The question of conspiracies is often discussed and seldom understood. Usually, the term "conspiracy" is reserved for the hated opposition. Communists refuse to regard their movement as a conspiracy because they believe in its historical inevitability; only the enemies of the proletariat are conspirators. Similarly, in the 1880s, the bomb-throwing anarchists of the day actually held that "Anarchy is the negation of force"; their reasoning was that capitalism was using violence (the police power) to block the historically inevitable death of the state, so that anarchist action was simply an attempt to nullify force. Again, South American military regimes hold that they seized power to block radical conspiracies: they themselves were not conspirators but patriots. While one of the dictionary definitions of conspiracy is that it is a "combination of men for an evil purpose," another meaning is a "combination of men for a single end." Conspiracies thus are more than enemy action: they are any and all plans to gain a particular goal through more or less covert action.
The important question to ask is this: What makes a conspiracy work? Let us suppose that a number of us conspired together to turn the United States into a monarchy, and ourselves into its nobility; let us further suppose that we could command millions from our own circle to achieve this goal. Or, let us suppose that, with equal numbers and money we conspired to enforce Hindu vegetarianism on the country. In either case, we would have then, not a conspiracy, but a joke. A successful conspiracy is one which is so in tune with the faith and aspirations of its day that it offers to men the fulfillment of the ideals of the age. It is an illusion to believe that dangerous or successful conspiracies represent no more than a small, hidden circle of diabolical men who manipulate the world into ruin. Such groups often exist, but they only exist and succeed because their plan and hope is closely tied to the public dream and the faith of the age. If the threat were only from small circles of hidden men, then our problem would be easy. Then, as Burton Blumert has observed, "if we only unmasked the conspiracy, all our problems would be solved, but if the trouble is in all of us, then we really are in trouble."
He is right: we really are in trouble. The Enlightenment dream, as Louis I. Bredvold pointed out in The Brave New World of the Enlightenment, has five basic tenets in its faith: 1) there is a rejection of the past and of history; man makes himself and his world, and the past is a hindrance; 2) there is a rejection of institutions and "customs," in particular, Christian institutions and standards; 3) evil is not in man but in his environment; 4) "by changing human institutions human nature itself will be born again"; and 5) those who should manage human affairs are the scientific planners, the educators, and the statesmen. These are the men who best represent the will of man in terms of man's potential and future.
Man today believes this with all his heart. All over the world, the reigning faith is in this democratic, humanistic faith in the scientifically guided order. The communists affirm democracy and the ballot box; they hold elections even though there is no choice on the ballot. Men who have started private or Christian schools all too often subscribe to democracy to the point that they insist on giving teachers and parents a voice in a school which represents only their funds and planning; the result is democratic chaos or failure.
The myths of the Enlightenment infect all of us. In church, state, school, press, in every area, the myths are held with earnest faith and zealous endeavor. The conservative in most cases simply holds to an earlier version of the myth.
Recently, I heard a number of conservative candidates for a city school board speak and almost all simply repeated the basic humanistic faith. Within the first few minutes, I jotted down these sentences: "The proper education can cure all our ills." "The right to vote is the most precious right man has won." "We need representation from every ethnic group in order to be just." "You can do without everything else in the world, but you can't do without an education." And so on.
If tomorrow the secrecy were stripped from all conspiracies, and their goals revealed, most people would merely say, "Well, isn't that what we all believe?" and go on with their daily lives.
A conspiracy has power to the degree that it speaks to the prevailing beliefs and hopes of the day. And our age, as a humanistic one, dedicated to "man's fulfillment" in a humanistic sense, is ripe for every conspiracy which promises to deliver on those dreams. Man believes that he can make a new start, create a paradise on earth, without God and without regeneration. We have for some time been in process of revolution against Christianity, and we have been moving towards this "Great Community" of Man. Our establishment, political and educational, represents the older phase of the revolution, and youth is in part in rebellion against the older phase of the revolution in favor of a faster fulfillment of the dream. The more radical the conspiracy, the greater its appeal, because it is then all the closer to the dream.
The basic myths of the day are so much a part of the age that most conservatives simply want to return to an earlier phase of humanism; they believe in statist schools, in the priority of politics to religion, economics, the family, and all things else.
But, meanwhile, some people are losing faith in the dream: they are dropping out. They are dropping out, because the humanistic dream has failed them. No new faith has taken its place. As a result, their attitude is one of total negation. They hate the dreamers of the dream, the men who make promises, and they hate the society and social order which surrounds them. As drop-outs, whose faith is negation, their only action is to destroy, to burn, loot, kill, and bring down the old order.
There is thus a double revolution and conspiracy at work today. First, there is the humanistic revolution against the whole world of Christian order; this revolution is well entrenched and nearly successful. Second, there is the revolt against the new humanistic establishment by its own sons, who are bent on destroying everything in sight. This is a revolt within the revolution and against the revolution, and it is present in the Marxist states as well as in the West.
Thus, we are in trouble. As Arnold Rosin observed, in The Age of Crisis (1962), "Only dreamers believe there is a peaceful way out." Communism is dedicated to the total destruction of Christian order and the conquest of the Western and Eastern non-Marxist states. The democracies are steadily moving into dictatorships. The student generation is disillusioned with the whole of the present era and is readily led into hostile and destructive action. And the economic crisis is steadily pushing the world towards a total monetary collapse.
Our crisis goes deeper than a circle of conspirators. The conspirators themselves are creations of our faith, called in part into being by our own apostasy. When men forsake God's law-order, they must inescapably resort to a man-made order, and this is what men have done. The answer is not simply to unmask the conspirators but to unmask ourselves, to know that we are sinners in rebellion against God and his law-order. Ours is a total problem, a religious problem. It cannot be solved on any other level.
It is thus distressing to see a man who denounces Marx turn then to Emerson and write glowingly of him: he has not gone far from Marx! After all, before Marx, Emerson had renounced Christianity: he was a high-level leader of the Secret Six conspiracy which worked to bring about the Civil War and financed John Brown. Members of the Secret Six helped Horace Mann bring in the state school system. One of Emerson's closest associates and a top Six leader, Thomas Wentworth Higginston, founded the L. I. D. and the Intercollegiate Society of Socialists. The distance between Marx, Comer, Emerson, Stalin, Whitman, Hitler, F. D. Roosevelt, John Dewey and others is a short one: they were all humanists who offered variations of a humanistic dream.
Their dreams and their world are under God's judgment and shall perish. If we are not to perish with them, we must move in terms of another order and rebuild in terms of it. The duties are ours; the results are in God's hands.