• CE: Where did the name Silent Planet come from?
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Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (1996, Paperback)

GR: It came from Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis.

 Out of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis First Book in The Space Trilogy Red Planet of Malacandra
Into this story Lewis builds a theological framework. The categories of 'fallen' and 'unfallen' are essential to an understanding of how Earth came to be 'Thulcandra', the Silent Planet, and why Malacandra is so different. The causes of Earth's Fall are traced beyond human history to the rebellion of the 'Oyarsa' of Earth, or the 'Bent One' as he becomes known ('bent' being the only word corresponding to 'evil' in the language of unfallen Malacandra):

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (1996, Paperback)

GR: My undergrad education was at Pacific University. That’s where Silent Planet started.
To read Lewis – especially his apologetic works such as Miracles and Mere Christianity – is to become aware of how far the climate of ideas, and particularly the popular objections or alternatives to Christianity, have altered between the 1930s and our own decade. Many of the notions Lewis combats have no currency now; this conception that Weston represents is an example – and one that seems today an implausible quirk. Nevertheless, Lewis himself speaks of it as 'circulating all over our planet in obscure works of "scientification", in little Interplanetary Societies and Rocketry Clubs, and between the covers of monstrous magazines, ignored or mocked by the intellectuals, but ready, if ever the power is put into its hands, to open a new chapter of misery for the universe... the idea that humanity, having now sufficiently corrupted the planet where it arose, must at all costs contrive to seed itself over a larger area.' (Voyage to Venus (1943; Pan edition of 1953), p.73). Of course such dreams now have an air of an exploitative, imperialistic spirit that seems distasteful. Still, Lewis' words 'at all costs' raise a perennially relevant ethical issue: whether – as Lewis strenuously denied and his contemporary J.B.S. Haldane seems to have suggested – the survival of humanity was an overriding priority justifying the abandonment of traditional morality (cf. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, 1970), p.311). Lewis touches on this question in That Hideous Strength, The Abolition of Man, and the short story 'Ministering Angels' (reprinted in Of Other Worlds and The Dark Tower).
C.S. Lewis. Out of the Silent Planet (1938), p.108. All references are to the 1952 Pan edition, henceforth referred to as OOTSP.
Ibid, p.140.
Ibid.
Ibid, p.78.
Or so one would have thought. One can only note with astonishment the statements recorded in Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, C.S. Lewis: A Biography (1974; Fount edition of 1979), pp.164-165, that numerous early readers and reviewers missed the parallelism in these passages.
OOTSP, p.140.
Ibid, p.39.
Ibid, p.53.
Ibid, p.106.
Ibid, p.117.
Ibid, p.47. Ransom's 'whole imaginative training' is likewise presented as a source of deception in pp.50, 67, 141.
C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds (New York,1966), p.88.
OOTSP, p.19.
Ibid, p.24.
Ibid, p.34.
Ibid, p.35.
Ibid.
Ibid, p.180.
In an essay on 'Christian Apologetics' in God in the Dock, p.99, Lewis presents the argument from the size and indifference of the universe as one of the two main popular objections to Christianity. Cf. also The Problem of Pain (1940; Fontana edition of 1957), p.1; Fern-seed and Elephants (1975), p.86; and Miracles (1947; Fontana edition of 1960), pp.52-58, where Lewis' argument includes a 'fantasy' (p.56) similar to Out of the Silent Planet.
Once again, it needs to be stressed that Lewis is not writing a piece of apologetics concerned with scientific evidence and aimed at the intellect, seeking to prove that neighbouring stars or planets support intelligent (and God-believing!) life. Rather, in so far as he is concerned with apologetics here, he is aiming at the 'baptism of the imagination', whereby the Christian certainty that the cosmos as a totality is not empty and indifferent (even if the astronomical universe as a whole is lifeless, and 'other life' is to be found only in the spiritual world), and that humankind is not alone, can be offered as an imaginative possibility. This he does by presenting 'other life' as existing within the astronomical universe, although in actuality it might be necessary to look further afield. The presentation of realities of the spiritual universe as if they were part of the physical universe is a major aspect of the trilogy.
OOTSP,p.35.
Ibid, p.44.
Lewis, Miracles, p.90.
OOTSP, pp.173-74.
Ibid, pp.48-49.
Ibid, p.51.
Ibid, pp.63-64.
Ibid, pp.62-63.
Ibid, p.63.
Ibid, p.78.
Ibid, p.40.
Ibid, p.43.
Ibid, p.53.
Ibid, p.57.
Ibid, p.78.
Elsewhere in his writings Lewis expressed a fear that, if ever man encountered extra-terrestrial life in reality, he might be far less successful at sensing this 'convergence' of belief than Ransom is on Malacandra. (Fern-seed and Elephants, pp.92-93; Christian Reflections (1967; Fount edition of 1981), pp.217-18.)
OOTSP, pp.85-86. The same question is perhaps raised obliquely when a sorn expresses surprise that men cannot tell the time without watches, and Ransom replies that while 'there are beasts that have a sort of knowledge of that... our hnau have lost it.' (Ibid, p.124.)
Ibid, p.86.
Ibid, p.128
Ibid, pp.143-144.
Ibid, p.140.
Ibid, p.142.
Ibid, p.165.
Ibid, p.162.
Ibid, p.141.
Ibid, pp.168-169.
Ibid, pp.177-79.
Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories, p.72.

 

Out Of The Silent Planet C.S. Lewis Vintage Paperback Book

Vintage C. S. Lewis Out of the Silent Planet PB Book 1975 Macmillian
With these passages Lewis introduces important aspects of the Christian framework; the Fall as the historical explanation of evil, the fact that the presence of evil in a divinely-ordained universe might be something out of which good might come. These ideas are presented without stepping outside his descriptions of the hrossa's beliefs and attitudes.


Here Lewis hints at the place that suffering might acceptably retain in a paradisiac world – and perhaps in the universe as a whole. (Later on Ransom finds a carving representing the early history of the Solar System, in which, Lewis notes without comment, the 'Bent One' is presented as 'a fantastic hnakra-like figure'.)


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Again, Lewis hints at the Christian framework and then moves the reader rapidly onwards – in fact to a consideration of the place of danger in his paradise. Hyoi, Ransom's hross friend, tells him, 'I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes.' Hence the hnakra, the shark-like creature that the hrossa love to hunt, is not an evil that they would wish to see exterminated from the world, even though he occasionally kills some of them:

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In each of these cases the Christian allusion has appeared in a context of crisis or action – Ransom's decision to ensure he can kill himself; the entry into Mars' atmosphere; Ransom's escape; his attempts to come to terms with his situation on first awakening the next day. The reader is not confronted with the idea of prayer in the foreground; it appears in passing while other more important things are taking place. Again, just as the unfallen hross were given unpleasant characteristics, so prayer now appears in seemingly inappropriate contexts – the intention or desire for suicide, the fear of madness, the decision to 'back his luck'. The sense that a prayerful attitude is something commonplace, scarcely requiring comment, is conveyed successfully; even if it is a slightly muddle-headed prayerfulness – or, indeed, because it is. And if this is a world where it is reasonable for a man to think in religious terms, it cannot be too unreasonable for a hross to do the same. When Ransom is introduced to the hross beliefs, Lewis inserts a sentence to the effect that 'Ever since he had discovered the rationality of the hrossa he had been haunted by a conscientious scruple as to whether it might not be his duty to undertake their religious instruction'; it is a reasonable idea to be concerned about, given the cast of mind Ransom has already been shown to possess. (It is also important to note that this cast of mind has not been presented in a way that singled Ransom out as 'the religious character' in the novel, different from the other 'normal' characters whose attitudes define the 'normal' point of view.) Lewis does not depict Ransom wondering whether his religious beliefs and those of the hross should be in competition. No theological argument develops; rather the convergence is simply assumed, and Lewis moves the narrative onto another subject: