During C.S. Lewis's lifetime, evolutionary cosmic and secular pagan and mystical pantheist ideas and philosophical systems (the 'new' spirituality) were growing in acceptance and popularity throughout academia, within seminaries, universities and among the masses.
Among common points of departure for both types of pagan humanism are the following ideas:
1. Rejection of the Holy God in three Persons with special antipathy directed against the Second Person, Jesus Christ God incarnate, in favor of naturalism; no God, a limited God that can only create through evolution, or pantheist conceptions of God such as Teilhards' Hindu-pantheist Omega or Brahman, and Jesus Christ as a mortal teacher such as Buddha, the angelic brother of Lucifer, or perhaps a highly evolved Transcended Master or spirit guide.
2. A priori rejection of the Genesis account of creation ex nihilo in favor of evolutionary science.
3. Rejection of physical eternal life in either Paradise (renewed earth) or hell in favor of annihilation (no afterlife), absorption (Nirvana) or wholly spiritual conceptions of life out in the astral plane or perhaps living a phantom existence on a planet
4. Humanity as deity
5. Moral relativism: No right way, no wrong way
6. Universalism: all ways lead to the same place:
"The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unheeded." A.W. Tozer The Knowledge of the Holy
The dangers of holding erroneous views are profound and in his book, "The Great Divorce," Lewis attempted to address them by presenting us with a masterful study of the psychology of the hell-bound versus the psychology of the Paradise-bound.
As Lewis fleshes out his view of hell, he relies in part on his mentor George MacDonald, a Scottish preacher and writer who believed there might be a final opportunity for the unrepentant on earth to repent after their death. Building off this idea, Lewis depicts the damned as taking a bus ride from hell to heaven, where they come in contact with "real" reality.
Heaven is a place of physical matter, of weight and mass and the blessed inhabitants are the beautiful "bright solid people" as opposed to the self-idolizing dirty shades without mass, or matter. N.T. Wright explains,
"...there will be a new mode of physicality, which stands in relation to our present body as our present body does to a ghost....a Christian in the present life is a mere shadow of his or her future self, the self that person will be when the body that God has waiting in his heavenly storeroom is brought out...and put on...over the self that will still exist after bodily death." (Eternal Perspectives, Randy Alcorn, p. 154-155)
The bus finally arrives in heaven having arisen from what turns out to be a mere crack in the ground for Lewis sees all Hell as,
"....smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World." (The Great Divorce, An Essay, Allen Adams, cslewis.drzeus.net)
Hell is smaller than one atom of Paradise because during the course of their lifetimes the hell-bound only grew horizontally due to their self-centeredness and selfishness rather than vertically as do the Paradise bound. In other words, to become more Christ-like is to become much greater, brighter and larger than what you were while to grow even more self-centered is to become much less, that is, smaller and smaller and smaller.
As the hell-bound depart the bus they are shocked by the realization that not only are they small dirty ghosts but they cannot abide the physical matter of heaven because in life, like the pagan sages, the Gnostic Arnobius and contemporary secular and cosmic transhumanists, they were dissatisfied with their own bodies and created condition as either male or female for example, as well as with the finiteness of their own minds. In "Adversus nationes" (2.37) Arnobius complains,
"If souls were of the Lord's race...They would never come to these terrestrial places (and) inhabit opaque bodies and (be) mixed with humors and blood, in receptacles of excrement, in vases of urine." (The Pagan Temptation, Thomas Molnar, p. 27)
Molnar explains that from Plato to Plotinus, it was held as axiomatic that from being as one with or an aspect of the Divine Substance souls had inexplicably fallen into the material realm, a hellish place of misery, suffering and binary, which means for example, two distinct sexes rather than a two-in-one, the androgynous being called 'gay' in modern terminology. Salvation was secured through the mystery cults which,
"...afforded their devotees the opportunity to erase the curse of mortality by direct encounter with the patron deity or in many instances by actually undergoing an apotheosis, a transfiguration of human into divine. The process of 'initiation' in the mystery religions, therefore, had as its objective the liberation of the soul from its earthly...chains" (C.K. Barrett cited in "The Interruption of Eternity," Carl A. Raschke, p. 28)
At the root of the rejection of the living God by the hell-bound is the rebellious assertion that man has not been created by Him, that he is not dependent upon Him for his own life, thus he is not created in His spiritual image. He is not dependent upon the living God but is rather a man-god, the creator of God, and the master of time, being, and the world who through his own powers will save himself.
Blaming the true God for their misery the hell-bound say to Him, "you are not my father:"
"I am I, I come out of myself, and in choice and action I make myself." (Daniel Bell, quoted by Herbert Schlossberg in "Idols for Destruction," p. 43)
Having transferred onto Him the reasons for their wrong choices and dissatisfaction with self, the hell-bound long for eternal nothingness, absorption into the void, apotheosis, or some spiritual conception of afterlife, but when as dirty shades they step onto the "solidness" of heaven it is tremendously painful to them. The grass is sharp on their feet, the rain goes go through them like bullets from a machine gun. They can't even pick flowers as the stems are far too strong for them.
Here Lewis contrasts the psychology of the hell-bound over and against the psychology of the heaven-bound. He does so by clearly depicting just how repugnant heaven is to the hell-bound. To them, paradise is a place of pain and suffering because during life, they freely chose unwisely based on selfish motives.
Enormously proud, willful, rebellious, aggressive, resentful, covetous, and envious, the hell-bound are moral relativists, sovereign rebels with a cause, the cause of doing whatever they want. Thus they hold that any direction, but particularly their own direction, will come out fine in the end, but Lewis sees the real danger to society as a result of this belief. The common good said Lewis, is only maintained by the common morality. Societies that embrace subjectivism are doomed to decay and death. Lewis put it this way,
"...some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found, that mere development of adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain. This belief I take to be a disastrous error." (ibid, The Great Divorce, An Essay, Allen Adams)
So holding that any direction is fine, especially their own, the hell-bound have their own ever-unfolding menu of privileges which they called 'rights,' their own version of the Golden Rule and of what constitutes good, such as their 'choice' to deny life to the inconvenient, to practice their own pansexual 'love,' and to live parasitic lives at the expense of the productive. As they were morally-perfect and autonomous they traveled their own sovereign roads and expected the God of Revelation and everyone else to accept and tolerate them — to put up and shut up. This being the case, they resent the living God and blame Him for not accepting them just as they are, for not jumping through hoops for them, for not seeing things their way.
On the other hand, the humbler heaven-bound think that anyone would be delighted to live in heaven:
"Celebration, holy days (holidays) of fellowshipping and feasting together is a vibrant part of heaven. It is very much associated with joy and rejoicing in the Bible. Food, conversation, singing, shouting, praise, nature, music, thankfulness, rewards, prayer and people, are all associated with rejoicing in heaven. This is how we will celebrate together. The feasts of the Old Testament went on for days. Imagine how long the parties in heaven will last!" Larry Dick, A Taste of Heaven
"Heaven, as the eternal home of the divine Man and of all the redeemed members of the human race, must necessarily be thoroughly human in its structure, conditions, and activities. Its joys and activities must all be rational, moral, emotional, voluntary, and active. There must be the exercise of all the faculties, the gratification of all tastes, the development of all talent capacities, the realization of all ideals. The reason, the intellectual curiosity, the imagination, the aesthetic instincts, the holy affections, the social affinities, the inexhaustible resources of strength and power native to the human soul must all find in heaven exercise and satisfaction....Heaven will prove the consummate flower and fruit of the whole creation and of all the history of the universe." A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology
"Our perfected happiness will spring from perfected holiness. Our moral and spiritual nature will be in faultless harmony with that exquisite environment. Have you ever tried to imagine what it will be like to have a mind that is radiant light with no darkness at all?....with never a selfish thought, never a wish that is not translucently pure, never a motive toward others that is not transparently sincere, never a fleck of envy or jealousy or resentment or unholy desire or competitiveness; never a tremor of doubt, never a wisp of fear, or flutter of pride, or whiff of self-assertiveness?" J. Sidlow Baxter, The Other Side of Death
Yet the things of heaven that bring unspeakable joy to its' bright, beautiful, eternally youthful inhabitants bring immense pain to the envious hell-bound as can be seen in the way that even the grass of heaven hurts the feet of the ghosts.
Lewis shows that heaven is a place of eternal joy, of unbelievably beautiful happy people, colors, music, flowers, singing birds, delicious food, and never-ending light unencumbered by misery. This last was an especially good insight, for the hell-bound love misery and demand that others share their misery, which in the end means spending eternity in hell. In fact, the paradise-bound often feel that their joys and blessings must be constrained, denigrated and even hidden from the burning gaze of the envious, that they ought to share the miseries of the envious lest they be accused of hate, narrow-minded intolerance, selfishness, homophobia, heterosexism, backwardness and bigotry. Yet Lewis, speaking through the voice of George MacDonald, reveals that hatred of the good underlies the demands of envious self-idolaters:
"That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it?" "What?" "The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be allowed to veto Heaven." ( ibid, The Great Divorce)
In his "Journey to the Celestial City," Wayne Martindale similarly describes the hell-bound as haters of good people. Self-centeredness, hate, and envy twist their hearts, thus they prefer evil thoughts, evil words, evil companions and evil acts, though it makes them wretched and miserable. Thus when they encounter good people they,
"...condemn them, perverting their reason by rationalizing evil and finding ways to blame the good or God or religion for their problems and the problems of the world. They already hate goodness because it implicitly condemns the evil they have chosen. They wouldn't like heaven if they could have it. They are, in a sense, already in hell, preferring darkness to light." (Eternal Perspectives, Randy Alcorn, p 76)
In a further discussion with McDonald, Lewis speaks of the issues of the dirty ghosts and the reality of heaven and hell. The question of choices comes up and Macdonald says this,
"Milton was right," said my Teacher. "The choice of every lost sould can be expressed in the words, 'Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven'. ..... There is always something they prefer to joy — that is, to reality." (ibid, The Great Divorce, Allen Adams)
Lewis sees the importance of free moral agency in the choice between good and evil, submission and rebellion, agape love and self-love, for the Holy God ultimately honors our choices, whether for good or evil, as demonstrated by the unwise and wicked choices of contemporary secular and cosmic transhumanists, apostates and others of that persuasion:
"The moral dissimilarity creates hell. For those beings who are morally dissimilar to God, hell is their final place. For those creatures who are morally similar to God, with some likeness to God, heaven is their place because their nature belongs there." A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God
Choosing pride and self-centeredness they unwisely reject our Savior and His offer of Paradise, and like a dog returning to its' own vomit, return to the vomit of ancient paganism revamped, revised and made 'scientifically' palatable for modern Western consumption. Thus their envy and self-idolatry lead to the conceptual murder of God and the rejection of His work on the cross, which means that by their own choice, they shut themselves out of paradise. So Lewis makes this point, saying that Hell is of their choosing:
"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell chose it."
Since the hell-bound willfully choose hell:
"Hell is the greatest compliment God has ever paid to the dignity of human freedom." G.K. Chesterton
The hell of hell will be the conscious thought that it is forever:
"You will look up on the throne of God, and it shall be written, "Forever!" When the damned jingle the burning irons of their torments, they shall say, "Forever!" When they howl, echo cries, "Forever!" Charles Spurgeon, Future Punishment a Fearful Thing, Sermon 682
© Linda Kimball