Quotes NOT By Lewis: A Preliminary Examination

Not long ago I was talking to Abraham Lincoln and he told me, "The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity." My reply to him was that I thought C. S. Lewis had actually made that statement! Of course, I'm making this up; I've never spoken to Lincoln and I don't believe Lewis ever said it. However, there are many quotations floating around online that are attributed to Lewis that he actually never wrote.

Back in March, 2013 I posted in a couple Facebook groups that I was trying to collect quotations that were credited as being by Lewis that were suspect. Even though there was a decent response to my request, I began to be involved in other projects that took up my time. The issue came back to the forefront of my mind when a friend saw one of the more common quotes misattributed to Lewis shared on Facebook by a famous author. This led me to "dusting off" my electronic research files to at least begin a post to try to set the record straight. What follows is a preliminary report on quotes erroneously believed to be by Lewis. In some cases he may have said something similar, in others he did not. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the quotations, the point is that they didn't originate with C. S. Lewis.

1. "You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body."

This is one of the more controversial quotes alleged to be by Lewis. While it's definitely not by him, there are those who defend it as something he would agree with and others who believe such a statement goes against Orthodox Christian views. There are two online posts discussing this quote in great detail. The first is from a 2011 blog by a person who goes by Mackman. "C. S. Lewis was not a gnostic heretic" details why the quote runs afoul of Biblical teachings and says it's by Walter Miller's 1959 book Canticle for Leibowitz. Then in 2012 MereOrthodoxy.com posted "You Don't Have a Soul": C. S. Lewis Never Said It. This was a guest post by Hannah Peckham with updates from others who contribute to the site. The quote, or something similar to it is traced back further, all the way to 1895. Then its noted, a few years earlier, in 1892 that a British Quaker periodical had an article where the author of the piece attributed "you are a soul; you have a body" to George MacDonald (someone Lewis greatly admired).

2. "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."

Who could argue with this statement? I certainly cannot. However, Lewis never used those exact words. Some claim it is from Mere Christianity, but I have the eBook version and that quote is not in it. Lewis does deal with the issue of pride in chapter eight of Book 3 – Christian Behaviour. I also own the original version of Christian Behaviour (seventh printing, US edition is from 1946) and while there are some differences in the text you will not find Lewis making that statement. In Mere Christianity Lewis does say "It is better to forget about yourself altogether" and near the end of the chapter entitled "The Great Sin" he states

"He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud."

From where does the quotation in question come? The best I can determine is that it is from Rick Warren. In the 2002 edition of The Purpose Driven Life Warren makes that very statement and he doesn't site a source. It is found in "Day 19" which is entitled "Cultivating Community."

From where does the quotation in question come? The best I can determine is that it is from Rick Warren. In the 2002 edition of The Purpose Driven Life Warren makes that very statement and he doesn't site a source. It is found in "Day 19″ which is entitled "Cultivating Community."

3. "You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream."

Success sells, right? That may be true, however, this quote sounds more like something a motivational speaker would say, than a statement by Lewis. In fact, while there are many places claiming it is from him, I found one place that didn't. It was from a professional motivational speaker (Les Brown) who even has a YouTube video about the statement (and a pretty silly story).

As I mentioned, this is a post to begin to set the record straight on quotes attributed to Lewis that are not from him. In the future I hope to expand this and will provide a link to the new piece containing updated material. Please feel free to post comments offering quotes you are not sure are by Lewis and I will consider looking into them.

I wanted to keep this post short, but I do want to mention a few other quotations attributed to Lewis by some that I am either certain or nearly certain are not by him. A future post will go into details about them:

"Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil."
"A woman's heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase Him to find her."
"A little lie is like a little pregnancy — it doesn't take long before everyone knows."
"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…"

ADDENDUM: Since publishing this post on 1/26/2014 I read a short academic paper at Taylor University that was an adaptation (and expansion) of the essay. My talk is now available on my podcast page All About Jack as "What Lewis NEVER Wrote".