The Power of the Pen's Political Dynamite

Famous in the Biblical myth of a Tree of Knowledge, the tree has always been a powerful symbol of great wisdom and organization. In countless early rare volumes the tree graphically represents the collection and ordering of knowledge. But the idea of a "Tree of Knowledge" is even older. References pre-date the bible by many thousand years in Sumerian scrolls. The folded insert drawing found in the 35 volumes of "Encyclopedie" - 1751-72, depicts the "System of Human Knowledge" that was assembled for 25 years by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d'Alembert. It orchestrates the logic behind a presentation of knowledge in individual articles which became a powerful political tool for the common French citizen.

Folded insert of the 1753 system of of knowledge collection

The branches in which "pharmacology" and "surgery" are located are part of an intricate hierarchy on the bigger branch of "medicine". Further down the branches lead to zoology, special physics and natural sciences to philosophy, These subjects structured together with memory and imagination, are what characterize human intelligence according to the authors.

This encyclopedia, was one of the first to discard the church as the center and authority of truth in favor of "all the knowledge upon the Earth", regardless of how it affects one's feelings.

The writers of the encyclopedia saw it as a vehicle to covertly destroy superstitions while overtly providing access to human knowledge. It was a summary of thought and belief of the Enlightenment. In ancien régime France it caused a storm of controversy, due mostly to its tone of religious tolerance. The encyclopedia praised Protestant thinkers and challenged Catholic dogma, and classified religion as a branch of philosophy, not as the ultimate source of knowledge and moral advice. The entire work was banned by royal decree and officially closed down after the first seven volumes in 1759; but because it had many highly placed supporters, notably Madame de Pompadour, work continued "in secret". In truth, secular authorities did not want to disrupt the commercial enterprise which employed hundreds of people. To appease the church's enemies of the project, the authorities had officially banned the enterprise, but they turned a blind eye to its continued existence.
It was also a vast compendium of the technologies of the period, describing the traditional craft tools and processes. Much information was taken from the Descriptions des Arts et Métiers.

The Encyclopédie presented a taxonomy of human knowledge which was inspired by Francis Bacon's Advancement of Knowledge. The three main branches of knowledge are: "Memory"/History, "Reason"/Philosophy, and "Imagination"/Poetry. Notable is the fact that theology is ordered under 'Philosophy'. Robert Darnton argues that this categorisation of religion as being subject to human reason and not a source of knowledge in and of itself, was a significant factor in the controversy surrounding the work. Additionally, notice that 'Knowledge of God' is only a few nodes away from 'Divination' and 'Black Magic'.

The Encyclopédie played an important role in the intellectual ferment leading to the French Revolution. "No encyclopaedia perhaps has been of such political importance, or has occupied so conspicuous a place in the civil and literary history of its century. It sought not only to give information, but to guide opinion," wrote the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. In The Encyclopédie and the Age of Revolution, a work published in conjunction with a 1989 exhibition of the Encyclopédie at the University of California, Los Angeles, Clorinda Donato writes the following:
The encyclopedians successfully argued and marketed their belief in the potential of reason and unified knowledge to empower human will and thus helped to shape the social issues that the French Revolution would address. Although it is doubtful whether the many artisans, technicians, or laborers whose work and presence and interspersed throughout the Encyclopédie actually read it, the recognition of their work as equal to that of intellectuals, clerics, and rulers prepared the terrain for demands for increased representation. Thus the Encyclopédie served to recognize and galvanize a new power base, ultimately contributing to the destruction of old values and the creation of new ones.
But note Frank Kafker, who explains that the Encyclopedists were not a unified group
despite their reputation, [the Encyclopedists] were not a close-knit group of radicals intent on subverting the Old Regime in France. Instead they were a disparate group of men of letters, physicians, scientists, craftsmen and scholars … Even the small minority who were persecuted for writing articles belittling what they viewed as unreasonable customs—thus weakening the might of the Catholic Church and undermining that of the monarchy—did not envision that their ideas would encourage a revolution.
While it is debatable that the editors intended to have a radical influence on French society, it can hardly be denied that it did. The Encyclopédie denied that the teachings of the Catholic Church could be treated as authoritative in matters of science. The editors also refused to treat the decisions of political powers as definitive in intellectual or artistic questions. Given that Paris was the intellectual capital of Europe at the time and that many European leaders used French as their administrative language, these ideas had the capacity to spread.

Here in our own NeoCon dark ages, education has been relegated a luxury only for the rich, in favor of once again, perpetual war and superstition. The Planet Liberty website and Tree of Progressive Knowledge (a constellation of wikipages) aims to provide a means of re-educating the public on their birthright and history of dissent. It strives to unlock the true meaning of Liberty and Freedom and the importance of democracy for the survival of free people everywhere. We aspire to collect the "knowledge that is dispersed on the surface of the earth" as Diderot and d'Alembert put it in 1753. Will you please help us in this important Progressive goal? Right now we need writers to create pages of subjects that the Main Stream Media (MSM) won't cover.

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Thomas Jefferson (information largely from wikipedia)

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