This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Enlightenment: or political Liberalism

“…these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality, and which, under the guise of liberty, exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God, and substitutes a boundless license. The end of all this it is not difficult to foresee, especially when society is in question. For, when once man is firmly persuaded that he is subject to no one, it follows that the efficient cause of the unity of civil society is not to be sought in any principle external to man, or superior to him, but simply in the free will of individuals; that the authority in the State comes from the people only; and that, just as every man’s individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs. Hence the doctrine of the supremacy of the greater number, and that all right and all duty reside in the majority.”

~ Pope Leo XIII[1]

In much the same way that Luther could be considered the father of the Reformation, John Locke (1632-1704) has been considered the father of political Liberalism. He was the most influential thinker to come from the Enlightenment, and was the philosopher of choice for revolutionaries such as the American Founding Fathers.

For our purposes here we will adopt Christopher Ferrara’s summary, which concisely presents Locke’s political legacy:[2]

  • A hypothetical “social compact” or contract as the foundation of the State.
  • The origin of political sovereignty in the “consent” of the governed (invariably presumed to have been given by those who happen to be wielding power).
  • “Government by the people” according to the “sovereignty of the people,” meaning strict majority rule on all questions, including the most profound moral ones.
  • Church-State separation and the non-“interference” of religion in politics.
  • The confinement of religion, above all the revealed truths of Christianity, to the realm of “private” opinions and practices one is free to adopt (or to denounce) if it pleases him, but which are to have no controlling effect on law or public policy.
  • The unlimited pursuit of gain, including the freedom to buy, sell and advertise anything whatsoever the majority deems permissible by law.
  • Total liberty of thought and action, both private and public, within the limits of a merely external “public peace” essentially reduced to the protection of persons and property from invasion by others—in sum, a “free-market society.”
  • The dissolubility of marriage, and thus the family, as a mere civil contract founded on a revocable consent.

These principles found their most absolute expression in the French Revolution. The American Revolution, however, suffices as another example, and the Declaration of Independence acts as a neat summary of Locke’s ideas. This should come as no surprise, since the Declaration was penned by Jefferson, an intellectual so enamored with Locke that he added his bust to a special canvas alongside Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. These, he wrote, were “the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception…having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised.”[3]

[1] Libertas, 15.

[2] Christopher A. Ferrara, Liberty, the god that failed: policing the sacred and constructing the myths of the secular state from Locke to Obama. Angelico Press, Tacoma, 2012. p. 15.

[3] Letter to John Trumbull, Thomas Jefferson: Writings, 939.

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