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Ch 3b: pp 24-28

For the Medieval Dinosaur in all of us.

Ch 3b: pp 24-28

Postby Stanley Anderson » 18 Apr 2007, 17:05

(Seven paragraphs beginning with "After foretelling his grandson's future..." to the end of the Scipio section ending with "...which a medieval theologian would have added.")

In the original study, Monica had posted some ideas that led into this section, so I had used them as a starting point. I’m reproducing them here too, although I’m modifying them slightly as well as my replies to make them a little clearer in the current context (the original comments had confusing references unique to events at the time of the original study)

[from Monica]:
>Just a couple of thoughts. First is the injunction against suicide. I
>can't remember if suicide is mentioned in Narnia or not, but I
>remember Orual attempting it in TWHF and being summarily
>stopped. Interesting how somewhere before or during the Middle
>Ages suicide became -- not something honourable as in other times
>and countries -- but something disallowed.

And of course we see a whole slew of suicides at the end of THS, the implication that they have been "dictated" by the dark macrobes (of hell) and that the defeated NICE personnel have become too subsumed to resist it.

Probably a different subject, but I wonder how Lewis would view the enchanted sleep that one of the seven Lords (was it Rhoop? Not sure) voluntarily "went under" on Ramandu's island in order to "escape" the horrors of he had experienced on the Dark Island. That seems to be at least one of the motivations of people tempted to suicide in depression-related situations. But of course I'm sure the enchanted sleep was seen as a healing thing and not as a "permanent" escape from all life as suicide is.

[from Monica]
>Another interesting point concerns the
>astronomical thought of the day. Lewis says the earth was
>considered a very small body in the universe. Compared to the size
>of the stars, the entire Roman Empire was little more than a dot. The
>insignificance of the earth "was part of the moralists stock-in-
>trade…to mortify human ambition". Yet, Later in history, when the
>'new science' changed the architecture of the universe, moralists
>said the opposite -- they said that God couldn't possibly care about
>the earth when it was such an insignificant part of the universe. It
>was an argument that caused many to lose their religion, though it
>was the same argument used centuries before to support it.

I would also point out (or perhaps just re-emphasize) that the medieval view has been twisted by modern science and common understanding so that the modern view of man's insignificance can be seen (incorrectly) as a contrast to the supposed “glorified Earth” medieval view. In other words, moderns imagine that since medieval cosmology put the earth at the center, this meant that Medievals were putting man on a pedestal, as it were, and glorying in that position. But in fact, by putting earth at the center, Medievals were more implying that earth was at the “bottom of the heap” and that Man was insignificant for that reason.

That incorrect modern impression of the Medieval view leads to the rather condescending view that Medievals were "obviously" stupider than we, sort of like the modern common misunderstanding that thinks that Medievals thought the world was flat. (Lewis will bring this up more than once in side-comments throughout the book. In fact, in light of Lewis’ insistence about the modern error of thinking that Medievals viewed the world as flat, it would be interesting at some point to discuss the idea of Narnia being a flat world. What was Lewis’ point there, I wonder?)

--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: Ch 3b: pp 24-28

Postby Stanley Anderson » 18 Apr 2007, 20:39

Stanley Anderson wrote:...in light of Lewis’ insistence about the modern error of thinking that Medievals viewed the world as flat, it would be interesting at some point to discuss the idea of Narnia being a flat world. What was Lewis’ point there, I wonder?


I'm suddenly reminded of something by this quote from the section under discussion where Lewis mentions Cicero's reference to the Antipodes: "...the 'contrariwise-footed' people who 'plant their footsteps in the direction opposite to you'". This is very reminiscent of Caspian's reaction (have I got the right person here? I think so) upon hearing that our earth is spherical instead of flat like Narnia, and wonders if the people on the other side of the earth walk on their heads.

--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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Postby girlfreddy » 23 Apr 2007, 05:38

Sorry I'm late in posting Stanley. Anyway here's a few things about this part that I found interesting.

That the "belief" or "prohibition" of suicide could not be tracked down to an original source by Lewis who, in my opinion, was one of the most well read and educated men of our time. I mean everyone believes that suicide is a sin or at the very least a waste of life and not to be entered in at all, but to not be able to find the original beginning of this belief was something that I had never thought of before.

It makes me consider the argument that some Christian's use for the reality of God in that there is a internal moral code built in man that is somewhat universal. An example would be that there is no known culture that gives a man the right to take any woman he wants to use for sex. Even in tribal cultures where the white man has had little to no influence a man may not "take" another man's wife to have sex with. It seems to be a human characteristic that we place limits on ourselves for the welfare of all. And I think that suicide would fall into this category because if people's of a culture (especially tribal) were to think of the taking of one's own life to be a good thing, many of us would not be here.

I was also quite intrigued by the military metaphor as this has been more than considered in the history of Christianity. "Onward Christian Soldiers" comes to mind along with the Crusades (however failed or misguided they were). Paul references a military supposition in Ephesians as to the armor we are to don and spiritual warfare is a word bandied about much these days in churches. Just kind of cool to see it here in that we owe our lives to God (or the gods) and it would be a disaster for us to think that we have a say in taking such a valuable asset and disposing of it like garbage.

And something that I'm looking forward to reading is about the harmonistic interpretation that had been reached before the Middle Ages had begun concerning appointments to heaven for I have little to no knowledge of the paganistic ideas around this.

Thanks for continuing this. I'm quite enjoying this although there is much I google up to find out what Lewis is talking about. I'm also re-reading the Space trilogy to get a better handle on your references to it. I don't have a copy of the Chronicles so I'll have to cede to your vast knowledge of that.
How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would execute Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo?
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 23 Apr 2007, 16:22

girlfreddy wrote:I'm also re-reading the Space trilogy to get a better handle on your references to it.


By the way, my references to the Space Tirlogy and Narnia (as well as other Lewis works when they pop into my mind) are not "necessary" aspects of this study of The Discarded Image. They are only an interesting sideline that I find fascinating since Lewis seems to employ so many of the "medieval" things he talks about in TDI into his other works. And for me it is interesting to see those links in his overall thinking and writing (and especially since I have suggested in the past that That Hideous Strength is a sort of literary manifestation of TDI). So I'll continue to look for those sorts of references.

But of course the "medieval" ideas presented in TDI are useful and interesting on their own apart from their "guest appearances" in other Lewis works. So I just want to be sure that it is clear that all those "non-Lewis reference" topics are fully open to discussion as exemplified by what you have talked about in your post.

And something that I'm looking forward to reading is about the harmonistic interpretation that had been reached before the Middle Ages had begun concerning appointments to heaven for I have little to no knowledge of the paganistic ideas around this.


This brings to mind another THS connection (sorry if you haven't gotten that far in re-reading the Space Trilogy yet -- I'll be noticing these kind of references all over the place -- even in your non-Space Trilogy related comments!:-). That whole attitude that Lewis describes of Cicero's view of appointments to Heaven as statesmen and such is very reminiscent of how Merlin in THS keep suggesting to Ransom at their meeting that they should try to conquer the Hideous Strength. First he suggests appealing to the king, and when Ransom nixes that, Merlin suggests true priests and bishops, then princes of other realms, and finally, as a last resort, the Emperor, all of which Ransom denounces as useless suggestions. The "spiritual" world is not how Merlin sees it from that Cicero-esque "statesman organization of power" anymore.

(by the way, I'll be going to New York with my son Gawain later this week until the middle of next week so I may not get back to further sections of this study until sometime after we get back. But feel free to continue with this -- or any of the earlier threads until then of course)

--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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Postby girlfreddy » 23 Apr 2007, 18:12

Have fun this weekend Stanley. And I really hope that Gawain has a wonderful time and doesn't get too stressed out. :toothy-grin:
How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would execute Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo?
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Re: chap 3b

Postby liriodendron » 07 May 2007, 14:58

That incorrect modern impression of the Medieval view leads to the rather condescending view that Medievals were "obviously" stupider than we, sort of like the modern common misunderstanding that thinks that Medievals thought the world was flat.


I am realizing that Medievals were smarter than I give them credit for. In fact the more I study the history of the world, the more I realize that mankind has been smart for a long time. I did not get a good history education in highschool (I too though they believed the world was flat.), plus I think the popularity of evolution has given our culture the general impression that human intelligence is still a rapidly evolving thing, implying that the ancients had to be stupider than us.


Also very interesting in this section is the list of pagan concepts from Cicero that influence the Christian view point of the middle ages. It makes me wonder how much our Christian view point gets influenced by secular views without us even noticing.

I notice suicide is not condemned as murder, but more as going AWOL from your duty. The Bible doesn't really have much to say about suicide, but there are no honorable examples of suicides in It. The ones that come to mind or Judas and King Saul. So I suppose Cicero's view is consistant with the Bible at least on this point.
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Re: chap 3b

Postby Stanley Anderson » 08 May 2007, 20:50

liriodendron wrote:I am realizing that Medievals were smarter than I give them credit for. In fact the more I study the history of the world, the more I realize that mankind has been smart for a long time.


I can still remember clearly from many, many years ago the same sense when I got to observe for the first time and first hand at a museum, some Greek statues, and thinking how purely human and civilized and "modern" they seemed. That sounds naive, I know, and of course I already "knew" it intellectually, but it made me realize that subconsciously, I had thought of the people in those earlier civilizations as somehow less civilized and more -- I don't know -- "cave-man-ish" or primitive. It was a real eye-opener for me to have my own "modern superiority" bias shown to me so blatantly.

I did not get a good history education in highschool (I too thought they believed the world was flat.),


I've understood that this popular impression was pretty much instigated by a book by Washington Irving (best known for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) called The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. A Wikipedia entry mentions that this book "invented the durable myth, taught for more than a century in many US elementary schools, of Columbus proving the world round"

--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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