Eternal Love?

[Image: The Plains of Heaven - John Martin (Tate Gallery)]

Theologians have sometimes asked whether we shall "know one another" in Heaven, and whether the particular love-relations worked out on earth would then continue to have any significance. It seems reasonable to reply: "It may depend what kind of love it had become, or was becoming, on earth." For, surely, to meet in the eternal world someone for whom your love in this, however strong, had been merely natural, would not be (on that ground) even interesting.

Would it not be like meeting in adult life someone who had seemed to be a great friend at your preparatory school solely because of common interest and occupations? If there was nothing more, if he was not a kindred soul, he will now be a total stranger. Neither of you now plays conkers. You no longer want to swop your help with his French exercise for his help with your arithmetic.

In Heaven I suspect, a love that had never embodied Love Himself would be equally irrelevant. For Nature has passed away. All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves: Charity (1960)


Iron will eat the world's old beauty up.
Girder and grid and gantry will arise,
Iron forest of engines will arise,
Criss-cross of iron crotchet. For your eyes
No green or growth. Over all, the skies
Scribbled from end to end with boasts and lies.
(When Adam ate the irrevocable apple, Thou
Saw'st beyond death the resurrection of the dead.)

Clamour shall clean put out the voice of wisdom,
The printing-presses with their clapping wings,
Fouling your nourishment. Harpy wings,
Filling your minds all day with foolish things,
Will tame the eagle Thought: till she sings
Parrot-like in her cage to please dark kings.
(When Israel descended into Egypt, Thou
Didst purpose both the bondage and the coming out.)

The new age, the new art, the new ethic and thought,
And fools crying, Because it has begun
It will continue as it has begun!
The wheel runs fast, therefore the wheel will run
Faster for ever. The old age is done,
We have new lights and see without the sun.
(Though they lay flat the mountains and dry up the sea,
Wilt thou yet change, as though God were a god?)

C.S. Lewis
Poems (Geoffrey Bles, 1964)

Charles Williams Society Conference

To being to an end this series of readings from and about Charles Williams, a note reminding readers of an event this weekend.

On Saturday 23rd October from 10:45am there will be a Day Conference of the Charles Williams Society. Held in the 'Concord Room' or St. Matthew's Church, Great Peter Street in Westminster, the programme will include a paper from Dr. Josh Bradbury on his recently completed doctoral dissertation on Williams. If you are in London this weekend, you will receive a very warm welcome at this event.

All Hallows Eve

The hate seemed to swell in a nightmare bubble within the rose which was forming round them, cloud in cloud, overlying like petals. Simon made a quick half-spring as if to overleap it, and so did they; but he failed and fell back, and so did they. The smell of the rose was changing to the smell of his last act, to the smell of blood. He looked down; he saw below him the depth of the rose.

A sudden fresh blast of rain fell on him and drove him deeper, and so those others. It flashed past him in an infinity of drops, as of points falling-at first crystal, then of all colours, from those almost too dark to be seen through to those almost too bright to be seen. They fell continuously between him and those other faces, in which he could now see those waves passing which his devotee had seen in his own face. The bright showers of the hallows flashed, and beyond him he could see only his multiplied self; and all he could do against them was only done to himself.

Charles Williams - All Hallows Eve

T.S. Eliot on Charles Williams

"For him there was no frontier between the material and the spiritual world. Had I ever to spend a night in a haunted house, I should have felt secure with Williams in my company; he was somehow protected from evil, and was himself a protection... To him the supernatural was natural, and the natural was also supernatural... Williams' understanding of Evil was profound... He is concerned, not with the Evil of conventional morality and the ordinary manifestations by which we recognize it, but with the essence of Evil; it is therefore Evil which has no power to attract us, for we see it as the repulsive thing it is, and as the despair of the damned from which we recoil."

T.S. Eliot
Introduction to All Hallow's Eve (extract)

Williams on Evelyn Underhill

It was in October 1937 that I met her first--invited to tea with her in her Campden Hill Square house. She had just had one of her bad illnesses. The door of the room into which I was shown was directly behind the big arm-chair in which she was sitting facing a glowing fire. As I entered she got up and turned round, looking so fragile as though 'a puff of wind might blow her away' might be literally true in her case, but light simply streamed from her face illuminated with a radiant smile. . . . One could not but feel consciously there and then (not on subsequent recognition or reflection) that one was in the presence of the extension of the Mystery of our Lord's Transfiguration in one of the members of His Mystical Body. I myself never saw it repeated on any later meeting though others have probably seen the same thing at other times. It told one not only of herself, but more of God and of the Mystical Body than all her work put together."

Such an outpouring of light has been observed elsewhere-in certain great men (such as, I think, Leonardo) and by lovers in lovers. It is as if the physical flesh itself had become, or at least had
seemed to become, its unfallen self; as if that Original which was seen in the Transfiguration chose at certain moments to exhibit something of its glory in its created derivations. That such a phenomenon was observed in her is credible enough; it was her reward, and (after the proper heavenly manner) it was given to others.

From CW's introduction to
Letters of Evelyn Underhill

A supernatural moral law?

"... where Williams differs from (other) writers... is in his portrayal of a world of supernatural moral law governing the interaction between two levels of states of being. For him the living and the dead exist within a single spiritual realm.

The basic premise is made clear in the second chapter of Descent into Hell. Here a London suburban estate is presented as multi-dimensional, time being contained within space, time occupying space, so that within this particular spot the present, the past, and the future are seen to be co-terminous. Whereas a similar concept can be presented materialistically (as in Alan Garner's novel Red Shift [1973]) Charles Williams uses this concept of relativity in a theological context: the living and the dead influence each other in an eternal dimension to which both belong and of which the physical world is the sacrament. Accordingly in this particular book the moral suicide of a distinguished military historian chimes, as it were, with the physical suicide of one of the workmen who built the house in which he lives. So too the fear endured by a young woman who is subject to the visitations of a Doppelgänger is both shared with, and supportive of, the fear suffered by a sixteenth century ancestor, a victim of religious persecution. In each case the fate of an individual is related to a timeless spiritual process. Williams's vision is essentially theological.

He describes his supernatural world with extraordinary particularity. Instead of obtruding the ghostly element upon the life of everyday, he assumes that life into the supernatural dimension: it is thus impossible to banish his phantoms from our own world, because we find ourselves inhabiting theirs, and subject to its laws."

Glen Cavaliero - 'The Novels of Charles Williams'