Are myths fiction? The stories they tell aren’t true. Are they, therefore, lies? Are they worthless? Nothing but “beautiful lies”? Nothing but fairy tales?
These are the questions posed by one man playing J.R.R. Tolkien to his counterpart playing C.S. Lewis in a fictional conversation between the two men: Lewis and Tolkien Debate Myths and Lies (embedded at the end of the article).
This interplay, while fictional, is intended to capture the essence of the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien as Lewis was transitioning from the materialism he embraced as a young man to theism. At this point, he is wrestling with doubts that were rising in his mind about the truth of that materialist world view. He was becoming convinced his previous conclusions no longer made sense.
Lewis had been raised on a diet of classical Greek and Latin literature that he learned to read in the original languages. He read these classics along with Celtic, German and other literature filled with myth, allegory and symbolism. The literature captured his imagination as a child and young adult.
As he got older, he embraced materialism, but that materialism eventually clashed with a profound undercurrent of something “real” that appealed to him in that ancient literature. The reality Lewis was confronting might, perhaps, be considered nothing more than a love of art, beauty, poetry and love itself that the materialist enjoys in common with more metaphysically minded men.
But it raises some existential questions: Is matter and energy all that exists? What of the sublime reality we all intuitively “know” and sense in classic, timeless literature and art?
Tolkien’s response to Lewis’s existential angst is the subject of this article. The substance of it continues to resonate and illuminate such modern thinkers as Jordan Peterson, whose thoughts on the same subject are contained (briefly) in a short video embedded at the end.
Meanwhile, I have done a transcript of the fictional reimagining of the Tolkien and Lewis discourse to follow:Continue reading “Tolkien, Lewis and True Myth”