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The Possibilities of Depopulation

The world is ripe for plague. The prospects for depopulation are fearfully real; the prospects for overpopulation are largely fictional.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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[Reprinted from The Myth of Over-Population]

The mind and faith of man clearly affects his body. Psychosomatic medicine has demonstrated much with respect to the individual. It is time to recognize the effect of mind and faith on the social group.

The first settlers from England faced major problems in North America. Those whose hearts turned homeward most, died first of all, a significant fact.

Consider also the evidence presented by Dr. Simeons: 

Psychosomatic ailments account for the bulk of urban man’s ill-health and are the most frequent causes of his death.

Once the principle that the psyche can cause serious bodily disorders had been clearly stated, it soon became necessary to include an ever-widening variety of diseases in this category. Today it is easier and certainly safer to say which diseases are not psychosomatic than to enumerate those which are: their number is growing too rapidly.

… Psychic factors may play a considerable role in permitting microorganisms to establish themselves in the human body and cause disease.

An example of this is asiatic cholera. Working in the midst of an epidemic outbreak of cholera one cannot help noticing the strange fact that the healthy adolescent, the busy mother and the wage-earning father are more often stricken than the very young children and the old and decrepit. Cholera is caused by swallowing a microbe called a vibrio and it is known that the cholera vibrio is highly sensitive to acids. The acid that is always present in the normal human stomach is sufficiently strong to kill the cholera vibrio almost instantly. How then does the vibrio overcome this acid barrier which separates it from the small intestines where, in the alkaline contents, it can thrive and start its murderous activity?

The answer seems to be that it cannot. Only if the normal flow of acid in the stomach is shut off is the vibrio able to reach its destination. Now the one big thing that stops the flow of acid in the stomach is fear and panic. So it may come about that those most terrified of death are just the ones the cholera kills, while those too young to understand the danger and those to whom life seems hardly worth living and who fatalistically tend the sick and dying around them, may survive unscathed, because the secretions of their gastric juice is not emotionally inhibited. Fear might thus play an important role in the selection of victims and in this sense it would not be incorrect to say that even in cholera psychosomatic mechanisms can be of importance. Similar factors may be involved in the sudden onset of some cases of bacillary dysentery or in typhoid fever but not in plague, where the bacillus is injected straight into the blood by the bite of a rat-flea.1

Note the fact that, as with the plague, cholera affects the healthy most of all, and the young and aged least. Contrary to Simeons there are scholars who trace the incidence of plague to a change in the nature of man, i.e., a change in man’s conception of his nature, a change of faith.

Dr. J. H. van den Berg of the University of Leyden in his work The Human Body, as yet not translated into English, develops this thesis. Dr. van den Berg correlates each incidence of plague with a radical development in human thought which shatters man’s previous conception of himself and the world. His choice of emphasis concerning the crisis of faith can be argued. His conclusions are more difficult to challenge.

When a plague disappears, according to van den Berg, various reasons are cited. First, it can be held that man has now an immunity to the bacillus. But such immunity does not exist. Second, it can be argued that better hygiene has eliminated the plague or plagues. But there is no evidence of any correlation between hygiene and the retreat of the plague. Thus, while it can be said that, after 1840, the plague retreated from Turkey and Egypt, where better hygiene came into existence, the fact remains that it retreated also from Persia after 1840, without any change in sanitary conditions.

Third, it is sometimes held that the plague has lost its virulence, but again the evidence is to the contrary. Local epidemics after 1680 were equally severe as the preceding ones.

Fourth, it is held that the black rat, which lives closer to people, and thus communicates its fleas more readily to people, was pushed aside by the brown rat, which lives in sewers and not as closely to people, thus removing much danger of contagion. But the plague disappeared from London after 1666, and the brown rat did not triumph over the black rat until 1725.

Fifth, the Great Fire in London is credited with destroying the area of infection, but the parishes of London most severely stricken by the plague were not burned, so that cleansing by fire is not a valid argument.

Thus, van den Berg states, there has been no acceptable explanation until now for the disappearance of the plague from Europe. From 1348 to 1680, the plague was epidemic in Europe. Before 1348 and after 1680, the plague was local and brief-lived in Europe. Why the relative immunity before 1348 and after 1680?

According to van den Berg, there will never be found a reasonable explanation without resort to causes of a “metabletic” nature as well as to natural causes. A change in man’s conception of himself, of his inner world, produces a new relationship to the world, and a loss of older certainties and immunities. Plagues are thus not matters of rats or rat-fleas, but a human matter. The plague occurs, not because of rats or fleas, not because of man’s environment, but because man changes, and therefore the world changes for him. The changing outlook of man thus is important to a history of man’s susceptibility to plague.2

The pertinent question now is this: Are we at the end of an intellectual era, and thus ripe for plague?

We are clearly in the last stages of humanism and its decay, in the last days of Enlightenment culture. As clearly as in the last days of Rome, or in 1348, we are at the end of an age. The radical disillusionment with humanism by the humanists themselves is already apparent. Sigmund Freud, a humanist, himself contributed greatly to the collapse of humanistic faith.3

Cultural dropouts are again, as in the past, a telling index to collapse. The beatniks, the hippies, the student revolts, and the Negro revolutionaries are all cultural dropouts. They hate and seek to destroy their humanistic sponsors and creators because they regard the world of humanism as a fraud. They themselves are humanists, but humanists in decay, dropouts whose only faith is in destruction.

The world is ripe for plague. The prospects for depopulation are fearfully real; the prospects for overpopulation are largely fictional.

Those most involved will perish first. Those who are most involved include both those who love and those who hate this humanistic culture and have nothing else. The sterility of hate, the futility of destruction, will involve the dropouts in self-destruction.

And those who, like Lot’s wife, love the perishing world and turn back to it because they cannot live without it, they too shall perish.

The dropouts and the drop-ins have no future. Martin Luther moved freely and boldly among the plague-stricken: he was too concerned with shaping the future under God to succumb. His favorite Psalm expressed his faith: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD” (Ps. 118:17). The future belongs to Christian reconstruction.

1. A. T. W. Simeons, M.D., Man’s Presumptuous Brain (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1962), 1–2.

2. This writer is indebted to Miss Annette Holbhof of Gronigen, Holland, for a summary of van den Berg’s thesis. J. H. van den Berg is familiar to English readers for his brilliant work The Changing Nature of Man, Introduction to Historical Psychology (New York: Dell, 1964), which is relevant to the above thesis as a study of “metabletics.”

3. See R. J. Rushdoony, Freud (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, [1965] 2006).

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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