185 Comments
Nov 15, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

I'm in my final year of a PhD program in a hard science at a major research university. I read That Hideous Strength, The Abolition of Man, and LotR years ago.

During my time in grad school, I have had a hard-to-describe underlying fear grow in me, that I work for N.I.C.E. My highly-educated (and soon to be highly-powerful) peers regularly show intense contempt for the "English Farmer" types in our society. In its official messaging and internal communication, the university regularly shows disrespect for the material world or anything that may give it objective meaning. The scientific establishment I interact with deals with matters of intense direct physical importance to billions of people, but at the ground level the task is treated like a mere game for winning credentials and maybe a bit of power. At the top level it is just a flippant exercise in doing what you will, consequences (for other people) be damned.

Like that passage in The Green Book, which Lewis saw as a subtle refutation of basic reality which would later gain immense destructive power, I often see subtle things that scare me. This wasn't apparent when I started, but it's been a slow drip wearing me down for a while, and now I see demonic fingerprints on too much of my daily environment.

I was feeling kind of morose about all of this just this morning, and somehow when I saw the title of your article, I felt like it would be helpful, so I did the 7-day trial to read it. Thank you so much for this. I often think that total collapse is the only realistic endpoint of our cultural and societal quagmire. I am a young husband and father (unlike all my grad school peers), and my children's future can be concerning to me. Lewis and Tolkien really did act prophetically to help prepare people (and men in particular) to face coming waves of darkness with wisdom and courage, and I am thankful to God for that. Your article worked alongside their writings to shore up that Chest in me.

I hope you don't mind me printing this out to send to a friend working on a PhD in the liberal arts school here. Things over there are an order of magnitude worse than in my school.

Supporting a family on a grad school stipend is difficult, but once I'm out of this place I'll definitely be a paying subscriber.

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Wow. I feel as though I just read an analysis and synopsis of everything I've read and thought in the past several years. Thank you for doing such prodigious work. I am exhausted just reading it through, once, with many more to come. You must be spent. I am so grateful.

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Nov 15, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

This piece by itself is worth the price of the subscription (I was already subscribed, hoping for the next magnum opus.) Masterful analysis, compelling writing...made me stop what I was doing in the middle of a workday to read it -- that is really, really hard to do.

Congratulations and many, many thanks for taking the time to think, analyze, and write so eloquently.

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Nov 15, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

When I read your essay to a distressed reader, it sent me back to the works of Plato that I had put aside years ago. It also caused me to subscribe here in the expectation that something very special would emerge. It was a long wait, but worth it. This is what I was waiting for. You take the long view, one could even say you are "swinging for the fences" by tying together all the strands of our dilemma (language distortion, mechanization, lack of courage, nihilism, and the seeming objectivity of radical subjectivism). All this mythically enhanced by the works of Tolkien and Lewis. They would be proud.

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Nov 15, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

Remarkable.

I wish I could say whether this would be of value to anyone else, but I'm so horribly biased after stumbling into CS Lewis earlier this year and then reading 19 of his books before pouring over into about 1,000 pages, so far, of Tolkien's work all because I felt their prescient channeling, like a cosmic last-defense against the madness of the void that the post-modern coup is sucking us all into.

But for me, this was a delight!

Felt like I finally had a friend seeing what I was seeing with my last 10 months of reading (it's been a wild Inklings binge!)

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Nov 15, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

Superb work as always. I would love to see you do a deep dive on Perelandra as well. Ransom's realization that the Enemy cannot be fought with words alone is one of my favorite Lewis bits.

I do think that describing transgender dogma as an "onramp" to transhumanism is a bit of an undersell. I think it really is full-blown transhumanism, as sex is utterly critical to being human and transgenderism undermines that - a concept that babies understand when just a few months old. I would describe transgender adherents as a vanguard.

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Nov 16, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

NS Lyons, and all: I am 28, without kids, an arts uni lecturer who will probably not last there very long.

I don't want to just read the horizon in fear. I want to do something about it. Something good and lasting like Frodo and Gandalf and Lewis and Tolkien did. I want my life to be added to that which tips the scales back the other way.

I am a Christian, I believe Jesus is Lord, but for reasons too hard to explain, I'm not sure that God will be so quick to disperse the builders of Babel this time.

What is the best thing a 28 year old with a heart and a bit of courage can do in the face of this?

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Nov 15, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

It is hard to express in words how well I think you did with this article and how important I think it is. Suffice it to say that I am raising two young boys and you have renewed my resolve to raise them as men with chests. Thank you.

(As it happens, I am reading Lord of the Rings to my sons at bedtime; we are just about to reach the Bridge of Khazad-Dum. The oldest just finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia on his own, and I handed him the Space Trilogy to try next. Serendipity!)

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Nov 15, 2022·edited Nov 15, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

Brilliant, Mr Lyons!

A quick observation that this part:

"Yet even in this state – even in the void – “the Conditioners will act,” Lewis writes, for:

When I said just now that all motives fail them, I should have said all motives except one. All motives that claim any validity other than that of their felt emotional weight at a given moment have failed them. Everything except the sic volo, sic jubeo [thus I will, thus I command] has been explained away. But what never claimed objectivity cannot be destroyed by subjectivism… When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.

Unlike the reason of the mind or a belief in objective value, the force of mere appetite “cannot be exploded or ‘seen through’ because it never had any pretentions.” The Conditioners will therefore “come to be motivated simply by their own pleasure.”

...tracks perfectly with Frankl's description of the "existential vacuum" in Man's Search For Meaning:

"The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century. This is understandable; it may be due to a twofold loss which man has had to undergo since he became a truly human being. At the beginning of human history, man lost some of the basic animal instincts in which an animal's behavior is imbedded and by which it is secured. Such security, like Paradise, is closed to man forever; man has to make choices. In addition to this, however, man has suffered another loss in his more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).......there are various masks and guises under which the existential vacuum appears. Sometimes the frustrated will to meaning is vicariously compensated for by a will to power, including the most primitive form of the will to power, the will to money. In other cases, the place of frustrated will to meaning is taken by the will to pleasure. That is why existential frustration often eventuates in sexual compensation. We can observe in such cases that the sexual libido

becomes rampant in the existential vacuum."

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Nov 17, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

This is one of the best essays I have ever read. I feel profoundly moved in a way I have not before been moved by an essay. Sincerely, thank you. I made an account just to finish the article.

I have always loved Tolkien and Lewis, and been the resident Tolkien nerd in every friend group I’ve ever had. I’ve tried to argue before that Tolkien is much deeper than many fans of the movies or people who have read only LOTR/The Hobbit quickly might realize. That, fundamentally, Tolkien’s works are a commentary on seeing the transcendent (and specifically seeing God as revealed through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, though non-Christians can also find resonance in his argument) in the face of cold modernist mechanistic nihilism.

This essay made that argument so perfectly. It also captured all the thoughts I have been having over the past few years. Working in an “elite” field, I feel utterly alone in seeing what I see and knowing others are fully bought into the story of modernity.

So thank you for this. It was an utter joy to read. Most people I know aren’t keen to talk about metaphysics and theology, but they might talk Tolkien. I’ll be sure to point anyone who is keen to listen towards this article.

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2 hours to read this. It will take longer to digest. For now, thank you for doing this important work that helps to connect the dots a little more each time.

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If man were to succeed in recreating man by changing (or perverting, if you will) his fundamental nature that would necessarily lead to the destruction of man. A being cannot be the thing it is without its form, which is why Sauron's elves were not elves but orcs. Happily, no one can change human nature, no matter how far our science 'advances' or how barbaric some of us become in our behavior toward each other. This is not to say that the gross philosophical errors playing out through the west right now are going to end well, or that we will not suffer on account of them, just that we will remain human beings in the end. It was not luck that allowed Mark to escape the subjective mental tyranny of NICE, it was his human nature, his existence as a human being with an essence and nature oriented toward a final end. We are all naturally oriented toward the good and the true, 'called' if you will, and like Augustine we can choose to heed that call, or not.

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Phew! Can't thank You enough, Sir. Long but exceedingly wonderful and enjoyable article. Can't say that LOUD ENOUGH.

I've read C.S. Lewis, but not The Abolition of Man. Must. And learned a *lot* from Your exposition of That Hideous Strength.

I had hoped to put down a few of the other things I learned. But I'm a little past my dinner hour, after a long day. I'll just make this one minor point:

I didn't know Yuval Noah Harari was saying this "stuff." Unbelievable he's known as a smart man. Yeah, the new species past homo sapiens is gonna be *DESIGNED.* No one to question how well our designs have panned out so far. Because if they did, he wouldn't even get a hearing. "We are really upgrading humans into gods." I'm stunned by the ignorance. And this is one-a the leaders? Today, not much worse than the others.

Biden and his Executive Order? I got as far a section 5:

"...shall develop a strategy that identifies policy recommendations to expand domestic biomanufacturing capacity for products spanning the health, energy, agriculture, and industrial sectors, with a focus on advancing equity, improving biomanufacturing processes, and connecting relevant infrastructure."

"[A]dvancing **EQUITY.**" Oh great. More-a *that* crap. That's not to overlook the rest-a the "stuff." This just jumped out.

This Zoltan whoever! Yeah, I'm familiar with Rothman. I bought his book of trash, but haven't had the stomach to read it. We'll upload our consciousness? Find me *one* person who can give an intelligent answer as to what consciousness even *IS!* Crickets. Because I said "intelligent."

Ah well... Mebbe more tomorrow. Mebbe not.

Just wanted to say TYTY again, is all.

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Nov 15, 2022Liked by N.S. Lyons

Still in an early part of this but - worth the wait. I just wish you'd released it a few hours later so I could stay up into my timezone's wee small hours reading it with whisky and a sense of chthonic horror.

Ringing in my ears as I read the early sections is 'Moloch whose name is the Mind!' And of course that's what Filostrato turns out to exalt.

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Thanks for taking the time to write this up. It puts into words a lot of thoughts I've had kicking around, but haven't been as skilled at coalescing.

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