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thoughts on Charles Williams

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thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Adam Linton » 05 Jul 2009, 03:05

I'd read a number of things by Charles Williams, English lay theologian and writer (and Inkling, as well). But not until now his Descent Into Hell. Yesterday and today I actually had two straight full days off and have been reading it. Williams is not easy to read (for a number of reasons). Yet I do find him compelling--and Descent is nothing less than stunning. Engaging; deeply moving at times--chilling, too, as he is able to describe in vivid power the highly consequential difference that barely noticed emotional/cognitive decisions can make. Magnificent.

Williams has to be read slowly; but he certainly can be gripping--making one both want to strain ahead but also not miss anything. (Many thanks, by the way--and for the record, to Stanley, who helped/encouraged me to get started with Williams a few years ago.)

So I thought that I'd open a free flowing Charles Williams thread here.

Welcome to the world of Co-Inherence.

Any takers?
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Paul F. Ford » 23 Jul 2009, 21:54

Adam,

Descent Into Hell is a book I can read only during the daylight, such is its power to grip my imagination.

I forget who said that That Hideous Strength is a Charles Williams novel written by C. S. Lewis. I find this observation very true.

I have read a great deal of Charles Williams. In fact, for our wedding, George Sayer gave Janice and me Lewis's own copy of Williams's anthology, The Christian Year, inscribed "C.S.L. from C.W. / Lent 1941."

Let's see if we can get this discussion started.

Blessings,
Paul
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Adam Linton » 24 Jul 2009, 15:12

Thanks, Paul; indeed, I’d like to see the discussion get going.

I’m fairly new with Williams, only having started with him about five years ago. Can’t say that I’ve read that much.

So far: All Hallows’ Eve, War in Heaven, The Place of the Lion, Descent into Hell, and his play on Thomas Cranmer. Just launching into Many Dimensions. I’ve decided to do with Williams what I do with particular authors every few years: undertake a one to two years extensive reading through their work.

I’d be very open to suggestions. At this point, in terms of the non-fiction, I’m inclined to start with Descent of the Dove (perhaps keying into some other work that I’m doing in ecclesiology), then He Came Down from Heaven/The Forgiveness of Sins.

And while I’m usually fairly strict about reading secondary literature second, I’d be most interested in hearing of what you’ve written in terms of Williams studies
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Paul F. Ford » 24 Jul 2009, 16:04

Descent of the Dove is great, as is He Came Down from Heaven/The Forgiveness of Sins.

Do you know his The Image of the City and Other Essays (Oxford, 1958)? Cowley Publicatins has a collection called Charles Williams: Essential Writings in Spirituality and Theology (1993: ISBN 1-56101-073-1).

I am most intrigued/moved by his theology of co-inherence.

What work are you doing in ecclesiology?

My only writing on Williams is in my dissertation (not published).

Blessings,
Paul
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Adam Linton » 24 Jul 2009, 16:38

Paul F. Ford wrote:Descent of the Dove is great, as is He Came Down from Heaven/The Forgiveness of Sins.

Do you know his The Image of the City and Other Essays (Oxford, 1958)? Cowley Publicatins has a collection called Charles Williams: Essential Writings in Spirituality and Theology (1993: ISBN 1-56101-073-1).

I am most intrigued/moved by his theology of co-inherence.

What work are you doing in ecclesiology?

My only writing on Williams is in my dissertation (not published).

Blessings,
Paul


I had heard of the Image of the City essay collection, fortunately now republished. (Regent and Apocryphile Press seem to have both done are fair amount of Williams republishing in the last few years.) Thanks for the heads up on the Cowley volume, as well.

Yes, I am very drawn to the theology of co-inherence already; looking forward to pursuing this more.

My recent work on ecclesiolgy so far has had two main focuses: Richard Hooker, whose Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity I read in entirety, along with his Learned Discourse on Justification and some other material. Finished this up a couple of years ago. Remarkable. There's no one else writing in the sixteenth century, either Protestant or Catholic, with his take on things. [By the way, Lewis' section on Hooker in his OHEL volume is rather good, I think.] Presently am launched into Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics (the recently updated 30 volume version, with index), and am finding there, at least so far, that he invests substantial attention to ecclesiology. It's an interesting "point/counterpoint" with my previous study of the topic from Eastern Orthodox perspectives (Lossky, Meyendorff, Zizioulas, etc.).

For some time I've felt that Anglicans/Episcopalians (even many clergy) have insufficiently invested in deeper, more rigorous theological work--even in regard to our own classics (such as Hooker). I try to be a part of rectifiying that.

Blessings to you, too.

Adam
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby agingjb » 01 Aug 2009, 08:48

There is also Williams' Arthurian poetry: Taliessin Through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars, together with Arthurian Torso, which is a partially completed series of essays by Williams, The Figure of Arthur and a commentary by CSL, Williams and the Arthuriad, on the poems.

I find the poetry hard going, but the essays interesting.
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Adam Linton » 01 Aug 2009, 14:32

agingjb wrote:There is also Williams' Arthurian poetry[...]I find the poetry hard going, but the essays interesting.


Yes, indeed; the poetry. I intend to save this for last.
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby galion » 01 Aug 2009, 15:05

And at a slight tangent: his The Figure of Beatrice (1943) inspired Dorothy L. Sayers to embark on her translation of Dante.
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby The Exodus » 04 Sep 2009, 14:57

In brief, could anyone educate me as to what C.W.'s doctrine of co-inherence is all about? I've never read anything by the man.
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Paul F. Ford » 04 Sep 2009, 15:43

See http://web.sbu.edu/friedsam/inklings/coinheretance.htm [sic]

Under "Magic" in the 2005 edition of my book Companion to Narnia I write:

Deeper Magic A complex term in LWW, the full meaning of which ASLAN alone knows; it connotes a self-sacrificing compassion. The Deeper Magic is eternal (the meaning of “from before the dawn of time”). That it is not simply “mercy” in contrast to the “justice” of the Deep Magic is clear from ASLAN’s definition of a willing and innocent victim substituting himself or herself for a traitor, whereupon DEATH is undone and the need for sacrifice in order to fulfill the Deep Magic is abolished. This process finds echoes in the way a volunteer must sail to ASLAN’S COUNTRY at the WORLD’S END in order for the enchantment of the THREE SLEEPERS to be broken, and in the spirit of Tirian’s offer to let himself be killed so that NARNIA might be saved.

Lewis also “defined the Deeper Magic” in a letter to his oldest friend, Arthur Greeves, written on July 2, 1949—only four months after he had completed LWW:

It [is] the rule of the universe that others can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and one can paddle every canoe except one’s own. That is why Christ’s suffering for us is not a mere theological dodge but the supreme case of the law that governs the whole world: and when they mocked him by saying, “He saved others, himself he cannot save,” they were really uttering, little as they know it, the ultimate law of the spiritual world. (Letters II, 953)


See also the principle of vicariousness in Lewis’s Miracles ¶¶16 and 22, and in his letter of 22 December 1951.

Lewis owed this principle to his friend Charles Williams, who spoke of it as “the doctrine of substituted love” in Chapter VI of his novel The Descent into Hell (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), or as the “way of co-inherence” or the “way of exchange” or the “way of substitution” in The Descent of the Dove (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972); Williams’s pamphlets and other writings on this subject are reprinted in The Image of the City and Other Essays, edited and with an Introduction by Anne Ridler (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), §V.
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Lioba » 28 Sep 2009, 15:00

The only book I´ve read so far is The Place of the Lion. It´s rather difficult to get books in foreign languages. Is their a possibility to read Williams on the net?
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Paul F. Ford » 28 Sep 2009, 15:49

Yes, Lioba, it appears that a lot of Williams (nine books) is available to the internet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Williams_(UK_writer)

Blessings,
Paul
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Lioba » 29 Sep 2009, 08:57

Thank you, Paul, this wikisource is much better than the German.
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby equustel » 20 Nov 2009, 17:11

I just recently read The Place of the Lion - my first exposure to Charles Williams. A co-worker who knew I liked Lewis lent me an old paperback copy of it. I'm now completely intrigued and have ordered Descent of the Dove from biblio.com to get a taste for his non-fiction... definitely intend to seek out his other novels, too (especially curious about All Hallow's Eve and Descent Into Hell). It's been a long time since I found myself so compelled to explore a single author's work.
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Re: thoughts on Charles Williams

Postby Adam Linton » 21 Nov 2009, 12:28

equustel wrote:I just recently read The Place of the Lion - my first exposure to Charles Williams. A co-worker who knew I liked Lewis lent me an old paperback copy of it. I'm now completely intrigued and have ordered Descent of the Dove from biblio.com to get a taste for his non-fiction... definitely intend to seek out his other novels, too (especially curious about All Hallow's Eve and Descent Into Hell). It's been a long time since I found myself so compelled to explore a single author's work.


Good for you--and good reading!
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