Quotes by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

In a sense, [Christianity] creates, rather than solves the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our experience of this painful world, we had received what we think is a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving.


Eros never hesitates to say, ‘Better this than parting. Better to be miserable with her than happy without her. Let our hearts break provided they break together.’ If the voice within us does not say this, it is not the voice of Eros.


To hate is to reject, to set one’s face against, to make no concession to, the Beloved when the Beloved utters, however sweetly and however pitiably, the suggestions of the Devil


He had always disliked the people who encored a favourite air in an opera—’That just spoils it’ had been his comment. But this now appeared to him as a principle of far wider application and deeper moment. This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even to be made to work backwards … was it possibly the root of all evil? No: of course the...


That is why bereavement is in some ways easier for the unbeliever than for us. He can storm and rage and shake his fist at the universe and (if he is a genius) write poems like Housman’s or Hardy’s. But we, at our lowest ebb, when the least effort seems too much for us, must begin to attempt what seem impossibilities.


The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.


His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. There is no limit to His power.
If you choose to say, ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words...


Every man, not very holy or very arrogant, has to ‘live up to’ the outward appearance of other men: he knows there is that within him which falls far below even his most careless public behaviour, even his loosest talk. In an instant of time—while your friend hesitates for a word—what things pass through your mind? We have never told the whole truth. We may confess ugly facts—the...


We must do the work of Eros when Eros is not present. This all good lovers know, though those who are not reflective or articulate will be able to express it in a few conventional phrases about ‘taking the rough along with the smooth’, not ‘expecting too much’, having ‘a little common sense’, and the like. And all good Christian lovers know that this programme, modest as it sounds, will not be...


When the two people who thus discover that they are on the same secret road are of different sexes, the friendship which arises between them will very easily pass – may pass in the first half hour – into erotic love. Indeed, unless they are physically repulsive to each other or unless one or both already loves elsewhere, it is almost certain to do so sooner or later. And conversely, erotic...


Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important.
Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but ‘A’s part in C’, while C loses not only A but ‘A’s part in B’. In each of my friends...


For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) ti wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.


Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for,...


To love at is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark,...


God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He created the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say ‘seeing’? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as...


And all the time the grim joke is that this Eros whose voice seems to speak from the eternal realm is not himself necessarily even permanent. He is notoriously the most mortal of our loves. The world rings with complaints of his fickleness. What is baffling is the combination of this fickleness with his protestations of permanency. To be in love is both to intend and to promote lifelong...


The sternest feminist need not grudge my sex the crown offered to it either in the Pagan or the Christian mystery. For one is of paper and the other of thorns. The real danger is not that husbands may grasp the latter too eagerly; but that they will allow or compel their wives to usurp it.


Where a true Eros is present resistance to his commands feels like apostasy, and what are really (by the Christian standard) temptations speak with the voice of duties – quasi-religious duties, acts of pious zeal to love… It seems to sanction all sorts of actions they would not otherwise have dared.


What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And...


I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.


His reason, or what we commonly take to be reason in our own world, was all in favour of tasting this miracle again; the childlike innocence of fruit, the labours he had undergone, the uncertainty of the future, all seemed to commend the future. Yet something seemed opposed to this ‘reason’. It is difficult to suppose that this opposition came from desire, for what desire would turn from so...


Space and time, in their own fashion, mirror His greatness; all life, His fecundity; animal life, His activity.


[Christianity] has the seemingly arbitrary and idiosyncratic character which modern science is slowly telling us to put up with in this wilful universe, where energy is made up in little parcels of a quantity no one could predict, where speed is not unlimited, where irreversible entropy gives time a real direction and the cosmos, no longer static or cyclic, moves like a drama from a real...


But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in...


‘We know nothing of religion here: we think only of Christ. We know nothing of speculation. Come and see. I will bring you to the Eternal Fact, the Father of all other facthood.’


It ought to be clear that the real problem is not why some humble, pious, believing people suffer, but why some do not


We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. I have heard others, and I have heard myself, recounting cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood as if they were no concern of the present speaker’s, and even with laughter. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ: if...


Natural Gift-love is always directed to objects which the loves finds in some way intrinsically lovable… Divine Gift-love in the man enables him to love what is not naturally lovable; lepers, criminals, enemies, morons, the sulky, the superior and the sneering.


Our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.


Far be it from us to think we have virtues for which God could love us. But then, how magnificently we have repented! As Bunyan says, describing his first and illusory conversion, ‘I thought there was no man in England that pleased God better than I.’ Beaten out of this, we next offer our own humility to God’s admiration. Surely He’ll like that? Or if not that, our clear-...


One of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.


A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking as if pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing… What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure… When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But we still know very little about it. What it will be when...


A very strange corollary follows. Man approaches God most nearly when he is in one sense least like God. For what can be more unlike than fullness and need, sovereignty and humility, righteousness and penitence, limitless power and a cry for help?


But in Friendship – in that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen – you got away from all that. This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels.


Creatures cause pain by being born, and live by inflicting pain, and in pain they mostly die.


We must never make the problem of pain worse than it is by vague talk about the ‘unimaginable sum of human misery’. Suppose that I have a toothache of intensity x: and suppose that you, who are seated beside me, also begin to have a toothache of intensity x. You may, if you choose, say that the total amount of pain in the room is 2x. But you must remember that no one...


Depend upon it, when the saints say that they—even they—are vile, they are recording truth with scientific accuracy


In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy...


Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one. I do not see how the ‘fear’ of God could have ever meant to me anything but the lowest prudential efforts to be safe, if I had never seen certain ominous ravines and...


For one of the first things Eros does is to obliterate the distinction between giving and receiving.


Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows something is wrong when he is being hurt


Medicine labours to restore ‘natural’ structure or ‘normal’ function. But greed, egoism, self-deception and self-pity are not un-natural or abnormal in the same sense as astigmatism or a floating kidney. For who, in Heaven’s name, would describe as natural or normal the man from whom these failings were wholly absent? ‘Natural’, if you like, in a quite different sense; archnatural,...


For I can hardly help regarding it as one of God’s jokes that a passion so soaring, so apparently transparent, as Eros, should thus be linked in congruous symbiosis with a bodily appetite which, like any other appetite, tactlessly reveals its connections with such mundane factors as weather, health, diet, circulation, and digestion. In Eros at times we seem to be flying; Venus gives us...


There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.


It is too late, when the crisis comes, to begin telling a husband or a mother or friend, that your love all along had a secret reservation – ‘under God’ or ‘so far as a higher Love permits’. They ought to have been warned; not, to be sure, explicitly, but by the implication of a thousand talks, but the principle revealed in a hundred decisions upon small matters. Indeed, a real disagreement on...


[Shasta] had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.


“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Avaris. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile do that you should reach King Lune in time. And...


Malacandra [Mars] was like rhythm and Perelandra [Venus] like melody. He has said Malacandra affected him like a quantitative, Perelandra like an accentual, metre. He thinks that the first held in his hand something like a spear, but the hands of the other were open, with the palms towards him. But I don’t know that any of these attempts has helped me much. At all events what Ransom saw...


‘It would be better for me not to exist’—in what sense ‘for me’? How should I, if I did not exist, profit by not existing?


Again, if matter has a fixed nature and obeys constant laws, not all states of matter will be equally agreeable to the wishes of a given soul, nor all equally beneficial for that particular aggregate of matter which he calls his body. If fire comforts that body at a certain distance, it will destroy it when the distance is reduced. Hence, even in a perfect world, the necessity for those danger...


Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis—in itself very bad news—before it can win a hearing for the cure


I think the lion, when he has ceased to be dangerous, will still be awful: indeed, that we shall then first see that of which the present fangs and claws are a clumsy, and satanically perverted, imitation. There will still be something like the shaking of a golden mane: and often the good Duke will say, ‘Let him roar again’.


For it is the very mark of Eros that when he is in us we had rather share unhappiness with the Beloved than be unhappy on any other terms.


I’m on Aslan’s side, even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia


Grammatically the things we say of Him are ‘metaphorical’: but in a deeper sense it is our physical and physic energies are mere ‘metaphors’ of the real Life which is God.


[The body] would be too clumsy an instrument to render love’s music unless its very clumsiness could be felt as adding to the total experience its own grotesque charm – a sub-plot or antimasque miming with its own hearty rough-and-tumble what the soul enacts in statelier fashion.


The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift… It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous.


Without Eros none of us would have been begotten and without Affection none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without Friendship. The species, biologically considered, has no need of it. The pack or herd – the community – may even dislike and distrust it. Its leaders very often do.


Very often what comes first [in Eros] is simply a delighted pre-occupation with the Beloved – a general, unspecified pre-occupation with her in her totality. A man in this state really hasn’t the leisure to think of sex. He is too busy thinking of a person. The fact that she is a woman is far less important than the fact that she is herself.


“Oh, how can they?” said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. “The brutes, the brutes!” for now that the first shock was over the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.


Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.


God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world


I contend that in all these miracles alike the incarnate God does suddenly and locally something that God has done or will do in general. Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of nature.


Ass is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can revere or hate a donkey. It is a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body. There’s no living with it till we recognise that one of its functions in our lives is to play the part of buffoon. Until...


All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times – and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit – they are receiving Charity, are not loved because they are lovable but because Love Himself is in those who love them.


Whatever God knew, Abraham at any rate did not know that his obedience could endure such a command until the event taught him: and the obedience which he did not know that he would choose, he cannot be said to have chosen. The reality of Abraham’s obedience was the act itself; and what God knew in knowing that Abraham ‘would obey’ was Abraham’s actual obedience on that mountain top...


Man was appointed by God to have dominion over the beasts, and everything a man does to an animal is either a lawful exercise, or a sacrilegious abuse, of an authority by Divine right. The tame animal is therefore, in the deepest sense, the only ‘natural’ animal—the only one we see occupying the place it was made to occupy, and it is on the tame animal that we must base all our doctrine of...


A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and lead and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.


When we are praying about the result, say, of a battle or a medical consultation the thought will often cross our minds that (if only we knew it) the event is already decided one way or the other. I believe this to be no good reason for ceasing our prayers. The event certainly has been decided—in a sense it was decided ‘before all worlds’. But one of the things taken into account in deciding...


She seemed to him, as he now thought of her, to have in herself deep wells and knee-deep meadows of happiness, rivers of freshness, enchanted gardens of leisure, which he could not enter but could have spoiled. She was one of those other people who could enjoy things for their own sake.


Even for their own sakes the loves must submit to be second things if they are to remain the things they want to be. In this yoke lies their true freedom; they ‘are taller when they bow’.


“It’s your sister’s horn,” said Aslan to Peter in a low voice; so low as to be almost a purr, if it is not disrespectful to think of a Lion purring.
For a moment Peter did not understand. Then, when he saw all the other creatures start forward and heard Aslan say with a wave of his paw, “Back! Let the Prince win his spurs,” he did understand, and set off running as hard as he...


The accounts of the ‘miracles’ in first-century Palestine are either lies, or legends, or history. And if all, or the most important, of them are lies or legends then the claim which Christianity has been making for the last two thousand years is simply false.


Our sexuality should be regarded as the transposition into a minor key of that creative joy which in Him is unceasing and irresistible.


It is probably impossible to love any human being simply ‘too much’. We may love him too much in proportion to our love for God; but it is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinacy.


It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to


It is as if Christ said to us through Eros, ‘Thus – just like this – with this prodigality – not counting the cost – you are to love me and the least of my brethren.’


The natural loves are not self-sufficient. Something else, at first vaguely describes as ‘decency and common sense’, but later revealed as goodness, and finally as the whole Christian life in one particular relation, must come to the help of the mere feeling if the feeling is to be kept sweet.


The question whether we are loving God or our earthly Beloved ‘more’ is not, so far as concerns our Christian duty, a question about the comparative intensity of two feelings. The real question is, which (when the alternative comes) do you serve, or choose, or put first? To which claim does your will, in the last resort, yield?


Don’t expect (I mean, don’t count on and don’t demand) that when you are confirmed, or when you make your first Communion, you will have all the feelings you would like to have. You may, of course: but also you may not. But don’t worry if you don’t get them. They aren’t what matter. The things that are happening to you are quite...


I’ve never met Orcs or Ents or Elves—but the feel of it, the sense of a huge past, of lowering danger, of heroic tasks performed by the most apparently unheroic people, of distance, vastness, strangeness, homeliness (all blended together) is so exactly what living feels like to me.


Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only...


Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you


The most pleased of the lot was the other lion who kept running about everywhere pretending to be very busy but really in order to say to everyone he met, “Did you hear what he said? Us Lions. The means him and me. No side, no stand-off-ishness. Us Lions. That meant him and me.”


You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You’ve had my advice and now it’s the time for orders.


It is always shocking to meet life when we thought we were alone. ‘Look out!’ we cry, ‘it’s alive’. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back—I would have done so myself if I could—and proceed no further with Christianity. An ‘impersonal God’—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless...


The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation


Pantheism is a creed not so much false as hopelessly behind the times. Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God. But God created. He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him, and achieve union instead of mere sameness


“Susan,” whispered Peter, “what about you? Ladies first.”
“No, you’re the eldest,” whispered Susan.
And of course the longer they went on doing this the more awkward they felt. Then at last Peter realised that it was up to him. He drew his sword and raised it to the salute and and hastily saying to the others “Come on. Pull yourselves together,” he advanced to the Lion and...


We have been like bathers who want to keep their feet – or one foot – or one toe – on the bottom, when to lose that foothold would be to surrender themselves to a glorious tumble in the surf.


You do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience


Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.


Death is, in fact, what some modern people call ‘ambivalent’. It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and un holy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.


Ransom at last understood why mythology was what it was—gleams of celestial strength and beauty falling on a jungle of filth and imbecility.


In science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.


A perfect man would never act from sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people), like a crutch, which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it’s idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits etc) can do...


God does not shake miracles into Nature at random as if from a pepper-caster. They come on great occasions: they are found at the great ganglions of history—not of political or social history, but of that spiritual history which cannot be fully known by men. . If your own life does not happen to be near one of those great ganglions, how should you expect to see one? If we were heroic...


These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that some day we may be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King...


This miracle [Jesus turning water into wine] proclaims that the God of all wine is present. The vine is one of the blessings sent by Jahweh: He is the reality behind the false god Bacchus. Every year, as part of the Natural order, God makes wine. He does so by creating a vegetable organism that can turn water, soil and sunlight into a juice which will, under proper conditions, become wine....


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