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NO All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
Dedication of the New Year 2003 Issue:
Science - Redefining our Religion and our Fairytales


Links the ancient with the futuristic,
and shows how they might be compatible...

Article and Illustrations by Julie MARDIN

The Fountains of Paradise is built upon a wonderfully ingenious dilemna, where the oldest and most sacred spot of the planet earth is presented as the only possible site of an elevator into our future.  It never quite seems to be as noble a tradeoff in real life, and yet it is a perfect example of technology and spirituality taking over from the old faiths.  One of Arthur C. Clarke's greatest skills is in linking the ancient with the futuristic, and showing how they might be compatible, and an equal part of our heritage. 

When I was very little I used to have a recurring nightmare. I am holding onto the fence in our backyard, and the wind is about to blow me off into space. I say it is a nightmare, but really it was about the universe calling to me, and my fear and my getting over that fear.

As I grew a bit older I was keenly interested in science and science fiction. I had a subscription to that wonderful publication that no longer exists on the newsstands, OMNI magazine. With its luscious graphics and mind twisting fiction, and the updates on the latest technology, I was mesmerized. Somehow, though, around the age of 13, I lost interest. Was it something about the way the sciences were taught in school that just left me cold?

As a teenager, I must have looked up at the sky and longed for the wind to blow me away, but now the universe would not have me. That spiritual connection very small children seem to have to the larger picture, inevitably gets lost as we get older, and so many of our efforts as adults is focused on rebuilding that connection. A great part of that is in rediscovering the magic in life. Perhaps things have changed in science class since I was in school, but for me, Arthur C. Clarke brought the magic back into the world of science. And I would like to thank him on his 85th birthday for his gift to us all.

For the last edition of the website I was asked to write a profile on Karen Armstrong, a religious scholar who has written books on all the major religions of the world.  This edition I have the assignment of what might seem the other side of the spectrum of human thought, that great monolith of science fiction, and of our culture, Arthur C. Clarke.  Referred to as a prophet of the 21st century, a "one man think tank," he is a veritable force of nature.   His books, numbering over 70, are like a universe unto themselves, with unique treasures to be discovered in each one.

While Arthur C. Clarke does put down religion vehemently in several instances of my reading, really what he describes as the best of mankind, man's need to reach beyond himself, "to fire the imagination and stir the soul,"(1) is almost identical to Ms. Armstrong's own view of what she sees as good religion.   The three qualities that Ms. Armstrong outlines while characterizing worthy religion --curiosity, imagination, and compassion-- would seem to apply to worthy science as well.  But there are perhaps even more direct similarities.

Arthur C. Clarke himself says in The Making of Kubrick's 2001 that they had actually made the most religious film of all time.  In Childhood's End science is referred to as having been "the only real religion." 
Clearly here he is using the term religion in the noble sense of the word, and clearly, there is a spiritual aspect to science, as there would be, I would think with any human endeavor, and it must be the sectarianism and literal interpretations of scripture that Clarke is bemoaning in mankind.  And yet he goes further to belittle the multitude of religions with their multitude versions of gospel.  But are not these religions ultimately just different metaphors that people use to deal with the mystery at the core of life, and more specifically to commune with a higher power, which is in a sense what he is trying to do as well?  Is science just not a more advanced path to do the same?  And as such I wonder if science, if it does not maintain its balance, might fall into some of the very same pitfalls as some of our older faiths.

While in the last article I confessed to being pretty much of an avowed secularist with not much experience with formal religion, in this case, I should confess, as I have in my preface, that I do not have any formal background or training in science, and perhaps even a healthy fear of the over-confidence of science, to the extent that some might label me a Luddite.  I would be that person you might come across in the pages of science fiction books, one of those "inevitable protestors" over whatever adventure or institution is about to be enacted.   But perhaps there is a demographic out there that I represent who are, like me, more cautious to accept all the golden promises that are made in the name of progress.

There seems to be two types of science fiction.   That which shows the excesses of present day technology and that which foresees its triumphs for good.  
Arthur C. Clarke seems to be of the latter school.  His writing takes generally an optimistic view of latent technologies that are rife with all sorts of problems in our own present day, almost to the extent where it might even be used by some of these industries as excellent PR.

I feel like I am knit picking if I say that I cannot help being skeptical of some of the technology that fuels his worlds, as the sweep and the implications of his stories are so bold and far-reaching.   It is man's confrontation with the mysterious that he is describing time and time again, how he steps into that realm of the unknown, and deals with it, sometimes gets perfectly used to it and soon starts taking it for granted.  But it is the discovery of one mystery upon another, which keep unfolding, and which carries you along what seems a very mystical progression.

Childhood's End is perhaps one of the most innovative, outside-of-the-mold, stories, although it deals with issues of power and colonialism in unexpected, or, uncomfortable, ways, it is also one of the most grim "happy endings" you might ever come across.   Yet I think George Orwell and Aldous Huxley would have been dismayed with some of Arthur C. Clarke's vision of day to day life of the future, especially in 3001: The Final Odyssey, with brain caps as a rite of passage, and identification nano-chips implanted at birth.   Perhaps the best way to describe it would be a benevolent authoritarianism, and seems to be the only way for him to envision world peace.  The idealist in me is hoping that if world peace is to happen it will happen through bottom up social movements, rather than state-imposed tracking and programming. There is just too much opportunity for abuse in such a system.  And I am more of the opinion that if we were to achieve true peace, then it would not cause a loss of initiative, but would unleash all sorts of human potential.  It would not be a passive state at all.   There I go dreaming again...

Not to mention, an old fashioned person like me who tries to buy organic whenever she can, will of course cringe when told of the marvels of synthetic food. This is just one of the instances where science is shown as having completely resolved a current international crisis, which is probably just as much in need of socio-economic and political solutions rather than purely a scientific one. In fact the science of agriculture would probably benefit from a return to some of our old ways, keeping in mind such age-old concepts as biological diversity, crop rotation, controlling insects through other insects or planting plants they prefer to lure them away from food crops. This is just to name a few effective, if prosaic, methods that work while avoiding the many problems of our modern techniques --exposure to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, pollution of the ground water, deterioration of the soil and of the nutritional content of our produce...


Science must have a spiritual dimension, though oftentimes I think it does come dangerously close to a religion in the bad sense of the term.  It is presented as the solution to all our problems, along with the rigid, reductive thinking that sometimes goes along with it.  For instance, the notion that we could quantify something as free flowing and mysterious as human experience, and capture it all on a computer chip, while a poetic idea, seems at the same time a little presumptive to me as a lay person.  But Clarke brilliantly tempers the idea.  His description of "Dave", or what was once Dave, the astronaut who had been absorbed by the Monolith in 3001, is that he is something like a synopsis of a book, or a technical paper,  "He really is David Bowman, but with most of the humanity stripped away."(2)

The reconstituted Dave Bowman does remember his origins enough to end up having an interest, even if it is a remote one, to act and to help humanity to survive.  Yet this touches on another aspect of this vision that is troubling, which is the segmented view of mind and body itself.

The culmination of this outlook can be found in the beautiful opening of 3001, as the higher life forms who are the creators of the Monoliths are described as having been able to transfer all their thoughts to "shining new homes of metal and gemstone."  The age of Machine-entities, however, soon passed when they learned to store knowledge "in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light."(3)

Now they were Lords of the Galaxy, and could rove at will among the stars, or sink like a subtle mist through the very interstices of space.  Though they were freed at last from the tyranny of matter, they had not wholly forgotten their origin, in the warm slime of a vanished sea.

This ultimate ideal of ascent into the realm of pure thought, the
disinterest in the body, and pure focus on the mind, is a common theme in the scientific community at large as well, with its growing interest in virtual reality and cyberspace.  Yet, again, this dream of disembodying our selves, leaving behind all mortal concerns, sounds suspiciously like a new type of religion to me.  And the alienation from our bodies, and from our earthly existence, seems dangerously unbalanced, and escapist, much in the way the dreams of an afterlife would be for the traditional religious.

He thought of all the times when the texture of some material, the feel of rock or soil underfoot, the smell of the jungle, the sting of spray upon his face, had played a vital role in one of his projects.   Someday, perhaps even these sensations could be transferred by electronics.  Indeed, it had already been done so, crudely, on an experimental basis, and at enormous cost.  But there was no substitute for reality; one should beware of imitations.

Clarke does not by any means fall into one camp of thinking.  It is his ability to juggle opposites and bring them together that makes his work so rich.  In several instances he says there is no substitute for reality, as Morgan, the brilliant, ambitious engineer notes in The Fountains of Paradise, and in 3001, as Frank Poole arrives on Ganymede, one of Jupiter's moons where there is a small human outpost, it poignantly rekindles his affection for small communities "where everyone knew everyone else --in the real world, and not the virtual one of cyberspace." (6)

In Childhood's End it is science that has led us away from the story's true key to our destiny, which had lain ironically in the disreputable pursuits of the occult and in mysticism.  And he gives an explanation for premonitions and superstitions which is plausible through Einstein's own Theory of Relativity.  Throughout The Fountains of Paradise, he plays a
counterpoint between the scientific and the mystical, the ideal of "progress" and those of ancient traditions, and seems to be trying to reach some balance between them.  He compares the folds of the Buddha's gown to the waves of the sea, the natural rhythm of which "appealed to instincts of which the rational mind knew nothing." (7)

The Fountains of Paradise
is built upon a wonderfully ingenious dilemna, where the oldest and most sacred spot of the planet earth is presented as the only possible site of an elevator into our future.  It never quite seems to be as noble a tradeoff in real life, and yet it is a perfect example of technology and spirituality taking over from the old faiths.  One of Arthur C. Clarke's greatest skills is in linking the ancient with the futuristic, and showing how they might be compatible, and an equal part of our heritage.  As he describes, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the moon shuttle hostess demonstrating some classical Balinese dance movements in zero gravity, or likens an alien space ship, in Rendezvous with Rama, to the ruins of an Aztec temple the astronaut had once visited.

"There was something strange about a universe where a few dead butterflies can balance a billion ton tower..."

In The Fountains of Paradise the fulfillment of an ancient legend through an unlikely sequence of events is in the end what allows the project of the tower to go forward.  Though there is speculation throughout Clarke's books of the possibility of a higher intelligence manipulating human events which we are not aware of (another way to envision God,) this part of the story also seemed to be touching upon Chaos and Complexity theories and areas of nonlinear thinking which are on the fringes of conventional science today.


"Your mystics, though they were lost in their own delusions, had seen part of the truth.  There are powers of the mind, and powers beyond the mind, which your science could never have brought within its framework without
shattering it entirely."Karellen, the Overlord, from Childhoods End (9)

There is nothing wrong with a religion that can keep examining its own boundaries.  Arthur C. Clarke helps us to do that.  Despite any of my misgivings of some of these concepts that are at large in our society, and which he plays with in his fictions, he enables me to see that all these perspectives can exist and perhaps must exist side by side.  He is an icon in the literary, film, and pop cultures, as well as a lodestar in the scientific and humanitarian worlds.  Arthur C. Clarke's footprint on all these different areas of our culture is only fitting, as he is himself in the tradition of the classic Renaissance man.  While he is a scientist, with ideas that have had direct impact on our world --one of his articles was the basis for the development of satellite technology --he is also a master storyteller, not just a science fiction writer, but a poet, a psychologist, and a philosopher.  The
structures of his epics are futuristic fables, in a sense, building on our shared mythology and creating new twists.  

At the same time he is popularizing current trends in the scientific world, ideas whose time have come or in his view should have come by now.  The space elevator being one of them, which in The Fountains of Paradise, he skillfully echoes with all its mythic precedents.   All common sense tells us that this is just a futuristic, and very sophisticated, fairytale, it is a Jack and the Beanstalk dream, a Stairway to Heaven.  And yet in the epilogue we are informed that it may still be all these things, but it also happens to be a serious area of scientific endeavor, and has been made even more plausible with the discovery of the molecule C60, Buckminsterfullerene, which has opened the way to creating materials hundreds of times stronger than steel.

As he reminds us, all magic is just phenomena which science has not yet explained or brought into being.  The child is the father of man, and play is the antecedent to reality.  Perhaps fairytales are also prototypes for what the human race might one day achieve.  Even though he says science will demystify what might now appear as magic, he also for me brought the magic back into the world of science, the mystery and the beauty of its possibilities.  And it is that magic, that mystery, that spurs us on and inspires our achievements.  At the closing of The Fountains of Paradise, it is the children's playfulness, and their imagination, that the aliens find so mysterious and have such a hard time understanding.

- . -

A Brief Biography of Arthur C. Clarke:

Arthur C. CLARKE
was born in Minehead, England on December 16, 1917, and now lives  in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  He published his first story in 1937 in Amateur Science Fiction Magazine and went on to publish over seventy titles, produced several TV series, and shared an Oscar nomination with Stanley Kubrick for the movie based on his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey.  With more than 100 million copies of his books in print, he is the recipient of numerous Hugo and Nebula awards, an International Fantasy Award and a John W. Campbell Award, and was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America.  His many honors include several doctorates in literature and science, numerous prizes and awards, including NASA's highest civilian honor, its Distinguished Public Service Medal.

Further external links:

* Satellite Named for Arthur C. Clarke

* Clarke Sends Genetic Message to Space

* Arthur C.Clarke Stands By His Belief in Life on Mars
* Arthur C. Clarke's foundation: CITI

Other related links:



1. Arthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of Paradise, Warner Books, New York 1979, pg. 72.

2. Arthur C. Clarke, 3001: Final Odyssey, Del Ray/Ballantine Books, New York: 1997, pg 187.
3. Ibid. pg. 2
4. Ibid. pg 3.
5. The Fountains of Paradise, pp. 141-142.
6. 3001, pg. 130.
7. The Fountains of Paradise, pg. 158.
8. Ibid, pg. 184.
Childhood's End, Del Ray/Ballantine Books, NewYork: 1953, pp. 181-182.

E-mail to Julie Mardin:

This page updated on January 27, 2003. LM.

This issue is dedicated to the legendary author and scientist Sir ARTHUR C. CLARKE for his 85th Birthday...


YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES Loving & Caring Each Other, YES Greatness in Humanity, YES Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
YES Great Dreams For Better Tomorrows, YES Emerging Positive Global Energy, YES Global Transparency and YES Lighting Our Souls & Minds.
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