Sunday, August 24, 2008

Narnian Cosmology

My all-time favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia books is 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.' I like the surreal nature of some of the episodes within it.

There is a fascinating piece of dialogue in 'The Voyage of the Daw Treader':

'Do you mean you were flying in the air?' Eustace blurted out.

'I was a long way above the air, my son,' replied the Old Man. 'I am Ramadu. But I see you stare at one another and have not heard that name. And no wonder, for the days when I wa a star had ceased long before any of you knew this world, and all the constellations have changed.'

'Golly,' said Edmund under his breath. 'He's a retired star.'

'Aren't you a star any longer?' asked Lucy.

'I am a star at rest, my daughter,' answered Ramandu. 'When I set for the last time, decrepit and old beyond all that you can reckon, I was carried to this island. I am not so old now as I was then. Every morning a bird brings me a fire-berry from the valleys in the Sun, and each fire berry takes away a little of my age. And when I have become as young as the child that was born yesterday, then I shall take my rising again (for we are at earth's eastern rim) and once more tread the great dance.'

'In our world,' said Eustace, 'a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.'

'Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of. And in this world you have already met a star: for I think you have been with Koriakin.'

'Is he a retired star, too?' asked Lucy.

'Well, not quite the same,' said Ramandu. 'It was not quite as a rest hat he was set to govern the Duffers. You might call it a punishment. He might have shone for thousands of years more in the southern winter sky if all had gone well.'

'What did he do, Sir,' asked Caspian.

'My son, said Ramandu, 'it is not for you, a son of Adam, to know what faults a star can commit.'

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, p.175-177

In the Narnian cosmos, stars are people. In the apocalyptic ending of Narnia in 'The Last Battle', the star people make an appearance in their glory.

C.S, Lewis seems to moved beyond the fictional world of Narnia with Ramandu's statement about our world. He seems to be making a cryptic statement about cosmology. Given his Platonic tendencies my guess would be that he has in view a kind of Alexandrian cosmology in which celestial beings act an intermediaries between god and the creation. I believe such a notion is essentially correct.

In Scripture we see a close connection between the angels and the stars. In Job 38, the angels are called 'morning stars.' There is an ambiguity in some texts as to whether angels or stars are in question. Lewis' notion of the stars having their source in personal beings seems to fit the biblical picture.

The Chronicles of Narnia present a cosmos that is filled with spirit beings; river gods, sea people, the star people, the water nymphs, tree spirits and the gnomes and salamanders of the earth's depths. The created world is connected to the spirit world.

Christians need to recover the importance of the spirit world in God's cosmic order. We tend too often to think like the naturalistic Eustace in the Dawn Treader story.

The Bible speaks of thrones and dominions, principalities and powers; of rulers and gods. The elements of this world. Their sphere is the cosmos and it seems natural to view them as the agents and intermediaries of God's providential rule over creation.

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