In his introduction to Screwtape Proposes a Toast Lewis, in typically humble fashion, gives a lament for being unable to compose a companion volume giving the other side of the spiritual struggle for the soul of “The Patient.”
“I had moreover, a sort of grudge against my book for not being a different books which no one could write. Ideally, Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood should have been balanced by archangelical advice to the patient’s guardian angel. Without this the picture of human life is lop-sided. But who could supply the deficiency? Even if a man – and he would have to be a far better man than I – could scale the spiritual heights required, what ‘answerable style’ could he use? For the style would really be part of the content. Mere advice would be no good; every sentence would have to smell of Heaven.” – C.S. Lewis, Introduction to Screwtape Proposes a Toast
And while he is right in that a mirror book would be impossible. I would like to contend, merely by showing that Lewis was indeed capable of taking readers into what J.I. Packer might call the suburbs of Heaven.
The selection is taken from the last letter in the book. Where the patient enters glory by way of an exploding bomb in the german air raid. Screwtape then narrates the next moments in eternity, albeit from the diabolical perspective. Yet Screwtape is not the only place where Lewis explores the moment of entering glory for believers. These moments are illustrated elsewhere in his fiction but most notably in the Narnia books where he comes closest to every sentence smelling of Heaven.
The methodology will be to give Screwtape is full say from Letter XXXI. After that each point will be shown in a Narnian books, but chiefly and most obviously, The Last Battle. The Great Divorce will also receive an honorable quotation.There will be some passages repeated simply because two of the points are intertwined within the section. I am also forgoing commentary expecting the reader to take the larger quotes and pick out the parallels.
Death in Screwtape
“How well I know what happened at the instant when they snatched him from you! There was a sudden clearing of his eyes (was there not?) as he saw you for the first time, and recognised the part you had had in him and knew that you had it no longer. Just think (and let it be the beginning of your agony) what he felt at that moment; as if a scab had fallen from an old sore, as if he were emerging from a hideous, shell-like tetter, as if he shuffled off for good and all a defiled, wet, clinging garment. By Hell, it is misery enough to see them in their mortal days taking off dirtied and uncomfortable clothes and splashing in hot water and giving little grunts of pleasure—stretching their eased limbs. What, then, of this final stripping, this complete cleansing?
…Did you mark how naturally—as if he’d been born for it—the earth-born vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to itself! “Yes. Of course. It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottle-neck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?”
As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it!—that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realized what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not “Who are you?” but “So it was you all the time”. All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last recovered. Recognition made him free of their company almost before the limbs of his corpse became quiet. Only you were left outside.
He saw not only Them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man. You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralyzing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of Heaven.” – Screwtape, Letter XXXI
The Eyes Cleared
“Tirian soon found that he was getting further and further to the right, nearer to the Stable. He had a vague idea in his mind that there was some good reason for keeping away from it. But he couldn’t now remember what the reason was. And anyway, he couldn’t help it.
All at once everything came quite clear… For a moment or two Tirian did not know were he was or even who he was. Then he steadied himself, blinked, and looked around. It was not dark inside the Stable, as he had expected. He was in strong light: That was why he was blinking” –The Last Battle pp. 122
*“I glanced round the bus. Though the windows were closed, and soon muffed, the bus was full of light. It was a cruel light. I shrank from the faces and forms by which I was surrounded. They were all fixed faces, full not of possibilities but impossibilities, some gaunt, some bloated, some glaring with idiotic ferocity, some or another , distorted and faded. One had a feeling that they might fall to pieces at any moment if the light grew much stronger. Then – there was a mirror on the end wall of the bus – I caught sight of my own. And still the light grew.” – The Great Divorce pp.17
Glorification or Complete Cleansing
“No one in the boat doubted that they were seeing Aslan’s country.
At that moment, with a crunch, the boat ran aground. The water was too shallow now even for it. ‘This,’ said Reepicheep, ‘Is where I go on alone.’
They did not even try to stop him, for everything now felt as if it had been fated or had happened before. They helped him to lower his little coracle. Then he took off his sword (‘I shall need it no more’ he said) and flung it far away across the lilied sea.” The Voyage of The Dawn Treader pp.219
“Seven Kings and Queens stood before him, all with crowns on their heads and all in glittering clothes, but the Kings wore fine mail as well and has their swords drawn in their hands. Tirian bowed courteously and was about to speak when the youngest of the Queens laughed. He started hard at her face, and then gasped with amazement, for he knew her. It was Jill: but not Jill as he had last seen herewith her face all dirt and tears and and old drill dress half slipping off one shoulder. Now she looked cool and fresh, as fresh as if she had just come from bathing. And at first he thought she looked older, but then didn’t, and he could never make up his mind on that point. And then he saw that the youngest of the kings was Eustace: but he also was changed as Jill was changed
Tirian suddenly felt awkward about coming among these people wit the blood and dust and sweat of battle still on him. Next moment he realized that he was not in that state at all. He was fresh and cool and clean, and dressed in such clothes as he would have worn for a great feast at Cair Paravel.” –TLB pp.125
Knowing the Truth of the Spiritual Beings
“Seven Kings and Queens stood before him, all with crowns on their heads and all in glittering clothes, but the Kings wore fine mail as well and has their swords drawn in their hands. Tirian bowed courteously and was about to speak when the youngest of the Queens laughed. He started hard at her face, and then gasped with amazement, for he knew her. It was Jill: but not Jill as he had last seen herewith her face all dirt and tears and and old drill dress half slipping off one shoulder. Now she looked cool and fresh, as fresh as if she had just come from bathing. And at first he thought she looked older, but then didn’t, and he could never make up his mind on that point. And then he saw that the youngest of the kings was Eustace: but he also was changed as Jill was changed” – TLB pp.125
“I saw people coming to meet us. Because they were bright I saw them while they were still very distant, and at first I did not know that they were people at all. Mile after mile they drew nearer. The earth shook under their tread as their strong feet sank into the wet turf. A tiny haze and a sweet smell went up where they had crushed the grass and scattered the dew. Some were naked, some robed. But the naked ones did not seem less adorned, and the robes did not disguise in those who wore them the massive grandeur of muscle and the radiant smoothness of flesh. Some were bearded but no one in that company struck me as being of any particular age. One gets glimpses, even in our country, of that which is ageless – heavy thought in the face of an infant, and frolic childhood in that of a very old man. Here it was all like that. They came on steadily. I did not entirely like it. Two ghosts screamed and ran for the bus. The rest of us huddled closer to one another.” – TGD pp. 23-24
“As he spoke the earth trembled. The sweet air grew suddenly sweeter. A brightness flashed behind them. All turned. Tirian turned last because he was afraid. There stood his heart’s desire, huge and real, the golden Lion, Aslan himself, and already the others were kneeling in a circle round his forepaws and burying their hands and faces in his mane as he stooped his great head to touch them with his tongue. Then he fixed his eyes on Tirian, and Tirian came near, trembling, and flung himself at the Lion’s feet, and the Lion kissed him and said, “Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia who stood firm at the darkest hour.” – TLB pp.137-138
“They has seen strange things enough through that Doorway. But it was stranger than any of them to look round and find themselves in warm daylight, the blue sky above them, flowers at their feet, and laughter in Aslan’s eyes.
He turned swiftly round, crouched lower, lashed himself with his tail and shot away like a golden arrow. “Come further in! Come further up!” he shouted over his shoulder…
Then they all went forward together, always westward, for that seemed to be the direction Aslan had meant when he cried out “Further up and further in.” – TLB pp.149
“It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia, as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it, if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out in a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of the sea or that valley, all over again in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different, deeper more wonderful, more like places in a a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.” – TLB pp.161
Lewis may not have perfectly succeeded in providing a counterpart to Screwtape’s miserific understanding of entering glory. But he came closer than he seems to have given himself credit for. There are other places where Lewis’s own letters or articles play the archangelical role to Screwtape’s. But it is in his fiction that he comes closest to every sentence smelling of Heaven.
*The Great Divorce is a bit of an anomaly on this list because the character of “Lewis” is not dead. Elements of his heavenly idea are present but not quite a one to one parallel in the way the endings to Screwtape and Last Battle run.