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  • Writer's pictureMichael Martin

Dystopian Nonfiction

I have for a long time had an interest in dystopian fiction and film, and world events have made this interest in fantasy a lens for taking a hard look at our times. I assume this is not just for me. Who hasn’t thought of Brave New World or Nineteen-Eighty-Four over the past year? Isn’t our historical moment comparable to themes found in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil! or Twelve Monkeys, not to mention The Hunger Games or The Giver? We live in surreal times. Inhuman times.

Cormac McCarthy’s dystopic vision, particularly in Blood Meridian and The Road, offers some of the harshest and most brutal examinations of fallenness and human depravity in the literary canon. McCarthy draws on Jacob Boehme (about whom I’ve often written) and his ideas of the Threefold Cosmos—of Satan, Christ, and Sophia—and how these are layered in what we perceive of as reality. And Philip K. Dick’s many books, a good number of them made into films after his death, may be the master at exploring our often false perceptions of “reality” and the dangers of the simulacra, those beings and objects that appear genuine (as human, as animal, as institutions) in order to deceive and control. He was something of a prophet, as even a cursory reading or viewing of the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (made into the film Blade Runner) or the short story and film versions of Minority Report, with their themes of transhumanism and the surveillance state, readily show. Some might suggest that Dick was paranoid. Maybe he was, but that doesn’t mean somebody wasn’t out to get him.

This preoccupation also inhabits my scholarly work and certainly bears a relationship to Sophiology. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the first academic article I ever published, “Meditations on Blade Runner,” came out in 2005, and, more than just about the film, it is a meditation on the phenomenon of transhumanism then beginning to make itself heard in the darker corners of the academic world. This was just after Francis Fukuyama’s book Our Posthuman Future was published in 2002. He saw it all coming. It’s here.

Our posthuman future, however, has gone through rebranding. Now it’s called “The New Normal.” I guess if you call something “normal” enough times, people will start to believe it’s normal. But it’s not. It’s not normal, because it’s not human. It’s not normal, because it has no relationship to the Creation, unless what one means by “relationship” is a need to dominate, optimize, and control.

Indeed, in the First Year of This Our Covid, we have seem many developments straight out of dystopian fiction become realities promulgated by the technocratic archons of our time—figures like Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab, Elon Musk in concert with all the guys and dolls over at the governmental-industrial-military-pharmaceutical complex. Here’s a brief list:

  • “Entrepreneur” Bill Gates has been gobbling up farmland at a disturbing pace.

  • Not only that, but the Pastel Prince is also putting his substantial financial resources into a project to dim the sun. I heard that Gates was quoted as saying “One day software will control everything, and I will control software.” This may or may not be true. Nevertheless, I wish he would stick to software, as bug-ridden as his is.

  • Apparently, Gates’s newfound career as an agriculturalist has something to do with his wish that the wealthier nations turn entirely to synthetic beef. Plan on a run of Soylent Green before too long.

  • Fellow gazillionaire Elon Musk has launched fleets of satellites, “Starlink,” (over 1000 of then as of January 2021) into the stratosphere. Ostensibly, this is for the humanitarian purposes of widely available broadband internet, but for practical purposes that means surveillance on steroids.

  • Muskie also want to put a microchip into your brain.

  • Canada has apparently set up “Quarantine Camps” that sound like veritable hellholes. I understand the USA has some similar facilities prepared for inmates.

  • And, as he shamelessly admits, Klaussie Schwab thinks transhumanism is a goal devoutly to be wished and that “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” will usher in “a fusion of our physical, digital and biological identity.”

Meanwhile, people, good people, are increasingly pitted against each other and discouraged from the kinds of human interactions we all not only crave but need for human flourishing. Only a few of the consequences of this (I do not feel confident enough to say “unintended consequences”) are the dramatic increases of child and teen depression and suicide, poverty, unemployment, increased alcohol and drug addiction, and, above all, an all-encompassing anxiety and dread. Likewise, “two weeks to flatten the curve” metamorphosed into “just wait until we have a vaccine” which morphed into “this may go on for two to seven years.” Wear us down enough, it seems, and we’ll beg for the jab and the microchip. But even then, it won’t stop.

At the same time, anyone—even “experts in the field”—who call these developments into question are deplatformed, demonized, slandered, and maligned as “conspiracy theorists”—by whom? As my friend Guido Preparata used to say, “Conspiracy theory is too important to be left to conspiracy theorists.” The rest of us do our best to avoid being lobotomized by a constant barrage of propaganda and newspeak. It’s a full-time job.

Even as long ago as in that Blade Runner article, I saw this coming. I also write about it in both The Submerged Reality and Transfiguration. I just didn’t think it would happen this rapidly. We are living the dystopian dream, though we know it not.

In some forms of Gnosticism from late-antiquity, this predicament is described as being drugged, or asleep, or somehow or other unconscious of our own selfhood. Learning what reality is, true gnosis, allows to once again enter the Kingdom. There yet exists a spark of divinity in ourselves, in our world, in one another for us to release.

But I’m not out of hope. Sophiology, the relationship to the Real—in its natural and supernatural forms—is the only way out of this nightmare. Call it by other names, if you like, but without an integral vision of ourselves in relationship to the Divine and the Creation (and by implication with each other), the technocrats will win.

Don’t let them win.

A powerful clip from The Road, and a fit analogy for our times.

Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

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