No knight could offer any love to any lady till he had proved his worth; then he might, ‘and his friend was the more chaste as he was brave.’ The phrase suggests – as we might from other sources suppose, and those not only Christian or doctrinal but imaginative and poetic – that chastity was more than a negation of lust; it was a growing, heightening, and expanding thing. It was a state of spiritual being, and its spiritual expression was not at all inconsistent with marriage.
Charles Williams and C.S. Lewis. Taliessin through Logres. The Region of the Summer Stars. Arthurian Torso (Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1974), 226.
Tolkien was married for most of his life, and was able to reflect upon the needs and requirements of the married life in a way that Lewis, as an outsider to marriage for most of his life, could not. He experienced the joys, but also the sorrows, which burdened any couple; he understood that a marriage could last, but for it so so takes an act of willpower. Allowing society to treat marriage lightly will only train the youth to take it lightly, and they will not be prepared for the hardships to come; disaster is, of course, the only possible result. “A situation is being, has been, produced in which ordinary unphilosophical and irreligious folk are not only not restrained by law from inconstancy, but are actually by law and social custom encouraged to inconstancy.“
Tolkien and Lewis were not the only Inklings interested in discussing, debating, and meditating upon the institution of marriage. While Lewis primarily wrote upon it in his apologetics, and Tolkien wrote upon it from his personal experiences, giving sage advice to his friends and family, Charles Williams was interested in examining marriage under a theological light. His thoughts take the matter further and deeper than what we find in the writings of Lewis or Tolkien. And in this way they can be used to set the stage by which we can overcome “the great divorce” between Tolkien and Lewis.
A central theme in the writings of Charles Williams was what he called “Romantic Theology.” One description he gave of it is that it was the kind of theological reflection which came out of great romantic moments. Many great writers and poets had proclaimed it before him (such as Dante or Wordsworth). While love is often consummated in sex through marriage, especially in more modern times, it is not the only way love can be experienced. Some of the greatest representations of love are a-sexual, though of course, sexual conjugation clearly has an important place for married lovers. “The pre-eminent moment of romantic love is not, of course, confined to the moment of romantic sex love. There are other moments of intense experience combined with potentiality of further experience.“ Indeed, chivalry, as exemplified especially in the Arthurian tradition, forbade such contact, but was capable of bringing its loves to the height of bliss. “The beloved (male or female) is seen in the light of a Paradisal knowledge and experience of good. Christ exists in the soul, in joy, in terror, in a miracle of newness.“ Dante can be seen as the genius who grasped the depths of romantic theology and brought its attention to the Church; he joined what he learned to the sacramental life. It was, as he was to discern, his love for Beatrice which brought grace to his soul, giving him a spiritual rebirth, and led him, allegorically, to paradise. “There was, in the history of Christendom, a genius of the greatest power whose imagination worked with this theme, and that was Dante. The range of his whole work provides a complete account of the making of the experiment and of its success.“
Although marriage does not hold exclusive honors in Romantic Theology, it certainly is a central theme. Indeed, it is the primary way most come to understand it and experience the graces which are found in romantic experiences. This explains why Williams’s early, but important, work on the theme, Outlines of Romantic Theology, is a discussion of marriage. In it he stated his central thesis in this fashion: “The principles of Romantic Theology can be reduced to a single formula: which is, the identification of love with Jesus Christ, and of marriage with His life. This again may be reduced to a single world – Immanuel. Everything else is a modification and illustration.“ This means that marriage brings the couple into union with Christ; indeed, their sexual activity, in a fashion, unites them to the crucifixion: “Intercourse between man and woman is, or at least is capable of being, in a remote but real sense, a symbol of Crucifixion. There is no other human experience, except Death, which so enters into the life of the body; there is no other human experience which so binds the body to another being. The central experience of sanctity is to be so bound to another, though for the saints this other is God.“ But, as with the crucifixion of Jesus the end was not in his death, but in his resurrection, so to must we understand that crucifixion in the married life also ends in joy. Love, as Dante has already shown us, ends with a spiritual rebirth, one which gives us a greater enjoyment of life and the world around us. “Each sacrament, in a sense, contains within itself all others, and marriage so contains them – not so that they should be neglected, but that by their outward practice in the Catholic life they should be felt, renewed, and developed in the life of marriage. For all the sacraments mean renewal in one way or another: and love perhaps most visibly creates the renewal in the phenomenal world.“
Charles Williams clearly understood marriage as a sacrament, as a bearer of grace which works for the redemption of the couple under its confines, and not just a social convention. It is because of this that he looks at divorce with horror: divorce is an attempt to nullify the work of God in the lives of the couple. “And, to refer again to the matter of divorce, it is because marriage is a means of the work of redemption that two lovers in whom it has begun are required by the Church to submit themselves to that work to the end. Divorce is an attempt to nullify a sacrament actually in operation; as if a man should attempt to begin the supernatural life by being rebaptised.“ Or, as he stated in The Figure of Beatrice, “Marriage is the great example, in this sense, of the Way of Affirmation. The intention of fidelity is the safeguard of romanticism; the turning of something like the vision of the eternal state into an experiment towards that state. Once that experiment has been formally begun, it cannot be safely abandoned, or so the Christian Church maintains. No other experiment of the same complete kind can be begun in the Omnipotence, once the Omnipotence has conjoined itself with the lovers’ assent to the first.“ What he said about divorce, he also said about birth control; both are attempts to stifle the love formed in the couple. This is why the Church must oppose both, even though it makes the Church look foolish.
Like Tolkien, Charles Williams looked at monogamy and its presence in history. When he does so, he doesn’t think it can be determined a success, at least if one looks at it with a natural light. But he also doesn’t think the Church defends itself in its promotion of monogamy by sociology. Rather, it looks to the demands given to it by Christ, and it uses those demands to judge what happens in the natural world. “It is extremely doubtful whether monogamy can be defended on the grounds of its being a cultural success; and to do the Church justice she never has tried to defend it primarily on any such unsatisfactory grounds. She has based her defence on the supernatural, and the supernatural and the cultural do not, always and habitually, agree.“ Thus Williams ends up unconcerned with societal acceptance of monogamy. The Church must focus on its own truths, whether or not they can be confirmed by the natural sciences. Its truth is Christ. Yet, its truth is also the truth of love, as he explains, “In humility and goodwill Dante answered Love when things went well, but Love answers Love however things go. But beyond that is the state when there is, in effect, no circumference; or rather, every point of the circumference is at the centre, for the circumference itself is caritas, and relation is only between the centre and the centre. This is love-in-heaven.“
 Like with Lewis, one must understand that I discuss marriage as an outsider looking in.
 J.R.R. Tolkien. Letters. ed. Humphrey Carpenter (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981), 61 (Letter 49).
There is no doubt about it; Charles Williams was more a rather odd individual. He did more in his position in life than he should have, demonstrating why one’s station in life is not necessarily indicative of one’s contribution to society. For most of his adult life, he worked for Oxford University Press, helping to produce important books, like Oxford’s collection of the poems of Hopkins. While not a qualified scholar with any academic status, his natural intellectual capabilities and vast storehouse of knowledge eventually led him to teach at Oxford. The students, for the most part, loved him. They saw him as someone new, someone undisciplined, someone capable of showing them a new way to think, a new way to act, someone who was not imprisoned by the normal contours of academic life. He brought his sense of purpose with him. The students were mesmerized, although, as John Wain admitted, what he said was often less important to the students than how he said it: “He ranted, and threw back his head, and clutched at the shoulders of his gown, and stamped up and down on the platform, but there was always the feeling that he was not doing it to impress us with his importance, but rather with the importance of the material he was dealing with. His mood never seemed to fall below the level of blazing enthusiasm. Great poetry was something to be revelled in, to be rejoiced over, and Williams revelled and rejoiced up there before our eyes. When he quoted, which he did continually and from memory, he shouted the lines at the top of his voice like an operatic tenor tearing into an area. It was not war, but it was magnificent,” John Wain. Sprightly Running (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1963), 149. Religiously, Charles Williams was a High-Church Anglican with a firm love of its pageantry. But he was also in love with the esoteric, the mystical, the supernatural; this not only led him to become a member of the Golden Dawn, but also to write fictional and non-fictional works which portrayed the wisdom he had gained from his pursuit of the mystical. There was, beyond this, another side to him. He was a romantic, and his love for the romantic not only connected him to the Arthurian legend, but also to Dante. He was especially fond of Dante’s Vita Nuova. Through his studies and experiences he would many times write upon the spiritual power of love. In the end, having become a popular figure, his death was a shock many, friends and fans alike, the list of those who were both included C.S. Lewis, Gervase Matthew, Dorothy Sayers, and T.S. Eliot.
 Charles Williams. He Came Down From Heaven and The Forgiveness of Sins (Berkley, CA: The Apocryphile Press, 2005), 65. He even points out that such love “is not limited to between the sexes, nor to any love. The use of the word (so spoilt it has become) in some sense colours it with the horrid tint of false adoration and a pseuod-piety. But grace remains grace whatever fruits are grown from it,” ibid., 81.
 ibid., 77.
 ibid., 66-7.
 Charles Williams. Outlines of Romantic Theology (Berkley, CA: The Apocryphile Press, 2005), 14.
 ibid., 32.
 As a sacrament, the graces must be more than just reproduction, but uniting the couple to the life and work of Christ, for their own fulfillment. Marriage must be more than a natural, social morality which leads to reproducing the species. See ibid., 73.
 ibid., 47.
 Charles Williams. The Figure of Beatrice (London: Faber and Faber, 1953), 51.
 Charles Williams. Outlines of Romantic Theology, 11.
 ibid., 77-8.
 ibid., 78.
 ibid., 79.
 Charles Williams. Descent of the Dove(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), 129 – 30.
 Charles Williams. He Came Down From Heaven and The Forgiveness of Sins, 77.