Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

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Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby The Servant » Jan 23, 2010 8:29 pm

Here is a quote by C.S. Lewis:

If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which the Giant Despair represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving and imaginary answer to the question "What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?" This is not an allegory at all
- The letters of C.S. Lewis, paragraph 6, page 283.

So what do you all think of that? Interesting, don't you think?
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby Lady Galadriel » Jan 23, 2010 9:01 pm

This is something I've been thinking about lately. It confuses me a lot; I guess because it seems like the same thing to me. Aslan is clearly a representation of Jesus. I know that C.S. Lewis called his books "suppositions," not allegories: and so, the question:
C.S. Lewis wrote: "What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?"


But isn't an 'allegorical' character one who represents something spiritual? Isn't the Stone Table scene allegorical because it represents Jesus in the Bible? :-??
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby 220chrisTian » Jan 23, 2010 11:00 pm

I don't have time to say much but I thought it really interesting that this topic has come up! :)

Lady G wrote:But isn't an 'allegorical' character one who represents something spiritual? Isn't the Stone Table scene allegorical because it represents Jesus in the Bible?
There's more to allegory than this. Yes, Aslan represents Jesus. Lewis wasn't denying that. He made the comparison himself in a few of his letters. I wish The Servant had quoted more of the letter in question because Lewis really explains himself there. First, he defines allegory as "a composition (whether pictorial or literary) in which immaterial realities are represented by feigned physical objects." Lewis then gives Bunyan's Giant Despair as an example. Is Aslan immaterial? No, for as The Servant quoted earlier, "If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair represents Despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention." Here's the important bit, the difference between supposition and allegory.
Allegory and such supposals differ because they mix the real and the unreal in different ways. Bunyan's picture of Giant Despair does not start from supposal at all. It is not a supposition but a fact that despair can capture and imprison a human soul. What is unreal (fictional) is the giant, the castle, and the dungeon. The Incarnation of Christ in another world is mere supposal: but granted the supposition, He would really have been a physical object in that world as He was in Palestine and His death on the Stone Table would have been a physical event no less than his death on Calvary.
I used to think the Narnian Chronicles were allegorical in some way, but after reading a few of Lewis's letters I see the difference now. Lewis's Aslan is corporeal, not an idea. Bunyan's Giant Despair, however, is an idea, an immaterial reality, given a physical shape. They're not the same. The Narnian Chronicles are more like Lewis retelling the story of Christ via fairy tale, in another world, with many non-biblical figures. :)

Lewis says in another letter [to Fr. Milward] that allegory is something "(into which one meaning has been put)." Allegory is basically a one-to-one ratio. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is the best example of this. But it doesn't work out that way in Narnia. ;)

***Quotes: letters to Father Peter Milward and Mrs. Hook, Letters of C. S. Lewis: Revised and Enlarged Edition, ed. Walter Hooper (San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1966, 1993), 458-59, 475-76.
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby The Servant » Jan 26, 2010 7:32 pm

Thanks, 220ChrisTian and Lady Galadriel.

220ChrisTian, just to let you know, I was taking the quote from The Quotable C.S. Lewis, not from the actual book of his letters. Recently, though i have wanted to get my hands on his complete works, but that won't happen for a long time, I should think.

Anyway, about what you said. Well, most of what I can say is that writings of C.S. Lewis have to be read more than once to understand them. Giant Despair is a supposition of the 'emotion' of despair taking over a Christian soul, while Aslan is not a supposition, but, in fact, represents Jesus as a material being, not a feeling. After reading both your words and C.S. Lewis', I figured that's what you meant. So what should we call that? A material-representation-of-a-material-being? What do you think? Or is there already a name for it? We should think up of one. But still, we have C.S. Lewis' words:
In reality however he is an invention giving and imaginary answer to the question "What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?"
, so in that sense, I don't think that C.S. Lewis was trying to recreate the idea of dying for sins so that we may be forgiven our sins (in which case, Aslan dying would most definitely be an allegory, since Aslan died for Edmund, and the deep magic saved him), I think he was trying to write what would have happened if Aslan was indeed the material Christ. So, with that understanding, Aslan indeed represents Jesus as a material being. But no, his death and resurrection were not allegorical.
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby 220chrisTian » Jan 27, 2010 2:48 pm

The Servant wrote:Recently, though i have wanted to get my hands on his complete works, but that won't happen for a long time, I should think.
Have you tried a local public or college library? That's where I got his letters [for the rest of the semester]! ;)

So what should we call that? A material-representation-of-a-material-being? What do you think? Or is there already a name for it? We should think up of one.
I'm at a loss for words here... :ymblushing:

I think he was trying to write what would have happened if Aslan was indeed the material Christ. So, with that understanding, Aslan indeed represents Jesus as a material being. But no, his death and resurrection were not allegorical.
Pretty well said to me. :)

Another example of true allegory [both religious and political] is Spenser's The Faerie Queene, written 1590, 1596. In it, immaterial virtues and vices are also transformed into material beings. In neither Bunyan's nor Spenser's work do you see a retelling of Christ's death, certainly nothing like what appears in the Chronicles. There's a reference to the cross and empty tomb in Pilgrim's Progress, but it's just a reference. I don't think even this much happens in The Faerie Queene. To me, that's another major difference between allegory and supposition. :)
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby Sven » May 15, 2010 5:55 am

220chrisTian wrote:
The Servant wrote:So what should we call that? A material-representation-of-a-material-being? What do you think? Or is there already a name for it? We should think up of one.
I'm at a loss for words here...


In Bible study, it's called a 'type', as in "Melchizedek is a type of Jesus".
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby beloved » May 15, 2010 7:52 pm

So the way I'm understanding this is Aslan is Jesus. He's not a story or a character loosely based on Christ, but is Him. It's almost like a parable that makes little or no sense yet at the same time you grasp just a breath of understanding. Lewis gave the world his invention of Aslan to maybe help us see what Christ is not just on one day of the week but as something you can touch, something you can understand a little better in the terms of this fantastic world, and even with all that still understand that we can never know all things about Him. Lewis tried to show us Christ's character by inventing something new and using the Truths of God to shape, well, Him but in a fresh way.
C. S. Lewis was an absolutely gifted man in his knowledge of these things and one could spend an entire lifetime studying and learning and still thirst for more just as you could studying the life of Paul or Moses or Jesus Himself. Its an endless road of knowledge only achievable through eternity.
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby Dr Elwin Ransom » May 18, 2010 4:44 am

beloved wrote:Aslan is Jesus. He's not a story or a character loosely based on Christ, but is Him.

I think the way Lewis explained it is that Aslan is a "supposal" of Christ. So instead of being portrayed as Christ Himself (dressed up as a Lion) or an allegory of Christ, Lewis asked, "suppose there were a world called Narnia, in which God was active in different ways as He is active in our world? What would that be like, and what would happen?"

beloved wrote:Its an endless road of knowledge only achievable through eternity.

Fortunately, that's exactly how long Christians will have, on the New Earth. And consider this: the road is actually infinite, because at the same time others are studying the life and works of a man like C.S. Lewis, he'll still be changing throughout that same time! :D
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby Liberty Hoffman » May 19, 2010 12:15 pm

Lady Galadriel wrote:But isn't an 'allegorical' character one who represents something spiritual? Isn't the Stone Table scene allegorical because it represents Jesus in the Bible? :-??




I have always been told and thought of allegorical characters are such.....and I still do. that C.S. Lewis quote is muddling to me but I'm not quite sure what to think about it! :-? :-\ :|
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby Movie Aristotle » May 22, 2010 12:49 pm

I think what C S Lewis is getting at is that his approach was different. He wasn't looking for a way to re-imagine Christ's death. He started out with the supposal that ("What If?") Jesus had made a magical land and came to it, as he came to ours. What would happen? He logically worked the idea through and found that it lead to Aslan's death on the stone table.

If I may, I'll go so far as to say the similarities between Aslan's death and Jesus’ are almost coincidental. Lewis found that Aslan had to die for another's sins just as Jesus had to die for ours. He also realized that the god of Narnia couldn't be contained by death anymore than the God of our world could be. But this doesn't mean Lewis was trying to make one-to-one correlations between Aslan's death and Jesus’. Allegory seeks these correlations. Supposals do not.
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby coracle » May 22, 2010 1:37 pm

Lewis can never say outright that Aslan is Jesus. Jesus never was a lion, but was only born as a human. It would be heresy to say Jesus is a lion because it is not true, (rather like other misrepresentations of him that occur).

However IN Narnia, Aslan is Jesus within the story. He is a picture of what Jesus is like, how he acts and speaks, how he encourages and teaches his followers, etc.

By using this Supposal in the stories, Lewis is giving the children a chance to know someone like Jesus as we know him, so that in their own world, they will seek out and know him there too. And this means that for us, the readers, Lewis wants us to do the same.
But it's not preachy, just drawing us to want to know this lovely magnificent person.

Tolkien on the other hand hated allegory most sincerely!
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Re: Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote.

Postby Pepper Darcy » Jun 29, 2010 2:28 pm

I *think* I know what you mean, but I couldn't explain it all :)
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