Apr 11, 2006

Last Post on Narnia

I've finished the Narnia books and want to make a few more observations.

The very last book in the series "The Last Battle" is basically an account of the Narnian apocalypse. The world ends, Aslan the Lion-Christ winnows the wheat from the chaff and all the good creatures go to a heaven Narnia for evermore.

C.S. Lewis was not only a good story-teller, but an interesting theologian. He makes heaven to be a "realer" version of Narnia (and likewise the earth's heaven is a realer version of earth.) One of the characters, a professor, references Plato in an aside. The mundane Narnia and Earth are called the Shadowlands. The children get to visit a heavenly England.

This is an intriguing take on the Christian idea of eternity. Nevertheless, even as clever a heaven as Mr. Lewis' perforce seems rather insipid to a Buddhist. It's all green grass and lolly-pops, for sure, but it's still all conditioned isn't it? The idea of conditioned existence prolonged for ever, even in a perfect Narnia, has a horrific edge if you think about it.

Notching down from the metaphysical a bit; I've commented before on Lewis' use of language and I'd like to cite one example. Remember this is from a children's book written in the fifties.

The children are about to leap into a churning waterfall in the heaven-Narnia;

"Isn't it wonderful?"said Lucy "Have you noticed one can't feel afraid even if one wants to?"

"By Jove, neither one can." said Eustace after he had tried.

That kind of syntax must be what comes of teaching Latin and Greek in the schools.

1 comment:

Lauri said...

Just in case you're interested in a similarly themed book series that is supposed to be dealing with Buddhist ideas, I would love to read your thoughts on another "children's" book. I just finished listening to the books on tape of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy which includes: "The Golden Compass" "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass". (They’re fabulous on tape because a different actor reads each character.) I've heard them described as books about the battle between eastern and western religions. Having read them, and just attended a retreat with you, I can't see that there’s an Eastern perspective at all or at least not one I’m familiar with in Buddhism. Some of the descriptions of the love of the main character, Lyra, for other beings do sort of sound like apt descriptions of Metta. Maybe if you’ve already read them, or might be interested to, I’d love to know your reflections.