Madeleine L'Engle

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We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is...

Madeleine L'Engle (November 29, 1918September 6, 2007), born Madeleine L'Engle Camp, was an American writer and poet most famous for her children's books, including the Newbery Medal-winning winning A Wrinkle in Time.

Quotes[edit]

It is so great a thing to be an infinitesimal part
of this immeasurable orchestra the music bursts the heart,
And from this tiny plosion all the fragments join:
Joy orders the disunity until the song is one.
  • I endeavor
    To hold the I as one only for the cloud
    Of which I am a fragment, yet to which I'm vowed
    To be responsible.
    Its light against my face
    Reveals the witness of the stars, each in its place
    Singing, each compassed by the rest,
    The many joined to one, the mightiest to the least.
    It is so great a thing to be an infinitesimal part
    of this immeasurable orchestra the music bursts the heart,
    And from this tiny plosion all the fragments join:
    Joy orders the disunity until the song is one.
    • "Instruments" in The Weather of the Heart (1978)
  • We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes…
    • The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth (1993)
  • All will be redeemed in God's fullness of time, all, not just the small portion of the population who have been given the grace to know and accept Christ. All the strayed and stolen sheep. All the little lost ones.
    • As quoted in If Grace Is True : Why God Will Save Every Person (2003) by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland, p. 223. Originally from A Stone for a Pillow
  • Poetry, at least the kind I write, is written out of immediate need; it is written out of pain, joy, and experience too great to be borne until it is ordered into words. And then it is written to be shared.
    • The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle (2005)

A Wrinkle in Time (1962)[edit]

Speaking of ways, pet, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.
  • Speaking of ways, pet, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.
    • Mrs Whatsit, Ch. 1
Just because we don't understand doesn't mean that the explanation doesn't exist.
  • Just because we don't understand doesn't mean that the explanation doesn't exist.
  • Suddenly there was a great burst of light through the Darkness. The light spread out and where it touched the Darkness the Darkness disappeared. The light spread until the patch of Dark Thing had vanished, and there was only a gentle shining, and through the shining came the stars, clear and pure.
  • As the skipping rope hit the pavement, so did the ball. As the rope curved over the head of the jumping child, the child with the ball caught the ball. Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again. Up. Down. All in rhythm. All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers
  • You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.
  • Alike and Equal are not the same.
  • Hate was nothing that IT didn't have. IT knew all about hate.
  • Suddenly she knew. She knew! Love. That was what she had that IT did not have. She had Mrs. Whatsit's love, and her father's, and mother's, and the real Charles Wallace's love, and the twins', and Aunt Beast's. And she had her love for them. But how could she use it? What was she meant to do?

The Crosswicks Journal[edit]

A Circle of Quiet (1972)[edit]

The medieval mystics say the true image and the true real met once and for all on the cross: once and for all: and yet they still meet daily.
  • The concentration of a small child at play is analogous to the concentration of the artist of any discipline. In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself. He has thrown himself completely into whatever it is he is doing. A child playing a game, building a sand castle, painting a picture, is completely in what he is doing. His self-consciousness is gone; his consciousness is wholly focused outside himself.
    • Section 1.3
  • When we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we escape our self-conscious selves.
    • Section 1.3
  • The medieval mystics say the true image and the true real met once and for all on the cross: once and for all: and yet they still meet daily.
    • Section 1.5
  • My husband is my most ruthless critic. … Sometimes he will say, "It's been said better before." Of course. It's all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anyone else, I'd never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn't what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.
    • Section 1.9
We do have to use our minds as far as they will take us, yet acknowledging that they cannot take us all the way.
  • Here we are living in a world of "identity crises," and most of us have no idea what an identity is.
    Half the problem is that an identity is something which must be understood intuitively, rather than in terms of provable fact. An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers. To define everything is to annihilate much that gives us laughter and joy.
    • Section 1.10
We do not go around and discard the intellect, but we must go through and beyond it.
  • We do have to use our minds as far as they will take us, yet acknowledging that they cannot take us all the way.
    We can give a child a self-image. But is this a good idea? Hitler did a devastating job at that kind of thing. So does Chairman Mao. … I haven't defined a self, nor do I want to. A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.
    • Section 1.10
  • I think that all artists, regardless of degree of talent, are a painful, paradoxical combination of certainty and uncertainty, of arrogance and humility, constantly in need of reassurance, and yet with a stubborn streak of faith in their own validity no matter what.
    • Section 1.14
  • The rational intellect doesn't have a great deal to do with love, and it doesn't have a great deal to do with art. I am often, in my writing, great leaps ahead of where I am in my thinking, and my thinking has to work its way slowly up to what the "superconscious" has already shown me in a story or poem.
    • Section 1.14
  • It is all, as usual, paradox. I have to use what intellect I have in order to write books, but I write the kind of books I do in order that I may try to set down glimpses of things that are on the other side of the intellect. We do not go around and discard the intellect, but we must go through and beyond it.
    • Section 1.16
  • How do we teach a child — our own, or those in a classroom — to have compassion: to allow people to be different; to understand that like is not equal; to experiment; to laugh; to love; to accept the fact that the most important questions a human being can ask do not have — or need — answers.
    • Section 1.16
  • Love can't be pinned down by a definition, and it certainly can't be proved, anymore than anything else important in life can be proved.
    • Section 1.16
  • When a child who has been conceived in love is born to a man and a woman, the joy of that birth sings throughout the universe. The joy of writing or painting is much the same, and the insemination comes not from the artist himself but from his relationship with those he loves, with the whole world.
    All real art is, in its true sense, religious; it is a religious impulse; there is not such thing as a non-religious subject.
    • Section 1.16
Nothing important is completely explicable.
  • Detachment and involvement: the artist must have both. The link between them is compassion. It has taken me over fifty years to get a glimmer of what this means.
    • Section 1.16
  • We do live, all of us, on many different levels, and for most artists the world of imagination is more real than the world of the kitchen sink.
    • Section 2.2
  • It isn't always the middle-aged who refuse to listen, who will not even try to understand another point of view. One boy would not get it through his head that for all adults God is not an old man in a white beard sitting on a cloud. As far as this boy was concerned, this old gentleman was the adult's god, and therefore he did not believe in God.
    • Section 2.5
  • Nothing important is completely explicable.
    • Section 3.9
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not understand it, and cannot extinguish it...
  • The uncommon man has done the impossible and there has been that much more light in the world because of it. Children respond to heroes by thinking creatively and sometimes in breaking beyond the bounds of the impossible in their turn, and so becoming heroes themselves.
    • Section 3.13
  • St. John said, "And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not understand it, and cannot extinguish it ( I need the double meaning here of comprehend). This is the great cry of affirmation that is heard over and over again in our imaginative literature, in all art. It is a light to lighten our darkness, to guide us, and we do not need to know, in the realm of provable fact, exactly where it is going to take us.
    • Section 3.13
If I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.
  • "Why do you write for children?" My immediate response to this question is, "I don't." ... If it's not good enough for adults, it's not good enough for children. If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grownup, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books. And words.
    Sometimes I answer that if I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children. This is usually good for a slightly startled laugh, but it's perfectly true. Children still haven't closed themselves off with fear of the unknown, fear of revolution, or the scramble for security. They are still familiar with the inborn vocabulary of myth. It was adults who thought that children would be afraid of the Dark Thing in Wrinkle, not children, who understand the need to see thingness, non-ness, and to fight it.
    • Section 4.4
  • A great piece of literature does not try to coerce you to believe it or agree with it. A great piece of literature simply is.
    It is a vehicle of truth, but it is not a blueprint, and we tend to confuse the two.
    • Section 4.5
  • What can we give a child when there is nothing left?
    All we have, I think, is the truth, the truth that will set him free, not limited, provable truth, but the open, growing, evolving truth that is not afraid.
    • Section 4.6
  • I wish that we worried more about asking the right questions instead of being so hung up on finding answers. I don't need to know the difference between a children's book and an adult one; it's the questions that have come from thinking about it that are important. I wish we'd stop finding answers for everything. One of the reasons my generation has mucked up the world to such an extent is our loss of the sense of the mysterious.
    • Section 4.8
  • I wrote, after an early rejection, "X turned down Wrinkle, turned it down with one hand while saying that he loved it, but didn't quite dare to do it, as it really isn't classifiable. I know it isn't really classifiable, and am wondering if i'll have to go through the usual hell with this that I seem to go through with everything I write. But this book I'm sure of. If I've ever written a book that says how I feel about God and the universe, this is it. This is my psalm of praise...
    • Section 4.10
In kairos that part of us which is not consumed in the burning is wholly awake.
  • All forms of art are consciousness expanders, and I am convinced that they will take us further, and more consciously, than drugs.
    • Section 4.14
  • Chronology, the time which changes things, makes them grow older, wears them out, and manages to dispose of them, chronologically, forever.
    Thank God there is kairos too: again the Greeks were wiser than we are. They had two words for time: chronos and kairos.
    Kairos is not measurable. Kairos is ontological. In kairos we are, we are fully in isness, not negatively, as Sartre saw the isness of the oak tree, but fully, wholly, positively. Kairos can sometimes enter, penetrate, break through chronos: the child at play, the painter at his easel, Serkin playing the Appassionata are in kairos. The saint in prayer, friends around the dinner table, the mother reaching out her arms for her newborn baby are in kairos. The bush, the burning bush, is in kairos, not any burning bush, but the particular burning bush before which Moses removed his shoes; the bush I pass by on my way to the brook. In kairos that part of us which is not consumed in the burning is wholly awake.
    • Section 4.21
After the glory which could be seen with human eyes, he began to see the glory which is beyond and after light.
  • Gregory of Nyssa points out that Moses's vision of God began with the light, with the visible burning bush, the bush which was bright with fire and was not consumed; but afterwards, God spoke to him in a cloud. After the glory which could be seen with human eyes, he began to see the glory which is beyond and after light.
    The shadows are deepening all around us. Now is the time when we must begin to see our world and ourselves in a different way.
    • Section 4.22

The Irrational Season (1977)[edit]

A comprehensible God is no more than an idol.
  • My protagonists, male and female, are me. And so I must be able to recall exactly what it was like to be five years old, and twelve, and sixteen, and twenty-two, and. . . . For, after all, I am not an isolated fifty-seven years old; I am every other age I have been, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven . . . all the way up to and occasionally beyond my present chronology.
  • We rebel against the impossible. I sense a wish in some professional religion-mongers to make God possible, to make him comprehensible to the naked intellect, domesticate him so that he's easy to believe in. Every century the Church makes a fresh attempt to make Christianity acceptable. But an acceptable Christianity is not Christian; a comprehensible God is no more than an idol.
  • If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation.
  • When a promise is broken, the promise still remains. In one way or another, we are all unfaithful to each other, and physical unfaithfulness is not the worst kind there is.
  • If our love for each other really is participatory, then all other human relationships nourish it; it is inclusive, never exclusive. If a friendship makes me love Hugh more, then I can trust that friendship. If it thrusts itself between us, then it should be cut out, and quickly.
  • No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I've been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. I've learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won't stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.
The entire purpose of loving punishment is to teach, and it lasts only as long as is needed for the lesson. And the lesson is always love.
  • My young friend who was taught that she was so sinful the only way an angry God could be persuaded to forgive her was by Jesus dying for her, was also taught that part of the joy of the blessed in heaven is watching the torture of the damned in hell. A strange idea of joy. But it is a belief limited not only to the more rigid sects. I know a number of highly sensitive and intelligent people in my own communion who consider as a heresy my faith that God's loving concern for his creation will outlast all our willfulness and pride. No matter how many eons it takes, he will not rest until all of creation, including Satan, is reconciled to him, until there is no creature who cannot return his look of love with a joyful response of love... Origen held this belief and was ultimately pronounced a heretic. Gregory of Nyssa, affirming the same loving God, was made a saint. Some people feel it to be heresy because it appears to deny man his freedom to refuse to love God. But this, it seems to me, denies God his freedom to go on loving us beyond all our willfulness and pride. If the Word of God is the light of the world, and this light cannot be put out, ultimately it will brighten all the dark corners of our hearts and we will be able to see, and seeing, will be given the grace to respond with love — and of our own free will.
  • I cannot believe that God wants punishment to go on interminably any more than does a loving parent. The entire purpose of loving punishment is to teach, and it lasts only as long as is needed for the lesson. And the lesson is always love.
Fantasy contains truths which cannot be stated in terms of proof.
  • If our usual response to an annoying situation is a curse, we're likely to meet emergencies with a curse. In the little events of daily living we have the opportunity to condition our reflexes, which are built up out of ordinary things. And we learn to bless first of all by being blessed. My reflexes of blessing have been conditioned by my parents, my husband, my children, my friends
  • I am convinced that each work of art, be it a great work of genius or something very small, has its own life, and it will come to the artist, the composer or the writer or the painter, and say, "Here I am: compose me; or write me; or paint me"; and the job of the artist is to serve the work. I have never served a work as I would like to, but I do try, with each book, to serve to the best of my ability, and this attempt at serving is the greatest privilege and the greatest joy that I know.
  • One of our children when he was two or three years old used to rush at me when he had been naughty, and beat against me, and what he wanted by this monstrous behavior was an affirmation of love. And I would put my arms around him and hold him very tight until the dragon was gone and the loving small boy had returned.
  • One reason nearly half my books are for children is the glorious fact that the minds of children are still open to the living word; in the child, nightside and sunside are not yet separated; fantasy contains truths which cannot be stated in terms of proof.

Walking on Water (1980)[edit]

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
  • It has often struck me with awe that some of the most deeply religious people I know have been, on the surface, atheists.
  • When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.

A Ring of Endless Light (1980)[edit]

  • Maybe you have to know darkness before you can appreciate the light.

Penguins and Golden Calves (2003)[edit]

There's more to life than just the things that can be explained by encyclopedias and facts. Facts alone are not adequate.
Penguins and Golden Calves : Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places
  • I wrote because I wanted to know what everything was about. My father, before I was born, had been gassed in the first World War, and I wanted to know why there were wars, why people hurt each other, why we couldn't get along together, and what made people tick. That's why I started to write stories.
  • There's more to life than just the things that can be explained by encyclopedias and facts. Facts alone are not adequate.
  • I really enjoy good murder mystery writers, usually women, frequently English, because they have a sense of what the human soul is about and why people do dark and terrible things. I also read quite a lot in the area of particle physics and quantum mechanics, because this is theology. This is about the nature of being. This is what life is all about. I try to read as widely as I possibly can.
  • I wrote A Wrinkle in Time when we were living in a small dairy farm village in New England. I had three small children to raise, and life was not easy. We lost four of our closest friends within two years by death — that's a lot of death statistically. And I really wasn't finding the answers to my big questions in the logical places. So, at the time I discovered the world of particle physics. I discovered Einstein and relativity. I read a book of Einstein's, in which he said that anyone who's not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burnt-out candle. And I thought, "Oh, I've found my theologian, what a wonderful thing."
  • A Wrinkle in Time was almost never published. You can't name a major publisher who didn't reject it. And there were many reasons. One was that it was supposedly too hard for children. Well, my children were 7, 10, and 12 while I was writing it. I'd read to them at night what I'd written during the day, and they'd say, "Ooh, mother, go back to the typewriter!" A Wrinkle in Time had a female protagonist in a science fiction book, and that wasn't done. And it dealt with evil and things that you don't find, or didn't at that time, in children's books. When we'd run through forty-odd publishers, my agent sent it back. We gave up. Then my mother was visiting for Christmas, and I gave her a tea party for some of her old friends. One of them happened to belong to a small writing group run by John Farrar, of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which at that time did not have a juvenile list. She insisted that I meet John any how, and I went down with my battered manuscript. John had read my first novel and liked it, and read this book and loved it. That's how it happened.
  • Kids don't hesitate to ask questions. And it's a great honor to have the kids say, "Your books have made me trust you."
  • I have advice for people who want to write. I don't care whether they're 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can't be a writer if you're not a reader. It's the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it's for only half an hour — write, write, write.

Newsweek interview (2004)[edit]

"'I Dare You' : Madeleine L’Engle on God, The Da Vinci Code and aging well", an interview with Melinda Henneberger, Newsweek (7 May 2004)
  • I sometimes think God is a s--t — and he wouldn't be worth it otherwise. He's much more interesting when he's a s--t.
  • It takes a lot of intellect to have faith, which is why so many people only have religiosity.... I'm against people taking the Bible absolutely literally, rather than letting some of it be real fantasy, like Jonah... Faith is best expressed in story.
  • Henneberger: If the Bible is not literally true, does that mean we don’t need to take it seriously?
    L'Engle: Oh no, you do, because it’s truth, not fact, and you have to take truth seriously even when it expands beyond the facts.

External links[edit]

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