As a way to prepare for Easter and make the most of an opportunity to enjoy some community, several are gathering weekly to read through C.S. Lewis’, The Great Divorce. The plan is to read three chapters each week.
For week one we are reading the Preface and chapters 1 and 2. It’s my hope that if you’re unable to join us, you’ll still be able to follow along.
Firstly, keep in mind that what Lewis is offering falls in a long line of epic journeys. Particularly he is indebted to Dante for whom he had a particular love. In his biography of Lewis, Alan Jacobs writes,
A few years earlier he had written—in a scholarly study of medieval allegory, of all things—that his “ideal happiness… would be to read the [Renaissance] Italian epic—to be always convalescent from some small illness and always seated in a window that overlooked the sea, there to read these poems eight hours of each happy day.” Alan Jacobs, The Narnian
Lewis, in writing The Great Divorce, is making use of an old form in order to communicate what is needful for the pilgrim in his journey to eternity with God for us today.
Secondly, Lewis calls this “an imaginative supposal”. He is not writing to postulate on what may be, he is rather confronting the reader with some harsh realities of what is. And the “what is” is not how the afterlife works, but what must be faced in this life.
And lastly, in the preface Lewis explains that reality is not growing together but apart. Choices must be made, and steps must be taken, and in those choices no compromise or qualification is allowed. We are left with an “either or” not a “both and”. As you observe each traveler, ask, “What are they trying to take with them into heaven?” Or, “What is that they won’t leave behind?” And in their qualifications or conditions, “How do characters try and make’ heaven of hell’?”
Enjoy your read, and I hope to see you.