The Mythmakers of Modernity
By Phillip D. Collins
Author’s note: The following is excerpted from the forthcoming book, Invoking the Beyond, which I am co-authoring with Paul David Collins.
As all of humanity’s treasured metaphysical propositions (e.g., the soul, the noumenal realm, God, etc.) swiftly vanished behind the barrier that Immanuel Kant arbitrarily erected between noumenon and phenomenon, there was a corresponding tendency among the critics of traditional theistic outlooks to ascribe noumenal characteristics to the phenomenal world. One case in point was, of course, the biologicized pantheism of Darwinism. Ironically, the premises for this latest iteration of pantheism were established by Spinoza, a theoretician of whom Kant was deeply critical. Nevertheless, the Kantian Rift engendered epistemic incertitude concerning noumenon, thereby rendering ostensibly tenable the subsequent incorporation of noumenal qualities into the conceptualization of a self-sufficient immanent order. Essentially, Spinoza suffused the phenomenal world with divinity, which is a categorically noumenal state of being. Another case in point was Georg Hegel, who advanced the notion of a Weltgeist that was directing “an ongoing developmental (evolutionary) process in nature, including humanity” (Taylor 381-82). This process was historically expressed as a “dialectical struggle between positive and negative entities,” which invariably resulted in a “harmonious synthesis” (381-82). Naturally, such a Manichean process would entail a substantial amount of violence and bloodshed. Not surprisingly, Darwinism “gave credence to the Hegelian notion that human culture had ascended from brutal beginnings” (386). To be sure, there are some disparities between a Spinoza and a Hegel, but a common penchant among such thinkers is a propensity to conflate noumenal attributes (e.g., eternality, infinitude, omnipotence, etc.) with objects of phenomenal experience (e.g., nature, the material cosmos, genetics, biology, etc.).
Counterintuitive though it may seem, this ostensibly world-affirming view is underpinned by a tacitly docetistic cosmological attitude. James Kelley notes that just such an attitude tends to be expressed in certain gnoseo-hermetic texts. In contradistinction to the openly docetistic depiction of matter as an “evil cesspool ruled by demons,” the ostensibly optimistic cosmological attitude espoused by some Gnostics seems to “hold the world to be good” (57-58). Yet, Kelley notes that this view is no less docetistic because it portrays matter as a superficial shell for the mere storage of “good” reality (57-58). Of course, such a container would be jettisoned once its more desirable contents are accessed (57-58). Arguably, this is precisely the same view that is taken by those who conflate the noumenal with the phenomenal. The Docetism lurking just beneath this conflation is typically intimated through an overwhelming preoccupation with change. Pervading both Spinozism and Hegelianism, this preoccupation with change arrived at its crescendo with the advent of Darwinism.
Although the adherents of world-divinizing outlooks such as Spinozism, Hegelianism, and Darwinism outwardly venerate materiality, they express an unspoken contempt for matter with their mutable depiction of the physical world. Implicit in this depiction is an overall dissatisfaction with materiality in its present state. Because the noumenal indwells the phenomenal, it must be extracted from its perishable receptacle through various means. In a biological context, this extraction typically entails some form of eugenical regimentation and the extirpation of those races whose “defective” genes are supposedly obstructing man’s numinous transfiguration. In a political context, the extraction of the noumenal reality from its phenomenal receptacle stipulates the political restructuring of the world and the abolition of “obsolete” institutions (e.g., nation-states, representative governance, etc.). Endemic to these destructive crusades is the inherently Gnostic assignment of an ontological status to corruption, which results in the projection of evil outside of the intangible will and its relocation within tangible externalities. Thus, the redivinization of the world that transpired in the wake of the Kantian Rift actually did not dignify the world. Instead, it subjected the world to disfiguration at the hands of perennially dissatisfied revolutionaries. Such disfiguration remains an existential consequence of the attribution of noumenal qualities to the phenomenal world.
Commensurate with this attribution was a shift in the collective tales that concerned themselves with noumenon: mythology. All too often, mythologies are regarded as either failed attempts to comprehensively explain certain occurrences in human history or outright falsehoods. To be sure, there are occasions when these assessments hold sway. However, this is not always the case. Time and again, profound realities, universal themes, ethical ruminations, and weighty concepts have been derived from timeworn tales. Of myths, James A. Herrick states:
No corporate human action is undertaken without reference to some guiding story, either personal or societal. Myths are the carriers of our guiding values, the expression of our moral precepts, and the means by which imagination is shaped. Ideas and values move into the public mind and down the generations by the vehicle of narrative. A myth is a narrative engaging with timeless themes and seeking to define humanity’s place in the larger scheme of things. (Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs 30)
Thus, myths can subtly express truths beyond themselves. For example, Hesiod’s Enuma posits a time during which mankind enjoyed an Edenic state of affairs. This idyllic period precedes a diminution in the human condition, during which man must vacate paradise and become accustomed to the hardships of a world afflicted by disharmony. A similar Fall is attested to by Sacred Scripture in the Genesis account. In the case of the Biblical narrative, the causative factor that precipitates the diminution in the human condition is sin. As Christian apologists like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton have correctly observed, sin is a reality that is empirically verified by 3,500 years of human history. This empirical verification strengthens the contention that the Bible is historical literature and not merely a collection of whimsical tales.
His points of departure from Sacred Scripture notwithstanding, Hesiod’s account of man’s idyllic past echoes several Biblical claims concerning humanity’s antediluvian history. Chief among them is the tragedy of the Fall. While Enuma and Genesis exhibit certain significant disparities, both portray a historical declivity that is tacitly affirmed by humanity’s present dilemma. These parallels underscore the presence of that which St. Justin Martyr called spermatikos logos (“Seed of the Word”). Martyr contended that, given the anthropological universality of the imago Dei, seeds of Christ’s revelation were fragmentarily present in all belief systems (Damick 15-16). To be sure, these seeds were buried beneath layers of embellishment and distortion. Nevertheless, these seeds provide common grounds upon which the Christian may eventually lead a pagan to “the fullness of God’s revelation to mankind,” which is embodied by Orthodoxy (15-16). Thus, Martyr declares in his Second Apology:
“Our doctrine surpasses all human teaching, because we have the Word in his entirety in Christ, who has been manifested for us, body, reason [logos] and soul. All the right principles that philosophers and lawgivers have discovered and expressed they owe to whatever of the Word they have found and contemplated in part. The reason why they have contradicted each other is that they have not known the entire Word, which is Christ.” (Qutd. In Danielou)
In short, not all religions are true, but certain truths can be found in all religions. One such truth is the Fall. Like Genesis, Hesiod’s Enuma offers an account of some diminution in man’s distant past, albeit tainted by a pagan misidentification of the causative factors underlying that decline. The disparities among various texts notwithstanding, ancient literature’s recognition of a Fall stands in stark opposition to the progressivist contention that human history is following an upward trajectory. Such Utopian narratives have thrived in the wake of the Kantian Rift, which consigned God to the mists of epistemic incertitude. In turn, that epistemic incertitude gave rise to atheism, which, ironically, is a form of epistemic certitude. Yet, atheism is not the final phase in the alteration of humanity’s belief systems. Unbelief will return to belief, but not in the same God. As Nietzsche demonstrated in the Parable of the Madman, the death of God renders the pneumapathological yearning for apotheosis tenable. Thus, God may not have existed in the beginning, but He will exist in the end and his name shall be Man. This modern narrative is, in and of itself, a myth. However, it is not a myth in the classical, transcendent sense. It does not elucidate any deeper truths. Instead, it gratifies vanity, which thrives on an inflated assessment of one’s self. Given humanity’s axiomatic finitude, such assessments are inherently false. With a few crucial exceptions, classical myths do not affirm this lie. Enuma, the Myth of Icarus and Daedulus, Pandora’s Box, and other ancient tales present a much more sober valuation of man’s abilities. These classical myths praise the one trait that modern myths tend to either implicitly or explicitly reject: humility.
Of course, humility is just one among many meritorious qualities that have been promoted through myths. Not surprisingly, Richard Cavendish contends that myths elucidate those things that man treasures most: “The things which people regard as important… find a place in their mythology” (qutd. in Herrick, Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs 32). In fact, myths can portend broader existential consequences within their respective societies. Cavendish observes that myths constitute “part of the fabric of human life, expressing beliefs, molding behavior and justifying customs and values” (qutd. in Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs 32). Herein is yet another important function of myths: the instillation of values. Modernity overlooks this function and, in a rather rash exhibition of chronocentricity, relegates mythology to obsolescence. However, this relegation has only reinforced the importance of myths. Cavendish has noted a rekindled fascination with mythology, which he attributes to “the realization that myths are not childish stories or mere pre-scientific explanations of the world, but serious insights into reality” (qutd. in Herrick, Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs 31-32). Evidently, the myths of antiquity are not so easily dismissed.
Frequently, mythology broaches the question of human origins. Conservative commentator C.R. Wiley states that creation narratives “vary a great deal, about as much as civilizations can vary. Still, a thread seems to run through most of them and that thread runs something like this—somewhere in the primordial past, order prevailed over chaos” (“Homesick in the Cosmos”). Interestingly, many of modern man’s efforts have been directed towards the reassertion of that lost order. The 20th century is populated by myriad sociopolitical Utopian movements that seek to reinstate a paradisiacal state of being. As Herrick previously observed, all corporate endeavors, whether personal or societal, appropriate some “guiding story” as a referent. Few corporate endeavors have exceeded the ambition of global political and economic unification, an objective that represents the capstone of nearly all sociopolitical Utopian movements. Given the centrality of a “guiding story” to all joint human enterprises, it is reasonable to surmise that the ongoing Utopian crusade to establish a global government is equally reliant upon mythology. Myths, particularly creation narratives, could help define the contours of the emergent world order. Wiley states that social orders paradigmatically issue forth from a civilization’s respective creatology:
Social scientists, especially the species known as cultural anthropologists, inform us that creation stories do more than merely satisfy curiosity, they serve a social purpose. They help create a social order. In pre-modern societies the job of telling the stories is usually given to religious leaders: shamans, oracles, priests, and the like—the folk whose job it is to converse with the cosmic authorities described in the stories. It is the job of the leaders in those societies to retell the stories through their actions. They rule as the image of their gods, keeping up the fight against chaos in the name of their gods. (“Homesick in Cosmos”)
With this in mind, one is left to ponder the sort of social order being erected by the elites of this scientistic age. If cultural anthropologists are correct, then intimations of the aspiring oligarchs’ societal blueprints must be detectable in the creation accounts to which they adhere. Presently, it appears as though some variant of the Darwinian narrative holds sway among mankind’s would-be rulers. In turn, the Darwinian narrative is merely another myth, but not in the classical or transcendent sense. Instead, like most of the myths of modernity, Darwinism affirms the pneumapathological yearning for apotheosis. Dr. Wolfgang Smith has characterized Darwinism as a “Gnostic myth” because it dignifies the soteriological claim of self-salvation with the metaphysical claim of self-creation (242-43).
There is good reason for this characterization. Disclosing his selection of reading materials, Charles Darwin states: “Formerly [John] Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ had been my chief favourite, and in my excursions during the voyage of the ‘Beagle,’ when I could take a single volume, I always chose Milton” (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 62). In an interview with Jeremy Manier, Robert Richards observed that several theodical elements pervade the closing paragraphs of The Origin of Species. Richards attributes these elements to Milton’s influence on Darwin:
When [Darwin] was on The Beagle, he carried Milton’s “Paradise Lost” with him everywhere. He read the poem incessantly. And of course it’s the story of death and suffering – man’s fall. But man’s fall is a necessary prerequisite for the coming of the savior, and the production of life more abundantly, a new kind of life. And if you read those last paragraphs [in “The Origin of Species”], it looks as though Darwin is trying to justify suffering and death. How do you do it? Death and suffering are justified because of the production of the higher animals, life more abundantly. A life leading to the production of the highest animal, namely us, with our moral sentiments. (“Darwin and John Milton – evolution as ‘Paradise Lost’”)
Essentially, Darwinism was, from its inception, a secular theodicy. Where Milton sought to explain the ways of God to man, Darwin sought to explain the ways of nature to her attendant species. Arguably, Darwin’s conception of nature was a tacitly pantheistic one. Like so many of the other theoreticians who either explicitly or implicitly accepted the Kantian Rift’s banishment of noumenon to epistemic incertitude, Darwin habitually assigned numinous qualities to the phenomenal world. A self-sufficient immanent order where nature supplanted God provided the setting for Darwin’s secular theodicy. The soteriology underpinning that theodicy was inherently Gnostic. This, too, was probably attributable to the influence of Milton upon Darwin. Several literary critics have noted Milton’s tendency to stray from Orthodox theology and occasionally meander into the realm of heresy. Of this tendency, Michael Bryson writes:
Milton, like Blake over a century later, is thinking in ways that align him, at certain crucial points, with an old ‘heretical’ tradition—the details and texts of which he was not, and could not be fully aware of—that sought to leave what it regarded as dangerously errant ideas of God for something closer to the divine truth. (“The Gnostic Milton: salvation and divine similitude in Paradise Regained” 103-04)
At first, it might seem rather brash to conclude that Milton was a full-fledged Gnostic. Understandably, Bryson rejects such an assessment, referring to a passage in De Doctrina Christiana where Milton ostensibly upholds Orthodoxy’s world-affirming cosmological attitude:
“[O]riginal matter was not an evil thing, nor to be thought of as worthless: it was good, and it contained the seeds of all subsequent good. It was a substance, and could only have been derived from the source of all substance. It was in a confused and disordered state at first, but afterwards God made it ordered and beautiful.” (Qutd. in “The Gnostic Milton: salvation and divine similitude in Paradise Regained” 104)
By supposedly sustaining the cosmological optimism of the early Church, Milton appears to have avoided Gnosticism’s docetistic valuation of materiality. However, Bryson either overlooks or ignores the ostensibly world-affirming position presented in some gnoseo-hermetic texts. Again, not all Gnostics were brazenly docetistic. Some held a positive assessment of matter, but implicitly denigrated it with their depiction of corporeality as a mere receptacle for a disembodied “good.” Likewise, Milton deemed matter “good” while simultaneously describing it as “confused and disordered.” Seldom are confusion and disorder considered synonymous with anything good. This inconsistency certainly casts doubt upon Milton’s supposed cosmological optimism.
Nevertheless, Bryson maintains that there was probably no “cosmological connection between Miltonic thought and Gnostic thought” (“The Gnostic Milton: salvation and divine similitude in Paradise Regained” 104). However, Bryson does acknowledge strains of Gnosticism in Milton’s epistemology and soteriology (104). Whence did Milton imbibe these strains of Gnosticism? In all likelihood, the English poet was probably not a member of any heretical sect. However, heretical ideas permeated the intellectual ether of the time. There is a strong possibility that Milton’s Protestant heritage, which was replete with Gnostic elements, was one of the chief sources of those ideas. In turn, Darwin might have imbibed some of these Gnostic elements during his multiple readings of Paradise Lost and incorporated them into the construction of a secular theodicy.
The most blatantly Gnostic feature of Paradise Lost is Milton’s misotheistic depiction of God. Most literary critics agree that the Miltonic God is anything but loving or good. If anything, He is an unjust tyrant who rules the cosmos according to very unpleasant caprices. This unflattering portrayal certainly echoes the inverted hermeneutic of Gnostic texts like The Hypostasis of the Archons. In The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King, Bryson upholds his that contention that Milton was not a Gnostic (11). Yet, even he concedes that the Miltonic God has “troubled many Christian readers who, to their dismay (and often outrage) see in his [Milton’s] Father a character who is as far from the ‘good’ god they believe in as Satan himself” (11). Attempting to account for this misotheistic portrait, Bryson states: “[L]ike the Gnostics, Milton rejected as evil the god imagined by his contemporaries” (11). Just how did Milton’s contemporaries imagine God? According to Bryson, the 17th-century conception of God that Milton so detested was monarchical and it was precisely such a conception that he satirized with the tyrannical character of the Father:
I believe that Milton creates in Paradise Lost a separate god—the moral equivalent of the Gnostics’ creator god—in order to reject, not physical creation, but the one institution that Milton spent the latter portion of his life fighting: monarchy. Kings and kingship; a “heathenish government” given to the people of God as a punishment and, according to Milton, absolutely forbidden to Christians by Christ himself, the institution of monarchy came to be for Milton what the physical was to the Gnostics—a result of evil and the invention of the Devil. To imagine God as a king was, for Milton, to imagine God as if he were the Devil. (11)
The problem with this thesis is that the rejection of God as King is, in and of itself, heterodox. The monarchical view of God was not a 17th-century novelty, but an ancient belief that can be traced back to the Old Testament era. For instance, the Psalmists repeatedly exalt God as King in Psalms 47, 93, and 97. As Judaism transitioned into Christianity, God’s kingship remained intact. Refusing to equivocate concerning the consubstantiality of the hypostases comprising the One True God, the First Council of Nicaea established the Father as the monarch within the Trinity. He is the arche of all else that exists. The Son is begotten of Him and the Spirit proceeds from Him. Given the continuity of this monarchical view of God, Milton’s rejection of His kingship was clearly heterodox. A docetistic cosmological attitude would logically follow from this rejection. Again, Milton tacitly conveyed such an attitude with his disorderly and chaotic depiction of primordial matter. Moreover, never once did Milton divorce his tyrannical Father from the role of creator, thereby implying that creation is, by extension, equally corrupt. This fact undermines the contention that the tyrannical Father was an allegorical device through which Milton would denounce the institution of monarchy.
Milton’s Gnostic proclivities are also intimated through his Christology. Maurice Kelley has characterized Paradise Lost as an “Arian document” because of its rather ambivalent treatment of Christ’s divinity (Patrides 15). This somewhat tenuous Christology seems to foreshadow Milton’s eventual introduction of a tacitly Gnostic Jesus in Paradise Regained. Bryson notes: “Milton never portrays a Jesus who sheds his blood, or tastes death for any man (much less ‘every man’); rather, he portrays a Jesus, who, like the Gnostic conception of Christ … refuses to save anyone from sin” (“The Gnostic Milton: salvation and divine similitude in Paradise Regained” 103). Of course, a Christ who refuses to save anyone from sin is inconsistent with Orthodox Christology and soteriology. What holds salvific value for Milton’s Christ? In a word, this strangely alien Jesus proffers gnosis. Bryson elaborates:
In The Passion, which would presumably have been a poem “emphasiz[ing] faith in Christ, in his crucifixion and resurrection and his status as the son of God, the savior and redeemer of humanity,” Milton refused to narrate the crucifixion and resurrection, never getting beyond an increasingly overwrought stage-setting, as if trying to work himself up to a topic for which he had no true enthusiasm or interest—and “nothing satisfied with what was begun, left it unfinisht.” Decades later, in Paradise Regained, Milton creates a Son who emphasizes gnosis over psitis, the internal over the external, seeking an inner light experienced as a sense of divine similitude, an intimate and experiential knowledge as opposed to the formal, book-learned knowledge Satan offers, and he displays a manifest lack of interest in inhabiting the traditional savior role. The Son does this in two ways: (1) by refusing to “save” either the Jews or the Gentiles when Satan tempts him with power, and (2) by disparaging book knowledge in favor of inner illumination when Satan tempts him with learning. This then leads to the crucial revelation of Paradise Regained, the insistence on the ultimately salvific knowledge of divine similitude reflected in the final words of the emphatically human Jesus: “Tempt not the Lord thy God.” Milton’s poetic Jesus, like the figure imagined by the gnostikoi, saves not through a sacrifice of blood, but by bringing knowledge of divine similitude, the oneness of the human and divine nature. (“The Gnostic Milton: salvation and divine similitude in Paradise Regained” 106)
The implicitly Gnostic soteriological position conveyed in Paradise Regained leads Bryson to conclude that Milton’s Christ is a “remarkably Gnostic creation” (“The Gnostic Milton: salvation and divine similitude in Paradise Regained” 104). Such a soteriology, which was intimated through Milton’s somewhat Arian portrayal of Christ in Paradise Lost, finds affirmation in Darwinism’s metaphysical claim of self-creation. Additionally, Darwin would advance a glorious transfiguration not unlike Gnostic apotheosis, albeit strictly within the context of biology and genetics. The “knowledge of divine similitude, the oneness of the human and divine nature” tacitly preached by Milton’s Christ entails deification by Essence. It is union with fusion, the assumption of ontological equivalency with God. This is antithetical to the Orthodox concept of theosis, which is deification by Energies. Likewise, Darwin believed that man’s ultimate evolutionary vector was being directed by nature toward a numinous telos. Richards explains:
While Darwin did reject the hypothesis of an intrinsic cause of necessary progress buried interstices of organization, in the beginning he nonetheless insisted, relying on the embryological model, that animals had an internal “tendency to change,” which would be progressively molded by the extrinsic agency of the environment. Natural selection would exert, as it were, an external pull, drawing most organisms to greater levels of complexity and perfection. (86)
Of course, perfection is an eschatological hope of several religions. Within some of those religious systems, “perfection” connotes the restoration of a pristine state of being that was either lost or relinquished. Conversely, Darwin invoked the term to connote “reproductively advantageous change” (Herrick, The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition 130). Yet, Darwin always portrayed such change as not only desirable, but ultimately good because of the direction of a magnanimous agent. As Richards previously stated, an organism’s internal “tendency to change” was guided by natural selection. Although this contention clearly contradicted the dysteleological premises of his outlook, Darwin posited the involvement of a moral agent in the progressive development of man. It is with this irreducibly teleological assertion that the eschatological dimensions of Darwinism become discernible.
On numerous occasions, Darwin characterized natural selection as a noble and altruistic force. For instance, the reclusive evolutionist opined that “as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection” (qutd. in Richards 89). This benevolent depiction of nature creates a serious problem for Darwinism. Ironically, questions concerning good and evil rely upon an anthropological point of reference, which implies that the individual possesses intrinsic value. In a Darwinian universe, there is no imago Dei providing the basis upon which such value can be affirmed. There is only biology, genetics, and nature. None of these supply adequate grounds for one’s essential worth. This internal contradiction aside, Darwin’s attribution of altruism to natural selection implies an eschatological hope. Certainly, a benevolent designer, whether it is an ultramundane God or some intramundane divinity, must have some ultimate good in mind. Otherwise, there would be little reason for that designer to perpetuate a system of change and selection, especially one as bloody as Darwinism. Darwin’s decidedly normative view of “reproductively advantageous change” facilitated by an irreducibly teleological system suggests that an evolutionary “Omega” was always in mind. That immanent apocalypse is no less numinous than a Parousia or a Yawm al-Qiyāmah, as is evidenced by the virtually sorcerous transformative process through which the Darwinian Eschaton is eventuated.
Such eschatological aspirations were previously expressed socio-politically as progressivism, which posited a deeply embedded teleological principle in the immanent cosmos that is guiding humanity inexorably towards an Edenic state of being. Invariably, the societal model implied by progressivism was Utopian in character, as is evidenced by the idyllic visions of Kant, Spencer, and Hegel (Coomaraswamy, “The Fundamental Nature of the Conflict Between Modern and Traditional Man–Often Called the Conflict Between Science and Faith”). According to Charles Upton, the doctrine of progress was projected on to biology, thereby resulting in the ideology of evolutionism (The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age 105). The ideational relationship between progressivism and evolutionism is exemplified by the beliefs of wealthy capitalist dynasties whose scions have relentlessly promoted the construction of a global managerial system. The Transnationalist, who embraces the capitalistic variety of globalism, could be characterized as a “sociopolitical Darwinian” because he views interdependence among nations as a “progressive function of evolutionary progress” (Martin, Keys of this Blood 314-15). Malachi Martin articulates the rationale underpinning this appropriation of Darwinism on behalf of Transnationalism and Internationalism alike:
If it worked so well for Darwin, they [Transnationalists and Internationalists] almost seem to say, why not expand the idea of orderly progress through natural evolution to include such sociopolitical arrangements as corporations and nations? In this view, the most useful of Darwin’s concepts is that of human existence as essentially a struggle in which the weakest perish, the fittest survive and the strongest flourish. (Keys of this Blood 314-15)
Indeed, the Darwinian depiction of existence as a “struggle in which the weakest perish, the fittest survive and the strongest flourish” provided ostensible scientific affirmation of the monopolistic capitalist’s profit-driven outlook. James Rachels states that natural selection was “quickly interpreted as an ethical precept that sanctioned cutthroat economic competition” (63). Contrary to the objections of many evolutionists, such an interpretation did not constitute a corruption of Darwin’s theory. Rather, it was the logical outworking of the evolutionary Weltanschauung. As biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore observe, Darwin’s notebooks presented “competition” and “free trade” as practices that were “written into the equation from the start” (xxi). In light of these ruminations, social Darwinism cannot be construed as “extraneous, an ugly concretion added to the pure Darwinian corpus after the event, tarnishing Darwin’s image” (xxi). Of course, “competition” and “free trade” have been historical fixtures of monopolistic capitalism, which, in turn, has been consistently accommodated by the brutal outlook of social Darwinism. H.B.D. Kittlewell and Julian Huxley (ironically) characterized social Darwinism as a “glorification” of laissez-faire capitalism and free enterprise (81). This mentality was reflected by a study conducted by Anthracite Coal Strike Commission from 1902 to 1903, which found that “the popularity of social Darwinism in the US national ideology should be comprehended as an innovation of corporate capitalism” (Doukas, “Corporate Capitalism on Trial: The Hearings of the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission, 1902-1903″ 367). In fact, the study revealed that the coal trust espoused a “social Darwinist ideology, conflating `survival of the fittest’ with freedom and individual rights” (367).
Two exemplary promoters of this “innovation of corporate capitalism” were Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. According to Rachels, these “[c]apitalist giants” routinely “invoked what they took to be ‘Darwinian’ principles to explain the ethics of the American system” (63). Both men had espoused Christianity at one time, but eventually abandoned their self-avowed faith for the evolutionary outlook. In his biography, Carnegie recounts his abandonment of theology and supernaturalism through the liberating gnosis of Darwinism:
When I, along with three or four of my boon companions, was in this stage of doubt about theology, including the supernatural element, and indeed the whole scheme of salvation through vicarious atonement and all the fabric built upon it, I came fortunately upon Darwin’s and Spencer’s works “The Data of Ethics,” “First Principles,” “Social Statics,” “The Descent of Man.” Reaching the pages which explain how man has absorbed such mental foods as were favorable to him, retaining what was salutary, rejecting what was deleterious, I remember that light came as in a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth of evolution. “All is well since all grows better” became my motto, my true source of comfort. Man was not created with an instinct for his own degradation, but from the lower he had risen to the higher forms. Nor is there any conceivable end to his march to perfection. His face is turned to the light; he stands in the sun and looks upward. (327)
Carnegie’s assertion that there is no “conceivable end” to man’s “march to perfection” echoes the doctrine of progressivism. Given Carnegie’s progressive proclivities, there can be little wonder why machinations such as the Carnegie Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Carnegie Endowment, and other institutional namesakes have continually advanced globalist causes.
Viewed through the interpretative lens of Darwinism, the establishment of world government appears to be evolutionarily preordained. After all, man’s alleged political development, which supposedly corresponds with his biological development, seems to be migrating towards a homogenization of global societal constructs. Such an international arrangement would prove to be advantageous for aspiring oligarchs like Carnegie. For any good monopolistic capitalist, a politically and economically interdependent world holds the promise of greater consolidations of power. Darwinism rendered such a state of affairs developmentally inevitable. Additionally, evolutionary theory upheld the anthropocentric presumptions of coercive Utopianism, portraying man as the agent of his own salvation. Of course, such a Gnostic soteriology could leave no room for Christianity, which was eventually jettisoned by Carnegie. Banished along with it were all of the faith’s mandates concerning the exhibition of charity to the poor. The abandonment of such mandates accommodated the avarice of Carnegie, who coldly declared: “[T]he law of competition, be it benign or not, is here; we cannot evade it; no substitutes for it have been found; and while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department” (qutd. in Hsu 10).
Automatically, astute readers will identify Carnegie’s words as a reiteration of the Darwinian contention that survival is reserved for the fittest. In Carnegie’s view, the fittest were those who possessed a special aptitude for business. Additionally, astute readers will identify Carnegie’s distinctly eugenical emphasis upon race. According to Joseph Wall, these themes permeated the lion’s share of Carnegie’s written work:
Not only in his published articles and books but also in his personal letters to business contemporaries, Carnegie makes frequent and easy allusions to the Social Darwinist credo. Phrases like “survival of the fittest,” “race improvement,” and “struggle for existence” came easily from his pen and presumably from his lips. He did see business as a great competitive struggle… (Wall 389)
Of course, the phrase “survival of the fittest” did not originate with Carnegie. Nor was it first uttered by Charles Darwin. In reality, the dictum was authored by Herbert Spencer, whose promotion of monopolistic capitalism is a matter of historical record. Commenting on Spencer’s advocacy of Big Business, Stephen T. Asma states:
Spencer coined the phrase survival of the fittest, and Darwin adopted the parlance in later editions of his Origin of Species. Spencer used this principle–where competition for limited resources results in the survival of the inherently “better” candidate–to explain past, present, and future social conditions. Darwin never extended the principle beyond the biological realm and remained wary of Spencer’s speculative extrapolation into the sociological. Social Darwinism is really social Spencerism, but the fact that the idea has been misnamed has not made it any less powerful.
What, then, is this idea? According to Spencer and his American disciples– business entrepreneurs like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie–social hierarchy reflects the unwavering, universal laws of nature. Nature unfolds in such a way that the strong survive and the weak perish. Thus, the economic and social structures that survive are “stronger” and better, and those structures that don’t were obviously meant to founder. (“The new social Darwinism: deserving your destitution”)
The evolutionary optic also shaped the views of John D. Rockefeller, whose public Christian façade camouflaged a stalwartly Darwinian outlook and a tacit rejection of the early books of the Bible (Taylor 386). Further supporting this implicit bias towards evolutionism, William James Ghent offers an utterance purportedly attributed to Rockefeller:
Mr. Rockefeller appeals both to evolution and to divine sanction. “The growth of a large business,” he is reported as declaring in one of his Sunday-school addresses, “is merely a survival of the fittest… The American Beauty rose can be produced in the splendor and fragrance which bring cheer to its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow up around it. This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God.” (29)
Given its juxtaposition with the brutal Darwinian mechanism of natural selection, Rockefeller’s alleged invocation of a deity probably was not an affirmation of the Biblical God. Only some serious mental gymnastics could have reconciled these otherwise mutually exclusive concepts. It is more likely that he was referring to an ontically isolated creator (e.g., the absentee landlord of deism). According to Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Old Man Rockefeller’s estate even reflected an affinity for Newton’s rather mechanistic view of the cosmos:
Pocantico, Grandfather’s 3,600-acre estate overlooking the Hudson River, symbolized this passion for [Newtonian] order. Surrounded by tall fences and guarded gates, Pocantico was a world apart, isolated from the chaos of nature. Formal gardens, acres of flower beds and carefully manicured lawns, and shrubs and transplanted trees positioned at strategic points along paved roads all spoke of the steely will of the Calvinist ex-bookkeeper who had founded Standard Oil. (11)
Tangibly expressed through the Pocantico’s rigid schematic, Old Man Rockefeller’s preoccupation with Newtonian order would naturally blossom into a dynastical proclivity for evolutionism. The promotion of an ontically isolated deity provides the premises for the pantheistic portrait of an intramundane divinity sculpting the natural order. Erasmus Darwin relied on just such a deistic disjunction for the advancement of his precursory model of evolution. The subsequent popularization of Darwinism represented a triumph for the pantheistic outlook. Daniel Dennett observes that Charles Darwin succeeded where theoreticians like Spinoza had failed because the reclusive naturalist had supplied a “convincing explanation about just how God is distributed in the whole of nature” (520). Accompanying this biologicized form of pantheism was its Utopian kissing cousin: progressivism. Suddenly, the architects of a thoroughly interdependent global society had a pseudo-scientific affirmation of their crusade. The world, which constituted an immanent divinity, was one. Thus, it logically followed that man must be politically and economically one. For the aspirant oligarchs of the Rockefeller family, there could not have been a better rationale for their globalist efforts than Darwinism. After all, a politically and economically unified world is easier to monopolize.
The Rockefeller dynasty’s continued partiality to the Darwinian narrative might have been intimated during a possible philanthropic skirmish with George F. Washburn. Galvanized by the events of the Scopes Monkey Trial, Washburn pledged financial support to a university named after William Jennings Bryan. Presumably in response to this pledge, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made a substantial donation to an institution that upheld a view that was antithetical to the Biblical creation account. Like his father, Junior harbored a more deistic view of God. Commenting on the rigid outlook that pervaded Junior’s formative years, Colby and Dennett state: “Everything was severely measured, everything reduced to its place within the safe clockwork universe of a Newtonian God” (11). Not surprisingly, Newtonian science provided the premises for the Enlightenment’s mechanistic cosmology. In turn, this cosmology would render the dysteleology of Darwinism tenable. A universe that makes no allowances for divine intervention is hardly consistent with Orthodox theology. A similar view may have directed the allocation of Junior’s philanthropic resources. Edward Larson elaborates:
The Florida philanthropist George F. Washburn was so enthusiastic about the developments in the [Scopes Monkey] trial that he pledged $10,000 toward Superintendent White’s idea of founding Bryan University. “This fight in Dayton is ‘the beginning of the battle that will encircle the world,’” Washburn wrote to White. “This is a psychological moment to establish a Fundamentalist university.” As if to overwhelm this offer and swamp its potential impact, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., gave $1 million to Shailer Mathews’s University of Chicago Divinity School on the same day.” (Larson 183)
Populated by liberal and feminist theologians, the University of Chicago Divinity School hardly qualifies as a bastion of Orthodoxy. It is likely that the donation of Rockefeller, Jr. to this institution was intended to foster opposition to the traditional Christian creation narrative. Liberal theologians have never expressed misgivings over revising the Genesis account to accommodate the Darwinian narrative. Neither have American businessmen, who have exhibited a historical penchant for clumsily synthesizing their self-avowed Christian faith with Darwinism. According to D.R. Oldroyd, many ostensibly Christian monopolistic capitalists:
… attributed such success as they had to their industry and virtue, rather than their achievement in trampling on their less successful competitors. After all, most of them saw themselves as Christians, adhering to the rules of “love thy neighbor” and “do as you would be done by.” So, even though they sought to achieve the impossible by serving God and Mammon simultaneously, they found no difficulty in accommodating Christianity to the Darwinian ideas of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest, and by no means all of them consciously thought of themselves as being in a state of economic warfare with their fellow manufacturers. (216)
As one might surmise, monopolistic capitalism’s accommodation of Christianity to Darwinism necessitates either the reinterpretation or total omission of certain passages from Sacred Scripture. Among those passages would be commandments concerning ethical business practices, fair treatment of employees, mercy for the weak, and clothing and feeding the poor. Yet, perhaps the most significant compromise made by the “Christian” monopolist is an anthropological one. It is no secret that the theological doctrine of imago Dei is undermined by the Darwinian contention that man is little more than a slightly elevated animal. Yet, monopolistic capitalism, whether practiced by self-avowed Christians or individuals with other beliefs, has little difficulty accommodating such a denigrating anthropology. Theoreticians such as Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, and Milton Friedman insist that markets alone will guarantee the fair and equitable allocation of capital. In turn, markets are guided by consumers, who simply respond favorably or unfavorably to certain trends in pricing and product quality. Behold, Dawkins’ “selfish gene” at work in the economy. Of course, “selfish genes” do not care about the essential dignity of man, which is only affirmed by the concept of the imago Dei.
Not surprisingly, the architects of monopolistic capitalism, particularly Smith, upheld the Enlightenment’s anthropological assumption that man is a tabula rasa. Smith was heavily influenced by radical empiricist David Hume (Freydberg 105). A central feature of Hume’s epistemological stance was the portrayal of the human mind as a barren canvas. This portrayal underpinned Smith’s notion of socially engendered values. In direct opposition to Rousseau’s depiction of civilization as a corrupting influence upon humanity, Smith contended that “society taught man to be good” (Phillipson, “Making Adam Smith”). Thus, moral sensibilities were, in Smith’s view, imprinted upon the tabula rasa of the human mind a posteriori. Their superficial distinctions aside, the moral theories of both Smith and Rousseau exclude God as the ultimate moral authority. In the case of Smith, society was enshrined as the ontic referent for values. In turn, those values ensured ethical conduct within the marketplace. The problem is that society is composed of various sorts of people. Not all of those people conduct themselves ethically and even the best among them occasionally fall. In light of this fact, it terribly difficult to uphold the Protagorean dictum, “Man is the measure of all things.” There is, however, one crucial exception: the God-man, Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, very few corporations would be willing to enthrone Christ as a CEO.
Smith was a progeny of the Scottish Enlightment, which, interestingly enough, also laid claim to Freemason and early evolutionist Lord Monboddo. Lord Monboddo, who would inspire the evolutionary ideas of fellow Freemason Erasmus Darwin, viewed man as just another member of the animal kingdom. Of course, this anthropology would be dignified in the pages of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species and tacitly accepted by monopolistic capitalists like Smith. Monopolistic capitalism’s credence to Darwinian anthropology is exemplified the remarks of scientist and Rockefeller Foundation Director Warren Weaver. In 1967, Weaver boldly declared the subsumption of the medical and biological sciences under the physical sciences. This subsumption exemplified the scientistic outlook, which, in keeping with its epistemological rigidity, viewed quantification and empirical observation as the only means suitable for understanding man. Interestingly enough, Weaver also contended that the study of animal behavior would be commensurate with the development of a comprehensive behavioral hermeneutic for humanity. According to the Rockefeller scientist, these two fields will be intimately related, informing the interpretative commentaries of each other. Underpinning this declaration is the affirmation of Darwin’s less-than-flattering anthropology, which depicts man as nothing more than a slightly elevated animal. Weaver writes:
The opportunities not yet rigorously explored lie in the understanding of the nature of living things. It seemed clear in 1932, when the Rockefeller Foundation launched its quarter-century program in that area, that the biological and medical sciences were ready for a friendly invasion by the physical sciences. The application to the most basic problems of biology of the experimental and analytical techniques of physics, mathematics, and chemistry has resulted in the relatively recent magnificent development of molecular biology, crowned by the discovery of the structure of DNA and the unraveling of the genetic code. It seems equally clear that a next great step can be taken in molecular neuro-physiology. Just as more than thirty years ago the tools were in hand to begin an effective attack on genetics, the tools are now available for discovering, on the most disciplined and precise level of molecular actions, how man’s central nervous system really operates, how he thinks, learns, remembers, and forgets. Closely allied would be studies of animal behavior, a field which also seems ready to be lifted onto a new level of significance. (203)
Toward what ends would these investigative efforts be directed? Of what value would knowledge concerning man’s thinking, learning, remembering, forgetting, and central nervous system functions be to men of science? The most commonly invoked rationales would be the mitigation of suffering and the enhancement of the human condition. To be sure, this is the case in many instances. However, Weaver articulates a far more dubious rationale:
Apart from the fascination of gaining some knowledge of the mind-brain-body relationship, the practical values in such studies are potentially enormous. Only thus may we gain information about our behavior of the sort that can lead to wise and beneficial control. (203)
Weaver’s aspiration to establish “wise and beneficial control” over humanity reinforces the cultural anthropological contention that creation narratives inform the construction of social orders. In this case, the creation narrative presented by the Gnostic myth of Darwinism portends a more technocratic social arrangement. The end envisioned by Weaver, albeit rendered in rather euphemistic terms, is the ascendancy of an enlightened class of supposedly benevolent conditioners. Such conditioners would apply their scientific expertise to the guidance of human evolution, the end thereof being the eventuation of a perennial eschatological hope: a New Man. This eschatological hope has been expressed in various forms. It was the Gnostic aspiration to experience the transfiguration of human into divine. It was the Nietzschean mandate for man to slay himself, thereby facilitating the emergence of the Übermensch. It was the Nazi enshrinement of the Aryan, whose ascendance stipulated racial genocide. It was Russian communism’s advancement of the Soviet Man, whose ascendance stipulated political genocide. Underpinning all of these eschatological visions is the tacitly docetistic cosmological attitude one finds in the pages of certain gnoseo-hermetic texts. This attitude regards matter as a mere receptacle for “good” reality. Extracting that “good” reality entails the disposal of the perishable container. Today, the popular belief is that science, which is brashly suffused with soteriological value, will effect that extraction of “good” reality from expendable matter.
The Rockefeller dynasty’s adherence to this soteriological view of science is symbolically conveyed through the iconography of Rockefeller Center. Interestingly enough, much of that iconography is derivative of ancient mythology. Among the sculpted facsimiles of mythic figures populating this complex is one of antiquity’s more immodest characters: Prometheus. This Greek Titan is presented in Hesiod’s Theogony, which, like Enuma, vaguely echoes certain portions of the overall Biblical narrative. Immediately, a sense of familiarity arises when one examines Prometheus’ betrayal of Zeus through the impartation of fire to man. The act is condemned as rebellion and results in Prometheus’ exile to earth, where he is fettered to a rock on Mount Kazbek. Not surprisingly, the Romantics noted the parallels between Prometheus and the Satan of Paradise Lost. Both Hesiod and Milton offered sympathetic depictions of a heavenly dissident. In both cases, the archetypal Rebel is rehabilitated by way of an inverted hermeneutic, thereby departing radically from the Biblical account of Satan’s rebellion and fall.
Appropriately, this conception of the Devil was emblematic of the Enlightenment, which, arguably, qualified as a Gnostic revival. According to Conrad Goeringer, the title page of Diderot’s Encyclopedia was adorned by “Lucifer symbol of light and rebellion, standing beside the masonic symbols of square and compass” (“The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and the Illuminati”) Goeringer characterizes the Encyclopedia as “a compendium of human knowledge dealing with arts, sciences, mechanics and philosophy” (ibid). Suddenly, the Adversary was figuratively yoked to reason and science. This association underscored the rise of a radically different view of science. No longer was science considered a means by which one could broaden their understanding of the created order. Now, science was imbued with a salvific quality and was increasingly proffered as an instrument for realizing the eschatological hopes once expressed by religion.
Likewise, Satan’s paganized persona, Prometheus, would come to be associated with the new soteriological understanding of reason and science. Revolutionaries appropriated the Greek Titan as a thematic centerpiece of their secular faith. James A. Billington explains:
A recurrent mythic theme for revolutionaries — early romantics, the young Marx, the Russians of Lenin’s time — was Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods for the use of mankind. The Promethean faith of revolutionaries resembled in many respects the general belief that science would lead men out of darkness into light. (6; emphasis added)
The Promethean application of science represents an insidious inversion. In its inception, the inquiry into the natural order presupposed the intelligibility of the cosmos. From that intelligibility a Creator was logically inferred. God’s very being imbued all sentient life with intrinsic value. Thus, it was incumbent upon the scientist to conduct his or her inquiries reverentially. In contradistinction, the modern Gnostics of scientism view nothing as sacred. Instead, science is the new gnosis by which the material world can be subdued and man can be transfigured into divine. Semiotician Elizabeth C. Hirschman details the rise of this cosmological myth:
The rise of Science as a cosmological mythology in the 1500’s set up a struggle with the prevailing metaphysical doctrine of Christian theology, which… has never been resolved as a cultural discourse. At its core, the conflict centers around the usurpation of god-like powers by man. Armed with such supernatural abilities, humans can manipulate and alter life in ways that are reserved by Nature/God. The first cultural myth encapsulating this conflict was, of course, the Faust legend, in which a medical doctor (i.e., scientist) sold his soul to Mephistopheles (i.e., the Devil) in exchange for knowledge and power belonging to God. (21; Emphasis added)
This Faustian conception of science and its accompanying Promethean anthropology are exemplified by the mythic tale of Frankenstein. Herrick correctly characterizes Mary Shelley’s “monster” as a “new kind of human being in a new cosmos devoid of God” (Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs 39). Not surprisingly, Shelley’s Frankenstein was inspired by Erasmus Darwin. Herrick states that Erasmus’ theory of fluid materialism was “particularly influential in the early development of Romantic thought” (The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition 122). Shelley was one of several Romantic thinkers who were influenced by Erasmus’ fluid materialism. Herrick elaborates:
Among those falling under the Darwinian spell was the great English surgeon William Lawrence and, through Lawrence, his patient Percy Shelley. Shelley’s wife, Mary, was the author of the famous novel Frankenstein, a work she acknowledged to have written while pondering Erasmus Darwin’s ideas. She and her husband “talked of the experiments of Dr. Darwin,” concluding that “perhaps a corpse would be re-animated” through electrical shock treatment if “the component parts of a creature” could be “brought together, and endued with vital warmth.” Darwin had suggested to the great writer that life–physical, mental and moral–might arise out of matter alone without divine intervention. (The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition 122)
The fantastical notion of non-living matter being reanimated by an electrical discharge did not die with Shelley. Arguably, the “primordial soup” theory qualifies as a superimposition of the fictional Frankenstein experiment upon the evolutionary narrative. According to the “primordial soup” theory, life emerged from a warm pond after being exposed to an electrical discharge (in all likelihood lightning). Allegedly, the electrical discharge caused chemicals within the pond to form the complex protein molecules necessary for the generation of primitive life.
This immanent creatology arose from a 1953 experiment conducted by a graduate student at the University of Chicago named Stanley L. Miller. Supposedly replicating the early conditions of the “primordial soup,” Miller circulated steam through a combination of methane, hydrogen, and ammonia. Subsequently, Miller introduced an electrical spark to the mixture over the course of a week. By the time the week had elapsed, the mixture assumed a crimson hue and a murky consistency. Contained within this stew were complex amino acids, the organic compounds that are biologically integral in the construction of life (McAlester 7-8). After several similar experiments were conducted by other scientists, the scientific community embraced the imaginative construct of a “primordial soup”:
These studies have led scientists to visualize a time early in Earth history when the surface was covered with oceans or lakes that were rich in non-biologically produced molecules fundamental to life. The waters of these oceans or lakes have been often described as a “dilute organic soup,” a concept first developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s by the English biologist J. B. S. Haldane and the Russian biochemist A. I. Oparin, pioneer workers on the origin of life. In the great burst of interest following Miller’s experiment, the ideas of Haldane and Oparin have been greatly expanded, and a number of speculative hypotheses now attempt to explain the development of the first self-duplicating organisms from the nonliving building blocks of the early organic soup. (8)
Predictably, evolutionists seized upon the Miller experiment as an affirmation of their dysteleological outlook. Such a dysteleological position is quite ironic when one considers the fact that the experiment that ostensibly affirmed it was guided by a rational agent. Miller’s very participation in the test implies a definite teleology. Additionally, the invocation of dysteleological forces in the animation of the “primordial soup” raises an insurmountable degree of improbability. In a New York Times article, Peter T. Kilborn observed:
[I]t has proved very hard to take Dr. Miller’s classic experiments much further. The problem is that a pinch of chemicals in watery solution do not bump into one another often enough to create the more complicated molecules of life” (“Data Back Idea that Life Grew Out of Inferno,” A14)
Evidently, the frequency with which a “pinch of chemicals” makes contact with others is insufficient to produce more complex molecules. Thus, left to its own devices, the “primordial soup” would have likely generated nothing. Just as Shelley’s “monster” required a Dr. Frankenstein to endue it with life, a “primordial soup” would have required a rational agent to properly apply the electrical discharge necessary for the production of amino acids. Given these inescapable teleological implications, there can be little wonder why evolutionists posit the anhypostatic agency of nature (e.g., Spinoza’s Deus sive natura, Darwin’s “Tree of Life,” etc.) as the causal source of life. The internal contradictions of this creatology become evident when one examines its anhypostatic “god,” which is bodied forth by an infinite regress of contingent agencies.
An infinite regress of contingent agencies imbued with virtually omnipotent causative powers constitutes a juxtaposition of mutually exclusive terms. Contingency denotes ontological dependence. Obviously, an omnipotent agent would not, by definition, be fettered by ontological dependence. So, positing some contingent omnipotence as the causal source of the cosmos is tantamount to describing water as dry. The only way to avoid a philosophically problematic infinite regress is to posit a causative agent that ontologically transcends contingency. Of course, that agent would have to be God. Such a conclusion offends the religious sensibilities of the likes of Richard Dawkins, who castigates Christ’s Resurrection as “petty,” “parochial,” and “beneath” his apotheosized universe (Richard Dawkins vs. John Lennox: The God Delusion Debate). It is ironic that Dawkins rejects the resurrection of the dead while simultaneously advancing the spontaneous generation of life from dead matter.
Aside from the fact that any application of an electrical discharge would have likely been premeditated, the very existence of a “primordial soup” is questionable. According to Professor A. Lee McAlester, the forensic evidence conveniently vanished because the “primordial soup” was consumed by the simple organisms that inhabited it (9). Lamenting this disadvantageous turn of events, McAlester confesses:
Unfortunately, there is little likelihood that direct evidence of the nature of the earliest life on Earth will ever be found. Deformation and erosion of the crust have almost certainly destroyed any early rocks that might have contained traces of the original soup or of the primitive organisms that developed from it. (4)
Given the absence of any direct evidence of the “primordial soup” and its alleged occupants, one could reasonably argue that the “primordial soup” narrative really requires an investment of faith. Yet, in contradistinction to psitis, this sort of faith lacks any substantive evidentiary basis and, as such, must be deemed blind. There is a rather pejorative appellation assigned to blind faith: superstition. Ironically, superstition is typically associated with medieval peasantry, an ethnographic category that has been historically maligned since the Enlightenment. No doubt, the neo-Darwinian would object to being conflated with a commoner from the so-called “Dark Ages,” but the tenuous epistemological criteria according to which he invests his faith is hardly reliable. What else might one call it apart from superstition? Of McAlester’s own admission, there exists no “direct evidence of the nature of the earliest life on Earth.” Therefore, the “primordial soup” narrative is an arbitrarily constructed one. Superstitions thrive on arbitrarily constructed narratives, like tales of vampires being successfully repelled by garlic. The “primordial soup” is just such a tale and its crucible was Miller’s imagination.
Likewise, Frankenstein was the product of an imagination informed by Erasmus Darwin’s evolutionary ideas. In turn, these evolutionary ideas were probably not formulated in a vacuum, but were inspired, to some extent, by the milieu of occult Masonry. This Masonic influence is significant when one considers the fact that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is premised upon the legendary golem, a chimerical creature of Kabbalistic import. Essentially, the golem is an anthropomorphic automaton generated from inanimate matter. Categorically, the “monster” created by the fictional Dr. Frankenstein is just such a being. Rabbi Louis Jacobs states:
Mary Shelley is supposed to have based her story of Frankenstein on the golem legend.
The legend reached the city of Prague not earlier than the year 1730 where the famous Maharal of Prague was said to have created a golem in order to protect the Jews of Prague from pogroms. When the golem began to get out of hand, the Maharal took the divine name from his forehead and restored the golem to his dust which is now supposed to reside in an attic in the Altneuschul. For the benefit of tourists, shops in Prague now sell models of the golem which closely resemble the figure of the Frankenstein monster. (“Golems—Making Men of Clay: Can imitating God extend to the creative realm?”)
Implicit in both Shelley’s Frankenstein and the golem legend is the distinctly Faustian theme of man procuring creative faculties once reserved for the Divine. Jacobs concludes:
Behind all the golem legends lies the belief, especially prominent in the Kabbalah, that the mystics, by using the creative energy inherent in the divine names, repeat the divine creative processes. The whole fascinating legend owes its importance to this belief in which the doctrine of the imitation of God is applied to the creative as well as the ethical sphere. (“Golems—Making Men of Clay: Can imitating God extend to the creative realm?”)
This notion of imitating God creatively as well as ethically echoes the cosmological myth of Science, which thematically echoes the revised conceptions of Satan and Prometheus held by so many revolutionaries. The core of that cosmological myth presents, as Hirschman previously put it, the “usurpation of god-like powers by man.” Herrick characterizes Kabbalah as an inversion of the “Revealed Word relationship of creature to creator,” rendering humans “virtually divine and their place of existence a boundless and transcendent reality rather than the profane world” (The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition 41). Within the inverted creatology of Kabbalah, human beings “control and create God rather than the other way around” (41). In fact, the god of Kabbalah, Ein Sof, is an impersonal force that can be harnessed and channeled (24). Hermeticism and Gnosticism provided the sources of Kabbalistic teaching, as was evidenced by the tradition’s “low view of the body, history, and the physical world” (41).
Martin claims that Renaissance-era Italian humanists “bowdlerized the idea of Kabbala almost beyond recognition” and “reconstructed the concept of gnosis,” transplanting it within the ontological confines of the material world (519-20). The new gnosis sought by these humanists was a “secret knowledge of how to master the blind forces of nature for a sociopolitical purpose” (519-20). This network of humanist associations eventually gave rise to Freemasonry (518-19). According to 33rd Degree Mason Albert Pike, the Kabbalah informed the Lodge in the formulation of its esoteric semiology:
All truly dogmatic religions have issued from the Kabalah and return to it: everything scientific and grand in the religious dreams of all the illuminati, Jacob Bœhme, Swedenborg, Saint-Martin, and others, is borrowed from the Kabalah; all the Masonic associations owe to it their Secrets and their Symbols. (744)
As Masons, it is possible that both Erasmus Darwin and Lord Monboddo were exposed to some Kabbalistic ideas. Part of that body of esoteric knowledge is the legend of the golem. Of this legend, Isaac Bashevis Singer writes: “It is based on a faith almost as old as the human species – namely, that dead matter is not really dead but can be brought to life” (“The Golem is a Myth For Our Time”). Likewise, the materialist hypothesis of abiogenesis is premised upon the very same faith. This hypothesis, which constituted a portion of the Darwinian narrative for a time, posited the emergence of life from non-living matter. What else are living organisms in the Darwinian narrative but golems? Moreover, what difference is there between Darwin’s “Tree of Life” and Kabbalah’s impersonal Ein Sof? All of these elements constitute the self-sufficient immanent order presided over by a technocratic priesthood. This emergent theocracy venerates not a new god, but an old one rendered scientifically tenable by the Gnostic myth of Darwinism. That divinity is the strictly immanent god of pantheism. Eloquently synopsizing this contention, Herrick states: “Science has birthed a new theology, or, more accurately, rebirthed an old one” (The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition 262).
The elements comprising this revitalized pagan theology are derivative of older mythic constructs, albeit revised to accommodate the scientistic and anthropocentric prejudices of modernity and its revolutionaries. In aggregate, they comprise an updated mythology, one that is sustained by a new class of shamans. Elaborating on the new shamans, atheist Michael Shermer states that “because of language we are also storytelling, mythmaking primates, with scientism as the foundational stratum of our story and scientists as the premier mythmakers of our time” (“The Shamans of Scientism”). Commenting on the mythology being sculpted by these modern shamans, Perennial Traditionalist Rene Guenon writes:
Thus it comes about that there has grown up in the “scientistic” mentality. . .a real “mythology”: most certainly not in the original and transcendent meaning applicable to the traditional “myths,” but merely in the “pejorative” meaning which the word has acquired in recent speech. (The Reign of Quantity 151)
Indeed, the internal contradictions and arrogant pretensions of this updated mythology reinforces Guenon’s depreciatory assessment. Ultimately, it offers no livable values, abiding meaning, or transcendent truth. Instead, it merely affirms an excessive faith in the cognitive powers of man. Simply stated, this is a baseless hubris. Myth-based rationalizations this vanity is the best the mythmakers of modernity can offer to humanity.
- Asma, Stephen T. “The New Social Darwinism: Deserving Your Destitution.” The Humanist, Sept.-Oct. 1993
- Billington, James H. Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith. New York: Basic, 1980.
- Bryson, Michael. The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King. Delaware: Associated UP, 2004.
- —-.“The Gnostic Milton: salvation and divine similitude in Paradise Regained.” The New Milton Criticism, Peter C. Herman and Elizabeth Sauer, ed. Cambridge UP, 2012, 102-19.
- Colby, Gerard and Charlotte Dennett. Thy Will be Done – The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1995.
- Coomaraswamy, Rama. “The Fundamental Nature of the Conflict Between Modern and Traditional Man–Often Called the Conflict Between Science and Faith.” Rama Coomaraswamy Catholic Writings 2001
- Danielou, Jean. Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973.
- Darwin, Charles. 1887. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin. London: Bibliolis Books Ltd., 2010.
- Dennett, Daniel. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
- Desmond, Adrian and James Moore. Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist. 1947 New York, NY: Warner Books, 1991.
- Doukas, Dimitra. “Corporate Capitalism on Trial: The Hearings of the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission, 1902-1903.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 3(3): 367-398, 1997.
- Freydberg, Bernard. David Hume: Platonic Philosopher, Continental Ancestor. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2012.
- Ghent, William. Our Benevolent Feudalism. New York: Macmillan, 1902.
- Goeringer, Conrad. “The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and the Illuminati.” American Atheists 2006
- Guenon, Rene. The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. Trans. Lord Northbourne. Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books Inc., 1953.
- Herrick, James A. The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.
- —-. Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2008.
- Hirschman, Elizabeth. “Legends in Our Own Time: How Motion Pictures and Television Shows Fulfill the Functions of Myth.” The American Journal of Semiotics 17 (2001): 7-46.
- Hsü, Kenneth. The Great Dying: Cosmic Catastrophe, Dinosaurs and the Theory of Evolution. NY: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1986.
- Huxley, Julian and H.B.D. Kittlewell. Charles Darwin and His World. New York: Viking Press, 1965.
- Jacobs, Louis. “Golems—Making Men of Clay: Can imitating God extend to the creative realm?” My Jewish Learning 1995
- Kelley, James L. Anatomyzing Divinity: Studies in Science, Esotericism and Political Theology. Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2011.
- Kilborn, Peter T. “Data Back Idea Life Grew Out of Inferno.” New York Times (1998): A14.
- Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. New York: Basic Books, 1997.
- Manier, Jeremy. “Darwin and John Milton – evolution as ‘Paradise Lost.’” Science Life 12 February 2009
- Martin, Malachi. The Keys of This Blood: The Struggle for World Dominion Between Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Capitalist West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
- McAlester, A. Lee. The History of Life. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.
- Oldroyd, D.R. Darwinian Impacts. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1980.
- Patrides, Constantinos. Milton and the Christian Tradition. London: Oxford UP, 1969.
- Phillipson, Nicholas. “Making Adam Smith.” The Economist 5 August 2010
- Rachels, James. Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism. New York: Oxford UP, 1990.
- Richard Dawkins vs. John Lennox: The God Delusion Debate. University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham: New Day Entertainment, 2007.
- Richards, Robert J. The Meaning of Evolution: The Morphological Construction and Ideological Reconstruction of Darwin’s Theory. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992.
- Shermer, Michael. “The Shamans of Scientism.” Scientific American 13 May 2002
- Singer, Isaac Bashevis. “The Golem is a Myth For Our Time.” The New York Times 12 August 1984
- Smith, Wolfgang. Teilhardism and the New Religion: A Thorough Analysis of the Teachings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Illinois: TAN Books, 1988.
- Taylor, Ian T. In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order. Toronto: TFE Publishing, 1999.
- Upton, Charles. The System of Antichrist: Truth & Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age. New York: Sophia Perennis, 2001.
- Wall, Joseph F. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Oxford UP, 1970
- Wiley, C.R. “Homesick in the Cosmos.” The Imaginative Conservative 23 December 2012
About the Author
Phillip D. Collins acted as the editor for The Hidden Face of Terrorism and co-authored the book The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship with his brother Paul Collins. Both books are available at www.amazon.com. Phillip has also written articles for News With Views, Conspiracy Archive, and the Vexilla Regis Journal.
In 1999, Phillip earned an Associate degree of Arts and Science from Clark State Community College. In 2006, he earned a bachelor’s degree with majors in communication studies and liberal studies along with a minor in philosophy from Wright State University.
Phillip worked as a staff writer for a weekly news publication, the Vandalia Drummer, between late 2007 and 2011. During his tenure with the paper, he earned several accolades.
In 2011, he was inducted into the Media Honor Roll by the Ohio School Board Association for his extensive coverage of the Vandalia-Butler School District. That very same year, the Ohio Newspaper Association bestowed an Osman C. Hooper Newspaper Award upon Phillip for Best Photo. In addition, the City of Vandalia officially proclaimed that November 7, 2011 would be known as “Phillip Collins Day.” This honor was bestowed upon Phillip for his tireless coverage of the City and community.
Shortly after bringing his journalism career to a close, Phillip received another Osman C. Hooper Newspaper Award in the category of In-depth Reporting. This award was given to Phillip for his investigative work over the death of U.S. Marine Maria Lauterbach and the resultant Department of Defense reforms concerning sexual assault and rape. The case drew national attention and received TV coverage by major media organs.
Phillip currently works for the Wyoming Department of Corrections, where he earned the distinction of Employee of the Quarter for the third quarter of 2013. Phillip still works as a freelance journalist and is currently collaborating with his brother on a follow-up to The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship.