PART 1 OF 23. The Rise of Reason
It is a general weakness of men delivering ideas that they are able to convince themselves their words represent a break with the past and a new beginning. In the early stages of a revolution, history is at its most malleable. Disorder and optimism combine to wipe out those truths artificially manufactured by the preceding regime. At the same time, they usually wipe out the memory of any inconvenient real events.
The men of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for example, were not wrong to condemn darkness and superstition. They were writing close to a time when it had been common to feed a consecrated Host to a sick cow in order to drive out the demon; a time of saint worship and of church corruption.  And, of course, a time of willful political leadership.
If the philosophers of reason believed that nothing provokes violence so effectively as fear and that fear is the product of ignorance, it was because they had arrived on the scene after two hundred years of religious and civil wars. These had produced levels of civilian violence not achieved again until the twentieth century. The reasonable men of the eighteenth century wanted to cut the roots of this fear. Their strategy was to attack what Isaiah Berlin called the "dark mysteries and grotesque fairy tales which went by the names of theology, metaphysics and other brands of concealed dogma or superstition with which unscrupulous knaves had for so long befuddled the stupid and benighted multitudes whom they murdered, enslaved, oppressed and exploited."  It was quite natural that this assault on darkness and on the divine aspect of the absolute monarchs who presided over it should eventually have been called the Enlightenment. The fact that the leadership came from France added a particular excitement to the affair, given that the leading European example of absolutism and of royal divine right was the French king and his court. And the French intellectual opposition had grown into a veritable army of thinkers in all domains -- philosophy, yes, but also agriculture, science, military organization and, of course, novel writing. The novelists were like deep-penetration patrols, striking out where least expected. By virtue of his devotion to the publication of the Encyclopedie, Diderot was the chief of staff of the operation, supported by faithful staff officers like d'Alembert. The strategist and champion of individual combat was Voltaire. He was constantly on the front lines of public debate, constantly inventing the phrases which might make change possible.
What these philosophes do not seem to have noticed, however, was that the very methods they were about to loose upon the world, in the name of reason, had been in. ever- increasing practical use throughout the two preceding centuries of violence. In fact, these methods had been used by Richelieu 150 years earlier precisely to create the absolutist state against which the Enlightenment was now rebelling.
Perhaps Voltaire and his friends believed that the forces of reason had suffered from being scattered in a disordered way around the previous century, when they had been used for a variety of causes, both worthy and corrupt. What was needed was to capture them so that reason could devote knowledge to the development of morality and common sense. That was how the philosophes presented their crusade.
Of course, neither morality nor common sense were new issues. They had once been integrated into the medieval concept, had then been rescued by new thinkers and reintegrated into the concept of divine monarchies. And here they were, once again lost in the degenerate structures of an aging system, being rescued by yet another group of thinkers who proclaimed the supremacy of reason as the new solution to man's problems.
This eighteenth-century revolution in mythology was therefore not so much something new as it was the repackaging of disparate forces already at play. The most revolutionary effect of their consolidation was the replacement of the control of the old class structure by two new sorts of leadership -- that of the technocrat and that of the Hero. This tendency has been leading the way ever since, even though there is still no popular or official or philosophical consensus that these two are the complementary heads of the rational power structure.
The technocrat began his existence as the ideal servant of the people -- a man freed from both irrational ambition and self-interest. Then, with surprising rapidity, he evolved into one who used the system with a distant contempt for the people.
The Hero was a more complex phenomenon. He appeared unexpectedly out of the shadows of reason, drawn forward when the people showed uncontrollable impatience with the way they were being governed. This impatience may have been provoked by poor or selfish government, by the inability of the new technocracy actually to govern or even by leadership which somehow bored the populace. With the old royal-baronial rivalry gone, there was no fixed structure to take up the slack of unpopular government. The idea of elections was new and, even now, two centuries later, does not easily convert the people's desires into appropriate government. And so it was that, in those moments when there was maximum confusion, the Hero took to stepping forward out of the shadows and presenting himself as the exciting face of reason; the man who could deliver the people's needs and be loved by them; the man who could take over the difficult labour of reasoning on behalf of the tired and confused citizen.
Trapped between these technocrats and Heroes were the reasonable men who thought of themselves as true men of reason -- men who held firmly to their common sense morality. But they were neither efficient enough nor exciting enough to hold their own in a squeeze between vicious structuralism and heroic logic. Many did, in fact, hold their own for a period of time -- Pascal Paoli for twenty years in Corsica, Jefferson for even longer in the new United States, the first Pitt for several decades in England. Michel de L'Hospital almost succeeded in preventing the French wars of religion. The host of those who served the good cause, and still serve~ in the way Diderot would have hoped they might, is legion. But they are not the ones who have defined the main line of the last four and a half centuries. They have been the exceptions to the rule, fighting a rearguard action in defence of humanism.
That main line has been obscured by .two of our obsessions. One is an uncontrollable desire to give ourselves the impression that we have made yet another fresh start. We are, constantly declaring new ages. The conversion of the original Age of Reason into the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century was only a first step. Had humanity turned a great corner in the process? Not according to most definitions of the Enlightenment; for example, as a "conviction that reason could achieve all knowledge, supplant organized religion and ensure progress towards happiness and perfection." 
The rational machine continued on from there, being redefined ad infinitum, notably by Kant, until at last Nietzsche theoretically rejected the concept itself. But Nietzsche's discovery that reason was subject to passion and to supermen came a full half century after the real superman had actually galloped onto the public stage and given a demonstration. Napoleon had ridden in on the back of reason, reorganized Europe in the name of reason and governed beneath the same principle. The subsequent effect was to bolster the rational approach, not to discourage it.
This tells us a great deal about our other obscuring obsession. We have great difficulty dealing with philosophy in the context of real events. These two categories seem to live on separate planets, For example, we are still convinced that violence is the product of fear and fear the product of ignorance. And yet, since the beginning of the Age of Reason, there has been a parallel growth in both knowledge and violence. culminating in the slaughters of the twentieth century.
Does this mean that knowledge creates greater fear than does ignorance? Or that the rational system has distorted the value of knowledge? Or something else? One thing it does demonstrate is that the separation of philosophy from real events has encouraged the invention of-mythological obscurantism. The constant launching of new philosophical ages is part of that invention.
Revolutions do not begin on dates, although we constantly search for that kind of reassuring touch point. An argument can be made that the assumptions and methods of applied reason were first developed by the Inquisition. In its revolutionary approach to what a question consists of, what constitutes an answer and what is truth, all the key elements of modern intellectual thought can be found.
The Inquisitors were the first to formalize the idea that to every question there is a right answer. The answer is known. but the question must be asked and correctly answered. Relativism, humanism, common sense and moral beliefs were all irrelevant to this process because they assume doubt. Since the Inquisitors knew the answer, doubt was impossible. Process. however, was essential for efficient governance and process required that questions be asked in order to produce the correct answer.
When the Inquisition was created in the thirteenth century no one, least of all Pope Gregory, understood what was being set in motion. Issuing a bull which made the persecution of heresy the special function of the Dominicans hardly seemed a revolutionary step. The Inquisitors' definition of truth was arrived at slowly. as was the process which' permitted them to establish it. But as each detail of that process emerged, so the assumptions involved became clear.
Everything the Inquisition did -- except the execution, of the guilty -- took place in secret. Public silence surrounded the work of the travelling Inquisitors. Unlike judges, magistrates, nobles and kings, who have always worn some symbolic costume, the Inquisitors wore the simplest, most anonymous black, like the proverbial accountant. And while their power permitted them to do their work on the basis of accusations and denunciations, what they really wanted were complete inquisitions. Being already in possession of the truth, they were interested in the rational demonstration of it by each victim. Perhaps the most telling detail was that each of these secret tribunals included a notary. His job was to record every word of every question and answer. These notarised manuscript became the perpetual records of truth. But again, the purpose of such exactitude was to glorify the methodology, not the outcome. The notary was there to confirm the relationship between a priori truth and assembled fact. On the surface the Inquisitors were torturers and monsters. On a more profound level they were moral auditors.
If one is looking for an individual father of the Age of Reason, Niccolo Machiavelli is probably the right candidate. After all, he laid out in The Prince (1513) and in The Discourses (1519) a governing method which is with us to this day. The humanists of the Renaissance attacked him violently, as did the Encyclopedists in their time.
They recognized in Machiavelli their elder brother from the dark side." A detestable political system which can be summed up in two words -- the art of tyranny."  But this ex-senior civil servant of Florence, with a particular interest in military reorganization, remains nonetheless a man of our times: an ambitious individual, tainted but not swallowed by nationalism, constantly in search of an employer. Faced by the Medici princes after their destruction of the Florentine republican government, he wrote his books in good part in order to win favour with the new regime. He would have been a perfect recruit for the new class of intellectuals sought four and a half centuries later by Henry Kissinger -- men who, by virtue of not belonging to or believing in anyone concrete thing, could be considered independent. Of course, if viewed with the less trusting eye of an employer, that emotional and intellectual freedom could also be seen to offer the neutrality of a mercenary.
Machiavelli's message -- that "new modes and orders," that is a new system and new ways, would reward the sharp-eyed sceptic -- made him into the lasting symbol of the Age of Reason. Popular mythology insisted that he was the prophet of political immorality. In truth, he was indifferent to moral questions. He was a modern courtier in search of employment. Vitality, not Virtue, was the characteristic he sought in a political leader. At the centre of everything he wrote was the theme of political efficiency. To this day, men who find themselves burdened by the adjective Machiavellian also find their careers severely limited. And yet the question that might be asked is: Why do so few men carry the adjective? If you were to edit the sixteenth-century references out of The Prince and then to retitle it Power and the Executive or Effective Government, the book would immediately be adopted by all contemporary management courses aimed at training businessmen, civil servants and professional politicians. It would be considered an ideal manual for the. preparation of the modern world leader.
Hard on Machiavelli's heels came the third act of the rise of reason -- the schism in the Catholic church. Luther's 95 Theses (1517), the Church of England (1531), Calvin's Institutio Religionis Christianae (1536) burst out like a single large explosion. The arbitrary nature of official Catholicism was probably responsible for lighting the fuse. But a growing awareness of the rational argument also made people believe that reform was possible. And an almost unconscious common sense populism pushed the instigators to translate the Bible into various vernaculars. That simple act of vulgarization destroyed the priests' monopoly over the word. It remains one of the most successful blows ever struck against manipulative secrecy.
The clarity of such early ideas as freedom of dissent, personal responsibility and individual freedom was soon drowned, however, in a sea of blood. As the massacres produced by these religious wars passed from the thousands to the hundreds 6f thousands to the millions, both sides seemed. to lose sight of their purpose. In the end the Reformation dearly changed Europe. But the ambiguity inherent in the whole process was so great that the shape of the future was determined more. by those who fought reform than by the reformers.
Ignatius Loyola was an unlikely leader for the Counter-Reformation and an even less likely formulator of modern rational methodology. A minor Spanish noble, ambitious and much given to both war and womanizing, he had a talent for playing the royal courts. These skills of the courtier were to be essential later in his life.
While he was in battle as a young man, a cannonball passed between his legs, smashing the bones and crippling him. His manic drive refused this situation. He forced upon himself a series of extremely risky operations in which the legs were rebroken and reset. The final result still wasn't pleasing to the eye. The operations had left a piece of bone protruding out of line on one leg, and so, in a last act of courtly egotism, he forced the doctors to begin' all over again in order to saw off the distorting bone. 
This final folly of pleasure broke him, physically and mentally, and the resulting crisis brought on his passage towards God. His actual conversion was full of the sort of mysteries and meetings with the divine that one would expect from an important saint. Then, abruptly, the predictable became unpredictable. The classic road to salvation turned into a revolution.
No sooner was the initial miraculous part of the process over than he attached himself to a rigorously intellectual view of the Church. That intellectual abstraction was neatly tied up, thanks to his notary-like obsession with detail, law, procedure and, eventually, structure. This solidification process took only a few years. It began with Ignatius -- alone on the roads of Spain, limping towards God (the operations had not been entirely successful), preaching and teaching in towns and villages, carried forward with the aid of love and what appeared to be a natural communion with the people; indeed, a natural communion with the earth itself. Suddenly, others began to follow him and his example. The Church could not ignore this little band, all dressed in simple black and out working their faith among the people.
At first observers imagined that these young men were renewing the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, that theirs also was a vow of poverty and simplicity. But the uniform of Ignatius's band was the result neither of humility nor of a spirituality which left them indifferent, let alone unconscious of, their physical well-being.
Ignatius went out among the people to reason with them. To draw them to God not through love but through logic. He had not dispensed with his fashionable appearance in order to bring man closer to God. Rather, his appearance had been consciously tailored to advance the cause of winning individuals back to the Church. He sought discretion by costuming himself in simplicity. Ignatius was in the process of becoming the first complete rational technocrat.
In those times any religious initiative was dangerous. Ignatius was regularly and anonymously denounced to the Inquisition. The Inquisition, with its mastery, of fear, was indeed the guiding spirit of the new era, but others were learning from its methods and carrying them further. The Inquisitors were failing to keep up with their own concept -- power through structure. It became obvious how badly they had fallen behind when the time came to deal with Loyola. In 1535, about to leave Paris with his followers, he heard by rumour that someone had denounced him and his book of religious Exercises. His life was therefore in danger. Without hesitation he went directly to the local Inquisitor and announced that he was leaving for Spain. If they were going to accuse him of heresy, they should decide quickly. The Inquisitor, caught off guard and probably wondering whether the young man's brazenness meant he had important friends, replied that the accusation wasn't important. On the other hand, he would be curious to see Loyola's book. In the Inquisition's long experience, the best way to catch a man was through his writings.
The Inquisitor read the Exercises on the spot, praised them and asked if he might keep a copy. In other words, he wanted to keep a copy to examine it carefully for heretical laws. The little book might also be a potential sword which could be held over Loyola's head if he needed to be manipulated later on.
Ignatius agreed but insisted they indict him immediately in order that he might be tried and cleared. The Inquisitor reassured him that it wasn't necessary. That is, he wished to keep his options open. Ignatius went out, found a notary public and brought him back to document and witness the Inquisitor's praise for the Exercises, as well as his refusal to prosecute.  This small, private scene was of monumental importance. The first organization ever to be built upon reasoned terror had just been outmanoeuvred by the future creator of the second.
Only four years later Loyola had personally convinced the Pope to allow the official proclamation of his order. Its documents of creation began with a statement of the methodology to which it was devoted. This methodology contained the essence of all that the Age of Reason would later propose as its aim:
Whomever wishes to be a Jesuit must absorb absolutely this thought: that he is a member of a Society. instituted very precisely in order to seek out as its principal end to procure the progress of men's souls in their lives and in the Christian doctrine.... Its ends are to be accomplished by reasoning with the public and by teaching. 
The message was clear. First you must belong to an organization, one which possesses a method. Entry to the organization will be limited by the method. Its members will therefore be a trained elite. Its power will rest upon precision, research and movement. The elite will use its methods to educate the people and through this education to sell a particular point of view. And its success will be measured. The word progress, from those early times until today, has been used as a synonym for the word measurement.
This cool, professional approach was. of course, the product of an experienced, battleworn, ex-professional soldier. who organized the Society as a religious army. The process had little to do with the blind faith and the arbitrary powers of the old Church. Suddenly, it became clear that the Jesuit order held the keys to the future: organization and party policy. Doctrine shrank to little more than a useful tool. The role of God became quite secondary. Instead, the new order forced the Catholic world to put the interests of the Church itself -- the mother organization -- in the front row. In so doing they gradually reduced the religious wars from a fanatical level of belief and emotion down to the practical level of political interests. Practical meant negotiable -- suddenly impossible questions of religious principle were converted into territorial claims. alliances through royal marriages. and financial security or insecurity.
Loyola's election to the generalship of the Society was an illustration of his methods. He had no rivals. His leadership was accepted by everyone. The result of the members' vote was a foregone conclusion. And yet Loyola refused to accept it. He turned and manoeuvred and stalled for two weeks with a modesty which. given that this was the same man who had just outsmarted the Pope and the Vatican bureaucracy. can only have been false. He then forced his companions to vote a second time. The result, of course, was the same. At last he wandered out across Rome to see his confessor and to ask his advice. The poor man could hardly recommend that Loyola refuse. The entire Church leadership would have been furious with him. Loyola made his confessor commit his advice to paper and send it over to the Society. On the basis of this sealed recommendation, which was the closest thing a mortal could arrange to an order from God, the theoretically modest man finally accepted.
The Society was an immediate success. By the time Loyola died in 1556, seventeen years after its creation, there were one thousand members. By 1700 there were twenty-three thousand -- the most powerful political force in the West. They were running most European governments from behind the scenes, to say nothing of running their colonies. Even the Pope came to fear them and so eventually their enemies got together just long enough to have the Society disbanded in 1723. Nevertheless, it was the Jesuits who had almost single-handedly stemmed the tide of the Reformation.
At all times Loyola had used a careful, reasoned approach, free from dogma. For example, he pushed for the introduction of the Inquisition into Rome, to block the rise of new heretical errors, but opposed its use in Germany, where the Church hadn't enough power to make it stick. In the same "political" way, Loyola was for capital punishment when dealing with heretics, but "this seems to be beyond what the present situation in Germany can bear." 
His instructions to Jesuits struggling there might have been written in the twentieth century: people infected with error should be eliminated from government and teaching positions; heretical books should be burned; whatever the books, if by a tainted author they should be burned so that people could not learn to like the author; synods should be convoked to unmask specific errors; it was forbidden to call an heretic an "evangelical." 
This last simple instruction is one of the most fascinating because it heralded the future dictatorship of vocabulary, which has become so important in the twentieth century. Loyola was the first to recognize the force which specific words carried. It was therefore essential to control those words, To capture them absolutely for the use of the Church. Better still, by treating these captured words as icons, they could be packaged in order to produce a politically useful meaning. Thus, in the past there had been all sorts of "evangelical" figures, some good, some bad. The word simply meant bringing the good news. In the future only those speaking for the Church could benefit from the word.
In this century words such as capitalism or revolutionary or free are used in the same way. The very act of getting the word free into the public domain on your side places the other side in a difficult position. That is why politicians or businessmen, about to cut back on social benefits or to close factories, always invoke fairness as part of their justification, along with such concepts as justice, rationalization and efficiency. These mythological words come to replace thought. They are the modern equivalent of an intellectual void.
Almost immediately, the Society of Jesus began to produce an educated elite inside the lay population. No other education of that time could match what it offered. Those. who sought success for their children couldn't help but consider a Jesuit school. And yet, from the very beginning, the Jesuits' success was mixed with outside criticism of their cynicism, ambition, Political interference, and amoral intelligence -- everything that an Enarque or a Harvard MBA might be accused of today.
At the base of this criticism lay one fundamental truth. Whatever good the Society did, it seemed unable to avoid either deforming policy or producing brilliant students who were also somehow deformed. The more brilliant the student, the more shocking this deformation seemed to be.
The origin of this flaw lay in the original premise of the Order. The Protestants were the first active, widespread messengers of reform. Loyola stole the method which had delivered their message and applied it to defend a cause that stood resolutely against reason. What at first sight appeared to be a fundamental contradiction turned out to be a great success. In fact, reason was stronger in his hands than it had been in those of the reformers. What he had created was a flexible, unfettered weapon, free of all obligation either to morality or to specific ideas.
This severing of method from any roots provided the Jesuits with superficial strengths which were in fact profound weaknesses. The resulting system was incapable of defending itself against the inevitable invasion of extraneous, contradictory and destructive ideas, both moral and intellectual. And so it wasn't surprising that before the sixteenth century was over, the Society of Jesus had been invaded by virulent cynicism.
No great skill is needed to trace the pattern emerging from these three events. The Inquisitors, Machiavelli and Loyola were all devoted to a priori truths and the service of established power. Their profession was administration. Two of them were courtiers and drew heavily on their military experience. Their methodology was unrelated to ideas or morality. Fear and secrecy were their favourite weapons. They favoured personal anonymity, public discretion, simple dress and power exercised from behind a facade. Out on the cutting edge of social and political reform, methodology was becoming a mercenary for hire.
The next step was decisive. Early in the 1600s, rational technocracy found its long-term partner -- the nation-state. This passionate marriage took place under the authority of a theoretically absolute monarch -- Louis XIII -- and was engineered by a Cardinal.
Of course, when we look at those years, the tendency is to become mesmerized by the philosophical fireworks which filled them. Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes led the West in rejecting the medieval past and creating two opposing rational schools, one drawn from the new science, the other from mathematics.
Bacon went to great pains to layout the difference between constructing an argument in order to produce an answer, which he rejected, and doing so in order to seek an answer." The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions, than to help the search after truth. So it does more harm than good."  With perfect, effortless simplicity, he showed the fundamental difference between thought and judgment. This clarity, once released, seemed to languish for a century and a half, until the Encyclopedists seized upon Bacon and John Locke as their principal inspiration.
On closer examination, however, Bacon's clarity and open spirit seem less obvious. His personal career had been that of a courtier, with highs and lows not unlike that of Machiavelli. He betrayed his patron the Earl of Essex, further advanced himself by agreeing in a particular case to a torture-confession procedure in the Inquisition tradition and used public power to great personal profit. He appears to have been more Machiavellian than Machiavelli. .Bacon wrote a great deal about truth but rejected the supremacy of common law and therefore of Parliament. He considered natural law or reason to be supreme. This definition of the source of truth required an absolute monarch served by a wise adviser -- himself. And when, in his novella The New Atlantis, Bacon set about imagining an ideal society, the result was a dictatorship of technocrats who sought knowledge and truth. They then hid both from the citizen. Knowledge and power were married to secrecy and chastity. This chastity or asexuality may at first seem to be an oddity particular to Bacon's rational vision, but it will gradually show itself to be part of the general pattern.
A great deal is made of the differences between English and French philosophy, with Bacon and Descartes used to illustrate the parting of the ways. Their technical arguments are certainly very different. But the intent and the result are virtually indistinguishable.
Descartes, of course, remains the demigod of rational thought. His Discourse on Method formalized an astonishing view of reason. He was educated by the Jesuits and seemed to take from that -- among other things -- a submissive respect for authority. He even took the initiative to withdraw one of his books from circulation rather than risk displeasure. His celebrated exploration of doubt gradually showed itself to be a conservative force which prevented sensible arguments for change from passing the impossible tests of rational truth.
Descartes (1596-1650) was an exact contemporary of Richelieu (1585-1642). It was the Cardinal who, without reference to the thinker, would go on to build permanently into the first real modern state and into its methods all of Descartes's deductive ideas: One could even argue that it is Descartes who is in debt to Richelieu and not the contrary. By the time Descartes's Discourse on Method appeared in 1637, Richelieu had already been Prime Minister for thirteen years. As early as 1627 the Cardinal had introduced his thirteen-point proposal for "a Rational Reorganization of Government." The degree to which he was creating our future can be seen in such details as his restructuring of the educational system in order to produce more graduates in the scientific, practical professions and fewer in the general arts.
For someone who held power four centuries ago, Richelieu was a remarkable combination of the best and the worst of the twentieth century. As an individual he was the classic example of a technocratic leader. He had a nervous, impatient temperament, which made him far more effective behind the scenes than in public. He often dealt with widespread opposition by singling out and destroying one enemy in the group while reassuring' the others. He had a cynical view of human events which made him think that the mere application of his own intelligence could manipulate history and change its direction.
He was obsessed with detail and therefore with unending work. This work consisted to a great extent of placing himself at the centre of the flow of information in order to control or to collect it. By the end of his life he was manipulating an extraordinary system of agents and was the master of everyone's secrets. Secrecy was central to his methods. In his very first public act as a young, relatively unknown bishop at the Etats-Generaux in 1614, he proposed a two-part method for their deliberations: first, laying out the precise hours at which they would meet, and second, insisting upon the absolute secrecy of everything said and done. Precision, hard work and secrecy. If this does not seem a clear enough model for the technocrat, then one can add, for example, his vindictiveness. Twenty-eight years later, as he himself lay dying, swollen, in unbearable agony and fully conscious of the fact that he was within days of his own demise, he concentrated his mind upon the trial and condemnation to death of his great enemy, the Marquis de Cinq Mars. Of the thirteen judges who had just tried the young man, eleven voted for execution. What Richelieu insisted upon knowing -- he had no legal right to -- were the names of the two dissenters.  Had his own disease given him even a short reprieve, he no doubt would have insisted that only traitors could have believed that Cinq Mars wasn't a traitor.
Richelieu had another characteristic, a peculiar one, which is often found in people who are better at dealing with systems than with individuals. In public, he could force himself to be the essence of cool reason. In private, he was given to particularly personal and vicious attacks. Richelieu specialized in anonymous or ghosted pamphlets. There was, for example, his anonymous published attack on Louis XIII's favourite, the Due de Luynes. According to the Cardinal, the man had six major vices. He was "incompetent, a coward, ambitious, greedy, an ingrate and a cheat."  Language, for Richelieu, was a means of hiding his actions and thoughts rather than of communicating them. To his taste for private malice should be added a weakness for intrigues, which often accompanies both an obsession with secrecy and the seeking of power through structure.
But where did he get these tastes for intrigue and manipulation, this sad view of society and of the citizen and indeed of himself? The Chinese castration of imperial advisers was a means of removing dynastic dreams from ambitious young men. Certainly Richelieu's methods remind one of the eunuch approach. And the idle speculator can't help but gaze back at Bacon's praise of asexuality among rational elites or for. that matter, back further at Ignatius Loyola, creator of the rational system, and wonder about the exact height at which the cannonball passed between his legs and the exact damage it did on the way through. Reason seems to have created a system which, whatever its good points, . is often felt to be castrating. Is there any reason, then, to be surprised if it attracts to positions of power individuals who are prone to an asexual view of the world?
The structure that Richelieu put into place was, of course, filled with worthwhile and progressive characteristics. He had set out to create an honest administration, including that most difficult of things, an honest tax collection system. He was hard on elites that opposed him but relatively eager to help the poor, even if they had supported his enemies. He sought to remove the willful, irrational element from royal government.
Common sense leads each one of us to understand that man, having been endowed with reason, should do nothing except that which is reasonable, since otherwise he would be acting contrary to his nature ... there is nothing in nature less compatible with reason than emotion. 
The trademark of the nation-state was to be centralization and it was Richelieu who devised how to make this process unstoppable. He did this largely to create an efficient, honest government but also to destroy the negative power of both the Church and the aristocracy. It is difficult now to realize just how revolutionary all this. was. His nationalism was a new idea, scarcely understood, let alone accepted. He was struggling against the mainstream of power and against the general belief in aristocratic rights. In many ways the modern republic and its equivalent, the constitutional monarchy, are Richelieu's creations.
At the same time, all his actions -- positive and negative -- were accompanied by the use of fear, that essential tool of modern organization. "Punishments and rewards," he wrote,
are the two most important instruments of government.... Power is the cause of fear. It is certain that of all the forces capable. of producing results in public affairs, fear, if based upon both esteem and reverence, is the most effective, since it can drive everyone to do his duty. 
At one point in his career the Cardinal was forced out of office. Abruptly he became clumsy, even incompetent. He said and did the wrong things. He showed sijll1s of uncontrollable paranoia. His skills seemed to be suited to being in power, not in opposition. But if the rational method had grown out of the defence of established power, then why would one expect a great technocrat to flower in opposition? The effective use of power excludes the idea of honourable opposition.
A list of Richelieu's characteristics and policies makes him appear absolutely modern, but he should also be seen as the first man to fulfill Machiavelli's dream. Not to become the perfect prince. Machiavelli's prince was only the necessary, practical focus of a political method, given the time and the place. Richelieu was rather the fulfillment of Machiavelli's personal dream -- that of the employee who uses the cover of a prince in order to institute a new system. Louis XIII, despite his weak character and emotional instability, was the perfect marionette for Richelieu. Those who concentrated on the Cardinal's operatic day- to-day relationships with the King and the Queen Mother saw constant chopping and changing and minor intrigue. They missed what was really happening to France.
In the hands of a consummate technocrat, it was being transformed from a feudal kingdom into a nation. The absolute monarchy which followed, and which is habitually seen as the glorious swan song of the old ways, was in fact the first complete manifestation of the rationally administered nation-state.
Beneath the palace theatre of absolute monarchy ran the growing power of Richelieu's state, devoid of any real attachment to royal rights or to morality of any kind. Versailles was the modern state in disguise -- an elaborate game of charades. It was only a matter of time, given the forces which Richelieu had set in motion, before the prince was replaced by something even more malleable -- the constitutional democracy, in which governments came and went, while the cardinals, or their secular equivalents, remained.
In Buddhism there is a phrase -- the middle way -- which has always fascinated Westerners dissatisfied with the direction our society has taken. On closer examination that middle way turns out to be extremely arduous. But the phrase nevertheless expresses a reasonableness which is absent from our own rational absolutism. The tendency of eighteenth-century writers to set allegories in the East was tied to the idea that these people were more likely to be sensible.
Not that moderation has been absent from Western thought. Bacon strained after it in his search for openness of mind, as did Richelieu in his attempts to create fair institutions. And certainly Blaise Pascal laboured to cover up the still-warm tracks of Descartes by establishing the moral fibre of reason: "All our dignity, then, consists in thought. It is· upon this that we must depend.... Let us labour, then, to think well: this is the foundation of morality." 
In a sense Moliere was Pascal's alter ego. And Moliere's enormous popularity might have given the impression that there was hope for reasonable action. But those who told straight truths to large audiences -- as Moliere did -- came to play a specific role in societies where judgmental power dominated the state, learning, business and every other key area. They fulfilled the function of a Punch and Judy show. After the citizen had given his day, year, life to the real system -- the one that had power -- he went out to dream and to laugh in the theatre, where Moliere knocked his superiors about.
Still, Pascal could not be totally ignored. He could be admired, which meant he needn't be listened to. He could become like an honoured saint, better than other mortals but impossible to follow. As opposed, for example, to Thomas Hobbes, who was making an enormous impact in England by proposing a mechanical and secular social contract which depended on an absolute monarch and, above all, on fear as the control device.
Someone like John Locke was far more attractive. He attacked the old powers and the unexplained, unexplainable established order. And that was welcomed. Yet at the same time he led the citizenry, with his contractualism, farther along the easy path opened up by Bacon and Descartes which eventually brought them to an obsession with proofs and therefore with facts.
Facts at that time were such rare nuggets that no one realized how they would multiply. Everyone believed them to be solid and inanimate -- to be true facts. No one yet understood that life would become an. uncomfortable, endless walk down a seashore laid thick with facts of all sizes and shapes. Boulders, pebbles, shards, perfect ovals. No one had begun to imagine that these facts were without any order, imposed or natural -- that facts were as meaningful as raw vocabulary without grammar or sentences. A man could pick up any fact he wished and fling it into the sea and make it skip. A practiced, talented arm could make it skip three, perhaps four times, while a lesser limb might make a single plunk with the same concrete proof of some truth or other. Another man might build with these facts some sort of fortress on the shore.
As for Locke, he certainly did not think that facts would rapidly become the weapons, not only of good men but of evil men, not only of truth but of lies. Had he but looked back at Richelieu's career, he might have seen what was to come. At the age of twenty in Rome, Richelieu had argued a sermon before the Pope in order to prove a particular point. The very next day he was again before the Pope and argued the same sermon in order to prove the opposite point. 
Europe had hardly reached the supposed birth of modern reason, and yet hints of the force of the future blind logic were already in the air. There were those who saw what was happening and who warned eloquently. Jonathan Swift's trenchant words came too soon and were too harsh. With books like Gulliver's Travels (1726) he became popular but was immediately categorized as marginal and peculiar. And there was that unhappy professor, Giambattista Vico, who tried to advance his ideas in the very Catholic city of Naples. He used an historical approach to combat the Cartesian self-justifying abstractions. Rationalists tended later to categorize him as an obscure reactionary in order to discount what he was saying. But he wasn't seeking to defend the old order, and certainly not the worst of the old order. Rather, he was striving for the same inquisitiveness as Pascal, the same care in seeking out right and Wrong." Today," he wrote in 1708,
only criticism and judgement are admired. The subject itself has been relegated to the last row.... They say that as men are capable of judgement, one need only teach them a thing and they will know if it is true. But who can be sure to have seen everything? 
As for the new methods of analysis, "It is impossible to deny anything they say unless you attack them from the beginning. 
Vico was perhaps the first to recognize the irresistible strength of the new and theoretically free methods of argument, which in fact were structured to make a particular answer inevitable. He and Montesquieu both condemned the loss of the "political vocation" as it had been preached by the Greeks and the Romans -- a vocation in favour of the cult of truth, a vision of society as a moral whole.  It was Montesquieu, a jurist from the minor nobility of Bordeaux, who initiated early in the eighteenth century the admiration of French philosophers for English freedoms.
But if truth was becoming nothing more than a structured argument studded with useful, malleable facts, then what was left of the moral whole except Machiavellianism on the one hand and raw sentiment on the other? Common sense, which might also be called careful emotion or prudence, was squeezed out of the picture. Vico and Montesquieu sensed what would happen after the anchors of the old system had finally been cut away -- technocracy would reign in a curious coalition with almost animal emotion. The perfectly normal human emotive needs, in the absence of a social context which could deal with them, would degenerate into sentiment. And it was that base sentiment, unleashed by the rational technocrat, which would turn into the cult of the Hero.
The Lisbon earthquake struck in 1755 and shattered the moral legitimacy of established power. It did to the psychic inviolability of Church and absolute monarchs what the Vietnam War later did to that of the United States. This catastrophe, which killed indiscriminately thousands of children, women and men, poor and rich, seemed somehow to require an immediate explanation. The people of Europe asked themselves a collective Why? The Church and the constituted authorities couldn't stop themselves from replying that God was punishing sinners.
Instinctively the citizenry found this answer ridiculous. Lisbon wasn't a particularly sinning town, certainly not in comparison to Madrid, Paris or London. And those children, women, poor. They could know nothing of important sins. The claim of divine retribution was so obviously ridiculous that, abruptly, people felt liberated from any obligation to believe anything the authorities said. In particular the Church discredited its power to give or to withhold moral sanction on the way people led their lives.
Of all the citizens, those belonging to the aristocracy were in the most complex position. It had been decades since they had believed unquestionably in the foundations of their own legitimacy. However, they profited from the maintenance of a pretence of belief. That pretence was quickly cut to ribbons by the philosophers of the Enlightenment who, being in full flood, pounced with all their acerbic wit on the official Lisbon story. None of this was immediately clear in any concrete or structural way, but the veil had been rent.
In that same year, an event occurred which made it possible to believe for the first time that reason was not a mere idea, that reason could govern men. Philosophers would no longer have to invent mythical Oriental nations, as Montesquieu and Voltaire had done, in order to illustrate their arguments. They could now simply refer to the republic in Corsica. 
History is particular in the events that it chooses to retain. Retention usually requires the continued existence of a solid group -- an organized nation or a reasonably, numerous people -- that will integrate the event into its mythology and nurture it over the centuries. The Corsican republic has slipped out of general memory because there was no one off the Mediterranean island interested in remembering. The philosophical ideas that Pascal Paoli applied, when constructing his republic, were largely French. And it was the French who destroyed his republic: first Louis XV; then the Revolution; then, definitively, Bonaparte. Even on the island itself, integration into France meant that the importance of the Paoli republic would be, indeed had to be, played down by the authorities.
Corsica had belonged to Genoa since the sixteenth century. The Genoese had always concentrated their power in the island's ports and kept a loose hold on the mountainous interior, where most of the population lived. From time to time -- and increasingly in the eighteenth century -- the rival Corsican clans would agree on a common leader and then rise up in revolt. Paoli's father had led one of these liberation forces with great success. But the Genoese then asked the Austrians and the French to support them militarily and in 1738 the elder Paoli fled to Naples, taking his thirteen-year-old son with him. Pascal Paoli was therefore brought up in exile in Italy, where he memorized the classics, learned Italian, French and English, was trained as an army officer and read all the eighteenth-century philosophers.
In 1755 the clans again came together and, "by the general voice," elected the then thirty-year-old exile their leader and asked him to come home. Paoli came determined to apply the ideas of the philosophes to that piece of the real world. He transformed what had begun as yet another clan revolt into something so different that the island was soon liberated except for a few besieged ports. In desperation the Genoese again turned to France for help and Louis XV sent an expedition. (By chance the future revolutionary Mirabeau was among the French officers.) Paoli's army used guerrilla tactics to make mincemeat of these regulars, but Louis's response to defeat was simply to send a second, larger expedition in return for Genoa's title deed to the island.
This invasion stirred Rousseau to write: "I still find it hard to believe that France is Willing to ,call down upon herself the censure of the world."  The first Pitt, who was later to support the American revolutionaries against his own king, spoke up in Corsica's defence, saying of Paoli that he was "one of those men who are no longer to be found but in the Lives of Plutarch." 
The second French force included a young major, Count de Guibert, the future inventor of modern military strategy. Now that their own 'territorial expansion was in question, the French applied themselves seriously and the imbalance of numbers and of available funds combined to weaken Paoli's army. Then a single major strategic error in 1769 led to a Corsican military rout halfway across a mountain river on the Ponte Nuovo.
The republic was dead. Paoli fled. His senior officers -- including Napoleon Bonaparte's father -- went home. And Paris began its standard absorption of newly conquered territories. This included an interdiction on the teaching of the Corsican language and a gathering up of the local young male elite to be educated as Frenchmen on the mainland.
Paoli, meanwhile, was on his way to exile in England. At that time most philosophers believed that the English enjoyed the greatest political freedom in Europe. And Paoli had the expectation of being welcomed there thanks to James Boswell, who had come to Corsica a few years before and written a book devoted to glowing descriptions of Paoli's republic.
As the defeated leader crossed Europe on his way to London, he was greeted as the great hero of political reason. Enormous crowds -- often so thick that he couldn't leave the houses he was staying in -- followed him everywhere. His likeness was sold on handkerchiefs. The kings of Europe sought him out as he passed and paid homage. When he reached England, John Wesley wrote: "Lord, show him what is Thy will concerning him and give him a kingdom that cannot be moved!" 
This was the period leading up to the American Revolution, and the colonials had only three foreign heroes -- Pitt the Elder, John Wilkes and Paoli. Corsica played a key role in the rise of the republican ideal within the thirteen colonies. Ships and children were named after the martyred leader. When the Revolution came, the rebels used his name as a rallying cry during charges against the English troops. And in later years the old revolutionaries throughout the American republic raised their glass in his honour on the night of Paoli's birthday.
It is difficult to imagine today the impact that the Corsican republic made on Europe and America during its fourteen years in operation and then again during the French Revolution, when Paoli was called from exile in London across to Paris. There he was cheered by the entire National Assembly, from moderates to revolutionaries, as the first man to have fought the kings and governed under the sign of reason. All of them -- Mirabeau, Danton, Robespierre -- knew that in 1762, when Paoli's republic was only seven years old, Rousseau had written in The Social Contract:
There is one Country still capable of legislation -- the island of Corsica. The courage and constancy with which that brave people have recovered and defended their liberty deserves the reward of having some wise man teach them how to preserve it. 
Various philosophers imagined themselves in this role, but Paoli himself was obliged by circumstances to fill it. Without being an ideologue, he saw himself as the agent of reason. His great common sense permitted him to act in a reasonable manner while the absolutist forces -- old and new -- flew about. In the end he was defeated by both: the tail end of the absolute monarchy combined with the new, strident forces of nationalist reason.