The release of Prince Caspian occasioned some discussion at my office recently. Some good Christians are—understandably, if they haven’t read the Narniad—wary of the magic in Lewis’s “supposal.”
Let me hasten to say that I do not want to push anyone past his conscience. But recriminations are coming back against Narnia lovers! And the reason I am a Narnia lover is that the series has helped me understand and love the God whose truth the Narniad pictures.
So let me offer some humble defenses of the “magic” in the Narniad (with some help from respected friends who discussed this with me recently).
In The Silver Chair, Jill, who’s never been to Narnia, suggests to the already-initiated Eustace various magical ways to get there:
“You mean we might draw a circle on the ground—and writer queer letters in it—and stand inside it—and recite charms and spells?”
“Well,” said Eustace after he had thought hard for a bit. “I believe that was the sort of thing I was thinking of, though I never did it. But now that it comes to the point, I’ve an idea that all those circles and things are rather rot. I don’t think [Aslan would] like them. It would look as if we thought we could make him do things. But really, we can only ask him.”
In other words, the kind of magic that the critics are worried about is explicitly condemned in the series. The other time someone tries to draw a magic circle, that someone (Nikabrik) winds up dead.
As for what Lewis calls the “deep magic,” this seems to be nothing more than the laws the Emperor (God) has established in the Narnia universe. See the OED definition of “magic” for how the word was used in the Middle Ages, perhaps the major period of history from which Lewis drew for his masterpiece.