The Pilgrim’s Progress, in the Timeless Writings of C.S.Lewis
I have always been fascinated with C.S. Lewis (Tales of Narnia), as with J.R. Tolkein (Lord of the Rings) and Lewis Carroll (pen name of author of Alice in Wonderland). They were all professors at Oxford, teaching various subjects, but able to blend their day job work with stories that have been classical stories for children. Indeed, each of the stories has produced generations of entertainment, including major motion pictures, stage plays, and endless adaptation.
What creativity was in the waters of Oxford? I have read and re-read wondering what the answer may be, and the true meaning of the stories.
In the case of C.S. Lewis, he also became a leading commentator about the meaning of Christianity. He began as an atheist, and evolved to be a believer, as well as a treasured radio commentator during the siege of England in World War II.
In The Pilgrim’s Process, the narrator recounts the journey of a young man in his dreams. John is in search of an enchanted island. He leaves home on his quest, initially encountering girls who seduce him in their own world. He moves on, finding escorts of various sorts as he meanders through the valleys and mountains of a mythical world. In the end John finds meaning.
To me, this is not so much a story about Christianity, as it is the process of discovery of self. In conversation with thoughtful friends, we often discuss the meaning of Genesis in the Old Testament. It is also a journey. I am always quite amazed at how a group of about the same age, background, and intellect can derive such vastly different meanings from the same words.
As each of us ages and meanders through our own valleys and mountains, we seek meaning. Who am I? Why am I here? How do I believe or not believe in my Creator? What is my purpose? Is this my only life? And on and on.
If I were organizing a biblical study, it would be enjoyable to get my compatriots to read three items. The first two would be Genesis and The Pilgrim’s Progress. When these had been devoured, I would ask them to read the tiny story of Punchinello, the beautiful allegory by Max Lucado. The young Wemmick (carved people) is not pretty. Punchinello asks his maker “why am I not pretty like the other Wemmicks?” The creator’s answer, when the young boy returns from his own journey, is that “I created you to be you.”
The genius of Max Lucado is that he is able to convey heartfelt meaning in easily understood parables, so that one’s mind is opened to answer the questions we all have about ourselves and our purpose in this life.
The genius of C.S. Lewis is in telling a story that requires careful thought to try to discern the meaning that he is seeking to frame. As compared to the easily readable Lucado, C.S. Lewis often seems impenetrable.
When these two are combined with Genesis, and probably ample wine, an enjoyable and meaningful discussion with surely occur.