Voyage to Venus

I don't know much about what people call the religious view of life,' said Ransom, wrinkling his brow. 'You see, I'm a Christian. And what we mean by the Holy Ghost is not a blind, inarticulate purposiveness.'

'My dear Ransom,' said Weston, 'I understand you perfectly. I have no doubt that my phraseology will seem strange to you, and perhaps even shocking. [...] But [...] believe me, we are talking about exactly the same thing.'

'I'm not at all sure that we are.'

'That, if you will permit me to say so, is one of the real weaknesses of organised religion -- that adherence to formulae, that failure to recognize one's own friends.'

But quickly enough, it becomes obvious that it is only Weston's body that is present; Weston is clearly no longer human, being totally possessed by the Evil One himself.

'But this is very foolish,' said the Un-man. 'Do you not know who I am?'

'I know what you are,' said Ransom. 'Which of them doesn't matter.'

'And you think, little one,' it answered, that you can fight with me? You think He will help you, perhaps? Many thought that. I've known Him longer than you, little one. They all think He's going to help them -- till they come to their senses screaming recantations too late in the middle of the fire, mouldering in concentration camps, writhing under saws, jibbering in mad-houses, or nailed on to crosses. Could He help Himself?' -- and the creature suddenly threw back its head and cried in a voice so loud that it seemed the golden sky-roof must break, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.'

And the moment it had done so, Ransom felt certain that the sounds it had made were perfect Aramic of the first century. The Un-man was not quoting; it was remembering. These were the very words spoken from the Cross, treasured through all those years in the burning memory of the outcast creature which had heard them, and now brought forward inhideous parody; the horror made him momentarily sick.

C.S. Lewis
Voyage to Venus (Perelandra)

The Giant Slayer

When they came out into the air John blinked a little, but not much, for they were still only in a half-light under the shadow of the giant, who was very angry, with smoke coming from his mouth, so that he looked more like a volcano than an ordinary mountain.  And now John gave himself up for lost, but just as the jailor had dragged him up to the giant's feet, and had cleared his throat, and begun 'The case against this prisoner—' there was a commotion and a sound of horse's hoofs. The jailor looked round, and even (the giant took his terrible eyes off John and looked round: and last of all, John himself looked round too. They saw some of the guard coming towards them leading a great black stallion, and in it was seated a figure wound in a cloak of blue which was hooded over the head and came down concealing the face.

'Another prisoner, Lord,' said the leader of the guards.

Then very slowly the giant raised his great, heavy finger and pointed to the mouth of the dungeon.

'Not yet,' said the hooded figure. Then suddenly it stretched out its hands with the fetters on them-and made a quick movement of the wrists. There was a tinkling sound as the fragments of the broken chain fell on the rock at the horse's feet: and the guardsmen let go the bridle and fell back, watching. Then the rider threw back the cloak and a flash of steel smote light into John's eyes and on the giant's face.  John saw that it was a woman in the flower of her age: she was so tall that she seemed to him a Titaness, a sun-bright virgin clad in complete steel, with a sword naked in her hand.  The giant bent forward in his chair and looked at her.

'Who are you', he said.

'My name is Reason,' said the virgin.

C.S. Lewis
The Pilgrim's Regress (1933)
Chapter Nine ~ The Giant Slayer

Lessons from the death of J.R.R.T.

In September 1973, Father John Tolkien celebrated a Requiem Mass for his father at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, in Oxford.  JRR Tolkien was buried next to his wife Edith in a Catholic cemetery just outside Oxford at Wolvercote.  He may have penned his own epitaph in 1956, shortly after The Lord of the Rings was published, when he wrote: “I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a long defeat — though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.”

This sense of exile was present in The Lord of the Rings.  At the end of the story many of the heroes travel, quietly and alone, to the Grey Havens, a harbour containing ships to take passengers on a one-way voyage away from Middle-Earth.  Against all odds good has triumphed, but at a terrible cost.  Some of the travellers are scarred by evil, others by sorrow. The boat slips anchor and fades into the darkness, leaving in its wake a glimmer of light, which in turn disappears.  A sense of melancholy prevails.

“Pullulating as if with unspermed life...”

Otherworldliness, longing and sensuality in All Hallows Eve...

They were all now in a world of simple act. The time for thought, dispute, preparation was done. They were in the City. They were potent to act or impotent to act, but that was the only difference between any of them. The eyes of the woman who lay, incapable of act, against the abandoned chair, were also on Betty and greedy with the same murderous desire. The diseased creatures, also incapable, who lay around the circle, trembled and moaned a little with their helpless longing for the act of healing. She and they alike yearned towards act, and could not reach it. The dwarf-form was still in motion, and its motions as it forced its way on were both its own and Evelyn's-it magically drawn to its origin, she spiritually driving to her refuge. Betty felt that invisible soft mass press against her everywhere-against head and breasts, hands and thighs and legs. She gasped out to Jonathan: "Let go- you must. I may; not you. Only one of us, and I knew her." She wrenched her own hand free from his and struck it backward against him, as Lester had struck at Richard, one gesture whether accurst or blest. In the fierceness of her knowledgeable love, she struck so hard -- all heaven in the blow -- that he loosed his arm from her and fell back a pace. Richard caught and steadied him. At that moment, as Betty entered the circle, the rain broke in.

It came with a furious rush, as if it had beaten the roof down under it. But in fact the roof had not fallen. The rain drove through it, and down over all of them, torrential, but torrential most over the centre of the circle as if the centre of a storm was settled there. Under the deluge the doll on the chair at once melted; it ran over the woman's hand and wholly disappeared, except for a thin film of liquid putrescence which covered them, pullulating as if with unspermed life. She saw it, and under it her hands still bloody; she shook them wildly and tried to tear at them, but the thin pulsing jelly was everywhere over them, and her fingers could not get through it. For the first time in her life she began to sob, with a hideous harsh sound; and as her obstinacy melted like the doll under the rain she scrambled to her feet and made for Simon, the tears on her aged cheeks, clutching at him, with those useless and helpless hands. He did not notice her; it was his misfortune.

Charles Williams “All Hallows Eve”
Ch 10 : The Acts of the City

Dor-na-Fauglith, Land of Thirst

Once wide and smooth a plain was spread,
where King Fingolfin proudly led
his silver armies on the green,
his horses white, his lances keen;
his helmets tall of steel were hewn,
his shields were shining as the moon.
There trumpets sang both long and loud,
and challenge rang unto the cloud
that lay on Morgoth's northern tower,
while Morgoth waited for his hour.

Rivers of fire at dead of night
in winter lying cold and white
upon the plain burst forth, and high
the red was mirrored in the sky.
From Hithlum's walls they saw the fire,
the steam and smoke in spire on spire
leap up, till in confusion vast
the stars were choked. And so it passed,
the mighty field, and turned to dust,
to drifting sand and yellow rust,
to thirsty dunes where many bones
lay broken among barren stones. 

Dor-na-Fauglith, Land of Thirst,
they after named it, waste accurst,
the raven-haunted roofless grave
of many fair and many brave.
Thereon the stony slopes look forth
from Deadly Nightshade falling north,
from sombre pines with pinions vast,
black-plumed and drear, as many a mast
of sable-shrouded ships of death
slow wafted on a ghostly breath.

J.R.R. Tolkien
The Geste of Beren and LĂșthien
(lines 3,246 to 3,277)

Image: Silmarillion: To Angband
by LadyElleth

C.S. Lewis at the BBC

For each talk in his first series, the BBC paid C.S. Lewis a fee of ten guineas plus an allowance to cover the cost of the railway journey from Oxford to London and back. Lewis had no intention of keeping the money for himself, and told his producer, Eric Fenn, that he'd prefer to give the fee to someone else. Fenn promised Lewis to let him know if this was possible, and before too long the BBC Contracts Department wrote to Lewis accordingly: 'We understand from Mr Fenn that you would like us to make the fees for your talks   payable to some person other than yourself. Please let us know to whom you wish these fees be made payable, we will act in accordance with your instructions,'

Lewis's instructions are heeded: 'As you request, we have asked our accounts department to make the cheque for fifty guineas payable to Miss Whitty of 7 Chertsey Road, Bristol 6 and I enclose a copy of the letter sent to her today. The [train] fare will be sent direct to you.'  In the accompanying letter to Miss Whitty, the BBC's Contracts Department wrongly assumes that C.S. Lewis must be a clergyman to give a religious talk and simply states that 'the Rev. C.S. Lewis has recently broadcast five talks in our programmes and asked us to make the cheque for his fees payable to you'.

Lewis never kept the fees for himself but always gave them away.

Justin Phillips
C.S. Lewis at the BBC (Harper Collins)
Ch.9 What Christians Believe

Positive Depravity...

So much for Nature's imperfection; her positive depravity calls for a very different explanation. According to the Christians this is all due to sin: the sin both of men and of powerful, non-human beings, supernatural but created... To be sure, the morbid inquisitiveness about such beings which led our ancestors to a pseudo-science of Demonology, is to be sternly discouraged: our attitude should be that of the sensible citizen in wartime who believes that there are enemy spies in our midst but disbelieves nearly every particular spy story. We must limit ourselves to the general statement that beings in a different, and higher 'Nature' which is partially interlocked with ours have, like men, fallen and have tampered with things inside our frontier. The doctrine, besides proving itself fruitful of good in each man's spiritual life, helps to protect us from shallowly optimistic or pessimistic views of Nature. To call her either 'good' or 'evil' is boys' philosophy. We find ourselves in a world of transporting pleaures, ravishing beauties, and tantalising possibilities, but all constantly being destroyed, all coming to nothing. Nature has all the air of a good thing spoiled.

The sin, both of men and of angels, was rendered possible by the fact that God gave them free will: thus surrendering a portion of His omnipotence (it is again a deathlike or descending movement) because He saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out (and this is the reascent) a deeper happiness and a fuller splendour than any world of automata would admit.

C.S. Lewis, Miracles (1947)