Wolfgang Smith’s project uniting perennial wisdom with authentic scientific discovery thematically ranges from the metaphysical, the empirical, and the mystical. The core of Smith’s endeavor is marked with a bold commitment to truth, scholarly rigor, and an unmatched creative imagination. These are, of course, the usually recognized trademarks of Smith’s systematic genius when a serious mind encounters his literature. Also interspersed throughout Smith’s treatment of the subjects listed above are inconspicuous hints of personality and character that can be detected only by an astute reader. Traits such as humor, courage, and piety are dispersed among his numerous penetrating discoveries. Uncovering these gems among the pearls of wisdom shows a side of Wolfgang Smith that has been mostly veiled until now. In a recently published interview titled, Unmasking the Faces of Antichrist, we are afforded the opportunity to not only learn from him, but to also get to know Wolfgang Smith the man.
The interview is divided into three parts. The first part is Malachi Martin: Servant of Christ; the second part is Science, Scientism, and Christological Cosmology; and the third is How to Survive as a Catholic in an Anti-Catholic World. Each part of the interview is illuminating. They present an accessible introduction to the important insights of Smith’s intellectual commitments, and they also allow the reader to attain a better understanding of Smith’s unique formation and characteristics previously veiled in earlier writings.
Part I begins with Wolfgang Smith describing when he became interested in questions relating to science, philosophy, and theology. It was during his high school years that he recognized an inner disposition driven to search for truths relevant to these areas of thought. The excitement of finding answers to these sorts of questions prompted him towards a university setting where such topics are investigated. Smith eventually graduated from Cornell at the youthful age of eighteen with majors in physics, mathematics, and philosophy. Despite having endeavored to satisfy his curiosity of those higher areas of knowledge, he finished his studies at Cornell with an unanticipated discovery that the secularization of the humanities had destroyed the fields of philosophy and theology so essential for illumination toward the transcendent light of divine truth.
Continuing in the pursuit of wisdom, Smith acquired an M.S. in physics from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Columbia. He eventually found himself teaching at various universities such as M.I.T. and UCLA. While accomplishing his duties as a university professor, Smith was also working in his free time as an “underground” philosopher, so to speak. Unbeknownst to this colleagues, it was during this period that he began writing articles and authoring a series of books intending to expose the pseudo-religion of scientism that had been operating within the university setting in the name of science. Smith’s venture, dedicated to uncovering exactly where Western Civilization had lost its way, would result in his confirming that philosophy was in fact not dead, but only in need of a revival from a more faithful source of wisdom located within the perennial truths of classical metaphysics.
The underground philosopher would eventually meet the underground priest, Fr. Malachi Martin. Smith’s first impression of Fr. Malachi was marked by “admiration and high esteem,” which immediately developed into a genuine friendship between these two enigmatic figures. There is much that can be gleaned by reading Smith’s biography of friendship with the man he describes as being “perpetually and forever in the service of the Roman Catholic Church.” However, the theme that stands out most is the suggestion that the institutional Church is presently re-enacting the road to Calvary. It is this narrative of re-enactment that provides an interesting depth to the nature of the aforementioned underground priest and philosopher in relation to the remnant of the underground Church. Smith argues that many churchmen in the ranks of the post-Conciliar era have betrayed Christ to such a degree that we are witnessing “the horrific spectacle of humiliation and disfigurement” Christ experienced during His excruciating Passion. The humiliation and disfigurement of the Church by many in the hierarchy forces those in true service to Christ to become underground disciples of the Great Commission. Smith has fulfilled his calling to the Church as the underground philosopher dedicated to the intellectual traditions of the ancient faith, while Fr. Malachi is presented as the quintessential underground priest in service to the faithful remnant.
These ruminations into the relationship between Smith and Fr. Malachi afford us the opportunity to recognize the trials we are facing. Smith informs us that the life of Fr. Malachi was one that uniquely touched upon the heavenly jurisdictions of angelic realities. Fr. Malachi not only prayed to God, but he daily implored the protection of the angelic hierarchy. This practice served him well, given the fact that Fr. Malachi was also an exorcist who routinely battled the devil and his demonic hoards “seeking the ruin of souls.” With Fr. Malachi as his standard exemplar for spiritual warfare, Smith humbly points us to the Blessed Mother Mary as our safeguard, and to the weapon of the rosary as our means to get us through these times of tribulation.
Part II continues where Part I leaves off, and Smith begins this section of the interview by introducing the importance of a Christological cosmology. Smith tells us that the need for a Christo-centric understanding of cosmology is paramount due to the fact that since the era of “Enlightenment,” the Catholic Church has primarily taken a defensive stance against a multitude of antagonists. Filling the cosmological vacuum is a fallacious system invented by Smith’s intellectual nemesis, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. On Smith’s account, the Teilhardian heresy, as he accurately labels it, has been the most influential narrative in overthrowing the traditional understanding of the Catholic faith. Instead of reverently reflecting on the deposit of faith, or rather approaching the deepest questions of existence and reality “with folded hands,” the Teilhardian method reduces all truths to the pseudo-magisterial tenets of Darwinian evolution.
This section of the interview is clearly marked by Smith’s zeal for truth. Following his identification of the erroneous Teilhardian system of thought, Smith energetically reveals modern man’s problem to be a scientistic worldview rather than the scientific worldview it is so often claimed to be. Smith explains that the scientistic worldview only imagines itself to be scientific, when it is actually a pseudo-religion pushing God out of the purview of knowledge at the cost of reality itself! This has disastrous consequences for understanding the cosmos and our relationship to creation. On Smith’s account, the scientistic reduction of the qualitative nature of human experience to the purely quantitative has not only expelled God from the cosmos, but also suppresses any hope for an aesthetic interaction with the “song of birds, the roar of breaking waves, and in fact all that constitutes the very essence of this world, let alone what speaks to us of ‘higher’ realms.”
These powerful insights lead Smith to boldly claim that there is no neutral ground in the fight against the scientistic anti-mythos of the current era. The ideology motivating the modern enterprise of science, on Smith’s account, is profoundly anti-Christian. Smith indicates that the battle is no longer in the realm of the intellect alone, but the spiritual realm where we must make a choice for either Christ or for our Lord’s adversary.
Part III tackles the question of how to survive as a Catholic in an anti-Catholic world. This section is an exciting capstone to an already captivating interview, because Smith reaches out to the younger generations by providing sage advice for remaining strong in their faith while confronting a hostile intellectual and spiritual terrain. Smith implores young Catholics, especially those heading to college campuses, to have a strong grounding in authentic Christian doctrine, to practice traditional Catholic devotions, and to be committed to praying the rosary on a daily basis. In addition to these necessary spiritual exercises, Smith also informs college students about what classes they ought to stay away from. To that end, Smith strongly advises them to stay clear of anything having to do with psychology, and if possible to also avoid the philosophy department. It is remarkably telling that such an intellectually accomplished figure would implore the youth to guard their hearts with these basic practices of the faith, but this is the kind of man Smith is. He understands that reality is best understood when seen through the eyes of faith, and he is not afraid to humble himself before revealed truth even when it might not be considered intellectually respectable to do so in modern academic circles. It is here that Smith meekly discloses himself to be a man with a heart for God no matter what the so-called wisdom of the age determines to be reputable. This section too, ends with another clarion call to engage in spiritual warfare, and to remember that there is no neutral ground when we shoulder our cross to follow Christ.
The topics highlighted above only scratch the surface of this engaging interview. Unmasking the Faces of Antichrist is a fascinating encounter with a bold and enigmatic thinker in the person of Wolfgang Smith. The layout of the questions in each section allow Smith to not only provide a clear introduction to his life’s work, but also allows the reader to get to know him a bit more than his previous writings have permitted. Among other things, the interview presents a rare opportunity for the reader to learn about Smith’s relationship with Fr. Malachi Martin and to gain a perspective into some of Smith’s views concerning politics. It also enters into discussions about the third secret of Fatima, which allows for a brief entrance into Smith’s thoughts concerning the schism between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy. In addition to all this, Smith reveals the identity of the contemporary thinker he believes is rescuing philosophy from the clutches of academic paralysis. Finally, the interview gives the reader an appreciation for what Smith considers to be the esoteric core of Thomism. All of this—and so much more—makes Unmasking the Face of Antichrist a must-read for anyone interested in being introduced to not only the mind of Wolfgang Smith, but also to the soul of this devoted servant of God.
– Lucas G. Westman