Stella Matutina Farm, The Shire, Michigan

It seems J. R. R. Tolkien has been my constant companion these forty years. I first read The Hobbit and LOTR when I was about eighteen or nineteen. I liked the books and was disappointed that the fantasy fiction I tried to read afterwards could never quite measure up. I include C. S. Lewis in the “not measure up” category, since, to me anyway, Lewis always seems a bit condescending about what he thinks “children” want. Not that he’s a bad writer. Tolkien lives in a different universe completely.

I have read The Hobbit to each of my nine children—that’s a lot of readings! And when I was a Waldorf teacher my classes read the book as well. When the first Peter Jackson LOTR film came out in 2001—can it really be that long ago?—I took my eldest son to see it for his twelfth birthday. I even bought him the LOTR chess set. Next week he’ll be thirty-one. And I’ve seen all of the films umpteen times with the rest of my children, most recently with my two youngest, aged ten and twelve.

Despite this rich history, I have never been a Tolkien freak. Not by a longshot. In fact, for years I resisted—and criticized more than once—those grownups with a Tolkien fixation who use the Shire, the Ring, and Mordor as constant reference points. I have also expressed irritation upon occasion with Distributists who get all Tolkien-y about pipes, ale, and tweed but still shop at Walmart and Costco and have never heard of a CSA. Having said that, I do have a dear friend who has nicknamed her children after the hobbits of LOTR. It’s the cutest thing ever! Though I have nine children, I have as yet refrained from nicknaming them after the Nazgûl—but don’t think I haven’t considered it!

Nevertheless, the time has come for me to confess my hobbitness.

Basically, my family and I live like hobbits. We live on a biodynamic farm among pigs, goats, chickens, bees, and a cow, close to a river and to a forest and meadows rich in mushrooms. We run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which is about as Distributist as it gets, and much of the commerce I undertake outside of the farm is with the carpenters, butchers, and farmers of an Amish community not far away. When I talk to the Amish men, we mostly talk about farming, hunting, and folk remedies.

But our agrarian lifestyle is not the only thing that defines our hobbitness. It also shows up in our desire to live lives without the intrusion of the various evils of the outside world. For example, we stopped vaccinating our kids a long time ago—and never gave even the eldest all the prescribed jabs. Of course, when the oldest was a baby, there weren’t that many recommended. Now the number is insane. My kids are rarely sick; only the older ones who received vaccinations have ever had ear infections. Another thing we do is homeschool, which has increasingly become looser as our family has grown and our trust in how the miracle of learning happens has increased.

But the world, even in our shire, is changing it seems. BLM protests, for example, occurred in a small village nearby this summer and the police there (all five of them—they are all thinking of taking early retirement) have been harassed as racists and bullies—though there are no reports of any racism or police brutality and most calls the police get are to help someone unlock a car door after the keys were locked inside or to coax a kitten out of a hole under the stairs. And then there’s this business of forced vaccines and immunization passports. And don’t even get me started on The Great Reset. To cop the rhetoric of my Tolkien fanatic comrades, Sauron has returned.

Though both my wife and myself were raised in the city, we have chosen this life for a reason. We want to live in peace in a way that is healthy for us, for our friends, and for the Creation. I can think of no better explanation than this one given by H. J. Massingham, himself something of a hobbit: “For when man lived more or less naturally, and at the same time believed the world to be the porch to an otherworldly room, his civilization made rapid and intensive growth, whereas he has made a sufficiently poor job of his own self-glorification in disowning Mother Earth and the Fatherhood of God.” [1] Mindful of Mother Earth and the Fatherhood of God is how we strive to live.

But, as I’ve indicated, there are forces, for the most part invisible, moving to change all this. And as that great philosopher Samwise Gamgee once said,

And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”[2]


What sort of a tale have we fallen into?



Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

1. H. J. Massingham, The Tree of Life (London: Chapman & Hall, 1943), 15.

2. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers (New York: Ballantine, 1993), 362.

  • Michael Martin

For Nikolai Berdyaev, philosophy is many things, but it is in no way an academic exercise performed for one’s peers. The idea of conformity to the opinions of even a highly cultured group repelled him, as it always compromises the essential freedom of the philosopher who sells his birthright for a plate of lentils by appealing to the crowd, however sophisticated its opinions. Berdyaev holds that philosophy is primarily a creative act, and as such it must resist the temptation of acceptance promised by professional approval. As he writes,


The highly cultured man of a certain style usually expresses imitative opinions upon every subject: they are average opinions, they belong to a group, though it may well be that this imitativeness belongs to a cultured élite and to a highly select group [….] Genius has never been completely able to find a place for itself in culture, and culture has always striven to turn genius from a wild animal into a domestic animal.” [1]

The philosopher, as wild animal, has no proper place in the domesticated world of the academy.


Connected to his ideas on creativeness, Berdyaev describes his attention to philosophy as revelation in terms of “active eschatology.” “Active eschatology,” he writes, “is the justification of the creative power in man.” [2] This is so because, “The outpouring of the Spirit, which changes the world, is the activity of the spirit in man himself.” Berdyaev’s active eschatology, then, speaks to the regeneration of all things, or, to adopt explicitly religious terminology, their glorification. The idea of theosis, indeed, tinctures (to use Boehmian language) all of Berdyaev’s thought. This glorification approaching from the future, furthermore, resides in the Coming of Christ which moves toward the present just as history moves toward its arrival, the two converging almost in the way of a supercollider. [3]


But the coming of the eschaton announces itself through anxiety. And while Berdyaev is assured of the final victory of Christ, he not as confident in man’s willing participation in the transformations implicit in His arrival. Man, it appears, would prefer to hold onto the dead forms of the past, their shells and ghosts, than cooperate with Christ in the regeneration of all things. Certainly, something of Boehme’s notion that God’s love feels like terror to the sinful as it burns away the impurities of the soul haunts Berdyaev’s metaphysic here. “Man is entering a new cosmos,” he writes:


All the elements of our epoch were present in the past, but now they are generalized, universalized and revealed in their true aspect. In these days of the world’s agony we feel keenly that we are living in a fallen world, torn asunder by incurable contradictions….


The world is living in a period of agony which greatly resembles that of the end of antiquity. But the present situation is more hopeless, since at the close of antiquity Christianity entered the world as a new young force, while now Christianity, in its human age, is old and burdened with a long history in which Christians have often sinned and betrayed their ideal. And we shall see that the judgment upon history is also a judgment upon Christianity in history.”[4]


Christianity, that is, in its amnesia has forgotten how to make all things new.


But theosis is not the only thing that characterizes the future: there exists also what we might call a “passive eschatology,” and great danger accompanies it. The defining feature of this passive eschatology has everything to do with the ways in which technology and mechanization transfigure (or, more accurately, disfigure) man as their innovations and methods are blindly and uncritically welcomed and incorporated into human life. This movement thoroughly compromises the being of man: “We face the question, is that being to whom the future belongs to be called man, as previously, or something other?” [5] Given the subsequent colonization of the human person by genetic engineering, hormone treatments, and plastic surgery—just for starters—one would have to conclude that Berdyaev was more than prescient.


Berdyaev, like his contemporaries Martin Heidegger and Rudolf Steiner, warned about the rise of technology and its impact on human flourishing. Though he died in 1948, before the advent of television and well before the totalization of the technological and technocratic which has become the information revolution and the dominance of social media, his words are startlingly (and to some degree terrifyingly) poignant:


The greatest victories of man in the realms of science, as in that of the technical mastery over nature, have become the principal cause of man’s dehumanization. Man is no longer master of the machines which he has invented. Our contemporary mechanized civilization is fatal to man’s inner life, for it destroys his integrity, disfigures his emotional life, makes him the instrument of inhuman processes, and takes away from him all possibility of contemplation by a rapid increase in the tempo of life.” [6]

As we have become all too aware, both capitalism and communism participate in this dehumanization, and no existent political structures offer an alternative. “The world threatens to become an organized and technicized chaos in which only the most terrible forms of idolatry and demon-worship can live.” [7]


For Berdyaev, though, the rise of the technological colonization of man did not simply happen by accident. Rather, it is the result of the breakdown of culture and the failure of Christianity to transfigure society. Influenced by Solovyov’s conviction that Western Christianity, while it created a culture, did not create a Christian culture, whereas Eastern Christianity failed to create a culture at all, though its society was Christian, [8] Berdyaev lays the blame at the feet of a Christianity mired in its many sins and more invested in preservation of the past than concern about the future. His critique is scathing:


”We are witnessing a judgement not on history alone, but upon Christian humanity…. The task of creating a more just and humane social order has fallen into the hands of anti-Christians, rather than Christians themselves. The divine has been torn apart from the human. This is the basis of all judgement in the moral sphere, now being passed upon Christianity.” [9]

Christianity, furthermore, failed to save culture, because it failed to be Christian:


In this visible world there is no external unity in the Church; its œcumenicity is not completely actualized. Not only the division of the Churches and the multiplicity of Christian confessions but the very fact that there are non-Christian religions in the world at all, and that there is, besides, an anti-Christian world, proves that the Church is still in a merely potential state and that its actualization is still incomplete.” [10]

In addition, Christianity, for Berdyaev, is too enamored of its own past, thereby neglecting its true vocation:


In historical Christianity the prophetic element inherent in it has become enfeebled and this is why it ceases to play an active and leading role in history. We no longer look to anything but the past and to past illumination. But it is the future which needs lighting up.” [11]

And not only has the prophetic element become enfeebled, but, because it has, so has Christianity tout court:


Christianity in the course of its history has too often been submissive to brute facts; the leaders of the churches have too often adapted themselves to various political and social orders, and the judgement of the Church is only pronounced after the event. The result of this has been a loss of messianic consciousness and an exclusive turning towards the past.” [12]

Faced with the realities of Christian history and culture and the impending demonic technicization of man, Berdyaev can only conclude that, “Either a new epoch in Christianity is in store for us and a Christian renaissance will take place, or Christianity is doomed to perish,” though he knows full well that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [13] Berdyaev wagers on behalf of the Church Triumphant, but he condemns degenerate Christianity when he sees it because he knows a failure of culture is at its core a failure of Christianity. He recognizes the paradox.


The paradox is that only Christianity can save the world from Christianity. Thus Berdyaev prophesizes the arrival of “the new Christianity” which will “rehumanize man and society, culture and the world” because “[o]nly in Divine-humanity, the Body of Christ, can man be saved.” [14] But such regeneration is not without conditions:


The future depends upon our will and upon our spiritual efforts. This must be said about the future of the entire world. The part to be played by Christianity will certainly be enormous on condition that its old fictitious forms are left behind and that its prophetic aspect is revealed as the source of a different attitude towards the social problem.” [15]

In language resonant to some degree with Teilhard de Chardin’s notion of the Omega Point, Berdyaev thinks of all history, all life, as moving “towards a central even of absolute importance, the Second Coming of the Saviour.” [16] Furthermore, for Berdyaev, Christianity, though it has in large part abdicated its vocation in this world, has still not completed its mission; it still has untapped reserves of creativity and revelation, which lie dormant through the accretion of centuries and centuries of acquiescence to worldliness: “When there is no sense of creative mission in the Church, spiritual decadence follows.” [17] Berdyaev, among other things, saw that his task was to reawaken Christianity to this mission:

Every question has not yet been settled and Christianity is not a finished product, nor will it be finished till the end of time; its fulfilment corresponds to the coming of the Kingdom of God. But if we are looking for this Kingdom of God and moving towards it, we cannot be in a static condition. The existence of a static Orthodoxy or Catholicism is pure fiction, a piece of mere auto-suggestion, and it arises from the objectification and ‘absolutization’ of what are simply temporary periods in Church life.” [18]

But one must wonder if in this task he failed.


The current Christian landscape suggests that, for the most part, he has. While conservative elements in Christianity look to preserving an imagined past, more liberal elements of Christianity look to the present. The future, it seems, is of no one’s concern. Out of sight, out of mind. For Christianity, Berdyaev would no doubt observe, this is a very real tragedy.


Complacency and the bourgeois sensibility that “one must be busy doing something” alike afflict the Christianity of which Berdyaev was so critical. Only revelation, an inherently creative movement, can remedy this. But revelation, as the stories of the prophets attest (and of which John the Baptist is perhaps the paradigmatic example), is usually unwelcome and the love it offers is interpreted as a threat: “Revelation is a catastrophic transformation of consciousness, a radical modification of its structure, almost, one might say, a creation of new organs of being with functions in another world. Revelation is not evolution but revolution.” [19] It is far easier to turn away, get lost in religious nostalgia, find distraction in the politics of the moment, or engage in mindless infotainment and celebrity gossip. So stand we.


I cannot decide whether Berdyaev’s thought is pessimistically optimistic or optimistically pessimistic. He believes in the regeneration of Christianity, of man, of culture, of nature, but sees little evidence of it in the world and even less interest. Yet he knows that, bidden or not, the Messiah comes. Like William Butler Yeats, Berdyaev is attentive to the tragic nature of revelation as it destroys the falsity of our various temptations and our bourgeois complacencies; for, “Surely some revelation is at hand; / Surely the Second Coming is at hand.” Berdyaev’s radical Christian vision, his prophetic madness and absolute clarity, offer much to a postmodern milieu entrapped in its own excesses and excrescences. But will anyone have the time or inclination to listen?



Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

1. Slavery and Freedom, 123.

2. Slavery and Freedom, 265.

3. Freedom and the Spirit, 304.

4. The Fate of Man in the Modern World, trans. Donald A. Lowrie (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1935), 21–22 and 23.

5. The Fate of Man in the Modern World, 25.

6. Towards a New Epoch, 15.

7. Towards a New Epoch, 127.

8. Vladimir Solovyov, Lectures on Divine Humanity, trans. Peter Zouboff [1948], rev. and ed. Boris Jakim (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Press, 1995), 170–73.

9. The Fate of Man in the Modern World, 118 and 122.

10. Freedom and the Spirit, 348.

11. Towards a New Epoch, 36.

12. Towards a New Epoch, 117.

13. Freedom and the Spirit, 46.

14. The Fate of Man in the Modern World, 129.

15. Towards a New Epoch, 117.

16. Freedom and the Spirit, 304.

17. Freedom and the Spirit, 305.

18. Freedom and the Spirit, 305.

19. Freedom and the Spirit, 96.


image from Tarkovsky's 'Nostalghia'

I’m sure you’ve heard of “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,’ probably the first revolution in history to come with a marketing team and implementation strategy. That’s because this “revolution’ is a top-down phenomenon. It has nothing to do with a dissatisfied proletariat, an oppressed peasantry (the working poor to you and me), or a desired changed in the social order. That’s because the people proposing this alleged revolution are those at the top of the economic food chain, the 1% that Progressives and their ilk were supposedly against not all that long ago. When the Gateses, the WEF, the tech giants, and BigPharma are calling for a revolution, you know something’s amiss.

Indeed, the Fourth Industrial Revolution promises a new Utopia—as did its predecessors. Did they deliver? They delivered products and services, at least to some. They also delivered misery. With the Enclosure Laws in England, for example, economic prosperity was promised—and obtained—by many, but somebody had to pay for it. The peasantry and yeoman farmers were the primary subjects who paid, as the Common Lands were taken from them and they were forced into cities to be welcomed by alcoholism, prostitution, syphilis, cholera, and despair. Initially instituted during the 16th century, St. Thomas More wrote of the effects of enclosure on the English peasantry at that time in an economic boom related to the wool trade: “Now they are becoming so greedy and wild that they devour men themselves, I hear. They devastate and pillage fields, houses, and towns. For in whatever parts of the land the sheep yield the softest and most expensive wool, there the nobility and gentry, yes, and even some abbots though otherwise holy men, are not content with the old rents that the land yielded to their predecessors. Living in idleness and luxury, without doing any good to society, no longer satisfies them; they have to do positive evil. For they leave no land free for the plow: they enclose every acre for pasture.” [1]

During the 17th century, the True Levellers (or Diggers) fought back against enclosure. Gerrard Winstanely railed against their elite oppressors:


The earth was not made purposely for you, to be the Lords of it, and we to be your Slaves, Servants, and Beggars; but it was made to be a common Livelihood to all, without respect of persons: And this buying and selling of Land, and the Fruits of it, one to another, is The cursed thing, and was brought in by War; which hath, and still does establish murder, and theft, in the hands of some branches of Mankinde over others which is the greatest outward burden, and unrighteous power, that the Creation groans under: For the power of inclosing Land, and owning Property, was brought into the Creation by your Ancestors by the Sword; which first did murther their fellow Creatures, Men, and after plunder or steal away their Land, and left this Land successively to you, their Children.” [2]


Christian anarchism used to mean something. From what I can tell lately, for a lot of people it means being a Progressive who goes to church.


Later such revolutions resulted in child labor and slavery. In 18th and 19th century England, the textile industry turned people, and especially children, into fodder for the machine. William Blake—visionary, poet, engraver, and true revolutionary—called the textile factories “Dark Satanic Mills” for a reason. But you already know this.


But the Fourth Industrial Revolution, they promise, will be different. Sure, it will.


The earlier Industrial Revolutions brought improvements in some ways, but the underside of them was that untold suffering of the poor—like those African miners digging the lithium for the battery of your eco-friendly vehicle or the workers in the many sweatshops across the world who make your smartphone. Someone pays for your conveniences. And it’s not you.


The primary difference in this Industrial Revolution is that now the threat is to compromise the very biology of the human person through an unproven mRNA vaccine and the relegation of people to a totalizing technocratic environment (for starters), both supported by the proscription of movement without a vaccination passport (it’s already here) and the financial and personal ruin of those who refuse to participate in the Great Reset. Primarily, this is a transhumanist agenda, since the endgame is to change the reality of what it is to be human. You can read about it in almost every science-fiction dystopia ever written.


As I’ve written before, I didn’t think the transhumanist project would arrive for a few decades, but apparently Uncle Klaus and Camp Counselor Bill had other plans. Even Time magazine lauds its salvific arrival.


Every previous Industrial Revolution has met with a counter movement, almost always accompanied by an embrace of agrarianism and the beauty of the Creation. And nowhere was this more beautifully realized than in Romanticism.


The Romantics, especially those in Germany and England, proposed a cultural renewal in rejection of the materialistic and dehumanizing realities of the Enlightenment values that spawned the Industrial Revolution. Reason—whether it be a blind trust in “science” or “the data”—and economic pipe-dreams of a technocratic paradise cannot but prove lacking, and probably ruinous for the human species and the planet. The Romantics of 18th and 19th centuries resisted and the Romantics of the 21st will resist. We will return to the land, to poetry, to human community, and to the Kingdom of Heaven. We will have our own Gerrard Winstanelys, our own William Blakes.


We should remember, as Rudolf Steiner (who was the fulfillment of Romanticism’s promise according to Owen Barfield) reminded his friends during the darkest days of World War I, that we must


live out of pure trust, Without any security in existence.

Trusting in the ever present help Of the spiritual world.

Truly, nothing else will do If our courage is not to fail us.


Nothing else will do.



Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.

1. Sir Thomas More, Utopia, trans. and ed. Robert M. Adams, Norton Critical Editions (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992), 12.

2. [Gerrard Winstanely], A Declaration from the Oppressed of England, directed to all that call themselves, or are called, Lords of Manors, through this Nation; That have begun to cut, or through fear and covetousness, do intend to cut down the Woods and Trees that grow upon the Commons and Waste Land (1649), A2r. Emphasis in original.

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