Tag Archives: philosophy

An absolutist, monarchical government could regularly violate the “rights” of its citizens. The despot decided what privileges each individual would enjoy—and everything according to one’s station. Moreover, if whatever you say or do is automatically scrutinized for possible subversion, what chance is there for a free society? The only recourse, it would seem—short of a revolution—is to operate in the shadows.

Terry Melanson, Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Melanson Perfectibilists absolutist monarchical government regularly violate rights citizens despot decided privileges individual enjoy only recourse short revolution operate shadows

These misconceptions may be summed up as follows:—Firstly, that Buddhism is a ‘heathen’ doctrine, whose adherents worship idols and pray to stone and wood; Secondly, that it is a mysterious sort of affair, connected with miracle-mongering and ‘esotericism’; and, Thirdly, that it is a backboneless, apathetic, pessimistic manner of philosophy, with annihilation as its goal and aim, tending to the subversion of all useful activities, well enough for ‘the dreamy peoples of the Orient,’—as those who know them least delight in calling them,—but totally unsuited to the more active and energetic nations of the West.

Allan Bennett, The Faith of the Future, The Value of Buddhism

Hermetic quote Bennett The Faith of the Future The Value of Buddhism misconceptions heathen miracle-mongering esotericism  backboneless apathetic pessimistic subversion dreamy unsuited active energetic

the prudent but strict curtailment of the freedom of the press; the minute police supervision of all teachers and professors; and the ferreting out Illuminism in its most secret recesses…. The result will be that henceforth no one will be able to corrupt the opinion of the people … and that the real happiness of the people will no longer be threatened by the destruction of religion and the subversion of society.

Terry Melanson, Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Melanson Perfectibilists prudent strict curtailment freedom press police supervision all teachers professors ferreting out illuminism corrupt destruction religion subversion society

Weishaupt’s concept of virtue stems from his Rousseauian influences. Jean-Jacques Rousseau equated true virtue with the purity of mankind in its infancy before it was corrupted by civilization. This virtue was still apparent in the “savage” races still being encountered by explorers in the forests and jungles of North and South America. By comparison, the despotism of western culture, with its class structures and inherent inequality, was considered inferior and contemptible.

Terry Melanson, Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Melanson Perfectibilists Weishaupt virtue Rousseauian purity mankind infancy corrupted civilization despotism western culture class inequality inferior contemptible

The public character of its meetings, the almost infinite number of its initiates, and the ease with which they are admitted have removed from Masonry every trace of political inclination. And if an exception is made of some very few and almost unknown lodges in which the light is preserved in its purity, all the others are nothing more than entertainment centers or schools of superstition and slavery.

Terry Melanson, Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Melanson Prefectibilists public character infinite initiates removed political inclination exception few unknown preserved purity nothing entertainment superstition slavery

The Philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach [Amazon, Local Library] by Eugene Kamenka.

Kamenka The Philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach

Kamenka’s book is a very clear and thorough overview of Feuerbach’s work. It presumes the unavailability of Feuerbach in English translation, so it provides many summaries and much in the way of direct quotation. Kamenka is highly sympathetic to Feuerbach, and (correctly, I think) considers him a crucial precedent to multiple trends in nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophy, but Kamenka doesn’t overlook Feuerbach’s failings. In fact, an estimation of those failings is necessary in order to account for the rather thorough eclipse of Feuerbach as a figure of philosophical history.

The sequence of treatment is topical rather than chronological, and begins (after a digestible treatment of Feuerbach’s mise-en-scène and biography) with the critical or destructive elements of Feuerbach’s work, these being the most developed and consequential among his original readers. Kamenka puts the criticism of theological religion before criticism of speculative philosophy, reversing the sequence that prevailed in Feuerbach’s published works, because of the logical and genealogical priority of the attack on religion. Feuerbach had rejected the pursuit of theology before he gave over Hegelianism, and his indictments of the latter are rooted in his conflicts with the former.

At several points, Kamenka treats Feuerbach as a strong proponent, and perhaps even originator in one form, of the secularization hypothesis that anticipates the “withering away” of religion in the presence of modern technology and republican politics (e.g. 41, 68). I admit that I got something of a different impression from reading Lectures on the Essence of Religion, where Feuerbach certainly forecast and promoted the expiration of theology, but emphasized the continuing need for religion, however it might be transformed into a more honest relationship between humanity and human ideals. (Kamenka is certainly clear about Feuerbach’s distinction between theology and religion.)

The final part of the book treats Feuerbach’s positive contributions to philosophy. These chapters are shorter, and more focused on the difficulties involved in Feuerbach’s conceptions and presentations. As a largely aphoristic author in these respects, Feuerbach refused to offer materials that would lend themselves to systematization, and Kamenka at least gestures towards the real principles at stake in that refusal. But even so, Kamenka successfully identifies the value in many of Feuerbach’s ideas, that were later to see more extensive development in the works of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and the Existentialists.

The Fiery Brook

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Fiery Brook: Selected Writings [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Ludwig Feuerbach, trans. Zawar Hanfi, part of the Radical Thinkers series.

Feuerbach Hanfi The Fiery Brook

Editor/translator Hanfi considers Feuerbach valuable solely as a precursor to Marx, a perspective which certainly limits the usefulness of Hanfi’s extensive introduction. The selections in this volume are quite worthwhile, however. Five out of eight are first ever published translations into English, and they include programmatic essays covering the span of Feuerbach’s intellectual work from his first breaks with Hegel (“Toward a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy” 1839) until 1844. Although Hanfi doesn’t remark it, the latter year is significant in being the year in which Feuerbach’s writings were subjected to withering public criticism from Max Stirner. This volume thus neglects the significantly different (and to my mind, even more interesting) positions of the later Feuerbach developed in The Essence of Religion and its sequels. It does, however, include the essays “Preliminary Theses on the Reform of Philosophy” and “Principles of the Philosophy of the Future,” which show Feuerbach’s emergence from his anti-Hegelian analytic phase into a new work of synthesis and positive theory on atheistic, “sensuous” grounds. These two essays are in an aphoristic form that presages the work of Nietzsche, and they expound in part the anthropotheistic principle that is at the core of my interest in and sympathy for Feuerbach. 

The early, anti-Hegelian pieces are often rather muddled, and this feature evidently stems from a stylistic limitation (later overcome) to attempt always to present flawed and obsolete philosophies from their own “point of view,” to “let each phenomenon speak for itself.” (179 n.) The constructive progress of Feuerbach’s views is evident, due to the chronological arrangement of the contents of this collection, and the recapitulation involved in the final “Fragments Concerning the Characteristics of My Philosophical Development.” The preface to the second edition of The Essence of Christianity is far more incisive and persuasive than the introduction to the first. 

Even in the “Preliminary Theses on the Reform of Philosophy” there is much unwelcome (to my mind) valorization of pain and suffering. In the later works, this gives way to an emphasis on enjoyment and love. Throughout, once Feuerbach has broken with the “theologians and speculative fantasts,” he emphasizes the reciprocity of humanity with sensual nature, and the sovereignty of man–however unwitting–over the God he has created. 

“The new and only positive philosophy … is the thinking man himself” (169). It is “certainly based on reason as well, but on a reason whose being is the same as the being of man; that is, it is based not on an empty, colorless, nameless reason, but on a reason that is of the very blood of man” (239). “Truth is man and not reason in abstracto; it is life and not thought that remains confined to paper, the element in which it finds and unfolds its existence” (249). “Truth does not exist in thought, nor in cognition confined to itself. Truth is only the totality of man’s life and being” (244, all italics in originals). 

There is much development evident in the writings collected here, but the book ends on an appropriate note: “”What am I? Is that your question? Wait until I am no more.” (296) He still had “more” to him, as subsequent decades and major works would show, even if they are not addressed by this volume.

Rationalism swept through Germany, more especially the illusion that man’s faculty could establish and secure a single, true, and salvation-guaranteeing religion. This rationalism expressed itself in pamphlets, in systems, in conversations, in secret societies and in many other institutions. It was not satisfied—indeed it did not even bother—to deny the distinctive doctrines of the Catholic church; its basis was rather the simple assertion: nothing in positive Christianity is acceptable except its “reasonable morality,” the doctrine that God is the father of all things, and the proposition that man’s soul is immortal; what goes beyond these three assertions is either poetry or superstition or pure nonsense.

Terry Melanson, Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Melanson Perfectibilists rationalism pamphlets conversations secret societies institutions nothing acceptable except reasonable morality beyond is poetry superstition nonsense