We see in your speeches nothing but a subtle pantheism, or a disguised Epicureanism. Your very starting-point is at the opposite pole from Christianity, and your method is directly the reverse of that enjoined by the ever-blessed Son of God. You assume the perfection of human nature, the essential holiness of all man's instincts, passions, and tendencies, and contend that the evil in the world comes from causes extraneous to man.
To his previous arguments against extra-ecclesiastical reform movements, "Church Unity" added the charge that Fourierist perfectionism was fundamentally opposed to Christian reform. Godwin defended Fourier by emphasizing the distinction between the passions' "subversive destinies" in "Civilization" and their "harmonic destinies" in the coming society.
Brownson retorted that this theory of passional "duplicity of action" was internally inconsistent with Fourier's theodicy. Manichean dualism—good passions subverted by a bad society—contradicted the theory of Universal Unity.
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Brownson's second major charge was that the Fourierists' mistaken belief in human perfection had caused them to invert the order in which reform was to be implemented. Like the heretic Emerson "Shall I raise the siege of this hencoop, and march away to a pretended siege of Babylon?
You [Fourierists] reverse this. Instead of saying, Deny thyself ; you say, very properly, taking your point of departure, Please thyself ; and if thou canst not do it in society as it is, then reform, remodel, reorganize society, so thou canst please thyself, gratify to the fullest each and all of thy passions.
Godwin argued that self-reform and world-reform were inseparable projects: the working classes, for example, would not be susceptible to moral reform before their material circumstances were improved "Mr. Brownson's" Brownson, however, focused upon a Fourierist reform that was acutely embarrassing to most American Associationists, the modification of "civilized" marriage. In plain fashion, Brownson restated the case that he had first made—obliquely—in "The Community System. Fourier's non-repressive society was intended to satisfy the very "love of pleasure" in an un-Christian fashion.
Thus, Brownson argued, nothing in Fourierism was "incompatible with the most perfect Epicureanism, save that the individuals who are seeking to introduce the reform are not necessarily selfish, but may be disinterested. But what, save Epicurean motives, do they hold out to induce us to join them? They undertake to show the capitalist that it will be a profitable investment of capital, and the laborer, that it will be a profitable investment of labor, and the voluptuary that he will there find a pleasing gratification for all his senses.
The devil has grown bold, in very sooth, and no longer takes even the trouble to put on a disguise. Welcome, thrice welcome among us! Predictably, Godwin replied that Brownson had "put forth as gross a misrepresentation as was ever coined" "Mr. Brownson's Notions," ; presumably having Fourier's "Vestalate" class in mind, Godwin claimed that self-denial, "the essence of religion," was an integral part of the Harmonian scheme Once again, Brownson refuted Godwin by citing Popular View to prove that Fourier's "sexual indulgence.
As Richard Francis has argued, Channing reworked Fourierist doctrine by adding the Christian theme of infinite Good coming out of finite Evil, thus making the individual's decision to join the Phalanx an act of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation. Since Channing closely followed Brownson's writings on reform, his development of a "Christianized" Fourierism may have been a partial response to Brownson's attacks. Back to the debate itself: Brownson also charged the Fourierists with having redefined the concepts of "God" and "Church" so as to make them meaningless.
As the latest form of infidelity, it had attempted to depersonalize and idealize the Godhead in a manner strikingly similar to that of Emersonian Transcendentalism:. We know very well that Fourierists speak of God, of Christ, of revelation, and even of the church; but what do they mean by these awful, sublime words? Just as God had been abstracted by the Fourierists, so had the Church, to the point, Brownson alleged, that the Fourierists held that their Master's theories were virtually synonymous with the divinely-instituted Church:.
So they are not only Christians, but Catholics; who, then, shall dare, henceforth, to question their orthodoxy, or hesitate to receive them as competent witnesses and judges of the orthodoxy of Fourierism? But, good friends, the church, that is, the church of God, if it be any thing, is an institution founded by God himself for man, not an institution developed from man, or gradually formed through the workings of men's notions of Christian truth.
Brownson added that this nineteenth-century infidelity was worse than the "open, avowed, unblushing" atheism of the Age of Reason precisely because it mistakenly believed that it was upholding the faith "CUSA" Godwin stridently denied that Fourierism was itself a religion, noting that the Associationists enforced no party line on religious disputes. Nonetheless, Godwin also argued that Associationism was the necessary complement to religion, "the true form for the practical embodiment of truth and love.
Just as Brownson had claimed that the Church was the tangible manifestation of the Spirit, Godwin's address had made the same claim for Associationism as the material Body of the Christian Spirit. In an audacious prophecy, he linked Fourierist Harmony with the Second Coming:. Christus regnat, vincit, imperat. Then will the Banner of the Cross display with glory its device, the augury of victory; in Hoc Signo Vinces.
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Rather than refuting Brownson's charge, Godwin had inadvertently ceded the point: the Fourierist Millennium was to be realized by Associationism Militant. Brownson closed his debate with Godwin by alluding to several of Fourier's most bizarre doctrines and suggesting that "their author was, on some points at least, hardly sane" "Fourierism Repugnant" As late as the fall of , Brownson was still relying heavily on secondary sources for his knowledge of Fourier in addition to Godwin's and Brisbane's writings, he also cited Charles Pellarin's biography.
Nevertheless, the number of sources cited suggests that he had indeed taken "considerable pains" to study Fourierism "Fourierism Repugnant," Brownson had decided to portray Fourierism as the devil's work. He found the social movement a most convenient enemy, a caricature of the reform platform that he had previously espoused. It would be mistaken, however, to reduce Brownson's position to an identification of socialism with the Antichrist. In the examples of "Epicurean motives" cited above, selfishness encompasses not only the Fourierist's "gratification of the senses," but also "profitable" returns on both capital and labor.
To Brownson, hedonism was satanic in both its socialist and its capitalist guises. If the excesses of the European revolutions of were attributable to the Evil One as Brownson would soon claim , then, by the same logic, the excesses of American capitalism equally deserved damnation. Indeed, Brownson would elaborate such a position in an August address at Wesleyan University, later published as the pamphlet Social Reform. After dismissing Owenite communism and Saint-Simonian sectarianism as equally unworkable, Brownson directed his ire at Fourier once again as "the vogue, the fashionable nostrum, the reigning 'Morrison pill' of the hour" However, Brownson had prefaced this attack by returning to the anti-capitalist theme that he had emphasized so forcefully in , the "great and manifold evils.
Chief of these evils was the modern tendency "to reduce the price of labor to the mere minimum of human subsistence, if not to a lower point still" While Brownson's political thought is generally supposed to have drifted steadily to the right in the years , this address begins with a brief but brilliant anticipation of the Manifesto —even more impressive than that of "The Laboring Classes. This much can be found in "The Laboring Classes" as well, but Brownson went on to modify his previous call for laissez faire.
He now believed that the excess capacity resulting from industrialization would necessarily lead to a structural economic crisis deflating wages even further, thus creating the conditions for revolution Brownson aptly summarized the still-relevant paradox of industrial capitalism: "The more we produce the more destitute we are" 8.
To understand American conservatism, read Orestes Brownson.
Brownson had come to see the Church as the refuge from both Fourierist socialism and industrial capitalism. He closed the address in fire-and-brimstone fashion, recommending a spiritual awakening that would counteract the Fourierist and capitalist emphasis upon Mammon with the Sermon on the Mount's "Blessed are the poor" 34, Unfortunately, Brownson did not succeed in finding the middle ground between Christian Socialist and Christian reactionary. His rejection of secular reform and his concomitant belief that the proletariat could be comforted by a pie-in-the-sky gospel amounted in practice—though this was certainly not his intention—to a tacit endorsement of the capitalist ideology that he condemned so forcefully.
Brownson's response to American Fourierism may seem an idiosyncratic response to the pragmatic social reforms proposed by Brisbane. While correctly noting irreconcilable differences between Fourierist and Catholic doctrine, he also condemned it on other grounds that did not necessarily follow from the Catholic social thought of the s, even from its relatively conservative mainstream.
But I would suggest that it is possible to reconcile Brownson's theological critique of Fourierism with his theological critique of American exceptionalism. Leonard Gilhooley has made the case for Brownson as the nineteenth-century critic who most rigorously examined the idea of American exceptionalism. Gilhooley argues that Brownson challenged at least three received post-Jacksonian notions of America: that the Founders' dream of a classless democratic state had been realized, that the American experiment in self-government was an unqualified success, and that the only historical mission left for America to perform was the reformation of the rest of the world in its image Contradiction and Dilemma Brownson's political writings offered an extended critique of the self-proclaimed American mission to spread the gospel of democracy to the rest of the world cf.
This teleology of America is closely paralleled in Fourierist ideology. Just as the discovery of America was to have begun the unfolding of a divine plan that would lead to the redemption of humanity, Fourier's discovery of God's plan for humanity, once realized in the phalanx, would lead to the reformation of the universe. Fourierism shared many of the American ideology's foundational assumptions, including an Enlightenment optimism, a faith in progress, and a Christological vision cf.
Gilhooley 7, Brownson came to argue that the Fourierist belief in societal perfectibility and the Christian vision of a world in need of divine redemption were in fundamental conflict. While he may not have been fully conscious of these parallels between Fourierism and American exceptionalism, the logic that led Brownson to reject Fourierist ideology as an un-Christian, extra-ecclesiastical reform also led him to reject the nascent American capitalist ideology for the same reason. His argument against the selfishness of Fourierist libertinism can easily be turned against laissez-faire libertarianism, the foundation of American capitalist ideology.
If Brownson was right to claim that the passions are not a reliable guide and that "evil originates in man's abuse of his freedom" "CUSA" , then Adam Smith's hidden hand was guilty of the same self-abuse. Brownson's theological critique of Fourierism, as first fully elaborated in , held that no reform plan, sacred or secular, could be realized outside of "an institution embodying the Holy Ghost, and able to communicate the Holy Ghost" "No Church, No Reform" Brownson did not use the word "embodying" as a mere trope: for him, the Church, the Body of Christ, was the only possible "embodiment" of social reform.
To hold otherwise, Brownson believed, was to risk committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, the Unpardonable Sin.
While American religious leaders of the s had little difficulty finding sufficient theological grounds for rejecting Fourierism, Brownson's argument may strike the reader as more idiosyncratic than most. I would suggest, however, that this reading was closer to the mainstream than it may seem, for Christian conservatives and Christian socialists were battling over the meaning of the "Unpardonable Sin," a phrase with prophetic resonances. The immediate reference, of course, is to Jesus' warning in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that "whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" Matt.
This proclamation was made in a revolutionary context: Jesus had just challenged the Pharisees' interpretation of Mosaic law by gathering grain, healing the sick, and casting out demons on the Sabbath. To justify these transgressions, he argued that the work of the Spirit superseded obedience to the letter of the Law. Furthermore, Jesus implicitly accused the Pharisees of "the blasphemy against the Spirit" Matt. This distinction between forgivable violations of the Law and unforgivable blasphemies against its Spirit was itself a strong misreading, in Harold Bloom's sense, of the Old Testament.
Trinitarians, who interpreted Matthew 12 as one of the few Biblical references to the nature of the Godhead, also found in it a prophecy of "the age to come. The most influential of these was the twelfth-century monk Joachim of Fiore, who had divided secular time into three epochs. In the past, the Age of the Father, each individual was governed by his or her fear of God.
In the present, the Age of the Son, faith in Christ was the governing principle. In the earthly paradise to come, the Age of the Holy Ghost, all humans would be governed by love of each other and love of God. Joachim's theory of history was radically utopian: it argued for "a transcendence that links earth and heaven rather than irreconcilably separating them" Kumar Some seven centuries after Joachim, Prosper Enfantin, a disciple of Saint-Simon, reworked the Trinitarian theory of history to further the cause of the socialist millennium.
Enfantin's narrative of the history of Christianity, usefully characterized by Frank E. Manuel as a Hegelian "dialectical triad," held that the thesis of the First Age of Christianity had been Catholicism, the establishment of a universal church. Its antithesis, the Second Age, had been the Protestant Reformation's "new spirit of particularization, specialization, individuation" Manuel, Prophets According to Enfantin's reading, Saint-Simon called for a Third Age of Christianity, a socialist era in which the individualist and the universalist tendencies would be synthesized in a pseudo-Hegelian end of history.
This schema appealed to temperaments as diverse as George Sand and the young Brownson, who used their own work to argue for the Trinitarian theory of history.
Brownson might well have found the same heresy in Fourier's millenarian socialism, as the following quotation from Le Nouveau Monde Industriel indicates:. He who offends the Father or the Son by blasphemies only does harm to himself, but the philosophe who outrages the Holy Spirit in opposing the calculus of attractions does harm to all humanity. OC Although Fourier's equation of his socialist utopia upon the Age of the Spirit was more likely the result of the Zeitgeist rather than of any direct influence by the Saint-Simonians,  his words can be read as an incomplete draft of Enfantin's theory.
While Fourier's own theory of historical necessity had thirty-two ages, and thus did not adhere to the Trinitarian model, his references to the Father and the Son allegorically corresponded to Enfantin's first two ages of Christianity. The "calculus of attractions," the divinely-ordained science that Fourier claimed to have discovered, was to usher in an age of Harmony between individual passions and universal humanity, the Age of the Spirit.
Finally, Fourier's pointed reference to Matthew 12 generated yet another strong misreading, one that redefined the Unpardonable Sin as opposition to the new social science. Some fifteen years later, Fourier's American disciples would often refer to him as the harbinger " le fourrier " of the Age of the Spirit. Nevertheless, many Associationists found uncanny parallels between Fourier's mission and Jesus'. Other Americans, even those ignorant of Fourierism, similarly identified the socialist movement in general with the coming of a new age; they found the "blasphemy against the Spirit" passage particularly resonant.
For example, well before Brook Farm had fallen under Fourierist influence, one anonymous correspondent also cited Matthew 12 in wondering whether one had a religious obligation to join the new community:. How dare I oppose the unfolding of the spiritual progress of my whole race, by all the force of my personal selfishness and indolence? The writer went on to hail Brook Farm as "that very rectification of things which Mr.
Brownson in his Article on the Laboring Classes is understood to declare will require a bloody revolution" "The Community at West Roxbury" 6. In , The Phalanx reprinted Hugh Doherty's more abrasive version of the same argument: "[T]o persevere in obstinate indifference to the causes and effects of evil in society. The certitude expressed by the Fourierists and their opponents suggests that both parties had a limited capacity for introspection. Hawthorne would play with this theme in The Blithedale Romance.
Hollingsworth's denunciation of Fourier, for example, is Brownsonesque: "I never will forgive this fellow [Fourier]! He has committed the Unpardonable Sin! As Blithedale 's readers discover, the obsessive prison-reform projector is guilty of the same "sin" that he accused Fourier of committing. Furthermore, his complicity in a potentially incestuous love-triangle makes Hollingsworth's censure doubly ironic. Did Hollingsworth condemn Fourier's amorous science, which had planned to lift the incest taboo, for fostering the "vile, petty, sordid, filthy, bestial, and abominable corruptions" of human nature N , a none-too-oblique reference to sexual promiscuity in Harmony?
Outside the Trinitarian schema, a third alternative was becoming available. Before such a man the whole world becomes Fourierized or Christized or humanized, and in the obedience to his most private being, he finds himself, according to his presentiment, though against all sensuous probability, acting in strict concert with all others who followed their private light.
Generations later, D. If one could hasten the millenium by making a correct decision and acting upon it, one might also lose one's soul by making an incorrect wager. From any of these three perspectives—Christian, socialist, or self-reliant—Brownson had either damned himself or come perilously close. Next chapter. Return to Table of Contents. Nashoba's influence upon Brownson is discussed in Sveino For Brownson's own account, see The Convert , , the passage quoted is from page See also Riasanovsky In the weeks after Fourier's death, Considerant was criticized for his role in arranging a Catholic funeral for the Master.
This episode nicely illustrates the tension between the Fourierists' advocacy of Christianity and their hostility towards the institutional Church SF This summary of their research is taken from Bowman His April review of Michel Chevalier's Society, Manners, and Politics in the United States even discredited the author's arguments in favor of the United States Bank by noting that Chevalier, a former Saint-Simonian leader, was still influenced by their economic theories.
Brownson then smeared the Saint-Simonian economic platform by associating it with the bizarre doctrines of Enfantin This position led to a public disagreement with John L. O'Sullivan that hastened the end of Brownson's relationship with the DemRev. There is no reference to this article in extant letters from the Brownson—O'Sullivan correspondence, however. The flattering profile of Brisbane may well have been written by O'Sullivan himself. Its tone is consistent with his editorial policy of maintaining friendly but distant relations with the Fourierists.
Even when attacks upon the Associationists had become more fashionable, O'Sullivan refrained: a May notice "strongly recommend[ed]" A Popular View of the Doctrines of Charles Fourier , even though the "reviewer" had not read Godwin's book O'Sullivan noted Doherty's rhetorical strategy in a 12 February letter to Brownson, explaining that he had decided to publish Doherty's letter "for the sake of its complimentary character to you" Brownson Papers.
The following year, Donald M'Laren's ominously-titled pamphlet Boa Constrictor charged that Fourierism was a capitalist plot to overthrow the United States government and replace it with a neo-feudal system Brisbane had also lent an unspecified volume of Fourier's works to Brownson. Two letters request the return of the loaned book Brisbane to Brownson, [? Brownson": At about the same time, Channing gave a sermon that expressed enthusiasm for Brownson's essays on the "Origin and Ground of Government. One letter noted that the first issue of Channing's The Present was about to appear 14 Sept.
In the same letter, Hecker reported that he had given a copy of the address to Parke Godwin B-H Channing , ; Dial 1. Sophia's conversion is recounted in Crowe, George Ripley , , ; on George's attitude towards Catholicism, see The Brook Farmers' experience suggests that the progression from Fourierism to Catholicism was the most common. One exception was Andrew B. Smolnikar, an Austrian Benedictine monk and divinity professor. Smolnikar left the Church and later became a Fourierist leader in America. Fuller, then in Europe , was a nominal member Crowe, "Christian Socialism" Understand Christianity, and we will admit, that should all men become good Christians, there would be nothing to complain of.
But one might as well undertake to dip the ocean dry with a clam-shell, as to undertake to cure the evils of the social state by converting men to the Christianity of the Church. The evil we have pointed out, we have said, is not of individual creation, and it is not to be removed by individual effort, saving so far as individual effort induces the combined effort of the mass. But whence has this evil originated'? How comes it that all over the world the working classes are depressed, are the low and vulgar, and virtually the slaves of the non-working classes?
This is an inquiry which has not yet received the attention it deserves. It is not enough to answer, that it has originated entirely in the inferiority by nature of the working classes ; that they have less skill and foresight, and are less able than the upper classes, to provide for themselves, or less susceptible of the highest moral and intellectual cultivation. Nor is it sufficient for our purpose to be told, that Providence has decreed that some shall be poor and wretched, ignorant and vulgar; and that others shall be rich and vicious, learned and polite, oppressive and miserable.
We do not choose to charge this matter to the will of God. There is nothing in the actual difference of the powers of individuals, which accounts for the striking inequalities we everywhere discover in their condition. The child of the plebeian, if placed early in the proper circumstances, grows up not less beautiful, active, intelligent, and refined, than the child of the patrician; and the child of the patrician may become as coarse, as brutish as the child of any slave.
So far as observation on the original capacities of individuals goes, nothing is discovered to throw much light on social inequalities. The cause of the inequality, we speak of, must be sought in history, and be regarded as having its root in Providence, or in human nature, only in that sense in which all historical facts have their origin in these. We may perhaps trace it in the first instance to conquest, but not to conquest as the ultimate cause. The Romans in conquering Italy no doubt reduced many to the condition of slaves, but they also found the great mass of the laboring population already slaves.
There is everywhere a class distinct from the reigning class, bearing the same relation to it, that the Gibbeonites did to the Jews. They are principally Colons, the cultivators for foreign masters, of a soil of which they seemed to have been dispossessed. Who has dispossessed them? Who has reduced them to their present condition,— a condition which under the Roman dominion is perhaps even ameliorated? Who were this race?
Whence came they? They appear to be distinct from the reigning race, as were the Helotae from the Doric-Spartan. Were they the aborigines of the territory? Had they once been free? By what concurrence of events have they been reduced to their present condition? By a prior conquest? But mere conquest does not so reduce a population.
It may make slaves of the prisoners taken in actual combat, and reduce the whole to tributaries, but it leaves the mass of the population free, except in its political relations. Were they originally savages, subjugated by a civilized tribe? Savages may be exterminated, but they never, so far as we can ascertain, become to any considerable extent "the hewers of wood and drawers of water" to their conquerors.
For our part we are disposed to seek the cause of the inequality of conditions of which we speak, in religion, and to charge it to the priesthood. And we are confirmed in this, by what appears to be the instinctive tendency of every, or almost every, social reformer. Men's instincts, in a matter of this kind, are worthier of reliance than their reasonings. Rarely do we find in any age or country, a man feeling himself commissioned to labor for a social reform, who does not feel that he must begin it by making war upon the priesthood. This was the case with the old Hebrew reformers, who are to us the prophets of God; with Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Fathers of the Church ; with the French democrats of the last century ; and is the case with the Young Germans, and the Socialits, as they call themselves in England, at the present moment.
Indeed it is felt at once that no reform can be effected without resisting the priests and emancipating the people from their power. Historical research, we apprehend, will be found to justify this instinct, and to authorize the eternal hostility of the reformer, the advocate of social progress, to the priesthood. How is it, we ask, that man comes out of the savage state? In the savage state, properly so called, there is no inequality of the kind of which we speak. The individual system obtains there.
Each man is his own centre, and is a whole in himself. There is no community, there are no members of society for society is not. This individuality, which, if combined with the highest possible moral and intellectual cultivation, would be the perfection of man's earthly condition, must be broken down before the human race can enter into the path of civilization, or commence its career of progress. But it cannot be broken down by material force. It resists by its own nature the combination of individuals necessary to subdue it. It can be successfully attacked only by a spiritual power, and subjugated only by the representatives of that power, that is to say, the priests.
Man is naturally a religious being, and disposed to stand in awe of invisible powers. This makes, undoubtedly, under certain relations, his glory; but when coupled with his ignorance, it becomes the chief source of his degradation and misery. He feels "within the workings of a mysterious nature, and is conscious that hidden and superior powers are at work all around him, and perpetually influencing his destiny; now wafting him onward with a prosperous gale, or now resisting his course, driving him back, defeating his plans, blasting his hopes, and wounding his heart.
What are his relations to these hidden, mysterious, and yet all-influencing forces? Can their anger be appeased? Can their favor be secured? Thus he asks himself. Unable to answer, he goes to the more aged and experienced of his tribe, and asks them the same questions. They answer as best they can. What is done by one is done by another, and what is done once is done again. The necessity of instruction, which each one feels in consequence of his own feebleness and inexperience, renders the recurrence to those best capable of giving it, or supposed to be the best capable of giving it, frequent and uniform.
Hence the priest. He who is consulted prepares himself to answer, and therefore devotes himself to the study of man's relations to these invisible powers, and the nature of these invisible powers themselves. Hence religion becomes a special object of study, and the study of it a profession. Individuals whom a thunderstorm, an earthquake, an eruption of a volcano, an eclipse of the sun or moon, any unusual appearance in the heavens or earth, has frightened, or whom some unforeseen disaster has afflicted, go to the wise-man for explanation, to know what it means, or what they shall do in order to appease the offended powers.
When reassured they naturally feel grateful to this wise-man ; they load him with honors, and in the access of their gratitude raise him far above the common level, and spare him the common burdens of life. Once thus distinguished, he becomes an object of envy.
Seeking the Truth with Orestes Brownson - Crisis Magazine
His condition is looked upon as superior to that of the mass. Hence a multitude aspire to possess themselves of it. When once the class has become somewhat numerous, it labors to secure to itself the distinction it has received, its honors and its emoluments, and to increase them. Hence the establishment of priesthoods or sacerdotal corporations, such as the Egyptian, the Braminical, the Ethiopian, the Jewish, the Scandinavian, the Druidical, the Mexican, and Peruvian.
The germ of these sacerdotal corporations is found in the savage state, and exists there in that formidable personage called a jongleur, juggler, or conjurer. But as the tribe or people advances, the juggler becomes a priest and the member of a corporation. These sacerdotal corporations are variously organized, but everywhere organized for the purpose, as that arch rebel, Thomas Paine, says, "of monopolizing power and profit.
Now if we glance over the history of the world, we shall find, that at the epoch of coming out of the savage state, these corporations are universally instituted. We find them among every people; and among every people, at this epoch, they are the dominant power, ruling with an iron despotism. The real idea at the bottom of these institutions, is the control of individual freedom by moral laws, the assertion of the supremacy of moral power over physical force,—a great truth, and one which can never be too strenuously insisted on ; but a truth which at this epoch can only enslave the mass of the people to its professed representatives, the priests.
Through awe of the gods, through fear of divine displeasure, and dread of the unforeseen chastisements that displeasure may inflict, and by pretending, honestly or not, to possess the secret of averting it, and of rendering the gods propitious, the priests are able to reduce the people to the most wretched subjection, and to keep them there; at least for a time.
But these institutions must naturally be jealous of power, and ambitious of confining it to as few hands as possible. If the sacerdotal corporations were thrown open to all the world, all the world would rush into them, and then there would be no advantage in being a priest. Hence the number who may be priests must be limited. Hence again a distinction of clean and unclean is introduced. Men can be admitted into these corporations only as they descend from the priestly race. As in India, no man can aspire to the priesthood unless of Braminical descent, and among the Jews unless he be of the tribe of Levi.
The priestly race was the ruling race ; it dealt with science, it held communion with the Gods, and therefore was the purer race. The races excluded from the priesthood were not only regarded as inferior, but as unclean. The Gibeonite to a Jew was both an inferior and an impure. The operation of the principles involved in these considerations, has, in our judgment, begun and effected the slavery of the great mass of the people. It has introduced distinctions of blood or race, founded privileged orders, and secured the rewards of industry to the few, while it has reduced the mass to the most degrading and hopeless bondage.
Now the great mass enslaved by the sacerdotal corporations, are not emancipated by the victories which follow by the warrior caste, even when those victories are said to be in behalf of freedom. The military order succeeds the priestly; but in establishing, as it does in Greece and Rome, the supremacy of the state over the church, it leaves the great mass in the bondage in which it finds them. The Normans conquer England, but they scarcely touch the condition of the old Saxon bondmen.
The Polish serf lost his freedom before began the Russian dominion, and he would have recovered none of it, had Poland regained, in her late struggle, her former political independence. The subjection of a nation is in general merely depriving one class of its population of its exclusive right to enslave the people; and the recovery of political independence, is little else than the recovery of this right. The Germans call their rising against Napoleon a rising for liberty, and so it was, liberty for German princes and German nobles; but the German people were more free under Napoleon's supremacy than they are now, or will be very soon.
Conquest may undoubtedly increase the number of slaves; but in general it merely adds to the number and power of the middle class. It institutes a new nobility, and degrades the old to the rank of commoners. This is its general effect. We cannot therefore ascribe to conquest, as we did in a former number of this journal, the condition in which the working classes are universally found. They have been reduced to their condition by the priest, not by the military chieftain. Mankind came out of the savage state by means of the priests. Priests are the first civilizers of the race.
For the wild freedom of the savage, they substitute the iron despotism of the theocrat. This is the first step in civilization, in man's career of progress. It is not strange then that some should prefer the savage state to the civilized. Who would not rather roam the forest with a free step and unshackled limb, though exposed to hunger, cold, and nakedness, than crouch an abject slave beneath the whip of a master? As yet civilization has done little but break and subdue man's natural love of freedom; but tame his wild and eagle spirit.
In what a world does man even now find himself, when he first awakes and feels some of the workings of his manly nature? He is in a cold, damp, dark dungeon, and loaded all over with chains, with the iron entering into his very soul. He cannot make one single free movement. The priest holds his conscience, fashion controls his tastes, and society with her forces invades the very sanctuary of his heart, and takes command of his love, that which is purest and best in his nature, which alone gives reality to his existence, and from which proceeds the only ray which pierces the gloom of his prison-house.
Even that he cannot enjoy in peace and quietness, nor scarcely at all. He is wounded on every side, in every part of his being, in every relation in life, in every idea of his mind, in every sentiment of his heart. O, it is a sad world, a sad world to the young soul just awakening to its diviner instincts!
A sad world to him who is not gifted with the only-blessing which seems compatible with life as it is — absolute insensibility. But no matter. A wise man never murmurs. He never kicks against the pricks. What is is, and there is an end of it; what can be may be, and we will do what we can to make life what it ought to be.
Though man's first step in civilization is slavery, his last step shall be freedom. The free soul can never be wholly subdued; the etherial fire in man's nature may be smothered, but it cannot be extinguished. Down, down deep in the centre of his heart it burns inextinguishable and forever, glowing intenser with the accumulating heat of centuries ; and one day the whole mass of Humanity shall become ignited, and be full of fire within and all over, as a live coal; and then — slavery, and whatever is foreign to the soul itself, shall be consumed.
But, having traced the inequality we complain of to its origin, we proceed to ask again what is the remedy? The remedy is first to be sought in the destruction of the priest. We are not mere destructives.
We delight not in pulling down ; but the bad must be removed before the good can be introduced. Conviction and repentance precede regeneration. Moreover we are Christians, and it is only by following out the Christian law, and the example of the early Christians, that we can hope to effect anything. Christianity is the sublimest protest against the priesthood ever uttered, and a protest uttered by both God and man ; for he who uttered it was God-Man. In the person of Jesus both God and Man protest against the priesthood.
What was the mission of Jesus but a solemn summons of every priesthood on earth to judgment, and of the human race to freedom? He discomfited the learned doctors, and with whips of small cords drove the priests, degenerated into mere money changers, from the temple of God. He instituted himself no priesthood, no form of religious worship. He recognized no priest but a holy life, and commanded the construction of no temple but that of the pure heart. He preached no formal religion, enjoined no creed, set apart no day for religious worship.
He preached fraternal love, peace on earth, and good will to men. He came to the soul enslaved, "cabined, cribbed, confined," to the poor child of mortality, bound hand and foot, unable to move, and said in the tones of a God, " Be free; be enlarged; be there room for thee to grow, expand, and overflow with the love thou wast made to overflow with. In the name of Jesus we admit there has been a priesthood instituted, and considering how the world went, a priesthood could not but be instituted ; but the religion of Jesus repudiates it.
It recognizes no mediator between God and man but him who dies on the cross to redeem man ; no propitiation for sin but a pure love, which rises in a living flame to all that is beautiful and good, and spreads out in light and warmth for all the chilled and benighted sons of mortality. In calling every man to be a priest, it virtually condemns every possible priesthood, and in recognizing the religion of the new covenant, the religion written on the heart, of a law put within the soul, it abolishes all formal worship.
The priest is universally a tyrant, universally the enslaver of his brethren, and therefore it is Christianity condemns him. It could not prevent the reestablishment of a hierarchy, but it prepared for its ultimate destruction, by denying the inequality of blood, by representing all men as equal before God, and by insisting on the celibacy of the clergy.
The best feature of the Church was in its denial to the clergy of the right to marry. By this it prevented the new hierarchy from becoming hereditary, as were the old sacerdotal corporations of India and Judea. We object not to religious instruction ; we object not to the gathering together of the people on one day in seven, to sing and pray, and listen to a discourse from a religious teacher; but we object to everything like an outward, visible church ; to everything that in the remotest degree partakes of the priest.
A priest is one who stands as a sort of mediator between God and man; but we have one mediator. Jesus Christ, who gave himself a ransom for all, and that is enough. It may be supposed that we, protestants, have no priests ; but for ourselves we know no fundamental difference between a catholic priest and a protestant clergyman, as we know no difference of any magnitude, in relation to the principles on which they are based, between a protestant church and the catholic church.
Both are based on the principle of authority; both deny in fact, however it may be in manner, the authority of reason, and war against freedom of mind ; both substitute dead Works for true righteousness, a vain show for the reality of piety, and are sustained as the means of reconciling us to God without requiring us to become godlike.
Both therefore ought to go by the board. We may offend in what we say, but we cannot help that. We insist upon it, that the complete and final destruction of the priestly order, in every practical sense of the word priest, is the first step to be taken towards elevating the laboring classes. Priests are, in their capacity of priests, necessarily enemies to freedom and equality. All reasoning demonstrates this, and all history proves it. There must be no class of men set apart and authorized, either by law or fashion, to speak to us in the name of God, or to be the interpreters of the word of God.
The word of God never drops from the priest's lips. He who redeemed man did not spring from the priestly class, for it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood. Who in fact were the authors of the Bible, the book which Christendom professes to receive as the word of God? The priests? Nay, they were the inveterate foes of the priests. No man ever berated the priests more soundly than did Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And who were they who heard Jesus the most gladly?
The chief priests were at the head of those who demanded his crucifixion. In every age the priests, the authorized teachers of religion, are the first to oppose the true prophet of God, and to condemn his prophecies as blasphemies. They are always a let and a hindrance to the spread of truth. Why then retain them? Why not abolish the priestly office? Why continue to sustain what the whole history of man condemns as the greatest of all obstacles to intellectual and social progress?
We say again, we have no objection to teachers of religion, as such; but let us have no class of men whose profession it is to minister at the altar. Let us leave this matter to Providence. When God raises up a prophet, let that prophet prophesy as God gives him utterance. Let every man speak out of his own full heart, as he is moved by the Holy Ghost, but let us have none to prophesy for hire, to make preaching a profession, a means of gaining a livelihood. Whoever has a word pressing upon his heart for utterance, let him utter it, in the stable, the market-place, the street, in the grove, under the open canopy of heaven, in the lowly cottage, or the lordly hall.
No matter who or what he is, whether a graduate of a college, a shepherd from the hill sides, or a rustic from the plough. If he feels himself called to go forth in the name of God, he will speak words of truth and power, for which Humanity shall fare the better. But none of your hireling priests, your "dumb dogs" that will not bark. What are the priests of Christendom as they now are?
Miserable panders to the prejudices of the age, loud in condemning sins nobody is guilty of, but silent as the grave when it concerns the crying sin of the times ; bold as bold can be when there is no danger, but miserable cowards when it is necessary to speak out for God and outraged Humanity. As a body they never preach a truth till there is none whom it will indict. Never do they as a body venture to condemn sin in the concrete, and make each sinner feel "thou art the man.
The imbecility of an organized priesthood, of a hireling clergy, for all good, and its power only to demoralize the people and misdirect their energies, is beginning to be seen, and will one day be acknowledged.
Men are beginning to speak out on this subject, and the day of reckoning is approaching. The people are rising up and asking of these priests whom they have fed, clothed, honored, and followed, What have ye done for the poor and friendless, to destroy oppression, and establish the kingdom of God on earth?
A fearful question for you, 0 ye priests, which we leave you to answer as best ye may. The next step in this work of elevating the working classes will be to resuscitate the Christianity of Christ. The Christianity of the Church has done its work. We have had enough of that Christianity. It is powerless for good, but by no means powerless for evil. It now unmans us and hinders the growth of God's kingdom. The moral energy which is awakened it misdirects, and makes its deluded disciples believe that they have done their duty to God when they have joined the church, offered a prayer, sung a psalm, and contributed of their means to send out a missionary to preach unintelligible dogmas to the poor heathen, who, God knows, have unintelligible dogmas enough already, and more than enough.
All" this must be abandoned, and Christianity, as it came from Christ, be taken up, and preached, and preached in simplicity and in power. According to the Christianity of Christ no man can enter the kingdom of God, who does not labor with all zeal and diligence to establish the kingdom of God on the earth; who does not labor to bring down the high, and bring up the low; to break the fetters of the bound and set the captive free; to destroy all oppression, establish the reign of justice, which is the reign of equality, between man and man ; to introduce new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, wherein all shall be as brothers, loving one another, and no one possessing what another lacketh.
No man can be a Christian who does not labor to reform society, to mould it according to the will of God and the nature of man ; so that free scope shall be given to every man to unfold himself in all beauty and power, and to grow up into the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. No man can be a Christian who does not refrain from all practices by which the rich grow richer and the poor poorer, and who does not do all in his power to elevate the laboring classes, so that one man shall not be doomed to toil while another enjoys the fruits; so that each man shall be free and independent, sitting under " his own vine and figtree with none to molest or to make afraid.
But you must christianize it. It is the Gospel of Jesus you must preach, and not the gospel of the priests. Writing william and mary number essay. Very optimistic person, so i think i might just be prepared for such changes.
The Truth-Seeking American
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