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Thomas Hobbes

Book IV

Book III

Book IV, page 2

page 1 of 2

Book IV: Of the Kingdome of Darknesse


The Bible describes the Kingdom of Darkness as the confederacy of Satan and his demons. However, Hobbes, having already disproved the existence of devils, concludes that the Kingdom of Darkness is merely an allegory for a "Confederacy of Deceivers, that to obtain dominion over men in this present world, endeavour by dark, and erroneous Doctrines, to extinguish in them the Light, both of Nature, and of the Gospell; and so to dis-prepare them for the Kingdome of God to come" (Chapter 44). In Book III, Hobbes began the project of dismantling false religious doctrines, and he continues to do so in Book IV under the claim that these false doctrines are poisoning Christian belief, preventing social preparation for the eventual coming of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Darkness exists here and now, Hobbes writes, for religion is rife with false doctrines perpetrated by people interested in preserving their own power. Accordingly, people must change their behavior--namely, they must adopt Hobbes's philosophy--in order to fulfill true Christian obedience.

There are four causes of the Kingdom of Darkness: 1) errors resulting from the misinterpretation of scripture concerning the Kingdom of God (which Hobbes suggested in Book III); 2) the belief that the Kingdom of God is the present Church; 3) the belief that the Pope is the Vicar general of Christ; and 4) the belief that clergy are specially appointed over the Christian laity with privileged knowledge of divine will. From these causes have grown the false belief that priestly incantation brings about an alteration in spiritual state, as in consecration or baptism. In fact, such incantations have no bearing upon the spiritual state, for they are mere words and have neither magical ability nor the power to force God to take action. Thus consecrations, baptisms, and other verbally enacted procedures, such as marriage, are symbolic of Christian faith but do not bring God into presence. Not only is God never present, but a human being could not have such power over God.

Those who cite scripture in an attempt to prove the existence of spirits, devils, angels, or spiritual possessions, are misinterpreting the Bible. The power of priests to conduct exorcisms is thereby erroneous, as is the invocation of saints. Purgatory and Hell are inventions, Heaven will be founded on Earth with the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the natural immortality of the soul is not demonstrable in scripture. Scripture does not teach that spirits are incorporeal, Hobbes claims, and thus such beliefs are not the product of revealed religion but rather the retention of elements from "heathen religions." Demonology, disembodied spirits, exorcism, the worship of images, and the canonizing of saints are all "relics of the religion of the Gentiles" that have infected and remained within the Church and Christian doctrine.

Such "relics" have remained entrenched because those who profess understanding of, or control over, these relics, derive much personal benefit from them. Hobbes attacks ecclesiastical authority, maintaining that they have retained false doctrines because these doctrines give them power over the ignorant. Not content to blame the accidents of history, Hobbes accuses those who preach false doctrines and erroneous facts to be directly responsible for them, for "He that receiveth Benefit by a Fact, is presumed to be the Author" (Chapter 47). Ecclesiastical authorities are thus the cause for the present Kingdom of Darkness, and Hobbes compares them to the fictional society, or Kingdom, of Fairies, which, although only an "old wives' tale" (Chapter 47), has generated many superstitious beliefs in people's minds. Hobbes proceeds to argue that, once false doctrine is dropped, a Christian commonwealth must institute the Leviathan in its place.

"No false doctrine is part of philosophy," writes Hobbes. Hobbes challenges contemporary theologians, Aristotelian philosophers, university scholastics, and the Church for being anti-philosophic and actively working to destroy truth. Hobbes criticizes the execution of Galileo, writing, "But what reason is there for it? Is it because such opinions are contrary to true Religion? That cannot be, if they be true" (Chapter 46). Philosophical truths must be religious truths, not the other way around, and only Hobbesian philosophy is successful in providing truths that are secure and capable of attaining that civil peace demanded by God's laws of nature.

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Hobbes Leviathan, Important Terms: PLENUM

by HerrDay, October 12, 2014

Sparknotes editors, you need to review your definition of PLENUM in the glossary for Hobbes' Leviathan. A picture of the universe as a plenum makes a vacuum impossible.

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