Friday, 14 September 2018

Why Owls? Animal Symbols and the Occult

The owl is an ancient symbol that has long been connected to occult groups and rituals. There are plenty of sites that will show ancient and modern examples and give a quick sketch of the meanings. For an example of a sanitized academic version, click here; for a more typical in-depth internet dive, click here. There are countless sites like this that turn up in a simple search.

Mural of Great Goddess from Tepantitla Palace (reconstruction), circa 400-700, Teotihuacan, Mexico

Owls were associated with darkness and death in ancient Mexico as well. Here, the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, a spider goddess of the underworld, and her priests wear symbolic owl headdress. The abundant pictures of human sacrifice in this complex drives home the evil nature of the symbol. 

E.H. Shepard, So Owl wrote, ink on paper, 7.4 x 5.5 cm, Private collection

But the history of the symbol is ambiguous and there are plenty of positive associations as well. The wise old owl is a long running motif, and the bird's nocturnal nature even led to occasional use as a symbol of the Resurrection. And everyone knows Pooh's stuffy friend.

So how do we know what to make of a symbol like this, and why is so often favored by organizations with dark reputations?

The Witches’ Sabbath, engraving after Parmigiano, 1732

An eighteenth-century copy of a Renaissance picture showing a prominent owl connected with black magic.

Let's start by breaking it down 

Groups use symbols to represent their ideas and define themselves. Symbols are a bit like writing in this way, because they can preserve knowledge and identity so long as people can read them. But they are also more vague in their associations than words, which are more precise, and people and meanings shift over time. So we have at least three different things to consider: 

There are three basic parts to the meaning of a symbol that have to be considered in order to understand it. The names of the categories are arbitrary - what matters is what they describe.

The Idea refers to the concept or concepts that need a symbol

The Symbol is the actual symbol

The Users are the people or groups that use the symbol

Many symbols are ancient, and have been used in similar but different ways throughout history. Does the same symbol mean the same users? This is the perspective taken by most researchers into the Illumnati - that occultist elites have remained the same for millennia through ritual and nepotism. The Band can't prove that either way, but it doesn't have to. Entirely new users can take up an old symbol to express the same idea.

Animals as symbols

Animal symbolism goes back to the prehistoric past where it seems to be connected to supernatural or "religious" uses.

Löwenmensch or Lion-man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel, 33,000 and 38,000 BC, woolly mammoth ivory, 31.1 cm tall, Ulm Museum, Germany.

It is hard to talk about primitive religion because we know nothing about these people's beliefs, but they seem to have used animal symbols and hybrid animal-human creatures to represent beings and forces that were beyond the human. 

In the earliest civilizations were we do have surviving writings, we learn that the oldest religions were polytheistic, meaning that they worshiped multiple gods with different areas of influence. 

Wall painting showing Egyptian gods from the tomb of Pharaoh Horemheb, 18th dynasty 1323-1295 BC, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

Some of these gods still have animal parts, while some have animal symbols.

At the most basic level, the worship of gods and spirits comes down to power. On a personal level, the worshiper hopes to bring about a positive outcome, or avoid a negative one, by gaining the favor of a god. And as society got more complex, organized priesthoods use access to the gods as a means of political power. As an aside, the idea of trying to gain favor from supernatural entities is not different from sincere believers in the occult today. 

Temple of Khonsu, 20th dynasty circa late 12th century BC, Karnak, Egypt

Someone had to look after those grand temples...

In general, animal symbols identify gods in terms of their areas of influence, but historical reality can make that confusing. Ancient polytheism had no set of theological rules or Bible, and different cultures, and cults within cultures had their own customs and beliefs. Even these weren't fixed and shifted and changed over time as civilizations rose and fell. The ancient Middle East was a string of different empires, each maintaining some continuity with the earlier mythology. This gets more confusing at the end of the ancient world when a series of huge multi-national empires - Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman - facilitated the movement of large numbers of people. Over time, some cults merged while others picked up details from others, meaning that the symbolism keeps changing. 

Roman statues of Persephone/Isis, Cerberus, and Pluto/Serapis, Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete

Syncretism is the word for the mixing of different belief systems without serious consideration of their incompatibilities. Ancient paganism could accommodate any number so shifting deities, cults, and philosophies without fundamentally changing. Here, we see syncretic fusions of Greco-Roman and Egyptian gods.  

Fresco of cult ritual from the Villa of the Mysteries, circa 50 BC, Pompeii, Italy

Ancient religions didn't have holy books like the Bible, and rituals differed with culture and cult. In ancient Rome, cults to deities tended to be secretive, involving initiation into "mysteries". The problem is that what these were died out with the users.

In addition to the gods, the ancients tended to see the world as filled with other supernatural beings that also needed to be managed. Trying to define one specific meaning for a symbol is nearly impossible. You have to look at who is using it, and why.

The Owl

The owl has been associated  with night and darkness, evil, knowledge and perception, and sometimes rebirth. Like any animal symbol, these are based on appearance and behavior. Owls are nocturnal, which accounts for night, rebirth (rising when most sleep) and evil (living backwards or in reverse to the norm), and their large eyes and night vision are a natural metaphor for for "seeing". These associations are pretty broad, and it is easy to see how they could be applied to lots of contexts. 

Burney Relief / Queen of the Nightlikely Ereshkigal or Ishtar, 19th-18th century BC, Old Babylonian, clay, 49.5 x 37 cm, British Museum, London

Sinister meanings seem the oldest. It is not clear who this god is, but it is most likely Ereshkigal, an Babylonian deity associated with night and the underworld.

The association with the Greek goddess Athena appears more positive, considering the importance of Athens to the Western tradition. She was not always connected with the owl, but by the sixth century BC the link is becoming established (click for an in-depth look at the classical history). Athena was the goddess of wisdom among other things, so this is evidence of an early connection between the owl and supernatural knowledge.

Attributed to the Brygos Painter, Athena holding a helmet and a spear, with an owl. Attic red-figure lekythos, circa 490-480 BC, terracotta, 32.7 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art 

This vase is about 2500 years old, and it clearly shows Athena with the identifying owl.


Minerva, second century AD, 18th-century resorations, white marble, gilded onyx, 1,33 m, Louvre Museum

Minerva was the Roman name for Athena, and you can see that the name and style have changed, the symbols - helmet and owl - stay the same. It was restored in the 1700s, meaning that people with no connection to the original users are working closely with the symbols. 

This is how symbols live on through time.

Silver tetradrachm coin with the owl of Athena, circa 480-420 BC, Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, France  

Athena was also the patron of Athens, so the presence of her owl on their money was meant as a protective symbol. The ΑΘΕ inscription is an abbreviation stating that the coin is from Athens. 

Christianity combined metaphysics and religion into theology and reoriganized the chaotic mess of ancient polytheism into a more binary opposition. On one side, there is a transcendent God as the source of being and cosmic order, while the whole mess of false and misleading idols and other fronts for human vanity lands on the other.

Gustave Doré, The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism, 1868, Oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Canada 

From this perspective, the old gods were recast as diabolic deceptions and suppressed, though many survived in the form of unofficial folk practices. 

Owls, as night creatures, became connected with all sorts of moral inversions during the Middle Ages, from the Jews, who rejected Christ, to the sorcery of witches. 

In more learned culture the gods survived in a variety of symbolic forms. Some forms of Renaissance magic was based on the idea that the ancient formulas had power, and the "gods" were references to spirits, daemons, and other supernatural entities.   

The gods also lived on as symbols for celestial phenomena. Renaissance astrology was based on the belief that heaven and earth were linked by cosmic spheres marked by the planets, which were named after ancient deities. By reading planetary movements, astrologers believes that they could predict what would happen on earth. 

Abraham Cresques, Atlas de Cartes Marines (the Catalan Atlas), 1375, vellum mounted on wooden panel, 65 × 50 cm, Bibliothèque nationale de France

The idea that the universe was a sort of interlocking machine goes back to the ancient Greeks and continues through the Middle Ages. This chart from a Catalan atlas shows the familiar spheres with the earth in the middle and the heavens on the outside. The gold ring shows the same zodiac signs that are popular today. Watching them move is a way of tracking the bigger cosmic movements that drive events on earth.

The lasting popularity of astrology means that many Christians were in the habit of believing that their lives were influenced by what were originally pagan deities. The fact that planets, constellations, and other heavenly bodies are named after mythological beings just shows how symbols live on.

Once a symbol is known, anyone can take it up. The association may be different, but the ideas are consistent. So when we look at ancient symbols, we need to know what they are understood to mean, but even more importantly, WHO is using them? When a modern group used a symbol, ask why? Especially when that symbol is oddly prominent or common. Remember, people can chose anything, so excuses for why a symbol isn't sinister mean less than the reasons for why you did choose it.

Jakob Bohme, Mysterium pansophicum

A lot of old symbolism came back into the spotlight during the Renaissance, when all kinds of ancient knowledge was being revived. The tangled mess of polytheism, occultism, and philosophy of the late antique period sometimes known as Hermeticism found its way into elite circles alongside Virgil and Galen. 

Knowledge is power, and Renaissance students of ancient occultism hoped to attain the kinds of abilities that they read about in old texts. This was the time when alchemical societies like the Rosicrucians formed, while even the Church seemed to welcome this expansion of knowledge. For a while, it looked like humans were reaching the deepest secrets of reality and uniting Christian and ancient knowledge in a universal whole. But it was short lived. 

Michelangelo, Night, 1526-31, marble, 1526-31, 155 x 150 cm, from the tomb of Giuliano de' Medici, Sagrestia nuova, San Lorenzo in Florence.

Even in the Renaissance, the owl's dark associations remained. Michelangelo's figure of Night, one of four personifications of the times of day in the project, included identifying details. The most noticable are the owl and theater mask. It is notable how many scholars attempt to wave away the meaning of the owl as a generic symbol of the night, or as a reference to the wisdom of Minerva, despite that not being an artistic association at the time. 

The mask tells us that we are in a world of deceptions, meaning that the associations of the figure aren't positive. Now, consider Michelangelo actually shows us. Look at the placement of the owl between Night's legs and the wrinkled skin on her belly. 

Michelangelo, Dawn, 1526-31, marble, 1526-31, 155 x 150 cm, from the tomb of Giuliano de' Medici, Sagrestia nuova, San Lorenzo in Florence.

It is true that Michelangelo wasn't great at sculpting females, but the personification of Dawn, in the same room and designed at the same time, shows how he conceived a young woman differently. Look at the differences in the skin on their stomachs. Night is a mother, and what she gives birth to are dark and deceptive phantasms.

Even if the skin doesn't convince, the placement of the owl is not accidental. Michelangelo was a meticulous designer, and Dawn isn't birthing anything. 

Francisco Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, 1799, etching, aquatint, drypoint and burin, 21.5 cm × 15 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The association of owls with the literally un-reasonable terrors of the dark lasts long past Michelangelo. Goya's print appeared during the Enlightenment and reframes the monstrous in terms of reason and sanity, rather than Christian ethics, but the connotations of the owl are the same.

Note how owls and bats predominate among the "monsters". For what it's worth, Goya often painted scenes of witchcraft and the occult, so the symbolism is familiar to him.

Two things worked to kill this respectable Renaissance occult: the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution.

Ettore Ferrari, Giordano Bruno, 1889, bronze, Campo de’ Fiori, Rome

The Reformation divided Europe into Catholic and Protestant Christians, putting much more of an emphasis on precision and purity in belief. When people are dying over points of doctrine, official tolerance of heterodoxy goes down, although this has little effect on hypocrisy. 

Bruno was a heterodox thinker with an odd blend of beliefs, including Hermetic occultism, who was burned at the stake for heresy. Something of a saint to idiot Postmodernists, his monument was funded by the Freemasons, and the artist was a member of that order.

Giuseppe Bertini, Galileo Showing the Doge of Venice how to use the Telescope, 1858, fresco, Villa Andrea Ponti, Varese, Italy

The Scientific Revolution attacked from the other side, redefining truth as what can be shown empirically. None of the older beliefs in things like alchemy, divination, astrology, manipulation of spirits, etc. could be empirically proven, so they were evicted from science as well. 

With empiricism and faith clearly defined, where does all the other occult "wisdom" go? 


From Darkness to Light, poster, New York: Hazen, 1908. The illustrations are based on Albert G. Mackey's Manual of the Lodge, New York: Macoy Publishing, 1862.

More modern occultists turn up in secret societies and other organizations, often hiding behind the organizations' reputable activities. Post-Enlightenment groups like the Masons downplay the supernatural for the powers of human "enllightenment", but their symbolism is full of old religious and Hermetic references. 

The question to ask is not whether all Masons are occultists, because they obviously aren't. The question to ask is why choose those symbols, with all their history, in the first place?

If we can proceed empirically and stick to what is at least credible given our limited information, it is apparent that some elites actually believe in supernatural powers, while others see the images and rituals more as signs of membership in circles of power. They all share the same goals - worldly power and influence - but have different attitudes towards what that means. As always, the latter group provides legitimacy and cover for the former, whether they know it or not. 

The plaque on the Bohemian Club in San Francisco and the huge owl altar at Bohemian Grove have fueled rumors surrounding this exclusive group of elites.

The motto on the plaque is usually explained as meaning members should leave their scheming and politicking outside - this is for pleasure. But a spider with an owl was probably a reference to Arachne, which comes back to Athena and the wisdom connection. But there is a threat here too. The owl is almost all-seeing eye watchful, and remember what happened to Arachne...

Walter Crane, She Changed her into a Spider, frontispiece to Mary Macgregor's The Story of Greece: Told to Boys and GirlsLondon: T.C. & E.C. Jack, date uncertain.

Arachne challenged Athena and was turned into a spider for her hubris. 

The thing about symbols as old and ambiguous as the owl is that they are impossible to pin down. Any claim can be answered with another interpretation. But symbols never mean one thing. They move through history gathering meanings which hang around like ornaments on a Christmas tree, and any knowledgeable user will be aware of that. The choice usually takes all this into consideration, because it it the cluster of meanings that refines and focuses the symbolism. A different sign of wisdom - a book or a lighthouse, for example, would bring different associations. 

So why chose this one?

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Trouble with Aristocrats: Progress, Aesthetics, and English Gardens

If you are new to the Band, please see this post for an introduction and overview of the point of this blog. Older posts are in the archive on the right.

Other links: The Band on GabThe Band on Oneway 

In the last post, we identified the hidden shift in the English Enlightenment that transformed an empirically-focused Scientific Revolution into the fake absolutism of Empiricism. This is important because it is the first real instance - remember that the Scientific Revolution was fairly recent - of an objective, reality-facing approach twisted into self-serving dogma by the vain and deceitful. Important enough to go revisit, now that some time for reflection has passed. 

Empiricism is a progressive journey into the unknown. Knowledge builds out through observation, theorizing, and refining, but the endpoint is not fixed. Progress is measured in accumulated knowledge, and while long-term goals emerge, there is always another horizon.

This stunning photo captures the pathlessness of the open horizon perfectly.

Still from MGM's The Wizard of Oz, 1939. 

Rationalist progress implies a theoretical endpoint, which is empirically impossible. So imaginary perfect castles lie at the end of golden roads of progress. Ignore the occult symbolism and be sure all the children watch.

Where does the magic path to fulfillment end? Like all such fictions, no where special, unless we see this as a junction to a different colored road...

And the wizard, that all-knowing symbol of human power? He turns out to be as legitimate as all the other peddlers of secular transcendence. 

So we wind up in this schizophrenic situation: empirical science is accepted as the self-evident grounds of objective truth AND as the basis for faith in a teleology of progress that is objectively irrational. The very openness to unknown possibilities needed for empirical thinkers to seek factual knowledge is kneecapped by false rationalist dogma. 

The Pilgrims Progress, subtitled Christians journey from the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City in the World that is to Come.Published July 1 1813 by J. Pitts No.14 Great St Andrew Street Seven Dials", hand-coloured etching, 37.8 x 48 cm, British Museum

Placing an endpoint, or telos, on an existential journey moves personal experience to the metaphysical level. It is literally religious in epistemology. The irony shouldn't be surprising to us. 

Francis Fukuyama aside, there is no end to history, because something always happens next. Happily ever after is a tidy wrap to a story, but in reality it is little more than a marketing slogan in a material world.

Just keep an eye on your kids.

A visual comparison makes this clearer. The fake ideals of rationalism inevitably end in human limitations. The open inquiry of empiricism is as endless as the world around it.

Then there are other moving parts to consider. When the Scientific Revolution established experimental empiricism as the basis for factual knowledge, what was once just philosophy split into two modern disciplines. Natural philosophy developed into a disconnected "science" that, in theory, progressively builds objective knowledge and "philosophy" which took up the non-verifiable aspects of knowledge. The problem was that truthful knowledge became synonymous with science - which is its own problem - leaving philosophy largely irrelevant to the broader society for the first time. Comically, philosophy as a discipline rejects its discursive reality, pretending instead that it can penetrate things that are "beyond" science through pure intellection or something. 

Unintended irony? Generally when books like this appear, the auspices are unfavorable. 

This outcome was probably inevitable given the history of philosophy itself. After the schism with science, the discipline became something fundamentally different from what it had been. Plato, Aristotle, and the other pre-modern greats combined natural and metaphysical philosophy because for them, philosophy sought a universal understanding of the nature of man, the universe, and his place in it - in other words, Being. We will capitalize Being to distinguish this sense of the word from the conventional gerund.

Bernard Picart, La Vérité recherchée par les philosophes, 1707, engraving, 10.3 x 15.4 cm, British Museum, London

In this scene, Philosophy points Descartes and other philosophers to Truth. Both "The Naked Truth" and the Ouroboros that Philosophy points with are Classical symbols of truth and knowledge, aka fake secular transcendence.  

If the goal of philosophy is to understand ultimate reality - the foundation of Being, the secrets of the universe, God, etc. - then the different branches reflect aspects of a greater whole. From this perspective, metaphysics is the most prestigious branch because it deals with the highest or deepest levels of existence. The pre-modern view of the physical and the metaphysical as directly connected makes it hard to distinguish science and philosophy as as we do today. 

Miguel Coibra, Yggsadril, the Tree of the Nine Worlds, 2007, Photoshop digital art

Jenna Fowler, Cosmology of Greek Mythology, digital art, 2015

The ancients tended to see the physical and metaphysical as part of a continuum. The Greek philosophers were no different.

Aristotle recognized that motivation in this system was causal, and punted on the question of origins by positing an transcendent Prime Mover that was beyond categorization but logically had to exist. This gave the ancient notion of metaphysical-physical unity a sense of "direction", which at least addressed the nature of time. Aristotelian causality made empiricism possible - there is no point in experimentation if things aren't causally connected - while recognizing that any chain of processes had to start somewhere. It is inherent in the directionality of time - you can have an open ended future, but there is always a starting point. The Prime Mover is simply an acknowledgement that we can't see past our own temporal constraints. 

Raphael, Prime Mover1509-11, fresco, 120 x 105 cm, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

Aristotle realized that any causal system has to start somewhere, but that metaphysical foundation is beyond our understanding. In Raphael's painting, this Prime or Unmoved Mover is shown as an allegorical figure turning the world. Modern astronomers can follow time and movement backwards to a starting - a variation on causal logic's demand for an origin - but are equally incapable of explaining what happened. At this point we have crossed into faith. 

Philosophical inquiry into the relations between humans, the world, and metaphysics makes terminology confusing. Heidegger is a rather dark stain on intellectual history, but his conceptualization of ontology as expressed temporally through human existence is a very clever framing. He coined the term Da-sein or "being there" to describe this subjective experience of transcendence, which is the best we can hope for as time-bound creatures. This would have been an excellent word to use, had it not been ruined by generations of pretentious philosophy students high on their first Heidegger lecture. 

As we've seen, Christian metaphysics were loosely compatible with both Platonic and Aristotelian thought, because the metaphysical questions could be answered on faith, while God's rational creation was logical and therefore empirically knowable on a material level. From this perspective, the subject of metaphysics is theological. 

Andrea da Firenze, The Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas1366-67, fresco, Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Aristotelian logic was the backbone of the Scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages. Aquinas, like Aristotle, failed in his effort to reason his way to transcendence,  but his reasoning was prodigeous, and embraced as doctrine by the Church.

The Segovia Master, St. Bonaventure with the Tree of Life, circa 1490, oil, gold leaf, and silver leaf on panel, Private collection

The Platonic connection between levels of reality is apparent in the natural theology of St. Bonaventure (1221-74), who, in his Mind's Road to God (click for a translation) argued that there was an echo of God's presence in the rational world he created, and that meditating on the beauty of creation could open the pathway to mystical states. 

In this picture, he uses the Tree of Life as a metaphor for this spiritual ascent through levels of spiritual reality. For a good breakdown of this picture, click here.

So philosophy, from its inception, tackled big questions like the nature of being and the meaning of life. Where did it all come from, where are we going, and what is the significance of it? 

How does that work in the materialistic universe of the Enlightenment?

Aristotle, who introduced the notion of universal causality, or directed motivation, in the universe actually used the term telos, which is the Greek cognate of teleology. A telos is the natural end or purpose of something - what Aristotle classified as the final cause - to which it's existence is directed. With organisms it is biology, but when extended to all reality, teleology becomes metaphysical. With Christianity God provides the telos in a materially purposeless world, but philosophy morphed into theology and found importance by attempting to work out the practical relationships between the darkling glass of scripture and human existence. 

Psalter World Map, 1265, British Library Add. MS 28681

Both the "Platonic" mystical theology of Bonaventure or the Aristotelian dialectical theology of Aquinas were based on the notion that God's creation was rational in that it it was knowable by measured rule. This passage from Corinthians is one oft-cited example of this: "But we will not boast of things beyond our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you" (2 Corinthians 10:13 KJV). 

In this medieval map, God oversees the world. The spiritual and the material are separate, but divine creation - an emanation in Platonic terms - connected the two metaphysically. 

The Scientific Revolution ultimately severed physics and metaphysics. Understanding the universe became a strictly empirical process, which is fine, until the Enlightenment turned it  into idolatry. This is where Deism shuffled onto the stage with the unacknowledged Aristotelian recognition that the world seems causal, so something must have started it. The divine watchmaker is fundamentally the same as the Prime Mover as an unknowable abstract starting point. For that matter, so is the Big Bang. All three limit knowledge to the rationally knowable and place more basic ontological truths in a deceptively simply named subcategory.

Auguste Rodin, The Thinkermodeled circa 1880, cast circa 1910, bronze, 70.2 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Historically, the Scientific Revolution is a one-two punch for philosophy. First it peels off empirical knowledge and establishes it as the basis of truth, which makes metaphysics go poof as a subject of serious secular inquiry. But without some sort of existential end or teleology, the process becomes recursive; endlessly bumping into human limits and reflecting back onto itself. Philosophy can't even come up with a workable, compelling morality. 

I think, therefore I think.


The lack of any meaningful connection to reality - either empirical or metaphysical - is probably why philosophers seem to spend so much time on language... 

If the Band seems harsh towards the academic discourse of philosophy, it is because these atheistic assholes used sophistry and appeals to authority to dismantle the stable ethical foundations of Christendom, and offered NOTHING to replace it. Well, other than empty platitudes about progress. A rough analogy would be to have a contractor promise he could improve your house, then steal all your stuff, burn the house down, then leave the country. Listening to these posturing midwits use the animated carcass of the "queen of the sciences" to dither over points of grammar or structural biases is a good metaphor for the state of the modern academy.

At least Magic Science Man can set us straight. Though his "philosophies" probably doesn't get you quite as far as being a life-long diversity puppet and shill for the globalist elite. 

But for a brief shining moment, philosophy had metaphysics all to itself. Remember the bait and switch, where the empirical successes of the scientific method become rationalistic "Empiricism"? This was an example of philosophy picking its old teleological line of inquiry and looking for the basic nature of Being, since that is what philosophers always did. Only they committed a massive epistemological category error in pretending that self-evident empirical progress could be converted into what was essentially a traditional motivated metaphysical telos.

Attractive 1828 edition of Scottish thinker Adam Smith's  Wealth of Nations, first published in 1776. 

Transforming empirical observations into imaginary laws is the hallmark of Enlightenment rationalism. Consider economics: Adam Smith observes that self-interest can align with the public good in the right circumstances, and is somehow this becomes the foundation for fundamental "laws" that generations dedicate their lives to, parse and quarrel over as if they were real to the granular level, then instantly forget when they inevitably fail. 

Perhaps the best example here is Smith's famous "Invisible Hand". This term appears once in the Wealth of Nations, with minimal explication, in reference to private interest becoming public good in a well-ordered system. This magically became the basis for various "classical" economic absurdities. And the proof for these metaphysical forces? Why the Philosopher's Name, of course. It must be true - Smith mentioned it in 1776!

The aim here isn't to crap on economics, although its track record of massive errors and obscene consequences have certainly earned a place in the pantheon of smug vanity with philosophy. It is just another example of the absolutist stupidity of pretending observed human tendencies can be expressed as simplistic universal "laws". 

The "social" sciences can only be science in the Baconian sense if you ignore human differences. Think it through: the Scientific Method is based on controlled, verifiable, repeatable observation, which implies the thing observed is the same each time. 

For example, If you are measuring the conductivity of a different metals, you need the gauge and quality of the metal and strength of the current to remain the same, so that material is isolated as the key variable. Obviously, as knowledge accumulates, increasingly complex experiments and analyses are needed, making it imperative that the early steps were done with precision. If conductivity is accurately nailed down, subsequent investigators can use that to push further. 

James Ensor, Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 18891888, oil on canvas, 253 cm × 431 cm, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The problem with the social sciences is that humans are behaviorally too different for that sort of precise reliability. There are plenty of human constants - basic genomic structure for example - but we are far too genetically, culturally, and personally divided to behave with the predictibility of copper atoms. Where are the "laws" of human behavior? At best, the social sciences are more like polls, where tendencies are observed, but the best this can give us are trends. In reality, even that is a stretch.

The pattern is clear. In each case the problem happens when the tendency is universalized. It is clear from looking around the world that entire populations don't pursue their economic self-interest. The objective diversity of humanity on the individual and cultural level precludes a simplistic formula determining behavior patterns. What may be insightful among eighteenth-century Englishmen is empirically false as a universal principle. Yet this is what rationalist "thinkers" attempt to make it over and over.

The bait and switch is even more destructive than it appears at first, because it establishes falsehood as belief. To be a rationalist, you have to pledge allegiance to things that simply logically untrue, like economic "laws" or logical certainty about atheism, solely on the basis of someone's written feelings on the topic. Cult leaders and totalitarians love this tactic as a form of collective submission to unreality. So do Postmodernists.

The endpoint in insisting that incoherent opinions were "Truth" is inane drivel like this emotional masturbation. None of these statements make sense. None are definable. Just feel-good blather as a panacea to facing reality. You would have to be literally stupid or psychologically damaged to try and "embrace" these non sequiturs as somehow meaningful, let alone "empowering".

Ironically, Postmodernism was positioned as the opposite to Enlightenment rationalism - the deconstruction of false certainty. But on a deeper structural level it simply repeated the same error of elevating the conditional to an absolute principle. In this case, the inherent uncertainty built into representation somehow became the ultimate essence of it. And somehow this metastized into a new fake teleology of progress called "social justice".

The underlying dishonesty is why when fake absolutisms always spiral into violence when they gain power. They're fake. They make no sense. Without coercion to compel people, they would soon be exposed and rejected by practical experience. 

On the socio-political level, the organic English culture that we looked at in a previous post suffers a similar transformation into allegiance to false ideals, with far-reaching consequences for the West. For the sake of clarity, we'll approach the Glorious Revolution on two levels: what appears to have happened historically, and the downstream implications for Postmodern globalism. 

What Happened: the Glorious Revolution

England's Enlightenment revolution happened a century before France's with far less bloodshed and social upheaval. There isn't space to delve into the backstory, but the short version is that Charles II's son and successor James II became unpopular to the point that a significant portion of the English elite (parliamentary and aristocratic) backed his successful overthrow by his younger relatives William and Mary. While this was far from bloodless, there was no major upheaval in the basic structure of governance - king and Parliament remained in place. 

Romijn de Hooghe, William III and his wife Mary Stuart were crowned as King and Queen of England... 11 April 1689 copper engraving, 49.5 x 57 cm, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague

What is notable is how the Revolution came about. William benefited greatly from the collusion of other foreign powers, Jewish bankers like Abraham Israel Suasso, and key allies within the aristocracy. This may have worked out well for England in the short term, but the reality is that this was an international power elite effecting regime change to serve their interests. Ask the Scots or Irish how glorious this was. 

Samuel Wale, The Bill of Rights Ratified at the Revolution by King William, and Queen Mary, Previous to their Coronation1783, engraving on paper, 30.1 × 21.5 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.

Of course power elites don't collude for free, and in exchange for support, William conceded ultimate authority to Parliament and signed the Bill of Rights, which altered English common law tradition with an absolutist legal code. In the teleological history of modernism, this is progress, since it represents a move towards democritization and universal human rights. 

The problem, as a moment of reflection should confirm, is that "universal human rights" extending beyond basic individual freedoms - the "right" TO something rather than freedom from something - are illogical. You can't enshrine a claim on something without impeding on someone else's right to the same. That's not philosophy, its arithmetic. Establishing "rights" on something as flimsy as human faith in man-made absolutes is unsound intellectually, and opens the door to authoritarian contortion and abuse. One need only consider how activist courts twist "rights" into whatever is politically expedient. 

Globalism requires nodes of control. Imposing arbitrary rationalistic structures on an organically responsive cultural system is how these points are first established. 

This map of Bilderberg influence is one of several excellent diagrams on this site detailing these control networks. The names are a few years old, but the structure is the same. When you think of how few people wield how much influence in a globalist system, it would be weird if there wasn't collusion and conspiracy. 

The more general issue is what the Glorious Revolution meant on a theoretical level. The order of succession was clear, and William had no real legal or traditional right to the throne. Obviously history is filled with thrones being usurped, but it is strange for a people so fixated on their "Englishness" to so blithely toss aside their blessed traditions for political expedience. 

Jan Wyck, The Battle of the Boyne, 1690, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 106.7 cm, National Army Museum, London

A big argument for William was religious; he would defend English Protestantism from "Rome". These arguments fall apart when the Irish were forcibly suppressed. 

There is a reason why "rationalizing" is generally a sign of argumentative weakness. It's a fig leaf for irrational desire. 

If you reduce it to its basics, support for William and Mary on the grounds of nationalism or patriotism means professing an allegiance to something - the traditional culture and institutions of England - while actively violating them in the name of feelings. It is literally institutionalized hypocrisy that over time transforms ingrained cultural heritage into self-evidently empty symbolism. This toxic corrosion is isn't quick or obvious, but one need only look at the elite assault on the culture of the West to see that it is inevitable.

Joseph Keppler, Welcome to AllPuck, April 28, 1880 

Grant E. Hamilton, Where the Blame LiesJudge Magazine, April 4, 1891  

Meaningless symbols, meaning those rooted in incoherent projected wish fulfillment and elitist greed have no visceral connection to the people that mouth them and are easily degraded or abandoned as "feelings" change. Here we see Uncle Sam, a fake proxy for Americans, used on opposite sides of the immigration debate. What does such a symbol even mean in this context?

The connection between artificially imposed symbolism and an internationalist/globalist elite will be very important as we move into Modernity, so it is worth introducing here. The history of Britannia is a crystal clear historical example of how a quasi-religious iconography of "civic nationalism" can create temporary faith in empirical untruths. 

Civic nationalism, or the pretense that primal national identities can be formed out by rallying disparate peoples around fictional totems, is based entirely on objectively false Enlightenment opining on human nature.

W. Charles May, Britannia, for the Armada Memorial, 1888, Plymouth

Many are familiar with the British allegory, but the figure has little to do with the culture and traditions of the English people beyond the name. 

Roman coin of 1 As denomination classified as RIC III Antoninus Pius 934, AD 154-55; inscriptions: Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P XVIII; Reverse BRITANNIA COS IIII S C

The word Britannia comes into the historical record as a Roman term for the newly conquered territory of England. It continued into the Middle Ages, and after the Anglo-Saxon migration, was used to describe the earlier Celtic inhabitants of the island. 

The helmet, costume, and spear-like object are very similar to the iconography of the Greco-Roman goddess Athena/Minerva, which explains why the more modern Britannia comes to look so much like this deity.

Attributed to Isaac Oliver or Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, The Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1600-1602, oil on canvas, 127 × 99.1 cm, Hatfield House

In Elizabethan times, Britannia was repurposed as a personification of England. This is consistent with Elizabeth's own strategy of using images to construct a royal identity of a powerful virginal queen, to countered pressure to marry and gave the public an inspiring, larger than life figure. Writers flattered the queen with allegories that combined classical and folkloric traditions in figures like Astrea.

The symbolism of this portrait - cloak with eyes and ears, armillary sphere of the heavens, serpent symbolizing wisdom, and rainbow with "no rainbow without the sun") - is like that in John Davies' poem Hymns to Astraea

It was James I who moved the Britannia figure to the foreground for reasons relating to his being a foreign king. It tapped into the association between English identity and a powerful female symbol without reference to the popular sovereign that James was trying to replace. But more importantly, James was attempting to impose a new "nation" on historically disparate peoples. Already king of Scotland, pushed to formally unite the two nations, and revive an ancient imperial label for his desired kingdom.

William Hole, title page to Michael Drayton's Poly-Olbion 1622, London: Humphrey Lownes, 1612

Anthony Mundey's The Triumphes of Re-vnited Britania was published in 1605 to celebrate the formal entrance of the Lord Mayor of London into the city. These sorts of performances were typical for ceremonial occasions in those days. The use of Britannia to symbolize a larger state of "Great Britain" rather than the national peoples of England and Scotland is typical of James' ideology. The unfortunately named Hole's title page for what is essentially "United Albion" is a visual version of this new symbolism.

William Hole, title-page to William Camden's Britannia, 2nd edition (London, George Bishop and John Norton, 1607), hand colored engraving, British Museum, London

Repetition is needed to make a new symbol stick. It is not a coincidence that the new king's policy towards a unified kingdom is accompanied by the sudden appearance of this "Britannia". The inclusion of sea deities on this map is an early sign of what will later become a standard association - Britannia rules the waves - in imperial times.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland, c.1632-4, oil on canvas, 762 x 549 cm, Royal Collection

Charles I had Rubens paint nine grand paintings for the Banqueting House ceiling celebrating the greatness of his father's rule. The scenes greatly outstrip the reality, but are a good window into Charles' ideological dream world. This painting shows personifications of England and Scotland crowning an infant symbolizing the newborn kingdom at James' command, but look above them. Britannia, looking a lot like Athena, floats overhead. Athena was a traditional symbol of wisdom, so the visual association between the two is an argument for the correctness of this policy.

The inversion, or memeing of symbols is also a clue to their meaning, since the rhetoric is only effective if the audience understands what the original was supposed to represent. During the English Civil War, Puritan propagandists flipped Britannia into something completely different: an secure England, free from foreign threats and kings. But it was after the Glorious Revolution that Britannia really became prominent, as the foreign monarch and his elite cronies constructed an iconography for the new state that they were making. But the restoration brought the return of the imperial, Britannia presiding over the installation of of William and Mary by the internationalist elites and their foreign allies.

Gérard de Lairesse, Britannia oppressa per Arausionensium Principem liberata et restaurata (Oppressed Britannia liberated and restored by the Prince of Orange), 1688, etching,  66.2 x 44.3 cm, British Museum, London

Britannia has attained a sort of quasi-divine status. It will be typical of Enlightenment imagery to depict their secular fictions with the religious iconography. In this case specifically, officially Protestant England removed Catholic visual rhetoric from the churches and applied it to the secular institutions of the state. 

To take this literally is to view an imperialist, internationalist fabrication with religious reverence

This is precisely how globalists work: they gin up hostility to traditions by propagandizing "injustice" then propose empowering themselves as the solution to the problem that they have defined. But the goal is to frame the change with consistent and familiar rhetorical symbolism so that the emotional investment in the old order transfers to the new. It is not fundamentally different from incorporating old customs into a new religion to facilitate conversion. Visual communication seems more "natural", and the repetition of familiar forms gives an pre-reflective impression of continuity even as the content changes. If the new content is fundamentally incoherent, all the better, since the consistent, traditional symbolic language is now tied to something self-evidently "problematic". 

Detail of a map of the British Empire published in 1886

Note the denatured classical iconography and fundamentally exploitative nature of imperial rule. 

When the new content collapses under its own internal contradictions, smug globalists can pin the failure on the entire tradition that the incoherent globalist fiction hijacked in the first place. This is essentially deconstruction - demonstrate the arbitrariness of an arbitrary creation and claim it actually means something - translated to the realm of national identity and global politics. 

The larger point is this. Traditions are social constructs that evolve organically over time rather than transcendent principles coming from somewhere else. This doesn't make them less real - developing communal bonds over time is human nature - it just means that they are not externally imposed. They matter because people accept them, value them, see the world through them, and are woven together socially by them. But you have to believe in them. If you can just flip the object of belief, there is nothing there, and culture becomes something to be directed as an instrument of control. This is really important. 

Why is control of the media so important to the globalist elites? How else can they shift and control the meaning of symbols? The site where this version came from is a good window into the anti-Western hostility of these invaders, and their ultimate incompatibility with any organic national culture. Yet we are lied to and told that opposing their aggression, vitriol and hatred is "racist". The "values" are meaningless, the idol a lie.

Of course, the problems around the monarchy, from James and Charles through to William and Mary just illustrate the idiocy of empowering foreign rulers. Regardless of executive competence, misunderstanding or hostility towards the native culture and/or willingness to collude with internationalist elites are always a threat. Stuart Catholicism and William's use value to parliamentarians and financiers were consequences of them not being English. The Stuarts brought foreign views that antagonized the population. William had no personal allegiance to the centuries of English culture that he signed away. There will always be a gulf between rulers and ruled, but when they don't even belong to the same nation, where are the common attitudes and values?

Beheading of the rebel lords on great tower hill, engraving, 40 x 30.3 cm, M. Cooper, London, 1746

The execution of Scottish "rebels" who fought for their legitimate king and were betrayed by lowland treachers with a taste for English boot leather. The savage suppression of Scottish culture that followed set a precedent for treatment of conquered peoples. Their independence movement would be one of the most morally black and white, if their plan wasn't based on whoring themselves to the EU.

The Aristocrats - unfortunately not a joke.

But it goes beyond the king. The English aristocracy, unlike the French, maintained their official titles and positions, essentially forming a parallel society to the commoners that they presided over. This group, with its complex social codes and rituals, distinct speech patterns, private spaces, restricted marriage, inherited privilege, and enormous wealth and power, had more in common with their continental peers that the average Englishman. In many ways, these were prototypes for our contemporary bicoastal elites, right down to the disdain for their own citizenry and fascination with foreign "sophistication." At the same time, many aristocrats were involved in the most debauched behavior, far beyond what they accused the boorish commoners of. This also resembles the global elites.

Joshua Reynolds, Elizabeth Gunning, Duchess of Hamilton and Argyll, circa 1760, oil on canvas, 238.8 x 147.3 cm, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven

James Gillray, A Voluptuary under the Horrors of Digestion, published by Hannah Humphrey, London, 1792

Classical refinement in the manner of Van Dyck and the ugly reality of an unaccountable disconnected ruling class.

The rigid class distinction in England meant that there were two separate cultures occupying the same space, with little meaningful in common. Because these were distinguished on the basis of wealth, power, and prestige, there was an implicit value hierarchy in their respective preferences. The rich, educated aristocrats saw their refined culture as inherently superior to the rude, unlearned folkways of the common people, a disdain for the popular shared with the European upper crusts.

Oh, now I remember...

Curious about globalist censorship in big tech/media? Image search this one and note the hits. 

The Kenyan paper where this came from actually states that "Somali Muslims" are offended that Omuslim's "traditional Somali" garb led to him being called a Muslim. How stupid do you have to be to be a non-elite globalist?

As was the case in the twentieth century, actual empirical progress generated increases in wealth and standards of living that gave fake historical teleological progress the illusion of validity. It is fair to say that the glory in the Glorious Revolution had less to do with Bills of Rights and Parliamentary supremacy than the material fruits of decades of Scientific Revolution. Of course the growing prosperity of this period seemed providential - England was on a steady rise to world domination - and it created the false impression that the social and political changes were equally teleological. We know this is impossible, but it played to human vanity and sowed the seeds for the crisis of the West. 

English Enlightenment and Architecture

At this point, let's see how this is expressed visually in the architecture of the English Enlightenment. Architects and their aristocratic patrons didn't have to propagandize openly, although there is plenty of that. But the things that they designed reflect the world view that they took for granted and turned it into actual environments. This is rhetorically powerful because the ideology is literally all around you. But first a quick note on historical method. 

Ludwig Gloss, A Scholar in his Studyoil on panel, eighteenth century, 18 x 26.5 cm, Private collection

Academic history starts narrow then draws general conclusions. This can't be avoided because the field is so broad that it is impossible to master everything. In theory, proceeding carefully from the specific into the unknown is empirical, since it is the path to building cumulatively. But in reality, Postmodern historians don't build methodically and globalists hate both tradition and the past, so absolutist rationalizations result.

Remember, Postmodern philosophy was built on a deconstructive epistemology that denied the possibility of truth in communication. For history, this meant that what most of you probably assume to be the point of the field - progressively building and refining our knowledge of the past - was impossible. Our sources are just more text, and therefore fundamentally meaningless in real world terms beyond scripting fake narratives. 

At this point, the Postmodernists were exposed. There is no way to believe source-based history is invalid AND continue to use historical facts to construct "alternative" histories without being either stupid and/or a liar. Both are continually in play. Any honest thinker who really believed that their raw material was useless would seek fulfillment somewhere else. 

The goal is to get rid of objectivity and empiricism as standards and replace them with something more self-serving. This is a bait and switch of the skinsuit variety, where a respected institution like history is hollowed out and filled with something monstrous, but expects the new identity to be given the respect earned by the original. People trust historians because they believe that the purpose of history is to be as accurate as possible and to correct and refine inaccuracies as new material appears. The assume that the material is as correct as possible, given what is known, and base their beliefs on it. The globalist left exploits this trust to make cultural poison seem credible. 

The Postmodern historian usually works from a theoretical "model" that they gleaned from limited selective reading. This is applied to an "analysis" of whatever subject consisting of cherry-picking details that "prove" the ideology.

If you already know the outcome, you are writing fiction, not any type of history as conventionally understood.

The Band's approach is the opposite of starting small - painting in broad strokes, then moving in to specific examples. There are problems with this method too. Big generalizations make some things seem more important than they were, and omit so much  that they are unreliable as much more than a rough guide. But it has become obvious that the Postmodern rot the Band set out to tackle is just one nail on the globalist claw, and a lot of our broadest assumptions about the world around us are "problematic" as the Postmodernists love to say. In this case, they would be right, because the problems are numerous and deep enough to need a basket term. Working broadly lets us operate on the historiographic level and trace the lies back to their roots. 

Speaking broadly, the eighteenth-century English aristocracy had a historically great gig. 

Burghley House, 1555-87, a so-called English prodigy house built by Sir William Cecil on land acquired by his father after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII (1536-41). As part of his taking over the Church of England, he appropriated the the huge land holdings that had been church property. Much of this was sold to aristocrats to fund Henry's foreign adventures. 

Vast land holdings, in some cases predating the Normans, had always been the source of aristocratic power. Henry's policies just expanded on this. 

Land provided an endless, inherited resource base that provided idle time to go with the income. The Glorious Revolution cemented their ancient status into the fabric of post-Revolution England, politically in the continuance of the House of Lords, and socially, in the class hierarchy. But this "new" England was a sign of rational teleological progress. So long as English technological and economic advancement led the world, the aristocracy could pretend to be part of what is self-evidently the natural order of things. Snobbery and entitlement came from double privilege - English AND noble.

Nathaniel Dance, A Conversation Piece in Rome: James Grant, Mr. Mytton, the Hon. Thomas Robinson, and Mr. Wynne, circa 1760, oil on canvas, 98.1 x 123.8 cm, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven

Snobbery met faux empiricism in the Grand Tour, a rite of passage where English aristocrats traveled Europe as detatched observers. This included a stylized education in classics and acquiring artworks for their palatial homes. The idea of studying abroad is a descendant of this.

The pattern of simultaneously looking down on less affluent foreign nobility while desperately aping their culture is a pattern that would be repeated by the tycoons of the American Gilded Age like Vanderbilt and Rockefeller. Even in the early eighteenth century successful commoners were aspiring to trappings of high culture, leading to endless mockery of the nouveau riche.

Canaletto, The Molo, Venice, from the Bacino di San Marcooil on canvas, 68.8 x 112.7 cm, Private collection
English nobles had been collecting continental art since Arundel and Charles I, but with the growth of the Grand Tour, it tool off. Painters like Canaletto made careers out of selling scenes like this to travelling aristocrats as high-end mementos.   

Lives of luxury did not make all the aristocrats debauched wastrels. Many parlayed their advantages into wealth and privilege that continues into the present. For those with serious interests or talents, the resources and free time enabled them to develop real expertise. This is the context in which Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753), fell in love with the architecture of Palladio over his five years of Grand Touring. 

The Earl of Burlington, Westminster School Dormitory, 1722-30, London

Though altered and restored from Burlington''s original, the simple Palladian classicism shines through. The nature of aristocratic culture prevented the Earl from managing a conventional practice, so he generally worked with a professional partner. In these relationships, it was Burlington who tended to be the primary creative mind, though his proteges went on to have important careers. 

The choice of Burlington's design for this project over a plan by Wren is often seen as a sign of the popularity of Palladio at this time.


Aristocrat-intellectuals also played an important role in the aesthetics of the early Enlightenment. Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) was an influential philosopher who promoted the notion of reasoned good taste as a path to propriety and virtue. Lord Shaftsbury had studied under Locke as a boy, but rejected his teacher's idea of the blank slate - that all ideas and values were learned cultural constructs. He argued that humans do have innate senses of beauty and morality because we naturally incline towards harmony. Education isn't so much the creation of the self, as Locke would have it, but a proper cultivation of this innate aesthetic moral sense. 

John Closterman, Maurice and Anthony Ashley-Cooperc. 1700, oil on canvas, 243 x 171 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London

Shaftsbury and his brother, who was a classical scholar. Not surprisingly, the innate beauty looked a lot like the Italianate flavor of the Grand Tour and the innate morality like the refined manners of the aristocracy. 

Shaftsbury isn't as radical an Empiricist as Locke and kept space for the superiority of traditional, or classical, aesthetic standards. But he commits the familiar error of assuming that English cultural preferences from that time can be turned into a universal. To be fair, it does seem that some universal aesthetic preferences have been observed, like symmetry, so Shaftsbury wasn't completely off. The problem is that a general idea - beautiful art can have a positive social and moral effect - doesn't justify the choice of a specific style. All he did was kick the question of first principles from the definition of "art" to the definition of "beauty". 

Palladio, Villa Saraceno, 1540's, Agugliaro

It's not too hard to see how Palladio's villas would appeal to an aristocratic champion of detached, reserved aesthetic classicism. 

Burlington's influence was enhanced by his commoner proteges and partners. The first was Colen Campbell, whose Virtruvius Brittanicus reawakened the theoretical tradition that had been asleep since Inigo Jones. William Kent was the Earl's most significant collaborator and went on to become the leading English architect of his day with a style built on Burlington's theoretical influence. Kent's commercial success brought the Palladian style mainstream. 

Holkham Hall was the ancestral home of the 1st Earl of Leicester, Thomas Coke, who probably crossed paths with Burlington and Kent on Grand Tour. The plainness of the facade is stands out, as do the Palladian windows at the ends.

Palladianism may have had little to do with England, but it makes much more sense when we recognize the cultural divide between the elites (both aristocrats and aspiring commoners) and the people. The aristocracy wasn't particularly "English" either, and the style did fit with their ideals of reasoned taste and the sophistication of a classical education.

After Godfrey Kneller, Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork; Lady Jane Boyle, circa 1700, oil on panel, 37.5 x 24.8 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London
Jonathan Richardson,  Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork, circa 1717-19, oil on canvas, 146.1 x 116.5 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London.
As he aged, he upgraded his headgear from powdered wig to velvet bag.

There is a parallel with our rootless cosmopolitan globalists with their shared customs and disdain for the cultures of the nations that they grow fat off of. Like Shaftsbury, they are convinced of the inherent superiority of their cultural preferences, although they are too Postmodern to use his moral language. See how they virtue signal while pursuing policies that are harmful to their countries. With apologies to Taleb, you can't have rulers that don't have skin in your game.

Modern elites also have their own separate cultural places and symbols. Take the Bohemian Grove as an example of the various private groups and societies that connect the powerful. Whether or not the occult rumors are far fetched is beyond the ability of the Band to say. But what is clear is that costumed rituals  are out of the ordinary for the average person.They play in a different park than the people whose lives they control. 

Rationalist Nature

Palladian architecture was suited to a virtue-signaling elite in the English Enlightenment aesthetically, but it is formulaic. It looks pretty much the same everywhere, which makes it appealing to rationalists. Kent, Burlington, and other English followers of Palladio were less strict about perfect symbolic proportions - the appearance of reasoned good taste is what was important - but there is nothing uniquely English about it. Where we can see the English Enlightenment expressed in is the design of gardens and parks, and here too, Burlington and Kent lead the way.

Kent was the primary designer of the gardens around Lord Burlington's Chiswick House, although Burlington and others contributed ideas. The lengthy association between the two can make it hard to sort out their individual contributions, and despite their class differences, the two shared very similar aesthetic ideologies. The actually met in Italy while on Grand Tour, and traveled back to England together for the final time, so it is likely that their Palladian dreams were settled on before they came home. 

The two complimented each other - Burlington was more theoretically-minded, but involved Kent in projects like The Designs of Inigo Jones Consisting of Plans and Elevations for Publick and Private Buildings... With some Additional Designs, first published in London in 1727. Kent prepared and edited the book and Burlington funded it and provided extra designs.

This hall, designed by Burlington and drawn by Kent is one of the additional designs. 

William Kent, The Apotheosis of St Julian, 1717, San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi, Rome

Kent brought more practical skills - prior to becoming an architect, he had had some success as a painter, as well as some commissions while in Rome. It was this side of Kent that proved most important for landscaping. 

Kent and Burlington's ideal garden was based on the classical landscape paintings that they saw on the Grand Tour. The work of Claude Lorraine and others created a dreamlike vision of the classical past that looked realistic, but was carefully arranged to be impossibly appealing and picturesque.

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1661, oil on canvas, 116 x 159.6 cm, Hermitage, St. Petersburg
The subject is Biblical but the setting is classical, with a bit of architecture on the left. The landscape is set out in a pleasing way with attractive placement of water, bridges, and plantings.

The garden at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire was designed over much of the eighteenth century. Kent took over in 1735, and while a lot of his work has been changed, his Temple of Ancient Virtue still looks like it did originally - a Claude painting come to life. 

The previous style of aristocratic garden had followed the model of Versailles, which was based on Renaissance Italian prototypes.

The garden at the Villa Lante in Bagnaia was completed by 1590 and is typical of a Renaissance garden. The diagram is included to show the strict geometric structure. This reflected the humanist belief that simple geometry represented a higher order of being by imposing a rigid structure on the plantings. This was interpreted Neoplatonically as the triumph of reason - man's intellectual aspect - over nature.

The garden is well-preserved, as the photo shows.


The Renaissance garden became a symbol of royal power in the hands of Louis XIV and his landscape architect  André Le Nôtre. Le Notre began work on the gardens at Versailles in 1661, and like the palace itself, his designs became the standard for the European aristocracy. The strict geometry remains, but the garden isn't bounded by a simple square or rectangle. Extending the rigid control to the horizon symbolizes Louis' control over the land. 

Hampton Court was a Tudor palace remodeled by Christopher Wren for Charles II. The palace and its grounds were inspired by Versailles, with landscape architecture provided by Le Nôtre's students.

Stowe is completely different

The English landscape was planned and controlled as well, but the intent was to appear natural, or more accurately, a beautified version of the natural. To return to Shaftsbury, this kind of environment had positive moral and psychic qualities, but Shaftsbury never gives a satisfactory account of beauty. Not that he can be blamed, as Kant was to show later in the century, but it meant that the basis of the design is subjective. See the incoherence? Beauty is credited with an absolute value - it is beneficial - but the term itself is undefined. The model for the English landscape were French and Italian paintings viewed by aristocrats on the Grand Tour, and while pleasant to look at, are more cultural artifacts than anything. 

Perfect nature combines faith in the aesthetics of good taste, a fixation on ancient culture, and a new sensitivity to the natural world (compared to the French garden) that fit the strange blend of rationalism, empiricism, and privilege of the English aristocracy.

The strategic placement of waterways, classical structures, and rustic bridges brought the world of Greek myth as seen my Claude to life. 

William Kent, The Temple of British Worthies, 1734, Stowe Gardens

The monuments were often symbolic. This one celebrated great contributors. To the best of the Band's knowledge, none of them received government money to attack the culture that created their cushy positions. 

So it all comes together - aristocratic culture, rationalistic idealism, Grand" Tour internationalism, wealth and land holdings - in a picturesque "English" countryside that was an English invention, but had no connection to English culture or history. But it looked good and the aristocrats made it stylish, so it became popular and successful landscape architects like Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton carried a version of it into the nineteenth century. The great American urban parks of Frederick Law Olmstead were inspired by similar principles, but they appeared in very different circumstances, and will be considered when we look more closely at early American Modernism. But consider this:

Alien elite, artificial culture, seemingly endless prosperity - where have we seen this? But what happened? For all their flaws, England was rolling in the eighteenth century. Why couldn't the elites continue siphoning off their estates while a rising economy papered over the problems with the system? The answer is also familiar to Western nations today: by abandoning their culture they began the process of not being England and embracing Empire...

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