Sunday, April 17, 2005

Orual and Psyche

A friend of mine brought into a discussion on my last post, the story of Orual and Psyche, as told by C. S. Lewis in Till We Have Faces. I am reading a book in which the author retells the story of Orual reading her complaint angainst the gods. It's been a few years since I've read the story and it affected me again much the way it did the first time- like a slap in the face.

I am Queen Orual; angry, stripped of what what I love, jealous, jilted and for most of my adult life I've been keeping my book of charges against God. Yet when I stand before Him intending to read my book, I am uncovered, like Orual:
"Orual's nakedness and physical diminishment and her resemblance to Ungit [a false and malicious goddess] symbolize the ugly self-pity and self-justification that she has cherished at the core of her soul all her life. Now these are all she has left. She begins to read her book aloud but it comes out all different from how she thought she wrote it. Her accusation against the gods becomes a childish rant in which she simultaneously discovers and admits that her love for Psyche was not love at all but a fierce, possesive jealousy..."

Later, awaiting the true god, who is coming to judge her actions, Orual feels "terror, joy, overpowering sweetness." She describes what happens to her in his presence:

"I was being unmade. I was no one, " she says, and yet she feels genuine love for Psyche and sees a vision of herself as whole and beautiful for the first time."

(both excerpts from Debra Rienstra's recent book, So Much More: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality)

I think this is what my friend, Andrew, meant when he said, "Maybe that's how God responds [to our anger] sometimes - He returns it and says 'Look at the plank in your own eye'.

What is uncanny to me is that this ruthless stripping of our pretense is, at the same time, the most shaming, painful thing we have ever experienced and the most joyful and liberating.


laura said...

that's some interesting read there. I wish I could read C.S. but his writing is damn difficult for me to understand. I guess I understand more of modern Christian writing. Anyways, I would write more about this interesting subject but I is tired and me dexterity ain't no good.

i'll post a topic on this in the near futre.

laura said...

whoaa, that was bad, see i told you i ain't got no dex-ter-ity:)

Rachael said...

Laura: If you want to read C.S. Lewis and benefit from his ideas without the heady language, read the Chronicles of Narnia or the Space Trilogy or Till We Have Faces, which are beautiful and well-told stories.

laura said...

I actually have read one of his books. The title escapes me, but it was a really short non-fiction about him dealing with his wifes' death. A very good writer, I agree. I guess "Mere Christianity" really threw me for a loop. Perhaps someday, I will go back and try and read it again.

Rachael said...

Yes, that was "A Grief Observed". Hard book to read.