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)

hideousSUMMARY

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

DISCUSSION

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.

coverSUMMARY

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

DISCUSSION

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

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.

Temptation

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?

Orion

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)

thsnewSUMMARY

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

DISCUSSION

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

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.

Mark

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.

Household

“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)

thspurpSUMMARY

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

DISCUSSION

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

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).

Anger

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.

Mercury

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.

Universalism?

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.