The Biblio-Files

bib·li·o·phile (bĭb'lē-ə-fīl') n.

1. A lover of books.
2. A collector of books.

2.6.07

The Great Divorce

C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce is a fascinating story about the "Divorce" of Heaven and Hell. In many ways the book is hard to summarize. Basically, a man (Lewis?) is given a glimpse into the afterlife and finds the words of writer John Milton to be true: "The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words 'Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.'"

The story opens with a picture of a dark city (Hell/Purgatory) where people wait in line to board a bus to take them to a world full of light (Heaven). Once they arrive, each of the people finds themselves to be less than a person. They are ghostly figures who cannot even bend the grass of Heaven when they walk. While there, each is approached by a heavenly being (Deceased Christian) who seeks to take them on a journey to the heavenly mountain. Along the journey the ghostly person will be transformed and be able to remain in Heaven. The man wanders around the heavenly place and overhears a number of conversations between the ghostly figures and the heavenly beings. Almost every conversation ends the same way: The ghostly figure, in plain sight of heaven, chooses to return to Hell.

I would highly recommend The Great Divorce to anyone, though with two cautions. First, one should carefully read the preface before starting. There, Lewis makes it clear that the book is not fact, nor is it theology, it is fantasy and should be read as such. Second, don't miss the moral. Sadly, while reading the book, I think that I did exactly the opposite of what Lewis intended for his readers and missed the moral completely. In the ghostly people who were choosing Hell over heaven, I kept seeing people I knew, instead of seeing myself.

Here are a couple of quotes:

If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven; if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he has abandoned (even the plucking out of his right eye) has not been lost. . . (Preface, IX)

'[Hell] is closer to such as you than ye think. There have been men before who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself. . . as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did you even know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organiser of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.' (p. 73-74)

9 comments:

Eron said...

D,

Good read man. Thanks for the Lewis upkeep. I am learning about him via you. It is interesting that he writes in fiction, kinda like Bunyan, at least in this book. What else are you planning to read by CSL?

Peace.

The Once Dead Poet said...

I at least want to get to Surprised by Joy which is his autobiography. If there is time I'd like to read The Screwtape Letters as well. It just depends on when I start reading for my classes in the fall.

slade said...

I must say that I am supremely jealous by what appears to be a large amount of time that you guys get to read. Perhaps I should entertain the though of attending seminary in order that I could spend more of my time reading and less with this work nonsense. Or maybe I should be more diligent with allocating my free time to sticking my nose in a book rather than sunning myself by the pool. =D

Eron, is it acceptable to post reviews on non-religious topics? I am slowly picking my way through one and would hate for all that "work" to go to naught.

The Once Dead Poet said...

Slade,

It is easy for me...I burn after about 2 minutes in the sun. When you are stuck inside fearing the sunlight it is easy to find time to read.

Not to speak for Eron, but I know I would love to read a Christian's take on a secular book. I'm hoping to read one myself this summer (hopefully one of Barack Obama's books so I can find out what all the fuss is about). Might I ask what book you are reading?

D

Eron said...

Slizz,

3 Things:

1) When it comes to reading what I want, I have very little time. Although I read a lot, I'm really not reading out of curiosity, but obligation. So, my time isn't as free as it might seem for leisure reading.

2) You may post on any book. What happened to Harry Potter? I want someone to convince me that Harry Potter is cool and worth my cortex--it seems like you're HP's only hope. But, for real, anything goes.

3) The thought you should entertain is moving (or at least thoroughly visiting) Louisville, period.

So, all of that to say: Where's my Longhorn scrimmage? :|

Peace.

slade said...

D,

I am currently working my way through The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam. Mohler wrote about him so I picked up the book.

Two things that have come to mind while reading:

1. How foolish and self-absorbed man is.

2. How little about history we are taught in schools other than just the surface details.

Oh, and Eron, if you want I can post a series of reviews over the Harry Potter. I need to read them again to get ready for the movie coming in July, as well as the release of the 7th and final book.

One word about the Longhorns: overrated.

When are you going to come to the maroon side?

blake white said...

Slade, just bring books to the pool and get the best of both worlds! And yes, the Cozarts most definitely need to plan a trip to tha ville.

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