Savage Beliefs?

Medieval man shared many ignorances with the savage, and some of his beliefs may suggest savage parallels to an anthropologist. But he had not usually reached these beliefs by the same route as the savage.

Savage beliefs are thought to be the spontaneous response of a human group to its environment, a response made principally by the imagination. They exemplify what some writers call pre-logical thinking. They are closely bound up with the communal life of the group. What we should describe as political, military, and agricultural operations are not easily distinguished from rituals; ritual and belief beget and support one another. The most characteristically medieval thought does not arise in that way.

Sometimes, when a community is comparatively homogeneous and comparatively undisturbed over a long period, such a system of belief can continue, of course with development, long after material culture has progressed far beyond the level of savagery. It may then begin to turn into something more ethical, more philosophical, even more scientific; but there will be uninterrupted continuity between this and its savage beginnings.

C.S. Lewis, Chapter 1, The Discarded Image (CUP 1964)

The shapes of the Greater Trumps

Henry took a few steps forward, slowly and softly, almost as if he were afraid that those small images would overhear him, and softly and slowly Aaron followed. They paused at a little distance from the table, and stood gazing at the figures, the young man in a careful comparison of them with his memory of the newly found cards. He saw among them those who bore the coins, and those who held swords or staffs or cups; and among those he searched for the shapes of the Greater Trumps, and one by one his eyes found them, but each separately, so that as he fastened his attention on one the rest faded around it to a golden blur. But there they were, in exact presentation--the juggler who danced continuously round the edge of the circle, tossing little balls up and catching them again; the Emperor and Empress; the masculine and feminine hierophants; the old anchorite treading his measure and the hand-clasped lovers wheeling in theirs; a Sphinx-drawn chariot moving in a dancing guard of the four lesser orders; an image closing the mouth of a lion, and another bearing a cup closed by its hand, and another with scales but with unbandaged eyes--which had been numbered in the paintings under the titles of strength and temperance and justice; the wheel of fortune turning between two blinded shapes who bore it; two other shapes who bore between them a pole or cross on which hung by his foot the image of a man; the swift ubiquitous form of a sickle-armed Death; a horned mystery bestriding two chained victims; a tower that rose and fell into pieces, and then was re-arisen in some new place; and the woman who wore a crown of stars, and the twin beasts who had each of them on their heads a crescent moon, and the twin children on whose brows were two rayed suns in glory--the star, the moon, the sun; the heavenly form of judgement who danced with a skeleton half freed from its graveclothes, and held a trumpet to its lips; and the single figure who leapt in a rapture and was named the world. One by one Henry recognized them and named them to himself, and all the while the tangled measure went swiftly on. After a few minutes he looked round: "They're certainly the same; in every detail they're the same. Some of the attributed meanings aren't here, of course, but that's all."

"Even to that?" Aaron asked in a low voice, and pointed to the Fool in the middle of the field.

It was still: it alone in the middle of all that curious dance did not move, though it stood as if poised for running; the lynx or other great cat by its side was motionless also. They paused--the man and the beast--as if struck into inactivity in the very midst of activity. And all about them, sliding, stepping, leaping, rolling, the complex dance went on.

Charles Williams
The Greater Trumps (1932)
Ch. 2 "The Hermit"

Writing and writers...

I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves: for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development. If the impulse to write survives the hope of success, then one is among these. If not, then the impulse was at best only pardonable vanity, and it will certainly disappear when the hope is withdrawn.
C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, The Letters of C.S. Lewis, (28 August 1930)

The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that. The reader, we must remember, does not start by knowing what we mean. If our words are ambiguous, our meaning will escape him. I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or right the readers will most certainly go into it.
C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, "Cross-Examination" (1963)

Returning to work on an interrupted story is not like returning to work on a scholarly article. Fact, however long the scholar has left them untouched in his notebook, will still prove the same conclusions; he has only to start the engine running again. But the story is an organism: it goes on surreptitiously growing or decaying while your back is turned. If it decays, the resumption of work is like trying to coax back to life an almost extinguished fire, or to recapture the confidence of a shy animal which you had only partially tamed at your last visit.
C.S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, bk III.I (1954)

What happened to the power of the Rings once the One Ruling Ring was destroyed?


The most widely held position is that with the destruction of the One Ring all the remaining rings also lost their power (including the Three Elven Rings) and became ineffectual against the passage of time for which they were created.  The reasoning behind this is because the One Ring was embodied with the power necessary to bind and control all the Rings of Power when the One's power was destroyed so was the power of all the other Rings.  Those who held the Three; Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel departed over the sea into the West and took the Rings with them.

The evidence for this is found in several places:

"Yet many voices were heard among the Elves foreboding that, if Sauron should come again, then either he would find the Ruling Ring that was lost, or at the best his enemies would discover it and destroy it; but in either chance the powers of the Three must then fail and all things maintained by them must fade, and so the Elves should pass into the twilight and the Dominion of Men begin."
[The Silmarillion]
  
"But when all these things were done, and the Heir of Isildur had taken up the lordship of Men, and the dominion of the West had passed to him, then it was made plain that the power of the Three Rings also was ended, and to the Firstborn the world grew old and grey."
[The Silmarillion]
  
"But what would happen, if the Ruling Ring were destroyed, as you counsel? asked Gloin.  We know not for certain, answered Elrond sadly.  Some hope that the Three Rings, which Sauron has never touched, would then become free, and their rulers might heal the hurts of the world that he has wrought.  But maybe when the One has gone, the Three will fail, and many fair things will fade and be forgotten.  That is my belief."
[The Fellowship of the Ring]

The most melancholy reference is when the lady Galadriel explains to Frodo the fate of the Elves upon the outcome of the quest:

"Do you not see now wherefore your coming is to us as the footstep of Doom?  For if you fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy.  Yet if you succeed, then our power is diminished, and Lothl√≥rien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away."
[The Fellowship of the Ring]

Because the primary power of the Three Rings is to slow or arrest the passage of time, Galadriel's words clearly mean that with the destruction of the One Ring, they too lose their power.

A Carol of Amen House


Over this grave* a star
Shines in the heavens high,
Beauty remote and afar,
Beauty that shall not die;

Beauty desired and dreamed,
Followed in storm and sun,
Beauty the gods have schemed
And mortals at last have won.

Beauty arose of old
And dreamed of a perfect thing,
Where none shall be angry or cold
Or armed with an evil sting;

Where the world shall be made anew,
For the gods shall breathe its air,
And Phoebus Apollo there-through
Shall move on a golden stair.

The star that all lives shall seek,
That makers of books desire;
All that in anywise speak
Look to this silver fire:

O'er the toil that is giv'n to do,
O'er the search and the grinding pain
Seen by the holy few,
Perfection glimmers again.

O dreamed in an eager youth,
O known between friend and friend,
Seen by the seekers of truth,
Lo, peace and the perfect end!

* In the original poem this is of course 'house'

(Charles Williams) 

The Novels of Charles Williams




















The Novels of Charles Williams
(Thomas Howard, Ignatius Press, 1983)
Originally published by Oxford University Press

What Beatrice was to Dante Thomas Howard is to readers of Charles Williams, whose novels are not exactly hell to read, but some may yet find them somewhat tough going. It's a pity, because as with the Latin Mass, if we only knew what we were missing we would clamor for more. Thankfully Ignatius Press has reprinted this book by Thomas Howard so that we do have a guide through this marvelous world.

In this book, originally published by Oxford University Press, Thomas Howard starts with the party line that Williams is a bad writer, and then shows us why he's a very good one (Thomas Howard can be very sneaky). He explains why CW can't be considered a “major” writer, and maybe not even a good candidate for a minor one, but by the end of the book one is convinced that the label “major” is too small to fit Charles Williams. Howard is similarly dismissive of his own writing in this book, even though it stands as one of his best (his best to date, in my opinion, is On Being Catholic). He suggests the reader not even read the whole book, but just jump around to the relevant parts for the Williams novel he/she is interested in.

Here again I must express a minority opinion: The Novels of Charles Williams reads seamlessly and grippingly start to finish. Anyone venturing into a Williams novel for the first time might find the water, as it were, initially cold and uninviting, regardless how heartily the swimmers urge him or her to dive in. Howard is like a personal trainer, both preparing the reader and helping them stay in shape when, gripped with the strange madness that afflicts readers of Williams novels, they recklessly swim further and further from shore. Howard is obviously among the initiates, and the more dismissive he is of Williams' standing as a writer, the more you want to read him. ’Nuff said. Dive in. The water's fine.


Gord Wilson (Bellingham, WA USA)