The second day brought to us the feeling that this was going to get more interesting by the minute.
The first one to open the session was Dr.Mircea Păduraru,Associate Professor of Ethnology and Folklore in the Department of Romanian Language and Literature and Comparative Literature & the Department of Journalism and Communication Sciences at the University*. He had an extensive presentation on the author’s well known “Screwtape Letters” in a paper titled as “C.S. Lewis & the Devil .About the strategy of predicting the unpredictable “. The Letters were published for the first time in the Guardian(a British Newspaper) during the year of 1942 although they were written in the 40’es. It was a thorough analysis on how this work was an apologetic discourse . The Devil was part of a comparative study in the work of C.S. Lewis and those of the orthodox priests/monks that were later considered to be sanctified by the Orthodox Church [the classic literature in the Eastern Europe].
Next, I must say I enjoyed listening to Dr. Teodora Ghiviriga, Assist. Professor of English language and linguistics at the Faculty of Letters at the University.Her Session was on “Deep magic and modern magic: the contemporary reader’s choice”.
Well, there was a break and then we came back for more.
We listened to the next essay”Lewis, reluctant Convert and (Not So) Ordinary Anglican” presented to us by Dr. Danuț Mănăstireanu, Director of Faith and Development in the region of Eastern Europe and the Near East of World Vision International, associate professor at the Faculty of Evangelical Theology in Osijjek/Croatia & the International Theological Seminary, Prague. To what extent did Anglicanism helped Lewis’s conversion from atheism? We know that he submitted with great reluctance. He became an atheist in his early 20’es strongly believing that God was a fiction of the human mind and thus adopting an idealism. “If He exists, He doesn’t seem to care, which make things worse!” Anglicanism contributed very little to his reconversion. Lewis decided to reconnect with his roots** but he didn’t care for the differences between denomination, because he thought that in doing so, his purpose- for people to see the truth in the Christian Faith- would not be fulfilled. He was not a typical Anglican- I should say, not a typical anything, but he was Anglican enough (whatever that means). The question for the younger generation is not “was Lewis an Anglican?” but “why isn’t Anglicanism more like Lewis?”
The session that most people were eager to attend to finally came and we were introduced to Michael Ward, Senior Research Fellow Blackfriars Hall at the University of Oxford,England & Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, Texas. He led us into a “magical” world, where “the Heavens are telling the glory of God”.
The Narnia books are sold into 3 million copies each year, and probably not just because they are written for children. As Lewis himself was saying ” if a book is worth reading only when you are ten, then it’s not worth reading at all”. But his friends, those he met with for long talks at The Eagle and Child agreed that the Narnia books contained peculiar elements put together. A book that had English children, a White Witch (Christian Andersen character), Greek mythology (unicorns, giants, dragons, dwarves, dryads, centaurs, naiads, fauns), Father Christmas and talking animals can’t be too good, can it? It doesn’t correspond with what we know of Lewis, he wouldn’t put books together and be done with it without much care. He is not a careless writer. His poetry is fantastic and as a Christian he believed that the universe was fantastically made and that there is a purpose for everything. He had love for intricate medieval literature. The Christ like image is very concludent in all of the books and Lewis is interested in complexity and intricacy. M.Ward continues by stating five background reasons for the way that he wrote the Narnia books the way he did.
1. Lewis himself & his own temperament. He can be a very secretive person. Jack never ceased to be secretive. He kept his marriage secret for one year.
2. An influence which cannot evade our contemplative consciousness will not go very deep. What does he mean by that? IF you are sat in a shed somewhere, and the roof had a hole in it, and the sunlight would come gently in throught that hole, just by looking at the beam from afar, would mean contemplating at it. If you sit down on a crate in front of the beam and you look along it, stepping into it, the beam will vanish. The light is not something we see, but something we see by. In that moment you experience the enjoyment and on that new level you can start seeing things differently. Through the roof you can see the birds, the leaves joyfully playing in the wind, a kite maybe, the Sun itself.
3. Colossians 1.16-17 : “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
If all things are created in Him, we can’t step outside of Him to have a perspective on things. We can’t overlook the Divine, because it’s everywhere. You can’t step outside of it, he’s invisible to us because he’s omnipresent. In conclusion, we don’t just contemplate Him, we enjoy Him.
4. The Kappa Element in Romance, which means the hidden element in the story. There is MORE to Narnia than meets the eye. It’s not just the plot that matters , you don’t look at it, you look along it, you move about, not just contemplate. The plot is really only a net whereby to catch something that has no sequence to it.
5. Transferred classicism – Paganism is the religion of Art. By taking mythical deities and ‘putting’ them in poetry, it depicts the Christian ideas behind a veil, kind of like hiding God behind a pagan veil.
Based on his studies, Michael Ward [who also wrote a book as part of his doctoral thesis called Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis] brings out the incredible concept that each book of the Narnia album is based on the seven planets and the mythical sense that corresponded to each one.
The Lion,the Witch and the Wardrobe, for example, has a theme similar to one of his poems, Jupiter is about “Winter past and guilt forgiving”- the end of Winter, Edmund’s guilt (because he betrayed Peter and Narnia). Also, the red spot on Jupiter is “a wound & the redness is that of blood, which reminds us of the king and the Calvary. In the same way, He portrays the Christ Character, the children becoming kings and queens, and as the winter passes, the summer comes in”.
Prince Caspian’s theme is on Mars. Who was the God Mars? As well as being the God of War he was also Mars Silvanus, the God of Vegetation. The month of March is when the nature comes back to life after the winter. Aslan is the true Mars, the one who can make the trees come back to life.
The Voyage of the Dawntreader is all about the Sun.Gold and the Sun is present in the story, as well as the Dragon. Why the Dragon? In mythology, Apollo is the God of Light that sleighs the Dragon. In the same way, Aslan slays the dragon by ripping the skin off and making Eustace become a boy again.
The Horse and His boy – Mercury
The Magician’s Nephew – Venus
The Last Battle – Saturn (The 20’es and the 30’es were based -with reference to both the political and the social plan- on the Planet Saturn symbolic on Death, Despair and Pessimism).
In an early edition of the books, Father Christmas is also called Saturn.
Why did C.S. Lewis did that?
1.For FUN. It was “just like Jack” to do something like that.
2.Literary reason- the kappa element in Romance. Lewis was interested in the total feel of the story.
3. Theological reason- Not just Aslan, the Christ character but the whole of Narnia comes to relate to the divine character. The children become more like Him, they become kings and queens, they feed with Light.
Michael ward concluded his first session . C.S. Lewis didn’t want to tell us what he is up to. Narnia is a world aglow with the Divine. It’s a story to enjoy, not contemplate on.
[to be continued…]
* Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași
** [He became a theist in 1929 “giving in admitting that God was God, and knelt and prayed”. In 1931 he became a Christian. One evening in September, Lewis had a long talk on Christianity with J.R.R. Tolkien (a devout Roman Catholic) and Hugo Dyson.On the events that happened the next day, he writes: ”When we (Warnie and Jack) set out by motorcycle to the Whipsnade Zoo) I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo, I did)”.