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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in The Inklings' LiveJournal:

[ << Previous 20 ]
Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
6:27 am
C.S. Lewis on 'The Place of the Lion'.
    "On 26 February 1936 Lewis wrote to Arthur Greeves: 'I have
  just read what I think is a really great book, "The Place of
  the Lion" by Charles Williams. It is based on the Platonic
  theory of the other world in which the archetypes of all
  earthly qualities exist: and in the novel these archetypes
  start sucking our world back. The lion of strength appears in
  the world and the strength starts going out of houses and
  thing into him. The archtypal butterfly (enormous) appears and
  all the butterflies of the world fly back into him. But every
  man contains and ought to be able to rule these forces: and
  there is one man in the book who does... The reading of it has
  been a good preparation for Lent as far as I am concerned: for
  is shows me (through the heroine) the special sin of the abuse
  of intellect to which all in my profession are liable, more
  clearly than I ever saw it before. I have learned more than I
  ever knew yet about humility. Do get it, and don't mind if you
  don't understand everything the first time. It deserves
  reading over and over again. It isn't often nowadays you get a
  Christian fantasy."
Source: Carpenter 1978:99.
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
6:08 am
Anybody here?

Has anyone been reading any books by or about the Inklings recently?
Friday, October 2nd, 2009
4:54 pm
The company they keep: book review
The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Several books and articles have been written about the literary group known as the Inklings, but this is one of the best and most informative.

The Inklings were a group of friends who met in Oxford to read to each other, and criticise each other's work. There were 19 members of the group, though they were not all present at every gathering, and joined and left at various times. At the core of the group was C.S. Lewis, and most of the other members were his friends. Among the most active members were C.S. Lewis's brother Warren Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield. The book has an appendix listing all 19, with a potted biography of each.

Glyer shows how the members of the group influenced one another, and challenges the view of many scholars that there was no such influence. She notes that an entire generation of scholars was discouraged from studying or asserting mutual influence among the Inklings when C.S. Lewis warned a correspondent who asked about influence among the Inklings that he should not "waste time" on a "barren field". Glyer argues that there was a tendency to confuse influence with imitation. "In claiming that Tolkien was not influenced by Lewis, for example, scholars typically mean that his sub-created world does not resemble Malacandra and his creative aesthetic is different from that which envisioned Narnia."

The Inklings were not a literary school with a common point of view, and they sometimes disagreed vehemently over the merits of each other's works. Tolkien disliked Lewis's Narnia stories, Hugo Dyson poured scorn on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, they did influence one another, not merely in the comments on the work that was read, but in joint literary endeavours, in dedicating their work to each other, reviewing each other's work, and occasionally recommending it to publishers.

The negative attitude towards influence is a relatively recent phenomenon, and is a result of post-Enlightenment individualism, where there is an excessive concern for originality and "genius". Barfield explained that the concept of independent creativity emerged well after the Renaissance. Before the Renaissance "genius" is a spirit-being other than the poet himself, and they would say "he has a genius". After the Renaissance the inspiration is seen as part of the poet himself and we say "he is a genius".

Lewis and Tolkien agreed that if they wanted to see the kind of stories they liked, they would have to write them themselves, and this influenced Lewis to write his space trilogy, though Tolkien never completed his contribution, which was to be based on time. To children who wrote to ask Lewis to write more Narnian stories, he replied that he had no more to say, but there was plenty of room for them to contribute their own.

Glyer concludes "I am persuaded that writers do not create text out of thin air in a fit of personal inspiration. I believe that the most common and natural expressions of creativity occur as part of an ongoing dialogue between writers, readers, texts, and contexts. This truth is exemplified by the weekly meetings of the Inklings. It is manifest in their relationships with family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. And it is expressed in many of their own statements about the creative process. As Williams reminds us, an emphasis on isolated individuals must give way to an interactive view of life, culture and creativity."

I think Glyer makes a very good case for this, and I recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed reading anything written by the Inklings. It gives new insights into their lives and their works.

View all my reviews >>

Also posted on my Khanya blog, with some additional comments.
Friday, August 28th, 2009
8:55 pm
Recent reading: The Arthurian handbook
The Arthurian Handbook The Arthurian Handbook by Norris J. Lacy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The stories of King Arthur are among the most enduring legends in English literature, not to mention French, German and other literatures as well. As the authors note in the preface to the second edition, "in the period 1990-95, and in English alone, well over eighty Arthurian novels and even more short stories were published, and the flood shows no signs of abating."

The authors do not claim to be able to record every title in this flood; to do so would be to make the book nothing more than a bibliography. They concentrate on the more important and significant works.

But the point of such a book is that one is quite likely to come across references or allusions to the Arthurian legend in books that one reads, and so some familiarity with the main features of the legend are useful, and this is what this book provides. It has chronologies of the main works published, including non-literary works, like painting, sculpture, film and more. If gives family trees of Arthur (all different) from the major works. And it gives a brief description of the various works that convey the Arthurian story. At the end there is a glossary, giving the names and roles of the main characters, and their various forms, and the way they are portrayed in various works.

I've read about the Arthurian legend in several books, and allusions to it in several others. One is C.S. Lewis's That hideous strength. The Arthurian element is obvious in the case of Merlin, but for a long time "Mr Fisher-King" quite escaped me.

I tried reading Malory and Tennyson's versions, but found it difficult to see the wood for the trees. This book helps one to follow the thread through the longer works, and also points out some of the inconsistencies. Sir Kay is a villain, or at best a bumbling jobsworth in some versions of the story, but in others, as Sir Cai, he is a hero.

So I've found it a good read, and I'll be going back through it to make notes before I take in back to the library.

View all my reviews >>
Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
11:27 am
Natalia L Trauberg, translator, specialist perhaps
in Lewis and Chesterton, died last night in Moscow.
I believe my post today with its accompanying
article by and interview with Trauberg , may be of
interest to you, to anyone reading coinherence
that is, and so I commend it to you
Natalia L. Trauberg 1928-2009
Saturday, November 15th, 2008
5:04 am
Roy Campbell, the Bloomsbury Group and C.S. Lewis
I've been reading Virginia Woolf's A writer's diary, and got curious about why it never mentioned Roy Campbell, the poet, who had at one point been associated with the Bloomsbury group, and so got out Joseph Pearce's biography of Roy Campbell to refresh my memory, and found I had almost completely forgotten the tangled web of relationships -- that Roy Campbell's wife Mary was in love with Vita Nicholson (nee Sackville-West) and that the Campbells had gone to live in a cottage on the Sackville-West estate.

But Virginia Woolf was also in love with Vita, and had written her Orlando in a fit of jealousy over Vita's relationship with Mary Campbell. None of that comes out in the (edited) version of the diary. And when he found out about the affair, on 6 November 1927, Roy Campbell went off by train to London, to drown his sorrows in drink. He met C.S. Lewis in a pub, and drinking with him, told him all about it (Pearce 2001:90), and when Lewis remarked "Fancy being cuckolded by a woman" Campbell rushed back to Kent in a rage, and thereafter came to despise the Bloomsbury group, and drew closer to Evelyn Waugh and D.B. Wyndham Lewis, and told Lytton Strachey, who advocated detachment, "Strachey, you are about as detached, morally, physically and intellectually as the animal you most resemble". "What is that?" asked Strachey. "A tapeworm," replied Campbell (Pearce 2001:95).
Friday, October 24th, 2008
3:19 pm
Out of curiosity
Does anyone know of any poem besides W.H. Auden's "On the Circuit" with mentions of more than one of the Inklings in it?

Current Mood: curious
7:55 am
National Novel-Writing Month
It's that time of the year again...

Next month is National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

And once again I want to challenge readers of this forum to write a Charles Williams-type novel. Not necessarily trying to imitate his style, but rather a novel in the same genre.

Click here if you want to join NaNoWriMo,

it doesn't serve a great and fancy purpose -- just nags you to get something written -- at least 50 000 words in the month of November.

And if you want to talk about it, you can do so here, or on the Neo-Inklings Mailing List.
Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
8:38 am
The Horse & His Boy: Chapter by Chapter Review
Hello everyone! I hope no one minds a little self-advertising :P. I’m doing a chapter by chapter recap/meta of all the books in the Chronicles of Narnia. I’m starting with The Horse and His Boy and I have about 8 chapters down so far.

I’d really love to get into discussions over this book and the Chronicles in general. I think we might all have a lot of fun. You can find them here:

Narnia Chapter-By-Chapter.

Current Mood: geeky
Monday, July 21st, 2008
5:10 am
Eucharistic theology and witch hunts
Some time ago I think we had a discussion here about changes in Western Eucharistic theology in the 12 century and the popularity of the legend of the Holy Grail in the same period.

I've posted something that touches on this in my Khanya blog, which may interest some in this community. It deals with an inversion of the understanding of the term "Body of Christ" in Western theology, with links to several other blog posts on the topc.
Saturday, April 5th, 2008
2:54 am
Gleanings from the Inklings

A Mule in the Chapter House reports on favourite scenes from the books of the Inklings, with commentary.

It seems a very interesting exercise, and something that might be interesting to do as a synchroblog, though I doubt whether I could find such interesting images to illustrate my choices.

But I wonder if anyone else has favourite passages from these books, that would be worth sharing in some kind of synchroblog, with or without pictures?

It would mean agreeing on a date when we would all post comments on some of our favourite or most memorable passages in the works of the Inklings, with or without illustrations, and then having a list of links to the other postings.

Any takers?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008
6:45 pm
Has anyone here heard of Agamben?

There seem to be some parallels between Agamben's ideas and Charles Williams ideas of substitution.

Have a look at Dionysius stoned.
Saturday, November 17th, 2007
11:45 am
The devil rides out
Yesterday I was browsing in a bookshop when I came across a copy of Denis Wheatley's The devil rides out. I had read it a couple of times when I was at school and enjoyed it, and when I later read Charles Williams's War in heaven there were some parts that reminded me of Wheatley's book, and I often wished I could reread it and compare them, but outside the school library I never found a copy, so I was unable to do so.

The devil rides out has now been reprinted by Wordsworth Editions, and I have begun rereading it.

Dennis Wheatley was no Charles Williams. He wrote popular thrillers with the aim of making money, and wrote in different genres, like spy stories and supernatural thrillers. His books were probably more popular than those of Williams in his lifetime, but seemed much more ephemeral, though his supernatural thrillers may enjoy a revival of popularity to parallel those of people like H.P. Lovecraft.

I haven't finished my rereading yet (after something like 50 years), but a couple of names mentioned stood out, like Nicholas Flamel, mentioned in the Harry Potter books, and according to this site, he really existed.

The devil rides out, like War in heaven has a duke (through a French one rather than an English one) and someone who needs to be rescued from satanists. Also, both books were written at about the same time.

Has anyone else read it?

Any comments and comparisons with Williams?
Tuesday, September 25th, 2007
11:00 am
Christianity, paganism and literature
Every month a group of Christian bloggers post a "synchroblog" on the same topic. This month's topic is Christianity and neopaganism, and since my contribution concerns the Inklings, I've copied it here too, in case anyone is interested. At the end you will find links to the other posts

When I have read or participated in electronic discussions on religion in general, and the relation between Christians and neopagans in particular, I have commonly found an expectation of hostility. Christians are expected to be hostile towards neopagans, and often are. Neopagans are expected to be hostile towards Christians, and often are.

Much of the hostility I have seen in electronic discussions arises from ignorance. Christians and neopagans do not so much attack each other as they attack caricatures of each other. And when they really get into the swing of the attack, they sometimes start behaving like the caricatures too. I believe the writings of the Inklings can go a long way towards removing the caricatures.

Some Christians have never heard of neopagans, and wonder what they are, and there is even disagreement about that, so here is a brief description. The word "pagan", as used by Christians, originally meant someone who wasn't a Christian. It was probably derived from Roman military slang, where it meant a civilian as opposed to a soldier, and for Christians it meant someone who had not enlisted, by baptism, in the battle against the evil "Prince of this World".

As a result of this origin, in the early days of Christianity, pagans were not aware of being "pagan", though as time went on some doubtless became aware that Christians called them that. They had many different gods and cults and philosophies, depending on where they lived. But whatever else they worshipped or didn't worship, citizens of the Roman Empire had a universal obligation to participate in the Emperor cult. Christians were awkward in refusing to do so, and this sometimes got them into trouble with the authorities, and there were sporadic persecutions of Christians.

In many of the places where Christianity spread people stopped worshipping their old gods altogether, and became Christians; sometimes this happened because they wanted to do so, sometimes their king or other local ruler became a Christian and then forced all his subjects to do the same. For whatever reason, though, the worship of the old gods ceased.

In the 19th and 20th centuries a movement of secularisation spread through Europe and other parts of the world. Religion ceased to hold a central place in people's thinking, and in some places, the so-called Second World, it was actively suppressed. The Western world had become post-Christian. People who were nonreligious, for whom God meant nothing, often called themselves, and were called by Christians, "pagans". But some people were dissatisfied with a secular worldview, and many were spiritual searchers. Some of these searched in the pre-Christian religions of their countries, and began worshipping gods that had long been neglected. And they came to be called "neopagans", new pagans, to distinguish them from those who had worshipped those gods before the coming of Christianity (who were sometimes called "paleopagans"). These revived pagan religions were not the same as the originals, and had a totally different social base. Many neopagans were eclectic, choosing gods who had never been worshipped together, and some worshippped gods of their own devising. It is impossible to describe all the different varieties of neopaganism here. Some have particular names: Asatru, the worship of the old Norse gods; Hellenism, the worship of the old Olympian gods of ancient Greece; Wicca, the worship of a goddess, and sometimes a god who is a consort.

As a result of some fanciful and now-discredited ideas propagated by Margaret Murray, some neopagans, and Wiccans in particular, came to believe that the Great European Witchhunt in Early Modern Europe was actually a persecuton of a pagan religion, and that the "witches" then persecuted were precursors of modern Wiccans. This fuelled the hostility that some neopagans felt towards Christians, while some Christians accused neopagans of being satanists and devil worshippers, and in some cases neopagans experienced real persecution in the present, and did not need imaginary persecutions of the past to make them aware of hostility.

One thing that strikes me about the fiction of the Inklings (C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and J.R.R. Tolkien et al) is that they are often enjoyed by Christians and neopagans alike. These three authors, and perhaps others who write in similar genres, may provide a way for Christians and pagans to communicate with each other without such hostility.

Lewis, Tolkien and Williams were Christians, and I am a Christian, so what I say here, I say from a Christian point of view, and I am mainly addressing my fellow Christians. That doesn't mean that I don't want neopagans or others to read this. Anyone who is interested in the topic is welcome to do so. It's just that I don't advocate a neopagan viewpoint here, and nor do I pretend to a neutral "objectivity". So if you are a neopagan, you'll probably disagree with a lot of what I say. A lot of Christians might disagree with it too.

Tolkien's Lord of the rings is probably the best-known and most widely read of the Inklings' works. In the rec.arts.books.tolkien newsgroup, there are periodic discussions on whether it is a Christian book or not. Christians often claim that it is a Christian book, whereas non-Christians often claim that is is a "pagan" book. The elements of pagan mythology are plain to see, whereas there are none of the externally-recognisable elements of Christian "religion". The characters don't read the Bible, they don't go to church, and Christ is never mentioned. There isn't even a recognisable Christ-figure, like Aslan in the Narnian books of C.S. Lewis, to provide a reference point.

It is also fairly well known, at least among Inklings fans, that there was some disagreement on this point between Tolkien and Lewis. Tolkien disliked allegory, and said that he regarded the Christianity in Lewis's books as too explicit. Some neopagans also find the Christianity in Lewis's books too explicit, and avoid them for that reason. Others enjoy them, and either ignore the Christian references, or regard them as another "path" that they themselves do not need to take, though they acknowledge that it may have been legitimate for Lewis and others.

Lewis's fiction works might be a good starting point, however, precisely because they are most explicitly Christian. Even though this is so, one could also say much the same of them as many have said of The lord of the rings - there are no church services or Christian ministers, or any other religious activities. There is no religion in them. But there is quite a lot of pagan material in them.

Consider, for example, C.S. Lewis's The lion, the witch and the wardrobe. A child from the normal everyday world hides in a wardrobe during a game, and finds herself transported by magic into another world, where she has tea with a faun, a figure from ancient Roman pagan mythology. A faun is half human, half goat, and the encounter is an introduction to a world of intelligent talking animals - beavers with sewing machines and the like. Lewis has no hesitation in blending Christian and pagan mythology in his Narnian books. There is even salvation. Salvation is at the centre of the plot of the book, but one would have to look hard to find it attributed to any religion at all, Christian or pagan.

Of course Lewis was known as a Christian, and his conception of salvation is a Christian one, but in this particular book he does not deal with what seems to be the central question for many Western Christian "theologians of religion" - the question whether there is salvation in "other" religions.

The next book in the Narnian series, Prince Caspian, is even more populated with pagan deities - Bacchus and Silenus, nymphs and Maenads, and even a river god. Lewis does not identify these with the forces of evil - they are not "satanic", as many Christians seem to think pagan deities ought to be (and many neopagans think that Christians think neopagans' deities are). They are rather part of the army of liberation, and are themselves liberated from the powers of evil in the course of the story.

One could give more examples from the other books in the series, but the picture one gets from all of these is far removed from some of the common Western perceptions of the Christian attitude towards paganism and pagan deities, whether seen from the point of view of Christians or of neopagans. That is, the perception that Christianty and neopaganism are, and perhaps ought to be, hostile to each other.

This hostility was not always around

Back in the early 1970s a group of us were trying to set up a Christian commune in Windhoek, Namibia. We made contact with other groups with similar interests, largely through an exchange of underground magazines in something called The Cosmic Circuit (a kind of hard-copy Webring). One magazine dealing with communes was produced by a neopagan group in Wales, and was edited by Tony Kelly of the Selene Community there. We sent them our Christian magazine Ikon in exchange for their publication Communes. They also sent us a few copies of their neopagan magazine The Waxing Moon. There was no hostility that I could discern. The people who published The Waxing Moon appeared to want to revive the pre-Christian nature religions of north-western Europe. It seemed to be part of a wider "back-to-nature" movement, a reaction against the urban-industrial society of the 20th century with its wars and political systems.

Then we lost contact. Our community in Windhoek was broken up by deportation and banning, and we went our separate ways and got involved in other things. In the 1990s I once again came into contact with neopagans, mainly through electronic computer links, such as bulletin board conferences and reading Web pages put up by neopagans. The bulletin board conferences were more informative, because they were more interactive. But there seemed to be differences from my experience of 20 years earlier. There was a hostility and suspicion that I had not noticed before. It also seemed that where there was this hostility, there was also a lack of communication. Christians and neopagans did not so much attack each other as attack caricatures of each other. The electronic media made it possible for people who might otherwise never meet to talk to each other, but when they did, they failed to communicate and just talked past each other. As someone once put it, these new electronic communications media made it easy to communicate with people of other countries and cultures, but very often it is communication without community.

One difference, which may be significant, is that the neopagans we were in touch with in the 1970s were in Britain. Most of those I encountered in the 1990s through BBSs were American. And some Americans, at least, seem to get a lot more aggressive and bitter about things, and were more inclined to divide the world into "good guys" and "bad guys".

But what I think may be even more significant is the time. I got the impression (which could be mistaken) that the neopagans of the 1960s and 1970s were engaged in a search for spiritual values in reaction against secular modernity. They failed to find those values in Christianity, because many Western Christians had sold out to secular modernity. The most influential Christian books at the time were all about how the Christian church must come to terms with modernity and secular values: The secular meaning of the gospel (van Buren), The secular city (Cox) and Honest to God (Robinson) are a few of the better-known ones. Anyone looking for spiritual values at such a time would have been hard-put to find them in the Christian churches of the West. While Christian theologians were saying how difficult it was for "modern man" to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, the youth were marching in the streets in their thousands with posters proclaiming that "Che Guevara lives" and "Chairman Mao will live for 10000 years". The theologians who were trying to address the "with it" generation were quite obviously "without it".

In the 1990s, however, when I began communicating with neopagans and others electronically, I got a different impression (which could also be mistaken) - that many people who had turned to neopaganism in the 1990s had reacted not against secular values, but against religious ones, and those religious values were those of Christianity, or, perhaps more accurately, those which American sociologists have called "Judeo-Christian" when trying to describe the middle ground of US culture. The difference between American neopagans of the 1990s and British ones of the 1970s was that the former were rebelling against a "Judeo-Christian" upbringing, whereas the latter were rebelling against secular materialism, and could therefore more easily find common ground with Christians who were rebelling against the same things. Those who are rebelling against a "Judeo-Christian" upbringing might on that account be more inclined to be hostile towards Christianity.

What happened to make the change?

I suspect that one cause is that in the 1970s many Western Christians rebelled against the "secular sixties", and changed. This rebellion took several different forms. One form was radical Christian "Jesus freaks". Another was the spread of the charismatic renewal, with its rediscovery of a sense of miracle and mystery. It is possible that in the 1970s this attracted many who in the 1960s might have been attracted by neopaganism.

By the end of the decade, however, a reaction had set in. The charismatic renewal had become institutionalised and domesticated in a kind of Protestant neo-scholasticism. A thousand loose-cannon prophets receiving direct revelations from the Holy Spirit (so they said) found that these revelations seemed to concern all the other groups and teachings but theirs, and began calling on the faithful to "Come out of Babylon" and join their particular version of the New Jerusalem. The denunciations became stronger, and the tolerance of deviation less, and euphoria of the 1970s led to the hangover of the 1980s, which some called "charismatic burn-out". The miracle and the mystery had been swallowed up in a sterile intellectual rigidity. (I've been toying with the idea of a research project into the history of the charismatic renewal in South Africa to test some of these hypotheses).

Having observed this process among Western Christians, I am a little disturbed by signs of something similar beginning to happen among Orthodox Christians in the West, only three decades behind the Protestants and Roman Catholics. There seems to be an idea going around that Orthodox Christianity must be inculturated in the West by having clean-shaven clergy in business suits, with pews and microphones and musical instruments in the churches. Orthodoxy could be beginning its own sell-out to secular Western culture. Not entirely, though. Groups such as the Youth of the Apocalypse, with their slogan of "Death to the World", affirming the countercultural character of Orthodoxy, might provide a counter weight.

So much for the background (as I see it) to the hostility between many Christians and many neopagans. What does the fantasy literature of people like Lewis, Tolkien and Williams have to do with it?

In the 1960s Lewis and Williams's fiction was reprinted in paperback, and so became more accessible. Tolkien's Lord of the rings was reprinted in 1966, and enjoyed a new popularity. Until then, Lewis had been widely known as the author of popular works of Christian apologetics. In a smaller, more specialised circle, he was known as the author of some works of literary criticism. Williams continued to be known mainly by a fairly small circle of enthusiasts. All three writers based their work, mainly or in part, on premodern myths and legends.

At the same time as professional theologians were writing works extolling the virtues of modernity, of the modern world-view or "paradigm", and calling for Christianity to be "demythologised", these authors were in effect reaffiming the value of myth. At the same time as the publication of Robinson's Honest to God, which caused such a stir in the West, J.V. Taylor published The primal vision. Both Taylor's and Robinson's books were discussed at conferences of the Anglican Students Federation of South Africa, and their somewhat incompatible messages seemed to cancel one another out. Demythology was very trendy, but Taylor included in his book a quote from Nicolas Berdyaev, who pointed out that "myth is a reality immeasurably greater than concept".

But the best means of communicating the value of myth is myth itself. The primal vision is almost forgotten, but the demand for the works of the Inklings has grown over the last 30 years.

I've already mentioned the appearance of pagan themes in Lewis's Narnian books, and have discussed the appearance of some of these themes in his Cosmic trilogy, and especially Out of the silent planet on another web page. The third novel in the trilogy, That hideous strength, comes closer to the writings of Charles Williams. It has been described as Lewis's attempt to write a novel in the style of Williams. Like Williams's novels, and unlike the other two in the trilogy, or the Narnian books, the setting is this world, rather than an imaginary one, or a setting on other planets.

In That hideous strength spiritual powers manifest themselves in this world - the ancient Greek and Roman deities, who are also the planetary rulers, show themselves in human society, and, in alliance with a revived Merlin of the Arthurian legends, confound the powers of evil. The Arthurian theme has echoes of Williams's poetry in particular. It has echoes in the children's novels of Peter Dickinson, who wrote of a revived Merlin whose awaking provoked an atavistic fear of modern technology among the inhabitants of Britain.

Alan Garner, whose children's novels The weirdstone of Brisingamen and The moon of Gomrath were first published in the 1960s, wrote of a wizard, Cadellin Silverbrow, who is guarding a company of sleeping knights, who are threatened by the evil power of the Morrigan and Nastrond. The sleeping knights are to waken when Britain is in extreme peril.

The return of a half-forgotten power from a mythical past to battle an evil in the present is common to That hideous strength and the works of Garner. Lewis uses Graeco-Roman mythology in developing the characteristics of the planetary rulers, and also uses Romano-British mythology and folklore for the idea of a revived Merlin. Garner uses Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and modern folklore - the idea of the "old straight track", for example, which he uses in The moon of Gomrath is a recent one.

Unlike Lewis, Garner's books do not have many clearly-identifiable Christian elements. Yet for Christians, Garner's books are as enjoyable as Tolkien's. Neopagans have sometimes recommended Garner's books as an introduction to a pagan worldview and pagan values for children. I believe that the attraction of these books could offer a key to understanding the common ground shared by Christians and neopagans, and also the differences between them.

One of the attractions for Christians is a struggle between good and evil powers, which is a central feature of the Christian worldview. In That hideous strength Lewis asserts Christian, liberal and democratic values against those of a fascist technocracy, and suggests that the latter are part of a satanic cosmic plot. This happens at several levels. For the modern worldview, nature and politics need to be demythologized (see Harvey Cox, The secular city). Lewis effectively remythologizes them. For the early Christians (and for most of their contemporaries) political and spiritual power were inseparable. The emperor cult, which Christians refused to participate in, bore witness to this. Lewis shows how this power operates in a modern setting.

In Garner's books the struggles are for the possession of the symbols of power - the weirdstone of Brisingamen itself, for example. But there is the same struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

In Tolkien's Lord of the rings the primary symbol of power is the One Ring carried by Frodo Baggins to Mount Doom, to be destroyed in the fire in which it was forged.

Where does that take us?

This article has been nearly ten years in the writing. I posted it on a web page, and have added to it from time to time, as new ideas have occurred to me, but the main point has been to pose questions rather than to give answers. In the blog format it is easy to respond by comments, and I hope that it may be the beginning of a conversation. The conversation need not be limited to a blog, and could take place in face to face discussions, or even in a reading group.

Here are some of the questions that occur to me. I hope that if this provokes any ideas, you may respond in comments, or even with other questions.

What values do you see in the writings of the Inklings? Which ones are common to Christians and neopagans? Which ones do you think are incompatible with one or the other?

For Christians: what kind of Christian theology of religions to you see behind the works of the Inklings? What are the similarities and differences between it and that of your community or tradition?

For neopagans: what do you think of the view of pagan deities in tho books of the Inklings? Do you find it hostile, friendly, condescending, cooptive?

See the other Synchroblogs on the theme of Christianity and neopaganism:

Link to the original Synchroblog article here: Notes from underground: Christianity, paganism and literature (synchroblog)
Friday, September 7th, 2007
7:11 pm
Madeleine l'Engle dies
Author Madeleine L’Engle died last night in Connecticut, at the age of 89.
Best known for her 1963 Newbery Award winner A Wrinkle in Time and its
sequels, L’Engle was the author of more than 60 books for adults and young
readers, most of which were published by FSG. This spring, the Square Fish
imprint of Holtzbrinck reissued L'Engle's Time Quintet in new editions.

Publisher's Weekly
9:23 am
First-time Williams reader
Through MyBlogLog I met Mard, or Seev, or whatever his name is, and introduced him to Charles Williams. He started off with War in heaven and enjoyed it, and you can see his review of The place of the lion on his blog, Seev's Place, here.

Many of hus have read Williams's books many times, and have forgotten what the look like to a fresh, first-time reader. I thouroughly recommend Mard's reviews, and if you visit his page, perhaps you could leave a comment to encourage him to read more. Actually, I don't think he needs much encouragement, though his other readers might.
Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
1:02 am
Novice Williams reader on "War in heaven"
I recommended War in heaven to a reader of my blog, and he has posted his response and review here.

Old Charles Williams fans may find it interesting, and may like to make their own comments.
Monday, May 28th, 2007
7:41 pm
Pentecostal question

Poems of Charles Williams are sometimes dark even for native speakers, I’m not the one. Please help me with some verses of this poem (I’d like to translate it for Pentecost, but better late than never).


Language he gave and as men from their homes,

In fen or jungle climbed bade it increase

In power till Tully's word protected Rome

And all of Athens mourned with Pericles.


Then moved the songs of poets; then began
The Iscian shout of prophecy; then, last,
The whole world's voices, gathered in a Man,

Sounded and spoke till in a cloud He passed.


But, lest His subtler language should be lost,
Thereafter to His orators there came,
Borne on a blast of breath, the Holy Ghost,

And riding within syllables of flame.


The topmost souls of the world there caught and spoke.
That old yet new, that now-perfected speech,

Then, apt to learn as he was apt to teach,

And heaven in earth heard in its sleep and woke.


Forgotten heavens, neglected sanctities,
Shut in the deepest, prisons of the soul,
Rose, freed from chains and cleansed from leprosies,

Redeemed, delivered, manifest, and whole.


Now between heaven and earth lies no long way,
Since what is here is there, and there shall be,
And all our English speech of every day

Is mystical and immortality.


Monday, May 14th, 2007
10:25 am
Allegory of love

My homage to Inklingianists!

Could anybody explain, what means “Head Quarters Mess of the ——” (I’m especially interested in this ——) in “Allegory of Love” — p. 328 in my edition with fountain of the Rose on the cover (it’s in the middle of 7-th part, about Faerie Queen).

The whole passage is: Philotime’s beauty is not ‘her owne native hew, but wrought by art’, and the description of her court ...  is so vivid that an officer of my acquaintance thought of presenting a framed and illustrated text of that stanza to the Head Quarters Mess of the ——.
Friday, May 11th, 2007
1:03 pm
Query on Roy Campbell Poem
Friends this is way peripheral but I know
Steve Hayes is South African and...uh..
Roy Campbell was a friend of Tolkien dont know
how he hit it off with CSW, Lewis didnt like him
much. well but query

Has anyone a copy that they could scan for me
of the poem about the martyrdom of the Toledo
Carmelites who had taken refuge in the Campbells
house in March 1936 (while bringing him st John of
the Cross to translate)
they were taken out by the Reds and left dead
in the street under a tarpaulin with the words
inscribed "This is a deed of the Cheka"(red secret
Campbell tried to follow them to death but says
a rifle butt struck him down and the others
entered glory and he "rebuffed for a harlequin."
(as I recall)
the poem compares the martyrs to toreros(Campbell
also translated Lorca tangentially ...)

It is among other places no doubt included in
the introduction to the penguin edition of the
Poems of St John of the Cross. which I left behind
in some move keeping only another translation but
then losing this poem
Thank you so much!
my email is ssigrist@yahoo.com
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