The Great Divorce Read ✓ 104

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The Great DivorceIn The Great Divorce CS Lewis's classic vision of the Afterworld the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly English afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage. Imagine that you awoke one morning to find yourself wandering the streets of a grimy gritty little twilit city in the middle of NowhereYou meander past endless shuttered and decrepit storefronts advertising nothing anyone would ever possibly want or needto find yourself joining a long ueue that is forming in a dark gloomy side street You wait and wait not knowing for what earthly reason you are there among a crowd of obnoxious and surly rivals for the front of the lineWhere are weWell first off we’re deadAnd this is Hell of courseOur worldly and blasé attitude while living has decreed itThat says Lewis is where most of us will start our Journey and his friend and fellow Inkling Charles Williams agreedAnd why the lineupWe are being given a second chance to board a tour bus to Heaven And if we like it we won’t ever need to come back You may have to work a bit though no actually MUCH MORE than a bitBut wait till you see Lewis‘ HEAVENCS Lewis‘ Magical Mystical Tour will show you a weird ‘n wonderful kind of paradise a BRIGHT ZANY and very HARD and SOLID place of eternal ‘rest’ your current mindset may not be ready forA place of truly tough CHALLENGESSharp solid grass blades Hard solid but fast moving blue waves of an Eternal Sea Totally alive mythological creatures roaming freely and happily through Eternal GladesA place of departure for the final Great Pilgrimage across rugged mountainous peaks to your ultimate Heart’s Desire a sacred grove of Deep Eternal PeaceBut The Great Divorce of course is only Narnia in embryo just as Eliot’s Ash Wednesday is only the drawing board for the radiant Apocalypse of Four uartetsNarnia Lewis’ later view of the Afterlife had its genesis in the deep gloom and self doubt that shrouded Lewis’ soul when he was roundly humiliated in a university debate over the existence of God by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s similarly fiercely competitive and agnostic friend Elizabeth AnscombeNarnia is Lewis’ own afterthought on that debate a vision of Heaven so stunningly daring in its conception and execution it had to be disguised as a children’s book a book also wondrously enlivened by the December of his life romance with his soon to be wife Joy DavidmanAnd it is an Afterlife in which we ALL will play a part Like it or notThings in Heaven may not be what they seem and as Lewis‘ buddy TS Eliot warned we‘ll have to discard all sense and habitual notions once we get thereBut both these guys are really only reminding us of that old old boogie woogie revival tune “better get a ready cause I’m giving you the Warnin’”And that includes a grim warning to the persistent perpetuators of all our Disuiet in this earthly world for the fruits of all their dark and aggressive mind games will be the endless gloomy twilit streets of that Infernal City we arrived at after we diedStreets that will soon be engulfed in the Blackness of Endless Night when the Author of our Salvation returns in judgementSo don‘t shoot the messengerBut for goodness’ sake and whatever you do don‘t miss that BUS

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The Great Divorce Read ✓ 104 ✓ In The Great Divorce CS Lewis's classic vision of the Afterworld the narrator boards a bus on a drizzly English afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations and comes to some significant realizations about the nature ofOf good and evilA stunning new edition of this timeless allegory of heaven and hell repackaged and rebranded as part of the CS Lewis Signature Classics rang. I find myself in a strange place Everything is unutterably beautiful unusually large and disproportionately heavy and rigid My weight cannot bend the grass and I cannot lift an apple Also I'm semi transparent now A blindingly luminescent human figure approaches meC S LEWIS Hello there I'm C S LewisROB What is this placeC S LEWIS Why this is heaven of course You can tell because everything here is so Real and so joyous The earth you knew was but a collection of dim shadows in whose corners you sometimes glimpsed a bit of the Real world you now see around you Here your ever unsatisfied yearning finds its object Your yearning for large heavy things for things perfectly opaue to visible light ROB my yearning for whatC S LEWIS Look it’s a metaphor This is an allegory all right The physical “substantiveness” of this world stands in for a fuller kind of “substantiveness” lacking on earthROB But there are so many choices of metaphor that would have at least made heaven seem appealing the way that fuller substantiveness would Instead I’ve just been dropped in a sci fi world where I have difficulty walking across the diamond hard grass and live in mortal fear of rain But let us leave aside that minor objection for a bigger one You say this is heaven and yet the people here are so mean so heartless Do I have to be an asshole to go to heaven Just now I saw the saved soul of a murderer smugly conversing with his hell imprisoned former boss in terms like theseHe is here said the other You will meet him soon if you stay But you murdered him Of course I did It is all right now All right is it All right for you you mean But what about the poor chap himself laying cold and deadBut he isn't I have told you you will meet him soon He sent you his loveWhat I'd like to understand said the Ghost is what you're here for as pleased as Punch you a bloody murderer while I've been walking the streets down there and living in a place like a pigstye all these yearsThat is a little hard to understand at first But it is all over now You will be pleased about it presently Till then there is no need to bother about itNo need to bother about it Aren't you ashamed of yourselfNo Not as you mean I do not look at myself I have given up myself I had to you know after the murder That was what it did for me And that was how everything beganC S LEWIS I intended you to have precisely that reaction The point is there is one thing that matters — a first thing — and all second things are irrelevant once you have placed that thing first The Ghost ought to have seen that in comparison to the reality of heaven salvation Christ a little thing like a murder on earth really is nothing to bother about The murderer gave himself up and the boss did not and this condition of their inner selves was all that mattered in the endROB But surely one can only get a sense of another person’s inner self by observing their outward actions If this murderer is really now so virtuous why does he speak to the boss in this tone of grotesue innocence in this manner which seems to imply he cannot understand what the boss is worked up about although he must Or has he lost his reason Does heaven make us stupid It is possible to disagree sternly with someone while still treating them as if they are another human with dignity and not a child to be patted on the head and condescended to “that is a little hard to understand at first” He antagonizes the boss without apparent justification and he sounds like a stoner or a cultist than like someone who’s really learned a deep secret about the universeC S LEWIS He can’t bring the boss around Only the boss can do that If you had uoted the rest of the exchange your reader would see that the boss is so obsessed with how well he thinks he has lived his life and with his aversion to receiving “charity” that he can’t even think about giving heaven a try even when it’s laid out before himROB You say that and so of course does the reader who follows his caricatured words on the page Your virtuous murderer does not make the same argument He doesn’t even try to help the boss see where he’s gone wrong Is there nothing wrong with this refusal to stretch out a hand to a sinner who might become virtuousC S LEWIS But now you’re thinking merely about the conseuences of actions What matters here is not that the murderer perhaps harmed the boss in this exchange while the boss did no harm to the murderer; what matters is only the role their actions played in their own internal universe Again what matters is not harm to another — even murder — but cultivation of good ualities in the little walled garden of one’s own soul As I write in Mere ChristianityThat explains what always used to puzzle me about Christian writers; they seem to be so very strict at one moment and so very free and easy at another They talk about mere sins of thought as if they were immensely important and then they talk about the most frightful murders and treacheries as if you had only got to repent and all would be forgiven But I have come to see that they are right What they are always thinking of is the mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of us will have to endure — or enjoy — for ever One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands and another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both Each has done something to himself which unless he repents will make it harder for him to keep out of the rage next time he is tempted and will make the rage worse when he does fall into it Each of them if he seriously turns to God can have that twist in the central man straightened out again each is in the long run doomed if he will not The bigness or smallness of the thing seen from the outside is not what really mattersROB And so in my own life in which I am forced to ration out my willpower indulging my anger in some cases and not others — it does not matter how I choose Whether I indulge it when it tempts me to tear up a blank piece of paper as opposed to when it tempts me smash the happiness or the very body of another human being — C S LEWIS If you indulge your anger and thereby fan it further you’ll have to live with that angry aspect of yourself for eternity Make yourself good and eternity will be heaven to you; make yourself bad and it will be hellROB But I can’t just stop having bad impulses altogether I’m weak I’m not perfect As I recall this sort of thing is a cornerstone of your faithC S LEWIS Precisely And that’s why the only answer is in salvation not in the sort of “rationing” you describe Some manage their lives responsibly so their sinful nature harms few and they brighten the lives of many; some commit the worst crimes known to man It doesn’t matter to GodROB It doesn’t matter to God that the victims of atrocities suffer as they doC S LEWIS Here you are hung up yet again on other people None of it really matters — whether you nurture and strengthen the beings around you or torture and destroy them What matters is whether in the end somehow independent of all that you made yourself into of a good virtuous guy in the process And thus prepared yourself for an afterlife of goodnessROB That’s uite solipsistic isn’t itC S LEWIS Look you are focusing on big numbers when I’m speaking of infinities Are you really unable to conceive of the sort of reality I am depicting one in which there are things so much important than anything in your earthly world that they dwarf every earthly blessing and atrocityROB I can conceive of it all right But I don’t think you have depicted itC S LEWIS How soROB Your heaven is a world of great big pretty solid things populated by blissed out monstrously indifferent creatures who seem to have no sense of morality whatsoever In your book a busload of sinners leave hell for a heavenly vacation and while you portray them as cartoon figures — straw men — they at least ask some legitimate uestions suffer from some affecting and recognizable human pains It is not just that the saved souls in heaven are unable to help them not that these souls do not meet some sort of halfway compromise with sin — the saved souls no longer even seem to have concepts of right or wrong They describe heaven in appetitive terms as a pleasant tasty thing which the damned could have if only they’d reach out and snatch itYou think that because hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom Your thirst shall be uenchedThe Ghost made a sound something between a sob and a snarl I wish I'd never been born it said What are we born forFor infinite happiness said the Spirit You can step out into it at any momentThen there's never going to be any point in painting hereI don't say that When you've grown into a Person it's all right we all had to do it there'll be some things which you'll see better than anyone else One of the things you'll want to do will be to tell us about them But not yet At present your business is to see Come and see He is endless Come and feed“ Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains Not because they are too rank but because they are too weak What is a Lizard compared with a stallion Lust is a poor weak whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed”Near the end we meet one of the most “virtuous” among them “one of the great ones” and she spends her time strolling about in the company of a retinue of singers and musicians who continually sing her praisesC S LEWIS Oh come on now It’s an allegory As I write in Mere Christianity about depictions of heavenMusical instruments are mentioned because for many people not all music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven gold does not rust and the preciousness of it People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves He meant that we were to lay eggs ROB Well if you meant to portray “ecstasy and infinity” you ended up portraying a vapid virtual reality paradise one that fills you with enough narcotics you can no longer remember what it was like to think or care and then leaves you wandering carefree across realer than real CGI vistas Is there any reason to think after all that we are really in heaven and not in the land of the Lotus EatersC S LEWIS But here the residents are virtuous and what they experience is joy the very holy substance of it not some idle earthly pleasureROB You say that but there is absolutely nothing in your book to substantiate it Whatever you choose to call it what you wrote was a land of Lotus EatersC S LEWIS But isn’t that what true joy would inevitably look like from your perspective My book is called “The Great Divorce” because I don’t believe goodness and badness can or should make any sort of compromise any meeting in the middle Every example on earth you have seen of people without wretched feelings is an example that makes you wary — but goodness is goodness and contains no wretched feelings That is why it is wrong to say that “the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved”Son son it must be one way or the other Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselvesROB You’re saying that your “joy” is a purely pleasant experience and things like human sympathy have to be eradicated because they sometimes harsh one’s mellow And you’re conflating that purely pleasant thing with goodness so that goodness is not a thing with any other people in it but a pure narcosis that can contain nothing novel that might worry or startle or uplift us A sealed womb impermeable to any outside worldC S LEWIS You won’t mind about the distinction between self and other if you’ve made it here “When you have drunk of the fountain you forget forever all proprietorship in your own works You enjoy them just as if they were someone else's without pride and without modesty” None of that will matter any Only God will matter You’ll have nothing to yourself any ; you will have given up everything of yourself and replaced it with God Can’t you stretch your mind and imagine that sort of world — that dramatically different yet authentically joyous worldROB I might if I had some tool to help with the stretching — say some work of fiction that rewrote all these fearsome and abstract things in terms I could feel and touch A well written well constructed allegoryC S LEWIS I’m sorry I’m just not very good at those

C.S. Lewis æ 4 Read

Through Heaven and Hell He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations and comes to some significant realizations about the nature. This is my favorite work by CS Lewis I’d give it 8 stars if ‘twer possible In it Lewis reacts to moral relativism the Marriage of Heaven and Hell by suggesting that “you cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind” He astutely notes that the “great divorce” of good and evil is utterly voluntarily And he does so by conjuring up this simple tale of a bus ride from a ghostly insubstantial hell to the brilliant vividly tangible outskirts of heaven Anyone can take the bus any one can stay in heaven But in the end most sadly return to the grayness below unable to give up the things preventing them from truly accepting heaven The bus is loaded with characters full of excuses foibles and vices And I think I know everyone on that bus Some of them I know really well too well I have used this short book in many Sunday school lessons over the years because Lewis’ language is so clever and incisive and his insights are so pointed I really love this book and I cannot recommend it highly