If its not bent it’s broken. And if it’s not broken don’t fix it…
In this sweeping theological fantasy, man is both reduced and exalted. Reduced in the naked depiction of his self-wrought condition, exalted through the mystery of the Incarnation- that god became man for his salvation. In C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy, and also in an article called “Will We Lose God in Outer Space?” written in 1958, Lewis examines the question of man’s uniqueness. What of other beings possessing both intelligence and souls who may be elsewhere in the universe, if not in our solar system.
On some planets the equivalents of individuals,humans, may be unfallen, still in the state god intended for them. If, elsewhere, there are other beings who have fallen, beofre or since man’s fall, it is likely that god will have devised the appropriate means for their redemption, though not necessarily the same as the means for ours. That passionate skeptic, Mark Twain, far removed from Lewis’s theology, had a similar idea in his story Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven. The Captain, entering Paradise by the wrong gate, is hard put to let the officials know from what obscure world he has come. “it’s the one the Savior saved,” he says hopefully. The gateman bows his head at the Name, then says gently: “The Worlds He has saved are like to the gates of heaven in number- none can count them.”
In his space trilogy, Lewis focuses attention upon forms of the sin of pride: the desire to affirm man as god or as godlike, the ambition to dominate the universe, to supercede other species, to live forever.
He lays the basis for his thesis in an ingenious presentation of the doctrine of sin- an unpopular word in the modern vocabulary. The beings of his unfallen world, Malacandra, have no word for sin or evil. They grope for the concept through the word “bent.” This is a most revealing monosyllable.
We never use “bent” to describe the first state of anything; hence it tells us that there was a previous condition. It contains various possibilities, though not certainties, of a future condition: restored to the original state, remaining the same, or becoming more bent to the point of being broken. When an object is bent it will be misshapen or will malfunction or will fail to function at all. A bent arrow or a bent gun will miss the mark. Christianity does not know evil as a separate entity, but understands all evil as the corruption of an original good, susceptible of a possible redemption. It is this corruption which is sin. Its home base is in the will.
In the space trilogy, Weston,the space conquering physicist, displays the most dangerous form of bentness. It is the corruption of great gifts and above all, crude self-seeking. He would make man, and the seed of man, supreme. He declares to the Oyarsa ( angel) of Malacandra:
Life is greater than any system of morality; her claims are absolute… I am prepared without flinching to plant the flag of man on
soil of Malacandra: to march on, step by step, superceding, where necessary, the lower forms of life that we find, claiming planet after planet, system after system, till our posterity- whatever strange form and yet unguessed mentality they have assumed- dwell in the universe wherever the universe is habitable.
Of Weston’s ambition, Oyarsa asks:
Does he think he could go to the great worlds? Does he think Maleldil ( god) wants a race to live forever?
Modern man ignores, and Lewis reminds him of, that portion of Christian doctrine called eschatology, or Last Things. No protection now from the full results of his Fall. A destruction of the species. In Perelandra, Weston delivers himself into the power of the lord of the silent planet, the “bent Olyarsa” satan. As he is rent by the paroxysms of demonic possession, the true Weston dies while his body remains an “unman” , a walking, speaking shell, animated by a Power with whom the hero , Ransom, must wage his struggle. Lewis’s specific point is that demonic possession in any degree, like redemption, is not a matter of imposed outside force, but a matter of invitation. God will not force Himself upon the soul who does not invite Him, and Satan cannot.