War in Heaven
Charles Williams

Charles Williams

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War in Heaven


the Inklings
the Holy Grail
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War in Heaven

Copyright © 1930 Charles Williams
Copyright © 1949 Pelligrini & Cudahy

Chapter One
The Prelude

That dead bodies did not usually lie round in one of the rooms of a publisher’s offices in London about half-past two in the afternoon was a certainty that formed now an enormous and cynical background to the fantastic possibility.

“If he were alive and had got under your table and wouldn’t take any notice I should be afraid you’d annoyed him somehow. I think that’s rather a pleasant notion,” he went on as they crossed the corridor, “a sort of modern King’s Threshold—get under the table of the man who’s insulted you and simply sulk there.”

“Are you a religious man, Mr. Persimmons?”

“Well, not—not exactly religious,” the publisher said hesitatingly. “Not what you’d call religious unpleasantly, I mean.”



Chapter Two
The Evening in Three Homes
II Mornington suspected his Christianity of being the inevitable result of having moved for some time as a youth of eighteen in circles which were, in a rather detached and superior way, opposed to it; but it was a religion which enabled him to despise himself and everyone else without despising the universe, thus allowing him at once in argument or conversation the advantages of the pessimist and the optimist. It was because the Vicar, a hard-worked practical priest, had been driven by stress of experience to some similar standpoint that the two occasionally found one another congenial.

“Well, sir, I always understood that where Job scored over the three friends was in feeling a natural curiosity why all those unfortunate things happened to him. They simply put up with it, but he, so to speak, asked God what He thought He was doing.”

The Vicar shook his head. “He was told he couldn’t understand.”

“He was taunted with not being able to understand—which isn’t quite the same thing,” Mornington answered. “As a mere argument there’s something lacking perhaps, in saying to a man who’s lost his money and his house and his family and is sitting on the dustbin, all over boils, ‘Look at the hippopotamus.’ ”

[...] Castra Parvulorum, was it? What a jolly name!”

“Unfortunately it isn’t generally called that,” the Archdeacon said. “It’s called in directories and so on, and by the inhabitants, Fardles. By Grimm’s Law.”



Chapter Five
The Chemist’s Shop
As soon as the invalid was allowed to receive visitors, Mr. Batesby carried the hint of the New Testament, “I was sick and ye visited me” to an extreme which made nonsense of the equally authoritative injunction to be “wise as serpents.”
Each day after he had gone the Archdeacon found himself inclined to brood on the profound wisdom of that phrase in the Athanasian Creed which teaches the faithful that “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God” are salvation and the Divine End achieved. That the subjects of their conversation should be taken into God was normal and proper; what else, the Archdeacon wondered, could one do with parish councils? But his goodwill could not refrain from feeling that to Mr. Batesby they were opportunities for converting the Godhead rather firmly and finally into flesh.
Chapter Six
The Sabbath

“He thinks morals are more important than dogma, and of course I agree with him.”

“Did you say ‘of course I agree’ or ‘of course I agreed’?” the Archdeacon asked. “Or both?”

“I mean I thought the same thing,” Mr. Batesby explained. He had noticed a certain denseness in the Archdeacon on other occasions.



“If he isn’t a Christian—”

“Oh, but he is,” Mr. Batesby protested. “In effect, that is. He thinks Christ was the second greatest man the earth has produced.”

“Who was the first?” the Archdeacon asked.

Mr. Batesby paused again for a moment. “Do you know, I forgot to ask?” he said. “But it shows a sympathetic spirit, doesn’t it?”



One had views for convenience’ sake, but how anyone could think they mattered. Except, of course, that even silly views . . .
Chapter Seven
“It has really been very thoughtful of you.” He substituted “thoughtful” for “kind” at the last minute with an eye on truth.
Chapter Eight

“Oh, damn and blast!” he cried with a great voice. “Why was this bloody world created?”

“As a sewer for the stars,” a voice in front of him said. “Alternatively, to know God and to glorify Him for ever.”




Chapter Ten
The Second Attempt on the Graal
“Neither is this Thou,” he breathed; and answered, “Yet this also is Thou.” He considered, in this, the chalice offered at every altar, and was aware again of a general movement of all things towards a narrow channel. Of all material things still discoverable in the world the Graal had been nearest to the Divine and Universal Heart. Sky and sea and land were moving, not towards that vessel, but towards all it symbolized and had held. The consecration at the Mysteries was for him no miraculous change; he had never dreamed of the heavenly courts attending Christ upon the altar. But in accord with the desire of the Church expressed in the ritual of the Church the Sacred Elements seemed to him to open upon the Divine Nature, upon Bethlehem and Calvary and Olivet, as that itself opened upon the Centre of all. And through that gate, upon those tides of retirement, creation moved.

It crossed Kenneth’s mind, as he sank to his knees, that if God could not be insulted, neither could He be defied, nor in that case the procession and retrogression of the universe disturbed by the subject motion of its atoms. But he saw, running out like avenues, a thousand metaphysical questions, and they disappeared in the excitement of his spirit.

Chapter Eleven
The Ointment
“They build and we destroy. That’s what levels us; that’s what stops them. One day we shall destroy the world. What can you do with it that is so good as that?”
Chapter Twelve
The Third Attempt on the Graal
That the universe was displeasing to him did not prove that a god existed who could save him from the universe.
Chapter Eighteen
Castra Parvulorum

“But I bring the desire of all men, and what will you ask of me?”

“Annihilation,” Lionel answered. “I have not asked for life, and I should be content now to know that soon I should not be. Do you think I desire the heaven they talk of?”

“Death you shall have at least,” the other said. “But God only gives, and He has only Himself to give, and He, even He, can give it only in those conditions which are Himself. Wait but a few years, and He shall give you the death you desire. But do not grudge too much if you find that death and heaven are one.”



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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