I re-read most of The Magician’s Nephew yesterday. I think that’s my favorite of the Narnia books; I enjoy the humor, I like the thought of Aslan singing the world into being, and the philosophical elements are ones I like thinking about.
In particular I noticed several story elements relating to self-delusion. The most obvious occurs when Uncle Andrew (the self-serving magician who set the events of the story in motion) is listening to Aslan sing the world into being. He doesn’t like the music, and when he sees that it is coming from a lion he tries to persuade himself that it is only roaring and the singing never existed. He succeeds so well that throughout the rest of the book he cannot understand any of the Talking Animals – and, for that matter, they cannot understand him. Jadis, the true villainess of the story, deludes herself in similar ways throughout the book, though usually over smaller issues.
Rob Bell (among others) writes that all truth is God’s truth – all truth is related to all other truth. I think that’s true, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy science so much. If God wants us to chase the truth, then self-delusion that stems from dogmatic ideology presumably is of Satan.
I am not, of course, speaking of innocent ignorance. It was not because of self-delusion that mankind did not understand the causes of disease until the last few centuries. Lack of knowledge creates its own problems, but I don’t wish to lay the blame on those who lack it.
But we all know that there’s a lot of this sort of self-delusion kicking around these days. We get ideas about how the world works, and promptly start cherry-picking which studies/articles/organizations to believe. That’s why quackery prospers. It seems to be why the political parties are so badly polarized at the moment. I no doubt have a few of my own delusions to look out for. And it makes me sad. Well, okay, a lot of the time it makes me annoyed. But then it makes me sad.
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)