Quotations and Allusions in
C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm
compiled by Arend Smilde (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
C. S. Lewis’s last book, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer was published posthumously in 1964. Like most of his books it contains a great number of references – from the vaguest of allusions to literal quotations – to a great variety of sources. While it is perhaps never vitally important to know these sources, tracing them can be a rewarding enterprise. What follows is a listing by chapter of many such words and phrases with brief notes on what I have found to be their origins and, occasionally, on their relevance to the context in which Lewis uses them. I have also included a few other items where a short explanation may be useful to some readers.
The notes are intended for a possibly worldwide public of all educational levels. Every user is therefore kindly invited to skip those details or explanations which seem superfluous. Double question marks in bold type – ?? – indicate my failure to find the information I wanted to give. Corrections and additions, including proposed new entries, are welcome. A survey of updates is given at the end.
last update: 21 February 2021
One of the main works of the Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 b.c.); its theme may be very briefly described as Virtue and Justice. There is much variation in the way the Greek title, Politeia, is rendered in different languages and even within some single languages – or indeed between different editions of the same translation. Thus in Dutch the book has been published as De Staat, Constitutie, Het bestel (i.e. ‘The System’) and also as Politeia.
In Arthurian legend, the Grail or Graal is a mysterious object of great significance and infinite value, often conceived to be a bowl or chalice.
“’Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god”
Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida II.2. “’Tis mad idolatry to make the service greater than the god.”
Feed my sheep
Gospel of John 21:15-17 (Christ speaking to Simon Peter).
“The practice of [one’s] art”. Dante, Paradiso XIII, 78. “Ma la natura la dà sempre la scema, / Similemente operando all’ artista, / Ch’ ha l’ abito dell’ arte e man che trema.” (“But nature always gives it defective, working like the artist who has the practice of his art and a hand that trembles.”) Habito is just possibly a variant spelling of abito, but more likely it is a typo or writing error.
“every one to his own way”
Isaiah 53:6. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
a new Book
i.e. a new manual of church services for the Church of England, replacing the Book of Common Prayer which was introduced in 1662. The Alternative Service Book (ASB) was introduced in 1982.
“truly and indifferently administer justice”
From the Book of Common Prayer, “The order for the administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion” (i.e. the Offertory); a prayer “for the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here in earth”. “And grant unto her [i.e. the Queen’s] whole Council, and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and indifferently administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of true religion, and virtue.”
Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), principal author of the Book of Common Prayer. As Archbishop of Canterbury he was a very loyal servant of Henry VIII; after the accession of Mary Tudor he more than once recanted his long-time support for the Reformation but in the end withdrew these recantations and was burnt at the stake for heresy. “Like many figures of the Reformation, Cranmer would seem to belong to history rather than literature. But his influence was considerable and the majestic language of The Book of Common Prayer is also an object lesson in precision and economy” (Michael Stapleton, Cambridge Guide to English Literature, 1983).
“Let your light so shine before men”
Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” In the Book of Common Prayer, this is the first of a series of “Sentences” (i.e. Bible passages) in the Offertory, to be read while “the Alms for the Poor, and other devotions of the people” are received “in a decent bason to be provided by the Parish for that purpose.”
that they may be seen by men
Matthew 6:5. “They [the hypocrites] love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” This passage in the Sermon on the Mount is preceded by similar admonitions about alms-giving, and leads up to the Lord’s Prayer.
i.e. The Imitation of Christ, or De imitatione Christi, an early-15th-century devotional tract by Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471). It is unclear which passage Lewis had in mind; he may have been imperfectly remembering passages in Book I.10, De cavenda superfluitate verborum, “Of avoiding superfluity of words”, e.g. “We very willingly talk and think of such things as we most love and desire, or which we imagine contrary to us ... If it be lawful and expedient to speak, speak those things which may edify.” – ??
English novelist, essayist and travel writer (1881-1958).
(French) “objects of art”; any small man-made thing that is cherished for its beauty.
Pascal, “Error of Stoicism”
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées, No. 350 (Brunschvicg edition).
Solomon said ... each man who prays knows “the plague of his own heart”
I Kings 8:38.
From Paul’s epistles to Timothy and to Titus, here especially II Tim. 4:3 and Titus 1:9.
“the faith once given”
Epistle of Jude, 3; cf. first note to Letter 22, below.
“what things I ought to ask”
Lewis might have been thinking here of the phrase in Romans 8:26, “we know not what we should pray for as we ought...”
Petrarch or Donne
The Italian poet Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, 1304-1374) and the English poet John Donne (1573-1631) are both chiefly famed for their love poetry.
“the Wholly Other”
An ancient theological term of unknown origin (??). The original Latin phrase is totaliter aliter and has been variously used to describe God as well as Heaven or the afterlife in general. The great twentieth-century champion of the idea of God’s total otherness was the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968), but it was also affirmed by Rudolf Bultmann (cf. second note to chapter 10, below).
However, Lewis may also have been thinking here of a passage in Martin Buber’s I and Thou (part three, section four): “Of course God is the ‘wholly Other’; but He is also the wholly Same, the wholly Present. Of course He is the Mysterium Tremendum that appears and overthrows; but He is also the mystery of the sef-evident, nearer to me than my I.” But in so far as Lewis later on develops Buber’s view, he takes his cue from his friends Owen Barfield and Charles Williams rather than from Buber (cf. note to chapter 14, below, “This also is Thou” etc.). All the same, it is interesting to note that Buber’s original German reads “das ganz Andere” not “der ganz Andere”, i.e. “something different”, not “someone different”.
“I fell at His feet as one dead”
Revelation 1:17. “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the first and the last.”
“low” church milieu
i.e. those people within the Anglican Church who are the most explicitly Protestant or Evangelical, and the least inclined to assimilate Roman Catholic teachings or liturgical forms.
at ease in Sion
Amos 6:1 (AV/KJV), “Woe to you that are at ease in Sion.” The NIV text has complacent
for at ease.
In the Old Testament, Sion or Zion is often used as an alternative name for Jerusalem; in the New Testament and afterwards it came to function as a name for “the Heavenly Jerusalem” or, simply, Heaven.
the great apostles ... affected him [Dante] like mountains
Dante, Paradiso XXV.38, “...ond’ io levai gli occhi ai monti, / Che gl’ incurvaron pria col troppo pondo” – “Wherefore mine eyes I lifted to the hills, / Which bent them down before with too great weight” (transl. Longfellow). Dante is thinking primarily of the three apostles Peter, James and John as representatives of Faith (Canto XXIV), Hope (XXV) and Charity (XXVI) respectively. In the present Canto it is thus the apostle James who is really “starring”: his encouraging words in the preceding stanza (“Leva la testa” etc.) have caused Dante to lift his eyes. The Italian phrase is of course very close to Psalm 121:1 in Latin, Levavi oculos meos in montes etc., “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help”; but the Medieval idea to think of these mountains as apostles, or of the apostles as mountains, was perhaps more readily drawn from places like Psalm 87:1 and Matthew 5:14.
Manichaeans were, originally, the followers of a third-century Persian prophet called Mani. His teachings were based on the idea that the universe is basically composed of two equally strong and eternally competing elements, Good and Evil.
“whether we eat or drink”
cf. I Corinthians 10:31.
the poor Bishop of Woolwich
i.e. John A. T. Robinson (1919-1983), Anglican bishop of Woolwich 1959-1969. His book Honest to God was published on 19 March 1963 after a summary under the title “Our Image of God Must Go” had been published in the Sunday newspaper The Observer on 17 March. A reply from C. S. Lewis – “Must Our Image of God Go?” – followed on 24 March and was soon reprinted in a collection of various replies to Robinson published as The Honest to God Debate (1963). Lewis’s piece was later reprinted again in various posthumous collections of his essays. It was during this time, March and April 1963, that Lewis wrote Letters to Malcolm.
The ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty; the Romans called her Venus.
“With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven”
Hymn of Praise to conclude the “Proper Prefaces”, i.e. prayers immediately preceding the Communion, in the Book of Common Prayer. “Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord most High. Amen.”
“work is prayer”
A common inversion of the Latin phrase, ora et labora, “pray and work”. The latter maxim is sometimes attributed to St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine monastic order; but its real origin may be a nineteenth-century popular book on Benedictine life written by a German abbot called Maurus Wolter.
Bless the body
cf. George Macdonald, “The God of the Living”, in Unspoken Sermons, I (1867):
It is by the body that we come into contact with Nature, with our fellow-men, with all their revelations to us. It is through the body that we receive all the lessons of passion, of suffering, of love, of beauty, of science. It is through the body that we are both trained outward from ourselves, and driven inward into our deepest selves to find God. There is glory and might in this vital evanescence, this slow glacier-like flow of clothing and revealing matter, this ever uptossed rainbow of tangible humanity. It is no less of God's making than the spirit that is clothed therein.
The passage appears as Nr. 52, “The Body”, in Lewis’s George Macdonald: An Anthology (1946).
“making your requests known to God”
Philippians 4:6. “Let your request be made known to God.”
“for your heavenly Father knows you need all these things”
Matthew 6:31-32. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (...) For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”
“freedom is willed necessity”
it is by the Holy Spirit that we cry “Father”
Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6.
Martin Buber (1878-1965), German-Jewish philosopher of religion; author of Ich und Du (1923), which was published in English as I and Thou in 1937. See note to chapter 2, above, on “the Wholly Other”.
“Not thus, not thus, neither is this Thou”
cf. note to “This also is Thou” etc. in chapter 14, below.
what old writers call our “frame”; that is, our “frame of mind”
The Oxford English Dictionary (i.v. Frame sb. II.6) “Mental or emotional disposition or state (more explicitly, frame of mind, soul etc.)” One example in the OED comes from Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), “In this thankful frame I continued”. The word, or phrase, appears to have acquired this meaning in the second half of the seventeenth century.
St. Augustine ... “ordinate loves”
The City of God XV.22. “So that it seems to me that it is a brief but true definition of virtue to say, it is the order of love...” The original Latin runs “Unde mihi videtur, quod definitio brevis et vera virtutis ordo est amoris”; thus the original phrase is ordo amoris. When Lewis used it twenty years earlier in The Abolition of Man (ch. 1, note 11), he gave a precise reference and indeed mentioned two other places in De civitate Dei (IX.5 and XI.28) where the same idea is expressed.
Queen Victoria didn’t like “being talked to as if she were a public meeting”
The British queen Victoria (r. 1831-1901) is reputed to have said this – “he speaks to Me as if I was a public meeting” – with reference to her conversations with William Gladstone, one of Great Britain’s famous prime ministers during her reign. The alleged quotation appears in G. E. W. Russell’s Collections and Recollections (1898), chapter XIV, where it is in fact pointed out how unlikely it is that Gladstone should ever have behaved uncivilly towards the Queen.
“the same mind which was also in Christ”
A poem of John Milton, on the early death of a friend who perished at sea (1637).
“Unless a seed die...”
John 12:24. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
“things requisite and necessary as well for the body as for the soul”
Book of Common Prayer, “Morning Prayer”; opening address after the first Sentences. “Dearly beloved brethren ... although we ought at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before God; yet ought we most chiefly so to do, when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul...”
what Burnaby calls the naïf view of prayer … Our Lord’s teaching
John Burnaby (1891-1978), Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and Regius
Professor Emeritus of Divinity, contributed an essay on “Christian Prayer” to
the 1962 volume Soundings: Essays Concerning Christian Understanding,
edited by Alec R. Vidler (see various notes on chapters 6, 7 and 11, below).
As summarized in the essay’s “Synopsis” (Soundings, p. 220), Burnaby’s overall argument is that “a Christian theology of prayer must be grounded not on metaphysical assumptions but on the nature of the Gospel”: if we understand “God’s saving work as the work of love, taking effect through men who are untied to God by the Spirit of Christ”, then prayer is to be seen as “affirmation of this union, not appeal for God’s action conceived as separate from all that man can do.”
The notion of “naïveté” appears in the following passage from sections II and III of the essay (pp. 223-4):
No doubt the life of Christ was (in the famous phrase which Origen applied to the life of sainthood) “one great unbroken prayer”. But his recorded teaching assumes that when we pray it is to ask God for what we need. … All the evidence of the Acts and the Epistles goes to show that prayer in the primitive Church was what we should expect it to have been – in St Paul’s words, the making of our requests known to God, requests which there was no thought of confining to “spiritual” blessings (...). This at least was what the early Church meant by proseuché, though we can be sure that thanksgiving and praise had their due place in its devotions. (...)
For the present we need only note the complete simplicity or naïveté with which the Apostolic Church did its praying. To make “in everything” our requests known to God was for St Paul the cure for all worldly worry (...) and no more for Paul than for Jesus himself was the belief that the Father knoweth what things we have need of, before we ask, the least discouragement to prayer.
Passages in later chapters of Malcolm seem to confirm that Lewis is in effect accepting Burnaby’s term, “naïveté” (see note to chapter 11, below), as well as Burnaby’s point (see note to chapter 7, on Gethsemane).
Juvenal ... numinibus vota exaudita malignis
From Satires X, 111, by the Roman poet Juvenal (c. 60-140). Lewis quoted this same line in his essays “Petitionary Prayer: A problem without an answer” (1953) and, in translation only, in “Work and Prayer” (1945): “Enormous prayers which Heaven in anger grants.” Juvenal was perhaps the best-published ancient Roman author during the Middle Ages after Cicero, Vergil and Ovid. He wrote his sixteen Satires in the character of an eloquent grumpy old man. Nr. 10 is about the vanity of human wishes, especially desires for power, honour and wealth. In the fragment quoted he is talking of Julius Caesar, Pompeius and Crassus:
What was it that overthrew the Crassi, and the Pompeii, and him [i.e. Caesar] who brought the conquered Quirites under his lash? What but lust for the highest place pursued by every kind of means? What but ambitious prayers granted by unkindly Gods?
(Prose translation by G. G. Ramsay, 1918)
(Latin) according to law, by right, legally.
(Latin) according to the deed, whether legally recognized or not.
“beauty so old and new”
Augustine, Confessions X.27 (38).
“light from behind the sun”
from “The Calling of Taliessin”, a poem in The Region of the Summer Stars (1944) by Charles Williams. “In a light that shone from behind the sun; the sun / was not so fierce as to pierce where that light could”. Lewis quoted these lines as his motto for chapter XIV, “The Grand Miracle”, in his book Miracles (1947).
Alec R. Vidler (1899-1991), Anglican theologian. Warden of St Deiniol’s Library, Hawarden 1939-48; editor of monthly journal Theology 1939-1964; canon of St George’s Chapel, Windsor 1948-56; Dean of King’s College, Cambridge 1956-1966.
the programme which created all that scandal
A television programme on Sunday 4 November 1962, mentioned by John A. T. Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich (see note to chapter 3, above) in the preface of his book Honest to God:
I believe, regretfully, that Dr Alec Vidler’s conclusion in a recent broadcast, which was bitterly attacked, is only too true: “We’ve got a very big leeway to make up, because there’s been so much suppression of real, deep thought and intellectual alertness and integrity in Church.”
This volume, subtitled Essays concerning Christian understanding and edited by Vidler (see notes above), was published in 1962. After four reprints a paperback edition appeared in 1966. In the introduction Vidler placed the book in an Anglican tradition that includes Essays and Reviews (1860), Lux Mundi (1889), Foundations (1912) and Essays Catholic and Critical (1926). He defined the task of the present group of authors as “to try to see what the questions are that we ought to be facing in the nineteen-sixties.”
Soundings contains eleven essays by nine Anglican theologians, most of them from Cambridge: John Burnaby (mentioned by Lewis in chapter 5, above, and chapter 7, below), J. S. Habgood, G. W. H. Lampe, Hugh Montefiore, Howard Root, J. N. Sanders, Ninian Smart, H. A. Williams, G. F. Woods and the editor. Afterwards Vidler wrote about the backgrounds and effects of both Soundings, Robinson’s Honest to God, and similar though technically unrelated publications of the period in a little book published in 1965, 20th Century Defenders of the Faith, chapter 5, “Christian Radicalism”, and in his autobiography, Scenes from a Clerical Life (1977), 176-180.
Much of what he quotes from F. D. Maurice and Bonhoeffer seems to me very good
Lewis is referring to Vidler’s essay, “Religion and the National Church”, the final piece in Soundings (pp. 239-263). Vidler is quoting passages from Maurice and Bonhoeffer where these authors are exposing “religion” as – what Vidler calls – “man’s most subtle substitute for God’s own revelation of himself”; Bonhoeffer actually proclaimed a “religionless Christianity”.
John Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872), English theologian and writer, was Professor of English history and literature at King’s College, London from 1840 onwards and from 1846 that same college’s first Professor of Theology as well, until he was dismissed on charges of heterodoxy following the publication of his Theological Essays (1854). He combined an ardent belief in social reform with adherence to the Church of England and thus became an early Christian Socialist. Alec Vidler wrote three books about him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German theologian who spent the last few years of his life in prison and was executed by the nazis. He was held in high esteem by many liberal theologians during the second half of the twentieth century.
his own arguments for the Establishment
Vidler in Soundings, pp. 261-263:
As regards the Church of England’s relation to the state (...) we may well prefer to maintain the status quo, and to be satisfied with minor adjustments, until we are much clearer about what we want to put in its place. (...) A national church (...) is a standing witness to the fact that man, every man, is a twofold creature with a twofold allegiance, whether he realizes it or not. (...) A man is not only a political creature, but also a spiritual being (...). Then again, the constitutional conjunction of church and state is a sign that the authority of the state is neither final nor absolute. (...) Once more, the constitutional recognition of a national church, whose ministry and services are available throughout the country, is a practical acknowledgment that human beings need more than the state can ever do for them (...).
Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons
John Henry Newman (1801-1890), English theologian who entered the Roman Catholic Church in 1845 and was made a cardinal in 1877. His Apologia pro Vita Sua is one of the English classics of spiritual autobiography. The Parochial and Plain Sermons were published in eight volumes in 1834-1843 and thus date from his pre-Catholic days. The remark about Heaven as a church is in the first volume’s first sermon, “Holiness Necessary for Future Blessedness”.
French philosopher (1909-1943), often considered to be one of the great modern Christian mystics although she never formally joined any church or religion. He writings did not become widely known until after her death.
“When the means are autonomous they are deadly”
Charles Williams, “Bors to Elaine: On the King’s Coins”, line 69, in Taliessin through Logres (1938). “When the means are autonomous, they are deadly; / when words escape from verse they hurry to rape souls; / when sensation slips from intellect, expect the tyrant...”
This French phrase got currency from its use by the French politician Léon Gambetta in his speech before the National Assembly on 4 May 1877. He was defending the newly founded secular French republic against the forces of political and social conservatism as supported by the Catholic Church: Le cléricalisme, voilà l’ennemi!
D-Day ... Normandy
Metaphors derived from the Allied attack on nazi-occupied Western Europe in June 1944.
the “faith once given”
cf. first note to chapter 22, below.
“Outgrown” or “survive chiefly as venerable archaisms of as fairy stories” ... continued guidance of the Holy spirit
Vidler in Soundings, 254-255:
Many of the religious elements in historic Christianity and much that has gone under the name of religion may thus be outgrown, or survive chiefly as venerable archaisms or as fairy stories for children, and we cannot tell in advance how they will be replaced or which of them will need to be replaced. We are at the beginning of a period in which we must be willing to prove all things and to hold fast only to what is good. It would be foolish to discard what is old until it is manifestly otiose, or to suppose that new forms of Christian spirituality and community will develop and commend themselves quickly. The qualities mainly called for are openness to the future, a willingness to travel light or in the dark, patience and imagination in experiment, a large toleration of variety and diversity based not on indifference but on trust in the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Vidler calls it “the fact”
See quotation of Vidler’s “arguments for the Establishment”, above.
(French) “imaginary patients”. From the play Le malade imaginaire (1673) by the French playwright Molière.
St. John: “If our heart condemn us...”
I John 3:8.
Herbert, “Peace, prattler”
George Herbert (1593-1633), English poet and divine; the words quoted are the beginning of his poem “Conscience”.
the psalm: “Lord, I am not high minded”
Psalm 131:1 (Coverdale).
Our Lord in Gethsemsane made a petitionary prayer
Matthew 26:39, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Also in Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42.
See note to chapter 5, above, on the term “naïf” as borrowed from Burnaby. A later passage in Burnaby’s 1962 essay “Christian prayer” (Soundings, p. 234) could almost have been written by Lewis:
It would indeed reduce our theology of prayer to an absurdity if it followed that the most instinctive and universal cry of the troubled soul – “Lord, help me!” – could not, since charity seeketh not her own, have the true character of Christian prayer. The disciple is not above his master, and it should be enough to recall the prayer of Gethesemame.
the servant is not greater than the master
John 13:16, 15:20. “The servant is not greater than his lord.” Also quoted in the next chapter.
Another argument, put up (but not accepted) by Burnaby in Soundings … a predictable world … God must be in this respect un-free
On pp. 225-226 of Soundings, Burnaby writes,
The thoughtful Christian … will have learnt to take for granted the observable uniformities of the natural world, and to attribute the unpredictable character of human history to the existence in men of a real power of deliberate choice and effective action. He will regard human freedom and moral responsibility as a necessary corollary of belief in a God whose relation to men is to be conceived in the terms of Christ’s teaching and he will recognize that such freedom could only have purposeful exercise in the stable environment of a world whose processes are subject to an order that is discoverable. He will be disposed to think that if God has given us both freedom and the means of controlling our environment, he intends us to use both. Yet he will find in the Church’s prayers what seems to be a disavowal of this freedom, and an appeal to God to replace it by action of his own.
The conclusion mentioned by Lewis, that “Therefore … God must be in this respect un-free”, is not mentioned by Burnaby; and the argument as “put up” by Burnaby is not, as Lewis suggests, about a “predictable world”. Lewis’s recognition that Burnaby doesn’t himself “accept” the argument actually reflects a similar wish in both men to avoid a clear stance on Determinism as part of their present lines of thought. However, these lines are altogether different, and Lewis appears to give a little twist and extension to Burnaby’s non-accepted argument so as to make it properly disputable, and a springboard for his own further thought.
Lewis is making a practical and philosophical point about predictability; Burnaby makes a theological point about many of “the Church’s prayers”. What Burnaby rejects is, in fact, the way these prayers appear to “disavow” human freedom; he objects to their “thorough-going Augustinianism”, which he thinks is bound to reduce the meaning of prayer to its “reflexive” effect, that is, to the psychological effect of prayer on the praying person themselves. Yet, as Burnaby reflects, “If we are to pray as Christians, we must be able to pray for others, and to believe that our prayer can help them” (226-7). See note to chapter 5 on Burnaby, above, for his summarized answer to this problem.
Later in his essay Burnaby seems to suggest that human wills are the only radically unpredictable factor in history … predictability of events … necessary to human life
Lewis is probably referring to a passage on pp. 232-233 of Burnaby’s essay:
The Christian faith implies …: (a) that the kingdom of God is to be promoted in human history by no other power than the power of love, and (b) that the power of God’s love takes effect in human history in no other way than through the wills and actions of men in whom that love has come to dwell.
As in the previous reference to Burnaby, Lewis seems to subtly modify Burnaby’s point so as to include an overall “predictability if events” and serve as a springboard for his own point.
Francis H. Bradley (1846-1924), English philosopher, leading figure of the Idealistic, neo-Hegelian school; Ethical Studies, one of his main works, was published in 1876.
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), English social, religious and literary critic and poet. His works of religious criticism include St Paul and Protestantism (1870), Literature and Dogma (1873), God and the Bible (1875) and Last Essays on Church and Religion (1877).
King of the Huns in the first half of the fifth century. He devastated large parts of the Roman Empire.
Macbeth ...“He has no children”
Thus Macduff about Malcolm, when the latter suggests a silly remedy against grief after Macduff has heard that his wife and children have been murdered; Shakespeare, Macbeth IV.3, 216.
General Practitioner, a non-specialist physician or family doctor
an angel appeared “comforting” Him
the servant is not greater than the master
John 13:16, 15:20. “The servant is not greater than his lord.” Also quoted in the previous chapter.
(French) reason of State, i.e. “political expediency” from a national government’s point of view.
“Why hast thou forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.
It is saints ... who experience the “dark night”
The Spanish saint and mystic John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz, 1542-91) wrote a famous eight-stanza poem, , which title is usually rendered in English as “Dark Night of the Soul”. Two of the saint’s prose works took the form of (unifnished) commentaries on this poem; the second of these has usually carried the same title as the poem.
one of the Seventeenth Century divines
Thomas Traherne (1637-74) in Centuries of Meditations, Second Century, Nr. 20.
Hence we may know why God appeareth not in a visible manner, is because He is invisible. Those who are angry with the Deity for not showing Himself to their bodily eyes are not displeased with the manner of revelation, but that He is such a God as He is. By pretending to be visible He would but delude the World which as Plato learnedly observeth is contrary to the nature of the Deity. But though He is invisible, yet say they, He may assume a body, and make Himself visible therein. ...
A term from Catholic mystical or pastoral theology; “sensible” here of course means “(almost) palpable”.
tempering the wind to the shorn lamb
From Les Premices (Geneva 1594), a collection of “epigrammatized proverbs, or proverbialized epigrams” by the French scholar and publisher Henri Estienne (1531-98). This is No. 47, “Dieu mesure le vent à la brebis tondue”, famously quoted near the end of Lawrence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey (1768) in the section called “Maria”.
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), American Protestant theologian. (The umlaut mark in Niebühr is wrong.)
evil is inherent in finitude
Niebuhr, ... ??
the ancient Persians
as described by Herodotus (??) – cf. Lewis’s diary note for 20 October 1923, as published in All My Road Before Me (1991), p. 276.
how astonished St. Augustine was...
See Augustine’s Confessions VI.3. Lewis also referred to this passage many years before in The Allegory of Love, chapter 2, page 64: “In such a passage one has the solemn privilege of being present at the birth of a new world. Behind us is that almost unimaginable period, so relentlessly objective that in it even ‘reading’ (in our sense) did not exist. (...) Before us is (...) the world of (...) the solitary reader who is accustomed to pass hours in the silent society of mental images evoked by written characters.”
From Latin impassibilis and Greek apathès, “not susceptible to pain or injury”; also “not having or revealing emotions”. The idea of God’s impassibility is a prime example of pagan Greek influence on early Christianity; it entered Christian theology possibly through the work of Philo of Alexandria. The word’s theological meaning has always shaded into “immutable” or, more specifically, “not susceptible to change by external causes”, which is in fact what Lewis clearly means in the present context. Why he chose the more ambiguous word “impassible” rather than “immutable” is hard to see. The idea that God knows no pain or emotions was abandoned in the course of the twentieth century by most Christians and theologians – including Lewis, as appears from some remarks in chapter 17. His somewhat apodictic statement, here, that “we believe” in God’s impassibility is all the more curious since the word doesn’t appear in any obviously authoritative creed – while the more relevant word “immutable” does appear in the Westminster Confession of 1648.
See also Lewis’s book Miracles, second half of chapter XI, from the paragraph starting “Why, then do the mystics talk...”:
...the reason why God has no passions is that passions imply passivity and intermission. The passion of love is something that happens to us, as “getting wet” happens to a body: and God is exempt from that “passion” in the same way that water is exempt from “getting wet”.
post hoc is not propter hoc
(Latin phrases) “after” is not “because of”.
“Work out your own salvation ... For it is God ...”
Philippians 2:12-13. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
Pelagianism ... Augustinianism
Pelagius (c. 360-c. 420), a British monk condemned for heresy in 417, rejected the idea of original sin and taught that humans take their first steps towards salvation by their own efforts without the help of divine grace. His contemporary St. Augustine defended the opposing, orthodox view of man.
“whereto serves Mercy but to confront the visage of offence?
Shakespeare, Hamlet III.3, 46-47.
Translation of a medieval Latin theological term denoting the absolute perfection of God. It specially referred to the absence, in Him, of any distinction between “potentiality” and “actuality”, i.e. of possibilities and their realization. God, as Actus purus, was thought to be from eternity making all His potentiality into actuality. All this goes back to Aristotle’s idea of a “Prime Mover”. In the Metaphysics (XII) this Prime Mover is called “God”, causing movement by being an object of desire and love; but in the Physics Aristotle conceives it as a mere postulate from his theory of “four causes” and from his own distinction between potentiality and actuality – an unmoved mover, knowing nothing outside itself, which must have set the universe in eternal motion.
From the German word Entmythologisierung; a theological trend of the middle twentieth century championed and exemplified by the New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976).
Pascal’s magnificent dictum
“Pourquoi Dieu a établi la prière. 1º Pour communiquer à ses créatures la dignité de la causalité. 2º Pour nous apprendre de qui nous tenons la vertu. 3º Pour nous faire mériter les autres vertus par le travail. Mais, pour se conserver la prééminence, il donne la prière à qui lui plaît.”
Alexander Pope (1688-1744), An Essay on Man I.5, 145-146.
“To generalise is to be an idiot”, said Blake
The English poet and painter William Blake (1757-1827) wrote a lot of angry marginal notes in the first volume of his copy of The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, edited by Edmond Malone (1797). The present comment does not concern a remark of Reynolds but one quoted from Edmund Burke in a note to the 1798 Supplement to Vol. I, second edition (p. lxxxiv; this is p. xcviii in the edition Blake used). Burke says, “He [Reynolds] was a great generalizer, and was fond of reducing every thing to one system, more perhaps than the variety of principles which operate in the human mind and in every human work, will properly endure. But this disposition to abstractions, to generalizing and classification, is the great glory of the human mind, that indeed which most distinguishes man from other animals; and is the source of every thing that can be called science. I believe, his early acquaintance with Mr. Mudge of Exeter, a very learned and thinking man, and much inclined to philosophize in the spirit of the Platonists, disposed him to this habit.”. Blake commented: “To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit. General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess.” See Blake’s Complete Writings, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (Oxford U.P. 1972), p. 451.
infinite lucidity of this vision
The word “this” is probably a misprint for “His”. Read “How should God sully the infinite lucidity of His vision with such makeshifts?”
(French) an “accomplished” fact, i.e. an unalterable fact or irreversible deed.
“That which they greatly feared has come upon them”
about “crudely” or “naïvely” petitionary prayer
See note on what Burnaby calls the naïf view of prayer in chapter 5, above. While the quotations marks may indicate a certain reluctance on Lewis’s part to use the terms, likely enough in using naïvely he was still remembering Burnaby’s use and, again, accepting it (see note to chapter 5, above). See also Lewis’s remark a little further on in the present chapter: “we had better not talk about the view of prayer embodied in Mark XI, 24 as ‘naïf’ or ‘elementary’.”
Vidler’s principles ... “venerable archaisms”
Another reference to the passage from Soundings already quoted in the note to chapter 6 (“Outgrown...”). For Vidler, see first note to chapter 6, above. A more general statement of his principles may be found on page 121 of his little book 20th Century Defenders of the Faith (1965).
What makes me tick or keeps me going as a Christian is ... the whole Christian movement in history of which I am thankful to be an inheritor, into which I am grateful to have been received, which I want to see continuing, however much it needs to be further developed and enlarged, reformed or refined.
Incidentally, this little book by Vidler makes, in spite of its title, no mention at all of C. S. Lewis.
Huckleberry Finn, hero of Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Lewis is referring to the beginning of chapter 3, with further ruminations on the subject shortly after the beginning of chapter 8. The lady in question is not in fact Widow Douglas but her sister, Miss Watson.
“Help thou my unbelief”
Mark 9:24. “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
evidence ... of things not seen
Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
See second note to chapter 2, above.
i.e. Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (cf. note to chapter 2, above). Lewis may be referring to several passages in Book I.20, “Of the love of solitude and silence”.
“not addressed to my condition”
Lewis uses the same expression in the previous chapter (par. 8) as well as in chapter 16 (par. 6). The phrase, in its original form “spoken to my condition,” seems to have entered the English language through the Journal of George Fox (1624-1691), founder of the Quaker movement:
... I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. ... I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition”; and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory ... I cried to the Lord, saying, “Why should I be thus, seeing I was never addicted to commit those evils?” and the Lord answered, “That it was needful I should have a sense of all conditions, how else should I speak to all conditions!”
–– George Fox: An Autobiography, ed. Rufus Jones (1908), Chapter 1, ‘Boyhood – A Seeker, 1624-1648’; further examples occur in chapters 4, 6 and 8.
The Rev. Ronald Edwin Head (1919-1991), who became the curate of Lewis’s church in Headington Quarry, Oxford in 1952, and its Vicar in 1956. See his contribution, “C. S. Lewis as a Parishioner”, in C. S. Lewis and His Circle, edited by Roger White, Judith Wolfe and Brendan Wolfe (Oxford U.P. 2015), pp. 184:
Letters to Malcolm, number 12, reports on an actual conversation on prayer with me.
And when he hath the kernel eate...
Last two lines of John Donne’s poem “Community”.
Greek/Roman Neoplatonist philosopher (205-270) with mystical leanings. His works were posthumously edited under the title Enneads.
Julian of Norwich (c. 1342-1413), English anchoress. Her Revelations of Divine Love is a series of meditations on sixteen mystical experiences she had in May 1373, written twenty years after the event.
St. John of the Cross
Juan de la Cruz (1542-91), Spanish Carmelite monk, poet and mystic.
It may be that the gulfs will wash them down
Tennyson, “Ulysses” (1842), 62-63.
Davy Jones’s locker
A euphemism meaning the bottom of the ocean, a sailor’s grave.
a mortal glimpse of death’s immortal rose”
“The Imagination’s Pride”, line 27, in The Veil and other poems (1921) by Walter de la Mare (1873-1956).
in St. Paul’s sense, “flesh” and not “spirit”
cf. for example Paul’s epistle to the Romans, chapter 8; or to the Galatians, chapter 5 from verse 16 onward.
a play on the term “cannon-fodder”, used for soldiers who are very likely to be soon killed by enemy fire while their superiors hardly care.
They tell me, Lord...
In a letter to Bede Griffiths of 4 April 1934, Lewis copied this poem in a slightly different version and said he wrote it “over a year ago”. See Collected Letters II, p. 137.
If the Holy Spirit speaks in the man...
Probably a reference to Romans 8:26-27.
Owen [Barfield], Saving the Appearances
Owen Barfield (1898-1997) was C. S. Lewis’s chief intellectual sparring partner in the 1920s and an intimate friend for the rest of his life. Barfield’s book Saving the Appearances, about “the evolution of consciousness”, was published in 1957. Lewis is referring to the beginning of that book’s chapter XXIII, “Religion” (pp. 156-158).
Arnold ... “enisled” from one another in “the sea of life”
From the first line of Matthew Arnold’s poem “To Marguerite: Continued” (1852; also called “Isolation” II). “Yes! In the sea of life enisled, / With echoing straits between us thrown, / Dotting the shoreless watery wild, / We mortal millions live alone.”
See first note to chapter 10, above.
“Whither shall I go then from thy presence?...”
Psalm 139:7. “Whither shall I flee from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” Lewis is quoting Coverdale’s translation of the Psalms (139:6) as included in the Book of Common Prayer.
(Latin) “Let there be...”, as in Genesis 1, Fiat lux, “Let there be light” and Fiat firmamentum, “Let there be a firmament”.
“all in all”
I Corinthians 15:28. “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”
“He came down from Heaven”
From the Nicene Creed (325 a.d.), fourth article. “Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven”.
to create is defined as “to make out of nothing,” ex nihilo
a theory of “emanations”
i.e. a philosophical idea on how every stage or level of reality necessarily produces the next. “Emanation” is, in this context, the word specifically used for the way this process was conceived in the Neoplatonist philosophy of Plotinus (see note to chapter 12, above).
the parable of the sheep and the goats
i.e. Owen Barfield’s view, already referred to in chapter 13 (see note, above).
“This also is Thou: neither is this Thou”
Charles Williams, He Came Down From Heaven (1938) ch. 2, p. 25; and The
Descent of the Dove: A short history of the Holy Spirit in the Church
(1939), p. 57. Lewis makes further use of these words in chapters 4 and 17. He
was using it at least as early as 1942 in letter to Daphne Harwood (CL II, 512), where Walter Hooper
mentions the chorus of Williams’s 1936 play Seed
of Adam as one possible source.
While Lewis is undoubtedly referring primarily to Charles Williams, the real origin of this saying may be much older. “On the significance and authorship of this prayer, which Charles Williams may have found in St Augustine, see Victor de Waal, ‘The history of Doctrine’, Life of the Spirit, xviii (1964), 533” – thus Alastair Fowler in a note to C. S. Lewis’s posthumously published lectures, Spenser’s Images of Life (1967), p. 134.
Deism is belief in the existence of God or a Divine Being without a belief in His ability or readiness to reveal himself or to act in whatever way beyond the act of creating the universe and setting it in motion.
i.e. the community where bishop Robinson might have made his observations of the religious life of modern people; cf. note to chapter 3, above.
“and wield their little tridents”
John Milton, Comus (1634), 27.
Cf. chapter 6, above, on Vidler’s quotes from Maurice and Bonhoeffer regarding “religion”.
German mystical writer (1575-1624); variant spellings of his name also include Böhm or (now usual) Böhme. In a letter of 5 January 1930, Lewis mentioned what seemed to him at the time a momentous experience while reading Böhme’s book The Signature of All Things (i.e. an English translation of De signatura rerum, published in 1621). His early enthusiasm appears to have cooled down pretty soon; the present letter-to-Malcolm is one of the rare places in all his subsequent writings where he mentions Böhme.
Lewis is probably referring to a passage in Böhme’s two dialogues Of the Supersensual Life, translated by John Ellistone and published in the same 1912 Everyman volume with Signature. On page 233 of that volume, almost halfway through the first dialogue, the Master answers the Scholar,
If thou doest once every hour throw thyself by faith beyond all creatures, beyond and above all sensual perception and apprehension, yea, above discourse and reasoning, into the abyssal mercy of God, into the sufferings of our Lord, and into the fellowship of his interceding, and yieldest thyself fully and absolutely thereinto; then thou shalt receive power from above to rule over death, and the devil, and to subdue hell and the world under thee: And then thou mayest subsist in all temptations, and be the brighter for them.
And on the next page:
… If it were that thy will, O thou of little courage, could break off itself for one hour, or even but for one half hour, from all creatures, and plunge itself into that where no creature is, or can be; presently it would be penetrated and clothed upon with the supreme splendour of the divine glory, … [etc.]
“prevent us in all our doings”
Book of Common Prayer, fourth Collect after the Offertory. “Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help...”
The Silent Woman
Probably a reference to Ben Jonson’s play Epicoene, or The Silent Woman (1609), where the hero marries Epicoene because he thinks her quiet enough for him. After the wedding she turns out to be neither silent nor a woman.
Town in the centre of Ireland, about 100 km east of Dublin, Co. Westmeath.
St. François de Sales begins every meditation
St Francis of Sales (1567-1622), bishop of Geneva during the last twenty years of his life, founder of the Order of the Visitation. Lewis is referring to his book Introduction à la vie dévote (1609, “Introduction to a Devout Life”), Part I, chapters 9 through 18. Each of these ten consecutive chapters is called a “Meditation” and begins with a “Preparation” usually consisting of two instructions; the second of these varies while the first is, invariably, mettes-vous en presence de Dieu (or occasionally devant Dieu); in the same book see also Part V, chapter 3, on examining one’s own progress in devotion.
leaps forth from God’s naked hand
The idea of creation being an act of God’s “naked” hand might have been inspired by a line from Chrétien de Troyes as quoted and translated by Lewis in The Allegory of Love, II.2 (p. 25): “A! Wher was so gret beautee maked? / – God wrought hir with His hond al naked.” (“Don fust si granz biautez venue? Ja la fist Deus de sa main nue.”)
Verbum supernum prodiens
First line (and title) of a sacramental hymn by St Thomas Aquinas.
a stage set is not a dream nor a nonentity
Lewis discussed the subject more or less in the same way in his 1956 essay “Behind the Scenes” (published in God in the Dock, 1970 / Undeceptions, 1971 and Essay Collection, 2000).
at such a moment ... Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology: “It reminds me of straw”
St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1226-74) is reported to have had increasingly frequent mystical experiences toward the end of his life. One of these came while he was celebrating Mass on 6 December 1273, after which he stopped working on his Summa Theologiae. When urged by his friend Reginald of Piperno to go on he refused, saying “such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now, I await the end of my life after that of my works.” He died three months later. – While this is certainly the story Lewis is referring to, it may be doubted whether he had any particular source in mind. I have not myself seen any unambiguously reliable source.
what has been called “Jesus-worship”
St. Ignatius Loyola
Spanish ecclesiastic (1491-1556), founder and first general of the Society of Jesus. His Spiritual Exercises (1548) remained the basic manual for the training of Jesuits.
(Latin) “composition of place”, or “putting together the scene”. The term is indeed to be found in Ignatius Loyola’s Exercises, in the “Preludes” to several meditations.
One of his English followers
“Imagination” in the higher sense
This higher sense was famously developed by the poet Samuel Coleridge in his Biographia Literaria (1817), chapter XIII, “On the imagination, or esemplastic power”. Coleridge’s definitions were very briefly repeated by Lewis in Surprised by Joy, chapter 13 (par. 10).
For Blake see note to chapter 10, above (To generalize is to be an idiot). Lewis is referring to a four-line poem called “Eternity”, Nr. 43 in Blake’s “Note-book” written about 1793.
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
Plato elevated abstract nouns ... into the supreme realities – the Forms
Plato believed that the world as we experience it cannot possibly be the ultimate reality; everything we meet here must be a mere shadow or reflection of some unchanging “Idea” (eidos) which can only be grasped by the intellect. “Forms” is another word for these Ideas.
in logic God is a “substance”
Lewis is probably thinking primarily of Aristotle’s Categories, i.e. his classification of all reality. In that context, to be in the category of a “substance” (ousia) is to have a separate existence; to have any more features than that is to belong in more categories as well. In other words, to be a thing is in itself not enough to have any quality or relation. Cf. note to chapter 19, below.
“We give thanks to thee for thy great glory”
From the Book of Common Prayer, after the Communion, “Glory be to God on high,” etc., which is an English rendering of the “Gloria” section in the Latin Mass. The original Latin behind the words quoted is “Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.”
“Mutually inspiring”. This verb was apparently coined by the English poet John Donne (1572-1631) in his poem “The Ecstasy” (or “Exstasie”), 41-44: “When love with one another so / interinanimates two soules, / That abler soule, which thence doth flow, / Defects of lonelinesse controules”. As Helen Gardner notes in her 1965 edition of Donne’s poems, the great majority of old manuscript sources for this poem have “interinanimates”, not “interanimates”. Yet the latter variety is the one found in the first edition (1633). This may well be why the Oxford English Dictionary only has an entry for “interanimate”, quoting this line of Donne’s as its only source and dubbing the word “rare”. C. S. Lewis may have been an uncommonly frequent user of the word as he used it in at least five of his books – always choosing the -in- variety, except here in Malcolm. The other books are The Problem of Pain (ch. 5, penultimate paragraph); Perelandra (ch. 17, last paragraph of the “Great Dance” episode); Miracles (ch. 14, par. 26); and Studies in Words (“Simple” IV, par. 1, and “At the fringe of language” par. 2).
“The higher does not stand without the lower”
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ II.10.4. “Summum non stat sine infimo.”
Forest of Dean
Scenic area in western England, between the Severn estuary and the southern tip of the Welsh border; designated as a National Forest Park in 1938.
“All the blessings of this life” ... “the means of grace and the hope of glory”
Phrases from “A General Thanksgiving” in the Book of Common Prayer. “We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.”
You turned to the brook, etc.
cf. George Macdonald, “The Truth”, in Unspoken Sermons, Series III (1889):
Let him who would know the love of the maker, become sorely athirst, and drink of the brook by the way – then lift up his heart – not at that moment to the maker of oxygen and hydrogen, but to the inventor and mediator of thirst and water, that man might foresee a little of what his soul may find in God.
A longer passage containing this fragment was selected by Lewis for his George Macdonald: An Anthology (1946) as No. 188, “Water” (where Lewis added capitals for “maker”, “inventor” and “ mediator”, and changed “love” into “ truth”).
“That’s a bird”
cf. Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances, pp. 20 and 23 (last two pages of ch. II and first two pages of ch. III)
… I do not perceive any thing with my sense-organs alone, but with a great part of my whole human being. Thus, I may say, loosely, that I “hear a thrush singing”. But in strict truth, all that I ever merely “hear” – all that I ever hear simply by virtue of having ears – is sound. When I “hear a thrush singing”, I am hearing, not with my ears alone, but with all sort of other things like mental habits, memory, imagination, feeling and (to the extent at least that the act of attention involves it) will.
… I am not, or I am not very often, aware of smelling an unidentified smell and then thinking, “That is coffee!” It appears to me, and appears instantly, that I smell coffee – though, in fact, I can no more merely smell “coffee” than I an merely hear “a thrush singing”. This immediate impression or experience of a familiar world … is plainly the result of an activity of some sort in me, however little I may recollect any such activity.
“This also is thou”
cf. note to chapter 14, above.
(French) “Again!”, “Please repeat!”
William Law, “amusing themselves”
William Law (1686-1761), English clergyman, chiefly known for his book A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728). Lewis refers to the end of that book’s chapter 22, “...you must not ... fancy how resigned you will be to God, if such or such trials should happen. For this is amusing yourself with the notion or idea of resignation, instead of the virtue itself. Do not therefore please yourself with thinking how piously you would act and submit to God in a plague, or famine, or persecution, but be intent upon the perfection of the present day; and be assured, that the best way of showing a true zeal is to make little things the occasions of great piety.”
“tasted and seen”
Psalm 34:8 (9), “O taste, and see, how gracious the Lord is.”
to obey is better than sacrifice
I Samuel 15:22.
“valley of tears”
A proverbial phrase, based on a doubtful translation of an obscure word in Psalm 84:6, “...Who going through the vale of misery use it for a well...” (Coverdale); “Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well...” (KJV).
(Latin) “cross-way”, i.e. Way of the Cross, Road to Calvary; in a broader sense, “martyrdom”, “tribulation”.
(N.B. misprint: In the first and several later editions of Letters to Malcolm, the word crucis is followed by a colon. This should be a question mark.)
mala mentis gaudia
Vergil, Aeneid VI, 278-279.
“Neither take thou vengeance for our sins ... be not angry with us forever”
From the Book of Common Prayer, “The Litany”. “Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.”
Neque secundum iniquitates nostras retribuas nobis
(Latin) “Nor hast Thou rewarded us according to our wickednesses.” Psalm 103:10, slightly adapted by Lewis (retribuit, “hath he rewarded” > retribuas, “hast thou rewarded”), apparently in order to conform with the two preceding quotations.
in a view of “extenuating circumstances”
The indefinite article “a” is a misprint in the first and some later editions. Read “in view of...”
Blake, “I was angry with my friend” etc.
First stanza of “A Poison Tree”, in William Blake’s Songs of Experience (1794). The stanza’s last line in fact runs “I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
Hebrews 12:29 quoting Deuteronomy 4:24; also Deuteronomy 9:3.
This is not literally how God is described anywhere in the Bible. Likely enough Lewis was thinking of the phrase from Psalm 27:4 (Coverdale’s version), “the fair beauty of the Lord”, which he used as a chapter title in his Reflections on the Psalms.
“the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”
Scottish preacher (1836-1921). An illegitimate child, he rose from very humble beginnings to become a well-known and famously well-read minister at St George’s Free Church, Edinburgh. His many books include several series of Bible Characters and Bunyan Characters; the fourth Bunyan series deals with Bunyan himself as seen in his “Grace Abounding”.
Lewis was introduced to the writings of Alexander Whyte by Clifford Morris, his regular taxi driver during the last decade or so of his life; see Morris’s memoir in C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and other reminiscences, ed. James T. Como, p. 198 (new ed. 1991).
Grace Abounding: “But my inward and original corruption” etc.
John Bunyan (1628-1688), Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666), par. 84. “But my original and inward pollution; That, that was my plague and affliction, that I saw at a dreadful rate, always putting forth itself within me; that I had the guilt of, to amazement; by reason of that, I was more loathsome in mine own eyes than was a toad, and I thought I was so in God’s eyes too: Sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart, as water would bubble (...) and thus I continued a long while, even for some years together.” – Cf. Lewis’s letters to a “Mr Green” of May and June 1962 in Collected Letters III, pp. 1340–1353.
Haller’s Rise of Puritanism
William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism, or the way to New Jerusalem as set forth in pulpit and press from Thomas Cartwright to John Lilburne and John Milton, 1570-1643 (New York 1938).
“slimy things that crawled with legs”
Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (published in Lyrical Ballads, 1798), Part II, 10th stanza, about a hot and windless ocean. “The very deep did rot : O Christ! / That ever this should be! / Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs / Upon the slimy sea.”
fruits of the spirit
Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Pauline programme, “forgetting those things which are behind” etc.
St. François de Sales ... la douceur
See note to chapter 15, above. Lewis is referring to Part III, ch. 9, “De la douceur envers nous mesmes”, in the Introduction à la vie dévote. A excerpt containing this passage in English is available here (pdf file, Paul F. Ford’s website). Douceur literally means “sweetness”.
“over-just and self-displeased / For self-offence more than for God offended”
John Milton, Samson Agonistes, 514-515. Manoa is telling his son Samson that while it is well for Samson to “repent the sin”, yet “if the punishment thou canst avoid, self-preservation bids”, because “[God] evermore approves and more accepts / ( Best pleased with humble and filial submission) / Him who, imploring mercy, sues for life, / Than who, self-rigorous, chooses death as due; / Which argues over-just, and self-displeased, / For self-offence more than for God offended.”
“with angels and archangels and all the company”
cf. note to the same phrase as quoted in chapter 3, above.
never can anything be amiss / When simpleness and duty tender it
Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream V.1, 82-83 (Theseus).
(Greek) sharing, partaking, brotherhood, companionship.
“substance” (in Aristotle’s sense) ... accidents
“Substance” is an ancient philosophical term originally representing the Greek word ousia (“essence”) in Aristotle’s philosophy. Aristotle used it to denote any “fixture” which might present itself in the disorderly and fleeting whole of reality; cf. note to chapter 16, above. The concept remained in philosophical use until modern times, when Descartes reduced the total number of substances to two (“mind” and “extension”) and Spinoza, finally, to a single one (“God-or-Nature”). Accidents are non-essential properties of a substance, as distinguished from essential ones. See also Lewis’s quotation from Dante’s Vita nuova XXV, in The Allegory of Love II.1, p. 47, note 1, with further references on pp. 50, 53 and 61.
profane to suppose that they are as arbitrary as they seem to me
Lewis here adopts the “Symbolist” attitude as he describes it in The Allegory of Love II.1 (pp. 45-46) with special reference to the medieval theologian Hugo of St. Victor. “Symbolism comes to us from Greece. It makes its first effective appearance in European thought with the dialogues of Plato. ... All visible things exist just in so far they succeed in imitating the Forms. ... For Hugo, the material element in the Christian ritual is no mere concession to our sensuous weakness and has nothing arbitrary about it. ... Water ... was an image of the grace of the Holy Ghost even before the sacrament of baptism was ordained.”
“Keep silence,” “With silence favour me.” Horace, Odes III.1.
facts not to be constructed a priori
i.e. these facts exist quite independently from your categories of thought; a priori = (Latin) “beforehand”.
(Latin) “its/his own cause”.
Matthew 26:26. “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.”
“Forgive and you shall be forgiven”
The parable of the Unjust Judge
they have finished the course
cf. II Timothy 4:7. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
i.e. men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin an William Tyndale who were key figures of the Reformation – the sixteenth-century reform movement in the western Church resulting in the emergence of the Protestant and Anglican churches.
i.e. the second part of Dante’s Divina Commedia, preceded by Inferno (Hell) and followed by Paradiso (Paradise, Heaven).
Thomas More’s Supplication of Souls
Thomas More (1478-1535), English humanist scholar and politician. The Supplycacyon of Soulys (1529) belongs in a series of books he wrote against the protestant views of Tyndale.
John Fisher (1459-1535), English bishop and humanist scholar. Like Thomas More, he advocated church reform but opposed the protestant Reformation. Also like More, he was beheaded in 1535 because of his opposition to Henry VIII’s ecclesiastical policy.
The Dream of Gerontius (1866), a poem by John Henry Newman (see note to chapter 6, above). Lewis first read this poem when he was fifteen years old and wrote about it in a letter to his father of 6 July 1914. The Dream was then the only one of Newman’s poems which he could appreciate as he found the others “almost too delicate for my taste”; see Collected Letters I, pp. 65-66 and note 19).
“with its darkness to affront that light”
John Milton (1608-1674), Paradise Lost I, 391.
Enter into the joy
Matthew 25:21, 23. “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant (...) enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
With submission, sir ... I’d rather be cleaned first ... Even so, sir
Cf. Dorothy L. Sayers in her Introductory Papers tot Dante (1954), pp. 80-81:
It is quite true that God’s forgiveness is immediate and unbounded but it is frivolous and foolish to imagine Him as saying casually: “Oh, that’s all right – don’t mention it”, every time we commit murder. In that moment of illumination which is given to it at death, the soul says, as it were: “Lord, I see You and I see myself; I am dirty and disgusting; even though in Your infinite goodness You were ready to receive me as I am, I should not be fit to stand in Your presence and my eyes could not bear to look at You. Please clean me – I don’t mind what you do to me ... to be more what You want me to be.
“No nonsense about merit”
After Lord Melbourne (1779-1848). “I like the Garter: there is no damned [nonsense about] merit in it.”
“litel winde, unethe hit might be lesse”
Chaucer, Parlement of Foules, 201. “Therwith a wynd, unnethe it myghte be lesse, / Made in the leves grene a noyse softe / Acordant to the foules song alofte.” See Lewis’s first great work of literary scholarship, The Allegory of Love (1936), ch. IV.2, pp. 174-176, for a discussion of this passage in Chaucer:
Here … the old garden of the [Roman de la ] Rose is used to paint a picture of love itself, of love at rest. If a man will compare the beauties of this garden – the almost imperceptible wind, the darting fish, the rabbits playing in the grass, and the “ravishing sweetness” of stringed instruments – with any literal portrayal of the same thing, he will find out what allegory was made for. … While he … makes his garden more spiritual, with heavenly music and a dateless present, he makes it more earthly too by the mention of his inaudible breeze; he deepens the poetry every way.
“to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”
From the first Answer in The Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Q: What is the chief end of man? A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This Catechism was drawn up along with the Larger Catechism and the Westminster Confession by the Westminster Assembly during the years 1643-1647.
As some old writer says
(French) “useless” or “futile passion”. The full phrase, “L’homme est une passion inutile” is a quotation from the end of L’être et le néant (1943) by the French writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980).
Aristotle ... delight is the “bloom” on an unimpeded activity
Cf. Ethics, Book VII, 1153b (translation J. A. Smith, 1911):
... it is wrong to say that Pleasure is “a sensible process of production.” For “process etc.” should be substituted “active working of the natural state,” for “sensible” “unimpeded”.
Aristotle does not here actually call delight (or pleasure) the bloom of unimpeded activity; but the notion does appear in his further disquisitions on Pleasure in Book X of the Ethics (just before 1175a):
Pleasure perfects the act of Working not in the way of an inherent state but as a supervening finish, such as is bloom in people at their prime.
While Aristotle does not seem to give much explicit weight to the image of “bloom” in regard to pleasure, and Lewis didn’t often explicitly derive the idea from Aristotle, he did do so in his first major book, The Allegory of Love, in the final chapter on Spenser’s Faerie Queene (p. 352):
We are to conceive of courtesy as the poetry of conduct, an “unbought grace of life” which makes its possessor immediately loveable to all who meet him, and which is the bloom (as Aristotle would say) – the supervenient perfection – on the virtues of charity and humility.
The term alludes, perhaps loosely, to the vocabulary of Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy as expounded in his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and Critique of Practical Reason (1788). Kant’s attempt there was to define morality in a purely formal way – i.e. without reference to any external object to be pursued – and thus in a truly universal way. The resulting “categorical imperative” was that the maxim prompting your action is moral only if you can wish that this maxim should be a universal law. Kant also gave three slightly concreter formulations of this rule, which are often referred to as his “practical imperatives”.
the two great commandments
Matthew 22:37-39. “Jesus said unto him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
“Behave as if you loved God and man”
The words as if are in italics in the first and many later editions; in some editions, however, there is a misprint here as the words if you have been italicized.
A schoolmaster, as St Paul says, to bring us to Christ
Galatians 3:24. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
Dante’s Heaven ... and Milton’s
i.e. Heaven, the abode of God and his angels, as imagined and described in Dante’s Paradiso (see note to chapter 20, above) and in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667).
Donne, “I tune my instrument here at the door”
John Donne (1573-1631), “Hymn to God my God in my sickness”.
“Unimplored, unsought, Happy for man so coming”
Milton, Paradise Lost III, 231-232.
Charles Williams, “the altar must often be built in one place” etc.
Charles Williams in He Came Down from Heaven (1938), chapter 2. See also Lewis’s letter to Charles Williams of 7 June 1938 and Walter Hooper’s note 21 in Collected Letters, Vol. II (2004), p. 228.
the “faith once given to the saints”
Epistle of Jude, 3; also quoted in chapter 2, above (see note there). “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
See note to chapter 10, above.
my withers are quite unwrung
An English idiom originating from Shakespeare, Hamlet III.2, 237. “Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung.”
the Viking way: “The Giants and the Trolls win” etc.
?? – Lewis seems to be making the same allusion here as in a 1942 column in Time and Tide, “First and Second Things” (see C. S. Lewis Essays). There he referred to one of R. L. Stevenson’s “fables”, later identified by Walter Hooper as “Faith, Half-Faith, and No Faith”.
“bright shoots of everlastingness”
Henry Vaughan (c. 1622-1695), Scilex Scintillans, “The Retreat”. “But felt through all this fleshy dress / Bright shoots of everlastingness.”
the man who hid his talent in a napkin
what St. Paul’s words imply
Lewis is almost certainly thinking of I Corinthians 15:35ff; he quotes verse 42 a little further on.
He “went to prepare a place for us”