A short observation on STARMAKER by Stapledon

Part of an ongoing conversation. A reader known only by the mysterious initials  whswhs has this remark about myths:

“I take a myth to be a story about beings who can act on a cosmic scale; who, rather than being part of nature, are the shapers of nature, with powers that transcend nature, and whose actions in the past made nature what it is and may have caused it to come into being in the first place. Tolkien’s account of the Valar is a myth; so is Blake’s story of the division of the Four Zoas and their emanations; so is the Norse account of the birth of the gods, their killing of Ymir, and their making the world from his body; so is Genesis, or a large part of it. I might call Lovecraft’s stories of the Elder Gods myths; I’m not sure I would say that about Stapledon’s Star Maker; I would not say it about Smith’s Arisians and Eddorians, who are purely natural beings.”

My comment:

Hm. I would class the Starmaker of Olaf Stapledon as a supernatural being. He is a maker of universes, a legislator of the laws of nature. On a mythopoetical level, the Starmaker is a very modern idea (Darwinian and Hegelian evolution) being presented as a person: Starmaker “is” evolution in the same way that Neptune “is” ocean.

The personality characteristics of the Starmaker, his abundance and cruelty, his artistic striving toward unreachable perfection, his contempt for the suffering the living beings, are all characteristics Darwin-worshippers and Hegelians attribute to evolution.

Note that by the term ‘Darwin-worshippers’ I do not speak of those who hold Darwin to have composed an accurate account of the origin of species, a biological albeit nondisprovable theory; I speak of those who elevate this biological theory to a moral or metaphysical principle, and hold that whatever child species the nondeliberate breeding of natural selection creates is somehow better than the parent species: the Morlocks, if they could talk, might not agree that later always means better.

I speculate that Olaf Stapledon was attempting, both in STAR MAKER and in LAST AND FIRST MEN to solve the emotional and intellectual puzzle of how to derive or deduce a good God from the evidence of a cruel and indifferent universe. The moral of both stories is the mystical assertion, boldly in defiance of logic and evidence, that the superior beings affirm the universe and its Maker to be good, despite the obvious cruelty and indifference of the universe toward man, who is doomed to extinction, and will never find communion with God, nor ever be comforted, revived, loved, or noticed by this God.

I suppose a Christian is obligated to point out that worshiping a sadistic devil and calling him God (even if it were not blasphemy) is not in one’s self-interest, and seems to defy both logic and the desire of a lover to be beloved of the beloved; but I suppose a Stapledonian mystic would scoff that a truly unselfish worshipper must be a masochist, not merely welcoming but admiring the pain inflicted by the indifferent arch-sadist he adores, in order this his worship be untainted with any self-regard. I leave that debate to heresiologists, clinical psycho-theologians, or whatever discipline it is whose mission is to study pathological abnormalities of the religious impulse.  Myself, I cannot imagine greeting the Star Maker with anything but the defiance of Lucifer in Milton’s PARADISE LOST, yet without the regrets voiced on Mount Niphates.

For those of you who have not read it, STAR MAKER is in the public domain in Australia, that most civilized of nations, and is available here. LAST AND FIRST MEN is here. Milton’s PARADISE LOST is available here and in many other places.