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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profoundly thoughtful book
I found this book - dare I confess the first by Rowan Williams that I've managed to finish - profoundly challenging in the gentlest way. His analysis of the Narnia books is deep and serious, not letting Lewis off the hook, but scratching deeper to see the underlying truth that is there. I had to keep stopping and reflecting on what I'd just read, and the truth contained...
Published on 4 Sep 2012 by Ronni Lamont

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good - but expected more
Cards on the table, I am a big fan of Narnia. I guess I read the stories on an annual basis and recommend them to everyone I can.
So to me the fact that former Archbishop Rowan has written this book is great as it adds weight to my recommendations and validity to my love for the stories.
There was one huge plus points for me. Rowan focuses on Aslan. The title...
Published 20 months ago by Mr. Michael Lumsden


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5.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable reading, but good for Lent, 24 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Lion's World - A journey into the heart of Narnia (Paperback)
If you love Narnia, you need to read this book. Williams can be too erudite for me, but here he speaks clearly and unambiguously. Understand Aslan as you never have before, and begin a journey to understanding yourself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and enlightening - a must for any Narnia Fan, 4 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Lion's World - A journey into the heart of Narnia (Paperback)
A great insight into the world of Narnia - readable and understandable. Rowan Williams shows that he is a fan of the world of Narnia and this book is a must for any Narnia fan looking to look a bit deeper into the world created by C S Lewis
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4.0 out of 5 stars About the theology behind the stories, 30 Jan 2013
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T. P. Cannon "Tim" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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A good read for anyone who would like to hear the views of a great theologian on the deeper meanings of the Narnia tales.
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5.0 out of 5 stars narnias heart, 19 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Lion's World - A journey into the heart of Narnia (Paperback)
Yhis book by the prvious archbishop of canterbury is easily read and is perfect for non christian friends as well as those looking at the deeper meanings of Lewis' books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Narnia, its height and depth and breadth, 10 Dec 2012
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One of Rowan Williams' many gifts is literary criticism, and this study of C.S. Lewis' Narnia series is magisterial. Even people who know all the books in depth will find new ways of appreciating this masterpiece. Yet if you have only a passing acquaintance, say through the highly successful Disney films, you will find a great deal of pleasure in following Lewis' creation with this sympathetic, though not uncritical, guide. Williams' style is clear and winsome, not at all like his recondite theological works.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 9 Oct 2012
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Fascinating and isightful book into The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Really well written and very thought provoking and helpful in understanding many of the theological processes that went into the story.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars looks good, can't wait to read it!, 25 May 2013
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This review is from: The Lion's World - A journey into the heart of Narnia (Paperback)
Well this book arrived swiftly, looks in top condition, and I have put it on the window sill, next thing is to find a chance to read it!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lions World, 18 Mar 2013
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This was a requested gift,so I have not read it as yet. Views of the retired Archbishop of Canterbury based on the CS Lewis stories
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine book, 24 Nov 2012
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My husband tells me this is of great interest and value to him in his work as a Vicar. I'm waiting to read it, being an avid "Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" fan.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Narnia: Revolution or Restoration?, 19 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Lion's World - A journey into the heart of Narnia (Paperback)
The Lion's World is a book which presents suggestions for reading C S Lewis's books for children. That is, suggestions how the Narnia stories might be read in terms of their themes and symbolism; illuminated by the character of their author, his interests, his faith; and his purpose in writing them.

Can The Lion's World be summed-up 'while standing on one leg'? There would have been publisher's limitations and requirements imposed on the author; and the latter has set himself the task of presenting a personal meditation of Lewis's Narnia stories. The result is a unique book about Narnia.

Nevertheless, Williams's foundation argument as encapsulated in the Conclusion (p139), that Narnia is a call to revolution, is, when set against the Unicorn's description of Narnia (The Last Battle, p110-111), Narnia misread. Emotionally intense - 'exhilarating' - it cannot be substantiated in respect of Narnia in terms of the internal evidence of the stories themselves. In this conclusion, the making normal what is abnormal in Narnia unintentionally allows the reader to believe, not in Narnia, but in its parody: Divine revolution.

Compelling reason for abandoning Narnia-as-a-call-to-revolution comes from words written at the same time that Lewis was beginning the Ransom Trilogy: "...it is a common feature of the despotisms of Russia, Italy and Germany that they deliberately encourage the continuance of a revolutionary outlook..." - The Nazi Conception of Law, by J Walter Jones (Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs No 12, 1939, p15).

On page 140 Williams asserts that in Narnia we are "offered the romance of being rebels". In Eden men and women were told that they could only have true life, be themselves, if they rebelled, and claimed the best thing of all that had been begrudgingly withheld from them. Did the speaker allude that men and women in Eden were living under occupation in a 'Soviet' world of limited possibilities? Which was truer to God: rebellion or obedience, and to what?

What this book shows - helpfully - is that in an age that finds all things revolutionary only too attractive (one of St Paul's 'youthful lusts') is that care must be taken that this passion is not confused with the claims of the Christian Gospel; or that it causes Narnia to be shaded over into something its author did not intend. Lewis was culturally-conditioned by his own time? (p34). And we are not by ours?

The Lion's World is a reminder that the inspiration for revolutions does not come from the talking carthorses.

Lewis has been criticised for Peter Pan-ism in respect of the Narnian children. Yet to want to be perpetually rebellious is to be permanently stuck in adolescence. Rebellion has become an oppressive cliché. Shall we 'move on' from this limited possibility?

As with St Paul, Williams uses a term from the criminal courts when discussing Lewis's portrayal of the Calormenes (p40); blithely putting Lewis in the dock with the Apostle to the Gentiles. Williams notes that the permissive theory that underpins Experiment House (itself a symbol of society under experimental politics) is false. Yet he truncates his foundation argument that God is the enemy of the order around us by failing to note the nature of that order - Experiment House itself. Experiment House is a symbol of an interloping `order around us', and is liberated by the children descending from the Narnian `heaven', like the host of Revelation.

If there is any revolution in Narnia it is RESTORATIVE (Joel 2.25). This holds true both of individuals (Eustace) and society (the Telmarine occupation). We are summoned to a RESTORATION.

There is a sizeable amount of Lewis in The Lion's World. Although certain `nervous' Christians do not realise that Lewis is using the figures from classical myth (e.g. Bacchus) to convey the originally intended "gleams of celestial truth and beauty" and not the "filth and imbecility" (Ransom, Perelandra, p255), they do at least recognise the latter.

Given the positions of Lewis as a Christian apologist and that of this book's author at the time of writing, the spiritually 'impoverished' Christian would have benefited from an approach other than one which at times has, in its use of pronouncements such as "the familiar world has to be broken open by the life it contains for joy to be full", something of the school of Hillary Clinton about it.

Significant parts of The Lion's World might be read accurately in terms of Christianity. Or they might not. The worst things are the gifts of God `carnally' received. Having `a robust new sense of who we might be'? Might not the incautious; those without God to guard; and especially those who think that the kingdom of heaven was inaugurated by the Sixties cultural revolution, choose to make those words the true successors of the Eden `gospel'? (Genesis 3.5).

The rest is commentary.

To see the true Narnia set everything else aside except the Unicorn's description of Narnia (The Last Battle, p110-111).

This Narnia has two characteristics. The first is that little happens in it that can be put into history books. It is not history. The second characteristic is that every day and week is better than the last; not different or less familiar than the last.

St Paul said that to live is Christ. He also said that to depart and be with Christ is far better. Better than what? Not the world as a vale of tears, for to live is CHRIST. What could be better than that? The answer is a greater measure of the same. So both Narnias are Lewis showing us a great Pauline truth. The Narnia-though-the-stable door is a greater measure of the same. The narrator at the end of The Last Battle says that this Narnia is where every chapter is better than the last; better than the 'chapters' of the seven books. This is a characteristic utterly unlike revolutions, whose exponents always have to claim that the past is inferior to their `paradise'.

This true Narnia described by the Unicorn is not history. It does not exist in the seven stories. These are Narnian history. This true Narnia exists behind and between the seven stories. In That Hideous Strength Lewis has Ransom consider the nature of history. Ransom muses that it is like the winnowing fan in the Gospel parable. The threshing action of the fan is the distressing events of history. The effect of this beating is a separation. Things become more themselves, Ransom says. It is this we see at Aslan's Great Door; a separation of the sheep and the goats. It is the final separation of Narnia as history from the true or eternal Narnia: the pathos of time exorcised.

Williams sees Narnia's ancient past as Lewis's roughly-sketched equivalent of Tolkien's, but as having no significance other than being back-lighting to the stories. This misses the importance of the two characteristics of Narnia as described above.

The Lion's World presents the reader with one central definition as to how Lewis intended people to read his stories. This is: "He (Lewis) is introducing us to a God who, so far from being the guarantor of the order that we see around us, is its deadly enemy" (p50).

In clear contrast with that definition, Lewis presents his own in the Unicorn's description of Narnia as he tells it to Jill in The Last Battle (p110-111). This Narnia is wholly unlike the character of Narnia in the second to sixth stories in the series; which are essentially St Paul's 'formidable seasons' (2 Timothy 3.1) - Narnia "stirred and upset". This means that the Narnia stories from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to The Silver Chair are the EXCEPTIONS to what Narnia is really like. Since they are exceptions certain acts that characterise them cannot be used, as Williams does, as a basis for the argument that Lewis is presenting Aslan as a figure of God who is an enemy of the Unicorn's socially-conservative `order around us'. It is this latter Narnia that is restored by the intervention of the children at the instigation of Aslan, who is its guarantor. As Williams says, acts have a character: a tree is known by its fruit. Aslan is not at war with the majority Narnian culture.

To think that Narnia is typically like that portrayed in these five books is like seeing a dear friend feverish and thinking that was their healthy state.

The overturning of established order in Beruna is the EXCEPTION rather than the rule in Narnia. Aslan overturns Miraz's order because Miraz, as a usurper, has no legal right to his position. The heart of the Lion's world is indeed that Narnia is law-made (p67). Yet even Jadis acknowledges this in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in her dispute with Aslan over Edmund, her lawful prey. Jadis appeals to the Emperor's law (p153). Edmund's blood is her property; a lawful possession. Tash has his lawful prey (The Last Battle, p165). In The Horse and His Boy a king says that the law makes kings and therefore they cannot do as they please (p238-239). Aslan obeys his own rules; THE SAME renouncing of personal power as the kings; BOTH implying rule of law. That is, being ruled by law itself, not men (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, p178). There is not such a `denial of what is there' by the players of power games (Jadis), nor such a clear distinction between human rules (the kings) and Divine law or truth as is claimed in The Lion's World.

An `ordered state of sin' (p52) does not imply that every ordered state is sinful. An ordered state of sin is a society in which sin has been civilised, not conquered.

Williams's concern is that Eustace is 'pampered'. This ignores Eustace's own estimation of himself, made after he has been 'undragoned'. Prior to this his problem was not pampering, but rather that he was "hating everything" (Titus 3.3-5). It is crucial that Eustace must first see what he is - a dragon - in the reflection in the pool of water. This and his failed attempts to 'undragon' himself provide the necessary correspondence without which he could not receive the cure that Aslan effects. "The crucified Lord, the Lamb of Sacrifice - where is His "beauty, that we should desire Him" AS SUCH, till in some true sort WE SEE OURSELVES?" (Handley C G Moule, From Sunday to Sunday, p185).

Eustace's parents are unlikely to be Edwardian (p93). Their home environment has minimalist decor; probably Thirties Moderne: all light from suntrap windows and airy space (not the 'sheltered' middle class conservative home of the film: 'living detached lives' is a favourite leftist calumny heaped on such people). Lewis's point is that all this modish asceticism and concern for `health' (facts, cold air and vegetables) has not made poor Eustace into a bright and breezy person; much less a saved one.

In killing all the major characters at the end of The Last Battle Lewis is not committing a provocative act of literary daring. He is thinking of Revelation 13.7: "And it was given unto him (the Beast) to make war with the saints, and TO CONQUER THEM". In The Last Battle the title of Aslan's father, the Emperor, has been subtly changed to `Emperor-over-the-Sea'. In other words, like Poseidon he is the commander of the waves. It is at his will the tides ebb or flood. It is by the Emperor's unknowable providence that Cair Paravel has been overcome in a seaborne invasion.

Williams writes that Narnia demystifies death. Is this what Lewis is doing in The Silver Chair (p260-263)? Lewis modifies the story of Androcles and the Lion to illustrate Christian belief. Jesus on the Cross felt the loneliness of death, as has every man, woman and child whoever died. In That Hideous Strength, the approach of Saturn would flatten the sphere of the Earth into a wafer; references to death and the Sacrament. That's Lewis's mystery. The Narnia-through-the-stable-door in The Last Battle is essentially Virgil's Elysian Fields. The characteristic of this Roman heaven was that it lacked a central presence. Aslan is that visible Presence for the children. Lewis is saying by way of symbol that Christ is that Presence for us.

Williams proposes a controversial view of the relationship between Aslan and Lucy. Yet Lucy's relationship with Aslan is clearly that of the beloved disciple's with Jesus. Peter says Lucy sees Aslan the most. She is a seer. Take the author of Revelation as John the disciple, and who is thus a seer, and we come full circle to the disciple who laid his head on Jesus's breast at The Last Supper.

A red herring is served up in the suggestion that Jadis's destruction of Charn could be the nearest Lewis gets to a comment on the nuclear arms race (p100). The reader is left to imagine that the Deplorable Word could be intended to be the Narnian Atom Bomb. It's clear from Lewis's essay, On Living in an Atomic Age (included in Present Concerns, 1986, p73), that he didn't think atomic weapons were the most serious things that needed to be considered. As such, would he have alluded to them in this story?

Williams considers that Jill's meeting with Aslan on his high mountain in The Silver Chair is Lewis is saying we would all feel 'uncomfortable' in God's presence; but that God will always work for our good. General readers may mistake this bien pensant definition for a fallacious reassurance. Lewis is describing the effect of holiness: simultaneous attraction and repulsion (see Rudolf Otto's The Idea of the Holy). The effect on Jill makes her see herself in contrast with Aslan; an outlook, not an introspection. It reveals her cooperation with sin ("I was showing off"); judgement ("Aslan didn't think much of her", addressing her by the impersonal title 'human child'; indicating the initial absence of a relationship); and perfect goodness (Jill's look into the Lion's face - the beatific vision that makes all things new (Rev.22.4)).

This one scene conveys all of what God is like in His Biblical names (see Andrew Jukes, The Names of God). Jill's meeting with Aslan shows what happens to a person when, and ONLY WHEN, they come face to face with God in Christ. Aslan is an all-corrective presence. Aslan tells Jill she will die. Why? She isn't ill. It is her guilt that is fatal, not her illusions. Jill was once 'dark'; not just in the dark, but impregnated with it so as to be identified with it (Eph. 5.8). Lewis has Ransom observe that few people would think that Divine love would feel like ferocity - the reason why Aslan is a lion. If we think that Aslan is too stern to represent Christ it is only because we have separated the characteristics of God and applied each exclusively to one of the Persons of the Trinity.

Williams considers that Aslan represents transcendence as difference not distance. Transcendence as distance is present in the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Transcendence as difference might be value free. Aslan is both a talking animal (incarnated) and the (only) son of the Emperor.

Williams notes that Aslan is rational, moral and has purposes. The importance of this requires a distinction be observed (lacking in the book) between Aslan in The Horse and His Boy (noted to be the odd one out in the series) and the other stories. If Aslan is 'a way of saying what God is like' then it can be seen that Aslan isn't remote in this story. Just as rational and moral as in the other stories, he helps through direct action but in disguised form (the cat at the tombs); and his justice is stripe-for-stripe (Aravis and the servant girl: "tear for tear, throb for throb", p216-217). Aslan has a suggestion of Jehovah about him; and is therefore daunting, before the redeeming love of the 'night is over scene' (p179). (See the exchange between Ivy Maggs and Ransom in That Hideous Strength, p360-361). Like the books of the Israelite kings in the Old Testament, The Horse and His Boy is a story of the members of the Narnian and Archenland royal houses.

In The Horse and His Boy it is Shasta/Cor who is the `stranger' - foreigner - not the Calormenes. He is for the same reason a pilgrim, as St Peter uses the term. St Peter's Greek term `parepidemos' which is translated `pilgrim' meant, not someone travelling to a religious shrine, but a person who lived in another country but who had not forgotten their homeland. This is why Shasta does not feel at home in Calormen. He has to become a `pilgrim', journeying to Aslan's country. The end of pilgrimage is homecoming. Williams in uncritical cultural relativism mode misses the Biblical connection.

Williams's analysis of the narrative of the stories concludes with the activities of Shift and Puzzle. Firstly, he likens both Shift and Puzzle to the Biblical Antichrist. However, Puzzle is admitted to the Narnian 'heaven', unlike the Antichrist. From what follows it is necessary to note that the characters of Shift and Puzzle represent respectively the ancient Greek and the modern meaning of the word 'servile'. Lewis discussed these meanings in his book, Studies in Words (p111-112). Lewis gives us a clue when Shift says he is very old; a fact having no other purpose in the story. The two meanings of 'servile', as defining their characters, explain their close relationship and different fate.

Secondly, Williams looks at the deception practised by Shift; springing from this servile character. He notes the damage done but not the means by which it is done. Wherever the stable is it is not in the Terra Incognita of Planet Narnia. The assembled congregation that Shift addresses before the stable are the talking animals of the Kingdom of Cair Paravel. Here religion appears in Narnia with Shift as a priestly intermediary. Christ told the disciples that something would come that could deceive even the elect. Were the elect likely to be deceived by invitations to vice or power? No, the warnings against are too obvious. The only thing that could deceive them is a counterfeit of Christianity, both as religion and morality (Shift's knowing-what's-best-for-you). However, unlike Shift, Puzzle acted from a good conscience; though ignorantly, and did not benefit from the deceptions (Job 33.27-28). He's repeatedly told by Shift that he isn't clever; that is, without guile. St Paul emphasised individual consciousness of one's own responsibility, but he wasn't thereby justified.

Williams notes the killing of the Dryads on Shift's orders. However, the cutting down of the trees is rationalised as being for the economic good of Narnia; part of Shift's manifesto of "oranges and bananas for everyone". Through good, in the biblical sense, 'peace' - 'oranges and bananas for everyone' - many are destroyed; one of the signature characteristics of the Antichrist (and where 'destroy' means 'to render something ineffective for its original purpose'; as when true joy becomes the emotional hyperinflation of the 'feelgood factor').

In the Conclusion Williams sums up his thoughts on what Lewis is telling us about God and what He calls us to do. What this conclusion is can be seen by doing the following:

Take a yellow highlighter and highlight the following words in the Conclusion in The Lion's World, pages 139 onwards:

"We are offered the romance of being rebels...expressed in terms of rebellion...overturning self-contained order...wildness...a revolution of what we have made...evil is cast as the ultimate force of reaction...join the resistance movement...victims of oppression...active rebels...joining the rebel troops...we need to confront...we are rebelling...invited to a revolution...sustain our rebellion...a robust new sense of who we might be...finally liberated from the occupation...we are at last radically opened up...vision of a new world...transfiguring of the material order...".

These words, this rendering of Narnia, some might recast in historical terms, as follows:

Gwendoline joins in the flower-garlanded celebrations in the streets of Beruna, a sans-culotte, avec les autres citoyens et citoyennes Narnien singing the (yellow-highlighted) lyrics of the Narnian Marseillaise (Prince Caspian, p215-216). Or, as it should be renamed, The Narnian Revolution. Narnians have been compelled to be free.

Williams sees us having eternity to come to the truth about ourselves. Lewis sees this as depending entirely on God's unchangeable saving character. He illustrates this at Beruna.

Gwendoline: "There's a LION!"

Gwendoline's school friends do not see the lion. They are paying attention to the school syllabus of Miraz the usurper. Gwendoline was chastised (persecuted) by her teacher for seeing the lion: she was reading the story 'wrongly'. Unlike Gwendoline, Miss Prizzle and the man beating the boy with the wooden stick suffer a liberation that reflects their blindness of heart. The man becomes the material he is abusing but in a way that GIVES HIM in the softness of flowers the quality he should have had when a man (similar to Nebuchadnezzar - Dan. 4, 29-34). Miss Prizzle, who propagated Miraz's Aslan-denying lies, is freed to run away from the instrument of Miraz's power THAT IMPRISONED HER, her desk.

Gwendoline, Miss Prizzle and the others are ALL freed from what Williams instead calls 'limited possibilities'. Aslan is an ALL-corrective presence. However, the way they receive that release determines its effect on them. In That Hideous Strength, Frost, at the point of death, rejects forgiveness - Lewis's visualisation of blasphemy against the Spirit (See Moule, Veni Creator, p19-23).

Williams sees in Narnia God inviting us to a revolution. Consider the subversive characteristics in Lewis's novel That Hideous Strength AND WITH WHOM THEY ARE ASSOCIATED: the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments representing the experimental politics of the 1930s; the NICE's suspending of the (secular) laws of England; government by experts (with the NICE's pragmatometer as a symbol of the concept of Gleichschaltung); the monolithic institution that becomes, undemocratically, the government (proven by its creating currency (p163)); the taking away of everything that makes life worthwhile except from an intellectually-superior elite (Hingest to Studdock, p85-86). Add to this the fact that Lewis has Ransom paraphrase Rousseau when he (Ransom) determines the nature of the subversive strategy of Weston, the Un-Man (Perelandra, p161-162). Keeping these points in mind, the one thing to ask is this: Is it likely that Lewis thought that the character of revolution could ever have a godly quality?

In That Hideous Strength, Wither refers to Ransom as having "embraced the cause of reaction" (p379). Is it likely therefore that Lewis wrote the Narnia stories to cast, as Williams claims, 'evil as the ultimate force of reaction'?

It is the Green Witch and her army of earthmen, with her plan to burst up from under the floors (symbolic of a society structured in classes) of Narnia's natural leaders, who are the closest equivalent to revolutionaries like Lenin and the bewitched proletariat. She disguises coercion as justice so effectively that Rilian is only intermittently aware of it.

The NICE want the euthanasia of the rentier, as did Keynes and Dalton. Here Lewis takes a definite political stance.

Williams views Narnia as showing our world to be soaked through with intelligent energy (p19). This is the world of That Hideous Strength. Does he assume that all intelligence is godly intelligence? (Jas. 3.15). It is the (fallen) Powers that lend their efficacy - their `grace' - to Belbury (see Jane Studdock's vision containing the tell-tale rods of light, p94).

As well as addressing the narrative of the Narnia stories Rowan Williams discusses - with much praise - Lewis's use of symbolism. A simple example of symbolism is the paper crown worn by Shift. The paper material indicates the phoney nature of Shift's authority. A complex use of symbol can be found in The Last Battle. Shift asks a rhetorical question of Puzzle: "What could a donkey know about signs?" (p20). Christ rode a donkey when entering Jerusalem to proclaim, with the use of symbols, His kingdom. Of all animals a donkey would be the very one to know all about signs.

Williams rightly sees Lewis using symbols as a means of presenting Christian belief in a new way to those who have rejected it, but who cannot explain what it is they have rejected. The Christianised symbolism and narrative of the stories gives readers a 'dictionary' of Christian belief without the stained glass associations (but see Jane Studdock's vision of stained glass in That Hideous Strength).

This method isn't putting ideas into a passive recipient, since it calls out a response from the reader that they cannot avoid making, nor falsify. Aslan himself is the author of the signs - symbols - in The Silver Chair. How Lewis's method works in the secondary sense can be seen in the house of the beavers in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrated as follows:

Mr and Mrs Beaver on How to take Lewis's Rorschach Test of symbols.

Mr Beaver: "Aslan is on the move! And you shall see him, children!"
Mr and Mrs Beaver: "What do you see, Lucy?" Lucy: "I see the beginning of summer holidays. I want to play on the beach! We can play ball! Hooray!"
Mr and Mrs Beaver: "What do you see, Susan?" Susan: "I see melody. I want to play the piano! You can sing with me! Delightful!"
Mr and Mrs Beaver: "What do you see, Peter?" Peter: "I see adventure. I want to sail the seven seas! I can't do it alone: you can be my crew! Wonderful!"
Mr and Mrs Beaver: "What do you see, Edmund?" Edmund: "I see mysterious horror...mysterious horror...mysterious horror...I want to be myself!"
Mr Beaver: "So as you can see children; symbols are the currency of the wise, but the counters of fools."
Mrs Beaver: "Or children, as I often tell Badger, `You can't make marmalade roll'."

The readers of The Lion's World who are not of such a subtle mind as its author may easily take up certain ideas in it according to their character, just as Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund do when they hear of Aslan; for any revelation of God in the New Testament was mediated through a person's character. There is the sort of person who, once they become a convert, thinks that they can in no way show their rectitude so well as in scorn for their former creed.

There is a 'joy' that can be had in the overturning of things, driven by "ill-suiting thoughts that would dissolve away all truth, all being, earth alike and heaven". The claim that Aslan/God is inviting us to `a revolution of what we have made of ourselves' is to give ultimate authority to the repudiation of ourselves in the form of our shared culture, law, identity, history and morality.

Instead of denying ourselves in the manner that Christ commanded, we deny Ourselves. Is this the `staleness' of Christianity warmed over?

If the author should emphasise otherwise it will be lost on the unsophisticated mind of the person who sees things in binary terms, or who has beliefs and values that are not based on reasoned argument. Has any person (outside academia) ever distinguished 'anarchic grace' (p67) from any other sort of anarchy? The country folk in the pub encountered by Mark Studdock cannot. How long will it be before others choose to see the 'invitation to a revolution of what we have made of ourselves' and the 'unending journey of joy' as just socialism in perpetual change - the 'gleams of celestial truth and beauty' in the Master of Magdalene's book becoming something else when they fall on a fallen world? Socialism in everlasting change - though it gave the man in the pub a transcendent purpose - is not the faith that preaches "Christ and Him crucified" (see Erik von Kuehnelt Leddihn, Leftism Revisited, p158).

To certain minds the text for the Conclusion in The Lion's World could be seen as Ezekiel 21.27 (KJV). This was taken out of its historical context and (mis)applied to justify any social revolution by the American preacher Herbert S Bigelow (see his book, The Religion of Revolution, 1916). Bigelow's passion for things revolutionary caused him to frame something so that it fed his passion. Evidence to the contrary is ignored. Bigelow thought he was suffering opprobrium for the sake of Christ when he was merely being disagreeable.

The Edwardian Bishop of Durham, Handley C G Moule, wrote: "(In St Paul) is one great instance of that large phenomenon, the transfiguration of the first followers of the Lord Jesus from what they had been to what under His risen power they became. We see in them men whose convictions and hopes have undergone an incalculable revolution; yet A REVOLUTION THAT DISORDERS NOTHING. Rather, it has taken fanaticism for ever out of their thoughts and purposes." (The Epistle to the Romans, 1894, p74).

This is Edmund at his meeting with Aslan. Edmund has to give up those things valuable to himself, his pride and resentment. Edmund retains a transcendent purpose, but without the self-importance (the members of the NICE have both. Lord Feverstone, whose title sounds like a fetish that induces delirium in others, is "a big man, in a big car, driving to where big stuff is going on"). In her 2005 Guardian article accompanying the release of the first Walden Media film, Polly Toynbee considered Edmund to be a poor wounded boy buffeted by his elder brother. She didn't notice the astonishing transformation of Edmund the Traitor into Edmund the Just.

'Transfiguring the material order'? Hasn't this been done in the spirit of Thomas Paine since the French Revolution? Just what is the 'order around us' if God is an enemy of it? The 'romance of being rebels'? Not the romantic self-indulgence of 'rebels' secure in a liberal society based on Enlightenment values, and safe in the experience of membership provided by Christian doctrine and common law? Human rules are, here and there, commonly used for JUST purposes (contra p67). That law has no moral content is Marxist in inspiration. What Christ said is to be given to Caesar is the VALIDITY of the secular law - human rules.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ, describing the Christian character, forbade revenge in any form, since revenge is the primal expression of Self. Christ's exhortation to take up one's cross is a turning 180 degrees on the Self and the dark gravity lodged at its centre (Gen.15.12). The Self - I - is not evil or a delusion as Buddhism has it; but is not to be at the centre: Christ is. Again, look at Narnia. In The Last Battle the children move further up and further in. They move from the spurs of Aslan's mountain towards its peak, its centre. From that peak Aslan comes bounding down to meet them. Aslan is at the centre. Before his 'undragoning' Eustace is in the self-slavery that is the inevitable inmost condition of the unregenerate man.

Christ emphasised faith since the essence of faith - trust - is to look out of and forget itself. Faith's - trust's - power lies in what it touches; what - or whom - is trusted. Others have religion: Christians have a TRUSTED Christ. Lewis's success is in getting readers attached the figure of Aslan.

In The Last Battle the children are ambitious, not for self, but for the honour of Aslan; persevering against discouragement (Rev.3.8). Entering Narnia, the children entered the world of Aslan's service. There are no tourists in Narnia. `No story but your own' is John 21.20-22.

Though defeated, through Aslan the children continue their own story, comprising the three gifts: themselves; Narnia; and Aslan (The Magician's Nephew, p141). This is symbolised by Cair Paravel. Still present in the Narnia-through-the-stable-door, their dear home is a place to which they do not return because it is their 'root', settled forever.

Throughout his book Rowan Williams (once described by a journalist as 'a frighteningly well-meaning man') emphasises the harm of illusions. However, having his illusions dispelled did not, in itself, save Eustace. Whereas forgiveness alone only allows the acquitted to depart, redemption both forgives and welcomes home. Divine joy occurs when the lost sheep is found AND carried home, not when the familiar world is 'broken open'. Try to find joy by breaking open your familiar world and you will probably find that you have just broken your world - and with it your heart.

(Readers not noticing the significance of the reference to 'the West and the rest' (p38) are referred to West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat. Williams's concern over polarity is fully addressed in How to be a conservative).
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The Lion's World - A journey into the heart of Narnia
The Lion's World - A journey into the heart of Narnia by Rowan Williams (Paperback - 16 Aug 2012)
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