Notes on “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis (1946)

The last time I read this was in 2007 and I loved it. To be honest, I love anything that Lewis writes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s like he has a personal connection with God. The last time I read this was before I would make notes while I read books, so all I have is that I remember loving it. This time, the thing I took away most was the very end. I won’t give it away because it really just wraps up the whole thing but I will be blogging about it for sure.

The first thing I thought when I wrote down the title and publish date at the top of my note page/book marker was that it was published around the same time at “1984”.

From the Preface, “I beg readers to remember that this is a fantasy. It has of course – or I intended it to have – a moral. But the trans-mortal conditions are solely an imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or a speculation at what may actually await us. The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the details of the after-world.” And that is how the book ends as well. It’s a dream. We cannot fathom the reality that God is from the side we are on. There is no way to describe it but through our own dirty and distorted lens. But God is trying to talk to us. We can feel it every day in the quiet stillness of the morning and in the dark and fearful night; in those moments of sadness and joy that make us truly human, we hear His voice.

Here’s my interpretation. Each of us hears God in the way that makes sense to us and calls us closer to Him. That doesn’t mean that all interpretations of God or a lack of God are true. It does not justify relativism. God is the one constant reality and the one thing in common with all our interpretations. It’s just complicated. Your dream or understanding of what God’s reality is may not work for my mind. And it’s not the actual reality you dreamed of, only God’s way of speaking directly to you. Does that make any sense?

I loved Lewis’ idea of heaven, hell, and purgatory the last time I read this book. It has stuck with me for the last 9 years. It’s the idea that humanity cannot fathom the idea of heaven. When someone says to me that in Heaven we will have no male and female, no desire, no pain, no…choices? We will be perfect in God’s presence? I will admit I cringe. The humanity in me does not really desire that. All of those things are what make us human, aren’t they? Why would I want to give them up? But that’s only an inkling of an idea about what Heaven is. We cannot understand it in our dimension or reality.

What I think is that once we make the decision to trust God, that different reality will open up to us and we will understand fully. For God, it must be like trying to explain depth to a two-dimensional being.

My favorite bit of this book, my “ah-ha!” moment, was in Chapter 13.

“Only the Greatest of all can make Himself small enough to enter Hell. For the higher the thing is, the lower it can descend – a man can sympathize with a horse but a horse cannot sympathize with a rat. Only One has descended into Hell.”

“And will He ever do so again?”

“It was not once long ago that He did it. Time does not work that way when once ye have left the Earth. All moments that have been or shall be were, or are, present in the moment of His descending. There is no spirit in prison to Whom He did not preach.”

Do you get it? God is outside our reality. He is bigger than time itself. That’s why when someone says, God knows your plan, it feels like we have no free-will. That’s not the case. We can only see our own chosen timeline. God can see every choice by everyone at every time. He knows all your choices and their outcomes before you chose them. Pretty cool, huh?

I used to wonder a lot about Jesus. If the only way to God/Heaven is through belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, then what about all the people that lived before He came? It seems rather unjust for a just God to do that. But the answer is here in the idea that God is not inside our reality. When Jesus died for our sins, He did it for all mankind throughout time. When it happened, it happened in all time and somehow we all got the chance to believe. I can’t explain how exactly but I’m sure it’s there and we’ll all know the answer when we are able to be in the presence of God.

The whole time I’m reading this book I’m thinking I should put it down at the end of each chapter and really soak it in but I feel compelled to keep reading. I just love it so much. It’s definitely on my “read-again-soon” list. I’d really like to get all C.S. Lewis’ books and read through them often.


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