The Great Divide
The Great Divide
Lewis delivered a radio adaptation of his inaugural lecture as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature giver, at Cambridge on November 29, 1954. Here are some excerpts from that radio message.
“To study the past does indeed liberate us from the present, from the idols of our own marketplace, but I think it liberates us from the past too.”
I don’t think we need fear that the study of a day and period, however prolonged, however sympathetic, need be an indulgence in nostalgia or an enslavement to the past. In the individual life as the psychologists have taught us, it’s not the remembered past, it’s the forgotten past that enslaves us. And I think that’s true of society. To study the past does indeed liberate us from the present, from the idols of our own marketplace, but I think it liberates us from the past too. I think no class of men are less enslaved to the past than historians. It is the unhistorical who are usually without knowing it enslaved to a very recent past.…
The christening of Europe seemed to all our ancestors—whether as themselves Christians they welcomed it, or like Gibbon deplored it as humanistic unbelievers—a unique, irresistible, irreversible event. But we’ve seen the opposite process. Of course, the unchristening of Europe in our time is not quite complete. Neither was her christening in the Dark Ages. But roughly speaking we may say, that while as all history was for our ancestors divided into two periods, the pre-Christian and the Christian, for us it falls into three, the pre-Christian, the Christian, and what may reasonably be called the post-Christian.
This surely must make a momentous difference. I’m not here considering either the christening or the un-christening at all from a theological ...