C. S. Lewis - The Silver Chair
March 6, 2019 Speaker: The Rev. Brian K. McGreevy
THE SILVER CHAIR:
Questions for Reflection
- In what ways might we, even as Christians, live in Experiment House today in terms of our beliefs and our behavior?
- What would be some of the good reasons Eustace could have used to rationalize not speaking with Jill in the first place, or even more so, being vulnerable with Jill? How does self-protection sometimes block our ability to live out God’s will for us?
- Why does Eustace cite specific examples of his having changed when he is talking with Jill? Is he bragging? Why is his behavior relevant to his change of heart, and what can we learn from his example in our own lives?
- Do we truly believe there is no other stream? In what ways can we give lip service to that idea while living otherwise?
- How can we move from having a victim mentality in our personal lives and instead work to be honest and accept responsibility for our own sins and their consequences as we seek to repent?
- Do we truly believe that living just for comfort and economic success is wrong? What is the alternative? How can we recover a sense of Vocation in our lives?
- Are we engaged in a purposeful life that is making a difference in the Kingdom of God? How would we know and if need, how would we begin to change?
- How convinced are we about the primacy and necessity of the Word of God in living our lives? How can we live into a Word-centric approach in our day to day routines? What would be the result?
- We live in a culture obsessed with defining identity. Eustace boldly stands for Caspian and Aslan. How can we more courageously stand for Christ individually and as a body, and define our identity in terms of belonging to Him?
- How can we become more sensitive to the ways that sin, both large and small, hinders us from following the Word of the Lord so that we may repent?
- It has been said that the role of the church is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Why is comfort such a deadly enemy of boldly following Christ, and what can we do to avoid being hindered and distracted by it in our own lives?
- Scripture is clear that the Body of Christ needs all of its parts, and that no one part is more important than another. Why is having all of the parts of the Body, including those who are very different from us, not only important but necessary to carrying out the work of the Gospel? How are we hindered when we do not walk together?
- How can we develop a stronger sense of discernment about Evil? Why is our culture so susceptible to the “frog in the kettle” syndrome? What is the standard for determining what is evil versus good in our culture?
- How can wise counsel help us avoid dangerous outcomes? What is the standard for determining whether counsel is wise? What keeps us from seeking wise counsel?
- What does it mean to be “wise in your own eyes”? How is this related to the Biblical idea of remembering from Deuteronomy 6 that we discussed in class recently?
- What does the desire for comfort do to Eustace and Pole? What are the consequences in terms of the Signs and the Quest? What is the analogous danger of comfort for Christians today?
Synopsis of Lamia by John Keats
"a maid / More beautiful than ever... Spread a green kirtle."
Once upon a time the god Hermes hears a female voice lamenting that she has been trapped in the body of a snake. The snake form that she inhabits is spectacularly beautiful, covered in a rich array of colours. This voice tells Hermes that she knows he is in love and is trying to search for a nymph who is hiding from him. She also says that she has given this nymph the power of invisibility but will reveal the nymph to Hermes, if only the god will allow her once again to resume her human shape, releasing her from the serpent form which currently imprisons her. Hermes is happy to agree to this, so the snake turns into a beautiful woman and vanishes, whilst the nymph appears to Hermes.
The snake-turned-woman is called Lamia; whilst she was in serpent form she had the power of sending her spirit wherever she wanted. On one of these disembodied journeys she had come across a youth called Lycius from Corinth and had been immediately attracted to him. Now, in human form, she travels to the road along which she knows Lycius will walk on his way to Corinth and stands beside it, waiting for him to arrive. When he appears she starts talking to him and asks whether he will pass on and leave her alone on the hills. When Lycius looks at her he immediately starts to ‘adore’ her, deciding that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Together they walk to Corinth and set up home together in a mansion to which she leads him. Shunning the company of other people, they live together as man and wife.
The couple live happily together, united by passionate love. However, one day Lycius decides that they should get married and so he invites all their friends to the marriage feast. Lamia thinks this is a very bad idea but Lycius is persistent and Lamia eventually and reluctantly agrees. She imposes just one condition: the philosopher Apollonius should not be invited.
Whilst Lycius is busy inviting all his friends and relations to the wedding, Lamia summons up spirits who prepare the banquet room, decorating it and filling it with an array of rich food. The day arrives and Lycius’ guests arrive (Lamia has told Lycius that all her potential guests live too far away to come); they marvel at the magnificence of the couple’s mansion. In fact, none of them had been aware that such a splendid house existed in Corinth. Amongst the guests is Apollonius; Lycius did not invite him but he has turned up anyway.
At the height of the celebrations Apollonius begins staring hard at Lamia – who not surprisingly finds such scrutiny very uncomfortable. The colour drains from her face and she cannot answer Lycius who asks her what the matter is. The music and feasting come to a sudden halt and Lycius sharply orders Apollonius to stop staring at his bride. Apollonius is uncompromising and contemptuous. He calls Lycius a fool, saying that he has looked after the interest of the young man up till now only to find Lycius made into ‘a serpent’s prey’. He stares at Lamia again and utters the words: ‘A serpent!’ Lamia immediately vanishes. That same night Lycius dies.
Commentary on Lamia
In a note printed at the end of the poem, Keats stated that his source was a story found in Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, published in 1621:
One Menippus Lycius, a young man twenty-five years of age, that going betwixt Cenchreas and Corinth, met such a phantasm in the habit of a fair gentlewoman, which, taking him by the hand, carried him home to her house, in the suburbs of Corinth…The young man, a philosopher, otherwise staid and discreet, able to moderate his passions, though not this of love, tarried with her a while to his great content, and at last married her, to whose wedding, amongst other guests, came Apollonius; who, by some probable conjectures, found her out to be a serpent, a lamia; and that all her furniture was, like Tantalus’s gold, described by Homer, no substance but mere illusions. When she saw herself descried, she wept, and desired Apollonius to be silent, but he would not be moved, and thereupon she, plate, house, and all that was in it, vanished in an instant: many thousands took notice of this fact, for it was done in the midst of Greece.
Title: According to Greek mythology, the Lamia was a monster in the form of a woman (or half snake, half woman) who ate people’s children because her own had been stolen away. In Keats’ poem Lamia is an enchantress, a liar and an expert when it comes to affairs of the heart. However, she apparently means no harm since she is genuinely in love as well as being very beautiful. On the other hand, both human male characters in the poem have serious shortcomings:
- Lycius may be attractive in many ways but he is gullible, over-emotional and capable of being cruel
- Apollonius may be able to assess situations clearly but he is unbendingly puritanical and lacks humanity.