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Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World (1907; republished by St. Augustine’s Press, 2011)

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Title this casual review: Brave New World Revisited Yet Again, or, How Could a Century-Old Novel Have Become a Frightening Prophecy of Life in the United States in 2023?

Several Catholic sources mentioned Benson’s novel as timely for contemporary life.  After reading it, one can concur.

Granted, some elements of this science fiction novel written 116 years ago miss the mark regarding technological advances that humanity would experience well beyond 1998 (the last future-identified year in the novel itself).  However, other elements hit the target directly, including the following.

In his preface to the novel, Ralph McInerny concludes that “Three-quarters of a century before John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Robert Hugh Benson imagined a Culture of Death” (vii).  C. John McCloskey III identifies the most frightening example of the death-loving culture in his introduction to the novel when he states that “The Culture of Death is omnipresent in the novel, particularly the universal availability of euthanasia.  Chillingly in an early scene, the ‘ministers of Euthanasia’ descend upon the survivors of a ‘Volor’ crash in order to finish them off” (xvii; volor is a type of airplane).

The following are quotable quotes which students of literature will find worthy to study to determine how what was written in 1907 applies to life today (British spellings retained):

On the feebleness and decay of Protestant Christianity and the remnant of faithful (orthodox) Catholic Christianity:

“I think, that, humanly speaking, Catholicism will decrease rapidly now.  It is perfectly true that Protestantism is dead.  Men do recognize at last that a supernatural Religion involves an absolute authority, and that Private Judgment in matters of faith is nothing else than the beginning of disintegration.  And it is also true that since the Catholic Church is the only institution that even claims supernatural authority, with all its merciless logic, she has again the allegiance of practically all Christians who have any supernatural belief left” (8).

On Islam’s attacks on the West:

“the patient East proposed at last to proselytise by the modern equivalents of fire and sword those who had laid aside for the most part all religious beliefs except that in Humanity” (17).

On the barbarity of mobs, such as those of young people who think they are fighting “for Palestine” when they are promoting genocide of Jews:

“And then the rest of the world—the madness that had seized upon the nations; the amazing stories that had poured in that day of the men in Paris, who, raving like Bacchantes, had stripped themselves naked in the Place de Concorde, and stabbed themselves to the heart, crying out to thunders of applause that life was too enthralling to be endured; of the woman who sang himself mad last night in Spain, and fell laughing and foaming in the concert hall at Seville; of the crucifixion of the Catholics that morning in the Pyrenees, and the apostasy of three bishops in Germany….  And this…and this…and a thousand more horrors were permitted, and God made no sign and spoke no word….” (120).

On Antifa domestic terrorists and Hamas terrorists destroying Western civilization:

“but this was a cheap price to pay for the final and complete extermination of the Catholic past” (179).

On the current state of the world, described for the “new pope” in the novel:

“Christianity had smouldered away from Europe like a sunset on darkening peaks; Eternal Rome was a heap of ruins; in East and West alike a man had been set upon the throne of God, had been acclaimed as divine.  The world had leaped forward; social science was supreme; men had learned consistency; they had learned, too, the social lessons of Christianity apart from a Divine Teacher, or, rather, they said, in spite of Him” (194).

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture and woke zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, buy this book directly from the publisher: