November 22, 1963: CS Lewis Dies

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Did you mark how naturally – as if he’d been born for it – the earthborn vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to itself! “Yes. Of course. It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottle-neck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?

As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it! – that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not “Who are you?” but “So it was you all the time”. All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last recovered. Recognition made him free of their company almost before the limbs of his corpse became quiet. Only you were left outside.

He saw not only Them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man. You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralysing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of Heaven. But it’s all nonsense. Pains he may still have to encounter, but they embrace those pains. They would not barter them for any earthly pleasure.

CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


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  1. I remember the Narnia novels coming out every year from 1950 to 1956, in time for Christmas. They punctuated my childhood, from six to eleven.

  2. Lewis, more than any other Christian writer I’ve come across so far (well… maybe George MacDonald), actually inspires longing for Heaven within my own heart. I hope someday in that far land I get to raise a cup of tea to toast his honor.

  3. I’m actually afraid to try to read the Narnia books again… I read my aunt’s never-before-opened set until it fell apart from about eight to thirteen, because it was the only non-information book in the house that didn’t have brightly colored drawings in it.

    It’s actually hard to think that they weren’t always there.

    The idea of him, Tolkien and the others chatting is awesome, though.

  4. I have read and listened to The Screwtape Letters many, many times. They get more interesting as I age. Mostly, I like the “crunchy” end. If that does not make one run for the door to heaven, nothing will.

  5. I love Lewis’ Platonic approach to understanding the life ahead: it will be more real than this one, not less. How paltry is this life by comparison, and how ‘unreal’ is the existence of those who reject salvation! A miserable eternity awaits them!

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