American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities

American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities

With over four million members worldwide, and two million in the U.S., Freemasonry is the largest fraternal organization in the world. Published in conjunction with the National Heritage Museum, this extravagantly illustrated volume offers an overview of Freemasonry’s origins in seventeenth-century Scotland and England before exploring its evolving role in American history, from the Revolution through the labor and civil rights movements, and into the twenty-first century. American Freemasons explores some of the causes for the rise and fall of membership in the fraternity and why it has attracted men in such large numbers for centuries.

American Freemasons is the perfect introduction to understanding a society that, while shrouded in mystery, has played an integral role in the lives and communities of millions of Americans.

Copublished with the National Heritage Museum

List price: $50.00

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Truth Radio Show w/Dan Bidondi: Headline News Of The Week (11-22-14)

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Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction

Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction

This groundbreaking volume provides a dramatic investigation of the dynamics of reproduction. In an unusually broad spectrum of essays, a distinguished group of international feminist scholars and activists explores the complexity of contemporary sexual politics around the globe. Using reproduction as an entry point in the study of social life and placing it at the center of social theory, the authors examine how cultures are produced, contested, and transformed as people imagine their collective future in the creation of the next generation.

The studies encompass a wide variety of subjects, from the impact of AIDS on reproduction in the United States to the aftereffects of Chernobyl on the Sami people in Norway and the impact of totalitarian abortion and birth control policies in Romania and China. The contributors use historical and comparative perspectives to illuminate the multiple and intersecting forms of power and resistance through which reproduction is given cultural weight and social form. They discuss the ways that seemingly distant influences shape and constrain local reproductive experiences such as the international flows of adoptive babies and childcare workers and the Victorian and imperial legacy of eugenics and family planning.

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The Truth About The American Empire

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War or Peace? World Entering Epochal Period of Geopolitical Change



In a famous speech to the US Congress in March 1991, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the US Gulf War victory over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a triumphant US President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the dawn of a “New World Order.”1 The term, with its ominous freemasonic connotations, raised many an eyebrow and Bush never again publicly used the term. However, what he meant became starkly clear to the world in the two decades following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Now that very US globalisation strategy is in a shambles and the outlines of possible alternative orders are slowly emerging.

The US financial crisis that exploded on the world with a vengeance in March 2007 was the beginning of the end of the Old New World Order as Bush had envisioned in 1991, even though US elites were in denial of that reality. The sole superpower after the end of the Cold War had embarked on a quest of global empire disguised under the rubric of “globalisation.” The Clinton presidency from 1992-2000 marked an era of financial deregulation unprecedented since the 1930s. Big banks were set free from virtually all restraints and became “Too Big to Fail” as a result. The Wall Street Gods of Money knew they could literally “get away with murder” after their follies in the 1997-98 Asia financial crisis, the 1998 Russian sovereign debt default and the subsequent bank bailouts by the IMF and various governments.

When Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan made it clear to Wall Street in 2002 after the collapse of the stock bubble that the Fed would provide bank liquidity in unprecedented volumes and encourage what Greenspan termed a “revolution in finance,” the Big Wall Street banks responded like piranha devouring a bleeding body.

They created an entirely new concept called Asset-Backed Securitisation in what soon became trillions of dollars of dodgy new financial assets called MBOs (Mortgage-Backed Securities). The only real collateral behind the new MBS bonds sold by Wall Street was a financial house of cards built by the Big Three credit rating agencies – Moodys, Standard & Poors and Fitch – together with a small group of specialised Wall Street asset insurers who ultimately became insolvent.

The ensuing financial crisis is well-known. The decision of former Wall Street mogul Henry Paulsen to deliberately let a major Wall Street investment bank, Lehman Brothers, go bankrupt triggered a global systemic panic that almost brought the world down with it. Since that day in September 2008, the Fed and the European Central Bank have been adding liquidity to financial markets via the big banks to keep the banks solvent, at taxpayer expense.

The consequence of the Wall Street banks’ crisis and the Washington pro-Wall Street response, has been the greatest rate of US federal debt growth in history. Since the US sub-prime real estate crisis emerged in 2007, US federal debt has increased by US$7.2 trillion or almost 80% in just five years. Since Bush’s New World Order speech and the end of the Cold War, US federal debt has risen by an incredible US$13 trillion to an alarming Third World debt-to-GDP level of 104% today. Government debt is growing at a rate of well over $1 trillion annually, and the recent fiscal “chicken game” with federal debt default in October 2013 and Congress’ unwillingness to grant a rise in the debt ceiling, have shattered confidence of governments and private investors around the world. As debt burdens force Washington to cut its budget, the footprint of Washington in global politics is also dramatically lessening. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum and others are moving to fill the US global political vacuum.

New Coalitions

Paradoxically, the post-1991 US pursuit of a de facto global empire, ‘The American Century’, as Time-Life publisher Henry Luce named it in a famous 1941 editorial in Life magazine,2 has created precisely what it intended to eliminate. It has spawned the seeds of a multi-polar world, united in opposition to a new tyranny posing as “American democracy.” Nowhere is this better seen than in the alignment of both sides over Syria since March 2011 when Washington and NATO launched a full-scale regime change effort to topple Bashar al-Assad.

Obama chose to act in the “Arab Spring” through proxies, mindful of avoiding a new Iraq or Afghanistan debacle. That meant relying on the Islamist regime of NATO member Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP party. It meant relying on Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, whose ambitions to dominate the natural gas market to the EU pitted him against Syria. It meant relying on Saudi Arabia, home to the ultra-feudal fundamentalist Wahhabite Islamic Royal House. All were Sunni Muslim and, until very recently, it seemed that all backed the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood that took power in Egypt in the so-called Arab Spring.

Here a new fault-line in global geopolitics began to emerge, a fascinating one. Defending the minority Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad, a bitter foe of the Muslim Brotherhood, were Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China, both UN Security Council veto members who blocked any US attempt to get a Security Council sanction for military intervention into Syria.

Russia’s stake is enormous. Her only Mediterranean naval base, Tarsus, is in Syria, an old Cold War ally. Russia’s entire natural gas geopolitics depends on blocking the Qatar gas domination. Qatar and Iran “share” the same giant gas field in the Persian Gulf. In March 2011, the month the Qataris, Turkey and others launched a full assault inside Syria, Assad had just signed an agreement with Shi’ite Iran and Shi’ite-dominated Iraq to build a gas pipeline from Iran’s Persian Gulf gas field ultimately to the Mediterranean, a direct rival to Qatar. Russia had interest in backing the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline.

At that point Qatar, Saudi Arabia and to a degree Erdoğan’s Turkey, launched a dirty war to topple the pro-Iran Assad regime. They financed various fanatical Islamic Jihadists who began invading the country from Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Germany, to die in the name of Holy War. They were for the most part paid mercenaries and ruthless in spreading terror and atrocities, blaming it on Assad’s army.

As the coalition of Russia, Iran and, to a limited degree a more cautious China, dug their heels in, Saudi Intelligence head Prince Bandar, an intimate of the Bush family, was put in charge of toppling the pro-Iran Assad regime. In August 2013 an increasingly desperate Bandar, according to Jordanian journalists inside Syria at the time, provided chemical weapons to the Saudi-financed terrorists in Ghouta, Syria to create a false flag pretext. It was designed to force Obama into a “red line” military intervention in Syria to break the deadlock.3

As we now know, the world was within a hair’s breadth of a potential World War by early September 2013, pitting Iran, Russia, China, Iraq and Syria against a US-led coalition. The rabid pro-war neo-cons in Washington, urged on by the anti-Iran Netanyahu regime in Tel Aviv, backed a bungling Obama into a dangerous corner where America’s very credibility as a Superpower appeared on the line. The last thing Obama wanted was another hapless US war in the Middle East.


At the last moment, as Deus-ex-machina, Russia’s Putin, who only days earlier had been diplomatically shunned by Obama ostensibly over the Snowden NSA affair, came forward with an OpEd in the New York Times. Putin offered to broker a diplomatic solution by removing Syria’s stocks of chemical weapons. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov openly called US Secretary of State John Kerry a liar on Syria.

Surprising many, Obama grabbed the offer as a life preserver. War was off the agenda. Saudi Arabia and Israel’s Netanyahu were furious, with the Saudis threatening a new direction away from US satrapy to an as-yet-undefined new alliance.

The Putin initiative, backed by Iran and accepted by Assad, opened the way for Obama to move to the fore open negotiations after 34 years with the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Those talks, to further Israeli and Saudi anger, resulted in a breakthrough on 24 November 2013 in Geneva: The USA pushed through a Six-Power agreement with Iran to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, leading to lifting of economic sanctions.

France and Britain were arm-twisted into joining the US, China, Russia and Germany in the historic deal that, ironically, boosts the emerging pole of Eurasian power in what I have often referred to as a new “Iran Triangle” of mutual interests between Russia, China and Iran.

As Washington tries under Obama to reign in US military engagements in the Middle East and to an extent Afghanistan, a new power locus around the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan is emerging. Created in 2001 it is defining a new Eurasian economic space. Rail links are being built or expanded creating links from Beijing to Turkey, to Germany and beyond, enabling overland freight transport, creating new growth zones.

Barring World War, which is not to be ruled out, this Eurasian nexus will define the centre-of-gravity of the world economic growth for perhaps the next century or more. The new markets will become a magnet attracting EU economies led by the export-hungry Germany.

The political class of the EU in this context is in an existential dilemma of the first order. Its institutions are a relic of the Cold War and US domination. With the US economic power in shambles and its political leadership in question, the EU faces a Scylla and Charybdis challenge. If it hangs on to the post-1945 Atlantic Bridge, she risks economic disaster as the Eurozone depression deepens and Eurasian chances pass them by. If she “goes east” not West, she opens huge new potential markets in the world’s most populous region, Eurasia, but risks alienating the American Superpower.

Epochal Change

The next several years in my view will witness epochal change as the world order begun with England’s Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s and spreading to North America gives way to new alignments in Eurasia and to an extent in the South led by Brazil in South America.

This new reality in a degree is reflected in the regular dialogue between the so-called BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – since 2010. Notable is their mutual efforts to shape their economic destinies independent of the former colonial masters in Europe or of the USA. Ultimately the emergence of independent regional groupings of nations bent on peaceful economic growth and cooperation offers the chance for a more peaceful and prosperous world. Naturally, not everyone is overjoyed at this prospect, least of all the trillion-dollar NATO arms industry which faces economic collapse if genuine peace were to “break out.”

Over the twenty years since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was privileged to have been invited to Russia, China, Iran and many parts of the former Warsaw Pact, as well as Turkey, Indonesia, Sudan. I met many responsible academics, military and political elites of those countries. It has become clear to me that the last thing Russia or China or Iran want at this point is a new world war.

We have a golden chance to move mankind a significant step closer to a world not ruled by the dogma “might makes right,” but by peace and attempts at mutual cooperation. It would be a refreshing change if we did not squander it as the world did in 1991 when Washington decided not to end the Cold War but try to control the entire world as a sole Superpower, what I call in my book, Full Spectrum Dominance – Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. We have a genuine chance today to build a “New New World Order” based on social justice and peaceful development of our planet.

F. William Engdahl has contributed an article on the recent major Middle East geopolitical developments to New Dawn Special Issue Vol 7 No 6.

If you appreciated this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.


1. George H. W. Bush, ‘Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the End of the Gulf War’ (March 6, 1991), accessed in

2. Henry R. Luce, ‘The American Century’, LIFE magazine, 17 February 1941, accessed in

3. Phil Greaves, ‘The Syria Chemical Weapons Attack and the Role of Saudi Intelligence. The Mint News Report. New MintPress Statement Reveals Saudi Pressure on Reporter’, GlobalResearch, November 23, 2013, accessed in


F. WILLIAM ENGDAHL is an award-winning geopolitical analyst, strategic risk consultant, author, professor and lecturer. He has been researching and writing about the world political scene for more than thirty years. His various books on geopolitics – the interaction between international power politics, economics and geography – have been translated into 14 foreign languages from Chinese to French, from German to Japanese. F. William Engdahl contributes regularly to a number of international publications on economics and political affairs including Asia Times,, RT TV,, Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun and Foresight magazine. He has been interviewed on numerous international TV and radio programs including USA Coast-to-Coast with George Noory, Al Jazeera, Channel 1 Russian TV. Websites: &

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 142 (January-February 2014)

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Spaceship Earth: The Visionary Ideas of the Russian Cosmists



Winston Churchill famously characterised Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” It’s apt, then, that the father of the Russian space program – perhaps of all space programs – was an ascetic librarian who taught that humanity should work for the physical resurrection of all the dead. Nikolai Fyodorov (whose name is also transliterated as Fedorov; 1829–1903) was the first man to seriously theorise about interplanetary travel. He also coined the term “spaceship Earth” to convey a sense of humanity’s interconnection with the cosmos.

Fyodorov, little-known in his lifetime, served as mentor and inspiration for an entire philosophical school known as the Russian Cosmists. These visionaries, often neglected, sometimes persecuted by the Soviet state, conceived of such advanced ideas as rocket travel, a prolonged human lifespan, and the use of electromagnetic energy to enhance vitality. And in many cases they produced the models and formulas that would make these far-fetched ideas a concrete reality.

The ideas of the Cosmists, always visionary, sometimes fantastic, seem closer to reality now than they did a hundred years ago, and the school of the Cosmists continues to this day in Russia, with conferences and papers dedicated to the propagation of these ideas and activities. It is time that their work became better-known.

The foremost authority on the Cosmists in the English-speaking world is George M. Young, author of The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers (published by Oxford University Press in 2012). Young grew up in Madison, Indiana, in the US and received a B.A. in English from Duke University and a Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literatures from Yale University. He has taught Russian and general humanities at Grinnell College, Dartmouth College, and the University of New England, and for many years between academic positions directed a fine arts and auction business specialising in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American and European paintings. He is currently a research fellow at the University of New England’s Center for Global Humanities.

Young is the author of Nikolai F. Fedorov: An Introduction, published in 1979, and has published many essays and reviews on Russian literature and thought in academic and general magazines, journals, and edited collections. Other books include Hermotimus’ Voyages, a collection of poems, and Force through Delicacy: The Life and Art of Charles H. Woodbury, N.A. George and his wife, Patricia, live in rural southern Maine and are the parents of two grown children.

Richard Smoley (RS): The Russian Cosmists aren’t familiar to most English-speaking readers. Maybe you could begin by telling us a bit about who they were and why they’re important.

George M. Young (GY): In a recent issue of Quest magazine, Richard, you observed that over the centuries at crucial moments in history, small groups of people have emerged who were working from a higher plane of consciousness. Among these groups you mention the Pythagoreans, the Chartres school of cathedral builders, the late medieval Brethren of the Common Life, the Rosicrucians, and H.P. Blavatsky’s circle of Theosophists.

I think the Russian Cosmists, working in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, may be another such group. They did not consider themselves a group, or even a school of thought, but individually addressed similar profound, cosmic problems, treating subjects usually considered esoteric or occult as matters suitable for serious scientific and philosophical investigation. The major Cosmists include the religious thinkers Nikolai Fyodorov, Vladimir Solovyov, Nikolai Berdyaev, Sergei Bulgakov, and Pavel Florensky; the philosophical scientists Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Vladimir Vernadsky, Alexander Chizhevsky, Valerian Muravyov, and Vladimir Kuprevich, each of whom was a broad, polymath genius, in no way able to be pigeonholed as simply “religious” or “scientific.”

Florensky, for example, wrote seminal papers in mathematics, developed crucial processes for the electrification of Russian industry, taught in revolutionary schools for workers while wearing his priest’s cassock, and wrote The Pillar and Ground of Truth, one of the great classics of Russian Orthodox contemplative spirituality.

Others were similarly multitalented. They addressed topics such as the infinite extension of the human life span, the overcoming of death, the physical resurrection of the dead, the reconstitution of the human organism, the recreation of whole human individuals from particles of identity, the exploration and colonisation of cosmic space, the reversal of time, and the practical realisation of universal human brother-sisterhood.

The Cosmists show us today how it is possible to overcome dichotomies and bridge gaps. Theory and practice, science and religion, esoteric and exoteric, ideal and real – the Cosmists found ways to unify apparent opposites. Another quality of theirs that we might take note of is the confidence with which they addressed the most enormous, apparently insoluble questions. Can we, should we attempt to overcome death? Can we, should we attempt to remake humanity? Explore and colonise space? Yes, the Cosmists said, with a conviction not much in evidence elsewhere today, we can and should, and here is how to start!

RS: Could you talk a little bit about Nikolai Fyodorov and his work? If I understand it correctly, he coined the term “spaceship Earth” back in the nineteenth century.

GY: Nikolai Fyodorov was the prime exemplar and source of Russian Cosmism. Born in southern Russia, the illegitimate son of a Russian prince and an unknown local woman, Fyodorov led an ascetic, eccentric life, first as a rural elementary school teacher, and then as a Moscow librarian of legendary erudition. That he was also a highly original thinker was known to only a few contemporaries, but this handful included Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Russia’s leading philosopher, Vladimir Solovyov.

Fyodorov’s central idea was that everything we now do leads toward division, destruction, and death. Our “common task” as humans is join together in a grand “project” to use all our god-given intelligence to counter nature’s force of division and death, leading eventually to universal immortality and the resurrection of all the dead. Individual parts of the “common task” included travel beyond earth to collect the dispersed particles of our ancestors (“dust of the fathers”) in order to restore them to wholeness and life, the reconstitution of the human organism to allow us to survive in space under conditions now unable to support human life, and human control over gravity, allowing us to liberate our planet from its natural orbit and guide it through space on courses of our own choosing. More than a century before Buckminster Fuller, Fyodorov argued that we should no longer ride as idle passengers but must become “captain and crew of spaceship Earth.”

Fyodorov did not know exactly how the spiritual-scientific workers of the future would solve the technical problems of biological engineering and interplanetary voyage, but he knew what the goals should be and he believed that if humanity undertook the “common task,” future expertise would be able to find solutions.

For Fyodorov, as early as the 1860s, space colonisation was not an optional fantasy, but a necessary human step toward fulfilment of a divine plan. Dust of our ancestors is dispersed throughout the universe. The human task is to gather and revive this dust, to find homes beyond Earth for the resurrected multitudes that otherwise would overcrowd our planet, to populate the uninhabited and currently uninhabitable places in the universe, to spiritualise all the currently dead matter in the cosmos. In a sense, Fyodorov was the ultimate alchemist, attempting to turn all human knowledge and labour, all science, religion, and art, into a single task of transmuting currently dead or dying matter into eternal, universal life. His posthumously published writings seemed ridiculous to most of his early readers – perhaps less so today.

RS: I gather that Konstantin Edouardovich Tsiolkovsky, a pupil of Fyodorov’s, laid some of the groundwork for what became the Russian space program. Could you tell us a little bit about him and what he accomplished?

GY: Even before Fyodorov’s writings were published, a handful of listeners and readers recognised in him a mind far ahead of his time. Tolstoy wrote that he was proud to have lived in the same century as Fyodorov. And Solovyov wrote that since the appearance of Christianity Fyodorov’s “project” was the first forward movement of the human spirit along the path of Christ.

But the follower who did most to realise a portion of Fyodorov’s “project” was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935), a mostly deaf but precocious seventeen-year-old boy from a small village who moved to Moscow to educate himself and came under Fyodorov’s tutelage at the library. As Tsiolkovsky would later write, Fyodorov guided his readings, taught him to take notes, and served as his one-man university. After a few years studying with Fyodorov, Tsiolkovsky returned to his village to teach. After school hours he built wooden model rockets and spaceships, and developed and published the mathematical formulas that eventually led to the launching of the world’s first artificial satellites. In addition to his seminal scientific papers, for which he received recognition as the grandfather of the Russian space program, Tsiolkovsky published science fiction tales about space exploration that inspired generations of young Russian readers to dream of becoming cosmonauts. And though he could not publish them through official Soviet outlets, he wrote and sometimes printed and circulated numerous esoteric and theosophical speculations concerning higher sentient beings and energies alive throughout the cosmos.

RS: What does it mean to be a “Cosmist” in this context?

GY: I think one of the main features of Cosmist thought is what Fyodorov called the shift from a Ptolemaic to a Copernican comprehension of the universe. Intellectually, we have long realised that our planet is not the centre of the universe, but emotionally, culturally, aesthetically, and in almost every other way, we cling to a Ptolemaic cosmology. The Cosmists urge us not only to think but to feel and in every way realise that we are citizens of the entire universe. Not only the planet, but the cosmos is our home, and our lives are meant to span not merely seventy-odd years, but forever. The Cosmists propose that we are not the end product, but are still in the early stages of evolution. We are still children, or at best, adolescents, with all the characteristics and problems of that age, and have a long way to go to attain maturity. The insecurities, appetites, and needs – sexual, gustatory, etc. – that now drive and dominate our lives will eventually subside. We will be greatly changed from what we now are. As Fyodorov wrote, we need to realise – to make real in every way – that we are already “heaven dwellers.”

RS: How did the Cosmists conceive of interplanetary travel?

GY: Tsiolkovsky developed formulas and designed rockets for human beings as we are today. But he, Fyodorov, and others also imagined possible interplanetary, even intergalactic travel for more advanced levels of humanity. A step in that direction would be the cessation of what Fyodorov called “cannibalism” (i.e., that we stop eating organic matter, all of which he believed is made up of particles of our ancestors), and the attainment of an autotrophic way of life, in which, like certain plants and other organisms, we would feed on air, sunlight, and other elements. In Cosmist thought, we must direct our own evolution. Instead of taller, heavier bodies, we should choose to develop smaller, lighter bodies, and eventually perhaps eliminate all our mass and become bodiless minds, free from gravity, god-men able to be anywhere and everywhere in the cosmos. At that stage, interplanetary travel would be automatic and instantaneous: decide to go to Jupiter and you’re there.

RS: It seems that the Cosmists were among the first thinkers to conceive of human possibilities beyond the limits of the physical earth. What do you think were some of their most important contributions in this regard?

GY: Fyodorov and the other Cosmists tried to make literal sense of ideas such as “resurrection of the dead,” “heaven on earth,” “eternal life,” “oneness with God,” “manna from heaven,” etc. They believed that we should not merely dream and pray for “heavenly peace,” but could and should take the actualisation of such concepts as our human duty and task. So the first step for them was a shift in consciousness, changing speculations about things “not of this world,” into tasks to be realised in this world, turning metaphysics into engineering projects. Writers like Jules Verne, Prince Vladimir Odoyevsky, and others had written entertaining speculative fiction about a future with space travel, but the Cosmists said: “Let’s not just talk about these things, let’s do them.”

As far as results are concerned, Tsiolkovsky published the formulas enabling man-made objects to escape Earth’s gravity. Solovyov developed a philosophy of active love pointing humanity toward a higher, spiritually mature, androgynous level of existence. Bulgakov countered Marx’s earthly, materialist philosophy of economics with a Cosmist, spiritual “Philosophy of Economy” that casts man as responsible owner and regulator of the universe. Vernadsky developed the idea of the noösphere, a sheath of mental energy as real and influential as the stratosphere, ionosphere, and other spheres of energy surrounding our planet. Muravyov proposed new socioeconomic structures that would facilitate mass human control over time. Chizhevsky invented devices that focused electromagnetic energy to invigorate workers and increase animal productivity, and further discovered correlations between periodic solar storms and cycles of mass human activity. And Kuprevich laid the foundation for remarkable Russian advances in gerontology and human longevity research that is now being conducted. I think, then, that one of the major contributions the Russian Cosmists have made is to take seriously the idea that humans are made for infinite space and infinite time.

RS: Tsiolkovsky held not only that life is distributed throughout the universe, but that the most advanced forms of life are not to be found on Earth. How did he conceive of, and portray, these forms of life?

GY: Tsiolkovsky was a panpsychist, recognising life and sensitivity throughout the universe. He believed that a spiritual atom (atom dukh) inhered in every particle of the material universe. Tsiolkovsky’s cosmos, moreover, is teleological, rationally organised, and hierarchical. Lower life forms, consisting mainly of matter in which spirit is dormant, evolve into higher ones, in which spirit is awakened and more dominant, and eventually as we approach perfection we will outgrow our material envelopes and join the rays of cosmic energy that constitute something like the pleroma of the Gnostics.

For Tsiolkovsky, integral life is distributed throughout the universe, and the most advanced, most highly developed life forms are not to be found on earth. In cosmic evolution, higher life forms move on, leaving lower forms behind, and the higher life forms guide and shape the evolutionary paths of the lower forms. So in Tsiolkovsky’s view, we are being guided and shaped by higher life forms from somewhere beyond our planet. The past is endless, and many universes have come and gone before the present one, and the processes and forces that guide and shape our paths are real and intuited, but beyond our present rational understanding.

RS: There has been an enormous amount of interest in extraterrestrials and UFOs over the past two generations. Do the Cosmists have anything to contribute to this conversation?

GY: Most Cosmist speculation focuses on our human role in and toward the cosmos, but some attention has also been given to how cosmic beings or forces interact with us. Tsiolkovsky, as noted above, thought that higher life forms beyond Earth guide and shape our evolution. And his younger colleague Alexander Chizhevsky (1897–1964), who lived and worked in the same town as Tsiolkovsky, devoted most of his scientific research (he was also an artist and a poet) to the influence of solar and other cosmic waves and particles of energy on earthly life. He won recognition and honours for his “Chizhevsky Chandelier” – an electromagnetic device that produced negatively charged aero-ions for curative and therapeutic uses and to stimulate more productive animal and human output in henhouses. But his best-known work today is his discovery of correlations between solar and human cycles of activity. In a series of charts and graphs covering two millennia of human history, he demonstrated – though not entirely convincingly – that wars, revolutions, and other examples of mass upheaval coincided almost perfectly with the eleven-year cycle of solar eruptions, and that during the middle, less active years of the solar cycle, peace, prosperity, and creative mass movements flourished.

Chizhevsky’s argument might make sense in a general way: human life and history may well be influenced more than we now recognise by unseen, unmeasured forces from the sun and from other sources beyond our planet. But Chizhevsky’s charted and graphed correlations seem too neat for the little we actually know about “universal” mass activity in remote places and eras. A more nuanced presentation of the same overall data might be more convincing.

As for UFOs, Cosmist thinkers have little to contribute, perhaps assuming that entities wishing to interact with us and our planet would probably have passed beyond physical planes of existence, and if they did appear to us as visible entities, it would only be as illusions – adaptations dumbed down for our convenience.

RS: Could you say something about Vladimir Vernadsky (1863–1945) and his ideas of the noösphere?

GY: Of all the Cosmists, Vernadsky had the most conventionally productive life. Others were exiled, imprisoned, even executed for their Cosmist ideas, considered heretical at the time. Vernadsky, thanks in part to his international reputation and to his apolitical devotion to pure science, but perhaps mainly because of the economic and military value of his work in atomic energy, was permitted to conduct and publish his research through even the worst periods of Stalinist repression.

He is best known today for his formulation of the “biosphere” as the planet’s sheath of “living matter,” and the emergence of the “noösphere” (from nous, the Greek word for “mind”) as the biosphere’s sheath of “thinking matter.” Though better known in the West through the writings of his French colleagues Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Edouard Le Roy, who probably developed their ideas while attending seminars taught by Vernadsky at the Sorbonne, the idea of the noösphere is most extensively developed by Vernadsky in Russian. Like Chizhevsky, Vernadsky emphasised the importance of cosmic forces on the shaping and development of our planet. The biosphere serves as a transformer converting cosmic radiation into active energy in electrical, chemical, mechanical, thermal, and other forms. Radiation from all stars affects the biosphere, but we measure and are aware of only a small portion, mainly from the sun. The noösphere, emerging through the biosphere, is a new geological phenomenon, as important as the earlier emergence of the biosphere on our inert planetary rock.

Humanity, for the first time, becomes a major geological force, and thinking matter will change the planet as thoroughly as did the emergence of living matter. Vernadsky insists that we can and must alter our habitat by labour and thought. Like other Cosmists, he is confident that our efforts are more likely to improve than destroy our environment. The noösphere is not the final, but merely the latest stage of biological evolution in geological history. He writes that many stages have preceded and many will follow but this is our present stage, and its course is only beginning to be apparent to us.

RS: Where do you think the ideas of the Cosmists can take us in the twenty-first century?

GY: The ideas of the early Cosmists have been further developed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. In Moscow, the Nikolai Fyodorov Museum and Library sponsors seminars, publications, research presentations, and other activities for today’s Cosmists. In Kaluga, the town where Tsiolkovsky and Chizhevsky lived and worked, the Tsiolkovsky Museum of Cosmonautics also sponsors wide ranging research and publishing projects. Other centres in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and elsewhere engage in studies and activities related to but not directly linked to the Fyodorovian tradition of Cosmism.

Some of the most intense activity related to Cosmism is in the field of human longevity and immortology – the science of immortality. One scientist, Igor Vishev, has predicted that technology is advancing so rapidly that there are already people alive today who will never die. Others, of a transhumanist orientation, emphasise the coming union of man and computer, human and artificial intelligence. Other researchers have investigated alternative realities, developing mechanical devices to induce states of altered, perhaps higher, consciousness.

In remote areas of Russia and Siberia, utopian groups have emerged, attempting, as Fyodorov and Florensky did, to create an alternative human communal future by looking deeply into the Russian past. For Fyodorov and Florensky, the spiritual past with a future lay in pre-Petrine Russian Orthodox Christianity. For the communal Cosmists of today, the spiritual past with a future lies for the most part in pre-Christian Slavic paganism. At academic conferences on Cosmism, a feature of many presentations and discussions is the interdisciplinary character of the research. Since Fyodorov’s day, the division of knowledge into narrow specialties, along with the separation of thought from action, has been viewed as an example of modern intellectual decline and death. Today’s Cosmists follow their classic predecessors in fearlessly addressing the big questions and proposing bold, active, comprehensive solutions. The Cosmists are aware that the problems and solutions they discuss today may not be the ones they will be discussing tomorrow. But they are also aware that Cosmists past and present have made an important start, and the discussion will continue.

The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers by George M. Young (Oxford University Press, 2012) is available from all good bookstores and online retailers.

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RICHARD SMOLEY has over thirty-five years of experience of studying and practicing esoteric spirituality. His latest book is Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History. He is also the author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity; The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe; The Essential Nostradamus; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; and Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (with Jay Kinney). Smoley is the former editor of Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. Currently he is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books.

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 140 (September-October 2013)

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