The Abolition and Rediscovery of Man

So there’s this very good book:

abolition_of_man_791

 

The Abolition of Man is one of my favorite Lewis books. He deals with the inevitable consequences of humanism and scientism.

I am only making clear what Man’s conquest of Nature really means and especially that final stage in the conquest, which, perhaps, is not far off. The final stage is coming when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man.

The final outcome of this, Lewis says, is the emergence of two classes of men: regular men, and the Conditioners. The Conditioners are the ones who now control humanity, through the tools mentioned above.

At the moment, then, of Man’s victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely ‘natural’…Man’s conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man.

So. This then, is what a humanist view of the world leads to.

 

Which brings me to this very good book:

the rediscovery of man

The events of this series of short stories begin around the year 16,000 AD (the Abolition of Man is currently on schedule for the 100th century AD).

Over time, science has advanced to the point where death and disease are no longer problems – due to overcrowding, each person is assigned their 400 years and then they go away quietly to the Dying Rooms and have the pleasure centers of their brains overloaded.

Above all of this mundane, ordinary, 400 year boredom, sits the ever-mighty Instrumentality. The purpose of the Instrumentality is to:

Watch, but do not govern; stop war, but do not wage it; protect, but do not control; and first, survive!

Its primary objective is to keep things the way they are, and to tweak them back to normal should they deviate.

 

See the connection? The Instrumentality is the Conditioner. On the rare occasions that the system fails, such as in The Dead Lady of Clown Town, universe-shattering events occur that change the face of the world.

A ruby trembled. Two tourmaline nets failed to rectify the laser beam. A diamond noted the error.  Both the error and the correction went into the general computer.

Seriously. Read it.

 

There is no standard of right or wrong beyond the laws that the Instrumentality has laid down. They are the only moral code that matters in this universe, answerable only to themselves.

Seven Lords, or all the Lords on a given planet at a given moment, were beyond any criticism except that of a dignified reversal of their actions should a later ruling prove them wrong.

 

Then it gets interesting.

The Instrumentality rediscovers Man. People are tired of living out their 400 year dreary existences, tired of being gears in a machine, tired of living with nothing new from day to day. The robots are sent deep into Old Earth to recover civilizations, habits, languages, and personalities. People are psychologically imprinted with these newly-found memories, and diseases are reintroduced. Life becomes fun and exciting once more (according to the newly liberated people).

 

Smith became a Christian about halfway through his life – well after he developed the concept of the Instrumentality. I am not aware that Lewis was ever an influence on him (I could be wrong). If this is the case, then this concept of the abolition of man arose from two separate sources, coming from two different directions.

Taken together, these books (one a philosophical essay, the other a collection of stories) compliment each other very well. I recommend both of them for the well-rounded Christian living in today’s world (in case you were living in yesterday’s).

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4 comments

  1. thecoldcomposure

    Hey, I’m Nick, but digitally re-incarnate.
    I have a new blog devoted to controversial subjects: http://thecoldcomposure.wordpress.com/
    I haven’t figured out how to make it look really cool yet, so if you could give me some advice on that it would be appreciated.
    I’ll have to see if I can find this Cordwainer Smith in the Wheaton Library.
    On an unrelated note, do you know any Bible Translations that use God’s Covenant name instead of LORD?

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