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Category: C.S. Lewis

strange god indeed

by Andrea Elizabeth

Before I forget more, I’ll jot down some thoughts about Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. I missed our bookclub meeting on it. I had a much less favorable impression of it this second time around. The first time I was able to root for both Psyche and Orual. This time the complaints against the gods had more force, and the happy ending didn’t work for me.

C.S. Lewis has a hypnotic way of making you swallow contradictions. I won’t deny paradox, but I don’t think the Orthodox have to check their brains in at the door as much. We do not have to accept a god who does not show his face and who consumes people. The Incarnation and our icons reveal what God looks like. If we repent, we are not consumed. What we are not is consumed, and who we are is strengthened by grace.

Orual consistently acted selfishly (I don’t consider being good at war in itself a virtue), and yet at the end she has turned beautiful. Is this because of the mysterious robe of righteousness that covers who you really are and makes you assume someone else’s identity?

And opening ourselves to a void of identity gives all sorts of entities an invitation to enter in.

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Grudging positives in the Confessions

by Andrea Elizabeth

So’s not to be accused of being prejudicially against St. Augustine, I’ll say that when he’s praising and adoring Christ, I can let myself get in his groove.

Another thought after the section on theater, it sounds like romance stories were alive and well in his day, and didn’t take off with “Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart (French: Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette) is an Old French poem by Chrétien de Troyes. It is unknown exactly when the poem was composed, only that it would have been between 1175 and 1181 (most likely 1177)” as I thought C.S. Lewis attributed the genesis in his Allegory of Love. Maybe he was referring to courtly love, which may put a different twist to it.

I agree with his criticism on being caught up in pathos, but I like St. Basil’s more surgical approach in his Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature, which Augustine probably didn’t read because of his aversion to Greek Literature.

His account of his mother’s vision when discouraged about his dissoluteness is probably my favorite part so far.

T’was lovely

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just closed the tabs related to our trip, such as, what is the distance between Edinburgh and Glasgow? Where is the Bronte Parsonage Museum? Such sadness to be leaving Britain behind. I’m slowly unpacking and reorganizing my new closet that George shelved up for me while I was gone. Is it that my grand adventure is over, or would I rather live there? The proximity to the stomping grounds of my favourite authors, the heavenly sheep dotted country side, the simple, but eminently satisfying tea and scones, the original Victorian woodwork in the pubs, the modest, cozy tidiness of it all?

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Wales

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Cemetery by the Bronte parsonage. They are buried under the Church, however.

to enjoy or to longsuffer

by Andrea Elizabeth

after the second audio disk out of four of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, starring Andy Serkis

Chapter 13 about attachment and detachment is very thought provoking. One could argue that the positiveness of enjoying a physical pleasure like a walk or a cup of hot cocoa is contradicted later when he talks about the woman who is a glutton because she’s so particular about the things she likes, even in small amounts. Aren’t there particulars about the cocoa and the walk that one could compare to the particulars in the lady’s requests? The contrast is that the lady complained when her standards weren’t met. The ambulator joyfully abandoned himself to the countryside. The devil’s terrorism would be to cause the cup of cocoa to fall or a goose to bite him, instead of too many, but still a reasonable amount of marshmallows, or the wildflowers being the wrong color.

Father Clive

by Andrea Elizabeth

Yesterday I again listened to Screwtape Letters, creepily narrated Andy Serkis. I previously had the impression that C.S. Lewis believed in Absolute Divine Simplicity, but not according to the first CD ( out of 5?). He inversely explains that God does not want to take a person over, nor to assimilate him into himself. He sounded a bit Pelagian though when he said that God leaves people to will correctly on their own. He may take over slightly in the beginning, but then they learn to do it by themselves. This may explain Aslan’s infrequent visits. But the part on prayer talks about how difficult it is to focus on God’s presence, which he does believe is always there.

About that, his explanation sounds like what I’ve heard about image-less prayer, but it doesn’t sound like he thinks grace can be communicated through created things.

Pronouns

by Andrea Elizabeth

Are there just 2 choices, one right and one wrong? You or me, left or right? This may be the perception. It is more difficult to consider multiple valid options, such as up, down, front and back, with right and left, so maybe that’s why we don’t. Does that mean Hegel was lazy? Or narcissistic?

Is reality one, as Hegel suggests – a single synthesis of me and the other,

or is it one in that it is the relationship between me and the other,

or just me,

or just the other,

or is it dual as the other and how it changed me,

or multiple as all the independent others, including me,

or all the instances of relationships between each of the others, also allowing for independence and exclusiveness,

or all the relationships being mutually dependent,

or all independent beings, with their relationships being another entity, and is the nature of the independent being changed by the relationship(s)?

The above imply that reality is equal to one’s consciousness of it. Reality can also be viewed as an ontologically unchangeable thing regardless of one’s consciousness of it. But one has to leave oneself behind, as Carly learns in “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain”, to perceive this ontology that exists whether I realize it or not. 

Or is there room to believe that one’s consciousness of things also changes reality such that reality includes the dynamic of enlightenment. Enlightenment and ignorance change things. This is a common theme in literature. Pride and Prejudice is all about how ignorance leads to a set of actions that make a certain reality, and enlightenment leads to another set for a different reality. Both experienced and actualized. Ignorance and misunderstanding lead to the distance between good people with the union of not so good people, and enlightenment leads to the union of the good people. This leads to the belief  that good as a reality, is obtained through the quest for truth, which seems to be who has good character and who has bad so that I know who to unite myself to. Therefore the goal of the knowledge of reality is relationship. This is not exactly dualistic, but interpretation through a sliding scale of the worst, worse, bad, good, better and best. Dualism can still be noted in that there are still two ingredients, the good, which is to be united to, and the bad, which is to be avoided as much as possible.

Does the amount of enlightenment and the nature of the relationship change the nature of the individual? My understanding of human nature through what I’ve studied in Orthodox teaching, is that it is one and unchangeable. But a person’s participation with true humanity is on a sliding scale. It is negatively affected by sin and unconsciousness. Is a person less human who is of bad character and unconscious of goodness? I don’t think they are less in that they become something else, but I think they are smaller, as when Lewis’ Tragedian in The Great Divorce gets bigger and the man gets smaller the more he listens to him and accepts him. The man doesn’t become the Tragedian, he just disappears.

So if one person disappears, how are others affected? Is it an independent occurrence, or do the ones he is related to suffer as well? Or is it just the relationship as a separate entity that suffers? And are our multiple relationships with things compartmentalized within ourselves? I lean towards domino effects, so that one’s relationship with a small person affects one’s other relationships, but do they affect you as a person other than your perceptions and therefore future decisions? They probably do contribute to one’s personal size, or attainment of humanity. One has to decide to get caught up in the other’s dysfunction, or reject it, and how it is allowed to affect one’s view of others. This implies one needs to be more conscious of reality. One needs to be enlightened to become more human.

So is the enlightened person only concerned with the other, regardless of consciousness of relationship or of how the relationship affects him personally? The enlighten person should read his, or his actions’, affect on the other person. That is, the other person’s relationship with him. Perhaps how one is affected by another person or their actions is dependent on how big or small they are. Impassibility entails being unaffected. Loving indiscriminately. But there is the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved. There are those he considered his friends. Maybe this was his human nature. But Enoch walked with God and was no more. And Moses and David were more intimate with Him. Their relationships were results of their character, their bigness.

How conscious of ones self should one be? Carly, in “You’re So Vain”, chides you for thinking the song is about you, but isn’t it also about her? Is it ok to have it be about yourself (Narcissism), but not think that others’ songs are about you? In a certain introduction to the Psalms, in these songs, it is ok to think they are about you, sins (not other people as enemies), and Christ (who I’ll add, includes the least of the brethren). Multiple.

Are alphas born?

by Andrea Elizabeth

My new thought on western romanticism, mostly born out here in posts on C.S. Lewis’s Allegory of Love, where it is claimed that courtly love began around 1100 a.d. (which seems timely with the schism between east and west, imo), is that it is very tied to alpha male and alpha female ism. I believe most people identify with lead characters in stories of dashing heroes who save beautiful princesses. Even if we do not believe ourselves to be as dashing and beautiful as the people in the stories, we probably hoped that we would be when we were children, and that hope may still be unhappily buried throughout life. I am thinking that this may be a western phenomenon.

In western chivalry, all spoils go to the victor who rules over the kingdom, from where he selects the most worthy lady to co-rule with him. Those who lose in this struggle either die or become meaningless servants, valued for their tributes only. Thus the appeal of western romanticism is to identify yourself as the victorious, special male or worthy, special female, even vicariously. I’m also thinking this plays into the American dream of individual home ownership. “A man’s home is his castle.” There’s really no room for equal community in this scheme. Even supporting American laborers are allowed some measure of this individual alpha identification after hours.

From what little I know of Russia and Russians, where Eastern Orthodoxy has been most largely played out, I do not get the same sense of order. It seems that things were mostly a free for all, even though strong men and women held sway. But it was not because they were the most romantically worthy. They best not go to sleep because anyone could take back from them at any time. Individual conquering men do not seem to have been held in the same savior role. Individually strong characteristics may push harder than others, but I don’t think the whole person was glorified in the same way.

This difference may affect how the east views spiritual fathers and elders. A western convert, or even a western influenced cradle Eastern Orthodox, may bring in the western romantic idea of a spiritual father being their alpha savior to whom they can pledge allegiance, and perhaps through whom they can become the alpha queen equivalent (don’t get too literal about gender here) in their own realm. This idea may need adjustment.

I believe the proper view of a spiritual father is that they can guide one on the path to becoming united to Christ through passing along the three fold path of salvation: purgation, illumination, and theosis. He is a guide who serves, not a romantic savior. I think this confusion also influences how we view veneration of the Saints. To view them as chivalric saviors is idolatry. To see them as guides to the proper worship in and belief about God is to see them as helpers. They should also identify with us as equally created fellow humans, not as special alpha people.

I think this unhealthy romanticism also influences how people, especially women and perhaps some men, see mentoring in general. It should not be about the personal association with an alpha male, it should be about guidance in the truth of how to be with God.

The problem of animals

by Andrea Elizabeth

I’ve just read the chapter on animals in Lewis’ The Problem of Pain and made a lengthy comment to follow the conversation here in “Another Atheist Question”.

There is good, and there is Good

by Andrea Elizabeth

Mitt Romney had to spend a lot of energy yesterday explaining what he meant by his statement indicating that he’s not worried about the poor. Sharing his belief that they have an adequate safety net was supposed to smooth things over. A couple of ladies on The View thought throwing hungry people some food and thinking that is all it takes, is out of touch.

C.S. Lewis has some interesting insight on that,

2. If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable. A Christian cannot, therefore, believe any of those who promise that if only some reform in our economic, political, or hygienic system were made, a heaven on earth would follow. This might seem to have a discouraging effect on the social worker, but it is not found in practice to discourage him. On the contrary, a strong sense of our common miseries, simply as men, is at least as good a spur to the removal of all the miseries we can, as any of those wild hopes which tempt men to seek their realisation by breaking the moral law and prove such dust and ashes when they are realised. If applied to individual life, the doctrine that an imagined heaven on earth is necessary for vigorous attempts to remove present evil, would at once reveal it’s absurdity. Hungry men seek food and sick men healing none the less because they know that after the meal or the cure the ordinary ups and downs of life still await them. I am not, of course, discussing whether very drastic changes in our social system are, or are not, desirable; I am only reminding the reader that a particular medicine is not to be mistaken for the elixir of life.

3. Since political issues have here crossed our path, I must make it clear that the Christian doctrine of self-surrender and obedience is a purely theological, and not in the least a political, doctrine. Of forms of government, of civil authority and civil obedience, I have nothing to say. The kind and degree of obedience which a creature owes to it’s Creator is unique because the relation between creature and Creator is unique: no inference can be drawn from it to any political proposition whatsoever.

Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). The Problem of Pain (pp. 114-115). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The danger of self-righteousness and worldly success

by Andrea Elizabeth

Just found this quote that goes along with the previous post,

“The dangers of apparent self-sufficiency explain why Our Lord regards the vices of the feckless and dissipated so much more leniently than the vices that lead to worldly success. Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger.

Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). The Problem of Pain (p. 96). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition. “