February 9: "The Tolkien Reader" by J.R.R. Tolkien
June 14: "The Abolition of Man" by C.S. Lewis
July 12: "Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams
October 11: "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis
1. What was Lewis’s purpose in writing Studies in Words?
2. What is the dangerous sense of words, and what makes that sense so dangerous?
3. Why do you think Lewis chose the words he did for this book? If he were writing this book in 2011, would he have chosen the same words, or different words?
4. Lewis writes of the word ‘Simple,” that it is a word that has achieved ‘enormous popularity without acquiring a dangerous sense.’ Do you think this still holds true of the word ‘simple’ in today’s society?
5. According to the last chapter, language supposedly has two limitations: informing us about complex physical shapes and movements, and, unlike music or gesture, doing two things at once. Do you agree with this statement? Lewis also says in this chapter that the most important and effective use of language is emotional. Agree or disagree?
6. Lewis speaks of verbicide, which is the willful distortion of a word from its original meaning. What words can you think have fallen victim to verbicide? How far must a word be distorted to be considered verbicide?
7. Was there a particular chapter, section, or phrase, that you found particularly interesting?
8. What do you think is the purpose of a word?
Will Vaus on the subject of his new book:
Speaking of Jack: A C. S. Lewis Discussion Guide is now in print. My copies arrived last week and I started shipping signed copies to those who have ordered from me.
I really like the way the book came out. The cover is beautiful, thanks to the work of Winged Lion Press. It also feels great. This cover is different from my other books in that it has a matte finish and so has a velvety feel to it which I like very much. This is also one of my larger books, at 278 pages.
You can read a sample chapter of the book HERE.
1.In his preface Lewis says “the only purpose of this book is to solve the intellectual problem raised by suffering; for the far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience. Do you think he succeeds in either of these tasks? Which task do you consider more important?
2. In his introduction he says “Moralities… agree in prescribing a behavior, which their adherents fail to practice …and all men are conscious of guilt”. Is this an appropriate definition of guilt? How would you describe/define guilt? How is guilt described or defined in our culture today?
3. In the chapter on Divine Goodness Lewis describes a difference between “kindness” and “goodness”. How would you describe the difference between the two?
4. What happens when kindness is detached from love?
5. According to Lewis “Pure love demands the perfection of the beloved”. Is this something an atheist or agnostic could agree with?
6.If someone is focused on “kindness” only, what kind of heaven do they assume will be waiting for them? How might this be different from the heaven of the person who is looking for “goodness”?
7. Lewis expresses shame as “Something we don’t want the world to know”. It shows us ourselves in our true perspective. In our society the sense of shame has seems to have vanished. Is there anything that has taken its place?
8.What do you think of Lewis’ story of the fall? How does it meet with, or diverge from, the theory of evolution?
9. In Lewis’ view what is the difference between suicide and martyrdom.
10. Is perhaps the real puzzle for human beings not the fact of pain, but why some people transform it into something redemptive, and others transform it into something destructive? Is this something Lewis deals with?
11. If you had quote or question that really stood out for you, please bring it along to share.
Who’s Who & What’s What In The Pilgrim’s Regress
(shamelessly stolen from Will Vaus)
Ahriman: Persian, Prince of Evil.
Angular: a caricature of T.S. Eliot who was an Anglo-Catholic. Lewis is satirizing Eliot’s dry and Romantic approach to literature.
Archtype and Ectype: the original and the copy.
Behemoth & Leviathan: huge animals referred to in Job 3:8 and 40:15.
Benedict: Spinoza, contributed to 17th century rationalism.
Bernard: Bosanquet (1848-1923), British idealist.
Claptrap: self important, insincere and pretentious language.
Classical: a caricature of Irving Babbitt, and American scholar who vigorously opposed Romanticism and died in 1933.
Clopinel: Jean de Meung of the 13th century.
Dialectic of Desire: the pattern of pursuing the source of joy, being side-tracked, and then corrected.
“Dixit Insipiens,” means, “The fool hath said....” from the Vulgate, Psalm 53:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, “There is no God.”
The Dwarfs: Fascists and Communists (Marxomanni). Mussolomini are Italian Fascits, Swastici are Nazis (Hitler had just been elected Chancellor of Germany when Lewis wrote this), and the Gangomanni are gangters.
Eschropolis: city of foul obscenity.
“Esse Is Percipi” means “To be is to be perceived.”
Evangelium eternum: the eternal gospel, pantheism.
Glugly: represents ugly and meaningless art. Lewis may have had the Dadaists of the 1920’s in mind.
The Grand Canyon: the great chasm between God and man created by the sin of Adam.
Mr. Halfways: represents the Romantic Poets. He is much like William Butler Yeats, whom Lewis had met and admired at one time. He also makes statements directly quoted from Keats.
Helot: a female serf in ancient Sparta.
Herbert: Spencer, coined the phrase “survival of the fittest.”
Humanist: an atheist who lives to oppose optimism, Romanticism, transcerdentalism and humanitarianism. He is a thinly disguised George Santayana.
Ignorantia: ignorance brought about by overemphasizing scientific/technological knowledge and suppressing classical education.
Immanuel: Kant (1724-1904)
Io Paean: a traditional Greek shout of triumph and praise.
Jehovah-Jireh: God will provide.
“Let Grill be Grill” refers to a character in Lewis’ favorite allegory, Spenser’s “Faerie Queene.” Gryll had been turned into a hog, and when a knight released him from the spell, Gryll abused the Knight instead of thanking him.
Luxuria: one of the seven deadly sins; unchastity.
Mr. Mammon: wealth.
The Man: Christ.
Media Halfways: Media refers to the materials of artistic creation. Halfways indicates the insufficiency of the arts to finally satisfy John’s longing.
Medium Aevum: The Middle Ages.
Mother Kirk: Kirk is Scottish for “church.” Mother Kirk represents Christianity.
Nella Sua Voluntade: In His Will. This refers to “In His will is our peace , from “Paradise,” the third and last book of Dante’s Dvine Comedy.
Nomos: the Jewish Law, Vertue’s father.
Northerners: “the men of rigid systems whether skeptical or dogmatic, Aristocrats, Stoics, Pharisees,Rigorists, signed and sealed members of highly organised parties.
Per-persecuted: extremely persecuted
Phally: a nickname for Phallus. Probably represents D. H. Larence.
“Quen Quaertis in Sepulchro? Non Est Hic.” is Luke 24:5-6 in the Latin Vulgate: “Whom do you seek in the sepulcher? He is not here.”
Romanticism: (as used in the title of Pilgrim’s Regress), an experience of intense longing or sweet desire, “the mere wanting is felt to be somehow a delight... this hunger is better than any other fullness; this poverty better than all other wealth.”
Rudolph: Steiner (1861-1925), the first leader of the occult German Theosophohic Association and later founder of the Anthoroposopical Society, which Lewis’ friend Owen Barfield embraced.
The Rules: Morality
Savage: a Nordic warrior much like Odin, god of war.
Mr. Sensible: common sense. He detests Reason, preferring common sense which seeks comfort instead of truth. He has a smattering of knowledge from many sources but does not fully understand any of the authors he has read, thus the many Latin, French and Greek quotes. Epicurus, who taught that the highest good is pleasure, was the founder of Mr. Sensible’s house. In the end we find that Mr. Sensible in that Mr. Sensible is very insensible, and in fact - invisible.
Serpens nisi serrpentem comederit: It is not a serpent if it doesn’t eat serpents.
A shaw: a small wood.
Sigismund: the son of Mr. Enlightenment, represents Sigmund Freud.
Slikisteinsauga: Sleekstone Eyes; a sleekstone is a stone used to polish something else. This is an angelic guide.
Southerners: “boneless soulds whose doors stand open day and night to almost every visitant, but always with readiest welcome for those, whether Maenad or Mystagogue, who offer some sort of intoxication.”
(stolen from several sources including my own head)
1) Who does John represent? What does Puritania represent?
2) What are the brown girls and why are they brown?
3) What causes John to leave Puritania?
4) Who is the first person John meets upon leaving Puritania? How does he influence John?
5) What substitutes for joy does John accept along his way? What causes him to reject them ultimately?
6) According to Sigismund Enlightenment, what is all human aspiration reduced to?
7) Who defeats the Spirit of the Age? How?
8) What is the Grand Canyon? How can someone get across the canyon?
9) How does the Hermit assist John?
10) What do John and Vertue see about the world as the regress?
11) What do you think of the explanation of why hell exists?
I have had a great literary experience this week. I have discovered yet another author to add to our circle – our very own set: never since I first read 'The well at the world's end' have I enjoyed a book so much – and indeed I think my new 'find' is quite as good as Malory or Morris himself. The book, to get to the point, is George Macdonald's 'Faerie Romance', Phantastes, which I picked up by hazard in a rather tired Everyman copy – by the way isn't it funny, they cost 1/1d. Now – on our station bookstall last Saturday …