Descent into Hell

Descent into Hell The Key To Williams Mystically Oriented Theological Thought, Descent Into Hell Arguably Williams Greatest Novel Is A Multidimensional Story About Human Beings Who Shut Themselves Up In Their Own Narcissistic Projections, So That They Are No Longer Able To Love, To Co Inhere The Result Is A Veritable Hell

Charles Walter Stansby Williams is probably best known, to those who have heard of him, as a leading member albeit for a short time of the Oxford literary group, the Inklings , whose chief figures were C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien He was, however, a figure of enormous interest in his own right a prolific author of plays, fantasy novels strikingly different in kind from those of his friends ,

[BOOKS] ⚦ Descent into Hell By Charles  Williams –
  • Paperback
  • 222 pages
  • Descent into Hell
  • Charles Williams
  • English
  • 08 July 2019
  • 9780802812209

10 thoughts on “Descent into Hell

  1. says:

    Wow I am so glad I returned to this story It took me less time to read it this second time but I got so much out of it Rereading Williams s tale in relation to C S Lewis s book The Great Divorce made all the difference Having read Many Dimensions, another Williams thriller, during the intervening years also helped And Thomas Howard s book, The Novels of Charles Williams, also made a tremendous difference in allowing me to penetrate the miasma of descriptive prose for which Williams is famous Thanks again Julie All I can say is do not be fooled by the title Please The descent part is only half of the story There is redemption and salvific joy here too Charles Williams wrote to show that our choices are all critical and always matter In Descent into Hell action centers around the production of a play which takes place on Battle Hill named for the many historic military battles which have occurred on the locale As this is a story about the all important battle for souls, this name also serves as a spiritual double entendre Near the end, there was a glorious climax where a dying woman s request, a young girl s fear, and a new friend s tested promise all come together in a moment of divine propinquity which, when I read it, had tears running down my cheeks It was so beautiful There is also no denying the great darkness in descent I believe Williams meant this to be a warning It is certainly a thriller What struck me were the characters that chose hell, turned away from others, were rejecting and or quitters So long as one persisted in something, with someone, somewhere, there was hope The message I take from this is, don t ever give up Continue to reach out to others Another beautiful passage in the book is where Williams describes one character offering Joy in exchange for carrying the other person s fear What a powerful image of love in action ORIGINAL REVIEW December 16, 2008 One part horror, one part salvation and the rest the possibility for either, Descent Into Hell isn t all as ominous as the title sounds Yes, there is at least one character who allows delusion to sweep away reason and reality The reader watches in fearful fascination as the deadly descent begins and progresses.This was my first ever book by Charles Williams, a friend of J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis and a member of the famous Inklings, the literary pub group they belonged to How I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at those meetings I can just imagine Williams reading this book to his compatriots No blood and gore thriller produced today, no matter how fiendish, can surpass the reality of an individual succumbing to evil without a fight it is chilling.If the book were only about darkness, however, I don t think I could have finished it Instead, there is a parallel story about another character that is also haunted, disappointed and apparently even justified in following a path of descent, which does not Descent contains many beautiful passages, hidden or double meanings, places where you want to pause and reflect on the author s full intention It is a book worth reading slowly Williams believed that everything which happens has an underlying spiritual meaning It was the spiritual side of things he was interested in the physical world was is clothing so to speak to dress what is really happening That belief is not too far from Lewis own Shadowlands concept Again, just imagine the great conversations they had Read Descent Into Hell but plan to take your time with it It can be confusing in places I admit that I did not understand all of it I d love to find a William s expert somewhere who could go over the book with me because there are confusing bits here and there, but even so, it was an incredible book I m sure I d raise my rating to 5 stars if I could only understand it all I definitely plan to read it again and God willing I want to read the rest of his books.

  2. says:

    I read this book once way back in the day, in my teens or twenties sometime It was vivid, and I remembered details of the book, and other details from Williams other novel That said, I thought that Williams was a gifted weirdo I decided to read this book again, and really enjoyed it I am reminded of Mark Twain s comment that when he was 17, his father was an idiot, and when he was 21, he was amazed to see how the old man had grown in four years.

  3. says:

    Here be some trippy penteChristal shite Threnodic theatre, scaffold ghosts dazed and confused, a funhouse of sin where the mirrors reveal the distortions to body, mind and soul by a self centeredness and worldly rapture threatening to metastasize, and the most baroque ego suppurating beat down since the mascaraed spiritual insolvency of the volcanic vultures from Riders in the Chariot Williams style squeezes the air from your lungs, making the process of penetrating the mysteries of his tale a distinctly uncomfortable and asphyxiating experience it s like reading with a pair of eyeglasses that tauten one s vision and limn each word with bruising vigor Sternly surreal, morally fraught, and temporally claustrophobic, and yet these perhaps unappealing parts definitely combine to make a compelling whole.

  4. says:

    This is a remarkable novel Normally, I love a book with a well wrought plot and this story concerns nothing than a community performing a play written by the local celebrity poet, Stanhope But into this apparently innocuous framework Williams introduces a suicide and a doppelg nger Further, the various characters involved in the play soon reveal various jealousies, motives and rivalries As usual, Williams is adroit in creating believable and sympathetic women Margaret and Pauline Anstruher are examples Margaret is Pauline s dying grandmother and is a beautifully drawn character She gives me an idea of what Sybil of The Greater Trumps might have become Pauline is a deeply tormented person and through her relationship with Stanhope we learn of the law of substituted love , an aspect of Williams theological concept of Co inherence Finally, there is the strange, ambiguous figure of the historian, Wentworth Much of the novel focuses on his choices and he is the character that gives the novel its name Descent Into Hell weaves a brilliant tapestry of symbolism, mysticism, philosophy, spirituality, life, death and intensely powerful psychological characterisation It is a novel that goes to the roots of being and combines the visions of the eagle and the worm It is frightening and consoling It is unforgettable.

  5. says:

    Follow my Charles Williams blog, The Oddest Inkling, for context on this book and later a summary and other thoughts William Blake once wrote For every thing that lives is Holy and yet, Christ made division between subjects of the kingdom vs slaves to the darkness when He said He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left Matthew 25 33 In Descent into Hell, Charles Williams sees beyond that fundamental opposition, which is a byproduct of temporal reality, into the deeper truth where those contradictory ends of a rope join and are one As he usually does, Williams creates several threads and traces them throughout this story The first thread is that of The Play A great poet, Peter Stanhope, has just finished his latest play, and his home community is about to begin its first rehearsals.The second thread is that of a doppleganger a ghostly or spiritual double This is the double of a young lady named Pauline It is her secret terror, the unbearable sickening agony that drives her into houses, into company, out of solitude, for fear she will meet it and have to look it in the face But, Mercifully, her fear is taken from her so that she can face it By means of The Doctrine of Substitution or The Way of Exchange, Stanhope offers to take her fear and carry it for her The third thread is a pretentious little actress named Adela and an historian named Wentworth Wentworth has a crush on Adela and fantasizes about her, and gradually trains his spirit to feed itself on its fantasies to the exclusion of reality Wentworth creates a succubus out of his own imagination and establishes an erotic relationship with it He retreats and into his own lurid, sordid realm of bodily and mental perversion, climbing down down down a rope towards a Hell of his own making Similarly, an unnamed workman, worn out with a life of ill treatment, commits suicide by hanging himself with a rope very like the one down which Wentworth is climbing in his mind It just so happens that the man hangs himself from Wentworth s house before it is built The dead man, in the past, and Wentworth, in his sullied mind, stand elbow to elbow unaware of each other There is another character from the past occupying the same Hill He is Pauline s ancestor, and he was burnt to death at the stake by Bloody Mary some 400 years earlier Pauline hears about his martyrdom, and Stanhope suggests that she can carry her ancestor s fear for him Descent into Hell really is CW s best book The pacing of the book is admirable, with cycles of intensity alternating with passages of vague visionary stasis and tranquil revelations unfolding Run out read it, now

  6. says:

    Wow Every five years I stumble across a book of this caliber, and I now understand why this novel is considered to be Williams best From beginning to end, Williams crafts a story that reads like a theological drama which, though obscure, is deeply personal and engaged with humanity s need for communion with God and one another Williams believed that the source of sin and alienation from God and one another is our failure to live according to co inherence There are passages in this book which give beautiful, refreshing, and yet slanted perspectives on the matters of spiritual direction, Christian doctrine, evangelical witness, and cosmology Coinherence is not simply a motif for Williams characters, it is also a literary form of sorts This story expands one s theological imagination, even if Williams drifts a touch too far from orthodox understandings of the eternal realm and individual responsibility But a drift is not a departure, and the work which evangelical Christians need most is the expansion of their imagination This Williams does masterfully, and at the conclusion of the novel, you will understand why C.S Lewis was drawn to Christ through this man s work.

  7. says:

    This is not an easy book In fact, it is a very difficult book on two grounds the style and the content But it is a minor masterpiece that deserves much wider readership.The style owes something to its period The emotionally cold world of 1930s Britain It is cerebral The artistry like the play at the centre of the first half is classical and functional Conversations can seem rhetorical and clipped The approach to the supernatural is Roman rather than romantic.Williams is not merely a highly educated Christian but he has read his Dante and his classics His readership is uncompromisingly assumed to know the canon a barrier in itself to post modern man I found it very difficult and only mastered the style, to the extent that I did, by imagining it first as part poetic and second to be read out aloud, perhaps on occasions declaimed As one reads, one senses quotation after quotation for the cognoscenti This calls for a critical edition.I came to this book as a result of the enthusiasm of the literary historian Glen Cavaliero, whose The Supernatural in English Fiction reviewed elsewhere on GoodReads praised Williams for his startling portrayal of the supernatural Williams books are not easy to find in modern London so I had to resort, not to the edition noted here, but to an old post war standard edition from Faber Faber, which is unusually defensive about its limited appeal on the dust jacket, obtained by rummaging through the shelves of our local antiquarian bookshop.Williams writes as a High Anglican, an Elizabethan Settlement Christian, whose theological commitment is deep, so deep that I will confess that I could not always understand it There are obscurities, arrogances almost The cold word play might alienate many but it is worth persevering to the point, in my case, where I might well choose to pick up this book again in ten years and know that I will see the great deal that was missed on first reading Where his genius lies is in the literary elision of a recognisable material reality into the spiritual realm I have seen no writing like this perhaps the equally difficult and intense but very un Christian John Cowper Powys might come close and perhaps there is something of the chilled intellect and emotional desert of the world of Brief Encounter in it, but it is rare to find something that can convey so effectively not what we might feel like if we met a ghost but what it is to be a ghost, as a rational possibility.And that is the point Williams makes supernaturalism vividly possible, based on persons who are real rather than merely allegorical though there is a dash of minor key allegory in each Centred in a place embedded in history the appropriately named Battle Hill the book mixes up space, time and other worlds with panache than the usual English business of going through a cupboard door, climbing into a police box or getting on a magical train.The continuity of an existence in which the natural and the supernatural flow naturally into one another, all providentially one in space time with Zion and Gehenna embedded within the Republic our material world of work and or less orderly administration , is masterfully handled Spirits co exist who are barely aware or are unaware of each other A building may be built and not built at the same time A spirit who dies in one place in time is met much later in time as if scarcely any time had passed.The occasion for the story is a play at a country house in a village Far away is the Big City Journeys between village and City have meaning The world of work has ultimate meaning But the play is the thing a rather conventional poetic affair that sets off the fantastic narrative that centres on, amongst others, the ghost of a beaten man, a woman troubled by a doppelganger, a succubus created by a man whose destiny is hell and an earthy and sinister Lilith figure.The play is to its writer, what the world is to God a formal affair with poetry and beauty added Between the formalities, the word play and the disquisitions are moments of exceptional expressive writing.We see a determined leaden journey to suicide, the ghost that slowly comes to terms with his new world without ever truly realising what he is, the descent into madness or evil as distance from God of one character, the haunting but dessicated temptation to lust in its pure, not sexual sense of another.At the bottom of all this is an attempt to express an inexpressible the mysterium tremendum of Christianity This book does not exist without the author s faith, intellectualised perhaps but only because the matters of which he writes are so deep that any explanation requires the dignity of intellect, rather than the expression of sentiment It is a standing rebuke to shallow sentiment.Rather than do the impossible and try to explain what I might think Williams means, I will hone in one central idea and the title of a central chapter The Doctrine of Substituted Love What this is, in essence, is redemption through charity where the pain and suffering of another can be taken through will and in trust that another will take yours.Pauline who wills her own redemption God is referred to only elliptically throughout is aided by two saintly figures the poet playwright Stanhope who introduces her to the Doctrine and her aunt, Mrs Anstruther, an aged person close to the end of existence who is ready for the next stage The hope for and faith in an eternal redemption is to be expressed through charity.The character of Wentworth, the darkest of the figures drawn, and the Lilith figure of Mrs Sammile are willfully disregarding of others true needs and are expressions of hate and lust respectively Wentworth s lust is the negation of love in his construction of a succubus out of the image of his desire His descent into hell of the title is progressive.But no on the content Although not a thriller with a plot in quite that way, too much information could spoil the story There is no surprise in persons getting their just deserts but how they get there, the temptations on the way and the opportunities for redemption ignored, that is for you to read.A highly recommended book especially if you are not, as I am not, a believer in the religions of the book The Christian tradition has degenerated in our eyes into stories of institutional tyranny and abuse and insane irrational politics or we have tried to construct some Gnostic version for our own times but Williams reminds us that, though we may not think it true, the Christian tradition can be noble in the Roman sense.This book did not get a large readership in its own time and probably will not appeal to most people today The sensibility is Early Modern and aristocratic It is also absurdly unscientific But it will give some people some inkling of a religion that provided solace to many in darker ages.Above all, it does so by not being traditionalist which is the current fashion of conservative pessimists operating without a myth that is actively present in the world Williams is not a Larkin or a Lovecraft Things change in the material world and this is just how things are as Pauline and Stanhope understand Death just is and it is not a matter for torment if a life is led well as Mrs Anstruther demonstrates Such Christianity is of the Stoic kind.New housing estates are built and jobs are taken in the City but all such phenomena are still built on the past and on a living tradition rather than some constructed ism religion here is not ideology, at least in the eyes of the author The torments and sufferings of ancestors are owed their own duty of substituted love This is a book of conservative England at its best and I write as a left libertarian who wars with this tendency in his own world Yes, very difficult but rewarding.

  8. says:

    Probably the greatest Christian novel ever Williams transforms occult symbols into vehicles for Christian truth His ability to see into spiritual reality is unparalleled He is said to have been a man for whom the Nicene Creed was as real and operative as the law of gravity People in this novel interact with the Triune God mostly without knowing it, deciding their eternal destiny based on their response A welcome change from most modern novels where characters live in an empty, absurd universe.

  9. says:

    WARNING If you feel like retaining any sanity, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK Perhaps the best description of this book is that it s terribly good Not for the faint of heart.

  10. says:

    Charles Williams was one of the Oxford inklings , a literary group which also included C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien, and he was far and away the most deeply mystical one of the trio Any reader who takes the dark and often surreal journey through this novel of his, Descent Into Hell , will understand clearly how Williams gained his reputation.Here you will find what, on the surface, seems a simple enough plot a group of amateur actors putting on a play in a small town But, as Williams masterfully pulls back the curtain of their lives, you ll discover the deep existential struggles that plague many of the group s members As he tells the story, Williams confronts you with ghosts literally of the past, who still move and mourn among the current residents And, from beginning to end, there are deep theological and philosophical musings that require some close reading to comprehend Though I don t know that I grasped all of the layers and realms that are present in Williams rich, sometimes stream of consciousness, occasionally opaque prose, the story was still a stark example of how unwise moral choices, seeming simple at first, can drag a soul into bondage, addiction, and ultimately to an irreversible descent This was a unique and fascinating read, both terrifying and edifying Not a beach read by any means, but very much worthwhile.

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