A Bit More on Perelandra

I think one of the main reasons for the long and lavish descriptions of the place serve to prepare us for the long and lavish descriptions of inner states which follow. We are not only situated on a foreign planet, but we are prepared by the descriptions to follow along carefully with something that is leading somewhere. There is action, but there really is not that much action in the story. The descriptions, however, are advancing the trajectory of the story. And just as Ransom first awakens to the new physical surroundings, understanding them, dealing with them, he then awakens to the spiritual surroundings: what is happening and what he is expected to do.

It is an ingenius way to do myth. Lewis, we know, got the idea of using Science Fiction as a vehicle for myth from David Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus. He wanted an imaginary place, a made-up place to provide a setting that in reality did not matter. Lindsay uses his planet to adumbrate philosophical attitudes, and Lewis uses his planets to demonstrate spiritual realities. The thing that got to me was, who cares about the place so much? Sure it is wondrous, but by the time he started describing after everything else the streamer trees and the little creatures moving under them, I was baffled. But again, he was preparing the scene following, not randomly lavishing descriptions. And that, I think, is the key.

* * *

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

While we are on the subject of spiritual warfare, we are used to thinking of it in terms of a battle with ourselves. Let us call this the quiet and subjective approach. I say this because there is a louder, as it were, and objective approach, with various degress of off-putting sensationalism when it comes to spiritual warfare.

In the early church they would have probably emphasized the objective approach: they believed spiritual powers were alive and active. Dawson describes it most curiously as if they were people living in waters through which sharks swam (it is an interesting passage for various reasons, Dawson’s). They were alive to an external and objective force against which they must battle in order to avoid sin.

In Perelandra (again!) you have Lewis doing something curious. Ransom benefits from a holy hatred such as he is not able to experience with benefits on our own planet. He has not been cleansed of original sin, but he is no longer in the atmosphere through which the sharks swim, so he can feel anger without sinning. It is not a sensational use of the objective view, so it is not loud, but it is not a completely subjective view. It is a soft, objective approach, if you will, and a reminder of what Christians hold to be true. We live on a planet the air of which (the spiritual atmosphere of which, I suppose) is under sway of spiritual beings who are hostile to our Christian lives.

It is worth remembering, even if we are Calvinists, because it can only make us better at spiritual warfare to keep all the enemies in view, right? I think so, anyway. I’m not sure how it is different, but the clue is perhaps in some of the way Lewis speaks of the planets and earth.

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