Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lewis on Self - Orual revelation

Orual found her real self when she was unmasked. It was painfully uncomfortable and painfully freeing. Facing self requires the unmasking of the soul, the very us-ness we hide from God and others.
Friend Lewis says it so much better in this extended quote from Mere Christianity as found in John Piipo's blog:

""There are no real personalities apart from God. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. [This reminds me of N.T. Wright's idea that, in Jesus, we see what humanity is. Some say, "Well, I'm only human." If only that were true. The Jesus-idea is that, without God's kingdom-rule in our lives, we're sub-human.] Sameness is to be found most among the most 'natural' men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerers have been; how gloriously different are the saints. But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away 'blindly' so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality; but you must not go to Him for the sake of that.

As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. [This is the Jesus-paradox, recently highlighted by the likes of Dallas Willard and J.P. Moreland, that to live the truly good life one must not focus on living the good life. Or, as Lewis once wrote elsewhere, if one goes into a beautiful garden expecting to be blown away by its beauty, this will not often happen. But go into the same garden to say your prayers, and nine times out of ten the result will be to be stunned by the beauty.] It will come when you are looking for Him...Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in." [Thomas Merton has much to add to these Lewis-ideas in his many meditations that caused him to see the distinctions between the "false self" and the "true self."] "

Will I take the risk to expose my self to God and to others? Will I risk being real?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Some day....

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Orual wasn't totally out of it!!

I have the tendency to think of pre-regenerated Orual as so thoroughly corrupted, so narcissistically imploded that she couldn't possibly think clearly about anything. But I'm wrong.
There may be other moments of clarity for her besides this one, but in this passage in C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces she is sitting with Arnom, the priest, in the house of Ungit as they prepare to observe the next Year's birth. She engages him in conversation about Ungit.

"If she is the mother of all things," said I, "in what way more is she the mother of the god of the Mountain?"
"He is the air and the sky, for we see the clouds coming up from the earth in mists and exhalations."
"Then why do the stories sometimes say he's her husband, too?"
"That means that the sky by its showers makes the earth fruitful."
"If that's all they mean, why do they wrap it up in so strange a fashion?"
"Doubtless," said Arnom (and I could tell that he was yawning inside the mask, being worn out with his vigil), "doubtless to hide it from the vulgar."
I would torment him no more, but I said to myself, "It's very strange that our fathers should first think it worth telling us that rain falls out of the sky, and then, for fear such a notable secret should get out (why not hold their tongues?) wrap it up in a filthy tale so that no one could understand the telling." (p. 271)

This is not the first time she has felt the inadequacy of religion. For her, religion reaches to the gods and then pulls back its hand. The gods are capricious, cruel, consuming of those who worship them. The priests in her life do not proffer adequate answers. She never really discounts the gods, but she is skeptical.
Then the judgment. Unmasked and naked before the gods, she bares her soul as well. She accuses them and condemns herself at the same time. She is guilty of the charge which she levels at the gods - taking possession of people. As does a child, exhausted by the energy consumed in a tantrum, she suddenly ends her tirade when the word "Enough" is called out. (p 292)
Silence falls.
The best part of the story follows but for now, I conclude that Orual , as dissatisfied with religion as she had been, was finally satisfied with the gods.
Is this a distinction we are careful to make today? Do we differentiate between religion and God?

Monday, September 21, 2009

"I was Orual"

In C.S. Lewis' masterpiece "Till We Have Faces", Orual makes the statement early in her first book, "I was Orual (emphasis mine), the eldest daughter of Trom, King of Glome." She hated her father. He called her curd face and unworthy, stated he was barren when indeed, he had three daughters, dared the tutor to teach her and her sisters, punched and kicked her, ridiculed her. The father/daughter relationship in the story is painful and completely dysfunctional. In truth, it is non existent. Or was it? How did this relationship influence/affect her?


I was Orual.....

A careful reading lets us discover that she tries very hard to eradicate Orual and become someone/something else. While this is a fascinating psychological study, it is not my primary interest, nor am I qualified to make observations and conclusions in the matter. Rather, I am interested in who or what she became once she decided "I was Orual..."

There are several incarnations along the way. She very nearly becomes a man. Her voice deepens, she takes up the sword and horseback riding. She fights in many battles with her soldiers and one in particular on her own. She eats and drinks with them.

She states near the end of the book, "I am Ungit", the black stone goddess (p. 279). Here she understands her propensity to confuse being loved with using/consuming people for her own stoney-hearted "blood gorged" purposes (p. 281, 282), calling that "love". She admits to being ugly in soul.

What I didn't see until today was this:

She became her father. How so?

When it is determined that Psyche must be sacrificed, the King is questioned as to how he could allow it to occur. He answers, "No one seems to remember whose girl she is. She's mine, fruit of my own body." (p. 60) Here he reminds me of Ungit!! Blood gorged. A user-up of people.

Toward the end of the book, Orual is called before the gods to read her complaint. She has already admitted to Shadowbrute and her father that she is Ungit - the goddess who represents the human condition. But there is a fascinating passage that until now I didn't connect to anything.

"The girl was mine. What right had you to steal her away into your dreadful heights?...There's no room for you and us in the same world. You're a tree in whose shadow we can't thrive. We want to be our own. I was my own and Psyche was mine and no one else had any right to her. ... What should I care for some horrible, new happiness which I hadn't given her and which separated her from me?.... Did you ever remember whose the girl was? She was MINE! Do you not know what the word means? MINE! You're thieves, seducers (p. 291, 292).

Not only had she become the faceless goddess she didn't understand, wouldn't worship, ridiculed. She had become the father she viscerally hated. She had no compassion for him at any stage of life. And now, because she had killed off Orual, the void left behind had been filled. She had allowed voracious hate, bitterness, envy to fill her. She had become her father.

Instead of spending her life working at forgiveness, instead of rejecting the lies about her unworthiness, she put all her energy into eradicating the very person she was made to be - Orual. She concentrated on hating, consuming, devouring herself and others. Conscious of what she was doing to herself, she was unconscious of what she was doing to others. Consider her relationship with Psyche, Redival, Bardia, even the Fox.

Ungit is religion's expression of the human condition.
The King is the human manifestation of the human condition.
Orual is proof that there is hope for the otherwise hopeless human condition.

There is a regenerative moment for us.
There is forgiveness extended to us.
There is forgiveness we can extend to others.
First, however, we must be face to face, barefaced with God.

She enters judgment as Ungit. But, in the end, Orual becomes Psyche! No, not a physical Psyche. But just as she embodied the awful nature of Ungit, the mind of her father and all her other incarnations, she DOES become Psyche. "(She) became unmade." "(She) became no one."
(p. 307) "Joy at last silenced (her)." (p.306). She, like Psyche, came to know that "You (the gods) are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?...." (p.308)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Moses meets Orual

I was reading in Deut. this lovely cool morning. Moses died and was buried by God. Ch. 34:10; "Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. "
Consider these other passages on the same theme.
I Cor 3: 12 - 18 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Till We Have Faces;
" "Uncover her," said the judge.
Hands came from behind me and tore off my veil - after it, every rag I had on. The old crone with her Ungit face stood naked before those countless gazers. No thread to cover me.... (p. 289) And the voice I read it in (the complaint against the gods) was strange to my ears. There was given to me a certainty that this, at last, was my real voice....The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered.... I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?" (292, 294)

Orual's outer veil represented her inner veil. She hid her inner self from the gods (so she thought), people and even herself. She tried, throughout the book, to kill off Orual and become someone, something else - a man, a king, a mother, a warrior, a savior. All the while, she was demanding an answer from the gods about suffering, sacrifice, love. They would not answer a veiled face.

What then do I conclude about Moses? He was a veiled man at one time, after all! But unlike Orual, who veiled herself so as to hide her shame, who found power in her veil, Moses veiled himself to protect the people from the overwhelming glory resting on him, having been in the presence of God. His veil came off as the glory faded. But I conclude that he never had the veil that hid his "self" from God. Moses searched for God and found Him. Moses was honest before God. And God met him face to face.

Am I honest with myself? Am I honest with God? Will He meet me face to face? Will I shine in such a way that people will know God meets me face to face?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Longing in Till We Have Faces

If it's not my favorite book, then I'm not sure what is, - aside from the Bible, of course. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis seems to me to be arguably the most profound, most intricately written book in print.

It is hard to choose from the many compelling themes which one stimulates my thoughts most earnestly. Perhaps, as when I read the Bible, where I am emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally, has to do with that which I ponder and - to the poor soul who has to listen to me - about which I talk - for days on end.
Right now I am thinking about the whole idea of longing as presented in the book.

"It was when I was happiest that I longed most (ponder that for just a moment!!)...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from.... It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine...where you couldn't see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The colour and the smell, and looking across at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn't (not yet) come and I didn't know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me..... I am going, you see, to the Mountain. You remember how we used to look and long? And all the stories of my gold and amber house, up there against the sky, where we thought we should never really go? The greatest King of all was going to build it for me..... - my country, my home the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home! For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back. All my life the god of the Mountain has been wooing me...." (p. 74, 75)

I see it. Beauty of the mountain led to her desire to go there and find her beloved. Desire led to Psyche's longing to give herself to what she knew of the unknown to gain that of which she was sure. Her tasks, her anguish, her perseverance from this point on in the story reveal her passion to gain and regain what she knew to be true. What she knew to be truth!!

If I don't have passion - the willingness to endure, suffer, submit to God and to circumstances over which I have no control - perhaps I don't have a clear enough vision of the beauty that is already prepared for me, beauty that should draw me to respond, beauty that awaits me, beauty that is my Savior.