“The prison of himself”

Apr 24, 2015
2 min read

Did you know that C.S. Lewis once weighed in on the subject of masturbation? In a personal letter to someone named Keith Masson he illuminates the core problem with such a practice with his insightful candor. He approaches the topic in such a way that boils it down to some core principles. With the way things are in the world today, this wisdom could be useful so feel free to share.

“For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back: sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself… And it is not only the faculty of love which is thus sterilized, forced back on itself, but also the faculty of imagination.

The true exercise of imagination, in my view, is (a) To help us to understand other people (b) To respond to, and, some of us, to produce, art. But it has also a bad use: to provide for us, in shadowy form, a substitute for virtues, successes, distinctions etc. which ought to be sought outside in the real world—e.g. picturing all I’d do if I were rich instead of earning and saving. Masturbation involves this abuse of imagination in erotic matters (which I think bad in itself) and thereby encourages a similar abuse of it in all spheres. After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.” – Letter C. S. Lewis sent in 1956 to Keith Masson

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Richard J. Nobbe III
Richard J. Nobbe III
5 years ago

It appears that nobody wants to touch this one…

(I’m so horrible).

Richard J. Nobbe III
Richard J. Nobbe III
5 years ago
Reply to  oneclimbs

I think you’re spot on with these comments. I enjoyed reading something I had never seen from C.S. Lewis. I appreciate you posting this as we tend to shy away from these important topics in our conversations and lessons. Pornography is often discussed, but masturbation less so. I’m not exactly sure why this is, but I think it’s important to have frank, honest conversations with each other about these things that are out there. The same could and should be said for anything that is damning or addicting to the carnal human body. We need to talk more about video… Read more »

Richard J. Nobbe III
Richard J. Nobbe III
5 years ago
Reply to  oneclimbs

Yeah, Eyring Sr. has a lot of spunk. We are all products of our formative years, and he spent his as a ranch hand in Mexico and Arizona. And I also agree about the necessity of saying things at the right time, place, and maturity level or age. And I also agree that sometimes people think if you were to bring up something like MASTURBATION! or PORNOGRAPHY! or ALCOHOLISM! or SAME-SEX ATTRACTION! it kind of makes people think twice. I think the danger is in the avoidance of these topics altogether. The more we talk about vices, the more we… Read more »

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