How did William Pierce’s religion, Cosmotheism, begin? How did it develop? Robert Griffin asked Dr. Pierce these and other questions, and here are the answers.
an excerpt from The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds by Robert S. Griffin
DR. PIERCE TOLD ME that during the early 1970s he formulated a race-based religious orientation to provide the spiritual basis for the direction he was taking with the National Alliance. He needed a name for what he had put together, he said, and he came up with Cosmotheism. He’s not sure whether he ran across the term in an encyclopedia or made it up. One day when I was in his office with him in West Virginia, I asked him to help me understand what Cosmotheism was about. He rose from his desk and went to a file drawer and pulled out some pamphlets, sorted through them a bit, and then handed three of them to me. “You can look these over. I wrote them on Cosmotheism back in the late 1970s. They are going to sound a little naive, but here they are.”
I spent a minute or two looking them over. The three pamphlets were each about twenty pages in length and had the Life Rune prominently displayed on their covers. The pamphlets inform the reader that the Life Rune, or Rune of Life, is the insignia worn by the members of the Cosmotheist Community on their jacket lapels or blouses. Of course, it is also the symbol of the National Alliance. The Life Rune is one of the characters in an ancient alphabet of northern Europe and represents the processes of birth and renewal. The Cosmotheist literature says that it signifies “the upward Path of Life which we strive to follow.”1
As I was paging through the pamphlets, I noted that they were written in stilted, bible-like prose.
One of the them, entitled The Path, was printed in 1977.
The second, On Living Things, was printed in 1979.
The third, On Society, was printed in 1984.
They were produced by the Cosmotheist Organization, not the National Alliance. I asked Pierce about this Cosmotheist Organization.
“The National Alliance came first.” Pierce replied. “We had meetings every Sunday evening at our offices in Washington. Members of the Alliance were invited to bring other people, and a variety of people showed up. In fact, too big a variety—but I’ll get into that. One of the more interesting people who came, I remember, was John Gant. Gant had degrees in both medicine and physics, and he was a professor at George Washington University. He did medical research and was a consultant to the Air Force. He was also an amateur astronomer—as matter of fact, there is a crater on the moon named after him. He died about fifteen years ago, and I inherited some astronomical instruments from him. So I had people like that coming to the Sunday night meetings.
“On those Sunday nights, I’d show movies that I got from the local library. They were from a series called Civilization hosted by an Englishman named Kenneth Clark. I think the series may have played on PBS. [It did.] Clark was a fairly subtle man. While he never spoke out directly about racial matters, there were a lot of implicit messages in his series. For example, in one of the episodes he compared an African tribal mask from the Guggenheim collection in New York with the Apollo of the Belvedere sculpture which reflects the epitome of Greek art. Clark said that while the carved mask is indeed art, it is fair to say that the Apollo sculpture is an expression of a higher artistic sensibility. He did this kind of thing a number of times, and to me it was an indication that he was sensitive, intelligent, and insightful, and hadn’t been subverted by political correctness. At the same time, he didn’t want to stick his neck out and buck the forces around him. So he would come out with these little hints and just leave it as a ‘word to the wise,’ as they say.
“After the Clark movies, I would give talks, some of which we have on tape. [“Our Cause,” paraphrased in the last chapter, was one of them.] Some of the talks got into racial differences, comparisons between whites and blacks, that kind of thing. I know Stephen Jay Gould [the Harvard University evolutionary theorist] and others disagree with me, but I believe that the groups that remained in the tropics simply did not evolve as rapidly as those that migrated to the northern hemisphere. The northern peoples had to deal with severe seasonal changes in climate, and the sorts of attitudes and behaviors that sufficed in the tropics simply wouldn’t keep you alive in northern Europe eons ago. There was a much more rigorous selection process in this kind of challenging environment.
“The result was that whites evolved further. We developed certain faculties to a greater extent than blacks did. Evolutionary development, and particularly racial differences, is a basic idea behind Cosmotheism. Although if you look over those pamphlets on Cosmotheism I put together, race isn’t mentioned very much at all.
“When I would speak about race on Sundays, I noticed that it appealed to a certain type in the audience. Other times, the lesson I drew from one of Clark’s episodes was more subtle and related to certain aspects of our own nature as a people and as a civilization. I noticed that some people were interested in that, but I could see the eyes glaze over in the first group, the ones that liked the race material. What was going on was that some people wanted me to tell them what we were going to do about the problem we have right here in Washington, D. C. with blacks and Jews. They didn’t want to hear about anything else. The way they looked at it, we had these very immediate and urgent problems to deal with, so cut the philosophical stuff, who wants to hear about that?
“My attitude about their way of thinking was, yes, we have immediate problems, but if we want to arrive at a good, lasting solution to them we need to think about these other things that I was bringing up. Some people who came to the meetings agreed with me on that, and others didn’t. So what I did was split the group up. I would invite everybody to the National Alliance meetings on one Sunday, and then, on alternate Sundays, I’d invite just the people who I thought were receptive to the more fundamental things I wanted to talk about. That second group became the Cosmotheist Community.
“The Cosmotheist group didn’t just get into abstract things. Sometimes we discussed very practical things, like how to raise children. Suppose you are a parent: how can you possibly keep your child from being taken over by the people who are wrecking our civilization? Is there any way you can compete with television and the school system and the corrupted kids your kid comes into contact with? We got into questions like that.
“After a time, we—I’m talking about the Cosmotheist group—decided that it would be worthwhile to try an experiment. We’d try to create an environment more under our control than it is now and live with people who share our values and raise our kids in that sort of setting. We talked about buying some land on which we could build a community. I said to the group, ‘Look, I have so many thousand dollars in savings I can put toward it, but it isn’t enough. Some other people are going to have to cough up some money, too.’ I wanted to open up a bank account. I also told them, ‘We are going to have to do this in a business-like way. What we really are is a church—we’re like one anyway. So why don’t we call ourselves a church, because there are some advantages to that. For one thing, we won’t have to pay taxes.’
“When I said all that, I really didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was talking about. For example, you don’t have to pay taxes on a fund like the one we were setting up in any case. We could have called ourselves the Ajax Land Requisition Society, anything, and all the gifts to that entity would have been tax deductible. It didn’t have to be a church. Although then again, there were some advantages to being a church, because if you are the Ajax corporation rather than a church and put money into an interest-bearing account, you have to pay taxes on the interest the fund accrues. But I didn’t know all those details then.
“I also talked to the Cosmotheist group about how anything that has ever made an impact and shaped people’s lives has been more than just an idea. It has been an idea with a concrete embodiment. It not only had a doctrine, it had rituals and songs and priestly vestments, things like that. For example, if you walk into a Methodist ceremony you can immediately distinguish it from an Episcopal ceremony or Roman Catholic ceremony.
“As it turned out, we did organize ourselves as a church. So first we were the Cosmotheist Community and then we became the Cosmotheist Community Church. I had assumed that if we became a church we would incorporate and have a board of directors and so on, but then I found out that Virginia [Pierce’s operations were in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington] doesn’t incorporate churches. The attitude of the state is that it and the churches shouldn’t have anything to do with one another. The churches should regulate their own affairs and not ask the state to do it for them.”
“How many people were involved in the church?” I asked.
“Around twenty,” Pierce replied.
“Did you have a title in the church, minister or something like that?”
“I never had a formal title. ‘Teacher’ was one I often used. When I had to deal with the government taxing agencies and so forth in order to qualify for something, I would call myself a minister. But I always felt a little funny and awkward with that because the idea of a minister reminds me of these potbellied hypocrites in fancy collars preaching pap to the congregation of sheep on Sunday morning. I didn’t want to have anything to do with that.”
I read through the three pamphlets on Cosmotheism that Pierce gave me and listened to a tape of a talk he gave back in 1976 at one of the Sunday evening meetings called “Cosmotheism: Wave of the Future.” I concluded from that that what Pierce calls Cosmotheism is a version of a religious orientation called pantheism. It helps to understand Cosmotheism if it is put in its pantheistic context.
Pantheism as a religious perspective and tradition differs from three others which are more familiar to us in this culture: theism (Judaism and Christianity are examples), atheism, and humanism.’ Even though pantheism doesn’t have a strong foothold in Western society, it is far from a rare phenomenon in the world.3 Taoism, some forms of Buddhism, Confucianism, the religions of American Indian tribes, and the pagan religions of northern Europe before the Christian influence all embody a pantheistic outlook. Many Greek philosophers reflect a pantheistic frame of reference, including Plato and Aristotle and the Stoics, as did philosophers of more recent times such as Spinoza, Fichte, and Hegel. (Spinoza, by the way, to whom many attribute the term pantheism, was Jewish.) Among the prominent literary figures whose work reveals a pantheistic perspective on the world are William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, D.H. Lawrence, Robinson Jeffers, and Gary Snyder.
And what is this perspective on the world? The words used to express the pantheistic orientation vary greatly, but what they all share is a picture of how everything fits together. Pantheists get beyond the particulars, this discrete entity and that one, to a perception of an all-encompassing and unified order to things. Pantheism is the view that everything that exists—nature, animals, human beings, everything—forms an integrated whole. To the pantheist, everything is interrelated. Thus, pantheists see human life not as independent and self-contained but rather as an integral part of the world. This stress on wholeness should not be taken to mean that pantheists are contending that “all is one,” that there aren’t separate entities in the world, that the perception of distinctions is an illusion. Rather, pantheists—or most of them, anyway—are saying that the various elements that comprise the world are not merely distinct; and that most fundamentally, most importantly, they are not distinct. When pantheists look at the world, they see connectedness, they see unity. What makes pantheism a religion and not simply an insight or a philosophy is that this unity that pantheists see is divine—it is sacred. To pantheists, the world isn’t simply a set of interrelated concrete phenomena. There is more—call it God—and this “something more” infuses, permeates, the world. It is part of everything, and everything is part of It. It divinizes the world and makes it holy. When pantheists look at the world, they see God.
Pantheism can be better understood if it is contrasted with theism—again, Christianity and Judaism fall in this category. The theistic tradition is characterized by the belief in a personal God—that is to say, a God with the characteristics of a human being. This theistic God has a personality and bearing—like that of a commanding father perhaps. This is a God who can hear and see and pass moral judgment and make decisions and take purposeful action. He is focal: all power and holiness flow from Him. He was so powerful that he had the power to create the universe, a universe which he now in a parent-like or monarch-like way oversees. He is separate, distinct from nature and mankind. He is not of this world. He is apart, above, transcendent, looking down on us all.
The appropriate relationship to the theistic God is deferential and devotional. He is prayed to. He is an object of worship—the sole object of worship. The worshipper does not identify himself with God or seek to merge with God or become God; that would be blasphemous. Rather, the fundamental objective of religious practice in the theistic tradition is to establish a proper relationship with God. Cultivating this proper relationship brings the worshipper peace and happiness and perhaps an ecstatic joy, and it gives him direction in living in accordance with God’s will and in escaping God’s displeasure or wrath. The worshipper gains strength and guidance from God—perhaps with assistance from a messiah—in the lifelong task of achieving salvation in this life and bliss and serenity in the next life.
In theistic traditions, there is the belief in personal immortality. The faithful will survive death in some form. Death is regrettable to be sure, but that regret is softened by the conviction that the next world will be a better place than this one is. In fact, in theistic traditions existence on earth is in large measure perceived as a time of preparation for the afterlife.
Like theists, pantheists believe in God; pantheism is not a disguised form of atheism or a substitution of naturalism for religious faith. Where the difference lies is that pantheists do not perceive of God as a person or anything like a person. The pantheistic god doesn’t have a personality. it doesn’t have a mind. It doesn’t perceive as does a human being. It doesn’t formulate intentions and carry out actions in response to circumstances in the manner of a person. Pantheistic religions tend not to play up the creator-of-the-universe conception of God as do theistic religions. There is more of a tendency in pantheism to attend to God and world—however they/it came to be—simply as realities to be encountered and taken into account at this time and in this life.
Pantheism denies the beyondness, the otherness, of God. God isn’t up there, over there, someplace else, transcendent. God is here, a part of all this, immanent. God penetrates everything in the universe. God is in nature. God is in human beings. God and man and nature are not distinct—or at least not totally distinct, or only distinct. What makes things a bit complicated is that while pantheism emphasizes God’s immanence, there is also a tendency within this tradition to view the being of God as if it were not completely exhausted by the universe. That is to say, God has a transcendent dimension as well as an immanent one. Some scholars have used the term panentheism (note the “en” in the middle) to distinguish the strand of pantheism that stresses both the immanent and transcendent quality of God.4 So we need to be careful not to set up rigid dichotomies. Still, however, the most useful distinction to keep in mind for our purposes is the basic one between a transcendent God (theism) and an immanent God (pantheism).
If God exists but isn’t a person, then what is It? (To have used He at the end of this last sentence would have personalized God and been at variance with pantheistic thinking.) One finds a variety of words used to describe God within pantheism. God is described variously as the Force, the Divine Spark, the Principle of the World, and the Plan for the Universe. Alternatively, God may be referred to as the Spirit of the World or the Soul of the World. Still other possibilities, God may be spoken of as the Divine Unity or the Process—or Unfolding—of the Divine Unity. Yet another way of referring to God within the pantheistic tradition, the world is called the Self-Expression of God. These aren’t the clearest of terms imaginable, but then again cloudiness of meaning is not unheard of in matters of religion, and they do communicate a basic sense of how pantheism conceives of God.
What is the proper relationship of human beings to the pantheistic God? Since God is not a person or separate from everything, it isn’t a personal relationship in the way two people would relate to one another. There isn’t a deferential posture toward this God. Rather than a worshipful response to the presence of God as one finds in theism, in pantheism there is respect, awe, wonderment. And rather than devotional practice, in pantheistic religions there is an emphasis on the search for knowledge of the Unity and the development of personal resources of a certain kind: namely, the understanding and wisdom and personal strength that will contribute to one’s living a life in accordance with the Unity or, another way to say it, that will allow one to integrate with the cosmos. Thus meditative and contemplative activities are more consistent with pantheism than prayer. Really, any activity—whether intellectual and non – intellectual—which brings people into closer contact with things as they actually are and to a better understanding of how it all goes together and where they fit in the larger scheme of things—including a walk in the woods—is an appropriate religious practice within the pantheistic tradition.
Within pantheism, there is more of a focus on integrating into this world than winning forgiveness of sin or a place in the next world. Also, in contrast to theism, this integration may well include a merging with God, a realization of one’s identity with, or sameness with, God. The result may be happiness and joy, but more likely it will be more along the lines of a thoroughgoing peace of mind or sense of being truly home. Most pantheists deny the possibility that they will survive death in some conscious form, so they aren’t seeking personal immortality through their religion. They tend to believe that whatever happens must happen in this lifetime and with no help from God or a messiah. For them, death is regrettable because it deprives us of experience and the possibility of doing further good on this earth.
Other characteristics of pantheism that shed light on Pierce’s Cosmotheist beliefs include:
• It needs to be underscored that most pantheists are not monists. They aren’t saying All is One. They aren’t contending that there is only one Being and that all reality is either identical with it or modes of it. They are pluralists. That is to say, they believe that there are many kinds of things. They don’t regard the existence of real, finite entities as inimical to unity. As pluralists, these pantheists don’t see just one human nature but various human natures. Pierce carries this idea over to race. Where some would see one human race, he sees a number of human races.
• In line with this pluralist mentality, pantheists don’t believe that there is just one way to live in accordance with the Unity. They don’t insist on one lifestyle or set of activities for everyone. They believe that personal well-being and the welfare of the whole will be best attained by people living within parameters dictated by their own essential natures. The idea is to do what is natural to you given the reality of the whole of which you are a part. Pierce, for instance, doesn’t contend that the rural, dig-your-own-well-and-cut-your-own-wood way of life he has chosen to live is right for everybody. In his view, his way is not the only way to be happy, and it is not the only way to serve the Life Force or the Creator, his terms for God.
• Along this same line, pantheists don’t hold up any one human attribute above the others as automatically being on a higher plane than the others. A good mind, for example, can be positive and it can be negative depending on the use to which it is put. In fact, one picks up a coolness toward intellectual prowess in pantheism; or anyway, that it is not essential to a good life, and may actually interfere with it.
• Pantheists are critical of humanism. They reject the secularized, human-centered world view. In their eyes, humanism sets man up as the sole concern, as being all important. Humanists, the pantheists contend, have substituted worship of man for the worship of God. This contradicts the pantheistic view of man as a part of nature, and pantheism’s contention that the meaning and purpose of life cannot, should not, be made with reference to human beings alone.
• Pantheists disagree with an existentialist posture that would have man simply choose the meaning of his life. There are dictates inherent in man’s being and in his context, pantheists hold, that place obligations on him and limit the scope of his freedom to choose his path in life. Man is what he is and is a part of everything, and these realities direct how one should live. Man should not, say the pantheists, be viewed as an end in himself.
• Pantheists are critical of a reliance on science as the source of answers to the questions of existence. There is more to the world than can be accounted for by the natural sciences and their ways of coming to know things, contend the pantheists. Pantheists don’t claim to know all there is to know about the Divine Unity. They admit that they still have questions about creation, immortality, and the meaning and purpose of life, but they don’t believe that science has the answers to them either.
• Pantheists usually believe in free will. Most often, they aren’t determinists. They don’t believe man’s actions and fate are determined by either God’s will or earthly circumstances. They believe in the power of choice and moral responsibility. They derive their concept of morality from the nature of the Divine Unity, not from the nature of a personalized God and His word. A person’s conduct cannot be assessed apart from his overall context, pantheists believe. Pantheists judge the goodness of an individual act, and a total life, with reference to the individual’s relationship to the Unity. Pantheists believe living in harmony with the Unity is morally good, and living in discordance with It is morally bad.
• As might be expected, pantheists tend to love nature and seek to establish a relationship to things natural. They tend to believe that if one doesn’t contact nature, one is less likely to come to the pantheistic world view. If one never hikes in the wilderness or gazes at the sunset or sails on the water, if one never gets out of his own little orbit, he is less likely to see the pantheistic truths. Pantheists live more in an ethical than mystical relation to nature. They perceive that living in proper relation to nature presupposes its preservation and protection. They tend to be environmentalists. They tend to see urban life as adverse to both personal well-being and the well-being of the Unity. They tend to be of a mind that technology despoils the environment and separates people from It. At the same time, however, they tend to think of pantheism as an approach to life that can be lived out in any locale, including urban settings.
• Pantheists regard organized churches and religious leaders with suspicion. They doubt whether the life that pantheism seeks to attain can be facilitated by hierarchically organized, clergy-centered, empire-building religions.
Pierce says he can’t remember where he got the term Cosmotheism. I did some investigating and found that the English Romantic poet, critic, and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge used the term in the early nineteenth century. In Coleridge’s writings, cosmotheism referred, in one instance I came across, to an identification of God with the universe and, in another, to the worship of the world as God.5 So Pierce may have picked it up from his reading of Coleridge. Another possible source of the term can be found in Pierce’s Sunday evening talk of July 24th, 1977 called “Cosmotheism: Wave of the Future.”6 Early in that talk, Pierce quotes the writer D.H. Lawrence as saying “We and the cosmos are one. The cosmos is a vast living body of which we are all parts. The sun is a great heart whose tremors run through our smallest veins. The moon is a great gleaming nerve center from which we quiver forever. All this is literally true, as men knew in the great past, and as they will know again.” So it could be that reading Lawrence was Pierce’s inspiration. But it was a long time ago, and Pierce doesn’t remember, so this will have to remain speculation.
In the “Cosmotheism: Wave of the Future” talk, Pierce puts Cosmotheism in its historical and philosophical perspective. He describes Cosmotheists as people who are bearers of the Creator’s purpose or, another way to state it, bearers of the Universal Will. He says that many people over the course of history have understood parts of Cosmotheism, and he lists a number of examples, among them ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, northern European pagan philosophers, Romantic writers such as Wordsworth and Pope, and the European philosophers Fichte and Hegel.
Pierce says in his talk that the pantheistic tradition is central to the history of the white race in Europe. Before Christianity was exported to Europe by the expanding Roman Empire, he asserts, European religions stressed the oneness of God and man. He says that this emphasis contrasted with the Christian church’s dichotomous conception which emphasizes God and man’s distinction and separation from each other.
Pierce argues that the twentieth century is congenial to the pantheistic perspective. Modern science, he tells his audience, has moved us from a static to a dynamic view of the universe, and pantheism is more in alignment with that paradigm than is the church’s conception of the world as a finished creation. Since Darwin, Pierce points out, the world has come to be viewed as undergoing a continuous and not-yet-finished change or evolution. Pantheism is more congenial to this perspective, he asserts, than are theistic religions such as Christianity. To be sure, Pierce acknowledges, Christian doctrine with its static view of the universe is still accepted by many people. However, he notes, very few of the leading thinkers of our time buy into the Christian conception of the world.
Cosmotheism, Pierce tells his audience, differs from most other religions with their dependence on truth as revealed through revelation or as passed down by authority. It also departs from pure rationalism. Cosmotheism is grounded in a synthesis of objective and subjective knowledge, says Pierce. Cosmotheism is the union of the Creator’s immanent consciousness, what our reason and senses tell us about ourselves and the world, and the findings of science. In addition, offers Pierce, Cosmotheism is in accord with the truth that comes from deep within us if we are willing to attend to it, from our genes, from our collective race-soul.
The problems Cosmotheism faces in being accepted in this culture do not stem from its validity, Pierce contends. A major problem Cosmotheism confronts is that the mass of people will never have the chance to accept or reject it on the basis of its merits, because they will never learn about it in the first place. Those who control the public discourse in America—the news and entertainment and publishing industries and the schools—do their best to censor and malign anything like Cosmotheism, claims Pierce. Plus, if people do manage to learn about the tenets of Cosmotheism and accept them as valid, they still face the tough challenge of manifesting them in their lives. Given the religious and ideological orthodoxies of the moment, Pierce declares, it requires a good measure of personal independence and strength of character to stand up to the rejections, pressures, and sanctions that result when people think the “wrong” things or act in the “wrong” ways. The best way around that state of affairs, says Pierce, is to break our isolation from one another and to form a community of “consciousness and blood.”
It appears to me that Cosmotheism is basically an elaboration of the pantheistic perspective George Bernard Shaw articulated in Man and Superman, the play that made such a strong impression on Pierce when he was a graduate student at Caltech. Pierce modified what Shaw put forth, changed nomenclature in places, punched up certain ideas in Shaw and played others down, extrapolated from what Shaw offered, and added some new things of his own, especially around how people can organize themselves to realize the Cosmotheist ideal. A shorthand way of describing the end result of Pierce’s formulations is that Cosmotheism is essentially what Shaw had to say in Man and Superman with a National Socialist twist to it.
While Shaw wrote of Life, or the Life Force, Pierce’s Cosmotheism talks about the Creator. By and large, the Life Force and the Creator are synonymous concepts, with Pierce’s idea of the Creator perhaps carrying a bit more of a divine or sacred connotation than Shaw’s idea of the Life Force. And while the Creator, like the Life Force, is essentially immanent, I pick up more of a transcendent, “other,” dimension in Pierce’s concept than the Shavian one has. If one can draw the distinction between a philosophy and a religion, it seems to me the Creator in Cosmotheism has more of a religious feel to it than Shaw’s Life Force. Of course, we are talking about Pierce of twenty years ago here. In my dealings with him I have never heard him refer to the Creator—it has always been the Life Force, serving the Life Force. My guess is that twenty years ago and up to his move to West Virginia in the mid-1980s, Pierce had more of a religious orientation than he has today. His current use of “Life Force” language and the absence of “Creator” talk may reflect a reversion back toward the Shaw influences that began it all over forty years ago.
As with Shaw’s Life Force, there is a dynamic quality to the concept of the Creator in Cosmotheism. The Creator more than just is, more than just exists, more than just began it all and now watches and judges or selectively intervenes in earthly affairs; the Creator is a force and is definitely going someplace. Pierce uses the term Urge to get at that dimension of the Creator. The direction the Urge is seeking to travel in Cosmotheist doctrine is the same as Shaw’s Life Force: toward self-consciousness, self-understanding, and self-completion. And as in Shaw’s formulation, there is a dynamic quality in Cosmotheism to man’s relationship with the Creator. It isn’t simply a matter of being with the Creator or integrating with It; it is a matter of doing with the Creator. And again as in Shaw, that doing takes the form of serving the Creator by being Its brain and taking action to further Its process.
There is the idea in Cosmotheism that man can make the choice of whether or not to serve the Creator. However, I pick up more of a sense in Cosmotheism than in Shaw that this kind of service is not only a good thing to do, you really ought to do it.
Cosmotheism agrees with Shaw that there isn’t just one way to serve the Life Force or Creator. What is important, both orientations hold, is to get a grasp of the big picture, how it all works, and then to find the way to support the Life Force/Creator’s process that is natural to you and most effective.
Cosmotheism makes salient the pluralistic outlook of pantheism and uses it to serve a racial agenda. Cosmotheist doctrine stresses that the parts of the whole are as fundamental a reality as the unity of all things, and that we can’t ignore the differences among the parts, including their qualitative differences. All to say, from the Cosmotheist perspective individuals are different in nature from one another and some are better than others, and the same thing holds true for races. According to Cosmotheism, individuals can be measured against what they were and did in the past and what they can become and create in the future, and so too can races.
Shaw in Man and Superman alluded to breeding the race into a higher form of being as a goal of the Life Force, but he muted that point to a large extent. Cosmotheism, on the other hand, puts that process center stage and in bold print, as it were. And Cosmotheism makes it clear even though it is not stated explicitly (as it wasn’t in Shaw either) that race does not refer to the whole human race, all of mankind, but rather to the white race. Cosmotheism is at its core a white racialist world view. The pantheist concept of world-soul becomes in Cosmotheism the race-soul.
Therefore, when Cosmotheists talk about serving the Creator, they are referring to improving the white race, their race. There is the tacit assumption in Cosmotheism, as there well may have been in Shaw, that this is a religion, philosophy, whatever to call it, that applies to the white race only. It is about the white race and for the white race. As it was in Shaw, improvement of the race in Cosmotheism is conceived in Nietzschean terms, that is to say, as the movement toward the ideal of the Superman. And grounded in the evolutionary perspective it shares with Shaw, Cosmotheism assumes that that improvement will most likely involve struggle and peril.
Both Shaw and Cosmotheism see modern life in general as working against the improvement of the race. (Shaw equated modern life with Hell.) And while it is obliquely hinted at in Shaw (the Devil in his play is a Jew), it is very clearly written between the lines that Cosmotheism considers Jews to be an impediment to the fulfillment of the fundamental impulse and destiny of the race.
One difference between Shaw and Cosmotheism lies in what is expected of the servant of the Life Force/Creator. With Shaw, there is a mix of “ivory tower” and “social work” expectations That is, what the individual—Don Juan, say—would best do is go up in the ivory tower, i.e., back off enough, get enough distance from day-to-day existence, to be able to reflect and become informed and wise enough to be the philosopher’s brain the Life Force needs. As well, Don Juan or someone else who would go this route, informed by the knowledge and wisdom he has acquired, would take on the role of the Life Force’s social worker, that is, help it move in the proper direction. In all of this, however, there is a “backed off,” personally-removed quality inherent in this approach to life: I got the sense from the play that Don Juan was talking about them, other people, and it, Life, and what they were like and what they were becoming. But he wasn’t talking about himself and what he was becoming.
When I read the Cosmotheist material Pierce put together, there are, to be sure, the ivory-tower and social-work aspects, as I am calling them, but there is more. There is the idea in Cosmotheism that the Creator includes you and me. We are a part of the world and not just looking on and critiquing and stepping in to help things along. We—you and I- – d o more than merely point the way and pave the way, as important, as crucial, as those things are. We have the responsibility to become the way, to create in our own beings and in our own lives the exemplification of the upward unfolding of the race.
A last difference between Shaw’s and Pierce’s formulations: In Shaw you get the impression that Don Juan’s search for Heaven is an individual quest. He was going to get there by himself. With Cosmotheism, in contrast, this search is to be a shared, communal endeavor. The message comes through in Cosmotheism that it is not likely that you or I will ever get there on our own. It is going to take the support of other people, and a supportive social context, for us to travel upward toward greatness.
Now to the three pamphlets, or booklets, on Cosmotheism that Pierce put together in the 1970s and early 1980s. The Path, the first one, printed, in 1977, sets out the basic tenets of Cosmotheism. It describes the Creator, the Urge, the Path of Life and the way that individuals embark on the Path successfully, and the Cosmotheist Community.
Man and the world and the Creator are not separate things, but man is a part of the world, which is part of the Whole, which is the Creator. The tangible Universe is the material manifestation of the Creator. All the blazing suns of the firmament; the formless gas between the stars; the silent, frozen mountain peaks of the moon; the rustling trees of the earthly forests; the teeming creatures of the dark ocean depths; and man are parts of the Creator’s material manifestation.
The Urge lies at the root of all things and is manifested in the relations among all things….The Urge is in the tenuous gases of the void, for they have a purpose, which is the flaming suns and all the planets which form from them. The Urge is in the earth, for it has a purpose, which is the realm of plants and animals which flourish on it. And the Urge is in man, for he has a purpose, which is higher man. And the purposes of all these things are steps on the Path of Life, which leads to the One Purpose, which is the Self-Realization of the Creator: the Self-Completion of the Self-Created.
Those who attain Divine Consciousness will ascend the Path of Life toward their Destiny, which is Godhood; which is to say, the Path of Life leads upward through a never-ending succession of states, the next of which is that of higher man, and the ultimate that of the Self-Realized Creator.
True reason will illuminate the Path for them and give them insight; it will be a mighty aid to the Creator’s Urge within them…True reason seeks to guide man’s actions in accord with the immanent consciousness of the Whole, while false reason does not….The man or woman of true reason seeks order in all things, and he shuns chaos. He is pleased by a harmonious relationship between all the elements of his life and the world. He rejects that which clashes and does not fit, that which is alien. He is happy in the knowledge that what was true and good yesterday will be true and good tomorrow. Through order and harmony he seeks true progress, which is the ascent of the Path of Life; but he shuns frivolous change, which destroys the harmony between the past and the future. He loves truth, and he hates falsehood. He loves beauty, and he hates ugliness. He loves nobility in all things, and he hates baseness. And all these predispositions of the man or woman of true reason are like rays thrown out by the Divine Spark which burns in his soul. And this Divine Spark is the immanent consciousness of the Whole. It is the presence of the Creator’s Urge in him.
The gathering of those who would become members of the Community of Divine Consciousness is called the Cosmotheist Community; it is the Community of those who would become People of the Rune. And the People of the Rune are known for these four things: knowledge, consciousness, discipline, and service….By knowledge is meant understanding of the Truth….By consciousness is meant the awakened state of those who have gone beyond knowledge and have partaken of the immanent consciousness of the Whole which resides in their innermost souls….Discipline comes from within and without. From without it is imposed on the members of the Cosmotheist Community. By being so imposed it brings forth the growth of discipline from within. Without discipline there is no mastery, and he who has not mastered the chaos of conflicting forces within himself cannot render full service. But discipline imposed and discipline which grows from within together give those who have attained knowledge and consciousness mastery over their own forces, so that those forces may serve the Creator’s Purpose….The members of the community of Divine Consciousness, the Awakened Ones, the People of the Rune, serve in a new way, which is the way of higher man, the way of true reason. They are conscious agents of the Creator’s Purpose….Through their service they resume the ascent toward their destiny, which is Godhood.
The second pamphlet, On Living Things, describes the measure of a man, the dangers that must be overcome in creating the higher man, and the responsibilities that the Community as a whole and each individual member within the Community must accept.
[The qualities one uses to judge the value of a man] are the trueness of his inner sense of direction, the soundness of his constitution, and the purity of his blood.
[The two greatest dangers that must be overcome in creating the higher man] are the corruption of the spirit and the corruption of the blood. First comes the corruption of the spirit, through the presence of alien race soul. Alien values and attitudes become intermixed with the values and attitudes of higher man’s stock who are not yet conscious of their identity and mission. And then follows the corruption of the blood of those whose values are confused; they can no longer follow their inner sense of direction, and in their confusion they mix their blood with that of alien stocks; and they and their offspring become abominations, spreading further corruption among the stock from which higher man arises.
They must become conscious of their identity and their mission; they must seek and discover the values of their own race-soul, putting aside all values which have come from alien race-souls; and they must remove from their midst all who have become abominations and all who are of alien blood….
He must take into his own hands those forces which change the seed of all living things from generation to generation, and must use those forces under the guidance of an awakening consciousness to lift his stock over the threshold which separates man from higher man, the realm of immanent consciousness from that of Divine Consciousness.
The third, and last, booklet Pierce produced on Cosmotheism was On Society. Actually, the booklet wasn’t about society as a whole but rather about the Cosmotheist Community itself—although there may be a tacit hope embedded in the title of this document that someday all of society will operate in the way the Cosmotheist Community does. On Society describes the integration of the religious and secular in Community life (Community is capitalized because Pierce is referring to the Cosmotheist Community) and discusses four main social institutions: the family, the school, the military, and the government. Pierce is an admirer of the social and political arrangements put forth by Plato in his treatise The Republic and, ironically, the way the Catholic church organizes itself, and this is revealed in what he writes in this pamphlet.
The Community is both church and state, and it does not separate these two aspects of its being. It does not separate guidance in striving for knowledge from guidance in raising consciousness or building character. It does not separate religious and moral training from other training. It guides each member toward knowledge, consciousness, and discipline through the same institutions.
[The four essential institutions of the Community] are the family, by which the Community breeds and builds itself; the academy, by which it trains itself and grows in knowledge; the corps of guardians, by which it defends itself; and the hierarchy, by which it governs and guides itself.
The community honors each man who is a father and each woman who is a mother, and the family in which the two are united, in a measure corresponding to the value of the children they engender; and this value is measured both by the qualities inherent in the children at their birth and the development and strengthening of their qualities through proper nurture.
In the Academy, the children receive a uniform grounding in language, history, music, and the other elements of their cultural heritage; they are made conscious of the spiritual basis of their existence and of the Cosmotheist truth; and they begin the lifelong process of building will and character through discipline.
The corps of guardians is the institution by which the Community defends itself against its enemies, both within and without: against those who would harm any of the things upon which the life of the Community depends, both its physical life and its spiritual life. The men of the community who are chosen to become guardians shall…come only from those ordained to a life of service to the One Purpose, and they shall be only the best of those.
The hierarchy is the institution by which the Community orders itself. It is a community of priests….In structure it is a series of steps leading upward….As he advances in knowledge, in consciousness, in discipline, and in service, he is judged by those above him; and according to their judgment, he may progress upward, from step to step, throughout his life.
The hierarchy guides and judges. It shapes, structures, and makes or changes rules, when those things are needed; otherwise it preserves what it has made. It looks to the future, foresees the needs of the Community, and strives to fulfill those needs. Above all else, the hierarchy keeps the community moving ever upward: toward new knowledge, higher levels of consciousness, greater strength and discipline, more effective service of the Creator’s Purpose.
“I wasn’t always clear about what you meant by some of the things you said on the tape and in the pamphlets you gave me,” I said to Pierce. “When you talk about ‘bearers of the Creator’s purpose’ and ‘the perfect union of the Creator’s immanent consciousness and our race soul’—”
“Back then I was trying to get things sorted out in my head,” Pierce interrupted, “and I may have expressed myself in airy ways. I think I could do it more precisely and clearly now. It was just that when I first read Shaw I could feel the hairs rising on the back of my neck. I felt it was true and an insight into reality that few people have, and even fewer people can express things as well as he did. It was about this process—this purpose, this primeval urge toward higher consciousness—that was trying to continue. Shaw put things in a different light for me. I now could examine things in this light. Did this square with what I know about history, human nature, and so forth? And when I did that, things did make sense. If they hadn’t, I would have rejected it.”
“Is this right, that what you are trying to get at in using terms like ‘divine spark’ is something more than what we think of as the biological unfolding of evolution?”
“Yes, what I’m talking about is more than that, or at least it is a different way of looking at evolution. It is the development of a certain kind of self-consciousness. It seems to me that there is a Life Force reaching out in the darkness, trying to develop a more sensitive and refined tool for understanding itself. There is this feeling we have—or, I should say, the best of us have—in the presence of beauty, truly fine art let’s say. It’s the basis for the respect we have for the great philosopher. This is more than just a recognition of ethical or moral principles; it’s being drawn to what is finest; it’s being drawn to genius, to what is really best. It is that part of us that knows that accomplishment in the sense of money-grabbing, getting to be a CEO, or becoming a celebrity by telling jokes isn’t really worthy of respect. That sensibility, if you want to call it that, doesn’t have survival value as far as I can see, but nevertheless, even though it is submerged in so many people given the world as it is, it has evolved as a part of our nature along with all the other things. I’m trying to get at this impulse in people, which isn’t part of evolution as we usually think about it.”
“When you talk about self-consciousness here, you mean—”
“I mean by that more than an understanding of who I am in its popular psychological meaning, or some kind of political or social self-understanding. What I am talking about transcends that kind of thing. it is, in the most fundamental sense, who I am relative to everything around me and where things have come from and where they are going—the really big picture, I guess you’d say. It is a higher consciousness.”
“And when you say things like, ‘My destiny is godhood’…”
“That is where Nietzsche fits in. If this process of which I am a part continues as we would hope, the result will be the emergence of what Nietzsche calls the Superman. It is a type of being that very few of us can get our minds around. And the Superman may be a step toward an even higher being. If one extrapolates indefinitely, the very end result—and we can only begin to imagine it—I call godhood. We need to be the agents of this process. We need to serve it.”
“And I hear you saying in the material I have reviewed that each of us has a choice of whether to serve—or retard, or be indifferent to—the Life Force, that fundamental process.”
“Historically, only a small number have made the choice to serve the Life Force.”