28. Hope, Feeling of Guilt, Search for a Miracle

We have spoken many times about Christianity and its echoes in the unchristianised world. Let us talk about it again. Let us ask ourselves: without what is it inconceivable — speaking of feelings, experiences, in a word, psychologically?

I would say that Christianity is inconceivable without three things: hope, guilt, and the search for a miracle.

1. Hope

If we look at Christianity from the outside, through the eyes of a ‘pagan’, we can decide that it worships, not in the least, a hypostatised Hope-Patience. For just as Aphrodite is divided, according to Plato, into Aphrodite-Urania and Aphrodite-Pandemos, so in hope two possibilities are hidden: Hope-Patience and Hope-Victory. One looks to the present, the other to the future. Patience does not in itself imply victory; it postpones the thought of a change for the better to an eternal ‘tomorrow’.

The old religion, too, knew Hope — the Greeks as a poetic image, the Romans, according to their character, as Hope for the State. But this is quite different. The inseparable Hope-Patience is a hope detached from fulfilment, the terms of which will come not here, not now. In the religion of the Greek and the Roman there was a place for Victory. But to imagine a Christian at the altar of Victory is impossible. Here is the boundary between bona fide Christian and extra-Christian thinking.  [1]

Hope detached from Victory means that its hopes are always ‘out there’, not ‘here and now’. For the here and now, there is no approval or even curiosity. To build on earth, the Christian worldview needs a Roman graft, given to the West by Catholicism and to Russia by the Romanovs. We have discussed this above.

On the other hand, for creativity, especially poetic creativity, this alienation from the world is useful. In order to create, one must sufficiently ‘break out’ of life. Christianity with its ‘not here and not now’ favours poetry in the best possible way.

Freedom is precisely non-involvement; genius is the chill of alienation from reality. There is always a gap between the creative soul and the world: ‘laziness’, an autumn Boldino day, non-doing and solitude. The creator is uninvolved in the moment of creation. And vice versa: any ‘creator’ dancing with dancers, drinking with drinkers, making jokes is too here, too now to expect anything real from him. But the unenlightened listener and reader loves the latter…

At the same time, the fold of the soul created by Christianity, i. e. its imprint on the soul life, is not the same as the inner content of the biblical religion. From its inner content follows neither culture nor creativity — but rather something resembling the most solid forms of Islam. But from the experience of silence, solitude, and attention in the inner life of the individual, given by the Christian life, creativity and culture do not exactly follow — but they are nourished by it, in addition to the dry, nourishing conversation of the mind with itself, indicated already by the Hellenes.  [2]

2. Guilt and shame

The flip side of hope is guilt. On this string Christianity never tires of playing. It addresses in man to a child who has upset a strict but beloved parent. Hence its pinching intimacy. The melody of Christianity is a subtle, soul-stirring melody of guilt. And since all are guilty, the power of this melody is boundless.

It cannot be said, however, that the yoke of a moral outlook is always heavy. Penitential poetry, with all its monstrous exaggerations, is close to the distressed soul. Christianity awaits a man in a moment of breakdown and here it turns out to be close, homely, expressing exactly his feelings. Another thing is that no one can live in a state of constant breaking, sobbing, brokenness. Having drained his tears, a man closes the penitential canon. The power of Christianity is, in its own way, the power of lyric poetry — as long as it does not lay claim to the whole man every day of his life. Then the tyranny of the moral worldview becomes intolerable: one cannot weep according to a schedule and repent arbitrarily. Rozanov said that ‘Blessed are they that mourn’ should be withheld from children and adolescents and communicated to people when they reach the first maturity: then these words will amaze. But the life of a mature person does not consist of only lamentations.

When we speak of guilt, we must also remember the vast area of ‘shameful’ into which the most important part of human life falls. The actors of the Old Testament now and then ‘know’ and ‘conceive’; David falls in love with Jonathan and tells everyone about it… That is why one of Lieskov’s heroes says about the Bible, referring to the Old Testament: ‘This book ignites passion’. In the New Testament everything changes. Looking at a woman is a sin. Marrying is also a sin; but not marrying is worse, since the unmarried will ‘burn’. Happy are the eunuchs, happy are those who imitate them; and if you cannot be like them, marry to quench the fire of sex. A strange blessing of marriage, to say the least.

The very notion of something sweet but forbidden is created by an ethical worldview; the rebellion of this ‘forbidden sweet’ is what we are witnessing. ‘Is there beauty in Sodom? — exclaims Dostoevsky. — Believe me, for the vast majority of people, it sits in Sodom!’ The ethical view of the world drives the life of sex into Sodom, and then fights the underground influence of this Sodom.

‘Rebellion of Sex’ in our day is a direct reckoning of long-standing scores. Unfortunately, this rebellion does not achieve its goal, for it is not a change of worldview, but a convulsion caused by the desire to act out of spite and in spite — in short, the adolescent rebellion that always accompanies coming out from under the tutelage of Christianity. These rebellious adolescents are no more to blame than those who wanted to leave them as eternal children. Will the Christian nations of yesterday become adults, demanding a different view of the world, one more suited to adults? No one knows.

As Christianity weakened, another ethical, i. e. based on guilt, worldview — Socialism — took its place. We have said this many times before. Socialism is a true religion of Christian type. Its raison d’être is violence against the human person for ethical ends. Let not be deceived by the connection established in the 19th century between Socialism and Marxism; it is a local and temporary connection. Marxism hated the individual, his singularity and enterprise; the pathos of an ethical worldview can be directed to other things. ‘Prophets’ (let us call all admirers of the ethical worldview by this word) hate all strength. Strength leads to crime, the prophets say, we need to create a society of the weak. A society of the weak, unfortunately, is utterly powerless against any abuse, against any insolence, whether it comes from the new tyrants or from African immigrants. Strength is not just culturally fruitful, it is also a watchtower, a guardian of the individual and of freedom…

Closely related, indeed intertwined with the leftist idea is another worldview that can be called ‘Historicism’. After Hegel allowed History to take the place of the Christian God, Christian guilt found new forms. Historicism sees in the outcomes of past and ongoing events the ‘judgements of History’ and believes ‘in the justice of its verdicts’ (Faddei Zielinsky).

‘Historical’ thinking sees every event as a punishment or a reward, so for it there are no halftones. For Historicism, everything is ‘regular’ and ‘inevitable’. Any accident, any failure during a complex, risky development is ‘predetermined’. This is how myths about the ‘inevitability of revolution’ and other similar ones are created. Any arrangement of events is proclaimed to ‘inevitably follow’ from the previous one. This is how the sounds of a newly completed symphony might believe in the predetermination of their meeting — but they could have been arranged quite differently.

To ‘all the judgements of history are righteous’ we should reply: the judgements of history can be senseless and evil. Especially we, Russians, should remember this. Historical development is not an accumulation of guilt; the termination of this development (revolutions, catastrophes) is not a ‘natural conclusion’, not a ‘punishment’, but only one of the possible outcomes. The past ceased to be not because it was ‘guilty and doomed’, not because it was ‘bad’; the new won not because it was ‘good’. Old and new are not moral, qualitative definitions at all.

3. The search for the miracle

One of the main, if not the main, Christian trait is the search for the miraculous.

The desire for the miraculous itself is probably universal. Some peoples see the miraculous in everything without effort; from others it is farther away; and the higher the development of ‘reason’, i. e., the drier and colder the life, the greater the thirst for the miraculous, reaching a real passion. The miracle reminds ‘enlightened’ peoples that beneath the crust of the visible world is hidden the invisible.

All religions, to a greater or lesser extent, come into contact with the realm of the miraculous; but only Christianity, it seems, has connected itself with this realm inseparably — to such an extent that the revolution’s struggle against the Church was primarily a struggle against the miraculous. The miracle is the axis of Christianity — not Catholic Christianity, as Dostoevsky thought, but Christianity in general. Victory over nature gives the Christian pleasure. [3] The desire for miracles, the passion for them, is a direct consequence of the famous words about the mustard seed. Where there is faith, there is a miracle; where there is no miracle (victory over nature), there is no faith. It is not by chance that the ‘new order’ simultaneously debunked ‘church’ miracles and glorified its own victories over nature. Only in this way could it lure faith into its service.

Christianity rejoices when it sees a violation of the natural order of things. This trait is inherited by the leftist ‘faith’ — Socialism. At the centre of the leftist idea is the belief that the natural relations of people and things are something that must be overcome. (As can be seen, Nietzsche is a pure-blooded Christian in this respect.)

Of course, biblical religion is not exhausted by its taste for the ‘miraculous’, but this taste is a defining one in it. The world, it says, is governed by an intelligent master, and governed in a miraculous way.  At the same time it cannot be denied: the mystical, that is, the realm of the hidden meaning of events, is the field of activity of every religion. He who does not unravel the secret meaning of the events of his own life does not believe. However, there is a difference between the mystical (secret) and the miraculous.

The Greeks and Romans as believing people seem to a quick glance coldly rational, if not outright irreligious. Their faith lacks the childishness that is natural to our relationship to the divine. The people of the ancient world are adults before their gods. To us, this adulthood seems cold. The old religion did not demand to ‘believe’ against probability, did not speak of mustard seeds and mountains falling into water.

The pagan knows that the gods may not answer, nothing can be done about it; the Christian thinks differently: it is not God who did not answer, but he, the Christian, did not believe well. Christianity strains human strength to the utmost to say at the end: you are not worthy. One could even say that the consciousness of personal unworthiness is the desired state of the Christian…

Unlike the pagan, the Christian is taught to direct his mind and will to the impossible. If the impossible does not happen, it is his fault. Hence the inexhaustible search for the miraculous. A Christian — to put it simplistically — is one who believes in miracles, and not just ‘believes’, but lovingly seeks and finds them in everyday life.

Notice that atheists were less common in the ancient world. Not, of course, because the Greeks and Romans were ‘ignorant’ — but because the old religion did not require a fervent strain of faith. Christianity puts the Miracle first; he who does not believe in miracles is not a Christian. ‘Miracle, mystery, and authority’, Dostoevsky will say thinking of Catholicism, in fact of all Christianity.

When a modern author, Chester G. Starr, says of the pagan philosophers: they ‘were to search for purely material, natural causes’, he chooses not quite the right words. The ancients, let us say, did not believe that the universe was governed by the Almighty in an extraordinary order; hence, for all events they looked for a set of natural causes. The very opposition between religion and ‘materialism’ was forged by Christianity; a materialist is one who does not believe in miracles, starting with the virgin birth and going down the list. The old religion, as I have said, did not require a constant strain of faith — up to and including its deadly battle with reason. There was no basis for materialism. [4]

This is why the ‘materialist’ of our day is always fighting not Religion in general, but one of its varieties — the one that created it. The idea that the ‘miraculous’ is not an indispensable part of religion, but only a feature of one of its possible understandings, is liberating, but few are prepared to make use of this freedom. [5]

…Let us return to where we began: the search for the miraculous. After the sober, rational 19th century, the world threw itself into the pursuit of miracles. It looked for them everywhere but in the Church: in Bolshevism, National Socialism and Fascism; in science; in new religious teachings; in books about the inhabitants of other planets…

Our Bolshevism, like Christianity once did, demanded an overstraining of the faculties of faith and hope. The subject of the ‘Socialist fatherland’ was required to believe in the unseen and to hope for the unprecedented. And the ‘Party’ constantly promised miracles, differing from the Church by a far less miracle-working capacity. As a result, just as Christianity forged a type of materialist, instilling an aversion to miracles, so the new order fostered a type of cynic. The almost century-long dominance of Socialism has fostered the deepest cynicism in people…

The search for the miraculous, however, continues.

4. Conclusion

Hope, guilt, and the search for a miracle. These feelings cannot be taken away from the Christian worldview without undermining it at the root. Their combination is one of those fruitful combinations of heterogeneous beginnings by which biblical religion is alive. The faith of the pagans was the faith of adults. Christianity turned to the child. And it appeared that he who turns to the child in man is the strongest. 

For the Christian, God and destiny are one. His faith is first of all confidence in God. For him who sees in destiny an independent power — childlike confidence is not easy. Christianity here, too, appeals to the inner child, whose capacity for joy, wonder and trust has not yet been weakened by the experience of life. Paganism is the faith of adults (as far as we know how to be such).

Christianity caught the world in the hour of decline and said to man: child, turn away, let it perish! That is its essence, despite the long-standing association of Christianity and monarchy. The true Christian is indifferent to the world. Let it perish!  [6] He is all in his soul, his inner childhood.

Another thing has served the stability of Christianity. A religion based on Scripture is more viable, better able to resist time, than one without Scripture. Not because scripta manent, but because Scripture lends itself to selective reading. In selective reading is the secret of vitality and accommodation.

And certainly, if Christianity had not infected the Old World, there would not have been its rapid spread among the young nations of Europe. After all, it was not so much Christian preaching that conquered the peoples, but the higher Greco-Roman (created by pagans) culture. This culture has reached even to our time — to the very edge of the enlightened world, if not beyond the edge.

[1] Likewise, Pushkin’s ‘honour oneself’ takes him outside the bounds of church-minded people, since a bona fide Christian cannot honour himself. See Lieskov’s numerous and absolutely correct statements. For example this one, from ‘Figura’: ‘I have not met anything in the Gospel about any noble pride, but I have read about the pride of Satan alone, which is contrary to God’.

[2] The defenders of Christianity, by the way, often point to the by-products of Christianity, assuring that in the germ — like a mustard seed — they are already contained in the Gospel. No, they are not. But Hellenism, and to no small extent, is present in the Gospel. Hellenism has permeated and sustained our, European, intellectual world to this day, and on it, as I have already said, we can rely even now, when the bridge built by the Church (unintentionally) between us and the Hellenes is beginning to crack.

[3] In general, the pathos of conquering nature is originally Christian. Greco-Roman paganism once expressed a different relationship between man and nature: man is a servant, appointed by the gods to keep nature in order. (Eric R. Dodds: ‘…saw man as God’s administrator and earthly existence as a form of service (leitourgia)’).

[4] One could argue that there is a branch of Christianity that has abandoned all miracles altogether: Protestantism. But it is difficult to judge Christians by Protestants. They started with a return to the Old Testament, or not to say — directly to Judaism, continued with ‘hidden atheism’, as Dostoevsky said; and ended before our eyes with outright godlessness (remember the recent case of an atheist pastor, whom the parishioners could not remove from the parish because of his ‘right to interpret the divine in any way’ was defended by the highest church authority). Somewhere in between is Prussian Protestantism of the 18th and 19th centuries with its religious veneration of the State (which has done much good to us Russians through the Germans who settled in Russia).

[5] Speaking of Christians and materialists. Any selection of people on the basis of their attitude to a certain issue (in our case — a miracle) selects people of the same type, but experiencing different feelings — from delight to disgust. The ardent opponents of the cause are the same people who in other circumstances would be its supporters. The ‘materialist’ could be a good father superior; the admirers of the miracle make faithful, convinced materialists on occasion…

[6] Catholicism is therefore not quite Christianity; in it the Gospel, if not defeated, then supplemented by Empire. That is why it is so charming to the Russian man. We see in it a firmness, a certainty, a form — which we lack so much.

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