Friday, November 04, 2005

Kingdom of Darkness

[T]he kingdom of darkness, as it is set forth in these and other places of the Scripture, is nothing else but a confederacy of deceivers that, to obtain dominion over men in this present world, endeavour, by dark and erroneous doctrines, to extinguish in them the light, both of nature and of the gospel; and so to disprepare them for the kingdom of God to come. (Leviathan ch. 44)

While Hobbes's Leviathan gets a lot of attention for its discussion of the state of nature and social contract, the second half of the book gets quite a bit less attention; in those chapters, Hobbes first looks at the Kingdom of God, or Christian Commonwealth, and then discusses the Kingdom of Darkness, which he defines as above. He identifies four ways in which this Kingdom of Darkness is furthered:

(1) "abusing and putting out the light of the Scriptures"
(2) "introducing the demonology of the heathen poets"
(3) "mixing with the Scripture diverse relics of the religion, and much of the vain and erroneous philosophy of the Greeks"
(4) "mingling with both these, false or uncertain traditions, and feigned or uncertain history"

The most serious form of (1) is the claim that the Church is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God, as Hobbes understands it, is a political organization, instituted by Moses, for the sake of governing the Jews, which ended with the election of Saul as king. This Kingdom will, according to the Prophets, one day be restored. In his first coming, Jesus began to lay the groundwork for its actual restoration; and since he hasn't come again, there is no Kingdom of God at all (except in the weak sense that we Christians are, as it were, signing up for the future Kingdom of God through the ritual of baptism). The people who are most egregious in making this identification are, of course, the Catholics. Most of Hobbes's discussion of the Kingdom of Darkness is a discussion of the participation of Catholics in the "confederacy of deceivers." Hobbes sees the Catholic Church as a serious threat to his account of sovereign, wherein the sovereign is chosen by the people to exercise the fullness of power. Popes and Catholic councils do not treat heads of state as Hobbesian sovereigns. Hobbes notes with some distaste the statement of the Fourth Lateran Council, "That if a king, at the pope's admonition, do not purge his kingdom of heresies, and being excommunicate for the same, do not give satisfaction within a year, his subjects are absolved of the bond of their obedience." In other words, under certain conditions, the Church can abolish the power of sovereign. Claims like this darken the minds of people and lead to religious wars, Hobbes thinks, because it makes it impossible for ordinary people to tell who they should obey. The Church has an alternative prince (the pope), it has alternative laws (canon), it has an alternative government (the clergy). His concern goes even so far as to worry that the Church has the means of raising an army:

From the same it is that in every Christian state there are certain men that are exempt, by ecclesiastical liberty, from the tributes and from the tribunals of the civil state; for so are the secular clergy, besides monks and friars, which in many places bear so great a proportion to the common people as, if need were, there might be raised out of them alone an army sufficient for any war the Church militant should employ them in against their own or other princes.

This is a very odd worry, and I'm not sure what's behind it. The Jesuits, perhaps.

Another abuse of Scripture that contributes to the Kingdom of Darkness is "the turning of consecration into conjuration, or enchantment"; he has Catholic sacramental theology in view. Yet another is the claim that the soul is immortal (Hobbes thinks that we lost eternal life at the Fall and it was only restored by Christ for those who enter into the Kingdom of God; he doesn't, I think, believe in hell). There are quite a few things that go with this:

This window it is that gives entrance to the dark doctrine, first, of eternal torments, and afterwards of purgatory, and consequently of the walking abroad, especially in places consecrated, solitary, or dark, of the ghosts of men deceased; and thereby to the pretences of exorcism and conjuration of phantasms, as also of invocation of men dead; and to the doctrine of indulgences; that is to say, of exemption for a time, or for ever, from the fire of purgatory, wherein these incorporeal substances are pretended by burning to be cleansed and made fit for heaven.

The second way in which the Kingdom of Darkness is furthered is by introducing the demonology of the heathen poets, and one example of this is the claim that there are incorporeal spirits. So Catholic angelology and demonology takes a beating. Another example is "the worship of images," and Catholic iconography is in view. Ditto with the canonizing of saints:

The first that ever was canonized at Rome was Romulus, and that upon the narration of Julius Proculus, that swore before the Senate he spoke with him after his death, and was assured by him he dwelt in heaven, and was there called Quirinus, and would be propitious to the state of their new city: and thereupon the Senate gave public testimony of his sanctity. Julius Caesar, and other emperors after him, had the like testimony; that is, were canonized for saints: for by such testimony is canonization now defined, and is the same with the apotheosis of the heathen.

Indeed, as is clear from the other examples Hobbes notes, just about the whole of Catholic liturgy is implicated.

The third and fourth ways way in which the Kingdom of Darkness is furthered are through vain philosophy and superstitious traditions. Needless to say, scholastic thought (with an honorable mention to the Talmudic discussions of Jewish rabbis) comes under the gun here. (Which I suppose would make me a prince of darkness. I don't get to say that often.) He also mentions hagiography.

In other words, although 'Kingdom of Darkness' has a larger extension than 'Catholic Church' (all non-Christians are members of the Kingdom of Darkness), the attack on the Kingdom of Darkness is undeniably an attack on Catholicism.

The Kingdom of Darkness, as Hobbes sees it, expands through a will to power. By spreading around these ideas, which obscure the simplicity of Scripture and Hobbesian civil philosophy, priests and the like gain power over their fellow men.

He ends the discussion in an ominous tone:

It was not therefore a very difficult matter for Henry the Eighth by his exorcism; nor for Queen Elizabeth by hers, to cast them out. But who knows that this spirit of Rome, now gone out, and walking by missions through the dry places of China, Japan, and the Indies, that yield him little fruit, may not return; or rather, an assembly of spirits worse than he enter and inhabit this clean-swept house, and make the end thereof worse than the beginning? For it is not the Roman clergy only that pretends the kingdom of God to be of this world, and thereby to have a power therein, distinct from that of the civil state.

It's interesting that anti-Catholic polemic takes up such a significant place in Hobbes's political philosophy; he spends an immense amount of space attacking the Catholic Church both qua Catholic and qua the perfect summation of priestcraft. It's difficult to say more; one area in which Hobbes scholarship is very weak is precisely in this area. It isn't clear what, precisely, the role of the Kingdom of Darkness critique plays in his political philosophy at large, in part because it's obscure in itself, but in part because there hasn't been enough work done on the matter.

Darn Historibloggers! Why Can't You Be Mediocre?

I've been trying to think of nominations for the Cliopatria Awards, and I've been having quite a hard time of it. Why is it that there is so much excellent history-related blogging?

I was going to nominate Sharon Howard's series of posts on duelling, but she's judging in that division so she is ineligible (she's tricky, that Sharon Howard!). Now I'll be going back to wade through some excellent history posts (so many!), in order to see which one I want to nominate for the Best Post series.

In any case, what I wanted to say was that if you have any nominations for history blogging, don't forget to nominate.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Elsewhere on Idolatry as Philosophical Error

Bill Vallicella at "The Maverick Philosopher" has an interesting post, called Idolatry, Desire, Buddha, Causation, and Malebranche that builds on my previous post on idolatry as a philosophical problem in Malebranche, and which has produced some interesting comments.

One interesting thing that I'd like at some point to look at, and haven't been able to do as of yet, is to examine how Malebranche is adapting Augustine's distinctions between use and fruition (enjoyment) on the one hand, and between cupidity and charity on the other, because this is at least in the background of Malebranche's analysis of idolatry, and it would be interesting to look more closely at what he's accepting and what he's modifying from that account.

Imago Dei in Those Without Use of Reason

Rebecca at "Rebecca Writes" has often had some excellent discussions about the imago Dei, always underlining that it cannot be simply identified with the use of reason (e.g., here). I was thinking about this in relation to Aquinas earlier today, particularly as found in his De Veritate. There Aquinas says that the presence of God in the mind is the memory of God in the mind. 'Memory' or memoria is a term borrowed from Augustine; for Aquinas it means not actually remembering but a sort of habitual knowledge -- i.e., memoria is a disposition for actual knowing. The presence of God as the memoria of God, however, is prior to any sensation; and since the actualization of our intellects presupposes sensation to think about, the memory of God is prior to any rational activity at all. Indeed, this 'memory' or memorial of God is prior to rational activity as a precondition for thinking at all. It is for this reason that even those who do not actually have the use of reason bear the image of God. It is, of course, the case that the image of God is expressed through things like understanding, love, creative ability, and more. But we do need to distinguish the image of God in itself and the image of God as expressed; the latter is an actualization or activation of the former, and the former is the potential for the latter.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


The History Carnival is up at "(a)musings of a grad student", and it's a beauty. Click on the link if you want to learn about Victorian Halloween reads, illuminated manuscripts of Christine de Pisan, material evidence in early modern English courts, the history of the electric chair, Locke's First Treatise, and more.

The Philosophers' Carnival is up at "Prior Knowledge,"
with discussion of eternity, Leibniz's view of final causes, antecedent naturalism, Heidegger, and more.


Loren Rosen at The Busybody and Stephen Carlson at Hypotyposeis are discussing what should be on the list of the top 20 literary fakes of all time, including The Donation of Constantine (at #1 position). Carlson names an interesting candidate:

We are perhaps a little too close in time to the Secret Gospel of Mark to be fully objective about its placement at no. 2, but Ossian certainly belongs near the top. Thomas Jefferson raved about it, as did Goethe. James MacPherson actually managed to make one of the first waves of Romanticism in an era that Classicism dominated. He had not been able to get his own poetry taken seriously until he came up with the idea of “editing” the oral works of Ossian. I get the sense, however, that MacPherson more or less stumbled into his fakery.

I get that sense, too. In a sense, we can regard MacPherson as trying to do at a very early stage what later folklorists would also do (but less clumsily), namely, shape the native poetry into a national epic; the most important modern case was that of Elias Lönnrot, who constructed the Kalevala out of fragmentary Finnish traditions. The difference is that what Lönnrot was doing was fairly clear and above-board; his source material was made available, for instance. MacPherson's texts do have a root in Highland folk poetry; MacPherson's problem, I think, was largely that he went too far in claiming real authenticity for his work, and then just let himself get carried along by the tide. I have a few links on Ossian at Houyhnhnm Land.

UPDATE: In the comments, Sharon reminds us of Iolo Morganwg, MacPherson's Welsh counterpart, and points out a website on MacPherson and Morganwg. Meanwhile, at "The Little Professor," Miriam adds a Victorian candidate, the Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk.

UPDATE2: Follow the Hypotyposeis link above for further discussions of the issue.

Blood-Drinking Buddhas and Wrathful Compassion

I hope you had a good Halloween. For the occasion, here is a Buddhist legend, particularly associated with Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism. Once there was a man who heard Buddha preach. So mired in delusion, craving, and aggression was he that he interpreted Buddha's words as a license for indulging himself to the fullest. When the Wheel of Life rolled around, he was reincarnated as a terrible monster, Rudra, and gained great power in all the hells and all the earth.

Faced with such an unregenerate egoism, the buddhas knew that they could not turn Rudra to compassion by appearing to him in their usual form. Therefore they manifested themselves as the herukas. The herukas, also called the wrathful deities, are expressions of buddha-consciousness and buddha-compassion, but under a terrible aspect. They are the expressions of wrathful compassion. Their visible representations are terrible monsters that drink blood.

The way of it is this. Sometimes people so identify themselves with their delusions, cravings, and aggressive impulses that the compassion of the buddhas is something threatening. The buddhas wish to destroy our attachment to this world, to break our slavery to aggressive impulses, to snap the bonds of our delusions. When we identify ourselves too fully with these things, it's not surprising that buddha-compassion has a terrible aspect: it destroys, crushes, devours the very things we think we are. It does so in order to free us, of course; the blood-drinking buddhas have clear minds and compassionate hearts. But their clarity of mind seems to the soul mired in egoism to be terrible and violent (as truth sometimes seems to be), and their compassion of heart appears to be something that devours and destroys (for they devour and destroy our attachments to this world).

In this way the buddhas were able to subjugate the terrible monster Rudra, bringing him to enlightenment and compassion.