By Tal Brooke
After 63 years in print, Childhood’s End has finally come to the screen—indeed flat-screen television—not as a major motion picture, but as a three-part miniseries on the SiFy cable channel, starting in late December 2015. By definition, this TV version could only be shallow compared to the book. It would have taken someone of Stanley Kubrick’s genius to do it right using an IMAX and the most cutting-edge computer effects. The TV version was, if nothing else, a cultural indicator that a postmodern and post-Christian public, whose minds have been fully tenderized, might be ready to consider Lucifer as liberator.
The TV series has played repeatedly over the US TV cable SyFy channel and then repeatedly in New Zealand, where I saw it again, on the Zone cable channel. Director Nick Hurran (who’s recently directed episodes of Minority Report and Doctor Who) doesn’t give the material any sort of elegant or magisterial vision, with SyFy’s need for commercial interruptions, requiring the story to be segmented into mini-twists and cliffhangers. Consequently, this media version perpetuates suspense that it’s not very thought-provoking. The series was exactly what I expected and the book still stands alone for power. We’re not there yet.
When I was in Sri Lanka, in the late winter of 2004, to start my first novel and look for an Asian branch-office for SCP, a friend of mine offered to introduce me to Sir Arthur C. Clarke. I was staying briefly at one of grand hotels of the British Colonial era (now 3-stars), the Galle Face Hotel, where a prominent statue of Clarke stood in the lobby near a Who’s Who of world notables who had stayed there, from heads of state to Nobel Prize winners. Clarke, of course, was prominent on the list.
This friend had been a member of Sri Lanka’s chess team and still played Clarke occasionally to keep the famed British author/scientist entertained. I had met the chess player, Tony Seniwiratne, during an earlier visit to Sri Lanka when I stayed with Richard Brohier, a senior staff member of Sri Lanka’s Youth For Christ. It was a vital ministry then, as it is now, full of passion and purity, under the direction of my good friend Ajith Fernando (a frequent speaker at Urbana whom I interviewed in an earlier SCP Newsletter when he stayed with me in Berkeley). I spent lots of time with the chess whiz then, as I did again this last visit.
But I declined my friend’s offer to meet the famous author. By 2004, Clarke had grown quite old and reclusive. Beyond that, certain rumors had caught up with him and were the subject of escalating news bits about his homosexuality and preference for native Sri Lankan boys. My friend acknowledged that these stories appeared to be well documented and that “almost everybody in Sri Lanka knew it.” This dark side of Clarke provided an important clue in helping to explain a lot—from his futurism to his passion for alternative spiritualities, as well as his desire to leave his native England in the 1950s, when the stigma for his sexual bent was still high.
There’s little doubt that, in Clarke’s case, his predilections are reflected in his views of reality. He has painted a cosmos with a form of spiritual meaning, but without God. And herein is where Clarke’s seduction of modern audiences lies. He has acted as a grand autobahn between the mystical worldview and a perplexed Western culture undergoing rapid change and speeding into a technological promised land, having jettisoned God and the biblical worldview in the process. He was post-Christian all the way.
Clarke’s projections into the future have shown a prescience that often has been disarming. This is no accident. He is also a scientist. As the conceptual pioneer of the Telstar Telecommunications Satellite, more than just a speculative author, Arthur C. Clarke can be placed among the world’s leading scientific minds of his generation. He has been a futurist both in predicting and prescribing the world’s future course.
If you isolate trends and realities that Clarke sees sixty years beyond his writings in the 1950s, and if you remove the fictional element, you are left with a handbook on how to change culture, society, and the future. As such, Clarke becomes an agent for future change, calling for a world of the type we are seeing unfold in our time. These ideas have been especially powerful in two of his most important fictional works.
I have long felt that Arthur C. Clarke’s most profound and radical fictional work was not 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Childhood’s End. Like Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, this visually demanding cosmic epic has been waiting for giant leaps in digital technology before it could ever be a film. Tolkein’s epic finally crossed that divide with Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning rendition using revolutionary digital effects and breathtaking panoramas.
Childhood’s End has been looming in the shadows, waiting to emerge on the big screen. Barnes & Noble was featuring it as a book in Manhattan in the spring of 2008.
I got my most recent copy of Childhood’s End while recently traveling in New Zealand, the winter of 2008. I decided to return to it after a considerable gap. It had shaped my life in powerful ways at an especially vulnerable time when I was in junior high school and living overseas. My father was at the American Embassy in Beirut during a period in my life when I was on a constant search for meaning. Moving to the Middle East deepened the issue as I was thrust out of London’s comfortable world of the familiar into a radically different Arab world of language, custom, dress and religion.
Clarke seemed to open a kind of cosmic portal for me at a period in my life when I was often bored and frustrated. I would play hooky from junior high and wander the corniche along the water’s edge of the Mediterranean or rent a small motorcycle, play hookie, and drive aimlessly around Beirut. Thus began a path of restless wandering that followed me from London, to Beirut, through my years at the University of Virginia, and beyond, to India. The mystic thread entered me on some very deep level, holding great promise in my quest for truth, till my conversion in South India, when I finally reached the end of the long journey, now seeing Christ at the center of history.
Within a day of my finishing Childhood’s End this time around, Arthur C. Clarke died. I stared at my computer monitor, feeling the strangeness in the timing. I had read the last page at an outdoor table in Maui’s Wailea Mall. It left me looking off in thought. An Internet headline earlier that morning stated the famous author had died in Sri Lanka, March 18, 2008. I was en route back to Berkeley from Auckland via Hawaii.
At times, Clarke seems to be looking through a crystal ball as he outlines human progress—the future—against a compelling fictional backdrop. Its outrageousness gets our attention immediately, which most likely put its earlier 1950s readers into overload.
Appearance of the Overlords
Well into the 21st century, vast mother ships appear above the earth’s major cities, filling the sky (we learn later that all but one of them are illusions).
Signaling diversity before his time, Clarke depicts an Indian crew commander and a woman astronaut trainee looking up to witness the event: “Mohan watched, as all the world was watching, while the great ships descended in overwhelming majesty … the human race was no longer alone.” (Clarke, Arthur C., Childhood’s End, Del Rey Books, Random House, NY, 1953, p. 4)
The novel immediately leaps into the first year of alien occupation, in which the sole earthly liaison between the human race and the invading Overlords is the Secretary General of the United Nations. A true believer in the alien cause, the U.N. has prepared him well.
With most of the human race accepting and docile, resistance begins in small pockets.
Responding to the charge from a high-ranking representative of the Freedom League that “they have taken our Liberty,” the Secretary General replies, “What freedoms have we lost compared with that which the Overlords have given us for the first time in human history” (9).
The Secretary General then summons an age-old argument: “Can you deny that the Overlords have brought security, peace, and prosperity to the world?”
The man from the Freedom League replies: “We have many objections to the Overlords—but above all we detest their secretiveness. You are the only human being who has ever spoken to Karellen [the chief Overlord], and even you have never seen him” (9).
Almost from the start, Clarke has inserted a gnawing issue: The aliens have not shown themselves, and the adults know they will be long dead when the aliens decide to emerge from their vast ships and finally appear. Even the Secretary General “dared to admit that the Overlord’s secretiveness was beginning to obsess him” (21).
The aliens have revealed that due to certain aspects of their physical appearance and its effect on deeply ingrained human beliefs, the human race is not ready to see them. With re-education, their progeny may be ready if certain myths and superstitious beliefs can be removed.
The Overlords finally give a timeline: “In fifty years—two generations from now—we will come down from our ships and humanity will at last see us as we are.” (46)
The head of the Freedom League responds to the timeline, “In fifty years the damage will be done. Those who remembered our independence will be dead; humanity will have forgotten its heritage” (48).
This is a point made by Marxist planners a century back. Capture the minds of two generations, and it will do the job. No one will remember or care, a lesson for America and Europe in 2016.
Indeed, Marxists had long-term plans to abolish, on a vast cultural scale, all traces of belief in God, family, traditional values and other signs of “the capitalist petite bourgeoisie” mentality by using various forms of behavior modification (brainwashing) and “reeducation.”
Even then, the Bolshevik elite determined that there were those who could never be reeducated because of prior indoctrination irreversibly set in their characters. So millions of “resistant” middle class, mostly Christian “bourgeoisie,” were slaughtered in vast pogroms, up to 60 million under Stalin. But even Clarke’s aliens aren’t this drastic.
For what purpose have the Overlords come?
Ostensibly (and we learn the real purpose at the end), to preempt the human tendency to self-destruct as narrow, nationalistic ambitions trump common sense—as terrible weapons are invoked that can end history at the press of a button. Beyond that, to prevent the human race from going into space prematurely and spreading its contagion of consciousness. Ergo, the earth needs supervision since its inhabitants are too primitive to manage scientific innovations they have produced (an insight in the 1956 movie classic The Day The Earth Stood Still).
The iron hand of peace is what the human race requires: “With the arrival of the Overlords, nations knew that they need no longer fear each other … that their existing weapons were certainly impotent against a civilization that could bridge the stars” (19).
As part of the supervision of the planet, its citizens quickly learned to accept surveillance as a necessary evil. But even the prescient Arthur C. Clarke, writing in 1953, did not fully foresee the kinds of surveillance technology that we are seeing in our day—implantable biochips, radio-frequency chips and GPS (global positioning satellite) tracking devices of all sorts. That people would gladly trade their freedoms for security—most people, that is. Here Clarke saw in a glimpse what we are seeing in the docile acceptance of the Patriot Act and other “anti-terror” legislation.
Challenged by the Freedom League that the Overlords were interlopers whose help was never asked for, the U.N. chief cites a litany of improvements and comes to the point: “I can understand your fear that the traditions and cultures of little countries will be overwhelmed when the world state arrives … but even before the Overlords came to earth the sovereign state was dying” (36).
One can see Clarke writing of this inevitability-of-world-government argument in a wink to fellow futurists at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. World Government is an important milestone in Clarke’s projection into the future as it has been with many of his peers, from H.G. Wells (The Open Conspiracy) on.
The supervisor of the Overlords, Karellen, reveals some important points to the U.N. Secretary General on their final day of communication, since the latter was being retired. The era of the Overlords needing a human go-between had ended.
“You have asked me about our long-term plans. The foundation of the World State is, of course, only the first step. You will live to see its completion—but the change will be so imperceptible that few will notice it when it comes. After that there will be a period of slow consolidation while your race becomes prepared for us. And then will come the day which we have promised. I am sorry you will not be there.” (52) The Overlord had lamented their own failures in the far past but left it at that.
The Supervisor of the Overlords uttered a swift and unexpected “Good-bye, Rikki,” foiling the plans of the curious Secretary General, both devotee and friend of the alien, who had smuggled in a device to photograph the alien behind the glass.
Clarke suggests Karellen had long foreseen this: “Why else had the enormous chair been already empty when the circle of light blazed upon it? In the same moment he had started to swing the beam, fearing that he was too late. The metal door, twice as high as a man, was closing swiftly when he first caught sight of it—closing swiftly, yet not quite swiftly enough.” (55)
Keeping this secret of Karellen’s form to himself, years later, the retired Secretary General mulled over the tiny scrap of evidence, asking Karellen in his mind a question of cosmic proportions:
“… and were you the one that failed, before the dawn of human history? … for its echoes roll down all the ages, to haunt the childhood of every race of man. Even in fifty years, could you overcome the power of all myths and legends of the world?”
The last liaison concludes that it would be different this time because, “When the two races met again, the Overlords would have won the trust and friendship of mankind, and not even the shock of recognition could undo that work. They would go together into the future, and the unknown tragedy that must have darkened the past would be lost forever down the dim corridors of prehistoric time. (55)
What the Secretary General had finally suspected and seen in part, the whole earth would finally see in full.
The Shock of Recognition
“This is the day!” whispered the radios in a hundred tongues.
Before a vast crowd, Karellen, chief of the Overlords, who had been overseeing the world since the time of their arrival, calls for two children to come up the gigantic ramp as he waits in the shadows of the hold.
Clarke describes the moment the world has been waiting for:
Karellen came forth into the sunlight. The boy was sitting on his left arm, the girl on his right. They were both too busy playing with Karellen’s wings to take any notice of the watching multitude.
It was a tribute to the Overlords’ psychology, and to their careful years of preparation, that only a few people fainted. …
There was no mistake. The leathery wings, the little horns, the barbed tail—all were there. The most terrible of all legends had come to life, out of the unknown past. Yet now it stood smiling, in ebon majesty, with the sunlight still gleaming upon its tremendous body, and with a human child resting trustfully on either arm. (61)
A description of a surprise encounter with an Overlord fills in the picture. Two people, exploring the upstairs sections of a mansion, wander into a private library and bump into an Overlord, speed reading stacks of books on psychic phenomena. The host is having a party downstairs, celebrating his most recent open marriage with a black woman:
Sitting on the floor, the Overlord was already head height with the six-foot man, the ratio of a full-grown man sitting on the floor with a four-year-old standing at the same height. “Rashaverak’s wings were folded so [the man] could not see them clearly, but his tail, looking like a piece of armored pipe, lay neatly curled under him. The famous barb was not so much an arrowhead as a large, flat diamond” (75). Getting up, the massive Overlord had to bend in half under the ceiling, and was at least 11 feet tall.
The chief Overlord, Karellen, shared a key insight with his human liaison about cultural change:
“Fifty years is ample time in which to change a world and its people almost beyond recognition. All that is required for the task are a sound knowledge of social engineering, a clear sight of the intended goal—and power.” (62)
Karellen had earlier lectured the U.N. Secretary General that all political problems can be solved by the correct application of power. And that preferable to an endless array of atomic weapons, all that was necessary was “as much power as a small radio transmitter” (62). For it is the application of the power that matters.
The power of the media in shifting mass opinion illustrates the lesson in the decades since Clarke wrote this novel, providing a revelation of the method, tucked neatly into a fictional work.
The Golden Age Under the Overlords
After the long-anticipated public emergence of the Overlords, the world entered a kind of golden age of security, peace and plenty—the dream of countless socialist utopians. Describing in 1953 what sounds like life in the present-day European Union, Clarke described this golden age:
It was One World. The old names of the old countries were still used, but they were no more than convenient postal divisions. There was no one on earth who could not speak English, who could not read, who was not within range of a television set, who could not visit the other side of the planet within twenty-four hours. (65)
Clarke’s prescription for life in a future World Order, to an uncanny degree, is a preview of developments on the horizon of our time. He predicts practical, cultural and worldview changes in order to undergird world government as though laying out a how-to methodology. By now, most of this is not new, but it was in 1953, when it was written:
- A globally managed economy.
- Changing Sexual Mores. Among the first things to go from the old order are traditional sexual mores such as abstinence before marriage. Contraception and biological testing to find the father, we learn, have “swept away the last remnants of the Puritan aberration” (66). Despite Clarke’s own private proclivities, he is careful not to take things much farther than free and open heterosexual sex.
- Open Marriage and contractual short-term marriages. Changing sexual mores leads to open marriages. Clarke shows an open marriage that is also multi-racial, decades ahead of present-day Australia, New Zealand and other countries where people don’t so much refer to married husbands and wives as they do their “partners.”
- The end of all Religion. Like John Lennon’s revolutionary song “Imagine,” celebrating the end of heaven and hell, Clarke reveals: “It was a completely secular age. Of the faiths that had existed before the coming of the Overlords, only a form of purified Buddhism still survived.” (66)
Overlord technology has revealed those critical moments in history, never seen before, that will cause final disillusionment for all religious believers:
Though it had always been obvious to any rational mind that all the world’s religions could not be true, the shock was nevertheless profound. … By some unknown magic of Overlord science [a machine on loan to the World History Foundation able to visit any moment in history by entering time and space coordinates], were the true beginnings of all the world’s great faiths. Most of them were noble and inspiring—but that was not enough. Within a few days, all mankind’s multitudinous messiahs had lost their divinity. Beneath the fierce passionless light of truth, faiths that had sustained millions for twice a thousand years vanished like the morning dew. … Humanity had lost its ancient gods: now it was old enough to have no need for new ones. (67)
This godless world-come-of-age argument had already been advanced by celebrated Bloomsbury agnostics of an earlier era and was a cause among Clarke’s contemporary existentialists like Camus and Sartre, boastful of their ability to enjoy a godless cosmos.
- Mystical and occult power. Without God or formal religions, there are, nevertheless, inexplicable occult forces that are tapped. And here the famed British author sounds like he is plugging into the Lucis Trust and the Theosophists of yore.
A small group put on an Ouija Board demonstration at an event celebrating a multi-racial couple’s open marriage. The participants gather around a large round table in a darkened room after most of the guests have left. Looking on in interest is an unusual guest: An Overlord, almost never seen among humans, makes a rare appearance. As was mentioned earlier, he has been visiting the host occasionally, to read his entire 16,000-volume library on the paranormal, the premier collection in the world.
To the great interest of the Overlord looking on at the demonstration—a creature whose reasoning ability had reached the utmost heights of development, but now at a permanent developmental ceiling—a capacity was being demonstrated during the session that the Overlords had never accessed or been able to understand.
A question was asked of the Ouija Board, the answer to which no human could ever know—“Which star is the Overlord’s sun?”
One of the participants fell into a mediumistic trance, after which a cryptic, alphanumeric answer was spelled out by the planchette: “NGS 549672.”
A doctoral student in astrophysics, taking part in the demonstration as a volunteer, knew where to go to make sense of this otherwise-baffling answer. He was the only human there with exclusive access to the database at the Royal Astronomical Society. He learned that NGS 549672 was in the constellation Carina. Later an Overlord revealed that this was the correct answer.
- The abolition of the military. A side benefit? “The abolition of armed forces had at once almost doubled the world’s effective wealth” (104). Standing armies are very costly.
- The abolition of War, Hunger and Disease.
Yet even this had a negative effect because: “When the Overlords had abolished war and hunger and disease, they had also abolished adventure” (85).
With plenty for everyone, including the fact that most people had two homes, it was turning into a leisure society. “Nearly a quarter of the human race’s total activity, it has been calculated, was now expended on sports of various kinds” (105).
“Next to sport, entertainment, in all its branches, was the greatest single industry” (105). Clarke then offers a darker commentary on this utopia under Overlord colonial rule:
“The end of strife and conflict of all kinds had also meant the virtual end of creative art. … There were no really outstanding works of literature, music, painting, or sculpture for a generation. The world was still living on the glories of past that could never return” (68).
Clarke presents another curious connection:
Though few realized it yet, the fall of religion had been paralleled by a decline in science. There were plenty of technologists, but few original workers extending the frontiers of human knowledge. Curiosity remained, and the leisure to indulge in it, but the heart had been taken out of fundamental scientific research. It seemed futile to spend a lifetime searching for secrets that the Overlords had probably uncovered ages before. (67-68)
The loss of goal, ambition and of having dreams is revealed in a private letter: “I admit that it is equally probable that we would have destroyed ourselves with cobalt bombs and the other global weapons the twentieth century was developing. Yet sometimes I wish we could have had a chance of standing on our own feet” (115). Indeed, this is the letter of the doctoral astrophysicist who had deciphered the riddle of the Overlord’s sun (who is going to stow away on one of their cargo ships to their native planet, but this is a diversion for us).
Indeed, managed utopia can fail our expectations in surprising ways—and here Clarke sounds like Abraham Maslow giving a seminar at Big Sur’s Esalen Institute in the 1960s:
No Utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond their wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart. (83)
- Communal & alternative living. Clarke presents a communal experiment before communes became part of the landscape in the ‘60s. This is a last fling by the more free-thinking and educated to gain a sense of autonomy, independence and privacy away from surveillance, cities and mother ships. With nothing left to struggle for, the colonists noted, the world had become “placid, featureless, and culturally dead.”
The elaborately pre-planned colony consisted of two Polynesian islands linked by a causeway, one island named New Athens, the other Sparta. Here scientific and artistic creativity might reappear away from the constant deadening entertainment and distractions where people “become passive sponges, absorbing but never creating” (135) One colonist complained that the norm was three hours of TV a day with 500 hours per day, pouring out of various channels (another prescient observation half a century before today’s 200-channel cable TVs).
- Digital effects and total-immersion holography.
Clarke describes the colony engaging in pioneering technology “so that anything imagined becomes indistinguishable from actual photography” (142). Now, 60 years later we are seeing this in the digital effects of movies from dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to futuristic cities in the recent Star Wars episodes. With computer power and the leap in digital technology, these have become realities, though Clarke did not have words that have become common references in our time.
Clarke then takes this a step further, describing the colonists’ ambition of leaving the movie technology of his era to developing total immersion techniques to enrich the participants so that: “A man could become … any other person, and could take part in any conceivable adventure, real or imaginary. He could even be a plant or an animal. … And when the ‘program’ was over, he would have acquired a memory as vivid as any experience in actual life—indeed, indistinguishable from reality itself.” (142)
- Ecologically conscious, the islands banned private cars—allowing only service vehicles—preferring bicycles. Organic produce also seems the norm.
What the colonists didn’t realize is that they’ve also created an environment where the first among last generation of children could begin the transformational changes for the final evolutionary leap of the species.
In truth, this golden age of leisure signals the sunset years of the human race, its final epitaph before extinction. The final generation of adults will pass away, and their progeny will take an evolutionary leap beyond any recognizable similarity between the two.
Somewhere in the web of the cosmos, the Overmind has sensed the critical juncture in human history approaching. The Overlords have been sent for a familiar task. But, like the angels in the Bible who have powers and capacities undreamed of by man, who look on in envy at man’s direct access to God, His range of free will, which they lack, so too with the Overlords. They are stuck at a developmental ceiling, baffled by a power that goes far beyond their intellectual understanding.
The Last Generation
The Overlords have come to oversee the closure of the human race as they act as midwives in the final evolutionary leap of the children—the real purpose of their visit. These winged devils are to protect the children from any harm from uncomprehending adults who might misread the signs and interfere with the children undergoing changes.
What are the changes? The colony provides the first signs. One seven-year-old boy dreams in detail of a distant planet that the Overlords are quite familiar with. They note his description but dare not interfere. Successive dreams take the boy progressively farther away.
Two Overlords comment to one another on the latest celestial dream: “The nearest star that fits the description is Rhamsandron 9, or it may be Pharanidon 12.”
“Whichever it is,” replied Karellen, “he’s getting further away from home.”
As the youth has more dreams, they discuss them: “Sideneus 4 and the Pillars of Dawn,” said Rashaverak, and there was awe in his voice. “He has reached the center of the Universe.” (164)
“And he has barely begun his journey,” answered Karellen (164), who also noted that this seven-year-old boy still woke up the same and was still in the first phase. The boy’s babysister had begun to levitate a toy rattler, creating complex beats near the crib as it hung in mid-air.
The baby “already had enough control of its environment to take care of all its needs” (171). By then the mother sensed a “latent power so terrible that [she] could no longer bear to enter the nursery.” (171). The baby no longer needed care or love.
And the seven-year-old brother? “The boy … was losing his personality, dissolving hour by hour … he no longer slept,” and was recognizing his parents less and less (172).
This boy and his baby sister—living in the New Athens community—were the first to change. Then began a wave across the planet affecting all children under the age of ten.
Ordinary talkative children, playing on their bikes and with various games, soon abandoned normal social and biological function. They were losing all individuality, becoming a collective, their faces blank as they were approaching phase II. The separation of the children from the adults, gathered like wheat from chaff by the Overlords, had arrived.
The Overlords’ vast ship touched down off the shoreline of Sparta, extended a walkway as the children slowly boarded (a familiar scene starting with Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind). One parent, watching from a distance reflected, “Only individuals can be lonely—only human beings. When the barriers were down at last, loneliness would vanish as personality faded. The countless raindrops would have merged into the ocean [a classic Vendatic metaphor for enlightenment].” (178)
“There was no sound or movement from the children. They stood in scattered groups along the sand, showing no more interest in one another than in the homes they were leaving forever. Many carried babies who were too small to walk—or who did not wish to assert the powers that made walking unnecessary.” (178)
The children were transported from the island of Sparta, their embarkation point, to a land mass free of all adults, to join the three hundred million other children for phase II. The island community of New Athens was soon to face volcanic destruction, the adults and their memories going up in fire.
The lone human witness on earth, who had agreed to report back to Karellen after he left the earth, was the young astrophysicist who had been the stowaway on the Overlords’ cargo ship. Now back on earth 80 years later, he, “the last man,” wanted to use one of the Overlords’ bases to watch the children’s transition. He had seen the world of the Overlords, toured their vast museums of intelligent life from various planets, and, in turn, they trusted him. The mother ship carrying Karellen would be compelled to leave by decree from the Overmind. The Overlord remained curious about this human mystery that had been out of reach of his staggering mental capacities, and he would stay until the very last moment.
Five years later in phase II, Karellen had reminded the lone observer—who was watching a video review of the children to come up to speed—“You are not watching human children” (196).
The description of the children five years into phase II could just as well be of an Indian kumbha mela, the gathering of masses of sadhus, yogis, swamis, rishis, avadhuts and sanyassins at the intersection of India’s holy rivers every 12 years.
They might have been savages engaged in some complex ritual dance. They were naked and filthy, with matted hair obscuring their eyes. … From five to fifteen … they moved with the same speed, precision, and complete indifference to their surroundings.” Their faces were, “emptier than the faces of the dead. … There was no more emotion or feeling here than in the face of a snake or an insect. The Overlords themselves were more human than this.
“We call it the long dance,” replied Karellen. “They never sleep, you know, and this has lasted almost a year. Three hundred million of them, moving in a controlled pattern over a whole continent” (197).
Next, the children stood immobile for a year, headless of winter or summer.
Then the last man noticed that the moon had turned on its axis, the Mare Crisium now missing altogether. Finally awaking from their long trance, the children “were flexing their muscles and playing with their new-found powers.” This was the signal for the Overlords to leave immediately. The children, as a collective, were approaching godlike powers and were far more powerful than the Overlords as they prepared to unite with the Overmind.
The last man reported to Karellen, now beyond the solar system, that the collective was leaving the last remnant of matter behind as “a great burning column, like a tree of fire,” was reaching above the horizon. “They’re on their way at last, to become part of the Overmind” (208).
His last words to the distant Karellen before he perished were: “The buildings round me, the ground, the mountains—everything’s like glass—I can see through it. Earth’s dissolving. My weight almost gone. … There go the mountains, like wisps of smoke.” (210)
Clarke finished the description: “In a soundless concussion of light, Earth’s core gave up its hoarded energies. … There was nothing left of Earth: They had leeched away the last atoms of its substance. It had nourished them, through the fierce moments of their inconceivable metamorphosis, as the food stored in a grain of wheat feeds the infant plant while it climbs toward the sun.” (210-211)
The children merged with the Overmind.
Arthur C. Clarke’s deft sleight-of-hand is his great cosmic reversal of the Fall of Man as devils become liberators, bringing illumination to the human race. It is the gospel of Lucifer, embodying the mystery teaching of the occultists who portray Lucifer as the misunderstood light-giver and liberator (from the OTO, to Alistair Crowley, to Alice Bailey to Madam Blavatsky, they have been among a multitude of occultists awaiting the coming of Great Illuminator). Lucifer offers man the promise of godhood, and that is embedded in Clarke’s message.
In Childhood’s End, we also see how a liberated, open-minded, docile populace is gladly willing to submit to the superior dictates of towering devils who have come from the blackness of space to guide the human race into world government, free of religion and old-fashioned morality, where people can pursue diverse pleasures at whim. They have no God, no future, no spark of ambition. They will dissolve out of history with a smile on their faces and no more. The last generation of adults is little different from dying cancer patients on morphine. As part of the bargain, their progeny will enter a kind of godhood. The promise of Eden, “ye shall be as God,” is now fulfilled as the Biblical God is erased forever and man’s consciousness merges with some impersonal cosmic Overmind. It is pure pantheism.
Arthur C. Clarke has pulled off a compelling illusion, and my guess is that this is the film Stanley Kubrick really wanted to direct and produce, but as was said earlier, the technology was not available.
In the end, Clarke’s future utopia under devils who have abolished God is a prescient portrayal of the reign of Antichrist.
Finally, when I looked away from the outdoor table in the Wailea Mall in Maui, having just finished Childhood’s End, my mind went far off. I was imagining Arthur C. Clarke’s moment of death—his shock of revelation—now facing ultimate reality and encountering a light of a completely different order of magnitude than anything he ever imagined. He had spurned a holy God of love and truth, of morality and order, instead pursuing the god of the void.
God answers Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick, and all other occultists in Isaiah 45:18—“I am the Lord, and there is no other … I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in chaos’ [or ‘the void’]. I the Lord speak the truth, I declare what is right.”
God unveils the deceit of occult
“gnosis,” starting with Babylon:
“Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me’ … [judgment] … shall come to you in a moment … shall come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and the great power of your enchantments. You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me’” (Isaiah 47:8-10).
What pales the abyss of non-Christian spiritual options, compared to God’s unfathomable love, is simple and profound.
“Salvation is this: Our trust in Jesus and His faithfulness to us makes us alive, now and forever, with God. His righteousness is counted as ours, and we enter an everlasting covenant with Him.” (George Byron Koch, What We Believe and Why, May 2012)
Our lives now have meaning, purpose and hope, extending longer and broader than we would have ever imagined with mortal minds.
The SyFy Channel
Clarke, Arthur C., Childhood’s End, Del Rey Books, Random House, NY, 1953.
**Editor’s note: Tal Brooke is the President & Chairman of SCP. A member of the Society of the Cincinnati, he has authored ten books and his work has been recognized in Marquis Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who in America as well as The International Who’s Who of Authors. He has won three first-place EPA awards in the nationwide contest. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Princeton, Tal Brooke has spoken at Cambridge (8 times), Oxford (4 times), Princeton, Sorbonne, Berkeley, the University of Virginia, and the University of Edinburgh. He was converted in India.
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