Saturday, April 28, 2007

C. S. Lewis, What Have You Done?

So, C. S. Lewis is a total pimp, right? I mean, I don't think anyone who reads this will argue that Lewis was an absolutely amazing writer, dreamer, theologist and philosopher. I've read much of his work, some of it more than once. I feel confident that you most likely have, too. So, check out this little excerpt taken from the end of The Last Battle:

"Know, O warlike kings," said Emeth, " and you, O ladies whose beauty illuminates the universe, that I am Emeth, the seventh son of Harpa Tarkaan of the city of Tehishbaan, Westward beyond the desert. I came lately into Narnia with nine and twenty others under the command of Rishda Tarkaan. Now when I first heard that we should march upon Narnia I rejoiced; for I had heard many things of your Land and desired greatly to meet you in battle. But when I found that we were to go in disguised as merchants (which is a shameful dress for a warrior and the son of a Tarkaan) and to work by lies and trickery, then my joy departed from me. And most of all when I found we must wait upon a Monkey and when it began to be said that Tash and Aslan were one, then the world became dark in my eyes. For always since I was a boy I have served Tash and my great desire was to know more of him, if it might be, to look upon his face. But the name of Aslan was hateful to me.

"And, as you have seen, we were called together outside the straw-roofed hovel, night after night, and the fire was kindled, and the Ape brought forth out of the hovel something upon four legs that I could not well see. And the people and the Beasts bowed down and did honor to it. But I thought, the Tarkaan is deceived by the Ape: for this thing that comes out of the stable is neither Tash nor any other god. But when I watched the Tarkaan's face, and marked every word that he said to the Monkey, then I changed my mind: for I saw that the Tarkaan did not believe in it himself. And then I understood that he did not believe in Tash at all: for if he had, how could he dare to mock him?

"When I understood this, a great rage fell upon me and I wondered that the true Tash did not strike down both the Monkey and the Tarkaan with fire from heaven. Nevertheless I hid my anger and held my tongue and waited to see how it would end. But last night, as some of you know, the Monkey brought not forth the yellow thing but said that all who desired to look upon Tashlan -- for so they mixed the two words to pretend that they were all one -- must pass one by one into the hovel. And I said to myself, Doubtless this is some other deception. But when the Cat had followed in and had come out again in a madness of terror, then I said to myself, Surely the true Tash, whom they called on without knowledge or belief, has now come among us, and will avenge himself. And though my heart was turned into water inside me because of the greatness and terror of Tash, yet my desire was stronger than my fear, and I put force upon my knees to stay them from trembling, and on my teeth that they should not chatter, and resolved to look upon the face of Tash though he should slay me. So I offered myself to go into the hovel; and the Tarkaan, though unwillingly, let me go.

"As soon as I had gone in at the door, the first wonder was that I found myself in this great sunlight (as we all are now) though the inside of the hovel had looked dark from outside. But I had no time to marvel at this, for immediately I was forced to fight for my head against one of our own men. As soon as I saw him I understood that the Monkey and the Tarkaan had set him there to slay any who came in if he were not in their secrets: so that this man also was a liar and a mocker and no true servant of Tash. I had the better will to fight him; and having slain the villain, I cast him out behind me through the door.

"Then I looked about me and saw the sky and the wide lands and smelled the sweetness. And I said, By the Gods, this is a pleasant place: it may be that I am come into the country of Tash. And I began to journey into the strange country and to seek him.

"So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant's; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the flaming furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honor) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die that to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

"Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.

"And since then, O kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog --"

I'm gonna number these for discussion referencing.

  1. So, recently I was talking about Gregg, The Rockel and I eating breakfast together and we are discussing some Christian Existentialism over omelets. It was great. One of the things we talked about was what happens to people in remote parts of the world who have no opportunity to hear the Gospel? Do they go to Hell?

  2. A few weeks ago, Gregg and I were discussing how precisely we could describe our personal religious beliefs. One of the problems we had during the conversation was what about people of other religions? Do they get in to heaven?

  3. Then there were questions as to the nature of God's mercy, justice, jealousy, vengeance, wrath and love. For, as I understand, we serve a God of all these things.

  4. Then, Gregg showed me this passage the other night whilst waiting on The Custer to arrive in the Triangle from the University of Florida. Wasn't Tash the Devil in The Chronicles? How much do you think the words of C. S. Lewis apply to other religions like Judaeism, Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism?

  5. If you've read The Great Divorce, Emeth's description of the journey he takes once inside the hovel is in line with Lewis's major portrayal of heaven so we know what he's talking about: going before God and saying I followed someone else and God saying "Meh, you were wrong, it was me the whole time. Yup, in ya go."

  6. Dante won't go this far. He puts the virtuous pagans in Limbo which is described very much like Elysian Fields in which the souls aren't tortured, just grievous. The are saddened by the knowledge of the fact that they must serve eternity so far separated from God with no hope for reconciliation.

  7. Lewis goes WAY past that and says that as long as you believed something "for the oath's sake" then you get a free pass. If this is true, then what's the point of the Gospel, "The only way to the father," and all that business?



Andronicus said...

Lewis goes WAY past that and says that as long as you believed something "for the oath's sake" then you get a free pass. If this is true, then what's the point of the Gospel, "The only way to the father," and all that business?

Exactly. What is the point? Every religion pretty much says it is the only religion. In my opinion, what I believe is right, and if it isn't, why believe in any one religion, any other religion, any religion at all? What is the point?

I have heard people say "I think it's just important that you believe in something" but that is crazy! You can believe lies as long as you believe in something? That's no life.

"When I said don't worship the Devil, what I really meant was you could worship the devil and get into heaven for free." Huh?

Sounds like C.S. Lewis got soft in his old age.

wanderingshadow said...

I have to disagree with Androndicus. This fellow (whom some consider analagous to a Narnian Muslim. I'm going going to make that claim, I prefer it to be the religion of Tash, and Lewis claimed. this could be representative of many differnt things in this world, Islam may or may not have been in mind when Lewis framed this story) was following the absolute best he knew how, he continued to pursue, to seek, and at the end of the day, I think he finally finds what he was seeking for. He never met Aslan, ran into any other Narnians, he was completely on his own in regard to what he beleived. He followed Tash, but continued to look and hunt for the truth, because he didn't find full satisfaction in Tash. He continued to ask questions and look about. This dedication to an idea, even when he didn't completely know what he was searching for, speaks of an open and receptive heart.
I don't feel comfortable following a loving and compassionate God who tosses those that seek for him away. I realize that it would also be a perfectly just and wrathful God that Christianity claims as well, but judging someone on a moral code when they do not have access to that code is not just. It could be seen as one of the greatest injustices a person can bring to someone else.
Take 'Hitchhikers Guide'. The earth was to be demolished because we couldn't file a protest in whatever office it was that listed places to be demolished to make way for an intergalactic highway. That isn't at all fair to humanity, who can't actually visit the office and lodge a complaint. It isn't just. It certainly isn't loving. Punishment in love is one thing. Punishment for living a debauched and sinful life is one thing. Punishment for the lack of knowledge...that is too far away from who God is for me to accept.

Andronicus said...

I'm really looking forward to the next post. Since it has been over a month in the making, I know it will be one whopper of a blog.