Excerpts from

  The Abolition of Man

   by C. S. Lewis

   Rockefeller Center, NY: Touchstone, 1996 (First published in 1944)

Narnia Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Personal note: Since C. S. Lewis points readers to this book, The Abolition of Man, in the first chapter of his more familiar book, Mere Christianity, these excerpts should help explain what Lewis meant by "Right and Wrong" and by his many references to a "Law of Human Nature." They show how he merged truth and behavior into a universal package of "good" values found in all major religions. Keep in mind, Lewis was writing this multicultural philosophy in between some of his more "Christian" books.


See also C. S. Lewis Timeline and  Lewis, Tolkien and Barfield explore reincarnation and theosophy

Lewis seems to see Chinese Taoism as a universal ethical umbrella -- one that would include Christianity as well as other religions. Symbolized by the Yin Yang, the Tao would be the supreme guide to moral and ethical values:

"The Chinese also speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality behind all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge... into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar. [page 30]


"This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as 'the Tao.'" [page 31]


"...it is worth inquiry whether there is any instinct to care for posterity or preserve the species. I do not discover it myself.... Only people educated in a particular way have ever had the idea 'posterity' before their minds at all. It is difficult to assign to instinct our attitude towards and object which exist only for reflective men....  Those of us who accept the Tao may, perhaps, say that they ought to do so...."  [page 51]

A contemporary of Aldous and Julian Huxley, Lewis may be referring to their evolutionary vision of a controlled society, in which the masses are continually conditioned to behave in pre-determined ways through increasingly sophisticated behavioral "science." See Brave New World

"The final state is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man.... We shall have 'taken the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho' and be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be. ... But who, precisely, will have won it? For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please." 69-70

The significance of the Tao:

"In the older systems both the kind of man the teachers wished to produce and their motives for producing him were prescribed by the Tao -- a norm to which the teachers themselves were subject and from which they claimed no liberty to departs... They handed on what they had received: they initiated the young neophyte into the mystery of humanity.... Judgments of value are to be produced in the pupil as part of the conditioning. Whatever Tao there is will be the product, not the motive of education." 71


"We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spenser may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety. The stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed, and the Dying God has no place in chemical agriculture." 78 [referring to ancient myths in which the sun god died during the winter solstice]


"We reduce things to mere Nature in order than we may 'conquer them.... Every conquest over Nature increases her domain. The stars do not become Nature till we can weigh and measure them; the soul does not become Nature till we can psycho-analyze her. The wresting of power from Nature is also the surrendering of things to Nature."79

Apparently, the Chinese Tao replaces the Bible as ultimate authority and guide for our lives -- and for the common good:

Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have not motive but their own 'natural' impulses. Only the Tao proves a common human law of action which can overarch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery." 81


"In the Tao itself, as long as we remain within it, we find the concrete reality in which to participate is to be truly human: the real common will and common reason for humanity, alive, and growing like a tree, and branching out, as the situation varies, into ever new beauties and dignities of application. While we speak from within the Tao we can speak of Man having power over himself in a sense truly analogous to an individual's self-control. But the moment we step outside and retard the Tao as mere subjective product, this possibility has disappeared." 82


"I hear rumours that Goethe's approach to nature deserves fuller consideration  -- that even Dr. [Rudolf] Steiner [occult founder of Waldorf Schools] may have seen something that orthodox researchers have missed."85 [See The Inklings: Lewis, Tolkien and Barfield, who explored Theosophy and Reincarnation]

The last section of the book, "Illustrations of the Tao," lists examples  of "Natural Law collected...."

"It will be noticed that writers such as Locke and Hooker, who wrote within the Christian tradition, are quoted side by side with the New Testament. This would, of course, be absurd if I were trying to collect independent testimonies to the Tao.... It is at least arguable that every civilization we find has been derived from another civilization and, in the last resort, from a single centre -- 'carried' like an infectious disease or like the Apostolical succession." 91-92

This statement is followed by 16 pages of quotes from various religions and civilizations that illustrate the supposed reality and universality of the Tao: Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Jewish, Babylonian, Ancient Chinese, Hindu, Old Norse, Greek and Roman....

More about  C. S. Lewis | LILITH by George MacDonald | Mere Christianity

and Warnings - How mysticism & the occult are changing the Church

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