A Sourcebook for the Astrological Narniad: Revelations?

My apologies for the lag time in posting; my excuse is talks I’m prepping or giving, applications I’m filling out, and Muggle work to pay the rent. As I’m beginning a seven week adventure in Monday night talks about each of the Chronicles of Narnia the first day of April — and I keynote the Potter watch 2013 and MISTI-Con fan conventions in that time frame, I’m afraid it isn’t going to get much better soon.

Having said, here is a note sent me today by a ‘Chris C’ that merits our attention, especially those of us neck deep in the Narniad:

Dear Mr. Granger,

I’m writing in concern about something interesting related to Michael Ward’s brilliant Planet Narnia.

In that book, Ward mentions a theologian named Austin Farrer, a friend of C.S. Lewis’s, and Farrer’s book, A Rebirth of Images: The Making of St. John’s Apocalypse.

I bring it up, because curiosity killed the cat and I decided to look into what a friend of the Inklings had to say.  What I discovered was basically that both Lewis and Dante weren’t the first authors to write about the “Seven Heavens”.  It appears St. John, or rather Someone, beat both Lewis and Dante to the punch, and in a way even more “Inspired”, let’s say.

Perhaps the greatest lower case “revelation” (pardon the pun) of Farrer’s book is that it lays bare the “architechtural” foundations of St. John’s scripture and theology, especially in it’s relation to Jewish ideas of “The Temple”.

To give a very brief and inadequate summary: Farrer’s argument is that Revelation is structured around the Jewish calender of feasts and ceremonies, starting (I think) from the Jewish New Year, followed by Passover, then Tabernacles, Dedication, and once more back to New Year, structured as a kind of Ultimate Holy Week, in which the feasts and sacred days are revealed as a kind of pattern of Divine Providence written into the very fabric of the cosmos itself.

Also, like Dante and Lewis, St. John weaves the Seven Planets into the structure of his book, I think in a kind of guidepost or clock-like way, I’m not certain.

Challenging, is the polite way of describing Farrer’s book.  The truth is, it’s damned hard to take in all at once, and may require several re-readings.

Nonetheless, Farrer’s book has proven invaluable in the level of scholarship and knowledge it opened up on Lewis’s thinking on Revelation, the Bible, and (I’d argue) of Tolkien’s outlook as well.

Lewis, I believe had this comment to say about Farrer:  “I think he’s A +”.

Also, Farrer had a wife named Katherine and according to Lewis’s official biographer, Walter Hooper, “She (Katherine Farrer) was greatly appreciated as a critic, and Lewis and Tolkien asked her to read a number of their works”.

Here’s a link for A Rebirth of Images, for what it’s worth.

Farrer also wrote a later, updated “Revelation of St. John the Divine: A commentary on the English Text, a book maybe much more useful for the layman to start with.  A link for it is here.

I’d hope to here your thoughts, if any, about Farrer and these books, as I think they are integral to the thinking of Tolkien and Lewis.

Well, Chris C, my thoughts are “Thank you very much for this!” I’ve ordered the first book you recommended and will be looking tonight into my Ring Composition and Chiasmus texts, especially John Breck’s The Shape of Biblical Language to see if the Book of Revelations is a circle, ellipse, or chi whose ‘meaning in the middle.’ I will say more, DV, after I read the text you have recommended!


  1. John and Chris,

    It looks like to me that Revelation actually does have a Chiastic structure. It seems that it has been proposed or least presented by Nils Wilhelm Lund in “Chiasmus in the New Testament, A Study in Form and Function of Chiastic Structures .” (The University of North Carolina Press, 1942).

  2. Steve Morrison says

    Both Austin and Katherine Farrer are mentioned in Tolkien’s letters. In particular, Austin is mentioned in a description of C. S. Lewis’s funeral:

    The funeral at Holy Trinity, the Headington Quarry church, which Jack attended, was quiet and attended only by intimates and some Magdalen people including the President. Austin Farrer read the lesson. The grave is under a larch in the corner of the church-yard. Douglas (Gresham) was the only ‘family’ mourner.

    (Several of the letters were actually addressed to Katherine.)

  3. I read Michael Ward’s book “Planet Narnia” a while ago and loved it. It also made me think of the Harry Potter books and if Rowling had woven a similar structure into her books in addition to the alchemy. If so, it’s not as obvious as Lewis’s Narnia books are, but there are definitely some parallells there.

  4. Chiastic fantastic. peeps have chiasmus on the brain. Revelation is 4×7 structure.

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