The Long View: C. S. Lewis: An Alternative Obituary

A young C. S. Lewis

A young C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis is now famous for having written the Chronicles of Narnia and a number of popular works of Christian apologetics, but as a young man he was involved in some dubious circles. This is an alternative account of his life had he not decided to seek the light.

This article is Alternative History. It is not true. Do not cite it except as fiction.

From the Obituaries of The New York Times, November 26, 1963

Argentine police officials today confirmed that the remains of Clive Staples Lewis were among those found in the ashes of a bungalow on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The building burned to the ground on November 22, just as Mr. Lewis, a long-time international fugitive, was about to be apprehended by agents of the CIA and MI5. Allegations of his involvement with this week's tragic events in Dallas are continuing to stir worldwide controversy [See Page A1]. Mr. Lewis is believed to have committed suicide by self-immolation. The exact number of his companions and the cause of their deaths are still under investigation.

With the death of Mr. Lewis, the hunt for the major war criminals of the Second World War can be said to be over.

C.S. Lewis was born on November 29, 1898, to an ordinary professional-class household of Belfast in the north of Ireland. His father, Albert, was a successful police prosecutor. His mother, born Flora Hamilton, died while he and his only sibling, an older brother named Warren, were still young. (Warren Lewis, a career army officer, died of liver disease in 1936.) According to C.S. Lewis's own memoirs, he endured a singularly unhappy childhood in the British public (i.e., private) schools of the period. He was the object of repeated beatings by other boys, and his academic performance was marginal. The young Lewis took refuge in bizarre fantasies involving animals, and also began a fascination with the occult that would greatly affect his later career.

Lewis served as a junior officer in the British Army in the First World War, during which he was wounded. Like many other figures who would later become important on the Right, Lewis wrote positively of his military service. He remarked of his time in the trenches that "this is what Homer wrote of," though he dismissed the war as a whole as merely an occasion "to meet the great goddess Nonsense." It is certainly true that Lewis benefited from the experience. Although before the war Lewis had repeatedly failed to pass the admission test for Oxford, the requirement was waived for veterans and Lewis was able to attend.

Lewis's time at Oxford is the most shadowy of his life. Although his only major works during the 1920s were two semi-pornographic verse novels published under a pseudonym, he is acknowledged to have developed a fetching style that could have won him a conventional academic career. However, rumors of sado-masochistic relations with students and faculty soon put a question mark by his hopes for university advancement. Additionally, his active involvement with ritual magic during this period seems to have occasioned a conspicuous decline in his mental equilibrium.

Writing long afterward, Lewis reports, in all seriousness, that he attended a ceremony in which a participant was literally dragged down to Hell. For whatever reason, Lewis clearly became increasingly paranoid about the powers he believed he had invoked. "You must picture me," he wrote, "alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet." Some final crisis occurred in 1929 which left Lewis unable to function. He was dismissed from Oxford, and later spent some months in Belbury Mental Hospital, during which he wrote an account of his conversion to Typhonianism entitled "The Pilgrim's Regress" (1933).

After his release from the hospital, Lewis used his contacts in the occult underground to meet Oswald Mosley, soon joining what came to be called Mosley's "Inner Ring." Lewis was instrumental in organizing the publicity strategy for Mosley's British Union of Fascists. Indeed, Lewis regarded this period as the happiest of his life. As he put it, he wrote successful propaganda "with his tongue in his cheek and the printer's devil by the door, and no one able to call him a nonentity ever again." Lewis is also believed to have been the real author of Mosley's "Allegory of Love" (1936), a provocative book that applied Georges Sorel's ideas about the manipulation of political myth to a "revolution of elites" in a parliamentary democracy.

Although active in the peace movement throughout the later 1930s, Lewis volunteered for military service when Great Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939. Nonetheless, Lewis was interned in Blackmoor Prison with Mosley and other prominent Fascists in the early days of the war. Mosley and many of his colleagues were killed in the assault on the prison by German Special Forces during the invasion, leaving Lewis the highest-ranking British Fascist to survive. Lewis was Minister of Education (1940-43) and Home Secretary (1941-43) in the quisling government of Lloyd George. In the period of direct German rule under the Protectorate, he served as Deputy Director of the Nordic Institute for the Civilization of England (1943-44).

During the occupation, Lewis was chiefly responsible for the cultural policy of the new order, a position for which he insisted that plenary police powers were necessary. Among his most notorious policies were the persecution of all manifestations of historical religious orthodoxy, and his use of the Anglican Church to promote a neo-pagan cult of his own devising. Lewis's voice became well-known to short-wave radio listeners during the war years through his weekly talks on this "British Christianity." Lewis is best remembered in England, however, for his treatment of intellectuals believed to be hostile to the regime, many of whom at been interned in the month just after the invasion. His orders regarding the faculty of Magdalen College, "Beat them, bite them, throw them into pits with snakes and never let them see the sun again!," secured his death sentence in absentia during the War Crimes trials at Portsmouth in 1946. A selected anthology of the directives issuing from his office during the war, published as "The Screwtape Memoranda," became one of the chief primary sources for understanding the workings of totalitarian bureaucracies.

Lewis was not in London on "Prince Caspian's Day," so called for the famous codeword that triggered the British uprising. It was later learned that, moved by some intuition when communications were cut, Lewis fled secretly to the Republic of Ireland to await events. Remaining in Ireland after the liberation of Britain and the Continent, Lewis wrote an enormous thesis describing the Neo-Nazi empire which he believed was the inevitable future of western civilization. Privately published as Imperium in 1948 under the pseudonym "Ulick Varange," the book has functioned ever since as the "bible" of postwar international fascism.

In the 15 years between the publication of "Imperium" and his apparent death on November 22, Lewis is believed to have been a major figure in the international fascist underground, and particularly in the mysterious "Odessa" organization. Though staunchly opposed to Communism, Odessa's tactical opposition to American influence in Europe has led it to cooperate with the Eastern Block security services. Lewis was known to have been operating in Latin America for some time, and American security officials had been hinting that an arrest could be imminent. None would confirm the rumors that Odessa cells operating in the western hemisphere had threatening retaliation if Lewis were taken.

"What can we say?" said the FBI's Assistant Director of Western Hemisphere Affairs, L. H. Oswald. "He was the wickedest man in the world."

Copyright © 2000 by John J. Reilly

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