Géza Ottlik’s A School at the Frontier: Out of Childhood and into History

Written in 1948, in a shattered Hungary, emerging from the war on the side of the defeated, School at the Frontier was not published until 1959, in a country whose satellization by the Soviets was now complete. Yet there are no references to the dramatic events of recent history in this melancholy work: Géza Ottlik, drawing largely on his own memories, describes the daily life of a group of students entering the first year of a military school in the 1920s. The institution, located near the newly established border separating Hungary and Austria, welcomed the country’s future elite.

In this enclosed, out-of-this-world universe, whose isolation evokes that of the young Hungarian nation in the middle of a continent with which it does not even share the origins of its language, children are preparing to become men. The rigor of instruction, the quasi-Kafkaesque discipline and the constant violence imposed on these still carefree spirits are designed to harden them. If the end of childhood means a break with the sweetness of family life, a break with the carefreeness of rural life and a confrontation with the brutal industrial world of war, it is because Hungary itself has embarked on a transformation that should enable it to catch up with its supposed lag. More than a metaphor for the advent of the twentieth century in a Central Europe brutally roused from its torpor, the fate of these children heralds the disaster to come.

In their own way, each of the young students embodies a figure of the Hungarian, a posture in the face of history and existence. Czako, whose indolence and phlegm in the face of vexations evoke the detachment of the artist or nomad; Medve, combative but naive, recalls the political activist who is revolted by the abuse of power, but whose illusions deprive him of clear-sightedness; Öttzvényi, attached to procedures, rejecting iniquity and concerned with respect for justice, appears as an allegory of the law. The tragic fate that awaits Öttzvényi, guilty of having reported an unjust punishment for the first time in the school’s history, is a reminder that when times get tough, the law can do no more. In this military institution, as in the upcoming dictatorial Hungary, force supersedes law, and authority takes the place of justice.

Told through the memories of a now-adult narrator, this harrowing school year allows us to appreciate, step by step, the slow march of free spirits called upon to see their moral judgment diluted by the strict observance of arbitrary principles. These rules, sometimes tyrannical, often absurd, need no legitimacy. They do not even need rationality. Their existence is their only justification, and is enough to compel compliance: “No one was trying to get us to admit that the aim of the stretching exercises was physical culture; it was simply to get us to start the day, every morning at dawn, with a half-hour bullying session.”

Beyond the Bildungsroman

The precision of the narrative and the meticulous style with which Géza Ottlik, without ever revealing the key to their real meaning, spins out the events that mark this long year, distinguish School at the Frontier from the classic Bildungsroman to which it has often been likened. Psychological developments are rare. Analysis is absent. Only the details of a dull, repetitive daily life allow us, through their subtle and slow alteration over time, to understand the depth of the changes taking place in these young boys. Less masterful than Musil’s The Confusions of Young Törless, more austere than the works of Herman Hesse, School at the Frontier nevertheless manages to depict the fate of this sacrificed European generation with the same cruelty.

Even more so than the fact that introspective reflection is replaced by bare facts, it is the work’s pessimism that sets it radically apart from the Bildungsroman established by the German-language authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Musil, Mann and Hesse, leaving childhood involves its share of drama and wounds, which are the price to pay for true freedom. The post-romantic critique of the triumphant rationality of the Enlightenment remains no less reasonable: if the darkness of ignorance cannot be totally dispelled, it remains necessary to confront it and recognize one’s own imperfection, with the aim of surpassing oneself.

In Ottlik’s work, the pain of coming of age is not compensated for. Illusions dispelled and naiveté lost are replaced only by bitterness and resignation. The world for which the military school prepares its pupils is neither more rational nor more beautiful than the school itself. The same absurdity and violence prevail: growing up means accepting one’s chains and one’s condition: “Among the countless things we held dear, some were reduced to nothing more or less quickly, disintegrated or altered,” observes the narrator. As for the “little moments of pleasure” that endure for better or for worse, from a stay in the infirmary where books can be obtained, to a game of soccer played between two exercises, their brevity and uselessness ultimately rob them of all flavor. They are the last childlike respites the condemned man allows himself to live.

A Tragic Sense of History

In fact, as adults, the narrator and his friend Medve look back on their first year with pain. The vexations they endured have left scars perhaps deeper than the war itself. The sense of waste is heightened by the idea that it was all for nothing, and that there was no justice. The most perfidious of their comrades went on to brilliant careers as officers, or became half-robots. The weakest continued to suffer the ravages of life, even after renouncing their military careers. Once again, history imposes itself as a tragedy. Life kept its disappointing promises. The war, for which they had been prepared, took place. Everything that happened was already there, in germ, in the mind of a child and in the destiny of a country.

As the school year progresses, and in the face of the implacability of History, a question as absurd as it is obvious gradually emerges: what is the point of time passing? Another Hungarian writer, László Krasznahorkai, seems to reply in the opening line of Melancholy of Resistance: “It passes without passing. Like adults whose choices are merely repetitions of childhood echoes, like peoples condemned to reproduce the same acts from generation to generation, schoolchildren “grope blindly in a duration that has… lost its true consistency, and sometimes it [seems to them] to be trampling on, sometimes the events of a recent past seem extremely distant.”

Reflecting the cyclical vision of history so dear to Central and Eastern European literature, this pessimism reminds us that the past haunts the present and determines the future, on the scale of human life as well as major events. For the Hungarian society of the 1960s, which soon ranked School at the Frontier among the great classics of its national literature, this was no doubt self-evident. In many ways, the fate of these schoolchildren repeated the dramas of the defunct Kingdom of Hungary, just as much as they foreshadowed the misfortunes of the Communist dictatorship—with which Gézla Ottlik maintained a distance that, in the context of the Kadar years, was enough to pass for disapproval.

Alexis Bétemps is a Parisian Germanophile and deputy editor-in-chief of PHILITT, through whose courtesy this article appears.

Featured: Mátyás Hunyadi Military School in Kőszeg, in 1926. Géza Ottlik is in the back row, second from the left.

The Longer the Wait… Krogold: Triple Celinian Myth

With the publication of La Volonté du Roi Krogold (The Will of Krogold the King), Gallimard has brought Céline’s unpublished works to a close, putting an end to almost ninety years of uncertainty about the adventures of this legendary ruler. This will satisfy Céline aficionados first and foremost, while the uninitiated will find it a little-used gateway. If it is not easy to squeeze through, it nevertheless opens up new and unexpected reading perspectives.

Ecce Krogold! The famous Nordic king that Céline fans have been dreaming of since May 1936, when he made his appearance in Mort à crédit (Death on Credit), the second high point of a prolific body of work that is far more eclectic than the hasty reduction to the author’s regrettable (and condemnable!) ideological blunders generally suggests. Far from being part of the contemporary realist fictions that continue to make Céline so successful, King Krogold is an original figure with a doubly mythical aura, firstly, because the story of which he is the central character draws on a number of legends, episodes and memories, including the Arthurian cycle, the biography of François Villon, the writings of Rabelais and that mythical medieval figure from Breton legend, the Bard with the gouged-out eyes, imprisoned for standing up to Christianization.

The mythical brilliance of Krogold the king, then, manifests itself in the improbability, long persistent, of seizing concretely and in a palpable, “haptic” way an epic which has become, over the decades, as legendary as the collection of a few scraps of narratives that, in spite of everything, have come down to us.

Krogold vs. Gwendor

A reminder: From the moment Céline left his Montmartre apartment for Copenhagen, for fear of paying the price for the political upheaval in France in the wake of Operation Neptune, he never ceased to deplore, with the vehemence often characteristic of his writings since Mea culpa (1936), the theft (or incineration, as the case may be) of what he himself, in a letter to his faithful secretary, Marie Canavaggia, described as “a legend from the operatic Middle Ages.” We need only reread his two great post-war texts, Féerie pour une autre fois (Enchatment for Another Time) and D’un Château l’autre (From one Castle to Another), to be convinced.

The literary merit of Krogold seemed rather light, however: “I was disappointed to read it again. My romance hadn’t stood the test of time,” says the Ferdinand of Mort à credit, and judging by the rejection Céline received from his publisher Robert Denoël in 1933. Yet Denoël had not hesitated to publish L’Église (The Church), a five-act comedy of equally fragile merit, the first version of which had been rejected by Gallimard in 1927, just eleven months after the release of Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night). Literary choice or commercial calculation? In any case, important fragments of the legend were incorporated into the narrative of Mort à crédit, in whose pages King Krogold now runs like a weak, if stubborn, thread. It is as if Céline had sought to tacitly thumb his nose at his publisher.

Despite Ferdinand’s repeated efforts to provide a detailed account, the legend’s developing plot remains rather opaque. However, this has not prevented Celinian scholars, such as the American Erika Ostrovsky, from seeking to unravel the mystery behind it. In 1972, in her contribution to Cahiers de L’Herne, devoted to Céline, Ostrovsky noted that while the legend’s known beginning, the deadly confrontation between King Krogold, “mighty and damned monarch of all the marches of Tierlande” and the felon Gwendor, “grand margrave of the Scythians, Prince of Christiania” (and very secret fiancé of Wanda, Krogold’s only daughter) is “nothing out of the ordinary;” so much so that it “could almost pass for a pastiche of epic novels,” but it is special in that, on a more abstract level, it puts into perspective the defeat of the poetic (of which Gwendor is the embodiment) in the face of the degradation of everyday life, embodied by Krogold; the latter presented by Ostrovsky as an “executioner.”

Royal Magnanimity, Poetic Vagabondage

Although the idea of an antagonism between poetry and daily life is resistant to over-hasty expeditions, the development proposed by Ostrovsky half a century ago now requires nuance and even revision, particularly in the contortionist reading she gives King Krogold. This reassessment is all the more necessary given that, thanks to the recent publication by Gallimard of rediscovered pages, Céline enthusiasts and others can now look at a whole series of scenes and tableaux, differently elaborated, The common theme is the equipment of the legendary King Krogold (there is no need to go back over the incredible circumstances which, in the summer of 2021, saw the reappearance of the famous Céline manuscripts, stolen during the Liberation and thought to be lost forever, as well as the medico-judicial soap opera which has been making keyboards clack ever since).

First observation: the material of Le Roi Krogold gave birth to two distinct texts under Céline’s pen, La Volonté du Roi Krogold (a manuscript found in 1939/40) and La Légende du Roi René (an earlier version based on a typescript dated 1933/34). The former is presented by the collection’s editor, Véronique [Robert-] Chovin, as a rewrite of the latter. The numerous thematic parallels that emerge from one plot to the next support this assertion.

Second observation: the elements on which these two versions are based take off from very different starting points. One is based on the defeat of Prince Gwendor’s army by the victorious troops of King Krogold. Impaled by an enemy spear, Gwendor faces death from which, in a classic dialogue, he vainly seeks to obtain “one day… two days…” of reprieve. When the inhabitants of Christianie learn of the defeat of their protector Gwendor and the imminent arrival of King Krogold, they decide, in order to appease the latter’s a priori devastating grudges, not to prostrate themselves before the victor and offer him the city’s treasures, as might be expected, but instead to meet him by—dancing. This unusual stratagem had once saved the city from the advancing regiments of the Great Turk. Given the historical context of the writing, it is obviously tempting to read the advance of these armed troops as an allusion to the invasions (sometimes camouflaged as annexation) carried out by the Wehrmacht.

Alas! King Krogold is no connoisseur of dance. Indeed, he puts the harmless “dancers of the rigodon” to the sword. And yet, once he has entered the city, he heads straight for the cathedral and, while keeping his foot in the stirrup, throws his sword over a huge, panic-stricken crowd that has taken refuge under the nave’s vaults, “right up to the altar step.” This gesture of almost cinematic royal indulgence is greeted by jubilant singing, thanksgiving and even the appearance of an angel expressly sent down from heaven. Thus closes this first narrative, with its chivalric, popular and Christian overtones.

It is joined by another; this time centered on the wanderings of a trouvère, named Thibaut in René but Tébaut in Krogold. This vagabond poet with not-so-Catholic impulses seeks to join the victorious king (Krogold or René, respectively) in the North, to accompany him on his crusade. His itinerary takes him from Charente to Brittany, and in particular to Rennes, where—depending on the version of the legend—he is either about to be thrown into prison after narrowly escaping lynching by an excited mob (Krogold), or to stop off at the brothel where he casually abuses a prostitute (René). In both versions of the legend, however, he becomes the murderer of Prosecutor Morvan, president of the parliament of Brittany and father of Joad, Thibaut/Tébaut’s traveling companion secretly in love with Wanda, the king’s daughter. It is good to set up these triangles of conflict from the outset.

The Underpinnings of a Work

Make no mistake, however: Krogold, far from being an entertaining fabliau, is probably Céline’s most complicated text; René is a sort of first draft written in a French that is, if not academic, at least linguistically more accessible. In fact, these are pages not finalized by the author, with all that this implies of doubles, repetitions, unfinished business, which all very quickly causes a feeling of saturation, but also fatigue. At the same time, these pages are undoubtedly the most interesting and richest among the bundles of manuscripts found.

On the one hand, because together with the snippets of the legend inserted in Guerre (War) and Londres (London), (Gallimard, 2022), the other two recently exhumed unpublished works, they allow us to measure the important weight that throughout the 1930s, Céline gave to the possibility of giving birth to a medieval fantasy legend. That Krogold the King cannot be reduced to a unifying element of Mort à crédit, that he is much more than a mere vanishing point for Céline’s post-war rantings, constantly raising the specter of spoliation, which we now know were not completely aberrant, The major merit of this collection, published by Gallimard under the full title of La Volonté du Roi Krogold, followed by La Légende du Roi René, is that it does indeed create a coherent whole, the hitherto unexploited underbelly of a work that has been widely commented on for almost ninety years.

One of the things we need to look at is how this legend relates to Céline’s polemical writings. After all, the date chosen for the recovered manuscript is 1939/40. In the chronology of Céline’s publications, this corresponds to the period between the publication of L’École des cadavres (School for Corpses), (November 1938) and the release of Les Beaux Draps (The Fine Sheets), (February 1941). But Bagatelles pour un massacre (Trifles for a Massacre), published in December 1937, already invokes the Middle Ages, presenting ballet librettos populated by legendary characters and deliberately drawing on medieval imaginary.

We should also take a closer look at the legend’s many references to Christianity and its key concepts of blasphemy, sin, repentance, mercy and forgiveness, practices whose density is just as unusual here, as the invocation of a united Christianity is absent from the rest of the work—apart from Mea culpa.

“I am Celt”

On the other hand, it is undoubtedly in the linguistic contributions that the primary interest of the recovered pages lies. The few journalistic accounts published to date have made this clear. In the April 27 issue of La Croix, Fabienne Lemahieu writes of a “medieval Nordic tale with accents of Old French;” Alexis Brocas in the May issue of Lire/Magazine littéraire points to a “cousinly relationship between Céline’s language and that of the medieval Rabelais and Villon;” and David Fontaine in the May 10 issue of Le Canard enchaîné describes the Céline of Krogold as an “alchemist of style, [who] intends to resurrect medieval French.”

A single passage illustrates these observations: “The Queen in her finest attire, followed by her ladies and pages, slowly approached and descended the long marble steps. ‘Sir Knight, what would you have us give you?’ ‘Victory! Victory!’ he shouted ever louder, raising his hand to his chest to show his pure heart. ‘Victory? Victory? That it shall be [quickly]! But is not the King wounded? I had a sad dream… a fearful reverie yester night…’ ‘Nothing betides the King, my lady! Nothing betides the King! Apart from a mere wheal, a niggling scuff that his majesty little heeds.’ ‘You tell me so much, Sir Knight!’…’Excelras has won my wager!’”

While work on language is obviously one of the major constants in Céline’s work, his interest in pre-classical turns of phrase in this excerpt is not only in keeping with his well-known abomination of so-called academic French, but also reflects a more assertive approach to a linguistic (and hence literary) genealogy that emphasizes the Celtic heritage of the French language. At the expense of the Greek and Latin legacies advocated by the codifiers of classical French. It would probably be instructive to reread André Thérive’s Libre histoire de la langue française (Stock, 1954) to grasp the full ideological dimension behind this artistic approach.

“The intoxication of this existence must one day cease…”

Last but not least, Céline devotees will find it hard to pass up this collection which, in addition to the two versions of the legend, includes a rich appendix of all the passages in the work that can be associated, in one way or another, with the legend of Krogold the King: from Mort à crédit to D’un Château l’autre, via Guerre, Londres and Féerie pour une autre fois. A contextualizing essay by archivist and historian Alban Cerisier provides a more concrete account of the forces expressed in these two medievalist narratives. Although we are unaware of the legend’s “incompleteness,” “each scene offers, with the author’s ironic finesse and great humor, a variation on man’s relationship with his finitude.”

The aforementioned mythical dimension of the Krogold legend is further enhanced by the fact that it has remained incomplete and fragmentary, and that its material has somehow resisted literary form. But is not this a guarantee of its “legitimacy?” After all, how many medieval legends have come down to us without gaps?

Maxim Görke teaches in the German Department, at the University of Strasbourg.

Featured: King William I, folio 33 of Liber legum antiquorum regum, British Library, Cotton MS Claudius D. II, 14th century. [This article appears through the kind courtesy of PHILITT.]

On “Oracular Philosophy” and “Oracular History of Philosophy”

The Spanish philosopher, Gustavo Bueno Martínez (1924-2016), is known for the system he created and which he called, “philosophical materialism,” which holds that philosophy is neither science nor wisdom but second-degree knowledge, in that philosophy requires first-degree knowledge (biological, mathematocal, political, technical) before it can begin to constitute itself. Bueno is an important thinker of the right. In the article that follows, Bueno recoups “oracular philosophy,” from the denigration given it by positivism.


The expression “Oracular Philosophy” was used by Karl Popper in the second part of his famous book, The Open Society and its Enemies, written during the Second World War and published in 1945, in two volumes, the first devoted to Plato and the second to Hegel and Marx (it would seem that Popper’s offensive against the Soviet Union, very little “political” at a time when the Soviets were entering Berlin, was diverted towards Plato and Hegel, through whom Nazism could be glimpsed). Indeed, in the second part, entitled “The High Tide of Prophecy,” the opening chapters, 11 and 12, are devoted to “The Rise of Oracular Philosophy,” where Hegelianism is discussed. Chapter 24, under the heading “The Aftermath,” is entitled “Oracular Philosophy and the Rebellion against Reason.”

These chapters by Popper constitute an attack on what he called “oracular philosophy,” an idea very close to the most elementary and naive positivism, along the lines of the old dichotomies proposed by Lévy-Bruhl (prelogical thinking/logical thinking), or in the distinction of W. Nestle (myth/logos).

For Popper, oracular philosophy is that philosophy which, instead of resorting to “reason” (“that is to say, to clear thinking and experience”), resorts to the methods of prophecy, revelation or oracle, unfolding towards a vision of the future of human societies which, instead of being exposed through clear reasoning, reaches for the most irrational methods, such as oracles, founded more on a mystical and irrational inspiration than on a philosophical discourse. The oracular philosophy, according to Popper, despises other men, because it has the conviction of the truth of its intellectual intuition (“Plato believed that reason is shared only by the gods and by a few select men”). The oracular style of philosophizing avoids dialogue, preferring to speak dogmatically, as if the foundations of the predictions and the content of the predictions were thoroughly known. The critique of oracular philosophy is thus directed against totalitarian thinking.

Popperian anti-totalitarianism, radical in 1945, formed a reservoir for the anti-totalitarianism of ‘68, and most especially for that editorial movement that took the name of nouveaux philosophes, with a common root, re-created through Michel Foucault, which continued in two distinct currents: the one taken by André Glucksmann (1975: The cook and the man-eater, a reflection on the State, Marxism and concentration camps) and Bernard-Henri Lévy (1977: Barbarism with a human face); and the one taken by Alain Baidou.


For our part, we have always been faced with the radical, disjunctive opposition to any oracular philosophy as such. An oracle is a channel of expression that (especially if it presents itself in the guise of a shaman or prophet) cannot reduce the flows that it channels, and therefore it cannot be accepted that the expression “oracular philosophy” is a contradictory impossibility, a “wooden iron.”

Philosophy, as an institution, did not come out of nothing, out of prelogical thought, nor did it emerge in the years in which “reason” freed itself from the mystical mists of “myth.” Philosophy began with the oracles, and remained in history, to a certain extent, in function of them.

Ancient philosophy, for example, manifested itself, first of all, through the oracle of Delphi, when it advised those who approached its precincts: “Know thyself.” For this oracle was taken up by Socrates, and centuries later by Linnaeus, who, in the tenth edition of his Systema naturae, identified the oracular message, no less, to define Man as Homo sapiens, and later as Homo sapiens sapiens.

Philologists usually warn that the “road map” proposed by the Delphic oracle did not have a humanistic-metaphysical objective, but a much more prosaic and pragmatic one (know your possibilities of action, curb your hybris!). However, this pragmatic and prosaic norm could have evolved, becoming the norm of Man himself or of Humanity in general (at least until Man himself ceased to exist). And this evolution would have the same scope that the logos, subsequently to a situation as insignificant as could be the theorem of the diametrical triangle of Thales (intuited “oracularly,” not proven, but asking for a hecatomb), could have developed applying itself to other domains of the cosmos, and even to the same spherical cosmos of Anaximander or Empedocles.

But oracular philosophy not only flowed through the oracle of Delphi; it flowed again through the oracles of Ephesus, from the temple of Diana, which had been visited by Heraclitus and by St. John. It was, in short, the Christian oracles that, confronted with the Jewish and Mohammedan oracles, announced that God was not unique, individual, but that he was triune, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And this oracle would have been the one that succeeded, among other things, in transforming the ancient individual, the citizen who had already been transformed into a theatrical person through his tragic mask, into a real person.

“Towards the end of the second century there were two opposing monarchist currents, the modalist and the dynamist. The modalist is usually designated by the name of Sabellianism, because of its main representative, Sabellius. The Libyan Sabellius, who taught in Rome and was condemned by Pope Callixtus (217-222), proposed the following formula: One God in three persons, using the word according to its classical sense of role in the theater, of mask. God himself, insofar as He acts as Creator and Ruler of the world, is called Father; when he appears in the role of Incarnate Redeemer, He is called Son; in His role as dispenser of grace, He receives the name of Holy Spirit. This formula had the advantage of allowing Christ to be considered as true God. But at the same time, it eliminated the real distinction between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. According to it, God manifested Himself in three different ways (hence the name modalism), and therefore was called by three different names. This was tantamount to disregarding the testimony of Sacred Scripture, where the real distinction, at least, between Father and Son is clearly expressed. For the rest, Sabellianism was soon discarded. In Rome it was above all the learned presbyter Hippolytus who set himself the task of combating it.

The other direction of monarchianism maintains the real distinction between the Father and the Son, but in order not to endanger the uniqueness of God, it subordinates the Son to the Father (hence the name subordinationism). This direction then branched out into various systems in order to explain in what sense it was still possible to call Christ God: whether God dwelt in the man Christ or whether He conferred upon the man Christ divine forces (dynamis, hence dynamism). Such systems had already been condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (around 200-217), the predecessor of Callixtus, but at every moment they reared their heads again. In the second half of the third century, the bishop of Antioch, Paul of Samosata, was deposed by a synod for holding a similar doctrine. It seems, however, that even later analogous doctrines were taught in Antioch, especially by the learned Lucian, who died a martyr in 312. In the dogmatic polemics of that time, we find readily used by Pope Dionysius (260-268) the formula of the consubstantiality (consubstantialis, in Greek, homoousios) of the Father with the Son, thanks to which the solution was later found.” (Ludwig Hertling, S. I., Historia de la Iglesia, Editorial Herder, Barcelona 1964, second expanded edition, pp. 92-93).

However, the history of philosophical oracles remains to be written. It is necessary to enter more deeply into the analysis of the oracles that spoke in the schism of the West, through Luther, Calvin, Servetus or Newton; and, if you will, Kant or Nietzsche.


In any case, it would not be justified to confuse the history of philosophical oracles with the oracular history of philosophy, which we discussed in our Tessera 128, “Oracular Philosophy.” It could even be said that the oracular history of philosophy assumes an opposite perspective to the history of oracular philosophy, since the former aims to erase the halo of philosophers who deserve to be considered for their doctrines, while the latter aims to transform philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche or Heidegger into oracles.

Such happens in the process of formation of new scattered groups of philosophy professors competent in editorial matters, which are incorporated in the anthological editions of the works of “great thinkers,” presenting, for example today, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche or Heidegger, rather as oracles than as formers of philosophical systems and acting from more or less mystical (oracular) coordinates of anarchist sign.

From 1915 to 1919, the popular library, Los grandes pensadores (The Great Thinkers), promoted by the heirs of the Modern School of Francisco Ferrer Guardia (whose librarian and editor, Mateo Morral Roca, threw the bomb on May 31, 1906 at the wedding procession of Alfonso XIII in the Calle Mayor in Madrid), selected among these great thinkers Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Volney, Lamennais, Michelet, Victor Hugo, all under a common design on all covers, The Thinker by Rodin. In 1925 the library of the Revista de Occidente published six volumes devoted to The Great Thinkers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Giordano Bruno, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. etc.

This article was originally published in El Catoblepas.

Featured: The Oracle, by Camillo Miola; painted in 1880.

What Conspiracy? On the Nefarious Purpose, Means and Ideas of Globalist Imperialism, Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

The Modern Metaphysical Roots of the New Technocratic World


In the first two parts of this essay, I focused upon the globalist purpose behind the destructive domestic use of disinformation within the US-European imperial axis which has asphyxiated liberal democracy, and some of the major geopolitical machinations that have proceeded on the back of fake news. This third part of the essay addresses a larger philosophical set of concerns that might superficially be seen as of little relevance to the crisis of the West today as it sits amidst civil wars and a world war.

This third part is a reflection upon the destructive drives within modern metaphysics beginning with its reconstitution of the cosmos as one in which faith in God is replaced by faith in the powers of our own mind. That faith has come to reveal behaviors as monstrous as any summoned by the human spirit—from the death camps of the all-knowing leaders (Dostoevsky’s God-men), Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol-Pot etc. to the deluded sense of sanctimony of a people caught up in the abstractions of rights’ talk that has fueled the West’s support of a war against Russia in the name of Ukraine liberation to the battle ground now taking place over children as fully sexualized beings to be inducted into the larger culture of the West’s self-understanding as a rights’ and dignity based pleasure sensorium of sexualized identities. This seemingly recent outbreak of the war over childhood sexualism has a long pedigree. Decisions made about US school curricula in sexual education and explicit sex materials being placed in schools go back well over a decade, but the sexual revolution of the 1960s was also accompanied by various calls to lower the age of sexual consent and to overturn prosecutions of adults for sexual conduct with minors.

While it would be hard to argue against the idea that the smashing of sexual restrictions was not an important part of the call to “emancipate” children’s sexuality, one should not also neglect the fact that what was also being overthrown was the idea of the role of adults requiring taking on responsibilities demanding sacrifices. In traditional societies children become inducted into roles and the roles they take on are seen as essential to the group’s survival and well-being.

What happened in the West was the growth of an idea, going at least back to Rousseau, that children knew and should live in accordance with their own nature, albeit with the guidance of tutors such as Émile’s tutor who somehow are able to absolve themselves through their own thinking from the determinations which the rest of the civilized suffer from. As with so much else in Rousseau, the acceptance of this new idea required a break with all preceding social mores—and Rousseau always trusted his intelligence more than the collective intelligence of human beings that preceded him, because they were simply products of human nature deformed by private property, inequality and self-interest.

While Rousseau still had ideas of some sort of transcendence needed for the child’s development, in spite of his determination to liberate the child from prejudice and be more in tune with its innermost nature, he opened up a way of thinking in which the liberation of the self was predicated upon the liberation of the child. And instead of the child being exposed to and required to perform daily acts of the self’s transcendence, instead of experiencing the important lesson that the self becomes a worthwhile self by bowing to higher things of the spirit, and thereby slowly being raised by that spirit, the infant became the center. Freud would christen that infantile center the Id, and whilst doing so, make the sexuality of the infant an important clue to the development of. a person. To be sure he did concede that society could not exist if it merely catered to the sexual drives, and in Civilization and its Discontents, he claimed that it was precisely because the sexual drives were cordoned into more productive enterprises that civilization existed.

At the same time, the core article of faith of Freudian psychology was that the repression of the sex drive from infancy on was the source of most of our psychological distress. How to achieve a balance between our urge to satiate our sexual appetites and how to be civilized required a new kind of priest, mainly Mr. Freud and others who offered the ‘talking cure’ that he had pioneered. It was the kind of thing that appealed to people who like that kind of thing, but it certainly had social efficacy—and to repeat, it placed the desires of the infant at the center of all our psyches and hence at the center of society.

When Herbert Marcuse wrote Eros and Civilization he had hit upon the perfect match—Marx plus Freud—which would supposedly satiate the needs of the modern soul—a social means of production in which as Marx would put it, “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs,” which is to say we could have all the stuff we needed, as well as a grand sex life, provided we got rid of the ruling class and their need to repress our sexual desire so that we could live our lives playfully pursuing our desires. Marcuse was, of course, a huge hit with the youth of the 1960s, and his social “philosophy” is really an adult child’s view of what life has to offer.

The youth he taught were also the beneficiaries of the scientific studies being conducted by the Kinsey Institute and hitting the book stores in 1948 and 1953, respectively, with the Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male and Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female. Kinsey’s “scientific” studies confirmed Freud’s observation infants were sexual beings, and had orgasms.

As Kinsey reported “Orgasm has been observed in boys of every age from 5 months to adolescence. Orgasm is in our record for a female babe of 4 months. After describing in detail the physiological changes that occur during orgasm as well as the aftermath Kinsey discloses that “there are observation of 16 males up to 11 months of age, with such typical orgasm reached in 7 cases. In 5 cases of young preadolescents, observations were continued over periods of months or years, until the individuals were old enough to make it certain that true orgasm was involved.”

Defenders of Kinsey’s studies dismiss the idea that these studies suggest pedophilia must have been happening. Given that Kinsey’s studies were based on “observations” one can only conclude, as Judith Reisman has noted, and as one of Kinsey’s colleagues, C.A. Tripp, in a 1991 interview with Phil Donahue, claimed, that Kinsey’s “trained observers” were pedophiles.

The arc from Kinsey’s reports to sex education courses containing graphic content of children leaning about cunnilingus, anal sex and such like is part of a hyper-sexualized infantile culture, a culture in which adults dress up and play out their fantasies even in the institution of the military. The sexualization of children that proceeds at such a pace today and is lauded by public officials, corporations, teachers, medical professionals, the media and entertainment industries is but one further expression of a culture that has been built upon the expansiveness of the infantile self. The infantile behavior of the adults is best gratified by behaving with children, and as the most meaningful part of the adults’ lives is their pursuit of pleasure, it would be wrong of them not to have children learn what they know—or be what they be. The child has the right to the sexual identity it wants: the rights of the child are the expression of the childishness of the rights being demanded by people who think their suffering in not having their sexual fantasy or not having the pronoun they want is akin to genocide.

This en-culturalization of the infantile self is, though, but the inevitable development of what happens when a society’s faith in technicians who can manipulate bodies as they deem fit for the maximization of one’s own sense of self, and the array of pleasures that await that self if the adequate technological adaptations are made. That self is nothing more than an appetitive bundle of mechanistic processes. All differences between persons are purely of a mechanical order. Thus, too, the difference between an adult and child is only one of the imagination’s prejudices.

Sex with and torture of children was a regular feature in the Marquis de Sade’s stories of gargantuan sexual horror rituals—the children’s role was to be the ultimate stimulant to burst beyond the social limits and curtailment of the imagination. But de Sade understood, as he never ceased to tell his audience, that he was only acting in accordance with reason which was attuned to the mechanical laws of the universe. For much of the twentieth century philosophers and authors have celebrated the transgressions of de Sade, from Sartre and de Beauvoir, to Bataille, to Klossowski, to Blanchot, to Derrida—his admirers are a virtual list of the French intelligentsia. They, though, rarely appreciate what Sade incessantly reminded his readers of, that his philosophy simply expressed the natural conclusion of mechanistic metaphysics.

The post-structuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze is one of the more self-aware of the modern mechanists. His philosophy draws upon numerous precursors, but his reworking of Spinoza’s pan-immanentism and Leibniz’s dynamic monadism is used to develop a philosophy of excess and surplus generating endless difference. In one of his best known works, Anti-Oedipus, cowritten with Félix Guattari, Deleuze holds that Freud tries to constrain desire so that it tapers into the confines of the family. For Deleuze humans are not a “thou” nor an “I” (for Deleuze anything which spelt of a metaphysical privileging and ascribing any kind of transcendence to human beings was a regressive philosophical step) but just another “it.” And this: “It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id. Everywhere it is machines—real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections.”
If this is reality, then how can Sade be wrong? Why should children not be part of the pleasures on offer to what Deleuze regularly refers to the “desiring machine?” What is a child in any case?

At the risk of repeating a point I have made in a previous essay, it is worth mentioning that many of the most prestigious philosophers, authors (Jean-Paul Sartre (his book Nausea had used the character of an autodidactic paedophile as a tragic example of authenticity thwarted by a judgmental society), Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Louis Althusser, André Glucksmann, Roland Barthes, Guy Hocquenhem, Alan Robbe-Grillet and Philippe Sollers) in France were signatories to a 1977 petition calling for the decriminalisation of all “consenting” sexual relations between adults and minors under the age of fifteen (the age of consent in France at that time). That same year also saw a public letter in Le Monde (January 26, 1977) on the eve of the trial of three men accused of having sex with 13 and 14 year old girls and boys, calling for the court to recognize the consent of thirteen year olds as they were treated as having legal responsibility equivalent to adults in other spheres of life.

In addition to the letter being signed by the figures above, it also included the signatures of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jean-François Lyotard, the surrealist poet Louis Aragon, Michel Leyris, the film, theatre and opera director Patrice Chereau, France’s future Minister of Culture and Education, Jack Lang, and Bernard Kouchner, who would become France’s Health Minister and a co-founder of Doctors without Borders, as well as various psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors. The signatories were, in short, the very cream of French society, and what the petition and letter showed were the priorities of the pedagogical and professional class.

The petition and letter are an early symptom of the same kind of priorities which bestow upon the child an urgent sense of its sexual identity and needs that is now exhibited within medical and psychiatric and school boards and legislative bodies in the US, and elsewhere. If a child is taught how to pleasure “itself” by being exposed to the kinds of pleasures available—from masturbation, to cunnilingus, fellatio and anal sex, through Sex Ed courses in schools and school library books—why should they not also decide whether they want the sex organs they have—and, of course, why should they not also take their sexual pleasure from an adult who is attracted to minors?

That last point is central to the cultural wars, which have reached such a pitch of unmitigated defence of the progressive class which wants to rear its children to be fully exposed to sexual needs and identity that it has responded to the recent film about child sex trafficking, The Sound of Freedom, by denouncing it as a right-wing, Q-Anon movie inducing mass hysteria.

Not all the philosophers mentioned above who were signatories to the petition or letter saw themselves as mechanists, however all intellectually operate within the Godless view of world that gave birth to modernity and whose two philosophical poles can be traced back to Réne Descartes. Those two poles to the metaphysics of determinism (everything can be strictly understood as the result of mechanical causes complying to the laws of nature) and voluntarism (the will is the decisive source of our knowledge and hence our world in so far as it is knowable and in so far as we make it, in J.G. Fichte’s terms, a non-I that becomes the material for the fact-acts of the I). They are at the root of modern philosophy’s technocratic and ideological streams. They might on the surface appear to be radically opposed to each other. But just as in Descartes we find the two coming out of the philosophical mind’s desire to control the world to get what it wants—they develop in relative conjunction to each other, something evident in how swiftly the mechanistic metaphysics is deployed for political objectives. The two poles ultimately require cooperation involving the division of labour in which the scientists work focus on the material relations and resources to be hammered into place, while the ideologues administer the human resources (their sentiments, habits, values, organizations, institutions and classes) to be incorporated into the technological assemblage that is the world.

Let me state at the outset, that there is much to admire in Descartes, and that his philosophy is a response to the horrors of almost a century of religious wars in France and the Thirty years wars in which he fought. He was a man seeking a way out of hell. Unfortunately, he created the clearing for a new kind of hell, and just as Marx had no idea that he would be contributing a way of thinking leading to the mass murder of the peasantry (how else could their private property be expropriated if they wished to keep their land?), Descartes may have been astonished to think that what he intended to be so helpful may have turned out to be so diabolical.

1. Descartes and the Metaphysical Foundations of the Modern World

In the annals of philosophy I think no passage has been more fateful than this seemingly innocuous section from the sixth of René Descartes’ Discourse on Method, a book written in the vernacular and for the educated public who might be interested in developing his ideas further.

But as soon as I had acquired some general notions respecting physics, and beginning to make trial of them in various particular difficulties, had observed how far they can carry us, and how much they differ from the principles that have been employed up to the present time, I believed that I could not keep them concealed without sinning grievously against the law by which we are bound to promote, as far as in us lies, the general good of mankind. For by them I perceived it to be possible to arrive at knowledge highly useful in life; and in room of the speculative philosophy usually taught in the schools, to discover a practical, by means of which, knowing the force and action of fire, water, air the stars, the heavens, and all the other bodies that surround us, as distinctly as we know the various crafts of our artisans, we might also apply them in the same way to all the uses to which they are adapted, and thus render ourselves the lords and possessors of nature. And this is a result to be desired, not only in order to the invention of an infinity of arts, by which we might be enabled to enjoy without any trouble the fruits of the earth, and all its comforts, but also and especially for the preservation of health, which is without doubt, of all the blessings of this life, the first and fundamental one; for the mind is so intimately dependent upon the condition and relation of the organs of the body, that if any means can ever be found to render men wiser and more ingenious than hitherto, I believe that it is in medicine they must be sought for. It is true that the science of medicine, as it now exists, contains few things whose utility is very remarkable: but without any wish to depreciate it, I am confident that there is no one, even among those whose profession it is, who does not admit that all at present known in it is almost nothing in comparison of what remains to be discovered; and that we could free ourselves from an infinity of maladies of body as well as of mind, and perhaps also even from the debility of age, if we had sufficiently ample knowledge of their causes, and of all the remedies provided for us by nature…..

But in this I have adopted the following order: first, I have essayed to find in general the principles, or first causes of all that is or can be in the world, without taking into consideration for this end anything but God himself who has created it, and without deducing them from any other source than from certain germs of truths naturally existing in our minds In the second place, I examined what were the first and most ordinary effects that could be deduced from these causes; and it appears to me that, in this way, I have found heavens, stars, an earth, and even on the earth water, air, fire, minerals, and some other things of this kind, which of all others are the most common and simple, and hence the easiest to know… turning over in my mind… the objects that had ever been presented to my senses I freely venture to state that I have never observed any which I could not satisfactorily explain by the principles had discovered.

Descartes always delivered the most breathtakingly novel ideas in a combination of sardonic wit, self-effacement and false modesty, and the Discourse is a rhetorical masterpiece in philosophical irony, as he entices his readers into joining him in forging the new world that lies before us if we but follow his method, while at the same time conceding, that his own talent is but mediocre and his ideas may be but “a little copper and glass,” which he mistakes for diamonds and gold. He has simply made use of the natural reason which all of us have, and with that little bit of reason he has discovered a philosophy that cannot only be applied via experiments to eventually explain everything in the world, but we will be able to live in comfort as we live off the fruits of the earth put at our disposal by labour saving devices—and we might be able to live forever.

The idea of creating a new world did not begin with Descartes—Bacon had already written the New Atlantis some eleven years earlier and, like Descartes, Bacon had dreamt of science opening up the pathway to a new future. But whilst Bacon believed in the importance of experiment Descartes had reconstrued the entire universe so that it complied with a method he had uncovered in part thanks to the metaphysical principles which guaranteed a law-governed universe—for that is what he finds in the innate idea of God, a guarantee that the universe will not play tricks on his mind if he proceeds aright. God is perfect and he is not a deceiver, which also means, as I will pick up again below, that the universe runs according to impermeable laws.

What Descartes envisages is a universe in which all relationships are physical and causal and are spatially arranged—everything is an extended substance, everything except the cognitive operations of the mind-soul (he equates mind and soul, as if this were simply the most natural equation in the world to make) whose function is to identify the requisite method for studying the causal connections between the machine components. Being extended the bodies in motion, ever impacting upon each other, can be geometrically represented. The importance of analytical geometry (number can be represented as figure and vice versa) in Descartes’s corpus was such that his book Geometry was published with the Discourses.

As with Galileo, Descartes believed the book of nature was written in number. And while it is true that his own experiments often ignored the primacy of number, for Descartes being able to dissolve bodies into figure and number gave them the stability that could ensure their manipulation. Unlike sense data which was invariably confused and needs to be better understood—e.g., the sun looks small, and only when we take cognizance of its distance from us can we form a more accurate picture of its proper size—mathematics allows no room for sensory distortion. Mathematics provides us with the most clear and distinct ideas that we can have, and hence in a world of confused sensations, to present the truth as number/figure is to represent the undistorted truth. The truths of testimony, witness, the panoply of truths of the human world, the truths that are historically and culturally revealed, are all dissolved into the vast spatial plenum that is before the eye of the observing subject armed with the Cartesian method.

The great hyperbolic doubt that Descartes enters into before coming out of it by virtue of the rock certainty of him being a thinking being, and thereby moving onto other ideas whose certitude can be identified is like a vortex in which all cultural and historical truths are swallowed up, only to be released if they themselves are capable of being confirmed by the method of analysis and synthesis, and it is with this method, as well as the objectives of its deployment, Descartes launched the Enlightenment. In fact, as we shall see further below, it is also the initial onslaught of what will eventually be the overthrow of Christendom—both of the beliefs and narratives (the ‘ideas’) that hold it together as well as the values that it had cultivated for so long. The preparation for that onslaught is prepared culturally by the new metaphysics and politically comes to fruition in the first anti-Christian revolution since the establishment of Christendom, the French Revolution in which idea of liberty, equality and fraternity replace the Christian virtues as the scale of social, civic, and political importance.

The method of analysis and synthesis, the breaking down of bodies into their simplest parts and then reassembling those parts in order to identify the causal mechanisms at work in a particular phenomenon—the phenomenon is really the epiphenomenon, and the causal mechanisms are responsible for it appearing the way it appears. However, once we identity how the things of the world work, we are better placed to discovery ways that may help us improve our conditions. The mass social deployment of scientists using laboratories to invent new cures, “machines,” and technologies is the great forest seeded by Descartes slim philosophical volumes.

The application of that method requires, as is evident in his works on Optics and Meteorology, that one must make models of the bodies to be studied in order to derive the laws governing their interaction. The making of models involves the use of the imagination. But it is the imagination in service to the faculty of ‘the understanding’ whose task is to coordinate and organize the data presented to the senses which is invariably deceptive via the method he supplies so one can identify the regularities of what Galileo had already identified as primary qualities, and thereby focus upon them as the causes, as opposed to the secondary qualities, or mere epiphenomenon.

In the pre-Galileo and pre-Cartesian world where Aristotle still reigned, bodies had specific qualities such as lightness or heaviness, dampness or dryness, heat or coldness and such like, and hence the study of Physics proceeded by investigating bodies on the basis of those qualities, and making generalizations about them. The great break-through in Physics came when it is was realized that the underlying agitations, motions, repulsions and attractions, velocities and masses held the key to physical properties and the laws that governed them.

Ernst Cassirer in his Theory of Knowledge has pointed out that what distinguished Bacon from Descartes, was that while both saw Aristotle as the great stumbling block to physics (Galileo also made little secret of his hostility to Aristotle, and paid the price for it), Bacon still proceeded experimentally along Aristotelian lines, while Descartes dissolved the world of senses into the motion of bodies that could be geometrically and numerically represented.

As I have indicated Descartes was, up to a point, following in the footsteps of Galileo. But as the above passage illustrates, the real innovation of Descartes was (analytic geometry aside) not so much in the specific scientific discoveries he made, and the reason he is still studied today in universities, and why he is the grandfather of philosophism as technocratism, is his expansion of the significance of the ideas coming out of developments in astronomy and physics going back at least to Copernicus, and providing a metaphysics, a view of the entire universe, which would enable us to literally start again and turn the world—and by world he meant the universe—into an object for us subjects. The task is a grand one indeed. It requires an army of researchers pooling their results so that one day they may truly be able to make of the world what they will, which as the passage above suggests would be a more comfortable world. As is typical of Descartes, the rendering of philosophy into what is essentially a utilitarian enterprise in which we study the world to achieve greater comfort, the radical nature of the meaning he ascribes to this new philosophy is passed over as if it were of little consequence.

To be subjects—i.e., the potential lords and possessors or masters of the universe—required cognizance of the method to be deployed to make us so powerful. It is the importance of that method that is behind what is to this day still thrown out to philosophy undergraduates as a major mystery in which Descartes has two substances—body and mind—and a metaphysics that can readily be resolved if it were merely appreciated that there is no mind as such, which so the argument goes is where Descartes went awry. The mystery of Descartes’s dualism does not preserve though, if one pays attention to what he says and does rather than to the more traditional meaning of the soul as a thing or substance in the Platonic, or Christian traditions (even allowing for the fact that the Platonic and Christian soul are also not the same thing).

Descartes uses the language of substance to describe the mind, thereby giving the impression it is a “thing.” But the entire division between mind and body is to distinguish between what are cognitive operations and what has spatial extension. The point of Descartes drawing philosophical attention to the cognitive functions is to dispel the false way of thinking in which sensation overpowers the understanding and the imagination becomes overpowered by sensations which leave our minds caught up in the confusion that his philosophy was designed to dispel.

When Descartes’ “student” Father Malebranche writes, “Imagination is a lunatic that likes to play the fool. Its leaps and unforeseen starts distract you, and me as well,” he is being a diligent student of Descartes, the same is the case for Spinoza’s various disparaging comments about the imagination. Reigning in the imagination, and making it a servant of the capacity to understand is the decisive undertaking of the Enlightenment launched by Descartes. Indeed, the importance of identifying the operations of the mind and soul is inseparable from using a method for properly conducting one’s reason—i.e., properly conducting one’s reason means not being misled by the senses and the imagination. Now the point of this is that it would be meaningless—what the 20th century philosopher Gilbert Ryle would call a “category mistake”—to speak of method in the same language as one addresses extended substance. The division between mind-soul-cognitive functions-method and extension-bodies in space-nature-what we know thanks to the application of the method is total and being total Descartes can say he has proven that the mind does not die: it does not die because it is not a substance in the same way that a body is, but the dummies (for Descartes his enemies really are dummies) speak of it as if it is. It is a substance precisely in the terms that Descartes says it is—and it is purely a combination of operations, whose purpose is to have clear and distinct ideas about the world so that we can master it.

Now, as is clear in the Passions of the Soul, we can indeed talk about the mind impinging upon the body and vice versa. But that is not when we are speaking about rightly conducting our reason according to a method. When though we want to carry out a bodily action in accordance with an idea of the mind we are now in the land of a mind in union with a body, and the only way that union can take place is mechanically/corporeally, which is why Descartes believed he had located the point of union in the pineal gland. Irrespective of the particular location, the Passions of the Soul is an utter physicalist account of the soul-mind. It is a pioneering work in behavioral psychology in which, just as in Psychology courses today, we are introduced to the idea of the brain being divided into various parts which serve different mental functions.

In other words, and to sum up at the risk of repetition, just as Descartes’s philosophy is dualist—it provides a method based upon the operations of the mind-soul, and it presents observations about the world (the extended substance) based upon that method, it also provides a dualistic account of the mind-soul: in one the mind-soul is a bundle of cognitive operations, which will be taken up by philosophers from Locke to Kant, who will follow him and develop a “logic” (i.e., they will try to identify the various “elements”) of the “faculties” of the mind, in the other it is essentially the brain. The questions one is asking will lead one to one or other—if I ask how should I generally proceed to understand some phenomenon of nature I am led to consider the mind as a substance having no connection to the extended world which I wish to survey; if I ask why can I no longer speak after an accident, or even how is the mind involved in talking or seeing, even in identifying forms, colours etc. then I am in the realm of extension, and have to investigate the brain to understand what is transpiring within the mind.

Philosophers who commence with Descartes’ arguments for the existence of God and the soul, or who rip these arguments out of the larger cloth of his philosophy invariably ignore (a) how his philosophy introduces new content into these two names and (b) where they fit into the larger purpose of his philosophy of freeing us from the confused imaginings that we have made of the sensations we have accepted as true because we have hitherto not properly understood them.

The metaphysics especially as presented to the schoolmen in the Meditations may appear traditional, but what is done with it is as untraditional as the aims of the philosophy are. Apart from the fact Descartes says in various letters that he is advancing his teachings behind a mask, that he is pouring new wine into old bottles, that he only spends a few hours a year on metaphysics, and apart from the even more obvious fact that his attempts to seduce the school men still pre-dominating in the universities in France did not work, at least initially, and that the Catholic Descartes was far freer and safer in Protestant lands, it is the content of his metaphysics that shows just how remote from anything traditionally Christian his philosophy is. Indeed, that is nowhere more obvious than when Descartes is presenting himself as most “orthodox” as he wants to prove the existence of God and the soul (and of the soul I have said enough).

Although Christian philosophers, commencing most famously with Anselm, had long since been sufficiently influenced by Greek philosophy to make an argument for God’s existence, thereby making him commensurate with our God given powers of reason, traditionally God’s existence is based upon testimony not demonstration. That is the required reading for understanding God’s ways and deeds is the bible not any work by a theologian. That becomes of fundamental importance when we inquire into the deeds of God as opposed to merely wishing to satiate our intellectual curiosity over the question whether God exists.

Generally scholastic philosophy uses reason to try and mediate between seemingly contrary passages in scripture. The problem of scriptural contradiction was thrown down by Abelard, and the most all-encompassing attempt at a major resolution was Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Luther’s animosity to Aquinas would be due to what he saw as a deranged concession to paganism that elevated reason far above its station. Irrespective of Luther’s critique, Aquinas was more interested in reconciling reason and faith so that reason could not tear faith apart, rather than simply making reason the pilot for scouring the all-encompassing totality of the universe. Aquinas respected Aristotle, for Aristotle was an intelligent seeker of truth, but the truth that offered salvation was a revealed truth. Thus too, for example, Dante must leave Aristotle in the first circle of hell—which is actually not that unpleasant, but dwelling there is to be dwelling in a condition where one has been satiated by one’s own intelligence more than God’s grace.

With Descartes God’s grace is completely irrelevant as indeed is prayer, or indeed any kind of personal relationship. God is an idea, an innate idea of reason to be sure, but an idea of perfection that offers the promise of Descartes and those who join him eventually being able to understand the universe. The traditional understanding of Christian salvation simply has no place in the God of Descartes. Pascal would put his finger on the central issue when he said, “I cannot forgive Descartes. In his whole philosophy he would like to dispense with God, but he could not help allowing Him a flick of the fingers to set the world in motion, after which he had no more use for God.” God serves a function in the larger project of philosophical understanding by providing a metaphysical reason to accept a law-governed universe—and without that principle the entire Cartesian-modern scientific enterprise is useless.

We should note also the primary take away that Descartes has in focussing upon God’s perfection, viz. that God does not deceive. This gives Descartes the go ahead to carry on studying nature in accordance with the method of analysis and synthesis, in spite of the delusionary nature of the appearances that leads him to undertake his hyperbolic doubt. He has used theology to make a metaphysical claim in a system that, apart from its underlying metaphysic and the method which he lays down, could eventually give us knowledge of everything.

With respect to the claim that God does not deceive, there are indeed scriptural references to God never lying e.g., Hebrews 6: 18: “[it is] impossible for God to lie,” Titus 1:2: “God, who never lies.” Yet God also puts “a lying spirit in the mouths” of unrighteous prophets (1 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 18:22), and in 2 Thessalonians 2: 8-12 we read:

Then shall be revealed the Lawless One, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the manifestation of his presence, [him,] whose presence is according to the working of the Adversary, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all deceitfulness of the unrighteousness in those perishing, because the love of the truth they did not receive for their being saved, and because of this shall God send to them a working of delusion, for their believing the lie, that they may be judged—all who did not believe the truth, but were well pleased in the unrighteousness.

As this passage, and indeed all the passages cited indicate, the matter of God’s veracity or willingness to have the lies and deceit of the unrighteous be turned against them has absolutely nothing to do with what it is Descartes is seeking, viz., confirmation that the world is not created by an evil genius but conforms to laws laid down by a perfect being. But rather the matter of God’s veracity as it is broached in the bible has to do with the relationship between Him and His people, his believers. It is a matter of the veracity of the word, but Descartes’s philosophy has no real interest in the word as such, nor in any covenant with God, nor in eternal salvation.

Kant, who is the beneficiary of more than a century of metaphysical disputation will demonstrate why Descartes’ and indeed any other ontological argument about God’s existence defies our knowledge, and hence why God is only a “mere idea,” which for knowledge may serve a heuristic idea for faith in the systemic unity of our knowledge. Unlike Descartes he disengages the idea of the world-universe being a totality of laws from the existence of God, by making the cognitive components involved in the formation of knowledge the source of law. That is, he is even more consistent than Descartes himself in his elevation of the role of the subject in the acquisition of knowledge. And further the idea of God is retained only to the extent it is a matter of rational faith—not knowledge as such. But in this as so much else Kant simply has a more profound understanding of what a law governed universe along strictly causal principles must mean than Descartes who is simply using the metaphysics to get to the real work of science, and in doing so attempts to draw the faithful into a new, and far more restricted, far more rational understanding of God as a perfect being.

Unintentionally—and to his ire, because he was witness to the early developments by Fichte and the young Schelling in this direction—Kant had inspired the birth of the romantic approach to knowledge in which the “I” is not simply, as in Descartes, the basis of a proper foundation for gaining knowledge to master the universe, but the source of its making, for nature in itself is but the I writ large (this will be a step too far for Schelling who retrieves Spinoza in his battle with Fichte).

But tarrying with Descartes, his talk of God not being a deceiver ultimately leads to a claim that simply must be the case if Descartes’ philosophy is followed consistently. And it is a claim that he would only disclose in his book The World, a work that appeared in print only after his death, viz., that there are no miracles. If there were miracles then God would be intervening and thereby disrupting the infinite causal chain that makes the world the way it is.

Those who want to take Descartes at his word and see his demonstration of the proof of the
existence of God and the soul as acts of a pious man are stuck with the fact that their man of piety has completely changed the nature of God to fit his idea of who and what God is. One may think that is terrific, but it cannot be passed off as either Christian or Catholic in any traditional sense.

Christianity is based upon the centrality of the miraculous in our lives: from the miracle of creation itself, to the miracle of the triune God, to the miracle of God sending his Son to redeem the world, to the miracles that Jesus performed on earth, to the miracle of the resurrection, and indeed to the miracles that transpire in our everyday life thanks to God’s grace and the Holy Spirit. Irrespective of the fact that some philosophers who lauded Descartes such as Father Malebranche believed his philosophy was compatible with their faith, there is simply no way of bypassing the issue that Descartes’ Deism—and indeed all subsequent deists—are introducing an idea of God that has no place left for any of the most important teachings of the Christian faith, whether that be a personal loving triune God, or a God that so loves the world that he sends his only begotten son, or that his son performed miracles on earth and was resurrected.

This was the grand take away from a philosopher who was so determined to rebuild the world on the basis of clear and distinct ideas that he went in search of the indubitable, and that indubitable starting point was not as it is for Christians, faith itself, but his own thinking. That was, as has often been noted, a variation of an argument originally made by Augustine, about the impossibility of refuting that one is a thinking being when one is thinking. But Augustine uses that doubt to then move to a God who does not simply dispel his doubt but gives his life a mission and purpose—Augustine serves his God because his God saves him from sin and offers him redemption. Such a God has nothing in common with a God who is an innate idea and not a person. Likewise, the self of Augustine is not akin to the Cartesian self. The self in the Christian tradition is not a fulcrum for building a universe, but a dependent, fragile and sinful creature caught twixt the flesh of its “warring members” and the soul’s salvation that may be granted by God’ s grace. For Christians all souls have the prospect of redemption open to them by virtue of God Himself being the sacrifice.

The world in which the followers of Luther and Calvin did battle with each other as well as with the Roman Church was one in which the seemingly smallest differences concerning interpretation of a piece of scripture, or the ritual of the mass, or even the appearance of the Church, and even larger differences such as the role of the priest-preacher, how the body of the faithful should be organized and practice their rituals, which prayers they should say or sing, which parts of the Bible might need to be withdrawn because they were “false” and so on were matters of such extreme importance that they would even trigger men to make war with each other.

The young Descartes, as mentioned above, had himself fought for three years, initially signing up with the Protestant Prince, Maurice of Nassau, in the war that had been the culmination of religious wars. I think it impossible to ignore the importance of that war which wreaked such devastation in Europe as playing a major part in the formation of philosophical deism, as a way of bridging confessional divisions within Christendom. Moreover, philosophical deism of the Cartesian sort was but one attempt to create a synthesis of religion and science. A more occult variety, which Descartes was aware of, existed in the writings of the members of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross.

Descartes’ early biographer Adrien Baillet mentions that Descartes unsuccessfully tried to contact them. Though it was questionable whether outside of such writings as, The Confession of the Rosicrucian Fraternity (1615), and The Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreuz (1616), there was any actual fraternity—it was rumoured that its members were chimerical, which, as Descartes reasoned, would explain why he could not find them. As I pick up below the development of secret societies in Europe, particularly the Free Masons and Illuminati, would play an important role in spreading ideas that deviated from Christian doctrine whilst being far more compatible with the kinds of theological ideas that accompanied the new metaphysics.

2. Anti-Cartesian Metaphysics in Spinoza, Locke and Kant

With respect to the larger cultural and intellectual landscape in the aftermath of Descartes’ metaphysics, in spite of the plethora of metaphysical disputations about what God and the soul are and do, whether space, for example, is an organ of God (Newton and Clarke) or not (Leibniz), the analysis of clear and distinct ideas which can enable us to identify the inviolable mechanical laws which constitute the world and our experience as properly identified by the understanding is a constant. And the division between what would become known as the dispute between rationalists and empiricists is not about whether one group is genuinely dispensing with the use of reason in making inferences to the extent that experiment is not warranted, but the extent to which experiment is dependent upon principles, including mathematical ones.

This is, though, another way of also saying that all post-Cartesian metaphysics, whether the raw materialism of Hobbes, the pure idealism of Berkeley, the dogmatic empiricism of Locke, the parallelism of Spinoza, the ‘panlogism’ of Leibniz, or the transcendental idealism of Kant (which is an attempt to reconcile all by showing the point up until which they are right and where they then go wrong) make reason and its comprehension of the laws of nature the touchstone of truth. Some of these philosophers, like Spinoza, Hobbes, and Leibniz see a miracle as either a word for what has not been properly understood, or, what is essentially the same thing something explicable via natural and scientific means.

Others who are outspoken defenders of the faith like Locke, Berkeley and Malebranche also see the new philosophy as consistent with occasional miracles. While a work such as Locke’s The Reasonableness of Christianity, a work largely consisting of biblical references lends support to what seemed to be his public attack upon deism, a more cautious reading as provided by Cornelio Fabro in a book I consider to be the most masterful examination of the philosophical roots of modern atheism—God in Exile: Modern Atheism, A Study in the Internal Dynamics of Modern Atheism, from its roots in the Cartesian Cognito to the Present Day, makes the compelling case that confirms the total cleft between what Pascal delineated as the God of the philosophers and scientists, and the God of Abram, Isaac, and Joseph.

Fabro calls Locke’s theology a “Deism of the right,” which, as Fabro indicates, is a defense of Christianity that does claim that scripture and Christianity are true—but that is only to the extent that the truths revealed are what Locke the philosopher identifies as reasonable. As the very title mentioned above of Locke’s major work on the topic, this requires contingency to be reasonable. But human stories are not strictly the result of mental inferences, they involve encounters. And encounters are contingent, particularly meaningful ones might be called miraculous. That is not because the miraculous is reasonable (Locke’s argument for why we should accept miracles), but because the meaning of the encounter is of such a magnitude that we can only attribute its occurrence to God’s grace. And God’s grace has nothing to do with what our reasons make of it.

In keeping with the reduction of Christianity to a rational religion, Christianity in Locke’s hands is, as Fabro rightly points out, the same as we find in Kant, a natural religion and ethic. As Locke puts it in The Reasonableness of Christianity, Christ “inculcates to the people, on all occasions, that the kingdom of God is come: he shows the way of admittance into this kingdom, viz. repentance and baptism; and teaches the laws of it, viz., good life, according to the strictest rules of virtue and mortality.” Try making sense of the redemption of the thief on the cross by resorting to “the strictest rules of virtue and morality.”

The centerpiece of Locke’s thought, and where he hopes not only to correct the faulty metaphysics of Descartes, but to establish once and all for the nature and limits of “the human understanding” is his sense perceptionism, and as Fabro points out later English deists such as Collins, Dodwell, Coward, Hartley, Priestly, and the rest, were to sweep away the last theological restriction adhering to Locke’s sense-perceptionism.

Irrespective of the particular emphasis of any of the post-Cartesian metaphysicians they all concur that whatever mental constraints there are upon us will need to come from reason itself, and where God is invoked it is the God of philosophers. This, though, is predicated upon another element of faith that contravenes the Christian tradition, viz. it dispenses with original sin, at least as far as reason is concerned, and it also radically reconfigures value.

That reconfiguration is played out through various influential philosophical positions, and invariably they involve disputation.

I will just mention a few that have enormous consequence in ensconcing what we now live within, a hybrid culture of a mechanical understanding of what humans are (and hence how they can be technologically superseded) and an idealist value system in which dignity (respect), equality (equity), freedom (emancipation) and the like are invoked to legitimate the world we are making and our behavior in it.

Descartes himself had initially indicated that the new philosophy would provide the content for ethics, and that his philosophy had opened up the prospect of humanity finding a new dwelling, though he was quite content to counsel obedience to customary authority—implying as he did so that those authorities and those customs might not be deemed consistent with reason’s natural light.

Spinoza was Descartes’ most openly radical student, and anyone who doubts the extent of his intellectual influence in attracting readers to a more enlightened and non-Christian view of society should read Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650–1750, and his more recent, Spinoza, Life and Legacy. Whereas Descartes was cautious, Spinoza was bold—even Hobbes (whose Leviathan is a mechanistic account of the political body and the source of sovereignty), is reported in the brief biography of him by Aubrey to have exclaimed when reading Spinoza’s Theological Political Treatise, “I durst not write so boldly.” Spinoza uses the principles of the new philosophy to write an Ethics, reimagine the structure, and purpose of the state, primarily so that it may function in order to protect the work of philosophers and scientists like himself. He would also argue that the bible was a collection of myths, whose true grounding and history would reveal what a human-all-too human book it was.

Spinoza is invariably taught in Philosophy classes as a metaphysical opponent of Descartes. But such a reading magnifies the metaphysical differences between the two (Spinoza is a monist, not a dualist, and allows no scope for the free will—though the free will in Descartes is also just a cognitive operation of acceptance or denial of the information to be incorporated into one’s understanding about the material being studied) to the extent that it smothers the far larger affinity of the purpose and rationale of establishing the metaphysics. And, as with Descartes, it is to render the entirety of nature as one vast body of laws which the philosopher-scientist (at this time a scientist was still considered to be a “natural philosopher”) will study in order that we live better. Like Descartes Spinoza allows no room for miracles, for that would require departing from a strictly causal chain of bodies/powers.

Most radically Spinoza would simply dissolve God into nature. Strictly speaking Spinoza is a pantheist, rather than a deist, but in the bigger picture of cultural transformation that is merely a moot distinction of importance of philosophers, but not to how religion figures in life. Also, of great importance in the subsequent transformation of European culture was the claim in Spinoza’s Ethics that pleasure is the good, and pain the evil. Utilitarianism—which forms the basis of modern economic thinking—takes off from this position, and the self simply becomes a pleasure maximizing agent.

Sade was, to pick up on my earlier point, the most transgressive and unrestrained because he took pleasure in pain, both receiving it and inflict it—his thought was the consummation of a mechanistic view of life in which pleasure in its most extreme forms is the purpose of life.

To be sure, one would find it difficult to find a character less like the debauched Sade than Spinoza, and Spinoza’s Ethics is a work devoted to improving the human understanding, so that improvement of one’s understanding by being attentive to nature and its laws, and living in accordance with what the mind has understood is virtue itself, and that is the genuinely pleasurable life. But to a Sade, Spinoza simply seems too tame, unable or unwilling to throw everything into the furnace where life and death are all part of the same tumult of appetites, drives, and desires that are intrinsic to a cosmos which endlessly begets and devours life itself—and is evil. By embracing evil Sade takes his revenge on the cosmos by playing and embracing the game of endless extinction, by taking joy in it. The cosmos is evil—and so is Sade.

If Spinoza had laid down an ethic in which freedom is simply living how we must, as our lives are determined, Kant’s philosophy would pick up on the more normatively developed claims that were intrinsic to the those politically inflected philosophies which were appealing to rights. Whereas the arc from Spinoza, Hobbes and Bentham saw rights, and the natural law theories they derived from, as simply surrogate words for power, or as Bentham put it bluntly “nonsense on stilts,” Locke, and Rousseau, albeit in different ways, were making “rights” the basis of their respective critiques of traditional, i.e., monarchies invested with prerogative power, political orders they wished to be rid of.

Kant’s moral theory would have political implications—all constitutions should be republican, but he saw the larger problem of mechanism in its view of human beings as lacking freedom and thereby any moral purpose, or dignity. If morals are but powers, as they would be if we are but links in a great causal chain, then all we are talking about is force. Kant sought to defend moral right, and human dignity, by locating their source in reason itself. To this end his philosophy is genuinely dualist, and even more consistently and rigorously so than Descartes’ (though he does attempt to explicate how the faculty of judgment—in matters of biology, art and ideas about moral progress—serves to mediate between the phenomenal [what can be experienced and hence known] and noumenal [what is but the mind’s own rational creation]).

Kant’s dualism consists in arguing that the nature and legitimate scope of the elements of the mind’s forms and functions—the gathering of knowledge and the creation of moral ideals—can be strictly identified. Philosophers have heretofore failed to recognize that the elements of cognition that have an indispensable function in enabling our sensory representations to become knowledge have taken on a false reality thereby deluding us into thinking we have knowledge of God, the immortal soul, and moral freedom—all of which are but ideas that come from the faculty of reason’s own operations. They are not objects of possible experience, and not being so, we cannot disprove their existence. We can identify that they serve a moral purpose and thus we may accept these ideas as forming the basis of a rational faith.

I do not want to go into the details of Kant’s flawed arguments except to say the elements Kant insisted were unassailable all became assailable within the next century. More specifically, developments in geometry and logic rendered the Euclidean nature of space and time (the bedrock of his analysis of the a priori elements of the faculty of “intuition”), and the Aristotelian logical elements he thought settled that had provided the key to his table of categories of the “understanding,” as superseded. Kant’s constructivist theory of mathematics, which had to be true, for the rest of his theory of knowledge to work, convinced none of importance then or later. The very next generation of post-mechanistic metaphysicians were done with the strictures of Descartes and the investigations of those who “led” to Kant.

But, irrespective of the adequacy of Kant’s argument, his claim that the rational nature of human beings warrants that we should morally see ourselves as a member of a moral commonwealth, a commonwealth of ends and not means and thus deserving dignity and respect has subsisted along with a view of selves as driven by appetites is conspicuous in how readily the contemporary mind flicks a switch between rights and respect talk to talk of pleasure, appetites and determinations. The contradictions of an age or group do indeed provide the key to their motivations and priorities. Kant’s dualism is also built upon his recognition that our empirical selves are prone to what he would call radical evil, which simply meant for him, our propensity to have our moral principles tainted by our desires and drives. On the surface, this seems to be Kant’s rational concession to the Christian doctrine of original sin—except it is not. It is his way of making reason itself impervious to appetite—so that if we but apply the moral imperative to any circumstance we at least know what we should do.

The problems with the categorical imperative were exhaustively demolished by Hegel who notes that no example provided by Kant does not already draw upon the communal value in the sheer nomenclature and indeed in the very examples themselves of what constitutes a moral dilemma. Kant’s account of “practical reason,” or moral theory, is predicated upon him having adequately delineated the “bounds of experience,” by establishing which elements of reason are essential for perceiving, judging, and making inferences about experiences, and then which kind of claims are not strictly beholden to those elements, but to what reason itself supplies as ideas of its own making that do not contravene the requisites of experience: God, soul and freedom, he says don’t, because they are “mere ideas of reason.”

On the surface, by arguing that our moral claims are but judgments expressing what we all ought to do (categorical imperatives) and accepting that one can never rule out the impure motive of why someone is appealing to the imperative it may look as if Kant is simply recognising that we can only ask of reason that it helps us aspire to our ideals. And that is a good thing, surely? But frankly Kant only muddies the waters by having such an absolute severance between ideal and motive. If we are prone to radical evil then why bother thinking our morals suffice to make us God-like? Kant also claims that a just constitution that simply requires we observe the laws, irrespective of our motives, is a good thing. Kant once famously framed the task of politics as creating a constitution for even a race of devils, forgetting to account for the fact that those who administer it would still be nothing more than devils, and thus use the constitution for diabolical gains. The constitution of pure reason is but an occasion for diabolical interests to act behind the idealist smokescreen of the delusions of those satisfied by their own reasons and gullibility.

The technocratic vision of being lords and masters of the universe might seem to have been based in the pursuit of knowledge alone, but it was inevitably a political vision. And while Rousseau and his epigone, including Kant, thought they could ensure a politics of moral rectitude if they but redesigned our institutions so that liberty and equality and the general will would prevail, there were a few insurmountable problem—humans just aren’t that good, and nor are their reasons that compelling when it comes to trying to get agreement. The French revolutionaries justified their behavior on the basis of their reasons, and what they delivered was civil war, terror and the creation of the greatest military regime on earth at the time. Ideas and reality, what we want and what we do—they refuse to match up.

3. Concluding Note on Philosophism and the French Revolution

Augustin Barruel’s Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism is one of the most brilliant critical accounts of the French revolution ever written—Edmund Burke was one of its admirers, and as someone who regularly used to teach Burke’s Reflections of the Revolution in France, I think Barruel’s a far more important work. It is often disparaged as being but the father of modern conspiracy theory thinking. That is primarily because Barruel documents the involvement in the revolution of the French Free Masons—an involvement that few historians of the French revolution say much about, even though pretty well all are aware of the fact that the lodges along with the salons and political clubs were a major place of political intrigue and discussion—and, as well, the Bavarian Illuminati.

At much the same time as Barruel was writing his book, the former Mason and Scottish natural philosopher John Robison had written his Proofs of A Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Government of Europe Carried on in the Secret Meetings of the Free Masons, Illuminati and Religious Societies Collected from Good Authorities. Both books are meticulous researched and draw upon reams of quotations of writings and letters from Free Masons, and Adam Weishaupt (“Spartacus”) and other members of the Illuminati about the program and political involvement of the Illuminati and Masons. Both organizations adopted mythic foundations thus claiming ancient pedigrees.

Barruel also makes a convincing argument about how a number of key masonic beliefs and objectives have antecedents in the Manicheans and Knights Templars—which is very different from claiming as some modern conspiracy theorists as well as Masons think that there is a direct lineage going back to antiquity, and the secret attempt to control the world has been going on for millennia. While the Illuminati were happy to infiltrate the Masons, not all Masons were interested in revolution, indeed there were royalist Masons who seemed to have no idea of what subversive purpose the Masons could be serving. Barruel also emphasizes that the French and British lodges were completely different beasts and that the politics of the French lodges was far more radical. Barruel argues throughout that the Masons, at its highest levels, were an anti-Christian, as much as they were an anti-royalist, force. And, indeed, the supreme being recognized by the Masons is identical to the deism of the philosophers, as well as Robespierre and his faction. While Barruel and Robinson both see the Masons and Illuminati as pernicious social forces which circulated ideas that would contribute to the destruction of throne and altar, neither are saying that there were not other factors which made the revolution.

The various crises in France—its debt, its dysfunctional administrative and taxation “system,” the class antagonisms especially with respect to tax payment and avoidance, and various events of panic and violence that made the revolution—had little if anything to do with the Masons or Illuminati. But the secret societies provided forums of discussion and deliberation for those seeking to take advantage of the chaotic circumstances that enabled a new ruling class. I will not enter here into which particular moments Barruel thought involved conspiratorial machinations of the Masons or illuminati, but generally
Barruel sees the philosophes, most conspicuously Voltaire and D’Alembert whose works and correspondence he was steeped in and Montesquieu and Rousseau as playing the major role in generating the ideas that would hold sway in the revolution.

Today we would not usually think of a conspiracy taking place when philosophers in class rooms or in conferences openly talk about creating a utopia and overthrowing this oppressive society. Indeed, it is now seen as completely normal that people pay taxes to have people use the university as a platform for the radical overthrow of that society’s foundations and traditions. But when Voltaire and friends—that included Frederick the Great, who Barruel detests for his vanity and willingness to tarry so long with such explosive ideas—speak of overthrowing throne and altar they are generally aware that these are things that must be aired with circumspection and delicacy. And Barruel devotes much of his effort to bringing to light the more revolutionary ideas that are to be found in the correspondence of Voltaire and D’Alembert, the ideas of Montesquieu, Rousseau and the Encyclopedists.

While the professional classes involved in the revolution were as much responding to circumstances as creating new ones that invariably overpowered them, their decisions were also fueled by the heady concoction of ideas that had swept them together—and not too much later divided them in blood.

All of this notwithstanding, the role played in the French revolution by philosophy, not only in shaping the appeals and narratives of the revolutionaries but also in the drafting of the constitutions—was unlike anything that had ever preceded it. (Though philosophical ideas had played an important role in the American Declaration of independence, it is hard to make the case that the American war of Independence was primarily driven by philosophical ideas.) One only has to consider how Locke’s philosophy comes after the English revolution, while the most important philosophers whose names were invoked during the French revolution preceded it.

Surprisingly Barruel says nothing of Descartes in his Memoirs; and whilst he mentions Descartes in his Les helviennes, ou Lettres provinciales philosophique, there is no indication of the founding role of Descartes in the revolutionary ideas and spirit of “philosophism.” In part. Barruel’s silence on Descartes may be explained by the ambivalence in which Descartes was held by many after his philosophy came to become accepted within the institutions which had once been the fortress of scholasticism, as well as the royal patronage his ideas received from the later part of the seventeenth century. Thus, Stéphanne van Damme notes in his “Restaging Descartes. From the Philosophical Reception to the national Pantheon”: that in the second part of the Eighteenth Century, “Descartes ceased to represent a renegade” and was seen “as a representative of the Old Regime.” Van Damme provides a concise but important account of the role of princely patrons in helping the circulation of Cartesian thought. The following is a pertinent part of the story:

In a rare process, by surpassing the limits of aristocratic sociability, by moving into princely circles, Cartesian philosophy became a truly cultural phenomenon during the seventeenth Century. First, Cartesianism was integrated into noble educational practices. Thus, Rohault, the Prince de Conti’s tutor, and Jacques Sauveur, the Duke d’Enghien’s tutor, contributed to this aristocratic passion for Cartesian physics. The Prince de Condé’s Jesuit tutors led the way in teaching Cartesianism. In January 1684, the Jesuit father Du Rosel spoke of the philosophical education of the young Duke d’Enghien: “We continue to examine the questions of place and space. We read what the Principes of Descartes have to say on this subject, and what they can contribute to an understanding of the difference between the old and the new Philosophy.”

Another pertinent part of the story which is indicative of the ambivalence surrounding Descartes’ contribution to the Enlightenment, was the central weakness in his physics, and—weaknesses which were often connected with the metaphysics—most brutally exposed by Newton. Indeed the triumph of Isaac Newton’s physics meant the complete defeat of Cartesian physics. In Newton’s De gravitatione et aequipondio fluidorum, a paper written in 1666 on hydrostatics, a very large digression (about four fifths of the paper) occurs in which Newton provides a detailed critique of Descartes’ conceptions of motion, space, and body (a translation by the philosopher Jonathan Bennett can be found here.

It is worth citing the following passage which exposes how the deficiencies in the physics and metaphysics are of apiece:

We take from body (just as he (Descartes) bids) gravity, duration, and all sensible qualities, so that nothing finally would remain except what belongs to its essence. Will, accordingly, extension only remain? Not at all. For we reject additionally that capacity or power by which the perceptions of thinking things move. For when the distinction is only between the ideas of thinking and extension so that something would not be manifest to be the foundation of the connection or relation unless that be caused by divine power; the capacities of bodies can be rejected with this reserved extension, but it would not be rejected with the reserved bodily nature. Obviously, the changes which can be induced in bodies by natural causes are only accidental and not denoting the substance actually to be changed.
But if anything could induce the change which transcends natural causes, it is more than accidentally and has radically attainted the substance. According to the sense of the demonstration those only are being rejected of which body, by force of nature, can be void and deprived. But no one would object that bodies which are not united to minds cannot immediately move their perceptions. And hence
when bodies are given united to minds by nothing, it will follow (that) this power is not among their essentials. The observation is that this does not act by actual union but only by the capacity of bodies by which they are capable of this union by force of nature. As by whatever capacity belongs to all bodies, it is manifest from it that the parts of the brain, especially the more subtle by which the mind is united, are
in continual flux, the new ones succeeding to those flying off. And it is not lesser to take (off) this, whether regarding the divine achievement or bodily nature, than to take (off) the other capacity by which bodies in themselves are able alternately to transfer mutual actions, that is, than to force body back into empty space.

The decisive victory of Newton over Cartesianism—to put it in its most simple and stark terms—was Newton’s demonstration of the fact that bodies did attract and repel each other at a distance and hence that the strictures Descartes placed upon the contiguity of bodies was false, and his vision of the universe as consisting of a plenum filled with vortexes, it was a universe in which no space was not filled with matter. Newton would famously say in his Principia, “Hypotheses non fingo” (“I feign no hypotheses”). Those three words would suffice to render Descartes’ physics a monstrous concoction of rationalism not much better than Aristotle’s concoctions.

Throughout the 1730s and 1740s Voltaire entered into the “wars” between the Newtonians and Cartesians (most famously in his Lettres philosophiques Éléments de la Philosophie de Newton), as a champion of the empirical genius of Newton (and Bacon, and Locke) against the reactionary rationalist Cartesians holding back progress. Notwithstanding “the Newton wars,” Voltaire’s overall assessment of the value of Descartes indicates that in spite of the various errors made by Descartes, his importance in the making of the new world cannot be ignored:

He pushed his metaphysical errors so far, as to declare that two and two make four for no other reason by because God would have it so. However, it will not be making him too great a compliment if we affirm that he was valuable even in his mistakes. He deceived himself, but then it was at least in a methodical way. He destroyed all the absurd chimeras with which youth had been infatuated for two thousand years. He taught his contemporaries how to reason, and enabled them to employ his own weapons against himself. If Descartes did not pay in good money, he however did great service in crying down that of a base alloy.
I indeed believe that very few will presume to compare his philosophy in any respect with that of Sir Isaac Newton. The former is an essay, the latter a masterpiece. But then the man who first brought us to the path of truth, was perhaps as great a genius as he who afterwards conducted us through it.
Descartes gave sight to the blind. These saw the errors of antiquity and of the sciences. The path he struck out is since become boundless.

Voltaire’s tribute to Descartes’ importance is also echoed by Condorcet, who unlike Voltaire actually participated in the revolution, only unfortunately to be on the side of the losing faction of the Girondins. Whilst in prison, where he died, he wrote his Outlines of an Historical View of the Progress, whose “ninth epoch” bears the title “From the Time of Descartes, to the Formation of the French Republic.” Like Voltaire, Condorcet noted the errors of Descartes and sides with Locke, but, also like Voltaire, he praises him for the new path he opens up:

From the time when the genius of Descartes impressed on the minds of men that general impulse, which is the first principle of a revolution in the destiny of the human species, to the happy period of entire social liberty, in which man has not been able to regain his natural independence till after having passed through a long series of ages of misfortune and slavery, the view of the progress of mathematical and physical science presents to us an immense horizon, of which it is necessary to distribute and assort the several parts, whether we may be desirous of fully comprehending the whole, on of observing their mutual relations.

Thus it was that Descartes would, as Van Damme notes, be the third writer to be listed in the decree founding the Pantheon on April 4, 1792” and “in 1792, the monument of Descartes was deposited in a new musée des monuments français organised by Alexandre Lenoir, and cenotaphs to his honor and other great men’s erected in the garden, jardin Élysée, around the museum.” Van Damme makes much of Louis-Sébastien Mercier, a member of the Council of Five Hundred denouncing Descartes’ “Pantheonization.” What he neglects to point out, though, is that during this post-Thermidor phase of the revolution the rhetoric of the revolution remained whilst the attempts to stabilize its momentum was taking a far more conservative direction. Further, whilst Mercier had been a disciple of Rousseau and an anti-cleric, with his revolutionary fervour chastened by the bloodbath of the Jacobins, Mercier turned upon everything he saw as a source of the “terror,” and at the beginning of it all was “the free thinking “Descartes. By then Mercier was no less hostile not only to Voltaire’s attacks upon religion, but more generally to philosophy itself as a subversive power within the people.

Of course, the French revolution was predicated upon normative appeals, including patriotism, that have nothing to do with Descartes. But my point in this essay has been to focus on the mechanistic metaphysical pole of the bifurcated modern self. That other pole, as I have said, is the one of reason no longer simply studying nature’s determinations but conjuring ideas which provide legitimation for political and social authority. This pole is even more destructive of liberties than the technocratic, for those who insist that their authority is based upon the moral or ethical values that give them authority in deciding what we may or may not do invariably, originally in communist and fascist and now in liberal democratic regimes, attack any who question their decisions and policy priorities.

The ruling political class and the class that devotes itself to the accumulation of scientific knowledge form a bond in which the authority of the one class facilitates the authority of the other. The politics corrupts the science, and the science corrupts the politics. Together they make a world far more frightening than any produced by an evil genius. Together, they dissolve the soul into a bifurcation of machine and empty abstraction, in which the spirit of tradition and place are also rendered of no importance unless they serve the larger narrational purpose of an identity to be inserted into the design. In that design machine and norms are magically revived and unified. What has been lost in the transmutation is the soul.

Frankenstein’s Monsters is what we are in danger of becoming as we are but machines with ideals that dictate our identity—for anyone who is black, a woman, a gay, etc., who deviates from the script of what that identity should be is no longer defined by their identity marks, but by their betrayal of the essence and the narrative that has been dictated to those who have that essence by their political saviors. This is the rational moral faith that dictates how we should be in our world of pleasure and material satiation delivered by the world as a great calculative resource. It is the faith that has enabled the globalist progressivist view of life in which all the resources of the planet are to be managed and all traditions to be rendered redundant.

The world is an occasion for the profit and pleasure of those who are able to preside over the technocratic forces that do their bidding. Nietzsche had used the phrase “God is dead,” and Heidegger “the gods have fled.” But the living God never dies, and humans always find gods to serve. The god of one’s own identity is though one of the most pitiful that has ever been conjured. Descartes would, I think, have been horrified to see how thoughtless the new thinking subject is, and how infantile the world it is making has become.

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen booksHe also doubles up as a singer songwriter. His latest album can be found here.

Featured: Presencia Inquietante (Unseetling Presence), by Remedios Varo; painted in 1959.

Deciphering the Russian Code

Russia is in dire need of an ideology capable of fighting the enemy on the invisible battlefield.

Yeltsin destroyed the Soviet Union and with it the communist ideology. The ideologues of victorious liberalism—Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais—built a country that resembled an ugly caricature of the victorious Western civilization.

Russia ceased to be a civilization, ceased to be a country; the Russian people ceased to be a people, and a frenzied liberal broom swept across the once great expanse between three oceans, sweeping away everything associated with Russian uniqueness.

Now that Yeltsin’s Russia is facing a war in Ukraine and liberal ideology is gone along with its ideologues, Russia, robbed, exhausted, deceived, devoid of ideological meanings, is fighting the giant behemoth of the West, which, in addition to the space constellations of Ilon Musk and long-range Himars, has a powerful ideology, tested over the centuries, rooted in the mysterious depths of European metaphysics.

Russia, in dire need of shells and tanks, reserve battalions and divisions, is in dire need of an ideology capable of fighting the enemy on the invisible battlefield, in empires of ideological meanings.

And today a hunt for meanings has been announced in Russia. A lot of political scientists, political technologists, philosophers are looking for meanings. They look for them underfoot, find them, carry them to their laboratories, glue them together with something sticky that is secreted from their political science glands. They take their products to the Kremlin, offering to write history textbooks on the basis of these products, to build a new Russian state, to create public organizations, political movements, new symbols, new songs, a new Russian man capable of winning the battle for history.

But the products fall apart on the approach to the Spasskaya Tower. The sticky secretion of political scientists dries up, and the lumps of meanings found underfoot disintegrate—ideology does not stick together.

Meanings are not obtained in brainstorming sessions of political scientists, nor in discussion clubs of politicians. Meanings are obtained by the revelations of individual God-revealed people, who suddenly open the gates to those heavenly spheres where meanings dwell. Meanings are the inhabitants of high azure spaces, which the religious consciousness of thinkers reaches. Meanings are like nuggets stored in the depths of heaven.

The deep content of Russian civilization, changing its external forms, dressed from century to century in various vestments and robes, remained unchanged in its innermost essence. It was a dream of ideal existence, divine harmony, creating a just kingdom, where there is no violence, oppression, darkness, trampling of the weak by the strong, the rich by the poor. Where the most terrible injustice that haunts the human race is defeated—death is defeated.

The image of this kingdom has moved from pagan fairy tales to Orthodox Christianity, to the fantasies of cosmists, to the mysteries of poets and musicians, to the political declarations of Narodovites and Communists. This image even now lives as a dream in the depths of the people’s feeling, not allowing the people to disappear, encouraging them to fight and build, guiding them to perfection.

The Russian Dream of a just state is a precious treasure of the Russian World, which is conceived by the Creator as a repository of this marvelous idea.

To the achievement of this ideal, to the building of this marvelous kingdom, the Russian codes are the steps up which the nation rises, overcoming terrible difficulties, bitterness, fires and defeats, each time rising from the ashes, and with its charred, burnt hands continuing to build this marvelous edifice.

Russian codes are the meanings, the keyboard on which a great ruler creates a symphony of nation and state—Russian and Tatar, Chechen and Khanty. Great rulers, such as Vladimir the Holy, Ivan Vasilyevich the Terrible, Peter the Great, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, owned this keyboard, led Russia from great upheavals to greatness.

These codes are thousands. Such codes are Pushkin, Stalingrad, Baikal, Peresvet… “There was a birch tree in the field.”

But among these thousands of codes there are seven, without which it is impossible to build a sunny Russian state.

There is the code of exaction—the continuous striving for this state, begging for it, calling it out among the rubble of history.

There is the code of sacred labor, which is used not only to obtain daily bread, but also to build the state itself, and to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, “which is given by works.”

There is the code of resurrection, which allows Russia to rise again after terrible historical defeats, and strive for the ideal bequeathed to it.

There is the code of the Russian miracle, which saves Russia when, it would seem, there is no salvation, and the abyss embraces the country and the people. Russia sinks into the dark depths of Lake Svetloyar to suddenly in the sparkle of the divine miracle to surface again from unknown waters, with its golden domes, marvelous palaces and churches to rise to greatness.

There is the code for a common cause, transforming the nation into a gigantic labor-artel, a vast invincible battalion. And the entrance to this ideal kingdom, to this heavenly Jerusalem, will be realized by all the people—both those who are still living on earth, and those who have already passed away, and those who have not yet been born.

There is the code of defense consciousness, when people defend their dream, their ideal, making colossal sacrifices for its preservation. Russia, defending its ideals, takes on all the darkness of the world, turning it into light. God entrusted Russia to defend this divine ideal, washing it with tears and blood.

There is the code of Russia—the soul of the world. For Russia invites to the historical campaign all kinds of people, wishes spiritual victory not only to itself, but also to all mankind, opens to each person of the Earth a gate to this delightful Russian garden.

The intimate knowledge of Russian codes is the essence of acquiring meanings. Obtained codes must be saved from the enemy.

The enemy, admitted to the storehouse of Russian meanings, destroys them, cuts off people from the sky, expels them from history. All conquerors coming to the Russian land strove for this. Demons of perestroika aspired to it. This is what today’s enemies are striving for, trying to reach with their long-range drones, their high-speed missiles, not just to reach the Kremlin chambers, but also to hit the repository of Russian meanings.

The Izborsky Club gathers into its spiritual brotherhood people with illuminated consciousness, clairvoyants to whom meanings are revealed. It is a school of spiritual knowledge, where the teachers are Russian clairvoyants, be it pagan skomorokhi or Dostoevsky, Seraphim of Sarov or Joseph Stalin.

The forum of the Russian Dream movement has just taken place. It was held in the Grebnevo estate near Moscow, where many confessors of this precious Russian faith came from all over Russia. They shared discoveries, fraternized, and gifted each other with their spiritual discoveries. There were singers, warriors wounded in the Donbass, philosophers and politicians.

At night, on a huge glade, they lit a fire, which blazed, sending countless golden sparks into the sky, and each of them was a prayer, a demand, a hope for the Russian miracle and for the Russian victory.

Sparks, mined by fiery, loving and fearless hearts open to the light.

The confessors of the Russian Dream, the discoverers of Russian meanings pay a huge price for their discoveries. Darya Dugina, her majestic father Alexander Dugin, the brilliant Russian writer Zakhar Prilepin. And now—Alexander Borodai, the hero of Donbass, has been hit by a Ukrainian tank. Wounded, he lies in a Donetsk hospital.

Sasha, get up soon from your bed, Russian meanings are waiting for you.

Alexander Prokhanov, a doyen of Russian letters, is a member of the secretariat of the Writers Union of the Russian Federation and has written more than 30 novels and many short story collections. He also edits the influentail weekly newspaper, Zavtra. This article comes through the kind courtesy of Geopolitica.

Featured: Evening Bells, by Isaac Levitan; painted in 1892.

Metapolitics and the Historical

Every time we have had the opportunity to speak about metapolitics, we have argued that it is interdisciplinary, where other disciplines such as literature, economics, philosophy, theology, history and politics converge in an attempt to explain the major categories that condition the political action of current rulers.

Although there are at least three interpretative currents—those who pretend to make metapolitics without politics, those who limit it to the recovery of public policy and those who interpret it as a metaphysics of politics—all agree on the method: to go to the things themselves and describe them as accurately as possible.

The method is therefore phenomenological in its two aspects: eidetic or essential description and hermeneutic or interpretative.

However, metapolitics and its proponents have developed their own mode of exposition, which we call, festina lente, that is, to hasten calmly, or to be hasty with circumspection, offering quick, prompt answers to the problems that are presented to us but with maximum prudence, sine ira et studio. It is necessary to publish quickly, even fragmentarily, the result of the research (festina), waiting for the intersubjective verification of others, to bring about rectification, clarification or compliment of what has been researched. Today, we are in the age of the Internet and so we have to take advantage of it.

What happened with metapolitics, mutatis mutandi, is what happened with the historical (what is said about history) and historiography in the last half of the 19th century. Humboldt, Dilthey, Droysen and so many others wanted to provide studies of the historical with an agency analogous to that which Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason offered to the physical and natural sciences.

Thus, Droysen states that the method of history is forschend zu verstehen, to understand by inquiring. The difference between scholars of history—according to J.G. Droysen, the philological—and historiography or the historical is that the former is concerned with authentic documents or the chronology of the events of the Lutheran Reformation, while the latter looks into the cognitive orientation and meaning of these documents. The former leads to the preparation of knowledge, while the latter to knowledge itself.

The scholar does not get involved in the human drama he studies, because he lives the placid and restful life of the scholar who has his salary assured month after month. The one who is involved is the one who seeks knowledge itself. The one who wonders about the being of the being of the entity, as Heidegger says. For the meaning of what is.

With metapolitics something analogous occurs; for while the political scientist wonders about the political activity of parties and agents, the one who seeks to do metapolitics wonders about the meaning of these actions—where they come from and where they are going; what are their constraints and what are their freedoms. His method, as we said, is the phenomenological method of dissident hermeneutics whose mode of exposition is the festina lente, to hasten calmly.

As we can see, there is a very close proximity between hastening calmly and understanding by inquiring. But the difference is that the festina lente incorporates the novelty of the Internet by making available to others the concepts to be studied and awaits their answers or verifications in the enrichment of the concepts treated.

In this sense, I am tempted to say that metapolitics finds a very great contemporary ally in historiographic production, both hermeneutic and conceptual; hence authors such as Hans Gadamer and Reinhart Koselleck are recommended reading for the discipline.

We must not forget what Epictetus of old said: “It is not so much the facts that move man, but rather the words about those facts.”

This does not mean, as Nietzsche exaggerated, that there are no facts but only interpretations. No, there are facts that, depending on how we describe them, through political correctness or unique thought, or through the thought police, will produce in the subject’s conscience a preconceived or predetermined reaction by the producers of meaning: basically, the mass media. But there is also another possibility, which consists in working those facts and the concepts that produced those facts, through metapolitics, with the aim of achieving an awakened and incorruptible conscience.


There are different types of hermeneutics—existential, analogical, ontological, discursive, language, classical, etc., so we can justify our proposal of a dissident hermeneutics to address studies on metapolitics. We say “dissident” because we start from dissent as a method of metapolitics, according to which we seek another meaning to the social-political disorder we suffer. Its motto could be, opposer pour penser.

Dissident hermeneutics rescues the existential dimension of the interpreter, who starts from the interpreter, who starts from the preference of himself and his situation in a given ecumene of the world. That is to say, there is no universality, as in Kant-Habermas-Apel, in understanding, since it is done from a genius loci. And it is dissident because, first of all, it dissents with the status quo in force and its great categories that condition political action, offering another sense.

Thus, the approach to these major categories is based on dissidence from them because they are products of crypto-politics and not of public policy. All the mega-categories that make up this globalized world are products and creations of the different lobbies or power groups that exist in the world and that end up governing it. Dissident hermeneutics starts from this presupposition but, at the same time, its criterion of truth is based, no longer on the ideologues of different sorts, but on the different ethos of the ecumenes that make up this world, which is a cosmos, meaning both order and beauty. The world, in its ultimate sense, is an ordered and beautiful set of entities that compose it—in such a way that when man disarranges it, it is transformed into something ugly and unlivable.

Alberto Buela is an Argentinian philosopher and professor at National Technological University and the University of Barcelona. He is the author of many books and articles. His website is here.

Featured: Clio, by Lambert Cause. Print, ca. 1600. The caption reads: “Clio gesta canens transactis tempora reddit” (Clio, singing of famous deeds, restores times past to life), which is the opening line of Ausonius’s poem, “Nomina musarum” (“Names of the Muses”).

Wokeism, A New Religion?

Jean-François Braunstein, philosopher and professor at the Sorbonne, has written a new book on Wokeism, which seeks to describe and criticize Wokeist theories, while providing us with a remarkable and comprehensive overview. The book also contends with the fact that this post-Protestant, North American cult has entirely come to fill the vacant spiritual space of the West. This interview, with Élisabeth Geffroy, comes through the kind courtesy of La Nef.

Élisabeth Geffroy (EG): How is wokism akin to religion? More generally, what fate does it hold for rationality?

Jean-François Braunstein (J-FB): The term “woke” means “to awaken” and was first used by the Black Lives Matter movement to designate an awakening to social justice. But the term also has a strong religious dimension. The Woke are “awakened” to a new global vision of the world, very different from our own. It’s also reminiscent of the great American Protestant “awakenings” (revivals) of the 18th and 19th centuries. For the Woke, the equivalent of original sin is “white privilege;” but this is a sin for which there is no forgiveness. The idea is to radically separate the pure from the impure, condemned as “racist” or “transphobic.” In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Woke rediscovered certain rituals of contrition, such as genuflecting or washing the feet of blacks, at large gatherings, with a strong emphasis on emotion and enthusiasm.

The Woke are bigots. They refuse to debate their opponents, whom they see as evil. During the takeover of Evergreen University in 2017, one of the students ordered one of the professors to stop arguing because “logic is racist.”” Cancel culture” wants to ban anything in Western culture that doesn’t conform to Woke beliefs. The Woke are also highly proselytizing, now targeting primary and secondary schools.

Jean-François Braunstein.

What’s even more astonishing is that this religion originated in Western universities, founded since the 19th century on the legacy of the Enlightenment: argumentation, academic freedom, rationality. Yet the Woke are resolute critics of Enlightenment values, such as universalism and reason, as well as individual autonomy.

EG: Could you explain to us how the world that the Woke build and want to inhabit is in fact an imaginary one, and their thinking a magical one that dismisses reality?

J-FB: Gender theory posits that what distinguishes masculine from feminine is not the body, but our awareness of being male, female or whatever. This idea that the body is inessential is reminiscent of the Gnostic heresy, which explained that the body is the evil from which we must free ourselves.

Gender proponents therefore reject biology—but also the testimony of our senses, when they ask us to share the feeling of someone who believes they are of one gender or another, when they are clearly of the other. Transactivists are asking us—and asking society, by changing the sex of a person’s civil status on a simple declaration—to enter into what philosopher Kathleen Stock calls the “imaginary world” of gender.

Similarly, to preserve the idea that “felt” gender takes precedence over the body, they speak of people being “assigned” male or female at birth (AMAB or AFAB), as if the choice of gender were arbitrary and imposed. Planned Parenthood promotes this imaginary world by explaining that a man can be pregnant and that the penis is not a male sexual organ. Women are to be erased, as they are too reminiscent of the difference between the sexes.
This imaginary world of gender is all the more appealing because it is completely in line with the metaverse proposed by big tech, where you can change your gender at the click of a button. The idea that it is possible to change one’s body at will also evokes transhumanist utopias. Big tech’s commitment to these transgender and transhumanist theories compounds the threat of this imaginary world.

EG: “The problem is that we prefer to endanger the majority for the benefit of a tiny minority of convinced activists who present themselves as eternal victims,” you write. Does this sentence tell us about Wokism?

J-FB: I was referring here to the claims of a minority of transactivist activists, in particular men who “declare” themselves to be women, without having changed sex, and claim to participate in women’s sports competitions or to be held in women’s prisons. The result is that women’s sport will be entirely dominated by these trans men, and women prisoners will be abused by these same trans men.

More broadly speaking, it goes without saying that presenting oneself as a “victim,” even if it’s just an unverifiable “feeling,” is a formidable weapon. All it takes is one “victim” to declare himself shocked, and whole swathes of Western culture are annulled. Censorship, and above all self-censorship, is the rule in universities, in the media and in big tech, where the Woke reign supreme. These militant minorities, organized and determined, easily take control of universities, or associations and unions.

EG: You speak of a “deliberate enterprise to destroy science” by the Woke. Could you elaborate on this?

J-FB: These attacks on science have their origins in gender theory, which denounces biology for establishing that there are only two sexes in the human species. This denunciation of “virilist biology” evokes the Stalinist period when Lyssenko opposed “bourgeois science” and “proletarian science.” But mathematics is also accused of being “virilist” and “racist” because mathematicians are predominantly white men, or “colonialist” because calculus is said to have been used to count slaves on slave ships.

Since science was born in the West, it should now be replaced by “indigenous knowledge.” This is what is happening in woke New Zealand, where traditional Maori myths are taught in the same classes as Western science.

The Woke have also invented a new epistemology which explains that all knowledge is “situated”: science is always made from a certain “point of view”—that of the dominant, white Western males. There is no such thing as objective knowledge. For the Woke, it is now necessary to take the point of view of the “dominated.” Truth no longer exists—we mustn’t seek “truer knowledge,” but always take the “point of view of the dominated.” This assertion that truth does not exist is, of course, contradictory, since it presents itself as true.

EG: You link part of Wokism’s success to a younger, more psychologically fragile generation that is “offended” by everything. Could you explain this link?

J-FB: A number of sociologists have noted that generations Y (born after 1980) and Z (born after 2000) are particularly fragile because they have been brought up away from any risk by “helicopter parents” who watch over their children from a distance to avoid any upset. For these “pampered” generations, American universities have invented “trigger warnings” when studying destabilizing subjects, whether it’s the Holocaust with Primo Levi, rape in Ovid or alcoholism with Scott Fitzgerald. This overprotection increases the psychological fragility of these generations.

EG: In the course of your analysis, you repeatedly give pride of place to notions of common sense and ordinary decency, and you place great hopes in the resistance of the working classes and “real-world workers” to the wacky ravings of the intellectual classes. Could you explain why?

J-FB: “Ordinary people” are in the best position to oppose the wacky Woke. We see this in the United States, where a majority of parents no longer accept that their children are being taught, from primary school onwards, that they can choose their gender, or that they are necessarily racist if they are white and victims of racism if they are black. Those who have been called “real-world workers” since Covid are well aware that bodies exist. They don’t live in the virtual world of connected “intellectual” elites. Nor do Blacks and Latinos accept that their children be taught that they will necessarily be victims, any more than Whites accept that their children should be taught that they are “systemically” racist. A real “culture war” has begun on these issues, and will no doubt be at the heart of the next American presidential election.

Featured: A membership certificate for the “Wide-Awake Club,” a Republican marching club formed in February or March 1860.

Liberalism: Satan’s Scheme to Usurp Creation

In 1872 Frederick Engels wrote a letter to Theodore Cuno saying, “The thing to do is to conduct propaganda, abuse the state, organize, and when all the workers are won over, i.e., the majority, depose the authorities, abolish the state and replace it by the organization of the International. This great act, with which the millennium begins, is called social liquidation.” That same year, Fyodor Dostoevsky published a novel about revolution and rebellion titled, The Possessed; other translations have seen it titled, Demons. It is a book about revolution and rebellion “in the name of unlimited freedom” and how the ideas for such acts are connotations of demons. Richard Pevear’s forward to his translation explains it this way, “…implicit at least in his (Dostoevsky) analysis is the possibility of an evil or alien idea coming to inhabit a person, misleading him, perverting him ontologically, driving him to crime or insanity.” In one memorable scene the revolutionary theorist Shigalyov who by today’s standards is considered the modern-day liberal declares, “My conclusion directly contradicts the original idea I start from. Starting with unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism.” Pevear adds, “Here we have the voice of the demonic idea in its pure state.”

Anytime a moment in history defines a reality, there are always prior moments you can go back to in depicting a historical backdrop; so let us go back to the beginning; the Garden, and specifically the fundamental attitude shift in creation when the serpent brought forth the idea to Eve that she could “be like God” if she ate of the fruit. Adam and Eve lived peacefully in the Garden of Eden, perfectly harmonious with God and creation. They had complete freedom to do as they pleased; there was only one rule; they “must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” When the only rule in the Garden was violated, liberalism became ubiquitous with creation because humans got the idea they could “become like God, knowing good and evil” by acting as autonomous individuals who determine what is right and wrong and rejecting established traditions, authorities, and religion.

Rush Limbaugh once said the most prophetic things about liberalism: “I think we wouldn’t be here today if there had been a proper education and understanding of liberalism by a majority of the American people,” and “that so many people on our side do not recognize and have not recognized the threat posed by standard, ordinary, everyday liberalism.” Today, conversations about liberalism are more and more copious. As Rush Limbaugh astutely pointed out, a quick search online reveals the scope of the discussion on the subject—liberalism is the problem, liberalism is the solution, we need to expand liberalism, we need to limit liberalism, we need to improve liberalism, we need to get back to basic liberalism. This essay puts forth the argument that the ideology of liberalism is closely linked with Satan’s manipulation of our passions, with the aim of influencing and directing us. As Christopher Dawson wrote in The Judgment of the Nations, “Here in this world we are staying in an inn where the Devil is the Master and the world is landlady and all kinds of evil passions are servants and these are the enemies and opponents of the Gospel.”

In 1888, Pope Leo XIII wrote that at its source liberalism is demonic, “But many there are who follow in the footsteps of Lucifer and adopt as their own his rebellious cry, “I will not serve…who, usurping the name of liberty, style themselves liberals.” The ideology of liberalism aims to dismantle traditional structures and beliefs, and often portrays the past as being dominated by superstitious practices and institutions meant to restrict personal freedom. It does this through politics. In his article, “The Consequences of Catholicism for Political Theory,” Benjamin Studebaker, an honest Marxist holding a PhD, says that our society can be considered “post-Catholic” because Catholics had to subordinate morality to politics embracing pluralism: “This is why liberalism is fundamentally a post-Catholic ideology–it cannot work in a context of full atheism, in which good/truth/God have been rejected. In a context where these things have been wholly rejected, we return to the principle of might makes right. By trying to flesh liberalism out and make it feel more substantive, the liberal theorists have moved more and more people away from good/truth/God toward an emphasis on desire satisfaction and autonomy.”

The realm of politics can be seen as the intersection of liberal ideas and demonic influences, potentially leading to distorted perceptions of reality. Liberals are overactive in the institutions that produce the ideas informing people about so called “new truths,” about who are the real reactionaries, and how to remake the world. For the liberal, politics is everything, and everything is political. Who you are politically means the most to liberals because it is Satan’s way of categorizing his detractors. Bishop Fulton Sheen once commented that politics would be the method for enslaving mankind, saying, “…but he (Lucifer) was suggesting to the Lord theology is politics…the mastery of the world in the future will depend entirely upon politics.” Lucifer has become a symbol of rebellion since the Garden uprising, reflecting the revolutionary political movements of past centuries, which sought liberation from moral restrictions and promised a new Eden.

Around the end of the eighteenth century, revolutionaries “demonized themselves, so to speak, in order to demonstrate their complete rejection of the Christian establishment.” Satan would become a “positive political role model, a symbol of political goodness.” We know that the people we associate with can influence and change our behavior in various ways, from simple things like the sports team we cheer for to the foods we eat. However, it can also influence our opinion about tradition, values, reality, and power. The Russian Mikhail Bakunin was a revolutionary socialist who encouraged anarchism through his writings. In one, titled, God and State, he writes, “But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience: he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.” To Bakunin, Satan symbolizes revolt and reason, and that belief in God was “one of the most threatening obstacles in way of humanity’s liberation.” Satan was seen by many socialists as a symbol not only of intellectual enlightenment, but also of actions that were deemed sinful by certain individuals. In 1907, the socialist magazine Brand published a short story called “In Hell.” The story depicts a proletarian, who is imprisoned, having a dream about Hell. In the dream, Lucifer explains, “Jehovah is conservative, but Lucifer is a democrat,” and Hell is not a place of torment at all: “…Christianity preaches asceticism and self-denial; we preach happiness and pleasure. Hence, all the things considered sinful on earth are practiced here: eroticism, dance, theatre, and cheerful melodies.” Another short-lived socialist publication, Loki: Pamphlet for Youth, asserts that Lucifer is the spirit of liberation, “the human lust for rebellion, the battle between oppressor and oppressed.” West German anarchist-terrorist, Michael Baumann, claims satanist tendencies were widespread in his political circles. “Hail Satan” was actually the internal greeting.

Some people view tolerance as a liberal value. However, others believe it is used as a technique to help establish a totalitarian state by eroding the principles necessary for maintaining freedom. Tolerance advocates manipulating the human will: “Tolerance thus becomes a device to elevate certain liberal ideas and constituencies above public criticism rather than trusting that they will eventually emerge victorious on their merits in open public debate.” Lenin knew that tolerating something against your values would eventually become intolerance towards you. Paul Gabel in his book, And God Created Lenin: Marxism vs. Religion in Russia, 1917-1929, put it this way: “Nothing in thought or aspiration seemed to Lenin more incomprehensible than tolerance. For him it was indistinguishable from lack of principle. It was the beginning of contemptible surrender.” It is common for liberals to believe that they are tolerant simply because they identify as liberal and not as “intolerant Christians.” However, recent studies have shown that Gen Z is less tolerant of opposing views despite considering themselves more tolerant than previous generations. It is clear that Gen Z is very disconnected from reality and history. For instance, they are waging war on statues, distorting historical facts, and disregarding the importance of biology. This behavior could lead to a dangerous shift towards proto-fascism and the imposition of immoral beliefs. You are rendered invalid, if you do not capitulate to such pathologies. Gen Z is, as Blake said of Milton, “of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

A recent study from 2020 found that “political ideology may also be relevant to mental health, as people who are more liberal, especially those identifying as ‘extremely liberal,’ are more likely to have mental health problems. It is suggested that may be because conservatism is associated with greater religiosity.” It is possible that the perpetual cycle of mental illness could be from the prevalence of mental health professionals being liberal. One study found that only six percent of professionals in psychology described themselves as conservative and feared the negative consequences of revealing their political beliefs to their colleagues. The study found they were correct: “In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.” There is also research that demonstrates that liberals are less happy than conservatives: “conservatives are more likely to embrace family-first values and virtues that steer them towards wedlock and fulfilling family values” liberals, on the other hand, embrace the “false narrative that the path to happiness runs counter to marriage and family life.” Four studies from several countries concluded that “childlessness leads to liberalism, support for homosexuality, abortion, and promiscuity, while parenthood creates conservatism and traditional values.” In an article from Current Affairs titled, “Why We Should Abolish the Family,” lets you know right in the beginning: “The family is a conservative project that limits human flourishing. The family must be abolished.” Another article from Slate shares the sentiment but calls out the fearful liberals to take credit, “Yes, Culture Helped Kill the Two-Parent Family. And Liberals Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Admit It.”

The insight of Dostoevsky’s Demons of liberal parents producing revolutionary children was again made prophetic with Midge Decter, a century later, with her book, Liberal Parents, Radical Children: “we allowed you a charade of trivial freedoms in order to avoid making those impositions on you that are in the end both the training ground and proving ground for true independence. We proclaimed you sound when you were foolish in order to avoid taking part in the long, slow, slogging effort that is the only route to genuine maturity of mind and feeling.”

Children of liberal parents are more prone to accept revolutionary ideas because liberal parents are more concerned with “injustice” in the world and how they failed to change it. One mother confesses that her son “learned progressive values from my husband and me. When he was in elementary school, we took him door-to-door to canvass for John Kerry and Barack Obama. When he was in middle school, we took him to rallies to protest Scott Walker’s union-busting Act 10. In high school, he learned to make sophisticated arguments for his liberal positions on civil rights and economic fairness.” Then she becomes shocked for creating a monster. Often, the seed of liberal indoctrination parent’s plant gets germinated by the liberal professors, and flowers into revolutionary activity.

Another example on how liberals are revolutionaries bent on destroying the foundation for a free civilization is from Michael Walzer, written in the 1996 issue of the liberal intellectual magazine, Dissent that sought to find the middle ground between communism and liberalism, and gave a list of liberal political successes since the 1980s: affirmative action, feminism, the emergence of gay rights, the acceptance of cultural pluralism, the transformation of family life, changing sexual mores and new household arrangements, the process of secularization and the fading of religion in general, Christianity in particularly from the public sphere—classroom, textbook, legal codes, holidays and so on—legalization of abortion, gun control, environmentalism, and constraining police powers. What one would assume are natural evolutions of human reason and rationality, Walzer admits that these victories were not won in the central arenas of democratic politics but by the revolutionary activities of “liberals and the liberalism of lawyers, judges, federal bureaucrats, professors, school teachers, social workers, journalist, television and screen writers—not the population at large.”

Walzer admits that the sense of cultural collapse we feel is the result of these liberal “victories”: “…and that the victories of the left have caused the collapse.” Completely unconcerned about what type of society we will be left with, when the institutions that make a society dissolves, Walzer ask: “How would it be held together? Would it be stable? What would everyday life be like within it?” Then he confesses, “The focus of the left and liberal politics these last thirty years has been overwhelmingly on “liberation” from various restrictive institutions and practices-not on the creation of new institutions and practices.” When in positions of influence where decisions are made on how culture is shaped, liberals will seek to make their liberal ideas normative. A Disney executive in charge of content was caught on video confessing to having a gay agenda and adding queerness to children’s programming. What helps make sense of this is that she is also a mother to a transgender and a pansexual child.

In my film, It’s Easy Being Green When You Have No Choice: Sustainable Development and the End of History, I explore the concept of elevating creation above the creator, as warned in Romans 1:25. Satan, known as the revolutionary liberator of creation from the confines of Christianity, goes beyond man and women directly to the Earth itself. Interestingly, six months after the official end of the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev’s resignation, he became an environmentalist and attended the first Earth Summit to usher in the phenomenon of sustainable development. Recently, Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks claimed that sustainable development is part of “Satan’s plan” because it is not only about global rationing and control of natural resources but has also become an instrument to impose liberal values.

Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians warned them that our battles are not physical but spiritual, not flesh and blood but against “Principalities and Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.” People are beginning to express that the most viable explanation for what is happening in the world today is supernatural. Jonathan Pageau just comes out with it: “People are afraid to talk about these things… I’ll say it straight out, there’s a demon that is a watcher, watching over a pattern of reality, and that is what is maintaining it together and making its boots work in the world and these people are possessed and are unwilling agents of a demon and they’re bringing about this system.”

As we recognize that politics alone cannot resolve our problems, religion serves as a foundation for values, ethics, and morals. However, with the rise of liberalism, the significance of Christian ethics has declined. While liberals may believe that a world without religious influence will be more ethical and freer, it could lead to tyranny, as we rely solely on our own reasoning to determine what’ is right and wrong. Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger put it this way:

But when we look at the presuppositions and the consequences of this seemingly marvelous expedient that lifts the burden of man’s inconstancy, we realize that this unburdening—“liberation”—is based on the renunciation of morality, that is, on the renunciation of responsibility and freedom, on the renunciation of conscience. That is why this sort of “kingdom” is an optical illusion with which the Antichrist dupes us—such a liberated society presupposes perfect tyranny. I think we must make it clear to ourselves again today, in all earnestness, that neither reason nor faith ever promises that there will be a perfect world someday. It does not exist.

If you are liberated from the right moral formation on how to act, what is going to be the result? Irrational behavior. And when enough people start to act irrationally, you are going to get a reaction (and it is not Donald Trump)—it is banks closing your account or refusing to do business with you because of what you think. It is the FBI placing parents on a terrorist watch list for acting like parents, or being banished from participating in the economy or community for not agreeing with the evolving liberal morality, and technology being used for the wrong reason and in unethical matters. In the Garden, Adam and Eve were free. As Pope John Paul II explains, their freedom had limits, “The man is certainly free, in as much as he can understand and accept God’s commands. And he possesses an extremely far-reaching freedom since he can eat of every tree of the garden. But his freedom is not unlimited: it must halt before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The problem with liberalism is that it has no limits, and sometimes you need limits. Tyranny shows up when liberalism runs its course and passions are incapable of being contained, and a new order is needed to keep the emerging disordered society functioning. The problem with most liberals is that they do not understand the consequences of their actions. This essay argues that demons are guiding those unknowingly liberal actions. Lucifer comes to you as a representative of liberalism and says he will liberate you—but what it really means is liberation from the moral order; and once liberated from the moral order, you are put under another form of control, not of your choosing.

Liberal elites spend billions of dollars socially engineering the manipulation of passions on how the reality of race, sex, science and religion is perceived. The culture is being deformed and molded into a ceaseless confrontation between every man, woman, and child. In principle, what is going on is the marketing of the idea of liberalism—it is being sold like a product, and it has no competition at the level that it is currently being consumed. The solution is not our side acting like play-by-play announcers on the sidelines, constantly commenting on the malaise or the occasional anti-woke slices of entertainment. Our target is not preaching to the choir but engaging directly with liberals and appealing to their concept of what they are for and against. Many individuals want freedom and oppose tyranny. However, some have been misled into thinking that liberalism is the only path to achieve freedom and happiness. They may even reject alternative worldviews based on the Bible, often dismissing them from historical context because they view the Bible as restricting their personal freedom and view it as oppressive, to enforce a moral code that goes beyond their individual autonomy. It is essential to understand that embracing liberalism can lead to a loss of freedom and the rise of oppressive political systems.

Instead, it is crucial to value Christian morality, traditional families, and customs as they serve as a true safeguard for freedom and liberty. This can be achieved by rejecting liberal ideologies and promoting the alternative idea that liberation without end will lead to a totalitarian state.

Anyone promoting liberal ideas needs to be prevented from reinfecting society and people need to be persuaded to stop voting for liberals.

We need to associate every social, cultural and political malady with liberalism—write books about it, publish articles and op-eds, and produce entertainment demonstrating the ineptitude of liberalism and liberal ideas in stories.

If you need an example why liberals need to be rejected the way, as Christians and conservatives are, read about the teacher who is “proud as f–k to be a liberal” and is in love with Communism; and if you want to see what happens when liberals are have power, watch this.

If the word “Mother” and “Father” can be eliminated and redefined, then so can liberalism. If Robin DiAngelo can publicly say and have CNN promote the idea that if “you’re a white person in America you’re a racist, pure and simple, and without a lifetime of conscious effort you always will be,” then we can promote the idea that if you are a liberal, you are undermining society in diabolical ways, and with a little conscious effort you can reverse the slid to tyranny.


Prioritizing individual autonomy and choice above all else will result in tyranny. Many people believe that any limitation on equality and freedom as a result of non-liberal values is oppressive. The liberal believes that the main goal of government is to protect its citizens from this type of oppression. As a result, it strives to eliminate these values from an ever-growing range of daily activities. James Kalb in his article, “The Tyranny of Liberalism,” explains how liberalism become tyrannical this way, “[liberalism] demands submission to arbitrary principles and conclusions. It insists on controlling everything that affects public life, including the human soul. It responds to criticism by silencing the critic. It destroys concrete freedom by centralizing power, by undermining standards that make free social life possible, and by destroying our connections to others and so making us dependent on universal systems utterly beyond our control. And in the name of giving us what we want it denies us everything worth having.”

Frank Pinski is a filmmaker and writer on politics and culture who also works as a researcher in the legal field. His debut film, It’s Easy Being Green When You Have No Choice: Sustainable Development and the End of History, explores the impact of sustainable development on freedom.

Featured: Demons Pulling People into the Jaws of Hell, by Heinrich Kley; painted ca. 1910-1915.

Flos Triticum

If you would like to learn to speak and read Latin using the acclaimed Ecce Romani series, consider enrolling in Apocatastasis Institute, where Latin is anything but dead!

Wheat Flower erat in villa mea pulcherrima puella. Alta, bene erecta, pulchroque sui fiducia gradiens, Clara risum splenduit campis, alta viarum Vendée secat silvas. Cum primis tepidis veris diebus albedo lactea cutis, lentigines sidere punctis

Rustici dicebant: Dominus bonus manipulum furfure in faciem proiecit.

Furfur et farina, ut videtur, nam facies eius sub radiis solis tam alba manebat ac si tritico oppessato pulvere inspergeretur. Hinc cognomen fortasse, vel rufis fortasse capillis Debebat, fulvis magis aequantibus ocellis. Dedit unam impressionem omnium pulcri auri-brunnei toni maturi tritici. Wheat Flower pulcher erat, et hoc sciebat, quia sic tota die narrabatur.

Vir agris non longe abhorret. Sensus eius estheticus non est idem cum nostro. Non linea, forma, gratia formae moventis movetur, sed colore afficitur potenter, sicut omnes quos humanitas non excoluit. Wheat Flower igitur est coloris animali, voluptatem igitur audiendi se pulchram praedicabat, et ad propulsandam lasciviam, interdum robustiores blanditias, virilis iuventutis usque ab Sainte Hermine in Chantonnay. Florem, ubi vis, ibi congregabuntur apes. Ubicumque occurristi pulchritudinis, videbis homines ad pabulandum venientes, oculis et manibus et labiis. Inter urbem et patriam est sola differentia occasus.

Cuius fama ultra pagi fines propagata, Wheat Flower habebat admirantium turbas quae in vicinia per multos dies non visa sunt. Superbia eius in oculis suis praestringitur, et si ad Cleopatram, in quem spectata mundi obtutus dicta esset, non esset certum, quod regina Aegyptia plus prodesse putasset. Rus ancilla. Quam ob rem laudo, quod multam adorantium enumerare stulte lusum est. Regina autem mortua erat et puella rustica: optimum omnium argumentum.

Fabulae iucunda pars est, Wheat Flower, dum se ab omnibus admirari, et invidisse omnibus foeminis, animum suum fidum amico, qui noverat conciliare, in quo egregie a Cleopatra differebat. Ille autem amicus, quoniam ad confessionem tandem veniendus est, nullus alius fuit quam humilis servus tuus. Condonari possim istius advocationis superbiam: Wheat Flower amavi, et Wheat Flower sentiebat de me, quod exhibere minime nolebat. Sequebam eam circa prata cum cane suo “Rubrum Udones,” sic dicta propter quatuor fulvos manus, et dum grex nimis inepte pascebatur ultra limitem ruris custodiae, narravi ei omnia de Nannetensi, ubi. hiemem habui. Obstupui ex libris meis fabulis, aut mecum de animalibus, quid egerunt, quid sentirent, mecum locuta est; quae mihi narravit extraordinarias fabulas. Proximae sibi erant animae nostrae, non eadem pectora nostra dicam, nam tristis amor nostri pars erat, heu, viginti sex vel septem, si starem in gradu. Hoc non difficile est, alterutrum tamen alterum amplecti. Postmodum intellexi meam fortunam.

Nostri optimi dies erant in tempore messis. Nondum rus invaserat fumus arenae machinae nefandus. Scibis adhuc in usu erat. Luce prima viri ac feminae in partes divisae areae circuire incipiebant, motusque eorum numeroso impetu lignei flagelli, humi stramentis obvoluti; pars quadrille sensim cederet, media pars paulatim procederet. Necessitas observandi, et conatus silere deiectos. Sed quam cachinnus et cantus motus cum pice lignea subiguntur, positis paleis! Aspiciet instratam messoribus meridiana torva solis humum, fallaxque timet rusticus umbram. Ad ictum campanae, sonorus concentus scloporum iterum undique aerem replebat.

Ad vesperum erant choreae et carmina in quibus Wheat Flower excellebat. Sciebat omnis regionis illius cantus, et nasi, indocta voce canebat, delectamentum rusticae auris, poemata ingenua, in quibus “Filius Regis”, “Luscinia” et “Ros” in phantasmatibus apparuerunt; laeta vel tristis. Vatem loci etiam de Wheat Flower, carmen liberioris et liberioris dialecti, fecerat, cuius cantilena florem triticum sub messe flagelli dedere segetem dicebat. Wheat Flower sine pudore falso cantu celebravit se, et erant denique iurgia, si quidam adulescentuli per iocum crederent in agendo abstinentiam ponere.

Serius vel serius, Wheat Flower sub messoris flagello tenebatur. Atque hic lectoris animum ad hanc fabulam voco, cuius meritum est omnium fabulae. Nullius enim maioris erroris scio, quam ut singula- rum rerum casus opinari soleant, quae faciunt vitam iucundam. Si quis inspiciat, reperietur vere mirabilia ea esse quae nobis cotidie accidunt, eaque duella, sica, etiam autocineta, odio comitante, invidia, proditione, amore, perfidia, re vera vulgaria eveniunt. In enorme vitae communis a nativitate ad mortem.

Ut sine ulla nostra voluntate ad huius mundi conscientiam adferamus, fatali concatenatione gaudiorum ac dolorum subiaceat fortunae periculo, et finem in tarda corruptione, quae nos ad antecedentem statum reducit. Nostri, nonne hoc summum casus est? Quid magis opus est ut miremur? Quidam, qui pessimistae vocantur, quodam murmure accipiunt. Alii, optimates existimati, tantam fortunam considerant, ut ad eam per consolationem studiose addant somnium coelestis adventus, quem quisque liberet exornare quantum libet.

Wheat Flower eius mentem non ullo ex hoc vexavit. Viginti erat illa, eo occupatior. Audivit vocem adulescentiae suae sicut praegressae feminae et quae sequuntur eam in terra. In campis, natura tam propinqua, homines minime impediti sunt conventionibus socialibus magis minusve phantasticis, quae humanas necessitudines moderari incipiunt inter duas creaturas, inter se esurientes et sitientes.

Peculiare genus placentae, quae “échaudé” dicitur, praecipuum est fructus industriae meae villae: placentam ex farina et ovis, delectabilem recentem e clibano, sed gravem et gravem sititatis causa, tempore procedente per bracchium usque ad Niortum, Rupellam seu Fontenay. Noctu vehitur vectura longis bigis ab equina trahentibus, cuius tarda et stabilis incessus saxa somnos agitatoris et mulieris comitantis praeesset ad vendendum placentas. Hae plostra terribilia internuntius sunt. Odor filicis periculi plenus est. Iacent duo somno pariter, sub dio. Non semper dormiunt, etiam post longum diem laborem. Forum oppidum procul abest. Inhumani censoresque moenibus suis quattuor inclusi sunt. Temptatio augetur per succussos qui unum contra alterum proiciunt. Quare resistendum est, cum tandem cedendum sit?

Wheat Flower, qui in his liba locupletis domestici mangonis elaboraverat, diem unum egregium ei “dominum” duxit, postquam ei dedit, nemine mirante, duo certa argumenta dociliorum ad gaudium ac munia maternitas. Proximi ruri narrabunt nihil esse extra ordinem in vita. Vir eius tantum diebus dominicis post vesperas, quando nimium biberat, eam verberavit, nec plus vindicavit in eum, quam necesse fuit ut extraneis ostenderet quod ultimum verbum non haberet.

Post aliquantum temporis spatium iterum eam vidi. Manipulus farinae et furfures adhuc erat ibi. Lustrabant oculi, crinemque tenus ardentibus alis tena ardent. Sed mihi visus eius aspectus acutior, iamque labiorum curva taedium prodidit vitae. Pulchellus adhuc nomen ei adhaesit, sed flos florem amiserat. Illa adhuc risit, sed iam non canebat. Ad eam Fortuna venerat, annuli fibulae, torques aureae testatae. Diebus dominicis gerebat pallium sericum et praecinctorium ad ecclesiam, et librum deauratum portabat, rem utilem etiam ab iis qui legere non possunt, cum eis satisfaciat ad excitandam invidiam proximi.

Visitatio mea ad pagum iam brevis et longe distans factus erat. Longe longe vixissemus, cum quadam die ei occurrisset, in una nostra alta via secat, ad pascuum ducentem vaccam. Senex, annosa, fracta, obsoleta mulier. Curabitur ut cessavimus. Mortuus est autem vir suus et reliquerat eam bonis, sed filii instarent ut omnia eis traderet. Dixeruntque “ad notarii” eius salarium se habituros.

“Debeo statuere animum ut faciam” finivit cum gemitu. “Credisne me heri verberare appropinquasse filium meum, eo quod nolui dicere necne?”

Decem amplius anni transierunt. Quodam die, cum per vicinum vicinum iret, mihi monstratum est gurgustium ruinae, et dicebatur “barbotte” ibi suos dies finire. Wheat Flower non fuit. Illa nunc erat “Barbotte” a nomine mariti sui Barbot.

Intravi. In media luce videre potui, sub reliquiis veteris pallii, caput quassans vetulae mulieris, facie siccante, retorrida membrana, oculis duobus flavis transfixis, in quibus obscurissima oculorum vestigia obdormierunt. Vicinus mihi narravit omnia de eo. Liberi non perstiterunt, quod nemo miratur. Res erat usitata. Aliquando, attulerunt ei frustum panis, interdum pulmentum, aut frusta ciborum die dominico, post missam. Anus infirma erat, et aegre se habebat. Putabatur autem servus semel in die venire et videre eam. Saepe oblitus est.

“Cur non querar?”, dixi inconsiderate.

“Dixit quodam die notarium mittere. Verberavit pro eo. Et quis vellet accipere nuntium suum? Nemo studet inimicis facere. Iam liberi eius nulli satis placebant ut quisquam intraret tuguriolum. Nolunt homines rebus suis miscere.”

Per hunc sermonem lacrimae lucebant in oculis nictantes flavo. “The Barbotte” me agnovit.

“Noli me turbari” dixit tenui voce timorem verberum prodidisse. “Nihil egeo. Pueri mei valde benigni sunt. Veniunt quotidie. Forsitan sis sicut ceteri, domine, putes me tempus grave in manibus meis invenire. Scisne quid agam, cum ego hic solus sum? Cano. In corde meo omnia carmina antiquitatis oblitus sum eorum et nunc revertuntur ad me tota die illa cantabo sine ullo sonitu et intus cano in medio eorum cum ego omnia complevi, iterum incipio. Est sicut grana mea narrans. Ridiculum est, annon?”

Et ridere conata.

“Monsieur le curé me obiurgat”, iterum sumpsit. “Vellet me dicere vota mea. Sed preces non prius institui quam carmina redire. Non possum. Meministine, nonne tu, Filius Regis?’ O filius regis! et ‘Luscinia?’ et ‘Rose?’ Tibi unum cantare volo, clare, pro meo animo. Quis? ‘Flos triticum!’ Flos triticeus! Ah… ” Cantare videbatur, sed inde fluens exclamavit: “Vexillum messoris venit. Frumentum sublatum est. Nihil restat nisi palea… et hoc male laeditur. Nimium trituratum est… Carissime domine, qui omnia nosti, potesne mihi dicere quare venimus in hunc mundum?

“Aliud dicam tibi, mi amice, cum iterum venero.”

Sed numquam recesserunt.


Featured: A Seated Peasant Woman, by Camille Pissarro; painted in 1885.

Long Live the Humanities, Ever Living!

An invitation to reflect on the love for the Humanities.

The meritorious writer, Eduardo Aguirre Romero, who is an on humor in Cervantes and is very much a humorist in his own right, has written a remarkable book. humor Eduardo Aguirre Romero, himself very much a humorist, author of the remarkable books, Vivan las Humanidades, siempre vivas (Long live the Humanities, Ever Living). Previously, he has written, Cervantes, enigma del humor (Cervantes, Enigma of Humor), Cine para caminar (Cinema to Walk With), Blues de Cervantes (Cervantes Blues), and Entrevista a Cervantes (Interview with Cervantes). His latest book was brought to the stage as a “dramatized conference,” at the Aula Magna of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, at the University of León, during the institute’s joyful patron saint festivities for San Isidoro on April 18, 2023. The book includes a foreword by Professor José Montero Reguera, Dean of the Faculty of Philology and Translation at the University of Vigo.

The leading parts at the “dramatized conference” were played by:

  • Juan Matas Caballero, Professor and Corresponding Academician of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Fine Arts and Noble Arts of Córdoba, who has recently edited the magnum opus, Sonetos de Luis de Góngora (Sonnets of Luis de Góngora);
  • Marta Roa , the former Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of León, (who is actually the wife of Eduardo Aguirre Romero; this fact actually serves as a gag within a gag in the dramatized lecture);
  • Ángeles Rodríguez the renowned Mexican actress;
  • Juan Álvarez Iglesias, student at the Faculty and Letters;
  • Siro López Lorenzo, the essayist (such as, “Epilogue;” “Letter to Krzysztof Sliwa”), who is one of the most important Spanish graphic humorists and caricaturists;
  • Marcelo Tettamanti and Pedro Fergar, poets both of photography.

In his Prologue, the renowned Cervantes scholar Montero Reguera correctly observes that the role of a Dean of Humanities “is a very laborious job, not given to leisure, in which very curious and sometimes unthinkable things are dealt with… since it is up to us—philologists, philosophers, historians—to make our society capable of looking to the future with an open, expectant, curious, responsible vision.”

The Dramatic Conference.

Reguera rightly suggests that the “theatrical” Eduardo Aguirre Romero explains very well the role of a Dean of the Humanities in our very difficult times and alludes to his teacher the philologist Alonso Zamora Vicente (1916-2006)—who was also the teacher of the Peruvian writer, Mario Vargas Llosa (1936-) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (2010), and from whom Reguera quotes these words:

The young Spaniard must always be in the flesh, before Cervantes’ criticism of the society in which he lives, and learn from him the position that an intellectual must maintain in the face of the ever-changing socio-political structures; he must be in the vanguard of them, in permanent constructive opposition, marking an ethic and an inextinguishable desire for improvement” (Vivan, pp. 14-15).

Reguera agrees with Aguirre, and states that

The humanities are fundamental for being human, enriching to the highest degree, but also fun, a lot of fun: the stuff composed by Matas and Aguirre that ended up becoming a gangarilla, with the intervention of a certain de Saavedra [Cervantes], in the guise of Ángeles Rodríguez proves it. Come in, come in and read Aguirre, you will have a good time, and yes, you will end up shouting, with conviction, ‘Long Live the Humanities!’ (Vivan, p. 15).

Moving forward in time, let us now focus on the “dramatized conference,” which is the heart of the play, and in whose theatrical representation the members participate. They are Juan Mata Caballero, Eduardo Aguirre Romero, the Lady (Marta Roa), Miguel de Cervantes (Ángela Rodríguez), and Pancracio de Roncesvalles (Juan Álvarez Iglesias). They profess the challenges of the Humanities in this way:

“They say that bad winds are blowing for our beloved Humanities… but when have good times ever blown for it?
“Tell me, which times have been good for the Humanities? And for the human?
“Finally, ask your parents or your grandparents about difficult times. Difficulty is part of the test, in studies and in professions, even in love and in life. This is what this minstrel of columns tells you.
“Who has seen many towers fall that I never imagined I would see fall. But I also see others rise. Raise your own towers, be builders of your reality and not mere passive objects of what they want to impose on you. It is not easy. But it never was.
“And yes, how can you deny it: an economic crisis that does not end… the conflict in Ukraine that puts it at risk.
“New totalitarian fascinations, right and left… a crisis of the Spanish educational system—not caused by teachers—that links with the previous one and the previous one and the previous one… the majority’s disaffection towards culture;
“All this is true, but it is not the only truth. Participate in the combat of values in which we have put you… and win it in our name” (Vivan, pp. 19-23).

Indeed, Aguirre emphasizes that “Humanities studies are the master pillar on which civilization has built the best of itself” (Vivan, p. 24). However, despite the crisis of the Humanities, Aguirre writes with elegance and appeals to students, teachers and amateur enthusiasts: “Yearn for excellence, as a first step to achieve that solid formation which must be the shield;” and “overcome the threats with the weapons of our values, but also of your academic formation” (Vivan, p. 26), because “a society without Humanities taught in public education would mean that the only criteria would be economic ones, in the name of what they call professional opportunities. Of course, and when there are not, create them. Let’s say it now, today Culture as we know it, which is not one but the sum of many, is also in danger. We cannot deny the obvious” (Vivan, p. 29).

Alongside this, in defense of the Humanities, Aguirre, who is a columnist for the Diario de León, resurrects Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, King of Spanish Literature, mentions some notorious examples throughout his work, and appeals to students in this way:

In this good fight, it is not enough to be enrolled, or to have tiptoed through it. Nor is it enough to save yourself by the skin of your teeth. Allow me to insist… yearn for excellence, yearn for it with joy and passion. Have a voracity for knowledge…. You are in a wonderful stage in which your main obligation is to train yourselves. You will never have so much time for it again. These years are your foundation for the future” (Vivan, pp. 29-31).

To further reinforce his opinion of the Humanities, despite the challenges, Aguirre (himself a member of the Cervantistas Association) teaches the reader the power of the Humanities, which are valuable not only valuable for men of letters, but constitute pearls of wisdom from the genius of universal literature. Thus, Aguirre deduces that “Cervantes and his most universal masterpiece have an enormous formative power, without the need to take it to nineteenth-century distortions or to mutate it into a lackey of May ’68” (Vivan, p. 49). Aguirre, with his deep curiosity, emphasizes a great honesty:

Aguirre: The Humanities are not only what you know, but also—or above all—what you do” (Vivan, p. 33);

and then he rightly recommends this course of action:

Cervantes- “TRAIN yourselves… CREATE yourselves… BUILD yourselves… WRITE yourselves… READ… LISTEN… In short, FIGHT… for what is yours, which belongs to everyone. And also, of course… LAUGH… LOVE… SING…” (Vivan, p. 38).

It is also important to state that it is a great honor and privilege for me to give you my sincere thanks for defending the Humanities through theater, and to congratulate the playwright Eduardo Aguirre Romero, sincere believer, effective observer of reality and versatile writer, for his magnificent theatrical work, a scenic landmark of the Humanities, which illustrates the fundamental values of sincere love and true sacrifice, won with love, pain and humor, oriented to all humanity. My congratulations I also extend to all the theatrical characters, and to the exemplary editorial achievement, in a work designed to be distributed free of charge among teachers and students, as it is already being done. My warmest congratulations to all!

It should be emphasized that the gag that closes the book, that the Quixote delivered by Aguirre to Cervantes for his signature is by mistakenly the apocryphal one (1614), so by Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda, at least in the edition of the Royal Spanish Academy, and is a tribute to the meritorious professor Luis Gomez Canseco, of the University of Huelva. At the same time, I emphasize that it is only right to be grateful for the dedication that the author makes to me and for the letter he sends me at the end of the book.

Without the slightest shadow of a doubt, Eduardo Aguirre proclaims unconditional love and aesthetic, human, personal, social and universal values through his unwavering pen for the Humanities, which contribute decisively to the more humane formation of the global citizen, but which gradually tend to be conspicuous by their absence in university classrooms.

Aguirre, who loves humanity, reflects the current situation of the humanities around the world through his characters and themes. He relies on wise and healthy humor, because weise Wörter sind gesund—thus he captures the reader’s soul, and invites us to defend the Humanities and make us better human beings.

In conclusion, the masterpiece, Vivan las Humanidades, siempre vivas, illuminates the path of our heart; it beautifies us spiritually, and proves that it is beneficial and indispensable to serve by leading and loving the Humanities and all Humanity. Congratulations to all!

Krzysztof Sliwa is a professor, writer for Galatea, a journal of the Sociedad Cervantina de Esquivias, Spain, and a specialist in the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the Spanish Golden Age Literature, all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in English, German, Spanish and Polish, and is the Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Cordoba and Toledo.

Featured: Cervantes writes the dedication of Don Quixote to the Count of Lemos, by Eugenio Oliva Rodrigo; painted in 1883.