On Friday I was reading The Silver Chair, a book from CS Lewis’ Narnia series. There is a scene where the children, Eustace and Jill, have descended into Underworld and found Prince Rillian who the Great Lion Aslan has sent them to rescue. They have freed Rillian from the silver chair, but the witch who has been holding him captive for ten years shows up to prevent their escape.
The witch’s tactic is simple. She creates an enchantment that changes the atmosphere to one where the others are susceptible to forget all they know and heed her deceptive whispers. This is how she has kept Rillian captive for so long. She aims to alter their perception of reality.
She very calmly and reasonably presents the idea to them that Underworld is the only world there is, and there is no reality, no world up above. The lamp hanging from the cavernous ceiling is the only light, and they have only used their imaginations to change this idea into a fantasy the call the sun. They have seen cats in Underworld and through the same process have imagined a Great Lion. She says, “and look how you can put nothing into your make-believe without copying it from the real world, this world of mine, which is the only world.”
They almost fall into her trap, but their Narnian companion, Puddleglum, takes action to temporarily lessen the influence of the magic, wounding himself in the process, and in that tiny moment that he has everyone’s attention he declares,
“Suppose we have only dreamed up, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself … Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one … We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world.
“I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even of there isn’t any Narnia.”
Puddleglum, the children, and the prince waste no time by allowing the witch to voice a reply. They defeat her, and make the journey home to the world above they know is waiting for them.
We all have moment of doubt as to the nature of reality. But remember where you came from and who you belong to. And act like it.