A good piece on the Inklings in the Chronicle of Higher Education

A good piece on the Inklings in the Chronicle of Higher Education July 1, 2015


It is an interest fact that great intellectual and cultural movements often began with bands of people united by the particular form of love called friendship. The Inklings are one such movement. The English Romantics another. Dominic and Francis are another.

And the most revolutionary and (at the very least) culture-building band of friends of all? The apostles. (Though “culture-building” was the furthest thing from their minds. Their mission is the living demonstration of the fact that when you seek first the Kingdom of God, everything else is added as well.)

Friendship, unlike eros, is not face to face, but side by side. Lovers look into each other’s eyes. Friends gaze upon something they love in common. Friendships are born when people say, “You too? I thought I was the only one.” And friendship, unlike eros, is only enriched and gladdened by the welcoming of more friends to the circle.

Lewis once pondered what he would do if he had the choice between giving up the joys of friendship–with its songs and companionship and the deep pleasure of a drink at your elbow as each friend plays off another in raucous conversation–for a lifelong experience of eros whose ardor did not dim with time. “Which would we choose? Which would we not regret having chosen.”

The immense fertility of that band of friendship called the Inklings is something to which we owe an immense debt.

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  • Edoardo Albert

    Although when Lewis did have to choose between his love for Joy Davidman and his friendship with Tolkien, he chose Eros.

    • Ohtobide

      Actually Lewis always said that Joy Davidman was his friend as well as his lover, so he got a twofer there.

      Was Lewis’ marriage the only reason why Tolkien turned against Lewis? I think there was probably more to it than that.

      • HornOrSilk

        I think there were many factors — before Joy, Charles Williams sort of got in the way, and then later in life, Lewis’ career kept him further away. Tolkien was upset that he first learned about the marriage by reading it in the paper, but even after that, it seems that Joy and Edith got along well.

      • Andy

        As HOS mentions below there was a “rift” about Joy and Lewis being married, but also they seemed to be working in other spheres of creativity and scholarship and did not “need” each other as much. There is probably the sense as that they grew older reflections on their lives and their lives with spouses got in the way of what was an intense friendship – this happens go many of us.
        I recall reading that Tolkien was devastated with the death of Lewis and oft times lamented their distance.

  • Alma Peregrina

    Nice article, Mark: It would avoid a lot of misunderstandings about christian doctrine if people didn’t have a single word (“Love”) to describe a variety of diferent feelings…

    Agape, Eros, Storge, Philia, matrimonial love… so diferent, and yet they’re all Love to our culture.

    There wouldn’t be so much mess about “God is love, why don’t you love me for being gay?” or “gays love each other, they must have the right to get married” if we just called those diferent loves with their diferent names.

    (Previous note: please don’t crucify me for heresy for what I’m about to say, but think about it and let it sink in before you reply)
    FYI, I don’t think that two men or two women can’t love each other. In fact, I think that homosexual pairs may experience (at least theoretically) a stronger love than some heterosexual couples. What I don’t believe is that that love is matrimonial, just like my love for my mother doesn’t mean I may marry her.

    It is when that homosexual philos-love gets mixed up with lust in a culture that denies the relationship between matrimonial-love and storge-love, that we get homosexual “marriage”… and sin.

    • etme

      But English is not THE language of Christianity, People actually do have different words for love, in many languages. Let us not forget that the US is only 5% of the world’s population, and not the center of the universe (I’m not saying you implied that).

      • IRVCath

        But English is the lingua franca, which affects how people think.

      • Alma Peregrina

        As IRVCath said bellow, english is the língua franca. The USA speaks english, and the USA media is the leading opinion-maker worldwide. Also, a lot of developed liberal-leaning countries speak english as well (England, Canada, Australia, etc…).

        Christianity doesn’t have a language. You could say that Catholicism has a language: latin. But really… does anyone know how to speak latin save for some scholars and clergymen?

        But, speaking of latin, my own language (portuguese), doesn’t make the distinction between all these loves either (it’s all “Amor”). And, as far as I know, other latin-derived languages also have a single word for love too. So you get a lot of other key languages with the same problem (french, spanish, italian, etc…).

        I can’t vouch for all languages, you’re right. But are the other languages that much influential? And are the countries speaking those languages really concerned with pelvic issues?

  • Alma Peregrina

    1) Does anyone recomend me any inkling besides Lewis or Tolkien?

    2) Man, I wish I could be an inkling

    • jose

      Charles WIlliams wrote a series of very interesting supernatural novels. I found them disturbing, thought-provoking and entertaining. They may be an acquired taste. Two titles that come to mind are “Descent into Hell” and “War in Heaven”. Dorothy Sayers wrote some fun mystery novels and some pretty good apologetics. Two good ones are “Creed or Chaos” and “Mind of the Maker.”

      • Alma Peregrina

        Thank you, jose. But what do you mean by “disturbing”?

        • HornOrSilk

          They are supernatural thrillers inspired in part by the Hermetic tradition. They are good, but they contain occult sources in them (Williams was a member of the Golden Dawn, albeit not too involved with them, he still studied the literature and engaged it)

          • Alma Peregrina

            Occultism makes me kind of wary. Are you sure it’s OK to read those books?

            • HornOrSilk

              Yes, his works are good – though I would recommend “All Hallow’s Eve” is his best (and last) text.

        • jose

          Hi Alma. Well I actually found the books draining. The evil is really intense evil that made me uncomfortable – in a good way. It shook me up. It is good to point out that his good characters stand as a fantastic contrast to the evil. I think they are great books – but as I recall they are not an easy read. It has been a while and I don’t recall which of the books would be a good start. Below HornOrSIlk recommends “All Hallows Eve.”

          As for the question of reading things with occult content, I would say that the books do not promote the occult, rather they highlight the error of getting involved in the occult. That is how I look at it anyway.

          • Alma Peregrina

            Thank you!

    • HornOrSilk

      Owen Barfield’s “Poetic Diction” is a must. I would also say “Rose on the Ashheap” by Barfield is good. “This Ever Diverse Pair” is also interesting as is “Eager Spring.”

      Warnie Lewis wrote good historical texts on French history. But once you read the four major Inklings, there are several side ones worth reading. Even the anti-Inkling John Wain has some interesting works.

      • Alma Peregrina

        Thank you for all your suggestions! Are those books by Owen Barfield fantasy novels, mistery novels or essays?

        • HornOrSilk

          “Poetic Diction” is non-fiction (and a major influence on Tolkien), the rest are fiction (though “This Ever Diverse Pair” is a novel based upon his own life trying to determine his true direction in life).

          • Alma Peregrina

            Thank you!

            • HornOrSilk


    • Re_Actor

      I second the recommendation of Charles Williams — his novel The Place of the Lion is most remarkable,

      • Alma Peregrina

        Thank you, Re_Actor. If you wouldn’t mind scrolling down a bit, could you answer my concerns about William’s connections with occultism and such?

        • Re_Actor

          Well I’m no expert, but my sense is that Williams (like Arthur Machen) was one of those rare occultists with an anima naturaliter Christiana … Approached with discretion, his work can be very rewarding.

          (The blogger Bruce Charlton has some thought-provoking comments on Williams — try googling their names and see what you turn up!)

          • Alma Peregrina

            Thank you! Will do!

          • Alma Peregrina

            OK, I just finished reading “The Place of the Lion”. I have to admit that it was very well-written, it was thought-provoking, it was beautiful. I now agree that Charles Williams is the best inkling I’ve read, better even than JRR Tolkien.

            However, I still question the orthodoxy of that book.

            I get it. I get that Ideas shouldn’t be invoked apart from God, or else we risk transforming those Ideas into idols, be controlled by them and eventually destroyed. It was also very fun to imagine Plato’s World of Ideas absorbing the “real” world (and Charles Williams managed to write that superbly).

            However, Charles Williams had to screw everything and mix Plato’s Ideas with Dyonisius Areopagite’s angelology. In fact, the interpretation of the Lion, Serpent et al. as angels (rather than ideas) is, acording to what Charles Williams want us to think, the correct interpretation. The Idea-interpretation is provided by evil Mr. Foster, while the Angel-interpretation is provided by good ol’ Richardson.

            CW constantly calls platonic ideas “Angelicals”.

            Richardson gets his Angel-interpretion from a book by a so-called Marcellus of Bologna who is (CW admits it) a heretic.

            He explicitly says that the Dragon from the Apocalypse is not the Devil, but rather an Idea summoned without assent to God. Which would mean theoretically, that someone could invoke Lucifer with God on his mind and the devil would be good… or invoke Michael without God on his mind and the saintly archangel would go bananas-evil.

            I’m sorry, but I think this angelology is forced into the book and only confuses and, worse of all, turns an otherwise good book into a heretical book.

            Or am I missing something?

            • Re_Actor

              No, I think that’s a very fair elucidation (as far as I remember — it’s been a while since I’ve read it). It’s a problematic book, no question.

              To be honest, what I most enjoyed about it was simply Williams’ uncanny skill at evoking the praeternatural, making it almost tangible.

              • Alma Peregrina

                I completely agree.