The Deep Heaven of The Gay Gods
The desire to treat nature as a playground that can be rearranged into any orientation, to treat human nature as malleable and deny its objective nature. To treat human beings like meat robots with parts that can be replaced, to treat biology as a cold and detached practice without any transcendent meaning. To deny that reality is typological, that it is given meaning by a Creator, and it cannot be made in our own image. This is the sin committed by doctors who tell children they can transform them into something they are not. It’s demonic in origin, and it can bring nothing but harm. By attempting to cut ourselves into a new shape, we are attempting to pull ourselves up to heaven, to attain the right to define our existence. We’re tampering with the demonic, and in the process, we will pull down deep heaven upon our heads. Those who would seek to seize control of gender will make contact with the gay gods, and will discover that these gods will not be as tolerant as they had hoped.
The Modern Fairy Tale of Science Disordered
Jurassic Park is one of Steven Spielberg’s great films. Not only was Jurassic Park a milestone achievement in both digital and practical effects, but it also remains a well-crafted story about mankind, and it explores vitally important themes in an engaging way. If you were to ask the average viewer, however, who the villain of the film is, most would probably tell you that it’s the terrifying and dangerous Tyrannosaurus Rex that acts as the primary threat for much of the movie. This answer would be wrong. The central villain of Jurassic Park is not the loose T-Rex, the velociraptors, or any of the other dinosaurs wreaking havoc throughout the film’s runtime – the dinosaurs, if anything, are victims too. The true villains of Jurassic Park are the modern scientists, who in their hubris believe that they could make the natural world their private plaything. The film (and Michael Crichton’s novel) is an example of the horrors unleashed when science is unmoored from a transcendent standard. The pursuit of “science” unhitched from an ordered cosmos, the pursuit of knowledge and domination unhitched from a moral guide, is a dangerous endeavor.
C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the third novel in his Ransom Trilogy, deals with the same themes, and in a more robustly Christian manner. The pivotal chapter thirteen in the book is aptly titled “They Have Pulled Down Deep Heaven on Their Heads.” The title alludes to the scientists of the “National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments” (N.I.C.E. for short) who, much like the scientists in Jurassic Park, have endeavored to manipulate the natural world in a way unmoored from traditional guidelines. Lewis’s central thesis of the book (and of the Abolition of Man) is that the pursuit of knowledge without a moral framework is the sin of Babel, it’s an attempt to pull ourselves up to be gods.
That Hideous Strength displays in no uncertain terms that when we attempt to pull ourselves up to heaven, all we do is pull heaven down atop our own heads. We tamper with forces beyond our understanding – demons in the case of N.I.C.E. – and our hubris is our downfall. Tampering with forces beyond our reckoning is a common theme in horror literature, and horror seeks to warn us that when we play god and attempt to assemble the natural world according to our own desires, the results are disastrous.
Medieval cosmology understood the cosmos to be an ordered thing, one with a moral hierarchy and inherent meaning that should not and could not be ignored. The modernist understanding of the cosmos is not a cosmos at all, but a “universe,” a totality of natural phenomena detached from a creator. This kind of understanding is a dangerous one, and it’s one that the ancient principalities and powers of the air prefer us to believe. Demons in disguise are certainly more effective than ones that can be marked and avoided.
The N.I.C.E. in Lewis’s novel take orders from a severed human head, through which a being they describe as a “macrobe” issues commands. The goal of the Institute was to transcend human experience – they hated the messiness and uncleanness of biological life. They much preferred the moon to Earth, as it was clean, scrubbed of all growing things. They wanted to scrub the Earth clean in the same way, to create a sterile environment that could be detachedly and coldly ordered to their whim. Because the rational, modern scientists of the Institute didn’t believe in primitive superstitions like demons, they were perfectly willing to take orders from them as long as they called them “macrobes” – which of course, they are. Macro-natural is simply a polite and materialistic euphemism for supernatural. The N.I.C.E. pulled the gods down upon their heads by committing the same sin that occurred at Babel: trying to pull humanity up to heaven. Lewis sums this up beautifully through the words of Ransom when he says,
“The Hideous Strength holds all this Earth in its fist to squeeze as it wishes. But for their one mistake, there would be no hope left… They have gone to the gods who would not have come to them, and have pulled down Deep Heaven on their heads.”
This sin is of course central to humanity throughout the ages, but during the past few centuries of modernity, it has begun to manifest itself uniquely. The Enlightenment created a world in which science, knowledge, education, and society are seen as detached from any kind of transcendent character, it has created a disenchanted world. This is why so many of the great stories of modernity are about this very danger, why these stories explore how far is “too far” in scientific research – from Frankenstein to Jurassic Park. This is also why That Hideous Strength is the greatest dystopian novel of the twentieth century. It’s Lewis’s most potently prophetic and important work of fiction because it understands where science unmoored from morality inevitably leads. That Hideous Strength gets right at the heart of modernity and is a dire warning: scientific pursuit that denies an ordered cosmos is demonic, and leads us to our own destruction.
Demons and Devils
Christian theology in the twentieth century, especially in the West, is tainted by modern presuppositions. Most churches don’t speak about demonic activity often, and even traditions such as Roman Catholicism – until recently a stubborn resistor of all materialist assumptions – has begun to cave on many issues to cater to a disenchanted laity (for example, as of 2020, only 57% of Catholics in America believe in the existence of demons at all) and treat demonic forces as a thing of the past.
There is of course a delicate theological balance needed. Certain traditions like the more charismatic branches of Pentecostalism are prone to over-demonizing the world and attributing every sickness, affliction, or sin to Satan himself. Satan is certainly not behind every sin, or even most sins in any direct sense. We must remember that Satan is finite, not omnipresent, and has a limited influence. His efforts are probably best directed at the highest levels of government and society. While demons are certainly all around, and we do wrestle with them according to Paul, we must also remember that we are “dragged down by our own evil desires” and can’t blame every sin we commit on demonic power. Demons answer to the King of Kings like all creatures.
However, the problem of overattributing phenomena to demonic activity is a small one compared to the much more common issue of ignoring demonic activity entirely. Many worldly sins, conditions, and social trends are certainly demonic in nature, and this should be recognized. But demonic activity in the world almost certainly functions similarly to the way it does in Lewis’s novel – behind-the-scenes influence of the direction of institutions toward harmful ends, rather than through explicitly satanic rituals underneath Washington D.C. (though I’m not excluding the possibility). So now the question becomes: just what exactly can be said to be demonic in nature, and where are Satan’s efforts being directed?