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GNOSTICISM (CONTINUATION - 2)

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II-2.1-с An ideal miracle

In a remarkable manner, miracle has encroached upon all theoretical constructions, turning them into dust. Can evolution explain the appearance of separate complex organs in animals, not to mention brain? Science does not provide an explanation even for the origin of bird's feather.
“How [feathers] arose initially, presumably from reptiles scales, defies analysis... It seems, from the complex construction of feathers, that their evolution from reptilian scales would have required an immense period of time and involved a series of intermediate structures. So far, the fossil record does not bear out that supposition”, - wrote one of the premier evolutionary biologists of the 20th century, who made several important contributions to study of vertebrate evolution and paleontology Barbara Stahl (12). 
John Alan Feduccia, Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, a paleornithologist, specializing in the origins and phylogeny of birds, wrote: “Feathers are features unique to birds, and there are no known intermediate structures between reptilian scales and feathers” (13). 
Charles Darwin himself in his book “In the Origin of Species” wrote: “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest sense”. 
A century later scientists-evolutionists could not disprove the claim of their idol. An eye and ear are perfectly tailored complete mechanisms and not the consequence of chaotic development of primitive structures. 
“The eye is a marvelous instrument, resembling a telescope of the highest quality, with a lens, an adjustable focus, a variable diaphragm for controlling the amount of light, and optical corrections for spherical and chromatic aberration. The eye appears to have been designed; no designer of telescopes could have done better. How could this marvelous instrument have evolved by chance, through a succession of random events?” - asked Robert Jastrow, American astronomer, physicist and cosmologist, a leading NASA scientist (14).  
Marjorie Grene, an American philosopher, who wrote both on existentialism and the philosophy of science, especially the philosophy of biology, acknowledged that she could not believe in Evolution. “That the color of moths and snails or the bloom on the castor bean steam are `explained' by mutation and natural selection is very likely; but how from single-celled (and for that matter from inanimate) ancestors there came to be castor beans and moths and snails, and how from these there emerged llamas and hedgehogs and lions and apes and men that is a question which neo-Darwinian theory simply leaves unasked”, - she wrote. (15)

 

De Buffon (Wiki)

II-2.1-d The horse which did not turn into donkey

De Buffon, the forerunner of Darwin and the author of the famous “Histoire Naturelle”, assumed in the 17th century: if there were a natural “degeneration” of at least one type of species into another (for example, a horse into a donkey, or vise versa), “it would not be a mistake to suppose that in the course of time Nature can create the remainder of the different beings from one being only”. Up until now nobody has confirmed the possibility of a horse turning into a donkey, and vise versa, not to mention the turning of shellfish into a monkey... 
However, it would be absurd to completely dismiss the possibility of evolutionary changes. Moreover, such assertion contradicts both common sense and the data on the development of separate organisms and species like those that Charles Darwin observed in such an isolated and closed ecosystem as the Galapagos Islands. We can trace the action of evolutionary laws in the duration of millions of years, establishing mutations of different species of animals and plants. We can trace some species changes which were caused by the climate and geography change by the ferns, ants and thrushes but there is no evidence that ferns, ants and thrushes derived from infusorians, sponges and metazoans.
Francis Hitching, a British author and journalist, detects a fundamental contradiction in the conception of Neo-Darwinists: “In three crucial areas where [the modern evolution theory] can be tested, it has failed: The fossil record reveals a pattern of evolutionary leaps rather than gradual change. Genes are a powerful stabilizing mechanism whose main function is to prevent new forms evolving. Random step-by-step mutations at the molecular level cannot explain the organized and growing complexity of life.” (16).
Let’s quote the leading scientists of our time.
Dr. Louis Bounoure, former President of the Biological Society of Strasbourg and Director of the Strasbourg Zoological Museum, later Director of Research at the French National Centre of Scientific Research, had no doubts: “Evolution is a fairy tale for grownups.” (17). 
Collin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History in London, agreed: “It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favored by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test”. (18)
Henry Lipson, Professor Emeritus, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology: “In fact, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to 'bend' their observations to fit in with it.”(19)
Midgley Mary, former Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: “Evolution is the creation-myth of our age. By telling us our origin it shapes our views of what we are. It influences not just our thought, but our feelings and actions too, in a way which goes far beyond its official function as a biological theory.” (20)
Dr. Michael Walker, Senior Lecturer -Anthropology, Sydney University: “One is forced to conclude that many scientists and technologists pay lip-service to Darwinian theory only because it supposedly excludes a creator”. (21)

***

Nature is more complicated than any unified theory and it provides us with numerous examples of different ways of survival and perfection. But, even if we are guided by a selective and deliberately biased approach, it does not solve the mysteries of life. We just have to change the question. Instead of asking “Who created the nature in all its diversity?”, we should ask “Who created such complex and incomprehensible laws which define the development of wildlife?”. What mechanism underlies the law of permanent complication of organic substance? If we so strongly believe in evolution, we must ask: what prompts a primitive biological cell at the stage of rest to follow the path of development? What force causes an organic molecule to turn into a cell, a cell - into a bacterium, a bacterium – into an insect, etc., choosing the most inconceivable, unbelievable and complicated forms of life? And this again brings us back to some supreme force responsible for the origin of life. 

 

 

(1) – Stephen J. Gould, "The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections In Natural History" & "Evolution's Erratic Pace";

(2) - Steven M. Stanley, "The New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes, and the Origin of Species";

(3) - Dr. Nils Heribert-Nilsson, "Synthetische Artbildung";

(4) - David M. Raup, “Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology,” Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin;

(5) - Kenneth Hsu, "The Great Dying";

(6) -  Sir Ernst Boris Chain, "Social Responsibility and the Scientist";

(7) - Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, "The Myth of Human Evolution";

(8) - Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, “Punctuated Equilibria: the Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered”;

(9) - Michael John Denton, "Evolution - A Theory In Crisis";

(10) -  Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory”;

(11) -  Marcel P. Schutzenberger, “Algorithms and the Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution”;

(12) - Barbara Stahl, “Vertebrate history: problems in evolution”;

(13) - Alan Feduccia, "On Why Dinosaurs Lacked Feathers";

(14) – Robert Jastrow, “The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe”;

(15) - Marjorie Grene, as quoted by Duane T. Gish, “Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics”;

(16) - J. Francis Hitching, “The Neck of the Giraffe or where Darwin went wrong?”;

(17) - Prof. Louis Bounoure as quoted in The Advocate, Thursday 8 March 1984;

(18) – Collin Patterson, Quoted from a letter from Dr. Patterson to creationist Luther D. Sunderland;

(19) - H.S. Lipson, “A Physicist Looks at Evolution”, Physics Bulletin, vol. 31, 1980;

(20) - Midgley Mary, "The Religion of Evolution";

(21) - Dr. Michael Walker, “Quadrant”;

 

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II-2.4 The results: monkeys instead of Shakespeare,

Boeing from scrap metal and the World Library in a

teaspoon

“A purpose, an intention, a design, is evident in everything; and when our comprehension is so far enlarged as to contemplate the first rise of this visible system, we must adopt, with the strongest conviction, the idea of some intelligent cause or author. …Even the contrarieties of nature, by discovering themselves everywhere, become proofs of some consistent plan, and establish one single purpose or intention, however inexplicable and incomprehensible”.
David Hume

So, we are up against the sequence of events unexplained from a scientific point of view and negligible from the point of view of the theory of probability. The chances of a coincidence at every stage of formation of Cosmos, the Earth, life on Earth and humans approach zero. The chances of a coincidence of the entire chain of development - from the Big Bang to the appearance of Homo sapiens sapiens – all the more so. 
We are dealing with the plan of Creation - perfectly verified, calculated and realized. At the end of this chapter let’s quote famous scientists.

Eric J. Chaisson, an American astrophysicist from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and teaches natural science at Harvard University, author of the researches “Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature”, “From Big Bang to Humankind: Seven Epochs of the Cosmos”, did not doubt the existence of the brilliant evolutionary plan - not only regarding the Earth but the Universe as a whole. He does not conceal his admiration of the complexity of biological forms combined with minimal chances of their creation.

Pierre-Paul Grasse, French zoologist, the author of over 300 publications including the influential 52-volume “Traité de Zoologie”, believed: assumption that life had originated by chance and developed completely randomly were completely unfounded (“Evolution of Living Organisms”).  

Freeman John Dyson, an English-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician, from The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton:
“As we look out into the Universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known that we were coming” (As quoted in “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle”, 1986).
“Both as a scientist and as a religious person, I am accustomed to living with uncertainty. Science is exciting because it is full of unsolved mysteries, and religion is exciting for the same reason. The greatest unsolved mysteries are the mysteries of our existence as conscious beings in a small corner of a vast universe” (“PROGRESS IN RELIGION”, A Talk By Freeman Dyson).

Vladimir Nikitin, Professor of Physics, General Director of The Krylov State Research Center in Saint Petersburg:
“The data of elementary particle physics and astrophysics can be looked upon as an eloquent testimony of the existence of the World’s Creator who carefully selected the parameters of the matter’s fundamental particles, so that in the Universe... the conditions were created fit for...human beings.... The probability of emergence of a favourable environment as a result of random combination of Matter’s fundamental particles and their laws is disappearingly low. For instance, the reduction of the difference of proton and neutron mass by 1 MeV (i.e. 0.1%) leads to the instability of the hydrogen atom. Without hydrogen there is no water and organic matter” (Collection “Science, philosophy, religion”, Dubna).

Stephen William Hawking, an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, declared himself an atheist but at same time believes that “the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws”:
“Many people do not like the idea that time had a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention” (“A Brief History of Time”). 

Michael Denton, British-Australian biochemist and molecular biologist, a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture:
“It is so efficient that all the information . . . necessary to specify the design of all the species of organisms which have ever existed on the planet . . . could be held in a teaspoon and there would still be room left for all the information in every book ever written” (“Evolution: A Theory in Crisis”).  

Hugh Ross, a Canadian North American astrophysicist from the University of Toronto:
“Astronomers who do not draw theistic or deistic conclusions are becoming rare, and even the few dissenters hint that the tide is against them” (“The Creator and the Cosmos”).  

Robert Jastrow, an American astronomer, physicist and cosmologist, who was a leading NASA scientist and founding director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies:
“Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the Biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy”.
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
(“The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe”).

Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, a Sri Lankan-born British mathematician, astronomer and astrobiologist, Professor and Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham: 
“The facts as we now see them point to one of two distinct conclusions: an act of deliberate creation, or an indelible permanence of the patterns of life in a Universe that is eternal and boundless. For those who accept modern cosmological views as gospel truth, the latter alternative might be thought unlikely, and so one might be driven inescapably to accept life as being an act of deliberate creation. …My own philosophical preference is for an essentially eternal, boundless Universe, wherein a creator of life somehow emerges in a natural way” (“Evolution from Space”). 

Sir Fred Hoyle, was an English astronomer, the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge: 
“A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there?” (“The Intelligent Universe”). 
“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question” (“The universe: past and present reflections; in: Engineering and Science”).

Sir Fred Hoyle and Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe:
“No matter how large an environment considers, life cannot have had a random beginning. Troops of monkeys thundering away at random on typewriters could not produce the words of Shakespeare, for the practical reason that the whole observable universe is not large enough to contain the necessary monkey hordes, the necessary typewriters, and certainly the waste paper baskets required for the deposition of wrong attempts. The same is true for living material” (“Evolution From Space”). 
Harold Morowitz, an American biophysicist, Robinson Professor of Biology and Natural Philosophy at George Mason University:
According to him, chance of formation of simplest form of living organism is at 1/10340, 000,000. “By comparison only 1020 grains of sand could fit within a cubic mile and 10 billion times more (1030) would fit inside the entire earth.  So, the probability of forming a simple cell by chance processes is infinitely less likely than having a blind person select one specifically marked grain of sand out of an entire earth filled with sand” (“A Closer Look at the Evidence” by Richard and Tina Kleiss).

Robert Shapiro, who was professor emeritus of chemistry at New York University: 
“The improbability involved in generating even one bacterium is so large that it reduces all considerations of time and space to nothingness. Given such odds, the time until the black holes evaporate and the space to the ends of the universe would make no difference at all. If we were to wait, we would truly be waiting for a miracle” (“Origins-A Skeptics Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth”).

Francis Crick, an English molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist, most noted for being a co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953, winner of the Nobel Prize in biology:
“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going” (“Life Itself-Its Origin and Nature”). 

James Hopwood Jeans, who was an English physicist, astronomer and mathematician, Cambridge University:
“From the intrinsic evidence of his creation, the Great Architect of the Universe now begins to appear as a pure mathematician” (“The Mysterious Universe”). 

Francis Sellers Collins, an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project:
“As the director of the Human Genome Project, I have led a consortium of scientists to read out the 3.1 billion letters of the human genome, our own DNA instruction book. As a believer, I see DNA, the information molecule of all living things, as God's language, and the elegance and complexity of our own bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God's plan” (“Collins: Why this scientist believes in God”, CNN, April 6, 2007 ). 

These quotations are just the tip of the iceberg. The more scientists learn the secrets of the Universe, organic and inorganic nature, the more inconceivable the mystery of the Universe becomes. Many famous scientists began their professional activity as convinced atheists, like medical doctor Carl Wieland, but completed their careers as believers convinced of the existence of a Divine power.  
Prof. Francis Collins described himself as a “serious Christian”. Henry “Fritz” Schaefer (University of Georgia), nominated for Nobel Prize in Chemistry, computational and theoretical chemist, considered himself a Christian: “It is very rare that a physical scientists is truly an atheist”. 
Allan Sandage, an American astronomer, who used to be Staff Member Emeritus with the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California and determined the first reasonably accurate values for the Hubble constant and the age of the Universe, became a Christian after being a scientist. “The nature of God is not found in any part of science, for that we must turn to the scriptures”, - he maintained.  
Charles Hard Townes, an American Nobel Prize-winning physicist, did not conceal his opinions: “The question of science seems to be unanswered if we explore from science alone. Thus I believe there is a need for some metaphysical or religious explanation. I believe in the concept of God an in his existence”.

Religion and science do not contradict each other in any way. Moreover, by definition, they complement each other.
“Science tries to understand what our universe is like and how it works, including us humans. Religion is aimed at understanding the purpose and meaning of our universe, including our own lives. If the universe has a purpose or meaning, this must be reflected in its structure and functioning, and hence in science”, - wrote Charles Hard Townes.
Let’s finish this chapter by words of Francois Voltaire, hater of the Church and religious dogma: “One has to be blind not to be blinded by this picture, stupid not to acknowledge its Creator or mad not to worship Him... There are some issues in the opinion that God exists but in the opposing opinion there are absurdities”.

 

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CHAPTER III: Perpetuum mobile of the humankind

III-1.Evil: search for the primal cause

“We are the puppets and fate the puppeteer

On this stage, fate for sometime our moves steer
Into the chest of non-existence, one by one disappear”.
Omar Khayyam

But if Cosmos, nature and Man are the result of Creation, this brings us back to the original dilemma. To the question “Why?”. To nonsense, absurdity and gloomy onerousness of existence. To blatant injustice and cruelty of all living things. 
Indeed, if the world presents such a splendid, ingenious Creation, an ideally adjusted perfect construction on the physico-mathematical level, then how can it be explained that it is so imperfect, even detestable from the point of view of not just morality and spirituality, but also common sense. At best, it looks like a talentless work of a fool, not knowing why he created this toy and stamping over it in an outburst of indignation. At worst – as a torture chamber where living beings, including the higher being – Man, are constantly subjected to pointless suffering. Doesn’t this create an impression that the Creator enjoys the pangs of his creations, making them pass all thinkable and unthinkable trials – yet not clear why and to what purpose? That, like a child in an ant hill, he sets shambolic and intricate experiments while enjoying a panicked confusion of thousands of tiny creatures in order to save one of them in an outburst of sudden pity?  
What demands can one make on a human being if he is created the way he is created? “If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise”, great Goethe said, and isn’t this question the quintessence of the relationship between God and his creation? And if Man is born only to make a pointless journey in hell where he is doomed for ignorance, losses and death, then why is “the Creator’s den” so necessary, no matter how perfect? What makes Evil so powerful, unconquerable and eternal? 
There are several answers to this question. The first one is Judaic-Christian: fall from grace and the Expulsion. Rejected by a virtuous God for weakness, doomed for atoning for their guilt, the descendants of Adam and Eve lead a wretched and torturous existence in the hope for rescue, which will be given to them either at the end of all days with the coming of the Saviour or in a different enlightened world. But why would a good, virtuous and just God first tempt his children by means of devious tricks and afterwards punish them for the wrongdoing in a cruel and merciless way? Kill defenceless children from generation to generation and torture and torment own offspring? We are entitled to contravene by words of Julian of Eclanum (1), the most prominent follower of Pelagius (2), who says in his letter to Augustine (3), the populariser of the original sin idea: “Tiny babies, you say, are not weighed down by their own sin, but are burdened with the sin of another. Tell me then, who is this person who inflicts punishment on innocent creatures? …you answer God. God, you say, God! He who commanded His love to us, who has not spared His own Son for us…He it is, you say, who judges in this way; he is the persecutor of newborn children; he it is who sends tiny babies to eternal flames….It would be right and proper to treat you as beneath argument: you have come so far from religious feeling, from civilized feeling, so far, indeed, from mere common sense, in that you think your Lord God is capable of committing a crime against justice such as is hardly conceivable even among the barbarians”. (Opus imperfectum contra Julianum, I. 48ff).
Let us recall Diderot, who sarcastically remarked that “The Christian God is a father who makes much of his apples and very little of his children.”
The second answer, a variation of the first one, is that a merciful and virtuous Creator made a perfect world, spoilt by the self-conceit and madness of Lucifer who seduced the original Man and put him into the chains of sin. But Lucifer is no more than fallen angel. How is it possible that an all-powerful and merciful God endows him with such an incredible power? There are two answers and both of them are unsatisfactory. Either God is not all-powerful or not virtuous. Or he successfully collaborates with Lucifer, time after time testing his most devoted and obedient followers as he did it with Job.
The third answer: Evil does not exist as such. Evil is the absence of Good like darkness is the absence of Light. But Evil in our world is not amorphous, it’s tangible, extremely real and frightening. It’s not just the absence of Good, it’s the opposite of Good. It’s not just ignorance, concessions and dejected silence. It’s oversaturated with demonic features: anger, hate, envy, avarice, passion for violence, jealousy and fanaticism. 
Buddhism sees the source of suffering in Man being too attached to the material world. But can one not be attached to the world, being its part and its hostage? Can fish not be attached to water, spider to cobweb, or mole to the hole? How can Man not be attached to the world if since birth he is ensnared with countless links tying him to the world? 
Modern technical civilization tried to give its own explanation. It was born in the epoch of Enlightenment, acquired radical completion in Marxism and was given momentum by modern progressives. According to this approach, Evil is the result of social deviations, class, estate, national and religious oppression. If these enslavements were removed and Man was endowed with basic benefits, then he, being reasonable and virtuous by nature, would subjugate the world by means of Science, get rid of diseases, bad habits, vices, envy and greed and acquire harmony and happiness. Indeed, for three centuries Man achieved an awful lot in a technical sense but did not become happier. Moreover, if in the 18th century someone had been told that within a century and a half millions of people would be turned into the swarms of speechless slaves, starved, mass deported into the wilderness, thrown into moats while still alive, beaten to death with cleavers and fed to mosquitoes in a boreal forest in the name of a “happy future”, such a fantasist would have been considered raving mad. It turned out that the path to happiness led to an abyss. But even in the trouble-free lands, which never knew political cataclysms, Man is infinitely far from acquiring happiness. Neither comfort nor social benefits or technical progress are able to save Man from burdensome circumambulation of life with its countless troubles, losses and hardships, anxieties and stresses, offences, secret wishes and the feeling of boundless and frightening loneliness in the face of a cold, indifferent world. 
Gnostics give their own explanation forgotten by us. Man was created by Demiurge the way he was meant to be created. He is the personification of His plan – perhaps, not primarily evil but certainly flawed. However vague the purpose of this plan, pain, ordeals and trials are the main ingredients of the “stew” which we start tasting as early as childhood and stop having only when we leave this world; the constant of equation, the meaning of which fully opens in history. Evil is not a whim or accident, neither is it the deficit of love or social injustice. It is the spring of the material world.
Perhaps, despite the external pointlessness, ugliness and randomness, human civilization presents an ideal formula, calculated and verified with the same meticulous accuracy, which helped to lay the ideal physico-chemical development parameters for the material world. This imperative is in eternal Movement; in the most precise, calibrated combination of suffering and will to live which encourages Man to constantly and fatefully strive after happiness. Suffering has been made the focal point of the whole construction by default; it is an integral part of the gigantic living organism the humankind presents. On the other hand, without the powerful survival instinct it would make our existence unbearable and odious. This combination is a Perpetuum mobile of its kind, the eternal force of progress, however sacrilegious and cynical this sounds. 
Three things allow for making of these conclusions: human nature, history and ...the Bible, the main book of our civilization.


1 - Julian of Eclanum (c. 386 – c. 455) was bishop of Eclanum. He was a distinguished leader of the Pelagians of 5th century. Denied that the original sin of Adam was transmitted to all humans at birth.

2 – Pelagius (c. 360 – 418) was a British-born ascetic theologian, who became well known throughout ancient Rome. He opposed the idea of predestination and asserted a strong version of the doctrine of free will; denied Augustine's theory of original sin: humans were not wounded by Adam's sin and were perfectly able to fulfil the law without divine aid.


3 - Saint Augustine (354 – 430) was an early Christian theologian and philosopher. He strongly affirmed the existence of original sin, the need for infant baptism, the impossibility of a sinless life without Christ, and the necessity of Christ's grace.

 

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III-2. The Path of Life 

“Where am I? What is this thing called the world? What does this word mean? Who is it that has lured me into the thing and now leaves me there? Who am I? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs? … How did I obtain an interest in it? Is it not a voluntary concern? And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director? Whither shall I turn with my complaint?”
Søren Kierkegaard. Philosophical Fragments, or a Fragment of Philosophy

Man is a part of living nature. 
Elements of the environment suppress him. Like an ant, he is being swept away by a gigantic tsunami wave; like a midget, he is being squashed by earthquakes; diseases and epidemics cut him down; wounds, fear and the agony of death torment his body and soul. Millions of forces hold him hostage. Like a scared and mortally wounded animal, he is darting around, trying to find refuge, trampling on his likes and inventing increasingly new ways of survival where survival seems impossible. 
And, as if all this was not enough, “the horror of history”, according to Mircea Eliade, relentlessly persecutes him like a monster, from century to century taking the shape of increasingly new, unexpected and frightening forms: conquests and empires’ disintegration, tyrannies and wars, invasions and genocides, ethnic cleansings and revolutions – and it’s not difficult to understand why the lives of so many people constitute endless and unbearable tortures.
With their bodies people pave the path to the future for their descendants, who, in their turn, are headed for new and no less complicated ordeals. The “bridge of life” of locusts, walking and flying in search of food over the corpses of their fellow creatures – how is it different from human history? What differs gigantic human communities from multi-thousand herds walking to the crossing where they are being awaited by the predators? There is the same goal – to reach a new pasture at any cost, and it doesn’t matter how many living creatures – butchered, dying of their wounds and deprived of their offspring – are left on the other bank. 
Being carried by the wave of events, together with thousands like human grains of sand, he is searching for an escape from the trap. He has to move forward, he tries to change reality, sometimes even struggling to realise what these changes bring him – all for the sake of breaking free from the pitiful “closet” where Fate imprisoned him. These incredible efforts, sometimes - chaotic, at times - organised, lead to changes, improvements and splendid achievements, although almost always at the cost of unthinkable sacrifices and inconceivable losses. 
But – and this is crucial – Man cannot stop in his movement. The cruel paradox of human development: whilst freeing himself from the snares of nature, perfecting social laws, inventing technological marvels, learning to manage diseases, hunger and cataclysms, acquiring comfort and prosperity, he is unable to overcome himself. His race is, first of all, an escape from his own self, which is beyond his control. 

Man is a fruit of calibrated combination of the same factors that govern the animal kingdom. As we know, living nature is regulated by the laws of survival. An eternal mortal fear combined with a self-preservation instinct makes living beings perfect, from generation to generation honing the ways of survival for: a bug – playing dead when danger is nearby, a bird – diving down to escape the talons of a hawk, a quail – feign lameness to lead a fox away from the nest, a hare - doubling when fleeing from the predator. The same rules govern the human world. 
Three demons of Nature hold Man hostage, crucifying him on an invisible cross: the vulnerability of matter, the call of sex and a feverish desire to possess. 
Diseases, hunger, the fear of pain, the vulnerability of flesh and an extreme dependence on it deprive Man of choice. 
Pursuance of the continuation of the humankind defines his thoughts and leads him through life like a blind guide leads an unreasonable child. No person, however great in spirit, can avoid the power of this potent element of passion: love longing, according to Sophocles, became his tormentor from which he was freed only by old age.   
The thirst to possess makes Man establish his power in a blind and pointless way, to his own detriment and that of his nearest and dearest: a male tries to subjugate a female, a female – a male; parents – child, and children – parents; brothers yearn to outdo each other; cultures and religions suppress one another, however beautiful their promises. 

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Furthermore, Man possesses not only intellect, like animals, but also self-consciousness. The laws of the animal world are projected on to the most delicate mental structure. Imagination, conscience, vanity, the pain of loss and a taste for analysis turn his life into a purgatory, and sometimes – even Hell. He is thrown into a moral dilemma; he is driven by the need of self-realisation in society; a constant fight for survival, ruthless competition, the horror of loneliness and dissatisfaction, an unrestrained flight of imagination and attraction to a mystery, an urge to submit to force and at the same time to defend one’s dignity, create boundless complexes and reflections, a confused, dark and controversial inner world. 
Man needs self-identification and he is prepared to do anything for the sake of it. Passion, fight, grievances, envy, jealousy possess him; heroism and self-sacrifice, novelty and thrills attract him however hard he tries to force himself into the Procrustes’ bed of a constrained mind. 
Free will is often no more than illusion. The embittered believe that they “freely strive for revenge, cowards – for a flight whilst drunkards, lunatics and blabbers are convinced that they freely speak of something they subsequently often regret”, - Spinoza wrote with sarcasm about Man’s freedom of will.
Blaise Pascal laughs at the omnipotence of mind: sickness, the pull of novelty, superstitions, ludicrous trifles, like the sight of a rat, cracking of coal, the noise of a weathercock, a fly passing by or a voice tone, ignite our imagination whilst clouding our judgement. 
David Hume calls mind “the slave of affects”. 
For centuries humankind tried to avoid wars. People believed that this evil causing so much grief and suffering can be exterminated by means of getting rid of social vices. Kant believed that monarchy and despotism lie at the heart of wars; Rousseau and consequently Marx were convinced that the root of all evil was in private property, oppression and injustice; Kropotkin named big cities as the cause of captures and aggression. Erich Fromm maintained that wars were brought forth by economic interests of the elite and they stemmed from slave-owning societies with their aspiration to subjugate the neighbouring states and capture as many slaves and as much property as possible.   

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All these theories did not withstand the test of time. Wars – no less cruel and bloody – were made long before slave-owning societies, monarchies and tyrannies. They were made and are still being made (as it happened before our very eyes in Rwanda, Burundi and Congo) by primitive tribal alliances which never had before nor do they have now any class divide, big cities, pernicious tyranny or political machinery of suppression. In many cases this was blood for the sake of blood, madness in the name of madness, atrocity for the sake of pleasure. The tribes of Northern America did not usurp any property but passionately killed and tortured their victims, scalping them alive and cutting off their heads only for the sake of binding them to their saddles. The hordes of Huns and consequently Mongols whooshed through the expanse of Eurasia like a hurricane, burning and destroying everything in their path but they never founded any big cities or took with them any property (it would become a burdensome load in their quests and was unnecessary for primitive nomads) and created any “class communities”. This was an “apotheosis of war” for the love of war.
All scientists’ efforts to explain an upsurge in violence by natural factors also reached a dead end: it became evident that wars in the past were equally waged both in hungry, drought-ridden years and during the periods of an abundant harvest. 
A French researcher of the medieval wars Philippe Contamine, the author of the famous work “War in the Middle Ages”, made an effort to classify armed conflicts according to the reasons of their occurrence. He presented seven key reasons of war occurrence, and “economic” reason – war for the sake of usurpation, appropriation of enemy’s property and his resources - took the last line in this register.  
Some inconceivable, insurmountable, delightfully painful fascination of war moved already modern, developed nations who had reached the peak of civilization. We can remember an inspired feverish anticipation of a bloody battle enchaining European capitals before the slaughter of the WWI – this was a total insanity, frantic madness, obsession with blood, intoxication with mutual hate. Related countries (what is more, related in a true sense, taking into account the kinship of the Houses of Habsburg, Hohenzollern, Romanov and Windsor) were longing to jump down each other’s throat, and it wasn’t the turf war as the spheres of influence could be simply divided if so desired, that pushed Germans, Englishmen, Frenchmen and Russians to the murderous furnace but the darkest, most irrational animal instincts. 
In our time it appears inconceivable that hundreds, even thousands of young men and women leave their quite functional, well-to-do families and countries and thrust themselves towards Iraq or Syria to join the ranks of the followers of “Jihad”. They risk their very lives, subject themselves to unimaginable suffering but crave the “bloody brotherhood” in which they can realise their secret desires.

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This is not surprising. The civilized cover is ephemeral – it evaporates like a morning dew at the first rays of the sun at the moment when Man receives permissiveness, when moral prohibitions slip and cultural codes are declared invalid. Genocides and ethnic cleansings, which swept through the Europe of the last century at the peak of Western culture, as well as the Milgram experiment of Yale University and Stanford prison experiment – are a sad confirmation of this.
“Human spirit would always remain the same as it was. . . . Nobody can find in human spirit more that what is in it already. To think it possible is the biggest of delusions; this means inability to examine oneself. . . .”, - wrote a French aristocrat of the 19th century Joseph de Maistre who hated and despised progressives for their naive and unbridled idealism. 
Human nature is unchangeable but Man refuses to accept this and longs to change it so passionately that he is prepared to endlessly deceive himself and, walking along a vicious circle, convinces himself that he is well on the way to progress.   
Man is doomed for a constant hopeless fight with primal instincts, and what could better illustrate this than the arguments amid Christ about the superiority and closeness to him on the throne at the Day of Judgement. “The desire of a body, the desire of a glance and the conceit of life” (“The Epistle of John” 2:15 – 16) cloud his vision and poison his mind. 
Combined with the primordial demons of nature, the forces of subconsciousness foredoom Man to pain and ordeals, and there isn’t the slightest need for the Devil’s tricks for the explanation of the misery and adversity befalling Man from generation to generation on all continents and in all epochs. 
Man is his own battleground, a victim and a torturer all in one. Bound by the circumstances of birth and a ruthless gamble of genes, the prisoner of his own diseases, fears, anxieties, whims, unrealised desires, complexes and traumas, prejudices, touching upon hate, and loves, perverted to the point of ugliness, all his life Man finds himself in a constant movement, chasing a mirage and trying to escape himself. He creates and destructs, destructs and creates, burns himself in the flame of passions and drowns his own self in forgetfulness. 
The hostage of body and soul, he is never satisfied and doomed to forever move forward in a futile hope to discard the hated chains. Finding no solace, he is instinctively longing to work his way out of the manacles of the inner Kafkaesque world in which he finds himself – like the person stuck in the bog, who automatically grabs anything that can serve as an anchorage, however illusory it is. Imagination sends him upwards, to unexplored summits, and at the same time enlaces with the cobweb of chimeras and myths. Self-consciousness induces him to seek a way out but a constrained mind finds itself in a trap of artificial and fruitless constructions. Chasing an unattainable ideal is coupled with the intricate, pathological and perverted forms of basic instincts – alien and unknown to nature. 

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A persistent exhausting overcoming of burdensome existence, movement for the sake of movement – every day, every year, every century - is an “enduring torture” (Qual), according to a German mystic Jakob Böhme; a “rack of formation” and a “drawing frame for an individual” in the words of Teilhard de Chardin.
What an utmost precision regulates a narrow path the humankind moves along!
A slightly higher level of suffering and pain combined with a weaker survival instinct – and people would prefer a voluntary death to the tortures of this world. A lower level of suffering and a stronger survival instinct – and the humankind would be frozen in its development, content with its joyless but tolerable fate. 
A splendid Perpetuum mobile of the world civilization – an endless suffering balanced by the lust for life does not allow Man to stop. Coming to a stop, he, like an individuum, collective body, people, is doomed for death…
One of the most striking and rare insights was expressed neither by a philosopher nor a thinker but by a man who created the most popular weapon of our time – a famous АК-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov. 
Shortly before his death, he wrote about an “intolerable heartache”, even despair, which had nestled in his heart:
“Good and evil live, sit alongside, fight and, what is the scariest, put up with each other in people’s souls – that’s the conclusion I reached at the dawn of my life. It appears this is some eternal engine which I so wanted to invent in my young years. Light and shadow, good and evil – two opposites of one unit, incapable of existing one without the other. Could it really be that the Supreme God arranged it in this very way? And the humankind will forever languish in such co-existence?”.

 

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III-4 A path in a labyrinth 

 

“The sun rises and the sun sets,

    and hurries back to where it rises.

The wind blows to the south

    and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

    ever returning on its course.

… What has been will be again,

    what has been done will be done again;

    there is nothing new under the sun.

 Is there anything of which one can say,

    “Look! This is something new”?

It was here already, long ago;

    it was here before our time.

No one remembers the former generations,

    and even those yet to come

will not be remembered

    by those who follow them”.

(Ecclesiastes)

 

 

“You want to be an author: read the history of humankind’s misery — and if your heart does not bleed, leave the quill, or it will depict for us the cold gloominess of your soul”.

(N.M.Karamzin, Russian writer, poet, historian and critic)

 

From the moment of its appearance humankind desperately sought to acquire a standing point, ground under foot and a saving idea allowing to overcome the horror of death, yearning and fear in the inexorable grindstones of time. It went through all possible milestones, passed all the stages of development. Man believed in witchcraft and magic, in the divine powers of Nature. He relied on the Law of one God, hoped for Love and humility, drew on Reason and Science, chose the idea of Freedom and equality as his personal lodestar. He entered the 21th century as a victor and ...found himself surrounded by emptiness. All his efforts to acquire happiness are dashed against human nature itself, but it’s not in his powers to abandon his cherished dream.

...Our epoch is the epoch of creations. The century of splendid accomplishments, discoveries, technical achievements. The century of Internet, social networks, satellites capable of perceiving a match box on the Earth, aerobuses transferring us across the ocean, heart transplant and sex change operations, skyscrapers, microscopic “bugs” finding their way everywhere – from human body to military targets. The century of complete freedom, disinhibition, sexual overindulgence, the cult of flesh and Matter, social benefits and participation of the state which, like a nurse, is happy to care, support and lull the old, the helpless and the lost. 

Human lifespan almost doubled. Practically nothing – diseases, epidemics, hunger, intrusion of the enemy armies – threatens the people of the West, like in the past centuries, and if the danger rises in the name of AIDS or Ebola fever, doctors quickly find the way if not to neutralise the disease fully, then at least stall its action.

But has Man become happier than his great grandfathers in the cave times, the Antiquity and “dark Middle Ages”, or even the Industrial Revolution epoch?

Perhaps, never in the whole history have people felt so lonely and lost “in the face of endless and immense expanse” (Pascal). Never has Man been overcome by fear and yearning for the unknowable with such a force. 

In 2005 the number of patients with mental and neurological disorders and pathologies in Europe made up 27% of the population, but at the end of 2011 it was already 38% of the population (1). According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2013, the use of antidepressants only has surged across the rich world over the past decade. Figures show that more than 10% of adults in Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Australia and Canada use the antidepressants.

61 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder and disease, from a high level of depression or anxiety to psychosomatic syndromes, and obtain disability status because of it. 

According to Cato Institute Policy Analysis, “back in the mid-1980s, there were about 30 recipients of disability for every 1,000 workers; now, it's up to 75 recipients of disability for every 1,000 workers” (2).

Depression, insomnia, schizophrenia, chronic fatigue, apathy, obsession, increased anxiety and dementia, neuroses and various phobias have become the constant companions of the man of the postmodernist era.

Technical progress did not make people happier – Man runs from himself and his own ideals with more desperation than before. He runs into the worlds of gloom, squalor, fanaticism, absurd believes, prejudices, childish fantasies and cults. Helpless and disillusioned, he returns to the past again, passing all the stages of civilization development and clinging to the shaky delusive constructions which had outlived their uselessness. He is looking for the recipe of happiness and does not find it, his search is confused and chaotic, and in this tireless delirious search with its fragile victories, ingenious achievements and countless victims is essentially the point of History and its quintessence.  

 

1. “Europe plagued with mental health problems” By Catherine Walker, Mental Healthy. The study was led by Hans Ulrich Wittchen, director of the institute of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Germany’s Dresden University. The study covered 30 European countries, including the 27 European Union member-states plus Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway. This covers a population of 514 million people. Wittchen and colleagues noted that mental disorders have become Europe’s largest health challenge of the 21st century.

 

2. Cato Institute Policy Analysis, “The Disability-Industrial Complex,” September 6, 2013.

 

Full and edited version can be found on
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https://www.amazon.com/dp/154374589X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1524926620&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3AAlexander+Maistrovoy

 

 

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