William Kilpatrick is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His books include Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West (Ignatius Press), What Catholics Need to Know About Islam (Sophia Press), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad.
George Orwell’s prophetic novel 1984 has often been invoked for its ability to predict the increasingly arbitrary and tyrannical nature of our present society.
But three years before the publication of 1984, another dystopian novel which was in some respects more prescient than Orwell’s appeared in English bookstores.
Like 1984, only on a smaller scale, C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength describes a descent into tyranny that bears an eerie resemblance to our current situation. However, Lewis foresaw a few things that weren’t on Orwell’s radar.
When Orwell reviewed That Hideous Strength shortly after its publication in 1945, he warned that “we are within sight of a time when such [monstrous] dreams will be realizable.” But Orwell also criticized Lewis for bringing “supernatural elements” into the story because “they offend the average reader’s sense of probability.”
But if there are supernatural forces at work in the world, wouldn’t one be remiss not to mention it? The dystopian society depicted in 1984 was based partly on Nazi Germany and partly on Soviet communism. Yet, both regimes took a deep interest in the supernatural. The Nazis hoped to replace Christianity with an occult religion centered on Hitler as savior. And the Leninists and Stalinist wished to stamp out belief in God altogether. They slaughtered tens of thousands of priests and nuns in the process.
Many Christians and some agnostics, as well, view our present culture wars in similar terms—as a conflict between those who believe in God and those who think that humans can shape their own destiny without any reference to God or his laws.
In bringing in the supernatural, Lewis may have been more prescient than Orwell. The members of the power-hungry National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.) are now a very recognizable type. Increasing numbers of our social elite seem to think that science has replaced God. And like the leaders of the N.I.C.E. Institute, many of our leaders think that science has all the answers to life’s problems—including the problem of crime and the problem of death.
Indeed, for the top brass at N.I.C.E., belief in progress through science has become a religion—to the point that they are willing to call down supernatural forces that they do not understand to aid them with scientific experiments that they do not understand. Tellingly, Hingest, the only really accomplished scientist in the Institute is murdered by his colleagues for fear that he will betray their plans.
At first, their plans go well. Before long, N.I.C.E. controls Bracton College, then the University of Edgestow, and then, the whole town. Nothing, it seems, can stop them from seizing control of all of England.
Then things begin to go awry. Because of their continued communication with the Macrobes—highly intelligent beings from outer space—the N.I.C.E. leaders begin to lose control of their powers of concentration. At one point, Professor Frost—one of the “inner circle”—finds himself unable to speak: “Nothing but nonsense syllables would occur to his mind.” Later on, at the long-awaited “victory” banquet at Belbury Hall, things fall apart.
The director of the Institute gets up to speak, but his speech soon turns to gibberish. Unable to help themselves, people in the audience begin to laugh. But old Jules is only a puppet—a figurehead. And he is expendable. John Wither, the Deputy Director, and the real head of N.I.C. E. muses to himself that it might be advantageous if Jules makes a fool of himself: “Jules was in many respects a nuisance, and this might be as good an opportunity as any other for ending his career.”
So, Wither who is also old, gets up, firmly forces the smaller man back into his seat, and takes over the podium. Then he begins to speak:
Tidies and fugleman—I sheel foor that we all-er-most steeply rebut the defensible, though, I trust, lavatory Aspasia which gleams to have selected our redeemed inspector this deceiving. It would—ah—be shark, very shark, from anyone’s debenture…
And then the whole room is thrown into pandemonium: hysterical laughter, a babble of voices, anger, fistfights—and worse. Before the night is over, the forces of N.I.C.E are either dead or scattered.
Reading the book again in light of current events, it struck me that Wither’s speech is an almost perfect send-up of President Joe Biden’s confused speech, and the pretensions of his administration. Yet the fact that the scene was written about the same year that Biden was born, suggests, pace Orwell, an almost supernatural prescience.
That Hideous Strength is, in part, a retelling of the story of the Tower of Babel—the story of men going beyond the proper boundaries God has set. In the Bible story and in Lewis’s novel, the confusion of tongues is both a punishment and a judgment—a judgment which reveals the absolute futility of man’s attempt to remake his nature and become godlike.
Could Joe Biden’s obvious confusion, his lapses and his gaffes also be a heaven-sent sign meant to alert us to the emptiness of the promises of the ideological movement which he represents? At times, Biden doesn’t seem to have a clue. On one level that can be just a sign of aging. On another level, God may be trying to tell us something. Here’s what I said a year ago about Biden’s confusion:
Is it possible that Joe Biden’s deterioration is a sign from God—a sign of what happens to a society that ignores the reality God has created and insists on creating its own?
Before continuing in this vein, let me assure you that I am not the kind of person who sees signs everywhere. In fact, I’m agnostic about most supposed signs. If someone tells me that the design on the Oval Office drapes is actually a verse from the Koran, my first instinct is to say “Oh, come on!” And if I’m told that when a politician crosses his fingers in a certain way, he’s actually sending a signal to fellow white supremacists, I tend to be doubtful.
On the other hand, President Biden’s stumbling speech is a clear sign that his mind is confused. No one tries to deny it any more. And the Democrats now realize it’s well-past time to replace him.
The situation is reminiscent of the banquet scene when Wither realizes that Jules must be replaced. But, as we’ve seen, that doesn’t work out too well. Wither’s speech is just as confusing as is Jules’. His mind is just as vacant.
Which brings up an obvious question: Who will replace Biden? The first in line is a woman whose ability to conceptualize doesn’t seem to rise above the level of “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be” (repeated ad nauseam). Nancy Pelosi, the next in line, is an 82-year-old who slurs her words and fills in the gaps in her sentences with frenzied gesticulations. Meanwhile, the daily spokesperson for the White House is Karine Jean-Pierre—an individual who seems forever surprised to discover that the press is interested in other things besides the fact that she is a black lesbian woman.
Not only has God sent us a sign. It appears as though he is sending us signs in abundance.
And they are very obvious signs. Jesus said that “an evil and adulterous generation” would be given only one sign. But how about a stupid and gullible generation such as the one the one we live in? It might take a multitude of signs to wake us up.
Well, it looks like we’re getting them. There’s the bumbling Biden sign, the hapless Harris sign, and the clueless Karine sign. But there’s more. There’s the “trans friendly” sign on the bathroom door, the “shout out your abortion” sign at the pro-choice demonstration, and the “woman athlete of the year” certificate which was awarded this year to a male athlete. These are signs that are hard to miss.
And, of course, there’s the sign of the drag queen. As you may have noticed, drag queens are suddenly all the rage. Libraries have drag queen story hours for kids. U.S. military bases bring in drag queens to entertain the troops; and in Miami, a restaurant recently offered a “kid’s brunch” which included a sexually explicit drag show. Meanwhile, Salon.com published an op-ed explaining “How exposing your kids to drag performances can be a good thing.”
Lewis anticipated this woke weirdness in That Hideous Strength. The top people at the N.I.C.E. Institute are all rather strange…sort of like the top people in the Biden administration.
Wither, the Deputy Director of N.I.C.E., is lost in a mental fog. He talks in high-sounding but thought-deadening cliches. Frost, who is second in command to Wither, is as cold-hearted as his name suggest. Dr. Filostrato, an Italian scientist and a eunuch has a dirt phobia. He wants to improve the human race by getting rid of breeding, birth, and death. He hopes to create a sterile and artificial world to replace the fertile and organic world which he loathes. His experiments center around what we would now call “transhumanism.”
And then there is “Fairy” Hardcastle—the sadistic head of the N.I.C.E. police force. “Fairy” is a ‘butch’ lesbian who enjoys beating up people and torturing young women.
Lewis, in short, was well aware of the perverted side of human nature. He would not have been surprised by a culture (like our own) which believes that exposing children to drag performance “can be a good thing.” Nor would he have been surprised to learn that well-funded doctors in England and America would one day perform ghastly surgeries in order to turn boys into girls and girls into boys.
Still, Lewis’s odd cast of characters (which includes a re-animated Merlin) might, as Orwell suggested, “offend the average reader’s sense of probability.” Yes, but probabilities need to be recalculated from time to time. For example, what’s the probability that the next president of the United States will be a member of a billionaire family that is investing its fortune in promoting transgender ideology and transhumanism? The answer? Probably higher than you think.
J.B. Pritzker, the current governor of Illinois is frequently mentioned as a prime candidate for president. And yes, his wealthy extended family—one of the richest in America according to Forbes—is deeply involved in engineering what one journalist called “a new way to be human.” Given their interest in re-engineering the human race along more efficient lines, one might think of them as a family of Filostratos.
J.B. and his wife M.K. have developed a long-term strategy for the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Foundation which will fund research on early childhood education as well as research on transgenderism and gender nonconformity. In addition, as Governor, Pritzker has issued executive orders and signed education bills which put a heavy emphasis on encouraging children to explore their gender identity. Meanwhile J.B.’s cousin, Jennifer Pritzker (formerly known as James), founded the Tawani Foundation to provide funding for numerous universities, institutes, and medical centers which pursue sexual diversity studies or are involved in providing “gender affirmative care” (i.e., hormone treatments and/or surgery) for the gender confused.
A retired Colonel for the Illinois Army National Guard, James…er, Jennifer also created the first chair of transgender studies at the University of Victoria. At the transgender studies annual conference in 2016, the featured speaker was Martine Rothblatt, a “renowned transhumanist,” who once stated: “We are making God as we are implementing technology that is ever more all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful, and beneficent.”
“Beneficent?” Well, that’s okay then. Sometimes the “all-knowing” powers get out of hand. But with all that money, the Pritzker’s must know what they’re doing. Rumor has it that the next family project will be a giant skyscraper in the form of a ziggurat. The project is said to be code-named B.A.B.E.L II. When asked for a comment, the family spokesman would only say that the project is “sop tecret and—er—striply confusensual.”