Lord of the World: Antichrist, Science Fiction, Prophecy, and Traditionalism
And yet this Syrian never served His mass without a thrill of something resembling fear; it was not only his knowledge of the awful dignity of this simple celebrant; but, although he could not have expressed it so, there was an aroma of an emotion about the vestmented figure that affected him almost physically—an entire absence of self-consciousness, and in its place the consciousness of some other Presence, a perfection of manner even in the smallest details that could only arise from absolute recollection.
Persecution, as all enlightened persons confessed, was the method of a majority of savages who desired to force a set of opinions upon a minority who did not spontaneously share them.
A lot of the time after (or sometimes while) I read a book I wind up writing at least one blog post about it; for example over the past year I’ve written multiple essays (more than one essay each) on Gene Wolf’s Book of the New Sun, Evola’s Pagan Imperialism, George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal, and Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods. I even wrote a little post on Stephen King’s The Stand. Not every book that I read inspires a blog post though; I recently reread Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, which came close, as it made quite an impression on me as a teenager, and was a remarkable description of the kind of anarchistic liminality that academic proto-SJWs of the 1970s and 80s were dreaming of.
Anyway, I just finished reading Lord of the World, by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, which is pretty much of a borderline case. Although it is a minor “classic” in its own way, and has been recommended by at least two popes, there’s nothing sufficiently politically incorrect about it to make it a really outstanding subject for this blog—and one of the popes who recommended it is our current SJW Rainbow Pope. But there are a number of contributing factors that just bring it over the bar, and so here I am writing about it.
Just the story of the author’s life is rather interesting. Robert Hugh Benson’s father was the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury (the senior bishop and effective leader of the Church of England) and his mother, the Archbishop’s wife of course, was a high society hostess. He was descended from a long line of Anglican clergymen, and he became one himself. But then, in 1903, when he was in his 30s, to the complete gobsmackification of all good Anglicans, he converted to Roman Catholicism. He was a devout one too, and became Catholic chaplain at Oxford University and eventually was granted the honor of being a private chamberlain to Pope Pius X. I haven’t read his books putting forth the reasons for his conversion, and very probably will never read them, but I would guess that he found Anglicanism, founded as it was by Henry VIII, an antichrist if there ever was one, too shallow. What brought Monsignor Benson to my attention is that he was also a novelist, and wrote a dystopian science fiction novel about the antichrist—the main, biblical antichrist, the one in Revelation, not just the likes of me or Henry VIII.
Over the course of my life I have cultivated refined tastes for apocalyptic literature, and also for dystopian science fiction and cyberpunk, so aside from the devotedly Catholic tone of the book, complete with mysterious church jargon and untranslated Latin chants, the story was right up my alley. Interestingly but also sadly, the novel having been written in 1907, and Benson not being omniscient (even though those two popes declared the book prophetic), many of his predictions of the future—our present—are radically mistaken. For example, he correctly foresaw the importance of freeways and air travel in the early 21st century, though he had people flying in “volors,” apparently a kind of Zeppelin with flapping (or at least moving) wings; he did not foresee at all the two World Wars, the end of colonialism (especially in Africa), the conversion of China to Communist materialism, computers, anything digital for that matter, the dangers of asbestos, mass immigration of non-whites into the west, or also the general and rampant cultural decadence, lack of respect for one’s own culture, sheeplike passivity and obesity, and progressive hedonistic depravity of the mainstream of civilization. If he correctly had predicted the way things are today, though, his book would no doubt have been rejected as a work of feverish insanity. Seriously, how could anyone a hundred years ago know that politicians would no longer be able to tell the difference between men and women, or that shemales would be welcomed into the military by diversity and inclusion officers, or that universities would object to “harmful” words like “mother,” “wife,” and “mankind”? (Benson actually predicted that after the Marxists took over they’d close down the universities for being hotbeds of free thought!) How could he have predicted that politics would be largely derailed by hysterical demagogic “marginalized people” becoming politicians? How could he have foreseen orgiastic gay pride parades and predatory drag queens reading stories about sexual aberrations to children in public schools and libraries? How could he have known that mathematics, sheet music, and proper English would be condemned as racist? How could he have predicted a spineless British Prince marrying a brown-skinned divorced American actress who then complains publicly about what a victim she is? But perhaps his most important miss, especially as regards the theme of his story, is that he failed to foresee the plain fact that spiritually dead materialistic socialism would not cause religion to be outlawed in the west, it would simply take it over, permeate it, and vitiate the world religions, or rather their manifestations in the western world. How could he have predicted rainbow flags celebrating sexual deviance flying before Christian churches?
The main theme of the story is of course the rising of Antichrist, also known vulgarly, though not in the story, as Mr. 666. By the early 21st century the world has organized itself into three main power blocs: a (correctly predicted) European Union with its (incorrectly predicted) African colonies, the American Empire consisting of both American continents, and the Empire of the East, formed by the marriage of the two main Imperial houses of the Orient, Japanese and Chinese. Of these three, Europe, and I think America also, have become solidly Marxist, whereas the unenlightened Asians are still following a more barbarous oriental system that is considered backward but is nevertheless aggressive and very dangerous. All of the royal houses of Europe, including the House of Windsor, have been deposed or have abdicated, and Britain’s House of Lords has long since been abolished. Protestantism has died out, as have all other sects of Christianity except Catholicism, which is barely tolerated, and enjoys as its last two strongholds Ireland and the Eternal City of Rome. The Eastern Empire has recently successfully invaded and annexed Australia, and is threatening total war against the west, and the people of Europe are, to put it mildly, not optimistic on the projected outcome.
Then, strangely, an obscure American Senator from Vermont named Julian Felsenburgh (sorry, not Bernie Sanders) goes on a diplomatic mission to the East, with astonishing effects. Everywhere he goes he gives flawlessly eloquent orations in the native language of each audience, fluently and charismatically. The peoples of the East are so impressed by his presence and his words that the Muslims declare him the Mahdi, and every other eastern religion, including the Buddhists, consider him to be the perfect man and the manifest representative of their spiritual ideals. Almost singlehandedly he averts a world war and is hailed across Europe also as the Savior of the World. He is offered essentially dictatorial powers by a number of European states, but he turns them down…until he is offered rulership of all Europe, which he accepts.
His effect on people, especially normies, is electrifying, even before they hear or see him, just because of his effects on the world at large:
He had never seen anything like it; no congregation under the spell of the most kindling preacher alive had ever responded with one-tenth of the fervour with which that irreligious crowd, standing in the cold dawn of the London streets, had greeted the coming of their saviour.
…And then the rest of the world—the madness that had seized upon the nations; the amazing stories that had poured in that day of the men in Paris, who, raving like Bacchantes, had stripped themselves naked in the Place de Concorde, and stabbed themselves to the heart, crying out to thunders of applause that life was too enthralling to be endured; of the woman who sang herself mad last night in Spain, and fell laughing and foaming in the concert hall at Seville; of the crucifixion of the Catholics that morning in the Pyrenees, and the apostasy of three bishops in Germany…. And this … and this … and a thousand more horrors were permitted, and God made no sign and spoke no word….
When he moves in a public procession he elicits a kind of groan from the crowds as he approaches, which stills to complete silence as he arrives, and then as he passes another groaning sound is heard, which I assume represents his power to siphon as a kind of fuel the spirit of worldly humanity.
He is felt to be, and is, the Spirit of the World in human form, and he channels that worldly energy. He is viewed by an adoring secular humanity as the Perfect Man: “Felsenburgh was called the Son of Man, because he was so pure-bred a cosmopolitan; the Saviour of the World, because he had slain war and himself survived—even—even.…even Incarnate God, because he was the perfect representative of divine man.” Man is the only God. So naturally, a new humanistic religion is formulated: “Friendliness took the place of charity, contentment the place of hope, and knowledge the place of faith.” (I have to admit, that last quote in itself doesn’t sound so bad, but it gets worse.) Before long this new spiritually bankrupt religion is mandatory, under penalty of law.
Naturally some of the barely tolerated Catholics, being members of the only true religion in the opinion of the author, resist, and become holy Martyrs:
In Paris forty of the new-born Order had been burned alive in one day in the Latin quarter, before the Government intervened. From Spain, Holland, Russia had come in other names. In Dusseldorf eighteen men and boys, surprised at their singing of Prime in the church of Saint Laurence, had been cast down one by one into the city-sewer, each chanting as he vanished: "Christi Fili Dei vivi miserere nobis, [Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us]” and from the darkness had come up the same broken song till it was silenced with stones. Meanwhile, the German prisons were thronged with the first batches of recusants. The world shrugged its shoulders, and declared that they had brought it on themselves, while yet it deprecated mob-violence, and requested the attention of the authorities and the decisive repression of this new conspiracy of superstition. And within St. Peter's Church [in still Catholic Rome] the workmen were busy at the long rows of new altars, affixing to the stone diptychs the brass-forged names of those who had already fulfilled their vows and gained their crowns.
When the time draws near for the first mandatory atheist church service, a group of English Catholics plot to blow up the main cathedral, but are found out by the authorities…resulting in rampant bloody massacres and lynchings of Catholics throughout the west, and ultimately in British and German volors bombing the city of Rome into burning rubble, killing the Pope and every cardinal except one, on New Year’s Eve.
The protagonist of the tale is a devout Catholic priest named Percy Franklin, who ironically just happens to resemble Felsenburgh, with white hair though still young, and very dark eyebrows. He becomes a cardinal in Rome, and when on his way to London to try to prevent the bombing of the cathedral, Rome itself is bombed. The last remaining cardinal approves him as the next Pope, Silvester III, and he goes into hiding in the little town of Nazareth, in Galilee, not far from the valley of Megiddo, also known as Armageddon. When the antichrist discovers the whereabouts of the new Pope, a truly holy and saintly man by the way, he sends another fleet of bomber volors…and although I won’t say how the story ends I will observe that anyone who is familiar with the Book of Revelation could possibly make a pretty good guess. The whole book, after all, is literally apocalyptic.
Mainly the points that made the book interesting enough for me to want to write about it are 1) the obvious rather deep mysticism promoted by a high profile Roman Catholic priest who abandoned the Church of England; and 2) his devoutly traditionalist attitude, which in my opinion, not being a Christian, was misplaced, but which is clearly a powerful force in his own life and may be essential for any thriving civilization, which ours no longer is. Also there is maybe 3): it gives me a convenient opportunity to criticize the cultural Marxist Rainbow Pope and Marxist pseudo-spirituality in general.
As an example of the surprising mysticism in a novel written by the son of an Anglican bishop, practically a politician, consider the following description of Silvester III’s final Mass before antichrist arrives with his fleet of bombers:
He did not know how long it was before the circling observant consciousness, the flow of slow images, the vibration of particular thoughts, ceased and stilled as a pool rocks quietly to peace after the dropped stone has long lain still. But it came at last—that superb tranquillity, possible only when the senses are physically awake, with which God, perhaps once in a lifetime, rewards the aspiring trustful soul—that point of complete rest in the heart of the Fount of all existence with which one day He will reward eternally the spirits of His children. There was no thought in him of articulating this experience, of analysing its elements, or fingering this or that strain of ecstatic joy. The time for self-regarding was passed. It was enough that the experience was there, although he was not even self-reflective enough to tell himself so. He had passed from that circle whence the soul looks within, from that circle, too, whence it looks upon objective glory, to that very centre where it reposes—and the first sign to him that time had passed was the murmur of words, heard distinctly and understood, although with that apartness with which a drowsy man perceives a message from without—heard as through a veil through which nothing but thinnest essence could transpire.
This is genuine spirituality, even mysticism, and I’d like to believe that the venerable Monsignor author wrote based on his own experience. This was not achieved in the story while sitting crosslegged with closed eyes, however, but while conducting a religious ritual—demonstrating that rites and rituals, if done mindfully, can become a profound meditational exercise. Again during the same Mass:
Not again, for a while, did he perceive what he did or thought, or what passed there, five yards away on the low step. Once only a ripple passed across that sea of glass, a ripple of fire and sound like a rising star that flicks a line of light across a sleeping lake, like a thin thread of vibration streaming from a quivering string across the stillness of a deep night—and be perceived for an instant as in a formless mirror that a lower nature was struck into existence and into union with the Divine nature at the same moment…. And then no more again but the great encompassing hush, the sense of the innermost heart of reality, till he found himself kneeling at the rail, and knew that That which alone truly existed on earth approached him with the swiftness of thought and the ardour of Divine Love….
This sort of thing, like the writings of Saint John of the Cross, are evidence for me that even Christianity—and Islam too—can be a vehicle towards enlightenment, even if they are burdened with dogmas that can serve as hindrances. Ultimately, when in a state like that described above (and sometimes the author’s inward religious digressions detract from the flow of the narrative), one is no longer thinking in terms of philosophies or dogmas anyway. When pervaded by a relatively pure mystical experience one is no longer, for the time being at least, an adherent of any system. This kind of testimony also lends support to the beliefs of Traditionalism, as promulgated by thinkers like René Guénon, considering that all refined “initiatory” religious systems are able to tap into perennial wisdom.
The problem with most devout religionists, including the author of this book, and including many orthodox Buddhists, is that they have profound experiences and then consider that to be sufficient proof that their own system is the only true one, not considering that profound wisdom is everywhere, and that members of many if not all religions have tapped into it. Monsignor Benson grotesquely underestimated the religions of the East, for example, having all but the Catholics essentially worshiping a hypersamsaric antichrist. But the profundity he experienced, or at least I hope for his sake that he did, filled him with the deep faith that can inspire a great civilization—the likes of which is utterly beyond spiritually bankrupt Marxism of any flavor, paleo or neo, or any deification of a secular State. So profound faith in a dogma can be of utmost value to a culture, and strengthens it immeasurably, but it easily leads to the typical Buddhist example of a fool insisting “Only this is true! Anything else is wrong!” and can easily lead to the sort of intolerance that medieval Christianity, to say nothing of modern Marxism, is notorious for.
For Him [Silvester] it was necessary so to grasp spiritual truths in the supernatural sphere that the external events of the Incarnation were proved by rather than proved the certitude of His spiritual apprehension.
This is veering towards the strange old Christian dictum of “Et mortuus est dei filius: credibile est, quia ineptum est. Et sepultus resurrexit: certum est, quia impossibile” [And the son of God died: it is credible, because it is unfitting. And he was buried and rose again: it is certain, because it is impossible].
It is interesting to me that the current SJW Rainbow Pope of Rome, that is Francis, who recommends the novel and considers it to be prophetic, has been trying to establish a unified world religious system…which appears to come much closer to Benson’s vision of antichrist’s false religion of worldliness than to his vision of a true religion of God. Benson called the religion of antichrist Humanitarianism, a replacement of true Divinity with worldly and humanistic goods.
In conclusion I would say that Lord of the World may be of interest to, and worth reading by, anyone who likes apocalyptic literature, early attempts at envisioning our own times, Traditionalism, or of course Roman Catholicism. Also it’s in the public domain and can be downloaded for free, for example here.
Anyway, now I’m reading the notorious Bronze Age Mindset, by the mysterious Bronze Age Pervert, so don’t be surprised if it inspires at least one post in future on his here blog. Already in the first chapter he’s bashing Darwinism, which has raised my hackles just a little. (After that I’m thinking I’ll read the Strategikon by the Byzantine Emperor Maurice.)