04 June 2007

"Temptation and Metaphysics in Perelandra" by RawkChick

For the next few posts, I'll be publishing some final papers by my philosophy students. This first one is by "RawkChick." Enjoy.

What would temptation be like if it happened on another planet? What would the tempter use? Who would be the victim? Would there be parallels to the biblical temptation? C.S. Lewis answered some of these questions in his science fiction best seller, Perelandra. It wasn’t an allegory, but there were still parallels. It is not an allegory because not every object or person in the temptation on Venus correlated with an object or person in the biblical temptation. Lewis is explaining these similar characteristics in his fantasy. In addition to including temptation in his book, he addresses the subject of metaphysics, a sub-genre in philosophy that examines what is real.
One important metaphysical question is “What supernatural beings exist?” In Perelandra, supernatural beings exist in the form of Maleldil, the parallel of God, and the Eldila, the parallels of angels. In Perelandra, the Green Lady, also referred to as Mother and Queen, was the parallel of Eve. She was tempted by the Un-man, who was in the character Weston’s body. The main character Ransom, is what separates this temptation from the biblical one. He could not really be called a parallel to Adam, since Adam did not try to stop Eve from putting that tasty morsel of fruit in her mouth. Another reason is since Tor, the Green Man, King, and Father, is the parallel to Adam. Ransom’s sole purpose of coming to Perelandra was to stop the evil spirits from corrupting the planet. Since the Green Lady did not need very much sleep, or even none at all, and the Un-man did not need any, Ransom had a hard time staying with them as they moved from island to island, as he needed sleep. He made arguments to try to pursuade the Queen to not listen to the Un-man, but when he blew it and started exploding and cursing in English, the Un-man used that to his advantage, telling the Green Lady all sorts of lies and tempting her even further.
Now one might be wondering what the temptation might be. Was it fruit, as it is in the Bible? Or was it even something concrete? Was it a thought, or a way of life? The temptation that the Un-man chose was not a concrete one. He chose vanity and knowledge, or “growing older” as the Green Lady put it. One morning Ransom woke to find two figures dressed in feathers. One was “the ugliest, and the other the most beautiful of the children of men” (pg. 134). But despite his disappointment in finding that the Un-man had succeeded once again, he also got satisfaction in finding that the lady did not really like the feathers after all, and she threw the robe away and forgot about it.
Though at times it may have seemed hopeless to Ransom that the Queen would fall for the Un-man’s scheme and life in Perelandra as they knew it would end, the Green Lady did not oblige the Un-man. However much the Un-man schemed and connived, she did not fall. Unlike the biblical temptation, where Eve gave in to temptation, Adam gave in to Eve, and the world fell, Perelandra stayed perfect and unfallen. In Perelandra, the consequences were that the world could continue in its path on perfect harmony; no killings, no angry seas, and the Queen could bear her children in a world of peace, raising them to rule over the beasts of Perelandra with peace and wisdom. Whereas, in the biblical temptation, the world as Adam and Eve knew it ceased to exist. They had to work, and one day they would die. If the world were in this universe, it would be impossible, since, when Adam and Eve fell, the whole universe fell with them.
There are many parallels to the biblical temptation in C.S. Lewis’ science fiction novel Perelandra. There are also metaphysical aspects that are addressed. Another important metaphysical question is “What would happen to the universe if some creatures somewhere withstood temptation?” There would be a new creation of creatures that would have a direct “link” to the ruler of the universe, in this case Maleldil. Another result would be perfect submission to and right relations with the rulers of that particular world. In Perelandra, it would be Tor and Tinidril, previously mentioned and the King and Queen, Perelandra herself, and the Eldil. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, I think Earth would look something like Perelandra--no killing, no death, and all the beasts in perfect harmony, in perfect submission to the rulers of the land.

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