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Perelandra Reading Group

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Re: Perelandra Reading Group

Postby Stanley Anderson » 06 Mar 2009, 19:36

Jofa wrote:
Stanley Anderson wrote:But in any case, there was blood shed before that point by the Un-man and the frogs. But perhaps that is not your point?


Well, yeah, that's something that has been bothering me a bit. The fact that Lewis brings death into an unfallen world. Although it does not play the same role as that in Genesis - it is not sacrificial and does not signal atonement of sin.


Not sure how this plays into it, but remember also that apparently death does not come easy at this unfallen point in Perelandra -- Ransom's first "find" was not a dead frog, but a "mostly dead" (Princess Bride ref :smile: ) frog that he felt the need put out of its misery:

The frog proved remarkably hard to kill. When it was far too laste to desist he saw clearly that he had been a fool to make the attempt. Whatever its suffereings might be he had certainly increased and not diminished them. But he had to go through with it. The job seemed to take nearly an hour.


Could this killing act of Ransom's (as opposed to the Un-man's initial mutilation-but-not-actually-killing-completely act) be somehow construed as a sacrificial act with some kind of partial atonement intention? Presumably (but not certainly -- the text doesn't make it clear) the trail of frogs that Ransom discovers after are also possibly not yet dead, and he at last comes upon the Un-man in the act of mutilating another one. The text says "Then he [the Un-man] finished the operation, threw the bleeding ruin away, and looked up." I suppose the word "bleeding" would imply that the frog was still alive (not sure about that -- don't murder mystery detectives often talk about how a wound inflicted on a body after death doesn't bleed, and this fact often serves as a clue to their detecting who the real murderer is?)

In any case, this possibly suggests that the Un-man (or at least the demon controlling Weston) sees no value in actual killing at this point in an unfallen world and is "content" merely to inflict pain. I could go out on a theological limb (ignoring the advice that you quoted me quoting in the other thread, ""We should not speak without knowing clearly what we want to say." :smile: ) and guess that actually killing something in an unfallen world would actually defeat the Un-man's purpose. For killing could only put the victim in Paradise (guessing?). But his purpose was rather to spoil the place with sin and rebellion first if possible, but in the meantime, or as a second best alternative, to at least inflict pain and discomfort. So perhaps Ransom was in fact possibly thwarting that effort by actually killing it after the Un-man had mutilated it? (and of course he had to give up after the difficulty of killing the first one). But I'm not at all sure about this. Thoughts?

Two things come to my mind.

One is what I read in The Problem of Pain where Lewis writes about animal pain and implies that he thinks only some if any animals experience pain at all (saying they do not have a consciousness which would let them see time as passing and relate to what happens to them as sequences of events). He states that the animals that might have some kind of consciousness like that are the larger and more complex animals, especially those domesticated. So maybe he considered frogs (and birds?) as belonging to the lower category which does not experience pain/suffering and so excludes the question of their death meaning evil. Still gnawing on this thought.


Possibly, though the second paragraph of chapter 9 (where the quote above comes from) seems to make clear that this mutilation of the frogs was something horrid and evil:

On earth it would have been merely a nasty sight, but up to this moment Ransom had as yet seen nothing dead or spoiled on Perelandra, and it was like a blow in the face. It was like [series of horrid comparisons].... He told himself that a creature of that kind probably had very little sensation. But it did not much mend matters. It was not merely pity for pain that had suddenly changed the rhythm of his heart-beats. The thing was an intolerable obscenity which afflicted him with shame. It would have been better, or so he thought at that moment, for the whole universe never to have existed than for this one thing to have happened.


So whether or not the frogs "counted" in terms of pain, the act itself seems evil, if I understand Lewis' intent here correctly.

The other idea that just popped into my mind a few minutes ago is that Perelandra is not an alternative reality unconnected to Thulcandra and the whole universe. The Green Lady surprises Ransom with her knowledge of the fact that humans on Earth needed salvation and of the coming of the Messiah. So maybe simply through that death entered the whole universe and it does not need to be connected with sin? Or rather it is not a result of sin and a fall...it is a sign of the invasion of the Tempter. It accompanies him. But does not penetrate and/or infect the world which he entered.


This is amplified by the comments near the end (I think -- or is it at the beginning when Ransom is explaining things to Lewis and the doctor?) where it talks about how, now, since Maleldil has already become man, all future hnau would be of human form rather than the variety of hnau found on Malacandra who were created before the Incarnation. In a related matter, I've also made reference in the past to one of my pet theories that humor is a result of the fall. It's a big subject with lots of discussion in past threads years ago, but the basic idea is that had we not fallen, humor would have no meaning. This as I said is just a fun idea for me to think about and I don't hold it to be absolutely true, only a speculation of possibility. But in the past people have objected to the idea with comments about how that implies to them that God -- and by extension, Jesus, being unfallen -- would therefore not have humor or laughter, and that something as wonderful as humor does not seem inherently sinful.

My response (if the idea has any merit in the first place) is twofold, first that I am not implying that humor is sinful in itself, but only is a result of the fall, just as Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection were, if we can talk about them in this manner, also a "result" of the fall (ie, they would not have been necessary if we had not fallen), and yet we wouldn't say that the Resurrection was sinful. And second, just because something is a result of the fall does not mean it is "unavailable" to the unfallen -- it now exists and is there for "all to see" as it were. So, for example, another thing that is the result of the fall is that we cover our nakedness with clothes. And yet Jesus, who was unfallen, still wore clothes while he walked the earth (curiously, this idea may have a bearing on the fact that he was stripped of his garments on the cross -- the very point at which he took on the sins of the world. How does that fit in? Not sure, but it seems somehow significant). So if Jesus who was unfallen still wore clothes, then I can't see why he couldn't also "use" humor and laugh even if they were the result of the fall.

I'll just add too, in connection with clothes, that though they were a "result" of the fall, Scripture shows us in its imagery that the idea of clothes has been "taken up" into something holy and redeeming, since we read of being "clothed in righteousness" and "wearing white robes" and such. So I can equally imagine humor being "taken up" in holiness in a similar manner.

Anyway, all that is my long-winded round-about way of answering your question above, "So maybe simply through that death entered the whole universe and it does not need to be connected with sin?"

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Perelandra Reading Group

Postby Stanley Anderson » 08 Mar 2009, 00:04

Just a couple notes to add to my previous post:

Another example of something that wasn't initially part of God's plan (whatever that can mean in reality -- obviously His omniscience would cover all contingencies, but however it works up there in eternity... :smile: ) but that was apparently "incorporated" into his working out, was the fact that God didn't originally want his people to have kings in the way that the other nations had kings. But they insisted and so God gave them a king, and whether it was a good idea at the time, the concept was obviously incorporated into the imagery we now have of the kingdom of God, with its king of kings and such.

I also wanted to say that, interestingly, if my idea of humour being a result of the fall has any merit, I have suggested that humor in its most basic forms seems to hinge on "fallen" things -- incongruities of our nature with the world and disappointments and the situations we get into because of our sins and such. In the post above I likened it's "nobility" to the fact that Adam and Eve covered themselves as a result of the fall, and that clothes have been incorporated into the very imagery of Heaven. Though I can't exactly put my finger on it, I want to say that somehow in an analogous way, humor is sort of our way of "covering" the shame of the "nakedness" of our sin with laughter, perhaps not unlike how Adam and Eve attempted to cover the shame of the realization of their nakedness with clothes. So I guess I'm thinking something along the line that humor can almost seem like a "spiritual" counterpart to our sin as clothes are a physical counterpart to nakedness. Thus humor is a kind of "spiritual clothing" we take on as a result of the fall.

And finally, I can't resist mentioning the image I proposed on my own (outdated and long in need of revision) webpages where I suggested that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not the popular image of the apple, but actually a banana and that when Eve tasted of it, she left the peeling on the ground so that when she called Adam over, he slipped on it, thus introducing both humor and the fall into the world at the same time...

running for cover,
--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Perelandra Reading Group

Postby a_hnau » 28 Mar 2009, 08:04

Stanley Anderson wrote:I also wanted to say that, interestingly, if my idea of humour being a result of the fall has any merit, I have suggested that humor in its most basic forms seems to hinge on "fallen" things -- incongruities of our nature with the world and disappointments and the situations we get into because of our sins and such. In the post above I likened it's "nobility" to the fact that Adam and Eve covered themselves as a result of the fall, and that clothes have been incorporated into the very imagery of Heaven. Though I can't exactly put my finger on it, I want to say that somehow in an analogous way, humor is sort of our way of "covering" the shame of the "nakedness" of our sin with laughter, perhaps not unlike how Adam and Eve attempted to cover the shame of the realization of their nakedness with clothes. So I guess I'm thinking something along the line that humor can almost seem like a "spiritual" counterpart to our sin as clothes are a physical counterpart to nakedness. Thus humor is a kind of "spiritual clothing" we take on as a result of the fall.

I think you are right; I'm still working on my critique of the Trilogy versus Heinlein's Stranger, and a critical point for Heinlein's 'Man-Martian' is that he only becomes fully human when he understands that humour does not arise from 'goodness' (as his friends try to tell him) - it arises from everything unfortunate and tragic that occurs to human beings.

Lewis somewhere has an analysis of humour, the bit I remember best is that he distinguishes it from 'fun', which he compares to the feeling you get on the eve of a holiday when you are reunited with friends (this is unmistakably Narnian in flavour, of course - it's the mirror image of what the children feel when they say to Aslan 'You are not going to send us back into our own world again?')
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