C. S. Lewis

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Clive Staples Lewis (1898 - 1963) was a novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. Born in Belfast, Ireland, he held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College), 192554, and Cambridge University (Magdalene College), 195463. He is best known both for his fictional work, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Lewis and fellow novelist J. R. R. Tolkien were close friends. Both authors served on the English faculty at Oxford University, and both were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the "Inklings". According to his memoir Surprised by Joy, Lewis had been baptized in the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion) at birth, but fell away from his faith during his adolescence. Owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, at the age of 32 Lewis returned to the Anglican Communion, becoming "a very ordinary layman of the Church of England". His faith had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim.

Biography

Lewis' mother died when he was a child and his father was distant, demanding and eccentric.  Lewis abandoned his childhood Christian faith and became an atheist, becoming interested in mythology and the occult.  From boyhood, Lewis immersed himself firstly in Norse, Greek, and, later, in Irish Mythology.

In 1916, Lewis was awarded a scholarship at University College, Oxford. Before he was allowed to attend Oxford, Lewis was conscripted into the First World War. His experience of the horror of war confirmed his atheism.

Jane Moore

While being trained for the army, Lewis shared a room with another cadet, Edward Courtnay Francis "Paddy" Moore (18981918). The two made a mutual pact that if either died during the war, the survivor would take care of both their families. Paddy was killed in action in 1918 and Lewis kept his promise. Paddy had earlier introduced Lewis to his mother, Jane King Moore, and a friendship quickly sprang up between Lewis, who was eighteen when they met, and Jane, who was forty-five. Lewis lived with and cared for Moore until she was hospitalized in the late 1940s. He routinely introduced her as his "mother", and referred to her as such in letters. George Sayer, who knew Lewis for 29 years, had sought to shed light on the relationship, during the period of 14 years prior to Lewis's conversion to Christianity, wrote biography Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis, in which he wrote: "I am quite certain that they were (lovers)."  Jane Moore suffered from dementia in her later years and was eventually moved into a nursing home, where she died in 1951. Lewis visited her every day in this home until her death.

Conversion to Christianity

Lewis was raised in a church-going family in the Church of Ireland. He became an atheist at 15, though he later described his young self as being paradoxically "very angry with God for not existing".

His early separation from Christianity began when he started to view his religion as a chore and as a duty; around this time, he also gained an interest in the occult, as his studies expanded to include such topics.

He slowly re-embraced Christianity, influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien.

After his conversion to theism in 1929, Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931. He became a member of the Church of England somewhat to the disappointment of Tolkien, who had hoped that he would join the Catholic Church.

Lewis was a committed Anglican who upheld a largely orthodox Anglican theology, though in his apologetic writings, he made an effort to avoid espousing any one denomination. In his later writings, some believe that he proposed ideas such as purification of venial sins after death in purgatory (The Great Divorce and Letters to Malcolm) and mortal sin (The Screwtape Letters), which are generally considered to be Roman Catholic teachings, although they are also widely held in Anglicanism (particularly in high churchAnglo-Catholic circles). Regardless, Lewis considered himself an entirely orthodox Anglican to the end of his life.

After his conversion to Christianity, his interests gravitated towards Christian spirituality and away from pagan Celtic mysticism.

Various critics have suggested that it was Lewis's dismay over sectarian conflict in his native Belfast that led him to eventually adopt such an ecumenical brand of Christianity.

From 1941 to 1943 Lewis spoke on religious programmes broadcast by the BBC from London while the city was under periodic air raids.[

In 1954, Lewis accepted the newly founded chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he finished his career. He maintained a strong attachment to the city of Oxford, however, keeping a home there and returning on weekends until his death in 1963.

Christian apologist

In addition to his career as an English professor and an author of fiction, Lewis is regarded by many as one of the most influential Christian apologists of his time; Mere Christianity was voted best book of the twentieth century by Christianity Today in 2000. Due to Lewis's approach to religious belief as a skeptic, and his following conversion, he has been called "The Apostle to the Skeptics."

According to George Sayer, losing a 1948 debate with Elizabeth Anscombe, also a Christian, led Lewis to reevaluate his role as an apologist, and his future works concentrated on devotional literature and children's books.

His most famous works, the Chronicles of Narnia, contain many strong Christian messages and are often considered allegory. Lewis, an expert on the subject of allegory, maintained that the books were not allegory, and preferred to call the Christian aspects of them "suppositional".

Biography

Film adaptations have been made of three of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

 In 2008, The Times ranked him eleventh on their list of "the 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Fiction

  • The Pilgrim's Regress (1933)
  • Space Trilogy
    1. Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
    2. Perelandra (aka Voyage to Venus) (1943)
    3. That Hideous Strength (1945)
    1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
    2. Prince Caspian (1951)
    3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
    4. The Silver Chair (1953)
    5. The Horse and His Boy (1954)
    6. The Magician's Nephew (1955)
    7. The Last Battle (1956)
  • Till We Have Faces (1956)
  • Ministering Angels (Short Story, Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1958)
  • Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1961) (an addition to The Screwtape Letters)
  • The Dark Tower (1977)
  • Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C. S. Lewis (ed. Walter Hooper, 1985)
  • Language and Human Nature with J.R.R. Tolkien (draft discovered in 2009)

 

 

 

 

  • Lewis in an article he wrote for the Radio Times entitled It all abegan with a Picture ... : All my seven books, and my Three science fiction books, began With seeing Pictures in my head.  At first they were not a story, just pictures.
  • Lewis in New York Times Book Review: Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child psychology and decided what age-group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them.  This is all pure moonshine.  I couldn't write in that way at all.  Everything began with images ...
  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 2: There was a deep religious awareness stirring within him (Lewis), so that he gradually evolved, via the philisophy of Hegel, first to a belief in God and then to acceptance of the Christian faith - a Conversion which was completed by Christmas Day, 1931.
  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 9: Tolkien never appeared to share Lewis's enthusiasm for Williams, and it is possible that Tolkien's Roman Catholic orthodoxy found some of Williams's theological ideas somewhat daring or even far-fetched.  ... Tolkien certainly assisted Lewis in getting Williams on to the panel of Oxford University lecturers, despite his lack of academic qualification.
  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 12: Both Tolkien and Lewis developed a love for Norse Mythology in childhood and both began to Write their own mythologically inspired stories at an early age.
  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 40: ... H. G. Wells, whose science fiction Lewis admired, but whose popular evolutionary scientism he detested.

  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 46: 'As far back as 1912, when he lost his belief in Christianity, Lewis became subject to occasional attraction to and repulsion from the occult.' This led him to close acquintance in the undergraduate days with two people whom he liked yet who also came to repell him. One was an old Irish parson and the other a practicing psychoanalyst. The first had lost his faith and was desperately seeking for 'evidence of survival' in spiritualism. The second became insane.

  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 46: He was pushed into revising his ideas when his close friends Cecil Harwood and Owen Barfield became Anthroposophists, embracing the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. ... Lewis records in Surprised by Joy that at the time he was 'hideously shocked', the more so as he came to learn what Steiner taught. 'For here, apparently, were all the abominations; none more abominable than those which had once attracted me. Here were the gods, spirits, afterlife and pre-existence, initiates, occult knowledge, meditation.'

  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 47: Lewis wrote all his fiction in a very 'magical' way. That is, he had no preconceieved outline but simply allowed the images to rise in his mind's eye. This is exactly the technique that is used in magical dynamics. It is a means whereby the creative imagination can be used, not merely to act as a door to the unconscious mind as is its mode in psychoterapeutics, but as a means of developing the cognition of the inner worlds, whether those worlds be angelic, demonic or anything in between.

  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 85: In a letter (to the wife of his Anthroposophist friend A. C. Harwood) he does admit that some of his early views on Anthroposophy have been misguided.  He had formerly denied that it was possible for man in the physical world to have actual Commerce With worlds Beyond.  On this point he now conceded that Anthroposophy had been right.

  • Gareth Knight in The Magical World of the Inklings, p. 111: As part of a bargain or wager between the two friends C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, in 1936 or 1937, they agreed to write more 'mythopoeic' stories.

  • p 112: In turn he (Tolkien) had a profound effect upon Lewis, for it was his insistence on the importance of myth that helped to convert Lewis to Christianity. That is, through the realisation that in the Christ story ancient myths of the saviour hero, sacrificed for the sake of the people, descending into the underworld, and then arising reborn to return to the abode of the gods, had become actually enacted in history. This immediate argument was supported by another friend, Hugo Dyson, and also by Owen Barfield, who, following the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, believed that in the Incarnation of the Christ, something had happened to the soul of the Earth that marked a cosmic event of enormous magnitude.

  • The Allegory of Love contained the dedication 'To Owen Barfield, wisest and best of my unofficial teachers'.

    Humphrey Carpenter in his biographical work The Inklings: (Lewis) 'regarded Barfield as in every way an intellectual equal and in some respects superior to himself'.


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