Patricia Hofer

CS Lewis’ fictional description of heaven and hell.

In CS Lewis’ preface to The Great Divorce, he wrote: “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.” In this fictional account, a traveler (presumably CS Lewis) takes a bus trip from hell to the outskirts of heaven. There he meets George MacDonald. And they have a long chat. Looking at the “ghosts” who had traveled from Hell with him, the man (Lewis?) asks MacDonald, “Do any of them stay?’ Can they stay? Is any real choice offered to them?” … MacDonald answers: “Son, he said, “ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…But you can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. … The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.” … ”Then those people are right who say that Heaven and Hell are only states of mind?” “Hush,” said he sternly. “Do not blaspheme. Hell is a state of mind—ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind–is, in the end Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly.” (pp. 61-65)

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