puzzleaslan

Emeth is a character in The Last Battle the seventh and final volume in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. He is a Calormene. That is, he belongs to the human southern desert nation opposed to the heroic Narnian talking beasts of Lewis’s stories and to their human allies in Archenland. Allegory in C.S. Lewis is a lot more prominent than in Tolkien. Tolkien only really employs allegory in Leaf by Niggle and officially disapproved of the form. Certainly, a lot of the Chronicles of Narnia is non-allegorical but it is hard to deny that some elements, and they are key elements, cannot be classified any other way. This is especially true of The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle which provide the creation narrative, the salvation narrative and the eschatological climax to the series. (Incidentally, I can never quite escape the suspicion that Prince Caspian is intended as a pro-Anglican parable about the Reformation). The Last Battle describes the Narnian end of the world in ways that clearly imitate classical Christian eschatology. There is a false prophet (a monkey called Shift) and an (oddly invincibly ignorant) Antichrist (a donkey called Puzzle). Key to the narrative is the infiltration and conquest of Narnia by the Calormenes. The Calormenes are pretty transparently based on the Muslims. This is one reason why I doubt very much that either The Horse and His Boy or The Last Battle will ever be adapted for film. The central role of Islamic conquest in Lewis’s view of the end times is very interesting, especially as it must have been far less obvious that this was at all likely when he wrote in the nineteen fifties. The Calormenes worship a god called Tash who is quite obviously Satan. They sneak into Narnia disguised as merchants and seize control of the country under the auspices of the monkey Shift who persuades his dim-witted friend Puzzle to dress up in a lion skin and pose as Aslan (the Lion who in the Chronicles of Narnia symbolises Christ). It seems from this that Lewis believes that the deception of the Antichrist will be a treason from within Western culture by non-believers posing as believers and manipulating the credulity of the mass of the people but that it will be accomplished in alliance with and ultimately to the profit of Islam. This is very interesting especially when one reflects upon the alliance between Liberalism and Mohammedanism in contemporary Western culture.

Emeth is among the Calormene soldiers who enter Narnia in disguise to assist Shift in his overthrow of the legitimate king Tirian and establishment of an indifferentist pseudo-theocracy centred on the government and worship of Tashlan. Emeth is naturally virtuous sincere believer in Tash and is sickened by the duplicity of the methods by which the conquest of Narnia is to be accomplished and sickened by the suggestion that Aslan and Tash are one and the same. In the event, the conspiracy issues in the destruction of the the entire Narnian world, the defintive expulsion of Tash, and the second coming of Aslan. Emeth, however, is saved and finds himself in heaven. Emeth encounters Aslan, is ravished by his beauty, confesses his lifelong worship of Tash and awaits death at the hands of the true God. He is told instead that every sincere and naturally virtuous act he performed for the sake of Tash (who Aslan describes as his ‘opposite’) was in fact done in honour of Aslan and all evil acts done in Aslan’s name are really done for Tash. For this reason Emeth, as an anonymous worshiper of Aslan, is saved.

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”

This seems like pretty pure Pelagianism. In fact, it helpfully illustrates how utterly Pelagian the Implicitist heresy is. A determination to worship God in whatever manner God has appointed is a requirement of natural reason. If natural moral virtue combined with a determination to worship God in whatever manner He has established, combined with error of fact as to what this religion is, can save us then nature and reason alone suffice for the forgiveness of sins and participation in the divine nature. This is not just heresy it is the central claim of Satan in his rebelion against God. Is Lewis then, ironically, preaching the greatest of all deceptions in a work supposed to warn us about the Antichrist?

I think it may be possible to save Lewis from this most serious charge. I do not deny that Lewis’s theology is often sloppy. Without the solemn defintions of Councils and Popes to guard him against rash speculations and unable, as a Protestant, to submit to the consensus of the Fathers, he often strays too far and entangles himself in positions he probably would repudiate if baldly stated. He also has an odd tendency to fall into dualism (displayed here in the reference to Tash as Aslan’s ‘opposite’) and an unhealthy fascination with platonic angelology probably derived from Charles Williams. Nevertheless, it is not clear that there has been any kind of fall in Narnia or that the Calormenes are descended from Adam. It may be that the non-earth descended inhabitants of the Narnian world have a purely natural end and that if they do receive supernatural beatitude it is by a purely gratuitous elevation at the end of time, not because they possessed supernatural grace (or original sin) during their lives. Furthermore, it is not altogether clear that Emeth is even dead when he meets Aslan.

Of course the entire premise of the story is impossible. It is not possible for there to be non-human rational animals. There are no rational animals who are not descended from Adam. There have not been and will not be multiple incarnations. Furthermore, it is hard not to conclude that Lewis did have a rationalist Pelagian understanding of salvation as the story is almost certain to be taken this way by any ordinary reader. The Last Battle was published in 1956 and Lewis is generally seen as a champion of classical conservative western Christianity against liberalism. The problem of Emeth shows how much the Implicitist error already went by default on the eve of the Neo-Modernism revolution.

“People shouldn’t call for demons unless they really mean what they say.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle