This podcast is a review of one of the wisest essays that C S Lewis wrote, The Funeral of a Great Myth. He looks at the “Grand Myth” of evolution, that is, evolution not as a theory of biological change but as an over-arching explanation of how the universe works. Lewis does not have any quarrel with the idea of biological evolution, as far as I can tell, but he strongly disagrees with extending that as a principle behind everything. In this Great Myth mode, evolution is extended to explain how everything in the universe came about, and how there always must be endless progress “onwards and upwards”. Lewis discusses how this idea developed and became entrenched in the imagination prior to the publication of The Origin of Species by Darwin. He then discusses the fatal flaws of this Great Myth and why it is still lingering on.
The book for today’s show is The Magician’s Nephew, a personal favorite of mine. It tells of the creation of Narnia and how evil came into that good land, and technically is the last Chronicle that Lewis wrote.
He wrote The Last Battle and The Magician’s Nephew at the same time, but finished The Last Battle (the book that tells of the end of Narnia) first. Since the completion of the two books was only 6 months apart, The Magician’s Nephew (hereafter abbreviated The MN) was published first in May of 1955.
The MN is set in the time of Victoria n England, the England of Sherlock Holmes. It introduces a new hero (Digory) and heroine (Pol ly) and tells how the comings and going between Narnia started, among other things. Digory’s uncle Andrew provides Digory and Polly with a way (magic rings) to travel between worlds. They go exploring and enter the dying world of Charn, awaken the last Queen of Charn, who is a witch, and unfortunately bring her back to London with them. They then take her (and several other folk) out of England and into Narnia (using the rings) and they are present at the Creation of that world. However, their act allows evil to enter Aslan’s Good Creation in the form of the witch. Aslan arranges for a Tree of Protection to be planted to keep the witch out of Narnia proper as long as it lives. To do this, he asks Digory to bring him a magic apple from a special garden without tasting of it or eating another apple. Digory is tempted by the witch Jadis to take the apple back home and give it to his mother who is dying of cancer. He overcomes this temptation and brings the apple back to Narnia. As to what happens to Digory, Polly, Uncle Andrew and the Witch – you’ll have to read the book
Lewis wants to communicate to us what evil and good look like, and what the results of our moral choices may be. He does this by showing a dying word ruled (and destroyed) by an evil witch and a new world, freshly created, sung into existence by Aslan. Jack shows us the continuity between an evil man in this world (an evil magican named Andrew who is Digory’s uncle) and the last Queen of Narnia, Jadis. Jadis represents what Uncle Andrew will become – they are both walking the same wrong path and Jadis is further along than Andrew. Jack also shows us what our response should be to the beauties of Nature, and explores the difficulty of making the right moral choices in this story.
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