Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Logic of C.S. Lewis's Professor Kirke -- "There are only three possibilities."

Never underestimate people's strength and persistence in their ability to resist new information. If you're like me, you've probably had any number of exasperating experiences trying to convince someone you know that something they've been conditioned to dismiss as a mere "conspiracy theory" is, in fact, true. You may feel that, of all characters in ancient Greek literature, Cassandra is the nearest and dearest to your own heart.

Finding truly open and logical people is rare and worthy of celebration, even if, as in this case, they're fictional.

I'd just like to say, for the record, that one person I'd like on my investigating team, even though he's fictional, is professor Kirke in C.S. Lewis's novel, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", the first book in the author's "Chronicles of Narnia" series.

In this story, set in England during World War II, a family sends their four children to live with a professor in the countryside for their safety. Lucy, the youngest of the siblings, discovers a separate reality called Narnia when, during a game of hide-and-seek, she walks out the back of a large wooden wardrobe and discovers a snow-covered woodlands where she meets a faun who receives her as his guest for tea. Upon her return to the wardrobe and the professor's house, she describes her experience to her brothers and sisters, but, of course, they don't believe her because when they look in the wardrobe, there's nothing unusual.

Later, her brother Edmund, the second youngest, also finds the snow-covered woodlands and happens to meet a Queen who is quite fascinated to find a human child in her realm and pumps him for information while plying him with sweets. Edmund tells Lucy of his experience and she's much relieved to have validation of her experience, but when the older siblings ask about it, Edmund claims both he and Lucy were only pretending and that Narnia exists only in their imaginations. Lucy is crushed and won't speak to her siblings. The older siblings are concerned about Lucy's insistence that her experience was real and decide to consult the professor about it.

Read the following passage while keeping in mind the many real-life down-the-rabbit-hole and through-the-looking-glass scenarios we "truthers" are discovering to be true in our real-life research. I think you'll agree Professor Kirke is a treat with his straightforward and refreshing perspective. After all, if someone's not lying and they're not mad, then the only other possibility is they're telling the truth, right? Ah, would that life were so simple. Enjoy!

... the Professor said "Come in," and got up and found chairs for them and said he was quite at their disposal. Then he sat listening to them with the tips of his fingers pressed together and never interrupting, till they had finished the whole story. After that he said nothing for quite a long time. Then he cleared his throat and said the last thing either of them expected:

"How do you know," he asked, "that your sister's story is not true?"

"Oh, but -" began Susan, and then stopped. Anyone could see from the old man's face that he was perfectly serious. Then Susan pulled herself together and said, "But Edmund said they had only been pretending."

"That is a point," said the Professor, "which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance - if you will excuse me for asking the question - does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?"

"That's just the funny thing about it, sir," said Peter. "Up till now, I'd have said Lucy every time."

"And what do you think, my dear?" said the Professor, turning to Susan.

"Well," said Susan, "in general, I'd say the same as Peter, but this couldn't be true - all this about the wood and the Faun."

"That is more than I know," said the Professor, "and a charge of lying against someone whom you have always found truthful is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed."

"We were afraid it mightn't even be lying," said Susan; "we thought there might be something wrong with Lucy."

"Madness, you mean?" said the Professor quite coolly. "Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad."

"But then," said Susan, and stopped. She had never dreamed that a grown-up would talk like the Professor and didn't know what to think.

"Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth."

Susan looked at him very hard and was quite sure from the expression on his face that he was not making fun of them.

"But how could it be true, sir?" said Peter.

"Why do you say that?" asked the Professor.

"Well, for one thing," said Peter, "if it was true why doesn't everyone find this country every time they go to the wardrobe? I mean, there was nothing there when we looked; even Lucy didn't pretend there was."

"What has that to do with it?" said the Professor.

"Well, sir, if things are real, they're there all the time."

"Are they?" said the Professor; and Peter didn't know quite what to say.

"But there was no time," said Susan. "Lucy had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours."

"That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true," said the Professor. "If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know very little about it) - if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at all surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stay there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don't think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story."

"But do you really mean, sir," said Peter, "that there could be other worlds - all over the place, just round the corner - like that?"

"Nothing is more probable," said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, "I wonder what they do teach them at these schools."

Many years ago, I shelved all my research on paranormal and conspiracy subjects because, at that time, we relied almost solely on books for this kind of information and when only the author's words are available, it's too easy to give suspicions that the author is lying (or insane) too much credence. With the advent of the internet, we're now able to go listen to author's talks and interviews. In many cases, their honesty and sanity are far too compelling to leave any room for doubts about their testimony, and that leaves only the third possibility-- that they're telling the truth.


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  1. Slight correction, sorry. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is actually the second book in the series. The first book is the Magician's Nephew, in which Digory Kirke plays the lead character.

    1. Actually, LWW was published as the first book and MN as the sixth book. Harper Collins changed the numbers on the spine to chronological order after Lewis's death.

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