I just recently finished the first installment of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy. For those of you who don’t know C.S. Lewis wrote fictional series (similar to The Chronicles of Narnia) on outer-space. Being such a huge fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, and of C.S. Lewis in general, I thought I would enjoy reading Lewis’ space trilogy as well.
I was not disappointed!
The first book in the series is named Out of The Silent Planet. The story follows a character by the name of Ransom as he finds himself captive to a mad scientist in an intergalactic adventure. In typical Lewis fashion the story alludes to many themes like human nature, the existence of God, & the problem of evil. One passage in particular near the end of the book was most intriguing and quintessentially Lewis.
The passage finds Ransom on the planet Malacandra (Mars) where he is spending an evening with one of the three rational species on the planet, the “sorns” (There are also hrossa and pfifltriggi). The sorns are the most analytic and “heady” of the three intelligent species on the planet and Ransom’s time with them is most illuminating. Something to note before diving into the passage is that the rational, human like creatures on the planet are peaceful and live in complete harmony with one another, even though they could not be more different.
The passage begins as the sorns begin to ask questions about Ransom’s planet (Earth) and goes as follows:
The evening’s conversation was not such as would interest a terrestrial reader (I would beg to differ), for the sorns had determined that Ransom should not ask, but answer, questions. Their questioning was very different from the rambling inquiries of the hrossa (more poetic and artistic than the sorns). The sorns worked systematically from the geology of Earth to its present geography, and thence in turn to flora, fauna, human history, languages, politics and arts. When they found that Ransom could tell them no more on a given subject –and this happened pretty soon in most of their inquiries–they dropped it at once and went on to the next…They were astonished at what he had to tell them of human history — of war, slavery, and prostitution.
“It is becuause they have no Oyarsa (Deity/God Figure),” said one of the sorns.
“It is beacuse every one of them wants to by a little Oyarsa himself,” said another.
“They cannot help it,” said the old sorn. “There must be rule, yet how can creatures rule themselves? beasts must be ruled by hnau (logical creatures, like humans) and hnau by Oyarsa (diety/God). These creatures have no Oyarsa (God). They are like one trying to lift himself by his own hair–or one trying to see over a whole country when he is on a level with it–like female trying to beget young by herself. (pg. 103)
One thing that reader understands at this point in the book is that the creatures on Malacandra (Mars) do not suffer from the effects of sin; there is no evil; all live in harmony and peace. This is why it is so easy to understand why they are so amazed at the evil that plagues the planet. The first creature says that the reason for this is because humans on earth have no God. The second says it is because every human wants to be their own God and he is right. The oldest and wisest sorn explains why though.
What he says is that there must be rule. Beasts and none logical creatures must be ruled by logical creatures and, logical creatures must be ruled by a God who is infinite. The old, wise sorn says that because each human is trying to be their own God there is only chaos because humans, being finite, are assuming the role of the infinite. The only possible consequence is infinite failure. This is exemplified in war, slavery and prostitution as the sorns noted.
As usual Lewis offers a keen perspective on the experience of life through the medium of fiction.
This space trilogy is a fun read that I highly recommend to anyone!