To close out War In Heaven Week, I am offering you an entire post about one word. The word is “Naturally.” It stands out to me in the following paragraph. This occurs when Kenneth Mornington is at home after the body was found in his friend’s office. He is trying to decide whether to go on with some trifling volunteer work he had taken on, and finds his mind obsessed with the memory of the murdered corpse:
Mornington had on various occasions argued with Lionel whether pessimism was always the result of a too romantic, even a too sentimental, view of the world; and a slightly scornful mind pointed out to him, while he ate a solitary meal in his rooms that evening, that the shock which he undoubtedly had felt was the result of not expecting people to murder other people. “Whereas they naturally do,” he said to himself. “The normal thing with an unpleasant intrusion is to try and exclude it—human or not. So silly not to be prepared for these things. Some people, as De Quincey said, have a natural aptitude for being murdered. To kill or to be killed is a perfectly reasonable thing. And I will not let it stop me taking those lists round to the Vicar’s.”
I commented in a previous post that the Archdeacon has a shockingly cavalier attitude towards murder, and on a first reading, this quote seems to indicate much the same attitude on Mornington’s part. However, a close reading reveals a very precise theological meaning to these sentences: “the shock which he undoubtedly had felt was the result of not expecting people to murder other people. Whereas they naturally do.”
People in their natural state do murder one another. It is only people who have submitted themselves to the supernatural who do not.
So I took a few minutes to look up “Nature” in C. S. Lewis’s Study in Words, and to do a word-search through the full texts I have of CW’s novels and Arthuriad. Here are some thoughts.
In his chapter on “Nature,” CSL takes the reader through several root-words and meanings of “Nature.” The first is “sort, kind, quality, or character.” One of its roots, “kind,” can also mean “progeny, offspring.” Another is “Any behaviour or state which shows a thing’s, or a person’s, kind or nature.” This is a bit closer to how CW uses it here. Sometimes it can mean almost the opposite of how CW uses it: “the proper, the fitting, the desirable” or even “duteous” or “affectionate.” Then there’s another root, which means something like “inhabit, live (at), dwell, remain.” Finally, it came to mean, essentially, everything: all created stuff, all the world besides humans, our environment: Nature with a capital-N. Lewis goes through all kinds of interesting history and analysis of uses of this word and its root-words, finally coming to the Christian usage that nature “is now both distinct from God and also related to him as artifact to artist.” Then in the Middle Ages, “nature” was relegated to only those created things and beings within the sublunary sphere—below the Moon. This might not sound important, but it is of vital importance for understanding CW’s usage here. CSL finally gets around to talking about Nature and Grace: a conception of “human nature” as “the given which ought to be conquered and whose persistence is therefore bad.” Humans are in a condition—a natural condition—grievously afflicted by The Fall, and need to be saved from their natural—i.e., Fallen—state.
And so in the CW quote in War in Heaven, Mornington is talking about fallen nature: naturally, in our unregenerate condition, we murder one another.
Here are a few interesting quotations from other parts of his work, not meant in the least to be comprehensive.
There are two moments in The Place of the Lion that appear to have an identical usage:
Religions and butterflies were necessary hobbies, no doubt, for some people who knew nothing about scholarship, but they would not be of the smallest use to Damaris Tighe, and therefore, as far as possible, Damaris Tighe very naturally left them out of her life.
Later, Damaris accuses Anthony: “Of course, if you think more of yourself than of me—a” and: “Well, naturally I do,” Anthony interrupted. “Who doesn’t? Am I a saint or an Alexandrian Gnostic? Don’t let’s ask rhetorical questions, darling.”
And here’s another similar one from Many Dimensions: Chloe made “a muddled prayer to the Stone—since, being a modern normally emotional girl she was, quite naturally, an idolater—.”
And yet of course there are places where “natural” has a very positive connotation, such as in All Hallow’s Eve: when the narrator tells the reader that “Docility and sweetness were natural” to Betty.
And finally, in “Prayers of the Pope,” the final spiritual healing means a re-union of the natural and the supernatural:
no wise their supernatural parts sundered
from their natural hearts; little shall those hearts suffer—
so much shall the healing metaphysic have power upon them—
So CW was well aware of the complex and varied meanings of “Natural,” and used them to good effect in his writing. I hope this post serves as a reminder to me to pay close attention to the words he uses when he uses them with care.