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Perelandra Chap. 7

An archived study of the second book of Lewis' theological science fiction Space Trilogy.

Perelandra Chap. 7

Postby Kanakaberaka » 20 Dec 2004, 03:32

Synopsis : Weston confronts Ransom and the Green Lady, accusing Ransom of seducing the native woman. Ransom's heart sinks when Weston speaks to the Green Lady in the Old Solar language. Weston pulls out a pistol when Ransom trys to follow the Green Lady off the fixed land. But it's only Ransom he's interested in, not the Lady. What follows is dialogue between Ransom and a newly spiritual Weston. Their talk ends abruptly when Weston's spirits don't like the way the conversation is going. It is obvious that Dr. Weston is possesed by evil spirits.

After the Green Lady leaves the scene we are introduced to a whole new Weston. He's just as arrogant as ever, but now he has discovered the spiritual realm. This discovery came while Weston was convalesing from the perilous voyage home from Malacandra. This sounds to me like a parody of the conversion of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. After Loyola was seriously wounded in battle he passed the time while healing by reading books on the life of Jesus Christ and other theological themes. Considering the warped sense of spiritualism professed by Weston, I wonder what sort of books he chose to study. H.P. Lovecraft's "Necronomicon" comes to mind. In fact, considering how Weston speaks of a "...blind, inarticulate purposiveness thrusting it's way upward..." I can't help thinking about blind, mad Chthulu. Weston honestly belives that he has had a revelation. He expects Ransom to be amazed about the notion that "God is a spirit", as if it were something new to Ransom. Ransom rebuffs Weston by telling him that he worships God because "He is wise and good". there is nothing worthy about simply being a spirit. The biggest difference between Ransom's orthodox faith and Weston's New Age beliefs is their view on the fall of humanity. Weston belives that devils are really imperfect spirits rather than evil ones and that given enough time they will evolve into more mature spirits or what we call angels. Ransom of course knows that the devils are in fact angels who have fallen from the Grace of God. Weston goes on even further, claiming that in truth there isn't any real difference at all between good and evil. How he can go on to claim a spiritual kinship with Ransom is beyond me. I suspect it has something to do with the fact Weston wants to "enlighten" simple Christians about what he belives are larger truths.

Ransom hits a nerve when he asks Weston if he would betray his country and friends for the sake of this revelation. And when Ransom agrees with Weston about the need for self sacrifice the demon within Weston shows it's true malevolence first by insulting Ransom and them nearly choking Weston from the inside. For one brief moment Weston comes to his sences and warns Ransom "For Christ's sake don't let them -". This passage gave me empathy for Dr. Weston. It made him more than simply a two dimensional villan. And of course it makes us all wonder exactly who it is Weston is warning Ransom about.
so it goes...
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 7

Postby Guest » 23 Dec 2004, 23:52

Here again, the words of Weston seem more applicable to our age than Lewis' own. Weston's spirituality is all about himself:
"The goal Ransom, the goal: think of it! Pure spirit: the final vortex of self-thinking, self-originating activity."

and
"It's a question of surrendering yourself to that - making yourself the conductor of the live, fiery, central purpose - becoming the very finger with which it reaches forward."

For Weston, "transcendence" is really about becoming God, not serving or submitting oneself to a higher being. This is the logical extension of seemingly harmless modern ideals like "tolerance" and "high self esteem." These concepts are attractive because they seem to be saying, "We ought to be nice to everyone!" In fact, they're true message is more like, "You are more important than anyone else, and you deserve to be whoever you want and do whatever you want." Good and evil are moot points in such a framework. This chapter does a marvelous job of laying out the root conflict of the entire trilogy.[/i]
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Stanley's comments on Perelandra Chap. 7

Postby Stanley Anderson » 24 Dec 2004, 16:37

Another random collection of thoughts on this chapter:

In the previous chapter we are told that Weston’s face has something “unfamiliar” about it. Also, seemingly uncaring, he cuts off his retreat by allowing his ship to sink into the ocean. At the beginning of this chapter we see Weston’s knowledge of Old Solar and his lack of surprise at finding Ransom there. Late in the book after the Un-man has engulfed Weston, and U and R are riding on the fishes after their fight, the “real” Weston seems to pop back up for a bit (during which Weston laments the loss of the ship and being trapped on the planet), but Ransom wonders whether it is really Weston or just a trick of the Un-man in another attempt to draw Ransom in. So I wonder how much of the real Weston is being displayed here. Certainly he has already been “prepared” for his possession or “inhabitation” by the evil spirit(s).

I had a bit of a chuckle when Ransom replies to Weston’s accusations of lustful activity because of Ransom and the Green Lady’s nakedness. When Ransom says “And no one wears clothes here”, I couldn’t help thinking “Well, not much of a sample with only two people to consider – pretty rash judgement, eh?”:-) But of course she has told him there are no other people besides the King, and the Oyarsa apparently let him know before leaving for Perelandra not to wear clothes, so it is a reasonable deduction I suppose.

It is curious that though Weston (the Un-man showing through) is not concerned about the ship sinking, but makes every effort to get his equipment ashore. It reminds me for some reason of Weston’s description later about the “rind” and how there is less and less for him to “grab” before he sinks under the rind into the mess below. (Note also, as a side point – probably better to be mentioned later – the difference between Lewis’ recurring image throughout his works of Heavenly visions where things are “bigger on the inside than they are on the outside” – another aspect to be gleaned about the medieval view from The Discarded Image – and the opposite in Weston’s view of the “rind” where the inside is definitely confining and smaller than the outside, and which Hellish inside is the ultimate end).

Lewis seems to be fascinated with an image of “civilization in the midst of paradise”. In both OSP and Perelandra he has the image of Weston’s (and Devine’s in OSP) encampment of common earthly items set among the beauties of each planet as a stark contrast of the fallen world to the unfallen.

When Weston mentions the serious breakdown of his health after the Malacandran journey, and Ransom says “Mine too”, Lewis writes, “Weston looked somewhat taken aback at the interruption”. This is an indication of Weston’s preoccupation with himself. And in fact, as he begins to talk about his theories and “revelations” we see that everything is centered about him until he becomes subsumed in his own self. As he talks, I couldn’t help being reminded of Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows discovering a new fad and in the way he talks about how he has discovered the “only” thing.

Weston says, “…nothing now divides you and me except a few outworn theological technicalities with which organized religion has unhappily allowed itself to get incrusted. But I have penetrated that crust”. This is perhaps a precursor to Weston’s later description of “the rind” and its horrors, though at this point Weston see it as revealing and good.

It is interesting how Weston describes the drive he is talking about as “a Force” and its similarity to the Star Wars reference. I’m not sure how Lewis would have reacted to the movies (the first couple made, anyway) – I’m sure he could have found some good mythological aspects of it – but the Force in the Star Wars movies would probably have been too close to Weston’s ideas to be comfortable with Lewis.

Weston is a sort of collection of “corruptions” of theological ideas. For instance, his idea of being “chosen” has a sour flavour of a corruption of Calvinism. In fact, the whole discussion between Ransom and Weston here is, I think, Lewis’ attempt to show the dangers of the subtlety of meaning in words and the need for clear, hard doctrine and things like the creeds and the necessity of adhering to them in the face of mounting scientific or philosophical pressure. It is so easy for Weston to divert the meaning of words and turn good ideas and views into self-serving and diabolical purposes.

Notice how whenever a hint of the “true” nature of Weston’s views and possession is revealed, his voice becomes hushed and disgustingly immature, but returns to its usual pompousness whenever he is confidently perverting the meaning of otherwise good theological ideas. Lies are broadcast confidently by the devil, but the truth is covered and whispered in secrecy.

During the absolutely horrible scene of Weston’s actual possession, Weston cries out “For Christ’s sake”. This is strikingly similar, to me, to Wither’s exclamation in THS of “Bless my soul” and very curious for that reason – both are clearly beyond help at this point, but it is as if they cannot help but utter these things. Not sure what to make of it.

When Ransom observes the seizure stricken body of Weston after his possession, Lewis writes, “The face suggested that either he was in no pain or in pain beyond all human comprehension”. (brrr – what a chilling and horrifying scene!). This recalls Ransom’s comment to Weston about “sexless-ness” in Perelandra. “All right, if you like. It’s about as good a description of living in Perelandra as it would be to say that a man had forgotten water because Niagara Falls didn’t immediately give him the idea of making it into cups of tea.” And of course hint of the essay “Transposition”.

Well, again, I wish I had time to comment on nearly every paragraph in the chapter, but I’ll end here for now.

--Stanley
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Re: Perelandra Chap. 7

Postby Steve » 27 Dec 2004, 16:59

I was reading this chapter two days ago, and was fascinated by Lewis' comment about Ransom's monomania "like an actor who cares about nothing except his reputation".

It resonated with the book I have just been reading, Sean Astin's "There and back Again", where all too often, Astin reveals how his feelings were hurt. Although Astin's feelings were not about his reputation in terms of how famous he is with the public, but more his reputation and standing with other actors and Hollywood professionals.

Astin's book does have the balance that as he narrates the tale, he says he was wrong to have had his feelings hurt in these different incidents.
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May The Force BE With You ?

Postby Kanakaberaka » 27 Dec 2004, 20:44

It is interesting how Weston describes the drive he is talking about as “a Force” and its similarity to the Star Wars reference. I’m not sure how Lewis would have reacted to the movies (the first couple made, anyway) – I’m sure he could have found some good mythological aspects of it – but the Force in the Star Wars movies would probably have been too close to Weston’s ideas to be comfortable with Lewis.
- Stanley


Yes, I'm glad you mentioned that Stan. Back when the original Star Wars movie came out in 1977 I was impressed with what is now a sci-fi catchphrase - May The Force Be With You. It reminded me of that prayer response at Mass - The Lord be with you. At the time (about 2 years before I read anything by C. S. Lewis) it never occured to me what the difference was. The Force was simply another name for God. The concept of a personal God as opposed to an impersonal force of nature (or should I say super-nature?) was something introduced to me by Lewis. Amazing how many heavy theological concepts you can learn from the right fantasy writer.
On a more serious note, I wonder how many Star Wars fans know or care about what a personal God is? The phrase sounded to me at first like a god made for one individual (like a personal pan pizza). I did not understand that it meant, a God who is a real individual person, like any of us, as opposed to a non-thinking force of the supernatural. A non-personal god would be simply a power supply for wizards. That's why there is a Dark Side to The Force of Star Wars. I suspect that the Darkness or Light is in the soul of whoever calls apon The Force. Or it could be something like duelism where there are equal and opposite divinities fighting against one another.
In any case I think that C. S. Lewis would find Chapters 4 through 6 ( the first 3 movies) of Star Wars enjoyable because The Force is so vague. It is simply imaginary magic rather than real theology. From "The Phantom Menace" on I think that Lewis would be troubled by how a wonderful space fantasy could go over it's head into a spiritualistic swamp.
so it goes...
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New Age Weston

Postby Kanakaberaka » 28 Dec 2004, 09:45

trogdor wrote:For Weston, "transcendence" is really about becoming God, not serving or submitting oneself to a higher being.


Your quote reminds me of Valentine Smith's philosophy in "Stranger in a Strange Land". The cult leader addresses his follower's by proclaiming "You are God". Talk about giving someone a big head.

This is why I see Weston as being "ahead of his time". He seems to be tuned into the New Age Pop-Spiritualism of today. As far as tolerance is concerned, there are too many leaders out there telling others to be tolerant rather than practicing it themselves. In fact tolerance appears to be more like indifferance to rather than an appreciation of the differences of others.
so it goes...
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