C.S. Lewis wrote “The Great Divorce” in response to William Blake’s book “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” This is a very quick read, but it is filled with spiritual content worthy of some serious reflection. C.S. Lewis clearly states in his prologue that this is a story about the afterlife and should not be read as if it is a factual account of the afterlife, but that does not mean that there are not moral and theological truths in this book. I think all people have a curiosity about the afterlife. Christian denominations have different beliefs about the afterlife especially regarding the idea of Purgatory, and C.S. Lewis acknowledges this in his story but does not let it become a divisive issue. Although C.S. Lewis himself was not Catholic, he seems to be very open to the Catholic teachings including the Catholic belief in Purgatory. C.S. Lewis suggests in this story that the Grey city is either Hell or Purgatory depending on where one ends up. The great lesson in this story is that in order to reach Heaven, we must reject Hell and all those earthly attachments that prevent us from completely loving God and reaching Heaven. C.S. Lewis is a master at stimulating the readers’ imaginations and getting the reader to really reflect on Christian beliefs. He does this through fictional story, but the spiritual lessons are not any less real. He tries to avoid addressing the specific differences between Christian denominations but focuses on their similarities and I believe this is reason for his widespread popularity. I highly recommend this book. It is a quick read, it is thought provoking, and it is interesting. Heaven or Hell? Which do you choose?
For more information on the Catholic Church’s teaching on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory please read: