An American fifth-grader once wrote to C.S. Lewis asking if it were possible to visit Narnia. Lewis replied that the only way, as far as he knew, was through death. But then he added a curious qualifier: “Perhaps some very good people get just a tiny glimpse before then.”
Was Lewis hinting that he himself had seen, or perhaps even visited, the real Narnia? We know that this famous series of books all began with a picture that occurred spontaneously to the author’s mind, and which he carried in his memory for many years before beginning to write: a picture of a faun walking in a snowy wood, carrying parcels and an umbrella. We also know that shortly before writing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Lewis had a number of dreams about lions.
A friend of mine who has visions of heaven is convinced that Lewis himself had such visions. Personally I doubt this, partly because of a comment Lewis wrote in a letter: “I have dreamed dreams but not seen visions: but I don’t think that matters a hoot. And the saints say that visions are unimportant.” Nevertheless, it is clear that dreams and mental pictures played an important role in the creation of Narnia, such that it may not be too far-fetched to suggest that Lewis, in a sense, actually ‘visited’ his own imagined world before, and while, writing about it.
My friend who has visions of heaven claims to have met C.S. Lewis in the real Narnia. What follows is his first-person account, a chapter which I omitted from my book Adventures In Heaven because it seemed too fanciful. Now I think it’s just delightful. See if you agree …
When I was young my mother read me The Chronicles of Narnia and I loved them. As a teenager I read the series again, along with the Space Trilogy and parts of other books. Still later I read the Narnia stories to my own kids, and one day I hope to read them to my grandchildren.
Some people find Lewis old-fashioned, but the truth is that he’s ancient. While his books are good literature, his real appeal goes far beyond that. What readers respond to most deeply in Lewis is what I would call the extra-literary quality, the numinous. Personally I’m convinced that the writer himself had visions of heaven. Not merely convinced, I know it for a fact. Because I met C.S. Lewis myself up in heaven and he took me on a tour of Narnia.
I don’t recall exactly how this vision began. Probably it was in the throne room, since that has been the starting place for most of my more extraordinary visions. In any case, if I met Lewis first at the throne, we didn’t waste any time chatting there. Instead he took me directly to another place, a forest of deciduous trees. The foliage was many different shades of green, the weather was warm and sunny and it was all very pretty. I found myself standing with Lewis on a well-trodden path, and as we began to walk he explained that this place had been the pattern for Narnia. We were walking downhill and the slope of the land suggested a river valley at the bottom. Though I could not see it, I had the sense that this was the main river in Narnia, the Great River, and that we might be close to the green mound known in the later books as Aslan’s How.
Lewis was dressed just like an English professor, in comfortable clothes bordering on shabby. He struck me as a man who was wearing exactly what he wanted to wear. Most remarkable about his appearance was its ordinariness. A plainer face you’ll never see. Large, fleshy, ruddy-complexioned. Eyes rather bland; nothing deep or piercing there. The face of a butcher or an insurance salesman. And yet, light was pouring out of him. He was wreathed in smiles and glowing with health.
“Yes, this is where the land of Narnia literally is,” he said. “Even on earth I had long believed that the imagination could be more real than the material world. But I discovered this to be far more true than I knew.”
“Do you mean,” I asked, “that all the ideas for your stories came from here?”
“Oh yes, the Lord showed me all this.” He spoke as if this were the most obvious of facts. “But to report it all in a factual way would have been very dull. You miss so much that way. So what could I do but turn it into stories?” He laughed heartily. “I did not write those books, so much as write them down. I copied the landscape, the history, the magic, the inhabitants too. If you’d like, we can go and meet some of my friends.”
We followed the wooded pathway for quite a distance, with Lewis commenting on various sights along the way. All this time my heart burned within me, much as it did for the disciples who walked with Jesus along the Emmaus road. I knew about these things from reading them in books; but now my eyes were opened and I was drinking in the reality.
It must have been half an hour or so that we walked and talked together. At the end Lewis invited me to revisit Narnia any time I liked and he would show me more of the sights.
“You’ll find me right here,” he said. “Narnia is where I spend most of my time now. And why not? It’s a marvelous place and I feel quite at home.”
[To be continued]
Next Post: Part Two of C.S. Lewis in Heaven: A Visit to the Real Narnia
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