Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Abolition in The Magician's Nephew

Uncle Andrew is a fascinating character. Sure, he's a villain in The Magician's Nephew, the sixth published book in C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, but as it turns out he's not nearly as villainous as Jadis (aka, the White Witch), demonstrating Lewis's concept that the greater our potential as human beings, the greater our capacity to fall in truly evil ways.

Andrew is a fictional representation, albeit a somewhat ridiculous one, of the materialist magician Lewis wrote about in The Abolition of Man. Andrew has removed himself from God's natural law--the transcendent moral standard that in many ways defines us as human beings made in God's image.

As such, Andrew thinks he's above any kind of moral standards. This results in him doing some very bad things. First he delves into the world of the occult. Later he experiments on animals, then he uses a child in an experiment because he is a coward. When witnessing the creation of a world by Aslan, Andrew is blind not only to the voice and song of the lion, but to the wonder he is seeing. Instead, he only sees how he might exploit this new world. By the way, in a chapter on "Courage and Cowardice" in my book The Heart of Narnia, I include Andrew as a key example of cowardice.

Lewis makes some insightful comparisons between Andrew and Jadis in The Magician's Nephew. As bad as Andrew is, he's nothing compared to what a truly gifted creature can become, in a bad sense, when they make a series of poor moral choices as Jadis has done. In her case, her choices have ultimately resulted in the destruction--or abolition--of her world.

When one character, Polly, remarks to Aslan that the people of earth are not as bad as the world that Jadis destroyed, Aslan's response is in line with Lewis's warnings in The Abolition of Man: "Not yet, Daughter of Eve ... But you are growing more like it. Let your world beware. That is the warning."

This is a sobering warning in light of where our world currently stands in relation to bioethics issues, in particular. Do we have a standard to turn to when making scientific decisions? Not everyone does. These are, as Lewis said, "the man-moulders of the new age." Only they have no foundation. They have stepped into the void. Let our world beware.

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