11.18.2010

The Narnia Code by Michael Ward

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The Narnia Code


The Narnia Code is authored by Michael Ward on C.S. Lewis and the code or hidden meaning behind the seven part series: The Chronicles of Narnia. Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. There are over 157 pages of intrigue and discussion concerning The Chronicles of Narnia; literature that has literally had a long lasting influence on our thinking. I personally have read many of Lewis' works and have always admired his life's story. Reading this book is a must for Lewis fans.

Some Lewis scholars have suggested this series was linked to classical virtues (e.g. faith, hope, love, justice, prudence, temperance, and courage). Others suggested they all had the unifying theme of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy, and pride). Ward suggests that "none of these ideas proved to be the solution to the riddle." (Ward, pg. 13)

Ward insists that the code is in the seven planets (Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus) that played a big part in Lewis' life-long interests and study of Middle Ages and Renaissance literature. Ward recounts that Lewis himself said most of his books were written "tous exo" (Greek) which is to say for "those outside". Lewis consciously uses this type of method so, as Jesus did with his parables, "those outside" may always be seeing and never perceiving. (Ward, pg. 11) Often times while reading the parables of Christ a first reading only reveals a certain level of meaning or understanding whereas a second or third reading will reveal much more.

George Sayer, a close friend of Lewis, said that Lewis or Jack, as he was also called, "never ceased to be secretive." (Ward, pg. 12) In fact, the movie Shadowlands is all about Lewis who got married and told no on what he had done for the most part of a year. Even his close friend, J.R.R. Tolkein, who did not like the Chronicles series, did not know. C.S. Lewis was known for his secrecy and wrote many books, even one of his last books, under different pen names (e.g. Clive Hamilton, N.W. Clerk).

Although chapter two does not discuss the seven planets it does discuss an issue that I wanted to share in this review. Chapter two is called "The Beam of Light" and Ward cites Psalms 36:9 here which says, "in your light do we see light." (ESV) Ward recalls Lewis' work "Meditation In A Toolshed" where he is making the point that we should "consider every question in both ways--both by "looking at" it and by "looking along" it. (Ward, pg. 17) An example given to illustrate this is falling in love. Whose opinion on falling in love would matter the most to you? A man who had fallen in love with a woman who is enjoying and looking along the light of love or the opinion of a scientist or sociologist who are only contemplating or looking at love? We can look at light and it can blind us momentarily; however, we can also look along the light as well and it illumines us or our surroundings. The latter, is when the light is invisible because you no longer see the light but see "by" the light. As Ward points out, Lewis's point was simply this: "Light is not something you see; it's something you see by." (Ward. pg. 19) It is by God's light that we can see thereby.

During the Middle Age period each planet, in the pre-Copernician world, had its own special symbol or influence. Ward makes the point, in the remainder of the book that each Chronicle contains symbolisms of each planet. Lewis felt that the universe, as it was understood in pre-Copernician times, was "tingling with life" whereas in post-Copernician times the Classical Physics have given us a universe more like a machine. This tingling of life referred to the way that we have viewed the planets and stars as something special.

What does this have to do with Christ? As Lewis has noted, Christ is the cosmic glue which holds our universe together. (Ward, pg. 20)  Ward notes that "from the very start of the Bible, the stars have great significance...Creation story...God creates the stars "for signs and for seasons"...God makes the sun to "rule the day" and the moon to "rule the night" (Genesis 1:14, 16) (Ward, pg. 38) It was the Star of Bethlehem that led the wise men to Jesus; in Judges the stars are portrayed as angels; in Revelations 1:16, 20, 2:1 the Son of Man is holding the "seven stars in his right hand". Ward, who even lived in Lewis' old home and has lectured on him for years, believes that Lewis used the "symbolism of the seven heaven in this world as he wrote the Narnia books...each Chronicle...would embody and express the spiritual quality of on of the seven planets." (Ward, pg. 42) Below I will briefly list each Chronicle and its corresponding planet.

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Jupiter
  2. Prince Caspian - Mars
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Sun
  4. The Silver Chair - Moon
  5. The Horse and His Boy - Mercury
  6. The Magician's Nephew - Venus
  7. The Last Battle - Saturn

Since this is a review and not a spoiler I will discuss only one of the Chronicles and its planet - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This year (December 2010) Walden Media, who has already produced two of the Chronicles, will also produce their third film about this series, the Dawn Treader specifically. As previously mentioned, Ward believes this Chronicle is about the Sun.

In this Chronicle Caspian, Lucy and the others find a pool on a mysterious island. At the bottom of this pool they can see a life-sized figure of a man made of gold! Even as Edmund edges close to the water the tip of his boots turn to gold. Even the spear Edmund places into the water turns to gold! Everything the water touches turns into gold. The story gets better. Caspian picks up a spray of heather and dips it into the pool. Immediately it too turns into purest gold! Caspian begins to be stricken with greed and attempts to claim the land for himself and even renaming it "Goldwater Island". Edmund has a different plan than Caspian and a tussle erupts. It is at this point that, on the horizon, a huge lion begins to walk at a slow pace..."Nobody dared to ask what it was. They knew it was Aslan!" (Just as the disciples knew Jesus in John 21:12)

As Aslan appears bright and shining as if he was in the bright sunlight even though the sun was in fact gone. Aslan is clearly being portrayed here by means of Sun imagery. The pool that turns everything into gold is seen to be the evil of alchemy. This is why later Reepicheep would call the place "Deathwater Island" instead of Caspian's "Goldwater Island". The evil and desire of worldly riches is overpowering and creates division amongst the characters in this story. Only when they look toward Alsan do they become free of this greed for gold. "Aslan's riches bring life, not death." (Ward, pg. 72)

Lewis teaches us a powerful lesson that can be found in Psalm 19:10. God's ways are "More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb." It is the riches of God that can fill our longings with the purest and finest gold!

JNA



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