Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Review: Planet Narnia (Michael Ward)

By Jove, I waited a month for this book to arrive and it was worth it. Michael Ward is a man immersed in CS Lewis' work and in the process came across a key that unlocks the depths of the Narniad. The bulk of the book explores The Planets in the Lewis writings generally, in the Narniad and the theological implications. Brief treatment is given to the context Lewis wrote into, and the connection between his book Miracles and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, I neither know Lewis or Medieval literature enough to truly evaluate the claims of the book.

I'm drawn in by Ward's observations about The Planets, but perhaps more captured by the ideas of how to communicate ideas in apologetics, in narrative and in imagination. He observes Lewis moving from Miracles to The Lion using the imagery of Jupiter (though 'it is not true') to communicate powerfully and imaginatively the same message. It's a softer approach but more appealling - though there is something inviting even about Miracles. Ward reflects on 'The Alexander Technique' of looking at a beam of light or looking along it: one argues/contemplates, the other enjoys. How much more is achieved by drawing people into a world where Biblical concepts are fleshed out than by mere argument. Ward makes me want to re-read Miracles and The Lion. And I'll then order The Discarded Image on which much of this book stands.

Further pursuing the imagination of Lewis, Ward interacts with Philip Pullman: "If he had lived to learn of Philip Pullman's 'republic of heaven' he  divine dwelling-place; he would have thought it an imaginative solecism because it is anthropocentric. A republic of heaven with its own elected President, would be [an] example of religion as projection,would not have regarded it as a satisfactory alternative to the traditional moarchial conception of the the creation of God in the citizens' own image." Narnia simply has more appeal and all the more with The Planets unveiled. We're invited into a meaning drenched universe. Ward concludes citing from Simon Barrington-Ward: "We come to share [Lewis'] feeling...for the majestic order that runs through all things." 

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