Quotations by Lewis, C.S.


If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Answers to Questions on Christianity”
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Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Learning in War-Time,” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1965)
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Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods, and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Learning in War-Time”
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The word religion is extremely rare in the New Testament or the writings of mystics. The reason is simple. Those attitudes and practices to which we give the collective name of religion are themselves concerned with religion hardly at all. To be religious is to have one’s attention fixed on God and on one’s neighbor in relation to God. Therefore, almost by definition, a religious man, or a man when he is being religious, is not thinking about religion; he hasn’t the time. Religion is what we (or he himself at a later moment) call his activity from the outside.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Lilies that Fester,” The Twentieth Century (Apr 1955)
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Mr. Forster feels anxious because he dreads Theocracy. Now if he expects to see a Theocracy set up in modern England, I myself believe his expectation to be wholly chimerical. But I wish to make it very clear that, if I thought the thing in the least probable, I should feel about it exactly as he does. I fully embrace the maxim (which he borrows from a Christian) that ‘all power corrupts.’ I would go further. The loftier the pretensions of the power, the more meddlesome, inhuman, and oppressive it will be. Theocracy is the worst of all possible governments. All political power is at best a necessary evil: but it is least evil when its sanctions are most modest and commonplace, when it claims no more than to be useful or convenient and sets itself strictly limited objectives. Anything transcendental or spiritual, or even anything very strongly ethical, in its pretensions is dangerous and encourages it to meddle with our private lives. Let the shoemaker stick to his last. Thus the Renaissance doctrine of Divine Right is for me a corruption of monarchy; Rousseau’s General Will, of democracy; racial mysticisms, of nationality. And Theocracy, I admit and even insist, is the worst corruption of all.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Lilies that Fester,” The Twentieth Century (Apr 1955)
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Democracy demands that little men shouldn’t take big ones too serious; it dies when it’s full of little men who think they are big themselves.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Notes on the Way,” Time and Tide (29 Apr 1944)
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To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“On Forgiveness”
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When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart — every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“On Forgiveness”
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We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer; was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No part of His teaching is clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t, we shall be forgiven none of our own.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“On Forgiveness”
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Suspicion often creates what it suspects.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Screwtape Proposes a Toast”
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There are many different ways of bringing people into his Kingdom, even some ways that I specially dislike! I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgment.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Final Interview of C. S. Lewis,” Sherwood Eliot Wirt, Decision (Sep 1963)

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Some people write heavily, some write lightly. I prefer the light approach because I believe there is a great deal of false reverence about. There is too much solemnity and intensity in dealing with sacred matters; too much speaking in holy tones.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Final Interview of C. S. Lewis,” Sherwood Eliot Wirt, Decision (Sep 1963)

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Such a book has of course its predestined readers, even now more numerous and more critical than is always realised. To them a reviewer need say little, except that here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron; here is a book that will break your heart.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Gods Return to Earth,” Time and Tide (14 Aug 1954)

Book review of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. Full text.
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There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn: We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat — the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Lewis - ordinary people - wist_info quote

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Weight of Glory,” sermon, Oxford University Church of St Mary the Virgin (8 Jun 1941)
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Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Weight of Glory,” sermon, Oxford University Church of St Mary the Virgin (8 Jun 1941)
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If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The Weight of Glory,” sermon, Oxford University Church of St Mary the Virgin (8 Jun 1941)
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We do not know the play. We do not even know whether we are in Act I or Act V. We do not know who are the major and who are the minor characters. The Author knows. … But we, never seeing the play from the outside, … cannot tell at what moment the end ought to come. That it will come when it ought, we may be sure. … That it has a meaning we may be sure, but we cannot see it. When it is over, we may be told. We are led to expect that the Author will have something to say to each of us who has played. The playing it well is what matters infinitely.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“The World’s Last Night”
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Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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My own idea, for what it is worth, is that all sadness which is not now either arising from the repentance of a concrete sin and hastening towards concrete amendment or restitution, or else arising from pity and hastening towards active assistance, is simply bad.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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The value given to the testimony of any feeling must depend on our whole philosophy, not our whole philosophy on a feeling.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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An explanation of cause is not a justification by reason.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You, too? Thought I was the only one.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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There seems no plan because it’s all plan. There seems no center because it’s all center.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)
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Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Attributed)

There are several variants, but no citation for this quotation. See Pliny the Younger.
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Your bid–for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity–will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high. Nothing will shake a man–or at any rate a man like me–out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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What do people mean when they say, “I am not afraid of God because I know He is good”? Have they never been to a dentist?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions “on the further shore,” pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! “Things on this side are not so different after all.” There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.

And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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Bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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What sort of a lover am I to think so much about my affliction and so much less about hers? Even the insane call, ‘Come back,’ is all for my own sake. I never even raised the question whether such a return, if it were possible, would be good for her. I want her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not, “So, there’s no God after all,” but, “So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed, ch. 1 (1961)
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No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed, ch. 1 (1961)
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Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than minority of them — never become conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed, ch. 4 (1960)
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It is in their ‘good’ characters that novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self-revelations.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Preface to “Paradise Lost” (1942)
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People blush at praise — not only praise of their bodies, but praise of anything that is theirs.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Preface to “Paradise Lost” (1942)
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Disobedience to conscience is voluntary; bad poetry, on the other hand, is usually not made on purpose.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)
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In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person’s place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
An Experiment in Criticism (1961)
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We must sometimes get away from the Authorized Version, if for no other reason, simply because it is so beautiful and so solemn. Beauty exalts, but beauty also lulls. Early associations endear, but they also confuse. Through that beautiful solemnity, the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed, and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame, or struck dumb with terror, or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
God in the Dock
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I believe in God, but I detest theocracy. For every Government consists of mere men and is, strictly viewed, a makeshift; if it adds to its commands “Thus saith the Lord,” it lies, and lies dangerously.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
God in the Dock, “Is Progress Possible?” (1958)
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You cannot study Pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyze the nature of humour while roaring with laughter.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
God in the Dock, “Myth Become Fact” (1970)
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Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may 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 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.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
God in the Dock, “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” (1970)
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Indeed, in so far as things unseen are manifested by the things seen, one might from one point of view call the whole material universe an allegory.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters of C.S. Lewis (10 Dec. 1956)
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Well, let’s go on disagreeing but don’t let us judge. What doesn’t suit us may suit possible converts of a different type. My model here is the behaviour of the congregation at a ‘Russian Orthodox’ service, where some sit, some lie on their faces, some stand, some kneel, some walk about, and no one takes the slightest idea of what anyone else is doing. That is good sense, good manners, and good Christianity.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters of C.S. Lewis (13 Mar 1956)
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Apologetic work is so dangerous to one’s faith. A doctrine never seems dimmer to me than when I have just successfully defended it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters of C.S. Lewis (2 Aug. 1946)
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We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters of C.S. Lewis (29 Apr. 1959)
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God loves us; not because we are loveable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters of C.S. Lewis (undated)
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Humans are very seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they are often themselves quite mistaken as to what their motives are.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters to an American Lady (28 Mar. 1961)
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May God’s grace give you the necessary humility. Try not to think — much less, speak — of their sins. One’s own are a much more profitable theme! And if, on consideration, one can find no faults on one’s own side, then cry for mercy: for this must be a most dangerous delusion.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters to an American Lady (9 Jan 1961)
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And I also remember that my apparent self — this clown or hero or super — under his grease-paint is a real person with an off-stage life. The dramatic person could not tread the stage unless he concealed a real person: unless the real and unknown I existed, I would not even make mistakes about the imagined me. And in prayer this real I struggles to speak, for once, from his real being, and to address, for once, not the other actors, but — what shall I call Him? The Author, for He invented us all? The Producer, for He controls all? Or the Audience, for He watches, and will judge, the performance?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters to Malcolm
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I have called my material surroundings a stage set. In this I can act. And you may well say “act”. For what I call “myself” (for all practical, everyday purposes) is also a dramatic construction; memories, glimpses in the shavinglass, and snatches of the very fallible activity called “introspection”, are the principal ingredients. Normally I call this construction “me”‘ and the stage set “the real world”. … I cannot, in the flesh, leave the stage, either to go behind the scenes or to take my seat in the pit; but I can remember that these regions exist.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters to Malcolm
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Suppose I pray that you may be given grace to withstand your besetting sin (short list of candidates for this post will be forwarded on demand). Well, all the work has to be done by God and you. If I pray against my own besetting sin there will be work for me. One sometimes fights shy of admitting an act to be a sin for this very reason.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters to Malcolm, ch. 12
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We should never ask of anything “Is it real?,” for everything is real. The proper question is “A real what?,” e.g., a real snake or real delirium tremens?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letters to Malcolm, ch. 15
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Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves — to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity (1952)
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If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’’, then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Christian Marriage” (1952)
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But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Christian Marriage” (1952)
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I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Faith” (1952)
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When a young man who has been going to church in a routine way honestly realises that he does not believe in Christianity and stops going — provided he does it for honesty’s sake and not just to annoy his parents — the spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then than it ever was before.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.

Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, 3.9 (1952)
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Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, 4.7 (1952 ed.)
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If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Bk. III, ch. 10
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Never, never pin your whole faith on any human being: not if he is the best and wisest in the whole world. There are lots of nice things you can do with sand; but do not try building a house on it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Bk. IV, ch. 7
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Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Book 2 “What Christians Believe,” ch. 1 “The Rival Conceptions of God” (1943)
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Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Book 3 “Christian Behavior,” ch. 7 “Forgiveness” (1952)
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What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it sub-ordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust. No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centredness.

But, as I said before, ‘the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs’. Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Book 3, ch. 6 “Christian Marriage” (1952)
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No one can settle how much we ought to give. I’m afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare,

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, ch. 3 “Social Morality” (1952)
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The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, ch. 6 “Christian Marriage” (1952)
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This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects — education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects — military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden — that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, ch. 8 (1952)
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When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Preface (1943)
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You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. … You never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, rev. ed., 3.11 (1952)
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The first step toward humility is to realize that one is proud.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, rev. ed., 3.11 (1952)
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The world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, rev. ed., 4.1 (1952)
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It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Miracles (1947)
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Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Miracles, ch. 1
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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.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Of Other Worlds (1952)
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‘You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,’ said Aslan. ‘And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth.’

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Prince Caspian (1951)
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“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Prince Caspian (1951)
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“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh dear,” said Lucy.

“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me — what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Prince Caspian (1951)
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The very man who has argued you down, will sometimes be found, years later, to have been influenced by what you said.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Reflections on the Psalms (1964)
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We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. “How he’s grown!” we exclaim, “How time flies!” as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Reflections on the Psalms, ch. 12
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If the Divine call does not make us better, it will make us very much worse. Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst. Of all created beings the wickedest is one who originally stood in the immediate presence of God.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Reflections on the Psalms, ch. 3 “The Cursings” (1958)

Full text.
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Many things — such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly — are done worst when we try hardest to do them.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1966)
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Many things — such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly — are done worst when we try hardest to do them.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, “Edmund Spenser” (1966)

Full text. This chapter of the book was originally printed in Major British Writers, ed. G. B. Harrison (1959).
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The surest way of spoiling a pleasure [is] to start examining your satisfaction.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Surprised by Joy (1955)
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You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him of whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Surprised by Joy, ch. 14 (1955)
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[T]hat intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
That Hideous Strength (1945)
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“I suppose there are two views about everything,” said Mark.

“Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
That Hideous Strength (1945)
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Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people.’ People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war…. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest .

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Abolition of Man
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The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany: ‘Traditional values are to be debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Abolition of Man (1943)
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The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany: ‘Traditional values are to be debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Abolition of Man (1943)
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The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Abolition of Man, ch. 1
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Whenever you find a man who says he doesn’t believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Case for Christianity (1942)
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This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Case for Christianity (1942)
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Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Case for Christianity (1942)
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Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up save in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Four Loves
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Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Four Loves, ch. 3 “Friendship” (1960)
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Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Four Loves, ch. 4
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“Well,” says the ghostly ex-cleric, “really, you know, I am not aware of a thirst for some ready-made truth which puts an end to intellectual activity in the way you seem to be describing. Will it leave me the free play of Mind, Dick? I must insist on that, you know.”
“You have gone far wrong,” Dick replies, “Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Great Divorce
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More quotes by Lewis, C.S.

There’s something in natural affection which will lead it on to eternal love more easily than natural appetite could be led on. But there’s also something in it which makes it easier to stop at the natural level and mistake it for the heavenly. Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay is.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Great Divorce
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The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art. But lust is less likely to be made into a religion.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Great Divorce
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“Milton was right,” said my Teacher. “The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.’ There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Great Divorce, ch. 9
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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, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Great Divorce, ch. 9
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Those that hate goodness are sometimes nearer than those that know nothing at all about it and think they have it already.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Great Divorce, ch. 9 (1946)
Added on 22-Jul-11 | Last updated 22-Jul-11
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Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Horse and His Boy (1954)
Added on 11-Oct-16 | Last updated 11-Oct-16
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It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Last Battle, ch. 15 (1956)
Added on 18-Nov-14 | Last updated 18-Nov-14
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