He’s beyond good and evil, but he’s still miffed


you know who you are!


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.



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  • JeanPing

    “One of my wishes is that the entire LDS membership would take up the reading of C. S. Lewis.” Me too. I love The Great Divorce. Lewis was so good at showing the sort of ordinary failings we all have, and where they can lead–every time I open up one of his books, I see something that I have recently done.

  • ClintonKing

    “The Great Divorce” is an amazing book. I imagine Lewis saying, when he reached the Spirit World, “Yes, this is just how I pictured it.”

  • RaymondSwenson

    Lewis is remarkable for stepping away from the common ways we talk about the Bible and God, and actually reading what it says, and thinking about it all over again. I find a similar quality in much of the best writing of LDS apologists and scholars who give us fresh insights into the Book of Mormon.
    I believe Lewis observed that having faith in Christ is fundamentally a matter of having sufficient imagination, to understand a different and deeper way of seeing the universe from the limited way the atheists would have us see reality. It seems to me that Mormonism appeals to people who still have the capacity to imagine the story we are told in the Bible to be the real story of our present world, not just a history of a past one that no longer exists, which has sadly become an article of “faith” for most Christian denominations. If we can imagine God, angels and prophets as real in our world, then imagining the Book of Mormon to be a part of God’s work in modern times should not be that hard.

    As we approach the 50th anniversary of the common death date of both Lewis and JFK, I hope we can have some commemorations of Lewis’ heritage despite all the deluge of magical thinking about “camelot” that will be dumped on us in the news and entertainment media.
    (Apart from the one decade boost he gave to the space program, I don’t see much lasting benefit from JFK’s presidency. He turned the presidency from a serious job into a performance (ala Obama), one that was false in fundamental ways, especially his sexual misconduct that put the lie to his image of a dedicated husband and father. He is honored for brinkmanship in the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it was the Soviet’s perception of his weakness that invited them to take that provocative course in the first place. He initiated a major buildup of nuclear missile forces that provoked a tit-for-tat Soviet response, that continued until Reagan took office and cancelled the Peacekeeper ICBM system that would have paved over half of Utah and Nevada, and then negotiated the first major mutual reductions in nuclear arms.)