The Dark Origins of Communism: Part 1 of 3
If you were to ask most people about the origins of communism, they’d likely point to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of “The Communist Manifesto.” If you asked a Marxist, however, they’d likely point to François-Noël “Gracchus” Babeuf, who is regarded as the first revolutionary communist.
And if Babeuf could still speak today and was asked about the origins of his belief, he’d likely reply that, well, it’s complicated.
On July 28, 1794, French politician Maximilien Robespierre was beheaded in front of a crowd by guillotine, bringing an end to the dictatorship of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary political society, during the French Revolution.
The beheading of Robespierre also brought an end to his Reign of Terror—a bloody segment of the French Revolution in which he had more than 16,000 people beheaded.
Babeuf’s role in history came soon after the death of Robespierre—an event that sent the numerous radical figures beneath him into disarray. According to the book “The Red Flag” by David Priestland, “Babeuf condemned Robespierre for betraying the artisans and peasants of France, and became the leader of one of the first communist movements.”
Babeuf’s goal was to overthrow the French Directory—the revolutionary government that lasted from 1795 to 1799—and to restore power to the Jacobins with “egalitarian communism” under a new system drawn from the then-emerging ideas of socialism.
Babeuf had “developed a more radical condemnation of property than he had under the Jacobins,” according to Priestland, and he abandoned the idea that agrarian law alone could bring about his new vision of “absolute equality.”
Under his new vision, money would be eliminated, and people would be forced to hand over all fruits of their labor to a “common storehouse.” From there, an all-powerful government would be in charge of redistributing these goods.
Babeuf took a lesson from what he regarded as the shortcomings of moderate Jacobinism and took note of Robespierre’s widespread use of violence in the Reign of Terror. Babeuf sought an even more extreme system that would use violent revolution to seize control and force its will on society.
This plot took form in Babeuf’s Conspiracy of Equals, which he formed while imprisoned in February 1795 for “inciting rebellion, murder, and dissolution of the national representative body,” according to “A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution.” The book notes that the conspirators included “‘ex-terrorists’ and ‘neo-terrorists’ among the prisoners: Germain, Bodson, Debon, and Buonarroti.” They were soon joined by other radicals.
However, before Babeuf’s armed uprising could unfold on its set date of May 11, 1796, the French Directory caught wind of it. On May 10, one day before the plot was to unfold, Babeuf and many of his conspirators were arrested, and after a two-month trial, many were sentenced to death.
Babeuf was beheaded by guillotine on May 27, 1797, yet his theories were carried on by one of his surviving conspirators, Filippo Buonarroti, who documented the history of the failed movement.
Built on the ideas of Babeuf, a new secret society known as the League of Outlaws soon emerged in Paris.
A German tailor named Wilhelm Weitling joined the society after arriving in Paris in 1835, according to Priestland, and soon became “one of the best known communist figures of the 1840s.”
Weitling took Babeuf’s ideas of violent revolution, state-enforced equality, and the destruction of ownership and, according to Priestland, infused these with his own ideas of a “Christian apocalyptic vision.” Under him, the League of Outlaws also changed its name to the League of the Just.
Many radical secret societies existed in Europe at the time, and many figures and newspapers were spreading the new ideas of socialism and communism. This held especially true in Paris, which saw many attempted revolutions throughout the 1800s.
The League of the Just joined the May 1839 Blanquist rebellion, led by Louis Auguste Blanqui. He would later become leader of what may be regarded as the first communist government, the Paris Commune of 1871, which waged a program of killing and destruction that in just over two months left tens of thousands dead and an estimated quarter of Paris and its cultural relics in ruins.
The remains of the Vendôme Column, after it was destroyed by communards led by Gustave Courbet on May 16, 1871, in the Paris Commune. (Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1953)
However, communism had begun to take root before the Paris Commune, and from those early beginnings, modern communism, based in state-enforced atheism and endless struggle, would grow.
The League of the Just relocated to London after the failed 1839 rebellion and formed the Educational Society for German Workingmen in 1840. Then, at a congress in June 1847, the League of the Just joined with the Communist Correspondence Committee formed one year prior and headed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
They then formed the Communist League, with Marx and Engels at the helm. From within the league, Marx and Engels wrote “The Communist Manifesto,” which they published a year later in 1848.
The manifesto has since become a core text of modern communist regimes. Yet, according to “Marx and the Permanent Revolution in France” by Bernard H. Moss, it was at the time merely “a sketchy pamphlet written for a small sect” and didn’t immediately gain much attention.
The manifesto had little immediate impact because in 1848 “most of the ideas it contained were commonplace among working-class democrats, certainly in France,” according to Moss.
Instead, it gained popularity as Marx and Engels raised their profiles over time, since it provided a short and consolidated pamphlet that would relay its teachings to people who would be unlikely to slog through Marx’s and Engels’s other writings.
Another major part played by Marx and Engels, however, was in their attempts to unify the various socialist and communist movements of their time—work first attempted in the German Workers’ Club, then successfully through their roles in the International Workingman’s Association, also known as the First International.
Marx and Engels sought to unite the numerous socialist and communist movements under a common ideology, and they set down a form of communism that pulled deeply from its roots in the ideas behind the French Revolution. Marx and Engels made a fervent call for the destruction of all hierarchy that could challenge their own totalitarian hierarchy and, like the French Revolution, took aim to destroy the family, property, nobility, and religion.
While “The Communist Manifesto” seemed to call for lofty-sounding concepts like equality and sharing, it promotes ideas that are disastrous to humankind. The manifesto states that “communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality.”
In place of traditional virtues and personal accountability, the manifesto wanted an all-powerful government that would forcefully destroy all social structures and place itself as the sole power that would force on its citizens a new system of atheism and class struggle.
Marx and Engels wrote in 1845, in “The Holy Family,” that “the revolutionary movement which began in 1789 in the Cercle Social … and which finally with Babeuf’s conspiracy was temporarily defeated, gave rise to the communist idea which Babeuf’s friend Buonarroti re-introduced in France after the Revolution of 1830. This idea, consistently developed, is the idea of the new world order.”
In just over a century, this new system would, according to “The Black Book of Communism,” be responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people.
Communism is estimated to have killed at least 100 million people, yet its crimes have not been fully compiled and its ideology still persists. The Epoch Times seeks to expose the history and beliefs of this movement, which has been a source of tyranny and destruction since it emerged. Read the whole series at ept.ms/TheDeadEndCom
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
The Dark Origins of Communism: Part 2 of 3
The Reign of Terror in the French Revolution laid the foundations from which communism grew. It pushed for an idea of “liberation” that gradually destroyed free will, and was based on a top-down system that sought to establish social good by regulating the beliefs and opinions of the individual.
Communism sustains itself by violently suppressing all other ideas. Its dictators hold that their ideas are Utopian—the end of human progress—and that all ideas contrary to their own should be crushed by force.
Before François-Noël “Gracchus” Babeuf attempted his Conspiracy of Equals, and before his ideas spawned the League of Outlaws, his was just another name within Maximilien Robespierre’s club. Robespierre was behind the bloodiest segment of the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror.
The French Revolution of 1789 to 1799 followed closely on the heels of the American Revolution, which lasted from 1775 to 1783. However, unlike the American Revolution, which was based on individuals embracing a common set of ideas and unity for a common objective, the French Revolution’s many clubs and societies had vastly different ideologies and goals.
Leaders in the American Revolution were fighting for independence against imperial rule, but the leaders of the French Revolution had a very different enemy. They weren’t just fighting against their own king. They were fighting against all the current systems—including religion and traditional morals.
The mistakes they would make would be repeated under the communist regimes that arose in other parts of the world.
The leaders of the French Revolution turned to sweeping laws in chasing their obsession with liberation—and with each new law, they branded new swathes of society as enemies of the “revolution.” Likewise, under communism the doctrine of “the personal is political” became a reason for creating new laws, and similarly, each new law identified a new set of “enemies.”
Soon after Vladimir Lenin took power in Russia through his 1917 October Revolution, he erected a statue of Robespierre, according to “Le Bolchevisme et le Jacobinisme,” written in Paris in 1920 by Albert Mathiez and translated by the communist website Marxists Internet Archive.
This was symbolic, Mathiez wrote, since “Lenin, like all the Russian socialists, is nourished by the history of our great [French] revolution, is inspired by its example, and puts it into practice while adapting them to his country and the circumstances.”
He wrote that both Robespierre’s Jacobinism and Lenin’s Bolshevism were “class dictatorships operating by the same methods: terror, requisition, and taxes, and proposing as a final outcome the same goal, the transformation of society. And not only of Russian or French society, but of universal society.”
A portrait of Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), who led the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution. (Public domain)
Robespierre’s party was from within the Jacobin Club, a radical revolutionary society, which was in turn divided between the liberal Girondins and the radical Montagnards, of which Robespierre was a leading member.
Disagreements between its moderate members and its extremist members would cause much of the chaos the French Revolution would come to be known for. When Robespierre took power in July 1793, the Committee of Public Safety had only recently, on June 2, launched the Reign of Terror, bringing an end to parliamentary democracy within the French Revolution.
“Many Jacobin deputies had already concluded that saving the Revolution required ruthless measures,” wrote William S. Cormack in the book “Revolution and Political Conflict in the French Navy 1789-1794.” Cormack adds that Robespierre believed that “France needed a single will, ‘une volonté une.’”
The movement of state terror can be summed up in a speech from one of its leading participants, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just:
“You can hope for no prosperity as long as the last enemy of liberty breathes. You have to punish not only traitors but even those who are neutral; … since the French People has declared its will, everyone who is opposed to it is outside the sovereign body; and everyone who is outside the sovereign body is an enemy.”
The mass use of violence in the Reign of Terror would begin in early September 1793, after crowds invaded the assembly and demanded it accept the program of their collectivist movement. The Sans-culottes, the lower-class commoners in 18th-century France, blamed the lack of food on farmers, who they believed were hoarding it for themselves. They asked the Jacobins to increase the Terror against the farmers and to push food out of their storehouses with bayonets.
This movement mirrored what would be seen under many communist leaders, from Lenin to Mao Zedong, who launched movements to seize seeds, crops, and even tools from farmers, which triggered even worse famines.
On Sept. 17, 1793, the Committee of Public Safety introduced its Law of Suspects. It declared as guilty anyone suspected of being against the policies of the regime, and violations could include acting suspiciously, associating with the “wrong” people, or saying or writing anything considered out of line. Those who violated this new law were beheaded by the guillotine.
Robespierre explained this concept: “Those who accuse us are themselves accused.”
Similar policies were seen under communist dictatorships, when anyone who opposed the various violent revolutions were labeled as “counterrevolutionaries” and were similarly denounced or killed. This was a cornerstone of Mao’s policies during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.
On Oct. 24, under the Law of Suspects, among those beheaded first were 22 leaders of the liberal Girondins. This ended the Girondins’ influence in the French Revolution and galvanized the control of the radical Montagnards.
During a purge of the French town of Leon, Saint-Just said,”Between the people and its enemies, there is nothing in common but the sword.”
Lenin would later push a similar concept, under his idea of “partisanship.” There were those who supported the revolution, and those who did not—and the ones who did not support it were marked for destruction. The idea that society should be divided into only two factions, with no middle ground, can still be found in today’s political conflicts.
The French Revolution leaders preached collective good to justify the use of widespread violence. There was a “certain consistency in the Revolution’s appeal to the authority of ‘the People’ to justify violence against the population,” stated Ralph C. Hancock and L. Gary Lambert in the book “The Legacy of the French Revolution.”
A portrait of Louis de Saint-Just (1767-1794), a radical member of the French Revolution, painted in 1793. (Public Domain)
The idea of “the People” invoked by these revolutionary dictators did not refer to the people of the country, but instead the people of the system they aimed to create. For the sake of these people to be created by the revolution, no crime was too great and no atrocity was too gruesome.
While the French Revolution called for principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, the concept of “total liberty” they proposed is best described as “total anarchy,” said Fr. William Jenkins, in a 1980s segment of the TV show “What Catholics Believe.”
During the Terror, he said, Robespierre and his fellow revolutionaries slaughtered many French peasants. He said based on the extremist logic, “People here had never seen [violence like this] before, people here had never committed a crime, but they had to die so that France could be transformed into a socialist society.”
A smaller and more extreme clique within the Montagnards, known as the Cordeliers Club, would play key parts in this new movement.
The Cordeliers Club founded the first Paris Commune, which ruled Paris during the French Revolution, from 1789 to 1795. Through movements that included the September Massacres, which killed more than 1,200 priests and other prisoners with the aim of eliminating Christianity among the churches and the people, the Paris Commune would be remembered as one of the first institutions of modern state terror.
The Cordeliers Club’s founders were Georges Danton, who played a major role in storming the Bastille, and Camille Desmoulins, who was a childhood friend of Robespierre and a key player in the revolution.
Among this extreme faction was the still more extreme Jacques Hébert, who spawned the Hébertist movement and promulgated the Cult of Reason, a state religion aimed at crushing religion.
The Cult of Reason had been formed by Antoine-François Momoro, but the worship of reason was started by Hébert and Pierre Gaspard Chaumette. The new system rejected the idea of any deity, and in its “explicit religion of man,” it constructed a new “Goddess of Reason” and became the first known state religion of atheism.
“It is such a mockery for Robespierre to have led a procession into Notre Dame to honor the ‘Goddess of Reason,’ and then in the midst of this bloodshed—in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity—destroy hundreds of thousands of innocent lives,” Jenkins said, referring to estimates the French Revolution killed between 300,000 to 400,000 people by famine, war, executions, and other causes.
The Cult of Reason brought with it the dechristianization campaign to eliminate Christianity and Catholicism in France.
In November 1793, the Cult of Reason launched its Festival of Reason. Priests were publicly shamed and humiliated; men dressed in clerical garments urinated on altars and smashed up churches; religious symbols were removed from graveyards; and farm animals were dressed as priests and put in the churches.
It was a movement all too similar to the destruction of religion and traditional beliefs that came later under Lenin, Mao, and other communist dictators who installed similar systems of state atheism.
The Cult of Reason was marked by indulgent masquerades, lewd acts, and scenes of destruction. It reached such depravity that even Robespierre turned against it.
Robespierre’s answer was a law to recognize freedom of worship, and the formation of his own religion, the deist Cult of the Supreme Being, which worshiped a vague higher power. He launched the cult with his Festival of the Supreme Being in June 1794.
For Robespierre, however, this was the beginning of the end. He was beheaded the following month, on July 28, 1794. This ended his Reign of Terror, although France would still have many rough years ahead before Napoleon Bonaparte restored order in 1804.Fr. Donald Sanborn said in an episode of the TV show “What Catholics Believe” that “the French Revolution reduced a nation to a mob. Communism feeds off that.”
“Communism is the complete equalization and socialization of a whole nation,” which works by obliterating individual rights, property rights, families, and even the most basic social structures, he said, “and you are—every aspect of your life—is controlled by the state.”
He said, “That is only possible if you break down all of the God-given institutions of men. … If you break that down and say everything is equal before the state, and the state doesn’t even look at families, doesn’t look at the church, doesn’t look at God, and it just looks at individuals, that is the basis of communism.”
He referenced a quote from Pope Pius XI, who declared on May 15, 1931, “No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true socialist.”
The Dark Origins of Communism: Part 3 of 3
The French Revolution from 1789 to 1799 had a large influence on Karl Marx, and on the origins of communism. We’ve written previously about Gracchus Babeuf, regarded as the first revolutionary communist, and his direct influence on Marx; and we’ve also written about Maximilien Robespierre, whose violent Reign of Terror had a strong influence on both Babeuf and Vladimir Lenin.
But what were the ideas that incited Robespierre to start his Reign of Terror? What was the environment that would inspire the atheistic hatred behind the French Revolution’s dechristianization movement? And what was it that inspired the revolutionary revolts that would continue into the 19th and 20th centuries?
To understand these, we need to look at the cultural and philosophical environment in Europe at the time of the French Revolution.
Religion and Politics
Communism grew out of an age in which everything was being reconsidered, and the mid-to-late 1700s was a time of massive religious and political shifts.
The growth of Protestantism led to the First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s, and it captured many discontents within the Catholic Church. Likewise, the American Revolution between 1775 and 1783 showed there was an alternative to the rule of kings.
People came to believe they could live lives independent of the existing hierarchies, and they sought new ideas and alternatives to the prevailing religious and political systems. The political paths Europe inevitably took, however, were opposite to those of the United States.
The new American system attempted to create personal liberties by limiting government. It allowed people to build wealth and choose how to live their lives with a greater allowance for free will.
The emerging European systems aimed to strip the individual of adherence to traditions, to replace the practice of individual faith with state-sponsored beliefs, and to begin playing with the idea of achieving equality through state redistribution. They would soon find these goals were only possible through a totalitarian system that could force its will on the individual.
Just a few years after Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the famous essayist G.K. Chesterton wrote on March 21, 1925, that the new communist systems “are not rebelling against an abnormal tyranny; they are rebelling against what they think is a normal tyranny—the tyranny of the normal.”
“They are not in revolt against the king,” he wrote. “They are in revolt against the citizen.” Author Michael Walsh wrote in his book “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” that these problems persist in modern Western societies and “lie almost entirely in our rejection of myth, legend, and religion as ‘unscientific’ and in our embrace of barren ‘process’ to deliver solutions to the world’s ills.”
An illustration by British book illustrator E.J. Sullivan from “The French Revolution: A History,” written in 1837 by Thomas Carlyle.
Communism is not just a political movement, but also an ideology with its own sense of moral structure and allegiance. Walsh writes, “During the Cold War, critics in the West remarked that the Soviet Union and its doctrine of Marxism-Leninism resembled nothing so much as a new religion.”
He notes this “new religion” of communism mirrored the structures of traditional religions—with its own “scripture” in the writings of Marx and Engels, with its leaders raised as “prophets” of the system, and with a clerical caste in the Politburo committee and communist apologists in the West.
To understand this new religion’s occult and violently anti-religious nature, it’s important to understand the ideological environment from which it emerged.
While the history of Illuminism has unfortunately been overshadowed by conspiracy theories and popular fiction, there really were Illuminati, and their role in influencing the modern ideologies of communism cannot be overlooked.
Leon Trotsky, a Communist Party leader alongside Vladimir Lenin, and one of the seven members of the first Politburo
Trotsky, a leader of the Russian Communist Party alongside Lenin, noted the importance of this in his 1930 autobiography, “My Life.”
Trotsky wrote, “In the 18th century, freemasonry became expressive of a militant policy of enlightenment, as in the case of the Illuminati, who were the forerunners of revolution.”
He noted that those to the left of the Illuminati “culminated in the Carbonari,” referring to the Carbonari secret revolutionary societies in Italy. These societies were prominent during the Napoleonic wars and were partly credited with the spread of socialist ideas.
Illuminism was among the many occult philosophies of the time, with influences from the ancient belief systems of Gnosticism and Hermeticism. It was based on a loose idea of personal enlightenment through reason, with a heavy focus on materialism and the nature of man—and often with strong anti-religious and anti-government overtones.
The Order of the Illuminati was among the more influential institutions of the philosophy, and was founded by occult revolutionary Adam Weishaupt in Bavaria in 1776. His organization was known for its many writings calling for the overthrow of religion and government, and its ideological battle with the Rosicrucians, another occult sect that was popular at the time.
Weishaupt’s order didn’t last long, however. In 1786, the elector of Bavaria, Charles Theodore, banned all secret societies and seized the correspondence and writings of Weishaupt and his followers. The government would later publish these in order to further incriminate the groups of conspirators seeking to overthrow the governments of Europe.
Abbé Augustin Barruel, a French Jesuit priest, wrote in his 1797 book “Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism” that the ideas of Weishaupt were later carried out by the Jacobin Clubs—the group behind the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution, of which both Robespierre and Babeuf were members.
Adam Weishaupt (1748–1830), founder of The Order of the Illuminati in Bavaria in 1776.
Barruel wrote that the Jacobins preached the idea that “all men were equal and free,” but that in the name of equality and liberty, “they trampled under foot the altar and the throne; they stimulated all nations to rebellion, and aimed at plunging them ultimately into the horrors of anarchy.” Weishaupt himself called for the abolition of all ordered government, inheritance, private property, patriotism, family, and religion. In Weishaupt’s writings, we can find many of the same core beliefs preached by Marx.
Weishaupt also developed the idea of stages of civilization, later mirrored by Marx, in his theory of the six stages of society, with communist destruction of culture and belief at the final stage. Under communist leaders that would follow, their belief that their ideas were Utopian was used to justify their destruction of all other traditions and beliefs.
Occult historian Nesta Webster wrote in her 1924 book “Secret Societies and Subversive Movements” that neither the French Revolution nor the Bolshevist Revolution arose from merely the conditions of their times or the direct teachings of their leaders.
She wrote, “Both these explosions were produced by forces which, making use of popular suffering or discontent, had long been gathering strength for an onslaught not only on Christianity, but on all society and moral order.”
There were popular discussions on the nature of religion and politics in France at the time of the French Revolution, and in this, all ideologies from Europe and abroad were being observed and discussed.
Many French began to question the church, with their doubts fueled in part by the church’s attempt to suppress doubt—particularly under the Inquisition, which continued trying heretics until 1834 in Spain. In the debates about religion, the French began abandoning Catholicism for other variants of Christianity and also turned to many dark occult beliefs.
Ideologies of the time were influenced by Hermeticism, as well as dark occult sects of Gnosticism. The Gnostic cults often incorporated parts of Christianity and other faiths, yet largely opposed the Christian moral order. Their core beliefs played a key role in shaping the moral philosophies in the French Revolution.
Some of these beliefs were more upfront in their nature. The Gnostic sect called the Cainites, for example, pushed for a direct rebellion against moral order, and called on followers to destroy the creations of Gods and to engage directly in sin.
Others took a less direct path and masked their nature with a veil of reason. The sect known as the Carpocratians, for example, denied the divinity of Jesus and believed they should not be held to laws or to morality—things they regarded as human constructs.
Jacques Matter, a 19th-century author of ecclesiastical history, wrote about the Carpocratians in his 1828 book “Histoire Critique du Gnosticisme,” noting that the sect opposed religion and that its followers believed their abandonment of restraints made them equal to God.
Its belief in human nature, rather than moral aspirations, was something that mirrored the materialist ideologies that communism would later adopt. It was the idea that if nature takes precedence, anything that springs from human nature is then correct—including any crime and any sin.
Russian author and historian Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in his 1983 Templeton Address that “within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions.”
He added, “Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.”
All of this comes back to the roots of communist ideology—the promotion of human nature over divine aspirations, and the destruction of moral restraint.
And this deification of human nature was a key element in the social philosophies and occult institutions of the French Revolution.
The first state religion of the French Revolution, the Cult of Reason, carried the same anti-religious fervor, and deified the concept of human “reason” in place of a belief in the divine. Under it, Jacques Hébert and his “Hébertist” followers carried out the dechristianization movement to slander and destroy Christianity.
Part of the anti-Christian obsession under the Cult of Reason can be attributed to the prevalence of the teachings of Voltaire, an influential philosopher of the time.
In his letters, Voltaire frequently referred to Christians and Christ as “the wretch,” and frequently called for “crushing the wretch.” He urged one his key followers, Jean-Baptiste le Rond d’Alembert, to accomplish this using a tactic where he called to “strike but conceal your hand.”
In a 1765 letter, he wrote, “Victory is declaring for us on all sides, and I can assure you, that soon, none but the rabble will follow the standard of our enemies, and we equally condemn that rabble whether for us or against us.” And in a 1768 letter, he wrote that the “monster” of religion “must fall, pierced by a hundred invisible hands; yes, let it fall beneath a thousand repeated blows.”
John Robinson, the first general secretary to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783, wrote about the conspirators behind the French Revolution in his 1797 “Proofs of a Conspiracy,” and noted Voltaire’s effects.
Robinson wrote that the “darling project” of Voltaire and his followers was to “destroy Christianity and all Religion, and to bring about a total change of government.” He wrote that Voltaire took the approach of ideological influence, and mass produced writings “equally calculated for inflaming the sensual appetites of men and for perverting their judgments.”
Solzhenitsyn believed this concept is at the root of many ills the world has witnessed under communism. He said, “The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century.”
When people lose a sense of moral responsibility, and when human reason—with similarly unrestrained will and desires behind it—becomes the sole foundation of understanding right and wrong, what then motivates people to choose right over wrong? Solzhenitsyn noted this was a core loophole within communist ideology.
“When external rights are completely unrestricted, why should one make an inner effort to restrain oneself from ignoble acts?” he said. “Or why should one refrain from burning hatred, whatever its basis—race, class, or ideology? Such hatred is in fact corroding many hearts today. Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society.”
A similar ideological source was found in the teachings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a political philosopher who was a major influence on the French Revolution and modern socialism.
Similar to the Gnostic sects, Rousseau held that character and identity were formed post-natally, and he preached a new “virtuous” social vision that he believed would bring people closer to unbridled human nature.
Among his key texts was “The Social Contract,” published in 1762. The book contains Rousseau’s theories on how to establish a political society, which aimed to free people from his concept of slavery by having people all equally surrender their rights.
Robespierre was heavily influenced by Rousseau, although Robespierre’s belief in using terror is not found in Rousseau’s thought.
Among the other major beliefs of the Enlightenment was deism, a core belief in Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being and a philosophical religion that believed the universe was reasonable and could be understood by unassisted human reason. While deism didn’t go as far as atheism, its morality was centered on man rather than the divine.
Behind all these beliefs was a shift in religious thinking. It would look to personal “reason” in place of traditional faith and belief. From this grew a new concept of the deification of man, and a tolerance of all evils that arise from unrestrained human desire.
Leading 19th-century French occultist Éliphas Lévi explained the nature of some of these sects in his 1860 book, “Histoire de la Magie.” He referred to them as “rebels to the hierarchic order” and said in place of the moral sobriety of traditional religion, they sought “sensual passions” and “debauchery,” which fed their desire to destroy all social hierarchy, down to even the family structure.
Nesta Webster wrote that these sects had two focuses: the esoteric and the political. They used perversion to bind men to a system, which then acted to “obscure all recognized ideas of morality and religion.”
The writings of Marx and Friedrich Engels would mirror this assessment. They said in “The Communist Manifesto” that their new system “abolishes all religion, and all morality.”
Solzhenitsyn said that before the communist revolution in Russia, “Faith was the shaping and unifying force of the nation,” and the religious culture was the moral foundation that held society together.
He said when he was a child, “I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
After his more than 50 years of researching, conducting interviews, and writing about the history of the communist revolution, he said, “If I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Communism is estimated to have killed at least 100 million people, yet its crimes have not been fully compiled and its ideology still persists. The Epoch Times seeks to expose the history and beliefs of this movement, which has been a source of tyranny and destruction since it emerged. Read the whole series at ept.ms/TheDeadEndCom
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