On Faith and Science
By Christopher Frost
Scientific advances often make questions about religious faith more prominent. One artistic repre- sentation of this collision course is Mark St. Germain’s 2009 play Freud’s Last Session, which imagines an encounter between the titular psychoanalyst/writer, an atheist, and the medievalist/
writer C. S. Lewis, a devout Christian and converted atheist. Set at the start of World War II, the
two-character debate occurs when the younger Lewis (1898-1963), an Oxford professor, visits the
home of the elderly Freud (1856-1939), who is dying of cancer. I long ago incorporated a Freud-Lewis
dialectic into my interdisciplinary course, “Science, Religion, and the Quest for Meaning,” and took
these photos when leading a college study abroad version of that course last summer at Oxford.
In June 1938, Freud and family fled Vienna and the Nazi Anschluss, settling in this
London home at 20 Maresfield Gardens. Although he died the following year, amid
circumstances that frame Freud’s Last Session, his daughter, Anna, a founder of
child psychoanalysis, lived there 44 years, until her death in 1982. The home now
is a museum and features Sigmund Freud’s study as laid out during his lifetime.
Lewis purchased The Kilns, built in 1922 at the site of a former brickworks, in 1930
(with his brother, Warnie, and a friend’s mother, Janie Moore). It is within walking
distance of Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, where Lewis worshipped for
decades and is buried. The Kilns, and a character based on its gardener, appear in
Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia fantasy tales for children; written between 1949 and
1954, the seven sagas explore “faith” and “belief” in a manner distinct from
empirical confirmation. The C. S. Lewis Foundation now owns and operates
The Kilns as a study center.
Whether perceived simply as a tool to encourage “free association” in patients, or more
symbolically as an early place of sanctuary or comfort (e.g., childhood “safe space,”
or crib, or womb), Freud’s couch has earned a spot in the annals of history. Within this
context, Freud’s couch also is a foil to Lewis’ wardrobe.
The Lion, the Witch and the
Wardrobe (1950) is the best-known of the Narnia stories.
Four London children, all
young siblings, are sent to live
with a professor in the safer
countryside in 1940, and the
wardrobe, the youth discover,
is their magical entryway into
Narnia. The idea came to Lewis when three girls arrived to
the Kilns during the London
evacuation of children in the
face of Nazi bombings.
Christopher Frost (former Western Regional Representative on the
national level and former San Diego State University chapter president)
has published photographs in quarterly editions of Texas Books in Review,
in his scholarly book Moral Cruelty: Ameaning and the Justification of Harm
(University Press of America, 2004), on various humanitarian websites, and
for campus purposes. Frost is the academic dean of the School of Arts and
Sciences at the Long Island campus of St. Joseph’s College of New York. A
prolific author whose academic work also includes Simone Weil: On Politics, Religion and Society
(Sage Publications, 1998), he earned degrees from Baylor University (B.A. in the psychology of
religion) and Boston University (M.A. in the psychology of religion and Ph.D. in psychology and
interdisciplinary studies). Email him at email@example.com.