I just finished reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I feel like such a ridiculous cliche raving about how much I love C.S. Lewis, but there it is. (And at least I’m not so ridiculous as to call him “Jack” – who does that?) I remember that the first time I read the book, it was just after I graduated high school. Hmm. I only remembered snippets, and mostly those that are oft-quoted elsewhere. So I was pleasantly surprised when, on my second reading, I was blown away by this book. I seriously was writing down like page-long quotes. The Great Divorce stirs the intellect, the imagination, and the soul – please read it, and know that it’s best read in a couple of large chunks. Don’t worry if you have to re-read some of the weighty paragraphs…everyone does. If they say they don’t, they’re either lying or not actually understanding the information. Or they’ve got some Good Will Hunting thing going on.
Shall I leave you with a sampling?
For the intellect, a conversation between the narrator and the Spirit of George MacDonald on the impending death of Pity:
“What some people say on Earth is that the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved.”
“Ye see it does not.”
“I feel in a way that it ought to.”
“That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it.”
“The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.”
“I don’t know what I want, Sir.”
“Son, son, it must be one way or the other. Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it: or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves. I know it has a grand sound to say ye’ll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or ye’ll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe.”
For the soul:
The Happy Trinity is her home: nothing can trouble her joy./ She is the bird that evades every net: the wild deer that leaps every pitfall./ Like the mother bird to its chickens or a shield to the arm’d knight: so is the Lord to her mind, in His unchanging lucidity./ […] He fills her brim-full with immensity of life: he leads her to see the world’s desire.
For the imagination:
For a moment there was silence under the cedar trees and then – pad, pad, pad – it was broken. Two velvet-footed lions came bouncing into the open space, their eyes fixed upon each other, and started playing some solemn romp. Their manes looked as though they had just been dipped in the river whose noise I could hear close at hand, though the tree hid it. Not greatly liking my company, I moved away to find that river, and after passing some thick flowering bushes, I succeed.