As a believer in synchronicity, I found it interesting that with all the marking of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, other events, including deaths, on that day got very little attention.

That was also the day that C.S. Lewis, the British writer who created the magical land of Narnia, died.

Clive Staples Lewis is probably best known for that series of “children’s books,” but he was also one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century. You could write a good paper arguing that he was one of the most influential writers of his day.

He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement.

He wrote more than thirty books that appealed to a wide and varied audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year.

I had not read the Narnia books as a child and was introduced to his writing in a college course on religion and literature.  His books include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, and  The Screwtape Letters.

The Chronicles of Narnia have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.

It was also on 11/22/63 that author and explorer of worlds within our own minds, Aldous Huxley, also died. Huxley’s books include the novels Island, Brave New World, Eyeless in Gaza, and The Genius and the Goddess, as well as such critically acclaimed nonfiction works as The Devils of Loudun, The Doors of Perception, and The Perennial Philosophy. Born in Surrey, England, and educated at Oxford, he died in Los Angeles.

On his deathbed, unable to speak, Huxley made a written request to his wife Laura for “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular”. According to her account of his death in This Timeless Moment, she obliged with an injection at 11:45 am and a second one a few hours later.

This synchronicity/coincidence was the inspiration for Peter Kreeft’s book Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley.

Part of Kreeft’s premise for the book is that all three believed, in different ways, that death is not the end of human life. Lewis here is a Christian theist. Kennedy is a modern humanist. Huxley is an Eastern pantheist.

So, he puts them into a conversation after death.

It can be seen as part of The Great Conversation that has been going on for centuries, which is a name given to the references and allusions made by authors in the Western canon to the works of their predecessors.

It was a phrase used to promote the Great Books of the Western World series which was published by Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. in 1952. In the first volume of the series, Robert Maynard Hutchins says, “The tradition of the West is embodied in the Great Conversation that began in the dawn of history and that continues to the present day,” and Mortimer Adler wrote, “What binds the authors together in an intellectual community is the great conversation in which they are engaged. In the works that come later in the sequence of years, we find authors listening to what their predecessors have had to say about this idea or that, this topic or that. They not only harken to the thought of their predecessors, they also respond to it by commenting on it in a variety of ways.”

Does human life have meaning?

Is it possible to know about life after death?

What if one could prove that Jesus was God?

This Great Conversation is one that I believe is also being carried on here online in these spaces where we so often “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

The expression “Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants” (Latin: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes) is a Western metaphor that we interpret today to mean “one who discovers by building on previous discoveries.”

I first encountered it in reading about Isaac Newton, who wrote in a letter that “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” But the expression goes back to the twelfth century and is attributed to Bernard of Chartres by way of John of Salisbury who wrote in Metalogicon in 1159: “Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than them, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.”

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