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In C.S. Lewis's Narnia grand finale, The Last Battle, one chapter is entitled "Further Up and Further In", and this phrase is repeated a great many times by various characters:

"Then [Aslan] breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in.[" -- Emeth]

Then they all went forward together, always westward, for that seemed to be the direction Aslan had meant when he cried out "Further up and further in."

"Don't stop! Further up and further in," called Farsight, tilting his flight a little upwards.

"It's all very well for him," said Eustace, but Jewel also cried out:

"Don't stop. Further up and further in! Take it in your stride."

"Further up and further in," cried Jewel and instantly they were off again.

"Further up and further in!" roared the Unicorn, and no one held back.

"Welcome, in the Lion's name. Come further up and further in." [-- Reepicheep]

"The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside." [-- Mr Tumnus]

This whole episode of the book, and indeed much of the whole Narnia series, is full of Christian references. Is there some particular significance to the phrase "further up and further in" - does it correspond to some theological idea? I don't know enough about Christian theology to unpack it.

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  • No theological meaning that I can see. Wikipedia's synopsis says Aslan leads the faithful to his country, telling them to go "further up and further in". Presumably intended literally - climbing and travelling into the territory? Dec 2, 2023 at 16:56

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The notion is probably taken from Dante most immediately, but it's something which Lewis felt to be valuable in the mediaeval world-view in general. He describes it most completely in his The Discarded Image (1964) but it's also discussed in works as early as his essay "Dante's Similes" (read to the Oxford Dante Society on 31 October 1940, reprinted in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, CUP, 1966). The idea is that our mundane physics gives us a certain view of how the sizes and relationships of objects "work". However, in a spiritual sense, we can perceive things differently. The heavens are far away, but central in importance. They are above our heads but they are also "inwards" through being closer to God.

In Dante's Paradiso, the third part of the Divine Comedy, the poet ascends from Earth out through the heavenly spheres. This is in the version of cosmology where our world is in the centre and it is surrounded by larger and larger spheres, corresponding to the classical planets. The outer sphere, the Primum Mobile, gives the others their motive power; this is because it is impelled by God, who lives outside it in the Empyrean. Towards the end of the poem, as the poet crosses the last boundary, his perspective changes: he sees God not in the outermost part of the universe, but at its centre, surrounded by concentric rings of light. The Primum Mobile is now the innermost. The universe has been "turned inside out" (Discarded Image p116).

In Lewis's "Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages" (two lectures in 1956, also collected in Studies op. cit.) he expands -

In our visible world the circumference, the Primum Mobile, moves quickest and is nearest to God; the Moon moves slowest and is nearest what we call the Centre - i.e., the Earth. But the true nature of the universe is exactly the opposite. In the visible and spatial order Earth is centre; in the dynamic, invisible order the Empyrean is centre, and we are indeed 'outside the city wall' at the end of all things. And the centre of that Centre, the centre of Earth, is the edge, the very point at which all being and reality finally peter out. For in there (as we call it), out there (as we ought to call it) is Hell - the last outpost, the rim, the place where being is nearest to not-being, where positive un-being (so to call it) asymptotically approaches that zero it can never quite reach. Such was the medieval cosmos.

In this world-vision, "further up" and "further in" are the same thing. They are both moving towards God. In the novel, we are moving not through an abstract space but a physical landscape, a "truer" version of Narnia (as Digory says, "it's all in Plato"). This again reflects spiritual journeys such as The Pilgrim's Progress (which Lewis explored in The Pilgrim's Regress, 1933), often illustrated as a path travelling both up the page, and into the landscape - towards the distant celestial city at the top. As the various characters of The Last Battle enthusiastically travel "further up and further in", they are responding to the divine message to go towards God. They are also leaving behind the "Shadow-Lands", a small and distant place far below, which is no longer important but which they used to consider to be the world.

The idea of being "outside the city wall", also discussed in The Discarded Image, is present in The Last Battle as what appears to be a walled garden turns out to be larger than (what we thought was) the entire world around it. The walled garden, or hortus conclusus, is also a standard mediaeval mystical image, generally standing for the Virgin Mary and her womb, a space which contained the incarnate God. In The Last Battle, Lucy transfers this imagery to the stable which "once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world". But in any case, here too we have physical space yielding to a spiritual reality.

Some similar playing with physical and spiritual scale takes place in The Great Divorce (1945). The enormous grey town, which is either Hell or Purgatory depending on your perspective, is eventually seen to occupy only a tiny crack in the soil of Heaven. This book also bears the marks of Dante and Bunyan.

All of the above is Christian in the sense that it's rooted in a certain era of Christian experience, but it is not the sort of thing which is to be found explicitly in the Bible. It is a mystical, mythological, or poetic mode of expressing a Christian spiritual viewpoint.

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Aslan is representative of Christ Jesus as King. "Further up and further" in is an invitation and call to live out the principles of the Kingdom of Christ established in his first inauguration (Christmas). The entire Old testament is a revolving narrative of person after person, judge after judge, king after king, who fails to truly live/judge/rule as God would on earth.
Jesus shows up as God's "Word" in flesh (John 1, Heb 1). God himself in the form of Jesus the man shows up to establish his Kingdom. Jesus is the only one capable (since he was born without sin and is indeed God) to completely live out God's kingdom principles on earth just as they are done in heaven. Now, Jesus is calling his followers to live out his Kingdom principles "on earth as they are in heaven." See Matthew 5-7 (Sermon on the mount). This principle he will later teach them to pray (Mt 6:7-14). Those who truly follow Jesus, should shape their lives around his teaching and ever more be progressing, growing and changing to be more like their King; going "further up and further in" as they strive to build his Kingdom and await it complete fulfillment in King Jesus' ultimate reign. The entire sermon on the mount could be summarized with "further up and further in."
"King Jesus, please forgive your followers for doing a poor job at the principles you left with us to steward as your representatives on earth. Please help us to truly follow you and do as you have said, so that we can truly be "salt, light, city on a hill (Mt. 5:13-16). I see you doing this work, make it true even faster, until your Kingdom comes.... amen!"

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    As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Dec 14, 2023 at 21:46
  • It's unclear how anything after the first paragraph - really the first two sentences - is relevant to Narnia. Perhaps you could make the parallels between the Bible/Jesus' teachings, and what the Narnia quote means?
    – bobble
    Dec 15, 2023 at 2:48

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