For de Sade culture is relative. You can trust only yourself and your feelings – especially your sexual desires. They are your authentic self so you must do what you want and live your own truth. Freud accepted Sade’s proposition that sexual identity is fundamental to your identity and that it is bad to suppress it. We have now so adopted this as state ideology in the Western world, that to seek to suppress any one’s desires is regarded in some states as a hate crime. Whereas de Sade went to jail for sexual perversion, soon we will be sent to jail for calling it perversion!
Note: This is this week’s article on Christian Today….see the original here. I think this is a really important insight – if you agree feel free to share it…
The Marquis de Sade – the Progressive Prophet?
In order to understand the times we live in, it is essential that we know where we have come from. While this is true of personal history it is also true of our collective history – which is perhaps why The Rest is History, fronted by Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook, has become one of the most popular podcasts in the English-speaking world. The mixture of deep historical knowledge, contemporary application, British humour and joyful camaraderie make for a wonderful listening experience.
Every now and then they come up with an episode which is revelatory – almost prophetic. A recent example was on that unlikeliest of historical subjects, the infamous Marquis de Sade. In less skilled hands the temptation to turn this into a kind of mocking sleaze fest would have been too much, but not to our two intrepid presenters.
In fact, what transpired was enlightening. When we find ourselves wondering how the Western world has ended up in its present state of confusion and disintegration, the Rest is History’s analysis of de Sade helps us to the answers. In summary, Holland and Sandbrook argued that the ideologies and ideas of Freud, Darwin and Nietzsche were there in seed form in de Sade.
De Sade, a Frenchman, was born in 1740. He was a writer, philosopher, politician and playboy. He lived through the French revolution and even became a key participant in it, becoming an elected delegate to the National Convention. He died in September 1814 having lived a life of debauchery, sexual perversion and violent abuse. He recorded his ideology in various writings including the books Justine and The 120 Days of Sodom – works that are so grotesque they were banned in the UK until 1989.
They are horrific – so horrific that Tom Holland records that though he had tried to read The 120 Days of Sodom several times, he gave up. He described it as literally “unreadable”, because of its evil and sickening content. It is an interesting observation that websites like Amazon feel quite free to offer this book for sale (and Penguin are now quite happy to publish it as a ‘classic’) but dare to misgender someone and your books could be banned! At a personal level I would strongly discourage people from reading this dark perversity – I know of people who have been severely harmed by reading it at university.
His promotion of what became known as sadism, as well as masochism and homosexuality was, for its day, so extreme that he ended up in prison for over 30 years of his life. But as Holland and Sandbrook point out, much of his philosophy would today now be regarded as ‘progressive’. Here are his principles which sound so modern.
1. All Is Naturalistic Materialism
He was a social Darwinist, believing in the survival of the fittest. He had faith that everything was material. All are molecules and molecules are endlessly turning. Therefore, war and murder are natural and desirable. It is natural for wolves to eat lambs – and we should never oppose nature.
2. Reject Christianity
It is not without significance that de Sade was a committed atheist, who like Nietzsche, rejected not only the religion of Christianity but also its values and virtues. De Sade hated and despised Christ and the Church. He continually blasphemed against all aspects of Christianity and attacked Christ, as well as portraying the clergy as perverted hypocrites. He regarded Christianity as a slave religion which was fit only for the weak.