Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Narnia Code: Revd. Michael Ward

Every year I receive an Alumnus Chronicle from the University of St. Andrews. These are always a great joy to read and give me the opportunity to think back as well as catch up with new events. This year I noted a fascinating sketch about the Rev. Michael Ward, a priest in the Church of England, who is also a Chaplain at St. Peter's College, Oxford. He did his PhD at St. Andrews on C.S. Lewis and is the author of Planet Narnia (2008) a book which is shaking the foundation of Lewis studies, and revolutionizing the way people understand the Narnia series. My own interest in Lewis begged me to ask for more, to contact Rev. Michael Ward, and write this article.

Ward claims to have discovered a secret code in Lewis's fictional series The Narnia Chronicles (1950-1956). In detective like fashion, Ward  believes he has unearthed the governing scheme behind the Chronicles. The discovery came when Ward was reading Lewis's The Discarded Image (1964), one of Lewis's finest academic books which describes the medieval cosmology and worldview. There Lewis discusses the medieval image of the seven heavens which contains the seven planets which revolve around the earth, and also influence the earth, including its people. These "planets" included the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

According to Ward, these "planets" are the backdrop to the Narnian world. Each book corresponds to one of the planets. This is a fascinating idea because this dimension adds another layer of depth to the books. Turns out the Chronciles are much more sophisticated then we ever thought.

How does this play out in the books themselves? Jupiter, the "King" of the planets is featured in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe in Aslan. Mars, the planet of war, is central to Prince Caspian, where a civil war erputs. The Sun has a key role in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where the ship sails in the direction of the sun. The moon is central in The Silver Chair, and silver was believed to be the medal of the moon. And so on. We should not be surprized at all by this imagery and multi-layered quality to The Chronicles. Lewis was a medieval scholar and he was known to delight in keeping secrets. 

To learn more abot Rev. Ward, and find out more about his discoveries, you can visit his website which is linked here. There is also a fascinating clip on Youtube where Rev. Ward shares more about his discovers and can be viewed here.

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