Out of the Silent Planet

Just this week, I finished the first book in C.S. Lewis’ The Space Triology, that book being Out of the Silent Planet. I had actually tried reading it a couple of years back. Unfortunately, I only reached the half-way point and then never finished the book.

I think I know why this happened.

I have this silly knack of reading multiple books at a time. When doing so, one book usually takes precedence over the others (the same is happening in the present moment). So there was another book that had taken priority over Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet, though I cannot remember its name.

Another thing is that, though I love books like The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as other fantasy fiction (The Lord of the Rings, The Inheritance Cycle, Harry Potter, etc), this book seemed more science-fiction than fantasy. I adore fantasy, but am not so much in to science-fiction (I’ve never been into things like Star Trek).

Thus, with another book pressing at the forefront of my mind and with the thought that Out of the Silent Planet was too sci-fi for me, I had two negatives going against it. Hence, why I wasn’t too bothered with the book, even deciding upon not finishing it at the time.

But I knew I would come back one day.

Also, I must note that I did not grow up being a Christian. Thus, C.S. Lewis was not a regular for me. So I find myself ‘catching up’ on a lot of reading with many of his titles, both fiction and non-fiction, still to come.

But, after recently being encouraged by an acquaintance to try the book again, I picked it up over the Christmas holidays. This time, I really did enjoy the book, as it now took priority over another book I have been reading.

So, I don’t think I need to recount the story here, as many will know it. But I thought I might post a couple of favourite excerpts from the book.

The first is when Ransom is on the ship headed to Malacandra. To his, and our, mind, we would usually refer to the area where the stars and planets are as ‘space’ or ‘outer space’. But after Ransom’s time in ‘space’, such could only be explained with these words:

But Ransom, as time wore on, became aware of another and more spiritual cause for his progressive lightening and exultation of heart. A nightmare, long engendered in the modern mind by the mythology that follows in the wake of science, was falling off him. He had read of “Space”: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now – now that the very name “Space” seemed a blasephemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. He could not call it “dead”; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean the world and all theif life had come? He had thought it barren: he saw now that is was the womb of worlds, whose blazing and innummerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the earth with so many eyes – and here, with how many more! No: space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens – the heavens which delcared the glory…

The next portion comes just after Ransom arrives to meet the great Oyarsa. It is rather long, but also rather good:

He perceived, gradually, that the place was full of eldila. The lights, or suggestions of light, which yesterday had been scattered over the island, were now all congregated in this one spot, and were all stationary or very faintly moving. The sun had risen by now, and still no one spoke. As he looked up to see the first, pale sunlight upon the monoliths, he became conscious that the air above him was full of a far greater complexity of light than the sunrise could explain, and light of a different kind, eldil-light. The sky, no less than the earth, was full of them; the visible Malacandrians were but the smallest part of the silent consistory which surrounded him. He might, when the time came, be pleading his cause before thousands or before millions: rank behind rank about him, and rank above rank over his head, the creatures that had never yet seen man, and whom man could not see, were waiting for his trial to begin. He licked his lips, which were quite dry, and wondered if he would be able to speak when speech was demanded of him. Then it occurred to him that perhaps this – this waiting and being looked at – was the trial; perhaps even now he was unconsciously telling them all they wished to know. But afterwards – a long time afterwards – there was a noise of movement. Every visible creature in the grove had risen to its feet and was standing, more hushed than ever, with its head bowed; and Ransom saw (if it could be called seeing) that Oyarsa was coming up between the long lines of sculptured stones. Partly he knew it from the faces of the Malacandrians as their lord passed them; partly he saw – he could not deny that he saw – Oyarsa himself. He never could say what it was like. The merest whisper of light – no, less than that, the smallest diminution of shadow – was travelling along the uneven surface of the groundweed; or rather some difference in the look of the ground, too slight to be named in the language of the five senses, moved slowly towards him. Like a silence spreading over a room full of people, like an infinitesimal coolness on a sultry day, like a passing memory of some long-forgotten sound or scent, like all that is stillest and smallest and most hard to seize in nature, Oyarsa passed between his subjects and drew near and came to rest, not ten yards away from Ransom in the centre of Meldilorn. Ransom felt a tingling of his blood and a pricking on his fingers as if lightening were near him; and his heart and body seemed to him to be made of water.

What a beautiful description, it being possible similar to another throne inhabited by the great Lion and Lamb.

There were a couple more selections I had wanted to pull out, but I think these two above shall definitely suffice, at least to keep the article from being much longer.

To end, I thought I would post this short statement found near the conclusion of the story. It is a thought that Ransom has in the ship on his way back to Earth (or Thulcandra):

It even occurred to him that the distinction between history and mythology might be itself meaningless outside of Earth.

I am not sure of the full implications behind this statement, as penned and meant by Lewis, but I think it interesting when I consider my recent ponderings in regards to Scripture. One thought I have considered with some of the Old Testament history, especially the early chapters of Genesis, is whether it is absolute factually recorded history or rather recorded myths that were given to communicate the truth of the God of Israel, Yahweh.

The word myth is a scary word to Christians, as many think it means something like ‘false story’. Thus, one would think that a myth could never be used to explain the truth of God as recorded in Scripture. But the word simply refers to a traditional story recorded to explain a supernatural phenomenon that deals with deities or demigods. Hence, Greek mythology consists of accounts, or stories, that were written to explain truths about their gods.

Anyways, in recent days, I have pondered whether some of the early chapters of Genesis are accounts of actual historical events or rather mythological accounts given to explain more important truths about the beginning of humanity and its early history, as God desired for us to know in Scripture.

Now don’t throw stones just yet. I still believe Scripture is the Word of God, faithfully given to us by God. But I’m just pondering some of these things with regards to the words of Genesis 1-11. My friend, also an evangelical, points to an important book related to this topic.

Anyways, I look forward to soon reading the second and third books of The Space Triology, those being Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.


4 thoughts on “Out of the Silent Planet

  1. Wow! What a final statement “… the distinction between history and mythology might itself be meaningless outside of earth.” As you said, it’s hard to know exactly what Lewis was trying to say, but it is SO Lewis. His writing so often has so many layers of meaning and he wasn’t afraid to touch on possible controversial topics – especially those that might upset the traditional church. I have never read his space trilogy, but plan to do so ASAP. Of course, I’ve read the Narnia series, and absolutely love the ‘Screwtape Letters’.
    I am a Sci-Fi buff from way back, which by the way, has not tainted my belief in God or Jesus Christ as the incarnate Saviour. I think we can learn a lot through fiction/fantasy/myth – come on, we are creative and imaginative beings – and not necessarily compromise our faith. Also, I don’t think God expects us to never have any fun either, and enjoying stories simply for pleasure is a part of every culture on the face of the earth. (Any Calvinists out there might disagree but …)
    As far as ‘Incarnation and Inspiration’ I’ll have to reserve judgement until I’ve had the time and opportunity for further research. I have always leaned toward the ‘literalist’ side of things in terms of creation, but I am never one to put limits on the Almighty. When we try to state absolutely ‘this is what God means’ or ‘this is how God does things’ we are treading on dangerous ground. Some day we might all be very surprised (if we ever find out, or, as I will loosely paraphrase Lewis as saying, we even care) at the real truth of the many debatable issues in the Bible.
    My debut novel called “And The Beat Goes On” deals with creationist issues when giant human remains are found together with those of Pterodactyls. Legends point back to the mythical race known as Nephilim – also mentioned in the Bible. It is a Romantic Suspense available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or directly through the publisher. http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/AndTheBeatGoesOn.html

  2. Thanks for the comment, Tracy. I hope you, too, enjoy The Space Trilogy. I look forward to the next two books, as I mentioned.

    And, yes, with the Scripture, I think the authors meant what they literally meant, as inspired by God. But we need to know exactly what they meant when they wrote, not what we think they should mean from a 21st century perspective. It’s interesting to think about.

  3. Pingback: Perelandra and the Beginning « The Prodigal Thought

  4. Pingback: Book Reviews To Come « The Prodigal Thought

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