1. The Early Thinkers: From Plato to Augustine (Remastered)

R.J. Rushdoony • May, 30 2024

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  • Series: History of Thought (Remastered)
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The Early Thinkers from Plato to Augustine

R.J. Rushdoony

It is important for us to realize that sometimes the best way to understand a subject is to have a map. Now maps are very important. Maps give an overall picture. I lived in one area once where I knew every road, I knew the ground in great detail throughout that particular valley, but not until I saw a map did I have a true perspective on that valley and its location to adjacent areas. Details sometimes can be very familiar to us, but we need an overall perspective.

Thus, it would be possible for us to go into great detail about Greek philosophers, the Medieval and the modern philosophers, and lose ourselves in masses of interesting detail. As a result, what we shall do is to lay down some of the basic guidelines, and overall map, what are the key issues. Then, as we come to the modern period, what is being done about these key issues in our time. This morning, our subject will be ‘the early thinkers from the Greeks to Augustine,’ and some of the key issues that were laid down at that time; some of which are still very much with us.

Now first of all, when we begin to think seriously, philosophically or religiously, we think of God as at the top of the entire universe. God is the highest good, God is the ultimate being, and beginning with God we think downward. But this is not so with the ancient world. The ancient world sometimes referred to god, or to the gods, but they did not think of god as the highest and the ultimate being. As a matter of fact, the Christian philosopher Tertullian ridiculed the Greeks and the Romans as well as the Egyptians and all ancient philosophy, because he said their gods are created by acts of the senate.1 And he was literally right.

No-one in Rome was a god until he got senate approval. When an Emperor died, whether he joined the ranks of the gods depended on how well the Senate liked him, or whether they wanted to do honor to him, which if his son were on the throne they usually did. Gods were thus created by acts of Senate. Similarly, to cite an expression that we are familiar with, an aspect of all of this was hero-worship. Recently, a historian, a very brilliant and able man, wrote to me about his idea of a book on a modern figure whom he was going to title a ‘hero.’ And he saw this man as a Christian, and I wrote to him a couple of letters, and in my second letter I spelled out to him my objection to that title. I said first I question that he is a Christian, and second I question the use of the word ‘hero.’ Because the word ‘hero’ goes back to the ancient world, a hero was a man who was a demigod, a half-god. And therefore he was an object of worship. He was someone who had by his achievement developed the divinity in himself, so that now he was more than man, he was a demigod. And so, hero worship was a reality.

Now to see exactly where the highest good was in the ancient world, not in God, it is important for us to turn to Aristotle’s Politics. And Aristotle begins in the first paragraph of his Politics, Book I, and he declares in the second sentence:

“...if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.” 2

Now this is a startling statement. We are not used to thinking this way, and this is why we are so little equipped to cope with the revival of ancient philosophy, the re-enthronement as it were of Plato and Aristotle and other Greek thinkers in our Universities, which has happened in recent generations. Their thinking began, not with God, but with the state. So that for them the state was the highest good, and the working God of their philosophy.

Now, this of course meant totalitarianism. It meant that the state was divine or a kind of a god, the king therefore had a kind of divinity, the offices within the state and the rulers of the state shared in this divinity, and therefore you could not criticize them, you could not challenge them, you were challenging ‘God.’

This is an important fact to remember, because with the revival of Greek philosophy, beginning with Aquinas and especially with the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, we have again this entire reversal of standards. So that for us in the modern world it is not God, who is uppermost, but the state. And after all, what is Marxism but this ancient paganism revived? It begins with the state, the state is ultimate, the state is the highest good, the state is infallible. Or they would say, not the state, but the ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat.’

Thus it is important for us, is it not to understand philosophy, the central problems of it, because we miss the significance of the anti-Christian movement today in intellectual circles. It is the dethronement of God and the enthronement of the state.

A second essential point with respect to ancient philosophy; for ancient philosophy, being is one and continuous. Now what does this mean? As Christians, as believers in the Scriptures, we declare that God is uncreated being. He alone is God. Men are not gods, men are not divine, we don’t have a spark of divinity in us, we are creatures. So that there are two kinds of being in the universe. The uncreated being; God, and the whole world of created being, man and all the creatures, the entire universe. This means therefore there is a vast gap between God and the universe, and the universe, nor any part of it, can ever be termed ‘divine.’ But in ancient philosophy there was only one continuous world of being, so that the gods, the men, all shared in this divinity.

Now, some people were more godlike than others, the heroes were ones who were at least half-gods. The rulers or emperors very often became completely God. Everyone had a little bit of God in them and it was just a case of developing that in them. So salvation meant becoming more and more a god, whereas for us salvation is accepting the redemptive work of God by faith.

Now, the background of this idea of one continuous being was that being arose out of chaos, and here you have the whole religion of revolution, and that it is working its way up. And since it is evolving, and the idea of evolution is the hallmark of paganism, there was no idea of creation in paganism, whatever they may try to tell you. The way for this evolution to proceed is through chaos. It has to have chaos occasionally in order to step upward. And so, this takes us to the religion of revolution. I won’t go into that, we have dealt with that previously, I have a pamphlet on it and I am writing a book on the subject.

But, this concept of evolution, all being as one, and all divine, is again a basic aspect of ancient philosophy, and also of modern philosophy. So, first, the state as the working God of the system, second everything is a part of God, it is all divine, there is no ‘God’ as such, and Third: Ancient philosophy was strongly esoteric. Now, this they will not teach you in the universities, they don’t like to go into this. But it was esoteric. It believed there were levels of knowledge, one level for the common people, the herd, and another level for the elite.

Because certain men are more godlike, the hidden, esoteric philosophy was reserved for them. Let me cite as illustrative of this, a passage from Benjamin Farrington’s, Greek Science:

Theophrastus to Galen, Volume II, p. 15 ff.

“We are told by an ancient writer that Aristotle gave two kinds of instruction. He gave formal instruction in the morning to regular students, who had given proof of aptitude, attainment, zeal and industry. In the afternoon there were more popular lectures for a wider public. When Alexander the Great, whose tutor, Aristotle, had been, heard a report that the subject matter of the morning lectures had been published, he wrote to his teacher in protest: ‘If you have made public what we have learned from you, how shall we be any better than the rest?’ Aristotle told him not to worry. ‘The private lessons,’ he wrote, ‘Are both published and not published. Nobody will be able to understand them except those who have had the real instruction.’” 3

And so he goes on to add:

“This makes clear the general character of Aristotle’s surviving writings.” 4

In other words, they are esoteric, they deal with a world of hidden thought for the elite, for the rulers. And this element is still clear. As Jean Houssaye, a French Catholic writer has pointed out, there is a difference between Communists and Marxists. The Communists are the gullible fools who believe in the dream of a communist Utopia. The Marxists are the ones, who in conformity to Marx and Lenin believe in nothing, they want power. And so the communists are the fools that are used by the Marxists in their dream of total power. One communist saw through this, and he gave a fearful picture of the reality. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four. And he said that the only conclusion of all the modern world was this world of total power, a boot endlessly stamping itself in a human face and grinding it down. Sheer naked power. No idealism, no meaning, nothing.

Now in view of this, for the ancient world, for Greek philosophy, the cosmos was the state. When we say ‘cosmos,’ we mean the universe. But for them it was the state. And a ‘cosmopolitan’ therefore is someone who believes in a world state. That’s the literal meaning of the word. Because ‘polis’ means state. ‘Polis,’ political. A ‘cosmopolitan’ is one who believes in a world state, and this state as the ultimate, the highest good, and since it is the highest good, if there can be no appeal against the state which is ultimate order. Now when you believe in God you can always appeal to God against the state. You can appeal to a higher good, and you can say in terms of what the state does that it is evil, that it is wicked, because you know another and a higher standard. But if there is no standard but the state,If it is God, how can you appeal against it? Whatever the state does is right. By definition it cannot be wrong. You have no appeal.

Now, as we begin to analyze some of the problems that confronted Greek philosophy as they dealt with this, we have to realize that these problems centered themselves around one problem, which is the consistent, the main problem of philosophy. Philosophy today doesn’t talk about it because it has surrendered. It can’t come up with an answer, we will deal with that at one of our later meetings. Only Christian thinkers deal with the problem. ‘The problem of the one and the many.’ Now it would be very easy for me to get lost on this subject, because I have been working for over 6 years now on a book about the problem of the one and the many; I hope to finish it this year but I’ve said that the last two years. What is the problem of the one and the many? The problem is this: what is most ultimate in the universe, in society, in the state? Is it the unity of things, the oneness of things, or is it the particularity, the many-ness, the individuality of things? In other words, is it the state or the individual? Are you going to have collectivism or totalitarianism, or are you going to have anarchism? Which is the ideal state?

Now this problem is a very real one, in every area of life, for example the church. Which is more important; the church or the individual believer and his faith? Now, the Baptists place all the emphasis on the individual believer and his faith. The Catholics place all the emphasis on the church, so they have answered ‘the problem of the one and the many’ each in their ways, haven’t they? Again, with respect to marriage, what is basic? Is it the bond of marriage, the oneness? That is the Catholic answer, therefore there can be no divorce. Or the modern answer; the individual and his feeling is everything, so that when he loses interest in marriage it is dissolved. You see what happens whatever answer you give. You can carry this into every area of life, and of course today our leftists are divided between the totalitarians and the anarchists. Each of them is giving an answer in terms of their political science to ‘the problem of the one and the many.’ Some are saying it is the collective whole. They become totalitarians. The others say that it is the individual. They become Anarchists. So your answer to the problem of the one and the many, which is ultimate, which is the truth about things, is all important.

Now, philosophy has tried to answer this in the Western world by avoiding the pitfalls of the extremes into which Eastern philosophy very early collapsed. On the one hand monism, total absorption into the one, so that as in Hindu philosophy, ‘Brahma’ is everything, the individual is nothing, the goal of the universe is to be absorbed into ‘Brahma.’ This is mysticism, total absorption into the one, so that this world, the individual, all our problems are nothing, Brahma is everything, the individual is an illusion.

Now, we have had this kind of thinking in our world too, Mary Baker Eddy, was a monist. Her thinking was pure and simple monism. There is no death, why? Because there are no individuals. This is the logical conclusion of her thinking, which she made, and which many Christian scientists don’t realize. There is no death because you don’t exist, everything is universal mind, therefore death is an illusion, because I am an illusion. My body is an illusion, my individual mind is an illusion, there is only universal mind.

On the other hand, the one who gives the answer of the ‘many’ becomes an atomist, he says there is nothing but myself, and Jean Paul Sartre our modern philosopher says God is no problem for me, but other people are! In other words, he is the only one in his world, really. And the problem in his philosophy is to find some place for other people in his world.

So, the answer for ‘the problem of the one and the many’ is all important, and very early Greek Philosophy began to wrestle with this, for example Parmenides and Heraclitus were monists, given to the belief in the reality of the one and only the one, whereas in Empedocles and Anaxagoras were believers in the many, in the individual, the particulars only.

The answer, by and large, of Greek philosophy after that; to avoid this problem became dialectical. Now Dialectical philosophy tries to say: “We are going to avoid falling into the pitfall of either Monism or Atomism, we will try to maintain these apparently contradictory things in tension. We will say they are both true even though they seem to be contradictory.” Now, dialecticism breaks down in time, because it is illogical.

And now let’s turn to Plato and Socrates for a little while to see how they wrestled with these problems, and into what context we have to fit them. Plato first of all, then Socrates. Justice for Plato and Socrates was the rule of ‘reason,’ ‘reason’ is justice. So that ‘reason’ rules in men, as the justice over man’s nature, and the philosopher-kings, the elite, rule over the people in the state. In other words, the masses are simply irrational. Therefore, since the masses are irrational, they cannot rule themselves, there is no justice, the intellectuals have to rule them, the philosophers. And so you have to have a dictatorship of the elite, this is your true republic. Then you can have a state in which there is justice.

Now, truth therefore, since the state is supreme, truth is what the state does. Since the state is the God of the system, truth is what the state does, and therefore, whatever the state declares is the truth, if the state tells a lie, it is the truth. Now let’s listen to what Socrates has to say on this in his Republic. Now it sounds like he is all for truth, but let us listen to Socrates.

“But again, a high value must be set also upon truth. For if we were right in what we said just now, and falsehood is really useless to the gods, and only useful to men in the way of a medicine, it is plain that such an agent must be kept in the hands of physicians, and that unprofessional men must not meddle with it.” 5

That’s a strange statement isn’t it? Truth is like a medicine, only the doctors, who can prescribe it, properly can handle it. These ‘doctors’ are the dictators, the philosopher-kings, the intellectuals.

“To the rulers of the state then, if to any, it belongs of right to use falsehood, to deceive either enemies or their own citizens for the good of the state, and no one else may meddle with this privilege. Nay, for a private person to tell a lie to such magistrates, we shall maintain to be at least as great a mistake as for a patient to deceive his physician, or a pupil his training master concerning the state of his own body. Or for a sailor to tell an untruth to a pilot concerning the ship and the crew, in describing his own condition or that of his fellow-sailors.

If then the authorities find anyone else guilty of lying in the city, [Anyone else other than themselves] they will punish him for introducing a practice as pernicious and subversive in a state as in a ship.” 6

In other words, lying is a special privilege that belongs to the state, because the state is the highest good. In terms of this therefore, the state has the right you see to control all things. So, it follows logically that as Plato and Aristotle outline in the Republic and Socrates, what they say is that they have the right to control births, to dispose of unwanted children, to determine by license who shall have a baby and who shall not, to determine who shall marry whom, and to take whatever woman they want for their own purposes. After all, they are true reason. They are true justice themselves. This is the premise of their faith, and the sad fact is that Christian philosophers maintain this same idea, so-called Christian philosophers, as I’ve found out this past week. Nothing upsets some of these people more than to challenge this premise, they get almost hysterical. It is very amusing.

Now as a result we find when we read Plato’s Republic that there are no laws. Plato in his old age wrote another book, The Laws, this was for a secondary state, in other words, one that hadn’t really come to a standard of justice and reason. But, when a state really comes to its senses and institutes a just order and a rational order, it won’t have laws, it will just have philosophers as the kings or dictators, because since they are reason incarnate, since they are justice incarnate, who needs laws? Every one of them, when he opens his mouth, gives forth divine law. This explains, does it not, not only the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, but our intellectual community today. In our universities and colleges, and unfortunately in our Christian schools and colleges too often, because they have been brainwashed by this entire tradition, and will not face up to the truth of it.

Now, Aristotle stated very plainly in his Politics that education is conditioning. Men and the environment must be totally controlled, the state must govern and the environment totally, even to the point of destroying those that will not fit in; whether babes, or adults. After all, there is nothing unusual about this, because how does Aristotle begin in his Politicsby defining man? “Man,” he says, “is a political animal.” Man is a political animal! Well, if he is a political animal, he is a creature of the state, the state has made him, the state is his God, therefore the state can do with him as it pleases. We when we speak to God in the words of Scripture, we say: “We are Thy creatures, the work of Thy hands, do with us as Thou wilt.” And so, in Aristotle’s world, the man must say to the state: “We are your creatures, do with us as thou wilt. Destroy us, use us, break us up, we are your creatures.” As a result, in Plato’s thinking, it is not God from whence ethics or morality comes but from the state.

So, Aristotle wrote his Politics, and then he wrote his Ethics based on his Politics. The state determines morality, because the state is the God of the system. And isn’t this exactly what we are seeing today not only in the Soviet Union but in our Supreme Court? And can you change this, just by bucking Washington? You cannot change it until you begin to remake your entire worldview, your faith, until it is premised on Christian conclusions.

Now of course, the dialectic of the one and the many broke down. The attempt to hold the Greek social order from breaking apart did not work. They tried to say both the one and the many are important, but they didn’t have any ground for saying it. And so what happened? On the one hand, Greek society went into total statism and you had the thirty tyrants, who ruled with total ruthlessness, they followed the implications of Plato and Aristotle, in fact they were Plato’s pupils, they were the philosopher-kings, and so you had tyranny.

But against that rose the cynics, and the cynics said: “We don’t like the establishment.” The cynics were the hippies of the day. They were anarchists. Diogenes for example was one of the great cynics, and he went around with a lantern in broad daylight looking for an honest man, why? Because he said: “There is no such thing as an honest man. The idea of honesty is a myth, there is nothing but the individual.” He didn’t sleep in a house, he slept on the floor, in a barrel, anywhere. Because he said: “For man to claim to be what he is, is an affectation.”

The word ‘cynic,’ incidentally, is cognate with our word ‘canine,’ dog. It comes from a Greek word ‘kynos,’ dog. “And so,” they said, “men are no different from dogs, why do they pretend to any kind of higher life or anything?” And so, the cynics would openly copulate in public. This Sunday, I heard that this is now taking place, in public, in San Francisco, on the part of our modern cynics. Now, they also went around unwashed, unshaven, hair uncut, they denounced everything around them as an affectation, they said that it was a waste of good meat to bury people, they should have cannibalism, they advocated it openly, and today the film that is the most popular in Los Angeles, which in its second month, almost through with its second month run, The Weekend, is a film in which hippies finally push society to its logical conclusion; cannibalism. So that, in this film I am told that when there is an accident everybody pours out and grabs a hold of the victims and starts chomping on them.

Now all of this and a great deal more because it would be beyond public permissibility to describe what the cynics openly did, publicly! But they were declaring that, since there is nothing except the individual, there is no law governing the individual, he can do as he pleases! Greek society had reached a dead end, it collapsed. But Rome of course repeated the same kind of mistake. Rome had no capacity for anything else, it was caught in the same kind of tension. For it, the state was the highest. For example, Cicero, in his book on laws, The Republic and On the Laws, as he deals with the state, he takes the Aristotelian, the Platonic view that the state is the highest good, it is the practical God. Of course, they talk about these gods; Zeus, and the others; Jupiter and Minerva and so on, but of course the Senate establishes the gods, but some of the common people believe in them. And so he says, with respect to the gods, discussing a particular one:

“But whether he ever existed or not has nothing to do with the case… So in the very beginning we must persuade our citizens that the gods are the lords and rulers of all things, and that what is done, is done by their will and authority; that they are likewise great benefactors of man, observing the character of every individual, what he does, of what wrong he is guilty, and with what intentions and with what piety he fulfils his religious duties; and that they take note of the pious and the impious. For surely minds which are imbued with such ideas will not fail to form true and useful opinions.” 7

In other words, the variation with the Romans was that they were ready to treat the gods as some real powers, who looked down and watched people, but as he says: “We practical politicians have to foster these ideas, it will work better, than say the Greek system, to keep people in line. It is necessary socially, because people will be better behaved if they feel that some gods are up there keeping an eye on them.” And so, he justified religion in terms of its social utility, and Cicero felt that it was important for senators like himself to go through the motions of being very devout and going to the temple of Zeus or Jupiter, and going through the various services, and making a great parade of public religion. And of course this idea is not dead to this day, and you have your religious establishment in Washington D.C. which never changes these days, Billy Graham.

Now, in terms of Roman thought, some ideas are important to understand their philosophy. Basic to Roman religion was the idea of ‘piety.’ Now, we are familiar with the word piety, when we speak of a man being ‘pious’ we mean he is very devout, he is a good Christian. But the word ‘pious,’ basically a Roman word, a Latin word, meant a man that was dutiful to the state. Since their religion, whatever the façade of the gods was, was basically a statist religion, and their philosophy was the philosophy of the state as God, a pious man was a man who was obedient to the state. A ‘genius’ was one who was filled with the spirit of the divinity of the state, and was a great man in the state, a potential God.

Emperor-worship was the real religion of Rome. No Christian was ever persecuted for refusing to worship at the altar of Jupiter, no Christian was ever, ever given a bad time because he disbelieved in the Roman gods. The Christians were persecuted because they refused to offer incense at the altar of the emperor, that was the real offense, that was the test. They would be lined up and brought before the Roman officials, and there would be a statue of Caesar, or whichever Emperor was there: “go forward and offer incense to acknowledge that Caesar was ultimate.” And this was the issue, Christ vs. Caesar. Who was God? Is it the state, or is it Christ, the Trinity in Heaven. It was impossible, inescapable, for Christianity to avoid conflict. The war between Christ and Caesar was a war to the death, one or the other had to go.

And this is why William Carroll Bark, who is not a Christian, but he is one of the few respectable historians we have around, he is at Stanford, but I might add the history department has shut him out of the history department, they put him into the Latin department. But as he teaches ancient history, he says:

“The so-called dark ages were actually ages of light. When the Christian frontier thinkers laid down all the foundations of Western liberty.” 8

Now isn’t that different from what you were taught? They fought against the power of the state, and broke it, not completely, but they shattered it enough so that Western liberty was able to sprout and be born out of that. Otherwise we would now have nothing but that which Russia represents today, Rome and Greece represented then, and Babylon and Egypt. Totalitarianism without a relief, without any variation.

Now, as against the doctrine of Caesar, the doctrine of totalitarianism on the one hand, and the doctrine of cynics on the other hand, who continued from the days of the Greeks to the fall of Rome, as against the problem of collectivism and anarchism, what was the Christian answer? Well this answer was formulated in terms of the scriptures by the Christian philosophers; Tertullian, Athanasius and Augustine, and stated in the great councils of Nicaea, of Ephesus, and of Chalcedon, and I traced the history of this in my book, The Foundations of Social Order. It was the doctrine of the Trinity, the Orthodox doctrine of the trinity. Now what does this doctrine say? The doctrine of the Trinity says that there is one God, but three persons in the Godhead, and it is not the oneness of God that is ultimate or the Trinity of the Godhead that is ultimate, but both the oneness and the Trinity that are ultimate. That there are three persons in the Godhead; all equal, all God, all one, and yet three. So that in the Trinity you have the equal ultimacy, the equal importance of the one and the many; unity and individuality. So you are not caught between the tension of totalitarianism and anarchism, but you have a place both for unity, and for individuality. It isn’t the bond of marriage that is everything, and the individual is nothing, but it is marriage and the individuals. The church and the members and their particular faith. The state and the citizens, it is perfectly balanced. Then alone can you have liberty with order. Then alone can you have a place for individualism without falling into anarchism, for unity without falling into totalitarianism. This was the great achievement of the councils culminating in Chalcedon. And out of this Western liberty was born. And this is an area of history, of the history of philosophy, and of the history of social institutions that has been buried, deliberately buried.

In discussing matters with someone who was teaching with the position of assistant professor in the department of history in one of our state universities, he stated that there was a bitter argument at a meeting over the fact that in their survey course three weeks were given to the Greeks, and one week to the Hebrews and one week given to church history, and the feeling was: “Why that time to the Hebrews (that is to Biblical history) and to church history, it is worthless! Throw it out.” Of course throw it out! Because, then the challenge will not be there.

Thus we have, from the beginnings to Augustine, a major revolution in philosophy, from the state as God to God as God. From collectivism and anarchism tearing the world apart, to an answer that made possible unity with individualism, so that liberty was born into the Western world.

Thus we see something of the foundations of the modern world. Next week, or next month we shall deal with philosophy from Anselm to the Enlightenment, how this was carried forward and developed, and what happened, and finally the status of the problem today in our third meeting.

* * *

Any questions now? Yes.

[Audience Member] Why didn’t the Early Church in Rome turn the other cheek? i

[Rushdoony] Turn the other cheek? They stood up and fought philosophically, they hammered home their points. They told the Emperor as Tertullian did: “You have no better citizens than we are, we are the most honest, the most hard working, the most productive. Why are you destroying us?” And they fought them philosophically, and they ran them off the field. And finally when under Diocletian they tried to wipe out the Christians to the point where the executioners were working from sun up to sun down, till their hands froze on their axes and swords beheading them, and it took someone to pry their fingers off, they were so frozen. The realization finally came to the Empire that they were committing suicide, they were destroying the only worthwhile people, and with Constantine there was a shift. But they certainly stood up and challenged them philosophically and your whole library of Nicene and post-Nicene and ante-Nicene fathers is made up of the great Christian philosophers who fought at these issues.

[Audience Member] Why didn’t they fight militarily? ii

[Rushdoony] They couldn’t of course have fought out the issue militarily, it was futile, everything was controlled by the empire. But they defeated them intellectually until there was no other respectable opinion. They established the schools, they taught the people, the other schools had collapsed. After all when your students are cynics, what is there left you see? And this is what we must do today, what is there left in the schools today? They are not a fit place to send anyone. One young man told me recently he wouldn’t marry a girl who had gone to the university today. He said, “After four years in a university, she is not fit to associate with.” Now that may be an extreme statement, but you gather what he feels the schools are doing to them, he feels they are cesspools.

Now what we have to do is to begin to create schools, which is what, on the grade level and also on the high school level, is being done to a degree. But this is what they did, and finally there was no place for anyone to go except to them. What the Cynics became was beyond belief, and the pagans could not produce anything.

I didn’t take time in the course of my lecture, but Marcus Aurelius for example is given as an example of a greatphilosopher-king who was Emperor of Rome. Now Marcus Aurelius was a man who sought valiantly to revive Roman character in terms of old Roman standards. What did he do? His philosophy was really an escape from the world, mysticism. And all he could produce in his son who succeeded him, the Emperor Commodus, was the greatest hippy of all time because his faith was too dead, there was nothing to it except: “Well, let’s have some return to law and order.” You see. “Let’s have some decency in Rome, I’m Emperor and I want something good!” But you can’t have something good just because you want it. He could communicate nothing. So his son Commodus who was a remarkably brilliant man and a giant of a figure; a physically, intellectually, a tremendous thing. But as depraved a character as history has ever seen. A real hippy with long curly locks down to here, he had a double harem of 300, half of them boys and half of them women, and what he began to do to Rome is hardly fit to print, let alone talk about. Fortunately there was a Christian girl in his harem who was one of his favorites, he particularly enjoyed her because she was a Christian and he enjoyed defiling her. And she had him stabbed to death working with one of the guards.

But that was all Rome could produce with the best of its thought you see, with the best of its education, all of its philosophers, the cream of the empire. So what do you have? The prize hippy — Commodus. Sometime if you look at a picture of classical history, look for one of the statues of Commodus, it is very interesting.


[Audience Member] Did Marx think that his philosophy was the answer between the anarchism and totalitarianism inherent in his position? iii

[Rushdoony] Very good question. Now Marx said that logically the only thing anyone could believe would be total anarchism, because there is no God, there is no law, therefore everyone can do as he pleases, but he said, the world then will be in a shambles in a hurry. So he said, practically we have to have totalitarianism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, then little by little we will destroy man’s alienation. Now what is man’s alienation? You hear this a lot, and the ministers use it from the pulpit. ‘Alienation’ is that we have become self-conscious, we have a conscience, we think about God, we think. But by destroying man’s alienation you make him an animal again so that he becomes like the ants in the anthill. Certain ants are worker ants and soldier ants and so on, and they have no self-consciousness. Well, you will have this Communist paradise and you will no longer need a state when everyone in human society has been put back into an anthill status, and they grow up and become work hill ants or soldier ants or whatever their function is, and never have any self-consciousness or stop to think. They will be animals again, then you will have the Communist paradise. So this was to be his solution to the problem of the one and the many, this is Henry Millers idea too.

[Audience Member] But in that system there still has to be the elite to plan who is to be the workers so on.

[Rushdoony] Yes, that’s right the philosophers, the intellectuals, right, and this is an interesting point. You see, the Marxist have courted the intellectuals from the beginning. And one of their most important, their most telling way of getting them is not only dangling this that the intellectuals are going to be the leaders, but by saying: “In the Soviet Union we reward our intellectuals properly,” and they do, they pay them very highly. Now there is not much they can do with the Rubles, but they are paid on a very high basis, so that whereas here you might say the average professorial salary a few years ago when I had someone report this to me, a professor, at this time the average professorial salary here was $10,000. In the Soviet Union it was $30,000. And this fact is advertised to the intellectual community in this country, to the professors.

“Well you see, under Marxism the intellectual is appreciated, he is taught properly, and he is the ruling elite, out of him come the planners, the ruling elite.” So this man said you could destroy Marxism on the American university campuses if you raised salaries across the board to $35,000. Then they would forget all about Communism, because they would be getting more than the Soviet Union promises, you see.


[Audience Member] Well it has appeared to me for some time that the gifted child program has a real purpose in the Marxist plan in the United States, they pick up the gifted children and train them in the socialist viewpoint.

Well, we need to further the independent Christian school movement, we need to recognize that what is happening today is a logical conclusion of our public school philosophy. But meanwhile we do need all those within that school since there are so many Christian children still left within the public schools who can do what they can, although the time is drawing closer and closer when it will be impossible to do anything, if it is not almost here now.


[Audience Member] What does ‘orthodox’ thinking mean? iv

[Rushdoony] Yes, ‘orthodox’ means right, right thought, right thinking, ‘heterodox’ means leftist thinking, literally. Yes. The word ‘orthodox,’ I am sorry to say the Greeks have a monopoly as it were on the word, they shouldn’t have because they are not orthodox in their thinking. But the word ‘orthodox’ literally means right thinking — thinking true to scripture, true to Christian faith. But the Greek Orthodox churches are not orthodox, and they are definitely heterodox. So I prefer to refer to them as the Greek church and the Russian church. I have in my Foundations of Social Order some of the aberrations that the Greek Orthodox Church went into, which include navel watching for mystical contemplation.


[Audience Member] Were Plato and Socrates homosexuals? v

[Rushdoony] Yes, Plato and Socrates were definitely homosexuals, there was a whole philosophy which goes back to this religion of revolution type of thinking in the homosexual relations, it was a religious matter with them very definitely, it was a part of the educational process. It was believed that it was for the welfare of the boys to be attached to older men, and for homosexual relations to develop. So that the homosexuality which is what ‘platonic love’ is, was a basic part of the philosophy and it ties in with the Religion of Revolution.

1. “...there was an old decree that no god should be consecrated by the emperor till first approved by the senate.” Tertullian. (1885). The Apology. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), & S. Thelwall (Trans.), Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian (Vol. 3, p. 21). Christian Literature Company.

2. Aristotle, The Politics (New York, NY: Modern Library, 1943), bk. 3, chap. 1-5, 125-136.

3. Benjamin Farrington. Greek Science, Its Meaning for Use. Vol. 2-Theophrastus to Galen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1949, 15,16.

4. Benjamin Farrington. Greek Science, Its Meaning for Use. Vol. 2-Theophrastus to Galen. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1949, 16.

5. The Republic of Plato. New York: A.L. Burt Company, n.d, 86.

6. The Republic of Plato. New York: A.L. Burt Company, n.d, 87.

7. Cicero, De Republica, De Legibus trans. Clinton Walker Keyes (London: Heinemann, 1959), 389.

8. William Carroll Bark. Origins of the Medieval World. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1958.

i. Question added due to unclear audio.

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