Wednesday, May 22, 2013


From Invisible Light: A Priest's Encounters with the Supernatural by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson
"You see the iron gate," the old man went on, pointing. "Well, right between those posts, but a little above them, outlined clearly against the chestnut tree, beyond, was the figure of a man. 
"Now I do not know how to explain myself, but I was conscious that across this material world of light and colour there cut a plane of the spiritual world, and that where the planes crossed I could look through and see what was beyond. It was like smoke cutting across a sunbeam. Each made the other visible. 
"Well, this figure of a man, then, was kneeling in the air, that is the only way I can describe it--his face was turned towards me, but upwards. Now the most curious thing that struck me at the time was that he was, as it were, leaning at a sharp angle to one side; but it did not appear to be grotesque. Instead the world seemed tilted; the chestnut tree was out of the perpendicular, the wall out of the horizontal. The true level was that of the man. 
"I know this sounds foolish, but it showed me how the world of spirits was the real world, and the world of sense comparatively unreal, just as the sorrow of the woman behind me was more real than the beams overhead."
I just finished reading this book and really enjoyed it, but the reason I posted this quote is that it struck me as being very familiar. Anyone who has ever read C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet (and I think it's also mentioned in Perelandra), will recognize this vision of a being that seems to be oblique to the world, yet reveals its own position as the normal one while the natural world is tilted, as being exactly like Lewis's description of the eldila, the angels of his space trilogy. So is this a coincidence? Did Benson and Lewis both have this idea of the supernatural as being at an angle to our world? 

Lewis was about three years old when Invisible Light was written, and Benson was a very popular author. Lewis's father had books stacked up in piles all over the place, and Lewis was allowed to read whatever he pleased without supervision. It isn't at all unlikely that Lewis had read Benson's book, and Lewis wasn't shy about borrowing from other authors. If you think I'm wrong, read The Aunt and Amabel which you can find in a collection of stories by E. Nesbit called The Magic World.


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