The Abolition of Man: Chapter Two - The Way
The Abolition of Man: Chapter Two - The Way
In this chapter, Lewis focuses his attention on the source of moral thinking in a universal sense. He insists that in every civilization, in every age, there becomes a standardized social behavior that promotes specific social order. He calls the source, the Tao, which simply means "the way." The Tao is that unseen force of infinite wisdom that leads to moral and ethical codes of behavior common to all mankind and central to the survival of any successful civilization. The Chinese refer to it as the Chi, in the Hindu belief, Prana, in other religious systems, Mana, Orenda, Vayu, and so on. In Christianity we know this mysterious force of creation as the Logos, or, the Word. All of these names, however refer to a force of knowledge that is common to the spiritual sensitivity of every civilization, and from it they draw similar value systems and behavioral conclusions for right and peaceful living.
When men, however, ignore these conclusions, relegating truth and objective value to a subjective standard of relative feelings, they step onto a slippery slope that can only lead to a muddy fall. Lewis put it this way, “The practical result of education in the spirit of The Green Book must be the destruction of the society which accepts it.”
That’s a very powerful condemnation of our system of education and, at least in my way of thinking, overdue and well deserved. I point out to you that in our current day, the curse of The Green Book extends all the way from Kindergarten through College. Remember, the Green Book philosophy suggests that our social standards, our standards of behavior and morality, can be found in our instincts rather than the Tao, or in our case "The Word or Logos." With regard to “instinct” being a motivation to act in support of future generations, Lewis says, “What is absurd is to claim that your care for future generations finds its justification in instinct and then defy at every turn the only instinct on which it could be supposed to rest, tearing a child almost from the breast to …kindergarten in the interest of progress and the coming race.”
In other words, the only system of values that can be expected from a value system based on instinct is one of self-preservation, survival of the fittest and a “kill, or be killed” philosophy of life. Those are the values of instinct, a system that is willing to sacrifice its own children to an indoctrination that insures the same empty values, that the same fate will be passed on to the next generation, and the next, making them slaves to progress alone, with no regard for morality, or humanity.
In a footnote of this chapter, Lewis wrote, “If Good equals whatever Nature happens to be doing,” (as Dr. C.H. Waddington suggests), then surely we should notice what Nature is doing as a whole; and Nature, as a whole, I understand, is working steadily and irreversibly toward the extinction of all life, in every part of the universe, so that Dr. Waddington’s ethics, stripped of their unaccountable bias towards such a parochial affair as tellurian biology, would leave murder and suicide our only duties” to one another. In fact, Dr. Waddington’s legacy includes promoting the genetic engineering that produced “Dolly.”
If Truth is relative and there are no absolutes, as generations of our children have been taught, then every axiom of social ethic and morality becomes superstition. Lewis put it this way, “What purport to be new systems, or ( as they call them today) “ideologies,” all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone, such validity as they [may] possess. If my duty to my parents is a superstition, then so is my duty to posterity. If justice is a superstition, then so is my duty to my country or my race. If the pursuit of scientific knowledge is a real value, then so is conjugal fidelity. The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed, they would find that they had destroyed themselves. The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary color, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in.”