Out of love I will not go
Out of love I will not go...
Greatness in Heaven.
Lewis loves to go out of his way to surprise us. We are surprised by the mother's whose love becomes a stumbling block to her salvation. The man whose lust, transformed into sanctified desire, becomes the horst that pulls him into heaven. And here, in this chapter we meet "One of the Great Ones." We expect to meet a great saint, or perhaps even, as the narrator indicates ("Is it... is it?") the Mary. But no. It is Sarah Smith. A person with the most ordinary of names. A person whose name you wouldn't remember. What makes her great?
It is Sarah Smith's love that makes her great. Her love exalts her.
The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
- Matthew 23: 11-12
This scene is, again, inspired by Augustine's Confessions. Just as with the Lustful Lizard, which mimics Augustine's own temptations, we see another vision of romantic love redeemed. Compare these two passages:
I had turned my eyes elsewhere, and while I stood trembling at the barrier, on the other side I could see the chaste beauty of Continence in all her serene, unsullied joy, as she modestly beckoned me to cross over and hesitate no more. She stretched out loving hands to welcome and embrace me, holding up a host of good examples to my sight. With her were countless boys and girls, great numbers of the young and people of all ages, staid widows and women still virgins in old age. And in their midst was continence herself, not barren but a fruitful mother of children, of joys born of you, O Lord, her Spouse.
- Augustine, Confessions, Book VIII.
First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers-soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done. I cannot now remember whether she was naked or clothed. If she were naked, then it must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her inmost spirit shone through the clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thread and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer's features as a lip or an eye. But I have forgotten. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.
- C.S. Lewis, Great Divorce, Chapter 12.
Like with the lustful lizard man, we see the glorious vision of Sarah's earthly love baptized and resurrected. Will it be enough to win the Tragedian?
The greatest love is a gift.
In The Four Loves, Lewis describes two kinds of love: Need Love and Gift Love. He defines need love like this...
My Greek Lexicon defines storge as “affection, especially of parents to offspring”; but also of offspring to parents.. The image we must start with is that of a mother nursing a baby, a bitch or a cat with a basketful of puppies or kittens; all in a squeaking, nuzzling heap together; purrings… Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives
The Need and Need-love of the young is obvious; so is the Gift-love of the mother. She gives birth, gives suck, gives protection. On the other hand, she must give birth or die. She must give suck or suffer. That way, her Affection too is a Need-love. There is the paradox. It is a Need-love but what it needs is to give. It is a Gift-love but it needs to be needed.
- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Chapter Three.
This pretty neatly describes Pam, who we met last week. Someone who does love, but whose need to love overshadows the love itself. It is not that this sort of love is not really love, but that it is an incomplete love; it must mature into something fuller and more beautiful. I think the difference between need-love and gift love also describes this couple. The Tragedian balks at the idea that Sarah no longer needs him to love her. She admits this...
"Only in a poor sort of way," she answered. "I have asked you to forgive me. There was a little real love in it. But what we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved. In the main I loved you for my own sake: because I needed you."
For the Tragedian to enter heaven, his love must transform from need-love to gift love, where he loves her for her wonderousness alone, and not for what she can give him.
Lewis describes elsewhere in The Four Loves what this transformation would look like...
And the rest of heaven already seems to regard Sarah this way... can the Tragedian?
The mask of pretence
What's the deal with the puppet thing going on with the Marionette?
Great question. As we've discussed throughout the series, if you love people for what they can give you, how they make you feel, etc., you are not loving them, but an illusion or projection of them. But this is true also of ourselves; we can become the illusion of what we think the other person desires or needs. We make them an illusion, and become an illusion ourselves.
The Tragedian is the projection of what Sarah's husband thinks he needs to be to get her love, and to make her need him. Therefore, his true self no longer speaks, but a performative masculine projection.
We've all met people like this— people who live in an attempt to be seen to do the right thing. In doing this, he loses both his own uniqueness, and his ability to reckon with the uniqueness of his wife.
He tries to be great and manly, but he's become a puppet of himself. To be redeemed, he must put away his mask, and reckon with his wife as the true person he is.
Notice: sarah never addresses the puppet, but only the man.
I cannot love a lie
NOte: this chapter holds a lot of complex and controversial theological ideas. I did my best to set them out clearly. They are not necessarily what I hold.
Lewis presents us with several ideas:
- That hell— or isolation— is, in some sense necessary because God respects our choices, even to reject him. Joy will not be eternally subject to misery, Hell cannot hold heaven hostage
- It is also necessary because reality cannot sustain illusion.
- The action of God's pity is always available to every soul.
In doing this, Lewis both depicts a strong judgement, not doing away with hell, but also a hopeful suggestion that God's offer of grace never expires, and that perhaps, someday it may truly prevail.
Hell will not be allowed to hold Heaven hostage.
In the end, Sarah Smith turns away from the Tragedian not because she stops loving him, but because he appears to cease to exist. When she says "I cannot love a lie," she truly means it; the illusion of the Tragedian's own grandeur has swallowed him. There is not a husband there for her to love anymore. Her turning away from him is not out of hate, but boundaries.
The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.
lewis rewrites a psalm to describe her spiritual state...
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”
"The Happy Trinity is her home: nothing can trouble her joy.
She is the bird that evades every net: the wild deer that leaps every pitfall.
Like the mother bird to its chickens or a shield to the arm'd knight:
so is the Lord to her mind, in His unchanging lucidity.
Bogies will not scare her in the dark: bullets will not frighten her in the day.
Falsehoods tricked out as truths assail her in vain: she sees through the lie as if it were glass.
The invisible germ will not harm her: nor yet the glittering sun-stroke.
A thousand fail to solve the problem, ten thousand choose the wrong turning: but she passes safely through.
He details immortal gods to attend her: upon every road where she must travel.
They take her hand at hard places: she will not stub her toes in the dark.
She may walk among Lions and rattlesnakes: among dinosaurs and nurseries of lionets.
He fills her brim full with immensity of life: he leads her to see the world's desire."
Hell is nowhere, Heaven is everywhere.
Hell is nothing. Heaven is Everything.
"Nothing like small enough. For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouths for food, or their eyes to see"
'Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, Who have eyes but do not see; Who have ears but do not hear."
- Jeremiah 5:21
All moments present the choice to become real.
"It was not once long ago that He did it. Time does not work that way when once ye have left the Earth. All moments that have been or shall be were, or are, present in the moment of His descending. There is no spirit in prison to Whom He did not preach."
MacDonald, Lewis' great literary mentor held that in the end, every person would give into that severe mercy. Lewis leaves the option open, but is vague about time, showing that maybe some souls will ultimately reject God... but he also hopes perhaps they will not.
So, there is a finality, a harshness. But also a hope.
if you'd like to know more about macdonald, and his thoughts on this...
One of the oddest things about this book is the way that Lewis apparently augments MacDonald's views on salvation. If you're interested in reading more of MacDonald to get an idea of his actual views, you absolutely should.
One of our book clubbers, David Jack, is a Scottish MacDonald expert who has translated numerous of MacDonald's books from Scots to Modern(ish) English. Below you can find several of his translations. David writes, "the 'more militant charity' which ironically is suggested by Lewis and rejected by MacDonald in TGD is actually found in my 1st translation 'Robert Falconer' (in the chapter 'Robert's Plan of Salvation') and in 'Castle Warlock' there's something more akin to the interaction between the spirits and the ghosts in TGD (The Great Divorce)."
David sent me these passages from Robert Falconer, a work which he translated (you can see the Scots on the left, and the English on the right) which deal with this question of eternal judgement, and what he sees as the love that will ultimately prevail. No matter what side you fall on eternal judgement, I love MacDonald's insights into choice and love.
Check out David's work! And buy one of his books!
and tell me... what did you think of this week's chapter?