Yesterday, on a whim, I picked up and re-read C. S. Lewis’s classic little story The Great Divorce. Once again, as I am nearly every time I read something from Lewis (and it’s almost inevitably re-reading; there’s very little of his writing that I haven’t already read, and, often, several times), I was blown away by his brilliance. One of my wishes is that the entire LDS membership would take up the reading of C. S. Lewis.
“Blake wrote the Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” Lewis remarks in the first line of his preface. “I have written of their Divorce.” “It is . . . ‘either/or,’” he says a bit later. “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 abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) has not been lost: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in ‘the High Countries’. In that sense it will be true for those who have completed the journey (and for no others) to say that good is everything and Heaven everywhere. But we, at this end of the road, must not try to anticipate that retrospective vision. If we do, we are likely to embrace the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven.”
With that insistence in mind, I suddenly thought of a young man, a former-Mormon-turned-atheist, who has lately been announcing his spiritual progress beyond the dichotomy of good and evil under which we apparently less-evolved types continue to labor. He’s also been complaining about his treatment at the hands of his stake president and, perhaps (I’ve paid no detailed attention), of BYU as well. His stake president apparently made a comparison that ruffled the young man’s feathers a bit and wasn’t as impressed with the young man’s philosophical stance as he should properly have been. And now the young man will have to complete his degree elsewhere.
One would think that transcending the simple-minded notion of a difference between bad and good might have landed him in something like Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller Rope, or even in an analogue to the 1924 Leopold and Loeb case that inspired it. Mercifully, though, this doesn’t yet seem to have happened. Instead, we hear that he’s been mistreated. But I wonder on what basis he can complain. Having transcended right and wrong, good and evil, light and dark, having recognized the “complex” unity of all that is and everything that happens, he seems to me to have no grounds whatever. It’s all one, right? To think otherwise is “childish.” He should be celebrating.