How “Creation” Implies God

Background to the “Creation” Dispute

There is nothing very new about the thesis of this article—for many proofs that God is Creator of all finite things have already been attempted—often with great success. Moreover, we know as an article of Catholic faith that the existence of God can be known with certainty by the light of natural human reason (Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, 1806). Yet, what may be somewhat novel about this article is that I will attempt to prove God’s existence by means of a series of diverse considerations about the very meaning of the term, “creation.” Moreover, I will examine certain presumptions about creation which have been made by atheists, i.e., by those who deny the very conclusion which is presently being sought.

Any self-respecting atheist must deny that the world is created by God. And yet, this very fact, namely, that the atheist feels called upon to deny the reality of creation, is itself significant—so much so, that this universal reaction of atheism will itself serve as the point of departure for our investigation.

Astronomer Robert Jastrow has commented upon the strange situation now confronting his fellow astronomers (many of whom appear to be scientific materialists). Jastrow observes, “…I am fascinated by some strange developments going on in astronomy—partly because of their religious implications and partly because of the peculiar reactions of my colleagues” (Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers,1978, 11).

Jastrow proceeds to explain the enigma confronted by modem scientists:

”The essence of the strange developments is that the Universe had, in some sense, a beginning—that it began at a certain moment in time, and under circumstances that seem to make it impossible—not just now—but ever—to find out what force or forces brought the world into being at that moment…. the astronomical evidence proves that the Universe was created twenty billion years ago in a fiery explosion, and in the searing heat of that first moment, all the evidence needed for a scientific study of the cause of the great explosion was melted down and destroyed” (God and the Astronomers, 11-12).

More recent estimates of the time of the universe’s birth now place it some 13.7 billion years ago.

Scientists today pursue the vision of Grand Unified Theories which attempt to unify the fundamental forces of nature as different aspects of the same force. Senior physicist at the Argonne National Laboratory’s High Energy Physics Division, David S. Ayres, remarks that the “Grand Unified Theories offer detailed insight into the processes which occurred at the instant of creation ….” (Argonne News, 1984, 8-9).

For centuries, atheistic materialists had blandly assumed the eternity of the world while denigrating the peculiarly Judeo-Christian belief of creation in time as a vestige of religious mythology. Science seemed squarely in the atheist’s corner until the recent advent of the Big Bang theory—a theory whose scientific underpinnings have come to be regarded by most scientists today to be quite secure. The 1965 discovery of the apparently vestigial fireball radiation of the Big Bang by Amo Penzias and Robert Wilson of the Bell Laboratories has left the theory, at the present time, with “no competitors” according to Jastrow (God and the Astronomers, 14-16).

Small wonder, then, the “peculiar reactions” of many astronomers, as noted’ by Jastrow! What he refers to are the efforts made by many of his fellow scientists to ignore and refute the mounting evidence in favor of the Big Bang.

Jastrow describes the situation thus:

“Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the Universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind—supposedly a very objective mind—when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our profession. It turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. We become irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases” (God and the Astronomers, 16).

The reactions to the possibility of a Big Bang began shortly after World War I—and from a rather surprising quarter:

“Around this time, signs of irritation began to appear among the scientists. Einstein was the first to complain. He was disturbed by the idea of a Universe that blows up, because it implied that the world had a beginning” (God and the Astronomers, 27).

It is not here suggested that Einstein and all others who opposed the Big Bang theory were atheists. Certainly, Einstein himself appears to have embraced the conception of God propounded by Spinoza (God and the Astronomers, 28).

And yet, conversely, it is manifestly evident that scientific materialists would be in the forefront of those astronomers who would feel uncomfortable in the face of a new theory which seemed to challenge their most fundamental convictions. While it is not suggested that the physical theory of the Big Bang necessarily implies the theological doctrine of creation, nonetheless it is quite understandable that even the appearance of such an implication should cause more than a ripple of resistance among those both philosophically and scientifically indisposed to the notion of creation in time. Yet, we shall see that our concern in this paper will extend to a much broader notion of creation—a notion not restricted merely to that of “having a beginning in time.”

In point of fact, just when most of the scientific community has gotten comfortable supporting the relatively recent Big Bang theory, we are suddenly reminded by new evidence that the history of science is littered with the intellectual corpses of bygone universal beliefs. True science is never dogmatic. What actually happens is that a generally accepted scientific hypothesis is sometimes greeted by new sets of data that contradict its basic premises and soon a new, and quite different, scientific hypothesis replaces the formerly reigning one.

We now learn that findings from the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) appear to contradict the “standard model” for galactic expansion, which has accompanied the Big Bang hypothesis. It turns out that distant celestial objects, now being seen for the first time through the use of the JWST, do not conform to Big Bang expansion model expectations. Instead of distant galaxies being huge and having a certain amount of “red shift” in their light, the Webb telescope is showing us the exact opposite! The number of disc galaxies is some ten times that of standard galaxy expansion models. Moreover, distant galaxies are being found to be unexpectedly smooth, small, and old. In fact, more and more data seems to contradict what had been predicted based on the massive galactic expansion model assumed to follow from the Big Bang.

This has led some astronomers to actually reject the Big Bang hypothesis altogether!

Still, two points must be made clear:

  1. While frequently associated theses, the fact remains that the Big Bang hypothesis is separate from the cosmic expansion model. Moreover, the Webb telescope data does not in itself address the cosmic microwave background radiation which has long been taken as evidence for the Big Bang.
  2. For purposes of this article, much more important is the fact that the Big Bang hypothesis belongs to the subject matter of natural science, not philosophy. Contending physical hypotheses concerning the origin and development of the universe must be evaluated by astronomers and other physical scientists. That is not my task. Philosophically, I will show that, whether the universe began in time or not is entirely irrelevant to the philosophical question of whether it is created by God.

I need to determine the proper philosophical meaning of “creation” as well as whether the universe was created in that properly philosophical meaning.

The Eternal Enigma

The central question which this article seeks to address is simply the age old puzzle: “Why does anything exist at all?” The believer immediately responds with a simple affirmation of his faith: “Things exist because God exists to make them.” But the atheist is driven to the logical alternative of insisting on the aseity of the Universe: “Things simply explain their own existence; their very fact of existing is its own explanation. Moreover, the Universe has always existed in some form or other, and hence, needs no God to have created it.” Some atheists and agnostics attack the principle of explanation itself, suggesting that not everything may need a sufficient reason or that, perhaps, the principle is limited in scope to the observable phenomena.

In one of human intellectual history’s less ingenuous moments, Karl Marx simply refuses to grant intellectual legitimacy to any question put to the very existence of the world. He labels such inquiry “…perverse…” since it implies “…the inessentiality of nature and of man …. ” Marx insists that for socialism “…the real existence of man and nature has become practical, sensuous and perceptible…” and, hence, such a question “…has become impossible in practice” (Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 1961, 112-114).

Still, examples of those willing to address directly the central issue are not difficult to find. The problem as to why things exist at all is clearly posed by Kai Nielsen (who was himself an atheist):

“Indeed, ‘Why is there anything at all?’ is an odd question, but in certain philosophical and perhaps even religious moods it is natural to ask: Why is it that any of the things that make up the universe actually exist? They do, of course, but why is this so? There might have been nothing at all!” (Kai Nielsen, Reason and Practice: A Modern Introduction to Philosophy, 1971, 180).

Or again, as F.E. Copleston put it in his famous 1948 British Broadcasting Corporation debate on the existence of God with Bertrand Russell:

“Well, I can’t see how you can rule out the legitimacy of asking the question how the total, or anything at all comes to be there. Why something rather than nothing, that is the question?” (The Existence of God, ed. John Hick, 1964, 175).

John Hospers puts succinctly the theistic response to the given existence of the world (not that he holds it himself):

“Why, indeed, does any universe at all exist—why is there a universe at all rather than simply nothing? For this you have no explanation at all. But I do. I hold that there is a necessary being, God, and that since he exists necessarily all contingent existents (and that includes everything in the universe) owe their existence to this necessary being and are explained by the fact that this necessary being exists” (John Hospers, An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, 2nd edition, 1967), 440.

But in a contrary response to this same most basic question, as Roy Wood Sellars puts it,”…the modem materialist stresses the aseity as against the contingence notion of creationalism” (A History of Philosophical Systems, ed. Vergilius Ferm, 1950, 425).

The meaning for the materialist of this “aseity” is put with clarity by Nielsen: “…all other realities, if such there be, depend for their existence on these physical realities, but these physical realities do not depend on any other realities for their own existence” (Reason and Practice, 334).

Hospers elucidates in his own manner the claim that the universe simply explains itself and needs no further explanation:

“…this is just a “brute fact”—the universe has such-and-such laws, and if those are ultimate (underived), we can’t derive them from any other ones….If we have once arrived at a basic or underived law (not that we ever know that we have), then it is self-contradictory to ask for an explanation of it” (An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, 442).

What Hospers means here is that the ultimate laws of the universe, by definition as ultimate, require no further explanation. They are self-explanatory.

Again, Anthony Flew challenges the position that God is any greater an intelligible explanation of the universe that is the universe itself:

“No reason whatever has yet been given for considering that God would be an inherently more intelligible ultimate that—say—the most fundamental laws of energy and stuff; much less for postulating the actual existence of such a further and extraordinary entity, instead of somehow contenting yourself with the alternative idea that the world we know is—in the vertical dimension-not dependent on anything else, and that it is also, in some state or other, probably eternal and without beginning” (Anthony Flew, God: A Critical Enquiry, 96).

The atheistic alternative explanation to claiming that the universe is its own explanation is the claim that not everything needs an explanation. That is to say, the principle of sufficient reason itself is attacked. Again Nielsen puts the case succinctly:

“It would only follow that there is a necessary being if it were true that there is a complete explanation that would give us an adequate explanation of why anything exists at all. Why should we assume or even believe that we actually have such an explanation?”

“It is certainly very natural to reject the principle of sufficient reason and to say that it has not been established that there must be or even that there is (if only we could discover it) an explanation for everything. Some events or states of affairs may never be explained. There may even be some things that are inexplicable” (Reason and Practice, 181).

I do not intend here to reiterate and refute the monumental errors of idealism and process philosophy which provide the most substantive attacks on the principles of sufficient reason and causality. Those who sincerely seek the most exhaustive and convincing defense of these principles are referred to Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s classical treatment in the latter part of the first volume of God: His Existence and Nature (1934, 181-194). I have offered my own defense of these transcendental first principles on the Strange Notions website.

It suffices to point out that it seems a bit hypocritical that scientific materialists should ultimately retreat behind a denial of rational principles when it is they who dare to mock all others as being “irrational” and “unscientific.” It is indeed curious that those who demand a scientific explanation for everything should, in this singular instance, fail to see the need for any explanation whatever! One cannot but compare such selective abandonment of rational principles to the curious biological doctrine that spontaneous generation never occurs except, of course, when the evolutionist has need of it in order to initiate the process of evolution itself!

In the end, the consensus of atheists and theists who address the basic question of existence, as well as the dictates of right reason, present the following stark alternatives: Either God (the Infinite Being) exists, or else, the world (all finite being) explains itself, or else, not all things have full explanations. It is our contention that the latter two alternatives are not only absurd, but impossible.

“Creation” as Expression of Infinite Power

For those scientific materialists who refuse to follow the intellectually suicidal denial that there must be reasons for things, the universe must be conceived as self-existent, that is, it somehow explains itself. Moreover, these atheistic materialists clearly accept the metaphysical principle that “…from nothing, nothing comes to be….” (St. Thomas Aquinas, in I Physics, 14, n. 2), since they universally deny that the cosmos had an absolute beginning in time. Thereby they implicitly acknowledge that a universe which just “pops into” existence (out of no pre-existent state) is not only absurd, but impossible.

While it is evident that the natural intuition of the laws of being would require every intellect to affirm that being (the world) can only come from pre-existent being (a prior state of the world, or God), why is it the case that the reason of virtually every man, theist and atheist alike, sees in the notion of instantaneous creation of the world (out of nothing and using nothing) the exclusive mark of divinity itself? With but a modicum of metaphysical reflection, the human mind—theist and atheist alike—grasps that the act of creation is intelligible only as an expression of power—infinite power. And it is precisely this manifestation of power without measure which commands intellectual assent to the existence of God (in the traditional meaning of the term) as the sole adequate explanation or foundation for such power.

The average person who considers the matter will express the insight as follows: “To make something out of nothing can only be the act of an infinitely powerful being, God.” The professional theologian or philosopher will render this insight with greater precision by saying: “That something should come to be while presupposing no pre-existent matter or subject requires the infinite power of God.”

In each case what is affirmed is the absolute need for unlimited power as the only adequate explanation for the universe beginning to be in time. Yet the question remains, “How can we be so certain that the ‘popping into existence’ of the world requires the existence of an all-powerful God?” Is this inference simply the product of a primordial insight or intuition which is, at root, rationally indefensible? Are we ultimately reduced to a form of fideism here?

Still, if this be fideism, then the atheist must suffer it as well — given the firm tradition of atomistic materialism, tracing all the way back to Democritus in the fifth century B.C., which assumes that the universe has always existed, never having a beginning in time. That is why so many scientists held out long for the Steady State theory, which holds that the universe is eternal and largely unchanging.

Why Creation Requires Infinite Power

While there appears to exist a nearly universal intuitive recognition that the act of creating requires the infinite power of a Supreme Being, the attempt to give intellectual justification to this primordial insight is fraught with difficulty. For, even if one grants that the existence of the world had an absolute beginning in time and that this beginning must have an adequate explanation, it is not at once clear precisely why this phenomenon requires an infinitely powerful cause.

Is it because being infinitely transcends non-being? But then, the being of the world is itself only finite (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 7, aa. 2-4). Perhaps, alternatively, one should focus upon the fact that between non-being and being there is no middle ground. Hence the act which transcends this “gap” between non-being and being must be considered as literally immeasurable. Yet, no reputable thinker would dare to refer to a real relation between non-being and being—since a real relation always requires two real terms, and non-being is not real. In Summa Theologiae, I, q. 13, a. 7, c, St. Thomas refers to the merely logical character of the “… relations which are between being and non-being, which reason forms, insofar as it apprehends non-being as a certain extreme.” Hence, the metaphors about “transcending an infinite gap” from non-being to being begin to sound suspiciously poetic or mystical.

It is necessary to turn to the Common Doctor of the Church for illumination of a precise, scientific conception of exactly why creation requires infinite power. The following is neither poetry nor mysticism:

“It must be said that the power of the maker is measured not only from the substance of the thing made but also from the way of its making; for a greater heat not only heats more, but also heats more swiftly. Thus, although to create some finite effect does not demonstrate infinite power, nevertheless to create it from nothing does demonstrate infinite power…. For if a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act, it must be that the power of an agent (which produces) from no presupposed potency, such as a creating agent does, would be infinite; because there is no proportion of no potency to some potency, as is presupposed by the power of a natural agent, just as there is no proportion of non-being to being” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad 3).

The principle which St. Thomas employs here is laid down when he says, “…a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act…” For, as power means the ability to produce being or to act, its measure is taken not merely from the effect produced but also from the proportion between what is presupposed by the agent in order to produce the effect and the effect produced.

Thus, to make a chicken from pre-existing chickens requires a certain measure of power. But to produce a chicken from merely vegetative life would require even greater power; and to produce a chicken from non-living matter yet greater power. But to produce a chicken while presupposing no pre-existent matter at all clearly would require immeasurably greater power. It is immeasurable, as St. Thomas points out, precisely because “…there is no proportion of non-being to being.”

Note that this argument does not rest upon an attempt to measure any supposed infinite relation between non-being and being. Rather, it is precisely the absolute lack of any relation whatever between non-being and being which demands an infinite power to create. For it is precisely the proportion of the potency to act which is measurable. The greater the distance (not physical distance, but remoteness or distinction in existence) between the potentiality and its act, the greater the power needed to actualize that potency. But such a proportion between some presupposed potentiality and its act is always measurable (in some sense), and therefore, is finite—since it is of the essence of the measurable to be finite and since a thing is measured only by its limits. But where there is no proportion, as between non-being and being, there can be no measure, and thus, no limit. The power required in that case knows no measure and no limit. It is therefore infinite.

Note well that St. Thomas does not argue from the remoteness of the potency from the act in the case of creation. Rather, he considers the “… proportion of no potency to some potency…”—for a creating agent presupposes no potency whereas a natural agent always presupposes some potency. He observes that there exists no such proportion just as “… there is no proportion of non-being to being.” A fortiori, the remoteness of no potency to the act of already created being becomes even more immeasurable (if that were possible).

Thus we have the rational explanation for the universal metaphysical intuition that it would require infinite power to create ex nihilo.

The True Meaning of “Creation”

If it were necessary to prove creation of the world in time in order to demonstrate the existence of God, it appears that such a task could never be accomplished by unaided natural reason. For even the most famous Christian apologist for God’s existence, St. Thomas Aquinas, concedes that reason alone cannot prove creation in time: it is simply an article of Catholic faith which is neither contrary to, nor demonstrable by, natural reason (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 46, aa. I-3; De Potentia Dei, q. 3, aa. 14 and 17; On the Eternity of the World, 1964, 2-73).

In fact, according to St. Thomas, the world could well have existed from all eternity—and yet it would still be a creature of God (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 46, a. 2, ad. I; Etienne Gilson, Elements of Christian Philosophy, 1963, 214).

One of his famous Five Ways to prove God’s existence, the Third Way, presupposes this very possibility in the logic of its argumentation. In fact, in Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 13, St. Thomas insists “… that the most efficacious way to prove God to exist is not on the supposition of the newness of the world, but rather on the supposition of the eternity of the world.” Thus, our belief in creation in time is just that—a matter of reasonable Christian belief.

The point of all this is simply to observe that, for St. Thomas, the notion of creation is quite distinct from the notion of beginning in time. After all, on the very supposition of an eternally existent God, could one deny the possibility that such a Being may have been creating the world from all eternity? And would not such a world be a creature in virtue of its being an effect of God despite its beginningless duration? In such a case, creation would be an ongoing production of the being of the world by God—with absolutely no reference to a beginning in time.

Moreover, grant that God did create the world in time. What then would be the relationship of the world to God in the next instant after the moment of creation? Or, the next day, or year, or twenty billion years? Could God cease causing the world and yet the world continue to exist? Certainly not. For, as St. Thomas observes, “With the cause ceasing, the effect ceases” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 96, a. 3, ob 3. Also, “Removing the cause removes the effect,” Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c). Creation must not be conceived as a once and for all time act. God must continue to create, or else, the cosmos would at once fall back into the nothingness from which it came (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. 1). St. Thomas refers to this continued act of creation as “conservation.”

“It must be said that the conservation of things by God is not through some new action, but through a continuation of that action by which He gives existence, which action is indeed without motion and time” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. I, ad 4).

In other words, a proper understanding of the term “creation” is conceptually distinct from the notion of “beginning in time.” For St. Thomas, the world is created, not because it began in time, but because of its radical dependence on the Supreme Being during every moment of its existence—past, present, or future.

We are thus left with three alternatives regarding the existence of the world: Either it came to be in time—thereby requiring an infinitely powerful Creator, or else, it has existed from all eternity as the created effect of that Creator, or else, it has existed from all eternity without the causation of such a Creator.

On the first two suppositions, the existence of an infinitely powerful God is at once granted and this investigation is ended. But it is the third alternative which now requires closer scrutiny.

For the existence of the world is itself an act whose being demands some explanation. Existence is an act. It is the very first act of any substance (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. 1, ad 3). And no substance is explained unless and until its substantial existence has been accounted for. Thus we may properly inquire as to the explanation of the existence of this finite world in which we find ourselves.

When we inquire as to the explanation or sufficient reason for a supposedly uncaused finite universe, it becomes at once clear that the need for some foundation in an infinitely powerful being is not escaped. For, just as there is no pre-existing potency for such a world which is created in time, so too, there is no pre-existing potency against which to measure the actually existing universe even if it has always existed (as atheists insist). Hence, its existential foundation, even if this is not conceived as a cause outside its own being, must manifest a power which knows no measure, i.e., it is infinite.

To put the matter in other terms, the power required to explain a being (or beings) is not dependent on whether that being is an effect (whether or not such effect happens to be produced in time). Rather, such power must be measured in terms of its being the reason why there is being rather than non-being. And, as St. Thomas points out, “…there is no proportion of non-being to being” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad 3). Hence, the power requisite to explain the existence of the cosmos knows no measure — whether it began in time or not. Immeasurable or infinite power is needed to explain any existence at all — of anything.

But the world is clearly finite—since space and time are the limiting modes of material existence. Since the finite clearly cannot contain the infinite power needed to explain its own existence, it is evident that an infinite Being must exist.

Some Final Reflections

It may well be suspected that the foregoing demonstration of God’s existence is simply a variation of St. Thomas’s Third Way of the Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c., or else, perhaps, the argument which many have abstracted from his proof for God’s eternity which is presented in the Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 15. Yet it should at once be evident that neither of these demonstrations proceed from the same starting point as the present analysis. For, both of the aforementioned texts of St. Thomas take as their initial data the existence of things which are possible to be or not to be. But the present argument proceeds neither from the possibility nor from the necessity of the world—merely from its existence and from the need for a sufficient reason for said existence.

If it were possible for the world to be its own reason for existing, then there would be no need to posit the existence of a transcendent God. It is only when it is shown that the existence of anything at all requires infinite power that it becomes evident that the finite cosmos necessarily requires an Infinitely Powerful Being as the only adequate explanation of its existence.

Hence, the present argument proceeds, not from the possible, as such, but from an analysis of the creative power implicit in any being whatever—whether it be possible or necessary, finite or infinite. It is the factual existence of things which is at issue here, not their indifference to existence.

But it is precisely that indifference to existence manifested by the possibles which St. Thomas uses to prove their causal dependence. As he puts it in the context of the Contra Gentiles:

“Everything however which is possible to exist has a cause, since it is from itself equally [related] to two [contraries], namely, existence and non-existence. [Therefore,] it must be, if it appropriates to itself existence, that this is from some cause” (Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 15).

Again, the same point is made in the Third Way when St. Thomas insists “…that which is not does not begin to be, except through something which exists” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c).

In both these cases, again, St. Thomas reveals the causal dependence of the possibles. But the present proof seeks not to reveal causal dependence except as incidental to the need for infinite power as the sole adequate foundation for all existents. Perhaps this point could be more adequately expressed by saying that God Himself, who is absolutely uncaused, nonetheless requires infinite power in order to render His own existence intelligible. That is why St. Thomas’s task in the aforementioned contexts differs from that of the present article.

In conclusion, the intellectual exploration completed in this article entails the following central points:

First, it was established that there exists, either explicitly or implicitly, among theists and atheists alike, a universal intellectual recognition that the theological notion of an absolute beginning in time of the world entails a creation ex nihilo whose sole adequate explanation would be an Infinitely Powerful Being, or God in the traditional sense of the term.

Second, the concept of “creation” itself was scrutinized so as to reveal that it may be properly distinguished from any notion of “beginning in time”—thereby demonstrating that the mere existence of any being whatsoever entails the presence of an act (esse) which requires infinite power to be posited “outside of nothingness.” (The central metaphysical task of this article has been to establish the philosophically scientific validity of this second step.)

Third and last, it was seen that such infinite power clearly cannot reside in any finite being and, that, therefore, it is absolutely necessary to admit the existence of an Infinitely Powerful Creator as the sole adequate explanation of the finite world.

The notion of “explanation” does not necessarily denote extrinsic causality in every case. While every being requires a sufficient reason, only those beings whose sufficient reason for existing is not totally within itself would require an extrinsic sufficient reason or what is called a “cause.” This means that, while an infinitely powerful God is required to cause the existence of all the finite beings in this finite world, yet God can still be said to be his own explanation, and yet not his own cause, since he is his own intrinsic sufficient reason for being.


Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he also served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. He is the author of two books, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence, and Origin of the Human Species, as well as many scholarly articles. [A, earlier version of this article appeared in Faith & Reason, 11:3-4 (1985), 250-63. Permission to print kindly granted by Christendom Educational Corporation, Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia, 22630.]


Featured: “The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise,” by Giovanni di Paolo; painted in 1445.

Lourdes to Paris and Back Again

Several years ago, on a solitary pilgrimage to France, I spent an afternoon sitting before the Holy Grotto at Lourdes and praying upon the many, many petitions that I carried with me in two great manila envelopes. I was very much moved by my parishioners’ expressions of faith in, and love for, Our Lord and Our Lady. Each of their notes and letters, signs of interior devotion, was attentively left at the special place designated for such messages within the Grotto itself, just a few feet away from where the Virgin had stood and St. Bernadette had knelt during the apparitions of 1858. Lourdes never fails to inspire. There is such a tremendous outpouring of love and charity here that no one can honestly deny the presence and action of the Holy Spirit.

The Visionary, Saint Bernadette Soubirous.

One night, after the iconic candlelight procession, I encountered a Chinese couple named Kang and Yan. They had been enticed away from the hustle and bustle of Paris to the mystique of Lourdes. The husband had been exposed to Catholicism in Hong Kong but was a non-Christian. His wife, Yan, came from mainland China, just next to the North Korean border. She actually showed me on her iPhone a fascinating photo that she had taken of the People’s Paradise from across the river that separates her Chinese hometown from that de facto nation prison camp. Her parents are Communist Party members and she was raised in an atheistic home. But she was deeply moved as she stood before the Holy Grotto. Kang could not cease commenting about the evident power of Lourdes, and aptly noted that the countless volunteers who care for the sick are in a way proof of the veracity of the apparitions.

During my stay I was lured away by beckoning friends to spend a few days in Paris, although I was reluctant to leave Mary’s peaceful enclave in the picturesque Pyrenees mountains. The “City of Light” is a looming magnet and is the heart of the revolutionary engine of 1789. Still, I took the slow train to Bordeaux and then the lightning-fast TGV northwards to Paris and plunged into the secular arena.

The peasant’s veil and shoes St Bernadette wore during the apparitions of 1858.

Arriving, I walked out of the Montparnasse train station and was quite surprised when the first thing I heard was a plaintive call, “Bonjour, mon Père,” I turned to see a young Frenchman looking at me hoping for a few Euros. Yet he was not typically bedraggled (at least not outwardly). We began to chat and I encountered a life that had spun out of control and was caught in the web of disorder. Hunger made its imperious demands and he was in the humiliating state of holding out his hand for help. I asked if he would like a blessing, and he responded, “No, I am an atheist. I have seen too much suffering to believe in God.” I repeated my offer, this time looking more intently at him. He paused, then with bowed head, said, “Oui, mon Père…” My trip thus began by blessing an uncertain atheist in the streets of Paris.

On the steps of the glorious church of la Madeleine a very distressed young Frenchman frantically approached me. He wore a beard and a longish topcoat that gave him the appearance of a 19th Century rationalist. He told me of his alienation and despair. For a moment he began to ramble about Nietzsche but then desperately asked me if God really exists. It was another moment of unexpected humanity and Christianity. I put a few coins in his hand and laid my own upon his head in blessing.

I will always wonder if his presence on those church steps revealed the Hand of the Good God drawing him away from nihilist darkness towards the Light from Light.

Back safely at Lourdes again, one fair morning I found myself standing alone in a little park before a statue of St. Bernadette. But I was outside of the “pilgrim zone” of the village. Suddenly I was approached by a different sort of Frenchman. He must have seen his opportunity to pounce since I was isolated for the moment from the protective pious throngs. At first, I could not catch his slurry patois, but it was evident that he was an anti-clerical and was berating our Holy Religion. I wanted to be sure I understood him before I responded, so I explained that I was not French and could he speak more clearly, s’il vous plait. He said with obvious disdain, “What are you then, Italian?” Taking that as the one compliment I’d get from this unpleasant encounter, I nevertheless answered, “Je suis américain.” At this he bellowed, “C’est pire!!” (That’s even worse!). And then a new torrent of abusive language poured forth.

Now here I must interject that being Catholic and American is something I thank God for every day. The virtue of patriotism demands at least that of any man. For patriotism, love of country, is an essential ingredient to uprightness of character. Even more so is love of our higher country, that indefectible Kingdom of God which is the Church of Christ.

Patriotism is not quite nationalism. It is a moral virtue akin to filial piety writ large. Patriotism does not despise the patriotism of another country. Nor is patriotism naïve to the continual necessity of bettering one’s native land and mores. In fact, as an American patriot I appreciate and hope to be enriched by the patriotism of the French. One can have a hierarchy of loves that are not mutually opposed. I am an American patriot, but I also have a deep love for France, along with all that which is good and noble in its people, history, culture, language and religion. And as a Catholic priest, France has a claim on me as La Fille aînée de l’Église (“the Eldest daughter of the Church”).

All this is in my heart and mind. But my apoplectic Gallican interlocutor—un véritable bête noir—apparently had not evolved past brute to the level of authentic human sophistication that would have enabled him to engage in the least modicum of proper human discourse with a stranger. He was a bleak contradiction of all that was noble in his own land. He chose, instead of gracious hospitality, the barbarity of gratuitously assailing someone he did not even know, indeed, a visitor who had come in good will to honor la Belle France and its people.

I said simply in response to his anti-Catholic and anti-American slurs, “C’est pas vrai…” (“What you say is not true…”). His rage boiled over and he began shouting louder. He was losing it. I chose to walk away yet he followed close upon me. I was wondering where this was going to end up because he was menacing me physically at this point. And to be honest, I was asking myself how my old Tae Kwan Do moves could be managed in a cassock, but decided this would produce quite an awful headline. I said to him, “Que Dieu vous benisse,” and made my escape. He roared at me as I turned the corner and slipped out of danger’s way.

This particular member of homo sapiens had really disturbed me, my spiritual force field had been punctured. I stopped momentarily on the sidewalk to consider what had just occurred. I resolved to return to the park, when suddenly before me blocking my way were two kindly, smiling Sicilian faces of an elderly husband and wife on pilgrimage. They greeted me warmly and immediately we were immersed in a lovely conversation about the Faith and Our Lady and all things beautiful and good. God sent them just in time, literally within minutes of a near disaster in the park.

I continued down the sidewalk and headed back to the safety of the Grotto (I needed to talk about this with Our Lady), when I came across an old man begging, yet another gypsy. His name was unusual, something like “Geor.” He was clearly not faring well and needed someone to care that he existed, at least for a moment. We exchanged a few words and I gave him something to help him. Then I blessed him. He took my hand and kissed it and tears welled up in his eyes.

Still contemplating the vitriol to which I had been subjected in the park, I ran into a rotund, avuncular, italianissimo priest, who asked, “Ma che c’è, fratello mio? Che succede?” (What has bothered you, brother?). I told him about the enraged Frenchman who had accosted me. The good Padre immediately took me for a cappuccino and lent a listening ear until my nerves were sedated. His quintessentially “good Italian padre” approach rescued me from my temporary discombobulation. In turn, I had rescued him from the trinket shops—a fair sacerdotal exchange.

This all happened within a space of 30 minutes during my morning walk.

France is a culturally and religiously occupied territory. The destructive spirit of 1789 has to have had something to do with the poison coursing through the veins of the angry man in the park. The very Church of God, which made France great (not perfect) for over a millennium, has been undermined and attacked in this country for far too long. The secular ruling elite have banished the Gospel from public life and horribly twist the people’s perception of what is in fact the best thing that has ever happened to them, viz., their conversion to the Faith.

They are so fanatical about this suppression of Catholicism that they cannot see that only the Faith will be able to save them from the twofold jeopardy of laicisme and islamisme, or whatever it is that is bothering them. Each one of us is created imago Dei—children of God with a destiny in Christ Jesus. Understanding this is key to finding our way out of Europe’s existential malaise, for it is essential to the re-conversion of France to the Faith. And I hold that it can happen.

In the post-Nice, pre-Covidian era there was a heightened worry even in Lourdes that there would be a terrorist attack. Huge concrete barriers have been erected to prevent car bombs or trucks from ravaging the shrine which daily swells up with thousands of pilgrims. The workers there had repeatedly told me they have occasionally noticed strange men in long beards and long tunics, as if they are doing reconnaissance. I myself noticed this one night. And in fact, to some I myself am also a strange man with a long beard and long robe!

In any event, the man in the park (who is emblematic of the militantly irrational secular Left) is truly a tragic, and unarmed figure. Europe is in a civilizational crisis that could be assuaged by shelving Voltaire and revisiting Aquinas. At least that would be a worthy start.

There is so much suffering in the world! It either crushes us or redeems us. At Lourdes, however, there is redemption. This is demonstrated in the vivid scenes of so many sick people endlessly streaming to the Holy Grotto; processing in their wheelchairs, candles in hand; attending Mass after Mass and standing in endless lines for confession and access to the healing waters. All these actions are signs that suffering can wound but need not destroy us. There is always hope beyond the suffering, and we can look toward the example of our Divine Lord and His Sorrowful Mother. Heaven is in solidarity with mankind in our suffering.

I hope and pray that each of us realize the tremendous blessing that is ours. We profess the True Faith, we join together in common prayer before the Altar of God each day, we are enriched by the grace of the Sacraments, we know and love Our Lady, the sweet Immaculate Heart of the plan of salvation. We even know that we are so very imperfect, yet have the faith to be able to see how God’s loving Hand still guides us. There is so much good in our parish life. And there is so much bewilderment and chaos in the world swirling about. Bless the Lord every day for what we have been given and let us never forget how good indeed God is…

Lourdes in its holy splendor.

Father Francis M. de Rosa is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A graduate of Niagara University, the Ateneo della Santa Croce in Rome and Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, he also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He has published articles on bioethics in the Linacre Quarterly and the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly. He was ordained in 1997 and is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia and St. Anthony of Padua Mission in King George, Virginia.


Featured: “Our Lady of Lourdes,” by Francisco Oller; painted in 1878.

The Triumph Of Christmas

Today’s skeptics, who seem to reject something traditional just because it’s traditional, cannot sit still during the holy season of Christmas without mocking the notion that Christ would have been born on December 25th. If it were just the unbelievers who engaged in this mockery, it would be expected, since unbelievers, by their very nature, are not expected to believe.

More troubling is the fact that, like evolution and all other modern atheistic fantasies, this one has seeped through the all-too narrow wall separating Catholics from the rest of the world. The anti-Christmas myth, which makes a myth out of Christmas, is being foisted on Catholic children as fact. To benefit these, and any Christian who respects piety, history, Scripture, and Tradition, we present our defense of Christmas.

Since there is no date for the Nativity recorded in Holy Scripture, we rely on the testimony of the Church Fathers and of history to get an answer to the question, “When did Christmas take place?”

First, let us see the essential significance of the Savior’s birth at the time usually attributed to it. The winter solstice, the astronomical event which recurs every year, is traditionally said to be the birthday of the Messias. To elucidate the meaning of this fact, we will turn to Saint Gregory of Nyssa (+ 385 or 386):

“On this day, which the Lord hath made, darkness decreases, light increases, and night is driven back again. No, brethren, it is not by chance, nor by any created will, that this natural change begins on the day when He shows Himself in the brightness of His coming, which is the spiritual Life of the world. It is Nature revealing, under this symbol, a secret to them whose eye is quick enough to see it; to them, I mean, who are able to appreciate this circumstance, of our Savior’s coming. Nature seems to me to say: “Know, oh man! that under the things which I show thee, mysteries lie concealed. Hast thou not seen the night, that had grown so long, suddenly checked? Learn hence, that the black night of Sin, which had reached its height, by the accumulation of every guilty device, is this day, stopped in its course. Yes, from this day forward, its duration shall be shortened until at length there shall be naught but Light. Look, I pray thee, on the Sun; and see how his rays are stronger and his position higher in the heavens: Learn from that how the other Light, the Light of the Gospel, is now shedding itself over the whole earth.” (Homily On the Nativity)

Saint Augustine, a Western Father, concurs with Gregory, the Easterner:

“Let us, my brethren, rejoice, this day is sacred, not because of the visible sun, but because of the Birth of Him Who is the invisible Creator of the sun. He chose this day whereon to be born, as He chose the Mother of whom to be born, and He made both the day and the Mother. The day He chose was that on which the light begins to increase, and it typifies the work of Christ, who renews our interior man day by day. For the eternal Creator, having willed to be born in time, His birthday would necessarily be in harmony with the rest of creation” (On the Nativity of Our Lord, iii).

Similar sentiments are echoed by St. Ambrose, St. Leo, St. Maximus of Turin, and St. Cyprian.

To further the beauty of this mysterious agreement between grace and nature, Catholic commentators have shown this to be a marvellous fulfilment of the utterance of St. John the Baptist, the Voice who heralded the Word: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Literally fulfilled by the ending of the Precursor’s mission and the beginning of the Savior’s, this passage had its spiritual fulfillment in the celebration of John’s feast on the 24th of June, three days after the summer solstice. As St. Augustine put it: “John came into this world at the season of the year when the length of the day decreases; Jesus was born in the season when the length of the day increases.” (In Natali Domini, xi).

Lest anyone find all this Astronomy to reek of paganism, we remind him that in Genesis, it is recorded: “And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: To shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth. ” Further, the Magi, those holy men from the East, who came to greet the Expectation of the Nations, were led thence by a star.

“But,” you may say, “the winter solstice is on the 21st of December, not the 25th.” Correct. But if, from the time of the Council of Nicea (325) to that of Gregory XIII’s reform of the calendar (1582), there was a 10 day discrepancy between the calendar and the actual astronomical pattern governing it, then it is entirely possible that a four-day discrepancy had occurred between our Lord’s birth and the Council. We illustrate this possibility as follows: The calendar that many of the Greek schismatics still follow (the Julian calendar), is presently fourteen days off from the Gregorian. This additional four day discrepancy from Gregory’s time has happened over about 400 years.

But now for the meat of the issue: when did it happen? According to St. John Chrysostom, the foundation for the Nativity occurring on the 25th of December is a strong one. In a Christmas Sermon, he shows that the Western Chruches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept the Feast on that day. This fact bears great weight to the Doctor, who adds that the Romans, having full access to the census taken by Augustus Caesar (Luke 2, 1) — which was in the public archives of the city of Rome — were well versed in their history on this point. A second argument he adduces thusly: The priest Zachary offered incense in the month of Tisri, the seventh of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding with the end of our September or the beginning of our October. (This he most likely knew from details of the temple rites which were transmitted to him by a living tradition, supported by Holy Scripture.) At that same time, St. Luke tells us that Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist. Since, according to the Bible, Our Blessed Lady conceived in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (the end of March: when we celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation), then she gave birth nine months later: the end of December.

Having no reason to doubt the great Chrysostom, or any of the other Fathers mentioned; in fact, seeing objections issued only by heretics and cynics, we agree with the learned Doctor and conclude that, by God’s Providence, His Church has correctly commemorated the Feast of His Nativity.

Further, as the continuity of the Old Testament with the New Testament was preserved in two of the principal feasts of the New: Easter corresponding to the Pasch and Pentecost to Pentecost (same name in both dispensations), it would have been unlikely for the Birth of the Eternal God into our world not to have had a corresponding feast in the Old Testament.

Until the time of the Machabees, when the temple was re-dedicated after its desecration by the Greek Antiochus IV, Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1 Machabees 4). One hundred and sixty-seven years before Jesus, the commemoration was instituted according to what was written: “And Judas, and his brethren, and all the church of Israel decreed, that the day of the dedication of the altar should be kept in its season from year to year for eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, with joy and gladness” (I Macc. 4, 59). To this day, Jews celebrate the twenty-fifth of Casleu (or Kislev, as they say) as the first night of Hannukah. This year (5757 in the Jewish calendar), 25 Casleu was on December 12. Even though the two calendars are not in sync, Christmas and Hannukah are always in close vicinity. With the Festival of Lights instituted less than two centuries before Our Lord’s advent, the Old Testament calendar joined nature in welcoming the Light of the world on his birthday.

As for the objection, “Jesus couldn’t have been born in the winter, since the shepherds were watching their flocks, which they couldn’t have done in winter”: This is really no objection. Palestine has a very mild climate, and December 25 is early enough in winter for the flocks and the shepherds to be out. The superior of our monastery, Brother Francis Maluf, grew up 30 miles from Beirut, which has the same climate as Bethlehem, both being near the Mediterranean coast, and he has personally testified to this fact.

****

For almost 2,000 years, the Church has been defending Christmas against a concerted, diabolical attack.

No, it’s not another wacko conspiracy theory; it’s a fact. Since the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, the truth that God was born a Baby at Christmas has been assaulted with relentless demonic fury. Saint John, the very Apostle of Love, tells us: “For many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a seducer and an Antichrist” (2 John 1:7).

What the Apostle was condemning in those strong words were the earliest of the gnostic heresies, those strange amalgamations of Christianity and pagan mystery religions. Their sectarians fancied that they were little sparks of divinity trapped in matter, who could only be liberated by the gnosis, the secret knowledge.

There was also an early heresy, called docetism, which said that the Word did not assume real flesh, but took the appearance of a man (dokein in Greek, means “to appear”). Rebuked by St. Ignatius of Antioch and condemned by the Church, docetism would return in more subtle forms, admitting that our Lord was man, but denying that he had a real human soul (Apollinarianism), a true human nature (Monophysitism), or a human will and operation (Monothelitism). The last of these heresies was so repulsive to St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662), that he preferred to have his hand cut off, his tongue sliced out, and to die in exile rather than submit to a corrupt bishop who professed it.

Then there were the denials of our Lord’s divinity in heresies like Arianism, which still persists in sects as divergent as Unitarianism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Finally, there was Nestorianism, the heresy that denied the union of the two natures in the one Person of Christ. The heretical Patriarch Nestorius had it that there were two persons in Christ, the divine Person of the Word and the person of Jesus Christ the man. Consequently, he asserted in a sermon that Mary should not be called the Mother of God; she was only the mother of a human person.

The Fathers of the Church have left us heroic professions of truth against these blasphemies, and all of them impress upon us that the little Inhabitant of the Christmas Crib was Almighty God come in the flesh to save us. St. Athanasius made the point, against Arianism, that since Christ was supposed to divinize us by grace, He could not perform this mission if He were not Himself divine by nature. St. Gregory Nazianzen professed, against the Apollinarians, that “What has not been assumed has not been healed,” i.e., our Lord did not redeem human nature unless he possessed a human nature. Far from being satisfied with artful turns of phrase in their polemics, these Fathers, like St. Maximus the Confessor, suffered for their confession at the hands of the antichrist heretics.

The entire Catholic Faith is summed up in the image of the Madonna and Child: She, the Immaculate Conception, was conceived full of grace to be Mother of God; and He is One of the Holy Trinity come down to take her Flesh as true Man in order to save us. So much do heretics hate this beautiful scene that the Iconoclasts, who inherited many of the earlier eastern heresies, cut off St. John Damascene’s hand for painting it! That hand was miraculously restored it to him by our Lady.

Orthodoxy has always been attacked by antichrists. (Yes, there will be one Antichrist at the end — “the man of sin” of 2 Thess 2:3 — but St. John speaks of many “antichrists” in 1 John 2:18.) Is it any wonder that certain nefarious elements in society “have issues” with Christmas? As the early heretics wished to “dissolve” Jesus by destroying the union of two natures in one divine Person, so too, modern antichrists wish to dissolve the divine Babe from our public square: “And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh, and he is now already in the world” (1 John 4:1).

According to St. Robert Bellarmine, the focus of the devil’s attack in the second millennium has moved away from the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Instead, the old goat has taken aim primarily at the Church, giving us the Great Eastern Schism and the Protestant Revolt. And he has been refining his approach ever since. In our own day, he has given us the “deadly error” of indifferentism (to quote Pope Gregory XVI), the heresy that says one religion is as good as another. He has caused an even worse pandemonium: an identity crisis within the Church herself. Some of our very own ecclesiastics do not know what the Church is. They have “dissolved Jesus” in His Mystical Body.

But even in the midst of such a crisis, we find consolation: “Behold, I make all things new!” (Apoc. 21:5). All the historical triumphs against error won by the martyrs and confessors will be renewed in grand style. The victories of the devil and his antichrists continue to mount, but the Triumph of the divine Babe will be all the sweeter because of it. It will mark the victory of our Lord, His Church, and His Vicar. What’s more, to the eternal confusion of Antichrist and Satan, Christ’s Triumph will be the Triumph of His Mother, the Woman who will crush the head of the ancient serpent!

And that should give us all a Merry Christmas.


Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.


The featured image shows, “The Nativity,” by Matthias Stomer, painted ca. 1640.

Islam And The West… Where Are We Heading?

One of the most serious challenges faced by the West at this time is Islam, both within and without. The West’s secular pundits, who often forget that this is essentially a Christian invention and project (harking at least back to Saint Augustine, an African Berber-speaker of Punic), are only now starting to realise what the Church has known for nearly fifteen hundred years. The Church though, unlike many modern populists, always made a distinction between Islam and Muslims, who could and should be converted.

When it comes to Islam, many in our society are either naive or dishonest. So, for example, recently, while waiting for a train connection from Marseilles, I noticed the memorial plaque for the victims of the Islamic attacks outside the station – “to the victims of the terrorist attacks”, as if “terror” was the underlying ideology, not the instrument. Others speak of religiously motivated terror – although this activity seems largely limited to Islam in a structural sense.

In discussing this challenge, the first thing we need to know is that the modern secular definition of “religion” has many shortcomings. Secondly, we need to cast aside the silly notion that Jews, Christians and Muslims are somehow common spiritual descendants of Abraham, a modern ahistorical anachronism. We must not forget that Christianity is a Faith, and only in Christianity do we find theology stricto sensu: Theology as a prudent and rational exploration of the divine is a Christian peculiarity, and thus also a liberation from fanaticism. This is something different from gathering knowledge about one or more gods, their myths, cults and associated rites – theology is something different from having a profound knowledge of religious things.

“Islamic theology,” on the other hand, is an oxymoron, because Allah’s relationship with his human believers is that of a master to his slaves, one of “obedience” or “submission” which is actually what “Islam” means, and is fundamentally different from Christianity. Thus, the fact that Islam is a biblically inspired monotheism should not be overstated, as this says nothing about its nature.

Another big difference that I will briefly touch upon is that education was always the core business of Christianity, both for laypersons and professionals. In the Islamic world, illiteracy is the norm; this is not a coincidence. A Muslim imam’s qualifications are to merely know the first Surah plus one more, usually a “large” chunk of text, such as Surah 112, and to lead the ritual prayers. When we discuss the possibility of Islamic schooling in the West and the ensuing curriculum problems, we forget that traditional Islamic schooling, unlike in Christendom, was always only for boys, and consisted largely of learning to recite the Qur’an by heart. In the Middle East, until quite recently, bright Muslim children were sent to Christian schools, for good reason.

Most readers probably are aware of the traditional account of the origins of Islam, the revelations to Muhammad in Mecca, his later flight to Medina, the invasion of Syro-Palestine. Modern historical-critical research, such as that carried out by Inârah, shows that this is largely later mythological fiction. Islamic tradition only starts about a century and a half after Muhammad was supposed to have died. At best, Islamic tradition can only tell us what Muslims of the eighth and ninth centuries thought happened in the seventh century.

Where then lies the problem with Islam? Islam on the one hand is based on a heterodox variant of Christianity, teaching Psilanthropism (Christ was a mere human) and Adoptionism (Christ did not die on the Cross, but was replaced). On the other, it continues ancient Near Eastern Imperial religious traditions – such as, the Egyptian sun cult of Aton under Amenophis IV, later Akhenaten, in the 14th century BC, or the cult of Aššur in the Assyrian Empire. Some have also called these traditions “monotheisms;” but one might better view them as atheism, since Akhenaten, who saw himself as Aton’s son, was Aton’s sole mediator – the notion of deity is here a totalitarian abstraction. According to this ancient Egyptian “theology” of the state, the king conquered the world for the god, and the help of the god was requested to increase the conquered world, and thus the reign of the god. Since the king is god, the divine and human spheres merge into one another.

We see something similar in the religion of the Assyrian empire, where the “king” was the vicar of the true king, the divine abstraction of Assyrian might, the king-god Aššur. The same is true in Islam, where the Caliph, an Aramaic loan-word meaning vicar, i.e. “Khalīfat Allāh,” is the vicar of God, in the Egyptian and Assyrian sense.

Since there is no mediation in the Trinity in Islam, Allah, like Aššur and Aton, is all powerful. Allah, although etymologically related to Hebrew ʼělohīm and Syriac alāhā (possibly even a borrowing of the latter form), has much more in common with Aššur, in terms of content: a common etymology does not equate to functional equality. Historically, the caliphs, like the Assyrian kings, were totalitarian rulers who exercised an office in the name of their God. Thus, to the caliph alone does God speak; he alone knows his will, and he alone is entitled to interpret God’s word and volition – the earthly ruler becomes God’s sole mediator; to him alone does God reveal himself; he alone mediates God’s will to the people. Hence, it is not surprising that even moderate Muslims wish for a return of a caliph.

Here we must be clear – the accounts of Islam’s origins which we often hear about, Muhammad in Mecca and Medina, to whom the Qur’an was revealed by the intermediary of the Angel Gabriel, is largely a later fiction, as I have noted. What we have with the Umayyads in the seventh century is an Arabic eschatological movement with Judaeo-Christian roots centred in Jerusalem – Safa, Marwa, Bakka, Arafat, etc. are all found here (only later were these relocated to Mecca), And Muhammad is a borrowed Hebrew Messianic epithet – in Christianity, it is for Christ of the Second Coming (in Judaism for the First Coming). When the eschatological expectation did not transpire as expected, the Umayyads lost credibility. They were overthrown by the Abbasids in the eighth century, the real founders of what we call Islam.

The Abbasids, on the basis of this heterodox Judaic Christianity, created an imperial religion to unite their subjects. As with Assyria, the world was divided into believers (those who submit) and the unbelievers (those who are yet to be conquered). In Islam, even today, we see that the world is divided into Dar al-Islam, the Islamic World and Dar al-Harb, the “House of War” – the area which still must be conquered. Later (fifteenth century) a “third domain” (category) appeared in the Ottoman Empire, intermediate between the first two, the Dar al-‘Ahd or Dar al-Suhl (that is “domain of the pact” or “of the alliance”) to describe the relationship of the Ottoman caliphate and sultanate with its Christian vassals, such as the Georgian kingdoms of the Caucasus or the Romanian principalities, which paid tribute, provided troops and protected Muslims in exchange for peace.

For most of the Sunni world, the West falls into this category for two reasons – first, we are useful idiots, i.e., we sell them weapons (to be used to fight the Shiites), and because Islam is patient – we take in Muslim refugees who have a higher fertility rate. Arab newspapers note openly that Jihad can take different forms – the womb can also be a weapon. Since Ayatollah Khomeini, the shiites have invented a theocracy with global ambitions, but that is another topic.

Here we see that Islam is entirely incompatible with western values and notions of equality. In Christianity, we are saved through Christ and have been set free. In Islam, subjection to a totalitarian abstract notion of the divine is the norm. Prayer is not “free speech” before and with God, but ritualised recitation. The Qur’an is a quite different book than the Bible – a hodgepodge of disparate texts that show a different relationship with the divine than do the Old and New Testaments. But then, again, we must note that the Qur’an actually plays no role in Islam, where doctrine is derived from later tradition, the Sunna. Where Christians follow the example of Christ, Muslims follow that of Muhammad – the results are quite different, as is obvious.

One of the things that continues to surprise us is that after every terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims on behalf of Islam, or with regard to the Islamic state, western apologists note that these are radicals who misunderstood the teachings of Muhammad. This claim is blatantly untrue as any superficial reading of Muhammad’s hagiography (the Sīra) shows. One is reminded of Communist sympathisers during the Cold War – Communism is the best system, but the Soviets got it wrong. Funnily enough, all communist states were, like Islamic ones, similarly unenlightened – here though, we should note that while Communism and Islam are antithetical to what the West stands for, we are discussing ideas and not judging people or their sincere beliefs. In this light, Islam should be viewed as a late offshoot of ancient oriental imperial religions (lacking theologies in the Christian, Western sense), as the many disputes about the place of Islam in Western societies alluded to at the outset, make clear.

To illustrate this point, we quote here paragraph 24 of the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam: “All rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration are subject to Islamic Sharia law.” So, which “rights” then actually remain? And there are many “experts” ready to clarify what the “Sharia” (a broad term) has to say about any life situation. The relationship of the fundamental rights entrenched in liberal-democracies with Islam is very problematic. Muslims understand this problem very well, as do the refugee offices of Western countries, where critical voices from the Dār al-Islām seek their salvation – that some leftists, who themselves implicitly or explicitly reject the universality of such fundamental rights because allegedly “Western” or “imperialist,” is not surprising. Here, we should briefly note that the mission to Muslims, especially during the “Golden Age of the Islamic Problem,” beginning around 650 and coming to an end around 1570, was always interconnected with the scientific study of Islam.

Indeed, we can trace the rise of what became Islam largely through Christian churchmen of Late Antiquity. They noted clearly and correctly that this was a “heresy”, i.e., a heterodox form of Christianity rather than a separate religion. While the Middle Eastern clerics were primarily concerned with survival – in Europe, for medieval people, this problem affected all levels of life. Theologically, it was necessary to confront this problem by shedding light on the ignorance about the nature of Islam. But this could only be done by becoming aware of the facts; these in turn required linguistic and literary knowledge. Petrus Venerabilis (Peter the Venerable) was one of the most important people of this time who helped to disentangle the image of Islam. Peter had the Koran translated and then wrote an account of Islamic doctrine himself, the Summa totius haeresis saracenorum, as well as a refutation in the Liber contra sectam sive haeresim saracenorum.

Together with the translations of the Qur’an, these were the first scholarly works on Islam. The Summa in particular was free of the gross errors that had manifested themselves in the centuries before. This new approach contributed much to the emergence of a new image of Islam. The Summa objectified the debate and adopted a more scientific attitude towards Islam. Peter was the first to lay the foundations for a confrontation with Islam. Peter did not want to confront Islam with violence, but with the power of the Word of God.

In this context, his translation of the Qu’ran can be seen as a fundamental work for refuting Islam. The translation thus joins the series of writings that Peter called christianum armarium. By this Peter understood a Christian library to serve as a weapon against these enemies; but certainly not only as a weapon in the offensive sense, but also as a kind of shield which was to protect Christendom. Peter’s main intention with the translation and the Collectio Toletana was to provide European Christians with accurate information about Islam. For Peter, however, the Muslims were enemies only insofar as they rejected Christian salvation. Should the Muslims, however, recognise this, Peter’s enmity would also be settled.

At his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, on 14 October 2009, Pope Benedict XVI used Peter the Venerable as an example of compassion and understanding, citing Peter’s governance of Cluny, diplomacy, and study of Islam. If the West is to have any future, we need to address Islam as set forth by Benedict, following Peter’s study, prayer and mission.

But then again, unless we in the West return to our Christian roots and reconcile ourselves with Christ – well then Islam will steamroll us. Secular values are but fleeting vanity.


A version of this was delivered as a lecture at the French Riviera Institute, October 15 2021. Translated from the French.


The featured image shows, “The Annunciation,” from the Chronology of Ancient Nations by Al-Biruni, 1307.

Want Answers?… Simple But Wrong, Or Complex But Right?

There is a vague discomfiture that comes with the realization that the times have so little improved from those of even our remotest ancestors. One might well consider that man has been regressing since the very beginning with the fall from God’s good graces. And yet, never willing to admit to error, man calls error progress and progress never quite enough. There is, quite naturally, —or so the progressives insist—an existential necessity for progress for its own measure, never bothering to consider either the direction or better purpose toward which we are supposed to be progressing. It seems progressives—perhaps unintentionally, though of that I have serious doubts—are hellbent on putting “all ya’ll deplorables back in chains” while lasciviously twerking the pâté de foie gras.

In his 1905 essay, Notre patrie, Charles Pierre Péguy (1873-1914), French Catholic poet, author, and writer made this penetrating observation: “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of not looking sufficiently progressive.” Now, I have never admitted to any great mathematical profundity, and you are welcome to check my subtraction if you are in doubt, but as near as I can figure that was one hundred sixteen years ago. But wait, there’s more! As Roger Kimball opines, Péguy has enduring importance “because of his insights into the distinctive hubris of modernity: the curious modern tendency to substitute faith in technique for the cultivation of wisdom, the belief that a perfect administration of life could somehow relieve us of the burden, the unpredictable adventure, of living.” Elsewhere, R. R. Reno notes, “Péguy flourished in the first years of the twentieth century, his life cut short by a German bullet in 1914. Since that time, the modern hubris has grown only more monstrous.”

Always a keen observer of human nature, “Truth may be contradicted a thousand times,” the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Old Errors and New Labels wrote, “but that only proves that it is strong enough to survive a thousand assaults…”

But for any one to say, “Some say this, some say that, therefore there is no truth,” is about as logical as it would have been for Columbus, who heard some say, “The earth is round,” and others say, “The earth is flat,” to conclude: “Therefore there is no earth at all.”

Like a carpenter who might throw away his rule and use each beam as a measuring-rod, so, too, those who have thrown away the standard of objective truth have nothing left with which to measure but the mental fashion of the moment.

There are those who loudly deny logic and reason; others, far too many, through self-inflicted vincible ignorance would rather be led by the nose than to think or act for themselves. Haile Selassie, former Emperor of Ethiopia (1930-1974) once said, “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” Thus, it is that the silent masses accept without question the simplest expositive, never knowing nor caring whether what they are told is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Nearly eleven decades ago (Daily News, Oct. 5, 1912,) Chesterton posed an interesting “what-if” very much aimed squarely at this generation. “Suppose,” he wrote, “for some reason or other, our great-great-grandchildren come to the conclusion that the 20th century was the beginning of a relapse into barbarism, like the decline of Rome.” Seems as though such supposing no longer needs to be supposed. He goes on, “They will have plenty of coincident facts to quote; the nature-worship which we call pantheism, the power of the medicine-men whom we call scientific specialists, the belief in tribal curses and destinies which we call heredity, the disproportionate preoccupation with the tribe or pack which we call sociology, the Nietszchians with their worship of force, the Eugenists with their hints of Infanticide.”

To translate into current post-modern cant: worship which we call secular humanism, the belief that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without belief in God; the power of public experts and scientific publicans lacking commonsense, bereft of productive expertise or strict commitment to the scientific method; the belief in the immutable destinies of tribe and race which demand open borders and unrestrained migration; the disproportionate preoccupation with tribe or race or ethnicity under the guises of woke identity, reparations for inherited sins, and equality of outcomes; the Nietszchian nihilism (“God is dead”) which has led to the indiscriminate use of force by the state; the Eugenists (dehumanizing pro-choice) with their demands for unlimited, unrestrained murderous human sacrifice—no more hints of Infanticide—whether unborn, one foot in the grave, or whomever they by happenstance deem a burden to society or a heretical hindrance to their temporal great god Progress.

What Chesterton once supposed is clearly no longer merely a figment of his enormous imagination. What he imagined as possible most assuredly now haunts us. The reason his imagination failed to account fully was explained by his contemporary, C.S. Lewis. In the opening of Mere Christianity, Lewis suggests the absence of “some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it,” would result in man fighting like animals:

Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the ‘laws of nature’ we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong ‘the Law of Nature’, they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation, and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law—with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

We may put this in another way. Each man is at every moment subjected to several different sets of law, but there is only one of these which he is free to disobey. As a body, he is subjected to gravitation and cannot disobey it; if you leave him unsupported in mid-air, he has no more choice about falling than a stone has. As an organism, he is subjected to various biological laws which he cannot disobey any more than an animal can. That is, he cannot disobey those laws which he shares with other things; but the law which is peculiar to his human nature, the law he does not share with animals or vegetables or inorganic things, is the one he can disobey if he chooses.

Lewis then stated the obvious. “This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it.” Apparently, not everyone got the memo. Some people, he wrote, would say that “the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities.” “But,” Lewis countered, “this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. … It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.”

Roger Simon recently opined on what he sees America moving toward, even living through: real-life “Communism, American Style.” Key to his argument is what Karl Marx assumed: that his system would first come to the more modern industrialized state, which to Marx at that time was Germany. He was wrong about that. “Or,” Simon asks, “was he? Perhaps he was just ahead of his time.” Bear in mind, Marx’s manifesto depended on an existing technologically advanced, affluent society, and an impossible to ignore class dichotomy. Again, Simon asks, “What modern industrialized state could be more fecund for communism than the United States of America, the country with the most-est of all?“

America is and has been for a very long time, the richest, most affluent country to ever exist. By third-world standards, even the poorest of the poor supported by an indulgent welfare state are more affluent than over half of the world’s population. “It’s the part of human nature that makes for good communists. In fact, communism owes its existence to them. They are the part of America that will allow, indeed are allowing, communism to walk in the door. Among them are some of our richest and most successful citizens, but that does not stop them from being fools.”

Follow The Pied Piper Of Science

It should be noted the three authors cited (Lewis, Chesterton, and Sheen) were of the latter part of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century and yet what they wrote is as relevant to the latter half of the twentieth and the first quarter of the twenty-first. One cannot turn a page without discovering some relevant thought, idea, or warning of what the future holds should man not change course and return to God, reason, and objective standards of truth. Unfortunately, only the choir will bother to read the music, the conditioned congregation much too enthralled with the high priest’s siren exhortation to hear it. To be fair, the conditioned are often unaware of the conditioning being set upon them for the conditioners are well aware of the dangers of an informed public, thus the censorious exorcism of opposing voices from the public square.

C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963)

In Religion Without Dogma? (1946), Lewis analyzed the underlying problem of the materialistic mindset which he had but tangentially touched upon with The Abolition of Man (1944). If there is no God, if the material world is all that there is, then thoughts are but electro-chemical reactions in the brain. From where, Lewis then asks, does this capacity for thought come from? For the secular humanist and progressive materialist there can be no soul, no spirit, no transcendent mind; brain function (thought and body control) merely the result of random, electro-chemical processes. As Lewis explains it, “Every particular thought (whether it is a judgment of fact or a judgment of value) is always and by all men discounted the moment they believe that it can be explained, without remainder, as the result of irrational causes:”

Whenever you know what the other man is saying is wholly due to his complexes or to a bit of bone pressing on his brain, you cease to attach any importance to it. But if naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes. Therefore, all thoughts would be equally worthless. Therefore, naturalism is worthless. If it is true, then we can know no truths. It cuts its own throat.

I remember once being shown a certain kind of knot which was such that if you added one extra complication to make assurance doubly sure you suddenly found that the whole thing had come undone in your hands and you had only a bit of string. It is like that with naturalism. It goes on claiming territory after territory: first the inorganic, then the lower organisms, then man’s body, then his emotions. But when it takes the final step and we attempt a naturalistic account of thought itself, suddenly the whole thing unravels. The last fatal step has invalidated all the preceding ones: for they were all reasonings and reason itself has been discredited. We must, therefore, either give up thinking altogether or else begin over again from the ground floor.

Dwight Longenecker, in his essay Religion Without Dogma, adds, “The same is true of relativism. If the idea that ‘there is no such thing as truth’ comes from the human brain, and the human brain is the result of random, irrational evolution, then the statement, ‘there’s no such thing as truth’ is also senseless. But of course, we know certain statements are true not because they are true in the realm of ideas, but because first of all they are true in this physical world of reality. The philosopher proves the brick is real by kicking it and howling in pain.”

With The Abolition of Man, Lewis envisioned what a world completely governed by scientifically verified facts and devoid of any conception of the Tao would look like. Lewis considered the Tao (a term from the Analects of Confucius) “to mean something like moral inheritance, the legacy of humane wisdom that the older generation imparts to the younger and which the younger have a duty to hand on in due course” (Michael Ward, After Humanity). For Lewis, a society rooted in technology-inspired manipulation must, by definition, organize into two classes of people: conditioners and the conditioned. Lewis saw with rare prescience and clarity of mind exactly “what the thing called ‘Man’s power over Nature’ must always and essentially be:”

And all long-term exercise of power, especially in breeding, must mean the power of earlier generations over later ones. … In order to understand fully what Man’s power over Nature, and therefore the power of some men over other men, really means, we must picture the race extended in time from the date of its emergence to that of its extinction. Each generation exercises power over its successors: … This modifies the picture which is sometimes painted of a progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power. In reality, of course, if any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger: for though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands we have pre-ordained how they are to use them. … There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. … For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.

Lewis did not address or identify the conditioners directly, but the twenty-first century conditioned know all too well. Einstein, perhaps one of, if not the greatest scientific mind of the twentieth century, provided a hint, arguing in a 1949 article against the concentration of wealth and power in a few hands (conditioners):

[Such concentration will result in] an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936)

Chesterton had a great many things to say about a great many things which is to say he found a great many things interesting though often paradoxical. There is much controversy these days over how many of the rich and powerful elite despise the current order of things; they hate whatever stands in their way of attaining more wealth and power, their insatiable desire to destroy and reconstruct the world into something more to their benefit. Of this sort of radical revolutionary Chesterton would most certainly have had something to go on about. And indeed, he did just that in his introduction to The Defendant (1901). “I have imagined that the main business of a man, however humble, is defence. I have conceived that a defendant is chiefly required when worldlings despise the world—that a counsel for the defence would not have been out of place in that terrible day when the sun was darkened over Calvary and Man was rejected of men.” Some three decades later it would seem Chesterton was just getting his second wind:

If the modern man is indeed the heir of all the ages, he is often the kind of heir who tells the family solicitor to sell the whole damned estate, lock, stock, and barrel, and give him a little ready money to throw away at the races or the night-clubs. He is certainly not the kind of heir who ever visits his estate: and, if he really owns all the historic lands of ancient and modern history, he is a very absentee landlord. He does not really go down the mines on the historic property, whether they are the Caves of the Cave-Man or the Catacombs of the Christians, but is content with a very hasty and often misleading report from a very superficial and sometimes dishonest mining expert. He allows any wild theories, like wild thickets of thorn and briar, to grow all over the garden and even the graveyard. He will always believe modern testimony in a text-book against contemporary testimony on a tombstone. He sells the family portraits with much more than the carelessness of Charles Surface, and seldom even knows enough about the family even to save a favourite uncle from the wreck. For the adjective “fast,” which was a condemnation when applied to profligates, has become a compliment when applied to progressives. I know there are any number of men in the modern world to whom all this does not in the least apply; but the point is that, even where it is obviously applicable, it is not thought particularly culpable. Nevertheless, there are some of us who do hold that the metaphor of inheritance from human history is a true metaphor, and that any man who is cut off from the past, and content with the future, is a man most unjustly disinherited; and all the more unjustly if he is happy in his lot, and is not permitted even to know what he has lost. And I, for one, believe that the mind of man is at its largest, and especially at its broadest, when it feels the brotherhood of humanity linking it up with remote and primitive and even barbaric things.

Read with a mind open to truth—a nonexistent bit of nonsense the radical left in all its incantations must necessarily deny—one can always find in Chesterton a diamond hidden among the discard and clutter. Admittedly, our current condition is certifiably Mad Hatter, complicated and complex, beyond Wonderland nonsense; by all appearances we have lost our collective minds. Chesterton noted eleven decades ago that “there is nothing that needs more fastidious care than our choice of nonsense. Sense is like daylight or daily air, and may come from any quarter or in any quantity. But nonsense is an art. Like an art, it is rarely successful, and yet entirely simple when it is successful.” It is difficult to imagine one so disinherited of a past while content and happy not knowing what has been lost, and yet, that is tragically the output of many, if not most, elite institutions of “higher” education.

There is truly nothing simple in pretending to be sane, especially when it is the “expert” opinion of any well-known but quite mad, mad scientist with a god complex. I believe it was Chesterton who said that any really true opinion can be proved from anything which is very much the old joke: opinions are like anuses, everyone has one and most borrow a foul odor from the barnyard. And yet, by all the evidence, opinions are the dernier cri of modern civilized man. Unfortunately, civilization, unlike opinions, is fast dwindling into oblivion.

Chesterton in his essay for The Illustrated London News (September 9, 1911) wrote, “Vox Populi vox Dei is not a maxim we are in any danger of overdoing; for the modern world has profoundly lost faith in both the two entities. But there is one sense in which the voice of the people is really like the voice of God; and that is that most of us take precious little notice of it.” Every bit of his observation is truer today than yesterday and by every indication will be all the more so tomorrow. The conditioners neither listen to the voice of the conditioned nor to a higher power.

Fulton J. Sheen (1895 – 1979)

In Religion Without God (1928) Sheen observed, “there is, in modern thought, a too general readiness to accept anything which criticizes the traditional, and too great an unwillingness to judge the value of the criticism.” This is, of course, ever more so with post-modern thought, evidenced by cancel culture with the willing, some would say, vainglorious assistance of the agitprop corporate media:

The scientific study of religion has undergone tremendous changes during the last four centuries, changes due in part to the modern mode of approaching problems, and in part to the universal adoption of the experimental method. This changed attitude toward the problems of religion has been marked with each succeeding century. The sixteenth century asked for a “new Church,” the eighteenth for a “new Christ,” the nineteenth for a “new God,” and the twentieth asks for a “new religion.” In response to these appeals and in the name of “progress,” “science” and “liberty,” the Church became a sect, Christ but a moral teacher, God the symbol for the ideal tendency of things, and religion an attitude of friendliness to the universe.

Sheen noted there were two possible adjustments in life: “one is to suit our lives to principles; the other is to suit principles to our lives. ‘If we do not live as we think, we soon begin to think as we live.’ The method of adjusting moral principles to the way men live is just such a perversion of the due order of things.” Man has increasingly, over the last half century instead of making men conform to principles of morality, changed the principles to conform to heterodox immorality. “This kind of philosophy would never have permitted the Prodigal Son to return to his father’s house. It would have settled the ‘crisis’ by finding a new and handsome name for the husks he was throwing to the swine, and called it ‘progress away from antiquated modes of morality:’”

The giggling giddiness of novelty, the sentimental restlessness of a mind unhinged, and the unnatural fear of a good dose of hard thinking, all conjoin to produce a group of sophomoric latitudinarians [17th century English theologians not insisting on strict conformity to a particular doctrine or standard] who think there is no difference between God as Cause and God as “mental projection”; who equate Christ and Buddha, St. Paul and John Dewey, and then enlarge their broadmindedness into a sweeping synthesis that says not only that one Christian sect is just as good as another, but even that one world-religion is just as good as another. The great god “Progress” is then enthroned on the altars of fashion, and as the hectic worshipers are asked, “Progress towards what?” the tolerant answer comes back, “More progress.” All the while sane men are wondering how there can be progress without direction and how there can be direction without a fixed point. And because they speak of a “fixed point,” they are said to be behind the times, when really they are beyond the times mentally and spiritually.

The high priests of the great god “Progress”, as Sheen called them, preach the gospel of want and greed, of hatred and despair, on the one hand bemoaning how terribly awful and rotten the world has become while on the other hand promising utopia, but first, all must be destroyed so it can be built back better. Sounds much too much like, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it – away from the fog of controversy.” In the meantime, lower your expectations, you overindulgent deplorables. No bread? Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. All this recalls a song by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition:

I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed it in
I watched myself crawling out as I was a-crawling in
I got up so tight I couldn’t unwind
I saw so much, I broke my mind
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.

The condition of the conditioned’s condition has been conditioned by the conditioners. Any more questions?

The Abolition Of Commonsense

It should come as no small surprise then how little commonsense plays any meaningful role in the daily life of post-modern man. Evidence of the ubiquity of nonsense pervades every niche, nook and cranny of society, tribe, creed, and culture. Opinion has become the opioid of the masses, addicting the “unwashed” masses to an insidiously nasty habit; facts are irrelevant or inconvenient, truth subjective and relative.

Should opinion be not “as you like it” it must be denigrated, censored, and silenced. Opposing opinion is “fact checked”, then, disavowed as dangerous, evil, hate speech, or against established community standards—which, unsurprisingly, are never critically defined. Most Americans fail to grasp the serious political and intellectual implications surrounding the silencing of opposing voices:

Banning the speech of the allegedly oppressive majority while directly or tacitly inciting protected groups to make unchallengeable claims to marginalization and voice hatred of the majority, outlawing “hate speech” promises to make the public square even more filled with hatred. The criminalization of “hate speech” leads not just to more “hate speech,” but also to civil strife. Most pernicious of all is the legal and moral acceptance of the premise contained in “hate speech” criminalization: the forced acceptance or celebration of unfalsifiable, self-created identities that are impervious to even mild rational interrogation, which opens the way to despotism.

In denying or banning speech considered dangerous or “hate speech” throughout the public square, America will cease to be a nation of the people, by the people, for the people; and it most assuredly will too soon perish from the Earth.

Of opinion, John Stuart Mill (On Liberty, 1859) warned, “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind:”

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

Mill’s argument is especially persuasive given post-modern political discourse is too often manufactured out of whole cloth, almost entirely from fickle public opinion, such opinion biased to conform to the prejudice of the one asking for it. Even then, the published analysis is carefully tricked to a preferred outcome and unwelcome opinion either ignored or suppressed. Long before opinion polling became digital and commonplace, Mill saw the problems inherent in relying on opinion as a virtuous, rational source for serious decision-making. “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still:”

First, the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.

Unfortunately, for the good sense of mankind, the fact of their fallibility is far from carrying the weight in their practical judgment, which is always allowed to it in theory; for while every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion of which they feel certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.

Reliance on opinion rather than true knowledge founded upon verifiable fact and data is a guaranteed recipe for poor decisions. Likewise, wholesale mindless acceptance of the magical tunes played by the pied pipers of science and polity, as well as the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE) polemics of disharmonious mountebanks are guaranteed to lead naïve and gullible lemmings over the proverbial cliff.

Intellectual giant, Thomas Sowell, in his inestimable wit and wisdom once quipped, “It is depressing to hear ideas trumpeted as New! when the underlying reasoning involved was common in the 1840s or the 1790s—and discredited by the 1920s.” Elsewhere (Barbarians Inside the Gates), he says, “I never cease to be amazed at the people who want to make your decision for you, instead of supplying you with the information you need to make your own decision.” In Knowledge and Decisions (1980) he acknowledges the intentional shift away from traditional education which had once focused on the enormous range of human knowledge. In describing what “knowing” meant he employed the phrase “ignorant savage” which, to the progressive woke politically correct social justice warrior is “hate speech”: undeniably racist, xenophobic, and culturally insensitive:

The savage is wholly lacking in a narrowly specific kind of knowledge: abstract, systematized, knowledge of the sort generally taught in schools. Considering the enormous range of human knowledge, from intimate personal knowledge of specific individuals to the complexities of organizations and the subtleties of feelings, it is remarkable that one speck in this firmament should be the sole determinant of whether someone is considered knowledgeable or ignorant in general. Yet it is a fact of life that an unlettered peasant is considered ignorant, however much he may know about nature and man, and a Ph.D. is never considered ignorant, however barren his mind might be outside his narrow specialty and however little he grasps about human feelings or social complexities. We do sometimes refer to a “learned fool,” but the notion of a “fool” implies deficiencies in the reasoning process (so that one is easily deceived or fooled), whereas it may actually be knowledge that is lacking, so that the “learned” person has simply not learned enough outside a certain sliver of human experience.

Sowell adds, “We need to consider the full breadth of knowledge and its depth as well. That is, we need to consider not only how much we know, but how well we know it.”

Perhaps nowhere has such lopsided uninformed opinion become the main course du jour than on university campuses where traditional education over the past several decades has been barbarously exorcised. In The Dying Citizen, (2021) Victor Davis Hanson describes the uptick in an array of nonteaching, in loco parentis, and therapeutic services, coincident to an increasing array of noncompetitive degrees and skills:

In other words, too often the universities saw themselves no longer as teachers of the inductive method and the elements of foundation knowledge. Instead, they were activists. They became intent on shaping young minds to adopt a politicized agenda, whether defined as unquestioned embrace of climate change activism, identity politics, or redistributive economics. Deductivism—picking and choosing examples to conform to a preconceived result—was a recalibration that proved far more costly, and ultimately toxic, for the student than the prior commitment to traditional education that had emphasized a set body of knowledge, and inductive method of accessing it, and the training of an inquisitive mind.

“In today’s world,” according to Ryszard Legutko (The Demon in Democracy), “entertainment is not just a pastime or a style, but a substance that permeates everything: schools and universities, upbringing of children, intellectual life, art, morality, and religion:”

It has become dear to the hearts of students, professors, entrepreneurs, journalists, engineers, scientists, writers, even priests. Entertainment imposes itself psychologically, intellectually, socially, and also, strange as it might sound, spiritually. A failure to provide human endeavors—even the most noble ones—with an entertaining wrapping is today unthinkable and borders on sin.”

The modern sense of entertainment increasingly resembles what Pascal long ago called divertissement: that is, an activity—as he wrote in his Thoughts—that separates us from the seriousness of existence and fills this existence with false content. Divertissement is thus not only being entertained in the ordinary sense of the word, but living and acting within artificial rules that organize our lives, setting conventional and mostly trivial goals which we pursue, getting involved in disputes and competitions, aspiring to honors-making careers, and doing everything that would turn our thoughts away from fundamental existential matters. By escaping the questions of the ultimate meaning of our own lives, or of human life in general, our minds slowly get used to that fictitious reality, which we take for the real one, and are lured by its attractions.

Legutko states what is intuitively obvious to anyone not yet ensnared by trivial pursuits, that the “difference between Pascal’s divertissement and today’s entertainment” is,

the modern man, no matter how much a desire to have fun has captured his soul, knows very well that it is an artificial construction, not the real thing. Whether some other, more objective reality exists is to him a matter of indifference, and if told there is not, he would probably still remain unmoved. Having neutralized all musings about objectivity, the modern man takes pride in his deep involvement in entertainment, which in the absence of other objective references he considers natural.

In an insightful essay, Arthur Milikh describes what has become obvious and objectively true throughout most of the latter half of the twentieth century, but progressive dogma in the first two decades of the twenty-first:

America’s universities have been progressivism’s most important asset, its crown jewel. For over half a century, they have served as the left’s R&D headquarters and the intellectual origin or dissemination point for the political and moral transformation of the nation, especially through the sexual revolution and the identity-politics revolution. Universities have trained the new elites who have taken society’s helm and now set its tone through the other institutions thoroughly dominated by the left: the mainstream press, mass entertainment, Fortune 500s, and tech companies. Universities have also brought to rural and suburban America these moral revolutions, converting generations of young people to their cause. Universities are arguably the most important institution in modern democracy—no other institution has such power to determine the fate of democracy, for good or ill.

Universities were meant be the one fixed place in democratic society insulated from the ceaseless motion of democratic life, with its petty passions, consumption, and moral and intellectual fashions. They were meant to serve as the guardian of the mind and its greatest fruits. In previous eras, segments of society (especially the clergy and the aristocracy) were devoted to protecting learning and a tradition of books. But democracy does not support such classes, and it was originally hoped that the universities would assume this role. Regrettably, they are no longer animated by their original purpose of serving republican self-government or the freedom of the mind. As such, they must be treated as political entities.

That the freedom of speech is under attack on many campuses should not be surprising, given that the freedom of the mind, of which speech is the expression, is rarely understood as their purpose any longer.

In a recent interview Milikh observed how great books formed and informed him far beyond what is now considered accepted norms of academic pedagogy. “In democracy,” he said, “all you have is basically public opinion. You have no past. We don’t remember what happened 10 years ago. And so, all you have to compare your own life against is what you see directly before you or the kind of propaganda images given to you.” Anyone who has ever read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four will recognize the similarities to the “memory hole” in constant use by the Ministry of Truth. He went on to remark how many people are no longer curious, but rather, are sponges absorbing whatever is given them; never thinking through any of the opinions handed to them.

What struck this avid reader the most was this: “Reading great books gets you liberation from the immediate, liberation from the propaganda, liberation from all the opinions that you are told you must hold to be a good, decent person.” Hearing this woke a memory of something I had recently read (Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds):

The ability to tell the truth and survive would appear to depend—among other things—on your line of work. ‘Cancel culture’ certainly does exist. And by now it has become clear how it works. It operates most effectively when it can locate a hierarchy above an individual that is itself wobbly, gutless or otherwise vulnerable to mob pressure. Universities have become Exhibit A in all this. In 2019 Cambridge University’s dismissal of Noah Carl and Professor Jordan Peterson (the latter from a visiting fellowship) amply demonstrated how mobs of ill-informed activists can pressurize an ancient institution into going against the only principles that justify its existence. After all, if a university is going to encourage non-experts to judge experts and privileges people who do not read over those who do, then what is the point of the university?

This then “circles back” to the core issue: no one has the time to read great books. Yet, time is but the effect not the cause of such disinclination, neither are the myriad of excuses so easily inculcated in young minds. The truth is basic, fundamental skills (the 3Rs: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic) have been purposefully and maliciously demoted, superseded by mind-numbing intersectionality, multiculturalism, gender-bending, CRT, equity, and social justice indoctrination. Thus, no one reads because they have never been taught, encouraged, or even permitted to read great literature, especially with an open and critical mind. Tragically, the statistics bear this out.

There is, of course, a purpose behind the deliberate social indoctrination—exemplified with the historical distortions found in the New York Times 1619 Project or the mandated indoctrination of Critical Race Theory. Santayana’s warning, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” rings clarion to modern ears. It is perhaps a pointless exercise, given so few are capable of or bother to read, to mention what Nicholai Bukharin and Yevgeni Preobrazhensky had to say in The ABC of Communism (1920) on education:

The task of the new communist schools is to impose upon bourgeois and petty-bourgeois children a proletarian mentality. In the realm of the mind, in the psychological sphere, the communist school must effect the same revolutionary overthrow of bourgeois society, must effect the same expropriation, that the Soviet Power has effected in the economic sphere by the nationalization of the means of production. The minds of men must be made ready for the new social relationships. If the masses find it difficult to construct a communist society, this is because in many departments of mental life they still have both feet firmly planted upon the soil of bourgeois society, because they have not yet freed themselves from bourgeois prejudices. In part, therefore, it is the task of the new school to adapt the mentality of adults to the changed social conditions. Still more, however, it is the task of the new school to train up a younger generation whose whole ideology shall be deeply rooted in the soil of the new communist society. [emphasis mine]

In bourgeois society, the child is regarded as the property of its parents – if not wholly, at least to a major degree. When parents say, ‘My daughter’, ‘My son’, the words do not simply imply the existence of a parental relationship, they also give expression to the parents’ view that they have a right to educate their own children. From the socialist outlook, no such right exists. The individual human being does not belong to himself, but to society, to the human race. The individual can only live and thrive owing to the existence of society. The child, therefore, belongs to the society in which it lives, and thanks to which it came into being – and this society is something wider than the ‘society’ of its own parents. To society, likewise, belongs the primary and basic right of educating children. From this point of view, the parents’ claim to bring up their own children and thereby to impress upon the children’s psychology their own limitations, must not merely be rejected, but must be absolutely laughed out of court. Society may entrust the education of children to the parents; but it may refuse to do anything of the kind; and there is all the more reason why society should refuse to entrust education to the parents, seeing that the faculty of educating children is far more rarely encountered than the faculty of begetting them. Of one hundred mothers, we shall perhaps find one or two who are competent educators. The future belongs to social education. Social education will make it possible for socialist society to train the coming generation most successfully, at lowest cost, and with the least expenditure of energy.

The social education of children, therefore, must be realized for other reasons besides those of pedagogy. It has enormous economic advantages. Hundreds of thousands, millions of mothers will thereby be freed for productive work and for self-culture. They will be freed from the soul-destroying routine of housework, and from the endless round of petty duties which are involved in the education of children in their own homes.

That is why the Soviet Power is striving to create a number of institutions for the improvement of social education, which are intended by degrees to universalize it. To this class of institutions belong the kindergartens, to which manual workers, clerks, etc., can send their children, thus entrusting them to experts who will prepare the children for school life. To this category, too, belong the homes or residential kindergartens. There are also children’s colonies, where the children either live permanently, or for a considerable period, away from their parents. There are in addition the crèches, institutions for the reception of children under four years of age; in these the little ones are cared for while their parents are at work.

In a 1955 essay, entitled, “Propaganda” the late author and historian Richard Weaver wrote, “It’s tempting to say that the only final protection against propaganda is education. But the remark must be severely qualified because there is a kind of education which makes people more rather than less gullible:”

Most modern education induces people to accept too many assumptions. On these the propagandist can play even more readily than on the supposed prejudices of the uneducated. It is the independent, reflective intelligence which critically rejects and accepts the ideas competing in the market place. Education to think rather than mere literacy should be the prime object of those seeking to combat propaganda.

Life seldom comes with simple questions, simple answers to life’s complexities are rarely persuasive, at times foolish, but more often dangerous, even on occasion dead wrong.


Deacon Chuck Lanham is a Catholic author, theologian and philosopher, a jack-of-all-trades like his father (though far from a master of anything) and a servant of God. He is the author of The Voices of God: Hearing God in the SilenceEchoes of Love: Effervescent Memories, and four volumes of Collected Essays on religion, faith, morality, theology, and philosophy.


The featured image shows, “The Questioner of the Sphinx,” by Elihu Vedder; painted in 1863.

Secularism or Islamism: Two Nightmares?

The idea of an ideal world comes from the Christian idea of the salvation of the world. Al-Massih (the Messiah) has achieved the salvation of the world by his victory over Shaytan (Satan), obtained at the time of the Passion. This salvation has unhappily been rejected by one part of humanity, so in order that the world in its entirety may be saved, we must now await the manifestation of the Antichrist, Ad-Dajjal, and then the glorious Coming of Christ, who will purify the world of the Antichrist and of his supporters. (In the New Testament: Matthew 3:12; Matthew 13:36-43; 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

We can also say here that over the centuries, what we derived from Augustinism prevented Christians from announcing the true hope for the world and also from dialoguing with Muslims on the theme of the eschatological hope – for the world.

Those who reject the salvation of Al-Massih have kept the idea of the salvation of the world, or of an ideal world, but have charged themselves with the execution of the judgment of the world. The massacres perpetrated are an act of judgment, from which it is expected an ideal world will emerge, liberated or submitted, but pure and perfect. (And there is also satanic nihilism in which there is no hope at all remaining).

We find this idea in the secularism of the French Revolution where the revolutionaries massacred those that resisted them, in the illusory hope of a liberated world. We find it again in the ideal of the Soviet conquest of the world by the Socialist International.

Islamist thought also aims at massacring the unsubmitted in view of an ideal world which is “submitted” to the same logic (which would explain why global secularist movements are sometimes the first to finance these Islamic movements).

This thought is expressed in numerous hadiths of the Muslim tradition, but as it involves armed combat, these writings circulate in a rather private, non-official way: Muslim governments, conscious of the subversive charge against these traditions do not favor their exposition in the full light of day. In effect, on the basis of such a belief, the least bit of preaching or media campaign defining “the forces of Evil to combat” is capable of drawing believers into massive combat. And thus all manipulations are possible.


Francoise Breynaert is a secular oblate of the Fraternity of Our Lady of the Desert (Belgium). A doctor of theology, she has published foundational works (biblical, Christological) and also Marian and spiritual works. She has also done theological research on the salvation of non-Christians and the Good News for the deceased, and on the Coming of Christ, which the West often confounds, unhappily, with the end of the world, and finally on the exegesis of orality in connection with the Christians of the East. Her works are recognized (imprimatur, episcopal prefaces) in France and abroad. Her research has interested Islamologists who, in turn, have made her part of their studies.


The featured image shows, The Annunciation, from Mir’at al-quds (a Mirror of Holiness), Mughal India, ca. 1602-1604.

The Natural Law, Impossibility Of Planned Eugenics, And The Chaos Of Transhumanism

We intend to develop here two reasons why a genetically or economically planned human society, which ignores both social inequality and intragroup competition, whether peaceful or coercive, is, in fact, intensely disadvantaged in its self-preservation, even doomed to failure. On the one hand, the projected success of a future sexuated individual in reproducing (and living long enough, and well enough, to become a mature, vigorous sexual reproducer), in the framework of a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction, can neither be measured nor be existing in the absence of decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities. And that, just as the rentability of a future allocation of capital goods can be neither measured nor even projected, in the absence of capital goods subject to the market price and to the right of private property.

To put it in another way, the calculation of the “fitness” of a future sexuated individual is not more possible to a eugenics planning body than the calculation of the economic rentability of a future allocation of capital is possible to an economic planning body. The implementation of a functional order in human society necessarily passes through the acceptance of these two cosmic laws that are the respective impossibilities of a (centrally) planned eugenics and of a (centrally) planned economy. On the other hand, there are at least two other cosmic laws whose acceptance is necessarily required for a functional social order in the human species: namely the fact that physical-mental inequality necessarily characterizes a sexually reproducing species; and the fact that decentralized intragroup competition for preeminence, survival, and reproduction is indispensable for the success of a group of vertebrates in intergroup competition for survival and preeminence.

A Word On State Eugenics

Before we get to the heart of the matter, it is useful that we proceed with some conceptual clarifications on state eugenics, which admits a positive modality (i.e., dedicated to promoting, or requiring the transmission of, traits considered positive) and a negative modality (i.e., dedicated to disadvantaging or prohibiting the transmission of traits considered negative).

The goal of state eugenics, either positive or negative, is not only to reach a population carrying exclusively the traits that it considers positive (or to come as close as possible to it); but to ensure that the members of the population in question are virtually capable of winning individually in a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction (that nevertheless corresponds to the socio-natural environment of said population), or of compromising their own individual survival and reproduction in the reproductive interest of the population (taken as a whole).

By “planner-type state eugenics” or “planning-type state eugenics,” we mean state eugenics that enjoys ownership of individual genetic capital, and which decides who has the right to reproduce and who should reproduce with whom. We will call “state eugenics of the semi-planner type” (or “state eugenics of the semi-planning type”) state eugenics that shows itself to be planning, either in the sole field of positive eugenics, or in the sole field of negative eugenics, but not in both fields. To our knowledge, whereas planner-type (rather than semi-planner type) state eugenics has been found only in fiction, semi-planner (rather than planner) state eugenics has genuinely existed: in England, America, Germany, and elsewhere. It continues to exist at least in China, where the communist administration, notably, renders the authorization for those couples deemed dysgenic to marry conditional on permanent contraception.

By “incentive-type state eugenics,” we mean state eugenics that uses incentives (fiscal, for example), but leaves mating decisions to be carried out in a decentralized mode, thus recognizing the authority of the family’s patriarch (over the mating of his offspring) or the freedom of individuals in the choice of their mating partners. To our knowledge, the actually implemented state eugenics of the semi-planner type have classically been (and, as in contemporary China, continue to be classically) state eugenics that, while showing themselves to be notably planning (and not only inciting) in the field of negative eugenics, prove to be only inciting (rather than planning) in the field of positive eugenics.

Without establishing the state as the owner of individual genetic capital, a semi-planner-type state eugenics exercises a planning confined, either to the positive field of eugenics, or to the negative field. A state eugenics of the semi-planner type allows that, as far as strictly concerns a given field of eugenics, either the positive or the negative field, decentralized decisions are taken in the allocation of individual genetic capital towards reproductive sexual unions, decisions that he will potentially undertakes to influence (via non-coercive incentives).

When it comes to following a criterion in its planning of reproductions, a planning-type eugenist state has no other possible choice than to take as the criterion of its decision to order or prohibit a certain reproductive union the reproductive success that the offspring that would result from that reproductive union under the planning eugenist state (if the latter were actually ordered by the planning eugenist state and carried out) would reach in a decentralized competition for survival and reproduction (if the offspring in question were founding itself participating in such a competition instead of finding itself under the supervision of a planning eugenist state).

For the reason that a (centralized) planning of reproductions is necessarily deprived of a criterion for centralized planning (i.e., a criterion for the centralized selection of those reproductions required, and therefore, authorized) that it can find in itself, which is therefore not borrowed from its representation of the individual planning of an organism meeting decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction and wanting the best “fitness” for its offspring, a planning eugenist state (what amounts to speaking of a genetically planning state) is necessarily incapable of taking a criterion for selecting ordered (and therefore, authorized) reproductions other than the representation of the reproductive success that the offspring of a hypothetical ordered reproductive union would achieve in the presence of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction.

By “entrepreneurial economy” or “decentralized entrepreneurial economy,” we mean an economy where the allocation of capital takes place in the context of capital goods subject to private property rights (and to free entrepreneurial competition for monetary profit) rather than in the context of the absence of property rights over capital goods or in the context of central planning by a state that owns capital goods.

By “decentralized competition for survival and reproduction,” we mean an (individual) competition for survival and reproduction in the presence of the formal possibility of everyone to take part in said competition and in the context of decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities (rather than centralized due to central planning by a state that owns the genetic capital replacing any sexual opportunity for decentralized reproduction).

Just as a planning eugenist state aspires to do as well (or aspires to do better) in terms of “fitness” as decentralized competition for survival and reproduction would, so a state planning the economy aspires to do as well (or aspires to do better) in terms of economic rentability as decentralized entrepreneurial competition would do. Because those two types of central planning are both incapable of planning action, both are doomed to failure in their respective ambitions.

The “fitness” of an individual designates his success in generating an offspring qualitative (i.e., itself happy in said reproductive success) and numerous in the context of a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction, therefore in the presence of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction (what nevertheless includes the scenario where there is only one fertile sexual partner for all individuals of the opposite sex, a scenario comparable to the “natural monopoly” in an economy). Just as the market prices of capital goods can no more exist outside a market for capital goods than the rentability of a certain allocation of capital can be calculated in the absence of market prices, decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities can no more exist outside a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction than an individual’s “fitness” can exist (and can be calculated) in the absence of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction.

Just as a state planning the economy intends to dispense with the existence of a market for capital goods in its projection or verification of the rentability of the allocated capital, a state planning eugenics intends to dispense with the existence of a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction in its projection or verification of the “fitness” of an individual, i.e., the success an individual, if he were in a context of decentralized struggle (for survival and reproduction), would reach in the begetting of a numerous and qualitative descent. Whereas the “fitness” of the individual to be born of the allocation of a certain genetic capital (towards a certain reproductive union) is irremediably prevented (and not only rendered non-measurable and non-plannable) by the absence of decentralized reproductive sexual opportunities under a state planning eugenics, the economic capital allocated by a state planning economy remains allocated profitably or not; but the rentability in question is irremediably rendered non-measurable (and, in that regard, rendered non-plannable) by the absence of market prices for capital goods.

The fact that a state planning eugenics is necessarily incapable of forming an idea of “fitness” (since the decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction are necessarily absent under a state planning eugenics) will not be without incidence on the genetic quality of the engendered population in terms of the ability to live long enough (and healthy enough) to become a mature (and vigorous) reproductive breeder. As the central planning of the allocation of genetic capital to reproductive sexual unions, because of its necessarily erratic character, will generate individuals who would be less and less able to prevail in a decentralized competition for survival and reproduction (corresponding to the socio-natural environment of the concerned population), it will engender individuals who—in the concrete context of planned eugenics—will be less and less able to become vigorous and attractive sexual reproducers or to live long enough to reach sexual maturity.

From Gnosticism To Transhumanism

In the weak sense, transhumanism covers any doctrine that promotes the “overcoming” of homo sapiens via genetic engineering and bio-robotic engineering (including the implantation of electronic devices in the human brain, what one may call “neuro-robotic engineering” or “the neuro-robotic compartment of bio-robotic engineering”). In the strong sense, transhumanism covers any doctrine that promotes the instinctual, mental emasculation of homo sapiens, and its genetic homogenization (in terms of IQ and physical aptitude), via eugenics and the aforementioned genetic and bio-robotic engineerings—and that, for the purpose of obtaining an allegedly pain-free human existence. By the project of homo sapiens’s instinctual emasculation, we mean the project (dear to transhumanists in the strong sense) of reconfiguring human instincts in such a way that the virile mind (i.e., independent and capable of criticism and dissent) and the virile instincts of territoriality, independent thought, war, selfishness, the enjoyment of luxury and of sexual pleasure, the taste for power and for competition, or the desire to distinguish oneself, are eradicated from the psyche human.

To do that, transhumanists advocate, if not planning-type state eugenics, at least eugenics and genetic and bio-robotics engineerings. A transhumanist ideal in the strong sense is not necessarily an ideal in favor of planning state eugenics or even an ideal in favor of state eugenics as such: in other words, the transhumanism in the strong sense adopting state eugenics (either of the planning type or not) is only a modality of transhumanism in the strong sense. But whether it adopts state eugenics or not, transhumanism in the strong sense is doomed to engender a dysfunctional society for the reason that such a society would collide with the cosmic order. Strong transhumanism, and even weak transhumanism, is nothing else than a revolt against the cosmic order: a revolt all the more pronounced in the case of strong transhumanism. In the following lines, we will above deal with transhumanism in the strong sense and use the term “transhumanism” in its strong sense exclusively.

The project of “overcoming” homo sapiens via both genetic and bio-robotic (including neuro-robotic) engineering necessarily succumbs to what Friedrich A. von Hayek called the “fatal conceit” of omniscience, i.e., the conceit that genetic and neuro-robotic engineering is able to understand and predict a phenomenon that, in reality, is irremediably beyond human understanding as it is made (and positioned) in the cosmic order. As for the modality of neuro-robotic engineering that consists of implanting behavior-regulating chips in the human brain, it is needless to specify that it falls within the “road to serfdom.”

To that cognitive hybris with regard to the cosmos is necessarily added a conceit of omnipotence when the “overcoming” of homo sapiens in question consists more precisely of replacing the human being as he stems from decentralized and spontaneous biological evolution with a “new man” as much emasculated in his instincts and behavior as undifferentiated genetically, socially, and physically-mentally. Here, the cosmos is definitely seen both as totally disorganized and as infinitely shapeable: a clay that is both chaotic and malleable at will.

To put it in another way, transhumanism, while denying that there is a certain order in the universe (and a harmony within which humans must find their place), affirms that homo sapiens is able to provide the universe with the order which it supposedly lacks; and, while denying that human existence has any meaning within the universe, asserts that homo sapiens is able (and has) to “overcome” himself—via eugenics and via genetic and bio-robotic engineering—and to become a being no less omnipotent (and omniscient) with regard to the cosmos than “freed” from his virile instincts and from genetic inequality. In that regard, transhumanism comes as a secularized outgrowth of Gnosticism, an outgrowth where rebellion against an evil demiurge turns into rebellion against a vain and chaotic universe; and where the “liberation” from the divine sparks that are human souls with regard to the prison of material bodies, accomplished through knowledge, magic, and the rejection of Yahweh’s commandments, turns into “liberation” (via knowledge, technology, and eugenics) both of human biological nature with regard to the instincts, aptitudes, and inequalities of homo sapiens and of the creative powers of the human with regard to the limits assigned to them by his biological condition.

It is worth specifying that Gnosticism is only a part of the larger current of Judeo-Hellenic esotericism that fermented in Alexandria before continuing notably in the Kabbalah, a current that a certain literature hostile to Judaism believes it can amalgamate in its entirety, wrongly, with the only Gnostic modality. Contrary to what some of those studying the distant esoteric roots of contemporary transhumanism claim, Gnosticism and transhumanism stand in stark contrast to the Old Testament’s (and by extension, Talmudic and Kabbalistic) conception of the human being and the role that he is in a position to play in the cosmos.

In the mindset of the Old Testament, it is true that the human is seen as commissioned by God to co-create the cosmos; but precisely, the mandate of creation that is in question here consists, not of destroying and replacing the work of God (including human nature as God designed it), but of completing and sustaining the cosmos that God has created and delivered to humans. Hence the metaphor of the Garden of Eden that expresses the role of gardener of the cosmos devolved to humans: the role of preserving and crowning divine creation. Here, the human is certainly made in the image of God, or even directly linked to God; but precisely, far from the human being divine or called to render himself divine, he finds himself only in a relationship of (virtual) resemblance to God, a resemblance that he is called to concretize through submitting nature to himself (in the understanding nevertheless of the divine wisdom inherent in the arrangement of creation) and through submitting to the commandments of God: commandments which aim to enable man to discipline his instincts and, in that regard, to accomplish what renders him virtually made in the image of God and virtually capable of co-creating and exploiting the cosmos.

That conception of the way in which humans can and must behave with regard to nature contrasts just as much with the sacralization of nature (prohibiting its lesser exploitation by humans) constitutive of certain paganisms as with the condemnation of nature (and its perception as an enemy to be eradicated) constitutive of transhumanism. It is notably perpetuated into well-understood traditional Catholicism, namely the Catholicism of the papal reform of the 11th century, and into American-Protestantism. A secularized echo of that is the notion that man, if he intends to submit to nature to the extent possible, is forced himself to submit to nature and to the knowledge of nature. That echo does not only suggest what is possibly the symbolic meaning of the biblical text; it expresses what is a completely “scientific” appreciation both of the way in which the human is inscribed in the cosmos and of the degree to which the human can render himself creator and dominator and of the conditions under which that is possible to him.

Far from order being unknown to cosmic and biological evolution (such as conjectured the “theory of evolution” in a corroborated mode), a certain order governs inter-particle relations just as much as, to quote Robert Ardrey, “the movement of stars within galaxies, galaxies in their relations with others,” “the orbits of planets about their sun, moons about their planet,” and the “transactions of animals.” Neither the random nature of genetic mutations, nor the undesigned character of evolution, change anything to the facts “that animal treaties are honored; that baboons do not commit suicide in wars of troop against troop; that kittiwakes successfully defend their cliff-hung properties and raise their young; that lions and elephants restrict their numbers so that a habitat will not be exhausted by too numerous offspring,” or, finally, “that when species can no longer meet the challenge of environment, they must quietly expire.”

It is true that there are some doctrinal defenses of transhumanism that, instead of denying the order present in the nature, fully recognize the existence of said order, and even conceive of evolution as a designed process and the cosmos as organized on purpose. But precisely, those are inconsistent theoretical devices that, instead of drawing from the existence of the natural order the necessary implication, namely that the submission to the natural order limits and conditions the liberation of the creative and exploiting powers of humans, see homo sapiens as a virtually omnipotent being who will be able (with technical progress) to substitute for the natural order and the present version of the human species a new cosmos and a “new man.”

In that regard, the expectation of the “Singularity” (i.e., the day when artificial intelligence will allegedly overtake human intelligence and will henceforth be able to self-maintain and self-improve) in certain modalities of transhumanist faith comes as a twisted and secularized millennialist pattern, the expectation of the biological homogenization of humans and of their instinctual cyborgization and reprogramming when the era of the Singularity comes superseding the expectation of communist equality and of the mental regeneration of humans in the abundance of “grace” when the millennial era preceding the “last judgment” comes.

The natural impossibility of planning in eugenics is nevertheless a disappointment for the hopes of the type of transhumanism that favors planned eugenics. The natural impossibility of genetic equality (in a sexually reproducing species) and the natural indispensability (to the functionality of a vertebrate-society) of decentralized intragroup competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence are so many disappointments for the hopes of transhumanism generally speaking, which falls within what Ardrey, without thinking of transhumanism (to our knowledge), called the “philosophy of the impossible.” Namely that, in defiance of properly understood science, “we have pursued the mastery of nature as if we ourselves were not a portion of that nature;” as if nature were not our “partner” (rather than our “slave”) and the “laws applying to us” were not “applying to all.”

An ambiguous notion, “natural law” can designate, among other things, an allegedly objective categorical injunction (such as the injunction “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife nor his servant”); a necessary regularity in the cosmic order; a categorical injunction allegedly objective and allegedly inferred from human nature (as the principle of non-aggression allegedly is); a functional and universal human rule of law; or a functional human rule of law rendered functional by its formulation and implementation of all or part of the implications of a certain cosmic regularity for the functionality of human society.

In the present article, we will call “natural law” a certain necessary regularity of the cosmic order that, on the one hand, renders functional a certain rule of human law formulating and implementing all or part of what that factual regularity implies in order for human society to be functional; which, on the other hand, renders dysfunctional any rule of law undertaking to transgress all or part of the implications of that factual regularity for a properly functional human society.

Any functional human rule of law is functional in that it contributes, if not to the preeminence of the group, at least to its survival (in specifying that preeminence is an asset for survival). Any functional human rule of law does not derive its functionality from the fact it formulates and implements an implication of a cosmic regularity; but any human rule of law that (like the collective ownership of economic or genetic capital) undertakes to get rid of a certain implication by a certain cosmic regularity is ipso facto rendered dysfunctional.

Precisely, the necessity of the calculation (of monetary profit or of profit in terms of “fitness”) for planning action in economy or in eugenics is one of the “natural laws” (in the aforementioned sense) that jointly render dysfunctional the legal basis of decentralized entrepreneurial competition and the legal basis of decentralized organismic competition for survival and reproduction; and jointly render dysfunctional the collective ownership of capital goods and the collective ownership of genetic capital.

Just as economic planning is in rebellion against the natural law of the need for anticipated market prices in the elaboration of economic plans (what may also be called “the law of the impossibility of planning (centrally) an economy”), planning in eugenics—and, in that regard, transhumanism of the type turned towards planned eugenics—are in rebellion against the natural law of the need for anticipated sexual reproductive opportunities in the elaboration of anticipations on the “fitness” of a projected newborn (what may also be called “the law of the impossibility of planning (centrally) eugenics”). Whether or not it is of a type supporting planned eugenics, transhumanism is also in rebellion against at least two other natural laws.

Although Robert Ardrey sometimes lacked clarity as to the meaning in which he spoke of “natural law,” and although he did not tackle (to our knowledge) the theme of transhumanism, we owe him in The Social Contract the identification of those two other natural laws against which transhumanism rebels (in vain): namely “the law of inequality” in species with sexual reproduction; and “the law of equal opportunity” in vertebrate species. The law of inequality is the law that genetic inequality, and therefore physical-mental inequality, is inevitable in a sexually reproducing species. For its part, the law of equal opportunity is the law that the equal opportunity of the members of a vertebrate society to take part in the “disorder” of the decentralized intragroup competition to survive, reproduce, and occupy a high position in the “pecking order” is an indispensable instrument for sorting out and making good use of individual aptitudes for the success of a group of vertebrates to perpetuate itself.

By “decentralized intragroup competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence,” we mean an intragroup competition (peaceful or coercive) for survival, reproduction, and preeminence that is formally open to everyone in society; and which operates in the company of unhindered social inequalities (including innate ones), in the context of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction, and in the presence of a hierarchical order formally open to social mobility and to the recomposition of elites. In view of those two natural laws that are the law of inequality and the law of equal opportunity, a human social order that hinders or ignores any social inequality (including hierarchical) will be rendered not less dysfunctional than a human social order that hinders or ignores any formal system of intragroup decentralized competition (including decentralized competition for preeminence).

A transhumanist social order, i.e., repressing just as well any genetic inequality (in addition to any social inequality) as any genetic existence of a virile instinct (in addition to any social existence of decentralized intragroup competition), will be rendered all the more dysfunctional. Besides, whether the planning of reproductions consists of planning acts of carnal mating between individuals or of planning in vitro fertilization, a transhumanist social order of the planning type (i.e., of the type in favor of planned eugenics) will be rendered dysfunctional as much by its attempt to transgress the natural laws of identity and equal opportunity as by its attempt to transgress the natural law of the impossibility of planned eugenics.

On that subject, the society depicted in Brave New World comes as a borderline case of a transhumanist society of the planning type, in which genetic inequality is accepted (albeit planned) and in which instinctual emasculation remains incomplete (albeit largely advanced), with notably the quest for sexual pleasure persisting in society. The fact remains that, precisely, genetic reproductions and inequalities are planned there (and that, without the novel portraying the nonetheless erratic character of genetic planning, which is necessarily incapable of planning); and that intellective emasculation (i.e., the suppression of any mental capacity to think in a virile, therefore independent and critical, mode) is complete there, with no human stemming from planned eugenics in the depicted society proving able to think for himself.

What dismays the transhumanist with genetic inequality (and, by extension, social inequality) and intragroup or intergroup competition (and the instincts associated with it) is fundamentally that those things create “suffering,” “wickedness,” “violence,” and “tearing” in the world. When it comes more precisely to intergroup warfare or the decentralized intragroup competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence, another reason for dismay in the transhumanist, not less fundamental, is that the disorder associated with it is thought to be an outright aberration, a horror that should be replaced with a total order.

To the indispensability of economic and juridico-political inequalities (including those attached to birth) for a functional human society responds, however, the not less indispensable character of the disorder linked to an “equal opportunity” offered to all members of society. But “the equal opportunity” whose implementation is in question here (if one wants human society to be functional) does not reside in the equality of formal or material starting conditions, what would contravene the aforementioned principle to allow all inequalities to flourish, including those associated with birth. “The equal opportunity” that is in question here consists of a formal equal opportunity to take part in a decentralized intragroup competition for survival and reproduction, as well as for the escalation of the group’s hierarchical order and the occupation of a high position within said hierarchical order.

That struggle for preeminence takes the form of what biologist Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards described as a “struggle for conventional prices by conventional means.” A fact which (to our knowledge) was not raised more in Mises than in Ardrey or Wynne-Edwards, the entrepreneurial competition for monetary profit only makes to deploy (in the economic field) the competition for “conventional prices” (in that case, monetary profit) by “conventional means” (in that case, the allocation of economic capital) that is at work in any functional vertebrates society, the losers in entrepreneurial competition (i.e., those entrepreneurs who are most mistaken or are the latest in the allocation of capital in anticipation of changes in investment or consumption demand) seeing themselves constrained to a low or negative income (and, in that regard, a inferior social position) just as the losers in the struggle for preeminence are relegated to a lower social rung generally speaking.

Ultimately, what renders free entrepreneurship functional (in terms of the group’s success in sustaining itself and in facing the challenges met by its survival, including the challenge of preeminence) is notably that such social institution accords with the three natural laws that are the law of inequality (in the sense that entrepreneurial income inequalities germinate from genetic inequalities without paralleling them), the law of equal opportunity (in the sense that entrepreneurial freedom offers everyone an equal formal opportunity to take a chance as an entrepreneur), and the law of the impossible central planning in economy (in the sense that entrepreneurial plans are exercised in place of a central planning body, which would be precisely incapable of planning). To put it in another way, what renders entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial freedom beneficial to the group is notably the fact that they fit into harmony with the cosmic order.

The Impossibility Of Planned Eugenics: A Neo-Misesian Argument

Ludwig von Mises defended freedom (including entrepreneurial) at a time when the academic consensus was that the central planning of an economy works, as well as a semi-planning state eugenics of the sterilizing type and of the transhumanist type (although the term “transhumanism” would only be forged in the 1950s, by a Julien Huxley approving the totalitarian world prophesied and denounced by his own brother Aldous). The officials of the Communist Party of China, as well as the men of the superclass, are both counting on the renewal of such consensus. In addition to his convincing demonstration of the impossibility of economic calculation for a planning committee, Mises had some very appropriate remarks on state eugenics of the planning or semi-planning type: namely that the latter, as Mises writes in his epilogue to Socialism, “aims at placing some men, backed by the police power, in complete control of human reproduction;” and that “as every supporter of economic planning aims at the execution of his own plan only, so every advocate of eugenic planning [or semi-planning] aims at the execution of his own plan and wants himself to act as the breeder of human stock,” the criteria retained to judge the physical or psychological traits that deserve to be preserved varying from one eugenics plan to another.

It is nevertheless regrettable that Mises did not distinguish between state eugenics of the planning (or semi-planning) type and state eugenics of the inciting type, implicitly reducing any state eugenics measure to a eugenics of the planned or semi-planned type in his references to “eugenics.” It is not less regrettable that he did not point out that the variance of the criteria retained in state eugenics devices to judge the traits worthy of being transmitted was, in part, due to the own variance of the criteria for social selection of surviving individuals (as opposed to those of selection criteria for individual survivals that relate to the natural and climatic environment), which vary according to society (as the natural selection criteria of those who will survive long enough to achieve sexual maturity vary depending on the natural environment).

Also and above all, Mises did not notice (or did not come across as noticing) that his argument in favor of the impossibility of economic planning (i.e., the central planning of the allocation of economic capital to the branches of activity, within the framework of the collective ownership of said economic capital) was transposable to genetic planning (i.e., the central planning of the allocation of genetic capital to reproductive sexual unions, within the framework of the collective ownership of genetic capital ). A planning eugenic state is certainly able to get an idea of the success of a hypothetical future newborn in reaching sexual maturity and vigor in the joint framework of its social selective environment and of its natural selective environment. It remains incapable as much of giving oneself a criterion for selecting the required (and therefore, authorized) reproductions other than the “fitness” of the offspring associated with them (i.e., the degree to which the offspring associated with them would be able to engender numerous and qualitative offspring if it were placed in the context of a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction) as of getting an idea of said “fitness” in the absence of anticipated sexual opportunities of reproduction.

Under a state planning eugenics, when an individual organism was just born and would be (in all the probable life scenarios) incapable of encountering a decentralized sexual opportunity of reproduction (within the framework of a decentralized competition for survival and reproduction corresponding to the socio-natural environment of said individual organism), seized or not, it is probable that the same organism will fail (even if the planning eugenist state leaves it in peace) to reach sexual maturity or to become a vigorous, attractive sexual reproducer. A state “planning” eugenics is, in fact, necessarily incapable of planning (and, in that regard, necessarily erratic), from which it follows that it will obtain organisms whose “fitness” would be weaker and weaker—and, in that regard, a population who, in the concrete context of planned eugenics, will be less and less qualified for sexual attractiveness and vigor or less and less likely to reach sexual maturity.

One easily imagines a defender of planned eugenics retorting that a planning eugenist state may well be incapable of planning, but that all that matters is the success of said state in ensuring that all or part of its population reproduce and that the physical-mental traits that it values are thus transmitted. Yet, the fact is that the only objective criterion for establishing the biological success of an individual organism is that said organism, if it were confronted with a decentralized competition for survival and reproduction corresponding to its own socio-natural environment, would achieve individual reproductive success in at least one probable life scenario (or, in at least one probable life scenario, would contribute to the group’s reproductive success through spontaneous sacrifice). Because over time, the probability necessarily increases that the majority of the individual organisms to be derived from planned eugenics are objective biological failure (due to the fact that the calculation of the “fitness” of a future individual organism is irremediably impossible for the planner), the planning eugenist state is doomed to reach less and less success in producing individual organisms which, in the concrete context of planned eugenics, live long enough to transmit the physical-mental traits that the planning eugenist state values. At least, the ones of those valued traits that are the rarest and most sophisticated. That fatality is comparable to that of shortages and waste in a planned economy, where collective ownership of capital renders economic calculation impossible.

Although Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich A. von Hayek agree to consider the existence of a market for capital goods as a very useful assistant (and in the strict case of Mises: even a necessary condition) of the calculation of the rentability of decisions in the allocation of capital, their respective arguments in favor of such conclusion diverge significantly. Whereas Hayek asserts that in the absence of present market prices for capital goods, the information present on the economic conditions (i.e., demographics, technology, consumer and investor priorities, etc.) of the moment find themselves difficultly communicable to a planning committee trying to calculate the rentability of a certain allocation decision, Mises argues that in the absence of a capital market, a planning committee—regardless of the accuracy of its knowledge of present economic conditions or the accuracy of its anticipation of future economic conditions—finds itself necessarily deprived of an indispensable tool for economic calculation.

In the Misesian approach to economic calculation, those of the market prices that are properly required for economic calculation constitute future market prices (rather than present market prices); and economic calculation is based on the uncertain anticipation of said future market prices (rather than on the certainty of current market prices). But even in the case where a planning committee would enjoy complete omniscience as to present economic conditions and perfect accuracy in its anticipation of future economic conditions, he would remain incapable of calculating the rentability of an allocation decision. In the Hayekian approach to economic calculation, a planning committee would be quite able to practice economic calculation in the presence of perfect omniscience as to the current economic conditions (and that, despite the uncertainty weighing on future economic conditions).

Mises’ argument against the possibility of economic calculation under a central planning regime goes even further and affirms the praxeological rather than cognitive origin of the impossibility of economic calculation for a planning committee—namely that the latter, even in the presence of perfect omniscience about the present and of a perfectly correct anticipation about the future, would remain deprived of an instrument indispensable to the type of action that is economic calculation. In other words, market prices as Mises sees them, present or future, do much more than communicate a certain information: they render said information usable for economic calculation, while a planning committee is necessarily incapable of integrating into an economic calculation the information he has about the present or the forecasts he makes about the future (however perfect they are). Besides, those of market prices that are important for the economic calculation as conceived by Mises are the future market prices, the entrepreneurial task including the anticipation of the latter and the allocation of capital on the basis of said anticipation.

For our part, we are of the opinion that in the presence of perfect omniscience about the present economic conditions, the economic calculation would certainly be dispensable to a planning committee in the strict case of a static economy, where the committee’s blind “groping” would allow it in the long run to determine the correct allocation of capital; but that economic calculation, even in that scenario of a static, perfectly known economy, would still remain impossible. When it comes to planning in a dynamic economy, economic calculation is indeed indispensable for the committee—even in the case where the committee has perfect information about the present conditions and an exact anticipation of future conditions.

In the absence of a capital market, economic calculation is not less impossible in the context of a static economy (and that, regardless of the accuracy of the information in the hands of the committee) than in the context of a dynamic economy, and that, regardless of the accuracy of the committee’s knowledge of the present and the accuracy of its anticipation of the future. On the question of economic calculation under a regime of collective ownership of capital, we therefore subscribe to Mises’s argument rather than to Hayek’s one. In the presence of moving economic conditions, a task incumbent on the one who allocates a capital good is to anticipate future changes in economic conditions, changes that are irremediably uncertain. In the absence of ex ante anticipation of future market prices and of ex post verification of those expectations (via the profit experience: positive or negative), it is respectively impossible to adapt ex ante the allocation of capital to the idea that one has of future changes in economic conditions–and impossible to adapt ex post the allocation previously carried out to the actual changes encountered.

The problem for the one who allocates some capital good is not only to be able to (correctly) anticipate the future; it is also to be able to proceed with economic calculation in view of the elaborated expectations (and that, whether the calculation is correct or incorrect), the impossibility of economic calculation applying as much to a planning committee with incorrect forecasts as to a committee with correct forecasts. It is not fortuitous that the joint perception of time as cyclical—and of any technical or economic innovation as a transgression of the cosmic order—has been characteristic of some of the historical societies ignoring, if not the private ownership of capital, at least the use of money. Such “cosmological” beliefs are quite consistent with a static (or relatively frozen) economy.

Through Western Christianity, especially the Catholicism of the papal reform and American-Protestantism, individualist economic law (inherited from Rome) and the Old Testament’s conceptions of time as linear—and of the human as mandated to bring to the world as much technical and economic as cognitive progress (and, in that sense, to co-create divine creation)—played a decisive role in the cultural awareness process through which the West started encouraging and judging possible, even inevitable, economic and technical progress in a capitalist framework. Precisely, a chimaera of the USSR—in congruence with its “cosmological” beliefs of the Marxist-Leninist type, a secularized outgrowth of Christian millenarianism—was to expect to conciliate the establishment of collective ownership of capital with the perpetuation of the economic progress associated with prior capitalist economies.

Like Nazi Germany in its day, there is little doubt that Xi Jinping’s China would like to conciliate, in due time, the central planning of genetic capital with the perpetuation of the biological progress previously associated with the decentralized process of mutation and selection. The implementation of such an enterprise of eugenics planning, under the aegis of a Beijing committee, would be no less erratic than the economic planning of Mao Zedong’s time. Whether it pursues the establishment of a perfect physical-mental homogeneity or remains attached to a certain inequality in that area, whether it is concerned with engendering exclusively servile individuals or intends to engender (also or only) geniuses, therefore independent and creative minds, genetic planning, i.e., the planning of reproductive unions and births, is simply unable to anticipate with certainty the future of genetic conditions. Besides, it is rigorously impossible for its expectations, true or false, to translate into a calculation of “fitness.”

Mises, who in Human Action correctly noted that “men cannot improve the natural and social conditions which bring about the creator and his creation,” but that it is both “impossible to rear geniuses by eugenics, to train them by schooling, or to organize their activities” and possible to “organize society in such a way that no room is left for pioneers and their path-breaking,” nevertheless refrained from investigating the reason why (central) planning in the genetic domain—in other words, state eugenics of the planning type—cannot be able to plan the genetic occurrence of geniuses. At the very least, the genetic occurrence of geniuses who are not objective failures of biological evolution, i.e., are not organisms who, if they were placed under the circumstances of a decentralized struggle (for survival and reproduction) corresponding to their socio-natural environment, would not be up (to survive and reproduce) in any probable life scenario.

The absence of a Misesian argument against the possibility for planning eugenics to plan the genetic occurrence of geniuses who would be up to the task in a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction (or would be so in at least one probable life scenario in the context of said struggle) is all the more regrettable as Mises only had to point out that the impossibility of economic calculation for the economic planner was transposable to the calculation of “fitness” for the eugenics planner.

The anticipation of a profitable market price in monetary terms is to the entrepreneurial allocation of economic capital to a branch of activity what the anticipation of a sexual opportunity reproductive (i.e., engendering offspring), decentralized (i.e., whose establishment is not a matter of central planning, but of the spontaneous interaction between individuals: whether peaceful or coercive), and eugenic (i.e., optimal in terms of the offspring’s genetic quality) is to the organismic allocation of genetic capital towards a sexual union. It is no more possible to calculate the rentability of the projected decisions in allocating the capital in the absence of anticipated market prices than it is to calculate “fitness” (i.e., the rentability in terms of the number of qualitative descendants engendered in a decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction) of a projected newborn in the absence of the anticipation of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction.

The evolution of economic conditions (in the context of a dynamic economy) is no less uncertain than the evolution of genetic conditions. Besides, a planning committee, whether it is responsible for planning the allocation of economic capital (to various branches of activity) or the allocation of genetic capital (to various reproductive unions), is doomed to wander in the dark—for lack of being able to take into account anticipated market prices in the calculation of the projected rentability of an economic capital soon allocated to a branch of industry or anticipated decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction in the calculation of the projected “fitness” of the individual who will be born hypothetically from the forthcoming allocation of a genetic capital towards a mating.

Anticipation of future costs and benefits (in terms of rentability) in a programmed allocation of economic capital based on the uncertain present anticipation of future economic data is no less impossible outside of a decentralized, peaceful competition between owners (or borrowers) of productive goods anticipating in monetary terms the expected costs and benefits than the anticipation of future costs and benefits (in terms of reproductive success in a decentralized struggle for life and reproduction) in a programmed allocation of individual genetic capital grounded on the present uncertain anticipation of future genetic data (including future mutations) outside of a decentralized competition—whether peaceful or coercive—between individual organisms anticipating the number of descendants resulting from the seizure of an anticipated sexual opportunity, whether coercive or voluntary.

In society, individual planning in the presence of a peaceful, decentralized economic competition between entrepreneurs anticipating (in a climate of uncertainty) the future monetary prices attached to capital goods subject to private property rights is no less necessary for the establishment of a superior economic scaffolding (in terms of viability and complexity) than individual planning in the presence of a decentralized biological competition (for survival and reproduction), whether peaceful or coercive, between individual organisms anticipating the uncertain future of genetic data (including future genetic mutations) is necessary for the establishment of a superior genetic scaffolding (in terms of viability and complexity).

In genetics as in economics, the decentralized order is more viable and more complex than the planned order, which is doomed to remain rudimentary (at best) by reason of the fact that the action of planning is impossible for a planning central body. What renders economic or genetic planning impossible is not the volume (and the dispersion) of information about the present genetic or economic data: in other words, it is not the fact that said information is too large and too much dispersed in order for it to be communicable to a human brain, or even to a computer, responsible for economic or genetic planning. Nor is it the uncertainty weighing on the future.

Whatever the information (about the present genetic or economic data) in the hands of the planner or of the planning committee; whatever the accuracy of the anticipation (about future genetic or economic data) on the part of the planner or of the committee, planning is irremediably incapable of a planning action (i.e., incapable of determining and handling means for planning purposes)—and that, by reason of the fact that, outside of anticipations of future profits and losses (in monetary terms or in terms of the qualitative descent linked to the seizure of a decentralized sexual opportunity), it is impossible for anyone, even a computer, to calculate “fitness” or economic rentability.

The changes to come in economic conditions are just as uncertain and unpredictable as the genetic mutations in a future newborn. Neither the planning of reproductions, nor intervention on the genome of the embryos, can allow a central planning committee to remedy such uncertainty. But, besides, in order to calculate the “fitness” of a future newborn, the committee would have to come to terms with anticipating the decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction in the future existence of said newborn, which is for it structurally impossible for the reason that central planning supersedes the possibility of such opportunities. Just as a man and a woman who have just mated cannot anticipate with certainty the genetic condition of the offspring hypothetically resulting from their carnal relationship (and that, whether their mating is unplanned or falls within the decision of a reproductions-planning committee), a biologist working on the genome of an embryo cannot anticipate with certainty the genetic mutations that his intervention will cause (and that, whether the biologist in question carries out his intervention in the context of a central planning of births or in the presence of decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities).

Besides, if the intervention or mating is carried out under a regime of central planning of reproductions (i.e., a regime of collective ownership of genetic capital), a biologist-interventionist or a duo of future parents cannot calculate the “fitness” of the future newborn on the basis of their anticipations about said newborn. What renders central planning in economy or in genetics impossible is a “praxeological” rather than cognitive problem: a central body of economic planning is no less deprived of the possibility of planning action (i.e., the action consisting of determining and using means in view of a pursued planning) than is a central body of genetic planning.

Outside of the ex ante anticipation of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction (in the future life of the future newborn) and the ex post verification of that anticipation, it is respectively impossible to have an ex ante idea of what would be the reproductive success of said newborn (in a situation of decentralized struggle for survival and reproduction) and to verify ex post the idea that one had of the “fitness” of said newborn. In that regard, it is respectively impossible to adapt ex ante the allocation of genetic capital to the forecast of the future offspring’s “fitness” and to adapt ex post the allocation of genetic capital to the actual “fitness” of said offspring.

Likewise, outside of the ex ante anticipation of the monetary profit associated with future market prices and the ex post observation of the monetary profit (positive or negative) finally encountered, it is respectively impossible to form an ex ante idea of the rentability of a certain planned allocation of economic capital and to verify ex post the idea that one had of the rentability of that allocation. In that regard, it is respectively impossible to adapt ex ante the allocation of economic capital to the expected rentability and to adapt ex post the new decisions in the allocation of capital to the actual rentability of the previous allocation.

As pointed out by Ludwig von Mises in Human Action, even in the scenario (which Mises seems to find conceivable but improbable) where an economic planner, in solving the differential equations of a general equilibrium model, would manage to “solve” without economic calculation “all problems concerning the most advantageous arrangement of all production activities,” and where “the precise image of the final goal he must aim at [would be] present to his mind,” it would nevertheless “remain essential problems which cannot be dealt with without economic calculation.”

These problems are the ones that relate to the identification and implementation of the “successive steps” through which the planned economy should pass so that “the given economic system” be transformed “in the most appropriate and expedient way” and, ultimately, replaced with “the system aimed at.” Contrary to what Vilfredo Pareto and Enrico Barone affirmed, the calculation (via the resolution of differential equations) of an optimum in the distribution and use of the factors of production cannot allow a central planning body to bypass the absence of a market for capital goods. For want of being able to count on anticipated market prices, a central planning body having a perfect knowledge of the optimum to be reached cannot more practice the calculation indispensable to the discovery and adoption of the path leading to the optimum than a mountaineer deprived of his equipment, but knowing perfectly the coveted mountain, can reach the top of said mountain.

It is not only false that in the absence of a market for capital goods, it is only difficult (rather than impossible stricto sensu) to know in their entirety the data that the differential equations of the general equilibrium must take into account. Even though knowing said data in their entirety were indeed possible for a central planning body, the Hayekian assertion that economic planning is only arduous (rather than impossible stricto sensu) would still remain refuted by the fact that, in the absence of anticipated market prices, it is quite simply impossible for the planner to channel a planned economy towards the state of optimum, regardless of the information the planner has about the optimum.

It is regrettable that Mises did not consider extending to planned eugenics his remark on the impossibility (in the absence of anticipated market prices) of optimizing a planned economy. In the absence of decentralized sexual reproductive opportunities, it is impossible for a eugenics planning body to practice the calculation (of “fitness”) indispensable to the roaming the path leading to an optimum (in terms of the group’s survival and reproduction) in the genetics of a given population.

The optimum itself, whether genetic or economic, cannot be discovered outside of the organismic or entrepreneurial experience of profit and loss (in terms of “fitness” or in monetary terms). Just like, from the preferences of the “demanding” people to the most satisfactory and economical use of the technology in force, a part of the economic data from which the differential equations of the “general equilibrium” of a given economy can be constructed—and therefore the economic optimum itself—are not discoverable outside of the entrepreneurial experience of monetary profits and losses, a part of the genetic data (i.e., a part of the data that characterize the nature and function of genes) in a given population (in that case, those genetic data which directly contribute to individual reproductive success in a decentralized competition for reproduction or to individual success in a derived form of said competition, and those which directly contribute to the reproduction of the group to the detriment of individual reproductive success) and therefore the genetic optimum itself cannot be discovered outside of the organismic experience of profits and losses in terms of “fitness” (i.e., in terms of the success in seizing decentralized and reproductive sexual opportunities that allow a large, qualitative offspring) or outside of the account of said organismic experience.

In defense of the possibility of economic planning, Oskar Lange proposed a solution to the problem of economic calculation consisting for a communist state in simulating market prices, in calculating the respective supply and demand for the latter, and in determining forward the price adjusting supply and demand. In the opinion of Ludwig von Mises, responding to Lange, his solution wrongly reduced economic calculation to the one practiced by simple managers, thus ignoring the own economic calculation on the part of entrepreneurs and speculators, which is nevertheless indispensable for the allocation of capitals.

The activities of entrepreneurs and speculators, added Mises, cannot be simulated since in the absence of individual responsibility in that area, i.e., the fact of putting their own money at stake, no one would be motivated to behave as an entrepreneur or as a speculator. While Mises’ response to Lange’s solution consisted in pointing out that his model of a communist economy, in addition to ignoring the need for entrepreneurship and speculation, would nonetheless remain unrealistic if, taking into account said necessity, he would ask disinterested and disempowered actors to “play” the entrepreneurs and investors, Hayek’s response was that Lange’s model proposed an impracticable approach due to lack of the required information.

For our part, we go further than the respective counter-arguments of Mises and Hayek. Even in the presence of perfect information about the present and perfectly correct anticipation of the future, even in the presence of disinterested and nonetheless involved actors, equilibrium prices cannot be simulated—and that, for the reason that one can no more simulate entrepreneurship or speculation than one can simulate, generally speaking, the things of life. It is simply impossible to know the preferences of the demanding people in the absence of the observation of concrete purchasing activities (and the associated profit, whether positive or negative), and therefore, to simulate the entrepreneurial experience of demonstrated preferences.

The impossibility of simulation applies as much to the decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction as it does to market prices. Surreptitiously, Lange recognized that only a capitalist economy is functional; and that for that reason, a communist economy has no choice but to simulate a capitalist in order to render itself functional. But precisely, one cannot more simulate the entrepreneurial discovery of equilibrium prices than one can simulate the organismic discovery of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction. Simulating an entrepreneurial competition in order to discover its result is not less absurd than simulating a military battle or a decentralized competition for reproduction in order to discover its result. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a general, or an organism, there is no other choice than “going to the front lines” in order to be in the picture.

Transhumanism: A Revolt Against The Crowned Cosmos

The impossibility for the external observer of a current individual organism (at the stage of childhood or embryo) or the external anticipator of a future individual organism to calculate the “fitness” of the observed or projected organism in the absence of the anticipation of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction in the future existence of said organism founds the impossibility of planning genetic evolution, said impossibility in turn founding the two “natural laws” stated by Robert Ardrey. Namely “the law of inequality” (in the strict case of species with sexual reproduction) and (in the strict case of vertebrate species) “the law of equal opportunity.”

Unbeknownst to Ardrey (who approached the grasp of this law without ever conceiving it clearly), the impossibility of planning genetic evolution is truly the first of natural laws, the one from which follows the two Robert Ardrey rightly formulated. Whereas transhumanism, in default of necessarily rebelling against the law of the impossible genetic planning, necessarily rebels against “the law of inequality” (i.e., the necessary counterpart of sexual unions, decentralized or not, that is physical-mental inequality), as well as against “the law of equal opportunity” (i.e., the instrument necessary for the exercise of individual physical and mental aptitudes in a way contributing to the collective functionality that is decentralized intragroup competition for preeminence, survival, and reproduction), genetic planning necessarily rebels not less against the law of equal opportunity than against the law of the impossibility of planning genetic evolution.

When it strictly comes to genetic planning of the transhumanist type (what amounts to speaking of transhumanism of the planning type), it is necessarily in rebellion against each of the aforementioned three laws. Planned eugenics necessarily joins transhumanism in hostility to “the law of equal opportunity;” and that, in that planned eugenics—without it being necessarily in favor of genetic equality—necessarily aspires to ensure that the social (including hierarchical) destiny of any newborn to come is pre-known and pre-decided from its conception instead of being revealed and engendered by the result of a decentralized competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence.

Since decentralized sexual reproduction opportunities are necessarily absent in the context of collective ownership of genetic capital substituted for decentralized competition for reproduction, it is not more possible to escape the impossibility of planning genetic evolution in intending to planning for a negative “fitness” (in the reproductive interest of the group) than in intending to planning for one that is positive (if not in the group’s reproductive interest, at least in the individual’s reproductive interest); and that, just as it is not more possible to escape the impossibility of planning genetic evolution in resigning oneself to proceeding without the anticipation of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction than in resigning oneself to simulating decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction.

The decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction that an organismic allocator experiences cannot be simulated alongside a planning committee replacing decentralized competition for reproduction, no more than the profitable prices (in monetary terms) that an entrepreneurial allocator experience can be simulated alongside a planning committee replacing decentralized competition for monetary profit. Genetic planning is not less in rebellion against a natural law (in that case, the law of the impossibility of planning genetics) than is economic planning: in that case, the law of the impossibility of planning economy.

Genetic or economic planning shares with transhumanism a spirit of rebellion against the natural order, and therefore the order created by God from an Abrahamic perspective. Whoever rebels against all or part of the natural order intends to replace it (in whole or in part) with a new, allegedly better order, thus rebelling against God himself or adhering to the idea that God, if it existed, would deserve one rebels against Him. The Bible can either be taken literally or taken symbolically (as the sages of Alexandria began to do).

The mandate of divine origin assigned to humans, according to the Old Testament, to crown creation while respecting the law of divine origin can either be taken literally; either taken symbolically in the sense that the human has a capacity of creation which complements cosmic creativity, but that his own capacity of creation will turn against himself if it comes to believe to be able to transgress the natural laws of this world. Likewise, the transhumanist, communist, anarcho-capitalist, or plannist rebellion against the natural order can present literal gnosticist motives—as is the case, for example, in Karl Marx’s poem titled “Human Pride,” where the poet praises the “demonic confusion” of his own speech and promises to work for the joint fall of the world and of God, “that pygmy giant,” and for the building of a new era on “the ruins of the [elder] world” in “giving to [his] words power of action.” Just like it can present secularized gnosticist motives, in which case said rebellion will start from the idea that God, in default of existing, would deserve to be fought if he did exist.

Whether one takes into account the followers of a properly secularized modality of transhumanism or those of a modality that retains “religious” motives, the human feelings that govern adherence to the transhumanist discourse (beyond its various modalities) remain strictly the same: the rejection of the natural order, therefore the order created by God from a literal gnosticist (or semi-gnosticist) perspective; and a misguided mode of compassion for the weak and the degenerate here below, therefore the failures of evolution from a transhumanist perspective, either secularized or not. Not the compassion that aims to alleviate the fate of those who do not keep up with the decentralized struggle for life, reproduction, and preeminence (more precisely, the specific form that said struggle takes in view of their socio-natural environment); but the compassion that, abhorring selection and the struggles associated with it, represents (and intends to achieve) a society of late times where (both physical and mental) inequalities would be eliminated, where war, power, and sexual pleasure would cease to be pursued things pursued.

A dream that inspires the transhumanist program of a final era of humanity in which an emasculated, peaceful, and egalitarian way of life would be established via genetic manipulation and via cyborgization. The idea of a chaotic, cruel nature, from which man must and can emancipate himself (in rendering himself divine and in replacing nature with an order that is exclusively of his own doing), delights the transhumanist, who comes as an intramundane, technophile variant of the gnosticist in that he believes that instead of spiritually detaching himself from the allegedly chaotic nature, the human must—via genetic and bio-robotic engineering—subvert and replace the material world.

Yet, far from nature being chaotic, it is subject to an order that—however cruel and selective it is—nonetheless remains an order. An order that, despite the disorder that accompanies it, is nevertheless accomplished through said disorder notably; and as Robert Ardrey has described it, “what contemporary evolutionary thought can bring to social philosophy is [notably] the demonstrable need for structured disorder within the larger structures of [social] order” so that “without that degree of disorder tolerating and promoting to fullest development the diversity of its members, society must wither and vanish in the competitions of group selection.”

The idea that we would continue our promethean gesture of domination of nature in emancipating ourselves from said nature (and the associated selection procedures) is not less deceptive. Dominating our natural environment through technology and economy establishes us, not as deniers, but as continuators of nature, what differs substantially from the transhumanist project of escaping from the selection process (and therefore, of denying, escaping nature). In Abrahamic terms, while the first perspective extends and honors divine creation, the second is of satanic obedience.

Transhumanists are not less mystified by the idea that, in view of the contradictory nature of human instincts, a morality concerned with being based on evolution would only end up erecting mutually contradictory instincts as mutually contradictory norms; and that because of the fact our instincts contradict each other, they are simply dysfunctional and should be eliminated by genetic engineering. That opinion, which stems from yet another misunderstanding of evolution by transhumanists, is wrong as to the sense of an evolutionary morality, i.e., a morality that takes into account evolution and human instincts as they have been produced by evolution.

Homo sapiens being a species with instincts not less incomplete (in terms of ensuring the viability of social organization and, more broadly, success in group selection) and weakened (in terms of being the only influence to weigh on human behavior: instead of acquired culture or reason) than chaotic, i.e., in contradiction with each other (and that, despite a certain hierarchy operating itself instinctively, which remains too much relative), “evolutionary” morality will not consist of establishing a certain instinct as a norm: in the mode of the inference “It is natural, therefore it is good.” Said morality instead consists in identifying those behaviors, partly instinctual, partly associated with reason or acquired culture, which will render a group functional (and increase its chances of winning in group selection).

Such a functionality, while it is operated in a rigorously instinctual mode in the case of animal societies (other than human), is not assured in the case of human societies, which are jointly constrained to complete the work of nature in this area and susceptible to fail in that area. In other words, “evolutionary” morality is not about morally justifying an instinct on the grounds that it is the product of evolution; but about fulfilling the wisdom towards which the instincts of homo sapiens, “suspended,” according to Robert Ardrey’s wording, “between dicta three billion years old and a foresight nouveau riche, swinging between [instinctual] wisdoms of most ancient origin and a power of both learning and ignorance,” tend imperfectly—due to the weakened, incomplete, and chaotic character of said instincts of homo sapiens, “animal of doubtful future.”

Genetic or neuro-robotic engineering, the planning of births, physical-mental equalization, or instinctual emasculation are so many horizons coming as a technophile, intramundane variation of gnosticism and bathing in the illusion that the cosmos is simply chaotic and stochastic; and that human beings, although they are a haphazard product of the evolution that takes place in this random, disordered world, are nevertheless able to render themselves the gods of this universe through technology and knowledge, i.e., able to substitute for the allegedly vain and disorderly nature an effective and senseful order.

For those hearts misled by gnosticism or its derivatives, it is worth remembering that the cosmos is at the same time evolving and organized, random and senseful, achievable and intransgressible. We human beings, who are made, if not in the image of God, at least in the image of the cosmos, are certainly bound to pursue cosmic creativity (through knowledge, technique, art, or social change); but also to keep in mind that we neither are nor will be gods: that the human pursuit of cosmic creativity must be accomplished with respect for a certain natural order, the transgression of which necessarily results into an immanent punishment.

Crowning divine creation, but not subverting it, that is the way for us who, symbolically (if not literally), are both made in His image and made for His law. Subverting divine creation and claiming to render oneself divine in place of God, that is the ill-fated path of hearts misled by a rebellion of satanic obedience, from transhumanists to economic or genetic planers. God wanted for us neither servility towards the universe nor disobedience towards universal wisdom; but the humble crowning of divine creation, the bringing of the final touch, by the creature who remains in its place, i.e., who accepts that it is irremediably like divine instead of claiming that it can render itself divine. From Silicon Valley engineers to superclass men and to the officials of the Chinese Communist Party, transhumanists are in rebellion against the divine creation. An elected nation, America must fight against the “destructionist” forces of transhumanism as it has long fought against those of communism.

The project on the part of the most radical of transhumanists to suppress all violence and all domination of the world stage could only achieve its ends through suppressing or “reprogramming” the atoms and the stars themselves. For, as highlighted by Howard Bloom (without him, to our knowledge, addressing transhumanism from this angle), the very first hierarchical orders, far preceding the pecking orders of chicken, manifested in the assembly of atoms or galaxies. While the proton dominates the electron, of which it determines the central point of the orbit, the black hole or the gravitational center dominates and controls a galaxy. As for the sun, he is metaphorically the king in the feudal order of the solar system: the monarch before whom the planets bow, which see the moons bow before the planets. It is true that, since it seems that it is not felt or conscious (but what do we actually know of it, as it stands?), the violence of stars or atoms as such does not concern transhumanism.

But given that violence in the physical sense constitutes a fractal pattern declining at each emergent level of the universe, which sentient or conscious beings have only inherited, the fact remains that transhumanism can reach its goal only in drying up the source of that fractal pattern and reprogramming or replacing the elementary particles. If it turned out that they could not do it, it is likely that they would then opt for a return to nothingness in due form. They would come to terms with setting out to destroy the universe itself—in default of being able to prove to God that they could replace His creation with a morbid and dried up universe.

Ardrey did not believe that he was saying so well when he warned us against the “dreary” morning that, “knowing or not,” many of our contemporaries are putting in place, the one “when you and I awake and leopards are gone; when starlings in hordes no longer chatter in the plane trees gossiping about the adventures of the day to come; when the lone tomcat fails to return from his night’s excesses; when robins cease to cry out their belligerent challenges to the bushes beyond the lawn; when the skies lack larks and the shrubbery lacks sex-obsessed rabbits hopping after each other; when hawks cease their eternal, circling searching and the gullery by the rocks falls silent; when the diversity of species no longer illuminates the morning hour and the diversity of men has vanished like the last dawn-afflicted star.” Ardrey expressed himself there in metaphorical terms; but the future he envisioned is literally the future that the most radical of transhumanists want for all of us… humans, leopards, bears, bees, flowers, or dachshunds.

Conclusion

The attitude of the transhumanists towards the cosmos is that of a capricious, angry three-year-old child towards a tower a few centimeters high built with kaplas (namely blocks made of Landes pines), that the adults have constructed with the idea that the kid continues their construction through building the roof of the tower with additional kaplas. Because he will refuse to take into account gravity, the weight of the boards, the need to balance the kaplas so that they hold together, the little capricious will fail to build the roof, or even cause the collapse of a part of the tower.

Deploring the impossibility of manipulating the kaplas as he pleases, he will get angry with the boards and the tower. With a kick (for example), he will break the tower or what is left of it—unless the adults themselves take charge of destroying the tower (or what is left of it) to give a “good lesson” to the kid, the one that the cosmos has its laws and that they limit and allow the constructive and dominating powers of the human being, and that he must therefore learn (and learn to respect) the cosmic laws if he intends to render himself “as master and owner” of the boards.

Just as Mises (rightly) called “[Charles] Fourier complex” the psychological state of fleeing economic reality into an imaginary world that ignores the laws of ours in the economic field, therefore ignores the scarcity of resources, the unpleasantness of work, and the indispensability of market prices for economic calculation, one may call “Julian Huxley complex” the psychological state of fleeing biological reality into an imaginary world that ignores the laws of ours in the field of biological evolution, therefore ignores as much the genetic inequality between the members of a sexual species and the need (for a functional order) of the relative disorder of the decentralized intragroup competition for survival, reproduction, and preeminence among the members of a vertebrate species as the indispensability of decentralized sexual opportunities of reproduction for the calculation of “fitness.”

About the mental immaturity of the transhumanist, who got stuck or regressed to the mental level of the aforementioned brat, one can say what Mises wrote (rightly) about the socialists’ own neurosis. Namely that, “This being the character of the socialist dream, it is understandable that every one of the partisans of socialism expects from it precisely what has so far been denied to him. Socialist [or transhumanist] authors promise not only wealth for all, but also happiness in love for everybody, the full physical and spiritual development of each individual, the unfolding of great artistic and scientific talents in all men, etc.

Only latterly did Trotsky state in one of his writings that in the socialist society “the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” The socialist paradise [just like the transhumanist paradise] will be the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. All socialist [or transhumanist] literature is full of such nonsense.

But it is just this nonsense that wins it the most supporters. One cannot send every person suffering from a Fourier complex [or from a Julian Huxley complex] to the doctor for psychoanalytic treatment; the number of those afflicted with it is far too great. No other remedy is possible in this case than the treatment of the illness by the patient himself. Through self-knowledge he must learn to endure his lot in life without looking for a scapegoat on which he can lay all the blame, and he must endeavor to grasp the fundamental laws of social cooperation [or of biological evolution].


Grégoire Canlorbe is an independent scholar, based in Paris. Besides conducting a series of academic interviews with social scientists, physicists, and cultural figures, he has authored a number of metapolitical and philosophical articles. He also worked on a (currently finalized) conversation book with the philosopher, Howard Bloom. See his website: gregoirecanlorbe.com.


The featured image shows, “L’antigrazioso (The Anti-graceful),” by Umberto Boccioni, painted in 1912.

Woke Moralism: #DisruptTexts And The Abrogation of Literature

Introduction

In the spring of 1966, before the violence of the Cultural Revolution washed over China, the CCP initiated a campaign against the “Four Olds.” This project aimed to eradicate Chinese culture in order to protect Chinese culture. “Sweep Away All Monsters And Demons,” enjoined the Party’s print organ. What followed was a violent “cancel culture.” As then, so now.

In 2018 the #DisruptTexts group was founded by Lorena German. Much like Black Lives Matters and AltRight, #DistruptTexts marshalled decades of critique into a single legal entity. Why the advocates of these edgy ideas are so intent on handing over their work to the Bar Association system is beyond me, but much as we speak of the AltRight and BLM, when I speak of #DisruptTexts I will be referring to the movement in general and not the fictional entity. So sue me.

This essay argues two points concerning the approach of #DisruptTexts. Insofar as this movement is principally a pedagogical effort, my first points concern the way we in the general public understand literature. The approach of #DisruptTexts is inappropriate because (1) American society is too unstable at present to dismantle narratives as we have too little to work with as is, and (2) their powerful observation of social dynamics, even the conscious inclusion of Critical Race Theory, is being taught to students who do not have the intellectual matrix to responsibly digest these ideas. As we consider #DisruptTexts in the context of the mass education crisis, and while I will address theoretical errors which exist in their approach, we need to realize how our own individual and social sloppiness exacerbates these woke errors. There is plenty of blame to go around, and #DisruptTexts is but one factor of several.

Concerning my second point, #DisruptTexts is problematic (how’s that for a Leftist word!) because of its inability to contribute towards the construction of a social order. There is on the Left too much breaking down, not enough building up. The racial genie has bewitched the partisans of #DisruptTexts and there is no end to the deconstruction road. And not to put too sharp a point on it, for people who are hip to what is called “race,” they should respect the white culture of America as much as the Indian culture of the Subcontinent, or anywhere else.

Orientation & House Rules

From the start I ought to say that #DisruptTexts is not especially alarming to me. It is one of a conga line of educational fads which regularly burn through my vocational field. In fact, as it lacks coordinated state patronage it is a few clicks less pressing than No Child Left Behind or Common Core, recent foci of educational wariness. It is always important to remember the frequency of these sorts of fads before emotionally reacting to them.

As I wrote in my late series on We The People, I assert that there is no day to day racism in America. It is an insult to both the dead generations of Americans who suffered actual racism, as well as those of our day who suffer like discrimination across the world. The tribulations of the Tutsi, the Uighurs, and the Rohingya are a damn sight more serious than the pettyfogging gripes of American academics. #DistruptTexts, Black Lives Matter, et al. represent one of a number of divide and conquer tactics which the American ruling class excels in implementing. Keeping the ethnic groups annoyed with each other distracts from the track-trace-database system Mr. Schwab and his eponyms are building; it distracts from the endless Pentagon wars and the thousand-front looting of the American working class.

What racism there is exists in institutions which are in an adversarial relationship to the population they rule over, and their crimes literally have nothing to do with subject Americans. #DisruptTexts is right in saying there is profound and systemic racism in social institutions, most outstandingly via subsidiary state corporations like their military branches, police departments, and prisons. However, the U.S. Federal and state governments, and the business/legal system of which the state is a product, have officially existed in a state of war against the American people since the 37th Congress (March 1860). Charges of racism in those arenas have nothing whatsoever to do with flesh and blood Americans. Deconstructing all the books in all the canons of the world will not do one thing to affect the guilty entities. I wish these racial critics well as they make the governments and their hirelings confront their racial errors. However, insofar as the American government is foreign to the population it claims rulership over, I as an uninvolved party wish to be left alone by #DisruptTexts.

The Concept

#DisruptTexts aims to reconsider the ways literature is taught and experienced in American schools. Where this immediately draws popular attention, as it eventually will from us, is in the specific choices of books assigned in class. However, their reconsideration only begins by challenging the canon. To focus primarily on their book selections is to miss the deeper point. Most educational critique does this, it gets caught up on the superficial externals with little grasp of the principles at play.

Now when we speak of “the canon” we mean the group of texts more or less taught throughout the country. Its advocates are aware, in ways most men are not, of “literature” being larger study than a simply a litany of stories. #DisruptTexts’ proponents are sensitive to dynamics such as intertextuality, discourse, and identities of all sorts, and their relationship to literature. In this they are to be praised.

The Canon

#DisruptTexts is not altogether without praise. In the interest of graciousness, and towards an honest understanding of their approach, I should want to continue my analysis on this note. For one, #DisruptTexts’ proponents are aware of both “the canon” and what was once called the “Great Conversation.” By the canon they mean those go-to books which form the core of American lit classes country-wide.

From sea to shining sea I’d bet Americans mucking about in their 20s through their 40s are more or less familiar with The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993), S.E. Hinton’s Outsiders (1967), Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston (1937), and Streetcar Named Desire from the pen of Tennessee Williams (1947). This is the canon. It can change, it inevitably does change. Usually this happens during that unicorn of a department shakeup when old timers have been pensioned off and newer energetic teachers haven’t burned out and moved onto other avocations. In other words, the literary canon does change, but it does so only slowly, locally, and insofar as even the spunkiest of teachers can only take so much before other saner work beckons, the canon changes only temporarily before the old go-tos are back.

The Great Conversation

The “Great Conversation” is more abstract than the canon. It is the concept that authors are in a sense in a dialogue with each other over the centuries. That specific label comes from Robert Hutchins’ and Mortimer Adler’s essays of the same name which used to lead off the University of Chicago’s Great Books series. Ah, talk about changed reading habits! Just two or three generations back encyclopedia salesmen were a thing. Encyclopedia men fought with colleagues hawking The Story of Civilization and the Great Books of the Western World. More remarkable still, everyone had work. As a testament to our present contempt of knowledge, as of this article’s composition the entire 54-volume Great Books series is retailing on eBay for about $20 (and that’s $20 in devalued 2021 fiat dollars, mind you).

The Great Conversation is a thrilling concept. Just think, Plato and Bede and Renan and 10,000 other greats were all part of the same work. And mirabile dictu, that work was not a dead thing. No matter how mundane the world might see one, the Great Conversation held the promise of a millenia-long discourse anybody can plug into as soon as they can open the nearest book or pick up the closest pen. To familiarize yourself with the Great Conversation, if Adler doesn’t float your boat you might read Dean Swift’s delightful Battle of the Books tale for a humorous treatment of the same idea.

The Great Conversation is also a powerful concept. I’ll never forget when I came across the idea as a young teacher. It doubtless enriches one’s appreciation of literature as a discipline. It is a simple idea, a powerful one, and a democratic one. Like moveable type, phonetic alphabets, or chord notation, simplifications of existing technologies which greatly increased common access, the popularization of the slim and trim Great Conversation can do much to move the general public toward a consciousness that literature is more than a collection of subjectively good or bad entertainment, more than mental popcorn. Though they do not use the specific term, #DistruptTexts is right to popularize the idea of the Great Conversation.

Narrative

It is to the credit of the Left that as a general rule that they’ve a sharper sense of sociological dynamics than your regular John Q normie or—heaven forbid—your local conservative. During the preliminary stages of the 2020 Biden coup, during that hot summer of racial rent-a-mob riots, I’ll never forget the anchors of one conservative U.S. outfit. Throwing their papers on the desk they begged, “Please, we just want to live regular lives.” Clueless. They were seemingly unaware of the purpose of direct action.

Likewise, five solid years into the Left’s weaponization of gender dysphoria and most of your “black pilled” sorts, people who have “seen through the matrix” and flatter themselves in knowing all the backroom deals and agendas, don’t seem to have grasped that the academic Left has made a simple but adamatine distinction between gender and sex. Much less do they know how to respond to such a thesis. Ah musha, if it were raining soup your conservatives would be out and about with folks. But b’times Leftists lay off Twitter and they do read books. When they do, they learn things and they observe, and this wouldn’t serve any of us badly. One area of observation which undergirds #DistruptTexts is the idea of narrative.

Narratives are stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. They link the amalgam of experiences we as individuals and communities encounter into a manageable story. Without narratives we’re left with a nearly infinite blob of facts with no rhyme or reason to them. As John Gaddis writes in The Landscape of History, narrative makers are like map makers. For a map to be intelligible, just like the discipline of literature, those involved must include some things and they must leave out (most) others. If they didn’t the map would be 20 square miles, and literature would collapse into endless and random stories. Narratives are necessary. They are similar to worldviews, a concept which received widespread dissemination a decade or so ago, but they have more of communal quality to them because they explain who we are as a people.

Narratives are profoundly human. It is man’s fondness for narrative which will forever place the simple but story-filled Bible higher than the eloquent but pedantic Quran in the hearts of men. And in the grand sweep of things the lack of narrative thus will happily banish the tiring politio-religio-techo tracts of the modern West from the minds (to say nothing of the hearts) of later generations. The advocates of #DistruptTexts grasp the power of narrative, and they shudder at the profundity of it. We all must.

Critique, The First

With the duties of graciousness seen to, we turn to our critiques of #DistruptTexts. As we come to grips with the movement we must first appraise the state of the public. In this I do not mean the reading public, for such a thing does not exist. There are men, and they read; sometimes they read books; sometimes many people read many books. However we cannot speak of a reading public (or more magisterially, the reading public) in the manner people of a century ago did. Time moves apace. As it does the literacy of c.1750-1950 will be seen as the peculiarity it was. The public is alliterate at present. It can read but chooses not to. The Great Conversation is less and less a lived experience for Americans.

Because the Great Conversation is a fading memory, because it is a reality less men are participating in, it is taking its effect on society. The decline of religiosity can be pegged to the inability of Western men to envision abstract concepts, this is an ability which is kept in good form by reading. Religiosity in illiterate societies can be explained because, while illiteracy is more common, those skins often enjoy something deracinated Westerners do not, a cultural matrix which encourages the abstractions of faith. It seems that religion can carry on alright with either a strong reading population or a strong lived culture, ideally religion would do best with both, but if neither are available faith is doomed. The absolute thrall which the mainstream media is able to hold the country in, a spell which explains both Coronavirus saga and Mr. Biden’s outrageous yet effortless installation, are nearer examples of what readingless brains will tolerate.

When a movement such as #DisruptText comes along, a movement predicated on the reading habits of a century ago, it encounters men who read menus and cell phones and BuzzFeed. Powerful ideas are proposed to men whose sloth has not prepared them for serious ideas. It is like giving retarded people rocket launchers. Nothing but damage will result.

As a mighty tyranny comes into focus, it is ill advised to spread #DisruptTexts’ critique of literature. Until there is a substantive culture to work with, a substantive reading culture, a culture which will be strong enough to shove back the statists and technocrats, a culture which is powerful enough to keep its boot on the throat of commerce and legalism and the humorless crew now in the ascent, there is no sense in deconstructing anything. We must knit together the wisps of society into serviceable culture once again. The is not the time for #DisruptTexts. Until common agency, identity, and community are built into a bulwark against The Agenda, spreading #DisruptTexts’ ideas are a liability. There will be no books, woke or otherwise, down on Bill Gates’ plantation.

Critique, The Second

Continuing with our look at the people #DisruptTexts means to influence, I assert that their approach is inappropriate given the dynamics of modern pedagogy. As each year goes by the incompetence of our educational system comes more to the fore. By “educational system” I do not mean the bureaucratic structures of education, which is usually the meaning of that term when used. I mean the DNA of industrial learning, the structure of knowledge dissemination, the assumptions and daily rhythm of the classroom.

School is overburdened as is. There are too many demands, too many specializations, too much going on but yet the same amount of hours in the day. Like Madison Avenue’s ideal teenagehood, things like the after school job, the driver’s ed classes, SAT classes, social life, sports, band, modern education finds itself doing too much too often, and none of it well. Six or seven specialities are proposed to be taught, and all the Federal testing, and all the State Of testing, and all the mental health practices, and anti-bullying efforts, and, and, and… Busyness is the predominant fault of modern education.

Into this activity, into this clamor for hours and minutes, #DistruptTexts wishes to introduce an academic sophistication which cannot possibly be digested properly. In this, like with my above point, this is not the fault of the advocates of #DisruptTexts. It is the failure of American society and of our ridiculously overburdened school system. As stated above, there are actual strong points to #DisruptTexts, particularly their ideas of literature being in dialogue and their point about the canon being stale and largely being perpetuated because of laziness. However, at present #DisruptTexts is not realistic given the sorry state of pedagogy.

Let us embrace the seriousness which #DisruptTexts promises to bring to literature education, let us embrace the opportunity to change our pedagogical format to include, if not the specific sociological outlook they propose, at least their more substantive appreciation of letters. However, until this is systematically done—and this will not be done because the masters of this society do not want an erudite population of any political affiliation—#DisruptTexts will produce whining from all sides but little of academic substance.

Critique, The Third

Until now I have kept my analysis of #DisruptTexts confined to the larger milieu they mean to operate in. This is sensible insofar as a good many problems of education have more to do with the sorry intellectual condition we tolerate in our own individual lives, in our “real world” non-school society, than they have to do with plots to manipulate society. Plots there be, but all the Rockefellers and Nixons and NEAs don’t explain why I didn’t read a book last month. Charity begins at home, and so does criticism. But there are problems proper to #DisruptTexts, and to these we turn.

Ethnic Exaggeration

“White” is as clumsy an ethnic designation as “black,” and I pray that people stop using the labels which the merciless rulers of this society propose. There are no “white” people mentioned in Genesis’ Table of Nations, and it’s a great oversight that the same people who tear Darwinism to shreds are the same people who cleave so fondly to Charles’ ethnic designations. But for brevity’s sake #DisruptTexts is plainly anti-white.

There is nothing wrong with being of European stock, and #DisruptTexts’ assertion to the contrary is an error. I want little Arab children to be steeped in Arab culture, I want little African children to be steeped in African culture, and it frankly annoys me to see what is considered American culture holding the allegiance of non-American peoples the world over. However there is nothing wrong with American culture being taught to Americans, and there is nothing wrong in acknowledging that that culture is largely associated with people men call “white.” There are robust ethnic literatures which the American school canon, however musty and dated, already factors in. Indeed, so-called minorities may have a statistically larger place on the canon than their numbers warrant. The constant deconstruction of #DistruptTexts ignores the voice of whites in this country.

It has always been in the favor of reading that the activity puts the user’s life and circumstances in perspective. Broadcast media of various sorts does not have this quality; things are at once too dated and too fast. For example, a film on television invites the viewer to bog down in superficial details from the time of its production, and the tale will doubtless soon be interrupted by a commercial. This does not happen with literature. There are temporal aspects to the expression, of course. Les Miserables cannot be divorced from the 19th Century Republicanism which so inspired Hugo any more than the Bible can be split off from the time and culture of the ancient Hebrew.

The role of history on a specific text’s composition is as delicious a study as any, it’s analogous to historiography’s relationship to history, and it provides one of the great “Easter egg” surprises devoted readers may stumble upon. Nevertheless, literature of any lasting quality, and no small amount which has slipped the mind of the latest generation, transcends time.

#DisruptTexts will sever this multi-generational boon of art. Recent authors, indeed authors who for the most part may still be living on this earth, will crowd out the pens of past generations. Seen in the grand scope of things the dearest concerns of any given generation appear to those removed from that time and place as trifles.

Herein lies more than an irony of #DisruptTexts, but also a hole in its approach. In seeking to include the greatest number of voices (provided they’re “woke” and located on a relatively narrow bandwidth of the political spectrum) #DisruptTexts excludes the voice of the most ignored, maligned, and agentically-deprived group on the planet, the dead. Though they comprise a supermajority of humanity, the dead will receive no representation from the woke ones.

White man, black man, yellow man, Left, Right, and Center, we need to realize that authentic American culture has been sabotaged by this country’s ruling class. The advocates of #DistruptTexts ought to be on guard against their ideas being used to further this policy. Go read some books from the 1880s and ‘90s, listen to music from that time. You will see there was as true as true can be distinct American culture coming into focus at that time.

Evolution may be bunk in the biological order but in the cultural realm one culture certainly can morph into something its very own. That was absolutely happening by the late-19th Century. And just as true as true can be, this new specie was purposefully disassembled into the deracinated consumer which has gobbled up the last century of North American existence. Regardless of its intention, #DisruptTexts will contribute to this trend. Until the larger strata of culture can be improved and matured #DisruptTexts will be a danger.


John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.


The featured image shows a Chinese communist poster from ca. 1966, which says, “Destroy the Four Olds [old ideas, old customs, old habits, old culture].” The banner reads, “Disruption is justified!”

“Society of Labor Clergy:” Soviet Terror Against Christians

In this important and ground-breaking interview, Maria Igorevna Degtyareva, doctoral candidate, discusses her research into the so-called, “Society of Labor Clergy” (1937), which proves how the NKVD (the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) falsified interrogation protocols, then condemned and sent to death innocent people, in many cases. At the same time, the fabricated case of the “Society of Labor Clergy” was used by the NKVD investigators as an exemplary one, and on its basis subsequent cases against believers were fashioned. Maria Igorevna here speaks with Inna Yurievna Fedotova, Head of the Research Department, of the Perm State Archive of Social and Political History.

Researching History

Inna Fedotova (IF): Maria Igorevna, what was it that appealed to you about this topic?

Maria Degtyareva (MD): It was just by coincidence. The area of my research interests was the history of French conservative thought. I did not imagine that I would have to engage in the study of repression. The topic came to me “as an inheritance” from my mother.

Inna Fedotova and Maria Degtyareva.

IF: Of course, we knew your mother Natalya Evgenievna. She was a long-time researcher in the collections of our archive.

MD: One of her church obedience was work in the diocesan Department of History and Canonization, connected with the collection of sources. She was a regular visitor at the Perm Archive. A person of exceptional efficiency, dedicated and reliable, her working day often ended at 10-11 pm. After returning from the archive, she would organize and put the prepared copies of documents into folders.

Mom didn’t write anything, but when selecting persons for consideration by the Commission on Canonization, she herself went through the fate of each person, every sentence, and she always regretted that so much would just sit in the repositories. It was she who drew my attention to the fact that repressions against the clergy and believers is a topic that has not been adequately studied, and yet the situation is conducive to that.

IF: What situation are you referring to?

MD: In the 1990s, a whole complex of sources was transferred from the departmental funds of law enforcement agencies for state storage at Perm Archive, including those of value to the Church – the cases of the victim priests.

All conditions for the work of historians were created in the archive, and we are grateful to the previous director of the Archive, Mikhail Gennadievich Nechaev, the current director, Sergei Vasilyevich Neganov – and all the specialists of Perm Archive for the fact that the documents were processed, put in order and placed in the electronic database. Fortunately, the archival collections are open, and restrictive measures function within the framework of Russian legislation.

IF: Was it difficult to change direction?

MD: I understood that addressing a new topic, in addition to studying the historical context of the Church, would also require some real physical effort. I was frightened by the volume of the material. I was sure that it was “not a woman’s job,” and I certainly could never do it.

IF: What made you change your attitude towards this topic?

MD: I was imperceptibly brought to it; there were no external “instructions” and “special blessings.” The well-known confessor, the elder of the Pskov-Pechersk MonasteryArchimandrite John (Krestyankin) – blessed me in due time to finish work on my doctoral dissertation.

It’s just that the course of life began to change significantly in Moscow in the early 2000s. It took time to figure it out, to understand something myself and, finally, to discover the new martyrs. A person close to me – a nun of the Novodevichy Convent – brought me to Butovo and introduced me to the history of the shooting range. After a few years, what used to be terra incognita for me became really important.

With the accession to the cathedra of Vladyka Methodius, systematic work began in our diocese to compile its history, the biographies of the confessors and new martyrs of Perm, and specialized publications for a wider audience began to appear. And, at some point, I felt that I was ready to take part in this as a historian. One of the cases requiring professional application was the Perm-Sverdlovsk case of 1937 of the so-called “Society of Labor Clergy.”

IF: How did you envision professional engagement in such work?

MD: Hagiography and source studies have somewhat different tasks. The compiler of biographies is focused on reproducing the spiritual image of the saint, the essence of his Christian service and exploit. And this is important. It is necessary to see and convey characterological traits, the “core” of the personality. However, the source text is often left behind the scenes as it were. The task of the historian is to analyze documents, correlate them with known facts and try to distinguish between the “desirable” and the real, genuine and counterfeit in the case materials.

IF: In other words, the methods of historical science allow you to reveal falsifications in the case materials?

MD: Yes, and this direction is promising.

Significance Of The Case Of “The Society Of Labor Clergy”

MD: Unfortunately, in our society, where are so opposite to what really happened, there is still the opinion that “there were no unjust sentences in the just Soviet state,” and “if they were arrested, it was not without reason.” Even in the context of the Church, I had to hear excuses from supporters of a repressive policy: “They were cutting the forest – chips fly….”

When arguments are not accepted because it is difficult to part with an idealized, familiar image of the past, documents are the only basis for dialogue. When working with them, the methods familiar to professional historians are used: comparative analysis, “cross-examination of sources,” philological analysis, paleography. When we were students, much attention was paid to the methodological aspects of work and auxiliary historical disciplines at the university.

Of course, one can confine oneself to a general statement: “The convicts were rehabilitated posthumously; numerous violations were found in the case materials by the commissions of the following years.” But places with traces of falsifications are the most impartial “witnesses.” I think this is one of the possible ways to change the attitude towards what happened in the 1920s and 1930s in our country. It is important that the rehabilitation of Christians who suffered during the years of repression should not seem to be just a consequence of the “swing of the political pendulum.”

IF: Please tell us about the features and significance of this case?

MD: The case of the Society of Labor Clergy is one of the central ones for our region, in the drama of the investigative processes of 1937–1938 – and one of the first planned “mass” cases of the period of the “great terror” in the country. Its “orbit” involved not only believers – representatives of the clergy, clergymen, children of priests – but also those who were completely outside the Church.

The “scenario framework,” developed by the Sverdlovsk and Perm investigators, put in the position of the accused people of various views, tastes and positions: believers and atheists, apolitical and partisan, “White” and “Red.”

Order No. 00447, Dated July 30, 1937

IF: How was that made possible?

MD: The case was connected with the bringing into force of the notorious operational order 00447 (of July 30, 1937) of the USSR People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs N.I. Yezhov, “On the operation to repress former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements,” which was approved by the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, that is, it turned out to be “built-into” an operation of concerted effort to combat all those that were “suspicious” in the country (or against the so-called “crusade front against Soviet power”), and implemented on the eve of the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, scheduled for December of that year. The purpose of the “operation” was to ensure “the smooth running of the elections.”

First of all, the fears of the leadership were caused by the results of the January population census, which showed that the authority of the clergy in society was still high, and the efforts of widespread atheistic propaganda were not bringing the expected results.

Despite the fact that in the Soviet Union there was officially an organization that was given the task of destroying the Church in several “five years” spans, like the “five-year plans” in the economy – the “League of Militant Atheists” led by Yemelyan Yaroslavsky. More than half of the country’s population noted in the census forms that they were believers.

The socio-political background was also unstable. The 1930s in the USSR were marked by famine, against the background of forced collectivization and numerous peasant protests against the coercion to join collective farms and the conditions created in them.

The reaction to the ruthlessness of the strategy of economic development, chosen by the Central Committee, and built on “pumping funds” from one sector of the economy to another, from agriculture to industry, through a deliberate disproportion in price policy – was criticism of the unbalanced policy by major economists and representatives of the party elite (A.V. Chayanov, N.I. Bukharin, A.I. Rykov, M.P. Tomskii).

In addition, the style of Stalin’s leadership caused a split in the highest party echelons. This is how several opposition groups replacing one another came about. An immediate consequence of this was the planned trials of the participants in the “opposition.”

Thus, the general situation filled the top management with doubts about the victorious outcome of the planned voting. In any case, in the case under consideration and similar cases in 1937, the justification for extending the investigation period, and, consequently, expanding the circle of those arrested, was the wording: “In view of the upcoming elections to the Supreme Soviet.”

Already in March 1937, in the Main Directorate of the NKVD of the USSR, a draft order was developed: “On the tasks of the third departments of state security directorates to combat sabotage in the national economy.” It listed the categories of the population that were suspicious of the Stalinist leadership, as it was said, as… possible “agents of foreign intelligence.” Among them – those who studied abroad, former prisoners of war, immigrants, former members of the CPSU, members of opposition parties, former “Whites” and kulaks.

And finally, on July 30, 1937, order 00447 was issued. The document indicated the categories to which the application of “special measures” was applied: former kulaks, “continuing to conduct active anti-Soviet subversive activities,” “escaping from camps and labor settlements,” “hiding from dispossession,” as well as “members of insurgent, fascist, terrorist and bandit formations who have served their sentences,” or escaped repression and “active anti-Soviet elements from the former kulaks.” The same list included “members of anti-Soviet parties”, former “Whites,” officials, “bandits and robbers,” sectarian activists, “churchmen,” and… criminals at large and held in camps.

Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church found themselves in such company (and with an indication of the place allotted to them in the sequence of “subversives”). This was the formal, “legal basis” for the renewal and toughening of the repressive policy towards the clergy and believers.

The listed groups were previously subdivided into “the most hostile” and “less active.” The first were subject to execution, the second – to camp imprisonment for a period of 8 to 10 years. In all regions of the country, special “quotas” or “limits” were introduced for the application of the order. From that moment, the investigation could be carried out in an expedited manner, and the determination of the fate of the accused, including in absentia, became the prerogative of the regional, republican and regional “troikas” of the NKVD.

Throughout 1937, social “purges” were carried out everywhere, but the chronological “framework” of the Perm process and its course indicate that representatives of the Sverdlovsk Directorate and the Perm department of the NKVD were among the “leaders of the great terror.”

“In The Bureau Of Partisans, In Secret”

IF: Please tell us about when and how the investigation began?

MD: Formally, several reasons were used to initiate the “investigation.” Firstly, the trial a little earlier, in January 1937, in Sverdlovsk. in the case of the underground “Trotskyist center,” was conducted as if it had a connection with Moscow. According to investigators, the members of the “Trotskyite-Zinovievist” organization were then people who held high party and administrative posts.

Since they managed to get confessions (how that was done is another matter) from the main accused – the chairman of the Sverdlovsk city executive committee, V.F. Golovin – the investigator Dmitriev was convinced that the new administrative center of the Urals was the place where the “underground anti-government rebel headquarters” was located, allegedly having its “branches” in different cities.

Thus, the old administrative center of the Urals – once the provincial one of Perm – was included in the “list of suspects” of the UNKVD of cities.
The fact is that during the Civil War, the old part of our city, unlike the working-class district – Motovilikha, rather actively supported the “Whites.” In Stalin’s own interpretation, in 1935, these events were called the “Perm catastrophe.”

And so. until the Great Patriotic War, when Perm became important as the center of the evacuation of the Union, and carried that service with dignity, Stalin could not “forgive” the city, and its status was “downgraded” to the value of a regional center, that is, Perm was in a “special category.”

And secondly, after Dmitriev gave a general directive to “intensify searches in the indicated direction,” at an operational meeting in Sverdlovsk, officers of the Perm NKVD put into circulation two “signals” [methods] that perfectly met the “job at hand.” Both signals, chronologically, diverged quite a lot from the release of order 0044, and it is obvious that at the beginning of 1937, having taken these signals out of “storage,” it was decided to use them “for reporting.”

The first method is obvious in the set of documents prepared by the sergeant of the Perm NKVD, Alikin. This was the surveillance case opened at the end of 1936 on a group of young believers, mainly from the clergy and children of priests who served in the Red Army, in the 9th battalion of the “rear guard” (in modern terms, in the “construction battalion”).

This group consisted of ten people and was portrayed as pretty ominous. Desperate “dissidents” in conscript service, as evidenced by the characteristics attached to them, not only “refused to read Soviet newspapers,” and “learned political studies only mediocrely,” but also “did not change their opinion on the religious issue:” they read the Gospel, “arranged collective readings of prayers,” observed fasts, “did not interrupt correspondence with the priest-fathers,” and during leave, without bothering to hide, visited Perm churches, and confessed and received communion. And all this – not only right in front of the rather apathetic bosses, but also while they were among their “consciously [politically] aware comrades.”

So, in 1937, after a “request” came from Sverdlovsk to take action on the report of investigator Dmitriev, an episode was recalled which led to the observation of this group. Sergeant Alikin reported that somehow in November 1935 (!), three “rear soldiers” entered the office of housing construction, of the plant named after Stalin, and one of them made an inspired speech, denouncing the mistakes of the leadership’s policy towards the peasantry and the difficult conditions of service in the Red Army for believers.

IF: And the second “signal” [method]?

MD: The second was the “classic” denunciation from a certain citizen named Borisova, who entered the NKVD also in 1935 (!). This was the denunciation at the workplace, by a neighbor in the apartment – of a watchmaker named Nechayev, who, as would be established by a KGB check in 1956, at that time was “listed as a Stakhanovite.”

The denunciation informed the NKVD that the Nechayevs were active parishioners and benefactors of Perm churches, maintained acquaintance with the clergy and bishops. The denunciation expressed “concern” about the political preferences of the watchmaker, who, according to the denouncer, was a “monarchist,” who had fled during the Civil War with the “Whites,” and after returning “sat for gold” [practiced parasitism, likely, “currency hoarding”].

The text of the statement was written with multiple errors, had a peculiar address (“In the partisan bureau, in secret”), and ended with an equally colorful stroke: “What I have signed, Borisova.” Apparently, the curiosity of the “style” of the informant was the reason that at the time of receipt the written denunciation was not taken seriously. However, in 1937, this absurdity was in demand as a “request from below,” to work out the hypothesis of action in Perm, allegedly “well-rooted since the Civil War, an underground anti-government network”.

The inability to establish the identity of the “applicant” and to question her on the merits of her charges did not interfere with the case, and on May 14, 58-year-old foreman Nechayev was arrested. Indeed, he had been on “trail” before – in 1924. he was arrested for a short period on suspicion of keeping currency.

NKVD: Alignment With Perm And Sverdlovsk

IF: Did I understand correctly that this case received some special status?

MD: You see, the investigation in Perm was opened in the spring of 1937, that is, it preceded the issuance of the July order 00447 (and it is possible that it was used to justify the “need” for such an issuance).

In any case, from the very beginning, the Nechayev case was really given the status of being “exemplary.” Perm and Sverdlovsk were then included in the number of “experimental sites,” where methods of building large-scale collective indictments were being worked out.

The falsified protocols of interrogations of those arrested in this case were sent to the Main Directorate of the NKVD, in Moscow, where they were replicated and sent to peripheral organizations as a methodological guide, a kind of “tracing paper.” That is, dozens, and perhaps hundreds of NKVD divisions throughout the country checked their work against them.

As documents of internal investigations of the NKVD in 1939 show, at operational meetings of the special department in Perm and Sverdlovsk in 1937, these protocols, already sent back from the cental headquarters with the very encouraging responses, were presented to the entire officer corps with instructions to “follow them,” and “the methods practiced in the investigation should be widely applied in practice.”

IF: Did the Perm investigators develop any special methodological processes for such work in 1937?

MD: Their “method” was distinguished not only by the abundance and variety of violations, but by a wide range of manipulations. Some of the mistakes, apparently, were caused by the usual “slovenliness,” unprofessionalism. But for the most part, these are quite deliberate falsifications. Before the algorithm, they worked out the so-called “pyramidal scheme” of building collective indictments, with the possibility of replacing “variables” according to the what was required and needed.

IF: Could you give a few examples of false information in the case materials?

MD: Yes of course. The surviving documents of the observation file of Sergeant Alikin indicate that his “informant” – a certain rationer O-v – did not in fact name the Red Army soldier who in 1935 (if you trust Alikin’s report) very carelessly “got into a conversation” in the office of the Stalin plant. On the margins of the sergeant’s report there was an inscription made in red pencil by the hand of one of the leaders: “Who? Gulyaev?”

So, the method and time of verification of this “fact” was not reflected in the case materials; that is, no additional testimony appeared regarding this crucial question of Georgy Gulyaev and his comrades, no confrontations were held. But just below, on the same page, was attached a typescript comment: “The materials available in the Perm NKVD established that in the office of Housing Construction Head, Stalin plant, on November, 1935, there came G.N. GULYAEV. with two of his comrades and carried out agitation in the presence of the rationing manager of the Stalin plant – O. Va. and others.”

Thus, the sanction of the Military Prosecutor Ural region, dated March 17, 1937, for the arrest of Georgy Gulyaev was given without any documented grounds for identifying him with the “author” of the speech which was pretty “cold” by that time.

Soon Sergeant Alikin and his handler – the head of the Perm NKVD civil defense department, captain of state security, Losos – received a very informative answer on the letterhead of the military prosecutor’s office, which contained not a “hint,” but a direct statement: “We forward the certificate and the decision with the sanction of the Prosecutor of URALVO for the arrest of GN GULYAEV. In the materials sent, the criminal crime figure was completely insufficiently identified with the activities of LEBEDEV, KOZHEVNIKOV, YUFEROV and CHUKHLOV. Therefore their arrest by the Prosecutor of the Ural region has not yet been authorized. The investigation in the case of GULYAEV needs to uncover the organized activities of both GULYAEV and LEBEDEV, KOZHEVNIKOV, YUFEROV and CHUKHLOV, and then again raise the question of their arrest. Inform about the progress of the investigation.”

In other words, there was no question of any presumption of innocence in the accompanying document. The question was not whether the “rear militia” believers were really guilty, but that their conversations and “old habits” (that is, religious views) should receive convincing political “framing.” Thus, the newly opened “case of Georgy Gulyaev” became the “cornerstone” in the foundation of the future collective indictments.

The Target Was Christians

IF: That is, it was “criminal” in the eyes of the investigators that these young people were believers?

MD: Yes exactly. The anti-Christian motive was the “core” of the Permian part of the process. And this is not new, the reason for delivering Christ into the hands of the Romans was also once the motive for “political security:” “He who calls himself King is not a friend of Caesar” (John 19:12). Christ was handed over to the pagans as a “political criminal.” From the point of view of the officers of the Perm NKVD, the group of believers in the Red Army was influenced by the “class-alien element” – the clergy, which meant it was “potentially dangerous.”

An important circumstance was the fact that the arrested “rear soldiers” attended services in Perm churches, and this opened up a new wide field of activity for the operatives – the possibility of a “total cleanup” of those who remained at large (after a large “wave” of arrests in the early 1930s under the pretext of a struggle against “opponents of continuous collectivization”) – namely, representatives of the Perm and Sverdlovsk clergy.

And one more example of the “groundlessness” of preparing the accusation, this time – in relation to the clergy. A striking argument in favor of the version of the existence of an “underground anti-government organization” in Perm under the leadership of the clergy was that when the priest of the Zaborsk Church, Father Mikhail Korovin, was arrested, an impressive list of Tikhonov-oriented believers compiled by his hand was seized. The title of the sheet indicated that members of the local parish community were included. The list included several hundred people. So, during the investigation, this document was presented as “material evidence of recruitment into an underground organization.”

Meanwhile, the investigation stubbornly did not notice either that compiling a list of such appointments in the form of a chart, indicating the personal data and actual addresses of parishioners and their relatives, would be complete absurdity from the point of view of “political conspiracy,” nor that the list included mainly elderly and very elderly people. Most were over 50 years old, the oldest of them were 80–85 years old.

At the same time, the investigation did not have any other “material evidence,” such as, leaflets, letters of a political nature, agent instructions prepared for transferring data to “foreign intelligence,” ammunition depots. Nothing but this list.

IF: Why did the investigators choose Georgy Gulyaev?

MD: It is impossible to answer this question unequivocally. In those conditions, one careless word, bravado of dissent, someone’s personal hostility was enough.

But a more serious circumstance cannot be ruled out. Before being drafted into the Red Army, Georgy Gulyaev served as subdeacon to Archbishop Dositheus (Stepanov), and who at that time was in the Renovationist schism. During the service, Georgy kept up a correspondence with his bishop. The rupture of Vladyka Dositheus with the “Renovationists” and his return to the bosom of the canonical church structure could be the factor that put him and the people in his circle under attack from the NKVD, which was closely patronizing the Renovationist organizations.

IF: Please explain what the “pyramid scheme” of building a case means?

MD: This is a scheme in which, with the maximum expansion of the “connections” of the accused, the alleged “general leadership” is trying to “reduce to a cone,” closing it on “unwanted” figures – as a rule, very significant.

The arrest of Georgy Gulyaev seemed “promising,” since he led a group of investigators not only to the “rear militia” and Perm priests, but also to the episcopate … And in case of “success” – to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The investigation was extended several times. The first order to extend it was issued on May 17, 1937, the next two on July 19, 1937. But even when the main part of the case was completed, many people were involved in the process of “additional investigation,” like a “funnel”- several bishops of the canonical subordination and dozens of priests and clergy from “schisms.” In the course of an internal inspection of the KGB in 1956, it is established that in this case and “in conjunction with it” in 1937-1938. more than 50 clergymen were repressed.

At the same time, in Perm and in the Urals, an “inquiry” was carried out against people not connected with the Church – from the leaders of large enterprises and Soviet organizations to ordinary employees, workers and collective farmers. Many of them were charged with having links with the “Society of Labor Clergy,” the “Ural Rebel Headquarters,” or the “Religious and Political Center” (by the way, Muslims from the village of Koyanovo were also be taken up in the general “stream,” and charged with… “connection with Japanese intelligence”).

IF: What, in your opinion, were the motives of the investigators?

MD: First of all, they acted in pursuance of the March and July 1937 orders, that is, they carried out a “purge” according to a social and ideological principle, using denunciations of “political unreliability.” In some cases (this concerns the arrests of officers) personal motives are not excluded, for example, settling scores.

The question whether the investigators themselves considered their version to be really plausible remains open to me. Judging by the recollections of the participants in the events about the “installations” at the internal meetings of the NKVD in 1937, the initiators of this case were very much “part of the makeup.”

Having at their disposal some fragmentary data, they enthusiastically “completed” the picture, inventing not only “missing links,” but also entire “blocks.” The main motive was the desire to satisfy the expectation, to “prove oneself,” that is, career considerations. So, some investigators, for example, Radygin and Zyryanov, according to an internal inspection of the NKVD in 1939, “freely handed” 10 to 15 “confession” protocols per day!

And yet there was further responsibility – to those who drew up and signed orders for large-scale “cleansing,” giving scope to the imagination of local performers.

IF: What were those arrested accused of? What was the version of the investigation, and who developed it?

MD: In the spring of 1937, the “rear soldiers” were suspected of intending to create an organization modeled on the Petrograd Orthodox brotherhoods. Indeed, such a “network” had long operated under the guise of communal apartments. Its participants worked, like all citizens of the USSR, but at the same time lived a liturgical life, that is, they confessed, received communion, and, in addition, read the Gospel and Orthodox literature, provided assistance to those who were subjected to repression or those who had lost loved ones.

It was difficult to identify such communities. In Leningrad, they were only partially disclosed by the OGPU-NKVD. The fact that it was the example of the “Petrograd brotherhoods” that inspired these young people to imitate is indicated by the protocol of the interrogation of the Red Army soldier, Ivan Kozhevnikov.

According to the texts of the first protocols of interrogations of Georgy Gulyaev and his friend Nikolai Lebedev, the young people came up with the name “Society of Labor Clergy” for their future organization. But during internal investigation by the NKVD in 1939, some of the investigators began to falsify the protocols immediately – and so we cannot rely on their texts, from the first protocol onwards.

It is possible that someone in the “center” was worried about the possibility of repeating the “Petrograd” experience in the provinces, and this whole story from beginning to end, and the very name of the “organization” were a figment of the imagination of the “specialists.” In any case, the documents of several internal investigations of the NKVD-KGB contain direct indications that the leaders of the Perm NKVD brigade themselves invented the name for the fictional organization.

From the moment of their arrest, this case did not bode well for the accused, since the confession of “religiosity” immediately received an unambiguous interpretation – it was equated with “anti-Soviet activity.” This was the substantial part of the “confessions” of Georgy Gulyaev, Nikolai Lebedev, Ivan Kozhevnikov and their comrades.

The situation was aggravated when investigators added to this a “note of relevance” in accordance with the upcoming elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. According to their version, the Perm priests, Savva Beklemyshev, Mikhail Korovin and others, arrested after the “rear militia,” were supposedly giving “instructions” to their parishioners, including those from the 9th battalion, to use completely legal (!) Conditions in accordance the Constitution of 1936 and “promoting believers in government.” And this was regarded as a “political action.”

At other times, the coming together of young believers (and even their possible discussion of the creation of a Christian community, which cannot be ruled out) could entail administrative measures, but if the case had gone to court, the terms of imprisonment would not have exceeded 5 to 7 years. In 1937, Yezhov’s “instructions” were decisive for the process.

This case acquired greater scope thanks to the leadership of the Sverdlovsk investigator, Dmitriev, and the reciprocal “creative impulse” of the representative of the Perm department of the NKVD – investigator Mozzherin. They can equally claim “authorship” in the development of a general “scenario” and are most directly related to falsifications.

Mozzherin and Dmitriev tried to give the case “conceptual completeness;” and thus the investigation simultaneously had two versions about the serious “ideological leadership of the identified organization.” The first was associated with the name of the Gomel Archbishop Dositheus (Stepanov), who left the “Renovationists,” and the second – with the name of the “Metropolitan of Sverdlovsk,” Mikhail Trubin, who remained one of them.

If the investigation presented Archbishop Dositheus in the role of a “resident of Polish intelligence,” then Mikhail Trubin – as “the main ideologist of the anti-Soviet crusade front” in the Urals, allegedly uniting around himself during his visits to Perm, a whole group of bishops of completely different subordination. In this group, there were two canonical ordinations: Metropolitan Peter of Sverdlovsk (Savelyev) and Archbishop of Perm Gleb (Pokrovsky), as well as Metropolitan Peter Kholmogortsev, who was in the schism.

In addition, the Renovationist “Metropolitan” Mikhail Trubin was “identified” by the officers of the Perm NKVD as being “responsible for communication” between the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the “Renovationists” and “Grigorievites” who did not recognize it… with the representatives of the AUCPB – the leaders of the “Trotskyist center.” He allegedly provided a “connection” with the former “White Guards,” the leaders of the Osoaviakhim and officers in the ranks of the Red Army, who were “charged with the duty” to provide the “terrorist insurgent organization” with weapons and ammunition.

“Terrorism”, “Espionage”, “Propaganda Of The Fascist Idea”

IF Even for a person who is not very dedicated to the history of the Church, it all looks strange. What were these assumptions based on?

MD: These are not just assumptions. In 1937, they was brought against many people as an official charge: “anti-Soviet and sabotage activities,” “propaganda of the fascist idea,” “terrorism,” “preparation of an armed uprising,” and “espionage” – “transfer of secret information about the products of Perm defense enterprises to the residents of foreign intelligence services” (Polish and Japanese).

I have already noted that the information received by Mozzherin’s group (about the periodic visits to Perm of the Renovationist “Metropolitan” Mikhail Trubin and about his meetings with the participants in the schism, as well as about the private correspondence of the “rear militia,” Georgy Gulyaev, with the Archbishop of the now Moscow Patriarchate Dosithei (Stepanov) were completely inadequate for this kind of construction.

Investigators from the Mozzherin Brigade were in a rush, and Dmitriev’s patronage seemed to ensure their privacy. And they easily attributed to Christians violation of the commandments of the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount, which forbid murder (Ex. 20, 13), violence (Matt. 7, 12; Rom. 12, 21), as well as – the covenants of Christ and the apostles about obedience to the authorities (Rom. 13, 1). Nor did they look back at the fact that in the history of the Orthodox Russian Church there was no case of “espionage” of canonical hierarchs of national origin in favor of foreign (moreover, Catholic) states.

Specifics Of The “Basis Of Evidence”

As for the “basis of evidence” of the charge, traces of rough work are visible in the case file, literally at every step. For example, as “evidence of the connection between Archbishop Dositheus (Stepanov) and representatives of foreign intelligence services,” it was indicated that in Gomel he allegedly “maintained contact through agents” with the priest of the local church, Konstantin Andrekus, and also “was familiar with a certain archimandrite, who left for Palestine.” This, according to the interrogation protocols, was “testified” by Georgy Gulyaev. It was as if the bishop himself had “confirmed” all this information under pressure from the investigation.

However, the identity of the mysterious archimandrite was not established. As for the Gomel acquaintances of Archbishop Dositheus, who were indicated as “intermediaries” in his relations with Priest Konstantin Andrekus, some of these people, according to internal NKVD and KGB investigations in 1939 and 1956, were not identified and were not interrogated, and some, though indeed arrested in Gomel, did not testify against him.

The part about “active interaction” of the canonical church structure with representatives of the Renovationist and Gregorian schisms looks no more convincing either. If the “renovationists” who were losing their authority in the pre-war period sometimes sought communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, its position remained unchanged: unification according to the principle of political parties is impossible, it is only possible to unite through repentance to the canonical Church by the participants of schismatic movements who voluntarily severed ties with it.

It should be noted that the materials of the 1956 KGB inspection in this case contain testimonies of several witnesses that in Perm “…the renovationists had no relation to the Old Churchmen, they had no service separately;” and “all church issues were resolved separately by the Renovationists and Old Churchmen.”

And the accusation against the priest of the Zaborsk Church, Mikhail Korovin, who not only allegedly “organized a terrorist and sabotage group in his parish,” but also “became a member of the resident network,” digging up and transmitting information about defense products of Perm factories to Poland. In the “testimony” against Father Mikhail, one can find both the numbers of important sectors and the production rates at one of the closed Perm enterprises. But only an internal investigation of the NKVD in 1939 made it possible to establish that all this information was entered into the protocols of interrogation of “witnesses” personally by one of Mozzherin’s subordinates – the operative Ponosov.

Little by little, Mozzherin and Dmitriev got so into the “game” that they themselves could not bring everything to make sense. The “identified organization” turned out to be “about nine heads” (that is, 9 people were officially held in this case the status of “leader”), and this is not counting the priest Konstantin Andrekus, the “nameless” archimandrite who left for Palestine, and a group of convict Sverdlovsk party members.

At the same time, the two main versions about the “general management of the organization” were never brought to any logical agreement. That is why in 1956, during the next internal check of the case materials, KGB investigators literally knocked themselves off their feet in vain attempts to understand the system of “subordination” and establish which of the arrested, when and by whom was “recruited?”

Philological “Test”

IF: At the beginning of the conversation, you mentioned that it is possible to reveal falsifications in case materials using the methods of philological analysis…

MD: Indeed, lexemes – typical stylistic turns, peculiar speech “markers” – allow us to see in the interrogation protocols traces of the active participation of the “clerks” of the NKVD, unfamiliar with church vocabulary. These include ideological expressions, cliché phrases from the official press and propaganda, samples of the clerical style of those years. Obviously, a priest and a layman in the Church (and the “rear soldiers” were mostly children of priests and clergymen) could not speak such a language. If the protocols were not drawn up on record, but in the absence of the accused, the “creative gymnastics” of the sergeants and lieutenants of the NKVD, who pored over the documents, are especially noticeable. I will give a few examples as an illustration.

So, Georgy Gulyaev in one case allegedly showed that his comrade – Nikolai Lebedev (a pupil of the Makaryevsky monastery) – was going to “develop religious activities after being fired from the battalion.” In another – that “Stepanov (his bishop), on holidays often, visited the former Tsar Romanov, Nicholas,” and often conducted “politival conversations with his subdeacon,” and the priest Savva Beklemyshev “gave them instructions” to promote their delegates to the authorities in order to “pursue their counter-revolutionary agenda through these delegates.” At the same time, the “rear militia” themselves allegedly planned to contact “the leaders of the religious world in Moscow.”

Ivan Kozhevnikov, according to the text of the interrogation protocol, simply called the Perm priests, whom he knew well, “ministers of a religious cult.”

Then, there is “the praise of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other Trotskyists and Zinovievites, as real representatives of the people, fearless people and revolutionaries,” in the minutes drawn up on behalf of Christians, which were given the meaning of an independent streak in the activities of the “Society of Labor Clergy.” The work of “praising the revolutionaries” was to be carried out by the Red Army and “local priests among the civilian population.”

And there are a lot of such “markers” in the materials of this case. For greater effect, imagine someone from the current official speakers of the Patriarchate using such an expressive speech “palette.”

Results Of The “Investigation:” 37 Sentenced To Death

IF: Nevertheless, those convicted in this case received sentences of “capital punishment.” How would you comment on the discrepancy between the number of sentences and the extracts from the acts of execution [records of executions carried out]?

MD: Indeed, on August 25, 1937, by the decision of the Troika at the NKVD of the Sverdlovsk Region, orders were issued to shoot 37 people.

At the end of the 5th volume of this case, extracts from the acts on the enforcement of sentences are kept in a separate envelope. They indicate the date of the execution – August 31, 1937 – and the time – 24.00. Extracts 35. Among them there is no extract from the act of execution of Archbishop Dositheus (Stepanov). There is also no extract from execution of Deacon Mikhail Bannov, who belonged to the canonical Church structure.

If documents clearly testify about Father Mikhail – he was tortured and admitted to the Perm psychiatric hospital with traces of numerous traumas, from which he died on September 5, 1937, then in the same documents the situation is somewhat more complicated for Archbishop Dositheus (in the case file he goes under his own worldly name, as Stepanov Gabriel Grigorievich).

The official response to the request of his relatives indicates that he, while serving his sentence, “died of angina on December 15, 1941.” In fact, on March 31, 1956, according to the investigation of the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Ural region, the fact of the absence of an extract from the act of execution was entered into the “register” of 12 issues requiring clarification in the 1937 investigation.

Unfortunately, checking did not resolve the issues. In the 6th volume of the case, among the documents on the investigation of abuses during the 1937 trial, there is a document under the heading:

“Heard: Stepanov Gavriil Grigorievich, born in 1883, from Khodyasheva former Laishevsky district.
Resolved: to shoot. The verdict was executed on 27. VIII. 1937-“

And the signature:

“Correct – ‟23. VI. 1956, Sverdlovsk.”

According to this document, Archbishop Dosifei (Stepanov), for some reason, “was shot” 4 days before the rest of the participants in the case. The date indicated at the end of the document – June 23, 1956 – indicates that this is, indeed, not the original extract from the act. This text combines the content of two documents – the verdict of the “Troika” of the NKVD in 1937 and the missing extract from the act of execution. Thus, the question of why the original extract from the act of execution is missing in the case remains unresolved.

When the KGB of the Sverdlovsk region received a request to verify the data on Stepanov Gavriil Grigorievich for the operational accounting of the First Special Department of the Police Commission of Leningrad (dated June 21, 1957) at the request of his relatives, a tiny form of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Sverdlovsk region appeared in the documents, in the Volume, “Correspondence,” handwritten:

“25 / VIII – 37 convicted tr. UNKVD of the Sverdlovsk region. <…> VMN. There is no information about the execution. Def. VTR Ural VO from 30 / X – 56 solution tr. from 25 / VIII – 37 canceled for lack of corpus delicti. Arch s / d no. c / d in Moscow. sod. in the Perm prison. 12 / VII 57.”

And in the “Conclusion of this issue of August 6, 1957,” it says:

“… was arrested on August 25, 1937 under Art. — of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR by the Troika of the NKVD of the Sverdlovsk region, sentenced to a military service. ‘On August 26, 1937, the sentence was executed October 30, 1956 by ruling No. 1475 of the Military Tribunal Ural region.’”

Taking into account the discrepancy in the dates indicated and the general inconsistency of the information, it is premature to give any comments in this case.

The featured image shows, “Russian priests conveyed to judgment” by Ivan Alekseevich Vladimirov, painted in 1922.

Christmas Blues

No Eric Morecambe to watch on the box,
No muscatels and no liqueur chocs,
No brandy butter (it makes me feel ill)
No chirping robin on my window sill.
No invitations to go out for sherry,
No inclinations to feel at all merry,
No need to dress up, got nowhere to go,
No-one to kiss me, got no mistletoe.
No goodwill or cheer will I share with the poor
And no pesky carols are sung at my door.
No shepherds, no mangers, no angels that sing,
No Baby Jesus, no Elvis, nor Bing.
Too numb to snarl at Her Majesty’s smile,
Too dumb to polish one’s literary style.

The image shows, “Mechanical Aid for Christmas,” by William Heath Robinson.