The Magical World of the Inklings by Gareth Knight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Back in the earlier day of the 20th century there was a group of scholars sometimes called the "Oxford Christians" or "The Inklings" It was a revolving doorway for many scholars and writer but at the core were four main people. JRR Tolkien, CS, Lewis, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield. The first two I am sure you are well familiar with the last two are not as well known. Actually it was Owen Barfield and Charles Williams who got the whole thing rolling. Tolkien and Lewis rolled in later.
The book gives background on each of these four Inklings and goes into their magical background and attitudes. The main vehicle for exploring these facets of life are the stories and works of literature that they wrote. All four were self admitted Christians. Lewis had an enigmatic relation with the occult. He was both interested in it and at the same time he loathed it. Tolkien held an interest in Norse Mythology and he used to write his own tales using the characters of Norse mythology when he was younger. Charles Williams was an editor and he prefaces and worked with some of CS Lewis's books. Charles Williams wrote several volumes on the occult in both fiction and no fiction. He was also a member of the golden Dawn and was probably the most involved with the occult of all of them. Owen Barfield was a man of profound thought. He did not establish himself until much later in life as writer. He is still alive. For his earlier adult years h had to become a solicitor to make end meet.
CS Lewis is most famous for his Chronicles of Narnia. He was a devout Christian who wanted people to come to the realization of his same Christian truth. He at first did this through direct literary means using fiction and no fiction later on he took a less direct approach. Works of his such as "Pilgims Regress" mark the territory of a pilgrim leaving his homeland and going through various lands that are deeply involved with many sorts of sins. "Screwtape Letters " is another apologetic work. Of course he has many other Christian works. His series of novels starting with "Out of the Silent Planet" tell of professor Ransom and his efforts to save a young servant from an evil Doctor only end up getting him sent to Mars instead. It is in Mars that finds a more perfect society, one that is not corrupted. He learns that each planet has it's own ruler. It is a being of light. Earth's has been corrupted, it must become uncorrupted.There is also a supreme god. In his fight against the corrupted planetary ruler he ends up taking a flight to Venus in the second book "Voyage to Venus" this is an initiatory journey where he goes to the nether reaches of the planet and comes up. Symbolic of dying and resurrecting. Making Ransom of new man. From there he travels back to Earth in "Hideous Strength" where he teams up with Merlin the Magician to fight evil. His work is very neo platonic. The Chronicles of Narnia have many alchemical and magical symbols. Sub creation and power of thought and speech are used by the Lion to create Narnia. There is also the Lion dying and resurrecting for the people of Narnia. Going through the Wardrobe is like going to the land of the fae. Time runs differently out there. While days and years go by out there only minutes pass in our realm. There also concepts dealing with corrupt magicians becoming worshipped like gods, crossing greats seas that represent the subconscious and the Kabbalistic abyss.
JRR Tolkien would create such an in depth world filled with elves, dwarves, wizards, people and hobbits . Tolkien imitated god by engaging in Creation. Illuvatar was the supreme god and the other deities served as angels and were called the Aninur. There music would create the universe and the world.Melkor would try to corrupt things and would flee to Arda (our world) Elves and men would be created to help stop him. many people believe that Tolkien was not just writing stories, he was a linguist who made a world to house the languages that he made. In fact some people feel that he tapped into a primal memory of the world when he wrote his works. Using words is a kabbalistic technique of creation. The word of god created our world. Illuvatar sang and created the world. When some one asked him a question about his world, Tolkien would often say "let me find out and I will get back with you" Did he make this up or did he access another world. He called his world "the faery world literally. He used a technique of allowing the images to come to him "The Hobbit" came about when he was grading papers and the phrase about a hobbit jumped into his mind.
Charles Williams was an occultist. His novels were directly about the occult. To him there was dark magic and white magic. Magic used to serve divine will and dark magic for selfish will. Books like "War in Heaven" and "Shadows of Ecstasy" deal with the occult concepts of power mad magicians using magic for their own ends and ultimately getting burned. He worote poetry that involved the Greek Morpheus and King Arthur's court. I would say that both him and Owen Barfield had a strong influence on both Lewis and Tolkien. Obviously these guys learned form each other but after reading this book one can see the concepts of Charles Williams and Owen Barfield bleeding through. If it had not been for these two men I wonder if the works of Tolkien and Lewis would have packed the same punch.
Owen Barfield I believe is still alive or he was when the book was written. I would say that his works though not as well known seem to be the most scholarly as to what is published. He was strongly influenced by Rudolph Steiner and Coleridge. Barfield believed that humans evolved and that the meaning of language often changed as a result. He also believed that mankind was more seperated from nature now that he has come civilized. To him this was lamentable but he did not advocate going backwards but rather we should validate our past and continue to evolve forward. Barfield also maintained that there are three level of imagination. The first was called fancy imagination and this was just the little thought that flitted into our minds during the day. Primary imagination gave our organization of the world we see. Secondary was more subconsious it was our view of the internal realities. It was from the secondary imagination that mythopia emerged from and it was also changed by mythopia.
In summation this was a magical group. All were influenced by Kabballah, Rosicrucianism, Masonry, Neoplatonism,Norse religion and Christianity. The book has a mediation in Lewis's section and an ritual in Tolkien's section. There was a belief that myths were a vehicle for changing spiritual consciousness and that they conveyed deeper meaning. Magic could be used to merge with the divine, on behalf of the divine or for lower purposes. Words and music could create new world. Magical technique like relaxing the mind and allowing the inspiration to come were employed. The character also used magic like self realization to change themselves and their situation. Alchemical meals were held and the use of staring at pictures or symbols to enter a magical trance were used as well. Hope you enjoy this journey as much as I did.
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