Christopher McIntosh holds a doctorate in history from Oxford University. He worked for many years in publishing and later in the United Nations system, while pursuing a parallel career as a writer and historian. His works include studies of Rosicrucianism, a work on the French occultist Eliphas Lévi, and a biography of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. He has published on sacred landscape and on Paganism, and is on the faculty of the Centre for the Study of Esotericism at Exeter University, England. He lives in Bremen, north Germany.
I'm sitting in a courtyard near a fountain in a castle in a remote part of France for a conversation with Christopher McIntosh, who is known for his work on the seventeenth-century religio-political phenomenon of Rosicrucianism, but who also has been studying and participating in the modern Pagan movement. I'd like to begin by discussing how you went from the perspective of a global modernist to your present worldview. You spent 15 years in UNESCO, and it was during that period that you began to change your worldview and your view of globalization and globalism as an ideology. Would you care to talk a little bit about that? [End Page 129]
Yes. To be more precise, I worked for four years for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in New York, and then 11 years with UNESCO in Hamburg, Germany. During the period that I was at the UNDP in New York, I saw the fall of communism, and the changes that it brought with it. Now, communism wasn't the ideal system, but at least it provided an alternative model to the capitalist model. But after the fall of communism, what you had was a worldwide capitalism, and I began to see the effects of this and of globalization. Now, I'm not against a global vision, a vision of human rights, justice, peace, and so on. I think those are all very laudable aims. But globalization, as it has developed, is essentially not in the interests of humanity; it's in the interests of certain international financial and commercial forces that are riding roughshod over many things—over the environment, traditional cultures, traditional values, traditional ways of life—and just leading to exploitation and a kind of ironing-out, a global ironing-out of all differences. I could put it this way, that globalization essentially is aiming to turn the entire world into the model of a shopping mall in New Jersey—a shopping mall where you see the same shops, the same goods are on sale, you hear the same piped-in music, and there's probably a cinema where you see the same films as everywhere else. And this is essentially where we're heading unless we wake up to this situation and do something about it.
What would you see as ways of addressing this? It is the case that, certainly in the United States, that everywhere you go there's a kind of— broadly speaking—a monoculture as some people call it, and that extends globally. What do you see as an alternative vision?
You see, when I voice criticisms like this, the reaction I often get is "well, you can't stop progress. Globalization is progress. If you try to reverse globalization, you're going backward." Now, this brings me to an assumption, or shall we say a paradigm, that is almost universal. That is, the paradigm of progress, or what is sometimes called the "Whig view of history." This is the view that at one time, thousands of years ago, we all lived in caves and were terribly primitive. Gradually, over the course of many centuries, we became more and more enlightened, more and more [End Page 130] advanced, and so on. This process is continuing indefinitely in an infinite line toward some ever-receding promised land. Now this paradigm is so much part of our way of thinking, it's a paradigm that I grew up with, that was impressed upon me in my education, and it's so much part of...