An Apt Allegory

It isn’t often we students of A Course in Miracles find something written over sixty years ago that lines up well with the Course’s fundamental teachings. So I want to share with you an allegory written by C. S. Lewis, who was one of the most influential Christian writers of the last century. The little book that I recommend is “The Great Divorce”, which Lewis wrote in response to William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. I have not read the latter, but judging from Lewis’s response, I’d say that “The Marriage” must, in the Course’s terms, “confuse levels” by trying to make both God and the world real (duality). The “divorce” referred to in Lewis’s title is the divorce of Heaven and hell. Through his allegory, he sorts out Truth from illusion (non-duality), just as the Course does. He even speaks of God as Reality and everything else as a dream!

The book is written in the first person, and the main character is never named. He has died and finds himself in a gray place that is sparsely populated, but he sees several people getting on a bus, so he joins them. Several people decide at the last minute to not get on. In short, the bus it taking him to a place that is just outside of Heaven. I don’t remember it being named, so I’ll call it “the plain”. The world in this story is referred to as “deep hell”; the gray place is “hell” if one remains in it, but if they go on they call it “purgatory”. Every one, it seems, initially lands in the gray hell, which is rather like a better dream of separation from God. One can have anything they want there just by wanting it. They also can get on the bus at any time to go to Heaven. It’s their choice. Most in this gray hell, however, have moved far away from the bus station, which is why the area around it seems deserted.

Upon reaching the plain, they are eventually met by Spirits, who are initially called “solid people” because those arriving from hell are ghost-like in this place. The Spirits are the ghosts’ guides to Heaven, if the ghosts are willing. And it is here that the protagonist overhears the various obstacles to God that are represented by the ghost’s stories. Reading this book, I recognized all of the forms of resistance to God that I have had myself, and that I see over and over again in others. (My life partner, Courtney, who is Christian, and who read this book before me a few weeks ago, says it has “changed her life” and brought her closer to God). This book is fantastic at pointing out the subtle forms that resisting God can take, and the many ways that we delude ourselves that we are close to God when we are really going in the other direction. I was particularly fond of the story of the clergyman who refused to accept that God is Fact because he enjoyed the “mystery” of God so much more! Hard as it is to fathom now, I can remember preferring the seeking to the finding for a long time myself.
I would say that we students of the Course live on the plain just outside of Heaven; our Guide is the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, when we feel particularly ornery, we get on the bus and return to hell and try to convince ourselves that it’s good enough because it’s better than the deep hell we were in before. But then we accept that hell is hell, and we get back on the bus and come up to the plain again. Eventually, we stay on the plain, and let the Holy Spirit help us remove our obstacles to God, and lift us Home.

This allegory is not perfectly in line with the Course; there are whiffs of traditional Christianity’s love of sacrifice, and it is never made clear that upon reaching God, individuality ceases to exist. But these are minor details. The book is great at sorting out Truth and illusion, and at making it clear that hell and Heaven are your choice, not something imposed on you. God is Pure Love, and the Spirits are Pure Joy, always laughing at the forms of resistance they encounter. They never take it seriously because they know the Truth!

Read The Message of A Course in Miracles: A translation of the Text in plain language at


If you and your partner are reading Lewis and Blake, you might also enjoy Swedenborg who was influential on both. I am a long-time student of Swedenborg and brand new to the Course. I am finding many similarities between the Course and Swedenborg as well as some fundamental differences. Thank you for your obviously intense and lengthy study of A Course In Miracles. Your work is helping I and my study group immensely!
Bryn Athyn, PA
TStrang said…
Hi Jeremy,

Do you have a favorite Swedenborg book? Thanks for the idea.

Hi Tamara:

I do.
Favorite #1 - Divine Love and Wisdom
Favorite #2 - Divine Providence

TStrang said…
Thanks very much, Jeremy. It's helpful to have recommendations since there are so many choices. Tamara

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