Misc. Essays by C. S. Lewis

Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper. The Seeing Eye and Other Selected Essays from Christian Reflections. New York: Ballantine Books. 1986.

The Funeral of a Great Myth

But probably every age gets, within certain limits, the science it desires. p. 117

A prudent society must spend at least as much energy on conserving what it has as on improvement. p. 127

The Seeing Eye

And the physicists, trying to probe behind the other facade, can give you only mathematics. And the mathematics may be true about the reality, but it can hardly be the reality itself, any more than contour lines are real mountains. p. 229

A literary analogy of the Hypostatic Union as like the two “natures” of Dante, the one being the poet who writes, and the other being the character written of—both being Dante, but somehow distinct. As C. S. Lewis phrases it: “This is a faint and far-off suggestion of what theologians mean by the ‘union of the two natures” in Christ.” p. 231

Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology. London: Collins, 1979.


Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it. p. 12

No doubt most stories of miracles are unreliable; but then, as anyone can see by reading the papers, so are most stories of all events. Each story must be taken on its merits: what one must not do is to rule out the supernatural as the one impossible solution. p. 14.

There is an activity of God displayed throughout creation, a wholesale activity let us say which men refuse to recognize. The miracles done by God incarnate, living as a man in Palestine, perform the very same things as this wholesale activity, but at a different speed and on a smaller scale. One of their chief purposes is that man having seen a thing done by personal power on the small scale, may recognize, when they see the same thing done on the large scale, that the power behind it is also personal—is indeed the very same person who lived among us two thousand years ago. Miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see. pp. 15-16

[Talking about the miracle of generation] A microscopic particle of matter from his body fertilizes the female: and with that microscopic particle passes, it may be, the colour of his hair and his great grandfather’s hanging lip, and the human form in all its complexity of bones, liver, sinews, heart, and limbs, and pre-human form which the embryo will recapitulate in the womb. Behind every spermatozoon lies the whole history of the universe: locked within it is no small part of the world’s future. That is God’s normal way of making a man—a process that takes centuries, beginning with the creation of matter itself, and narrowing to one second and one particle at the moment of begetting. p. 18

Dogma and the Universe

We are inveterate poets. When a quantity is very great we cease to regard it as a mere quantity. Our imaginations awake. Instead of mere quantity, we now have a quality—the sublime. Unless this were so, the merely arithmetical greatness of the galaxy would be no more impressive than the figures in a telephone directory. It is thus, in a sense, from ourselves that the material universe derives its power to over-awe us. p. 31

To a mind which did not share our emotions, and lacked our imaginative energies, the argument from size would be sheerly meaningless. Men look on the starry heavens with reverence: monkeys do not. The silence of the eternal spaces terrified Pascal, but it was the greatness of Pascal that enabled them to do so. When we are frightened by the greatness of the universe, we are (almost literally) frightened by our own shadows: for these light years and billions of centuries are mere arithmetic until the shadow of man, the poet, the maker of myth, falls upon them. p. 31

Have you never, when walking in a wood, turned back deliberately for fear you should come out at the other side and thus make it ever after in your imagination a mere beggarly strip of trees? p. 32

It is the essence of Christianity that God loves man and for his sake became man and died. But that doe not prove that man is the sole end of Nature. In the parable, it was the one lost sheep that the shepherd went in search of: It was not the only sheep in the flock, and we are not told that it was the most valuable—save in so far as the most desperately in need has, while the need lasts, a peculiar value in the eyes of Love. p. 33

It is religion itself—prayer and sacrament and repentance and adoration—which is here, in the long run, our sole avenue to the real. p. 38

Myth Became Fact

You cannot study Pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyse the nature of humour while roaring with laughter. But when else can you really know these things? p. 42.

In the enjoyment of a great myth we come nearest to experiencing as a concrete what can otherwise be understood only as an abstraction. p. 42.

You may reply that you never till this moment attached that ‘meaning’ to that myth. Of course not. You are not looking for an abstract ‘meaning’ at all. If that was what you were doing the myth would be for you no true myth but a mere allegory. You were not knowing, but tasting; but what you were tasting turns out to be a universal principle. The moment we state this principle, we are admittedly back in the world of abstraction. It is only while receiving the myth as a story that you experience the principle concretely. p. 43.

What flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality (truth is always about something, but reality is that about which truth is), and, therefore, every myth becomes the father of innumerable truths on the abstract level. p. 43.

Myth is the mountain whence all the different streams arise which become truths down here in the valley; in hac valle abstractionis. p. 43.

The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. p. 43.

God is more than a god, not less; Christ is more than Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘Pagan Christs’: they ought to be there—it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. p. 45

The Laws of Nature

In Hamlet a branch breaks and Ophelia is drowned. Did she die because the branch broke or because Shakespeare wanted her to die at that point in the play? Either—both—whichever you please. The alternative suggested by the question is not a real alternative at all—once you have grasped that Shakespeare is making the whole play. p. 55.