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Apocalypse Now? 29th Summer Symposium of the Roman Forum

Above: “Joachim of Fiore shows the portraits of Saint Dominic de Guzmán and Saint Francis of Assisi” by American Baroque painter Gregorio Vásquez (1638–1711) of New Granada, modern Colombia.

Editor’s note: we publish here the first lecture from Dr. Rao at last summer’s symposium of the Roman Forum. To attend this summer’s symposium in Gardone, Italy, which includes editors and allies of OnePeterFive with the theme “Christianity and Paganism: Old and New” click here


Because of the fact that history deals not with theoretical knowledge but how people actually make use of such knowledge in time and space, it plays an essential role among the disciplines referred to as the Humanities. When I tackle a particular historical subject, I always find the work of my fellow Humanists from the literary world immensely helpful as a guide. And when I dive into any topic whatsoever regarding the two thousand year Drama of Truth that is Church History, I cannot help but think of one of Honoré de Balzac’s novels from his cycle of works called The Human Comedy, tweaking its title to prepare my readers for the roller coaster ride on which I inevitably have to take them: The Miseries and Splendors of the Catholic Life.

Why miseries? Because there are indeed terrible misfortunes to confront when telling the tale of what Catholics have had to face and live with throughout the Church’s long history; deep sorrows and terrible setbacks that did not pop up out of nowhere. Thankfully, discovering their provenance and dealing with them also leads one to the total opposite of their tale of woe: the central splendors of our Faith and its correcting and transformative vision of the destiny of both man as well as nature. And this helps us to grasp the fact that many of the miseries that we have to overcome are owed to the deep hatred of our opponents for that vision and destiny and their determination to prevent their triumph.

Unfortunately, the continuation of our roller coaster ride then also demonstrates that we who are at least in name – and sometimes even fully committed – Catholics have ourselves often contributed to obscuring or distorting these splendors. Our history reveals that we have frequently succumbed to the strangely seductive anti-Catholic message regarding the supposed miseries brought about through the life and development of the Faith. This has been especially true when the real miseries of a given time and place, falsely but vigorously attributed to the actual truths and impact of the splendors in question, seem so overwhelming that they can convince many believers that the apocalypse must certainly be at hand.

Maintaining a solid Catholic equilibrium while keeping one’s eyes open to read the signs of the times for the emergence of an event that will, of course, one day actually arrive, is a question of serious significance in our own unfortunate time and place. Internal Catholic indices of apocalypse aside, what should we think about the other, secular woes overwhelming the world right now, and the way in which the ever more dominant intellectual, political, and social forces in charge of our earthly lives see salvation from these afflictions as somehow requiring an assault on our supernatural Faith and all of its historic natural allies; an assault accompanied by a demand for an unquestioning adhesion to their own comprehensive set of false dogmas? What should we think about the fact that at the center of these non-negotiable dogmatic guidelines lies the command for unification of the entire globe in the work of constructing a “good” new order of things different from the supposedly “bad” one created by the Christian God and understood by our great teachers through natural human Reason harmonized with supernatural Revelation?

There is no doubt in my mind that we must think that we are being confronted here with something utterly diabolical in character. Iago, in Shakespeare’s Othello, gives us another fine literary indication of what being diabolical is all about. He does so by declaring: “I am not what I am”; i.e. that he is, in reality, the opposite of what he makes himself out to be to fool his tragic and pathetic victims. He is the opposite of the true God, who “is what He is”; the God who “is”.

At least he is honest in this confession of his real spirit. What we are facing with the deceptive, diabolically disorienting lie of the pseudo-Faith demanding our adhesion, is a fraud hidden under a public message of commitment to ushering mankind into “a future brighter than any past”; a millennium of secular corrective and transformative marvels; a travesty of the glory offered it by the Catholic Faith.

This message, has, once again, through its forceful reiteration, proven somehow to very seductive. While doomed in its hopeless war against God and God’s Creation, it wreaks havoc with societies and individuals the globe over as it rushes along its diseased path. Sad to say, like its apocalyptic forebears, this contemporary diabolical force has also once again seduced many Catholics – from those in the most exalted positions to the simplest believers. It has convinced them to hand over to their enemies the treasures that they gained through Faith and Reason – their teachings and the institutions putting them into practice – just like the Egyptians did to the Jews at the Exodus, but this time to serve a bad cause rather than a good one. In short, as apocalyptic scenarios go, this one does have much of the flavor of being “the real thing”.

We, here, at the Twenty-Ninth Summer Symposium of the Roman Forum in Gardone Riviera in 2022 are on a unique but ultimately fully Catholic “retreat” of a special type: one that is intellectual, fraternal, and spiritual in character; one that, for eleven days, consciously makes an appeal to all of the tools of nature and the supernatural to complete its task. We have carved out for ourselves a pilgrim “time out of time” and  “place out of place” to prepare us to move ahead with our regular lives in our “real” time and place.

To return to a literary analogy, we are like the figures in Boccaccio’s Decameron, temporarily in exile from a plague-ridden Florence, with, in our case, each of our speakers offering his tale regarding the nature of the disease-ridden world and pseudo-Faith that are plaguing all of our lives. The questions that we are seeking to answer with these personal reflections on our troubled time and place have been clearly indicated above: Is this anti-Christian and anti-human disaster only temporary, or is it “the real thing”? Are we watching just another tragic episode of the Drama of Truth called “The Human Condition”; or is this Great Reset actually producing “Apocalypse Now”? Are we seeing signs of Catholic surrender to the diabolical temptation to blame our Faith and its natural allies for all the evils around us, whatever the character of our current situation may prove to be? In sum, once again, what, exactly are we to think about the horrors of the contemporary world, and then, what are we to do about them?

My role in this Decameron is to put those questions in their broadest possible ecclesiastical historical context.

Closing Down the First Showing of “Apocalypse Now”

“Apocalypse Now’s” first run began at the dawn of Church History. Filled with a longing to see their beloved Savior, and tormented by the unpredictable outbreak of persecutions brought on from various causes, many believers understandably thought that a compassionate Christ would not delay the arrival of the conditions for His Second Coming for any lengthy time. Their hopes were fed, and Christ’s delay made palatable, by readings of Scripture yielding a conviction that Sacred History consisted of Seven Ages with a thousand year long Sabbath rest – the millennium – preparing the way for the end of time. One of the primary tasks of the Apologists and the Church Fathers was the closing down of this initial showing of “Apocalypse Now”.

Greek speaking Africa played a central role in that suppression, with Clement of Alexandria (150-215) and Origen (185-254) providing their contribution to the task at hand through the work of the famous Catechetical School of that great metropolis. Clement gave precise advice to Christians regarding how to live on a daily basis in a difficult pagan environment. Origen, continuing his labor through scriptural exegesis and speculative thought, placed Christian theology firmly on a scientific basis, whatever the many errors of his brilliant innovative task. Through their intellectual and pastoral labors they helped mightily to drill in the idea that the current civilization would probably continue in its familiar path for a good long time still. One’s personal apocalypse would therefore most certainly arrive before the “real thing” emerged. In effect, each man had to attend to his own salvation and, in effect, let the general Apocalypse take care of itself.

Further to the West, Latin-speaking Africa was equally significant to the task at hand. Here, Tyconius (late 300s), Donatist spokesman though he otherwise was, dealt a major blow to his own sect’s apocalyptic outlook through his Rules for Scripture, providing seven principles for the interpretation of the sacred texts. St. Augustine (354-430) was deeply grateful for these rules, which gave him the means to discredit the idea of a millennial “seventh age” of bliss before the end times, indicating that that seventh age was actually the one of the emergence of the Church from the age of persecution.

This age would be one dedicated to the “work” prefigured by Christ both by sending St. Peter down from Mount Carmel after the Transfiguration, as well as through his message to the Apostles in general at the Ascension, commanding them to announce to the world that “the Kingdom of God was at hand”. In this age of labor, the Social Kingship of Christ – the “Whole Christ” referred to by St. Augustine – had to be constructed. Again, this labor would be no picnic; it would entail constant struggle and repeated failure. The most that might happen, as St. Jerome (345-420) suggested, was that there would be a brief moment of “rest” before the really troublesome end times began.

The consequence of the acceptance of a delayed ending was the work done, both in the Greek and Latin speaking worlds, to “occupy the spaces of natural life” and to construct both Eastern and Western Christendom. In the West, whose story we are focusing upon in my presentation, this first entailed a major transformation of imperial Rome of such immediate success that it startled St. Jerome himself when visiting the Eternal City after a long absence in the fourth century.

Barbarian invasions seemed to cripple this effort. Nevertheless, evangelical correction and transformation in Christ went on, despite temptations to believe that the end had indeed now arrived with the collapse of the old imperial order: first through the conversion of the Germans, the Irish, and the Slavs, and then that of the Normans, the result being the baptism of their own particular natural virtues and talents, all of which contributed mightily to the splendors of High Medieval Civilization. What would have happened, one should wonder, if, while simply waiting for the Apocalypse, new apostles had not attempted their correcting and transforming Catholic labors to tame these threats to Christendom? And what would have happened if they had abandoned their love for all that was still eternally of value in a seemingly defeated Greco-Roman culture as well? The brilliant civilization of the High Middle Ages as we know them would never have taken shape at all.

Let us examine what actually did take place from the summit of that activity, in the reign of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). Himself inspired by the crusading spirit instilled in all of Western Christendom by the monks of Cluny from the tenth century onwards, and formed more specifically by his teachers at the still embryonic Universities of Paris and Bologna, Innocent embodied and promoted the entire project of correction and transformation of all things in Christ. His writing on the “four fold character of marriage, soaring upwards from that of man and woman to the union of nature with God, point us to this mission.

Like Justin Martyr (100-165), he sees Seeds of the Logos throughout the natural world, whose awakening from sinful slumber and mobilization for the correction and transformation of all things in Christ he understood from his Paris masters to require an extremely complex variety of pastoral initiatives. God sought the perfection of each and every different individual, a project made still more complex due to its social character.

Believers were corrected and transformed through membership “in Christ”, and that meant the “society” formed by Him, His Mystical Body, the Church. Since all nature was embraced by this task, it also indicated that all distinct individual’s correction and perfection was to be accomplished with the aid of each and every different natural social institution and the authorities that guided them, themselves steered to fulfill their proper function enlivened by the Church’s supernatural teaching and grace. If this pope who was eager that all truths and teachings be “incarnated” in every visible way imaginable had knowledge of St. Francis receiving the first stigmata in Catholic History, I am certain that he thought it to be a demonstration of just how much an individual human person, obedient to the ecclesiastical authorities and actively “crusading” to transform the entire social environment in which he lived could come to be united with His Savior even in this valley of tears which was always subject to sin.

Innocent’s forbears, the monks of Cluny, had begun their work with the laity by seeking to discipline the unruly European soldiery of the day, seeking to transform it into a Christian militia capable of defending pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land, and then reconquering the stolen areas of Eastern Christendom. That latter project, begun in earnest in 1096, was not going well by the beginning of Innocent’s pontificate. He believed that its weakness was connected to the continuing sinfulness of existing Christendom. Failure indicated that the inner Christian world, its social institutions, and its population, were not worthy of external success. Hence, his massive pastoral, internal crusading enterprise was of the utmost importance to the militant external endeavor.

Unless all of nature in all of its diversity were seen through the eyes of God – accepted as His glorious Creation, corrected of its human flaws, and transformed in Christ; unless all natural social institutions, their authorities, and the natural tools with which human beings were equipped were mobilized to aid men to become saints inside existing Christendom, victory externally would be denied it. It was the intensely militant spirit in which he saw this task that brought him to call the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 for the better parochial organization of the Christian West. It was this spirit that led him to put the universities on a more secure, formal basis, challenging them to become “think tanks” for the sake of the common good. It was this mentality that caused him to recruit the new mendicant orders of St. Francis and St. Dominic to teach and preach as the intellectual and pastoral “shock troops” of the entire great endeavor, fighting vigorously against especially those heresies that would deny the value of corrective transformation of Christ and the construction of His Social Kingship as they did so.

The Seeds of the Devil and the Birth of a Second “Apocalypse Now”

The Catholic Faith, working together with one of nature’s greatest tools, Socratic Reason, and seeking to fight the unending battle for incarnating the Social Kingship of Christ in a world that would nevertheless always be subject to sin, had, from the very outset, a powerful set of enemies dedicated to its defeat. This alliance of forces, that I like to label a “Grand Coalition of the Status Quo,” was composed of all those who believed that there was either no way and/or no need to attempt to correct a “business as usual” vision of “reality”. It included every pagan thoughtlessly enslaved to sin and too dull witted to conceive of anything different from the existing “established disorder”, alongside the post-Temple rabbinical authorities threatened by the advance of the New Covenant.

More thoughtful in their abhorrence of the Christian beast were the Manichean supporters of what we call the gnostic vision. Gnosticism as a whole, in many varied ways, rejected the idea that the world could actually be the creature of a good Creator God, thereby making any attempt to accept, correct, and perfect it not just utterly impossible but, even worse, a project aiding the forces of evil truly responsible for the existence of the physical universe. What made the followers of the third century prophet Mani (216-c.274) who gave his name to this form of Gnosticism especially dangerous was their sophisticated organizational structure and their commitment to “deconstructing” the sacred books, thinking, and practices of existing faiths in order to subvert them to serve their ideas regarding the wickedness of Creation.

Anyone eager to assault the Christian – or perhaps more accurately, the Christian-Socratic – work of correction and transformation of all things in Christ had a ready-made toolbox available to him filled with items suitable for either pounding the mission in question into the dust or deconstructing and readjusting it to suit their own purposes. This was the toolbox already constructed and stocked by the Sophists of the Ancient World in their battle against Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others determined to engage in a serious hunt for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Possessing, in Plato’s words, a “knack” for appealing to every sensual passion of the average man akin to that possessed by a successful chef, the Sophists solidified in him the conviction that satisfying these passions were indeed all that mattered to one’s existence, and that those seeking to criticize standard behavior in order to obtain something better were wasting their lives; doomed to pathetic failure.

Distorting the teachings of their opponents, and then ridiculing them if they could not simply ignore them, the Sophists nevertheless recognized that philosophy was a powerful tool in its own right, and Christianity even more so because of the incredible effectiveness of its hierarchical institutions and the obvious success of the “counter-appeal” that it made to the common man, popularizing its message to him to “lift up his heart”. Hence, the direction of their “knack” to the construction of noble-sounding myths – literally any kind of “narrative” – that might work to capture aspects of the upward – looking vision of their philosophical and religious enemies in order somehow to link them to a justification of their downward-looking, “business as usual” acceptance of mankind’s fallen state.

Masters of rhetoric that they were, they turned their “knack” for “word merchandizing” into a powerful propaganda tool, calling in the help of the possessors and seekers of power in order to eliminate their Christian and Socratic enemies from any influence in the public sphere entirely: to destroy them, at best, and to drive them into an impotent private clubhouse existence if nothing else. When the Sophist proponents of the “business as usual” mentality and their allies in the GCSQ found the actual destruction of these “Haters of Mankind” impossible, they switched to the tactic that they shared in common with the Gnostics: cooption and deconstruction of these stubborn believers and the powerful Church that shepherded them through life.

This they attempted first through an effort to elevate the imperial authority of the old Roman Empire, and then, when it collapsed, its heirs both East and West, to the role of primary agent in the guidance of the Christian enterprise. Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (265-339) played the part of spiritual guarantor of the validity of this project, but whatever his intentions may have been, all that it did was to ensure that Christianity’s upward-looking vision remained earthbound and submissive to “business as usual” goals. Happily, the progress of the movement initiated in Western Christendom by forces such as the monks of Cluny, whose acme we have seen to have been reached in the reign of Innocent III, seemed – at least on the surface – to have stymied this “Caesaro-Papist” usurpation.

Ironically, however, it was at the height of the movement for correction and transformation of all things in Christ and the creation of His Social Kingship that ultimately obstructive apocalyptic ideas were to be revived and packaged in a more elaborate intellectual framework. The Calabrian monk, Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135-1202), is the great name associated with the beginnings of this renewed speculation.

In works such as Concordia novi et veteris testamenti, Expositio in Apocalypsum; and the Psalterium decem chordium, Joachim brings back the theme of the “resting time” before the end. He does so in the context of a grand depiction of all of history, which he sees revealed in Scripture, once again developing in seven “times”, but within the context of three overarching “eras”: those of the Father, the Son, and then the Holy Spirit. The sixth “time”, the last of the Son, was especially important, charged with preparation for the seventh, which would be fully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Joachim claims that the “sixth time”, which would begin in 1200, would be an era of persecution and the rise of the Antichrist. But rather than persecution and the appearance and work of the Great Antichrist being signs of the end of history, they now signal the full attainment of history’s goal. His preparatory sixth time would see the appearance of a new, otherworldly monasticism of great purity. The new monks practicing it, along with all men of good will, would find themselves opposed by all of the strength of all of the worldly minded, but to no avail. All attending discord would end in the seventh time, coming in 1260, when an historical Sabbath of peace and contemplation would arrive under the wing of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. Even though Joachim did not think that this Sabbath would last more than half a year, the radical change in understanding of the quality of the period just before the end led to the condemnation of his ideas at Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, thirteen years after his death. The traditional belief that the arrival of the Antichrist would mean the end of time and the Final Judgment was firmly maintained.

Joachim’s vision would prove to be very influential in defending the cause of a renewed Grand Coalition of the Status Quo, whose embryonic development can be traced back to the eleventh century. This re-born coalition, which would complete its truly effective mobilization until the nineteenth century, included everyone that formed part of its predecessor, along with a number of fresh participants. They were to be linked together, once again, through a “nice” Sophist narrative for the attainment of what were often quite contradictory reasons and goals, unified only in being faithless, irrational, passionate, and “business as usual” motivated as always. Anyone interested in a full discussion of its gestation period, birth, and the first stage of its flourishing should consult the brilliant, multi-volume work by Georges de Lagarde: La Naissance de l’esprit laique au declin du moyen âge, first published in the 1930s. Anyone interested in a discussion of its second stage maturation could do worse than being with Jonathan Israel’s three-volume masterpiece: Radical Enlightenment (2002), Enlightenment Contested (2009), and Democratic Enlightenment (2011). It is not a happy tale to say the very least.

The Shape of the Second “Apocalypse Now”

What we see only in its beginnings in an eleventh century whose guiding forces were committed to accomplishing a totally different uplifting task is that whose consequences we now experience fully in our daily lives today. It is the start of the rise to dominance of a root-and-branch rejection of that entire project of correction and transformation of nature, through the mobilization of all its spiritual, intellectual, and authoritative social tools, for the sake of the salvation and perfection in eternity of individual human persons, united in the Mystical Body of Christ.

We see the fruits of its predictably destructive successes all around us, as already indicated above: the abandonment, along with the Faith that alone can give men confidence in its value, of recourse to human Reason and the nurturing of the solid truths of the natural sciences; the dismantling of all social institutions and their authoritative guides, thereby condemning the individual to nothing other than his fallen, uncontrolled physical passions and intellectual fantasies; the enslavement of the weaker to the tyranny of the strongest individuals; condemnation of the true Christian vision as productive of a dreadful Apocalypse that can nevertheless be transformed into a key to construction of a New Creation of Gnostic spirit; the construction of a global slave plantation, a Mystical Body of Satan, ruled through the Triumph of the most willful enemies of God and mankind, ever more insane and criminal in their passions as they are left to their own downward-looking tendencies; the hiding of the reality of the establishment of Hell on Earth through the victory of an effective Sophist narrative deconstructing and coopting the Catholic call for transforming the world for the greater glory of God.

Unfortunately, the “knack” possessed by the word merchants in aiding the cause of the children of darkness has enabled them to exploit the real sins of the children of the light for the sake of propagandizing their lie. And, sad to say, once again, the often rather clueless Catholic children of light have often swallowed that lie and sought to work with it, fleeing from the task of building the Social Kingship of Christ, depriving themselves in doing so of the tools that they need for uncovering the mistake they are making.

Let us explore the two stages of this horrible development before returning to our initial question: are we now, perhaps, really facing the true Apocalypse, and, if so, what must we do to deal with it.

Stage One (1000s-1600s)

Stage One takes us from the initial signs of the reappearance of the GCSQ to the first serious “incarnation” of the assault on the establishment of the Social Kingship of Christ through Protestantism. Although the complete attack on Creation as the product of a good God was indeed once again openly being taught at the beginning of this period due to a revived Manichean presence in Southern France and Northern Italy, Protestantism was not going to join in that gnostic assault directly. Its work was going to be accomplished indirectly, by emphasizing the impossibility of the correction and transformation of all things in Christ due to the fault of human beings alone, as a consequence of the total depravity befalling them as a consequence of Original Sin. As a result of the Protestant Revolt, the Catholic Church’s right and ability to carry out the mission that she was entrusted was brought into permanent question, and other sources for determining “God’s Will” – sources that would prove to be both irrational as well as supportive of a “business as usual” mentality that aimed anywhere but “upward” – were to be given a substantive chance to ply their wares.

For there were indeed any number of GCSQ participants working to assure the victory of precisely that anti-incarnational mentality that were to appear on the scene from the 1000s onwards; forces that would falsely claim to represent the true Christian spirit, and which, through Protestantism, would then be able to root themselves in a lasting fashion in the soil of Christendom. And whatever the remnants of their respect for the Christian God and His laws might have been, the logic of the vision they were espousing actually condemned them to the role of performing a mere “holding action ”, as they condemned all of nature to fall more and more into the hands of those concerned merely with the exercise of raw will and raw power.

Who was it that joined in the GCSQ, embracing its “do not interfere with business as usual” program? Various paladins of the power of the secular State – all stimulated by the rediscovery not just of the letter of Roman Law, but its pagan spirit, with its demand for uncontested guidance of all social institutions and the population under their control – were among them, and eager to challenge the authority claimed by a supernatural Church in this regard. So were the members of the increasingly influential class of “moneymen” – the “bourgeoisie.” They exercised their potentially spiritually disruptive muscle in two ways: first of all, through economic guilds and the territorial communes under their control in an ever-expanding European urban culture, and, secondly, due to the fact that every institution – the Church included – needed the financial wares they plied to carry out their proper functions.

Who was it that worked to convince men to cut off the use of tools that would allow one to see the problem for the full Catholic message that the growing strength of a renewed “business as usual” mentality would entail? Servants of the State such as lawyers, who had always been prime players in the rhetoric-obsessed, Sophist enterprise were active here anew, as were the disciples of the Renaissance Humanist project, whose language and literature focus reintroduced them to the tools manipulated by the original “word merchants”, the accountants responsible for making the “message” taught by the money at their disposal clear to their bourgeois masters, and, perhaps ironically, supporters of certain currents of mystical thought as well.

All of these groups vented their wrath against the impact one particular “corrective and transformative” tool that was crucially important to the High Middle Ages: Aristotelian logic and its application to theological speculation, through Scholasticism to the formation of dogmatic teaching. The utilization of logical, rational argumentation and the conclusions that it came to regarding virtue and moral behavior seemed to all of them to be a danger: a danger to the full use of State power and to teaching authority of the beauty of the written and spoken word so crucial to the Classical Tradition; a danger to the union with God that could only be attained through the cultivation of a supra-rational love; a danger to the bourgeois  “bottom line”.

Such forces were able to mobilize another very powerful tool: disillusionment with the mistakes and often admittedly sinful actions of those working with and within the whole, immensely difficult “corrective and transformative” system, seeking to build the Social Kingship of Christ. Men like St. Bernard (1090-1153), in his exhortation to Pope Eugene III (1145-1153), along with John of Salisbury (1110s-1190), Bishop of Chartres and patron of its great and primarily literary minded local school, warned of what seemed to them to be obvious ways in which such disillusionment would emerge. One would be through frustration with the exaggeration of Rome’s authority through the shortsightedness of a thickheaded papal bureaucracy, its own courtship of the money-driven bourgeoisie to satisfy its financial needs, and its own legal advisors, tempted to Sophist word merchandizing to defend its conduct. Another would be the arrogance of those among the logic-driven philosophers at the University of Paris who could not grasp the fact that the classical love of language and literature, so much appreciated at Chartres, did indeed also have their immense value to the Christian project. Man did not live by Aristotelian logic alone.

Perhaps more than anything else, exaggerated papal politicization of the crusading ideal fused many stimuli to disillusionment together. That politicization was due, first of all, to Rome’s desire to block the growth of the authority of potentially intrusive Holy Roman Emperors and their allies in Italy and in Germany, a project ultimately focusing around the internationally charged question of the physical control of Sicily. The papacy backed up its calls for anti-imperial “crusades” with increasing employment of the spiritual tools of excommunications and interdicts, whose danger did not go unnoticed by rulers, bureaucrats, lawyers, and their creditors in other kingdoms and Communes around Europe. Faculty at the papal think tanks, the very universities themselves – members of the militant mendicant orders serving as shock troops for Rome chief among them – were drawn into what was to become an ever more strife-ridden conflict.

As this politicization developed, failure after failure plagued the Crusading Movement on its front lines in the Holy Land. Acre, the last Latin foothold in the region, fell to the Moslems in 1291. By that time, all the critics of papal politics demanded some kind of change in Rome’s behavior. And although the Kingdom of France was the first to lock horns with the popes politically after that fateful date – her violent humbling of papal claims bringing the actual move of the pontiffs to a distant home in Avignon in its train – this actually took second place to the spiritual and intellectual assault on Roman authority. An assault of this kind came about as a result of the conjunction of Joachim of Fiore’s apocalyptic arguments with an internal struggle of the Franciscans for interpretation of the spirit of their Founder’s Rule.

Francis himself was involved in the beginnings of that melee, fearful, as he was, that some of those who had joined his ranks wondered whether his embrace of an absolute poverty was really feasible after all. Some friars sharing his concerns distrusted the ambitions of personal power seekers within the Order, while others, truly sympathetic with the original goal, simply asked whether or not a broad, international, Franciscan expansion could prudentially be combined with an ideal that might have worked well for a small number of the founder’s original followers.

For many friars, Franciscan participation in the intellectual life of universities became a symbol of the problem, with some of their number seeing this work as a corruption, given that the “little friars”, humble of heart, were now taking part in the intellectual squabbles of the arrogant learned. Others appreciated university activity as a logical development of the order’s general labor on behalf of the Papacy. And among the friars who did appreciate it were those who used their university positions and pulpits to develop their arguments regarding the internal Franciscan struggle over the question of their possession of property.

This lay at the heart of the shaping of the legal structure for the Order, which involved confrontations between Francis’ Primitive Rule, the statements made by the Founder regarding his brethren and their future in his final Testament, the Rule that was initially prepared but not officially approved by the Papacy, and the one that was: the Regula Bullata. Dissensions concerning the creation and interpretation of the Regula Bullata would see the ultimate split between those insistent on maintaining the most rigorous approach towards the matter – the so-called Spiritual Franciscans, whose centers of strength were in Tuscany, the Italian Marches, Naples, and Southern France – and friars willing to permit some form of ownership of goods through the houses of the Order: the Conventuals.

Internal conflicts were intensified by the adoption and development of the ideas of Joachim of Fiore by the Spiritual Franciscan Gerard of Borgo San Donino (d. 1276). Gerard, working in Paris and supported by the then Franciscan General, Blessed John of Parma (1247-1257), embraced Joachim’s arguments, emphasizing the beginning of the Calabrian’s seventh era in 1260 in his Introduction to the Eternal Gospel (1254). The Introduction stressed the opposition that the new kind of reform bearing monasticism predicted by Joachim and represented by the Franciscans was already and would continue to receive from a corrupt clergy standing in the way of the victory of the Holy Spirit. The ensuing uproar led to the forced retirement of John of Parma and the life imprisonment, in chains, of Gerard from 1255 onwards. Nevertheless, the author’s influence, along with his apocalyptic ideas in general, continued to grow in Spiritual circles, aided by repeated Conventual efforts to take advantage of the crisis to attack their enemies.

Roller coaster developments characterized the years between 1255 and the final explosion of the problem in the 1320s. Some kind of compromise at first seemed as though it might be possible. Illustrating the universal importance of the Franciscans, Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280) addressed the Apostolic Constitution Exiit qui seminat (August 14, 1279) to the Church at large. In this, he gave an explanation of the way in which the members of the order might use property, claiming that its actual ownership lay with the Holy See, and doing so in a spirit that appeared to satisfy the Spirituals’ conception of Franciscan poverty. Nevertheless, quarrels of the two contesting groups of Franciscans, along with Conventual persecutions of the Spirituals, did not cease.

Still, peace was only once again seriously disturbed in the context of the disillusionment with the politicization of the Papacy and the failures of the Crusading Movement noted above. Surely, the Spirituals and their sympathizers began to argue, the key to Christian perfection was not this burdensome construction of the Social Kingship of Christ, with all of its intellectual, political, and economic ramifications, but simply the Franciscan embrace of a life of poverty!

The elevation to the See of Peter of the ascetic hermit, Pietro da Morone as Celestine V (1294) in the wake of the interregnum following the fall of Acre (1291), was greeted by Spirituals as the sign of the providential arrival of an “Angelic Pope” favorable to the cause of poverty as the key to building a truly Christian Christendom. The new pontiff gave Pietro di Macerata (latter 1200s to early 1300s), Angelo da Clareno (c. 1247-1337), and other Spirituals troubled by Conventual harassment permission to create their own rigorous community under the name of the Poor Hermits of Pope Celestine. His abdication, brought about primarily due to curial fears of Celestine’s naiveté regarding just how much he was being manipulated by outside political forces, and the consequent election of the unsympathetic Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303), shocked and checked these Spirituals’ hopes for a monasticism leading to a total purification of Church and society.

Momentous ups and downs of this nature stirred up Spiritual Franciscan apocalyptic speculations still further, their mouthpiece being one of their leaders from Southern France, a philosopher active also in university life, Peter John Olivi (1248-1298). Joachim had argued that the era coming with the reign of the Holy Spirit, although longer than the “moment” of pre-apocalyptic “rest” spoken of by St. Jerome, would only last for around six months. Peter John Olivi (1248-1298), after announcing in his Commentary on the Apocalypse (1297) that the Antichrist was at the door, and that the “sixth time” in which he would rage would not be lengthy, insisted that the Sabbath coming with the victory of the Holy Spirit at the start of the fourteenth century would last almost seven hundred years. The Arbor Vitae Crucifixae Christi (1305) of Ubertino da Casale (1259-1329), another Spiritual luminary, reiterated the same theme.

It was just over a decade later that Jacques Duèz became Pope John XXII (1316-1334). He reigned from Avignon, but at a time when the confrontations between the Papacy and France – which had exploded in the battle of Boniface VIII with Philip the Fair – had largely dissipated, due mostly to the internal weaknesses of the French Kings. At that point, the Empire had once more taken first place in the concerns of the Papacy. A renewed threat was first seen in the ambitions of Henry VII (1303-1313), but most importantly after the contested election of Louis IV as King of Germany (1314-1347), whose claim to the imperial crown the pope rejected.

John XXII took no prisoners in battling any of his opponents. He began an attack on the Spirituals in 1317, condemning the works of Olivi and Ubertino, as well as the activities of particularly committed friars scattered throughout Italy that he referred to as the Fraticelli, who were espousing their views. John had four of their number burned at the stake. Worse still, and this from the standpoint of the Franciscans in general, he suspended Exiit qui seminat in 1322-1323, declaring that it was the Order itself and not the Holy See that owned its property. Going still further, John taught that it was heretical to argue that Christ and the Apostles owned nothing. Finally, he insisted that poverty was not the highest of virtues; that that dignity belonged to charity alone. From the Franciscan standpoint, the active, militant Papacy had declared war on the true fuel of the Christian vision: renunciation of property; property, however, that the supporters of the construction of the Social Kingship of Christ believed was actually necessary to possess in order to accomplish this practical work in a world of flesh and blood.

Papal assault on pillars of much of the Franciscan position in general helped to bring about a linkage of a variety of spiritual, intellectual, and other opponents of John’s policies with the political opposition of Louis IV. Spirituals began fleeing to the German King’s protection in 1322. Disdaining John’s refusal to confirm his imperial pursuits, Louis invaded Italy in 1327 and named an antipope who would award him his coveted crown in the following year.

His choice, Nicholas V (1328-1330), was, as one might have expected, a Franciscan. The pope’s suspicions regarding the entire Order reached a fever pitch, and he imprisoned the Franciscan General, Michael Cesena (1316-1328), whose sympathy for the renegade Emperor and pontiff he now took for granted. Michael escaped from his cell to join Louis in 1328. He did not travel alone. Another Franciscan, the English Nominalist philosopher William of Ockham (1287-1347), accompanied him. And the reason why this is so significant is that it allows us to explore in more detail the way in which the sense of apocalyptic change became so closely connected with that assault on human Reason that was destined to grow and poison our world today.

William of Ockham brought to the already brewing anti-rational potpourri discussed above the disastrous fruits of the internal intellectual battle ravaging university life in the thirteenth century. Waged with respect to the question of how to respond to the gradual introduction through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of the entire corpus of Aristotelian thought into the West, this struggle led some thinkers overawed by the Greek’s achievement to an uncritical acceptance – at least on the philosophical level – of his complete, flawed, worldview, thereby destroying any claim to maintaining a union of Faith and Reason. Unfortunately, bitter disputes divided the Realists – those who thought that Faith and Aristotle’s correct use of Reason must find a way to work together, but could not agree exactly how to accomplish this task. So disruptive did all these quarrels become after the middle of the century that Bishop Étienne Tempier of Paris

(d. 1279) felt compelled on March 7, 1277 to condemn two hundred nineteen different propositions troubling the peace of the university.

Realist philosophy, that which, whatever its internal squabbles, was absolutely convinced that the human mind, however much in need of the superior aid of the Faith, could reach conclusions that had a solid connection with the Truth, suffered the most in consequence. It was the Nominalist philosophical school that now ran with the ball, its equally badly divided adepts nevertheless all agreeing that human rational endeavor could only give “names” to abstract ideas such as “justice”; names that perhaps indicated a temporary, all too human, “conventional” agreement on what to consider to be good or evil, but never touching on the “reality” of the subject that was being tackled as such. Men could only know and respond to individual bits of “data”, the attempt to go further with their knowledge being an arrogant insult to the power of God, who held the monopoly on their guidance to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.

This left the Faith alone as the sole pillar for the knowledge of everything of importance to mankind. Moreover, it left Faith dependent upon nothing other than the inscrutable will of God, hermetically sealed off from any and all presumptuous human rational assault. Troubled by these views, which William of Ockham espoused, the authorities in his homeland sent him to Avignon for judgment by the papal court. It was while awaiting trial over these issues that the opportunity of flight with the General of his Order offered itself to him.

Nominalists’ method of argumentation brings us back into the world of the ancient Sophists. They regularly resorted to the kind of mockery of their Realist opponents that had been standard operating procedure for the anti-Socratic “word merchants”, who also disdained the use of philosophy for reaching Truths critical of human behavior. “Word merchandizing” for the Sophists always involved finding simple slogans to drive home their defense of the cause of uncorrected, untransformed, secular “business as usual”. It had led Isocrates (436-338 B.C.), one of its most important proponents, on a hunt for a “grand idea” to emphasize obedience to the special “mission” of spreading Hellenism that he invented to justify the growing power of the Kings of Macedonia. It now led a man named Marsilius of Padua (1270-1342) on the same type of hunt, discussed in his most famous book on behalf of the claims the imperial crown of Louis IV, the Defender of the Peace (1324).

Despite his close connection with the battles over Aristotle at the university, Marsilius has always remained something of a mystery man. It seems most likely that he came from out of heretical, anti-hierarchical, sectarian circles. In any case, even though he does not openly draw logically atheistic or pantheistic conclusions from his own exaggerated love of Aristotle, it is clear that he believed that the comprehensive character of the Greek philosopher’s system demonstrated the possibility of dealing with nature completely on its own terms. His key to doing so was to be through the re-establishment of a Roman imperial order in which final judgment on all matters lay with the Emperor as the uncontested “Defender of the Peace.”        The author of the Defender of the Peace also physically joined the imperial “team”, working very closely together with William of Ockham in the sharpening of their common sophistic skills on Louis’ behalf. However, what is most interesting in Marsilius’ book, arguably the most subversive work of the latter Middle Ages, is the way in which he puts together so many of the contemporary apocalyptic, Gnostic, Spiritual Franciscan, mystic, Nominalist, legalist, and naturalist themes in general through his own fanciful narrative, pointing the way, in doing so, to some of the vicious internal struggles that would also plague the vision of modernity as a whole – making it anything other than a serious “defender of the peace”.

Marsilius’ world is one of chaotic collapse, disrupted by an evil Papacy pursuing the policy of interference with “business as usual” that we have identified as one of laboring to establish the Social Kingship of Christ. Just as Nominalist in spirit as Ockham, Marsilius treats this project as an “abstract idea”; as nothing other than meaningless, but nevertheless highly dangerous “hot air”, demonstrably ripping the social fabric of the Peaceable Kingdom that he envisions to shreds.

The only way out of this immoral mess is through pious Faith in the “obvious Will of God”, the proper transmission of which had been hopelessly obscured by the disruptive set of tools utilized by a Papacy gone mad. William of Ockham had insisted that the Faith might end up being so obscured by such evil disruption that its true character might only be understood and explained through the medium of one, sincere, believing soul alone. For Marsilius, history had amply shown that that one, sincere, obvious guarantor of true Christian religious guidance and classical social harmony was to be found in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Christian Roman Emperor.

In one sense accurately identifying the hodge-podge of sophistic arguments that already underlay the justification of the original Roman Empire, Marsilius explained that the Will of God that the Emperor indubitably transmits is also that of the Roman People. Alas, the contemporary Roman People had also had their outlook hopelessly confused due to the absurd machinations of a worldly-minded Papacy. The People’s Will needed to be purified by a teaching that could properly “prepare” their voice to offer up the judgment underlying that of the Defender of the Peace expressing God’s Will. That teaching would be provided by the narrative produced by Marsilius – the Sophist “word merchant” with the “knack” for successfully foisting it upon the mob. Anyone who might attack the obvious circular reasoning in play here could, in the final analysis, be silenced by proving that Louis and his supporters were obviously on God’s side because all those desiring a truly “Spiritual Church,” “poor in actual fact as well as in spirit,” were backing the Defender of the Peace in his battle with the wicked papal court.

A “curve ball” was tossed into Marsilius’ world by other events that nevertheless enhanced the fourteenth and budding fifteenth century’s sense of apocalyptic change. The doubling and then tripling of papal courts brought about through the Great Western Schism (1378-1417) compounded the spiritual disillusionment with the worldly Roman Church. Physical horrors of varied sorts accompanied the spiritual confusion. Most important in this regard was the mass morality brought about by the recurring visits of the Black Death from 1347 onwards; civil strife inside the Empire, France, and England, the latter two engaged in the great conflict we call the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453); and, finally, the eruption of the Ottoman Turks into Europe in 1354, leading to the destruction of the Eastern Roman just under a century later.

What was to emerge out of these disasters, as well as the responses to them, was two-fold in character. One consequence was the addition of further participants in the game of fighting against the correction and transformation of all things in Christ, and, in consequence, an increased number of those playing the game of interpreting the Will of God in daily life. The second was the further development of the idea of “apocalyptic” change being positive in its impact, ushering in a new “order of the ages” even more productive of the triumph of the irrational will than what had been augured earlier in this downward spiral into the depths of darkness. Amidst all these changes, the one unaltered factor was the need for everyone playing “power games” to attract the aid of the “financiers” required to fund their projects: the aid of the bourgeois moneymen.

Despite yeoman efforts on their part, the Holy Roman Emperors, both Louis as well as his successors, proved to be incapable of “making good” Marsilius’ claims for their cause. Instead, it was to be the dynasties of the so-called “new monarchies” of Spain, France, and England, along with the sophisticated rulers of Italian Republics, who were to do so. In the long run, the contribution of the advisors of these small peninsular States to a body of theory exalting the will of the “sovereign ruler” was to be as significant as the much more well-known French writings on that same subject. Still, Marsilius’ contribution was never to be forgotten. Thomas Cromwell reprinted the Defender of the Peace, adopting its message for a national as opposed to an imperial cause, as a powerful justification for Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Church.

Mention of Henry obviously brings us back to the Protestant Reformation, which finally “incarnated” in the daily life of Western Christendom the assault on the Roman Church’s right and ability to seek to establish the Social Kingship of Christ, with all of its earthly consequences for political and social institutions. Once again, it did so not by directly condemning God’s Creation in pure gnostic fashion, but by ensuring all the conditions for gradually doing so in the future through its doctrine of the total depravity of man and nature after Original Sin.

Logically speaking, what this doctrine required was the elimination of every tool of the created universe, social as well as individual, from the armory of the believer seeking to correct and transform himself in Christ. Practically speaking, what it immediately entailed was a variety of attempts to limit the damage that must be done – and was already being attempted by many Radical Protestants – based upon the vision of those who claimed personally to know the will of God.

“Moderates,” none of whom wanted the more logical and more radical consequences of the condemnation of all things earthly entailed by the doctrine of total depravity actually to take effect, adopted various expedients to achieve this goal. Luther, prime among them, handed over the final judgment regarding God’s will to the German princes supporting him – always with the Marsilius-like hope that his prophetic voice would guide the judgments of his secular masters. Their conservative “holding actions”, founded upon nothing other than the forcible imposition of sheer will power, worked only until such time – which was not long in coming – as an atomistic individualism dividing up the interpretation of the will of God among as many vocal persons as might gain sufficient power to claim to know it.

At this point, we must return to the popularization of the idea of a rather lengthy “Age of the Holy Spirit” encouraging a more positive attitude regarding what apocalyptic change might actually entail. Doing so introduces us to another player in the “power game” whose voice was destined to be central to the question of which will would triumph in a natural world deprived of proper Christian Faith and the human Reason that it alone could effectively justify and sustain. That “player” is practical science and technology; but a practical science and technology stimulated by a magical spirit and a gnostic desire irrationally to transform the existing flawed world into a totally different one, in whose potential glories a new kind of irrational Faith would be demanded.

Practical scientific interests are not usually emphasized when discussing the medieval achievement, even though, to take but one example, a number of monastic orders were very much responsible for cultivating them. One important scientific thinker, the English Franciscan Roger Bacon (1214-1292), was very positive regarding the benefits that would accrue to man through an exploitation of scientific knowledge. And autonomous development of that kind of knowledge, unburdened by any attempt to reconcile the wisdom that it claimed to be gaining with Christian teachings as such, was another likely consequence of the brake put on the work of harmonization of Faith and Reason by the Great Condemnation of 1277.

Ironically, Renaissance Humanism, despite its loud assault on the deadening effects of a dry, logic-obsessed, scholastic method upon culture in general, was also to contribute mightily to this “liberation” of practical science and technology from all Faith and Reason filled concerns. Humanists’ love of literature made the supporters of the Renaissance recognize Plato’s great rhetorical talents, turning a number of them into admirers of his non-Aristotelian philosophy. However, what many of them learned from Plato – or rather his followers – was an argument for cutting off corrective and transformative authority in another specially anti-Christian way: through the influence of magic.

For Renaissance “Platonism” generally meant its later Neoplatonist development, and this very much included an appreciation not just for rational keys to grasping nature’s message, but esoteric ones as well: magical, astrological, alchemical tools seeking to obtain from the world powers to do things that its apparent structure did not seem capable of granting. Although vigorously rejected by Christian thinkers, temptations to resort to these kinds of tools had always remained alive, and elaborate studies of their value and use were available underground, especially in the heretical Jewish writings of the Cabbala.

As men of letters, Humanists were skilled in rhetoric. Their “word merchandizing” abilities quickly made them indispensable as spokesmen in all realms, both ecclesiastical as well as secular, with their first political center of power being in that Republic of Florence that was also an engine of general cultural change. Humanist “word merchants” quickly developed a “good story” on behalf of a magical-alchemical-astrological exploitation of the hidden secrets of nature. They claimed that the development of their literary knowledge demanded a deeper study of Hebrew, which they could best achieve by delving into the Cabbala. Obviously, they insisted, they would do so only for the best of Christian motives, the uncovering of nature’s secrets being nothing other than a “white” as opposed to a “black” magic allowing man to place yet more tools of the universe at his disposal, which clearly fit in with the work of Christ’s redemption of Creation as a whole. In thereby becoming a “microcosm,” the Christian dignity of man would be immensely enhanced, and his ability to do charitable good for all around him multiplied enormously.

From the fifteenth through the beginning of the seventeenth centuries, this baptism of “white magic” gave a veneer of respectability to the magician, the alchemist, and the astrologer, with all the courts of Western Christendom employing their services. Excitement over might be accomplished through the cultivation of the occult powers of God’s created nature was stimulated by the discovery of an “occult” New World. A new genre of literature – that of the utopia – also began to discuss “what might be” with reference to places and times “out of place and time.”

Alas, what “might be” was also very much something that might be manipulated by those men of purely pagan mind set whom Humanists obsessed with the pre-Christian world were coming to admire; power and passion driven men that the “Christian” rulers served by these Sophist defenders of the esoteric magical arts might themselves wish to emulate; “Christian” rulers whose “will” might be foisted on their populations as the “Will of God” – and accepted as such until their “holding action” keeping the expansion of the appeal to personal will power under controllable limits would break down entirely.

Stage Two (1600s through the 1900s)

We are now in the second and final stage of the renewed apocalyptic development. Before moving our story forward, let us remember that the same pressures upon Western Christendom that led to the Protestant Reformation continued to exercise an unfortunate influence over the Roman Church as well. One of these – philosophical Nominalism – was so powerful that its emphasis upon the supremacy of the “will” over the combination of Faith and Reason promoted by philosophical Realists led many Sophist inspired canon lawyers to reduce the Magisterium to a mere expression of the “Will of God” as known through the pure “Will of the Pope.”

Thankfully, a strengthening of the Realist camp, combined together with the work of the Council of Trent, somewhat tamed this deadly tendency – while in no way entirely ending its influence. More importantly, however, the revival of the Roman Church, which had already begun before the Protestant Revolt, led to that magnificent “Baroque” renewal of the goals of correction and transformation of all things in Christ that now, due to the voyages of discovery, was able to have a worldwide impact affecting every sphere of life. Nonetheless, great damage had been done to the overall cause of the construction of the Social Kingship of Christ, with the Church now more dependent than ever before on the support of friendly State authorities for help in maintaining commitment to Rome for survival and further growth.

Religious Wars, compounded by the constantly increasing divisions among the Protestant confessions gave a further stimulus to the forces of the GCSQ and their “business as usual” mentality by discrediting belief in the possibility of any Christian denomination serving as the voice of any supernatural message – correcting and transformative or not. The result was that attempt to deal with existence on the basis of natural knowledge alone that lies at the foundation of the so-called Enlightenment.

This movement was given its original stimulus through the work of René Descartes (1596-1650) – who claimed still to be concerned with the ultimate union of natural and supernatural knowledge – and his effort to begin restoring that unity through a mathematically agreed upon starting point. This starting point required a division of non-physical and physical knowledge, with physical nature being examined as a pure “machine”. Descartes’ “mechanism” very soon led to what historians call the Radical Enlightenment, whose most famous supporters began with Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) and continued with many of those gravitating around the publication of the French Encyclopedia, which began to appear in 1751 under the editorial control of Denis Diderot (1713-1784).

Radical “mechanists” were outright atheists who believed that total war had to be waged on the influence of supernatural religion so that the machine of nature, which, unlike Descartes, they thought to exhaust the entire realm of existence, could evolve according to its own inner drives. Allowing those natural, mechanical drives to thrive also required a social order that was democratic in character, since all passions of all natural individuals had to be released for the sake of the needs of the machine and the attainment of its overall harmony.

But precisely given its total battle against all existing societies, Protestant and Catholic, and none of them democratic in structure, the Radical Enlightenment stood no chance of winning its cause directly in the Europe of its time. It needed the assistance of a movement that looked more religion and tradition friendly; something that could prepare the way for its victory through what amounted to yet another “holding action” until such time as the West could digest and accept what radicalism had to offer. That “holding action” came from the so-called “Moderate Enlightenment,” associated most closely at its origins with developments in the Protestant world, especially those in Britain.

Three factors played a role in its development, the first of which was Pietism, a movement emerging from out of the Netherlands, Germany, and England, all of them troubled by Protestant confessional divisions. Pietism’s goal was to avoid dogmatic battles that were thought to aid only the (admittedly contrary) causes of anti-Protestant Catholics and anti-Christian atheists. Such battles were deemed destructive of what truly counted in the Christian message anyway – its morality and its emphasis on charity – regarding which there had never been and never could be any disagreement.

A second influence was that of the “universal knowledge movement,” which, combined together with Pietist sympathies, led to the creation of the “physico-theological” school of thought, about which more below.

Finally, the Moderate Enlightenment was also shaped by the concerns of those English property owners forming the central core of the Whig Movement creating the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and passing down its political achievement – Liberalism – into the foundation vision of the new United States. The most important names connected with all of the above developments are Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Robert Boyle (1627-1691), John Locke (1632-1704), Isaac Newton (1642-1727), and Samuel Clarke  (1675-1729). One must add to these two figures  – Voltaire (1694-1778) and James Madison (1751-1836), the basic author of the American Constitution – crucial to their spread on the Continent and the new United States.

Anglo-American Moderate Enlightenment thought, along with its liberal political modus operandi, has proven to be the most effective means of aiding the cause of the GCSQ in its destruction of the work of constructing the Social Kingship of Christ, employing all of the Sophist tools and unleashing all of the Gnostic potential in its armory. Even though many of these “moderates” believed that they were actually supporters of Faith and Tradition in general, the logic of their ideas – which, as usual, they refused to take seriously – along with the practical impact of their actions, inevitably aimed the world down the direction that the Radical Enlightenment was headed – but not with the exact results that the latter also foolishly thought it would attain. Let us present the moderate “narrative” so as to bring our long account of this second, two-stage run of “Apocalypse Now” to a final conclusion.

Atheism – the Anglo-American Enlightenment argues – can never explain and guide nature, while uncontrolled democratic government is dangerous to individual human liberty and the common good as well. Dogmatic guidance of public life, both that which is confessional as well as that of the ideological mechanists like Spinoza, has proven to be not only disruptive of life and limb, but also counter-productive, incapable of achieving the moral, charitable good that the unchanging Christian message and those eager to plumb the machine of nature for the technological application of its secrets are really most concerned to accomplish. That charitable blessing can be achieved under two conditions: a good-willed acceptance of religious liberty on the part of all confessions eager for true Christianity to triumph, and a prudential balancing of the influences of those historical institutions that have demonstrably been shown to work for securing common sense and social order to protect the means of life and liberty of every individual.

Peace would allow the men of science to explore the machine of nature practically – not fruitlessly ideologically – by means of Francis Bacon’s scientific method. Use of that method would uncover the harmonious laws of nature whose work together as a unit would reveal the reality of a Creator God, a providential architect of the universe. Hence, without a divisive reference to religious dogmas or to Scripture, one would have a proof of their teaching from the smooth functioning of the physical laws of the universe as a whole: once again, from a physico-theology.

Moreover, cooperative labor in Bacon’s spirit, as reflected in the work of the Royal Society for the Advancement of the Practical Sciences, founded in 1660, would demonstrate that that providential Creator God’s central moral teaching – the need for charity – was best promoted by application of this experimental scientific method. The agricultural benefits for mankind already achieved in the eighteenth century were just a foretaste the other blessings to come, underlining the tragic contrast of the waste of time represented by dogmatic battles over the meaning of the Eucharist, liturgical and devotional squabbles over Chinese rites, and the blathering of atheist ideologues incapable of producing a single, helpful technological device as a result of their commitment to the evolving machine of a supposedly godless nature.

But for those with eyes to see, the Peaceable Kingdom of the Moderate Enlightenment offers nothing other than another “Iago-like” fraud that “is not what it is”, and this both with respect to its religious piety and its provision of a “truly Christian” social order beneficial to the common good and the dignity of the individual Quicksand lies beneath its veneer of solid, moral, and tradition-friendly soil.

“Porous” is the only word that can characterize the physico-theological position. Yes, it is true that one might be able to deduce an “architect” of the universe from the discovery of the “harmonious laws of nature” – but not the Christian Trinitarian God; not the personal God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) already saw this in his critique of Descartes, and an Enlightenment writer like Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) said that listening to the lectures of the physico-theologians were what made him a non-Christian Deist. Indeed, Newton’s supplementary argument – that God had shown His providential presence amidst the bulk of universal mechanical laws through the continued existence of inexplicable mysteries, of which “gravity” was a major example – could easily be ridiculed. All one had to do was to reference Spinoza’s insistence that “inexplicabilities” would all eventually be explicated through further scientific investigation, with the harmony of all the laws eventually attributed to nothing other than the internal genius of the godless machine anyway.

Physico-theology’s Pietist pillar is equally shaky as a prop for an unchanging morality. Its assertion that the Christian moral vision was so rooted and obvious that it did not need to remain tied to its dogmatic foundation had swiftly led some of its followers to equate that vision with a purely natural “common sense.” Both its “Christian” and its “common sense” defenders buttressed their claim by saying that their “successes” in achieving the “common good” by applying their non-dogmatic morality demonstrated God’s definitive blessing on their approach.

But how does one define “success” and “common good”? Pietist Prussia defined them in terms of military victories for the growth of this otherwise rather poor and insignificant State. Many British Pietists began to define them in terms of an ever-increasing private and national wealth obtained in many often quite morally suspicious ways. One really needed to test the morality of all such “successes” with reference to Christian teaching in order to see if they were really justified.

Nevertheless, such “testing” is precisely what is prohibited by Pietism and the entire Whig Liberal system, since engaging in it would once again plunge men into the dogmatic battling that had been condemned as detrimental to the peaceful practice of “true Christianity.” Blanford Parker, in his study of the uses of rhetoric in The Triumph of Augustan Poetics, says that this prohibition had already hardened by the eighteenth century into a veritable “formula of exclusion”, preventing serious discussion of any and all disputable positions” so as to avoid social “divisiveness” – and thereby allow for “business as usual” to gain “success.”

Even if one wished to indulge in this prohibited activity, the actual goal of liberal religious liberty – as both Voltaire and James Madison made clear – is to allow so many competing confessional groups to exist that its practical effect is to “check and balance” them, giving them no influence over the public sphere whatsoever. “Unchanging Christian morality” then becomes whatever “common sense” thinks “works successfully” for the “common good,” even if this turns out to be the opposite of what Christians thought but yesterday. Who would know the real truth if consultation with the Christian sources were itself labeled as an anti-Christian act?

David Hume (1711-1776), the Scottish historian and philosopher, underscored the basic willfulness of the entire physico-theological, Pietist backed, Whig Liberal system. He noted that scientific experimentation could only give men a history of what seemed to be happening in a world whose ground rules could change tomorrow. Since men had not yet experimented with future developments, the only reason why they could posit “unchangeable laws” guiding what they had known up until that moment was because they were raised in a Christian and Socratic society that looked for and wanted such ironclad rules. In reality, however, there was nothing but custom and the consensus accepting such custom that lay behind them. Still, they seemed “to work” for Englishmen, at least up until now, and Hume, in consequence cultivated a conservative “will” to maintain that acceptance.

But Hume’s conservative center could hold. Let us now “deconstruct” the Iago-like Whig-Lockean-Liberal – and ultimately American Pluralist – narrative standing behind such a traditional-sounding hope in greater detail, following this with a brief examination of its diabolically seductive progress from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, and ending with its tragic embrace by the Roman Catholic Church as a non-dogmatic “pastoral” tool. These sad tasks accomplished, we will finally be able to conclude our journey through the apocalyptic centuries with some comments regarding the work that lies ahead of all us in the future.

Locke Land’s Moderate Enlightenment political and social order, which is responsible for both contemporary Liberalism as well as what Americans call Conservatism, was doomed to destroy itself from the very outset, and this because its founder himself undermines it through his radical, naturalist, philosophical individualism. Locke’s individualism eats away at all social order, all morality, and all ability to define what in the world the True, the Good, and the Beautiful could possibly mean in any practical way in the first place. It then guarantees the long-term triumph of the strongest, most insane, and most criminal wills over all of life – but still in the name of God and the “common good.” And, once again, its “formula of exclusion” prevents investigation of what actually is happening because otherwise the blessings of constructing this hell on earth might then be seriously questioned.

For Locke, there is no “true” social order in the medieval “Realist” sense of the term. Locke is a Nominalist, for whom, in consequence, only specific bits of “data” count. That “data,” when discussing “society” is the atomistic individual. “Society,” for him, is nothing other than a composite of individuals, and therefore can only be guided by their consensus. But what guides the individual with respect to public decisions regarding truth, beauty, and morally charged questions? We have already seen that it cannot be “divisive” religious or philosophical judgments, both of which are prohibited by the “formula of exclusion” from having a public impact. Locke, who seems to have had some kind of unclear contact when living in the Dutch Republic with the Radical Enlightenments, sees individuals as having no way of – to use contemporary language – building and understanding their unique personalities, other than responding to and satisfying the distinct physical sensations that they experience. What then becomes crucial to Locke is one natural “law”; a “law” is more accurately identified as a “right.” Locke’s “natural law” is the “natural right” of each individual to gain the property that he needs to satisfy his physical sensations – his passions – and thereby build his personality.

So far, this does not sound terribly different from Spinoza. One would then expect that in order to avoid the “overreaching” for property that he admits would come about if each individual abandoned himself to his particular passions, Locke would posit the need for a democratic involvement of all individuals in establishing a consensus; a “conventional” set of guidelines, practical and moral, for the harmonious satisfaction of all needs in common, thereby recognizing what some Enlightenment thinkers called the innate human “passion” for social life and peace.

But that is not what he does with his social contract theory. Instead, he turns the practical and moral decision making over to the oligarchy of property owners who backed the Whig Movement – for which he held the important position of secretary – and the Glorious Revolution it inspired. Whether out of wishful thinking or self-interested willfulness, he identifies this propertied, oligarchic force as being given by British History and “common sense” a mission that would obviously benefit everyone. After all, this class of people knew how to defend property effectively. It would do so through the securing of its dominant parliamentary influence in a new, liberal structure of things where religious and ideological demagoguery were formally excluded, and where a State weakened by a division of powers checked and balanced any potential assault on the maintenance and growth of oligarchic property out of the picture.

Every militant supporter of the Radical Enlightenment recognized this for what it was: a fraudulent, willful, power grab, backed solely by force and a sophistic narrative claiming that calling into question a publicly impotent Religious/Philosophical “liberty” and the need for a political void in which the dominant oligarchy would inevitably thrive was an act of madmen that would only aid atheism and social chaos. Similarly, every militant radical also believed that the maintenance of this power grab would continually be threatened by the rage of those suffering from its injustices and from the inevitable development of its own internal illogic.

They were correct – but only partially so. Their correct judgment was owed to the fact that there was no way that the existing oligarchy could survive under its existing presuppositions regarding what was morally acceptable and inacceptable and how the rest of society and its individual members would continue to function. For with nothing but physical passions and the right to respond to them by gaining whatever was needed to satisfy them – thereby perfecting their personalities and individual “dignity” – no barriers remained to the strongest, most uncontrolled wills to do whatever “worked” for them in achieving these goals.

Locke’s individualism logically ate away at the ability of any social authority, the family included, to press its “right” to limit and guide the only “right” that counted. Those who claimed a “right” to do anything to satisfy their passions could only be held back by forceful “conservative” elements in government or society that simply insisted on willfully defending their “common sense” desires, but those of no one else: thus, in effect, actually confirming the argument of the more “liberal” minded radicals. To take but one example, nothing more serious lies behind the totally illogical effort to stave off the logical development of Lockean individualism in America than an irrational appeal to the absolute need for supporting the “Will of the Founding Fathers.” Why should I?

What this all has meant is that the moral and political vacuum logically fueled by the founding principles of Liberal Locke Land creates the internal conditions for Thomas Hobbes’ (1588-1679) “war of all against all.” Such a war ends with the imposition (rather than consensual foundation) of another kind of social contract guaranteeing the final triumph of the strongest totalitarian will; the one ready to use weapons to achieve its victory that previous forces, starting with the original Whig oligarchy, would never have initially dreamed of employing. Possible victorious wills have included those of atheistic democrats of the Spinoza-Diderot camp; the many followers of two different kinds of Enlightenment thinkers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), all of whom, in varied ways, base their will to power on strong individual internal feelings or subjective psychological states (of sometimes criminally insane character) that are said to give them an infallible right to shape the world around them; and, last but definitely not least, outright criminals who simply want what they want because they want it. Whoever wins in this war of all against all while then – should he still “will” to do so – define the “will” of the Founding Fathers, of the people as a whole, of nature, of God, and, we may as well add, the teachings of an unchanging Christian morality as well.

Another factor has to be considered in this inevitable devolution of life in Liberal Locke Land: its esoteric flavor.

Even though the magicians, alchemists, and astrologers are definitely exiled from discussing the physical world by Descartes’ mechanist philosophy, this is not the case in the “anti-ideological” world of pure scientific experimentation evangelically promoted by Bacon and Company.

Let us remember that it is the principle of “success” that lies behind the entire Baconian project. “Knowledge,” here, is not gained so as to know, love, and serve God, as with the Christians and the Socratics, but to obtain raw “power” over nature and then do with it anything that “works.”

This definition of knowledge is what motivated the magician before the scientific technocrat, and Bacon makes it crystal clear that he fully approves of that spirit, faulting the promoters of the occult arts only for not using the correct methodology to fulfill their goals and dreams. Ironically, that magical spirit, disdainful of the real order of God’s Creation, but given tremendous practical clout through the successful transformation of scientific experimentation into technological “successes” of all kinds, now propels gnostic-minded prophetic elites to seek to rebuild nature according to their own diabolical anti-Christian visions. Bacon himself pointed the way down this path with his speculations on the New Order of the Ages that must emerge out of nature’s indiscriminate exploitation. Alas, yet again, the whole anti-dogmatic, Pietist-Whig-Liberal approach, with its lobotomizing, “pragmatic” formula of exclusion, prohibits all serious discussion of religious and intellectual principles as “divisive.” It prevents those falling under the magical-technocratic-gnostic spell to step back, recognize that this is not the religion and tradition friendly “pragmatic” force that it claims to be, and avoid falling into the infernal abyss into which this esoteric hoo-ha tosses them.

Why did I say that the radicals were only partly correct in their judgment of the staying power of Liberal Locke Land? I did so for two reasons. The first is because the positive hopes that they had for the atheistic democracy that they seek to construct are futile. They are engaged in a war against God and nature that they cannot win, aiding as they do only the criminally insane and outright criminals whom they, with the initial invaluable help of the Moderates, unleash upon the world. The second is because they themselves require the violence of the criminal use of technology to overcome their more moderate enemies, and this criminal violence is also necessarily mobilized and exercised with the aid of the uncontrolled lust for profit of the criminal bourgeoisie: a passion that respects nothing but itself. Heretical ideas, the lust for power, and the rise of money, all of whose nefarious effects are hidden by a Sophist narrative with a “knack” for fooling the average man, continue to work together just as they did at the start of the second assault on the establishment of the Social Kingship of Christ in the 1000s.

Liberal Locke Land’s basically unchanging pastoral methodology has had its greatest effect through its American Pluralist mode of expression. This has promoted the constant Liberal Moderate Enlightenment arguments with an emphasis upon the special, God-given, providential role of “the American Pluralist Way” in providing a path out of the post-Second World War horrors for its all too demoralized victims. Yes, it said, radical revolutionary forces were still at work feeding the evils plaguing mankind; forces inimical to religion and social order; forces reflected by the ideological madness of Soviet Marxism-Leninism and a defeated Fascism always waiting in the wings for rebirth.

Happily, clear-headed observation of the many divisions of modern society had made it obvious that there was one, sole, crystal clear, salubrious key to protection of religion, rational discussion, social peace, and the freedom and dignity of the individual that were at the heart of all believing and thinking individuals’ concerns: a key that promised liberty for the plurality of different faiths, worldviews, and persons that were willing to respect one another’s rights to plead their specific causes and actually thrive as never before in history. The same argument leading into the same heretical-power hungry-money grubbing criminal abyss; the same tools for preventing examination of what is happening: all now pressed with the money and muscle of the American Government behind them.

Let us end our discussion by returning briefly to the miseries and splendors of the Catholic Faith, beginning, unfortunately with one of the former in the half century preceding the outbreak of the French Revolution. Sad to say, the Moderate Enlightenment argument of providing the sole means of fighting off radical atheistic democratic demagoguery through the prescriptions of Locke Land had a major effect in the Catholic world. Arguments about the need to back away from dogmatic positions and focus instead on a pastoral theology of purely practical morality were supported by many powerful forces in Rome and throughout all of Europe and Latin America.

Moreover, Catholic States, impressed by the growth in political and economic power of “pragmatic,” Pietist-influenced Prussia and Britain, vigorously pursued secularizing policies as well. A major symbol of their desire for abandonment of the project of correcting and transforming all things in Christ, which seemed to have been reinvigorated after the Council of Trent was their push for the dissolution of the Society of Jesus, so closely connected with that effort, and their dissolution of many monasteries of contemplative life already before 1789.

Reaction to the general cultural assault and revolutionary violence of the period 1789-1815 led to another extremely impressive Catholic revival in the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth centuries. We have no time here to discuss just how much this revival involved perhaps the most thoughtful study of the full meaning of the Incarnation, the Mystical Body of Christ, and what they mean for the correction and transformation of all social institutions and the consequent perfection of the individual in the entire history of Christianity. “Catholic Social Doctrine,” developing from the first preaching of the Gospel and so enthusiastically embraced by a man like Innocent III, now, for the first time, gained an official name and place in Catholic theology, politics, and sociology.

But the external apocalyptic pressures attacking various tools for building the Social Kingship of Christ, as well as those coming from the Radical and Moderate Enlightenment did not cease. Even if direct Radical atheist pressures were generally fought off, naturalist scientific and democratic ones unceasingly made their impact, with the seemingly more “spiritual” appeals to “feeling” and “psychological states” emerging from ideas rooted in Rousseau and Kant making particularly great inroads.

More important than anything, however, particularly due to the fear of the power of Marxism-Leninism and the divisive ideological disputes of modern life in general was the pressure coming from American Pluralism. Alas, among those madmen were the traditional leaders of the Roman As David Wemhoff has shown so thoroughly in his work on this subject, the American government’s creation of a “Doctrinal Warfare Program” – mobilizing every tool from the CIA to the mainstream national media to admirers of Pluralism within the Catholic community such as John Courtenay Murray and Jacques Maritain – worked vigorously to apply the “formula of exclusion” to the still the misguided, dogmatic, Roman Church. As Murray had explained, “aggiornamento meant getting the Church of 1965 up to where the US Constitution was in 1789”, and Dignitatis humanae, interpreted pastorally through “the spirit of Vatican II”, fulfilled this goal nicely.

What their victory meant was that whatever the documents of a “pastoral council,” or the actual text of Dignitatis humanae itself may have said, it was the hidden logic and “spirit” behind them that would be called upon to define them. Opening the Church to American Pluralism opened it to the innate pressure of the individualism of Liberal Locke Land to dissolve social authorities of all kinds and “multiply factions” within them. A pilgrim Church’s learning process then had to be carried to its obvious conclusions, as, bit by bit, the deeper spirituality of the American experience taught her what Christ really expected from her: a structural democratization favorable to baptizing as Catholic the dictates of individual “free consciences” formed by physical sensations; and a condemnation of the use of coercive social authority of any sort – even that of purely internal impact on the faithful and devoid of physical penalties – as offensive to human dignity. And all this with the kind of incessant propaganda that had already long convinced most American Catholics that the United States and the Social Kingship of Christ were one and the same thing.

Liberal Locke Land’s diabolical disorientation worked first of all to break down the authority and morale of the old Roman Curia, turning real – but illegitimate – power to implement the Council’s decrees over to the stronger will of commissions, study groups, and journals dominated by those possessing the approved spirit, their godly labors praised to the skies by the appropriate magisterial media fonts and financial backers. Under these circumstances, any strong-willed individuals or factions with a clear naturalist agenda gained a tremendous advantage in taking control of a Church apparatus left bereft of the action of legitimate authoritative organs.

Hence, the swift rise to ascendancy of the radical, and much more openly dogmatic faction that had also had a major influence in shaping the Council: that represented theologically and philosophically by what Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange called the “New Theology” and also various insistent forms of “Personalism.” These brought to the fore old pastorally-focused Jansenist projects, but also the ultimately Jean-Jacques Rousseau grounded hunt for God’s Will in the voice of vigorous, vital, natural “energies” as well.

Translated into a direct religious influence through the work of the Abbé de Lamennais, that latter concern had always thrived in the underbrush of the Catholic world. It re-emerged into the open from the 1920s onwards, with the demand for Catholic “listening” and “discerning” of the Will of the Holy Spirit in the successful, vitally energetic movements of modern life, as interpreted by the prophetic insight of those reading these “signs of the times.” Very quickly, bishops and episcopal conferences that failed to respond to the energetic “teachings” of their local communities were brought to heel by the prophets in their midst: confirmed, as usual, by media and financial sources that saw the satisfaction of their own naturalist passions in the ensuing transformation of the meaning of the Social Kingship.

The formerly Catholic social movements of Europe and Latin America were now expected to continue their labors only on the basis of perfecting “natural values” that could be shared by believers and non-believers alike: as interpreted by prophetic “listeners” and “discerners.” Distinctly Catholic elements were not to be allowed to interfere with social action in Africa and Asia where they had had little or no influence before, lest they somehow distort a Seed of the Logos in the process of development down the right direction. Popular forces that dared to resist the abandonment of Catholic ideas or contest the shape that social action was taking had to have their consciousness raised in base communities and encounter groups by professional prophets appealing to the “spirit of the Council.” The Social Kingship was left spiritually “barren in the face of a Ramakrishna,” as Maritain, whose more conservative “will” still led him back to the guidance of a hopelessly authoritarian Aquinas left behind by the forward march of the Holy Spirit, had predicted it would be.[1] With the Faith of the Church out of the picture, the State and social forces were also rendered incapable of using their natural Reason properly, and any remaining Seeds of the Logos they still possessed were left high and dry. They could not hear and understand the words of anyone preaching the Social Kingship of Christ, and those words were no longer being taught to any potential preachers anyway.

Apocalypse Now?

Every “i” has now been dotted and every “t” crossed in the story of the development of this second run of “Apocalypse Now,” with the union of heretical ideas, insane, power hungry forces, and a criminally immoral money power visibly apparent in the machinations of the dominant global oligarchy seeking to complete its oppression of all faithful and rational men and women today. George Soros, Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum, and the governments and non-governmental organizations allied with them, the American Government prominent among them, now employ every tool that has ever been employed in this apocalyptic history.

Every gnostic desire to condemn God’s Creation and replace it with something better on the basis of the mad, esoteric knowledge of its guiding elite is being given its chance to wreak havoc through its anti-human ecological religion and its obsession with a trans-humanist and post-humanist existence. The “formula of exclusion” has been mobilized to cut of off any discussion of the evil being done, its Sophist powers enhanced by a practical scientific technology whose diabolical thrust is seen in the mainstream media’s unending propaganda production. What we are seeing is the building up of a Mystical Body of Satan, whose construction project is receiving a “miserable” support and blessing from many of the mainstream leaders of the Roman Catholic Church from Pope Francis downwards as well.

As “fig trees” go, the fruits coming from our current situation seem to indicate the worst. Are we, therefore, seeing “the real thing”? It may well be. Eyes should definitely be kept wide open, and the signs of the times read for what they are indeed saying. “Watch” seems clearly the word most necessary for Catholics to cultivate and spread to others around them.

Still, what actual change in our daily behavior does this entail? It is still the case that our “personal Apocalypse” may come before the general one arrives. I know that all of us are grateful to be living in a time where clarity regarding the reality of the goals of the defenders of a New World Order, along with the failures of a hermeneutic of continuity attempting to defend the Catholic Faith on its bases, are obvious as never before. The last few years have opened the eyes of many non-Catholics and non-Christians as well. We have a duty to them and to ourselves to nurture everyone who has awakened from his dogmatic slumber, and to ally ourselves with all who have done so in preparation for whatever may come next.

I think we will know rather quickly what shape the future will take. When this, our eleven-day Decameron finishes, we will leave our Boccaccio like exile to return to our own individual “Florence.” Nothing in our behavior should change; it should just become more militant. Our Faith and our Reason should be stronger, but our encounter with the mistakes of the past should cause us also to go about our business with the humor that comes from knowing how often the great aspirations of men – the great aspirations even of Catholic men – are marred by error and sin. And if this is not the end? Well, then, our continued labor will aid in building a new era in the history of the Social Kingship of Christ, perhaps even more glorious than those we have inherited from the past.

Viva Cristo Rey!


[1] J. Hellman, Emmanuel Mounier and the New Catholic Left: 1930-1950 (U. of Toronto, 1981), p. 42.

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