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Lewis and J. W. Dunne

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 82, Autumn 1999 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

In chapter 1 of The Dark Tower Orfieu tells MacPhee, “But that we see the future is perfectly certain. Dunne’s book proved that—” After MacPhee roared in response, Orfieu continued, “It’s all very well, MacPhee, but the only thing that enables you to jeer at Dunne is the fact that you have refused to carry out the experiments he suggests….”

J. W. Dunne published An Experiment with Time in 1927, and Lewis referred to it in four of the books he really wrote:

The Allegory of Love (1936)

For when his hero lies dead and the poem might be expected to end, Hawes does a most surprising thing; he rolls up curtain after curtain of his cosmos, as the successive backcloths roll up in the transformation scenes of the old pantomime, or as the planes of time disclose themselves in Mr. Dunne’s serial universe.

That Hideous Strength (1945)

“You’ll never manage publicity that way, Mark,” said Feverstone. “You surely don’t need to wait for a thing to happen before you tell the story of it!”

“Well, I admit,” said Mark, and his face also was full of laughter, “I had a faint prejudice for doing so, not living in Mr. Dunne’s sort of time…”

Reflections on the Psalms (1958)

The Ethiopian eunuch who met Philip (Acts 8, 27-38) was reading Isaiah 53. He did not know whether in that passage the prophet was talking about himself or about someone else. Philip, in answering his question, “preached unto him Jesus” The answer, in fact, was “Isaiah is speaking of Jesus”. We need have no doubt that Philip’s authority for this interpretation was Our Lord. Our ancestors would have thought that Isaiah consciously foresaw the sufferings of Christ as people see the future in the sort of dreams recorded by Mr. Dunne.

The Discarded Image (1964)

Visio (horama). This is a direct, literal pre-vision of the future. Mr Dunne’s Experiment with Time is mainly about visions. This type appears as “avisioun” in Chaucer.