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guitarczar 05-28-2008 07:34 AM

Planet Narnia + Amazing Literary Breakthrough
Has this hit anybody else's radar? Apparently, Michael Ward, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on C.S. Lewis's "theological imagination," has made one of the greatest literary discoveries of say, well I don't know the field well enough, but at least the last 50-60 years (and certainly for Lewis scholars). His thesis is as follows: Lewis, being enamored both personally and academically in medieval thought and planets, constructed his series The Chronicles of Narnia after the seven planets of medieval cosmology, that is, moon, mercury, venus, sun, mars, jupiter, saturn. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe are based off of Jupiter, which among other things, has jovial characteristics (which explains Father Christmas's otherwise random presence in the text). Each of the other books correspond to a planet, for instance, The Silver Chair to the Moon, or The Last Battle to Saturn. Ward postulates that Lewis was an immaculate secret-keeper (his marriage ring a bell, anyone?) and that 'Jack' purposely hid the meaning, besides considering it proper for that type of literature, to reference the way that God "walks incognito among us."

Suffice it to say, Ward is much more eloquent than I am, so I'll just link to his site. He has a list of book reviews that rave about a mile long, including some of the more preeminent Lewis scholars, such as Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian. I have yet to read this book yet, as I don't have the cash, but I attended a lecture by Ward last night (Socrates in the City - Manhattan), and had the privilege of attending a dinner afterward with donors, Ward, and other Lewis scholars. I don't think I'll ever get closer to Lewis himself. Check out the website. Hopefully you too will be able to get your hands on this sure-to-be fascinating read.

beanbag 05-28-2008 11:28 PM

wow. this is extremely fascinating. I really want to read that book now. I wonder if it would be cheaper elsewhere than on amazon.

Jeffrey 05-29-2008 12:05 AM

I always suspected Lewis was a magickian. He & I share a love of Greco-Roman mythology (though I prefer Akkadian these days) and now it seems we both have a scholarly interest in magick.

I think I'm becoming a Lewisian, though not a fawning fan (he has almost convinced me about theistic evolution).

You ought to read the "The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld" recasting I posted in the Lit. forum. I didn't dedicate it to Lewis, 'cos I secretly resent his shadow over my work, but I think you'll see his touch.

Amanda 06-07-2008 08:03 PM

I read Ward's descriptors of the planets on the site while I was re-reading the series, and I totally, totally see that pattern. Can't wait to read this book.

Jonodude 06-07-2008 09:02 PM

From what I understand about Lewis, this seems totally plausible. I will have to read the book to realize fully the connections between the planets' qualities and the qualities of the books (and I just reread them all... shame on me!). However given Saturn's characteristics, I can definitely make the connection with The Last Battle.

Amanda 07-01-2008 09:41 PM

The Mars-<i>Prince Caspian</i> connection works, too (and it's one I found myself wishing for while watching the movie)--Mars is the god of war, and Caspian is the most warlike of the books; Mars, apparently, was also the god of trees and forests, hence all the random appearances of the naiads in the middle.

Nate 07-02-2008 07:24 AM


Originally Posted by Amanda (Post 3265483)
(and it's one I found myself wishing for while watching the movie)

Really? It seemed to me the movie was loaded with war and forest imagery.

I got the book out of a neighboring university's library (first one ever to check it out!), and I'm about halfway through. More than making me think Ward has made a brilliant literary discovery, the book is making me realize even more just how brilliant Lewis really was. I suppose the mark of a good critic, as told in the lovely quote from Lewis that Ward chose as the foreword / dedication / intro to his book (about the incarnation / resurrection "bringing out new meanings" in the "manuscript" of history), is that he disappears altogether and makes us appreciate the original work more, so Ward certainly succeeded in that regard. That's the view of criticism that Lewis took in an obscure work of his entitled "An Experiment in Criticism," so it seems a nice tribute to the author.

It's kind of trite to praise Lewis, because he is so lauded by almost all of Christendom and even plebian intellects can feel his rhetorical skill, but he was a bona fide genius as far as I'm concerned. I don't think the vast majority of people who read his works really understand just how incredibly clever and skillful he was as an author, a scholar, a philosopher, and a rhetorician. There is simply no comparison between him and any other modern Christian author or thinker that I have ever read or heard of. It's the difference between modern romance novels and Jane Austen, or critically acclaimed "indie" screenplays and William Shakespeare. Agree with all of his premises, arguments, and conclusions or not as you will, but there's no getting around his brilliance or importance. [I guess that was a response to Jeffrey, because if I could choose to be under anyone's shadow, it would be Lewis' for sure.]

Jeffrey 07-20-2008 03:44 PM

It's interesting that someone so brilliant had to cleave to such a pagan-influenced, unorthodox Christianity.

When I say I'm becoming a Lewisian, it means I have a bigger interest in the partial efficacy of paganism, a belief in evolution, and a nascent universalism all because of Lewis' bearing the same.

Frankly, his fiction is spotty in many places. It doesn't age as well as Tolkien's. Segments of it do - the first part of the Space Trilogy, for one. But parts of Narnia are hard for me not to rush through.

Amanda 09-13-2008 11:21 AM

Just finished Ward's book a week or so ago and thought it utterly brilliant. Stirred my soul as well as my mind, and it illuminated not only the Narniad for me, but the Space Trilogy also. Explained a lot of the pagan influences in Lewis' work, too, which I'm fairly okay with as it feels more medieval than truly pagan.

Jeffrey 09-13-2008 02:36 PM

Dionysus is an odd ally for heroes crafted by a medieval Christian...

Jeffrey 12-02-2008 10:49 PM

Here's another intriguing article:

I reject the thesis that this revelation shows that the Narnia books should be elevated to Tolkien's work. Narnia remains an endearing but occasionally sloppy world, which accomplishes less with its derivations.

I hope the poem about the Greek gods was written in his faux-atheism phase, otherwise it should be a scandalous revelation.

Heck, this should still be scandalous, if to a minor degree. It wasn't that Lewis loved "Balder before Christ," it was that he loved Christ but couldn't get over his love of Balder.

It is encouraging for my own work, however, that theologically-minded Christians are not put off by Lewis' love for paganism and magick. I too retain a fondness for Balder, for Bast, for Ishtar, for Odysseus, for Muhammad, for Telepinu, for Pangu.

I'm not asking that Lewis fans reject Lewis. I just want an honest look at his flaws as well as successes. What shall we make of the greatest Christian philosopher of the 20th century having such fondness for paganism, and for being a universalist? My concern is that Lewis has become what he never would have wanted to be: a sacred cow, a source of devotion, a latter-day saint.

I am fine with Lewis the magician, the pagan partially subsumed by Christianity, the man who did not see Scripture and the Church worthy for inclusion in <i>Mere Christianity</i>, a Classical scholar of great rhetoric, and decent poetic skills - if these facts are noted. His apologetics often rested on poor logic, and his approach to Christian dogma, while perhaps not heretical, certainly rested on some unique if not dangerous propositions.


Originally Posted by guitarczar
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe are based off of Jupiter, which among other things, has jovial characteristics (which explains Father Christmas's otherwise random presence in the text).

The presence of Father Christmas is no more random than Bacchus or Centaurs: Lewis thought Western paganism as complimentary to Christianity. His Calormenes and Tash show that he felt Eastern paganism as antagonistic.

However, his univeralism allows a Calormene who has served a false god whole-heartedly to still enter Aslan's rest. This assertion is one of Lewis' most endearing near-heresies, and one that I rarely hear discussed by his fans.

Aslan also remains more Balder than Christ: Christ was meek, mild, and unrecognized for what He was. He did not come with a roar of glory, but with conversation and baptism. If we see Aslan as an incomplete allegory, we're on safe ground. When we view him as an evangelistic tool to explain Christ, I quake.

All of my inspirations are my philosophical nemeses: Lovecraft's Cosmicism, Lewis's paganism, Rand's Objectivism.

beanbag 12-03-2008 03:57 AM

I don't think we can rightly compare Lewis to Tolkien because I believe it is sort like comparing apples and oranges. or maybe oranges and tangerines. similar, but not the same. I also don't believe it is necessarily fair to say that Lewis should not be considered at the same level as Tolkien either. I first read the Chronicles of Narnia when I was about five and I have reread them regularly ever since. I learn something new each and every time I read them, and they still remain foremost in my heart among all of the thousands of books I have read. Tolkien wrote very finely crafted literature, but...I don't learn something new every time I read The Hobbit or the Trilogy, and I don't have this especial love for those books either, although apparently my mom first read The Hobbit aloud to me when I was 4.

in my mind, the works are two very different things. I think what it boils down to is that Tolkien's work is a thing of beauty and art that can be gazed at and appreciated from the outside, and examined from many different directions, kind of like a pretty jewel. Lewis' work is something that I at least can dive into and be part of, and love from the inside out. it might be dangerous to say this, but a great deal of my personal theology from childhood on has been shaped by Lewis' writing. I mean, I have a nice chunk of book learning that comes part and parcel to a theology degree, but when it comes to the theology of the heart, The Chronicles of Narnia definitely have played the largest part in shaping that for me.

so...I don't think we should just quickly discredit The Chronicles as simplistic, or lacking in depth or complexity, especially in comparison to Tolkien. they're just two different pieces of work.

+Donny 02-12-2009 10:18 AM

Jeffrey, where did you get Lewis' universalism from?

Nate 02-12-2009 10:25 AM


Originally Posted by +Donny (Post 3372832)
Jeffrey, where did you get Lewis' universalism from?

The end of The Last Battle.

It's not so much universalism as... something else.

Lewis doesn't have everyone saved, just the misplaced faithful.

+Donny 02-12-2009 07:43 PM

Ehhh, that's pretty distinct from universalism.

Amanda 02-18-2009 12:10 AM

I always took that character in <i>The Last Battle</i> as being allegorical for common grace, considering his name is Hebrew for "truth".

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