Childhood's End

by: Arthur C. Clarke

The Overmind

Of all the "characters" in Childhood's End, the Overmind is perhaps the most difficult to understand. The reader is given only a little information about it. The Overmind is sufficiently powerful to make the Overlords their permanent servants. When the children of Earth join the Overmind, they utterly destroy Earth in the process, using its matter to fuel their transformation. The Overmind's motives and its mission are completely unknown; Karellen's theory is that it is "trying to increase its awareness of the universe," i.e. learn as much as possible. Races that join the Overmind lose all their individuality. Most interesting of all, despite the Overmind's apparent omnipotence, races such as humans can serve as a threat to it if they scientifically study phenomena such as telepathy and extra-sensory perception. At the conclusion of Childhood's End, the Earth is destroyed, all adult humans are dead, and the evolved children of humanity have lost themselves in the collective conscious of the Overmind. This seems to be nothing less than a racial Armageddon. It is difficult to agree with Karellen's assessment that this event is "wonderful." There appear to be only two options: racial stagnation, like the Overlords, or losing one's race's individuality in the Overmind. But there is a third option—to study ESP scientifically in a race capable of it, without joining the Overmind. This, however, is what the Overlords are sent to prevent.