Turning Green Into Gold, Conclusion

Global warming is one of many mansions in our Mother's House, where human sacrifices are performed in honor of the great goddess  Gaia.  That anti-Christianity led not to atheism but to absurd credulities  is an argument familiar to readers of Chesterton.  Although Chesterton never actually wrote the sentence , “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing--but they will believe in anything,”  he made the argument many times. 

More recently, a nonbeliever (E.O. Wilson) has observed that modern men and women who give up on Christianity turn to the absurdities of Marxism and Scientology.  Since the Enlightenment and the French Revolution Western intellectuals have occupied themselves almost exclusively with finding alternatives to the Christian faith: communal living and sociology, art and music, the cult of the state and its heroes, Marxism and American Democratism have all been tried and found wanting, all are nothing more than godlets doomed to fail the duped believers.

That much we all know or ought to know.  But, just as the character of a society may be largely determined by the character of its elite class, the ideology of that elite is also instructive, whether it is the Marxist-Leninism of the old Soviet Union or the hedonist consumerism of America in the later 20th century.  If Global Warming is now viewed by environmentalists as an instrument of divine wrath, then what, exactly, is the “god” we have offended and how is it (We dare not say “He”) to be propitiated.”

Before answering this question, we should remind ourselves that one Leftist revolution does not so much supplant its predecessors as absorb them.  Marxism absorbed liberalism’s attack on religion, monarchy, and social status, but it also prepared the ground for feminism and globalism.  Viewed in another way, Anti-Christianity has defined a series of enemies to be eliminated: first, kings, priests, and aristocrats, then capitalists and property-owners, then patriarchs, patriots, and other “fascists,” and finally, as C.S. Lewis recognized over 50 years ago, humanity itself.  For the most radical Greens, man made in the image of God is the penultimate enemy (our Creator being the ultimate).  Nature must be not only unspoiled but an untouched wilderness, “where every prospect pleases and only man is vile.”

William Blake’s romantic misanthropy is now the credo of the environmental idealists, but there is a lower kind of environmentalism, one more compatible with the weakness of the American character.  If there is no God or gods, no supranatural dimension beyond the universe perceived by our senses, no possibility of personal survival after death, much less Heaven or Hell, then this physical existence we have on earth is pretty much it.  If medical scientists keep makin progress and we follow their orders—avoid smoking, drinking, fatty foods, and sodomy—we might see out some 75-80 years in sufficiently good health that we can watch TV and listen to our hearts still beating in the silence of a darkened bedroom.  We can let nothing stand in the way either of prolonging this existence or of enjoying it while we can, not even the unborn babies we abort or grind up into elixirs of youth.

If Juvenal’s mens sana in corpore sano were all we may know on earth and all we need to know, then the physical extinction of a sentient and conscious being would be the ultimate evil, hence the leftist’s hatred of capital punishment and enthusiasm for abortion: Unborn babies are not conscious, but they are a punishment for promiscuous sex.  It also explains how the same person can weep over the fate of whales, baby seals, and laboratory rats but endorse euthanasia.  What is the point to breathing or even thinking, when all the fun is gone?

Environmental pollution, then, is a grave evil because it threatens our health and our existence, and not ours only but the existence of the whole world of living things.  The environmental catastrophe that is supposed to result from Global Warming is Ragnarok, the pagan extinction of the mortal gods and their planetary Valhalla.  Better still, it is a postChristian millennium, when an angry Nature sets free the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The personification of Nature, while it is hardly a new idea, should strike us as odd.  A Roman would not ordinarily have said, “Nature does this or that,” or Nature suffers this or that.”  He would certainly not use the expression, as the newest edition of a popular Latin book puts it, “look at nature” (in the sense of looking at flowers and birds, etc.).  Nor would a Greek or Roman have spent much time mooning over the fate of the Earth.  Now, Gaia was certainly a goddess, but she was a goddess of the Earth and not the ball of rocks and dirt bristling with green fuzz on which we live.  It is a queer move, when humans begin to speak of “the fate of the planet,” as if the planet were a person, and not just a person but a divine person.

Planet-worship merges with black magic in “Wicca,” the incredibly silly cult invented whole cloth by a retired British civil servant in the 1950’s.  The whole cult is a typical British product of the 50’s—as silly as anything on the Goon Show but a good deal less probable.  Wicccans are mostly harmless cranks who like to dress up and like, even more, to talk endlessly about the religious spoof they believe in.  There is nothing surprising in the emergence of superstition in our feeble-minded and humorless age, but what makes Wicca so attractive to the flotsam and jetsam of postmodernity is the religious spin they are able to put on what otherwise might be dismissed as ecofreakism. As Catharine Sanders, authoress of a study of Wiccans, puts it: “Since Wiccans essentially deify the earth, a key element of Wicca is having a positive impact on the environment.”  

Some bad ideas, as wise old Sir Thomas Browne observed, never go away: “Heresies perish not with their authors, but like the river Arethusa, though they lose their currents in one place, they rise up again in another…”   (The Arcadian stream Arethusa, personified as a chaste nymph fleeing her attacker, was supposed to have gone under the water and come up again in the fountain on Ortygia in Sicily.)

Ancient Neoplatonists and Gnostics developed extravagant theories of a hierarchy of divine beings.  In some versions, a lower set of divinities is charged with the control of heavenly bodies, as well as the earth itself.  In Christianized Gnosticism, the ruler of this world is often identified with the earth’s Creator in the Old Testament, an inferior and malicious being who has condemned mankind to a lower, materialistic existence.  But for Iamblichus and the pagans, these archons were lords of the universe to be propitiated and put into the service of the magicians we would now call scientists.

Lurking beneath the surface of the Gaia-worshipper’s reverence for Nature and his concern for “the planet” is this older idea, of a planetary archon who demands reverence.  Because few of them have a name for this being, they are content with descriptive titles in English (Earth or Nature), Latin (Tellus), or Greek (Gaia).  However, Christians—and probably some Wiccans advanced in their craft--know his name, though if they are wise, they do not often speak it, lest the Enemy of mankind hear his name and take it for an invitation.  In the pre-Christian world there was, perhaps, little harm and much good in revering the lesser spirits of the created order, but since the incarnation, such reverence can mean, ultimately, only one thing.  Doing unconscious homage to their Master, environmental alarmists—when they are not purely cynical like Al Gore, the former shill for Armand Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum—cannot help telling the lies that can only frighten children and the grownup children who suppose they are atheists.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

3 Responses

  1. Harry Colin says:

    A superb ending to an important series of reflections.

    Our “enlightened” age refuses to contemplate the Evil One, even as it worships him more deeply than ever. Whenever I’ve pointed out to Vatican II enthusiasts (I’ve chosen a polite term here, out of charity) about the number of references to casting out demons in the New Testament, the answer has always been a version of “that referred to illness, not the Devil.” Of course that is nonsense, since Christ gave his apostles the power to cure illness AND cast out demons, but none of these folks had a coherent response when that was pointed out to them. Just easier to keep parroting platitudes and move on to the next person, hoping he is more eager to gulp their Kool-Aid.

  2. Dot says:

    While on a trip through the N.E. states this past summer, the tour group I was with visited a submarine museum. I used to work near there and knew the building not far away was where submarines were actively being built. As we walked through one of these submarines, I was amazed at how close the service men had to live in order to defend our country. I asked one of the employees if submarines were still being built and he answered in the affirmative however, he said that the country has fallen behind over the past 8 years such that, we would not be able to defend ourselves if we had to. That was a very unsettling thought for me.

    I think we all take too much for granted and think we will never again see attacks on our land. Thus these “environmental activists” have their causes. I wonder if we have to defend ourselves if they would suddenly find another environmental pollutant – crying and demonstrating that the submarine that would pollute the waters, all while taking a cruise ship around the world. They are a study in contrasts.

  3. Robert Reavis says:

    This is a very thoughtful and wise conclusion for our age to ponder. It is very rare that one of our elders would have such awareness but even more so the courage to speak about it. I have always admired and been grateful for Tom’s courage.