Humility -- the path to transformation

C. S. Lewis, his worlds, and his faith.

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Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby 220chrisTian » Jul 22, 2010 11:46 am

I finished reading Robinson Crusoe last week, as well as some criticism on it, for my diss. And I came across some interesting quotes and ideas. They all reminded me of various Narnia characters. :p

Robinson Crusoe [emphasis mine]
“Then I began to think of the poor Kid, which I had penn’d in within my little Circle, and resolv’d to go and fetch it Home, or give it some Food; accordingly I went, and found it where I left it, for indeed it could not get out, but almost starv’d for want of Food: I went and cut Bows of Trees, and Branches of such Stubs as I could find, and threw it over, and having fed it, I ty’d it as I did before, to lead it away; but it was so tame with being hungry, that I had no need to have ty’d it; for it follow’d me like a Dog; and as I continually fed it, the Creature became so loving, so gentle, and so fond, that it became from that Time one of my Domesticks also, and would never leave me afterwards.”

“I had forgot then what I learn’d afterwards, that Hunger will tame a Lyon. If I had let him stay there three of four Days without Food, and then have carry’d him some Water to drink, and then a little Corn, he would have been as tame as one of the Kids, for they are mighty sagacious tractable Creatures where they are well used.”

Criticism on RC
“Some have escaped shipwreck of soul by shipwreck of body.”

“The lower a person is, the more readily will he bend to any condition; hope of deliverance will make him stoop.”

And let's not forget the Prodigal son in Luke 15! He’s so hungry that pigs’ food looks appetizing to his Jewish eyes and stomach [Jews couldn’t eat pork]. As a result, the boy comes to his senses and goes home.

So what’s the point? Humility is necessary to transformation. This includes “shipwreck of body” – physical hunger, mocking, near death experiences, hardships, suffering, etc.

Edmund / LWW: After spending a whole night and day with the White Witch, with nothing to eat but bread and water [till it runs out], Edmund is starving. As a result he comes to his senses – realizing his folly, the Witch’s brutality and lies, and his siblings’ innocence.

Aslan / LWW: look at what he endures on the Stone table! The “highest of all high kings” is humiliated. Aslan is shaved, mocked, and put to a cruel death by his enemies.

Caspian / PC: reared in King Miraz’s castle, he escapes certain death one night only to enter a forest with strange and unknown creatures. He has to rely on others for food and shelter. This must be humiliating, even if adventurous. During his sojourn in the forest, Caspian must endure hardship in order to be a fit king. And let’s not forget what Aslan tells him at their meeting: “’You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,’ said Aslan. ‘And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.” (Chapter 15)

Eustace / VDT: he’s transformed into a dragon – from a human into an animal. This must be degrading! Eustace becomes a greater bother than ever to the crew because of his size. And he can’t even take off his dragon skin. He has to let Aslan do it – another instance of humiliation.

I’m sure there are many more examples of forced humility, preparatory to transformation, in the series. But I’ve read only LWW, PC, and VDT recently. So I can’t comment on other characters/books with any competence, i.e. Rabadash in HHB. :p viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1562

Questions: What are your thoughts on humility and its role in spiritual transformation? On the examples I listed? What other examples from the series can you think of? :)
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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby narnian1 » Jul 22, 2010 6:19 pm

Humility plays a crucial part in our spiritual transformation, it's all over the bible and CS Lewis knew this which is why he poured it into his books.

Aslan aside, I don't think we can find a greater example than Eustace in Narnia. Second to him would be Edmund. I place Eustace first because he had the disgrace of having been turned into a dragon, with a full crew witnessing it, Edmund had the humiliation of having to face his siblings again- which is no easy task- but at least it was a smaller and more intimate circle, and he didn't get transformed into anything unnatural.


Though on a smaller scale than those you mentioned, there is also Reepicheep when he loses his tail. Not for his honor, but for the love of his friends was it given to him.
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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby 220chrisTian » Jul 23, 2010 10:59 am

Thanks for the reply, narnian1! :ymhug:

I agree that Eustace's humiliation is probably the greatest in the series. And Edmund next. I had forgotten about Reepicheep losing his tail. That's an excellent example. His honor is not in a tail. It's in service to Aslan. :)
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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby Elluinas Mirion » Jul 23, 2010 11:25 pm

Transformation into WHAT?

Forgive me, but something in one of your examples disturbs me. Humility is a word which our culture abuses in conflicting ways. Disgrace is not repentence. And Reepiceep can hardly be said to have "disgraced" himself by appearing before the king of kings with battle scars honestly received. Nor is accepting embarrassment the same as humility.

Reepicheep made no worse offence than say lets suppose if Susan had been captured, and had her head shorn in a very messy sort of haircut and then suffered to appear before Aslan in public without anything with which to cover her head. Lucy would not have cared- and this isn't humility! It is Love overpowering embarrassment.

Nor was Caspian ashamed of having been turned out by his uncle, nor in having to break bread with badgers - humility was never a problem for him.

As for the prodigal son, he repents when he decides to swallow his pride and confess before his father. Humility and submission and defeat are distinct things, and if I do not offend those of other faiths, I say we submit to God first with faint hope and eventually with joy - else it is but the submission of the White Witch to the presence of "superior forces." Humility is only a step where it is needed; an error is only a mistake for as long as we refuse to correct it. For some, logic is sufficient motivation. Others insist on receiving deeper wounds.

Does hunger tame the lion? Does thirst break a wild stallion? Let us tread carefully, for the White Witch "tamed" Narnia, as did Miraz - but this was not received with joy. For all of Lewis heartrending (and heartwarming) tales of redemption, let us not forget the fate of Prince Rillian, or of Puzzle the donkey who submitted to being ruled falsely, or of Bree who was ashamed to enter Narnia because he wasn't the "Great War Horse" he imagined and because his tail was a bit ragged.

In the case of Puzzle, his humility was almost a moral flaw.

PS. Edmund is by far the worse offender: "don't feel too bad about it, you were just an ass, I was a traitor."

Apropos of nothing, may I suggest "God, Humans and Animals, an invitation to Enlarge our Moral Universe" written by an acquaintance. Or for a more entertaining contrast, see the dreamworks movie "Spirit" and consider whether "humbled and broken" is in fact what God ever had in mind for us. Indeed, was not Reepicheep rather forward: "I can eat sleep and die for my King without one... Highest of High Kings, PERMIT ME TO REMIND YOU..." etc.

Yes it is a step- but only when we obstinately wander off the path.

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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby Lady Haleth » Jul 24, 2010 5:44 am

Humility does seem to be the 'path to transformation' for at least some characters. Edmund, Eustace, and possibly even Caspian. (I was thinking of that scene near the end of VDT where he wants to dash off and see the end of the world, and Aslan appears to him.) But I remember Lewis describing humility not as a low opinion of yourself, but simply not thinking of yourself at all. Edmund, Eustace, and Caspian--at the point just mentioned--were all thinking about themselves, and only themselves. (I want to be King, Everyone picks on me, I want to see the end of the world, ect.) But their humility consisted in forgetting themselves.
And, Elluinas Mirion, I agree with you about humility. God wants us to be 'broken' so that we realize our need for him, but after we do, he will restore us. To always be saying 'I'm nobody', is as self-centered as to go around thinking 'I'm so great'. The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity have some interesting passages on this subject. And about Puzzle, I agree that his excessively low opinion of himself was a weakness. It was that which allowed him to be controlled by Shift so easily.
I'll end with a quote from The Weight of Glory:
Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself.
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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 24, 2010 6:31 pm

Elluinas Mirion wrote:Forgive me, but something in one of your examples disturbs me. Humility is a word which our culture abuses in conflicting ways. Disgrace is not repentence. And Reepiceep can hardly be said to have "disgraced" himself by appearing before the king of kings with battle scars honestly received. Nor is accepting embarrassment the same as humility.


Agreed. I don't think that Aslan ever meant to see Reepicheep feeling humiliated. Lucy tried to heal Reepicheep but the diamond cordial wasn't able to regrow a severed tail. Aslan, though, wasn't going to help just to save Reep a bit of personal embarrassment, but because of the loyalty and honour Peepiceek and the other mice had for their leader, and because of the mice who gnawed the ropes tying Aslan to the stone table.

Lady Haleth wrote:But I remember Lewis describing humility not as a low opinion of yourself, but simply not thinking of yourself at all. Edmund, Eustace, and Caspian--at the point just mentioned--were all thinking about themselves, and only themselves. (I want to be King, Everyone picks on me, I want to see the end of the world, ect.) But their humility consisted in forgetting themselves.


Yes, you are right also. Even characters like Bree or Susan, maybe even Aravis or Shasta, only feel humiliated because during their experiences they were thinking only of themselves. Bree, for example, was worrying too much about the cut of his tail, which stopped him enjoying going to Archenland, whilst Susan had been too flattered by Rabadash's attentions to notice what sort of person he was. Aravis of course had to learn that nobody is 'only a slave', whilst Shasta had to understand 'Why me?'

Besides, there is a difference between being humiliated and being humbled. And I think that it was the experience of being humbled, rather than humiliated which reformed both Edmund and Eustace. Both of them knew they deserved their unpleasant experiences, and that they only had themselves to blame. Aslan died to redeem Edmund, which is indeed a sobering thought, and a humbling thought, but not a humiliating one. Likewise I think that Eustace, being turned into a dragon, and having to be undragoned, was more humbling for him than humiliating.

By contrast, Rabadash, an undoubtedly arrogant character, was humiliated at being turned into the jackass he was, and at having to be healed in the Temple of Tash in front of his people. Whilst we are told he stayed around Tashbaan for the rest of his life, being frightened of being turned into a donkey again, I doubt his experience endeared Aslan to him. =)) .
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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby 220chrisTian » Jul 26, 2010 2:10 pm

I don't have much time to reply. I will give a fuller response later this week. I'm currently reading Andrew Murray's classic Humility. I think we need working definitions of humility and humiliation.

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up” (James 4:10). “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5). Only the meek will be exalted. It’s only in bowing the knee that we are raised.

There’s a difference between humility and humiliation. The former is usually voluntary. The latter is usually forced. Humility is also a state of mind or being. It’s thinking of others instead of oneself. It's taking the lowest place. Most importantly, it is giving glory to God, not oneself. This is what Jesus Christ did on the cross. He bowed the knee to the Father. He glorified and exalted the Father. This should be the purpose of any humble act – to glorify God. Christ was then himself exalted to the highest place [Philippians 2]. Humiliation is more like degradation.

God wants voluntary humility from us. But because of our sinful nature, that won’t happen without God’s help – since only God can voluntarily humble Himself, i.e. think only of others (not of oneself) and take the lowest place. So we must be humbled or humiliated by God. Sometimes it’s for sin and sometimes it’s to teach us a lesson. Humility = God’s school. We’re allowed to endure experiences [suffering, pain, you name it] that make us look to God to meet our needs; they make us dependent on God alone.

wagga wrote:Aslan, though, wasn't going to help just to save Reep a bit of personal embarrassment, but because of the loyalty and honour Peepiceek and the other mice had for their leader, and because of the mice who gnawed the ropes tying Aslan to the stone table.

I'm glad you made the connection. Reepicheep lost his tail in a noble battle fighting for Aslan against the Telmarines. There’s nothing disgraceful or degrading about that. The issue was not how he lost it, but how much it meant to him when he appeared before Aslan. For Reep, it’s all about honor. And he gained it in battle. There is no honor in a tail. Maybe being without one is like appearing without hair for a human. But the point is that I think Aslan would have accepted Reep in his presence without the tail. He didn’t care. What changed Aslan’s mind was the other mice’s voluntary act of humility – being willing to cut off their own tails, to appear before Aslan without them (unlike Reep). They thought of their leader’s honor and not their own. Why is this so important? Because Aslan did the exact same thing in LWW. Letting the White Witch and her army shave him (as the mice were willing to cut off their tails) and kill him on the Stone table was a voluntary act of humility on the part of Aslan. And Aslan reminds Reep of this. He says that when he lay dead on the Stone table and the mice voluntarily humbled themselves to eat away the cords, they then began to be talking mice. They ignored Aslan’s humiliating appearance and served him as their king. As Elluinas pointed out, "It is Love overpowering embarrassment."

Who stood by Jesus at the cross? Who carried his body to the tomb? Who anointed it with spices? Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimethea, and the women ignored Jesus’ humiliation and served him as their king. The disciples loved Jesus no less, but they were humiliated by their abandonment and Jesus’ own humiliation and death – which they considered the death of all their hopes; they were also afraid.

True honor and exaltation are the fruit of voluntary humility in serving Aslan. This is what Reepicheep needs to be reminded of at the end of PC. In VDT, three years later, we find Reep telling dragon Eustace about fortune’s wheel, about others being humbled and later exalted – mutability.

LWW: 100 years of winter prepared Narnia for Aslan’s return. It also foreshadowed Aslan’s death on the Stone table. It’s all about darkness before light, night before day – humility before exaltation.

Caspian fleeing Miraz = David fleeing Saul. Was their humbling experience punishment for sin? No. But it prepared them for the throne and kingdom, for exaltation. It prepared them for leadership. It was God’s school. Caspian and David had to learn and know for themselves that God is real, that he is able to deliver. When would we call on God unless he put us in situations where we needed him? Only the meek seek God.
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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby milmolsilsol » Sep 28, 2010 7:18 pm

it is true that only by the denying of our basest natures do we come to a greater understanding of who we're really meant to be. for this life is only the Shadowland. we are meant for Higher Things. our given gifts and personality aren't the issue. but all of our natural pursuit to make sure that #1 takes precedence is what i'm talking about. and of course it must not be. it can't be that way. who we are needs tempered by compassion and a humble heart. our motives need to be to love our fellow man. to be just, and do what's right. not what seems best by our own PERSONAL approximation. i believe humility is the ONLY road to perfection. and in our weakness we are made strong. for it is always the weak that confound those that think they're stronger. when, at the end of the day, we're all the same. and must answer for ourselves. we cannot begin to hope to change the world or others before we first examine ourselves. that's where it all begins. and in that, we discover, it is not our job to change anyone else.
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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby 220chrisTian » Sep 29, 2010 12:08 pm

Beautiful post, milmolsilsol. I especially like this part.

i believe humility is the ONLY road to perfection. and in our weakness we are made strong. for it is always the weak that confound those that think they're stronger. ... we cannot begin to hope to change the world or others before we first examine ourselves. that's where it all begins. and in that, we discover, it is not our job to change anyone else.


Check out my blog post "The weak shall lead the strong": http://220lily.wordpress.com/2010/08/10 ... he-strong/. It says something similar as what you noted.

Welcome back to the forum! And I love your siggy! :ymhug:
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Re: Humility -- the path to transformation

Postby milmolsilsol » Sep 29, 2010 7:59 pm

thank you 220chrisTian :) it's been a long couple of years full of huge life lessons that all point to just one thing: it is not we who overcome but He who is in us. and i'm so grateful for that. because in and of myself? EPIC FAIL.
i will read your blog asap.
and i love the bit in your siggie that says "Jesus Drank Your Cup."
what a great image that gives. cheers! :ymapplause:
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