From Rushdoony’s The One and the Many (footnotes deleted)
The basic and essential reality, then, is the temporal world. Machiavelli was formally respectful towards the church but personally contemptuous. He was not formally an atheist because he was too indifferent to God for such a stance.
And such is the difference between the Renaissance world and today’s world: a casual indifference and contempt has grown into an unfiltered hate and malice.
But then again, Western society isn’t particularly to be feared or respected. It grows old, and sick, and feeble, and delusional.
The basic reality of Machiavelli’s temporal world is not God but power.
This has been obvious in the West for quite some time.
Sovereignty and power are inescapable realities of any system of thought. If they are denied to God, they are not thereby eliminated. Like all the attributes of God, sovereignty and power, when denied to God, are simply transferred to the human order because they are inescapable aspects of reality.
Men will worship something. In today’s world, that is the State and the People – as properly interpreted by the judicial priesthood, naturally.
Whether formally or informally, some aspect of the human order is divinized. For Machiavelli, then, human power and sovereignty are the realities which must govern man. The human problem is the conflict of diversity, the disunity of states in Italy, the conflict of men struggling for power. This is Machiavelli’s “many.” The source of unity is thus power, power concentrated in able hands, and the mechanics of power are necessary knowledge if unity is to be gained.
Remember the days of the old European empires? When the New World Order had a real chance of getting its crown, and unifying/crushing the world under its boots?
Machiavelli saw two ideas in conflict: “the way men live and the way they ought to live.” But, “A man who always and everywhere would act according to a perfect standard of goodness must, among so many who are not good, eventually be undone.”The reality is “the way men live,” in terms of evil, but men like the façade of the good.
Not a thought that evil just might be the way to failure, to poverty, to ignorance, to sterility.
Machiavelli did not call evil good…
…which puts his morality light-years ahead of the Modern West, by the way…
…but he did not struggle against evil; he merely recognized and used it as the basic fact about man and as an essential ingredient of power. The three basic aspects of life are necessita, virtu, and fortuna, and power involves a recognition and combination of all three.
It’s all about the power!
Since evil rather than good is the “truth” about life, the basic hypocrisy of Renaissance man was to claim power by ascribing more evil to himself than he possessed. A vast realm of boasting concerning the ability to lie, fantasies of sexual prowess in adulterous relations, murders committed, and, so on, developed among Renaissance men.
Unlike today, where the bloodless bureaucrats who rule us today can’t be bothered with the drama. “Just get the abortion done already – I’m already late for my golf meet-up!”
But at the end of the day, pragmatic, bloodless evil is as dead and increasingly irrelevant as the loud and passionate form.
Basically, however, Machiavelli’s position was one of honest and forthright pragmatism, and his pragmatism was less pretentious and more consistent than the formal pragmatism of John Dewey, and without Dewey’s pious cant.
There is evil, and there is insipid, drooling evil.
Machiavelli did not clothe his goal with the moralism of “the Great Society.”
The man may be contemptuous of the Church and indifferent to God, but he had the wisdom to not insult the intelligence of his readers.
He wanted a successful and working order for Italy, and wished the same for any state, without any pretensions of paradise or of morality.
The one thus had become fully immanent, and all power revolved around the one, the power state. Power in the state had no transcendental critique, no God in judgment over it. Its only test was historical and pragmatic: did it succeed?
Hmmm… as the West grew more pragmatic and openly worshipful of power, it grew more pathetic, weaker, sterile, and impoverished. Hmmm…
And power thus was power only if it maintained itself to its own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the subjects of the state. Since a truly wise power in the state controlled, by the judicious use of forms and of controls, the opinions of the people, power was thus truly power when, with the uses of terror, religion, good, evil, and all things else, it maintained itself successfully. This, then, was a philosophy for the power state and a political philosophy for the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.