The Deep Magic of Narnia (Part 1 of 2)
Our Solar System consists of our star (the Sun), and its orbiting planets, including Earth, which is one of possibly 3.2 trillion planets located in the Milky Way Galaxy. The universe is made up many more galaxies--up to 2 trillion at last count--and we have not yet been able to find the end of our universe with Hubble and James Webb telescopes or find other signs of life similar to ours!
The authors of Psalms had no way of knowing 5000 years ago that our space exploration today would reinforce the notion that we humans are (im-probably) alone in the universe. It’s a ridiculous notion, isn’t it? That we would be the only humans amongst trillions of galaxies, each made up of trillions of planets?
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers--the moon and the stars you set in place--what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Psalm 8:3-4 NLT
And yet, here we are…the product of some unfathomable process of natural mutation, or the creation of some mighty imagination. For what is humanity? Why are we here in this universe full of what appears to be empty planets with huge empty spaces between them that never seem to end? Is there a purpose to us being here?
C.S. Lewis, the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (LWW) decided to explore these questions through storytelling--an exploration of worlds inside our imagination--which in itself, is another improbability, a kind of deep magic in itself. Lewis came to believe that imagination is the expression of spirit in each of us. And what is the nature of this spirit? For Lewis, it is the spirit of the Judeo-Christian God, based on the Imago Dei, a theological concept, applied uniquely to humans--that each human being is made in the image of God, that each human life is sacred, precious, and to be loved.
Lewis came to believe that imagination is the expression of spirit in each of us.
Lewis knew a lot about storytelling because he was a professor of English Literature and Classics for 30 years at Oxford and Cambridge universities. He lost his mother at age 9 and took refuge in books and nature, particularly Norse myths and legends which informs the LWW with a White Witch based on The Snow Queen of Scandinavian legends, not to mention Centaurs, Fauns, Unicorns, Dwarfs, Cruellies, and other mythological creatures.
Lewis was an atheist until his thirties when he became a theist then a renowned Christian apologist--someone who defends Christianity against objections but more importantly someone who explains the systematic development of certain theories and beliefs about the nature of God and God’s relationship with us. And for those of you that know the Christian story, you will easily recognize the story of Aslan in the LWW as a retelling of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
However, before he wrote the LWW, he wrote The Space Trilogy in response to a challenge from his good friend and colleague, J.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was to write a story based on time travel and Lewis one on space travel; Tolkien never rose to the challenge but Lewis did. His trilogy tells the story of 3 planets struggling with different cosmic calamities. In his second book Perelandra, for example, he re-imagines the story of Adam and Eve with the idea that the Bible’s Genesis 3 “The Fall of Man” never happened and explores how sin and temptation with the aid of technology forms the social fabric of this planet.
This moral conscience is... a truth or reality that exists outside of time and space--it is a Deep Magic--as a tremendous gift to humanity...
In the LWW, written a few years later, he writes a book for children about how to live in a moral universe governed by the great king Aslan. We humans are born with a conscience, we have an innate sense of right and wrong, of good and evil. This moral conscience is not a biological outcome of evolution that is inherent in us but a truth or reality that exists outside of time and space--it is a Deep Magic--as a tremendous gift to humanity but one that requires responsible stewardship or care.
GEORGE DUTCH is Associate Artistic Director and Dramaturge for 9th Hour Theatre Company
Listen to George discuss the story's themes on the Telling The Story podcast.