(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)
Welcome! I hope y’all had a chance to page through some of this collection of wisdom and from the voices of those who influenced Lewis. I’m not sure quite where this discussion will go (SO MANY OPTIONS), but whether or not you had a chance to snag this book, I think you’ll enjoy reading bits of the men and women represented. A.K.A. All the quotes.
As the introduction mentioned, “To truly understand Lewis and his works we need to get behind his role as Christian apologist to his interest in philosophy and literature, in reason and romanticism. Lewis was not a one-dimensional reader. His eclectic tastes ranged over a wide variety of genres and time periods. He was a fan of science fiction and fantasy writers as well as Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Augustine. In Lewis’s world, myth and allegory mix with precise logic in philosophical debate. Scholars continue to explore how these influences fit together, but there is no magic formula; Lewis was a complex figure who didn’t quite fit the trends of his own generation and is able to speak to the needs of each succeeding one.” I think we could benefit from reading as vastly as Lewis did as well!
“Follow After Agape”
George MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons: “As it was love that first created humanity, so even human love, in proportion to its divinity, will go on creating the beautiful for its own outpouring. There is nothing eternal but that which loves and can be loved, and love is ever climbing towards the consummation when such shall be the universe, imperishable, divine.”
(Scottish Congregationalist pastor, novelist, myth maker, and poet, MacDonald had a profound influence on C. S. Lewis. Lewis said that MacDonald’s Phantastes “baptized my imagination.”)
“You Have Transfixed My Heart”
Our Love of God
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux’s On Loving God: “At first, man loves himself for his own sake. That is the flesh, which can appreciate nothing beyond itself. Next, he perceives that he cannot exist by himself, and so begins by faith to seek after God, and to love Him as something necessary to his own welfare. That is the second degree, to love God, not for God’s sake, but selfishly. But when he has learned to worship God and to seek Him aright, meditating on God, reading God’s Word, praying and obeying His commandments, he comes gradually to know who God is, and finds Him altogether lovely. So, having tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is (Psalm 34:8), he advances to the third degree, when he loves God, not merely as his benefactor but as God. Surely this is the longest state for the one who is growing in God. As to the fourth degree, I know not whether it would be possible to make further progress in this life to that fourth degree and perfect condition wherein man loves himself solely for God’s sake.”
(Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153)—Mystic, monastic reformer, and influential figure in the twelfth-century church, Saint Bernard founded the Cistercian Monastery at Clairvaux.)
“How Dearly You Have Paid for Me”
The Life and Sacrifice of Christ
Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ: “Let us hear what the Savior says of the joy of abiding in Him. He promises us His own joy: “My joy.”
(Andrew Murray (1828–1917)—Evangelical and leader in the South African Dutch Reformed Church, Andrew Murray was educated in Scotland and Holland. He served several pastorates and was six times the moderator of the Reformed Church.)
“Fatherly and Forgiving Goodness”
Grace and Redemption
Walter Hilton’s The Scale of Perfection: “Happy is the soul that is ever nourished by the experience of love when He is present, and is upheld by desire of HIm when He is absent. He is wise and well instructed in the love of God who keeps himself temperately and reverently in His presence, who contemplates Him lovingly without careless levity, and is patient at ease in His absence without harmful despair and sore bitterness.”
(Walter Hilton (d. 1396) – Hilton was an English mystic and hermit and became the Augustinian Canon of Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire)
Living a Devout Life
Christina Rossetti’s The Poetical Works:
“Sorrow of saints is sorrow of a day,
Gladness of saints is gladness evermore:
Send on your hope, send on your will before,
To chant God’s praise along the narrow way. Stir up His praises if the flesh would sway, Exalt His praises if the world press sore,
Peal out His praises if black Satan roar A hundred thousand lies to say them nay. Devil and Death and Hades, three-fold cord
Not quickly broken, front you to your face; Front thou them with a face of tenfold flint: Shout for the battle, David! never stint. Body or breath or blood, but, proof in grace,
Die for your Lord, as once for you your Lord.”
(Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)—Sister of the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti was a notable Victorian poet.)
“Worthy to Receive More”
Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ: “Always set yourself in the lowest place and you will be given the highest; for the highest cannot exist without the lowest. The Saints who are highest in God’s sight are the least in their own; and the more glorious they are, the more humble they are in heart, full of truth and heavenly joy and not desirous of vainglory.
Being grounded and confirmed in God, they can in no way be proud. They who ascribe to God whatever good they have received do not seek glory from one another, but only that glory which is from God; and the desire of their hearts is that God be praised in Himself and in all His Saints, and to this end they always tend.
Be grateful, therefore, for the least gift and you will be worthy to receive more.”
(Thomas à Kempis (ca. 1380–1471)—Born at Kempin (thus the surname à Kempis) near Cologne, Germany,Thomas Hämmerlien entered the Augustinian monastery at Mount Saint Agnes, where he worked as a copyist and spiritual director. He was a mystic, and his Imitation of Christ is thought by many to be second only to the Bible in its spiritual influence on readers. It was highly valued by C. S. Lewis.)
“The Gleaming of Divine Brightness”
Heaven, Death, and Immortality
Henry Vaughan’s Sacred Poems: Peace
My Soul, there is a country Afar beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged Sentry All skillful in the wars.
There, above noise and danger,
Sweet peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger Commands the beauteous files.
He is your gracious friend And (O my Soul awake!)
Did in pure love descend,
To die here for your sake.
If you can get but thither,
There grows the flower of peace,
The rose that cannot wither, Your fortress, and your ease.
Leave then your foolish ranges; For none can you secure, But One, who never changes,
Your God, your Life, your Cure.
(Henry Vaughan (1622–1695)—Soldier, physician, poet, and brother of the alchemist Thomas Vaughan, Henry Vaughan is considered one of the metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century.)
I thought it would be fitting to end with Tolkien’s letter (to Anne Barrett, Houghton Mifflin Co. 30 August 1964) from “Mutually Christ’s” section:
C. S. L. [Lewis] of course had some oddities and could sometimes be irritating. He was after all and remained an Irishman of Ulster. But he did nothing for effect; he was not a professional clown, but a natural one, when a clown at all. He was generous-minded, on guard against all prejudices, though a few were too deep-rooted in his native background to be observed by him. That his literary opinions were ever dictated by envy (as in the case of T. S. Eliot) is a grotesque calumny. After all it is possible to dislike Eliot with some intensity even if one has no aspirations to poetic laurels oneself.
Well of course I could say more, but I must draw the line. Still I wish it could be forbidden that after a great man is dead, little men should scribble over him, who have not and must know they have not sufficient knowledge of his life and character to give them any key to the truth. Lewis was not “cut to the quick” by his defeat in the election to the professorship of poetry: he knew quite well the cause. I remember that we had assembled soon after in our accustomed tavern and found C. S. L. sitting there, looking (and since he was no actor at all probably feeling) much at ease. “Fill up!” he said, “and stop looking so glum. The only distressing thing about this affair is that my friends seem to be upset.”
I hope you have been inspired reading from so many voices! While there aren’t many discussion points, I would love to hear some that stood out to you!