Note: This is the first draft of an essay I have to write to accompany my thesis play for my MFA program in Dramatic Writing at Arizona State University. It will change due to feedback I have received, and thus I will probably update it as I go along. I am posting it in two parts. The essay is meant to focus on my journey as a playwright, the development of my work at ASU, as well as the ideas and authors that have influenced my work (so pardon the navel gazing. It was part of the assignment...honest!). Here's part one:
True Myths and Spiritual Words:
The Development of my Dramatic Voice
The Essay for my MFA Thesis Play and my Body of Work at ASU
By Mahonri Stewart
PART ONE: MY DRAMATIC INFLUENCES AND WRITER’S PHILOSOPHY
C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia and perhaps the most influential theologian of Christianity in the 20th century, was once an avowed atheist. Not long after the death of his mother when he was eight years old, until his early thirties, his beliefs flatly contradicted the positions he would passionately take up later in his life.
Lewis was a great lover of mythology, of the Norse legends and the Greek tales, of all sorts of ancient stories. But he certainly didn’t believe they were real stories. He saw religion as another extension of just such a mythology. Despite his great love for magical stories and monumental myths, and the “joy” they brought him, he told his Catholic friend J.R.R. Tolkien, who would become the author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, that these myths were “lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver.”
Furthermore, when it came to Christianity, it wasn’t even original! It was the Johnny Come Lately of world religion, relying on the “dying god myths” of the past—the Greek Prometheus, the Egyptian Osiris, and C.S. Lewis’s favorite myth about the death of the Norse god Balder. Lewis saw the myth of Jesus Christ as a direct plagiarism of that which had come before it. A dying god made alive again? That story had already been told.
In a late night conversation with his friend and fellow Oxford educator Tolkien, as well as their friend Hugo Dyson, a Shakespearean scholar who taught at Reading University, Lewis had gotten to the point of his spiritual journey in recognizing the possibility of God. He had become a theist. But Christianity was still incomprehensible to him, for the above stated reasons. As these three friends walked in the woods together, after dinner one evening, the old argument came out of Lewis, but J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson countered it.
I dramatized that conversation in my published play, Swallow the Sun: