III-4.1 In the cobweb of fear
“…in short the only thing man can do by natural instinct is to weep! Consequently there have been many who believed that it were best not to be born, or to be put away as soon as possible. On man alone of living creatures is bestowed grief, on him alone luxury, and that in countless forms and reaching every separate part of his frame; he alone has ambition, avarice, immeasurable appetite for life, superstition, anxiety about burial and even about what will happen after he is no more. No creature's life is more precarious, none has a greater lust for all enjoyments, a more confused timidity, a fiercer rage. In fine, all other living creatures pass their time worthily among their own specie…”
Pliny the Elder, “The Natural History”
Even today we struggle to imagine the existence and the way of living of primitive tribes – partially, thanks to the archaeologists who reconstructed the history of the distant past of our planet, partially – thanks to the detailed descriptions of researchers and travellers who have been to the depths of Africa, Latin America and Polynesia in the 19-20 centuries.
Primitive and at the same time varied forms of life of primitive people rest upon one basic, all-permeating, all-encompassing feeling – the feeling of Fear. The Fear of everything: elements, wild animals, bad weather, pain, neighbouring tribes, a leader, a stronger rival who is ready to imminently take possession of your woman.
Finally, the fear of something dreadful, mystical and inconceivable that cannot be grasped by basic sense of touch, but grabs you and holds in its clutches. Death, rot, decay, a ghastly and menacing Nothing.
All tricks and efforts were directed at one goal – to avoid death, disease, pain, animal claws and fangs, hunger, a poisoned enemy arrow, a bludgeon of one’s fierce neighbour, and, lastly – a final disappearance in the twilight of impending Nothing.
The first signs of Homo sapiens, which were inherent even in Neanderthals - burials of their parents and dead tribesmen – were none other than painful reflection of the first individuals of neurotic disposition. This was not the touching care for the nearest and dearest and respect for their memory. Those who died during hunting, from disease or the hand of their fellow brothers did not stir up sympathy in their tribesmen. The only reason prompting their actions is stopping the dead attracting evil spirits and offending with their appearance and presence of some mysterious forces, which may not find to their taste the bodies abandoned to their fate. They needed concealing, burying, hiding and at the same time endowing with sanctity and significance.
Cave painting, bone carving, bone and stone statues, rock figures, beads and jewellery – all that today we call the primitive art and that is so reverently restored by the modern art of postmodernism - originally did not bear any relation to the art itself. All this was just a part of incantations, magic rituals, saving formulas which were supposed to scare off evil spirits with their diseases, floods and droughts, hunger and predators, and, in contrast, bring food, prosperity, attract a male for procreation, provide defense from a stronger rival and the wind capable of extinguishing the fire flame.
Fear made people seek rescue in countless rites, have faith that the shiny bracelet can ward off trouble and a heap of stones dumped on top of each other will stop the dead from waking up and returning to the world of living to take them back with them. Fear gave rise to the taboo for quite innocent things and actions; absurd and at times painful, bordering on self-torture customs devoid of any sense from the point of view of official logic.
The primitive man not only hid from the real world behind the dense smoke of bans but also tried to fuse with the nature in his thoughts, hide in it from the dangers, in his eye’s mind enflesh himself with substance endowing him with power and invincibility. Associating himself with a tree, animal, bird or snake, Man acquired their qualities – sacrosanctity, power, quickness, cunning, inventiveness and dexterity. He ceased being a small, lonely and helpless creature in a gigantic world of dangers, but with the help of a ritual feast or a magic reproduction rite he would join the powerful family of never-fading trees or reigning predators – bears, lions, eagles and bisons, acquired their hidden protection and defense from the enemies, dissolved in the might and strength of their breed. Finally, he would not disappear in the Darkness and migrate after death into the living creatures worshipped by him and, thus, continue his life – already as infinite as the animals and birds he became intimate with.
Not only animals but also rock and stone also became living beings and the objects for his worship. Anything that responded a quirky human fantasy and tamed its neurotic fears could become a totem: scorpion, maize’s stem, bird’s feather, a piece of wolf’s eye, an ant, turtle’s head, animal’s stomach and the end parts of a leave. “I” attached itself to something unshakeable outside the power of death, pain and decay. “I” sought to acquire the protection of invisible spirits - salvaging, life-accrediting and defending from enemies and troubles.
The primitive man treated elements – wind and water, fire and earth – as his allies. He animated and appeased them, fed off their eternity and life force.
Today none of the natural dangers threatens Man. Moreover, the fear of them should have disappeared in tens of thousands years even genetically. But Man fails to tear himself away from this ground permeated with the primeval horror. The reflections of a small creature dragged away from the essence of eternal nature can temporarily become latent but invariably comes back time and again in various capacities under different and paradoxical circumstances. You will discover them in the intricate tombstones and vaults, torch-light processions, leaders’ mummification, worshipping the saints’ relics and imbuing ancient burial places with sanctity. In the careful stone preservation, snippets of clothes and items allegedly endowed with magical powers. In the belief in different ribbons, shoelaces, red cords, enchanted stones, amulets and talismans which we find in millions of people – quite modern, sensible and more than materialistic, who do not believe in anything, apart from the power of their lawyer and their own purse. An inherent fear nesting in their souls makes them assimilate themselves with the ancient Maori and the savages from Tahiti.
In China, a leading technological and economical superpower and a future world empire, it is quite common to worship the souls of the dead relatives which are to be indulged in every way possible, and in many regions of the Celestial Empire to this day exists the custom of “bone purification”. It is carried out 10 years after the demise of the deceased: the burial place is unearthed, the remains taken out, washed, put into a ceramic pot and re-buried.
Into the coffin they put special “currency” of the spirit world which is bought in the shops selling funeral merchandise. What is more, this “currency” can be of different “denomination” and the higher the value stated on the notes the more alleged worth “the money” has in the afterlife.
Furthermore, on special days, such as the “Spirit Day”, for instance, they leave on the graves real bank notes as well as the products for the deceased to use in the kingdom beyond the grave. Offerings are also presented to the deity of the spirit world.
In China they believe in spirits and demons – good and evil, and to attract the favour of benign entities, they wear lucky charms while to protect against evil spirits – protective amulets. In addition to this, the magic images of creatures of beyond are drawn on house walls and Vutu dance is performed to banish evil spirits.
There is a multitude of similar rituals in China. And they don’t change in thousands of years: despite the front of progress and technological advancement, the spiritual reality of these people remains unchanged and dates back to the magic cults of the primeval world.
The primitive childish belief in magic and the supernatural, the desire to allot stones, snakes, skulls and arrows with the mystery and “higher powers”, remarkably attracts almost all people without substantial variations of age and intellect, sex and culture, religious commitment and education.
Modern man doesn't believe in God. But it's necessary to believe in something, so he believes in flying saucers, ghosts, stars, magic, and witchcraft. Nearly four in 10 Britons believe in ghosts, 22% believe in astrology, and 15% believe in fortune telling or Tarot. In 1951, only 7% of people believed in such things (1). Magic replaced both God and reason.
Today on book counters and in Internet-shops there is a glut of totem horoscopes offering to choose an animal guardian or an animal deity, depending on the date of birth: bear, wolverine, ermine, grasshopper or worm. In the 21th century you discover countless descriptions of “ritual practices”, séances of “mediumistic trance”, the ways of “communication with the spirits of Wolf or Bear”, a guidance on modern shamanism and “witching spells”, recipes of “love potions” and methodologies of “immersion into the world of spirits” of Red Indians, spiritualist systems and trainings on communication with the “supernatural forces”. Modern metropolitan cities are full of private clubs for the “initiated” and “spiritualist groups”, magic brotherhoods and schools “teaching mediumship”. You will discover an unthinkable number of manuals on practical magic, black magic, white magic, love magic, voodoo, hexes, witchcraft, divination and love spells; the offers of “occult-mystical service”.
Ancient rituals are the childhood of the humankind and its maturity. This is an uneasy painful unrest and a desperate attempt to shield oneself from Cosmos, hide and run away. This is very similar to child’s neurotic fears and complexes, and we detect them always and everywhere, irrespective of the civilization’s advancements, however impressive they are. Fear does not disappear the same way as the darkness entitled Nothing - which is born together with Man’s original understanding of own “I” - does not disappear, either. Only the ways of escaping it and the forms of organised rites and incantations vary. But soul remains the hostage of the ancient and eternal Horror the primitive man came across as soon as he could look at himself from the outside - helpless, pitiful and lost in the world.
And however much Man tries to free himself from it, he changes only the Dragon which holds him in his claws.
1. "Most Britons 'believe in heaven',” BBC news, November 2008
III-4.5 The path of Reason, or Virgil’s betrayal: death on conveyor
“Mankind in its totality offers an assemblage of low beings, selfish, and superior to the animal only in that its selfishness is more reflective”.
Ernest Renan “The Life of Jesus”
Rational thinking is a priori considered the prerogative of Western culture. It is difficult to find a bigger misconception than this. The West used to be and still is in thrall to the irrational and, worse yet, it gave birth to the monsters unknown to even the primitive and cruel civilizations of the past. And no technical and social achievements are able to extinguish the horror introduced to the world by the culture, which proclaimed the cult of Reason...
“Man a Machine”: the expulsion of a thinking hypostasis
The faith in One God provided ready answers. Ancient Greeks would ask questions without unambiguous answers. What is Cosmos? What is Man’s place in the Galaxy? How did the world appear and what drives it? The philosophers of the Antiquity saw the world in three-dimensional presentation where everything was connected to anything: soul, mind, God and, of course, science.
Aristotle created the teaching about “four elements”: form, matter, cause and purpose. The cause for everything is God and the Universe is the embodiment of the principle of divine viability. The Supreme Goal is Good but each thing has its own goal promoting Good.
This perception of the world, where everything is connected to anything, where Reason given to Man is an integral part of the divine and science is directed at the comprehension of the divine, was passed to the thinkers of the brilliant 17th century.
This was an unprecedented breakthrough in the history of human civilization. The ice of dogma and prejudices cracked, and Reason, like Dante’s Virgil, came out to the stage of human theatre – full of inner light, youth, strength and nobility. And hand in hand with him, like Veronica, walked Science opening the doors to the underworld of human soul, taming wild passions of fierce and sly wretches, bewildering and scaring a she-wolf – “an insolent harlot” (1). At the hands of Virgil there was a flying balloon of life-giving knowledge and a dragon was breathing by his feet tamed by the mighty power of Reason (2).
The majority of thinkers followed the traditions of the Greek philosophy and its craving for harmony and omnitude. As I wrote before, Reason was allocated the role of the tool of understanding the world but it was not contraposed with the presence of the incomprehensible in Man.
In every human soul there is an imprint and an infinite entity of God, although not everyone is capable of making to perceive it, Spinoza wrote. Insisting on the rational origin in the comprehension of the world, the Renaissance humanist Lorenzo Valla allocated faith to the sphere of emotions and intuitive feeling.
Professor of The Florentine Academy, a Byzantine Greek John Argyropoulos divided philosophy into the natural one studying nature and the material world; the divine one – a philosophy of “pure forms” and a philosophy of intermediate forms – a mathematical world of signs, numbers and figures. None of these prevail over the others, and all three are conditioned by presence in Man of divine reason.
However, soon the idea of the harmony of God, world and Man began to suffer erosion and the accents began shifting. Although Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes, Johannes Kepler and Robert Boyle did by no means reject God, the divine took the back seat, and then Science elevated to the rank of the Absolute and started to replace God.
Out of four beginnings in Aristotle’s formula there are only two remaining: form and matter. Cause - God and purpose – the Supreme Good lost their meaning. The object of cognition was inordinately constricted by the philosophers of the modern age and Reason’s capacities were broadened boundlessly.
“The true physics becomes a kind of theology when it is pursued correctly”, - proclaimed de Fontenelle (3).
Starting out from mechanistic conception, Thomas Hobbes (4) schematised nature to the limit and consequently – human socium. Both are the composite of material bodies whose supreme good is the self-preservation instinct and satisfaction of wants. This mechanism needs a “social contract” and tough power for prevention of the “war of all against all” and a collective group acquires an ultimate significance as a coherent and integral body.
French Julien La Mettrie (5) compared a human being with clockwork, a soul which he endowed with materiality – with an actuating mechanism, and the difference with animals he saw only in a large number of needs. “Man a Machine” (L'homme Machine) is the title of his work. Man loses a freedom of choice: his behaviour is subject to the laws of motion and biochemical atomistic processes.
For Claude Helvetius (6) human needs are also the derivatives of atomistic movement characteristic of impersonal nature. Man strives to make use but this use lies in the dimension of exclusive materiality and is entirely subject to social benefit. Otherwise, his role as the living particle of socium is pointless and even harmful.
Mechanics became the measure of all things and phenomena. The best and acquisitive minds of their time transferred mechanical regularities to the sphere of psychology and human relationships. David Hartley (7) in “Observations on Man...” developed doctrine of vibrations of “the infinitesimal medullar particles”: …“first on the nerves on which they are impressed, and then on the brain”, with the help of which ethical and moral qualities can be formed that are necessary for the human communal living. “If we do not allow free thinking in chemistry or biology, should we allow it in morals or politics?”, asked Auguste Comte.
According to Diderot, “We are instruments endowed with sentience and memory. Our senses are like keys plucked by the environment which surrounds us, and that often pluck themselves”.
Joseph Priestley (8) believed that “Will is nothing more than a particular case of the general doctrine of association of ideas, and therefore a perfectly mechanical thing”. De Condillac (9) in the “Treatise on Sensations” believed that all attributes of the mind, including will, derived from sensations. He allocated to power the role of a “mechanic” who “must fix coil springs and improve the whole car as often as circumstances require”. Jacques Turgot (10) was convinced that “mechanical arts” unveiled the opportunities for the “rise of ...advanced philosophy”.
Likening of human community to a mechanism attained new development via “Social Darwinism” as early as the 18th century. Herbert Spencer’s (11) “Man a Machine” turned into a “biological cell”, a constituent of a gigantic “aggregate” - society. Like in any mechanism, cells behave in the same way and produce cells like themselves allowing the “aggregate” to constantly function and perfect itself. The very notion of “Organicism” introduced by him is as significant as La Mettrie’s “Man a Machine”.
The world - delineated, demarcated and measured - moved, overgrew with numbers, captured thinking space and became increasingly defined and comprehensible. Like a gigantic mechanism, it enchanted and suppressed with its grandeur. Could anyone imagine that in three hundred years this mechanistic world divinified by a human thought would cage both afflatus and intuition, and consequently – reason itself?
In the 17th century it was hard to imagine anything of the kind. The best minds were intoxicated with the hunger for knowledge and research.
In pursuit of Science: to harmony via …an anthill
From the point of view of their authors, these theories were neither unethical nor inhuman. It was suggested a priori that human nature is virtuous as Nature itself is virtuous and vices are rooted in social diseases. It’s enough to follow Nature “in a natural way” (ordre naturel) using Reason – and Science will indicate the path of salvation.
Universal peace will be established, national and racial prejudice will disappear, wars will stop, colonial seizures will be finished with, states will care about common good. According to Priestley, “history will assume another, more pleasant shape”.
“No unhappy people would be seen on earth, whereas at present we come across them on every hand” and all people would “look on each other and love each other as brothers and sisters”, believed Catholic priest and utopian Jean Meslier. “The young are fortunate, for they will see fine things”, - predicted Voltaire who sincerely believed that “…in the long run it is the philosophers who shape opinion”. Condorcet was inspired by a dream that “tyrants and slaves, priests and their stupid or hypocritical instruments will exist only in work of history and on the stage”, and people will be able to forever live in love and happiness thanks to scientific discoveries. (His life came to a halt in the French Bastille having been claimed by Jacobins – a cruel mockery of History). “Reason will break their chains, the shackles of superstition will shatter at its sovereign voice, and rationality, destined to be our guiding light, will share its power with none other”, - proclaimed Baron d'Holbach.
Progress seemed inevitable and the concept of social Darwinism strengthened faith in its inevitability even more: natural selection acted as a regulator of social processes – there was nothing left for the state but to take upon itself the guardianship of widows, orphans, the elderly and the crippled.
Paradoxically, the representatives of the Enlightenment were bigger Utopians than the Fathers of the Church as they believed in a natural virtue of Man. But the bigger the Utopia, the more extensive the bloody harvest reaped by it…
Imitation of Nature surreptitiously but inexorably leads the humankind to a definitive worldview. In this world human communities acquired the features of faceless unified biota existing in constant movement – something like an anthill or a beehive where every being is subject to a unified will and a unified system.
Like insects, people of mechanical time live and commit monotonous mechanical movements for the benefit of a collective group for which they receive subsistence, material goods and the opportunity to procreate. Any non-standardized behaviour is dangerous and undesirable. Man-insect has value only while yielding benefit.
Man was losing his divine essence turning into a “communal atom”; rulers acquired the features of accountants, the main thing for whom was the prosperity of a biota. People were becoming a “human resource” like coal, oil, gas, etc.
“The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and the direction of the processes of production”, - these words of Engels became concentrated expression of this idea.
Morality was increasingly complying with economic considerations. Time will pass (just a little time), and this scheme will be materialized in its entirety and mercilessness.
By the end of the 18th century Europe made its choice. The purpose was defined, the trajectory outlined and the doubts cast off. The humankind was in full sail careering towards mechanical happiness drinking in its reason and achievements.
A bridge across an abyss
And the achievements were indeed impressive. Civilization knew no match for them.
Steam engine, turning and milling machines allowed for creation of gigantic mechanisms – steamships and steam trains. Europe got covered with a chain of railway lines, there appeared gas lamps on city streets. Chemicals - soap and concrete – were being produced. Michael Faraday discovered electrochemical laws, James Maxwell created the foundations of classical electrodynamics, Louis Daguerre registered an elusive moment on film and Dmitry Mendeleev formulated his famous periodic table. Louis Pasteur conquered Siberian plague and rabies while Joseph Lister developed the principles of antiseptics.
Telegraph, telephone and radio connected people in different parts of the world.
And this was just the beginning. The incandescent light bulb of Thomas Edison forced out gas light, in European countries there appeared trams and consequently (o, mechanical miracle!) automobiles. The conveyor ensured a smooth and extremely well-functioning production.
A technological breakthrough conjoined with unprecedented public achievements. The humankind broke the manacles cantankerous monks and mean-spirited clerics bound it with. An initial education permeated all layers of society. One by one there follows an emancipation of women, Jews and discriminated Christian faiths. Slave trading and consequently serfdom law were abolished.
In the duration of 150 years – a split second by history’s standards – the humankind buried in a closet of fear and ignorance broke free, and the horizon, which had been opened to it, seemed dazzling and attainable. God fell down at Man’s feet and was trampled by him – the only ruler of the world and the creator of the future.
The glance of a “free man” is turned towards Olympus. He does not watch his step, does neither know nor want to know what is under him – not a firm ground but a rickety foot walk concealing an abyss. No matter how grand were the discoveries and how significant social success, they could not compensate the oppressive hopelessness which laid hold on human hearts. From then onwards, Reason continued its movement in spiritual emptiness and the attempts to acquire a footing – desperate and fruitless.
In the jaws of Beelzebub
Impoverished peasants migrated to cities in hundreds of thousands. The foundations of living were erased, family ties broken, without defense communities and guilds of people were left to themselves and their fate, almost always hostile and cruel. Factory complexes drew recent peasants into a gigantic vortex. Machine labour gave rise to a new social type – people-insects devoid of connection to each other and the world, and rigidly attached to a technological process. Live driving belts of these mechanisms, they interrupted their work only for physical needs: sleep, food and responding to the call of nature. A working day constituted 13-15 hours per day with three short breaks for food in tack rooms, throughout the week without any days off.
In rented speedily furnished rooms, often without windows, which were divided by shabby partitions or rags, there lived several people tormenting each other with noise, snoring and a stench of the bodies sopping with sweat. Damp and dark premises, which were not aired, gave rise to tuberculosis and pneumonia. At the end of the 19th century there was a system of “exchangeable beds”: a man would go to bed after returning in the morning from a night shift at the factory, and a woman would go to the same bed after returning in the afternoon from a kitchen or service work.
Weak tea, boiled potatoes, porridge and bread were the only food of yesterday’s peasants caught in the wheels of mechanistic world.
Labour lost its inherent uniqueness. A worker in workshops would produce something he had no idea of, while performing mindless pressing operations, and would consequently turn into something himself devoid of any value and individuality – an appendage of a lathe and a machine among thousands of the same faceless robots of flesh and blood like himself.
Ant’s labour cost no more than ant’s life. Every day brought hopelessness and endurance testing; the fear of the irremediable lingers over machine workshops: a trauma and an injury. The diseased and the disabled were taken to a “Workhouse” – the last refuge of crushed and exhausted creatures; a social leprosarium; an amassment of used human material. Locked up in four walls, recalled from parents, children, husbands and wives, this human lumber lived its last years before finally disappearing in darkness and leaving for nowhere – where there is neither God nor the world.
Slums were growing around factories and mines – stinking, without sewage with constructions that were hastily knocked together, dark streets filled with beggars, consumptives, syphilitics, the disabled with stumps – without fingers, arms and legs, prostitutes, tramps, thieves, “walking corpses” who passed debtors’ prison. Women chucked children at the scrap heaps, men joined up as soldiers. Alcohol in pothouses and fuss-free sex in brothels were the only things left to the human biota dreaming of forgetting itself and snatching a drop of pleasure for fleeting, agonizing and pointless existence.
They had nothing that could be saved and passed over to their children who were born in dirt and poverty in basements, attics and barracks and, starting from 6-8 years old, laboured in workshops and died under the heel of the mechanistic world.
Unlike their fathers and grandfathers, these people knew neither comfort not hope – God was dead or, if he ever existed, he was alien and infinitely remote. In the past Europe knew a lot of adversities, however, a harmonious world, where suffering was the result of the “original sin” and hardship – a prelude to the forthcoming salvation, order remained unshakeable. The new time destroyed the divine universe in an instant. A “vale of suffering” was from now on the work of neither God’s nor Devil’s but human hands. Absolutely alone, in the stink of slums and methodical and even churning of factory womb grinding live mass, Man was infinitely and mercilessly lonely.
In this world of workshops, pits, slums and work-houses there were preachers like the creator of the Salvation Army William Booth. But he was on his own against Beelzebub consuming millions.
Here is the description of people, to whom Booth brought the word of God, made by one of eyewitnesses: “He saw five-year-olds blind drunk at taproom doorways; mothers forcing beer from white-chipped jugs down babies' throats. Outside pub after pub silent savage men with ashen faces, coats piled nearby, lunged and struck and toppled heavily and watching women, faces animal with passion, screamed “Strike! Strike!” … East London was their world. As children they fashioned their toys from its garbage-often herring backbones, trailed on pieces of string”.
The happiness of materialists and theorists of “mechanistic Utopia” consisted in them being unable to witness the fruits of their teachings.
The world of wordless sleep walkers craving sleep and food, swarming the pits, suffocating in mines, sticking all over conveyor lines, immured in stuffy workshops and spinning factories, dying at the age of 30 of consumption, syphilis and alcohol, was not what they dreamed about.
However, a dim delusion of industrial slums turned out to be not the only underside of a grandiose scientific breakthrough. Stepping down from conveyor lines, were not just the machines for creation but also the ones for murder.
The wars of professional armies of the past were child’s play compared to the combats of hordes of highly developed insects that left their anthills and nests for conducting military operations.
“Cannon fodder” – this invention of the insect world was realised by human mind for the first time in history, when in 1914 during the Battle of Langemarck Germans threw over allies’ machine guns a mass of non-battle wise peasants and students. From then onward a traditional art of war gives way to ant squabbles. An infantryman in a mouse-coloured uniform is likened to an insect. He digs himself into trenches, crawls over the corpses of fallen comrades and climbs over barbed wire. He is poisoned with gases, thrown on mine fields and under caterpillar treads, hacked in trench shelters with red-hot metal and burned in a flame thrower.
20 million of the killed – practically the whole young generation of men of warring nations – were swept over by a fire sword in four years. Only very recently people greeted the 19th century as an epoch of general welfare. After the trenches of Artois, Somme and Verdun nobody thought of flourishing, Man stopped being Man; the Reason, on which he put such hopes, betrayed him.
Like machine production depersonalised the idea of firsthand experience and mastery, the First World War completely devalued human life.
Utopians and reformers were replaced with a “disillusioned generation” – all that remained was to try and forget about the horrors of a recent massacre and rejoice getting pleasure from the carnal delights eagerly provided by the world of gigantic, bustling megalopolises. Life a la cancan – a thrilling nonsense, a garish indecency, jerky movements with a deliberate sexuality. Exhaustion, mindlessness and an unrestrained waking dream. A new rhythm – new meaning: living and surviving in the world where there is neither meaning nor rhythm left. Nothing but for monotonous humming of machines suppressing all feelings. Charlie Chaplin – a small and absurd figure – became the embodiment of mechanistic consciousness.
And still, thought could not put up with a defeat. Reason absolutely had to find a saving formula. The matter depended on Science - and Science obligingly provided already accumulated hypotheses and ideas in order to materialise them in certain life-affirming concepts. The tragedy was lying in the concepts resting upon the principles of the same mechanistic world which had given rise to evil.
Science offered to the 20th century two ways of verity acquisition. One rested upon racial-biological theory, the other – upon the social-economic one.
The first one was based on the supposition that people are biologically different in the first place: some intrinsically hold the highest positions, others – the lowest. The first ones are destined to rule; the second ones are obliged to obey them. Some nations are born noble, others - inferior. In white nations there flows the blood of warriors and triumphators, in Afro-Asian and Jewish nations – that of slaves and rabble. Any displacement will not correct the nature of primitive nations but poisons the blood of the chosen ones.
Joseph Gobineau (12) divided people into three categories: white race - the highest, yellow one - the average and black one - the lowest. De Lapouge (13) created the pseudo-science, which he called “anthroposociology” with its own terminology: brachycephalic ('short-headed'), mesaticephalic ('medium-headed') and - the pinnacle of perfection - Nordic race, dolichocephalic ('long-headed').
He deduced “allocation” dependencies on the local topography - dolichocephalic and brachycephalic, introduced a cephalic index (the ratio between maximal width of encephalic box and its maximal length) and developed social laws: the more dolichocephalics (longheaded blue-eyed blondes) there are in the society, the more stable, harmonious and perfect it is.
His teaching remained on the outskirts of the intellectual life of France but at the same time acquired an extraordinary popularity in the country which had become the embodiment of a gigantic industrial anthill – Germany.
By this time the concept of racial superiority was already captivating hearts and minds of the nation of philosophers and poets. Otto Georg Ammon (14) divided people into “brave creators and trailblazers” – a Nordic race, weak-willed “herd” and “inferior” nations.
Ludwig Woltmann (15) warned about the perniciousness of racial mixing. Ernst Moritz Arndt (16) demanded to build a fence on the border with depraved France and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (17) elucidated the balefulness of mixing with the Polish, French and Jewish. Gottlieb’s disciple Fichte and the adherent of physiological mechanistic theory Jakob Fries (18) called to destroy the Jews while historian Heinrich von Treitschke (19) instructed to search for the main distinctions of the German nation in “eyes and thighs”.
However, the honour of the founding father of a practical racial doctrine without doubt belongs to Richard Wagner’s son-in-law - Houston Chamberlain (20).
At his instigation racial theories of Gobineau and de Lapouge acquired flesh and blood – that is, “German blood” and “Semitic blood”.
Teutons are the supreme origin: “the beating hearts and thinking brains of the humankind”. They were contraposed with the Semites – also the nation of pure blood but greedy, vile and treacherous.
The Jews were the worst variety of humankind but the abyss between them and Teutons was filled with other nations – primitive and abominable all in one. Chamberlain refused to read Dostoevsky because of him belonging to the lower race, he called Russians “the new embodiment of the eternal Timur’s empire”, considered the Poles and the Czechs slaves – detestable and fit only to serve the Germanic people. He spoke of Negros and the Chinese as of “wretches” who should be chained.
Thus, the first “scientific” recipe of the humankind salvation saw light: the supreme Nordic race could survive and succeed only upon the condition of a complete destruction of its antipode – the Jewish race, a cessation of any mixing with half-humans and “people-beasts” – the Slavs, black and yellow people, and their total and unconditional submission.
However, there remained one more way, and this way ran through a material and social-economic improvement of the world.
The ideal of the “commune”, where everybody is equal and worthy of happiness, constantly haunted Europe – from Thomas Müntzer (21), Adam Weishaupt (22) and his Bavarian Illuminati to the “Utopia” of Thomas More (23) and “The City of the Sun” of Tommaso Campanella (24).
But where is the shortest way to the cherished happiness? Of course, in science! Charles Fourier (25) created the first of its kind pseudoscientific work in the “futuristic” style - painstakingly, in figures and schemes drawing the pictures of the future: “Let us describe the street-galleries which are one of the most charming and precious features of a Palace of Harmony. A Phalanx which may consist of up to 1600 or 1800 people, is actually a small town in itself. … After thirty years, when permanent buildings are constructed, the street-gallery will have a width of six toises in the central portion of the Palace and four toises in the wings. But at the outset, since the present poverty of the globe requires modest structures ... the street-gallery will be only four toises wide in the center and three in the wings... The poorest wretch in Harmony, a man who doesn’t have a penny to his name, has a well-heated and enclosed portico at his disposal when he gets into a carriage; he goes from the Palace to the stables by means of paved and gravelled underground passage-ways; he gets from his lodgings to the public halls and workshops by means of street-galleries which are heated in winter and ventilated in summer. In Harmony one can pass through the workshops, stables, shops, ball-rooms, banquet and assembly halls, etc., in January without knowing whether it is rainy or windy, hot or cold”.
Naive and childish compositions, they acquired an extraordinary popularity and Alexander Herzen (26) – “the father of Russian revolution” – did not hide his admiration of Fourier.
Robert Owen (27) tried to bring to life the model of equating communism with purely English practicality. In his own community New Harmony, Indiana, he created an educational system, art and craft lessons for children, music and dance classes, banned children’s labour and cut daily working hours. It was a magnificent experiment which ended in …a complete failure. Having been ruined financially, Owen returned to Wales continuing to believe in the saving idea of changing human nature by means of a beneficial effect of an ambience.
However, a primordial concept of the “scientific communism” was created a year before the French Revolution of Henri de Saint-Simon (28). Saint-Simon set a great goal – “to break a new physico-mathematical path to human understanding”. Man is the same organic particle in a social mechanism as an atom in a material body. The state is a power which brings this particle into action to impel it to happiness. Thus, the utopia started dwindling in the direction of the atomistic world.
Saint-Simon regarded Labour to be of paramount importance. He proclaimed equality, appointed the main active participant - proletariat, and deduced a magic development formula - a “class struggle”.
Like in racial systems, human communities were like the insect communities. In his “Politique” and “L’Organisateur” “industrialists” (workers and entrepreneurs) – bees – wage a life or death war on drone bees – rentier and nobility.
But it was not Saint-Simon who was destined to become the founding father of communist cult – he lacked doctrinarianism, volitional impulse and ruthlessness. This role was destined for Carl Marx. A convert to Christianity who hated the Jews no less than Wagner or Ammon, with the same indisputability Moses used to carve out moral commandments, he carves out the commandments of the immoral type – a guide for a “she-cook” to the world of power.
Power was defined by Marx as “merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another”; equality was achieved “by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property”. The basis for the “Red Terror” was laid in the same way as it was laid for the “Brown terror.”
Embodying covenants theorist cult, Lenin defined “Dictatorship of the proletariat” as “dictatorship is rule based directly on force and unrestricted by any laws”, and Stalin as “the rule unrestricted by law and based on force of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie”.
Mass slaughter, robberies and executions by firing squad were carried out under the mottos: “Strengthen the world with labour”, “Man is created for happiness”, “Man is born free” and “Man – it sounds proud”.
“Whole people” at work
Two doctrines interlocked having formed political twin systems. Superimposed on the defects of mechanistic Reason and on the perception of Man as a shapeless particle of a single mass - a collective group, these theories defined the fate of the world. Ethic values ceased to exist; the notions of happiness, labour, love and justice were delivered to the derisive hands of tribunes of the people.
Ethics became a “Proletarian Morality”. (“We say that our morality is entirely subordinated to the interests of the proletariat's class struggle. Our morality stems from the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat”, said Lenin). Conscience turns into “dirty and degrading chimera” and “a Jewish invention” (Hitler). “Work Makes You Free”. “Art for me is...something like intellectual cecum, and when the propaganda role, we need to be played, we-dzyk! dzyk! cut out” (Lenin). Fairness and equality turned into “a petty-bourgeois survival of petty-bourgeois prejudices” (Lenin). “Freedom is the recognition of necessity” (Marx).
So, “Christians who, by their own admission, are ‘half animal, half angel’” began transformation “into persons, into whole persons” (Ludwig Feuerbach “The Essence of Religion”).
The “whole people” proceeded to work. Previously chaotic gigantic anthills were strictly regulated and structured. At the top of a social pyramid there is a leader. At the second layer – officials and hierophants to set a social organism into a constant motion. A gigantic thickness of the pyramid consisted of a huge crowd worshipping the leader. The bottom of the pyramid belonged to the slaves whose ranks were constantly replenished with the high water of living particles from the main population mass.
This entire organism decorated with mottos, posters, flags and images of the leader were riddled with the system of inquiry. “Cog in the machinery of government” (Stalin), Man was discarded at the moment of his uselessness or worthlessness, as it is known that “no one is irreplaceable” (also by him). Everything outside the anthill was declared hostile; the society found itself in the grasp of hunting the “parasites” whose nature was defined by belonging to a certain nation or class.
Destroying heretics, the Church at least saw people in them – albeit “madmen cursed by God”, but people nevertheless. The ideologies of the new time saw in people insects – partly useful, partly harmful, but either way insects. (The death of “useful insects” was an incidental consequence of "creation". “Whether they were killed for good reason or in error – not so many just the same”, - said Lin Biao, Marshal of the People's Republic of China, a right-hand man and heir of Mao Zedong, paraphrasing the favourite expression of “the father of nations”: “When wood is chopped, chips fly”).
The murder of innocent people, including children, is hard to endure for any person, even if he is a fanatic. A completely different matter is the annihilation of “pests”: “an East European species of cockroach” (Hitler about Polish people), “rats” (Hitler about the Jews), “parasites” (Lenin about bourgeoisie), “Prowling the streets of the rat ... kill, kill them!”, wrote Chinese newspapers in the 60th about the “enemies of Cultural Revolution”. This is just a derivative from technical skills and a correct organization.
What followed is well known. People were destroyed: by thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions. They were poisoned by gases like the Jews; killed by hunger, reducing them to cannibalism like the Ukrainians; destroyed by mass deportations to Siberia in cattle wagons like the Kalmyks, the Chechens, the Ingushes, Crimean Tatars, the Poles and the Baltic people. They were battered to death by the Chinese “Red Guards”; shot into the back of their heads by Sonderkommandos; crushed by the hoes of “Khmer Rouge” – which is, by the way, the most economical means of socialist management. They disappeared without trace in the black holes of concentration camps and Gulag, died in uranium mines and burned in furnaces. The path to a perfect world ran through moving trenches, gas chambers and crematoriums. Eurasia was turned into a gigantic human massacre.
History has never known anything of the kind. However ruthless were the despots of Assyria and Babylon, even the most blood-thirsty of them could not think of mass extermination of the general population based on their skull width or belonging to the “class” of merchants.
“...What in ancient or new history can compare with the cruelty of religious fanatics?, - inquired a philosopher-deist Anthony Collins, a friend of John Locke, - What are the numerous bloody slaughters, devastation and murders in the name of religion..? Or what is this unflinching measured machine of slavery, hideousness and cruelty, the tribunal of inquisition?”.
It turned out that all this was no more than a child’s play compared to the insanity of the “builders of a new life”…
Totalitarian regimes not only killed but also enjoyed the pangs of their victims. The combination of extreme barbarity and total utilitarianism has been a characteristic of all the “builders of the new world”. Nazis made lamp shades of human skin and soap – of human fat. Like their Soviet colleagues, they set experiments over people. The Chinese “Red Guards” would make their victims grabble or crawl on their bellies in rags and were quite assiduous in cutting out body organs of the unfortunate. The “Khmer Rouge” made the unfortunate eat excrement, battered them with hoes, axes and hammers, skinned them alive and cut out their gall-bladders to make medicines. In Ethiopia “Red Negus”, Mengistu Haile Mariam combined mass punishments with the politics of the “maximum saving of resources”: parents paid the cost of the bullets their children were shot with. The children of “public enemies” were thrown to hyenas for food while being still alive.
This was the way the people of the “new formation” were born. This was the way the type of a “whole person” was created.
Pseudoscientific theories had an impact on the cultures which were far from Marxism or Nazism. During the slaughter of Armenians the propaganda of Young Turks declared them “dangerous microbes”. The Third Army Health Commander Dr. Tevfik Salim made experiments over Armenians when developing the spotted fever vaccine. Dr. Ali Saib, Director of Public Health of Trabzon, injected women and children with a lethal dose of morphine and used mobile steam baths in which the unfortunate were killed by an overheated steam. Nazis’ technical advances passed evaluation tests on the polygons of Asia Minor.
…Not temples, pyramids and palaces or castles and cathedrals, but endless steles and monuments to the millions of the slaughtered, suffocated, shot and burned alive became the landmark of the epoch. The memorials to the victims of the Holocaust, victims of Famine-Genocide and those of Communism and Stalinism. The memorials to the victims of Armenian genocide. The memorials to the deported. The Khmer Rouge Killing Fields near Phnom Penh. The memorials to Polish prisoners of war and decimated Gypsies. The monument to the victims of regime in Addis Ababa.
There are no memorials as yet but they will certainly appear in China and Korea.
In this world of Sodom and Gomorrah there were the righteous, politicians-humanists intellectuals like Thomas Masaryk but they were not destined to define the face of the epoch and the continent. The 20th century will mark a place in history with its memorials – the century of total annihilation of Man by Man.
…Within one century the builders of the “new world” with scarlet bandages on their arms have managed to create the hell previously unknown to the civilization, having killed approximately 200 million people.
The humankind approached the new era with the splendid technical advances and horrifying moral devastation. The idea of the powerful Reason, capable of giving the world a universal scientific ideology, has failed. How great was Blaise Pascal when he wrote: “What a chimera, then, is man! what a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a prodigy! A judge of all things, feeble worm of the earth, depositary of the truth, cloaca of uncertainty and error, the glory and the shame of the universe!”.
…Nobody believes in the omnipotence of Reason any more. Reason is thrown down the pedestal; from an oracle Science is turned into the servant of the consumer society. However, “red” and “brown” bacilli - the mutants, a fruit of a prematurely delivered human thought and an offshoot of the sinful bond of social utopias and atomic theories – nestled and struck root on another tree of human civilization – the idea of humanity and individual rights.
1 - Harlot – an avaricious Church in Dante’s allegory;
2 – In alchemic symbolism a flying balloon is a symbol of matter animated with a life force and a dragon is a symbol of matter unity;
3 - Bernard Le Bouyer de Fontenelle was a French author and an influential member of three of the academies of the Institut de France;
4 - Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy. His 1651 book Leviathan established social contract theory, the foundation of most later Western political philosophy;
5 - Julien Offray de La Mettrie was a French physician and philosopher, and one of the earliest of the French materialists of the Enlightenment;
6 - Claude Adrien Helvétius was a French philosopher, freemason and littérateur;
7 - David Hartley was an English philosopher and founder of the Associationist school of psychology;
8 - Joseph Priestley was an 18th-century English theologian, English Dissenters clergyman, natural philosopher, chemist, innovative grammarian, multi-subject educator, and Liberal political theorist;
9 - Etienne Bonnot de Condillac was a French philosopher and epistemologist, who studied in such areas as psychology and the philosophy of the mind;
10 - Jacques Turgot, Baron de l'Aulne was a French economist and statesman. Originally considered a physiocrat, he is today best remembered as an early advocate for economic liberalism;
11 - Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era;
12 - Joseph Arthur, Comte de Gobineau was a French aristocrat who was best known by his contemporaries as a novelist, diplomat and travel writer but is today most remembered for developing the theory of the Aryan master race;
13 - Georges Vacher de Lapouge was a French anthropologist and a theoretician of eugenics and racialism;
14 - Otto Georg Ammon was a German anthropologist. Ammon was an engineer from 1863 to 1868. He is best known for his masterwork, "Natural Selection among Humans" (1883);
15 - Ludwig Woltmann was a German anthropologist, zoologist and Marxist theoretician;
16 - Ernst Moritz Arndt was a German nationalist author and poet;
17 - Friedrich Ludwig Jahn was a German gymnastics educator and nationalist.
18 - Jakob Friedrich Fries was a German post-Kantian philosopher. He blamed the Jews for the ascendant role of money in society and called for Judaism to be "extirpated root and branch" from German society;
19 - Heinrich von Treitschke was a nationalist German historian, political writer and National Liberal member of the Reichstag during the time of the German Empire. He was an outspoken nationalist, who favored colonialism, and opposed the British Empire, and the Catholics, Poles and socialists inside Germany. Treitschke popularized the phrase "Die Juden sind unser Unglück!" ("The Jews are our misfortune!"), which was adopted as a motto by the Nazi publication Der Stürmer several decades later;
20 - Houston Stewart Chamberlain was an English, later German, author of books on political philosophy and natural science. Chamberlain's two-volume book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century published in 1899, became one of the many references for the pan-Germanic movement of the early 20th century, and, later, of the völkisch antisemitism of Nazi racial policy;
21 - Thomas Müntzer was a radical German preacher and theologian of the early Reformation. He became a leader of the German peasant and plebeian uprising of 1525, was captured after the battle of Frankenhausen, and was tortured and executed;
22 - Johann Adam Weishaupt was a German philosopher and founder of the Order of the Illuminati, a secret society;
23 - Sir Thomas More was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist;
24 - Tommaso Campanella was a Dominican friar, Italian philosopher, theologian, astrologer, and poet;
25 - François Fourier was a French philosopher and an influential early socialist thinker later associated with "utopian socialism";
26 - Aleksandr Herzen was a Russian writer and thinker known as the "father of Russian socialism" and one of the main fathers of agrarian populism;
27 - Robert Owen was a Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement;
28 - Henri de Saint-Simon was a French political and economic theorist and businessperson whose thought played a substantial role in influencing politics, economics, sociology, and the philosophy of science;