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Christian Reflections

Christian Reflections
Christian Reflections C. S. Lewis A collection of Lewis’s essays against ‘the new morality’ – a fine collection representing Lewis at his most brilliant.Published shortly after his death, aiming to make available some of his writings which were not at that time publicly accessible, and to counter the prevailing new morality of the sixties, ‘Christian Reflections’ gives a robust defence of the Christian Gospel.Now, fifty years later, when Christian communities are, in our own day, struggling to come to terms with a shifting morality, this little volume will be a comforting reminder of the never-changing truths of the faith.As ever, Lewis’s clear and eloquent mind gives plenty of food for thought, especially as he aims his intellectual ammunition at the modern myths still so prevalent in our post-modern culture. COPYRIGHT (#u3b8ae99a-de0e-58e1-9a05-eef5af6e8e73) William Collins An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.WilliamCollinsBooks.com (http://www.WilliamCollinsBooks.com) 1 Copyright © 1967 by C. S. Lewis Pte Ltd. Copyright renewed 1973 C. S. Lewis Pte Ltd This ebook first published by William Collins in 2017 A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins. Source ISBN 9780008203856 Ebook Edition © December 2016 ISBN: 9780008228552 Version: 2016-12-15 CONTENTS Cover (#u4d786a5b-5734-5751-96fb-723d0e33cd19) Title Page (#uc78a61ac-c5db-5108-b92a-f53311c74239) Copyright (#ulink_6432ae0f-c427-521c-981e-22c1d3210795) Preface by Walter Hooper (#ulink_f644654a-9d20-52e8-b173-845750e149ad) Christianity and Literature (#ulink_6574ddee-3f13-5a7b-9144-fb624c0f8570) Christianity and Culture (#ulink_72a364de-48ed-5cae-8ece-05b88a46432c) Religion: Reality or Substitute? (#ulink_78f906ca-13ab-597b-a2dd-449ed7593e6a) On Ethics (#litres_trial_promo) De Futilitate (#litres_trial_promo) The Poison of Subjectivism (#litres_trial_promo) The Funeral of a Great Myth (#litres_trial_promo) On Church Music (#litres_trial_promo) Historicism (#litres_trial_promo) The Psalms (#litres_trial_promo) The Language of Religion (#litres_trial_promo) Petitionary Prayer: A Problem Without an Answer (#litres_trial_promo) Fern-seed and Elephants (#litres_trial_promo) The Seeing Eye (#litres_trial_promo) About the Author (#litres_trial_promo) Other Books By (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) PREFACE (#ulink_9e4b42b9-673c-5f57-a2e4-0ec60c970415) We were talking one day in 1963, C. S. Lewis and I, about the ‘resurrection’ of literary works. He mentioned Sir Walter Scott as one of his favourite authors whose books had gone out of fashion, but which appeared to be undergoing just such a resurrection. When I predicted that his own books would suffer no decline, he cautioned me against putting too high a value on them. Indeed, he tried to modulate my enthusiasm by pointing out that after an author’s death the general ‘rule’ is that the sales of his books fall drastically and eventually dry up altogether. ‘But sometimes – not by any means always –’, he said, ‘an author’s works undergo a kind of “resurrection”. But that is something no author, alive or dead, can count on.’ A literary historian, Lewis was naturally familiar with this phenomenon. He cherished no undue optimism as to what would happen to his books, and thus his frequent but gentle admonitions when I praised them more than he felt they deserved, and certainly more than made him comfortable. The truth is that Lewis was almost without opinions regarding the value of his writings. In so far as he was ‘worried’ about their future, it was simply that if the sales of his books stopped, and he died first, his elder brother Warren might find it difficult to survive. A man of such remarkable astuteness, it must seem to many a wonder that C. S. Lewis could have been so unprophetic about the enduring success of his own books – such a glaring exception to the ‘rule’ he spoke of. But those familiar with his life will recall that Lewis was always more interested in writing and arguing for truth, whatever his subject, than in what he might become as a result of it. In this sense, he perfectly fulfilled what, in his essay on ‘Christianity and Literature’, he believed to be the proper attitude of a Christian author towards his own works: ‘Of every idea and of every method he will ask not “Is it mine?” but “Is it good?”’ While he seemed oblivious to the good he had himself given the world, he was by no means oblivious of the harm which has resulted from the widespread apostasy of the clergy, the cant and slush talked by the liberalizing ‘intelligentsia’ and the general lunacy of the world. Lewis certainly knew his place in all this, seeing himself as a Christian layman committed to explaining and defending what he called that ‘enormous common ground’ of belief which, by God’s mercy, exists at the centre of most Christian communions. Talking about the spiritual bankruptcy we saw around us, Lewis said to me, ‘Our civilization was built upon Christian morals and nourished by the Faith of the Apostles. It was rather like a huge bank account to which many contributed and which everyone has drawn upon. Now, we know that you cannot go on writing cheques on an account unless you continue to add to its capital. The trouble is that, without adding to that capital, we continue to write cheques. One day that capital will run out.’ An apt analogy, it was nevertheless an unusual one coming from a man who was so extraordinarily free with his time and who regularly gave away more than two-thirds of his income to charity. But be that as it may. Looking back, I realize that while I have always taken seriously Lewis’s fear of our spiritual ‘capital’ running out, nothing he said about the possibility of the demise of his books ever made much of an impression on me. Working in team with my fellow-trustee of the Estate, Owen Barfield, we have sought to make everything Lewis published or left unpublished available to as wide a public as possible. A public, incidentally, which has made itself known to us by the many thousands of letters of gratitude and encouragement we have received over the last sixteen years since Lewis died. What would have happened if Mr Barfield and I had not persevered we shall never know with any exactness. What we are in no doubt about is that Lewis’s achievements, judging from the rapidly increasing sales of his books, have been spectacular. So spectacular that it has amounted to, if not a ‘resurrection’, at least a renaissance of Christian thought. This volume of Christian ‘Reflections’ was first published in 1967 during a temporary lull in the sales of Lewis’s theological works when the modernist theologians were trotting out innumerable books on ‘situation ethics’ and the ‘new morality’, books which anyone familiar with the New Testament as well as the past will instantly recognize as the old immorality in a new dress. The ruinous effects of their works we already know, but the ‘innovators’ – as Lewis called them – have now gone even further in seeking to provide for individual and universal ‘happiness’ by the dethronement of traditional values, jettisoning truth and reality from their vocabulary and philosophy. Lewis had long ago seen it coming. And now, over against the innovators stands the monumental achievement of C. S. Lewis which has been able not only to withstand everything thrown against it, but to instruct and steady those who seek the truth. The purveyors of the new ‘happiness’ and ‘liberation’, unable to ignore Lewis’s supreme intelligence and a precision of language which enabled him to say exactly what he meant, claim that he belonged to the traditions of an earlier century. This, to Lewis, was a very old dodge and his name for it was ‘chronological snobbery’ which is the uncritical acceptance of almost anything merely because it is ‘modern’. The truth is that it is our century which has gone badly wrong, and is itself very much an ‘exception’. Indeed, if one read nothing other than Lewis’s essay on ‘The Poison of Subjectivism’ he would see how well Lewis understood that little portion of human history called ‘the present age’ and how much he did to correct its faults. But Lewis’s defence of that ‘enormous common ground’ – what he called ‘mere Christianity’ – was colourfully varied, depending on the audience he was addressing. This collection is, therefore, of necessity somewhat heterogeneous. However, as most readers have come to appreciate, it was to a large extent this talent of approaching the truth from such a variety of angles which has made him such an interesting and valuable writer. It is surely ironical that Lewis, who never sought or wanted to be ‘original’, has been found to be one of the most truly original writers most of us will ever see. The colossal intellect was there all the time, but by forgetting himself he was free to lay the vast treasures of his mind at the Master’s feet. And it is clear from the essays in this book that Lewis understood what diet Our Lord intended when He commanded the Apostle ‘Feed my sheep’. I am grateful to all those who have permitted me to reprint some of the papers in this book. (1) ‘Christianity and Literature’ was read to a religious society in Oxford and is reprinted from Rehabilitations and Other Essays (Oxford, 1939). (2) The three papers which I have collected under the title ‘Christianity and Culture’ include only Lewis’s part in a controversy which first appeared in the columns of Theology. The entire controversy is composed of the following papers: 1 C. S. Lewis, ‘Christianity and Culture’, Theology, Vol. XL (March 1940), pp. 166–79. 2 S. L. Bethell and E. F. Carritt, ‘Christianity and Culture: Replies to Mr Lewis’, ibid, Vol. XL (May 1940), pp. 356–66. 3 C. S. Lewis, ‘Christianity and Culture’ (a letter), ibid, Vol. XL (June 1940), pp. 475–7. 4 George Every, ‘In Defence of Criticism’, ibid, Vol. XLI (September 1940), pp. 159–65. 5 C. S. Lewis, ‘Peace Proposals for Brother Every and Mr Bethell’, ibid, Vol. XLI (December 1940), pp. 339–48. I beg the reader to note that ‘Christianity and Culture’ came fairly early in Lewis’s theological corpus. It might best be considered an early step in his spiritual pilgrimage – but certainly not his arrival. Here, instead of spirit progressively irradiating and transforming soul, he seems to envisage a relation between them in strict terms of ‘either-or’, with soul as Calvin’s ‘nature’ and spirit as his ‘grace’, and spirit beginning exactly where soul leaves off. Later on he dealt much more profoundly with the relation between soul and spirit in such things as the essay on ‘Transposition’ and The Four Loves. He says, for instance, in ‘Transposition’: May we not … suppose … that there is no experience of the spirit so transcendent and supernatural, no vision of Deity Himself so close and so far beyond all images and emotions, that to it also there cannot be an appropriate correspondence on the sensory level? Not by a new sense but by the incredible flooding of those very sensations we now have with a meaning, a transvaluation, of which we have here no faintest guess?* (#litres_trial_promo) (3) ‘Religion: Reality or Substitute?’ is reprinted from the now extinct World Dominion, Vol. xix (Sept.–Oct. 1943), except for the autobiographical paragraph 4 and part of paragraph 9 which were added a few years later. (4) The essay ‘On Ethics’ was published here for the first time, and my guess is that it anticipates by a few years Lewis’s The Abolition of Man (1943). (5) ‘De Futilitate’ is an address given at Magdalen College, Oxford, during the Second World War, at the invitation of Sir Henry Tizard (then President of Magdalen College). It, too, was published for the first time in this book. (6) ‘The Poison of Subjectivism’ is reprinted from Religion in Life, Vol. xii (Summer 1943). I regard this as one of Lewis’s most valuable pieces of writing. This is because The Abolition of Man is perhaps the most important book Lewis ever wrote and almost certainly the finest defence of the Moral Law there is. But, whereas The Abolition of Man has been found a little too difficult for the majority of Lewis’s readers, they will find the essence of his argument, not watered down, but compressed into the more easily readable but equally hard-hitting ‘Poison of Subjectivism’. (7) ‘The Funeral of a Great Myth’, published for the first time in this book, may appear an intruder on theological premises. I have included it here because the ‘myth’ discussed in this essay seems quite obviously to be an out-growth and development of one of the myths compared to the Christian Faith in Lewis’s ‘Is Theology Poetry?’ (The Socratic Digest, No. 3 (1945), pp. 25–35). Its close connection with the Digest essay caused me to feel it deserved a place here; it is, also, relevant to the idea of Theism. (8) ‘On Church Music’ is reprinted from English Church Music, Vol. xix (April 1949). Lewis did not himself like hymns and the existence of this paper is entirely owing to the special invitation of his friend Leonard Blake, who was editor of English Church Music at the time. (9) ‘Historicism’ originally appeared in The Month, Vol. iv (October 1950). (10) The two-part essay on ‘The Psalms’ was published here for the first time. Judging from the handwriting (Lewis wrote all his works with a nib pen) it would appear to have been composed shortly before his book Reflections on the Psalms (1958). By the by, their mutual friend Charles Williams brought Lewis and T. S. Eliot together for the first time in 1945, at what proved to be a disastrous tea party, Mr Eliot’s opening gambit having been ‘Mr Lewis, you are a much older man than you appear in photographs.’ But their distrust of one another disappeared completely and they became fast friends when they met again in 1959 to serve for several years as literary advisers to the committee whose aim was the revision of the Prayer Book Psalter. The new text, entitled The Revised Psalter, was published by SPCK in 1963. (11) Although two pages of the manuscript of ‘The Language of Religion’ are lost, the omission, fortunately, does not seriously affect the main argument of the paper. I have only recently discovered that Lewis intended reading it at the Twelfth Symposium of the Colston Research Society held at the University of Bristol in March 1960, but illness prevented him from attending the Symposium and the paper was published here for the first time. (12) ‘Petitionary Prayer: A Problem without an Answer’ was read to the Oxford Clerical Society on 8 December 1953 and it, too, was published for the first time in this book. (13) The numerous admirers of ‘Fernseed and Elephants’ may recall that it was originally published in this volume as ‘Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism’, and I have to admit to altering my original title as I didn’t think it did justice to this superb essay, which Lewis read at Westcott House, Cambridge, on 11 May 1959. (14) ‘The Seeing Eye’ was originally published in the American periodical, Show, Vol. iii (February 1963) under the title ‘Onward, Christian Spacemen’. Lewis so heartily disliked the title which the editors of Show gave this piece that I felt justified in re-naming it. While most of these essays were never prepared for publication, even those which originally appeared in periodicals were sent to the publishers in Lewis’s own hand. The result was that a good many errors slipped in, and remained, as Lewis was generally rather cavalier about proof-reading. It has fallen to me as his editor to correct such errors as I found, and, because it seemed called for, I have ventured to add footnotes where they were needed. In order to distinguish who wrote which notes, it is, I think, sufficient to point out that all the footnotes are mine except those Lewis appended to the essay on ‘Christianity and Culture’ and two others that are designated by the initials ‘C.S.L.’ Walter Hooper Oxford, 24 June 1979 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE (#ulink_1ebbe4fe-af9a-5643-8d83-4940ec1aa3df) When I was asked to address this society, I was at first tempted to refuse because the subject proposed to me, that of Christianity and Literature, did not seem to admit of any discussion. I knew, of course, that Christian story and sentiment were among the things on which literature could be written, and conversely, that literature was one of the ways in which Christian sentiment could be expressed and Christian story told; but there seemed nothing more to be said of Christianity in this connection than of any of the hundred and one other things that men made books about. We are familiar, no doubt, with the expression ‘Christian Art’, by which people usually mean Art that represents Biblical or hagiological scenes, and there is, in this sense, a fair amount of ‘Christian Literature’. But I question whether it has any literary qualities peculiar to itself. The rules for writing a good passion play or a good devotional lyric are simply the rules for writing tragedy or lyric in general: success in sacred literature depends on the same qualities of structure, suspense, variety, diction, and the like which secure success in secular literature. And if we enlarge the idea of Christian Literature to include not only literature on sacred themes but all that is written by Christians for Christians to read, then, I think, Christian Literature can exist only in the same sense in which Christian cookery might exist. It would be possible, and it might be edifying, to write a Christian cookery book. Such a book would exclude dishes whose preparation involves unnecessary human labour or animal suffering, and dishes excessively luxurious. That is to say, its choice of dishes would be Christian. But there could be nothing specifically Christian about the actual cooking of the dishes included. Boiling an egg is the same process whether you are a Christian or a Pagan. In the same way, literature written by Christians for Christians would have to avoid mendacity, cruelty, blasphemy, pornography, and the like, and it would aim at edification in so far as edification was proper to the kind of work in hand. But whatever it chose to do would have to be done by the means common to all literature; it could succeed or fail only by the same excellences and the same faults as all literature; and its literary success or failure would never be the same thing as its obedience or disobedience to Christian principles. I have been speaking so far of Christian Literature proprement dite – that is, of writing which is intended to affect us as literature, by its appeal to imagination. But in the visible arts I think we can make a distinction between sacred art, however sacred in theme, and pure iconography – between that which is intended, in the first instance, to affect the imagination and the aesthetic appetite, and that which is meant merely as the starting-point for devotion and meditation. If I were treating the visible arts I should have to work out here a full distinction of the work of art from the icon on the one hand and the toy on the other. The icon and the toy have this in common, that their value depends very little on their perfection as artefacts – a shapeless rag may give as much pleasure as the costliest doll, and two sticks tied crosswise may kindle as much devotion as the work of Leonardo.* (#litres_trial_promo) And to make matters more complicated the very same object could often be used in all three ways. But I do not think the icon and the work of art can be so sharply distinguished in literature. I question whether the badness of a really bad hymn can ordinarily be so irrelevant to devotion as the badness of a bad devotional picture. Because the hymn uses words, its badness will, to some degree, consist in confused or erroneous thought and unworthy sentiment. But I mention this difficult question here only to say that I do not propose to treat it. If any literary works exist which have a purely iconographic value and no literary value, they are not what I am talking about. Indeed I could not, for I have not met them. Of Christian Literature, then, in the sense of ‘work aiming at literary value and written by Christians for Christians’, you see that I have really nothing to say and believe that nothing can be said. But I think I have something to say about what may be called the Christian approach to literature: about the principles, if you will, of Christian literary theory and criticism. For while I was thinking over the subject you gave me I made what seemed to me a discovery. It is not an easy one to put into words. The nearest I can come to it is to say that I found a disquieting contrast between the whole circle of ideas used in modern criticism and certain ideas recurrent in the New Testament. Let me say at once that it is hardly a question of logical contradiction between clearly defined concepts. It is too vague for that. It is more a repugnance of atmospheres, a discordance of notes, an incompatibility of temperaments. What are the key-words of modern criticism? Creative, with its opposite derivative; spontaneity, with its opposite convention; freedom, contrasted with rules. Great authors are innovators, pioneers, explorers; bad authors bunch in schools and follow models. Or again, great authors are always ‘breaking fetters’ and ‘bursting bonds’. They have personality, they ‘are themselves’. I do not know whether we often think out the implication of such language into a consistent philosophy; but we certainly have a general picture of bad work flowing from conformity and discipleship, and of good work bursting out from certain centres of explosive force – apparently self-originating force – which we call men of genius. Now the New Testament has nothing at all to tell us of literature. I know that there are some who like to think of Our Lord Himself as a poet and cite the parables to support their view. I admit freely that to believe in the Incarnation at all is to believe that every mode of human excellence is implicit in His historical human character: poethood, of course, included. But if all had been developed, the limitations of a single human life would have been transcended and He would not have been a man; therefore all excellencies save the spiritual remained in varying degrees implicit. If it is claimed that the poetic excellence is more developed than others – say, the intellectual – I think I deny the claim. Some of the parables do work like poetic similes; but then others work like philosophic illustrations. Thus the Unjust Judge is not emotionally or imaginatively like God: he corresponds to God as the terms in a proportion correspond, because he is to the Widow (in one highly specialized respect) as God is to man. In that parable Our Lord, if we may so express it, is much more like Socrates than Shakespeare. And I dread an over-emphasis on the poetical element in His words because I think it tends to obscure that quality in His human character which is, in fact, so visible in His irony, His argumenta ad homines, and His use of the a fortiori, and which I would call the homely, peasant shrewdness. Donne points out that we are never told He laughed; it is difficult in reading the Gospels not to believe, and to tremble in believing, that He smiled. I repeat, the New Testament has nothing to say of literature; but what it says on other subjects is quite sufficient to strike that note which I find out of tune with the language of modern criticism. I must begin with something that is unpopular. St Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 11:3) that man is the ‘head’ of woman. We may soften this if we like by saying that he means only man quâ man and woman quâ woman and that an equality of the sexes as citizens or intellectual beings is not therefore absolutely repugnant to his thought: indeed, that he himself tells us that in another respect, that is ‘in the Lord’, the sexes cannot be thus separated (ibid, 11:11). But what concerns me here is to find out what he means by Head. Now in verse 3 he has given us a very remarkable proportion sum: that God is to Christ as Christ is to man and man is to woman, and the relation between each term and the next is that of Head. And in verse 7 we are told that man is God’s image and glory, and woman is man’s glory. He does not repeat ‘image’, but I question whether the omission is intentional, and I suggest that we shall have a fairly Pauline picture of this whole series of Head relations running from God to woman if we picture each term as the ‘image and glory’ of the preceding term. And I suppose that of which one is the image and glory is that which one glorifies by copying or imitating. Let me once again insist that I am not trying to twist St Paul’s metaphors into a logical system. I know well that whatever picture he is building up, he himself will be the first to throw it aside when it has served its turn and to adopt some quite different picture when some new aspect of the truth is present to his mind. But I want to see clearly the sort of picture implied in this passage – to get it clear however temporary its use or partial its application. And it seems to me a quite clear picture; we are to think of some original divine virtue passing downwards from rung to rung of a hierarchical ladder, and the mode in which each lower rung receives it is, quite frankly, imitation. What is perhaps most startling in this picture is the apparent equivalence of the woman-man and man-God relation with the relation between Christ and God, or, in Trinitarian language, with the relation between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity. As a layman and a comparatively recently reclaimed apostate I have of course, no intention of building a theological system – still less of setting up a catena of New Testament metaphors as a criticism of the Nicene or the Athanasian creed, documents which I wholly accept. But it is legitimate to notice what kinds of metaphor the New Testament uses; more especially when what we are in search of is not dogma but a kind of flavour or atmosphere. And there is no doubt that this kind of proportion sum – A:B : : B:C – is quite freely used in the New Testament where A and B represent the First and Second Persons of the Trinity. Thus St Paul has already told us earlier in the same epistle that we are ‘of Christ’ and Christ is ‘of God’ (3:23). Thus again in the Fourth Gospel, Our Lord Himself compares the relation of the Father to the Son with that of the Son to His flock, in respect of knowledge (10:15) and of love (15:9). I suggest, therefore, that this picture of a hierarchical order in which we are encouraged – though, of course, only from certain points of view and in certain respects – to regard the Second Person Himself as a step, or stage, or degree, is wholly in accord with the spirit of the New Testament. And if we ask how the stages are connected the answer always seems to be something like imitation, reflection, assimilation. Thus in Galatians 4:19, Christ is to be ‘formed’ inside each believer – the verb here used meaning to shape, to figure, or even to draw a sketch. In First Thessalonians (1:6) Christians are told to imitate St Paul and the Lord, and elsewhere (1 Corinthians 11:1) to imitate St Paul as he in turn imitates Christ – thus giving us another stage of progressive imitation. Changing the metaphor we find that believers are to acquire the fragrance of Christ, redolere Christum (2 Corinthians 2:16): that the glory of God has appeared in the face of Christ as, at the creation, light appeared in the universe (2 Corinthians 4:6); and, finally, if my reading of a much disputed passage is correct, that a Christian is to Christ as a mirror to an object (2 Corinthians 3:18). These passages, you will notice, are all Pauline; but there is a place in the Fourth Gospel which goes much further – so far that if it were not a Dominical utterance we would not venture to think along such lines. There (5:19) we are told that the Son does only what He sees the Father doing. He watches the Father’s operations and does the same or ‘copies’. The Father, because of His love for the Son, shows Him all that He does. I have already explained that I am not a theologian. What aspect of the Trinitarian reality Our Lord, as God, saw while He spoke these words, I do not venture to define; but I think we have a right and even a duty to notice carefully the earthly image by which He expressed it – to see clearly the picture He puts before us. It is a picture of a boy learning to do things by watching a man at work. I think we may even guess what memory, humanly speaking, was in His mind. It is hard not to imagine that He remembered His boyhood, that He saw Himself as a boy in a carpenter’s shop, a boy learning how to do things by watching while St Joseph did them. So taken, the passage does not seem to me to conflict with anything I have learned from the creeds, but greatly to enrich my conception of the Divine sonship. Now it may be that there is no absolute logical contradiction between the passages I have quoted and the assumptions of modern criticism: but I think there is so great a difference of temper that a man whose mind was at one with the mind of the New Testament would not, and indeed could not, fall into the language which most critics now adopt. In the New Testament the art of life itself is an art of imitation: can we, believing this, believe that literature, which must derive from real life, is to aim at being ‘creative’, ‘original’, and ‘spontaneous’? ‘Originality’ in the New Testament is quite plainly the prerogative of God alone; even within the triune being of God it seems to be confined to the Father. The duty and happiness of every other being is placed in being derivative, in reflecting like a mirror. Nothing could be more foreign to the tone of scripture than the language of those who describe a saint as a ‘moral genius’ or a ‘spiritual genius’ thus insinuating that his virtue or spirituality is ‘creative’ or ‘original’. If I have read the New Testament aright, it leaves no room for ‘creativeness’ even in a modified or metaphorical sense. Our whole destiny seems to lie in the opposite direction, in being as little as possible ourselves, in acquiring a fragrance that is not our own but borrowed, in becoming clean mirrors filled with the image of a face that is not ours. I am not here supporting the doctrine of total depravity, and I do not say that the New Testament supports it; I am saying only that the highest good of a creature must be creaturely – that is, derivative or reflective – good. In other words, as St Augustine makes plain (De Civ. Dei 12, cap. 1), pride does not only go before a fall but is a fall – a fall of the creature’s attention from what is better, God, to what is worse, itself. Applying this principle to literature, in its greatest generality, we should get as the basis of all critical theory the maxim that an author should never conceive himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his own art some reflection of eternal Beauty and Wisdom. Our criticism would therefore from the beginning group itself with some existing theories of poetry against others. It would have affinities with the primitive or Homeric theory in which the poet is the mere pensioner of the Muse. It would have affinities with the Platonic doctrine of a transcendent Form partly imitable on earth; and remoter affinities with the Aristotelian doctrine of and the Augustan doctrine about the imitation of Nature and the Ancients. It would be opposed to the theory of genius as, perhaps, generally understood; and above all it would be opposed to the idea that literature is self-expression. But here some distinctions must be made. I spoke just now of the ancient idea that the poet was merely the servant of some god, of Apollo, or the Muse; but let us not forget the highly paradoxical words in which Homer’s Phemius asserts his claim to be a poet: ‘I am self-taught; a god has inspired me with all manner of songs.’ It sounds like a direct contradiction. How can he be self-taught if the god has taught him all he knows? Doubtless because the god’s instruction is given internally, not through the senses, and is therefore regarded as part of the Self, to be contrasted with such external aids as, say, the example of other poets. And this seems to blur the distinction I am trying to draw between Christian imitation and the ‘originality’ praised by modern critics. Phemius obviously claims to be original, in the sense of being no other poet’s disciple, and in the same breath admits his complete dependence on a supernatural teacher. Does not this let in ‘originality’ and ‘creativeness’ of the only kind that have ever been claimed? If you said: ‘The only kind that ought to have been claimed’, I would agree; but as things are, I think the distinction remains, though it becomes finer than our first glance suggested. A Christian and an unbelieving poet may both be equally original in the sense that they neglect the example of their poetic forebears and draw on resources peculiar to themselves, but with this difference. The unbeliever may take his own temperament and experience, just as they happen to stand, and consider them worth communicating simply because they are facts or, worse still, because they are his. To the Christian his own temperament and experience, as mere fact, and as merely his, are of no value or importance whatsoever: he will deal with them, if at all, only because they are the medium through which, or the position from which, something universally profitable appeared to him. We can imagine two men seated in different parts of a church or theatre. Both, when they come out, may tell us their experiences, and both may use the first person. But the one is interested in his seat only because it was his – ‘I was most uncomfortable,’ he will say. ‘You would hardly believe what a draught comes in from the door in that corner. And the people! I had to speak pretty sharply to the woman in front of me.’ The other will tell us what could be seen from his seat, choosing to describe this because this is what he knows, and because every seat must give the best view of something. ‘Do you know,’ he will begin, ‘the moulding on those pillars goes on round at the back. It looks, too, as if the design on the back were the older of the two.’ Here we have the expressionist and the Christian attitudes towards the self or temperament. Thus St Augustine and Rousseau both write Confessions; but to the one his own temperament is a kind of absolute (au moins je suis autre), to the other it is ‘a narrow house too narrow for Thee to enter – oh make it wide. It is in ruins – oh rebuild it.’ And Wordsworth, the romantic who made a good end, has a foot in either world and though he practises both, distinguishes well the two ways in which a man may be said to write about himself. On the one hand he says: [For] I must tread on shadowy ground, must sink Deep, and aloft ascending breathe in worlds To which the heaven of heavens is but a veil.* (#litres_trial_promo) On the other he craves indulgence if with this I mix more lowly matter; with the thing Contemplated, describe the Mind and Man Contemplating; and who and what he was – The transitory being that beheld The vision. In this sense, then, the Christian writer may be self-taught or original. He may base his work on the ‘transitory being’ that he is, not because he thinks it valuable (for he knows that in his flesh dwells no good thing), but solely because of the ‘vision’ that appeared to it. But he will have no preference for doing this. He will do it if it happens to be the thing he can do best; but if his talents are such that he can produce good work by writing in an established form and dealing with experiences common to all his race, he will do so just as gladly. I even think he will do so more gladly. It is to him an argument not of strength but of weakness that he should respond fully to the vision only ‘in his own way’. And always, of every idea and of every method he will ask not ‘Is it mine?’, but ‘Is it good?’ This seems to me the most fundamental difference between the Christian and the unbeliever in their approach to literature. But I think there is another. The Christian will take literature a little less seriously than the cultured Pagan: he will feel less uneasy with a purely hedonistic standard for at least many kinds of work. The unbeliever is always apt to make a kind of religion of his aesthetic experiences; he feels ethically irresponsible, perhaps, but he braces his strength to receive responsibilities of another kind which seem to the Christian quite illusory. He has to be ‘creative’; he has to obey a mystical amoral law called his artistic conscience; and he commonly wishes to maintain his superiority to the great mass of mankind who turn to books for mere recreation. But the Christian knows from the outset that the salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world: and as for superiority, he knows that the vulgar, since they include most of the poor, probably include most of his superiors. He has no objection to comedies that merely amuse and tales that merely refresh; for he thinks like Thomas Aquinas ipsa ratio hoc habet ut quandoque rationis usus intercipiatur. We can play, as we can eat, to the glory of God. It thus may come about that Christian views on literature will strike the world as shallow and flippant; but the world must not misunderstand. When Christian work is done on a serious subject there is no gravity and no sublimity it cannot attain. But they will belong to the theme. That is why they will be real and lasting – mighty nouns with which literature, an adjectival thing, is here united, far over-topping the fussy and ridiculous claims of literature that tries to be important simply as literature. And a posteriori it is not hard to argue that all the greatest poems have been made by men who valued something else much more than poetry – even if that something else were only cutting down enemies in a cattle-raid or tumbling a girl in a bed. The real frivolity, the solemn vacuity, is all with those who make literature a self-existent thing to be valued for its own sake. Pater prepared for pleasure as if it were martyrdom. Now that I see where I have arrived a doubt assails me. It sounds suspiciously like things I have said before, starting from very different premises. Is it King Charles’s Head? Have I mistaken for the ‘vision’ the same old ‘transitory being’ who, in some ways, is not nearly transitory enough? It may be so: or I may, after all, be right. I would rather be right if I could; but if not, if I have only been once more following my own footprints, it is the sort of tragi-comedy which, on my own principles, I must try to enjoy. I find a beautiful example proposed in the Paradiso (XXVIII) where poor Pope Gregory, arrived in Heaven, discovered that his theory of the hierarchies, on which presumably he had taken pains, was quite wrong. We are told how the redeemed soul behaved; ‘di sè medesmo rise’. It was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. CHRISTIANITY AND CULTURE (#ulink_2bade202-e09b-5c50-9240-eeb053c8fe36) If the heavenly life is not grown up in you, it signifies nothing what you have chosen in the stead of it, or why you have chosen it. William Law I At an early age I came to believe that the life of culture (that is, of intellectual and aesthetic activity) was very good for its own sake, or even that it was good for man. After my conversion, which occurred in my later twenties, I continued to hold this belief without consciously asking how it could be reconciled with my new belief that the end of human life was salvation in Christ and the glorifying of God. I was awakened from this confused state of mind by finding that the friends of culture seemed to me to be exaggerating. In my reaction against what seemed exaggerated I was driven to the other extreme, and began, in my own mind, to belittle the claims of culture. As soon as I did this I was faced with the question, ‘If it is a thing of so little value, how are you justified in spending so much of your life on it?’ The present inordinate esteem of culture by the cultured began, I think, with Matthew Arnold – at least if I am right in supposing that he first popularized the use of the English word spiritual in the sense of German geistlich. This was nothing less than the identification of levels of life hitherto usually distinguished. After Arnold came the vogue of Croce, in whose philosophy the aesthetic and logical activities were made autonomous forms of ‘the spirit’ coordinate with the ethical. There followed the poetics of Dr I. A. Richards. This great atheist critic found in a good poetical taste the means of attaining psychological adjustments which improved a man’s power of effective and satisfactory living all round, while bad taste resulted in a corresponding loss. Since this theory of value was a purely psychological one, this amounted to giving poetry a kind of soteriological function; it held the keys of the only heaven that Dr Richards believed in. His work (which I respect profoundly) was continued, though not always in directions that he accepted, by the editors of Scrutiny,* (#litres_trial_promo) who believe in ‘a necessary relationship between the quality of the individual’s response to art and his general fitness for humane living’. Finally, as might have been expected, a somewhat similar view was expressed by a Christian writer: in fact by Brother Every in Theology for March 1939. In an article entitled ‘The Necessity of Scrutiny’ Brother Every inquired what Mr Eliot’s admirers were to think of a Church where those who seemed to be theologically equipped preferred Housman, Mr Charles Morgan, and Miss Sayers, to Lawrence, Joyce and Mr E. M. Forster; he spoke (I think with sympathy) of the ‘sensitive questioning individual’ who is puzzled at finding the same judgments made by Christians as by ‘other conventional people’; and he talked of ‘testing’ theological students as regards their power to evaluate a new piece of writing on a secular subject. As soon as I read this there was the devil to pay. I was not sure that I understood – I am still not sure that I understand – Brother Every’s position. But I felt that some readers might easily get the notion that ‘sensitivity’ or good taste were among the notes of the true Church, or that coarse, unimaginative people were less likely to be saved than refined and poetic people. In the heat of the moment I rushed to the opposite extreme. I felt, with some spiritual pride, that I had been saved in the nick of time from being ‘sensitive’. The ‘sentimentality and cheapness’ of much Christian hymnody had been a strong point in my own resistance to conversion. Now I felt almost thankful for the bad hymns.* (#litres_trial_promo) It was good that we should have to lay down our precious refinement at the very doorstep of the church; good that we should be cured at the outset of our inveterate confusion between psyche and pneuma, nature and supernature. A man is never so proud as when striking an attitude of humility. Brother Every will not suspect me of being still in the condition I describe, nor of still attributing to him the preposterous beliefs I have just suggested. But there remains, none the less, a real problem which his article forced upon me in its most acute form. No one, presumably, is really maintaining that a fine taste in the arts is a condition of salvation. Yet the glory of God, and, as our only means to glorifying Him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life. What, then, is the value of culture? It is, of course, no new question; but as a living question it was new to me. I naturally turned first to the New Testament. Here I found, in the first place, a demand that whatever is most highly valued on the natural level is to be held, as it were, merely on sufferance, and to be abandoned without mercy the moment it conflicts with the service of God. The organs of sense (Matthew 5:29) and of virility (Matthew 19:12) may have to be sacrificed. And I took it that the least these words could mean was that a life, by natural standards, crippled and thwarted was not only no bar to salvation, but might easily be one of its conditions. The text about hating father and mother (Luke 14:26) and our Lord’s apparent belittling even of His own natural relation to the Blessed Virgin (Matthew 12:48) were even more discouraging. I took it for granted that anyone in his senses would hold it better to be a good son than a good critic, and that whatever was said of natural affection was implied a fortiori of culture. The worst of all was Philippians 3:8, where something obviously more relevant to spiritual life than culture can be – ‘blameless’ conformity to the Jewish Law – was described as ‘muck’. In the second place I found a number of emphatic warnings against every kind of superiority. We were told to become as children (Matthew 18:3), not to be called Rabbi (Matthew 23:8), to dread reputation (Luke 6:26). We were reminded that few of the – which, I suppose, means precisely the intelligentsia – are called (1 Corinthians 1:26); that a man must become a fool by secular standards before he can attain real wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:18). Against all this I found some passages that could be interpreted in a sense more favourable to culture. I argued that secular learning might be embodied in the Magi; that the Talents in the parable might conceivably include ‘talents’ in the modern sense of the word; that the miracle at Cana in Galilee by sanctifying an innocent, sensuous pleasure* (#litres_trial_promo) could be taken to sanctify at least a recreational use of culture – mere ‘entertainment’; and that aesthetic enjoyment of nature was certainly hallowed by our Lord’s praise of the lilies. At least some use of science was implied in St Paul’s demand that we should perceive the Invisible through the visible (Romans 1:20). But I was more than doubtful whether his exhortation, ‘Be not children in mind’ (1 Corinthians 14:20), and his boast of ‘wisdom’ among the initiate, referred to anything that we should recognize as secular culture. On the whole, the New Testament seemed, if not hostile, yet unmistakably cold to culture. I think we can still believe culture to be innocent after we have read the New Testament; I cannot see that we are encouraged to think it important. It might be important none the less, for Hooker has finally answered the contention that Scripture must contain everything important or even everything necessary. Remembering this, I continued my researches. If my selection of authorities seems arbitary, that is due not to a bias but to my ignorance. I used such authors as I happened to know. Of the great pagans Aristotle is on our side. Plato will tolerate no culture that does not directly or indirectly conduce either to the intellectual vision of the good or the military efficiency of the commonwealth. Joyce and D. H. Lawrence would have fared ill in the Republic. The Buddha was, I believe, anti-cultural, but here especially I speak under correction. St Augustine regarded the liberal education which he had undergone in his boyhood as a dementia, and wondered why it should be considered honestior et uberior than the really useful ‘primary’ education which preceded it (Conf. I, xiii). He is extremely distrustful of his own delight in church music (ibid., X, xxxiii). Tragedy (which for Dr Richards is ‘a great exercise of the spirit’)* (#litres_trial_promo) is for St Augustine a kind of sore. The spectator suffers, yet loves his suffering, and this is a miserabilis insania … quid autem mirum cum infelix pecus aberrans a grege tuo et inpatiens custodiae tuae turpi scabie foedarer (ibid., III, ii). St Jerome, allegorizing the parable of the Prodigal Son, suggests that the husks with which he was fain to fill his belly may signify cibus daemonum … carmina poetarum, saecularis sapientia, rhetoricorum pompa verborum (Ep. xxi, 4). Let none reply that the Fathers were speaking of polytheistic literature at a time when polytheism was still a danger. The scheme of values presupposed in most imaginative literature has not become very much more Christian since the time of St Jerome. In Hamlet we see everything questioned except the duty of revenge. In all Shakespeare’s works the conception of good really operative – whatever the characters may say – seems to be purely worldly. In medieval romance, honour and sexual love are the true values; in nineteenth-century fiction, sexual love and material prosperity. In romantic poetry, either the enjoyment of nature (ranging from pantheistic mysticism at one end of the scale to mere innocent sensuousness at the other) or else the indulgence of a Sehnsucht awakened by the past, the distant, and the imagined, but not believed, supernatural. In modern literature, the life of liberated instinct. There are, of course, exceptions: but to study these exceptions would not be to study literature as such, and as a whole. ‘All literatures,’ as Newman has said* (#litres_trial_promo), ‘are one; they are the voices of the natural man … if Literature is to be made a study of human nature, you cannot have a Christian Literature. It is a contradiction in terms to attempt a sinless Literature of sinful man.’ And I could not doubt that the sub-Christian or anti-Christian values implicit in most literature did actually infect many readers. Only a few days ago I was watching, in some scholarship papers, the results of this infection in a belief that the crimes of such Shakespearian characters as Cleopatra and Macbeth were somehow compensated for by a quality described as their ‘greatness’. This very morning I have read in a critic the remark that if the wicked lovers in Webster’s White Devil had repented we should hardly have forgiven them. And many people certainly draw from Keat’s phrase about negative capability or ‘love of good and evil’ (if the reading which attributes to him such meaningless words is correct) a strange doctrine that experience simpliciter is good. I do not say that the sympathetic reading of literature must produce such results, but that it may and often does. If we are to answer the Fathers’ attack on pagan literature we must not ground our answer on a belief that literature as a whole has become, in any important sense, more Christian since their days. In Thomas Aquinas I could not find anything directly bearing on my problem; but I am very poor Thomist and shall be grateful for correction on this point. Thomas à Kempis I take to be definitely on the anti-cultural side. In the Theologia Germanica (cap. XX) I found that nature’s refusal of the life of Christ ‘happeneth most of all where there are high natural gifts of reason, for that soareth upwards in its own light and by its own power, till at last it cometh to think itself the true Eternal Light.’ But in a later chapter (XLII) I found the evil of the false light identified with its tendency to love knowledge and discernment more than the object known and discerned. This seemed to point to the possibility of a knowledge which avoided that error. The cumulative effect of all this was very discouraging to culture. On the other side – perhaps only through the accidental distribution of my ignorance – I found much less. I found the famous saying, attributed to Gregory, that our use of secular culture was comparable to the action of the Israelites in going down to the Philistines to have their knives sharpened. This seems to me a most satisfactory argument as far as it goes, and very relevant to modern conditions. If we are to convert our heathen neighbours, we must understand their culture. We must ‘beat them at their own game’. But of course, while this would justify Christian culture (at least for some Christians whose vocation lay in that direction) at the moment, it would come very far short of the claims made for culture in our modern tradition. On the Gregorian view culture is a weapon; and a weapon is essentially a thing we lay aside as soon as we safely can. In Milton I found a disquieting ally. His Areopagitica troubled me just as Brother Every’s article had troubled me. He seemed to make too little of the difficulties; and his glorious defence of freedom to explore all good and evil seemed, after all, to be based on an aristocratic preoccupation with great souls and a contemptuous indifference to the mass of mankind which, I suppose, no Christian can tolerate. Finally I came to that book of Newman’s from which I have already quoted, the lectures on University Education. Here at last I found an author who seemed to be aware of both sides of the question; for no one ever insisted so eloquently as Newman on the beauty of culture for its own sake, and no one ever so sternly resisted the temptation to confuse it with things spiritual. The cultivation of the intellect, according to him, is ‘for this world’:* (#litres_trial_promo) between it and ‘genuine religion’ there is a ‘radical difference’; it makes ‘not the Christian … but the gentleman’, and looks like virtue ‘only at a distance’, he ‘will not for an instant allow’ that it makes men better . The ‘pastors of the Church’ may indeed welcome culture because it provides innocent distraction at those moments of spiritual relaxation which would otherwise very likely lead to sin; and in this way it often ‘draws the mind off from things which will harm it to subjects worthy of a rational being’. But even in so doing ‘it does not raise it above nature, nor has any tendency to make us pleasing to our Maker’.* (#litres_trial_promo) In some instances the cultural and the spiritual value of an activity may even be in inverse ratio. Theology, when it ceases to be part of liberal knowledge, and is pursued for purely pastoral ends, gain in ‘meritoriousness’ but loses in liberality ‘just as a face worn by tears and fasting loses its beauty’. On the other hand Newman is certain that liberal knowledge is an end in itself; the whole of the fourth Discourse is devoted to this theme. The solution of this apparent antinomy lies in his doctrine that everything, including, of course, the intellect, ‘has its own perfection. Things animate, inanimate, visible, invisible, all are good in their kind, and have a best of themselves, which is an object of pursuit.’ To perfect the mind is ‘an object as intelligible as the cultivation of virtue, while, at the same time, it is absolutely distinct from it’. Whether because I am too poor a theologian to understand the implied doctrine of grace and nature, or for some other reason, I have not been able to make Newman’s conclusion my own. I can well understand that there is a kind of goodness which is not moral; as a well-grown healthy toad is ‘better’ or ‘more perfect’ than a three-legged toad, or an archangel is ‘better’ than an angel. In this sense a clever man is ‘better’ than a dull one, or any man than any chimpanzee. The trouble comes when we start asking how much of our time and energy God wants us to spend in becoming ‘better’ or ‘more perfect’ in this sense. If Newman is right in saying that culture has no tendency ‘to make us pleasing to our Maker’, then the answer would seem to be, ‘None.’ And that is a tenable view: as though God said, ‘Your natural degree of perfection, your place in the chain of being, is my affair: do you get on with what I have explicitly left as your task – righteousness.’ But if Newman had thought this he would not, I suppose, have written the discourse on ‘Liberal Knowledge its Own End’. On the other hand, it would be possible to hold (perhaps it is pretty generally held) that one of the moral duties of a rational creature was to attain to the highest non-moral perfection it could. But if this were so, then (a) The perfecting of the mind would not be ‘absolutely distinct’ from virtue but part of the content of virtue; and (b) It would be very odd that Scripture and the tradition of the Church have little or nothing to say about this duty. I am afraid that Newman has left the problem very much where he found it. He has clarified our minds by explaining that culture gives us a non-moral ‘perfection’. But on the real problem – that of relating such non-moral values to the duty or interest of creatures who are every minute advancing either to heaven or hell – he seems to help little. ‘Sensitivity’ may be a perfection: but if by becoming sensitive I neither please God nor save my soul, why should I become sensitive? Indeed, what exactly is meant by a ‘perfection’ compatible with utter loss of the end for which I was created? My researches left me with the impression that there could be no question of restoring to culture the kind of status which I had given it before my conversion. If any constructive case for culture was to be built up it would have to be of a much humbler kind; and the whole tradition of educated infidelity from Arnold to Scrutiny appeared to me as but one phase in that general rebellion against God which began in the eighteenth century. In this mood I set about construction. 1. I begin at the lowest and least ambitious level. My own professional work, though conditioned by taste and talents, is immediately motivated by the need for earning my living. And on earning one’s living I was relieved to note that Christianity, in spite of its revolutionary and apocalyptic elements, can be delightfully humdrum. The Baptist did not give the tax-gatherers and soldiers lectures on the immediate necessity of turning the economic and military system of the ancient world upside down; he told them to obey the moral law – as they had presumably learned it from their mothers and nurses – and sent them back to their jobs. St Paul advised the Thessalonians to stick to their work (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and not to become busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3:11). The need for money is therefore simpliciter an innocent, though by no means a splendid, motive for any occupation. The Ephesians are warned to work professionally at something that is ‘good’ (Ephesians 4:28). I hoped that ‘good’ here did not mean much more than ‘harmless’, and I was certain it did not imply anything very elevated. Provided, then, that there was a demand for culture, and that culture was not actually deleterious, I concluded I was justified in making my living by supplying that demand – and that all others in my position (dons, schoolmasters, professional authors, critics, reviewers) were similarly justified; especially if, like me, they had few or no talents for any other career – if their ‘vocation’ to a cultural profession consisted in the brute fact of not being fit for anything else. 2. But is culture even harmless? It certainly can be harmful and often is. If a Christian found himself in the position of one inaugurating a new society in vacuo he might well decide not to introduce something whose abuse is so easy and whose use is, at any rate, not necessary. But that is not our position. The abuse of culture is already there, and will continue whether Christians cease to be cultured or not. It is therefore probably better that the ranks of the ‘culture-sellers’ should include some Christians – as an antidote. It may even be the duty of some Christians to be culture-sellers. Not that I have yet said anything to show that even the lawful use of culture stands very high. The lawful use might be no more than innocent pleasure; but if the abuse is common, the task of resisting that abuse might be not only lawful but obligatory. Thus people in my position might be said to be ‘working the thing which is good’ in a stronger sense than that reached in the last paragraph. In order to avoid misunderstanding, I must add that when I speak of ‘resisting the abuse of culture’ I do not mean that a Christian should take money for supplying one thing (culture) and use the opportunity thus gained to supply a quite different thing (homiletics and apologetics). That is stealing. The mere presence of Christians in the ranks of the culture-sellers will inevitably provide an antidote. It will be seen that I have now reached something very like the Gregorian view of culture as a weapon. Can I now go a step further and find any intrinsic goodness in culture for its own sake? 3. When I ask what culture has done to me personally, the most obviously true answer is that it has given me quite an enormous amount of pleasure. I have no doubt at all that pleasure is in itself a good and pain in itself an evil; if not, then the whole Christian tradition about heaven and hell and the passion of our Lord seems to have no meaning. Pleasure, then, is good; a ‘sinful’ pleasure means a good offered, and accepted, under conditions which involve a breach of the moral law. The pleasures of culture are not intrinsically bound up with such conditions – though of course they can very easily be so enjoyed as to involve them. Often, as Newman saw, they are an excellent diversion from guilty pleasures. We may, therefore, enjoy them ourselves, and lawfully, even charitably, teach others to enjoy them. This view gives us some ease, though it would go a very little way towards satisfying the editors of Scrutiny. We should, indeed, be justified in propagating good taste on the ground that cultured pleasure in the arts is more varied, intense, and lasting, than vulgar or ‘popular’ pleasure.* (#litres_trial_promo) But we should not regard it as meritorious. In fact, much as we should differ from Bentham about value in general, we should have to be Benthamites on the issue between pushpin and poetry. 4. It was noticed above that the values assumed in literature were seldom those of Christianity. Some of the principal values actually implicit in European literature were described as (a) honour, (b) sexual love, (c) material prosperity, (d) pantheistic contemplation of nature, (e) Sehnsucht awakened by the past, the remote, or the (imagined) supernatural, (f) liberation of impulses. These were called ‘sub-Christian’. This is a term of disapproval if we are comparing them with Christian values: but if we take ‘sub-Christian’ to mean ‘immediately sub-Christian’ (i.e. the highest level of merely natural value lying immediately below the lowest level of spiritual value) it may be a term of relative approval. Some of the six values I have enumerated may be sub-Christian in this (relatively) good sense. For (c) and (f) I can make no defence; whenever they are accepted by the reader with anything more than a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ they must make him worse. But the other four are all two-edged. I may symbolize what I think of them all by the aphorism ‘Any road out of Jerusalem must also be a road into Jerusalem.’ Thus: (a) To the perfected Christian the ideal of honour is simply a temptation. His courage has a better root, and, being learned in Gethsemane, may have no honour about it. But to the man coming up from below, the ideal of knighthood may prove a schoolmaster to the ideal of martyrdom. Galahad is the son of Launcelot. (b) The road described by Dante and Patmore is a dangerous one. But mere animalism, however disguised as ‘honesty’, ‘frankness’, or the like, is not dangerous, but fatal. And not all are qualified to be, even in sentiment, eunuchs for the Kingdom’s sake. For some souls romantic love also has proved a schoolmaster.* (#litres_trial_promo) (d) There is any easy transition from Theism to Pantheism; but there is also a blessed transition in the other direction. For some souls I believe, for my own I remember, Wordsworthian contemplation can be the first and lowest form of recognition that there is something outside ourselves which demands reverence. To return to Pantheistic errors about the nature of this something would, for a Christian, be very bad. But once again, for ‘the man coming up from below’ the Wordsworthian experience is an advance. Even if he goes no further he has escaped the worst arrogance of materialism: if he goes on he will be converted. (e) The dangers of romantic Sehnsucht are very great. Eroticism and even occultism lie in wait for it. On this subject I can only give my own experience for what it is worth. When we are first converted I suppose we think mostly of our recent sins; but as we go on, more and more of the terrible past comes under review. In this process I have not (or not yet) reached a point at which I can honestly repent of my earlier experiences of romantic Sehnsucht. That they were occasions to much that I do repent, is clear; but I still cannot help thinking that this was my abuse of them, and that the experiences themselves contained, from the very first, a wholly good element. Without them my conversion would have been more difficult.* (#litres_trial_promo) I have dwelt chiefly on certain kinds of literature, not because I think them the only elements in culture that have this value as schoolmasters, but because I know them best; and on literature rather than art and knowledge for the same reason. My general case may be stated in Ricardian terms – that culture is a storehouse of the best (sub-Christian) values. These values are in themselves of the soul, not the spirit. But God created the soul. Its values may be expected, therefore, to contain some reflection or antepast of the spiritual values. They will save no man. They resemble the regenerate life only as affection resembles charity, or honour resembles virtue, or the moon the sun. But though ‘like is not the same’, it is better than unlike. Imitation may pass into initiation. For some it is a good beginning. For others it is not; culture is not everyone’s road into Jerusalem, and for some it is a road out. There is another way in which it may predispose to conversion. The difficulty of converting an uneducated man nowadays lies in his complacency. Popularized science, the conventions or ‘unconventions’ of his immediate circle, party programmes, etc., enclose him in a tiny windowless universe which he mistakes for the only possible universe. There are no distant horizons, no mysteries. He thinks everything has been settled. A cultured person, on the other hand, is almost compelled to be aware that reality is very odd and that the ultimate truth, whatever it may be, must have the characteristics of strangeness – must be something that would seem remote and fantastic to the uncultured. Thus some obstacles to faith have been removed already. On these grounds I conclude that culture has a distinct part to play in bringing certain souls to Christ. Not all souls – there is a shorter, and safer, way which has always been followed by thousands of simple affectional natures who begin, where we hope to end, with devotion to the person of Christ. Has it any part to play in the life of the converted? I think so, and in two ways. (a) If all the cultural values, on the way up to Christianity, were dim antepasts and ectypes of the truth, we can recognize them as such still. And since we must rest and play, where can we do so better than here – in the suburbs of Jerusalem? It is lawful to rest our eyes in moonlight – especially now that we know where it comes from, that it is only sunlight at second hand. (b) Whether the purely contemplative life is, or is not, desirable for any, it is certainly not the vocation of all. Most men must glorify God by doing to His glory something which is not per se an act of glorifying but which becomes so by being offered. If, as I now hope, cultural activities are innocent and even useful, then they also (like the sweeping of the room in Herbert’s poem) can be done to the Lord. The work of a charwoman and the work of a poet become spiritual in the same way and on the same condition. There must be no return to the Arnoldian or Richardian view. Let us stop giving ourselves airs. If it is argued that the ‘sensitivity’ which Brother Every desires is something different from my ‘culture’ or ‘good taste’, I must reply that I have chosen those words as the most general terms for something which is differently conceived in every age – ‘wit’, ‘correctness’, ‘imagination’ and (now) ‘sensitivity’. These names, of course, record real changes of opinion about it. But if it were contended that the latest conception is so different from all its predecessors that we now have a radically new situation – that while ‘wit’ was not necessary for a seventeenth-century Christian, ‘sensitivity’ is necessary for a twentieth-century Christian – I should find this very hard to believe. ‘Sensitivity’ is a potentiality, therefore neutral. It can no more be an end to Christians than ‘experience’. If Philippians 1:9 is quoted against me, I reply that delicate discriminations are there traced to charity, not to critical experience of books. Every virtue is a habitus – i.e. a good stock response. Dr Richards very candidly recognizes this when he speaks of people ‘hag-ridden by their vices or their virtues’ (op. cit., p. 52, italics mine). But we want to be so ridden. I do not want a sensitivity which will show me how different each temptation to lust or cowardice is from the last, how unique, how unamenable to general rules. A stock response is precisely what I need to acquire. Moral theologians, I believe, tell us to fly at sight from temptations to faith or chastity. If that is not (in Dr Richards’s words) a ‘stock’, ‘stereotyped’, ‘conventional’ response, I do not know what is. In fact, the new ideal of ‘sensitivity’ seems to me to present culture to Christians in a somewhat less favourable light than its predecessors. Sidney’s poetics would be better. The whole school of critical thought which descends from Dr Richards bears such deep marks of its anti-Christian origins that I question if it can ever be baptized. II To the Editor of Theology. Sir, Mr Bethell’s main position is so important that I hope you will allow me at some future date to deal with it in a full-length argument. For the moment, therefore, I will only say: (1) That I made no reference to his previous paper for the worst of reasons and the best of causes – namely, that I had forgotten it. For this negligence I ask his pardon. On looking back at the relevant number of Theology, I see from marginalia in my own hand that I must have read his contribution with great interest; for my forgetfulness I can only plead that a great many things have happened to us all since then. I am distressed that Mr Bethell should suppose himself deliberately slighted. I intended no disrespect to him. (2) That my position ‘logically implies … total depravity’ I deny simply. How any logician could derive the proposition ‘Human nature is totally depraved’ from the proposition ‘Cultural activities do not in themselves improve our spiritual condition’, I cannot understand. Even if I had said (which I did not), ‘Man’s aesthetic nature is totally depraved’, no one could infer ‘Man’s whole nature is totally depraved’ without a glaring transference from secundum quid to simpliciter. I put it to Mr Bethell that he has used ‘logically implies’ to mean ‘may without gross uncharity rouse the suspicion of’ – and that he ought not to use words that way. To Mr Carritt I reply that my argument assumed the divinity of Christ, the truth of the creeds, and the authority of the Christian tradition, because I was writing in an Anglican periodical. That is why Dominical and patristic sayings have for me more than an antiquarian interest. But though my attribution of authority to Christ or the Fathers may depend on premises which Mr Carritt does not accept, my belief that it is proper to combine my own reasonings with the witness of authority has a different ground, prior to any decision on the question, ‘Who is authoritative?’ One of the things my reason tells me is that I ought to check the results of my own thinking by the opinions of the wise. I go to authority because reason sends me to it – just as Mr Carritt, after adding up a column of figures, might ask a friend, known to be a good calculator, to check it for him, and might distrust his own result if his friend got a different one. I said that culture was a storehouse of the best sub-Christian values, not the best sub-Christian virtues. I meant by this that culture recorded man’s striving for those ends which, though not the true end of man (the fruition of God), have nevertheless some degree of similarity to it, and are not so grossly inadequate to the nature of man as, say, physical pleasure, or money. This similarity, of course, while making it less evil to rest in them, makes the danger of resting in them greater and more subtle. The salvation of souls is a means to the glorifying of God because only saved souls can duly glorify Him. The thing to which, on my view, culture must be subordinated, is not (though it includes) moral virtue, but the conscious direction of all will and desire to a transcendental Person in whom I believe all values to reside, and the reference to Him in every thought and act. Since that Person ‘loves righteousness’ this total surrender to Him involves Mr Carritt’s ‘conscientiousness’. It would therefore be impossible to ‘glorify God by doing what we thought wrong’. Doing what we think right, on the other hand, is not the same as glorifying God. I fully agree with Mr Carritt that a priori we might expect the production of whatever is ‘good’ to be one of our duties. If God had never spoken to man, we should be justified in basing the conduct of life wholly on such a priori grounds. Those who think God has spoken will naturally listen to what He has to say about the where, how, to what extent, and in what spirit any ‘good’ is to be pursued. This does not mean that our own ‘conscience’ is simply negated. On the contrary, just as reason sends me to authority, so conscience sends me to obedience: for one of the things my conscience tells me is that if there exists an absolutely wise and good Person (Aristotle’s raised to the nth) I owe Him obedience, specially when that Person, as the ground of my existence, has a kind of paternal claim on me, and, as a benefactor, has a claim on my gratitude. What would happen if there were an absolute clash between God’s will and my own conscience – i.e. if either God could be bad or I were an incurable moral idiot – I naturally do not know, any more than Mr Carritt knows what would happen if he found absolutely demonstrative evidence for two contradictory propositions. I mentioned Hooker, not because he simply denied that Scripture contains all things necessary, but because he advanced a proof that it cannot – which proof, I supposed, most readers of Theology would remember. ‘Text-hunting’ is, of course, ‘Puritanical’, but also scholastic, patristic, apostolic, and Dominical. To that kind of charge I venture, presuming on an indulgence which Mr Carritt has extended to me for nearly twenty years, to reply with homely saws: as that an old trout can’t be caught by tickling, and they know a trick worth two of that where I come from. Puritan, quotha! Yours faithfully, C. S. Lewis III Peace Proposals for Brother Every and Mr Bethell I believe there is little real disagreement between my critics (Brother Every and Mr Bethell) and myself. Mr Carritt, who does not accept the Christian premises, must here be left out of account, though with all the respect and affection I feel for my old tutor and friend. The conclusion I reached in Theology, March 1940, was that culture, though not in itself meritorious, was innocent and pleasant, might be a vocation for some, was helpful in bringing certain souls to Christ, and could be pursued to the glory of God. I do not see that Brother Every and Mr Bethell really want me to go beyond this position. The argument of Mr Bethell’s paper in Theology, July 1939 (excluding its historical section, which does not here concern us), was that the deepest, and often unconscious, beliefs of a writer were implicit in his work, even in what might seem the minor details of its style, and that, unless we were Croceans, such beliefs must be taken into account in estimating the value of that work. In Theology, May 1940, Mr Bethell reaffirmed this doctrine, with the addition that the latent beliefs in much modern fiction were naturalistic, and that we needed trained critics to put Christian readers on their guard against this pervasive influence. Brother Every, in Theology, September 1940, maintained that our tastes are symptomatic of our real standards of value, which may differ from our professed standards; and that we needed trained critics to show us the real latent standards in literature – in fact ‘to teach us how to read’. I cannot see that my own doctrine and those of my critics come into direct contradiction at any point. My fear was lest excellence in reading and writing were being elevated into a spiritual value, into something meritorious per se; just as other things excellent and wholesome in themselves, like conjugal love (in the sense of eros) or physical cleanliness, have at some times and in some circles been confused with virtue itself or esteemed necessary parts of it. But it now appears that my critics never intended to make any such claim. Bad Taste for them is not itself spiritual evil but the symptom which betrays, or the ‘carrier’ which circulates, spiritual evil. And the spiritual evil thus betrayed or carried turns out not to be any specifically cultural or literary kind of evil, but false beliefs or standards – that is, intellectual error or moral baseness; and as I never intended to deny that error and baseness were evils nor that literature could imply and carry them, I think that all three of us may shake hands and say we are agreed. I do not mean to suggest that my critics have merely restated a platitude which neither I nor anyone else ever disputed. The value of their contribution lies in their insistence that the real beliefs may differ from the professed and may lurk in the turn of a phrase or the choice of an epithet; with the result that many preferences which seem to the ignorant to be simply ‘matters of taste’ are visible to the trained critic as choices between good and evil, or truth and error. And I fully admit that this important point had been neglected in my essay of March 1940. Now that it has been made, I heartily accept it. I think this is agreement. But to test the depth of agreement I would like my critics to consider the following positions. By agreement I mean only agreement in our doctrines. Differences of temper and emphasis between Christian critics are inevitable and probably desirable. 1. Is it the function of the ‘trained critic’ to discover the latent beliefs and standards in a book, or to pass judgment on them when discovered, or both? I think Brother Every confines the critic’s function to discovery. About Mr Bethell I am not so sure. When he says (Theology, May 1940, p. 360) that we need a minority of trained critics to ‘lay bare the false values of contemporary culture’ this might mean two things: (a) ‘To expose the falsity of the values of contemporary culture’; (b) ‘To reveal what the values of contemporary culture actually are – and, by the way, I personally think those values false.’ It is necessary to clear this up before we know what is meant by a ‘trained critic’. Trained in what? A man who has had a literary training may be an expert in disengaging the beliefs and values latent in literature; but the judgment on those beliefs and values (that is, the judgment on all possible human thoughts and moralities) belongs either to a quite different set of experts (theologians, philosophers, casuists, scientists) or else not to experts at all but to the unspecialized ‘good and wise man’, the . Now I for my part have no objection to our doing both when we criticize, but I think it very important to keep the two operations distinct. In the discovery of the latent belief we have had a special training, and speak as experts; in the judgment of the beliefs, once they have been discovered, we humbly hope that we are being trained, like everyone else, by reason and ripening experience, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, as long as we live, but we speak on them simply as men, on a level with all our even-Christians, and indeed with less authority than any illiterate man who happens to be older, wiser, and purer, than we. To transfer to these judgments any specialist authority which may belong to us as ‘trained critics’ is charlatanism, if the attempt is conscious, and confusion if it is not. If Brother Every (see Theology, September 1940, p. 161) condemns a book because of ‘English Liberal’ implications he is really saying two things: (a) This book has English Liberal implications; (b) English Liberalism is an evil. The first he utters with authority because he is a trained critic. In the second, he may be right or he may be wrong; but he speaks with no more authority than any other man. Failure to observe this distinction may turn literary criticism into a sort of stalking horse from behind which a man may shoot all his personal opinions on any and every subject, without ever really arguing in their defence and under cover of a quite irrelevant specialist training in literature. I do not accuse Brother Every of this. But a glance at any modern review will show that it is an ever-present danger. 2. In Theology, May 1940 (p. 359), Mr Bethell speaks of ‘some form of biological or economic naturalism’ as the unconscious attitude in most popular fiction of today, and cities, as straws that show the wind, the popularity of ‘urges’ and ‘overmastering passions’. Now, fortunately, I agree with Mr Bethell in thinking naturalism an erroneous philosophy: and I am ready to grant, for the purposes of argument, that those who talk about ‘urges’ do so because they are unconsciously naturalistic. But when all this has been granted, can we honestly say that the whole of our dislike of ‘urges’ is explained, without remainder, by our disagreement with naturalism? Surely not. Surely we object to that way of writing for another reason as well – because it is so worn, so facile, so obviously attempting to be impressive, so associated in our minds with dullness and pomposity.* (#litres_trial_promo) In other words, there are two elements in our reaction. One is the detection of an attitude in the writer which, as instructed Christians and amateur philosophers, we disapprove; the other is really, and strictly, an affair of taste. Now these, again, require to be kept distinct. Being fallen creatures we tend to resent offences against our taste, at least as much as, or even more than, offences against our conscience or reason; and we would dearly like to be able – if only we can find any plausible argument for doing so – to inflict upon the man whose writing (perhaps for reasons utterly unconnected with good and evil) has afflicted us like a bad smell, the same kind of condemnation which we can inflict on him who has uttered the false and the evil. The tendency is easily observed among children; friendship wavers when you discover that a hitherto trusted playmate actually likes prunes. But even for adults it is ‘sweet, sweet, sweet poison’ to feel able to imply ‘thus saith the Lord’ at the end of every expression of our pet aversions. To avoid this horrible danger we must perpetually try to distinguish, however closely they get entwined both by the subtle nature of the facts and by the secret importunity of our passions, those attitudes in a writer which we can honestly and confidently condemn as real evils, and those qualities in his writing which simply annoy and offend us as men of taste. This is difficult, because the latter are often so much more obvious and provoke such a very violent response. The only safe course seems to me to be this: to reserve our condemnation of attitudes for attitudes universally acknowledged to be bad by the Christian conscience speaking in agreement with Scripture and ecumenical tradition. A bad book is to be deemed a real evil in so far as it can be shown to prompt to sensuality, or pride, or murder, or to conflict with the doctrine of Divine Providence, or the like. The other dyslogistic terms dear to critics (vulgar, derivative, cheap, precious, academic, affected, bourgeois, Victorian, Georgian, ‘literary’, etc.) had better be kept strictly on the taste side of the account. In discovering what attitudes are present you can be as subtle as you like. But in your theological and ethical condemnation (as distinct from your dislike of the taste) you had better be very un-subtle. You had better reserve it for plain mortal sins, and plain atheism and heresy. For our passions are always urging us in the opposite direction, and if we are not careful criticism may become a mere excuse for taking revenge on books whose smell we dislike by erecting our temperamental antipathies into pseudo-moral judgments. 3. In practical life a certain amount of ‘reading between the lines’ is necessary: if we took every letter and every remark simply at its face value we should soon find ourselves in difficulties. On the other hand, most of us have known people with whom ‘reading between the lines’ became such a mania that they overlooked the obvious truth of every situation and lived in the perpetual discovery of mares’ nests; and doctors tell us of a form of lunacy in which the simplest remark uttered in the patient’s presence becomes to him evidence of a conspiracy and the very furniture of his cell takes on an infinitely sinister significance. Will my critics admit that the subtle and difficult task of digging out the latent beliefs and values, however necessary, is attended with some danger of our neglecting the obvious and surface facts about a book, whose importance, even if less than that of the latent facts, is certainly much higher than zero? Suppose two books A and B. Suppose it can be truly said of A: ‘The very style of this book reveals great sensitivity and honesty, and a readiness for total commitments; excellent raw material for sanctity if ever the author were converted.’ And suppose it can be truly said of B: ‘The very style of this book betrays a woolly, compromising state of mind, knee-deep entangled in the materialistic values which the author thinks he has rejected.’ But might it not also be true to say of book A, ‘Despite its excellent latent implications, its ostensible purpose (which will corrupt thousands of readers) is the continued glorification of mortal sin’; and of B, ‘Despite its dreadful latent materialism, it does set courage and fidelity before the reader in an attractive light, and thousands of readers will be edified (though much less edified than they suppose) by reading it’? And is there not a danger of this second truth being neglected? We want the abstruse knowledge in addition to the obvious: not instead of it. 4. It is clear that the simple and ignorant are least able to resist, by reason, the influence of latent evil in the books they read. But is it not also true that this is often balanced by a kind of protection which comes to them through ignorance itself? I base this on three grounds: (a) Adults often disquiet themselves about the effect of a work upon children – for example, the effect of the bad elements in Peter Pan, such as the desire not to grow up or the sentimentalities about Wendy. But if I may trust my own memory, childhood simply does not receive these things. It rightly wants and enjoys the flying, the Indians, and the pirates (not to mention the pleasure of being in a theatre at all), and just accepts the rest as part of the meaningless ‘roughage’ which occurs in all books and plays; for at that age we never expect any work of art to be interesting all through. (When I began writing stories in exercise books I tried to put off all the things I really wanted to write about till at least the second page – I thought it wouldn’t be like a real grown-up book if it became interesting at once). (b) I often find expressions in my pupils’ essays which seem to me to imply a great deal of latent error and evil. Now, since it would, in any case, be latent, one does not expect them to own up to it when challenged. But one does expect that a process of exploration would dicover the mental atmosphere to which the expression belonged. But in my experience exploration often produces a conviction that it had, in my pupils’ minds, no evil associations, because it had no associations at all. They just thought it was the ordinary way of translating thought into what they suppose to be ‘literary English’. Thousands of people are no more corrupted by the implications of ‘urges’, ‘dynamism’, and ‘progressive’ than they are edified by the implications of ‘secular’, ‘charity’, and Platonic’* (#litres_trial_promo). The same process of attrition which empties good language of its virtue does, after all, empty bad language of much of its vice. (c) If one speaks to an uneducated man about some of the worst features in a film or a book, does he not often reply unconcernedly, ‘Ah … they always got to bring a bit of that into a film,’ or, ‘I reckon they put that in to wind it up like’? And does this not mean that he is aware, even to excess, of the difference between art and life? He expects a certain amount of meaningless nonsense – which expectation, though very regrettable from the cultural point of view, largely protects him from the consequences of which we, in our sophisticated naivety, are afraid. 5. Finally, I agree with Brother Every that our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern. There is no neutral gound in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan. But will Brother Every agree in acknowledging a real difficulty about merely recreational reading (I do not include all reading under this head), as about games? I mean that they are serious, and yet, to do them at all, we must somehow do them as if they were not. It is a serious matter to choose wholesome recreations: but they would no longer be recreations if we pursued them seriously. When Mr Bethell speaks of the critic’s ‘working hours’ (May 1940, p. 360) I hope he means his hours of criticism, not his hours of reading. For a great deal (not all) of our literature was made to be read lightly for entertainment. If we do not read it, in a sense, ‘for fun’ and with our feet on the fender, we are not using it as it was meant to be used, and all our criticism of it will be pure illusion. For you cannot judge any artefact except by using it as it was intended. It is no good judging a butter-knife by seeing whether it will saw logs. Much bad criticism, indeed, results from the efforts of critics to get a work-time result out of something that never aimed at producing more than pleasure. There is a real problem here, and I do not see my way through it. But I should be disappointed if my critics denied the existence of the problem. If any real disagreement remains between us, I anticipate that it will be about my third point – about the distinction there drawn between the real spiritual evil carried or betrayed in a book and its mere faults of taste. And on this subject I confess that my critics can present me with a very puzzling dilemma. They can ask me whether the statement, ‘This is tawdry writing’, is an objective statement describing something bad in a book and capable of being true or false, or whether it is merely a statement about the speaker’s own feelings – different in form, but fundamentally the same, as the proposition ‘I don’t like oysters.’ If I choose the latter, then most criticism becomes purely subjective – which I don’t want. If I choose the former then they can ask me, ‘What are these qualities in a book which you admit to be in some sense good and bad but which, you keep on warning us, are not “really” or “spiritually” good and bad? Is there a kind of good which is not good? Is there any good that is not pleasing to God or any bad which is not hateful to Him?’ And if you press me along these lines I end in doubts. But I will not get rid of those doubts by falsifying the little light I already have. That little light seems to compel me to say that there are two kinds of good and bad. The first, such as virtue and vice or love and hatred, besides being good or bad themselves make the possessor good or bad. The second do not. They include such things as physical beauty or ugliness, the possession or lack of a sense of humour, strength or weakness, pleasure or pain. But the two most relevant for us are the two I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, conjugal eros (as distinct from agape, which, of course, is a good of the first class) and physical cleanliness. Surely we have all met people who said, indeed, that the latter was next to godliness, but whose unconscious attitude made it a part of godliness, and no small part? And surely we agree that any good of this second class, however good on its own level, becomes an enemy when it thus assumes demonic pretensions and erects itself into a quasispiritual value. As M. de Rougemont has recently told us, the conjugal eros ‘ceases to be a devil only when it ceases to be a god’. My whole contention is that in literature, in addition to the spiritual good and evil which it carries, there is also a good and evil of this second class, a properly cultural or literary good and evil, which must not be allowed to masquerade as good and evil of the first class. And I shall feel really happy about all the minor differences between my critics and me when I find in them some recognition of this danger – some admission that they and I, and all of the like education, are daily tempted to a kind of idolatry. I am not pretending to know how this baffling phenomenon – the two kinds or levels of good and evil – is to be fitted into a consistent philosophy of values. But it is one thing to be unable to explain a phenomenon, another to ignore it. And I admit that all of these lower goods ought to be encouraged, that, as pedagogues, it is our duty to try to make our pupils happy and beautiful, to give them cleanly habits and good taste; and the discharge of that duty is, of course, a good of the first class. I will admit, too, that evils of this second class are often the result and symptom of real spiritual evil; dirty fingernails, a sluggish liver, boredom, and a bad English style, may often in a given case result from disobedience, laziness, arrogance, or intemperance. But they may also result from poverty or other misfortune. They may even result from virtue. The man’s ears may be unwashed behind or his English style borrowed from the jargon of the daily press, because he has given to good works the time and energy which others use to acquire elegant habits or good language. Gregory the Great, I believe, vaunted the barbarity of his style. Our Lord ate with unwashed hands. I am stating, not solving, a problem. If my critics want to continue the discussion I think they can do so most usefully by taking it right away from literature and the arts to some other of these mysterious ‘lower goods’ – where, probably, all our minds will work more coolly. I should welcome an essay from Brother Every or Mr Bethell on conjugal eros or personal cleanliness. My dilemma about literature is that I admit bad taste to be, in some sense, ‘a bad thing’, but do not think it per se ‘evil’. My critics will probably say the same of physical dirt. If we could thrash the problem out on the neutral ground of clean and dirty fingers, we might return to the battlefield of literature with new lights. I hope it is now unnecessary to point out that in denying ‘taste’ to be a spiritual value, I am not for a moment suggesting, as Mr Bethell thought (May 1940, p. 357), that it comes ‘under God’s arbitrary condemnation’. I enjoyed my breakfast this morning, and I think that was a good thing and do not think it was condemned by God. But I do not think myself a good man for enjoying it. The distinction does not seem to me a very fine one. RELIGION: REALITY OR SUBSTITUTE? (#ulink_463c0dc4-29f4-584e-ba9b-50ea8c1f9247) Hebrews 10:1: ‘The Law having a shadow of good things to come.’ We are all quite familiar with this idea, that the old Jewish priesthood was a mere symbol and that Christianity is the reality which it symbolized. It is important, however, to notice what an astonishing, even impudent, claim it must have seemed as long as the temple at Jerusalem was still standing. In the temple you saw real sacrifice being offered – real animals really had their throats cut and their actual flesh and blood were used in the ritual; in Christian assemblies a ceremony with wine and bits of bread was conducted. It must have been all but impossible to resist the conviction that the Jewish service was the reality and the Christian one a mere substitute – wine is so obviously a substitute for blood and bread for flesh! Yet the Christians had the audacity to maintain that it was the other way round – that their innocuous little ritual meal in private houses was the real sacrifice and that all the slaughtering, incense, music, and shouting in the temple was merely the shadow. In considering this we touch upon the very central region where all doubts about our religion live. Things do look so very much as if our whole faith were a substitute for the real well-being we have failed to achieve on earth. It seems so very likely that our rejection of the World is only the disappointed fox’s attempt to convince himself that unattainable grapes are sour. After all, we do not usually think much about the next world till our hopes in this have been pretty well flattened out – and when they are revived we not infrequently abandon our religion. And does not all that talk of celestial love come chiefly from monks and nuns, starved celibates consoling themselves with a compensatory hallucination? And the worship of the Christ child – does it not also come to us from centuries of lonely old maids? There is no good ignoring these disquieting thoughts. Let us admit from the outset that the psychologists have a good prima facie case. The theory that our religion is a substitute has a great deal of plausibility. Faced with this, the first thing I do is to try to find out what I know about substitutes, and the realities for which they are substituted, in general. And I find that I don’t know so much as I thought I did. Until I considered the matter I had a sort of impression that one could recognize the difference by mere inspection if one was really honest – that the substitute would somehow betray itself by the mere taste, would ring false. And this impression was, in fact, one of the sources from which the doubts I mentioned were drawing their strength. What made it seem so likely that religion was a substitute was not any general philosophical argument about the existence of God, but rather the experienced fact that for the most of us at most times the spiritual life tasted so thin, or insipid, compared with the natural. And I thought that was just what a substitute might be expected to taste like. But after reflection, I discovered that this was not only not an obvious truth but was even contradicted by some of my own experience. I once knew two bad boys who smoked secretly and stole their father’s tobacco. Their father had cigarettes, which he really smoked himself, and cigars – a great many cigars – which he kept for visitors. The boys liked cigarettes very much better than cigars. But every now and then there would come a day when their father had let his supply of cigarettes get so low that the boys thought the theft of even one or two would inevitably be detected. On such days they took cigars instead; and one of them would say to the other: ‘I’m afraid we’ll have to put up with cigars today’, and the other would reply: ‘Well, I suppose a cigar is better than nothing.’ This is not a fable I’m inventing, but a historical fact that I can vouch for. And here, surely, we have a very good instance of the value to be attached to anyone’s first hasty ideas about a reality and a substitute. To these children, a cigar was simply an inferior substitute for a cigarette, a pis aller. And, of course, the boys, at that stage, were quite right about their own feelings: but they would have become ludicrously wrong if they had therefore inferred that cigars, in their own nature, were merely a kind of makeshift cigarette. On that question their own childish experience offered them no evidence: they had to learn the answer from quite different sources, or else to wait until their palates were grown up. And may I add the important moral of the story? One of these boys has been permanently punished by a lifelong inability to appreciate cigars. Here is another example. When I was a boy, gramophone records were not nearly so good as they are now. In the old recording of an orchestral piece you could hardly hear the separate instrument at all, but only a single undifferentiated sound. That was the sort of music I grew up on. And when, at a somewhat later age, I began to hear real orchestras, I was actually disappointed with them, just because you didn’t get that single sound. What one got in a concert room seemed to me to lack the unity I had grown to expect, to be not an orchestra but merely a number of individual musicians on the same platform. In fact, I felt it ‘wasn’t the Real Thing’. This is an even better example than the former one. For a gramophone record is precisely a substitute, and an orchestra the reality. But owing to my musical miseducation the reality appeared to be a substitute and the substitute a reality. ‘Substitutes’ suggest wartime feeding. Well, there too I have an example. During the last war, as at present, we had to eat margarine instead of butter. When I began doing so I couldn’t tell the difference between them. For the first week or so, I would have said, ‘you may call the margarine a substitute if you like, but it is actually just as good as the real thing’. But by the end of the war I could never again have mistaken one for the other and I never wanted to see margarine again. This is different from the previous examples because here I started knowing which, in fact, was the substitute. But the point is that mere immediate taste did not at first confirm this bit of knowledge. It was only after long experience that the margarine revealed itself to my senses as the inferior. Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/c-s-lewis-3/christian-reflections/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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