explanation seems particularly bleak. Whatever the explanation is, I believe it has something to do with earth’s inhabitants being “bent” and the initial “bending” would be what we know as the Fall.

Lewis is constructing his own cosmology here that he is trying to keep consistent with the Christian worldview as we understand it. He is trying to answer questions: What if other planets are inhabited? What is their relation to God? To each other? To us? Do they know sin? Are they fallen? It seems that the Malacandrians’ relationship to Maleldil the Young is less intimate than man’s relationship to God prior to the Fall. But at the same time, they do not seem stained with the same sin as man is after the Fall.

On spiritual beings:  Secondly and more confusingly (?) is the question of the bodies of the eldila and how they relate to light and movement. I found this section to be the most confusing of the book so far. I have previously said that the eldila seemed incorporeal, but Augray denies this. Still, they may still be said to be incorporeal from our vantage point.

Augray seems to be saying that if a body moves fast enough it may as well be in all places at once. It is moving so fast that it is everywhere at the same time, thus “so fast that it is at rest, so truly body that it has ceased being body.” A theoretical physicist would probably have something good to say about this, but I am at somewhat of a loss.

He describes light as the fastest thing which our senses touch, thus it is “on the edge” of our senses. But an eldil moves much more swiftly so that other, slower, things are less corporeal to an eldil than the things we can experience. What is corporeal to us is more like a cloud to an eldil. This seems to me to be a description of the nature of a spiritual being who lacks a body. He has a type of body, but not our type. Still, it is quite hard for me to get my head around (as we say). Thus I put it in the Metaphysical section instead of the Science-y section because it seems to deal, though almost scientifically, with a subject we consider spiritual. It is very interesting. I would call it very strange. But Augray says it is “not strange… [just] beyond our senses.”

“But it is strange that the eldila never visit Thulcandra.” Well, at least there is something he calls strange…

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE: (This chapter reminds me of the first verse of Kashmir)

To Sit With Elders of the Gentle Race

 

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