The Great Divorce

I just finished reading “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis, and would consider myself remiss if I didn’t write up some of my favorite quotes from it for future reference. I highly recommend it, even to those of you who don’t typically enjoy reading–it’s quick, relatively easy, and interesting. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I fell asleep three times while first reading it. But I was on an airplane, and the guy next to me smelled funky, so that was merely an act of self-preservation. When I woke up this morning, I had no problem devouring the book in one sitting).

“. . .ye cannot in your present state understand eternity. . .But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. . . . That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing  that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me but have this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin (63-64).”

” ‘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. . . .The sensualist, I’ll allow ye, begins by pursuing a real pleasure, though a small one. . .But the time comes on when, though the pleasure becomes less and less and the craving fiercer and fiercer, and though he knows that joy can never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him. He’d fight to the death to keep it. He’d like well to be able to scratch: but even when he can scratch no more he’d rather itch than not (66-67).”

“Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of  the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. . .They. . . become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations (79).”

“The Ghost made a sound something between a sob and a snarl. ‘I wish I’d never been born,’ it said. ‘What are we born for?’

‘For infinite happiness,’ said the Spirit. ‘You  can step out into it at any moment.’

‘But, I tell you, they’ll see me.’

‘An hour hence and you will not care. A day hence and you will laugh at it. Don’t  you remember on earth–there were things too hot to touch with your  finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will  accecpt it–if you will drink the cup to the bottom–you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds (57).’ ”

“And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that [Hell] contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good (126-127).”

(In the interest of proper citation, I was reading a 1962 MacMillan Company edition. Aren’t old editions of books just the bombdiggity?)


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