Alfred Delp: Resistance and Theology

Is there a connection between Alfred Delp’s theology and his resistance, between his thought and his martyrdom?

I would like to address this question by comparing key statements of pro-Nazi Catholic theologians with Alfred Delp’s theological and philosophical reflections. This raises, however, another question: was Delp a “modern” or a “traditional” theologian? For it was precisely the “moderns” among German theologians, those who sought a contemporary theology, who wanted a reform of the liturgy, and wanted to strengthen the position of the laity in the church, who were likely to justify Nazism and theological and practical collaboration. Among them were, for example, Karl Adam, Joseph Lortz and Michael Schmaus, whose approaches left their mark on Catholic theology long after 1945. They did not appreciate the reactionary or traditionalist elements of National Socialism, but saw in it an enormous potential for innovation that they wanted to use for their reform projects in church and theology.

An understanding of Delp’s history is fundamental to the explanations that follow; this is followed by the theological themes of “Nature and Grace” and “Image of the Church and Understanding of the Church,” complemented by a presentation of the effects of the heroic ideal in theology. Each of these three points begins with a brief presentation of the statements of pro-Nazi theologians, among whom Karl Adam is especially prominent.

1. Delp’s Conception of History

The basis of Delp’s conception of history is his confrontation with Heidegger’s work Sein und Zeit (Being and Time), which he was one of the first to conduct within the Catholic Church. After the war, when a Catholic Heideggerian school was formed with famous representatives, Delp’s criticism of Heidegger was laughed at and rejected—he did really understand Heidegger and argued not philosophically, but according to his worldview. In particular, the interpretation as heroic tragedy was a misinterpretation. In view of the recent and still difficult discussion about Heidegger’s relation to National Socialism or about the relation of his philosophy to National Socialism, Delp’s criticism takes on a new acuity. However, I do not wish to discuss here whether Sein und Zeit already contains traces of Heidegger’s later adherence to National Socialism, but only to present Delp’s analysis and critique and the importance both acquired for his understanding of man and history.

In Sein und Zeit, Heidegger wants to question being and its meaning without restriction, without committing himself to anything from the outset. The question of being presupposes something that has an understanding of being: this is what Heidegger calls the Da-Sein (= the subject that asks the question). The latter notes that both the questioning of being and the understanding of being are part of itself. The Dasein must therefore only look at itself in order to be able to answer the question about being. This is done with the help of the phenomenological method as description and interpretation of the facts of consciousness. Heidegger calls this the existential analysis of Dasein—it serves to describe and unfold Dasein’s understanding of itself. Dasein thus interprets itself—and the explanation of this interpretation is, for Heidegger, ontology, the doctrine of being. Metaphysics is thus less a doctrine on Dasein than the event of the self-interpretation of Dasein. Now, for Heidegger, the essence of Dasein lies in existence.

The analysis of Dasein leads to the recognition that being means being in the world; that is to say being active in the sense of “being concerned.” The subject is confronted with an object; but the world cannot be grasped from the objects, it must be understood from the subject: the active being-in-the-world is thus the foundation of knowledge.

An important part of being-in-the-world is the existential of sensibility, which means the mood or the being-tuned. Dasein learns there that it is and must be—its origin, however, remains hidden from it. Heidegger speaks here of the being-ness of Dasein.

Heidegger then asks whether there is a state of being that makes being manifest as a unity, and finds the answer in anguish. This anguish prevents Dasein from being completely absorbed in its being-activity and directs the gaze towards the whole, towards the extreme that awaits Dasein: death. Dasein is being-to-death; this shows to Dasein that it goes towards nothingness and that it comes from nothingness.

Thus, Dasein is radically temporal and finite, thus also being as such is finite. Time is the last determinateness of being. The meaning of being is that it becomes. Now, when the radical contingency of Dasein appears, Dasein decides on its destiny and is “determined” to perform its task. From the confrontation with nothingness, Dasein jumps back into a positive conception of life. It becomes its own lawgiver; it gives itself a meaning beyond being-to-death: the mastery of life. This “determination” is for Heidegger the revelation of the inner absoluteness and divinity of Dasein.

It is precisely this, says Delp, this proclamation of courage, strength, and determination, that Heidegger carried to the hearts of young people, because it supposedly took them out of insecurity and existential angst and into a heroic existence.

Delp’s philosophical critique starts at this turn from the experience of nothingness into determination. This turn is a leap, not only in real life, but also in thinking, because there is nothing in the being of Dasein that could provide the reason for such determination. Delp calls this courage to live a great deception, because it is without content and without reason, i.e., also ultimately without meaning. Moreover, this “heroism of finitude” becomes dangerous because of its aesthetics: “Over all these analyses of sorrow: contingency, thrownness, determination, last crash into nothingness, death—over all this lies a somber beauty” (II, 121).

The tragedy of this philosophy, he argues, is that it sought to gain the meaning of being, but can only point to the lifelong preoccupation with mastering life. Moreover, it shows a striking resemblance to the Germanic myth, interpreted in a folk-religious way, of the hero who faces the struggle with full commitment and determination, even if his downfall is sealed—a resemblance that the representatives of the Catholic Heidegger school did not notice or did not want to notice.

At this point, Delp now brings his worldview argument into the field. Heidegger’s claim to make ultimate statements about being cannot be free of worldview, because in the claim to ultimate validity metaphysics and worldview touch each other. Heidegger presents a closed system of a world view, which also implies a certain understanding of man. This understanding is characterized by an ideal of existence, namely the heroic existence, which is carried by the decision to master life.

Delp himself is fascinated by this philosophy of decision, as well as by its departure from finitude and from man—but in the propagation of a total finitude it is for him a myth, dogged immanence that cannot look beyond the world. Delp criticizes Heidegger for not even remaining faithful to this principle of finitude, but for making man absolute in his determination; for this, after all, reveals the divinity of Dasein.

“Where finitude would become practical, one prefers to remain infinite and autonomous. There one puts, on one’s own authority, over this ‘nothing,’ a self-made ideal. The determination, the heroicity of nothingness, is nothing but a denial of the finitude that one had previously emphasized with so much pathos” (II, 137).

[John May, in his commentary in the online edition of theologie.geschichte, points out an interesting parallel that has come to light in the Christian-Buddhist dialogue. The absolutization of finitude in Heidegger can be compared to the re-ontologization of nothingness in Buddhist philosophy. Nothingness, which was understood as the place where non-self becomes True Self (Kyoto School), where non-self means self-forgetfulness and selflessness, becomes in the wider reception a “something” inherent in every being – the Buddha-nature, which is considered the highest realization of nothingness. Just as Heidegger’s absolutization of finitude represents a denial of finitude for Delp, so Buddha-nature as reontologized nothingness can be understood as a denial of nothingness. See also John D’Arcy May, Transcendence and Violence. The Encounter of Buddhist, Christian and Primal Traditions.]

Delp’s judgment, then, for all its fascination, is clear: Heidegger’s philosophy cannot be interpreted or assimilated to Christianity in its consequences. It is not a propaedeutic of Christianity. Nevertheless, this does not prevent him from receiving the concept of Dasein’s decision to master its task in life for his conception of man and his understanding of history. However, he is careful not to transfer any of it to God or Jesus Christ. This area of transcendence, of the supernatural of the Christ-revelation, is determined for him by tradition, revelation and its interpretation. On this basis, his theological critique of Heidegger’s radical concept of the finitude of being is also articulated. The critique of the lack of justification of the leap into determination and of the conflation of philosophy and worldview, on the other hand, is a philosophical critique that could also have been formulated by a follower of critical rationalism.

[Cf. the so-called Münchhausen trilemma, according to which the attempt of an ultimate justification leads either to a regressus in infinitum, a circular reasoning or a dogmatic positing.]

Delp’s engagement with Heidegger left a lasting mark on his understanding of history. The question of the meaning of history and the historicity of man occupied him until his death, and the answers he gives in his more theoretical writings are reflected in his sermons and spiritual writings and ultimately in his fate in imprisonment and death. [See Delp’s Folgenden Weltgeschichte und Heilsgeschichte (Following World History and Salvation History (1941); Der Mensch und die Geschichte (Man and History) (1943); Das Rätsel der Geschichte (The Riddle of History) (Bequest)); Die Welt als Lebensraum des Menschen (The World as Man’s Habitat) (Bequest); Der Mensch vor sich selbst (Man before Himself) (Bequest), in Gesammelte Schriften, II, 321-557].

The question of history arises from the subjective experience of history. This can be the turning point or the solidification of a condition caused by an act or event. In the experience of history, the becoming character of the world is revealed. This change of history results in the decision of man, whether he is a maker of history or one who must endure and master it. History thus constantly reminds people of their responsibility, refers them to their conscience.

The question now is, does history have a meaning at all? Does it run according to a plan? It is not the final place of man’s perfection; its meaning is not man’s salvation. Also, God is not to be experienced directly in history; God does not intervene constantly in the history. On the other hand, history has a plan from creation; namely, the task of being the image and re-enactment of the Absolute. The meaning of history is the unfolding of the “order of imagery.” In this sense, there is a development of history—it goes towards a final state; but it also finally has an end, because it does not itself represent salvation.

People are bound by ethical orders as well as by substantive orders. The former imply a direct commitment to God; the latter to the real itself. On both levels people are required to decide; and on both levels they can fall short—in the ethical decision or in the factual one. The former misconduct is sin; the latter disregard and abuse of being, caused by error, sloppiness, arrogance, or the like.

History places humans into always “new situations,” in which they are to prove themselves. Independently of the supernatural order, history has a double meaning—it is to realize the image that God had of it in creation; that is, to fulfill the order of imagery; and it is the place of probation for man; the probation of faithfulness to God and of factual competence and readiness for responsibility.

Are salvation and salvation history now on a completely different level than world history?

Independently of the meaning of history discussed so far, there is for Delp a second word of God that brings about an immediacy of God within history that history does not have of itself. This is the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. In the incarnation, God once again breaks through the order of history and establishes the order of Christ. This is superhistorical, but historically effective; it has its beginning in the election of Israel and the proclamation of the prophets. However, the Christ order does not suspend the “normal” order of history; it is not another level apart from worldly history. Thus, in addition to its double natural sense, history acquires a third—that of being a space for the encounter with God in the Christ order. Natural and supernatural order, however, remain separate in the medium of history. As John May aptly puts it in his commentary: the Christ order works itself out in history and not as history.

Is not the idea of a progressive realization of the “order of imagery” much too optimistic in view of the supremacy and fertility of evil? The ethical decision of man is always demanded even under these circumstances; every historical hour is suitable for it. But there are also historical situations or constellations which must be recognized and tracked down as such, in which the signs of the times must be recognized. In these situations, both the morally good and the factually appropriate decision must be made. Now the fruitfulness of evil often stems from the fact that those who do not shy away from the ethical wrong decision, that is, those who are prepared to take the greater risk, are often “more clear-sighted and finer-nerved” in identifying such situations.

“There may be many reasons to understand, but few to excuse. And this then is the most seductive mask and the most demonic power of evil, that it tackles the posed problems, represents (and corrupts) genuine progress, and in the name of the genuine also and profoundly does, and demands, the unreal. Only this brings about the always occurring confusion of heads and hearts, through which evil rules and remains in regency. Evil is so fruitful in history not because it is more historical or more historically real than good, or because all history is of the devil; it is fruitful because good is so barren, because it misunderstands tradition as conservative sleepiness and habit, because it trivializes ethical neatness into Biedermeier bravado and carelessness; because it so often places the probation of life not in the space of life but beside it” (II, 412).

This is a relatively clear critique of National Socialism, addressing precisely its innovative or perceived innovative character. But Delp exposes this as spurious, as a pretense of progress that spoils real progress. At the same time, it is a harsh criticism of the Church and of Christian piety, which have not recognized that what is decisive is probation in this life and in this history.

For Delp, evil is not something superhuman or superhistorical, but comes from the highest reality of man—from his freedom. It becomes effective only through man himself—that is why its combat must also be done through man’s engagement in this history. Even the suffering of history must be something active:

“Where man strives for this [ethical orderliness—LS] solely by bypassing the bond to the historical probationary space, he misunderstands himself, misses history, leaves it unilaterally to the uninhibited and unopposed forces of the other, possibly erroneous view; violates the law of imagery, and endangers even transcendent faithfulness. Man is just not only there to stand in history or to suffer history. Even this must still be an active engagement, a conscious consummation. Man must make history” (II, 416f).

Therefore, people must not turn away from history, even when it is far from what God intended for them. But they must not sacrifice to it their transcendent bond and their conscience.

“When history or one of its moments of reality degenerates, then the hour has come in which man must not betray history, but in which he must also not sacrifice to it the freedom and God immediacy of his being. If the two directional indicators of his life no longer coincide but cross each other, man must take them both as his cross. Neither the flight into the ‘eternal’ nor the betrayal in history will save him; but only the tremendous effort to hold both together at least in his own will and commitment. This is the first law of human freedom, and to this law freedom must stand, even at the price of personal-historical catastrophe” (II, 381).

Heidegger’s traces are thus unmistakable in Delp’s understanding of history. The human being thrown into existence is determined by his historicity; he is faced with the decision to prove himself; he accepts his finitude. But as a Christian, unlike the tragic hero in Heidegger or in Germanic myth, he knows why he is doing this. It is about the realization of God’s plan of creation and about his salvation, which he cannot find beside history or past history.

Delp is equally “contemporary” and “traditional” in his understanding of world history and salvation history. He receives the most modern philosophy for his anthropology, but remains in more traditional waters with regard to the relationship between nature and grace. “Modern” is his synopsis of world history and salvation history—for him there are no parallel levels of history, but only one; and the order of salvation does not override the natural order of history. At the same time, the traditional Neo-Scholastic distinction between nature and supernature shines through; and ideas of natural law also play a role. With regard to his ethical decision, man is bound not only to the biblical revelation, here the Decalogue, but also to the natural law, which here is not to be understood in natural scientific terms, but as natural law.

Even if some of Delp’s writings at the beginning of Nazi rule betray a certain fascination with the new things that were on the move there, in his later writings on history he is resistant to understanding National Socialism as an innovative force and wanting to use it to drive changes in theology and the church. It is precisely this impression of progress that he exposes as a dangerous and demonic mask of evil.

[This concerns above all Delp’s book project Der Aufbau. Die Existenzmächte des deutschen Menschen (The Construction. The Existential Powers of the German Man), the draft of which is found in I, 195-202, and also the texts under the title, Männerapostolat: Die Katholische Aktion des Mannes (Men’s Apostolate The Catholic Action of Man), in: I, 69-109.]

2. The Relationship of Nature and Grace

By nature, Neo-Scholasticism understood the creative endowment of a being with all that is necessary for its natural development and destiny; but it completely disregarded man’s relationship with God. Grace was strictly separated from this nature in order to preserve the gift character of grace. God was not allowed to be presented as someone obligated to grace because human nature demanded it.

Nature in this context is a philosophical term that does not contain any biological meaning; nor does it correspond to the colloquial use of the word “nature.”

In contrast to Neo-Scholasticism, pro-national socialist theologians regarded nature and grace as belonging together, and organically assigned the two to each other.] Becoming a Christian was regarded by them as a synthesis of nature and supernature—therefore grace needed an empirically tangible basis. The carrier of this synthesis was human nature, specifically German nature. For nature never existed abstractly, but always in a specific imprint through “blood and soil.” There is an intimate connection between German nature and grace, so that the life of grace is formed according to the German national character. Piety and theology, for example, were always völkisch for Adam; and he vehemently opposed all attempts from the Catholic side to deny this connection. The general human was secondary compared to man’s belonging to a certain community of blood and destiny. A universalistic or humanistic view could only find his derision. Adam went so far as to say that if German blood is the basis of grace, then the bond between people of the same blood is also stronger than that between Christians of different blood.

But what happens to the concept of nature in this interpretation? A purely philosophical concept that refers to the nature of a living being is biologized and racially charged. Purely externally, the concept of nature has not changed in this transformation process. Therefore, Adam could keep the scheme of the togetherness of nature and grace unchanged after 1945. He only had to disguise the völkisch and racist interpretation.

Delp, on the other hand, emphasizes the twofold revelation through creation and through grace. [Cf. Kirche in der Zeitenwende (Church at the Crossroads), III. Offenbarung (Revelation), in: I, 126-13.]. In these two orders God speaks to man. In the order of creation, people recognize God through created things; in the order of grace, God breaks through the narrow confines of nature and places himself in a personal relationship with people. The order of nature includes the division of people into peoples, whereas the order of grace transcends time and history, and is—as Delp says—”übervölkisch.”

This distinction between nature and grace is a classical (new) scholastic argumentation. By way of it, Delp attests to völkisch religiosity that it remains purely in the realm of the natural; that is, it can at best be a kind of true natural religion, which it also fails to be due to wrong starting points. Supernatural religion does not come into view at all in the völkisch religiosity.

Delp applies the relation of nature and supernature also to the question whether the ecclesiastical and the “völkisch” man are necessarily in contradiction to each other—and here his interest seems to be rather to bring the two areas together. This is done in the context of a series of sermons on the contemporary service of the German man in the years after 1933, in which Delp reflects on the signs of the times and the foundations of Catholicism in order to give Catholic men help for their current lives in the context of the male apostolate.

The problem of “völkischer Mensch—kirchlicher Mensch” was ultimately the problem of the relationship between nature and supernature. The völkisch man stemmed from creation; the ecclesiastical man from the new creation in Jesus Christ. The natural possibilities of man were decisively weakened by the Fall, but not completely abolished—the traditional Catholic position. Thus, the natural man could no longer accomplish what he actually could by his nature and what he was obliged to do.

The ecclesiastical man had never left creation, the world, the people, because the order of grace did not abolish nature and history. The natural world is elevated in it to the new creation. This means that the “völkische” man can actually realize himself fully only in the ecclesiastical. Only from the supernature can a pure nature be lived. But if the “völkisch” man does not want to go beyond nature, and limits himself to it, then, however, ecclesiastical and “völkisch” man would not come together; which means doom for the latter and his people from Delp’s perspective.

Delp does not seem to be completely uninterested in the völkisch idea. His diction is also quite alienating in parts. Jörg Seiler interprets this in his commentary in such a way that Delp tried to explain the power of the Christian message in the understanding horizon of his time—a closeness to the völkisch thinking should not be attested to the writing about the male apostolate. In the end, national thinking is absorbed by the bond between man and supernature, which does not allow any one-sidedness on the level of nature. Delp makes no secret of the fact that the strength of the ecclesiastical man for the service to the people comes from the Church and not from the blood. Service to the people without leading the people back to God would not be true service to the people for Delp. This means that everything Delp says about the “people,” which may be reminiscent of völkisch thinking, is determined by the binding of the natural order to the supernatural one.

In that this bond is the decisive thing, Seiler is absolutely right. But in my estimation, a certain fascination of Delp with the “new age” cannot be denied. Delp emphasizes the readiness of the will, which now—unlike before—is to be found everywhere: a readiness to think and act beyond one’s own ego. That Delp does not understand this in a “national-monistic, völkisch or collectivistic” (Seiler) way is to be admitted, but he considers it possible to build on this attitude, which others, after all, interpret precisely in a völkisch and collectivistic way. Thus, there is something about the “new age” that lends itself to building the Christian message on it, but then also setting it apart from it. This is similar to Delp’s treatment of Heidegger’s thought, which he fundamentally criticizes, but also accepts in one crucial point: in the topos of man, who is called into the decision to master his life. This human being, however, does not stand in a meaningless space, as in Heidegger, but is—like the “völkische Mensch“—bound to the supernatural order. The fact that Delp sees the possibility of a connection at certain points is certainly also connected with his assessment of modern times and modernity in comparison to the Middle Ages, in which “ecclesiastical and völkisch man” still formed a unity for him.

However, Delp also draws clear boundaries. When he brings nature and supernature together, he is not concerned, like Karl Adam, with creating a völkisch-racist basis of theology, i.e., a particularistic theology, but with asserting and defending the greater right of supernature. That he does not want to create a particularistic theology, for which the German national is closer to the German Catholic than the baptized foreigner, becomes clear from the fact that he emphasizes the universal character of the order of grace and, based on natural law and the doctrine of creation, speaks of universal human rights. The latter in particular is beautifully demonstrated in the sermons for the feast of St. Elizabeth and for All Saints’ Day in 1941, both of which address the topic of “euthanasia.”

For Delp, St. Elizabeth, who is, after all, a princess, reveals a message of the meaning of “the noble man.” This meaning consists in the bond between power and right: the bearer of power is at the service of right and must guarantee right to men. Elizabeth recognizes, in Delp’s words, that man is in possession of rights which no prince or ruler may touch. Further, power must be understood as service to all. Elizabeth’s diaconal activity is not a personal quirk, but a lived worldview.

“Those that gathered around Elizabeth were not the people who stepped forth with important, these were not the people with blazing eyes and the straight backs, these were not the people of great positions, these were the cripples and the sick and the brooding and the poor and the outcasts of life and of existence” (III, 291f).

Even in these people, despite all misery and decrepitude, the image of God becomes visible as something worthy of promotion and protection. Delp thus connects the idea of human rights with the image of God. In this, he articulates a serious message to the German people:

“And who would take it upon himself to destroy an image and likeness, a thought, a will, a love of the Lord God! …Woe to him upon whom a human being was destroyed, upon whom an image of God was desecrated, even if it was in its last throes and even if it was only a memory of a human being!” (III, 292)

The All Saints Sermon takes up the content of the [1941] propaganda film about euthanasia entitled, Ich klage an (I Accuse). The title stems from the fact that in this film a legal system is to be indicted that forces man to live under all circumstances, and thus indirectly a God who allows such a thing. Delp bluntly calls the statements of the film a threefold lie. First, the pure happiness of the couple and the continuing success that prevailed before the wife’s illness is completely unrealistic and pretends that without the illness everything would have remained the same. Furthermore, the appeal to the tear glands and the resulting pity lulls the audience and prevents a rational discussion. Thirdly, the eternal talk of love and redemption is a distraction from the harshness of existence which only seeks to seduce to a more comfortable solution.

Delp interprets the basic message of this film as an escape from the harshness of suffering and from the responsibility of caring. Man remains man even in the worst condition, and he remains an appeal to the ability to love and the power of sacrifice of his environment. Man is deprived of the chance of probation, because suffering is also a place of historical probation. This may seem cynical to some of today’s advocates of active euthanasia, but it means taking man and his responsibility radically seriously. Delp does not stop there, but calls euthanasia not only a lie and an escape, but also a rebellion against God and an encroachment on the inviolable rights of man.

“That people will die who let man die, whether it be man in the very extreme situation. It is indignation against man, who by his birth and existence alone has rights which no one can take from him and which no one may touch without desecrating man and desecrating himself and despising himself” (III, 268f).

That churchmen stand up for human rights may seem natural to us after the pontificate of John Paul II, but at that time it was tantamount to a revolution, since until then the Catholic Church had condemned the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. As far as I know, a positive appreciation of human rights within the Catholic Church appears for the first time in 1941, in the context of the Catholic resistance, especially the Committee for Religious Affairs, with whose members Father Augustin Rösch and Father Lothar König Delp were in close contact. On the one hand, Delp gives a religious legitimation of human rights by invoking the image of God, but he also speaks of the fact that these rights come to man by birth; that is, as human beings. This high regard for human rights was obviously easier in National Socialist Germany for those theologians who, because of their Neo-Scholastic orientation, held to natural law.

[The Kreisau Circle used the term “ius nativum” to circumvent or overcome controversial theological problems regarding natural law; cf. Michael Pope, Alfred Delp S.J. im Kreisauer Kreis, 185-193, esp. 189-193.]

The reflections on the Immaculata, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, also belong to the theme of “nature and grace.” For Karl Adam, they belong to the context of the myth of the Aryan Jesus and form the climax of his racist transformation of the concept of nature. Adam did not go so far as to deny Jesus’ Jewishness altogether, but he did qualify it to the extent that Jesus could not have been a Judean full-blooded Jew, but certainly had some drops of other blood in him because he came from the “racially mixed” Galilee. Also, Jesus’ “racial” independence from Judaism then was due to his mother. Adam interpreted Mary’s liberation from original sin as the endowment of Mary with the noblest hereditary traits. Therefore, he said, Catholics need not worry about the question of Jesus’ Jewish ancestry.

“It is personally an uplifting thought to me that in the genetic stock, in the hereditary mass, which Mary transmitted to her divine Son, there were alive, thanks to a mysterious guidance of God supervising the development of her race, the best, noblest dispositions and powers which the human race had at its disposal. This view is based on the truth of faith that Mary was conceived without original sin—’without original sin,’ that is, also without the consequences of original sin, that is, in perfect purity and beauty, that is, with the noblest dispositions and powers. It is this dogma of Mary’s immaculata conceptio which makes all those malicious questions and complaints, as if we had to recognize in Jesus, in spite of all his merits, a ‘Jew-stemming,’ a completely absurd question from the Catholic point of view. For it testifies to us that Jesus’ mother Mary had no physical or moral connection whatsoever with those ugly dispositions and forces which we condemn in the full-blooded Jew. She is, by God’s miracle of grace, beyond those Jewish hereditary traits, a super-Jewish figure. And what is true of the mother is all the more true of the human nature of her son.” [Karl Adam, “Jesus der Christus und wir Deutsche” (Jesus and us Germans), in Wissenschaft und Weisheit 10 (1943) 73-103, here: 91.]

God thus appears as a planned eugenicist; salvation history as a process of “grafting” hereditary traits. This conflation of dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church with Nazi racial ideology was not contained in some private paper of Adam’s, but appeared in 1943 in a theological journal, the Franciscan Wissenschaft und Weisheit (Science and Wisdom).

On the other hand, Alfred Delp’s reflections on the Immaculata in his homily of December 8, 1941, are very different. The Immaculate Conception exemplifies in a human being the exaltation of man in grace [“Immaculata” (1941), in III, 36-45.]. The Sitz im Leben for the proclamation of this dogma was, in Delp’s perspective, the struggle against the absolute materialism and naturalism of the 19th century (the dogma was defined in 1854). The Immaculata, in Delp’s eyes, stands against the law of a biologistic order, against the judgment of a person’s worth by his blood, against the law of the collective that tests people for their usefulness and eliminates them if they fail. She is an I, a person accepted by God, blessed by God and overcomer of everything demonic. In her has happened exemplarily what grace intends for all people—they only have to let themselves be blessed.

Another spiritual address of Delp about Mary, which he probably held on the eve of a Marian feast in a community of Jesuits—the exact date is not known—has a different character [“Maria,” in III, 215-219.]. Here Delp does not foreground the commonality of people with Mary, but on the contrary emphasizes the gap between the Immaculata and the guilty people standing before her, who are members of a great community of guilt—by this community is meant the German people. “Thus, we stand in this hour before the high woman, before the world of holy divine order: in everything her weak, destroyed counter-image” (III, 218).

In this context, Delp makes an allusion to Mary being Jewish, which seems almost like the reverse image of Adam’s utterances:

“Wherever Mary is venerated today, she is called by the word that concludes all her greatness and glory in itself: Immaculata! …Whatever may seem beautiful and high and desirable to men is fulfilled in her. Natural nobility, down to the most biological sense of the word: King’s daughter from the house of David” (III, 216).

So, no preservation of Mary from Jewish hereditary traits, but conscious naming of her Jewish descent. If now the impression arises that Delp does here the same as Adam only under reversed conditions, one must make clear what he actually says here. According to the testimony of the Gospels, Mary did not come from the house and lineage of David at all, but her husband Joseph; and it is very unlikely that Delp was not aware of this. If, nevertheless, he uses here the most “biological” sense of the word, and if we consider this in the context of the recognition of the great guilt of the German people, who are facing Mary, then it can really only be a matter here of making clear that Mary is a Jew (and therefore, of course, Jesus is also a Jew), and of drawing attention to the guilt of the German people, which consists in the persecution and extermination of the Jews. However, this statement remains very coded.

3. The Understanding of Church

The view of the Church as a community and the orientation to experience and encounter became important for a theology that affirmed National Socialism. However, the roots of these concepts go back further.

Even before the time of National Socialism, “community” was the defining idea of ecclesiology for Karl Adam. In the first editions of his famous book, Das Wesen des Katholizismus (The Spirit of Catholicism), he interpreted the nature of the Church as a community. For him, the divine becomes real in the Church, but only insofar as the Church is community. In the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus, the Church was already given as an organic community. Adam took up the community ideology of the Weimar period in his doctrine of the Church. This ideology expressed dissatisfaction with the Weimar Republic and democracy and attacked the parliamentary system, rationalism and liberalism. In the background was the communitarianism of the youth movement, and especially the war experience of World War I.

Democracy and pluralism were not seen as an opportunity for a better life, but as the cause of conflict and disunity. Therefore, such a diffuse concept as “community” could become a counter-model to parliamentary democracy. This promised the solution to all problems by pretending to resolve all antagonisms in a higher third. This was the basis of the attractiveness of the concept of community for theologians who wanted to abolish the conflictual opposites of nature and grace, but also of laity and clergy, of local and universal Church. This concept allowed them to leave behind both the Neo-Scholastic individualism of salvation and the view of the Church as an institution of salvation. At the same time, it created the conditions for cooperation with National Socialism.

Closely connected with the concept of “community” was the idea of “experiencing” this community and of a community-creating primordial experience. The community thinking of the Weimar period, which continued in National Socialism, was rooted in the war experience of the First World War. Adam was also deeply influenced by it. Like many others, he interpreted the beginning of the war in August 1914 as an overwhelming experience of the unity and community of the German people. This community abolished all political, social, and confessional barriers. “Experience” and “Encounter” became at the same time an epistemological instrument. With its help, Adam rejected the claim of Neo-Scholasticism to justify faith with the help of natural reason. Adam now grounded faith in the irrational, in the encounter. This, however, was not understood as something purely subjective, but as an event that transcended individuality, within a community shaped by authority and hierarchy.

I would like to present Alfred Delp’s understanding of the Church primarily with the help of a text he wrote in prison at the end of 1944 or the beginning of 1945. [“Reflexionen über die Zukunft” (Reflections on the Future), “IV. Das Schicksal der Kirchen” (Fate of the Churches), in IV, 318-323]. It is a clear-sighted look into the future of the Church. The fate of the Church would not depend on the political-tactical skill of its leaders, but on its turning to the real need of people in all areas of life. Thus, for Delp, the Church is essentially a diaconal Church. It has to return to its basic function of diakonía.

“No man will believe in the message of salvation and of the Savior until we have bloodied ourselves in the service of man who is physically, psychologically, socially, economically, morally, or otherwise sick” (IV, 319).

This may sound as self-evident as the commitment to human rights, but it is just as little so. For Karl Adam, the self-executions of the Church included dogma, cultus, and morality, i.e., preaching, administering the sacraments, and educational activity, but not diaconal commitment. Adam did propagate the unity of the truth of faith and the life of faith, but he sought it in “experience” and not in [the encounter], in turning to the world and the needs of people. The fact that Adam almost completely omitted the diaconal character of the Church from his ecclesiology enabled him to propagate a church of the strong and healthy and to dream of a Catholic “master man.”

As an example, on the other hand, let us mention Pius XII. He adhered to the traditional image of the Church as an institution of salvation, which must provide everything for the salvation of the individual soul. This means that here, too, diaconal commitment was not in the foreground. It was more important to ensure the continued existence of Church pastoral care and the administration of the sacraments through political cleverness—for it was a matter of eternal salvation—than to protest against the persecution of the Jews.

One can see, then, the importance that Delp’s determination of the Church’s task had. From its diaconal mission and self-execution, the Church must recognize the signs of the times; hear and answer “the calls of longing and of the times, of ferment and of new departures,” and not merely file away “the concerns of each new age and generation in the filing cabinets” (IV, 318). It must also do a reappraisal of its past, i.e., self-critically explore what it itself has contributed to the history of injustice in its 2000-year history.

“A coming honest cultural and intellectual history will have to write bitter chapters about the churches’ contributions to the emergence of mass man, collectivism, dictatorial forms of rule, etc.” (IV, 319).

To secular man, the Church must not meet with presumption; the lost and erring man it must pursue; it must be concerned about human dignity and human rights. “It makes no sense to be content to leave humanity to its fate with a preaching and religious license, with a pastor’s and prelate’s salary” (IV, 23).

The Church must not want to compensate for its real loss of political and social power with alliances of throne and altar of whatever kind.

By the end of these thoughts, which Delp wrote in prison with his hands tied, there are only fragmentary, but all the more forceful, sentences. The Church must turn to the world, must be the sacrament of the world, not the goal of the world. But neither must she dissolve herself in any worldly order and abandon her transcendent reference: “The force of the Church’s immanent mission depends on the seriousness of her transcendent devotion and adoration” (IV, 323).

Thus, Delp’s understanding of the Church reflects his conception of the human being—fully turned towards the world and committed to history; but always living from the transcendent reference. That he calls the Church to a return to one of its fundamental self-fulfillments, diakonia, is thus on the one hand the best tradition of the Church, but also results from his conception of man, which is shaped by modern philosophy. The fact that this view of the Church is also groundbreaking from an inner-Church point of view is something I would like to mention here only briefly and take up again at the end.

4. The Heroic Ideal

Karl Adam emphasized in his Christ books the humanity of Jesus [Christus unser Bruder (Christ our Brother) Regensburg 1926; Jesus Christus (Jesus Christ) Augsburg 1933]., but carried this out in such a way that he projected onto the earthly Jesus a heroic ideal of masculinity and sought to combine this with the traditional Christian virtues, which stereotypically appear as feminine. The product was the physically and psychologically perfect man. With the help of this favoring of the “strong” and “healthy,” Christianity was not to appear as the morbid religion of the weak, born of resentment. Christology is thus functionalized for a church of the “strong and healthy.” The fact that Adam also emphasized the “maternal” traits of Jesus may soften this impression, but in their clichéd nature (“tender, caring and ready for sacrifice”) these cannot relativize the heroic motif.

Delp, like probably most men of his time, was by no means indifferent to the heroic ideal. His youthful dream was to become a soldier and officer. But the First World War also brought a change in this respect. To his provincial, Father Augustin Rösch, he wrote before his ordination in 1937:

“Yesterday, I gave in to a secret childhood love and once again looked at soldiers on parade on the fairgrounds. As you know, I told you once in Feldkirch, I would have loved to become a soldier for my life. My godfather, who was only a few years older than me, was already a cadet and I dreamed of it. Then the war shattered everything. My godfather fell in ‘14 as a young cadet just 17 years old. And after the war everything was different. In the meantime, the divine eagle picked up the foundling and carried it to its eyrie. And now it should get the big wings… That just came to my mind during the ‘heightened combat readiness’ that was also practiced yesterday” (V, 91).

Delp never completely let go of this youthful desire: in 1939 he made intensive efforts to be drafted into field chaplaincy. When his rather impetuous approach to this question led to irritation, he justified himself by saying that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of the men in his family.

“The fact that I was so hasty in seeking my war assignment stems from the fact that I wanted to become an officer before my conversion and that I am ashamed to sit at home, while all but one of the male members of my family are in the field. Besides, precisely as a priest and Jesuit, I wanted to prove that the concerns and worries of my people are always a serious duty to me” (V, 106). Delp wrote to Vicar General Georg Werthmann on September 28, 1939.

Given this fascination with the military, it is all the more significant that Delp was completely immune to certain forms of glorification of war and combat, such as we find in Ernst Jünger or Max Scheler. Delp read Scheler’s work Der Genius des Krieges (The Genius of War) and Jünger’s Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis (War as Inner Experience) as an inner experience and rejected Jünger’s assertions that war is a law of nature and that it does not matter why and for what one fights, but only how, as well as Scheler’s automatism of purification through war, independent of moral considerations and decisions. Above all, Delp is far from “glorifying war as the ideal state of male life” (II, 247); but he calls for coping with it and mastering it. In this 1940 article from Stimmen der Zeit (Voices of the Time), entitled, “Der Krieg als geistige Leistung” (War as a Spiritual Achievement) [II, 239-248], Delp does not grapple with the question of just war or the moral permissibility of a war of extermination, although it seems between the lines that he is aware of this issue. For the sake of fairness, however, it must be said that positively uplifting articles about the war were required by the Reichsschrifttumskammer (Reich Chamber of Culture) at this time, and direct criticism of the war would not have been tolerated.

Delp had already dealt with the concept of honor and the ideal of the heroic man in the context of his critique of völkisch religiosity. [“Kirche in der Zeitenwende” (Church at the Crossroads), “VIII. Der Mensch der Ehre im Christentum” (Man and Honor in Christianity), “IX. Der heldische Mensch” (Heroic Man), in I, 165-182].

In the völkisch religious myth, honor is a central concept—honor, however, not understood as an external reputation or good reputation, but as the innermost core of man. Honor then means self-realization and loyalty to the inner self, which gives itself its own laws. This law of honor is considered the highest norm and does not tolerate any other highest value next to it, neither Christian love nor secular humanity. From this results the reproach of dishonor to the Christians; and this reproach Delp wanted to refute and to work out the true meaning of the concept of honor.

The Christian is also obliged to realize himself, to be true to himself, to listen to his innermost voice. This happens when he listens to his conscience. For Delp, the central value of Christianity is man’s likeness to God (through creation) and sonship to God (through grace)—therefore, honor is inconceivable without love. Christian life is thus compatible with the concept of honor; but Christians can have nothing in common with people whose honor does not extend beyond themselves.

The heroic person in the völkisch-religious ideology is the one who lives according to the law of honor. The heroic ideal is a fighting one. The struggle is for its own sake, not for a goal. Only by fighting does the hero realize himself, even if this means his downfall. Certainly, there is no goal that goes beyond man and the earthly world. This absolute world immanence is without goal and for Delp therefore senseless. We have here the same judgment as with Heidegger’s concept of the decision of Dasein to itself. Moreover, this senselessness, Delp criticizes, is not named as such, but concealed as tragedy.

“Thus, self-realization becomes a self-destruction; the march of hammering life a train to abysmal death. This human being must fight, must dare, and yet in the end must not ask what for. He feels the insufficiency of his personal disposition, but this is exactly supposed to constitute his heroism; that it nevertheless pulls unquestioningly and wordlessly into the twilight darkness and perishes in it. Finally, he declares the senseless and the groundless to be the meaning and reason of his commitment; he stands before the new lie of tragedy” (I, 177).

Christian heroism, for Delp, is no less achievement, spirit, and readiness to fight. But there is a great difference between the heroism of the time and the heroism of the Christian. The Christian is committed to a task which is to be accomplished in the world, but which transcends this world. Man does not give himself his goal—here the hero is quite powerless—but he must let God give him that goal.

“To the man of ‘autonomous heroism’ no other result is valid than tragedy. He must finally admit to himself that he knows no answer to the question, why and to what end. Thus, he proclaims the struggle without aim and without sense; the march without direction. The living, honest man defends himself against this worst deception, which was ever tried on people. The Christian, however, is full of certainty and confidence; that he is committed to an effort that holds out the prospect of hardship and toil and wounding and death, and yet is meaningful and productive of results—before God” (I, 180f).

Delp thus takes up, not only for tactical reasons, but out of inner affinity, the motif of the heroic, which is encountered in völkisch religiosity and Nazi ideology, and gives it an entirely different meaning: not the law of honor, not the struggle as an end in itself, not the downfall as a tragedy count; but radical commitment to the world, on the sure ground of God’s grace. Man cannot redeem himself. Any presumed autonomy on this point and any resulting tragedy would be lies.

Delp is also far from projecting the heroic ideal onto Jesus Christ. This goes hand in hand with a very traditional descendent Christology. Karl Adam fascinated many of his contemporaries, and especially young men, by his emphasis on the humanity of Jesus, and by describing this human Jesus as strong, healthy and attractive—a dream of a man. That was modern, innovative, carried people away. Delp, on the other hand, appears here, as Karl Rahner acknowledges about him in the preface to Volume I, actually rather old-fashioned [“Einleitung zu den Texten” (Introduction of the Textx, Karl Rahner), in I, 43-50; here, 46].. For him, Christ is the preexistent Word of God who became man, who descended into the lowliness of human existence—not a strong, tough of will, vigorous, male hero. Delp’s Christology is a kenotic one, a divestment Christology.

Here too, then, it is evident that he takes up and reinterprets contemporary currents, but applies them only to the situation of man, not to God or Jesus Christ.

5. Conclusion

The question of the coherence of Delp’s theology and his resistance can be clearly answered in the affirmative. In his philosophical and theological reflections on man and history, as well as in his spiritual writings, Delp foresaw what he later actively suffered and was forced to master. He not only thought of the Christian’s responsibility in history and for history, but also realized it. The fact that he did not give in to the Gestapo’s efforts to get him to resign from the Jesuit Order, even though that would probably have saved his life, but took his last vows on December 8, 1944, in Tegel Prison, was an outward expression of his decision to remain faithful both to history and to his transcendent goal.

Closely related to his resistance continue to be his diaconal understanding of the church, his commitment to human rights, and his resistance to communal ideology.

Neo-Scholastic theologians in National Socialist Germany found it easier to refer to human rights because they affirmed God-given human rights from natural law thinking and were more universalist-oriented than “völkisch” and racist theologians. This does not mean, however, that all Neo-Scholastics were by definition resisters or even affirmed human rights. In Vichy France, for example, we find the commitment to human rights more among the so-called modern theologians.

For all his interest in orders of a natural or supernatural nature and in the sociality of man, Delp repeatedly emphasized conscience, personal decision, and the responsibility of the individual for history. On the one hand, this may still reflect the Neo-Scholastic individualism of salvation, for Delp is always concerned with the question of salvation in this context, but perhaps even more strongly the reception of Heidegger’s Being and Time, to which Jürgen Habermas ascribes a critical moment, namely that which is contained in the individualistic heritage of existential philosophy. [After 1929, according to Habermas, this critical moment disappeared in Heidegger, and “historical humanity” and “collective destiny” took its place]. Delp, however, retained it; and possibly this made him resistant to the prevailing ideology of community.

Was Delp’s theology a modern, contemporary one, or a more traditional Neo-Scholastic one?

There is no single answer here. Delp was driven by a concern to engage with contemporary thought and to incorporate what he recognized as positive into Christian theology. There is, however, a clear boundary here—as long as it is a matter of illuminating the situation of man and understanding history, he was inspired, for example, by Heidegger or the heroic ideal; but even so, in determining the double meaning of history he opposed traditionally shaped views, even more so when it came to Jesus Christ or God. Delp would probably never have had the idea—not even after the notorious “Kehre”—to transfer Heidegger’s concept of being to God. With regard to Jesus Christ, he remained within the framework of a classical descendent Christology and did not go along with the fashionable trend of putting the humanity of Jesus particularly in the foreground.

Delp’s understanding of nature and grace is also rather Neo-Scholastic. He did not want to tear the two apart; but he does see them as two realms. In the understanding of history, this is shown by the distinction between a natural order of history and the order of Christ. Also, by nature, history has a goal: namely, to become what God intended in creation. These thoughts are more in the Neo-Scholastic discourse; the concept of the unity of world history and salvation history, on the other hand, in the modern. However, Seiler has made it convincingly clear in his commentary that the category of history functions as a link between traditionality and modernity in Delp’s thought. Nature is tied to supernature in a historical way. Consequently, nature and supernature, though two separate realms, are linked by history. The same is true of Christology—the mystery of the Hypostatic Union has made visible a new order of nature, and with it a new dimension of history: being the place of man’s encounter with God in the order of Christ. Everything that is human is embraced by the Christ order. According to Seiler, no Neo-Scholastic thinks in this way. In this respect, Seiler says that Delp’s understanding of nature and grace and Christology is modern in its Neo-Scholastic character.

Absolutely groundbreaking is Delp’s understanding of the Church. Here he had already overtaken the so-called modern theologians of his time, who adhered to the ideology of community. That the Church is a sacrament, i.e., a sign and instrument of the union of man with God and of men among themselves, is the core principle of the Church constitution of the Second Vatican Council. Church as sacrament means first of all service to the world. The sacramental interpretation does not point the Church inward, to a self-sufficient liturgical community, or to the piety of inner circles, but outward to the needs of the world. Whoever had such an understanding of the Church could not dream of a Church of the strong and healthy, or want to push through a Church reform with the help of National Socialism, at a time when millions had already been killed in the death camps and in the war.

Finally, let Alfred Delp himself be given the last say—with a quotation that makes it clear that Christians’ commitment to history is a matter of life and death:

“History, within its order and possibilities, is placed on the testimony and decision of men. It is, from man’s point of view, an agonal event; whoever did not fight for history should not be surprised if he lost it and if it forgot him” (II, 417f.).

Alfred Delp fought for history and lost his life—history did not forget him.


Lucia Scherzberg is Professor of systematic theology at the University of Saarland, Germany. This article appears courtesy of theologie.geschichte.


Featured image: Father Alfred Delp.

UFOs and Space Aliens: A Theistic and Catholic Perspective

For some two millennia, most Christians have believed that Earth was God’s sole habitat for rational animals in all creation. Moreover, the role of Christ as savior of all mankind was viewed as essential to healing the rift with divinity caused by the first parents of all true humans—a rift repaired by the death of Jesus on a cross, a fall from grace and divine reparation that happened once and for all time and nowhere else in all the cosmos.

Fast forward to today and we suddenly see taken seriously claims about UFOs that may contain intelligent visitors from other and distant parts of space – visitors whose theological relation to earthly humans is now very much in question. Indeed, many now are having doubts about Christianity itself, since they wonder whether the scientific evidence about intelligent life on other planets directly contradicts doctrinal truths essential to Christian revelation.

Today we hear increasing reports about UFO sightings, abductions to alien spaceships, ancient alien civilizations in places like Antarctica, interdimensional visitations, and human interactions with space aliens of diverse species, such as Reptilians, Pleiadians, and Greys. This plethora of reports from diverse sources make many people wonder whether one or more may actually turn out to be true.

My intent is to address directly the challenge that such extraterrestrial humanoid claims seem to pose to traditional Christianity, specifically, to Catholicism. Can one rationally believe that Catholicism would still be authentic divine revelation, if it turns out that such extraterrestrial intelligent humanoids actually exist?

Indeed, what makes this challenge even more daunting is our very lack of knowledge about the truth of these various extraterrestrial or interdimensional claims of alien intelligent life forms. Since we are not yet certain what accounts are true, or even if any of them are true, how can we offer a rational defense of traditional Christianity?

The method I will follow will be to examine the claims for the God of classical theism as well as attendant philosophical tenets presupposed by Christian revelation, specifically Catholicism. That is, some of the preambula fidei (Preambles to the Faith) will be tested for epistemic certainty.

I do not intend to offer a fully developed natural theology here. But, I do intend to show how the ultimate epistemic and metaphysical foundations exist on which to erect a natural theology with perfect certainty. Other foundational truths of philosophy of nature and philosophical psychology will also be shown, which, with like certainty, support Christian beliefs about man having a spiritual and immortal soul.

Metaphysical First Principles and Logic

The Christian metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas centers on the concept of being which is foundational to all metaphysical first principles, such as those of non-contradiction, sufficient reason, and causality. The transcendental validity of these basic truths is absolutely essential to the proofs for God’s existence and to all rational inquiry about reality.

To the metaphysician, “being” or “existence” is first known when the mind is confronted by something actually presented to it by the senses, that is, when it recognizes and affirms existence as actually exercised. As philosopher Jacques Maritain points out in his book, The Degrees of Knowledge (1959), being is first known in a judgment: “Scio aliquid esse” (71-81). That is, “I know something to be or to exist.” I may not know what it is that I have encountered in experience, but I know that it is “something real or existing” in some way.

On the contrary, the logician views existence only to regard it as a type of essence, that is, being as signified. The logician abstracts a concept of existence from actually encountered existence, treating it then as if it were a kind of essence. That is why the logician views existence or being as a univocal term, whereas being or existence as actually found in reality is exercised analogically, that is, as varying from being to being. Whether it be creature or Creator—both exercise existence, despite the incommensurability of their essences.

Since the process of abstraction by which we form concepts captures only essential likenesses between things, its predication is inherently univocal. The logician studies the proper relations between concepts, which are formed secondarily to the judgment in which the mind first knows being in a general manner. But, the being, which is first known in a direct judgment of something existing and which the metaphysician studies, is found in all things, regardless of nature or differences, and hence, is inherently analogous, that is, predicable of anything that has existence—even of things with radically diverse natures, such creatures and God.

Modern analytic logicians attack Thomistic philosophers’ use of “existence” as the first act of any being by claiming that “existence is not a first-order predicate.”

They will say that we directly encounter cows from which we can form a concept of “cow-ness,” which can then be licitly predicated of something, as when we say, “Daisy is a cow.” But then they say that we do not encounter “existence” in the same fashion, since it is not directly given in sense experience. Hence, they claim that Thomistic reasoning about the “existence” or “act of existence” of things is based on something that we do not directly encounter in experience. Since modern logic, indeed, all logic, studies second intentions and not first intentions, it is perfectly understandable why Fregeans insist that “existence is not a first-order predicate.”

But existence is encountered by all human beings in ordinary everyday life. We make judgments about things being real or not real, existing or not existing, all the time. Moreover, we have a very clear notion of being that is freely applied to all things, including what most people understand as a transcendent God. People do not run around enunciating the proposition, “Being cannot both be and not be.” Still, people understand perfectly clearly that nothing can both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. No one has any real problem with these judgments and expressions about being or existence—save for those suddenly trying to do philosophy about such notions as technically expressed in modern logic.

Empirical judgments tell us that things are real in the physical world, but do not explain the sufficient reason why they are actually differentiated from nothingness. Moreover, existence in act cannot be the object of sense experience as such. But it can be known directly in an existential judgment, as when we say, “This horse exists.”

All this is precisely why human knowledge is not merely sensory, but rather is sensory-intellectual. Human experience is not restricted merely to sensation (as Hume assumes), but is simultaneously intellectual in nature.

That is why we say that existence (esse) is known in a judgment, NOT in sensation as such. When we say that “this horse exists,” the physical attributes of the horse are experienced through sensation, but the intellect alone pronounces that the horse and its properties have actual being or existence.

And because existence is known immediately in sensory-intellectual experience, it is, whether it be so in Fregean logic or not, a legitimate predicate of actual things. No, it adds nothing to the properties of the thing (to the essence, that is), but it pronounces the whole thing as real—as not nothing at all.

When we encounter real things, we not only experience their physical attributes, but we also judge that they, and whatever it is that has those properties, are real, that is, that they exist. They have something real in them that differentiates them from nothing at all. If we deny this evident fact, we lose all intellectual contact with reality.

In our first encounter with the existence or being of something – an encounter that is simultaneously both sensitive and intellectual, the intellect immediately forms the judgment that “being is.” From this we immediately combine it with its corresponding negative judgment, “non-being is not,” to form the principle of non-contradiction: “Being cannot both be and not be.” We then add the qualifiers, “at the same time and in the same way,” so as to make sure we are talking about the exact same being from the exact same perspective.

Hence is formed what is called the ontological principle of non-contradiction (PNC): A being cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same way. It is a most basic metaphysical first principle that governs not only thought, but all of reality.

Maritain, in his book, A Preface to Metaphysics (1939), says that “the whole of logic depends upon the principle of contradiction” (34). You cannot be sure of the logical form of the principle unless you are first certain of its ontological form. That is, you cannot be sure that the same predicate cannot be affirmed and denied of the same subject universally, unless you are certain of this because of first presupposing the ontological form of the same principle. Otherwise, since propositions are part of reality, it might be possible to affirm and deny the same predicate of the same subject.

Indeed, the ontological principle of non-contradiction is absolutely required to establish the very intelligibility of every thought and every utterance and every logical proposition human beings make, since in affirming anything about any reality, even mental reality, it is implicit that one is affirming and not denying what is expressed. Absent that certainty, every thought or utterance or proposition might just as well express the opposite of what it intends to say.

Even the science of semantics itself would be meaningless and unintelligible, reduced to a pile of potentially self-conflicting statements that may or may not have any bearing on reality—absent the ontological PNC.

Moreover, the intelligibility of every judgment made in natural science presupposes the PNC, since otherwise, no judgment might comport with reality.

Some maintain that we say nothing absolute about things. We just make probability estimates of this or that being true or likely to happen. But this presupposes the absolute affirmation of the probability. Are we only 70% sure that we are 70% sure? Would that make us only 49% sure? And 70% probability of that 49% reduces what began as a 70% probability to a mere 34.3% possibility! Mere probability judgments, if applied to everything, would quickly asymptote to a near impossibility! This means, then, that even probability estimates must be made absolutely, and thus, presuppose the PNC in their declaration.

Given that the ontological PNC is undeniably given at the very starting point of all human knowledge, there is no “secondary level” philosophical system or theory that can disprove it, especially since all such alternative epistemologies presuppose the self-same principle of non-contradiction in their own initial premises and expositions. That is why the PNC is a metaphysical first principle foundational to all human knowledge and to all reality or being.

The Foundation of Certitude

If what I experience is merely subjective, like a hallucination, I still have perfect certitude that I have encountered something real in its own order. If I see pink elephants dancing on the ceiling, I may be wrong about their extramental reality, but I cannot doubt that I am experiencing something real. I still know something to be or to exist, even if it is only in my intramental, but real, experience.

Doubt requires a distinction between (1) what I know and (2) what is real, since doubt is fear of error. But to be in error, I must think I know something, which—it turns out—is not really true. So, doubt is the fear that what I think I know is not what is real.

But the reality of my experience is identical with the reality of the content of the hallucination, that is, pink elephants dancing on the ceiling. I can be wrong about a judgment I make that goes beyond the subjective experience itself, but I cannot be wrong about the fact that I am experiencing some form of reality.

It is in that first immediate certitude of being or existence as judged by the intellect that we realize that we metaphorically can “see” being, much like the sight naturally sees color. The mind also then realizes that being is not non-being—a law as universal as being itself. Applying to anything that possibly exists, this first principle is inherently transcendental. For, any possible thing that is real or exists already is being, whereas, any possible thing that does not exist is literally “nothing” to worry about.

The mind not only “sees” being, but it is also self-reflectively aware of its natural conformity to that being. That is, the mind is naturally constituted to know being. That is why we use it to know what is and what is not. Were the mind to lack such ability to know being or reality, it would be entirely useless as an instrument of knowledge.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason

Not only do we trust the mind as an instrument to know being, but we also use it as an instrument to judge all that is real. We engage in reasoning in order to come to know the truth about reality or being.

The mind demands reasons for anything that is not immediately evident. That is, if a thing does not have its own explanation within itself, we properly demand that “outside” or extrinsic reasons be supplied.

No one seriously holds that being can come from non-being. Some foolishly assert that quantum mechanics allows that photons can pop into existence in a quantum vacuum. But a quantum vacuum is not really the “nothing” that philosophers are talking about. Rather, it is merely the lowest possible energy state found in physical reality. We are talking about trying to make something from what is really nothing at all. It is impossible.

The mind demands that being can only come-to-be from being or something already there, which amounts to saying that being must be grounded in being, that is, in some foundation or sufficient reason for its existence.

Some have alleged that certain events or realities are simply “brute facts” for which there is no reason or explanation. But, if that were true, we could never know when anything lacks all explanation, which would make natural science as well as all human reasoning useless. To think something must be true with certitude means to think that is how it must be. But, if it must be in a certain way, that means that there is a reason why it is that way and not some other way. Or else, there is no necessity about what the intellect holds to be true, and hence, no certitude.

Because it thinks in terms of being, the intellect cannot think a genuine contradiction. So, too, the intellect cannot think of anything as real and true without having a reason to do so. If it thinks something is true with certitude, it is because it judges that there is a sufficient reason to do so.

The mind demands true premises and valid inferences in all its reasoning about reality. But premises are true and reasoning is valid solely because they keep the mind in conformity with reality or being. Hence, the mind demands a true foundation in being or sufficient reasons for any claim that does not explain itself by being its own sufficient reason for being. This means the mind demands a sufficient reason both for what it holds true, or, if something is not its own sufficient reason for being as it is, then there must be extrinsic reasons sufficient to make up for what something does not explain within itself.

The preceding is simply a complicated way of defending and stating the principle of sufficient reason: Every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be either within itself or from some extrinsic sufficient reason or reasons. There can be no such thing as a “brute fact,” since that would be to deny the principle of sufficient reason which flows from the very nature of being itself.

Certitude in Proving God’s Existence

Why, then, are the PNC and PSR key to certitude in proving God’s existence?

Valid proofs for the God of classical theism rest squarely on these two metaphysical first principles. Valid proofs are a posteriori—starting with effects found in the sensible world and arguing back to the need for a First Cause Uncaused in whatever order of reality is used as a point of departure for the proof involved.

The key is to start with something whose sufficient reason is not totally intrinsic, which is what is called an effect. Every effect needs a cause, which serves as its needed extrinsic sufficient reason. That cause, in turn, is either itself uncaused or caused. (PNC) If it is uncaused, the Uncaused First Cause has been arrived at. If caused, then the question of infinite regress among causes arises. That was the central question dealt with in my book, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence.

Put as succinctly as possible, in any regress of intermediate causes, each cause contributes something to the final effect, but none explains the “thread of causality” which runs through the entire series. Hence, if there is no first cause, the entire series lacks a sufficient reason for its final effect. But that is to deny the PSR. Therefore, there must be a First Cause Uncaused.

It is true that an infinite regression in accidental causes is possible, for example, fathers begetting sons forever. But the past no longer exists to explain the present here and now. Fathers are causes of the coming-to-be of their sons, not of their being, once conceived. The father can die, while the son lives on. Present effects need present causes. So, any causal regress must be among proper causes—causes acting here and now to produce their effects. Among such a causal regress, regression to infinity is impossible, as shown above. Therefore, there must be a First Uncaused Cause.

While the above outlines the general format for valid proofs for the God of classical theism, perhaps the best known of these proofs is the First Way of St. Thomas Aquinas, which begins: “It is certain and evident to our senses that in the world some things are in motion.” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c). Here, St. Thomas begins with an immediately evident truth given to us directly in sensation. He follows this with a general principle: “Now whatever is in motion is being moved by another” (Ibid.). Again, he is not talking about movers going back in time, but about movers acting here and now to effect the coming-to-be of new states of reality here and now.

The “Law of Inertia” does not explain Motion

Newton’s law of inertia tells us that a body in motion tends to remain in motion. Many falsely think that explains a cosmos in continuous motion. It does not. The law of inertia merely describes how bodies behave. It fails to explain how or why they act this way.

Even without using Aristotle’s famous terminology of “act” and “potency,” it can easily be shown that everything in motion requires an extrinsic mover, using only the first principles of non-contradiction and sufficient reason.

When a body undergoes motion or change (this applies to changes in energy states as well), either that change is real or not (PNC). It must be real, since inertia is claimed to explain all real change, even evolutionary progress, in the cosmos. If it is real, then there must be a real difference between the “before” and “after” of the change. That is, the state of things is really different after the change occurs.

It does not matter whether we are talking about changes in position of planets or particles, changes in energy states or of changes in any other hypothesized physical reality. What matters is that reality is different after the change than it was before the change—and the coming-to-be of that new state of reality must be explained.

But it cannot be explained by the “old” or “previous” state of things, since the prior state did not include the reality that comes-to-be. Otherwise, there would be no difference between the before and the after, and thus, change did not take place.

But, change did take place and, since the previous state of things did not include that which makes the subsequent state of things new and different, the previous condition of things cannot explain what comes-to-be. Yet, the PSR demands a reason for what comes-to-be. Therefore, something else than the previous state of things must explain the new state of things.

This something else, then, must have caused what is new in the new state of affairs after the change occurred. Applied to physical motion, this means that whatever is in motion must be moved by another—just as St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle insist. For, what is in motion is changing, and that change—even if it is merely one of physical location relative to some point of reference—still needs a sufficient reason for the newness of the “after,” which was not in the “before.”

The rest is easy. Since there can be no infinite regress among moved movers here and now moving things moved, there must be a First Mover Unmoved, just as Aristotle and St. Thomas conclude.

Now the entire physical universe is in constant motion according to the science of physics. Yet, all its components are finite in nature. That is, they are all limited beings, existing with only “these” specific qualities and/or properties here and now, such as space-time coordinates. The universe as a whole is finite, because it is composed of finite or limited things.

In such a cosmos, all things are limited at any point in space-time to just what they are now—prior to any further motion or change. That is the essence of them being finite.

So, where does the “newness” of what newly comes-to-be after motion or change come from—either considering a single submicroscopic physical entity or when taking the entire cosmic nearly-uncountable parts as a whole? Both are finite. Both are confined to the limited reality of the past. Where does the newness of the next moment in time come from?

Does the newness come from the prior state of all things in this finite universe? It cannot, since the prior state, precisely as prior, does not contain the different and new states of being, which specifically differentiate what is new from what was prior. Non-being cannot beget being. Nor can the new state of things beget itself, since its new properties are “new” precisely because they did not exist in the prior state of things.

But change or motion does occur. Foolish materialists at this point will blurt out recourse to Newton’s descriptive law of inertia. But we have just seen that inertia explains nothing in terms of showing a sufficient reason for the continued motion of bodies which entails continually new and different states of reality, even if they are merely changes in spatial position. After all, these changes claim to explain a progressively evolving cosmos. So, they must be real and, as such, demand a coherent sufficient reason for their coming-to-be.

What is left? We know the cosmos is changing, even down to the least subatomic physical entity, according to natural science. We know it needs a cause of its changes. We know nothing in the finite physical cosmos can be that cause. The sole remaining alternative is that there must exist some first mover or movers unmoved which are not themselves moving, and thus, are not part of the physical universe. We need an immaterial or spiritual First Mover to explain all the motion or change in the physical world.

Coming back to the theme of this article, I should point out that even UFOs, space aliens, and hypothetical interdimensional multi-verses belong to the realm of the physical world of limited or finite beings subject to change or motion. Hence, none of them qualify for the role of an Unmoved First Mover of all motion or change in the finite physical world.

Note also that no deity in the form of pantheism or panentheism can be the First Unmoved Mover, since both of these “theisms” include the physical world as part of the essence of God, and thus, would be subject to the same limitations that prevent any finite world from explaining the newness that is continually generated in it through motion or change.

In his Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c, St. Thomas does not claim to have proven the existence of the God of classical theism through any of his Five Ways. Rather, at the end of each argument, he simply observes that what is concluded to is what all men call God. It takes him another ten questions as well as many diverse arguments before attesting that the demonstrated philosophical understanding of God is such that his nature fulfills the revealed biblical name of God. Finally, in the Summa Theologiae, I, q. 13, a. 11, he asks, “Whether this name, He Who Is, is the most proper name of God?”—a question he answers in the affirmative, “since the being of God is his very essence.”

Since one could easily write a book about Aquinas’s Five Ways alone, I have no desire to present all or most of the classical proofs for God here. Rather, my primary focus has been to reaffirm the certitude of the essential “legs” on which all such proofs stand, specifically, (1) the principle of non-contradiction and (2) the principle of sufficient reason. Beyond that, I have addressed some common misunderstandings concerning: (1) the validity of the analogy of being, (2) the principle that whatever is moved is moved by another, and (3) the question of infinite causal regression.

The purpose of the above is to reassure the reader that the proofs for God’s existence remain on sound footing even in the contemporary sci-fi world of UFOs and space aliens. Nothing has changed. As long as their metaphysical foundations remain secure, the general method of starting with some phenomena that needs explanation, such as motion in the world, the search for sufficient reasons inevitably lead us back through a chain of causes (or even directly to God) that must have a First Cause Uncaused in whatever intelligible order of dependent beings is being explored. Each of the famous Five Ways starts with something different to be explained: things in motion, series of causes of being, things whose existence is contingent, relative perfections found in things, and an order of governance in the world. Those who wish to see the most profound exposition of these Five Ways should read the entire first volume of Reginald Garrigou-Langrange’s God, His Existence, and His Nature.

Still, in examining the phenomenon of motion, we have already seen that there must be a First Mover Unmoved, which cannot be part of the physical world. This means that philosophical materialism has already been defeated. Even if UFOs and space aliens exist, it remains true that the ultimate explanation for motion in the space-time continuum transcends physical reality. A central theme of Christian belief remains true.

Other Themes of Christian Philosophy

One of the unhappy consequences of pure materialism is that its doctrine entails that nothing above the subatomic level actually exists. One need merely ask what happens when two atoms combine, say sodium and chlorine, when they join to form table salt or sodium chloride. Does this make one being, or, is it still two distinct atoms forming a temporary union? According to the materialistic philosophy of atomism, two atoms sharing an electronic link to form a molecule are no more one thing than are two people shaking hands a single organism.

The major historical alternative to atomism is Aristotle’s doctrine of hylemorphism, which says that all physical things are composed of matter and form, where form is an immaterial principle which makes a thing one substance of a certain nature. What is at stake is whether unified things with specific and diverse natures exist above the subatomic level. Are human beings single things of a same nature throughout? Are we just a pile of atoms or are we one thing of a unified nature? Common sense and experience says we are one single substance. Thus, if someone is punched in the stomach, we don’t say that just a stomach was punched. We say the person was punched, since we are human in every cell of our being from head to toe.

But how do we know that we are a single substance, such that the nature of all our parts is human—not a “foot nature,” “a hand nature,” and a “brain” nature? The evidence is abundant.

First, all parts of a whole function for the good of the whole, not just itself. That is, our stomachs do not just digest food for itself, but to feed the metabolism of the entire organism. Our feet sacrifice their comfort on long hikes for the sake of moving the entire person from one place to another.

Even more definitive is our actual experience of existential unity as we react to, for example, the attack of a mad dog. We simultaneously see and hear and feel the attack of the beast with all our senses in a single unified subjective painful and horrified experience. Then, we marshal all our psychological and physical powers to fend off this attack, keenly aware of our same self both as the central receptor of the incoming fire of all the senses and as the central agent of the outgoing actions of all our being to repel this dangerous attacker.

In this vivid experience we are directly and immediately self-aware of the unified nature of our person and all its senses and physical powers interacting with external forces in terms of a “unified command center.” This evident unity of our human person requires a real principle of unity, which accounts for our specifically human behavior—a nature or form (as Aristotle would call it), which makes a single, unified substance existing over and above the physical elements which compose it. This principle of life that makes us an individual human being is what is called the soul.

The Human Soul’s Immaterial Nature

This same self that enables the body to act in a unified manner also exhibits activities and powers that transcend the materiality of the body alone.

First, our senses apprehend the physically extended complexity of our environment in such manner as to grasp whole objects in a single, simple way that is impossible for purely physical things to do. Most clear is the instance of vision, where we can see both tops and bottoms of objects in a single act.

Electronic devices, like televisions, can represent objects physically extended in space solely by having different parts of the representing medium represent different parts of the object. For example, for a television to represent a tree on its surface, hundreds of thousands of pixels across its face are either illuminated or not, so as to depict the parts of the tree. No single pixel “sees” anything, since it is both inanimate and is either illuminated or not. It is only the pattern of illuminated pixels that represents the whole tree.

But a dumb canine, bounding into the room, instantly can see the whole image of the tree, top and bottom, in a single act of sight—unifying the physically extended and disparate parts of the image into a single subjective experience that cannot be itself physically extended in space. Why not extended in space? Because then one part would represent one part of the tree and a separate part would represent a different part of the tree and nothing would “see” the whole. That is the nature of material things. Different parts do different things.

But the act of seeing the whole tree in a single act requires that the sense power involved must not be itself extended in space. And to not be extended in space means to be immaterial.

Thus the sensitive soul, which enables an animal to experience sensation, must itself not be material, since it enables the animal to perform immaterial actions – actions not extended in space.

The Human Soul’s Spiritual Nature

Animals show evidence of immateriality in their simple apprehension of sense objects, as I have just shown. But, the problem for life in the animal kingdom is that even such “immateriality” fails to escape completely dependence upon the animals’ material bodies and organs. This is evident because both sense objects and sense images are always experienced under the conditions of matter, as we humans see in our own sense lives.

Sense experience is always “under the conditions of time and space.” This means that such experiences are always concrete, particular, singular, and have imaginable material qualities, such as specific size, color, shape, weight, sounds, and so forth. If one imagines a triangle or horse, it must always be with a particular color, size, shape, and so forth. Such images are always under such “conditions of matter,” and thus, fail to show complete independence of matter, that is, of material organs, such as the brain.

Like animals, man has sense powers. But, unlike animals, man also exhibits superior intellectual acts, such as understanding universal concepts, judging, reasoning, and making free choices. For present purposes, I shall focus on the first act of the mind: abstracting universal concepts.

Universal concepts or ideas are free of all material conditions and manifest the genuinely spiritual nature of the human soul. Thus, while it is easy to imagine a triangle or a horse, it is utterly impossible to imagine “triangularity” or “horseness,” since such an image would have to simultaneously contain the concrete shape and other qualities of every possible triangle and horse, which is impossible. I can imagine a particular triangle. For most people, this turns out to be an equilateral one! But triangularity can be expressed as well in concrete triangles that are acute, obtuse, and even isosceles. Yes, we tend to associate an image with a concept. But one person may imagine a mouse when thinking of “animal,” while another is imagining an elephant instead. That is why, when communicating with someone, we do not finish by saying, “Did you get my images?” Rather, we say, “Do you understand my meaning?”

Moreover, many universal concepts simply have no physically concrete instances, for example, such inherently spiritual ideas as justice, virtue, beauty, truth, or equality. Conceptual knowledge is radically different from, and superior to, mere animal sensory experience or imagining.

Universal concepts are neither extended in space nor do they manifest being under material conditions, which would, as in the case of images, imply dependence on matter. As such, they are spiritual in nature.

While this is not the only argument for the human soul’s spirituality, it is the most well-known one, dating at least as far back as Plato’s dialogue, Phaedo. Since the less perfect cannot be a sufficient reason for the more perfect, it is clear that merely material organs, like the human brain, cannot account for the formation of spiritual universal concepts. Since man can produce such spiritual entities as universal concepts, it is clear that he must possess such powers, not in his body, but in his soul – a soul, which must be as spiritual as is the concepts it produces.

Thus, philosophical proof exists of the spiritual nature of the human soul. Importantly, this rational truth casts further light on the nature of God.

The Spiritual Soul Must be Created

While the sense knowledge we share with animals is shown to be immaterial (meaning that it is not extended in space), still such knowledge is understood to be dependent on material organs. This is evident because both images and sense objects are always known under the conditions of matter, that is, with a particular shape, color, extension, and so forth. But our intellectual knowledge of universals is spiritual as is the human soul, because, not only are concepts not extended in space, but also they have no sensible qualities at all, which shows that they cannot be the product of sense organs. That is, unlike images, concepts exist independently of matter.

Because of this, the human spiritual soul is utterly superior to organic matter. Sense organs alone cannot produce what is spiritual. Thus, we have a problem as to the origin of the human spiritual soul. For, how can matter produce what is strictly immaterial? How can the lower or less perfect produce what is higher or more perfect? It cannot.

Bodily beings produce only more bodily beings. Spiritual entities exceed the powers of bodily beings to procreate. Since the human soul is not dependent on matter for its existence, it exceeds the procreative power of merely material organs. And a spiritual being cannot be changed into another spiritual being, since they lack the hylemorphic (matter-form) composition needed to explain change in physical nature. Since the human spiritual soul comes to be from neither bodily being nor from pre-existent spiritual being, it can only come into existence through creation, that is, from nothing that preexists its coming into existence (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 90, a. 2, c.).

Since it begins to exist at the beginning of human life, the human spiritual soul must be created by some spiritual agent extrinsic to the human beings, whose procreative activity occasions its creation at the moment of conception.

But to create means to make something without any preexisting material. It takes infinite power to create. St. Thomas Aquinas demonstrates this truth as follows:

“For a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act, it must be that the power of an agent which produces from no presupposed potency, such as a creating agent does, would be infinite, because there is no proportion between no potency and the potency presupposed by the power of a natural agent, just as there is no proportion between non-being and being” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad 3).

What St. Thomas is pointing out here is that the measure of power is taken, not merely from the effect produced, but also from the proportion between what is presupposed by the agent in order to produce the effect and the effect produced. That is to say, while it takes a certain measure of power to make a horse from pre-existing horses, it would take far greater power to make a horse from merely vegetative life—not to mention the power required to make a horse from non-living matter. But, to make a horse, while presupposing nothing at all, requires immeasurably greater power.

As St. Thomas points out, there is no proportion between having nothing at all from which to make something and the thing produced, just as there is no proportion between non-being and being (Ibid.). But, what is immeasurable is literally “without limit,” or infinite. Hence, it takes infinite power to make something while presupposing nothing preexistent out of which to make it.

The Creator

Since we have shown that the human spiritual soul is created, there must exist a creating agent. But creation requires an infinitely powerful cause, as just shown. Therefore, an infinitely powerful creating cause must exist.

But infinite power cannot exist in a finite being. Hence, the infinitely powerful creating cause of the human spiritual soul must be an infinite being. Clearly, such a being must also be spiritual in nature, since physical things inherently have bodily limitations.

But there cannot be more than a single infinite being. If there were two of them, they must differ in some way, or else, they would be the same being. But, if they differ in any way, one must have something the other lacks. In that case, the other, since it lacks some aspect or quality of being, cannot be infinite, since the infinite being is lacking in nothing. So, too, were there three such beings, only one can be truly infinite, since the others must be differentiated by lacking or having some quality that differentiates them. If they lack anything, they are not infinite. If they have something another lacks, then the other is not infinite. The bottom line is that it is metaphysically impossible that there should be more than one Infinite Being or Uncaused Creator. There is but a single Creator because there can be but a single Infinite Being and only an Infinite Being can create.

Once it is shown that solely the unique Infinite Being is the creative cause of all spiritual entities that come into being, it is but a short step to realize that this same Infinite Being must be causing by continuous creation the existence of all finite beings. For, a being that begins to exist through the creative power of God continues to exist through dependence on that same power, since it does not explain its own existence.

It does not take massive insight to realize that, if it takes infinite power to make something come-to-be, while presupposing nothing preexistent out of which to make it, infinite power is also required to enable something to continue to exist as opposed to being nothing. This is even more manifest in light of the fact that we have already proven that an infinitely powerful Creator of spiritual souls actually exists.

The power required to explain why beings exist is not measured by whether they happen to have a beginning in time. Rather, it is measured in terms of that power being the reason why there is being rather than nothing at all. For, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out, “…there is no proportion of non-being to being.” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad 3). Hence, the sufficient reason why any finite being exists is that infinite power is making it be and continue to be. Since the Infinite Being alone has such power, all creatures must be being continually held in existence by the infinite power of that unique Infinite Being, who is the God of classical theism.

Since it is now evident that God is the First Cause Uncaused and Creator of all finite things, we can use the basic fact that non-being cannot beget being in order to learn something about God’s nature and attributes. Put another way, a being cannot give what it does not possess. So, any perfection we find in creatures must somehow pre-exist in God. Moreover, since God is the First Cause, he can have no composition within his being, since what is composed presupposes a prior cause to compose it. This means that God’s nature is simple, so that whatever attributes he possesses must be identical with his nature, thereby making them infinite like his nature is.

For example, since some creatures are persons, God must be a person.
If some creatures have intelligence, then God must be intelligent. If there is goodness in the world, God must be good. If truth is a value found in creation, then God must be truthful. And all these attributes must be identical to his infinite nature to avoid any hint of composition in God. I am not trying to give here more than an outline of how such reasoning proceeds.

But we also find in creatures many imperfections and limitations, such as pain, sin, stupidity, limitations of space and time, evil, and so forth.

Since these are negations of perfections, the general answer is that non-being needs no cause. Thus, any aspect of creatures that entails imperfection or limitations need not be predicated of God. The most obvious issue posing difficulty here is the problem of evil. But, since contradictions in being are impossible, once we know that God exists and is infinitely good, it is immediately evident that the problem of evil can be resolved in some manner.

While most skeptics claim that the reality of evil in the world is incompatible with the divine attribute of God’s infinite goodness, this objection is easily defeated once we realize several simple truths. First, evil is not simple non-being, but rather it is a defect or perversion in something designed by God to be good. For example, a man lacking proper virtue is morally evil, or, a horse that is swayback lacks its proper skeletal formation.. For this reason, the measure of goodness itself is the natures of the things in the world created by God.

Second, it is morally licit to permit evil so that greater good may result, as when a father allows a young son to smoke a cigar and get sick so that he learns a lesson.

Third, as the divine lawgiver and maker of natural moral law, God has the right to punish those who violate that law—so as to restore the balance of justice. Unless we think we know more than God does, we cannot judge him for permitting certain moral and physical evils so that greater good may ensue.

Fourth, since pleasure and pain serve the good of sensitive organisms to preserve and promote their lives, even the role of pain in the moral development of man may be good for him. Indeed, even the existence of hell cannot be excluded as playing a major role in encouraging man to attain the greatest perfection of his last end and as a requirement of divine justice for the stubbornly reprobate.

Other attributes of the God of classical theism can be established, but that would exceed both the limits and the needs of this paper. From what has been discussed above, it should now be evident that robust evidence and proofs exist to support the essential parts of Christian revelation about God, the world, and man’s spiritual soul and personal immortality.

The key conclusion I propose at this point is that, even were somehow Catholicism and Christianity not true divine revelation, irrefutable reason still shows that the God of classical theism exists. Moreover, since UFOs and space aliens are usually presented in a context of materialistic worldviews, such philosophical views have now been ruled out.

If space aliens exist, they will have to be interpreted in light of a metaphysics that comports with Christian revelation in terms of a good, truthful, infinitely-powerful Creator, who is the God of classical theism, and of a human spiritual soul that has personal and immortal life.

Catholicism’s Clearest Modern Proof

In no way do I intend to denigrate the fine work of Christian and Catholic apologists, who offer overwhelming evidence in support of divine revelation occurring in and through the person of the Lord of History, Jesus Christ.

While the greatest miracle of all time is the Resurrection of Christ, the unfortunate fact for many people today is that that event, which took place some two millennia ago, requires careful historical research in order for them to be convinced of its reality. But, we live in an age of high technology, where even the least newsworthy incidents get recorded for broadcast on the evening news in a clip from some bystander’s cellphone. This makes it difficult for many to be convinced of an event that took place long before today’s “eyewitness” proof of a cellphone video.

Fortunately, for contemporary man, God has deigned to give us a modern miracle that offers undeniable proof of its authenticity and divine origin in terms designed to disarm present-day skeptics. It is set in a time so recent that modern means of electronic communication, photography, and newspapers existed, but not so recent that GCI or other high tech fakery was yet developed.

The whole world knows that, on 25 March 2022, Pope Francis publically consecrated Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary—thus manifesting Catholicism’s intimate connection to events that took place at Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

The Fatima story is well known – even to many unbelievers. Indeed, movies have been made about it, including The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952) and Fatima (2020). For those who know nothing of it, the story begins in May of 1917, when Pope Benedict XV made a direct appeal to the Blessed Virgin to end WWI. Just over a week later, three children, tending their flock of sheep in Fatima, Portugal, suddenly saw a lady bathed in light, who told them not to fear and that she came from heaven. She asked them to return on the 13th of each month at the same hour for the next six months. The lady also asked them to pray the Rosary, which the children began doing fully each day thereafter.

Over time, others joined the children at the appointed time each month and, by July, numbered two or three thousand people. During the September 13th visit, the lady promised that in October she would tell the children who she was and would perform a miracle “so that all may believe.” The apparitions occurred each month on the 13th, except for August, when the anti-religious authorities seized the children and threatened them with death, thereby preventing them from attending the scheduled apparition. By 13 October 1917, predictions of a public miracle had become so widely known that literally tens of thousands of people, believers and skeptics alike, converged on Fatima from all directions.

The Miracles of Fatima

The message of Fatima, which led to the 25 March 2022 consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pope Francis and all the bishops, is not my primary concern in this essay. Rather, my intent is to show that the miraculous events at Fatima could have been affected solely through the power of the God of classical theism and that they prove with certitude the authenticity of Catholic religious revelation.

While many focus on visual aspects of the “sun dancing in the sky” on that day, I shall examine three diverse phenomena, any one of which might be considered a contender for the category of a miracle: (1) the prediction, (2) the solar observations, and (3) the sudden drying of the people’s clothes and of the ground. We should remember that the term, “miracle,” means, “by God alone.” A true miracle is an event, outside the order of nature, that nothing less than the Infinite Being, who is the God of classical theism, can cause. No lesser phenomena meet the qualification for the term.

The oldest child, Lucia, tells us that the lady who appeared to them on 13 October 1917 said, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” In all six apparitions, the lady told the children and the world to pray the Rosary. This confirms the specifically Catholic nature of this private revelation. If any genuine miracles took place that day, they confirm the truth of the Catholic religion.

1. The Prediction Miracle

The tens of thousands of witnesses appearing from all over Portugal show, without doubt, that the prodigies which occurred at Fatima on 13 October 1917 were the result of a clear prediction. This is evinced by the very fact that such a multitude expected some sign from heaven that many traveled even large distances to Fatima to witness the events. The miraculous phenomena were predicted as to date, hour, and location—by three children, the oldest of whom was just ten. And the prediction was stunningly fulfilled.

Some have claimed that spiritualists predicted ahead of time that something amazing and good for humanity would happen on 13 May 1917, which turned out to be the day of the first vision at Fatima. Since Catholicism condemns such superstitious and possibly demonic practices as spiritualism, it has been argued that this might suggest the whole Fatima story is the work of the devil or even space aliens.

We must recall that the children reported the appearance of an angel who gave them Holy Communion in 1916. If that is true, then demonic estimates of future events could have been triggered, making the nature and date of a subsequent contact from heaven well within the paranormal powers of demons. After all, just by doing merely human software data mining, Clif High has made some amazing predictions of future events. The preternatural powers of demons should far exceed such human abilities. While Catholicism condemns spiritualism, this does not mean that authentic information could not be given by demons to certain spiritualists. There is no need for space aliens to explain these spiritualist predictions, even assuming they are true.

In any event, the very public nature of the children’s predictions of a miracle, “so that all may believe,” was widely known before the fact and stunningly fulfilled in a manner and scope unique in human history. Since I shall show later that the miracle of the sun itself could not have been produced either by space aliens or demons, the only adequate cause of this uniquely exact prediction of such a massive miracle must solely have been the God of classical theism.

2. The Visual Solar Miracle

The number of people – skeptics as well as believers – who gathered at the Cova da Iria at Fatima, Portugal, on 13 October 1917 is estimated to range from 30,000 to as high as 100,000. While many books and articles have been published about Fatima, of special interest is a small work by John M. Haffert, Meet the Witnesses of the Miracle of the Sun (1961). He took depositions from some 200 persons, thereby offering us eyewitness testimony some four decades after the miracle, but still within the lifetime of many witnesses. This book contains detailed eyewitness recounting of events by over thirty persons.

The book summarizes seven significant facts widely documented. They include that (1) the time, date, and place of the miracle was predicted in advance, (2) an extraordinary light that could be seen for many miles sending out “shafts of colored light” that tinted ground objects, (3) what looked like a great ball of fire fell toward earth, causing tens of thousands to think it was the end of the world, (4) the prodigy stopped just before reaching earth and returned to the sky, (5) it left and returned to the place of the sun, so that viewers thought it was the sun, (6) the mountain top where this happened had been drenched with rain for hours, but was completely dried in minutes, and (7) tens of thousands witnessed these events over an area of six hundred square miles (Haffert, 15).

Some online sources also give detailed eyewitness accounts.

It was quickly pointed out by skeptics that no such solar behavior could have actually occurred, since no observatory detected it and, following the rules of physics, such actual solar movements would have caused mass destruction on planet Earth!

Although the vast majority of witnesses reported seeing something they took to be the sun performing roughly similar amazing movements—even though some observers were miles away from the Cova da Iria, it should be noted that multiple sources report that some people at the Cova said that they saw nothing unusual at all.

The fact that the people saw amazing solar displays and even frightening movements of a silver-pearl disc that began its movements from the actual location of the sun—while the real sun could not have actually been so moved in space, demonstrates that massive visions were being experienced by tens of thousands of people simultaneously. This is reinforced by the reports that “…others, including some believers, saw nothing at all.” Certainly, any real extramental visual phenomena—even if they were not from the real sun itself—would have been seen, not just by some, but by all present.

While it is possible that some visual phenomena that day may have followed the normal laws of nature, what is clear is that the most extraordinary Fatima visual phenomena appear to have been in the nature of visions – possibly even “individually adjusted” to fit the sometimes diverse experiences of different observers.

Since the “solar” phenomena were not all reported to be the same and since not all present even appear to have seen it at all, it must be that whatever took place was not extramentally real as visually apprehended. Rather, it is evident that the phenomena was seen as extramental, but must have been caused by some agent able to produce internal changes in the observers, such that they believed they were witnessing actual external events. This is essentially what marks the experience of a vision. One writer calls it a “miracle of perception.”

Also, purely physical explanations based on some sort of optical phenomena fail to account for the overwhelming fear induced by seeing the “sun” appear to be about to crash into the earth, causing many to fall to their knees in the mud and some to actually call out their grievous sins for all to hear, since there were no priests available!

What critics badly miss is that variances in accounts actually strengthen the case for a miracle, not weaken it. Such a rich diversity of reports supports the case for all the visual aspects being visions that differ in each person. Like the fact that some were said to see nothing at all, this would support the claim that no external physical changes actually took place in the “dance of the sun.” Rather, this must be a case of massive individual visions – making the case for an extra-natural explanation only greater.

The plain fact is that tens of thousands of people do not make up a “collective lie,” especially when they cannot even get their story quite straight. Moreover, the plain fact is that the vast majority of those tens of thousands of people experienced analogously similar extraordinary behavior by the sun or by a silvery disc that emanated from the sun. Tens of thousands of people do not have collective hallucinations or anxiety attacks—especially, when the sea of humanity present included believers and non-believers, Catholics and atheists, secular government officials and skeptics alike.

However one explains one of most massively eyewitnessed events in recorded history, it must be accepted that the vast majority of those present experienced what surely looked like the greatest public miracle in history – even as reported in the atheistic secular newspapers in Lisbon, including O Seculo, whose 15 October 1917 edition published a front page headline, reading, “Como O Sol Bailou Ao Meio Dia Em Fatima,” that is, “How the sun danced at noon in Fatima.”

Could such massive phenomena have been caused by natural agents, space aliens, or even demons? Physicist and theologian, Stanley Jaki, S.J., offers an explanation based on the natural formation of an “air lens” at the site of the solar phenomena. But his explanation immediately confronts multiple difficulties. Even looking directly at the sun through an air lens would damage the eye, and no reports of ocular damage were recorded after the event. Moreover, I have already pointed out that the existence of somewhat conflicting descriptions of the phenomena as well as the fact that some saw nothing unusual at all, prove that the solar experiences must have been internal visions of externally experienced events—not the result of Jaki’s air lens hypothesis.

Finally, Jaki claims that the heating effect of the lens could have dried the people’s clothes and the wet ground. Unfortunately, while this may work in theory, the amount of energy needed to produce such rapid drying in a natural manner would have simply incinerated everyone involved! Instead, the people only felt comfortably dry. Jaki’s hypothesis appears to be simply false.

This “drying” miracle alone so contravenes the laws of nature that neither space aliens nor even demons could have produced it.

Natural agency of the visual “sun miracle” is ruled out because the phenomena were not external—as I have just shown, but rather, these were visions caused by internal changes in the witnesses. While space aliens might have mastered the technology of holograms, so as to produce some external physical display, that does not explain the number of witnesses who clearly saw nothing abnormal at all. The effects had to be internal and individualized in order to explain variances in what was seen, and especially, what was totally not seen by a number of people. Thus, the effects were not produced by visiting space aliens. Indeed, they were at least preternatural, if not, supernatural in nature.

On the dubious hypothesis that these effects were preternatural, and not supernatural, could they have been produced by angels or demons? Here, a moral analysis suffices. If somehow done by angels, then they were at the direction of God anyway. But, if done by demons, one is confronted with a message to humans to stop sinning, repent, and pray. I don’t think any further proof is needed to show that demons did not do this.

Finally, while preternatural effects are accomplished by producing a natural effect in an unnatural way, such as a body levitating with nothing seen to be lifting it, these optical phenomena entailed changing the internal vision experiences of tens of thousands of persons simultaneously. Whether merely preternatural powers could produce such an effect is highly debatable. In any event, the previously-given demonstrations show clearly that the “dance of the sun” at Fatima could have been produced solely through the infinite power of the God of classical theism, since it clearly exceeds the power of either man or space aliens to produce such individualized internal visions and moral analysis excludes the agency of spiritual agents other than, possibly, those following God’s command.

3. The Sudden Drying of Everything

Some critics, who were not themselves eye witnesses, try to explain away aspects of what happened at Fatima that day over a century ago by saying that, while certain things were physically real, they were not all that abnormal and were merely over-interpreted by those present.

The problem with such explanations is that they simply do not fit the actual experiences of those present at the time. For example, facile explanations of the sun’s behavior as being merely natural phenomena fail to note the reactions of those who fell to their knees in the mud, thinking it was the end of the world, or of those persons who cried out their personal sins before everyone, since there were no priests present!

Similarly, for hours before the sun miracle it was raining and soaking both ground and those present—as evinced by the sea of umbrellas seen in some photos. Suddenly, the clouds withdrew and the various shocking movements seen by the people as being from the sun took place. As the brilliant silvery disc finally drew back to the original position of the sun, many suddenly noticed that they, their clothes, and the ground were completely dry.

Later critics challenge this interpretation of events. They claim that photos do not appear to show so much water or that evaporation may have taken place as the sun bathed them for some ten minutes of its “dance” or that not all reported this alleged “miracle.”

But the critics were not there. First, there are photos of a sea of large umbrellas, covering the entire crowd at one point. Further, many witnesses affirm the essential facts: the initial soaking rain followed by sudden and complete drying. For one example, Dominic Reis of Holyoake, Massachusetts, in a television interview, made these selected remarks: “And now it was raining harder.” “Yes, three inches of water on the ground. I was soaking wet” (Haffert, Meet the Witnesses, 7). After the sun miracle occurs, he continues: “…the wind started to blow real hard, but the trees didn’t move at all. … in a few minutes the ground was as dry as this floor here. Even our clothes had dried.” “The clothes were dry and looked as though they had just come from the laundry” (Ibid., 11). Many other witnesses make similar statements: “I was all wet, and afterward my clothes were quite dry” (Ibid., 69). Understandably, some remembered nothing about the drying: “I was so distracted that I remember nothing but the falling sun. I cannot even remember whether I took the sheep home, whether I ran, or what I did” (Ibid., 41).

Given that the people attest to the truth of the ground and themselves being very wet, and yet, completely dry in the space of a few minutes, it is evident that some force beyond normal physics obtained here. It is possible to dry objects that quickly, but so intense a heat would doubtless kill the people in the process. This extra-natural character of this sudden drying exceeds the natural physical laws, which limit both the ability of space aliens and even the preternatural powers of demons.

This third miracle of Fatima—the sudden drying—is uniquely important, since it provided a more lasting and evident physical corroboration of events that the witnesses might otherwise think was simply a brief visual experience. Once again, we see a true miracle, something that could be effected solely by the God of classical theism.

Findings

Fatima’s miracles are unique in history because of the immense number of witnesses combined with three distinct simultaneous events that meet the definition of the miraculous, that is, something that solely the God of classical theism could effect. Nor can be ignored the intimate connection between these public miracles and a message from heaven that is clearly and intimately intertwined with the presence of the “lady of the Rosary,” who asks for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. The miracle of Fatima is clearly a divine approbation of the Catholic religion.

This unique historical event demonstrates divine approval of Christian revelation in general and of Catholicism specifically. Moreover, it confirms the divine message given to the visionaries, concerning the need for prayer and repentance and even of a special instruction of what would be necessary for God to give the blessing of the conversion of Russia and world peace.

The whole point of this article so far has been to establish two basic and unchangeable truths: (1) that the God of classical theism can be known to exist with certitude through the use of unaided natural reason, and (2) that Christianity in its specifically Catholic form can be shown with objective certitude to be the authentic revelation of the God of classical theism.

No future discoveries or revelations can alter or diminish these two fundamental truths that undergird human existence on this planet.

UFOs and Space Aliens

Now we come to the much delayed and truly fascinating part of this article. What about the UFOs and space aliens? Do they really exist as extraterrestrial biological intelligent beings or as non-bodily intelligences? I hate to let the reader down, but I intend to suspend judgment on most of this intriguing topic for the simple reason that the truth about space aliens is not yet publicly acknowledged one way or the other. There are those who claim that the military knows that extraterrestrials from other planets exist, but that they hesitate to inform the public for fear of its reaction to the news.

On the other hand, there is talk about something like Project Blue Beam existing. This would entail a false space invasion being foisted on an unsuspecting public. The means would be based on use of new-technology holograms, which are so convincing that people would think that they are seeing the Second Coming appearing the heavens or, alternatively, a fleet of spacecraft hovering over us and prepared to wipe out humanity.

The latter space threat could be used to intimidate all mankind into submission to a one world government in order to meet this alleged “threat.” This new global government would then turn out to be part of the Great Reset, which aims to impose tyranny on the entire human race, combined with a program of depopulation.

We need not entertain all these speculative and controversial claims and theories in order to point out something basic that is true regardless of what we finally may discover about extraterrestrials, namely, that nothing we discover can undo the eternal truths already known with certitude through unaided natural reason or infallible divine revelation.

We already know that the God of classical theism eternally exists and that Christian revelation in its Catholic expression is the authentic revelation of God.

Do extraterrestrials exist? Of course, they do! We know this, because it is part of Christian revelation. But these “extraterrestrial” creatures are pure spirits, directly created by God in the form of the angels. Those who fell from grace, we call devils or demons.

What we usually mean, when we ask if extraterrestrials exist, is, “Do intelligent bodily creatures originating from other planets in the cosmos exist? Or, perhaps, do such creatures exist in interdimensional physical reality (whatever exactly that may mean!)? In either event, the answer remains the same as far as our belief systems are concerned, namely, what we know from reason about God and from revelation about religion remains unaltered—since truth is eternal.

When we know that 2 + 2 = 4, we do not lay awake nights worrying that tomorrow the sum might change to 5. The same is true here. What has already been established by reason and revelation with objective certitude cannot be changed by new data. One might add to what is already known, but the basic truths about an eternal, omnipotent, infinite, all-good God, the spiritual and immortal nature of the human soul, and the dogma of the Catholic Church cannot and will not change their objective truth and meaning.

Wherever interpretations may be required in order to integrate the fact of alien species existing with existing revealed doctrine, that is for theologians to discuss and the Church to decide. This is much like what happened when the explorers first found the native peoples of the New World. Catholic theologians had to explain (1) that these people were human beings, just like the European explorers were, (2) that they had spiritual and immortal souls, and (3) that they needed conversion and baptism as Christ commanded for all men. That is why all of Latin America right up to the southern American border eventually became Catholic. At the same time, this new recognition of the humanity of these New World “aliens” changed nothing in the basic truths of the Faith as previously held.

If alien intelligences exist, the very fact that they have spacecraft capable of interplanetary travel alone would demonstrate that they are intellectual, rational bodily beings. Since man is a rational animal, they would be, by philosophical definition, part of humanity—maybe not Earthly humanity, but human beings nonetheless, philosophically speaking. We might call them by some other name, but they would still have spiritual and immortal souls, as simply evinced by possessing such intellectual abilities as judging and reasoning.

Recall, too, it is not a question of degree of intelligence that determines possession of an intellectual, spiritual soul. Any ability to understand the nature of things at all is sufficient to demonstrate possession of an intellectual soul.

How they are to be theologically integrated with humans native to Earth is, again, a speculative and practical problem for the professional theologians and the Teaching Authority of the Church to determine.

From the above discussion, it should now be evident that we have nothing to fear from any potential encounter with space aliens with respect to either what we hold philosophically or believe theologically, since the essential truths about human nature and God and religious revelation will remain forever unchanged and unchangeable.


Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he also served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. He is the author of two books, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence, and Origin of the Human Species, as well as many scholarly articles.


Featured image: “Coming Through,” by David Huggins.

Preliminary Discourse on Mindfulness, Freedom, and the Soul’s Origin and Journey

My approach to God, while drawing inspiration from the Trinitarian Christian god, envisions the latter as, incidentally, symbolizing God and His relationship to the universe. I indeed approach God as an infinite, eternal, substantial, volitional, and conscious field of ideational singular models that completely incarnates itself into the universe while remaining completely external to the universe, completely ideational, and completely subject to a vertical (rather than horizontal) time; and which is not only completely sheltered from any forced effect (whether ideational or material), with one or more efficient causes, in its willingness but traversed, animated, efficiently-caused, and unified by a sorting, actualizing, pulse that both stands as the acting part of God’s will and as the apparatus, the Logos, through which God incarnates Himself while remaining distinct from His incarnation.

In the Trinity, I envision the Father as the symbol of the infinite, eternal, substantial, volitional, and conscious field of ideational singular models as that field both incarnates itself into the universe and remains distinct from the universe; the Son as the symbol of the universe as the latter is both the ideational field’s incarnation and an entity distinct from the ideational field; and the Holy Spirit as the symbol of the sorting, actualizing, pulse through which God incarnates Himself into the universe and yet remains distinct from the universe. The present discourse, which stands as a direct continuation to my “Preliminary considerations on the dignity of man, the Idea of the Good, and the knowledge of essences,” intends to bring whole new preliminary considerations on my part on a number of topics including the substance, emergence, creation, the Chi, war, predestination, mindfulness, freedom, decentralized competition, the pineal gland, and the soul’s (earthly) journey and (divine) origin. On that occasion, I will deliver an assessment of what Benedictus de Spinoza, René Descartes, and Aleister Crowley (and a few other philosophers) respectively wrote on some of those topics.

Beforehand a few remarks concerning my respective definition for some of my concepts should be made. A moment-relative property in an entity (whether ideational—or material) is a property (whether existential—or non-existential) that deals with the point (or points) in time at which the entity itself or one or more properties in the entity are taking place; whether time for the entity is horizontal—or vertical. In an entity (whether ideational—or material), a property preexistent to one or more other properties is a property for which one chronological point, at least, in its existence is chronologically anterior to the existence of the other property or properties in question; whether its existence is already extinguished before the existence of the other property or properties in question. An entity preexistent to one or more other entities (whether it occupies the same realm as the one or more other entities in questions) is an entity for which one chronological point, at least, in its existence is chronologically anterior to (the existence of) the other entity or entities in question; whether its existence is already extinguished before the existence of the one or more other entities in question.

In a realm of reality taken in isolation (whether it is the ideational realm—or the material one), any extrinsically contingent or extrinsically necessary property existing in an entity at some point has strictly three kinds of cause, which are all operating for any extrinsically contingent or extrinsically necessary property in any entity. Namely a relational cause (i.e., one or more relations on the entity’s part at some point before), an existential cause (i.e., the existence of the entity both presently and at the anterior point), and an intrinsically necessary cause (i.e., an intrinsically necessary property in the entity at the anterior point). What’s more, in a realm of reality taken in isolation (whether it is the ideational realm—or the material one), any extrinsically contingent or extrinsically necessary entity existing at some point has strictly three kinds of cause. Namely a relational cause (i.e., one or more relations on another entity’s part: at some point before the concerned caused entity’s existence, except in a few cases), an existential cause (i.e., the existence of the other entity and hypothetically of some other entities which it is having one or more relations with: at the anterior point, except in a few cases), and an intrinsically necessary cause (i.e., an intrinsically necessary property in the other entity and hypothetically in those hypothetical other entities: at the anterior point, except in a few cases).

The relational cause for some (extrinsically necessary or extrinsically contingent) property or entity is that kind of cause that can also be called the “efficient cause.” Saying of an entity that it is an efficient cause (were it the only efficient cause) for one or more extrinsically contingent or extrinsically necessary other entities is a convenient way of saying that one or more relations on that entity’s part are efficient causes (were the relations in question only between the entity and itself) for the one or more entities in question; just like saying of an entity that it is an efficient cause (were it the only efficient cause) for one or more extrinsically contingent or extrinsically necessary properties in that entity or in one or more other entities is a convenient way of saying that one or more relations on that entity’s part are efficient causes (were the relations in question only between the entity and itself) for the properties in question. An efficiently uncaused property is one with no efficient cause; what is only the case of any (strong-kind or weak-kind) intrinsically necessary property.

An efficiently uncaused entity is one with no efficient cause; what is only the case of any (eternal or self-produced) intrinsically necessary entity and the case of that modality of an extrinsically contingent entity that is a randomly self-produced entity. A self-produced entity (whether it is intrinsically necessary) is a temporal-starting-endowed entity that is, besides, self-caused and efficiently uncaused (whether it is intrinsically necessary). When it comes to those extrinsically necessary entities that are the supramundane souls and the ideational essences (whether their realm is taken in isolation), the combination between relational, existential, and intrinsically necessary causes which results into their existence (in the ideational realm) is both internal to the ideational realm and temporally simultaneous to their existence (in the ideational realm). When it comes to those material entities (including the universe) that are considered from the angle of their incarnation-relationship to God, the combination between relational, existential, and intrinsically necessary causes which results into their existence (in the material realm) is both internal to the ideational realm and temporally simultaneous (in the ideational realm) to their existence (in the material realm). Ditto for the properties in those material entities that are considered from the angle of their incarnation-relationship to God.

Any entity (whether it is ideational—or material) is both a caused and causing entity: more precisely, a caused (though not systemically an efficiently caused) and efficiently causing entity. Any act of creation falls within production; but not any act of production falls within creation. Production is to be taken in the sense for a cause (whether it is relational, existential, or intrinsically necessary) of causing the existence of one or more properties that are (not eternal but instead) endowed with a temporal beginning; or the existence of one or more entities that are (not eternal but instead) endowed with a temporal beginning.

As for creation, it is to be taken in the sense of the fact for a cause (whether it is relational, existential, or intrinsically necessary) of producing one or more (temporal-starting-endowed) properties other than moment-relative that are (completely or partly) novel with respect to what characterizes the (existential or non-existential) properties other than moment-relative that have been witnessed in the entities having been witnessed in the concerned realm of reality (i.e., the existential or non-existential properties other than moment-relative that are characteristic of the entities that either are or used to be or have been being in the concerned realm of reality); or the existence of one or more (temporal-starting-endowed) entities that are (completely or partly) novel in their properties (other than moment-relative) with respect to what characterizes the existential or non-existential properties other than moment-relative that have been witnessed in the entities having been witnessed in the concerned realm of reality.

Not only any efficiently caused entity (i.e., any entity with one or more efficient causes) that is temporal-starting-endowed is a produced entity (i.e., a caused entity that is endowed with a temporal beginning); but, reciprocally, any produced entity is an efficiently caused entity that is temporal-starting-endowed. Not only any efficiently uncaused entity (i.e., any entity devoid of the slightest efficient cause) is a self-caused entity (i.e., a caused entity that is randomly self-produced or intrinsically necessary); but, reciprocally, any self-caused entity is an efficiently uncaused entity.

A self-produced entity (i.e., a self-caused entity whose existence is, besides, endowed with a temporal beginning) and a substance (i.e., a self-caused entity whose existence is, besides, intrinsically necessary and, at every point, endowed with a strong intrinsically necessary eternity remaining throughout the entity’s existence by strong intrinsic necessity) are two distinct modalities of a self-caused entity; but both a self-produced entity and a substance are efficiently uncaused.

Any entity that is (completely or partly) novel in its properties (other than moment-relative) with respect to what characterizes the existential or non-existential properties other than moment-relative that have been witnessed in the entities having been witnessed in the concerned realm of reality falls within emergent entities in the concerned realm of reality; just like any property other than moment-relative that is (completely or partly) novel with respect to what characterizes the (existential or non-existential) properties other than moment-relative that have been witnessed in the entities having been witnessed in the concerned realm of reality falls within emergent properties in the concerned realm of reality.

Any emergent entity is either ideational or material; just like any emergent property is either a property in an ideational entity or one in a material entity. In a few lines, I will deal more closely with the concept of emergence; and with the respective concepts of existential and non-existential properties. It is worth clarifying that, while the way one understands some concept lies in the way one identifies (what one believes to be) all or part of the properties in the concept’s object, the way one defines some concept lies in the way one identifies (what one believes to be) the whole of the constitutive properties in the concept’s object. One’s “understanding of some concept” and one’s “approach to some concept” are phrases that can be used interchangeably.

Emergence and Creation: The Substance and the Chi

A material entity is an entity endowed with some kind of firmness, consistency (for instance: a quark, the void, an idea in a parrot’s mind, a movie, or the Chi); just like an ideational entity (i.e., an Idea) is an entity devoid of any firmness, consistency. A property is what is characteristic of an entity (whether the entity in question is ideational—or material) at some point (whether time for the entity in question is horizontal—or vertical). Any property is either existential or non-existential. A non-existential property in an entity (i.e., a property in the entity that is not relative to the entity’s mode of existence) is either compositional or formal or a composite of form and of composition; what is tantamount to saying: a composite of formal and compositional properties. An existential property is a property that is, if not relative to the entity’s existence’s origin or relative to whether and how the entity’s existence is (at some point) permanent or provisory, at least relative to the entity’s mode of existence, i.e., the entity’s way of existing. A strong existential property is a property that, among the properties relative to the entity’s mode of existence, deals with the entity’s existence’s origin or deals with whether and how the entity’s existence is (at some point) permanent or provisory.

Just like any strong existential property in a material entity is part of the entity’s substantial natural material essence, any strong existential property in an entity (whether it is ideational) is remaining throughout the entity’s existence by intrinsic necessity of the strong kind, i.e., remaining throughout the entity’s existence with the entity’s existence at some point being a necessary, sufficient, condition for its remaining throughout the entity’s existence. An eternal entity is one with no (temporal) beginning and with no (temporal) ending; what falls within the entity’s strong existential properties. Not any eternal entity is an intrinsically necessary entity; but any eternal entity is eternal (at some point) in a strong intrinsically necessary mode and remains eternal (throughout its existence) by strong intrinsic necessity.

A substance is an intrinsically necessary eternal entity whose eternity at some point not only occurs in a strong intrinsically necessary mode but remains throughout its existence by intrinsic necessity of the strong kind. Not any intrinsically necessary entity is a substance; but any entity eternal by strong intrinsic necessity (at some point) is remaining eternal (throughout its existence) by strong intrinsic necessity (and reciprocally). An innate property in an entity (whether it is ideational—or material) is one that is, if not remaining in the entity throughout the entity’s existence, at least accompanied with the strong existential property of a temporal beginning for the entity and present in the entity at the moment of the entity’s temporal beginning; just like an eternal property in an entity (whether it is ideational—or material) is one that, besides remaining in the entity throughout the entity’s existence by strong intrinsic necessity, takes place within an entity both eternal in a strong intrinsically necessary mode and eternal in a strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode.

A property that is arising at some point in an entity is a property in the entity that is neither innate nor eternal in the concerned entity; just like an entity that is arising at some point is an entity (in some realm of reality) that is neither innate nor eternal in the concerned realm. Any property eternal in an entity is present at some point by strong intrinsic necessity and remaining (and eternal) in the entity throughout the entity’s existence by strong intrinsic necessity; just like any entity eternal in a realm of reality is eternal at some point by strong intrinsic necessity and remaining eternal by strong intrinsic necessity.

In an entity (whether it is ideational—or material), whether its realm is taken in isolation, a property other than moment-relative that is irreducible to all or part of the preexistent properties other than moment-relative in the entity is one that is neither completely characterized identically to any of the preexistent properties other than moment-relative in the entity nor completely characterized identically to a combination between all or part of the preexistent properties other than moment-relative in the entity (whether all or part of the preexistent properties other than moment-relative are still existent—or now inexistent); just like, in a realm of reality (whether it is ideational—or material), whether that realm is taken in isolation, an entity that is irreducible in its properties other than moment-relative to all or part of the properties other than moment-relative in those preexistent entities causing efficiently its existence is one for which one of its properties other than moment-relative, at least, is neither completely characterized identically to all or part of the properties other than moment-relative found in the set of those preexistent entities causing efficiently its existence nor completely characterized identically to a combination between all or part of the properties other than moment-relative found in the set of those preexistent entities causing efficiently its existence (whether all or part of those entities are still existent—or now inexistent).

An emergent property in an entity (whether it is ideational—or material) is a property other than moment-relative that is, if not irreducible to all or part of the preexistent properties other than moment-relative in the entity, at least arising at some point in the entity (instead of being innate or eternal in the entity); just like an emergent material entity is a material entity that is, if not arising at some point in the universe (instead of being the universe itself or one of the very first entities chronologically in the universe), at least irreducible in its properties (witnessed over the course of its existence) other than moment-relative to all or part of the properties other than moment-relative in those preexistent entities causing efficiently its existence.

A strong emergent property and a strong emergent material entity are respectively a property other than moment-relative that, besides arising at some point in the concerned entity (instead of being innate or eternal in the entity), is irreducible to all or part of the preexistent properties other than moment-relative in the entity; and a material entity that, besides being irreducible in its properties other than moment-relative to all or part of the properties other than moment-relative in those preexistent entities causing efficiently its existence, is arising at some point in the universe (instead of being the universe itself or innate in the universe).

Any emergent property is either a quality (i.e., a non-existential property) other than moment-relative or an existential property other than moment-relative; but not any quality other than moment-relative nor any existential property other than moment-relative fall within emergent properties. An emergent entity (whether it is ideational—or material) is an entity that is, if not arising at some point in its realm of reality, at least irreducible in its properties (witnessed over the course of its existence) other than moment-relative to all or part of the properties other than moment-relative in those preexistent entities causing efficiently its existence; just like an emergent ideational entity is an ideational entity that is not only eternal but irreducible in its properties (witnessed over the course of its existence) other than moment-relative to all or part of the properties other than moment-relative in those preexistent entities causing efficiently its existence.

A strong emergent property and an emergent entity are both introducing—when (and only when) the strong emergent property in question and one property, at least, in the emergent entity in question are characterized in a way that is then unprecedented (whether completely or partly) in the concerned realm of reality—a certain novelty (whether complete—or partial) in the field of what characterizes the properties other than moment-relative that have been witnessed in the entities having been witnessed in the concerned realm (i.e., the properties other than moment-relative that are characteristic of entities that either are or used to be or have been being in the concerned realm).

Any novelty (whether complete—or partial) introduced (at some point) in the field of what characterizes the existential or non-existential properties other than moment-relative that have been witnessed in the ideational or material realm’s entities having been witnessed (i.e., the properties other than moment-relative that are characteristic of entities that either are or used to be or have been being in the ideational or material realm) is introduced by (and through) an (other than moment-relative) property that is either a strong emergent property or a property in an emergent entity or a property that is both; but not any strong emergent property introduces some novelty in that field, no more than does any emergent entity.

The universe is both an extrinsically contingent emergent material entity from the angle of its relationship to the nothingness chronologically prior to the universe; and, from the angle of its relationship to God, an extrinsically necessary emergent material entity (distinct from God and yet identical to Him) whose incarnation-relationship to God is an eternal (rather than emergent) property in God Himself. Whether it is from the angle of its relationship to the chronologically anterior nothingness or from the angle of its relationship to God, the universe isn’t an intrinsically necessary entity endowed (at every point) with an eternity both intrinsically necessary in a strong mode and intrinsically necessarily remaining in a strong mode (i.e., a substance); no more than it is, generally speaking, an intrinsically necessary entity.

In the field of philosophy, translating into one’s language another philosopher’s concepts consists of expressing the latter’s concepts—and the way they’re understood and defined in the latter—through one’s concepts (such as one understands and defines them) in a way that nonetheless stays completely faithful to what are that someone else’s concepts and his understanding and definition of his concepts. To put it completely in my language, Spinoza’s approach to God in Ethics correctly portrays Him as an intrinsically necessary entity eternal in a strong intrinsically necessary mode whose eternity is remaining (throughout His existence) by intrinsic necessity of the strong kind, and which is composed (at every point) of an infinite number of non-existential constitutive properties; and as the only entity that is composed (at every point) of an infinite number of non-existential constitutive properties—and as the only entity that is a substance, i.e., the only entity that is endowed (at every point) with an intrinsically necessary existence and with an eternity both intrinsically necessary in a strong mode and remaining in a strong intrinsically necessary mode throughout the entity’s existence.

That approach nonetheless commits a mistake that lies in its confusing the being an eternal entity and the being an entity with no temporal ending; and in its confusing the being an intrinsically necessary entity with no temporal ending and the being an entity devoid of any temporal ending. Any eternal entity (as is the case of a substance) and any entity devoid of any temporal ending (as is the case of a substance) are respectively eternal—and devoid of any temporal ending—in a strong intrinsically necessary and strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode; but, just like an eternal entity is only a modality (i.e., only a certain kind) of an entity with no temporal ending, an intrinsically necessary entity with no temporal ending is only a modality of an entity devoid of any temporal ending.

Though the universe cannot end in time (whether it is with regard to the nothingness—or with regard to God), it is an extrinsically contingent (rather than intrinsically necessary) entity with regard to the nothingness chronologically anterior to the universe; and, with regard to God, an extrinsically (rather than intrinsically) necessary entity. Accordingly the fact of being devoid of any temporal ending is not (as Spinoza wrongly asserts) unique to the eternal entity that is a substance; though there is indeed only one substance as Spinoza rightly asserts. Another mistake Spinoza’s approach to God commits lies in its confusing the being an efficiently uncaused entity and the being an intrinsically necessary eternal entity whose eternity takes place in a strong intrinsically necessary and strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode (i.e., a substance); and in its confusing the being an intrinsically necessary entity and the being a substance.

An extrinsically contingent and efficiently uncaused entity (i.e., a self-produced entity) and an intrinsically necessary and efficiently uncaused entity (whether it is a substance) are two distinct modalities of an efficiently uncaused entity; just like an intrinsically necessarily eternal (in a strong mode), intrinsically necessarily remaining eternal (in a strong mode), and intrinsically necessary entity—and an intrinsically necessary entity that is, if not devoid of any temporal ending, at least endowed with a temporal beginning—are two distinct modalities of an efficiently uncaused entity. The universe and God are respectively an efficiently uncaused entity of an extrinsically contingent kind (with regard to the nothingness chronologically prior to the universe) and an efficiently uncaused entity of an intrinsically necessary kind; just like God and the universe’s very first components chronologically (such as the quarks and the Chi) are respectively an efficiently uncaused and intrinsically necessary entity of an intrinsically necessarily remaining eternal (in a strong mode) kind and (with regard to the nothingness chronologically prior to the universe) efficiently uncaused entities that are intrinsically necessary but devoid of any eternity at any point.

Accordingly, the fact of being intrinsically necessary is not (as Spinoza wrongly asserts) unique to the substance; though there is indeed only one substance. Yet another mistake in Spinoza’s approach to God lies in its misunderstanding God’s complete coincidence with the universe to exclude the slightest degree and form of independence of God with regard to the universe. God is both completely identical and completely external to the universe—in that He gets completely incarnated into the universe while remaining completely distinct from the latter. Yet another mistake in Spinoza’s approach to God lies in his misunderstanding time for God to be horizontal (rather than vertical); and in its misunderstanding God’s non-existential constitutive properties to exclude any ideational property.

Though God (as Spinoza rightly asserts) is indeed the only substance, God finds itself placed under a vertical (rather than horizontal) time; and its non-existential constitutive properties find themselves to be exclusively composed of ideational properties (including ideational essences). Neither the “extension” realm nor the “thought” realm nor the indeterminate other realms which Spinoza thinks to be non-existential constitutive properties in God qualify as ideational realms (in my language).

Another mistake in Spinoza’s approach to God lies in its misunderstanding God’s non-existential constitutive properties to be both infinite and of an infinite number; and God’s non-existential properties not to be all constitutive. Though the substance is indeed composed of an infinite number of non-existential constitutive properties (since the ideational essences are of an infinite number), Spinoza as much misses the fact that all the substance’s non-existential properties are constitutive as he misses the fact that not all of them are infinite.

Yet another mistake in Spinoza’s approach to God lies in its misunderstanding God not to be endowed with some willingness and not to expect something from the human. Though God is indeed identical to the unique substance (as Spinoza rightly asserts), the substance is (at every point) a volitional entity (i.e., an entity endowed with willingness) and even a conscious volitional entity (i.e., an entity endowed with conscious willingness); and a conscious volitional entity that expects something from the human. Namely that the human, through rendering himself sufficiently like-divine in the material realm, render his soul completely divine in the ideational realm. I will not discuss here whether the notion of entities or properties that are arising at some point (instead of being innate or eternal) or irreducible is lacking (were it partly) in Spinoza’s philosophy; but the cosmos in Spinoza, besides being identified to God in a way that wrongly excludes any externality of God with regard to the cosmos, is just as wrongly envisioned as a perfect and achieved entity that excludes the slightest novelty (with respect to the existential or non-existential properties other than moment-relative that have been witnessed in the entities having been witnessed within the cosmos).

The fact for the human of being “in the image of God” is to be taken in the sense for the human of being endowed (in his substantial natural material essence) with a grandly (but not completely) self-determined willingness with regard to matter; of being in a position, not to remedy the cosmic order (were it partly), but instead to bring reparation and completion to the universe in strict conformity with the universe’s underlying order and laws; and of being in a position to know reality and the universe in a way that is irremediably perfectible.

The Spinozian approach to God is a complete offense to Him in that it demeans Him to the level of nature instead of envisioning nature as His incarnation or product or even as an emergent property in Him; just like the Spinozian approach to the human grandly (though not-completely) offenses what, in the human being, is “in the image of God.” It denies just as much the slightest degree of self-determination in the human will with regard to the efficient causes at work in nature as the slightest possibility of novelty (with respect to the existential or non-existential properties other than moment-relative that have been witnessed in the entities that have been witnessed) and therefore of creation in the realm of nature as the slightest role to be played for the human’s creation with regard to an allegedly perfect nature where nothing would be to be repaired nor to be perfected.

The Spinozian offense to what, in the human being, is “in the image of God” remains incomplete in that Spinoza, instead of envisioning the human as able to reach perfect knowledge of the nature, holds him for irremediable unable to have the slightest knowledge of any other “attribute” in the “substance” than the “thought” and than the “extension.”

As concerns creation on a human’s part, it is worth noting that, while an idea created in a human’s mind (or, for instance, in a dachshund’s mind) is a produced idea introducing some novelty (either complete or partial) in the field of what characterizes the properties (other than moment-relative) having been witnessed in those ideas having been witnessed in the universe, a creative idea created in a human’s mind (or, for instance, in a dachshund’s mind) is an inspirationally produced idea introducing some novelty (either complete or partial) in the field of what characterizes the properties (other than moment-relative) having been witnessed in those ideas having been witnessed in the universe. In other words, a creative idea (created in a human’s mind or, for instance, in a dachshund’s mind) is a modality of a created idea—namely that it is a created idea the efficient cause of which lies in an inspiration-relationship of the mind in question with respect to all or part of those entities having been witnessed in the concerned realm of reality. Not only not any creation on a human’s part consists of a created idea; but not any created idea on a human’s part consists either of a creative idea.

An exploit is to be taken in the sense of an act that is jointly exceptionally creative (i.e., characterized with the mind’s creation of one or more exceptionally creative ideas), exceptionally successful (i.e., characterized with the complete fulfillment of an exceptionally hard goal), and exceptionally endangering for one’s subsistence. The Spinozian ethics, in that it exclusively situates the human’s happiness in the “persevering in one’s being” here below, is a (complete) offense to what in the human’s happiness cannot be reached in an earthly lifetime exclusively or primarily dedicated to the persevering in one’s material existence. That part in the human’s happiness, the highest, noblest, part, which lies in the accomplishment of exploits (i.e., the accomplishment of acts that are jointly exceptionally creative, exceptionally successful, and exceptionally endangering for one’s subsistence), is basically dismissed in what can be called Spinoza’s “conatus ethics,” which is basically an ethics of mediocrity.

Just like the entities are subdivided between those inhabiting the ideational realm and those inhabiting the material realm (which stands as the materially incarnated ideational realm), the Being (i.e., what allows for the entities to exist without being itself an entity) contains both a realm correspondent to the ideational entities; and a realm correspondent to the material entities, which stands as the material incarnation of the latter realm. “The materially incarnated Being” and “the ideational Being” are convenient ways of designating respectively that realm of the Being correspondent to the material entities; and that realm of the Being correspondent to the ideational entities.

Any intrinsically necessary entity is an emergent entity; but not any extrinsically necessary entity is an emergent entity, no more than any emergent entity is an intrinsically necessary entity. Though the universe is God’s incarnation, the universe’s ideational essence does not lie in God Himself—but instead in the Idea of the universe, which is not only infinite and incomplete but in constant updating. Just like any material entity other than the universe stands as the incarnation of some ideational essence, any material entity other than the Chi and other than the universe stands as the incarnation of some finite and achieved ideational essence.

The Chi stands as the incarnation of what I previously called (following Plato) the “Idea of the Good,” which would be more judiciously called the “Idea of the Chi” and that is genuinely the sorting, actualizing, pulse at work in the ideational field; but the Idea of the Chi, though it gets incarnated (like any Idea other than the Idea of the universe), is jointly infinite (like the Idea of the universe—but unlike any Idea other than the Chi’s Idea and than the universe’s Idea), incomplete (like the Idea of the universe—but unlike any Idea other than the Chi’s Idea and than the universe’s Idea), and in constant updating (like the Idea of the universe—but unlike any Idea other than the Chi’s Idea and than the universe’s Idea).

I approach that entity known in Chinese and Japanese ontologies to be the “Chi” as a material entity (internal to the universe) that can be described as mere energy enveloping, at every point, every other entity in the universe; and which, without causing itself the slightest property or entity, makes it possible to cause the emergent properties (including the strong emergent properties) present (at some point) within some entity (whether innate—or arising) present (at some point) in the universe and makes it possible to cause some entity (whether innate—or arising) present (at some point) in the universe (including those entities in the universe that are emergent).

Just like the Chi stands as the incarnation of the sorting, actualizing, pulse through which, at every point in the ideational realm (for which time is strictly vertical), some ideational models see their correspondent hypothetical material entities being introduced, concretized, in the material realm and others their correspondent hypothetical material entities being denied, not-concretized, in the material realm, the sorting, actualizing, pulse itself stands as the Idea of the Chi, i.e., the Chi’s ideational essence. A mistake in the Spinozian approach to the substance is to confuse the being a substantial entity and the being an entity eternal in a strong intrinsically necessary and strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode. Though there is indeed only one substance (as Spinoza rightly asserts), an intrinsically necessary entity eternal in a strong intrinsically necessary and strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode (i.e., a substance) is only a modality of an entity eternal in a strong intrinsically necessary and strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode.

Just like the Idea of the Chi is an eternal (in a strong intrinsically necessary and strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode) but extrinsically necessary emergent entity whose efficient cause lies in the substance that is God, the ideational essences other than the Idea of the Chi are eternal (in a strong intrinsically necessary and strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode) but extrinsically necessary emergent entities the efficient cause of which lies in the Idea of the Chi. Just like the Chi stands as the transition between the materially incarnated Being and the other material entities (including the universe), God stands as the transition between the ideational Being and the ideational essences (including the Idea of the Chi).

The universe is a God-production (i.e., a temporal-starting-endowed entity whose efficient cause lies in God) and even a God-creation (i.e., a temporal-starting-endowed entity whose efficient cause lies in God and whose introduction in the material realm has been bringing novelty there in terms of what characterizes the properties other than moment-relative); but it is so not in that the universe would be in God an emergent property (and even strong emergent property introducing such novelty in the material realm) that finds its efficient cause in God—but instead in that the universe stands as a God-incarnation. More precisely, the universe is God-created neither as a product (i.e., a production to which its efficient cause or causes remain strictly external) nor as an emergent property; but instead as a production in which God gets completely incarnated while remaining completely external to His incarnation. In any entity, the whole is only the unified sum of the parts: except in the case of the universe and in the case of the substance.

As much the substance taken as a whole as its parts (and therefore the ideational essences it contains) are eternal in a strong intrinsically necessary mode and strong intrinsically necessarily remaining mode; but the substance taken as a whole exists independently of its parts though simultaneously to its parts, to which it communicates its eternity intrinsically necessary of the strong kind and remaining throughout existence by strong intrinsic necessity.

When considered independently of their incarnation-relationship to God, as much the universe taken as a whole as its very first parts (i.e., those of its parts that, including the Chi, appeared with the “big bang”) are self-created; but the universe taken as a whole exists as much simultaneously to its parts as independently of its parts: including its very first parts, which are intrinsically necessary while the universe itself is extrinsically contingent. The substance, as it is intrinsically necessary, is self-caused and efficiently uncaused; but the substance, as it is not only intrinsically necessary but remaining eternal throughout its existence by intrinsic necessity of the strong kind, is not only self-caused and efficiently uncaused but devoid of any self-produced character. The incarnation-relationship from God into the universe is, in God, neither an efficiently uncaused strong-emergent relational property nor, generally speaking, an emergent relational property; though it is indeed efficiently uncaused.

While the universe (when considered from the angle of its incarnation-relationship to God) is an emergent extrinsically necessary entity finding in God its efficient cause, which is not only irreducible (in its properties other than moment-relative) to (all or part of the properties other than moment-relative in) God but introducing novelty (in terms of what characterizes the properties other than moment-relative) in the material realm, the incarnation-relationship from God into the universe is, for its part, an eternal and strong-kind intrinsically necessary relational property.

When considered from the angle of its relationship to the nothingness chronologically prior to the universe, the latter is an extrinsically contingent emergent entity whose existence is even devoid of any efficient cause; but, when considered from the angle of its relationship to God, the universe is an extrinsically necessary emergent entity whose existence is the forced rather than random effect of the combination (concomitantly to the universe’s material existence in the strictly vertical time applying to the ideational realm) between God’s existence, God’s incarnation-relationship to the universe, and the character of that incarnation-relationship as an eternal and strong-kind intrinsically necessary property in God.

When considered from the angle of its relationship to the nothingness chronologically prior to the universe, the Chi is an intrinsically necessary emergent entity whose existence is therefore devoid of any efficient cause; but, when considered from the angle of its relationship to God, the Chi is an extrinsically necessary emergent entity whose existence is the forced rather than random effect of the combination (concomitantly to the Chi’s material existence in the strictly vertical time applying to the ideational realm) between God’s existence, God’s incarnation-relationship to the universe, and the character of that incarnation-relationship as an eternal and strong-kind intrinsically necessary property in God.

The Role of Genetic Similitude in a Society’s Cohesion—and in Providence’s Outworking

The way the sorting, actualizing, pulse operates in the ideational realm expresses a part of God’s will, but only a part precisely. Namely that part of God’s will that is acting (i.e., using means for the purpose of goals); and which must be distinguished from that part of His will that involves goals without involving any means. The Providence is to be taken in the sense of the acting part of God’s will as His will’s acting part is at work in cosmic and human history. War is to be taken in the sense of a physical, coercive, struggle between groups (whether the latter are groups of living beings).

When he presented war as “the world’s only hygiene,” Marinetti would have done better to present it as “one of the world’s hygienes,” alongside famine and epidemics notably. Above all, he should have specified that the hygiene of war is “God’s hygiene for His incarnation as the latter is a world tirelessly in search of progress in order and complexity.” For war is one of the hygienic apparatuses (and even one of the privileged ones) through which the Providence strives to maximize as much as possible the probability in the universe (throughout the universe’s existence) that the least sophisticated groups in terms of order and complexity (both internal and at the level of intergroup relations) at some point, instead of encumbering God for the rest of the universe’s days, end up disappearing in the short run or, failing that, in the long run.

Also, war is one of the incentive apparatuses (and even one of the privileged ones) through which God strives to maximize as much as possible the probability in the universe (throughout the universe’s existence) that geniuses in the cognitive field be promoted (rather than devalued) in society; and, accordingly, their sexual reproduction (and therefore their genetic frequency) favored rather than hindered in society. Another incentive apparatus through which the Providence strives to maximize as much as possible the probability in the universe (throughout the universe’s existence) that geniuses in the cognitive field be promoted (rather than devalued) in society consists of a culture that values (instead of disdaining), if not the search for exploit in the military field, at least the transposition of the search for military exploit to the cognitive field; in other words, a culture that values (instead of disdaining), if not the search for exploit on the military battlefield, at least the search for exploit on the respective cognitive battlefield of painters, mathematicians, engineers, writers, philosophers, physicists, or movie directors (among other examples). I will come back to those two incentive apparatuses later.

In addition to its character as hygiene for the world, a nevertheless fallible hygiene, war is one of the laws which God (infallibly) wanted for this world and which He (infallibly) wanted to frame the human’s reparation and completion of the divine creation. With regard to those wars implemented among societies of living beings, they as much involve societies characterized by a degree of kin-relatedness such that their members form an “extended family” or even a single family (or what is strongly or moderately a single family) as societies whose members form neither an “extended family” nor (were it only to some strong or moderate extent) a family stricto sensu.

Just like a group whose all members, at some point, are kin-related (to each other) is to be taken in the sense of a group whose members, at some point, are all biological brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, sons, daughters, or first cousins with each other, a group whose all members, at some point, are kin-related (to each other) to some extent (rather than to a complete extent) is to be taken in the sense of a group whose members, to some extent (rather than to a complete extent), are all biological brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, sons, daughters, or first cousins with each other at some point.

Just like the degree of kin-relatedness at some point in some group is to be taken in the sense of the degree to which people in the group in question are all kin-related (to each other) at some point, the degree of genetic similitude at some point in some group is to be taken in the sense of the degree to which the respective sets of genes present in each of the members of the group in question have similitude with each other at some point.

Setting aside the case of a hypothetical future group whose reproduction would occur through cloning (whether solely or partly), the level of genetic similitude in some group is necessarily a reflection (and measurement) at the genetic level of the level of kin-relatedness in the group in question. The levels of kin-relatedness and of genetic similitude are both part of the substantial natural material essence in any group of living beings. The notion that selection over the course of biological evolution (i.e., over the course of the evolution of the respective genomes in each of the individual members of the different species) only occurs at the level of the individual’s genes and at the level of those genes shared in individuals who are completely kin-related or, failing that, kin-related to a strong or moderate extent can be understood in two distinct ways strictly.

On the one hand, a modality of the notion in question claiming that the struggle for life and reproduction (whether it occurs in a coercive, physical, way) only involves individuals facing other individuals and groups whose members are, at every point, all kin-related (were it only to a strong or moderate extent—rather than to a complete extent) facing other groups of that kind. On the other hand, a modality claiming that survival in the short run (i.e., over the scale of a few decades) is impossible to any group whose members are neither completely nor strongly nor moderately all kin-related to each other. Both modalities are wrong. While the former is disproved by the fact that, in some species (including the human), the intergroup struggle for survival occurs between groups who are not systemically composed strictly of individuals who are, at least to some strong or moderate extent, all kin-related to each other, the latter is disproved by the fact that, in some species (including the human), the intergroup struggle for survival doesn’t witness—whether it is in the long run or in the short run—a systematically compromised situation nor a systematic disintegration of those groups whose members are not, were it only to some strong or moderate extent, all kin-related to each other.

A commonly invoked argument in favor of the claim that, in humans, those groups whose members are not all, were it only to some strong or moderate extent, kin-related are unlikely (though not unable stricto sensu) to survive in the short run is that a gene or team of genes can favor instead of compromising its propagation in the decades yet to come (and, generally speaking, in the centuries or millennia yet to come) only through predisposing the individual to one or more behavioral patterns favoring instead of compromising said propagation.

Yet the fact that such groups sometimes manage to survive in the short run (or even in the long run, i.e., in the centuries or millennia yet to come) doesn’t only disprove the claim that those groups whose members are not all, were it only to some strong or moderate extent, kin-related to each other are unable to survive in the short run. It also corroborates the claim that, in humans, a gene or team of genes can favor instead of compromising its propagation in the long run (and therefore in the short run) not systemically through predisposing the individual to one or more behavioral patterns that favor instead of compromising the propagation of its genes or, failing that, those of its genes shared with a group whose members, whether completely or to an extent that is strong or moderate, are all kin-related to each other; but instead through predisposing the individual to one or more behavioral patterns that favor instead of compromising the propagation of those genes it shares with (and in) a group whose members, while being not all kin-related to each other to an extent that is either complete or strong or moderate, still possess some level of genetic similitude that allows speaking of the concerned group as an “enlarged kinship,” “extended family.”

Society is to be taken in the sense of that kind of group (not necessarily human), sometimes called a “superorganism,” that unites (and encompasses) children, parents, and grandparents; and which hypothetically falls within some larger group like, say, an empire. In view of a number of male partners for a queen oscillating between three and eight in the vespula maculifrons, or between four and ten for a queen in the acromyrmex octospinosus (hence a genetic similitude between sisters around 33%), or even between seven and twenty for a queen in the apis mellifera (hence a genetic similitude between workers around 30%), societies in the hymenoptera are not all a case of a society whose all members are completely (or, at least, strongly or moderately) kin-related to each other.

A thus corroborated claim is that the duplicative success (in the very next decades) of those genes shared among the members of a hymenoptera society, instead of being systemically the result of kin selection (i.e., the result of that kind of group selection dealing with the genes common to some group in which the degree of kin-relatedness is either complete or strong or moderate), is not systemically proportionate to the degree to which people in a hymenoptera society are all kin-related to each other. Yet it seems that, in some species like the wasp, the ant, the bee, and the human, the duplicative success of those genes shared among the members of a society can be the result of a kind of group-selection dealing with those genes common to groups whose members, without being all kin-related to each other to a degree that is either complete or strong or moderate, nevertheless possess a certain degree of genetic similitude which remains strong enough to allow speaking of said members as forming an “extended family,” “enlarged kinship.”

Group cohesion for an individual in some group is to be taken in the sense of the joint fact of identifying oneself as a member of that group one happens to belong to, of acting on behalf of one’s perceived group-interests (i.e., the interests of one’s group such as one perceives them), of privileging in one’s relationships (including economic and professional) the other individual members within one’s group, of behaving in a way that favors (instead of compromising) the survival of one’s group (were it through compromising one’s own survival or one’s reproduction), and of being faithful, docile, with respect to the axiological and organizational principles foundational in one’s group.

The average level of group-cohesion in a group’s individual members is part of the group’s substantial natural material essence. It is regrettable that, all too often, the (other) investigations of the genetic and instinctual underpinnings of a society’s group-cohesion (i.e., group-cohesion among the members of a given society) in homo sapiens remain anchored in the confusion between group-selection and kin-selection; and in the mistaken approach to the intensity of group-cohesion in a given human society as (positively) proportionate to the degree of genetic similitude in the concerned society.

The differences between human societies in the degree of intra-society genetic similitude are no more systemically at the origin of the differences between human societies in the intensity of intra-society group-cohesion than the inter-species differences in the intra-species average degree of genetic similitude in the intra-species societies are systemically at the origin of the inter-species differences in the intra-species average degree of group-cohesion in the intra-species societies.

It is true that a complete degree of genetic similitude in some society (whether it is one human) and a high degree of genetic similitude in some society (whether it is one human) cannot but result respectively into a correspondingly complete degree of group-cohesion—and a correspondingly high or complete degree of group-cohesion—in the concerned society; but it is just as true that a low degree of genetic similitude in a human society doesn’t result into a correspondingly low degree of group-cohesion in said society systemically.

In the human, those societies who manage to survive (whether it is in the short run only or in the long run), what necessarily requires a degree of group-cohesion that is either strong or complete, are societies who are, if not composed of people all kin-related to each other to an extent that is complete, strong, or moderate, at least composed of people in which group-cohesion is strong or complete. In the human, just like those societies in which group-cohesion in people is complete (and those societies in which group-cohesion in people is high) are not systemically societies in which all people are kin-related to an extent that is either complete or strong or moderate, those societies in which the displayed degree of genetic similitude is such that their members form what can be called extended kinships are systemically societies in which the extent to which people are all kin-related to each other is neither complete nor strong nor moderate.

What’s more, in the human, those societies in which group cohesion is complete include (strictly) as much societies with an either complete or strong or moderate level of kin-relatedness as societies who—instead of approaching or forming a (single) kinship stricto sensu—are forming an extended kinship as societies who are neither approaching a single kinship nor forming a single kinship nor forming an extended kinship. Likewise those societies in the human in which group-cohesion in people is high include (strictly) as much societies with an either complete or strong or moderate level of kin-relatedness as societies who—instead of approaching or forming a (single) kinship stricto sensu—are forming an extended kinship as societies who are neither approaching a single kinship nor forming a single kinship nor forming an extended kinship.

Whatever the degree of group-cohesion and whatever the degree of genetic similitude, it nonetheless turns out that, in the human (and perhaps in some other species), culture is never totally independent from genetics. Culture is to be taken in the sense of the set of those behavioral patterns in a society that are inculcated in the society in question (whether it is one human). Some of the cultural patterns (but not all) in a society are part of the society’s substantial natural material essence.

When it comes to a culture totally or partly endowed with an endogenous origin, culture is not only able to contradict, in part, the average genetic features—but wholly able to include patterns that have no connection to genetics (setting aside the issue of knowing whether such patterns can be in contradiction with genetics). More precisely, it is then, on the one hand, wholly able to include behavioral patterns that are not genetically rooted at all (setting aside the issue of knowing whether such patterns can be in contradiction with genetics); on the other hand, unable to contradict the slightest average biological-ability in the group but able to contradict a part (but only a part) of those average genetic features that are about emotions and emotional needs (rather than about abilities).

When it comes to a culture totally endowed with a foreign origin, culture is wholly able to include patterns with no connection to genetics (setting aside the issue of knowing whether such patterns can be in contradiction with genetics); but, also, it is wholly able to contradict the average genetic features—except that it cannot go against the average levels of biological-abilities.

In turn, culture (whether its origin is completely exogenous—or instead completely or partly endogenous) has an effect on genetics in that it hampers the social integration (and therefore sexual reproduction) of those individuals unsuited to the established cultural patterns; in that it influences the tenor of the fertility gap in those individuals managing to reproduce; and in that it influences the propagative success of a certain genetic mutation through influencing the ability of those individuals endowed with the genetic mutation in question to reproduce (and their reproduction’s magnitude). It is regrettable that the (other) investigations of the gene-culture coevolution (i.e., the mutual influence between gene and culture over the course of their respective evolutions) all too often overlook the complexity of said coevolution, treating (more or less surreptitiously) a group’s culture at some point as strictly equal to the group’s average genetic features at that point in time.

In humans, just like one way a gene or team of genes can favor instead of compromising its duplication (in the long run besides in the short run, i.e., over the scale of several centuries or millennia besides over the scale of several decades) is through predisposing the individual to one or more behavioral patterns that favor instead of compromising the propagation of those genes it shares with (and in) a group whose members, while being not all kin-related to each other (were it only to some strong or moderate extent), still possess some level of genetic similitude allowing to speak of them as forming an extended kinship, one way the duplication of a gene or team of genes can be compromised rather than favored (in the short run besides in the long run) is through the individual’s inhabiting a society whose members, besides being not all kin-related to each other to a degree that is either complete or strong or moderate, exhibit some level of genetic similitude that is not sufficient to allowing to speak of them as forming an extended kinship.

A human society whose members exhibit neither a level of genetic similitude that allows speaking of them as forming an enlarged family nor a level of genetic similitude that allows speaking of them as forming or approaching a single family is necessarily compromising (rather than helpful) in the short as much in the long run to the duplication of the genes present in its members; regardless of whether the society in question manages to survive (over the scale of several centuries or millennia or, failing that, over the scale of several decades) and regardless of whether group-cohesion is strong in the society in question. Group-identification here means the fact of identifying oneself as a member of some group (whether the latter is real).

I assume that two instincts for group-identification successively emerged over the course of the biological evolution of homo sapiens: two instincts which are now superposed and in conflict with each other. Namely an earlier instinct for group-identification to one’s kinship—and a tardier instinct for group-identification to indeterminate groups whose level of genetic dissimilitude exceeds the level found in a kinship or in a group whose members are all kin-related to some strong or moderate extent.

At first, the tardier instinct for group-identification was a blessing (rather than a curse) to the long-run duplication of genes in humans in that it contributed (and was necessary) to the constitution of societies with a strong or complete group-cohesion who, while being not restricted to kinship nor to some strong or moderate level of kin-relatedness, exhibit a level of genetic similitude that remains strong enough to allow speaking of those societies as being extended kinships.

Over time, that instinct, thus becoming both a blessing and a curse to the duplication of genes (whether it is in the long run or in the short run), ended up contributing to the constitution of societies with a strong or complete group-cohesion who, besides being not restricted to people kin-related to an either strong or moderate or complete degree, don’t qualify either as extended kinships; what has been compromising (rather than helpful) to the duplicative success of genes in the short as much in the long run in that it has been allowing for such societies to survive in the long run (besides in the short run) at the expense of the duplicative success in question.

In the cosmos taken independently of its incarnation-relationship to God, the emergence of that second instinct for group-identification that is the instinct for group-identification to (indeterminate) groups standing below any level of kin-relatedness that is either strong or moderate or complete is only a double-edged sword to the duplication of genes; but in the cosmos as incarnation, the cosmos as God incarnated, the emergence of such instinct is also a cunning of God. More precisely, a trick on His part falling within His wider strategy of detaching the human society, if not from any enlarged kinship, at least from any strong, moderate, or complete level of kin-relatedness, in order to bring about (and experiment) unprecedentedly high and sophisticate new forms of order, complexity, in the cosmos.


Grégoire Canlorbe is an independent scholar, based in Paris. Besides conducting a series of academic interviews with social scientists, physicists, and cultural figures, he has authored a number of metapolitical and philosophical articles. He also worked on a (currently finalized) conversation book with the philosopher, Howard Bloom. See his website.


Featured image: “The Undiscovered Country/The City of Light,” by Evelyn De Morgan; painted in 1894.

Michel Henry: The Knowledge Of Life Against The Barbarism Of Galileo

In La barbarie (Barbarism), Michel Henry warns us against the pretensions of modern sciences: the objectivity they claim is nothing but an impoverishment of reality. According to him, the fundamental knowledge of man, the one which allows all the others, is not scientific knowledge but the knowledge of life.

One usually associates the development of scientific knowledge with that of civilization. A society that reaches a high level of technicality, a better geometric and mathematical knowledge of material nature is an exemplary society from a civilizational point of view. The advent of modernity, marked by the Galilean revolution, radically changed the conception of the world that we had in traditional societies. This rupture, this great upheaval is, in the eyes of Michel Henry, a terrible danger for the culture which he defines as “the self-transformation of life.”

In Barbarism, the Christian phenomenologist describes “a fight to death” between knowledge and culture and worries about a possible victory of the first over the second. For Henry, scientific knowledge is thus not a part of the culture, but rather its negation. For the Galilean revolution is, strictly speaking, a “reduction” insofar as it attempts to describe the objects of the world by voluntarily ignoring the sensible qualities that compose them.

The Galilean method is a pure objectification of the world and a disregard of subjectivity. Consequently, it denies the very condition of possibility of the perception of objects, i.e., the lived experience. “It is thus this life, such as it is felt in us, in its incontestable phenomenality, this life which makes us living, which is stripped of any true reality, reduced to an appearance. The kiss that lovers exchange is no more than a bombardment of microphysical particles.” writes Henry. There is culture only if there is life, because there cannot be experience without perception, of object without subject. The only reality to which we have access is that of perceived things. The real experience of the world is never a disembodied experience. When a subject looks at an object, he applies his sensitivity, his taste, his mood of the day, his physical state, his concentration of the moment.

Taking Life Out Of The Picture

Modern scientific knowledge has the particularity of presenting itself as rigorous and unquestionably true knowledge. The result is an arrogance: it refuses the appellation of “knowledge” to all the traditional sciences which are not based on the Galilean principle of objectification and are incapable of equivalent material results. “The illusion of Galileo and of all those who, in his wake, consider science as an absolute knowledge, was precisely to have taken the mathematical and geometrical world, destined to provide a univocal knowledge of the real world, for this real world itself, this world that we can only intuit and experience in the concrete modes of our subjective life,” summarizes Henry.

In his eyes, “any culture is a culture of life, in the double sense where life constitutes at the same time the subject of this culture and its object.” Culture, as Henry defines it, is nothing other than the perpetual movement of life working to its own development. It is a setting in motion of the totality of the subjective consciences towards the spontaneous accomplishment, or not, of high achievements. Art art, as for him, is par excellence part of culture since it is the discipline which takes most into account the activity of sensibility. Artistic production proceeds fundamentally from the interiority of human experience, an interiority which does not interest the scientist who claims to overlook the world. On the other hand, Galilean scientific knowledge is barbaric because by it, “it is the life itself which is affected, it is all its values which falter, not only the aesthetic but also the ethics, the sacred—and with them the possibility of living each day.”

In La phénoménologie de la vie (The Phenomenology of Life), Henry defines living as that which is capable of experiencing itself under the modality of “self-affection.” “Self-affection” is the primitive consciousness of man, a non-reflective consciousness which, rather than thinking that it thinks, feels that it thinks. It is, par excellence, the proof of the union of soul and body. Modern scientific knowledge is based on the attempt to deny this primordial subjectivity, which it refers to the particularism and relativism of individual experience. However, this “feeling of oneself,” this “experiencing oneself” refers to “the deep nature of experience and of the human condition.” For Henry, the fundamental knowledge, that is to say the knowledge which allows all the others, the knowledge which is also a power, is the knowledge of life.

In Barbarism, Henry takes the example of a biology student. When the latter studies a book in order to assimilate knowledge, he is, as a subject, faced with abstract scientific knowledge contained in the volume that he has before his eyes. Between the subject, the student, and the object, the biology book, remains an intentional gap that would be impossible to bridge without the knowledge of life unfolding in pure immanence, without ekstasis. Without knowing from life, the student would remain motionless, contemplating his book. Thanks to this knowing, the student can turn the pages of the book with his hands and read the lines by moving his eyes. “The capacity indeed to unite with the power of the hands and to identify oneself with it, to be what it is and to do what it does, only possesses a knowledge which merges with this power because that it is nothing other than his constant test of himself—his radical subjectivity,” Henry explains. In other words, the knowledge of life is man’s ability to make body movements and intentionality coincide in pure immanence. It is a practical knowledge which is the condition of possibility of all theoretical knowledge.

Scientific knowledge is a knowledge that represents the world in front of it in a purely abstract knowledge but never experiences it. And yet, the only reality is experienced reality. The world of Galilean science is a cold and objective world. Whereas the knowledge of life proceeds from the meeting of the subject and the object; scientific knowledge refuses to take into account the reality of subjectivity and presents us an object which is the product of no glance, which is not apprehended by any conscience. “Point of interior: nothing which is alive, which can speak in its own name, in the name of what it feels, in the name of what it is. Only of “things,” only of death”, stresses Henry.

Between Man And The World Stand The Robots

To the objectification of the things of the world by Galilean the response is the objectification of action through the ever-greater rise of technology. We have seen that the fundamental knowledge of life was defined as a know-how, as a praxis. However, with the industrial age, the living work of man was replaced by devices, by tools which reduce our relation to things to simplifying and disembodied mechanisms. Between man and the world, robots now stand in place of life. This leads to an “atrophy of the quasi-totality of the subjective potentialities of the living individual and thus [to] a malaise and a growing dissatisfaction.”

Henry opposes here the work of the craftsman who is a perpetual creation and a perpetual mobilization of the knowledge of life to that of the worker who is only the repetition of “stereotyped” and “monotonous” acts. The craftsman is in a carnal relationship with the world; his subjectivity is at work to deploy in immanence the knowledge of life. The cabinetmaker chooses the wood he will work on; evaluates its quality, its resistance, its grain and its veining. When he sands, polishes and then varnishes his wood, when he assembles the parts to make a piece of furniture, he performs unique work that involves his subjectivity and his life to the core. On the other hand, the worker who works on a production line is in a cold and mediatized relationship where the instrumental device comes to replace know-how. Pressing a button, operating a lever is a minimal task that can be performed by all in an identical way. For Henry, technology is nothing other than “nature without man;” that is to say “abstract nature, reduced to itself” and “returned to itself.” “It is barbarism, the new barbarism of our time, in place of culture. Insofar as it puts out of play life; its prescriptions and its regulations. It is not only barbarism, under its extreme and most inhuman form, that it was given to man to know, it is the madness,” emphasizes Henry.

The rise of technology at the expense of life leads to a radical change, to an ontological “revolution,” namely the appearance of a new reality—of an economic order. Henry aims here at “the inversion of the vital teleology that occurred at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century when the production of consumer goods that characterizes every society ceased to be directed… towards ‘use values;’ to aim henceforth at obtaining and increasing exchange value; that is to say, money.” This is what is, par excellence, barbaric for the philosopher: the emergence of a reality that is produced neither by nature nor by the body itself. The reign of money as an exchange value corresponds to the advent of a pure virtuality within Being itself. Money determines our existence today, even though it is not the product of any life and serves no purpose except its own. The barbarism described by Henry is thus, in the last instance, a usurpation—that which is dead—technology and money—comes to pass for Being.


Matthieu Giroux is a Dostoyevskian sovereignist and the editorial director of PHLITT. This article appears through the generous courtesy of PHLITT.


Featured image: Portrait of Galileo, by Justus Sustermans, painted in 1636.

The Origins Of Totalitarian Democracy: A Discussion

On Feb. 26, 2022, a group of 14 independent scholars and non-academics from around the world convened the first meeting of the Invisible College to discuss an important book, J.L. Talmon’s The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, (a 1951 study of the French Revolution that identifies the historical origins and political presuppositions of totalitarian “democracy”). What follows is one, and only one, participants’ take away from the discussion.

I was initially attracted to the book by other things I had read and had written myself. Talmon seemed to “echo” the diagnosis of Gnosticism given by Voegelin in The New Science of Politics (1952), the distinction made by Oakeshott between The Politics of Faith and the Politics of Skepticism (composed in the early 1950s); it reflected, as well, in the French context, the distinction made by Constant between ancient and modern liberty, and, of course, Tocqueville’s observations and warning in Democracy in America.

What I hoped to see vindicated were (1) my own claims on the importance that the misguided notion of a social technology rooted in an alleged social science had originated among pre-revolutionary French philosophes; (2) the well known thesis (Crane Brinton, Voegelin, Hayek, and Oakeshott) that the French Revolution was fundamentally different from the U.S. Revolution; and (3) that the concept of the “rule of law” had a significantly different meaning in the Anglo-American legal inheritance from the Continental legal inheritance. Finally, I wanted to see to what extent our forebodings about the dangers of progressivism especially in its “woke” form exemplified what Talmon would say about “Political Messianism.”

Presuppositions aside, rereading Talmon fifty years later, I discovered two new and related things. First, the transition from classical liberalism (liberals are/were people who want(ed) to limit the power of government over individuals) to modern liberalism (liberals are people who want to increase the power of government over individuals) and beyond (socialism and Marxism) is the product of the misunderstanding or misrepresentation of English liberalism by French philosophes (intellectuals) filtering it through their quite different intellectual tradition. Second, that transition carried to its logical conclusion is the totalitarian democracy we not only saw in Revolutionary France, but is reflected in present day “woke” democracy. It is always worth reminding ourselves and others that rereading a classic in light one’s other and additional readings is almost like reading a new text. The same can be said for sharing one’s personal reading with that of others.

My personal comments are in bold and comments relevant to contemporary America are indicated in italics.

Talmon makes his own epistemological presuppositions very clear. To begin with, he does not believe that it makes sense to talk about human beings independent of their historical, cultural, and socio-economic context. He contrasts this with what he calls rationalism, by which I take him to mean the Cartesian starting point of the Discourse on Method, that is thinking of oneself as the disembodied and context—less observer sitting in judgment of the world from the vantage point of the Archimedian skybox shared only by God (again analogous to Oakeshott’s description of the “rationalist” in the essay, “Rationalism in Politics.” To say that you are a product of your history is not to deny that you may be a product of your conscious rejection of part of your inheritance. Even then we would need to know the history to understand your rejection). As Talmon himself puts it: “Nature and history show civilization as the evolution of a multiplicity of historical and pragmatically formed clusters of social existence and social endeavour, and not as the achievement of abstract Man on a single level of existence” (p. 254).

Ontologically, Talmon insists that the two instincts most deeply embedded in human nature are the yearning for salvation and the love of freedom. The attempt to satisfy both at the same time is bound to result, if not in unmitigated tyranny and serfdom at least in monumental hypocrisy and self- deception which are the concomitants of totalitarian democracy (p. 253).

The Right [conservatism] declares man to be weak and corrupt. The Right teaches the necessity of force as a permanent way of maintaining order among creatures, and training them to act in a manner alien to their mediocre nature. Not everyone on the right advocates totalitarianism, but totalitarians of the Right operate solely with historic, racial and organic entities, concepts altogether alien to individualism and rationalism.

Totalitarianism of the Left, when resorting to force, does so in the conviction that force is used only in order to quicken the pace of man’s progress to perfection and social harmony: It is thus legitimate to use the term democracy in reference to totalitarianism of the Left. The term could not be applied to totalitarianism of the Right.

Modern communism is much more than distributive socialism. It advocates “an exclusive social pattern based on an equal and complete satisfaction of human needs as a program of immediate political action.”

That imagined repose is another name for the security offered by a prison, and the longing for it may in a sense be an expression of cowardice and laziness, or the inability to face the fact that life is a perpetual and never resolved crisis (p. 255).

Two other works exemplify what Talmon has in mind. First, Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, also published in 1951, maintains that extremist cultural movements occur when large numbers of lost souls who think that their own individual lives are worthless join a movement demanding radical change. What motivates them is the desire to escape from the self, not a realization of the self. “A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation” (p. 21). The resentment of the weak does not spring from any specific injustice but from the sense of their inadequacy. The resulting self-loathing produces serious social disruption.

Second, Michael Oakeshott’s 1962 essay, “The Masses in Representative Democracy” identifies Anti-Individuals as those who yearn for a protective community which takes care of them and relieves them of the anxiety of making choices; “there were some people, by circumstance or by temperament, less ready than others to respond to this invitation [to become autonomous]”. There were no anti-individuals before the Renaissance, only members of a community. Once some people become autonomous individuals but others do not, those who do not make the transition become anti-individuals. Anti-individuals are a reaction against autonomous individuals. They are resentful of autonomous individuals, display “envy, jealousy, resentment.” They need a leader; and they want uniformity, equality and solidarity. They blame autonomous individuals for the anxiety, want to destroy the prestige of autonomous individuals and make everyone an anti-individual.

This is the curse of salvationist creeds: to be born out of the noblest impulses of man, and to degenerate into weapons of tyranny. An exclusive creed cannot admit opposition. It is bound to feel itself surrounded by innumerable enemies. Its believers can never settle down to a normal existence. From this sense of peril arise their continual demands for the protection of orthodoxy by recourse to terror. Those who are not enemies must be made to appear as fervent believers with the help of emotional manifestations and engineered unanimity at public meetings or at the polls [vote as a block].. Political Messianism is bound to replace empirical thinking and free criticism with reasoning by definition, based on a priori collective concepts which must be accepted whatever the evidence of the senses : however selfish or evil the men who happen to come to the top, they must be good and infallible, since they embody the pure doctrine and are the people’s government: in a people’s democracy the ordinary competitive, self-assertive and anti-social instincts cease as it were to exist (p. 253).

In this work, Talmon is primarily interested in the shaping of the religion and myth of Revolutionary political Messianism (p. 231).

The Two Types Of Democracy: Liberal And Totalitarian

The liberal approach assumes politics to be a matter of trial and error, and regards political systems as pragmatic contrivances of human ingenuity and spontaneity. It also recognizes a variety of levels of personal and collective endeavour, which are altogether outside the sphere of politics. [Anglo-American conception; think Hume’s History of England; liberal practices preceded liberal theorizing.]

The totalitarian democratic school, on the other hand, is based upon

  1. The assumption of a sole and exclusive truth: it postulates a preordained, harmonious and perfect scheme of things, to which men are irresistibly driven, and at which they are bound to arrive.
  2. It recognizes ultimately only one plane of existence, the political. It widens the sense of politics to embrace the whole of human existence.
  3. In so far as men are at variance with the absolute ideal they can be ignored, coerced or intimidated into conforming, without any real violation of the democratic principle…The practical question is, of course, whether constraint will disappear because all have learned to act in harmony or because all opponents have been eliminated.
  4. Everything is politicized [names on cereal boxes, professional sports teams, pandemics, etc.]
  5. The postulate of some ultimate, logical, exclusively valid social order is a matter of faith, and it is not much use trying to defeat it by argument.

Part I: The Eighteenth-Century Origins Of Political Messianism

  1. There was a fundamental principle in pre-eighteenth century chiliasm that made it impossible for it to play the part of modern totalitarianism: its religious essence. This explains why the Messianic movements invariably ended by breaking away from society, and forming sects [e.g. Benedict Option] based upon voluntary adherence and community of experience. They aimed at personal salvation and an egalitarian society based on the Law of Nature, and believed that obedience to God is the condition of human freedom.
  2. With the rejection of the Church, and of transcendental justice, the STATE remained the sole source and sanction of morality.
  3. The strongest influence on the fathers of totalitarian democracy was that of ANTIQUITY interpreted in their own way. Their myth of antiquity was Libertya (autonomy of the whole society not the individual) equated with virtue (ascetic discipline)
  4. The idea of man as an abstraction, independent of the historic groups to which he belongs, is likely to become a powerful vehicle of totalitarianism.
  5. Modern Messianism has always aimed at a revolution in society as a whole. The point of reference is man’s reason and will, and its aim happiness on earth arrived by a social transformation.

[Allow me to interject here some observations from the modern scientific revolution. There were two competing models: Newtonian and Cartesian. In Newtonian physics, the first law states that individual objects move in a straight line at a constant speed forever (infinitely) in empty space or the void – clear analogue to Hobbesian desire; Newton also believed that the universe required God’s periodic intervention. In Cartesian physics, there is no empty space but a plenum within which every body touches other bodies and a vortex within which such bodies move harmoniously. If the speed and position of all the bodies could be completely described, then all future permutations could be deduced through calculations based on the laws of motion. The social analogue to Cartesian physics is a natural harmony.]

The object of Talmon’s book is to examine the three stages through which the social ideals of the eighteenth century were transformed-on one side-into totalitarian democracy (According to Hoffer, “a movement is pioneered by [1] men of words, [2] materialized by fanatics, and [3] consolidated by men of action.” (p 147 of The True Believer):

1. The eighteenth-century postulate (Rousseau’s “General Will”); Rousseau’s starting point, as Kant noticed, was the individual free will – not a pre-existing collective entity. Herein lies the contradiction between individualism and ideological absolutism inherent in modern political-Messianism.

As a systematic philosopher, Descartes (this discussion of Descartes appeared in a previous edition of The Postil) introduces and makes the official starting point of modern epistemology the “I Think” perspective, something that had been implicit in classical and medieval thought. Classical thought had always prioritized thought over action or practice. It had always presumed that we needed an independent theory before we can act. Prior to Descartes, skeptics had repeatedly exposed the plurality of mundane competing theories. Drawing on the Augustinian inheritance of the school he attended at La Fleche, Descartes thought he could permanently dispose of skepticism by practicing the Socratic Method on himself and drill down until he found what could not be questioned/challenged without self-contradiction. This method did not rely on any appeal to our bodily experience of the world – which might after all be an illusion. Nor did it appeal to any social framework: tradition, customary practice, which were after all potentially illusory historical products.

Having established thereby to his own satisfaction that he existed as an “I Think,” Descartes proceeded to establish the existence of God. Whereas Aristotle had identified four causes, wherein three of which (formal, final and efficient) were identical, Descartes eliminated final (teleological) causation. Nevertheless, Descartes retained the identity of formal and efficient causation. This alleged identity permitted one to argue backwards from any effect (form) to its efficient cause sight unseen. Given Cartesian physics and traditional logic, this is an unassailable proof of God’s existence as creator or first efficient cause of the physical world and ultimate author of the Bible! Thus, had Descartes established the existence and validity of the Christian world- view (hereafter the “PLAN”) now understood as including the transformation of the physical world.

In order to make sense of the Technological Project, the transformation of the physical world in the service of humanity, it is important that some aspect of humanity be independent of the physical world. If humans were wholly part of the physical world, then any human project could be transformed as well, thereby leaving all projects without an autonomous status. Hence, it is necessary that the subject, or at least the mind of the subject, be free and independent of the body.

Modern science did not come to a halt with Cartesian physics and analytic geometry. Newtonian atomistic physics moving in the void of calculus took its place. Now there were only efficient causes. There were no final and no formal causes. There were no necessary connections among different kinds of causes. Hume merely spelled out the implications of Newtonian physics for delegitimizing the alleged proofs of God’s existence (see Capaldi on this).

Still, we had the increasingly clear vision of an orderly Newtonian physical world and the ancillary successes of the Technological Project.

Even with a marginalized or superfluous God, God’s PLAN for the physical world still seemed to be safe. It was so safe it did not seem to need miraculous intervention (Deism). Miracles were replaced by utopian visions of future techno-science. Unfortunately, those who continued to tie God’s Plan to a belief in God could not agree, and they further discredited themselves by engaging in (17th-century) religious wars.

We might learn to do without God, but we sorely needed something like His plan for the social world. In the eighteenth century, some of the French philosophes (Helvetius, d’Alembert, Condorcet, La Mettrie, etc.) proposed the Enlightenment Project: a social science to discover the analogous structure of the social world and an analogous social technology to implement its benefits; a wholly secular plan of ideal harmony without religious warranties. This was an even greater gift to the discipline of philosophy, the opportunity to discover, articulate and implement the secular social PLAN. ‘Modern’ Liberalism, socialism, and Marxism are expressions of the Enlightenment Project. Comte was the master-planner. Needless to say, none of these secular plans has worked, and you could make the case that they made the social world worse off.

However, if there is no God who guarantees the PLAN, why think there is any kind of PLAN? There might even be some kind of predictable order but why think the order is disposed toward human benefit? The physical scientists keep changing the description of the physical order and the alleged social scientists offer thinly veiled private agendas.

J.J. Rousseau comes to the rescue. There is no plan, nothing for reason to discover. All alleged plans are rationalizations of the status quo by its beneficiaries involving the exploitation of the victims. The most we can hope for is to recover our lost innocence, the world before the “Fall.”

In place of an autonomous reason, we find an autonomous will that does not know avarice, shame, or guilt. The autonomous self is pure free will. This primacy of will is not only independence from the body but it is independent of a suspect and instrumental reason. We can achieve a pure social harmony simply by willing the community into existence and outlining the conditions that will sustain it. Those conditions are the alleged condition of the ideal ancient world, a world of roughly equal small farmers in an agrarian community.

2. The Jacobin improvisation (Robespierre and St. Just)

3. The Babouvist crystallization; all leading up to the emergence of economic communism on the one hand, and to the synthesis of popular sovereignty and single-party dictatorship on the other. Property: the bourgeois struggle against feudal privilege was transformed into the proletarian demand for security. [Equality before the law and of opportunity become equality of result]

Many of us have been concerned about (a) the ‘deterioration’ of classical liberalism into modern liberalism (socialism, Marxism) and (b) the evolution of the latter into woke culture and worse. It is my claim that Talmon’s thesis in Totalitarian Democracy explains both as the result of the French Enlightenment (especially Cartesianism and Rousseau) misunderstanding of English liberalism in the 18th-century or its transposition into a French intellectual context. Given my own scholarship you can see why I would agree.

Curiously, it was the Francophile Englishman Bentham who took the French misrepresentation of historic English liberalism, something Bentham dismissed along with English jurisprudence, turned it into the abstraction of utilitarianism, and fed it back into the Anglo-American context. As Hayek pointed out, it was Bentham who introduced into Britain the desire to remake the whole of her law and institutions on rational principles.

Dicey, in Lectures on the Relation Between Law and Public Opinion in England During the Nineteenth Century, claimed that Bentham was responsible for turning liberalism from a protection against outside interference into government intervention (social technology). “The patent opposition between the individualistic liberalism of 1830 and the democratic socialism of 1905 conceals the heavy debt owed by English collectivists to the utilitarian reformer. From Benthamism the socialists of to-day have inherited a legislative dogma, a legislative instrument and a legislative tendency…. The dogma is the celebrated principle of utility.”

Almost all of subsequent political philosophy in the Anglo-American world (including libertarianism, classical liberalism, modern liberalism, socialism, and Marxism) has been a reflection of Bentham’s wrong turn, and, I would argue has been an enabler of the gradual deterioration of liberty.


Chapter 1: Natural Order

Natural Order lays out what I have called the Enlightenment Project by examining the works of Helvetius, Holbach, Condorcet and Morelly’s Code de la Nature. This was a clear deviation from Montesquieu’s policy of looking for previous historical French practice. Condorcet specifically criticized the U.S. for being evolutionary instead of revolutionary.

Chapter 2: The Social Pattern and Freedom

The “General Will” is a Cartesian concept—everyone can discover it with the right method. Hence, education has political implications that are totalitarian: you are not free to deny, ignorantly, or undermine the General Will. The Individual gives way to the legislator.

Chapter 3: Rousseau

[General will = what we would all want if we had all the information and interpreted it correctly; since it is something we “will” we can choose to make it universally harmonious and absorb the total cost no matter what the consequences or unintended consequences.]

The General Will allows Self-consciousness to become social consciousness [Comte, the founder of sociology, will assert subsequently that the advance of science leads to the substitution of a “We think” epistemology for an “I think” epistemology, and therefore to the discovery of social laws.]

The General Will morphs into the idea of a classless society. [Whereas, Hume and Smith posited sympathy as a way we could understand the “other,” for Rousseau sympathy permits a complete identification with the other or the subsumption of self-interest into social interest]. The political implication is that we do not need representatives of individual and factional interests but leaders who understand the people as a collective whole (do away with the Senate, with the electoral college, with the filibuster).

[Allow me to interject here. One of the perennial concerns within advocates of liberal thought has been the historical transition from classical liberalism (protect the individual from government control) to modern liberalism (all rights come from the government). This transition and the further transition from liberalism to socialism/Marxism is precisely what Talmon is addressing and explaining. The explanation of the transition is the failure to understand that classical liberalism is the product of historical practice and not theory. You cannot theorize practice or theorize the relation of theory to practice because there is no underlying structure or social laws.

This is exactly what led J.S. Mill, an early fan of Comte, to condemn Comtism as a form of totalitarianism. Moreover, the attempt to provide a ‘theory’ of liberalism inevitably leads to the postulation of clever abstractions from which anything can be derived or rationalized. Once anything goes, the door has been opened to utopianism, messianism, to fraud, to the self-serving pretense of expertise, the rationalization of the worst human excesses, etc.

Perhaps the most interesting example of all this is the most boring and overrated book on political thought produced in the last half of the 20th-century, Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Rawls thought he was theorizing liberalism – of whose history he was ignorant—by imaging a thought experiment in which we ignore everything that is true of individuals and focus only on what is allegedly true of all of us—assuming it to be harmonious. Does this sound familiar? It’s Rousseau Deja vu. Rawls convinces himself that this leads to the priority of liberty only to find that his book has become the celebrated classic of socialism. See, for example, Piketty. Rawls expiated his guilt by writing a later book Political Liberalism but the damage had been done and nobody cared or listened.]

Chapter 4: Property
Rousseau and others believed in some quite limited form of private property and none foresaw the tremendous increase in wealth that would be created by the industrial revolution. At this time, Morelly was the only consistent communist foreseeing an egalitarian social harmony thru state-controlled asceticism. We should all learn to live on less [and perhaps make sacrifices for the environment].

[One of the things that has forestalled the growth of socialism has been the vast improvements in the standard of living since the last half of the 19th-century. Socialism gets a new lease on life with the advent of alleged threats to the climate by pollution.]

Part II: Jacobin Improvisation

Chapter 1—Revolution of 1789—Sieyes. Talmon reiterates his contention on the replacement of tradition by abstract reason (p. 69): “There is no respect in this attitude for the wisdom the ages, the accumulated, half-conscious experience and instinctive ways of a nation. It shows no awareness of the fact that truly rationalist criteria of truth and untruth do not apply to social phenomena and that what exists is never the result of error, accident or vicious contrivance alone, but is a pragmatic product of conditions, slow, unconscious adjustment, and only partly of deliberate planning” (p. 71). [A tradition or an inheritance is a fertile source of adaptation- Oakeshott].

Sieyes criticized the British Constitution as a gothic superstition. He reflected the contradiction between: an absolutist doctrinaire temperament, revolutionary coercion, egalitarian centralism, a homogeneous nation vs. Lockean private property.

Chapter 2—Robespierre exemplifies the psychology of the neurotic egotist who must impose his will or wallow in an ecstasy of self-pity. He was led to believe that the General Will needs objective truth embodied in the enlightened few to which the actual count of votes takes second place. [Rigged elections may better reflect the “General Will”?]

Chapter 3Road from democracy to tyranny by way of the totalitarian -democratic vanguard in a plebiscitary regime.

Anglo-American liberty: defend personal freedom from government; French: defend revolutionary government from factions; Create the conditions for a true expression of the popular will; Outlaw political parties => one party.

Redefinition: Liberty = a substantive set of values and not just the absence of restraint = equality in fraternity [liberty, equality, and fraternity]. Denunciation of those who disagree or criticize [canceled] and a ban on the slightest difference of opinion and sentiment.

[Since the “general will” is something we ‘will’ and is not a discovery or an alleged truth that can be refuted or disconfirmed, any fact that is incompatible with the ‘general will’ must be censored in the interest of social harmony—think Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four]

Chapter 4—Saint Just.

Chapter 5—The Social Problem.

Basic inconsistency on private property.

THE great dividing line between the two major schools of social and economic thought in the last two centuries has been the attitude to the basic problem: should the economic sphere be considered an open -ended human initiative, skill, resources, with the State intervening only occasionally to fix the most general and liberal rules of the game, to help those who have fallen by the wayside, to punish those guilty of foul play and to succour the victims thereof; OR should the totality of resources and human skill be ab initio treated as something that should be deliberately shaped and directed, in accordance with a definite principle; could men be educated in a socially integrated system as to begin.to· act on motives different from those prevailing in the competitive system?

Robespierre and Saint-Just felt themselves moved to integral planning in accordance with a definite principle—the idea that the needs of the poor were the focus and foundation stone of the social edifice [woke focus on African Americans, women, and gender issues.]

Babeuf and nineteenth-century successors of Jacobinism up to 1848, was in its defiant tone—new and upon a totally different plane from the right to [pursuit of] happiness of Locke and the fathers of the American Constitution, as well as from the right to social assistance. Equality—limit amount of property, abolish bequest; everyone works.

Part III: The Babouvist Crystallization

Chapter 1: Lessons of the Revolution

No social peace between the two classes was possible. Babeuf embodied:

  • Deep personal misery
  • Messianic longings
  • Passion for self-dramatization
  • Intoxicated with words
  • The declasse

Philipe Buonarroti—high priest of egalitarian communism in Europe.

Chapter 2: Babouvist Social Doctrine

  • The state and not the unfettered mind of the individual is the source of social as well as moral progress.
  • Paradox: individualist basis of the collectivist philosophy.
  • Logically: [Cartesian] starting point should be an a priori principle or some purpose outside and above man’s will [Rousseau].
  • History: the moment of the violation of original equality (acquisitive spirit) and restoration at some preordained future hour.
  • Refusal to see the desire to increase wealth as an impulse for a higher culture; wealth is never a reward for merit.
  • Existing society is a superstructure deliberately built by avarice to secure a reign of pillage.
  • Merchants are engaged in a permanent conspiracy against the consumer class.

Silent civil war: (Bourgeois and aristocratic Republic vs. popular and democratic Republic). Call for a general strike to paralyze society [riots?].
French Revolution is the beginning of an apocalyptic hour in mankind’s history [tear down statues]. It reduces the standard of living by persuasion [climate change]. Destroys personal ambition. No police or prisons or trials (p. 195). [Woke Agenda: cancel culture, indoctrination (masks?), participation trophies, no grades, affirmative action, no cash bail, etc.]

Chapter 3: The Plot.
The Left had no proper organization [it never does and hence falls prey to gangsters; Stalin assassinates Trotsky, etc. Talmon, Hoffer, and Oakeshott all distinguish between those who are recruited as the ‘downtrodden’ and those who are the leaders or spokespersons for the ‘downtrodden’. Hoffer describes them as having “the vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless” (p. 15); Oakeshott maintains “the task of leadership … what his followers took to be a genuine concern for their salvation was in fact nothing more than the vanity of the almost selfless”.]

Chapter 4: Democracy and Dictatorship

  • Constitution “would be framed in such clear, detailed and precise definitions that no diverse interpretations, sophisms, ambiguities or caviling would be possible” (p. 201). [You cannot construct an artificial language without using an historical natural language; you cannot introduce a new set of practices without presupposing the old practices; reinforces Talmon’s point that the human/social world cannot be understood independent of its history; replacing the past requires either a knowledge of the past or a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the past.]
  • Poor have no time or wealth to attend meetings or get information [or voter ids]
  • Democracy is a stage beyond republicanism [democracy is not a procedural norm but a substantive norm—hence all those people who precede the word with an adjective]
  • Babeuf evolves from a believer in reconciliation to a partisan of class struggle
  • Plebiscitary, direct democracies the precondition of dictatorship or dictatorship in disguise; full unanimity = imposition of a single will = part of the vanguard [imagine the US with all voting done without parties and directly through individual computers serviced and counted by Silicon Valley]
  • Vacillate between violent coup OR educate the masses
  • Eliminate opposition and engage in intensive education and propaganda [Facebook]
  • FORCE CANNOT BE ELIMINATED

Chapter 5: Structure of the Conspiracy
Masses were to be won over by distribution of spoils (p. 228) – [encouraged and allowed to sack stores in downtown shopping district]

Chapter 6: Ultimate Scheme

Unanimity, spiritual cohesion, and economic communism

  • Babavoist: virtue, democracy, and communist equality
  • Certificate of “civisme” (p. 234) to participate [Chinese evaluation of individual citizens]
  • Zbigniew Brzeziński, former national security advisor to President Carter, put it in his 1968 book, Between Two Ages, America’s Role in the Technotronic Era: “The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen.”
  • Immense body of civil servants
  • Evils that flow from refinement in the arts
  • No claim for pre-eminence

Arts and science become social functions and instrument for evoking collective experiences [academy awards on TV].

Conclusions

“All the emphasis came to be placed on the destruction of inequalities, on bringing down the privileged to the level of common humanity [wealth tax; opposition to the flat tax; Obama’s statement that “you did not build that”], and on sweeping away all intermediate centers of power and allegiance, whether social classes, regional communities, professional groups or corporations. [eliminate parental input into public education; outlaw home schooling]. Nothing was left to stand between man and state” (p. 250).Two policies: repression of those who objected and re-education

This is an extreme individualism: [individuals behind Rawls “veil of ignorance”]—individuals without history. The Intellectual as rootless cosmopolitan. [Destroy the history and then re-educate within the new mythos; 1619 Project.]

Political Messianism spent itself in Western Europe soon after 1870 and then moved to its natural home in Russia (generations of repression and the pre-disposition of the Slavs to Messianism).

Volume II: 19th century Europe, Volume III: 20th-century Europe [Talmon did not foresee in the 1950s the resurgence in the Western World.]

Addendum: Tocqueville

Equality and freedom do not develop in a proportional relationship. Especially in a democratic society, “Among these nations equality preceded freedom; equality was therefore a fact of some standing when freedom was still a novelty; the one had already created customs, opinions, and laws belonging to it when the other, alone and for the first time, came into actual existence. Thus the latter was still only an affair of opinion and of taste while the former had already crept into the habits of the people, possessed itself of their manners, and given a particular turn to the smallest actions in their lives.”

Therefore, although people in democratic countries love freedom by nature, their passion for equality is even more difficult to stop. “they call for equality in freedom; and if they cannot obtain that, they still call for equality in slavery.” It is precisely because of his admiration of freedom that Tocqueville inherited Constant’s idea that the democratic system may be transformed into a tyranny of despotism, and described it as “Tyranny of the majority”. In his opinion, the dangers that democracy can produce are: on the one hand, there is the tendency of anarchism, which has been widely discussed; on the other hand, the tyranny of the majority, [or as Mill would say those who claim to speak on behalf of the majority]; that is, the stifling of individual freedom by absolute authority. Compared with the former, the latter is more severe.

Tocqueville believes that autocracy is what scares people the most in the democratic era. How to effectively guarantee freedom in a democratic society is the core issue of Tocqueville’s American democratic outlook. Combined with the actual investigation of American society, he proposed to implement a series of measures such as federalism, separation of powers, local autonomy, and freedom of the press in a democratic society to ensure freedom and prevent Tyranny of the majority.

In the Anglo-American world since he 18th-century it used to be the case that the press was a place where public opinion in all of its varieties could be voiced. French intellectuals have always believed that it was their responsibility to form or to construct public opinion.


Nicholas Capaldi is Professor Emeritus at Loyola University, New Orleans.


Featured image: “The execution of Robespierre and his supporters on 28 July 1794.” Artist unknown.

Our Current Cultural Revolution And Hegel’s Critique Of Its Enlightenment Roots

1.

The social and cultural revolution we are now living through is one more in a line of philosophically driven attempts for an elite who believe they know how to improve the world to use our social and political institutions to secure a world ostensibly free from its ailments. Today, the major ailment to be overcome is domination/ oppression, whether it be over non-whites, gay, non-binary or transgender people, those who say hateful things or disseminate non-elite approved information, or domination over the planet and climate.

That the revolution is an alignment and amalgam of liberal, corporate, and ideologically aligned socialistic confluences and forces is as evident in its values as in the alliance that has transpired between multi-billionaires, celebrities, politicians and bureaucrats, academics, and more lowly paid journalists, university students, school teachers, and others who believe in a program grounded in abstract and unattainable ideals.

The contemporary cultural revolution is no more strictly caused by philosophy than the American, French or Russian revolutions were caused by philosophy. Yet like those revolutions, the objectives and priorities of the liberal progressive elite, for all its contradictions, are definitely shaped by philosophy. This is most conspicuous in the appeals to rights, equality, social justice, absolute emancipation, and other values which are woven throughout its moral imperatives. These appeals are to realities which do not exist, and which cannot exist in their entirety.

These “realities” are all ideas which were originally contrived, in different ways and to different degrees by philosophers such as Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, and Marx. At their best, they helped draw attention to social evils that came from the raw deployment of power by those who used their positions of authority or sheer strength for nothing more than their own economic status and political enhancement at the expense of individuals and groups who they plundered or duped. At their worst, these ideas provided a new set of idols, enabling a new priest caste who promised the impossible by destroying existing relative freedoms and legally recognized (and hence limited but attainable) “rights” and relative social concordance.

Theologically, the difference between the living God and an idol is the former creates, the latter devours us. When abstractions cease to be mere generalizations to facilitate a better understanding of associations so we may better solve a problem or make a point, they destroy our ability to discern real problems and possibilities by drawing us into the vortex of the unreal.

The great danger of philosophy, noted over and over again by philosophers, is overreach—and the philosophically based ideologies of modernity are all the result of succumbing to intellectual pride, a preference for the clouds inhabited by abstract beings over actual human beings with their different characters, and their inevitable entanglements and deficiencies. The study of literature in universities today typifies the entrenchment of an ideological victory. Literary Studies has dispensed with character as an essential component in the study of any literary work, which is depicting personal relationships and events, in favour of demanding students all focus upon power relations of identity types. What any identity type is, though, is what it really is only if it conforms to the normative ideas which emancipate a person from the dead weight of an oppressive self-understanding and ideology. A black who is not a supporter of Black Lives Matter (or sees through the financial scandals that have revealed it to be a money-making scam), a woman who does not believe in abortion on demand or beyond a certain time of pregnancy, a gay who does not want to overturn traditional ways of child-rearing or marriage is not a real black/ woman/gay.

Identity and diversity are no longer words which bear scrutiny or even reveal very much about the reality or value of someone or a group at all. They are political terms which defy scrutiny, ideological truncheons designed to dismiss and shame opponents. The terms have no genuine descriptive purpose, rather they are triggers to marshal people into a way of seeing and talking about individuals and groups as if the group and individual members of a group are in need of a unity that those representing and speaking on behalf of the particular identity and championing “diversity” have special knowledge of, and provide.

In this distorted world where the representative and narrator of what its people must be and are if they are to be emancipated, the real person who bears a name and history is only as conscious of their reality as the representative concedes—and hence anyone who thinks the emancipatory narrative and strategy is nonsense, or even disagrees with a policy or generalization that suits a specific political perception, is deluded. It is only the person who completely identifies with an ideological narrative of what it is to be X who is really real—being real means being awake, being “woke.”

That the hiatus between the abstract ideal and the real is unbridgeable is why identity politics is an endless tumult of identifying those who don’t really measure up, the traitors in the midst, the blacks who are really just Uncle Toms if not downright mouthpieces for white-supremacists, the women who are not really women (unlike those women with penises whose only obstacle to being a model abstract emancipated woman is but a mere appendage) etc.

Real human beings are flawed, deficient, and full of contradictions, and hence susceptible to being morally condemned and denounced by the pure, those who align completely with the ideas they have about what is just and true. That the ideas have not been truly tested in the cauldron of history is not something that bothers an educated elite who effortlessly mount untested idea upon idea, criticism upon criticism without the need to genuinely justify why what they are saying is true. Unsurprisingly, the ideas about social justice and how to make progress in the social and political institutions that hold sway today are as riddled with contradictions as the lives of those who would instruct us in how to live ethically, whilst living materially rich but spiritually empty and often broken lives, rearing spiritually empty and often broken children, and creating a spiritually and socially broken society.

The cry for emancipation and social justice are the cries of the heart of people who do not know why they are broken, and whose ideas of how to fix not only their own condition but that of the world are as pertinent to spiritual health and a healthy future for the species as one more drink or hit is to an alcoholic or junkie. The contradiction between a world of moral ruin being created by a group so absolutely assured of their moral diagnoses, moral integrity, and own moral stature—to be assessed by the words they say, and the overwhelming moral fact that they are vocally anti-Republican/anti-capitalist/anti-oppression et. al.—is only invisible to those who are smug and snug in their material surroundings, deaf and blind to what suffering they are making. The contradiction between the progressive self and the chaos of the world is but one of the more glaring contradictions of the modern dialectic, revealing the spiritual weakness of the Western elites’ mind and soul.

The progressive ideology upon which that contradiction rests is in turn held together by the contradictory alliance that requires falsehood be enforced as truth. That elite alliance involves corporatists and statists, ultra-capitalists and socialists, military careerists and passivists, those who wish to eliminate prisons and those (invariably the same people) who continue to demand an ever greater number of laws to punish those who deviate from right thought and (their version of ) morally acceptable action, opposition to the death penalty and opposition to anyone who is critical of abortion without any kind of constraints, opposition to patriarchy and the changing of words so that women are now merely “birthing people,” opposition to genetically modified food and denunciation of any who oppose mandatory Covid vaccines which genetically modify our species—the list is almost endless.

Most philosophers think their job is done when they draw attention to a contradiction. But the real value of any social philosophy is to clarify why the contradictions that do exist occur, and to assess the value of and interests that have generated those contradictions. Those interests and contradictions, as I have just pointed out, play out both in the particular match up of ideas that form a “totality” or ideological “set” and in the match up of people with the ideas. Thus, for example, celebrities, journalists etc. who repeatedly say they believe in “the science” like to think that their understanding of the nature of the world and how to go about improving it deserves not only to be aired but treated as serious social comment.

But in a world where once prestigious institutions of higher learning and academic publishers are outlets for ideology—i.e., for ideas which form a chain of claims that have almost no connection with real historical circumstances, choices and people other than the rational dogmas foisted onto the past in order to secure an ostensibly freer future—why would a professor know more than a newsreader or a pop singer? It is largely thanks to our universities, that ideas now simply boil down to ideology and ideologies can be lined up as products in a supermarket in which there are two kinds of thought products—the good and the bad. Those who have partaken of the good product (the virtuous ideas) share a particular “ism,” which they use to “critique” those with whom they disagree (those who have imbibed the bad product) as belonging to another “ism:” “I am a feminist/ socialist/ progressive/anti-racist/ LGBTQ etc.,” ergo “my enemies are oppressors/racists/conservatives/defenders of patriarchy/white supremacists, etc.”

In so far as the professional classes who run our institutions are all educated to think in this manner, it is only natural that policy has increasingly become an extension of ideology, albeit with all the cracks, problems, compromises and contradictions that come from being applied to a world which is not just an idea. Generally, though, the contingencies that flow on from any attempt to apply an ideology to reality, an alignment of politically rational ideas in keeping with the rational objective (equality/ equity/diversity/freedom/utopia/a society without domination etc.)—are barely noticeable.

The most egregious example of how ideology and policy mishap and blindness align, and one black conservatives especially emphasise but to no avail in the present ideological climate, is how social welfare and the break-down of the two parent family have contributed to the high levels of criminality, incarceration, and poverty among North American blacks. The contradiction between the ostensible objective of the enablement of single parent lower socio-economic families (to help the destitute) and the reality of enabling single parent lower socio-economic families (poverty entrenchment over generations, higher levels of criminality etc.) must not be addressed. For to do so is to show heartlessness—even though apart from creating a raft of employment opportunities for the middle class, providing the services for this great class of state dependents and party clients, from welfare provision to counselling to incarceration, to speak to the actual heartlessness involved in continually enabling dependency and clientelism is to be the most heartless thing anyone could be—a conservative!

But to people whose prestige and sense of self and social and economic placement in the world is inextricably tied in with the plan/ the end goal of the idea of emancipation, as they understand it, and attempt to instantiate it, their idea of emancipation is not up for dispute—it is their absolute. Absolutes tend to hang around and are rarely given up lightly by those who identify with and hence form their own identity around them. Which is why those who question the absolute which gives meaning, economic sustenance, and social and political power to those who have been made by and made to serve the instantiation of the idea are not to be tolerated—they are to be cancelled or “disappeared,” reduced to penury, mocked and denounced, deprived of legal redress or platforms from which to speak. They are inevitably rendered as less than human—mere human garbage, mere pawns for preventing the great today of emancipation, of which some fancy philosophers following the messianic formulation of Jacques Derrida or Giorgio Agamben like to call the “democracy to come,” which involves dismantling all the terrible things like misinformation, freedom to communicate and think bad oppressive thoughts, which leads to the election of unspeakable monsters.

That the contradictions between action and speech, between representation and reality, between those who represent and the represented are all too conspicuous is why a society whose elite claims to be intent on overthrowing domination and enabling freedom actually eliminates free speech. For whereas the authority of past elites was originally grounded in and could be traced back to successful military valour (or in the case of the clergy, spiritual valour), since the French revolution, the authority of the elite, and hence membership, comes from its own rationality, its speech, its prowess in law making.

This would be all well and good were the society as successful in achieving the social happiness and unity its elite promise it can deliver. But the contradiction between the virtuous ends of community, their public verbal articulation and gestural display and the grubby reality involved in the scheming, acquiring and holding onto resources and office, the censoring and denouncing of political opponents, the economic mismanagement, high crime rates, race tensions, political polarization, and a military power that no longer represents any unity of national or social purpose, and which is more attuned to the rights and narratives of career development than to winning wars, is evident to anyone who looks at the world as it is rather than the ideas that wrap it up.

2.

Of all modern philosophers, it was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) who was most attuned to the role of contradiction, what he called the dialectic, and its role in our thinking, our history, and our institutions. Hegel argued that contradiction and dialectic are intrinsic to thinking.

Dialectic is the dynamic providing shape to thinking, the drive within thought that is the basis of thought: it is the way thinking is done. Prior to Immanuel Kant, metaphysics—the first philosophy to use Aristotle’s original term for metaphysics—laid down the principles discovered by reason that could not be bypassed, and hence were the precondition of any kind of being and hence any kind of knowledge.

Hegel, building upon the insights of Kant, Fichte and Schelling saw that starting with a metaphysics based upon reasons was to bypass the all-important first step in identifying how the elements of thinking itself are developed within the action of thought, and that action is what then enables the formation of principles. In other words, philosophy has to start with logic—logic understood as the dynamic formation, the how of thinking that also shapes and guides its what: Logic is the real first philosophy, or conversely a legitimate metaphysic must be a logic. The irony was that in many ways it was Kant’s attempt to find an unassailable grounding for metaphysics that had sparked the philosophies of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. Kant had exclaimed that Fichte and Schelling were erecting a metaphysics on nothing more than logic. For their part, they had argued that Kant’s transcendental idealism was based upon a dogmatic understanding of the nature of the faculties of reason which he forced to comply with Aristotelian logic and Newtonian mechanics (which was true, and thus this required a more robust deduction on the elements of thought that could not be bypassed in the formation of any kind of knowledge). But it was Hegel who took the definitive step in deducing metaphysics out of logic, and tracking the way in which logic developed ever more comprehensive principles in its development of the different spheres of knowledge.

In keeping with this, Hegel grasped that the history of philosophy was a history about the nature of thinking. Philosophy itself was thought realizing itself over time, and hence each philosophy was but an articulation of the process of thinking, a moment in the mind’s development or self-actualization. Hegel used the term Geist, which can be translated as spirit, but the spirit of which Hegel writes is mental activity. To repeat, then, Hegel’s starting point was the realization that philosophers have generally (Hegel makes some exception for Heraclitus) focused upon the results of thinking, but not adequately identified the process involved in it.

Hegel’s studies on the history of philosophy remain (with Heidegger’s various lectures on the history of philosophy and metaphysics) the most brilliant lectures on philosophy ever given by a philosopher, because of how he is able to enter into the content of the tradition whilst demonstrating the dynamic relationship that transpires between the respective philosophies that have played such a decisive part in identifying the problems of an age and the accumulation over time of concepts and ideas that form our thoughts, traditions, values, and institutions. Of all his philosophical studies, and for those who are new to Hegel, I cannot recommend strongly enough his early book, Faith and Knowledge, as a study of the dialectical relationship that exists between the philosophies of Immanuel Kant, J.G. Fichte, and Friedrich Jacobi. It is a remarkable account of how differing philosophies within an age are connected by certain tacit and unconscious assumptions and operations that Hegel subjects to the most brilliant critique.

To establish that thought is dialectical does not merely mean decreeing it so. It involves, as Hegel’s philosophy undertakes to do, demonstrating the “genetic” dynamic and development from the most elementary categories of thinking—being and nothing as the most elementary moments in thought’s becoming—into forming concepts, categories and kinds of judgments, and principles and ideas that not only provide the matrices and shapes of our sciences and institutions, but our very place in our world. What one thinks of Hegel’s philosophical achievements will largely come down to how successful one thinks Hegel has been in his explication of the process of thought formation and substantiation, and hence how he illustrates thought carrying over and into the birthing of the other sciences. It must be said from the outset, though, that much like Aristotle, with whom Hegel has much in common, when it comes to studying social and political life, philosophy and the arts there is much to commend it, when it comes to studying nature, very little.

Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature is an exercise in connecting the information Hegel has about the sciences (much of which would be redundant a mere few years later) into a totality in which all the fundamental underpinnings of the sciences are mapped out and genetically inter-connected in elements, structures, emergent levels and hierarchies. The structures or matrices of the next scientific level are already there, laying in waiting for Hegel to illustrate how they join—which renders the whole exercise as being outside of science itself, and, at best, akin to someone doing a great intellectual jigsaw puzzle, and at worst the equivalent of a priest giving a blessing to a series of scientific experiments while trying to explain to the faithful how they fulfil God’s plan. Given that Hegel’s task requires showing how the Logic becomes substantiated through the panoply of sciences—from the natural to the human (Geisteswissenschaften) the provision of a “Philosophy of Nature” was something he could not bypass. But the fact remains that unlike the Philosophy of Nature of his former ally and later antagonist F. W. J. Schelling, Hegel found no important disciples among scientists. And it is the weak point that many see as bringing disrepute to the entire Hegelian enterprise.

There is no overcoming the fact that gleaning the brilliant bits of Hegel—of which there are many—requires sorting through the rubble of the system. And while it is the details of the works, which when taken together attempt, and often provide an encyclopedic understanding of thought and the sciences, that provide the “evidence” of Hegel’s philosophical prowess, some of its fundamentals are pertinent enough to warrant Hegel’s importance for understanding destructive ways of thinking. This is one reason why those “68er” (especially Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault) philosophers, who were intent on destroying what they saw as an all-encompassing suffocating social totality of Western society, hated Hegel—for they exhibited the same intellectual iconoclasm that Hegel was warning his contemporaries against, and which swept up the young or left-Hegelians. Don’t let the name fool you, the group of thinkers which included Marx, Engels, Feuerbach, Max Stirner, the Bauer’s, and Moses Hess intellectually stood for everything Hegel opposed, and they radically intensified the delusions that Hegel had traced to the overreach of the Enlightenment itself.

Hegel’s philosophy involves recognizing—as he argues repeatedly—that nothing that matters is unmediated (i.e., all our concepts involve associations with other concepts, and being joined into larger units of association, or totalities—”ideas”), and our mediations are both dialectical and systemic. Were that not the case then when we seek to identify anything at all we would always come up with an empty repetition of the subject—x is x, a rose is a rose etc.—is a formulation that Hegel regularly repeats. It is our predications that inform us, and our predications—the full and ongoing sum of our knowledge/ sciences—are the result of what Hegel calls “the labour of the concept.”

That labour begins with the restlessness of thought. In an early writing comparing Fichte and Schelling, Hegel provided a simple yet effective way of illustrating the movement. In the proposition A = A, we are able to distinguish a formal difference that the statement of identity would seem to mitigate against, notably there are two A’s in relationship to each other and we can distinguish between them—one, we can say is subject, the other is predicate. Hence the mind is already creating a dialectical differentiation, i.e., A = -A. And, Hegel argues further, logically this leads us to recognize that A = B. Of course, from the usual perspective of logic this is a travesty, but Hegel is intent on illustrating that the usual principles that appear in text book logic are thought’s creations, and not simple eternal verities that are beyond or outside of thought, which somehow mysteriously dictates what is involved in right thinking. Thought, to repeat, is restless, and it is only because of its restlessness that we know anything. Thinking, though, is not something that transpires outside of reality—the breaking up of the world into what we think and what it is—that seemingly most innocuous move that Descartes undertakes in the original Enlightenment move, for Hegel, is to impose two metaphysical absolutes.

The problem is not only that those two unconditional starting points—or two antithetical “absolutes”—vie for philosophical attention, thereby leading to different “schools,” each ensnared by its own false problems and pseudo-solutions, but more importantly those who abide by such a division build concepts that are predicated upon ever greater splitting, ever more unreal abstractions and conceptual confusions. This is the source, for Hegel, of alienation from our-selves and our world.

For Hegel, philosophy needs to commence with the absolute that is the genuine absolute—the precondition of all thinking. The absolute (to use a term Hegel took from F.W.J. Schelling, who had made a somewhat similar point) is the “point of indifference”—that is the absolute which provides the unity from which all other divisions and principles commence. Good thinking, for Hegel, does not commence with dogmatic assertions that serve as principles, but with questioning the development of thinking, the formation of its concepts and the ideas which provide the systematic coherence of our concepts into bodies of knowledge. When Marx had criticized Hegel for not being a materialist, he had ignored the critical and irrefutable point made by Hegel, that all knowledge, whether it be of political economy, physics, or anything else that someone such as Marx committed to a materialist metaphysic may wish to invoke is still knowledge and hence the result of intellectual labour, development and systemization. There is no jumping outside of the conditions of knowledge to attain more knowledge.

Just as for Hegel our thinking follows a logical dynamic, because we are thinking creatures, the problems that we are confronted with that require institutional solutions are also “made” with “labour” along similar lines: i.e., our institutions incorporate and mediate, just as our concepts do—they are us writ large, but “the writing,” so to speak, takes place because of the tensions giving birth to the new. This is all well and good, and it is certainly superior to any kind of thinking about the past or future which treats institutions as mere bric-à-brac to be moved about at will, as if there is a necessary link between what a person or group desire to be the case when policy or institutional changes are made and the results that will ensue.

Nevertheless, while I hold Hegel’s Lectures in the History of Philosophy in very high esteem, I think Hegel’s Philosophy of History, although vastly more appealing than the Philosophy of Nature, suffers from the same failure as most other philosophies of history: the schema smooths over contingencies, and the world becomes shrunk to fit the ideas held about it. If the world were but ideas, then Hegel would be the greatest genius who ever lived, but ideas only matter because of the actors who carry and are carried by them, the circumstances which engender action, and the encounters that create new pathways of life.

In focusing upon how we know and the role of the mind in knowing, Hegel pays too little attention to the contingency of circumstances, character, and encountering which motivate us to break out of the totalities of the sciences and dive back into the flux and flow of speech, which is as much a creative act as it is an act of uncovering and discovering. Hegel literally smothers history and language with himself and his own knowledge. To repeat, while conceding, then, that Hegel’s philosophy—as with all philosophies—does not suffice to fathom everything, that for all his ambition and talent, he is a mere mortal, I repeat that there is still much to be learnt from Hegel, especially when it comes to identifying some of the monstrosities that pass as thoughtfulness in our sad time of cultural demise.

Closely related to Hegel’s insight about the restlessness of thought itself implicating us in the productive associations through which we come to know ourselves and our world, Hegel recognizes that institutions are the result of seeking to enhance and expand human capacities—and this enhancement and expansion of the mind and spirit is equated by Hegel with freedom. It is through our mutual recognition and cooperation, and the formation of institutions that enable us to store our powers and navigate ourselves across the times that we as a species bear our freedom.

Concomitantly, for Hegel, when we and our institutions are out of kilter we are estranged from ourselves—for we cannot survive (at least beyond merely persisting in a state of animality) without the accruement of powers which have developed through our experiences and crises and the knowledge thereof, and the social bonds which they have made actual and give us our place in the world and the reasons for our being.

Hegel used the term “ethical life” (Sittlichkeit) which he contrasted with Kant’s concept of morality (Kant uses the terms Moralität, Sitten, and Sittlichkeit interchangeably), which is the expression of the categorical imperative—an unconditional demand about what should be the case in any given circumstance requiring moral decision making. In Hegel, this demand of Kant is an empty formalism that, contrary to Kant’s oversight about the historical and social nature of our practices, derives its content from a world in which we already have a placement and knowledge concerning duties and roles and priorities.

Thus contrary to Kant, Hegel argues that the extent to which we are reconciled with our roles, rights, duties—our place in the world and the expectations and responsibilities which come with that—is the extent of our real freedom, as opposed to the demand for an abstract never ending, and ever restless lack, which Hegel saw as the philosophical accompaniment of all philosophies in which reason floats free from our history and institutions in order to instantiate (what Kant had referred to as) “mere ideas” that have not been tested in the realm of the actual. This view of freedom as a kind of infinite striving to realize a world we will that matches the principles we conjure through our ideas of what is reasonable was the commonplace enlightenment one that Hegel espies in various philosophies—with Rousseau, Kant and Fichte being the most influential exponents. It is this kind of thinking which Hegel sees as ultimately deluding philosophers into imaging that they and their (not very good) reasons are ones far better than the reasons of the world and the institutions that have been instantiated over time.

For Hegel, such reasoning is a kind of tyranny, and its historical manifestation was palpable in the French revolutionary phase of the Terror. From Hegel’s perspective, Rousseau, Fichte, Kant and Robespierre are all cut from the same enlightenment cloth. More, the purpose of Hegel’s philosophy was not just to correct erring philosophers about what they had missed about the nature of thinking, but to provide a philosophy in which his age could be reconciled with its history and achievements rather than given to endless and inevitably bloody flights of fancy—the elimination of obstacles—in pursuit of unreal ideas. It is that pursuit, one that ends in mass murder, that ultimately connects the voluntarist moralizing enlightened philosophies of Rousseau, Kant and Fichte to the kind of thinking exhibited by Marx, which provides the ideological foundation-stone of the cultural revolution of our time, and which requires nothing less than the destruction of everything that does not conform to the requirement of the critics’ ideas concerning what it is to be free from oppression.

Marx spelt out what that meant when he identified throughout his writings the institutions that would have to be overthrown for humanity to be free: religion, money, private property, capital, the division of labour, classes, law, the state, and the family. Freedom, for Marx, is somehow meant to accompany the dismantling of the very things that have enabled the species to expand its powers beyond the limitations of tribal survival and daily subsistence. The promise is that because the species has advanced thus far with private property and the division of labour, it would continue to do so without them. Apart from Marx saying it is so, it is far from obvious why it will continue to be so once they, along with money and law and the state, have been eliminated, simply because the scale of production has developed so extensively under these conditions.

The fantastical idea of Marx is that cooperation and commonality of human purpose will suffice to create a universality of emancipation because the technological conditions to deliver it have been created by all the oppression and suffering that was historically required to develop it. Marx speaks much about social reproduction, but Marx’s notion of communism is a kind of perpetuum mobile—for without force and personal economic incentives, the technological conditions and their fruits, there is no reason other than a certain psychological faith on Marx’s part why they will continue to reproduce themselves. The idea that they do not need to be remade every day is covered over by the implication intrinsic to the claim that people will all of a sudden be in complete concordance about their interests. That begs the question—why weren’t they previously?

Marx failed to recognize the obvious fact that there is absolutely no reason why a system of production cannot collapse if people dispense with the practices that made it possible in the first place. That so many intellectuals would—and still do—take seriously such a manifestly bad idea is indicative of their ideological capture. That would be displayed by simply ignoring such an obvious foundational error—along with other doozies such as the labour theory of value—and merely denouncing as “anti-Marxist” anyone who raised these issues. Bad ideas blind, and the triumph of ideology is the triumph of a blind class who are the seers and makers of a future of death.

Seen from Hegel’s point of view, Marx’s view of freedom as involving overthrowing all major past institutions is as false as the view that knowledge is void of mediation. Although Marx had only contempt for Kant’s thinking (“a whitewashing spokesman of the German bourgeoisie,” he writes in The German Ideology), he shares with Kant a self-belief in the ability to judge our institutions on the basis of something that does not exist. Marx, not wanting to be taken for an idealist, and insisting on the historical necessity of communism, refuses to say the obvious that communism is “a mere idea” that he has conjured up with his “reason.”

What Marx and Kant and the Enlightenment more generally have in common with each other and the woke of today is precisely this faith in their ability to conjure and lead us to a better, a more moral (Kant), or fully emancipated society (Marx and the woke), in spite of having no evidence that their proposals or faith (Marx prided himself on not dreaming up cookbooks for the future, the workers would just work it out) would work out the way they wanted. To his credit, Kant at least linked his idea of moral improvement to faith and hope, while Marx believed he had unassailable knowledge of the necessity of socialism.

3.

In this final section, I wish to go a little deeper into Hegel’s critique of the Enlightenment by developing points raised above.

For Hegel any idea that is to act as unconditional, and hence unassailable, that is any idea that is to have the status as absolute, must itself provide the condition of any thinking or reason. What, then, is unconditional, what is the absolute can be nothing other than reason itself. Another way of saying this is that when anyone appeals to some reason for anything, no matter what the subject matter, the final appeal has to be under the auspices of reason itself—to be sure—and this is the defining feature of Hegel’s philosophy—reason is layered and structured and actively transformed through its historical and cognitive unfolding into the sciences or spheres of knowledge that it gives birth to.

Furthermore, reason must be all encompassing—were it not it would be deferential to something other than itself—and hence it would not be absolute, but conditional. To restate the point made earlier: any experience—any fact or contingency—is only identifiable as something due to the predications that have developed through the use of thinking/reason. This is why Kant’s opening line in the “Introduction” of the Critique of Pure Reason: “That all knowledge begins with experience is indisputable,” is, for Hegel, merely a dogmatic declaration, not made one the whit less so because Kant then modulates his argument so that he can identify the a priori conditions of experience.

Kant, for Hegel, is just at the metaphysical end of the line of the dogmas of the Enlightenment, which Hegel sees as wreaking such social havoc. For what the Enlightenment has done is purport to subject our institutions to knowledge and unassailable norms of freedom and dignity and the like, but it has failed to provide a definitive or compelling account of what it is we must accept as the unconditional/the absolute/reason itself. This is because it is predicated on dualisms such as Kant made about experience and the understanding versus reason and morality. To repeat another point raised earlier, it is one thing to simply state some principle is absolute, for example, “all things are material,” or “human beings are born free and have rights,” but it is quite another to demonstrate the systemic relationship that constitute what is the alpha and omega of thinking and knowing.

For Hegel, then, the Enlightenment has pointed to reason being absolute, but it has failed to take reason seriously. Had it done so, then it would have recognized that reason is an absolute system, which is to say there can be nothing beyond it. And wherever he looked Hegel kept identifying philosophies which were appealing to some beyond that their faith could storm in reason’s stead. Kant, Schelling, and Fichte, for Hegel, were but three of his contemporaries who were caught up in this conceit. For Hegel, then, reason is an absolute system because it is literally all-inclusive, and being all-inclusive and self-generating it is infinite.

Thus too the finite is not something that can exist independently from the infinite, let alone can it set itself over and above the infinite, in some “beyond (Jenseits),” that would be accessible to some rational faith. For the finite only exists because of the infinite—hence Hegel distinguishes between the actual infinite, which contains all parts within it, and a bad infinite in which the members appear to have no relationship with each other, but just continue on and on being generated as we stumble along with this fact now that one, this reason now that one, this moral absolute now that one etc. The point I made above about Descartes’ metaphysics dividing the world into two absolutes—that of thought and that of matter—also illustrates the problem. The absolute, or point of indifference that Hegel’s philosophy identifies is the absolute infinite, which he equates with reason as a self-generating system.

Note that the terms reason, the absolute and the infinite are synonyms. Likewise, for Hegel the terms the understanding, and the finite operate as synonyms when Hegel is drawing attention to the false divisions between experience and the understanding, which Locke deployed to create a new foundation for philosophy to overcome the false imaginings that preceded the Enlightenment and which Kant would develop by distinguishing the faculty of “understanding” from that of “reason” (which was ostensibly the source of our moral ideas).

Hegel also rightly saw that the Enlightenment was creating a new kind of elite, who believed that its mental powers and methods equipped them with the authority and knowledge to dictate what is real and what is false. Hegel’s hubris is nothing compared to this, and while he did esteem philosophy to provide the most developed articulation of the human mind and spirit, he also conceded that religion and the arts grasped features of the spirit that philosophy could only belatedly identify.

Hegel’s emphasis upon the importance of religion and the arts as providing material from which any sound philosophy had to take into account and hence from which it also took its bearing can be traced back to his argument about the absolute infinite being the precondition of any knowing. For it means that one is always within the greater totality of the world/spirit/absolute, and those who position themselves as being outside or occupying a position in some kind of “beyond” are placing themselves outside of reason and hence outside of history and criticism. This is exactly what Marx and today’s progressive liberals do—somehow the sins of the fathers are not theirs, the privileges that they have that have come from the crimes and sins of others are to be treated as remedied by therapeutical acknowledgment.

Recently, I read a story of a white woman randomly approaching a (very bemused) black man to apologize for her white privilege. Had she given him the keys to her car and house and bank account details, he and I may still have thought her a fool, but at least one could respect that she was prepared to sacrifice what she believed were her ill-gotten gains to someone/anyone whose colour matched up with those who were once slaves in the USA. The fact is that all of us are implicated in the historical collisions that have benefitted some, sacrificed others and given us this world: this cannot be undone, and any remaking of the world is a remaking that has nothing whatever to do with the past, though it may well have to do with what one feels about the past now.

Feeling, though, is not thinking, and when it comes to institutional and policy decisions it is all too evident that the elite who now speak of redress and socio-economic justice never propose anything that requires their sacrifice. Were it the case, there would simply be a mass transfer of wealth from the white woke to the black broke. Instead, what there is, is an elite who go to the best schools, get the best jobs, and who receive credentials so that they can lead and represent those in need of their justice. And they do this by contriving and pedaling ideas that are the antithesis of what they purport to be.

For Hegel, this entire way of thinking is as false as it is disastrous. The most fundamental flaw stems from laying down (a number of) absolute(s) that are not absolute in any other than a dogmatic sense, and then supplementing their absolute with some beyond that justifies their dogmatic faith. They move from an inadequate grasp of the whole which they claim as being complete to an alternative, abstract reality which in their minds is better, when it is simply only unreal.

Such thinking, for Hegel, is based upon a spiritual discontentment that makes us ever alien in our world—thus the world is literally always something to be fixed. Those who think this strive incessantly to repair whatever does not conform to their abstract postulate of equality or freedom or whatever. Even though the world and us are part of the one system or totality—we might use the plural when Hegel uses the singular to more clearly drive home the point, that we and the world are constituted by the same reasons—some of us think we are so much better than the world. Hegel’s concern was that we would make something far worse because we literally do not know what we are dealing with if instead of addressing concrete problems we are driven by rational truncations—our moral abstractions and our own will.

For Hegel we cannot escape from the system/world which engenders the way we think. What we can do is better identify what it involves. What we can also do is track its dynamic, which is where contradictions come in because thought moves through its contradictions, i.e., thought itself forces resolutions that threaten to limit its infinitude.

But when thinking merely flies into a beyond, it leaves us severed from our world, empty and estranged from each other, dogmatic and indifferent, lost amidst our own abstract and severed view of life in its institutions and historical development. This has been the curse of those Enlightened philosophers and their “woke” progeny who mistake their finitude for the infinite, their own limits and partiality for the absolute. Unfortunately, though, it is the rest of us who suffer from their absolute self-assurance about their right to rule over and regulate what kind of future we will have. We can, though, take some small satisfaction in the knowledge that it will not be what they think and that they too will be taken down.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


Featured image: “The German Struggle for Liberty,” Harper’s Weekly, v.91, July 1895. Hegel greeting Napoleon, the “spirit” of the French Revolution, in Jena, 1806.

Günter Maschke: A Memorial

Probably, the most vivid memory of Günter Maschke (1943-2022), who passed away on Monday, February 7, 2022, is well-aged, like many a good wine, from many years ago, and goes back to Julien Freund. Here is how Freund portrays him in L’aventure du politique (The Adventure of the Political), in the year of grace 1991:

“A few years ago, in 1986, an international conference on Carl Schmitt was celebrated in Speyer. Even there, the main obsession of the academics present was to know whether Carl Schmitt had been a man of the right, left or center. Which was of no interest. But all of a sudden, a man stood up and spoke spontaneously, speaking off the cuff. His words struck me and consoled me intellectually. I wanted to dine with him at the Feuerbach restaurant. The itinerary of this man, Günter Maschke, is fascinating. Maschke was part of the group of students who fomented riots in Berlin between 1967 and 1968. He was a companion of Rudi Dutschke, Baader Meinhof and some others. Arrested and released on two occasions, he moved to the homeland of his dreams, Cuba. But in Cuba he was arrested and released, thanks to the intervention of a foreign ambassador. At that juncture, he got to know the work of Carl Schmitt well enough to become a specialist in it. ‘I became perfectly aware,’ he told me, ‘that there was an enemy at the center of our action, but we did not know which one, nor did we have the concept of an enemy. And when I read Schmitt, everything became clear to me.’ From an experience like Maschke’s, one comes out transformed and, above all, able to give the right weight to words.”

An indocile and curious man, disillusioned by politics, an erudite polyglot, he came to Schmittian realism. Attentive, as his well-honed work proves, to the concrete aspects of a work, that of Carl Schmitt, and led beyond right and left. But not in a crypto-fascist sense, as some superficial Italian interpreters still characterize him, for better or worse. But rather as a lever—I am speaking of Schmittian work—to study politics through the regularities of the political.

That is, by focusing on the analysis of what really remains, beyond the-all-too easy rhetoric of values and interests. The study, in short, of what precedes and goes beyond politics. And that therefore does not cradle itself in the impotent aesthetics of the nobility of defeat, nor does it caress non-existent totalitarian paradises, just as it disdains the apparently harmless traffic of petty interests.

“That’s how the politician is,” is a recurring expression of his. His was not resignation, but a self-discipline of things imposed by realism. An approach to reality as it is, not as it should be according to this or that moral or religious code. Politics, as an acceptance, I repeat, of the regularities of the political. In primis, as we read in Freund’s portrait, that of the friend-enemy.

Alongside the Schmittian scholar was the “character” of Maschke. Tall, he wore wide-brimmed hats that made him even more imposing. Gruff in appearance, but with the lively eyes of a child, perhaps unrepentant, with a gaze that sometimes, in quiet moments, between one intellectual lunge and another, was lost in the pursuit of who knows what adventures and mysterious exploits of the Puer Aeternus.

However, he was relentless with the opportunists, to whom, as a true Maschkiavelli, who had seen so many things, he reserved sharp jibes. Vanished was the Puer Aeternus

Jibes, often so subtle that they were not noticed by the unfortunate person at whom they were directed. But not missed by some of the people present, the most cunning, the nearly complicit, the intellectually complicit. A situation that Maschke could morally indulge in, because, as his friend Jerónimo Molina, very close to Maschke, points out in the wake of Álvaro D’Ors, he “had auctoritas.” It is Professor Molina who has written the important “Liber Amicorum ofrecido a Günter Maschke,” which gathers all the necessary critical, biographical and bibliographical elements to deepen our understanding of Mascjke.

I met Mascheke in person. How can I forget a sparkling Roman lunch? But also his many jokes on other occasions, “recited” in an Olympic, imperturbable way. However, I don’t think it’s fair to evoke our deep friendship, as done by many self-promoters, who are ever ready to take advantage of each circumstance. Let’s say that there was mutual esteem.

To Maschke, whom I had met in the mid-1990s I later submitted some writing projects, unfortunately never brought to fruition, not by his fault or mine.

May he rest in peace, to the right of Carl Schmitt.

And note—“right,” not in an ideological sense, but metapolitical. May he be seated, to use a high term, as a political judge, above the misery as well as the nobility of human affairs.

A history without losers, without winners. “So also is the political.”


Carlo Gambescia is a sociologist who studies consumer society. He is the author of several books, including Liberalismo triste. Un percorso: da Burke a Berlin and Retorica della transigenza.


Featured image: “A boulevard in Paris on a rainy day, the Pantheon beyond,” by Luigi Loir, painted ca. late 19th- early 20th-century.

Reckonings With Astrology: An Interview With Olavo de Carvalho

This interview took place in June of 2000, in Porto do Céu, Recife, Brazil. Astrology long interested Olavo de Carvalho, and here he discusses his views, in the context of the history of ideas. He was interviewed by Roberta Tórtora. We are very pleased to present the first English version of this rather famous discussion.


Roberta Tórtora (RT): How did astrology contribute to your own understanding?

Olavo de Carvalho (OdC): Greatly. The worldview model based on planetary cycles and spheres has been in force for millennia; and it continues to be, in a way, in people’s “unconscious.” Despite some deficiencies in the astrological model, it was this structure which humanity—from at least the time of the Egyptian/Babylonian empires—used for at least five thousand years of history. Astrology is an obligatory element.

Anyone who hasn’t studied it, hasn’t studied anything. They are illiterate; stupid in ways they cannot fathom. The most vigorous work in the human sciences of the 20th century, for example, only took place after the existence of the Warburg Institute, founded in London by a Jewish millionaire who had fled from Germany, and which gathered, for 20 years, the best minds of the century around a collection of astrological and alchemical manuscripts. Without this study, the academic community would never have any possibility of a real understanding of ancient civilizations.

Olavo de Carvalho, 2019.

RT: What are the consequences of the loss of this knowledge in our time?

OdC: The consequence is simply not understanding the past anymore. If someone doesn’t understand ancient civilizations, he doesn’t know where he is anymore. It’s amnesia of the worst kind.

RT: How did you come into contact with astrology?

OdC: It was a fluke. Dr. Müller hired me when I was working at Jornal da Tarde to write a psychology course based on astrology, since he was Argentine and didn’t speak Portuguese very well. After these classes, worlds without limit opened up to me.

RT: What is your relationship with astrology today?

OdC: My reckoning with astrology was the course “Astro-characterology,” a kind of conclusion that I drew from my twenty years of study and that closed my contribution to the subject (archetype analysis?). I equated astro-characterology in such a way that, to continue where I left off, only experimental research is needed.

To form a science, it is necessary to raise a series of concepts; from these concepts, make hypotheses; from hypotheses, a method; and from methods, research. I was able to conclude the theoretical part, but from then on, astro-characterology ceased to be a theoretical problem and became a scientific research problem. I am not in a position to continue these avenues of inquiry because I would need time, people and money. Returning to this matter would only make me desperate, because I would not be able to carry out the investigations necessary to answer the questions I’ve raised.

RT: Is it possible to rescue traditional astrology nowadays?

OdC: I do not know. This is a tremendous challenge. First: there is not just one traditional astrology, but thousands. When we say “traditional,” we are referring to certain times, when this astrology was completely integrated in civilizations.

If the question is “under the conditions of our society, is it possible to produce a traditional astrology?” The answer is “no.” We need to resume astrological study from another plane, to structure a science. But we did neither. Astrologers did not do it because they are lazy, and others because they are prejudiced. The only true students, who were really interested in astrology were historians and philologists, whose function is not to develop astrology, but to study what it was and what its place is in ancient civilizations. They did their part and took it seriously.

RT: The work of astrologers, then, would be to research with ancient texts and develop astrology as a science, since it is impossible to rescue traditional astrology?

OdC: I would not say that this is the only possibility. You can’t imagine how difficult your question is. The answer is: I don’t know (laughs). I do not know.

RT: You affirm in your book Astros e Symbolos that it is not possible to understand astrology without the practice of a living esoterism, only achieved through a commitment to an orthodox exoterism. Is it in this sense that it is impossible to understand this and other traditional sciences in our time?

OdC: The very description of esotericism and exoterism, which I took seriously for a long time, I no longer accept. It is not enough, it is very poor, although it can be valid. Esoterism and exoterism are concepts that only apply as they are in Islamic concept, where there is a boundary, a clear exoteric law that works for everyone, and esoteric organizations, which are for those who are interested (linguists/Wittgensteinians pay attention). This boundary, so clear in the Islamic world, does not exist in the Christian world and in other traditions. How can we talk about esoterism and exoterism in the Buddhist context, for example? In the work of René Guenon, he applies this concept to all traditions; but this is a kind of “Islamization” of religions; and Guenon himself was aware of this.

RT: Astrology, then, can be rescued in a cultural context, but not traditional astrology?

OdC: Astrology was somehow integrated into the traditions; but nowadays we don’t have any spiritual traditions anymore. We do have devastation. How can we recover only astrology if it is just a piece of equipment? We can only do so in the sense of historical study, of understanding the past; or else in a form of science, in the way sciences are understood today.

RT: This vision that you have today is different from that presented in your books on astrology.

OdC: The three books I wrote on astrology were written for a group of people who were deep into Islamic esotericism. To understand what is written, it is necessary to know for whom it was written. Nothing that is there can be transposed to a general public without the necessary conversions (!). If I were to reprint these books, instead of one page, I would have to write thirty.

With these questions, you have no idea of the complication that I got myself into (laughs). Most of the things you’re asking me, I’ll have to answer with “I don’t know.” These are perhaps the most thorny issues of our civilization; and yet, there are people who have guesses about them, left and right.

RT: Does this loss of spiritual traditions have anything to do with the age of Aquarius?

OdC: The age of Aquarius is just that, the age of sham, and we are already in it. The Antichrist is already there. Today, through the media, it is possible for ten people to simultaneously lie to billions—and the hoax is established.

RT: Is there any kind of compensation for men who are living in our time?

OdC: Yes. People are judged less harshly. God, at this time, endures things that at other times He would not. We are talking about things here that, in the past, it would have taken us twenty years to understand, only after much prayer. Today we don’t need to go through different practices or initiation rituals to understand a number of things. This is a kind of natural or supernatural compensation, in the same way that God’s judgment on souls becomes much milder. If you are amid general confusion and are still trying to figure out what is right, in the midst of people who can no longer tell good from bad, then you have already done a lot.

RT: You do not use the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in your astrological analyses. Do you find it impossible to establish a correct symbolism for these planets?

OdC: I do not know. I left this subject aside, because I thought it was more of a trilemma. If there’s anyone who can’t comment on the matter, it’s me. I haven’t read maps for about twenty years; but it was exactly after I stopped working professionally (as an astrologer) that I really started to study astrology itself.

If you’re in doubt about everything and moving on the pillars of a science, there’s no way to work with it in the field of daily practice. You can’t take a car apart and ride it at the same time. The theoretical questioning of Astrology is very deep. I didn’t use Uranus, Neptune and Pluto because I realized that this posed much more complicated questions than the ones I was dealing with using just the seven “little” planets.

RT: What do you think of the interpretations attributed to those planets discovered in recent centuries?

OdC: Uranus, for example, receives an interpretation that is already closely linked to the modern spirit itself. Certain esoteric organizations act, ritually, in the sense of the interpretation they have given to the planet. The cycles of these stars begin to work more in this direction, because they are reinforced by human action. I don’t really believe that a planet can bring about the ideology of the French revolution.

Now, when you want to make a big change in the world, knowing about the existence of a new planet can be wonderful, as it makes it possible to carry out a whole reinterpretation of history, based on the meanings you yourself want to assign to it. The same thing happens with Neptune and Pluto; but this does not mean that these interpretations do not work, because partially these effects may correspond to that of the planets, although they are only a detached part of the total meaning of that star.

Until the seventh planet, astrologers had a stable interpretation between various civilizations, and it is not possible to justify these interpretations only as an ideological product of such civilizations. But in the latter, you have specific interpretations of Western astrology, done almost entirely by secret societies. These interpretations are not universal, although they may be partially valid. I think it is only around the 25th century that it will be possible to understand this problem. We can ask everything, but not have all the answers at once.

RT: Is astrology, then, at a crossroads?

OdC: Yes, it is in a miserable mess. Never has a century been so difficult to understand contemporaneously as this one. We are living in a truly terrible age. The number of things you can know and use as a guide is very small. Humanity has always more or less known what was going on, the decisions of kings and princes were not unimaginable mysteries. Today they are. Powerful people are far away, surrounded by walls and walls of secrets and lies. The instruments of concealment are monstrous. More than in the age of information, we are in the age of concealment.

RT: Faced with all these confusions incorporated into astrology these days, is it still worth talking about it?

OdC: If it’s for people to understand what’s going on, of course it’s worth it. Public discussions about this are very problematic, and it takes patience to explain everything, which in an interview is impossible. It is worth teaching for those who are willing to study over the span of years.


Translated from the Portuguese by Felipe Cuello.


Featured image: “L’Homme zodiacal” (Zodiacal Man), by the Limbourg Brothers, Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, ca. 1411-1416.

The Claws Of The Sphinx: René Guénon And The Islamization Of The West

I.

The profound historical and spiritual transformations that will determine the future of humanity are so distant from our media, from our university life, and generally from all public debates in this country, that what I am about to say in this article will certainly seem stratospheric and alien to immediate reality.

The incurably ill patient who groans in pain on a hospital bed is hardly interested, at that moment, in the medical, biochemical, and pharmacological controversies that are going on in distant countries and in languages he doesn’t know, but from which may come, one day, the cure for his disease. What is most closely related to his destiny seems distant, abstract, and alien to his pain.

Those who are interested in the future of Brazil should pay attention to what I am going to tell you here; but it will be very difficult to make them see that one has something to do with the other.

I will start by analyzing the review of an author unknown in this country [Brazil] who is reviewing the book of another author equally ignored here.

The book is False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion, by Lee Penn, which I have recommended many times but few have read it, because it is a long and boring tome. The reviewer is Charles Upton, author of The System of the Antichrist, which has been even less read, which I have also recommended but with less emphasis and constancy. The review was published in a more recent book by Upton, Findings: In Metaphysic, Path, and Lore, A Response to the Traditionalist/Perennialist School.

Lee Penn’s book describes and documents, with an abundance of primary sources, the formation and development of a bionic world religion, with all the characteristics of a satanic parody, under the auspices of the UN, the US government, virtually all the major Western media, and a handful of the mega-wealthy. Started in 1995 by William Swing, bishop of the Episcopal Church, under the name, United Religions Initiative [URI], although unofficially it had existed since much earlier (going back to the Lucis Trust, founded in 1922 by Alice Bailey), the enterprise, sustained by incalculably vast financial resources and backed by a whole cast of show business and political stars, has even won the informal support of Pope Francis.

With the beautiful goal of creating “a world of peace, sustained by engaged and interconnected communities committed to respect for diversity, non-violent resolution of conflicts, and social, political, economic, and environmental justice,” the movement brings together, in festive so-called “ecumenical” celebrations, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Shintoists, Animists, Spiritists, Theosophists, Ba’hais, Sikhs, followers of New Age, Wicca, Satanism, Reverend Moon, Hare Krishna and any indigenous or ufological cult that presents itself, and giving to everything a sense of universal brotherhood that blurs with smiles of mutual condescension the most obvious and insurmountable incompatibilities among these various beliefs.

All religions and pseudo-religions added together, merged and mutually neutralized, are thus reduced to an auxiliary instrument of the globalist project, aimed at creating a World Government.

Roughly speaking, the ideology that sticks these heterogeneous and irreconcilable elements together is the low brow universalism of the “New Age,” which, copying badly the language of the Hindu tradition, proclaims that all religions are nothing more than local and accidental aspects assumed by a single Primordial Revelation, from which it follows that, by this or that path, everyone will reach the highest stages of human or even superhuman spiritual realization sooner or later.

This ideology had precursors in the 19th century, such as Allan Kardec, Helena Petrovna Blavatski, the famous Theosophist and—literally—pickpocket, Jules Doinel, founder of the French Gnostic Church (1890), Gerard Encausse, better known as “Papus,” Jean Bricaud, and, in general, all the components of the movement which was to be called “occultist.”

This “universalism,” which at the beginning of the 20th century sounded only like an exotic fantasy, ended up penetrating so deeply into the common sense of the multitudes that today the equivalence of all religions in dignity and value is a dogma subscribed to by all the great world media, by the parliaments, by the legislations of almost all countries, and by most of the religious authorities themselves.

Far from being a spontaneous phenomenon, this radical transformation of collective beliefs reflects the incessant work of the omnipresent agents of URI, to whose interference no socially relevant organization is immune.

It is not necessary, therefore, to emphasize the importance of this project within globalist plans, nor, of course, is it possible to deny the value of Lee Penn’s work in gathering and sorting out more than enough documentation to prove the unity of inspiration and strategy behind phenomena that to the lay observer may seem scattered and unconnected.

The reviewer, Charles Upton, praises the merits of the book and adds a clarification that, he says, he had already transmitted personally to the author, with his full agreement.

The clarification is this: the parodic “universalism” of New Age and URI should not be confused with the high-brow universalism of the so-called “traditionalist” or “perenialist” school inspired by René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and their continuators.

It’s true. They are very different. Long beforehand, the founder of the school, René Guénon, had already subjected to devastating critical analysis the entire “occult” ideology that decades later would come to form the doctrinal basis—if one can use the term—of “New Age” and URI.

A member and even bishop of the Gnostic Church in his youth, Guénon soon came out swinging and took no prisoners. Nor did he leave intact the spiritualism of Allan Kardec, the theosophy of Madame Blavatski, and a thousand and one other movements in which Guénon saw the very embodiment of what he called “pseudo-initiation” and “counter-initiation”—the former constituting the simian imitation of spirituality, the latter its satanic inversion.

In fact, the contrast between the universalism of URI and that of the Guenonian-Schuonian current goes far beyond the mere difference between low-brow and high-brow, although this difference is obvious to anyone who compares them.

On one side we see a pastiche of inconsequential syncretisms, reinforced by some sentimental or futuristic humanitarian rhetoric (sometimes “progressive,” sometimes “conservative,” to please everyone) and adorned at most, here and there, by the superficial adherence of some fashionable writer, like Aldous Huxley and Allan Watts.

On the other side, sophisticated intellectual constructions, a deep and organized understanding of the religious and esoteric symbols of all traditions, a full command of the revealed sources, and a comparative technique that approaches, in precision, almost an exact science. In addition, some of the most consistent analyses of the civilizational crisis of the West in its various expressions: cultural, social, artistic, etc.

The difference is obvious to any educated reader. In contrast with the syncretistic mix of the “New Age,” we have here a universalism, in the strong sense of the word, a comprehensive and ordering vision that not only grasps with extreme sharpness the common points between the various spiritual cosmo-visions, but gives the reason and basis for their diversity, so that to this articulation of the one and the multiple is subordinated, in fact, the entire universal history of ideas and beliefs, theories and practices. In a word: everything that the human being has done and thought in his journey on Earth. There is practically nothing, no phenomenon, no thought, no fabulous or inauspicious event, that somehow does not find some efficient and persuasive, if not irrefutably certain, “perennialist” explanation.

From the point of view of the ordinary seeker who, coming from revolutionary, modernist and atheistic circles, is alerted to the importance of “spiritual” themes and, after a temporary illusion with the “New Age,” becomes disillusioned with its superficiality and goes in search of more nourishing food, the passage to the traditionalism of Guénon and Schuon is a formidable intellectual upgrade, an unculturating impact, almost an inner transfiguration that will suddenly isolate him from the surrounding mental environment, marked at one time by the discredit of religions and the endless vulgarity of omnipresent occultism, and will leave him alone, face-to-face with his conscience. Thus is fulfilled, on the individual scale, the famous prophecy issued by an anonymous biographer of René Guénon soon after the master’s death:

“The time will come when each one, alone, deprived of all material contact that can help him in his inner resistance, will have to find in himself, and only in himself, the means to adhere firmly, through the center of his existence, to the Lord of all Truth.”

Rare, very rare are those who reach this point—most fall by the wayside—but for those who do, it is difficult to resist the impulse to make personal contact with Guenonian and Schuonian circles, in search of relief, support and guidance. It is by this process of spontaneous selection that the “intellectual elite” is formed, which, as we shall see later on, Guénon had in view in the 1924 book East and West.

For it is clear that among the various worldviews in struggle, the most comprehensive one, which absorbs and explains all the others, is at the top. It is the summit of the consciousness of an age, the nec plus ultra of intelligence and the intelligible.

What gives even more authority to the Perenialist teaching is the repeated affirmation by its expounders that it is not their invention, but the mere transfer, in current theoretical language, of immemorial revelations that go back to a single original Source, the Primordial Tradition. An affirmation identical, on the surface, to that of the “New Age” proponents, but now based on a superabundance of documental proofs, rational arguments, and an organized science of universal symbolism and comparatism, from which are born intellectually dazzling tours de force such as René Guénon’s Symbols of Sacred Science and A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom, by Whitall N. Perry, one of F. Schuon’s closest collaborators in the USA. Schuon in the USA, a monumental collection of sacred texts organized in such a way as to illustrate, beyond any reasonable doubt, the essential convergence of the doctrines and symbols of the great religious and spiritual traditions, the “Transcendent Unity of Religions,” as Schuon called it in the title of a book that none other than T. S. Eliot considered the greatest achievement of all times in the field of comparative religion.

Any resemblance to the “universalism” of URI is misleading.

In the first place, all the Perenialists, without exception, insist that the doctrines, symbols and rites of the various traditions in particular, although they always point to a supreme Reality which is the same in all cases, have their own integrity, and cannot be subject to fusion, mixture or syncretism. In other words: they cannot undergo the kind of unifying operation that precisely characterizes the “New Age.”

Secondly, not everything that presents itself under the name of religion, spirituality, esotericism or the like can enter this synthesis. On the contrary, the precise, strict and even intolerant distinction between Tradition, Pseudo-Tradition and Antitradition is common to all Perenialists. Much of the material compacted in the “New Age” falls into these last two categories; and, far from integrating the unity of the primordial source, represents the parody or negation of everything that comes from it.

Third and most important, the transcendent unity of religions is really transcendent, not immanent. The religions there are unified only by the top, the summit and the living core of their doctrinal conceptions, and not by the irreducible variety of their liturgies, their moral codes and their different “paths” of spiritual realization. And where, precisely, is this core and summit? It is in their respective metaphysical conceptions, which are in fact convergent, as the simple collection organized by Whitall Perry suffices to show beyond all possibility of controversy. In this sense, religions and spiritual traditions can be seen, without distortion, as adaptations of the same Primordial Truth to the historical, cultural, linguistic and psychological conditions of various times, places and civilizations. The various exotericisms reflect, in their differences, the unity of the same primordial esotericism. Those who have clearly grasped the unity of this esotericism have intellectually overcome the difference between religions; but since they are not made of pure intellect and still have a historical-temporal existence as flesh and blood people, they remain subordinated to their respective religious tradition, without being able to merge or mix it with any other. The classic example is the great Sufi master Muhyi-al-din Ibn’ Arabi. Explicitly stating that his heart could assume all forms—that of the Hindu Brahman, that of the Kabbalist Rabbi, that of the Christian monk, or any other—he remained, in his life as a real and concrete individual, entirely faithful to the strictest Islamic orthodoxy.

But that’s where the trouble starts.

II.

This conception demands, besides the “horizontal” differentiation between the various traditions in time and space, a “vertical” or hierarchical distinction between the “inferior” and “superior” parts of each one. The “lower,” or exoteric, parts are historically conditioned, and by them the traditions move away from each other to the point of mutual hostility and total incompatibility. The “higher,” esoteric parts, reflect the unchanging eternity of Truth, where all traditions converge and meet.

There is, in short, a popular religion, made up of rites and rules of conduct, equal for all members of the community; and an elite religion, only for “qualified” people, who behind the symbols and laws can grasp the ultimate “meaning” of revelation. By practicing the aggregation rites that integrate them into the religious tradition, and by obeying the rules, the men of the people obtain the post-mortem “salvation” of their souls. Through initiation rites, the members of the elite obtain in life, and far beyond mere “salvation,” the spiritual realization that takes them away from the simple “individual state” of existence to transfigure them into the Ultimate Reality itself, or God.

It is good not to talk too much about these things before the general public, who may be scandalized by the decipherment of a mystery that must remain opaque for their own spiritual protection. The story of the Sufi Mansur Al-Hallaj (858-922) is well known, who after reaching the ultimate “spiritual realization,” came out shouting “Ana al-Haqq!” (“I am the Truth”) and was beheaded by the exoteric authorities. Al-Haqq does not only mean “the truth” in the generic and abstract sense. It is one of the ninety-nine “Names of God” printed in the Koran, so that Al-Hallaj’s statement was literally equivalent to “I am God.” From the point of view of esoteric orthodoxy, this resulted in denying the Koranic principle of the oneness of God, and constituted a crime that was punished by death. Later Islamic jurists admitted that statements made by Sufis in a state of “mystical rapture” escaped the purview of ordinary justice and were to be accepted as undecipherable mysteries.

In the explicit, legal, and official sense, the distinction between exotericism and esotericism exists only in one tradition: Islam. It corresponds to the distinction between shari’ah and tariqat. On one side, the religious law obligatory for all; on the other, the spiritual “way,” of free choice, only for interested and gifted people. The application of this distinction to all other traditions is merely suggestive or analogical—a figure of speech, not a proper descriptive concept. With that the whole edifice of “perenialism” begins to sway a bit.

Are there, for example, exoterism and esoterism in the Hindu tradition, precisely the one whose vocabulary René Guénon uses most frequently, because he thinks that Hinduism has achieved maximum clarity in the exposition of metaphysical doctrine? Evidently not. The caste distinction is something completely different. First, because entry into the upper caste is not free choice: the subject is born shudra, vaishia, kshatryia or brâhmana and remains so forever. Second, because accidentally members of the lower castes can reach the highest levels of spiritual attainment without changing caste. Third, because there is nothing secret or discreet about the upper caste rites, or brâhmana: any Joe-Shmo can know about them; he is just not allowed to practice them.

Is there such a thing as “Christian esotericism?” Things get formidably complicated. There were and there are, here and there, esoteric organizations professing to be Christian and which, by means of special rites, different from the sacraments of the Church, transmit initiations. The Companionship, the Fedeli d’Amore, Freemasonry and the Templar Order are examples. More modernly, numerous occultists, such as Madame Blavatski, Rudolf Steiner and Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff have presented their teachings as modalities of Christian esotericism.

But there remain a few facts that are enough to demolish these claims.

First of all, there is no trace of any Christian esoteric organization in the first ten centuries of the Church. Secondly, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself stated flatly, “I have taught nothing in secret.” Even His parables, whose meaning was not immediately evident to everyone, were spoken in public, not to a reserved circle. How is it possible then that the core of the Savior’s teaching was kept secret for ten—or twenty—centuries?

In contrast, in Islam the difference between exotericism and esotericism is clear from the very first moment. Upon seeing a group of the Prophet’s companions practicing certain strange rites, different from the five daily prayers, the faithful went to ask him what they were about. He explained that they were voluntary devotions, meritorious but not obligatory. This was the first sign of the existence of tasawwuf or “Sufism,” Islamic esotericism.

Third, and most decisive: the sacraments of the Church are not mere “rites of aggregation.” They are initiatory in their own right. They give access not only to the community of the faithful—or to their “egregora” or collective consciousness—but, Deo juvante, to the most intimate knowledge of the Ultimate Reality to which a human being can aspire. “It is no longer I who exist,” says the Apostle, “it is Christ who exists in me.”

John Paul II, in his Catechism, explicitly states that the sacraments are the steps “of Christian initiation;” and it is inconceivable that in such a formally doctrinal text he would use the term as a mere figure of speech.

Father Juan González Arintero, in two memorable books that probably constitute the summit of mystical literature in the 20th century, demonstrates with abundant arguments and examples that the way of the sacraments was opened precisely to give everyone, without exception, access to the highest levels of spiritual realization. The distinction between exoteric and esoteric is only used here as a metaphor to designate the different spiritual benefit obtained by this or that individual according to his aptitudes, his commitment and the movements of divine Grace.

All Christians who have received the sacraments are, therefore, initiates, in the strict sense that perenialism gives to this word. The difference between the various spiritual results obtained can be explained by a concept developed by René Guénon himself, that of virtual initiation. Not all initiation rites immediately produce their corresponding spiritual results. These effects may remain withheld for a long time until some external factor—or the evolution of the recipient itself—calls them into full manifestation.

To complicate things a little further, Schuon himself recognized that the Christian sacraments had initiatory scope. For one to appreciate how thorny this question is for the Perenialist school, it is enough to recall that, when Schuon’s opinion on the subject was published, Guénon reacted with indignation and fury, even breaking off relations with his disciple and continuator.

Guénon continued to maintain that the Christian sacraments were only rites of aggregation and that authentic initiations only existed in certain secret or discrete organizations, such as the Companionship or Freemasonry. To support this thesis, he invented one of the most artificial historical hypotheses anyone has ever seen—that Christianity initially emerged as an esotericism; but in view of the general decadence of Greco-Roman religion, it was forced ex post facto to popularize itself, eventually being reduced to an exotericism. There is absolutely no sign that this ever happened. Quite the contrary, Jesus spoke openly to the crowds from the very beginning of His preaching, and the sacraments have not undergone any substantial changes in form or content over the ages. Whatever his errors may have been in other areas, on this point Schuon was right.

It is also only as a figure of speech that the distinction of exoterism and esoterism—or of aggregation rites and initiation rites—can apply to Judaism, since the cabalistic mystery cultists there are none other than the very priests of the official cult.

So inappropriate is the application of this pair of concepts to extra-Islamic territory that members of the Perennialist school itself have ended up having to acknowledge the existence of “exo-esoteric” and even “exoteric” initiations alongside the properly “esoteric” ones, which is enough to show that these concepts serve little purpose.

Guénon’s lack of reasonable arguments, and his disproportionate reaction to what could have been a discussion among friends, suggest that in this episode he might have been hiding something. Unable to argue clearly, he appealed to an absurd hypothesis and tried to reduce the interlocutor to silence by a display of authority, which Schuon politely rejected.

What was the reason why Guénon would have chosen to forcibly fit all traditions into a pair of concepts that did not properly apply to any of them except Islam in particular? Why did this man, so judicious in everything else, allow himself such arbitrariness, thus putting himself in a vulnerable position that was jeopardized as soon as Schuon raised the question of sacramental initiations? He almost certainly had reasons for doing so which, at least at that time, could not be openly discussed.

But even before clarifying this point, another question needs to be raised.

III.

That materially different traditions converge toward the same set of metaphysical principles is something that can no longer be seriously doubted. The thesis of the Transcendent Unity of Religions is victorious in every respect.

There is only one detail: What exactly is metaphysics? I do not use the term as the denomination of an academic discipline, but in the very special and precise sense that it has in the works of Guénon and Schuon. What is metaphysics? It is the structure of universal reality, which descends from the infinite and eternal First Principle to its innumerable reflections in the manifested world, through a series of levels or planes of existence.

The fact that it is essentially the same in all traditions indicates that there is a normal perception of the basic structure of reality, common to all men, of any age or culture.

This perception requires a clear consciousness, or at least a presentiment of the scalarity of reality, that is, of the distinctions between different planes or levels of reality, from the sensible objects of immediate perception to the ultimate Reality, the absolute, eternal, immutable and infinite Principle, passing through a series of intermediate degrees: historical, terrestrial, cosmic, angelic, etc.

The perfect submission of human subjectivity to this structure is implied in all traditions as a conditio sine qua non of religious life and, even more so, of spiritual realization. Its denial, mutilation or alteration is the root of all the errors and follies of humanity.

This is why Schuon proposes a distinction between essential heresy and accidental heresy. The word “heresy” comes from a Greek root that has the meanings of “to choose” and “to decide.” A heresiarch is someone who, of his own volition, chooses from the total truth the parts that interest him and ignores the others.

Accidental heresy, according to Schuon, is the denial, mutilation or alteration of the canons of a particular tradition, such as monophysitism in Christianity (the theory that Jesus had only divine nature, not human nature) or associationism in Islam (associating God with other beings).

Essential heresy is the denial, mutilation or alteration of the very fabric of reality—an error, therefore, condemned not only by this or that particular tradition, but by all of them. Materialism or relativism, for example.

This is all very well, but there is a logical problem. If metaphysics is common to all traditions, how can it be the top and supreme perfection of each of them? By definition, the perfection of a species cannot be in its genus—it has to be in its specific difference. The perfection of the lion and the flea cannot reside in the simple fact that they are both animals.

It is admissible that in the individual’s initiatory climb, the arrival at the Supreme Reality, which raises him above his individual state and absorbs him into the very Being of divinity, is the culmination of his efforts. It would also correspond, according to perenialism, to the moment when the differences between spiritual traditions are definitively transcended, while continuing to apply to the empirical existence of the initiate on the earthly plane. It is Muhyi-al-din Ibn ‘Arabi being Christian, Zoroastrian or Jewish “inside,” without ceasing to be orthodoxly Muslim “outside.”

But, for this very reason, metaphysics can only be the culmination of traditions, as such, if we accept an indistinction between the order of Being and the order of knowing, which, according to Aristotle, are inverses. The top of the initiation ladder cannot be, at the same time, the culmination of religions because, being common to all of them, it is only the genus to which they belong and not the supreme perfection specific to each one.

More reasonable would be to suppose that the primordial Tradition is the common basis not only of all spiritual traditions, but of all cultures and, ultimately, of the core of sound intelligence present in all human beings. Starting from this base, or origin, the various traditions develop in different directions, each seeking to reflect more perfectly the absolute Principle and to give men the means of returning to it. In this sense, the culmination of each tradition is not the Principle itself, but the success it achieves in the operation of return. And there is no reason to suppose that, of the various species, all express equally well the perfection of the genus: fleas and lions are equally animal’ but the flea does not express the perfection of animality as well as the lion, to say nothing of the human being.

Schuon asserts that the claim of each religion to be “better” than the others is only justified by the fact that they are all “legitimate;” that is, they reflect in their own way the Primordial Tradition; but that, seen on the scale of eternity and the absolute, this claim is illusory. However, if the perfection of a species cannot reside in its genus alone, but rather in its specific difference, there is no reason to take for granted that all species equally represent the perfection of the genus. All religions refer to a Primordial Tradition. Five, but do they all represent it equally well? The question is entirely legitimate; and nowhere has the Perenialist school offered—or tried to offer—an acceptable answer to it. In fact, it has not even asked the question. Will we find even in these high places the phenomenon of the “ban on asking” that Eric Voegelin discerned in mass ideologies?

IV.

“The generation of the Traditionalist School gathered around Frithjof Schuon,” writes Charles Upton, “presented and revealed the religions in their celestial essences, sub specie æternitatis.”

If the celestial essences of the religions are substantially the same, the difference between them is purely terrestrial and contingent; the particular forms of each having nothing sacred in themselves, without the nourishment they receive from the Primordial Tradition: only the one, the Religio Perennis, is true in the strictest sense. The others are symbols or imperfect appearances of it, clothed in its various earthly incarnations.

But,” continues Upton, “these revelations are considered branches of the Primordial Tradition; but this Tradition is not presently in force as a religious system; it is not a religion that can be practiced. The only viable spiritual paths exist in the form of—or within—the present living revelations: Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.”

But these paths lead only to “salvation” in a post-mortem life. To climb a little higher in the present life, one must, without abandoning them, join an esoteric organization and practice, besides the rites and commandments of the popular religion, some special rites and commandments of an initiatory character.

In other words, popular religion is a certificate of qualification required of the postulant at the entrance to the initiation path. For the Muslim, this is not a big problem. Although they have a separate existence, tariqas (turuq in Arabic) are generally recognized as legitimate by the official religion, so that the interested believer can move freely between the two types of practices.

For the Hindu, this is not a problem either; even though there is no proper Hindu esotericism, Hinduism accepts and absorbs all the practices of other religions, so that—apart from the political conflicts between Hindus and Muslims—nothing prevents a Hindu from joining a tariqa, Freemasonry, a Chinese Triad, or any other esoteric organization without changing his status in his society of origin.

In the case of a Catholic, however, things get complicated. According to Guénon, all Christian initiation organizations disappeared after the Middle Ages, leaving the poor faithful limited to a spiritually capricious exotericism. All that remained were the remnants of extinct organizations and… Freemasonry.

It turns out that a sentence of Pope Clement XII, in 1738, condemned to automatic excommunication any faithful Catholic who affiliated with Freemasonry (or any other secret society). The decision was reinforced by Pope Leo X in 1890 and formalized by the 1917 Code of Canon Law. The new Code of Pope John Paul II, in 1983, spoke only of “secret societies,” without mentioning Freemasonry by name, which briefly gave the impression that the excommunication had been suspended, until the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in November of that same year, clarified that this was not the case at all; that the prohibition to join Freemasonry remained in force.

In other words, the faithful Catholic who read René Guénon and believed in him, seeing in the loss of the initiatory dimension the root of all the evils of the modern world, was pressed to the wall by the choice between giving up esotericism once and for all, being content with exotericism more and more reduced to an external moralism, or seeking Masonic initiation and being excommunicated; that is, losing the exoteric affiliation which, according to Guénon himself, was the conditio sine qua non for entering esotericism.

The conflict was not only of a legal order. Although it had remote origins in professedly Christian esoteric organizations, Freemasonry had become, in various parts of the world, an ostensibly and violently anti-Catholic force, encouraging persecutions and killings of Catholics, especially in France (during the Revolution and then again in the early 20th century); in Mexico (where this provoked the Cristero War); and in Spain, where, with the barely disguised connivance of the Masonic republican government, priests and the faithful were killed in large numbers, and many churches destroyed even before the Civil War broke out.

That is to say: the Catholic who affiliated with Freemasonry not only incurred automatic excommunication, but became a traitor to his murdered coreligionists.

Catholic Guenonians like Jean Tourniac went to great lengths to prove that Masonic doctrines were compatible with Catholicism; but, of course, this remained theoretical. Talks between Catholic and Masonic leaders in search of an agreement came to nothing. Excommunication was still in force, and the moral hazard was still very high.

Beginning in the 1960s, when these problems began to become the subject of more open discussion in the circles of those interested in traditionalism, the perenialist group began to suggest to the trapped Catholic the following possible solutions:

  1. Drop everything and convert to Islam.
  2. Seek shelter in the Russian Orthodox Church, where there is still a residue of esotericism and whose sacraments, after all, are accepted as valid by the Catholic Church.
  3. Join the multi-faith tariqa of Schuon, where you can practice Islamic initiation rites without formal conversion and while keeping at a prudent distance from exoteric Muslims.

The first option was certainly the most traumatic. After all, Schuon himself had written that “changing religion is not like changing country—it is like changing planet.”

The second was more comfortable, but it ran into an obstacle that I have never seen any Perenialist author even mention—the Russian Orthodox Church was infested with KGB agents, and it was almost impossible for the newcomer to find his way through that savage jungle of conspiracies and pretenses. Not coincidentally, the KGB was at that very moment organizing and training Islamic terrorist organizations for war against the Christian West.

That left the third, the easiest and most natural. Schuon’s tariqa was, in fact, full of members of Catholic origin—starting with Schuon himself and some of his closest collaborators, such as Martin Lings, Titus Burckhardt, and Rama P. Coomaraswamy, of whom the first two converted to Islam, the third remained a Catholic at least in public, while still paying the sheikh the statutory vow of total obedience required in the tariqas.

In the souls of those who remained Catholics—ex professo or in heart only—the plan that René Guénon had been outlining for the entire West since 1924 was thus being realized on a microscopic scale.

V.

After describing with the somber colors of a genuine Apocalypse the spiritual degradation of civilization in the West, attributing it to the loss of the “true metaphysics” and the links between the Catholic Church and the Primordial Tradition (links that could only have been maintained through initiatory organizations), René Guénon foresaw three possible developments for the state of affairs in the West:

  1. The definitive fall into barbarism.
  2. The restoration of Catholic tradition, under the discreet guidance of Islamic spiritual masters.
  3. Total Islamization, either through infiltration and propaganda or through military occupation.

These three options were basically reduced to two: either a plunge into barbarism or submission to Islam, either discreetly or ostentatiously.

The outbreak of World War II seemed to show that the West preferred the first option’ and it is an ironic detail that important Islamic religious authorities gave the Führer their full support, especially on the question of the extermination of the Jews. Macabre coincidence or self-fulfilling prophecy? I don’t know.

After the War, the close collaboration between Islamic governments and Communist regimes in the joint anti-Western effort came to be so notorious that there is no need to dwell on this point. It is also worth remembering that today the world left, which is committed to corrupting the West “until it stinks,” as André Breton advocated, is the same one that ostensibly supports the Muslim occupation of the West through mass immigration, as well as boycotting by all means any serious effort to combat Islamic terrorism, so that there is between the two blocs a kind of Leninist agreement to “foster corruption and denounce it.” Again, the same question from the previous paragraph applies, with the same answer.

For the aspirant from a Catholic background, all the tariqa offered was the choice between becoming a Muslim or being a Catholic under Muslim guidance. The same choice that Guénon was offering to the entire Western world.

I believe that this makes Guénon’s intention to squeeze all religions, especially the Christian one, into the forced mold of an Islamic descriptive concept, the exoterism-esoterism distinction, clearer. Indeed, how can one dominate an entire civilization without first framing it within the intellectual coordinate system of the dominating civilization, where it will cease to be an autonomous totality to become part of a comprehensive map? It is also obvious that it was not enough to do this in theory; the most valuable, most intellectually active elements of the target civilization’s elite had to be won over to this new view of things. Only when the latter began to understand themselves in the dominator’s terms, instead of their own, would they be ripe to accept, without further reaction, a wider operation of cultural occupation. All the more so because the reduction of Christianity to the binomial exoterism-esoterism, accompanied by the gloomy diagnosis of the loss of the esoteric dimension, inexorably culminated in the conclusion that the “restoration of Christianity,” of its connections with the Primordial Tradition and therefore of the higher dimensions of its spirituality, could only take place under the direction of a “living esotericism,” that is, Sufism. To use Guénon’s own terms, it was necessary to submit the West to the “spiritual authority” of Islam before submitting it to its “temporal power.”

Schuon’s theory that the Christian sacraments retained their initiatory power seemed to mitigate somewhat the force of the Islamizing argument, but in fact it did not do so at all. Without the proper spiritual instruction, which only a “living esotericism” could offer him, the bearer of a “virtual initiation” remained unaware of having received it and not only remained paralyzed in the middle of the initiation climb, but risked, as a result, suffering all sorts of spiritual and psychic disturbances. Only Sufi spirituality—embodied, in this case, in the person of Schuon—could save Catholics from themselves.

The Islamization of the West—discreet or overt, peaceful or violent—is the central, and indeed the only, objective of René Guénon’s entire work. The entire work converges on this goal, not as a mere logical conclusion, but as a kind of only way out to which the reader—and, ideally, the entire West—is being led, within the walls of a labyrinthine construction, by a sense of inexorable fatality. Apart from this objective, his work is nothing more than a collection of purposeless theoretical speculations, an edifice of beautiful and unrealizable spiritual possibilities, which he always denied.

If an explicit confession were necessary to confirm this, it would suffice to recall that at the very moment when Schuon was returning from Algeria with the title of “sheikh,” vaunting his intention to “Islamize Europe,” Guénon declared that the foundation of Schuon’s tariqa in Lausanne, Switzerland, was the first and only fruit produced by his decades-long effort.

VI.

What can make this goal nebulous or even invisible to the public eye are two factors:

First: Guénon repeatedly affirmed his total contempt for any political activity, current, or ideology, assuring that his interests had nothing to do with the struggle for power, and his turn exclusively to the sphere of the spiritual and the eternal. This seems to place him, in the eyes of many, incomparably above the current dispute between Islamic countries and the West.

This way of seeing is not exactly false, it is just empty. It is obvious that Guénon is not disputing political power. He is disputing something that is infinitely above it and of which, as he himself explains, political power is only a secondary, almost negligible, reflection—he is disputing spiritual authority. He is disputing with the Catholic Church, placing himself far above it and claiming to guide it from the sublime heights of Sufi spirituality (not necessarily in person, of course).

He is very explicit on this point. The Catholic Church, at some point in its history, he says, has lost contact with the Primordial Tradition and no longer even has an understanding of the “higher parts” of metaphysics; it stops at pure ontology, or theory of Being, without penetrating the supreme mysteries of Nonbeing (Schuon prefers to say “Suprabeing”).

I have already explained on other occasions what seems to me to be the intrinsic absurdity of the doctrine of Non-Being, and I will not return to this subject here. What matters for the moment is to point out that, according to Guénon, Catholicism, from this initial mutilation, came to decline sharply until it was reduced to a mere sentimental devotion for the masses.

Since only those who can raise it from this abyss are the ones who still possess the original connection with the Primordial Tradition, it is evident that the salvation of the Church and, through her, of the entire West, can only come from outside. From where, precisely?

Not from Buddhism, since Guénon does not even consider it a fully valid tradition.

Nor from Hinduism, because it cannot be practiced outside India nor by anyone who is not of Indian nationality. All that Hinduism can provide is a deeper understanding of metaphysical doctrine—and indeed Guénon resorts abundantly to Hindu texts for this—but mere theoretical understanding, while indispensable, cannot by itself even remotely provide authentic “metaphysical realization.”

Of Judaism, even less so, for it would be inconceivable that the Church, having been born of it, would return to its mother’s womb without ipso facto annulling itself and ceasing to exist.

From Freemasonry? Impossible, not only because of the incompatibilities pointed out above and never overcome, but because, according to Guénon, Masonic initiations are only of “Small Mysteries,” secrets of the cosmos and society that do not even remotely touch the heights of the supreme metaphysical realization, the “Great Mysteries.”

From obstacle to obstacle—there is no need to examine all the alternatives—the inexorable conclusion is that the labyrinth of impossibilities has only one way out—Catholicism can only be returned to its original integrity if it consents to submit itself to the guidance of Islamic masters. Either that, or the occupation of the West by Muslims. Tertium non datur.

That, en passant, Guénon and his followers made several valuable contributions even to the understanding of Catholicism by Catholic intellectuals themselves, especially with regard to symbolism and sacred art, is something that no one in his right mind could deny.

But there again, that is nothing to be surprised about. What authority could a Sufi master claim to exercise over Catholics if, at least on some select points, he did not prove to understand their religion better than they did themselves?

Guénon’s “Catholic” articles published in Regnabit between 1925 and 1927 do not prove, or even suggest, that he accepted the independence, much less the superiority of Catholicism over Islam. They only prove that, at that period, he still believed in the possibility of directing the course of things in the Catholic Church by means of gentle persuasion and infiltration. His departure for Egypt in 1930, with the firm decision not to return and to communicate with his public henceforth only through the journal Études Traditionelles, marked the moment when he lost this hope and, integrating himself more and more into Egyptian esoteric circles (even marrying the daughter of the prestigious Sheikh Elish El-Kebir), passed the ball back to the Islamic authorities who had by far guided his actions in the European framework. How things evolved from that point to the adoption of the policy of terrorism and “occupation by immigration” (which, of course, would never have happened without the blessing of the Islamic spiritual authorities), is a story that we do not know and that can only be told, perhaps, several decades from now. What is absolutely certain is that Guénon, from the very beginning of his public activity, declared that he did not speak in his own name but strictly followed the guidance of “qualified representatives of the oriental traditions,” among whom, it is now known, was mainly Sheikh El-Kebir himself. It is utter nonsense to say that Guénon “converted to Islam” in 1930. He had been a regular member of a tariqa at least since he was twenty-one, which is enough to show that he had been long prepared for the very difficult mission he was about to undertake.

VII.

The second factor that makes it difficult to perceive Guénon’s identity as an Islamic agent is the very impact of his work on his disciples. Qualified as “the most dazzling intellectual miracle of our time,” this work sheds so many unforeseen lights on the religious phenomenon and on the spiritual decadence of the West, and so great is its contrast with all modern atheistic or Christian thought, that the temptation to regard it really as a miracle, a divine intervention in the course of history, becomes almost irresistible. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, in Knowledge and the Sacred, does not hesitate to present the entire intellectual history of the West as if it were a long, groping, half-hearted preparation for the advent of Guenonian lights. Viewed in this way, Guénon’s work seems like a supra-historical message coming from the dawn of time, from the Primordial Tradition itself, and not from a contemporary Egyptian sheikh.

The desire to erase his contemporary roots and to hover above historical contingencies is manifest in several passages of this work, and is further reinforced by several expressions of contempt for the “mere” historical perspective, according to Guénon an illusory veil of passing appearances covering up the reality of eternal things. He even criticizes the attachment of the Western mentality to “facts” as if it were a vice of thought.

Jean Robin characteristically proclaims Guenonism a providential intervention and “the last chance for the West.” It is an inalienable right of the enthusiastic disciple to celebrate the master’s work with the most emphatic qualifiers. But a qualifier means nothing when separated from the substance it qualifies. It is one thing to speak generically of a “last chance for the West”—and we all know that the West needs one. But it is quite another to make it clear that this is not just any chance, an abstract and generic “restoration of spirituality,” but rather salvation through Islamization. Jean Robin simply omits this point.

It is also very fair to privilege the eternal and immutable above the temporal and transitory. But any faithful Catholic accustomed to the sacrament of confession understands that the leap to the eternal, without passing through awareness of the factual details of earthly life, so often humiliating and depressing, is not spirituality, it is angelism. The apostle who affirms “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” is the same one who confesses to carrying “a thorn in the flesh” to the end of his days.

The desire to fly into the world of eternal archetypes by leaping over concrete historical reality appears not only in the hagiographic profiles of “René Guénon’s mission,” but in at least three books by important perenialist authors on Islam.

Ideals and Realities of Islam by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Comprendre l’Islam by Schuon, and Moorish Culture in Spain by Titus Burckhardt, barely conceal their rhetorical strategy of showing Muslim life only for the eternal archetypes it symbolizes; contrasting them, explicitly or implicitly, with the gross factual miseries of the materialistic West. It is all even a little naive. Even a child realizes that it is not fair to compare the virtues of one with the defects of the other, instead of virtues with virtues and defects with defects.

All this makes it difficult, both for the newcomer reader and sometimes for the spokesmen of Perenialism themselves, to admit the obvious: the work of René Guénon can have all the providential and salvific character one wants, on the condition that one clearly admits the obvious—that, in the end, it has never offered any other way of salvation for the West except Islamization.

It is also true that any intelligent Christian, Catholic or otherwise, can benefit from the teachings of René Guénon without adhering to the Guénonian project. But how can one refuse adherence without knowing or wanting to know that the project exists? Every useful idiot is an idiot and useful to the same extent that he denies the existence of the one who uses it.

Many Christians, Catholic or not, have been so outraged by the teachings of René Guénon that they have made several attempts to refute and even deride him. These attempts only proved the intellectual superiority of the opponent and fell into ridicule or oblivion.

In this respect, Guénon’s disciples were not entirely wrong in considering him unsurpassable (the “infallible compass,” Michel Valsân said). But Guénon need neither be fought nor defeated. By adopting the pseudonym “Sphinx” in his early writings, he knew that those who did not decipher his message would be swallowed up and reduced to obedience. Those who lurch between cries of revolt will not fail to render him obedience, begrudgingly or even unconsciously. Once deciphered, however, the Sphinx has no remedy but to gently release its prey, which will emerge from its clutches not only free, but strengthened.

A Tribute To Olavo de Carvalho

This noble and generous space gives me the opportunity to render a simple homage to the intellectual gift and service rendered to all, especially to us Brazilians, by our dearly beloved Olavo de Carvalho, who recently passed away.

The pantheon of writers and intellectuals brings together, according to Allan Bloom, giants and dwarfs. It is on the shoulders of giants that dwarves can glimpse things that are impossible to see because of their height. Giants, as such, resemble trailblazers who blaze trails in the jungle for others to tread, pathways previously untraveled. Intellectual giants are not many, nor are they frequent, which is why we must love them, study them, listen to them, scrutinize them, and thank them, because they make us transcend the myopia that makes us see clearly only that which is close, and barely that which is distant, in order that we might behold what our mediocrity makes impossible to see.

Olavo, as many have said, including our president, is certainly among the few giant Brazilian thinkers. His work goes beyond the limits of passions, opinions and/or fads that usually imprison us. One can say that he was and is a Brazilian intellectual surprise, a miracle, for the same reason that we are inundated by, and inured to, the usual cultural mediocrities that are incapable of generating his like. It is undeniable that his educational and philosophical activity raised our rational investigative quality and opened gaps in our long-crystallized discussions and thoughts. In this, he was an authentic author of our time; polemical, yes, but, in view of our “captive” condition, he shook the habit which we had become accustomed to, given the wintry and gloomy educational milieu long established in our country.

We know that all great writers embody a portion of substantiality and another of accidentality. The accidental elements, in Aristotle’s understanding, are those penchants or aspects that only exist so long as they are grafted to the substance that sustains them. Accidentals are like leftovers from banquets, bagasse from tradecraft. They are real, but have no life of their own; they subsist and exist to the extent that they are united to substantiality. So that in Olavo’s work, for example, there is a journalistic and political side or aspect that belongs to his more accidental activity and says less about his substantial core. This is located in his masterpieces and in the veins of his work elaborated through the courses he taught over the last twenty years of his life.

No author, just as no human person, is admirably integral, perfect, complete. Even in the works of Dante, Thomas Aquinas, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Balzac, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Machado de Assis and many others, we can find scraps, straw, and not only grains. In them we also have flashes of secondary literature, although the substance is there, for it is always the noun that gives existence to adjectives, not the other way around. Even the great Homer took naps, as St. Jerome once had to explain when asked about his reading of Origen’s heretical works. Olavo had a polemical and irreverent side; but this did not make up the central part of the content of his work.

Endowed with a lively and sagacious intelligence and a prodigious memory, Olavo possessed a vast knowledge of almost everything that constitutes human knowledge. His formative years went through stages of self-learning, discipline and study methods, as well as extraordinary and personal reading and investigation. He looked for places where he could find knowledge and wisdom. Who helped him initially were not the universities, but Father Stanislavs Ladusãns (born in Latvia and a Jesuit, member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters), who taught free philosophy courses in Rio de Janeiro. This points to something else: It is not always universities that form intellectuals and scientists. In the Middle Ages, for example, it was not the University of Paris that formed or raised Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus to the level of great philosophers and masters, but rather it was precisely Thomas Aquinas and Scotus who raised the level and fame of that university. Human personalities are usually most filled with wisdom and science not in spaces and places of noise and publicity, but in the innermost silence of their own cell or home. The examples are countless to assure us that universities are not always places of formation and generation of “intellectuals” and illustrious writers.

Olavo spoke with ease and confidence about almost all areas of human knowledge. He broached subjects, prolix or not, related to literature, ethics, philosophy, religion, sciences in general, history, theology, cinema, arts and aesthetics, politics, economics, psychology, problems related to the world order, living or dead authors of the contemporary scenario, and so on.

Not even in great authors of the history of philosophy, such as Fraile, Reale, Copleston, Abbagnano, Urdanoz, Brehier, Gilson and others have I found so much lucidity and comprehensive synthesis in understanding the thought of the most representative philosophers of each period as I found in the lectures presented by Olavo in his Essential History of Philosophy and in other related works. Olavo also scrutinized, especially modern and contemporary, the picture of contradictions and deceptions that many of the doctrines of those authors contain. He dared, without fear, to denounce the swindles and charlatanism of thinkers and/or philosophers, such as Descartes, Luther, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Newton, Marx, Engels, Freud, Nietzsche, Auguste Comte, Antonio Gramsci, Foucault, Heidegger, the members of the Frankfurt school (Lukács, Marcuse, Horkheimer, Adorno, Habermas, Fromm), Wittgesntein, Derrida, Deleuze, Sartre, Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, and many others. Today he has become the greatest scholar and interpreter of Marxism, for he devoted part of his life to reading and analyzing the complete works of Marx, Lenin, and all their main minions.

However, his greatest, most forceful and impactful provocation, among us, was the public denunciation of the mediocre and rotten state in which Brazilian intellectual life found itself, both inside the universities and in the editorial offices and seminaries of theological and philosophical education of many of our ecclesial institutions. We did not know or had no notion of the painful picture in which we were living in our cultural and formative life. His demolishing rocket was directed first of all at the class represented by the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC). Just to have an idea, have a look at the polemic of the editors of the magazine Ciência Hoje, published by Aristóteles em Nova Perspectiva. Their denunciation showed us that the teaching of philosophy and other areas of knowledge is integrally tied to the leftist ideological political dictate present and active in almost all the “humanistic” faculties in Brazil, especially in USP (cf. Jardim das AfliçõesThe Garden of Woes), Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (read O Imbecil Coletivo I and IIThe Imbecile Collective). The same denunciation showed how disfigured and depressing is the picture of our universities, our schools, our publishing media, our newspapers and means of communication, almost totally contaminated by Marxism—and, above all, by intellectual dishonesty. Not even theology was free from this imbroglio. Impregnated by “liberation,” it has penetrated the soul of our students, future prelates and pastors. According to him, this theology, rooted in Vatican II, has now become a prisoner of the same trend. Examples are the best-known Brazilian theologians of that period: Leonardo Boff and Frei Betto. For a long time, they were questioned; but Olavo disqualified them from the intellectual point of view and reaffirmed his thesis that the damage caused by this theology to the Church has not yet been evaluated or sufficiently measured.

Because of his work as a writer and professor, we have been able, through his encouragement, to have access to works that were previously not even mentioned in the publishing and university circles. Today we have the chance to read authors, such as Eric Voegelin, Mortimer Adler, Russel Kirk, Roger Scruton, Leopol Szondi, Northrop Frye, Bernanos, Newman, Conrad, Victor Frankl, Andrew Lobaczewski, René Girard, Thomas Sowell, Xavier Zubiri, A. D. Sertillanges, Chesterton, Theodore Dalrymple, Louis Lavelle, B. Lonergan, Mário Ferreira dos Santos, Otto Maria Carpeaux, Vicente Ferreira dos Santos, Ângelo Monteiro, Meira Penna, Gustavo Corção, Leo Strauss, and many others. In his courses, Olavo called our attention to the up-to-date value of the philosophy found in the works of Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Husserl, Leibniz, Schelling (and many others), of the great authors of literature and historians (such as Walter Scott), contemporary and modern writers, be they from Brazil or the world. Our country was closed to the vast work of valuable writers who were simply disregarded because they were not, and are not, leftist.

According to Olavo, Brazilian and world thought has been contaminated by what Julien Benda called “betrayal,” that is, political emotion that has penetrated the minds of our intellectuals and given way to the “leimotiv” stamped in Marx’s philosophy: “the world is not to be known and contemplated, but rather to be transformed.” Thus, the terrain of science is no longer a laboratory of research and knowledge, but a political battlefield. Our educational life has been swallowed up in the primal anxiety of “transforming” the social, political, cultural, economic, and religious world. We are, therefore, drenched in “revolutionary yearnings.” Because of this, according to Olavo, there is no longer, among us, any possibility of honest and scientific intellectual debates, since passions have blunted and distorted our reasonable rationality, ending up prevailing over the objectivity of facts and results. The discussions linked to politics, closely linked to their militancy, have become a substitute for the honest, free and loving search for knowledge. We are among the last places in the world in educational rankings. Such is the tragedy that has befallen Brazilian education, our universities, our political, religious and intellectual world. To serve as an example, a recent comment was made by a professor who evaluated the end-of-course work (based on the works of Olavo de Carvalho) of a philosophy student: his research should not have been done on this author because he did not belong among the ranks of faculty professors in the current the university philosophical academy. Of course, the argument is shoddy, crude and dishonest. In fact, if it were correct, we should exclude philosophers who were not university professors, among them, Marx, Engels, Rousseau, Saramago, Gabriel Marcel, Kierkegaard, and many others. As it turns out, militancy over logic, truth and rationality still prevails here and elsewhere.

If the central content of Olavo’s work is the affirmation of the unity of knowledge, in the unity of human consciousness, it follows that this essential unitary principle, is the condition without which we would become disintegrated from ourselves and the world we inhabit. The disintegration of our being, therefore, begins in the absence of true perception of our self and of the reality in which it is embedded. In other words, every time we elaborate knowledge, doctrines or ideas in which we ourselves are not inside them, it means then that we place ourselves outside the very doctrine we generate and, in this way, we establish in our intellectual activity what Olavo called “cognitive parallax;” that is, a fictional knowledge or philosophy that leads the thinker who produces it (with his disciples, consequently), to the schizophrenia of himself—to madness, stupidity, psychopathy.

What can save our minds from crazy fictions is always the honest and sincere effort to return to the observation of the real world of things and of our real selves. It is our intelligence that feeds on being, and not the other way around. All idealisms are fictional and end up leading their leaders and protagonists to attempts of forcibly and violently implementing them in people’s lives. Experience shows that such idealisms have led their agents and victims to the sad, terrible and shocking experiences that the historical totalitarianisms of the last century have witnessed. As Eric Voegelin put it, the “spiritual illiteracy” of the intellectual elites of the modern and contemporary world engendered and legitimized the advent of psychopaths who, elevated to some power, were able, without moral scruples or remorse, to kill and hurt whomever they pleased. The man who eliminates God from his existence will eventually put himself in his place and act as if he were divine.

In spite of all the divergent opinions, I want to express my gratitude for the pages Olavo wrote and for the intrepidity with which he carried forward the defense of values and principles that are the nutrients of those souls that wish to grow and live in righteousness, wisdom, and truth. Many Brazilians found in Olavo the intellectual nourishment that the universities did not offer. He nourished them and helped them to live better. Linked to the great metaphysical tradition of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and the Judeo-Christian principles, Olavo de Carvalho’s philosophy retains the pillars of wisdom that had already been cultivated and sought by the Greeks, but that were found in the great Christian heritage. His texts and lectures contain those values and principles that have sustained noble and great civilizations. In this sense, he collaborated a lot for the good of our Brazil and the world. Brazil is not only soccer, carnival, samba, or any other brand. Now, above all, it is also Olavo Luiz Pimentel de Carvalho. We are proud of him.

The great African Augustine began his Confessions with the famous sentence referring to God: “Fecisti nos ad te e inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te.” Translated this means “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Augustine’s claim is that God did not make us for the intractable, nihilistic abyss, but to be with Him. Our origin will therefore also be our destination. We carry in our soul the source of our origin, so we know what our destiny will be. Olavo was aware of his origin and knew his destiny. In a recent interview he said that he was not afraid of death. Thank you, Olavo, for the trust you transmitted to us and for the good you did for us. May the Risen Christ keep you forever in His company.


Valdemar Munaro is professor of philosophy at Universidade Franciscana, in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The Portuguese version of this tribute was published by Percival Puggina. Translation into English by Felipe Cuello.