Essays in Orthodox Political Theology
© Vladimir Moss, 2004
1. The Fall of Romanity: The Abdication of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas.…4
2. The Mystery of Royal Anointing……………………………………..18
3. The Dogmatic Significance of the Orthodox Autocracy…………..48
4. What Power is of God?…………………………………………………75
5. On Monarchism, True and False………………..…………………….94
6. God, the Nations and Nationalism.…………………………………106
7. The European Union: A New Totalitarianism?……..……………..137
8. What Price Freedom?………………………………………………….147
9. Three Faiths, Three Political Systems………………………………158
10. “The End of History”: A Critique of Liberal Democracy.………173
11. The Hereditary Principle……………………………………………212
12. The Idea of Religious Toleration…………………………….…….223
13. Christ and the Nations……………….……………………...………247
14. Fascist Orthodoxy: The Serbian Wars.………...………….……….273
15. The Restoration of Romanity: The Philadelphian Church.…….282
This book brings together a number of articles and lectures written in the last ten years whose common theme is the relationship between religion and politics from an Orthodox Christian point of view. Several of the articles were published in various Orthodox Christian theological journals in America and Russia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and have been revised for this publication. The book takes its title from the word for the religio-political unity of Orthodox Christians under a truly Orthodox Emperor or Tsar – Romanity (Romanitas in Latin, Rwmeiosunh in Greek). Since the fall of Romanity in 1917, with the catastrophic consequences for the whole world that are plain for all to see, the restoration of Romanity is the fervent hope of all truly Orthodox Christians. If this book contributes in even the smallest way to the understanding and realization of that hope, it will have achieved its end.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us! Amen.
July 23 / August 5, 2004.
The Icon of the Mother of God “The Joy of All Who Sorrow”.
East House, Beech Hill, Mayford, Woking, Surrey, England.
1. THE FALL OF ROMANITY: THE ABDICATION OF TSAR-MARTYR NICHOLAS
The abdication of Tsar Nicholas II on March 2, 1917 (old style) was the single most important event in modern history, whose consequences are still reverberating to the present day. And yet it remains in many ways shrouded in mystery. For there is no consensus on several critical questions raised by it, such as: Did the Tsar in fact abdicate? Did he have the right to abdicate? Was he right to abdicate?
In the months leading up to the abdication, the Tsar was put under increasing pressure by the political and military leaders of Russia. They were convinced that his abdication in favour of a government “responsible to the people”, i.e. a constitutional monarchy or parliamentary democracy, would bring peace and prosperity to the country. But Nicholas, with his deeper knowledge of God’s ways and his country’s needs, was doubtful, repeatedly asking: "Are you confident that my abdication will save Russia from bloodshed?"
They reassured him that it would. But the Tsar knew the quality of the men who were advising him. As he sadly wrote in his diary on the day of his abdication: "All around me I see cowardice, baseness and treason."
And again, on the same day, while holding a bundle of telegrams from the Corps of Generals and even from his own uncle, he said: "What is left for me to do when everyone has betrayed me?"
And indeed, there was very little he could do. He could probably continue to defy the will of the social and political elite, as he had done more than once in the past. But could he defy the will of his generals? Perhaps he could count on the support of some military units. But the result would undoubtedly be a civil war, whose outcome was doubtful, but whose effect on the war with Germany could not be doubted: it would undoubtedly give the Germans a decisive advantage at a critical moment when Russia was just preparing for a spring offensive.
It was probably this last factor that was decisive in the Tsar’s decision: he could not contemplate undermining the war effort for any, even the most plausible reason. For the first duty of an Orthodox Tsar after the defence of the Orthodox faith is the defence of the country against external enemies; and if his continuing in power was likely to undermine that defence, then it would be undermining the very purpose of his service as Tsar. And so, after an entire night spent in prayer, he laid aside the crown for what he felt was the good of his country. For, as he wrote: "I am ready to give up both throne and life if I should become a hindrance to the happiness of the homeland." And again: "There is no sacrifice that I would not make for the real benefit of Russia and for her salvation."
What has been called “the Abdication Manifesto” was in fact a telegram to the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Alexeyev: “During the days of the great struggle against the external foe which, in the space of almost three years, has been striving to enslave our Native Land, it has pleased the Lord God to send down upon Russia a new and difficult trial. The national disturbances that have begun within the country threaten to reflect disastrously upon the further conduct of the stubborn war. The fate of Russia, the honour of our heroic army, the well-being of the people, the entire future of our precious Fatherland demand that the war be carried out to a victorious conclusion, come what may. The cruel foe is exerting what remains of his strength, and nor far distant is the hour when our valiant army with our glorious allies will be able to break the foe completely. In these decisive days in the life of Russia, We have considered it a duty of conscience to make it easy for Our people to bring about a tight-knit union and cohesion of all our national strength, in order that victory might be the more quickly attained, and, in agreement with the State Duma We have concluded that it would be a good thing to abdicate the Throne of the Russian State and to remove Supreme Power from Ourselves. Not desiring to be separated from Our beloved Son, We transfer Our legacy to Our Brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, and bless Him to ascend the Throne of the Russian State. We command Our Brother to conduct State affairs fully and in inviolable unity with the representatives of those men who hold legislative office, upon those principles which they shall establish, swearing an inviolable oath to that effect. In the name of our ardently beloved Native Land We call upon all faithful sons of the Fatherland to fulfil their sacred duty before it, by submitting to the Tsar during the difficult moment of universal trials, and, aiding Him, together with the representatives of he people, to lead the Russian State out upon the path of victory, well-being and glory. May the Lord God help Russia. Pskov. 2 March, 15.00 hours. 1917. Nicholas.”
It has been argued that the telegram was not an abdication, but a final coded appeal to the army to support him. But such a supposition cannot be reconciled with the plain meaning of the text. And since everyone agrees on the crystal-clear sincerity and selflessness of Nicholas’ character, there is no reason not to believe the plain meaning of the text.
It has also been argued that the “abdication”, if that is what it was, had no legal force, that there was no provision for abdication in the Fundamental Laws. Thus, as Mikhail Nazarov points out, the Basic Laws of the Russian Empire, which had been drawn up by Tsar Paul I and which all members of the Royal Family swore to uphold, “do not foresee the abdication of a reigning Emperor (‘from a religious… point of view the abdication of the Monarch, the Anointed of God, is contrary to the act of His Sacred Coronation and Anointing; it would be possible only by means of monastic tonsure’ [N. Korevo]). Still less did his Majesty have the right to abdicate for his son in favour of his brother; while his brother Michael Alexandrovich had the right neither to ascend the Throne during the lifetime of the adolescent Tsarevich Alexis, nor be crowned, since he was married to a divorced woman, nor to transfer power to the Provisional government, or refer the resolution of the question of the fate of the monarchy to the future Constituent Assembly.
“Even if the monarch had been installed by the will of such an Assembly, ‘this would have been the abolition of the Orthodox legitimating principle of the Basic Laws’, so that these acts would have been ‘juridically non-existent’, says Zyzykin (in this Korevo agrees with him). ‘Great Prince Mikhail Alexandrovich… performed only an act in which he expressed his personal opinions and abdication, which had an obligatory force for nobody. Thereby he estranged himself from the succession in accordance with the Basic Laws, which juridically in his eyes did not exist, in spite of the fact that he had earlier, in his capacity as Great Prince on the day of his coming of age, sworn allegiance to the decrees of the Basic Laws on the inheritance of the Throne and the order of the Family Institution’.
“It goes without saying that his Majesty did not expect such a step from his brother, a step which placed the very monarchical order under question…”
M.A. Babkin points out that Great Prince Michael’s statement contained the sentences: “I made the firm decision to accept supreme power only if that would be the will of our great people, to whom it belongs in the Constituent Assembly to establish the form of government and the new basic laws of the Russian State. Therefore I ask all citizens of the Russian Realm to submit to the Provisional Government until the Constituent Assembly by its decision on the form of government shall express the will of the people”. “We can see,” writes Babkin, “that the talk was not about the Great Prince’s abdication from the throne, but about the impossibility of his occupying the royal throne without the clearly expressed acceptance of this by the whole people of Russia. Michael Alexandrovich presented the choice of the form of State government (in the first place – between people power and the monarchy) to the Constituent Assembly. Until the convening of the Constituent Assembly he entrusted the administration of the country to the Provisional Government ‘which arose on the initiative of the State Duma’.”
Since Great Prince Michael had presented the choice of the form of State government to the Constituent Assembly, many firm opponents of the revolution – for example, Hieromartyr Andronicus, Archbishop of Perm – were prepared to accept the Provisional Government on the grounds that it was just that – provisional. They were not to know that the Constituent Assembly would hardly be convened before it would be dissolved by the Bolsheviks, and therefore that the monarchical order had come to an end. So the results of the Tsar’s abdication for Russia were different from what he had hoped and believed. Instead of an orderly transfer of power from one member of the royal family to another, Great-Prince Michael also abdicated, the Constituent Assembly was not convened, and the whole dynasty and autocratic order collapsed. And instead of preventing civil war for the sake of victory in the world war, the abdication was followed by defeat in the world war and the bloodiest civil war in history, followed by unprecedented sufferings and persecutions of the faith for generations. Indeed, in retrospect we can see that this act brought to an end the 1600-year period of the Orthodox Christian Empire that began with the coming to power of St. Constantine the Great. “He who restrains” the coming of the Antichrist, the Orthodox Christian Emperor, “was removed from the midst” (II Thessalonians 2.7) – and very soon “the collective Antichrist”, Soviet power, began his savage torture of the Body of Holy Russia. St. John of Kronstadt had said that Russia without the Tsar would no longer even bear the name of Russia, and would be “a stinking corpse”. And so it proved to be…
So was the Tsar right to abdicate, if there was no provision for such an act in the Fundamental Laws and if the results of his decision were so catastrophic for Russia?
Even the saints were not unanimous, it would seem, in their answer to this question. Let us take the words of three holy eldresses.
First, Blessed Duniushka of Ussuruisk, who was martyred in 1918: “The Tsar will leave the nation, which shouldn’t be, but this has been foretold to him from Above. This is His destiny. There is no way that He can evade it.” “Which shouldn’t be”, said the eldress. But is that the same as: “he shouldn’t of done it”, especially in view of the fact that this was “his destiny”, there was no way he could evade it, it was foretold him from Above.
Another great eldress, Blessed Matrona of Moscow (+1952), was more categorical: ”In vain did Emperor Nicholas renounce the throne, he shouldn’t have done that. They forced him to do it. He was sorry for the people, and paid the price himself, knowing his path beforehand.”
And yet a third great eldress, Paraskeva (Pasha) of Sarov (+1915), who had foretold the Tsar’s destiny at the glorification of St. Seraphim of Sarov in 1903, is reported to have said: “Your Majesty, descend from the throne yourself”.
So he was both right and wrong to descend from the throne. How are we to resolve this conundrum?
Let us approach this problem, not from the side of the Tsar, but from the side of the Church. This is natural, because the philosophico-religious foundation of the Orthodox autocracy is the “symphony” between Church and State, whereby the State receives its legitimisation and sanctification from the Church and in turn protects the Church from external enemies and internal division, the welfare of the Church being the ultimate purpose and justification of the State. Christian States fall when this symphony is destroyed for one or another reason. It may be that the State falls through heresy, while the Church remains unshaken. More rarely, the Christian rulers may remain Orthodox while the Local Church is shaken by heresy, and the majority, if not all of the people, withdraws its support for the ruler. This is what happened in the seventh century, when large parts of the Orthodox East fell away from the Christian Roman Empire. Or both Church and State may agree with each other in going down the path of heresy. This is what happened in 15th-century Byzantium, when both Church and State adopted the false unia with Rome. The result of this “pseudo-symphony” – a “symphony” that was for evil rather than for good – was the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This had been foretold by an anonymous Greek prophecy of the eighth-ninth century, which said that "the sceptre of the Orthodox kingdom will fall from the weakening hands of the Byzantine emperors, since they will not have proved able to achieve the symphony of Church and State."
In 1917 the Emperor was unshaken in his Orthodoxy. In fact, he was the most Orthodox of all the Tsars, and was counted worthy of a martyr’s crown. The symphony between Church and State was destroyed, not by betrayal on his part, but by betrayal on the part of the majority of the educated population, which had fallen away from Orthodoxy into the western heresy of social democratism, while even many of the workers and peasants were deeply infected by a spirit of rebellion. Moreover – and this is what made the fall still more catastrophic – even the Church hierarchy wavered in its loyalty to the Tsar.
At first sight, this may elicit surprise and disagreement. After all, the Church in the persons of most of its leaders remained to the end at least formally faithful to the Tsar and Tsarism; the Holy Synod, unlike the generals or the Duma leaders, did not call on the Tsar to abdicate. At the same time, the surprising reaction of the Church to the Tsar’s abdication – passivity bordering on indifference - should make us pause…
The first question that needed to be answered concerned the legitimacy of the new Provisional Government. As we have seen, the constitution of the Russian Empire did not allow for any transition to a non-autocratic, still less an anti-autocratic form of government. However, the Synod showed itself to be at a loss at this critical moment. At its session of February 26 (old style), it refused the request of the Assistant Procurator, Prince N.D. Zhevakhov, that the creators of disturbances should be threatened with ecclesiastical punishments. Then, on February 27, it refused the request of the Procurator, N.P. Raev, that it publicly support the monarchy.
“On March 2,” the day of the Tsar’s abdication, writes M.A. Babkin, “the Synodal hierarchs gathered in the residence of the Metropolitan of Moscow. They listened to a report given by Metropolitan Pitirim of St. Petersburg asking that he be retired (this request was agreed to on March 6 – M.B.). The administration of the capital’s diocese was temporarily laid upon Bishop Benjamin of Gdov. But then the members of the Synod recognized that it was necessary immediately to enter into relations with the Executive committee of the State Duma. On the basis of which we can assert that the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church recognized the Provisional Government even before the abdication of Nicholas II from the throne. (The next meeting of the members of the Synod took place on March 3 in the residence of the Metropolitan of Kiev. On that same day the new government was told of the resolutions of the Synod.)
“The first triumphantly official session of the Holy Synod after the coup d’état took place on March 4. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev presided and the new Synodal over-procurator, V.N. Lvov, who had been appointed by the Provisional government the previous day, was present. Metropolitan Vladimir and the members of the Synod (with the exception of Metropolitan Pitirim, who was absent – M.B.) expressed their sincere joy at the coming of a new era in the life of the Orthodox Church. And then at the initiative of the over-procurator the royal chair… was removed into the archives… One of the Church hierarchs helped him. It was decided to put the chair into a museum.
“The next day, March 5, the Synod ordered that in all the churches of the Petrograd diocese the Many Years to the Royal House ‘should no longer be proclaimed’. In our opinion, these actions of the Synod had a symbolical character and witnessed to the desire of its members ‘to put into a museum’ not only the chair of the Tsar, but also ‘to despatch to the archives’ of history royal power itself.
“The Synod reacted neutrally to the ‘Act on the abdication of Nicholas II from the Throne of the State of Russia for himself and his son in favour of Great Prince Michael Alexandrovich’ of March 2, 1917 and to the ‘Act on the refusal of Great Prince Michael Alexandrovich to accept supreme power’ of March 3. On March 6 it resolved to accept these acts ‘for information and execution’, and that in all the churches of the empire molebens should be served with a Many Years ‘to the God-preserved Russian Realm and the Right-believing Provisional Government’.”
But was the new government – almost entirely masonic and social-democratic in its membership - really “right-believing”? Could supporters of the revolution really be “right-believing”? Was the Church allowing her members vote for masonic or democratic delegates to the Constituent Assembly? After all, that Assembly would determine the future form of government of the Russian land. Had the Church so quickly renounced Tsarism, which had formed one of the three foundation stones of Russian identity for nearly 1000 years?
Babkin continues: “The members of the Holy Synod understood the ambiguity of the situation and foresaw the possibility of an alternative resolution of the question of the choice of the form of State power in Russia, which was witnessed in the Synodal resolutions of March 6 and 9. In them they said that Great Prince Michael Alexandrovich had refused to accept supreme power ‘until the establishment in the Constituent Assembly of the form of government’. Nevertheless, already on March 9 the Most Holy Governing Synod addressed an epistle ‘To the faithful children of the Orthodox Russian Church with regard to the events now being experienced’. In it there was an appeal to entrust themselves to the Provisional Government. Moreover, the epistle began as follows: ‘The will of God has been accomplished. Russia has entered on the path of a new State life. May the Lord bless our great Homeland with happiness and glory on her new path.’
“De facto, the Synod had officially proclaimed the beginning ‘of a new State life’ in Russia, while the revolutionary events were declared to have accomplished ‘the will of God’. This epistle was characterised by B.V. Titlinov, professor of the Petrograd Theological Academy, as ‘an epistle blessing a new and free Russia’, and by General A.I. Denikin as ‘sanctioning the coup d’état that has taken place’. To the epistle were affixed the signatures of the bishops of the ‘tsarist’ composition of the Synod, even those who had the reputation of being monarchists and ‘black hundredists’, for example, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow. This witnessed to the ‘loyal’ feelings of the Synodal hierarchs…”
Although Metropolitan Macarius soon rejected the Provisional Government, the “democratic revolution” in the Church continued and even became stronger, with old bishops being voted out of office and new ones voted in. Moreover, the old Synod was forcibly retired and a new one put in its place, with only Archbishop Sergius (Stragorodsky), the future traitor and first “patriarch” of the Sovietised Moscow Patriarchate, accepting a place in the new synod. This revolutionary fervour made itself felt even at the beginning of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which began in August. Many delegates opposed the restoration of the patriarchate because of its supposedly “monarchist” connotations. By the time of the October revolution, it is true, the revolutionary tide had turned, the “monarchist” principle of the patriarchate had been restored to the Church in the person of Patriarch Tikhon, and in January, 1918 the Council even anathematised Soviet power. However, there was no explicit call for a return to the Tsarist order; and it was left to the All-Emigration Council meeting in Karlovtsy, Serbia in 1921 to sound the old note of devotion to “Faith, Tsar and Fatherland” publicly for the first time since the revolution. The conclusion to be drawn must be that, in spite of her formal loyalty to the Tsar up to the moment of his abdication, the Church’s rapid and fairly sustained renunciation of Tsarism in the months and years that followed demonstrated an inner infidelity, if not of the Church as a whole at any rate of many of its leading members, that must have been there before, and that the Tsar’s words about the “treason, cowardice and deceit” all around him must be deemed to include many, if not all of the Church leadership…
The question then arises: if the Tsar had been inwardly betrayed, not only by the Duma, the aristocracy and the army, but even by the Church, traditionally the closest support of the monarchy, did he really have any alternative but to renounce the throne?
In an important address entitled “Tsar and Patriarch”, P.S. Lopukhin approaches this question by noting that the Tsar’s role was one of service, service in the Church and for the Church. And its purpose was to bring people to the Church and keep them there, in conditions maximally conducive to their salvation. But if the people of the Church, in their great majority, cease to understand the Tsar’s role in that way, then he becomes literally of no service to them.
“The understanding of, and love and desire for, the ‘tsar’s service’ began to wane in Russia. Sympathy began to be elicited, by contrast, by the bases of the rationalist West European state, which was separated from the Church, from the religious world-view. The idea of the democratic state liberated from all obligation in relation to God, the Church and the spiritual state of the people began to become attractive. The movement in this direction in the Russian people was long-standing and stubborn, and it had already a long time ago begun to elicit profound alarm, for this movement was not so much ‘political’ as spiritual and psychological: the so-called Russian ‘liberation’ and then ‘revolutionary movement’ was mainly, with rare and uncharacteristic exceptions, an areligious and anti-religious movement.
“It was precisely this that elicited profound alarm in the hearts of St. Seraphim, Fr. John of Kronstadt, Dostoyevsky and Metropolitan Anthony…
“This movement developed inexorably, and finally there came the day when his Majesty understood that he was alone in his ‘service of the Tsar’.
“The Orthodox Tsar must not be in spiritual isolation. For example, the ‘theocrat’, the ruler who believes that he is sent by God to rule a given people, that a God-established aim is the very fact of this monarch’s power over this people, such a monarch can drench the country in blood, subdue it, in order that everyone should tremble in fear, and ideologically he would be justified.
“The Orthodox Tsar has authority in order that there should be a Christian state, so that there should be a Christian-minded environment. The Tsar bears his tsarist service for this end.
“When the desire for a Christian state and environment is quenched in the people, the Orthodox monarchy loses both the presupposition and the aim of its existence, for nobody can be forced to become a Christian. The Tsar needs Christians, not trembling slaves.
“In the life of a people and of a man there are periods of spiritual darkening, of ‘stony lack of feeling’, but this does not mean that the man has become completely stony: the days of temptation and darkness pass, and he is again resurrected. When a people is overcome by passions, it is the duty of the authorities by severe means to sober it up and wake it up. And this must be done with decisive vividness, and it is healing, just as a thunderstorm is healing.
“But this can only be done when the blindness is not deep and when he who is punished and woken up understands the righteousness of the punishment. Thus one peasant reproached a landowner, asking why he had not begun to struggle against the pogroms with a machine-gun. “Well, and what would have happened them?’ ‘We would have come to our senses! But now we are drunk and we burn and beat each other.’
“But when the spiritual illness has penetrated even into the subconscious, then the application of force will seem to be violence, and not just retribution, then the sick people will not longer be capable of being healed. Then it will be in the state in which the sinner was whom the Apostle Paul ‘delivered to Satan for the tormenting of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved’ (I Corinthians 5.5).
“At the moment of his abdication his Majesty felt himself to be profoundly alone, and around him was ‘cowardice, baseness and treason’, and to the question how he could have abdicated from his tsarist service, it is necessary to reply: he did this because we abdicated from his tsarist service, from his sacred and sanctified authority…
“But perhaps his Majesty made a mistake in thinking that he was so alone. Perhaps quite close to him there was cowardice, meanness and treason, but further away and deeper in the people there was both courage and faithfulness and honourableness?
“At such a time, when his Majesty was deciding these questions, it was impossible to calculate or vote: the question was decided through intuition. But was the intuition of his Majesty reliable? Was it true that he was so alone, that there was already no place for the tsar’s service and nobody and no sympathetic environment for whom he could bear this service?”
No, as we have seen, his intuition was reliable. The next four-and-a-half years, until the Russian Church Council at Karlovtsy, demonstrated a remarkable absence of enthusiasm for the idea of the Orthodox autocracy even in the Church, even in the White movement. And Karlovtsy was not situated in Russia… The Tsar was alone; and since the leadership of a Christian State must be dual – through a partnership or “symphony” of Church and State – he could not continue to rule as an Orthodox Christian tsar. Just as it takes two to make a marriage, so it takes two powers to make a Christian state. The bridegroom in this case was willing and worthy, but the bride was not. And so the marriage ended, de facto if not de jure.
In Deuteronomy 17.14 the Lord had laid it down as one of the conditions of the creation of a God-pleasing monarchy that the people should want a God-pleasing king.  The Russian people did not want their pious Tsar. And so the Scripture was fulfilled: “We have no king, because we feared not the Lord” (Hosea 10.3).
And yet in a sense the Tsar saved the monarchy for the future by his abdication. For in abdicating he resisted the temptation to apply force, to start a civil war, in a cause that was just from a purely juridical point of view, but which could not be justified from a deeper, eschatological point of view. He resisted the temptation to act like a Western absolutist ruler, and thereby refuted the critics in both East and West who looked on the Russian tsardom as just that – a form of absolutism.
He showed that the Orthodox Autocracy was not a form of absolutism, but something completely sui generis – the external aspect of the self-government of the Orthodox Church and people on earth. He refused to treat his power as if it were independent of the Church and people, but showed that it was a form of service to the Church and the people from within the Church and the people, in accordance with the word: “I have raised up one chosen out of My people… with My holy oil have I anointed him” (Psalm 88.18,19). So not “government by the people and for the people” in a democratic sense, but “government by one chosen out of the people of God for the people of God and responsible to God alone”.
In demonstrating this, not in words only but in the whole manner of his self-sacrificial life, the Tsar actually preserved the power of the Orthodox Autocracy, if not on earth, then in heaven. He handed that power over “for safe-keeping”, as it were, to God Who gave it, and to the Mother of God, the Queen and Protectress of the Russian Land. That is the mystical meaning of the miraculous appearance, at the precise day and hour of the Tsar’s abdication, of the “Reigning” icon of the Mother of God, in which the Queen of heaven is shown bearing the orb and sceptre of the Orthodox Tsars.
But if the Orthodox tsardom is to be restored from heaven to earth, it is now up to the Orthodox Church and people to show themselves worthy of it again. The Tsar did what he could; he demonstrated an image of self-sacrificing service to Church and people, an image that towards the end of the twentieth century began to captivate more and more hearts by its intrinsic, spiritual beauty; he preserved the Orthodox Autocracy undefiled, and even added to its glory by his own martyric sacrifice. It is now up to the Church and people to respond to that sacrifice and love with sacrifice and love, by casting aside her heresies and apostasies and internal divisions and calling on the Lord with true repentance for the return of the bridegroom.
And when the bride is ready, the Lord will bring her her true bridegroom. For then “thou shalt not more be called ‘Forsaken’, neither shall thy land any more be called ‘Desolate’: but thou shalt be called ‘Hephzi-bah’, and thy land ‘Beulah’: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thou shalt be married…” (Isaiah 62.4).
July 19 / August 1, 2004.
The Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils.
St. Seraphim of Sarov.
2. THE MYSTERY OF ROYAL ANOINTING
The unparalleled power and glory of the Roman Empire, and the acceptance of its authority by almost all the civilised nations of the Ancient World, gave a new legal and moral basis to political power in the ancient world. Briefly, legitimate political power was Roman power, or that power which could claim some kinship with, or descent from it. This was accepted (albeit with different degrees of conviction and satisfaction) by Germanic warriors as well as Roman senators, by Monophysite Copts as well as Orthodox Greeks.
Thus the British apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick, called the Scottish chieftain Coroticus a “tyrant” because his power was not from Rome. St. Patrick considered himself and all other Britons to be citizens of Rome although the last Roman legions had left the island in the year 410. British and English kings continued to use Roman and Byzantine titles and symbols until late in the tenth century.
The basic principle was that all power that was Roman or on the Roman model was of God (Rom. 13.1), and all power that was anti-Roman was of the devil (Rev. 13.2). For Rome, it was agreed, was that power which held back the coming of the Antichrist (II Thess. 2.7), and would be destroyed only by the Antichrist. As Patriarch Nicon of Moscow said: “The Roman Empire [of which he understood Russia, the Third Rome, to be the continuation] must be destroyed by the Antichrist, and the Antichrist – by Christ.”
After Rome became Christian under St. Constantine, an additional criterion of legitimate political power was that it should be Orthodox. Thus in the late sixth century the son of the Visigothic King of Spain, St. Hermenegild, rose up against his Arian father Leogivild in the name of Orthodoxy, and was supported by the armies of the Byzantine province of Spania (south-west Spain). Hermenegild’s rebellion was unsuccessful, and he himself was martyred for refusing to receive communion from an Arian bishop at Pascha, 585. However, at the Council of Toledo in 589, the new king, Reccared and the whole of the Gothic nobility accepted Orthodoxy. Thus, as St. Demetrius of Rostov writes, “the fruit of the death of this one man was life and Orthodoxy for all the people of Spain”.
This helped to establish the principle that legitimate political power is either Roman power, or that power which shares in the faith of the Romans, Orthodoxy. A power that is not Orthodox can legitimately be overthrown from without or rebelled against from within as long as the motive is truly religious – the establishment or re-establishment of Orthodoxy. This does not mean, however, that Christians are obliged to rebel against all pagan or heterodox omogen. On the contrary, since civil war is one of the worst of all evils, the decision to rebel cannot be taken lightly. And in fact, such rebellions have been rare in Orthodox history, and have been successfully undertaken only with the blessing of the Church – as when St. Sergius of Radonezh blessed the rebellion of the Russians against the Tatar horde.
Could a Roman emperor after Constantine who was not Orthodox be counted as legitimate? In general, the Christians tended to give a positive answer to this question on the grounds that the root of the Roman tree was good even if its fruits were occasionally bad, which is why they obeyed the Monophysite and Iconoclast emperors in all but their religious policies. However, as we shall see, there were precedents for a more rigorous position which accepted a power as Roman and legitimate only if it was also Orthodox.
What about the numerous emperors who won power by means of a military coup? The possibility that an emperor might rule by might but not by right gave rise to the need for a further, more ecclesiastical form of omogenisation – specifically, the sacrament of royal anointing. This sacrament went back to the age of the Old Testament Kings Saul and David, who were anointed by the Prophet and Priest Samuel. The grace of anointing both separates and strengthens the king for his holy task, and gives his person a sacred inviolability. The truly anointed king partakes in Christ’s Kingship in the same way that a duly ordained priest partakes in His Priesthood.
Of course, the early Roman Emperors did not receive the sacrament of royal anointing because they were pagans. However, the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was born in the Roman Empire, was enrolled in a census by it and paid taxes to it, and that the Apostle Paul was even a Roman citizen, pointed to the fact that Rome had been chosen, separated out from earlier pagan empires, made pregnant with potential for good. Just as the Lord in the Old Testament had “anointed” the Persian Emperor Cyrus “to subdue nations before him” (Isaiah 45.1) and “make the crooked places straight” (45.2), in order that God’s people could return to their homeland in the earthly Jerusalem, so in New Testament times the Lord “anointed” the Roman Emperors to subdue the nations before them and make the crooked places straight, in order that the Christian Gospel could bring all the nations of the Empire to their homeland in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Thus the sacrament of royal anointing could be construed as having existed before Christ, just as the sacrament of marriage existed before Christ. Both are “natural” sacraments existing to reinforce the natural bonds of family and state life. Indeed, the state, as Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow pointed out, is simply an extension of the family, with the Tsar-Batyushka in the place of the paterfamilias.
But with the Coming of Christ – which providentially coincided, as several of the Holy Fathers pointed out, with the birth of the Roman Empire – State power was given a more lofty task – that of holding “the mystery of iniquity” at bay and protecting the Church – which required a greater outpouring of Divine Grace. Of course, the Emperors were not conscious of this task, and the grace they received they received, not directly through the Church, but through the invisible anointing of God Himself. But the results – in the stability and order of the Roman Empire – were evident for all to see and admire.
For with a few exceptions, such as Nero and Domitian, the Roman Emperors did carry out the task that was entrusted to them. For, as Professor Sordi has convincingly demonstrated, the opposition to the Christians in the first three centuries of Christian history generally came not from the Emperors, but from the Senate and the mob (both pagan and Jewish), and it was the Emperors who protected the Christians from their enemies. That is why the Christians considered the emperor, in Tertullian’s words, to be “more truly ours (than yours) because he was put into power by our God”.
Sordi comments on these words: “Paradoxically, we could say that the Christian empire, made into reality by Constantine and his successors, was already potentially present in this claim of Tertullian’s, a claim which comes at the end of such a deeply committed declaration of loyalty to Rome and its empire that it should surely suffice to disprove the theory that a so-called ‘political theology’ was the fruit of Constantine’s peace. Tertullian says that the Christians pray for the emperors and ask for them ‘a long life, a safe empire, a quiet home, strong armies, a faithful senate, honest subjects, a world at peace’.”
“Again,” continues Sordi, “they pray ‘for the general strength and stability of the empire and for Roman power’ because they know that ‘it is the Roman empire which keeps at bay the great violence which hangs over the universe and even the end of the world itself, harbinger of terrible calamities’. The subject here, as we know, was the interpretation given to the famous passage from the second Epistle to the Thessalonians (2.6-7) on the obstacle, whether a person or an object, which impedes the coming of the Anti-Christ. Without attempting to interpret this mysterious passage, the fact remains that all Christian writers, up to and including Lactantius, Ambrose and Augustine, identified this restraining presence with the Roman empire, either as an institution or as an ideology. Through their conviction that the Roman empire would last as long as the world (Tertullian Ad Scapulam 2) the early Christians actually renewed and appropriated as their own the concept of Roma aeterna. ‘While we pray to delay the end’ – it is Tertullian speaking (Apologeticum 32.1) – ‘we are helping Rome to last forever’.”
When the Empire became Christian under St. Constantine and his successors, the task for which the Empire had been called into being was made clearly explicit, as we see, for example, in Eusebius of Caesarea’s words: “From Him and through Him [the Word of God] the king who is dear to God receives an image of the Kingdom that is above and so in imitation of that greater King himself guides and directs the course of everything on earth…He looks up to see the archetypal pattern and guides those whom he rules in accordance with that pattern… The basic principle of kingly authority is the establishment of a single source of authority to which everything is subject. Monarchy is superior to every other constitution and form of government. For polyarchy, where everyone competes on equal terms, is really anarchy and discord.”
But while the task was now acknowledged, the visible sacrament that gave the grace to accomplish the task was not immediately instituted. For the striking fact about the sacrament of anointing in Byzantium is the lateness of its introduction by comparison with the West. Whereas the anointing of kings in the West can be traced back to the sixth or seventh centuries, in Byzantium “the purely ecclesiastical rite of anointing was only introduced into the inauguration ritual in the twelfth century”. True, the first ecclesiastical coronation of the Emperor took place as early as 457. But this act was not felt to be constitutive of legitimacy.
However, this fact did not mean that the Empire was considered to be a merely human institution. As the Emperor Justinian’s famous sixth novella makes clear, the monarchy was believed to have been instituted – like the Church, but independently of her – by God alone. It did not therefore need to be re-instituted by the Church – although, of course, its union with the Church was the whole purpose of its existence and exalted it to an altogether higher plane.
The independent origin of the Empire was obvious whether one dated the beginning of the Empire to Augustus or to Constantine. If the Empire began with Augustus, then the Church could not be said to have instituted it for the simple reason that she came into existence simultaneously with it. For, as St. Gregory the Theologian said: “The state of the Christians and that of the Romans grew up simultaneously and Roman supremacy arose with Christ’s sojourn upon earth, previous to which it had not reached monarchical perfection.” But if it began with Constantine, then everyone knew that Constantine had been made emperor, from a human point of view by the people and the senate of Rome (more specifically, the soldiers in York in 306 and the senate in Rome in 312), but in actual fact by God’s direct call through the vision of the sign of the Cross and the words: “By this sign conquer”. For, as the Church herself chants in the liturgical service to St. Constantine, “Thou didst not receive thy name from men, but, like the divine Paul, didst have it from Christ God on high, O all-glorious Constantine”. This was another reason – apart from his truly apostolic activity on behalf of the Universal Church – why Constantine was accorded the title “equal-to-the-apostles”. For just as the Apostles were appointed and ordained for their task, not by men, but directly by God, so Constantine was made emperor, not by men, but by God alone.
The fact of the Divine origin of the Orthodox autocracy was important for several reasons. First, in the Old Testament the Lord had made clear that a true king, a king acceptable to Him as the King of kings, could only be one whom He, and not the people had chosen. For as He said to the people through Moses: “When thou shalt come unto the land which the Lord thy God shall choose, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me: thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother...” (Deut. 17.14-15).
When the people of Israel came into possession of the promised land, the land that God had chosen for them, He Himself chose Saul, and then David to rule over them – “I have raised up one chosen out of My people; I have found David My servant” (Ps. 88.18-19). Then, since it is His will that man should work together with Him in the work of salvation, He commanded the Prophet Samuel to anoint him. But the anointing, no less than the calling, was God’s – “With My holy oil have I anointed him” (Ps. 88.19). In the same way, the calling and the anointing of Constantine – for “thou wast the image of a new David, receiving the horn of royal anointing over thy head” – was God’s. And as if to make the point with special emphasis, after His direct calling of the first Christian Emperor the Lord waits eight centuries before commanding the Church, in the image of the Prophet Samuel, to anoint his successors.
Secondly, the independence of the two institutions – the Autocracy and the Church – lies at the base of the canonical prohibitions against a priest entering secular service and a king entering the priesthood. If Orthodox kings are sometimes called priests, this is only in the sense that they are also pastors, overseers of the flock of Christ, but not in the sense that they can ministers the sacraments. The only man to combine the kingship and the priesthood with God’s blessing was Melchizedek. But Melchizedek’s importance lies, not in his being a precedent for ordinary mortals to follow, but in his being a type of Christ, Who uniquely combined all the charisms within Himself. The combination of the roles of king and priest was characteristic of the pagan god-kings of antiquity, and was to be characteristic also of the post-schism Papacy.
Thirdly, if the Church had to admit that the Autocracy had a Divine origin independent of her, then the Autocracy had to admit, conversely, that the Church had a Divine origin independent of it. And this concession was vitally important, especially in the early centuries of the Byzantine empire. For the pagan inheritance of Rome was still strong – one of the Emperors, Julian the Apostate (361-363), even reverted to paganism, and it was not until late in the fourth century that the Emperors felt able to drop the pagan high priest’s title pontifex maximus, which had given the pagan emperors religious as well as political supremacy in the Empire. Indeed, as late as the eighth century the iconoclast Emperor Leo III tried to crush Pope Gregory II’s opposition to him in just that way, claiming: “I am emperor and priest”. Even later, in the early tenth century, another, this time Orthodox Emperor Leo (the Sixth) “claimed to be head of Church and State in the sense that, if the Church as led by the Patriarch was irreconcilably opposed to the Emperor, the Emperor could resolve the conflict”. Thus when Patriarch Nicholas the Mystic opposed his fourth marriage to Zoe, the Emperor simply removed him from office, forced a priest to perform the marriage and then, in the absence of a patriarch, himself placed the imperial crown on his “wife’s” head, eliciting the former patriarch’s comment that the Emperor was to Zoe “both groom and bishop”. Then he put his friend Euthymius on the patriarchal throne, who permitted the fourth marriage, saying: “It is right, sire, to obey your orders and receive your decisions as emanating from the will and providence of God”!
However, shortly before his death in 912 Leo was forced to depose Euthymius and restore St. Nicholas, after which caesaropapism was no longer a serious threat in Byzantium. The new, still more serious threat was Western papocaesarism. For by 1100 the Pope, claiming to wield the “two swords” of kingship and the Church, had already crushed the Orthodox autocracies of the West and reduced the monarch to a desacralized lay state.
It is perhaps for this reason that the sacrament of anointing was added to the coronation service in the twelfth century, at just the moment when the papist threat, not only to the Church, but also to the Empire of Byzantium became clear. For now especially it was necessary to show that the Empire, too, was holy, having been anointed by the Church under Christ the Anointed One. And although the Empire was inferior to the Church, it could not be swallowed up by the Church, as the western kingdoms were being swallowed up by the Western Church, in the same way that Christ’s human nature was not swallowed up by His Divinity.
However, before turning to an examination of the western conflict, we may ask: what was the Byzantines’ concept of political legitimacy? In what circumstances did they reject an Emperor as illegitimate?
At first sight, it might seem that the Byzantines, following the traditions of pagan Rome, had no real concept of legitimacy. There were innumerable coups and palace revolutions in Byzantine history, and at no time did the Church refuse to sanction the authority of the man who emerged on top. Even heretical emperors, such as the Iconoclast Leo, or the Latin-minded Michael VIII or John VIII, were accepted as emperors, even while their religious policies were fiercely resisted.
However, there are hints of a stricter approach in some of the Holy Fathers. Thus when the Emperor Constantius II became an Arian, St. Athanasius, who had previously addressed him as “very pious”, a “worshipper of God”, “beloved of God” and a successor of David and Solomon, now denounced him as “godless”, “unholy” and like Ahab and Pharaoh, worse than Pilate and a forerunner of the Antichrist. Again, St. Isidore of Pelusium wrote: “If some evildoer unlawfully seizes power, we do not say that he is established by God, but we say that he is allowed, either to spit out all his craftiness, or in order to chasten those for whom cruelty is necessary, as the king of Babylon chastened the Jews.”
However, with one exception, none of the Fathers practised or counselled rebellion against – as opposed to passive disobedience to – the evildoer Emperors. The exception was St. Basil the Great, who prayed for the defeat of Julian the Apostate. It was through his prayers that the apostate was killed, as was revealed by God to the holy hermit Julian of Mesopotamia.
This raises the interesting question: what was different about Julian the Apostate that made him so much worse than previous persecutors and unworthy even of that honour and obedience that was given to them? Two possible answers suggest themselves. The first is that Julian was the first – and last – of the Byzantine emperors who openly trampled on the memory and legitimacy of St. Constantine, declaring that he “insolently usurped the throne”. In this way he questioned the legitimacy of the Christian Empire as such – a revolutionary position that we do not come across again in Eastern Orthodox history (if we except the short interlude of the political zealots in Thessalonica in the 1340s) until the fall of the Russian Empire. And the second is that he allowed the Jews to return to Palestine and start building the Temple. This meant that he could no longer be identified with “him that restraineth” the coming of the Antichrist, the traditional role of the Roman Emperor (II Thess. 2.7), but rather was to be identified with the Antichrist himself, or at any rate, his forerunner…
Royal Anointing in the Orthodox West
Now in the West papocaesarism was always a greater danger than its opposite, because while the Western Empire had collapsed after 476 and split up into a number of independent kingdoms, the Western Church had remained united, making her by far the most prominent survival of Christian Romanity. Even the most powerful of the western kings did not command a territory greater than that of a Roman provincial governor (which is what they had been in some cases), whereas the Pope was not only the undisputed leader of the whole of Western Christendom but also the senior hierarch in the whole of the Church, Eastern and Western. However, as long as the Popes remained both Orthodox in faith and loyal subjects of the Eastern Emperor in politics – that is, until approximately the death of the last Greek Pope, Zachariah, in 752, – the lack of a political power in the West commensurate with the ecclesiastical power of the Popes was not a pressing necessity. For everyone accepted that in the political sphere the Eastern Emperor was the sole leader, the basileus of the whole of Christendom, and the western kings were his sons or satraps, as it were; but in the ecclesiastical sphere there was no single head, the Body of Christ being overseen by its “five senses”, the five patriarchates, of which Rome was simply the primus inter pares. But problems arose when Rome broke its last political links with the Eastern Empire and sought a new protector in the Frankish empire of Pippin and Charlemagne. This caused changes in the political ideology of the Franks, on the one hand, who came to see themselves as the real Roman Empire, more Roman and more Orthodox than the Empire of the East; and on the other hand, in the ecclesiology of the Popes, who came to see themselves as the only Church of this renewed Roman Empire, having ultimate jurisdiction over all the Churches in the world. Frankish caesaropapism soon collapsed; but Papist pride developed until it claimed supreme authority in both Church and State…
Orthodox consciousness rose up against Papism from two directions. From the East, St. Photius the Great and the Eastern bishops, together with the Western archbishops of Trèves and Cologne, condemned the Pope’s claims to universal supremacy in the Church (as well as the Frankish heresy of the Filioque, which Rome, too, opposed at first). From the West, meanwhile, there arose powerful native autocracies which disputed the Pope’s claims to supremacy in the State. The most important of these were England and Germany – although Germany, being a successor state of the Carolingian Empire, was still tainted somewhat by the caesaropapist ideology of the Franks. English opposition was crushed by a papally blessed armed invasion and the first genocide in European history (the Norman Conquest of 1066 to 1070); while German opposition was gradually neutralized in a spider’s web of cunning dialectic – although conflict between Roman Popes and German emperors continued well into the later Middle Ages.
It can hardly be a coincidence that the mystery of royal anointing became widespread in the West at precisely the time that the political rift between East and West materialized. Now that the links with the Eastern basileus were no more than formal, it became necessary to prove that the Western powers were still in some important sense Roman. Otherwise, according to Church Tradition, the Antichrist was near!
Romanity, it was felt, could be bestowed on the western barbarian kingdoms that arose out of the rubble that was the Western Empire by the Eastern Emperor’s gift of regalia or high Roman rank (usually not the imperial rank, however) on their kings. Thus St. Gregory of Tours writes of Clovis, the first Christian king of the Franks, that he received letters “from the Emperor Anastasius to confer the consulate on him. In Saint Martin’s church he stood clad in a purple tunic and the military mantle, and he crowned himself with a diadem. He then rode out on his horse and with his own hand showered gold and silver coins among the people present all the way from the doorway of Saint Martin’s church to Tours cathedral. From that day on he was called Consul or Augustus.”
There is an opinion that Clovis also received the sacrament of royal anointing from St. Remigius, Archbishop of Rheims. But it is more generally believed by western scholars that the sacrament of anointing did not appear in the West until the seventh century. However, we know one example of a Western bishop administering this sacrament even earlier.
In the middle of the sixth century the Italian archbishop Gregory anointed the first Christian King of the South Arabian kingdom of Homer, Abraham, in the presence of St. Elesbaan, king of Ethiopia: “Raising his eyes and mind and hands to heaven, [St. Gregory] prayed fervently and for a long time that God, Who knows the life and thoughts of every man, should indicate to him the man who was worthy of the kingdom. During the prayer of the archbishop, the invisible power of the Lord suddenly raised a certain man by the name of Abraham into the air and placed him in front of King Elesbaan. Everyone cried out in awe for a long time: ‘Lord, have mercy!’ The archbishop said: ‘Here is the man whom you demanded should be anointed to the kingdom. Leave him here as king, we shall be of one mind with him, and God will help us in everything.’ Great joy filled everyone on beholding the providence of God. Then King Elesbaan took the man Abraham, who had been revealed by God, led him to the temple of the All-Holy Trinity which was in the royal city of Afar, put the royal purple on him and laid the diadem on his head. Then St. Gregory anointed him and the bloodless Sacrifice was offered for the kings and all the people, and both kings communicated in the Divine Mysteries from the hands of the archbishop…”
Not long after this, in 574, Irish apostle of Scotland, St. Columba, consecrated (by laying on of hands rather than anointing) the first Orthodox King of Scotland, Aidan Mor. The seventh-century Abbots of Iona Cummineus Albus and Adomnan both relate the story, according to which, when the saint was staying “in the island of Hymba [Eileann-na-Naoimh, in the Scottish Hebrides], he was in an ecstasy of mind one night and saw an Angel of the Lord who had been sent to him, and who held in his hand a glass book of the Ordination of Kings. The venerable man received it from the Angel’s hand, and at his command began to read it. And when he refused to ordain Aidan as king according to the direction given to him in the book, because he loved his brother Iogenan more, the Angel, suddenly stretching out his hand, struck the saint with a scourge, of which the livid mark remained on his side all the days of his life, and he added these words, saying: ‘Know thou for certain that I am sent to thee by God with this glass book, that according to the words which thou hast read in it, thou mayest ordain Aidan to the kingship – and if thou art not willing to obey this command, I shall strike thee again.’ When, then, this Angel of the Lord had appeared on three successive nights, having in his hand that same glass book, and had pressed the same commands of the Lord concerning the ordination of that king, the saint obeyed the Word of the Lord, and sailed across to the isle of Iona where, as he had been commanded, he ordained Aidan as king, Aidan having arrived there at the same time.”
The next year, St. Columba went with King Aidan to the Synod of Drumceatt in Ireland, where the independence of Dalriada (that part of Western Scotland colonised by the Irish, of which Iona was the spiritual capital) was agreed upon in exchange for a pledge of assistance to the mother country in the event of invasion from abroad.
It is perhaps significant that these two sixth-century examples of sacramental Christian kingmaking come from parts of the world that were remote from the centres of Imperial power. Neither Ethiopia nor Ireland had ever been part of the Roman Empire. We may speculate that it was precisely here, where Roman power and tradition was weakest or non-existent, that the Church had to step in to supply political legitimacy through the sacrament, especially since in both cases a new dynasty in a new Christian land was being created, which required both the blessing of the former rulers and a special act of the Church – something not dissimilar to the creation of a new autocephalous Church.
In the formerly Roman West the sacrament of royal anointing first appeared in Spain. Now Spain, after being one of the most Orthodox and Roman provinces of the West, fell away from both Orthodoxy and Romanity when its Visigothic rulers, like the Ostrogoths of Italy, accepted the Arian heresy. The country was then partially conquered by the armies of the Emperor Justinian, after which, as Canning writes, - that is, from the mid-sixth century – “it seems that no western kings sought imperial confirmation of their rule.” However, as we have seen, after the martyrdom of St. Hermenigild a spirit of repentance stirred in the people, the nation was converted to Orthodoxy, and Spain entered the family of Roman Orthodox kingdoms.
But at this point, as so often in the history of newly converted peoples, the devil stirred up political chaos. Thus Collins writes that in the first half of the seventh century, “principles by which legitimacy of any king could be judged, other than sheer success in holding onto his throne against all comers, seem to be conspicuously lacking. Thus Witteric had deposed and killed Liuva II in 603, Witteric had been murdered in 610, Sisebut’s son Reccared II was probably deposed by Swinthila in 621, Swinthila was certainly deposed by Sisenand in 631, Tulga by Chindaswinth in 642. Ephemeral kings, such Iudila, who managed to strike a few coins in Baetica and Lusitania in the early 630s, also made their bids for power.”
The only generally recognized authority that could introduce order into this chaos was the Church. And so, probably toward the middle of the seventh century, the Orthodox Church in Spain introduced the rite of royal anointing. From now on, kings would not only be called “kings by the grace of God”, they would be seen to be such by the visible bestowal of sacramental grace at the hands of the archbishop.
Thus in 672 King Wamba was anointed by the archbishop of Toledo in a ceremony that was described by his contemporary, St. Julian of Toledo, as follows: “When he had arrived there, where he was to receive the vexilla of the holy unction, in the praetorian church, that is to say the church of Saints Peter and Paul, he stood resplendent in his regalia in front of the holy altar and, as the custom is, recited the creed to the people. Next, on his bended knees the oil of blessing was poured onto his head by the hand of the blessed bishop Quiricus, and the strength of the benediction was made clear, for at once this sign of salvation appeared. For suddenly from his head, where the oil had first been poured on, a kind of vapour, similar to smoke, rose upon the form of a column, and from the very top of this a bee was seen to spring forth, which sign was undoubtedly a portent of his future good fortune.”
In 751, when the last weak Merovingian ruler of Francia was deposed and sent to a monastery (with Pope Zachariah’s blessing), the first king of the new, Carolingian dynasty was specially crowned and anointed by St. Boniface, archbishop of Mainz. For the change of dynasty had to be legitimised, as did the claims of the new dynasty to power over the vast new territories that had just been Christianized by St. Boniface and his army of English missionaries to the east of the Rhine. This anointing of the first Carolingian king led gradually, as we have seen, to the rite becoming standard practice in kingmaking throughout the West. It was some time, however, before anointing came to be seen as constitutive of true kingship. As in Rome and Byzantium, western kings who were raised to the throne by election or acclamation only were not considered illegitimate; it was simply that anointing added an extra authority and sacred character to the monarchy.
The extra authority and grace provided by the sacrament of anointing produced tangible results; for in Spain, in Francia and in England the introduction of the anointing of kings, accompanied by stern conciliar warnings “not to touch the Lord’s Anointed”, led to a reduction in regicides and rebellions and a considerable strengthening and consolidation of monarchical power.
In Spain, this process came to an abrupt end in 711, when most of the peninsula was conquered by the Arab Muslims. In Western Francia (modern France), it was also brought to an end towards the end of the ninth century by the Viking invasions, in spite of the efforts of such champions of royal power (and opponents of papal despotism) as Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims; and France did not develop a powerful monarchy until the twelfth century. But in Eastern Francia (modern Germany) and, especially, in England, the monarchy survived and put down deep roots. Thus from the time that Prince Egfrith of the kingdom of Wessex was anointed in 786 even before he had ascended the throne of his father, one dynasty, that of Wessex, came to dominate political life in England, led the recovery against the Viking invaders, and succeeded in uniting most of Britain in a single Orthodox kingdom until the Norman-papist invasion of 1066-70.
Now Janet Nelson writes: “If relatively many reigning Merovingians and no Carolingians were assassinated, this can hardly be explained simply in terms of the protective effect of anointing for the latter dynasty, at least in its earlier period. More relevant here are such factors as the maintenance of a fairly restrictive form of royal succession (and the Carolingians’ abandonment of polygamy must soon have narrowed the circle of royals) and the growth of a clerically-fostered ideology of Christian kingship.”
However, all these factors were related. Once it became accepted that the Church had an important part to play in kingmaking through the sacrament of anointing, then it also became natural for the Church to have a say in deciding who was the best candidate for the throne, and then in administering a coronation-oath in which the king swore to protect the Church and uphold justice, peace and mercy, etc. Theoretically, too, the Church could refuse to sanction a king, and even lead the people in rebellion against him if he did not rule rightly, breaking his coronation oath – although in practice this ultimate sanction was very rarely applied, and was not applied with decisive effect until the time of troubles in seventeenth-century Russia.
A clear example of how the Church intervened decisively in the kingmaking process for the benefit of the nation is the crowning of the English King Edward the Martyr in 975. Now Edward’s father, King Edgar the Peaceable, had been anointed twice on the model of King David: first in 960 or 961, when he became King of England, and again in 973, when he became “Emperor of Britain” and received the tribute of eight sub-kings of the Celts and Vikings. But between these two anointings he had married again and fathered a second son, Ethelred (“the Unready”). When King Edgar died in 975, Ethelred’s partisans, especially his mother, argued that Ethelred should be made king in preference to his elder half-brother Edward, on the grounds that Edgar had not been anointed when he begat Edward in 959 or 960, and his first wife, Edward’s mother, had never been anointed, so that the throne should pass to the younger son, Ethelred, who had been born “in the purple” when both his parents were anointed sovereigns. The conflict was settled when the archbishop of Canterbury, St. Dunstan, seized the holy Cross that was customarily carried in front of him and anointed St. Edward.
The union between Church and State in England was so close that crimes against the Church’s laws were seen as crimes against the king, and were duly punished by him. As St. Isidore of Seville wrote, it was the duty of the king “through the terror of discipline” to accomplish what the priest was unable to do “through the preaching of doctrine”. “For a Christian king is Christ’s deputy among Christian people”, as King Ethelred’s laws put it. Both the king and the archbishop were “the Lord’s Anointed” – the archbishop so that he might minister the sacraments, and the king so that, as St. Bede wrote, “he might by conquering all our enemies bring us to the immortal Kingdom”. Regicide was the greatest of crimes; for, as Abbot Aelfric wrote, “no man may make himself a king, for the people have the option to choose him for king who is agreeable to them; but after that he has been hallowed as king, he has power over the people, and they may not shake his yoke from their necks.” And so, wrote Archbishop Wulfstan of York, “through what shall peace and support come to God’s servants and to God’s poor, save through Christ, and through a Christian king?”
In fact, the Byzantine ideal of a true symphony between Church and State was perhaps more passionately believed in – and, at times, more closely attained – among the former barbarians of the Orthodox West than among the more worldly-wise Byzantines themselves.
Thus in Northumbria in the eighth century we see the almost ideal harmony between the brothers King Edbert and Archbishop Egbert, of whom Alcuin writes:
So then Northumbria was prosperous,
When king and pontiff ruled in harmony,
One in the church and one in government;
One wore the pall the Pope conferred on him,
And one the crown his fathers wore of old.
One brave and forceful, one devout and kind,
They kept their power in brotherly accord,
Each happy in the other’s sure support.
Again, on the very eve of the schism, and in Rome itself, Peter Damian espressed the symphonic ideal as follows: “The heads of the world shall live in union of perfect charity, and shall prevent all discord among their lower members. These institutions, which are two for men, but one for God, shall be enflamed by the divine mysteries; the two persons who represent them shall be so closely united by the grace of mutual charity, that it will be possible to find the king in the Roman pontiff, and the Roman pontiff in the king…”
Only a few years later, however, the ideal was not simply distorted, but completely destroyed by the Roman pontiff Gregory VII as he anathematized the kings of England and Germany and ordered their populations to rise up against their sovereigns, absolving them of their oaths of allegiance. Rome rose up against her own inheritance and her own defenders, her own inestimable legacy of law and order; the essentially Roman teaching on obedience to secular authority, which was expounded in the epistles of the Roman Apostles Peter and Paul, was destroyed by the Pope of Rome himself. Thereby he became the first ideologically motivated revolutionary in European history and the direct ancestor, as Tyutchev, Kireyevsky and Dostoyevsky were to point out, of the Russian socialist revolutionaries.
Using forgeries such as The Donation of Constantine, Gregory argued that both secular and ecclesiastical power, the so-called “two swords of Peter”, had been given to him, so that the power of the kings was merely delegated to them by the Pope, and could be taken back by the Pope at will, which meant that a king was no higher essentially than the most ordinary layman in spite of his anointing to the kingdom. Thus Gregory wrote: “Greater power is conceded to an exorcist when he is made a spiritual emperor than could be given to any layman for secular domination.” “Who would not know that kings and dukes took their origin from those who, ignorant of God, through pride, rapine, perfidy, murders and, finally, almost any kind of crime, at the instigation of the Devil, the prince of this world, sought with blind desire and unbearable presumption to dominate their equals, namely other men?” “Who would doubt that the priest of Christ are considered the fathers and masters of kings, princes and of all the faithful?” The only truly anointed ones, therefore, were the priests – or rather, the Popes, who supposedly had the charismas of both ecclesiastical and political government (I Corinthians 12.28).
Many western scholars have argued that if papocaesarism ruled in the West, the East was no less in captivity to caesaropapism. In support of this thesis, they point to the attempts of many Byzantine Emperors to impose heresy on the Church – indeed, the fall of Byzantium may be ascribed to the successful attempts of the last Byzantine Emperors to force the Church to accept union with the heretical West, which led to the withdrawal of God’s protection from the Empire. As for Russia, they say, it is sufficient to point to the tyrannical reigns of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great…
However, although Russia succumbed at times to caesaropapism and nationalism, she always recovered from these temptations as a result of several factors which distinguished Russian history from that of Byzantium. First, Russia had a long, nearly five-hundred year training in humility in the shadow of the Byzantine Empire, during which, in spite of her vastly greater size and political independence from Byzantium for most of this period, her metropolitans were always appointed by the Constantinopolitan Patriarch, and her great-princes always looked to the Byzantine Emperors as to their elder brothers. This meant that, when Russia came to take the place of Byzantium as the bearer of the cross of the Christian Empire, she was not tempted to think of herself as the first or only or best Christian people. And when that temptation appeared in the form of the Old Believer schism, it was rejected by the ecumenical consciousness of the Russian Church and State.
Secondly, while the Byzantine Empire contracted from the large, multi-national dominion of Constantine the Great to the small, exclusively Greek dominion of Constantine XI, the Russian Empire grew in the opposite direction, expanding from its Muscovite heartland to the borders of Sweden and Germany in the West and China and America in the East. This meant that the Russian Empire was increasingly multi-national, with many non-Russian saints and a strong commitment to missionary activity right until 1917 and (in the Russian Church Abroad) to the present day. This truly ecumenical, non-nationalistic character of the Russian Empire was emphasized by its last three wars – the Crimean war, the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 and the First World War, which were fought in a self-sacrificial spirit for the sake of the non-Russian Orthodox of the Balkans and Middle East.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, at the greatest crises of national history, and with the exception of a long period in the eighteenth century, the Russian episcopate has refused to anoint non-Orthodox Tsars or princes, still less follow them into union with heretics. This led to the elevation of truly Orthodox Tsars and princes, who led the nation in the struggle against heresy. Let us briefly mention several cases:-
(1) In the early thirteenth century, when Pope Innocent III sent a legate to Prince Roman Mstislavovich of Galicia, claiming that the Pope with the sword of Peter would soon subdue all the people and make him king, Roman, taking his sword, said: “Is this sword of Peter that the Pope has? If it is, then he can take cities with it and give them to others. But this is against the Word of God; for the Lord forbade Peter to have such a sword and fight with it. But I have a sword given me by God.”
(2) A generation later, Prince Alexander Nevsky of Novgorod was faced with enemies on two fronts – the pagan Mongols, on the one side, and the Catholic Swedes and Teutonic knights on the other. He chose to submit to the former while fighting the latter, since he judged that the latter were a greater danger to the Orthodox faith of his subjects. In this he made exactly the opposite choice to the Byzantines two centuries later, and won the victory – both the spiritual victory and the military victory.
(3) When the Byzantines signed the false unia with Rome in 1439, the Russians, led by Grand Prince Basil II, “the new Constantine”, as he was called by the holy Metropolitan Jonah of Moscow, were forced, for the sake of Orthodoxy, to break communion with their former mentors and formed a de facto autocephaly. This was quite unlike the similarly self-proclaimed autocephaly of the Bulgarian Church in the early tenth century, which had a more nationalist character. And so God’s blessing was on it, and the Russian State grew and prospered.
(4) Later, in the time of troubles in the early seventeenth century, when the Poles and renegade Russians forced Tsar Basil Shuisky to abdicate and installed a Catholic tsar in the Kremlin, Patriarch Hermogen not only anathematized the new “tsar” and all who followed him, but called on the Orthodox to rise up in armed rebellion against the usurper. Such a step was completely unprecedented in Church history. It signified that, for an Orthodox nation, a ruler who takes the place of a truly anointed ruler – and, moreover, does not confess the Orthodox faith, as all truly anointed rulers must – is not simply a bad ruler, but an “anti-ruler” – an “anti-christ”, since he was “in the place of” the truly anointed one (the Greek word “omoge” means “anointed one”).
The basic difference between Byzantine and Russian practice was that whereas in Byzantium, as we have seen, the Emperor did not receive his legitimacy from the Church’s anointing, but from the acclamation of Senate and People, in Russia it was the Church that anointed the Tsar “into the kingdom”, so that without the Church’s anointing he was not considered to be a true Tsar. Thus Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow said: “The Sovereign receives his entire legitimacy from the Church’s anointment”. This strengthened both the Church’s position and that of the Tsar while binding the two institutions closer to each other. For on the one hand the Church could refrain from anointing a heterodox tsar, or, having anointed him, declare him deposed from his rank because of his apostasy from Orthodoxy, as we have seen in the case of the false Demetrius. And on the other hand, the Tsar, once anointed, could not legitimately be removed by any person or power except the Church – and even then, not for any personal or political sins, but only for apostasy from Orthodoxy. Thus we read that while the Church did not allow Tsar Ivan the Terrible to receive communion because of his seven marriages, she never called on the people to overthrow him, insofar as he remained formally Orthodox.
The unique authority of the Russian Tsar is illustrated by the following interesting incident from the life of Schema-Hieromonk Hilarion the Georgian. During the Crimean War of 1854-56, when the Russian armies were fighting the Turks and their Western allies on Russian soil, the Ecumenical Patriarch issued an order that all the monasteries on Mount Athos should pray for the triumph of the Turkish armies during the war. On hearing this, the Georgian elder, Fr. Hilarion said of the patriarch: “He is not a Christian”, and when he heard that the monks of Grigoriou monastery had carried out the patriarch’s command, he said: “You have been deprived of the grace of Holy Baptism, and have deprived your monastery of the grace of God.” And when the abbot came to the elder to repent, he said to him: “How did you dare, wretched one, to put Mohammed higher than Christ? God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ says to His Son: ‘Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet’ (Ps. 109.1), but you ask Him to put His son under the feet of His enemies!”
Again, Elder Hilarion wrote to the head of chancellery of the Russian Holy Synod,: “The other peoples’ kings [i.e. not the Russian Tsar] often make themselves out to be something great, but not one of them is a king in reality, but they are only adorned and flatter themselves with a great name, but God is not favourably disposed towards them, and does not abide in them. They reign only in part, by the condescension of God. Therefore he who does not love his God-established tsar is not worthy of being called a Christian...”
The greater authority of the Russian Tsar over all other political authorities did not reside in his purely political power, but in the mystical anointing that he received from the Church. Other authorities might be powers in St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s understanding of the word, in that they in general punished evildoers and rewarded the good (I Peter 2.14; Rom. 13.3), but the grace to protect the Church of God was given to the Russian Empire alone. That is why it was incumbent upon all Orthodox Christians to pray and give thanks for the Russian Tsar, even if they lived in other States. For, as St. Seraphim said: “After Orthodoxy, zealous devotion to the Tsar is the Russian’s first duty and the chief foundation of true Christian piety.”
In other words, God-established authority, being one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12.27), belongs in the first place only to the Christian Roman emperors and to those other Christian rulers who have received the true anointing of the Holy Church. In a secondary sense, it may also be said to belong to other, non-Christian rulers who maintain the basic principle of law and order against the forces of anarchy and revolution. However, this secondary kind of authority is only partial and relative; and the authority of truly Christian rulers must always be revered by Christians above any other kind of political authority, even if the latter is the authority they live under.
On the eve of the Russian revolution, the Church canonized St. Hermogenes, as if to emphasize that, just as St. Hermogenes had refused to recognize the false Demetrius as a legitimate political authority, so the time was coming when it would again be necessary make a similar distinction between true and false political authorities.
That time came on March 2/15, 1917, when Tsar Nicholas abdicated from the throne in favour of his brother, Grand Prince Michael Alexandrovich. Since the Grand Prince refused to accept the throne, power now passed to the Provisional Government. The question was: was it legitimate?
Now the constitution of the Russian Empire did not allow for any transition to a non-autocratic form of government. For who was the Church to anoint? So there was no legitimate alternative to seeking a Tsar, perhaps, as in 1613, through a “Council of the Land”.
Sadly, however, the Holy Synod refused the request of the Tsarist Procurator, Rayev, that it publicly support the monarchy. Instead, it welcomed Great Prince Michael’s refusal to accept the throne from his brother, and offered no resistance when the Royal Throne was removed by the new Procurator, Prince V. Lvov, from the hall in which its sessions took place. Then, on March 9/22, it published an Address to the faithful children of the Orthodox Church in which it declared that “the will of God has been accomplished” (in the abdication of the Tsar and the fall of the Orthodox Autocracy!) and called on the church people to support the new government.
“This document, which appeared during the days when the whole of Orthodox Russia was anxiously waiting for what the Church would say with regard to the events that had taken place in the country, introduced no clarity into the ecclesiastical consciousness of the people. The Synod did not utter a word about the arrest of the Emperor and even of his completely innocent children, about the bloody lynch-mob trials established by the soldiers over their officers or about the disorders that had led to the death of people; it did not give a religio-moral evaluation of the revolutionary excesses, it did not condemn the guilty ones. Finally, the Address completely ignored the question how one should relate to the deposition and arrest of the Anointed of God, how to conduct Divine services in church without the important prayer for the prosperity of the Emperor’s House…”
For the liberals in the Church, however, the Synod’s Address did not go far enough. They wanted the removal, not of the Tsar only, but of the very concept of the Monarchy. Thus the Council of the Petrograd Religious-Philosophical Society resolved that the Synod’s acceptance of the Tsar’s abdication “does not correspond to the enormous religious importance of the act, by which the Church recognized the Tsar in the rite of the coronation of the anointed of God. It is necessary, for the liberation of the people’s conscience and to avoid the possibility of a restoration, that a corresponding act be issued in the name of the Church hierarchy abolishing the power of the Sacrament of Royal Anointing, by analogy with the church acts abolishing the power of the Sacraments of Marriage and the Priesthood.”
But the power of the Sacrament cannot be abolished, and the Tsar still remained Tsar after his abdication. For as Shakespeare put it in Richard II:
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord.
Again, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi has written: “King Saul lost the power of his anointing when he deliberately disobeyed God’s command. King Jehu was anointed to obey God’s commands, but he also failed. Divine blessing was withdrawn. That, however, was God’s decision. Can the anointed person, of himself, resign?… The mystery of anointing and crowning creates a special person; a person not untouchable or infallible, nor all-powerful or absolute, but sacred, consecrated and set apart from others and above the waves of politics. Tsar Nicholas II, anointed, crowned and consecrated in May, 1896, bore within himself, and shared with his Tsarina and wife, an inner calm and tranquillity of faith beyond all changes in politics and political forces. Spiritually speaking, his abdication on March 2, 1917, was of no effect. Those who are anointed cannot resign their spiritual elevation, though they may lay down the earthly trappings of power or have them torn away. Those who are true and devoted adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church have no right to speak of His Late Majesty as the ‘ex-Tsar’ or as the ‘Tsar-abdicate’. Clearly, those of the Russian Orthodox faith should recognize the direct link that has come down from the days of Moses, through the High Priests and Kings of Israel, to Tsar Nicholas II, in the God-commanded ceremony of anointing.”
In the end very few remained faithful to the oath first given in 1613 and refused to swear a new oath to the unanointed Provisional Government. Among the few was Count Paul Mikhailovich Grabbe (who later raised the question of the restoration of the patriarchate, and therefore of “omogenis monarchy”, at the Local Council of the Russian Church).
Only slightly less uncompromising was Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who on March 5/18 preached to his flock in Kharkov: “When we received the news of the abdication from the Throne of the Most Pious Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, we prepared, in accordance with his direction, to commemorate the Most Pious Emperor Michael Alexandrovich. But now he, too, has abdicated, and has ordered obedience to the Provisional Government, and that is the reason, and the only reason, why we commemorate the Provisional Government. Otherwise no power would be able to force us to cease the commemoration of the Tsar and the Tsar’s House.”
Probably the clearest justification of the Synod’s line was expressed by the future hieromartyr, Archpriest John Vostorgov: “Our former Emperor, who has abdicated from the throne, transferred power in a lawful manner to his brother. In his turn the brother of the Emperor, having abdicated from power until the final decision of the Constituent Assembly, in the same lawful manner transferred power to the Provisional Government, and to that permanent government that which be given to Russia by the Constituent Assembly. And so we now have a completely lawful Provisional Government which is the powers that be, as the Word of God calls it. To this power, which is now the One Supreme and All-Russian power, we are obliged to submit in accordance with the duty of religious conscience; we are obliged to pray for it; we are obliged also to obey the local authorities established by it. In this obedience, after the abdication of the former Emperor and his brother, and after their indications that the Provisional Government is lawful, there can be no betrayal of the former oath, but in it consists our direct duty.”
And yet, when the foreign minister of the new government, Paul Milyukov, was asked who had elected his government, he replied: “The Russian revolution elected us”. But the revolution cannot be lawful, being the incarnation of lawlessness… Therefore to recognize an authority put in place by the revolution is to legalize lawlessness; in effect, it is to assent to the overthrow of lawful authority. If the Tsar called on people to obey the Provisional Government, it was only so as to avoid bloodshed, in the hope that it would provide a transition to a return to lawful authority. But we all know that the result was not as he hoped…
Thus a group of Orthodox Christians wrote to the Holy Synod on July 24, 1917 as follows: “We Orthodox Christians most ardently beseech you to explain to us in the newspaper Russkoe Slovo what… the oath given to us to be faithful to the Tsar, Nicholas Alexandrovich, means. People are saying in our area that if this oath is worth nothing, then the new oath to the new Tsar [the Provisional Government?] will be worth nothing. Which oath must be more pleasing to God. The first or the second? Because the Tsar is not dead, but is alive and in prison…”
Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow, who had been uncanonically ejected from his see, and who had a vision of the Tsar offering himself in sacrifice for Russia, wrote about the Provisional Government that had removed the Tsar and the over-procurator Lvov in particular: “They corrupted the army with their speeches. They opened the prisons. They released onto the peaceful population convicts, thieves and robbers. They abolished the police and administration, placing the life and property of citizens at the disposal of every armed rogue… They destroyed trade and industry, imposing taxes that swallowed up the profits of enterprises… They squandered the resources of the exchequer in a crazy manner. They radically undermined all the sources of life in the country. They established elections to the Constituent Assembly on bases that are incomprehensible to Russia. They defiled the Russian language, distorting it for the amusement of half-illiterates and sluggards. They did not even guard their own honour, violating the promise they had given to the abdicated Tsar to allow him and his family free departure, by which they prepared for him inevitable death…
“Who started the persecution on the Orthodox Church and handed her head over to crucifixion? Who demanded the execution of the Patriarch? Was it those whom the Duma decried as ‘servants of the dark forces’, labelled as enemies of the freedom of the Church?... No, it was not those, but those him the Duma opposed to them as a true defender of the Church, whom it intended for, and promoted to the rank of over-procurator of the Most Holy Synod – the member of the Provisional Government, now servant of the Sovnarkom – Vladimir Lvov.”
Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev said: “If the Council was at fault in anything, it was perhaps in failing to express with sufficient force its condemnation of the revolution and the overthrow of his Majesty. Who will be able to deny that the February revolution was as God-hating as it was anti-monarchist? Who can condemn the Bolshevik revolution and at the same time approve of the Provisional government?” For it was the Provisional government that overthrew the Tsar, which led to the overthrow of everything else. For, as St. John Maximovich said: “It cannot be otherwise. He was overthrown who united everything, standing in defence of the Truth.”
It was only in January, 1918 that the Russian Church returned to a confessing stance in relation to the antichristian power. For it was then that Patriarch Tikhon omogenisatio the Bolsheviks and abjured the people to have no dealings whatsoever with “the outcasts of the human race”. Then, in July, 1918, he unequivocally condemned the murder of the Tsar.
But it took time for the Church publicly to admit that the power that rose up “against the Lord, and against His Christ” (Psalm 2.2) in 1917 must itself be the Antichrist, and that the first cause of the sufferings of Russia was her unfaithfulness to her anointed Tsar.
It was in the Russian Church Abroad and in the All-Russian Catacomb Church that the theology of Soviet power as the “collective Antichrist” was developed. And it is to a document of the Catacomb Church dating from the 1960s that we owe the clearest, most theologically convincing explanation of why Soviet power was not simply a true authority gone wrong, not simply a ruler abusing his God-given authority, but precisely an anti-authority. Here is an extract from this document: “How should one look on the Soviet authority, following the Apostolic teaching on authorities [Rom. 13]? In accordance with the Apostolic teaching which we have set forth, one must acknowledge that the Soviet authority is not an authority. It is an anti-authority. It is not an authority because it is not established by God, but insolently created by an aggregation of the evil actions of men, and it is consolidated and supported by these actions. If the evil actions weaken, the Soviet authority, representing a condensation of evil, likewise weakens... This authority consolidates itself in order to destroy all religions, simply to eradicate faith in God. Its essence is warfare with God, because its root is from satan. The Soviet authority is not authority, because by its nature it cannot omoge the law, for the essence of its life is evil.
“It may be said that the Soviet authority, in condemning various crimes of men, can still be considered an authority. We do not say that a ruling authority is totally lacking. We only affirm that it is an anti-authority. One must know that the affirmation of real power is bound up with certain actions of men, to whom the instinct of preservation is natural. And they must take into consideration the laws of morality which have been inherent in mankind from ages past. But in essence this authority systematically commits murder physically and spiritually. In reality a hostile power acts, which is called Soviet authority. The enemy strives by cunning to compel humanity to acknowledge this power as an authority. But the Apostolic teaching on authority is inapplicable to it, just as evil is inapplicable to God and the good, because evil is outside God; but the enemies with hypocrisy can take refuge in the well-known saying that everything is from God.
“This Soviet anti-authority is precisely the collective Antichrist, warfare against God...”
The canonist of the Russian Church Abroad, Bishop Gregory Grabbe, pointed out the similarity between Soviet power and that of Julian the Apostate: “With regard to the question of the commemoration of authorities, we must bear in mind that now we are having dealings not simply with a pagan government like Nero’s, but with the apostasy of the last times. Not with a so far unenlightened authority, but with apostasy. The Holy Fathers did not relate to Julian the Apostate in the same way as they did to the other pagan Emperors. And we cannot relate to the antichristian authorities in the same way as to any other, for its nature is purely satanic.”
Soviet power was similar to that of Julian the Apostate both in its rejection of the tradition of the Christian Empire and in its support for the Jewish Antichrist. It both trampled on the memory and legitimacy of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and all the anointed kings before him, and resurrected antichristian Jewish power both in Russia (in 1917) and in the newly-formed State of Israel (in 1948), of which it was one of the sponsors. Therefore it was rejected by the Fathers and Martyrs of the Russian Church as illegitimate and satanic just as Julian’s power had been rejected by the Fathers of the Byzantine Church.
The preceding discussion suggests a general criterion to discern which power is of God and which power is not of God, but of the devil. The power that is of God is the power that has the royal anointing, Roman power, the power of the right-believing kings. The power that is not of God, on the other hand, is that power which both denies the unction of the truly anointed ones, the right-believing kings, overthrowing it by revolutionary action, war and genocide, and directly prepares the way for the Jewish Antichrist, the pseudo-anointed pseudo-god-king.
The sacrament of royal anointing is that mystery of lawfulness which holds back the mystery of lawlessness, the Antichrist, and whose removal therefore ushers in the last times. It was first manifested in its full splendour in the New Christian Roman Empire founded by St. Constantine, and was transferred by lawful succession to the Third Rome of Russia. A fourth Rome there will not be, so the final fall of Russia will usher in, as St. Ambrose of Optina prophesied, the era of the Apocalypse.
In Christian history so far, the sacrament has been removed three times in the three major regions of the Orthodox world: Byzantium, the West and Russia. In Byzantium it was removed temporarily when Julian the Apostate came to power, and was removed again more permanently when the empire was subdued politically by the antichristian power of Islam and spiritually by the antichristian power of Papism. In the West it was removed when the antichrist Pope crushed the power of the western anointed kings, trampling on their holy unction. And in Russia it was removed temporarily when a papist ruled in the Kremlin in the time of troubles, and again for a longer period when the last truly anointed Emperor, Nicholas II, was cast down from his throne and murdered by the antichristian power of the Soviets.
According to the vision granted to the faithful in 1917 through the “Reigning” icon of the Mother of God, since the fall of the Russian Autocracy the royal anointing has not ceased to exist, but has been assumed by the Mother of God herself, the Queen of Russia. The royal child whose destiny was to rule all nations with a rod of iron was taken up to the throne of God, there to wait for the appointed time when the nations will again be ready to accept his rule (Rev. 2.27, 12.5). For at a time known only to the Mother of God and the King of kings, Christ God, the royal anointing will be returned to earth for a short time, to prepare and protect the world before the last battle against the mystery of iniquity, the power that is not of God. In the meantime, there is no fully legitimate and grace-filled political power on earth, no guardian to protect the Church of Christ from her external enemies. …
Wherefore in repentance we cry out: O Lord, through the intercession of the great passion-bearer, the martyred Tsar, grant Thou to the suffering Russian land deliverance from them that contend against God and the restoration of the throne of our Orthodox tsars.
July 4/17, 1998.
80th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II and his Family.
3. THE DOGMATIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ORTHODOX AUTOCRACY
It is a cliché of Western scholarship that whereas the Western Church in the Middle Ages was papocaesarist in structure and spirit, the Eastern Church was caesaropapist. That is, while Roman Catholic society was ruled by the Pope in both its political and its ecclesiastical aspects, Eastern Orthodox society was similarly ruled by the Emperor. Now it is not difficult to demonstrate that this assertion is untrue as regards the East, and that both papocaesarism and caesaropapism were western concepts and inventions. Nevertheless, the precise place of the Emperor in Orthodox society is not easy to define; the separation of Church and State in Orthodoxy is not as tidily clear-cut as the Western mind would like to have it, and there is no doubt that the Emperor, in addition to his unquestioned supremacy in the State, has an important and leading role in the Church, too. Moreover, it is precisely in the difference between the position of the Pope in Catholicism and the Emperor in Orthodoxy that the mystery and dogmatic significance of the Orthodox vision of Christian society is revealed...
Of course, the Protestants - and "Protestants of the Eastern Rite", as Fr. George Florovsky called the modernist Orthodox - deny that there is any mystery or dogmatic significance in the Orthodox Autocracy. Just as there was no infallible Pope in the early Church, they say, so there was no Emperor. And since we cannot accept any additions to the original "deposit of the faith", we must reject the doctrine of the Autocracy as unnecessary at best and antichristian at worst.
In this assertion, however, the Protestants are greatly mistaken. For while there was no doctrine of an infallible and universal Papacy in the early Church, there was a doctrine of Church leadership and unity at both the local and the ecumenical levels. And similarly, while there was no Christian Autocracy in the early Church, there was a doctrine concerning the moral and eschatological significance of the Roman Empire.
Let us examine this question in a historical context, beginning with the Nativity of the King of kings. Christ was born just as the Roman Empire was coming into being. The significance of this coincidence did not escape the Holy Fathers, whose thought was encapsulated in a verse from the Divine services for the Nativity: "When Augustus reigned alone upon earth, the many kingdoms of men came to an end: and when Thou was made man of the pure Virgin, the many gods of idolatry were destroyed. The cities of the world passed under one single rule; and the nations came to believe in one sovereign Godhead. The peoples were enrolled by the decree of Caesar; and we, the faithful, were enrolled in the Name of the Godhead, when Thou, our God, wast made man. Great is Thy mercy: glory to Thee."
This verse establishes a certain providential parallelism between the birth of the Church in the Body of the God-Man, and the birth of the Empire. The Church and the Empire were born and grew up together, as it were; Christ was a citizen of each while being at the same time the Lord of both. It is as if the Empire came into existence precisely for the sake of the Church, creating a political unity that would help and protect the spiritual unity created by the Church.
Similarly, according to the apostolic teaching, the death of the Empire would presage the death of the Church - or rather, her apparent demise during the time of the Antichrist. For this is the meaning of St. Paul's words: "The mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way" (II Thessalonians 2.7). According to the unanimous witness of the Holy Fathers from St. John Chrysostom to Bishop Theophanes the Recluse and St. John of Kronstadt, "he who restrains" is the Roman Emperor, or monarchical power in general. The Roman Emperor restrains the appearance of evil in its most radical form, the Antichrist. Therefore his removal will make possible the appearance of the Antichrist and usher in the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ.
Since the existence of the Empire and the Church on earth are so closely linked, it is small wonder that the apostles exhort Christians to venerate and obey it in all matters that do not conflict with the Law of God. St. Paul commands Christians to give thanks for the Emperor "and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty" (I Tim. 2.1-2). For it is precisely the Emperor's ability to maintain law and order, "a quiet and peaceful life", which makes him so important for the Church. "For anarchy," writes St. Isidore of Pelusium, "is always the worst of all evils... That is why, although the body is a single whole, not everything in it is of equal honour, but some members rule, while others are in subjection. So we are right to say that the authorities - that is, leadership and royal power - are established by God so that society should not fall into disorder."
"Be subject for the Lord's sake," says St. Peter, "to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and praise those who do right... Fear God. Honour the emperor" (I Peter 2.13, 17). The Emperor is to be obeyed "not only because of wrath, but for conscience's sake" (Rom. 13.5). For he is "the servant of God for good" and "wields not the sword in vain" (Rom. 13.4).
Of course, the autocracy in the apostles' time was not Christian. But if the apostles speak with such reverence of the pagan autocracy, which is qualified as a "human institution", a fortiori they would have spoken with still greater reverence of the Christian Autocracy, created as it was by God's direct call to Constantine. Indeed, according to some of the Holy Fathers, in these passages St. Paul was speaking, from an eschatological perspective, precisely of the Christian Autocracy.
Thus Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow writes: "The Spirit of God in him foresaw and more or less showed him the future light of Christian kingdoms. His God-inspired vision, piercing through future centuries, encounters Constantine, who brings peace to the Church and sanctifies the kingdom by faith; and Theodosius and Justinian, who defend the Church from the impudence of heresies. Of course, he also goes on to see Vladimir and Alexander Nevsky and many spreaders of the faith, defenders of the Church and guardians of Orthodoxy. After this it is not surprising that St. Paul should write: I beseech you not only to pray, but also to give thanks for the king and all those in authority; because there will be not only such kings and authorities for whom it is necessary to pray with sorrow.., but also those for whom we must thank God with joy for His precious gift."
Let us look more closely at the role of the Emperor in the Church. Historically speaking, his most important contribution was in the convening of Church Councils, and in the enforcing of their decisions. All of the Ecumenical Councils were convened by Emperors, as well as many of the Local Councils.
Now the Protestant-minded see no great importance in this contribution. After all, they say, the Church does not need an Emperor to convene a Council, and in the first Council of Jerusalem, as in all the Councils of the first three centuries of Christianity, no Emperor was present. For Church Councils are the affair of the Church, not of the State.
And yet the influence of the Emperor is discernible even in the first Council of Jerusalem. For it is unlikely that the Apostles and the Fathers who succeeded them would have been allowed to convene any Council by the Jews if Roman power had not existed to restrain and subdue the Jewish revolution. And later in the Acts we find the Apostle Paul using his Roman citizenship to escape from the attempts of the Jews to kill him. Here already we see monarchical power restraining "the mystery of iniquity". It both restrained those dark forces that sought to scatter the flock of Christ; and created those conditions which enabled the Christians to come together and reinforce their unity.
As the Church grew and spread throughout the inhabited world, the problem of preserving this unity became more acute. By the beginning of the fourth century, it was no longer possible to deal with the problems that arose through Local Councils presided over by a single bishop or metropolitan. For heretics condemned by one Local Church could flee to another and spread their poison there, as when Arius was condemned by the Church of Alexandria but fled abroad. And conflicts that arose between Local Churches, as when the Churches of Rome and Asia Minor disagreed over the date of Pascha, required a higher authority to resolve them. Thus it became necessary to find a mechanism or focus of unity which could convene Ecumenical Councils bringing together the leaders of all the local Churches throughout the Empire.
Through the mysterious workings of Divine Providence, this focus of unity turned out to be the Emperor Constantine the Great, who convened the First Ecumenical Council in order to deal with the problems of Arianism and the Paschalion - problems that were too great for Local Councils to deal with.
Now it was at this point that the first seeds of the papist heresy appeared. For while the Popes accepted the political authority of the Emperor, it became increasingly obvious to the Roman mind that the focus of unity in the Church could only come from within the Church, and from the senior and most respected bishop of the Church - the Pope of Rome. Emperors were all very well, but they had no business interfering in the Church's business.
The fact that all Seven of the Ecumenical Councils were convened by the Emperors, that the presiding bishop was not always the Pope or his legate, and that some Popes were even condemned by them (e.g. Pope Honorius by the Sixth Ecumenical Council) - all this was considered coincidental. If the Emperors had played an important role, said the Popes, it was because they were really acting as delegates or spiritual sons of the Papacy - an evident falsehood. (This argument was probably the origin of the myth that St. Constantine had been baptized by St. Sylvester, Pope of Rome.) The Popes later tried to prove, through forgeries such as The Donation of Constantine and The Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals, that they had received their universal jurisdiction from St. Constantine. But this argument defeated its own purpose, for if true, it showed that the Emperor had originally had the universal jurisdiction and was therefore a higher authority than the Pope!
A superficially more plausible argument of the Popes was that, while Constantine convened the First Ecumenical Council, its authority did not rest on his convening of it, but on the Popes' confirmation of it. For the Popes could not accept that the authority of the Council rested simply on its conformity with Sacred Tradition; the internal criterion which was considered sufficient at the first Council of Jerusalem - "it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." (Acts 15.25) - did not seem good enough to them. They wanted an external, visible "stamp" - and such a stamp could not come from a mere layman, however powerful or pious, still less an unbaptized layman, as Constantine still was at Nicaea. It had to be the stamp of a bishop at the very least. And since "ordinary" bishops could err, and synods of bishops could disagree among themselves, the only solution was to recognize that God had sealed one particular bishop with the charisma of infallibility which put him above the rest and guaranteed the unity and infallibility of the Church as a whole.
Although the East was no more inclined than the West to see in the Emperors any kind of guarantee (as opposed to focus) of the Church's unity or infallibility, several historical facts demonstrate that the Eastern Church saw much more in the office of the Emperor than the Romans did.
First, the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council not only responded to the invitation of Constantine to come together in a Council, but gave him very considerable authority in the Council, as is evident from their address to him: "Blessed is God, Who has chosen you as king of the earth, having by your hand destroyed the worship of idols and through you bestowed peace upon the hearts of the faithful... On this teaching of the Trinity, your Majesty, is established the greatness of your piety. Preserve it for us whole and unshaken, so that none of the heretics, having penetrated into the Church, might subject our faith to mockery... Your Majesty, command that Arius should depart from his error and rise no longer against the apostolic teaching. Or if he remains obstinate in his impiety, drive him out of the Orthodox Church." As Tuskarev observes, "this is a clear recognition of the divine election of Constantine as the external defender of the Church, who is obliged to work with her in preserving the right faith, and in correspondence with the conciliar sentence is empowered to drive heretics out of the Church." For, as Eusebius said, Constantine, "emulating the Divine example, removes every stain of godless error from his earthly kingdom."
This does not mean, of course, that the Emperors were authorized to impose their own beliefs on the Church; for they, like every member of the Church from the most powerful bishop to the humblest layman, are subject to the revealed truth, "the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Moreover, as the British historian Sir Arnold Toynbee pointed out, "in the conflicts between the East Roman emperors with the patriarchs of Constantinople, the former won many battles, but did not win a single war." Thus the Church won the war against the Arian emperors in the fourth century, the Monophysite emperors in the fifth century, the iconoclast emperors in the eighth and ninth centuries, and the Latinizing emperors in the fourteenth century.
Nevertheless, - and this is a second important point, - there were also moments when the leadership of the Church faltered, and it was the Emperors who played the decisive role in protecting the true faith. For example, when the pious Emperors Marcian and Pulcheria came to the throne in the year 450, they were in fact more Orthodox than the leading bishops of the time, who were infected with the heresy of Monophysitism; and it was on the initiative of these Emperors that the Fourth Ecumenical Council was convened and Orthodoxy was restored. Thus the relationship between Church and Emperor was closer than the simple formula: the Church looks after spiritual matters, the Emperor looks after earthly matters, might suggest...
Thirdly, in the liturgical order the Emperors are given a place fully equal to that of the bishops. St. Constantine was called "equal to the apostles"; he was "anointed a priest and king with the oil of mercy", being "bishop of those outside" the Church; and his successors received the Holy Mysteries at the holy table, together with the hierarchs, on the day of their coronation. In pannikhidas sovereigns are commemorated before hierarchs, and in liturgical processions they come last, signifying their pre-eminence.
Fourthly, the Emperor Justinian's classic definition of the "symphony" between the Church and the State places the responsibility for maintaining the symphony on both the Church and the State. As Andrushkevich points out, the word "symphony" in the Greek text denotes much more than simple agreement or concord. Church and State can agree in an evil way, for evil ends; true symphony is possible only where both the Church "is without reproach and adorned with faithfulness to God", in the words of the holy Emperor, and the State is ruled "rightly and decently" - that is, in accordance with the commandments of God.
It follows that a rigid separation of functions between the Church and the Emperor fits neither the theory nor the practice of Church-State relations in Orthodoxy. Just as the Church can "interfere" into the domain of the Emperor by criticizing his actions from the point of view of the Gospel, and can refuse to recognize his authority if his faith is not Orthodox, so the Emperor can "interfere" in the spiritual domain if the waves of heresy or schism threaten to overwhelm the ship of the Church - and therefore of the State, too. And this is because both Church and State are seen as being subject to Christ and serving Him alone, and because both the Bishops and the Emperor are seen as members of the same mystical organism of the Church in which all are responsible, albeit in different ways, for upholding the right confession of faith.
In fact, from the point of view of the confession of the faith, the Emperor has a more prominent and critical position even than the leading bishops. For everyone, both inside and outside the Empire, looks to him as representing the official faith of the Empire. That is why the Right-Believing Kings are the first target of the enemies of the truth, why the Emperor's office is regarded as a most heavy cross, and why the killing or removal of the Lord's Anointed is a greater crime even than the killing of a bishop, leading inexorably to the collapse of the Christian State, as we see in England after the murder of St. Edward the Martyr and the rebellion against his brother King Ethelred, and in Russia after the murder of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas. For as St. John Maximovich said: "It cannot be otherwise. He was overthrown who united everything, standing in defence of the Truth."
Thus if the priesthood is indispensable above all because it dispenses the Life-giving sacraments, the monarchy is indispensable because through it the Truth is proclaimed to the world. As the King of kings said to Pilate: "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" (John 18.37). The truth is witnessed to on a local scale by every individual believer, and by every Local Church headed by a bishop. But at the ecumenical level, in its full glory as the salvation of the whole world, the truth requires a king in the image of Christ the King. That is why the Ecumenical Councils were not accidentally associated with the Emperors who convened them, and why the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrating the establishment of the first truly ecumenical Christian autocracy, is such a great feast in the Church.
Of course, we know that the Church will prevail even against the gates of hell, as the Saviour promised (Matt. 16.18), while no such promise is given to any earthly kingdom. However, as we have seen, the fall of the last Christian empire will lead to the final decline of the Church on earth, which will be halted only by the Second Coming of Christ, the King of kings. Moreover, the Church is not just the hierarchy; and it is quite possible that during the times of the Antichrist the whole of the hierarchy will fall away while only some individual laymen remain to represent the Church. Thus according to some interpretations of Daniel 12.11, "the removal of the continual burnt offering" signifies the removal of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, which implies either the falling away of the priesthood or its inability to carry out its sacramental functions. For perhaps, as New Hieromartyr Joseph, Metropolitan of Petrograd, wrote, "the last 'rebels' against the betrayers of the Church and the accomplices of her ruin will be not only bishops and not archpriests, but the simplest mortals, just as at the Cross of Christ His last gasp of suffering was heard by a few simple souls who were close to Him..."
The papist position implicitly rejects this possibility. It cannot conceive of the Church existing even for a short period without a hierarchy - ultimately, without the Pope; which is why, when one Pope dies and his successor has not yet been elected, the Roman Church enters a kind of metaphysical limbo, whose reflection can be observed in the strange psychological state of some fervent papists during the interregnum. Strictly speaking, in fact, according to papist doctrine the Church ceases to exist in this period; for if the Church is founded on Peter, and Peter is visibly present neither in his own person nor in that of his successor, how can it be said to exist?
It follows, according to the papist teaching, that everything should be subject to the hierarchy, including the affairs of State. For how can it ever be right for the laity to resist the hierarchy, or the Emperor resist the Pope, if truth and salvation are in the Pope alone? Indeed, if the Pope is the first bishop and the Emperor only the first layman, and if the Pope is infallible while the Emperor is clearly fallible, why should not the Pope also be Emperor?
Thus there is an inescapable logical progression from the first seeds of the papist heresy, as we find them in the writings of some of the Popes of the fifth century, to the full-blown blasphemy of Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand) proclaimed at the First Lateran council of 1076: "The Pope can be judged by no one; the Roman Church has never erred and never will err till the end of time; the Roman Church was founded by Christ alone; the Pope alone can depose and restore bishops; he alone can make new laws, set up new bishoprics, and divide old ones; he alone can translate bishops; he alone can call general councils and authorize canon law; he alone can revise his own judgements; he alone can use the imperial insignia; he can depose emperors; he can absolve subjects from their allegiance; all princes should kiss his feet; his legates, even those in inferior orders, have precedence over all bishops; an appeal to the papal court inhibits judgement by all inferior courts; a duly ordained pope is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter."
Such papocaesarist madness was bound to elicit a reaction; which is why Pope Gregory was expelled from Rome by the German Emperor, and why the history of the Middle Ages in the West is the history of the continual struggle between Popes and Emperors for ultimate rule over the Christian people. But while some of the kings of the West rejected the papocaesarist heresy, it had already taken deep root in the Church as a whole. Thus when Gregory lay dying in exile in Salerno and said: "'I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity'; therefore I die in exile," a monk who waited on him replied, continuing the quotation from the Psalms which can rightly be referred only to Christ: "In exile thou canst not be, for 'God hath given thee the heathen for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession' (Psalm 2.8)."
The heretical Popes were the first political revolutionaries in Christian history; for by inciting the peoples of the West to rise up against their legitimate sovereigns, they transgressed the apostolic command to be subject to the powers that be.
This was clearly evident for the first time in 1066, when the Pope, egged on by Archdeacon Hildebrand, anathematized King Harold of England and all those who supported him and blessed the invasion of England by William the Conqueror. The invasion was deemed necessary because the English Church and people had refused to break their allegiance to King Harold and his predecessor, St. Edward the Confessor, when they fell out with Rome. For they were deeply imbued with the principles of the Orthodox autocracy that had served them so well since King Alfred the Great had restored Orthodoxy after the Viking invasions in the ninth century, and which had produced at least one saint in the person of King Edward the Martyr. Therefore when King Harold was killed at the battle of Hastings he died in defence, not only of his personal power, but also of the Orthodox doctrine of Church-State relations.
But one form of totalitarianism begets another and opposite kind. And the papocaesarist heresy of Hildebrand begat the first purely caesaropapist State in Christian history in the form of William the Conqueror's England. For while William's invasion of England had been blessed by Hildebrand, to whom he owed nominal allegiance, he proceeded to reject the authority of the Pope in his conquered land. For, as Eadmer of Canterbury wrote: "All things, spiritual and temporal alike, waited upon the nod of the King... He would not, for instance, allow anyone in all his dominion, except on his instructions, to recognize the established Pontiff of the City of Rome or under any circumstances to accept any letter from him, if it had not first been submitted to the King himself. Also he would not let the primate of his kingdom, by which I mean the Archbishop of Canterbury, if he were presiding over a general council of bishops, lay down any ordinance of prohibition unless these were agreeable to the King's wishes and had been first settled by him. Then again he would not allow any one of his bishops, except on his express instructions, to proceed against or excommunicate one of his barons or officers for incest or adultery or any other cardinal offence, even when notoriously guilty, or to lay upon him any punishment of ecclesiastical discipline."
The parallel with Russia in 1917 is striking. For in England as in Russia, the overthrow of the Orthodox autocracy by anti-monarchical forces led to the imposition of a caesaropapist dictatorship of unparalleled cruelty, which led in turn to the downfall of the official Church, the removal of the true bishops, the killing of the faithful believers, and the profaning of the holy relics and churches. And, as if to emphasize this correspondence, the surviving child of the last English Orthodox king, Gytha, fled to Kiev and married Great-Prince Vladimir Monomakh, making the Russian Tsar-Martyr Nicholas a direct descendant of the English Martyr Kings. It is as if the last scion of Orthodox autocracy in the "First Rome" was saved through its union with the new Orthodox autocracy of the "Third Rome", just as, four centuries later, the last scion of the Orthodox autocracy of the "Second or New Rome", Sophia Palaeologus, was united to another Russian Great-Prince, Ivan III...
Let us now turn to the specific contribution made by Russia to the Orthodox understanding of Church-State relations. Holy Russia, "the Third Rome", came into being in the late tenth century at almost exactly the same time that the Christian West, "the First Rome", was entering its final descent into apostasy. This fact has led some to speculate that Russia has taken the place of the West in the Divine Plan, and that it is precisely Russia that will achieve the final victory over the Western apostasy.
Of course, this is not to deny the great merit of the Great Church of Constantinople in exposing and anathematizing the Western heresies of the Filioque (in the ninth century), of unleavened bread and the omission of the epiclesis (in 1054), and of created grace (in the fourteenth century). But, according to a Greek prophecy of the eighth or ninth century, "the sceptre of the Orthodox kingdom will fall from the weakening hands of the Byzantine emperors, since they will not have proved able to achieve the symphony of Church and State. Therefore the Lord in His Providence will sent a third God-chosen people to take the place of the chosen, but spiritually decrepit people of the Greeks."
For the Greeks, while clearly discerning the apostasy of the West, nevertheless followed their last two emperors, John VIII and Constantine XI, into union with the West at the council of Florence in 1439 for the sake of preserving their empire from the Turks. Unlike their great ancestors, who had often defied heretical emperors for the sake of faithfulness to the truth, they tried to preserve their earthly kingdom at the price of the Kingdom of Heaven, forgetting that the whole glory of the Christian Empire lay in its readiness to live and die for its Heavenly King. "For here we have no lasting city, but seek the City which is to come" (Hebrews 13.14).
Fr. Alexander Schmemann traced the beginning of this fall to the eleventh century: "After 1081, when Alexius Comnenus ascended the throne, the patriarchs seem to withdraw into the background. We find very meager information about them in the Byzantine chronicles through which we establish their names, their chief 'acts', and the years in which they were appointed or died. A curve could be traced, showing a gradually fading image of the patriarch side by side with the ever-increasing splendor of the basileus, as the Eastern emperors were called. And this is not accidental. It gives proof that the scales of the unattainable harmony were inclined in the direction of imperial power.
"It is important to emphasize that this painful weakness cannot be explained solely in terms of the government's coercing the Church - in terms of the superiority of physical force, so to speak... This was an inner, organic weakness of the representatives of the Church. Their dual situation made them not just the victims but also the agents of their own destiny. The thirst for a sacred theocracy, the desire to illumine the sinful stuff of history with the light of Christ; everything that could justify the union of Church and empire - this ideal required for its attainment a very subtle but very clear distinction between the Church and the world. For the Church is thoroughly fulfilling its mission to transform the world only when it completely feels itself to be a kingdom not of this world.
"The tragedy of the Byzantine Church consisted precisely in the fact that it became merely the Byzantine Church, that it merged itself with the empire not so much administratively as, above all, psychologically, in its own self-awareness. The empire became for it the absolute and supreme value, unquestioned, inviolable, and self-evident."
Allowing for a certain exaggeration, we may accept Schmemann's analysis, which accords with the witness of the Greek prophecy quoted above. The Byzantine empire failed because, although it remained Orthodox in itself, and the emperor and patriarch remained in harmony to the end, this harmony was not true "symphony", being based on a diminished, less-than-truly-ecumenical and missionary vision which tended to degenerate into a narrow nationalism that has become increasingly evident in the post-Byzantine era, when Hellenism and revolutionary ideas of freedom at times have seemed to supplant Orthodoxy in the affections of the people. Therefore, being unable to present a truly catholic and ecumenical vision of Christian society to the world, the Byzantines fell into a false union with the West with its heretical, but more explicitly universal vision.
Did Russia succeed where Byzantium failed? Schmemann sees the Russians as having corrupted the ideal of Church-State symphony no less than the Byzantines, most obviously in the reigns of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. However, here we must disagree with the learned theologian, who betrays the bias of his Parisian training in his blindness to the "curves" of Russian history. Although Russia succumbed at times to caesaropapism and narrow nationalism, she always recovered from these temptations as a result of several factors which distinguished Russian history from that of Byzantium.
First, Russia had a long, nearly five-hundred year training in humility in the shadow of the Byzantine empire, during which, in spite of her vastly greater size and political independence from Byzantium, her metropolitans were always (until the council of Florence) appointed by the Constantinopolitan Patriarch, and her great-princes always (until the very fall of Byzantium) looked to the Byzantine Emperors as to their elder brothers. This meant that, when Russia came to take the place of Byzantium as the bearer of the cross of the Christian Empire, she was not tempted to think of herself as the first or only or best Christian people. And when that temptation appeared in the form of the Old Believer schism, it was rejected by the ecumenical consciousness of the Russian Church and State.
Secondly, while the Greeks had a long and sophisticated history as pagans before accepting Christianity, the Russians accepted the faith in the first flush of youth, as it were. This meant, among other things, that the pagan traces of idolatrous emperor-worship, which some scholars have claimed to find even in late Byzantium, were no part of the inheritance of the newly Christianized people of Rus'. Some have claimed that the Mongol yoke later injected certain pagan and idolatrous attitudes into Russian life; but there is little evidence to support this notion.
Thirdly, while the Byzantine Empire contracted from the large, multi-national dominion of Constantine the Great to the small, exclusively Greek dominion of Constantine XI, the Russian Empire grew in the opposite direction, expanding from its Muscovite heartland to the borders of Sweden and Germany in the West and China and America in the East. This meant that the Russian Empire was always and increasingly multi-national, with a large number of non-Russian saints and a strong commitment to missionary activity right until 1917 and (in the Russian Church Abroad) to the present day. This truly ecumenical, non-nationalistic character of the Russian Empire was emphasized by its last three wars - the Crimean war, the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 and the First World War, which were fought in a self-sacrificial spirit for the sake of the non-Russian Orthodox of the Balkans and Middle East.
Fourthly, the history of the Russian Empire has been punctuated by wars against the Western heretics. Thus the history of Russia is defined, to a much greater degree than Byzantium, by her relationship with the West. And whereas Byzantium chose to compromise with the West so as to receive help against the Muslims (which never came), Russia in the person of Alexander Nevsky made the opposite choice of priorities, and the Russian Empire died during a war against both the West (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Muslims (the Ottoman empire).
And yet Russia finally fell to a western heresy - the heresy of social democracy, or, in its extreme form, communism. And now her Church is captive to the more specifically ecclesiastical form of that heresy - ecumenism. So the promise that she is in some sense destined to be the conqueror of Old Rome remains so far unfulfilled.
How, then, can Russia fulfil her destiny in relation to the West, becoming in truth "light from the East"? Only by demonstrating in her own life the vitality of that ideal form of Christian social life, the symphony of Emperor and Church, which Byzantium failed to achieve and of which the western forms are the heretical distortions. For we may say that the root heresy of the West, more fundamental even than the heresies that the Byzantines fought against, is precisely a false understanding of Church-State relations, which gave birth, first to Catholic papocaesarism, then to Protestant caesaropapism and finally, in our time, to ecumenist democracy.
In trying to define this root heresy of the West, a clue is provided by a phrase in the famous speech of the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II to Tsar Theodore Ivanovich, when he enunciated and gave his blessing to the idea that Russia is the Third Rome: "Since the First Rome fell through the Apollinarian heresy, and the Second Rome, which is Constantinople, is held by infidel Turks, so thy great Russian kingdom, most pious Tsar... is the Third Rome... and thou alone under heaven art Christian Emperor for all Christians in the world."
Now the Apollinarian heresy rarely, if ever, figures in lists of the western heresies. And yet the patriarch here indicates that it is the heresy as a result of which the First Rome fell. We must therefore look for some matching in form, if not in substance, between the Apollinarian and papist heresies. Smirnov's definiton of the heresy gives us a clue: "accepting the tripartite composition of human nature - spirit, irrational soul, and body - [Apollinarius] affirmed that in Christ only the body and the soul were human, but His mind was Divine." In other words, Christ did not have a human mind like ours, but this was replaced, according to the Apollinarian schema, by the Divine Logos. A parallel with Papism immediately suggests itself: just as the Divine Logos replaces the human mind in the heretical Apollinarian Christology, so a quasi-Divine, infallible Pope replaces the fully human, and therefore at all times fallible episcopate in the heretical papist ecclesiology.
The root heresy of the West therefore consists in the unlawful exaltation of the mind of the Pope over the other minds of the Church, both clerical and lay, and its quasi-divinization to a level equal to that of Christ Himself.
From this root heresy proceed all the heresies of the West. Thus the Filioque with its implicit demotion of the Holy Spirit to a level below that of the Father and the Son becomes necessary insofar as the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth Who constantly leads the Church into all truth has now become unnecessary - the Divine Mind of the Pope is quite capable of fulfilling His function. Similarly, the epiclesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the Holy Gifts is also unnecessary - if Christ, the Great High Priest, sanctified the Holy Gifts by His word alone, then His Divine Vicar on earth is surely able to do the same without invoking any other Divinity, especially a merely subordinate one such as the Holy Spirit.
Again, if the Pope is agreed to dispense grace directly, rather than beseeching the Holy Spirit to send it down, then grace must be agreed to be created - for even the Popes do not pretend to be uncreated, and it is paradoxical for a created being to dispense uncreated grace. Rather, the Popes are created beings who partake in the essence of the Godhead through their infallible minds. Therefore, as a recent official publication of the Vatican put it, the Pope "is the ultimate guarantor of the Teaching and Will of the Divine Founder"!
Not only the Papist, but also the Protestant heresies proceed from this bitter root. For Protestantism's main difference from Papism is that, in the spirit of rationalist democracy, it wants to extend the privileges of the Pope's Divine mind - his infallible access to truth and certain possession of salvation - to the minds of all Christians. As New Hieromartyr Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) put it: "Protestantism only objected: Why is truth given to the Pope alone?... Every individual was thus promoted to the rank of infallible Pope. Protestantism placed a papal tiara on every German professor..."
However, if truth is given to every man in view of his naturally infallible mind, there is no need, either of the Pope, or of the Church, or even of Christ Himself. Indeed, why should any organized religion or revelation be necessary if man has only to dig into his personal divinity to find all the riches of the Heavenly Kingdom? Why not recognize all religions and all revelations, since they all manifest that "Light which enlightens every man that comes into the world" (John 1.9)?
Thus the papist heresy of Church-State relations, whose seeds are evident already in the fifth century, leads inexorably, not only to the full-blown heresies of eleventh-century Papism and sixteenth-century Protestantism, but even to the modern pan-heresies of Ecumenism and the New Age.
More than that: it could prove to be the theoretical underpinning of the "divinity" of the Antichrist. For just as the Pope is considered to have an infallible mind, so the Jew is considered to have a Divine soul - and none more, of course, than the coming false king of the Jews, the Antichrist. Thus we read in a contemporary Jewish journal: "When the Creator on Mount Sinai CHOSE us for a special mission, there arose a completely new form of connection between Him and the Jewish people. The distinction between the Hebrew people and the others was formed in two stages. The first stage was the epoch of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who, thanks to their selfless devotion to the Master of the universe, were raised above the limitations of their nature and laid the foundation for a new type of reality - the Jewish people.
"The second stage was accomplished by the revelation on Sinai. Thanks to their special inspiration and complete devotion to the will of the Creator, the forefathers of the Jewish people merited, not only for themselves, but also for their descendants, a special spiritual substance - a Divine soul. Thus the Jewish people was separated into a special category distinct from the other peoples. This distinction is not quantitative, but qualitative..
"Such an approach allows us to understand the specific nature of the Jewish people. The Jew is not simply a man who has one extra quality or characteristic. The Jew is a creature into which the Most High has inserted a Divine soul - the spirit of holiness, a particle of God Himself.
"The Divine soul which belongs to the Jew is a supremely unique characteristic. All creatures, including mankind, are parts of the creation of the world with its regularities and limitations. But the Jew stands outside the creation of the world thanks to his Divine soul. This particularity of the Jewish people was formed already in the time of the forefathers, and from them was passed down by inheritance to every Jew, who bears within himself this phenomenon, the Jewish soul - a particle of God Himself.
"From this it follows that true freedom of choice belongs only to those possess a particle of God Himself - a Divine soul. As is said in the book of the Prophet Ezekiel, chapter 34, verse 31: 'You are My people, My flock. Your name is man.' From these words it follows that the definition of 'man' in the highest sense of the word, and consequently freedom of will in the full sense refer only to the possessors of a Divine soul."
We may speculate that the "third stage" in the supposed superiority of the Jews over all other nations will come when the Antichrist comes to power, when it will be claimed, through a new revelation higher even than that of the law and the prophets, that he has a Divine soul to an even greater degree than the other Jews, being in fact, not just a particle of God Himself, but the whole Divinity; for he will "take his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" (II Thessalonians. 2.4).
Thus the warning of the Orthodox Pope St. Gregory the Great that papism is "the forerunner of the Antichrist" is shown to be true. Jewish Antichristianity may be defined as a nationalist form of Papism or Apollinarianism. In essence it is the same as the Hindu teaching that man is by nature God, which is the same primordial lie that Satan whispered into the ears of Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Against this, the first and perhaps also the last of the God-fighting heresies, the Orthodox Church teaches that man is not god by nature, but can become god by grace, through union in the fear of God, in faith and in love with the only God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through participation in the Holy Spirit.
But Orthodoxy demonstrates this truth not only in words, but also in its God-inspired social structure. For the division of powers between the Emperor and the Patriarch, which was abolished by the Papacy and will be abolished again by the Antichrist, demonstrates that no man, however holy, can have the fulness of grace, which belongs to God alone. For just as the Emperor is forbidden to offer the Bloodless Sacrifice at the altar (although, as we have seen, he is a priest in a certain sense), so the Patriarch is forbidden to assume political office. And if some patriarchs in Orthodox history have been forced to assume a more than strictly priestly role, this has been exceptional, an exercise of oekonomia. In essence the throne of the Emperor at such a time remains empty; no Patriarch, however distinguished, can occupy it.
Thus the role of the Emperor in the Church may be compared to that of the Archangel Michael in the angelic hierarchy. Just as the great archangel was called to take on the leadership of the good angels, although he was not from the ranks of Cherubim and Seraphim, so the right-believing Emperor is called to take on the leadership of the Church, although he is not from the ranks of the holy bishops. And just as the archangel was called to resist the Luciferian pride of the fallen first angel, so the Emperor is called to resist "the depths of Satan" (Revelation 2.24) in the fallen first-hierarchs of the West and formerly chosen people of the East. For the name "Michael" means "Who is like unto God?", which refrain is precisely that of the Orthodox Emperors in their struggle against Papism and Judaism. Fittingly, then, is the Archangel Michael seen as the special protector of Orthodox Emperors, being the "wondrous champion of them that wage war against the spirits of evil in high places".
We can now see why the differences with regard to monarchism in general, and Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, in particular, between the present-day Moscow Patriarchate, on the one hand, and the True Russian Church, on the other, are by no means unimportant or secondary, but in fact underly all their other differences.
The main achievements of the Tsar-Martyr consisted in his resisting the resurgent power of the Jews and papists, and in his overcoming, in his own person, of the caesaropapist legacy of the eighteenth century. Of course, his nineteenth-century predecessors paved the way for the restoration of true symphony in Church-State relations. However, it was Tsar Nicholas II who showed the most exceptional devotion to the Church, building churches, glorifying saints and, most significantly, approving the restoration of the patriarchate. The fact that the patriarchate was not restored during his reign, but some months later, was not his fault, but the fault of those who, having inwardly broken their ties with the Church, were trying to undermine the foundations of the State as well. Some claimed that it was the overbearing power of the monarchy which inhibited the restoration of the patriarchate, which therefore became possible only after the monarchy's fall. But this was not in fact the case: rather, it was the weakness of the Church, especially in its more educated strata, that undermined the strength of the monarchy, which in turn necessitated the restoration of the patriarchate if Christian society was to have a clear focus of unity and leadership. For, as one peasant delegate to the Local Council of 1917-18 put it: "We have a Tsar no more; no father whom we love. It is impossible to love a synod; and therefore we, the peasants, want a Patriarch." Indeed, the restoration of the patriarchate may be seen as the first-fruits of the shedding of the Tsar-Martyr's blood.
For a time the Patriarch carried the colossal burden of representing and defending the Christian people in the absence of a tsar. This inevitably involved certain quasi-political acts, such as the anathematization of Soviet power and the condemnation of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. However, the accusation of "politicking" that was hurled against the Patriarch was misplaced, not only because these acts were necessary in the interests of the Church, and were therefore within the Patriarch's competence, but also because, in the absence of a tsar, someone had to bear the cross of witnessing to the truth and condemning the revolution publicly and on the world stage.
Nevertheless, the strain of this unnatural situation began to tell, and the witness of the Church against the revolution began to grow muted. Again, this was not so much the fault of the Patriarch as of the whole of Christian society; for just as the Tsar could not govern if nobody obeyed him, the Patriarch could not witness effectively if civil society pursued other ideals. Thus he felt unable to give his unequivocal blessing to the leaders of the White armies, probably because "the spirit was not right," as Elder Aristocleus of Moscow said - many of them were aiming, not at the restoration of the Romanov dynasty, but at the reconvening of the Constituent Assembly or the restoration of the landowners' lands.
Thus by the end of the Civil War the spirit of Orthodox Monarchism, without which the restoration of Holy Russia was inconceivable, had been driven largely underground and overseas, manifesting itself only rarely in public, as in the First All-Emigration Council of the Russian Church in Exile in 1921. And a few years later the Church herself was forced underground. For, deprived of all support in the public domain, the Patriarch had been forced to make damaging concessions to the atheists - first in the affair of the requisitioning of church valuables, then in setting himself "finally and decisively" apart "from both the foreign and the internal monarchist White-guard counter-revolutionaries", in the annulling of the anathema against the Bolsheviks, in the introduction of the new calendar, and in the admittance of the renovationist Krasnitsky to a place in the Synod.
But though the Patriarch bowed to the overwhelming pressure of the Bolsheviks, he did not break. He himself foresaw, as he revealed in a conversation with the future catacomb hieromartyr Maximus of Serpukhov, that the Church could not go on making such compromises without sacrificing her inner freedom, and therefore her inner union with Christ in the Spirit. And so he blessed the formation of the Catacomb Church, which would preserve the spirit of Orthodox Monarchism in the only conditions in which it could survive in the conditions of the militantly atheist State - as an underground opposition to the State.
The "achievement" of Metropolitan Sergius, the founder of the Sovietized Moscow Patriarchate, was to give a dogmatic foundation to the heresy concerning Church-State relations that goes under his name - Sergianism. Sergianism is in fact a subtle and paradoxical form of Papism. Its paradoxicality consists in the fact that it is at the same time both papocaesarism and caesaropapism; for while, as we shall see, it creates a completely papal structure for the Church, it at the same time subordinates the whole Church to the complete control of the State.
Like Papism, Sergianism begins by denying the rights of the Emperor in the Church and monarchism in general. In fact it goes further in this direction than any of the Popes: in the spirit of the revolution it denounces the meekest and least bloodthirsty of the tsars as a blood-sucking tyrant and political criminal. Nor can this be excused as insincere words uttered to please the Bolsheviks: even after the fall of Bolshevism, the leaders of present-day Sergianism have not returned monarchism to its rightful place in the fabric of Church doctrine, nor officially recognized the martyrdom of the Tsar.
Unlike Papism, however, Sergianism did not put the first-hierarch of the Church in the position of the overturned Emperor. That was obviously neither possible nor desirable in the context of the revolution. Rather, it accorded the roles both of Emperor and of Patriarch to the Leader of the Soviet State. And if Sergius himself was later given the title of patriarch, everyone understood who the real "Father" was - Joseph Stalin, that "wise, God-established", "God-given Supreme Leader", who had served as "the instrument of Divine Providence" in saving Holy Russia (by extending the rule of militant atheism from Berlin to Peking!). Thus whereas the Popes introduced heresy into the Church by proclaiming themselves the Vicars of Christ, Sergius' Papism consisted in becoming the Vicar of the Antichrist! And, like the Popes, he justified his heresy on the grounds that only in this way could he save the Church!
Thus in a real way Sergius subdued Russia to papism. Just as Old Rome fell through accepting that all truth was in the Pope, so the Third Rome, Russia, fell through accepting that all salvation was in the "Patriarch".
Hieromonk Nectarius (Yashunsky) has described how Sergius introduced papism into the Moscow Patriarchate: "Metropolitan Sergius' understanding of the Church (and therefore, of salvation) was heretical. He sincerely, it seems to us, believed that the Church was first of all an organization, an apparatus which could not function without administrative unity. Hence the striving to preserve her administrative unity at all costs, even at the cost of harming the truth contained in her.
"And this can be seen not only in the church politics he conducted, but also in the theology [he evolved] corresponding to it.
"In this context two of his works are especially indicative: 'Is There a Vicar of Christ in the Church?' (The Spiritual Heritage of Patriarch Sergius, Moscow, 1946) and 'The Relationship of the Church to the Communities that have Separated from Her' (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate). In the first, although Metropolitan Sergius gives a negative answer to the question (first of all in relation to the Pope), this negative answer is not so much a matter of principle as of empiricism. The Pope is not the head of the Universal Church only because he is a heretic. But in principle Metropolitan Sergius considers it possible and even desirable for the whole of the Universal Church to be headed by one person. Moreover, in difficult times in the life of the Church this person can assume such privileges even if he does not have the corresponding canonical rights. And although the metropolitan declares that this universal leader is not the vicar of Christ, this declaration does not look sincere in the context both of his other theological opinions and of his actions in accordance with this theology."
In the second cited article, Metropolitan Sergius explained the differences in the reception of heretics and schismatics, not on the basis of their objective confession of faith, but on the subjective (and therefore changeable) relationship of the Church's first-hierarch to them. Thus "we receive the Latins into the Church through repentance, but those from the Karlovtsy schism through chrismation". And so for Sergius, concludes Fr. Nectarius, "to be saved it is not the truth of Holy Orthodoxy but belonging to a legal church-administrative organization that is necessary"!
The last few years have demonstrated that Sergianism does not depend on the existence of Soviet power, but has entered into the very flesh and blood of the patriarchate. Thus recently the patriarch said about Sergius' declaration: "I do not renounce it, for it is impossible to renounce one's history... I think that in the present year we have been able to withdraw from under the state's trivial [sic!] charge and, therefore, we have the moral right to affirm the fact that Metropolitan Sergius' declaration is a fact belonging to the past, and we no longer are guided by it. At the same time, however, this does not mean that we are against the government..."
For, of course, Patriarch Alexis is never against the government. For in the last resort, as Fr. Peter Perekrestov points out, it is all a matter of power for him: "It is not important to them whether a priest is involved in shady business dealings or purely church activities; whether he is a democrat or a monarchist; whether an ecumenist or a zealot; whether he wants to serve Vigil for six hours or one; whether the priest serves a panikhida for the victims who defended the White House or a moleben for those who sided with Yeltsin; whether the priest wants to baptize by immersion or by sprinkling; whether he serves in the catacombs or openly; whether he venerates the Royal Martyrs or not; whether he serves according to the New or Orthodox Calendar - it really doesn't matter. The main thing is to commemorate Patriarch Alexis. Let the Church Abroad have its autonomy, let it even speak out, express itself as in the past, but only under one condition: commemorate Patriarch Alexis. This is a form of Papism - let the priests be married, let them serve according to the Eastern rite - it makes no difference, what is important is that they commemorate the Pope of Rome."
How can the neo-papist heresy of Sergianism be overthrown in Russia? Only by clearly recognizing the root of the heresy in the overthrow of the Orthodox autocracy and in the rejection of the Orthodox doctrine of Church-State relations. Such a recognition involves much more than a nostalgia for monarchism, more even than a veneration for the Tsar-Martyr. It means the recognition that the Orthodox autocracy is the crown of Christian society, its dogmatic completion. For, as Patriarch Anthony of Constantinople wrote to Great Prince Basil Dmitrievich in 1393: "It is impossible for Christians to have a Church, and not have a king; for the kingdom and the Church are in close union and communion with each other, and it is impossible to separate them."
It is impossible for Christians to have a Church and not have a king because "no city or house that is divided against itself will stand" (Matthew 12.25), and only an Orthodox king ruling in the image of the Heavenly King and chosen by Him alone can restore unity to a nation torn apart by a multitude of self-appointed leaders in Church and State. It is impossible for Christians to have a Church and not have a king because only in obedience to the king's autocratic and paternal authority can obedience to all lawful authorities, from the paterfamilias to our Father in the Heavens, be established. It is impossible for Christians to have a Church and not have a king because only an Orthodox king ruling in obedience to Christ the God-man is able to defend the Church against the false authorities that threaten to overwhelm her, and in particular the false authority based on the Hindu-Apollinarian-Papist-Jewish doctrine of the innate divinity of man - the dogma of the Man-god, the Antichrist.
And if some will say: then there is no hope, for we have no king, we shall answer: although we have no king, yet the mystery of the Orthodox kingship has not been destroyed and can be restored if we fervently beseech God for it; for the Mother of God has revealed in her miraculous Reigning icon, which appeared at the very moment of the abdication of the last tsar, that the symbols of kingly authority are in her hands...
Once the backsliding Jews said: "We have no king, for we fear not the Lord, and a king, what shall he do for us?" (Hosea 10.3). And the Lord, the King of kings, said: "They have made kings for themselves, but not by Me... Therefore shall they be delivered up to the nations;.. and they shall cease a little to anoint a king and princes" (Hosea 8.4,10).
But then the Lord hearkened to the repentance of the Jews in Babylon and gave them again a king of the line of David, of whom He said: "It is he that shall build the Temple of the Lord, and shall bear royal honour, and shall sit and rule upon his throne. And there shall be a priest by his throne, and peaceful understanding shall be between them both" (Zechariah 6.13). Now, as then, repentance is possible and restoration is possible. Now, as then, we can still say: "The king shall be glad in God; everyone shall be praised that sweareth by him" (Psalm 62.10).
September 4/17, 1996.
Holy Prophet and God-seer Moses.
(Published in Russian as Dogmaticheskoe Znachenie Pravoslavnogo Samoderzhavia, Moscow, 1997)
4. WHAT POWER IS OF GOD?
The question of the proper limits of obedience to political power has preoccupied Christians since the time of the early martyrs, who confessed loyalty to the pagan Roman emperor but refused to obey him in that which conflicted with the supreme sovereignty of God. This problem - the problem, namely, of where to draw the line between that which is God's and that which is Caesar's (or Pharaoh's) - has become become particularly difficult and divisive in the last two centuries, since the French Revolution infected the whole world with the lust for freedom. Both the Greek and the Russian Churches have suffered major schisms because of differing answers to the question: What power is of God? Thus when the Greeks of the Peloponnese rose up against Turkish power in 1821, they were anathematized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, which led to a schism between the Churches of Greece and Constantinople that lasted until 1852. Again, when the Russian Church rose up against Soviet power in 1918 and anathematized it, a reaction set in from pro-Soviet hierarchs, who drove those faithful to the decrees of 1918 into the catacombs.
In the nineteenth century, the most extensive and profound study of this question came from the pen of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, who refuted the anti-tsarist propaganda of the Russian liberal intelligentsia by demonstrating that the power of the Tsar in the State, being an extension, as it were, of the power of the father in the family (for the State is formed through an amalgamation of many families), is natural and established by God. However, the metropolitan directly answered only one half, and the less difficult half, of the question. Granted that the power of the Tsar, and monarchical power in general, is of God: what of the power that fights against this God-established power, which usurps and overthrows it? Are we to view it as tolerantly as the Church viewed the many coups d'etat that brought successive emperors to the throne of the New Rome of Constantinople? How are we to regard today's democratic regimes, which not only came to power over the dead bodies of lawful monarchs, but even deny the monarchical principle itself? Still more pertinently for today's Russian Orthodox Christians, what are we to say of Soviet power, which not only killed monarchs and denied the monarchical principle, but denied the very fount and origin of all lawful authority - God Himself?
There are some who say that Soviet power, too, was (or is) legitimate, and had to be obeyed insofar as "all power is of God" (Rom. 13.1)? Others assert that Soviet power was the Antichrist, if not in the sense that it was that last antichristian ruler, "the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition," (II Thess. 2.3) whom the Lord will destroy at His Second Coming, but rather in the sense that it was one of the heads or horns of that beast whose "power and throne and great authority" comes, not from God, but from "the dragon", that is, Satan (Rev. 13.3)? For the consensus of the Holy Fathers is that this first beast of the book of Revelation is indeed the Antichrist, whose seven heads and ten horns represent a series of antichristian kingdoms culminating in "another horn, a little one,.. in which were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things" (Daniel 7.8) - the false king of the Jews. So the question is: can Soviet power be construed as "the collective Antichrist" which precedes the last, "personal" Antichrist and which shares his essence to such a degree that it, too, can be said to be established, not by God, but by Satan?
But how, it will be asked, can any power be of Satan when we have St. Paul's explicit statement that all power is of God? In order to understand the true meaning of St. Paul's words, we must first take into account the context in which these verses are written. In the previous chapter (Rom. 12), St. Paul has been elaborating the Christian teaching on love, unity and non-resistance to evil. "Recompense no man evil for evil... Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (vv. 17,21). Having elaborated this teaching in the personal sphere, the sphere of relations between individual men, St. Paul proceeds to elaborate the same teaching in the political sphere, the sphere of relations between the individual or the group and the State. Just as we have been exhorted not to resist evil with evil in the personal sphere, so now we are exhorted not to resist evil with evil in the political sphere. In other words, as Vladimir Rusak explains, these words constitute a call to conditional obedience, and to the renunciation of revolutionary action.
On what is the obedience conditional? On the ruler being, in St. Paul's words "not a terror to good works, but to the evil" (v. 3; cf. I Peter 2.14). Only such a ruler is "established by God"; only such a ruler receives his authority from God.
Pilate, according to this definition, may have been a true ruler to whom obedience was due before he condemned Christ to death. But when he condemned the Just One, Christ, and released the unjust, Barabbas, he lost all real authority. "For without justice," writes St. Augustine, "what are kingdoms but vast robberies?"
This does not mean, however, that armed rebellion against such a ruler is necessarily justified; for evil must be resisted by means that are good, and civil war, as Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky points out, is among the worst of evils. But it does mean that we must spiritually resist the injustice of such a ruler. Moreover, if the evil of obedience to an unjust or blaspheming ruler is sufficiently great, it may be right to resist that ruler even by physical means, as being the lesser of two evils. Thus St. Hermogen, patriarch of Moscow, called for armed struggle against the false tsar Dimitri in 1611. And Metropolitan Anthony and the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad called for a crusade against Soviet power in 1921...
However, there is an important sense in which all authorities, even when they commit injustice - and all rulers are sometimes unjust - can still be considered to be established by God. In this sense, as St. John Chrysostom explains, political authority as such and in principle is good and necessary in our fallen world in order to check our fallen nature. In the life of the world to come, there will be no need for politics, just as there will be no need for marriage. But until that time, political power will be as necessary to check the fallen tendency of man to self-will and rebelliousness as marriage is to his tendency to lust and fornication. "For anarchy," writes St. Isidore of Pelusium, "is always the worst of all evils... That is why, although the body is a single whole, not everything in it is of equal honour, but some members rule, while others are in subjection. So we are right to say that the authorities - that is, leadership and royal power - are established by God so that society should not fall into disorder."
"But if," continues St. Isidore, "some evildoer unlawfully seizes power, we do not say that he is established by God, but we say that he is allowed, either to spit out all his craftiness, or in order to chasten those for whom cruelty is necessary, as the king of Babylon chastened the Jews." In other words, we can say that every ruler is allowed to rule by God in the same sense that sinners are allowed to sin - in the sense, namely, that God does not prevent them from exercising their free will, either so that they should fill up the measure of their sins before being brought to judgement, or in order to punish those who are subject to them for their sins. Thus Soviet power, though not established by God, could be said to have been allowed by Him in order to chasten the Russian people for their sins.
Now St. Paul exhorts Christians not only to pray for the kings, who were impious pagans and enemies of the Church at that time, but even to give thanks for them "and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty" (I Tim. 2.1-2). Is it possible that St. Paul could sincerely have given thanks for the bloody persecutions of the Church? Certainly not! His words can be interpreted in two ways. Either he gave thanks for the principle of authority, of law and order, which the pagan emperors generally - when they were not persecuting the Church - embodied, and which both preserved St. Paul himself from the wrath of the Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere, and helped spread Christianity so rapidly from the borders of Persia in the East to Hadrian's Wall in the West. This is the most obvious interpretation.
However, there is a profounder interpretation suggested by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow: "The Spirit of God in him foresaw and more or less showed him the future light of Christian kingdoms. His God-inspired vision, piercing through future centuries, encounters Constantine, who brings peace to the Church and sanctifies the kingdom by faith; and Theodosius and Justinian, who defend the Church from the impudence of heresies. Of course, he also goes on to see Vladimir and Alexander Nevsky and many spreaders of the faith, defenders of the Church and guardians of Orthodoxy. After this it is not surprising that St. Paul should write: I beseech you not only to pray, but also to give thanks for the king and all those in authority; because there will be not only such kings and authorities for whom it is necessary to pray with sorrow…, but also those for whom we must thank God with joy for His precious gift."
In general, a special authority attached to the Roman empire, of which the Lord Himself was registered as a citizen, which in its Christian reincarnations as the New Rome of Constantinople and the Third Rome of Moscow played such an important role in preserving Orthodox Christianity to our day, and whose final removal, according to the Holy Fathers, would usher in the reign of the Antichrist. That was why the British ruler Ambrosius Aurelianus called himself "the last of the Romans", although in his time, the late fifth century, the Roman legions had left Britain long ago. And that was why, as late as the tenth century, the English King Athelstan called himself "Basileus", declaring thereby that his State was in some sense still Roman.
All Christians were obliged to revere the authority of the Christian Roman emperor above every other political authority, even if they lived under the authority of other rulers. Thus when Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople established the Russian patriarchate in 1589, he confirmed that the Russian Tsardom was "the Third Rome" and declared, addressing the Tsar: "Thou alone under heaven art Christian emperor for all Christians in the world." Not all Christian leaders kept this testament, and there is an interesting incident from the life of Schema-Hieromonk Hilarion the Georgian, which illustrates just how dangerous such neglect could be:-
During the Crimean War of 1854-56, when the Russian armies were fighting the Turks and their Western allies on Russian soil, the Ecumenical Patriarch issued an order that all the monasteries on Mount Athos should pray for the triumph of the Turkish armies during the war. On hearing this, the Georgian elder, Fr. Hilarion said of the patriarch: "He is not a Christian", and when he heard that the monks of Grigoriou monastery had carried out the patriarch's command, he said: "You have been deprived of the grace of Holy Baptism, and have deprived your monastery of the grace of God." And when the abbot came to the elder to repent, he said to him: "How did you dare, wretched one, to put Mohammed higher than Christ? God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ says to His Son: 'Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet' (Psalm 109.1), but you ask Him to put His son under the feet of His enemies!"
Again, in a letter to the head of chancellery of the Russian Holy Synod, Elder Hilarion wrote: "The other peoples' kings [i.e. not the Russian Tsar] often make themselves out to be something great, but not one of them is a king in reality, but they are only adorned and flatter themselves with a great name, but God is not favourably disposed towards them, and does not abide in them. They reign only in part, by the condescension of God. Therefore he who does not love his God-established tsar is not worthy of being called a Christian..."
This authority remained in spite of the fact that at certain times the Roman empire acquired the image rather of the beast than of "the minister of God". For while some of the fruits of the tree were infected by evil influences from without, its root and trunk remained good as being established by the only Good One. That is why it was incumbent upon all Christians to pray and give thanks for the Roman emperors, whether of the Old, New or Third Rome; for, as St. Seraphim said: "After Orthodoxy, zealous devotion to the Tsar is the Russian's first duty and the chief foundation of true Christian piety."
In other words, God-established authority, being one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12.27), belongs in the first place only to the Christian Roman emperors and to those other Christian rulers who have received the true anointing of the Holy Church. In a secondary sense, it may also be said to belong to other, non-Christian rulers who maintain the basic principle of law and order against the forces of anarchy and revolution. However, this secondary kind of authority is only partial and relative; and the authority of truly Christian rulers must always be revered by Christians above any other kind of political authority, even if the latter is the authority they live under.
Were there any rulers for whom the early Church refused to pray and give thanks? Yes: in the fourth century, St. Basil the Great prayed for the defeat of Julian the Apostate, and it was through his prayers that the apostate was killed, as was revealed by God to the holy hermit Julian of Mesopotamia. This raises the interesting question: what was different about Julian the Apostate that made him so much worse than previous persecutors and unworthy even of that honour and thanks that was given to them? Was it because he was an apostate from the Christian faith? Or because he tried to help the Jews rebuild the Temple and thereby became in a very direct sense a forerunner of the Antichrist?
Let us explore each of these suggestions in turn. The first can be expressed as follows. A ruler is a true, God-established authority if he provides a minimal degree of law and order. Such a ruler may be a Christian or even a pagan; for even pagans can be good rulers in the purely political sense, and the early Christians found no difficulty in obeying and honouring the pagan emperors in everything except their religious policies. However, an apostate from the true faith represents a much more dangerous threat to the Christian people. For the weaker brethren may be tempted to obey him, not only in his political demands, but also in his religious policy, seeing in him a Christian by baptism. Moreover, the apostate ruler may attack the authority of previous Orthodox rulers, declaring that they were not only religious heretics, but also political traitors or usurpers. Therefore an apostate ruler has the ability to shake the foundations of both Church and State.
It is certainly true that some of the most critical periods in the history of the Church have coincided with the reigns of apostate rulers. Thus the Church was much fiercer in her condemnation of the iconoclast rulers of eighth- and ninth-century Byzantium than of the pagan rulers of the first three Christian centuries. At the same time, there is no evidence that the Church called on the faithful of that time to refuse to pay taxes or give military service to the iconoclast emperors, still less rise up in open rebellion against them. Indeed, the Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council make it clear that the confessors of the truth prayed for the success of the iconoclast emperors in military affairs while rebuking them for their impiety. Perhaps this was because the iconoclast rulers continued the political traditions of Christian Rome, if not her religious traditions, so that they could still be called authorities in the political sense. Or perhaps the Church foresaw that the last iconoclast ruler would die and be succeeded by the Orthodox rulers Michael and Theodora - in other words, that the ship of State would right itself in time without the need for any violent corrective action.
A more ambiguous example is the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The Norman ruler, William the Conqueror, was crowned as the first Catholic king of England on January 6, 1067. One year and one day earlier, on January 5, 1066, King Edward the Confessor, Harold's predecessor, had died after prophesying: "Since those who have climbed to the highest offices in the kingdom of England, the earls, bishops and abbots, and all those in holy orders, are not what they seem to be, but, on the contrary, are servants of the devil, on a year and one day after the day of your death God had delivered all this kingdom cursed by Him, into the hands of the enemy, and devils shall come through all this land with fire and sword and the havoc of war." William not only imposed the heresy of Papism upon his new subjects. He also rejected the legitimacy of the last, Orthodox ruler, King Harold, who had been anointed by the Holy Church, and himself imposed a completely new culture upon England which can best be described as "totalitarian".
Seeing, therefore, that they stood to lose everything of true value, the Orthodox English resisted force with force, and, when defeated, emigrated in large numbers to foreign lands - mainly Constantinople (where English soldiers formed the core of the emperor's bodyguard until the Fourth Crusade in 1204) and Kievan Russia (where the daughter of the last Orthodox English king, Gytha, married Great-Prince Vladimir Monomakh, and a colony called "New England" was founded in the Crimea).
Are we to say, then, that from 1066 England entered the era of the Antichrist, and that all faithful Christians were bound to refuse obedience to the pseudo-authority represented by William and his successors?
Britain had been part of the Roman Empire since 43 A.D., and her Christianization began at about the same time. In the ten centuries that followed, in spite of falls and apostasies, Britain remained culturally and religiously, if not politically, within the orbit of Rome, both the Old Rome and the Orthodox Christian Empire of New Rome. However, when the Roman papacy fell away from the Truth in 1054, and all the kingdoms of the West were gradually forced into submission to papist rulers, of which William the Conqueror was one, "he that restrains" the advent of the Antichrist "was removed from the midst" of the Western peoples (II Thess. 2.7). And so, as the English Proto-Protestant John Wiclif wrote in 1383, "the pride of the Pope is the cause why the Greeks are divided from the so-called faithful... It is we westerners, too fanatical by far, who have been divided from the faithful Greeks and the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ."
So perhaps rebellion against the pseudo-authority of William was indeed necessary for the first generation of Englishmen he ruled, who had been born in Orthodoxy and of whom an anonymous English poet wrote: "The teachers are lost, and many of the people too". However, as time passed and new generations which had never known Orthodoxy were born, the question of resistance to the rulers became meaningless; for in the name of what, and for the sake of what, should heretics rise up against heretics? And now, over nine hundred years later, Orthodox Christians, both native and foreign, live in the apostate nations of the West without, generally, giving a thought to the legitimacy or illegitimacy of their rulers. This is not, of course, because the West has repented of its apostasy, but because that apostasy has become less overtly aggressive towards Orthodoxy, and because the present rulers, unlike those of the late eleventh century, do - for the time being - guarantee that minimum of law and order which, as we have seen, is the essence of authority in the apostles' sense of the word.
Moving on some three hundred years, we come to the first clear example of a successful armed rebellion of an Orthodox Christian people against their rulers - that of the Russians against the Tatars. Now when the Tatars had first invaded Russia in the thirteenth century, St. Alexander Nevsky had decided to fight the Catholic Teutonic Knights but submit to the Tatars because the former threatened the faith of his subjects while the latter threatened only their political independence. So the Tatars were granted to have greater political legitimacy than the Catholics, if only because their pretensions were only political. Why, then, some 150 years later, did the Russians rise up against the rulers they had accepted as legitimate for so long - with the blessing, moreover, of one of the holiest men who ever lived, St. Sergius of Radonezh? There is no evidence that the Tatars had become significantly more intolerant towards the Orthodox Faith; nor were they apostates from that faith, having never confessed it.
It is tempting to conclude that the difference here consisted in the fact that St. Sergius foresaw, through the Spirit of God that was in him, that a rebellion now would be successful and would have good long-term consequences for the Church as a whole. But does that not mean that the judgement as to the legitimacy or illegitimacy of a ruler, and whether or not it is right to remain in obedience to him, - at any rate if he is not an Orthodox Christian, - is not a purely moral question, but contains an element of political or military calculation? Of course, prudence and foresight are not qualities having nothing to do with morality; but we might reasonably suppose that if a ruler is legitimate, that is, established by God, it would be wrong to rebel and try to overthrow him in any circumstances, even if we could be sure that our attempt would be successful and would not lead to any terrible reprisals for the Orthodox people.
Let us consider another example of a successful and righteous rebellion against the powers that be - that of the Russian people against the Catholic Poles in 1612. Of course, the Catholics were heretics, and it was reasonably expected that the false Dimitri, even if he formally converted to Orthodoxy, would protect the Jesuits whose aim was to catholicize Russia. On the other hand, the enterprise was fraught with great risk; the Russians themselves were divided, and other foreign powers, such as the Swedes, were waiting to pounce. Why, then, did the holy Patriarch Hermogen bless what was, in effect, civil war? Was it again because he foresaw, by the Spirit of God within him, that the Russian armies would triumph and usher in the Orthodox dynasty of the Romanovs?
If the Tatars in 1380, and the Catholics in 1612 (and again in 1812), were less than fully legitimate rulers against whom the Lord Himself, in the persons of His saints, raised successful rebellions at specific times, there can be no doubt that a rebellion against Soviet power could have been both legitimate and successful. Moreover, an implicit blessing for rebellion was contained in the decree of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of January 22, 1918, which confirmed Patriarch Tikhon's anathematization of Soviet power three days earlier and his exhortation "not to commune with such outcasts of the human race in any matter whatsoever - 'cast out the wicked from among you' (I Cor. 5.13)", and went on to declare: "Orthodox! His Holiness the Patriarch has been given the right to bind and to loose according to the word of the Saviour... Do not destroy your souls, cease communion with the servants of Satan - the Bolsheviks. Parents, if your children are Bolsheviks, demand authoritatively that they renounce their errors, that they bring forth repentance for their eternal sin, and if they do not obey you, renounce them. Wives, if your husbands are Bolsheviks and stubbornly continue to serve Satan, leave your husbands, save yourselves and your children from the soul-destroying infection. An Orthodox Christian cannot have communion with the servants of the devil... Repent, and with burning prayer call for help from the Lord of Hosts and thrust away from yourselves 'the hand of strangers' - the age-old enemies of the Christian faith, who have declared themselves in self-appointed fashion 'the people's power'... If you do not obey the Church, you will not be her sons, but participants in the cruel and satanic deeds wrought by the open and secret enemies of Christian truth... Dare! Do not delay! Do not destroy your soul and hand it over to the devil and his stooges."
Moreover, in his Epistle to the Council of People's Commissars in October, 1918, the Patriarch wrote: "It is not our affair to judge the earthly authorities; every power allowed by God would draw upon itself our blessing if it were truly 'the minister of God' for the good of those subject to it and 'terrible not for good works but for evil' (Rom. 13.3,4)" - which clearly implied that Soviet power, which was terrible for good works and not for evil, was not "the minister of God".
Nevertheless, in spite of all these historical, scriptural and conciliar justifications, the Patriarch did not in the end bless the White armies who fought against the Soviets; nor were those armies blessed with victory from on high. Why? Because the Patriarch foresaw, by the Spirit of God within him, that it would not be successful? Perhaps; but this begs the question why it was not successful, why God did not bless it. Because Soviet power was in fact of God, so that rebellion against it was rebellion against God, as the renovationists and sergianists would have it? We have already given sufficient reasons why this argument is invalid. In any case, if it were valid, then the sergianists would be forced to recognize that the rebellions of the Russian people in 1380 and 1612, though blessed by the greatest Russian saints, were also wicked rebellions against legitimate, God-established authorities.
The White armies failed, not because Soviet power was of God, and so should not have been resisted, but because, as Starets Aristocles of Moscow put it, "the spirit is not right". And the spirit was not right because, while there were many true Christians and monarchists on the side of the Whites, their leaders (admittedly, under strong pressure from their western allies) did not put as their aim the restoration of Holy - that is, Orthodox and Tsarist Russia, but rather the restoration of the property of the landowners, or the reconvening of the Constituent Assembly, or one or another similar non-spiritual goal.
The rebellion of the Catacomb Church, which began some ten years later, in 1927-28, was more spiritual and therefore more successful; and it is to the many thousands, perhaps millions, of martyrs and confessors of the Catacomb Church that we must ascribe the fall of Soviet power - or, at any rate, its temporary eclipse. Having never had much to lose, they did not aim at the restoration of material goods; having no faith in democracies, they did not agitate for "human rights". They simply repented, suffered and died; and with every death, the walls of the Antichrist's kingdom became weaker...
And it is to a document of the Catacomb Church that we owe the clearest, most theologically convincing explanation of why Soviet power was not simply a true authority gone wrong, not simply a ruler abusing his God-given authority, but precisely an anti-authority. Here is an extract from this document: "How should one look on the Soviet authority, following the Apostolic teaching on authorities [Rom. 13]? In accordance with the Apostolic teaching which we have set forth, one must acknowledge that the Soviet authority is not an authority. It is an anti-authority. It is not an authority because it is not established by God, but insolently created by an aggregation of the evil actions of men, and it is consolidated and supported by these actions. If the evil actions weaken, the Soviet authority, representing a condensation of evil, likewise weakens... This authority consolidates itself in order to destroy all religions, simply to eradicate faith in God. Its essence is warfare with God, because its root is from satan. The Soviet authority is not authority, because by its nature it cannot fulfil the law, for the essence of its life is evil.
"It may be said that the Soviet authority, in condemning various crimes of men, can still be considered an authority. We do not say that a ruling authority is totally lacking. We only affirm that it is an anti-authority. One must know that the affirmation of real power is bound up with certain actions of men, to whom the instinct of preservation is natural. And they must take into consideration the laws of morality which have been inherent in mankind from ages past. But in essence this authority systematically commits murder physically and spiritually. In reality a hostile power acts, which is called Soviet authority. The enemy strives by cunning to compel humanity to acknowledge this power as an authority. But the Apostolic teaching on authority is inapplicable to it, just as evil is inapplicable to God and the good, because evil is outside God; but the enemies with hypocrisy can take refuge in the well-known saying that everything is from God. This Soviet anti-authority is precisely the collective Antichrist, warfare against God..."
Let us now turn to the second possible criterion indicated above for the legitimacy or otherwise of political power: its relationship to "the mystery of lawlessness" (II Thess. 2.7), the Jewish revolution.
Julian the Apostate was uniquely repugnant to the Church not only because he was an apostate from Christianity, but, still more important, because he helped the Jews in their attempt to rebuild the Temple of Solomon. If God had not thwarted the Jews' plan by causing fire to emerge from the foundations of the Temple, it is very possible that they would have proclaimed Julian himself as the Messiah, just as the Great Sanhedrin offered to proclaim Napoleon as the Messiah when he proposed to complete Julian's project some fifteen hundred years later. Thus when St. Basil, whose name means "king", prayed for the destruction of Julian, he was in fact carrying out, in the absence of a true king, the kingly role of "him who restrains" the appearance of the Antichrist (II Thess. 2.7).
Roman pagan power, for all its antichristian excesses, did not support the Jewish revolution, but rather restrained it, through the destruction of Jerusalem and the suppression of successive Jewish rebellions. The same could be said of the Catholic and Islamic powers, which, although apostate and antichristian in the sense that they converted nations that had formerly been Orthodox Christian into enemies of God, remained hostile to the ambitions of the still more apostate and antichristian Jews. Thus it was Arabic Islamic power that cast the Jews out of Babylon in 1040, and Tatar Islamic power that threw the Jews out of Khazaria in the thirteenth century (whence they migrated to Catholic Poland). And it was English Catholic power that threw the Jews out of England in the Middle Ages, and Spanish and Portuguese Catholic power that threw the Jews out of the Iberian peninsula in the fifteenth century. For all these powers, antichristian or heretical though they were, understood from bitter experience (and their reading of the Talmud) that the Jews recognized no other authority than their own, and were essentially revolutionaries bent on establishing Jewish dominion over all other nations.
It is extremely significant that the first political power in history that recognized and supported the Jewish revolution was the European socialist revolution in its major successive stages: the English revolution of 1642, the French revolution of 1789 and the Russian revolution of 1917. Thus Cromwell, after killing King Charles I and introducing the Puritan revolution with its heavily socialist and communist overtones, invited the Jews back into England. Again, the French Jacobins gave full rights to the Jews, and these were confirmed and extended by Napoleon. This was followed, in the course of the nineteenth century, by the emancipation of the Jews in all the countries of Europe except Spain and Portugal in the West and Russia and Romania in the East. Thus immediately after the Orthodox Balkan nations were liberated from the Turks, they gave the Jews the privileges that the Ottoman Turks had denied them.
It was in 1917 that the Jewish revolution first emerged fully out of the underground, and seized significant political power - and not only in Russia. For by one of those extraordinary coincidences by which God reveals His mysteries to those with eyes to see, the October revolution in Petrograd and the promise of a homeland to the Jews in Palestine by the British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour took place at exactly the same time, being reported on the very same column of newsprint in the London Times of November 9, 1917. It was as if the beast suddenly emerged out of the sea of the Gentile peoples, being visible simultaneously in two of its horns - one situated in Bolshevik Moscow, on the ruins of the last Orthodox Christian empire, and the other in Zionist Jerusalem. Indeed, as Chaim Weitzmann, the first president of Israel, witnessed in his autobiography, the leaders of the Bolshevik and Zionist movements came, not only from the same race and territory - the formerly Khazarite Jews of the Russian Pale of Settlement, but even, sometimes, from the same families. It is now accepted even by "pro-Semite" historians, such as the Harvard professor Richard Pipes, that the great majority of the leaders of the Bolshevik party were Jews.
Now "pro-Semites" point out that the Bolshevik Jews were very different from the Zionist-Talmudic Jews, being atheist as opposed to theist, internationalist as opposed to nationalist; and that they persecuted the Jewish religion only a little less severely than Orthodox Christianity. This is true; but the similarities remain more striking and profound than the differences. First, Bolshevism should be described as antitheist rather than atheist, having a quasi-religiously intense hatred of God that is not typical of simple unbelievers. It is as if the Bolsheviks, like the demons who inhabited them, both believed and trembled - but drowned their fear in the intense zeal of their hatred of everything that reminded them of God. Similarly, Talmudist Zionism should be described as antitheist rather than theist, being based on an intense hatred of the One True God, Jesus Christ (Who is described in the Talmud as a sorcerer born of a whore and a Roman soldier), and of the race of the Christians, such as is rarely if ever found in any other religion or world-view.
Secondly, as Bertrand Russell pointed out, many elements of the Marxist system are reminiscent of Judaism: the same striving for the promised land on earth and in time (communism and the withering away of the state); the same division of the peoples of the world into the chosen people (the proletariat) and the goyim (the exploiting classes), and the hatred incited against the latter; and the same cult of the false Messiah (the infallible leader or party).
Thirdly, there is considerable evidence that the Bolshevik revolution was conceived in the bowels of Zionism. Thus it is well known that Western Jewish financiers financed the Bolshevik revolution (as they financed the early rise of Hitler, according to Hitler himself). And the murder of the Tsar and his family was carried out not only by Jews but also in a specifically Jewish religious, ritualistic manner.
But the most famous evidence for the specifically Talmudist-Zionist origin of the Bolshevik revolution lies in the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was first published in Russian at the turn of the century by the disciple of the Optina elders and future confessor of the Catacomb Church, Sergius Alexandrovich Nilus. The Protocols consist of minutes of a series of meetings of the leaders of Judaeo-Masonry in Paris, and describe in great detail the means whereby the Zionists planned to gain control of the Gentile States and eventually enthrone one of their number as king of the Jews and ruler of the world. When the revolution took place in 1917, the actual course of events was so close to that described in the Protocols that it became imperative for the Bolsheviks to destroy and/or fatally discredit them by all possible means. So the Bolsheviks invaded the Holy Trinity Lavra, where the book was published, and destroyed every copy of it they could find; while the Jewish press in the West tried to prove it was a forgery. However, General Nechvolodov proved that all these attempts to refute the authenticity of the Protocols were themselves based on forgeries.
The high point of Bolshevik-Zionist cooperation came in 1948, when the Soviet Union became (with Britain) one of the guarantors of the newborn State of Israel, thereby repaying the debt which the Bolsheviks owed to the Jewish American financiers in 1917. Thereafter, however, Stalin and his successors became increasingly "anti-semite", until, in the Brezhnev era, the Soviet Union came to be seen, with the Arabs, as the main threat to Israel's existence. It is significant that this change of direction coincided with a limited, but definite relaxation of pressure on Orthodox Christianity (of the official kind) in the Soviet Union, and a gradual regeneration of Russian national consciousness. This could not fail to be reflected in a reaction against that other national principle which had destroyed Holy Russia.
At this point Satan's kingdom on earth looked dangerously divided against itself; the two horns of the beast began to turn in towards each other, threatening "mutually assured destruction". Now nuclear war between Israel and its allies, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and its allies, on the other, was not in the plans of the Elders of Zion. So it was decided that the leaders of the southern and western half of the conspiracy should take control of the northern and eastern half - "perestroika" was born. Under Gorbachev the Bolshevik bear, having served its purpose nicely, was muzzled; and under Yeltsin, "the empire of evil" is being turned into just another shopping mall - or gangster wasteland.
Yeltsin, as was openly announced in Pravda, is a Mason, and Masonry has been re-established in Russia under his protection. Moreover, his policies have promoted the westernization of Russia which has been the aim of the Masons since before the revolution. Thus the prophecy of Hieroconfessor Theodore (Rafanovich) of the Russian Catacomb Church (+1975) has been fulfilled: "The communists have been hurled at the Church like a crazy dog. Their Soviet emblem - the hammer and sickle - corresponds to their mission. With the hammer they beat people over the head, and with the sickle they mow down the churches. But then the Masons will remove the communists and take control of Russia..."
Meanwhile, the Judaization of the West nears its zenith: Ecumenism has destroyed any remaining "prejudices" against the Jewish religion, and the Vatican has recognized Israel; some Protestant sects have begun to argue that anti-Christian Israel is "the Bride of Christ"; the U.S.A. is preparing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in spite of Palestinian protests; the murder of Orthodox priests and monastics has begun again in Israel; and Jewish extremists with the full cooperation of the government build a tunnel under the Dome of the Rock with the aim of destroying it and rebuilding the Temple of Solomon in its place - the essential prerequisite to the enthronement of the Antichrist.
Thus the religio-political situation towards the end of the twentieth century may be summarized as follows. The Orthodox Christian Empire, "that which restraineth" the advent of the Antichrist, is dead and buried - and only a tiny remnant still awaits its resurrection. The first major power that began the dismemberment of its eastern and southern territories, Islam, is more powerful than ever - but remains bitterly opposed to the Jewish Antichrist. The power that carved up its western territories, Catholicism, together with its bastard child, Protestantism, is also very powerful; and spiritually and politically it has already handed over its birthright to the Antichrist. And the power that destroyed its northern territories, Bolshevism, has been put to sleep like a dog because it threatened to bite the hand that fed it...
What can we conclude from this about the legitimacy of the present-day Russian democracy? Has Russia again acquired a power that is from God? Or is the successor to the Soviet beast no better than the beast itself?
In order to answer this question let us return to the fateful year 1917. It is usually assumed that while the democratic revolution of February, 1917 paved the way for the communist revolution of October, it was more legitimate than the latter because less fierce, more expressive of the will of the people. But it should be clear by now that neither gentleness nor popularity are criteria of legitimacy in a theological sense. After all, it is not the mandate of earth, but of heaven, that we are seeking. The Antichrist himself, according to the Tradition of the Church, will both bring both peace and prosperity, and will be highly popular in the first part of his reign.
Some very distinguished men refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Provisional Government, among them Metropolitan Macarius (Parvitsky), the Apostle of the Altai. Again, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) wrote in 1922: "Who can deny that the February revolution was as God-fighting and anti-monarchist [as the October revolution]? Who can condemn the Bolshevik movement and at the same time approve of the Provisional government? It raised its hand against the Anointed of God. It annihilated the ecclesiastical principle in the army. It introduced the civil oath. In a word, all this was the triumph of that nihilism which has been known to Russian society already for three quarters of a century."
Thus if the transition from democracy to communism in 1917 was by no means a transition from light to darkness, but rather from one phase of the revolution to another, we cannot assume that the transition from communism to democracy in 1991 was any different in principle. Certainly, this Russian democracy has not brought peace or prosperity, but division and crushing poverty. It has not restored true religion, but confirmed the authority of the KGB agents in cassocks. It has not raised the morals of the people, but sunk them to hitherto unheard-of depths. It has not restored law and order, but rather created the criminal state par excellence, a state run by ex-communists who use their power in the pursuit of the worst kinds of capitalist excess.
In this connection, it is highly significant that the same communist who destroyed the Ipatiev house, in which the last Tsar was murdered, is now the democratic president of Russia. For in the last analysis it is by its attitude to the events that took place in that house that every Russian government since 1917 must be judged. Regret at the barbarity of the deed is not enough; attendance at the burial of the Tsar's remains, or his official canonization, is not enough. What is required is repentance and the reversal of the revolution by the restoration of the Orthodox monarchy. Thus at present only a Provisional Russian government can be a legitimate one - Provisional, that is, in the sense that it is merely preparatory to the rule of the future Tsar...
October 15/28, 1996.
5. ON MONARCHISM, TRUE AND FALSE
On May 19, 1990, the birthday of Tsar Nicholas II, when Soviet power was beginning to collapse following the multi-party elections in March, the Orthodox Monarchist Order met in Moscow and called for the restoration of the senior member of the Romanov family, Grand-Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, to the throne of all the Russias. Grand-Duke Vladimir was at that time a member of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), and in the following eighteen months the cause both of True Orthodox monarchism and of the ROCA prospered. Many parishes were opened on Russian territory, and the possibility of a real regeneration both of Church and State in Russia beckoned.
However, when the Grand Duke returned to Russia, he kissed the cross, not of the true hierarchs of the Free Russian Orthodox Church, but of Patriarch Alexis of the Moscow Patriarchate; and his apostasy from Orthodoxy was sealed by his speedy death as a member of “the Church of the evil-doers”. Shortly after that, the mission of the ROCA inside Russia also began to falter, and in February, 1995 the ROCA Synod dealt itself a fatal blow by uncanonically expelling five of her Russian bishops from her midst. Since then, the ROCA has continued to exist, but “limping”, in the words of the Prophet Elijah, “on two feet”: one foot still clings to the firm, dry land of True Orthodoxy, while the other seeks vainly to establish a toe-hold in the treacherous bogs of “World Orthodoxy”.
This ambiguity of confession is reflected in a recent unsigned article on monarchism in a ROCA publication. On the one hand, much space is devoted to such traditional themes as the superiority of the hereditary principle over the elective one, the necessity of faithfulness to the Romanov dynasty, as enjoined by the 1613 Council of the Russian Church, and the views of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and St. John Maximovich in support of these views. On the other hand, it is argued that Russia already now, before the convening of a Zemsky Sobor on the model of the 1613 Council, has a true Empress – Maria Vladimirovna Romanova, the widow of the same Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, who apostasised from the ROCA in 1991.
The anonymous author makes no reference to the fact that Grand-Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, the father-in-law of the present “Empress”, was rejected from the line of succession by Tsar-Martyr Nicholas himself. However, we pass over this fact and come to a still more fundamental one: the fact, namely, that Maria Vladimirovna Romanovna cannot possibly be considered as either a present or a future “Empress of Russia” so long as she (together with her son, the supposed Heir Apparent) are participants in the sergianist and ecumenist heresies. For the Empire exists for Orthodoxy, not Orthodoxy for the Empire, and it is better to have no Empire than to have one that pursues a pseudo-Orthodox ideal which, because of its superficial approximation to the truth, may lead even more people away from the truth.
Previous generations of ROCA theologians were not slow to see the dangers of a pseudo-monarchism or patriotism. Thus Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) wrote in 1922: “Is it not sufficient to call on the people to unite around the task of expelling the Bolsheviks? Is it rational to impose on them a lawful monarchy before that? Nobody has spoken of imposition, nobody has spoken about how precisely Russia is to be restored. The [1921 All-Emigration] Council proposed that we pray for her restoration, that is, the restoration of a monarchical and theocratic Russia such as existed before the revolution. But now I shall tell you: to unite on a negative principle is a lost cause. The struggle for liberation will be strong and firm only if the hearts of the warriors and of all the actors will be filled with… a positive ideal and hope to regenerate that Holy Rus’ which is dear to all and for which it is sweet to die. If Denikin’s army had inscribed this on their standards their cause would not have ended so sadly, they would not have lost the love of the people.
“Unfortunately, the most noble and pious leader of that army listened to useless counsellors foreign to Russia who sat on his Special Convention and destroyed the cause. To the Russian people, the real people, the believing and struggling people, the bare formula of a “united and undivided” Russia is not necessary. Nor does it need a “Christian” or a “Faithless” or a “Tsarist” or an “Aristocratic” (by which they always mean a republican) Russia; it needs the combination of three dear words – for the Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland. Most of all it needs the first word, as ruling the whole of state life; it needs the second word as protecting and guarding the first, and the third as the bearer of the first two – and that is all….”
Today, alas, the ROCA, in accordance with its more favourable attitude to the heretical Moscow Patriarchate, appears also to be adopting a more favourable attitude to the idea of a MP tsar. Having abandoned the hope of a truly Holy Russia (since the “mother church” refuses to reform her ways), she is concentrating her hopes on a Tsarist Russia. Thus her formula is: Tsar, Fatherland and (in the last place) Faith.
Let us recall that after, during the Time of Troubles, when the Poles and renegade Russians forced Tsar Basil Shuisky to abdicate and installed a Catholic tsar in the Kremlin, Patriarch Hermogen not only anathematised the new “tsar” and all who followed him, but called on the Orthodox to rise up in armed rebellion against the usurper. Such a step had precedents in Church history. Thus in the fourth century, St. Basil the Great prayed for the destruction of Julian the Apostate – and his prayer was answered. Again, in the sixth century, St. Hermenegild, prince of Spain, rose up in rebellion against his heretical father, the king, for the sake of Holy Orthodoxy. The prince was defeated and suffered martyrdom for refusing to receive communion from an Arian bishop. But after his and his father’s death, the Spanish Visigothic élite accepted Orthodoxy. Again, in 1066, the Pope blessed the invasion of “schismatic” England by the usurper Duke William of Normandy, who was then crowned the first Catholic king of England. Two brother-bishops from the north of England, Ethelwine and Ethelric, led the opposition. They anathematised the Pope and rejected the king, dying as confessors in prison.
By contrast with Byzantium, where the Emperor did not receive his legitimacy from the Church’s anointing, but from the acclamation of “the Senate and People of Rome”, and where anointing was not introduced until the tenth century at the earliest, in Russia (and some Western Orthodox countries, such as Spain and England) it was the Church that had the decisive voice in legitimising a new tsar, first in receiving the tsar’s confession of the Orthodox Faith and then in anointing him “into the kingdom”. The anonymous author of the article under discussion considers the act of anointing to have been of secondary significance, even in Russia, because the Russian tsars regularly entered upon their royal duties many months before their coronation and anointing. However, we must distinguish the situation in which the heir to the throne enters naturally and without dispute into the rights of the kingdom on the death of his father, from the situation in which there has been an interregnum (mezhdutsartstvie), a period of civil war, and there are several candidates for the throne, perhaps even candidates of different faiths. In both cases the formal anointing to the kingdom is vital in conferring those gifts of the Holy Spirit without which the new tsar cannot carry out his duties in a God-pleasing manner. For, as Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow said: “The Sovereign receives his entire legitimacy from the Church’s anointment”. (This is not to deny, of course, that, as the anonymous author points out, the early Byzantine tsars, being raised to the kingdom according to pagan rather than fully Christian traditions, may have received their anointing in an invisible manner from God, and that, as Metropolitan Philaret points out, even the pagan King Cyrus of Persia received an invisible anointing (Isaiah 45.1)). But in the second case the sacrament of anointing not only confers the gift of the Holy Spirit: it also ends the argument about the succession, cutting off the last excuse for rebellion. We know, for example, that when there was more than one candidate for the throne of Orthodox England in 975, the archbishop of Canterbury, St. Dunstan, ended the argument by anointing one of the two candidates, St. Edward the Martyr.
Now the situation in Russia today is that of an interregnum similar to that of the Time of Troubles. Although the antichristian power of the Soviets, anathematised by the Church, has fallen, the Orthodox State has not been restored and its restoration does not appear imminent. The reason for this is simple: the vast majority of the population are not Orthodox. If anyone has any doubts on this question, he is advised to read the results of an extensive poll carried out by the Institute of Sociology at the Russian Academy of Sciences carried out by Professor Vladimir Andreenkov. Even many in the most religious segment of the population, in itself very small, were found to hold various views which are contrary to the Orthodox faith. St. Constantine came to power in the Roman Empire when between 5-10% of the population of the Empire was Christian – Christians, moreover, of a very high calibre, many of whom had passed through the fire and water of torments at the hands of pagan persecutors. Of course, Russia today also has living confessors of the faith; but they, together with all the True Orthodox Christians, still constitute only a tiny percentage of the population.
In view of this, it is useless to actively pursue the goal of the restoration of an Orthodox tsar in the near future (as opposed to spreading the Orthodox teaching on politics, which is both useful and an integral part of the Orthodox Faith). Such agitation is putting the cart before the horse. If a truly Orthodox tsar happened to come to power today, he would almost immediately be overthrown, finding very little support in a population that pursues quite other aims than the salvation of its soul. Only when a sufficient proportion of the population has received the true faith and a spiritual fervour capable of firing those around them with the same fervour, will society be capable of receiving the gift of the Orthodox kingdom to its profit and not to its condemnation. For while the Lord is always ready to bestow his good things on the faithful, He will not bestow them before they are spiritually ready to receive them.
But if it is useless to agitate for the restoration of the Orthodox kingdom through the enthronement of a truly Orthodox tsar now, it is worse than useless to agitate for the creation of an heretical kingdom, even if “Orthodox” by name, through the enthronement of a heretical tsar. And yet that, sadly, is what our anonymous author appears to be doing. He appears not to understand that a tsar of the sergianist-ecumenist faith, of whatever royal pedigree he might be, would very likely persecute the True Orthodox Christians and complete the final destruction of Russian Orthodoxy begun by the communists…
A tsar of the sergianist-ecumenist faith would almost certainly both believe in and be a constitutional monarch – that is, a king who recognizes his power as coming from the people, whose representative he is. But this is the opposite of the Orthodox understanding of the Tsardom, according to which the Tsar’s power comes from God, to Whom alone He is responsible. The Tsar represents the people only in the sense that he shares their faith and obedience to God, and represents their moral-religious ideal; for the "the supreme power," writes L.A. Tikhomirov, "expresses the whole spirit, traditions, beliefs and ideals of the people", since it is "not the representative of some kind of will of the people, albeit Christian, but is the expressor of the people's moral-religious ideal."
It was this relationship between the Tsar and the people which explained the indifference of Russians to the western idea of a constitution limiting the monarchy or "protecting" the people from it. As Dostoyevsky put it: "Our constitution is mutual love. Of the Monarch for the people and of the people for the Monarch."
Elder Barsanuphius of Optina expressed this contrast in the Eastern and Western conceptions as follows: "The devotion of the Orthodox Russian people to their Tsars is not at all the same as the devotion of the western peoples to their sovereigns. According to modern western conceptions, the sovereign is nothing other than a representative of his people - and the western peoples love their representatives and willingly submit to them when they faithfully carry out this mission, or when by the power of their genius they draw the people after them and blind them by the brilliance of glory and state power, like Napoleon in France and Frederick in Prussia [and, we might add, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany]; but this love is self-serving and egoistical. In the West it is themselves that the people love in their sovereigns. If the king by his personal character is unable to be the faithful reflection and representative of the will of the people and the strivings, ideas and passions that rule in it, then they restrict and constrict his will by means of constitutional vices. But if the king does not submit to these attempts, and is unable to submit to the taste and character of his subjects, then he is deprived not only of the love of the people, but also of the throne, as it was with Charles X and Louis-Philippe and the Sardinian king Albert.
"It is not at all like that with us in Russia: our Tsar is the representative of the will of God, and not the people's will. His will is sacred for us, as the will of the Anointed of God; we love him because we love God. If the Tsar gives us glory and prosperity, we receive it from him as a Mercy of God. But if we are overtaken by humiliation and poverty, we bear them with meekness and humility, as a heavenly punishment for our iniquities, and never do we falter in our love for, and devotion to, the Tsar, as long as they proceed from our Orthodox religious convictions, our love and devotion to God."
It is often pointed out that Metropolitan Sergius was more successful in deceiving the Russian people than the renovationists because he retained the external form of Orthodoxy while denying its inner essence. In the same way a sergianist tsar might well be very successful in deceiving the Russian people by adopting, on the one hand, the “Orthodox” faith of the sergianist heretics, and on the other, by adopting all the external trappings of the ancient Russian tsardom, including “Orthodox anointing” at the hands of the sergianist “Orthodox patriarch” in the Kremlin Dormition cathedral. Nor is such a scenario possible only in Russia. It is reported that monarchist sentiment is rising throughout Eastern Europe (with the exception of Greece, where anti-westernism is combined with anti-monarchism). Moreover, exiled royal families of impeccable Orthodox ancestry are waiting to ascend the thrones of all the East European countries (including Greece). Unfortunately, their long residence in the West, where they still prefer to live, has meant that their “Orthodoxy” is of the heretical, “World Orthodox” variety. Moreover, their attitude towards monarchy is also westernized – constitutionalist rather than strictly autocratic.
Protopriest Lev Lebedev once speculated: “Everything could begin with a transitional period of democratic, constitutional monarchy. Even in such a form it could help Orthodox enlightenment. But Orthodox enlightenment will ‘work’ on the idea of transforming the constitutional monarchy into an autocratic one, such as existed in the Russian land from ancient times."
In the view of the present writer, this is a dangerous illusion. In the present state of the world, and in view of the faith and education of the present candidates for the thrones of Russia and Eastern Europe, a constitutional monarchy would inevitably base itself on western ideas of statehood and Church-State relations, and could serve as the channel only of western “enlightenment” in all spheres – albeit with an Orthodox “packaging”.
Let us consider perhaps the closest historical precedent – the Greek constitutional monarchy after the revolution of 1821. The new State of Greece, writes Charles Frazee, "looked to the west, the west of the American and French Revolutions, rather than to the old idea of an Orthodox community as it had functioned under the Ottomans. The emotions of the times did not let men see it; Orthodoxy and Greek nationality were still identified, but the winds were blowing against the dominant position of the Church in the life of the individual and the nation..."
Thus, forgetting the lessons of the council of Florence four hundred years earlier, the new State and Church entered into negotiations with the Pope for help against the Turks. Metropolitan Germanus of Patras was even empowered to speak concerning the possibility of a reunion of the Churches. However, it was the Pope who drew back at this point, pressurised by the other western States, which considered the sultan to be a legitimate monarch. The western powers helped Greece again when, in 1827, an Allied fleet under a British admiral destroyed the Turkish-Egyptian fleet at Navarino. But after the assassination of the president of Greece, Count Kapodistrias, in 1832, the country descended further into poverty and near civil war.
Then, in 1833, the western powers appointed a Catholic prince, Otto of Bavaria, as king of Greece, with three regents until he came of age, the most important being the Protestant George von Maurer. Maurer proceeded to work out a constitution for the country, which proposed autocephaly for the Church under a Synod of bishops, and the subordination of the Synod to the State on the model of the Bavarian and Russian constitutions, to the extent that "no decision of the Synod could be published or carried into execution without the permission of the government having been obtained". In spite of the protests of the patriarch of Constantinople and the tsar of Russia, and the walk-out of the archbishops of Rethymnon and Adrianople, this constitution was ratified by the signatures of thirty-six bishops on July 26, 1833.
In the following years, although the monarchs accepted Orthodoxy, the spiritual decline continued. Thus under pressure from the State, all monasteries with fewer than six monks were dissolved, and heavy taxes imposed on the remaining monasteries. And very little money was given to a Church which had lost six to seven thousand clergy in the war of liberation against the Turks, and whose remaining clergy had an abysmally low standard of education.
Thus an “Orthodox” constitutional monarchy turned out to be worse for the European Greeks than the absolutist Muslim empire (for rebellion against which they remained under the anathema of the Ecumenical Patriarchate until 1851). Moreover, the constitutional monarchy of the nineteenth century was not a “transitional period” leading to the restoration of full autocracy, as many Greeks hoped. On the contrary, in 1924, and again in the 1960s, the monarchy was overthrown, and remains in exile (and rather unpopular) to the present day.
Of course, Russia is not Greece, and there are other possible scenarios. Let us consider another one. George Vladimirovich Romanov, the present Heir to the Throne, according to our anonymous author, is enthroned in the Dormition cathedral by Patriarch Alexis Ridiger. Being young and inexperienced, and not well versed in Russian history or contemporary Russian politics, he comes to rely more and more on his spiritual father, Patriarch Alexis. Not that this is disapproved of by the Russian people: on the contrary, the relationship between Patriarch Alexis and Tsar George is hailed as being in the image of the relationship between Patriarch Philaret and his son Tsar Michael Fyodorovich in the early seventeenth century.
Having taken full power into his hands, while hiding behind the authority of the Tsar, the Patriarch takes it upon himself to restore the Empire of the Third Rome, renouncing the democratic ideology of the 1990s and adopting that of the “Orthodox” patriots. Having first reunited the Ukraine, Belorussia and much of Central Asia to the Russian State, and installed friendly “Orthodox” monarchies in the other states of Eastern Europe from Serbia to Georgia, he decides to realise the dream of the Romanov tsars by invading Constantinople. This provokes a war not only with the Muslims, but also with the West and China…
The dream of the restoration of the Orthodox Empire headed by an Orthodox tsar is not a harmful one, and has the support of several Orthodox prophecies (Greek as well as Russian). However, it is essential to place the accent on the fact that such a tsar must be truly Orthodox and ruling over a truly Orthodox people. Otherwise, the dream could turn into a nightmare, in which a wolf is accepted in sheep’s clothing, the Antichrist in the cap of Vladimir Monomakh. As Fr. Basil Redechkin, a catacomb priest of the Greek Old Calendarist Church, writes: “In these 70 years there have been a large quantity of people who have been devoted in mind and heart to Russia, but we can still not call them the regeneration of Russia. For such a regeneration a real unity into a society is necessary. .Such a unity in fulfilment of the prophecies is possible only on the basis of true Orthodoxy. Otherwise it is in no way a regeneration. Thus even if a tsar is elected, he must unfailingly belong to the true Orthodox Church. And to this Church must belong all the people constituting a regenerated Russia…”
Only a truly Orthodox tsardom can be a legitimate government for Russia – or a Provisional Government that consciously prepares the way for the return of Autocracy and unambiguously condemns the lawlessness of all that has taken place in Russian governmental life since February, 1917.
We find the same emphasis on the king’s confession of the true faith in the Holy Scriptures. Thus the Lord said to the people through Moses: “When thou shalt come unto the land which the Lord thy God shall choose, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me: thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother... And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel” (Deuteronomy 17.14-15,18-20).
Thus God blessed the institution of the monarchy, but stipulated three essential conditions if His blessing was to continue to rest on it. First, the people must itself desire to have a king placed over it. Secondly, the king must be someone “whom the Lord thy God shall choose”; a true king is chosen by God, not man. Such a man must be a “brother”, that is a member of the People of God, of the Church: if he is not, then God has not chosen him. Thirdly, he must govern in accordance with the Law of God, which he will strive to fulfil in all its parts.
In the period from Moses to Saul, the people were ruled by the Judges, many of whom, like Joshua, Jephtha and Gideon, were holy, truly charismatic leaders. However, towards the end of the period, since “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what seemed right to him” (Judges 21.25), and barbaric acts, such as that which almost led to the extermination of the tribe of Benjamin, are recorded. In their desperation at the mounting anarchy, the people called on God through the Prophet Samuel to provide them with a king.
God fulfilled their request. However, since the people’s motivation in seeking a king was not pure, not for the sake of being able to serve God more faithfully, He gave them at first a king who brought them more harm than good. For while Saul was a mighty man of war and temporarily expanded the frontiers of Israel at the expense of the Philistines and Ammonites, he persecuted True Orthodoxy, as represented by the future King David and his followers.
Moreover, he committed two specific sins which particularly angered the Lord. The first was his invasion of the sphere of the priesthood by sacrificing to the Lord before a battle with the Philistines. This, the sin of caesaropapism, was followed by a second, the sin of democratism: he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, together with the best of his livestock, instead of killing them all, as God had commanded, because, as Saul protested, “I listened to the voice of the people" (I Kings 15.20). In other words, he abdicated his God-given authority and, became, spiritually speaking, a democrat, a constitutionalist, listening to the people rather than to God.
And so Samuel said to him: "Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord also shall reject thee from being king over Israel" (I Kings 15.23). Soon Saul was defeated by the Philistines at Mount Gilboa and committed suicide. Worst of all, the Ark, the symbol of God’s grace and presence among the people, was captured by the enemy.
Thus the greatest tragedy in Israelite history to that time was caused by the people’s premature asking for a king. The fact that he was anointed according to all the rites of the Church saved neither him nor the people from disaster. And the situation was restored only through the ascension to the throne of David, a man who truly loved God and brought the Ark back to Zion.
Another example of this important spiritual truth is provided by the history of the northern kingdom of Israel after the schism from Judah. Although the northern kingdom had illegally separated from Judah, it continued to be accorded some legitimacy by the prophets. However, no sin is without its evil consequences; and soon there ascended the throne the evil King Ahab, whose Tyrian wife Jezabel tried to make Baalism the official religion of the State and began to persecute those who resisted her. In this, probably the first specifically religious persecution in history, the holy Prophet Elijah rose up in defence of the true faith, working miracles in the sight of all and slaughtering the priests of Baal and the soldiers whom Ahab sent against him.
After Elijah’s ascension to heaven his disciple Elisha continued the struggle in a new and highly significant way: he ordered the anointing of a new king, Jehu, in the place of Ahab’s dynasty. Jehu led the counter-revolution which killed Jezabel and restored the true faith to Israel. Here, then, we see the first application of a very important principle, namely, that loyalty to the autocracy is conditional on its loyalty to the true faith.
Many have rightly said that the primary cause of Russia’s tragedy has been her disloyalty to her lawful anointed sovereign, and that regeneration can come only through repentance for this betrayal. The beginnings of repentance are certainly discernible in the Russian people, together with an increased veneration for Tsar-Martyr Nicholas; and these must be good portents for the future. However, a confused regret without a full, clear, truly Orthodox understanding of the real nature of the sin is not real repentance, and a vaguely emotional veneration for the Autocracy, without a full, clear, truly Orthodox understanding of why the Tsar-Martyr was so beloved of God and why only a truly Orthodox sovereign such as he can lead us to prosperity, can only lead to further sin and disaster, to further kings such as Saul and disasters such as Gilboa, before they usher in the reign of the Russian David and the true regeneration of the Russian land.
April 5/18, 2000.
6. GOD, THE NATIONS AND NATIONALISM
And the nations of those who are saved
shall walk in its light, and the kings
of the earth shall bring their glory
and honour into it.
The love of one’s country is one of those forces in human nature which can be used for good or for evil, for the love of God and the building up of His Kingdom, or for the hatred of one’s neighbour and the destruction of mankind. In a sermon delivered in the revolutionary year of 1905, St. John of Kronstadt said: “The earthly fatherland with its Church is the threshold of the Heavenly Fatherland. Therefore love it fervently and be ready to lay down your life for it, so as to inherit eternal life there.” Nearly forty years later, however, some Catholic Croat murderers of Orthodox Serbs, when told (by a Catholic) that they would go to hell for their actions, replied: “Alright, so long as the Serbs will be there also”! Such is the power of national hatred, that it can willingly barter eternal life for the grim satisfaction of destroying one’s national enemy.
As we approach the end of the twentieth century, it looks as if national hatred has replaced ideological hatred as the major passion tearing mankind apart. Whether in the former Yugoslavia or the former Soviet Union, in Somalia or Ruanda or East Timor, it is wars between tribes, nationalist wars, that are making rivers of blood flow and causing “the international community” to despair. Characteristic is the remark of Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission and one of the leading internationalists of our time: “I have lived through two humiliating moments in my life. The first was when I was 15 and the Germans invaded France. I saw the population fleeing before the enemy, including soldiers on bicycles whose only thought was to save their own skin. I swore then that such a thing must never happen again. But the same thing is happening again today, in Bosnia. I am ashamed. Soon I will turn 69. One day I will die, and I will have done nothing to stop all that.”
However, instead of wringing our hands, we should take sober note why it is that, in our age of unparalleled international cooperation and gigantic efforts to overcome national antagonisms – the age of the League of Nations and the United Nations, of the Soviet Union and the European Union – everything seems to be falling apart and nationalism in its evil mode is as virulent as ever. It is obvious that the world-view on which these grand schemes were based is false, that they have not penetrated to the mystery of the nation and the nature of nationalism. Their intentions may have been good (in some cases), but the experience of the twentieth century shows – and the experience of the last few years of it may show even more clearly – that these good intentions have only led to hell – hell on earth and hell in the life to come.
What, then, is the error inherent in these views? And what is the correct solution? In other words: what is God’s view of the nation and nationalism, and His solution for the problem how nations can live together?
Holy Scripture recognizes only two nations or races in the strict sense of the word: the race of fallen mankind, which derives its origin from the first Adam, and the race of redeemed mankind, which derives its origin from the last Adam, Christ.
The race of fallen mankind lost its original unity as a consequence of sin – the sin of paganism in particular, and the building of the Tower of Babel. In order to check the spread of sin, God separated the nations both geographically and linguistically. However, the memory of their original unity was never lost. That they were and are of one blood is asserted by the Apostle Paul in his sermon to the Athenians: “God made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwelling.” (Acts 17.26).
Nationalism contradicts this primordial fact of the original unity of mankind in Adam. No man or race of men is essentially, by nature higher or lower than any other; for as the Apostles Paul and Barnabas said to the pagans of Lystra who wanted to make them gods: “We also are men with the same nature as you” (Acts 14.15; cf. James 5.17). However, one nation may become higher than another by grace because of its greater love for God.
At Pentecost, our original unity was restored by our receiving the Holy Spirit which transplanted us, as it were, onto a new root – Christ; for “we hear [the word of God], each in our own language in which we were born” (Acts 2.8). From a physical, genetic point of view, there is no difference between the two races, but from the spiritual point of view the difference is enormous. In a word, fallen mankind has lost the Spirit of God (Gen. 6.3), whereas redeemed mankind has been born again “of water and the Spirit” (John 3.5).
As the Apostle Paul says: “It is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritural is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” (I Cor. 15.45-49).
In the race of redeemed mankind, which is the Orthodox Church founded by Christ, national differences become of minor importance. For “there is neither Jew nor Greek;... for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3.28). The very first Church Council, and the very first doctrinal decision of the Church, was concerned to abolish any essential distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament Church (Acts 15).
At the same time, national differences continue to exist and play a role in the mystery of God’s Providence. This is particularly emphasized by the Apostle Paul in his words on the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles (Rom. 9-11). The Jews, he says, have been cut off from the race of redeemed mankind, while the Gentiles have been grafted in. However, this position can be reversed, so there is no reason for “anti-semitism” – “do not be haughty, but fear” (Rom. 11.20). Thus the Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, are “a chosen race, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, a people whom he has gained” (I Peter 2.9). Indeed, there is an important sense in which the Christians are the only true nation, the only nation which will endure to eternity. For “you [when you were pagans] were once not a people, but now are the people of God, and you did not seek after mercy but now have received mercy” (I Peter 2.10). As the Lord said through the Prophet Hosea: “I shall say unto them which were not My people, Thou are My people” (2.23).
What is a Nation?
This is a very brief summary of the first principles of the Orthodox Church’s teaching on the nations and nationalism. Let us now turn to some contemporary definitions of the nation, and how they apply to some contemporary nations.
In an article written in 1970, and entitled “Three Attitudes to the Homeland”, the Russian Slavophile Vladimir Osipov proposes the following set of criteria: “What is a nation? Faith, blood, language and the land. Religion, and even a certain complex of rites, are a part – indeed, the most important part – of the spirit of a nation. An individual person can get by without religion. But without religion, an individual nation cannot survive as a nation... A people disintegrates literally before one’s eyes when faith in God disintegrates...”
Here we find the religious approach to the problem of nationalism – the importance attached to the faith of the nation – that is characteristic of almost all Russian writers. It is not that the call of blood, language and land are not felt by Russians – especially the latter. But the strength of the Orthodox Christian tradition in defining the Russians’ consciousness of themselves and of others remains strong, even after 70 years of atheist and internationalist socialist propaganda. And this tradition declares that blood, after all, is not a defining quality of nations (especially in such a racially mixed nation as Russia). As for language and land, they change and develop without the essential spirit of a country changing – although there is no doubt that a deep knowledge of the language and living contact with the land has an important role in keeping the spirit of a nation alive.
The Russian parliamentarian and philosopher Viktor Aksyuchits echoes this judgement: “The positivist definitions of a people – for example, common origin (blood), language, territory, economic structure, culture, state unity – do not embrace the concept of that mysterious unity which is the people, the nation. All such definitions are only partial. They cannot, for example, explain the existence of such a people as the Jews, who in the thousands of years of their existence have become mixed in blood [the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe are mainly of the Turkic race of the Khazars], have changed their language and culture, have not had a common territory, or economic structure, or their own statehood, but have nevertheless been fully preserved as a people.”
The example of the Jews is indeed instructive, and there can be little doubt that the only major bond holding them together as a nation since the destruction of their statehood in 70 A.D. has been their faith. This faith is a nationalistic faith – as Kartashev writes, “Judaism established itself on a primordial, ethnically closed-in-on-itself nationalism of the blood”. But while blood alone cannot hold a nation together, faith in blood, even though it must be a false faith, as we have seen, can give a nation a terribly powerful – and powerfully terrible – strength and unity, as the whole history of the Jews since Christ has demonstrated.
When faith begins to weaken, however, a nation resorts to other means, such as land, language and blood, to hold itself together. Thus when the Jewish leaders felt that the identity of their nation was being threatened through assimilation with the European nations in the nineteenth century, they founded the Zionist movement in 1897 with the explicit aim of strengthening the Jewish identity by a return to the land of Israel. Since then, moreover, it has been felt necessary to resurrect the Hebrew language and to make common blood a condition of citizenship in the state of Israel.
Also important in helping a nation to define itself and hold together is a common tradition of statehood. It is interesting that most nations with a strong sense of identity have been monarchies, while democracy has tended to undermine a nation’s identity. This is because monarchy, being based on conservative, rather than revolutionary principles, helps to preserve a nation’s memory and therefore its sense of who and what it is.
Democracy, however, usually begins with a revolution that denies the validity and sanctity of the pre-revolutionary past. Moreover, every new democratic government comes to power on the promise of doing better than its inadequate predecessor; so the emphasis is on constant change and renewal – “permanent revolution”.
Now since faith is so important in defining a nation’s identity, a change of faith can mean the death of one nation and the birth of another, even when genetic, linguistic and territorial ties have not been broken.
Thus in a real sense the Jewish nation died when it killed Christ. And Holy Scripture affirms that anti-Christian Jews are not true Jews (cf. Rom. 2.28; Rev. 2.9). And so the return of the Jews to Christ will indeed be, as the Apostle Paul says, “life from the dead” (Rom. 11.15), the resurrection of the true spiritual identity of the Jewish people.
Let us take another example, that of England. Now the faith that made England a single nation with a clear self-identity was Orthodox Christianity. And for several centuries before the Norman Conquest of 1066, England was a traditional hereditary monarchy of the Orthodox type. Her kings were crowned by the Church and revered, as in Byzantium and Russia, as the Anointed of God. Disobedience to the king was considered a sin, not only against the state, but also against the faith.
However, “apparently as the result of one day’s fighting” in 1066, writes the historian R.H.C. Davis, “England received a new royal dynasty, a new aristocracy, a virtually new Church, a new art, a new architecture and a new language”. As the nineteenth-century historian Edward Augustus Freeman put it: “The Norman Conquest is the great turning-point in the history of the English nation... Its whole importance is not the importance which belongs to a beginning, but the importance which belongs to a turning point. So far from being the beginning of our national history, the Norman Conquest was the temporary overthrow of our national being.” This break in the national traditions, and therefore the national self-awareness of the English, was so radical that until recently English schoolchildren were taught English history beginning from 1066 – as if the thousand or so years of Orthodox Christian history before that were of no significance. There was some teaching about Britain’s pre-Christian, pagan past; but England’s Golden Age, the Age of the Saints, was dismissed as Dark Age barbarism. Only recently has some publicity begun to be given to English Orthodoxy, as in the recent excavation of the remains of the nave of St. Dunstan’s cathedral in Canterbury.
Together with the other English Orthodox traditions, the tradition concerning the monarchy also suffered damage after the Norman Conquest. Although the king continued to be crowned by the Church, the idea of the holiness of the monarchy was gradually lost. In 1216 the powers of the monarchy were limited by the Magna Carta to take account of the interests of the nobility; and further limitations followed.
However, in the 16th century Shakespeare still had a strong feeling for it, as we can see in his play, Richard II; and even today, centuries after the democratic revolution of 1642 deprived the monarchy of any real power or sanction by making it constitutional, the English still have an instinctive veneration for the institution. This witnesses to a kind of schizophrenia in the English soul. For while the dominant faith of the English is undoubtedly democratic and materialistic, the monarchy still serves as a link with that past when England had a different faith – and was in effect a different nation...
Another instructive, and still more complex example is Greece. Before their conversion to Christ, the Greeks had already had a long and complex existence as a nation. At first they lived in a multitude of independent city-states, each with his own god, such as Athene of Athens and “Diana of the Ephesians”. But in spite of their political and religious divisions, the Greeks always felt their unity as a nation; and the distinction between Greeks and Barbarians is a very ancient one. Only the Jews and the Chinese, among the very ancient nations, have a similarly clear, ethnocentric view of the universe.
Then, in the fifth and fourth centuries before Christ, the Greeks’ faith in their gods began to wane under the influence of philosophy and democracy; for, as Alexei Khomyakov pointed out, the rise of democracy is usually accompanied by a decline in religion. This prepared the way for Alexander the Great, under whom the Greeks acquired a world empire and an imperialist state structure. Then Greece itself became simply one province in the new world-empire of Rome, although Hellenic culture continued to extend its influence, mixing with both eastern and western elements to become the foundation civilization of Europe and the Mediterranean world from Hadrian’s wall on the Scottish border to the Euphrates river on the Persian border.
With the coming of St. Constantine the Great, the empire became Christian and the Greeks were reborn as the “Christian Romans” or Romeioi – a name that the Greeks of Pontus and the Eastern coast of the Black Sea continued to retain for themselves well into this century. During this period, the prestige of Christianity was so great that the Christian Greeks took no particular pride in Hellenism, which was associated with the pagan, pre-Christian past; for they now redefined themselves as Christians and Romans. The best elements in Hellenism were incorporated into the Byzantine Christian synthesis, while the pagan elements were discarded and derided.
However, when Constantinople, the New Rome, fell in 1453, and especially after the liberation of Greece in 1821, the Greeks started redefining themselves again as Hellenes, and began to look back to their pagan past with pride, as if that were no less a real part of their national identity than their Christianity. And in our time this has led to a real crisis of identity. For the contemporary Greeks have to decide who their real spiritual ancestors are: the pagan democratic Greeks like Pericles and Sophocles, the pagan imperialist Greeks like Alexander of Macedon and Antiochus Epiphanes (one of the great persecutors of the people of God), or the Christian Roman Greeks such as the Fathers of the Church and the new martyrs of the Turkish yoke. Their membership of the democratic confederation of the European Union makes them emphasize their pagan democratic past. The dispute over Macedonia leads them to emphasize their pagan imperial past. And only rarely do they hark back to their Christian Roman past in its spiritual, universalist profundity. It is this schizophrenia in the Greek soul that makes it so difficult for them to define themselves and their aims, both to themselves and to the outside world.
From this discussion, we can see that a nation is in many ways like an individual person. Like an individual person, each nation can be said to have a spirit, a soul and a body. Its “spirit” is that which unites it with God and unites it with all other nations that are in God. If every nation has a spirit in this sense, it is nevertheless sadly a fact that most nations have lost their spirit, or replaced it with another, ungodly one. How many nations lost their Christian spirits, at least temporarily, in this way – the Jews to the nationalist spirit of Zionist Judaism, the other Christians of the Middle East to Islam or Monophysitism, the West European nations to Catholicism and Protestantism, and many of the East European nations to Marxism-Leninism.
The spirit of a nation is sometimes so strong that it is felt that a person cannot belong to the nation in any way unless he also confesses the faith of that nation. A clear example is Old Testament Israel in its peak period from Moses to Solomon, when “Israel” referred both to a faith and to the people confessing that faith. A modern example is Iran, whose internal identity and external foreign policy are almost completely dependent on its self-appointed status as the guardian of the Shiite Muslim faith. Another important example is “Holy Russia” in the Muscovite period, when to be Russian meant necessarily to be Orthodox Christian.
At the same time, there are important differences, even in very religious societies, between the Church (in Christian societies) and society or the nation in general. One of these differences, as Fr. Stefan Krasovitsky points out, is that “the nucleus of society is the family, whereas the nucleus of the Church is the person. Within the Church a person is united with other persons without any loss of his individuality, for this unity takes place in the Super-Person (Divine Person) of Jesus Christ... [As to so-called ‘human rights’,] they are provided (in the conditions of a morally healthy society) within the family in accordance with the familial status of each member of this unit of society. So a normal society should defend, not ‘human rights’… but the rights of the family, defending them from suppression and destruction.”
Moreover, even in such spiritually intense and unified societies, the idea of the nation is never completely exhausted by the content of its faith. For if the faith is a universalist one, it will also be incarnate in other nations having different souls but the same faith or spirit. And even if the faith is not universalist, but exclusive to one and one only nation, like “Diana of the Ephesians”, the nation concerned will differentiate itself from the other nations not only in terms of its faith but also in terms of many other, less spiritual characteristics.
For the soul of a nation is tied up in certain very specific and unique ways with its history, its geography, its climate, and the physical and psychological make-up of its members. Thus for an Englishman, regardless of his faith or the faith of his country at any particular time, his Englishness contains what might be called a specifically geographical element – the feeling of belonging to the island which Shakespeare in Richard II compared to “a silvery stone set in a silvery sea”; and this element may contribute to what other nations see as the Englishman’s reserved, self-contained, insular nature. On the other hand, the expansiveness and tendency to extremism that characterizes the Russians in their own and others’ estimation, has been considered by some – for example, Berdyaev – to be conditioned by the limitless flat steppes of their homeland.
In some nations, the spiritual element in its national feeling is so weak as to be almost non-existent. But since man cannot exist without some guiding principle, the spiritual vacuum thus created will be filled by the deification of the nation itself, or of the state or leader in which its national life is temporarily incarnate – that is, in nationalism or totalitarian statism. In pagan societies the tendency towards statism is expressed especially in the deification of the king. Hence the god-kings and emperors of Ancient Egypt, Babylon and Imperial Rome.
In Western, post-Christian societies, this tendency finds a less religious expression, as in Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany – although the tendency to deify the leader is never far absent even in western nationalist societies.
However, there are some societies in which both religious faith and national feeling have been reduced to a pale shadow of themselves. The spiritual and emotional vacuums thus created will then be filled, on the one hand, by a frenzy of economic activity, and on the other hand, by an extreme elaboration of state structures of every kind. This almost exclusive cult of the body, in both its personal and collective forms, is a comparatively modern development; but today, in the shape of western capitalist, democratic civilization, it has spread throughout the world.
However, even when men have agreed that the main purpose of life is to satisfy material, bodily needs, and that the best instrument to this end is through the body of the nation – the state, they still remain essentially spiritual beings whose spiritual and emotional nature cannot be satisfied by bread alone. Therefore the builders of modern western societies have provided them with something else: circuses. For whereas the religious societies of the past spent vast sums on the construction of cathedrals or temples or mosques, and the nationalist societies of more recent times spent equally vast sums on the construction of the thrones and palaces of their god-kings, modern democratic societies spend substantial (but comparatively much smaller) sums on the construction of sports halls and stadia, cinemas and concert-halls. Here the need to worship something or someone greater than oneself – a sports team or a rock star – can be satisfied. And here nationalist passions can be expressed and defused in comparative safety (although the phenomenon of football hooliganism has caused many deaths, as St. Barsanuphius of Optina prophesied).
Thus just as in an individual person the weakening of the spirit inevitably leads to the domination of the flesh, so is it in the life of nations. When the soul of the nation ceases to worship God, it worships either itself or its passions. This is the origin both of nationalism and of democratism, in which “the pursuit of happiness” – material happiness – becomes the constitutional foundation of society.
It follows that to say of nationalism that it is “caused by wounds, some form of collective humiliation” is misleading. For it implies that the excesses of fallen nationalism are purely psychological in nature and can therefore be cured by some kind of “collective therapy”; whereas the roots of the disease are spiritual and come from a loss of faith. Just as the fire of fallen desire is kindled when the fire of the Holy Spirit is quenched in the individual soul, so the fire of nationalism is kindled when the fire of love for the super-nation of the Church is weakened in the nation.
However, it is no less dangerous to believe that nationalism can be cured by abolishing nations, by merging them into some artificial kind of super-nation. The former Soviet Union is a vivid example of this fallacy. The Bolsheviks first tried to use and incite national feeling in order to destroy the multi-national empire of Russia. Then they tried to impose their own brand of internationalism (i.e. anti-nationalism) upon all the nations of the former empire, suppressing the old nationalisms in favour of a new “Soviet patriotism”. But the old nationalisms were not destroyed by this experiment; and now that the dead hand of Bolshevism has been removed they have emerged in a still more virulent form.
The European Union appears to be repeating this mistake, albeit in a less crude way. The architects of the Union give as its main justification the avoidance of those nationalistic wars, especially between France and Germany, which have so disfigured the region’s history. But the old nationalisms show no sign of dying; and in traditionally insular countries, such as Britain, or traditionally Orthodox ones, such as Greece, attempts to force them into an unnatural union with other nations with quite different traditions appear to be increasing centrifugal tendencies.
A true union of nations is possible only on the basis of the common acceptance of a single spirit or faith. If the basis of the union is not spirit, but flesh – economic self-interest – then the union is bound to fail; for materialism pits nations no less than individual men against each other. Or if it succeeds, it can do so at only at the cost of the physical disappearance of the weaker nations and the spiritual death of all of them.
But if a nation is like an individual person, the disappearance of a nation cannot be justified by any super-national aims, however superficially laudable. For this would be murder. So we come back to the question: to what extent can we say that a nation is like an individual person? Is it really as eternal as a person? Or are some nations destined to disappear forever?
The view that a nation is a person in all significant respects has been expressed with characteristic eloquence by Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “Recently it has become fashionable to speak of the levelling of nations, and the disappearance of peoples in the melting-pot of contemporary civilization. I do not agree with this, but to discuss it is a separate question, and at this point I think it fitting to say only that the disappearance of nations would impoverish us no less than if all individual people were assimilated into one character, one person. Nations are the wealth of humanity, its social personalities; the smallest of them bears its own special traits, and hides within itself a special facet of the Divine plan...
“It is precisely he who gives the highest value to the existence of nations, who sees in them not a temporary fruit of social formations, but a complex, vivid, unrepeatable organism that cannot be invented by men – he it is who recognizes that nations have a fullness of spiritual life, a fullness of ascents and falls, a range extending from holiness to villainy (though the extreme points are achieved only by individual personalities).
“Of course, all this changes greatly in the course of time and the flow of history; that most mobile line dividing good from evil is always swaying, sometimes very stormily, in the consciousness of a nation, - and for that reason every judgement and every reproach and self-reproach, and repentance itself, is tied to a specific time, flowing away with the passing of that time and remaining only as memorial contours in history.
“But, you know, in the same way even individual persons in the same way, under the influence of its events and their spiritual work, change to the point of unrecognizability in the course of their lives. (And this is the hope, and salvation, and punishment of man, that we can change, and are ourselves responsible for our own souls, and not birth or the environment!) Nevertheless, we take the risk of evaluating people as “good” and “bad”, and no-one contests this right of ours.
“Between a person and a nation there is the deepest similarity – in the mystical nature of the uncreatedness of both the one and the other. And there are no human reasons why, in allowing ourselves to evaluate the changeability of the one, we forbid it for the other.”
Viktor Aksyuchits has qualified, without radically changing, this idea of the nation-person: “A person is an individual subject, an eternal individual soul. But a people is a conciliar [sobornij] subject, its soul is conciliar. Therefore a people is not a person, but a conciliarity [sobornost’], although many characteristics of a person extend to the conciliar soul of a people. A people possesses the freedom of historical self-definition, but this freedom is conciliar, and not individual. The historical responsibility of a people and its moral accountability also have a conciliar character.
“All the metaphysical characteristics of a people are structured around conciliarity. Conciliarity is not the mechanical sum of individuals, but their free unity. A people is a conciliar unity of eternal human souls... It is the idea of the Creator concerning their common mission and the responsible thought of eternal souls concerning the unity of their historical calling.”
Even with this qualification, however, there are limits to the extent we can talk about nations as persons. Thus while persons have eternal souls, this can be said of nations only in a metaphorical sense. For, as we have seen, according to Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, earthly kingdoms and peoples can only have an earthly character. Again, as Dora Shturman points out, however much individual people change, each still has one mind and one conscience (unless he is schizophrenic). A nation, however, is composed of many people with often sharply differing aims and outlooks.
Another criticism of the nation-person metaphor is that whereas at the Last Judgement “all the nations will be gathered before Him” (Matt. 25.32), and men can be said to have a collective responsibility for their nation’s actions, in the final analysis it is only individuals that are sent to heaven or hell. Thus a man can free himself from responsibility for the crimes of his nation by condemning them, like the Germans who refused to accept Nazism – or the Jews who refused to mock Christ. And in the same way a man can deprive himself of the honour of belonging to a great nation by his betrayal of its noble ideals, like the Greeks who converted to Islam – or the Russians who joined the revolution.
We may wonder, moreover, whether every nation is called to an eternal destiny. In the Old Testament the Lord “destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan” (Acts 13.19), demanding of King Saul the complete extirpation of the Amalekites (he disobeyed in obedience to “the voice of the people” and was rejected). And in both Old and New Testament times we see nations, such as the Assyrians, who rise and fall so rapidly that it seems as if their only purpose was to omogeni the people of God and then disappear once this purpose was accomplished (for “shall the axe vaunt itself over Him Who hews it?” (Isaiah 10.15)).
But in every age there have been those who have fled from their doomed nation and joined themselves to the nation that lives for ever, such as Rahab the Canaanite or Ruth the Moabite or Cornelius the Centurion or Prince Peter of the Tatar horde. And if that doomed nation can be said to be eternal, it is only in the persons of these rare individuals who renounced it. For in them alone is the word fulfilled: “All the nations whom Thou hast made shall come and shall worship before Thee, O Lord, and shall glorify Thy name” (Psalm 85.9).
Even those Orthodox nations which have over the centuries evolved a collective personality that can be termed essentially Christian and therefore eternal by nature have to struggle to preserve that personality to the end. Thus “the glory that was Greece” will remain a phrase in the past mode if the Greeks exchange the truly “great idea” (megali idea) of Christian Rome for the petty nationalism of a neo-pagan Greece. And Serbia will become “greater” only in the territorial sense if she abandons the universalist vision of St. Savva.
All these themes acquire a burning relevance when we approach the maelstroms of nationalist passion that are the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union today. From what we have already said we can safely make the following generalizations:-
(1) The causes of the nationalist conflicts in these areas are at root spiritual, rather than psychological or economic. This is particularly obvious in Bosnia, where the three warring parties share a common language, blood and territory. Historically speaking, the Serbs, Croats and Muslim Bosnians acquired different national identities only on the basis of the fact that they confessed different religions – Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam, respectively. And even if they often now seem to be fighting out of blood-hatred or for the sake of territorial gain, it is clear that a radical resolution of their differences can come about only by going to the root of what made them different in the first place – their religion.
(2) The internationalist solutions imposed by the communists Lenin and Tito, and sanctioned by “the international community”, have proved to be not only failures, but have actually exacerbated the problems. In a sense these were religious, and therefore appropriately radical “solutions”, insofar as the nations were supposed to come together on the basis of a common confession of a religion – the atheist religion of Marxism-Leninism. But since that religion was false, the passions it tried to heal were not healed. For it is only “the leaves of the tree of life” – that is, Christ – which “are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22.2).
(3) When the international community saw that its internationalist solutions were failing, it proposed the opposite and still more dangerous “cure” based on the principle of national self-determination. For, as Milorad Ekmecic writes, “the present Yugoslav crisis is the result of efforts by the countries of the European Union and the United States to aid separatism in the Catholic regions of the former Yugoslav state and thereby facilitate their inclusion in a future federal European state... [But] the right to self-determination was taken away from the Serbian people...”
Let us now look a little more closely at what the West sees as the “problem” of Russian nationalism.
Since there can be no solution to any national problem unless there is an understanding of the nation in question, we must first try and penetrate to the mystery of the Russian national identity. And this is no easy task if we look only at Russia in this century; for in our century Russia has passed from theocracy to democracy to satanocracy to democracy again, from multi-national empire to anti-national anti-empire to nation-state. And yet from a longer historical viewpoint the perplexities disappear: “the Russian idea” is – Orthodoxy.
For the Russians are sharply distinguished from other great Christian nations, such as the Greeks and the Romans, by the fact that almost their entire history has been Orthodox Christian. And this has been a great advantage for them in defining themselves; for whereas, as we have seen, the Greeks have often had a problem in deciding which is more essentially Greek – their pagan past or their Christian past, for the Russians there has been no contest: at least until 1917, the Russian soul was an Orthodox Christian one. It is as if the pagan Russian past had not existed: it was an obscure period of “pre-history” swallowed up in the blinding light of the primal act of her true history – her baptism at the hands of the enlightener of Russia, the holy Great-Prince Vladimir. And Vladimir himself, by his dramatic and complete conversion from savage, lustful paganism to self-sacrificial Christianity, symbolized the rebirth that had taken place in the Russian soul. This was no tentative, half-hearted conversion, but a complete change of spirit; and so it was with the Russian people as a whole.
Thus whatever other temptations Russia has had to endure since her Baptism in 988, a full-scale return to paganism was not one of them – until the critical turning-point of 1917. Paganism in Russia was comparatively weak, disorganized and, above all, provincial. It was no match for the superior civilization and universalist grace and power of the Christian Gospel, supported as it was both by the political power and charisma of St. Vladimir and by the spiritual power of the Great Church of Constantinople at her height.
The history of the Baptism of Russia explains many of the antinomies which Berdyaev and others have seen in the Russian soul.
First, the speed and completeness with which the Baptism of Russia unified all the widely-scattered and hitherto disunited tribes of the Eastern Slavs, Finno-Ungrians and others goes some of the way to explaining why religion, the spiritual realm, is, and continues to be, so important in the Russian land, as opposed to the more worldly and material factors which have served to unite other nations and which have therefore played a greater role in their subsequent development. It was religion that united the Russian land. Only religion could have united the Russian land. Only religion will reunite the Russian land. Therefore it is in terms of religion that Russians see themselves and their relationship to other nations. In a perverse kind of way, this is true even of the Soviet period, when Russia seemed to lose her religion. For it was then as if the Apostle Paul returned to being the persecutor Saul without losing his burning zeal for religion.
On the other hand, the great importance which St. Vladimir played in the Baptism – for it was indeed a conversion of the people “from the top down” – laid the foundations for the very powerful development of a centralized State in Russia, and the close links between the monarchy and the Church – closer, probably, than in any other Christian nation. Thus in the Russian soul, spirituality and statehood, the Cross and the Crown, are not felt to be the opposites that they have tended to become in the West; for it was the Crown, in the person of St. Vladimir, that won Russia for the Cross, and the Russian people have continued to see in the will of the Tsar the expression of the will of God.
As St. Barsanuphius of Optina said: “The devotion of the Orthodox Russian people to their Tsars is not at all the same as the devotion of the western peoples to their sovereigns. According to modern western conceptions, the sovereign is nothing other than a representative of his people – and the western peoples love their representatives and willing submit to them when they faithfully carry out this mission, or when by the power of their genius they draw the people after them and blind them by the brilliance of glory and state power, like Napoleon in France and Frederick in Prussia [and, we might add, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany]; but this love is self-serving and egoistical. In the West it is themselves that the people love in their sovereigns. If the king by his personal character is unable to be the faithful reflection and representative of the will of the people and the strivings, ideas and passions that rule in it, then they restrict and constrict his will by means of constitutional vices. But if the king does not submit to these attempts, and is unable to submit to the taste and character of his subjects, then he is deprived not only of the love of the people, but also of the throne, as it was with Charles X and Louis-Philippe and the Sardinian king Albert.
“It is not at all like that with us in Russia: our Tsar is the representative of the will of God, and not the people’s will. His will is sacred for us, as the will of the Anointed of God; we love him because we love God. If the Tsar gives us glory and prosperity, we receive it from him as a Mercy of God. But if we are overtaken by humiliation and poverty, we bear them with meekness and humility, as a heavenly punishment for our iniquities, and never do we falter in our love for, and devotion to, the Tsar, as long as they proceed from our Orthodox religious convictions, our love and devotion to God.”
A second antimony in the Russian soul which is largely explained by the history of the Baptism of Russia is the contrast between the Russians’ great receptiveness to foreigners and foreign ideas, on the one hand, and their great pride in their own country, on the other.
For, on the one hand, the Baptism of Russia came from outside; Russia received its faith, literature and almost its entire civilization from the hands of Greeks and Bulgarians. For, as we have seen, the Christian faith and Christian civilization in Russia did not have to contend with a powerful and highly developed native pagan tradition, as it did in Greece and Rome. Hence the innate respect for foreigners, who brought to Russia almost everything that the Russians treasure in themselves.
On the other hand, no nation has more thoroughly absorbed the Christian Gospel than the Russians. In spite of sins and falls, to which every Christian nation has succumbed, the Russians have equalled their foreign teachers in their devotion to Christ, as is witnessed by the extraordinary abundance of their saints and martyrs – not least in the Soviet period, when the Russian Church added many times more martyrs to the Heavenly Church than the 350,000 which, according to the menologia, were acquired by the whole Church from the time of the Apostles. And for this reason the Russians feel justly proud of their country.
These two antinomies of the Russian soul – spirituality and statehood, and universality and nationalism – have marked the whole history of Russia. At particular times, one or the other pole of the antimony has become more dominant, but only temporarily. Thus if we examine the spirituality-statehood antimony, we note that during the later Kievan period, and under the Mongol yoke, the centralizing state disappeared and centrifugal forces appeared in the Russian lands. And this went together with a decrease in spiritual power. However, the revival of spirituality associated with the name of St. Sergius of Radonezh in the fourteenth century also led to the revival of a powerful centralized state in the form of Moscow. Again, the centralized state collapsed during the Time of Troubles at the end of the sixteenth century, when the Poles conquered Moscow and placed a Catholic tsar, the false Dmitri, on the throne. But a revival of faith and courage led by St. Hermogen, patriarch of Moscow, led to the restoration of the monarchy under the Romanov dynasty which survived until the revolution. Finally, a still steeper decline in spirituality led to the revolution and the collapse of the Russian state in 1917.
With regard to the second, universality-nationalism antimony, we see a similar pattern. Generally speaking, the Kievan period may be described as broadly universalist, the Muscovite period increasingly nationalist, and the Petersburg period again universalist. But as long as the dominant religion and ethos of the state and people remained Orthodox Christianity, the poles of this antimony were kept in balance, and extremists, such as the anti-national universalist Socialists or the anti-universalist nationalist Old Believers, remained on the borders of society.
However, the revolution of 1917 destroyed the balance of antinomies in the Russian idea and introduced what was in essence a quite different idea, the Soviet idea, corresponding to the emergence of a new nation, the Soviet nation.
The balance between spirituality and statehood was destroyed by the complete dominance of the state in all spheres of life and the attempted complete destruction of the Orthodox Church and spirituality. Of course, the Soviet Union was not without a spirituality of its own, but it was a demonic spirituality, a spirituality that exalted “history” over morality, the flesh over the spirit, hatred over love. It was a state possessed by demons, like the town of Dostoyevsky’s prophetic novel, The Demons.
The balance between universalism and nationalism was also destroyed. Everything that was native and Russian was despised and trampled on; the very word “Russia” was removed; and the leaders of the revolution were almost all non-Russians who hated Russia. In the place of the ideas and traditions of the Russians were introduced the ideas and traditions of the West carried to their logical and absurd conclusions. Of course, the Soviet regime claimed to be internationalist; but in actual fact it was rigorously anti-nationalist, and was aimed at the destruction of all national cultures – first of all the Russian and Orthodox cultures, and then all the others, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and pagan. Only in the “the Great Patriotic War”, as the Soviets deceivingly called it, was a perverted form of Russian nationalism reintroduced in order to save the state against German Fascism – only to be vigorously suppressed again after the danger had passed.
The revolution therefore presented, as Solzhenitsyn has eloquently argued, an almost complete break in the history and spiritual identity of the Russian nation. Far from being a logical continuation of the Russian idea, as some have argued, it was a complete denial of that idea. So what the Mongols in the 13th century, the Judaizers in the 15th, the Poles in the 16th and 17th, and even the omogenisati reforms of Peter the Great in the 18th centuries had failed to achieve was achieved by Lenin and Stalin.
In view of this, it is only natural to regard the revival of Russian national and religious feeling that began in the 1970s and gathered pace in the 80s and 90s as a lawful and healthy reaction to the nightmare of the Soviet period, and the only sure and organically based path to the restoration of Russia as the great and civilized nation she was before it. However, there is a view that is widely held both in the West and in Russia that this national-religious renaissance of Russia is in fact the greatest possible threat to the civilized world. According to this view, the nationalisms of the small countries of the former Soviet Union – of the Baltic states, of the Ukraine, of the Caucasian and Central Asian republics – are only right and natural; but the nationalism of Russia – the nation which suffered most from Communism, while offering the strongest opposition to it – is somehow of a quite different, and much more sinister nature, involving a kind of mixture between Communism and Fascism which has been given the name “National Bolshevism”.
The main critic of “National Bolshevism” in the Gorbachev period, Alexander Yanov, argued that all Russian nationalism, whether religious or irreligious, was irremediably inclined towards authoritarianism, and that all Russian regimes since Ivan the Terrible, including those of Lenin and Stalin, were simply phases (reform, counter-reform or stagnation) of a single, cyclically recurring authoritarian idea, which he called “the Russian idea”. Soviet society under Gorbachev, said Yanov, was going through a reform phase of the cycle, which, if encouraged and not allowed, as on all previous occasions, to stagnate, might lead to a breaking of the cycle altogether and the introduction of “real” civilization, i.e. Western-style democracy, into Russia. If, on the other hand, this anti-Western, anti-semitic (as he claimed) Russian nationalism were allowed to triumph, this would represent a turning of the cycle towards counter-reform, i.e. the transformation and revitalization of the Soviet State into a neo-Fascist monster. For the sake of the peace of the world, said Yanov, this must be prevented.
It would be foolish to deny that the creation in Russia of a National Bolshevik state is both possible and even likely. As we have noted, the Soviet state was able to yoke in its defence a perverted form of Russian nationalism in the Second World War, and this could well happen again. As long as there exist people of a basically Soviet mentality whose knowledge of Russian history and true Russian spirituality is meagre, the possibility will exist of their claiming that their essentially Soviet “spirituality” is a continuation and incarnation of “the Russian idea”.
But it is a grave mistake to label all Russian nationalists and patriots as “National Bolsheviks”, still more to think that the whole of Russian history is simply a recurring cycle of authoritarianism interspersed with brief and insecure periods of relative democracy. And in fact Yanov’s thesis is itself an example of the Soviet type of thinking which he claims to be warning against. For this is precisely the distorted view of Russian history which the West began to develop in the nineteenth century, which was taken over by the Russian omogenisati liberals, and which then became the justification for the Russian revolution. The truth is that the true Russian nationalism is inextricably bound up with Orthodoxy. So the way to avert “National Bolshevism” is to revive the true Russian nationalism – that is, to regenerate Russian Orthodoxy.
A healthier – and more typical – example of Russian religious nationalism is represented by the thought of Vladimir Osipov. We may recall that Osipov considered that four elements go to make up a nation – faith, blood, language and land. But he accepted that the most important of these elements was the faith: “Christ and His teachings are in the final analysis more important for me than nationalism.”
At the same time he recognized at the time he was writing – over 20 years ago – that the national element in the Russian religious-national movement was more important than the religious: “I know the soul of the contemporary Russian: the national principle is at the moment more clear and alive for him than the religious principle. Hence patriotism, national self-consciousness and self-respect provide at the moment the only reliable bridge to moral, cultural and biological salvation.”
The question then arises: has this position changed now, in 1994?
Of course, the existence of such extreme and perverted forms of Russian nationalism as the society Pamyat’ and the party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky indicates that at least a part of the Russian national movement has remained incorrigibly chauvinist. Moreover, the official Russian Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate, is still led by KGB agents from the Brezhnev era whose opportunism and lack of real spirituality is proven beyond reasonable doubt. Just as these hierarchs enthusiastically embraced “Leninist norms” and “Soviet patriotism” in the 1970s and 80s, and then democracy and westernism in the early 1990s, so now they are quite capable of changing again into Zhirinovsky-type Russian nationalists. And if the majority of the Russian Orthodox people follow them, the outlook is indeed bleak. For then we shall see the emergence of an unholy alliance between a National Bolshevik state and a “Soviet Orthodox” Church which will be a cruel caricature of the true Russian theocracy.
If, however, such a caricature does come to power, it is not likely to last long, but will be destroyed as its expansion comes up against the power of stronger nations, such as China or America. And then, through the prayers of the millions of new martyrs of the Soviet period, a resurrection of Holy Russia led by a truly Orthodox Tsar will take place. Of this, as New Hieromartyr John of Latvia, one of the many non-Russians who acquired sanctity as a citizen of Holy Russia, said, “we can and must be convinced”.
In the meantime, the social basis for this resurrection can be prepared by a gradual national-religious regeneration of Russian society from below, under the leadership, not of the Moscow Patriarchate, but of the truly Orthodox Church. Kartashev has indicated how such a regeneration of society from below could proceed: “Through the Christian transfiguration of the ‘inner man’, by itself, gradually and imperceptibly, the whole environment in which the spiritually renewed Christian lives and acts – society, culture, the State – will be transfigured. The latter live and develop according to their own natural laws, which are exterior for Christianity, but can be subjected to its influences and, if only to a certain degree, transfigured. In the last analysis they are impenetrable for Christianity, for they are foreign by their nature. They are categories, not of a spiritual, but of a cosmic, order. The Lord opposed Himself to ‘this world’, and the apostle of love commanded us ‘not to love this world’. The category ‘society’ is of ‘this world’, and for that reason the Christian heart must not cleave to it. Social life is a certain mechanism of the concatenation of personalities and is fatally subject to a certain mechanical conformity with law, which is foreign to the kingdom of spiritual freedom – that is, the Christian religion, the Church. Being a true member of this mystical society, the individual Christian, and through him the whole Church, is ‘spiritually-automatically’, inwardly, imperceptibly enlightening, exalting and transfiguring external, sinful society. All other methods except this, which goes from the depths of the personal transfiguration of the spirit, are non-Christian methods.”
Aksyuchits writes: “The essence of what we are living through now could be expressed in the words: we as a nation have suffered a deep spiritual fall – we have renounced God, which is also to say, the meaning of life. But in spite of the ‘common sense’ of history, we have not been finally annihilated, we are still alive and have the chance of living on and being regenerated. But this is possible only if we become ourselves in our best qualities, and again bring to light the muddied image of God in ourselves.
“Being at the bottom of a historical funnel, we as a fact of our lives have acquired the possibility of seeing in the past of Russia not only a series of errors and vices, but also the image of a renewed, transfigured Russia, and the contours of that ideal which the Russian people was giving birth to in torments, and to which it was striving in spite of all sins and falls. There were moments in the history of Russia when the Russian idea shone forth with an unfading light – this was the light, above all, of Russian sanctity. There were periods when the idea of a national calling was eclipsed and consigned to oblivion. But it was never cut off entirely, but was enriched by the tragic experience of history. And this unbroken line is the line of our life, it is the ordinance of God concerning the Russian people from generation to generation. And only the living spirit of this theandric ordinance, only the assimilation of the Russian idea gives us as a people and each one of us as a personality the possibility of holding out, surviving and transfiguring our lives...”
This truly Christian Russian nationalism is found especially among the holy new martyrs and confessors of Russia. For example, during the 1970s the great wonderworker nicknamed the “Tsar of Mordovia”, Hieromonk Michael Yershov, after half a century in the Soviet camps and psychiatric torture-hospitals still retained a burning faith in the resurrection of Russia. And Eugene Vagin, who met Fr. Michael, reported that this faith was common to all the members of his Church: “All members of this Church, even the ‘uneducated’, are characterized by a special suffering over the fate of Russia, which is placed by them in the center of all the world’s events (this is often interpreted in a very original way, always in apocalyptic, eschatological tones). Their ‘Russianness’ is not set aggressively against other nations and peoples, but is accepted inwardly and in confidential conversations, as a sign of a ‘special chosenness’. I have often heard in their midst the old proverb applied to the fate of Russia: ‘Whom the Lord loves more, He makes to suffer more.’...”
This faith in the chosenness of the Russian people by no means implies a blindness to her faults. On the contrary, Russia, in the understanding of the Catacomb Church, is suffering so much now precisely because by her actions she has rejected her great calling. For with a great calling go great responsibilities.
The Russian religious philosopher I.A. Ilyin described the true patriotism as follows: “To love one’s people and believe in her, to believe that she will overcome all historical trials and will arise from collapse purified and sobered – does not mean to close one’s eyes to her weaknesses and imperfections, perhaps even her vices. To accept one’s people as the incarnation of the fullest and highest perfection on earth would be pure vainglory, sick nationalist conceit. The real patriot sees not only the spiritual paths of his people, but also her temptations, weaknesses and imperfections. Spiritual love generally is not given to groundless idealization, but sees soberly and with extreme acuteness. To love one’s people does not mean to flatter her or hide from her her weak sides, but honourably and courageously criticize them and tirelessly struggle with them.”
Finally, we may ask the question which still worries many: is the Russian idea, even when purified of all Soviet dross, really compatible with the national ideas of other nations – the Jews, for example, or the Chinese, or the Americans?
Of course, the answer to this question does not depend only on the nature of the Russian idea, but also on the natures of the other national ideas. And even if the answer to the question may be “no” in a particular instance, we should not assume that the fault must lie with the Russian idea. Thus the Jewish idea, as we have seen, is in essence hostile to the ideas of all other nations, being in essence chauvinist and racist. Again, the Chinese idea is similar in essence to the ideas of the ancient pagan satanocracies, and is now allied with the definitely satanic idea of Communism. Even the American idea, in spite of the altruistic assertions of successive presidents, is felt by many nations as a threat to their own national identity; for “making the world safe for democracy” means making the world unsafe for those for whom democracy is not the supreme ideal.
The Russian idea is in essence the Orthodox Christian idea. It is the idea that the whole of society, from the structure of the state to the personal lives of every citizen, should be subordinate to Christ in the Orthodox Church. As such, it is not chauvinist, but universalist; for Orthodoxy, even in its national incarnations, is a universal faith.
Is it expansionist? Insofar as all universalisms have an implicitly messianic character, it is spiritually expansionist – that is, it seeks to altruistically communicate the truth of its own idea to other nations. But spiritual expansionism is a process of peaceful persuasion, and entails physical expansionism only in certain circumstances. Russia (as opposed to the Soviet Union) has never forcibly annexed any Orthodox territory to itself with the exception of Bessarabia in 1812. Even the annexation of Georgia in 1801 took place only after the repeated requests of Georgian princes over the course of more than two centuries. And the liberation of Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia in the late nineteenth century was just that – a liberation, not an annexation.
As regards non-Orthodox nations, the situation is more complex. Russia first began to expand eastwards in the sixteenth century, and this took place partly through the peaceful colonization of sparsely inhabited areas, as in the Russian north and Siberia, and partly through military conquest, as in Ivan the Terrible’s conquest of Kazan. However, it must be remembered that the wars against the Tatars were wars against the former conquerors of Russia herself, and the Golden Horde continued for many centuries to be a threat to the existence of Russia both physically and spiritually. With regard to the West – to the Poles, the Swedes, the French and the Germans – Russia’s wars have almost always been defensive in character, involving the recapture of Russian lands with large Russian populations whose spiritual and physical identity was most definitely under the most serious threat. Only very rarely has Russia embarked upon a purely offensive war; and as Henry Kissinger has remarked, “Russia has exhibited a curious phenomenon: almost every offensive war that it has fought has ended badly, and every defensive war victoriously – a paradox.” A paradox, perhaps; but one with a clear explanation: when Russia has fought in defence of her Orthodox Christian idea, the Lord has given her victory, withdrawing His support only when she has betrayed that idea. Therefore as long as Russia remains true to her idea, we can expect her to come into conflict with other nations only when that idea is itself under threat. At the present time, that idea is not yet incarnate within Russia herself; for neither Soviet Russia, nor Democratic Russia, nor Zhirinovsky’s Russia is the true Russia – Holy Russia. But as the true and holy Russia struggles to surface from under the rubble of forces and ideologies alien to herself, we can expect a reaction from her enemies.
First, and most immediately, there is the conflict between the Russian idea and the Muslim idea – two universalisms which have struggled with each other for many centuries and whose radical incompatibility is evident to any unprejudiced observer. Conflicts between the present Russian regime and the Muslim world are already present in Bosnia, in the Caucasus and in Central Asia – and these conflicts are likely to intensify if the present regime is succeeded by either a National Bolshevik or a truly Orthodox one. For the pseudo-theocracy of Islam is expansionist in both the spiritual and physical senses, and will always be tempted to undertake a jihad or “holy war” against the Orthodox Christian theocracy.
Secondly, there is an inherent conflict between the Russian idea and the chauvinist ideas of certain western states, such as the Baltic states and Ukraine, on the one hand, and the democratic ideas of other western states, such as America, on the other. In the former case, large Russian minorities (over 25 million all told) feel under threat, and almost any kind of Russian regime, including the present democratic one, will feel obliged to protect their interests. The problem is exacerbated by the use which the universalist Catholic idea of the Vatican is making of these chauvinisms in order to drive out Russian Orthodoxy – in Western Ukraine, Orthodoxy has already been almost completely destroyed. As regards the democratic states, these have both supported the chauvinist states against Russia, and have themselves contributed further to the disintegration and polarization of Russian society by encouraging the premature introduction of the omogenis processes of the free market and unrestrained party warfare. And in the wake of the American capitalists have come the no less dangerous hordes of American Protestant evangelists with their openly anti-Orthodox message.
Thirdly, there is bound to come a conflict between Russia and China. Already in the early 1960s a gulf opened up between the world’s two largest communist satanocracies, and now China, while keeping the communist regime intact, has embarked on an ambitious, and so far very successful programme of economic liberalization which is making her more powerful than ever. It would be ironic – but also poetic and Divine justice – if the final death-blow to Sovietism, whether in its internationalist or nationalist form, should come in a war with the greatest achievement of Soviet messianism.
In his famous “Pushkin speech”, Dostoyevsky emphasized the “proclivity for universal susceptibility and all-reconciliation” of the Russian soul, as opposed to the narrow egoism of the non-Orthodox European nations. This judgement has been mocked by many, of various nations, who prefer to see in Russia the precise opposite. However, as a westerner by blood and education who has become Russian Orthodox by faith, the present writer believes that Dostoyevsky’s judgement is correct and contains a challenge, not only for Russians who might wish to distort the Russian idea in a democratic or chauvinist direction, but also for the West.
This challenge might be formulated as follows. If you truly want a true, and not a false peace, and a real, and not an illusory harmony of nations, then you have nothing to fear from Russia becoming herself once again. On the contrary, since the Russian idea is universal and true, being in essence the idea that the Creator and King of the nations has for all the nations, you should embrace it yourselves! For the Orthodox Christian idea, which has become the Russian idea, can also become the Jewish, and the American, and the Chinese idea, with each nation bringing its own physical and psychological individuality and talents to the service of every other nation, and the King of the nations, Christ God. For of His Kingdom and Nation on earth, the Orthodox Church, the Lord says: “Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut; that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste...” (Isaiah 60.11-12).
7. THE EUROPEAN UNION: A NEW TOTALITARIANISM?
Stealthily, unnoticed even by the great majority of its own citizens, a totalitarian monster has been born in the heart of Western Europe. Although this monster, the European Union, is the creation of a group of democratic states and is situated in the heartland of modern democracy, it has already to a large extent superseded the process of democratic decision-making in the member states and replaced it by an unelected body, the European Commission, which, together with the equally unelected European Court, has the power to issue directives that override all national legislation and which is steadily penetrating every nook and cranny of the political, economic, social and religious life of the member states, from the permitted shape of cucumbers to the date of Pascha. Moreover, the Maastricht treaty of 1992 legislated that by 1997 a single European Currency would be created run by a single (again unelected) European Bank – an institution the creation of which, in the opinion of the president of the American Federal Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan, must necessarily be accompanied by irreversible political union and the creation of a single European state.
When national sovereignty has gone and national parliaments become emasculated talking shops (a process that is already far advanced), only the European Parliament may perhaps have the power to withstand the power of the Commission-Politburo. However, all the indications are that the European Parliament, like the Soviet Central Committee, will be a toothless institution populated by people who have already imbibed the socialist spirit of the European institutions and enthusiastically accepted the ideology of the European super-state. The only real function of the European parliament, according to the well-known Anglo-French industrialist and politician, Sir James Goldsmith, “is to provide cover for the Commission”; and he argues that “at the moment the work of the European Parliament is overwhelmingly either a waste of time or downright destructive.”
Like all socialist revolutions, the modern European revolution claims to be democratic while actually working against the people and in secret from it. Thus Goldsmith writes: “The European Union was built in secret: not through carelessness or casualness, but in a deliberately planned and skilfully executed manner. Claude Cheysson, the former French Minister of Foreign Affairs and a member of the European Commission from 1985 to 1989, described the mechanism in an interview in Le Figaro on 7 May 1994. He explained proudly that the European Union could only have been constructed in the absence of democracy, and he went on to suggest that the present problems were the result of having mistakenly allowed a public debate on the merits of the Treaty of Maastricht.
“The British newspaper The Guardian lodged a case before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg complaining of the secrecy in which European decisions were taken. Lawyers for the European Council of Ministers responded by stating to the judges that ‘there is no principle of community law which gives citizens the right to EU documents.’ They went on to make the astounding claim that although heads of government had repeatedly called for more openness in EU affairs, their declarations ‘were of an eminently political nature and not binding on the community institutions’. So they asked the judges to ignore the repeated declarations at EU summit meetings in the past two years in favour of greater openness. Statements by the twelve heads of government were no more than ‘policy orientations’ and had no binding effect.
“This belief that the nomenklatura knows best and that the public is no more than a hindrance explains why there now exists a profound and dangerous divorce between European societies and their governing elites.”
This should come as no surprise to those who have studied history; for history shows that the power “of the people, by the people, for the people” always eventually gives birth to the power of one man or oligarchy – over the people and against the people. Thus the English revolution of 1642 gave birth to the dictatorship of Cromwell. And the French revolution of 1789 gave birth to the dictatorship of Napoleon. And the Russian revolution of 1917 gave birth to the dictatorship of Lenin and Stalin. There is no reason why the quiet European-wide revolution that began with the Treaty of Rome in 1956 should not similarly give birth to the dictatorship of a European Antichrist.
If we go still further back in history, then we shall find a very interesting, and alarming, parallel to the modern European Union – the ninth-century empire of Charlemagne, which covered the same territory as the core nations of the modern European Union and whose capital, Aachen, is not far from the modern European capital of Brussels.
The empire was born on Christmas Day, 800, when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as “Holy Roman Emperor”. This was not simply the birth of another Christian kingdom, but a direct challenge to the authority of the Eastern Roman Empire and the latter’s claim to be the only Christian empire. From now on there would be two kingdoms claiming to be the one and only Christian Roman empire – and soon thereafter, two Churches claiming to be the one and only Holy Catholic Church.
In the course of the next century, the Carolingian empire declined in strength and eventually broke up into separate kingdoms which became the ancestors of the modern France, Germany and the Benelux countries. However, before it died the empire’s rebellious spirit was reincarnated in the heretical Roman papacy, which, in the persons of the first Frankish Popes Nicholas I and Gregory VII (Hildebrand), became the new, de facto “Holy Roman Empire”. In the Middle Ages, there were many attempts to revive the political structure of the “Holy Roman Empire” north of the Alps – but still under the leadership of the Pope. And in modern times it seemed more than once as if the Empire had indeed come to life again, notably when Napoleon conquered most of Europe and was crowned by the Pope, and when Hitler did the same with the acquiescence of the Pope. However, these attempts have always been foiled by the cooperation of two powers at the western and eastern extremities of Europe respectively – Britain and Russia.
Britain was never part of the Carolingian empire (although she retained good relations with it); and ever since her conquest by the Normans and with the blessing of Pope Gregory VII in 1066, she has viewed the formation of continental empires with suspicion. It is therefore significant that the greatest opposition to the socialist and totalitarian tendencies of the European Union within Europe has come from Britain. Indeed, Britain was not one of the founder-states of the European Community in 1956, and joined it in the 1970s only on the understanding that it would remain no more than a trading community and would never become a super-state. Just recently, the British people has woken up to the fact that it has been deceived, and that the price of remaining in this trading community is going to be the extinction of their centuries-old national sovereignty.
Although an urgent and furious debate is now taking place in the British parliament and within the country as a whole, it looks unlikely that the country will be able to free itself from the quicksands of European union. If even the iron-willed Mrs Thatcher failed, her weaker successor is hardly likely to succeed. And if, as again seems probable, the Socialists win the next election, they are committed to accepting a single European Currency with all the irreversible consequences for British national sovereignty that that implies.
The British government is now desperately trying to push through the enlargement of the EU to include the states of Central and Eastern Europe in the hope that the enormous task of integrating so many countries will prove beyond the capacity of the Brussels technocrats, who will be forced to concede more decentralization. However, the Europeans have turned the tables on the British by saying that enlargement from twelve to fifteen or over twenty states will require the abolition of each nation’s right of veto (a right that the British Prime Minister has promised never to give up), otherwise decision-making will come to a halt if unanimity is required on every major decision. Thus it is quite possible that enlargement will actually lead to a diminution in the power of the member nations and a consequent increase in the power of Brussels.
European political union and enlargement will have profound effects on the life of the Orthodox nations of Eastern Europe. The difference in economic level between the richer countries in the north and west, and the poorer countries in the south and east, will lead to large-scale emigration in search of work from the poorer to the richer countries, with consequent inflation, large-scale unemployment and social disruption in the poorer countries. This can already be observed in Greece, which has been a member of the EU for some years. The problems are likely to be even more horrendous in such countries as Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine, which are not yet in the Union but which want to enter because they cannot sell their goods in the Union without access to the market that membership provides. The Treaty of Maastricht proposed to solve this problem with its special protocol on “Economic and Social Cohesion”; but this envisages typically socialist planning institutions and transfers of funds which have failed in the past and are not likely to succeed in the future.
The only country on the European mainland which the EU (and NATO) does not aim to incorporate within itself is Russia. The reason is as follows. The EU can expand eastwards to include even such a large country as Ukraine without changing its essential nature or its present centre of gravity – Germany. Indeed, German power is likely to grow as the EU expands eastwards. But the incorporation of Russia would inevitably shift the balance of power eastwards, not only because Russia is much larger even than Germany, but also because it would have the largest army in the Union and might use it to assert political dominance within it.
However, the fact that Russia can never form part of the EU or NATO does not mean that Europe does not want to exert influence over her and weaken her. For a powerful Russia remains, together with the Islamic world, the principal threat to the EU’s ever-increasing power. Europe has attempted to weaken Russia in various ways. First, she has tried to divide her. Secondly, she has tried to omogenisat her. And thirdly, she has tried to demonize her.
Let us look briefly at each of these in turn.
1. The Division of Russia. Europe has tried to divide Russia not only from the non-Slavic republics of the former Soviet Union, with whom she has less in common, but even from the Slavic republics, with which she shares so much. This has resulted in the fact that 25 million Russians now live outside the borders of Russia. Europe has very vigorously supported the rights to national self-determination of the various Baltic, Caucasian and Central Asian peoples, while almost ignoring these 25 million Russians, whose interests almost any kind of Russian government feels bound to defend. Even the present, greatly contracted boundaries of the Russian state, are not sacred to the Europeans, as was made clear in the recent Chechen war. For although Europe did not openly call for the independence of Chechens, who are responsible for so much of the organized crime in Russia today, it did not conceal its sympathy for them.
There is a profound irony here. The EU is trying to unite into a single state nations like the Germans and the Greeks which are profoundly different and which have never been parts of the same state (except for a brief spell under the Nazis). On the other hand, it is trying to drive apart nations such as the Russians, the Belorussians and the Ukrainians which for most of their history have been united, and which have very close genetic, linguistic, cultural and religious ties.
What kind of logic is this? Why create artificial nations in the west while breaking up natural nations in the east? There is in fact a profound logic here. It is the demonic dialectical logic of the destruction of the nation. And in pursuing this logic, the EU is following a clear historical example – that of Lenin.
Before the revolution, Lenin called for the break-up of the Russian empire on the basis of the principle of national self-determination. When he came to power, he handed over vast areas of Russia to German control at the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – an act of treachery that was condemned by his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon. However, when he felt that his power was secure, at the end of the Civil War, Lenin proceeded to suppress the independence of all the nationalities whose freedom he had demanded earlier. This was in accordance with his understanding of the aim of socialism, which was “not only the annihilation of the dividedness of humanity into small states and isolated nations, not only the drawing together of the nations, but also their fusion” – i.e. their destruction. For, as Dostoyevsky wrote, “socialism deprives the national principle of its individuality, undermining the very foundations of nationality.”
The paradox that socialism both incites nationalism and destroys the nation is one aspect of the general paradox of the revolution, that while preaching freedom it practises slavery, while proclaiming inequality it creates inequality, and while dreaming of brotherhood it incites fratricidal war. In the same way, the French revolution proclaimed the freedom and equality of all nations; but its first appearance on the international arena was in the form of Napoleonic imperialism, which strove to destroy the freedom of all the nations of Europe. And paradoxically, it was autocratic Russia, the conqueror of Napoleon, which, despite its reputation as “the prison of the nations”, guaranteed the survival of the nations of the West for at least another century.
The truth is that the revolution, while inciting the passions for personal and national freedom in order to destroy the old church and state structures, was aimed at the destruction of all freedom and individuality, both personal and national. Only Russia saw this clearly and only Russia had, moreover, the power to back up her words with deeds. That is why the propaganda of “progressive” Europe was directed primarily against her; and that is why the contemporary EU is doing all it can to prevent the re-emergence of Russia as a strong and independent nation.
2. The Democratization of Russia. If Russia cannot be destroyed as a nation, think the European socialists, then she must be at any rate neutralized by making her into a democracy; for it is of the nature of democracies to become so lacking in individuality, and interconnected with each other, that war between them is unthinkable. For, as Goldsmith writes: “Enlightenment liberals today believe that if the world consists exclusively of democratic states there will be no war. Therefore, the corollary must also be true: radically different regimes cannot coexist in harmony. That is how Enlightenment thinkers have concluded that worldwide cultural omogenisation is a precondition of peace. It follows that any community which resists the absorption or destruction of its culture by the West is a threat to peace.”
Now the underlying philosophy of democracy is that of human rights, by which is meant the rights of the individual man or woman as opposed to the rights of any larger group, such as the nation or the family. Of course, decisions are made in democracies by means of majority voting; but the majority is not a natural group, since it constantly changes, not only on different issues but even on one and the same issue. Therefore the only constant unit in democratic society is the individual person, only not the person in his full and unique personality, but the person as the binary digit – the “yes” or “no” of the ballot box.
However, in making the individual and his egotistical “rights” the basis of society, democracy actually undermines the very foundations of society. For, as Fr. Stefan Krasovitsky writes, “the nucleus of society is the family, whereas the nucleus of the Church is the person. Within the Church a person is united with other persons without any loss of his individuality, for this unity takes place in the Super-Person (Divine Person) of Jesus Christ... [As to so-called ‘human rights’,] they are provided (in the conditions of a morally healthy society) within the family in accordance with the familial status of each member of this unit of society. So a normal society should defend, not ‘human rights’.. but the rights of the family, defending them from suppression and destruction.”
Traditionally, it has been patriarchal and monarchical societies that have best defended the rights of the family. Thus Holy Russia was seen as a single family headed by the Tsar-Batyushka, or “little father”. And the legitimacy of the Tsar as the head of the family of Russia was seen as a natural extension of the legitimacy of the father of every Russian family, both supporting and being supported by it.
As Tuskarev writes: “The cell of the State is the family. In the family the father is the head by nature, while the son is subject to him; the authority of the father is not the result of elections in the family, but is entrusted to him naturally by the law of God (Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow). Just as from the extended family of the tribe there arises the people, so out of the family headed by one man there arises tsarist autocracy. Both the familial and the monarchical organization are established by God for the earthly existence of the sinful, fallen man. The first-created man, living in living communion with God, was not subject to anyone besides God, and was the lord of irrational creation. But when man sinned, destroying the Divine hierarchy of submission and falling away from God, he became the servant of sin and the devil, and as a consequence of this became subject to a man like himself. The sinful will of man requires submission for the restraint of his destructive activity. This Divine ordinance has in view only the good of man – the limitation of the spread of evil. And history itself shows that whatever the inadequacies of monarchies, they bear no comparison with that evil that revolutions and anarchies have brought to the peoples.”
It follows that with the fall of the authority of the Tsar, the authority of all heads of families suffers, with disastrous consequences for the family as a whole. And so we find in all modern democracies the break-up of the family unit, the increase of divorces and single-parent families, the corruption of youth, adolescent crime, prostitution, etc. The Russian democracy of 1917 opened the floodgates for all these evils, and the ever-widening corruption of the Soviet years was a further consequence of that original disaster. For a lover of Russia, therefore, it would be natural to hope for a return to the patriarchal, monarchical society that preceded the disaster and which has been the traditional pattern of Russian society throughout its history. However, the Europeans have done everything in their power to prevent such a return.
Thus they have persistently labelled the major non-democratic political forces as “anti-semitic” or communist or both, and have backed the Freemason Yeltsin against his rivals, forgetting that he, too, was once a communist. Again, they have insisted on the more-or-less immediate creation of a free market as a condition for economic aid, although in such an antiquated economy this was bound to lead to massive unemployment with further disruption of the already seriously threatened family. Again, they have imposed the democratic ethos of unlimited freedom, which exposes children and adults to all the corrupting influences of greed, promiscuity, drugs, pornography, rock music, etc.
Fr. Stefan Krasovitsky has defined democratic freedom as a western type of collectivism which is only superficially opposed to the eastern, socialist type of collectivism. The western type, he writes, “presupposes (under the pretext of ‘free expression’) the abolition of all the previous very strict moral and sexual taboos which subconsciously and genetically separate one person from another, turning their merging together into a single collective plasma with its corrupt intimacy.” And he goes on: “Since the second [western] type of collectivism has deeper roots than its more superficial [eastern] analogue, it does not demand the fulfilment of the well-known unpleasant characteristics of the first type of collectivism, such as: the suppression of ‘social freedoms’, etc. On the contrary, in the conditions of the second type of collectivism, true, real freedom is inversely proportional to social freedoms. Man loses his freedom as a person (or individual essence), but not as a member of a collectivist society, since he is merged genetically and subconsciously into a collective plasma with its rotten collective intimacy.
“’Perestroika’ signifies the merging together of both types of collectivism into one with the effect of an atomic explosion, which can no less be localized within Russia than the Socialist revolution with its consequences.”
3. The Demonization of Russia. If a man has lost his nation, and even his family, he can still survive and be regenerated by his personal relationship with God in the Church. But in Russia the Europeans (and Americans) have struck even at that. For just as they have imposed internationalism and democracy, hamburgers, rock music and Hollywood on the shell-shocked Russians, so have they imposed the still more demonic and dangerous brews of Protestant evangelism and inter-faith Ecumenism. Moreover, in sharp contrast with the period after the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, when the West demanded a complete purging of the Nazis, and the public and prolonged repentance of the German nation, since the fall of communism they have insisted on nothing of the kind. The result is that not a single leading communist has been convicted for the crimes of the communist period, and unrepentant communists, miraculously transformed into capitalists and democrats, have been allowed to continue occupying all the important posts in Church and State. And this has been the more tragic in the Church as the Church is so much more important than the State; for it is only on the basis of a regenerated and purified Church that the rebuilding of the State can truly begin.
The fact that, even after the fall of communism, the communist commissars and patriarchs still rule has created a very dangerous apathy in the hearts of Orthodox Russians. And the further fact that, after suffering all the torments and humiliation of the Soviet period, the official Orthodox Church has still not been freed inwardly, and has exchanged the unholy union with God-hating atheism for the no less unholy union with Jews and Muslims and western heretics, has exposed them to the truly demonic temptation of despair. “What is truth?” said Pilate wearily – and would not stay for an answer. “Where is Orthodoxy?” says the contemporary Russian – and gives up the search for the truly Orthodox Church. But for those who have ceased to search for the truth and the Church, there is destined only surrender to the snares of him “whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders,... because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (II Thessalonians 2.9-10).
And yet perhaps now we, at last, we are seeing the beginning of a more widespread regeneration of Russian society in the emergence of an opposition to Ecumenism. It is right that it should begin here, in the purely spiritual, dogmatic sphere; for true faith is the foundation of all good, and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11.6). On the basis of the regeneration of the individual person’s relationship to God through true faith, the regeneration of the family, and then of the nation, can begin. Then, and only then, will Russians be Russians again and not simply eastern clones of Western Man. Then, and only then, will the expansion of the European Antichrist come to a halt, and begin to retreat...
February 18 / March 3, 1995.
St. Leo the Great, Pope of Rome.
(Adapted from “The European Union: A New Totalitarianism?”, published in Orthodox Life, vol. 45, ¹ 2, March-April, 1995, and translated into Russian in Pravoslavnaia Tver’, ¹¹ 5-6, May-June, 1995.)
8. WHAT PRICE FREEDOM?
For at least the last two hundred years, the value most highly valued in western society has been freedom. Even those, such as the monarchists, fascists and communists, whose programmes have advocated a greater degree of State control, have had, at least for propaganda purposes, to pay lip-service to the value of liberal democracy. Thus monarchists have tended to be constitutional monarchists, fascists – populists claiming to express the will of the people, and communists – self-appointed champions of the oppressed against imperialist and capitalist oppressors.
It requires an effort of historical imagination to realize that the absolute value of freedom has been by no means self-evident to previous generations. In Roman times, for example, the value most prized in Roman rule was peace, and the loss of their freedom was considered by most of the empire’s subject peoples (the Jews were the main exceptions) to be a price well worth paying for the Pax Romana. Certainly the Christians never agitated for political freedom.
When the Roman empire became Christian, the supreme value of external peace was replaced by that of spiritual peace, which is based on right belief or Orthodoxy. And this value was transferred from the New Rome of Constantinople to the “Third Rome” of Moscow. In the medieval West the same ideal prevailed, albeit in a very corrupted form; and both popes and kings justified their rule by claiming to be God-appointed “vicars of Christ” or “defenders of the Faith”.
Of course, the fact that a society values peace or Orthodoxy above all else does not necessarily mean that freedom is despised or thought not worth fighting for. Indeed, a certain measure of freedom in some spheres may be considered a necessary condition for the attainment of the supreme value. Thus in the Orthodox East, with few exceptions, the principle of freedom of expression was upheld, and if heretics were punished they were exiled rather than tortured – unlike in the West, where the torture of heretics was officially proclaimed to be Christian at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. But history shows that societies in which freedom is the supreme value form a distinct type, liberal democracy. The question is: is it the best type?
Now freedom means different things to different people. To a Christian it means full spiritual freedom, freedom from sin, “the law of liberty” (James 1.25), of which Christ spoke when He said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8.32). The truth makes us free because, in the person of Truth Incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ, it frees us from sin. If we were free of sin, we would be truly free, whatever physical or political environment we lived in. But being the slaves of sin, we bring upon ourselves every other kind of slavery.
For sin is the cause not only of spiritual slavery, but also of physical slavery. “The first cause of slavery,” writes St. Augustine, “is sin; that is why man is subjected to man in the state of slavery. This does not happen apart from the judgement of God, with Whom is no injustice and Who knows how to apportion varying punishments in accordance with the differing deserts of those who do wrong.
“The heavenly Lord declares: ‘Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin’ (John 8.34). That is why, when, as often happens, religious men are slaves of unjust masters, their masters are not free. ‘For whatever a man is overcome by, to that he is enslaved’ (II Peter 2.19). And it is better to be the slave of a man than a slave of lust. For lust is a most savage master and one that devastates the hearts of men; this is true, to give only one example, of the lust for mastery itself. But in the peaceful order of human society, where one group of men is subjected to another, slaves are benefited by humility and masters are harmed by pride. By nature, as God first created man, no one is the slave, either of man or of sin. But slavery is ordained as a form of punishment by that law which enjoins the preservation of the natural order and prevents its disturbance. Had that law never been broken, there would have been no need for its enforcement by the punitive measure of slavery. So the apostle instructs slaves to be subject to their masters and to serve them wholeheartedly. Thereby, if they cannot get freedom from their masters, they can make their slavery into a kind of freedom, by performing this service not in deceitfulness and fear but in faithfulness and love, until injustice passes away and all dominion and human power are brought to nothing and God is all in all...”
The liberal democracies speak very little of this spiritual kind of freedom. This does not necessarily mean that liberal democracy is not conducive to it. However, the Church teaches that if we do not place spiritual freedom as our supreme goal, we shall not attain to it; and it must be admitted that as societies in the West have become more liberal and democratic they have at the same time become less free in the Christian sense. Christian liberals may argue that this development is the result of quite other factors – the rise of science, perhaps, or the industrial revolution. But the fact remains that, whatever the reason, England, say, in the later twentieth century is a less religious and Christian country than England in the early seventeenth century.
Many – many even who call themselves Christian – welcome this, arguing that the religiosity of seventeenth-century England was in fact bigotry and fanaticism, and the humanism of twentieth-century England – a sign of our greater humaneness. They even argue that the humanism of twentieth-century England is closer to real Christianity than the seventeenth-century version. I believe that if one examines such a person’s ideal of freedom, it will turn out to have very little to do with spiritual freedom as Christ defined it, and will be much closer to freedom of conscience, of speech and of the press. People are free, according to this definition, not because they know the truth, but because they can speak the truth or (more usually) falsehood without being prosecuted. Sometimes this ideal is combined with an agnosticism about the existence of any absolute truth; at others – with a belief that the truth can be attained and retained by the greatest number of people only if the maximum freedom is given to those in error to express their error and, hopefully, have it refuted.
But freedom of thought, it is argued, is possible only if all power is not in the hands of one man holding one point of view. Hence the need for political freedom, or democracy. For although the ruling democratic party or leader cannot express and put into effect all points of view, he will at any rate express the majority point of view, and he must continue to take the views of the majority into account if he wants to remain in power.
At this point I should like to make the assumption that absolute truth does exist, that that truth is Christianity, and that spiritual freedom is an absolute value attainable only through knowledge of the truth that is Christ. The question now is: is this spiritual freedom more surely attained and retained in a society locating its absolute values, not (or at any rate, not explicitly) in spiritual freedom, but in free speech and political freedom, or by a society which places some restrictions on the latter for the sake of the same spiritual freedom? It should be obvious that we are not here contrasting democracy and dictatorship of the Leninist or Hitlerite varieties; for the latter’s highest values were explicitly anti-Christian. The contrast is rather between a modern democracy such as ours and a more authoritarian but also more explicitly Christian society such as ninth-century Byzantium or nineteenth-century Russia. It should also be obvious that the greater technological sophistication and wealth of the one kind of society is not relevant here, except insofar as one society is deemed to be more conducive to the accumulation of wealth, and this in turn is deemed to help or hinder the attainment of spiritual freedom.
Now a vital preliminary question that must be asked is: do men begin from a condition of freedom or slavery, spiritually speaking? The answer is: yes and no. Yes, insofar as man has freewill and therefore cannot escape responsibility for his actions. And no, insofar as he is born in a condition of fallenness or original sin, which, without removing his freewill, nevertheless distorts his thinking, heavily influences his feeling and weakens and diverts his willing. Thus it is Christian teaching that man cannot be liberated spiritually by his own efforts alone.
If man cannot liberate himself, then another must help him, even push him, along the way to freedom. We can see this most clearly in the case of children. We do not leave children to find out for themselves that fire burns, that arsenic kills, that reading and writing are useful skills, or that Jesus is God. We tell them these necessary truths, and we do not feel that we are violating their freedom in so doing. Rather, we feel that it is the one who deprives them of this knowledge that is restricting their freedom.
This is the principle of education, and it applies throughout life. Thus the great scientific advances of modern civilization are the result of the accumulation of knowledge over many generations, and each succeeding generation makes advances by taking the truths discovered by previous generations on trust, and then building on them. Thus we are told that electricity and bacteria exist, and that the earth is not flat. These are not presented as one man’s point of view, no better than any other’s, but as fact – dogma, if you like. But no one objects to this kind of scientific dogmatism – even if some contemporary scientific dogmas, such as Darwinism, are in fact untrue – because we know that a person who continues to believe that the earth is flat, for example, is going to be at a severe disadvantage in the struggle of life.
Of course, if a person, contrary to all that his teachers tell him, continues to believe that the earth is flat, he is not imprisoned or tortured for his wrong belief. This is because we believe that gentle persuasion is a better means of convincing him, and/or that his error does not constitute a major threat to society as a whole. But we do penalize him in other ways – by ridicule, for example, or by failing him in his exams. And in general, if we did not penalise what we considered to be wrong belief in any way the foundations of society would quickly crumble. No society is completely liberal; societies differ not so much in their degree of liberalism as in the things they are liberal about.
In modern Britain, for example, it is forbidden to use corporal punishment to discipline one’s children, but homosexuality is allowed; it is forbidden to emit certain industrial effluents into rivers, but abortion is allowed; it is forbidden to make racial or anti-semitic remarks, but the crudest blasphemy against Jesus Christ and Christians is allowed (blasphemy laws do exist, but they are never invoked). These laws may be counted as liberal by some, but they go directly counter to the law of liberty preached in the Gospel. According to that law, “he that spareth his rod hateth his son” (Prov. 13.24); homosexuality is a deadly sin which brought about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra; abortion is murder; and “if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” (I Cor. 16.22).
Of course it is true that truth and virtue cannot be instilled at the point of a gun. At the end of the day the evil will will manifest itself, whatever the incitements to good, just as the good will will manifest itself whatever the enticements to evil. Thus the angel of the Apocalypse says: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev. 22.11).
And yet this truth must not be understood in a Calvinist sense, as if no amount of persuasion or external pressure makes men one whit better or worse than they would be otherwise. Both the Gospel and the common experience of mankind demonstrate that we as individuals and society as a whole both can and do influence our fellow men to good and evil, to heaven and hell. And that without violating their basic freedom of choice. Thus there can be no doubt that a society which, for whatever reason, condones homosexuality and abortion makes the incidence of those crimes that much more likely, while a society that forbids them on pain of imprisonment or worse will deter at least some who might otherwise be tempted to sin. And those who are thus deterred, far from suffering a diminution of their freedom, will be saved from that terrible slavery of the soul – far more terrible than any physical slavery – which ultimately leads down to the eternal bonds of hell.
It is an old maxim that liberty is not licence. And no society, we repeat, can license everything. The society, if such exists, which licenses everything is the lawless society.
Thus we read that in America “in order to protect ourselves from the unprincipled preferences of others a system of laws had to be devised, and every law in the code restricts someone’s freedom in order to protect someone else’s rights. In our republican form of government, each person’s rights have to be protected from incursion by the majority. Unfortunately, unjust laws can be passed which make moral rights illegal and immoral activities legal – abortion laws being a case in point. And so-called natural law, the common ground on which church and state could co-exist peaceably, has been eliminated as a foundation for societal law. Even the Constitution is being eroded by moral relativism.”
If we begin from Christian, as opposed to humanist principles, then the best society is that which most encourages and helps men along the path to salvation, which is attained by obedience to the dogmatic truths and moral commandments ordained and revealed by God. In essence, such a society is what is commonly called “theocracy”; that is, it is ruled by God, or by a king anointed by God and responsible to Him alone – not by the people. This is not to say that the democratic or elective principle is entirely lacking in such societies – in the theocratic society of Ancient Israel, for example, the judges were sometimes elected by the people (Judges 11.11), and the first Romanov Tsar was elected by the zemsky sobor, the assembly of the Russian land. What it means is that all authority in the theocratic society, however it is established – whether by right of primogeniture in the case of kings, or canonical election in the case of bishops, or educational qualifications in the case of teachers and magistrates, or physical parenthood in the case of fathers and mothers – is acknowledged to be providentially instituted and preserved by God, so that rebellion against these authorities is ultimately rebellion against God (unless, of course, the authorities themselves have rebelled against God, as they did in Russia in 1917). “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13.1).
Now it is important to note that all the world’s leading western democracies, which have become the model for the rest of the world, have been founded on the explicit rejection of the theocratic principle. Thus the English revolution of 1649 explicitly rejected the Divine right of kings and killed the king, thereby adding murder to oath-breaking. And having abolished one pillar of the theocratic society, the Monarchy, it proceeded to dethrone another – the Church, the two being replaced (temporarily) by the Puritan republic.
The American revolution of 1776 began with a refusal to pay taxes to the lawful king. It involved less of a radical change in society than the other democratic revolutions, partly because the States were already of necessity largely self-governing through their distance from Britain. However, an important new principle was added to the Constitution: the right to “the pursuit of happiness”, by which was clearly meant material prosperity and psychological well-being rather than the blessedness of the Saints. Moreover, the American revolution showed that when the virus of the lust for freedom is let loose, it is not only kings who suffer, but also the democratically elected parliaments that replace them. For, as an American historian writes, it showed that “parliamentary supremacy was vulnerable to riot, agitation and boycott...”
The French revolution of 1789 was by far the most bloodthirsty and radical of the revolutions so far. Not only were the Monarchy and the Church overthrown, and a terrible persecution unleashed against the propertied classes, but a completely new and in essence atheist religion, the worship of the goddess Reason, was instituted. It was in reflecting on the French revolution that Dostoyevsky uttered his famous saying: “If God does not exist, then everything [that is, everything that is evil] is permitted.” The French revolution conquered even in “reactionary” countries that feared and opposed it. For everywhere its subjectivist principles of personal and political freedom became more powerful than the objective principle of spiritual freedom.
The Russian diplomat and poet Tyutchev expressed these principles as follows: “The human I, wishing to depend only on itself, not recognizing and not accepting any other law besides its own will – in a word, the human I, taking the place of God, - does not, of course, constitute something new among men. But such it has become when raised to the status of a political and social right, and when it strives, by virtue of this right, to rule society. This is the new phenomenon which acquired the name of the French revolution in 1789...”
As the logical conclusion of all the previous revolutions came the Russian revolution of 1917. The overthrow of the Tsar was welcomed by the western democracies, although he had been their most faithful ally in the world war against Germany and Austria-Hungary. And as Dostoyevsky had foreseen and Solzhenitsyn has clearly demonstrated, it was the persistent agitation for “freedom” by liberals both within and outside Russia that led to the imposition of the most illiberal and destructive tyranny the world has ever seen.
Nor did the western democracies show any consistent zeal against the communist regimes they had done so much to instal. The Anglo-American expeditionary force withdrew from North Russia in the Civil War when it seemed on the point of breaking through to Moscow. Britain and America both recognized the Soviet Union at a time when persecution of the Faith was at its height. British journalists gave glowing reports of the Soviets at the height of dekulakization. Stalin remained “Uncle Joe” even after the end of the Second World War, when he had enslaved Eastern Europe. The Allies, and especially the United States, did fight against communism in Greece, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, but not in Yugoslavia, Hungary, Indonesia, Cambodia or Ethiopia. Red China was admitted to the United Nations, but democratic Taiwan was expelled. Castro and Ortega were warred against, but Brezhnev, Mao, Tito and Ceasusescu were feted. The real bogey-men for western liberals remained South Africa and Chile, even liberal America, not the communist regimes which had vowed to destroy all religion and every capitalist state. Even as communism began to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, the West hesitated to recognize the openly anti-communist democrats and feared above all a return to “fascist” Orthodox regimes.
This brief historical synopsis tells us many things about the real nature of modern democracy and its worship of freedom:-
1. Its root is anti-God. Therefore its fruit cannot be godly. For “either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12.33). The fruits we are now seeing are blasphemy, murder, greed and sexual immorality on a vast scale. It is difficult indeed to be a Christian in a modern democracy.
2. The major argument produced in favour of democracy – that it prevents the emergence of imperialist or totalitarian regimes – is false. British imperialism really began after the English revolution. Napoleon was a direct product of the French revolution. Russian democracy gave birth to Lenin. German democracy voted Hitler into power. The spread of communism in the twentieth century was in large measure due to the apathy and dividedness of the western democracies, whose anti-monarchical and anti-Christian ideology had infected the educated elites of the eastern countries, and most of whose leading intellectuals were socialist in their sympathies. The world has not been made safe by or for democracy. Communism was defeated (if it has been truly defeated), not by western democracy, but by the blood of the new martyrs of Russia and the thirst for freedom and truth (spiritual as well as political) of the subjugated eastern peoples.
3. The major argument in favour of unlimited free speech – that it constitutes the best conditions for the discovery of the truth – is false. If unlimited freedom, i.e. licence, is given to the publication of blasphemous and immoral material, then the result, given the fallenness of our nature and its inclination towards evil, will be an increase in blasphemy and immorality. This in turn will lead to pressure for the muzzling of those few publications and individuals who speak the truth. Already it is difficult to speak out freely against, say, anti-Christian Judaism or soul-destroying homosexuality, in liberal England and America. Absolute power may corrupt absolute rulers (although history shows many exceptions to that rule); but absolute freedom is no less corrupting. And it corrupts, not just a few people at the top (who arrived there, most often, because they were already corrupt), but vast numbers of people at every level of society, from the power-hungry politicians to the youngest and most powerless children.
4. Perhaps the greatest, most irreplaceable casualty of liberal democracy has been the concept of absolute, objective truth. Christianity proclaims that spiritual freedom comes from the knowledge of objective truth, which comes from the revelation of God. Liberal democracy reverses this relationship, and says that the knowledge of the truth comes from surveying the subjective choices of the people; vox populi – vox veritatis. Sometimes vox populi is refined to mean the voice of experts, wise men in scientific laboratories or government commissions or central banks. But since the opinions of experts are as fickle and changeable as those of the masses, this hardly improves the situation. In any case, when it comes to the most important choices and propositions, those concerning morality and religion, subjectivity reigns supreme; “situation ethics” has dispensed with all objective moral judgements, while inter-faith ecumenism has decreed that all religions lead to God, even when they contradict each other on the most basic points. Thus choosing what to believe about God, or whether to believe in him at all, becomes as subjective, personal and, ultimately, inconsequential an act as choosing a pair of shoes or a variety of ice-cream. As for right and wrong, there is only one right – to express oneself as freely, as outrageously, as possible, and only one wrong – to express oneself in a significantly different way from the majority.
However, human nature abhors a vacuum; and the dissolution of constant, absolute truths and values in the inconstant ocean of liberal, ecumenical democracy will inevitably elicit a reaction. This will be the reaction of the man who, after enjoying the freedom of the waves for a time, suddenly realizes that he is drowning and that he must reach dry land. And so he will follow anyone who can offer him dry land – that is, absolute truth. Only the danger is that, since he has never been on dry land, and has never flexed his mental muscles on the hard, unyielding surface of truth, he will very easily mistake quicksand for land, and a mirage for the truth. And he will finally touch the real thing only when he sets foot on – the ocean floor. “Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I am stuck fast in the mire of the deep, and there is no sure standing...” (Ps. 68.1-2).
What, then, are we to do, who live in modern democracies but seek to live in accordance with absolute truth?
One temptation we should avoid at the outset. We must understand, first of all, that no real change for the better can come about in society by attempting to change the political system alone, without a change in the hearts of men. For, as Dostoyevsky warned when discussing the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, it is not formal structures – or not formal structures alone – that must change, but the spiritual content that underlies them and brought them into being.
Liberal democracy, together with its offspring, communism, came into being as the result of a change in the spirit of the western peoples, a change involving a decrease in faith in God, and an increase in the belief that man can control his destiny independently of God. So theocracy, rule by God, was rejected in favour of democracy, rule by the people. In essence, this was the spirit of rebellion, the same spirit which cast Satan out of heaven. The nature of that spirit has been masked by fine-sounding slogans, such as “freedom, equality and fraternity”, “glasnost’ and perestroika”. But its true nature has been revealed by the unprecedented horrors of the twentieth century, most of which have been carried out in the name of the same high-flown ideals.
The spirit of a society can change only when the spirit of its individual members has changed. Thus a truly theocratic society can come into being only when each individual has truly decided to make God his King. Then, and only then, will God – not man – act to change the structure of society in order that it may reflect and confirm the new spirit that reigns in its members.
And there is another reason why political action would be fruitless at this moment, before the Spirit of truth has brought forth fruit in individual souls. We live in the age of apostasy foretold by the prophets. And as Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov wrote: “The apostasy is permitted by God. So do not try to stop it with your powerless hand. Flee from it yourself, protect yourself from it; that is enough for you. Learn to know the spirit of the age, study it, so that whenever possible you will be able to avoid its influence... Only God’s special mercy is able to stop this all-destroying moral epidemic, to stop it for awhile, because it is necessary that everything foretold by the Scriptures should come to pass...”
Therefore, says the apostle, “live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God” (I Peter 2.16).
(October 26 /
November 8, 1996; adapted from an
article with the same title published in Orthodox America,
9. THREE FAITHS, THREE POLITICAL SYSTEMS
If we look around us today, in 1997, it would seem as if one socio-politico-religious doctrine has conquered everywhere: democracy, human rights, anti-nationalism, free-market economics and religious indifference (ecumenism). There are still a few dictators; but very few who advocate dictatorship or absolute monarchy as such. There are still some highly nationalist, even racist regimes; but none - with the important exception of Israel - where a form of racism has the status of a state religion. There are still at least two communist countries - North Korea and China - where democracy and human rights are regularly trampled on; but China, at any rate, has a flourishing semi-capitalist economy. Only in the Muslim countries do we see an alternative doctrine of human society fervently and widely expressed; and the ideal of the Orthodox Theocracy lives on, albeit as a distinctly minority belief, in some Orthodox countries, notably Russia.
These three world-views, which we may call Democracy, Islam and Orthodoxy for short, are essentially the same three world-views which Vladimir Soloviev, in an article written in 1877 and entitled "Three Forces", identified as incarnating the three basic forces which have determined the whole of world history. Soloviev characterized Islam as being under the dominating influence of what he called the first force, and which he defined as "the striving to subject humanity in all its spheres and at every level of its life to one supreme principle which in its exclusive unity strives to mix and confuse the whole variety of private forms, to suppress the independence of the person and the freedom of private life." Democracy he characterized as being under the dominating influence of the second force, which he defined as "the striving to destroy the stronghold of dead unity, to give freedom everywhere to private forms of life, freedom to the person and his activity; ... the extreme expression of this force is general egoism and anarchy and a multitude of separate individuals without an inner bond." The third force, which Soloviev believed was incarnate especially in the Slavic world, is defined as "giving a positive content to the two other forces, freeing them from their exclusivity, and reconciling the unity of the higher principle with the free multiplicity of private forms and elements."
In more recent times, Professor I.M. Andreev characterized essentially the same three forces in their relationship to religion as follows: “Of the three forms of state power – monarchy, democracy and despotism – strictly speaking, only the first (monarchy) is based on a religious-ethical principle, the second (democracy) is based on an a-religious-ethical principle, and the third (despotism) is based on an anti-religious (satanic) principle.”
1. Democracy. Let us begin by examining Democracy. "Every sphere of activity," wrote Soloviev, "every form of life in the West, keeping aloof and separate from the others, strives in its separation to achieve an absolute significance, excluding all the rest, and to become the one for all. Instead of that, however, in accordance with the unfailing law of ultimate existence, it comes in its isolation to powerlessness and nothingness; and in taking over a sphere that is foreign to it, it loses power over its own. Thus the western church, having separated from the state, but assuming to itself the significance of a state in this separation, has herself become an ecclesiastical state, and ends up by losing all power both over the state and over society. In exactly the same way, the state, on being separated both from the church and the people, and having assumed to itself an absolute significance in its exclusive centralization, is finally deprived of all independence, and is turned into.. the executive tool of the people's voting, while the people or zemstvo itself, rising up both against the church and against the state, falls apart into warring classes and then must finally fall apart into warring individuals, too. The social organism of the West, having separated from the beginning into private organisms that are hostile to each other, must finally split up into its final elements, into the atoms of society, that is, individual people; and corporative, caste egoism must be translated into personal egoism."
The history of the world in the century since these words were written fully bears out their truth. The widening and deepening of democracy has coincided with a catastrophic increase in the atomization of society on all levels. Thus the existentialist term "alienation" has with justice been used to describe a common condition of democratic, especially urban democratic man. Now it is a question whether democracy causes atomization, or is simply one of its manifestations, the true cause being the falling away of European man from the true faith following the primary act of self-assertive atomism - the rebellion of the Pope. However, what is clear is that the institution of party warfare in democratic politics has not checked, but has rather strengthened the warfare between individuals that we see all around us, in the rise of crime and selfishness of all kinds.
This fact is most clearly illustrated by the history of Russian democracy in 1917. Thus none of the democratic leaders of the Provisional Government, from Milyukov to Lvov to Kerensky, offered any real opposition to the revolution, but rather claimed that they were acting by its authority. Indeed, as Novgorodtsev wrote: "Prince Lvov, Kerensky and Lenin were bound together by an unbroken bond. Prince Lvov was as guilty of Kerensky as Kerensky was of Lenin. If we compare these three actors of the revolution, who each in turn led the revolutionary power, in their relationship to the evil principle of civil enmity and inner dissolution, we can represent this relationship as follows. The system of guileless non-resistance to evil, which was applied by Prince Lvov as a system of ruling the state, with Kerensky was transformed into a system of pandering to evil camouflaged by phrases about 'the revolutionary leap' and the good of the state, while with Lenin it was transformed into a system of openly serving evil clothed in the form of merciless class warfare and the destruction of all those displeasing to the authorities. Each of the three mentioned persons had his utopian dreams, and history dealt with all of them in the same way: it turned their dreams into nothing and made of them playthings of the blind elements. The one who most appealed to mass instincts and passions acquired the firmest power over the masses. In conditions of general anarchy the path to power and despotism was most open to the worst demagogy. Hence it turned out that the legalized anarchy of Prince Lvov and Kerensky naturally and inevitably gave way to the demagogic depotism of Lenin."
The truth of the historical law that democracy leads to anarchy which leads to despotism had already been demonstrated by the English revolution, which ushered in the dictatorship of Cromwell, and by the French revolution, which ushered in the Jacobins and Napoleon. And it was to be demonstrated once again in 1933, when democratic Germany, rocked by conditions of general anarchy, voted Hitler into power. So Lenin had history on his side when, in an address to American trade unionists in 1920, he mocked those western democrats who recognized the legitimacy of the revolutions of 1642 and 1789, but not that of 1917: if the first two were democratic, he said, so was the third, which differed from the first two only in its greater consistency with the bloody principles they all shared.
Of course, democracy and communism are traditionally thought to be opposing principles; and if we compare Soviet Russia and America between the years 1917 and 1991, there are indeed large superficial differences. However, both societies were born of the same historical philosophical process - the anti-Orthodox and anti-monarchical revolution of the West; both societies have been exploited and dominated by Jews; and both societies, as is becoming clearer by the hour, are descending into the atomistic chaos and hatred that is the ultimate end of the revolution. The reason for the superficial differences between these societies is the fact that they emphasized two mutually contradictory principles arising out of the same democratic world-view - human rights and the will of the people.
Thus "neither 'human rights' nor 'the will of the people', nor both together can be the foundation of human society. For the one contradicts the other: 'the rights of the human personality', understood as the final foundations of society, deny the primacy of social unity; 'the will of the people', as an absolute social basis, denies the principle of personality. There can be, and in fact is, only some kind of eclectic, unprincipled compromise between the two principles, which witnesses to the fact that neither is the primary principle of society. If one genuinely believes in the one or the other, then one has to choose between the unlimited despotism of social unity, which annihilates the personality - and boundless anarchy, which annihilates social order and together with it every personal human existence."
American democracy champions human rights - that is, the will of the individual over the will of the people as a whole. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, emphasized the opposite - the will of the collective over the will of the individual. Of course, this collective will in fact turned into the will of a small clique and even of a single man. Nevertheless, it is only partly true to say that communism was imposed on the Soviet masses. Even if the masses did not know what their choice was leading to, by their actions they effectively put Lenin in power.
It is this close philosophical kinship between Western democracy and Soviet communism which explains the paradoxical pandering of the western democracies to Soviet communism for most of the period 1917-1991. When the Tsar fell in February, 1917, all the western democracies rejoiced and hastened to recognize the new regime, although the Tsar had close relations with the ruling families of Europe, he had been a faithful ally of the West during the war against Germany and it was obvious that his fall was not in the West's military interests. This attitude may be explained partly by the fact that the leaders of the West and of the new Russian democracy were almost all Freemasons. However, this is only a partial explanation; for when Lenin came to power in October, 1917, and declared his absolute hostility to all the institutions of the West, including Freemasonry, the West's attitude did not change radically. True, British, American, French and Japanese armies did intervene on the side of the Whites in the Russian civil war. But this effort was half-hearted, and the armies were withdrawn even when they were on the point of victory. In the years that followed all the western democracies recognized the Soviet Union, even though its tyrannical essence was clear for all to see. Indeed, western trade with Stalin during the 1930s was a key element in the build-up of the Soviet Union's industrial capacity. And even when Stalin was starving 14 million Ukrainian peasants to death during the first Five-Year Plan, socialist-minded western journalists turned a blind eye.
The phenomenon of western collusion with Bolshevism has been well analyzed by Richard Pipes: "The affinities between liberalism and revolutionary socialism… derive from the fact that both ideologies believe that mankind, being entirely shaped by sensory perceptions (that is, devoid of inborn ideas and values), can attain moral perfection through the restructuring of its environment. Their disagreement is over the means toward that end, liberals preferring to reach it gradually and peacefully, through legislation and education, while radicals prefer a sudden and violent destruction of the existing order. Psychologically, liberals feel defensive toward genuine radicals, who are bolder and prepared to take greater risks: the liberal can never quite rid himself of the guilty feeling that while he talks the radical acts. Liberals, therefore, are predisposed to defend revolutionary radicalism and, if necessary, to help it, even as they reject its methods. The attitude of Western liberals toward Communist Russia did not much differ from that of Russian democratic socialists toward Bolshevism before and after 1917 - an attitude distinguished by intellectual and psychological schizophrenia, which greatly contributed to Lenin's triumph. Russian socialists in emigration perpetuated it. While urging Westen socialists to condemn the Communist 'terroristic party dictatorship', they nevertheless insisted that it was the 'duty of workers throughout the world to throw their full weight into the struggle against attempts by the imperialist powers to intervene in the internal affairs of Russia.'"
When Hitler's Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Britain and France immediately declared war on her. However, when the Soviet Union, as Germany's ally, swallowed up the other half of Poland as well as the Baltic States and Bessarabia, the reaction was far less decisive. And when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the British and Americans hastened to enter into alliance with it. Even Churchill, who had been the most anti-communist British politician after the First World War, shook hands with Stalin (he said that if the devil himself helped him against Hitler he would make an honourable mention of him in the House of Commons); while Roosevelt affectionately called him "Uncle Joe". There followed the shameful pacts of Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, which effectively handed over half of Europe (and hundreds of thousands of anti-communist Russians) to the communists - including Poland, for whose sake Britain had first entered the war, and Yugoslavia, whose lawful king lived in London and whose people had put up such a strong resistance to Nazism.
It was only the beginning of the Cold War, the blockade of Berlin and especially the Korean war which finally made the West wake up to the real nature of the Soviet threat. In 1949, the West created a military alliance against the Soviet Union, NATO; and there can be no doubt that if the West had used its enormous technological, demographic and economic superiority over the Soviet bloc in a determined manner, communism could have fallen - or at least been halted. However, western intellectuals continued to have a sneaking admiration for the Soviets while despising their own system; and the sufferings of the millions under the Soviet yoke elicited little sympathy from the western capitalists, interested as they were only in preserving their comforts and trade. And so international Communism continued to make enormous strides while the West slept: in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Guinea, Afghanistan, Angola, Cuba, Nicaragua...
After the American defeat in Vietnam, the West's determination to fight Communism, already weak, collapsed almost entirely. "Detente" now became the order of the day; and in spite of the overwhelming evidence for the fact that wherever Communism comes rivers of blood flow, friendship between communists and capitalists flourished, just as George Orwell had prophesied in his novel 1984. The Queen of England gave a state banquet for Ceaucescu; the Soviets gained ideological control even over such bodies as the World Council of Churches; and at Red China's insistence democratic Taiwan was thrown out of the United Nations. As late as the early 1980s, when the Soviet Union was intensifying its repression of Christians and dissidents, President Reagan's accurate description of it as "the evil empire" was met with widespread scorn by western intellectuals.
During these years, when in spite of the West's vast economic and military superiority it was surrendering vast areas of the world to communism without a fight, the fundamental weakness of democracy in defending itself was exposed for all to see. No country can survive indefinitely if its people are permitted to abuse their leaders and their country, and openly to side with the enemy. Francis Fukuyama argues that it was the superior attractiveness of liberal democracy that guaranteed its victory. And yet in the Brezhnev era before Gorbachev came to power this was by no means evident to very many people in both East and West, who judged the communist system superior. Thus communist parties in France, Italy and Greece won very large percentages of the vote, as, in W.B. Yeats' words:
the best lack all conviction,
while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
Nor were these votes cast just out of fear of nuclear war. Democratic socialism was, and is, deeply embedded in the ideological consciousness of the West, and had penetrated into the churches and political parties, the media, schools and institutes of higher education. In accordance with this ideology, the communist states were considered to be pursuing essentially the same ideals as the West. And if these ideals were not always attained, this was not considered the fault of socialism as such, but rather of the relics of Russia's pre-communist, Tsarist past - or to the innate servility of the Russian people. What the Soviet bloc needed was not a complete change of mind, but just some more human rights and political parties.
And so it seemed only a matter of time before detente led to the final collapse of the West, if not through military conquest, at any rate through an inner loss of belief in its own superiority. For, as Jean Francois Revel wrote in his long catalogue of democratic timidity in the face of the totalitarian menace: "That a diplomatic policy designed to defend democracy was ruined by democracy itself is a natural consequence of the system's structure", insofar as "democracy by its very nature almost infinitely fragments a society's life and thought."
Democracy, according to Dora Shturman, is in essence "a mechanism for the satisfaction of the demands of the consumer-voter". The problem is, that in the absence of a higher religious or national ideal - and very few democracies, whether ancient or modern, have had any such ideal - the demands of the consumer-voter are bound to be multiple, contradictory, changeable, fallen, materialistic and egoistical. Thus the tendency to atomization and self-destruction is built into the very base of democracy like a relentlessly ticking time-bomb. Democracy of its nature cannot be stable; it can only be a transition between the more stable and ancient forms of government; and in modern times it has represented an ever-quickening descent from the theocracy it overthrew to the satanocracy it is becoming. It cannot be more than a transition because the rule of the people by the people is a contradiction in terms.
What is the religious faith underpinning Democracy? Alexis Khomyakov pointed out that, in ancient times as well as modern, democracy has been associated with a decline in religion, whatever the ruling religion may be. Thus since the Reformation, Democracy has been linked with Protestantism, which represents a disintegration of Catholic Christianity; and certainly, the Protestant rejection of all forms of authority except the individual human mind fits in well with the democratic ideal.
In the West today Democracy is yoked with Ecumenism, whose leaders are usually ex-Protestants who have lost faith in Christ. However, insofar as ecumenism is in essence simply indifference to religious truth, the real religion of Democracy must be considered to be atheism. Thus Democracy is the political system which best expresses the ideal of atheist man, his desire to run his own affairs in accordance with his own desires without interference from any higher authority.
2. Despotism. Let us now turn to Islam, or the despotic principle. In the seventh century, at a time of crisis in the Orthodox Christian Empire, a rival empire, and a rival concept of the relationship between religious and political power, arose in the East - Islam. In the eleventh century, a second rival empire arose in the West - the Roman Catholic papacy. Catholicism is strikingly similar to Islam in its theocratic conception of politics and society, and from this point of view we may regard Catholicism as a variant of Islam. Certainly, in the field of political thought it is more useful to consider Islam and Catholicism as one form of reaction to, and deviation from, the Orthodox Christian ideal of separation but "symphony" between Church and State.
Thus Miloslavskaya and Miloslavsky write: "At the base of the socio-political doctrine [of Islam] lies the idea that society must be ruled by the commands of Allah, and not by the laws of men, since Allah is the only source of power. People are only conducters of the divine will, whose realization is the basic function of earthly power. The second fundamental thesis declares that the caliphate's secular and spiritual powers (the sultanate and the imamate) are indivisible."
Thus there is no separation between secular and religious power in Islam corresponding to the separation between Church and State that we find in Orthodox Christianity. Whereas the Orthodox Church forbids bishops and priests to engage in political activity and receive political posts, since this involves being subject to two masters (Apostolic Canons 30, 81), the sight of imams at the head of Islamic states has become familiar to us since the Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. And although there has never been a time, since the early caliphates, when all Muslims have been united under one religio-political power, the ideal of such a unity remains a powerful force in the Islamic world.
According to the "Muslim Brothers" movement, the distinctive Islamic path of development, which sets the Muslim world apart from the rest of humanity, consists in an increasing cultural, political and economic cooperation between Muslim countries, which should be followed by the formation of a "union of Islamic nations" under the caliphate and the election of an imam who would be seen as the "means of unification" of the Islamic world. This religio-political leader who will unite all Muslims is reminiscent of the religio-political leadership of the Pope in Catholicism. Only the Pope, of course, already exists as the unquestioned head of Catholicism, whereas such a centre of unity is only a wished-for ideal in the Muslim world.
Dostoyevsky and the Russian Slavophiles were fond of pointing out the links between Catholicism and the pagan cult of the imperator-pontifex maximus, on the one hand, and Socialism, on the other. As Dostoyevsky said, the Roman Church swallowed up the Roman State, becoming a State in the process. Certainly, Catholicism may be said to represent the rebirth, in Christian guise, of the classically pagan idea of the divine priest-king, having supreme authority in both Church and State, over both the souls and the bodies of men. From the eleventh century, the Popes were not simply religious leaders, but also secular kings, possessing lands and armies and even fighting in them - to the horror of Byzantine writers such as Anna Comnena. Moreover, they blessed the invasion of Christian lands for their own purposes, as when Pope Alexander blessed the invasion of England in 1066.
The totalitarian pretensions of the medieval papacy gave birth to long and bitter conflicts between Church and State in several western states. It was only to be expected that secular rulers would not lightly hand over all their power to the Pope. Thus a prolonged struggle for power took place between Pope Gregory VII and the German Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, and there were further struggles between the Popes and King John of England and King Philip the Fair of France.
The Crusades were the logical expression of the new theory of papal power. Since the Eastern Orthodox Christians had refused to accept papal jurisdiction, and had anathematized the papacy in 1054, the Pope felt justified in launching the Crusades to bring "the schismatic Romans" to heel. Thus, although ostensibly aimed at the liberation of the Eastern Christian lands from the Muslim yoke, the practical effect of the Crusades was to devastate Orthodox Christianity in these lands and to replace the Muslim yoke by the much crueller yoke of the Latins. Latin kingdoms and patriarchates were set up in Jerusalem, Syria, Cyprus and Constantinople; and a determined, but unsuccessful, effort was made to conquer Western Russia. The horrific sacking and destruction of Constantinople by the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 set the seal to this process, and made the schism between Orthodox and Western Christianity permanent.
Since the sacking of Constantinople, by far the greatest city of the civilized world, had disturbed even some western minds, it was necessary for the Popes to provide some doctrinal justification for it. This was duly forthcoming at the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which declared that it was lawful to kill heretics. Then came the "two swords" theory, according to which God had entrusted the Popes with the swords both of ecclesiastical and of political power. For, according to the bull Unam Sanctam of 1302, submission to the Pope in all things was held to be absolutely necessary for the salvation for every creature on earth. It is doubtful whether any rulers in history, not excluding even the totalitarian dictators of the twentieth century, have made such extravagant claims to power as did the medieval popes - and their claims have never been officially denied by the papacy to the present day.
However, since the decline of Catholicism and the apostasy of vast numbers of Catholics to the rival faith of Ecumenism-Democracy, it has been left to a revived Islam to resurrect the pseudo-theocratic idea. So far, as we have seen, the political and theological divisions within the Islamic world have prevented the emergence of an Islamic Pope. However, there is no theoretical objection to the emergence of such a figure; and if he does appear, then we can expect jihad-crusades against the West and Russia which would make the Muslim campaigns in Bosnia and Chechnya insignificant by comparison.
History demonstrates that fervent religious zeal, even if it is "not according to knowledge", will in the long run triumph over Laodicean indifference to the truth. Islam has, both in its countries of origin, in the Far East, and in the West, large numbers of adherents who fervently detest the decadence of the West and who are prepared to die for what they see to be the truth. Only a third force, comprising zealots for a faith that has all the insuperable strength of the Truth Himself, can hope to triumph over it...
3. Orthodoxy Autocracy. In 1926 the bishop-confessors on Solovki wrote: "The Church is not concerned… with the political organization of power, for She is loyal with regard to the government of all the countries within whose frontiers She has members. She gets on with all forms of State structure from the eastern despotism of old Turkey to the republics of the North-American States." However, while Orthodoxy may coexist with States that either reject the influence of religion on politics, or completely merge the two, there is no question that it flourishes best in the system known as the "symphony of powers", in which the Church lives as the soul and sanctifying principle of the body politic, being neither separate from, nor completely merged with it.
Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) has explained the basis of this conception with admirable clarity: "The aim of human life on earth must be the salvation of the soul, that is, in the words of Christ, the constant perfection of one's moral nature on the path to the not-completely-realizable ideal of the perfection of God (Matt. 5.48). In consequence of the fall of the first men, the attainment of this perfection is bound up, for each of us, with great labour on ourselves - the Kingdom of God is won by violence (Matt. 11.12). But the sin of the forefathers drew with itself not only the corruption of the moral nature of man, but also, instead of the easy life of Paradise, made the physical struggle for existence necessary: our bread is consumed in the sweat of our brow.
"The difficulties of earthly existence did not permit men to live in isolation and led to the union of tribes into societies that gradually developed into States. But if these are the external, material reasons for the origin of States, it would be a great mistake to disregard the other aspect of the question. A man is composed not only of a body, but also of a soul. The burdens of life often lie more heavily on the latter than on the body, and mutual moral support is no less necessary for men than physical support. Thus it was not only bodies, but also souls that were united in peoples.
"Human nature has revealed a capacity for massive spiritual perfection or collapse. A people is a collective organism which has as its main properties its separate members. Therefore the State, depending on the principles which it strives to realize, exerts very powerful pressure on each of its individual subjects, creating conditions of life which either further or hinder the salvation of the soul. So-called democracy leads the peoples to moral collapse. Prince D.N. Khilkov, a very educated and observant man, after living in America came to the conclusion that a republic 'incites in a man the worst of his instincts and qualities. While preaching equality, which does not in fact exist, it corrupts all his concepts, and in fact - as, for example, in America - leads to the dominion of the basest and most shameful ideals' ('Letters', Bogoslovnij Vestnik, July-August, 1916). That is why one must not limit the meaning of the existence of States to the simple satisfaction of material needs (economic, policing, etc.). Its main task is material, earthly, but it must not in serving the body forget the soul, although its salvation is the responsibility, not of it, but of the Church, to which the State is bound to afford every kind of support.
"But even if it casts off these above-mentioned idealistic aims, the State must help the Church in every way for its own sake, for the healthy morality of the people, which is impossible without the religious influence on it, is also necessary for the State as such. A people that is not penetrated by any higher religious-moral principles, a people without faith, soon becomes depraved and earlier or later leads the State to complete breakdown. The destruction of the ancient empires was bound up, first of all, with the spiritual-moral fall of their peoples. From this it is evident how important it is both for the Church and for the State to establish their mutual relations on a correct basis so that the State, in fulfilling its own direct tasks, should not hinder, but help the Church, and that the Church, in giving health and perfection to the people, should strengthen the right-believing State. I say 'right-believing State' because the relations between the Church and the State depend first of all on the ideals which are the basis of the latter. If these ideals are antichristian, then the Church cannot fail to struggle in one way or another with the State that realizes them. In this case her very existence is the struggle with it, and she is naturally in the position of being persecuted (ancient Rome, the USSR). But in the irreligious State, which is not distinguished by militant antichristianity, but does not confess Christianity either, the Church is de facto in the position of being merely a tolerated society. The complete development of the beneficial influence of the Church on the people is attainable only when there is a union between Her and the State, and this is possible only if the latter is Orthodox, that is, if it conforms its life to the teaching of the Church concerning faith and virtue. Of course, this is bound up with the moral subjection to the Church of the State, which, however, should not frighten Christians, for if they in their private lives strive to fulfil the teaching of Christ the Saviour, they should strive for it in union with the people.
"But the Church has never striven for such a merging with the State (or, more exactly, such a swallowing up of the State), whereby the hierarchs, for example, would be at the same time provincial governors. She wishes only that State life in its general direction should be directed in accordance with her teaching. In the same way, in the private life of her individual sons, the Church through the pastors constantly teaches them virtue, but does not interfere, for example, in housework or business as long as they do not clearly violate the commandment of God in these activities.
"It goes without saying that normal relations between the Church and the State are not attainable with every form of government. It is not part of our task to discuss the nature of these relations with democratic regimes, under which the Church in Russia will always be, if not persecuted, at best tolerated. The Church, which is based on the hierarchical principle and obedience, is too opposed to an order based on the primacy of the people's will, restricted by no religious principle. Therefore a real union between the Church and the State is possible only with an Autocratic Monarchy, which places as the basis of its own power the will of God. But even with a Monarchy mutual relations may be incorrectly set. Tikhomirov lists three types of relationship between the Monarchy and religion:
"1. 'The conversion of the supreme State power into the centre of religion. Here there are various degrees of the divinization of the Monarch. Such a relationship is typical of pagan States. But in Christian States it appears in various degrees of so-called caesaropapism.
"2. The complete opposite of this type of State-Religion relations is the subjection of the State to the institution of the Church. This refers to various forms of priestocracy, hierocracy and papocaesarism. In essence there is no monarchical power here.
"3. The third type of relationship is the union of the State with the Church, which is attained by the subjection of the Monarch to the religious idea and his personal belonging to the Church, with the independence of the supreme power of his State. It is possible to call this the true expression of theocracy (and not hierocracy), that is, the dominion of God through the Tsar, who is delegated by God (and not by the ecclesiastical authority).' (Monarkhicheskaia Gosudarstvennost', volume III, p. 67).
"Tikhomirov goes on to point out that for a 'pure', that is, Autocratic Monarchy, only the third type of relationship is possible. The point is that with people's power, on which the majority of contemporary States is based, the State is not supposed to be ruled by the ethical principle. The aim of democracy is supposed to be to provide for only the material interests of its citizens, placing them in a position of equal rights. At the foundation of democracy is the defence of rights, and not the consciousness of duty and responsibility. On the contrary, the Monarchy is founded on the supremacy of the ethical principle, the source of which is the Church with her teaching on virtue, which leads the Monarchy to consciously seek union with the Church."
The three faiths of Democracy, Islam and Orthodoxy, with their corresponding political structures, are in a state of constant conflict with each other. However, Democracy and Islam can come to mutually beneficial agreements with each other (as in Bosnia in the recent war), whereas Orthodoxy can compromise with either of the others only at the cost of her very soul. In 1453, Orthodoxy in the form of the New Rome of Constantinople fell to Islam, having previously compromised with Catholicism at the council of Florence in 1439. In 1917, Orthodoxy in the form of the Third Rome of Moscow fell to Democracy, having previously compromised with the revolution through the Tsar's Manifesto of 1905. Resurrection is possible, but only by consciously correcting both errors: by rejecting ecumenism, which would reconcile Orthodoxy with the false faiths of Islam and Catholicism, and by rejecting the revolution, which would reconcile Orthodoxy with the rule of the people rather than the rule of God...
(published in Pravoslavnaia Tver’, ¹¹ 1-2, January-February (50-51), 1998, p. 13; ¹¹-3-4 (52-53), March-April, 1998, p. 11; ¹¹ 4-5-6-7 (54-55-56), May-June-July, 1998, p. 16; revised July 15/28, 2004)
10. “THE END OF HISTORY”: A CRITIQUE OF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation,
and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.
By 1789, and especially after the first phase of the French revolution reduced the power of the French king to that of a constitutional monarch, liberalism was the most popular political theory among the educated classes of Europe. Liberalism in politics seemed the natural counterpart of reason and enlightenment in philosophy, morals and theology as a whole.
The popularity of liberalism has remained strong to the present day. In spite of the shocks of the French revolution and other national revolutions in the nineteenth century, and the still greater shocks of the Russian revolution and the other communist revolutions in the twentieth, liberalism today appears stronger than ever. But how sound are its foundations in actual fact?
Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), explained both the positive teaching of Orthodoxy on political authority and why, for the Orthodox, liberalism rests on shaky foundations: “In the Christian order, politics… was founded upon absolute truth… The principal providential form of government took in union with Christian Truth was the Orthodox Christian Empire, wherein sovereignty was vested in a Monarch, and authority proceeded from him downwards through a hierarchical social structure… On the other hand… a politics that rejects Christian Truth must acknowledge ‘the people’ as sovereign and understand authority as proceeding from below upwards, in a formally ‘egalitarian’ society. It is clear that one is the perfect inversion of the other; for they are opposed in their conceptions both of the source and of the end of government. Orthodox Christian Monarchy is government divinely established, and directed, ultimately, to the other world, government with the teaching of Christian Truth and the salvation of souls as its profoundest purpose; Nihilist rule - whose most fitting name… is Anarchy – is government established by men, and directed solely to this world, government which has no higher aim that earthly happiness.
“The Liberal view of government, as one might suspect, is an attempt at compromise between these two irreconcilable ideas. In the 19th century this compromise took the form of ‘constitutional monarchies’, an attempt – again – to wed an old form to a new content; today the chief representatives of the Liberal idea are the ‘republics’ and ‘democracies’ of Western Europe and America, most of which preserve a rather precarious balance between the forces of authority and Revolution, while, while professing to believe in both.
“It is of course impossible to believe in both with equal sincerity and fervor, and in fact no one has ever done so. Constitutional monarchs like Louis Philippe thought to do so by professing to rule ‘by the Grace of God and the will of the people’ – a formula whose two terms annul each other, a fact as evident to the Anarchist [Bakunin] as to the Monarchist.
“Now a government is secure insofar as it has God for its foundation and His Will for its guide; but this, surely, is not a description of Liberal government. It is, in the Liberal view, the people who rule, and not God; God Himself is a ‘constitutional monarch’ Whose authority has been totally delegated to the people, and Whose function is entirely ceremonial. The Liberal believes in God with the same rhetorical fervor with which he believes in Heaven. The government erected upon such a faith is very little different, in principle, from a government erected upon total disbelief; and whatever its present residue of stability, it is clearly pointed in the direction of Anarchy.
“A government must rule by the Grace of God or by the will of the people, it must believe in authority or in the Revolution; on these issues compromise is possible only in semblance, and only for a time. The Revolution, like the disbelief which has always accompanied it, cannot be stopped halfway; it is a force that, once awakened, will not rest until it ends in a totalitarian Kingdom of this world. The history of the last two centuries has proved nothing if not this. To appease the Revolution and offer it concessions, as Liberals have always done, thereby showing that they have no truth with which to oppose it, is perhaps to postpone, but not to prevent, the attainment of its end. And to oppose the radical Revolution with a Revolution of one’s own, whether it be ‘conservative’, ‘non-violent’, or ‘spiritual’, is not merely to reveal ignorance of the full scope and nature of the Revolution of our time, but to concede as well the first principle of the Revolution: that the old truth is no longer true, and a new truth must take its place.”
The Social Contract
Just as the basis of authority was transferred by liberalism from the grace of God to the will of the people, so the whole basis of political argument was transferred from the order ordained by God to the order created by men in order to satisfy the demands of their fallen human nature – that is, from theology to psychology. This transition is most clearly seen after the collapse of Cromwell’s dictatorship in 1660 and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in England. Before that, both Anglican monarchists and Independent radicals had based their arguments on the Bible, on the state of man in Paradise and the Fall. Thus the monarchist Filmer held that kings held their patriarchal power by rightful inheritance from the first patriarch, Adam; while the Independents asserted that communism had been the original prelapsarian state and would be so again in the coming millenium. However, after the struggle between monarchists and radicals had been resolved in a compromise leaving the aristocratic landowner-capitalists in effective power, the English political philosophers, abandoning arguments based on Holy Scripture, based their arguments on a purely mythical social contract for which they did not even begin to claim authority in the Bible, and, more importantly, on the purely utilitarian principle of the rational maximisation of personal interest, or desire.
The theory of the social contract essentially comes down to the idea that the state began through the citizens getting together and making a contract with their future rulers, giving power to the rulers in exchange for certain elementary rights for their subjects. This contract is the foundation of political legitimacy. On the foundation of this shaky, and purely mythical social contract the English political philosophers sought to build the ideal polity and the structure of rights and laws which would hold it together. They differed on the nature of that polity: for Thomas Hobbes desire is maximised in an absolutist State; for John Locke – in a constitutional monarchy. But for both thinkers the main purpose of the State was security of life and property together with a minimum of freedom in which to enjoy that life and property.
“In all its forms,” writes Roger Scruton, “the social contract enshrines a fundamental liberal principle, namely, that, deep down, our obligations are self-created and self-imposed. I cannot be bound by the law, or legitimately constrained by the sovereign, if I never chose to be under the obligation to obey. Legitimacy is conferred by the citizen, and not by the sovereign, still less by the sovereign’s usurping ancestors. If we cannot discover a contract to be bound by the law, then the law is not binding.”
Consequently, a basic objection to social contract theory put forward by Hegel is that this original premise, that “our obligations are self-created and self-imposed”, is false. We do not choose the family we were born in, or the state to which we belong. And yet both our family and our state impose undeniable obligations on us.
Of course, we can rebel against such obligations; the son can choose to say that he owes nothing to his father. And yet he would not even exist without his father; and without his father’s nurture and education he would not even be capable of making choices. Thus we are “hereditary bondsmen”, to use Byron’s phrase, and the attempt to rebel against these bonds only accentuates their existence.
In this sense we live in a cycle of freedom and necessity: the free choices of our ancestors limit our own freedom, while our choices limit those of our children. The idea of a social contract entered into a single generation is therefore not only a historical myth (as many social contract theorists concede); it is also a dangerous myth. It is a myth that distorts the very nature of society, which cannot be conceived as existing except over several generations.
But if society exists over several generations, all generations should be taken into account in drawing up the contract. Why should only one generation’s interests be respected in drawing it up? For, as Scruton continues, interpreting the thought of Edmund Burke, “the social contract prejudices the interests of those who are not alive to take part in it: the dead and the unborn. Yet they too have a claim, maybe an indefinite claim, on the resources and institutions over which the living so selfishly contend. To imagine society as a contract among its living members, is to offer no rights to those who go before and after. But when we neglect those absent souls, we neglect everything that endows law with its authority, and which guarantees our own survival. We should therefore see the social order as a partnership, in which the dead and the unborn are included with the living.”
“Every people,” writes L.A. Tikhomirov, “is, first of all, a certain historical whole, a long row of consecutive generations, living over hundreds or thousands of years in a common life handed down by inheritance. In this form a people, a nation, is a certain socially organic phenomenon with more or less clearly expressed laws of inner development… But political intriguers and the democratic tendency does not look at a people in this form, as a historical, socially organic phenomenon, but simply in the form of a sum of the individual inhabitants of the country. This is the second point of view, which looks on a nation as a simple association of people united into a state because they wanted that, living according to laws which they like, and arbitrarily changing the laws of their life together when it occurs to them.”
Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow criticised social contract theory as follows: “It is obligatory, say the wise men of this world, to submit to social authorities on the basis of a social contract, by which people were united into society, by a general agreement founding government and submission to it for the general good. If they think that it is impossible to found society otherwise than on a social contract, - then why is it that the societies of the bees and ants are not founded on it? And is it not right that those who break open honeycombs and destroy ant-hills should be entrusted with finding in them… a charter of bees and ants? And until such a thing is done, nothing prevents us from thinking that bees and ants create their societies, not by contract, but by nature, by an idea of community implanted in their nature, which the Creator of the world willed to be realised even at the lowest level of His creatures. What if an example of the creation of a human society by nature were found? What, then, is the use of the fantasy of a social contract? No one can argue against the fact that the original form of society is the society of the family. Thus does not the child obey the mother, and the mother have power over the child, not because they have contracted between themselves that she should feed him at the breast, and that he should shout as little as possible when he is swaddled? What if the mother should suggest too harsh conditions to the child? Will not the inventors of the social contract tell him to go to another mother and make a contract with her about his upbringing? The application of the social contract in this case is as fitting as it is fitting in other cases for every person, from the child to the old man, from the first to the last. Every human contract can have force only when it is entered into with consciousness and good will. Are there many people in society who have heard of the social contract? And of those few who have heard of it, are there many who have a clear conception of it? Ask, I will not say the simple citizen, but the wise man of contracts: when and how did he enter into the social contract? When he was an adult? But who defined this time? And was he outside society before he became an adult? By means of birth? This is excellent. I like this thought, and I congratulate every Russian that he was able – I don’t know whether it was from his parents or from Russia herself, - to agree that he be born in powerful Russia… The only thing that we must worry about is that neither he who was born nor his parents thought about this contract in their time, and so does not referring to it mean fabricating it? And consequently is not better, as well as simpler, both in submission and in other relationships towards society, to study the rights and obligations of a real birth instead of an invented contract – that pipe-dream of social life, which, being recounted at the wrong time, has produced and continues to produce material woes for human society. ‘Transgressors have told me fables, but they are not like Thy law, O Lord’ (Psalm 118.85).”
The eighteenth-century Enlightenment developed and deepened the trends towards utilitarianism and “psychologism”.
Thus J.S. McClelland writes: “The springs of human behaviour (the phrase is Bentham’s) were the passions, or, as in the primmer language of utilitarianism, the desires to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The passions were implanted by nature. They were what gave human life its vital motion, and the operation of the passions could ultimately be explained in physical, that is, physiological, terms. The faculty of reason which nature had implanted in the minds of men had as its function the direction of the human passions towards the accomplishment of desirable ends, though there was in fact no agreement in the Enlightenment about what the relationship between reason and the passions exactly was. Some thought, like Rousseau, that all natural desires were naturally virtuous, and that only living in a corrupt society implanted '’unnatural’, that is wicked, desires. Others, like Hume, thought that reason was the slave of the passions, by which he meant that the ends of human conduct were provided by the desires, and all that reason could do was to show given desires how to accomplish their ends. The consensus of Enlightenment opinion seems to have been that reason could in some sense control and direct the passions towards ends which were ethically desirable. The passions were by their nature blind, even part of brute nature, and they were certainly shared by the other animals. Natural reason must therefore have been given to man to counterpose itself to the passions, either because the passions themselves could not know how to satisfy themselves without guidance, or because the passions themselves became fixed on ends which were undesirable on a rational view of the matter.
“In the field of moral philosophy, Enlightenment’s goal was a rational system of ethics which would at the very least modify, and perhaps completely replace, the existing systems of ethics derived from religion, custom, and accident. Some forms of human conduct, and some of the ends of human conduct it was hoped, could be rationally demonstrated to be preferable to others. Reason must have been implanted by nature to point these differences out. There must be a way of showing that true human happiness was attainable only through the attainment of virtuous human ends. The culminating point of moral philosophy would be reached when reason could demonstrate that the truest form of human happiness consisted of the encouragement and spectacle of the happiness of others. It is notorious in the history of ethics that the Enlightenment project failed to show that it was in fact possible to derive from reason a set of ethical principles capable of sustaining the loyalty of all rational men, and there is a notable irony in the fact that it was Hume, at the very heart of the Enlightenment, who showed why the enlightened project in ethics was bound to fail…”
In the field of political philosophy, it became axiomatic that the maximisation of desire, or, more simply, “the pursuit of happiness”, as the American Declaration of Independence put it, could be achieved only through government of the people, by the people and for the people – in other words, in a democratic republic, or, failing that, in an enlightened despotism or constitutional monarchy which placed the happiness of the people as a whole as its aim and justification.
This was a distinctly unromantic view of human nature, and the arrival of a more romantic view of human nature towards the end of the eighteenth century, in the writings of such men as Rousseau and Hegel, made possible the emergence of a more revolutionary model of democracy to rival that of Anglo-Saxon liberalism. This model led, not to liberal democracy, but to fascist totalitarianism.
Let us now examine one attempt to compare the Anglo-Saxon and Hegelian models of democracy.
The End of History and the Last Man by the Harvard-trained political scientist Francis Fukuyama represents probably the best-known and best-articulated defence of the modernist world-view that has appeared in recent years. In view of this, any anti-modernist world-view, and in particular any truly coherent defence of our Orthodox Christian faith, must take into account what Fukuyama says and refute it, or, at any rate, show that his correct observations and analyses must lead to different conclusions from the ones he draws. What makes Fukuyama's thesis particularly interesting to Orthodox Christians is that it is possible for us to agree with 99% of his detailed argumentation, and derive considerable profit from it with regard to our understanding of how the modern world really works and where it is heading, while differing fundamentally from him in our final conclusions.
Fukuyama's original article entitled "The End of History?" argued, as he summarized it in his book, "that liberal democracy represented 'the end point of mankind's ideological evolution' and 'the final form of human government,' and as such constituted 'the end of history'. That is, while earlier forms of government were characterized by grave defects and irrationalities that led to their eventual collapse, liberal democracy was arguably free from such fundamental internal contradictions. This was not to say that today's stable democracies, like the United States, France, or Switzerland, were not without injustice or serious social problems. But these problems were ones of incomplete implementation of the twin principles of liberty and equality on which modern democracy is founded, rather than flaws in the principles themselves. While some present-day countries might fail to achieve stable liberal democracy, and others might lapse back into other, more primitive forms of rule like theocracy or military dictatorship, the ideal of liberal democracy could not be improved on."
Fukuyama's original article appeared in the summer of 1989, and it received rapid and dramatic support from the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe almost immediately after. Thus by 1991 the only major country outside the Islamic Middle East and Africa not to have become democratic was Communist China - and cracks were appearing there as well. Not that Fukuyama predicted this outcome: as he honestly admits, only a few years before neither he nor the great majority of western political scientists had anticipated the fall of communism any time soon. Probably the only prominent writers to predict both the fall of communism and the nationalist conflicts and democratic regimes that followed it were Orthodox Christian ones such as Gennady Shimanov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, neither of whom were noted as champions of democracy. This is in itself should make us pause before trusting too much in Fukuyama's judgements about the future of the world and the end of history.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that at the present time History appears to be going his way. It is another question whether this direction is the best possible way, or whether it is possible to consider other possible outcomes to the historical process.
1. Reason, Desire and Thymos
Why, according to Fukuyama, is History moving towards world-wide democracy? At the risk of over-simplifying what is a lengthy and sophisticated argument, we may summarise his answer under two headings: the logic of scientific advance, and the logic of human need, in particular the need for recognition. Let us look briefly at each of these.
First, the survival of any modern State militarily and economically requires that science and technology be given free rein, which in turn requires the free dissemination of ideas and products both within and between States that only political and economic liberalism guarantees. "The scientific-technical elite required to run modern industrial economies would eventually demand greater political liberalization, because scientific inquiry can only proceed in an atmosphere of freedom and the open exchange of ideas. We saw earlier how the emergence of a large technocratic elite in the USSR and China created a certain bias in favor of markets and economic liberalization, since these were more in accord with the criteria of economic rationality. Here the argument is extended into the political realm: that scientific advance depends not only on freedom for scientific inquiry, but on a society and political system that are as a whole open to free debate and participation." Nor can the advance of science be halted or reversed for an indefinite period. Even the destruction of civilization through a nuclear or ecological catastrophe, and the demand for a far more careful evaluation of the effects of science and technology such a catastrophe would elicit, would not alter this. For it is inconceivable that the principles of scientific method should be forgotten as long as humanity survives on the planet, and any State that eschewed the application of that method would be at an enormous disadvantage in the struggle for survival.
Fukuyama admits that the logic of scientific advance and technological development does not by itself explain why most people in advanced, industrialized countries prefer democracy. "For if a country's goal is economic growth above all other considerations, the truly winning combination would appear to be neither liberal democracy nor socialism of either a Leninist or democratic variety, but the combination of liberal economics and authoritarian politics that some observers have labeled the 'bureaucratic authoritarian state,' or what we might term a 'market-oriented authoritarianism.'" And as an example of such a "winning combination" he mentions "the Russia of Witte and Stolypin" - in other words, of Tsar Nicholas II...
Since the logic of scientific advance is not sufficient in itself to explain why most people and States choose democracy, Fukuyama has resort to a second, more powerful argument based on a Platonic model of human nature. According to this model, there are three basic components of human nature: reason, desire and the force denoted by the almost untranslateable Greek word thymos. Reason is the handmaid of desire and thymos; it is that element which distinguishes us from the animals and enables the irrational forces of desire and thymos to be satisfied in the real world. Desire includes the basic needs for food, sleep, shelter and sex. Thymos is usually translated as "anger" or "courage"; but Fukuyama defines it as that desire which "desires the desire of other men, that is, to be wanted by others or to be recognized".
Now most liberal theorists in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, such as Hobbes, Locke and the founders of the American Constitution, have focused on desire as the fundamental force in human nature because on its satisfaction depends the survival of the human race itself. They have seen thymos, or the need for recognition, as an ambiguous force which should rather be suppressed than expressed; for it is thymos that leads to tyrannies, wars and all those conflicts which endanger "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". The American Constitution with its system of checks and balances was designed above all to prevent the emergence of tyranny, which is the clearest expression of what we may call "megalothymia". Indeed, for many the prime merit of democracy consists in its prevention of tyranny.
A similar point of view was expressed by the Anglican writer, C.S. Lewis: "I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they are not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a henroost, much less a nation. Nor do most people - all the people who believe in advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumours. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows..."
But this argument is deficient on both logical and historical grounds. Let us agree that Man is fallen. Why should giving very many fallen men a share in government reverse that fall? In moral and social life, two minuses do not make a plus. Democratic institutions may inhibit the rise of tyranny in the short term; but they also make it almost certain that democratic leaders will be accomplished demagogues prepared to do almost anything to please the electorate. One man's thymos may check the full expression of another's; but the combination of many contradictory wills can only lead to a compromise which is exceedingly unlikely to be the best decision for society as a whole. In fact, if wisdom in politics, as in everything else, comes from God, "it is much more natural to suppose," as Trostnikov says, "that divine enlightenment will descend upon the chosen soul of an Anointed One of God, as opposed to a million souls at once". The Scripture does not say vox populi - vox Dei, but: "The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever He will" (Proverbs 21.1).
In any case, has democracy really been such a defence against tyranny? Let us take the example of the first famous democracy, Athens. In the sixth century B.C., Athens had been ruled by Solon, one of the wisest and most benevolent of autocrats, who showed his superiority to personal ambition by retiring into voluntary exile at the height of his fame. In the mid-fifth century, Athenian democracy was led by a good leader, Pericles. But by the end of the century Socrates, the state's most distinguished citizen, had been executed; Melos had been reduced and its population cruelly butchered; a vainglorious attempt to conquer Syracuse had been abandoned; and a futile and morale-sapping war against Sparta had been lost.
The lessons were not lost on the philosophers of the next century: Plato turned from democracy to the ideal of the philosopher-king; while Aristotle made the important distinction between "democratic behaviour" meaning "the behaviour that democracies like" and "democratic behaviour" meaning "the behaviour that will preserve a democracy" - the two usually do not coincide. The behaviour that democracies like is peaceful money-making and pleasure-seeking. The behaviour that will preserve a democracy is war and strict discipline, in which the rights of the individual must be subordinated to the will of the leader. Moreover, in order to attain democracy, the rights of individuals must be not only subordinated, but destroyed, sometimes on a massive scale.
As Shakespeare put it in Julius Caesar (II, 1):
Ligarius. What's to do?
Brutus. A piece of work that will make sick men whole.
Ligarius. But are not some whole that we must make sick?
Thus it is a striking fact that all the greatest tyrants of modern times have emerged on the back of violent democratic revolutions: Cromwell - of the English revolution; Napoleon - of the French revolution; Lenin - of the Russian revolution. And was not Hitler elected by the German democracy? Again, democracies have been quite prepared to throw whole peoples to the lions of tyranny for ephemeral gains. We think of the Helsinki Accords of 1975, by which the West legitimised the Soviet conquest of Eastern Europe; or Taiwan's expulsion from the United Nations at the insistence of Red China.
On the other hand, the German idealist tradition, as represented by Hegel, attributed a more positive value to thymos. Hegel agreed with the Anglo-Saxons that democracy was the highest form of government, and therefore that the triumph of democracy - which for some reason he considered to have been attained by the tyrant Napoleon's victory at Jena in 1806 - was "the End of History". But democracy was the best, in Hegel's view, not simply because it attained the aim of self-preservation better than any other system, but also, and primarily, because it gave expression to thymos in the form of "isothymia" - that is, it allowed each citizen to express his thymos to an equal degree. For whereas in pre-democratic societies the satisfaction of thymos in one person led to the frustration of thymos for many more, thereby dividing the whole of society into one or a few masters and a great many slaves, as a result of the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century the slaves overthrew their masters and achieved equal recognition in each other's eyes. Thus through the winning of universal human rights everyone, in effect, became a master.
Hegel's philosophy was an explicit challenge to the Christian view of political freedom and slavery, which regarded the latter as a secondary evil that could be turned into good if used for spiritual ends. "For he that is called in the Lord," said St. Paul, "being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant" (I Corinthians 7.22; Onesimus). So "live as free men," said St. Peter, "yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God" (I Peter 2.16).
St. Augustine developed this teaching: "The first cause of slavery is sin; that is why man is subjected to man in the state of slavery. This does not happen apart from the judgement of God, with Whom is no injustice and Who knows how to apportion varying punishments in accordance with the differing deserts of those who do wrong.
"The heavenly Lord declares: 'Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin' (John 8.34). That is why when, as often happens, religious men are slaves of unjust masters, their masters are not free. 'For whatever a man is overcome by, to that he is enslaved' (II Peter 2.19). And it is better to be the slave of a man than a slave of lust. For lust is a most savage master and one that devastates the hearts of men; this is true, to give only one example, of the lust of mastery itself. But in the peaceful order of human society, where one group of men is subjected to another, slaves are benefited by humility and masters are harmed by pride. By nature, as God first created man, no one is the slave, either of man or of sin. But slavery is ordained as a form of punishment by the law which enjoins the preservation of the natural order and prevents its disturbance. Had that law never been broken, there would have been no need for its enforcement by the punitive measure of slavery. So the Apostle instructs slaves to be subject to their masters and to serve them wholeheartedly. Thereby, if they cannot get freedom from their masters, they can make their slavery into a kind of freedom, by performing this service not in deceitfulness and fear but in faithfulness and love, until injustice passes away and all dominion and human power are brought to nothing and God is all in all..."
But this doctrine offended Hegel's pride, his thymos. So without arguing in detail against it, he rejected it as unworthy of the dignity of man. And he rejected Anglo-Saxon liberalism for similar reasons, insofar as he saw placing self-preservation as the main aim of life and society as effete and degrading. He would have agreed with Shakespeare's words in Hamlet, IV, 4):
What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
The essence and glory of man consists in his love of glory and honour:
Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour's at the stake.
For the greatness of man lies in his transcendence of self-preservation, in his capacity for self-sacrifice. And this is a manifestation of thymos.
Fukuyama develops the Hegelian critique of Anglo-Saxon liberalism as follows: "It is precisely the moral primacy accorded to self-preservation or comfortable self-preservation in the thought of Hobbes and Locke that leaves us unsatisfied. Beyond establishing rules for mutual self-preservation, liberal societies do not attempt to define any positive goals for their citizens or promote a particular way of life as superior or desirable to another. Whatever positive life may have has to be filled by the individual himself. That positive content can be a high one of public service and private generosity, or it can be a low one of selfish pleasure and personal meanness. The state as such is indifferent. Indeed, government is committed to the tolerance of different 'lifestyles', except when the exercise of one right impinges on another. In the absence of positive, 'higher' goals, what usually fills the vacuum at the heart of Lockean liberalism is the open-ended pursuit of wealth, now liberated from the traditional constraints of need and scarcity.
"The limitations of the liberal view of man become more obvious if we consider liberal society's most typical product, a new type of individual who has subsequently come to be termed pejoratively as the bourgeois: the human being narrowly consumed with his own immediate self-preservation and material well-being, interested in the community around him only to the extent that it fosters or is a means of achieving his private good. Lockean man did not need to be public-spirited, patriotic or concerned for the welfare of those around him; rather, as Kant suggested, a liberal society could be made up of devils, provided they were rational [italics added]. It was not clear why the citizen of a liberal state, particularly in its Hobbesian variant, would ever serve in the army and risk his life for his country in war. For if the fundamental natural right was self-preservation of the individual, on what grounds could it ever be rational for an individual to die for his country rather than trying to run away with his money and family? Even in times of peace, Hobbesian or Lockean liberalism provided no reason why society's best men should choose public service and statesmanship over a private life of money-making. Indeed, it was not clear why Lockean man shold become active in the life of his community, be privately generous to the poor, or even make the sacrifices necessary to raise a family.
"Beyond the practical question of whether one can create a viable society in which all public-spiritedness is missing, there is an even more important issue as to whether there was not something deeply contemptible about a man who cannot raise his sights higher than his own narrow self-interests and physical needs. Hegel's aristocratic master risking his life in a prestige battle is only the most extreme example of the human impulse to transcend merely natural or physical need. Is it not possible that the struggle for recognition reflects a longing for self-transcendence that lies at the root not only of the violence of the state of nature and of slavery, but also of the noble passions of patriotism, courage, generosity, and public spiritedness? Is recognition not somehow related to the entire moral side of man's nature, the part of man that finds satisfaction in the sacrifice of the narrow concerns of the body for an objective principle that lies beyond the body? By not rejecting the perspective of the master in favor of that of the slave, by identifying the master's struggle for recognition as somehow at the core of what is human, Hegel seeks to honor and preserve a certain moral dimension to human life that is entirely missing in the society conceived of by Hobbes and Locke. Hegel, in other words, understands man as a moral agent whose specific dignity is related to his inner freedom from physical or natural determination. It is this moral dimension, and the struggle to have it recognized, that is the motor driving the dialectical process of history."
Now to the Christian ear there is an inner contradiction in this critique. While agreeing that there is something profoundly repellent in the bourgeois liberal's selfish pursuit of comfortable self-preservation, we cannot agree that the struggle for recognition is anything other than a different, and still more dangerous, form of egoism. For what is self-transcending in the pure affirmation of self? Patriotism, courage and generosity are indeed noble passions, but if we attribute them to the simple need for recognition, are we not reducing acts of selflessness to disguised forms of selfishness? Thus if Anglo-Saxon liberalism panders to the ignoble passion of lust, does not Hegelian liberalism pander to the satanic passion of pride?
It follows from Fukuyama's analysis that the essential condition for the creation of a perfect or near-perfect society is the rational satisfaction both of desire and of thymos. But the satisfaction of thymos is the more problematic of the two requirements. For while the advance of science and open markets can be trusted to deliver the goods that desire - even the modern consumer's highly elastic and constantly changing desire - requires in sufficient quantities for all, it is a very tricky problem to satisfy everyone's thymos without letting any individual or group give expression to megalothymia. However, democracy has succeeded by replacing megalothymia by two things. "The first is a blossoming of the desiring part of the soul, which manifests itself as a thorough-going economization of life. This economization extends from the highest things to the lowest, from the states of Europe who seek not greatness and empire, but a more integrated European Community in 1992, to the college graduate who performs an internal cost-benefit analysis of the career options open to him or her. The second thing that remains in place of megalothymia is an all pervasive isothymia, that is, the desired to be recognized as the equal of other people."
In other words, democracy rests on the twin pillars of greed and pride: the rational (i.e. scientific) manipulation of greed developed without limit (for the richer the rich, the less poor, eventually, will be the poor, the so-called “trickle down” effect), and pride developed within a certain limit (the limit, that is, set by other people's pride). There are now no checks on fallen human nature except laws – the laws passed by fallen human beings - and the state’s apparatus of law-keeping. That may be preferable to lawlessness, as Solzhenitsyn pointed out in the 1970s, comparing the West with the Soviet Union; but it means that within the limits of the laws the grossest immorality is permitted. Truly a house built on sand!
“There are three kinds of obedience,” writes Metropolitan Philaret: “mercenary obedience that is for one’s own benefit, servile obedience out of fear, and vainglorious obedience for the attainment of privileges. But what must we say about their merits? It cannot be denied that they are all better than disobedience, they can all in various cases be successfully used against the temptations of disobedience; but is there any pure and firm virtue here?
“Virtue that is not sufficiently pure cannot be sufficiently constant, just as impure gold changes its appearance and reveals a mixture. Just as it is natural that every action should be equal to its cause and should not extend beyond it, so we must expect that obedience that is based only on fear, on mercenariness, on the satisfaction of vainglory, will be shaken when vainglory is not satisfied, either through the inattentiveness of him who bestows awards or through the greediness of the vainglory itself; when the obedience that is demanded by the common good is contrary to private advantage; and when the power that terrifies by lawful revenge or punishment is either not sufficiently strong or not sufficiently penetrating and active…”
2. Democracy and Nationalism
Now there are two "thymotic" phenomena that will have to be controlled and neutralized if the democrat's ideal of a satisfied, isothymic citizenry is to be achieved: religion and nationalism.
Nationalism is a threat because it implies that all men are not equal, which in turn implies that it is right and just for one group of men to dominate another. As Fukuyama admits, "Democracy is not particularly good at resolving disputes between different ethnic or national groups. The question of national sovereignty is inherently uncompromisable: it either belongs to one people or another - Armenians or Azerbaijanis, Lithuanians or Russians - and when different groups come into conflict there is seldom a way of splitting the difference through peaceful democratic compromise, as there is in the case of economic disputes. The Soviet Union could not become democratic and at the same time unitary, for there was no consensus among the Soviet Union's nationalities that they shared a common citizenship and identity. Democracy would only emerge on the basis of the country's breakup into smaller national entities. American democracy has done surprisingly well dealing with ethnic diversity, but that diversity has been contained within certain bounds: none of America's ethnic groups constitutes historical communities living on their traditional lands and speaking their own language, with a memory of past nationhood and sovereignty."
Since democracy cannot contain give expression to nationalism without contradicting its own egalitarian principles, it has to undermine it - not by force, of course, but in the democratic way, that is, by sweet reason and material inducements. However, sweet reason rarely works when passions run high and deep, so in the end the warring nations have to be bribed to keep the peace. This works up to a point, but experience shows that even economically advanced countries whose desire is near to be satisfied cannot control the eruption of thymotic nationalist passions. Thus "economic development has not weakened the sense of national identity among French Canadians in Quebec; indeed, their fear of homogenization into the dominant Anglophone culture has sharpened their desire to preserve their distinctness. To say that democracy is more functional in societies 'born equal' like the United States begs the question of how a nation gets there in the first place. Democracy, then, does not necessarily become more functional as societies become more complex and diverse. In fact, it fails precisely when the diversity of a society passes a certain limit."
In spite of this fact, the ideologues of democracy continue to believe that nationalism is a threat that can only be contained by building ever larger supra-national states. Thus the European Community was founded in 1956 on the premise that, besides the economic rewards to be reaped from the Union, it would prevent the recurrence of war between the European states in general and France and Germany in particular. Of course, the bloody breakdown of supra-national states such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia does not speak in support of this argument. But the democrats riposte by declaring that it is not supranationalism as such that was to blame for these breakdowns, but rather the communist system, which suppressed the thymotic aspirations of its citizens and so fuelled nationalism instead of sublimating it.
So is the democratic model of supranationalism represented by the European Union solving the problem of nationalism? The evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. As the moment of the irreversible surrender of national sovereignties, i.e. monetary union, draws nearer, resistance seems to be stiffening in several countries, as witnessed by the majorities against it in many national polls. And as this resistance becomes stronger, so the sweet reason of the Eurocrats turns into the harsh language of threatened coercion. Thus the French Prime Minister has proposed that those countries who decide not to join the monetary union (he has in mind especially Great Britain, the most sceptical of the Union's nation states) should be subject to economic penalties. And the German Chancellor has said (again, his remarks are aimed particularly at Britain) that the result of a failure to unite in Europe will be war. This is in spite of the fact that there has been no war or even threat of war in Western Europe for the past fifty years!
So much for the "voluntary" union of states in the spirit of democracy and brotherhood! If you don't surrender your sovereignty, we will crush you! This is the language of nationalist hatred in supra-national guise, and it points to a central paradox or internal contradiction in democracy.
The contradiction consists in the fact that while democracy prides itself on its spirit of peace and brotherhood between individuals and nations, the path to democracy, both within and between nations, actually involves an unparalleled destruction of personal and national life. For much has been said, and truly said, about the destructive power of nationalism; but much less about how it protects nations and cultures and people from destruction (as, for example, it protected the Orthodox nations of Eastern Europe from destruction under the Turkish yoke). Again, much has been said, and truly said, about how democracy creates a culture of peace which has prevented the occurrence of major wars between democratic states; much less about how democracy has drastically weakened the bonds created by societies other than the state, from the ethnic group and the church to the working men's club and the mother's union, with the result that, deprived of community identities, atomized, democratic man has found himself in a state of undeclared war against, or at any rate alienation from, his neighbour.
This may explain why, at just the moment when democracies seem to have matured and solved all major internal contradictions and inequalities, new nationalisms are appearing - the Basque, Scottish and North Italian nationalisms, for example, in the modern European Union. For men must feel that they belong to a community, and not just to such an amorphous community as "the European Union", still less "the International Community". But to create a community means to create partitions - not hostile partitions, not impermeable partitions, but partitions nevertheless, partitions that show who is inside and who is outside the community, criteria of membership which not everyone will be able to meet. The resilience of nationalism in both its positive and negative modes is a sign of the perennial need for community, a need which democracy has abysmally failed to satisfy. And while Fukuyama fully accepts the existence and seriousness of this lack in democratic society, he still seems to think that the most important and powerful sources of community life, religion and nationalism, are either already out or on the way out.
Thus in an uncharacteristically bold and unqualified statement he declares that "contrary to those who at the time believed that religion was a necessary and permanent feature of the political landscape, liberalism vanquished religion in Europe [his italics]."
As for nationalism, he recognizes that this is likely to continue and even increase in some regions for some time yet. But in the end it, too, is destined to "wither away". Thus he considers the rise of nationalism in the highly cultured, democratic and economically advanced Germany of the 1920s and 30s to have been "the product of historically unique circumstances". "These conditions are not only not latent in most developed societies, but would be very hard (though not impossible) to duplicate in other societies in the future. Many of these circumstances, such as defeat in a long and brutal war and economic depression, are well known and potentially replicable in other countries. But others have to do with the special intellectual and cultural traditions of Germany at the time, its anti-materialism and emphasis on struggle and sacrifice, that made it very distinct from liberal France and England. These traditions, which were in no way 'modern', were tested by the wrenching social disruptions caused by Imperial Germany's hothouse industrialization before and after the Franco-Prussian War. It is possible to understand Nazism as another, albeit extreme, variant of the 'disease of the transition', a byproduct of the modernization process that was by no means a necessary component of modernity itself. None of this implies that a phenomenon like Nazism is now impossible because we have advanced socially beyond such a stage. It does suggest, however, that fascism is a pathological and extreme condition, by which one cannot judge modernity as a whole."
Pathological and extreme Nazism may be, but it cannot be dismissed as simply an ugly but easily excised wart on the superbly toned body of Modernity. Hitler was elected in a democratic manner, and Nazism was the product of one of the fundamental internal contradictions of democracy, the fact that while promising fraternity, it neverthless atomizes, alienates and in many other ways pulverizes the "brothers", making them feel that life is a jungle in which every man is essentially alone. Sovietism was also a product of democracy, and an exposure of still more of its internal contradictions - the contradictions in and between the concepts of freedom and equality. These "deviations" to the right and left do not point to the righteousness of a supposed "royal way" in between. Rather, they are symptoms, warning signs pointing to the inner pathological nature of the ideal they both professed and to which they both owed their existence.
The European Union gives as its main justification the avoidance of those nationalistic wars, especially between France and Germany, which have so disfigured the region's history. But the old nationalisms show no sign of dying. And in traditionally insular countries, such as Britain, or traditionally Orthodox ones, such as Greece, attempts to force them into an unnatural union with other nations with quite different traditions appear to be increasing centrifugal tendencies. Moreover, the European Union has signally failed to introduce unity among the nations in other parts of the European continent, such as the former Yugoslavia. For pious exhortations are as useless in the faith of nationalist fervour as exhortations to chastity in the face of aroused lust. In both cases grace is required to give power to the word.
The problem is that when the grace that holds apparent opposites in balance is absent, it is very easy for a nation, as for an individual person, to swing from one extreme to the other, as the history of the twentieth century, characterised by lurches from nationalist Fascism to internationalist Communism shows. Late in the nineteenth century Constantine Leontiev saw that the nationalism of the states of Europe could lead to a no less dangerous internationalist abolition of states “... A state grouping according to tribes and nations is… nothing other than the preparation - striking in its force and vividness - for the transition to a cosmopolitan state, first a pan-European one, and then, perhaps, a global one, too! This is terrible! But still more terrible, in my opinion, is that fact that so far in Russia nobody has seen this or wants to understand it...” “A grouping of states according to pure nationalities will lead European man very quickly to the dominion of internationalism.”
3. Democracy and Religion
The second threat to democracy is religion. Religion is a threat because it postulates the existence of absolute truths and values that conflict with the democratic lie that it doesn't matter what you believe because one man's beliefs are as good and valid as any other's. As Fukuyama writes, "like nationalism, there is no inherent conflict between religion and liberal democracy, except at the point where religion ceases to be tolerant or egalitarian." It is not surprising, therefore, that the flowering of liberal democracy should have coincided with the flowering of the ecumenical movement in religion, and that England, the birthplace of liberal democracy, should also have supplied, in the form of the Anglican Church, the model and motor for the creation of the World Council of Churches. For ecumenism is, in essence, the application of the principles of liberal democracy to religious belief.
Paradoxically, Fukuyama, following Hegel, recognizes that the idea of the unique moral worth of every human being, which is at the root of the idea of human rights, is Christian in origin. For, according to the Christian view, "people who are manifestly unequal in terms of beauty, talent, intelligence, or skill, are nonetheless equal insofar as they are moral agents. The homeliest and most awkward orphan can have a more beautiful soul in the eyes of God than the most talented pianist or the most brilliant physicist. Christianity's contribution, then, to the historical process was to make clear to the slave this vision of human freedom, and to define for him in what sense all men could be understood to have dignity. The Christian God recognizes all human beings universally, recognizes their individual human worth and dignity. The Kingdom of Heaven, in other words, presents the prospect of a world in which the isothymia of every man - though not the megalothymia of the vainglorious - will be satisfied."
Leaving aside for the moment the question whether this is an accurate representation of the Christian understanding of freedom and equality, we may note that, however useful this idea has been in bringing the slave to a sense of his own dignity, it has to be rejected by the democrat because it actually reconciles him with his chains rather than spurring him to throw them off. For Christianity, as Hegel - and, it would seem, Fukuyama, too - believes, is ultimately an ideology of slaves, whatever its usefulness as a stepping stone to the last ideology, the ideology of truly free men, Democracy. If the slaves are actually to become free, they must not be inhibited by the ideas of the will of God (which, by definition, is of greater authority than "the will of the people") and of the Kingdom of Heaven (which, by definition, cannot be the kingdom of this world). The Christian virtues of patience and humility must also go, and for very much the same reason. For the revolution needs proud men, greedy men, impatient men, not ascetic hermits - even if, after the revolution, they have to limit their pride and impatience, if not their greed, for the sake of the stability of democracy.
But this last point leads Fukuyama to a still more important admission: that religion is useful, perhaps even necessary, to democratic society even after the revolution. For "the emergence and durability of a society embodying rational recognition appears to require the survival of certain forms of irrational recognition." One example of such a survival is the "Protestant work-ethic", which is the recognition that work has a value in and of itself, regardless of its material rewards.
The problem for the democrats is that the thymotic passions which were necessary to overthrow the aristocratic masters and create democratic society tend to fade away when the victory has been won but the fruits of the victory still have to be consolidated and defended. It is a profound and important paradox that men are much more likely to give their lives for unelected hereditary monarchs than for elected presidents or prime ministers, even though they consider the latter more "legitimate" than the former. The reason for this is that very powerful religious and patriotic emotions attach to hereditary monarchs that do not attach to democratic leaders precisely because, whether consciously or unconsciously, they are perceived to be kings not by the will of the people, but by the will of God, Whose will the people recognizes to be more sacred than its own will.
Fukuyama struggles bravely with this ultimately intractable problem: "The liberal state growing out of the tradition of Hobbes and Locke engages in a protracted struggle with its own people. It seeks to homogenize their variegated traditional cultures and to teach them to calculate instead their own long-term self-interest. In place of an organic moral community with its own language of 'good and evil', one had to learn a new set of democratic values: to be 'participant', 'rational', 'secular', 'mobile', 'empathetic', and 'tolerant'. These new democratic values were initially not values at all in the sense of defining the final human virtue or good. They were conceived as having a purely instrumental function, habits that one had to acquire if one was to live successfully in a peaceful and prosperous liberal society. It was for this reason that Nietzsche called the state the 'coldest of all cold monsters' that destroyed peoples and their cultures by hanging 'a thousand appetites' in front of them.
"For democracy to work, however, citizens of democratic states must forget the instrumental roots of their values, and develop a certain irrational thymotic pride in their political system and way of life. That is, they must come to love democracy not because it is necessarily better than the alternatives, but because it is theirs. Moreover, they must cease to see values like 'tolerance' as merely a means to an end; tolerance in democratic societies becomes the defining virtue. Development of this kind of pride in democracy, or the assimilation of democratic values into the citizen's sense of his own self, is what is meant by the creation of a 'democratic' or 'civic culture'. Such a culture is critical to the long-term health and stability of democracies, since no real-world society can long survive based on rational calculation and desire alone."
Quite so; but is it rational to believe that telling the people that "they must come to love democracy not because it is necessarily better than the alternatives, but because it is theirs" is going to fire them more than the ideas of Islamic Jihad or "The Mystic Union of the Aryan race"? Is not loving an ideology just because it is my ideology the ultimate irrationality? Is not an ideology - any ideology - that appeals to a Being greater than itself going to have greater emotional appeal than such infantile narcissism? Moreover, the "purer" a democracy, the more serious the problem of injecting warmth into "the coldest of all cold monsters". For what "democratic" or "civic culture" can replace, even from a purely psychological point of view, full-blooded religion - believing in absolute truths and values that are not just projections of our desires?
Fukuyama discusses at some length how democratic society allows its megalothymic citizens to harmlessly "let off steam" - that is, excess thymos - through such activities as entrepreneurialism, competitive sport, intellectual and artistic achievement, ecological crusading and voluntary service in non-democratic societies. He has much less to say about how thymos is to be generated in relation to the central values and symbols of democratic society when that society is becoming - in this respect, at any rate - distinctly anaemic and "microthymic". Why, for example, should I go to war to make the world safe for democracy? To defend the good of "tolerance" against the evil of "intolerance"? But why shouldn't my "enemy" be intolerant if he wants to? Doesn't tolerance itself declare that one man's values are just as good as any other's? Why should I kill him just because, by an accident of birth, he hasn't reached my level of ecumenical consciousness and remains mired in the fanaticism of the pre-millenial, non-democratic age?..
The fact is that whereas democracy wages war on "bigoted", "intolerant", "inegalitarian" religion - that is, religion which believes in absolute truths and values that are valid for all people at all times, and which make those who believe in them and act by them better, in the eyes of believers, than those who do not, - it desperately needs some such religion itself.
It needed it at the beginning; for it was only through the quasi-religious fervour of the English, French and Russian revolutions that the old regimes in those countries were swept away - and since the end of democracy justifies all ends in the perspective of History, it does not matter to the democrats that this religion was much more like the bloodthirsty sacrifices of Moloch and Baal than the humble, self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. It needed it in the middle, when some kind of religious enthusiasm was necessary to whip up the peoples in defence of democracy against communism and nazism - an enthusiasm that was shown to have become dangerously weak at the time of the Vietnam war. And it needs it even more now, at the end, when the cancers of atomism, relativism and me-too-ism threaten to eat up the whole of democratic society from within.
But where, having spent all the vast propaganda resources of the modern state in preaching the superfluity, if not complete falsehood of all religion over a period of hundreds of years, are the democrats going to find such a religion? In Gaia, the ecologist's earth goddess, who gives birth to everything that the democrats desire, while punishing, through natural and man-made catastrophes, all those who, through unforgiveable megalothymia, disobey her commands (i.e. the ecological balance of nature)? In the New Age, which worships man in every aspect of his fallenness, not excluding his union with the fallen spirits of hell? If the vice-president of the world's most powerful democracy can believe in this, then anything is possible. And yet, and yet - how can modern man return to such atavistic paganism when it contradicts the very cornerstone of his philosophical world-view and the primary engine of his prosperity - the scientific method?
4. The Dialectics of Democracy
In the last section of his book, entitled "The Last Man", Fukuyama examines two threats to the survival of democracy, one from the left of the political spectrum and one from the right.
From the left comes the challenge constituted by the never-ending demand for equality based on an ever-increasing list of supposed inequalities. "Already, forms of inequality such as racism, sexism, and homophobia have displaced the traditional class issue for the Left on contemporary college campuses. Once the principle of equal recognition of each person's human dignity - the satisfaction of their isothymia - is established, there is no guarantee that people will continue to accept the existence of natural or necessary residual forms of inequality. The fact that nature distributes capabilities unequally is not particularly just. Just because the present generation accepts this kind of inequality as either natural or necessary does not mean that it will be accepted as such in the future...
"The passion for equal recognition - isothymia - does not necessarily diminish with the achievement of greater de facto equality and material abundance, but may actually be stimulated by it...
"Today in democratic America there is a host of people who devote their lives to the total and complete elimination of any vestiges of inequality, making sure that no little girl should have to pay more to have her locks cut than a little boy, that no Boy Scout troop be closed to homosexual scoutmasters, that no building be built without a concrete wheelchair going up to the front door. These passions exist in American society because of, and not despite, the smallness of its actual remaining inequalities..."
The proliferation of new "rights", many of them "ambiguous in their social content and mutually contradictory", threatens to dissolve the whole of society in a boiling sea of resentment. Hierarchy has all but disappeared. Anyone can now refuse obedience to, or take to court, anyone else - even children their parents. Bitter nationalisms re-emerge even in "the melting pot of the nations" as Afro-Americans go back to their roots in order to assert their difference from the dominant race. The very concept of degrees of excellence as something quite independent of race or sex is swept aside as, for example, Shakespeare's claim to pre-eminence in literature is rejected because he is he had the unfair advantage of being "white, male and Anglo-Saxon".
Fukuyama rightly points out that the doctrine of rights springs directly from an understanding of what man is. But the egalitarian and scientific revolutions undermine the Christian concept of man which the founders of liberalism, both Anglo-Saxon and German, took for granted, denying that there is any essential difference between man and nature because "man is simply a more organized and rational form of slime". It follows that essential human rights should be accorded also to the higher animals, like monkeys and dolphins, who can suffer pain as we do and are supposedly no less intelligent.
"But the argument will not stop there. For how does one distinguish between higher and lower animals? Who can determine what in nature suffers? Indeed, why should the ability to experience pain, or the possession of higher intelligence, become a title to superior worth? In the end, why does man have more dignity than any part of the natural world, from the most humble rock to the most distant star? Why should insects, bacteria, intestinal parasites, and HIV viruses not have rights equal to those of human beings?"
The paradox is that this new understanding of life, human and sub-human, is in fact very similar to that of Hinduism, which has evolved, in the form of the Indian caste system, probably the most stubbornly inegalitarian society in history!
Fukuyama concludes his examination of the challenge from the Left: "The extension of the principle of equality to apply not just to human beings but to non-human creation as well may today sound bizarre, but it is implied in our current impasse in thinking through the question: What is man? If we truly believe that he is not capable of moral choice or the autonomous use of reason, if he can be understood entirely in terms of the sub-human, then it is not only possible but inevitable that rights will gradually be extended to animals and other natural beings as well as men. The liberal concept of an equal and universal humanity with a specifically human dignity will be attacked both from above and below: by those who asset that certain group identities are more important than the quality of being human, and by those who believe that being human constitutes nothing distinctive against the non-human. The intellectual impasse in which modern relativism has left us does not permit us to answer either of these attacks definitively, and therefore does not permit defense of liberal rights traditionally understood..."
Fukuyama goes on to examine "a still greater and ultimately more serious threat" coming from the Right. This amounts to the accusation that when democratic man has won all his universal human rights, and become totally free and equal, he will be, to put it crudely, a worthless nonentity. For individuals striving for something that is purer and higher are more likely to arise "in societies dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal. Democratic societies, dedicated to the opposite proposition, tend to promote a belief in the equality of all lifestyles and values. They do not tell their citizens how they should live, or what will make them happy, virtuous, or great. Instead, they cultivate the virtue of toleration, which becomes the chief virtue in democratic societies. And if men are unable to affirm that any particular way of life is superior to another, then they will fall back on the affirmation of life itself, that is, the body, its needs, and fears. While not all souls may be equally virtuous or talented, all bodies can suffer; hence democratic societies will tend to be compassionate and raise to the first order of concern the question of preventing the body from suffering. It is not an accident that people in democratic societies are preoccupied with material gain and live in an economic world devoted to the satisfaction of the myriad small needs of the body. According to Nietzsche, the last man has 'left the regions where it was hard to live, for one needs warmth.'
"'One still works, for work is a form of entertainment. But one is careful lest the entertainment be too harrowing. One no longer becomes poor or rich: both require too much exertion. Who still wants to rule? Who obey? Both require too much exertion.
"'No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.'
"It becomes particularly difficult for people in democratic societies to take questions with real moral content seriously in public life. Morality involves a distinction between better and worse, good and bad, which seems to violate the democratic principle of tolerance. It is for this reason that the last man becomes concerned above all for his own personal health and safety, because it is uncontroversial. In America today, we feel entitled to criticize another person's smoking habits, but not his or her religious beliefs or moral behavior. For Americans, the health of their bodies - what they eat and drink, the exercise they get, the shape they are in - has become a far greater obsession than the moral questions that tormented their forbears."
"Modern education… stimulates a certain tendency towards relativism, that is, the doctrine that all horizons and value systems are relative to their time and place, and that none are true but reflect the prejudices or interests of those who advance them. The doctrine that says that there is no privileged perspective dovetails very nicely with democratic man's desire to believe that his way of life is just as good as any other. Relativism in this context does not lead to the liberation of the great or strong, but of the mediocre, who were now told that they had nothing of which to be ashamed. The slave at the beginning of history declined to risk his life in the bloody battle because he was instinctively fearful. The last man at the end of history knows better than to risk his life for a cause, because he recognizes that history was full of pointless battles in which men fought over whether they should be Christian or Muslim, Protestant or Catholic, German or French. The loyalties that drove men to desperate acts of courage and sacrifice were proven by subsequent history to be silly prejudices. Men with modern educations are content to sit at home, congratulating themselves on their broadmindedness and lack of fanaticism. As Nietzsche's Zarathustra says of them, 'For thus you speak: "Real are we entirely, and without belief or superstition.' Thus you stick out your chests - but alas, they are hollow!'"
"A dog is content to sleep in the sun all day provided he is fed, because he is not dissatisfied with what he is. He does not worry that other dogs are doing better than him, or that his career as a dog has stagnated, or that dogs are being oppressed in a distant part of the world. If man reaches a society in which he has succeeded in abolishing injustice, his life will come to resemble that of the dog. Human life, then, involves a curious paradox: it seems to require injustice, for the struggle against injustice is what calls forth what is highest in man."
For a man is in fact more than a dog or a log. Even when all his desires have been satisfied, and even when all injustices have been eradicated, he wants, not to sleep, but to act. For, unlike the plants and animals, he has a free will which needs nothing outside itself to feed on.
The basis of this irrational freedom was described by Dostoyevsky's underground man as: "one's own free, unrestrained choice, one's own whim, be it the wildest, one's own fancy, sometimes worked up to a frenzy... And where did these sages pick up the idea that man must have something which they feel is a normal and virtuous set of wishes? What makes them think that man's will must be reasonable and in accordance with his own interests? All man actually needs is independent will, at all costs and whatever the consequences..."
Here we come to the root of the democratic dilemma. Democracy's raison d'etre is the liberation of the human will, first through the satisfaction of his most basic desires, and then through the satisfaction of every other person's desires to an equal extent. But the problem is that the will, thus satisfied, has only just begun to manifest itself. For the will is not essentially a will to anything - not a will not to eat, not a will to power; it is simply will tout court. "I will, therefore I am. And if anyone else wills otherwise, to hell with him! (And if I myself will otherwise, to hell with me!)"
So perhaps war (and suicide) must be permitted in the society whose purpose is "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"? Of course, this was not the Founding Fathers' intention. They were reasonable men. But perhaps they did not pursue their reasoning through to its logical conclusion. Perhaps they did not understand that those bloody Roman dictators were not stupid when they defined the desires of the mob as panem et circenses - bread and circuses, in which "circuses" had without fail to include some gladiatorial murder.
Hegel, unlike the Anglo-Saxons, did have a place for violence and war in his system - not war for war's sake, but war for democracy's sake. "A liberal democracy that could fight a short and decisive war every generation or so to defend its own liberty and independence would be far healthier and more satisfied than one that experienced nothing but continuous peace. Hegel's view of war reflects a common experience of combat: for while men suffer horribly and are seldom as frightened and miserable, their experience if they survive has the tendency of putting all things in a certain perspective."
But for men who believe in nothing beyond themselves, whether democracy or any other value, there is nothing ennobling or purifying about war. It simply debases them still further. That has been the fate of those Russian soldiers, who, on returning from the war in Chechnya, continue the war in mindless murders of their own people. For such men, war has become an end in itself. In a world in which all objective values have been radically undermined, killing is the only way they have to prove to themselves that they exist, that they, at any rate, can make an objective difference to their surroundings.
For "supposing", continues Fukuyama, "that the world has become 'filled up', so to speak, with liberal democracies, such that there exist no tyranny and oppression worthy of the name against which to struggle? Experience suggests that if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier generation, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against that democracy."
As examples of this phenomenon, Fukuyama cites the évènements in France in 1968, and the scenes of patriotic pro-war enthusiasm repeated in Paris, Petrograd, London, and Vienna in August, 1914. And yet there is a much better example much closer to home - the crime that has become such a universal phenomenon in modern democracies from London to Johannesburg, from Bangkok to Sao Paolo, from Washington to Moscow. It is as if Dostoyevsky's underground man has now become a whole class - the underclass of the metropolitan octopuses, whose tentacles extend ever wider and deeper into the major institutions and government itself.
Democratic man, unable to free himself from the shackles of democratic thought, superficially ascribes the causes of crime to poverty or unemployment, to a lack of education or a lack of rights. But most modern criminals are not hungry, nor are they struggling for rights. There is no need as such in most modern crime, no idealism, however misguided. Their only need is to kill and to rape and to steal - not for the sake of revenge, or sex, or money, but just for their own sake. And their only ideal is to express their own, "independent will, at all costs and whatever the consequences".
Thus the logical consequence of the attainment of full democracy is nihilism, the universal war of every man against every man, for the sake of no man and no thing. For "modern thought raises no barriers to a future nihilistic war against liberal democracy on the part of those brought up in its bosom. Relativism - the doctrine that maintains that all value are merely relative and which attacks all 'privileged perspectives' - must ultimately end up undermining democratic and tolerant values as well."
Fukuyama should have concluded his superbly consistent argument at this point, saying: "Democracy is doomed; we must find some other truths and values - absolute truths and values, or we shall all perish in a morass of relativism and nihilism." But at this point the limitations of his democratic education - or is it just American optimism? - lead him to make his only act of mauvaise foi. Like a Shostakovich symphony, which, after plumbing the depths of tragic despair, must perforce have a bombastic finale, Fukuyama declares his faith that democracy will win out in the end, if only because all other systems are dead or in the process of dying. And in an aptly American metaphor he compares the progress of democracy to a wagon train that, having crossed the Rockies in a raging blizzard and having withstood all the assaults of wild Indians and howling coyotes, comes to rest in - smog-filled, drug-addicted, crime-infested Los Angeles?… Only in the very last sentence does he - very tentatively, as if fearing to have his head shot off by a last Indian sniper - recover himself somewhat and look over the parapet of democracy's last stand: "Nor can we in the final analysis know, provided a majority of the wagons eventually reach the same town, whether their occupants, having looked around a bit at their new surroundings, will not find them inadequate and set their eyes on a new and more distant journey..."
Let us now turn to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose critique of Anglo-Saxon liberal democracy comes, not from Hegelian presuppositions, nor from the slightest sympathy for totalitarianism (he was, after all, the author of The Gulag Archipelago), but from disillusion with the idea of freedom as the supreme value as it is expressed in the contemporary West.
For Solzhenitsyn, freedom is valuable and indeed necessary, but not as an end in itself. Rather, he sees it as a means to a higher end - moral perfection. And when he sees freedom being used to undermine rather than to support that higher end, he waxes eloquently scornful, as in his 1976 speech on receiving the "Freedom Fund" prize: "Freedom! - to forcibly defile postboxes and the eyes, ears and brains of people with commercial rubbish, and television programmes in which it is impossible to see any coherent sense. Freedom! - to impose information on people without taking into account their right not to receive it, their right to mental relaxation. Freedom! - to spit in the eyes and souls of those passing by advertisements. Freedom! - of publishers and cinema producers to poison the young generation with corrupt abominations. Freedom! - for adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18 to get drunk on leisure and pleasure instead of concentrated study and spiritual growth. Freedom! - for young adults to seek idleness and live at the expense of society. Freedom! - for strikers, to the extent of allowing them to deprive all the other citizens of a normal life, work, movement, water and food. Freedom! - for justifying speeches, when the lawyer himself knows that the accused is guilty. Freedom! - to raise the juridical right of insurance to such a degree that even charity could be reduced to extortion. Freedom! - for casual, trite pens to irresponsibly slide along the surface of any question in their haste to form public opinion. Freedom! - for the collection of gossip, when a journalist in his own interests spares neither his father nor his Fatherland. Freedom! - to publicize the defence secrets of one's country for personal political ends. Freedom! - for a businessman to make any deal, however many people it may reduce to misery or even if it would betray his own country. Freedom! - for political leaders to lightmindedly carry out what the voter wants today, and not what from a longer-term perspective will protect him from evil and danger. Freedom! - for terrorists to escape punishment, pity for them as a death sentence for the whole of the rest of society. Freedom! - for whole states to parasitically extort help from others, and not to work to build their own economy. Freedom! - as indifference to the trampling of the freedom of others far from us. Freedom! - even not to defend one's own freedom, as long as someone else risks his life."
Solzhenitsyn did not mention what is probably the greatest evil consequence of freedom in present-day democratic Russia, even more than in the West - the rise of organized crime. On March 27, 1994, James Woolsey, General Director of the CIA, told a senate foreign committee that the pervasiveness of Russian organised crime, fostered by the freedoms and restraint of security forces necessary for democratic reform, has contributed to the popular backlash against Yeltsin's policies and bolstered support for right wing nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Organized crime not only threatens all personal and commercial freedoms: it even threatens the life of the planet insofar as it includes potential trafficking in nuclear weapons.
The only real defence of freedom against its own worst consequences - including, as in Russia in 1917 and Germany in 1933, a descent into a worse tyranny than that of any hereditary monarch - is a good set of laws and an effective system for enforcing them. However, democracy guarantees neither the one nor the other. For a good set of laws depends on the wisdom and morality of the lawmakers - and democratic lawmakers are elected to follow the will of their constituents, not the objective good of the country. And effective enforcement presupposes a generally high respect for the law in the population as a whole - a condition which is notably lacking in most democratic societies today. In any case, according to Solzhenitsyn, western democratic legalism has become, to a dangerous and debilitating degree, an end in itself. Every conflict is solved according to the letter of the law, and voluntary self-restraint is considered out of the question. It is not enough to have a wonderful system of laws and every democratic freedom. If the people are selfish, then life will still be hell.
Pluralism, freedom of speech and the press and democratic elections are all fine, says Solzhenitsyn, but they only make the choice possible: they do not tell us what to choose. The decision of the majority is no guarantee against "misdirection"; fascists, communists, nationalists and unprincipled demagogues are frequently voted in by majorities. Even in an established democracy major decisions can be swung by the vote of a small, but determined and selfish minority which holds the balance of power and can therefore impose its will on the majority.
In an article entitled "The Pluralists", Solzhenitsyn writes: "They [the pluralists] seem to regard pluralism as somehow the supreme attainment of history, the supreme intellectual good, the supreme value of modern Western life. This principle is often formulated as follows: 'the more different opinions, the better' - the important thing being that no one should seriously insist on the truth of his own.
"But can pluralism claim to be a principle valuable in itself, and indeed one of the loftiest? It is strange that mere plurality should be elevated to such a high status... The Washington Post once published a letter from an American, responding to my Harvard speech. 'It is difficult to believe,' he wrote, 'that diversity for its own sake is the highest aim of mankind. Respect for diversity makes no sense unless diversity helps us attain some higher goal.'
"Of course, variety adds colour to life. We yearn for it. We cannot imagine life without it. But if diversity becomes the highest principle, then there can be no universal human values, and making one's own values the yardstick of another person's opinions is ignorant and brutal. If there is no right and wrong, what restraints remain? If there is no universal basis for it there can be no morality. 'Pluralism' as a principle degenerates into indifference, superficiality, it spills over into relativism, into tolerance of the absurd, into a pluralism of errors and lies. You may show off your ideas, but must say nothing with conviction. To be too sure that you are right is indecent. So people wander like babes in the wood. That is why the Western world today is defenceless; paralysed by its inability any longer to distinguish between true and false positions, between manifest Good and manifest Evil, by the centrifugal chaos of ideas, by the entropy of thought. 'Let's have as many views as possible - just as long as they're all different!' But if a hundred mules all pull different ways the result is no movement at all.
"In the whole universal flux there is one truth - God's truth, and, consciously or not, we all long to draw near to this truth and touch it. A great diversity of opinions has some sense if we make it our first concern to compare them so as to discover and renounce our mistakes. To discover the true way of looking at things, come as close as we can to God's truth, and not just collect as many 'different' views as we can.”
Thus just as Western democratic pluralism would not save the West from Soviet totalitarianism, so Russia would not be delivered from the same totalitarianism by simply trying to make it more democratic. Solzhenitsyn did not believe that there was any realistic path of transition to a democratic republic without creating a number of nationalist wars - a judgement which we can now see to have been prophetically true. A multi-party democracy in Russia would be "merely be a melancholy repetition of 1917". For the failure of Russian democracy in 1917 was not the result simply of the immaturity of Russian democratic institutions, but rather of a fundamental flaw in the basic theory and spirit of democracy. Communism itself springs, not from traditional authoritarian systems, which, for all their faults, still recognized the authority of God above them, but from "the crisis of democracy, from the failure of irreligious humanism".
At the time of writing (the beginning of the third Christian millenium), liberal democracy appears to have triumphed over all other politico-economic systems. It has survived the socialist and fascist revolutions of the period 1789-1945, and even appears to be on the pointing of “turning” the last and most powerful survival of the revolutionary ethos, Communist China. But in both Fukuyama, an avid supporter of democracy, and in Solzhenitsyn, a lifelong opponent of totalitarianism, we see similar doubts – even if these doubts are suppressed in the former by his conviction that democracy represents “the end of history”, the final, and best, politico-economic system.
The basic doubt can be expressed as follows: can a system built, not on the eradication, but on the exploitation and rational management of man’s fallen passions, and not on absolute truth, but on the relativisation of all opinions through the ballot box, bring lasting peace and prosperity?
In a sense there is no competition; for the only system that is radically different from liberal democracy, Orthodox Autocracy, sets itself a quite different goal: not peace and prosperity in this life, but the salvation of the soul in the next. Even if it could be proved that liberal democracy satisfied the earthly needs of men better than Orthodox Autocracy, this is no way invalidates Autocracy, insofar as the true, convinced subjects of Autocracy would gladly exchange happiness and prosperity in this life for salvation in the next. For while the purpose of democracy is the fullest satisfaction of man’s fallen nature, the purpose of Autocracy is the creation of the political and social conditions conducive to the maximum flourishing of the Church, whose purpose is the recreation of man’s original, unfallen nature.
But it may be doubted whether liberal democracy will achieve its own stated ends. The cult of reason and liberalism, writes L.A. Tikhomirov, “very much wants to establish worldly prosperity, it very much wants to make people happy, but it will achieve nothing, because it approaches the problem from the wrong end.
“It may appear strange that people who think only of earthly prosperity, and who put their whole soul into realising it, attain only disillusionment and exhaustion. People who, on the contrary, are immersed in cares about the invisible life beyond the grave, attain here, on earth, results constituting the highest examples yet known on earth of personal and social development! However, this strangeness is self-explanatory. The point is that man is by his nature precisely the kind of being that Christianity understands him to be by faith; the aims of life that are indicated to him by faith are precisely the kind of aims that he has in reality, and not the kind that reason divorced from faith delineates. Therefore in educating a man in accordance with the Orthodox world-view, we conduct his education correctly, and thence we get results that are good not only in that which is most important [salvation] (which unbelievers do not worry about), but also in that which is secondary (which is the only thing they set their heart on). In losing faith, and therefore ceasing to worry about the most important thing, people lost the possibility of developing man in accordance with his true nature, and so they get distorted results in earthly life, too.”
Thus even the most perfectly functioning democracy will ultimately fail in its purpose, for the simple reason that while man is fallen, he is not completely fallen, he is still made in the image of God, so that even when all his fallen desires have been satisfied there will still be an unsatisfied longing for something higher. “Happiness” – the supreme “right” of man, according to the American Constitution – is unattainable as long as only our own, and not other people’s happiness, our own glory, and not God’s glory, is the goal; and even if attained on earth, it will only be brief and bring inevitable ennui; for it will immediately stimulate a desire for the infinitely greater happiness of heaven, eternal joy in God. The revolutionary age that followed the age of reason highlighted this truth, albeit in a perverted, demonic way; for it showed that there is more in heaven and earth and in the soul of man – far greater heights, as well as far more abysmal depths - than was ever dreamt of in the complacent psychology of the liberal philosophers.
March 2/15, 1996; April 5/18, 2000.
11. THE HEREDITARY PRINCIPLE
In 1613, with the enthronement of the first Romanov tsar, the Muscovite kingdom was established on the twin pillars of the Orthodox Faith and Hereditary succession. The requirement of Orthodoxy had been passed down from the Byzantines. Hereditary Succession was not a requirement in Rome or Byzantium (which is one reason why so many Byzantine emperors were assassinated by usurpers); but in Russia, as in some Western Orthodox autocracies (for example, the Anglo-Saxon), it was felt to be a necessity. Both pillars had been shaken during the Time of Troubles, after the death of the last Rurik tsar. But Orthodoxy had been restored above all by the holy Patriarchs Job and Hermogenes refusing to recognise a Catholic tsar, and then by the national army of liberation that drove out the Poles; while the Hereditary Principle, already tacitly accepted if mistakenly applied by the people when they followed the false Demetrius, had been affirmed by all the estates of the nation at the Zemsky Sobor in 1613.
Since the hereditary principle is commonly considered to be irrational because it places the government of the State “at the mercy of chance”, it may be worth pausing to consider its significance in Russian Orthodox statehood in the thinking of two Russian writers: Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow and Ivan Lukyanovich Solonevich.
Beginning with the English philosophers Hobbes and Locke, the West opposed to the hereditary principle – the elective principle, and to the principle of one-man rule by right of birth – the creation of a government (whether despotic or democratic) on the basis of a mythical social contract, which remains the foundation of the theory of liberal democracy to this day. Metropolitan Philaret criticised – more precisely: demolished - the idea of the social contract as follows: “It is obligatory, say the wise men of this world, to submit to social authorities on the basis of a social contract, by which people were united into society, by a general agreement founding government and submission to it for the general good. If they think that it is impossible to found society otherwise than on a social contract, - then why is it that the societies of the bees and ants are not founded on it? And is it not right that those who break open honeycombs and destroy ant-hills should be entrusted with finding in them… a charter of bees and ants? And until such a thing is done, nothing prevents us from thinking that bees and ants create their societies, not by contract, but by nature, by an idea of community implanted in their nature, which the Creator of the world willed to be realised even at the lowest level of His creatures. What if an example of the creation of a human society by nature were found? What, then, is the use of the fantasy of a social contract? No one can argue against the fact that the original form of society is the society of the family. Thus does not the child obey the mother, and the mother have power over the child, not because they have contracted between themselves that she should feed him at the breast, and that he should shout as little as possible when he is swaddled? What if the mother should suggest too harsh conditions to the child? Will not the inventors of the social contract tell him to go to another mother and make a contract with her about his upbringing? The application of the social contract in this case is as fitting as it is fitting in other cases for every person, from the child to the old man, from the first to the last. Every human contract can have force only when it is entered into with consciousness and good will. Are there many people in society who have heard of the social contract? And of those few who have heard of it, are there many who have a clear conception of it? Ask, I will not say the simple citizen, but the wise man of contracts: when and how did he enter into the social contract? When he was an adult? But who defined this time? And was he outside society before he became an adult? By means of birth? This is excellent. I like this thought, and I congratulate every Russian that he was able – I don’t know whether it was from his parents or from Russia herself, - to agree that he be born in powerful Russia… The only problem is that neither he who was born nor his parents thought about this contract in their time, and so does not referring to it mean fabricating it? And consequently is not better, as well as simpler, both in submission and in other relationships towards society, to study the rights and obligations of a real birth instead of an invented contract – that pipe-dream of social life, which, by being recounted at the wrong time, has produced and continues to produce material woes for human society. ‘Transgressors have told me fables, but they are not like Thy law, O Lord’ (Psalm 118.85).”
It is sometimes argued that since the first Romanov tsar was “elected”, this shows that democratic election is prior, both chronologically and logically, to hereditary autocracy. However, the fact that the first Romanov tsar was “elected” does not mean that he was in any way not a complete autocrat, any more than the election of Jephtha as judge of Ancient Israel (Judges 11.11) meant that he was not a truly autocratic judge of Israel, answerable to God alone. The point is rather that, after the breakdown of government during the Time of Troubles, the people freely chose to reinstall hereditary autocracy; they freely chose to restrict their own freedom, to renounce the right to choose their ruler, for the sake of the general good. For, as the tenth-century English Abbot Aelfric wrote, “the people can choose whomever they like as king. But after he is consecrated as king, then he has dominion over the people, and they cannot shake his yoke from their necks.”
In any case, it is incorrect to describe the Zemsky Sobor of 1613 as a democratic election. For, as Ivan Solonevich writes, “when, after the Time of Troubles, the question was raised concerning the restoration of the monarchy, there was no hint of an ‘election to the kingdom’. There was a ‘search’ for people who had the greatest hereditary right to the throne. And not an ‘election’ of the more worthy. There were not, and could not be, any ‘merits’ in the young Michael Fyodorovich. But since only the hereditary principle affords the advantage of absolutely indisputability, it was on this that the ‘election’ was based.”
St. John Maximovich writes: “What drew the hearts of all to Michael Romanov? He had neither experience of statecraft, nor had he done any service to the state. He was not distinguished by the state wisdom of Boris Godunov or by the eminence of his race, as was Basil Shuisky. He was sixteen years old, and “Misha Romanov”, as he was generally known, had not yet managed to show his worth in anything. But why did the Russian people rest on him, and why with his crowning did all the quarrels and disturbances regarding the royal throne come to an end? The Russian people longed for a lawful, “native” Sovereign, and was convinced that without him there could be no order or peace in Russia. When Boris Godunov and Prince Basil Shuisky were elected, although they had, to a certain degree, rights to the throne through their kinship with the previous tsars, they were not elected by reason of their exclusive rights, but their personalities were taken into account. There was no strict lawful succession in their case. This explained the success of the pretenders. However, it was almost impossible to elect someone as tsar for his qualities. Everyone evaluated the candidates for their point of view. However, the absence of a definite law which would have provided an heir in the case of the cutting off of the line of the Great Princes and Tsars of Moscow made it necessary for the people itself to indicate who they wanted as tsar. The descendants of the appanage princes, although they came from the same race as that of the Moscow Tsars (and never forgot that), were in the eyes of the people simple noblemen, “serfs” of the Moscow sovereigns; their distant kinship with the royal line had already lost its significance. Moreover, it was difficult to establish precisely which of the descendants of St. Vladimir on the male side had the most grounds for being recognised as the closest heir to the defunct royal line. In such circumstances all united in the suggestion that the extinct Royal branch should be continued by the closest relative of the last “native”, lawful Tsar. The closest relatives of Tsar Theodore Ioannovich were his counsins on his mother’s side: Theodore, in monasticism Philaret, and Ivan Nikitich Romanov, both of whom had sons. In that case the throne had to pass to Theodore, as the eldest, but his monasticism and the rank of Metropolitan of Rostov was an obstacle to this. His heir was his only son Michael. Thus the question was no longer about the election of a Tsar, but about the recognition that a definite person had the rights to the throne. The Russian people, tormented by the time of troubles and the lawlessness, welcomed this decision, since it saw that order could be restored only by a lawful “native” Tsar. The people remembered the services of the Romanovs to their homeland, their sufferings for it, the meek Tsaritsa Anastasia Romanova, the firmness of Philaret Nikitich. All this still more strongly attracted the hearts of the people to the announced tsar. But these qualities were possessed also by some other statesmen and sorrowers for Rus’. And this was not the reason for the election of Tsar Michael Romanovich, but the fact that in him Rus’ saw their most lawful and native Sovereign.
“In the acts on the election to the kingdom of Michael Fyodorovich, the idea that he was ascending the throne by virtue of his election by the people was carefully avoided, and it was pointed out that the new Tsar was the elect of God, the direct descendant of the last lawful Sovereign.”
Fr. Lev Lebedev puts it as follows: “Tsars are not elected! And a Council, even a Zemskij Sobor, cannot be the source of power. The kingdom is a calling of God, the Council can determine the lawful Tsar and summon him.”
The indisputability of the hereditary tsar’s rule is linked with his inviolability. As Metropolitan Philaret writes: “A government that is not fenced about by an inviolability that is venerated religiously by the whole people cannot act with the whole fullness of power or that freedom of zeal that is necessary for the construction and preservation of the public good and security. How can it develop its whole strength in its most beneficial direction, when its power constantly finds itself in an insecure position, struggling with other powers that cut short its actions in as many different directions as are the opinions, prejudices and passions more or less dominant in society? How can it surrender itself to the full force of its zeal, when it must of necessity divide its attentions between care for the prosperity of society and anxiety about its own security? But if the government is so lacking in firmness, then the State is also lacking in firmness. Such a State is like a city built on a volcanic mountain: what significance does its hard earth have when under it is hidden a power that can at any minute turn everything into ruins? Subjects who do not recognise the inviolability of rulers are incited by the hope of licence to achieve licence and predominance, and between the horrors of anarchy and oppression they cannot establish in themselves that obedient freedom which is the focus and soul of public life.”
There are certain laws, like that concerning the hereditary principle itself, which are fundamental, that is, which even the tsar cannot transgress, insofar as they define the very essence of the Orthodox hereditary monarchy. In general, however, the hereditary autocrat is above the law. For, as Solonevich writes: “The fundamental, most fundamental idea of the Russian monarchy was most vividly and clearly expressed by A.S. Pushkin just before the end of his life: ‘There must be one person standing higher than everybody, higher even than the law.’
“In this formulation, ‘one man’, Man is placed in very big letters above the law. This formulation is completely unacceptable for the Roman-European cast of mind, for which the law is everything: dura lex, sed lex. The Russian cast of mind places, man, mankind, the soul higher than the law, giving to the law only that place which it should occupy: the place occupied by traffic rules. Of course, with corresponding punishments for driving on the left side. Man is not for the sabbath, but the sabbath for man. It is not that man is for the fulfilment of the law, but the law is for the preservation of man…
“The whole history of humanity is filled with the struggle of tribes, people, nations, classes, estates, groups, parties, religions and whatever you like. It’s almost as Hobbes put it: ‘War by everyone against everyone’. How are we to find a neutral point of support in this struggle? An arbiter standing above the tribes, nations, peoples, classes, estates, etc.? Uniting the people, classes and religions into a common whole? Submitting the interests of the part to the interests of the whole? And placing moral principles above egoism, which is always characteristic of every group of people pushed forward the summit of public life?”
The idea that the tsar is higher than the law, while remaining subject, of course, to the law of God, is also defended by Metropolitan Philaret: “The tsar, rightly understood, is the head and soul of the kingdom. But, you object to me, the soul of the State must be the law. The law is necessary, it is worthy of honour, faithful; but the law in charters and books is a dead letter… The law, which is dead in books, comes to life in acts; and the supreme State actor and exciter and inspirer of the subject actors is the Tsar.”
But if the tsar is above the law, how can he not be a tyrant, insofar as, in the famous words of Lord Acton, “power corrupts, and absolute power absolutely corrupts”? First, as we have seen, the tsar’s power is not absolute insofar as he is subject to the law of God and the fundamental laws of the Kingdom, which the Church is called upon to defend. Secondly, it is not only tsars, but all rulers of all kinds that are subject to the temptations of power. Indeed, these temptations may even be worse with democratic rulers; for whereas the tsar stands above all factional interests, an elected president will necessarily represent the interests only of his party (or clique within the party) at the expense of the country as a whole. “Western thought,” writes Solonevich, “sways from the dictatorship of capitalism to the dictatorship of the proletariat , but no representative of this thought has even so much as thought of ‘the dictatorship of conscience’.”
“The distinguishing characteristic of Russian monarchy, which was given to it at its birth, consists in the fact that the Russian monarchy expressed the will not of the most powerful, but the will of the whole nation, religiously given shape by Orthodoxy and politically given shape by the Empire. The will of the nation, religious given shape by Orthodoxy will be ‘the dictatorship of conscience’ Only in this way can we explain the possibility of the manifesto of February 19, 1861 [when Tsar Alexander II freed the peasants]: ‘the dictatorship of conscience’ was able overcome the terrible opposition of the ruling class, and the ruling class proved powerless. We must always have this distinction in mind: the Russian monarchy is the expression of the will, that is: the conscience, of the nation, not the will of the capitalists, which both French Napoleons expressed, or the will of the aristocracy, which all the other monarchies of Europe expressed: the Russian monarchy is the closes approximation to the ideal of monarchy in general. This ideal was never attained by the Russian monarchy – for the well-known reason that no ideal is realisable in our life. In the history of the Russian monarchy, as in the whole of our world, there were periods of decline, of deviation, of failure, but there were also periods of recovery such as world history has never known.”
Now State power, which, like power in the family or the tribe, always has an element of coercion, “is constructed in three ways: by inheritance, by election and by seizure: monarchy [autocracy], republic [democracy], dictatorship [despotism]. In practice all this changes places: the man who seizes power becomes a hereditary monarch (Napoleon I), the elected president becomes the same (Napoleon III), or tries to become it (Oliver Cromwell). The elected ‘chancellor’, Hitler, becomes a seizer of power. But in general these are nevertheless exceptions.
“Both a republic and a dictatorship presuppose a struggle for power – democratic in the first case and necessarily bloody in the second: Stalin – Trotsky, Mussolini-Matteotti, Hitler-Röhm. In a republic, as a rule, the struggle is unbloody. However, even an unbloody struggle is not completely without cost. Aristide Briand, who became French Prime Minister several times, admitted that 95% of his strength was spent on the struggle for power and only five percent on the work of power. And even this five percent was exceptionally short-lived.
“Election and seizure are, so to speak, rationalist methods. Hereditary power is, strictly speaking, the power of chance, indisputable if only because the chance of birth is completely indisputable. You can recognise or not recognise the principle of monarchy in general. But no one can deny the existence of the positive law presenting the right of inheriting the throne to the first son of the reigning monarch. Having recourse to a somewhat crude comparison, this is something like an ace in cards… An ace is an ace. No election, no merit, and consequently no quarrel. Power passes without quarrel and pain: the king is dead, long live the king!”
We may interrupt Solonevich’s argument here to qualify his use of the word “chance”. The fact that a man inherits the throne only because he is the firstborn of his father may be “by chance” from a human point of view. But from the Divine point of view it is election. As Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov writes: “There is no blind chance! God rules the world, and everything that takes place in heaven and beneath the heavens takes place according to the judgement of the All-wise and All-powerful God.” Moreover, as Bishop Ignatius writes, “in blessed Russia, according to the spirit of the pious people, the Tsar and the fatherland constitute one whole, as in a family the parents and their children constitute one whole.” This being so, it was only natural that the law of succession should be hereditary, from father to son.
Solonevich continues: “The human individual, born by chance as heir to the throne, is placed in circumstances which guarantee him the best possible professional preparation from a technical point of view. His Majesty Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich was probably one of the most educated people of his time. The best professors of Russia taught him both law and strategy and history and literature. He spoke with complete freedom in three foreign languages. His knowledge was not one-sided.. and was, if one can so express it, living knowledge…
“The Russian tsar was in charge of everything and was obliged to know everything - it goes without saying, as far as humanly possible. He was a ‘specialist’ in that sphere which excludes all specialisation. This was a specialism standing above all the specialisms of the world and embracing them all. That is, the general volume of erudition of the Russian monarch had in mind that which every philosophy has in mind: the concentration in one point of the whole sum of human knowledge. However, with this colossal qualification, that ‘the sum of knowledge’ of the Russian tsars grew in a seamless manner from the living practice of the past and was checked against the living practice of the present. True, that is how almost all philosophy is checked – for example, with Robespierre, Lenin and Hitler – but, fortunately for humanity, such checking takes place comparatively rarely….
“The heir to the Throne, later the possessor of the Throne, is placed in such conditions under which temptations are reduced… to a minimum. He is given everything he needs beforehand. At his birth he receives an order, which he, of course, did not manage to earn, and the temptation of vainglory is liquidated in embryo. He is absolutely provided for materially – the temptation of avarice is liquidated in embryo. He is the only one having the Right – and so competition falls away, together with everything linked with it. Everything is organised in such a way that the personal destiny of the individual should be welded together into one whole with the destiny of the nation. Everything that a person would want to have for himself is already given him. And the person automatically merges with the general good.
“One could say that all this is possessed also by a dictator of the type of Napoleon, Stalin or Hitler. But this would be less than half true: everything that the dictator has he conquered, and all this he must constantly defend – both against competitors and against the nation. The dictator is forced to prove every day that it is precisely he who is the most brilliant, great, greatest and inimitable, for if not he, but someone else, is not the most brilliant, then it is obvious that that other person has the right to power…
“We can, of course, quarrel over the very principle of ‘chance’. A banally rationalist, pitifully scientific point of view is usually formulated thus: the chance of birth may produce a defective man. But we, we will elect the best… Of course, ‘the chance of birth’ can produce a defective man. We have examples of this: Tsar Theodore Ivanovich. Nothing terrible happened. For the monarchy ‘is not the arbitratriness of a single man’, but ‘a system of institutions’, - a system can operate temporarily even without a ‘man’. But simple statistics show that the chance of such ‘chance’ events are very small. And the chance of ‘a genius on the throne’ appearing is still smaller.
“I proceed from the axiom that a genius in politics is worse than the plague. For a genius is a person who thinks up something that is new in principle. In thinking up something that is new in principle, he invades the organic life of the country and cripples it, as it was crippled by Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler…
“The power of the tsar is the power of the average, averagely clever man over two hundred million average, averagely clever people… V. Klyuchevsky said with some perplexity that the first Muscovite princes, the first gatherers of the Russian land, were completely average people: - and yet, look, they gathered the Russian land. This is quite simple: average people have acted in the interests of average people and the line of the nation has coincided with the line of power. So the average people of the Novgorodian army went over to the side of the average people of Moscow, while the average people of the USSR are running away in all directions from the genius of Stalin.”
Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow expressed the superiority of the hereditary over the elective principle as follows: “What conflict does election for public posts produce in other peoples! With what conflict, and sometimes also with what alarm do they attain the legalisation of the right of public election! Then there begins the struggle, sometimes dying down and sometimes rising up again, sometimes for the extension and sometimes for the restriction of this right. The incorrect extension of the right of social election is followed by its incorrect use. It would be difficult to believe it if we did not read in foreign newspapers that elective votes are sold; that sympathy or lack of sympathy for those seeking election is expressed not only by votes for and votes against, but also by sticks and stones, as if a man can be born from a beast, and rational business out of the fury of the passions; that ignorant people make the choice between those in whom wisdom of state is envisaged, lawless people participate in the election of future lawgivers, peasants and craftsmen discuss and vote, not about who could best keep order in the village or the society of craftsmen, but about who is capable of administering the State.
“Thanks be to God! It is not so in our fatherland. Autocratic power, established on the age-old law of heredity, which once, at a time of impoverished heredity, was renewed and strengthened on its former basis by a pure and rational election, stands in inviolable firmness and acts with calm majesty. Its subjects do not think of striving for the right of election to public posts in the assurance that the authorities care for the common good and know through whom and how to construct it.”
“God, in accordance with the image of His heavenly single rule, has established a tsar on earth; in accordance with the image of His almighty power, He has established an autocratic tsar; in accordance with the image of His everlasting Kingdom, which continues from age to age, He has established a hereditary tsar.”
We may now define more precisely why the hereditary principle was considered by the Russian people to be not simply superior to the elective principle, but as far superior to it as heaven is to the earth. For while an elected president is installed by the will of man, and can be said to be installed by the will of God only indirectly, insofar as God has allowed it, without positively willing it; the determination of who will be born as the heir to the throne is completely beyond the power of man, and therefore entirely within the power of God. The hereditary principle therefore ensures that the tsar will indeed be elected – but by God, not by man.
12. THE IDEA OF RELIGIOUS TOLERATION
The Origin of the Idea
The idea of religious toleration is not new. The Roman Empire prided itself on its tolerance; the persecutions of Christians were intermittent affairs set against a general background of the acceptance of all gods and goddesses. Other empires renowned for their fierceness, such as the Mongol, were also surprisingly respectful of the priests of other religions.
The main motive of religious toleration in the ancient world was simple political expediency – a multi-ethnic and multi-faith population is more easily controlled if all its faiths are respected and legalised. Another motive was superstition. After all, calculated the ruler (who was almost always religious), the god of this people is more likely to help me if I do not persecute his people…
Christianity introduced a new depth and a new complexity to the question of religious toleration. On the one hand, the Christians, like the Jews before them, rejected the idea of a multiplicity of gods, and insisted that there was only one name by which men could be saved – that of the One True God, Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the Christians set no value on the forcible conversion of people to the Faith: man, being in the image of God, was free, and could come to God only by his own free will.
Thus the first Christian emperor, St. Constantine the Great, who is unjustly blamed by many Protestants for introducing Christian intolerance into the State, declared: “It is one thing to undertake the contest for immortality voluntarily, another to compel others to do it likewise through fear of punishment.” Non-violence to the persons of heretics combined with mercilessness to the heresies themselves was especially emphasised by St. John Chrysostom, who wrote: “Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force… It is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have authority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force, but by choice.”
Again, Hieromonk Patapios writes: “As we can see from the many occurrences of the phrase ‘stop the mouths of the heretics’ in his writings, St. John showed not the slightest indulgence towards false teachings; indeed, much of his life as a preacher was devoted to combatting such heretics as the Eunomians, the Judaizers, and the Manichaeans. However, he was resolutely opposed to the use of violence by the authorities to subdue heretics. And it is this reservation of his that must be carefully understood, if one is to grasp what may seem to be a contradictory view of heretics. He knew from pastoral experience that heretics were far more likely to be turned aside from their errors by prayer: ‘And if you pray for the Heathens, you ought of course to pray for Heretics also, for we are to pray for all men, and not to persecute. And this is good also for another reason, as we are partakers of the same nature, and God commands and accepts benevolence towards one another’ (Homilies on the First Epistle to St. Timothy, 7). Near the end of this homily on the dangers of anathematizing others, he says that ‘we must anathematize heretical doctrines and refute impious teachings, from whomsoever we have received them, but show mercy to the men who advocate them and pray for their salvation.’ In other words, we must love the heretic, but hate the heresy.”
This balanced view, combining zeal for the truth with compassion and respect for human freedom, began to be undermined in the West from the time of Charlemagne, who “converted” multitudes of Saxons in the “wild east” of his domains at the edge of the sword. After the fall of the West from Orthodoxy in 1054, the acceptance of conversion by force became widespread. Or rather, the view now was that if someone would not be converted voluntarily, he might as well be killed, since he was clearly worthless and destined for hell fire anyway.
This view was most notoriously expressed in the crusades. Thus in the first crusade of 1098-99, the Muslim and Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem were slaughtered en masse. Again, Bernard of Clairvaux said about the Wendish (Baltic) crusade of 1147: “We expressly forbid that for any reason whatsoever they should make a truce with those peoples, whether for money or for tribute, until such time as, with God’s help, either their religion or their nation be destroyed.” Both the religion and the nation were destroyed… For, as Bernard stressed in his In Praise of the New Knighthood, “the knight of Christ need fear no sin in killing the foe, he is a minister of God for the punishment of the wicked. In the death of a pagan a Christian is glorified, because Christ is glorified.”
Even the Orthodox Russians were considered to be in need of this militaristic kind of conversion. Thus in 1150 Bishop Matthew of Crakow asked Bernard to “exterminate the godless rites and customs of the Ruthenians [Russians]”. But even the Pope was revulsed by the crusader’s sacking of Constantinople in 1204, an event that finally sealed the schism between East and West.
And yet in 1209, the same Pope, Innocent III gave an expedition against the Cathar heretics the legal status of a crusade. At Muret in 1213 the Catholic crusaders from northern France overcame the heretic Cathars of southern France and a terrible inquisition and bloodletting followed. Indeed, according to Barbara Ehrenreich, “the crusades against the European heretics represented the ultimate fusion of church and military… In return for an offer of indulgences, northern French knights ‘flayed Provence [home of the Cathars], hanging, beheading, and burning ‘with unspeakable joy.’ When the city of Béziers was taken and the papal legate was asked how to distinguish between the Cathars and the regular Catholics, he gave the famous reply: 'Kill them all; God will know which are His…’”
This slaughter was legalised at the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, in which it was declared a bounden duty to kill heretics: “If a temporal Lord neglects to fulfil the demand of the Church that he shall purge his land of this contamination of heresy, he shall be excommunicated by the metropolitan and other bishops of the province. If he fails to make amends within a year, it shall be reported to the Supreme Pontiff, who shall pronounce his vassals absolved from fealty to him and offer his land to Catholics. The latter shall exterminate the heretics, possess the land without dispute and preserve it in