Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce
Author:  C. S. Lewis
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster (1996) (first published 1946)
125 pages
Genre:  Classic, Fiction, Theology

"Blake wrote of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  If I have written of their Divorce, this is not because I think myself a fit antagonist for so great a genius, nor even because I feel at all sure that I know what he meant.  But in some sense or other the attempt to make that marriage is perennial.  The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable 'either-or'; that, granted skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain." (from the Preface, pg. 9)

The Great Divorce is Lewis' attempt to help us better understand Heaven and Hell.  It is allegorical fiction, which C.S. Lewis does best.  The story begins with the narrator standing in line waiting for a bus.  He finally gets on the bus, but doesn't seem sure where he is going.  When he arrives, he and the others on the bus get off and begin to wander around.  The people he is with seem ghost-like.  But those who are already in this place are more solid and shining.  Along the way the narrator witnesses several conversations between ghosts and solid people.  He finally is able to engage in conversation with one of the solid people, who happens to be George MacDonald, and is able to have a conversation.  He doesn't always understand, but finally feels free to ask questions.  

I am not a big fan of fantasy and so don't always like this type of story.  But, it did help me understand better that in order to get to heaven, there are things in our lives that must die.  We can't have both.  Sometimes things that are good can become too important in our lives and leave no room for God.  Even things that seem like they can't be bad, such as love for a child.

This was a quick read, but has left me thinking about it for days afterward.  If C.S. Lewis seems intimidating, The Great Divorce might be a good place to start.

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