The Last Battle and How to Die Well | Into Narnia with C. S. Lewis

Episode 51 September 12, 2023 00:56:24
The Last Battle and How to Die Well | Into Narnia with C. S. Lewis
Catholic Theology Show
The Last Battle and How to Die Well | Into Narnia with C. S. Lewis

Sep 12 2023 | 00:56:24


Show Notes

How can we live in a way that prepares us for death? In this seventh and final episode of the “Into Narnia with C. S. Lewis” miniseries, Dr. Dauphinais speaks about the theme of recovering moral wisdom in the modern age by looking at The Last Battle—the closing Narnia novel—and The Abolition of Man.



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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 We have to remember, all worlds draw to an end. Our life will draw to an end because of revelation. In some ways, we even know that this entire world will draw to an end, but a noble death is a treasure, which no one is too poor to buy. Do we genuinely believe that, that somehow death can be come noble, that we could die? Well, Speaker 0 00:00:28 Welcome to the Catholic Theology Show, sponsored by Ave Maria University. I'm your host, Michael Duffey, and we are continuing our series on into Narnia with CS Lewis. And today we're looking at kind of the final story in the Chronicles of Narnia, the Last Battle and the Abolition of Man. Uh, and maybe, you know, for those who maybe who haven't read those books, uh, we can also think about this as Lewis's attempt, uh, to help to kind of diagnose what he saw as certain trends within modern society. Uh, certain ways of looking at the world, uh, that really begin to diminish our humanity, uh, that begin to diminish our humanity, both at the natural level and at the supernatural level. Lewis will say in an, it's a essay, uh, that he wrote, uh, a lecture he gave when he finally became a chair of Medieval and Renaissance literature at, at Mondale and College at Cambridge. Speaker 0 00:01:34 We associated him with Oxford, but it was actually Cambridge that really recognized his greatness and gave him a chair in, in literature. And in that talk, he said this, it was called De Scripte tempore on the division of times. But Lewis said that if we divide history up into certain periods, of course, nothing's ever quite perfect. But he'd certainly say one of the great divisions in western culture, western civilization, would be the conversion of the Pagan Greco-Roman society into a Christian society. Uh, this happened over, of course, centuries, and maybe it never fully happened. Uh, but certainly, you know, at some point, the, uh, Roman Empire became Christian Europe, became dominated by Christian ideals and influences the Byzantine Emperor and Constantinople, right? Uh, the Roman Empire kind of continued for another thousand years. So this conversion away from Paganism, uh, from the belief about many gods and the belief about human nature that we saw from the, uh, the Greeks and the Romans, as that kind of transformed into Christianity, it was changed in many ways, right? Speaker 0 00:02:49 From many gods to one God, from certain accounts of virtue, to maybe also the notion of humility to the notion that we could achieve on our own certain strengths and excellences to the recognition that pride and sin prevented us from doing so. And so we had to surrender and find this, that the happiness that we're looking for could really, really be found in the conversion of the will. Okay? So that is a huge change. But then Lewis wants to say that a bigger change has happened in modern culture, and it's happened in a way that we don't even recognize it anymore. And that change, he says, is that the de Christianization of the West, that we've entered into a post-Christian society, as he puts it, it has not only removed us from Christian society, from Christendom, but it's also removed us from pagan wisdom. In a way, what you can say is that if the, you know, the ancients understood a certain things about human beings and certain things about the gods, that then they saw in Christianity a higher, better version of what it meant to be God and what it meant to be human. Speaker 0 00:04:05 But then he says, when the modern world, or at least strains within the modern world reject Christianity, they in a way end up rejecting God and a vision of being human. But they don't have the pagan understanding that the Greeks and the Romans had to fall back upon. Uh, so to a certain extent, right? The post-Christian world is uniquely threatened. It's uniquely, in a way, blind Lewis will describe it in an poem that he writes called The Country of the Blind. He actually imagines what happened. If over time, human beings became blind over centuries, over generations, uh, they might continue to use words of colors, but they wouldn't understand what they mean. Uh, and Lewis thinks that this is in a way what has happened with modern culture. We used to be able to see principles of morality. Uh, traditional morality was something that, of course, was never lived well, but it was received and passed on. Speaker 0 00:05:13 And he thinks in a way that has changed, right? As he puts it at the very end of this. Um, do you think this is farfetched? Do you think I'm telling a myth? Am I making something up? Talking about the possibility that we could go blind? He goes, go then among men. Now, famous attempt speech on truths that once opaque carved in divine forms, ir removable dear but dear, as mountain mass stood plain to the inward eye, right? Certain truths about, you know, about, about human nature, about the dignity of life, about the nature of man and woman, right? Um, these are right no longer certain truths about God, uh, that human beings are rational animals, uh, created to know and love and serve a creator. So this, in a way, is just a situation. So Lewis wants to talk about it in a way. Speaker 0 00:06:03 And the last battle, the last battle it's trying to evoke in us, what if this world will eventually end? Lewis would describe, and he would say, it's interesting that for the first time, moderns believe that the world will end physically. 'cause eventually the stars will collapse and everything. And he says, for the first time, though, we no longer believe in the end of the world, we've rejected the idea of the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world, but now we believe in only a physical ending to the world. Uh, and Lewis thought this was, of course, he wrote, uh, an essay on, uh, called The World's last Night, which he thinks this is one of the teachings of the faith that's very hard to understand, that there will be a last battle, there will be a last night even. In many ways, we find hard to believe there'll be a last night of our own lives, right? Speaker 0 00:06:52 Um, we want to kind of avoid death rather than try to prepare for death, Sony. So these are just some of the themes that I think Lewis wants us to think about. And he wants to then ask, what if we are in a society that is increasingly becoming blind? What if we ourselves become blind? How do we recover sight? How do we recover wisdom? And it's interesting because sometimes maybe when people are hearing this, or if you're listening to this, you might be thinking, well, does, does Lewis think that Christians are the only ones who know any truth and that moderns can't know anything? Right? The irony is that in this work, and especially in the book, the Abolition of Man that we're gonna talk about, he actually puts in a great defense for kind of non-Christian, pagan, classical wisdom from the, uh, the Greeks and the Romans, uh, from the ancient Hindus from, uh, really classical culture. Speaker 0 00:07:48 Uh, it's interesting. At the end of the abolition of man, he actually includes evidence that there is a moral law. And he draws it from the ancient Jewish tradition, the ancient Egyptian traditions. He goes to the, uh, the Babylonian, he who meditates oppression, his dwelling will be overturned. He goes to the Hindus, he who is cruel, and Lumus has the character of a cat. The Babylonians, again, slander, not the ancient Jews. Thou shallal not bear false witness against thy neighbor, the ancient Egyptians. I have not caused hunger. I have not caused weeping. He goes to the ancient Chinese, the ECT of Confucius never do to others what you would not like them to do to you. Uh, he goes to many other elements, even will quote the old Norse Man, is man's delight. The Roman, what good man regards misfortune as no concern of his. Speaker 0 00:08:55 He will even, uh, quote the Anglo-Saxons, he will quote the Native Americans. You will see them take care of their kindred and the children of their friends never reproaching them in the least. So what Louis actually is doing here is saying, we somehow need to recover both pagan wisdom and Christian wisdom. So I wanna begin then, uh, by looking a little bit at, uh, the last battle. And in the last battle, we have this amazing story. Uh, I remember Michael Ward once, uh, who I've definitely, uh, love his, uh, writings, and he's written some wonderful things on Lewis and given some beautiful talks on, uh, c s Lewis. Uh, but he describes the last battle as Lewis has done one of the most shocking things possible. He's written a story for children in which all of the protagonists are dead by the end of the story. Speaker 0 00:09:50 Um, this is the not, uh, not a very typical story, but of course it's the last one of the Chronicles of Narnia. And in this story, uh, Lewis kind of presents an image of the end of the world. Uh, there's an ape called Shift, uh, who is very, um, shifty. Uh, he's clever and he's old, and he eventually discovers a lion skin. He cuts the lion's skin up. He has his, uh, friend, almost somewhat slave puzzle, the donkey who's always puzzled, and the ape called shift, right Lies, uses words, uses a deception to make the donkey dress up like Aslan with a lion's skin, and then uses the lion's skin on the donkey to basically coerce and tell lies to get all the animals of Narnia to do whatever he wants. Uh, this is what happens, the invites the owler means in, they begin to take over. Speaker 0 00:10:57 They begin cutting down all the nar and trees. They cut down the tree of protection that Dickery had planted with that apple so many years ago at the beginning of Narnia. Um, king Tian is a young king whose rash his anger and his desire for vengeance end up doing harm. Uh, in the story, he eventually calls for the, uh, children, he calls for Aslan. Um, turns out, uh, TIS and Jill Poll show up. They begin going on adventures, but everything always goes wrong. His best friend Jewel is a unicorn. They fight together. But people will say, like, when I teach the book, um, that it's like the story's hard to read, because at every turn something goes wrong, even when things go right, it only goes wrong. At one point, they rescue puzzle the donkey, and they're gonna show everyone that what the ape was doing was merely a lie. Speaker 0 00:11:53 But then the ape simply tells another lie and says, wait a second. There's a donkey who's trying to dress up like Aslan, right? At one time when Tyrion is going to tell the whole crowds that the ape is lying, that everything is a lie, and that he, you know, that the real Aslan hasn't come just at that moment. And it Lewis says, if he'd spoken, it might have changed the course of events. But at that very moment, he's simply, um, you know, he's knocked down by two collar mean soldiers, and that's it, right? You know, he's not able to do that. Everything falls apart. Eventually, they get to the final battle. At the final battle, um, in all the other battles, they somehow win at the last second. They somehow win the trees. Come in, in Prince Caspian, in in the lion, the witch in the wardrobe, right? Speaker 0 00:12:42 Ly himself comes in at the end and defeats the witch. But here, the forces of the enemy win. Uh, they eventually all die. They're thrown into this stable, and it's only when they get in on the other side of the stable that they begin to recognize that there is a new world. So, in the last battle, we have in some ways, one of the darkest, saddest, uh, heartbreaking stories in the entire nar and series for the first two thirds of the story. But then the last third is the most breathtakingly beautiful description as they keep moving deeper and more deeply into the real Narnia, not the Narnia that was left behind, but the real Narnia, uh, that our Narnia was in a way only kind of an image. Uh, you can see this, both Lewis will have the character of the professor later in the story, eventually say, bless me, it's all in Plato. Speaker 0 00:13:40 It's all in Plato. What do they teach you? What do they teach them in these schools these days? Right? Lewis does think this is in Plato, that the reality of the world is its intelligible presence. And what we see in this world is, but kind of a copy of that. But we can also see it in the prophet Isaiah, right? That there's a new heavens and a new earth, which is prophesized. Um, that's where we are really longing to go. And Lewis will, in this part of this time, when he describes this journey into the real Narnia, in a way, this journey into heaven, it's always further up, further in, uh, they run faster, they swim up waterfalls, they go further up and further in, they fly higher. At one point, Lucy and, uh, Edmund are talking to each other. And this is like, try to feel afraid. Speaker 0 00:14:33 You can't even feel afraid. Here. It's like, what would it mean to be in a place where we couldn't feel afraid, where we couldn't feel angry, we could only feel joy. Everything we wanted to do would be so perfectly aligned that when we do it, we would only be happier, and we would go further up and further in, and then they go further up and further in, into a new Narnia, and then to the Narnia. That's the truer Narnia. And then eventually from that true Narnia into the very reality of Aslan's own country, which is really the pattern from which all of Narnia and all of England are made. Uh, this of course goes back to the very teaching in the Bible, that all things are created through the word of God. Augustine and Aquinas would say that it's in the word's own understanding of himself and of the Father that become the pattern of all things that are created. Speaker 0 00:15:27 So the idea is, Lewis is wanting to say that to go to heaven is certain says is the most thrilling adventure we could ever have. Okay? So that's kind of the big picture of the story. I wanna highlight just a couple themes though. So as they're in the story and we're on the dark side, uh, the dark side of everything falling apart, there's one time where, uh, king, uh, Ian and Jewel, the unicorn, uh, his friend, uh, they run into, run with the Centar, and, uh, run with the Centar, says basically the stars say nothing of Aslan's coming. And he says, men and beast lie, but stars never do. This is one of the difficulties that Lewis takes head on, which is that if religion is the most important thing in the world, then human beings will manipulate and exploit religion for their own purposes. Speaker 0 00:16:19 People will lie in the name of religion to exploit people. Um, this is a hard and harsh and dark reality, uh, that there will be false religions, that there will be people that will abuse power. But it's also simply, well, the truth, right? Is that if God became man, so that men and women might become sons and daughters of God, then this means God is entered into human history, which also puts in a way his message, uh, which is our only message to salvation, also capable of being manipulated, right? Uh, this is kind of the darkness, and we're gonna see how the dwarfs react to that manipulation by rejecting God and Christ altogether by rejecting Lyn. But before we get there, he runs into reit, and REIT says, right, the stars, um, when Christ, in a way, right, came into our world, the stars announced it, right? Speaker 0 00:17:13 So he says that, uh, you need to be careful. This may not really be Aslan. It could be a counterfeit Lan. It could be the anti-Christ, the anti-Asian. But Roone would eventually says this, and this is I think Lewis's attempt at trying to summarize the best of pagan wisdom. He says, remember that all worlds draw to an end, and that a noble death is a treasure, which no one is too poor to buy. What's, in some ways, the best that classical tradition can do is it can help us to learn to accept the realities of life, and to somehow respond to life with a way that gives our life meaning and purpose. You can see this in part, uh, in the stoics Marcus Aurelius, right? Uh, the world is filled with suffering. If we accept that the world is filled with suffering and no longer fight suffering, then we can begin to find peace when you know, his, his great, uh, mentor, uh, at least intellectually Epictetus would say, right? Speaker 0 00:18:22 That the world is full of two things. Those which we can control, and those which we cannot control. We can control our own responses to the world, and we cannot control the external things. When we learn this, we learn a way to become happier. Aristotle, Plato, uh, do much the same. So this, in a way, is that idea that we have to remember all worlds draw to an end. Our life will draw to an end because of revelation. In some ways, we even know that this entire world will draw to an end. But a noble death is a treasure, which no one is too poor to buy. Do we genuinely believe that, that somehow death can be come noble, that we could die? Well, and this doesn't mean necessarily that death is all of a sudden gonna be pretty, uh, that death won't be horrific at times. Speaker 0 00:19:14 And it doesn't necessarily mean the way we face our death in the last five hours of the last five days. But what about the way we face our death the last five years, the last five weeks? Can we somehow find nobility in that? This is what run Witt, the Centar believes. Socrates would describe philosophy as the preparation for death when he writes in, uh, the apology of Socrates, right? Socrates, when Plato writes that Socrates, in a way is the new Achilles. Achilles was not afraid to die in battle, right? Which is impressive. But Socrates is even more impressive. He is, by the way, we know from the apology, a famous, uh, soldier. He had one renowned on the battlefield, but he shows that he can be a new Achilles by he's not afraid to die, not just in battle, but not to die in life. Speaker 0 00:20:08 He would rather die for the truth of philosophy than to live according to the corruption and injustice of the Athenians in his day. So this again, is the starting point. Is there some kind of noble wisdom that we can recover and Lewis thinks we need to, but ultimately, of course, uh, it's not going to be enough At some point, as they're going to their final battle, uh, as Jill begins to cry, ion speaks to her and says, but courage child, we are awe between the paws of the true asline. Sometimes everything may be falling apart, but nonetheless, we can find courage because we are in the p between the paws of the true Aslan. Wisdom and courage come in a way from remembering with our heads and our hearts that although we do not know what the future holds, we know who holds the future. Speaker 0 00:21:01 Now the opposite in a way of Rohit is going to be the dwarfs. The dwarfs in the story eventually keep saying the dwarfs are for the dwarfs. Now, there's even a scene, and I just wanna read it for a moment, because what happens at the very end of the battle, uh, when the calleran are coming in and, uh, the narens are fighting them, and king tarian and the children are making their last stand, all of a sudden the eagle says, wait a second, the horses are coming with a thunder of hoofs, with tossing heads and winding widened nostrils waving mains over a score of talking horses of narnia came charging up the hill. The Nars and Nibblers had done their work, right? The, um, the little mice had freed the horses from the, uh, the way they were tied up. So now they could come and join the battle, hogging the dwarf and the children opened their mouth to cheer. Speaker 0 00:22:00 But that cheer never came. Suddenly, the air was full of the sound of twanging bow strings and hissing arrows. It was the dwarfs who were shooting. And for a moment, Jill could hardly believe her eyes. They were shooting the horses. Dwarfs are deadly archers horse after horse rolled over, not one of those noble beasts ever reached the king. In a way, the dwarfs, they don't want anyone to win. They don't want the kler means to win. They don't want ion to win. At one point, when ion tries to speak to the dwarfs, um, ion, he said he never had dreamed that one of the results of the ape setting up a false aslan would be that people would stop believing in the real one. One of the difficulties with being a Christian, with believing in the truth of the faith, as handed on by the church, is that there have been many false claimants to Christianity over the decades, over the centuries. Speaker 0 00:23:04 But the dwarf show what happens. They had given up the moral law, they stopped believing in Aslan. They don't want any LANs anymore. But by doing that, they end up falling outside of Aslan and falling even outside the moral law. They'll kill both the ermine and the Nars, right? This is in a way, in the darkness when we reject the goodness of the faith, even if it is understandable that we do so, because of the perversity of individuals who have tried to pass on perhaps false visions of the faith, right? We end up rejecting the only thing that can really lead us home, that can give us guidance. So at the end of the story, the dwarfs actually are in heaven. They're on the other side of the stable. They were thrown in by the caller means into the stable door, and they're on the other side, but nonetheless, they cannot experience heaven. Speaker 0 00:24:11 It's Lewis is kind of saying, even if you took people from hell and you put them in heaven, they would still be in hell because they're trapped in their own minds. Eventually, Eustis tries to help and says, all right, um, we're not blind. We got eyes in our heads. The dwarfs say, there must be darn good ones. If you can see in here who his name was, Diggle in, where, why you bonehead in here, of course, in this pitch, black pokey smelly little hole of a stable, are you blind? Serian? Ain't we all blind in the dark? Said Diggle, but it isn't dark. You pour stupid dwarfs said, Lucy, can't you see? Look up, look round. Can't you see the sky, the trees, the flowers? Can't you see me? How in the name of all humbug can I see what ant there? And how can I see you any more than you can see me in this pitch? Speaker 0 00:25:04 Black darkness, right? So this is the problem is the dwarfs become blind to the moral good. They become blind to Aslan. All they can see is they think they're in a stable, so they can only see darkness, right? Again, if we go back to the beginning, this country of the blind, what if we too have become blind? What if a culture or a society becomes blind, right? Ant we all blind in the dark. How do we see in the name of all humbug what ant there, right? Well, this in a way is also Lewis, I think shows a sense in which we can have compassion in a way. The dwarfs are somewhat, in this case, horrific beings, right? They actually fall into murdering the horses that are coming to save the day. But they also are kind of, they simply can't see any longer, oh, how about in our world too? Speaker 0 00:26:08 People who can no longer see the dignity of being human, the dignity of God, the dignity of the moral law. Eventually, Lewis, uh, Lewis has Lyn say, says this, you see, they will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their mind, yet they are in that prison so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. Uh, so as we look about this idea, cunning instead of belief, and in some ways I think Lewis says this is in a way, the post-Christian world has chosen in cunning cleverness, relying on our own self-sufficiency, our own reason, our own technological ability instead of belief, instead of belief in the moral law and belief in God, who alone really can actually achieve the goods of history, uh, that we most deeply want. In the second part, we're gonna return to this, uh, a little bit in both in the, the last battle as we consider a little bit more about the presentation of heaven. Um, but before we do that, we're gonna dive into the abolition of man and see what Lewis wants to teach us in this, uh, very powerful and profound work of philosophy. Speaker 2 00:27:28 You're listening to the Catholic Theology Show presented by Ave Maria University. If you'd like to support our mission, we invite you to prayerfully consider joining our Annunciation Circle, a monthly giving program aimed at supporting our staff, faculty, and Catholic faith formation. You can visit [email protected] to learn more. Thank you for your continued support. And now let's get back to the show. Speaker 0 00:27:54 Welcome back to the Catholic Theology Show. And this episode, we are looking at really the question of the end of things, right? The question of our ability to see the moral law and how the moral law helps us to face our end, both at the level of natural philosophical wisdom, and especially at the wisdom that we receive from the revelation ultimately the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of heaven. Lewis does this interestingly, in two books I'm pairing for today, the abolition of man and the last battle. Now, the last battle, as we've seen, looks at the kind of collapse of everything, the collapse of Narnia, the end of Narnia, but also the birth of the new heaven, the new earth of the new Narnia, and the life after death. The abolition of man is kind of unique in Lewis's writings because in its writings, it's one that is really makes no explicit appeal to Christianity. Speaker 0 00:29:02 It's a work, a philosophy by which Lewis is trying to recover a philosophical understanding of the human person that is rooted in what he will call the doctrine of objective value. Uh, that might sound overly technical, but really just the question of do we live in a world of relativism, subjectivism, emom, where things are only true according to each individual, relative person. So everything is relative to each individual, or it's up to everybody's own subjective experience or emom, which is the idea that, well, all we're really saying when we make claims about moral truths is we're saying we like something or we don't like something. They're really just an expression of our preferences. These are, in a way, dominant philosophical views that have impacted much of the modern thinking about the world. The idea is that moral claims, traditional morality, is ultimately superstitious, and that a more rational, empirical approach will just give us the facts. Speaker 0 00:30:09 Just give us what science can determine or what we can determine based upon science, about material justice and injustice. So Lewis calls this work the abolition of man. So somehow he thinks we are somehow in the process of abolishing the human person, uh, that we have become so good, as he will put it at mastering nature and controlling nature, that now we are seeking to master and control ourselves. It's a fascinating, uh, little connection between, by the way, Lewis and the Catholic tradition is that in 1988, when Ratzinger goes to eng, uh, England to Cambridge, to give a lecture on the natural law there, he actually quotes CS Lewis' abolition of man. And at one point what he says there is in, in quoting Lewis, he says, uh, that ultimately right when we, if we wanna treat human beings as raw material, raw material, we will be, but not raw material to be manipulated by ourselves, but raw material to be manipulated by those with more power. Speaker 0 00:31:27 This is the human beings have this unique ability. If we believe something, it can become real. And if we believe that human beings are merely material, merely animals, merely kind of subjects to be manipulated for the sake of some good, that is exactly what we can become, right? In a way, we have the gift of reason, the gift of morality, and we can reject it. We can merely reason about the world, but no longer come to understand the world. In Lewis's preface to paradise lost, he would describe Milton's character of Satan in this following terms, quote, in, in Milton's Satan, we see the horrible coexistence of a subtle and incessant intellectual activity with an incapacity to understand anything. This is the danger. Could we use reason to incessantly and subtly to try to analyze and manipulate the world, and at the same time have an incapacity to understand anything? Speaker 0 00:32:42 We can think about this in a way that we don't reason to morality. We reason from morality, and if we get rid of morality, we will still reason about man, but now we will simply reason about man as something to manipulate, to control. Okay? So let's see a little bit how Lewis develops this argument. Um, the first thing that he says, which is very interesting, he calls it a chapter, men without Chests. And what he says here is that by focusing on reason and reason alone, in our ability to technologically manipulate the world, we've exaggerated the role of our heads and we've diminished the role of our chests. Lewis here, when he is speaking about chests, he's really thinking about kind of the importance of our emotions, the importance of our passions, our way of responding to the world, uh, in an embodied and emotional way. Speaker 0 00:33:38 Going back to Plato, Lewis presents a vision of the human person, uh, that is threefold. We have a head, a chest, and a belly. We have our logos that comes to understand the world and the realities behind the world. We have our thumos, our chest, which reacts and responds to the world emotionally. And then we have our belly, our aeros, in a way, our appetites. So you think about the desire to eat, uh, the desire to drink, uh, the desire to reproduce, right? All of these different things, uh, are our bellies. Our chests are those kind of feelings of honor and dishonor shame, feelings of love, of connection to other people, of also fear of other people, right? These are different ways in which we have it. And then we have, of course, our head that is our logos that allows us to understand this. Speaker 0 00:34:38 So what Lewis wants to say is that in the classical vision, um, the head rules the belly through the chest, right? That the head can only counter the strong appetites through the strength of our emotions. Uh, Lewis isn't really original to this. He just retells it in a beautiful way, but it's actually back in Plato's Republic. Uh, in Plato's Republic, you have to, he says, imagine you have a man who is surrounded by lots of wild beasts, and he also has a lion. If he tames the lion, the lion can constrain all the beasts. But if the lion joins the beasts, then the beasts, then the lion will overwhelm him. And so really what Plato is saying there, right? If our logos brings the thumos to its side, to its emphasis, if our head brings our chest to its aid, then it can direct the appetites. Speaker 0 00:35:32 It can direct the beasts. That of course, two good ends. Uh, but if not right, the logos will end up serving the belly. So this is kind of that starting point. So Lewis thinks we need then to recover a sense in which the chest, our emotions, are necessary to live a moral life. We are not angels. If we merely understand something, it doesn't mean that we will do it. We have to have the courage to do it, despite the fears that we have. Uh, we are embodied beings, so therefore our chests and our bodies have to be incorporated into our logos, into our understanding. Now, what Lewis thinks that happens once we fall into relativism, we're saying that there's no ultimate truth. There's no moral truth, which my head can understand, which ought to then inform my chest. And Lewis thinks that once we do that, we then create men without chests. Speaker 0 00:36:28 We create people that are meant to understand the world rationally and try to fix the world rationally. But we don't, in a way tell, we don't help people understand that our chests need to be formed in a way that is truthful. So Lewis gives the example, uh, that when a Roman father told his son that it is a sweet and seemly thing to die for one's country, that he said that he believed what he was saying, right? That our minds can understand that we will die and that other people will die, and that our country may need to do it. But we are gonna tell our sons that it's a sweet and seemly thing, um, right? Death is not sweet, and it's not ly battles are ugly, as Lewis puts it nonetheless, right? We learn a certain sense of patriotism, a willingness to sacrifice. It's not the truth that will allow a young man to face battle. Speaker 0 00:37:31 It's that feeling that somehow it's noble. It's good. It's a sweet and sly thing to die for one's country. Now, Louis, by the way, is not quoting this, uh, without a lot of depth and struggle again. Uh, Michael Ward, uh, has a wonderful book on kind of, uh, on the abolition of man, the abolition of humanity. And he, in their notes that Lewis himself had been a young man in World War I and had been, he'd fought in the trenches. He had been wounded in battle. He also was writing this after World War writing, uh, the abolition man actually during World War II when many men were dying, his generation and the next generation, and together many men, right, died for their country. And so Lewis is aware of all of the, uh, all of the attempts at trying to downplay patriotism or to try to feel like it's only a mode of manipulation and propaganda, but somehow he wants to recover that. Speaker 0 00:38:30 No, all that might be true, but it is still a sweet and seemly thing to die for one's country. And perhaps we could also say it's a sweet and sly thing to die. It's a sweet and sly thing to suffer. It's a sweet and seemly thing to live in this world as it is filled with suffering and death. The Catholic tradition in the hail Holy Queen speaks about this idea that we, we are mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. It's a sweet and seemly thing to live mourning and weeping am amidst this valley of tears. That is the question, can we believe that not only with our heads, but with our hearts? And what Lewis says is that if we fall into relativism, then fundamentally say, well, there is no ultimate truth. If there's no ultimate truth, then there's no ultimate meaning to our suffering, which also means then any attempts by parents, schools, authorities, governments to manipulate my emotions are no longer rooted in the truth of what is good for humanity, but they're really just trying to manipulate me for behavior that they desire. Speaker 0 00:39:44 So Lewis begins to call them the conditioners, right? We're rats in a cage and we're being conditioned like Pavlov's dogs to learn to salivate when they tell us to salivate. We're learned to feel this emotions when we're supposed to do this, but no longer because it's true, but now simply because it is beneficial or useful. Now, Lewis says, one of the problems with this, however, is that these things will never work, right? Um, as he puts it right, we ask for sacrifice, but we take away the idea that sacrifice is ultimately meaningful and noble. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful, right? A gelding is a castrated stallion. Um, so this is what he thinks is the problem. And so he says in the next chapter, on the way, the practical result of the education in this mode must be the destruction of the society which accepts it. Speaker 0 00:40:50 Not only is it the case that it's false, but that, uh, we will only be able to regulate our appetites and our passions if we at least attempt to situate those under the truth of reason, right? That there's ultimately a traditional morality that says that it is worth it to live within these norms and expectations. Uh, the other thing that Lewis says that I think is just really a powerful image is at one point he says this, he says, the human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than imagining a new primary color or of indeed in creating a new sun or a new sky for it to move in. So what Lewis says then is, as we reject traditional morality and move into relativism or subjectivism or emom, whatever it is, he says, we pick up fragments of the T, right? Speaker 0 00:41:53 The tau is what he calls the moral law, the way he uses the Chinese word for the tau. The, uh, is written by Confucius, uh, the path or the way, because it kind of highlights the universality that this is really what it means to be human. What it means to be human is to recognize that we are under a law that we did not make. We do not reason to the law. We reason from that law. It's somehow part of the very universe, the fabric of creation. So Lewis says then that within that towel, there are lots of kind of competing obligations that balance one another. We have duties to our children, but also duties to our parents. We have duties to our families, but also duties to society. We have duties to society, but duties to the earth, uh, right? And all of these different values in a way because they're a part of a whole balance one another. Speaker 0 00:42:54 But in certain strands of modernity and post modernity, once we've rejected the whole of the moral law, the natural law, the tau the way, what happens Lewis says, is that, well, we can't come up with a new value, so we simply take one of the old values and we exalt it as the highest value. And then he says, that value becomes so big that then we end up doing all sorts of evil in the name of that one. Good. Uh, we can think of a number of them. I think one that's probably really captivated, uh, the minds of many after Rousseau and Marx is this idea of equality. Uh, Rousseau would say that a man was born free, but he is now in chains everywhere. Marx would speak about the idea that the history of the world is the history of class conflict, uh, and that, right, we need to somehow create a kind of equality. Speaker 0 00:43:53 But the problem is that equality, although it is a, there is something true in it. It's part of the tal that all human beings, right, are created in the image and likeness of God created equally in that image. It is not the only good, right? There are also goods related to families, related to societies related to that the, the innocent ought not to be killed. That property is also proper to man. Uh, so when we exalt equality now as the only good, we end up doing all sorts of evil in the name of promoting our particular idea of equality. Uh, and you see that especially in the history of the communistic, uh, societies in the 20th century and beyond. So this is also why a postmodern relativistic culture is extremely moralistic. It's also perhaps hyper moralistic because it has one, one standard of morality that it seeks to impose everywhere, as opposed to ironically, the classical notion of traditional morality is more capacious. It allows more people to thrive. Speaker 0 00:45:05 So Lewis, then at the end of the abolition of man, he says that when we reject the moral law, we are rejecting the very foundation of our ability to be kind of fully human. He describes this in this last thing, and I wanna quote the last paragraph of the book. You cannot go on explaining away forever. You will find at some point that you have explained explanation itself away, right? If reason for instance is no longer about seeking truth, but merely about, uh, and is an evolutionary adaptation that can never attain the truth, then reason is no longer truthful reason is no longer trustworthy. You cannot go on seeing through things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the windows should be transparent because the street or garden is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too, it is no use trying to see through first principles. Speaker 0 00:46:06 If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world to see through all things is the same as not to see right At the end of the abolition of Man Lewis ends up with the idea that we have become blind, right? We become blind to the dignity of the human person, to the reality of the moral law that all human beings stand under the moral law. And that it is the moral law that isn't just something external to us. It's not something that just we recognize with our heads. It's something we recognize with our hearts. It's the moral law that makes it possible to believe that it is a sweet and sly thing to die for one's country, right to die, to live, uh, to suffer to love, right? All of these elements are not merely passions, but they are passions that flow from the truth of reality. Speaker 0 00:47:05 And then the meaning of our life is to try to recover and conform ourselves more closely to reality. And this is what the abolition of man goes through. Lewis does this, of course, um, he shows more fully how that, of course, we can never do that completely. Uh, which is why as he talks about a mere Christianity, ultimately we need something like redemption. Uh, the moral law is good, but the moral law allows us also to understand that we never fully keep the moral law we have at some point to recognize the bankruptcy of our own efforts, and to recognize that right God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It's not accidental that John 14, six, Jesus says, I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the Tao, the Camino. I am the, I am the moral law that you seek, that you cannot follow on your own, but that I will perfect in you. Speaker 0 00:48:05 Right? So our way now as Christians is to recognize the way of all humanity, the moral law of which that really gives dignity to each human person, but then also to see that that way has been lived and perfected in Jesus Christ. So I wanna then, um, kind of continue this with the idea that how then do we recover our vision? And Lewis I think says, well, we first recover our vision by trying to connect ourselves with this great tradition of, of, of human wisdom, uh, that it extends outside of the Christian tradition, but is really present in all great classical civilizations. But then secondly, we need to recover the distinctively Christian promise of heaven, right? Lewis describes here in the last battle where he actually will to have a judgment scene. Whereas Aslan closes Narnia, all of the creatures of Narnia run up to him. Speaker 0 00:49:05 And he says that those who are filled with fear and hatred at Aslan, they run off into the darkness just as it looks like everything is falling apart. And evil wins. Aslan eventually comes and judges the living in the dead, right? He does judge, but he says others looked in the face of Lyn and loved him. Though some were very frightened at the same time, there were specimens among them that Eustis was very surprised to see. Eustis even recognized one of those very dwarfs who had helped to shoot the horses, right? All of us on our own deserve the condemnation of God. God's mercy though, is expressed in ways that we cannot understand. So eventually, Aslan judges the living and the dead, but judging the living and the dead is not merely punishing the wicked. It's really letting the wicked get what they want, which is to be away. Speaker 0 00:50:03 'cause they are afraid and angry at asline. But it also means to restore to those who are wounded and broken, uh, the lives that they lost, right? A judge not only punishes and condemns, but a judge also restores what has been, uh, lost, what has been stolen. So now they run in further up and further in, uh, says, uh, Rohit, they keep running within here. They go in here and eventually, right, they begin to see the Narnia within Narnia. Uh, and they go to this, this, this deeper this, this deeper kind of recovery of heaven. And I just wanna highlight one or two themes when we get to this. So this is, uh, first he says, you are now looking at the England, within England, the real England, just as this is the real Narnia. And that in that inner England, no good thing is destroyed. Speaker 0 00:50:59 There is eventually a new creation in which all the good things of this creation will be maintained. And he says, of course, that country and this country, all the real countries are only spurs jutting out from the great mountains of Aslan. We only have to walk along the ridge upward and inward, further up and further in until it joins them. Aslam himself is coming as the story ends. So I wanna highlight just a couple things. First, in closing, let us think about that country of the blind that Lewis said, and not merely to look at others and try to think, oh, how bad our society is, or something like that. But just notice myself, in what way do I really, genuinely believe in these truths? Have I become blind? It's not accidental, right? That Lewis and the Christian tradition and the gospel of John talk about blindness as a state of our sin. Speaker 0 00:51:49 And Christ gives us the ability to see these truths. Do I really allow God and his revelation and the moral law, not only to form my head, but to form my heart? Do I take my broken heart back to God so that he can heal it and make it stronger? Uh, there's a beautiful line in Lewis's great divorce when he says at one point that, well, you know, are you saying everything I did is wrong? And of course, the, the, the saint or the angel in the story says, but of course, right? That's the great joke. Once we admit that we're no longer doing everything right, then we can begin to live. So I think in this, we really wanna find a way, a call to recover our chests, that the healing of our emotions is an important part of the moral life, the healing so that we no longer react to the world in fear and anger, but learn to respond to the world appropriately. Speaker 0 00:52:44 And we also need to recover again this truth, even just the natural pagan wisdom that all worlds draw to an end. That a noble death is a treasure, which no one is too poor to buy. And above all, we have to recover the Christian vision, right? We have to live with a desire to go further up and further in a call to renew our faith and Christ's promises and hope that we will dwell with him in heaven. And that it is the most thrilling adventure we can imagine. Now, this is the end of our seven part series on Narnia with Lewis. At the end of the voyage of the Dawn Treader. He says, uh, Lyn speaks to, uh, Lucy and Edmund at that time when he says, you're not gonna come back to Narnia. And she says, um, but it's, it's you, it's you that we missed, not Narnia. Speaker 0 00:53:35 And he says, you know, in your world, I'm there too. And he says, this was the purpose of your coming to Narnia. So that having come to know me here, you may come to know me there. And I think this is the point of Lewis bringing all of us into the world of Narnia is so that as we come to meet Aslan and Narnia, as we come to meet the incarnate Word, the incarnate son in Narnia, we also come, we come to know him better in our world. Uh, this last line I wanna close with from the last battle, and I want to think about how Lewis is helping us to have a vision of death that is no longer holy, dark. Um, when we think about death, it's often ugly, but we forget 'cause we can't see what's on the other side. Um, when we think about right childbirth, it's well a mess, right? Speaker 0 00:54:29 If all we saw was childbirth, right? It would be overwhelming and frightening if we never saw the birth on the other side. What if on the other side of death is just the beginning of life, right? What if that were our true joy? So finally at the end of the story, Lyn says to Lucy, you do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be. Lucy said, well, we're so afraid of being sent away, Lyn, and you have sent us back into our own world. So often no fear of that said Aslan, have you not guessed their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. There was a real railway accident, said, Aslan, softly, your father and your mother, and all of you are, as you used to call it in the shadow lands dead. The term is over. The holidays have begun. Speaker 0 00:55:22 The dream has ended. This is the morning. And as he spoke, he no longer looked to them like a lion. But the things that began to happen after that were so great and so beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is the end of all the stories. And we can truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them, it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page. Now at last, they were beginning chapter one of the great story, which no one on Earth has read, which goes on forever in which every chapter is better than the one before. Thank you. Speaker 2 00:56:03 Thank you so much for joining us for this podcast. If you like this episode, please rate and review it on your favorite podcast app to help others find the show. And if you want to take the next step, please consider joining our Annunciation Circle so we can continue to bring you more free content. We'll see you next time on the Catholic Theology Show.

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