This forum was closed on October 1st, 2010. However, the archives are open to the public and filled with vast amounts of good reading and information for you to enjoy. If you wish to meet some Wardrobians, please visit the Into the Wardrobe Facebook group.

Ch 4f: pp 60-63

For the Medieval Dinosaur in all of us.

Ch 4f: pp 60-63

Postby Stanley Anderson » 13 Jul 2007, 14:29

(Three paragraphs starting section B “Macrobius”, beginning with "Macrobius lived at the end..." and ending with "...fit the conception of Macrobius.")

Well, I can’t start this section without wondering if Lewis got his term “macrobes” in THS in part from “Macrobius”. Of course, macrobe has a “logical” meaning as sort of the opposite of “microbe” – still, the connection seems at least plausible. There is also an interesting suggestion of imagery from THS in this section about the four elements and how the earth element – the “irreclaimable” part sinks to the bottom or lowest point or center of the Earth. As Lewis writes, “Earth is in fact the ‘offscourings of creation’, the cosmic dust-bin” which fairly adequately describes the imprisonment of Thulcandra and his bent eldilla or macrobes within the sphere of the earth, and more specifically, hell. And at the end of this paragraph Lewis again mentions the “central” earth as the “dregs” in the suggestion that Milton’s passage “would exactly fit the conception of Macrobius”. This is a sentiment that Lewis stresses several times throughout the book to counter the false modern impression that the medieval view of an earth centered cosmology was believed because they thought Man was the highest and central important part of creation about which everything else resolved. Instead, Lewis claims, it was exactly the opposite – Man and earth are at the center because that is where the “dregs” are and the “outer” spheres are where the glorious things normally reside.

In the second paragraph of the section where Lewis writes “Macrobius finds it still necessary (it would not have been in the Middle Ages) to remove a childish misunderstanding of what we call gravitation” and explains that inhabitants of the southern hemisphere are in no danger of falling off. This, to me, is reminiscent of Caspian in Dawn Treader wondering about a spherical world and whether people would fall off (have I got that scene right? I think I’m remembering that correctly, but I don’t have the book handy to check).

--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.
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Postby liriodendron » 20 Jul 2007, 04:00

I think Caspian was wondering if the people on the bottom walked upside down - it's a vague memory and like you, I'm not able to look it up.

Lewis is certainly driving the point home that the Medievals knew the earth was a sphere and not flat - or at least educated Medievals. It seems like I recall references to drawings of the edge of the world with the water pouring off and boats falling into monster jaws. Where did those come from?

Macrobius may have it right about a round earth, but his desire for everything to have a geometric orderliness (with the 4 land masses divided so neatly by the torrid zone ocean and it's branches) - I wonder if that is part of the urge (that Lewis mentioned in the introduction) that the Medievals had to neatly catorgorize and organize everything?

I found it interesting that Macrobius thought the earth's population had been frequently destroyed by natural catastrophies. That's what Immanuel Velikovsky claimed in "Worlds in Collision", in which he claims that some of the Old Testiment miracles, such as the Red Sea dividing, were caused by Venus coming too near the earth when it was still an astroid and not yet a planet (or so he believed). However, then Velikovsky wrote another book, "Mankind in amnesia" where he tried to assert that by the time of the Romans, people deliberately "forgot" the catastrophes and envisioned a universe where the planets were carefully fixed because they couldn't deal with the fear of another catastrophe. I guess he didn't take Macrobius into account. I wonder if Macrobius listed the types of catastrophes?

Another point that Lewis is certainly getting across is the low opinion the writers had of mankind and earth. I wonder if that made them, and the population in general, more humble than we are today?


“Earth is in fact the ‘offscourings of creation’, the cosmic dust-bin” which fairly adequately describes the imprisonment of Thulcandra and his bent eldilla or macrobes within the sphere of the earth, and more specifically, hell.

In "Out of the Silent Planet" I did not feel that earth was in anyway central or at the bottom. It's more that it was in quarantine because of a deadly infecteous disease. From Tinidril we learn that earth became turning point or a vertex because of what the Son did to rescue us, not as an incidental convience to the celestial dance or some natural law like these Roman writers say.

In a way the modern view of earth and man being random is more lowering than being the "offscourings". -Like being the bottom almost has more dignity than being lost in adverage-ness and middle-ness.
liriodendron
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 35
Joined: Apr 2007

Postby Stanley Anderson » 20 Jul 2007, 15:03

liriodendron wrote:I think Caspian was wondering if the people on the bottom walked upside down - it's a vague memory and like you, I'm not able to look it up.


Ah, that must be it (still can't check, but it sounds more familiar)

Lewis is certainly driving the point home that the Medievals knew the earth was a sphere and not flat - or at least educated Medievals. It seems like I recall references to drawings of the edge of the world with the water pouring off and boats falling into monster jaws. Where did those come from?


Yes, I tried a quick search but couldn't find anything (yet) on google. I wonder if it might be from, say, and ancient Greek or other early civilization image? Or perhaps made up in modern times to reinforce the idea that people "back then" thought the earth was flat? (The idea that people in Columbus' time thought the earth flat got its start from Washington Irving's book about Columbus).

Macrobius may have it right about a round earth, but his desire for everything to have a geometric orderliness (with the 4 land masses divided so neatly by the torrid zone ocean and it's branches) - I wonder if that is part of the urge (that Lewis mentioned in the introduction) that the Medievals had to neatly catorgorize and organize everything?


Almost certainly. It fits right in, I think, but I'm only guessing.

From Tinidril we learn that earth became turning point or a vertex because of what the Son did to rescue us


I think the key word here though is "became", and that it illustrates what God does -- ie, takes the weak things of the world to show his power and glory.

In a way the modern view of earth and man being random is more lowering than being the "offscourings". -Like being the bottom almost has more dignity than being lost in adverage-ness and middle-ness.


Exactly! I can hardly wait till we get to chapter V that contains one of my all-time favourite quotes from Lewis. It is about the difference between the Romantic and the Classical view and...oh, heck, I can't resist. Here is the quote from page 99 of my edition (I'll have more to say about it when we get to that section):

The really important difference is that the medieval universe, while unimaginably large, was also unambiguously finite. And one unexpected result of this is to make the smallness of Earth more vividly felt. In our [ie, modern view] universe she is small, no doubt; but so are the galaxies, so is everything – and so what? But in theirs there was an absolute standard of comparison…The word ‘small’ as applied to Earth thus takes on a far more absolute significance…to look out on the night sky with modern eyes is like looking out over a sea that fades away into mist, or looking about one in a trackless forest – trees forever and no horizon. To look up at the towering medieval universe is much more like looking at a great building. The ‘space’ of modern astronomy may arouse terror, or bewilderment or vague reverie; the spheres of the old present us with an object in which the mind can rest, overwhelming in its greatness but satisfying in its harmony. That is the sense in which our universe is romantic, and theirs was classical.


Sorry to jump the gun on this:-),
--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.
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Postby liriodendron » 21 Jul 2007, 03:40

That is the sense in which our universe is romantic, and theirs was classical.

That's kind of funny because we usually think of the middle ages as romantic and ourselves as practical (which may or may not be the same as classical).
The "trackless forest" vs. the "great building" imagery is very apt.
liriodendron
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 35
Joined: Apr 2007


Return to The Discarded Image

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered members and 1 guest