This last weekend while making the 12-hour drive from our family property in northern Idaho to my apartment in Provo, Utah, I was able to listen to The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis on audible. It's a book that parallels the end times of the earth and the state of humanity before the Second Coming of Christ. It has to be one of the deepest and most thought-provoking novels I have ever come across, and although it is the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, it can be read and comprehended without having to read the other books in the series. I would highly recommend it! (And you if get it on audible, you will be blessed to hear it narrated by Professor Xavier aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard aka Patrick Stewart himself!) As I was compiling my thoughts about the book, I discovered that C.S. Lewis' birthday was in just a couple days. So I decided to publish this post on the 29th to commemorate and show my appreciation to him and the beautiful and deep truth he has conveyed to the world through his literature...
Blindness of Mind
In The Last Battle. a cunning ape and a stupid donkey come across the carcass of a lion. Using the fur and mane, the monkey sews a suit for the donkey to wear so that the donkey, too stupid to stand his ground and refuse the ape, can pretend to be Aslan, the Great Lion, guardian, and savior of Narnia. With this scheme and some additional trickery, the Narnians mistake the donkey as the real Aslan, and havoc spreads about the land as they submit to the false-Aslan. Because the false-Aslan has a form a godliness but lacks the power thereof, the ape becomes the sole spokesman and mouthpiece for Aslan, thus preventing others from discovering the lie. To keep the creatures from questioning why they cannot speak directly with Aslan, the ape then strikes fear in their hearts by making the Narnians believe that Aslan is angry with them and therefore can not speak with them face to face, lest in his rage he would devour whoever comes into his presence. The ape uses his authority to compel obedience and obtain riches and wealth. In order to maintain authority and control over the people, he perpetuates this lie by twisting the scriptures to mean something they do not in order to maintain his power, and in the process completely twists and alters the Narian's perception of their once beloved Aslan.
Over time the Dwarves became observant enough to finally recognize the imitation of the pretend Aslan and his false-spokesman the Ape. However, when Jill and Eustace, a Daughter of Eve and Son of Adam, are sent by Aslan to help the Narnians, the dwarves dismiss them- refusing to believe they are who they say they are, and instead reject their authentic testimony of the true Aslan. The dwarves hearts have become so hardened by the lies of the Ape that they no longer believe there is such thing as Aslan. When the time comes to fight against the corrupt Ape, they refuse to help. Instead, out of the hardness of their hearts, they become self-serving and betray the Narnians.
This is a perfect analogy of what is happening in today's world. The hearts of men are hardened to the true Christ because of false doctrine taught and enforced by false prophets and false teachers. I have written a much more expansive blog post as to why the precepts of men are the poisoning of religion, and why is it that most people who leave a ridged correlated religious organization will completely abandon their faith in God altogether to become Atheist. You can access that blog post by clicking here.
In this book, there are portals in which the Narians and humans use to travel between dimensional realities. The entrance to one of these dimensional realms is through an old stable. The dwarves unknowingly pass through this portal into a paradisiacal land full of fruit trees, sunlight, fresh breezy air, and the scent of wild violets, however, they are unable to perceive with their senses where they truly are. Instead, they think they are in an enclosed a small, pitch-black, dirty, and smelly stable-prison. They can not see, feel, or smell the beauty that is all around them. Fresh flowers are even brought right under the nose of one of the dwarves, yet he is unable to perceive what is directly in front of his face, believing it to be stable-litter.
Even the Great Aslan is unable to heal them from their own blindness when he tries to help them:
Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs' knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn't much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn't taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had a bit of an old turnip and a third said he'd found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said "Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey's been at! Never thought we'd come to this." But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarrelling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:
"Well, at any rate there's no Humbug here. We haven't let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs."
"You see, " said Aslan. "They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. But come, children. I have other work to do."
Jesus says, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed" (Gospel of Thomas verse 5)
The dwarves were unable to recognize what was right before their faces. The Pharisees during the mortal ministry of Christ also experienced this similar dilemma, Jesus describes it like this:
The light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not; The same which came in the meridian of time unto mine own, and mine own received me not(Doctrine and Covenants 39:2–3)
Why is this?
Because what separates us from God is a veil. That veil is our unbelief, and that unbelief is what causes us to remain in an awful state of wickedness, hardness of heart, and blindness of mind. (see Ether 4:15) The dwarves were fed unbelief by what the false-prophet Ape taught concerning Aslan. That unbelief caused the dwarves to remain in an awful state of wickedness. You see this come to full fruition when they betray their fellow Narnians.
A hard heart is what prevents us from receiving what God offers:
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning the mysteries of God. (Alma 12:11)
Because the dwarves were hard-hearted, they were unable to recognize and receive the help Aslan was offering. This caused them to remain trapped by the blindness of mind, or as Aslan puts it, the prison of their own mind. Are we too unable to perceive the light that shines right before our faces?
Thankfully what separates us from Heaven is merely a veil of unbelief, not a wall, which is meant to be rend.
Separating the Sheep From the Goats
While Aslan is the King, Lord, and God of the Narnians, there is another group of people in this story who worship a different God. These are the people of Clamormen, who serve a four-armed, bird-head, demonic deity named Tash. At the end of the book, one of the Clomorinien finds himself in the heavenly realm in the presence of the Great Aslan. He gives an account of his experience in chapter 15:
"Then I looked about me and saw the sky and the wide lands, and smelled the sweetness. And I said, By the Gods, this is a pleasant place: it may be that I am come into the country of Tash. And I began to journey into the strange country and to seek him."So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant's; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.
"Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.
"And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog -"
After listening to the Clomorinien's story my mind was brought to the parable of the sheep and goats found in the Matthew chapter 25
¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:31–40)
We often presume that we are sheep and not goats because of our affiliation with a particular religion, or because we believe that since we have accepted Jesus and can call ourselves Christians we are automatically "saved". It is true that there is none other name given under heaven whereby men are saved, save it be the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12, 2Ne 21:31) However, taking Christ's name upon us may have a much deeper meaning than simply calling ourselves Christian. Consider the Hebrew roots of the word "name":
When we see a name, such as "King David" we see the word "King" as a title, and the word "David" as a name. In our western mind, a title describes a character trait while a name is simply an identifier. In the Hebrew language, there is no such distinction between names and titles. Both words, King and David, are descriptions of character traits. The Hebrew word melekh (king) is "one who reigns," while daviyd (David) is "one who is loved". Both of these words are titles, describing the character of David. It is also common to identify the word "Elohiym" (Elohiym) as a title and “YHWH” (Yahweh) as a name. What we do not realize is that both of these are character traits. YHWH is both a word and title meaning "one who exists" and Elohiym is a word and a title meaning "one who has power and authority". The Hebrew word "shem" more literally means "character". When the Bible speaks of taking Elohiym's name to the nations, he is not speaking about the name itself but his character. When we are commanded to not take Elohiym's name in vain, this literally means not to represent his character in a false manner. This is similar to our expression, "have a good name," which is not about the name itself, but the character of the one with that name. (Ancient Hebrew Research Center)
Because name in Hebrew more fully means characteristics and attributes and is not simply used as an identifier, to take upon Christ's name is to take upon his characteristics and attributes- to become as He is. Perhaps this why before Christ instituted the sacrament to the Nephites in America (an ordinance where believers witness to "take Christ's name upon them"), He spent a whole day giving a discourse very similar to the “Sermon on the Mount” (Beatitudes) – a discourse that expounds upon His name, His character, His attributes. Perhaps this is why before communion was instituted to the apostles at the last supper, God needed to send His son, Jesus Christ, down to earth to show the world who God is- to show the world all of what the Father’s name consists of, manifested and embodied in the perfect son.
The true name of God is not something you can pronounce in any human language. It's a name that can only be expressed by what you become, and communicated to others through the life you live. This is why someone who has never been taught by a church about Christianity can have a much deeper relationship with Jesus than the self-proclaimed Christian if that person embodies the character and attributes of God. This why the Clomorinien was accepted by Aslan even though he operated under a different religious tradition - because he stilled lived what James described as the pure religion: to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. In fact, in that same chapter in the book of James it states:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights (James 1:17, emphasis mine)
There is only one name under heaven whereby men are saved, but that name transcends all human languages, cultures, and religions.
Further Up and Further In!
In the closing chapters, CS Lewis gives a vivid description as the redeemed Narnians embark on an inter-dimensional journey through portals, ascending into higher and deeper realms, all the while abiding by the mantra, "Further up and further in!". They enter through these gateways showing that whole worlds without end can be contained in, or accessed through, a seemingly small and simple thing. As they explored the deeper realms, they discovered that each higher dimension of "New Narnia" was like the previous one they ascended from, but deeper and purer. C.S Lewis explains it like this:
It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a lookingglass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different - deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.
This world, Old Narnia - the world in which we live, is simply a reflection, or type and shadow, of something far greater. I had the privilege of spending a weekend this last October hammocking and "Jeeping for Jesus" in the St. George desert with a couple of my dear brothers in Christ. While sitting around the campfire during one of those starlit evenings, we were discussing the change in our outlook on life since the beginning of our spiritual awakening. It was apparent that the three of us could describe our new perspective in a similar way. That despite the vastness and depth that comes with a more heightened spiritual sensitivity, that depth and wonder could be unveiled in the simple things that typify of Christ. Because of our new outlook, the people and things given to us by God in this world had become more real, more beautiful, and more precious to us. Yet we have only received a minute inkling, a mere breadcrumb, of the immense light and truth God desires to bestow upon us. We can only wonder in awe at how much deeper, richer, and purer things will become as we ascend further up and further in - drawing ever nearer to Christ. As I was listening to the narration of the awe and wonder of New Narnia, this scripture came to my mind:
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)
If you understand the language in which the Gospel of John was written in, Greek, this scripture can also be rendered as follows:
In the journey through my Father's realms are many stages with temporary abodes. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare an abode for your upward journey. (The Testimony of St. John 14:2-3)
As the characters journeyed through the realms, going “further up and further in”, the thought entered my heart that I was not merely listening to a fictional story, but that I was hearing a testimony of an actual experience conveyed through a mythical tale of magical lands and talking animals.