The Wood Between the Worlds, Virginia De La Lastra

Before 2008, many of us had read C.S. Lewis’s works, including his fiction, his apologetics, his works of literary criticism, and even his personal letters. Yet none of us made the connection that now seems obvious. Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, and the rest of the wandering stars had for decades silently exerted their influence upon us while we read The Chronicles of Narnia. Our imaginations had been surreptitiously furnished with a Christological inventory Lewis had culled from medieval archetypes. Visually speaking, this was all happening in our ‘blind spot’, along the periphery of our awareness, in the ‘enjoyment consciousness’, as we now know to call it. Every piece of the puzzle lay hiding in plain sight, waiting for someone to approach Lewis’s oeuvre syntopically, perceive the connections, and then share the interpretive key to Narnia.

It has now been ten years since Michael Ward accomplished this with Planet Narnia, and the team at AUJ wants to take this opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of publication as well as to convey a measure of appreciation to the man whose epiphanic detective work has done so much to influence academics, theologians, artists, and apologists alike — not to mention the genesis of AUJ itself!

Those who follow the liturgical calendar will notice that this celebratory edition is being issued during Advent. It is indeed a happy coincidence, because this is a time of year when Christians think often of the heavens and their starry host and enjoy the tingle of anticipation that builds each Sunday until Christmas. Such anticipation serves a dual role for us. Advent (deriving from Latin) means “to come” or “to arrive”. For Christians, this refers to both Christ’s incarnation some 2,000 years ago and also his second coming at the close of the age. Each of these two events must be juxtaposed in order for their historical importance and their spiritual implications to become clear, much like the way a stereoscope presents us with a three-dimensional impression of two-dimensional photos.

Similarly, a proper celebration of Planet Narnia ought to reflect the multiple dimensions that have been impacted by Ward and his work, yet since our medium (both print and online) is two-dimensional, you will have to consider the contributions to Issue #4 both as individual parts and in conjunction with the whole to derive the total meaning and draw out further implications.

To put it simply, juxtapose poets and scholars, photographers and illustrators. See how together they comprise “something made” as well as “something said” (because all too often we look only for the latter and forget to seek out the former). C.S. Lewis put together dwarfs and dryads and unicorns, Father Christmas and Dufflepuds and E. Nesbit-like characters, and those who weren’t considering the poiema missed the point and passed it off as pastiche. However, Michael Ward noticed this and looked for a deeper harmony, and when he found it he shared it with us, and ten years on we are all better off because he did.

Read on and you will find in these pages an intentional pastiche of works to enjoy: encomiums, arguments, and further evidences; photos, illustrations, and iconic imagery; an interview, a backstory, and an evangel; and also poetry, essays, and even a short-story.

… It all serves to evoke an atmosphere that is both offworldly and Otherworldly at the same time.

Feel free to look for clues if you wish to imitate Michael Ward (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery) in seeking to discover insights and underlying connections. Though nowhere near as monumental as what he found concealed in The Chronicles, there is much that lies hidden beneath the surface of Issue #4.

Citation Information

Ryan Grube “For Your Contemplation.” An Unexpected Journal 1, no. 4. (Advent 2018): 5-7

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