The thought of C.S. Lewis, message of “hope and faith” in human beings “for the current moment”

Álvarez García: “Probably, he made more converts with his conferences, talks and books than the works of distinguished theologians, more erudite on the subject, but less close to the public”

Professor María Luz Álvarez García, from the Faculty of Teaching and Educational Sciences of the Catholic University of Valencia (UCV), has carried out research on the writer and professor at the University of Oxford C. S. Lewis (1998-1963), author of such well-known works as the so-called Cosmic Trilogy, the seven volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia and the essays Letters from the Devil to His Nephew (1942) and A Sorrow in Observation (1961). According to Álvarez García, “Lewis serves as a guide for situations and circumstances that we find in the current moment and provides not only invaluable advice but also hope and faith that the essence of the human being is eternal and indestructible.”

“Despite the attacks that man suffers from his ranks, Lewis unfailingly maintained that human creativity will be present sooner or later, despite the trials and difficulties that, individually and collectively, will undoubtedly be faced in every time and place,” he says.

In that sense, the study of this Teaching Professor, which is part of her doctoral thesis, refers to the faith of the British writer: “Lewis’s communicative capacity, the liveliness and freshness of his literary style, his eloquence and knowledge, They allowed him to become a champion of the apology of Christianity. He was someone eager to share his belief in the intellectual and imaginative power that comes with the Christian faith.”

“From his return from atheism to theism and then to Christianity, his entire life was oriented with that compass. He probably made more converts with his conferences, talks and books than the works of distinguished theologians, more erudite on the subject, but less close to the public,” he asserts.

Literature as a form of knowledge of what humanity shares

Álvarez García points out, on the other hand, that Lewis proposed in his 1961 essay The Experience of Reading (Alba Editorial, 2000) a proposal for “new” literary criticism at the time “that opened the way for later literary criticism.” The Northern Irish intellectual develops the concept of literature as “Logos”; that is, literature “as a form of knowledge of what humanity shares.”

The UCV professor asserts that, in Lewis’s opinion, “that substrate, the Logos, would be expressed in diverse forms and manners; Its message would be transmitted through the arts and literature, which are the ways in which the human being, through the faculty of imagination aided by reason, exercises his creative activity in the world, in replica of the “Great Imagination””.

Professor María Luz Álvarez García

According to Álvarez García, “in Lewis, art, great literature, in this case, is both messenger and message, hence its ability to transmit and be Logos.” Thus, “the writer transmits in the work a seed that, if the terrain is favorable, will germinate in the spirit of the reader, giving rise to a generative process analogous to that which occurs in the physical nature of things.”

Lewis was “deeply interested in myths,” and this expert believes that “the ultimate purpose of Lewis’s work is to unite imagination, reason, and faith in order to reach the truth behind the appearances of sensory perceptions. This truth would be within the reach of all men, since there would be a common substrate for all humanity, formed by the broad and vast human experience and which can be accessed as long as one has the appropriate receptive attitude; that is, taking care that the individual self does not get in the way.”

The great literature “cure of provincialism”

The Teaching Professor emphasizes that Lewis considered a concrete attitude to the experience of reading necessary: “To receive literature, it is an inexorable condition to get out of oneself: to put aside preconceptions, one’s own interests, mental associations, and give in.” to the work. That is to say, individuality must be put on hold momentarily to surrender to what reading may bring. The motto that Lewis proposes before every work of art is: «Look. Hear. Receive””.

“To capture the message of the work, the Logos that it transmits, the reader will have to look carefully at what is presented to him, listen to what it tells him and leave space for it, receive the work. On the contrary, when using literature, the reader imposes precisely his individuality, his own ideas, desires or attitudes to the work, thereby becoming immune to his message,” he argues.

Lewis’s literary theory establishes, according to Álvarez García, that “a good book is recognized as such because it allows for good reading.” That is, “it provides reflections to the reader, helps them understand aspects of life, offers them another look at the world and themselves, and makes them good readers. After the experience with good literature, the reader grows, his intelligence, his capacity for judgment and sensitivity are refined, expanded and deepened. For that reason, great literature helps him get out of himself, cures him of provincialism.

“However, a bad book feeds the reader’s ‘egoic’ fantasies, flatters his vanity and, by giving rise to his desires without questioning where they come from or where they are going; “It locks him up once again in his limited and known circle,” he remarks.