The surprising imagination of C. S. Lewis: this week on The Green Room

Oct 21, 2016

C. S. Lewis believed the nuanced imagination was important for perceiving reality.
Credit The Wade Center

C. S. Lewis was a Christian theologian who authored over 70 books, including The Space Trilogy, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

This weekend in Petoskey, the annual C. S. Lewis Festival will celebrate Lewis’ imagination. 

The authors of the book, The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis say he had a nuanced understanding regarding imagination. They Identify over 30 different types of imagination that Lewis recognized and used in his writings.

Mark Neal is one of those authors, and a featured speaker at the festival in Petoskey. He says the nuanced approach to imagination helps us better understand reality. 

"It's this idea that it helps us to see things that, without it, would be unseeable," Neal says.


One of those types of imagination is called the satisfied imagination. It's a positive view that helps us recognize the familiar. As the saying goes, "familiarity breeds contempt," Neal says we lose sight of the mystery and wonder of the thing around us every day. 

"This idea of the satisfied imagination helps to re-enchant what's around us, and help us to see the familiar in a new way," he says.

Another example of imagination Lewis gives, is called the controlled imagination. It's a negative use of the imagination based upon wish fulfillment. 

"It's us projecting our desires onto the world so that they can do things for us," Neal says.

This type of imagination is on display in Lewis' book titled, The Screwtape Letters. The book is a series of letters written between a senior devil, Screwtape and his junior understudy, Wormwood. Screwtape's goal in his letters is to help Wormwood better tempt souls into Hell. 

"The whole point of this book is, 'How do you get people— not to do evil things— but how do you get them to do good things in twisted ways?'"

Neal says imagination is not just the ability to make things up, be creative, or to invent worlds— but it helps us understand the reality in which we live.

"This is especially true in art and literature," he says. "If I want to understand anything more fully, I have to bring both my imagination and reason to bear upon it."