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Perelandra Chap. 16

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

Perelandra Chap. 16

Postby Kanakaberaka » 25 Jul 2005, 15:02

Synopsis : The angelic voices reveal themselves to Ransom as Malacandra and Perelandra, the Oyarsas of their planets. Ransom helps them choose a visible form for the young King and Queen of Perelandra to see them. The third attempt is the charm. A great procession nears the pool where Ransom, Malacandra and Perelandra await. As Ransom observes the King and Queen among all the animal life he wants to ask if they will be able to leave this fixed land before sunset. The Oyarsas hush him, and he realizes that the taboo is no longer in effect.

This is my favorite chapter of Perelandra. I wonder what C.S. Lewis was trying to say about the visble forms of eldila, that is angels. I am sure that he was not attempting to give us a realistic peek into the spiritual world. He made that clear in his preface to The Great Divorce. What then was the purpose of Malacandra's and Perelandra's "light show" ? I'm sure there was more to it than the typical Sci-Fi wiz-bang.
The Oyarsa's first attempt to make themselves visible to hnau eyes leaves Ransom discombobulated. It is a nightmare vision similar to the trip through the Monolith from 2001 A Space Odysee. Ransom sees many identifiable objects, but they come at him in such rapid succesion that it overwhelms his senses. Snow and fire are among the visions which reminded me of a verse from a Christmas carol called Gabriel's Message. It goes -
The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow
His eyes as flame
This verse paints an impressive image of a supernatural being by juxtaposing the vast cold impression of a snow drift with the hot focus of a flame. Oposites impressivly brought together in one being. Maybe Malacandra and Perelandra were attempting to give the same impression to Ransom. But they hit him with too many of these visual alegories at once.
Next they presented Ransom with one large vision, that of a fantasticly huge wheel within a wheel. This vision had to be inspired by Ezekiel Chap. 1 vs. 15-21, where the prophet writes of oddly designed wheels beneath the "living creatures" (angelic beings). Lewis wrote elsewhere that this "wheel within a wheel" vision closely resembles a modern dynamo, an electric generator. Although Ransom is impressed by the hugeness of the wheels, the vision has no meaning to him. It might as well be the biggest ferris wheel as far as he is concerned.
On the third try Malacandra and Perelandra get it right. They assume humanlike form. Giant and sexless, but human shaped. Yet even without sexual characteristics, Malacandra appears masculine and Perelandra seems feminine. Even without sexual organs they still have gender. The only thing I had trouble understanding was the look of pure charity on their faces. Lewis describes this expression as superior to human love which is either blossoming out of or descending into natural affection. I have heard of agape love, yet I am sure there has to be emotion behind it. These Oyarsa hold their expressions without human emotions, it seems.
And yet the human form appers to be the most impressive for an intelligent being to assume. G.K. Chesterton once commented that in fairy stories human shaped fantastic beings make more of an impression than, for example tree-like creatures. Trees, Chesterton explained, were alien to human consciousness. Human features found on non-human beings make them supernatural. Maybe it's just anthropocentrism. But it does sound true. Ransom thinks of Malacandra and Perelandra as Mars and Venus when they assume this form.
It's not just the human form taken by the Oyarsas that impresses Ransom. It is their physical place in our space. Lewis explains that these beings must move along to keep up with a planet in orbit around the sun, or Arbol as they call it. He even mentions their hair flowing back as if in the wind in spite of it being calm weather on Perelandra. This gives us a picture of beings rushing to keep up with a moving planet while their natural place in out in Deep Heaven. The description of their traveling fast to keep in one place reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's "Crono Synclastic Infundibulum", a time and space warp that follows the orbit of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. This space warp had a corkscrew shaped orbit to enable it follow Titan's orbit around Saturn as well as Saturn's orbit around the sun. I have the feeling Lewis wanted to explain astrophysics rather than metaphysics here.
More importantly, Venus and Mars explain how their stories have made it down to Thulcandra in the form of Myth. Apparently there is some sort of cosmic grapevine which delivers news filtered through various eldila. We on Earth get the news third hand or worse.
It is not Venus an Mars who are in the spotlight at the end of this chapter though. They and all present at the pool bow before the young King and Queen of Perelandra. Venus is ready to willingly hand over her powers to them. The singing beast mentioned in chapter 15 is a parable for this love. The mother of the singing beast is unable to nurse it, so another sort of animal must do so. This other beast can not sing, and yet is willing to nurture the young of another to give their world the song only the singing beast can give. The message is one of assuming responsibility of another so that the other can mature to give in turn somthing for all the world to enjoy. Thus the King and Queen shine like emeralds as they take their rightfull place in the assembly.
so it goes...
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