The man is a humbug — a vulgar, shallow, self-satisfied mind, absolutely inaccessible to the complexities and delicacies of the real world. He has the journalist's air of being a specialist in everything, of taking in all points of view and being always on the side of the angels: he merely annoys a reader who has the least experience of knowing things, of what knowing is like. There is not two pence worth of real thought or real nobility in him. But he isn't dull… .
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. .
Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. .
The chief pleasure of his life in these days was to go down the road and look through the window in the wall in the hope of seeing the beautiful Island. … the sight of the Island and the sounds became very rare … and the yearning for the sight … became so terrible that John thought he would die if he did not have them again soon. … it came into his head that he might perhaps get the old feeling-for what, he thought, had the Island ever given him but a feeling?-by imagining. He shut his eyes and set his teeth again and made a picture of the Island in his mind. .
Then I dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them and the jailer said as he put down the pipkin: ‘Our relations with the cow are not delicate-as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions.’ … John said, ‘Thank heavens! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense. You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’ ‘And pray, what difference is there except by custom?’ ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’ .
‘you must see that if two things are alike, then it is a further question whether the first is copied from the second, or the second from the first, or both from a third.’ ‘Some that thought that all these loves were copies of our love for the landlord.’ .
‘The Spirit of the Age wishes to allow argument and not to allow argument. … If anyone argues with them they say that he is rationalizing his own desires, and therefore need not be answered. But if anyone listens to them they will then argue themselves to show that their own doctrines are true. … You must ask them whether any reasoning is valid or not. If they say no, then their own doctrines, being reached by reasoning, fall to the ground. If they say yes, then they will have to examine your arguments and refute them on their merits: for if some reasoning is valid, for all they know, your bit of reasoning may be one of the valid bits.’ .
Wisdom: The first error is that of the southern people, and it consists in holding that these eastern and western places are real places. … give no quarter to that thought, whether it threatens you with fear, or tempts you with hopes. For this is Superstition and all who believe it will come in the end to the swamps to the south and the jungles to the far south. Part of the same error is to think that the Landlord is a real man: .
The Guide sang: Nearly they stood who fall; Themselves as they look back See always in the track The one false step, where all Even yet, by lightest swerve Of foot not yet enslaved, By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve, Might have been saved. Nearly they fell who stand, And with cold after fear Look back to mark how near They grazed the Siren’s land, Wondering that subtle fate, By threads so spidery fine, The choice of ways so small, the event so great, Should thus entwine. Therefore oh, man, have fear Lest oldest fears be true, Lest thou too far pursue The road that seems so clear, And step, secure, a hair-breadth bourne, Which, being once crossed forever unawares, Denies return. .
The Guide sang: The new age, the new art, the new ethic and thought, And fools crying, Because it has begun It will continue as it has begun! The wheel runs fast, therefore the wheel will run Faster for ever, The old age is done, We have new lights and see without the sun. (Though they lay flat the mountains and dry up the sea, Wilt thou yet change, as though God were a god?) .
What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like, "What does it matter so long as they are contented?" We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven — a senile benevolence who, as they say, "liked to see young people enjoying themselves" and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, "a good time was had by all". .
In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does. .
I call this Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up "our own" when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is "nothing better" now to be had. .
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. .
I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern. .
My dear Wormwood, I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naive? It sounds as if you suppose that argument was the way to keep him out of the enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. .
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