Letters…

 

CS Lewis To Griffiths:

The tension you speak of (if it is a tension) between doing full & generous justice to the Natural while also paying unconditional & humble obedience to the Supernatural is to me an absolute key position. I have no use for mere either-or people (except, of course, in that last resort, when the choice, the plucking out the right eye, is upon us: as it is in some mode, every day. 79 But even then a man needn’t abuse & blackguard his right eye. It was a good creature: it is my fault, not its, that I have got myself into a state wh. necessitates jettisoning it). The reason I doubt whether it is, in principle, even a tension is that, as it seems to me, the subordination of Nature is demanded if only in the interests of Nature herself. All the beauty of nature withers when we try to make it absolute. Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things. 80 We never get, say, even the sensual pleasure of food at its best when we are being greedy.

 

What indeed can we imagine Heaven to be but unimpeded obedience. I think this is one of the causes of our love of inanimate nature, that in it we see things which unswervingly carry out the will of their Creator, and are therefore wholly beautiful: and though their kind of obedience is infinitely lower than ours, yet the degree is so much more perfect that a Christian can see the reason that the Romantics had in feeling a certain holiness in the wood and water. The Pantheistic conclusions they sometimes drew are false: but their feeling was just and we can safely allow it in ourselves now that we know the real reason.

 

For we have often agreed, haven’t we, that one can love nothing but good–sin consisting in the love of the inferior good at the expense of the superior.

 

One thing we want to do is to kill the word ‘spiritual’ in the sense in which it is used by writers like Arnold and Croce. Last term I had to make the following remark to a room full of Christian undergraduates ‘A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep, in humility, thankfulness, and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely higher state than one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride’-obvious to you, but I could see it was quite a new light to them.

 

I have been reading Lady Julian of Norwich. What do you make of her? A dangerous book, clearly, and I’m glad I didn’t read it much earlier. (Have you noticed how God so often sends us books at just the right time?) One thing in her pleased me immensely. Contemptus mundi is dangerous and may lead to Manicheeism. Love of the creature is also dangerous. How the good of each is won, and the danger rejected, in her vision of ‘all that is made’ 215 as a little thing like a hazel nut ‘so small I thought it could hardly endure’. 216 Not bad, you see: just very, very small.

TO DOROTHY L. SAYERS

 

Magdalen College, Oxford. May 29th. 1945 Dear Miss Sayers The reason why they don’t like either the narrative element or low comedy is that these have obvious immediate entertainment value. These prigs, starting from the true proposition that great art is more than entertainment reach the glaring non sequitur ‘entertainment has no place in great art’–like people who think music can’t be ‘classical’ if there is a catchy tune in it. It is as if, having learned that religious emotion is not the whole spiritual life and erotic pleasure not the whole of marriage, they then concluded that dryness and impotence were essentials. Pack of muddle headed manichaeans who got marks at their prep. school for reading ‘good’ books wh. they didn’t enjoy. Pah!, Yours C. S. Lewis

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Poor and Miserable Beasts

We are such poor and miserable beasts – rooting and clawing for satisfaction and cessation of the raging emptiness and hunger in our souls. And yet we cannot have at first, the very things our souls are dying for – cessation of strife, satisfaction of desire, and joy. We must first learn discipline and be brought to good health. The first thing is to clean the mangy beast, to heal the diseases, to wash the hair and skin, and to make the little beast less “beastly,” and more fit for living among other real human beings… So that at long last, we may be capable of humanity, of strength, of knowledge, of beauty, and of ultimate peace and joy. But the road is hard, and the wait is long. God grant us the patience to persevere, and to not give up before the bell is rung.

“We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.”
~ C.S. Lewis, Man or Rabbit

The Knowing- More than the Thing Known

As the author of the ‘Theologia Germanica’ says, we may come to love knowledge—our knowing—more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us.

Every success in the scholar’s life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived.

C.S.Lewis

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature… — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Settled Happiness vs. Joy, Pleasure and Merriment

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world; but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we always have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain