A lot of people have read something by C.S Lewis, or at least have heard of him, and I would guess that his most read and known books are The Chronicles of Narnia. Many people have not even heard of his self-proclaimed “modern fairytale for grown ups,” which is a wonderful trilogy of books called Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.
I did not know of them myself until my first year of college, and once I did, I purchased them immediately. (This may have something to do with the books being recommended by the man whom I had a crush on, and would eventually marry.) They are like traditional children’s fairy tales in that they present a clear battle between good and evil.
Here are some reasons why they are so important to read:
1) Lewis presents unfallen, rational embodied aliens.
In this story there is no question of whether or not we need or could baptize aliens. The aliens have not fallen and do not sin, and therefore do not need the redemption that those of us on the fallen Earth need.
2) Lewis reminds us that there are spiritual beings other than God and the saints active in our lives that science cannot prove.
They play a key role in the trilogy, and their interaction with humanity is crucial to humanity’s destruction or survival. They are like the angels, which are so completely unlike humans, that it is hard to understand what they are like as spiritual beings. Lewis gives a possible scenario of what they are like and how they help humanity.
3) Lewis shows that a medieval worldview is possible in a modern context.
My husband tells me that to fully understand the medieval worldview according to Lewis, one should read The Discarded Image, but I will try to sum it up here.
The first of the two main ideas presented is the hierarchy of beings: plants, animals, humans, spiritual beings, and God. There is a proper relationship between all beings and it is meant to be in harmony; the evil characters have a very improper relationship with nature and other beings. The second is the symbolism and sacramentality of all things. For example, the relationship between a husband and a wife is symbolic to that of the spouses and God.
4) Lewis provides his brilliant insight into man and woman and the proper relationship between the two.
He gives a clear idea of what marriage should look like between two people, and how men and women complement and serve each other. This is just one of his ideas that he has written about elsewhere that he embeds in his fairy tale for grown ups.
5) Lewis has characters who live the Christian life without making a big show.
People are drawn to these Christians because they are good people living honest, caring lives. They integrate their faith into every aspect of their lives, living their vocations fully.
6) Lewis shows the importance of the academic life.
His key characters are academics. The good and the bad characters have lived a life of study and exert great influence through their knowledge. Academics still do this today, but ultimately we see that the full truth cannot be found by science alone. The academics who seek the truth have to step beyond their empirical findings and trust in the spiritual.
7) Finally, it is a story about space, aliens, and awesome people and it is written by C.S. Lewis!
Susanna, after earning her MA in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband and four children. She spends her time going to beautiful liturgies, cooking, reading literature, home schooling her children, and writing all about it at her blog Living With Lady Philosophy.
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