The Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis

“I dreamed of a boy who was born in the land of Puritania and his name was John.”

In The Pilgrim’s Regress, John is a boy who lives in Puritania and is given a rather legalistic view of the Landlord of his country by the overseer or Steward.  When he sees a shimmering Island in a vision through a crack in a wall, he experiences such an intense longing that he leaves Puritania, setting out on a journey to discover its location.  With this incredible longing (Sehensucht) throbbing inside him, he tries to assuage it by a number of worldly means.  The basic gist of the story is that John starts out, running from something he doesn’t truly understand and running to something he doesn’t truly understand.  Through his numerous adventures, many with his friend Vertue, he discovers that he has run right back to where he had begun, Puritania, but thanks to the enlightenment he has received on his travels from Mr. Halfway & son, the Clevers, Mr. Mammon, the Giant, Reason, Mother Kirk, Three Pale Men, Mr. Savage, Mr. Broad, Wisdom, Contemplation, the Hermit, and Silkisteinsauga, he finds the answers to his questions and is able to pass over the brook and into the light.

One of the many strengths of this book lies in the fact that John didn’t simply learn from the “good” people he met along his journey.  Each of his encounters taught him something about life and his beliefs, which helped him to grow into the person he became at the end of the story.

This was one of the hardest reviews I have written so far.  You begin with what appears to be a simple allegory of C.S. Lewis’ own journey to faith, yet the reader is soon made aware that embedded in this simple story is a plethora of incredibly complex material and ideas.  Lewis incorporated numerous ideologies such as Romanticism, Neo-Romanticism, Communism, Freudianism, Facism, etc. along with imagery, metaphors, and a host of allusions and quotes that is mind-boggling.  The fact that he wrote this book while on vacation at his friend Arthur Greeves’ house in a mere two weeks, and was able to incorporate the wide-ranging scope of material that he did, is astounding!

In talking about his book years later, Lewis appeared almost embarrassed by it:  “On re-reading this book ten years after I wrote it, I find its chief faults to be those two which I myself least easily forgive in the books of other men: needless obscurity, and an uncharitable temper.”  He blames his youthful idealism on failing to give the reader the guidance to understand his personal journey.  I, for one, can forgive him this minor fault.  To mine The Pilgrim’s Regress of its treasures is a difficult task, but one that is well worth the effort.

The C.S. Lewis Project 2014

The above poster was created by The Moonlight Reader

Another project/challenge for 2014 is The C.S. Lewis Project.  This project was proposed by the wonderful moderators on my Goodreads book group, The Dead Writers Society .

C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite authors.  I began by reading some books from his Narnia Chronicles when I was young and later, as an adult, I read many of his theological books.  Not only is Lewis brilliant, but he is adept at communicating complex ideas and concepts in a way that is easily accessible to your average layperson …….. like me!  While he has definite opinions, which he supports using common sense and reason, he also is very gracious towards the people and groups with whom he disagrees.  The depth and variety of his subjects mean that each read through his books exposes layer upon layer of valuable insights that have just as much relevance today as when he wrote them.

The schedule for The C.S. Lewis Project 2014 will look like this:

Dec 29 – Jan 11: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Jan 12 – 25: Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia
Jan 26 – Feb 8: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Feb 9 – 22: The Silver Chair
Feb 23 – Mar 8: The Horse and His Boy
Mar 9 – 22: The Magician’s Nephew
Mar 23 – Apr 5: The Last Battle

 

April: Mere Christianity
May: The Screwtape Letters
June: The Great Divorce
July: Surprised by Joy
August: A Grief Observed

 

September: Out of the Silent Planet
October: Perelandra
November: That Hideous Strength

 

December: God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics 

              A Preface to Paradis Lost
              Dante’s Similes (Essay)
              A Panegyric for Dorothy L. Sayers (Essay)
              Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem? (Essay)
              On Reading ‘The Faerie Queene’ (Essay)
              Spenser’s Images of Life
              Narnian Suite (Poetry)

Are you interested in participating?  Then come on over to The Dead Writers Society and join us!  We’d be glad to have you!


Update:  2015
I’ve enjoyed this project so much that I’ve decided to continue it indefinitely.  In 2015, I’ll try to read some of the Lewis books I missed in 2014, and then concentrate more on his scholarly work and essays.  Fun!



30 DAY CHALLENGE – Day 13

Day 13 – Favourite author

 

This was an easy one for me.  C.S. Lewis.  I’ve read most of his books, I’ve watched documentaries about him and his life, I’ve read snippets of his biographies and letters, and I’ve taken a university course based on some of his works.  So perhaps he is my favourite author because I know, by far, more about him than any other author.

Lewis was the grandson of a Anglican priest but he abandoned his Christian faith as a teenager.   He hated school and when he was sixteen, his father finally agreed to hire a private tutor.  This tutor, whom Lewis called, The Great Knock, was “a hard, satirical atheist who taught me how to think.”  He was a great influence on Lewis’ journey into atheism but, surprisingly Lewis credits his tutor for teaching him how to reason, which therefore allowed him to be argued into Christianity.  Lewis called himself “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

I dislike Christian books that attempt to manipulate the reader into a belief in God.  I perhaps have even more of an aversion to secular books which attack Christianity without an understanding of it.  What I love about Lewis is both his rational, direct opinions, yet his warmth and generosity towards the people with whom he disagrees.  With him, I never feel like I’m having some idea or precept forced down my throat.  He merely presents his beliefs in a very logical, matter-of-fact, reasonable way, but they are presented as his beliefs and the reader is only asked to consider them, almost as if you are joining him in conversation.

One of my favourite quotes of Lewis:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.  It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.  The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

I have a great amount of respect for C.S. Lewis.  A year doesn’t go by without a read of at least one of his books.