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Lord of the World

Product no.: 978-0486803814
Belief in God has been replaced by secular humanism in this gripping tale of the apocalypse.

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Publisher's Synopsis
Protestantism is over, Catholicism is driven underground, and the Eastern religions have merged into a single pantheistic creed that poses an ongoing military threat to the West. Without a spiritual dimension to their lives, people are literally bored to death, choosing legal euthanasia rather than an empty existence. A charismatic leader arises amid this culture of despair, and in their eagerness for change, the citizens support the coming of the Antichrist and the end of days.

One of the first works of modern dystopic fiction, this 1907 novel is remarkably prescient in its depiction of a technologically advanced society that rushes headlong toward its own destruction. Author Robert Hugh Benson, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury and a convert to Roman Catholicism, wrote this dark parable in response to the science-fiction novels of H. G. Wells, which portrayed utopian societies in terms of atheism and one-world government. The novel has been hailed as prophetic by Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis, among others.

Reprint of the Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, London, 1907 edition.

"The world depicted in Lord of the World is one where creeping secularism and godless humanism have triumphed over traditional morality. It is a world where philosophical relativism has triumphed over objectivity; a world where, in the name of tolerance, religious doctrine is not tolerated. It is a world where euthanasia is practiced widely and religion hardly practiced at all. The lord of this nightmare world is a benign-looking politician intent on power in the name of 'peace', and intent on the destruction of religion in the name of 'truth'. In such a world, only a small and shrinking Church stands resolutely against the demonic Lord of the World."      ~Joseph Pearce, Literary Giants, Literary Catholics

"Pope Francis has mentioned Lord of the World on several occasions and says that it depicts what he refers to as 'ideological colonization' and in a sermon in 2013 described it as depicting 'the spirit of the world which leads to apostasy almost as if it were a prophecy.' It is unclear whether Pope Francis believes that the apocalypse is nigh, but he clearly views the book as a warning to people of faith about the consequences of the choices that humanity makes."       ~Dan Joseph, MRCTV

"The Lord of the World is an apocalypse. It tells the story of the cataclysmic struggle between a radically secularist society and the one credible alternative to it, namely, the Catholic church. In Benson’s imagined future, Europe and America are dominated by a rationalist regime bent on making life as technologically convenient and politically harmonious as possible. The leaders of this government see the Catholic church, with its stress on the supernatural, on divisive dogma, and on the enduring power of sin, as the principle obstacle to progress. A great messianic figure—Julian Felsenburg—emerges from the heart of the secularist political structure, and he prosecutes a progressively brutal persecution of the church, culminating in the elimination of the Pope, the curia, and most of the bishops of the world.

He then establishes an alternative liturgy, predicated upon the worship of an idealized humanity and the rhythms of nature. (In a delicious touch, Benson imagines a former Catholic priest as the master of ceremonies of the new secular liturgy). In the meantime, one surviving Cardinal—an Englishman who bears a striking physical resemblance to Felsenburg—becomes the Pope and takes up his administration of the church in simple quarters in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth. The novel concludes with the climactic struggle between Felsenburg’s secular power and the spiritual power of the church.

Now like any apocalypse, this one is a bit exaggerated and melodramatic; nevertheless, there are a lot of lessons for us in it. It is truly impressive that, in 1907, Benson saw, as clearly as he did, the dangerous potential of the secularist ideology. By this I mean the view that this world, perfected and rendered convenient by technology, would ultimately satisfy the deepest longing of the human heart. One of the most elemental truths that the Catholic church preserves is that human beings have been created by and for God and that they will therefore be permanently dissatisfied with anything less than God. In his monumental study of modern society, The Secular Age, the philosopher Charles Taylor speaks of the 'disenchanted universe' that has come as a result of the eclipse of religion. This means a world without ultimate meaning or a transcendent reference, a world that speaks only of itself.

Benson’s book paints a distressing but realistic picture of people moving about in a disenchanted universe, oscillating between the poles of boredom and fear. One of the most pathetic characters in the novel is Mabel Brand, the wife of a leader of the English political establishment and a woman who once believed in the new secular religion with all her heart. When she saw through its façade to its underlying brutality and inhumanity, she cracked and saw no way out. Like many in her exhausted society, she opted for self-induced and state-sponsored euthanasia. One doesn’t have to be terribly perceptive to appreciate how prophetic all of this has proven to be.

The other truth that Benson grasped was that the Catholic church, with its firm teaching on the reality of the supernatural, is, finally, the single great opponent to this world view. There is a high paradox here. Catholics know that what makes this world fascinating and enticing is precisely the conviction that it is not ultimate, that there is a denser and more permanent world that transcends it. In the light of faith, the things of this ordinary universe, which in themselves would never be enough to satisfy us, become sacraments of an eternal reality. Someone who caught this same paradox was Benson’s contemporary, G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton said that when he was an agnostic and expected to find joy in this world, he was always listless and depressed but that when he found faith, and realized that he was not meant to be fulfilled in this world, he actually became happy and took delight in ordinary things. A younger contemporary of both Chesterton and Benson, Evelyn Waugh, expressed much the same thing when he observed, 'for Catholics, the supernatural is the real.'

There are many fights, political, cultural, ethnic, etc. What Robert Hugh Benson saw with extraordinary clarity is that these are all relatively superficial struggles. The final—and finally interesting—battle is metaphysical and religious. It comes down to this question: do we live in an enchanted universe or not? Everything hinges on the way that question is answered."    ~Bishop-elect Robert Barron,

Mr. Templeton inhaled another long breath from his instrument. Then again he took up his discourse.

"Briefly," he said, "there are three forces—Catholicism, Humanitarianism, and the Eastern religions. About the third I cannot prophesy, though I think the Sufis will be victorious. Anything may happen; Esotericism is making enormous strides—and that means Pantheism; and the blending of the Chinese and Japanese dynasties throws out all our calculations. But in Europe and America, there is no doubt that the struggle lies between the other two. We can neglect everything else. And, I think, if you wish me to say what I think, that, humanly speaking, Catholicism will decrease rapidly now. It is perfectly true that Protestantism is dead. Men do recognise 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. There are a few faddists left, especially in America and here; but they are negligible. That is all very well; but, on the other hand, you must remember that Humanitarianism, contrary to all persons' expectations, is becoming an actual religion itself, though anti-supernatural. It is Pantheism; it is developing a ritual under Freemasonry; it has a creed, 'God is Man,' and the rest. It has therefore a real food of a sort to offer to religious cravings; it idealises, and yet it makes no demand upon the spiritual faculties. Then, they have the use of all the churches except ours, and all the Cathedrals; and they are beginning at last to encourage sentiment. Then, they may display their symbols and we may not: I think that they will be established legally in another ten years at the latest.

"Now, we Catholics, remember, are losing; we have lost steadily for more than fifty years. I suppose that we have, nominally, about one-fortieth of America now—and that is the result of the Catholic movement of the early twenties. In France and Spain we are nowhere; in Germany we are less. We hold our position in the East, certainly; but even there we have not more than one in two hundred—so the statistics say—and we are scattered. In Italy? Well, we have Rome again to ourselves, but nothing else; here, we have Ireland altogether and perhaps one in sixty of England, Wales and Scotland; but we had one in forty seventy years ago. Then there is the enormous progress of psychology—all clean against us for at least a century. First, you see, there was Materialism, pure and simple that failed more or less—it was too crude—until psychology came to the rescue. Now psychology claims all the rest of the ground; and the supernatural sense seems accounted for. That's the claim. No, father, we are losing; and we shall go on losing, and I think we must even be ready for a catastrophe at any moment."

Robert Hugh Benson (1871–1914) was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose conversion to Catholicism caused a stir. He became a great apologist for the faith, in spiritual works as well as in works of the imagination.

Author Benson, Robert Hugh
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 400 pp.
Publisher Dover Publications 2015
Series Dover Doomsday Classics
Browse these categories as well: Visionary Fiction, Christian Classics: Ancient and Modern, Mystic and Esoteric Christianity, Modern Prophets and Prescience, Eschatology and the Apocalypse, Noteworthy Releases 2015

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