• Michael Martin

I was really looking forward to the new Dune movie. Not that I’m this giant Frank Herbert fan. I’ve only read the original book—the first time thirty years ago—but the trailer looked good. But apparently Covid can do what no sandworm could and defeated the launch of the film which has now been postponed from November 2020 to October 2021. So, since I couldn’t see the film, I read the book (I didn’t have a copy of it, but my son gave me one for Christmas).

One section of the book really struck me this time. In about the middle of the book, shorn by his enemies of his stillsuit (the contraption that allows his to recycle his own body’s water and sustain him in the harsh desert environment of the planet Arrakis) and becoming delirious from heat exhaustion and dehydration, the Freman planetologist, Liet Kynes, starts to hallucinate (or does he?). “The real wealth of a planet is in its landscape,” his meandering consciousness utters, “how we take part in that basic source of civilization—agriculture” [1]. Then, in his delirium, he hears the voice of his deceased father, also a planetologist:

The more life there is within a system, the more riches there are for life…. Life improves the capacity of the environment to sustain life…. Life makes needed nutrients more readily available. It binds more energy into the system through the tremendous chemical interplay from organism to organism.” [2]

These notions did not jump out at me at that first reading all those years ago, but they certainly did this time. What Herbert ventriloquizes through Kynes is essentially a dictum of biodynamic agriculture (and all sound agriculture). Rather than the anxious, greedy, and decidedly neurotic attempts by governments and corporations to encourage monoculture and grand scale farming, biodynamics and COMMON SENSE encourage diversity—of plants, animals, woodlands, waterways, pasture, insect life—as a key to life. It is a closed system (ideally, nothing is brought in off of the farm to augment this fertility), but it is a very different kind of closed system from those of monoculture or factory farming—which are systems closed to life. Call them Zombie Farming.

It just so happens that while I’ve been reading Dune, I’ve also been reading the radical agrarian pamphleteer and Member of Parliament William Cobbett’s Cottage Economy (1822). Cobbett, God bless him!, was so radical he had to flee the country a few times, and he wanted to turn back the enclosure laws that so decimated English farmers and turned them into mere wage-earners. He gives very practical advice on farming for self-sufficiency and he rails against the Christian (I assume Catholic) embrace of poverty as a tool the wealthy and powerful use to keep the lower classes quiet and under their control. He was particularly disgusted with what it had done to the Irish peasantry (he was one of the few British MPs of his time, along with William Wilberforce, to support Catholic emancipation).

Cobbett endorses a way of living both sensible and healthy:

From a very small piece of ground a large part of the food of a considerable family may be raised, the very act of raising it will be the best possible foundation of education of the children of the labourer; that it will teach them a great number of useful things, add greatly to their value when they go forth from their father’s home, make them start in life with all possible advantages, and give them the best chance of leading happy lives. And is it not much more rational for parents to be employed in teaching their children how to cultivate a garden, to feed and rear animals, to make bread, beer, bacon, butter and cheese, and to be able to do these things for themselves, or for others, than to leave them to prowl about the lanes and commons, or to mope at the heels of some crafty, sleekheaded pretended saint, who while he extracts the last penny from their pockets, bid them be contented with their misery, and promises them, in exchange for their pence, everlasting glory in the world to come? It is upon the hungry and the wretched that the fanatic works.” [3]

Fanatics, of course, continue to work upon the hungry and wretched as well as upon, as recent events have emphasized, the fearful.

Ever the idealist, Cobbett also thought things would improve. They have not. As John Lennon sings in “Working Class Hero,”:

They keep you doped with religion and sex and TV And you think you’re so clever and classless and free But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see

In the early twentieth century, a number of rural reformers, distributists, and communitarians tried to revive a sensible approach to economy, anticipating and trying to avoid the overwhelming deluge that would become the military-industrial-governmental-pharmaceutical complex. Besides Chesterton and Belloc, H.J Massingham and George William Russell (also known as the poet, A.E.) pushed for a more human economy. For Massingham, the failure of the human economy was directly attributable to the failure of Christendom to be Christian, and he hoped for a return to a time when “religion, learning, the arts and crafts, agriculture and the contemplation of wild nature as the manifestation of God, were integrated as aspects of one whole.” [4] If that sounds like Sophiology, gentle reader, you are not mistaken.

George Russell, for his part, though his proposal for rural regeneration is very practical, nevertheless waxes very poetic in his description of his vision:

God’s world—all the light, the glory, the beauty which the earth puts forth to her children—the dawn over the hills, the green grass, the odour and incense of flowers, the smell of the turned-up sod, trees, hills, the multitudinous magnificence of nature—are all being deserted by humanity because humanity cannot exist on the earth and cultivate it, and maintain thereon an equal life. If they remain they are poor, they are ignorant, they are beset by hostile forces, they are enslaved, and they give up their inheritance as heirs of the ages and the spoils which man has ransacked from time.” [5]

Notice how the sophianic reality of the world becomes disfigured by our disengagement from the Real as Russell describes it here.

Of course, the ruralists, communitarians, and distributists also failed. But the war isn’t over yet.

Now, as we see, the richest men on earth are swallowing up farmland at a disturbing rate, the newest form of enclosure, now in a corporate guise and under government sanction. They might have all the power and wealth, but they don’t have either truth or reality. At the same time, the proponents of The Great Reset are pushing for hyperurbanization and a technocratic dystopia (not their word, but actually the deal).

A sophianic economy (by whatever name one calls it) offers the only path by which sanity may be reached. It could also salvage the wreckage that is Christianity. This will probably entail some sort of upheaval (or, better, ignoring of) the dominant power structures in both of those domains.

Just don’t let the technocrats win.

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. Frank Herbert, Dune (Penguin, 2018), 345.

2. Ibid., 346.

3. William Cobbett, Cottage Economy, to which is added, The Poor Man’s Friend (New York, 1833), 11.

4. H.J. Massignham, The Tree of Life (London, 1943), 47.

5. George William Russell (A. E.), Co-operation and Nationality (Dublin, 1912), 22.

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  • Michael Martin

Some people assume that, because I question some of the assumptions of this or that “medical expert” that I am somehow “anti-science.” I take great umbrage at such a charge. When people tell me to “follow the science,” my response is to tell them to “follow the scientists,” which often is synonymous with “follow the money.” Recent scientific history is absolutely crummy with compromised scientists pushing compromised science in the grand cabal that is the governmental-military-industrial-pharmaceutical complex. I think some of the same people assume that, since I often write about spirituality, mysticism, and poetry that I am somehow not interested in science. Nothing could be further from the truth! First of all, most of the subjects of my first book, Literature and the Encounter with God in Post-Reformation England—John Dee, Sir Kenelm Digby, and Henry and Thomas Vaughan—were scientists or physicians. I also have a chapter on the seventeenth-century scientist and physician Robert Fludd in The Submerged Reality. I start off Transfiguration with a chapter entitled “A Delicate Empiricism: Goethe, Sophiology, and the Possibilities of a Catholic Science.” I also wrote the entry on Paracelsus for the forthcoming 4th edition of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Religion. One of my sons is a scientist (which, by the way, blows up that “homeschool kids can’t do science” canard). In addition, I am a practicing biodynamic farmer, and farming is one of the oldest scientific methods known to us. So there.

I love science, because I love Natura. That’s rather a fundamental sophiological position, and one I have held to for a long, long time.

I’ve learned more than a few things about science from my scholarly and academic careers. First of all: it’s politics, stupid. This was as true in the seventeenth century as it is now. Science may be neutral, but scientists aren’t. Envy, greed, lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, and wrath haunt the hard sciences as much as any other domain of human endeavor. And there isn’t a vaccine for it. Of course, not all scientists act out of the Seven Deadly Sins; but, if they don’t, they have colleagues or enemies who do. It is unavoidable. Don’t believe me? Ask people who lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic, or those whose loved ones listened to the bogus research suggesting smoking, aspertame, and glyphosates are healthy and safe and now suffer for it. Follow the scientists.

The thing that has most disturbed me during this pandemic is how “scientists” have stigmatized actual health and healthy practices—like interacting with other human beings by way of touch and embrace, breathing fresh air, and spending time in the sun. We’ve been condemned to a Zoom version of Hell. I still see people walking alone, outside, wearing masks without anyone within hundreds of feet from them. This makes no sense, and it has nothing to do with science. Of course, we know these things are also psychologically damaging (we’ve all seen the statistics) and psychological states invariably affect one’s health.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I have often wondered what would have happened had the Paracelsian and Rosicrucian natural philosophers and physicians won the day against the scientific materialism which arose in the seventeenth century and which has employed a method of exploitation and conquest of Natura ever since. The first commitment of the agreement of the Brethren of the Rosy Cross in the Fama Fraternitatis (1614), for example, promises “That none of them should profess any other thing then to cure the sick, and that gratis.” Likewise, the last article listed in the enrollment for Christian’s membership in The Order of the Golden Stone in The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1617) is “That you shall not be willing to live longer than God will have you.” That is, that one shall not utilize artificial means—whether medical or magical—to prolong existence beyond the point of life. I think we have been trained to fear two things during this pandemic: illness and death. If you don’t believe me, fake sneeze next time you’re in line at the grocery store. Thirteen months ago no one would bat an eye. Now they run (not walk) for the hand sanitizer.

an edition of Paracelsus

But even more than their common sense approach to things, the Rosicrucian and Paracelsian physicians looked to the supersensible worlds as well as to the aspect of Natura present to the senses in order to facilitate healing. Nature spoke to them in the language of divinity; and Divinity spoke to them through Nature. This idea permeates the writing of Thomas Vaughan, Robert Fludd, and Paracelsus and shines in the poetry of Henry Vaughan, as can be seen in these lines from “Regeneration”:

With that, some cryed, Away; straight I

Obey’d, and led

Full east, a faire, fresh field could spy

Some call’d it, Jacobs Bed;

A Virgin-soile, which no

Rude feet ere trod.

Where (since he slept there,) only go

Prophets, and Friends of God.

What would happen if medicine and the natural sciences had taken this path instead of the one they followed? Goethe tried to right the ship, but he was all but ignored. Still, their legacy lives on in the thousands of homeopaths, naturopaths, Anthroposophic MDs, and others who draw not only on current medical knowledge but on the spiritual healing traditions of indigenous peoples and folk medicine—people the AMA, the CDC, the WHO and others try to suppress, while they uphold The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and pharmaceutical giants as benefactors of humanity (despite their dismal records). The inheritors of Paracelsian and Rosicrucian medicine, on the other hand, are interested in the art of healing. But the real money is in sickness. As Thomas Vaughan writes in his preface to The Fame & Confession of the Fraternity of the R.C. (1652): “We plainly see, that if the least Disease invades Us, the School-men have not one Notion that is so much a charm, as to cure Us: and why then should we imbrace a Philosophie of meer words, when it is evident enough, that we cannot live but by Works. Let us not for shame be so stupid any more.”

So, one year into this strange experiment in...in what?—I can’t say “health”—where do we find ourselves? Are we any wiser?

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.

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  • Michael Martin

I have for a long time had an interest in dystopian fiction and film, and world events have made this interest in fantasy a lens for taking a hard look at our times. I assume this is not just for me. Who hasn’t thought of Brave New World or Nineteen-Eighty-Four over the past year? Isn’t our historical moment comparable to themes found in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil! or Twelve Monkeys, not to mention The Hunger Games or The Giver? We live in surreal times. Inhuman times.

Cormac McCarthy’s dystopic vision, particularly in Blood Meridian and The Road, offers some of the harshest and most brutal examinations of fallenness and human depravity in the literary canon. McCarthy draws on Jacob Boehme (about whom I’ve often written) and his ideas of the Threefold Cosmos—of Satan, Christ, and Sophia—and how these are layered in what we perceive of as reality. And Philip K. Dick’s many books, a good number of them made into films after his death, may be the master at exploring our often false perceptions of “reality” and the dangers of the simulacra, those beings and objects that appear genuine (as human, as animal, as institutions) in order to deceive and control. He was something of a prophet, as even a cursory reading or viewing of the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (made into the film Blade Runner) or the short story and film versions of Minority Report, with their themes of transhumanism and the surveillance state, readily show. Some might suggest that Dick was paranoid. Maybe he was, but that doesn’t mean somebody wasn’t out to get him.

This preoccupation also inhabits my scholarly work and certainly bears a relationship to Sophiology. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the first academic article I ever published, “Meditations on Blade Runner,” came out in 2005, and, more than just about the film, it is a meditation on the phenomenon of transhumanism then beginning to make itself heard in the darker corners of the academic world. This was just after Francis Fukuyama’s book Our Posthuman Future was published in 2002. He saw it all coming. It’s here.

Our posthuman future, however, has gone through rebranding. Now it’s called “The New Normal.” I guess if you call something “normal” enough times, people will start to believe it’s normal. But it’s not. It’s not normal, because it’s not human. It’s not normal, because it has no relationship to the Creation, unless what one means by “relationship” is a need to dominate, optimize, and control.

Indeed, in the First Year of This Our Covid, we have seem many developments straight out of dystopian fiction become realities promulgated by the technocratic archons of our time—figures like Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab, Elon Musk in concert with all the guys and dolls over at the governmental-industrial-military-pharmaceutical complex. Here’s a brief list:

  • “Entrepreneur” Bill Gates has been gobbling up farmland at a disturbing pace.

  • Not only that, but the Pastel Prince is also putting his substantial financial resources into a project to dim the sun. I heard that Gates was quoted as saying “One day software will control everything, and I will control software.” This may or may not be true. Nevertheless, I wish he would stick to software, as bug-ridden as his is.

  • Apparently, Gates’s newfound career as an agriculturalist has something to do with his wish that the wealthier nations turn entirely to synthetic beef. Plan on a run of Soylent Green before too long.

  • Fellow gazillionaire Elon Musk has launched fleets of satellites, “Starlink,” (over 1000 of then as of January 2021) into the stratosphere. Ostensibly, this is for the humanitarian purposes of widely available broadband internet, but for practical purposes that means surveillance on steroids.

  • Muskie also want to put a microchip into your brain.

  • Canada has apparently set up “Quarantine Camps” that sound like veritable hellholes. I understand the USA has some similar facilities prepared for inmates.

  • And, as he shamelessly admits, Klaussie Schwab thinks transhumanism is a goal devoutly to be wished and that “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” will usher in “a fusion of our physical, digital and biological identity.”

Meanwhile, people, good people, are increasingly pitted against each other and discouraged from the kinds of human interactions we all not only crave but need for human flourishing. Only a few of the consequences of this (I do not feel confident enough to say “unintended consequences”) are the dramatic increases of child and teen depression and suicide, poverty, unemployment, increased alcohol and drug addiction, and, above all, an all-encompassing anxiety and dread. Likewise, “two weeks to flatten the curve” metamorphosed into “just wait until we have a vaccine” which morphed into “this may go on for two to seven years.” Wear us down enough, it seems, and we’ll beg for the jab and the microchip. But even then, it won’t stop.

At the same time, anyone—even “experts in the field”—who call these developments into question are deplatformed, demonized, slandered, and maligned as “conspiracy theorists”—by whom? As my friend Guido Preparata used to say, “Conspiracy theory is too important to be left to conspiracy theorists.” The rest of us do our best to avoid being lobotomized by a constant barrage of propaganda and newspeak. It’s a full-time job.

Even as long ago as in that Blade Runner article, I saw this coming. I also write about it in both The Submerged Reality and Transfiguration. I just didn’t think it would happen this rapidly. We are living the dystopian dream, though we know it not.

In some forms of Gnosticism from late-antiquity, this predicament is described as being drugged, or asleep, or somehow or other unconscious of our own selfhood. Learning what reality is, true gnosis, allows to once again enter the Kingdom. There yet exists a spark of divinity in ourselves, in our world, in one another for us to release.

But I’m not out of hope. Sophiology, the relationship to the Real—in its natural and supernatural forms—is the only way out of this nightmare. Call it by other names, if you like, but without an integral vision of ourselves in relationship to the Divine and the Creation (and by implication with each other), the technocrats will win.

Don’t let them win.

A powerful clip from The Road, and a fit analogy for our times.

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.

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