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Out of the Silent Planet: C. S. Lewis on Pagan Themes

b2ap3_thumbnail_silent.pngIn his science fiction novel, Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis takes readers to a new vista, a strange planet, not unlike Earth called Malacandra. The main character, Ransom, is taken prisoner and brought by two scientists to the planet, where they hope to use him as a sacrifice for the strange inhabitants, the sorns. Not long after arriving, Ransom escapes and begins to navigate the new terrain. He encounters both the sorns and the hross, and befriends one creature, Hyoi, and spends time with him learning their customs and ways. Later, Ransom travels through an ether type atmosphere to commune with a god-like spirit-presence called, Oyarsa, an eldil or ruler, who explains that Ransom’s own planet, Thulacandra, or the silent planet, is ruled by an evil warring people, abandoned by the eldil. Ransom goes through a few more obstacles in order to get back to Earth, and once returned, wants to share his story, one he doesn’t think anyone will believe.

C. S. Lewis, best known for his Narnia series, takes on spirituality and human actions in this thinly disguised sci-fi novel. It is said the novel was inspired by a conversation with J. R. R. Tolkien, about how unsatisfied they were with the state of fiction at the time. For this blog post, we’ll take a look at the pagan themes presented in Lewis' work, perhaps even hidden away in this gem.

One of the first take-aways for the pagan reader is the relationship Ransom has with the hross, a sort of human-animal creation, that lives in nature, and does not hurt or take more than it needs. At first, Ransom can’t understand the hross, but as he quiets his own thoughts and expectations, he slowly starts to communicate with them. It is similar to the way earth-based spiritualities honor the natural world. Whereas the mainstream might accept that trees, rocks, animals, and so forth can’t communicate, pagans do. It is when Ransom releases his fear that he is allowed to be part of the hross community and ultimately understand them.

From the Hross, Ransom also learns how “bent” his own race is. The hross have no word for war, one of the main points Lewis drives home, the idea of living in a place that can’t even articulate or even conceive of war.

Lewis also tackles the idea of heaven or the place where Spirit resides, along with direct communication with the Source. The ruler or eldil of Malacandra dwells in an ether-like place called, Meldilorn. In order to get there, Ransom must travel through this strange atmosphere (similar to one meditating and reaching a higher level of awareness). It is through a discussion with the eldil that Ransom realizes Earth has been isolated because it is a warring planet, one that is selfish, with inhabitants that take more than their share, and think nothing of hurting those around them. This is why Earth is considered the silent planet, for it has lost its eldil. As Lewis puts it:

It is because they have no Oyarsa … it is because everyone of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself.”

Interestingly, Lewis is trying to draw the reader’s attention to human actions here. For Lewis, he sees Earth as a place inhabited by godless people, who act like little gods. Yet, when Ransom does come face-to-face with the god-like Oyarsa, Oyarsa seems a lot like humans. In one scene, Oyarsa says to Ransom, “If you were my own people I would kill them now … they are a bent people without hope …”

In one sense, Lewis is right, humans are little gods, but not in the ego-centered way portrayed in the novel, but in a love-centered way. As Dr. Wayne Dyer puts it, most people don’t recognize their god-nature, but can, easily. (Pagans often do.) Dyer says, “If you’re not aligned with God (the Source), it’s hard to recognize yourself as being of God. The way that you get aligned with God is by being like God, being like Source, being like energy. That means understanding how the Tao works—how God works.” (Link)

Lewis misses this point, instead ridiculing humanity, as opposed to seeing the good aspects, and then goes on to appoint the same attributes (war, killing) to his created god-like deity. It is no wonder that Lewis’ humans wage war, when it has eldils equally warring and acting without mercy.

While Lewis’ book can also suggest Christian overtones, pagan readers can easily get between the lines, to sample more of the profound things Lewis is trying for, even if he missing the point from time to time. All in all, Lewis’ book will open an interesting conversation on humanity and spirituality. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts if you’ve read the book.>

To read more from Hunter Liguore (stories, essay, blog), please visit: www.skytalewriter.com

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Hunter Liguore, a multi-Pushcart Prize nominee, earned an MFA in Creative Writing and a BA in History. Her work has appeared internationally in a variety of journals. She is the editor-in-chief of the print journal, American Athenaeum, which is dedicated to publishing "voices" that ultimately inform our times. (To view current submission guidelines: www.swordandsagapress.com.) She revels in old legends, swords, and heroes.

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