The Inklings were Christian Romantics–Romantics without rebellion–who sought to awaken the modern imagination from its antimetaphysical slumber. They were realists about the supernatural (Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”), and this disturbs some critics even more than the Inklings’ purported escapism. “Everyone needs ghosts, spirits, marvels and poetic imaginings,” said Toynbee, as long as no spiritual truth claims intrude. For Gopnik, “poetry and fantasy aren’t stimulants to a deeper spiritual appetite; they are what we have to fill the appetite.” What great poet of the past, what great reader of poetry, would accept such a confinement?Fantasy isn’t meant to satisfy the longings that it awakens, but to intensify them. Reading is itself a way of entering other worlds. To reject that privilege, which belongs to reason as well as to faith, is to exchange heavenly manna for Turkish delight.
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