Natural Law: The Philosophical Foundations of the New Roman Empire

Natural Law: The Philosophical Foundations of the New Roman Empire

The article below was originally published on October 23, 2015 at


The buzzwords of today’s geopolitics are “saving the planet,” “climate change” and “sustainable development.” We have all heard these terms in the popular media, but it seems most people do not fully realize the full implications of the agenda behind the environmental issue. On 25 September 2015, Pope Francis declared in his speech before the United Nations that “the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself…” This statement echoes Pope Benedict’s 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, where he declared that “the law etched on human hearts is the precondition for all constructive social cooperation.” Both Popes were referring to the philosophy of “natural law” which constitutes the basis of Roman Catholic moral theology. The reason Pope Francis sets himself up as the patron of nature is because he seeks to establish this concept of natural law as the basis of ethical reasoning. This is the main thrust of a papal document published in 2009 titled ‘In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at the Natural Law’.

The papacy is exploiting the issue of Climate Change to establish the concept of “natural law” as the philosophical basis of a “universal ethic” enforced by a “new world political authority.” It should be emphasized that when the papacy speaks about “natural law” it is not referring to the laws of nature as we commonly understand them. In the West, the concept of natural law originated with Stoic philosophy at the time of the Roman Republic and subsequent Roman Empire, although a similar concept was taught in ancient Egypt and Babylon. The Romans regarded Stoicism in much the same way as science is regarded today. It was the predominant paradigm among the educated classes and was considered to be rational and scientific. An understanding of its premises is becoming increasingly important, because Stoic philosophy is destined to become the intellectual foundation of “The New Roman Empire,” to borrow a phrase used by Time magazine in September this year [2015] in reference to the increasing influence of Pope Francis. The terminology is highly appropriate, for the “true world political authority” aspired after by Pope Benedict and Pope Francis is precisely that.

To understand this new empire, which is currently in the making, it is imperative to understand its philosophical foundations. Greek philosophers like Athanagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, etc. taught that there is an impersonal and universal mind that pervades and transcends the cosmos. The Greek philosophers identified this “cosmic consciousness” with a panentheistic deity called Zeus, whereas the Romans identified it with Jupiter. Sometimes Zeus and Jupiter were also equated with the material universe, although Plato still retained a duality between mind and matter. Stoic philosophers denied this duality and maintained that mind and matter are metaphysically one. The result of this metaphysical doctrine was that the distinction between God and nature, already blurred by the Greeks, was entirely effaced by the Stoics. The god of Stoicism was the totality of nature – divinity, humanity and the cosmos all lumped together in a mystical union of being.

Drawing upon the Greek concept of a universal mind, the Stoics argued that the universal mind of Zeus also has universal reason, whereby they meant the universal ideas in the divine mind that embodied the cosmos. They said that since this universal mind was everywhere, this universal reason had to be everywhere also. They called this universal reason “Logos,” or divine reason, and considered it to be the natural law that orders the elements of the cosmos. The natural law was regarded by the philosophers as a moral law written into nature itself, something so completely one with nature, that it could not be distinguished from nature. According to Stoic philosophers, nature was not only governed by law, but nature was considered to be metaphysically one with the law which it contained. Based upon the principle that law and nature cannot be severed, because they are metaphysically one, Stoic philosophers like Cicero and Seneca taught that “living in harmony with nature” is the purpose of life.

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180 AD)

In other words, citizens of the Roman Empire were expected to live in harmony with nature, and nature was but a synonym for the cosmic order inherent in the principle of natural law. To live in harmony with nature meant to live in harmony with the Logos. The political implications of this doctrine are well expressed by Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD), Roman Emperor from 161-180 AD and one of the most important Stoic philosophers. He said in his Meditations:

“If mind is common to us all, then also the reason, whereby we are reasoning beings, is common. If this be so, then also the reason which enjoins what is to be done or left undone is common. If this be so, law also is common; if this be so, we are citizens; if this be so, we are partakers in one constitution; if this be so, the Universe is a kind of Commonwealth. For in what other common government can we say the whole race of men partakes? And thence, from this common City, is derived our mind itself, our reason and our sense of law, or from what else? For as earthy is in me a portion from some earth, and the watery from a second element, and the vital spirit from some source, and the hot and fiery from yet another source of its own (for nothing comes from nothing, just as nothing returns to nothing), so therefore the mind also has come from some source.” (1)

This passage illustrates the strict logic of Stoic philosophy: Since we all have a body and mind, why can’t the universe have a mind, seeing it also has a material body? Since the human body is made up of the same elements as those that are found in nature, and all mankind are made of the same stuff, why can’t the same be true of the mind? If matter is common, why not spirit? If spirit is common, why not mind? Once the idea of a common mind is accepted, it logically follows that there must be a common conscience, a common morality, and a common reason that defines the common law, so that the commonwealth of the common people can be governed by the common Empire. It is readily seen how Marcus Aurelius took a personal interest in this philosophy as emperor, for “living in harmony with nature” meant to support the Roman Empire.

Pope Francis’ call for a “true world political authority” on the basis of “natural law” is motivated by this same imperial ambition toward The New Roman Empire. Not too long from now his “true world political authority” will be a fact of history, just as the prophecies predicted. Revelation 17 predicts the rise of a global empire under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. But so far from a “sustainable future” for humanity, the next chapter reveals just how unsustainable this new world order really is. The millennium of peace lasts only one prophetic hour.

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thess. 5:3)

“And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” (Rev. 16:19)

“And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.” (Rev. 18:9-10)

(1) The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, (Oxford University Press, 1998), Book IV, p. 24,25

The article above was originally published on October 23, 2015 at

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Jozef Daniel Astley (b. 1987) is a British-Dutch journalist of religion, poet and Bible teacher from the Netherlands. He is the founder and editor of Advent InSight and lives in the vicinity of Den Bosch. You can contact him via