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Perelandra Chap. 17

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

Perelandra Chap. 17

Postby Kanakaberaka » 07 Oct 2005, 00:09

Synopsis : Ransom joins Venus and Mars, bowing before the young King and Queen of Perelandra. And for good reason - the King looks like Christ himself, but without His wounds. Their names are Tor and Tinidril. Tor, the King tells of his travels and discoveries while Ransom was busy fighting the Un-Man. All five beings join in the "Great Dance", first with words and then with glorious light. Ransom awakens in the morning, but it's another morning, a full Perelandran year later! Tor and Tinidril prepare Ransom for lift off in his cosmic coffin. The story ends as Ransom looses conciousness as Malacandra lifts the odd space capsule off of Perelandra.

So now we know why Perelandra's King stayed out of sight untill the final chapter. He resembles our own New Adam. C.S. Lewis is carefull to explain Ransom's reaction to Tor's appearance rather than give any details. Personally I had an image of Jesus with a green skintone, however, I think Lewis wants to create a more impressive vision. He did say, "It was that face which no man can say he does not know". The face of Christ should be in all our minds, even though we are not aware of it. There must be more to Tor's demenor than simply his green facial features to cause such reverance from Ransom.
Next Tor gives us his point of view. We learn that while Tinidril searched for him and Ransom confronted the posessed Weston, Tor was stuck in a sort of marsh called Lur, drawing figures on the muddy surface of a floating island under Maleldil's direction. Sort of anti-climatic when you think about it. I am almost surprised that Ransom didn't complain about having to fight a demon literally tooth and nail while the lost king has a geometry lesson. Of course Tor learns something of terrible importence while in the swampy wilderness - the meaning of Evil. Tor is quite fortunate to learn it intellectually rather than first hand as Adam did. Ransom uses the old solar word for evil without knowing where he picked it up.
The parable of the shy singing beast comes up again as Perelandra gracefully hands over the reigns of power to Tor and Tinidril. They thoughfully ask her to remain with them at least untill they know what they are doing. Venus/ Perelandra also addresses the King and Queen by several names beside Tor and Tinidril. The names Baru and Baru'ah sound as if they are of indonesian origin. But I could find no meanings for them. Ask and Embla are certainly of Nordic origin. The names are a referance to the first man and woman created by Odin and his two brothers out of wood. Ask means ash (as in the ash tree) and Embla refers to the Elm tree.
Eventualy the two gods and three hnau proclaim "The Great Dance" or "Great Game" which in truth has been going on for all eternity. Even without music it souds like a song to me. A polyphonic song know as a madrigal, which was very popular in England during the 16th and 17th Centuries. The five partisipants take turns, ending their proclamations with "Blessed be He" in praise of Maleldil.
There are 20 sequences which include :
1 - God does not wait for us to be perfect to join in The Great Dance. It has been going on for all eternity and is in fact the centre of time.
2 - God's creations are always original, no encores. Instead of perfecting one sort of creation, God goes on to create different types of things: from planets to beasts, beasts to spirits.
3 - God's justice, "All is righteousness and there is no equality". Beings are likened to stones supporting an arch, each with his own special place rather than lined up side by side for comparison.
4 - God's size is of no importance: All of Him is "within the seed of the smallest flower". And yet all of Deep Heaven is within Him.
5 - Geometry from the book "Flatland" is used to illustrate the Holy Trinity comparing a circle to a sphere.
6 - The "Flatland" allegory continues with the idea that spheres being composed of a multitude of circles.
7 - This one sounds like it comes from the Oyarsa of Malacandra. It proclaims that the ancient sinless peoples of the "Low Worlds" (planets) are at the centre of creation.
8 - This one must have been proclaimed by Ransom. Saying that Maleldil came into our fallen world to make it glorious. And so it too is at the centre.
9 - Perelandra has her turn as she proclaims that "The tree was planted on Thulcandra but ripened on Perelandra".
10 - Even the worlds uninhabited by organic beings (the outer planets) are at the centre of creation for God's own purposes.
11 - Even the mere dust scattered throughout the Heavens are at the centre of creation.
12 - (All Together Now!) A summery of all of the above things and beings being at the centre of creation.
13 - All of God is within each and every thing throughout the whole universe. The only place out of God's prescence is through the will of the Bent One (Satan) into Nowhere.
14 - Each individual thing was made for God. God did not come to Earth to save humanity as a massive group, but to save each and every individual as if he or she were the only being in creation.
15 - All plans withing the Great Dance matter.
16 - We are All necessary in God's plan.
17 - God Himself has no needs.
18 - All things are by God and for God.
19 - To the darkened mind there is no apparent plan to the Universe. That is because there are So Many of God's Plans that they can not be simplifed.
20 - We should not think of the Abyss to Nowhere from which there is not return.

At this point the Great Dance goes into visual mode with lines of light symbolising all of the above. It sound like very good "eye candy" for a movie. But Lewis did not reach me with his description of dancing light.

Ransom awakens to what he thinks is the same morning the celebration began, only to be told that Perelandra has completed a complete orbit of Arbol (the Sun). This reminds me of one explanation of Einstien's theory of reletivity; One minute on top of a hot stove feels like an hour while an hour spent with your significant other feels like a minute. The idea of subjectivity making an enjoyable activity appear shorter than it really is. Just how Ransom sustained himself is not explained, so it is possible that he was in some sort of spiritual mode.
Finally all is ready for the return trip to Earth, or Thulcandra as we are known in Deep Heaven. Now we see why Lewis included Ransom's return in the second chapter. It would have been anti-climactical to show Ransom's homecomming after all he went through on Perelandra. And so we are left with the more profound image from inside the cosmic coffin of Tor and Tinidril closing the lid for Ransom.
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re: Perelandra Chap. 17

Postby Steve » 08 Oct 2005, 15:29

Very good summation, Kanaka.

I don't remember reading this post before, or maybe I didn't look at it closely. I'd never thought of the long "Blessed be he" passages as showing a progression before.

But I do remember posting how much I have loved the section that the worlds are for themselves, that the uninhabited spaces do not wait for mankind to become perfect, they are already perfect. And someone else (I think it was Paul B) posted that the language was like the Psalms.
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Perelandran Flashback

Postby Kanakaberaka » 09 Oct 2005, 02:50

Steve wrote:I don't remember reading this post before, or maybe I didn't look at it closely. I'd never thought of the long "Blessed be he" passages as showing a progression before.


Here's your original reply post Steve. I found it along with my study -

This long passage about the Great Dance is perhaps my favorite passage in Lewis, even though Perelandra isn't one of my favorite Lewis books (the top two are TWHF and THS).

I love the combination of complexity and purpose, the idea that all the Universe praises Maleldil.


Sven once posted the cover of an opera based apon Perelandra. I am certain that the section based of the "Great Dance" is the crowning song of the whole opera (how could it not be?). If ever this novel is made into a movie this section would make one fantasic lyrical number even if the story is not done as a musical. Of course the "light show" after the poetry will probably seem like a rehash of "2001: A Space Odysee".

And someone else (I think it was Paul B) posted that the language was like the Psalms.


Yes, Paul Burgin said just that -
It almost reads like one of the Psalms. The whole chapter also reads as a victory over evil, albeit with humility

Paul


In Reflections On The Psalms C.S. Lewis mentions how Hebrew poetry consisted of repeating a phrase by paraphrasing what was said. But instead of merely repeating the previous stanza, each of the 20 parts of the "Great Dance" build apon one another. It proclaims victory while giving the credit to God for being at "The Centre" of all things.
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Perelandrian Triad

Postby Kanakaberaka » 14 Oct 2005, 07:41

A while back Stanley Anderson mentioned a geometric figure know as a triad in his Discarded Image study. It's a figure composed of three interconnected elements. I hoped to get around to writing a post about what I saw as a Malacandrian Triad - The pfifltriggi representing the material body, the seroni representing the non-material mind, and the hrossa representing the soul which unites the two. One of these days I should get around to posting the whole study.
While re-reading chapter 17 of Perelandra I discovered another triad there as well. Ransom notes that there is no discord between the "bloodless" eldils and the very human Tor and Tinidril. In fact they are a bridge between the natural world and the spiritual. Or as Ransom notes: "Animal rationale - an animal, yet also a reasonable soul, such he remembered was the old definition of Man. But he had never till now seen the reality." Since the hnau of Perelandra are unfallen they assume their rightful place as the link between nature and the supernatural. Their physical bodies do not hide their immortal souls. The new Adam and Eve of Perelandra were created to bring all material beings into harmony with Maleldil. Their material selves allow them to reach out to the eternal rather than be encumbered. With the Fall of our own Adam and Eve this same link was broken on Earth. On Perelandra Ransom sees it come to fruition.
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So nice, they said it twice

Postby Kanakaberaka » 20 Oct 2005, 05:53

"It's name is Lur," said the King.
"It's name is Lur," repeated the eldila.


The dramatic repetition of the name of "Lur" had me wondering what special significance it has. So I Googled it and came up with several possible answers.
First came an ad for "Flights to LUR", too fantastic to be true of course. And there is a Luristan is Western Iran. But I doubt that it was any inspiration to Lewis. Most "lur" references however concerned an ancient Nordic wind instrument made of bronze thousands of years ago and of wood in more recent times. It's pronounced "loor".
The older bronze ones interested me the most. They are belived to have been used in religious ceremonies. Their sound is like that of our modern tenor trombone, in fact the mouthpiece bears a close resemblence to that of the trombone. Both the ancient bronze and the more recent wood Lurs were used for communication, like trumpets in battle.
So what might be the point in naming a floating muddy patch on Perelandra "Lur"? Could it refer to a wake-up call such as reville on our bugle? Or the Angel Gabriel's trumpet? Tor's mind was certainly awakend by Maleldil to the knowledge of good and evil during his stay there. However, it was an academic awakening rather than the first person experience that Adam and Eve had.

Image
A matching set of ancient bronze lurs.
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Flatland allegory

Postby Kanakaberaka » 24 Oct 2005, 12:45

In sequence number 5 and 6 of "The Great Dance" I mentioned the novel Flatland. For those not familiar with this remarkable book here are some details -

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions written by Edwin A. Abbott in 1884 is the story of a two dimensional character who discovers the wonders of the third dimension. In the first part of Flatland, "A Square" Describes his two dimensional world, populated with various geometric figures. I found it a bit tedious, but worth paying attention to because of the second part of the book. Some truely fantastic things happen in part two when "A Square" has a visitor from the third dimension on New Year's Eve 1999 (Flatworld time that is). As the square and his family welcome in the new year, a stranger suddenly pops up in their living room out of thin air! This stranger appears to be a circle to "A Square", but the stranger claims that he is in fact a sphere. The two dimensional square does not understand. So the sphere demonstrates by passing through the second dimension. As the sphere does so he shrinks in size untill he disappears. And yet he is still able to speak to the square. Next he reappears, slowly starting from a small circle enlarging into his full circumference. But he is unable to explain to "A Square" how a sphere can be made up a many circles.
At this point the sphere takes the drastic step of pushing "A Square" out of his familiar two dimensional world and into our own third dimension! The square can not find the words to express what he sees. At first he thinks he can see the inside of the sphere when he see it's roundness. the sphere has to explain that there is a surface over all of him, not just an outline such as the folks of Flatworld have. The geometric revelations continue to the point where it becomes rather metaphysical. "A Square" and the sphere go on to speculate about further dimensions above the third, into the forth and beyond.
For a novel based on geometry, I found it quite interesting. The personification of various geometric figures is what made it so.
so it goes...
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