New Atlantis, the secret island which could have poisoned the world

In 1627, New Atlantis, a picturesque fairy tale originally written in Latin by Francis Bacon was published. It was quickly translated into French and English, and attracted considerable attention. Bacon’s dream might be very amusing and colorful; we are nevertheless lucky that it never became reality. In effect, New Atlantis would have become our nightmare. Bacon’s political and cultural project of world domination would have become both toxic for the population of his island and subversive for the distant kingdoms plundered by the happy sect, which would have controlled Salomon’s house.2

A happy and secret island, whose wish is to rule the universe.

In Bacon’s fairy tale, New Atlantis3 ruled over the world, but its domination was ignored by its naïve geopolitical periphery: “We here are in God’s bosom, a land unknown,4 explained his representative. The British sailors who had discovered this strange country were surprised indeed: “This happy island where we now stood (…) knew most of the nations of the world (…) and yet we in Europe, notwithstanding all the remote discoveries and navigations of this last age, never heard any the least inkling or glimpse of this island. This we found wonderful strange, for that all nations have inter-knowledge one of another.5

They were even a little bit frightened as they heard the authorities affirm: “The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes and secret motions of things, and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire.”6 More surprisingly, power in New Atlantis was less exerted by the King than by a secret society:7You shall understand, my dear friends, that amongst the excellent acts of that king one above all hath the pre-eminence. It was the erection and institution of an order or society, which we call Solomon’s House, the noblest foundation (…) and the lantern of this kingdom.8

Now who inspired the regulations decided by Solomon’s house? Bacon answered: “Moses by a secret cabala ordained the laws of Bensalem, which they now use.9

Even though the island seemed to be Christian, the very sources of Christianity had been strangely modified. In effect, the great book contained “all the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, according as you have them (…) and some other books of the New Testament which were not at that time written.10 What were these other books? No one knows. In any case, several people collaborated in Solomon’s house. Beside the natives, we found “Hebrews, Persians, and Indians.11

But how could the sect maintain its domination on the population?

The internal power of Solomon’s house: deceiving the population

In New Atlantis, political domination rests on deception. To this respect, all senses are targeted. Apparently, television, cinema and artificial imagery are used: “We have (…) perspective-houses, where we make demonstration of all lights and radiations, and of all colours (…) Also all colourations of light, all delusions and deceits of the sight, in figures, magnitudes, motions, colours, all demonstrations of shadows (…) We procure means of seeing objects afar off, as in the heavens, and remote places; and represent things near as afar off, and things afar off as near, making feigned distances. (…) We make artificial rainbows, halos, and circles about light.

Sounds are also manipulated: “We have (…) soundhouses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds and their generation (…) We have also divers strange and artificial echoes reflecting the voice many times, and as it were tossing it; and some that give back the voice louder than it came, some shriller, and some deeper. Yea some rendering the voice differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive.

Solomon’s house diffuses artificial smells and shapes the tastes: “We have also perfumehouses, wherewith we join also practices of taste (…) we imitate smells, making all smells to breathe out of other mixtures than those that give them. We make divers imitations of taste likewise, so that they will deceive any man’s taste.”

More interestingly, Salomon’s house initiates biomimetic processes: “We imitate also flights of birds: we have some degress of flying in the air: we have ships and boats for going under water.

To manipulate the masses, the sect has houses of deceits of the senses, producing “false apparitions, impostures and illusions and their fallacies.”12

The internal strength of Solomon’s house – which has superseded the power of the King13 – is thus based on deception. Happy Island? For the manipulators it may be, but certainly not for the population.

What about the other nations of the world, do they find their happiness in the domination of New Atlantis?

The external power of Solomon’s house: industrial spying

New Atlantis would be unable to remain geopolitically independent and economically wealthy if its domination were not based on the discreet industrial plundering of the distant Nations, in which its natives operate. In effect, New Atlantis both intends to protect its cultural identity and to ensure simultaneously its economic wealth.14 How does it proceed?

It doesn’t send many spies abroad but selects them carefully.15 For the king indeed, the most important thing is to know what is going on abroad: “we maintain a trade, not for gold, silver, or jewels, nor for silks, nor for spices, nor any other commodity of matter, but only for God’s first creature, which was light; to have light, I say, of the growth of all parts of the world.”16

The intelligence service of New Atlantis is carefully organized as follows: “For the several employments and offices of our fellows, we have twelve that sail into foreign countries under the names of other nations, (for our own we conceal,) who bring us the books and abstracts, and patterns of experiments of all other parts. These we call merchants of light. We have three that collect the experiments, which are in all books. These we call depredators. We have three that collect the experiments of all mechanical arts, and also of liberal sciences, and also of practices, which are not brought into arts. These we call mystery men. We have three that try new experiments, such as themselves think good. These we call pioneers or miners. We have three that draw the experiments of the former four into titles and tables, to give the better light for the drawing of observations and axioms out of them. These we call compilers.”17

Not only are the intelligence services divided into specialized departments, they are also structured thanks to an internal hierarchy distinguishing novices from apprentices. All these agents take an oath of secrecy.

It thus appears that the happy island, which has placed the concentration of knowledge into the hands of Solomon’s temple affiliates, worships technical achievements to the detriment of men. It is thus no surprise why its natives be scarcely mentioned. On New Atlantis, human beings count in so far as they procure intelligence to Solomon’s house. The silent slaves are happy because thus said their masters.

1. Thomas Flichy de La Neuville, Professor in Saint-Cyr’s military academy, and Research Professor at IWP.

2. It should be noted that Francis Bacon, beside his philosophical talents, was a master cryptologist.

3. Bacon was behind the English settlement of North America and thus can be considered a founding father of the United States and Canada.

4. Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis, London, 1845, p. 269.

5. Francis Bacon, op. cit., p. 222.

6. Ibid., p. 253.

7. For Frances Yates, the New Atlantis has its roots in the Hermetic-Cabalist tradition of the Renaissance, though this is becoming rationalized in a seventeenth-century direction.

8. Ibid., p. 233.

9. Ibid., p. 243.

10. Ibid., p. 222.

11. Ibid., p. 222.

12. Ibid., p. 262.

13. According to Peter Dawkins, Bacon’s formulation of a double majesty state became the basis for the unwritten constitution written by John Locke in the two treatises and for the written constitution created by the American Founding Fathers.

14. According to Chloé Houston, « Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun, written in 1602 but not printed until 1623, and Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, published posthumously in 1627, are classic examples of the isolationist utopia: careful about their borders, secretive in their dealings with the outside world (…)The narrator and his company reach the country of Bensalem after a storm, where that are met by officials who will not allow them to approach beyond a certain distance. These officials, when they board the visitors’ ship, carry with them strange fruits to ward off contamination; they allow the company to enter their country, but under strict conditions, and keep them in special quarters ». Chloë Houston, “No Place and New Worlds: The Early

Modern Utopia and the Concept of the Global Community,” Spaces of Utopia: An Electronic Journal, nr. 1, Spring 2006, pp. 13-21.

15. When the king had forbidden to all his people navigation in any part that was not under his crown, he made nevertheless this ordinance that every twelve years there should be set forth out of this kingdom two ships appointed to several voyages; that in either of these ships there should be a mission of three of the fellows or brethren of Solomon’s House, whose errand was only to give us knowledge of the affairs and state of those countries to which they were designed, and especially of the sciences, arts, manufactures, and inventions of all the world; and withal to bring unto us books, instruments, and patterns in every kind.

16. Ibid., p. 235.

17. Ibid., p. 235.