Friday 7 July 2023

The Antichrist and soft despotism


De Tocqueville in Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 6 of Democracy in America. I came across this quoted in an interview by Stanley Payne, the historian of Franco's Spain, in relation to America since Obama became president. It reminds me more of modern Western Europe and the UK. 

'Thus, after having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a

power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

'I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.'

It reminds me of something the spiritualist Martin Israel wrote.

'Antichrist is not a demonic figure typified in our own century by the person of a fascist or communist dictator or one of his henchmen....Antichrist reveals himself much more subtly and plausibly than this. He appears as an outwardly enlightened man of apparent good nature and well-disposed to his fellows, who takes charge of the world and usurps the place of God. He organises the world into the form of an advanced welfare state and makes everyone happy provided they bow down and worship him. All who co-operate with him live pleasant, uneventful lives, have plenty of possessions, and strive for the maintenance of their present status. Their inner eye is no longer lifted up to the Figure on the cross, who is the way, the truth and the life in God. Therefore they are not themselves transformed. They remain comfortable, complacent people, selfish and blind to the greater world, living like intelligent animals.'


  1. What nonsense.

    Conservatives have been claiming that modernity will emasculate us for over a century. Hasn't happened yet. Look around! Do you see any shortage of original minds and energetic characters? Do the people around you seem like timid and industrious animals?

    As for the modern welfare state being Antichrist -- one of the strangest and most disgusting things about conservative Christians is their visceral hatred of the idea that ordinary people should have a right to shelter, food, and basic education and health care. No! The poor are supposed to suffer! It's Christ's way!

    I just made a bet with myself: I bet the "spiritualist" Martin Israel was from a comfortable upper-middle class family. Let's see. [googles] Yep, sure enough -- his father was a surgeon, he was educated at a public school.

    1. He was born in a well-off Jewish atheist family in South Africa, was converted to Christianity as a child by a black servant, left South Africa because he disliked apartheid, became the leading authority on pathology, was a spiritualist and mystic and became an Anglican priest. He was educated at a school which did not charge fees.

    2. quote is not a political statement but a mystical insight.

  2. "Antichrist organizes the world into an advanced welfare state" is a political statement. Claiming otherwise is just silly.

    And it's a very typical trap for conservative Christians to fall into. "Christ in his infinite mercy allows our suffering to be transformed and to bring us closer to God" -- that's good theology. "Suffering can bring us closer to God" -- still solid theology, though lacking nuance. "Suffering brings [other people] closer to God, and therefore efforts to reduce or eliminate suffering are wrongful [especially when I am expected to pay for it] -- that's pretty explicitly Satanic. But millions of conservative Christians have fallen into that particular snare, and act accordingly.

    The premier representative of the welfare state in modern Britain is the NHS. (Which probably helped care for Israel in his old age, as he was chronically ill for most of his last decade.) And the NHS is the most Christlike institution in Britain today. It offers care and healing and the easing of pain to all as best it can -- man or woman, rich or poor, Gentile or Jew. It's an instrument of human goodness -- and if you're a good Christian, you know that human goodness always imitates and is inspired by the goodness of God.

    So when a Christian looks at something like the NHS and starts mumbling about how it partakes of the nature of Antichrist... well, saying it's a political statement is the *kinder* interpretation. The alternative is that this particular Christian has fallen very far from Christ's Way, and is very probably heretical.