The Magician’s Nephew

Tamara is reading through C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicle’s of Narnia and came across this passage that I marked years ago in The Magician’s Nephew.

We must go back a bit and explain what the whole scene had looked like from Uncle Andrew’s point of view.  It had not made at all the same impression on him as on the Cabby and the children.  For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.

What Lewis is talking about here is what philosophers call “perspectivalism.”  Put simply, our subjective experience or perspective is radically unique – regardless of seeing the same objective things as others.  In common conversation we say things like, “from my point of view,” or, “until you walk a mile in his shoes…” etc.

The book of Proverbs counsels us that “the first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”  It seems, however, that perspectivalism is often forgotten and neglected.  The less we introspect and the less we dialogue at a meaningful level in society, the more we forget that there are two sides to every story and that our point of view is hopelessly stilted to our own experience and perspective.

Insight, knowledge, wisdom and discernment help us understand perspectives.  Folly, ignorance, complacency and simplicity turn the grey hues into black and white categories.

Does this matter?

I think it is a matter of tremendous importance!

Spiritual dialogue and truth require the capacity to separate out or see our own heart, motives and lack of understanding.  Spiritual dialogue, in the prophet’s words and later echoed by Jesus, requires that we have eyes to see and ears to hear.  In short, it requires that we are able, in some small fashion, to see a reality outside the bubble of our perspective.

Lewis returns to this theme later in the Chronicle’s when Aslan, the figure of Christ personified in a Magnificent Lion, says, “But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice.  If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings.  Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”

My greatest fear for American Christianity and for Antioch, is that we have hidden ourselves in comfort and experience and will push back on anything – even truth, if it threatens to change the environment inside our cocoons.

Have we lost the capacity to see ourselves critically enough to realize when Reality is speaking?

Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear?

Do we have the stomach for the Prophet’s words?

(C.S. Lewis at his home, “The Kilns,” in Headington Quarry, England)



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