April 21, 2010

Is There a Deeper Magic?

Growing up I cut my reading teeth on C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia - I must have read Clive's Chronicles at least 6 or 7 times if not more (thanks Dad for doing the Reepicheep voice) - not to mention the dozens of times I have watched the buck-toothed Lucy, giant-sized Beaver (yes I capitalized Beavers - are they not speaking animals?) BBC series.  Which by the way is still better than the modern version - at least so far.  To be fair the first two books (Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe and Prince Caspian) are the most boring, still good, but not as entertaining as say The Magician's Nephew.  I hope and pray they don't blow that one.  I can't wait to see the dying world of Charn and her wicked queen over against the singing creation of the birth of the Lion's world.

The BBC went with the true "British look" for Lucy - a young Kathleen Kenyon in my opinion.

BBC's Reepicheep looked like the morbid offspring of Abu, the monkey from Aladdin, and the flying monkeys of the Wicked Witch of The Wizard of Oz.

One of Clive's main motifs in his writings is the idea of the "true myth."  In our minds that seems to be an oxymoron - how can something be both true and myth (insert dumb - Jumbo-Shrimp joke)?  But in Lewis' mind every myth, every legend has a true substantive reality lying behind it.  This has massive ramifications for a number of different aspects including but not limited to the following:
  • The nature of the New Heavens and the New Earth - what he called "living in the Shadowlands" - living in a shadow of the true reality that belies this earth.
  • Our spiritual and physical affections - every inkling of enjoyment that we have in this shadow earth is because we have come into contact with a shadow of the "true" reality (this includes the king of the coming true world). 

If you are wondering whether or not this type of thinking is biblically valid just read this passage:
“For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:19–26 ESV)
The book of Hebrews is full of this type of thinking (its Platonic - but let's not get into that).  It's why I named this blog Seeking a Homeland - because in chapter 11 of Hebrews this idea is picked up again as the author writes, 
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. 
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:8–16 ESV)
What a passage! I think it might be my favorite Heaven passage.  It's my earnest desire that I "speak thus."

Clearly then Clive Staples was picking up on a biblical idea.  Perhaps the best example of this (or at least most well-known) is Aslan's sacrifice for Edmund (The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe) that leads to both Edmund's restitution and Aslan's resurrection.
At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise—a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant's plate.... The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.
"Who's done it?" cried Susan. "What does it mean? Is it more magic?"
"Yes!" said a great voice from behind their backs. "It is more magic." They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"Oh, Aslan!" cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad....
"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."
Do you have gooseflesh after reading that?

In the coming days I hope to flesh this Deeper Magic idea out in the following Biblical examples:
  1. A Deeper Priesthood - Melchizedek, king of Salem (Gen. 14:18-21)
  2. A Deeper King - David, Son of Yahweh and Priest of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4)
  3. A Deeper Sacrifice - Mesha, king of Moab sacrifices his first-born son (2 Kings 3:27)


Unknown said...

love me some Clive. Good stuff.

Ben Smith said...

Yes! The BBC series was way better than the recent films. What it lacked in production values it made up for in charm.