Book: The Undying Fire


A novel by H.G. Wells. I must admit I haven’t enjoyed a lot of his more famous science fiction novels, but this foray into religion and philosophy has been interesting to say the least. This modern retelling of the tale of Job is written really well, and is so different from his other works that I’ve read.

The Undying Fire

This book is a homage to schools and teachers.

The reality of a school is not in buildings and numbers, but in matters of the mind and soul. Woldingstaton has become a torch at which lives are set aflame. I have lit a candle there – the winds of fate my yet blow it into a worldwide blaze.

Job Huss is the schoolmaster of the Woldingstanton, but a series of misfortunes have befallen him and on the eve of his operation, three men come to talk to him about his removal as schoolmaster. What follows is a philosophical discussion about education and what it means. Religion plays a big part in the argument.

“For clearly, ” said Mr. Huss, “if success is the justification of life you must train for success. There is no need for men to understand lifer, then, so long as they do their job in it. That is the opinion of these governors of mine. It has been the opinion of most men of the world – always. Obey the Thing that Is! That is the lesson they would have taught to my boys. Acquiesce. Life for them is not an adventure, not struggle, but simply obedience and the enjoyment of rewards…That, Dr Barrack, is what such a technical education as they want set up at Woldingstanton really means…

“But I have believed always and taught always that what God demands from man is his utmost effort to co-operate and understand. I have taught the imagination, first and most; I have made knowledge, knowledge of what man is and what man’s world is and what man maybe, which is the adventure of mankind, the substance of all my teaching.

The different views presented are still opinions that are debated now. As an educator myself, they are questions that I grapple with at times. The Christian and theological aspects have been fascinating as I’ve never really taught about education in that way before. It has always been purely secular for me.

At the same time, the novel doesn’t just discuss education, but really, it looks at how an education can influence men.

It is no occult secret; it is plain and demonstrable thing today that the world could give ample food and ample leisure to every human being, if only by a worldwide teaching the spirit of unity could be made to prevail over the impulse to dissension. And not only that, but it would then be possible to raise the common health and increase the common fund of happiness immeasurably.

It speaks broadly about what makes man, Man. It speaks about what we search for in life, how we live our lives, our purpose and all the other deep philosophical questions that plague us.

So life goes on for ever. And in no other way could it go on. In no other way could there be such a being as life. For how can you struggle if there is a certainty of victory? Why should you struggle if the end is assured? How can you rise if there is no depth into which you can fall? The blacknesses and the evils about you are the warrants of reality…

And of course it speaks of how we face life, and of the courage we must have.

If you have courage, although the night be dark, although the present battle be bloody and cruel and end in a strange and evil fashion, nevertheless, victory shall be yours – on a way you will understand – when victory comes. Only have courage. On the courage in your heart all things depend. By courage it is that the stars continue in their courses, day by day. It is the courage of life alone that keeps sky and earth apart… If that courage fail, if that sacred fire go out, then all things fail and all thing go out, all things – good and evil, space and time.

I concede, that this isn’t the most easy book to read. The arguments are long and sometimes difficult to follow. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely. I felt I was broadening my horizons and education. I didn’t agree with everything mentioned, but the analogies were pretty interesting and were just so apt.

I’ve only present some of the passages that resound with me, but I really recommend that you read the book for yourself and let me know what you think!

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