I just read the Pilgrims Progress for the first time recently and understand now why it is such an enduring classic. Interestingly, at the time it was written, high churchmen put it down as simple and naiive. But I think that is beauty of it. This simple allegory contains more truth than volumes of philosophy because it speaks to joys and struggles of ‘everyman’.
Here is my little summary:
An outcast in his own city, Christian seeks the narrow way that leads to the Beautiful Land. He gets off to a rough start when he speaks with Worldy Wise Guy and is led astray. He nearly walks off of a cliff on Mt. Sinai and gets stuck in the Slough of Despondency. Along the way Christian meets a friend and fellow pilgrim, Faithful. Together they face the temptations of Vanity Fair and are not at all sure if they will escape. Faithful is killed there but Hopeful joins Christian and together they climb a mountain where they can look across the valley of death which they had crossed and catch a glimpse of the Celestial City. Later, they take a well worn track that leads to Doubting Castle were they are beaten for days by the Giant Despair. Then, when Christian wants to die and put an end to it all, Hopeful reminds him that there is a key called Promise. It is the only key that can unlock the gates of iron. This Key of Promise can only be turned with Prayer. Later, they cross the enchanted ground that puts the unsuspecting to sleep and have to work at keeping each other awake.
At the end of the journey, the terror of death overwhelms Christian as he crosses the deep Jordan river and loses his footing. But he is helped across the river by Hopeful and together they arrive at the Celestial City, Mt. Zion, the City of the Great King where there is joy in His presence forever…
Well, that is selective and out of order but it is what stuck with me.
No doubt it is complete foolishness to many, but then as John Bunyan writes in his intro,
Art thou for something rare, and profitable?
Wouldest thou see a Truth within a Fable?
Art thou forgetful? wouldest thou remember
From new-years-day to the last of December?
Then read my fancies, they will stick like Burs,
And may be to the Helpless, Comforters.
Would’st thou be in a Dream, and yet not sleep? Or wouldest thou in a moment laugh, and weep?
Wouldest thou lose thyself withou a charm?
And find thyself again without a harm?
Would’st read thyself, and read thou know’st not what,
And yet know, whether thou art blest or not,
By reading the same lines? O then come hither,
And lay my Book, thy head, and heart together.