Saturday, December 15, 2007

CS Lewis on Masculine and Feminine

Hello All,

I know it has been awhile since I have had a real post rather than just a bit of someone else's writing but I promise that I shall throw up some on my own ideas soon. Here is an excerpt from Lewis's Perelandra on Masculine and Feminine. I am currently writing a paper on it for Peter Kreeft and plan on posting that, along with an undergraduate paper on Tolkien's idea of Male and Female in the near future.

All the best! May the hair on your toes never fall out,


Perelandra is the second of his “Space Trilogy” and occurs on the young planet of Venus where a creation story similar to that of Earth’s is transpiring. Near the end of the volume Ransom, the hero of the trilogy, encounters two angels, or eldils, as they are called in the fantasy,

"Both bodies were naked, and both were free from any sexual characteristics, either primary or secondary. That, one would have expected. But whence came this curious difference between them? He found that he could point to no single feature wherein the difference resided, yet it was impossible to ignore. One could try – Ransom has tried a hundred times – to put it into words. He has said that Malacandra was like rhythm and Perelandra like melody. He has said that Malacandra affected him like a quantitative, Perelandra like an accentual, metre. He thinks that the first held in his hand something like a spear, but the hands of the other were open, with palms toward him. But I don’t know that any of these attempts has helped be much. At all events what Ransom saw at that moment was the real meaning of gender. Everyone must sometimes have wondered why in nearly all tongues certain inanimate objects are masculine and other feminine. What is masculine about a mountain or feminine about certain trees? Ransom has cured me of believing that this is a purely morphological phenomenon, depending on the form of the word. Still less is gender an imaginative extension of sex. Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others, and Masculine and Feminine meet us planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless. Masculine is not attenuated male, not feminine attenuated female. On the contrary, the male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine. Their reproductive functions, their differences in strength and size, partly exhibit, but partly also confuse and misrepresent, the real polarity… Malacandra seemed to him to have the look of one standing armed, at the ramparts of his own remote archaic world, in ceaseless vigilance, his eyes ever roaming the earth-ward horizon whence his danger came long ago. “A sailor’s look,” Ransom once said to me; “you know… eyes that are impregnated with distance.” But the eyes of Perelandra opened, as it were, inward, as if they were the curtained gateway to a world of waves and murmurings and wandering airs, of life that rocked in winds and splashed on mossy stones and descended as the dew and arose sunward in thin-spun delicacy of mist." (Perelandra 200-1)

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