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Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States; Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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V.1, Entry 255, COMMUNISM
I.255.21

—Essenianism was the communism of Judea. In this country of religion communism was associated with the religious principle, as in Greece, the country of philosophy, it was associated with the philosophic idea, with Pythagoreanism, which was its partial realization. The school of Pythagoras was a community of sages living in accordance with the severest prescriptions of spiritual life, in self-denial, friendship, and the cultivation of the sciences, especially mathematics and astronomy. Their austerity and their labors suggest to us that it was a sort of pagan Port Royal, while their eagerness for rule and their political activity, which drove them out of most of the cities in which they had founded their establishments, remind us of the celebrated society of the Jesuits. In contrast with the Pythagoreans, who constituted, as it were, monasteries of philosophers, and whose political ideal was an aristocracy of enlightenment guiding and governing the obedient masses, the Essenes exhibit to us a little people, forming a kind of fraternal democracy; not that hierarchy was not respected among them, nor that ranks were not known and even sharply defined; but all were admitted among them on the single condition of a pure or repentant life; and everything was held in common by the chiefs and the subordinates. It must be said to the honor of the Essenes that they looked on slavery as an impious thing, an exception, however, which means nothing in favor of communism. The Essenes were in reality a very limited and entirely voluntary association; they were like a small tribe of monks; and Pliny said of them, "They perpetuate themselves without women, and live without money. * * * Repentance and distaste for the world are the fruitful sources which keep up their number." Communism, thus understood, was only a form of free association; the community received only those who agreed to form a part of it. Labor was carried on among them, moreover, by men reared in the habits and teachings of the upper society; and like all religious communities, it was founded not on the principle of unlimited satisfaction of human wants, but on that of rigorous abstinence. We can say as much of the Therapeutics, a Jewish sect of Egypt, whose members lived in isolation, and had little in common but their practices of religion.