(If you haven’t already, please read Chapter 1 first)
February 8, 2011
One of my employees published an exposé piece against me in 1991, which was called “The Mysterious Councilor to the Chiefs of the Kremlin” (it was a paid newspaper spread in Nezavisimaya Gazeta), and published all of his notes in it as though they were mine. Everything possible in order to discredit me in a certain way was done, in accordance with the norms of that era (and the norms were such that to be a “mysterious councilor to the chiefs of the Kremlin” was something horrible), that’s when a storm of indignation erupted amongst that part of the intelligentsia, who had previously treated me in an entirely different manner.
The people who surrounded me reacted to this in different ways. When my wife’s mother heard that someone said something bad about me, she simply severed all ties with that person, “Don’t call me anymore!”
For some time, however, my spouse tried to preserve relations with part of the intelligentsia, those people whom she loved, and kept explaining to them that her husband actually doesn’t want anything bad and has no evil plans against normal democracy, normal intellectuals, and that he fights against something different. They responded to this by fiercely shouting, “No, that’s not true! He is rescuing this monstrous Soviet system! He is rescuing this nomenklatura [elite Soviet bureaucrats – translator’s note]!” And then, in despair, trying for the last time, she would say, “Can’t you see he is fighting the Mafia?! The Mafia!” “What are you even talking about? What Mafia?” “Don’t you see?” she wanted to explain this more clearly. “You are watching ‘La Piovra’, aren’t you?” There was this movie being shown on TV at the time about Italian mafia. In response, this highly-intelligent and refined lady told her, “Yes, I watch this movie. Mafia or no Mafia, I understand only one thing: there’s a very beautiful lamp on the table, a very beautiful lamp. And, I realize that my whole life, my whole life I wanted a lamp like that!!!”
From that moment on, my wife stopped trying to save relations with this highly intellectual and spiritual substrate, because it turned out that these people want something entirely different from what they were talking about for so many years.
That was a small singular episode. But, here is a different story. A few years later, I met with a person from an Orthodox monastery in Southern Europe, who began to sing me praises: that I held out while others failed to do so. I don’t care for such praises, so I told him, “Oh, you can’t be serious!” He said again, “Others didn’t hold out. Energy is from God.” I asked him, “What about the devil? Why does the devil not give energy to those who ‘didn’t hold out’? They walk around looking so withered.” And that person (who was a rather high-ranking member of the Orthodox spiritual hierarchy) answered, “Oh, buddy! The devil is no fool! How does the devil go about recruiting people? Where does he place his bait? He starts with the body: suits, cars, you know, various pleasures of life. If that doesn’t work, he tempts with power: lights and sirens for your limo, priviledges, the power to tell others how to live, to order them around, to do away with them, and so on. Now, when tempting the body and when tempting with power doesn’t work, then and only then does the devil share his energy. Because he’s not God! He pays dearly for that energy; he gathers it speck by speck… And what happened in your country? In your country, everyone fell with the body. Those few who didn’t fall with the body fell with power. So, why would the devil share his evil energy with them? He has to save it up! Why would he waste it?”
Both of these stories are about the same thing. “My whole life, my whole life I wanted a lamp like that!” Then what did you want your whole life? Freedom or a lamp? Our intelligentsia would always show how unselfish and humble they are: all of those cowboys shirts, glasses on a string… Then it turned out, all of a sudden, that it really wanted a lamp! This, of course, is a metaphor.
I heard in Baden-Baden, how a representative of a tourist agency specializing in hosting “members of the new Russian elite” described one renowned and highly intellectual Russian politician, “Oh, he’s a wonderful person! Just wonderful! He just tells us two days in advance what color Rolls-Royce we have to provide for him, so that the car matches his suit, and how exactly we ought to further host him.” In the days of the Soviet Union, this politician was a role model of intellectualism and humility.
I can provide an endless quantity of examples of the shocking consumerist madness which has engulfed our elite. It is a madness which knows no borders, when it turned out all of a sudden, that there is nothing but the material, that there is nothing but lentil pottage. That there are no high ideal values, no matter if they don’t match ours, or if they directly contradict ours. They don’t exist at all!
Now, what is a person who has been disconnected from the sublime? If he is connected to the energy of murder and destruction, than he becomes a machine of evil. But if he is connected to nothing, then he is a sort of amoeba which greedily consumes its surroundings, and which is capable of nothing more.
The fact that part of these people who renounced themselves are now on starvation rations changes nothing. I recall a rally in the late ‘80s near the Hotel Moskva. The speaker was yelling from the balcony, “Masters! Masters!” [the traditional Russian form of address analogous to “ladies and gentlemen” – translator’s note]. The woman standing next to me in worn-down shoes was ecstatic, “They called us ‘Masters’!” I told her, “Dear, what makes you so sure that you’re the ones who they addressed in such a way? Where there are masters there are also slaves.” She hissed at me “Minion of the nomenklatura! A minion of the nomenklatura has infiltrated our ranks!” She thought that “Masters” was addressed to her.
But when one’s sense of birthright, the inner sense of faithfulness to one’s ideals, is broken, this person turns into a slave, or into a thing, into an object of endless manipulation. He does not become a master. Everything which seemed to have become a thing of the past over last 70 years: the endless hierarchy, the sense that a master is a master to the end, and that a slave is an absolute slave, is once more coming back into the world. We are already seeing books which talk of rejecting, in fact, not just the values of our Revolution of 1917, but also of the Great French Revolution. What is meant by a title like Liberty from Equality and Fraternity? Can such a thing be said anywhere in the world?
Or, here’s an interview with a representative of one of the very high-status foundations dealing with the problems of education: “Private education is a remarkable thing. We have such excellent teachers, even from Harvard. Business schools teach their students right. People will be able to get a real education.” The reporter asks, “Sorry, what if a person doesn’t have the money to pay for education, what is he supposed to do then?” The interviewee answers, “You know, intelligence and wealth are in a positive correlation.” (In other words, the more intelligence, the more money, and vise versa, for those who don’t know this mathematical concept).
In what other country of the world can someone allow one’s self to say that intelligence and wealth are in a positive correlation? Where is this lunatic or this swine who could allow himself something like this? But, it is possible here! Because here broken people, who have rejected their birthright, are seen as sludge. I know very high-ranking liberal politicians who said a long time ago, “A people who have renounced themselves are wax, from which we will mold anything we please.”
It was necessary to give up everything, so that others could then think of you as wax in their hands, that they will mold you into anything they want! And these “others” have the right to think like that, because what happened was a renunciation, a fall, a rejection of one’s self.
And next comes hell. Hell is made to be hell in order to establish an absolute hierarchy of domination inside. Not a relative one, an absolute one. Russia, in this sense becomes the site of a very evil and very dangerous experiment; it becomes the weak link in the chain of humanism, in the chain of understanding that the strong must help the weak, in the chain of compassion, in the chain of solidarity. And ultimately, in the chain of the great Christian culture, in which man is brother to man, not a wolf.
They thought that they would reject only those ideals which were glorified for the past 70 years. But, it doesn’t happen like that. When this kind of a rejection happens, then one has to, as they say in the army, “dig from here until dinnertime”. In other words, without limits.
Next on the horizon is Christianity. Christ came to the poor and the disenfranchised saying that, in a certain sense, all are equal. Or even, “And the last will become the first.” This means the poor have certain prerogatives in relation to the rich.
Now, everything which was said in this regard, and thus made people equal, is being abolished, and it is being abolished specifically in Russia. First come words about the positive correlation between wealth and intelligence. Then comes a new education system. Everybody shouts, “Oh my God! Why are so few subjects free of charge? How could this be? What are our children being prepared for?”
What do you mean? They are being prepared for a life as slaves, if they’re lucky. Or, as unnecessary people. A phrase, which Margaret Thatcher supposedly said, is being widely discussed, that it would be sufficient if 30 million people were left on our territory. “No, 40! Don’t say that, 30 is too little. Maybe 50?” – “Oh, no, colleague! 50 is too much.”
In one high-brow and privileged meeting, I spent a long time discussing the questions of modernization. “Where is the modernization?” I asked them, “Didn’t you say that you are doing everything for the sake of modernization? All of 1991, the renunciation of the Soviet Union, you said, was for the sake of modernization, for the sake of building an authentic nation-state, and so that it could begin developing. Where is the modernization? Where?”
I have an ability to speak emotionally and to irritate my partners in conversation. Especially if they are from the elite. Among those present, one lost it, “We have had it with Kurginyan! What modernization? He doesn’t understand anything! We will explain this to you, Mr. Kurginyan. We were never talking about modernizing the nation or the people, we were talking about the modernization of the elite.” I asked him, “At the expense of what?” He looked at me with cold eyes, and he uttered, “At the expense of everything.” Then, another member of the conversation could no longer take it, “Gentlemen! Being liberals to such an extent, we can surely remain humanists to at least a tiny degree!”
No, you can’t! Because it is precisely humanism which is being abolished. And to reiterate, it is being abolished on this particular territory with far-reaching consequences. One can only abolish it if he is working with “wax”, with broken people, who have first abandoned their birthright, and are now sobbing “Why is there so little lentil pottage?” Because one who abandons his birthright is a slave! And with a slave, you can do whatever you want. Moreover, it is entirely unclear whether this slave is necessary at all. Who said that 140 million people are needed here? A certain type of elite needs considerably less. And, this elite states this quite openly. It’s just that many haven’t learned how to understand it, to this very day.
What is this talk about how all of this “ochlos”[Greek for “mob”, e.g. ochlocracy as mob rule – translator’s note], “sheeple”, “sovoks”, and “idiots” are useless and harmful substance [For example, Vera Tsvetkova, a columnist for “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” stated on October 7, 2010, during the program “Judging ‘Judgment of Time’”: “I think that as the ochlos was victorious in 1917, so it continues to be victorious. That is why the vote is such. (this is in regards to the national audience voting over the phone in “Judgement of Time”) – author’s note]”, but at the same time we’re talking about how we’re going have democracy? This talk is about how the majority of the population just isn’t needed. Meanwhile, the majority of the population is walking around and thinking, “What are they doing to us? Do they want to turn us into Latin America? Or into something else?” The majority has yet to completely realize that they don’t want to turn them into anything! The minority has no need for this majority.
There are, perhaps, hard-line representatives of the elite in the country who dream of the state. But, what state is possible in a situation when the ruling class eats everything up? It doesn’t leave any money for the state. It does not leave any opportunities for the state. Furthermore, it’s heart isn’t in it. What state with a population of 30 million? It’s impossible!
This means that it is going to be a disaster zone with guarded pipelines passing through it. What modernization? Who needs modernization here? Modernization, as of today, is wishful thinking. The essence is in something different. What’s happening is de-industrialization, de-modernization. What’s happening is archaization. Regress puts many processes into action. Part of the population falls out of civilization, becoming like beasts. The other part applauds this. This pleases it, because it thinks that it is easier to control a person who has been thrown into archaicity, a person who is growing wild.
What is regress? It is secondary simplification, when something complex turns into something simpler, more primitive. It is necessary to understand the universal meaning of the process put in motion which, as opposed to a revolution, can be called an involution. In other words, a dipping, a downslide, a decline – lower and lower downwards.
Then, what is happening? How did this process emerge? What global realities is it in keeping with? Why is Russia being subjected to such a serious and such a profound experiment?
In order to discuss this, it is necessary to touch on some rather complex things. It is necessary here to talk about complexity as such. This conversation was always relevant to me, and it became especially relevant recently, when people who could be described as Orthodox neophytes started coming to my plays. Specifically neophytes, not people who have been deeply integrated into Orthodox culture for a long time, find that the complexity of my plays irritates them. Not only am I not angry with them; I understand them. Because in a normal country, under normal conditions, everything would have been different. They would have frequented theaters where everything is articulated in a simpler language. Instead of Kurginyan’s mysteries, they would have watched some sort of plays, like in the Sovremennik Theater [its name means “Contemporary”, founded in 1956 during the so-called “Khrushchev thaw” by a group of young actors – translator’s note], or even better, Mayakovsky Theater [its Soviet history began as the Theater of Revolutionary Satire in the 1920s, but it grew progressively more mainstream in the following years – translator’s], and so on. They would have read Pikul instead of Hesse and Borges. My theater would have been touring various special academic towns, and it would have been talking to a different part of the population, who yearn for something more complex, more profound and multidimensional. This would have offended no one. I would have found no offense in my lack of popularity among those who frequent the Mayakovsky Theater and read Pikul. That is normal. That is what happens in any country in the world.
But after what happened, the population faces an enormous challenge. If the population wishes to defend itself, to transform from a population to again become a people, a nation, to become something which ascends, to become a different form of macro-social community, then it must understand: the majority of those who were responsible for complexity in our country (this is always a minority), have betrayed their population. They are indifferent to it. They told it to get lost. They don’t want to work with it.
And those few who mastered this complexity, stretch out their hand to the population and say, “Yes, we need each other. Yes, we understand that something fateful is taking place here. Yes, without you there will be no world. The world will perish if you will perish,” are forced to enter a world which is not ready for this complexity. Moreover, it should not be ready for it. But, if there is any chance, no matter how small, of avoiding the catastrophe, then a completely different text emerges in this tragedy. You want to avoid the catastrophe; but at the same time, you understand that you once gave up your birthright? Then, even if you are not ready for this complexity, you will have to clear the hurdle of complexity. You will have to clear it!
In general, what does the predicament look like for people who have abandoned something, and who again need to restore themselves after this abandonment? If someone drops a cup, and it breaks, then afterwards one could, of course, glue it back together, but it would still be a broken cup! It would not be able to sustain its previous burdens. It isn’t even known if one could fill it with water. And most certainly, one couldn’t whack somebody over the head with it (I apologize for these arbitrary examples).
This is even more true for a metallic object. You broke it into pieces, and what next? You’re going to weld the broken pieces together? But clearly, a sword which has been welded from broken pieces is no longer a sword! One could probably pick the sand a little with it, but it can’t be used for combat.
I recently received a letter about how it is necessary to immediately device some sort of grand idea, to present new and grand projects. Among other things, the letter’s author wrote, “When we come to understand all of this…” He accidentally said the right word. He thought that he would simply understand, that he’d figure it out, that he would see the right way and follow it. It does not happen like that. But, he said the word “understanding”.
The culture of high philosophy, to which Dilthey belongs (“The philosophy of existence”), for example, contraposed explanation and understanding from the very beginning. Explanation is the field of the sciences. You understand with your mind, but your emotional apparatus either doesn’t work at all, or it works very little. Conversely, understanding is a field in which, without love, without the depth of feeling, you cannot find your way into the essence. It is a field where the juxtaposition of subject and object ends, where other methods begin of comprehending what exists.
Nekrasov wrote in his poetry:
A foreigner will look askance
Devoid of love within his glance
At this pale Muse, whipped raw and bloody…
The loveless glance does not make it to the essence of the object; it does not reach its true centers, its true substance. This glance suddenly becomes the glance of someone blind.
This means we must move toward other ways of combining the mind and feelings.
If everything is directed at suppressing these feelings, if sensory deprivation takes place within the boundaries of the brokenness we are discussing, if it is considered fashionable to speak in a monotone, as though the person is in a state of profound depression, if he meets every emotional statement and every display of indifference with “What do you want?”, then the path to the depth and passion is closed off. Next, the path to the depth of understanding, the ability to unite the mind and feelings, is closed. And then, the person is deprived of the capacity for catharsis, for this kind of re-forging of one’s self, in which all of this brokenness disappears, and something new emerges.
Suppose that the depth of understanding (moreover, true understanding, not reduced to conspiracy theories, to various foolishness, to various confabulations which only lead one away from realizing what has happened) is reached. The mind works. And suppose that the depth of feeling is present. What then happens to this person? What happens is what we call self-transcendence – launching one’s self into other levels.
How does this happen? A person says, “Here I am. I am somewhere near the bottom. I understand that I MUST change reality. But I also tragically understand that I CANNOT do this. A tragic conflict between ‘must’ and ‘cannot’ emerges, which is capable of destroying me, incinerating me, and throwing me into the abyss. But sooner or later, following the acute realization of this tragedy, inside me emerges not a mental, but an authentic and total feeling: he who CAN do this will be ‘a different me’” (figure 1)
It is this vertical transformation of one’s self from “me” who cannot, into “a different me” who can, the transformation of Saul into Paul, this self-transcendence taking place on both a personal and a collective level, is capable of returning the birthright to the people.
A human being is a more complex system than a broken sword. He is orders of magnitude more complex. He can always perfect himself. The question is in what extent his will and his mind are working to this end, how profound this desire is. This is because only passion transforms. It is possible to teach someone to walk a certain path, but to teach him to want to is harder by three orders of magnitude. Oftentimes, a broken creature loses the ability to desire.
This is the next stage of falling. It then begins to only want the lowly, and then it just curls up into the fetal position. Reade about regress, for you are educated people. Look at what really happens during regress, both cultural and in terms of the individual person. What the phases are of personal degradation. Tie this in with the abandonment of meaning and of one’s self.
It is often said that, sooner or later, the victim begins to love the tormentor; this is the so-called Stockholm syndrome. You are being severely tricked! Not every person develops Stockholm syndrome. Not every victim begins to love the tormentor and to lick his boots. If you want to know, this happens to a minority of people. In many American movies, when terrorists capture an airliner, everybody starts screaming “Oh, no! Oh my God!” Friends of mine, who have absolutely no inclination to glorify the Cubans, told me that there were several attempts at capturing Cuban airliners. But, the Cuban men simply tackled those who tried to capture the plane. They just advanced at the knife, and that was it. Even the security service turned out to be superfluous. Therefore, far from everybody is prone to Stockholm syndrome.
But there is also the concentration camp experience, the giant library of knowledge and psychological experiments collected by the Nazis. Not only Dr. Mengele worked there, but also brilliant psychologists who were focused on the problem of breaking the individual. They then took the results of their work with them to the United States, to the West. Not just information about rockets or atomic reactors, or biological information from various illegal human experiments, but also psychological data.
Even earlier, Kurt Lewin, one of the most brilliant psychologists of the 20th century, the creator of the topological theory of the individual [also known as Field Theory – translator’s note] began this work. It became clear that an individual who has abandoned meaning, or his birthright, his thirst for the ideal, breaks instantly. Anyone knows this. Even criminals say, “This one has spirit! But this one is just strong. He’ll break”. Spiritual strength determines everything. But spiritual strength is determined by meaning. By the logos. If you lose it, you lose everything.
Kurt Lewin created the topological theory in psychology (among those who worked with him were psychologists from the Soviet Union who traveled to learn from him during the 1920s, before Nazism), and Viktor Frankl, who was a prisoner in the Nazi camps, wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning, and he practiced logopsychology. The psychology of the logos. And he understood very precisely how important it is to hold on to meaning, to hold on until the end, to not lose the Ideal even in the most horrendous of conditions. Then one can survive. Then one can endure. Then one can transform one’s self and make it out of the toughest predicaments.
Almost everything is calculated now. Someone starts to hysterically jerk, and they will say, “The beast has crawled out of the abyss.” If one sits passively, they will say “We can keep pushing.” And, they will push on. What happened to education in our country is part of the pressure that is being exerted on the human being. And this pressure will continue to escalate.
The only thing that is not calculated here is that the human being will be intelligent enough and will have enough love to transform himself, and then to first transform the microsocial sphere around himself, and then the macrosocial sphere. This isn’t calculated in advance. Because this is an act of heroism. It’s almost a miracle. It’s impossible. It’s something that requires a massive amount of work on one’s self. But without this work, the fall which has taken place, the involution which has taken place, and the regress which has taken place will become the irreversible death of the country. Nothing can be done without it.
No form of nostalgia like, “Oh, how many social opportunities we have been robbed of!” can do anything by itself. It can be done only if a fire ignites. The fire of passionate inner suffering, the fire of passionate love.
Odysseus wanted to return to Ithaca. Let us suppose that the Soviet Union is Ithaca. But look what Odysseus went through on his way. Read The Odyssey carefully. You will then find that it is a mystery of returning. None of its imagery is accidental.
Over thousands of years, the Jewish people repeated “Next year in Jerusalem!” And today, they are in Jerusalem. They didn’t allow themselves to be broken. They didn’t abandon their faith.
People argued with me about this many times saying, “Forget about faith and everything else. What’s important is preserving material capabilities.” Sure, material capabilities need to be preserved, but when the Armenian people fought for their religion, they understood that they are surrounded by peoples who could make short work of destroying them. Would they have been a people if they gave up their religion?
In this case, the values of seventy years were abandoned. They were abandoned with ease for material benefits. If the people will not be able to take these values back, it means that what happened to us is irreversible. But one cannot just easily take back these values, just by saying, “We gave them up, and now we’ll take them back.” I say again, one can glue a broken cup back together; one can weld a broken sword back together, but they will be defective objects. If the people understand that they must return, then they, as it goes in folklore, will tread through a hundred pairs of steel boots. They shall return, as did Odysseus, who so desired to come back.
I once came home in a very tired state, and I turned on the TV before bed to somehow calm my nervous system. A half-children’s movie called “The Odyssey” was playing. What attracted me was that even though everything seemed to be filmed like a fairy-tale, and it seemed not terribly serious and even partially glamorous, a certain artistic core was palpable. “No”, I thought “I’ll watch this til the end.” I don’t yet understand what it is. And then Odysseus reaches Ithaca. He takes bread and says, “This is MY bread. The smell of MY bread.” He takes wine and says “This is MY wine.” He touches the earth and says “This is MY land”.
He then meets his wife’s suitors, and the suitors try to make excuses, “Well, what’s so special here? Well sure, we stole some stuff, we ate your bulls… But we didn’t violate your rights! You were considered dead, and if you died, then the queen must have a new husband. Did we break any special rules?” Odysseus tells them, “You laid your eyes on MY bread, on MY wine, on MY land.” After which he pulls the bowstring, and a terrible massacre begins.
I wanted to watch until the credits. I read: “Producer: Francis Ford Coppola”. And I understand what is being discussed. I understand the nature of Coppola’s close interest to Sicily, and generally-speaking, to people who know the meaning of “MY bread”.
If the heavenly host should beg me:
“Come to live in heaven above!”
I shall say: “Don’t give me heaven
But the Russia that I love.”
Indeed, “Don’t give me heaven” is a very serious statement for an Orthodox person. One still has to explain what “the Russia that I love” is. Mayakovsky called it “the spring of humanity”. The holy supreme meaning of one’s own Motherland, love for it, and the understanding that something catastrophic has occurred; this is what is capable of transforming someone. But this does not come at an easy price. No freeloading is possible here.
What is necessary?
First of all, a depth of feeling and passion.
Secondly, a depth of intelligence.
And thirdly, both of them must be connected through clearing the hurdle of complexity. If before complexity could be the province of five percent of the population, and this was normal, then now it will be different. If in the previous calm, stationary, non-catastrophic life, a person could, if he so desired, read Pikul and The Golden Calf, work with machine tools, and be a normal good citizen of his Motherland (and if we were to meet on the battlefield, it would be a question as to who would fight better), then now this person, who has given up his birthright, and now finds himself in a zone of catastrophe, cannot just return his Motherland by clicking his heels together. He will have to enter the complexity, which before was the province of those people for whom he baked bread, forged metal, etc. Those people who betrayed him. He must now create a new actor out of himself. Out of the substance. He will have to extract these capabilities from it. If he does not extract them, then this is the end. Then there will be no country.
Thus, we are talking about rather complex things, which we will really have to work with, which we will have to make sense out of. This raises the question of revolution.
Revolution is the struggle of classes and other large-scale, true social actors in the context of an ascending historical process. Its gold standard is the Great French Revolution. Why is it a full-bodied revolution? Because in the depths of the previous social order, in the context of progressive movement (which was stimulated, among other factors, by the desire of the French nation-state to combat other states), in the context of an ascending process, the bourgeoisie had already formed a full-fledged social order. And when the previous feudal social order began to die off, the bourgeoisie emerged and with modest effort, however bloody and insane it might have been, but still with a relatively modest effort, it deposed the feudal class; it won new positions; it gave the people new ideals (as is due for a “class for others” rather than a “class for itself”), and it outlined a new order of things. The people received something which they did not want to give up (e.g. land and the Napoleonic Code), thus closing the door for restoration. A new phase of historical process began.
Everything was different in Russia. In this sense, the Great October Socialist Revolution is not a revolution. It is a catastrophe. When all of the political forces which had more or less taken form (including that same bourgeoisie) tried to preserve power after the Tsar abdicated, thus causing its collapse, it became clear that power could not be retained. One force was left, which was not even a party, but rather a very cohesive and consolidated catacomb sect, which broke the fall of the plummeting country. Systems theory calls this an attractor. It is a sort of spring, an elastic net, onto which a living object falls. It took the brunt of the fall upon itself, and it remained standing. It was then that ascending motion began.
The Bolshevik sect, I repeat, was a catacomb sect. Its members separated themselves from a certain order of things as from evil. When this order of things had completely exhausted itself, and everything began to fall, it simply took this blow upon itself. And it endured. It could have failed to endure. Then there would be no Russia, no Russian people, no Russian state – nothing. If the Bolshevist actor was not something whole, if it had not walled itself off from the evil of the fall, if it had not formed a new way of life, fraternity, and action within itself, if it had not formed new symbols and a new understanding of wholeness, which it was then able to give to the people, there would be no country. Had there been no catacombs, no political party would be able to do anything.
And when Lenin said, “There is such a party”, he both was and wasn’t telling the truth, because it was not a party. Whether or not it was an “order of sword bearers”, as Stalin had supposedly said, it still was not a party. It was a hyper-cohesive community. What did they call themselves? “A party of a new type.” What did they say about themselves? “Yes, unlike the West, we do not have a proletariat as a developed class. But, we will first build a party of the proletariat, and then the proletariat.” Marx would have done three spins in his grave from such a formula! But only it ended up proving effective.
And so, there was a closed and cohesive community, which contained in itself a genome, from which a future system could unfold, and it ended up at the right place when everything came crashing down. A cohesive community overcame this catastrophe; in a manner of speaking, it was a sect, a secular sect, a red sect; call it what you will. I speak of it in a positive light because it was this sect which saved everything, containing in itself a new great ideal, new possibilities, and a new truth. A truth which was wildly concordant with Russia, with the Russian people, with the dreams which the peasantry hid deep out of sight. At first glance, this is called chiliasm, the dream of the Millennial Kingdom, the Kingdom of God on Earth, but this is only at first glance. Perhaps, it was even deeper. We will have to figure this out in the future.
Now a different case: the Roman Empire at the time of the fall.
Remember what Verlaine wrote?
I am the Empire at the end of decadent days,
Watching the pale tall Barbarians advance
While composing acrostics, in my indolence,
In a gilded style where the sun’s languor plays.
The lonely soul aches with a vast ennui.
They say bloody battles are being fought down there...
Rome “at the end of decadent days” was in a state of involution. The Romans gave up their freedom and many other things, and they shouted for “Bread and circuses!”, i.e. “lentil pottage!” Who saved Rome at that time, and the history of Western humanity, and in this sense, to a great degree, history in general? The Christian catacombs. Because the catacomb Christians said, “We do not take part in this evil. We separate ourselves from it. We are not creating a party. We are not fighting for power in Rome. We are simply separating ourselves from evil, and we are defending the new quality of our humanity.”
A new genome for humanity matured within the Christian catacombs. A new sociocultural genome. The catacombs managed to preserve this fledgling, and they began to expand it.
Everyone knows what happened next. Emperor Constantine turned to these catacombs after looking around and realizing that no other social force could act as a support base at all, because everything was incoherent, fallen, and rotten. What did this lead to?
First of all, Rome extended its history by far. It is by no means an impeccable history, but it is of the utmost importance to humanity, and I will explain why. Having become Christian, Rome extended the institution of the papacy throughout, and it led Medieval Europe out of a state of quarreling savages. Of mad feuding barons, calling themselves kings. If it were not for the Christian Rome, there would be no Europe.
Very soon, a new dream of Rome emerged. The Holy Roman Empire in its various forms: Charlemagne’s Empire, then the Empire of the Habsburgs, and so on; this is the perpetual dream of Rome. Along with Christianity and the papacy, it led Europe out of a state of total ruin. It thus saved part of Western civilization.
Now regarding the Eastern Rome. Some say that Byzantium is not quite Western civilization to its full extent. But, the Byzantines called themselves Romei – Romans. What was Constantine doing when he moved the capital to the East? He was looking for the site of the initial Rome. And since Virgil’s Aeneid permeates all of Roman history, with the symbol of Aeneas, who fled Troy together with his father, Anchises, and because Roman warriors, wiping Greek cities off the face of the Earth, would write “Vengeance for Troy!” on the stones, Constantine initially wanted to move the capital to Troy. Then Constantinople was founded, and a new, different Eastern Rome emerged – Byzantium, the heir to which was Russia. So was created a different, alternative part of Western civilization. The conflict and dialogue between these two parts created the historical dynamic within Western, Christian culture. This is what Constantine’s one gesture accomplished.
And so, there are either “the catacombs plus Constantine”, in other words, the authorities stretch out their hand to the catacombs, and an alliance emerges, out of desperation and an understanding that there is no one else to lean on. Or, there are just the catacombs, “the catacombs minus Constantine”, and these are the Bolsheviks.
But either way, Russia’s fate, and the possibility of saving it from catastrophe, will be determined by the existence of the catacombs, who will not join the fall and the involution. Who will find strength within themselves, not only to not partake in this fall, but to launch, even starting with themselves, a counter-regressive process. This is impossible without transcendence, without changing one’s inner state. This is the question at hand. These are the stakes involved.
Attempting to reference the framework of the Great French Revolution in our modern Russian situation negates the fact of what happened, the fact of involution and regress. Where do you see classes for class warfare, for history? The space has fallen out of the historical process. It turned into, on one hand, the kingdom of a half-beastly jungle, a sort of “zoociety”, which has nothing at all to do with society, but which tries to present itself as an “elite”. On the other hand, it turned into a zone of catastrophe, of degradation, when ascending productive forces aren’t needed. And since they are not needed, then nobody spends resources on them. And since nobody spends resources on them, they begin to waste away. And those who waste away cannot take on a historical challenge.
Everything is broken. There are no large classes ready to play a historical role. There are no “classes for others”, classes for the people. There is no historical mission. There are no classes at all. There is a declining society.
Social regress is the transition from a failed capitalism to feudalism, from feudalism to slavery. This is what we already see: there are zones where this is approaching. Who said that everything will be limited by only falling into a capitalist social order? Where is the capitalist social order? I asked many times “What, is a thief’s crowbar an instrument or means of production? Are instruments of theft instruments or means of production?” What, we don’t see that we are still falling? That there is no real capitalism, that there is a parasitic existence in the cracks of the Soviet social order. The Soviet Union collapsed, the Soviet social order collapsed. The Soviet braces are still holding something in place. But what has fallen is being eaten to the bone. This is a parasitarium. These are sub-orders, subcultures. The tragedy is much deeper. More profoundly negative processes are possible under the conditions of regress and a high plasticity of the social substance.
In order for the substance to gain resilience, it must create alternative social orders and counter-regressive tendencies, and at least within their limits. You want to teach your children differently? Teach them. Is will needed for this? Yes. You want to create a different television? Create it. You want to create a different culture? Create it. And then, possibly, you will become catacombs and an attractor, falling upon which could save our long-suffering Fatherland, which incidentally is that part of the planet, without which the rest of the planet is doomed to perish.
What exactly is the Soviet heritage? Indeed, working with the Soviet heritage and understanding ones own birthright have several levels.
The first level is the level of facts. We must, ultimately, restore factual reality. You can be liberals, nationalists, communists – whoever. But you need facts, the truth about reality. A considerable portion of the country’s enlightened society says that, “as we all know” Stalin called cybernetics a “whore of imperialism”, after which cybernetics perished, and with it perished computer science, and the whole Soviet social order collapsed, because it could not compete.
I ask, “Where and when did Stalin (or Zhdanov, or Malenkov, or Mikoyan, or Suslov) call cybernetics a ‘whore of imperialism’? Cite the source! You liberals hate the Soviet Union as totalitarian, or you monarchists hate the Soviet Union somehow differently. But surely, you have to know in what source and on what page it is indicated who said this phrase where and when?”
Well here you go, nobody said this anywhere! Not Stalin, not Malenkov, not Zhdanov – nobody. There are no traces of this. But, they tell you to your face, “As we all know, this phrase was spoken, and it was what ruined everything.”
Apropos, for the sake of reference, I could tell you that the connection between Norbert Wiener’s cybernetics and computer programming is not as direct as it may appear. Yes, indeed, without cybernetics there is no full-fledged sphere of computational machines. But John von Neuman or the Turing machine have a much greater significance. They are directly connected to computer technology. Wiener worked on anti-aircraft guns, the notion of feedback in aiming them and shooting down airplanes, and the like. Yes, he is very important, but he is not the decisive authority. But this isn’t what’s most important.
Since nowhere did anybody call cybernetics a “whore of imperialism”, since no one can name a single cyberneticist who was harmed; and since conversely, in response to Lebedev’s note, Stalin created an institute dedicated to cybernetics, which competed quite successfully with institutions in the United States, then everything that you are being told about how “the damned Stalinist regime” destroyed cybernetics is an obvious lie. An obvious one! If you respect yourself (be you liberals, monarchists, or whoever), you have to reject obvious malarkey! There has to be at least some sense of historical dignity.
Furthermore, we did not lose the software race. The BESM-6 and IBM System/360 where roughly equal machines in terms of computing power. And if the BESM-6 overtook the IBM S/360, it did so thanks to better software.
We haven’t lost the race even now, because in the West, the creation of every complex program requires the recruitment of Russian, not Indian programmers. Moderately complex problems require Indians. Very complex problems require our compatriots, whether they migrated to the West or stayed here.
We lost a completely different race. We catastrophically lost the race for the size and quality of hardware components. We lost the race for the micronization of these components. And we are continuing to lose it to this day. We have not created sufficiently clean materials; we have not created the necessary hardware components for modern computers. But what does cybernetics have to do with any of this?! It has nothing to do with this at all.
Then let’s figure it out: why did we lose the hardware race? Because we did not have a free market? What nonsense! Silicon Valley? Silicon Valley was created with support and funding from the Pentagon. But we are constantly told that some guys gathered and built something in a garage. What nonsense!
And so, our first goal is to get rid of the primary layer of this kind of “nonsense”, to restore the real facts.
The second goal is to understand the nature of certain phenomena which actually existed in the USSR. I said it already, and I’ll say it again: the Soviet enterprise was not a classical type of enterprise. It was an entire world, complete with clinics, sanatoriums, collective farms, sports camps, and so on. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of Yeltsin’s capitalist reforms, the Soviet directors spent the ‘90s trembling and saying “The social infrastructure! How do we preserve it?” It was a different world, which was arranged differently.
Who said that this world was arranged poorly? That this principle of organization does not give a nod to modern entities like super-corporations? Who said this is bad? Let’s figure it out. Who said that planning, even directive rather than indicative planning is doomed? Who said this? What if the entire West switches to it tomorrow?
The Germans have now united the left parties, the classical social-democratic one and a set of others, creating a left movement. It won almost 10 percent in the Bundestag. Do you know what it announced? Not only that its goal is to build socialism in Germany, but that they are not canceling, but re-establishing the goal of building communism. Germans participating in parliament are talking about this!
We discarded our past. We did so disrespectfully, without looking, without sorting through its elements.
Once more: the first goal is to restore the facts.
The second goal is to restore the meaning of phenomena.
The third goal is to analyze what was it in these phenomena that was unapparent or unduly rejected, what can be restored and returned into the 21st century.
The fourth goal is to understand what was missing.
Take atheism, which is supposedly a mandatory element of communist doctrine… But Fidel Castro does not have it! He has liberation theology. Nowadays, many talk about science which integrates very well with metaphysics. It is possible for metaphysical entities not to contradict science, but conversely, to further develop it, giving it a new quality. Science is a complex entity, after all. We find ourselves at a turning point, when science, without a renewal, will potentially transform into a means of destroying humanity:
– because of an explosive proliferation of disciplines,
– because of increasing complexity and a lack of integrating connections,
– because of a lack of some sort of core inside this knowledge-building,
– because, if we are going to talk about complex things, of the splintering between the beautiful (aesthetics), the just (ethics), and the true (gnoseology).
For at one point, they represented a single entity. This splintering began a long time ago, but now comes the era in which it must end. And possibly, this existed in some hidden form in the communism that we abandoned. Maybe the Russians were on to something, even though they made a mess of foolishness in the process? In that case, why throw the baby out with the bathwater and abandon everything valuable which the Soviet era contained within itself? Where does this sweeping denial come from?
To analyze the Soviet heritage is to work with reality. For it is not some sort of utopia which makes it valuable. It is an entire layer of reality. Sure, we could invent a new utopia now; we can draw it like a castle in the sky. One can make up plenty of utopias, plenty of fantasies, but here is an entire layer: Soviet cinema, Soviet art, Soviet life, Soviet science, and Soviet industry.
This layer is a hypertext, which must be rediscovered. Not only must we finish writing it, we must rediscover it and defend it.
This is a tremendous field of action, without which no birthright will be restored. The abandonment and the desecration of the Soviet heritage must be overcome. And this is an enormous task. Let it be called “history enthusiast study circles”, or “history enthusiast clubs”. What’s most important, is that this work be done. That we have the courage for it. If historians who began to reexamine one episode of the Soviet past after another had not come forward, if people who gave enormous factual materials and began to reinterpret them had not emerged, no victory over the liberals[Russian liberals, whose dominant characteristic is Russophobia – translator’s note] in “Judgment of Time” would have been possible. Victory was achieved because a new discourse emerged, a new collection of rational knowledge and understanding.
But this knowledge and understanding are not enough. As I said already, in addition to collecting a fact base, we must understand:
– What were these phenomena and entities, which are reflected in this fact base (and for this, we need a corresponding apparatus of understanding)?
– What was abandoned in the Soviet era?
– What was never found during the Soviet era?
And then, the combination of the fact base, the rediscovered, the abandoned, and what was never found, together with the effort of people who are ready to work heroically and to unite with each other around this end, can together become part of restoring the birthright. But just a part!
Because if there will be no living human passion, if this dogma (speaking in the language of the church) will not have a liturgy, a higher emotional meaning, then this whole combination will not work.
And finally, a person must be able to internalize all of this, and not to explode, but to utilize this as a mechanism to transform one’s self and others. Then, maybe, what happened to Odysseus will take place, and Odysseus will return to Ithaca.
People moaning, “Oh, how we want to come back to the USSR!” will change nothing. “I wanted something: either a constitution, or some sturgeon with horseradish” [Saltykov-Schedrin, Cultured People]… This kind of wanting will lead to nothing. A different emotional and intellectual quality is needed for something to happen.
And here we must ask ourselves: what is the value of all of this for the future?
But first, we must understand what this present is, in which we live. This is another extremely complex and important topic.
We must now transition to it.
Source (for copy): http://eu.eot.su/2017/03/31/essence-of-time-chapter-2/
Essence of Time: The philosophical justification of Russia’s Messianic Claims in the 21st century
Experimental Creative Centre International Public Foundation
Essence of Time is a video lecture series by Sergey Kurginyan: a political and social leader, theater director, philosopher, political scientist, and head of the Experimental Creative Centre International Public Foundation. These lectures were broadcast from February to November 2011 on the websites, www.kurginyan.ru and www.eot.su .
With its intellectual depth and acuity, with its emotional charge, and with the powerful mark of the author’s personality, this unusual lecture series aroused great interest in its audience. It served at the same time as both the “starting push” and the conceptual basis around which the virtual club of Dr. Kurginyan’s supporters, Essence of Time, was formed.
The book Essence of Time contains the transcriptions of all 41 lectures in the series. Each one of them contains Sergey Kurginyan’s thoughts about the essence of our time, about its metaphysics, its dialectics, and their reflection in the key aspects of relevant Russian and global politics. The central theme of the series is the search for paths and mechanisms to get out of the systemic and global dead end of all humanity in all of its dimensions: from the metaphysical to the gnoseological, ethical, and anthropological. And as a result, out of the sociopolitical, technological, and economical dead end.
In outlining the contours of this dead end and in stressing the necessity of understanding the entire depth, complexity, and tragedy of the accumulating problems, the author proves that it is indeed Russia, thanks to the unusual aspects of its historical fate, which still has a chance to find a way out of this dead end, and to present it to the world. But, realizing this chance is possible only if this becomes the supreme meaning of life and action for a “critical mass” of active people who have in common a deep understanding of the problems at hand.
Dr. Kurginyan’s ideas found a response, and the Essence of Time virtual club is growing into a wide Essence of Time social movement. In front of our very eyes, it is becoming a real political force.