SAN FRANCISCO – After decades of debate on whether The Chronicles of Narnia series contains an underlying coherence, one scholar on C.S. Lewis claims to have finally discovered the secret theme that binds the series together.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Ward, chaplain of Peterhouse, the oldest college in the University of Cambridge, contends in his new book Planet Narnia that C.S. Lewis secretly constructed the seven Narnia books to reflect the temperaments and qualities of the seven medieval planets – Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn.
Ward, who used to be a resident ward at Lewis' former home, has been traveling nationwide to share his findings, especially with the heightened interest in the series as a result of the "Prince Caspian" movie playing in theaters.
At a recent screening of the movie, hosted by The C.S. Lewis Society, the scholar defended his work as more than " Da Vinci Code nonsense."
For instance, the first book in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, was written to reflect the characteristics of Jupiter or Jove, a planet characterized by kingly qualities and as a conqueror of winter, according to Ward. These qualities, he argues in Planet Narnia, are in part revealed through the kingly character Aslan who does away with winter.
Another case in point for Ward is the link between Prince Caspian and the symbolic qualities of Mars. In the second Narnia book , the main characters join the Narnians in war to drive out King Miraz. There is also ample imagery of trees and forests in the book, including Aslan's entrance into the story amidst dancing trees and war cry for the trees to enter into battle.
Ward believes Prince Caspian reveals the two capacities of the mythological god Mars, known as a god of war and a vegetation deity.
The secret theme interwoven throughout the series "reveals a striking intricacy and sophistication on Lewis' part," said Ward.
Ward said he made the discovery while writing his doctoral dissertation about C.S. Lewis. The eureka-like moment came one day when Ward was reading Lewis' 1935 "Planets" poem. After further research, Ward observed that Lewis' interest in medieval astrology and planets was apparent elsewhere, including his Ransom Trilogy, university lectures, and quote saying that he regards planets as "spiritual symbols of permanent value."
While critics might suggest Lewis, best known for Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, was "unChristian" for being interested in astrology, Ward argues otherwise.
"It depends on what you mean by astrology," Ward told the crowd at the movie screening. "If you mean, worshipping the planets or regarding the planetary influences as controlling you, ruling your free will and responsibility before God –then yes, astrology is unChristian."
"But it doesn't necessarily mean that at all," he added. "It literally means 'studying the stars' and there's nothing wrong, foolish, or dangerous about studying an aspect of God's creation."
Ward told The Christian Post that Lewis had an imaginative belief in astrology, not a literal one.
"He liked the stars and the planets as spiritual symbols, but that's very different from saying that he believed that they were in fact spiritually powerful," Ward argued. "He did, however, have a belief in the symbolic value of the stars and planets. He did say that – as they were conceived by medieval astrology – he thought they were spiritual symbols of permanent value."
The author also backs his claims with biblical references, citing in his book Genesis, Psalms 19 and Judges 20, among others.
"Throughout the Bible, there's this indication that the stars are not just matter – they're not just large balls of rock and gas blazing it out up there without any significance. They're important. They tell us something. We shouldn't just disregard them," he said.