Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday, Thy or my Will Be Done?

"Sir," said I, "It's about these Ghosts. Do any of them stay? Can they stay? Is any real choice offered them? How do they come to be here?"

".......the damned have holidays---excursions ye understand...For those that will take them. Of course most of the silly creatures don't. They prefer taking trips back to Earth. They go and play tricks on the poor daft women ye call mediums. They go and try to assert their ownership of some house that once belonged to them....and then you get what's called a Haunting. Or they go and spy on their children. Or literary ghosts hang about public liberaries to see if anyone's still reading their books." "But if they come here they can really stay? Is judgment not final? Is there really a way out of Hell into Heaven?"

"It depends on the way you're using the words. If they leave that grey town behind it will not have been Hell. To any that really leaves, it is Purgatory. And perhaps ye better not call this place Heaven....not Deep Heaven. And yet to those who stay here it will have been Heaven from the first. Both good and evil when they are full blown becomes retrospective.....Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. And not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell......you see Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory, as also damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin.....Both processes begin even before death....."

"Well, Sir, What do they choose, these souls that go back---I have yet seen no others? And how can they choose it?"

"Milton was right," said my Teacher. "The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words, Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. There is always something they insist on keeping...even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy---that is to reality. Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper than say it was sorry and be friends.....But in adult life it has a hundred fine names----Achilles wrath, Coriolanus' grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit, Self-Respect, Proper Pride...."

"Then no one is lost through the undignified vices, Sir?"

"Some are no doubt. the sensualist, I'll allow ye, begins by pursuing a real pleasure, though a small one. His sin is less. But the time comes when, though the pleasure becomes less and less and the craving becomes fiercer and fiercer, he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him. He'll fight to the death to keep it.....Ye'll understand, there are innumerable forms of this choice."

"How fantastic," I said.

"You think so?" the Teacher said with a piercing glance. "There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existance of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself.....as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some so occupied in spreading Christianity they never gave a thought to Christ. Man!....Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organisier of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all snares...."

Changing subject, I asked my Teacher, "But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?"

"Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: Those who say to God, Thy Will be done and those to whom God says, in the end, Thy will be done. All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell......those who seek, and keep seeking truly find. To those who knock the door is opened."

-----C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

1 comment:

Bob said...

Very thought-provoking!