Tuesday, November 12, 2013

C.S. Lewis Revisited


Coincidences ... are there really such things as coincidences?  That strikes me as a very C.S. Lewis kind of question.  I have not read C.S.Lewis for ages but he came to mind when I prepared the sermon for the Choral Eucharist last Sunday with that rather farcical passage in Luke 20 where the Sadducees question Jesus about the post-resurrection marital status of the woman who had survived seven husbands.  That got me on to the limitations of analogical thinking and led me to ask why Lewis had represented Christ as the lion Aslan in the Narnia stories.  Then, the same evening, on the BBC Knowledge programme was a presentation by the Lewis researcher Michael Ward on his book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S.Lewis (Oxford, 2008)

I had not heard of the book but the outline he provided delighted me.  I had never been able to quite make sense of the intellectual disjunction between Lewis the accomplished medieval scholar and the popular writer of childrens' books.  The medieval scholar revelled in the imaginative coherence of medieval cosmography, its sheer complexity and interrelatedness, wheras the Narniad did not seem particularly complex and seemed, at best, to hint in places at a fairly strained allegory of the atonement; how the Narnia books related to one another was not at all clear, or even if it were possible to even speak of a sequence.

Ward's point, his discovery, was to suddenly recognise that buried beneath the layers of the Narnia books was the medieval imagination and that each of the books exhibited the influence of one of the seven planets: Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus and Saturn.   I was surprised to realise how differently I began to feel about the Narnia stories!   They were no longer an aberration but formed by a subtle and secretive imaginative understanding of ultimate reality.

I have bought Ward's books and purchased a mass of the Lewis books (for Kindle) and already start to wonder about a course - possibly for Lent.  Anyone interested?

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