CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce presents a very unique tale about the afterlife. It is one that is told in a refreshingly new way, dispelling the preconceptions that 21st Century humanity often bring to the table. Harps, clouds, flames, and pitchforks aside, Lewis brings something different to the theological subject. He highlights and personifies the things that so often hinder people from capturing the purpose of human existence. The plight of humanity can be addressed and remedied, and Lewis offers this hope within his writings. The personifications within this book can hopefully free you and I from the pitfalls of life (and I hope you read this short, hard-hitting story). Wherever you find yourself on the journey of life, know that there is hope for better days.
Lewis has an especially interesting character that speaks to me. As someone who enjoys philosophy and ideological debates, I can say with certainty that arguing can be fun. Debating ideas and jousting ideologies can be very stimulating, but ideas are also very dangerous. Ideas change the world and can inspire good or evil. The character in chapter five of The Great Divorce is a man who falls into this philosophical category. A solid person (read: a citizen of the bright, solid world) meets a friend from his former life who is nothing but a shadowy ghost (read: a citizen of the gray lands). The ghost came to this idyllic Eden on a trip and meets his friend and begins to converse. Towards the end of the conversation came an interesting exchange:
‘Listen!’ said the White Spirit (The solid person). ‘Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now.’
‘Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things.’ (replied the ghost)
‘You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.’
Inquiry was made for truth. What a stunning statement to be made in a rootless, postmodern world! There is truth in the world and there is a necessity to find that truth. Not truths or a devout, honest opinion that this ghost would propose in The Great Divorce. Philosophy and theology has an ultimate goal. Philosophizing for the sake of philosophizing should not occur. Philosophizing for the pursuit of truth and clarity, that is the proper vehicle. (The ghost, funny enough, was an Episcopalian minister. He boldly denied the Resurrection and even organized a theological paper presentation!) Philosophy is a great subject and vehicle of pursuit. But that search must always be towards truth and clarity. And yes, that is my devout, honest opinion.