AN APPRAISAL OF C.S. LEWIS

cs lewis

C. S. Lewis

I have to admit I have been largely ignorant of C.S.Lewis, other than “Narnia”, “Screwtape letters” and “Shadowlands”. Although I have never read anything by him, I knew the Narnia stuff because I’d seen the BBC’s production of the “Chronicles of Narnia”.I had been told that “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” was a “Christian parable”, although in “Shadowlands” Lewis is depicted as rejecting the idea because it was meant to be taken as a simple story for children.People I have spoken to always spoke highly of Lewis as a great Christian Apologist. However, lately, I have been hearing bad things about Lewis, that he was, somehow, involved in Theosophy.

I have attempted to investigate these things and come to some sort of conclusion. In his days at Oxford Lewis was a member of the “Inklings” which was, basically, a literary group that gathered together to share their works and comment on them. Notable members of this group of Lewis’s circle was one J.R.R. Tolkien, and included Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Adam Fox, Hugo Dyson, Robert Havard, Nevill Coghill, Charles Leslie Wrenn, Roger Lancelyn Green, James Dundas-Grant, John Wain, R.B. McCallum, Gervase Mathew, C.E. Stevens, J.A.W. Bennett, Lord David Cecil, Christopher Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien’s son), and Warren “Warnie” Lewis (C.S. Lewis’s elder brother). These men had great influence upon each other, yet some of their “spiritual” leanings are very questionable. Charles Williams was a member of the occultist group “The Golden Dawn”. (The “Golden Dawn” had as one of its luminaries one Aleister Crowley). Owen Barfield was an Anthroposophist, an esoteric philosophy based on the writings of Rudolph Steiner who earlier was a theosophist. Adam Fox became Canon of Westminster Abbey. He was a Neo-Platonist and author of a number of books on the subject.

It is obvious that Owen Barfield had an influence in the thinking of Lewis to the point that Lewis dedicated his first scholarly work, “The Allegory of Love (1936) to this ‘wisest and best of my unofficial teachers,’ stating in its preface that he asked no more than to disseminate Barfield’s literary theory and practice, and dedicated the first Narnian chronicle to his friend’s adopted daughter Lucy.

In 1952 Lewis wrote the preface to a book by Douglas Harding, “The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth.” Douglas Harding—eastern Mystic. C.S. Lewis called Harding’s book, The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth, ‘a work of the highest genius’. I have also discovered that C.S. Lewis is highly regarded amongst various occult and esoteric groups, his works being marketed by the Theosophical Society, Anthroposophy Society, the Wiccan Way, The Bodhi Tree amongst others. Lewis seems to be attracted to the idea of the deification of man:
It is a serious thing,” says Lewis, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
C. S. Lewis, From The Weight of Glory.(Publisher Harper Collins).

Even though C.S. Lewis rejected Joseph Smith’s assertion that the Book of Mormon was the work of ancient Israelites his writings are highly recommended by the various Mormon publishers, and is often quoted by Mormon scholars. Journalist Richard Ostling comments on this phenomenon:
It just shows the extraordinary acceptability and the usefulness of C.S. Lewis, because of course most of what he says is perfectly acceptable to Mormons.
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/002/8.72.html

It is also remarkable that Lewis’s books feature amongst other books recommended by “New Age” and occultist book stores:-

Books on Astrology, Prediction, Fortune-Telling and Esoteric Subjects
Bertodano, Teresa de (compiler). SOUL SEARCHERS. JOURNEYS OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT. Lion oversize paperback, 2001, 255p. The experiences of many well-known figures of history, e.g. Jeanne d’Arc, Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, and many more, searching and/or finding whatever it is they are looking for. A little bent at edges and corners but fairly good copy. ISBN 0745951147. Keywords: philosophy biography history people psychology beliefs religion Cat. # 1118… $15.
http://www.felicity.com.au/books_new.htm

Lewis is also recommended by the Theosophists:-

“One answer I especially like is offered by C. S. Lewis in his 1943 book Mere
Christianity:
Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognisable: but others can be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours; stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognisable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of “religious people” which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. . . . When you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds.”
 — pp. 187-8 (From Sunrise magazine, December 2000/ January 2001; copyright © 2000 Theosophical University Press)
Seeker Books sell:
C.S. Lewis CD Box Set: Screwtape Letters, Great Divorce, Problem of Pain, Mere Christianity, Lion, W by Lewis, C. S. and Various

(All the profit from Seeker Books goes to support Theosophy Foundation of Georgia. We offer the largest selection of Theosophical books, plus titles from many other areas of interest to the seeker. Theosophy Foundation of Georgia seeks to promote through it’s world reknown website Blavatsky Net the principles of Theosophy and universal brotherhood in order to bring understanding and cooperation among all individuals, nations and religions. Currently, the Foundation has over 1900 members. Your purchases help support the foundation and the cause.)

Another aspect of esoteric thinking is the belief in “Natural Law” (Promoted by followers of Transcendental Meditation).
In the appendix of his book “The Abolition of Man” Lewis writes in “Illustrations of Tao”:
The following illustrations of the Natural Law are collected from such sources as come readily to the hand of one who is not a professional historian. The list makes no pretence of completeness. It will be noticed that writers such as Locke and Hooker, who wrote within the Christian tradition, are quoted side by side with the New Testament. This would, of course, be absurd if I were trying to collect independent testimonies to the Tao. But (1) I am not trying to prove its validity by the argument from common consent. Its validity cannot be deduced. For those who do not perceive its rationality, even universal consent could not prove it. (2) The idea of collecting independent testimonies presupposes that ‘civilizations’ have arisen in the world independently of one another; or even that humanity has had several independent emergences on this planet. The biology and anthropology involved in such an assumption are extremely doubtful. It is by no means certain that there has ever (in the sense required) been more than one civilization in all history. It is at least arguable that every civilization we find has been derived from another civilization and, in the last resort, from a single centre—’carried’ like an infectious disease or like the Apostolical succession.

He then proceeds to quote from such sources as The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Hindu. Laws of Manu, Confucius, Cicero, Epictetus, Boewulf, Homer, amongst others. Although Lewis denies that he is quoting these sources in order to establish the Tao it is difficult not to think that this is exactly what he is trying to do.Tao itself is an ancient Chinese philosophy promoted by Lao Tzu:-
In ancient China, the keeper of the Imperial Library, Lao Tzu, was famous for his wisdom. Perceiving the growing corruption of the government, he left for the countryside. On his way, the guard at the city gates asked Lao Tzu to write out the essence of his understanding to benefit future generations. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching, left, and was never heard of again.
The Tao Te Ching (also called “The Tao”, “The Dao” or the “Dao De Jing”), by Lao Tzu, is one of the most influential books in history. It is the source of famous Chinese sayings such as “Those who know do not speak, those who speak, do not know” and “Even a 1,000 mile journey starts with a single step”. 
http://www.thetao.info/

Lewis seems to have been an admirer of Rudolph Steiner. Rudolph Steiner was a Theosophist who later formed his own esoteric philosophy. This philosophy he called Anthroposophy. According to Anthroposophical sources Steiner’s philosophical work was taken up in the middle of the twentieth century by Owen Barfield, a philosopher of language from Oxford University and through him influenced the Inklings, a group that included such writers as J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. The link with Barfield and Lewis has already been mentioned.

Conclusion:

In his play “Phoenissae”, Euripides states: “A man is known by the company he keeps”. It would seem to me that Lewis too can be known by the company he kept. It seems that Lewis’s thinking was very much influenced by his peers and this is reflected in a number of his writings. Although I cannot substantiate the claim that Lewis was a Theosophist, it is obvious that he was influenced by Anthroposophy (which has its roots in Theosophy).I believe that all these things must be taken into account when reading the works of C.S. Lewis and discernment must be exercised.

© 2006 John L. Hayworth

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