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confused about Till We Have Faces

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby LittleFlower » 01 Sep 2009, 09:04

I just finished Till We Have Faces yesterday. :)
I loved the book, but I'm a little confused about it... there are so many themes woven together, and it's complex..

I imagine that since it was written by Lewis, it probably contains some Christian symbolism. ;)

If so, would it make sense to say that Ungit represents our fallen nature? what about Psyche and the God of the Mountain?

the way I understood it, is that the God of the Mountain is like Christ (at one point, he's referred to as the Bridegroom and in the end Orual calls him "Lord").. and Orual - since her 'love' for Psyche is so selfish and possessive - feels jealous that he made Psyche truly happy and that she loves him. Could this be a type of a commentary on how people sometimes disapprove of others' love for God because they see it as 'losing them'?

Another interesting theme is one that's very common in Lewis' books, imo, - that we're not yet in our true form...and that we can't meet God 'face to face' till 'we have faces'.

What do you think? How do you all interpret this story?
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby The Bigsleep J » 06 Sep 2009, 18:30

The thing with Till we Have Faces, I think, is that it is not a direct allegory for anything, i.e. this represents that, which is how people tend to view the Narnian Chronicles. It is, I think, supposed to give an emotional sense of Christian grace and forgiveness rather than a direct theological interpretation.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby nomad » 22 Sep 2009, 22:31

LittleFlower, there's been quite a bit of discussion here about TWHF. If you scroll down this forum, you'll see two or three other threads on the first page. And somewhere in all of that, there's a link to a talk by some college professor about it. I skimmed a bit, but didn't see it so I'm sorry I can't tell you exactly where it is.

BJ's right that it's not an allegory. I think Ungit, for instance, is more than just a stand-in for our fallen nature. She also is the object of the simple faith of the unsophisticated people who understand neither the philosophy of the Fox, nor their own god, but nevertheless receive comfort and happiness from Ungit's presence, as well as fear.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby nomad » 12 Oct 2009, 01:17

One of our elders spoke about TWHF in the sermon this morning, and made a good point. When Orual is writing her book, she is telling her story from behind the safety of her veil. But when she stands before the gods, they will not allow her to stay hidden. They strip her of her veil and so she hears her own argument unfiltered for the first time. And without her pretenses or her pride it all sounds suddenly empty.
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby archenland_knight » 02 Dec 2009, 23:01

I'm not sure whether to call TWHF a "Christian" book or not. I just finished reading for the first time recently, and I'm still not totally sure what I think of it. Certainly, it has Christian themes in it, but that's not the same as being a "Christian" book.

There is the idea Lewis expresses in MC and TLB regarding those in non-Christian faiths wherein they are drawn to that in their own religion that is closest to Christ, and therefore are somehow still given salvation through Christ. Mind you, that is perhaps the view of his with which I most strongly disagree, but it seems to be what is happening as Orual stands before the son of Ungit.

So, I'm not sure whether I would call it a "Christian" book, or just a book with alot of Christian themes.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby jo » 06 Dec 2009, 19:52

I have never considered it to be a CHristian book - but then, I am not a Christian so perhaps I read it in a different way than those who are :). I consider it mainly to be about the selfishness of love and desire for possession.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby nomad » 07 Dec 2009, 02:52

That brings up the whole question of what one means by "Christian" when referring to books, music or any work of art. Currently US culture seems to leave that determination to the marketing dept, something I suspect Lewis would have found distasteful. But it's a question that would merit it's own thread (surely there's been one or two?). Personally, there are works of art that I consider "Christian" by artists I know to be non-Christians, but who have managed to capture some aspect of Christianity or the Christian experience with an inspiring purity.

***spoiliers***
TWHF is one of my favorite books ever, but not because it reinforces my beliefs, because it challenges my assumptions about belief in general, about my beliefs and about myself. I saw the righteousness of Orual's indignation and anger and was just as shocked as she was to discover that I had been siding with her selfish motive. That's why I never tell people anything about this book other than they have to read it. It's power lies in making that journey with Orual.

Also, it's set in a pre-Christian time, so Christianity isn't really an option for Orual and I'm not sure how you would write a book set in a pre-Christian, non-Jewish time and location that would meet the marketing dept's standards for "Christian" literature. Which ironically allows Lewis to dig deeper into the question of God and belief.
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby jo » 07 Dec 2009, 19:17

Nomad - hi btw :) - I too often sided with Orual whilst reading the book, felt that I understood her anger, especially her complaint against the gods. Like you, it was a shock to realise how hollow and empty that complaint really was .. that when it came down to it it was just the same rhetorical over and over, read from a grubby piece of paper. I did not quite know how to take that and actually, I still do not.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby archenland_knight » 07 Dec 2009, 21:43

nomad wrote:I saw the righteousness of Orual's indignation and anger and was just as shocked as she was to discover that I had been siding with her selfish motive. That's why I never tell people anything about this book other than they have to read it. It's power lies in making that journey with Orual.


Very true. I think that book is too deep for a single reading to really get everything. I'm going to read it again, but in several months time.

I understood Orual's anger, but having read "Mere Christianity" several times, I kind of had a suspicion of where Lewis was going with it ... though I must admit he did it to a degree and in a way I never would have suspected.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby jo » 07 Dec 2009, 22:49

There were moments in TWHF which made me wince in the same - or a similar - way to moments in Screwtape: the sort of moment you have when you realise that something you've believed and that has always seemed of supreme importance to you is hollow, empty.

Nonetheless, I had a great deal of liking and admiration for Orual herself.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby nomad » 08 Dec 2009, 04:07

jo wrote:There were moments in TWHF which made me wince in the same - or a similar - way to moments in Screwtape: the sort of moment you have when you realise that something you've believed and that has always seemed of supreme importance to you is hollow, empty.

Nonetheless, I had a great deal of liking and admiration for Orual herself.


Exactly! Lewis has a very uncomfortable talent for that. I too retained much liking and admiration for Orual... that again is what makes this book hook into you. Orual's character is so deeply, lovingly, and fully truthfully developed that even after the realization that her "love" was, at least in part, a facade for her own selfishness and feelings of inadequacy, you can't blithely stamp her "Evil. Going to Hell." Or whatever one stamps on the bad guys' foreheads. :snow-toothy: Cuz that would mean stamping yourself "Evil. Going to Hell." And that means you have to go through the whole redemption process with her... which for me is a confusing yet strangely wonderful part of the book. It made me consider the possibility that when I really face a true understanding of redemption, I might find it highly confusing and not at all what I expected. Yet strangely wonderful.

Oh, and hi back jo. :ornament:
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby nomad » 08 Dec 2009, 04:09

archenland_knight wrote:Very true. I think that book is too deep for a single reading to really get everything.


Amen to that, brother!
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"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
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Re: confused about Till We Have Faces

Postby jo » 08 Dec 2009, 23:45

*beams at Nomad*

One problem I had with TWHF was that Orual DID seem to have been dealt a raw hand in life. We know that she is ugly - ugly enough that she eventually veils herself. She never marries, possibly as a result of this. And she has a beautiful half sister - one whom a god himself wished to wed. I suppose that I empathised to an extent that I should not have and thought 'but it's not fair.' And yet perhaps it was Psyche who bore the heavier burdern..
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