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?

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