The small group that meets at our house on (most) Tuesday evenings have finished working through and discussing “The Screwtape Letters”. I led the sessions, ably assisted by “A companion and study guide to The Screwtape Letters” by William O’Flaherty, (main title: C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell). I am glad he did not call it “To hell with C.S. Lewis”!
“Modern man and his categories of thought” was published in the book C. S. Lewis: Present Concerns. A collection of ethical essays. It was edited by Walter Hooper in 1986, although written in 1946 at the request of Bishop Neill for the Study Department of the World Council of Churches.
The book deals with Lewis’s concern on how best to reach the “unconverted” by adapting the Gospel principles to the “changing conditions of history” (p.61).
Chapter titles for The Screwtape Letters as given by Will Vaus in his 2011 book Speaking of Jack” A C.S. Lewis Discussion Guide, Hamden, CT: Winged Lion Press, p. 74.
- Preventing conversion
- The church
- The family
- The war
- War & fear
8) The law of undulation
9) Temptation in trough periods
12) The safest road to hell
16) Attending the parish church
18) Sexual temptation, marriage and the family
19) God’s love and being in love
20) Sexual temptation (continued)
22) Losing in love
23) Theology, politics and the historical Jesus
24) The Christian Inner Ring
27) Prayer, free will and old books
28) Life and death
29) Cowardice and courage
31) The ultimate failure and victory
C.S. Lewis had a privileged education: his parents were well educated and provided him with a home environment of books and discussions; his schools were private, as were his tutors, and his university was elite. There he studied philosophy, the classics, philology and mythology. He learned to read Greek and Latin at a young age and was literate in German, Italian, French and Old Norse, to say nothing of his abilities in Old and Middle English. He did not consider himself a good language learner, as far as speaking the modern languages was concerned.
In his book C.S. Lewis: An apologist for education (2015, Classical Academic Press, Camp Hill, PA), Louis Markos summarizes the education of Lewis, Lewis’s thoughts on education, and what educators can learn from him.
Lewis became famous through his broadcast talks during WWII, his commanding presence at the Oxford Socratic Club and his interaction with the “Inklings”, fellow literary intellectuals that met regularly at an Oxford pub.
Lewis’s book, The Abolition of Man (1944, HarperCollins) is aptly subtitled “Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools”. Markos states that “Lewis argues, it is through our chest that we are most distinctly human, for our head points us upward toward the angels while our belly draws us downward toward the beasts” (34). And it is men who are irresponsible for teaching virtue that are “men without chests”. These were the authors of what Lewis called The Green Book. “Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary; it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so” (25).
The title of Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, has a double meaning. In the first instance, he was surprised by the joy that was inherent in his conversion and, in the second place, Joy Davidman had recently become his wife and brought him new, although belated, joy.
The initial joy Lewis experienced was the outcome of a life of romanticism, yearning, longing, and desire, or, as he often called it, Sehnsucht. In romantic poetry it might be “awakened by the past, the distant, and the imagined, but not believed, supernatural. In modern literature, the life of liberated instinct” (p. 16, “Christianity and Culture” in Christian Reflections. Eerdmans, 1967). Lewis noted that the dangers of romantic Sehnsucht were great, in that “eroticism and even occultism lie in wait for it” (22) and he repented of his early experiences of this type of Sehnsucht. In a footnote (23n) he says that Sehnsucht could be described as ‘spilled religion’ as long as we remember that “the spilled drops may be full of blessing”. According to Carnell (1974: 36), Lewis experienced such a feeling before he was six years old.