Quotations and Allusions in

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


compiled by Arend Smilde


Like most of C. S. Lewis’s books, The Problem of Pain (1940) is full of unreferenced allusions to an enormous range of writers and writings ancient and modern. While it is perhaps never vitally important to identify and explore Lewis’s sources, doing so often proves to be a rewarding enterprise. Listed below are most of the book’s explicit references (usually quotations) and many implicit ones (allusions ranging from the quite obvious to the fairly mysterious), each followed by the fullest possible statement of the source in question.

       Many items also feature longer or shorter notes highlighting the relevance of Lewis’s quotation or allusion for the point at issue, and occasionally, as the case may be, questioning that relevance.

       In addition, notes are given on some words, phrases and passages which are not quotations or allusions but nevertheless seemed to call for similar treatment. These include echoes from Lewis’s own earlier and later writings: usually later, since The Problem of Pain appeared early in his writing career.

       References to paragraphs in the book appear in the format “VI·2” for “chapter VI, second paragraph”. References to the three volumes of Lewis’s Collected Letters, published in 2000-2006, appear as CL1, CL2 and CL3.

       Double question marks in bold type – ?? – follow items for which I lack assurance that I can give relevant or accurate information. Corrections and additions, including proposals for new entries, are welcome. Updates are listed at the end.

Utrecht, The Netherlands

August 2015


Postscript, January 2018

I posted a sequence of in-depth discussions of assorted passages from The Problem of Pain under the title “Something Tremendously Real: How C. S. Lewis solved ‘the intellectual problem raised by suffering.







The Inklings

» A circle of friends of C. S. Lewis. For most of the 1930s and 1940s  they held weekly meetings in Lewis’s rooms in Magdalen College, Oxford, to read and discuss writing work in progress. Most of Lewis’s books published around 1940 were dedicated to individual members of the group: Owen Barfield (The Allegory of Love, 1936), Lewis’s brother Warnie (Out of the Silent Planet, 1938), Hugo Dyson (Rehabilitations, 1939), J. R. R. Tolkien (The Screwtape Letters, 1942), and Charles Williams (A Preface to Paradise Lost, 1942).The present book is first mentioned in a letter of Lewis to his brother of 11 November 1939 as he describes a meeting of the Inklings.

The bill of fare ... consisted of a section of the new Hobbit book from Tolkien, a nativity play from Williams ... and a chapter out of the book on the Problem of Pain from me. It so happened ... that the subject matter of the three readings formed almost a logical sequence, and produced a really first rate evening’s talk of the usual wide-ranging kind ...






George Macdonald. Unspoken Sermons. First Series

» Lewis got to know and to revere the Scottish novelist and poet in 1916 through Phan­tastes (1858), the first of Macdonald’s two fantasy novels, and later came to regard him as his chief spiritual guide. George Macdonald (1824-1905)  was a Congregationalist minister for three years (1850-53) before he took to literature. In addition to much else he published three series of Unspoken Sermons (twelve each) in 1867, 1885 and 1889. After Lewis had become a popular Christian writer and speaker during the Second World War, he edited an Anthology from the works of Macdonald (1946) and in the Preface explicitly called him “my master”. More than two-thirds of the extracts were taken from the Unspoken Sermons, of which Lewis confessed

My own debt to this book is almost as great as one man can owe to another: and nearly all serious inquirers to whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them great help – sometimes indispensable help towards the very acceptance of the Christian faith.

The epigraph is taken from Series I, Nr. 2, “The Consuming Fire” on Hebrews 12:29.






Mr. Ashley Sampson

» Ashley Sampson (1900-1947) owned the Centenary Press, a small publishing firm in London that became part of another London publishing house, Geoffrey Bles, around 1930. The names of both publishers appear on the title page of the first edition of The Problem of Pain. Lewis’s early book The Pil­grim’s Regress (1933), along with his 1938 science fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet, had inspired Sampson to ask him to contribute a book to a series called “Christian Challenge”, intended to introduce the Christian faith to people outside the Church.

     Two other initiatives of Sampson’s around this time helped to spark off Lewis’s career as Christian apologist and Bles’s career as publisher of Lewis’s religious work and some of his fiction. First, Sampson included Lewis’s 1939 Oxford sermon “None Other Gods: Culture in War-Time” (later reprinted as “Learning-in War-Time”) in a volume entitled Famous English Sermons (Thomas Nelson, London 1940); second, he advised Geoffrey Bles to buy the rights for Lewis’s Screwtape Letters soon after they began to be serialized in May 1941.

      On the significance of The Pilgrim Regress as a silent booster of Lewis’s Christian career, it may further be noted that this early book had also led to Lewis being invited to deliver the 1939 sermon which got him admitted into the company of famous English preachers even before he had acquired any further national fame as a Christian speaker.


Walter Hilton

» A 14th-century Augustinian canon (d. 1396), spiritual writer, and head of the Priory at Thurgarton, Nottinghamshire. His writings were popular in 15th-century England. Scala Perfectionis, or The Ladder of Perfection, was his most famous book and was first printed in 1494.

      A passage in Lewis’s letter to Dom Bede Griffiths of 17 January 1940 (CL2, 326) suggests that he had read this book very recently, i.e. while he was writing The Problem of Pain.


He jests at scars who never felt a wound”

» Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet II.2, 1.




Chapter I:  Introductory


chapter motto

Pascal, Pensées, IV, 242, 243

» Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French philosopher and mathematician. His Pensées (“Thoughts”) is a collection of long and short notes compiled and published posthumously. Section IV is titled “Des moyens de croire” (“Of the means of belief”). Lewis has culled passages from two consecutive items in the Brunschvicg edition published in 1897; its numbers 242 and 243 correspond to 781 and 463 in the Lafuma edition (1962) 

J’admire avec quelle hardiesse ces personnes entreprennent de parler de Dieu. En adressant leurs discours aux impies, leur premier chapitre est de prouver la Divinité par les ouvrages de la nature. ... c’est leur donner sujet de croire que les preuves de notre religion sont bien faibles. ... c’est une chose admirable que jamais auteur canonique ne s’est servi de la nature pour prouver Dieu.


I·1  |  not many years

the scientists think it likely that very few of the suns of space ... have any planets

» Lewis relied for much of his knowledge of modern physics and cosmology on popular works of the physicists Arthur Eddington (The Nature of the Physical World, 1928) and James Jeans (The Mysterious Universe, 1931) and the mathematician-philosopher A. N. Whitehead (Science and the Modern World, 1925). The conjecture about “exoplanets” (as they are now called) appears, for example, at the end of chapter 8 of Eddington’s 1928 book in a section titled “Formation  of Planetary Systems”:

The solar system is not the typical product of development of a star; it is not even a common variety of development; it is a freak. ... The density of distribution of stars in space has been compared to that of twenty tennis balls roaming the whole interior of the earth. The accident that gave birth to the solar system may be compared to the casual approach of two of these balls within a few yards of one another. The data are too vague to give any definite estimate of the odds against this occurrence, but I should judge that perhaps not one in a hundred millions of stars can have undergone this experience in the right stage and conditions to result in the formation of a system of planets.

The same idea is alluded to in Lewis’s 1945 essay “The Grand Miracle” and in the parallel chapter 14 of his book Miracles. It has since been proved wrong. In 1992 the first “exoplanet” was discovered, twenty years later the existence of more than 800 of them had been confirmed, and that number more than doubled over the next three years. In March 2022, “the count of confirmed exoplanets ticked past the 5,000 mark.”


I·3  |  it would be

men of the Middle Ages thought the Earth flat, but ... Ptolemy ... one medieval popular text ...

» Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus, c. 100-170 CE) was an ancient mathematician, astronomer and geographer of the second century. He was a Roman who wrote in Greek and lived in Alexandria, Egypt. His astronomical treatise – i.e. the book that bequeathed the “Ptolemaic” cosmology to the Middle Ages – later became known under the title of its 9th-century Arabic translation, Almagest.

      Lewis in the course of his writing career repeatedly argued more or less the same point, often with the same reference to Almagest (Book 5, chapter 1). Thus in The Pilgrim’s Regress II.1, where Mr. Enlightenment tells John 

“... I dare say it would be news to you to hear that the earth was round ... It is well known that everyone in Puritania thinks the earth flat. It is not likely that I should be mistaken on such a point. ...”

Further instances are Lewis’s 1945 essays “Religion and Science” and “Christian Apologetics”; Miracles (1947) ch. 7, par. 8; and the 1956 lecture “Imagination and thought in the Middle Ages” 

That the Earth is, by any cosmic scale, insignificant, is a truth that was forced on every intel­li­gent man as soon as serious astronomical observations began to be made. ... Ptolemy’s compendium ... was accepted by the Middle Ages. It was not merely accepted by scholars; it was re-echoed by moralists and poets again and again. To judge from the texts, medieval man thought about the insignificance of Earth more persistently, if anything, than his modern descendants. We even find quite popular texts hammering the lesson home by those methods which the scientific popularizer uses today.
(Essays in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, 1967, p. 46)

From The Discarded Image (1964), ch. 3, p. 22, and ch. 5, pp. 97-98, it appears that the “popular text” in question was the South English Legendary, a late-13th-century collection of lives of the saints.


I·5  |  in all developed

Professor Otto

» Rudolf Otto (1869-1937), German theologian and scholar of comparative religion. Lewis is referring to Otto’s book Das Heilige (1917), translated John W. Harvey as The Idea of the Holy (1923). In chapter 2 Otto proposed to derive his term “the numinous” from Latin numen just as “ominous” is derived from omen; the translator in his foreword notes that numen is “the most general Latin word for supernatural divine power”.


Shakespeare ... Under it my genius is rebuked”

» Macbeth III.1, 54 (Macbeth speaking) 

                      There is none but he [Banquo]
Whose being I do fear; and under him
My Genius is rebuk’d, as it is said
Mark Antony’s was by Caesar.


I·7  |  a modern example

The Wind in the Willows

» Published in 1908, this animal story by Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932) became a classic of children’s literature.


I·9  |  going back about

Wordsworth ... that Passage in the first book of the Prelude

» The Prelude is a long poem by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) in which he describes the influences that contributed to his development as a poet. Written in the years 1799-1805, it was not published until shortly after the poet’s death. Lewis is referring to a passage in Book I beginning at line 356. While rowing on a lake the young poet experienced the sight of how

          a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned ...

                            ... after I had seen

That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o’er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Or sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly trough the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

Malory ... Galahad

» Thomas Malory (1400?-1470), author of Morte d’Arthur, a comprehensive prose retelling in twenty-one books of legends about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Galahad, son of Sir Lancelot du Lac, is the ideal type of a knight.


fell at the feet of the risen Christ as one dead”

» cf. Revelation 1:17 

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the first and the last.


Ovid ... numen inest

» Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-18 CE), Roman poet. The Fasti  (calender of feasts) is a collection of legends and sundry historical folklore as connected with feast days. J. G. Frazer’s 1931 translation (Loeb) renders numen here “a spirit”.



» Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 BC), Roman poet. The Aeneid, called after its hero Aeneas, is an epic poem written as a continuation of Homer’s Iliad and describing the preliminaries of the history of Rome as a sequel to the history of Troy –

Tectum augustum, ingens, centum sublime columnis,

urbe fuit summa, Laurentis regia Pici,

horrendum silvis et religione parentum.

Stately and vast, towering with a hundred columns,

his house crowned the city, once the palace of Laurentian Picus,

awe-inspiring with its grove and the sanctity of olden days.

(Translation H. Rushton Fairclough 1918, Loeb Classical Library)


A Greek fragment ... Aeschylus ... “dread eye of their Master”

» Aeschylus (525-455 BC) was the earliest of the three great Greek tragedians. Of his total output of perhaps more than 90 plays only seven have survived in their entirety, plus hundreds of fragments. An edition by the Oxford classical scholar Arthur Sidgwick appeared in 1899, but more fragments have been coming to light afterwards; a recent edition appeared in 2008. A translation by H. W. Smith of the fragment quoted by Lewis is found in the volume Aeschylus II (1936) of the Loeb series, pp. 506-507 

Set God apart from mortal men, and deem not that he, like them, is fashioned out of flesh. Thou knowest him not; now he appeareth as fire, unapproachable in his onset, now as water, now as gloom; and he, even himself, is dimly seen in the likeness of wild beasts, of wind, of cloud, of lightning, thunder, and of rain. Ministers unto him are sea, and rocks, and every spring, and gathered floods; before him tremble mountains and earth and the vast abyss of the sea and the lofty pinnacles of the mountains, whensoever the flashing eye of their lord [gorgon omma despoton] looketh on them. For all power hath he; lo, this is the glory of the Most High God.

An editorial note says that “the Fragment was ascribed to Aeschylus in antiquity probably because of its lofty conception of God” (508).


I·12  |  the numinous is

a famous psycho-analyst ... prehistoric parricide

» Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) had died in London around the time Lewis began writing The Problem of Pain. Lewis is referring to a famous passage in Freud’s Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics (1913), ch. IV.5.


I·13  |  the moral experience

in Abraham  ... all peoples shall be blessed

» cf. Genesis 12:1-3 

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country ... I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.


I·15  |  to ask whether

the long spiritual preparation of humanity

» Although Lewis never mentions G. K. Chesterton in this book, the first chapter is perhaps the best illustration of the way Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man (1925) provided him with a complete and plausible “Christian outline of history” – as noted by Lewis in Surprised by Joy, ch. 14. Lewis main addition to Chesterton’s scheme is Otto’s concept of the Numinous.


I·16  |  why this assurance

regard the moral law as an illusion, and so cut himself off ...

» Lewis’s fullest development of this line of thought is found in The Abolition of Man (1943).


the life-force

» The French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) developed the concept of élan vital as a solution to what he considered to be otherwise insoluble problems in the Darwinian theory of evolution. In his once famous book Creative Evolution (Évolution créatrice, 1907), chapter 2, he defined the term as

an internal push that has carried life, by more and more complex forms, to higher and higher destinies,

(une poussée intérieure qui porterait la vie, par des formes de plus en plus com­plexes, à des destinées de plus en plus hautes).

The usual English rendering as “Life Force” got currency through the work of the Irish-English dramatist George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). Shaw equated the terms élan vital and “life force” in the preface to his five-part play Back to Methuselah (1921). Both Shaw and Bergson were Nobel laureates for literature in 1925 and 1927 respectively.


suspicious a priori lucidity of Pantheism

» Lewis’s other references to Pantheism in this book suggest that what he meant by this lucidity must be its monistic character, i.e. the ultimate reduction of everything to a single thing, force, or substance. Thus in chapter 10 

Pantheism is a creed not so much false as hopelessly behind the times. Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God. But God created: He caused things to be other than Himself ...


which modern science is slowly teaching us

» For Lewis’s chief published sources of information about modern science see first note to this chapter, above.




Chapter II:  Divine Omnipotence


chapter motto

Thomas Aquinas

» (1225-1274), Italian Dominican friar, theologian and philosopher, Saint of the Catholic Church since 1323. His Summa Theologiae, written towards the end of his life and unfinished, was the first attempt at a comprehensive theological system.


II·2  |  omnipotence means

with God all things are possible”

» Matthew 19:24-26 

“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a came to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”


the original meaning in Latin

» Lewis appears to be referring to the meaning of the original Latin noun of which “omnipotence” is the English form, omnipotentia. This is a late Latin word and not found in the Bible. Where the Latin Bible (Vulgate) has omnipotens,  the King James Bible of 1611 almost invariably has “almighty” or “the Almighty”; in the New Testament it only occurs in the Book of Revelation, and the Greek word is pantokratōr.


II·4  |  “all agents” here

all things are possible ... intrinsic impossibilities are not things

» See first note to II·2, above. Lewis’s observation is partly a pun based on the English phrasing, and impossible if “all things” is read in the original Greek, panta, or in Latin as omnia, or in Dutch and German as alles.


II·7  |  there is no reason

in contrast with an other”

» Lewis first developed this view in an early piece of dense philosophical writing of 1928 under the title Summae metaphysices contra Anthroposophos libri II (“Two Books of the Outline of Metaphysics against the Anthroposopists”), as part of a protracted debate with his friend Owen Barfield which Lewis later dubbed their “Great War”. See especially Summa I.5, “The plurality of souls, the existence of any soul, and a world of matter are all mutually involved”.


the Blessed Trinity ... something analogous to society”

» See also Lewis’s development of this idea in chapter 4 of Beyond Personality:  The Christian Idea of God (1944), which is the expanded text of his fourth series of radio talks for the BBC. The first series of radio talks, in 1941, followed on an invitation from a BBC official who had recognized Lewis’s talent for popularization in The Problem of Pain. A revised text of the four series was later published in one volume as Mere Christianity.


not merely ... the Platonic form of love, but ... concrete reciprocities of love

» Plato (427-347 BC), one of the founding fathers of Western philosophy, held that there are three levels of reality. The highest level is the world of “forms” or “ideas” (Gr. eidē) because it is eternal; lowest is the world of concrete objects because it is fleeting; in between are mathematical objects. Things on the lowest level are dim and ever changing reflections of eternal, unchanging “ideas”. Lewis is not talking of “Platonic love” as usually understood; he is pointing out that God’s love, in addition to being the eternal “form” reflected in concrete loves, is also itself concrete.


II·11  |  society, then, implies

matter” (in the modern, not the scholastic sense)

» By the scholastic sense of “matter” Lewis probably means matter as distinct from “form” – matter as pure, undeveloped, formless potency. Scholastic thought (which flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries) followed Aristotle in holding that matter and form combine to result in “substance”, while substance and “accidents” combine to result in objects.

    Lewis cannot have expected his modern readers even to know the premodern meaning of “matter”. Presumably it was because he was using the word with reference to angels that he considered this old meaning worth ruling out explicitly. The modern sense of matter might be defined in distinction from spirit rather than form but, although angels are spirits, this is not the distinction he envisaged here. See www.saintaquinas.com/primer.html

      In an unpublished note of unknown date, preserved in the Bodleian Library (“Notebook V”, Dep.d.809, fol. 14), Lewis wrote about “Matter in the scholastic sense, that is … pure potentiality”.


II·12  |  but if matter

trees for his sake would crowd into a shade”

» cf. Alexander Pope, Pastorals (1709) II, “Summer”, 73-76 

Where-e’er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade,
Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade,
Where-e’er you tread, the blushing flow’rs shall rise
And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.


II·15  |  we can, perhaps

these occasions would be extremely rare

» cf. the closing paragraph of Lewis’s book Miracles (1947): “God does not shake miracles into Nature at random as if from a pepper-caster.”




Chapter III:  Divine Goodness


chapter motto

Traherne, Centuries of Meditations

» Thomas Traherne (1638?-1674), English mystical writer and poet. He is chiefly known for his Centuries of Meditations, a volume of reflections on religion in poetical prose. “Century” in the title means “collection of one hundred items”. The book was not published until 1908, and consists of four “centuries” and the beginning of a fifth.


III·2  |  on the other hand

doctrine of Total Depravity

» If Lewis was thinking here of any particular statement of the doctrine, it may have been the one given by John Calvin (1509-1564) in the Institutes of the Christian Religion II.1.9 

... all the parts of the soul were possessed by sin, ever since Adam revolted from the fountain of righteousness. For not only did the inferior appetites entice him, but abominable impiety seized upon the very citadel of the mind, and pride penetrated to his inmost heart (Rom. 7:12; Book 4, chap. 15, sec. 10–12) ...  Paul himself leaves no room for doubt, when he says, that corruption does not dwell in one part only, but that no part is free from its deadly taint. For, speaking of corrupt nature, he not only condemns the inordinate nature of the appetites, but, in particular, declares that the understanding is subjected to blindness, and the heart to depravity (Eph. 4:17, 18).

(Translation Henry Beveridge, 1845).


III·3  |  the escape from

When I came first to the University ... a set of young men

» This could refer both to 1917, when Lewis joined an Officers’ Training Corps and the army soon after arriving in Oxford, or to early 1919, when he had demobilized and could begin his studies in earnest. If the latter, which seems most likely, the “set of young men” must have included his lifelong friend Owen Barfield, whom he first met later that year.


as lords that are certainly expected”

» Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) IV, explanatory note to stanzas 10-11 

In his loneliness and fixed­ness he [the ancient Mariner] yearneth to­wards the journeying Moon, and the stars that still sojourn, yet still move onward; and every where the blue sky be­longs to them, and is their appoin­ted rest, and their native country and their own natural homes, which they enter un­an­nounced, as lords that are certainly ex­pec­ted and yet there is a silent joy at their arrival.


III·6  |  by the goodness

a good time was had by all”

» The phrase gained popularity as the title of a 1937 volume of poetry by the English poet and novelist Stevie Smith.


III·7  |  i might, indeed

as in Dante, a lord of terrible aspect”

» Dante, La Vita Nuova III; signore di pauroso aspetto, the figure of Love who appears to Dante in a vision.


loving us, in the ... most inexorable sense

» Cf. Lewis’s Preface to his Macdonald Anthology 

The title “Inexorable Love” which I have given to several individual extracts would serve for the whole collection. Inexorability – but never the inexorability of anything less than love – runs through it all like a refrain ...


III·10  |  another type is

we are his people and the sheep of his pasture”

» Psalm 100:3.


III·11  |  a nobler analogy

not even allowing Himself to be called good” because Good is the name of the Father

» cf. Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19; also Matthew 19:17.


III·12  |  finally we come

... than are the tender horns of cockled snails”

» Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost IV.3, 334.


III·13  |  when christianity says

the consuming fire Himself

» cf. Hebrews 12:28-29 

... receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.

The book’s general epigraph is taken from a sermon on this Bible text; see note to the Epigraph at the beginning of these notes.


a burden of glory

» cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 

... though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

See also Lewis’s sermon “The Weight of Glory”, delivered in Oxford in 1941 and published in 1949.


like the maidens in the old play, to deprecate the love of Zeus ... Prometheus Vinctus

» Now better known as Prometheus Bound, this is one of the seven surviving tragedies by the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus (see note to I·9 above). Prometheus is bound to a crag on the Scythian seashore as a punishment for his rebellion against Zeus for the benefit of mankind. An unsuccessful attempt at mediation is made Oceanus, whose daughters make up the choir of “maidens” in the play. Lewis refers to their comment on hearing of Io’s lamentable fate as the mistress of Zeus 

Never, oh never, august Fates, may ye behold me the partner of the bed of Zeus, and may I be wedded to no bridegroom who descends to me from heaven. ... But to me, when marriage is on equal terms, it is no cause of dread; and never may the love of the mightier gods cast on me its irresistible glance. That were indeed a war against which there is no warring, a source of resourceless misery; and I know not what would be my fate, for I do not see how I could escape the designs of Zeus.

– Translation by H. W. Smyth in the volume Aeschylus I (1922) of the Loeb series, pp. 295-297.


The Impassible

» From Latin impassibilis and Greek apathēs, “not susceptible to pain or injury”; also “not having or revealing emotions”. The idea of God’s impassibility entered Christian theology possibly through the work of Philo of Alexandria and is a prime example of pagan Greek influence on early Christianity. The theological meaning of the word has always shaded into “immutable” or, more specifically, “not susceptible to change by external causes”.


III·14  |  the problem of reconciling

well pleased”

» cf. Matthew 3:17, the voice from heaven after Jesus is baptised 

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”


King Cophetua

» A legendary African king who was uninterested in women until he fell in love with a beggar girl. A ballad on the subject was included by Thomas Percy in his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), II.6. The theme was taken up by Alfred Tennyson in his poem “The Beggar Maid”  –

... Barefooted came the beggar maid
Before the king Cophetua.
In robe and crown the king stept down,
To meet and greet her on her way ...

So sweet a face, such angel grace,
In all that land had never been:
Cophetua sware a royal oath:
“This beggar maid shall be my queen!”


III·16  |  the truth is


» Sister to Sebastian in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night.


A modern pantheistic philosopher ... when the Absolute falls into the sea it becomes a fish”

» Bernard Bosanquet (1848-1923), Logic, or The Morphology of Knowledge (1911), vol. 2 (Book II, ch. VIII.1.5), p. 257 

When the Absolute tumbles into the water it becomes a fish; so in asserting itself under this or that condition of its own imposing it becomes Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones.


Human love, as Plato teaches us, is the child of Poverty

» Plato, Symposion 203b-e, Diotima speaking 

When Aphrodite was born, the gods made a great feast, and among the company was Resource [Greek Poros] the son of Cunning [Mētis]. And when they had banqueted there came Poverty [Penia] abegging, as well she might in an hour of good cheer, and hung about the door. Now Resource, grown tipsy with nectarfor wine as yet there was nonewent into the garden of Zeus, and there, overcome with heaviness, slept. Then Poverty, being of herself so resourceless, devised the scheme of having a child by Resource, and lying down by his side she conceived Love [Erōs]. Hence it is that Love from the beginning has been attendant and minister to Aphrodite, since he was begotten on the day of her birth, and is, moreover, by nature a lover bent on beauty since Aphrodite is beautiful. Now, as the son of Resource and Poverty, Love is in a peculiar case. First, he is ever poor, and far from tender or beautiful as most suppose him: rather is he hard and parched, shoeless and homeless; on the bare ground always he lies with no bedding, and takes his rest on doorsteps and waysides in the open air; true to his mothers nature, he ever dwells with want. But he takes after his father in scheming for all that is beautiful and good; for he is brave, strenuous and high-strung, a famous hunter, always weaving some stratagem; desirous and competent of wisdom, throughout life ensuing the truth; a master of jugglery, witchcraft, and artful speech. By birth neither immortal nor mortal, in the selfsame day he is flourishing and alive at the hour when he is abounding in resource; at another he is dying, and then reviving again by force of his fathers nature: yet the resources that he gets will ever be ebbing away; so that Love is at no time either resourceless or wealthy, and furthermore, he stands midway betwixt wisdom and ignorance.

translation H. N. Fowler (1925), in the Perseus Digital Library; original Greek names inserted. In Benjamin Jowett’s translation (1871), Poros is translated as Plenty; the Dutch translator Gerard Koolschijn renders it as Succes. Thus Love is not just the son of Poverty (his mother) but also of its opposite (his father).



» It is hard to guess what Lewis hoped to add or clarify by adding the German word for “appearance”.


III·17  |  the first condition

His glory’s diminution”

» John Milton, Samson Agonistes (1671), 303. The “human irreverence” here is not so much a refusal to worship as the entertaining of doubts about God’s justice:

Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just,
As to his own edicts found contradicting;
Then give the reins to wandering thought,
Regardless of his glory’s diminution,
Till, by their own perplexities involved,
They ravel more, still less resolved,
But never find self-satisfying solution.

Lewis again refers to this line in VI·8.


bidden to put on Christ”

» Romans 13:12-14 

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light ... put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.

The idea of “putting on Christ” also appears, though not as a command, in Galatians 3:26‑27  –

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.


III·18  |  yet perhaps even

George Macdonald ... “You must be strong with my strength ...”

» From Macdonald’s novel Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood (1867), chapter 30, “A Sermon to Myself”. The passage appears in Lewis’s Macdonald Anthology as Nr. 277, “On a chapter in Isaiah” (i.e. Isaiah 40):

The power of God is put side by side with the weakness of men, not that He, the perfect, may glory over His feeble children ... but that He may say thus: “Look, my children, you will never be strong but with my strength. I have no other to give you.”




Chapter IV:  Human Wickedness


chapter motto

Law. Serious Call

» William Law (1686-1761), English theologian. As a non-juror he could not hold functions in the Church of England; as author of A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728) he became an important inspiration for Evangelical Christianity, notably influencing the Wesley brothers.


IV·1  |  the examples given

the Pagan mysteries

» “Mysteries” in the present context are secret religious ceremonies by which people in the ancient Greek and Roman world hoped to attain liberation, redemption, cleansing and a happy life after death.


Epicurean philosophy

» Epicurus (341-270 BC) was a Greek philosopher who considered Pleasure as the supreme good. One famous saying of Epicurus explains why he did not fear death: “When we are, death is not come, and when death is come, we are not”  – Letter to Menoeceus, in Diogenus Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book X, 125; Loeb vol. 145, p. 651.


the Gospel appeared as good news

» The word “gospel” is derived from Old English gōd spell, “good message”. This is a translation of Greek euaggelion, or Latin evangelium, as found in many places in the New Testament, e.g. Mark 1:14 and Romans 1:1.


IV·2  |  there are two


» Like “humanitarian”, this word dates from the 19th century and had various meanings. The broadly philanthropic meaning, which is now the most current one, was often used with contemptuous or hostile overtones referring to alleged exaggeration (see Oxford English Dictionary).


IV·3  |  the second cause

the effect of Psycho-analysis on the public mind

» Cf. the reference to “a famous psycho-analyst” (Sigmund Freud) in I·16.


the Trojans ... pulled the Horse into Troy

» Homer, Odyssey IV.271-273 and VIII.492ff; Virgil, Aeneid II.


IV·4  |  a recovery of

the dying farmer who replied to the Vicar’s dissertation on repentance

» ... ??


IV·6  |  when we merely

the wrath” of God ... a mere corollary from God’s goodness

» Cf. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress X.3: “Men say that his love and his wrath are one thing.” There is a possible allusion here to George Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons II.2, “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity” (on Mark 8:21) 

The door must be opened by the willing hand, ere the foot of Love will cross the threshold. He watches to see the door move from within. Every tempest is but an assault in the siege of Love. The terror of God is but the other side of His love; it is love outside, that would be inside – love that knows the house is no house, only a place, until it enter.

Lewis quoted this passage as Nr. 84 in his Macdonald Anthology. However, “wrath” is a word rarely used by Macdonald; and he doesn’t use it here. One of many other possible inspirations is Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy (see note to I·5, above), ch. IV.3, p. 24, perhaps with reference to Jakob Böhme 

Love, says one of the mystics, is nothing else than quenched Wrath.


IV·10  |  4. we must guard


» i.e. heroic and idealistic in impractical and often ridiculous ways – like Don Quixote, hero of the early-17th century Spanish novel Don Quijote by Miguel de Cervantes.


pocket of evil

» At the time of writing this book, Lewis had already given fictional expression to this idea in his space-travel novel Out of the Silent Planet (1938). The “Silent Planet” here is the Earth as a pocket evil and as such cut off from communication with the other planets.


Zarathustra, Jeremiah, Socrates, Gotama, ... Marcus Aurelius

» Zarathustra, or Zoroaster was a Persian prophet who probably lived long before 1000 BC; Jeremiah is one of the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible; Socrates was an ancient Greek philosopher (469-399 BC) whose teachings were recorded in dialogues written by his pupil Plato; Gotama, or Gautama the Buddha (the “enlightened one”), was a spiritual teacher of ancient India (6th-5th century BC) whose teachings were the basis of Buddhism; Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor (161-180 CE) whose Meditations became a classic of Stoic philosophy.


justice, mercy, fortitude and temperance

» If prudence (or wisdom) is substituted for mercy, the result is the set of four “Cardinal Virtues” found in the work of ancient Greek, Roman and Christian authors (Plato, Cicero, Augustine) and also in Lewis’s Mere Christianity III.2. See, for example, Plato’s Phaedo, 68c-69b.


IV·12  |  6. perhaps my harping

Plato ... virtue is one

» Republic 445c (Jowett’s translation) 

The argument seems to have reached a height from which, as from some tower of speculation, a man may look down and see that virtue is one, but that the forms of vice are innumerable ...

Or in Robin Waterfield’s translation (1994)

... the impression I get from the vantage-point we’ve reached at this point of our discussion is that while there’s only one kind of goodness, there are countless types of badness ...

See also Plato’s early dialogue on whether virtue is something teachable, Protagoras, 328d-334c.


IV·13  |  7. some modern theologians

Some modern theologians

» ... ??


The road to the promised land runs past Sinai

» As recounted in the book of Exodus, three months after making their escape from Egypt the Israelites, led by Moses, arrived in the desert of Sinai and “camped before the mount” (Ex. 19:3). Moses then climbs Mount Sinai, where God tells him that “if you [i.e. the people] will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a particular treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine.” During later encounters with Moses on Mount Sinai, God issues the Ten Commandments – first in speaking, then on “two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” (31:18).


IV·14  |  8. “let no man

the idealistic doctrine that it is merely a result of our being finite

» The reference here may be, among other things, to Lewis’s own earlier position. “Idealism” in this context is a philosophical school or tendency which was on the wane but still dominant in Oxford when Lewis arrived there as a student in and after the First World War. After an early phase of materialistic atheism developed in his teens, Lewis became a philosophical idealist himself, a process completed by the time he began writing his long poem Dymer in the spring of 1922. Perhaps briefly before his conversion to Theism in mid-1930 he wrote, as part of his polemic with Owen Barfield of those years, a short essay known as De Bono et Malo (“On Good and Evil”) that seems to imply the “idealistic doctrine” mentioned here:

What tends towards the recovery of our life as Spirit ... I call the Better: what tends in the opposite direction I call the Worse. Good and Evil are the ideal terms of these two directions; neither of which is revealed in human experience. ... Absolute good, then, like absolute evil, is incompatible with soul life ...

(“De Bono et Malo”, in The Great War of Owen Barfield and C. S. Lewis: Philosophical Writings, 1927-1930, ed. Norbert Feinendegen and Arend Smilde, Journal of Inklings Studies Supplements No. 1, 2015, p. 131-134.)

      In his last book, Letters to Malcolm, ch. 8, Lewis mentioned the idea that “evil is inherent in finitude” as one he associates with Reinhold Niebuhr (cf. note to V·5, below).


the Pauline epistles

» i.e. the thirteen New Testament “books” after the Book of Acts that were written as letters by the Apostle Paul to various Christian communities and some individuals. In seven cases the authorship is disputed. Lewis is presumably thinking of such (genuinely Pauline) passages as Romans 7:13-26 and Galatians 5:17.


IV·15  |  this chapter will

Humility, after the first shock, is a cheerful virtue

» cf. Immanuel Kant in chapter I.1.3 from Critique of Practical Reason (as referred to in chapter VI, below):

Die Achtung ist so wenig ein Gefühl der Lust, daß man sich ihr in Ansehung eines Menschen nur ungern überläßt. ... Sogar das moralische Gesetz selbst in seiner feierlichen Majestät ist diesem Bestreben, sich der Achtung dagegen zu erwehren, ausgesetzt. ... Gleichwohl ist dar­in doch auch wiederum so wenig Unlust, daß, wenn man einmal den Eigendünkel ab­ge­legt und jener Achtung praktischen Einfluß ver­stattet hat, man sich wiederum an der Herr­lich­keit dieses Gesetzes nicht sattsehen kann, und die Seele sich in dem Maß selbst zu erheben glaubt, als sie das heilige Gesetz über sich und ihre gebrechliche Natur erhaben sieht. (Vorländer p. 90-91)

Respect is so far from being a feeling of pleasure that we only reluctantly give way to it as regards a man. ... Even the moral law itself in its solemn majesty is exposed to this endeavour to save oneself from yielding it respect. ... Nevertheless .. so little is there pain in it that if once one has laid aside self-conceit and allowed practical influence to that respect, he can never be satisfied with contemplating the majesty of this law, and the soul be­lieves itself elevated in proportion as it sees the holy law elevated above it and its frail nature. (par. 9; Abbot p. 170)


the holier a man is, the more fully he is aware

» Cf. the way Lewis expressed this insight in his 1945 novel That Hideous Strength, ch. 10.4, where Dr Dimble looks back on his own recent fit of “real anger”. Quoting the words “thus I shall always do, whenever You leave me to myself” as part of Dimble’s musings, Lewis alludes to 17th-century spiritual writer Nicolas Herman. In the latter’s work (mentioned in the one footnote to ch. 7), the phrase illustrates his growing awareness that the nearer a man is to God, the more this boon is offset by feelings of utter unworthiness




Chapter V:  The Fall of Man


chapter motto


» Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), French writer. His main work, the Essais (1588), is a large collection of tentative reflec­tions on his reading and the develop­ment of his own ideas. Lewis is quoting from the longest chapter (II.12), “Apologie for Raimond de Sebonde”. The original French phrase is

... l’obeyr est le propre office d’une ame raisonnable ...

while the English quotation appears to come from the Cotton/Hazlitt edition of 1877, Vol. 2, p. 206:

The first law that ever God gave to man was a law of pure obedience: it was a commandment naked and simple, wherein man had nothing to inquire after or to dispute, forasmuch as to obey is the proper office of a rational soul, acknowledging a heavenly superior and benefactor. From obedience and submission spring all other virtues, as all sin does from self-opinion. And, on the contrary, the first temptation that by the devil was offered to human nature, its first poison, insinuated itself by the promises that were made to us of knowledge and wisdom : “Eritis sicut dii, scientes bonum et malum [Genesis 3:5].”

Montaigne’s “apology” is nominally a defence of a 15th-century work of natural theology by the Catalan monk Raymond Sebond. He defends it first against anti-intellectual attacks and then, at very much greater length, against intellectual ones; his own position is one of staunch and happy allegiance to the Catholic Church as the established religion on the one hand, and on the other, rather more emphatically, a profound and wide-ranging scepticism about human knowledge.

      Though Lewis loved the Essais he certainly did not regard Montaigne as a spiritual guide, as illustrated by a remark in a 1955 letter to Dorothy Sayers: “I hope you love him! Love – I didn’t say approve or esteem” (CL3, 635). In his own early book The Pilgrim’s Regress (ch. V/4) the allegorical character called Mr. Sensible quotes Montaigne’s famous motto Que sais-je? (“What do I know?”), which is also found in the Apology for Raymond Sebond. In another letter, referring to Mr. Sensible Lewis called Montaigne “the best specimen of that type” (CL3, 497).

      The passage on obedience is also quoted in chapter 11, “Hierarchy”, in A Preface to Paradise Lost, where Lewis suggests that Shakespeare subscribed to the same view.


V·1  |  the christian answer

we sinned in Adam”

» The phrase “sinning in Adam” was used by some Church Fathers including Ambrosius and Augustine on the basis of what St Paul wrote in Romans 5:12, but it is not, as a phrase, actually found there 

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ...

The word “by” here represents Greek dia; more problematically, “for that” represents Greek eph ōi (with eph as a form of epi). In modern translations this is often rendered as “because”, but this is disputable, and the antecedent of ōi is uncertain. The only more or less related “in Adam” phrase in the New Testament is in I Corinthians 15:22 

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Here the preposition “in” represents Greek en.

      See also note to V·4, below.


immortal germ plasm”

» The germ-plasm theory was developed in the late 19th century by German biologist August Weismann. It served to establish the modern insight that biological heredity is not a matter of just any cell or organ as such potentially acquiring useful characteristics, but of a special category of germ cells as distinct from somatic cells (body cells). Weismann’s term Keimplasma is com­monly rendered as “germ plasm”. Today, the concept is usually expressed by terms like “genetic material”. The point to note with regard to Lewis’s use is that Weismann’s theory brought out the basically ineradicable nature of hereditary characteristics.


V·3  |  in the developed

modern anthropologists and missionaries

» Cf. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, ch. 4, “God and Comparative Religion”, par. 10 (p. 101 in 1947 Hodder & Stoughton edition) 

Some of the very rudest savages, primitive in every sense in which anthropologists use the word, ... are found to have a pure monotheism with a high moral tone. A missionary was preaching to a very wild tribe of polytheists, who had told him all their polytheistic tales, and telling them in return of the existence of the one good God who is a spirit and judges men by spiritual standards. And there was a sudden buzz of excitement among these stolid barbarians, as at somebody who was letting out a secret, and they cried to each other, “Atahocan! He is speaking of Atahocan!”


V·4  |  science, then, has

the modern theologian ... N. P. Williams

» Published in 1927, when the author became Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity in Oxford, the book cited here became a 20th-century classic in its field. Lewis read it shortly before he wrote The Problem of Pain, perhaps as a preparation. From a letter of 24 October 1940 it appears he was not much impressed by it (CL2, 450):

... to tell you the truth [I] didn’t find [Williams] very helpful. The man who can dismiss “sinned in Adam” as an “idiom” and identify virtue with the herd instinct is no use to me, despite his very great learning.


V·5  |  this sin has

the journey homeward to habitual self”

» John Keats, Endymion (1818) II, 276. After exploring a “marble gallery” or “mimic temple” where he has acquainted himself “with every mystery, and awe”, the hero sits down and then,

        when new wonders ceas’d to float before,
And thoughts of self came on, how crude and sore
The journey homeward to habitual self!


“myth” in the Socratic sense

» In addition to Lewis’s footnote, see the article “Plato’s Myths” by Cătălin Partenie in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu. The following passage in section 2 (with a reference to the 1998 book Plato the Myth Maker by L. Brisson) seems especially relevant.

The myths Plato invents, as well as the traditional myths he uses, are narratives that are non-falsifiable, for they depict particular beings, deeds, places or events that are beyond our experience: the gods, the daemons, the heroes, the life of soul after death, the distant past, etc. Myths are also fantastical, but they are not inherently irrational and they are not targeted at the irrational parts of the soul. ... [I]n the Republic, Socrates says that until philosophers take control of a city “the politeia whose story we are telling in words (muthologein) will not achieve its fulfillment in practice” (501e2–5). The con­struction of the ideal city may be called a “myth” in the sense that it depicts an imaginary polis (cf. 420c2: “We imagine the happy state”). In the Phaedrus (237a9, 241e8) the word muthos is used to name “the rhetorical exercise which Socrates carries out” (Brisson, 144), but this seems to be a loose usage of the word.

Lewis himself explained the concept much later in his review of a 1960 book on the poet Edmund Spenser:

Dr Ellrodt holds it impossible that so Christian a poet as Spenser can really mean that rational, human souls undergo reincarnation. … I admit that the poets sometimes talk as if there were not a three-storied soul, but three distinct souls, in man. But … We need not hold that Spenser “be­lieved this in the same sense that he believed his creed. He might well have said, like Johnson, that what scripture teaches on such matters is certain, and what “philosophy teaches is probable; at least, probable enough for poetry. … It is a permissible specula­tion. It is, as Plato’s “myths were to Plato himself, a not unlikely tale.

–– “Neoplatonism in the Poetry of Spenser” (1961), in Essays on Medieval and Renaissance Literature, ed. Walter Hooper (1966), p. 154.




Dr. Niebuhr’s sense  (note)

» Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), American theologian. In a 1958 letter Lewis reports that he had read “one book of Niebuhr’s – I can’t remember the title – and on the whole reacted against it” (CL3, 979). In a letter of 14 January 1940 to his brother he men­tions his reading Niebuhr’s 1935 book An Interpretation of Christian Ethics and finding it “very disagreeable but not unprofitable” (CL2, 324). Lewis may well have been thinking of the following passage from Niebuhr’s first chapter (pp. 12-13):

It is the genius of true myth to suggest the dimension of depth in reality and to point to a realm of essence which transcends the surface of history, on which the cause-effect sequences, discovered and analysed by science, occur. ... The religious myth ... points to the ultimate ground of existence and its ultimate fulfillment. Therefore the great religious myths deal with creation and redemption. But since myth cannot speak of the trans-historical without using symbols and events in history as its forms of expression, it invariably falsifies the facts of history, as seen by science, to state its truth.


V·6  |  for long centuries

brutes sporting before Adam ... God came first in his love and in his thought, and that without painful effort

» Several elements of this speculative account of Paradisal man appear in Lewis’s fantasy about the “Green Lady”, or Paradisal woman, in his second Ransom novel, Perelandra (1942), for example in the second half of chapter 5.


V·9  |  this act of

the difficulty about the first sin

» Lewis’s earliest published mention of Perelandra, in a letter of 9 November 1941 to Sister Penelope, seems to refer to this same difficulty of conceiving precisely what kind of creature and action were in­volved by the Fall. Having just finished describing Ransom’s first conversation on Venus with “the Eve of that world” (i.e. presumably chapter 5), he mused:

I may have embarked on the impossible. This woman has got to combine characteristics which the Fall has put poles apart – she’s got to be in some ways like a Pagan goddess and in other ways like the Blessed Virgin.


V·10  |  up to that moment

Dust thou art, and unto dust ... ”

» Genesis 3:19.


Hooker’s conception of Law

» For Hooker, see note to the motto of ch. VII, below. While that motto does refer to “law”, it is less immediately relevant to Lewis’s present purpose than a quotation found in the Appendix to The Abolition of Man, VIII.B:

The soul then ought to conduct the body, and the spirit of our minds the soul. This is therefore the first Law, whereby the highest power of the mind requireth obedience at the hands of all the rest. (Laws of Eccl. Polity I.8.6)

The same quotation is found in the helpful context of the section on Hooker in Lewis’s English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, p. 460. As he points out and argues, few systems or models of the universe “are more filled – one might say, more drenched – with Deity” than Hooker’s (459). Having established this, Lewis goes on to reflect that

[s]ometimes a suspicion crosses our mind that the doctrine of the Fall did not loom quite large enough in his universe. Logically, we must grant, it was pivotal: it is only because Adam fell that supernatural laws have come in at all, replacing that natural path to beatitude which is now lost. ... It is only because Adam fell that we need “public regiment” ...


V·11  |  god might have

not necessary to suppose that they also have fallen

» When Lewis wrote this, his first great imaginative development of this idea had already been published as the science-fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet (1938); the next was to follow in its sequel Perelandra (1942).


V·13  |  with this i have


» i.e. “mutual inspiration”. The related verb inter-inanimate seems to have been coined by the English poet John Donne (1572-1631) in his poem “The Ecstasy” (or “Exstasie”), 41-44:

When love with one another so
interinanimates two soules,
That abler soule, which thence doth flow,
Defects of lonelinesse controules.

The Oxford English Dictionary only has an entry for “interanimate” (without the inserted -in-), quoting Donne’s line as the only source and dubbing the word “rare”. Lewis may have been an uncommonly frequent user of the word since it appears in at least five of his books – mostly as the variant with -in-. (As Helen Gardner notes in her 1965 edition of Donne’s poems, the great majority of old manuscript sources for this poem have “interinanimates”, not “interanimates”, but the latter variety is the one found in the first edition, 1633.)


excluded by the whole tenor of our faith

» This “whole tenor” seems to be briefly defined by Lewi’s own observation, in the chapter on Divine Omnipotence (II·7), that

being Christians, we learn from the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity that something analogous to “society” exists within the Divine being from all eternity – that God is Love, not merely in the sense of begin the Platonic form of love, but because, within him, the concrete reciprocities of love exist before all worlds and are thence derived to the creatures.




Chapter VI:  Human Pain


chapter motto

Theologia Germanica

» A mystical text in German dating from the mid-14th century, with guidelines for a Christ-like life that would lead to perfect union of God and man. The treatise was much commended by Martin Luther, who devised the title – Theologia Deutsch – to highlight the fact that the text was not in Latin. The further implication was that the book had all the advantages of plain language and simple devotion unencumbered by academic learning.


VI·3  |  now the proper

... the patters which man was made to imitate ... [T]here ... is Heaven, and there the Holy Ghost proceeds

» Lewis appears to be suggesting a subtly reconciling position in an ancient and still unresolved controversy within Christendom: the so-called Filioque issue. Latin Filioque means “and the Son”, and the issue is whether the Holy Ghost, as the third Person of the Trinity, proceeds “from the Father” or “from the Father and the Son”. The statement under discussion is an article from the Nicene Creed:

Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum, et vivificantem:
qui ex Patre Filioque procedit

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

The addition of Filioque here represents the “Western” position, while the Eastern Church holds to the view that the Son and the Ghost each “proceed” from the Father, as suggested by John 8:42 and 15:26 respectively.

      Lewis gave a fuller statement of his view in his fourth series of BBC radio talks, Beyond Personality (1944), later reprinted as book IV of Mere Christianity (1952), ch. 4.


as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms

» John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons III (1836), Nr. 7, “Christian Repentance” (on Luke 15:18-19), p. 96 in the 1868 New Edition:

The most noble repentance (if a fallen being can be noble in his fall), the most decorous conduct in a conscious sinner, is an unconditional surrender of himself to God ... He is a runaway offender; he must come back, as a very first step, before anything can be determined about him, bad or good; he is a rebel, and must lay down his arms.

Lewis quotes the same phrase almost literally, but without reference, in Mere Christianity IV.4, “The Perfect Penitent”.


the very history of the word Mortification”

» By “history” Lewis may here simply mean the word’s etymology. Latin mortificare literally means “to make dead” i.e. “to kill”, and Latin mortificatio is the word for “killing” or “annihilation”; from mors or mortuus “dead” and facere “make”.


error and sin ... the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence

» Cf. Perelandra, ch. 17 

“There is an ignorance of evil that comes from being young: there is a darker ignorance that comes from doing it, as men by sleeping lose the knowledge of sleep.”


VI·5  |  the human spirit

Sadism and Masochism

» Each term is derived from the name of a novelist who described the practice in question: Sadism is named after the French writer Marquis de Sade (1740-1814); “Masochism”, a word coined in 1886 in a book on sexual psychopathology, refers to the 19th-century Austrian novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836–1895).


VI·6  |  a perception of this

by so doing they render all punishment unjust

» Lewis developed this idea years later in his two-part essay “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” (1949 & 1954).


Hobbes’s definition of Revengefulness

» Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), English philosopher. His fundamental proposition was that all human action is ultimately based on self-interest. Lewis is quoting from one of Hobbes’s main works, Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Eccleciastical and Civil (1651).


VI·7  |  when our ancestors

God’s vengeance”

» Acts or intentions of vengeance are frequently attributed to or claimed by God throughout the Bible, as in Deuteronomy 32:35-36, Isaiah 35:4 (also including “recompence”), Romans12:19 and Hebrews 10:30, though hardly in the four Gospels.


Hardy and Housman

» Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), English novelist and poet; A. E. Housman (1859-1936), English poet.


Mr. Huxley

» Aldous Huxley (1895-1963), English novelist and essayist. Lewis is probably thinking of Huxley’s then recent book Ends and Means (1937), which is also alluded to later in this same chapter; see note to VI·15, below.


VI·8  |  if the first

St. Augustine ... God wants to give us something ...

» Lewis seems to use the same reference in a letter of 31 March 1958 to Mary Willis Shelburne (CL3, 930). In a footnote to that letter Walter Hooper suggests Lewis was thinking of a passage in Augustine’s homily (or exposition) on Psalm 122, in the section on the second half of verse 6 (Et abundantia diligentibus te, “they shall prosper that love thee”):

... “And plenteousness,” he addeth, “for them that love thee.” ... How have they become rich? Because they gave here what they received from God for a season, and received there what God will afterwards pay back for evermore. Here, my brethren, even rich men are poor. It is a good thing for a rich man to acknowledge himself poor: for if he think himself full, that is mere puffing, not plenteousness. Let him own himself empty, that he may be filled.

(Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Vol. 8, p. 1184)


as if St. Augustine wanted unbaptised infants to go to Hell

» See, for example, Augustine’s
De peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum ad Marcellinum, Book I, ch. 16 [21] (Migne, Patrologia Latina Vol. 44, col. 125). English: “A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants”, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, Vol. 5: “Unbaptised infants damned, but most lightly”.

Enchiridion ad Laurentium, ch. 43, 46 and 93 (English in NPNF I.3).
Sermones ad populum III (“De Sanctis”), Nr. 294, De baptismo parvulorum, contra Pelagianos, ch. 3 (Migne, PL 38, 1337).

Contra Iulianum  Pelagianum Book 5, ch. 11.44 (Migne, PL 44, 809).


He stoops to conquer

» After the title of Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy She Stoops to Conquer (1773).


unmindful of His glory’s diminution”

» Cf. note to III·17, above.


VI·11  |  here we tread

Kant thought that no action had moral value unless ... the moral law

» Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), German philosopher. Lewis may be referring to Kant’s Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (1788), First Part, Book I, chapter 3, “Von den Triebfedern der reinen praktischen Vernunft” (Critique of Practical Reason, “Of the Motives of Pure Practical Reason”). The chapter’s opening sentences are:

Das Wesentliche alles sittlichen Werts der Handlungen kommt darauf an, daß das mora­lische Gesetz unmittelbar den Willen bestim­me. Geschieht die Willens­bestim­mung zwar gemäß dem morali­schen Ge­setze, aber nur vermittelst eines Gefühls, welcher Art es auch sei, das vorausgesetzt werden muß, damit jenes ein hinreich­en­der Bestimmungs­grund des Willens werde, mithin nicht um des Gesetzes wil­len, so wird die Handlung zwar Lega­lität, aber nicht Moralität enthal­ten.

(ed. Karl Vorländer, 9th ed., Hamburg 1929, p. 84)

What is essential in the moral worth of actions is that the moral law should directly determine the will. If the de­ter­mination of the will takes place in con­formity in­deed to the moral law, but only by means of a feeling, no matter of what kind, which has to be pre­sup­posed in order that the law may be sufficient to determine the will, and therefore not for the sake of the law, then the action will pos­sess legality but not morality.

(translation Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, 4th ed., 1889, p. 164)

Further on, there is the statement (par. 16)

Plicht und Schuldigkeit sind die Benen­nun­gen, die wir allein unserem Verhältnisse zum moralischen Gesetze geben müssen.

(Vorländer p. 96)

Duty and obligation are the only names that we must give to our relation to the moral law.

(Abbott p. 175)

The same chapter features a famous panegyric on “Duty” (par. 21):

Pflicht! du erhabener, großer Name, der du nichts Beliebtes, was Ein­schmeiche­lung bei sich führt, in dir fassest, son­dern Unter­­wer­fung verlangst, doch auch nichts drohest, was natürliche Abnei­gung im Gemüthe er­regte und schreckte, um den Willen zu be­wegen, sondern blos ein Gesetz aufstellst, welches von selbst im Gemüthe Eingang findet und doch sich selbst wider Willen Verehrung (wenn gleich nicht immer Befol­gung) er­wirbt, vor dem alle Neigungen ver­stum­men, wenn sie gleich ingeheim ihm entgegen wir­ken: wel­ches ist der deiner wür­dige Ur­sprung, und wo findet man die Wurzel deiner edlen Abkunft, welche alle Ver­wandt­schaft mit Nei­gun­gen stolz aus­schlägt, und von welcher Wurzel abzu­stam­men, die unnach­laß­liche Bedingung des­jeni­gen Werths ist, den sich Menschen allein selbst geben kön­nen?

(Vorländer p. 101)

Duty! Thou sublime and mighty name that dost embrace nothing charming or insinuat­ing, but requirest submis­sion, and yet seekest not to move the will by threatening aught that would arouse natural aversion or terror, but merely holdest forth a law which of itself finds entrance into the mind, and yet gains reluctant reverence (though not always obedience), a law before which all in­clinations are dumb, even though they secretly counter-work it; what origin is there worthy of thee, and where is to be found the root of thy noble descent which proudly re­jects all kindred with the inclinations; a root to be derived from which is the indispensable condi­tion of the only worth which men can give them­selves?

(Abbott p. 180)



he has been accused of a “morbid frame of mind”

» ... ??


against Kant stands the obvious truth, noted by Aristotle ... as a Christian I suggest the following solution

» Lewis’s Christian solution to what he calls the “conflict between the ethics of duty and the ethics of virtue” was perhaps partly inspired by the medieval English mystic Julian of Norwich, as appears from a letter he wrote to Owen Barfield of 2 June 1940 (CL2, 418-419). In March of that year Lewis had read Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love, and in the letter he noted that

[she] seems, in the Fifteenth century, to have rivalled Thomas Aquinas’ reconciliation of Aristotle and Christianity by nearly reconciling Christianity with Kant.

On the other hand, in the first paragraph of his 1941 sermon “The Weight of Glory” Lewis points out that

[i]f there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.


Aristotle ... the more virtuous a man becomes the more he enjoys virtuous actions

» Cf. Aristotle’s Ethics II.2 (1104b).

And for a test of the formation of the habits we must take the pleasure or pain which succeeds the acts; for he is perfected in Self-Mastery who not only abstains from the bodily pleasures but is glad to do so; whereas he who abstains but is sorry to do it has not Self-Mastery: he again is brave who stands up against danger, either with positive pleasure or at least without any pain; whereas he who does it with pain is not brave.

[translation by D. P. Chase, Everyman edition, 1911]


VI·12  |  it has sometimes

whether God commands certain things because they are right, or ...

» In philosophical theology, the question has long been known as the “Euthyphro dilemma”.


with Hooker, and against Dr. Johnson … “they err who think that the will of God …”

» For Hooker, see note to the motto of ch. VII, below. Lewis’s footnote contains an error: “I, i, 5” should be “I, ii, 5”, i.e. he is referring not to chapter 1 in Book I of Hooker’s Laws of the Ecclesiastical Polity, but to chapter 2: “Of that law which God from before the beginning hath set for himself to do all things by”. Lewis was to use exactly the same quote (with the same defect to the reference) in chapter 1 of his later book English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954). p. 49:

We must not suppose that the medieval conception of Natural Lew vanished overnight. … In the first book of Hooker we find that God Himself, though the author, is also the voluntary subject, of law. “They err who think that of the will of God to do this or that there is no reason besides his will” (I. i. 5). God does nothing except in pursuance of that “constant Order and Law” of goodness which He has appointed to Himself. nowhere outside the minds of devils and bad men is there a sic volo, sic jubeo.

» Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), one of the great figures of English literary history, was a poet, essayist, biographer, novelist, and lexicographer. He was also famous as a con­ver­sationalist, thanks to the 1791 biography by James Boswell, The Life of Dr. Johnson. Lewis may have thought of a passage toward the end of the section deal­ing with the year 1780, recording Johnson’s observation that “the idea of a Creator must be such as that He has a power to unmake or annihilate His creature”, and Boswell’s reply, “Then it cannot be conceived that a creature can make laws for its Creator.” Boswell then adds in a footnote,

His profound admiration of the Great First Cause was such as to set him above that “Philosophy and vain deceit” [Colossians, ii. 8] with which men of narrower conceptions have been infected. I have heard him strongly maintain that “what is right is not so from any natural fitness, but because God wills it to be right;” and it is certainly so, because He has predisposed the relations of things so as that which He wills must be right.



» William Paley (1743-1805), English theologian. ... ??


VI·13  |  we therefore agree

we agree with Kant so far as to say that there is one right act ... which cannot be willed to the height by fallen creatures unless it is unpleasant

» Obviously Lewis does not mean that Kant made a similar statement about the self-surrender of fallen creatures; he means that this crucial aspect of a Christian “solution” accords with Kant’s view of morality as a necessarily unpleasant affair. However, Lewis has so far only suggested that this view of morality is something Kant was “accused of” (VI·11). Thus Lewis appears to have been in two minds as to whether the accusation was true. At the same time, he has just distinguished “obedience” from “the content of our obedience”, and the distinction appears to allow him to be slightly more Kantian than Kant on the unpleasantness of morality. Some actually Kantian passages on that subject are found in the chapter from Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason (I.1.3) cited above :

Denn alle Neigung und jeder sinnliche Antrieb ist auf Gefühl gegründet, und die negative Wirkung aufs Gefühl (durch den Abbruch, der den Neigungen geschieht) ist selbst Gefühl. Folglich können wir a priori einsehen, daß das moraliscshe Gesetz als Bestimmungsgrund des Willens, dadurch daß es allen unseren Neigun­gen Eintrag tut, ein Gefühl bewirken müsse, welches Schmerz genannt werden kann, und hier haben wir nun den ersten, vielleicht auch einzigen Fall, da wir aus Begriffen a priori das Verhältnis einer Erkenntnis (hier ist es einer reinen praktischen Vernunft) zum Gefühl der Lust oder Unlust bestimmen konnten. (Vorländer p. 85)

Das Bewußtsein einer freien Unterwerfung des Willens unter das Gesetz, doch als mit einem unvermeidlichen Zwange, der allen Neigun­gen, aber nur durch eigene Ver­nunft angetan wird, verbunden, ist nun die Achtung fürs Gesetz. ... Die Handlung, die nach diesem Gesetze .. objektiv praktisch ist, heiß Pflicht, welche .. in ihrem Be­griffe praktische Nöti­gung .. enthält. Das Gefühl, das aus dem Bewußtsein dieser Nötigung entspringt, ist .. allein praktisch ... Es enthält also, als Unter­werfung unter ein Gesetz, .. keine Lust, son­dern sofern vielmehr Unlust an der Hand­lung in sich. Dagegen aber, da dieser Zwang bloß durch Gesetzxgebung der eigenen Ver­nunft aus­geübt wird, enthält es auch Erhebung ... (Vorländer, p. 94)

Könnte .. ein vernünftig Geschöpf jemals da­hin kommen, alle moralischen Gesetze völlig gerne zu tun, so würde das soviel be­deuten als: es fände sich in ihm auch nicht einmal die Möglichkeit einer Be­gierde, die ihn zur Ab­weichung von ihnen reizte; denn die Über­windung einer sol­chen kosten dem Subjekt immer Auf­opfe­rung, bedarf also Selbstzwang, d.i. innere Nötigung zu dem, was man nicht ganz gern tut. Zu dieser Stufe der moralischen Gesinnung aber kann es ein Geschöpf niemals bringen. (Vorländer p. 97-98)

For all inclination and every sensible impulse is founded on feel­ing, and the negative effect produced on feeling (by the check on the in­cli­nations) is itself feeling; consequently, we can see à priori that the moral law, as a deter­min­ing principle of the will, must by thwart­ing all our inclinations pro­duce a feeling which may be cal­led pain; and in this we have the first, perhaps the only, instance in which we are able from à priori con­si­dera­tions to deter­mine the relation of a cog­­nition (in this case of pure prac­tical reason) to the feeling of pleasure or dis­pleasure. (par. 3, Abbot p. 165) 

The consciousness of a free submis­sion of the will to the law, yet com­bined with an inevitable con­straint put upon all in­clinations, though only by our own rea­son, is respect for the [moral] law. ... An action which is objectively practical according to this law .. is duty, and this .. includes in its concept practical obliga­tion ... The feeling that arises from the conscious­ness of this obligation is .. prac­tical only ... As submission to the law .. it contains in it no pleasure, but on the contrary, so far, pain in the action. On the other hand, however, ... it also con­tains something elevating ...

(par. 12, Abbott p. 173)

[I]f a rational creature could ever reach this point, that he thor­ough­ly likes to do all moral laws, this would mean that there does not exist in him even the pos­sibility of a desire that would tempt him to deviate from them; for to overcome such a desire always costs the subject some sacri­fice and therefore re­quires self-com­pulsion, that is, inward con­straint to something that one does not quite like to do; and no creature can ever reach this stage of moral disposition.

(par. 17; Abbott p. 176)


Abraham’s trial”

» As recounted in Genesis 22.


VI·14  |  if pain sometimes

strength, which, if Heaven gave it, may be called his own”

» Milton, Comus, 419; on Chastity. Cf. Charles Williams’s Oxford lecture, Feb. 1940.


he that loses his soul shall find it

» cf. Matthew 16:24-25 (and parallel places Mark 8:35 and Luke 9:24); Jesus speaking to his disciples.

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.


“backward mutters of dissevering powers”

» Milton, Comus, 817.


uncreative spell

» Compare IX·6, where Lewis uses the word “uncreating” rather than “uncreative”. The latter form seems to be the more appropriate in each case; it offer the best parallel to the phrase just quoted from Milton.


Christ on Calvary ... surrender to God does not falter though God “forsakes” it

» cf. Matthew 27:46,

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The “forsaking” comes in a Hebrew line quoted from the beginning of Psalm 22:2.

      Lewis, in thus describing the martyrdom or “accepted Death” as “the supreme enacting and perfection of Christianity”, was almost certainly remembering George Macdonald’s meditations on the subject. For some relevant passages see Lewis’s George Macdonald: An Anthology (1946), items 31-39, taken from Macdonald’s Unspoken Sermons, Series I, Nr. 8, “The Eloi”.

      There are similar allusions to Macdonald in Lewis’s Screwtape Letters (1942), letter VIII.

VI·15  |  the doctrine of death

the Mysteries

» See note to IV·1, above.


Mr. Huxley ... “non-attachment”

» cf. the reference to Aldous Huxley in VI·7, above. Huxley presented the concept of non-attachment in chapter 1 of his book Ends and Means: An Enquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods employed for their Realisation (1937), pp. 2-4:

Among [the] bewildering multiplicity of ideals which shall we choose?  The answer is that we shall choose none. ... [A]ll the ideals of human behaviour formulated by those who have been most successful in freeing themselves from the prejudices of their time and place are singularly alike. ... The enslaved have held up for admiration now this model of a man, not that; but at all times and in all places, the free have spoken with only one voice. It is difficult to find a single word that will adequately describe the ideal man of the free philosophers, the mystics, the founders of religions. “Non-attached” is perhaps the best. The ideal man is the non-attached man. ... Non-attachment to self and to what are called “the things of this world” has always been associated in the teachings of the philosophers and the founders of religions with attachment to an ultimate reality greater and more significant than the self. Greater and more significant than even the best things that this word has to offer.


an eternal gospel”

» While the term may ultimately derive from Revelation 14:6, Lewis had himself previously used the Latin form, evangelium eternum, to describe his own pre-Christian brand of pantheism as expounded by the allegorical figure of Mr. Wisdom in The Pilgrim’s Regress, Book VII, ch. 12:

...so far as I am at all, I am Spirit, and only by being Spirit maintain my short vitality as soul. See how life subsists by death and each becomes the other: for Spirit lives by dying perpetually into such things as we, and we also attain our truest life by dying to our mortal nature ... for this is the final meaning of all moral precepts, and the goodness of temperance and justice and of love itself is that they plunge the red heat of our separate and individual passions back in the ice brook of the Spirit ... What I tell you is the evangelium eternum.

Much less directly, though plausibly in view of the preceding reference to Aldous Huxley, there might be a connection with Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy. However, that book was not published until 1945, and its focus is on personal enlightenment rather than on any doctrine of death. The originally Latin term, philosophia perennis, originated in 16th-century Neo-Platonism.


the Light that lighteneth every man

» cf. John 1:7-9.