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chronicles-of-narniaIn “The Last Battle” – the final instalment of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” C.S. Lewis completes his rich imagination of a world beside our own that defies our sense of time.

He is able to artfully deal with the concept of time in this story in ways he can only explain in the lecture he gave on “Time and Beyond Time“:

“Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to him at 10:30 tonight, he need not listen to them in that one little snippet which we call 10:30. 10:30 — and every other moment from the beginning of the world — is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, he has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.

That is difficult I know. Let me try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose I am writing a novel. I write “Mary laid down her work; next moment came a knock at the door!” For Mary who has to live in the imaginary time of my story there is no interval between putting down the work and hearing the knock. But I, who am Mary’s maker, do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary as if she were the only character in the book and for as long as I pleased and the hours I spent in doing so would not appear in Mary’s time (the time inside the story) at all.

This is not a perfect illustration, of course. But it may give just a glimpse of what I believe to be the truth.”

In The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis the writer can now put this notion into literary practice – and it was wonderful for me to have come to these children’s’ stories so late in life. (This was the first time I have read them; they were happy companions during this last Christmas).

To accentuate the point that “time” is a created thing, Lewis personifies it in “Father Time.” As a new Narnia is being created, Aslan, the great Lion/King says,

“… while [Father Time] lay dreaming, his name was Time. Now that he is awake, he will have a new name.”

In a sense, in the new creation – the one to which we will be awakened – there will be no need for time as we know it now. This life, as the children recognize in Narnia, will have been like “a dream, or a dream of a dream.”

Whenever characters move back and forth from their (our) world to Narnia, it is as if no time has elapsed here, even though decades may have lapsed during their adventures in Narnia. At first it perplexes the children, but they, as children are apt to do, soon adapt to the different realities.

Further Up and Further In

As a new Narnia is being created and old things pass away, this conversation summarizes the great paradox of eternity:

The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside,” said the Faun.

“I see,” Lucy said, “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see… world within world, Narnia within Narnia…”

“Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.

It is no wonder then that when one arrives into eternity, this can be said:

I have come home at last! This is my real country: I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…. Come further up, come further in!

Every chapter Better than the one before

The Chronicles conclude with the children realizing this:

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Let it be, for as I rejoice to remind you, this is more enigmas than dogma…

To listen to the venerable C.S. Lewis on this topic – go to his 16 minute BBC lecture on “Prayer.” To read his chapter, go to “Time and Beyond Time.”