How do you define modernity? More to the point, can you name some positive points for it?
I don’t think the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution are all bad. Certainly technology has been largely a blessing, as well as advances in medicine or even in representative and government based on the rule of law. Modernity is really still the product of those 17th and 18th century movements and revolutions, but I suppose modernity is something difficult to define, as it will always be somewhat arbitrary. Certainly we can’t live in the past, hoping for some idealized and romanticized view of things to return. Capitalism is a good modern development, I think. Globalism, a kind of frightening offspring of capitalism, is monopolistic and taking us down the road of technocratic tyranny, so I predict a dark end to what we call the “modern era.” Modernity has led to post-modernity, which leads to nihilism and dissolution. In this regard, the post-modern philosophers can be read and gleaned from because they are taking modernism to its logical conclusion.
It’s always helpful to read the post-modernists for this reason, so I can recommend someone like Foucault for that, although I do not accept his worldview. If we cast modernity in terms of philosophy, we can look at the three branches of philosophy: epistemology, metaphysics and ethics. In terms of epistemology, modernity is dominated still by naïve empiricism and scientism, leading to skeptical relativism. Metaphysics is essentially non-existent and considered useless, as well as ethics, which is ironic, given that Enlightenment rationalism thought it could produce an objective, utilitarian ethic, as you see with Bentham.
How do you explain the occult/positivist conjunction obvious in a character like Francis Bacon? Some people would argue is something characteristic even for our (post)modern times.
Personally, I suspect that figures like Galileo, Bacon, Leibniz, Descartes and Newton had a public face that they presented that appeared to profess scientific rationalism, while privately I think they were members of esoteric secret societies. This is somewhat controversial, but we know for a fact that all of the above were definitely interested in esoterism and I don’t mean to lump them all together. Leibniz is brilliant and basically a continuation of Platonism. Newton it has been further uncovered, was essentially an alchemist, first and foremost. Descartes, some speculate was associated with Rosicrucianism, so I wouldn’t be surprised if empiricism was a front that a lot of these men adhered to in a time when it might be somewhat scandalous to discuss esoterism. My university advisor used to say that his advisor thought that if you got Kant really drunk, he would probably say Leibniz had nailed it. John Dee is a great example of this, who was incidentally the first 007. Dee was Queen Elizabeth’s geo-political adviser, spy and court astrologer, but he was also a Renaissance man of science.
In regard to our time, I have similar suspicions that the “wise men” of our times probably put on a public face of accepting whatever is fashionable and orthodox by the mainstream, like with Darwinism perhaps, while privately they hold to highly esoteric views. I think there is definitely something like this going on with people like Kurt Godel, Wolfgang Pauli or Roger Penrose, who claims to be a Platonist, oddly. I am not saying they were members of esoteric societies per se, but they held and hold to views that are basically platonic and outside the so-called mainstream of Darwinian materialism.
Is there a relationship between secret service and the occult?
Absolutely. As I mentioned, John Dee, the first “007” was a court astrologer and occultist. Aleister Crowley was used by British Intelligence to help fool Rudolf Hess to parachute into Scotland—all of which was Ian Fleming’s idea. Since both intelligence agencies and occult societies traffic in secrets, the similarities are self-evident. This is not to say all agents are into the occult, or vice versa, but from the perspective of understanding people groups, knowing, understanding and penetrating the religions of any given society would thus be crucial from a political perspective. Indeed, sometimes the creation of religions and cults are used by intelligence agencies, as well as penetrating entities like the Russian Orthodox Church or the Vatican, as previously mentioned.
From my perspective, I think in the actual outworking of things the relationship between esoterism and espionage is often close, but not always direct. Sometimes occult societies are used by intelligence agencies as tools, but much of modern espionage is private and corporate, so the function tends to be more pragmatic in most cases, but certainly the esoteric associations are there and should not be overlooked. As I often write about on my site and a I mentioned, I see a direct connect between intelligence agencies and Hollywood for propaganda purposes mainly, but quite often those scripts are full of esoteric themes and symbols for a reason.
Please, can you name for our readers some books that have made a deep impact on you in the last few years?
That is also a difficult question. I was really impressed with Dr. Farrell’s God, History & Dialectic. This gave me a new perspective on patristics and Eastern theology, as well as Dr. Philip Sherrard’s The Greek East and the Latin West. Kabbalah and Exodus by Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi gives a great analysis of the metaphysical symbolism in the Tabernacle and Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed is a good look at medieval Judaism comparable to Aquinas. Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand is a good defense of basic economics, as well as her Romantic Manifesto, which is a brilliant work of philosophy. Spiritual Disciplines: Papers From the Eranos Yearbooks edited by Joseph Campbell is an excellent collection of comparative religion essays, as well as Mircea Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane. I recommend Webster Tarpley’s Synthetic Terror as a penetrating, comprehensive analysis of 9/11, as well as other geo-political and espionage works, like Mark Curtis’ Secret Affairs, Michael Ruppert’s Crossing the Rubicon, and Stephen Dorril’s MI6 and Malachi Martin’s Keys of This Blood. In terms of literature, I was really impressed with John Fowles’ The Magus and Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Thank you for your time and stimulating answers!