Friday, May 4, 2012

Till We Have Faces (CS Lewis)

Via (Side note: Coralie kept asking why that girl was wearing a trash bag. I have no idea what she was talking about.)

Oh, Jack. I could not -- literally could not -- love you more. Every time I think, "CS Lewis is my favorite author, but it's not like he is the best there ever was," I read another of his books and I think "Oh, yes. He IS the best there ever was. Ever ever ever ever ever." And then I add an "Amen" to that.

Our latest book for book club was Till We Have Faces. I hadn't read it in a few years, but I remembered liking the book when I first read it. Oh my. That was an under-remembrance. Lewis hits his thousandth home run with this book. It is his version of the mythological story of Cupid and Psyche, and he somehow incorporates God into it in a way that is mysterious and lovely, without ever actually mentioning God.

Back story: Psyche was a mortal woman who was more beautiful than any woman ever was. Cupid's mother (Venus? I'm too lazy to look it up.) was jealous and sent her son Cupid to shoot Psyche with an arrow that would make her fall in love with a base man. Instead, Cupid himself falls in love with her (I think he was surprised by her beauty and accidentally shot himself with that arrow?); this, of course, infuriates Venus, and blah blah blah the wrath of the gods, etc.

In Lewis' version, the story is more about Psyche and her sister Orual, who loved her with an all-consuming selfish love. In the telling of the story, Lewis challenges his readers to rethink whether their love is selfish or life-giving, whether the gods are manipulative or generous, and whether they (his readers) have the wisdom to discern the difference anyway.

In short, it's brilliant. I don't know how Lewis is able to re-tell mythology* and bring his reader to a better understanding of who our loving God is, but he does.


*I could say so, so much more on this subject, but Lewis believes that mythology is relevant in religion. He thinks the pagan imagination is (divinely?) inspired to produce mythology, and that mythology became fact in the Incarnation. He also believes that myths are a more compelling medium through which to communicate TRUTH than is pure logical rhetoric.


  1. You delight me. In a selfish kind of way, I'm sure.


  2. Love your insights. Can't wait to discuss. Although I am not as enthusiastic about this book as you are. I found it disturbing.


  3. From my perspective, Lewis uses narrative and story to ask us to think and re-think our image/idea of God. Not a list of "thou shalt" statements or a creed, this narrative story invites us to encounter our self, others, and the divine from our souls. One of my favorite Lewis tomes is "A Grief Observed." Perhaps my reading of this book is colored by the knowledge that Joy Davidson (Lewis' wife who would die an early death), in some places, receives co-author credit for " 'til we have faces." Here is a quote from "A Grief Observed" that asks us to encounter God with our souls:

    “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins” (p. 52).


  4. That was a long way of saying that I agree with your assessment that "Lewis is able to re-tell mythology* and bring his reader to a better understanding of who our loving God is" ...

    :) -K.