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 C S Lewis. Details of initiation.

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PostSubject: C S Lewis. Details of initiation.   Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:37 am

Found this interesting passage from C.S Lewis' book That Hideous Strength.

One of the main characters, Mark, is throughout the story, indoctrinated into the ways of a sinister secret society which takes its order from invisible and diabolical spiritual beings (the Macrobes).

I found this extract particularly interesting. Lewis' himself was a former occultist but along with J R Tolkein, turned his back on it and became a confirmed Christian.

I suggest reading the book, it is available online.

Quote :

Go in. You will speak to no one of what you find here. I will return
The room, at first, was an anti-climax. It appeared to be an empty committee room with a long table,
eight or nine chairs, some pictures, and (oddly enough) a large step-ladder in one corner. There were no
windows; it was lit by an electric light which produced, better than Mark had ever seen it produced
before, the illusion of a cold, grey place out of doors.

A man of trained sensibility would have seen at once that the room was ill proportioned, not grotesquely
but sufficiently to produce dislike. Mark felt the effect without analysing the cause, and the effect grew
as time passed. Sitting staring about him, he next noticed the door. The point of the arch was not in the
centre; the thing was lopsided. Once again, the error was not gross. The thing was near enough to the
true to deceive you for a moment and to go on teasing the mind after the deception had been unmasked.
He turned and sat with his back to it ... one mustn't let it become an obsession.
Then he noticed the spots on the ceiling; little round black spots at irregular intervals on the pale
mustard-coloured surface. He determined that he would not fall into the trap of trying to count them.
They would be hard to count, they were so irregularly placed. Or weren't they? They suggested some
kind of pattern. Their peculiar ugliness consisted in the fact that they kept on suggesting it and then
frustrating expectation. He realised that this was another trap. He fixed his eyes on the table. He got up
and began to walk about. He had a look at the pictures.

Some belonged to a school with which he was familiar. There was a portrait of a young woman who
held her mouth wide open to reveal the fact that the inside of it was thickly overgrown with hair. It was
very skilfully painted in the photographic manner so that you could feel that hair. There was a giant
mantis playing a fiddle while being eaten by another mantis, and a man with corkscrews instead of arms
bathing in a flat, sadly coloured sea beneath a summer sunset. But most of the pictures were not of this
kind. Mark was a little surprised at the predominance of scriptural themes. It was only at the second or
third glance that one discovered certain unaccountable details. Who was the person standing between the
Christ and the Lazarus ? And why were there so many beetles under the table in the Last Supper? What
was the curious trick of lighting that made each picture look like something seen in delirium? When
once these questions had been raised the apparent ordinariness of the pictures became like the ominous
surface innocence at the beginning of certain dreams. Every fold of drapery, every piece of architecture,
had a meaning one could not grasp but which withered the mind.

He understood the whole business now. Frost was not trying to make him insane; at least not in the sense
Mark had hitherto given to the word " insanity ". To sit in the room was the first step towards what Frost
called objectivity-the process whereby all specifically human reactions were killed in a man so that he
might become fit for the fastidious society of the Macrobes. Higher degrees in the asceticism of antinature
would doubtless follow:
the eating of abominable food, the dabbling in dirt and blood, the ritual performances of calculated
obscenities. They were playing quite fair with him-offering him the same initiation through which they
themselves had passed.

After an hour, this long high coffin of a room began to produce on Mark an effect which his instructor
had probably not anticipated. As the desert first teaches men to love water, or as absence first reveals
affection, there rose. up against this background of the sour and the crooked some kind of vision of the
sweet and the straight. Something else-something he vaguely called the " Normal "- apparently existed.
He had never thought about it before. But there it was-solid, massive, like something you could touch, or
eat, or fall in love with. It was all mixed up with Jane and fried eggs and soap and sunlight and the rooks
cawing at Cure Hardy. He was not thinking in moral terms at all; or else (what is much the same thing)
he was having his first deeply moral experience.

Last edited by Truthspoon on Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:41 am; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: C S Lewis. Details of initiation.   Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:37 am

A bit more from Mark's initiation.

Quote :

Meanwhile, in the Objective Room, something like a crisis had developed. As soon as they arrived there
Mark saw that the table had been drawn back. On the floor lay a crucifix, almost life-size, a work in the
Spanish tradition, ghastly and realistic. " We have half an hour to pursue our exercises," said Frost. Then
he instructed Mark to trample on it and insult it in other ways.
Now, whereas Jane had abandoned Christianity in early childhood, along with fairies and Santa Claus,
Mark had never believed it at all. At this moment, therefore, it crossed his mind for the first time that
there might conceivably be something in it. Frost, who was watching him carefully, knew perfectly well
that this might be the result of the present experiment. But he had no choice. Whether he wished it or
not, this sort of thing was part of the initiation.
" But, look here," said Mark.
" What is it? " said Frost. " Pray be quick."

" Well, if so, what is there objective about stamping on the face? Isn't it just as subjective to spit on a
thing like this as to worship it? "
" That is superficial. If you had been brought up in a non-Christian society, you would not be asked to
do this. Of course it is a superstition: but it is that particular superstition which has pressed upon our
society for many centuries. It can be experimentally shown that it still forms a dominant system in the
subconscious of many whose conscious thought appears to be wholly liberated. An explicit action in the
reverse direction is therefore a necessary step towards complete objectivity. We find in practice that it
cannot be dispensed with."

Mark was surprised at the emotions he was undergoing. He did not regard the image with anything like a
religious feeling. Most emphatically it did not belong to that idea of the Straight or Normal which had,
for the last few days, been his support. The horrible vigour of its realism was, indeed, as remote from
that Idea as anything else in the room. That was one source of his reluctance. To insult even a carved
image of such agony seemed abominable. But it was not the only source. With the introduction of this
Christian symbol the whole situation had altered, and become incalculable. His simple antithesis of the
Normal and the Diseased had obviously failed to take something into account. Why was the crucifix
there? Why were more than half the poison-pictures religious ? " Pray make haste," said Frost. He was
on the verge of obeying and getting the whole silly business over, when the defencelessness of the figure
deterred him. Not because its hands were nailed and helpless, but because they were only made of wood
and therefore even more helpless, because the thing, for all its realism, was inanimate and could not in
any way hit back, he paused. The unretaliating face of a doll-one of Myrtle's dolls-which he had pulled
to pieces in boyhood had affected him in the same way.

" What are you waiting for, Mr. Studdock? " said Frost. Mark was aware of rising danger. Obviously, if
he disobeyed, his last chance of getting out of Belbury alive might be gone. Even of getting out of this
room. He was himself, he felt, as helpless as the wooden Christ. As he thought this, he found himself
looking at the crucifix in a new way -neither as a piece of wood nor a monument of superstition but as a
bit of history. Christianity was nonsense, but one did not doubt that the man had lived and had been
executed thus by the Belbury of those days. And that, as he suddenly saw, explained why this image,
though not itself an image of the Straight or Normal, was yet in opposition to crooked Belbury. It was a
picture of what happened when the Crooked met the Straight-what would happen to him if he remained
straight. It was, in a more emphatic sense than he had understood, a cross.

" Do you intend to go on with the training or not? " said Frost. His eye was on the time. He knew that
Jules must have very nearly reached Belbury, and that he might be interrupted at any moment. He had
chosen this time for this stage in Mark's initiation partly in obedience to an unexplained impulse (such
impulses grew more frequent with him every day), but partly because he wished, in the uncertain
situation which had now arisen, to secure Mark at once. He and Wither and possibly (by now) Straik
were the only full initiates in the N.I.C.E. On them lay the danger of making any false step in dealing
with the man who claimed to be Merlin and with his mysterious interpreter. For him who took the right
steps there was a chance of ousting all the others. He knew that Wither was waiting eagerly for any slip
on his own part. Hence it seemed to him of the utmost importance to bring Mark as soon as possible
beyond that point after which there is no return, and the disciple's allegiance both to the macrobes and to
the teacher who has initiated him becomes a matter of psychological necessity.

" Do you not hear what I am saying? " he asked. Mark was thinking, and thinking hard. Christianity was
a fable. It would be ridiculous to die for a religion one did not believe. This Man himself, on that very
cross, had discovered it to be a fable, and had died complaining that the God in whom he trusted had
forsaken him-had, in fact, found the universe a cheat. But this raised a question that Mark had never
thought of before. Was that the moment at which to turn against the Man? If the universe was a cheat,
was that a good reason for joining its side? Supposing the Straight was utterly powerless, always and
everywhere certain to be mocked, tortured, and finally killed by the Crooked, what then? Why not go
down with the ship? He began to be frightened by the very fact that his fears seemed to have vanished.
They had been a safeguard . . . they had prevented him, all his life, from making mad decisions like that
which he was now making as he turned to Frost and said, " It's all bloody nonsense, and I'm damned if I
do any such thing."
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PostSubject: Re: C S Lewis. Details of initiation.   Sun Dec 28, 2014 4:55 pm

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