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When he was about 18, Lewis bought a book called Phantasies, by George Macdonald, a Scottish Presbyterian best known for his Princess & Curdie and other children's fairy tales. In the introduction to his recent anthology of Macdonald's work (TIME, June 2), Lewis confesses the importance of that day's purchase: "I had already been waist-deep in Romanticism; and likely enough, at any moment, to flounder into its darker and more evil forms, slithering down the steep descent that leads from the love of strangeness to that of eccentricity and thence to that of perversity. Now Phantasies was romantic enough in all conscience; but there was a difference. . . . What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptise . . . my imagination. It did nothing to my intellect nor (at that time) to my conscience. Their turn came far later and with the help of many other books and men."
These books and men effected in him what he considers an entirely intellectual conversion. Without any sudden awakening or "rebirth," Lewis found himself approaching the unexpected conclusion that Christianity is the simple truth. While groping for answers, he wrote to a friend: "The Absolute is beginning to look more and more like God." A short time later, his return to the Anglican Church was complete.
Brown Girl to Mother Kirk. Lewis has provided a lively and dramatic account of his spiritual safari "from popular realism to Philosophical Idealism; from Idealism to Pantheism; from Pantheism to Theism and from Theism to Christianity." In his firstand not initially successfulfantasy, The Pilgrim's Regress, he used Bunyan's device of a naive wayfarer beset by symbolic men and monsters.
Lewis records "John's" journey in quest of the beautiful island he glimpsed mysteriously in the stern, unfriendly land of Puritania, where he was born. Puritania was strictly administered by Stewards who issued complex rules of behavior and clapped forbidding masks over their faces whenever they mentioned the Landlord. Searching for his island vision, John one day found "in the grass beside him ... a laughing brown girl of about his own age, and she had no clothes on. 'It was me you wanted,' said the brown girl. 'I am better than your silly Islands.' And John rose and caught her, all in haste, and committed fornication with her in the wood."
But John soon found that the brown girl was not what he was looking for, and journeyed on. At last, after many adventures, John confronted the "aged, appalling . . . crumbling and chaotic" face of Death itself.
Said Death: "'Do not think you can call me Nothing. . . . The Landlord's Son who feared nothing, feared me. . . . Give in or struggle.'
" 'I would sooner do the first if I could.'
" 'Then I am your servant and no more your master. ... He who lays down his liberty in that act receives it back. Go down to Mother Kirk. . . .'
" 'You must dive into this water,' " said Mother Kirk. " 'You have only to let yourself go.' "
Satan's Scientists. After he had let himself go and plunged into the Church of England, Lewis found himself part of a small circle of Christian Oxonians who met informally each week or so to drink and talk.