C.S. Lewis and nudity

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C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Maverick » Mon Oct 03, 2016 2:51 pm

I've been on a C.S. Lewis kick lately. I read The Screwtape Letters first and then all three of the books in his "Space Trilogy": Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I doubt Lewis was a naturist but I think he saw past the Victorian prudery that wound itself around Christianity.

Here is a quote from The Screwtape Letters (context is the demon Screwtape writing letters of advice to his demon-nephew Wormwood):

We have engineered a great increase in the licence which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being ‘frank’ and ‘healthy’ and getting back to nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist—making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast!


Not explicitly pro-naturist, but definitely in that vein.

In Out of the Silent Planet the main characters travel through space nude and, as I read the book, nudity was simply treated as a state of being. Lewis treats it like being hot or cold--you can't objectively say one is better than the other.

In Perelandra, the majority of the book takes place on the planet Venus (which is called Perelandra), where a new Adam and Eve are living in a sinless world. The main character, Dr. Ransom, and the Eve equivalent known as the Queen are naked through the majority of the book and nudity is treated positively. There is one part where "the devil" (who comes to the planet possessing a man from Earth's body and wears clothes the whole time) is trying to persuade the Queen to clothe herself as a way of becoming more self-conscious about herself, and Dr. Ransom realizes how it takes away from her natural beauty and her innocence.

The final book, That Hideous Strength, has nudity in it but it is again approached as a state of being and isn't the emphasis of the story.

I highly recommend everything I've read from Lewis so far. He really makes his readers ponder some of the big, often unasked questions of life. I put his Space Trilogy up there as some of the most entertaining and rewarding literature I've ever read, and I have a hard time picking a favorite between the last two books. Considering that Lewis wrote these from 1938-45, I'd say they were ahead of their time.

Bonus: One of the covers to Perelandra and an artist's rendition of the setting:



In nuditate veritas.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Petros » Mon Oct 03, 2016 3:17 pm

If one looks there is quite a lot of literature, pre WW [and a bit beyond] on both sides of the Atlantic, where nudity appears without pririence and fanfare. There is of course an expansion at the same time in risque peepshow nudity - which is the side that has been adopted by literary academia.

Being who I am, I have paid attention. Perelandra is a particularly interesting specimen, of course.
The truth, the stark naked truth, the truth without so much as a loincloth on, should surely be the investigator's sole aim - Basil Chamberlain
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby jochanaan » Wed Oct 05, 2016 12:10 pm

We have another strip (remember, threads are for textiles!) specifically on literature with positive or neutral depictions of nudity. Robert Heinlein is one author who has consistently and often included simple nudity in his stories and novels. Even Tolkien included nudity in a couple of passages in The Lord of the Rings. 8)
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Ramblinman » Wed Oct 05, 2016 2:08 pm


This image really captures the spirit of the Perelandra story.

The lack of clothing is important to the story, conveying the full glory of both redeemed humanity (Mr. Ransom) and the full glory of the people of Perelandra, who never fell from God's grace.

Lewis didn't write to promote naturism per se, but it is fair to say that he wrote to promote authentic Christian values,
which include a positive concept of the human body in its naked glory, even after the Fall from Grace.

Social nudity is a possible outgrowth from this freedom and reverence for naked humanity.
But that is not C.S. Lewis's mission, but ours to advocate.
I do not advocate social nudity for its own sake, but do see it as a practical method for living out the values we cherish.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Maverick » Wed Oct 05, 2016 2:30 pm

jochanaan wrote:We have another strip (remember, threads are for textiles!) specifically on literature with positive or neutral depictions of nudity. Robert Heinlein is one author who has consistently and often included simple nudity in his stories and novels. Even Tolkien included nudity in a couple of passages in The Lord of the Rings. 8)


Jochanaan, I did a search and found the strip you mentioned. It would be nice to get it up and running again, if people know of some nudity-positive or -neutral books. Heinlein is somewhere on my to-read list, and Tolkien is on my to-reread. I remember the nudity in LOTR and at the time wondered why it wasn't in the movie (I read each book before I watched each movie).

Ramblinman wrote:Lewis didn't write to promote naturism per se, but it is fair to say that he wrote to promote authentic Christian values,
which include a positive concept of the human body in its naked glory, even after the Fall from Grace.


:like:

I just finished The Problem of Pain this morning. I noticed that Lewis seems to use the word "naked" a lot, at least more than I'm used to seeing in a book. Here's another quote of his that I found interesting:

A blessed spirit is a mould ever more and more patient of the bright metal poured into it, a body ever more completely uncovered to the meridian blaze of the spiritual sun.
In nuditate veritas.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby jochanaan » Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:15 pm

Maverick wrote:...I remember the nudity in LOTR and at the time wondered why it wasn't in the movie (I read each book before I watched each movie)...
Well, the scenes with Tom Bombadil were cut entirely from Fellowship. :( Yet as I recall, they did show Frodo naked in the Tower of Cirith Ungol; not from the front, but still naked.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Ramblinman » Thu Oct 06, 2016 2:02 pm

jochanaan wrote:
Maverick wrote:...I remember the nudity in LOTR and at the time wondered why it wasn't in the movie (I read each book before I watched each movie)...

Well, the scenes with Tom Bombadil were cut entirely from Fellowship. :( Yet as I recall, they did show Frodo naked in the Tower of Cirith Ungol; not from the front, but still naked.


Yes, the incidence of nudity in reference to Tom Bombadil is the chapter "Fog on the Barrow Downs".
The hobbits were enslaved by the Barrow Wight, their clothes stolen and they found themselves wearing white tunics, perhaps enchanted garments.
The Barrow Wight is clearly an evil being of some sort, not described well in the text.

When Tom Bombadil rescued the hobbits from the clutches of the Barrow Wight, he removed the cursed garments and laid the comatose naked bodies of the hobbits in the sun to revive them,
with the apparent intention of removing all vestiges of the spell. I seem to recall describing the garments as rags, loathsome things, in comparison, nudity is far more dignified.
I can't help but wonder if Tolkien had in mind the verse, "our righteousness is as filthy rags"

As he went on his way, Tom admonished the hobbits to play naked in the sun.
It seems that they obeyed his guidance and made a full recovery.
Apparently Tom later provided new clothes for them or perhaps they acquired them by other means, but this time of nudity was necessary for their well-being during their recovery.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby jay_p » Thu Oct 06, 2016 2:27 pm

He provided clothing for them later on as well as ponies and other supplies
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby jochanaan » Mon Oct 10, 2016 12:22 pm

jay_p wrote:He provided clothing for them later on as well as ponies and other supplies
It was October, and in a climate very much like Britain's. They would have needed the protection. :o
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Maverick » Mon Oct 17, 2016 2:56 pm

I just finished reading The Great Divorce today. The nudity in it is as commonplace as it is in Lewis's other writings I've read so far. In Heaven, the Spirits are somewhat transparent and described as looking naked while clothed or clothed while naked, but either way it doesn't matter because they are clothed in His righteousness.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from this intriguing story:

There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself...as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.


There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.
In nuditate veritas.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Petros » Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:16 am

A very interesting book, the Great Divorce. Lewis' views on the relation of that space to this alone are intriguing.
The truth, the stark naked truth, the truth without so much as a loincloth on, should surely be the investigator's sole aim - Basil Chamberlain
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby jochanaan » Tue Oct 18, 2016 5:59 pm

Yes, one of my favorite books.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Maverick » Fri Oct 28, 2016 5:32 pm

Here is a quote from Lewis on nudity that sort of argues against it:
Equality is for me in the same position as clothes. It is a result of the Fall and the remedy for it. Any attempt to retrace the steps by which we have arrived at egalitarianism and to reintroduce the old authorities on the political level is for me as foolish as it would be to take off our clothes. The Nazi and the nudist make the same mistake. But it is the naked body, still there beneath the clothes of each one of us, which really lives. It is the hierarchical world, still alive and (very properly) hidden behind a façade of equal citizenship, which is our real concern.


This comes from "Membership," an addresses of his from The Weight of Glory. In context he is discussing the individualist/collectivist spectrum in the church and the political realm and ultimately what it means to me a member in the Body of Christ. Thoughts?
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Petros » Fri Oct 28, 2016 7:50 pm

He is quite right in that we cannot go back. The naturist does not recapture the noble [?] savage, and certainly not the prefall human, and trying to use itas a tolol for that purpose will fail eventually.

But there are other reasons for a fallen man to remove his duds.
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Re: C.S. Lewis and nudity

Postby Ramblinman » Mon Oct 31, 2016 11:48 am

Petros wrote:He is quite right in that we cannot go back. The naturist does not recapture the noble [?] savage, and certainly not the prefall human, and trying to use itas a tolol for that purpose will fail eventually.

But there are other reasons for a fallen man to remove his duds.

Indeed! Clothing is not mandated by the fall of man for moral reasons. (Inclement weather outside of Eden is another matter).

Though no one should entertain foolish hope that nudism will restore mankind to a state of Edenic spiritual innocence,
the fact that the nudist community fosters a more balanced view of nudity is helpful.

And the same can be said for traditional cultures where nudity is a part of everyday life: A useful tool nonetheless!

From familial nudity in the sauna hut of rural Finns to the perpetual nudity of some tribal groups in Amazonia and Africa, normalizing nudity means one less problem to deal with in a sinful world.
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