The Road Less Traveled By – To The Solidification Zone

The Great Divorce

You are about to take a bus ride into another dimension.  No, not a trip to the Twilight Zone. Or, maybe it IS to the Real Twilight Zone!

Despite the nonsense that comes from Oprah’s media pulpit, all roads are not radii that lead to God and Heaven.  Instead there will be a Fork in the road.  It is this bus ride that will take you to that juncture, albeit through fantasy.

I learned about this bus ride from a recent series of classes I attended at a nearby church.  The topic of the class was C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce.  The discussion was led by a retired Wheaton College professor, Dr. Rolland Hein, Professor Emeritus, English. Dr. Rolland also teaches a class on Saturday mornings at the Wade Center which is located near the college.

The title page of The Great Divorce, “A Dream” has this quote from George MacDonald:

 “No, there is no escape.  There is no heaven with a little of hell in it ~ no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or our pockets. Our Satan must go, every hair and feather.”

The Preface to The Great Divorce lets us know that Lewis will be endeavoring with his dream story to break up the marriage of Heaven and Hell (a response of sorts to William Blakes’ book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell), a marriage that many in our lifetime wish for. He writes to inform us of their necessary divorce.

In an age of moral relativity and subjectivism many want to synthesize good with evil in hopes of redeeming evil. But as Lewis reveals, the choices we make take us down divergent pathways.  We either choose a path of good that becomes an even greater good as we continue to make good choices and stay on its narrow way or we choose a broad path that leads towards ever greater evil.

The Great Divorce offers us a bus ride from “grey town” with its “continued hope of morning” to the “High Country,” a place of contrasts and a place where God honors the choices we make.

You will meet many characters, many perhaps like someone you know.  There will be those who cannot fathom Heaven as any place they would want to stay and there are others who fear losing what they had on earth in “grey town”. There will be the proud, the stubborn, the willful and the angry.  There will be those who demand their rights and also the ego-unchallenged.  There will be those whose feet hurt them as they walk on solid ground for the first time and there will also be the “bright solid people” who move about the “High Country” without effort.  And finally, there will be those who reject Joy and solid Reality to return to “grey town” on the same bus.

The passengers are all phantoms or ghosts.  When they arrive in the High Country they are almost completely transparent ~ you can see right through them in every way:  there is the well-dressed (and very self-conscious) woman; there is the broad-minded man, the artist, the Tousle-Headed poet, the mother who has lost a son, the golden apple stealing materialist, Sarah Smith and the Dwarf and Tragedian.  You will also meet George MacDonald:

Lewis, the main character in the dream and a phantom, meets up with George MacDonald, one of the solid people.  (MacDonald, forerunner of the “Inklings,” was a kindred spirit and mentor of fantasy for Lewis.).  Together they discuss what they see the phantoms choose.  At one point Lewis hears MacDonald say, “Milton was right, said my Teacher, “The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words, “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven…There is always something they prefer to joy— that is, to reality.”

The bus ride ends with the choice you make.  God honors your choice:

 “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’

Lewis’ The Great Divorce is the imaginary bus ride to the Fork in the road.

*****

From my morning’s readings, including N.T. Wright’s Paul for Everyone, Romans Part One:

N.T. Wright’s commentary on Romans 8 points out the list of arguments behind Paul’s exclamation point at the beginning Romans chapter 8: “So, therefore, there is no condemnation for those in the Messiah, Jesus!”

 “There is no condemnation (1) because the spirit-law has set you free from the sin-law, (2) because God has acted in his son and his spirit to condemn sin and provide life, (3) because There are two types of human beings and you are the spirit-type,  (4) because these two types are heading, respectively, for death and life.  There is no condemnation because of all this. (emphasis mine)

3 thoughts on “The Road Less Traveled By – To The Solidification Zone

  1. Great post! Just wanted to comment that George MacDonald was not Lewis’ friend as he died in 1905 and Lewis was born in 1898. They never met but MacDonald was still his mentor through his works.

    • Hi. Yes you are correct. Thanks for pointing this out. I knew that Lewis looked up to MacDonald but they had never met in person, only through MacDonald’s writings.

      I will say, instead, that MacDonald and Lewis were kindred spirits in that they both loved fantasy. J.R.R. Tolkien was Lewis’ literary (& literal) pub friend.

      To give you an idea of Lewis’s fascination with MacDonald’s writing here is a passage from Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis, A Life, Chapter 2

      From Chapter 2 (before Lewis’ conversion):

      “…The rational case for religion was, in Lewis’ view, totally bankrupt.”
      Yet Lewis found his imagination and reason pulling him in totally different directions. He continued to find himself experiencing deep feelings of desire, to which he attached the name “Joy.” The most important of these took place early in March 1916, when he happened to pick up a copy of George MacDonald’s fantasy novel Phantastes. As he read it, without realizing it, Lewis was led across a frontier of the imagination. Everything was changed for him as a result of reading the book. He had discovered a “new quality.” A “bright shadow,” which seemed to him like a voice calling him from the ends of the earth. “That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized.” A new dimension began to emerge.”

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