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Lilith
by
George MacDonald

George MacDonald

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Lilith

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fantasy

Christian fiction

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Lilith

(1895)

1
The Library
I had myself so far inherited the tendency as to devote a good deal of my time, though, I confess, after a somewhat desultory fashion, to the physical sciences. It was chiefly the wonder they woke that drew me. I was constantly seeing, and on the outlook to see, strange analogies, not only between the facts of different sciences of the same order, or between physical and metaphysical facts, but between physical hypotheses and suggestions glimmering out of the metaphysical dreams into which I was in the habit of falling. I was at the same time much given to a premature indulgence of the impulse to turn hypothesis into theory. Of my mental peculiarities there is no occasion to say more.

Topic:

Science

2
The Mirror

The small chamber was full of light, but such as dwells in places deserted: it had a dull, disconsolate look, as if it found itself no use, and regretted having come.

3
The Raven

“I never saw any door,” I persisted.

“Of course not!” he returned; “all the doors you had yet seen—and you haven’t seen many—were doors in; here you came upon a door out. The strange thing to you,” he went on thoughtfully, “will be, that the more doors you go out of, the farther you get in.”

“Oblige me by telling me where I am.”

“That is impossible. You know nothing about whereness. The only way to come to know where you are is to begin to make yourself at home.”

“How am I to begin that where everything is so strange?”

“By doing something.”

“What?”

“Anything; and the sooner you begin the better, for until you are at home, you will find it as difficult to get out as it is to get in.”

“I have, unfortunately, found it too easy to get in; once out I shall not try again.”

“You have stumbled in, and may, possibly, stumble out again. Whether you have got in unfortunately remains to be seen.”

4
Somewhere or Nowhere?

“No creature should be allowed to forget what and where it came from.”

“Why?” said the raven.

“Because it will grow proud, and cease to recognize its superiors.”

No man knows it when he is making an idiot of himself.

“What right have you to treat me so, Mr. Raven?” I said with deep offense. “Am I, or am I not, a free agent?”

“A man is as free as he chooses to make himself, never an atom freer,” answered the raven.

“You have no right to make me do things against my will.”

“When you have a will, you will find that no one can.”

“You wrong me in the very essence of my individuality,” I persisted.

“If you were an individual I could not, therefore now I do not. You are but beginning to become an individual.”

Topic:

Free will

“You mean you have been making a fool of me,” I said, turning from him.

“Excuse me: no one can do that but yourself.”

“And I decline to do it.”

“You mistake.”

“How?”

“In declining to acknowledge yourself one already. You make yourself such by refusing what is true, and for that you will sorely punish yourself.”

“How, again?”

“By believing what is not true.”

5
The Old Church

“A prayer is a thought, a thing spiritual!” I pursued.

“Very true! But if you understood any world besides your own, you would understand your own much better.—When a heart is really alive, then it is able to think live things. There is one heart all whose thoughts are strong, happy creatures, and whose very dreams are lives. When some pray, they lift heavy thoughts from the ground, only to drop them on it again; others send up their prayers in living shapes, this or that, the nearest likeness to each. All live things were thoughts to begin with, and are fit therefore to be used by those that think. When one says to the great Thinker:—‘Here is one of thy thoughts: I am thinking it now’ that is a prayer—a word to the big heart from one of its own little hearts.—Look, there is another!”

Topic:

Prayer

“Why know the name of a thing when the thing itself you do not know? Whose work is it but your own to open your eyes? But indeed the business of the universe is to make such a fool of you that you will know yourself for one, and so begin to be wise.”
9
I Repent

“There are indeed many ways.”

“Tell me, please, how to recognize the nearest.”

“I cannot,” answered the raven; “you and I use the same words with different meanings. We are often unable to tell people what they need to know, because they want to know something else, and would therefore only misunderstand what we said. Home is ever so far away in the palm of your hand, and how to get there it is of no use to tell you. But you will get there; you must get there; you have to get there. Everybody who is not at home, has to go home. You thought you were at home where I found you: if that had been your home you could not have left it. Nobody can leave home. And nobody ever was or ever will be at home without having gone there.”

“Enigma treading on enigma!” I exclaimed. “I did not come here to be asked riddles.”

“No; but you came, and found the riddles waiting for you. Indeed you are yourself the only riddle. What you call riddles are truths, and seem riddles because you are not true.”

“Worse and worse!” I cried.

“And you must answer the riddles,” he continued. “They will go on asking themselves until you understand yourself. The universe is a riddle trying to get out, and you are holding your door hard against it.”

11
The Evil Wood
A furious battle was raging around me. Wild cries and roars of rage, shock of onset, struggle prolonged, all mingled with words articulate, surged in my ears. Curses and credos, snarls and sneers, laughter and mockery, sacred names and howls of hate, came huddling in chaotic interpenetration. [...] The holiest words went with the most hating blow. Lie-distorted truths flew hurtling in the wind of javelins and bones. Every moment some one would turn against his comrades, and fight more wildly than before, The Truth! The Truth! still his cry. One I noted who wheeled ever in a circle, and smote on all sides. Wearied out, a pair would sit for a minute side by side, then rise and renew the fierce combat. None stopped to comfort the fallen, or stepped wide to spare him.

Topic:

Battle

13
The Little Ones

“You can count them, surely!”

“We never do that. We shouldn’t like to be counted.”

“Why?”

“It wouldn’t be smooth. We would rather not know.”

”The giants have lost themselves, Peony says, and that is why they never smile. I wonder whether they are not glad because they are bad, or bad because they are not glad.”
14
A Crisis

In seeking to improve their conditions, might I not do them harm, and only harm? To enlarge their minds after the notions of my world—might it not be to distort and weaken them? [...]

The part of philanthropist is indeed a dangerous one; and the man who would do his neighbor good must first study how not to do him evil, and must begin by pulling the beam out of his own eye.

15
A Strange Hostess
“Yet they boast and believe themselves a prosperous, and certainly are a self-satisfied people—good at bargaining and buying, good at selling and cheating; holding well together for a common interest, and utterly treacherous where interests clash; proud of their princess and her power, and despising every one they get the better of; never doubting themselves the most honorable of all the nations, and each man counting himself better than any other. The depth of their worthlessness and height of their vainglory no one can understand who has not been there to see, who has not learned to know the miserable misgoverned and self-deceived creatures.”
17
A Grotesque Tragedy

“We are in the other world, I presume!”

“Granted!—But in which or what sort of other world? This can’t be hell?”

“It must: there’s marriage in it!”

Note (Hal’s):
This is a wickedly funny joke, but also an argument from Scripture. See Matthew 22:30.

— end note

“There are words too big for you and me: all is one of them, and ever is another,” said a voice near me which I knew.

“I have no anxiety about you. Such as you always come back to us.”

“Tell me, please, who am I such as?” I said.

“I cannot make my friend the subject of conversation,” he answered, with a smile.

“But when that friend is present,” I urged.

“I decline the more strongly,” he rejoined.

“But when that friend asks you,” I persisted.

“Then most positively I refuse,” he returned.

“Why?”

“Because he and I would be talking of two persons as if they were one and the same. Your consciousness of yourself and my knowledge of you are far apart.”

“I will try to remember,” I answered; “—but I may forget.”

“Then some evil that is good for you will follow.”

“And if I remember?”

“Some evil that is not good for you, will not follow.”

Topic:

Education

18
Dead or Alive?
I saw now that a man alone is but a being that may become a man—that he is but a need, and therefore a possibility. To be enough for himself, a being must be an eternal, self-existent worm. So superbly constituted, so simply complicated is man; he rises from and stands upon such a pedestal of lower physical organisms and spiritual structures, that no atmosphere will comfort or nourish his life, less divine than that offered by other souls; nowhere but in other lives can he breathe. Only by the reflex of other lives can he ripen his specialty, develop the idea of himself, the individuality that distinguishes him from every other. Were all men alike, each would still have an individuality, secured by his personal consciousness, but there would be small reason why there should be more than two or three such; while, for the development of the differences which make a large and lofty unity possible, and which alone can make millions into a church, an endless and measureless influence and reaction are indispensable. A man to be perfect—complete, that is, in having reached the spiritual condition of persistent and universal growth, which is the mode wherein he inherits the infinitude of his Father—must have the education of a world of fellow-men.

Topic:

Individuality

28
I Am Silenced

“Is not a little knowledge a dangerous thing?”

“That is one of the pet falsehoods of your world. Is man’s greatest knowledge more than a little? or is it therefore dangerous? The fancy that knowledge is in itself a great thing, would make any degree of knowledge more dangerous than any amount of ignorance. To know all things would not be greatness.”

“You lost your chance with the Lovers, Mr. Vane. You speculated about them instead of helping them.”
30
Adam Explains
“Annihilation itself is no death to evil. Only good where evil was, is evil dead. An evil thing must live with its evil until it chooses to be good. That alone is the slaying of evil.”

Topic:

Evil

38
To the House of Bitterness

“Please, king,” said one, “I’m so afraid of being afraid.”

“My boy,” I answered, “there is no harm in being afraid. The only harm is in doing what Fear tells you. Fear is not your master! Laugh in his face and he will run away.”

39
That Night

“She alone is free who would make free; she loves not freedom who would enslave: she is herself a slave.”

Topic:

Slavery

The darkness knows neither the light nor itself; only the light knows itself and the darkness also. None but God hates evil and understands it.
40
The House of Death
“Thou knowest neither Death nor the Life that dwells in Death! Both befriend thee. [...] Thou art weary and heavy-laden: art thou not ashamed? Is not the being thou has corrupted become to thee at length an evil thing? Wouldst thou yet live on in disgrace eternal? Cease thou canst not: wilt thou not be restored and be?”
43
The Dreams that Came

“When you are quite dead, you will dream no false dream. The soul that is true can generate nothing that is not true, neither can the false enter it.”

“But, sir,” I faltered, “how am I to distinguish betwixt the true and the false where both alike seem real?”

“Do you not understand?” he returned, with a smile that might have slain all the sorrows of all his children. “You cannot perfectly distinguish between the true and the false while you are not yet quite dead; neither indeed will you when you are quite dead—that is, quite alive, for then the false will never present itself.”

Topic:

Truth

“Thou doubtest because thou lovest the truth. Some would willingly believe life but a phantasm, if only it might forever afford them a world of pleasant dreams: thou art not of such. Be content for a while not to know surely. The hour will come, and that ere long, when, being true, thou shalt behold the very truth, and doubt will be forever dead. Scarce, then, wilt thou be able to recall the features of the phantom. Thou wilt then know that which thou canst not now dream. Thou hast not yet looked the Truth in the face, hast as yet at best but seen him through a cloud. That which thou seest not, and never didst see save in a glass darkly—that which, indeed, never can be known save by its innate splendor shining straight into pure eyes—that thou canst not but doubt, and art blameless in doubting until thou seest it face to face, when thou wilt no longer be able to doubt it. But to him who has once seen even a shadow only of the truth, and, even but hoping he has seen it when it is present no longer, tries to obey it— to him the real vision, the Truth himself will come, and depart no more, but abide with him forever.”

“I think I see, father,” I said; “I think I understand.”

“Then remember, and recall. Trials yet await thee, heavy, of a nature thou knowest not now. Remember the things thou hast seen. Truly thou knowest not those things, but thou knowest what they have seemed, what they have meant to thee. Remember also the things thou shalt yet see. Truth is all in all; and the truth of things lies, at once hid and revealed, in their seeming.”

44
The Waking

“Without a substance,” he answered, “a shadow cannot be—yea, or without a light behind the substance.”

Topic:

The Devil

47
The Endless Ending

In moments of doubt I cry,

“Could God Himself create such lovely things as I dreamed?”

“Whence then came thy dream?” answers Hope.

“Out of my dark self, into the light of my consciousness.”

“But whence first into thy dark self?” rejoins Hope.

“My brain was its mother, and the fever in my blood its father.”

“Say rather,” suggests Hope, “thy brain was the violin whence it issued, and the fever in thy blood the bow that drew it forth.—But who made the violin? and who guided the bow across its strings? Say rather, again—who set the song birds each on its bough in the tree of life, and startled each in its order from its perch? Whence came the fantasia? and whence the life that danced thereto? Didst thou say, in the dark of thy own unconscious self, ‘Let beauty be; let truth seem!’ and straightway beauty was, and truth but seemed?”

Man dreams and desires; God broods and wills and quickens.

When a man dreams his own dream, he is the sport of his dream; when Another gives it him, that Other is able to fulfill it.

Topic:

Creativity

Now and then, when I look round on my books, they seem to waver as if a wind rippled their solid mass, and another world were about to break through. Sometimes when I am abroad, a like thing takes place; the heavens and the earth, the trees and the grass appear for a moment to shake as if about to pass away; then, lo, they have settled again into the old familiar face! At times I seem to hear whisperings around me, as if some that loved me were talking of me; but when I would distinguish the words, they cease, and all is very still. I know not whether these things rise in my brain, or enter it from without. I do not seek them; they come, and I let them go.

text checked (see note) Jul 2005

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