By Vince Dhimos
There was, however, no liberty for the hapless subjects. They either obeyed their leaders or faced death. Nor was there equality for the masses, only for the top elite, who called themselves the Assemblée nationale législative and, without any consultation with the people, handed down their edicts to the masses. Under these circumstances there was no brotherhood ether, naturally. The gap between ruled and rulers was as wide and intractable as it had been under the nobles. And the beheadings had been much less frequent in the bad old days. Indeed, Robespierrre, the ring leader, was already a lawyer and hence a member of the old elite when he spearheaded the movement. Once installed he became a self-worshiping tyrant and often made public appearances dressed like a Roman emperor, until his unfortunate head also rolled from the guillotine.
Thousands upon thousands of people perceived as associated with the ancien régime were sent to the guillotine with little or no trial. Eventually, even many of those who showed less than the desirable degree of enthusiasm for the revolution and its leaders were beheaded, and the streets soon ran red with blood. In a caprice of history, “Enlightened One” (éclairé) became synonymous with “executioner.” Aimed at eliminating excesses such as the Inquisition, the Enlightenment became its own inquisition. As if this were not enough insanity, Napoleon Bonaparte became the carrier of the revolution and rampaged across Europe and Russia to spread this wonderful idea, destroying precious infrastructure, art treasures and architecture in his path until he was brought down by countries that were less than enthusiastic about the Englightenment.
One of the main problems with the movement was confusion. While some of les philosophes based their ideals on Cicero’s ideas of natural law, others did not, leading to the contradictory situation of some philosophers rejecting natural law while endorsing natural science. And then there was de Sade, who seemed to think that lawlessness was natural.
Famous quotations from the Marquis de Sade, once called the Prince of the Enlightenment, sheds light on the movement’s attitudes toward traditional morality. In this list, we find him, for example:
endorsing infanticide, atheism, and crime, justifying theft as a more fair distribution of wealth, cruelty as natural and as a “virtue and not a vice,” characterizing marriage as a “horror”, and condemning humaneness as “nothing but weakness born of fear and ignorance.”
While the “enlightened” French revolutionaries touted themselves as scientific and paid lip service to the scientific method, they showed little aptitude for wielding the method. Real scientists test their hypothesis on a small sampling of guinea pigs to see if it actually leads to the desired result. If they get the expected result, they then use a larger population and keep testing to make sure the solution is safe for large scale application. Instead of this, the entire French populace was subjected to a dangerous experiment without any pre-trials and the medicine killed the patients by the thousands.
Incredibly, Western leaders today continue to use this same failed method, assuming their proposed solutions will work and then when they fail, they pretend the test was a success. In fact, ever since 1789 the French have been celebrating this colossal failure every year on July 14.
So why all the fuss about a philosophical movement that hardly anyone cares or knows anything about?
Because the dichotomy between the radical Enlightenment and its more moderate school—the one that didn’t kill anyone -- is the hinge on which all the conflict between East and West turns.
The war between moderate and radical Enlightened Ones, ie, essentially East and West, is now as fierce as before, but with one major difference: we are now in a nuclear age making a peaceful resolution a matter of life and death for all of us.
Radical Enlightenment thought has led to the disaster that the West has become, with its impossible debt levels, its social unrest, its sharp divisions in a society teetering on the brink of civil war, and endless senseless foreign wars and regime change coups. Thus, among Western leadership, there is not a trace of reason to be found, nothing but edicts from on high. This tragedy is due in large part to the focus on punishing those who are perceived as the perpetrators of the serious issues of the past. In the early days of the Enlightenment, these perceived perpetrators included the leaders behind the excesses of the Church, such as the Inquisition, the sale of indulgences, the religious wars, etc. Since many of the leaders who caused these ills were clerics, the “Enlightened ones” decided with minimal deliberation that the bedrock of Christianity, ie, the belief in God, was the cause of all ills, and they set about to eliminate the clergy and all religious beliefs, replacing them with manmade slogans and rigid ideology-bound leaders.
It needs to be pointed out that the main issues of the past were in fact due to ignorant misguided people calling themselves Christians. That must be stated up front lest the reader think I am making this a defense of so-called Christianity, which today is applied to groups who, often without realizing it, reject the teachings of Christ and cling to legalistic Old Testament notions that are quite the opposite.
The abuses that led to the Enlightenment movement were indefensible. The Catholic Church was guilty of grave human rights abuses and had meddled unfairly in politics. I hasten to add that the beneficiaries of Lutheran’s reforms had learned nothing from their prior mistreatment at the hands of the Catholics either. Instead of taking a more benevolent view of dissidents, treating them with more understanding and kindness than they themselves had been shown by the Catholics, they soon applied the same abusive tactics against the Anabaptists. It was not until the banished Anabaptists reached the shores of the New World and settled there in a relatively peaceful environment that they, the victims of the persecution by the ex-victims of the Catholics, achieved a new level of understanding, at least in political life – namely, that all religious persecution, not just persecution of their one group, must be rejected universally. In accepting this proposition, the Anabaptists had become unwitting pioneers in the movement to keep church and state separate. This new idea removed one of the obstacles toward better understanding between traditional and revolutionary (enlightened so-called). It could have been the start of a generally benign policy toward traditionalism among the elites. But the elites were unmoved and remained hostile as before to Christianity, to the extent that today, for example, in the field of biology, any scientist who expresses even the slightest interest in the concept of Intelligent Design as a factor in the evolution of the species, is considered an outcast in the scientific community. The tacit implication is that a belief in a higher power precludes being considered a scientist. This situation is best described in the documentary titled Expelled (view full film here).
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