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Philosophy and Religion during the Third Empire, 650 - 750


The precursor of Third Empire philosophy was Sunon Geledin (589-655). He began writing at the same time as Saiphoyon was completing the last of his works – in the 620s -, but his philosophy is a world away from his fellow writer. Saiphoyon is often regarded as the last and greatest of the Second Empire Romantic philosophers, the one who summed up and transcended all the metaphysical speculation of the previous hundred years concerning the Self, its interaction with the world, the transcendent realm, and the ideals of morality and beauty. He had a positive world-view which contrasted with the scepticism and extreme materialism or solipsism of the maIn schools of philosophy of the times. Most of this Geledin was to ignore. He stated baldly that further exploration of the self, and its possible relationship with a transcendental world was pointless and unverifiable. Reason and self-analysis have their limits. He did not doubt that the subjective realm was real and did exist: but in such areas, we need to rely at least as much on faith as introspection. And here Geledin pointed the way to State Theism providing all the answers, which mankind should require in this area. (He himself converted to State Theism in 638).

Geledin saw his life’s work to be the exploration of how we should live in society. That is to say, he wanted to restore an objective view to philosophy. He claimed that morality consisted in defining and perfecting man’s role in the community, and his attitude towards his fellow human beings. "Goodness" is a communitarian virtue, and is in fact altruism. Both the individual and society will be improved by personal virtue. Thus we see that Geledin represents a swing back to that fascination in man’s role in society, which was so much a recurring feature of Atlantean thought. It was the linchpin of Second Empire Classical philosophy, it returned in a different guise in the Fifth Empire, after the 820s, and now it was to dominate much of Third Empire thought.

However, Geledin was also very concerned to stress the importance of the individual, quite apart from his relationship with his fellows. Geledin trusted that the priests of State Theism would minister to the needs of the person, reassuring him about his intrinsic worth, his importance in the eyes of God, and his survival after death. By the 640s and 650s, in fact, Geledin was laying great stress on this personal philosophy, because he was concerned and upset by Ruthopheax’s authoritarianism, and seemingly ruthless treatment of so many people who stood in his path to power. In fact Geledin’s successors took up both these aspects of his philosophy, but it has to be said that the writings about the sanctity of the individual had to be expressed in the most generalised or low-key ways over the next few decades, for fear of attracting the wrath of the rulers of the Empire


Free philosophical speculation was virtually impossible for most of the period of the Third Empire, as the State and the State Religion claimed a monopoly between them of all knowledge. Thus religious belief had been laid down once and for all in the tenets of State Theism, and no speculation, outside a very narrow range, was allowed at all. Indeed all religious and metaphysical writings had to be given the approval of the Church, before publication would be permitted. Similarly, all works about politics and the State had to be initially shown to the governing authorities. As with the arts at the same time, this led philosophers to restrict their writings, at least before 710, to narrow and non-controversial areas – in this, Geledin had led the way. Of more importance, as far as future developments were concerned, was the work of Gestanu, 642 – 713, who speculated secretly on how Theism could exist without the heavy hand of the State apparatus, and also more widely on the significance of evil, the role and actions of God, and life after death. In the 750s and after, these writings would have an important influence on Theism of that time, as it adjusted to the new era, and also on religious thinkers, who sought to combat the prevailing materialism. Slerakh himself, the outstanding philosopher of the late 700s and early 800s, freely admitted Gestanu’s influence on his own ideas.

The mystical movement in the first half of this period chimed in with the mood of quietism and the avoidance of wide-ranging speculation which might upset the government and the priesthood. It based itself on the feelings we should all possess for wonderment at the created world and our place in it: and this led naturally to our wish to praise and thank the Creator. This feeling of wonder and awe would also be taken up and developed in the time of Slerakh. After the 690s, some thinkers, again following the lead of Gestanu, began to speculate more widely on the afterlife, and on the concepts of heaven and hell, as laid down by the State Theist leaders. This was regarded mush less favourably by the authorities, and many of these writings, including Gestanu's, were not published openly until the 720s, or, in some cases, until the 750s.


True philosophy was also divided throughout this time into public and private practitioners. In public, philosophers, rather like artists at this time, had to limit themselves to non-controversial areas of thought; wider-ranging speculation could only be carried out in secret, and circulated amongst friends in manuscript form. There is a close parallel with the situation in the Soviet Union in our time, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. If a writer were identified with any manuscripts, which in any way implied criticism of the regime or its values, he or she would be arrested, certainly imprisoned, and quite likely tortured or even executed.

In public, the most notable philosophical movement was based on "Andourso", the Second Empire philosophy of apartness, or attaining inner harmony by maintaining a balance between life’s conflicting demands and pressures. Several philosophers between 640 and 690 developed and expanded this train of thought, which, implying by its very nature a non-involvement with social or political movements, was not likely to attract the disapproval of the regime in power. The most widely-known thinker was Geulven, a Helvran, who christened his version of "andourso" as "Genandourso" or "Neo-apartness". He also invented the idea of "Tec", which was an old Atlantean word for "life" (related to the element "-tecc" in the Atlantean days of the week, with the original Juralic meaning of "day"). In its philosophical context, it is nearly untranslatable, but is closely parallel to the Chinese "tao" or Buddhist "Way". Geulven intended it to mean the sort of life, or way through life, that a person led, whose life was lived according to the tenets of Genandourso. This was similar to Andourso, but involved a faith in the power of prayer and meditation and the goodness of God (which could be assumed to the God of State Theism), a greater withdrawal from everyday life in favour of contemplation and reflection on the "well lived life" and the maintenance of personal serenity.

Other philosophers studied ethics in minute and painful detail: how we should behave, especially towards other people, what are right and wrong, and how we should recognise them, and more generally, what is a true moral code. Not surprisingly, in the light of the repressive regime of the Squires, most of these writers came out in favour of the need for an authoritarianism, which would impose a moral code of behaviour on its citizens. Most automatically approved of the values of State Theism. This implied that obedience to morality was only common sense, as it would be the good and the just who would go to heaven after death, while the evil would be consigned to hell. Only a very few professed any doubts – they also claimed that whatever our personal beliefs in God, we must act as if there is a Final Principle, which will embody a Moral Absolute. Above all, they stressed that the importance of duty and loyalty, to our worldly overlords, of course, but also to the Moral Code. We must obey this, at all costs, at whatever expense to ourselves, our emotions and our personal relationships. If we deny this absolute Code, we shall be forced to admit moral relativism, that is, the creed that there is no ultimate value-system, and all beliefs in right and wrong depend on the relative values of society.

However, their very explorations of real-life moral and ethical conundrums, in full detail, led some to realise the problems of practically applying an absolutist, religious-based moral code to everyday affairs. This in itself tended to point these philosophers towards pragmatism, relativism, and an interest in human psychology, even despite their own beliefs. There were also some secret writings, before 700 or so, in which different opinions were expressed. These admitted that there is no definite evidence for God, or an absolute basis for religion and a Moral Code. We should, however, be agnostic, rather than atheist, and above all, uphold the sanctity of human dignity and life. This last point was aimed at the regime of the Squires, which seemed to value only the life and happiness of the upper Classes, and readily executed or tortured anybody else, who stepped out of line. This hatred of arbitrary torture and murder, and the demeaning of human life, strongly influenced writers and politicians of the Fourth Empire, after 750.


Around about 700 to 720, one of those sea-changes, which overtook Atlantean civilisation from time to time, worked its way through the artistic, scientific and philosophical climate of the Third Empire. Similar events had happened around 350-370, with the success of Second Empire liberalism and agnosticism; in 480-500, with the advent of artistic Romanticism, anti-authoritarianism, and, ultimately a religious revival; and in 620-650, when Ruthopheax and the Imperialists imposed themselves and their way of life on the whole Empire. This time, the change was from absolutism, authoritarianism, religious orthodoxy, and a predominantly agrarian, anti-urban society, to a belief in relativism, democracy, materialism and urban industrialisation and technology. These changes took place in all the arts and sciences, albeit, until 750, under the same authoritarian regime of the Squires. But while it maintained its political and (largely) social control intact, the ground beneath it was shifting; more and more of the general population ceased to believe its values, although still paying lip-service to its political authority. Gradually the regime itself changed, and the later Emperors were forced to admit some social changes and encourage reforms and the beginning of industrialisation. However, they maintained until the end their social, political and religious beliefs, in the teeth of increasing opposition.

The most obvious changes, which we have already noted above, were in the realm of technical and industrial innovation. These were at first for the benefit of the military, and led to the earliest factories, and the setting up of the Secret Industrial Centres. Steam-power was increasingly harnessed, and the old hatred of all innovation began to die away. Meanwhile, a belief in a true scientific method of investigating nature, as we should understand it, had begun in the 680s and 690s. Chemical and biological research and experiments began, without any objections by the government, and after 710, these were developed into the basis for technological inventions. Against this background, other novelties appeared. The study of nature and animals led to the first accounts of a theory of natural evolution, and the investigation of human societies and languages resulted in theories of the historical development of cultures and languages. These were seen to vary from people to people, and could only be examined from a relativistic point of view. In other words, the claims of State Theism, for example, as the one and only true religion were undermined, although of course, this could not be spelt out in so many words. Similarly, the growing importance of industrial and urban workers, and the obvious inequalities and cruelties of the Third Empire social set-up persuaded many to support an ideal of democracy. Such ideas circulated underground until the 740s, when they burst to the surface at the end of the Great War, and led to the rebellions against the Squires. The written arts, too, metamorphosed, moving from minute formalised social realism, to psychological studies in the form of the novel, to "no-holds-barred" psychological and sexual naturalism by the 750s.

Philosophers led the way in many of these areas. They questioned the role of the State, as it was set up at the time, advocating a much more democratic ideal. They copied science, by recommending the adoption of scientific methods for philosophical or religious investigations. Many showed more interest in psychology, what went on inside the human brain, and the reasons why we act as we do, than in grand metaphysical constructions, or detailed considerations as to human behaviour in fixed social spheres. This led them to preach the reality of a relativistic moral code. The philosopher Yeston, 697 – 748 wrote that man and his behaviour was wholly determined by his society (this idea led to determinism, advocated after 750 by Mestos, and the most common philosophical tendency of the early Fourth Empire). But Yeston was more interested in drawing the conclusion that this fact led to the importance of a fair and equal society, indeed of the democratic ideal. He was persecuted for these opinions, arrested in 747, and finally killed in 748 in a small-scale political rebellion following his release from arrest. Religious thinkers moved away from the ideals of State Theism at this time, and many became increasingly interested in the beliefs of the Naturists. All in all, philosophers and religious thinkers alike were preparing the ground before 750 for the decisive changes in the ways of life – mental and environmental -, which would burst in on the Empire as soon as the repressive government of the Third Empire had been overthrown.

To read the next part of this history, click on Atlantean philosophy- 750 - 828

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