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Against The Green Book
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
© 2013 James LaFond
My better literary half, VJ Waks, out there on the Left Cost has assigned me to review C.S. Lewis. Forgive me madam for skipping the children’s stories and scrounging for his adult literature. The book in question, although consisting of the transcript of three lectures and being directed at an adult audience, is about the education of adolescent students, and not the postmodern 30-year-old adolescent, but the traditional teenage variety…
The Abolition of Man
Or
Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools
C. S. Lewis
1943 [Oxford], 1978, Fount, 1978, 63 pages
This piece of educational philosophy was so engaging that I read it in the space of a single lunch and a single bus ride across town. It is a script for 3 lectures:
1. Men Without Chests [meaning that sense of humanity that connections the higher mind with the lower desires]
2. The Way [Lewis’ Christian-science interpretation of traditional Chinese personal wisdom]
3. The Abolition of Man [in regards to the effects of the conquest of nature by man]
The spark for this work was a text book written by two grammarians and sent as a sample to Lewis. He calls this The Green Book and the authors Gaius and Titius to save them embarrassment. He takes great exception to the bending and even vaporization of the English language in the authors’ attempt to combat susceptibility to propaganda among students. Lewis does not make his case as a Christian, indeed not even as a theist, but as a man of science. He makes some of the most clearly reasoned arguments for the value of emotion and the nature of humanity, and ends up defining what humanity is conceptually before he is done.
Part One establishes the fallacy of deconstructing language.
Part Two establishes Tao or The Way as the meeting place of the mind and the belly, the centered compromise that spiritual man makes with his physical form.
Part Three pretty much predicts everything that has since gone wrong with European and world culture in general. One wonders if Lewis and Orwell had tea together when he speaks of the ‘omnicompetent state’. After reading the Iron Heel, 1984, and The Abolition of Man it is clear to me that these authors like London and Orwell were not prophets but were simply much better placed than we to appreciate the forces that would strip our capacity to see clearly the larger world and address it from a reasonable perspective. The work that writers like VJ Waks and I are doing in regard to a genetically engineered future is imagined from whole cloth by Lewis, before the Atomic Age, let alone the Information Age.
I would like to leave you with some of the late philosopher’s quips:
“…the irredeemable urban blockhead…”
“…the mere trousered ape…”
“…the slumber of cold vulgarity.”
“What we call Man’s power is, in reality, a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by.”
According to Lewis’ argument, I am of the opinion that we entered The Age of The Abolition of Man, at some point in my lifetime. I wonder if any who have read this book have a date they’d like to cite as the tipping point. I’m at a loss here.
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