Philosophy arose as an interest when I decided not to get a degree in biblical studies, but I had already developed an interest in religious philosophy and apologetics. Living the examined life, as Socrates said, was something I felt I had always been inclined to, so I pursued philosophy. It is philosophy that functions to unite all these seemingly disparate fields you’ve listed. It really boils down to worldviews, and while that may sound irrelevant, we all have a worldview, whether we know it or not.
The CIA itself has whole studies produced on worldviews called “ethnographies.” So I definitely see a link between these fields beyond mere intellectual curiosity. At stake here is reality itself—how we believe determines how we act, which determines the course of history itself. Reality is grounded in God, and God is the ground of all being (though He is beyond being), interpenetrating it with His immanent energies. Therefore to deny God and not seek truth is to deny the very truth of being itself, which leads to individual and social destruction.
Lots of people, especially in the Orthodox countries, underline the fact that Orthodoxy is first of all a “living tradition”, involving man as an integrated whole, and not primarily an intellectual one. How do you comment?
Jay Dyer: I would agree with that approach. The Eastern mindset is more holistic and looking at things cosmologically. I think Oswald Spengler is good at capturing the different mindsets of different cultures, though I think he goes too far at times. Spengler makes comments along those lines, and he was a western man: He predicted the collapse of the West we are seeing. Thus I agree: Eastern Orthodox theology is holistic and interested in living a certain life and existence, as opposed to a western, rationalistic approach to defining ad infinitum in an abstract, propositional fashion. This error led to our society to adopt empiricism, and empiricism led to the pragmatic statism we see dominating.
One could think here of Aquinas in the Summa parceling out all the various elements of the liturgy and sacraments, determining what is valid, at what point it is invalid, etc. in thousands of pages, which can supposedly be “understood” by anyone. All of this is the rationalist approach—the theology is done systematically like a big legal document with a disconnect from the life that is to be lived. I believe all of this goes back to the western view of absolute divine simplicity from Augustine and synthesized in Aquinas, which then led to the Enlightenment and scientism.
In Roman theology, one can even learn all the dogmas, lose grace, and remain with the gift of faith. I see that as an odd bifurcation that really illustrates the problem of the West as a whole: dialectical rationalism. This has led to the materialism, nihilism and disintegration we are seeing now. Empiricism is the philosophy in which nothing is connected—everything we know is merely a discrete sensory impression, yet metaphysics is tossed out as useless. While many people may not see philosophy as relevant or useful, these are huge issues! Orthodoxy focuses much more on the Personhood of God, making it more existential, as opposed to the western emphasis on the divine ousia.
You argued that both libertarianism and Marxism share the same anthropological presuppositions, seeing man as “autonomous blank slate”. In this context, do you think libertarianism (capitalism) as a political project has any chance of succeeding not historically but theoretically, as many important economists like to think?
Jay Dyer: This is a great question, and one I was hoping someone would eventually ask. I look at the historic milieu for the rise of such movements. I am most definitely a capitalist, but I take issue with some views of libertarianism. I want to be clear though, I know many libertarians and interact with them regularly, and derive a lot of benefit from their analyses. I also recognize that by the nature of the view itself, there is not one single libertarianism. Many libertarians see things like sexual issues or gender as relativistic, for example. I disagree, but I try look at the bigger picture. Libertarianism is an Enlightenment revolutionary position that was the work of rationalist European thought. I don’t think that claim should have the monopoly on “capitalism,” since even in ancient Jewish law, there is the enshrinement of private property, individual rights and the good of attaining wealth.
So I have no problem with capitalism as an economic view, indeed, it is the only rational view. I do see a problem in viewing economics as the totality explanation of reality, where rationalism is still the dominant presupposition. One can see this for example in someone like Ayn Rand. I like most of her thought, but at the end of the day, being a rational capitalist is pointless in a godless universe. If there is no eternity or God, why be rational? Why not buy off state officials and shut down competition? I see the problem with libertarianism as seeing man as essentially homo economicus, which is itself just an outworking of Enlightenment liberalism that is based on a universalization of human nature in an erroneous sense.
Marx’s final stage is a libertarian withering away of the state. In that sense, I see final stage communism and libertarianism as on the same page: both are essentially still relativistic and materialistic in their anthropology, with human institutions basically functioning as manifestations of some version of social contract theory. It’s a version of the classical philosophical problem of the one and the many. The tendency here is towards an arbitrary either/or. It’s either individual rights or the collective state. I see that as a dialectical problem, since a worldview cannot be based solely on abstract notions of “freedom” with no larger context or worldview. On the whole, though, I tend to agree with most of the Austrian economic views.
I see governmental and economic systems as operating better or worse depending on a whole host of factors: race, climate, location, population, etc. Many Enlightenment thinkers had a working assumption that human nature was able to be universalized in a radical sense, so that you could erect a constitutional republic anywhere, and with an educated populace, markets would operate, prosperity would emerge, etc. However, I take what I see as a more realistic view of human nature: a constitutional republic may have worked with British colonists in America for a while, but that it could just be erected, say, in Liberia is another matter. Granted, that is a critique one finds in a lot of fascist works, but I think it is a valid one. I am not a fascist, either. I see a state-corporate merger (the very system we are under now) as the source of the modern problem, at least functionally. In that regard, corporate statism and state communism differ little in actual praxis. Alexander Dugin has some great criticisms in this regard.
I don’t mean to get off into other controversial issues, but the point is that I see systems emerging from the indigenous populace’s “spirit,” and mixing with the “spirit” of whatever nations or tribes conquered them. This is the long march of history, the reality of what happens, but I don’t mean to say by that that there are no ideals or that capitalism is not the best ideal economically: it is. Whether it will succeed in future history is another question, but it is bound to win out eventually because it is the only rational position. It is the only system that produces a high living standard for the poor. It is rational (and I don’t mean by that rationalism), and only a market economy can compete in the modern world.
All that said, the reality of the present system is much more grim. We are entering an era of global corporate monopoly control. Globalism, a result of monopolistic capitalism or fascism, has declared unambiguously its goals through the United Nations, IMF, CFR, Bilderberg Group, Club of Rome, RAND, Rockefeller Foundation white papers, and a hundred other international bodies. Their goal is very open and very simple: world government and mass depopulation under a technocratic scientific dictatorship. We know this going back to Aldous Huxley. The Anglo-American axis has essentially funded and aided the socialist powers as the dialectical opposite foil to build the emerging techno-utopia that is really a slave state for the masses. Already in the 1940s, as I’ve documented, prominent members of the CFR like Alger Hiss, and Roosevelt Vice President, Henry Wallace (both open communists), were seeking a US integration and convergence with the Soviet Union.
We are now a half a century past that stage and well into the period of “convergence.” These same entities have already laid out the plans for the next 50 years to come in the writings of people like Brzezinski and futurists like Toffler and Kurzweil. The Green Agenda, international socialism and international corporations are all very closely tied together. You see this with yearly global meetings between people like Gorbachev and western industrialists. These entities openly want to shut down economies and bring in socialist world government run by corporate technocrats at the top.
This, unfortunately, is the present reality and the future is going to be a cashless control grid with SmartCities tracking and tracing everything, even rationing your food and accusing you of “pre-crime.” This is even worse than 1984 or Brave New World. Clearly capitalism will be impossible in such an environment (and that is by design), so I see a grim future for economic freedom and markets. Already the markets are manipulated through algorithmic flash trades, Libor rate fraud, central bank fiat printing, etc., and that will only get worse as everything is digitized and made cashless. The best and most likely outcome is perhaps that the Anglo-globalist system will itself collapse and disintegrate due to massive internal corruption and its being based on the faulty presuppositions of social Darwinism and materialism. As a result, smaller, independent and local “black markets” will perhaps emerge based again around gold and real assets.
What is the relevance of metaphysical/theological theories for political issues? I am thinking for example at Dr. Joseph Farrell thesis in “God, History and Dialectics” where the main emphasis lies in the Augustinian camp, or the works of Eric Voegelin about gnosticism, and so on. Murray Rothbard has also a classic piece about this (“Karl Marx as Religious Eschatologist “). More to the point, what is the (is there a) political partnership (expression?) of Orthodoxy? And Roman-Catholicism?
Jay Dyer: I had Dr. Farrell’s God, History and Dialectic in mind earlier when I mentioned dialectics and Augustine. The same dialectic is at work with the Cold War, too. I think the criticisms Dr. Farrell makes of the western philosophical assumptions are correct in that work, as well as the arguments I’ve read in Voegelin. Augustinianism is very much influenced by the same streams that influenced gnosticism, and this can be seen in his doctrine of predestination. The gnostic views of the “elect,” which also resurface in medieval Roman Catholic sectarian groups found a lot of similarity with Augustine, and this is chiefly due to Manichaeanism. Calvinism is also a manifestation of this same gnostic tendency, being an offshoot of Augustinianism, and a potent influence upon western thinking and the American system. In Manichaeanism, dualistic opposition is everywhere, as a sort of basic axiom. It is very interesting to note that even Brzezinski has referred to the Cold War as a very Manichean thing. Ian Fleming even has 007 say as much in the novel Casino Royale.
I’ve read part of that work by Rothbard and it definitely fits into the currents of what we’ve been discussing. Gary North has a similar book, Marx’s Religion of Revolution, which supports Rothbard’s thesis. I took several courses in college and graduate school on Marxism, and if you attend a state school in the US at all, you’re bound to be well schooled in Marxism. Ayn Rand has some great critiques of Marxism, too, but you will never see any of that in American schools. You might see Atlas Shrugged referenced, but you will never read Rothbard or Von Mises. I think we read one article by Nozick in my social/political theory class: the rest was Marxist/socialist. This relates to the Soviet-style educational policy that has been adopted since the 1980s resulting in the process of standardization to basically socialize the youth as Charlotte Iserbyt has exposed. This is why I still think Marxism is alive and well, having spent the last several years in higher education. Though it may go under the titles of “liberal” or “green,” the results are no different than Marxism’s aims.
The process of convergence is occurring in education as well as religion. Ayn Rand, in my estimation, accurately predicted the merger of Roman Catholicism and communism. The modern papacy consistently calls for world government and international regulatory bodies that will supposedly fix the problems of the IMF and the megabanks. Yet who will fix that international body’s problems? Who will then fix that international regulatory body’s problems? Indeed, if the Vatican is truly concerned with international finance, then why is the Vatican Bank just as much involved in all the international financial scandals as the other megabanks like JP Morgan? This is evident in the Roberto Calvi scandal, up to now.
Thus, I see the Vatican as basically under the control of the more radical strand of Euro socialism that has sought for the last hundred years to seize the Vatican to make it a tool of international Marxism. Malachi Martin makes this undeniably clear in his book, The Jesuits, since they have been the chief engines of change in Rome the last 50 years or so. This is why most of the papal geo-political moves mirror the moves of international socialism that would have been unheard of prior to Pius XII. If you adhere to international socialism, what institution could be better to co-opt than an international religious entity that is supposedly devoted to the poor? Many are familiar with the process of the KGB installing agents as members of the Russian Church and it is essentially the same with Marxists in Rome.
My understanding of modern Orthodox politics is very similar to Rome, in terms of being co-opted, but certainly the classical Orthodox view of symphonia is different from the Roman view of the papal monarchy. In Orthodoxy, church and state are supposed to operate in symphony and, in my understanding, there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular, insofar as God’s sovereignty and presence is concerned. The Roman view evolved into the Franco-papal monarchy, with the pope occupying a position above all earthly authority. Unam Sanctam even said the pope was one with the Trinity in some odd, special way.
Bizarrely, the West ended up developing another dialectical view of sacred and secular that I think is also predicated ultimately on absolute divine simplicity. Alexander Schmemann has a good discussion of this error of dividing the sacred and the secular: if God is immanently present, penetrating all reality with His divine energies, there is no secular realm. If God is an absolutely simply Monad that only interacts in this world through created analogies, it is quite obvious that this view would lead to God being divorced from the world, and hence the Enlightenment deists, which leads to atheism.
To tie this all together, I see gnosticism as the root of all this, as it seeks to defy the good of the created order. Revolutionary philosophies tend to locate evil in created reality and institutions, when evil is not a created thing. Evil is the willful rejection of the good, not a substance. As long as evil is located in some thing, or in identified with an institution itself or with hierarchy, the only result can be collapse and the rise of a new hierarchical order. Gnosticism is the rejection of that original hierarchy, with God at the top.