C.S. Lewis Warned Us About these Times

A character from one of C.S. Lewis’s novels once said “salute me for a prophet” because what she said came true.

Today I salute C.S. Lewis for a prophet, many times over, for what he has said here, and elsewhere, has come true.

Once you have read and digested this excerpt from his book, The Abolition of Man, who would like to discuss it? Can’t see the relevance to DID/MPD? Let’s talk about that, because I see it very clearly – just put the word Conditioners in the place of Programmers, and you have it.

Cate

******

Excerpt – Chapter 3; Pp. 34-37

The second difference is even more important. In the older system both the kind of man the teachers wished to produce and their motives for producing him were prescribed by the Tao – a norm to which the teachers themselves were subject and from which they claim no liberty to depart. They did not cut men to some pattern they had chosen. They handed on what they had received: they initiated the young neophyte into the mystery of humanity which overarched him and them alike. It was but old birds teaching young birds to fly. This will be changed. Values are more mere natural phenomena. Judgments of value are to be produced in the pupil as part of the conditioning. Whatever Tao there is will be the product, not the motive, of education. The Conditioners have been emancipated from all that. It is one more part of nature which they have conquered. The ultimate springs of human action are no longer, for them, something given. They have surrendered – like electricity: it is the function of the Conditioners to control, not to obey them. They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce. They themselves are outside, above. We are assuming the last stage of man’s struggle with nature. The final victory has been one. Human nature has been conquered – and, of course, has conquered, in whatever sense those words may now bear.

The Conditioners, then, are to choose what kind of artificial Tao they will, for their own good reasons, produce in the Human race. They are the motivators, the creators of motive. But how are they going to be motivated themselves?

For a time, perhaps, by survival, within their own mind, of the old ‘natural’ Tao. This at first they may look upon themselves as servants and guardians of humanity and conceive that they have a ‘duty’ to do it ‘good’. But it is only confusion that they can remain in this state. They recognize the concept of duty as the result of certain processes which they can now control. Their victory has consisted precisely in emerging from the state in which they were acted upon by those processes to the state in which they use them as told. One of the things they now have to decide is whether they will, or will not, so condition the rest of us that we can go on having the old idea of beauty and the old reactions to it. How can duty help them to decide that? Duty it’s self is up for trial: it cannot also be the judge. And ‘good’ fares no better. They know quite well how to produce a dozen different conceptions of good in us. The question is which, if any, they should produce. No conception of good can help them to decide. It is absurd to fix on one of the things they are comparing and make it the standard of comparison.

To some it will appear that I am inventing a factitious difficulty for my Conditioners. Other, more simple – minded, critics may ask, ‘Why should you suppose they will be such bad men?’ But I am not supposing them to be bad men. They are, rather, not men (in the old sense) at all. They are, if you like, men who have sacrificed their own share in traditional humanity in order to devote themselves to the task of deciding what ‘Humanity’ shall henceforth mean. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’, applied to them, are words without content: for it is from them that the content of these words is henceforward to be derived. Nor is their difficulty factitious, “We might suppose that it was possible to say ‘After all, most of us want more or less the same thing – food and drink and sexual intercourse, amusement, art, science, and the longest possible life for individuals and for the species. Let them simply say, This is what we happen to like, and go on to condition men in the way most likely to produce it. Where’s the trouble?’ But this will not answer. In the first place, it is false that we all really like the same things. But even if we did, what motive is to impel the Conditioners to scorn delights and live laborious days in order that we, and posterity, may have what we like? Their duty? But that is only the Tao, which they may decide to impose on us, but which cannot be valid for them. If they accept it, then they are no longer the makers of conscience but still its subjects, and their final conquest over Nature has not really happened. The preservation of the species? But why should the species be preserved? One of the questions before them is whether this feeling for posterity (they know how well it is produced) shall be continued or not. However far they go back, or down, they can find no ground to stand on. Every motive they try to act on becomes at once petitio. It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tau, they have stepped into the void. Nor are there subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not meant at all: they are artifacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.

Yet the Conditioners will act. When I said just now that all motives fill them, I should have said all motives except one. All motives that claim any validity other than that of their felt emotional weight at a given moment have failed them. Everything except the sic volo, sic jubeo has been explained away. But what never claimed objectivity cannot be destroyed by subjectivism. The impulse to scratch my itch or to pull to pieces when I am inquisitive is immune from the solvent which is fatal to my justice, or honour, or care for posterity. When all that says ‘It is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains. It cannot be exploded or ‘seen through’ because it has never had any pretensions. The Conditioners, therefore, must come to be motivated simply by their own pleasure. I am not here speaking of the corrupting influence of power nor expressing the fear that under it our Conditioners will degenerate. The very words corrupt and degenerate imply a doctrine of value and are therefore meaningless in this context. My point is that those who stand outside all judgments of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse.

We may legitimately hope that among the impulses which arise in minds thus emptied of all ‘rational’ or ‘spiritual’ motives, some will be benevolent. I am very doubtful myself whether the benevolent impulses, stripped of that preference and encouragement which the Tao teaches us to give them and left to their merely natural strength and frequency as psychological events, will have much influence. I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently. I am inclined to think that the Conditioners will hate the conditioned. Though regarding as an illusion the artificial conscience which they produce enough their subjects, they will yet perceive that it creates in us an illusion of meaning for our life which compares favorably with the futility of their own: and they will envy us as eunuchs envy men. But I do not insist on this, for it is a mere conjecture. What is not conjecture is that our hope even of a ‘conditioned’ happiness rests on what is ordinarily called ‘chance’ – the chance that benevolent impulses may on the whole predominate in our Conditioners. For without the judgment ‘Benevolence is good’ – that is, without reentering the Tao – they can have no ground for promoting or stabilizing these impulses rather than any others. By the logic of their position they must just take their impulses as they come, from chance. And Chance here means Nature. It is from heredity, digestion, the weather, and the association of ideas that the motives of the Conditioners will spring. Their extreme rationalism by ‘seeing through’ all ‘rational’ motives, leaves them creatures of the wholly irrational behavior. If you will not obey the Tao, or else commit suicide, obedience to impulse (and therefore, in the long run, to mere ‘nature’) is the only course left open.

(The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis, Chapter 3, pages 34-37)

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Pastora Covert

Just a daughter of my Abba, hoping to introduce Him around.

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