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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 in which suggestions for reading C S Lewis's books for children are presented. 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 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' 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. If there is any revolution in Narnia it is restorative (Joel 2.25). This holds true both of individuals (Shasta’s recovery of his true name) and society (the thaw after the White Witch). Evil is defined by Williams as 'the ultimate force of reaction'. Yet Aslan is that ultimate force in Narnia. In defining evil this way Williams unwittingly and perversely makes Aslan evil.

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: " 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).

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’?

Williams' 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 our own cultural inheritance that defines ourselves. Instead of denying ourselves in the manner that Christ commanded, we deny Ourselves. There is the sort of person who, once they become a convert to a new orthodoxy, thinks that they can in no way show their rectitude so well as in scorn for their former creed.

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

Indeed, Edmund Burke criticised middle class intellectuals for treating revolution as a spectator sport, believing that they could proclaim governments illegitimate without anyone getting hurt (and they are still doing it today).

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

Williams laments certain Christians who are 'nervous' about Lewis' use of figures from classical myth (e.g. Bacchus). These Christians do not realise that Lewis is using these figures to convey the originally intended "gleams of celestial truth and beauty" and not the "filth and imbecility" (Ransom, Perelandra, p255). But does the former Archbishop, for whom these figures take on a radical environmental message?

Narnia shows that we have eternity to come to the truth about ourselves, declares the former Archbishop. At the end of The Last Battle there's no sense of this. As in Christ's parables, eternity fixes the Narnians in their moral shape forever. St Paul stated that there would be those who would always be learning but never be able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Readers may mistake Williams' declaration to mean that eternity is an unending length of time. Rather, Williams thinks eternity is something that allows us to be plastic enough to become fully human. This isn't Lewis' view. As he puts it into the Ransom stories, there would be humans who would be allowed to sink into a more or less contented condition of sub-humanity forever. Uncle Andrew is one such. The Narnians who enter Aslan's shadow, who remain in the material world, are another example.

What The Lion’s World shows - helpfully - is that in an age that finds all things revolutionary only too attractive (one of St Paul's 'youthful lusts'), 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?

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.

Williams' reference to the 'polarity' in 'the West and the rest' (p38) indicates that he is unsympathetic to dualism. Lewis declared that he always went as close to dualism as he dared. His near-dualism features significantly in the Narnia stories (e.g Aslan and Tash are 'such opposites'). Williams' lack of sympathy with this causes him to misread parts of Narnia.

Whether parts of The Lion's World are read accurately in terms of Christianity or not, a road must be judged by where it leads. This road leads to the Conclusion (p139), which is a rewriting of Narnia along revolutionary lines and a denaturing of it. Having `a robust new sense of who we might be'? Might not this become merely a stoical self-possession? Or might not the incautious and those without God to guard choose to make those words the true successors of those 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, inferior, or less familiar than the last. It is a case of good, better, best.

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. 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, like St Paul, that this Narnia is where every chapter is better than the last. This is a characteristic utterly unlike revolutions, whose exponents always have to claim that the past is inferior to their `paradise'. The ‘further up and further in’ is St Paul’s ‘more and more’ (1 Thes. 4.1&9).

The Narnia described by the Unicorn is not history. It does not exist in the seven stories. These are Narnian history. The Unicorn's Narnia exists behind and between the seven stories. In That Hideous Strength Lewis has his characters consider the nature of history (p391-392). They muse that it is like the winnowing fan in the Gospel parable. The threshing action of the fan is the events of history. The effect of this is that things become more themselves and unlike others. It is this we see at Aslan's Great Door; a separation of the sheep and the goats, the wheat from the chaff - and the pathos of time exorcised.

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

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 (conveying the Gospel truth), acts have a character: a tree is known by its fruit.

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). 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 Voyage of the Dawn Treader, p178). This implies rule of law. That is, being ruled by law itself.

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. As a 'player of power games' she does not 'ignore what is there' any more than Shift does when he uses truth as an instrument of power.

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.

In the Conclusion Williams sums up his thoughts on what Lewis is telling us about God and what He calls us to do. What his 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 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 of a new world...transfiguring of the material order...".

Can these words be applied to the Narnia described by the Unicorn? Some might see these words in historical terms, as follows:

Gwendoline joins in the celebrations in the streets of Beruna, a sans-culotte, with the other Narnian citizens, 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 judgement taking place in silence. Lewis sees judgement taking place in conversation. Edmund, Eustace, Jill and Emeth are obvious cases, but Lewis also illustrates this at Beruna.

At Beruna Gwendoline exclaims, "There's a LION!"

A conversation follows. However, 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 give him in the softness and gentleness of flowers the quality he should have had when a man. 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 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. This is Lewis's visualisation of blasphemy against the Spirit (See Handley Moule, Veni Creator, p19-23)).

Williams sees in Narnia God inviting us to a revolution. Consider the subversive characteristics in Lewis' 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'? Reaction was the ultimate evil - for the Jacobins.

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.

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. Bigelow thought he was suffering opprobrium for the sake of Christ when he was merely being disagreeable.

If the author of The Lion’s World 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. Could any person (outside academia) ever distinguish 'anarchic grace' (p67) from any other sort of anarchy? 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).

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 what is valuable to himself, his 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'? Are we to pursue materialism in God’s name? 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 (pace 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.

Is it possible to put one’s finger on what exactly is so elusively unsatisfactory about the former Archbishop’s presentation of Narnia in The Lion’s World, especially as he sums it up in the Conclusion?

To do so it is necessary to look at Lewis’ novel That Hideous Strength. There is a defining characteristic about the two camps in this story, the Nice (Belbury) and Ransom’s Company of St Anne’s. Belbury has goals and its people are in constant activity towards realising them. At the same time none of these characters originates the action. As Straik says, they are instruments. Whereas the members of St.Anne’s are in a waiting posture; they do not have a goal. They gather around Ransom of their own volition rather than be recruited by him to a plan.

Keep in mind this contrast between constant activity working towards goals on the one hand with stasis and normalcy on the other. The Narnia described by the Unicorn is at rest: a world of harmless lives and pretty villages. It does not have a goal. The activities the Narnians do in it result in a life of peaceable co-ordination. Their life is not planned. Their actions result in a return to rest. Yet since every day is better than the last there is a sense of expectancy, in the realisation of which, neither yesterday is swept away nor tomorrow advanced to in a progressive manner. Williams sees in Narnia Lewis advancing the possibility of our 'transfiguring the material order'. Is this the historical inevitability of dialectical materialism? In his novel That Hideous Strength Lewis categorically opposed this philosophy, one he declared to be made in Hell.

In Williams’ view poor Gwendoline at Beruna is invited to throw off the 'structures’ and become part of the leftist romanticism of the streets. If there is any character in Narnia who is revolutionary it is the Green Witch. Her under-earthmen have no will of their own while under her spell, though they have purpose and movement. Her plan is to ‘burst up from under the floors’ of the Narnians; where ‘floors’ are a symbol of an hierarchical society.

Williams has it that in Narnia Lewis is saying that we have eternity to come to the truth about ourselves. Given Williams' noted tendency to write to conceal rather than to reveal, this might means a number of different things. In his novels, Lewis advances his belief that eternity fixes someone in their moral shape forever. Williams might mean we have eternity to change. He might mean that we have eternity to suffer what we have made of ourselves.

The Unicorn's description of Narnia is ignored because its homeliness and modesty do not fit into the view that there is only revolution and reaction. The Narnians who live in this true Narnia are not consulted by Williams for their views on what Narnia is all about. The Conclusion in The Lion's World replaces Lewis' superb description of a consoling and fulfilling life that is the Unicorn's Narnia with the vacuous excitement of perpetual revolution. There is a palpable sense in the serenity of 'all those happy years' that this, the Unicorn's description of Narnia, is the reality lying at the heart of the lives of people on earth; and which will be the eternal yesterday the faithful departed will live again in God, for whom no time is past.

What is the character and purpose of the supposed revolution that we are summoned to? Revolution is made attractive by associating it with a fantasy story which then is to be developed into reality, as Narnia becomes a reality at the end of The Last Battle. The problem facing Narnia in each story is made out by implication to be so immense that only revolution can overcome it. This revolutionary paradigm of the Left is one that is entirely absent from Lewis' Narnia as he has the Unicorn describe it. It is Uncle Andrew's capitalist intentions to turn the newly-made Narnia into a money-making enterprise that would in its effect be revolutionary; bearing in mind how commercialism swept away Medieval hierarchy, and that it was Marx's belief that the bourgeoisie would create the globalist proletarian state.

Secondly, and to be fair to Rowan Williams, his revolution seems to be more Adorno than Marx or Sartre; a voyage of self-discovery that takes us away from our idols created by our appetites; the clichés that betray us into self-slavery. But Lewis puts all this into The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. To the snares present on the islands of that journey, Lewis adds in his other stories the fleshly sins of self-indulgence of Calormen (Rabadash - "I want, I want, I want..." - nothing to do with the Crusades); the intellectual sins of the Green Witch; and the materialism of Uncle Andrew.

The greatest revolution that has been carried out in Britain and one that affects the Church of England is one that doesn't appear in the Conclusion in The Lion's World. For all Williams' exhortations in this concluding chapter of his book that God wants to summon us to revolution of what we have made of ourselves he does not point out that equality legislation has dethroned Christianity in Britain. This is what has happened when the 'tree is dry'.

Williams' avoidance of spelling out this most revolutionary of all revolutions that have been carried out is the most serious omission in his claim that in Narnia Lewis is showing us a God who calls us to revolution. Is this a revolution that God would summon us to? Any country, person or church that abandons Christianity, and therefore the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, must suffer the fate of the house in the Gospels that was swept and garnished. In Prince Caspian the Telmarines have given up believing in Aslan and as a consequence, the narrator says, they believe in fearful superstitions.

There is no equality of outcomes in Christ's parable of the talents. Competition still lies at the heart of human relationships in Christ's declaration that the greatest is the one who serves. Here is the most crushing refutation of the New Left's objective of replacing domination with equalities.

In his book Rowan Williams claims that truth is to be found in rebellion against the oppressive clichés of the world. What is Narnia? It is as described by the Unicorn. What does Aslan do? He restores that Narnia. To recast Narnia along revolutionary lines is to change its metaphysics. 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. What’s the point in reading Narnia if you can’t tell when a donkey is wearing a lion’s skin?

We've all read Narnia. But have we really understood what we have read?

From all sedition, privy conspiracy and rebellion...Good Lord, deliver us.

(Readers not noticing the significance of Williams' reference to 'the West and the rest' (p38) are invited to look at Roger Scruton's The West and the Rest).
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Initial post: 8 Nov 2015 15:03:17 GMT
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Some other criticisms of The Lion’s World.

Williams' 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' point is that all this modish asceticism and concern for `health' (facts, cold air and vegetables) has not made Eustace into a bright and breezy person; much less a saved one.

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' 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. In the Narnia through the stable door Aslan is that visible presence for the children. Lewis is illustrating by way of symbol that Christ is that Presence for us.

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.

A controversial view of the relationship between Aslan and Lucy and Susan is advanced by the former Archbishop relative to a piece of obscure theology (p56). Given that Narnia’s originally intended readers were children and living in the 1950s is it likely that Lewis was introducing them to theology the sexual connotations of which as described by Williams would be outside their knowledge (thankfully)? Representative of God, in the scenes with the girls Aslan acts like a mother – God by His name of ‘El Shaddai’. Lucy's relationship with Aslan is also 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 back to the disciple who laid his head on Jesus' breast at The Last Supper. Williams proposes that, in the scene referred to, Lewis is showing that intense physical enjoyment is a glimpse of the Divine. This idea, combined with the sexual association, might for most people, simply suggest today’s permissive society and its pagan phallic cult.

A red herring is served up in the suggestion that Jadis' 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?

The former Archbishop suggests that in the talking animals we should see a call to treat animals on earth as non-human persons. Yet the Narnian talking animals as rational and moral beings are the Narnian equivalent of humans. Morally responsible, they are separate from the non-talking animals and do not treat the latter as non-human persons.

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. Aslan tells Jill she will die. Why? She isn't ill. It is her guilt that is fatal, not her illusions. Aslan is stern with Jill (addressing her by the impersonal title 'human child', indicating an initial absence of a relationship) because no tender words will suffice. Jill’s look into Aslan’s face is an outlook, not the work of an arduous introspection of the sort Buddhism might set her. Her meeting with Aslan shows what happens to a person when, and ONLY WHEN, they come face to face with God in Christ. Lewis has Ransom observe that few people would think that Divine love would feel like ferocity. This is one of the reasons why Aslan is a lion. He is also a talking animal (incarnated) and the (only) son of the Emperor.

That Aslan is rational, moral and has purposes requires an observation that, contrary to Williams' claim, Aslan in The Horse and His Boy deals out punishment of a particular sort. 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. He is daunting, until 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, Archenland and Calormene 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. Shasta becomes what, by grace, he is. Williams in uncritical cultural relativism mode misses the Biblical connection.

The NICE want the euthanasia of the rentier, as did Keynes and Dalton. Here, contrary to Williams' claim, Lewis takes a definite political stance since the euthanised rentier as lender is replaced by the state.

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? (James 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).

The phrase 'Soviet limited possibilities' in The Lion's World reflects a Gramscian disappointment with the expression of Marxism that was Soviet communism. The brutalities and failures of this regime were never going to convert Western social conservatives to leftism. Another more civilised and fastidious expression of Marxism had to be found to make that appeal. Whatever else is true in what the former Archbishop writes in this book (e.g. that the truth is best witnessed to by those who have no hope of vindication or reward), The Lion's World is such an appeal in respect of all that is conservative in the Unicorn's description of Narnia.

The principle theme of The Last Battle is perseverance against discouragement. This has been seen as the purpose of the Book of Revelation. At the same time Lewis includes a 'supernatural' ending to the story that also fits in with the way Revelation has been seen as an actual vision. It was seen as such by Bishop Handley Moule. Lewis presents both Christian views without favouring one over the other.

It's not impossible that Lewis' 'further up and further in' allows for some development of a person after death. Hebrews 12.23 - the spirits of the just made perfect - could be taken to indicate that possibility. The just are not perfect because they are just. But nor is this purgatory, because it is the just who are perfected.

Posted on 8 Nov 2015 15:06:22 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Nov 2015 10:17:39 GMT
Some further criticisms of The Lion's World.

Williams view of Shift as Antichrist would only work if Shift were a substitute for Aslan (the Latin for 'anti' being 'vice', meaning a substitute). 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 he says Shift is very old. The two meanings of 'servile', as defining their characters, explain their close relationship and different fate.

Looking at the deception practised by Shift (arising from this servile character) Williams 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.

Ginger the Cat and the Calormene captain, saying in their hearts that there is no God, promote the theology of Tashlan. They combine false religion with Shift’s fastidious new morality and mercantile power - oranges and bananas for everyone. Shift becomes a priestly intermediary between Aslan and the talking animals. False religion and mercantile power are the double-sided Babylon of Revelation.

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 crime? The only thing that could deceive them is a counterfeit of Christianity. "Since the totalitarian movements of the last hundred years, so reminiscent of the French Revolution, are in part or even predominantly Christian heresies, men and women with a distinctly Christian background are attracted to them" - Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism Revisited, p73.

The cutting down of the trees and the killing of the Dryads 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’ (that is, rendered ineffective for their original purpose). This is one of the signature characteristics of the Antichrist. Like Satan in Eden, Shift claims to be the benefactor of his world.

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.

As well as addressing the narrative of the Narnia stories Rowan Williams discusses - with much praise - Lewis' 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.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ, describing the Christian character, forbade revenge in any form, since revenge is the primal expression of self-will. Christ's exhortation to take up one's cross is a turning 180 degrees on the Self and the dark gravity of sin lodged at its centre (Gen.15.12). Without the Cross the Ego has nothing deeper in itself with which to reverse the sin-ward disposition that PRECEDES any act. The Self - I - is not evil or a delusion as Buddhism has it. But it 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. Every Narnian is ‘in’ Aslan at the end of The Last Battle, whether they enter through the stable door, the great door, or into Aslan’s shadow. Lewis’ universalism has a qualitative difference between the three groups. No realisation of this appears in Williams.

This is where a second major deficiency appears in Williams’ book. In Lewis’ own presentation of Christian universalism Williams does not note the qualitative differences between the three groups of Narnians: those who enter the stable door; those who enter the great door; and those who enter the shadow Aslan.

Those who enter the stable door go straight to Aslan's paradise with no interval between. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed. In a blink of an eye the dead will be raised imperishable, and mortality must put on immortality". Here Lewis references St Paul.

The second group are those who arrive at Aslan's great door and are admitted to the country park paradise. All these love Aslan at his appearing. Again Lewis is referencing the Apostles.

The third group are those who arrive at Aslan's great door and hate him. They enter his shadow. Aslan's shadow is Aslan. The shadow has the same shape and presence as the physical Aslan. As we have been told in the house of the beavers in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that Aslan is good the shadow Aslan cannot be an evil alter ego. The shadow Aslan cannot be anything different from what we know of Aslan in the stories.

Thus at the end of Narnia all Narnians are 'in' Aslan. All are saved (bar Shift, who is a character unlike either humans, the talking animals or the other animals; the significance of which is seldom remarked on). The second and third groups of Narnians had to wait in the sleep of death until the end of the Narnian world. They represent the general resurrection of the dead in Revelation. There was more than one flock in the 'sheepfold' of Narnia; another dualism true to the Gospels.

Another unsatisfactory piece from The Lion’s World is in Williams’ observation on the scene at the end of The Last Battle where the children see that the spurs of Aslan’s mountain are the different countries of the earth.

In referring to this Williams notes the unity such an image conveys. Lewis, however, is doing something much more, and which is no mean feat. His image does indeed represent unity of a specific sort. But it also represents distinctiveness. All the spurs are separate from each other and, as countries, must therefore have their own characteristics. That the spurs are not joined physically to each other shows that what Lewis is representing is distinctiveness, not diversity. Lewis is not emphasising unity over individuality or vice versa; both co-exist in his image. Williams can only tell us what he prefers.

From something that he put into That Hideous Strength we can be sure that in the spurs of the mountain Lewis means cultural distinctness. In That Hideous Strength he has his characters say that it is necessary for the Divine purpose that each country expresses truly and fully its own character (p516-517).
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