When men create and search for Utopia...
It is during social crises (moral and spiritual) that men create Utopias and dream with a promised land. In the contrary, faith allows man to bear the crosses of life in this valley of tears
Original Title: Island and Utopia
History shows that it is, above all, in times of spiritual and social crisis that men create utopias and dream of the millennium. Faithful times and people with great confidence do not know utopias. Neither in the Middle Ages nor in Spain, for example, do you find authors of utopian works. However, when the Middle Ages wavered in its certainties, there was a multiplication of sects that awaited the realization of the Kingdom of God on Earth. And when the Middle Ages collapsed and Europe sank into the doubts of rationalism, Thomas More wrote "Utopia". When Spain lost its faith, the greatest anarchist party in history emerged.
Why does the Catholic Faith not accept neither utopia nor millenarianism?
It is Faith that allows man to bear the crosses of life in this valley of tears. It is faith that gives the true meaning of our life, preventing man from revolting at having been exiled from Paradise. On the other hand, it is the lack of faith and the refusal to accept the cross that lead man to rebel against the miseries of life in exile.
Rationalists aim to eliminate all suffering in the world — that is, to banish the cross — thanks to science and technology. They believe that scientific progress will one day make it possible to create a society without the poor, without diseases, without misery — perhaps without death.
Others put their hope of returning to paradise life in an intervention of God in history. They believe, and hope, that Christ will return to magically impose a reign of absolute happiness on this world that would last a thousand years. It would be the millennium. They forget Christ's words: "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jo. 18, 36).
Utopians and millennialists refuse to accept the reality we live in after the expulsion from Eden. They hate the here and they hate now, fleeing, through the dream, into an unreal world.
This "escape" is always a reaction against the impossibility of changing the real society, which they end up identifying with evil. For them, possible changes are always insufficient, as they want the impossible, such as ending death and poverty. Hence the rancor and pessimism that every utopian and every millenarian sect nourish towards the society in which they are inserted.
Isolating oneself in the dream or in the desert, escaping from the cursed society, are constant in these movements. That is why there is a relationship between the utopian and millenarian spirit and the island.
All utopias — that of More is the classic example — have dreamed of the savior island that prevents the contamination of the elected by the evils of real society.
On the island of More's Utopia, in Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, in James Hilton's Shangri-là, the dreamed society is symmetrically opposed to the hated concrete society.
If this (current society) is hierarchical, utopia is egalitarian. If living society is immoral, the millennium is one of immaculate "electeds", angelized beings. Against the rigidity of laws, the millennium is libertarian. Against hard work, utopia and the millennium dream of idle abundance.
In an age devoid of certainties like ours, it is natural that utopian dreams and delusional hopes of millenarian kingdoms appear everywhere. Nicaragua, for example, is the new packaging for the musty, wrinkled, unsalable Marxist utopia. Liberation Theology is, in fact, a millenarian theology, which hopes to lead the people to the "promised land" through — among other things — socialist Agrarian Reform.
The dream is all the more dangerous the more it seems to be achievable. Utopians and millenarians become more harmful when they think that, organized, they can impose the realization of their delusions. Thus, Hitler's millenarian dream brought to the world the hecatomb of war and the horrors of concentration camps. And Marx's utopian dreams created tyranny and misery, stretching the Soviet Gulag from Havana to Vietnam.
Because, as Karl Popper well observes in The Open Society and Its Enemies:
The attempt to bring heaven to earth invariably produces hell
Published in Journal Veritas no. 8 - April 1986 - year 2