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READINGS / Lewis, Screwtape, and that "false" Christianity that loves morality but not life

April Thu 21, 2011

Clive Staples Lewis  Clive Staples Lewis

There are books that are palmed off on childhood, force-fed on the school benches or during the muggy summers. We have a flat memory of hidden futility.  Books on religious precepts and good intentions, which can be read when one is a child, fall by the wayside once one reaches the age of reason. This is the case with The Screwtape Letters by Lewis in which is reported the correspondence between two devils, the apprentice Wormwood struggling with his first patient, and Uncle Screwtape, dispenser of advice to avoid the conversion of the man in question.

Lewis would abandon the faith at age twelve by taking on the life of the aesthete, dedicating himself successfully and without deference to the culture, to success and to women. But what would happen "within each pure experience" is that he would continue to perceive "something that could not be explained." He would later explain in his autobiography how it was:   "What I like about experience is that it is such an honest thing. You may take any number of wrong turnings; but keep your eyes open and you will not be allowed to go very far before the warning signs appear. You may have deceived yourself, but experience is not trying to deceive you. The universe rings true wherever you fairly test it."

Lewis would contend with this goad throughout his life, trying to expose it in his works, and he would succeed with the last novel, Till We Have Faces, in which the words of the protagonist seem to mirror those of the writer. "And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn't (not yet) come... I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home."



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