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Harmony of the spheres
on 6 May 2009
I have been a fan of C.S. Lewis since reading the Narnia books at the tender age of 10. When you like an author, you are keen to get your hands on more of his works. Not only did I discover a terrific sequence of science fiction books (the so-called cosmic trilogy), but I was surprised to discover that Lewis was both a Christian apologist and a very highly regarded medieval scholar (I would love to have been present at one of his Oxford lectures which have assumed legendary status).
There is something about the Narnia books, a mystical and poetical element which takes me back to them again and again. A similar atmosphere informs "The Lord of the rings" but is completely absent from the ubiquitous Harry Potter, whatever other qualities he may possess.
Michael Ward takes the credit for discovering a crucial and hitherto unguessed link between the seven Narnia novels and the seven "planets" of medieval cosmology (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, the Sun and the Moon). Incidentally these seven heavenly bodies correspond to the seven days of the week. As soon as he gets started on his exegesis, you realise he is on to a winner. By Chapter 3 I was convinced beyond doubt that Lewis did indeed base these works on his beloved astrological scheme - and deliberately concealed this fact from his readers.
This is not an easy book to read. In discussing Lewis's theology, Ward takes us into some fascinating and obscure backwaters of philosophy. I must admit he left me behind on a number of occasions. Here are some of the words scattered through the text - alterity, anaphora, chthonic, Eutychian, hesychastic, ichneutic, monophysite, oppugnancy, parousia, polysemy. If you understand these words, you will have no problem!
Despite his somewhat dense prose style, full credit must go to Michael Ward for an important discovery about these much-loved stories.