Lewis, C S - The Silver Chair - Fire and the abyss
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
C S Lewis – The Silver Chair
In this way they came to the edge of the chasm. It was about a thousand feet long and perhaps 200 wide… A strong heat smote up into their faces, mixed with a smell which was quite unlike any they had ever smelled. It was rich, sharp, exciting and made you sneeze. The depth of the chasm was so bright that at first it dazzled their eyes and they could see nothing. When they got used to it they thought they could make out a river of fire and on the banks of that river what seemed to be fields and groves of an unbearable hot brilliance – though they were dim compared to the river. There were blues, reds, greens and whites all jumbled together; a very good stained glass window with the tropical sun staring straight through it at midday might have the same effect.
‘Your honours, why don’t you come down to Bism?’
‘But could a man live there? You do not swim in the river itself?’
‘Oh no, your Honour, not we. It’s only salamanders live in the fire itself’…
‘What kind of beast is your salamander’? asked the Prince.
‘It is hard to tell their kind…’ said Golg ‘For they are too white hot to look at. But they are most like small dragons. They speak to us out of the fire. They are wonderfully clever with their tongues – very witty and eloquent….’
‘Down there’ said Golg ‘I could show you real gold, real silver real diamonds. I have heard of those little scratches in the crust you Top Dwellers call mines. But that’s where you get dead gold, dead silver, dead gems. Down in Bism we have them alive and growing. There, I’ll pick you bunches of rubies that you can eat and squeeze you a cup full of diamond juice. You won’t care much about fingering the cold, dead treasures of your shallow mines after you have tasted the live ones of Bism’.
‘My father went to the world’s end’ said Rilian thoughtfully ‘It would be a marvellous thing if his son sent to the bottom of the world…. I have left half of my heart in the land of Bism’
At that moment a hissing, scorching voice like the voice of Fire itself (they wondered afterwards wheter it could have been the salamanders) came whistling up out of the very depths of Bism.
‘Quick, quick, quick. To the cliffs, to the cliffs, to the cliffs’ it said ‘the rift closes’