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Connie

Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

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On 10/21/2014 at 10:01 AM, mordorbund said:

Do you think Redival got to see Psyche's palace? Do you think she saw it as in the original myth (as a real thing), and not as a passing vision like Orual saw it?

There's really no indication in this version of whether Redival did or not. Lewis doesn't address this in any way. Perhaps if it was important to her own journey, which, again, Lewis doesn't get in to with the main focus on Orual. Redival's relationship with Psyche is different than Orual's, and yet there's the similarity of jealousy. Orual wants to be the only person Psyche loves, so perhaps more of a "love jealousy." Whereas, Redival is jealous that Psyche stole Orual's love away from her, perhaps more of a "hate jealousy." These are bad terms; I'm not sure how else to put it. Hopefully you understand. In my reading, I never really got a sense of how Redival feels about religion or the gods, so if she did get to see the palace it's hard to say whether she would have seen the real thing or the passing vision. Orual doesn't want to believe in it or see it, so even when she catches a glimpse, it's quickly gone.

I will get to your other questions later. I'm particularly interested in that middle one.

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On 11/17/2020 at 11:44 AM, Connie said:

I am struck this time with just how much Orual is stuck between worlds/cultures. She was born into this very pagan culture with heavy superstition and ritualistic worship of their goddess, Ungit. But the first person she comes to love is this Greek slave her father acquires to teach her. From him she learns about reason and logic and nature or the natural order of things. I’m interested to see how she will combine the two.

Is this a Lewisian way of suggesting that God's transformative (even deifying) love is manifest in both the ritualistic Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) church? Or should this be taken to mean that Lewis supposes God to use both superstitions (to use your term) and reason to draw people to Him. A variation on Alma 29:8 perhaps?

Where does this put the new priest then? Are the gods working through him in the "language" of the culture? Or does he not "get it" and is leading them on the road to apostasy?

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9 hours ago, mordorbund said:

Is this a Lewisian way of suggesting that God's transformative (even deifying) love is manifest in both the ritualistic Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) church? Or should this be taken to mean that Lewis supposes God to use both superstitions (to use your term) and reason to draw people to Him. A variation on Alma 29:8 perhaps?

Where does this put the new priest then? Are the gods working through him in the "language" of the culture? Or does he not "get it" and is leading them on the road to apostasy?

I would say they are two different human interpretations (or maybe emphases) of the divine. One to ritual/symbolism, the other to nature/reason. God can use both to bring about whatever good that a particular people are willing to accept, and there is truth in both, just not complete or full truth. I think that the scene with the woman who brings the sacrifice to the old statue shows this. When Orual asks why she doesn’t use the new statue, her answer is that the new statue is only for the learned and noble and wouldn’t understand common people. Perhaps suggesting that there are different ways of approaching and interpreting the divine, and that an individual may be reached better by one way over another.

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On 10/21/2014 at 10:01 AM, mordorbund said:

Orual's love is shown to be deficient because it is really a possessive drive leading to her jealousy. We even discover Redival's jealousy coming from a similar "selfish" love as you term it. Is the love of the gods any different? Aren't they extremely jealous of their creation? Doesn't their love drive them to transform the characters into what they (the gods) want and not necessarily what the creation desires?

We only got to see a partial judgment scene where Orual gets to present her charge to the gods, only to discover that it was the tantrum of a child. If we saw a full, final judgment (and bringing some Christianity into their theology) who would be saved? and who would be damned? Psyche? Orual? Redival? the king? Fox? Barda? the Soldier (his name escapes me)? Based on what you've learned of the gods in this story, what does it take to enter into the bliss of the dead and what does it take to enter into the misery of the dead?

That certainly seems to be the belief of the people of Glome, that the gods love is selfish. The old priest, when he is calling for the sacrifice of Psyche/Istra mentions “the loving and the devouring are the same thing” or something like that. Bardia’s wife, Ansit, echoes that thought when she is accusing Orual of working Bardia to death. She says “your love is like the gods.”

I don’t think that’s the message Lewis wants us to take away, though. He does not seem to ascribe jealousy to Divine Love. As Orual begins to have her visions and dreams, it strips away the veil she uses to hide. She begins to see the ugliness within herself and ultimately takes that ugliness to god wherein it’s transformed to beauty. I think Lewis is saying “the gods” want us to be our best self and our best self is when we are sharing in the beauty and goodness of the Divine Nature.

So I would say that is what Lewis is saying it takes to enter into the “bliss of the dead”—to have no self deception, to completely see your own ugliness or wrongness, and to take that to god so that he may change you to be more divine. In that sense, I think it’s clear that Psyche and Orual get there and perhaps even the Fox if we take his conversation with Orual at the end of her vision into account. He seems to recognize where he was wrong and feel remorse for it. Redival and the King, probably not. Bardia is not even mentioned after Orual resolves her feelings for him upon his death and her conversation with his wife, so not sure where I would place him.

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On 12/23/2020 at 5:14 PM, Connie said:

That certainly seems to be the belief of the people of Glome, that the gods love is selfish. The old priest, when he is calling for the sacrifice of Psyche/Istra mentions “the loving and the devouring are the same thing” or something like that. Bardia’s wife, Ansit, echoes that thought when she is accusing Orual of working Bardia to death. She says “your love is like the gods.”

I see Ansit and Orual speaking out of their ignorance - akin to hearing people talk about the "cruel" Old Testament God and "loving" New Testament God (I don't think these people have read either). I think after the divine interview Orual speaks more like the old priest. The devouring is awful and frightening, but in it you find the god's love. Like Paul's cross theology - it is shameful to have a god who was executed, but such is our salvation! These are people who have come to know the gods.

On 12/23/2020 at 5:14 PM, Connie said:

I don’t think that’s the message Lewis wants us to take away, though. He does not seem to ascribe jealousy to Divine Love. As Orual begins to have her visions and dreams, it strips away the veil she uses to hide. She begins to see the ugliness within herself and ultimately takes that ugliness to god wherein it’s transformed to beauty. I think Lewis is saying “the gods” want us to be our best self and our best self is when we are sharing in the beauty and goodness of the Divine Nature.

Revisiting the gods' jealousy and the book's exploration of love, I found Lewis' argument deficient. I think he intended for us to see the gods working for the best interest of those they love, but the distinction isn't clear enough for me. Acting in the best interest of those they love, molding them into their best selves, these are the claims everyone in the book makes. Ultimately Orual sees that the gods have been making the same claim, but it's only different because they have the omniscience to make it true. That's not a difference in love, that's a difference in perfection (really completeness).

On 12/23/2020 at 5:14 PM, Connie said:

So I would say that is what Lewis is saying it takes to enter into the “bliss of the dead”—to have no self deception, to completely see your own ugliness or wrongness, and to take that to god so that he may change you to be more divine. In that sense, I think it’s clear that Psyche and Orual get there and perhaps even the Fox if we take his conversation with Orual at the end of her vision into account. He seems to recognize where he was wrong and feel remorse for it. Redival and the King, probably not. Bardia is not even mentioned after Orual resolves her feelings for him upon his death and her conversation with his wife, so not sure where I would place him.

I may need to revisit my thoughts in the previous paragraph. As I said, if the gods are just trying to make you your best self, the love they manifest is no different from any other in the book. But this idea of self-deception is an interesting one. Their role is to show you who you are - in contrast to who you profess to be. They sit there in the silence with you until you peel off the max in frustration or finally sit comfortably in your own skin. Thanks for that perspective.

I also think Lewis places Fox in the bliss of the dead, but I disagree with that choice. I think that's Lewis' love of ancient Greek culture giving birth to "reason" more that anything consistent in the work. It may be that people in the 50's did not have quite so many secular "rational' thinkers as I've seen championed in the last few decades that I just don't share the same perspective.

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12 hours ago, mordorbund said:

I see Ansit and Orual speaking out of their ignorance - akin to hearing people talk about the "cruel" Old Testament God and "loving" New Testament God (I don't think these people have read either). I think after the divine interview Orual speaks more like the old priest. The devouring is awful and frightening, but in it you find the god's love. Like Paul's cross theology - it is shameful to have a god who was executed, but such is our salvation! These are people who have come to know the gods.

Revisiting the gods' jealousy and the book's exploration of love, I found Lewis' argument deficient. I think he intended for us to see the gods working for the best interest of those they love, but the distinction isn't clear enough for me. Acting in the best interest of those they love, molding them into their best selves, these are the claims everyone in the book makes. Ultimately Orual sees that the gods have been making the same claim, but it's only different because they have the omniscience to make it true. That's not a difference in love, that's a difference in perfection (really completeness).

I may need to revisit my thoughts in the previous paragraph. As I said, if the gods are just trying to make you your best self, the love they manifest is no different from any other in the book. But this idea of self-deception is an interesting one. Their role is to show you who you are - in contrast to who you profess to be. They sit there in the silence with you until you peel off the max in frustration or finally sit comfortably in your own skin. Thanks for that perspective.

I also think Lewis places Fox in the bliss of the dead, but I disagree with that choice. I think that's Lewis' love of ancient Greek culture giving birth to "reason" more that anything consistent in the work. It may be that people in the 50's did not have quite so many secular "rational' thinkers as I've seen championed in the last few decades that I just don't share the same perspective.

I’m not sure I would agree that Orual speaks more like the old priest, but maybe. It was the Fox when talking with Orual at the end that says “at least the priest knew that sacrifice is necessary” or something to that effect. It is rather scary sometimes to have your “natural man” devoured/sacrificed in order to become more divine.

I see the Fox in many ways being the voice of Lewis’s own theological beliefs.  Even early on in the book he’s the one who tells Orual “the Divine Nature has no jealousy.” And he’s the one who talks of everyone having a spark of the divine in them, which I don’t think Orual ever really came to believe, having been taught that the nobility had divine blood but not the common people. I believe it’s in Weight of Glory that Lewis talks about “living in a society of possible gods and goddesses.” I think Lewis sees the Fox as at least partially right, so I think it makes sense that he would place him in the bliss of the dead.

I completely disagree that everyone in the books makes the claim of acting in the best interest of those they love. That is certainly what Orual paints for us and wants us to believe in the first part, but when her veil is striped off she comes to see how wrong she was. It’s part of her self deception. She never acted in the best interest of Psyche. She wanted Psyche to remain “hers.” After all the incidents with Psyche and the god of the mountain, Orual goes to Psyche’s room and burns the poetry Psyche had written to the god and many of her clothes, just keeping the things from her childhood when “they were all happy together.” She basically wanted Psyche to remain a child, to remain her child. That is what the conversation with Ansit really brought out to me. The Fox comes to see this much sooner than Orual does (perhaps another way the bliss of the dead for him makes sense to me). He tries to use his love for Orual as a bargaining chip against her dueling Trunia’s brother (the same way Orual used it to get Psyche to use the lamp to look at her husband) but later comes to apologize that he did that, saying something like “love should not be used in that way.”

Thanks for discussing this with me, mordorbund. It’s always nice to get different perspectives and solidify your own.

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