Archive for December 5th, 2020

One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to facts. C. S. Lewis

Portrayals of the battle of Good and Evil are legion. The work of two especially notable writers , C.S. Lewis (who converted to Anglicanism at the encouragement of Tolkien) and JRR Tolkien (a devout Catholic) leap to mind: two mutually inspired and inspiring friends. The weekly meetings of the Inklings saw the eventual publication of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Lewis’s Space Trilogy ( among other books of fiction and nonfiction).

Lewis saw the world through the prism of his faith and made it a central tenet of his lay theology to examine what lies beneath human events. In Perelandra, the second book in the Space Trilogy, Lewis takes us on a voyage to Venus: a compelling morality play about the pursuit of goodness in the face of mounting darkness.

A very short synopsis in case you’ve not yet read it or to bring the plot back to mind:

In the story, Lewis himself is the narrator of a tale of space travel told by his philologist friend, Elwin Ransom. Ransom was tasked by Maledil ( who on Earth is known by the name Jesus) to travel to Venus naked in a coffin-shaped capsule. There he would need to deal with an assault on that planet by none other than Satan himself.

On arrival at Perelandra, an oceanic paradise, Ransom befriends its green Queen, Tenedril, a pure innocent (Perelandra’s Eve). He surmises that his task must be to convey to Tenedril the knowledge taught by Maleldil. The Queen lives on a floating island. She is forbidden to live on the fixed land.

Soon after meeting the Queen, Edwin Wilson, Ransom’s enemy, arrives on the scene. He has a lawyer’s skill in weaving persuasive arguments using a demonic rhetoric designed to confuse. He maintains that there is no good or evil, only the life-force. He endeavors to convince the virginal Queen that Maleldil actually wants her to live on the fixed land.

For a time, Ransom engages Wilson in hot debate, but Wilson’s skills are too great for him. Wilson’s capacity for lying and twisting the facts to fit his agenda are incomparable. At one point in the story, he becomes fully possessed by Satan.

At the point of exhaustion, Ransom realizes that there is only one thing to do: annihilate Wilson physically. After a long series of battles, Ransom kills Wilson with a stone. He departs Perelandra (Venus) having spared it from the same Fall as happened on Earth. Yet, in the process, he was bitten on his foot by Wilson, a wound that would not stop bleeding.

I read this book years ago and was captivated by it. It was troubling to consider the futility portrayed by Lewis of trying to outmaneuver the devil with sophistry. Instead, he had to leap on him and beat him to death.

It is important to place this book in the context of Lewis’s experience of the horrors of WWI. It is, nonetheless, a provocative story to reread in these times of fascist voices in Washington and the caging of children on the Southern border many of whom, to this day, have not been reunited with their parents.

Some years ago, a colleague and I were having a discussion over lunch about the perennial sins of humanity. I referred to the inexhaustible supply of “evil.” He was taken aback.

He thought it odd that a rational man of science would refer to “ evil”. He said: “Please let’s not talk about evil. There is a more reasonable and evidence-based way to understand what people do.” I still totally disagree.

There is no talking to real evil. No words are sufficient to sway its agenda. Likewise, one wastes one’s breathe trying to talk to ideologues and sycophants and MAGA devotees of Trump. It’s a sheer waste of time.

In the face of fascism and demagoguery, we can only stand tall and boldly call it out, name it for what it is, starve it of oxygen, and overwhelm it with Truth spoken louder and with equal or greater perseveration. Ultimately, it needs to be physically resisted and jettisoned wherever it wields its dark and destructive intention against humanity.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.C. S. Lewis

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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