MacDonald (as selected by Lewis)

Frank Houston, a horrible phantasm in the dream we call life

I’m not sure this is really the place for it but I think those interested will more likely gather here. But I have come across a few things just this morning which may interest my CS Lewis fancying friends, at least @Randy and @Mervin_Bitikofer. I just discovered Malcom Guite, a Christian poet who wrote this sonnet on CS Lewis for a 2013 fifty year memorial of his life and work. If the link transferred okay you can instead hear Malcom read it, a real treat.

CS Lewis

From ‘Beer and Beowulf’ to the seven heavens,

Whose music you conduct from sphere to sphere,

You are our portal to those hidden havens

Whence we return to bless our being here.

Scribe of the Kingdom, keeper of the door

Which opens on to all we might have lost,

Ward of a word-hoard in the deep hearts core

Telling the tale of Love from first to last.

Generous, capacious, open, free,

Your wardrobe-mind has furnished us with worlds

Through which to travel, whence we learn to see

Along the beam, and hear at last the heralds,

Sounding their summons, through the stars that sing,

Whose call at sunrise brings us to our King.

I discovered Guite on a video of a Zoom of a conversation between him and Iain McGilchrist mostly instigated by the painter Robert Wagner where I got to hear Malcom Guite read a little known poem by CS Lewis which I liked a lot. The conversation is interesting as well but the reading begins on at 4:51 but Malcom’s discussion was helpful leading up to it.

Edited to add this from the transcript leading up to his reading (my bolding for the part that stood out for me):

which is of course a much later book when Lewis looks back to his time in the 1920s really as a young Don in Cambridge


before his conversion and you may remember he famously says the two


hemispheres of my mind the phrase for you the two hemispheres of my mind were


in the sharpest contrast on the one side and many islanded sea of myth and poetry


on the other are glib and shallow rationalism nearly everything I loved I


believed to be imaginary nearly everything I believe to be real I thought grim and meaningless


and of course you know biographers of Lewis and historians at the time might reasonably


object that that book was written many years after the state of mind he describes and after his conversion and


so you might want to have an earlier record penned in those years about how he felt


and I have become persuaded that this poem is exactly that

Also @Jay313 are you a Lewis guy?


Not so much.

That’s okay. Me neither though I did enjoy reading s Narnia book to my stepson almost 40 years ago.


For about a year, I’ve been running across Guite’s name. I might have downloaded one of his books of poetry. Forgot. The tidal waves of excellent reading (books, articles, poems, transcripts, reference books, plus books and articles about the books and articles I need background on) is nearly overwhelming.
There are worse ways to be overwhelmed.


Guite comes off as a perhaps manic force of nature who has every line of any poem ready to hand on his internal screen. As a Tolkien character he’d be the brown wizard, Radagast. And if ever a volunteer was needed to play Santa, he’d be your guy.

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:smile: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart:

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(128) The Work of the Father

All things are possible with God, but all things are not easy. It is easy for him to be, for there he has to do with his own perfect will: it is not easy for him to create–that is, after the grand fashion which alone will satisfy his glorious heart and will, the fashion in which he is now creating us. In the very nature of being–that is, God–it must be hard–and divine history shows how hard–to create that which shall be not himself, yet like himself. The problem is, so far to separate from himself that which must yet on him be ever and always and utterly dependent, that it shall have the existence of an individual, and be able to turn and regard him–choose him, and say, ‘I will arise and go to my Father,’ and so develop in itself the highest Divine of which it is capable–the will for the good against the evil–the will to be one with the life whence it has come, and in which it still is–the will to close the round of its procession in its return, so working the perfection of reunion–to shape in its own life the ring of eternity–to live immediately, consciously, and active-willingly from its source, from its own very life–to restore to the beginning the end that comes of that beginning–to be the thing the maker thought of when he willed, ere he began to work its being.

I imagine the difficulty of doing this thing, of effecting this creation, this separation from himself such that will in the creature shall be possible–I imagine, I say, the difficulty of such creation so great, that for it God must begin inconceivably far back in the infinitesimal regions of beginnings–not to say before anything in the least resembling man, but eternal miles beyond the last farthest-pushed discovery in protoplasm–to set in motion that division from himself which in its grand result should be individuality, consciousness, choice, and conscious choice–choice at last pure, being the choice of the right, the true, the divinely harmonious.

As found in MacDonald’s unspoken sermon: “Life”.

I must admit, I only understand MacDonald dimly (if at all) on this one. I included considerably more than Lewis included above, but Lewis’ shorter version was still unclear to me, and I’m not sure all the extra inclusions from MacDonald, both on the end and within, was much help. But there it is. All of you smarter folks probably make more out from it than I do.

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(129) The End

Hence the final end of the separation is not individuality; that is but a means to it; the final end is oneness–an impossibility without it. For there can be no unity, no delight of love, no harmony, no good in being, where there is but one. Two at least are needed for oneness; and the greater the number of individuals, the greater, the lovelier, the richer, the diviner is the possible unity.

As found in MacDonald’s unspoken sermon: “Life”.

It does seem that cosmic evolution is a movement from unity (think singularity) to multiplicity (the various forces, space, time, matter and energy) by way of individuation (thinking of the development of life, organisms and consciousness as we know it). Organisms are like microcosms in which what is singular recognizes itself in what is other and what is other has always been but what we are as individuals come and go. If God’s essence is relational then organisms are like an endless stream of horses in a kind of divine pony express; we form in relation to what is timeless, providing at the same time the other that is needed to fulfill the nature of what is timeless.

That fits.


Merv, I will add one more component, to Mark’s excellent interpretation. In this explanation of creation that seems to be absorbing an evolutionary view of the development of life, MacDonald is providing for some kind of freedom or autonomy on the part of the creatures God makes from himself.

The kind of creation God wants to make is as glorious as himself and so must be of himself.
It’s glory is in its ability to choose good from evil.
The great challenge to God in making this kind of creation is that it is dependent on himself, but must be separate enough from himself to be able to choose him, rather than simply always see itself as part of him.

I like MacDonald’s explanation of “oneness.” It’s not an amalgomation of all into one, but a uniting of particular (a la Kierkegaard) individuals into one harmonious community.


Thanks - both of you; I like this direction of thoughts too.

That’s a cool image, Mark. And the way I’m imagining it (or restating it yet again, less elegantly) is that not only are we each unique from all other creations, even within our own species, but we are even unique from our other selves during other periods of our lives. I.e. I am not who I was as a child, or even the same person I was a year ago. And I think MacDonald has said elsewhere that each relationship is itself unique, and therefore everybody has a one-of-a-kind offering about who God is. We can find and celebrate commonalities, but we can also celebrate the differences found in God just as much.


Even though it is jarring from the perspective of what we usually mean by “being the same person”, I mostly agree.

Darn, thought I was about to get back to sleep when it occurred to me how who we are isn’t entirely determined by any one thing anymore than the cells in our bodies are. Just as they become what is required given their location in our bodies as much as because of DNA, so we become who we are in relation to our upbringing, culture, learning, relationships, communities and lived experience.


I’ll add, in Howard Gardener fashion, the types of neural systems we have (our hard-wiring).

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So also the hormonal soups we swim in and probably a good many other variables as well.


(130) Deadlock

Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because he would give the best, and man will not take it.

As found in MacDonald’s unspoken sermon: “Life”.


“Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law.”

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

To come before the Lord, to fall into his hand is a fearful thing, and yet what joy! what unspeakable joy! I never have to fear. I can fall before him, as a wretched creature, marred through and through, and yet I know, he loves me.


With all these sermons, I thought a song was in order:

I so hope not to discover grievous hidden sin in this man’s life and to worship with him in glory

Reminds me of another saying the source for which I don’t recall:

If men only wanted to be happy that wouldn’t be so hard. But we want to be happier than others and that is almost impossible.

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