After his observing the Big Ghost, Jack is visited by a couple of solid lions who play in an open space. They are wet and Jack decides to go and find the river he can hear nearby. As he approaches the river he runs into another ghost and solid person. It seems Jack is going to look upon another interaction; which I guess is conducive to telling the tale.
This time the ghost is the one Jack had spoken to on the bus earlier. This wasn’t the commercial ghost wanting to bring back something real, but rather the ghost that espoused the theory that the twilight in the grey town was really the “subdued and delicate half-light … the promise of the dawn.”
The ghost mentions to the spirit that he was just talking to his father (obviously in Hell) the other day. The spirit (solid) immediately asks “You didn’t bring him?” Is this an attempt by the spirit to plant a seed of thought in the ghost to do that very thing next time, if he fails and the ghost returns to the grey town?
Ignoring the Obvious
The ghost is immediately reminiscent of the old days (of life on Earth) when he and the spirit would have serious talks and debates. A few things become obvious from their discussions; 1) the spirit was younger when they were alive and 2) their discussions were of a religious philosophical nature. He remembers that the spirit had become “narrow-minded” towards the end of its life; and offers as proof “Why, my dear boy, you were coming to believe in a literal Heaven and Hell!”
Now this is humor on the part of Lewis. You almost do a double-take. Here is a man who has just spent no telling how long in a literal Hell and is now standing on the edge of a most solid Heaven and yet he refused to believe in either. He even goes so far as to chastise the spirit for believing. He is so blind to the facts that he assumes the boy (spirit) has surely broadened his mind in the time since then.
OK, stepping aside for a moment; I don’t know why, but this scene reminds me of British humor where someone denies the obvious. We have a ghost jostling the cage of a dead parrot and exclaiming “There, it moved!” It’s like when Arthur and his knights (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail) approach the “killer rabbit” and the Wizard Tim says “Look at the bones!” I want the spirit to say “Look at the grass!” using the same inflection.
Where Do You Think You Have Been?
OK, back to the discussion. When the solid spirit asks the obvious “But wasn’t I right?”, the ghosts insists that Heaven and Hell are only to be believed in, in a “spiritual sense”. Believing in a literal or physical sense would be “superstitious”.
When the spirit asks the ghost where he thinks he (the ghost) has been all this time, the spirit is asking for a literal answer, but the ghost immediately jumps into religious debate mode and discusses theory. He actually asks the spirit if he were implying that “the grey town with it’s continue hope of morning… indefinite progress… is Heaven?”
The spirit tries again to steer the conversation to the real/literal and this time the ghost catches on just enough to say that the grey town doesn’t have an official name. He asks the spirit if they have a name for it up here. To which the spirit replies “We call it Hell.”
Back to the humor, the ghosts is offended that the boy/solid/spirit has said a swear word. Surely these discussions and debates can be conducted in a civilized manner, and cursing would violate those rules! “These matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.”
Of course it is the ghost who is breaking all three rules.
Simple – The ghost wants to expand on every idea to an infinite level of complexity.
Seriously – Everything is theory, nothing is real in his arguments.
Reverently – How do you discuss literal Hell reverently, even when ignoring the fact that it might me Hell.
The ghost still thinks this is another debate; and asks the boy to expand on his theory that the grey town is Hell. Wanting to continue the debate he goads his onetime pupil to tell him why he was sent there; assuring him he is not angry with the direction of the discussion.
Why Were You There
The spirit again seems surprised that the ghosts may not know the answer to his own question; and answers matter-of-factly that the ghost is an “apostate”; an apostate being a person who forsakes his religion.
(Side Note: Rick and I referred to this ghost in Chapter 2 as the “clean-shaven man, who represents the modernist era, or the unclouded thoughts of atheism.” I guess technically we were right… but this man is much worse than one who never believed; he believed and fell away.)
2 Peter 2:20-21 If people escape the moral filth of this world through the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, then get tangled up in it again and are overcome by it, they are worse off than they were before. It would be better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, having come to know it, to turn back from the holy commandment entrusted to them.
The ghost cannot believe his ears! It’s as if the boy spirit is speaking blasphemy; and from his world view, he is. He cannot conceive of one being punished for thoughts, for honest opinion; even if those opinions are mistaken.
In his world all thought is valid and of equal footing and value. All paths should be explored. The journey (not the destination, not the truth) is the important thing. The only intellectual sin is to deny oneself any aspect of that journey. And forming a solid conclusion seems to be one of those journey ending denials.
The ghost declares in his debate with his onetime student “honest opinions fearlessly followed – they are not sins.”
And here we have a common thread between this Apostate Ghost and the Big Ghost from the last chapter; honesty about oneself. The Big Ghost wasn’t as decent a man as he thought himself. And the Apostate Ghost thinks his formed opinions where not only honest, but heroic, and fearlessly asserted despite the risk. But the spirit explains that there was no risk because they (both of them) were simply tapping into a certain popular current of ideas. What they did was modern, and successful. The result was popularity, book sales, speaking engagements, parties, and a bishopric (becoming a bishop in charge of an area).
And all the ghost had to do to achieve these things was deny the Resurrection, preach a famous sermon defying the whole chapter (I assume of the Bible), and lose his salvation. Here truly stands a man who made the bargain to gain the whole world in Mark 8:36
The Apostate Ghost may have actually honestly believed his rhetoric; but it was only through self-delusion. The spirit asks, “When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one moment’s real resistance to the loss of our faith?”
Is it not human nature to believe what we want based on the reward or punishments we may receive based on the truth? We do this when it comes to relationships (A jealous man believes lies about his best friend), ourselves (a drunkard believes another drink will do him no harm), politics (that party hates my demographic), and religion (Jesus was a great philosopher and nothing more). And we use facts to further our self-delusions. The Inquisition was horrible, so my extreme in the other direction must be justified and infallible.
We’re Not Needed
The ghost seems remotely interested in following his spirit guide if given certain assurances that he will have a “wider sphere of usefulness” (meaning personal attention) as he continues to debate religious philosophy.
This assurance cannot be given; for we are not needed in Heaven. We have no treasures, no talents that are needed. Not even our humble gratitude or praise is needed. All we can do is accept and take what is freely and lovingly given to us. So no, we’re not needed… but we are wanted.
The debate continues as the ghosts again proclaims that to “travel hopefully is better than to arrive” and that “there is something stifling about the idea of finality… Stagnation is soul destroying.”
I agree with the ghost. I think this is a very true statement. It is indeed a horrendous thought for someone to be stuck intellectually or worse spiritually; progressing no further. But my agreement is again rooted in one of those concepts that the human mind cannot fully grasp. And that is the concept of TRUTH or a better way to say it is ABSOLUTE TRUTH. I can conceive that 2+2=4 is true. And that bit of truth can lead me to other truths such as Algebra, Geometry, and so on. But in human existence there is always more truth to be found; applying to everything (math, science, philosophy, and religion). A poetic way of saying this might be “There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in our philosophy.”
The spirit tells the ghost (and us) that we humans feel this way only because we have experienced truth in the abstract. In heaven truth will we can taste it like honey, be embraced by it, and our thirst shall be quenched.
Jesus said several times that we should become like children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The spirit echoes this when it comes to our intellect and our search for answers. “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now.”
What is really comes down to for the Apostate ghost is he has taken a gift of God (his intellect) and used it for something other than what it was meant for. We can do that with all of God’s gifts from athleticism, sex, and intellect. All these things can entrap us and separate us from God. “Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.”
The ghost suddenly remembers that it has to read a paper in Hell next Friday; so it can’t go on to Heaven today. I have to mention the paper because of the synopsis given by the ghost. Everything he mentions is wrong, even blasphemous.
In the paper, “I’m going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he’d lived.” Not if he was who he said he was. Jesus is God and God is eternal, never changing; so no, Jesus wouldn’t have outgrown any of his teachings. But the cross was why he came anyway.
“As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience.” Here the ghost is actually criticizing God for not being more like him! Tact! Patience! Only his Love would be more boundless.
“I am going to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly interesting question.” Why do I get the feeling that Jesus’ mature views in this paper would have matched those of the ghost? So when we force Gods views to match our own (instead of the other way around) are we not elevating ourselves to being gods? Talk about false idols and hubris!
“What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic waste … so much promise cut short.” The significance of the Crucifixion is indeed key to the Christian faith. It is paramount! Without the Crucifixion, there could have been no Resurrection; and without the Resurrection, there could be no atonement for sins; and without the atonement for sins there could be no Salvation!
And while the Crucifixion could be described as tragic, it was also a glorious part of God’s plan. There was no “waste” not even in the mind of God. We were worth it all! I should cry tears of sadness because he had to die for me… I should cry tears of joy because he chose to die for me!
The Apostate Farewell
The ghost is truly pitiable. It desires only questions and debate. It believes in nothing, for nothing is final. There is no thirst for knowledge, truth, God, or even happiness. Not able to break away from its one desire, the ghosts bids his spirit guide farewell in order to return to Hell singing a hymn as he leaves.
Walking on Water
Our narrator moves on to another thought about the nature of this place. If everything is so solid to him; wouldn’t the water also be. He tries to put his hypothesis to the test; and yes he can walk on water though his experience is a little less successful that than of the Savior. He forgets that the river is flowing; so even though the water is solid… it is also moving… rapidly!
Jack continues to walk on water in the next chapter and our Capitalists Ghosts gets his chance to acquire and take something real back to Hell.