Friday, January 25, 2008

The Logos of the Heart

Fr Thomas Hopko on C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man, from his commencement address at St Vladimir's Seminary in 2007:
I would also recommend today, and, again, if I could, I would also insist that all thinking Christians, and surely all seminary students and graduates, be required to read one other book that contains, in my view, the most incisive analysis of what has happened to humanity in the last fifty years. It is C. S. Lewis’s prophetic masterpiece written in 1944 called The Abolition of Man. This slender volume should be read slowly, methodically and carefully many times over. Parts of it, which I have read more than ten times, are still unclear to me. But its main point is crystal clear.

Lewis says that for human beings to see, know, love, adore and offer fitting thanksgiving for all that is good, true and beautiful in human life, and so to remain fully and truly human, they must possess and cultivate the uniquely human faculty that differentiates them from angels and beasts, and, we must also add today, from the artificial intelligence of electronic technology. Lewis calls this faculty the “Tao.” He says that it may also be called the “image of God” or the “spark of divinity” or the Law or the Logos or the Heart. (Today, if he knew Orthodox literature, he might have also said that it may be called the Nous.) Whatever one calls it, it is the faculty whereby human beings intuit and contemplate the basic truths of human being and life that ground all ratiocination, discourse and disputation. Lewis claimed in 1944 that if the methods of education prevailing in the schools of his day prove to be successful, this uniquely human faculty will be obliterated, and human beings as we have known them will no longer exist. It will literally be “the abolition of man.”

I am convinced that what Lewis foresaw has happened, and is still happening with ever more catastrophic consequences, in our Western and Westernized worlds. It happens that men and women who once were human are simply no longer so. They have become nothing but minds and matter, brains and bodies, computers and consumers, calculators and copulators, constructers and cloners who believe that they are free and powerful but who are in fact being destroyed by the very “Nature” that they wish to conquer as they are enslaved to an oligarchy of “Conditioners” who are themselves enslaved and destroyed by their insane strivings to define, design and manipulate a world and a humanity bereft of the God who boundlessly loves them.

Others have seen and said similar things to what C. S. Lewis saw and said: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Karl Stern, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Thomas Merton, the alleged atheist Anton Chekhov, and my most beloved Flannery O’Connor are among my personal favorites.

An audio lecture by Fr Thomas on this work can be heard here.

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