Perelandra – Chapter Nine Supplemental

There were a few things I didn’t comment on in the previous post on chapter nine. It ran a bit long and these other things didn’t fit in all that well. Rather than paring them down to a sentence or two each, I decided to expand them a bit but needed a little more space, hence this post.

Death in abundance. Early in the conversation between the Green Lady and the Un-man, it tries to convince her that Ransom wants to keep her young and not let her learn about certain things, such as death. But it very much wants her to grow older. “And you will teach us death?” she asks him. He responds, “Yes… it is for this I came here, that you may have Death in abundance” (98).

This is a direct take off of John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Our God, called Maleldil in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, indwelt man. He became God-Incarnate in Jesus, and he came to bring life. But here we have the Bent One, maybe Satan himself, indwelling a man, specifically to bring death and to bring it abundantly.

This is parallel to Satan indwelling the serpent to tempt Eve to sin in Genesis 3. What did Satan desire to bring but death to the creatures made in God’s image. And he succeeded. He came to steal, kill and destroy. And he is at it again in Perelandra.

The old television program The X-Files recently came out of dormancy for a short season. One of the episodes has heavily religious themes. Late in the episode one of the show’s major characters remarks that “God told Adam that if he at the forbidden fruit he’d die. And he lived 930 years. Top that.” Yes, he lived 930 years and then he died. But if you think about death as a separation from God, a division, a chasm you can’t cross, then it started immediately. And it would have lasted forever, had God-incarnate not died in his successful effort to bring “life and have it abundantly.”

The Un-man gets his joy (if you can call it that), his life (if you can call it that) from bringing temptation, sin and death. We must die so he can live. Not so with God. He died that we may live. Its a complete juxtaposition of Jesus words in John 10.

The Somme (94) is mentioned: “It seems odd to say this of a man who had been on the Somme.” This refers to Ransom’s response to finding the mangled frog and ending its life, which left him “sick and shaken.” The Somme was the site of a very horrific battle early in World War I. It was a months-long campaign that killed or injured over one million men. And by this reference we can assume that Ransom was among them. Also present in that campaign was Lewis’ real-life friend, author and noted philologist (as was Ransom) JRR Tolkien. It seems that Ransom’s character is at least somewhat based on Tolkien.

Felix peccatum adae (104). Happy sin of Adam. I had to use Google to get at the meaning of this. Felix is obviously some form of happiness, from which we get our word felicity and the Spanish gets feliz. Peccatum is likely some reference to sin or a sinner, from which we get the term peccadillo, which would be a minor sin or lapse, and the Spanish gets pecador. But what of adae? Its simply Adam in Latin. So it becomes happy sin of Adam.

Happy sin of Adam? What? This idea is present within generally Catholic theology, that God brought much good out of Adam’s sin and inasmuch we should rejoice in it. Adam’s sin (and Eve’s) and the fall of man and of creation is not merely a sin to be repented of and lamented of. It also opened up a realm of redemption that would not otherwise be known, allowing a view of sacrifice and love and other good things that we would not see if it weren’t for the fallenness of our world.

I can see the wisdom and insight here, but I don’t think God needs sin or the Fall to show his pure goodness, his love, which is sacrificial. He is eternally existent in the Trinitarian God-head and demonstrates his immutable and eternal attributes in the relationship of the Trinity, even without mankind’s presence. He doesn’t need us to be who he is, or even to display it, like some other gods. He does not dwell in temples made by man and he is not served by man as if he needed anything – including our very existence – for he gives everything.

The Un-man’s attack on Ransom. Following the conversation, the Green Lady sleeps and the Un-man sits and begins repeating Ransom’s name over and over. And if Ransom answers, he responds “Nothing” (105). Ransom’s musings on this are notable:

If the attack had been of some more violent kind it might have been easier to resist. What chilled and almost cowed him was the union of malice with something nearly childish (106).

This strikes a chord with me. A song by Mumford & Sons contains the lyric “If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won.” Sometimes it feels like we could do great things – be a better president than whoever the current guy is, help Frodo carry the ring up Mt Doom without being drawn to its seductive power, govern more uprightly than most of ancient Israel’s monarchs – and yet we still struggle with the smaller battles of our own lives daily. I might think that I’ve got what it takes to have withstood the serpent’s temptation in the garden, but if my son gets out of bed one more time tonight, I’m just going to scream!

The Un-man attacks with a small irritation that is rooted deeply in malice. Had he come at Ransom with a club or knife, Ransom would have stood and fought to the death, but can he withstand this “petty, indefatigable nagging” that is thrown his way instead?

 

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