Read Part I here.
So God has already acted. There is no potentiality left in Him, as Aquinas would say. After all, He’s already done everything. There’s nothing left to do, except to cheer on His team. And since He’s also the Ref, we know how this is going to turn out. The previous play is NOT under further review. The ruling on the field stands.
But we have many actions left to us, hopefully. We and our descendants as well. And all of our acts will have a cosmic meaning and atomic weight. And therein lies the answer of how this will involve Russia. Because, after all, Russia up till now has been passive. She’s been passive ever since Gregory of Palamas re-wrote the doctrines of the Orthodox East. Oremus.
And how did Gregory do this? By saying that being was greater than acting. Actually, he even went further, and said there is no need for action at all. All that was good for a man was to be in the presence of God. And in fact, he said all that was best was to be in this same presence. And, well, there was this little caveat he gave that made me wonder about all of this. He said it wasn’t in the actual presence of God. It was in the presence of His Energon (energies). That is to say, in the presence of The Uncreated Light. And that little asterisk made me wonder. A lot. For a long time. Just who was it that guaranteed that this Uncreated Light was actually emanating from the ‘presence of God’? Will this be a class-action suit if they’re wrong? Do we have to get our own attorney? Huh?
So the thing that has always bothered me (and Solovyev too, evidently) is that this basking in the Uncreated Light requires no action. It only requires being. But that’s God’s gig, right? But our role, as finite beings, is to act. We’re supposed to act good. Good acts, as in good works, right? After all, faith without works is dead, eh? (James 2: 14-26.) Is there any other way to understand this saying? Without killing the semantic basis of language, that is? Forget Noam Chomsky.
Well, okay you say, so what? Simply this: if this is the official doctrine of Orthodoxy, what does all of this imply? It means that words speak louder than actions. Specifically, the words of The Jesus Prayer. It goes like this: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’.
And just what is the purpose of this prayer, and who does it benefit? What could be wrong with this prayer? Why, nothing, nothing at all. But this prayer, repeated endlessly, is the Orthodox-recommended means of achieving the state true enlightenment. The Hesychastic state of Divine Bliss. The highest state a human can achieve here on earth. At least, according to the doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church. So, all we have to do is to chant ‘Om, Om, Om…’? Hypnotism, in other words. Chant anything, long enough, and it becomes the mantra. And that is the doorway to self-hypnosis. Which is what we are actually talking about here in the matter of Hesychasm. Self-hypnosis, which leads to self-paralysis. Which leads to nowhere. Why? Because we aren’t trying to get anywhere. We’re already there. Don’t bother me, I’m busy. Om, Oom, Oooom…
So forget the Good Samaritan. Forget the Roman Centurion. Forget the Good Shepherd. Forget all of them and all their good acts. That’s not important. The important thing, from the Orthodox point of view, is to be. To be in the presence of God (or at least, His ‘energies’). That’s what counts. That’s all that counts. And if that means that nothing practical gets done (because they’re too busy basking in the light), then so be it. Amen, brother. Who needs to dig that well? Who needs to build that wall? Who needs to feed those hungry, and clothe those naked ones? Who needs to do anything? But make sure dinner is ready when I’m hungry, eh? Call me anything but late for dinner.
And now you can see why Russia has been so passive. Passive in the face of everything the rational West and the mystical East have thrown at them for over 500 years. Because for over 500 years Russia has been in thrall to the mystic misery of Mt. Athos and her pious paralysis. A paralysis that has gloried in the idea that she, and she alone, has been the sole repository of the True Faith. The last redoubt of belief. A belief that did not require her to act. And the proof of that belief was that she, and she alone, was in the presence of God. Can’t you see how obvious this is, Komrade?
But all of that has now changed. And no, the change is not recent. The change began around 1840, according to Nikolai Berdyaev. So who is Berdyaev? He is the man who wrote a book entitled The Russian Idea. Yes, that title seems familiar to those who know me. But that’s because that title was originally used by Solovyev. Nikolai Berdyaev was a student of his, and he wrote a follow-on to Solovyev’s work, using the same title. But that’s another story. The story here is that Vladimir Putin has instructed his regional governors (in 2015) to read another of Berdyaev’s works entitled The Philosophy of Inequality. So evidently someone thinks Berdyaev’s important. Important to Russians, at least. And that should interest us. And why is that? Well, do you want to know what is coming ’round the bend?
And so, the reason for mentioning Berdyaev here, for my purposes, is that he talks about actions. The actions of Russians, in particular. And specifically, those Russians who have awoken from the Orthodox Dream-State. Because those were the only ones who could move, and take action. And he catalogues them all. From Gogol onwards, he takes the scalpel to each significant actor upon the Russian stage as he autopsies each of them and their actions. He examines each of the actors that have awakened from the Orthodox slumber. And like anyone awakening from a deep sleep, Russia begins to move sporadically, spasmodically. Because she is not fully awake yet. But she is no longer asleep. And so, the question becomes, as she abandons her simplicity of somnolent being, how will she act once she is fully awake?
And the answer to that question is obvious for all to see. If only we will see it. Because ever since that time (circa 1840’s) Russia has been moving in every direction except one. The one direction she will not move. And we’ll get to that in a bit. But in the interim, the characters in Berdyaev’s book have moved in every other possible direction. Both East and West. And each of these movements has sprung from the guilty conscience of the middle and upper classes of Russia. And why do they feel guilty? Because they have all, in some fashion, repudiated their Orthodoxy. And the name for the common root of all of these movements is Narodnik.
The Narodniks were the revolutionaries who created the origins of both the nihilists and the socialists in Russia. Of both Eastern and Western flavors and hues. And all of these resulting movements (and their resultant actions) centered around the idealization of the Narods. The people of Russia. Which is to say, the serfs. And to really understand this situation, Solovyev recommends that we read Beaulieu and his history of Russia. And I agree. The eye of the foreigner is so much better at discerning the truth of the matter.
So the root of this revolutionary Narodnik guilt was this; these well-to-do members of the intelligentsia, who had lost their Orthodox faith, substituted the people of the Russian homeland for the God of their fathers. And why not? The Narodniks despised the inertness of Orthodoxy, and they were right to do so. But they had to worship something, right? After all, that is what men do. They worship something. That’s what sets them apart from the animal kingdom, correct? Anybody seen a possum at Mass lately? Have you been to Mass lately?
And so, the question amongst these nascent Narodniks became a question of ‘what shall we worship’? And thus they began the process of division. Whereas God has told us to be fruitful, and multiply. And so the fragmentation began. Bakunin said the individual was foremost, as he became the father of the Anarchists. Lavrov said the solution lay in the state, becoming the father of the Socialist/Marxists. And everything degenerated from there. And the bottom line was this: the People of Russia became the God of Russia. Even though nobody bothered to ask the serfs what they thought about all of this navel-gazing. Because, in the final analysis, the serfs were orthodox to the core. And the serfs of Russia despised both flavors of this apotheosis known as Narodnichestvo.
Well then, where does this lead us? It leads us to today. Because in the interim, from 1840 till now, almost 200 years later, Russia has tried every variation, both liberal and revolutionary, in her attempt to take her rightful place upon the world stage. Every door but Peter’s. And because she could never agree, internally, as to her true essence, she has been unable to resist the West. Or the East. But one thing has changed, and that is this: Russia is now awakened. And she is finally becoming fully lucid. No, I’m not claiming that she is sane. I’m simply saying that she has finally made up her mind. And she has reached this point by the painful process of elimination. She has rejected the East and all of her mysticism. And she has rejected the West and all of their rationalism and pseudo-empiricism. So that leaves the only other choice. Triumph. To triumph over both the East and the West. And it must be the triumph of truth. The truth as she sees it, of course. And how does she see it? She sees it through the eyes of the last Old True Believers.
Think I’m kidding here? I’m not. Don’t listen to me. Listen to the man Vlad Putin listens to: Alexander Dugin. Listen to Dugin, an Old Believer, and tell me that Russians today don’t think that their time is at hand. Tell me that the Russians don’t think that the purpose of their awakening from the Orthodox slumber of Hesychasm is some random, meaningless happening. Tell me that the Russians do not see that the world is in need of their salvific vision. And that now is the time for them to act. Because if they do not act now, the entire world will be lost. Don’t believe me? Then listen to Patriarch Kyrill. Read his words as he describes all of the evils that await the world if they do not accept the orthodoxy of Orthodoxy.
And so here is where we are at today; Russia has rejected capitalism, especially the recent version foisted upon her by the rapacious West. She has also rejected the vision of salvation through revolution. Revolutions never build anything, they only tear things down. Vlad has had enough of that. And Russia has also rejected the idealization of the Proletariat Masses. Conversely, she has also rejected as well the idea that individuality will lead her to freedom, economically as well as spiritually. And so what is left to her but her self-identity? And just what is that identity? Her hyper-nationalistic Orthodoxy. And doesn’t this hyper-nationality always mean war? A war to impose her will upon both East and West? A war to correct the errors of each? A war that will finally exalt the Slavic People to their ‘rightful’ place in salvation history. Big war. But hopefully not in the way we think of war. Hopefully.
Huh? What do I mean? Aren’t I talking about bang-bang war? Well, yes. And no. Yes, but only to the extent we force Vlad to do it. Yes, if we continue to try and expand NATO to the very doorstep of Moscow. Or at least Borodino. And yes, if we continue trying to drive Russia into eternal poverty. But even if we were to stop those actions, and even if we rolled back the last 30 years of incremental Imperial hubris, Russia would still have a problem with the Empire. A moral problem. A problem with the morality (or lack thereof) of the Empire. A problem of Orthodox self-righteousness. And this Russian disgust of the moral laxity of the West will insure that the war will come. And so, even if the overt military encroachments of the West were to stop, Russia is going to strike back, now that she has awakened. And she will prefer to do it with asymmetrical force. Force that need not necessarily be measured in megatons. But force nonetheless. And if need be, she has plenty of megatons as well. And her’s are all fresh.
But is that what we in the West want? Regardless of whether or not we think we can win such a match, is this truly what we want? Can this confrontation be averted? Do we want to avert it? What would we be willing to do to avoid this catastrophe? And after all, if the reason for this coming war, in the eyes of the Russians, is that the West is pushing her trans-blendered, aborto-facient, multi-kulti politically-correct corruption upon them, what is our answer to them? Can we deny the Rot of The Empire? Just look at the candidates we have to choose from and tell me we have any moral credibility. Can we honestly say we are the embodiment of the good? Do you really believe this? Really?
And so then, to me, the question is not ‘how will Russia act‘? That’s beside the point. They will have to answer for their own actions. And so will we. The real question we have to face now, as Solvyev would say, is simply this; what is it that we are becoming? Are we becoming better? Or is the West becoming worse? According to who’s standard? The Empire’s standard? Regardless of your answer to that last question, let me ask you this, my friend: are you willing to fight for that standard? To fight to the death for the right to use any bathroom? Really? Well, you may just get your chance. Welcome to the Army of One, citizen. What gender designation do you claim?
Categories: Culture, Philosophy
Thanks for the guest post.
I guess another 2500 word essay proves difficult for denizens to digest
All that is old is new again…It’s amazing that the Russian Orthodox
Church survived the Soviet onslaught. Thousands of churches were
blown up, pulled down, or turned into latrines after the revolution.
Hundreds of thousands perhaps a million or more clerics were liquidated,
for the most part kept out of the Western press by our nascent propaganda
organs, (really their first big propaganda coupe of the 20th century). This went
right on through WW2 with the false reporting of Walter Duranty
of NYT fame extolling the virtues of our ally Uncle Joe while ignoring the
mountains of corpses being piled up behind him. The media truly is the
message. The war in heaven may not be all that far fetched as we move
forward into the past with Vlad.
coup that is…..
A sharply observant essay.
Uh huh! Lanto seems to have his finger on the pulse but I’m a bit cautious of the implied conclusions.
“Eastern” religious phantasms as soaked into European “intelligentsia” in the C19/C20 by the likes of Guenon, Blavatsky, and many more, don’t represent a reasonable approach to “reality” at all. They invariably infer (by insufferable mental tricks) that “truth” is whatever the viewer wants, or feels, it to be.
I don’t think that Russian Orthodoxy has a smidgin of what it takes to determine the difference between ultimate Truth and convenient truth.
Thanks, Lanto, for your perspicacious and challenging views.
Not Watt again. Every time this guy pops up here the pile of new books to read grows. I’ll have to build a new wing onto my library, the Watt Wing. I’m a slow reader (and an even slower thinker). This means more years spent in the oak-paneled library sitting in the leather chair by the crackling fire, reading. It means more cases of port and brandy consumed, pipe tobacco up in smoke, string quartets played, dogs by the fire, velvet curtains, frosty nighttime windows, candles burned — all this in an effort, probably futile, to read and learn all of these fascinating new things. I mean, just look at that Wikipedia page Watt referenced on the Old Believers; must be 86 heavy-duty links there, and each of those leads to 86 more, and so on and so forth. (interesting to note the multiplying denominations in Orthodoxy, where, as in Protestantism, once the fracturing starts it just can’t seem to stop.) And not to mention the Filioque, the dad-gummed Filioque — who the devil can understand that?
Anyway, my concern here is, well, one of my concerns is, as was pointed out in the original post on the relation between acts and works; after all this reading in the library, which seems to constitute a kind of navel-gazing being, what sort of action do I take? Whom do I get up and punch in the face? (I mean, besides Jersey McJones. Just kidding, Jersey.) And then there’s the problem that a guy who just spent years in the oak-paneled library, reading, is usually reluctant to get up and do anything other than throw another log on the fire and pour another glass of brandy. And there’s the further point to make that my semi-serious ruminations here are a (hopefully amusing) way of saying thank you for another fine, thought provoking post, Mr. Watt… and here’s to Russia! [Clink!]
We’re intended to be drowned in an impossible stormy sea of gratuitous accusations… that would have been called slander or libel in a more reasonable time or place.
Saul Alinsky’s “social revolution/evolution” formula seems to have been unilaterally adopted as the principal by which all things are judged. I have considerable experience in this stuff… not that it is of any consideration these days.