C.S. Lewis on friendship, purpose, and male culture

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was a novelist1, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland.

Friendship comes to us in odd moments, often unsought, but greatly appreciated.

The following passage by C.S. Lewis touches on how friendship arises and hints at the difference in male and female culture – a subject rarely appreciated in the modern “anti-culture” of popular media, if I may say so.

In early communities the cooperation of the males as hunters or fighters was no less necessary than the begetting and rearing of children. A tribe where there was no taste for the one would die no less surely than a tribe where there was no taste for the other. Long before history began we men have got together apart from the women and done things. We had to. And to like doing what must be done is a characteristic that has survival value.

We not only had to do the things, we had to talk about them. We had to plan the hunt and the battle. When they were over we had to hold a post mortem and draw conclusions for future use. We liked this even better. We ridiculed or punished the cowards and bunglers, we praised the star-performers… In fact, we talked shop. We enjoyed one another’s society greatly: we Braves, we hunters, all bound together by shared skill, shared dangers and hardships, esoteric jokes – away from the women and children. As some wag has said, paleolithic man may or may not have had a club on his shoulder but he certainly had a club of the other sort.

What were the women doing meanwhile? How should I know? I am a man and never spied on the mysteries of the Bona Dea2. They certainly often had rituals from which men were excluded….

The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer….


Maori men from New Zealand who look like they’re united by a common purpose. There are some aspects of Maori culture that I greatly admire.  Photo by Sue Kellerman; some rights reserved.

We picture lovers face to face but Friends side by side; their eyes look ahead. That is why those pathetic people who simply “want friends” can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question “Do you see the same truth?” would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend,” no Friendship can arise – though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something.3

These ideas about friendship and male culture are things that I’m grateful to have experienced in my own spiritual community.


  1. If you are a man, do you enjoy doing what needs to be done with other men?
  2. I’ve noticed over the years that women are more often pleased and relaxed when they see the men in their lives working together to handle business (as opposed to slacking, running away, squabbling, or undermining themselves). What is your experience?
  3. Does “hanging out” and hoping to be liked create friendship? What does he mean when he says friendship must be “about something”?

BoT Student

To establish the Global Cooperative Forum, “pure warriors” are what is needed – those who will bring the Truth of prior unity into the domain of humankind, where Truth has never really taken hold.
– Not-Two Is Peace

  1. I know some Christians are concerned that Lewis promoted “witchcraft” through his novels.  I dunno.  I just know I like some of his non-fiction writings.
  2. This means “the good goddess” in Latin, according to wikipedia.
  3. Excerpted from The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis. As included in The Basket of Tolerance by Adi Da Samraj.
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  1. Paul Major   Thumb up +5

    Another great post. It’s a long time since I read C. S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves, but I remember enjoying it a lot, and this response to it brings some of that back. Friendship with other men is something I’ve always valued a lot (well, since I began having real friendships with other boys at around 11), but I’ve had a deeper appreciation of its importance since I began participating in the community of Avatar Adi Da’s devotees, where there is greater cultural depth than I could find in ordinary society with, for example, distinctive cultures for men and women, acknowledging their different strengths and orientations. Also, as Lewis emphasizes, friendship thrives best where there is a common purpose, and that’s something I have found greatly through Adi Da.

    • Thanks Paul, for helping bring this into the domain of living personal experience.

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