A brief outline, part 1
If we look at the official definition of Utopia, we can see that it has it's roots in Sir Thomas More's work of 1517, which was itself taken from his view of Plato's The Republic.
Here we have an early view of how people wanted to live. Free of the horrors that life was throwing at them. Life was sharp and cruel and everyone wanted to escape to a fantasy land. Making these dreams come true was so far away, that few people actually thought it would come about.
Plato was a good example.
Although the idea of Republicanism has always been held up as an alternative to the old fashioned Tribal order of things, few examples have ever lived to live up to that dream.
So the first roots of Utopianism were a society of equals. Where people were chosen through intelligence or skill, and had to prove their place in that social order. The principles were those which removed poverty and misery and allowed people to live free and happy. Equality and pacifism were the keystones of this society, as these were seen as the main reasons leading to the problems in the first place. This early Utopia relied on few laws, as these were seen as restrictive, but were put there as guide lines, which could be argued out through reason.
And here lies the first stumbling blocks of any Utopia.
For how do you find reason and balance in the heart of anyone?
All you can do is trust that people are basically good to start with. A tenant argued through the ideas of Utopia. Sadly faced with massive opposition this was a key weapon with which to stop any perfect society. As it is all too easy to use the weapons of jealousy and greed against a foe. Many of the old tribal order had a vested interest in making sure their world stayed the same, as it put them at the top.
So for many centuries the dream of perfection was never sort after. It might be argued that people's lives were happy enough without change. But faced with grinding poverty and disease few got the choice.
It was only until the coming of the industrial age that society faced any real challenge. For here was the greatest threat to the order of things. For the first time in history people were taken in large numbers and put in cities. To them the world was coming to an end, and as the old world turned to the new, many thought this was a vision of the apocalypse. The poem John Clare so the Medieval landscape being dug up for the new Victorian farming system. Faced with a world being changed forever, people found it hard to weigh the argument that the increase in food production was needed to feed the growing population. To them the rise in the populace was seen as simply a means to feed the machine, and a machine they never wanted in the first place.
Before the Industrial revolution people were only faced with the ebb and flow of everyday trials. Wars came and went, and one group of rulers might be swapped for another, but now the people of the world faced a changed in their very way of life.
Faced with a growing tide of hysteria many people reacted by looking inwards.
This had the noticeable effect with the growth of religious cults.
Religion had always played a part in the shaping of the modern world, but now it seemed powerless in the face of such an oncoming wave of industrialization. When the rural population had to move into the cities there were few if any paces where they could join together in worship. Few churches could accommodate the influx of people, so the only place they could come together as one, were sports events. Here the people could reflect on who they were and where they stand now.
Of course this did not feed the growing doubts about the modern world and a need for more spiritualism. The modern church of the Western World was happily divided between Catholics Protestants and their subdivisions. They knew the workings of the mind and were happy to administrator to the flock as long as they played a part in ruling the modern world. But many saw this as selling the people short and they wanted a more spiritual path. They wanted religion and belief to play a more active part in everyday life. To that end they decided to begin their own religions and were even prepared to go against the conventional Church and embrace fringe beliefs.
The attraction of these fringe beliefs was that here were perfect examples of the promise of utopia. It appeared to be getting back to a pure vision of the original dreams, and it appeared.
Many spiritualist religions grow up around the Industrial revolution. Some promised heaven on Earth, but many offered rewards that only exist in an imaginary dream world. This was the stumbling block for many cults. Without they had a rich patron, there were few examples of where the rewards were coming from.
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