Love and Knowledge: The Keys to Being All That We Are Intended to Be

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Weston has been changed; he has become something monstrous, and he is not himself anymore.  Due to his desire to seek his own way, he has become altered.  His Imago Dei, while still there, is very distorted.  As a result of his diabolical choices, Weston is not what he is created to be-a child of God. We see that Weston is marred permanently when Ransom desperately tries to escape from the clutches of Weston.  As he is escaping, Ransom recognizes the voice of the trickster in Weston, so he throws a rock in Weston’s face which causes Weston to finally disintegrate and fall over the cliff due to Weston’s lack of strength and his inability to turn back to God (155).  Once Weston is dead, Ransom commemorates Weston’s humanity by creating a gravesite for Weston in the belly of Perelandra before he emerges back into the light.

At this point in the story, Ransom is becoming all that he is intended to be-a child of God in service of the blessed eldils from various planets. Also, we note that within moments of Ransom’s emergence into the light again, he hears the words of two eldils: one is Malacandra, from Mars, and the other is Perelandra. One of the eldils, upon seeing Ransom, says this, “Look on him, beloved, and love him. He is indeed but breathing dust and a careless touch would unmake him[…] But he is the body of Maledil and his sins are forgiven.  His very name in his own tongue is Elwin, the friend of the eldila” (167).  The Eldils speak lovingly to Ransom because Maledil has done a great work on Ransom’s planet which saves the people from their sin. Ransom is loved by God, and because he is loved by God, Ransom has knowledge of himself and of the God who loves him. In this work, Lewis is clearly dealing with the Imago Dei, or how humanity is created in God’s image, and we see the redeemed, “ransomed” humanity connect with the creator God which enables Ransom to experience the love of God and to love himself as God’s image bearer.

Some of the scriptures which help us think more clearly about humans made in the image of God and our role as image bearers are found initially in Genesis 1: 26 where we read, “Let Us make humanity in our image, according to our likeness […]”.  Then again in Genesis 5: 1- 3, we read, “He made him in the likeness of God.  He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.  And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”  As an Anglican, an outstanding scholar, and an avid reader of the scriptures, Lewis wove these concepts of humanity as image bearers of God into all of his works, including the novel, That Hideous Strength, the sequel to Perelandra. In the inviting college town of Edgestow and the college of Bracton, Mark and Jane, and Ransom and the crew from N.I.C.E. or the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments reside. (I will use the acronym N.I.C.E. for brevity’s sake when I refer to this institute in this paper).  Mark is a young academic, making his way through the ranks of academia, but he gets pulled into N.I.C.E because he thinks it is the “progressive” way to move to tenure and status in the university.  However, early in the novel, Mark asks Lord Feverstone just what he has in mind, and Feverstone issues the following response:

Quite simple and obvious things, at first-sterilization of the unfit,

liquidation of backward races (we don’t want any dead weights),

selective breeding.  Then real education, including pre-natal education.

By real education I mean one that has no ‘take- it-or leave-it’ nonsense

[…] of course, it’ll have to be mainly psychological at first.  But we’ll get

on to biological conditioning in the end and direct manipulation of the

brain. (40)

Even though Mark is a classic secularist and has never been educated in the church, something about Frost’s and Wither’s and Feverstone’s discussions strikes him as wrong; there is something fascist about their beliefs, something that Mark, in his jail cell, realizes is morally wrong with N.I.C.E., and it is these vague stirrings of moral consciousness that cause Mark to begin deciding against the machinations of Belbury and the N.I.C.E  people.  After Mark has his encounter with the head of Alcasan, he is left in a room which is unusual because of the spots on the wall and the strange objects, like beetles in the painting of the Last Supper.  The oddness of everything he sees makes him yearn for all that is “normal”, and everything that is normal is connected with Jane, “and things he could eat, touch, and fall in love with” (297).  In essence, Mark is having his first deeply moral experience (297).  Mark is choosing sides; he is joining God’s side by rejecting whatever it is that Frost and Withers want him to believe and to become.  It is a great moment for Mark because he begins his turning away from the Other Side in that jail cell, and he begins to use his mind to think in moral ways, ways that reflect God and Ransom’s crew of saintly people back at St. Anne’s on the Hill.