October 31, 2017 by John Bruce Leonard
The Atheistic State, Part III
The God of Materialism
THE GOD OF MATERIALISM is a nether god. Truly, it is the “netherest.” All its gravity draws down, and nor blood nor ichor runs through its veins. Its reign is nothing its own, but all its various features are but the borrowed perversions and inversions of higher and truer forms; precisely by “annihilating” them, it is damned to become their shadow, and thus in its very existence it tacitly reifies that which it would destroy. Nothing else is meant by the famous protest of Goethe’s Devil: “I am the spirit which ever desires Evil, but ever works Good.” The same can be said for the atheistic society: it is that society which wishes to negate all past forms, and thereby—affirms them. Everything about it is a sham, merely the vulgar or vacuous or vicious echo of what has come before. For it lacks utterly soul its own—and therefore cannot create, but can only mimic without even wishing to.
Any higher civilization aims at what is divine in man, which is, if not identical to, certainly reflected by, human virtue. The atheistic society knows no virtue, but only interest; not quality but Mammon is its standard and compass. He who has money is the “blessed”; he has been deemed “elevated,” “chosen.” One speaks indeed of “upward social mobility” and “social climbing” and whatnot—all of which means nothing other in the end than getting richer. It is all movement, of course, which is somehow obscurely supposed to favor “merit”—quite as if money were both sign and effect of one’s quality. These same wealthy, by law or else by natural fact, are afforded proportionate influence; money becomes thereby one of the prime standards of rule and power, precisely as caliber should be in any just society. One even calls such men the “elites,” in utter caricature of an honorable word. These businessmen, capitalists, “entrepreneurs”—call them what you will, their substance changes nothing for it—are naught but pale shadows of the statesman, generals, rulers of old, who once were determined in respect to their quality, and now in function of their pocketbooks.
The old priestly caste, meanwhile, is co-opted today by none other than the scientists, who dedicate themselves to plumbing the mysteries of their god, who never once question their own faith that theirs is the single true method, and whose pronouncements on the world are taken as dogma by the masses, though the upper echelons of the scientific ranks know of course the limits of these ex cathedra pronouncements, their strictly provisional character. It is they whose discoveries produce the new “miracles,” they who work their awe-inspiring manipulations of matter and the wonderous resolution of disease, they in whom one places one’s hope in a petty immortality (longevity) or even perhaps in a real one, guaranteed by none other than the “technological” and “genetic” revolutions even now at our doorstep. These priests, like the priests of old, have their rank and file, their sages and initiates. They have their saints, whose names are scribed into statues and regarded with right mixture of awe and incomprehension by the lay masses. They have their scripture—the mathematical analysis of the universe—the premises of which are unquestionable to their eyes. They have their creation myth (the “Big Bang,” man from monkey) and their teleology (the Heat Death of the Universe). And just as with any religious dogma, he who doubts is cast out—at least, out of all serious consideration.
Nothing therefore changes in the hue of this society, save that it becomes “secular”—that is to say, soulless, devoid of spirit, disanimate. No redemption nor any virtue is any longer possible, nor even regarded as necessary or desirable; all men rest content with the fallen and wretched state, perceiving this quite simply as “human nature,” by which they mean, not at all the inherently perfectible, enigmatically bestial-divine quality once ascribed to the “featherless biped,” but rather the confused muddle of instincts and appetites whose chaotic and accidental mixture in the form of “chemicals” in the “nervous system” is thought to produce the machine called man, in a process strictly analogous to that by which a robot is produced. No bonds are lashed onto the vilest of human excesses—so long as these do not disturb one’s sleep or social standing—nor any gravity set in the heavens to counteract this downward pull. One no longer has one’s god-emperor, nor shaman, nor even priest confessor; one now has one’s psychoanalyst, who, far from attempting to purify one’s soul or cast out the demons or render one’s heart stronger, more moral, more godly, has the comparatively modest task of “adjusting” the human being to his “environment,” and smoothing out the rougher parts of his less convenient “neuroses.”
Where before one strove to become like a god, today the gods have “become like men”—that is, like the basest and most commonplace men, whose highest heights are reached when they grow sentimental and feel pity. God as the wretched pitier of man: god as that force which desires the material welfare of man; god as this material welfare itself—that is the “evolution of god” in the secular state. Where men once boldly perished for the sake of the gods or the crown, for the good of their honor or their blood, they now cravenly live for physical pleasure and creature comforts and, at most, for the limelight and fame. Truly, we have the strangest idea of “progress.”
And just as in elder ages the aristocracy and the clergy lived in tension with one another and pulled toward different goals and ideals, sometimes threatening the stability of society itself, so today scientists and businessmen vie secretly for “control.” Yet what they seek is no longer the rulership of the souls and the moral destinies of human empires, nations, and peoples, but only the command of the masses’ wallets. All struggles for economic command are struggles over the most externalistic of things; all our public men are almost without exception the pathetic creatures of their own vanity. Their god, being all matter, is no soul; they form themselves in its image, or it in theirs, it makes no difference. For the atheistic state is in truth the hollow state.