Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    The Abolition of Man

    November 4, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Ah, the title essay. Finally, we meet you! Cindy’s post is up, and I’m hoping there are more participants in this final installment of The Abolition of Man book club.

    Reading this particular essay was a bit of an adventure. I had to sit at my computer and Google things in order to fully comprehend. So, for instance, Clotho is, according to Wikipedia, one of the three fates, the daughter of Zeus and Themis {“divine law”}, who spins the thread of human life. This alone is worth some time pondering. One of the reasons I adore mythology is because there is so much to it. They are not silly stories. Isn’t it interesting, after all, that in the end Clotho completes the picture of humanity as flowing outward from the union of the Father and His Law? And then it really means something when Lewis says we are in the process of taking “the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho.”

    To free Man from God and Law is to produce something remarkably other than Man.

    Later, Lewis references the treatment of mankind as mere ύλη. I had to look that one up, too, and found that it means “matter.” If you’ve ever seen a creation v. evolution debate, you know that it eventually all devolves down into the evolutionist confirming that, yes, he actually is a bunch of molecules with no soul.

    Finally, H.C.F, as it appears in this quote–

    What is now common to all men is a mere abstract universal, an H.C.F., and Man’s conquest of himself…

     –means “Highest Common Factor.” In case you were wondering. I found that out thanks to Google, too.

    The question remains if I was able to see the forest for the trees. I’m usually a big picture person, but there were a lot of trees in here!

    It is easy these days, I think, to point the finger at fascists and communists and socialists and think that they are the problem. If they would just get their economic houses in order and start respecting property rights, we’d really be getting somewhere! But Lewis says,

    The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists.

    Why? Because the root problem is not economics. It’s not public policy, or foreign policy, or pick-your-favorite-issue policy. These are all symptoms of the cancer, not the cancer itself. The cancer is what Lewis calls the abolition of man and this is a process involving a denial of natural law and the traditional definition of Man. Applied science triumphs in this environment because it need have no regard for natural law nor Man.

    To bring this all back to educating our children, what was the original “problem” when we {mankind} approached our students? Was it the challenge of getting them into a good college, or even in paying for that good college? Was it their need for a good job that would pay lots of money and offer them a life of affluence? What is man’s problem when he is born? Why do we educate him, rather than leave him to himself? Lewis tells us:

    For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.

    I wrote about Myers’ lecture on the subject of authority and tradition this week. He references this set of essays by Lewis, and he tells us that we are not born knowing what man is. We are not born knowing who we are and what we are designed to be. That is why humanity has always had culture and tradition {and “classical” education}. These were our means of handing down, from one generation to the next, a paradigm for life–a paradigm which conforms, as much as possible, to the reality of natural law and divine revelation.

    How do we diagnose the cancer of which Lewis speaks, and know whether or not we are sick with it ourselves? I’d start by discovering if we even ask the question–how do we help this soul be conformed to reality? If we are caught up in other things, and we never raise the question, we are surely sick with something, because in asking the question, we affirm the humanity of the student. His job is not to jump through hoops and perform interesting little tricks, but rather to grow up to assume his rightful position upon the earth–a position which involves responsibilities and duties.

    Here is how Lewis explains education, as it once was, and as it ought to be:

    In the older systems 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 claimed 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 over-arched him and them alike. It was but old birds teaching young birds to fly.

    Read More:
    Cindy’s book club linky
    -Buy The Abolition of Man and read it for yourself
    Read The Abolition of Man online for free

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Silvia November 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Cindy, thanks… I just wanted a little pat on the back or confirmation that I’m not ‘crazy’! 🙂
    I understand though not having much time to write, though. I just wish I could join you and Emily, or drop at Brandy’s home… or any of you to converse.
    Around here my girls are young, although you should have seen my five year old girlie trying to make sense of the vaccines video I was watching yesterday, ha ha ha.

  • Reply Cindy November 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Silvia you have enriched the conversation. Last week I was especially busy and wished I could have interacted more.

    Emily and I were talking about these things in another context this week. The context of the changing nature of interaction between men and women. After we were done discussing it we both agreed that it almost seems like we are seeing more animal behaviour than human.

  • Reply Silvia November 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Oh, thanks also for explaining so well that this is not about economy. I never thought it is, it’s not about socialism or communism understood as ideologies that deal with distribution of riches. I mess up in the comments, they come up with lots of mistakes and they don’t say what I mean to say. (Or probably I’m for sure ignorant and confused and they are true to my state of mind).
    I understand socialism (or fascism, or communism), which by the way, many who alleged to be conservatives may even embrace, not as much as that which has to do with the economy, but with the thought of what Lewis says of us selling our free will in pro of being taken care of, and what we are selling is not other thing but our own souls or what makes us human.
    But I’m not sure that I understand anything anymore… I’m feeling like I’m having a monologue in my blog, Cindy’s and yours…

  • Reply Silvia November 5, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Great analysis, Brandy.
    I wonder… how do you do in particular to get the message out there to others who ask us, or to those who debate or question us, that this is not another opinion or ideology? That natural law and what Lewis calls the Tao are real, and that we may have differences but that we are inside it, that they can’t get in and out at their convenience?

  • Leave a Reply