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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book of profound relevance to the human condition
The language of this book is dated, but if you can overcome this distraction, it will introduce you to a perspective on the place and significance of human life that is awesome in its scope. This is a life changing book.
Charles Williams writes in a clear and cogent style. He was a poet as well as novelist, critic and theologian, and the respect for words and...
Published on 17 Jan. 2005 by Mr. Adam F. Dupre

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How serious is your metaphysics?
I can't claim to be an expert on The Inklings, of which Charles Williams was one - the more famous members being C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien, of course. This certainly is no usual book. As a novel it does not stand up at all, but then it was clearly not supposed to. The novel structure is merely an artifice for the presentation of metaphysical/religious ideas. From my...
Published 17 months ago by R. Bradford


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book of profound relevance to the human condition, 17 Jan. 2005
By 
Mr. Adam F. Dupre (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Place of the Lion (Paperback)
The language of this book is dated, but if you can overcome this distraction, it will introduce you to a perspective on the place and significance of human life that is awesome in its scope. This is a life changing book.
Charles Williams writes in a clear and cogent style. He was a poet as well as novelist, critic and theologian, and the respect for words and language that this implies gives his writing a refreshing lightness and directness. For Charles Williams, human beings are of crucial and real significance in the Order of the whole of Existence, though there is a necessary development for each of us from ignorant and 'fallen' state to the redeemed and fully human condition. In a way all his books are about this transformational journey.
In this novel, on entering into a kind of trance, a 'spiritualist' of some kind (not described in the book - and as a character he is of little importance in the novel) becomes the unconscious channel by which the archetypal Meanings and Forms that underlie and summarise material existence start to manifest into the material realm, gathering their different and multiple expressions into their own cohesive singularities. The hero of the book is required in his turn to become the original Adam, the first human, and essential mankind in all of us, and re-enact our common forefather's original balancing of the emergent creation by naming each material thing and thus re-endowing it with its particular and unique existence. Man, as the focus of creation, thus has a single but one function of summarising and unifying the manifestation of exoistence, and at the same time distinguishing it into its myriad vaied forms.
The hero has a beloved, a female academic who sees no further than the arid re-creation of metaphysical reality in her own mind, and is therefore sceptical and limited in her understanding of the great events unfolding before her. The reality if the love between her and her beloved focuses the energy for him to achieve his 'Adam function' of restoring order to the manifest universe, and also saves her from annihilation in intellectual dryness.
This is one of a series of the most extraordinary novels whose value goes far beyond their literary merits (which are many).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How serious is your metaphysics?, 13 Dec. 2013
By 
R. Bradford (Wotton-under-Edge, Glos, UK) - See all my reviews
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I can't claim to be an expert on The Inklings, of which Charles Williams was one - the more famous members being C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien, of course. This certainly is no usual book. As a novel it does not stand up at all, but then it was clearly not supposed to. The novel structure is merely an artifice for the presentation of metaphysical/religious ideas. From my limited knowledge it seems consistent with The Inklings perspective in that the theme is essentially a challenge regarding how seriously you can take metaphysical ideas. Very seriously indeed, is, I suspect, The Inklings' answer, and certain this is so here. In the book, Platonic ideals, or Angelic Powers, actually become physically manifest. That they also create havoc in the world is rather a strained notion but, I guess, it is the only way of inserting the dramatic element essential for the novel structure. The great Naming denouement very much reminded me of Aslan's naming of the animals in Narnia. I wonder if this was conscious or unconscious on C.S.Lewis's part (the Narnia books being later). The book is easy enough to read - as long as you do not attempt to make sense of every sentence.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the veil, 5 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The place of the lion (Hardcover)
"The Place of the Lion" is definitely the strangest novel I've ever read. But then, I admit that I don't usually read novels. Unless they are pretty strange, that is. ;-)

Charles Williams belonged to The Inklings, together with C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield and J. R. R. Tolkien. He was a university lecturer, and a prolific writer of novels, poetry and works of Christian theology. Williams' Christianity was pretty non-traditional, however, probably being inspired by A. E. Waite's esoteric-mystical Rosicrucian order (a split from the Golden Dawn). An analysis of certain aspects of Williams' religious message can be found in R. J. Reilly's "Romantic Religion", although Reilly attempts to minimize Williams' connections to Waite and occultism, such things not being respectable among the high society literati. Unfortunately, Reilly says very little about "The Place of the Lion", one of Williams' most well-known works of fiction, first published in 1931.

The plot is set in a trivial small town somewhere outside London, Smetham, which is suddenly invaded by supernatural creatures taking the form of animals. The creatures turn out to be Platonic Forms running amuck, after a local "spiritual teacher" has managed to pierce the veil between our world and the divine or spiritual world. Unfortunately, he has contacted the Forms for immoral and selfish reasons, wanting to tap their raw power. The "animals" posses and destroy human beings as they invade the town, and also start to destroy houses, telephone poles and the very ground itself, threatening a veritable apocalypse. Some of the people overtaken by the supernatural beings are "the usual suspects". Thus, a certain Foster, who has always craved power, gets precisely what he wants, being possessed by the heavenly archetype of a lion. Of course, he gets mad in the process. Other possession scenarios are more unexpected. Thus, one Mr Tighe, an obsessive butterfly collector, gets to see the Platonic Form of Beauty in the form of a gigantic butterfly, only to wither and die a few days later! What did he do wrong, I wonder? Eventually, Smetham is saved by the hero, Anthony, who is voluntarily possessed by the archetype of the eagle (also a symbol of the apostle John), re-enacts the drama in the Garden of Eden when "the Adam" named the animals, and makes the supernaturals go back to their own dimension of existence.

I'm not sure what the official interpretation of this tale might be, so I'm offering my impressions for all they may be worth. Williams is sharply critical of abstract, dead philosophy, represented in the novel by the cold-hearted Damaris and her philosophical hero Abelard, the medieval rationalist. The Platonic Forms aren't abstract first principles, but concrete personified powers (one is almost tempted to say "of flesh and blood"). That they take animal rather than human form simply makes them more terrifying, alive and real. In some sense, the Forms are angels, suggesting that our material reality was created by or through such personal powers. Williams is also against impersonal mysticism, represented by Richardson, who voluntarily goes to his self-destruction in the burning house lit by supernatural fires. I suppose the poor amateur entomologist Mr Tighe is a symbol of unbalanced, obsessive compulsion. Throughout the novel, Williams emphasizes the need for balance, both in the human soul and in the universe (balance between being and becoming, between the Lion and the Lamb, etc). Irrational fear of the unknown, or perhaps of the supernatural, is another no-no (Quentin). And, of course, cultic craving after power. Foster's sad fate reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" (quoted from memory): "Don't worry, if you really want to meet the Devil, you shall. If you will like him when you do, is another matter entirely".

Anthony, the saviour-figure, manages to save the world by his sense of balance, his unselfish love for Damaris and his equally unselfish friendship with Quentin. Anthony is the very opposite of a Randian hero, and (of course) the Christian ideal Williams wants the reader to emulate. While never explicitly comparing Anthony to Christ, it's certainly implied that he is sacrificing himself to save the world (in the end, he remains unscathed). Note also his re-enactment of Adam's behaviour before the Fall, and the entire Christian scenario with Christ being the Second Adam, etc. In Williams' version, there is also an "occult", Kabbalistic aspect, since "the" Adam (Adam Kadmon?) is hermaphroditic until being rendered in two, Adam and Eve. Williams considers this as something positive, since Adam and Eve are supposed to unite in love. Anthony is also the character who understands the personal, living nature of the Platonic Forms faster than anyone else in Smetham.

I admit that my "spiritual search" have had certain similarities with the cold intellect of Damaris and the weird obsession of her butterfly-collecting father. Well, at least I don't want supernatural power for its own sake!

As a modern reader, I was struck by certain curious traits of Williams' novel. The entire scenario of Anthony constantly courting the impossible Damaris (who wants to become an independent woman!) will surely strike the reader as anachronistic and somewhat patriarchal, but is to be expected of a novel written in 1931 by a "Christian" author. More strange is that Anthony and Damaris are cousins. Was cousin marriage socially acceptable in small town England at this time? A more comic trait is the fact that Anthony and his best friend Quentin share an apartment together. Today, people would assume they are gay! A small detail, perhaps, but I couldn't help noticing it...

That being said, I nevertheless recommend "The Place of the Lion" to those interested in the ideas of Charles Williams, or perhaps those searching for the reality behind the veil...

Addendum. There seems to be some contention concerning different editions of this work. This is a review of the 2003 Regent College Publishing edition, with blurbs by J I Packer, TIME and...Owen Barfield.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning, 16 Nov. 2009
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This review is from: The Place of the Lion (Paperback)
I have the idea that I'm dreaming....nothing is real anymore except the real truth. Absolutely stunning book. Makes you look out for God's reality because that's the only thing that finally counts, whatever we see, think, smell and hear - shocking when we loose that, but do not worry, God's reality is there. Yes read it!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bonkers but brilliant, 29 Jun. 2010
By 
T. Hooper (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Place of the Lion (Paperback)
I have no reeal idea what this is all about but such is the power of the prose and imagery, that doesn't matter. It's weird but 'good' weird.
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The Place of the Lion
The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams (Paperback - 23 Jan. 2012)
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