Utopia was the principal literary work of Sir Thomas More (1478–1535), published in 1516, a witty exposé of the superficiality of English life and the flagrant vices of English law.
In his masterpiece, More considers what is the best form of government. He describes an imaginary island, the imaginary commonwealth Utopia (meaning “no place”), where people live according to the rule of reason—free from poverty, crime, and injustice. It is an attempt to depict an ideal society, where neighbor lives in harmony with neighbor and nations are of one accord—not under compulsion of manmade law, but under the wand of grace, the holy will of the Most High.
Utopia is many things to many people. Historians have taken Utopia as a blueprint for British imperialism, humanists as a manifesto for total reform of the Christian renaissance, and literary critics as a work of a noncommitted intellectual.
In it More describes an ideal society where all property is held in common and food is distributed at public markets and common dining halls. With its sweeping condemnation of all private property, Utopia influenced early Socialist thinkers. Karl Kautsky, the German Socialist theoretician, saw Utopia “as a vision of the socialist society of the future” and hailed More as the father of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Yet More’s Utopian society and Soviet communism have striking differences. For instance, in Utopia, citizenship was dependent upon the belief in a just God who rewards or punishes in an afterlife.
Professor John Anthony Scott says that More’s “views on communism and private property have been explained as an expression of the medieval monastic ideal, in which Christian men and women took vows of poverty and chastity, shared all things in common, and devoted themselves through prayer and good works to the service of the poor and the sick.”
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 25, no. 56.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Saint Germain On Prophecy, book 2, chapter 17.
- John Anthony Scott, Introduction to Utopia, trans. Peter K. Marshall (New York: Washington Square Press, 1965), p. xvii.
- Ibid., pp. xvii–xviii.