C. S. Lewis: Requiescat in Pace

Saturday is the 45th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’ death. I can count on my ten fingers the writers and individuals who have most shaped my thinking and beliefs. What is good and true and beautiful in my life, what I learned from these men and women, though, is largely attributable to what I learned first from reading Lewis or what he confirmed or helped me understand in a different light.

I am out the door, if you will, for my dates in McKeesport this weekend (see below) or I would write more. Please share here, if you have a moment, how Lewis helped you understand or appreciate Ms. Rowling’s books in the boxes below. I know one man, for instance, who told me that he didn’t get literary alchemy until he read Lewis’ Perelandra on my recommendation. Lewis’ artistry, which this friend understood more clearly than I had, opened up the alchemical scaffolding and subtext of Rowling’s Hogwarts adventures for him.

Maybe for you it was one of the ideas we throw about here as ‘givens’ for conversation about literature, Potter, and thinking in general, say, chronological snobbery, instructing while delighting, training in the stock responses, sneaking past watchful dragons, baptizing the imagination, or “the Seeing Eye,’ the universe being mental via our participation in the cosmic Logos. Just writing out that list, it’s hard to miss the centrality of Lewis and his genius in our discussions of Ms. Rowling’s books’ meaning.

As an extra, here is Peter Kreeft discussing the three men who died on 22 November 1963, CSL, JFK, and Aldous Huxley, and the important differences in how each understood the world. Enjoy.

And don’t forget the three CSL book special offers at Zossima Press! Black Friday savings without the post Turkey Day blues, crowds, or driving through the woods in a one horse open sleigh…


  1. I was introduced to Lewis in 4th or 5th grade when during our story time our teacher read LWW. This was also the same year she read The Hobbit to us. Those two books out of all the ones read were the ones that grabbed my imagination.

    I wish I could put into words how they did it. Perhaps the baptizing of the imagination or training in stock responses or sneaking past sleeping dragons. Maybe more so the opening of a window into the deeper realities of life, although that sounds awfully platonic!

    But whatever it was, Lewis & Tolkien hooked me. Certainly in a way that Kennedy never could, as I was born three years after his death. And although I’ve read Huxley’s Brave New World a fair few times, & I still read quite a few dystopic books, Huxley never quite grabbed my imagination.

    I don’t read Lewis or Tolkien as much as I used to do in my youth but I never get tired of reading them, if you know what I mean. And Ms. Rowling fits right into that category, which is what, to me, makes her a great writer.

    And not to denigrate all that Kennedy did, but I truly think Lewis has had a greater impact on the world & will continue to do so long after Kennedy’s just another name in the list of U.S. Presidents.

  2. For a taste of Kreeft’s dialogue between CSL, JFK, and Huxley, go here and scroll down. Better than I thought, if CSL and Huxley are more believable than JFK, who plays the humanist-of-good-will part (one I struggle to imagine him accepting, because it means he is Thrasymachus to Lewis’ Socrates).

  3. It was in the 1970s. I was a young local Lutheran vicar in a rural fjord parish in Norway, thinking about how to do Christian apologetics. My ten years younger brother (then a student of chemistry) droped Malacandra into my hand and said: «This one you MUST read, big brother. It is a much broader sort of apologetics than Francis Schaeffer. And it’s science fiction.»

    I did as I was told and spent the night reading it. The next day I went to the book shop and got Perelandra. That Hideous Strength had not been translated into Norwegian, but I ordered it from a British book shop. On the following Sunday I tried to include Lewis ideas into my sermon.

    My four years old daugther loved to hear me tell her about Lucy and Aslan, but she cried heartbreakingly when Aslan was killed on that stone table.

    Years later it was that same younger brother (now head of a chemistry laboratory for salmon research) who said to me: «Have you read Harry Potter?»

    Odd Sverre Hove
    Bergen Norway

  4. I first met Lewis in the book room of the local Baptist Student Union at age 15. I had gone there for a scheduled meeting, arrived early, and browsed the shelves. There was this little volume titled THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. I picked it up and began reading. I had to break off for the meeting I was there for, of course, but I stayed afterwards and finished it! It made an enormous impression.

    I did not read any further Lewis at all until a fellow-worker at a movie theatre taking a “kid lit” course came in all on fire about the LWW. On her recommendation, I read it. I then read everything Lewis I could get my hands on – over and over and over. I have done for three and half decades and there is no end in sight until I pass over “higher up and further in!” There are people in this world who believe, nay, know, that all inked ever thinks was CS Lewis’ first!

    He was my introduction into sacramental religion and symbolist literature both and at the same time! I cannot begin to plumb, understand or outline the enormous debt I owe him. And through him I met Sayers, Chesterton, Tolkien, Williams, Dante … et cetera. How can one praise the goodness of God revealed in CS Lewis enough?!

    When we have commemorations of the departed at Eucharist, the first name in my mind is CS Lewis – even before family members! I say this not because I have understood CSL perfectly or even necessarily agree with him on everything, but because in multitudinous ways, he is my spiritual father in God. He is my literary father in God beyond all doubt. Lewis preceded Tolkien and all other symbolists I have ever read with understanding .. anything! And that influence worked backwards in all I had ever read and as I re-read. Even the Bible!

    ALMIGHTY AND EVERLIVING GOD, Thou deignest to reveal Thy glory in Thy saints; this day we remember before Thee, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Thy servant, C S Lewis. We give Thee praise and honor and glory and blessing for Thy work in him. Grant that we may so follow in his leading that Thou wilt be eternally glorified in us; Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, AMEN.

  5. Sayf Bowlin says

    I was exposed to The Screwtape Letters in High School but didn’t appreciate them at the time. After reading “The Hidden Key” by John, I went back to Lewis and have since fallen in love with his writing. I’ve even been told my written work resembles his (quite the compliment).

    I’d also like to put a plug in for Peter Kreeft, who told me that CS Lewis is his favorite modern author. Dr. Kreeft is a very orthodox (lower-case “o”) Christian of the Catholic flavor who’s philosophical/theological works are written for laymen without a expansive phil/theo background to understand. His work is also not polemic, at least not within Christian circles. I would highly recommend reading them.

    And to add my own flower to the spiritual bouquet started above: Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

  6. I can’t imagine my life without C.S. Lewis. I think I was ten when I first walked through the door to Narnia. And I’ve gone back so many times, not just through that door, but through so many other doors Lewis has opened. I think what has made him such an enormous influence on my life is that he’s touched and helped shaped my understanding on so many levels: literary, artistic, theological, even pastoral. (When I was in a season of some real grief, the Problem of Pain, and even moreso A Grief Observed, helped me through…)

    I also continue to be amazed by the way his work can bring people together. Years ago I was in a reading group of Anglicans from a very big spectrum of theological understanding…it was reading Mere Christianity together that turned us from being a group of polite acquaintances who weren’t sure how much we had in common to a community of learners and pray-ers.

  7. I first encountered Lewis at my primary school. During art lessons on Friday afternoons, our teacher would read from “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and “Prince Caspian” as we worked. It is one of my most precious childhood memories, and in retrospect, must date from only a few years after Lewis’s death. During my teens, I discovered his other works, and they have been regularly revisited ever since. “A Grief Observed” was a particular comfort just after my father’s death, and the opening paragraphs were a help to my mother then, too, because she couldn’t understand why she felt terrified (“I never new that grief felt like fear . . .”).

    During the 90’s I followed the marvelous (and now defunct) mailing list “MereLewis”, which was a special joy because Douglas Gresham used to drop little comments in the middle of heated debates to clear things up (from his own conversations with his step-father). His memoir “In Lenten Lands” is also highly recommended.

    John J Miller’s “Between the Covers” podcast has generated a number of items on my Christmas list (demanded by the family because I’m such a pain to buy for). The new edition of Kreeft’s book is on the list.

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