The Weightlessness of Evil

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One of my favorite sections from all of C.S. Lewis’ writings. What evil is when compared to the awesome weight and reality of goodness.

The Weightlessness of Evil
From The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

My Teacher gave a curious smile.  ‘Look,’ he said, and with the word he went down on his hands and knees.  I did the same (how it hurt my knees!) and presently saw that he had plucked a blade of grass.  Using its thin end as a pointer, he made me see, after I had looked very closely, a crack in the soil so small that I could not have identified it without this aid.

‘I cannot be certain,’ he said, ‘that this isthe crack ye came up through.  But through a crack no bigger than that ye certainly came.’

‘But—but,’ I gasped with a feeling of bewilderment not unlike terror.  ‘I saw an infinite abyss.  And cliffs towering up and up.  And then thiscountry on top of the cliffs.’

‘Aye.  But the voyage was not mere locomotion.  That bus, and all you inside, were increasing in size.’

‘Do you mean that Hell—all that infinite empty world—is down some little crack like this?’

‘Yes.  All Hell is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World.  Look at yon butterfly.  If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste.’

‘It seems big enough when you’re in it, Sir.’

‘And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that it contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all.  Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good.  If all Hell’s miseries together entered the consciousness of yon wee yellow bird on the bough there, they would be swallowed up without trace, as if one drop of ink had been dropped into the Great Ocean to which your terrestrial Pacific itself is only a molecule.’

‘I see,’ said I at last.  ‘She couldn’t fit into Hell.’

He nodded.  ‘There’s not room for her,’ he said.  ‘Hell could not open its mouth wide enough.’

‘And she couldn’t make herself smaller?—like Alice, you know.’

‘Nothing like small enough.  For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself.  Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it.  Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes are fast shut.  First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouths for food, or their eyes to see.’

‘Then no one can ever reach them?’

‘Only the Greatest of all can make Himself small enough to enter Hell.  For the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend—a man can sympathise with a horse but a horse cannot sympathise with a rat.  Only One has descended into Hell.’

‘And will He ever do so again?’

‘It was not once long ago that He did it.  Time does not work that way when once ye have left Earth.  All moments that have been or shall be were, or are, present in the moment of His descending.  There is no spirit in prison to Whom He did not preach.’

‘And some hear him?’


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