The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis



C.S. Lewis continues to amaze me as I work my way through his writings. While I wouldn’t rate this as highly as The Screw Tape Letters, it is still a great read. And a fast one at that. While it was 130+ pages, I read most of it in a (long) day while travelling from NC to Philly, in the restaurant waiting for my food, and in my hotel room.

The story is that of a dream the author is retelling, in which he finds himself in a strange, grey land, that he eventually learns is pergatory, or limbo, or hell, depending on your view point. He rides a bus to heaven, where he sees several conversations between his fellow passengers and people in heaven that have come to try to tell the person what they need to do to leave limbo and come to heaven. These interactions are each unique and fascinating, and show Lewis’s genius in very subtle froms.

I won’t got into details here on those conversations, but I of course have several quotes I want to include:

[Mortals] say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing Heave, 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 ‘Ill 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 ever lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell than to server in Heaven.” There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery…

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 Got at all but only in what they say about Him.

I have to admit I had to read the following a few times, and here, out of context, it probably isn’t that useful. I am including it so that I will think on it further, and I think it relevant to some of our small group discussions recently, as well as the proverbs quote I posted, and the ActiveWord devotional which posted as a comment.

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.’

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