Out of the Silent Planet: Wikis


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Out of the Silent Planet  
First edition cover
First edition cover
Author C. S. Lewis
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Space Trilogy
Genre(s) Science fiction novel
Publisher The Bodley Head
Publication date 1938
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 264 pp (first edition, hardback)
Followed by Perelandra

Out of the Silent Planet is the first novel of a science fiction trilogy written by C. S. Lewis, sometimes referred to as the Space Trilogy, Ransom Trilogy or Cosmic Trilogy. The other volumes are Perelandra (also published as Voyage to Venus) and That Hideous Strength, and a fragment of a sequel was published posthumously as The Dark Tower. The trilogy was inspired and influenced by David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus (1920).[1]

According to his biographer A. N. Wilson, Lewis wrote the novel after a conversation with J.R.R. Tolkien in which both men lamented the state of contemporary fiction. They agreed that Lewis would write a space-travel story, and Tolkien would write a time-travel one. Tolkien's story only exists as a fragment, published in The Lost Road and other writings (1987) edited by his son Christopher.


Plot summary

The story begins with Dr. Elwin Ransom, a professor of philology at a college of the University of Cambridge, on a hiking trip in the English Midlands. Being refused lodging in the village of Nadderby he must travel into the night the six miles to Sterk. He comes to a small, isolated cottage, the home of a woman and her mentally subnormal son, Harry. The anxious woman thinks Ransom is Harry and runs into him as he comes toward the cottage. She implicitly declines to accommodate Ransom, but tells him about where Harry works, the Rise, the small estate of Professor Weston. She also speaks of a gentleman from London staying there, Mr. Devine, whom Ransom discovers to be his former schoolfellow, a person whom he "cordially disliked." Despite the woman's doubt that Ransom would find lodging, he decides to go there anyway, assuring the woman that he will see to it that Harry is sent home.

When he gets to the front door of the Rise, Ransom hears shouting and struggling inside. When he goes around back, he sees Weston and Devine trying to force Harry to go with them on an interplanetary spaceflight to Malacandra (Mars). Ransom intervenes in the struggle, and Devine sees him as a better prospect than Harry for what he and Weston have in mind. With Weston's grudging consent Devine offers Ransom a drink and accommodations.

After enjoying what he thinks is his nightcap, Ransom loses consciousness. When he awakens shortly thereafter he realizes that he has been drugged. He tries to escape but is subdued by Weston and Devine. When he again regains consciousness he finds himself in a metallic spherical spacecraft en route to Malacandra. The wonder and excitement of such a prospect relieves his anguish at being kidnapped, but Ransom is put on his guard when he overhears Weston and Devine deliberating whether they will again drug him or keep him conscious when they turn him over to the inhabitants of Malacandra, the "sorns", as a sacrifice. Ransom, who has been put to work as cook and scullion, secrets a knife and plans to escape when he gets the chance.

Soon after the three land on the strange planet, Ransom gets his chance to run off into the unknown landscape. He wanders around, finding many differences between Earth and Malacandra, in that all the lakes, streams, and rivers are warm; the gravity is significantly less; and the plants and mountains are strangely tall and thin.

Ransom later meets a civilized native of Malacandra, a hross named Hyoi. He becomes a guest for several months at Hyoi's village, where he uses his philological skills to learn the language of the hrossa and learns their culture. In the process he discovers that gold, known to the hrossa as "sun's blood", is plentiful on Malacandra, and thus is able to discern Devine's motivation for making the voyage thither. Weston's motives are shown to be more complex; he is bent on expanding humanity through the universe, abandoning each planet and star system as it becomes uninhabitable.

The hrossa honor Ransom greatly by asking him to join them in a hunt for a hnakra (plural hnéraki), a fierce water-creature which seems to be the only dangerous predator on the planet, resembling both a shark and a crocodile. While hunting, Ransom is told by an eldil, an almost invisible creature reminiscent of a spirit or ghost, that he must meet Oyarsa, the eldil who is ruler of the planet. He refuses the summons, as he wishes to proceed with the hunt. Hyoi, after killing the hnakra with Ransom's help, is shot dead by Devine and Weston, who are trying to find Ransom. Ransom is told by Hyoi's friend (another hross named Whin) that this is the consequence of disobeying Oyarsa, and that Ransom must now cross the mountains to escape Weston and Devine and fulfil his orders. On his journey, Ransom finally meets a sorn, as he long feared he might. He finds, however, that the séroni are peaceful and kind. Augray (the sorn) explains to him the nature of Oyarsa's body, and that of all eldils. The next day, carrying the human on his back, Augray takes Ransom to Oyarsa.

After a stop at the dwelling place of an esteemed sorn scientist, wherein Ransom is questioned thoroughly about all manner of facts about Earth, Ransom finally makes it to Meldilorn, the home of Oyarsa. In Meldilorn, Ransom meets a pfifltrigg who tells Ransom of the beautiful houses and artwork his race make in their native forests. Ransom then is led to Oyarsa and long awaited conversation begins. Through the conversation Ransom finds out that there are Oyéresu (the plural) for each of the planets in our solar system; in the four inner planets, which have organic life (intelligent and non-intelligent), the local Oyarsa is responsible for that life. The Oyarsa of Earth, called Thulcandra ("the silent planet") by the Malacandrans, has turned evil and has been restricted to Thulcandra by Maleldil, the ruler of the universe. Ransom is ashamed at how little he can tell Oyarsa about Earth and how foolish he and other humans seem to Oyarsa. While the two are talking, Devine and Weston are brought in guarded by hrossa, because they have killed three of that race. Oyarsa then dissects their characters and beliefs.

Oyarsa tells Weston and Devine that he would not tolerate the presence of such creatures, but lets them leave the planet immediately, albeit under very unfavourable orbital conditions. To Ransom, Oyarsa offers him the option of staying on Malacandra. He decides he does not belong there, perhaps because he feels himself unworthy and perhaps because he yearns to be back among the human beings of earth. After a difficult return journey, the space-ship makes it back to Earth. Weston and Devine do not further molest Ransom, perhaps realizing that if Ransom were to try to expose their villainies, no-one would believe him, since there is no corroboration for the story. To prevent further intrusions in Malacandra, Oyarsa has caused the ship to disintegrate shortly after landing.

Ransom himself half-doubts whether all that happened was true, and he realizes that others will be even less inclined to believe it if he should speak of it. However, when the author (Lewis) writes him asking whether he has heard of the medieval Latin word "Oyarses" and knows what it meant, he lets him in on the secret. Ransom then dedicates himself to the mission that Oyarsa gave him before he left Malacandra of stopping Weston from further evil.

The storyline may have been influenced by H. G. Wells's First Men in the Moon which Lewis described as "The best of the sort Science Fiction I have read...." in a letter to Roger Lancelyn Green. Wells's book, like Lewis's, reaches its climax with a meeting between an Earthman and the wise ruler of an alien world, during which the Earthman makes very ill-considered boasts of his species' military prowess. The characters of Weston and Devine might be, in general, dark versions of Wells's Cavor and Bradford. In both books, a scientist with a wide-ranging mind forms a partnership with an eminently practical man who has a special attraction to extraterrestrial bars of gold, and they quietly build themselves a spaceship in the English countryside. In both stories, the interplanetary craft are spherical, though only Lewis' is called a "space-ship". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, J. J. Astor in his A Journey in Other Worlds first used the term "space-ship" in 1894, but Lewis was the fourth person to use the term in published material. Perhaps his creation of new worlds, like H.G. Wells, is particularly interesting knowing that it was only in 1923 that Edwin Hubble discovered "other" galaxies outside of our planetary system.

Major themes

The eldila, who work for Oyarsa as messengers and maintainers of the planet, evidently are meant to supply the role of angels. Oyarsa is a more powerful angel, perhaps an archangel, and Oyarsa's superior, Maleldil the Young, represents Jesus. The 'Old one', the creator of Mars, is God the Father. Part of the background in Out of the Silent Planet is that Earth's Oyarsa (who is obviously Lucifer) became "bent" (corrupt), destroyed most of the life on Mars, and was forcibly imprisoned inside the Moon's orbit, having induced (as comes up later in the series) the creatures living under the Lunar surface to adopt evil ways and deliberately destroy all the life which once existed on their surface. Because the eldila, who fill space (or "the heavens," which are depicted as warm and bright under the influence of the Sun) know nothing about what goes on inside those boundaries, Earth is called Thulcandra, "the silent planet". While Earth has fallen into evil, Mars has not. This represented one of Lewis's concerns about space travel: that fallen humanity would have nothing to offer other life in space other than depravity.

As in many other science fiction works of his time and earlier, Mars in this book is conceived of as a dying world; the enormous canals believed at the time to be a major feature of its surface (until space probes proved them to be either nonexistent or a misinterpretation of natural river canyons) were conceived as a major engineering project undertaken by the Martians in their effort to survive. The logical conclusion, first made by H. G. Wells in The War of the Worlds and repeated by various others, was to assume that the Martians would eventually try to escape their dying world and settle on the younger and more vigorous Earth.

Olaf Stapledon, in Last and First Men—a monumental future history stretching over millions perhaps even billions of years, which was published shortly before Lewis' book—made a further extrapolation: humans in the far-off future escaping the dying Earth and settling on Venus, in the process totally exterminating its native inhabitants - an intelligent marine species. Stapeldon's book can be seen as condoning such interplanetary genocide as a justified act if necessary for racial survival, though some of Stapeldon's partisans denied that such was his intention.

Lewis very strongly objected to the idea, and his book can be seen as partially a rebuttal of it. Prof. Weston's arguments in his confrontation with Oyarsa, where he outrightly defends the "right" of "culturally superior" humans to displace and exterminate the Martians are clearly intended to represent what Lewis conceived as Stapledon's arguments. Counterposed by Lewis is the vision of the three virtuous Martian species, aware that their planet is dying, stoically accepting their fate and living a harmonious life under the wise guidance of Oyarsa. Members of the three species are also aware of the appointed day of their own individual deaths and accept it.

Though their ancestors possessed the technology to build spaceships and go to other planets, and though Earth's "Bent Oyarsa" (Satan) tried to put that thought into their minds, the Malacandrans have foregone this temptation. Malacandra's Oyarsa does mention that taking this momentous decision was not quite smooth, and that some rebels whom the Bent Oyarsa had made "wise enough to see the death of their kind approaching, but not wise enough to endure it" and who could not be healed had to be "unbodied" (by Oyarsa himself as Maleldil's agent). This was, however, in the distant past, many generations ago.

To Prof. Weston, such a "defeatist" attitude is intolerable, although had the Martians settled Earth, nascent mankind would have obviously received short shrift. On hearing it he declares himself on the side of the Bent One and his defiant attitude ("He fights, jumps, lives, not like Maleldil who lets everybody die").

The concepts of space and other planets in this novel are largely taken from medieval cosmology. For more information on it, see C. S. Lewis's The Discarded Image, a series of lectures on this cosmology that were published after his death.

Hrossa, Séroni, Pfifltriggi

The hrossa (singular hross) resemble bipedal otters or seals, and are somewhat taller and thinner than humans. They live in the low river valleys (handramit in the speech of the eldila) and specialize in farming, fishing, and performing arts such as dancing and poetry. They are especially gifted in making poetry; yet they refuse to write it down as they believe that books ruin words and poems. Their technical level is low, and they wear only pocketed loincloths. The boats that they build are similar to our canoes. They add an initial /h/ sound to their words.

The séroni (singular sorn; the plural is sometimes given as sorns) are thin, fifteen-foot-high humanoids having coats of pale feathers and seven-fingered hands.[1] They live in mountain caves of the high country (harandra in the speech of the eldila), though they often descend into the handramit where they raise giraffe-like livestock. They are the scholars and thinkers of Malacandra, specializing in science and abstract learning. Their technical level is high, and they design machinery, which is built by the pfifltriggi. Although they can write they do not compose written works of history or fiction as they feel the hrossa are superior at it.

The pfifltriggi (singular pfifltrigg) have tapir-like heads (with a bulge at the back containing the brain) and frog-like bodies; they lean their elbows on the ground when at rest, and sometimes when working with their hands. Their movements are quick and insectlike. They are the builders and technicians of Malacandra. They build houses and gadgets thought up by the séroni. They are miners who especially like to dig up "sun's blood" (gold) and other useful and beautiful minerals. They are the only species said to wear a form of clothes, other than the hrossa, and even wear goggles to protect their eyes.

All three of these races are "hnau" (a word referring to sentient or reasoning beings, in which humans are included) and "unfallen": free of the tendency to evil and sin that plagues humans. Ransom describes the emotional connection between the races as a cross between that of equals and that of person to an animal, mirrored in the way that humans tend to anthropomorphize pets. Members of the three races do not believe any one of the races to be superior to the others; they acknowledge, rather, that no single race can do everything.

In the sequels it is made clear that the language of the hrossa is the primary Old Solar language, and that the languages of the other two species are late derivatives of it. This represents Lewis' view that the symbolic and mythopoeic imagination is the primary language of the human mind and that scientific and technological analysis is a later development. In the essay Bluspels and Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare[2] he argues that, though reason is the organ of truth, imagination is the organ of meaning.


Other appearances

The hrossa, séroni, and pfifltriggi are several of the races living on Mars in Larry Niven's 1999 novel Rainbow Mars; they are referred to as the "Pious Ones" by the Barsoomian races. The hrossa are called the "Fishers", the pfifltriggi the "Smiths", and the séroni the "High Folk". The pfifltriggi are one of the races who chose to ride to Earth on Yggdrasil.

The séroni appear at the beginning of the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as one of the Martian races allied against the "mollusc invaders" (the Martians from The War of the Worlds).

In Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, a hieroglyphics-filled chamber seems to show the hrossa, séroni, and pfifltriggi as the original races of Mars, that were wiped out by the arrival of the War of the Worlds Martians.

Weston's speech and its translation

The speech which Weston delivers at the book's climax, and Ransom's effort to render it into the Old Solar spoken by the Malacandrians, demonstrate the enormous gulf in cultural and moral perceptions, which renders Weston's value judgements utterly untranslatable and may be said to make them absurd; thus creating a sort of social criticism. The “translation” that we read is to be understood as a back-translation into English of what Ransom said in Old Solar.

Weston's speech in English Ransom's rendering into Old Solar
To you I may seem a vulgar robber Among us, Oyarsa, there is a kind of hnau who will take other hnau's food and - and things, when they are not looking. He says he is not an ordinary one of that kind.
but I bear on my shoulders the destiny of the human race. He says what he does now will make very different things happen to those of our people who are not yet born.
Your tribal life He says that, among you, hnau of one kindred all live together
with its stone-age weapons the hrossa have spears like those we used a very long time ago
and bee-hive huts and your huts are small and round
its primitive coracles and your boats small and light and like our old ones
and elementary social structure and you have only one ruler
has nothing to compare with our civilization - He says it is different with us.
with our science He says we know much.
medicine There is a thing happens in our world when the body of a living creature feels pains and becomes weak, and we sometimes know how to stop it.
and law, He says we have many bent people and we kill them or shut them in huts and that we have people for settling quarrels between the bent hnau about their huts and mates and things.
our armies, He says we have many ways for the hnau of one land to kill those of another and some are trained to do it.
our architecture, He says we build very big and strong huts of stones and other things - like the pfifltriggi.
our commerce And he says we can exchange many things among ourselves
and our transport system which is rapidly annihilating space and time. and can carry heavy weights very quickly a long way.
Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower. Because of all this, he says it would not be the act of a bent hnau if our people killed all your people.


  • Arbolthe Sun (Field of Arbol - Solar System)
  • crah — final section of a poem
  • eldil — spirit, angel
  • GlundandraJupiter
  • handra — earth, land, planet
  • harandra — high earth, plateau
  • handramit — low earth, valley
  • hlab — language
  • hluntheline — long for, yearn for, desire (for the future)
  • hnakra, pl. hnéraki — a vicious aquatic beast hunted by the hrossa. Its qualities could be those of a shark and a crocodile. Lewis may have borrowed the word from Germanic nicor, Old English niker(en), meaning "sea monster".
  • hnakrapunt, pl. hnakrapunti — hnakra-slayer
  • hnau — rational creature
  • honodraskrud — ground-weed
  • hressni — female hrossa
  • hrublood (hence arbol hru, gold)
  • Malacandra — a compound noun, formed with the prefix Malac and the noun handra, which latter means earth, land, or planet, and referring to the fourth planet from the sun; in English: Mars
  • MaleldilJesus, the second person of God with "the Old One" and "the Third One."
  • Oyarsa, pl. Oyéresu — (Title) Ruler of a planet, a higher-order angel, perhaps an arch-angel.
  • Perelandra — a compound noun, formed with the prefix Perel and the noun handra, which means earth, land, or planet, and referring to the second planet from the sun; in English: Venus
  • Thulcandra — a compound noun, formed with the prefix Thulc, meaning "silent", and handra, meaning earth, land, or planet, referring to the third planet from the sun in English: "Silent Planet" or Earth
  • wondelone — long for, yearn for, miss (from the past).

The hrossa's word for "to eat" contains consonants unreproducible by the human mouth. It is not clear how that word would be pronounced on Venus, where Ransom, in the sequel, finds humans speaking the same language spoken by the hrossa.

Publication history

  • 1938, UK, The Bodley Head, N/A, Pub date 1 April 1938, hardback (first edition)
  • 1996, ?, MacMillan Publishing Company, ISBN 0020868804, Pub date ? June 1996, paperback
  • 2003, USA, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-7432-3490-1, Pub date 17 March 2003, paperback


  1. ^ There is an interesting parallel with Dale Russell's speculation that a likely candidate for the evolution of intelligent life would have been a theropod dinosaur such as Troodon. Some theropods are believed to have been feathered.
  2. ^ Selected Literary Essays: Cambridge 1969, p. 251.

Further reading

  • Downing, David C, Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C. S. Lewis's Ransom Trilogy. University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. ISBN 0-87023-997-X

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to C. S. Lewis article)

From Wikiquote

Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-11-291963-11-22) was an Irish author, scholar of medieval literature, and Christian apologist. He is best known for his essays on Christianity and for the children's fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia.



  • He has the journalist's air of being a specialist in everything, of taking in all points of view and being always on the side of the angels: he merely annoys a reader who has the least experience of knowing things, of what knowing is like. There is not two pence worth of real thought or real nobility in him.
    • diary, July 1924
  • For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.
    • "Bluspels and Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare", Rehabilitations (1939)
Only the skilled can judge the skilfulness, but that is not the same as judging the value of the result.
  • Only the skilled can judge the skilfulness, but that is not the same as judging the value of the result.
    • A Preface to Paradise Lost (1941)
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else...
  • I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
    • "Is Theology Poetry?" (1945)
  • Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
    • "God in the Dock" (1948)
  • It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.
    • Letter (8 November 1952); published in Letters of C. S. Lewis (1966), p.247
  • Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
    • "On Three Ways of Writing for Children" (1952)
  • And now, by some transition, which he did not notice, it seemed that what had begun as speech was turned into sight, or into something that can be remembered only as if it were seeing. He thought he saw the Great Dance. It seemed to be woven out of the intertwining undulation of many cords or bands of light, leaping over and under one another and mutually embraced in arabesques and flower-like subtleties. Each figure as he looked at it became the master-figure or focus of the whole spectacle, by means of which his eye disentangled all else and brought it into unity--only to be itself entangled when he looked to what he had taken for mere marginal decorations and found that there also the same hegemony was claimed, and the claim made good, yet the former pattern thereby disposed but finding in its new subordination a significance greater than that which it had abdicated. He could see also ( but the word "seeing" is now plainly inadequate)wherever the ribbons or serpents of light intersected minute corpuscles of momentary brightness: and he knew somehow that these particles were the secular generalities of which history tells--people, institutions, climates of opinion, civilizations, arts, sciences and the like--ephemeral coruscations that piped their short song and vanished. The ribbons or cords themselves, in which millions of corpuscles lived and died, were the things of some different kind. At first he could not say what. But he knew in the end that most of them were individual entities. If so, the time in which the Great Dance proceeds is very unlike time as we know it. Some of the thinner more delicate cords were the beings that we call short lived: flowers and insects, a fruit or a storm of rain, and once (he thought) a wave of the sea. Others were such things we think lasting: crystals, rivers, mountains, or even stars. Far above these in girth and luminosity and flashing with colours form beyond our spectrum were the lines of personal beings, yet as different from one another in splendour as all of them from the previous class. But not all the cords were individuals: some of them were universal truths or universal qualities. It did not surprise him then to find that these and the persons were both cords and both stood together as against the mere atoms of generality which lived and died in the clashing of their streams: But afterwards, when he came back to earth, he wondered. And by now the thing must have passed together out of the region of sight as we understand it. For he says that the whole figure of there enamored and inter –inanimate circling was suddenly revealed as the mere superficies of a far vaster pattern in four dimensions, and that figure as the boundary of yet others in other worlds: till suddenly as the movement grew yet swifter, the interweaving yet more ecstatic, the relevance of all to all yet more intense, as dimension was added to dimension and tat part of him which could reason and remember was dropped further and further behind that part of him which saw, even then, at the very zenith of complexity, complexity was eaten up and faded, as a thin white cloud fades into the hard blue burning of sky, and all simplicity beyond all comprehension, ancient and young as spring, illimitable, pellucid, drew him with cords of infinite desire into it’s own stillness. He went up into such a quietness, a privacy, and a freshness that at the very moment when he stood farthest from our ordinary mode of being he had the sense of striping off encumbrances and awaking from a trance, and coming to himself. With a gesture of relaxation he looked about him…
    • from "Perelandra"
  • In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
    • "The Abolition of Man" (1943)

The Pilgrim's Regress (1933)

  • Our father was married twice,' continued Humanist. 'Once to a lady named Epichaerecacia, and afterwords to Euphuia...[1]

Out of the Silent Planet (1938)

  • "A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmān, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. The séroni could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of a poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then–that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it." [2]
    • Hyoi
  • "And I say also this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes." [3]
    • Hyoi
Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.

The Problem of Pain (1940)

  • Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.
  • Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.
  • Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment.
  • God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
  • God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love.
  • Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.
  • I call this Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up "our own" when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is "nothing better" now to be had.
  • If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed.

The Screwtape Letters (1942)

There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.
  • There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.
  • I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.
  • My dear Wormwood,
    I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naive? It sounds as if you suppose that argument was the way to keep him out of the enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier.
  • Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.
  • When they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours.
  • Courtship is the time for sowing those seeds which will grow up ten years into domestic hatred.
  • There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."
  • The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
  • Humans are amphibians — half spirit and half animal.... As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.
  • Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men's belief that they "own" their bodies — those vast and perilous estates, pulsating with the energy that made the worlds, in which they find themselves without their consent and from which they are ejected at the pleasure of Another!
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils...
  • There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
  • Of course a war is entertaining. The immediate fear and suffering of the humans is a legitimate and pleasing refreshment for our myriads of toiling workers. But what permanent good does it do us unless we make use of it for bringing souls to Our Father Below? When I see the temporal suffering of humans who finally escape us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet and then denied all the rest. It is worse than not to have tasted it at all. The Enemy, true to His barbarous methods of warfare, allows us to see the short misery of His favourites only to tantalize and torment us — to mock the incessant hunger, which, during this present phase of great conflict, His blockade is admittedly imposing.
  • Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
  • All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.
  • The humans live in time but our Enemy (God) destines them for eternity.
  • A sensible human once said, "If people knew how much ill-feeling unselfishness occasions, it would not be so often recommended from the pulpit"; and again, "She's the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by their hunted expression."

The Great Divorce (1944–1945)

A response to William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
  • Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows.
  • There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "Thy will be done."
  • "I wish I had never been born," she said. "What are we born for?" "For infinite happiness," said the Spirit. "You can step out into it at any moment..."
  • 'But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?' ' Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell choose it. ... No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock, it is opened.'
  • [Mortals] say of some temporal suffering, "No future bliss can make up for it," not knowing Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say "Let me have but this and I'll take the consequences": little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death.
  • "Milton was right…" The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words "Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven." There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery…
There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.
  • There have been men before … who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist. There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.
  • Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him.
The picture is a symbol: but it's truer than any philosophical theorem (or, perhaps, than any mystic's vision) that claims to go behind it...
  • "Ye can know nothing of the end of all things, or nothing expressible in those terms. It may be, as the Lord said to the Lady Julian, that all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. But it's ill talking of such questions."
    "Because they are too terrible, Sir?"
    "No. Because all answers deceive. If ye put the question from within Time and are asking about possibilities, the answer is certain. The choice of ways is before you. Neither is closed. Any man may choose eternal death. Those who choose it will have it. But if ye are trying to leap on into Eternity, if ye are trying to see the final state of all things as it will be (for so ye must speak) when there are no more possibilities left but only the Real, then ye ask what cannot be answered to mortal ears. Time is the very lens through which ye see — small and clear, as men see through the wrong end of a telescope — something that would otherwise be too big for ye to see at all. That thing is Freedom: the gift whereby ye most resemble your Maker and are yourselves parts of eternal reality. But ye can see it only through the lens of Time, in a little clear picture, through the inverted telescope. It is a picture of moments following one another and yourself in each moment making some choice that might have been otherwise. Neither the temporal succession nor the phantom of what ye might have chosen and didn't is itself Freedom. They are a lens. The picture is a symbol: but it's truer than any philosophical theorem (or, perhaps, than any mystic's vision) that claims to go behind it. For every attempt to see the shape of eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom."

That Hideous Strength (1945)

  • "They would say," he answered, "that you do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience."
    • Ch. 7 : The Pendragon, section 2
  • "The cardinal difficulty," said MacPhee, "in collaboration between the sexes is that women speak a language without nouns. If two men are doing a bit of work, one will say to the other, 'Put this bowl inside the bigger bowl which you'll find on the top shelf of the green cupboard.' The female for this is, 'Put that in the other one in there.' And then if you ask them, 'in where?' they say, 'in there, of course.' There is consequently a phatic hiatus."
    • Ch. 8 : Moonlight at Belbury, section 2
  • Not till then did his controllers allow him to suspect that death itself might not after all cure the illusion of being a soul—nay, might prove the entry into a world where that illusion raged infinite and unchecked. Escape for the soul, if not for the body, was offered him. He became able to know (and simultaneously refused the knowledge) that he had been wrong from the beginning, that souls and personal responsibility existed. He half saw: he wholly hated. The physical torture of the burning was not fiercer than his hatred of that.
    • Ch. 16 : Banquet at Belbury, section 6

On Living in an Atomic Age (1948)

  • "If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things -- praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts -- not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They might break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."

The Weight of Glory (1949)

  • Perfect humility dispenses with modesty.
  • As long as this deliberate refusal to understand things from above, even where such understanding is possible, continues, it is idle to talk of any final victory over materialism.
  • We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.
  • 100 per cent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased.
  • Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
  • You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
  • At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.
  • If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us.

The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956)

The Chronicles of Narnia has its own page here.
Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger — according to the way you react to it.

Mere Christianity (1952)

Essays based upon radio addresses of 1941–1944
  • We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He has disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself.
  • This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.
  • This is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again....God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from.
  • Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger — according to the way you react to it.
  • Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won't last forever. We must take it or leave it.
  • Badness is only spoiled goodness.
    • p. 36, unidentified edition
  • We have two bits of evidence about the Somebody. One is the universe He has made. If we used that as our only clue, I think we should have to conclude that He was a great artist (for the universe is a very beautiful place), but also that He is quite merciless and no friend to man (for the universe is a very dangerous and terrifying place.) ...The other bit of evidence is that Moral Law which He has put in our minds. And this is a better bit of evidence than the other, because it is inside information. You find out more about God from the Moral Law than from the universe in general just as you find out more about a man by listening to his conversation than by looking at a house he has built.
  • My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?
  • [Christians] believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else. And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not an impersonal thing nor a static thing - not even just one person - but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance … (The) pattern of this three-personal life is … the great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.
The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs...
  • The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There's not one of them which won't make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it isn't. If you leave out justice you'll find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials "for the sake of humanity" and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.
  • Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
  • Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk.
  • When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.
  • What can you ever really know of other people's souls — of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole of creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You cannot put Him off with speculation about your neighbours or memories of what you have read in books.
  • You can put this another way by saying that while in other sciences the instruments you use are things external to yourself (things like microscopes and telescopes), the instrument through which you see God is your whole self. And if a man's self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred — like the Moon seen through a dirty telescope. That is why horrible nations have horrible religions: they have been looking at God through a dirty lens.
Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God...
  • Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside of the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.
  • God lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.
  • The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.
  • I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go...
  • God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.
  • Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling... Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go... But, of course, ceasing to be "in love" need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from "being in love" — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriage) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God... "Being in love" first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.
  • If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

The World's Last Night (1952)

First published as "The Christian Hope — Its Meaning for Today" in Religion in Life (Winter 1952); later published under the present title in The World's Last Night, and Other Essays (1960)
  • But how can the characters in a play guess the plot? We are not the playwright, we are not the producer, we are not even the audience. We are on the stage. To play well the scenes in which we are "on" concerns us much more than to guess about the scenes that follow it.
  • I can imagine no man who will look with more horror on the End than a conscientious revolutionary who has, in a sense sincerely, been justifying cruelties and injustices inflicted on millions of his contemporaries by the benefits which he hopes to confer on future generations: generations who, as one terrible moment now reveals to him, were never going to exist. Then he will see the massacres, the faked trials, the deportations, to be all ineffaceably real, an essential part, his part, in the drama that has just ended: while the future Utopia had never been anything but a fantasy.
The doctrine of the Second Coming teaches us that we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end.
  • Christian Apocalyptic offers us no such hope. It does not even foretell, (which would be more tolerable to our habits of thought) a gradual decay. It foretells a sudden, violent end imposed from without; an extinguisher popped onto the candle, a brick flung at the gramophone, a curtain rung down on the play — "Halt!"
  • The doctrine of the Second Coming teaches us that we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end. The curtain may be rung down at any moment: say, before you have finished reading this paragraph.
  • The doctrine of the Second Coming has failed, so far as we are concerned, if it does not make us realize that at every moment of every year in our lives Donne's question "What if this present were the world's last night?" is equally relevant.
  • Frantic administration of panaceas to the world is certainly discouraged by the reflection that "this present" might be "the world's last night"; sober work for the future, within the limits of ordinary morality and prudence, is not.
  • For what comes is Judgment: happy are those whom it finds labouring in their vocations, whether they were merely going out to feed the pigs or laying good plans to deliver humanity a hundred years hence from some great evil. The curtain has indeed now fallen. Those pigs will never in fact be fed, the great campaign against White Slavery or Governmental Tyranny will never in fact proceed to victory. No matter; you were at your post when the Inspection came.

Surprised by Joy (1955)

  • I fancy that most people who think at all have done a great deal of their thinking in the first fourteen years.
  • The First [Friend] is the alter ego, the man who first reveals to you that you are not alone in the world by turning out (beyond hope) to share all your most secret delights. There is nothing to be overcome in making him your friend; he and you join like raindrops on a window. But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything... Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. he has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one... How can he be so nearly right, and yet, invariably, just not right? He is as fascinating (and infuriating) as a woman.
Enough had been thought, and said, and felt, and imagined. It was about time that something should be done.
  • The only non-Christians who seemed to me really to know anything were the Romantics; and a good many of them were dangerously tinged with something like religion, even at times with Christianity. The upshot of it all could nearly be expressed in a perversion of Roland's great line in the Chanson: 'Christians are wrong, but all the rest are bores.'
  • Enough had been thought, and said, and felt, and imagined. It was about time that something should be done.
  • The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?
  • I do not think the resemblance between the Christian and the merely imaginative experience is accidental. I think that all things, in their own way, reflect heavenly truth, the imagination not least. "Reflect" is the important word. This lower life of the imagination is not a beginning of, nor a step toward, the higher life of the spirit, merely an image.
  • The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.
  • 'Who are you? Nobody. Who is Porridge? THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON THERE IS.'
  • You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.
  • ... in such a matter he would never have been guided by his first thoughts (which would probably have been right) nor even by his twenty-first (which would have at least been explicable). Beyond doubt he would have prolonged deliberation till his hundred-and-first; and they would be infallibly and invincibly wrong. This is what always happens to the deliberations of a simple man who thinks he is a subtle one.
Nothing is yet in its true form.

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (1956)

  • Nothing is yet in its true form.
  • I have always — at least, ever since I can remember — had a kind of longing for death."
    • Psyche
  • "Ah, Psyche," I said, "have I made you so little happy as that?"
    • Orual
The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from...
  • "No, no no," she said. "You don't understand. Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine … where you couldn't see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The colour and the smell, and looking at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn't (not yet) come and I didn't know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home.
    • Psyche
  • The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.
    • Psyche
  • "'Are the gods not just?'
    'Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?'"
    • Orual & The Fox
  • Die before you Die. There is no chance after.
  • "And yet, it was not, not now, she that really counted. Or if she counted (and, oh, gloriously she did) it was for another’s sake. The earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming. The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and beauty there is, was coming. The pillars on the far side of the pool flushed with his approach. I cast down my eyes."
    • Orual

The Four Loves (1960)

To love at all is to be vulnerable... The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.
  • To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, "What? You too? I thought I was the only one.
  • Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even to suffer for, God; Appreciative love says: "We give thanks to thee for thy great glory." Need-love says of a woman "I cannot live without her"; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection — if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.
  • Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.
  • Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, "What? You too? I thought I was the only one."
  • All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.
    • "Charity"
  • If we cannot "practice the presence of God," it is something to practice the absence of God, to become increasingly aware of our unawareness till we feel like man who should stand beside a great cataract and hear no noise, or like a man in a story who looks in a mirror and finds no face there, or a man in a dream who stretches his hand to visible objects and gets no sensation of touch. To know that one is dreaming is to no longer be perfectly asleep. Bur for news of the fully waking world you must go to my betters.
    • "Charity"

A Grief Observed (1961)

  • Her absence is no more emphatic in those places than anywhere else. It's not local at all. I suppose if one were forbidden all salt one wouldn't notice it much more in any one food more than another. eating in general would be different, every day, at every meal. It is like that. The act of living is different all through. Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.
  • But perhaps I lack the gift. I see I've described her as being like a sword. That's true as far as it goes. But utterly inadequate by itself, and misleading. I ought to have said 'But also like a garden. Like a nest of gardens, wall within wall, hedge within hedge, more secret, more full of fragrant and fertile life, the further you explore.'
And then, of her, and every created thing I praise, I should say 'in some way, in its unique way, like Him who made it.'

Thus up from the garden to the Gardener, from the sword to the Smith. to the life-giving Life and the Beauty that makes beautiful.

  • I want to have her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do all over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn't Lazarus the rawer deal?
  • Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask-half our great theological and metaphysical problems-are like that.
  • And then one babbles-'if only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her.' But one can't tell how serious that bid is, for nothing is staked on it. If it suddenly became a real possibility, then, for the first time, we should discover how seriously we had meant it. But is it ever allowed?
It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can be done. He replies to our babble, 'you cannot and dare not. I could and dared.'
  • I need Christ, not something that resembles Him.
  • But then again of course I know perfectly well that He can't be used as a road. If you're approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you're not really approaching Him at all.
It is hard to have patience with people who say 'There is no death' or 'Death doesn't matter.' There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible.
  • You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose that you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? ... Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.
  • It is hard to have patience with people who say 'There is no death' or 'Death doesn't matter.' There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1963)

  • It's so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see one.
  • What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God's eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.
The Value of myth is that it takes all the things you know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity.

Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

A review of J. R. R. Tolkien's famous work in On Stories and Other Essays on Literature (1982) edited by Walter Hooper
  • 'But why,' (some ask), 'why, if you have a serious comment to make on the real life of men, must you do it by talking about a phantasmagoric never-never land of your own?' Because, I take it, one of the main things the author wants to say is that the real life of men is of that mythical and heroic quality. One can see the principle at work in his characterization. Much that in a realistic work would be done by 'character delineation' is here done simply by making the character an elf, a dwarf, or a hobbit. The imagined beings have their insides on the outside; they are visible souls. And man as a whole, Man pitted against the universe, have we seen him at all till we see that he is like a hero in a fairy tale?
    • p. 89
  • The Value of myth is that it takes all the things you know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity.
    • p. 90
  • We do not retreat from reality, we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves... By dipping them in myth we see them more clearly.


  • The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.
    • Martin Luther, quoted at the beginning of The Screwtape Letters
  • The devil...the prowde spirit...cannot endure to be mocked.
    • Thomas More, quoted at the beginning of The Screwtape Letters

Notes and references

  1. Google book search on Epichaerecacia
  2. Lewis, C.S.: "Out of the Silent Planet", page 73. Macmillian Publishing Co., 1965
  3. Lewis, C.S.: "Out of the Silent Planet", page 76. Macmillan Publishing Co., 2003

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