55. Imperialism against the Holy Empire
Emperor Charles V of Habsburg had inherited the immense territories of the Kingdom of Spain, as well as the not inconsiderable fiefdoms of the House of Austria and Burgundy. The territories of the Kingdom of Spain included the new Spanish conquests in the two Americas. In 1519 he was elected Emperor, crowned King of Germany and then King of Italy, thus becoming the legitimate ruler of the entire Catholic world. The Holy Roman Empire still nominally included France and England; for this reason also Francis I of France and Henry VIII Tudor, presented their candidature for the Imperial election. Charles V, bred in Burgundy to the most rigorous principles of the Catholic religion, grew up following the example of justice and knightly loyalty. Elected Emperor, he decided to restore the Holy Roman Empire according to the ideals of his medieval predecessors. This time the Papacy, in the midst of a moral crisis and in difficulty after the emergence of new heresies, no longer stood in the way of the project; on the contrary, it found in the Empire its natural protector, finally recognising its traditional function opportunistically.
Times had changed, however. The feudal structure no longer responded to the principles of loyalty and chivalry and the most powerful feudal lords looked with envy at the Kings of France and England who had taken so much freedom from the Empire. Every prince of Germany dreamed of obtaining autonomy, if not real independence from the Empire. The unity of the Empire was guaranteed by the homogeneity of the Catholic religion and complementarity with the Church of Rome. This medieval ecumene, despite the papal conspiracy to take temporal power from the emperors, had always, at least formally, been maintained. In order to implement the project of a German nation state it was therefore necessary to break up the unity of the Empire and religion at the same time. As has already been clearly demonstrated, the great German feudal lords unscrupulously used Luther’s subversive action; once they had achieved this, they set the rebel monk aside during his last years of life. Luther too, with great opportunism, betrayed the peasants’ revolt in order to side with the forces of repression. Lutheranism thus became the ideology of German nationalism, like Calvinism for the Dutch and Anglicanism for the English. In this way the barbarian peoples definitively separated from Rome.
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The Tudor dynasty installed itself on the throne of England following the conclusion of the great slaughter of royal and aristocratic families during the War of the Two Roses. Henry VII (1457-1509), encamping rights to the throne for a certain maternal lineage and thanks to a marriage of convenience, declared that he had unified the Two Roses; he even claimed to be a direct descendant of King Arthur. He went down in history for his fight against the ancient aristocracy, which he began to replace by ennobling some bourgeois and for having institutionalised the Royal Navy. His successor has already been discussed on these pages. Henry VIII, had carefully observed the Protestant phenomenon that was beginning to shatter the unity of Europe. He clearly understood that this secular religiosity was a cover for the new German nationalistic spirit. The secularisation produced by the Reformation promoted total independence from the papacy and the nationalistic spirit aimed at the disintegration of the Holy Roman Empire. It was a matter of separating itself from what remained of the ‘two Suns’ of the Christian Middle Ages.
Apart from his immediate lascivious intents, Henry VIII called Anglicanism his heresy to indissolubly unite the new pseudo religion with English nationalism: thus, those who were not Anglican automatically appeared to be anti-English. On the death of the sovereign he was succeeded by his legitimate daughter Maria I Tudor, whom the Protestant propaganda manoeuvred by Elizabeth I called and still calls Bloody Mary (1516-1558). On the premature death of Mary I, the throne of England, Wales and Ireland passed to Elizabeth I. The validity of this succession is weighed down by the fact that Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate daughter not only by the Pope, but also by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. It was the Anglican parliament that imposed Elisabeth as Queen, in omission of the laws of succession.
Elisabeth immediately demonstrated a despotic nature and an unscrupulous mind, capable of any cunning. She restored the Anglican “church”, giving herself new powers of control over her “religion”. Aware of the inferiority of the English navy in comparison with the powerful Spanish imperial fleet, she hired pirates to exhaust her continental enemies. She invented the institution of the rush war, with which the sea-thieves could freely strike the ships of rival countries, having the privilege of taking refuge in her ports in exchange for a large percentage of the loot. Obviously, when they succumbed in the clashes, the crown did not recognize the corsairs as English mercenaries. Some of them, at the end of their careers, were officially integrated into the English navy as admirals and ennobled, as happened to Francis Drake, Henry Morgan and to Walter Raleigh, the unfortunate imitator of the Spanish conquistadores; the latter was also one of the many lovers of the “virgin” Queen.
The masterpiece of the Elizabethan reform was the foundation of the secret services, the Intelligence, to which Francis Bacon, one of the creators of the hermetic-qabbalistic legend about Elizabeth, put all his cleverness. Until that moment the states were equipped with information services along the lines of those used by Rome since the Republican era. Elizabeth structured her intelligence in such a way as to infiltrate internal and foreign centres of power on a permanent basis. The apparatus, vast and very expensive, operated through corruption, slander, political assassination, blackmail, incitement to rebellion, propaganda as an instrument for changing the common mentality. The organisation at home was lean and efficient and the Bacon brothers also founded a secret archive.
The propagation environment chosen for this legalised criminal organisation was precisely the pseudo-initiatic convents of hermetic-qabbalistic magic matrix that were spreading throughout Europe, including Turkey. Aware of her military weakness, the Queen and her government needed peace to put in motion their plan to secretly corrode rival states from within. The peace plan was not entirely successful, both at home and abroad, but it was enough to prepare the imperialist ideology that became successful later in the 19th century. The Empire was a sacred concept, of Roman descent and identified with Christianity. All Christians identified the temporal and sacred authority in the Emperor, who, by successive delegations, guaranteed the freedom and security of all their subjects. Although the papacy had continually hindered the implementation of that ideal for earthly ambitions, the Empire had nevertheless guaranteed its continuity and the recognition of spiritual authority. Imperialism, on the contrary, is the ideology of a single nation that tends to subjugate the others through war, economy, trade, finance. The imperialist nation, in this case England or Great Britain, subjugates other nations by turning them into colonies and their citizens into second-class subjects. The Empire of Charles V, and later the Imperial Spain of Philip II, acknowledged the total autonomy of the newly conquered kingdoms, which were united under the same Crown. The subjects of each kingdom had guaranteed the same rights as the subjects in Europe under the laws of Burgos (1512), Valladolid (1513) and Valladolid (1551). Moreover, the administrators that Spain sent to the New World, at the end of their term of office, were obliged to undergo a trial, the Juicio de residencia, in which they had to justify their choices. Historically, there have been a number of convictions; however, although abuses were committed, it seems to us that the current corrupt democratic regime system, to which nowadays almost the whole world is subjected to, has no right to criticize the past. . Imperialism is therefore a doctrine of exploitation, and is only a caricature of an Empire.
As is known from the previous studies, Renaissance Christian hermeticism and qabbalah were completely devoid of any initiatory transmission. However, they provided the occultist with a complex and often contradictory apparatus of symbols, allegories and legends. To receive a proper education, the German, French, Spanish and Dutch humanists went to Italy, to the various hermetic Academies. This did not happen during the English Renaissance, because when this interest emerged the Renaissance fashion in Italy was in full decline. Therefore, the legend created by the propagandists of the Elizabethan regime scarcely referred to the memory of Greek-Roman classicism. It was therefore necessary to draw inspiration from Celtic sagas. The demons that the Elizabethan hermetists evoked were no longer the resurrected Olympic Gods, but goblins, ghosts, fairies, elves and witches, in a pre-Ossianic climate.
Elizabeth herself, although sometimes classically referred to as Astræa, was referred to the people as the Fairy Queen, wrapped in a halo of mystery and magic. The Queen, head of the Anglican church, appeared at the same time as a phantasmatic presence, symbol of a renewal of the whole world. Evil was therefore in the other ban, represented by the Pope, the Empire and the Kingdom of Spain. The English parody stood against the Western tradition, protecting and plotting together with the Lutheran and Calvinist principles of the continent. At the same time the Christian qabbalah painted Elizabeth as a new Judith, ready to behead Holofernes, the Catholicism. The peoples of the British Isles themselves, although in constant struggle between each other, were identified with the ten lost tribes of Israel.
The ideologist of the magical esotericism of the Elizabethan regime was John Dee (1527-1608), preceptor of the first Earl of Leicester. A careful reader of Llull, Ficino, Pico, Reuchlin and Zorzi, he was particularly attracted by Agrippa’s De occulta Philosophia. He did not develop an original thought, but adapted Agrippa’s hermetic-qabbalistic magic to the environment that was forming around Elizabeth I, fueling the arcane legend that was being built on the Queen. Dee can really be defined as the inspirer of the new Anglican imperialist mysticism. Although his influence at court was truly enormous, some members of his secret circle began to distance themselves from him. Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) certainly managed to understand what John Dee’s true personality was: his Doctor Faustus is clearly a portrait of Dee, whose disturbing witchcraft and evocative tendencies he displayed. Similarly, his The Jew of Malta is a courageous denunciation of the magic that was hidden behind the facade of the Christian qabbalah. There is no doubt that Marlowe’s tragic death was piloted by the Elizabethan secret services to silence him for good.
From 1583 to 1589 John Dee went to the German territories of the Empire to carry out a secret mission with Edward Kelley, a blower and ghost-shooter medium. The occultist couple sowed the seeds of a Protestant alliance between hermetic-qabbalistic secret societies led by the British kingdom. They even managed to make contact with Emperor Rudolph II, an alchemy enthusiast. However, the Emperor always remained cautiously suspicious of them. The mission at the time seemed to have failed and Dee, having returned to England, fell into disgrace. The Queen abandoned him and he died forgotten and in misery. However, the poisonous seed had been shed, as will be read in the next chapter.
Maria Chiara de’ Fenzi