The Great Divorce, Chapter 9

This summer, EPIC students are reading The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis and blogging about it together. This week’s post comes from Meredith Bee.

Meredith Bee

In chapter 9, the narrator meets a Scottish spirit who is described as ageless and weather-beaten with a flowing beard. When our narrator learns that the ghost’s name is George MacDonald, he suddenly seems to trust the spirit and is enthusiastic to talk to him because he has read his books. Our narrator then seems comfortable asking the spirit if the ghosts can stay and if they really have a choice to stay. The spirit answers ambiguously, saying that the narrator can’t understand in his current state.

The spirit explains that the ghosts sometimes go on trips to earth or heaven, and that most who visit heaven will go back to the gray city. The two continue to have a conversation about how the ghosts can get hung up on certain things. Some ghosts get hung up on the fact that they are actually ghosts (a deep horror to themselves) and will go back to haunt the earth. Some ghosts get hung up on a purpose and lose all meaning in what they are doing.

One part that I think is really powerful is when the spirit explains that Hell is a state of mind. When people get stuck on material wealth or a purpose in life they are locking themselves into a “dungeon of their own mind.” The spirit tells the narrator, “Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly.”  I think that this is a powerful understanding, that to obtain all that is true and real you need to not be stuck in a frame of mind.

One example of this is when the narrator and spirit overhear a famous painter talking to another spirit. The painter just wants to paint everything and doesn’t understand when the spirit tells him that there is no point in painting right then. The spirit tries to explain that in order to paint he first needs to look around and understand a little more. He continues by telling the painter that on earth he was a good painter because he could capture pieces of heaven and portray it for other people to see. But in heaven, all the spirits already can see it, so there is no point until he can understand something they don’t. In order to understand more, he needs to go into the mountains and go to a fountain. The painter doesn’t seem so opposed to this until the spirt (after the painter asks) explains that there are no famous people in heaven, because everyone is famous in heaven. The painter, unwilling to give up his reputation, decides to go back to the gray city to save the “future of art.”

It makes me reflect on my life. What have I been hung up on? Is it helping me find a closer relationship with God, or am I trapping myself in the dungeons of my own mind?

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