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Jack in Retrospect: February 26th – March 4th

February 26, 2013

The following is part of a weekly series reflecting on the life of C.S. Lewis. It summarizes various events or happenings during his lifetime for this week or significant occurrences related to him after his death.

Retro Weekly 2-26As noted last week Lewis began a three-part series of lectures that are now found in his book The Abolition of Man. They were given as the Riddell Memorial Lectures before a general (secular) audience. The final talk was given on the 26th in 1943 and is the same title as the book, “The Abolition of Man.” Lewis begins by examining humanity’s so-called “conquest of Nature.” He immediately points out that “what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.” Near the end of the address he admits that some will think he is against science, but refutes the claim and goes on to be so bold as state “The serious magical endeavour and the serious scientific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve. But they were twins.” Those wishing further examination on this point will enjoy the recent book edited by Dr. John G. West entitled The Magician’s Twin and two of three videos already produced to support the book.

Other material related to books happening this week occurred on the same date, but in different years. In 1944 on March 2nd the second radio address from the fourth series was published. Notice I’m referring to the printed version. Two days before this (February 29th that year) it was given on the BBC. As mentioned last week, it became a practice for this final broadcast series to have the talk available shortly after being given. In this piece, entitled “The Three-Personal God”  Lewis summarizes his last talk before getting into the question of believing in a personal God, while understanding that He is actually beyond personality. Additionally Lewis suggests that theology is in some ways like an “experimental science,” and later that “if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred.” As you may recall this material is now part of Mere Christianity.

A year later in 1945 on the 2nd of March, the seventeenth part of Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce was published in The Guardian. This material is from the middle third of chapter eleven in The Great Divorce.  Before concluding the events from the previous week where he notes “Every natural love will rise again and live forever in this country: but none will rise again until it has been buried,” he introduces a situation involving a small red lizard on the shoulder of a Ghost. This creature won’t keep quiet and an offer by a Spirit to silence him is resisted. The Ghost wants to wait but is told, “There is no other day. All days are present now.”

If you have read the monthly version I do for the HarperOne C.S. Lewis blog, you may recall that The Screwtape Letters were published three times in February. On the 27th in 1961 The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast was released. This contained a new and longer preface that is sometimes found as a postscript in other editions of the book. In it, Lewis first notes that someone cancelled his subscription to The Guardian (where the letters were first available) because the advice was “positively diabolical.” He then acknowledged the great number of copies that had sold, but that it doesn’t mean people have read it. One he had heard who had, however, chose it because it was so short! More interestingly, he goes in detail about a common question he had been asked because of the book, whether or not he believed in “the Devil.” He felt a better question was if he believed “in devils.” That is, “God has no opposite” and so, demons are fallen angels, in which he clearly believed.

There were also two other books that came out during this week. On the 26th in 1962 a collection of essays, They Asked for a Paper was published. It is now out of print. These twelve writings were all papers or addresses he had given. Half of them are found in either The Weight of Glory (1980 revised version), or The World’s Last Night. They are:

  • Lilies That Fester

  • The Inner Ring

  • Is Theology Poetry?

  • Transposition

  • On Obstinacy in Belief

  • The Weight of Glory

The other book is The Dark Tower and Other Stories, which was released on the 28th in 1977. This was nearly fourteen years after Lewis’s death and some have questioned the material it contains. The namesake piece is a fragment from a novel that is attributed to Lewis and related to the Space Trilogy (also called the Ransom Trilogy). Five other selections are contained therein, including “The Man Born Blind” which has since been discovered to be a draft of a story now know simply as “Light” and discussed at length by Dr. Charlie Starr in Light: C. S. Lewis’s First and Final Short Story.

Finally, Lewis gave two talks in early March. On the 2nd in 1956 he spoke at The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club. His speech was called “Memory of Sir Walter Scott,” but when published (in They Asked for a Paper) it was shortened to just “Sir Walter Scott.” Then back in 1930 on the 3rd he read a paper to the Martlets entitled “The Personal Heresy in Poetics.” This eventually led to debate and book previously mentioned.

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