Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

What began the change was the very writing itself. Let no one lightly set about such a work. Memory, once waked, will play the tyrant. I found I must set down, (for I was speaking as before judges and must not lie) passions and thoughts of my own which I had clean forgotten. The past which I wrote down was not the past that I thought I had (all these years) been remembering. I did not, even when I had finished the book, see clearly many things that I see now. The change which the writing wrought in me (and of which I did not write) was only a beginning— only to prepare me for the gods’ surgery. They used my own pen to probe my wound […]  Lightly men talk of saying what they mean.  Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, ‘Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.’ A glib saying.  When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer.  Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?  How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

Read the entire brilliant novel by clicking here

Till We Have Faces is set in the land of Glome, a pagan, pre-Christian culture.  Lewis’ faithful Christian audience still feels alienated by the complexity of the meaning and the transcendent quality of his “myth retold” that cannot be pinned down and dissected as easily as Narnia. You won’t see an equation in this book as simple as Aslan= Jesus. In the novel the pagan priest responds to such trends,

“They demand to see such things clearly, as if the gods were no more than letters written in a book. I, King, have dealt with the gods for three generations of men, and I know that they dazzle our eyes and flow in and out of one another like eddies on a river, and nothing that is said clearly can be said truly about them.”

Here the priest mocks man’s desire to simplify the characteristics of God.  Lewis not only enlarges the banks of the river of God by claiming that His truth can be found in all of history and in every religion, but he chooses myth as the best conduit to express his views of God for its abstract quality and embodiment of universal reality (TOM 38) The revelation and emotions in myth connects us with reality more so than just using historical facts. Lewis was very clear that myth is not an allegory, where certain symbols concretely stand for certain concepts.  A myth tries to capture truth in a dream-like state, which emotionally impacts each reader in a different way (Glover) Myth is God expressing himself through the mind of poets; where as in the New Testament God chose to express himself through real situations and in human form (TOM 23.) Lewis said, “Not only the abstract thoughts of man but also his imaginative inventions must originate with God, and must in consequence reflect something of eternal truth. In making a myth, the story teller or “sub-creator” (that is, one under God, the prime Creator) is actually fulfilling God’s purpose and reflecting a splintered fragment of the true light. Pagan myths are therefore never just “lies”: there is always something of truth in them.”

I believe the Lord has been speaking everywhere, to all people in all sorts of different forms. Finding traces of Jehovah in the most unlikely places is my favorite. Don’t limit yourself, look around.

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