Steps Toward Salvation: An Examination of Coinherence and Substitution in the Seven Novels of Charles Williams
by Dennis L. Weeks
(Peter Lang Publishing, 1991, 117 pages)
Steps Toward Salvation is a monograph tracing the ideas of Coinherence and Substitution through the novels of Charles Williams, the twentieth century author of what his friend T. S. Eliot classified as “supernatural thrillers.” Dennis Weeks defines these two ideas as “mystical pathways by which one might approach unity with a Godhead” (1). Weeks shows how Williams explores human nature, interpersonal relationships, and eternal destinies through depictions of mystical practices that are supposed to illustrate and give meaning to the idea of sacrificial love. He also traces the influence of Kierkegaard and Jung on Williams’ existential and religious sensibilities.
Williams’ novels are very odd, and they certainly are not to everyone’s taste. However, Weeks does a good job of showing the spiritual and psychological depth that Williams displays. Weeks effectively depicts the overarching vision of Williams’ novels – a vision of a universe in which individuals are connected to each other, or “coinhere” in one another, often in unseen ways. This coinherence is revealed and intensified when loving acts of substitution are committed on the behalf of others. As I said, the novels are not for everyone, and their obscurity can make for difficult reading. For those who make the effort to decipher them, Steps Towards Salvation is a welcome guide.