C.S. Lewis, “Free” from Studies in Words

[Of Aristotle] Looking from his study window he sees the hens scratching in the dust, the pigs asleep, the dogs hunting for fleas; the slaves, any of them who are not at that very moment on some appointed task, flirting, quarrelling, cracking nuts, playing dice, or dozing. He, the master, may use them all for the common end, the well-being of the family. They themselves have no such end, nor any consistent end, in mind. Whatever in their lives is not compelled from above is random—dependent on the mood of the moment. His own life is quite different; a systematised round of religious, political, scientific, literary and social activities; its very hours of recreation (there’s an anecdote about them) deliberate, approved and allowed for; consistent with itself. But what is it in the structure of the universe that corresponds to this distinction between Aristotle, self-bound with the discipline of a freeman, and Aristotle’s slaves, negatively free with a servile freedom between each job and the next? I think there is no doubt of the answer. It is the things in the higher world of aether which are regular, immutable, consistent; those down here in the air that are subject to change, and chance and contingence. In the world, as in the household, the higher acts according to a fixed plan; the lower admits the ‘random’ element. The free life is to the servile as the life of the gods (the living stars) is to that of terrestrial creatures. This is so not because the truly free man ‘does what he likes’, but because he imitates, so far as a mortal can, the flawless and patterned regularity of the heavenly being, like them not doing what he likes but being what he is, being fully human as they are divine, and fully human by his likeness to them. For the crown of life—here we break right out of the cautious modesty of most Greek sentiment—is not ‘being mortal, to think mortal thoughts’ but rather ‘to immortalise as much as possible’ and by all means to live according to the highest element in oneself.

The bearing that this remarkable passage has on the doctrine of sanctification may be too obvious to need to be pointed out. But perhaps it would not come amiss to remark simply that being made free from sin and having become the servants of righteousness, we have indeed been brought into the large freedom of being what we are – the children of God.

One Response to “A Cambridge Don, the Stagyrite, and the Increase of Holiness”

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