Nº. 2 of  22

C.S. Lewis Quotes

Daily wisdom from the writings of C.S. Lewis

When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.

The Problem of Pain (1940)

We demand windows. Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is “I have got out.” Or from another point of view, “I have got in”; pierced the shell of some other monad and discovered what it is like inside.

An Experiment in Criticism (1961)

Did C. S. Lewis beleive that someone in hell could chose to leave from there? asked by Anonymous

Yes. To an extent. In The Great Divorce, Lewis postulates that that the gates of Heaven are always open, but that people choose to remain in Hell for a variety of reasons. In order to better unpack Lewis’s theology on hell, I feel like I should start with this quote from Mere Christianity:

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself… Each of us at each moment is progressing into one state or the other.

Lewis expands on this thought metaphorically in The Great Divorce. In the book, the residents of Hell arrive at the outskirts of Heaven, only to find that they are “ghosts” - so insubstantial compared to Heaven that the grass there hurts to walk on, and a single leaf is too heavy to lift. 

The residents of Heaven tell the ghosts that if they remain, they will eventually become real enough to withstand their surroundings. But several of the ghosts come up with excuses to return to Hell: for example, one man can’t stand the idea of living alongside a person who was a murderer in life; another man decides that he values his opinions about truth more than the truth itself; and so on. 

All of this supports Lewis’s general idea that our choices in life gradually turn us into one of two people: someone in harmony with God and others, or someone in self-isolation, cut off from God and others. At any time we may get “back on the right road”, but it requires admitting we’re wrong: 

A sum can be put right, but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. 

Lewis suggested that our choices in these matters may continue after death - that salvation is not dependent on moral luck

For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives – to both, but perhaps especially to the woman – a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

A Grief Observed (1961)

Regarding the prior question on a quote "People like variety but they also like things to stay the same,": I don't know of any exact quote, or even a paraphrase, but you're right...he does express that idea more fully (and through the voice of a demon) in The Screwtape Letters, Letter 25. asked by chemakal

Thank you! Both you and soimarriedanaxmurderer wrote to set things straight on this. I bow to your superior recall skills. :) It’s difficult to pull an excerpt from the letter in question, but here’s a passage that gets across the basic gist. (For those unfamiliar with The Screwtape Letters, remember that “The Enemy” = God in this case, since it’s from the POV of a demon.)

The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart — an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change. And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together on the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.

The Screwtape Letters, “On the Dangers of Needing to be Relevant and New” (1942)

What is the source of the C. S. Lewis quote: "People like variety but they also like things to stay the same" asked by Anonymous

After some digging around, I’m pretty sure that is not an actual C.S. Lewis quote. In fact, the quote itself is only located in one place on the entire Internet. Did you find it elsewhere?  

I suppose it may be a paraphrase of a longer thought of Lewis’s, but after quite a bit of searching (both on and offline) I can’t find anything close to it. Sorry!

I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.

The Horse and His Boy (1954)

While friendship has been by far the chief source of my happiness, acquaintance or general society has always meant little to me, and I cannot quite understand why a man should wish to know more people than he can make real friends of.

—Surprised by Joy (1955)

No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.

—Letter to Mary Neylan (January 20, 1942)

Which book from C S Lewis did the statement i would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought uabout, born in God's thought & then made by God is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking. asked by Anonymous

That’s actually a quote by George MacDonald, a writer in the late 1800s who was one of Lewis’s biggest inspirations. In fact, Lewis put together a volume of readings (simply titled George MacDonald) that is still in print today. Perhaps that’s the book where you first saw this quote?

Nº. 2 of  22