Why read C.S. Lewis?

I really need to post more about C.S. Lewis, seeing as he’s my favorite author and all. I just finished my first read ever of his Space Trilogy, and I came out of it with more great passages of Lewis to mull over and enjoy.

One of the things I appreciate most about Lewis’ writing is that you are confronted with the same themes over and over again throughout his stories, essays, letters, or most anything else. This isn’t boring – it’s part of the beauty of his work. Lewis’ worldview simply affected every compartment of his life, which fleshed out in his writing as well. One of his major themes (and a reason I like Tolkien so much too because you encounter it with him), is the astounding reality of the spiritual life. Lewis, when converted, became, by the sovereign grace of God, more alive and awake to reality than he had ever been; for Lewis, his new birth as a Christian brought with it a spiritual sight to see more of life, and to make more sense of life than he ever could up to that point. And he wrote about it, weaving this theme (among others) into just about everything.

In That Hideous Strength (the last book in the trilogy), we encounter this spiritual “awakening,” or the awakening to true reality in the character of Jane Studdock. She could be considered the protagonist of the book (or one of them anyway), and is a character who grew up from childhood with a limited awareness and sensitivity to spiritual things. Then, she meets the Director and begins to be drawn into a reality that she was blind and deaf to up to this point. Here’s one of the great passages where Lewis draws us into Jane’s experience – forgive the length, but it’s all necessary and quite good:

“If it had ever occurred to [Jane] to question whether all these things might be the reality behind what she had been taught at school as “religion,” she had put the thought aside. The distance between these alarming and operative realities and the memory, say, of fat Mrs. Dimble saying her prayers, was too wide. The things belonged, for her, to different worlds. On the one hand, terror of dreams, rapture of obedience, the tingling light and sound from under the Director’s door, and the great struggle against an imminent danger; on the other, the smell of pews, horrible lithographs of the Saviour (apparently seven feet high, with the face of a consumptive girl), the embarrassment of confirmation classes, the nervous affability of clergymen. But this time, if it was really to be death, the thought would not be put aside. [R]eally, it now appeared that almost anything might be true. The world had already turned out to be so very unlike what she had expected. The old ring-fence had been smashed completely. One might be in for anything. Maleldil (a name for God in the trilogy) might be, quite simply and crudely, God. There might be a life after death: a Heaven: a Hell. The thought glowed in her mind for a second like a spark that has fallen on shavings, and then a second later, like those shavings, her whole mind was in a blaze…”

And that’s why I read Lewis. He rouses me awake.


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