Thursday, October 24, 2013

"You don't have a soul..."

Matthew Lee Anderson cites this indicating that C.S. Lewis is often credited with something he never wrote and probably didn't believe:
The statement “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body” makes the rounds, in a seemingly cyclical pattern, on the internet and in print. ....

The quotation cannot be found in Lewis’ writing. While several sources ascribe it to Mere Christianity, more responsible writers concede that the primary source is unknown. Given the central themes of Lewis’ fiction and non-fiction, we can safely say that he would never intend to convey the belief that our bodies are simply temporary shells. Readers and fans know that the worlds he created are deeply physical. The trees are alive; the animals speak; a roaring lion appears most clearly to a small child.  And the gods will not meet us until we have faces. ....

Many who have suspected the Lewis reference to be apocryphal credit the quotation to A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller’s 1959 science fiction novel, in which one of the characters asserts, “You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.”

The mystery does not end there, however. If we keep going back through the sources, it becomes clear that not only was the sentiment common before Miller’s Canticle made it to print, but the exact phrasing can be found in multiple independent sources. ....

...[W]e find the quote attributed to George MacDonald.
“Never tell a child,” said George Macdonald, ‘you have a soul. Teach him, you are a soul; you have a body.’ As we learn to think of things always in this order, that the body is but the temporary clothing of the soul, our views of death and the unbefittingness of customary mourning will approximate to those of Friends of earlier generations.”
This attribution to George MacDonald finally, perhaps, begins to unveil how C.S. Lewis came to be associated with the statement, given Lewis’ reverence for the Scottish minister. ....
Anderson adds
...[O]ut of context–which is how the legions of people who pass it around Facebook and Twitter generally see it–the quote really does express a stunted vision of the human person in light of the resurrection.  My own intuition is to say something along the lines of, “You are a body.  But you’re a soul too.  And your human flourishing is contingent upon being a soul-bodied thing.”

At any rate, if you’re a writer, pastor, blogger, or anyone who is looking to for a good C.S. Lewis quote to invest your work with a little more authority…you’ll now have to turn elsewhere.  You’re welcome, internet. .... [more]

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