Lecturer looks to untangle C.S. Lewis’ mysterious ‘Narnia code’
Brad Rollins | On 27, Mar 2014
by BRAD ROLLINS
A British scholar and theologian who believes C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” is infused with themes from medieval cosmology will lecture March 27 at Texas State University.
Michael Ward, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Black Friars Hall, has written three books on Lewis including “The Narnia Code: C.S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens,” the subject of a BBC documentary.
Ward’s lecture, titled “The Narnia Codes,” will be held 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 157 Centennial Hall as part of the university’s 26th Annual Communication Week conference.
Ward holds that Lewis “intentionally shaped the Chronicles to a secret imaginative blueprint” according to which each of the series’ seven books is an encoded homage to the seven heavens — Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus and Saturn — the known “planets” of pre-Copernican astronomy.
“From a literary point of view, [Lewis] thought that one of the main qualities of a good story was its atmosphere or quality, everywhere present in the tale but nowhere explicit. He wrote about the importance of this conditioning, ubiquitous atmosphere in his essay ‘On Stories’,” Ward writes on his website. “Referring to a long poetic romance he had written, Lewis once told his close friend, Arthur Greeves, that its ‘inner meaning was carefully hidden’. This hiddenness, he said, was ‘proper‘ to the genre in which he was writing.
Ward allows that his theory is audacious, in part, because the “Narnia” series is popularly considered a Christian allegory, with the central character Aslan standing in for Jesus Christ. Lewis himself preferred to characterize the “Chronicles of Narnia” as “supposition” because “supposition” and “allegory mix the real and the unreal in different ways.”
Practically speaking, the distinction is merely semantical to the lay reader, of whom there have been millions since “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” was published in 1950. Lewis’ legacy as a leading Christian apologist and thinker would seem to preclude the likelihood that he was enthralled with astrology.
In a historical context, however, Ward contends that an interest in astrology would not necessarily have been incompatible with Lewis’s Christian faith.
“No Christian theologian before the Copernican revolution denied the general theory of planetary influences. The only subject for discussion among the doctors of the Church was the extent to which the stars were resistible,” Ward writes. “The argument over the extent to which the planets determined human activity bears striking similarities to the nineteenth century argument about phrenology and to the current argument over the extent to which we are hostage to our genes.”
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