Yesterday I finished watching the two part episode of the Oxford-based TV detective series Lewis which was themed around the 'third Inkling' Charles Williams - and a series of ritual alchemical murders of members of a modern revival group based on the Companions of the Coinherence.
My verdict was that - aside from the novelty value of having Charles Williams discussed on mainstream television, the show was a load of old rubbish: it had nothing good about it except for being filmed in and around some attractive buildings.
Aside from its being just a poor piece of drama (poorly structured, unevenly paced, implausible characters with contradictory motivations, confusing, dishonestly misleading...); there were two aspects that seem worthy of notice.
One is that Charles Williams came out of it very badly indeed! What the viewer took away, I think, was that Williams was some kind of pretentious, megalomaniac guru who had devised a ritual - supposedly based on Williams' advocacy of 'substitution', or one person carrying another's 'burden' - that totally removed feelings of guilt.
In other words, CW was the purveyor of a type of sinister spiritualistic psychotherapy, or a specific tranquillizer, that made people feel good when they had done bad: made them feel good without need for repentance.
However, I do indeed think that this is a reasonably valid criticism of what Substitution became when Williams removed it from its original Christian context - and this was also the opinion of William's original biographer and disciple Alice Mary Hadfield. Williams would presumably have been appalled at the distortion of his views - but I hope he would also have been shocked into recognizing that this distortion is not a big reach from what he actually said.
The other aspect was the sordidness of Williams's enthusiasts - in this small group of Williamsites we had a lot of argumentative and promiscuous drunkenness, a lot of tattoos, sado-masochism, casual sex and extra-martial love affairs, a sado-masochist club which was affectionately portrayed, and the police bursting in on two of the male suspects who were at that point revealed as supposedly bisexual, and had just embarked on a passionate liaison (having met at the S & M club)...
All this regarded as a matter of course, and in a 'tolerant' spirit as adding to the general fun and colourfulness of everyday Oxford life.
Not that this is in any way exceptional for mainstream British television - even at what is supposed to be the high-quality, expensive/ high production values end as represented by Lewis.
But it is a Gedankenwelt - a thought-world, a lifestyle; that I much prefer not to dwell in and spiritually partake-of - especially not in this inclusive and celebratory mood.
The show is, in microcosm, a perfect example of the corruption and incompetence of the society which modern British elites admire, advocate and increasingly enforce.