Many of C. S. Lewis’ stories take place in locales none of us have ever visited. Indeed, some of these places seem to exist only in the imagination of C. S. Lewis. We suppose he invented them and their names merely to suit the purposes of his stories.
How indeed shall we find Narnia, the land of the dark tower, or the land of Glome? On what map shall we locate them? Where indeed might we find them?
Might what Lewis said about his space travel stories give us any clues about his fantasy writing in general: “No merely physical strangeness or merely spatial distance will realize the idea of otherness which is what we are always trying to grasp in a story about voyaging through space: you must go into another dimension.”
What did Lewis mean by “another dimension”? Was he referring to a “dimension” that exists only in the mind, another actual “physical dimension” or, as he referred to it, a “world” of the spirit?
A Dimension That Exists Only in the Mind
Would we not refer to the “dimension” that we visit in our dreams as one that exists only in our minds? At times, the places we visit in our dreams bear striking similarities to places we frequent in our waking hours, albeit with some dissimilarities. Lewis recounts that he slept poorly for years and was frequently awakened by his nightmares. Might that explain the land of the dark tower?
On the other hand, some of his stories bear certain similarities to fantasy stories he had read. He indicated that images from his childhood, some from children’s fantasy literature, resided in his memory and worked their way into his stories, as did stories from mythology.
In an essay called “It All Began with a Picture,” he wrote “the Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen.”
If the mind were the dimension to which Lewis referred, then he must have “created” his stories and characters in his own mind, with a bit of help from “fiction” literature he had read.
Another Physical Dimension
Even if Lewis drew upon his imagination, his dreams, and literature he had read, is there any possibility that he believed in, and perhaps had actually experienced other physical dimensions? Had Lewis himself somehow stumbled through the “back of the wardrobe” into another dimension or as we might think of it today, into a “parallel universe?”
If he had, might he have considered the experience(s) a dream? A vision? Or did he have actual experiences that he dare not tell at face value for fear of losing his reputation?
The existence of parallel universes has been posited by some theoretical physicists. Is there a possibility that verification of their existence is just around the corner, as some have suggested? Did C.S. Lewis somehow find a doorway of sorts to such a place? Perhaps only time will provide the answer to those questions.
A World of the Spirit
C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist extraordinaire. Surely all he wrote must have a “spiritual lesson” of some sort, including all his fantasy writing. After all does not the Lion simply retell the story of salvation, as some have said? Might the “dimension” to which Lewis referred have been some sort of “spiritual” dimension?
As my doctor friend once said, “surgeons see most medical issues as ones that can be solved by surgery.” Some of us find that many “defenders of the faith” find God under every rock, and a “spiritual dimension” in every story. Might Lewis be described thusly, or was there more to him than that?
Lewis was professor of literature at Oxford and later Cambridge. Much of what he wrote appears to have been written for literary purposes. Do we have any proof that he intended that all he wrote have a spiritual dimension? And yet, many of his stories do have obvious spiritual components.
Do Narnia, the land of the dark tower, the land of Glome and the other places of which he wrote exist only in the land of the Spirit? Is it possible that we too exist only in the land of the Spirit? If so, is Narnia any less “real” than where we dwell? Might both be real? Might Narnia be more real, and we be the ones who dwell in the land of dreams? Might both exist, at least to some extent, in a spiritual dimension?
Most of us would agree that Lewis wrote fantasy, often with a “spiritual” dimension included. Some of his stories were intended as children’s stories, written by the adult Lewis not only for children but also for “the child within himself”. As he freely mixed mythology and Christianity in his stories, might he also have mixed in some incredible experiences that would seemingly fall outside the boundaries of reality as we think we know it?
Might we know “Narnia” by another name? Come along as we continue exploring the possibilities. In the next post, “How to Get Into Narnia” we’ll look at possible doorways to Lewis’ other dimension(s) and see if they give us further clues about where Narnia might lie.