The Lion’s Share

01Jul08

I recently took some younger friends to see the second film in The Chronicles of Narnia series, Prince Caspian. I use the young friends, of course, as my justification for going to see a sentimental family film filled with talking animals, galloping centaurs and misanthropic dwarves. But, to be honest, my going doesn’t really need much justification: I unashamedly love the Narnia films and I know precisely why. 

It’s the incredible way that those clever CGI artists at New Zealand’s Weta Workshop bring the lion Aslan to life. It never fails to move me. And in Prince Caspian, the brilliance with which they depict Aslan roaring a tidal wave of catastrophic power into life to defeat the forces of darkness has to be seen to be believed.

A couple of years back, I remember seeing the first film in the series, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and being so emotionally stirred by the scene where the children first approach Aslan’s tent on the battlefield. An image which came to my mind from Bahá’í history was of Bahá’u’lláh’s sojourn in the Garden of Ridván in Baghdad. In Nabil’s account, The Dawnbreakers, he describes how every day, “ere the hour of dawn, the gardeners would pile the roses which lined the four avenues of the garden and would pile them in the center of the floor of His blessed tent. So great would be the heap that when his companions gathered to drink their morning tea in his presence, they would be unable to see each other across it.” Speaking of those days, Baha’u’llah said: “Call ye to mind, O people, the bounty which God has conferred upon you. Ye were sunk in slumber, and lo! He aroused you by the reviving breezes of his revelation, and made known unto you his manifest and undeviating path.”

The reviving breezes of revelation were well understood by C.S.Lewis. Aslan, in Lewis’s parable, is of course his representation of Jesus Christ. In The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis penned one of his finest pieces of prose, describing Aslan walking through the world and breathing life into every created thing: “The Lion opened his mouth, but no sound came from it; he was breathing out, a long, warm breath; it seemed to sway all the beasts as the wind sways a line of trees. Far overhead from beyond the veil of blue sky which hid them the stars sang again; a pure, cold, difficult music. Then there came a swift flash like fire (but it burnt nobody) either from the sky or from the Lion itself, and every drop of blood tingled in the children’s bodies, and the deepest, wildest voice they had ever heard was saying: Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.”

In so many cultures and religious traditions, the lion symbolizes the divine power that can overcome satanic strength. The lion has also been used as the emblem of earthly power, dignity and courage. It appeared on the insignia of Roman legions, and was commandeered by Egyptian pharaohs and English kings. As an emblem of justice, Solomon’s throne had six steps with twelve lions; one stood on each side of the six steps to represent his power and authority.

Aslan in the Narnia stories represents a power that can transform the hearts and minds of human beings and raise them to a higher level of consciousness, defeating the darkness of the lower nature. “Should it be God’s intention,” writes Bahá’u’lláh, “there would appear out of the forests of celestial might the lion of indomitable strength whose roaring is like unto the peals of thunder reverberating in the mountains.” But, “Where is the lion of the forest of Thy might, O Chastiser of the worlds?” he asks elsewhere in “The Fire Tablet”.

The truth is that change does not happen with a lion’s roar, but through the intention, speech and motivation of ordinary people: “We have ordained that complete victory should be achieved through speech and utterance, that Our servants throughout the earth may thereby become the recipients of divine good.” 

Perhaps that is why the character of Aslan touches us so deeply. He is a symbol of our own potential to breathe new life into the world.

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One Response to “The Lion’s Share”

  1. that was fascinating rob.do you know anything showing.c.s.lewis knew of baha’u’llah?


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