Saturday, June 27, 2009

That Hideous Strength—Fantasy and Reality

“We do know what each man or woman expects of [government]. We expect a solution of the unemployment problem, the cancer problem, the housing problem, the problems of currency, of war, of education. We expect from it a brighter, cleaner and fuller life for our children, in which we and they can march ever onward and onward and develop to the full urge of life which God has given each one of us.”

We control the majority of the media. We plant our own articles but don’t’ cover any of the opposition’s cause. If people write letters to the editor that are in opposition to our information, we don’t run them. The media that doesn’t support the party line will be alienated as lunatics or conspiracy mongers and won’t be believed by the general population.

We use spin doctors to re-create a person’s image. Evil can be turned into good in the public eye, and vice versa. Also, we go on the attack and blame the community for causing the civil disobedience and interfering with our governmental efforts to help the people.

“You surely don’t need to wait for a thing to happen before you tell the story of it!” We determine what we want to have happen and then prepare the story for distribution as soon as our plan is executed.

“Tell him from me that the [noble sounding government agency] is the boxing glove on the democracy’s fist, and if he doesn’t like it, he’d best get out of the way.”

By declaring a state of emergency, we can pass emergency regulations that will give us free reign over the people.

We create disturbances so the public will demand more police presence. The public will give up its rights in order to feel safe.

“…you needn’t bother your head about [having money]. Aren’t we going to take over the whole currency question? It’s we that make money!”

* * *

Beginning with the turn of the 21st Century (Y2K, 9-11) and continuing to our recent presidential election and present monetary situation, I have heard most, if not all, of the above comments made about the United States; the veracity of the comments is, of course, up to individual perspective. The interesting thing is that these ideas and quotes are from C.S. Lewis’ science fiction work, That Hideous Strength, written during World War II.

In this concluding book of Lewis’ space trilogy, the action takes place on Earth, in England shortly after the end of the War. It is a view of a dystopian society on the verge of being taken over by a “scientific,” quasi-governmental agency entitled N.I.C.E. (the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments). N.I.C.E. wants to rule the country (and eventually the world) by hand-selecting leaders, controlling how people think and live, and eliminating undesirable social elements. Their goal is to create a cerebral society in which bodily activity is no longer valued or required; they eventually want to eliminate the biological in favor of the chemical. The masterminds of this social/scientific/political program are the evil eldils/angels (or devils) who have ruled the Earth since the Fall of Man.

The storyline revolves around a young, childless married couple. Mark Studdock is a fellow at a small British university, who is recruited by N.I.C.E. because of his sociological expertise. His wife Jane, who has the hereditary power to dream realities, is simultaneously welcomed into a small group of patriots who are fighting N.I.C.E.

That Hideous Strength presents a striking portrayal of career ambition and the sinister power of office politics. Mark’s insecurity, ego and greed drive him to become a part of the inner circle at N.I.C.E., and he rationalizes his actions at each step as he gets himself deeper into the organization. It is not until he is fully committed that he realizes the only reason they want him is to gain control over his wife Jane so they can use her clairvoyant talents. He is crushed when he learns he has been duped, but at the same time, he realizes that he loves and admires his neglected wife, and wants to leave N.I.C.E. and make their marriage work.

The leaders of the two opposing groups are characters who appeared in the previous two volumes of Lewis’ space trilogy. Ransom, the leader of the good forces, was the protagonist of Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. He has been assigned by his “masters,” the guardian angels of the solar system, to save Earth. Divine, one of the evil scientists who kidnapped Ransom and took him to Mars, is one of the officials at N.I.C.E. Divine, known as Lord Feverstone in That Hideous Strength, says in recruiting Mark Studdock: “Man has got to take charge of Man. That means, remember, that some men have got to take charge of the rest—which is another reason for cashing in on it as soon as one can.”

Unfounded Criticism?

Some critics of That Hideous Strength claim that the book’s focus on Christian themes and divine intervention to resolve the plot lessen its position among great science fiction. Some two years before writing his own 1984, George Orwell reviewed That Hideous Strength for the Manchester Evening News commenting: "Plenty of people in our age do entertain the monstrous dreams of power that Mr. Lewis attributes to his characters [the N.I.C.E. scientists], and we are within sight of the time when such dreams will be realizable.” (It is noteworthy that the review was written in the direct aftermath of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which are referred to in the text.)

However, Orwell argued that Lewis's book "would have been stronger without the supernatural elements." Particularly, Orwell objected to the ending in which N.I.C.E. is overthrown by divine intervention: "[Lewis] is entitled to his beliefs, but they weaken his story, not only because they offend the average reader’s sense of probability but because in effect they decide the issue in advance. When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict, one always knows which side is going to win. The whole drama of the struggle against evil lies in the fact that one does not have supernatural aid.”

Another critic stated: “Its Christian partisanship is bald enough that non-Christian readers would be justifiably put off. And as a dystopian novel, it is inferior to Brave New World and 1984 (a) in the implausibility—once you see the whole picture—of the bad guys, and (b) its happy ending retrospectively spoils the very potent ominous mood that pervades the middle chapters.”

I can understand these criticisms, but I believe the divine intervention is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy of an old world (Mars), new world (Venus) and evil world (Earth) ruled by divine beings. All three books acknowledge the presence and power of God, Christ, angels and devils. Given this perspective, it is only natural that these divine entities are involved in the final battle for men’s souls on Earth. As critic Mrs. H.P. Edens wrote in Punch magazine in 1945:

“Here speeded up in imagination, as the atomic bomb has speeded it up in fact, is the death-grapple of technocracy—and the devil, with nature—and nature’s God. …Behind N.I.C.E. are the powers of darkness. Behind Dr. Ransom and a handful of Christians are God and His angels. In everything created this opposition is manifest; but it is Mr. Lewis’s triumph to have shown, with shattering credibility, how the pitiful little souls of Jane and Mark Studdock become the apocalyptic battlefield of Heaven and Hell.”

The Situation Today

The battle between good and evil is still being waged today, one woman and one man at a time. When I began reading That Hideous Strength, it was unsettling because I could see parallels between the novel and our society today. I felt the “very potent ominous mood,” and recognized the workings of Satan in the fictional setting as well as in our reality today. But then I was reminded of statements by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was comforted.

LDS President Wilford Woodruff (1807–1898) said in 1896: “There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it.”
--Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Wilford Woodruff, 2004

LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008), said, “[The great war in heaven between Lucifer and Christ], so bitter, so intense, has never ceased. It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion, between the followers of Christ and those who have denied Him. His enemies have used every stratagem in that conflict. They’ve indulged in lying and deceit. They’ve employed money and wealth. They’ve tricked the minds of men. They’ve murdered and destroyed and engaged in every kind of evil practice to thwart the work of Christ. …

“In [the battle for righteousness] there must be commitment. There must be devotion. We are engaged in a great eternal struggle that concerns the very souls of the sons and daughters of God. We are not losing. We are winning. We will continue to win if we will be faithful and true. We can do it. We must do it. We will do it. There is nothing the Lord has asked of us that in faith we cannot accomplish."
--"An Unending Conflict, a Victory Assured," Ensign, June 1007

The full text of Pres. Hinckley’s message can be found at:

Pres. James E. Faust (1920-2007), Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said: “I feel impressed to sound a warning voice against the devil and his angels—the source and mainspring of all evil. I approach this prayerfully, because Satan is not an enlightening subject. I consider him to be the great imitator.

“I think we will witness increasing evidence of Satan’s power as the kingdom of God grows stronger. I believe Satan’s ever-expanding efforts are some proof of the truthfulness of this work. In the future the opposition will be both more subtle and more open. It will be masked in greater sophistication and cunning, but it will also be more blatant. We will need greater spirituality to perceive all of the forms of evil and greater strength to resist it. But the disappointments and setbacks to the work of God will be temporary, for the work will go forward.

“…Who has not heard and felt the enticing of the devil? His voice often sounds so reasonable and his message so easy to justify. It is an appealing, intriguing voice with dulcet tones. It is neither hard nor discordant. No one would listen to Satan’s voice if it sounded harsh or mean. If the devil’s voice were unpleasant, it would not persuade people to listen to it.

“…Some of Satan’s most appealing lines are 'Everyone does it'; 'If it doesn’t hurt anybody else, it’s all right'; 'If you feel all right about it, it’s OK'; or 'It’s the ‘in’ thing to do.' These subtle entreaties make Satan the great imitator, the master deceiver, the arch counterfeiter, and the great forger.

“We all have an inner braking system that will stop us before we follow Satan too far down the wrong road. It is the still, small voice within us. But if we allow ourselves to succumb to Satan’s tempting, the braking system begins to leak brake fluid and our stopping mechanism becomes weak and ineffective.”
--"The Forces That Will Save Us," Ensign, January 2007

The full text of Pres. Faust’s message can be found at:

Pres. Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “The Savior has always been the protector of those who would accept His protection. He has said more than once, 'How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not' 3 Nephi 10:5; see also, for example, Matthew 23:37; D&C 29:2). The Lord expressed the same lament in our own dispensation after describing the many ways in which He calls us to safety: 'How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!' (D&C 43:25).

“There seems to be no end to the Savior’s desire to lead us to safety, and there is constancy in the way He shows us the path. He calls by more than one means so that it will reach those willing to accept it. Those means always include sending the message by the mouths of His prophets whenever people have qualified to have the prophets of God among them. Those authorized servants are always charged with warning the people, telling them the way to safety.

“…Looking for the path to safety in the counsel of prophets makes sense to those with strong faith. When a prophet speaks, those with little faith may think that they hear only a wise man giving good advice. Then if his counsel seems comfortable and reasonable, squaring with what they want to do, they take it. If it does not, they either consider it faulty advice or they see their circumstances as justifying their being an exception to the counsel. Those without faith may think that they hear only men seeking to exert influence for some selfish motive. They may mock and deride…”
--"Safety in Counsel," Ensign, June 2008

The full text of Pres. Eyring’s message can be found at:


The battle of good and evil has been waged for millennia, in fact, since the great wars in Heaven where a third of the population decided to follow Satan. While Earth's history is replete with wars and rumors of wars, with inhumanity and immorality, with treachery, pride and ruthless greed, it seems that all evil is on the upswing in today's society. LDS Church leaders acknowledge that we live in perilous times, the "last days" before Christ's millennial reign, and that through prayer, scripture study and keeping the covenants we make, we can enjoy peace, know safety, and endure well to the end. As That Hideous Strength points out, it starts with a few, dedicated, faithful people—acting under divine leadership—and spreads throughout the world. Amid all the terror and gloom of evil, inspired individuals can usher in a bright new day of faith, hope and love.

No comments:

Post a Comment