What Lewis NEVER Wrote (with William O’Flaherty)

Lewis Never WroteIn this show I’m sharing a 20 minute academic paper I presented at Taylor University that was part of the 9th Frances White Ewbank Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends and given on Friday, May 30, 2014. The presentation I did was on quotations falsely attributed to Lewis. It was called “What Lewis NEVER Wrote.” Finally, when recording this talk I neglected to consider the fact that when I was advancing the PowerPoint presentation my recording device was too close to the computer…so you will unfortunately hear a lot of annoying clicks that I was unable to edit out of the audio.

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    What Lewis NEVER Wrote

    Quotes Misattributed to the Oxford Professor Don

    William O’Flaherty

    #1: “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”

    Imperfect Reflections traced the quote to a 1959 book by Walter Miller, Canticle for Leibowitz (a science fiction novel), where a character says “You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.” If you are aware that Lewis died in 1963, then you still might be thinking Miller may have gotten it from him.

    Post on Mere Orthodoxy tracks a similar quote back further to 1892.

    1892 monthly journal called The British Friend had a piece entitled “BE NOT ENTANGLED AGAIN IN A YOKE OF BONDAGE.” (p. 157) by “W. H. F. A.”. It has the author attributed it to George MacDonald.


    Man has held three views of his body. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the “tomb” of the soul, and of Christians like Fisher to whom it was a “sack of dung,” food for worms, filthy, shameful, a source of nothing but temptation to bad men and humiliation to good ones. Then there are the Neo-Pagans (they seldom know Greek), the nudists and the sufferers from Dark Gods, to whom the body is glorious. But thirdly we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body “Brother Ass.” All three may be—I am not sure—defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money.
    The Four Loves, chapter 5

    ALSO: Perelandra, chapter 11


    #2: “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

    Says it is a Les Brown quote: http://www.lesbrown.com/english/motivational_quotes.html

    YouTube Video by Les Brown: http://youtu.be/eAGqBhQXWTE


    Progress means getting nearer to a desired goal and therefore means not being there already.



    Do not blame a man for making slow progress to the North when he is trying to get to the East.
    Rehabilitations, “The Idea of an ‘English School,’”


    Once a dream has become a fact I suppose it loses something. This isn’t affectation: we long & long for a thing and when it comes it turns out to be just a pleasant incident, very much like others.

    The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (2 November 1918).


    Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality.

    The Screwtape Letters, Letter XXIX


    #3: “No clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet.”

    In chapter seven of The Great Divorce we have the follow statement by one of the characters Lewis created:

    “’What would you say if you went to a hotel where the eggs were all bad and when you complained to the Boss, instead of apologising and changing his dairyman, he just told you that if you tried you’d get to like bad eggs in time?’”


    “A good toe-nail is not an unsuccessful attempt at a brain: and if it were conscious it wd. delight in being simply a good toe-nail.”
    (Letter to Hugh Kilmer from April 5, 1961 in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3)

    “Is an elephant more important than a man, or a man’s leg than his brain?”
    (Essay – Christian Apologetics in God in the Dock)

    “A man is still fairly sober as long as he knows he’s drunk.”
    (Essay – Answers to Questions on Christianity in God in the Dock)

    “Those who do not think about their own sins make up for it by thinking incessantly about the sins of others.”
    (Essay – Miserable Offenders in God in the Dock)

    “You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping.”
    (Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 4)

    “A cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”
    (Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 5)

    #4: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

    The earliest place this quotation came from is the 2002 edition of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. On Day 19 in the chapter called “Cultivating Community” he makes this very statement without giving any source.


    In the eight chapter of Book 3 – Christian Behaviour, entitled “The Great Sin,” he deals with the subject of pride. There he says:

    “It is better to forget about yourself altogether”

    And near the end of the chapter he states that a really humble person:

    “…will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud.”

    “A man is never so proud as when striking an attitude of humility!”

    from Christianity and Culture in Christian Reflections)


    As long as one knows one is proud one is safe from the worst form of pride.

    Letters of C. S. Lewis (15 May 1952)

    No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did.

    “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” (1959)

    “If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?”

    Book 3 – Christian Behaviour entitled “The Great Sin,”
    Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.
    Book 3 – Christian Behaviour entitled “The Great Sin,”

    Lewis quoted William Law from chapter fifteen of A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
    “There can be no surer proof of a confirmed pride than a belief that one is sufficiently humble.”

    Letters to an American Lady (24 February 1961)


    #5: “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more
    clever devil.”

    This nearly sounds like Lewis, doesn’t it? A valueless education might make you clever, but without morals you are closer to being like the devil.

    However, that is not really what this quotations says.  My restatement Lewis would agree with.


    “A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.” 
    The Abolition of Man, chapter 3

    The truth finally becomes apparent that neither in any operation with factual propositions nor in any appeal to instinct can the Innovator find the basis for a system of values.
    The Abolition of Man, chapter 2

    The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes.
    The Abolition of Man, chapter 1

    All schools, both here [in England] and in America, ought to teach far fewer subjects and teach them far better. 
    Letters to Children (29 September 1958)



  1. Hello! I loved this episode. I’ve always been irritated about C.S. Lewis misquotes, and there are many. Some of these I’ve never heard of before. One misquote that I find particularly irritating is one that actually does appear in one of Lewis’ books, but is taken way out of context. The quote is “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

    The quote is from The Four Loves, but it’s not something Lewis is saying himself. It’s part of his paraphrase of one of St. Augustine’s ideas, that Lewis goes on to refute. (I’ve gone deeper into the context of his views on this idea on my own blog.)

    So that might be another quote you may want to talk about in the future. Also, I just came across another quote attributed to Lewis today: “My prayer is that when I die, all of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight.”

    This does not sound like something that Lewis would have said, neither in voice or tone, or in content. I find the idea it conveys to be a bit suspect. I was wondering if you’ve ever come across this quote before, either in your reading of Lewis’ works, or in your attempts to disprove some of his misquotations?

    Thanks, and keep up the great work on the podcast!

    • William OFlaherty /

      Thanks for you feedback and kind words. The quotes you share hadn’t been on my “radar” but they are now.
      Regarding the quote from The Four Loves, it reminds me of one from The Great Divorce that I use to share until I re-read the context and realized the way it was expressed in the story didn’t have the same meaning as an isolated quote. This is the quote: “What is more soul-destroying than stagnation?” It comes from someone who doesn’t believe that is a final truth.
      I will plan to do some research on the “prayer” quote and let you know what I come up with.

  2. the hedgehog /

    A little additional info to #5:

    I just have read a chapter (Blood, sweat and tears) from Way to Happiness (1953) by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

    There is a quotation:

    “Someday our educators will awaken to several basic facts about youth:
    (1) Youth has an intellect and a will. The intellect is the source of his knowledge; the will, the source of his decisions. If his choices are wrong, the youth will be wrong regardless of how much he knows.
    (2) Education through the communication of knowledge does not necessarily make a good man; it can conceivably make learned devils instead of stupid devils.
    (3) Education is successful when it trains the mind to see the right targets, and disciplines the will to chose them rather than the wrong targets.”

  3. Paul Miller /

    This was tremendously helpful. Thank you for all the many, many hours of lonely, long nights that went into giving us all the truth. May you be greatly encouraged by the good you have done here.

    • William OFlaherty /

      I’m glad you enjoyed my article. Thanks for letting me know.


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