I have been pondering a lot lately about society, technology, education, discipline and how things have changed so much over the last 10 or so years. It’s becoming a world that I hardly recognise anymore. Sure, we have the amazing ability to glean ALL sorts of knowledge on a variety of different topics, and somehow we have to sift through what is good and beneficial from what is bad and destructive for us personally and for society as a whole. That’s quite a task, and quite exhausting to say the least. In our post-modern world absolutes have been done away with in favour towards the subjective touchy feely, and dare I say it, narcissistic nature of man. Ye shall become like gods!
Years ago I remember reading all of C. S. Lewis’ books; Lewis I think was an amazing observer to the world around him and he seemed to have a foreknowledge, and dare I say it… prophetic foreknowledge.
Two books have been on my mind a lot lately. One, That Hideous Strength, and the second one, The Abolition of Man. Both books have a theme, in fact, in retrospect ALL of his books had a common thread that underlies the story. The theme is mankind who are the keepers of themselves and know what’s best for themselves. Both books challenge the reader in reflecting on the dangers of subjective feelings overriding absolutes (Lewis uses the term TAO in The Abolition of Man, meaning the natural law and absolutes) in education. He also takes us a step forward (a giant step for his time, but not so far for us) to a time when technology will be used along with education using narratives and propaganda to frame our human nature and even change that. Today, we have a big thumbs down for the meta-narrative in favour of small or local narratives which which lends its hand towards moral equivalency.
In his books he explores the possible outcome of such subjective education and what it will do to the human nature, although Lewis does give us hope, whether or not that hope will be realised really is up to us… or is it?
Today, I just wanted to share with you a quote that I found from someone explains what Lewis meant by “The Abolition of Man”.
The Abolition of Man – Chapter three:
Lewis gave the traditional picture of a whole human being earlier (pp. 35-36). Traditional educators throughout the ages recognized that the great moral absolutes have authority over the educators themselves as well as over children — everyone ought to be guided by the Tao. Lewis argued that modern educators who reject the Tao cannot promote the growth of children to become whole persons. In this final chapter, he considers the kind of human being that is likely to be molded, in the future, by the successors of today’s debunking educators — powerful State technocrats/”scientific planners”/social engineers/Conditioners who have rejected Natural Law. He will also prophesy about the kind of beings the Conditioners themselves will become.
The few humans who are lucky enough to be technocrats will efface the Natural Law from education and will condition humans, by means ranging from propaganda to genetic engineering. In so doing they will change human nature itself. The resulting people (the vast majority) will not be human in the traditional sense; they will be putty in the hands of the Conditioners.
What will guide the Conditioners as they manipulate the human putty? “When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.” They can be guided only by whatever irrational impulse is most powerful at the moment – by whatever pleases them. They too have lost their humanity. As the many are slaves of the Conditioners, the Conditioners are slaves of irrational nature – their appetites and emotions.
[Jim Laney, director of instructional technology at Taipei American School in Taiwan, refers to Technopoly by Neil Postman (1993) as showing that the “conditioners” of today, and American society itself, have “moved to a point where technology (medical, communications, computer, etc.) displaces values and has become the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. We don’t trust the doctor until technology (CAT scans, etc.) has had its say. … we have become slaves to our technology.]
The hellish situation prophesied in The Abolition of Man (and That Hideous Strength) comes about, Lewis says, because the quest for ever more power has succeeded, while the virtues that would protect us from the misuse of that power have been “explained away” as subjective illusions. The quest for power goes back to the Renaissance, when modern science took off with the same propellant – the quest for sheer power – that also fueled the explosion of Renaissance magic. The “magician’s bargain” does indeed prove to mean the ruin of the soul.
The chapter concludes, however, with speculation about a hopeful possibility. Instead of seeing all of nature, including human nature, as material to be dominated and exploited, what if modern science could be united with the old ideal of wisdom – the ancient quest to “conform the soul to reality” by knowledge of, and obedience to, the great moral absolutes? What if the investigation of nature could include the sensitivity that Lewis mentioned at the beginning – a sensitivity that recognizes that the waterfall is beautiful and that its splendor will make a properly-educated observer feel humble and eager to praise it? Modern science has made tremendous gains in factual knowledge by focusing on the aspects of things that can be measured – that are quantifiable. What if combined with this method was a firm ethical sensitivity, and a wholesomely-nurtured imagination, that would also perceive the qualities of things? That, Lewis concludes, is what we desperately need. [source]
So, I will leave you with that and let you ponder on what kind of future do you see for humanity given the fact we live 70+ years further down the track to when Lewis penned these books.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Granted, this topic is a grand one and could lead into many diverse conversations such as discipline, education, political, religious, philosophical, technological and even into transhumanism (H+) singularity. Quite a range there, but hey… Lewis I think, saw the BIG picture!
- The Overthrow of Mankind (planet.infowars.com)
- An Exegetical Case For Natural Law: The Hebrew Scriptures (calvinistinternational.com)
- C.S. Lewis, Ayn Rand, and science and magic as twins (bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com)
- Religion and Ethics (blogs.abc.net.au)
- Education and The Abolition of Man