Wednesday, November 29, 2017

084. Out of the Silent Planet

A friend mentioned to me over breakfast that today is C.S. Lewis' birthday, his 119th. C.S. Lewis lived only 65 years, but his voluminous writings have inspired millions to seek for a more intimate relationship with Christ.

On this occasion, I thought I'd write a few thoughts about one of my favorite books of all time, The Space Trilogy, written by C.S. Lewis. Part I is called Out of the Silent Planet, which was written in the late 1930s, soon after Lewis was re-converted to Christianity. A man, unaided by or un-animated by God, could not have written these books. Anyone who has communed with the Divine, accessed truth for themselves from God, or has had even the smallest smidgen of the mysteries of Godliness revealed to them will recognize the profound truths expounded in these short novels. However, these books are unappealing to most people for many reasons. They are not filled with the quick sound-bytes that people of today prefer. They are 1930s science fiction. The sophisticated English of C. S. Lewis is off-putting to some. However, all those impediments are a small price to pay for the deep truths and profound insights that one can reap by reading these novels. There are layers of meaning and depths upon depths of truths buried within their pages. There is a lot of detail that needs to be sorted through before you get to the nuggets, but without the details, you cannot fully understand the nuggets. Most of the information conveyed by the stories in these books is extremely difficult to convey from one person to another because of the depth and complexity of the material, making it difficult to adequately summarize this book in a way that conveys the full import of what it entails, as it needs to be individually read and digested. So, perhaps only to whet your appetite, I'll provide a few excerpts.

The gist of the story is that a young professor of linguistics, Elwin Ransom, is abducted aboard a spaceship by a scientist, named Weston, and his accomplice, named Devine. They intend to transport Ransom to the nearby planet of Malacandra as they believe they have been required to bring a human sacrifice for the creatures of the planet. Weston and Devine are interested in exploiting Malacandra for the preservation of the human race. Malacandra is a terrestrial world where no evil exists until invaded by the humans of Thulcandra [earth] who bring with them a willingness to plunder and murder in order to obtain what they desire. Soon after landing, Ransom escapes his captors and befriends some of the creatures on Malacandra. One day, while hunting, a being called an eldil, an almost invisible spirit-like, angelic creature, tells Ransom that he must go to meet Oyarsa, the eldil who is ruler of the planet. After an arduous and interesting journey, Ransom arrives in Meldilorn, the home of Oyarsa and a long-awaited conversation begins.

In the course of this conversation it is explained that there are Oyéresu (the plural) for each of the planets in our solar system; in the four inner planets, which have organic life (intelligent and non-intelligent), the local Oyarsa is responsible for that life. The ruler of Earth (Thulcandra, "the silent planet"), has turned evil (become "bent") and has been restricted to Thulcandra, after "great war," by the Oyéresu and the authority of Maleldil, the ruler of the universe. Ransom is ashamed at how little he can tell Oyarsa about Earth and how foolish he and other humans seem to Oyarsa. Oyarsa then tells Ransom that he had actually been chosen to come to Malacandra and servants had been sent to fetch him.

While the two are talking, Devine and Weston are brought in guarded by some of the creatures of Malacandra, because they have killed three of a certain race. A long discussion ensues over the actions and motivations of Weston and Devine. Oyarsa, passing judgment, tells Weston and Devine that he would not tolerate the presence of such creatures, but lets them leave the planet immediately, albeit under very unfavorable orbital conditions. Oyarsa offers Ransom the option of staying on Malacandra, but Ransom decides he does not belong there, perhaps because he feels himself unworthy and perhaps because he yearns to be back among the human beings of Earth.

Oyarsa had promised Ransom that the eldila of "deep heaven" would watch over and protect him against any attacks from the other two Thulcandrians, who might seek to kill him as a way of economizing their air and food supplies during the return journey; at times, Ransom is conscious of benevolent presences within the spaceship—the eldila. After a difficult return journey, the space-ship makes it back to Earth, and is shortly "unbodied" according to Oyarsa's will.

Ransom himself half-doubts whether all that happened was true, and he realizes that others will be even less inclined to believe it if he should speak of it. However, the author (Lewis, appearing as a character) who did not previously know of Ransom's adventure, fortuitously writes to Ransom asking whether he has heard of the medieval Latin word "Oyarses" and knows what it meant. This prompts Ransom to let Lewis in on the secret. Ransom then dedicates himself to the mission that Oyarsa gave him before he left Malacandra: stopping Weston from further evil. Ransom and Lewis then collaborate—in the story, not in real life—to compose and publish Out of the Silent Planet under the guise of fiction. They realize that only a few readers will recognize their story as describing "real" events, but since they anticipate that further conflict with Weston or the Bent Oyarsa of Earth will be forthcoming, they also desire simply to familiarize many readers with the ideas contained therein.

What follows are a couple of interesting excerpts from the book...

On the nature of heavenly beings...
"Do tell me, Small One [referring to Ransom], that there are no eldila [spirit-like, angelic creatures] in your world?"
"Not that I know of. But what are eldila, and why can I not see them? Have they no bodies?"
"Of course they have bodies. There are a great many bodies you cannot see. Every animal's eyes see some things but not others. Do you know of many kinds of body in Thulcandra [earth]?"
Ransom explained the terrestrial terminology of solids, liquids, and gases.
"That is not the way to say it," it replied. "Body is movement. If it is at one speed, you smell something; if at another, you hear a sound; if at another, you see a sight; if at another, you neither see nor hear nor smell, nor know the body in any way. But mark this, Small One, that the two ends meet."
"How do you mean?"
"If movement is faster, then that which moves is more nearly in two places at once."
"That is true."
"But if the movement were faster still -- it is difficult, for you do not know many words -- you see that if you made it faster and faster, in the end the moving thing would be in all places at once, Small One."
"I think I see that."
"Well, then, that is the thing at the top of all bodies -- so fast that it is at rest, so truly body that it has ceased being a body at all. But we will not talk of that. Start from where we are, Small One. The swiftest thing that touches our senses is light. We do not truly see light, we only see slower things lit by it, so that for us light is on the edge -- the last thing we know before things become too swift for us. But the body of an eldil is a movement swift as light; you may say its body is made of light, but not of that which is light for the eldil. His "light" is a swifter movement which for us is nothing at all; and what we call light is for him a thing like water, a visible thing, a thing he can touch and bathe in -- even a dark thing when not illuminated by the swifter. And what we call firm things -- flesh and earth -- seem to him thinner, and harder to see, than our light, and more like clouds, and nearly nothing. To us the eldil is a thin, half-real body that can go through walls and rocks: to himself he goes through them because he is solid and firm and they are like cloud. And what is true light to him and fills the heaven, so that he will plunge into the rays of the sun to refresh himself from it, is to us the black nothing in the sky at night. These things are not strange, Small One, though they are beyond our senses. But it is strange that the eldila never visit Thulcandra [earth]."

On the result of no Eldila or governing Oyarsa on Earth, the Silent Planet...
They [some of the creatures of Malacandra] were astonished at what he [Ransom] had to tell them of human history -- of war, slavery, and prostitution. "It is because they have no Oyarsa," said one of them. "It is because every one of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself," said another. "They cannot help it," said an old one. "There must be rule, yet how can creatures rule themselves? Beasts must be ruled by hnau [rational creatures] and hnau by eldila and eldila by Maleldil. These creatures have no eldila. They are like one trying to lift himself by his own hair -- or one trying to see over a whole country when he is on level with it -- like a female trying to beget young on herself."

On why Earth is known as the Silent Planet throughout the heavens...
"Thulcandra is the world we do not know. It alone is outside heaven, and no message comes from it," said Oyarsa. "It was not always so. Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world -- he was brighter and greater than I -- and then we did not call it Thulcandra. It is the longest of all stories and the bitterest. He became bent. That was before any life came on your world. Those were the Bent Years of which we still speak in the heavens, when he was not yet bound to Thulcandra but free like us. It was in his mind to spoil other worlds besides his own....We did not leave him so at large for long. There was great war, and we drove him back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil taught us. There doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent. We think that Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into." "We know nothing since the day when the Bent One sank out of heaven into the air of your world, wounded in the very light of his light." "I am allowed to tell you this. The year we are now in -- but heavenly years are not as yours -- has long been prophesied as a year of stirrings and high changes and the siege of Thulcandra may be near its end. Great things are on foot. If Maleldil does not forbid me, I will not hold aloof from them. And now, farewell."

I believe this story to be an autobiographical spiritual experience of or higher understanding gained by C.S. Lewis...camouflaged in a book of science fiction. In chapter 21 the narrator says "I am not allowed to record this conversation [between Ransom and Oyarsa], beyond saying that the voice concluded it with the words: 'You have shown me more wonders than are known in the whole of heaven'." And this is only part I. Happy birthday [in Thulcandra time] C. S. Lewis, wherever it is you now reside upon the endless fields of Deep Heaven.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

083. God Can Speak to Us through the Use of Lots

From the book, "Nephi's Isaiah" (2006):

To Elijah, as he watched the unfolding physical signs of wind, earthquake and fire, these signs were not where he found God’s will.[17] These were physical events, observable by anyone who would have been present.  They were not “emotional” or “feeling,” but were outward events.  They were used to confirm the truthfulness of the inner “voice” which spoke to him.  That inner voice, speaking intelligence to the mind, was the voice of God; to him and to you as well.

Nebuchadnezzar[18] heard God speak to Him through a dream.  Likewise, Joseph of Egypt[19] heard God speak many times in dreams containing symbols from which God’s “voice” was “heard.”  Joseph, Christ’s earthly foster-father, was also warned repeatedly through dreams.[20] It is more likely the lack of faith than the absence of communication which accounts for the apparent “silence” of God in most lives.  We just do not believe or trust in Him enough to experience what is available to us all.  The great difference between prophets and others is not in God’s willingness to speak, but in the refusal to listen.  Some listen; and they are prophets.  Others do not; and struggle to believe the prophets.  God, however, has and does speak to us all.

In choosing a replacement Apostle for the deceased and apostate Judas, the method employed by the surviving Apostles was to “cast lots.”  It is written:  “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all mean, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.  And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:24-26.)  The same method is used here by Apostles as had been used by the Lord’s crucifiers to divide up His clothing, as He was ganging on the cross in the last throes of dying.[21] When we think of the Roman guards using it to divide Christ’s clothing, it becomes less inspired-looking and more homely.  It looks more like expediency than revelation as a tool for choosing an Apostle.  Yet, at the same time, this same process is built into the scriptures for the Church today, and is used in every disciplinary council to assign roles to the High Council.[22] Without regard to feeling, emotion or desire, the lots are drawn and the assignments are made.  These physical objects contain within them the Lord’s mind for organizing a council before whom the hearing takes place.

From Nephi’s casting lots to decide who would go to address Laban,[23] to choosing a scapegoat,[24] to choosing an Apostle, to choosing roles in a disciplinary court, casting of lots has been the way people of faith have determined God’s will for millennia.  Through it God “speaks.”  But it requires faith to see it in that light.  For these are ordinary, even commonplace ways of making a decision.  Only through faith does it acquire the “voice of God” in it.

We are unique, and God’s ways of speaking to each of us is as unique as each of us.  We do ourselves a great disservice when we attempt to fit ourselves into a singular, stereotypical persona seeking only a singular way for God to talk with and to us.  We make ourselves into something we aren’t, in the search to find what cannot be found that way.  If we demand only the extraordinary before we will recognize His voice, we run the risk of looking in the wrong way for Him.  His voice is there.  He speaks to all of us.  But we can miss it if we are not attuned to listen.

You may never be able to hear God speak to you in the way in which others hear Him.  If you determine He must speak to you in a specific way, you can go a lifetime without ever having a conversation with Him.  He longs to speak with each of us.  Within each of us there is something uniquely attuned to Him.  How He reaches out to you may be as singular and unique as you are and you can be assured He is reaching out.  In fact, God is rather noisy, if you will allow Him to be.  We were never intended to live without a direct connection to Him.  Instead, we should hear His voice, and in time discover He is our “friend.”[25]

[17] 1 Kings 19:11-14:  “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a astill small bvoice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very ajealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am bleft; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
[18] See Daniel, Chapter 2.
[19] See Genesis, Chapter 41.
[20] See Matthew, Chapter 2.
[21] Matt. 27:33-36:  “And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of aa skull, They gave him avinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they acrucifiedhim, and bparted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my cgarments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there;
[22] See D&C 102:12-17:  “Whenever a high council of the church of Christ is regularly organized, according to the foregoing pattern, it shall be the duty of the twelve councilors to cast lots by numbers, and thereby ascertain who of the twelve shall speak first, commencing with number one and so in succession to number twelve. Whenever this council convenes to act upon any case, the twelve councilors shall consider whether it is a difficult one or not; if it is not, two only of the councilors shall speak upon it, according to the form above written. But if it is thought to be difficult, four shall be appointed; and if more difficult, six; but in no case shall more than six be appointed to speak. The accused, in all cases, has a right to one-half of the council, to prevent insult or ainjustice.  And the councilors appointed to speak before the council are to present the case, after the evidence is examined, in its true light before the council; and every man is to speak according to equity and ajustice. Those councilors who adraw even numbers, that is, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, are the individuals who are to stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and binjustice.”
[23] 1 Nephi 3:11.
[24] Leviticus 16:8: “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”
[25] See, e.g., D&C 84:77:  “And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends,” among other places.