Understanding the Epistemological Foundations of Scientific Totalitarianism
by Phillip D. Collins
Scientific totalitarianism is certainly not a new topic in the halls of political science and history. Given its bloody legacy of democide (i.e., state-sanctioned genocide, mass murder, and politicide) and its prolific spread throughout the world, scientific totalitarianism remains a preoccupying sociopolitical phenomenon of the 20th century. Yet, few researchers have examined the epistemological foundations of scientific totalitarianism. In turn, an understanding of scientific totalitarianism’s epistemological roots elucidates an occult conception of science, which edified the sundry Weltanschauungs of sociopolitical Utopians (e.g., socialists of either the communist or fascist ilk).
In light of this core epistemological commonality, all forms of sociopolitical Utopianism could be considered the manifestations of a trans-historical occult counterculture movement.
To understand the occult conception of science, one must first establish a working definition for traditional science. The word “science” is derived from the Latin word scientia, which means “knowing” or “knowledge.” Thus, there is an epistemological dimension to science. After all, epistemology is etymologically derived from the Greek word episteme, which also means “knowing” or “knowledge.” In recent years, science has been couched in the epistemology of radical empiricism, the theory that all knowledge is derived from the senses. Within such epistemologically rigid parameters, the gaze of contemporary science has been firmly fixed upon the ontological confines of the physical universe.
Whether the modern scientist realizes it or cares to admit it, radical empiricism is the epistemological nucleus of the occult conception of science.
Yet, science has not always labored under such epistemological rigidity. In Confession of Nature, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz establishes the centrality of a supra-sensible God to science. According to Leibniz, the proximate origins of “magnitude, figure, and motion,” which constitute the “primary qualities” of corporeal bodies, “cannot be found in the essence of the body” (de Hoyos,”The Enlightenment’s Crusade Against Reason”). Linda de Hoyos reveals the point at which science finds a dilemma:
The problem arises when the scientist asks why the body fills this space and not another; for example, why it should be three feet long rather than two, or square rather than round. This cannot be explained by the nature of the bodies themselves, since the matter is indeterminate as to any definite figure, whether square or round. For the scientist who refuses to resort to an incorporeal cause, there can be only two answers. Either the body has been this way since eternity, or it has been made square by the impact of another body. “Eternity” is no answer, since the body could have been round for eternity also. If the answer is “the impact of another body,” there remains the question of why it should have had any determinate figure before such motion acted upon it. This question can then be asked again and again, backwards to infinity. Therefore, it appears that the reason for a certain figure and magnitude in bodies can never be found in the nature of these bodies themselves. (Ibid)
The same can be established for the body’s cohesion and firmness, which left Leibniz with the following conclusion:
Since we have demonstrated that bodies cannot have a determinate figure, quantity, or motion, without an incorporeal being, it readily becomes apparent that this incorporeal being is one for all, because of the harmony of things among themselves, especially since bodies are moved not individually by this incorporeal being but by each other. But no reason can be given why this incorporeal being chooses one magnitude, figure, and motion rather than another, unless he is intelligent and wise with regard to the beauty of things and powerful with regard to their obedience to their command. Therefore such an incorporeal being be a mind ruling the whole world, that is, God. (Ibid)
Thus, Leibniz concludes that “corporeal phenomena cannot be explained without an incorporeal principle, that is God” (ibid). In fact, the ontological plane of the physical universe cannot be considered a subsistent form of substance per se. It is underpinned by an immaterial order. The manifestation of sensible objects within corporeality is the result of the unseen interchange of transcendent principles outside of the temporal spatial realm. Rene Guenon recapitulates:
The truth is that the corporeal world cannot be regarded as being a whole sufficient to itself, nor as being isolated from the totality of universal manifestation: on the contrary, whatever the present state of things may look like as a result of “solidification,” the corporeal world proceeds entirely from the subtle order, in which it can be said to have its immediate principle, and through that order as intermediary it is attached successively to formless manifestation and finally to the non-manifested. If it were not so, its existence could be nothing but a pure illusion, a sort of fantasmagoria behind which there would be nothing at all, which amounts to saying that it would not really exist in any way. That being the case, there cannot be anything in the corporeal world such that its existence does not depend directly on elements belonging to the subtle order, and beyond them, on some principle that can be called “spiritual,” for without the latter no manifestation of any kind is possible, on any level whatsoever. (213-14)
Deriving immaterial universals (e.g., mathematical axioms, God, etc.) from the sensible world is known as abstraction. The Apostle Paul demonstrates abstraction in Romans 1:20: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Thus, while traditional science concerned itself with the natural world, it simultaneously recognized and acknowledged the reality of universals. Herein is this researcher’s working definition for traditional science. The rejection of universals, on the other hand, paves the way for the occult conception of science.
The rejection of universals began with nominalism, a philosophical doctrine that was formulated in the Middle Ages. Nominalism originated with William of Ockham, who was born in 1290. Ockham confused ideas, which inhabited the Intellect, with the subjective images that inhabited the imagination (Coomaraswamy, “The Fundamental Nature of the Conflict Between Modern and Traditional Man–Often Called the Conflict Between Science and Faith”). As Aquinas made clear in Summa Theologiae, images only capture things in their singularity. Ideas, on the other hand, capture things in their universality:
Our intellect cannot know the singular in material things directly and primarily. The reason for this is that the principle of singularity in material things is individual matter; whereas our intellect understands by abstracting the intelligible species from such matter. Now what is abstracted from individual matter is universal. Hence our intellect knows directly only universals. But indirectly, however, and as it were by a kind of reflexion, it can know the singular, because even after abstracting the intelligible species, the intellect, in order to understand actually, needs to turn to the phantasms in which it understands the species. Therefore it understands the universal directly through the intelligible species, and indirectly the singular represented by the phantasm. And thus it forms the proposition, “Socrates is a man.” (Pt. I, Qu. 86, Art. I)
Ockham failed to make this distinction, thereby reducing ideas to mere impressions on the imagination stemming from sense perception (Coomaraswamy, “The Fundamental Nature of the Conflict Between Modern and Traditional Man–Often Called the Conflict Between Science and Faith”). This epistemological confusion led Ockham to reject universals (ibid). Although Ockham still believed in God, he denied the objective character of God (ibid). Thus, God became an unknowable abstraction fraught with ambiguities.
Such a nebulous conception of God leads one to regard faith as “blind.” Yet, true faith is not blind. The Greek word for “faith” in the New Testament is pistis. The term was also invoked by Aristotle and connotes forensic proof. Forensic proof is evidentiary, not blind. Likewise, many of the Apostles made evidentiary appeals for the faith. For instance, in Acts 2:22-36, Peter makes three evidentiary citations in defense of the faith. He cites Jesus’ “miracles and wonders and signs.” He cites the empty tomb. Lastly, he cites the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Thus, Peter’s apologia was premised upon evidence or, as the term pistis connotes, proofs.
In addition to casting faith in a rather derisive light, nominalism led to the bifurcation of epistemology into what is quantifiably or empirically demonstrable and what is believed (ibid). In turn, this bifurcation is a slippery slope towards the belief that all things quantifiable represent the totality of reality. Suddenly, all of those entities that defy quantification (e.g., the “good,” the “beautiful,” dignity, God, etc.) are relegated to impotent and ambiguous subjectivism. Such epistemological rigidity underpins scientism, which mandates the universal imposition of science upon all fields of inquiry. The modern mind, chronocentric as it is, might consider such an imposition favorable. However, it is very dangerous. Michael Hoffman elaborates on this danger:
The reason that science is a bad master and dangerous servant and ought not to be worshipped is that science is not objective. Science is fundamentally about the uses of measurement. What does not fit the yardstick of the scientist is discarded. Scientific determinism has repeatedly excluded some data from its measurement and fudged other data, such as Piltdown Man, in order to support the self-fulfilling nature of its own agenda, be it Darwinism or “cut, burn and poison” methods…” (49)
When extended beyond its legitimate fields of application, science becomes a rigid template to which even the most complex of entities, like man, must conform. The scientific outlook acknowledges no moral master. It gives no assent to moral or esthetic judgments. In the words of B.F. Skinner, it “de-homunculizes” man, a being that was originally “defended by the literatures of freedom and dignity” (189-91).
Nominalism rode into epistemological dominance astride the Protestant Reformation. The father of the first Reformation, Martin Luther, was actually an unconscious agent of secularization. Under Catholicism, the truth had become the province of priests and other self-proclaimed “mediators of God.” However, Luther made the mistake of adopting nominalism as one of the chief philosophical foundations for his doctrines. In The Western Experience, the authors write:
[S]ome of Luther’s positions had roots in nominalism, the most influential philosophical and theological movement of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which had flourished at his old monastery. (450)
By the time Luther’s ideas were codified in the Augsburg Confession, nominalism was already beginning to co-opt Christianity. Nominalism’s rejection of a knowable God harmonized with the superstitious notions of the time. Misunderstanding the troubles that beset them, many peasants made the anthropic attribution of the Black Death to God’s will. Following this baseless assumption to its logical conclusion, many surmised that God was neither merciful nor knowable. Such inferences clearly overlooked the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which represented the ultimate act of grace on God’s part. Nevertheless, the superstitious populace were beginning to accept the new portrayal of God as an indifferent deistic spirit. Nominalism merely edified such beliefs. Invariably, nominalism would seduce those who would eventually convert to Protestantism.
Christians should have had more than a few philosophical misgivings with nominalism, especially in light of its commonalities with anthropocentric humanism:
Although nominalists and humanists were frequently at odds, they did share a dissatisfaction with aspects of the medieval intellectual tradition, especially the speculative abstractions of medieval thought; and both advocated approaches to reality that concentrated on the concrete and the present and demanded a strict awareness of method. (424)
Suddenly, Christianity was infused with materialism and radical empiricism. There was an occult character to both of these philosophical positions. Radical empiricism rejects causality, thereby abolishing any epistemological certainty and reducing reality to a holograph that can be potentially manipulated through the “sorcery” of science. Materialism emphasizes the primacy of matter, inferring that the physical universe is a veritable golem that created itself. Despite their clearly anti-theistic nature, these ideas began to insinuate themselves within Christianity.
With nominalist epistemology enshrined, man was ontologically isolated from his Creator. Knowledge was purely the province of the senses and the physical universe constituted the totality of reality itself. Increasingly, theologians invoked naturalistic interpretations of the Scriptures, thereby negating the miraculous and supernatural nature of God. The spiritual elements that remained embedded in Christianity assumed more of a Gnostic character, depicting the physical body as an impediment to man’s knowledge of God and venerating death as a welcome release from a corporeal prison. Gradually, a Hegelian synthesis between spiritualism and materialism was occurring. The result was a paganized Christianity, which hardly promised the abundant life offered by its Savior.
Luther’s unwitting role in the popularization of such thinking suggests an occult manipulation. There is already a body of evidence supporting the contention that occult elements had penetrated Christendom and were working towards its demise. Malachi Martin states: “As we know, some of the chief architects of the Reformation–Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Reuchlin, Jan Amos Komensky–belonged to occult societies” (521).
Author William Bramley presents evidence that supports Martin’s contention:
Luther’s seal consisted of his initials on either side of two Brotherhood symbols: the rose and the cross. The rose and cross are the chief symbols of the Rosicrucian Order. The word “Rosicrucian” itself comes from the Latin words “rose”(“rose”) and “cruces” (“cross”). (205)
Luther’s involvement in the Rosicrucian Order made him an ideal instrument of secret societies. Michael Howard reveals explains the motive for this manipulation:
The Order had good political reasons for initially supporting the Protestant cause. On the surface, as heirs to the pre-Christian Ancient Wisdom, the secret societies would have gained little from religious reform. However, by supporting the Protestant dissidents they helped to weaken the political power of the Roman Catholic Church, the traditional enemy of the Cathars, the Templars and the Freemasons. (54).
However, occultism was not the only belief system benefiting from the Reformation. Luther’s also acted as an effective apologist for oligarchical interests. Many of the secret societies supporting Luther acted as elite conduits. While Luther was already ideologically aligned with the elites in many ways, he officially became their property in 1521. In this year, the papacy’s secular representative, Emperor Charles V, summoned Luther to a Diet at the city known as Worms (Chambers, Hanawalt, et al. 449). Luther was to defend himself against a papal decree that excommunicated him from the Church (449).
At the Diet, Luther refused to recant any of his beliefs (450). This led to the Emperor issuing an imperial edict for the monk’s arrest (450). However, Luther was rescued by the Elector Frederick III of Saxony (450). Frederick staged a kidnapping of the monk and hid him away in Wartburg Castle (450). The regional warlord of Saxony had much to gain by protecting Luther. Frederick represented a group of German princes that opposed the influence of the Church and its secular representative, the Emperor (450).
These elites would use Luther’s teachings to justify defying the ecclesiastical authorities and establishing their own secular systems. In the end, the Reformation reformed nothing at all. It caused a division in Christendom and paved the way for Europe’s secularization.
Indirectly the Reformation gave the impetus for the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, which centred on Newton, and led to the founding of the Royal Society after the English Civil War. (148)
The “Scientific Revolution” facilitated by the Reformation led to the popularization of nominalism, which was radically scientistic and occult in character. Commensurate with this paradigm shift was the rise of the rise of the Enlightenment. Not surprisingly, the writers of Encyclopédie, which was edited by Enlightenment thinker Denis Diderot, “praised Protestant thinkers” (“Encyclopédie,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia). The same secret societies that managed the dialectical conflict between the Protestants and Catholics played a prevalent role in the Enlightenment. Reiterating this contention, atheist scholar Conrad Goeringer states:
Secret societies and salons, lodges of the Freemasons and private reading clubs would become the focal points for the sedicious and “impious” activists of the Enlightenment. Masonry required that novitiates pass through a series of degrees, accompanied by symbolic ritual, whereupon the secrets of the craft were gradually unfolded; the metaphors of masonry, the remaking of humanity as early masons had remade rough stone, soon served as a revolutionary allegory. This became the new model of revolutionary organization — lodges of brothers, all seeking to reconstruct within their own circle an “inner light” to radiate forth wisdom into the world, to “illuminate” the sagacity of the Enlightenment. So pervasive and appealing was this notion that even relatively conservative and respected members of society could entertain the prospect of a new Utopia, “or at least a social alternative to the ancient regime….” (“The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and the Illuminati”)
The Enlightenment, which acted as the crucible for all modern sociopolitical Utopianism, represented the codification of Gnostic occultism as revolutionary doctrine. The new gnosis was science, which Enlightenment thinkers believed should be universally imposed upon all fields of inquiry. For the violent, revolutionary wing of the Enlightenment (e.g., the Illuminati, the Jacobins, etc.), the universal imposition of science included governance. Herein is the conceptual basis for all scientific totalitarianism.
In the context of governance, science invariably becomes an oppressor. The scientifically regimented state must jettison the concepts of freedom and dignity because they defy quantification.
G.K. Chesterton elaborates on the folly of applying the scientific method to governance:
The thing that really is trying to tyrannize through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen — that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics. Vaccination, in its hundred years of experiment, has been disputed almost as much as baptism in its approximate two thousand. But it seems quite natural to our politicians to enforce vaccination; and it would seem to them madness to enforce baptism.
In the scientifically regimented state, the citizen becomes little more than an amalgam of behavioral repertoires whose every thought, feeling, and idea is the product of external stimuli. From the scientistic vantage point, the populace’s motivations can be calculated and systematized, thereby allowing those few conditioners who are accountable to no moral master to develop economic and technological stimuli that can produce the desired patterns of mass behavior. Such a societal model is known as a Technocracy, which Frank Fischer defines as follows: “Technocracy, in classical political terms, refers to a system of governance in which technically trained experts rule by virtue of their specialized knowledge and position in dominant political and economic institutions” (17).
Aldous Huxley also posited such a societal model, which he dubbed a “scientific dictatorship”:
The older dictators fell because they could never supply their subjects with enough bread, enough circuses, enough miracles, and mysteries. Under a scientific dictatorship, education will really work with the result that most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution. There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown. (116)
This societal model is exemplified by Henri de Saint-Simon’s physiological interpretation of the state, which extrapolated radical empiricism to “the altogether new field of social relations.” Adherents of Saint-Simon’s philosophy contended that “the key to diagnosing and curing the ills of humanity lay in an objective understanding of the physiological realities that lay behind all thinking and feeling” (Billington 212). Following this physiological interpretation of governance to its logical ends, Saint-Simon developed the precursor to Marx’s “scientific socialism”:
Believing that the scientific method should be applied to the body of society as well as to the individual body, Saint-Simon proceeded to analyze society in terms of its physiological components: classes. He never conceived of economic classes in the Marxian sense, but his functional class analysis prepared the way for Marx. (213)
Friedrich Engels described Marx’s theory as “scientific socialism” because both science and Marxism bestowed epistemological primacy upon observable phenomenon (“Scientific socialism,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia). Thus, radical empiricism provides the epistemological basis for all modern forms of scientific totalitarianism.
Interestingly enough, radical empiricism was embraced by many members of the Bavarian Illuminati. In his outstanding tome Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati researcher Terry Melanson reveals that the complete works of Venetian author and reformer Paolo Sarpi constituted recommended reading for Illuminati initiates (475). As is evidenced by his own epistemological ruminations, Sarpi was a radical empiricist:
“There are four modes of philosophizing: the first with reason alone, the second with sense alone, the third with reason and then sense, and the fourth beginning with sense and ending with reason. The first is the worst, because from it we know what we would like to be, not what is.
The third is bad because we many times distort what is into what we would like, rather than adjusting what we would like to what is. The second is true but crude, permitting us to know little and that rather of things than of their causes. The fourth is the best we can have in this miserable life.” (Qutd. in “How the Venetians Took Over England and Created Freemasonry”)
Numerous researchers have demonstrated the ideological continuity that binds the Illuminati and communism. For instance, Melanson exhaustively details the revolutionary résumé of Filippo Michele Buonarroti, who provides a “direct line of influence from the Illuminati to the French Revolution to the Communist League of the Just” (134). Not surprisingly, all of the planks of Marx’s Communist Manifesto virtually mirrored the objectives of the Illuminati. Likewise, both the Illuminati and communism shared the same epistemological predisposition: radical empiricism. Again, it is with radical empiricism that one finds another occult element of sociopolitical Utopianism. This epistemology stems from the Gnostic derision of pistis.
Moreover, radical empiricism arrives at conclusions that are inescapably mystical in character. An exclusively empirical approach relegates cause to the realm of metaphysical fantasy. This holds enormous ramifications for science. What is perceived as A causing B could be merely a consequence of circumstantial juxtaposition. Although temporal succession and spatial proximity are axiomatic, causal connection is not. Affirmation of causal relationships is impossible. Given the absence of causality, all of a scientist’s findings must be taken upon faith. Ironically, science relies on the affirmation of such cause and effect relationships.
That such mystical elements pervade radical empiricism comes as little surprise. Modern science, which finds its epistemological foundations in radical empiricism, has all of the elements of a myth. Self-avowed “shaman of scientism” Michael Shermer has proposed that the scientist should assume the role of the modern mythmaker: ” . . .because of language we are also storytelling, mythmaking primates, with scientism as the foundational stratum of our story and scientists as the premier mythmakers of our time” (“The Shamans of Scientism”).
As mythmakers, modern scientific materialists have sought to supplant the traditional religious systems of the past with their own theocratic order. This new configuration of society demands a new myth. Rene Guenon eloquently synopsizes: “Thus it comes about that there has grown up in the ‘scientistic’ mentality. . .a real ‘mythology’: most certainly not in the original and transcendent meaning applicable to the traditional ‘myths,’ but merely in the ‘pejorative’ meaning which the word has acquired in recent speech” (151).
According to the late Joseph Campbell, science functions as a cosmological myth:
“[T]he second function of a mythology is to render a cosmology, an image of the universe, and for this we all turn today not to archaic religious texts, but to science” (116).
The image of the universe as rendered by science is an inherently mutable one. Matter, from the scientistic vantage point, is malleable and can be manipulated through the gnosis of science. Comenius articulated this scientistic vantage point in his 1668 tract entitled, The Way of Light.
Interestingly enough, the manifesto was dedicated to the British Royal Society, which was, arguably, a Masonic institution:
Virtually all the Royal Society’s founding members were Freemasons. One could reasonably argue that the Royal Society itself, at least in its inception, was a Masonic institution – derived, through Andrea’s Christian Unions, from the “invisible Rosicrucian brotherhood.” (Baigent, et al, 144)
The significance of this fact comes into clearer focus when one considers the fact that Freemasonry originated with “a network of Humanist associations” throughout early-Renaissance Italy (Martin 518-19). These early humanists, who would eventually co-opt the operative Mason guilds in the late 1500s, transplanted the concept of gnosis (i.e., special knowledge, not standard epistemological knowledge) within the ontological confines of the physical universe:
Whether out of historical ignorance or willfulness of both, Italian humanists bowdlerized the idea of Kabbala almost beyond recognition. They reconstructed the concept of gnosis, and transferred it to a thoroughly this-worldly plane. The special gnosis they sought was a secret knowledge of how to master the blind forces of nature for a sociopolitical purpose. (519-20)
Famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell reiterated this theme of mastering the “blind forces of nature,” emphasizing science as the new gnosis that could achieve such an end:
The way in which science arrives at its beliefs is quite different from that of medieval theology. Experience has shown that it is dangerous to start from general principles and proceed deductively, both because the principles may be untrue and because the reasoning based upon them may be fallacious. Science starts, not from large assumptions, but from particular facts discovered by observation or experiment. From a number of such facts a general rule is arrived at, of which, if it is true, the facts in question are instances. Science thus encourages abandonment of the search for absolute truth, which belongs to any theory that can be successfully employed in inventions or in predicting the future. “Technical” truth is a matter of degree: a theory from which more successful inventions and predictions spring is truer than one which gives rise to fewer. “Knowledge” ceases to be a mental mirror of the universe, and becomes merely a practical tool in the manipulation of matter. (13 – 15; emphasis added)
The manipulation of matter is a consistently recapitulated theme among sociopolitical Utopians. This theme gains greater significance when one ponders the etymology of the term “Technocracy.” Not surprisingly, most sociopolitical movements throughout history have sought to instantiate technocratic forms of governance. “Technocracy” is a very interesting appellation to assign such a form of governance. It is attached to the Greek word techne, which means “craft.” Simply defined, “crafting” is the skillful creation of something. Hence, expressions such as “outstanding craftsmanship” or a “master of the craft.” In the context of sociopolitical Utopianism, “crafting” is the skillful creation (or, more succinctly, re-sculpting) of reality itself. The “special gnosis” of science has provided the means through techne.
Mark Pesce, co-inventor of Virtual Reality Modeling Language, elaborates:
“The enduring archetype of techne within the pre-Modern era is magic, of an environment that conforms entirely to the will of being” (“Ontos and Techne”). Commenting upon techne’s role in manipulating matter, Pesce writes: “Each endpoint of techne has an expression in the modern world as a myth of fundamental direction–the mastery of matter. . .” (ibid; emphasis added).
From this distinctly occult vantage point, technology, which represents the practical application of science, is a form of sorcery for manipulating and mastering matter. Modern science views matter as the primary substance that constitutes the fabric of the physical universe. In turn, modern science views the ontological confines of the physical universe as the totality of reality. Thus, he who has mastered matter through the gnosis of science has mastered reality itself. Reality becomes a malleable lump of clay to be molded by the omnipotent fingers of the scientific adept. Of course, such an adept would qualify as a deity. After all, shaping reality was originally the province of God. According to semiotician Elizabeth C. Hirschman, man’s apotheosis lies at the core of science as a cosmological myth:
The rise of Science as a cosmological mythology in the 1500’s set up a struggle with the prevailing metaphysical doctrine of Christian theology, which… has never been resolved as a cultural discourse. At its core, the conflict centers around the usurpation of god-like powers by man. Armed with such supernatural abilities, humans can manipulate and alter life in ways that are reserved by Nature/God. The first cultural myth encapsulating the is conflict was, of course, the Faust legend, in which a medical doctor (i.e., scientist) sold his soul to Mephistopheles (i.e., the Devil) in exchange for knowledge and power belonging to God. (21; Emphasis added)
The Faust legend echoes the theme of Genesis 3:5, where the serpent promises Eve that “…ye shall be as gods.” The Apostle John identifies the serpent as Satan in Revelation 20:2. Not surprisingly, Satan was an object of veneration for early sociopolitical Utopians, particularly those of the Enlightenment. For instance, a picture of Lucifer (i.e., Satan’s original angelic persona) adorned the title page of the first edition of Diderot’s Encyclopedie (Goeringer, “The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and the Illuminati”). This veneration of the Devil under his original angelic title constitutes the religion of Luciferianism. Like some varieties of Satanism, Luciferianism does not depict the devil as a literal metaphysical entity. Instead, Lucifer symbolizes the cognitive powers of man. He is the embodiment of science and reason. It is the Luciferian’s religious conviction that these two facilitative forces will dethrone the “superstitious” institutions of God and apotheosize man.
However, Lucifer would assume yet another title. The term Lucifer, as translated by St. Jerome from the original Hebrew Helel (“bright one”), shares the same meaning as Prometheus who brought fire to humanity (“Lucifer”). The mythical character of Prometheus was central to the Utopian vision of early socialist revolutionaries. James A. Billington explains:
A recurrent mythic theme for revolutionaries — early romantics, the young Marx, the Russians of Lenin’s time — was Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods for the use of mankind. The Promethean faith of revolutionaries resembled in many respects the general belief that science would lead men out of darkness into light. (6; emphasis added)
Of course, such a messianic view of science is vintage scientism. One of the earliest exponents of this scientistic Weltanschauung was Sir Francis Bacon, who coined the famous aphorism: “Knowledge itself is power.” According to Carl Raschke, this dictum is thematically underpinned by Gnostic occultism: “The well-known maxim of Bacon, nam et ipsa scientia potestas est (‘Knowledge itself is power’), is often commemorated as the credo of the new science, but it also suits quite precisely the magico-religious mentality of Gnosticism” (49).
Bacon was a member of a secret society called the Order of the Helmet (Howard 74). The organization’s name was derived from Pallas Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom who was portrayed wearing a helmet (Howard 74). Although regarded as an innovator of science by orthodox academia, Bacon’s studies mostly embraced occultism. In his youth, Bacon was “a student of Hermetic, Gnostic, and neo-Platonist philosophy and had studied the Cabbala” (Howard 74).
Allegedly, Bacon was also a Grand Master of the secret Rosicrucian Order (Howard 74). The Rosicrucians were closely associated with Freemasonry (Howard 50). In fact, a Rosicrucian poem written in 1638 voices the organization’s close ties with the Lodge (Howard 50). It reads, “For what we presage is not in grosse, for we brethren of the Rosie Crosse, we have the Mason’s Word and second sight, things to come we can foretell aright. . .” (qutd. in Howard 50). In other words, Rosicrucians knew the “inner secrets of Freemasonry and possessed the psychic power to predict the future” (Howard 50).
In 1627, Bacon published a novel entitled The New Atlantis (Howard 74). The pages of Bacon’s book were adorned with Freemasonic symbols, such as “the compass and square, the two pillars of Solomon’s temple and the blazing triangle, and the eye of God, indicating his association with the secret societies who supported his Utopian concepts” (Howard 75). The novel “describes the creation of the Invisible College advocated in Rosicrucian writings” (Howard 74). This Rosicrucian mandate for an “Invisible College” was realized with the formation of the Royal Society in 1660 (Howard 57).
Fischer synopsizes Bacon’s “Utopian concepts”:
For Bacon, the defining feature of history was rapidly becoming the rise and growth of science and technology. Where Plato had envisioned a society governed by “philosopher kings,” men who could perceive the “forms” of social justice, Bacon sought a technical elite who would rule in the name of efficiency and technical order. Indeed, Bacon’s purpose in The New Atlantis was to replace the philosopher with the research scientist as the ruler of the utopian future, New Atlantis was a pure technocratic society. (66-67)
Not surprisingly, the socialist revolutionaries of the Promethean faith sought to tangibly enact their own conception of Bacon’s New Atlantis. Sociopolitical Utopians, their various ideological permutations notwithstanding, have always strove to establish a “pure technocratic society.” Sociopolitical Utopianism is, in turn, derivative of Gnosticism. This derivation is illustrated by sociopolitical Utopianism’s rejection of pistis, which the early Gnostics considered inferior to gnosis.
Yet, the sociopolitical Utopian’s derision for cognitio fidei led revolutionaries to conclusions that were even more radical than those of traditional Gnosticism. For traditional Gnostics, the transcendent held primacy over the immanent. The sociopolitical Utopian, on the other hand, re-conceptualized transcendent objects of faith as objects of immanent experience. This re-conceptualization began with the Gnostic desire to draw knowledge that was commonly associated with the transcendent “into a firmer grip than the cognitio fidei, the cognition of faith, will afford” (Voegelin 124). The resultant Weltanschauung, however, bestowed metaphysical primacy upon the ontological confines of the physical universe. Thus, sociopolitical Utopians attempted to transplant objects of faith within the finitude of human knowledge and experience. In this sense, the sociopolitical Utopian qualifies as a new Gnostic whose immanentist impulses find affirmation in scientific materialism.
One object of faith that this modern incarnation of Gnosticism sought to draw into human history was the Eschaton (i.e., the End of Days): “In place of an Eschaton which ontologically transcends the confines of this world, the modern Gnostic envisions an End within history, an Eschaton, therefore, which is to be realized within the ontological plane of this visible universe” (Smith 238; emphasis added). Herein is the conceptual basis for the Utopian vision of a “heaven on earth.” It is premised upon Gnostic epistemology and, as such, is inherently occult in character. Its adherents spawned secular revolutionary movements that, sociologically, behaved like religions:
In this century, with the presentation of traditional religious positions in secular form, there has emerged a secular Gnosticism beside the other great secular religions–the mystical union of Fascism, the apocalypse of Marxist dialectic, the Earthly City of social democracy. The secular Gnosticism is almost never recognized for what it is, and it can exist alongside other convictions almost unperceived. (Webb 418)
Secular Gnosticism has manifested itself throughout the 20th and 21st century in a myriad of forms. Of course, the two most prominent examples are the ideological kissing cousins of communism and fascism. Other variants include neoconservativism, neo-liberalism, secular progressivism, and technoprogressivism. While many of these secular Gnostic permutations have superficially feuded with each other over the years, they all have shared a core dialectical commonality: the Utopian vision of “heaven on earth.” In turn, this vision is couched in the anthropocentric dictum of Protagoras:
“Man is the measure of all things.” This dictum echoes the promise of the serpent in Eden: “…ye shall be as gods.” In The Hypostasis of the Archons, an Egyptian Gnostic text, the serpent in Eden is portrayed as humanity’s benevolent “Instructor” and “incognito savior” (Raschke 27). Meanwhile, the Hypostasis caricatures Jehovah as “the archon of arrogance” (27).
Gnosticism’s veneration of the serpent and misotheistic view of Jehovah bespeaks the perennial ambition to usurp the throne of God. The aspiration to achieve apotheosis was a defining feature of the Mystery cults of pagan antiquity. It is also lies at the heart of Gnosticism. While Gnosticism’s origins with the Ancient Mystery cults remain a source of contention amongst scholars, its promise of liberation from humanity’s material side is strongly akin to the old pagan Mystery’s variety of “psychic therapy” (28).
In addition, the Ancient Mystery religion promised the “opportunity to erase the curse of mortality by direct encounter with the patron deity, or in many instances by actually undergoing an apotheosis, a transfiguration of human into divine” (28).
It is interesting to recall Billington’s observation that the young Marx venerated Prometheus as the allegorical embodiment of science (6). Science, according to the Promethean faith, was the new lantern of salvation that would “lead men out of darkness into light” (6). Given this Promethean reverence for science, it is interesting to recall that Engels described Marx’s theory as “scientific socialism” (“Scientific socialism,” Wikipedia:The Free Encyclopedia)
Again, Engels’ selection of this appellation was predicated upon the common epistemological foundations of Marxism and modern science: radical empiricism. Saint-Simon’s functional class analysis, which “prepared the way for Marx,” stemmed from the extension of “radical empiricism into the altogether new field of social relations” (Billington 212-13).
Herein is the epistemological foundation for all modern totalitarianism. In turn, that epistemological foundation stems from the Gnostic rejection of pistis. Thus, Gnostic occultism constitutes the epistemological heritage of almost all modern socialist totalitarian regimes.
Returning to Marx’s preoccupation with Prometheus, it is interesting to recall that the mythic figure’s name shares the same meaning with the term “Lucifer,” as translated by St. Jerome from the original Hebrew Helel (“Lucifer”). Marx’s possible flirtation with Satanism is an often overlooked, yet controversial topic. It is not this researcher’s contention that Marx was a Satanist in the traditional sense. In all likelihood, Marx probably denied the existence of Satan as a literal metaphysical entity.
Yet, it is important to remember that the Luciferian conception of Satan is premised upon the same existential contention. From Marx’s neo-Gnostic vantage point, Lucifer or Prometheus was probably rendered immanent by the cognitive powers of man. Ultimately, whether or not Marx was a Satanist is irrelevant. Essentially, one needn’t accept the existence of Satan if one accepts the principles embodied by the Fallen One. In his poem “Human Pride,” Marx expressed the Luciferian aspiration to achieve apotheosis:
With disdain I will throw my gauntlet full in the face of the world, And see the collapse of this pygmy giant whose fall will not stifle my ardor. Then will I wander godlike and victorious through the ruins of the world And, giving my words an active force, I will feel equal to the Creator. (“Human Pride”; emphasis added)
Ironically, Promethean revolutionaries, whose Weltanschauung was heavily informed by Marxism, murdered millions of the very species that they sought to apotheosize. Marx’s words, when given “active force,” apotheosized the State. The State, in turn, subordinated the individual to the collective. The individual could no longer lay claim to any intrinsic value. Instead, meaning and purpose were only found in the group.
Thus, Marxism actually devalued humanity. Again, it is extremely ironic that such devaluation stemmed from an anthropocentric belief system. Yet, such contradictions proliferated the Weltanschauung of the Promethean radicals and still persist in the minds of the modern purveyors of socialism. Chesterton enumerates the various internal contradictions of the revolutionary Weltanschauung:
All denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind and the modern skeptic doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then writes another book, a novel in which he insults it himself. As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then as a philosopher that all of life is a waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie.
The man of this school goes first to a political meeting where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts. Then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes to a scientific meeting where he proves that they practically are beasts.
In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is forever engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt becomes practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything. (41)
Thus, when the modern revolutionary tangibly enacts his Utopian vision, it automatically qualifies as a dystopian nightmare for others. Promises of unlimited freedom begin to fade as the apotheosized State confiscates the citizenry’s wealth in the name of socioeconomic egalitarianism and imprisons dissidents. In the name of facilitating evolution, a theory that the orthodoxy of science has deemed infallible, those members of the human species who fail to meet the arbitrarily established standards of biological and genetic purity are expunged through eugenical regimentation. Fanatical as they are in their scientism, modern revolutionaries view man himself as a quantifiable entity.
The irreducible complexity of humanity is overlooked as man is gradually transformed into a paint-by-numbers schematic. Society, by extension, is also considered a quantifiable entity. Thus, modern revolutionaries work to install their own bowdlerized form of democracy: the democracy of “experts.” By virtue of their own purported scientific and technical expertise, these policy professionals calculate and systematize the motivations of the populace and develop economic and technological stimuli that can produce the desired patterns of mass behavior.
The final and most tragic casualty of this form of governance is not the political dissident or the marginalized “dysgenic.” Ultimately, the final victim of scientific totalitarianism is the human soul. Man, from the scientistic vantage point, is little more than amalgam of behavioral repertoires. He is a tabula rasa whose value depends entirely upon the final portrait rendered by the brush strokes of his “enlightened” conditioners. If he cannot or does not conform to the paint-by-numbers template of the “experts,” he is deemed a product of retrograde evolution. Because man’s soul defies quantification, the content of his character is appropriated absolutely no currency in the scientistic Weltanschauung. Again, it is indeed ironic that, in their hopes of apotheosizing the human species, modern revolutionaries devalue man. This is the Faustian face of modern science: the inhuman human race.
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About the Author
Phillip D. Collins is a freelance journalist and co-author of The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship with Paul Collins.
All emphasis added -SH