Having sent out the call for papers, it is delightful to be more a ‘receiving’ than a ‘commissioning editor’, discovering what serendipities Providence supplies. We began last week with Suzanne Bray’s illuminating study of ‘Post-Inklings’ Arthurian fiction of as recently as twenty years ago – in the context of an argument around a century older, and the contributions to it of the first Inkling Arthurian novelist, Charles Williams. Now, Stephen Winter complements this by taking us back to the last Arthurian novel by an Inkling, C.S. Lewis’s The Hideous Strength, to show how one of its most striking features addresses our contemporary situation even more forcefully than it did Lewis’s own, when he wrote it seventy-four years ago. Join us, to contemplate “our haunting”.
David Llewellyn Dodds, Guest Editor
It may feel, for the inhabitants of the British Isles, that recent years have been particularly unsettled. The referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 and the referendum on membership of the European Union in 2016 have both exposed divisions and considerable anxiety within the country that will occupy attention for some time to come. What seemed to be certain and predictable seems less so now. The country in which I was born and raised still calls itself The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but the possibility of this country being divided into separate nation states and the ongoing history of the status of the province of Northern Ireland and its relationship to the Republic of Ireland and to Great Britain seems closer to a renewed outbreak of violence than at any time since the bloody troubles came to an end with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. For good or ill the 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union forces us to rethink the nature of our relationship to the rest of Europe. I would venture to say that none of us know what this will eventually look like.
Recently I felt moved to re-read the last part of the Ransom trilogy by C.S Lewis, That Hideous Strength in which the Arthurian myth is drawn into the history of Britain. My initial reason for doing so was a sense in which the use of language in the public realm is currently being deliberately debased in a manner that reminded me strongly of the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.) in Lewis’s story. The very name of that organisation is a euphemism for its real purpose and the acronym, the N.I.C.E, is one deliberately designed to obscure. Every public statement it makes is a dissembling as is most of its internal communication, and its director, Wither, is a character whose intent is always sinister but whose speech always seeks to hide this reality. The magnificent scene in which the powers of heaven confuse the speech of the N.I.C.E and thus bring about its destruction is one that I felt could be prophetic for our own time. After all, we see many examples about us of the same kind of hubris that pulls “down deep heaven” upon their heads. But as I read Lewis’s story it led me to think about the current state of Britain, a part of which I outlined above.
“The Matter of Britain” was first conceived by medieval poets in relation to the Arthurian myth and was contrasted with “The Matter of Rome” and the mythology of its classical civilisation, and “The Matter of France” which was concerned with Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor and his great knights. The three tales, when taken together, were a kind of mythological foundation of Christendom, of Europe. The writer, Alan Garner (The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath etc.) helpfully argues that mythology is not an escape from reality so much as an ‘’intensification” of it. That Hideous Strength is such an intensification, and in the book Lewis develops “The Matter of Britain” in such a way that it addresses our contemporary situation.
It is indeed prophetic. Lewis develops the “The Matter of Britain” through the idea of “the haunting”. In the book’s final chapter this is done most explicitly through the character of Dimble.
“There was a moment in the Sixth Century when something that is always trying to break through into this country nearly succeeded. Logres was our name for it- it will do as well as another. And then… gradually we began to see all English history in a new way. We discovered the haunting.”
Dimble goes on to develop this idea in terms of opposites in tension; of Arthur and Mordred, of Milton and Cromwell, of Philip Sidney and of Cecil Rhodes. The former being expressions of Logres, the latter of Britain. Britain is usually in the ascendency but Logres is always present and recognised as a kind of truest and best self of the people, always under pressure, but always re-emerging in some new and vibrant way. Dimble gets rather carried away and begins to wax lyrical about some kind of English exceptionalism when Ransom sternly brings this to a halt.
“Every people has its own haunter. There is no special privilege for England- no nonsense about a chosen nation. We speak about Logres because it is our haunting, the one we know about.”
The one we know about. Here Lewis gives each people a charge. We are to read, to inhabit, the mythology of our people, the “Matter” of our people in such a way that we come to know it. Dimble gives some examples, the goddess Reason in France, the order of Heaven in China. Amongst the Inklings it was Tolkien who undertook this work in the most systematic fashion. His legendarium is consciously a mythology for the English peoples and is closely related to the Arthurian myth albeit deliberately pre-Christian. The scholar, poet and priest, describes Christ as “our true Strider”, even as Aragorn is also a type of Arthur, the true “once and future king”.
My re-reading of That Hideous Strength has inspired me to re-engage with this work because I wish to side, as intelligently as I can, with Logres in my own country. What the haunting is in the countries in which other readers of this short essay live I leave to them. Dimble encourages us to do it well because if we discover the haunting of our own people and make our own assent to it, “why, then it will be spring.”
And such an encouragement calls us not to give up.
Stephen Winter was ordained as a minister in The Church of England in Birmingham, England in 1988 and from then until 2011 served in a number of capacities within that church. Since then he has been working freelance, although still supporting parishes, and amongst his work he writes a weekly blog exploring wisdom in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien which can be found at stephencwinter.com. He now lives in Worcestershire, England with his wife, Laura and, from time to time, his two daughters, who come and go when not engaged in their studies or other work elsewhere.
If “we seek first” The Kingdom, Lewis’s profound question – “The Christian is called, not to individualism but to membership in the mystical Body. A consideration of the differences between the secular collective and the mystical Body is therefore the first step to understanding how Christianity without being individualistic can yet counteract collectivism.” [C S Lewis] – raises many questions about the extent of our “individual rule” (our personal kingdom) being subordinated and included under the extent of “God’s rule” His Kingdom.
Logres, like most Western culture, is a derivative of Christian Religion, but I beleve Jesus calls us to personal, individual (including corporate), discipleship first. Would you agree that “That Hideous Strength” was one of the many of Lewis’s and Tolkien’s warnings about the spiritual, mental and physical dangers of “any collective”?
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I think that the contrast between the community that gathers together at St Anne’s Manor and the collective that gathers together at the N.I.C.E exemplifies the distinction that Lewis wishes to make in That Hideous Strength.
I agree entirely, my distinction, however, is that the “collective” at St Anne’s had no structure and Ransom didn’t need to be elected. It was a group of individuals combining to oppose the “collective” who were had been maneuvered, spiritually, mentally and physically into …
“One think to rule them all
One think to mind them
One think to group them all
And in the “safe-space” bind them” [Benjamin A Boyce].
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The imagined structure of the hereditary ‘Pendragonship’ invites consideration, here – and the distinctions of office and officeholder: which to address properly I should do a lot of rereading – at present, I’m leaning on Arend Smilde’s notes at Lewisiana.nl to find my way.
So, in 9.3, when Jane mentions “loyalty”, MacPhee replies “it is a virtue too important to be lavished on individual personalities.” And when she asks, of Ransom, “what is he?”, Camilla answers, “He is a man […]. And he is the Pendragon of Logres” continuing, “This house. all of us here, and Mr. Bultitude and Pinch, are all that’s left of the Logres: all the rest has become merely Britain.”
And in 13.5, when Ransom explains to Merlin, “We are four men, some women, and a bear”, Merlin replies, “I saw the time when Logres was only myself and one man and two boys, and one of them was a churl” (about which Arend Smilde comments, “He may be thinking of the episode in Malory’s Morte Darthur I.5 about Merlin, Sir Ector, young Arthur and Kay (with Kay as the “churl”).)”. This exchange follows Ransom’s explanation, presumably about George VI, as the book seems set in the near future after 1945, “I have no wish to overthrow him. He is the king. He was crowned and anointed by the Archbishop. In the order of Logres I may be Pendragon, but in the order of Britain I am the King’s man.”
So, St. Anne’s had the structure of obedience (under God) to the Pendragon (who at present is Ransom), and Ransom is Pendragon by inheritance (under God). And, unlike, say, the young Peter Geach, about whom Fr. John Hunwicke recently had a pair of fascinating posts (11 and 12 Jan. at liturgicalnotes.blogspot), Ransom is not a Jacobite, nor is he a Pian (cf. the Papal Bull, ‘Regnans in excelsis’, 25 Feb. 1570): there is an “order of Britain” which involves Archbishops anointing Kings, and (again, presumably) Cosmo Gordon Lang did, in his eyes, truly anoint George King and properly so (and not Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria).
In the humanly fallen, Providentially sustained and guided, world, Ransom (and presumably Lewis) recognize “the order of Britain”, in its concrete form, as proper and in some sense(s) salutary – even when “This Saxon kings of your who sits at Windsor” (Merlin) “has no power in this matter” (Ransom) – or his successor now in other matters.
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Thanks for your detailed reply David, I certainly admire your background research and solid background in this arena. I, however, in my ignorant way, trying to look at the concept of “kingdom” used in both the book and The Book from a personal Christian perspective.
Throughout the writings of St Paul, he uses the term “in Christ”, “in Jesus”, “in Christ Jesus” and “in Jesus Christ” which I believe describe a “positional truth” relating to being individually located outside or in and under the rule of God – in His Kingdom (in His Love, in discipleship to His Son Christ or in His sanctification). There is no “structure” or “system” in the Kingdom of God. C S Lewis describes this Love/TheTrinity as – “The Father gives all He is and has to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father, and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too”.
Any “obedience” to God is a wise choice by an individual, not a coerced service simply because spiritual passion and ambition cannot share the same space, so I refer to the original question Lewis posed to individuals – “how can an individual Christian disciple, without being individualistic, counteract the upside down kingdom of “collectivism” ?
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It’s grand that you give us this quotation about the Trinity – and the Trinity ‘after’ both the creation and the Incarnation, and how what would be true of the Trinity ‘before’ creation, is true after the Fall, the Passion, and the Resurrection, but now with the addition “and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too”. In the Incarnation, Resurrection, and Ascension taking “the Manhood into God” (the “Confession […] commonly called the creed of Saint Athanasius”), the material Body, the Mind, Soul, Spirit of Jesus, Son of Mary.
Charles Williams particularly attends to our creation in the Image of God in using the Trinitarian and Incarnational language of ‘coinherence’ in relation to human persons and their interrelations with each other and with the Persons of the Trinity. And I think this is at least implicit in Lewis. We are called and drawn to coinhere with the Divine Persons (St. John 14:23) and with each other in God. So, there is the concrete distinction of created human persons in their multitudes, and their most intimate interrelation in the Image of the Trinity. This is not “collective” and goes beyond some senses of “community”.
“How can an individual Christian disciple, without being individualistic, counteract the upside down kingdom of ‘collectivism’”? By following the Two Commandments (Sts. Matthew 22, Mark 12, Luke 10). But we may – and must – ask, how best in particular actual circumstances? And these include matters of languages, cultures, histories, genealogies, countries, states, laws, etc.
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Thanks again David, your insight is always appreciated.
Can I assume you are referring to the “Shema”, the statement in Mat 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27 where Matthew and Luke quote Deuteronomy 4:29; 6:4-5; 10:12; 26:16; 30:6 and 30:10 – and which Jesus modifies, in Mark, from 3 areas (heart, soul and mind) to four areas and includes “with all thy strength”?
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Patrick: The Company at St. Anne’s is largely modeled on Charles Williams’s “Company” in his Arthurian poems, Taliessin Through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars, which in turn is based on the occult secret societies in which Williams was an active member. CW thought these were Christian groups; whether Lewis would have agreed is a good point for discussion!
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The label “Christian” has become difficult to define these days. I personally prefer “disciple” simply because the baggage that can be attached to “apprentice” or “learner” can come only from whatever is attached to the Master being imitated. “Descent of the Dove” is the only book I have read by Williams but I must confess to being intrigued even by the titles of his other works. How would you define where your spirit ends and your mental capacities begin, or vice versa ?
I would also be very interested in your view of whether Lewis would have called those occult societies Christian simply because you probably have a greater depth of knowledge and experience with both authors.
It is a good question. I don’t know what Lewis would have said if he knew the full tramp and trawl of Williams’ occultism. The “Christian” group of Inklings is pretty thin on that count, but I wonder if it wouldn’t have pressed Lewis’ inclusive spirit to the edge.
Firstly I would like to thank David for his fascinating response to both myself and Patrick and not least because it will give a fascinating subject for conversation when I meet my Bavarian friends soon. It strikes me that Lewis regarded the consecration of a monarch by an Archbishop of Canterbury not recognised as legitimate by the Pope as entirely valid within the order of Britain but then Lewis was an Anglican himself, as am I. I shall follow up the link to Father Hunwicke’s blog. I will also continue to seek for the signs of Logres in the Britain of my own day.
In response to the question that Patrick poses I found my thoughts turning to Aragorn’s response to Eomer’s question, “How shall a man judge what to do in such times?” “As he has ever judged,” Aragorn replies. “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men”. I think that this leaves each one of us with the responsibility to make our own true response to the moral law wherever God has placed us.
Victor E Frankl put Aragorn’s view in a more personal psychological context –
“The ultimate meaning of life necessarily exceeds and surpasses the finite intellectual capacities of man.”
and then …
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
I don’t know if this would apply to bears at St Anne’s as well.:)
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I don’t think that it could be put much better than Frankl does. Thank you for that quote.
Re Stephen’s: “As he has ever judged”, Aragorn replies. “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear, …… I think that this leaves each one of us with the responsibility to make our own true response to the moral law wherever God has placed us” and Patrick’s “Victor E Frankl put Aragorn’s view in a more personal psychological context …….”.
To me Frankl’s context seemed to be an existential one and very different from Aragorn’s, so I looked him up and my hunch was confirmed, as Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, a form of existential analysis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl).
For ‘Aragorn’ reality and life háve meaning, being created so by God, with an inherent moral law to which man needs to answer.
In Frankl’s context that answer of man is, having to find that meaning himself (life being meaningless) – and it is very unlikely that there still is a God given moral law to which man needs to respond, man having become his own measure to all.
Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is another one the (far too!) many books I have been meaning to read for ages, and never yet read… And I haven’t read anything else by him (that I recall – certainly no whole book) and don’t have a detailed sense of him, so I can only approach him tentatively, and (wisely or not) by (perhaps naive) comparisons. My inclination would be to ask something like ‘where was his sort of existentialism pointing or leading?’ and ‘whence this striking attention to “responsibility”, “right action and right conduct”, behaving in “an honorable way”, distinguishing between “decent” and “unprincipled” people?’*
It seems like almost the opposite of what R. Valerius, in the first linked post, quotes from Arthur Denniston about Churchwood and other lecturers** in THS (17.4): instead of being ethical while appearing to try to prove “the impossibility of ethics”, Frankl seems to accept and pay serious attention to ‘the Tao’ (so to put it), while perhaps not addressing its basis or character. Perhaps he’s more like MacPhee? I don’t know what one can say or not on the basis of his working with Regina Jonas and Leo Baeck and his relations with his second wife, “a practicing Catholic”, but now I’d like to have a look at his book, The Unconscious God, as well…
There seems a striking parallel with two more people about whom I have read, without reading much or any of their works, Camus and Monod respectively, as discussed here:
(I have read something similar about Camus in one of Voegelin’s books, though I can’t recall which, about what seems the direction of Camus’s thought.)
*Quotations from his works in Wikipedia articles, except the last, from a summary in one.
**I was surprised Valerius included Hingest with Churchwood among such academics, which gets me wanting to reread what-all is said about him…!
Thank you so much for sharing this reflection. Viktor Frankl wrote his key text, Man’s Search for Meaning, as a reflection on his experience, both as an inmate in Auschwitz and other concentration camps and also as a reflection on his experience as a physician there. I was not sure if you have read his book. I have but I have not shared anything like his experience although I did do a research study a few years ago in which I asked a number of creative laypeople, people of faith who were making a difference through their work, what energised them. I was struck by how important questions of meaning were to the people I interviewed. The reason that they had energy for their work was because it had meaning.
Frankl ends his book by asking what meaning it is possible to find in walking into a gas chamber. His own response is that if someone could do it with a prayer on their lips then it would indeed have meaning even if no one else ever knew.
Thanks for your response! I just had to emphasise that huge difference: Is meaning there, independent of us, inherent in creation “giving us energy”; or do we have to give our own subjective meaning to a neutral reality “in our answer to life”.
I have not read Frankl’s book – he has gone through a terrible ordeal, with só much suffering, in which it is hard to impossible to see any meaning.
It all turns around the Cross: only later will we really understand why an all-powerful and loving God took the risk of creating man with a free will that might result in all that suffering, but without a free will no love is possible.
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“Nothing – in and of itself – has any intrinsic value, values are always placed on things from the outside.” [Aristotle]
Is this one of those ‘Aristotle’ vs. ‘Plato’ situations? 😉
Many nights have passed since I read this quote, at the time though it just reinforced that famous quote from Bertrand Russell – “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is pointless”. I also believe that logically it emphasizes what Hannah said, it’s the crucifixion that demonstrates the value, purpose and meaning a supernatural (yet personal) God gave every individual He created.
What is the difference between your Aristotle quote and Lewis’s “Men without a chest” concept in the Abolition of Man?
And you could have a similar discussion about morals: Are they also “placed on things from the outside” (eg Hume’s Moral Philosophy) or are they intrinsically rooted in creation
-> Lewis’s Tao concept!
Ah, our comments coincide …
Hannah, I believe that all “morality” is a derivative of a religion, but “faith” or “Christian Discipleship” or “sanctification” is not a religion. Yes, a Christian morality has been constructed by different churches at different times but as C S Lewis puts it …
“The first thing to get clear about Christian morality between man and man is:-
Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality. (The golden rule of the New Testament – Do as you would be done by – is a summing up of what everyone, at bottom, had always known to be right. Quacks and cranks introduce new moralities. Great moral teachers keep bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to be true, like bringing a child back and back to the bit in its lesson that it wants to shirk.)
The second thing is:-
Christianity does not profess to have a detailed political programme for applying. (Do as you would be done by is meant for all men at all times. It was never intended to replace or supercede the ordinary human arts and sciences, it is rather a director which will set people to the right jobs, and a source of energy which will give them new life, if only they will put themselves at its disposal).”
I would rather “put myself at the disposal of Jesus” in a faith relationship which disciplines, than put myself at the disposal of an impersonal system of morality (or any other system) that rewards or punishes.
An underlying question seems to be: Can you have the fruits without the roots? (as many in our post-modern era think you can).
Fruit, by its nature, has to grow over a period of time, and grow from being “grafted into a branch” on some plant, I don’t think spiritual fruit is any different, I also think a lot of people get confused between “fruit” and “gifts”.
This might be a good place/moment to recall Lewis’s discussion in “The Poison of Subjectivism” (Summer 1943): “If we once grant that our practical reason is really reason and that its fundamental imperatives are as absolute and categorical as they claim to be, then unconditional allegiance to them is the duty of man. So is absolute allegiance to God. And these two allegiances must, somehow, be the same. […] it might be permissible to lay down two negations: that God neither obeys nor creates the moral law.” (See the whole third- and fourth-last paragraphs, from which these quotations come.)
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This reminds me of something Obama said in his farewell speech of January 2017, quoting his mother: “Reality has a habit of catching up with you”. Because of those ‘reality checks’ he remained optimistic in his core about America’s future in spite of the election results.
By December 2017 he did warn against complacency on today’s politics, invoking the rise of Hitler in the early thirties: “There was a thriving democracy in Vienna before Nazism took hold”.
I love Dallas Willard’s definition of Reality – “Reality is what happens to you when you discover you are wrong.”
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I like your explanation for the difference between Frankl’s and Aragorn’s (or Tolkiens) perspective or approach to “Reality” but after listening to a lot of Jordan Peterson (see two quotes below) I am not so certain that, in his own way, Frankl was pointing people at the fact that Reality = God. I see this in C S Lewis and Frankl and then Peterson connecting the dots.
“If you can posit an ideal, why can’t you posit the ultimate ideal? Well if you can, then instantly you’ve got a religious sensibility. Why have we got a religious instinct? Because the idea that it’s mere superstition – we can just dispense with that – that’s just wrong. There is some reason why that religious instinct exists.”[Peterson]
“Whether one believes these stories and events are the Word of God, infallible and literal history, or whether one believes these stories and events capture an oral tradition going back countless millennia…in either case, it was kind of stupid of me to believe that there weren’t some tremendously important meanings in these stories beyond the surface.”[Peterson]
Within THS (and with R. Valerius’s posts in mind), it might be worth comparing not only McPhee and Hingest but Jane and, especially, Mark in their imagined experiences and responses to them as ‘moderns’ with Frankl’s actual experience and response.
The contrast between Aragorn and Frankl has also gotten me thinking about Lewis’s use of what he had heard of Tolkien’s LotR and Númenor: the contrast of Aragorn as heir with what had become the dominant ‘thought’ and action of Númenor before (and leading to) its destruction, the comparison and contrast with Merlin as also (yet differently) inheritor of the Númenorean and as Christian, and what Dimble says about there having been “a moment in the Sixth Century when something that is always trying to break through into this country nearly succeeded” (17.4) – under those peculiar circumstances elaborated upon elsewhere (e.g. by Dimble in 13.4 and Ransom in 13.5)!
Reblogged this on Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings and commented:
This week’s post on the series on The Inklings and King Arthur is by me. It is an attempt to link the wisdom of the Inklings, the Matter of Britain and the current state of my country and of Europe. I would love to engage in conversation with anyone who wants to discuss this so please read and comment.
You may notice a reference to a poet, priest and scholar who refers to Jesus as “Our True Strider”. This is in fact, Malcolm Guite, who contributed the wonderful concluding essay to the book, The Inklings and King Arthur. Glad to make that correction!
One element of the ‘Matter of Britain’ in a wider sense, might be expressed as Britain in Roman history. It was at York that Constantine was acclaimed Emperor, and some legendary history – which of course may have been and probably was considered simply history by many – treats his wife, Helena, as British-born. Roman Imperial needs elsewhere repeatedly drained away manpower from Britannia in the following centuries. Britain was a province, but others, such as Magnus Maximus, serving there pursued Imperial claims – in his case, successfully, if briefly so (283-88), with the Wikipedia noting the importance of “the intervention of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan” (!). (Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig (The Dream of Macsen Wledig), included in Lady Charlotte Guest’s Mabinogion, is about him.)
But what of Arthur? Geoffrey of Monmouth famously treats him as successfully become Emperor in Rome and of expanding the bounds of Empire, even in the direction of the North Pole. But this is the only ‘version’, and Williams and Lewis reject it in their verse and prose fiction, for one of Arthur with distinct responsibilities within the Empire. (Tolkien – famously since Humphrey Carpenter published his lively poem in The Inklings – has his problems with this, or at least with Williams’ treatment of it, where the historical Byzantine Empire is concerned.)
I will boldly advance as thesis that Williams treats the ‘members’ (like ‘Logres’) of the ‘body politic’ of the Empire as analogous to us as members of the Body of Christ – without that usurping the responsibilities and actions of concrete human Christian persons in the latter.
Historically, the pagan Saxons win (as do pagan Irish, etc., in the north) – the British Romans are driven to the ‘margins’: kingdoms succeed Provincial structure. Successful missionary work follows – and extends to northern Europe, until there are all sorts of adjoining interacting Christian kingdoms – and the Holy Roman Empire – and, strikingly, the Republic of Venice!
In how far the Great Schism, the Western Schism, and the Reformation(s) affect that – I will not attempt to address, here and now.
Ach: “this is not the only ‘version'”!
I have, obviously, also omitted addressing the effects of the successful rise of Islam, though very much a part of Williams’s retelling.
Thank you for this essay, it was fascinating. As is the discussion in the comments. I love the thought of the particular “haunting” of a nation. My own country, Canada, is a young one, and we seem to struggle all the time with our identity as a country. Mainly we define ourselves by what we are not, that is to say, we are not Americans. But that hardly seems sufficient. Perhaps we are too young (150 years in 2017) to have developed a “haunting”? Or do echoes of the hauntings from Europe hang over us as well, brought over by those who settled here? And what about the First Nations? How does their long history here fit in? They certainly have a haunting of their own, I think. . Lots to ponder here, thanks again for sharing this!
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George Grant, eager attender of the Oxford Socratic Club when Lewis was in the chair, and lover of the works of the Inklings, has interesting things to say about that, certainly with respect to French as well as English ‘pre-Enlightenment’ background and heritage, and I suppose with respect to the First Nations as well (though examples do not spring vividly to mind) – perhaps not least in their interactions with different manifestations of Christianity.
Lewis explicitly links That Hideous Strength with The Abolition of Man, and in this Canadian context as well as others, it would be good to try to think about ‘the Tao’ and the distinct ‘hauntings’ (which, I think, Grant is in fact doing…).
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Lewis just goes to the heart of the emptiness and hollowness of “post modern” thinking (or should I say lack of it) …
“But the Nietzschean ethic can be accepted only if we are ready to scrap traditional morals as a mere error and then to put ourselves in a position where we can find no ground for any value judgements at all. It is the difference between a man who says to us: “You like your vegetables moderately fresh; why not grow your own and have them perfectly fresh?” and a man who says, “Throw away that loaf and try eating bricks and centipedes instead”
What strikes me as pretty obvious is that Logres will just be seen as, and treated as just another “group identity” by current the current Marxist political push for “one think”, but then we know from Marx himself that ” ony Jesus Christ out-socializes the socialists”.
Lewis explicitly addresses Nietzsche so quietly – though, as you note, so precisely – in contrast to someone like Grant, whose ‘Time as History’ lectures are now available online at the CBC – that I have long underappreciated it, thinking, ‘why doesn’t Lewis talk about Nietzsche more, like Grant, and Eric Voegelin, and the curious Allen Bloom, do?’
Something Lewis is very attentive to in That Hideous Strength are the practical problems for ‘Logres’ and the other particular ‘hauntings’ of the success of the current ideological political and cultural and organized-(state)-educational push.
Voegelin has got me paying attention to the use of ‘peitho’ and related terms by and about St. Paul in the Epistles and Acts: how do we exercise whatever is our part in trying to persuade and convince those (unconsciously) under the sway of ideological push, how get past the ‘watchful dragons’?
Re David’s: “Lewis explicitly links That Hideous Strength with The Abolition of Man ,…….., it would be good to try to think about ‘the Tao’ & Patrick’s: “Lewis just goes to the heart of the emptiness and hollowness of “post modern” thinking (or should I say lack of it)”:
That “emptiness and hollowness” seems to be pervading so much of what is going on, and at the root of it, and that not anymore because of consciously “scrapping traditional morals”, but through a fog seeping into everything … and hence people having lost links with real reality, living in their (social) media bubbles of alternative realities, with post-truths and fake news, not knowing what to belief anymore.
There must be interesting work of varying sorts and ranges about THS in relation to The Abolition of Man [AoM] – probably lots of it! – but somehow no particular examples spring to my mind, at the moment! I have not thought about it enough, myself, but suppose the action of THS is a sort of ‘thought experiment’ or ‘supposal’ working out what might happen with people consciously embracing the results of what Lewis analyzes in AoM – which is what I think both Wither and Frost are effectively, if variously, doing.
Their distinct forms and contents make AoM and THS an interesting pair of works, whichever one you any meet first, once you note that explicit linking by Lewis – how do they complement each other, what are their contrasts, where does Lewis’s distinctions between ‘supposal’ and ‘speculation’ enter the picture, and so on?
C S Lewis in Delinquents in the Snow” (1957) prophetically links That Hideous Strength with The Abolition of Man for us …
“At present the very uncomfortable position is this: the State protects us less because it is unwilling to protect us against criminals at home and manifestly grows less and less able to protect us against foreign enemies. At the same time it demands from us more and more. We seldom had fewer rights and liberties nor more burdens: and we get less security in return. While our obligations increase their moral ground is taken away.”
Well observed – thanks! December 1957, and Lewis (after the superb introduction to his OHEL volume, with its political-philosophical elements) thinking on about concrete implications – and in a less concentratedly dramatic form than in THS.
It would be interesting (thought that’s too bland a word) to compare Martyn Skinner’s Return of Arthur: A Poem of the Future of the same period – it appeared in 1951, 1955, and 1959 – introduced in the fourth post in this series.
Google came up with an interesting three-part article (ao) on AoM-THS – here link to the first: https://alongthebeam.com/2016/10/24/from-the-abolition-of-man-to-that-hideous-strength-part-one/
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I read THS some time ago and these 3 perspectives I found very interesting. I suppose it is always reassuring to find that the perspectives discovered by R Valerius, or any other reader, are the same truths as you yourself found in the work when you read it.
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Today I read a piece in The Guardian by Ben Okri that reminded me that every nation is a nation of immigrants. I am an Englishman descended from Scots Irish on my mother’s side and Italians on my father’s. It just happened that my Italian great grandmother married a baker from London and so I have an English sounding surname. I am drawn to Kipling’s version of the haunting in Puck of Pook’s Hill (there is a Puck’s Hill or Pook’s Hill just a couple of miles from my home that I think is rather wonderful). Kipling acknowledges the many conquests and migrations but speaks of a native haunting that is older and outlasts all of them. That would suggest to me that in the so-called younger nations there is a need to connect to an older native haunting as well as remembering what was brought from elsewhere. As to the problems associated with this one could reflect on the history that you have written about so richly and the ongoing struggle to create a nation from the invading English and the native peoples that they found in the land in which they settled and that is a story of about 1,500 years!
I’ve just been catching up with Dr. Francis Pryor’s three-part mini-series, Britain AD: King Arthur’s Britain (2004), the sources of, and scholars in, which, I’d like to get to know better – but its attention to continuities and contacts, especially through the Fifth – Seventh centuries, is interesting.
What is/are characteristic, in what ways and combinations – geography, kinship, language, material culture, religion, the understanding and symbolization of how things are ordered?
I love Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies (two more among the fine ‘children’s books’ I never caught up with till I was an adult), and should reread them. What you say about “Kipling’s version of the haunting” makes me want to compare Tolkien’s mythic history where the unfallen Valar (and Maiar) delight to try to make good preparations for the coming of ‘the Children’, Elves and Men.
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What a lovely connection! Puck of Pook’s Hill and the joyful preparation for the coming of the Children. It is such an optimistic view of history as “the dearest freshness deep down things” that encourages us to hope and not to give up.
I too did not read Puck until adulthood and Rewards and Fairies still remains to be read. Thank you for the recommendation.
Lewis has a very interesting discussion of Richard Hooker and the 16th-c. perceptions of the interrelations of “the local Church-Nation” and/or “Nation-Church”, concluding in part, “Judged by the standard of [John] Austin [1790-1859: q.v.] and of modern [post-1870: 1954] Catholicism, the church and state which Hooker welds together are both headless. And I do not think this is an oversight. Hooker felt no need either for omnicompetent prince or for infallible Pope. He was more afraid of tyrannies and idolatries than of ambiguities and deadlocks” (OEHL III: III.ii [p. 458] with my annotations in brackets).
It occurs to me Ransom presumes not to be either Head of State (the king) or in any sense Church (the king again and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whatever extents!), yet he is imagined as Head, as ‘Pen[Welsh for ‘Head’!]dragon’ – hereditarily, achievedly (by his experiences and actions recounted in OSP and Perenlandra), Providentially.
What does this Headship signify, what are its implications for each Baptized human person – also as citizen/’member of society’?
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“Prayer for the Kingdom of God is a political statement, breaking the bread and drinking the wine of the Eucharist is a political act because it re-presents the breaking of the world’s power systems (religious, financial and political) in preparation for the Body and the Bride of Christ. It is taking sides, committing your spiritual, mental and physical energies on the side of the poor against the powers and principalities of evil.” [Charles Elliott]
(Which Charles Elliott is this, and where does he say that?)
Praying the Kingdom: Towards a Political Spirituality Paperback – 1 Jan 1985 by Charles Elliott (Author) page 146 – He used to be the Dean of Trinity Hall Cambridge.(see Amazon link below)
Thanks! His use of “political” in the quoted passage got me thinking of Aristotle’s “anthropon politikon zoon” – ‘Man is a political animal’ – or ‘a human being is the sort of living creature which characteristically inhabits/is part of a polity/city-state’. Which in turn got me thinking of St. Augustine’s City of God and Charles Williams’s use of City imagery – including “Christ the City” (cf. ‘Bor’s to Elayne: On the King’s Coins’, which put its call for prayer right at the midpoint of the first edition of the book it appeared in).
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“But make no mistake— it was his basin work which set the stage for the cross. It was in fact the politics of his basin ministry that led to his death. The cross didn’t fall miraculously from the sky. Jesus could have avoided it by softening his message, by staying out of Jerusalem, or by not offering free forgiveness, but he didn’t. He boldly announced and enacted the kingdom of God. The cross was the natural reaction of evil forces to the assertive presence of loving service without regard to sex, nation, religion, or ethnicity. The rugged tree was the violent tool of the powerful trying to crush his basin ministry. Without a basin there would likely have been no cross. In other words, we must distinguish between the cross and what led up to it. Basin and cross, flags of two kingdoms, show the sharp difference in their values and methods.” [Donald Kraybill]
Please keep those footnotes coming!
(I expect more ‘basin’ context would resolve the apparent distinction between “loving service without regard to sex, nation, religion, or ethnicity” and Jewish men at the Last Supper and the Person of Jewish Manhood incorporating His disciples into Himself.)
“Leviticus 11-24 gives 7 distinct groups and their relationship to the temple/tabernacle:-
1. People with skin diseases because of health-contagion concerns.
2. Disabled people with visible physical disabilities.
3. Gentiles or all non-Jews.
4. Jewish women during and after times of menstruation.
5. Jewish men after any non-reproductive seminal discharge.
6. Those whose occupation made them permanently unclean or unworthy because they work with animals or with blood
7. The bastard sons and daughters of priests.
These are the people who consistently responded to Jesus. Those who fight Jesus every step of the way for self-serving illusions are those in the inner courts of the temple.
This should give us a clear picture of the power systems and their capacity.” [Richard Rohr]
“Leviticus 11-24”: chapters? Or has part of the reference fallen away?
“These are the people who consistently responded to Jesus.” Assuming that this analysis is accurate, I can’t immediately think of examples in the Gospels from 1,4,5,6,7. And, thinking of Zachariah, the Twelve, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Jairus, and such like, there are a lot of people properly described as among “those in the inner courts of the temple” who also “consistently responded to Jesus.” So, I’d like to see further details of this analysis “of the power systems and their capacity.”
(Which Kraybill and Rohr books, please?)
Chapters 11-24, nothing missing on the reference.
You would probably be far more qualified and widely read than me to provide details of the “power systems” of Religion, Finance and Politics. I am certain you know and understand that the management principles Satan operates by are still the same ones Jesus declined in the temptation in the wilderness.
Donald Kraybill – The Upside-Down Kingdom
Richard Rohr – Things Hidden
“In the play The Man Born to Be King, Herod tells the Magi, “You cannot rule men by love. When you find your king tell him so. Only three things will govern a people – fear and greed and the promise of security.” [Dorothy Sayers]
So it is either “fear, greed and personal security” or “The Kngdom of God” is the state which would be created by default if everyone were devoted to their individual state of “being in Christ”. [Dr Jordan Peterson] … and please don’t ask me to go through every YouTube video of his to reference this quote, I have been keenly interested in the simalarities between the way C S Lewis came to his faith with the way Peterson is talking about his faith for over a year now..
I had forgotten that Sayers quotation – which strikes me as very interesting to compare with things Gandalf and Galadriel say about their temptations to use the Ring in The Lord of the Rings (and Sam’s experience as Ring Bearer).
I won’t ask for the Peterson citation – I’ve yet to start catching up with him directly, though I have been reading with interest quotations by, and things written about, him, for some time, now, and still hope to start watching/listening to him – but, where to start? – so many lectures (etc.) vie for attention, first!
Two days ago Dave Rubin hosted a discussion between Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro where both guests went into the differences between their approach to the Christian and the Jewish religion quite deeply – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRPDGEgaATU
Thanks for this — I think the idea of England haunted by Logres is such a powerful one, and really helps me think through current events in Britain and America. And of course, as Lewis says in T.H.S., every country is haunted…
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In the turmoil of every generation this haunting gives me hope that something lies deeper than the superficial conflict. I believe that the Spirit of God works uniquely with every land and so, in England, there is an Ecclesia Anglicana that is bigger than any individual church. I rather think that the Inklings were a pretty good expression of this.
I don’t know if it’s the Spirit of God that works uniquely with every land, but I love the way your description of an Ecclesia, bigger than any individual “church”, supports Daniel 10:13 and Daniel 10:20, and following, which confirms there is definitely a supernatural “being”, and “beings” behind the natural realms of every country or land.
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Yes! I’ve been meaning to reread just where and how that was said, in Daniel, as it kept coming to mind, in these comments!
I don’t know how interested you are in epistemology but modern, with the help of older, Biblical scholars have proved that the concept of “the divine council”, common to ancient semitic religion, is contained in the Hebrew Bible and constitutes the theological backdrop for Deuteronomy 32:8-9. This proves, textually that the KJV is incorrect when it translates both the word “YHWH” and the word “gods”(small “d”) as the word “elohim” in –
“God (elohim) standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods (elohim).”[Psalm 82:1]
This introduces a level, or realm, or spiritual location called “elohim” without reducing or re-classifying YHWH as just another god, and makes our previous perspectives of spiritual hierarchy or sovereignty obsolete.
That should be –
the KJV is incorrect when it translates both the word “YHWH” and the word “gods”(small “g”) as the word “elohim” in –
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Dimble’s “the goddess Reason, the divine clearness” (17.5), invites comparison with various things in Chesterton and Belloc and Williams about France – and, probably, comparison and contrast with an astonishing book I’m now about a quarter of the way through, Léon Bloy’s L’Âme de Napoléon (1912) (‘The Soul of Napoleon’, which does not seem to have been translated into English: I’m reading a Dutch translation, and Wikipedia tells me it’s translated into German and Italian, too). I know (notably from The New Christian Year*) that Williams knew something by him, but my first little searching around has not discovered any reference by either of the Lewis brothers, Tolkien, or Sayers. Perhaps I should not mention it till I’ve finished it myself, but I sure wish I could read Lewis’s reaction to it!
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Many issues of The Charles Williams Society Newsletter/Quarterly are available online, and invite browsing around in as a good source of further Arthurian papers, such as Dr. Glen Cavaliero on Merlin:
Click to access 84%20AUTUMN%201997.pdf
A contribution with something particularly appropriate to this post, is Stephen Medcalf’s, here, where (on p. 10) he compares some details of Dimble’s reflections with something by Charles Williams:
Click to access 33%20SPRING%201984.pdf
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Thank you so much for this link, David.
Having finally started to read Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium (1970 revised edition), with That Hideous Strength so much in my thoughts, I was struck by his quoting Daniel 8:10 about the little horn which “waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them” and wondered if Lewis was deliberately pointing a contrast with the way in which Weston, Devine, and the NICE folk “Have Pulled Down Deep Heaven on Their Heads” (ch. 13 title) by the violating opening of other planetary spheres. (I also wonder what if any contact Norman Cohn may have had with any of the Inklings during his time in Oxford in the 1930s: I can imagine him enjoying Lewis’s lectures which are distilled into The Discarded Image!)
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I am struggling through “The Discarded Image” at the moment, its at times like these that I wish I had your education and learning.
If one thinks of what must have been weeks and weeks of lectures in his series as already wine rather than grapes, The Discarded Image has them distilled down to brandy – very concentrated, however readable he manages to keep his style. I can’t remember how ‘far along’ I was when I first read it, but I remember enjoying Tillyard’s Elizabethan World Picture in high school (though that was after a Shakespeare play a year for several years already)… if you’ve got access to a copy of that, too, maybe it would be more interesting than not to read them alongside each other and see how they fill each other out. The Discarded Image is one whole book, but it’s also like a reference work (I’m always looking up bits – ‘how did that go, again?’), so I’d say, ‘sip’ – and skim and skip along – the first time round and see what you enjoy (though if I’d taken Lewis’s advice about the hard work of mastering grammar and vocabulary I’d probably know a couple languages I’ve tried to learn, so I’m not saying anything against struggling patiently, either).
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Taking your, and hannahdmiranda3’s advice I decided to persevere with it, I went back to the beginning of the book again and started reading it again, so thanks for the advice, I now see what you mean about it being “distilled down brandy”, especially about the transition period between paganism and the triumph of the Church. Perhaps I am now in the right frame of mind to receive its contents?
I find I have to be in the “mood” to sip, skim and skip through this one but afterwards I do get an enormous sense of being blessed with logical truth, which is probably why I have read so much of Lewis all along.
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I love “The Discarded Image”! It opened up the Medieval world and thinking for me (have also done two courses on it). At the bottom of next post (https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2018/01/26/me-survey/) there are comments on it, ao. by David.
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