Trouble in Narnia

The Occult Side of C. S. Lewis

by Mary Ann Collins

February 2006

See C. S. Lewis Index - How mysticism is changing the Church

I've been uneasy about the enthusiasm for Narnia. Then one morning I woke up vividly remembering some things in the third Narnia book. And now I recognize the root of what has been troubling me.

I had read all of C.S. Lewis' books, including his essays, his collections of letters, his science fiction, and the Narnia books. I read most of the books more than once, and I read the Narnia books many times. I also read all the books of Charles Williams because he was a close friend of Lewis' and Lewis spoke so highly of his books. And I read all of George MacDonald's books because Lewis admired him and spoke well of his books."

"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is the third book in the Narnia series. It directly promotes spells and magic.

Chapter 10 ("The Magician's Book") features a book of spells that is on an island inhabited by invisible creatures called Dufflepuds. Lucy works a spell to make the Dufflepuds visible. She goes through a spell book, and it is beautiful and fascinating. Then she finds the right spell and says the words and follows the instructions. And then the Dufflepuds (and Aslan) become visible. Her spell made Aslan visible, and he is pleased with what she did.

The book of spells is beautiful and fascinating.
One spell is illustrated with pictures of bees that look as if they are really flying. In the world of C.S. Lewis’ day, this would not have caused practical problems. However, these days, kids can go to regular bookstores and buy spell books written by modern witches.

Many Christians are treating the Narnia books as being an allegory, with Aslan representing Jesus and the children representing Christians. If you do this with “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” then you portray Jesus as being pleased when Christians do magic and work spells. And you support the idea that that there are “good” spells and “good” magic. That belief is the basis for modern “white” witchcraft. However, the Bible clearly forbids any form of witchcraft:

"There shall not be found among you anyone who... practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD." (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

In the book, the Dufflepuds are ruled by a wizard. He uses magic to rule the Dufflepuds because they aren’t yet mature enough to be ruled directly by Aslan. So there is good magic and a good wizard. This magic prepares people for relationship with Aslan. Again, if Aslan is taken as a symbol for Jesus, then magic prepares people to become Christians. In our modern culture, that would mean that Wicca is a way to get to know Jesus and become His follower.

Back when C.S. Lewis wrote the Narnia stories, Wicca did not exist. Kids who read the books couldn’t experiment with spells. But this is a different world today. Now kids are surrounded by movies and TV shows that promote witchcraft, and they may know kids at their school who dabble in it.

What will happen when Disney comes out with a movie of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”? Christian kids may wind up feeling free to practice magic. And this could help break down the barrier between Christianity and Wicca. It could “Christianize” witchcraft in the eyes of some Christian kids.

There are some other problems with C.S. Lewis' widespread influence. Blending God's truth with occult tales, he laid an enticing foundation for apostasy.

For starters in understanding the man, here is a quotation from a letter that he wrote describing a trip that he and his wife Joy took to Greece in 1960. He wrote,

“I had some ado to prevent Joy and myself from relapsing into Paganism in Attica! At Daphni it was hard not to pray to Apollo the Healer. But somehow one didn’t feel it would have been very wrong”.

Lewis also said that “Christianity fulfilled paganism” and “paganism prefigured Christianity.”[1]

In his autobiography (Surprised by Joy), Lewis tells how at age 13 he abandoned his Anglican faith due to the influence of a school mistress who was involved with “
Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Spiritualism; the whole Anglo-American Occultist tradition.” And Lewis developed a “lust” for the occult that remained with him even after he returned to Anglicanism. He said,

“And that started in me something with which, on and off, I have had plenty of trouble since--the desire for the preternatural, simply as such, the passion for the Occult. Not everyone has this disease; those who have will know what I mean. I once tried to describe it in a novel. It is a spiritual lust; and like the lust of the body it has the fatal power of making everything else in the world seem uninteresting while it lasts.”[2]

Lewis said that he described that lust for the occult in a novel. It occurs in the third book of his science fiction trilogy. A man is in the process of being initiated into an inner ring of scientists who are occultists. They worship demons, which they call “macrobes” (huge, powerful invisible things, as opposed to microbes, which are tiny invisible things).

“Here, here surely at last (so his desire whispered to him) was the true inner circle of all, the circle whose centre was outside the human race--the ultimate secret, the supreme power, the last initiation. The fact that it was almost completely horrible did not in the least diminish its attraction.”

“These creatures [demons]... breathed death on the human race and on all joy. Not despite this but because of this, the terrible gravitation sucked and tugged and fascinated him towards them. Never before had he known the fruitful strength of the movement opposite to Nature which now had him in its grip; the impulse to reverse all reluctances and to draw every circle anti-clockwise.” (“That Hideous Strength,” p. 269.)

Note that Lewis said that he had trouble with that lust for the occult ever since his encounter with the Matron in his boys’ school. He wrote that statement in 1955. By then, he had written all but three of his books.[4]

Lewis dedicated his autobiography (“Surprised by Joy”) to Bede Griffiths, a former student of his who became a long-time friend. Griffiths founded a “Christian ashram” in India. He said that Hindu temples are a “sacrament.” And he said, “No one can say in the proper sense that the Hindu, the Buddhist or the Muslim is an ‘unbeliever.’ I would say rather that we have to recognize him as our brother in Christ.”

What Bede Griffiths did and said is the logical conclusion of a statement that C.S. Lewis made in “Mere Christianity.”  He said,

“There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position.”[6]

Lewis said that he was strongly influenced by George MacDonald, who was a universalist. MacDonald’s book Lilith is based on an occult teaching that Adam was married to a demon named Lilith before he married Eve. By the end of MacDonald’s book, Lilith is redeemed, and Adam says that even the devil will eventually be redeemed.

This universalism shows up in some of Lewis’ fiction books. In “The Great Divorce,” Lewis is in Heaven. He speaks with George MacDonald and asks him about universalism, and MacDonald answers that Lewis cannot understand such things now. In the last of the Narnia books (“The Last Battle”), a pagan makes it to Heaven (“Aslan’s Land”) because of his good works and his good motives, in spite of the fact that he did not believe in Aslan and he worshipped Aslan’s enemy, a false god named Tash.

Lilith shows up in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Mr. Beaver tells the children that the White Witch is descended from Lilith, who is the “first wife” of Adam. This could cause confusion, especially for children. Although Mr. Beaver is a fictional character, he is speaking authoritatively about the real world--the real Adam and Eve of the Bible.

Lewis spoke very highly of Charles Williams and his books, so I read all of his books. They are novels that mix darkness and occultism with some insights about Christianity. In “The Greater Trumps,” the hero is a saintly woman who saves the day by doing magic with Tarot cards.

Williams was as much a mixture as his books were. He started out as a serious occultist. He believed
Theosophy and other occult teachings, and he joined the Golden Dawn, a group that practices “sex magick,” which is ritual sex that is done for the purpose of getting occult power. (The notorious Satanist, Aleister Crowley, was a member of the Golden Dawn.) Williams left the Golden Dawn and joined the Anglican church, but he kept some of his Theosophical beliefs.

Lewis also had a close friend named Owen Barfield. He dedicated the Narnia books to him and named Lucy after Barfield’s daughter. Barfield was a philosopher who started out with
Theosophy and developed his own version of it.

According to
Theosophy, the God of the Bible is a tyrant, and Lucifer (the devil) came to rescue mankind from him. Even this dark view of God shows up in C.S. Lewis’ writings.

After his wife Joy died, Lewis wrote “A Grief Observed,” a book describing his thoughts and emotional struggles as a result of her death. The dark Theosophical view of God shows up in this book, as shown in the following quotations.

“Supposing the truth were ‘God always vivisects’?”[7]

“Is it rational to believe in a bad God? Anyway, in a God so bad as all that? The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile?”

Lewis didn’t stay there. He vacillated between despair and hope. But in his moments of agony and despair, the Theosophical view of God came back to haunt him.

There is another problem with his messages. I have read all of his books, and I do not recall any reference to the authority of God and to the timelessness of His ways. Lewis’ worldview seems to be based primarily on human feelings, wants and perceptions (including evolution and Freudian psychology). For example, in his last book,
The Discarded Image, he tells us that nothing is permanent; everything changes -- along with human thought, wants, and speculations:

"No Model is a catalogue of ultimate realities, and none is a mere fantasy. Each is a serious attempt to get in all the phenomena known at a given period.... But also, no less surely, each reflects the prevalent psychology of an age almost as much as it reflects the state of that age's knowledge...."[9]

Lewis ends his book with this prediction:

"It is not impossible that our own Model [for many of us, that refers to the Biblical worldview] will die a violent death, ruthlessly smashed by an unprovoked assault of new facts -- unprovoked as the nova of 1572. But I think it is more likely to change when, and because, far-reaching changes in the mental temper of our descendents demand that it should. The new Model will not be set up without evidence, but the evidence will turn up when the inner need for it becomes sufficiently great. It will be true evidence."[9]

That unbiblical conclusion could easily wipe out any lasting Christian certainty in the minds of his readers! Now compare that personal and subjective speculation with actual certainties of the God who is the sovereign, all-knowing, Creator of all:

" latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons...." 1 Timothy 4:1

"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:6-8

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body...." Philippians 3:20

1.  Roger Lancelyn Green, “C.S. Lewis: A Biography,” Harcourt Inc., 1974, pages 274 and 30.

2.  C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Harcourt Brace, 1955, pages 58-60.

3. C. S. Lewis, “That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy Tale for Grown Ups,” Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1946, pp. 259 260.

4. “The Four Loves,” “Reflections on the Psalms,” and “A Grief Observed”.

5. Randy England, “The Unicorn in the Sanctuary: The Impact of the New Age on the Catholic Church,” TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1991, pages 70-72.

6. There are many editions of the book, and page numbering varies. This quotation comes from Book IV, Chapter 10, “Nice People or New Men,” the fourth paragraph.

7.  C.S. Lewis, “A Grief Observed,” Bantam Books, The Seabury Press, 1963, p. 33.

8. Ibid., p. 35.

9. C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image (Cambridge University Press, 1964), pp. 222-223.

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