Review: The Lathe of Heaven (part 2)

As a Christian reader grounded in concrete Western Theology, I hesitate to fully digest the nebulous language that emerges from Ursula Le Guin’s Eastern Mystical philosophy in her novel, The Lathe of Heaven. I can appreciate figurative personification as art when she explains, ‘rocks have their dreams and the earth changes,” but naturally I question spiritual implications in saying ‘a conscious mind must be part of the whole, intentionally and carefully – as the rock is part of the whole unconsciously.’

Undoubtedly, there is truth in Le Guin’s message. Through my Christian lens, I see a bold renouncement of sin. Adam wanted to disunite God’s physical limitations on righteousness and ‘find’ his own way, apart from God and apart from reality. In agreement with Christianity, Le Guin condemns this power-seeking manipulation of conscious freedom as destructive inwardness and blindness. With his will to separate, Adam brought death to the world.

Now I need to clarify my criticism of Ursula Le Guin’s message. She intends to promote Taoism, or the way, which argues, nature itself is a finite manifestation of the highest good and unity attainable. ‘It doesn’t work to try to stand outside of things…There is a way, but you have to… be with it,’ she says.

The natural world certainly attests to God’s nature with its relational interplay, but mere connections and laws cannot themselves define purpose. Purpose is the Love of God that shares Himself with His creation through natural, physical means. The ability to appreciate nature is not of nature herself, but from the Creator, and this is where my philosophy conflicts with the author’s.

Many members of Le Guin’s audience are Western rationalists, and she speaks to their doubts as voiced by her science-minded character, Dr. Haber. He politely explains that “Mysticism is one approach to the nature of…reality, though it’s not acceptable to those willing to use reason, and able to.” Le Guin’s responds in her portrayal of Haber throughout the novel. She makes him obsessed with power, interested in logic only as a manipulative tool, and content to inflict pain and suffering as a means for achieving a more efficient and prosperous future.

With her character descriptions, the author implies that Western philosophy will promote hierarchal slavery and ignorance of present obligations. I find that at its core, Western Christianity rejects this foolishness and agrees with Eastern philosophy with respect to present moral obligations, present grace, and present glory. As a reader, I find my worldview reinforced by such philosophical agreements and discrepancies as those I meet in this book.

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