Jacques Baud: “The goal is not to help Ukraine, but to fight Putin”

This interview comes to us through the kind courtesy of the Swiss journal, Zeitgeschehen im Fokus. In it, Jacques Baud brings us up-to-date on the Ukraine situation, while providing us with great insights, in his usual, inimitable way. He is in conversation with Thomas Kaiser. [Note: This English translation of the original German interview has been exclusively updated by Jacques Baud. Translated from the German by N. Dass.]


Thomas Kaiser-Zeitgeschehen im Fokus (TK): You cannot recognize Switzerland in a certain sense. Everything that was of importance to the state is being thrown away, almost hand-over-fist. What’s your view?

Jacques Baud (JB): We are indeed in a state of hysteria; and it is unbelievable how people forget the fundamental principles of the rule of law. This is a fundamental problem—you forget your own foundations, your own identity. Regardless of who is fighting each other, it is not our fight, and it is an advantage not to be involved in the fight, because that creates the opportunity to develop better solutions and help defuse the problem.

TK: A neutral state could make a positive contribution here?

JB: Yes, but that is exactly what Switzerland is not doing. It behaves as if it were a party in this conflict. This prevents Switzerland from finding a balanced, objective and impartial solution. This is a key point, nota bene for the international community as a whole, not only for Switzerland. The difference is only that Switzerland should be neutral.

TK: How is that relevant?

JB: This neutrality could be exploited, not to take sides, but to help solve the problem, regardless of who is guilty or innocent. These are different things. It’s like an arbitrator. He is not supposed to be a party. We have forgotten that. It doesn’t matter what the referee thinks about a participant, whether he finds him sympathetic or not, he must keep the same distance from both participants. Switzerland should be in this situation, but it does take advantage of it. I don’t mean financially, of course, but intellectually, legally and morally. The problem is that Switzerland forgets that it is not a warring party in this conflict.

TK: If you listen to the Swiss government or even to the narrative of some lawmakers, this neutral stance is completely blurred, even if they claim the opposite is repeatedly..

JB: It is also interesting that if one takes some distance to assess the conflict and does not immediately side with Ukraine, one is declared a ” Putin-Empathizer.” This is unbelievable. What I think about Putin has nothing to do with the assessment of the situation. That is the business of the Ukrainians. I have said this several times: if I were Ukrainian, I probably would have taken up arms. But that is not the point. I, as Swiss, will not give up my Swissness. In order to help Ukraine, I don’t have to become a Ukrainian; but I have to look at the big picture I have as Swiss to bring a less passionate but more constructive point of view. The journalists who criticize me are more Russia-haters than Ukraine-lovers.

TK: Where, then, might Switzerland’s role in this conflict lie?

JB: When an onlooker sees an old lady being attacked by a thug on the street, he does not encourage her to fight back, but tries to separate the two. We are in the situation of this onlooker; but our response is to give weapons so that Ukraine fights. For a Ukrainian it is legitimate to want to fight. But for a Swiss or another European, our role is to try to limit the damage. But no one is even attempting to do that in the West. When Zelensky was looking for a mediator, he turned to Turkey, China, and Israel. He did not choose a European Union country or even Switzerland. He understood that Switzerland is no longer an independent partner.

TK: Isn’t that the result of current Swiss foreign policy?

JB: Yes, it shows the nature of the problem. We have to make a difference between what we think about Putin and what we want to achieve politically. These are two different things. In addition, I always ask myself if are we so keen to blame the aggressor. Why didn’t we blame and sanction the U.S., the UK or France when they attacked Middle Eastern or African countries?

TK: Yes, this question really does arise.

JB: Paradoxically, everything we give to Ukraine today only highlights the help and compassion we have not given to those who have been unjustly attacked by the West in the Middle East and elsewhere. This will have consequences in the future. Many have noticed this with the refugees. The “blond, blue-eyed” refugees are gladly helped; the others are not. Maybe we can understand this, even if we cannot approve of it. But what is incomprehensible, remains the fact that we keep silent about one attacker, while another is punished with more than 6 000 sanctions.

TK: Is this not the well-known double standard?

JB: Yes, it is. It also doesn’t mean that you have to be in favor of Russia; that has nothing to do with it. If you look at Justitia, she is blind and holds a scale in her hand. That is exactly what is missing today. Western countries are partial and biased. The same applies to the European Union. A modern state should not be guided by passion, but by reason. These principles were established by Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau in the 18th century. Our “woke” culture has forgotten them. We let our feelings guide us and we follow them. That is the problem.

TK: Does that mean that the principles of the rule of law have disappeared?

JB: The rule of law means that decisions are not based on feelings or intuitions, but on the basis of facts. That is why modern states have intelligence services. This is about supporting decision-making based on facts and not on the basis of divine inspiration. This is a fundamental difference between enlightened governance and despotic obscurantism. Fighting a dictatorship does not entitle us to forget the principles of the rule of law. Since the Balkan War, the West seems to believe that the end justifies the means. It is irrelevant what individual ministers think as persons, they are allowed to hate Putin, that is their right as citizens —but not as ministers. Feelings cannot be the basis of their policy. Here I would like to refer to Henry Kissinger. He said in 2014, “Demonizing Vladimir Putin is not politics; it is an alibi for not having politics.” That’s what Henry Kissinger said; not Putin or Lukashenko. It behaves like a monarch, like Louis XIV who was guided by a divine inspiration.

“It is not about solving the problem of ‘war,’ but about eliminating the problem of ‘Putin.'”

TK: So, the Swiss government’s decision-making is more based on emotions than on reason?

JB: It is not the only one, unfortunately. This “management by Twitter” that has the upper hand in the entire Western world at the moment is absolutely inappropriate. It leads to this situation where you react before you know exactly what has happened.

Obviously, things don’t get better as a result. We close the doors. We do not communicate anymore. Diplomacy has stalled. In reality, it is not about solving the problem of “war,” but about eliminating the problem of “Putin.”

TK: Reacting before you know the details is common practice?

JB: Yes, after the missile attack on civilians at the Kramatorsk train station on April 8, the Swiss minister of Foreign Affairs summoned the Russian ambassador. At that time, however, only few details of the attack were known. Nevertheless, the Russians were accused. Today, factual evidence, such as the serial number of the missile, the direction of the launch, the type of missile and the strategy tend to indicate a Ukrainian responsibility. But without an impartial international investigation, a direct accusation of Russia means an endorsement of a possible war crime by Ukraine. That is not the way to run states. The fact that the political leadership is unable to take distance to the events is extremely disturbing.

TK: Without distance, it is probably extremely difficult to judge a situation adequately?

JB: In most cases, we are not able to distinguish between a war crime and “collateral damage.” In large part, this is because the media dictate an answer to us. What was provocation, what was reaction, what is propaganda? We don’t know. Despite everything, we accuse and sanction Russia. But if you want to condemn something, first you need an international and impartial commission of inquiry to find out what happened. What we are doing tends to exclude any possibility of dialogue, and that prevents the formulation of a crisis management strategy.

TK: So, the citizen and the state cannot have the same approach?

JB: The citizen can believe what he wants. What the ordinary citizen thinks is completely up to him. He can mean what he wants about Putin, about Russia. He can hate people if he wants to. But a state and state media cannot afford that.

TK: Why not?

JB: The role of a state is not to express the emotions of its people, but to represent their interests. Ukraine’s interest is to protect its citizens from an aggression. Switzerland’s interest should not be to support a war, but to support achieving a peaceful solution. Switzerland’s role should not be to blame or condemn. Today, Switzerland decided the second largest number of sanctions against Russia, but it didn’t apply any sanction against the US, the UK or Israel. In other words, we accept crimes when they are committed by some, but not when they are committed by others.

It has been known for a long time that Ukrainian militias commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. Switzerland has not condemned them. Currently, many Ukrainian war crimes are beginning to be denounced by Western witnesses and humanitarian workers. Their revelations are censored, like the revelation of Natalia Usmanova, censored by Reuters and Der Spiegel, which tells that it was Ukrainian militias and not Russians who prevented civilians from escaping through humanitarian corridors. By turning a blind eye to them, Switzerland is supporting practices that are prohibited under the Geneva Conventions, of which it is the depositary state.

“Kiev and the West are waging a media war against Russia and the Donbas republics.”

TK: This means that the West is promoting crises?

JB: Yes. In 2014, a similar mechanism was observed. Western “experts” and media downplayed the Ukrainians’ resistance to regime change. It had to be shown that the Maidan revolution was democratic. So, they built the myth of a Ukrainian army that was victorious against the rebels. After the defeat of the government in Donetsk, the excuse of a Russian intervention had to be invented to justify Western propaganda. This is how the first Minsk agreements came about (September 2014). Immediately after, Kiev broke the signed agreement to launch the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO). This led to a second defeat at Debaltsevo and the second Minsk agreement (February 2015). Once again, the Ukrainian defeat was attributed to Russian intervention. Therefore, Western “experts” continue to claim that these agreements were signed between Ukraine and Russia, which is not true. The Minsk Agreement was signed between Kiev and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Lugansk and Donetsk.

TK: What is the current assessment of the war situation?

JB: Today we can see that Kiev and the West are waging a media war against Russia and the Donbas republics. Russia, on the other hand, is waging a war on the battlefield. As a result, Ukrainians and the West are stronger in the information war, but Russia and its allies are stronger on the battlefield. Who will win? We don’t know. But what has been observed in Mariupol and the Donbas since mid-April tends to suggest that Ukrainian troops have been “abandoned” by their leadership. This observation is also made by Western volunteers who have left the battlefield due to the shortcomings of the Ukrainian command and are reporting this in the media.

TK: What does this mean specifically regarding Russian war objectives?

JB: Russia started with a limited objective. After that, the decision was made to go further. It wanted to demilitarize the threat over Donbas. Based on the first success, it wanted to start negotiations on the neutrality of Ukraine. This was a new objective, which was defined later. Putin saw a chance to achieve his goal through negotiations. If Ukraine did not accept it, he would adjust the objective accordingly. The Ukrainians don’t want negotiations; so Russia is proceeding incrementally until Ukraine agrees to a negotiated settlement.

“The Russians understand war from a Clausewitzian perspective: war is the continuation of politics by other means.”

TK: What were the original war aims?

JB: On February 24, Putin clearly stated the two war aims: “demilitarization” and “denazification,” to end the threat against the Russian-speaking population in the Donbas. Moreover, Putin stated that he did not seek to take over all of Ukraine. This is exactly what has been observed.

Russians understand war from a Clausewitzian perspective: war is the continuation of politics by other means. Therefore, they move fluidly from one to the other. The idea is to get the Ukrainian side to enter into a negotiation process.

TK: Has Ukraine seriously engaged in a negotiated settlement?

JB: On February 25th, Zelensky hinted that he was ready to negotiate with Russia. The European Union then showed up on February 27th with a 450-million Euro arms package to spur Ukraine to fight. On March 7th, with the goal of “demilitarization” and “denazification” nearly achieved and Ukraine having made no progress in negotiations, Russia added that Kiev must recognize the return of Crimea to Russia and the independence of the two Donbas republics. It made clear that its position could change if Ukraine did not want to negotiate.

TK: Has Ukraine responded to this?

JB: After the capture of Mariupol, the situation in Ukraine weakened, and on March 21st, Zelensky made an offer that was accommodating to Russia. But as in February, the EU came back two days later with a second package of 500-million Euros for weapons. The UK and the US subsequently put pressure on Zelensky to withdraw his offer. Negotiations in Istanbul subsequently stalled. This was a clear indication that de West didn’t want a negotiated solution.

TK: To what extent has Russia changed its goals?

JB: At the end of March, the goal of “denazification” was achieved with the capture of Mariupol and removed it from Russia’s objectives as part of negotiations.

On April 22nd, the Russians adjusted their goal. The Ministry of Defense announced that the new goal was to take control of the southern part of Ukraine up to Transnistria, where the Russian-speaking never felt being well treated.

As can be seen, the Russian strategy adjusts the goals depending on the military situation. What the Russians are actually doing is to turn their operational successes into a strategic success.

TK: Does this mean that the Russian targets reported by the media never existed?

JB: That’s right. Vladimir Putin never said he wanted to take Kiev. He never said he was going to take the city in two days. He never said he wanted to overthrow President Zelensky. He never said he wanted to take over all of Ukraine. He never said he was aiming for a victory on May 9th. He never said he wanted to declare that victory at the May 9th parade. He never said that he wanted to “declare war” on May 9th, in order to trigger a general mobilization.

So, by setting the objectives, the West can now claim Putin did not achieve them. The narrative that Russia is losing the war against Ukraine is based on these claims.

TK: What should come out of the military action at the end?

JB: Of course, we do not know what is going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind. But obviously there is a logic. The West is not making it easier for the Ukrainians, and the Russians are moving ahead. In the near future, we’ll see the Russian coalition “liberating” more territories. Some provinces have already decided to introduce the ruble as currency. So, things are slowly moving towards the “recreation” of some kind of Novorossiya.

TK: What do you mean by “Novorossiya,” and how should it look territorially?

JB: After the abolition of the official language law in 2014, not only the Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts rose up, but the entire Russian-speaking south of Ukraine. As a result, in October 2014, the Unified Forces of Novorossiya were formed, with units from the self-proclaimed Republics of Odessa, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and, of course, Lugansk and Donetsk. Only Lugansk and Donetsk survived. The other “republics” have been brutally suppressed by the Kiev’s paramilitary forces. Today, the Russians are using the revival of the Novorossiya as an incentive for the Ukrainians to go to the negotiation table. If they don’t want, Russia will increase the pressure.

TK: Does Russia have a chance of success in this way?

JB: Nothing is certain. What can be said, however, is that the popular resistance to Russia in the territories it occupies is much weaker than Western experts estimated. Moreover, it is clear that the Ukrainian conduct of operations has not been effective. It seems that the Ukrainian military has lost confidence in its authorities, as it did in 2014.

TK: How do we know this?

JB: The testimonies of Western volunteer fighters who have returned from Ukraine confirm that the Ukrainian leadership is weak. It seems that the Ukrainian leadership itself is a victim of its own propaganda, which overestimates the performance of Ukrainian Forces. One gets the feeling that the political leadership is more satisfied with the messages conveyed by the West than with the actual results on the battlefield. Of course, the Western media uses the civilian and military casualty figures given by Ukraine to claim Ukraine’s victory and Russian upcoming defeat.

TK: What conclusions can we draw from this whole situation?

JB: Western activities will only prolong this war, while leaving no room for negotiations. This is exactly what the EU and Switzerland are doing. They are more part of the problem than of the solution.

TK: German Chancellor Scholz has said very clearly, “Russia must not win the war.” With that, the war will continue?

JB: That is childish. The operational situation shows that Ukraine is in a very difficult situation. I do not know whether Russia will “win” or “lose” this war. But I do know that Ukraine is no longer in a position to win militarily. On the political level, the situation may be different. This is debatable, and the future will tell. From a Western perspective, it is certainly a political defeat for Russia. However, for the rest of the world, this may not be the case. In fact, the new Eurasian bloc that will emerge from this conflict will be a significantly stronger contender for the West. We are used to see the fate of the world revolving around the West. But Asia will probably be the next “center of the world.” By isolating Russia politically from the West, you push it into the Asian bloc. In the long run, this could give Russia an advantage over Europe and the United States.

TK: You said that Ukraine cannot win the war. Is that because it is too weak militarily?

JB: There is almost no Ukrainian military left, so to speak. Most of the Ukrainian army is encircled in the Donbas and is being incrementally neutralized by the Russian coalition. The Ukrainian government just started moving territorial units from the west of the country to the Donbas. This has increased tensions, especially in the areas of the Hungarian and Romanian minorities, whose people do not appear keen to fight against the Russians. We see demonstrations of mothers and wives in the west of the country and in Kiev.

TK: Obviously, Western countries behave as if they do not want peace. No one urges caution. Before anything is known for sure, conclusions are drawn, condemnations are made, weapons are supplied. The war is kept alive. What do you think of the announced increase in arms deliveries?

JB: Regarding weapons, there are several things to consider. First, feeding a war and thus keeping it alive is not the job of the international community. By international community, I mean primarily organizations like the UN or the EU. Whether a country pursues this policy like the U.S. or Poland, that is their decision. But the purpose of an international organization is not to support international conflicts.

“Weapons disappear before they reach the front lines.”

JB: Second, it is not known where the delivered weapons actually go. Even U.S. intelligence agencies admit they don’t know. However, it is clear that all these weapons disappear before they arrive at the front. There are reports of a rise in crime in Kiev. In fact, Western countries are fueling what the Global Organized Crime Index calls “one of the largest arms trade markets in Europe.”

TK: So, what do the weapons bring to Ukraine?

JB: That’s the third aspect to look at. The weapons don’t help anything. The arms deliveries are based on the myth that Ukraine will win the war and Russia will lose. This idea is the result of the fact that the West has determined the objective of the Russians. Zelensky is demanding additional weapons because the Ukrainian army has already lost hundreds of battle tanks and artillery pieces. The few dozen supplied by the West will not change the situation. As in 2014, the main problem of the Ukrainian armed forces is not the determination of the soldiers, but the incompetence of the staff.

TK: How can Ukraine finance these weapons, or will the supplier states bear the cost out of solidarity?

JB: The weapons are provided to Ukraine on the basis of the “Lend-Lease” Law. This is a form of “leasing” that was introduced at the beginning of World War II to supply weapons to United Kingdom and the USSR. In other words, Ukraine will have to pay back for the weapons it receives. Just to give an idea, Great Britain and Russia ended the payment of their World War II debts to the USA in the year—2006!

Moreover, Ukraine is accumulating huge debts to international financial institutions (such as the IMF and the World Bank). The paradox is that, because of Western rhetoric about a country that is doing well and on the verge of defeating Russia, these institutions are reluctant to cancel its debt.

TK: So, the weapons supplied and the volunteer foreign fighters have no impact on the course of the war?

JB: They have only limited impact. Remember that, in Afghanistan the Taliban were able to prevail against the Western forces even though they were much more powerful. The Afghans had almost no heavy weapons, at most small arms. Neither the number of weapons nor their quality is decisive for victory. The biggest weakness of the Ukrainian armed forces is leadership.

TK: Why is that?

JB: The Ukrainian military leadership is bad because it is not able to integrate all parameters needed for planning and conducting battles. It makes the same mistakes as NATO forces in Afghanistan. This is not surprising, since the latter train the former. Besides, you have to master these weapons to get the most out of them tactically. They were developed for professional soldiers trained for months, not for casual soldiers trained in two weeks. That is completely unrealistic.

“The weapons that are being supplied to Ukraine have no military effect.”

TK: Do I understand you correctly—the efficiency of these delivered weapons is very low and leads to more destruction in Ukraine?

JB: The weapons being delivered, some of which are obsolete, will not affect significantly Russian operations or give an edge to the Ukrainian forces. They will only attract Russian fire to certain areas. For example, Slovakia has supplied Ukraine with the S-300 air defense system, which, as far as I know, has been moved to the vicinity of Nikolaev. Within a very short time it was destroyed by the Russians. The Russians know very well where this equipment is, and where the weapons depots are. In Zaporizhzhia were stored brand new weapons from the West. The Russians destroyed the depot with a missile, with pinpoint accuracy. The weapons delivered to Ukraine have no military impact on the course of the war.

A few howitzers are ineffective because the Russians can destroy them very fast. The Ukrainians, of course, have to get these systems to the front as quickly as possible. They have to do that by rail. The Ukrainians have electric railroads in the western part of the country. The Russians destroyed most of the electric substations of the network and the main railroads. Today, no electric locomotives are running on the network anymore. As a result, they have to bring weapons, such as tanks, to the “frontline” by road, one by one, using transporters. The problem is that these destructions affect not only military logistics, but also the economic life of the country.

TK: How did Russia react to these arms deliveries?

JB: It should be noted that before the Western arms deliveries, the Russians did not attack the railroad network. If the goal is to totally destroy Ukraine, then you have to do exactly what the West is doing now. If that is what we want. Whether it is what the West wants or not, I don’t know. But if this is the goal, this is the way to go.

Also, it is said that Russia currently has the largest inventory of Javelin missiles in the world. I don’t know if that is true, but it suggests that a large part of the weapons supplied by the West are not getting to Ukrainian fighters.

TK: The Gepard tank that the Germans want to supply has been decommissioned in the Bundeswehr. There is also no more ammunition for it in the Bundeswehr stocks. Isn’t that a point you mentioned earlier?

JB: The Gepard is an antiaircraft tank based on the chassis of the Leopard 1 main battle tank. It is a vehicle whose development goes back to the 1970s. It is a good weapon system, but it is no longer suited to modern threats. A weapon system also means logistics, maintenance and special training for the crews and mechanics. Furthermore, to be effective, such a system must be integrated into a command-and-control system. However, all of this cannot be accomplished in a matter of weeks. Basically, these weapon systems only draw Russian fire.

“A British volunteer fighter who returned from Ukraine speaks of the fighters sent to the front as ‘cannon fodder.'”

TK: Do Western countries have any hope that all this will help accomplish something?

JB: One thing is for sure—it doesn’t do anything. The British made a study of the weapons they had supplied to the Ukrainians. The results are extremely weak, and disappointing. They realized their weapons systems are too complicated, and the Ukrainian soldiers cannot operate them because they are not sufficiently trained. As for volunteer fighters, the picture is also disappointing. A British volunteer fighter who returned from Ukraine speaks of “cannon fodder,” of the fighters sent to the front. The British themselves realized that it was a waste of life and resources. That is why Boris Johnson started back-pedaling, after urging young people to fight in Ukraine. So, everything that is being done only serves to continue the war, without bringing a solution, or decisively winning over Russia. It only leads to the destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure.

TK: So, it is not a matter of helping the Ukrainian army?

JB: In theory, yes. In practice, no. Ukraine already has enormous logistical problems with its troops in the Donbas. It can hardly supply them with weapons and ammunition. And now they are creating a new problem with weapons that cannot be repaired. The mechanics are not trained to do this, nor are the crews trained to operate the equipment. Moreover, in the systems supplied by the West, the instructions and user manuals are in German, English or French, but not in Ukrainian. This sounds so trivial, but it is a problem.

That is why I say Germany also wants to stoke the crisis. This is the attitude of German politicians like Scholz, Baerbock, etc. They want to fight Putin “to the last Ukrainian.” That makes no sense.

TK: But if it is so obvious, why is the West going this way?

JB: I maintain that the West is using Ukraine against Russia. The goal is not to help Ukraine, but to fight Putin. In the English-language media, many analysts confirm that the West is waging a war against Russia through Ukraine. This is called a “proxy war.” This is the point. We are not helping Ukraine. Everything else is a lie. If I were Ukrainian, I would condemn Putin as much as Ursula von der Leyen or even Ignazio Cassis. Because instead of playing a mediating role, these politicians are satisfying their own ambitions by fueling the war in an unhealthy way.

TK: Guterres has let it be known that the war would stop, if Russia would stop the war.

JB: A war always has two parties, and in our case there are even three. We have Russia, Ukraine, and the so-called international community, that is, the Western world. It is clear that if the war is to be ended, it needs both parties, not just one. To this end, negotiations are underway in Turkey, but they are not really moving forward. Why has Ukraine withdrawn its own proposals? So, it is clear, the solution is not only on the Russian side.

TK: One has the impression that history is repeating itself.

JB: Yes, today we are in a similar situation as in 2014. The West does not want to talk to Putin because he is a dictator, and the West urges Zelensky not to make any concessions. Dialogue is therefore impossible. The problem is that Russia achieves operational success and increases its gains when there are no negotiations. The West hides behind the illusion of a Ukrainian victory. But the likelihood of it occurring is diminishing as time goes on, even though on a strategic and media level Russia appears to have lost.

TK: What should Ukraine have done?

JB: One only has to read the Minsk agreements to understand that their implementation essentially depends on constitutional reforms in Ukraine. These reforms, however, require dialogue with the autonomists. Kiev, however, has never taken these steps, and the West has never tried to get the Ukrainian authorities to do so.

What happened since 2014, happened because of Ukraine’s behavior. These agreements are not implemented, and the situation got worse and worse. That led to today’s situation; and this is a result of the previous history; the things that went on before.

TK: France and Germany were the guarantors of the Minsk agreements. What have they done to ensure that these agreements are implemented?

JB: The failure of the Western states is blatant. Ukrainians themselves have invented a new word. It is called “Macronize.” It means “doing everything to look worried, showing that to everyone, but doing nothing.” This sums up Western behavior.

No, the Western states have not taken up their responsibility in any way. Russia has now reacted to an armed conflict that has been going on since 2014 and started with the abolition of the official language law in February 2014. European states did nothing to bring peace. That is why Putin does not want to talk about war, because the war started in 2014. With the Minsk agreements, a solution was found. That is the situation. Guterres is a politician—and the problem is, we don’t have any space in the UN or in our country for politicians to express a balanced opinion. This is exactly as when George W. Bush said, “Whoever is not with us is against us.” We are exactly in that situation today—and there is no space in between at all; there is only good or evil.

TK: Are these developments intentional?

JB: The whole conflict is the result of a scenario carefully worked out by the West. Its basic components were laid out in 2019 in two papers published by the RAND Corporation, the Pentagon think tank, entitled, Overextending and Unbalancing Russia and Extending Russia. These describe the sequence of events that led to the Russian offensive in February 2022. In addition to that, promises were made to Ukraine that it would become a member of NATO if it instigated a war that led to Russia’s defeat, as Oleksiy Arestovych explained in an interview with a Ukrainian television station in March 2019. In fact, Ukrainians were lied to, as Zelensky noted on CNN on March 21, 2022.

As a matter of fact, the Russians knew for a long time that this confrontation would occur. That is why they prepared for it militarily and economically. This explains why they are withstanding the sanctions and pressure better than expected. This is also the reason why the West is using its imagination to elaborate new sanctions or new methods to impose them, such as abandoning the principle of unanimity in the EU. We have entered a phase of “cockfighting” between the West and Russia. As a result, the problem is that international institutions are no longer fulfilling their role as arbiters, but have become parties to the conflict.

TK: But then the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago. Where is the commitment to peace?

JB: Obama got it, too. And Obama was the American president who kept his country at war from the first day of his mandate to the last. He started three wars, and the number of air strikes increased tenfold compared to his predecessor. I don’t think anybody takes the Nobel Prize seriously anymore at this point. It is purely political.

TK: Mr. Baud, thank you for talking to us.


A Philosophy of Victory

Essential internal reforms must logically begin in Russia. This is required by the Special Military Operation (SMO), which has intensified the contradictions with the West—and with the entire modern Western civilization—to the extreme. Anyone can now see that it is no longer safe to simply use the norms, methods, concepts, products of this civilization. The West spreads, along with its technology, its ideology, which then permeates all spheres of life. If we recognize ourselves as a part of Western civilization, then we must readily agree to this total colonization and even enjoy it (like in the 1990s). But in the case of the current confrontation, which is fatal!—such an attitude is unacceptable. Many Westerners and liberals have already become fully aware of this and have therefore left Russia just when the break with Western civilization had become irreversible. And it became irreversible on February 24, 2022, and even two days earlier—at the moment of recognition of independence of the DPR and LPR—on February 22, 2022.

In principle, everyone has the right to make a civilizational choice of loyalty or betrayal. At least with those who are involved, everything is clear—it is clear now and was clear before. At least they are consistent—after losing liberalism in Russia, they went off to their own.

It is more complicated with those who are still here. I mean those Westerners and liberals who still share the basic norms of modern Western civilization, but for some reason continue to stay in Russia, despite the rupture that has already taken place between it and the West. They are the main obstacle to real and full-fledged patriotic reforms.

Reforms were inevitable, because Russia found itself not only cut off from the West, but also essentially at war with it. On the eve of World War II, the USSR had a sufficient number of important strategic industries created by Nazi Germany. And relations between the USSR and the Third Reich were not particularly hostile. But after June 22, 1941 obviously the situation changed dramatically. Under those conditions, continuing cooperating with the Germans—legitimate and encouraged before the war—took on an entirely different meaning. Exactly the same thing happened after February 22, 2022—those who continued to remain in the paradigm of the hostile (liberal-fascist) civilization, with which we are at war, found themselves outside the ideological space that clearly emerged with the beginning of the SMO.

While the presence of Germany on the eve of WWII in the USSR was specific and single-pointed, the presence of the liberal-fascist Russophobe West on the eve of the SMO was well-nigh total. Western technologies of methodology, norms, know-how, and even, in part, values permeate our entire society. This calls for a radical revision. But who will carry it out? The people who were educated during perestroika? The liberal and criminal 1990s? The people of the 1980s and 1990s who were trained and educated in the 2000s? All of these periods were under the basic influence of liberalism as an ideology, as a paradigm, as a fundamental and comprehensive position in philosophy, science, politics, education, culture, technology, economics, the media, even in fashion and in life. Contemporary Russia knows only the inertial ruins of the Soviet paradigm and everything else is pure liberal Westernism.

There is no alternative paradigm; at least none in power or among the elite, at the level at which the civilizational confrontation should now unfold.

Today, we oppose the West as a civilization against a civilization. And we need to define what kind of civilization we are. Otherwise, no military, political and economic successes will help us. Everything will be reversible. The trend will change and everything will collapse (I’m not even talking about the necessity to explain to Ukrainians, who will henceforth be inside our zone of influence or directly inside Russia) who are we, after all? At the moment there is only the inertia of Soviet memory (“granny with a flag”), Western Nazi propaganda (“vatniki”, “occupants”), our—so far only initial—military successes and complete confusion in the local population. And here the voice of Russian civilization should sound. Clearly, distinctly, convincingly. And its peals must be heard in Ukraine, and on the territory of Eurasia, and in the whole world. It is not only desirable, it is vital, just as cartridges, missiles, copters and bulletproof vests are needed at the front.

It is most logical to begin the reforms with philosophy. It is necessary to form the General Staff of the Russian Logos, either on the basis of an existing institution (after all, not a single humanitarian institution can or will ever do this: liberalism and Westernism still dominate everywhere), or in the form of something fundamentally new. Hegel said that the greatness of a nation begins with the creation of a great philosophy. He said it, and he did it. This is precisely what Russian philosophers need today, not vague and out-of-touch agreement about the SMO. We need a new Russian philosophy. Russian in content, in essence.

And the reform of all other branches of humanitarian and natural science knowledge should start from this paradigm. Sociology, psychology, anthropology, culturology, as well as economics, and even physics, chemistry, biology, etc. are based on philosophy, are its derivatives. Scientists often forget this; but recall what “PhD” actually means, in any of the humanities or the natural sciences. PhD—“philosophiae doctor;” that is, “doctor of philosophy.” If you are not a philosopher, you are an apprentice at best, not a scientist (“doctor” is Latin for “scholar,” “learned”).

This is where the most important internal battle of starting civilizational reforms in Russia itself (as well as in the entire space of our expansion, in the entire zone of our influence) will unfold—the battle for Russian philosophy begins.

And here there is a clearly shaped pole of the internal enemy. These are representatives of the liberal paradigm—from analytical philosophy to the postmodern, to the completely feeble-minded cognitivists and transhumanists, who maniacally insist on reducing man to a machine. I’m not even talking about outright liberals and liberal progressives, proponents of the totalitarian concept of “open society,” feminism, queer studies, and the “queer culture” raised on sorority grants. This is pure “fifth column”—something like the Azov Battalion banned in Russia.

It is very easy to draw a portrait of the philosophical enemy of the Russian Idea and Russian civilization. It is not simply a question of connections with Western scientific and intelligence centers (which are often on quite close terms), but also of adherence to a number of quite formalizable attitudes:

  • belief in the universality of modern Western civilization (Eurocentrism, civilizational racism);
  • hyper-materialism—up to and including deep ecology and object-oriented ontology;
  • methodological and ethical individualism—whence the philosophy of gender (as a social option) and in the limit transhumanism;
  • techno-progressivism, the development of Artificial Intelligence and “thinking” neural networks;
  • hatred of classical theologies, spiritual Tradition, philosophy of eternity;
  • denial or ironic ridicule of identity;
  • anti-essentialism, etc.

This is a kind of “philosophical Ukraine,” scattered throughout virtually every scientific and educational institution that has anything to do with philosophy or basic scientific epistemes. These are signs of philosophical Russophobia, since the Russian Idea is built on the basis of directly opposite principles:

  • the identity of Russian civilization (Slavophiles, Danilevsky, Eurasians);
  • placing the spirit over matter;
  • communality, collegiality—a collectivist anthropology;
  • deep humanism;
  • devotion to Tradition;
  • careful preservation of identity, nationality;
  • belief in the spiritual nature of the essence of things, etc.

Those who set the tone in contemporary Russian philosophy vehemently defend liberal attitudes and just as vehemently reject Russian ones. Such is the powerful stronghold of liberal Nazism within Russia.

It is precisely this firing-point of the enemy, this high-ground, that we will have to take in the next phase. Moreover, liberal Nazis are defending themselves against philosophy no less fiercely than the Azov Battalion or the desperate Ukrainian terrorists from Popasna. They wage information wars, write denunciations of patriots, and use all levers of corruption and apparatus influence.

At this point, it is appropriate to recall a little—personal, but very revealing—incident about my dismissal from the Moscow State University (MSU) in the summer of 2014 (note the date).

From 2008 to 2014, at the Sociology Department of MSU, together with the Dean and founder of the department, Vladimir Ivanovich Dobrenkov, we organized the rigorous work of the Center for Conservative Studies, where we did just that—undertake the development of a Russian civilizational epistemological paradigm. Without hesitation, we supported a “Russian Spring.”

But, in response, we received a vicious letter from…Ukrainian philosophers (initiated by the Kyiv Nazi Sergey Datsyuk), demanding the “expulsion of Dobrenkov and me from MSU. And most strangely—but then, not very strangely—the leadership of MSU met the demand. Dobrenkov was removed from the post of Dean, and I, frankly, left of my own accord, although it looked like dismissal. I was asked to stay, but on humiliating terms. Of course, it was not Sadovnichy who resolved this issue, but he was rather gracious and open-minded and approved my appointment as the Head of the Department, which passed all voting procedures at the Academic Council of Moscow State University.

But then, something happened. The “Russian Spring” was curtailed. And the question of the Russian world, Russian civilization, and the Russian Logos was removed from the agenda altogether. But it was symbolic—the initiators of the abolition of the Center for Conservative Studies at Moscow State University were Ukrainian Nazis—theorists and practitioners of Russian genocide in Donbass and Eastern Ukraine as a whole. Exactly the same people with whom we are now at war.

This is how liberal fascism penetrates Russia. Or rather, it penetrated a long time ago; but that is how its mechanisms work. A denunciation comes from Kiev; someone inside the Administration supports it; and the next initiative to deploy the Russian Idea collapses.

Of course, you can’t stop me—over the years I’ve written 24 volumes of Noomachy, and the last three are devoted to the Russian Logos. But the institutionalization of the Russian Idea has again been postponed.

My example, of course, is not an isolated one. All or almost all thinkers and theorists involved in justifying the identity of Russian civilization have experienced something similar. We are dealing with a philosophical war. A real one—a fierce and well-organized opposition to the Russian Idea, supervised from abroad, but carried out by local liberals or just ordinary officials, passively following fashion and trends and a well-organized information strategy of direct agents of influence.

We are now at the point where the institutionalization of Russian Discourse is needed. Everyone has seen in our information war how controllable and manipulable the attitudes and processes in society are. But this is a consequence. The most serious clashes take place at the level of paradigms and epistemes. He who controls knowledge, Michel Foucault wrote, is the one who has true power. True power is power over the minds and souls of people.

Philosophy is the most important front line, and its implications are far superior to the news from Ukraine that every Russian is so avidly watching today—how are our people doing? What new frontiers have they seized? Has the enemy wavered? Herein lies the main obstacle to our victory.

What we need is a philosophy of victory. Without it, all will be in vain, and all our successes will easily be turned into defeat.

All true reforms must begin in the realm of the Spirit. And as news from the front is sought in the news—what about the institution of philosophy? Still holding its ground? Has it surrendered yet?


Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitica.


Featured image: “Fireworks on Victory Day,” by Mikhail Bobyshovl painted in 1961.

Civilization State, or the Multi-Polar World

The Special Military Operation in Ukraine (SMO) is widely recognized by competent experts in International Relations as the final and decisive moment in the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world.

Multipolarity often seems intuitively clear; but as soon as we try to give a precise definition or a correct theoretical description, everything becomes less obvious. I believe that my work A Theory of a Multi-polar World is more relevant today than ever before. But since people have forgotten how to read—especially lengthy theoretical texts, I will try to share the main points.

The main actor of a multipolar world order is neither a nation-state (as in the realist theory of International Relations), nor a unified World Government (as in the liberalist theory of International Relations). It is civilization state. Other names for it are “big space,” “Empire,” “ecumenism.”

The term “civilization state” is most often applied to China. Both ancient and modern. As early as ancient times, the Chinese developed the theory of “Tianxia” (天下), the “Celestial Empire,” according to which China is the center of the world, being the meeting place of unifying Heaven and dividing Earth. And the “Celestial Empire” may be a single state; or it may be broken up into its components and then reassembled. In addition, Han China itself acted as a culture-forming force for neighboring nations that were not directly part of China—primarily Korea, Vietnam, the Indochina countries and even Japan, which is quite independent.

The nation-state is a product of the European New Age, and in some cases a post-colonial construct. The civilization state has ancient roots and uncertain, shifting boundaries. The civilization state at times pulsates, expanding and contracting, while always remaining a constant phenomenon. (This is what, above all else, we need to know about our SMO.)

Contemporary China behaves strictly according to the principle of “Tianxia” in international politics. The One Belt, One Road Initiative is a prime example of what this looks like in practice. And China’s Internet, which cuts off any networks and resources that might weaken the civilizational identity at the entrance to China, demonstrates how the defense mechanisms are built.

The civilization state may interact with the outside world, but it never becomes dependent on it and always maintains self-sufficiency, autonomy and autarchy.

Civilization state is always more than just a state in both spatial and temporal (historical) terms.

Russia is increasingly gravitating toward the same status. After the beginning of the SMO, this was no longer mere wishful thinking, but an urgent necessity. As in the case of China, Russia has every reason to claim to be precisely a civilization. This theory was most fully developed by the Russian Eurasians, who introduced the notion of a “world-state,” or—which is the same thing—”Russian world. Actually, the concept of Russia-Eurasia is a direct indication of the civilizational status of Russia. Russia is more than a nation-state (which the Russian Federation is). Russia is a separate world.

Russia was a civilization in the era of the Empire, and remained so in Soviet times. Ideologies and regimes changed, but the identity remained the same.

The struggle for Ukraine is nothing less than a struggle for the civilization state. The same as the peaceful Union State of Russia and Belarus and the economic integration of the post-Soviet Eurasian space.

A multipolar world consists of civilization states. This is a kind of world of worlds, a megacosmos that includes entire galaxies. And here it is important to determine how many such civilization states can even theoretically exist?

Undoubtedly, this type includes India, a typical civilization state, which even today has enough potential to become a full-fledged actor in international politics.

Then there is the Islamic world, from Indonesia to Morocco. Here the fragmentation into states and different ethno-cultural enclaves does not yet allow us to speak of political unity. Islamic civilization exists, but the question of its assembly into a civilization state is rather problematic. Moreover, the history of Islam knows several types of civilization states, from the Caliphate (the First, Umayyad, Abbasid, etc.) to the three components of Genghis Khan’s Empire that converted to Islam (the Golden Horde, the Ilkhan and Chagatai ulus), the Persian Safavid Empire, the Great Moghul state, and finally, the Ottoman Empire. The borders once drawn are still relevant today in many respects. But the process of gathering them into a single structure requires considerable time and effort.

Latin America and Africa, two macro-civilizations that remain quite separate, are in a similar position. But a multipolar world will somehow push integration processes in all these zones.

Now the most important thing—what to do with the West? The theory of a multipolar world in the nomenclature of theories of International Relations in the modern West is absent.

The dominant paradigm there today is liberalism, which denies any sort of sovereignty and autonomy, abolishes civilizations and religions, ethnicities and cultures, replacing them by a forced liberal ideology, the concept of “human rights,” individualism (in the extreme leading to gender and transgender politics), materialism and technical progress elevated to the highest value (Artificial Intelligence). The goal of liberalism is to abolish nation-states and establish a World Government based on Western norms and rules.

This is the line pursued by Biden and the modern Democrat Party in the U.S., as well as most European rulers. This is what globalism is all about. It categorically rejects civilization state and any hint of multipolarity. That is why the West is ready for war with Russia and China. In a sense, this war is already going on in Ukraine and in the Pacific (the problem of Taiwan)—but so far via proxy-actors.

In the West, there is another influential school—realism in International Relations. Here the nation-state is considered a necessary element of the world order; but only those who have achieved a high level of economic, military-strategic and technological development—almost always at the expense of others—have sovereignty. While liberals see the future in a World Government, realists see it in an alliance of major Western powers setting global rules in their own interests. Again, both in theory and in practice, civilization state and a multipolar world are categorically rejected.

This creates a fundamental conflict already at the level of theory. And the lack of mutual understanding here leads to the most radical consequences at the level of direct collision.

In the eyes of supporters of multipolarity, the West is also a civilization state or even two—North American and European. But Western intellectuals do not agree with this; they have no theoretical frame for this—they know either liberalism or realism, and no multipolarity.

However, there are exceptions among Western theorists, such as Samuel Huntington or Fabio Petito. They—unlike the vast majority—recognize multipolarity and the emergence of new actors in the form of civilizations. This is gratifying, because through such ideas it is possible to build a bridge for supporters of multipolarity (Russia, China, etc.) to the West. Such a bridge would at least make negotiations possible. As long as the West categorically rejects multipolarity and the very notion of the civilization state, the conversation will be conducted only at the level of a clash of brute force—from military operations to economic blockade, information and sanction wars, and so on.

Finally, to win this war and defend itself, Russia itself must first clearly comprehend multipolarity. We are already fighting for it, but still do not fully understand what it is. It is necessary to urgently dissolve the liberal structures created in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin period and establish new multipolar structures. It is also necessary to restructure the educational paradigm itself—first of all at MGIMO, MGU, PFUR, the Maurice Thorez Institute, the Diplomatic Academy, and other specialized universities. Lastly, we need to really turn to a developed and fully-fledged Eurasian school of thought, which has proven to be highly relevant, but against which the overt and covert Atlantists and foreign agents, who deeply penetrate our society, continue to fight.


Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitica.


Featured image: “The Course of Empire: Consummation,” by Thomas Cole; painted in 1836.

Did Christianity “Divinize” Jesus?

Has Jesus been “deified” by Christians? This debate, which is quite recurrent in academic circles, is essentially determined by an external view of what Christians are supposed to believe. The idea is to compare the divine dimension of Jesus as expressed in the New Testament with the divinization of the Roman emperors after Augustus—or possibly with forms of divinization in this or that other ancient civilization. However, from comparison we often pass quickly to conflation.

Let us address the question head-on. Does the New Testament “deify” Jesus in any way, or is it something else? This debate is not incidental; it has serious consequences, six of which are defined and analyzed below, even if not everyone will readily recognize them as such. It is important to point out at the outset to what extent they imply each other in a logical sequence, from “B” to “G,” if we state “Proposition A” as the idea of the divinization of Jesus.

Let us begin by mapping Proposition “A”:

A: The presumed Christian idea of divinizing a man comes from, or corresponds to, a tendency in the Greco-Roman world, or more broadly in the pagan world—it is also found in various forms in Eastern Gnosticisms, the question remaining open of locating the origin of the latter in actual history.

On “A” is then built an entire sequence of logical inferences.

From Proposition “A,” the following is then deduced:

Proposition B: Since this presumed “divinization” could in no way be the work of Jews, it was therefore the work of non-Jews, namely of “Christianized” pagans (of the Roman Empire).

From Proposition “B,” it is then deduced that:

Proposition C: It is therefore these pagans who composed the Gospels, which are thus late (after the year 70 AD; this stretch of time needed to manufacture the “divinization”). And, of course, these pagans could only have composed the Gospels in Greek.

[An impressive and lavish publication of more than 700 pages, subsidized by the French Ministry of Culture, Après Jésus, l’invention du christianisme {After Jesus: The Invention of Christianity} (edited by Roselyne Dupont-Roc and Antoine Guggenheim, Albin Michel, 2020), largely defends this thesis of the late fabrication of a Christianity that does not owe much to Jesus, “except for a meal in memory of him, and a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer” (we read on page IV). The rest has been “invented,” which requires time—on pages 21-22, Mark’s Gospel is dated 71 AD, Matthew’s and Luke’s between 80 and 85 AD, and John’s 98 AD.]

And a further consequence of “C”: Thus, before these Greek compositions [the Gospels], the Jewish Christian communities produced nothing (or almost nothing); and the traces of this “almost nothing” in the Greek Gospels would suggest that they saw Jesus simply as a man.

It is then deduced from Proposition “C” that:

Proposition D1: It was Paul, whose writing period we know (between 51 and 64), who first deified Jesus; [Among the many discussions on this subject, this one is quite comprehensive.]

Proposition D2: Under the impulse of the Emperor Constantine, the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) contributed in a determining way by making the dogma of the “Trinity,” in answer to the Arianism which made of Jesus simply a kind of superman.

From Proposition “D,” it is then deduced that:

Proposition E: Since there were Christian communities speaking Aramaic (the language of the Jews of the first century)—and even today, at least one million Aramaic speakers—and since they always professed the divinity of Jesus, they could only have come to exist in dependence on Greek Christianity, and therefore not before the end of the third century; they must only be an outgrowth of Greek Christianity in the Syriac East of the Roman Empire, or the result of the deportation of some Greek-Roman populations to the Parthian Empire.

From Proposition “E,” it is then deduced that:

Proposition F: The Aramaic (or Syriac) texts of the New Testament or Peshitta NT were therefore translated from Greek. [Peshitta simply means, “without gloss.”] Thus, these texts must be of no interest. For an exegete, it is therefore unthinkable (and dangerous for his career) to spend time systematically comparing the versions in these two languages in order to find out which is the most original. One does not do research for which one already knows the answer.

From Proposition “F,” it is then deduced:

Proposition G: The Semitic-speaking groups that held Jesus to be a man (not a God) would be, according to research, the true Christians who retained the Christianity of the Apostles. These groups, sometimes called “Judeo-Christian sects,” are referred to as either “pre-Pauline” or “pre-Nicene.” Some traces of them are to be found in the Qu’ran (which is convincingly argued—but are they pre-Pauline or later groups?).

The logic of this sequence of seven propositions from A to G is unstoppable. It rests fundamentally on proposition “A”: to speak of the divinity of Christ is to speak of his “divinization.” We shall therefore look carefully at this postulate, and then, more briefly, at its six successive implications, in particular to see if they correspond to what we know of historical reality.

PROPOSITION “A”

What do Christians believe? Is Proposition A a legitimate interpretation of their faith, or not?

In the context of this analysis, the postulate of A can be presented as follows:

“Christians believe that God is present in a man (Jesus)” means “Christians have deified a man (Jesus).” Such an understanding of the first proposition would be legitimate, if there were not a completely different understanding than that of A. Indeed, “God is present in a man (Jesus)” is clearly to be understood as meaning “God has made himself present in a man (Jesus);” the totality of Christian writings indicating this. Is it rational to arbitrarily impose another understanding?

If we analyze the problem further, we perceive that the two understandings are radically opposed. The Christian faith undoubtedly mentions a descending movement (on the part of God; more precisely what has been called “Incarnation”); whereas Proposition A supposes an ascending movement (raising a man to become “god”)—it obviously confuses a “descending” movement with an “ascending” one.

We can therefore speak of a serious misunderstanding. But this is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, the faith of the Hebrews was the victim of many misunderstandings on the part of the surrounding peoples. For pagans inclined to “deify” humans, what could the Jewish (and Biblical) expectation of a God who comes to visit His people mean? In their mind, what was the value of the Temple in Jerusalem, which was the place of an invisible and impalpable presence, following the initiative of a God to “come down?” And what could they think of the idea—or rather the hope—that this God would really come to visit His people, according to prophecies where the how is not at all clear? Moreover, were they happy that the Jews considered their practice of putting a statue in a temple and then declaring it a “god” an abomination? Throughout history, Hebrews have sometimes been tempted to reconcile these irreconcilable positions—one might say that this temptation to amalgamate Jewish and pagan cults is the ancestor of Proposition A.

This can be said all the more so since the answer to this amalgam was given in antiquity already, by a Jew. In the early 40s AD, the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo († 45) noted in a passage of his Legatio ad Caium, after coming to Rome and seeing the emperor Caius Caligula there publicly displaying himself disguised as Jupiter: “God could rather change into a man than a man into God.”

As a Jew, he was shocked by this masquerade (he wrote it after 41 AD, once Caius had died). This philosopher of Alexandria perfectly understood and expressed the radical opposition existing between the Jewish religious vision and that of the pagans. He may have formulated it on his own, but it is also possible that he had heard of the Christian faith—in Alexandria he could have met many Jewish disciples of the Apostles. [According to the Acts of the Apostles (18:24-25), a former disciple of John the Baptist, Apollos, a native of Alexandria, was traveling through Asia Minor around the year 44 to speak about Christ—Paul, in Antioch, spoke to him about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which he had not heard of. Thus, this Apollos had not yet met any of the Apostles or any of their disciples; but, the text says, “he had been instructed in the way of the Lord”—in Alexandria?] Philo’s expression, “change into a man” corresponds in fact to the way of speaking of the first Jewish Christians—it is found in the apocrypha.

[In some “apocrypha,” one can read very similar formulations. Those given below are essentially taken from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. For this very complex question, see Le messie et son prophète, Vol. I, 2005, section 1.4.2.1, “Thématique de la venue de Dieu et double Visite” [Theme of the Coming of God and the Double Visit], pp. 166ff.]

In an amplified and clarified form, it is found in the New Testament, notably in this passage by Paul, where he speaks of the “descent” of God into human nature: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form…” (Letter to the Philippians 2:6-7).

No parallelism should therefore be intellectually possible between the Christian faith and pagan cults. It is by virtue of an internal logic, foreign to Christianity, that a system of thought can produce this confusion. To illustrate the problem, let us take the example of Islamic discourse.

For Islam, the Qur’anic text is literally revealed by God through the word of an angel dictating the text to the messenger (rasul) Muhammad. One of its verses reads as follows:

“When God says: ‘Îsa (Jesus), son of Mariam, did you say to people:
Take me and my mother for two deities, beside God?” (Sura 5, verse 116)

The internal logic of Islamic discourse therefore requires that Christians have Jesus, Mary and God as the Trinity—it is written in the Qur’an, so God has said it literally. This is taught everywhere in Islam, at least where Christians have little influence, so that this assertion is not immediately ridiculed. And if a Christian disputes this, the answer to him is already prepared in the Qur’an: “See how they lie against themselves” (Sur. 6, v.24).

In fact, the ancient Muslim commentators [Tabari, al-Baydawi, al-Zamahšarî, al-Jalalayn and other lesser-known scholars all indicate that this verse (5:116) refers to the Holy Spirit and not to the Virgin Mary. See Azzi Joseph, Le prêtre et le prophète: aux sources du Coran, p.169]—still knew that the expression “mother of Jesus” (here, “my mother”) refers to the Holy Spirit, according to a way of speaking proper to the tradition of the Aramaic Church (even today), and as the oldest Syro-Aramaic spiritual writings testify. [For example, in Saint Aphrahat (known as the Wise Man of Persia). The “maternal” dimension of the Spirit is so common in the theology of the Church of the East that Saint Aphrahat applies it to the Christian: there is a danger, he writes, that the one who marries forgets “his Father and the Holy Spirit his mother” (The Demonstrations [written between 336 and 345)].

The irony of verse 5:116 relates to the role of judge of Christians, attributed to Jesus, and not to a classical Trinitarian formulation in the Syro-Aramaic context. But a serious problem of internal Islamic and Islamological logic arises. Indeed, if this context constitutes the obligatory explanation of a verse of the Qu’ran, it also determines the framework of the birth of Islam—one is thus led to consider for Islam an original place in northern Arabia. This is unacceptable for Islam. Nor did islamology, at least for a hundred and fifty years, want a place other than Mecca, since it took the Islamic discourse as its starting point. In fact, Islamologists even invented the existence of “Mariamites” to justify the literal Islamic understanding of this verse (5:116). This invention, based on an error, has been taken up by current Islamic propaganda to comment on this verse by mocking the faith of Christians. [Cf. the presentation by Hichem Djaït in Jésus et l’islam. Indeed, it happens that in the suburbs and living only among themselves, Muslims never see a single Christian; so they believe anything about the Christian faith.] It was not until the year 2005 that this gross error was denounced, although it would have been enough for any researcher to go and ask any Aramaic (Chaldean or Assyrian) Christian for this error to be disproved.

We can see, therefore, that internal logic can prevail over knowledge or simple information, even in a milieu of researchers. This is also the case of the confusion between the Christian faith and pagan conceptions, which concerns us here. It is possible that convenience has something to do with it—one always brings back what one knows badly to what one already knows. Hearing about groups of Jewish descent who denied the divinity of Christ early on, often in summary form, some scholars have concluded that their purely human conception of Jesus is the original, true Christianity; and, therefore, that to speak of the presence of God in Jesus is a later belief, influenced by Greek pagan thought. This is logical, but wrong—the so-called “Judeo-Christian” groups to which they refer in this discussion are in fact “ex-Judeo-Christians,” in the sense that they had first been Christians then Jews. Let us read what the apostle John writes in his first letter about these ex-Judeo-Christians who “deny the Father and the Son”:

“They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19).

What is generally overlooked in the discussion is that those Jewish Christians who first adhered to the message of the Apostles and then turned it around to do something else were thus creating a new religious phenomenon, which would even be the source of many subsequent avatars. The opposition is not, therefore, between a Jewish monotheism and a pagan polytheistic influence—but between the Christianity of the Apostles, which has a Jewish foundation, and the doctrines opposed to that of the Apostles, which also have a Jewish foundation, and which warrant the designatio of “post-Christian.”

In fact, the confusion inherent in Proposition A has created a vagueness that obscures a whole area of research on the formation of the oppositions to the Apostles. The Adversus haereses of St. Irenaeus of Lyon, which has been available to us since the mid-sixteenth century (this book, along with The Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching, previously unknown), still does not seem to be taken as a reference book for the study of early Christianity and the groups that derived from it.

It appears, therefore, that Proposition “A” does not present the faith of the Apostles, but rather presents a kind of inversion of it. This is unfortunate from a scientific or even a rational point of view. And the successive consequences which follow from it, and which form a set of convictions quite widespread in the academic world, are serious.

Let us review these consequences, B to G.

Proposition B

This proposition follows from A: the “divinization” of Jesus must have been done by non-Jews, namely by “Christianized” pagans (from the Roman Empire).

If there was no “divinization” of Jesus, the question of its alleged authors is settled. However, a word should be said about the historical framework, the lack of knowledge of which favors adherence to proposition B.

The Apostles were Jews, as were the first Popes and the vast majority of Christians for at least a century. As Paul explains, non-Jews were added to the strong Hebrew-Aramaic olive tree—and it had to be a strong olive tree because, from the beginning, the Apostles and their followers went to evangelize every part of the world then accessible, as far as India and China. The result was very quickly a diversity of communities; the common Hebrew-Aramaic “olive tree,” both Biblical and cultic, ensured unity, especially liturgical unity (the Indians of Saint Thomas still celebrate in Aramaic today). When one discovers the extent of the Hebrew-Aramaic Christianity of the Apostles in the world of that time, the idea of an influence of “Christianized pagans” leaves one scratching one’s head.

Proposition C

Preceding from the previous one, this proposal assumes that it was these Christianized pagans who composed the Gospels, and therefore late (after the year 70 AD, the time of the fabrication of the “divinization”); and, of course, they can only have composed the Gospels in Greek. Consequently, the Jewish Christian communities produced nothing (or almost nothing) before these Greek texts, and the traces of this “almost nothing” in the Greek Gospels must suggest that they saw Jesus simply as a man.

Here we come to the fundamental problem of Western exegesis, posed by German Protestants from the end of the 16th century onwards. Because of their anti-Romanism, they turned exclusively to the Greek manuscripts, considering them a priori better than the Latin texts of the Catholic Church. Of course, other languages were not forgotten—in Pantagruel, Rabelais still indicates that it is necessary to learn Aramaic (Chaldean, he writes)—but, in practice, manuscripts in these languages were greatly lacking. These became available only at the end of the 19th century, because of the scarcity of contacts with Eastern Christianity before then; and in the 20th century, following the massive immigration of persecuted Eastern Christians, more numerous links were established.

Nevertheless, even today, no serious place is given to these Christians in the academic world among teachers, and the Gospels are still presented as the fruit of Greek writers—even though one is beginning to wonder whether they are not originally narrative compositions rather than redactions. In any case, almost no one has yet undertaken a systematic comparison of the best Greek manuscript texts (divided into seven or eight irreducible families, which poses a serious problem) with the Syro-Aramaic manuscripts (which form a single family). And one continues to affirm, in a dogmatic way, that the Aramaic texts were translated from Greek. [For example, here is a random example of this dogmatism: Muriel Dubié states peremptorily that “as early as 170, the Gospels were translated from Greek into Syriac”]. Those who have doubts and want to compare the texts, like the Protestant Jan Joosten, risk a lot.

Rationally, it is however very difficult to believe that the Jewish Christians did not compose stories in Aramaic, which was their language (and that of Jesus), when they were evangelizing in all directions of the world and when Aramaic (and not Greek) was the lingua franca, the English of its time. And that’s not all. The Jews were part of an oral civilization, even though all men had to be more or less able to read the sacred writings during the synagogal worship. Thus, for the Christian Jews, if the important thing was the transmission by word of mouth and from heart to heart, writing down as an aid to memory was an original necessity. What is a sacred transmission must be engraved on stone—on parchment in this case—like the Scriptures. The Gospel in its original sense of “announcement” made of various Gospel recitals (cf. Gal 2:2; Rom 2:16 etc.) is given this rank of Scripture, as is shown by the First Letter to Timothy, probably dating from the year 57 AD.

In fact, Paul quotes a saying of Jesus in parallel with a quotation from the Torah: “The Scripture says, You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain [cf. Deut. 25:4; 24:15] and again, The worker is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim. 5:18). But the second quotation exists only in Mt 10:10 and Lk 10:7.

[There is a small difference as to what the worker is worthy of: in Mt 10:10 he is worthy of saybbārā/Greek trophe, “food;” while in Lk 10:7 he is worthy of ‘agreh/Greek misthos, “wages.” In Aramaic, the key word is the verb šâw’é, expressing the idea of “suitability” (rendered in Greek by axios, “worthy,” for want of a better word): “the worker is šâw’é (it is suitable for him, he deserves) his food” (Mt 10:10—commented translation of the Peshitta by Mgr Francis Alichoran). But in Greek, what one is worthy of should not be food but honor or a reward-wage (as in Mt 20); axios estin o ergastès tès trofès autou is obviously an Aramaicism that reveals a translation.]

In the eyes of a Jewish Christian in the year 57 AD, what text could have the authority of sacred Scripture, if not an aide-memoire, such as the Gospel according to Matthew which was then used (primarily) in the liturgy as had been the Torah?

Moreover, the conviction that the Gospels existed in written form well before the first “Jewish war” (66-70 AD) is not uncommon among exegetes working on Greek—the case of John being special, as this Gospel was composed in two stages. But few still perceive that the aide-memoire of public recitation in Aramaic is the source of the translations into Greek (and into other languages), directly or on the occasion of simultaneous translations written down—it is systematically in Aramaic that the Apostles and other witnesses of the Resurrection gave their testimony; which, if necessary, was translated into Greek or Latin by interpreters, e.g., Mark, for what Peter said. [“Paul had Titus as his translator-interpreter, just as blessed Peter had Mark whose gospel was composed, with Peter speaking and Mark writing down” (St. Jerome, P.L. 22, col 1002)].

It is possible that the first writings in Greek or Latin were private, since the people of these languages no longer had an oral culture (but a written one) and were less able to memorize than the Aramaic speakers. In any case, the need for official writings was felt early on, also because of the dispersion of the Jerusalem community around 37 AD, threatened by unrest, which set the liturgical tone for the other Christian communities: Matthew urgently needed to establish a reference document for the liturgy.

[The sources that place the Gospel of Matthew in Aramaic before the Gospel of Mark in Greek allow us to place the first one around 37-38 AD, by virtue of the famous passage in the third book of Against Heresies by Irenaeus of Lyon, where there is found the matter of the publication of Mark’s Gospel. This passage presents a difficulty, however, since it seems to say that the community of Rome was founded by Peter and Paul—this is inaccurate, since in 42 AD Peter founded this community alone—and since it already existed, Paul had no intention of going there, as he wrote in Romans 15:22. The most likely explanation is that the words “and Paul” were added by a Latin copyist in honor of the Roman feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Here is the amended text: “Thus Matthew published among the Hebrews in their own language a written form of the gospel about the time when Peter [and Paul] was evangelizing Rome [until 42] and founding the Church there. After his departure [exodos, “departure,” which never means “death”], Mark, Peter’s translator, also transmitted to us in writing what Peter preached. Luke, Paul’s companion, also published the gospel while he was in Ephesus in Asia” (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., III 1,1).

In order to date Mark late, some exegetes have attributed to the word exodos the meaning of “death,” so that the publication of Mark’s Gospel would be later than the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, thus after 64 AD. But they are then in opposition to Eusebius of Caesarea who, quoting Clement of Alexandria († 215) and Papias († ±230), clearly indicates twice that Peter is alive at the time of the publication-translation into Greek: “They [Peter’s hearers] made all kinds of entreaties to Mark, the author of the gospel which has come down to us and Peter’s companion, that he would leave them a book as a memorial of the teaching given orally by the apostle, and they did not cease their entreaties until they had been granted… Peter … rejoiced at such zeal—he authorized the use of this book for reading in the churches. Clement reports this in his sixth Hypotyposis and the bishop of Hierapolis, Papias, confirms it with his own testimony” (Hist. Eccl. II,15 par. VI,14 6).]

The challenge of exegesis then is to rediscover the interplay of Aramaic orality, from the testimonies rigorously repeated by the witnesses themselves and then by their disciples from the 30s AD onwards. If there is a difficulty in discerning these narrative testimonies in our Gospels, it is because they are frequently intertwined. This is because of the very nature of the Gospels—they are organized for liturgical use, and therefore according to the Church calendar. They are lectionaries [Apart from exegetes working on Aramaic and aware of orality, some have nevertheless asked themselves the question of the synoptic Gospels as lectionaries, such as Gordon W. Lathrop, of the United Lutheran Seminary of Pennsylvania, in Après Jésus, l’invention du christianisme, p.160]—with the exception of John, which is organized for another purpose—The Gospel of John is organized according to oral patterns in a complex structure of meditation; it is not made for basic evangelization.

This major discovery, made possible by Aramaic oral studies, sheds light on the trial and error that began nearly four centuries ago and that leads each exegete working on the Greek to imagine his or her own plans for accounting for the Gospels—and no two agree. And of course, the idea that the Aramaic Christians of Asia (and of the eastern Roman Empire) lost their texts as a result of Tatian’s Diatessaron, and then had to re-translate them from Greek in the 5th century, with Bishop Raboula of Edessa, is a kind of academic myth—a convenient myth to avoid having to take a serious look at the Aramaic texts.

Proposition D

Proposition D seeks to clarify how the divinization of Jesus would have been invented—first by Paul and then by the Trinitarian definition of the Council of Nicaea (325 AD).

It does not matter that Trinitarian definitions had existed before. The problem is a misunderstanding of the so-called Christological discussions, which some scholars have believed to be about the divinity of Christ itself, when in fact they were about how to express it. It is true, on the other hand, that “Arianism” denied the divinity of Christ. But no Arian was invited to the Council of Nicaea, which met precisely against this denial.

At the time, Christian leaders were faced with the difficulty of agreeing on formulas of faith that would enable them to cope. The discussions at Nicaea and the subsequent councils were held in Greek and were marked by Byzantine ways of seeing and reasoning, which wanted to give conceptual definitions to everything. But sometimes this created more problems than it solved. Take the example of the Aramaic term qnoma, used by Jesus and found several times in the Aramaic New Testament: it was at the heart of certain divergences, because it corresponds neither to the Greek concept of ουσια (“nature”) nor to that of υποστασιϛ (“hypostasis”). The Council of Nicaea did not take sufficient account of the differences in culture and language, which eventually led, at the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), to the exclusion of the non-Greek speaking apostolic churches, which would be called “pre-Chalcedonian.”

One can understand then the confusion caused by a certain number of inter-faith academics and by Islamologists. They believe that these sidelined churches (the Arameans of the Church of the East from now on designated under the sobriquet of “Nestorians,” and the Copts and the Armenians) defended Christologies comparable to those of groups opposed to the faith of the Apostles, that is to say, catalogued as heretics. And, in the past (and we can go back to medieval scholars), under the influence of Islamic legends, some even imagined that the Christology of Islam (which violently denies the divinity of Christ) was inspired by that of the Aramaic Church of the East—whereas, around 735, John of Damascus compared Islam with Arianism and in no way with the thinking of the Church of the East.

In fact, the idea was to link Islamic Christology at all costs to the Christological discussions of or after Nicaea, for lack of understanding but also for lack of serious research on the origins of Islam. We read until recently: “The Koran… belongs to a movement of Christians who remained pre-Nicene, i.e., churches or Christian communities that did not accept the dogma of the Trinity defined at the Council of Nicaea.” [In particular, it is the legend of the Nestorian monk Serge-Bahira who is said to have recognized the “prophet Muḥammad” while still a child and to have transmitted his Christology to him.]

In the end, only rather crude confusions seek to justify Islamic “Christology” by Christian theological debates; whereas Islam is rooted in a much earlier, post-Christian-Jewish phenomenon, which in fact goes back to the end of the Apostolic period.

It is true that a question, subtle for the historian, lies behind these confusions: what criterion can distinguish what is Christian from what is not? Is it adherence to definitions—but in what language? Before the definitions of the Councils, was there only a vast vagueness? Is belief adhering to definitions—assuming one understands something, which requires explanations that are not always clearer either? Or is it something else? In other words, are definitions fundamentally enlightening—which is what the Byzantines hoped for—or are they merely signposts?

If Christianity is primarily a life, it cannot be put into concepts and definitions. In the Gospels, in Greek, we read six times “Your faith has saved you,” or as in Mt 1:21: “he will save the people from their sins;” where the Aramaic means “Your faith has made you alive,” and Jesus gives life back to the people from their sins. Certainly, the Greek verb sozo has something to do with healing; but taken out of context, the statement “faith saves” could be understood in relation to a conceptual eternal salvation, or one disconnected from concrete life; whereas it is first of all a question of life (re)given here below by Jesus.

Therefore, if there is a criterion of Christianity, it can only be this: the Christian, whether Hebrew-Aramaic or from another cultural or linguistic area, is the one who believes that Jesus holds in Himself the power to vivify. Those who believe that Jesus is under the power of an Other, that is to say that He does not save by Himself but simply intervenes as a superman, or else believe that He is simply a model to be followed, that is to say that everyone must save himself by following this model, do not share the faith of the Apostles but another faith. They adhere to distortions of the Christian Revelation, whether they are of the first or the second type.

These distortions have generally been called heresies, thus creating an unclear catch-all (the Greek word ‘aïresis, which gave rise to “heresy,” simply means “opinion”). This vagueness does not facilitate the distinction between what is Christian and what is not, and often focuses attention on secondary aspects. What determines the Christian faith is that if Jesus saves by Himself, then the God revealed in the Old Testament is present in Him, for God alone can save-vivify. As for the way in which this presence is expressed, this is certainly already an object of the New Testament and will subsequently be the subject of many theological debates—but it is secondary. Unfortunately, these debates have often pitted different, but legitimate, cultural perceptions and expressions of the mystery of Christ against each other. In fact, all the apostolic Christian communities of the world today recognize each other fully and mutually in their faith, expressed in different languages (often not transposable from one to another—that is the difficulty).

Proposition D also leads one to call writings “Christian” that are not, either because they present Jesus as a messiah in whom God acts as an external mover or inspirer (according to the Arian-Messianist perspective), or because they present Him as a guide who, out of compassion, shows how to save oneself (such is the core of all Gnostic systems). Such writings are not Christian, and the groups who wrote them cannot be called “Christian”—nor can they be called “heterodox Jews;” they are in fact also in opposition to rabbinic Judaism (which repays them with the daily curse against the minim). This is why, instead of using the illegitimate term “Christian” for them, serious research leads to the qualification of these groups, which came after apostolic Christianity, as “post-Christians”—they exist historically and logically only in relation to the latter, from which they derive doctrines that would not otherwise stand by themselves.

The confusions linked to propositions A, B and C lead to those linked to proposition D, which is quite logical.

Proposition E

If faith in the divinity of Christ is a late invention, the Aramaic-speaking Christian communities must also be late, and they can only have existed in dependence on Greek Christianity, therefore not before the end of the third century—this is a logical necessity. It is said that they were only an outgrowth of this Greek Christianity in the Syriac East of the Roman Empire, or the result of the deportation of some Greco-Roman populations to the Parthian Empire.

This denial of apostolic antiquity of the Eastern Christians is expressed in numerous writings, for example by Françoise Briquel-Chatonnet, in her contribution to a book with the evocative title, Après Jésus: L’invention du christianisme (After Jesus: The Invention of Christianity). She speaks of a “staging” by Eastern Christians of a “conversion to Christianity” going back to the Apostle Thomas (p. 570). And in Paul-Hubert Poirier, one reads that “the expansion of Christianity” beyond the borders of the Empire dates from the 3rd century, with “the Christians beginning to use” Latin at the end of the 2nd century, Syriac at the beginning of the 3rd century only, Coptic at the end of the same century, Armenian in the 5th century, and other languages later still (p. 53). Did they not exist before? What is thus obscured is that from the first century until the great massacres by Tamerlane, Asia had more Christians than Europe. Of the twelve Apostles, only three (James, brother of John, Andrew and Peter) went West; the others went elsewhere, with the exception of James the Just, who remained in Jerusalem, considered the center of the world. To think that Christians existed only in the Roman Empire until the end of the third century is simply the result of a postulate; and this negationist postulate is fundamentally rooted in Proposition A.

Proposition F

Since the Syro-Aramaic churches are presumed to have existed only in the late period of time, their New Testament texts were therefore also presumed to have been translated from the already existing texts—i.e., from Greek.

But if the reverse is true, i.e., if early Christianity is no further West of Jerusalem (in the Greek Roman Empire) than East of it (in the Parthian Empire), it becomes essential to compare the best Greek and Syro-Aramaic manuscripts. And then, the Aramaic texts turn out to reflect a state of the text much earlier than the best Greek manuscripts, which appear to be the work of translators (various in fact and in various Greek dialects, which is the main reason for the existence of seven or eight irreconcilable families of Greek Biblical manuscripts). These Aramaic texts can shed light on most of the obscurities of the Greek or Latin texts, even if there is reason to believe that the translators did their best in the context that was theirs.

Proposition G

Since there were groups of Semitic language holding Jesus only as a man, one imagines that they preceded the churches of the same languages (Aramaic, Coptic); and that it was they who preserved the true Christianity of the Apostles (the Greek Christians having invented the divinity of Jesus). They are often referred to under the vague term of “Judeo-Christian sects,” or pre-Pauline or pre-Nicene groups. We have seen above how these labels are misleading. If Semitic or even other language groups speak of Jesus in opposition to the faith of the Apostles which is really known to us through the New Testament (which we can understand through the Aramaic texts even better than those in Greek or Latin), they are post-Christian groups.

The concept of “post-Christianity” was coined to designate the phenomenon of “leaving Christianity” that marked the 19th and 20th centuries, from the point of view of institutions (we also speak of “secularization”). But there is no reason to take into account only the institutional aspect. If we consider the theological aspect (or in other words, that of the Apostolic faith), we can and must look at the phenomenon that begins towards the end of the Apostolic era, that of groups of Judeo-Christians who questioned the faith they held from the Apostles, and who then organized themselves into groups and doctrines opposed to the Apostles (while keeping many traits of original Christianity).

These groups and doctrines, which would later be called “heresies,” are strictly speaking counterfeits (in the sense that a counterfeit is made to resemble the model, but it is no longer the original). These counterfeits, which constitute exactly post-Christianities, are fundamentally and historically of two types, corresponding to the two axes of Christianity (and thus to the two possible ways of counterfeiting it. See here):

Conclusion

The Propositions, from A to G, form a logical system. For this reason, it is enough that only one of these seven propositions turns out to be contrary to the data of serious research for the whole to be invalidated. There is no lack of reasons to question each of these propositions, starting with the first one, which is the most important—and which is even the key to the others. There has never been a “divinization” of Jesus, but rather a consideration of the plan of a God who revealed Himself in order to come and save humanity, which only He can do. The question remains open as to what God will do next, as a Second Coming of Christ is foretold. This is another question, which is not simple either, since Muslims also expect a second coming of Jesus, but it is not the same. It is understandable that some minds find all this very complicated and try to reduce their perception of Christianity to their logical and ideological schemes, from A to G.

It is therefore a new coherent and logical approach to Christian origins that must be promoted and explored, in accordance with Revelation and historical and anthropological data that are not censored or distorted by postulates. Such new orientations will not go without opposition—the seekers of truth are rare—but this is a characteristic of our time in almost all areas, alas.


Theologian and Islamologist, Father Edouard-Marie Gallez is the author of the magisterial  Le messie et son prophète (The Messiah and His Prophet), published in Paris in 2005 (and awaiting an English translation), which is an 1100 -page study that reconnects the origins of Islam to factual history by showing that the Koran and Islamic legends developed gradually over time. This study paved the way of current research into early Islam. See Roots of Islam and the Great Secret. Father Gallez also participates in research groups on early Christianity and its influence.


Featured image: “Traditio Legis,” mosaic, Santa Costanza, Rome, 4th century AD.

What Political Commitment for Christians?

The political commitment of Christians in our liberal democracies is not at all obvious, so much so that these democracies oppose the teachings of the Church on many subjects.

Let us first bring to mind the context. Christians cannot be indifferent to politics, understood as a form of higher charity. But in our societies, Christianity is now in the minority and rejected as a public reference. It has therefore become difficult to have an influence by explicitly claiming it. And yet Christians cannot blend anonymously into society. Indeed, they cannot avoid speaking up and becoming visible, if an issue at hand is directly religious. But even if it is a matter of natural law, and when it is unknown to society (marriage for all), Christians are quickly identified as such. The old dilemma is therefore not very helpful—one will always act “as a Christian,” obviously, but also in each case “inasmuch a Christian” without exclusion a priori.

Does the Magisterium give a clear answer as to the directions to take? The principles (the Social Doctrine of the Church) are solid. But the political position has varied considerably—at first hostile to political modernity (19th century), it then oscillated, at least until the Second World War, between restating the principles and a de facto accommodation. Then it tried Christian democracy, which seemed a convenient and promising compromise, but which finally failed, leading to the present position. If it can be summarized, the Doctrine seems to recommend democracy and human rights, like the rest of society—but (at least for John Paul II and Benedict XVI) with an underlying understanding that is quite different from the prevailing one, and more than a little nuanced between the popes. In any case, it is not disrespectful to say that the impact over time has been and remains inconclusive. The only clear case of success, that of John Paul II in the East, was no ordinary political struggle.

It should be remembered, moreover, that the Magisterium exercises its full authority only on faith and morals (the moral foundations), not on decisions of political prudence. The light it sheds is therefore very important, but it leaves open various possibilities, while remaining faithful to the principles. This does not mean that magisterial teaching should be neglected—far from it. But it is not a ready-made manual. This fact is often forgotten when positions taken here and there in the Church are taken without caution. Conversely, it is difficult in practice to claim to be a Catholic in politics while going against this or that expression of the Church of the moment, even if one remains within the legitimate margin of autonomy. For example, a party claiming to be Catholic but restrictive on migrants would probably be criticized in an uncomfortable way.

What References in the Past?

Do we have references in the past? Less than we think. The era of Christianity was too different. Christian democracy did not survive and was a flash in the pan—in a way correlated with the illusion, common at the time, that there was a misunderstanding with the modern world, which just had to be dispelled. But what has emerged is that, as the popes of the nineteenth century perceived (despite their errors and blunders), there are elements of strong and structural opposition between this world and the Christian. In the end, the model of the first Christians seems more inspiring. It is true that there was no democratic political struggle in the Roman Empire, but the dilemma was already known—not to deny the society in which one lives and its elements of legitimacy, while recognizing points of irreducible opposition. And within this framework, the positions could be diverse. Thus, the question of the Roman army—some thought that it was out of the question to fight in it; others made the opposite choice, without denying their faith.

This does not tell us what choices should be made concretely. All the more so since the Christian world is divided politically, with, to simplify things, a basic polarization between “conservatives” and “progressives.” The former are more numerous and transmit the faith better; but the latter, although weakened, hold more levers. That said, the Catholic spectrum thus drawn does not merge with the political spectrum in society, as it is significantly more skewed to the right. The “progressive” Christian is very rarely on the extreme left: he or she will be an ecologist or a Socialist Party member, but often LREM or even LR, like the majority of practicing Catholics. The “conservative” Christian is readily classified by the system as being on the right, or even on the extreme right.

These oppositions also seem irreducible; first of all, of course, on questions of morality and society. In theory, the Doctrine gives clear-cut answers. But not everyone adheres to them (contraception); and the question of what is possible remains open; and thereafter, the division is often sharp (marriage for all). Then there are the migrants. The disagreement between Christians is very bitter here, with the current pope having moreover committed himself radically to one side. Less harsh, but nevertheless clear, is the opposition on Europe and more broadly on the national question. Finally, in the vast field of economic and social issues, including ecology, there is a very wide range of opinions, with considerable differences. This simple reminder shows that it is not possible to unite under one banner the positions in question, whether explicitly Christian or not.

In such a context, frustrations are inevitable on both sides; and not only because the Magisterium seems to support some over others. The “progressive” side suffers from the retreat of this current compared to the 1970s and 1980s. Above all, since the opposition between the dominant spirit of our societies and the Christian faith is denied or relativized, we end up in the wake of the former; and, in practice, the political action we carry out is confused with that of the left or the center. Moreover, the committed progressive is troubled by the right-wing vote of the majority of Catholics, as well as by the insistence of the “conservatives” in regards to matters societal, which is much more visible and the only one associated by the public with Christianity.

Finally, there is difficulty with a magisterial doctrine that remains traditional (despite certain declarations). Hence the temptation of an exacerbated ethic of conviction, notable on the subject of migrants—but there again without any political effect of its own.

The malaise is no less real on the “conservative” side. This may be because of the fact that they are out of step with the hierarchy—not so much on principles as on certain declarations, such as on migrants—but even more so because of frustration over the poor results obtained, for example in societal struggles. This is because we are opposed to the heavy tendencies of society, the relativist paradigm that dominates it. Moreover, on this side also Christian discourse is in the minority, although less than on the left.

The balance sheet therefore does not appear to be encouraging. One can recognize an ardent obligation as a Christian, but in practice it is difficult to implement it in a way that can be identified in Christian terms; the dispersion of efforts is considerable; and the political field does not immediately appear to be fruitful for the Christian who wants to act explicitly as such. But it would be wrong to leave it at that. First of all, of course, what makes an action good or bad is not primarily the result obtained—which for the most part depends on God. It is not up to us to carry the future of humanity on our shoulders; this does not prevent us from doing what we have to do, where we are and where we can; and if possible, intelligently. Doing good around us, including in political matters, is always possible, and obtaining real results, and by making explicit how this manifests our Christian faith whenever possible or pertinent.
Another thing is the manifestation of Christianity in society and in history. Let’s look at its lessons—how many cases of collective successes are there that are the fruit of Christian action, consciously and in principle? I am, for example, one of those who admire Christianity in spite of its defects and limitations; but it was never defined as an objective to be reached; it was given in its time. It will be the same in the future.


Pierre de Lauzun, a graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique and a graduate of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, has worked in banking and finance and has published, among other things, Philosophie de la foi, La finance peut-elle être au service de l’homme? and Finance: un regard chrétien. This article appears through the kind courtesy of La Nef.


Featured image: “Christ Before Pilate,” Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, 6th century.

A Stepping-Stone out of the Cave: An Interview with Daria Dugin

Here is a fascinating interview with Daria Dugin, the daughter of the philosopher Alexander Dugin. The conversation is wide-ranging and serves to contextualize what is currently happening in the world, namely, the struggle between globalist hegemony and multipolar alliances. This interview is made available through the kind courtesy of Breizh-Info.


Breizh-info (BI): Would you introduce yourself to our readers? Isn’t it difficult for you sometimes to bear the name of Dugin, and thus to be necessarily assimilated to your father?

Daria Dugin (DD): I graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy at Moscow State University with a degree in the history of philosophy. My research focused on the political philosophy of late Neoplatonism, a subject of endless interest. The main line of thought in the political philosophy of the late Neoplatonists is the development of the idea of an omology of the soul and the state and the existence of a similar threefold order in both. Just as there are three bases in the soul, so in the state (and the Platonists describe the Indo-European model, later perfectly theorized in the work of Georges Dumézil) there are also three domains—this model manifests itself in antiquity and the Middle Ages. The existential and psychic understanding of politics is in fact lost in many ways today. We are used to seeing politics only as a technique. But Platonism reveals a deep link between political and psychic processes. There is an urgent need today to restore such a comprehensive view of political processes; that is, to examine “existential politics.”

Daria Dugin.

I am honored to be in the same boat as my father (on the same existential ship), being the daughter of a great researcher of the Tradition, author of the 24-volume work Noomachia (“wars of the mind”—an analysis through the three logos of all the cultures of the world). The fact that we are under sanctions from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom is also a symbol that we, Dugins, are on the path of truth in the fight against globalism. Therefore, I would say that it is an honor to be born in such a family.

BI: Tell us about your current work?

DD: I am a political observer of the International Eurasist Movement and an expert in international relations. My field of activity is the analysis of European politics as well as geopolitics. In this capacity, I appear on Russian, Pakistani, Turkish, Chinese and Indian television channels, presenting a multipolar world-view of political processes.

My areas of interest are both the European civilization space and the Middle East, where a kind of conservative revolution is taking place—from Iran’s constant confrontation with American hegemony or Syria’s struggle against Western imperialism, to Turkey, which is now showing interesting tendencies to move away from NATO and the Anglo-Saxon geopolitical bloc and is trying to build its foreign policy on a multipolar basis, engaging in a dialogue with the Eurasian civilization. I think it is important to follow the processes in the Middle East region; it is one of the stages of the struggle against imperialism.

On the other hand, I am also very interested in African countries; they represent “The Other” for Europe and Russia, from the analysis of which one can better understand his own civilization. Africa has always been an element of dream for Europeans as well as for Russians—remember Arthur Rimbaud’s Journey to Abyssinia and Harrar, or the Russian poet Nikolai Goumilev, who was inspired by Rimbaud (“African Diary”) and a series of poems about Africa, in which he actually reveals Africa as an unexplored civilization, full of meaning, which Western colonialism cruelly tried to undo and destroy. Today, tectonic shifts are occurring on the African continent, and the confrontation of civilizations: Western and authentically African (so different and unique) is extremely interesting.

For me, a particularly important topic is the development of the theory of a multipolar world. It is clear that the globalist moment is over. The end of liberalism is now at hand—the end of liberal history. At the same time, it is extremely important to understand that a new stage full of challenges, provocations and complexities has begun. The process of creating multipolarity, of structuring civilizational blocs and establishing a dialogue between them is the main task of all intellectuals today. Samuel Huntington, as a realist of international relations, has rightly warned against the risks of a clash of civilizations. Fabio Petito, a specialist in international relations, stressed that the construction of a “dialogue of civilizations” is the central task and “the only way forward.”

Thus, in order to consolidate the multipolar world, the border areas (intermediaries) between civilizations must be treated with care. All conflicts take place at the borders (intermediate zones) of civilizations, where attitudes clash. It is therefore essential to develop a “border” (intermediate) mindset, if the multipolar world is to function fully and move from a “clash” to a “dialogue” of civilizations. Without this, there is a risk of a “clash.”

BI: What is your view on the war in Ukraine? And on the reactions in the West and in the world?

DD: The situation in Ukraine is precisely an example of a clash of civilizations; it can be seen as a clash of globalist and Eurasian civilizations. After the “great geopolitical catastrophe” (as the Russian president called the collapse of the USSR), the territories of the once-united country became “frontiers” (intermediate zones)—those spaces to which the attention of neighbors increased, with NATO and especially the United States interested in destabilizing the situation on Russia’s borders.

In the 1990s, consistent work was initiated with the frameworks of the new governments, of the new states. Ukraine is no exception. The 2014 events in Ukraine, the Maidan, supported so fervently by both Nuland and the famous Bernard-Henri Levy (soldier of ultra-globalization), were a turning point; in fact, they opened the door to the establishment of a direct globalist dictate over Ukraine. Moreover, liberal and nationalist elements, which were more or less neutral before 2014, joined a united front with a globalist and pro-American agenda. For eight years in Ukraine, Russophobia was cultivated by various programs and history was rewritten, until the physical massacre of Russians—the same eibght terrible years for the Donbass with daily bombings. The French public can listen to the documentary filmmaker Anne Laure Bonnel, witness of these eight years in Donetsk, who is not afraid to tell the truth in her films and interviews.

The unanimous support of the West for Ukraine in 2022, the supply of weapons on an unthinkable scale—all this looks like agony—the agony of a globalist regime that is beginning to lose ground to multipolarity. For me, the most important pain is that Europe has succumbed to the influence of globalist propaganda, and instead of remaining neutral, has sided with the war. In many ways, this was certainly the plan of the United States, which had so systematically and continuously provoked the entire conflict by pumping weapons into Ukraine. From the U.S. alone (according to Transparency International), over $658 million was invested in aid to Ukraine between 2014 and 2017.

At the same time, we see that Latin American countries, the Middle East, China and India have not adopted a globalist position. Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro said his country “firmly” adheres to Russia’s position. In Cuba, people were seen carrying Russian flags and Z-symbols during a demonstration on May 1, as mentioned by the German channel ZDF. Argentina has accused the West of having double standards. The country’s vice-president, Cristina Kirchner, said the country was in conflict with London over the Falkland Islands. In Brazil, presidential candidate Lula da Silva said in turn that Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky was responsible for what was happening in his country. China spoke out against NATO expansion and U.S. provocations. India tried to maintain its strategic neutrality (in the 1990s, India itself was the target of painful U.S. and Western sanctions for refusing to join the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty)—the country whose oxygen the West sought to cut off and deprive of high technology, then stood its ground (largely through cooperation with Russia, which did not join the sanctions and advocated their abolition).

A number of Middle Eastern countries supported Russia’s special military operation (Syria, a long-time Russian ally, knows the battle against globalism better than anyone). There are growing calls for NATO withdrawal in Turkey, and the president refused to approve the admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO.

Many African countries, especially those with strong antiglobalist sentiment, have not supported Western criticism of Russia (Mali, Sudan, CAR, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, Eritrea). These reactions indicate the end of the myth of a “single world space.” Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine has accelerated the formation of a multipolar world and catalyzed many geopolitical processes.

BI: Don’t you think that Russia is isolating itself? What do you think will be the consequences of all this?

DD: I think it is the opposite. Russia is finding new partners and the processes of sovereignty (e.g., economic de-dollarization) are starting to accelerate. Russia is trying to be “punished” by Western countries through sanctions. But the effect on the Russian economy is not very noticeable (“International sanctions against Russia do not seem to impact the daily life of Muscovites,” a journalist mentions in a report by BFM TV). The sanction-policy of the West has been a catalyst for the search for new partners and the de-Westernization of our country.

At the same time, these sanctions have hit European countries hard, becoming a kind of “hara-kiri” for many European economies. This is very disturbing news. But apparently that was also part of the American plot to destabilize the European continent. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Budapest does not support the imposition of ill-considered sanctions against Russia. “Sanctions against Russia are like an atomic bomb; they could lead us not only to not being able to feed our population but also to receiving a mass of migrants at the border,” said the Hungarian Prime Minister.

New blocs have emerged. “Developing countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and others that refused to take sides, following Western sanctions against Russia, should consider ways to strengthen their economic coordination to withstand further shocks from the West. It is important to note that developing countries should seek a solution through financial and trade cooperation,” wrote a reporter for China’s Global Times. These are very interesting geopolitical processes. So, Russia has not been a victim of isolation—it has been the pioneer of a multipolar world order.

BI: How does the Russian population react to this war, which has obviously already caused a lot of losses on the Russian side?

DD: Any military operation always involves losses. It should be noted that the figures provided by Ukrainian sources (and they are the ones that are broadcast in the Western media) are not correct and should be verified. We are facing a situation of information war in which everything from military reports to figures is politicized.

In the Western media, there is unfortunately hardly any alternative view of events. In 2016, Ofpra produced a dossier on Pravy Sektor (“Right Sector”), an ultra-Ukrainian group: “Pravy Sektor is subject to allegations of anti-Semitism and xenophobia, homophobic demonstrations, illegal detentions and other abuses of power. It created an armed militia, the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps, which was involved in the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass. Tensions between the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps and the authorities continued until the Corps was integrated into the regular armed forces.”

Those who were looked at with suspicion in 2016, have become heroes in 2022. The wives of the fighters of Azov (a group responsible for the cruel murders of Russians in Donbass) meet the Pope in the Vatican. It is very strange that something that seemed forbidden only two years ago has become mainstream in Europe. Or the meeting of BHL with Marchenko, the former head of the Russophobic and xenophobic radical battalion Aydar (a terrorist organization banned in Russia).

Today, liberalism goes hand-in-hand with xenophobia and Nazism. This is a paradox. But it can be explained if we understand the “totalitarian nature” of modern liberalism. This is the subject of manipulation of information and data.

As for the reaction of the Russians, the overwhelming majority supports the special military operation. In their eyes, it is an understandable defense of Russia’s geopolitical interests and a fight against Russophobia, because a regime has formed in Kiev that denies Russians the right to self-determination (language, culture, identity) and existence. Some elements of society immediately left the country after the outbreak of hostilities—they went to the United States, Europe and Israel. Significantly, Anatoly Chubais, former head of the Russian presidential administration and one of the ideologues and leaders of economic reforms in Russia in the 1990s, left the country. In the 1990s, the Patriotic Front called him a “traitor” and responsible for Russia’s economic difficulties. This is symbolic. There are such cases, for sure.

Everyone around me supports the special military operation, not only in words, but also, for many, in deeds, providing humanitarian aid to refugees and the region. Moreover, they have not only been doing so for the last few months, but for many years—over the same eight years that the West knows so little about.

BI: As a journalist, what do you think about the censorship of RT in the European Union, or of Sputnik, and the silence (if not approval) of a majority of European journalists?

DD: This is an unprecedented case of violation of the “freedom of expression.” Freedom of expression implies the possibility of different points of view, sometimes unpalatable to the authorities. RT and Sputnik are not instruments of Russian propaganda, but platforms for discussion. I watched many programs of RT France, and they were interesting because they included experts with an alternative point of view to that of the mainstream media. The fact that journalists in Europe did not react in any way to these blockades shows the “totalitarian” nature of the entire Western media world. This is very sad. Let’s hope that the re-information media will remain active and will hasten the destruction of the disinformation block.

BI: In France, the economic consequences are already being felt (notably the increase in gas prices). How can a vicious circle be avoided?

DD: The anti-Russian sanctions are beginning to drain the European economy. Le Pen, during the debate with Macron, rightly called them “hara-kiri” for the French economy. But let’s think—who needs a weakened Europe? Afflicted after COVID, weakened by anti-Russian sanctions, Europe will have to focus all its forces on the issue of rescuing its own economy. In such a situation the beneficiaries are the USA, which will manage to establish its control over the continent.

An independent Rimland is unacceptable for the Anglo-Saxon civilization. The growing anti-American and anti-NATO sentiment (in France, note, Mélanchon, Le Pen, Zemmour and many other candidates have actively criticized France’s membership in NATO and called for an almost Gaullist scenario of 1966) is a threat to the world domination of the USA. Therefore, the idea of anti-Russian sanctions was implemented with the self-serving aim of weakening the region. The EU elites have acted as intermediaries, proxies of the globalists in this enterprise, and have dealt a blow to the welfare of peoples and European populations.

BI: A final word?

DD: I urge all readers to think critically and question the reports published by the media. If the Western liberal elites insist so much on supporting Kiev and demonizing Moscow, it is because there is a profit logic behind it. Everything must be questioned. This is an important principle that allows us to keep a sober eye.

In a society of spectacle, of propaganda and of the totalitarian nature of Western systems, doubt is a fundamental stepping-stone to get out of the cave.


Featured image: “Plato’s Cave (Study for a Monument),” by Tom Hopkins; painted in 1986.

Antoine Arjakovsky: An Ecumenical Metaphysics

Antoine Arjakovsky directs the Politics and Religion Department at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris. He is also Director Emeritus of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University.

His research focuses in particular on Russian religious philosophy (Bulgakov, Berdyaev, Shestov), as well as on issues of the theology of politics, such as democracy, justice and fraternity (Votez Fraternité ! Trente propositions pour une société plus juste [Vote Fraternity! Thirty Propositions for a more Just Society]). He has just published Éssai de métaphysique œcuménique [Essay on Ecumenical Metaphysics]. in which he analyzes our troubled times and, above all, proposes a new epistemology based on ecumenical science.

This conversation comes through the kind courtesy of PHILITT. [Translated from the French by N. Dass]


PHILITT (PL): In the introduction to your book, you begin by making an observation. Contrary to those who say that our world is going well, and that the impression of the contrary is only a distortion effect, proper to a Western consciousness that has always been haunted by the idea of decadence, you affirm that, on the contrary, our societies are facing a “poly-crisis.”

Antoine Arjakovsky (AA): Yes, but it is not to be a great prophet to note this. You just have to look at the many reports of the United Nations or the IPCC on this subject. For example, the latest Oxfam report published in January 2022 explains that the health pandemic has considerably increased social inequalities in France and in the world. The top five wealthiest people in France have doubled their wealth since the beginning of the pandemic. They by themselves own as much as the poorest 40% in France. Since March 2020, the world counts a new billionaire every 26 hours, while at the same time 160 million people have fallen into poverty.

Antoine ArjakovskyDR.

Everything that formed a coherent whole in the 1990s has disintegrated in less than twenty years. There is, of course, the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, with the dramatic consequences that we know about, with the coronavirus pandemic. But there is also the crisis of international relations, the rise of social violence, etc. Some consider that these crises have always existed, that there has always been war, violence and injustice. But the truth is that these inequalities and the devastation of forests and oceans have taken on proportions unknown in the past. Add to this the progression, at the speed of a galloping horse, of the postmodern paradigm within most political or media elites—that is to say, of a worldview according to which there is no truth but only interpretations—then you understand why this poly-crisis is deep, long-lasting and, to put it bluntly, quite worrying.

PL: One could use the come-back that this triple economic, ecological and philosophical crisis is purely conjunctural, linked to certain contemporary mutations of the market, of technology and of ways of thinking, and that the system will eventually resolve it.

AA: The current poly-crisis has deep causes, which have to do with the fact that postmodern thinking deprives man of the spiritual energy that would allow him to truly act on the world. Indeed, in such thinking, only the individual can have sufficient resources to survive and transform a world characterized by its power relations, its senselessness and its violence. But this obviously is not the case. On the contrary, we can see that this conception renders man completely powerless. It is time to recover the elementary truth that budgets are moral documents. This is the guarantee that new public policies are possible in order to build not, according to the vision of the Moderns, a sovereign and all-powerful State, but, in a more spiritual way, a State at the service of fraternity.

PL: If I follow you, since the crisis originated in a worldview and epistemology that is both utilitarian and individualistic, its solution can only be to return to a more spiritual epistemology.

AA: Alongside the postmodern paradigm, there is another crystallization of consciousness, which can be called spiritual, that was carried into the 20th century by very different thinkers such as Nicholas Berdyaev and Kate Raworth, Victor Frankl and Karol Wojtyla (later John Paul II). This challenged not only the classical and modern worldview but also its postmodern conception.

I will take here only the example of the realization of the Austrian and Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. On October 19, 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz by the Nazis. On his return from deportation, he gave a famous lecture in Vienna in which he explained that modern psychoanalysis failed to understand the world because of a faulty epistemology:

“Having an atomistic, energetic and mechanistic concept of Man, psychoanalysis sees him in the last analysis as the automaton of a psychic apparatus. And it is precisely there that the existential analysis intervenes. It opposes a different concept of man to the psychoanalytical concept. It does not focus on the automaton of a psychic apparatus but rather on the autonomy of spiritual existence. ‘Spiritual’ is used here without any religious connotation, of course, but rather simply to indicate that we are dealing with a specifically human phenomenon, unlike the phenomena we share with other animals. In other words, the spiritual is what is human in man.”

This shift in consciousness from a postmodern conception to a spiritual worldview has occurred in an often discrete way in just about every discipline in the 20th and 21st centuries. Today agnostic philosophers, such as Dany Robert Dufour for example, do not hesitate to trace manifestations of the spirit in the life of the world back to the metaphysical and theological figure of the Trinity. Here is the conclusion of one of his recent conferences at the Collège des Bernardins: “I am an atheist betting on a new ecumenism (convivialism) and invoking the Trinity to ward off the devil.”

PL: This new spiritual worldview must, according to you, be developed in what you call an “ecumenical metaphysics.” However, this term seems at first sight to be difficult to understand. In fact, the term “metaphysics” does not have a very good press today, and since Kant it has been associated with the idea of an outdated or even misguided philosophy.

AA: It is urgent to get out of the current schizophrenia of the university which consists in separating the two spheres of belief and rationality. Kant himself, in The Conflict of Faculties, was opposed to such a division. He, the philosopher of pure reason, explained at the end of his life that he was also a Lutheran believer who would like to be able to converse with theologians. The misfortune was that in his time theological rationality was entirely dependent on political power. Today, we are no longer in that situation. On the contrary, we can see how much theological rationality and philosophical rationality have to say to each other in the same way that the Catholic faith has understood that it could be enriched by contact with the Protestant and Orthodox faith. Hence the interest for me to think today about the bases of an ecumenical metaphysics capable of thinking together the universal and the personal, but also the real world and the spiritual world.

In reality, ecumenical metaphysics is a global vision of the world that seeks to understand all reality and to participate in it. Here the term “ecumenical” is understood as the Kingdom of God that comes to earth whenever human beings actualize divine justice. This conception of universality becomes personal and communal. It also breaks down the ancient representation of space-time. History is neither cyclical nor a long empty corridor. It has a vertical meaning, one might say. The kingdom of God on earth is fullness in spirit and truth. This is why I explain in my book that Wilhelm Visser’t Hooft was right when he explained in his book The Meaning of Ecumenical that there is a somewhat forgotten meaning to the term “ecumenical—that of a universality that gives access to reality in a meta-confessional, meta-religious and meta-convictional way. From the Christian point of view, this can be perfectly justified by the fact that Christ himself announced to his disciples: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). But, of course, this personal sense of universality must also be understood in its sapiential dimension, its dimension of wisdom.

PL: You have said on many occasions that this ecumenical metaphysics must be “sapiential,” but also “personalist.”

AA: For Aristotle, metaphysics had to be katholou; that is to say, it had to be capable of taking the whole thing. Metaphysics, when it rediscovers its spiritual sources, in a sapiential and personalist way, becomes fully ecumenical. It is a question of holding together in its entirety God, the world and the human being as a thinker. This is why it is necessary to understand the individual in his infinite dignity as a person, both microcosm and macrocosm. It is also a question of rediscovering the intuitions of figures as different as the author of the Book of Proverbs, of Rumi, of Paracelsus or of Shankara in order to grasp the being in all its sapiential depth, which is at the same time unobjectifiable yet nonetheless describable. This leads to a non-dual understanding of the world, as in the Eastern religions but also in the great Western mystics.

This metaphysics, because it poses a tension between the created and the uncreated world, makes it possible to reconcile four major understandings of truth in the history of philosophy: truth as correspondence between the thing and the intellect (Aristotle); truth as fidelity to a promise (Augustine); truth as coherence between what one says and what one does (Rescher); and finally truth as consensus between the members of a community (Peirce). This existential and “in tension” conception of truth is opposed in this sense to the voluntarist vision of truth, dominant today, which conceives it only as that which functions in relation to what is (Bacon); that is to say in a technocentric way, which leads to the transhumanist utopia, as Franck Damour has shown well.

PL: This ecumenical metaphysics appears to be a culmination of your work, in particular that of Russian religious philosophers, such as Berdyaev, Bulgakov or Chestov, whom you quote extensively in your book.

AA: The Russian religious thinkers of the 20th century, such as Nicolai Berdyaev, Sergei Bulgakov or Lev Shestov were among the first to understand that it was possible to understand the universal as a personal and symbolic reality. These thinkers knew German thought very well, from Kant to Marx. They understood with Nietzsche that the modern metaphysics that separated the domain of “why” (which was reserved for special metaphysics) from the domain of “how” (which was reserved for general metaphysics) was absurd. They recognized with Heidegger that Western rationalist thought had enclosed being in objectifying concepts, and that it was henceforth a question of recovering all the depth and all the freedom of it.

For the Russian religious thinkers, although they did not always go to the end of their intuitions, it is appropriate to associate the logic of the subject as Person (Berdyaev), the logic of the verb as Wisdom (Bulgakov), and finally the logic of the predicate as self-consciousness (Shestov). This post-idealist and post-phenomenological worldview has the great merit of renewing metaphysics, as soon as one grasps the complementarity between these thoughts, as I try to show in my book.

Thus, for example, Shestov showed how rational thought was, since Aristotle, based on the principles of identity, non-contradiction and the excluded third. This meant that all reality was equal to itself, that one could not say one thing and its opposite and that there was no third term that was both A and non-A. Rational binary thought, based on these principles, relied on the adequacy between the thing and the intellect to understand the world. And it defined “proof” as the explanation of a phenomenon by its universalizable repetition.

But this is a vision of the world which the different religious traditions, from the East and the West, say is a form of naivety with respect to the non-dual organization of reality. Man, who has however an infinite dignity, must in this rationalist conception submit to the order and to the appearance that the phenomena want to give of themselves. It is, according to Shestov, a form of passivity which leads to fatalism or to war. This form of thinking leads to a priori judgments which force to understand all reality as an abstract and uniform thing. It consequently denies to think truth as the fruit of a personal experience.


Featured image: “The Last Supper,” by the Master of the Amsterdam Death of the Virgin; painted ca. 1485-1500.

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Stumbling Block

I

Alexis de Tocqueville is a great mind of the hedgehog variety. Writers, Isaiah Berlin said, are roughly divided into two species: hedgehogs who stay in the same intellectual place for life, and foxes who scamper from place to place. The political writer Tocqueville deliberately chose the tactic of the hedgehog (minus the prickles); he centered his thought around a few core ideas whose facets he explored and whose implications he pursued tirelessly. What are these core ideas? They are three in number:

  1. The great business of the modern world is democracy or equality;
  2. The great cause par excellence is freedom, or more precisely freedom associated with the spirit of religion;
  3. The parasite or the nuisance is revolution, or rather the revolutionary spirit.

Tocqueville’s entire intellectual life is summed up in a reflection on these themes, a stubborn and tormented reflection from which came two great books: De la démocratie en Amérique [Democracy in America] (1835 and 1840), the first volume of which made him a famous man at the age of thirty. Second, after the coup d’état of December 2, 1851 made him an author once again, L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution [The Ancien Régime and the Revolution] (1856), the second volume of which remained unfinished. In the interim, Tocqueville had engaged himself wholeheartedly in politics—he was a deputy from 1839 to 1851 and a minister for a time under the Second Republic—but he always remained a politician on the fringe, and his ambitions were disappointed. In all circumstances, he remained unwaveringly faithful to the same cause, the one that inspired his whole life: the liberal cause (Tocquevillian version).

The second book is a great work, which however is an incomplete effort. Tocqueville did not succeed in solving the problem that is at the heart of his thought—he groped, rectified, resumed and never succeeded. The problem is this—how to think in one go about this great democratic or egalitarian revolution that is today generating a new world and that formidable and singular event that was the French Revolution? How to think about the dynamics of equality and the dynamics of the Revolution together? Or more precisely, how to fit the dynamics of the Revolution into the dynamics of equality?

A New World

On the one hand, Tocqueville was deeply convinced that in the new lands of America and in the old societies of Europe, times had changed or were changing. The same destiny commanded both: the Americans are born equal; the Europeans are becoming equal. The great democratic revolution that had been working on Christian humanity for centuries had reached a threshold—one world was dying: that of the old aristocratic society, and a new era was opening up: that of modern society, characterized by the democratic social state. From one world to the other, the relations between men have changed in nature. The modern society is radically new and this novelty is due to the spirit which animates it, the democratic spirit—men think, feel equal there.

On the other hand, Tocqueville was very close to this French Revolution, which stunned the world, and which sent to prison or to the scaffold his parents, grandparents and his great-grandfather (Malesherbes), and which seemed to set French political history apart. How to decipher what contemporaries perceived as an unprecedented storm? For Tocqueville, the general meaning of the event was clear—it followed from his vision of History: The French Revolution was part of a movement which exceeded it. It was a “democratic revolution,” in the sense that it was inserted into the march of the modern world towards equality.

But why did this march towards equality take on this unbridled and bloody pace? How to think about democratic movement and Jacobin crimes together? The difficulty tormented Tocqueville and fed his concern about the political future of France. There was, he explained, during this democratic revolution, a parasitic element that grafted itself onto it. The Revolution began with the magnificent impetus of 1789, where the spirit of equality and the spirit of liberty were combined. Then it quickly slipped under the sway of this parasitic spirit, a spirit of rupture, violence and tyranny, which he names, after Royer-Collard, “the revolutionary spirit.” Tocqueville was here in tune with the other liberals of his time. He was led to sort out within the Revolution and its inheritance the good grain from the chaff. The politician Tocqueville opposed Guizot; he nevertheless shared the same objective—to purge post-revolutionary France of the survivals of the revolutionary spirit, in this sense to finish the Revolution.

The Revolutionary Spirit

But the difficulty remained. What is the origin and the posterity of this revolutionary spirit that has engendered so many misfortunes? In Tocquevillian terms, the question becomes more complicated— where does this parasitic spirit of democratic times come from? What is its future in democratic societies? And finally—what is the relationship between the revolutionary spirit and the democratic spirit? Tocqueville never stopped stumbling over these questions.

He mulled over them again and again in Democracy in America, and especially in the second volume, where there is an implicit comparison between the American version of democracy, a democracy without revolution (no “Old Regime” to be destroyed), and the French-style democracy, born in the form of a democratic revolution. But Tocqueville hesitated, oscillated, and in the end seemed to step back. He first presented the revolutionary passions as democratic passions pushed to the extreme; then he opposed them by explaining that the democratic spirit tends to extinguish revolutionary passions.

The issue is not clear-cut, nor is it clarified in The Ancien Régime and the Revolution, where he again operates on two fronts. On the one hand, he vigorously develops his famous thesis, faithful to his basic idea, which brings the Revolution into line—the revolutionary subversion only continued the monarchic subversion of the old aristocratic society and perfected in its turn the centralized State that would be culminate in the work of Bonaparte. The Revolution was thus only one moment among others, even if it was particularly turbulent and violent, of the continuous march towards equality. But on the other hand, he laid bare the components of another interpretation wherein the Revolution took on the colors of a new phenomenon, unprecedented in History—principles that were a “new religion,” actors who were “new beings,” “of an unknown species”—in other words, this revolutionary spirit, which had something irreducible and on which Tocqueville’s basic idea always stumbled. A part of the Revolution remained enigmatic; and until the end, Tocqueville would continue to come up against this enigma. Here is what he wrote a year before his death to his close friend Kergorlay, while he was working on the second volume of The Ancien Régime and the Revolution:

“There is moreover in this disease of the French Revolution something particular that I feel, without being able to describe it well, nor to analyze the causes. It is a virus of a new and unknown species. There have been violent revolutions in the world; but the immoderate, violent, radical, desperate, audacious, almost mad and yet powerful and effective character of these revolutionaries has no precedent, it seems to me, in the great social agitations of past centuries. Where does this new race come from? Who produced it? Who made it so effective? Who perpetuates it? Independently of everything that can be explained in the French Revolution, there is something in its spirit and in its acts that is unexplained. I feel where the unknown object is, but I can’t lift the veil that covers it. I feel it as if through a foreign body which prevents me either from touching it well, or from seeing it” (2).

II

Let us resume. Seen by Tocqueville, the modern scene looked like this: the cause of equality has won but the cause of liberty is still in the balance. The cause of equality has won because aristocratic society is dead or dying irrevocably. The aristocratic spirit is fading away, which was a false spirit, but of which we must nevertheless try to preserve one element: the spirit of excellence. On the other hand, the cause of liberty, the one to which Tocqueville was attached with every fiber of his being, is in abeyance, threatened by the possible consequences of the democratic movement, directly threatened in France by what survives of the revolutionary spirit. From this, stem the two questions that are at the heart of Tocqueville’s thought and from which we have seen that he never dissociated himself:

  1. What is the logic of this democratic spirit. and what dangers does it pose to human freedom (and human excellence)?
  2. What is the origin and the posterity of this revolutionary spirit that has poisoned French politics since the Revolution?

But it is by wanting to think of these two questions in a single way that he condemned himself to the grindstone. Tocqueville considered the revolutionary spirit only as an abusive mistress or a bastard daughter of the democratic spirit; and thus he forbade himself to think, or to think to the end, this revolutionary spirit as a rival in its own right of the democratic spirit and of a nature to subvert the democratic spirit totally. Convinced that the modern world was shaped first and foremost by the democratic spirit, he remained trapped in an overly homogeneous vision of the world and thus of the French Revolution. Tocqueville was the brilliant analyst of the democratic spirit. His stumbling block was the revolutionary spirit. He brought to light the dynamics of equality; he failed to decipher the revolutionary dynamics.

Perhaps Tocqueville was also trapped in another way by the democratic spirit. I want to say this: the privileged actors of History according to Tocqueville are the ordinary men, their ideas and their feelings. It is the average men who animate, lead democratic societies; in the case of the French Revolution, it was “the French” or “the nation” who generally made History. Tocqueville underestimated the role of minorities within the revolutionary process and perhaps also within the egalitarian dynamic. No doubt, he notes on several occasions, the role played by minorities under the Revolution and the practices of usurping the will of the people. But he never thinks through this subversion, which not only corrupts political democracy but transforms it into a fiction or an appearance. The impulse of his mind always brought him back to general causes and to the democratic logic that is the basic idea of his interpretation. In this, he gave in, it seems, to a flaw in which he himself saw a tendency of the democratic mind—the abuse of general ideas.

In the United States, Tocqueville saw a people masters of themselves. In France he heard, resounding through the memory of time and his own research, the revolutionary rhetoric invoking tirelessly the “will of the people.” Was he not a victim of what Augustin Cochin called the great fetish of the French Revolution—the “People” as actors in their own History?

III

If this interpretation is correct, Tocqueville was an incomparable guide to understanding much of the modern world—but not all of it. In fact, history has both confirmed and denied him.

In the second volume of Democracy in America, there are, as we have noted, many variations; but there is nevertheless a dominant tone—the risk of revolution tends to disappear in democratic societies, thanks, so to speak, to the democratic spirit which leads to a peaceful life, withdrawn into the private sphere, oriented towards well-being and devoid of political passions. The culmination of this analysis is the famous chapter in which the author takes the exact opposite view of the common opinion and of the justifications given by Guizot to the “politics of resistance” that he advocates; that is to say the chapter in which he explains “why great revolutions will become rare” in democratic centuries.

Tocqueville’s concern then changed object—no longer the risk of a new political revolution—the French Revolution was over—but there were now the possible or foreseeable consequences of the democratic movement: social atomization, extreme individualism, the development of a new form of despotism (a tutelary power, invasive but far-sighted and gentle, a welfare state, an extreme version, as it were).

A Premonitory Vision

But Tocqueville anticipated History and in particular the History of France. This peaceful democracy, where individualism triumphs; this quiet society where the spirit of equality and material ambitions irritate souls but do not arouse any political passion, it is not the France of the 19th century where the revolutionary spirit remained, it is the French society of today, where revolutionary traditions are dead; it is more generally the Western society of our time, where egalitarian individualism has recently unfolded its full force. Reread today, Democracy in America shows a brilliant genius as a sociologist. By digging into the dynamics of equality, Tocqueville deciphers our social life and gives us the keys to understand our relations with our fellow human beings.

On the other hand, he wrongly prejudged the political future of France. The denial—the revolution of 1848—was not long in coming, sounding the death knell of his illusions. He confessed them himself in a passage of his Memoirs where a feeling of despair pervades: Will the French Revolution ever end? Will France ever be able to reach harbor?

“Constitutional monarchy succeeded the Ancien Régime; the Republic, the Monarchy; the Republic, the Empire; the Empire, the Restoration. Then came the July Monarchy. After each of these successive mutations, it was said that the French Revolution, having completed what was presumptuously called its work, was finished—it was said and it was believed. Alas! I had hoped it myself under the Restoration; and still since the government of the Restoration had fallen; and here was the French Revolution which started again, because it is always the same one. As we proceed, its goal moves away and grows murky… I do not know when this long voyage will end. I am tired of making for the shore in the deceptive fog, and I often wonder if this dry land which we have sought for so long indeed exists, or if our destiny is not rather to batter the sea eternally” (3).

It will take time for France to reach the port and the time of revolutions is not yet over. In the twentieth century, the Bolshevik Revolution took over, whose actors presented themselves as the heirs of the French Revolution. The Bolsheviks also toppled an old aristocratic society and built on its rubble a new social order that prided itself on embodying the truth of democracy. Yet the dynamics of this revolution clearly escaped Tocqueville’s categories, and his analyses are of little help here. There is something else. Tocqueville speaks of gold, but only in one sense.

IV

Tocqueville does not explain the whole French Revolution; he does not explain the whole modern world. The one and the other are linked. There are several dynamics at work within the modern world; there are several dynamics born of the French Revolution: the dynamics of equality and the one we call the dynamics of ideology. The French Revolution is thus not a block, it is composite. But it should not be broken down in the classical way, that of the liberals of the 19th century who opposed 1789 and 1793. The distinction, it seems, was made as early as 1789.

This composite character explains why the French Revolution could be sometimes opposed, sometimes related to the American Revolution. On the one hand, the French Revolution was animated by its own dynamic which made its singularity and whose heritage largely explains the specificity of French political History. It is this same dynamic or a dynamic of the same type that animated the Revolution in the East and whose acquired strength broke with the collapse of the Soviet regime; and it is this heritage that has just been erased from French politics. In this sense the French Revolution is over.

On the other hand, the French Revolution is of the same family as the American Revolution: it marks the entry into the world of equality. And it is this dynamic of equality that is redoubling today, dragging along both American and French society. In this sense the Revolution (French or American) continues. This explains, it seems to us, the end of the French exception.

If this analysis is correct, the contemporary period is a period of rupture, even if it is not always perceived as such. The French Revolution not only provoked a formidable explosion that shook the world and lit a blaze whose fire has only just been extinguished, it also, along with the American Revolution, set off a repeated bomb whose effects are working on our societies as never before since the “explosion” of the 1960s. The status of politics and the nature of social relations have been profoundly modified.

Tocqueville, saddened, died under the authoritarian Empire. He who had never reflected on history, except to enlighten the future and to promote the cause of a regulated and dignified freedom, saw the present: an adventurer turned despot, the rascals in power, the shameless servility, contradicting his analyses and his hopes. Would he be delivered today from his sadness or his anxiety? Certainly, the French Revolution as a political revolution is finished. But the democratic revolution, whose consequences he feared, brims over on all sides. Endless Revolution.


Philippe Bénéton is Professor emeritus of Rennes I and is the author of Le dérèglement moral de l’Occident, Les fers de l’opinion, Introduction à la politique, Le conservatisme.

The End of Universalism

Europe believed in universalism. It believed that cultural, religious, human, political borders were chimeras that could be erased. It believed that outside Europe the others were other selves, with the same wills, the same passions, the same objectives. Other selves that aspired, in their secret desires, to become like Europeans. It believed that values and ideas could be exported, that it was enough to formerly colonize, to normalize today, and if necessary, by means of war.

The World: a European Reflection?

Universalism was not without ambiguity. By seeing in the other a being still in the state of nature, which had to be “developed” in order to transform him into a complete and accomplished man, universalist thought was the bearer of wars and tragedies. The first colonial period (1880-1960) was an attempt to export universal values. Then, in spite of its failure, Westerners continued to try to paint the world in their own image. This was the great era of achieving development, of an intellectual colonization to which elites lent themselves, flattered to enter the Western world and to be invited to world conferences. Modernization was to follow the path of Westernization.

But there was a hitch, first in 1979, when the Iranian mullahs claimed that they wanted to modernize their country without westernizing it. This was probably an accident of history, which continued with Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. But democracy, which was no longer just a political regime but a political ideology, had to be the strongest. Universalism, so sweet and syrupy in its language, provoked bloody wars whose wounds have not yet finished damaging the world. Yugoslavia (1991-2001), Afghanistan (2001-2021), Iraq (2003), Syria and Libya (2011-) for the main ones. Democracy was to be exported with bombs and thus reshape the faces and peoples of these countries. Political planning on an international scale failed. These countries rejected the West and its universal values. At the same time, former empires, which had been destroyed, woke up and wanted to influence the world scene: Russia, China, India; they too had technological modernity but without Western values.

In the West itself, universalism was rejected in favor of a return to indigenism; Latin America and Africa were the laboratories for this. Africa, which was supposed to advance at a forced march with elections, democracy and public aid for development, experienced an unprecedented fragmentation. In Europe itself, the assimilation and integration of non-European populations is becoming more and more complex; far from wanting to adopt European ways of life, they wish to preserve their cultures and their specificities. Universalism is being defeated within Europe itself. Thus, we have a world that is increasingly united by globalization, increasingly technologized and connected, but also increasingly fragmented and diverse because universalism has failed.

Accelerate when Failing

The characteristic of an ideology is not to recognize its failure and never to lay down its arms—when it fails, it accelerates. The end of universalism therefore means the acceleration of its defense; hence the passive or active interventions in Syria and Libya, while the failure of Iraq was obvious. Hence the refusal to see the world as it is, to think about empires reborn, to understand the motivations and ideologies that underlie the actions of other countries and peoples. To recognize the failure of universalism is to recognize the failure of nearly two centuries of world politics.

Yet this end of universalism is good news. Because it is a sentimentalism and an idealism—it has led to war; it has upset regions; it has weakened Europe. By systematically putting the debate on the level of values and morals, it has prevented any understanding and conciliation. Universalism is an intellectual break with the classical vision of man and of the relations between nations, based on human nature and the relations of forces.

The end of universalism is not because the idealists recognized their failure, it is because other peoples rejected it, because it is contrary to their cultures and their interests. Because it was born in Europe and exported to the areas held by the West, Europe is in the front row of its disappearance. The external and internal wars that Europe is now experiencing signal the end of universalism, even if many do not want to recognize it. The very project of the European Union, based on the dissolution of nations in an imperial bureaucracy, is a failure, as nations, notably Germany, are taking back their power interests. The new century that has begun is therefore at odds with the two previous centuries because of this disappearance of universalism.

School of Realists

For France and Europe, another path was possible. Far from the systematic adherence to universalism, the French school of political economy and then the school of geography proposed a realistic study of exchanges between nations. The world vision conveyed by François Guizot, Frédéric Bastiat and Alexis de Tocqueville was in opposition to the thinking of the idealists, particularly in their opposition to colonization. During the colonial period, Marshal Lyautey knew how to take into account the cultural differences of the peoples and to rely on the specificities of Morocco to ensure its economic development without undermining its historical identity.

The French school of geography, initiated by Paul Vidal de la Blache, anchored its research in the primary study of the geographical terrain and human occupation; a realistic and critical study that has never ceased to exist despite the pre-eminence of the idealist strand.

The end of the monopoly of the dollar, the establishment of a Chinese monetary zone, the fight against American legal norms, the desire of some to build an Islamic empire, the rejection of European cultures for the rediscovery of local cultures are all manifestations of the end of universalism. We thus return to the beginning of the 19th century, when the world had several empires and Europe had not yet conquered it, but with the technology and technical modernity of the 21st century. The end of universalism is therefore not a return to the past but a continuation of history.


Jean-Baptiste Noé is a French historian, who has authored of many books and articles, and is the editor-in-chief of the journal Conflits. We are thankful to the Institut des Libertés (Paris) through whose gracious generosity we are able to bring you this article. Translated from the French by N. Dass.


Featured image: “The Artist Moved by the Grandeur of Antique Fragments,” by Henry Fuseli, ca. 1778-1779.

Getting Past Post-Truth

The first condition for human sociability to exist lies in the truthfulness of language, itself judged by reality: if everything is a trick, man becomes for man at least a fox, if not a wolf. It is more difficult than ever to take the word of those in positions of power or political influence. “Lying is frowned upon; yet it is a key element in the political game. A reflection on the lie is essential for those who want to know the political game… It is a weapon that one must know how to use intelligently—or else one will be excluded from the game” (Pierre Lenain, Le mensonge politique [Political Lying]. This author, while François Mitterrand was President of the Republic, was saying out loud what everyone else was thinking. What would he write today?)

Moreover, what we know about what is happening in the world comes to us almost exclusively through the media; that is, through a mode of knowledge by testimony, which is only valid if the witness is credible. But in the present conditions, it is difficult to discern the true from the false, except by carrying out real investigations to try to understand certain facts, which endeavor is given only to a small number endowed with aptitudes and time, and sometimes without guarantee of ever being able to succeed.

The massive deculturation brought about by the subversion of teaching methods, the loss of elementary common sense, the socially dominant impact of the philosophies of doubt and deconstruction, the ideological manipulation of history, the mimicry of artificial processes of information processing, the nominalism that transforms words into conventional signs with mutable meaning, all contribute to increasing disarray. The result is the emergence of a mass skepticism that makes people indifferent to the idea of truth. The neologism “post-truth” expresses this state of affairs. One could say that post-truth is the counterpart of practical atheism, which has simply ceased to ask the question of God and has even made it impossible to understand that such a question could be of any interest.

It is not surprising that post-truth can be established where liberalism dominates, since it associates, in the name of freedom of thought, the reduction of truth to opinion, and its philosophical theorization claiming it is impossible to go beyond the knowledge of phenomena alone. All this without forgetting that we are under the reign of juridical positivism, which authorizes to transform, from one day to the next, by means of legal constraint, a version of the facts or a historical conclusion into “narratives,” in conformity with the usefulness that the latest possessors of power find there.

Recent events have illustrated this massive expansion of post-truth, whether it be the pandemic or all the declarations, political justifications, influence-games and contradictions that have constantly accompanied it, in France and elsewhere. The American election episode has added grist to the same mill. These are very significant facts of a change of scale in the order of the ordinary lie, a change that one perceives as brutal, although it has been established progressively, and for a long time; brutal and thus highly disruptive of a relationship to the world in conformity with the nature of things.

We will address here only a few aspects of the problem, first by taking advantage of a very systematic study of Western military and diplomatic interventions in the last decade, and then by paying attention to conspiracism (or conspiracy) as the double result of a spontaneous and clumsy reaction to lies and as an argument recovered to better spread them.

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Swiss colonel Jacques Baud, an expert in terrorism and asymmetric warfare [type of conflict between conventional forces and armed gangs], has had the opportunity to intervene in various theaters of “peacekeeping” operations under the aegis of the UN. From this experience and from his practice of intelligence, he has written a book, recently published, entitled Gouverner par les fake news [Governing by Fake News]. It is a meticulous work, based on abundant documentation, much of which is directly accessible online, which allows one to verify the author’s claims and greatly reinforces his credibility.

Jacques Baud is very hard on the political, military and diplomatic personnel with whom he was in contact for many years. He begins his work by questioning, successively, the power usurped by a bureaucracy pursuing only its own interests—the deep state, in the initial and limited sense of this expression—the “weakness of the higher echelons of command,” judged to be devoid of intelligence in the presence of adversaries who do not fit into their categories, and their “cowardice when it comes to advising the political echelon, based on the facts, and an almost total absence of a sense of responsibility.”

Diplomats, he writes, may be more educated, but they are also more corrupt, and equally incapable of understanding asymmetric phenomena. This statement probably reflects a certain bitterness, following numerous unfortunate experiences; however, it should be taken into consideration carefully, at least as an indicator of a general trend. Jacques Baud goes so far as to state a judgment that leaves one speechless: “[W]ith simulacra of strategy, which are only an erratic sequence of tactical actions, we seek solutions to our perceptions, and not to the reality on the ground.” These criticisms are extended to the media complex, which is supposed to enlighten the world, but which is caught between deliberate lies in the service of undisclosed interests, suggested by ad hoc agencies, and laziness or overreach in the face of the complexity of situations, often leading to the use of experts invested by the same agencies.

The author, who has personally experienced the distressing effect of such behaviors, limits his ambition to raise a “reasonable doubt” about the information that is abundantly delivered to us. Reasonable, because, he writes, and on this point we can only follow his lead, “the information is there, available, provided that we take the trouble to look for it.” In other words, it is through a patient effort of research and analysis that we can hope to extricate ourselves from the jungle into which the arrival of the post-truth era has plunged us.

The book is articulated in twelve substantially contemporary case studies, from Afghanistan to Venezuela, through Iran, terrorist organizations, Syria, the Ukrainian crisis, North Korea, Sudan, and the cyberattacks attributed to Russia. Each time, we go into detail about the way Western actors have dealt with the situations, whether in terms of identifying the data or responding to them; knowing that this treatment generally results in acts of war with very heavy human consequences, provoking reactions of extreme violence, massive population displacements, or at least maintaining the unhealthy climate of a powder keg close to an explosion. One assessment of the war in Iraq can be used as a basic rule in this regard: “Built on lies, the war in Iraq is a disaster. Not only is it criminal, but it has been conducted in a stupid way from the beginning.”

The starting point for diplomatic and military action, in all the situations mentioned, is always, as it should be, information on the threat, real or imaginary, to which one is preparing to respond. There are two obstacles that make this artificial. On the one hand—and it is bad faith that comes into play—self-interest, greed and rivalry determine the objective of an intervention and lead to the falsification of the reasons supposed to justify it. The “coup” of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction is emblematic; but it has often been repeated thereafter, illustrating the saying, “he who wants to drown his dog accuses it of having rabies.” In this hypothesis, agents of influence and the media deploy all the arsenal of their sophistry to fabricate false testimonies made to measure. Jacques Baud often insists on the role played by certain television programs in the staging of biased presentations of situations, among others the program C à vous, under the direction of Patrick Cohen, on France 5.

Sometimes the subterfuge is not even hidden. For example, this recommendation by one of the many American think-tanks, the Brookings Institution, gives this advice for policy towards Iran: “It would be much better if the United States invoked an Iranian provocation to justify air strikes before launching them. Obviously, the more outrageous, lethal and unprovoked the Iranian action, the better for the United States. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to induce Iran to carry out such a provocation without the rest of the world detecting the scheme, which would undermine it. (One method that might be successful would be to revive efforts at clandestine regime-change in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even indirectly, which could then be described as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression” (Kenneth M. Pollack et al., Which Path to Persia? Options for a new American strategy toward Iran, cited by Baud, p. 68).

Examples of reasoning of this sort abound in Jacques Baud’s book, which, let us keep in mind, is entitled, Governing by Fake News; in other words, by the editing of fake news and provocations (false attacks, falsified expert reports intended to prove, for example, the massive use of toxic gas by Bashar al-Assad against the population of the Ghouta plain, in the immediate vicinity of Damascus, at the heart of one of the most elaborate storytelling of that period, etc.).

Of course, such methods are not new. But since the Ems Dispatch, the role of the media has grown enormously; it is now essential, and all the more useful—of course, the rapid downgrading of information helps—and the “fake-news” launched at one moment can easily be changed into its opposite sometime later. This role is obviously linked to the need to direct public opinion, both in so-called democratic countries and in other regions that react differently, such as the Arab countries.

We are thus reminded of the functioning of the media, where the agents of influence amalgamate, who are ever attentive to imposing their version and discrediting any other interpretation and who are never confused by the final revelation of their untruths. On this point, Baud again quotes Patrick Cohen, in relation to Syria, referring in April 2018 to “revisionists who question the reality of the chemical attack attributed to Assad when everything showed that it emanated from jihadists (cf. 216ff). It is worth noting that in this particular game, the State of Israel is often involved, although not exclusively or uniquely. “Benjamin Netanyahu exploits the servility of some Western journalists, while former Mossad directors, such as Ephraim Halevy, warn against this overdramatization. In fact, our traditional media tends to become propaganda organs, just like Pravda in the Soviet Union.”

If the manipulation is blatant and dominant, it is still necessary to specify the reason why it succeeds, and also to note that it can be held in check under certain conditions. And, in fact, the two aspects are one and the same. The exponential development of falsifications has as its best ally the weakness of the majority of those who create and transmit them. “Let us therefore begin by discarding all the facts, for they do not touch upon the matter.” The method posed by Rousseau in the Introduction to the Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men seems to be widely shared. Jacques Baud, for example, explains how a series of violent Islamic movements, though distinct in origin and possibly antagonistic, have been brought together under the single stamp of al-Qaeda—a generic Arabic term meaning “base” and used by a number of distinct groups. The simplification is convenient; and it also gives the impression of a single movement growing like a hydra around the world, constantly reborn, despite the announcement of the elimination of one or another of its major leaders.

****

To this form of reductionist laziness is added ignorance about the area, and in particular of concrete cultural data. It seems that the Christians of the East, especially in Syria and Iraq, have had to pay the price of this lack of culture. The demonization of al-Assad and the invention of the concept of democratic opposition to his regime are the result of this constructed blindness, even if this opposition is composed of rival jihadist groups that commit crimes against the population. But after all, isn’t this blindness made to facilitate changes, of course, according to the overall evaluation of the interests pursued? Jacques Baud takes, among others, the example of Ukraine, a country in which a nationalist political movement including neo-Nazis (Svoboda and Pravyi Sektor) remains, a fact carefully ignored or minimized by moral witnesses such as Bernard-Henri Lévy, whose soothing words Baud quotes (p. 294). However, Baud asserts, the Ukrainian population as a whole is much less Russophobic than this minority that is militarily helped by the West to maintain a climate of war in the East. This is only one case among many others.

The conclusions of Jacques Baud’s book introduce us to one of the most obvious perverse effects of the situations he describes in great detail—post-truth generates skepticism, conspiracism, and in turn the latter feeds its double, anti-conspiracism, which finds in it an argument for better acceptance of falsified data. [A poll conducted in 2019 showed that “for 29% of French people ‘it is acceptable to distort information to protect the interests of the state’… In other words, a significant part of the population accepts that the truth is hidden from them” (395-396)].

The world is then divided into two camps, those who believe without thinking, or pretend to believe the assertions of governments, the media and other anti-conspiracy activists, and those who practice a generalized doubt against any somewhat official information. “It would be wrong to believe that fake news masks a will” (393). The sentence, to be taken literally, contradicts many of the demonstrations present in the rest of Jacques Baud’s work, starting with its title. But one can agree, especially by thinking of the way in which the crisis of the coronavirus was and remains “managed,” with the sentence that follows: “In fact it is the opposite—we act without understanding the situation or in haste, and then, in order to hide the errors of governance, we invoke fake news.”

The tendency to understand and explain events in a summary way or in the form of a system is old, as well as the fact of caricaturing it to better deny the part of truth. To take an example, among the clichés often repeated in connection with critical analyses of the French Revolution, one of the most constant consists in ridiculing the explanations of Abbot Augustin Barruel. Whatever reservations one may have about the value of the interpretations he drew from his documentation, as to the role of the Bavarian Illuminati sect and of Freemasonry in general, and which still remain debatable, that is, worthy of being critically scrutinized rather than dismissed as the work of a maniac.

But Barruel’s work still serves as a useful foil. One of the current organs of denunciation of fake news, Conspiracy Watch, posted on the subject, in 2019, the article of an historian, tempered in expression but denying any value, not only to the work of the former Jesuit, but also to that of Augustin Cochin (who was opposed to Barruel’s theses) and his recent disciples, the historians Fred Schrader, François Furet, Reinhart Koselleck. The author of this rebuttal, who described the Masonic origin of the trilogy “liberty, equality, fraternity” as a “myth,” denied the part played by what he calls “the Order” in triggering the revolutionary process. Relying on the easy criticism of Barruel’s interpretive model, this historian then amalgamated with the latter the authors of the most serious works, and finally disqualified the whole—a method frequently followed in the refutation of conspiracism.

The contributors to Conspiracy Watch regularly labor to establish the falsity of all sorts of current doxa-resistant discourse. It is interesting to read the “About-Us” of this small political pedagogy organization. First of all, the initiative is posed as a response to the irruption of the new means of communication, for the moment poorly or not controlled: “The Internet has totally disrupted our access to knowledge and information.” The statement suggests the idea that previously the control of information was easier, and also that this mode of circumventing ideological censorship had not been foreseen.

The first major investigation conducted by this organization and its powerful associate, the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, dates from late 2017, which is quite recent. “Stimulating minds in search of global and definitive explanations, at times claiming rationalism and the Enlightenment, going so far as to pass off their beliefs as critical thinking and to endow themselves with a veneer of respectability, many of these ‘conspiracy theories’ compete with the so-called ‘official’ theses. In the eyes of many, some of these theses manage to impose themselves as ‘alternative’ truths. Hence the development of this online news service devoted entirely to information on the conspiracy phenomenon, Holocaust denial and their current manifestations.” What “negationism” are we talking about in this case?

The list of proposed publications deal with the growing fear about the effects of vaccines, the thesis of the “great replacement” of the original population by mass immigration, the loss of confidence in the reliability of elections, etc. We are far from the sole denial of the gas chambers. The negationism in question would thus be a form, if not of contestation, at least of disbelief towards any expression of the dominant discourse considered a priori as threatening and manipulative. Let us note that the term conspiracism in itself carries a negative judgment about its object, which it only needs to illustrate without further demonstration. In this respect, the current health crisis provides grist for the mill for the militants of the recovery of good thinking

The fight against conspiracy is now the subject of columns in the press, of special programs on television, and benefits from public-institutional support in France and from the European Union. {The European Commission runs a propaganda office called “Fighting disinformation,” which mixes basic advice, such as “beware of people online claiming to have found a ‘miracle cure,'” with a clear defense of the EU “line,” mainly focused on vaccines). In all cases, it is a preventive action intended to prevent any form of disagreement, identified as active disinformation, or even counter-attacks.

Just recently (November 2020) a widely viewed and discussed documentary, Hold up: retour sur un chaos (Hold up: Return to Chaos), about Covid-19 and the policies followed to deal with it, has overexcited all the parties concerned. The film mixes factual elements, interviews with personalities of recognized competence and questionable or purely hypothetical elements, on which the agencies fighting against deviance rely to reject the whole. The methods of investigation about the risks of recuperation by sects, or of prevention of Islamist “radicalization,” are thus taken up in an attempt to muzzle criticism of the policy concerning the health crisis. The following comments were made: “How did you react when your daughter, mother, brother or friend started to put forward explanations about the pandemic that turned into conspiracies? Does this relative respect the safety measures all the same? Do all your discussions revolve around this topic? Has your relationship been affected? Have you been able to maintain a dialogue, and how? Beyond this private relationship, are you concerned about sharing conspiracy theories about the pandemic?”

Such is the climate, very contradictory from the epistemological point of view, since on the one hand the very idea of truth tends to disappear, and on the other hand the fight against (true or false) false information is becoming more and more demanding. It is not difficult to see this as power propaganda, in the same way as the obligation to adhere to vintage versions of certain historical facts.

Giorgio Agamben wrote on this subject on July 10, 2020: “In the controversies of the health emergency, two infamous words appeared, which obviously had the sole purpose of discrediting those who, in the face of the fear that had paralyzed minds, still held to their view: ‘negationist’ and ‘conspiracy’…. As always in history, there are men and organizations that pursue their legitimate or illicit objectives and try by all means to achieve them, and it is important that those who want to understand what is happening know about them and take them into account. To speak, therefore, of conspiracy adds nothing to the reality of the facts. But to call conspirators those who seek to know historical events for what they are is simply vile.”

In Gouverner par les fake news, Jacques Baud indicates that in the United States, the FBI seeks to detect individuals at risk. “Deviant elements, alternative political thinking or belief in conspiracy theories are considered manifestations of mental disorder, and therefore potentially of terrorist radicalization” (392). Such preventive action may be justified, since psychotics can indeed act on their obsessions. But the problem of disbelief in the official version of events, and that of adherence to simplistic substitute versions—an old-fashioned habit that has fed so many café discussions—is quite different, stemming above all from a lack of culture and verbal prudence. And it is dishonest to confuse this clumsy and morally dubious reaction with a mental pathology.

Very significantly, the denunciation of conspiracism ignores serious studies on the subject, which can be much more nuanced. “In any case, it seems delicate to fight conspiracy theories by claiming to be ‘the’ scientific truth, as the organizations claiming to fight against fake news perhaps do a little too naively… as if the truth were an objectifiable fact that can be ‘verified’ once and for all. We are witnessing an astonishing hardening of the rationalist posture, to say the least: the scientific statement becomes not only objectified, but prescriptive and normative.”

The author of this judgment, Julien Cueille, immediately concluded that the conspiracists have “good reason to argue that such a ‘reason’ comes from a very impure source, since it immediately mixes theoretical considerations and political interests.” The same author provides numerous analyses of existential reaction behaviors to the way of life imposed by the current de-socialization and the form of slavery called corporate management. For him, the hasty and simplistic interpretation, even aberrant of the events can translate a reaction of rejection towards the inhuman character of the imposed way of life and to the conscience of being manipulated. It is a social symptom drawn up in front of the hypocrisy of a reputedly democratic regime which is in reality a manipulative oligarchy. He also points out the existence of professional liars in the ranks of scientific experts who attest to untruths on behalf of this or that multinational, either by order or by sycophancy, which should invite anti-conspiracy to be more humble—if that were possible.

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From all of the above, we can at least conclude that post-truth is a current reality, the result of a historical evolution that has seen ideological propaganda, now drowned in a daily life that Zygmunt Bauman has described as “liquid.” The term applies well now, when all political decency seems to be disappearing, leaving almost nothing of the trappings with which the formalism of democratic rules and the once fashionable “transparency” were adorned. This atmosphere is conducive to all kinds of manipulation. These manipulations can be on a down-to-earth level, that of in-culture, of carelessness in the treatment of business, of a real and shameless competition between those who aspire to reach the oligarchy, and of an unvarnished greed.

These manipulations can also be attributed to much larger forces seeking to impose their hegemony on a global scale. But in any case, the disappearance of “hard” ideologies and the expansion of post-truth appear under two concomitant features—one is the great difficulty of identifying the places of power, the exact intentions of those who occupy them, the true nature of events whose protagonists and beneficiaries are barely known—the other is, in such a context, the fact that this general blurring of knowledge of the world in which we live constitutes a very effective form of control over the masses, because of the effects of anguish and stupefaction that it produces.

Post-truth is thus special in that it not only conceals reality, but also dissuades from trying to apprehend it. In a way, when Leviathan is nowhere, it is everywhere.


Bernard Dumont publishes the influential revue, Catholica, through whose kind courtesy we are able to bring you this article. Translation from the French by N. Dass.


Featured image: fable of the tortoise and the scorpion, illustration to the Anwar-I-Suhaili, 1847.