Review of “Charles Williams: Alchemy and Integration” by Gavin Ashenden

Finally finished it this weekend. I was introduced to Williams’ writings years ago in a book group that was going through some of the works by The Inklings. In a conversation with Metropolitan Kallistos, I was encouraged to read more of his work. Williams, unappreciated in his time and since, was truly a Prophet in the 20th century Western world. As Ashenden points out in the Conclusion, Williams had the ability to fuse together opposite polarities. He offered a new vision of reintegration – universal integration of matter and spirit. In looking at a 21st century desire for a connection between our natural world and ourselves, “Williams is a visionary who … becomes a prophet of potent social and political significance.” He “provide[s] the antidote to a prevailing tendency toward dualism.” But he is not read today. And I am reminded of certain lines from the Kansas song “Portrait (He Knew)” when thinking about him. Outside the context of his time, Ashenden contends, Williams provided a framework applicable to post-Modernism, if it can be re-discovered. Mainly, particularly the religious, will say “his numbers are not the way.” But I agree with the author, Williams journey gave him the opportunity and means of “recalibrating the theology of mainstream Christianity.” He truly was “in search of an answer, the nature of what we are; He was trying to do it a new way, he was bright as a star.”