If you look up at the night sky and imagine you’re peering into space, you’re under a spell.
Last week I told you about my friend Bill. His struggle is not that he doesn’t believe in Christianity; it’s that it doesn’t seem real anymore. I asked him to watch The Matrix. He did. He sent me an email with a picture, Morpheus offering the red pill and the blue pill (if you’re unfamiliar with what each pill depicts, click this link).
The point of The Matrix is that we have to get out of The Matrix to recognize the spell we’re under. The film’s two writers identify the spell as the Enlightenment. C. S. Lewis would have agreed. That’s why I recommend Bill now read Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet. Same point as The Matrix. We have to get out of the system to recognize the system we’re in. Bill doesn’t know he’s under the Enlightenment spell of scienticism.
So why not simply write a book spelling this out? Lewis addressed that in a sermon he gave three years after Planet was published, The Weight of Glory. He warned that the things we long for will betray us if we only see to them, not through them to deep reality. They become “dumb idols,” he said. Idols blind, putting us under a spell. Only a greater spell—spellbinding fiction, fantasy literature, film, poetry, painting—can break an existing spell.
That’s why Lewis wrote fiction. In his sermon, he said it was “to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years… all devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.” That was 80 years ago. Now this evil enchantment has been upon us for nearly 180 years. What is it?
It isn’t evolution. It’s the underlying Darwinian philosophy of evolution, manifested three different ways, which is why Lewis wrote three books. Out of the Silent Planet addresses the first manifestation, Perelandra (1943) the second, That Hideous Strength (1945) the third.
The first manifestation is the “materialist” view of Darwinism—the infamous “struggle for existence,” Darwin’s phrase derived from Herbert Spencer’s “survival of the fittest” first coined in 1864. It was fictionalized in H. G. Wells’ interplanetary conflict, The War of the Worlds (1897). This cast a spell on many readers (still does today), depicting humanity as the good guys surviving an invasion by the bad guys—Martian aliens. Survival of the fittest.
Lewis liked The War of the Worlds but saw it as a distorted copy of what’s Real. There is indeed an interplanetary conflict, but the good of man is not found on this earth. Lewis flipped the script in Out of the Silent Planet. The Malacandrans (i.e., Martians) are good, humans are fallen, which is why the Earth is silent.
[Example: Ransom assumes the Malacandrans’ three species operate by survival of the fittest. They find this strange, as they collaborate for the good of all.]
Lewis further recognized how Wells was one of the first to reframe “the heavens” as merely “space,” as in there’s nothing out there but stars and planets. No God. No angels. Wells dramatized this in Tales of Space and Time, a fantasy and science fiction collection of three short stories and two novellas written between 1897 and 1898. If you look up at the night sky and imagine you’re peering into space, you’re under H. G. Wells’ spell.
Once again, Lewis saw this as a distorted copy of what’s Real—“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” He is present in the entirety of reality. There is no such thing as “space.” In Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom begins to see this as he rockets to Mars.
Lewis also saw how Wells distorted time. In The Time Machine (1895), Wells dramatizes it as linear. We can’t really go back in time, only forward. Before the Enlightenment and Darwin, time was imagined differently, as a moving picture of eternity (which has no time), depicted as a sphere. Imagine a clock. The hands return to where they started. Or as T. S. Eliot put it, “the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” God continually calls humankind to return to where the real story begins.
Now at this point you’re likely asking So what? Here’s what. The materialist view of Darwinism gave rise to social Darwinism (laissez-faire individualism), capitalist Darwinism (private equity is one example—survival of the fittest), genocide, fascism, and democide (a term describing the almost 170 million people murdered by governments between 1900 and 1987, far more than the 34 million killed in conventional wars during the same period). The materialist view of Darwinism is murderous. Lewis said it is the abolition of man.
Which is why I asked Bill to read Out of the Silent Planet. It might break the spell he’s under, the materialist view that gave rise to scienticism—not science. Science is about suppositions, or uncertain beliefs. This “presupposes that the actual or real fact is not the whole of reality. It implies that there are other spheres, or other provinces of the same sphere, all connected in a wider universe.” That’s what’s Real. But Bill would have to get out of our planet to recognize all this, to see through the world in which we dwell.
I hope reading Out of the Silent Planet does that.
Next week we’ll discover how Lewis’ second book in the trilogy, Perelandra, flips the script on the second manifestation of Darwinian philosophy.
 Sanford Schwarz, C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy (Oxford University Press, 2009).
 Bruce Falconer, “Murder by the State,” Atlantic Monthly, November 2003.
 F. H. Bradley, Essays on Truth and Reality (Oxford University Press, 1914).