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When Aslan is asked why he has to die in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he answers something in the sense that there is a "deeper magic" that he has to obey.

What exactly is this "deeper magic"? Since Narnia can be interpreted as a religious allegory, does this "deeper magic" have any correspondence to Christian beliefs?

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First we need to understand what the "Deep Magic" is/represents, before moving to the "Deeper Magic." We know from chapter 13 of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that the Deep Magic is written in several places (on the Stone Table, on the Scepter of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, etc.). We also know from that chapter that it defines what Justice requires.

This closely parallels, then, the Old Testament Law, which establishes both laws and a sacrificial system for dealing with those who break the law. Colin Duriez summarizes that the Deep Magic is:

the moral order by which the world of Narnia is made and sustained. One of its inner laws is that unless the Witch is given blood for every treachery committed all Narnia will fall apart, perishing in fire and water. The Deep Magic has affinities with Old Testament law. (A Field Guide to Narnia, 181)

So, what about the "Deeper Magic"? Paul Ford likens it to "self-sacrificing love" (Pocket Companion to Narnia, 214) and points to LWW chapter 15, where Aslan says:

Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.

This deeper magic is thus both older and less known than the Deep Magic. This parallels in Christianity the mechanism that makes it possible for Jesus Christ's death on the cross to save (or, more specifically, atone for) law-breakers. Lewis is purposefully vague when it comes to the exact function of this mechanism (as shown elsewhere, he did not personally commit to any particular theory of atonement).

Broadly speaking, however, the deeper magic parallels God's grace in the New Covenant: a grace that was only foreshadowed in the Old Testament, a grace that fulfills the Law and its sacrificial system, a grace that was established long before the Old Testament law was formally given. Thus Duriez writes:

[The deeper magic is] a deeper principle than the natural moral order that sustains the world. This is a principle resembling the New Testament notion of grace, which fulfills and perfects the older law. (A Field Guide to Narnia, 181)

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A few thoughts here:

First, it's actually a little more subtle than to say that Narnia is a strict allegory. C. S. Lewis's intent (and some people, such as @Hamlet, would argue that that's not really the same thing as meaning - that's a different discussion though) was to write a "re-imagining" of the Christian story of sorts - for example, if a world like Narnia existed and it needed redemption in the same way that our world did, how would Jesus have redeemed them?

With that said, the Stone Table is a clear reference to the 10 Commandments in particular (and the Law of Moses in general), which was originally written on a stone tablet.

By that thinking, the "Deeper Magic" represents (in one sense, at least) the New Covenant that was brought about by Jesus's death and Resurrection (see also here for the specific New Testament passage in which it occurs).

Edit: What, then, do we make of the fact that the "deeper magic" existed before the dawn of time?

To cite @Nathaniel's excellent comment:

Many Christians believe that the "New Covenant" is not "new" in the sense of being defined recently or in reaction to something, but as something that has existed for a long time but was only clearly revealed recently.

In Christian theology (and certainly in C. S. Lewis's view), the New Covenant isn't really "new" in the sense that Aslan / Jesus suddenly sat down and said "I've got it - I know what I'll do!" The principles behind this were there all along.

With regards to the second part of your question (is the Deeper Magic something more than God?), you may want to look at the closely related Euthyphro dilemma. That basically says "is morality good because God says so or is God good because he follows the law of morality?" In the first case, you'd have to wonder if the laws of morality were arbitrary, and in the second you'd have to see them as being almost "higher" than God in a sense (because they're something independent from him that he's also bound by). The "standard" Christian answer to this is that morality is an essential part of God's character. I can't remember if C. S. Lewis explicitly stated that he agreed with that view anywhere, but he almost certainly would've been aware of it given his work with apologetics. That view's largely uncontroversial among theologians at this point (as far as I know), so I'd be really surprised if he disagreed with that view.

  • I'm not sure how the "deeper magic" can represent the new covenant. The "deeper magic" is specifically said to be older than Azlan. If the "deeper magic" represented the new covenant, then it would have come into existence at the time of Azlan's resurrection. – user111 Mar 2 '17 at 19:58
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    @Hamlet Many Christians believe that the "New Covenant" is not "new" in the sense of being defined recently or in reaction to something, but as something that has existed for a long time but was only clearly revealed recently. – Nathaniel is protesting Mar 2 '17 at 20:08
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    @Nathaniel Thanks, that's what I was trying to express. The point being (and I think that C. S. Lewis was expressing this) is that the Resurrection didn't just "come out of nowhere" - it was always there in a sense. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '17 at 20:13

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