C.S. Lewis on The Implications of The Eldila


We tend to think about non-human intelligences in two distinct categories which we label “scientific” and “supernatural” respectively. We think, in one mood, of Mr. Wells’ Martians (very unlike the real Malacandrians, by the bye), or his Selenites. In quite a different mood we let our minds loose on the possibility of angels, ghosts, fairies, and the like. But the very moment we are compelled to recognize a creature in either class as real the distinction begins to get blurred: and when it is a creature like an eldil the distinction vanishes altogether. These things were not animals—to that extent one had to classify them with the second group; but they had some kind of material vehicle whose presence could (in principle) be scientifically verified. To that extent they belonged to the first group. The distinction between natural and supernatural, in fact, broke down, and when it had done so, one realized how great a comfort it had been—how it had eased the burden of intolerable strangeness which this universe imposes on us by dividing it into two halves and encouraging the mind never to think of both in the same context. What price we may have paid for this comfort in the way of false security and accepted confusion of thought is another matter.

I happened upon an Amazon.com link to Perelandra, book two of Lewis’ The Space Trilogy, and began reading to refresh my memory of that long past reading where I first became acquainted with Ransom’s adventures on Venus, or Perelandra, as the Venusians call it. As I was a different person then, I anticipated reading it with new eyes, and so I did.

As with all of Lewis’ post atheistic writings, The Space Trilogy expressed his understanding of Biblical/theological themes, which, in his fictional works, he related through fanciful allegory. The above excerpt describes, at least to me, a relationship between the spirit and the flesh, or in Jesus’ case, the Spirit and his immaculately conceived body. As the rest of us aren’t entitled to his special circumstances—all the better for us since crucifixion would not be our most favored end—his Spirit indwells our corrupted bodies for our ultimate and eternal benefit, but only by his grace, through faith in his Person and Work (Ephesians 2:8-9).

That relationship between spirit and physical body isn’t, however, limited to Jesus and those he redeemed. The vast majority of mankind also possess both spirit and body in that indefinable relationship, though in their case, the spirit is imprisoned within, and subject to, the carnal. In some sense, the human spirit is the flesh’s dupe, providing mankind with an artificial sense of spirituality that leads to human religion in all its benevolent, and malevolent, forms.

Whichever form it takes, though, human religion is equally impotent in its attempts to reach God. Redemption is a God thing, both initiated and consummated by him through the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve personally experienced both human religion and redemption, and here’s a comparison:

Religion Redemption
Mankind reaching for God God reaching for mankind
Esoteric teachings Universal truth
Dogma Scriptural teachings
Tradition Scriptural history
Ritualistic sacraments Scriptural ordinances
Ritualistic liturgy Spontaneous worship
Human-regulated membership God-regulated membership
Specialized jargon Everyday language
Selective Whosoever will …
Separation from other religions Separation from the world’s corrupt values
Path to riches Path to true riches
Ecclesiastical hierarchy Priesthood of believers
Infant baptism Believers’ baptism
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