61. Revolutionaries, heretics, magicians, scientists and loan sharks
Gothein, in his positivist book, takes several pages to demonstrate that the Jesuit experiment of the Paraguayan reducciones was based on Thomas Campanella’s City of the Sun. There is no doubt that generally the reducciones were not based on a very Christian or religious concept; on the contrary, it is quite evident the Renaissance utopian vision to creating an ‘ideal’ society. In particular, the influence of Campanella, rather than Thomas More, is proven by the fact that the constitutions of those social experiments were designed by two Italian Jesuits, the fathers Maceta and Cataldino.
Campanella (1568-1639), who was twenty years younger than Giordano Bruno, maintained the same magical-hermetic approach based on Marsilio Ficino’s theories. For this reason, he can be seen as the last representative of the declining Humanism. He joined the Dominican order, but was soon put on trial by the Holy Office because several of his public statements had been condemned as heretical. After a short stay in prison, he left the order and in 1599 he went back to his native Calabria. There he devoted himself to plotting a revolt against the Spaniards who ruled over the Kingdom of Naples. This must not be mistaken for a movement of redemption against a foreign power, since at that time the sense of nationhood was still completely absent not only in Italy, but also in most of non-Protestant Europe.
In reality, his opposition towards Spain was due to the Kingdom’s role as protector of Catholicism and the still recognized supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire that it represented. Campanella basically wanted to establish an ‘ideal society’ in southern Italy, which he later described in his book The City of the Sun. Pretending to be still a monk, he became the agitator of the Dominicans of Calabria who rushed to his call to arms. The attempted insurrection was obviously a total failure. Arrested and condemned by the civil court for rebellion and by the Holy Office for heresy, he spent 27 years in prison. He avoided torture by pretending to be insane. But was it really fiction?
The Neapolitan prison in which he was imprisoned was probably not very strict; in fact, he was constantly receiving visits from occultist admirers. Among these there were Adami and Wense, two of Andreæ’s friends. Campanella entrusted them with the manuscript of The City of the Sun, which was published in Frankfurt in 1623. With great ease, while in prison, he offered Spain
Another fine example of moral rectitude was Galileo (1564-1642). He was born into an opulent family of the old Florentine aristocracy who had changed its original surname Bonaiuti into the patronymic Galilei a couple of generations earlier. Although the family bank had suffered some setbacks, Galileo inherited a considerable amount of land and villas, including the fortified villa of Arcetri. He enrolled at the University of Pisa, and at the age of 25, mainly thanks to the patronage of Cardinal Del Monte and Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Duke of Tuscany, he was able to teach mathematics without having graduated yet. Then, thanks to the same Medici’s recommendations, he was appointed to the chair of mathematics at Padua.
During this period, he became friends with Paolo Sarpi, and he was also able to get into the good graces of some of his powerful allies such as Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga, Cardinal Cornaro and Prince John Frederick of Alsace. He took advantage of the appearance of a supernova to draw up horoscopes based on his astrological knowledge, which he then sold at a high price to the Venetian patricians and the feudal lords on the mainland who were his supporters. In Padua, Galileo began his anti-Aristotelian battle that made him a leading figure of the new science. Galileo did not particularly distinguish himself in terms of discoveries. He supported the Copernican heliocentrism to which he contributed with a few more observations. His celebrity is therefore linked to the fact that he is considered, from a philosophical point of view, the father of the so-called scientific method.
It essentially consists of three stages: careful observation of the natural phenomenon, experimental reproduction of the phenomenon in a controlled environment and the required demonstration through mathematical analysis from which, eventually, a universal physical law can be draw. The first two stages of the Galilean method, however, are by no means something original. Even the magic still used by his contemporaries, was, since the dawn of time, an empirical science based on the observation of nature and the artificial reproduction of its phenomena. As for the third phase, it appears to be a theoretical abstraction. In fact, converting physical space into geometric space represents the farfetched attempt to match a continuous quantity to a discontinuous one. However, demonstrating thus his modern mentality, he disguised his criticism to the Catholic doctrine by claiming to provide the biblical exegesis with a scientifically unassailable new interpretation.
Based on the experiments of the alchemists he frequented, Galileo recovered Anaxagoras’ theory of atomism to explain the composition of matter. In this way he demonstrated that if the attributes of an object did not change, this meant that the atomic composition of the substance remained unchanged. This argument, expounded with cautious and convoluted arguments, refuted the scholastic doctrine of Eucharistic transubstantiation. As a consequence, the Eucharist was not really a sacrament, but it became the simple celebration of an event narrated in the Gospels; it was exactly the Lutheran interpretation of the Protestant non-ritual communion. The falsification of history for centuries concealed the fact that this was the main charge in the Holy Office’s trial of Galileo; even the most serious academic texts spread the lie that he was condemned because he supported the Copernican theory. The trial ended with a conviction. Galileo, consistent with his behaviour, recanted all his theses, pledging as follows:
With a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I abjure, curse and detest the aforementioned errors and heresies, and in general any and all other errors, heresies and sects contrary to the Holy Church; and I swear that for the future I will never again say or assert in voice or in writing such things as may be suspected of me.
However, the Roman church, despite the Counter-Reformation, had already been strongly influenced by the anti-religious thinking supported by the Medici party during the Renaissance. The defendant was a guest at the Villa Medici in Rome throughout the trial. Cardinals, Italian princes and the same Academy of the Lincei, they all moved their pieces and monitored the proceedings’ progress. Evidently, the secret societies of the Italian occultism helped their favourite in every possible way. In fact, the sentence was suspiciously mild: Galileo was sentenced to house arrest for life. He spent a few years n Siena as a guest in the princely Villa Piccolomini, hosted by Archbishop Ascanio himself, before moving to his fortified villa in Arcetri, near Florence, at the centre of his estates. The ‘prisoner’ was completely free to receive and host anyone and it was thanks to certain Protestant visitors that he was able to publish his Speeches and Mathematical Demonstrations in Leiden in 1638.
Let us leave for now these shining examples of the righteous conduct and philosophical elevation
of shown by the descendants of the Romans and see what was happening at the same time in the barbarian lands of northern Europe.
In England, the Stuart dynasty implemented a religious policy that aimed to bring the Anglican sect, of which the King was the leader, back into the bosom of Catholicism. As it had happened in Bohemia, the English Parliament was de facto occupied by Protestants; and as the Anglican leadership softened towards Rome, the hardcore Anglicans moved increasingly close to the Calvinist extremists, the Puritans. During the reign of the Stuart dynasty, therefore, the rivalry between Crown and Parliament became more and more acute. The Parliament, composed of Puritan bourgeoisie, presumed to take over certain royal prerogatives, limiting the king’s power. An armed revolution broke out when the monarch refused to submit to the demands of the Calvinist merchant class. The leader of the rebels became Oliver Cromwell, a country gentleman with undeniable military skills and who was driven by furious Puritan fanaticism.
During the civil war, his victories over the royal army eventually led to the arrest of King Charles I and, after various events, to the monarch’s beheading. Cromwell then established a parliamentary republic, which was the first attempt to establish a modern democratic state run by the bourgeoisie. But parliamentary democracy also fatally carries the risk of the appearance of its dictatorial variant. Cromwell closed down the Parliament and assumed all powers. His dictatorship is remembered as one of the most heinous examples of democratic ruthlessness, targeting in particular Catholics and the Irish, who had to suffer bloody repression even in peacetime. Finally, his brutal cruelty was also directed against the Scots, who were Presbyterian Protestants, but who rebelled against the English yoke. At his death, with great relief of the three kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland, Charles II Stuart, son of the King beheaded by Cromwell, ascended to the throne in 1660. Actually, the English Parliament remained under the control of Protestant fanatics, leading to a constant friction between Throne and Parliament until the change of dynasty. It is symptomatic that the current United Kingdom, which claims to be ‘the oldest democracy’ and at the same time the ‘most formal monarchy’, has such subversive origins.
During the Civil War, in 1645, the hermetists, who were returning from the Count Palatine’s Bohemian adventure, began to converge on Oxford. The Elector Palatine’s chaplain John Wilkins and the Heidelberg Israelite Theodor Haak were the organizers of these secret meetings. The group was soon joined by Robert Boyle, who was Galileo’s disciple and a frequent visitor at the villa in Arcetri, and the real organizer of the group of Protestant hermetic scientists and alchemists. It was he who started to use the term “Invisible College” for this secret society, with obvious Rosicrucian derivation. In 1660, once the Cromwellian terror period ended, the “Invisible College” moved to London where it took official form under the name of The Royal Society. The Hussite pastor Iohannes Amos Comenius also enthusiastically hailed the birth of the new magical-scientific institution, of which he considered himself an inspirer.
The Society gained fame when Isaac Newton became its president in 1703. He was in that moment at the height of his fame as a scientist. Of course, his occult interests and believes in alchemy were later concealed.
William of Orange-Nassau had wound up in heavy debts with Dutch moneylenders and bankers to organize the military expedition to take the English throne. Once he became King of the Triple Crown, he unloaded his past debts onto the finances of his new kingdom. Unable to meet this commitment, in return for the debt repayment, he assigned the monopoly of issuing money to a private institution created out of nothing. “A coterie of power headed by William Paterson, lent to the government of King William III, the sum of 1,200,000 pounds-gold at eight per cent interest and, ‘in return’ for the ‘favour’, it was authorized to print notes for the same amount.” In 1694, with the foundation of the Bank of England, William of Orange-Nassau was able to finally pay off his debts by discharging them onto public and private borrowing. This system, nowadays predominant all over the world, causes that the money the citizen thinks he is earning and owning is actually his debt to the private bank issuing.
It is certainly no innocent coincidence that Isaac Newton was appointed to the presidency of the English State Mint!
Gian Giuseppe Filippi