By Ljubodrag Simonović, Belgrade, Serbia *
In order to understand the nature of Tesla’s inventions and the myth surrounding him, one must consider the social conditions in the United States at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, during which Tesla lived and worked. This was a time of intense industrialization and the development of the military industry as an expression of the efforts of the ruling capitalist and political circles to make the U.S. the dominant world power. Science and technology became crucial tools for imperialist expansion, and on their wings, the myth of the “omnipotence of science and technology” was created. Tesla’s scientific work was also based on this wave of capitalist expansion, which in turn attributed great significance to Tesla’s inventions that provided technical means for generating energy, the driving force behind industrial development. Tesla became the master of energy and, as such, a mythological figure. He was capable of creating lightning and thunder, causing earthquakes and dramatic changes in the ionosphere, inventing “death rays” etc… Tesla became a symbol of power through which the West could conquer the world. He followed the spirit of capitalist expansion, understanding that whoever controls energy rules the world.
Tesla believed that he could control cosmic forces and saw himself as a new Messiah who was to mediate between the earthly world and the universe. He rejected humanity’s struggle for freedom, which could create a humane world, and proclaimed science as the power that would change people and eliminate the gap between life and death. The source of Tesla’s creative inspiration was not a humanistic but rather a technical civilization. Tesla stated, “I work for the future, and my contemporaries will not understand me, but one day the scientific laws of nature whose secrets I have discovered will prevail, and in the blink of an eye everything will change. A new era of human wisdom will come, characterized by an understanding of time, the discovery of a source of infinite energy, and the shaping of matter according to the will of scientists.” Tesla abolishes the evolutionary development of life on Earth and man as its highest form. He reduces man to a material part of the cosmos directly subject to the influence of cosmic forces. At the same time, Tesla eliminates man as a self-aware, freedom-loving, creative, historical, and visionary being. The future of humanity, according to Tesla, is not achievable through the creative practices of people but as a result of the action of cosmic processes.
Just as religious fanatics create a mythological connection between man and God, scientific zealots create a mythological link between man and the universe. In both cases, man is deprived of historical being and creative self-awareness, reduced to a tool of “supernatural forces.” Would Tesla have become what he was if he had grown up in the jungle? What languages did Tesla speak and write in? Are these languages the product of a millennia-old cultural history of people, or were they a cosmic given? It is language itself that conditions the ability of thinking and acquiring individual self-awareness, including creative self-awareness and creative individuality, without which Tesla would never have become an inventor. Are mathematics and physics cosmic phenomena, or are they social phenomena created by humanity in its historical development – without which Tesla’s creativity would have been impossible? Was the invention of direct current a prerequisite for the creation of alternating current? The same applies to other discoveries embedded in Tesla’s inventions. Indeed, Tesla did not “receive” his ideas from the universe; he created them based on the creative heritage of humanity. In this way, he contributed to the creation of a humane universe.
Nikola Tesla was obsessed with “music of the spheres.” Can the structure of the universe itself enable man to become a poetic being? In order to enjoy music, man had to develop an artistic sense and thereby the ability to distinguish tones from sounds. “Cosmic music” is a dimension that a person with a developed musical sense attributes to mechanical cosmic sounds. They remind him of tones. Man acquired the ability to sing during his historical development. Early humans were not able to speak or sing. They emitted cries when they felt danger and mumbled. Singing involves the development of vocal cords, which is connected to the development of interpersonal relationships and man’s emotional and creative being. Initially, man imitated the songs of birds. Over time, he began to create primitive forms of singing with a limited tonality…
Tesla advocates a cosmological pantheism that has an energetic character and establishes a mystical relationship with light, which is a kind of „God’s spirit” and as such a source of energy that flows in man. Man is, in fact, only one of the forms in which energy appears and as such he is immortal. Light creates him and in light he experiences eternal existence. Man is abolished as a natural, social and historical being and reduced to a sort of battery whose energy potential is the source of his creative work and enthusiasm. Mental exercises are to ensure his mental strength, which means to prevent dissipation of energy and focus it on the development of the senses and mental abilities. Woman is undesirable because she takes mental and physical energy away from man. Development of the physical senses takes place by crippling the erotic being of man and his sense of humanness. The relation of man to the world does not have a social and libertarian, but a meditative nature. Since he does not conceive man as a libertarian being, Tesla is unable to grasp the nature of the Promethean fire, which means the libertarian enlightenment. His vision of the future is not based on a libertarian mind, but on a cosmological mysticism that has a technocratic nature.
Tesla does not perceive the world as a concrete historical phenomenon, and accordingly, he does not see man as a concrete social and historical being. According to him, man creates nothing and receives everything from some “cosmic core.” Tesla is not speaking here as a scientist but rather as a religious fanatic. His views are not based on scientific facts and rationally grounded conclusions but on esoteric speculations. By succumbing to the influence of Eastern “sages,” Tesla lost his historical self-awareness as a member of the European cultural heritage and got stuck in the swamp of Eastern mysticism. He was unable to follow the emancipatory path of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and German classical philosophy, and got lost in the maze of esoteric verbiage.
Tesla had limited knowledge in the fields of philosophy and social sciences. He lacked concepts essential for understanding the historical development of society and the nature of man as a sovereign cosmic being. Tesla attempted to fill this void with Far Eastern religions that represent a confrontation with the emancipatory legacy of civil society and Christianity. Simultaneously, Tesla was a victim of solitary despair. His unhealthy mental states directly influenced his relationship with the world and the cosmos. He was obsessed with cosmic forces, subconscious compulsive actions, spirits, extraterrestrials, fears… His attitude towards cosmic processes has an escapist and compensatory character. The poetic nature of Tesla’s cosmological mysticism suggests that Tesla the man surpassed Tesla the scientist. Tesla’s final letter to his mother indicates that he was a tragic human being, and as such a unique and unrepeatable cosmic being.
The key to understanding Tesla’s cosmology is not found in science but in his conception of humanity. Tesla’s cosmology is based on a condescending attitude towards people. For Tesla, man is not an emancipated social being and, as such, a constitutive subject of society as a political community. It is no coincidence that Tesla was obsessed with Eastern religions, which represent the ideology of a society in which there is no man as a sovereign historical being and citizen. Tesla abolished humanity as the protagonist of social change. He consistently emphasized that humanity is incapable of solving the problems it faces, giving himself a messianic dimension based on this belief. Tesla was convinced that, due to his physical and mental characteristics, he stood above other people. He believed he possessed special qualities not inherited from his parents but acquired from the cosmos. He saw himself as a cosmic superhuman whose task was to bring order to earthly chaos through cosmic laws and thus determine the fate of humanity.
According to Tesla, cosmic processes directly condition human behavior and thereby events on Earth as well. Cosmic laws take on a divine character, determining the nature of man and his destiny. It is not coincidental that Tesla uncritically accepted the Eastern idea of “fate” (karma). This idea aligns with a cosmos where man is not a sovereign personality and does not see himself as capable of creating a humane world. Tesla’s cosmology is a reckoning with the emancipatory legacy of civil society and of the libertarian and cultural legacy of national cultures. Instead of earthly realism, Tesla offers cosmic mysticism. He makes no distinction between mechanical and historical time and, through mechanicistic materialism, abolishes historical materialism. Tesla’s cosmology is based on technocratic mindlessness. It eliminates the rational relationship between man and the world, depriving man of the ability to create an idea of the future as a rational alternative to capitalism, where destructive mindlessness prevails.
By negating history and reducing man to a non-historical being, Tesla reduced the world to an abstract cosmic space. There is no mention of the prevailing capitalist order, or of class society and the exploitation of working classes, of racism and sexism, of colonialism and the extermination of entire peoples… Blinded by cosmic mysticism, the “genius scientist” Nikola Tesla was unable to grasp what is evident to anyone with common sense. The world is not governed by cosmic laws, but by the laws of capitalism: “Money doesn’t stink!”, “Time is money!”, “Destroy the competition!”, “Man is a wolf to another man!”… These directly condition social life, the dominant value horizon, and man’s consciousness.
Tesla projected into the cosmic space everything that he was lacking in his everyday life as a man. He departed from the earthly world and flew into a virtual cosmic realm that was a product of his imagination. Tesla experiences cosmic phenomena as if they were living beings and has an emotional relationship with them. The cosmos is a projection of Tesla’s tragic life and solitary suffering. What makes Tesla’s vision of the universe unique is that it incorporates his scientific knowledge and creative mind. For Tesla, the relationships between the numbers 3, 6, and 9 represent the “key to the universe.” Such intellectual play, which has a psychological foundation and a mystifying character, becomes an obsession for scientists who strive to reach the “essence of the universe” through formal logic and numbers.
Tesla became a victim of his subconsciousness and a creative mind devoid of the emancipatory heritage of modern society and the libertarian heritage of humanity. He deprived the real world of its worldly essence, reducing it to cosmic abstraction, and declared the virtual cosmic realm, a product of his imagination, as reality. In this realm, Tesla found solutions to earthly problems that, in his belief, humanity could not solve. The most detrimental aspect of Tesla’s cosmology is that it deprives man of those qualities that enable him to break free from capitalist barbarism and prevent the destruction of life on Earth. It never occurred to Tesla to call upon the oppressed to resist the tyranny of the powerful. He was not affiliated with those who fought for freedom but with those who sought to dominate the world. His thought did not stem from the libertarian tradition of humanity but from the ideology of the ruling class.
Holding to the myth of the omnipotence of science and technology, Tesla believed that just as he could “play” with lightning and thunder, he could also play with people and the fate of humanity. Tesla considered himself a mediator between Earth and the universe, possessing such physical and mental abilities that, through scientific laws, he could influence cosmic processes and turn them into a means for determining the future of the world. He saw himself as an all-powerful cosmic being, the embodiment of the ruling power of pagan gods, capable of establishing order on Earth. The extent to which Tesla believed in the omnipotence of science is evident in his claim that science would provide people with the ability to “talk” with the souls of the deceased, thus bridging the gap between life and death.
Tesla’s understanding of morality points to the absurdity of his cosmology. According to Tesla, morality is not a specific social phenomenon unique to man; instead, it is a cosmic given. In simple terms, the cosmos is moral, while man, as an earthly being, is immoral. For Tesla, evil is a consequence of disharmony in the pulsation of matter. Man can become moral through the harmonious pulsation of matter, bringing order to earthly life and thereby giving it a moral dimension. Tesla fails to comprehend that morality is a product of the historical development of society and that there is no morality without man’s awareness of what is good and what is evil, without man’s free will enabling him to choose between good and evil, and without his awareness of the potential consequences of his choices and the responsibility for his actions.
Tesla’s theory of war similarly reflects the mechanicistic nature of his thinking. For Tesla, war is not a concrete social phenomenon but a natural occurrence conditioned by cosmic forces and possessing an energetic character. One must be truly foolish to explain the Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia in 1914 by pulsation of cosmic energy waves. Or the Nazi Germany’s attacks on Poland and the Soviet Union. What about the monstrous crimes committed by the Ustasha in Jasenovac and the Germans in Auschwitz? What about the extermination of entire peoples by European colonizers? What about slavery and forcing children to work to death in factories, mines, and fields – which Tesla witnessed? Are these occurrences caused by pulsation of matter? Guided by the technocratic mind of a specialty-idiot, Tesla was unable to distinguish between wars of conquest and wars of defense and liberation. Tesla’s understanding of war points to the detrimental nature of the way of thinking that deprives people of their libertarian dignity and historical self-awareness.
Through his cosmology, Tesla obscured the true nature of capitalism and absolved capitalists of responsibility for wars and other crimes. Is it possible that Tesla hadn’t heard the maxim that “War is the best business!”? Is it conceivable that the “genius scientist” Nikola Tesla was unable to recognize that the speed of capital turnover is the power that conditions the speed of the passage of time in capitalism? Is it possible that Tesla, living in America where every segment of life serves to gain profit, hadn’t heard the maxim “Time is money!”? Tesla had a mode of thinking characteristic of scientific specialty-idiots. He claimed to be able to register cosmic phenomena that others couldn’t, yet he was unable to register social phenomena that are evident to “ordinary” people.
By adhering to the myth of the omnipotence of science, assigning himself the dimension of the master of the universe, and embracing Eastern mysticism, Tesla built his cosmology, which represents one of the most primitive and potentially detrimental theories to emerge in the modern era. How is it possible that Tesla didn’t hesitate to communicate blatant nonsense? Firstly, Tesla made first-rate scientific discoveries, elevating him to the status of a “genius.” In the light of his inventions, every thought he expressed became “ingenious.” Additionally, Tesla was surrounded by scientific specialty-idiots and flatterers who, following the principle of “the emperor’s new clothes,” praised the “ingenious” Tesla, avoiding questioning his absurd claims. The flatterers fed Tesla’s vanity. He was willing to speak on any topic without fear of being challenged. It was a double-edged sword. Tesla became so self-assured that he lost caution and responsibility for his spoken words. The flatterers led him onto thin ice. Tesla became a victim of the myth of the “genius scientist,” a myth in which he actively participated in creating.
Tesla’s cosmology should be understood in light of the prevailing tendency of world development. This is what gives it concrete social and historical meaning. Considering the historical development of society, the transformation of natural forces into a source of energy through science and technology was a groundbreaking achievement that opened immense possibilities for social development. Unfortunately, capitalism has turned the humanistic and life-creating potentials of science and technology into totalitarian destructive power. Tesla’s inventions suffered the same fate. They became the driving force of capitalist development and, as such, a means to destroy life on Earth. The “genius scientist” Nikola Tesla became an icon of capitalism. His scientific discoveries are a boundless inspiration for the ruling capitalist groups that produce increasingly destructive technical means capable of annihilating life on Earth. Simultaneously, Tesla’s cosmology serves as a first-rate ideological tool to annihilate the libertarian self-awareness of people and their critical-visionary mind. In Tesla’s universe, man has no right to freedom.
Taking into account the increasingly dramatic deterioration of the world, Tesla’s dealing with man as a libertarian and visionary being has a detrimental nature. By abolishing man as a libertarian and visionary being and giving science a mythological character, Tesla deprived man of the ability to resist the destructive capitalist frenzy. His way of thinking creates existential defeatism and leaves humanity to the capitalist monsters that have turned science and technology into a means to destroy life on Earth. Without a libertarian struggle, scientific and technical inventions inevitably become tools of capitalism for the destruction of man and the world. Only in the hands of a libertarian humanity can Tesla’s inventions become a means of humanizing the world and enriching nature.
Translated from Serbian by Igor Barjaktarevic
Translation supervision Vanja Zakanji
* Lubodrag Simonovic (72) was a member of the Yugoslav national basketball team, which won the world championship in 1970. Several times he played for the national team along with Sergei and Alexander Belov. He was a participant in the Olympic Games in Munich. In protest against the cover-up of a doping scam with Puerto Rico, he left the Games, after which he was expelled from the national team. The author is a Master of Laws and a Doctor of Philosophy. He has published ten books in the fields of philosophy, sociology and historiography. His texts have been translated into English, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Turkish. He taught at domestic and foreign universities. He is married and has three children and six grandchildren. Simonovic lives in Belgrade.