Paul Brown, Gray Light, V-VIII (1825-1827)


By “$” [Paul Brown]

(From The New-Harmony Gazette, Dec. 21, 1825-Jan. 10, 1827)



Any irregularity of the passions is moral evil. According to movements of the passions, the outward actions are shaped. All excess of passion is moral evil. Any of the passions being in excess or attached to an improper object, is moral evil, because the passions, generally, have more or less of voluntary motion in them. Any thing undue, irregular, excessive, of this kind, immediately causes pain. Also these things constitute a predisposition to evil actions. Consecutive to our emotions, we act. There are what we call bad passions; on account of them tending directly to something violent and against social happiness as well as against tranquility of mind; meaning thereby morally bad, as depending somehow on will. Such are envy, anger, hatred; and their compounds, ambition, pride, jealousy; as well as that peculiar mode of anger called malice. Some passions that do not appear to be bad in their original complexion, become bad by being in excess, or obliquely attached. Exclusive inheritance evidently produced excessive passions, in the first place. From these excessive passions naturally followed particular vices: i. e. vicious practices and habits,—several vices distinguished by names. From private evils arise public ones. Men being disposed to illude or overbear, to gain ascendancy, one individual upon another, there arose calamities that, in progress, afflicted whole nations. For individuals come to lead multitudes by the ear and eye, and make them tamely instrumental to their designs of power superior, and domination. It produces excessive and inordinate passion, and necessarily, in course, it produces vicious habits; as deceitfulness, imposture, swindling, stealing, lying, forging, &c. &c. &c. &c.
Which chicanery has for its design the leading of a multitude or a whole nation by the delusions of one individual scheme, it becomes a public calamity. It disorders society. Any distemperature of passions therefore, is moral evil. Distemperature of passion is produced by such a circumstance as exclusive possession. Envy, malice, and rage appear to be what were produced by inequality of property in the instance of Cain, and terminated in murder, supposed to be the first murder ever committed. A disposition to illude and circumduct others, comes from an evil distemperament of passions. The circumduction of other individuals, is an expedient to some desired object; and it generates from lust of something that can be obtained by illuding and deceiving one’s fellow-creatures; as reverence, wealth, controlling power, and influence, &c. And the possibility of this, originated from inequality of possessions, with the present pretended right of exclusion; otherwise there had been no such thing as obtaining pre-eminence by deceiving one’s fellow-creatures. There had been no idea of such pre-eminence, and no desire of it. One could not illude or deceive his neighbors respecting any thing involving the idea of his own merit. For such things would not be expected nor much valued, as one individual doing special offices of friendship or generosity for another, except in special need.—For whatever one would have to do, would be fore the whole; and not peculiarly for one. Therein would lie his merit; his diligence, his carefulness, his industry, his punctuality, in the public service, would measure his merit. And this would be open, in daylight, and seen by every one; so there would be no room for any coloring of it; and flattery would not be praiseworthy, and would not be considered worthy of any note. But deception is an expedient of various purposes towards the security of any disallowable object. It may be a recourse to effect murder. Any thing that can be brought about by illuding others, may be the object had in view, on such an occasion. Though the thing that first brought murder into vogue, was the institution of exclusive property, which infused a sense of inequality and founded an access to pre-eminence and domination which otherwise were not known. Men would do any thing for wealth and power. They would even murder their own species. So perverted was the heart of man!—So fascinating was the aspect of those base idols.
So then the first temptation to deceiving, was the getting of gain and whatever other contingents were involved with the possibility of getting gain.
Certainly Cain and Abel were permitted to hold possessions separately and peculiarly. For in process of time, “Cain brought of the fruits of the field; and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock; for an offering unto the Lord.” So it was his flock. Cain was a tiller of the ground, and Abel was a keeper of sheep. Now Cain might have been a tiller of ground and Abel a keeper of sheep, and yet the flock and the ground have been one common estate, no more one’s than another’s. But it seems the notion of peculiar property had got in vogue: His and her’s, mine and yours, had come into fashion. Adam had consented to this. Surely there had been some consenting to this odd mode, else it would not exist. This was the origin of iniquity. This consenting might be done without malignity in itself; it might be inadvertent; it might be what follows a freak of over fondness to a child,—the most venial of all excesses; thence might Adam have indulged Abel and Cain with the gratification of a romantic whim they had in them to have something in exclusive possession. Of course they were delighted with it at the moment. All these things had a natural cause; as every thing else has: But they were irregular movements considered in respect to the perfection of the human constitution and well being of the species. They were disorderly, in this species. They tended to extra-regular productions; and proved a diseased and disturbed state of this particular system. They tended directly to all the distempers and sickliness of the whole frame of the moral world. Such a mode of human society is as unnatural as a huge wen upon a living tree, measuring twice the diameter of the body of the tree. Both are natural in one sense; i. e. they have natural causes; they come within the bounds of nature, but in another sense, i. e. when we got to define species of constitutions, and keep order among the relations that pertain to these permanent parts of nature; they are unnatural—they are anomalous—there is an interfering of lines—there is confusion—as when distinct races mix; the product is such as is called a mongrel; something of neither species; but with confessed defects. The direct course was to mar and extinguish. They plainly indicate a distempered, diseased state of the particular systems in which they appear, in respect to their wants, adaptations, and established relations to other departments of nature. They are out of order. It as anomalous, it was strained, for one to hold possessions to his name, which depended not on his invention, to the exclusion of another. Whether the names of the family were Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, is indifferent; as also where they lived, and how many years ago. There must have been a time when men entered upon the barbarian state. A time when men entered upon the barbarian state. A time when they began to keep cattle, and a time when they began to till ground. The tilling of ground was an additional improvement; for they still continued to keep cattle, though they made it not their whole occupation.—This was the time when they should have begun to refine upon common stock. The moment when they began to till ground was the time when they should have begun to refine upon common stock—when they should have permanently established common inclusive inheritance, and made it pleasant and habitual. At this point, they blundered into a deviation from rectitude. The notion of exclusive possession being admitted, tolerated, adopted, and the thing being accustomed; I say, in effect it was instituted.—Exclusive rights became instituted. It was rashly accepted as a fundamental principle of all just government, that whatever an individual by his own labor should get together, however much, he should have right to hold exclusively. This was repressing sympathy, and putting out of sight the principle of sympathy, ad putting out of sight the principle of sociality. It was wrong. It was unjust. Mankind should co-operate, as beavers. They should estimate the excellency of character by qualities of mind and habits of thinking and acting; not by fortuitous and precarious pre-eminences.
As it was possible for one man to set himself above another, by getting more wealth and power, without being held in reprobation and avercion for it, (for necessarily there had been consent to it, and men were made capable of respecting persons for such adventitious preeminence,) they aptly inclined to seek and to invent expedients to accomplish such an object. Of course, individuals hit upon deluding their fellow-creatures. Hence, theological Polity. Here all the craft of mystical and occult sciences had its birth. Astrologers and priests started up. The invention seems to have been extremely ready, and to have taken effect very early. Even in Adam’s time, Cain and Abel seem to have had a persuasion of the duty of sacrifices to a superior being. Each went, in process of time, with his offering, out of his own stores; one with the fruits of the ground and the other with lambs and kids.
Now it is evident that in consenting to the partition and distinction of possession, the way was paved for an inveterate respect of wealth, for it implied a willingness that one should possess more than another, which might aptly enough be; and of necessary consequence, that such transcendency was not and would not be an object of abhorrence. Here was the root of that pernicious association, reverence of wealth. Moreover, those who sought to ascend upon their fellow-mortals by such means as superior accumulations, would naturally incline to associate blandishments with their excess of possessions, that should establish and rivet this association and we find they did so. They blandished the aspect of their wealth and power so that beholders should admire it. Here then, is the nucleus of the corrupt education of the world. Here is the radix of depravity in moral education, whereby the human heart has become incapable of admiring and reverencing wealth and power in individuals; and principles of moral estimation utterly perverted; and the world filled with confusion. Thus a man was honored for being richer than others, and exclusively holding possessions more than the quota of his natural requisitions. Still, the recourse of mystical influence and theological polity was had, before a resort to a factitious representation of wealth.
As wealth was agreeable and pleasing to the selfish mind; as it was desirable and even honorable; it become eligible to find out some way of measuring it exactly, so as to interchange adequate ideas of its extent and degrees, so that one might truly apprehend at an time what quantity of wealth another had, how much more he had than others, how much honor he was worthy of, or what purposes he could execute.—For the honor and utility of it were considered to be proportionate to the quantity. Now there gradations of quantity must have something permanent to represent them; else, there were no abiding standard. Some material medium must be brought in, that, in a small compass, should represent this wealth, or show the quantity of it. This was representative property.—A certain quantity of this matter, whether it was stone, tin, pewter, gold, silver, copper, leather, parchment, paper, iron, or wood, was to represent a certain quantity of the matters of real possession that constituted this wealth. But it did not represent the wealth itself, so much as the right to possess it. It was thought a representative of the right of possession. It must be instead of wealth. It was imputed as wealth, where was not a jot of wealth beside:—And a man having fifty thousand pieces of this representative matter, would be called rich, though he had not an inch of land on earth, nor any thing else but what he had about his carcass. He would be said to be worthy to possess ten thousand acres of land and a thousand cattle. These, perchance, would be given him for them. The sign was accepted for the reality. The image of wealth was sought instead of wealth. All things of real worth in possession, were exchanged for it. This was called money. It became, of direct course, established in use. It answered all the purposes of subsistence, in every individual. It would procure any thing and every thing else visible. Men naturally then of course came to set a value on it; they became attached to it; they came to love it; they came to worship it. This was the love of money. This was said to be the root of all evil. It is one root; it is the fourth root. It is the finishing radiation of the germ of moral depravity. The institution of exclusive property is the first root; the veneration of wealth is the second root;—the invention of money is the third root, and the love and adoration of that money is the fourth, the last, and finishing root, of all the moral evil that has afflicted the human race. This is the generation of moral evil. How these ramify into all the particular excesses of passion, all the different vices, and all the various crimes, that have unfolded themselves on the theatre of human life since the beginning of society, will be made appear in the sequel.
Men finding that to illude, over-reach, and over-impress their fellow-beings, was an expedient well calculated to get gain and ascendant power; what manner of deception was likely to be their first recourse? I am apt to conclude it was that kind of awful insinuation which is apt to inspire with fear, wonder, astonishment; an to flatter with fantastical excess of hope in regard to things unknown and imaginary,—which lead up their [….] wherein they aimed at making others believe there existed some person they could not see, who having will and passions like themselves, superintended and ordered all things, gave particular precepts to them, and uncontrollably, though capriciously, disciplined them. Not but that they might run into some other vice as soon as other sorts of excess took place before they were under way in the long circuitous march of projects of artifice. But this is the first recourse men went into for the accumulating of gain by way of influencing the minds of their fellow-creatures. Here they depended upon the imbecility of the minds of their fellow-beings. The powers of delusion and over-persuasion were their enginery; the ground on which they had to operate, was the imbecility of their fellows; and their end was self-aggrandizement. They sought wealth and influence. They sought money. The juggler and the fortune-teller sought to get money from the people by deceiving them. They obtained it. The priest and the astrologer sought wealth and dominion—sought money—sought to obtain tribute and donations, and expected with assurance to be reverenced and humbly served in all things commodious by such as were persuaded they were of a superior rank of beings with more than human talents, but commanding occult divine aid.—Such they would be thought by mortal men. They succeeded.
Thus, from peculiar property, men advanced another step, to representative property; i. e. from that which is absolute and real, they advanced to a representative; which is called money. Money being established in use, men came of course to love money, because it served all purposes of subsistence. These things followed one another in a train of causation. The first root is exclusive rights of possession.
To say the love of money is the main root of moral evil, is not correct: because if there had been no money, there could have been no love of money:—and if there had been no such thing as peculiar and exclusive property, there had been no occasion to invent money. Men first instituted exclusive property, next, they came to have a deference and veneration of this property, proportional to certain pre-eminent accumulations which they called wealth, because those who held it, had power to do them good and hurt with it. As this was made to pass for wealth, men, being able to purchase all transferable things with it, came of necessary consequence to set a value on it, and came to love it. But the main root of all, was the institution of exclusive property.
The first evil under the predicament of public calamity, that issued from the root of human depravity, is that which may be called theological polity. The science of theology teaches a peculiar way of governing mankind, and a peculiar way of deceiving them in order to govern them, which has an irresistible and tenacious effect because it is applied with signal force to some strong passions that prevail in man. The reasons why the theologians succeeded so well in subjecting mankind to their influence, and controlling them into a subservience to their views, were, first that they addressed their arts to the passions and affections. Thos they principally acted upon, were fear, hope, and a love of praise. If they ever made use of logic, it was rather speciously, to induce a persuasion that they built on reason and therefore were unanswerable: while yet their arguing was far from being conclusive; though nothing was easier than to give it the appearance of force. Secondly, their process of modifying the mind, was begun in infancy. This they at an early period found was necessary for making sure the foundations of their establishments. The first style of speaking the young were to be taught was to be imbued with theological words. They were to be taught formal prayers. The name of some theological character was to be awfully mentioned, and with punctilious solemnity, while they should be advancing into youth. In short, they depended much upon riveting some fantastical associations very early in their minds.
Various were the arts, of which priests made use, to carry on their government. One of the first steps they took, was to establish the persuasion that one or more intelligent beings existed, invisible to us, with intelligence, will, and passions, and, separate from matter governed all things. Their first resort was to propagate this doctrine and get it in a way of attracting general auscultation, while they should lay a plan to have its principles so infused and inculcated into the infant mind in the common education that they should not fail to take root in it, and the doctrine become reputable with succeeding generations. This they well knew was wanted for a foundation upon which their other plans should rest.
It is evident that theologians actually intended to impose on the understandings of men, statements that had not their archetypes in nature. It is hardly possible to entertain the belief that some of their statements, considering them as cultivated rational men, understanding the sciences extant, could have any other motive than to illude men and educate them as that they should be easily governed, in their own way. With what manner of views and feelings could a rational man seriously tell one or more of his fellow-beings whom he knew were ignorant, that there was a living Being who sent the thunder and lightning, that he had will and wisdom, that he thundered when he was offended, that his name was Jupiter, or Jove, &c. unless it was intently to delude, and, taking advantage of the vacant state of their minds, radicate a principle important in establishing a particular system of government? Or what in the name of common sense, can we suppose a sane man to have been contemplating, when he should have solemnly declared to numbers of his neighbors, that the great Lord and Maker of all things came down upon a cloud, in the shape of a man, and talked to him in his own language, and delivered him some prescripts to engrave upon stone, but to deceive, and lead away the energy of their minds so that they should not learn true science? It indicates intentional illusion.
It is evident that they sought personal aggrandizement, and that they aimed to be thought greater, of a superior rank to their fellow-beings, as having more ability and knowledge. They had for an object to make themselves appear great and knowing, in the view of their fellow-mortals. But how could they desire to be thought transcendant in knowledge and ability unless they were to be respected and obeyed on this account, to have power to command others to sere their favorite purposes, to live easy, even to live at the expense of the others’ labor,—in short, to possess exclusively more than was possessed by others? But if there had been no such thing known as possessing superfluities individually to the exclusion of others, and thereby having influence and dominion over them; moreover, if to be distinguished from others in point of possession and power, was not to be admired, but detested and dreaded; what inducement could any one have to pursue such an object? Such an object would have no attractions; therefore no man nor set of men would pursue such an object, nor seek any expedient to attain it.—Now, if all things had remained in common inheritance, and men, living like brethren, had never valued any peculiar pre-eminence in matter of possession, it is plain there had existed no such object of pursuit. Consequently, this evil has arisen out of the institution of peculiar and exclusive property.
One of the first of the methods the theologians made application of, in their discipline, was sacrifice. One of the first manoeuvers they had recourse to, seems to have been what was called sacrifice. This was adopted very early. It appears to have been in vogue in Cain and Abel’s time. Directly after exclusive rights had their birth, the theologians had their plans in train for catching the pre-eminence wealth. Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock, and Cain brought of the fruits of the ground for a sacrifice. It came to pass that the Lord had respect unto Abel’s offering, ad not unto Cain’s. What contrivance there was for a sign by which to announce the distinction, is not known; but it shows such a mode had come into countenance as the respecting of a man for what he possessed. For Cain considered Abel honored and regarded more than himself, on account of what he (Abel) had brought and offered being acceptable in the preference. He brought of the firstlings of his flock. Cain brought of the fruits of the ground; for he “was a tiller of the ground.” Both brought such things as they had; and no other. Now it is plain, if the offerings had both been common stock, and no more Cain’s than Abel’s, and Cain had been as much the owner of the flock as Abel, and Abel as much the owner of the fruits of the ground as Cain, that Cain would have conceived himself as much respected and honored by the acceptableness of what Abel brought, as Abel was, and Abel would have conceived himself as much disrespected and dishonored by the unacceptableness of what Cain brought, as Cain was, so far forth as it was on account of things offered that either the one or the other was honored or dishonored. And it appears very clear that what was offered is the purported ground of imputation of good or ill to the persons offering it, and of consequent disgrace or favor to either. If such had been the case, Cain would have had no envy against Abel, consequently no malice, and, of course, would not have murdered his brother.
What was the immediate end contemplated by the theologians in the institute of sacrifices and oblations in early ties, is not so clear. But it is evident that it had in view to blind the minds of the people; but seems also to have been particularly chosen for such an expedient, in order to procure with ease a plenty of flesh, and oil; and be respected with an awful reverence besides.
The instituting of solemn rites to be performed by a class of men, plainly was done to get gain, by being well paid for their attendance, out of the earnings of those whose souls’ benefit such things were pretended to be acted. History gives us their proceedings on the banks of the Nile, the Ganges, the Burampooter, in China, in Turkey, in Italy, and various other parts of the earth. Their object has ever been either to get wealth or reverence from the world;–nay, both wealth and reverence: to which end a necessary resort has been to circumscribe intellectual light. So that the different parts of the great system of theological polity, have conspired to obviate mankind’s proficiency in science. If we take a look into the Science of Theology, in all its parts, various editions, modifications, particular designs, and adaptations, as it appears in different countries, we shall irresistibly come to the conclusion that the main scope of it is to station the energy of the human mind and to check the progress of general improvement, that a numerous class of men may live at ease, who depend on the imperfections of the rest of the race.
The visions of creatures in the shapes of human bodies, or other animals, sailing through the heavens upon clouds, are confessedly imaginative, and, like our dreams, never seriously reported as realities;–upon a little reflection every one admits them to be the work of fancy; but when they are promulgated with the pomp of scholastic etiquette, under the authority of monarchs as declared matters of fact, and have such artificial connections given them as are calculated to bias on the side of a persuasion of their verity and importance, they indicate intention to keep men in the dark, and to make them accept phantoms for realities. Such things come in the fancies of men; but when they are formally set forth on parchment, in books, or otherwise, in an affecting way, as having been experienced in reality of things, it is all done with design to allude, to circumduct, to make something unreal pass for reality. Like might be remarked of the appearance of such things with wings art their shoulders, delivering messages to men, and making their exit by ascent into the atmosphere, as well as of ghosts, and of apparitions in general.
If we carefully consider the consequences that have followed from their instituting of this polity, we shall find it to be fitly ranked the first public calamity that has arisen out fo the root of depravity, both with a regard to the time of its exhibiting its effects, and to the magnitude of the mischiefs it has brought into the world. For if we consider all the enormous wars, massacres, assassinations, imprisonments, tortures, and every fashion in which the depravity of the human heart can display itself, that have confessedly come out of this very source, we shall find there is none of the great desolations wanting in its hideous train. It is public, for it does hurt to the whole world publicly. It is the first public evil that ever was felt; and, if we take into account all that is imputable to it, it it’s the greatest curse that ever fell upon the human race. For is has tyrannized on the mind. This is its distinguishing character, to make the object of its tyranny the mind, and prevent that improvement of the intellectual and moral talents of human nature, which is in the order of our greatest good.
When the theologians had stationed their authorities and organized a plan of government over any collection of mankind, it was called Hierarchy, in distinction from other sorts of government where priests have not the control. But this same Hierarchy has had its share in tincturing and modifying the most tolerable monarchy that ever the world experienced, and every other sort of government we have yet been blessed with. It has given a tincture some way or other to every one of them. Every code of human laws, every frame of government, to this day, carries some mark and sure indication of the influence of hierarchy. I consider aristocracy an immediate branch of it. All the others issue secondarily from the same stock. Who will show me a frame of government or code of laws made for any state, province, kingdom, or confederation, in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, that has not, some where or other, some theological ideas in it! So it is plain enough the theologians have laid a deep plan to give name and perpetuity o their dogmas.
Under this head I comprehend the craft of the soothsayers, the magicians, the conjurers, and the fortune-tellers, so far as they were of public detriment; all these coming out of the very same original excitement, which is no other than the disposition to illude and lead away for the sake of gain, which produced all priestcraft.
Now if there had been no such thing known as peculiar property, and of course no man had been valued or respected for having and holding any thing in his private possession, but only for his serving the whole community, all the property known being public and common, how could priests have a desire to get wealth and pre-eminence? And if no such thing was possible as getting gain and pre-eminence, why should they take methods to attain them? Conclusively, exclusive rights existed, and this was the cause of the mischief. This gave grounds for it, it gave opportunity of it, it offered temptation to it. Therefore I must consider that train of public calamities that proceed out of such manner of craft as comes under the predicament of theological polity, are a direct legitimate emanation from the main root of all moral evil.
Under this rank of evils come all holy wars, i. e. wears which proceed from religious motives, or are set out with a view to establish and make popular, any particular creed, ser of ceremonies, and discipline; holy spiritual, inquisitorial courts of judicature, such as in Spain and Italy; schisms, massacres and routs of the saints; martyrdoms, and persecutions of every description. Here, then, are all the miseries of war: all the privations, pains, wrongs, abuses, and corruptions, in respect of individuals, that are attendant on a state of war from whatever principle issuing.
Moreover; turning aside from these which immediately operate upon whole nations and have so terrific an appearance, there is a set of minor effects, that yet leave permanent traces upon character. Their incessant and extensive preaching, writing, and insinuation, prevailing over all other public intelligence in circulations, and the literature of the theologians take place of all other literature, ahs a depressive tendency upon the intellect of the great mass of the people, and gradually fixes on them a peculiar character. For one generation after another, is entirely led off from the study of nature and the application of the reasoning power to the discussion of problematical questions, till they utterly lose sight of true philosophy. They observe a perfect silence on some certain subjects, feeling their examination is interdicted. They tamely and obsequiously follow the prescriptive customs of formal modes, and are sciolous of all things but the arts of livelihood.
The leaders have also particular contrivances proportioned to the nature of the government in the country where they are, from the most despotic to the most moderated and refined ones, to preserve and extend their influence. Even in the most peaceable pars of the earth, they have their missionary projects, for the carrying on of which they amass immense funds by way of solicited contributions, donations, and otherwise: Thereafter, the most adventurous, ambitious, roving, lively geniuses among their young men, take voyages to distant islands and continents, to see the novelties of the world, to preach their doctrine where it will sound entirely new, and modify the natives in conformity to their large designs  of government. They have variously instituted society for the collection of their funds. They have societies of women periodically assembling to contribute their mite towards this imposing purpose. They have societies of young men, with similar views. They have also their bible societies and tract societies, that bibles and tracts may be profusely delivered at a cheap rate. Perchance, through their large and deep-laid plains to produce work cheap, they get a sort of monopoly by underselling all other literature. They have their sunday schools, to shape ht education of the poor; their bible questions, to employ the studies of yond females; and periodical assemblies for recitations. Thy have their night meetings and their conferences. They have likewise their camp-meetings, which are public shows, where thousands of licentious people throng around merely on errands of amusement and dissipation. These demoralize society/ there are frequently what are called ‘awakenings, or revivals of religion;’ sometimes accruing adventitiously in consequence of some strong workings on the imagination of the young by ingenious preachings or insinuation; and sometimes slily set on foot by a subtle combination of the craft. The agitations occasioned by these, plunging some weak minds into atrabilariousness and desperation, bring on disease that shortens life.

[To be continued…]
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.