NB: regular readers will note generous amounts of sarcasm in my comments. For irregular readers, if anything sounds like I am praising the current nihilistic age, I am not.
He’s a rebel and a runner
He’s a signal turning green
He’s a restless young romantic
Wants to run the big machine
- New World Man, Rush
In all justice, then, we must examine the other side, the “positive” view.”
Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age, by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose
Fr. Rose, aware that many believe that there is a positive side to this nihilism – one that even overwhelms the negative – chooses to examine this. He notes the parallel current of optimism and idealism that has “produced its own ‘new man.’”
These are idealistic, yet practical, young men, ready to tackle the problems of the day; enthusiastic scientists, pushing back frontiers everywhere with exciting research and experimentation; non-violent idealists (I think we have certainly lost these since the time of Fr. Rose’s writing); a possibility of overcoming age-old hatreds; young writers angry for the cause of justice.
And supporters of all of these, with visions of the glorious new world that such men will usher in:
…is it not just possible that, if the “spirit of the age” is favorable, their dreams may after all be realized?
But what is the nature of their faith and hope? Perhaps this should be understood before answering the above question.
It is entirely a faith and hope in this world. Sure, some might consider this new man as defeated and denatured; take, for example C.S. Lewis and his Abolition of Man. However, there is the other side – this new man will change the world!
…in this image there is no more conflict, for man is well on the way to being thoroughly refashioned and reoriented, and thus perfectly “adjusted” to the new world.
Worldliness has triumphed over faith. As God is now dead, the man who is made in God’s image is also dead – he has lost his nature and fallen into some form of sub-humanity. And this point from Fr. Rose is worth considering further.
Genesis 2: 7 Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living person.
We know that God did not breath into any other of His creations. No other animal received this kindness. Hence, absent God, this is the resultant sub-humanity of which Fr. Rose writes. Whatever one believes of evolution and man coming from apes, this certainly is a de-evolution.
Fr. Rose labels this time “beyond nihilism.” He considers that nihilism’s project was to destroy Christian Truth. As he sees this has been accomplished, there is now a new phase – the thing that comes after the emptiness, the thing that will fill the vacuum.
Man will not live god-less. Absent the True God, man will replace Him with something of his choosing, of his creation – man will create god in man’s image. After all, can the clay complain to the potter about the form the potter chooses?
There was a positive spirit in National Socialism, in the French Revolution, in Bolshevism. In all cases, a god to replace the God that was destroyed. Whatever disorder in these systems, they have, to true believers, been a blessing in disguise. Citing W.B. Yeats:
Love war because of its horror, that belief may be changed, civilization renewed…. Belief comes from shock…. Belief is renewed continually in death.
Lucky for us, we are living through another such experience in real time. May we live in interesting times, indeed!
But, to be clear, what follows the success of nihilism is something “incomparably worse.” When the work of nihilism is completed and its usefulness at an end, the goal of the Revolution is at hand. Replacing the anti-Christianity of nihilism, a pseudo-Christianity is prepared to take its place.
Again, lucky for us…we had George Floyd, memorialized as a blasphemous version of Christ, with every knee bowing and every tongue confessing. Nietzsche would describe it as “mankind’s transit into completely new conditions of existence.” This new condition of existence can only come out of and on top of the nihilist success.
Lenin would offer a similar thought, where the factory discipline which the proletariat will extend to all of society is not the ideal or final aim:
It is but a foothold necessary for the radical cleansing of society of all the hideousness and foulness of capitalist exploitation, in order to advance further.
This “further” is the completely new condition of existence, something pointed to by both Nietzsche and Lenin. It is, as Fr. Rose describes, beyond nihilism. The corollary of nihilistic annihilation of the Old Order is the conception of the New. It is not merely an evolutionary change, a transition to the latest or even greatest age. It is the inauguration of a whole new time.
Nietzsche would write, in 1884, “…that I [may be] the first to light upon the idea which will divide the history of mankind into two.” Dostoyevsky, through the person of Kirillov, “the most extreme of the ‘possessed,’” would write:
Everything will be new… then they will divide history into two parts: from the gorilla to the annihilation of God, and from the annihilation of God to the transformation of the earth, and of man physically.”
Once again, blessing of blessings, we are living in the midst of this “transformation” of man.
Further, the New Age will bring on the idea that man is now transformed into a god. Nietzsche’s superman was supposed to fill the bill, but it seems to me that we each now get to play this role – after all, I am able to create myself in any image I choose, and change this image as often as I like. Again, Kirillov offers us the Mangod: “if there is no God, then I am God.”
Whatever the intentions of those who wish to follow such a path, only bad outcomes can follow. Genius and nobility are too often perverted:
…the corruption of the best produces, not the second best, but the worst.
Even Ayn Rand, one who happily would kill God, saw this reality: any compromise between food and poison and all that.
The nobility is in service to Lucifer, first among the angels who wanted something more. The success of this program in the last few centuries in the West is quite clear. But what can such a success bring? Just as in their prince, Satan…
…the “virtues” of his servants are consistent with the ends they serve. Hatred, pride, rebelliousness, discord, violence, unscrupulous use of power: these will not magically disappear when the Revolutionary Kingdom is finally realized on earth; they will rather be intensified and perfected.
And here again, we are living witnesses to this transition. Nihilism will not be overcome by any man-made means. This New Age will be its culmination. Being a spiritual disorder, it cannot be overcome by any means other than spiritual means – something sorely lacking in the contemporary world.
Truth and Faith – this is what is required to overcome the nihilist age, and these are the things most lacking in modern man – not merely the few men who are the prophets and dreamers, but of much of humanity. The Nihilist, each individual nihilist, has, and is entitled to, his own truth, and he has his faith…in nothingness.
Let’s end on a positive note:
God may be fought: that is one of the meanings of the modern age; but He may not be conquered, and He may not be escaped: His kingdom shall endure eternally, and all who reject the call to His Kingdom must burn in the flames of Hell forever.
Yes…I did say this was a positive note, but not yet.
Nothing less than Hell is worthy of man, if he be not worthy of Heaven.
Still, not yet. Here goes – the positive note, the way out and the way through:
John 14: 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.
1 Corinthians 13: 13 But now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
OK, now bring on the many comments that will not be posted!