Journal  Put', apr.-jun. 1934,  No. 43,  p. 3-16.
 
 

N.  A.  BERDYAEV  (BERDIAEV)
 

Polytheism  and  Nationalism

(1934 - #391)

I.

        This fact is strange at first glance, that in our universalistic, planetary epoch, wherein there has occurred a blazing forth of an unprecedented nationalism, which witnesses merely to the polarity of human nature. Unsustainable are all the straight forward and rational explanations of human life. And verymost unsustainable certainly is the Theory of Progress from the XVIII and XIX Centuries. Not only the individual man, but human society also passes over from one polarity to the other and very easily every human movement passes over into its opposite. Thus, for example, the Communist internationalism in Russia very easily can turn itself around into a Soviet nationalism and this even is already happening. The political and social events of our era have to evoke astonishment and incredulity amongst people accustomed to judge about everything from the point of view of rational principles, which to them seem unassailable. The principles of an enlightened humanism, which to many seemed universal, have toppled completely in our day. But what is the meaning of the modern nationalism, assuming the forms of Fascism, considered from a deeper and more spiritual point of view? It signifies certainly the de-Christianisation of society, which moreover began long ago and only at present is fully apparent, and their paganisation, the return to a pagan polytheism, hitherto beaten and overcome by Christianity. The World War was already a struggle amongst various gods, a god German, Russian, French, English, i.e. the triumph of a pagan polytheism, continuing to live on in a deep layer of the collective subconscious of peoples. The Christianisation and humanisation of human societies was not so altogether deep, as it might seem, often it was only a stifling and squeezing out of instincts, driven inwards. Nationalism, which I distinguish from the admitting and affirming of the positive value of nationality, is the reaction and uprising of "nature" against "spirit", the elemental against the conscious, of eros against ethos, of the collective against the person. Insofar as nations, in striving to form their own national lifestyle, tend to rise up against the externally binding upon them "mankind", they set out from a totally accurate position, that "mankind", as a natural fact, does not exist. The "all-human" is an abstraction. Mankind, as a positive value, is a spiritual category. It is something created by Christianity. The sense of mankind is bound up with God-manhood. Insofar as humanism affirms mankind and an universal humanity, it affirms a Christian truth, but cuts it off from its spiritual roots, becomes bereft of its spiritual foundation and therefore often deforms it. In the purely natural order of things man is consigned to a particularistic national existence and the brotherhood of peoples is impossible. The tranquility and brotherhood of peoples presupposes the construct of a spiritual cosmos, of a spiritual universalism, which existed during the Middle Ages and the remnants of which are still preserved over the span of modern history. Neither the bourgeois cosmopolitanism, nor the socialistic internationalism, signify suchlike a spiritual universalism, and they therefore so readily tend to topple. With this is connected a very profound philosophical problem. The universal is not at all the same thing as the general, the in-common. The general signifies an abstraction derived from the concrete wholeness and to it are applicable numeric categories. The universal does not however signify at all an abstraction and to it the categories of quantity are not applicable. The universal is an integral and indivisible quality and the individual can bear within itself this quality. The unique and unrepeatable person can contain within him the universal, as a positive quality and attainment. The universal cannot be set in opposition to the individual in the sense of their mutual exclusiveness. The universal does not exclude the individual, on the contrary it includes it within itself, as a positive degree of being. The general however is always an abstraction derived from the individual, taken from all the individual variants of being. The universal is a positive and concrete unity, whereas the general is a negative and abstract unity. In its application to the national problem this signifies, that universalism, affirming the spiritual oneness of mankind, is a positive and concrete unity, including within it all the national individualities, whereas internationalism is an abstract unity, denying these national individualities. Nationalism is the obverse polarity of internationalism and as such it is a lie. Nationalism is a revolt of particularism against universalism, which then becomes understood exclusively, as the general and the abstract. And it tends thus to be, since nationalism is naturalism and it does not know mankind, as a spiritual universum. Nationalism is naturalistic paganism, which is idealised and exalting, but spiritually unenlightening. Nationalism is a particularism of the individual, which has no desire to know the axiological meaning of the spiritual quality of the universal and knows merely the inimical to it general, the humanly-general, the international, the abstract, the contra-natural, but not the supra-natural. It is impossible to compel the Germans to subordinate themselves to the "general", but in them can spiritually awaken the universal. Such is the philosophic side of the problem. Natural paganism always will rise up against the "general", against the "abstract". But it can be enlightened by the spiritually-universal. The French therefore find themself in a different position, where the abstract and general principles of humanism have become an ingrained part of their concrete national individuality. And in this is a cause of misunderstanding between the French and the Germans. The religious side however of our problem is here what it signifies: nationalism is polytheism, a natural paganism, whereas the universalism affirming the spiritual oneness of mankind is a monotheism and not only a monotheism, but also God-manhood. There is therefore no other universalism, besides the Christian, which genuinely can exist.

     Universalism, as a spiritual category, presupposes the enlightening and transforming of the individualising natural element, and in the given instance that of the national, of the people. Within history there are universalising and individualising tendencies. Both tendencies are proportionate and need not exclude each the other. But human history constantly vacillates between these two poles and one tendency tends to smother the other. Nationality, as an individualising step of naturo-historical being, stands between the human person and mankind, which is a reality and value not of the natural, but of rather the spiritual order. When mankind is conceived of not as a positive and concrete universal, but rather as a negative and abstract general in-common, then it proves inimical to the human person, it depersonalises and swallows it up. It is quite the same, when nationality is conceived of not as a subsuming enlightening and spiritualisation of the natural individuality, bringing into play the process of spiritual enriching of the personal human existence, but rather instead where it is as a supreme and absolute value, as an idol and matter of worship, it swallows up, depersonalises and even destroys the personal human existence. The people is a step, standing between the personal human existence and the existence of all one mankind. This step manifests itself by a quality of enriching the personal human existence. But at this step can be detected the rising up of an irrational natural element against the human person -- as spirit, and against mankind -- as spirit. This uprising against also involves nationalism. Man -- is a contradictory and paradoxical being. It is erroneous to think, that all the evil in human life is the result of egoism. On the contrary, man is capable of showing an astonishing unselfishness and ability for sacrifice in the name of evil. Man -- is a religious being and he has an indestructible need for worshipping something higher, in a reverence towards the sacred. And in evil man worships not himself, but rather ideals and idols, he is capable of a total sacrifice of his human aspect for these ideals and idols. We see this also in the formation of the religion of nationalism and racism, just as in the religion of Communism. The human person falls the victim of its own idol-worship. In modern nationalism, especially the German, closely interwoven is the national and race element. It is very necessary for a distinction to be made between them. Race is a naturo-zoological category. It appertains to prehistory, although in history there act the intrusions of races, of quite varied civilisations. Nationality however is a category culturo-historical and it is already the result of a certain spiritualisation of the natural element. During the XIX and XX Centuries when they speak about races, about the purity of the race, about the struggle of races, about the mission of races, this then is always a matter of myth-creating. Gobineau was, certainly, the creator of the myth about the Aryan race. Modern scientific ethnology and anthropology does not consider it possible to speak in a precise sense about races, does not admit of the existence of pure races and does not employ the expression per se of the Aryan race.1  But myth-creating plays a tremendous role in our era, it is more influential than scientific theories, such as are interested in abstract truth, and the myth about race can prove a ready weapon in the hands of a self-asserting nationality. The mystique of blood enters into the programme of real politics and excites the masses. And this but proves yet once again, how weak and hapless the political rationalism is. The nationalism of a purely pagan and telluric origin and the rational arguments against it are not convincing. The people is of nature, which has to be transformed into culture. But when nature acts like an elemental force, it is then least of all inclined to heed arguments from reason. Only a supra-rational spiritual power can conquer its rage and stormy waves. The national element for Christianity is a fact of given nature, which underlies the spiritualisation, and has to be submitted to the guidances of spirit. Thomas Aquinas says, that grace does not negate nature, but the rather transforms it. Christianity cannot deny nor ignore the natural given, it acts within it. Spirit does not oppose itself to nature, but rather signifies the attainment by nature of a different quality of existence. This is very important to understand for defining the relationship of Christianity to nationality and nationalism. We shall now consider, how these relationships have interacted.

II.

        Christianity entered upon the world, when the tribal, the blood-nation and particularistic religions had been supplanted and there thus obtained the unification of mankind within the Hellenistic culture and in the worldwide Roman Empire. The connection inherent to paganism between the "national" and the "religious" was sundered and in this was a surmounting of polytheism. To the polytheism of the tribes, the clans, cities and nationalities there was set opposite the Christian universalism and Christian personalism. The universalism and personalism are complimentary. Christianity is not a revelation for tribes, for nations, Christianity is a revelation for all mankind, for all the universe and for every human soul, for every person. Christianity therefore is the surmounting not only of pagan particularism, but also of the Jewish national messianism. Christ was crucified in the name of nationalism, not only of the Jewish nationalism, as is often interpreted, but indeed of every nationalism, be it Russian, German, French, English. The human person spiritually is set free from the tribal-blood religious connection, and its relation to God is determined not through race, not through nationality, not through society based upon nature, but through spiritual society, i.e. through the Church. In Christianity the natural kindred connections are replaced by spiritual connections. Christianity on its side asserts a spiritual universalism. There is neither Hellene nor Jew. This is a totally new consciousness, foreign to paganism and Judaism. And by this Christianity asserts the spiritual existence of mankind. There comes to an end the era of the gods of clans, of tribes, kindred, hearths, of cities. In the ancient Hebrew consciousness Jaweh began as a tribal and particularistic God, and then became the universal God. But even as universal God He remained connected with the Hebrew people, in consequence of the messianic consciousness of the people. Christianity gave conclusively an upsurge of the human consciousness towards monotheism. Universalism is bound up inseparably with monotheism. The oneness of mankind exists precisely because there exists the one God. National particularism always corresponds to particularism. Judaism, connected as it is with blood-line, was not a pagan particularism only in consequence of its messianism, which is always universalistic. Although the ancient Hebrew Biblical consciousness is not racism and bears a spiritual character, rather than naturalistic, the racism is still however nonetheless of a purely Hebrew ideology. The Hebrews guarded indeed the purity of the race, being opposed to mixed marriages, and bound up religion together with blood-line. But modern racism is indeed an Hebrew ideology, torn away from any spiritual roots and having assumed a coarsely naturalistic, almost materialistic form. In accord with this ideology a man spiritually is to be defined by the form of his skull, by the colour of his hair, by his inherited blood. In such manner spirit is rendered into an epiphenomenon consequent upon anatomy and physiology. This is a determinism moreso coarse and extreme, than even in the theory of economic materialism, since economics belongs nonetheless to a psychical medium and allows for a change of the position of people from a change of consciousness. The fatum of blood, certainly, is not compatible with Christianity. Christianity surmounts the ancient idea of an irreversible fate, it reveals the freedom of spirit. And racism is, certainly, a return to paganism, to polytheism, and its pathos of the fatum of blood, weighing upon a man, is a naturalistic romanticism. Christianity frees the human person from the fatum of blood, from the enslavement of spirit by birth and tribal principles, from the grip of the spirits and demons of nature over man. Christianity therefore asserts universalism to the same degree, as does personalism also, and only Christianity affirms universalism not as something general and abstract, but rather as a spiritual quality, comprising within it every enlightened and spiritually individualised degree of being. Christianity surmounts the primarily pagan attitude towards nationality and the state, i.e. nationalism and statism, establishing prior to the transfiguration of the world the distinction between that "for-Caesar" and that "for-God". Nationalism and statism demand the bestowing of divine honours upon nationality and the state, i.e. to "Caesar", and they therefore signify a return to paganism and polytheism. Christianity spiritually frees the person from the absolute dominion of nation, city, state, the grip over spiritual life, it permits merely but a subordinate value for nationality and the state. Christianity within this world is dualism, and not monism, and therefore no sort of kingdom of this world, no sort of kingdom of Caesar can it admit as identical with the Kingdom of God. Christianity is therefore incommensurate with the idea of the totalitarian state, which represents a dictatorship over spirit, over spiritual and mental life, a dictatorship not only political and economic, but also a dictatorship of "world-view", a dictatorship of myth and symbol, of the roused masses, a dictatorship of the orthodoxness of the state. Christianity is incommensurate with the supremacy of nation, it acknowledges the sacred rights of the human person, independent of the will of the nation and is instead rooted in a spiritual an order, rather than social. But such, indeed, is the pure Christianity, and not the murky and distorted, as it has become too often within history.

III.

     Universalism was characteristic of the medieval period. It combined an universalism of church and an universalism of empire. In medieval culture there governed one Latin language. The Holy Byzantine and the Holy Russian realm were likewise universal in their idea, as was also the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. The medieval world did not know nationalism. Nationalism is a product of modern history. The medieval Christian universalism decayed, and the spirit of particularism won out. The autonomy of politics from the time of Machiavelli signified the triumph of a purely pagan attitude towards the state. In France nationalism was bound up with the French Revolution, with the idea of the supremacy of the nation. The makers of the Revolution were patriot-nationalists, while at the same time the representatives of the Old Regime, the king, the nobility and clergy, were the betrayers in regard to the nation. With the weakening of faith, with the de-Christianisation of society, God was substituted for by the nation. And this was one of the forms of idolatry, from which they fashioned an idol of the nation. The religion of nationalism is beyond doubt a paganism of societies. But the modern postwar nationalism bears specific features, distinct from the former nationalism. The old nationalism was bound up with the aristocratic and bourgeois classes and this enabled the triumph of international outlooks amongst the workers. Now the position is changed. We live in an era of the dominion of the masses. There occurs an intense democratisation of society. And nationalism has become something of the masses and democratic. This we see in Fascism and National Socialism, which present themself as democratic movements of the people. The idea of Fascism is the attainment of a strong popular national unity with a broad social basis. The Fascist nationalism invariably has to take the view, as though behind it stands the "people", it does not permit within the people any class-struggle and this is more or less effective. Fascism takes hold with a large segment of the petite bourgeoise, the lesser service classes, a portion of the peasantry, the proletarianised middle classes and proletarianised intelligentsia, which comprises a remarkable portion of the people. The power of Fascism consists in this, that it operates upon militarised unions of youth. They create a new form of nationalism. Against the Marxist proletarian internationalism and the liberal-bourgeois cosmopolitism there occurs a reconstruction of the unity of the nation, inspired by the will to power. In the finding of national unity there would be a positive element, if it were not all distorted by idol-making. There occurs a genuine making a god of the nation, of the race, of the state, i.e. a return to polytheism. The connection of nationalism with polytheism is presently more clear, than hitherto. And there is moreover a feature, characteristic of modern nationalism. The former national uniqueness was bound up foremost with an uniqueness of culture. The modern nationalism is bound up foremost with the state, with an absolutisation of the state. What determines this is that it is under the grip of the will to power. Nationalism cannot integrally realise itself without a strong state, controlling the whole of life. The modern idea of the total state, knowing no boundaries, makes pretense to be the organiser not only of social, but also of spiritual and mental life, and this is a product of nationalism. Modern nationalism is not culturo-contemplative, but rather state-actualising, in the grip of actualism. And to this corresponds all the whole character of the era. Italian Fascism is first of all statism, the ideology of an absolute state. This -- is a Roman idea. The German National Socialism is however an ideology of race. But the race, striving for power, has to have its own implement in the powerful absolute state. And likewise for the realisation of the stateless ideal of the workers Communism, a powerful absolute state proves necessary. All the modern social and national movements stand under the standard of monism, of totality, of integration and by this is determined their tendency towards tyranny.

      The modern world is again torn by polydemonism, from which Christianity formerly freed the ancient world. Again have broken free the demons of race, of blood, of earth, of nationality, of sex. Everything that had been driven into the subconscious, has burst forth and become apparent. The opposite to Tertullian might be said, that the human soul by nature is pagan, not Christian, and this pagan naturalism at present is manifest more strongly, than before. But that which is occurring in the modern world is still quite more complicated and tangled. The modern world is torn likewise by new demons, not the demons of nature, but rather by the demons of technical civilisation, the demons of the machine, to which all more and more man is subject, the demons of social hatred, begotten of Capitalism. Modern revolutions stand either upon the symbol of a chosen race or under the symbol of a chosen class. The obsession with either one or the other symbol is an actual demon. When the outlook of society is set either under the standard of a chosen race or of a chosen class, there then occurs an acute dehumanisation, since it is not admitted for each man his human worthiness, but merely for each man as belonging to the chosen race or the chosen class. In racial theory however the dehumanisation is still stronger, than in class theory. The determinism of class is not absolute, there is possible a salvation for a man belonging to a reprobate class through a change of consciousness. A nobleman or bourgeois can become a Marxist and Communist, can become immersed with the proletarian idea and then from him can be snatched the fatum of his class, and he can even become a representative of the Soviet of Peoples Commissars. Marx and Lenin, as is known, were nowise of the proletariat and this did not at all hinder them to be bearers of the proletarian consciousness. The determinism of race is however absolute, this -- is a fatum of blood. No sort of change of consciousness, no sort of appropriating for oneself the ideas and creed of the chosen race can help. The inherited blood, the structure of skull, the colour of hair determine absolutely one's spirit. If one be a Jew or a Negro, then the acceptance of Christianity can nowise save one, Baptism is inoperable in regard to reprobate races, cannot help one even if one become by conviction a National Socialist. This is an absolute determinism and fatalism. But an absolute determinism and fatalism are incompatible with Christianity, as the religion of freedom of spirit. The fatum of blood, hanging over man, belongs to paganism, and not Christianity, this is a pagan naturalism. Both racial theory and class theory alike represent a polytheism in social life, incompatible with monotheism, but the racial theory is still moreso of a degree, than the class theory. The myth concerning the chosen race and the myth concerning the chosen class have proven very dynamic in our time. Myths possess quite more dynamic energy, than scientific theories. Into these myths enter in also the element of empirical reality, but the mythical element is predominant. In the modern world contest two basic powers -- nationalism and socialism, but in certain tendencies they intersect and combine. How is to be understood the relationship between the "national" and the "social"?

        Of these two elements, at its basis the national element appears something natural-cosmic and elemental, though also refracted within civilisation, whereas the social element is already a by-product of civilisation and into it enters the idea of justness, which is of spiritual origin. The "social" is already entirely situated within the psychical medium and everything natural within it has already been reworked by man. The struggle of the "national" and the "social" at the upper points, when shed of its lower instincts and interests, can be conceived of as the struggle of eros and ethos. Nationalism does not want to know of truth and justice, it does not want to know about the brotherhood of peoples, it wants to know only erotic choosing and erotic refusing, or as the ideologue of nationalism, K. Shmitt tends to say, politics has to know only the "category of friend and foe". The assertion therefore of the national element in nationalism always signifies the dehumanisation and demoralisation of politics, it is always an assertion of polytheism in politics against monotheism. Socialism can, certainly, be transformed into an actual idolatry and demonism and become in the means of struggle a dehumanisation and demoralisation. We see this within Communism. But in its idea and goal socialism is inspired by the pathos of truth and justice in social relations, i.e. it has to make demand for the humanisation and ethical aspect of social relationships. Politics, such as would not too acutely clash with Christianity, ought to be defined not by "categories of friend and enemy", not by some erotic attraction and repulsion, but rather by the categories of justice and injustice, of brotherly and non-brotherly relations of people and of peoples. Communism likewise is guided by categories of friend and enemy, of class friend and class enemy, it carries over the erotic and anti-ethical principle of nationalism applying it to classes, and in it therefore the purely social element is distorted, it loses its human character and becomes subject to a peculiar demonia. In the modern world there occurs an affinity and uniting of the national element and the social element within National Socialism. But the social element here is smothered by the national element and bears a subsidiary character for the organisation of one strong party, which at present cannot be organised without the participation and support of the popular masses. In the relationship between nations and races National Socialism denies not only brotherhood, but justice likewise, and subjects politics to the categories of friend and enemy, i.e. to erotic attraction and repulsion, without the desire to subject it to any sort of ethical principle. Nationalism and in particular National Socialism clashes not only with the principle of universalism, i.e. of the values of the world, of the unity and brotherhood of peoples, but also with the principle of personalism, i.e. with the unconditional value of every human person. Christianity however affirms precisely both the principle of universalism and the principle of personalism, i.e. it demands the acknowledging of the value of the brotherhood of people and of peoples, of the oneness of mankind, and of the utmost value of the person, the worth of every man independent of race, nationality and social position. The sole form of socialism, therefore, which corresponds to Christianity and the ethics of humanity, is neither the international class socialism nor the racist National Socialism, not the socialism of the totalitarian state, but rather a personalistic socialism, a syndicalist socialism, combining within it the principle of the value of the person with the value of society, of the community, of the communality of people. It signifies the humanisation and ethicisation of social life and social relations.

IV.

       Modern nationalism has flared up in a technological era and this creates for it a contradictory and paradoxical position. Nationalism and technology -- are completely contrary principles. The whole emotional basis of nationalism (and nationalism is emotional first of all) is naturo-telluric, whereas the domination of the technical signifies the end of the telluric period within the history of mankind. But there transpires the technification and rational systemisation of the naturo-tellurgic national element. The very principle itself of technology is something totally international. Technology is a most mighty international force. Modern youth of every land in their emotionality incline towards nationalism, if they are not else caught up in Communism, yet together with this they are caught up and attracted by technology and are ready to devote their abilities to the developement of technology. The youth do not take note of this contradiction in their outlooks. But it is technology namely that is the least national, it bears not only an universal, but also international, abstractly-general character, it depersonalises and deprives the lifestyle of peoples of any nationally-individual character, it is alike for the Americans, the Germans or the Japanese. It is technology namely, the technical civilisation that permits of export and readily passes over from one land to another, from one people to another, whereas a genuine culture is always individualised and does not permit of transfer. But modern nationalists love technology and its weapons and they are indifferent towards genuine culture. This indeed finds its explanation in the fact that modern nationalism seeks not so much the expression of the individual image of a people, as rather the showing forth of power, yet power at present cannot be discovered without technology. Technology provides the weaponry for struggle and war, and nationalism wants struggle and war. Modern nationalism is indifferent towards culture, since in culture there has always been a very strong contemplative element, whereas nationalism at present is not at all contemplative, it is very actualistic, very avid for life and gripped by the will to power. Technology, without which is impossible any sort of might, bears a planet-wide character and in the final end it has the advantage over nationalism, it proves stronger, it asserts its universality of communication, amidst is already impossible any sort of autocracy, any sort of isolated worlds. Modern technology's weaponry of the nationalists holds the world under the threat of war. Nationalism -- is an emotional wellspring for war, it saturates the world with erotic repulsions. And the paradox is this, that a power precisely most international, most uniform, most proximate for all the world, is put to work in the service of national interests and threatens the world with a very terrible destruction. Nationalism, armed with technology, is most immense a threat for European culture, for its very existence. Nationalism combined with technology -- is anti-cultural. This is characteristic for an era of mass rule. With the masses there is the demand for technical civilisation, but not the demand for qualitative culture. Modern nationalism therefore does not find its expressions in creative genius, it finds its expression in the "leader", who is interested not in culture, but in the power of the state. Those that speak for modern German nationalism are not thinkers and poets, but rather "leaders" -- Hitler, Goering, Goebbels. Their portraits fill the land and they have replaced the portraits of Goethe and Schiller, of Kant and Hegel, of Beethoven and Nietzsche, and about them are written an endless number of books. The modern "leader" is nowise the expresser and bearer of the culture of a people, he is the expresser and bearer of the will of the masses for national uniformity and state might. This is an era of "civilisation", and not of "culture". A modernly analogous process occurs also under the symbolicism of Communism, which would seem hostile to nationalism. And there too the "leader" brings the masses into uniformity, and armed with technology he expresses the will to power, and is hostile towards culture as aristocratically a phenomenon. But if one compare what is happening in Germany and what is happening in Russia, then there is a difference first of all in this, that different demons rend at these lands -- in Germany these are foremost of all the demons of nature (of blood, a chosen race, nationality, land), and in Russia namely because that in the past this was a land tellurgic primarily, -- the demons are those of a titanic technology, of social structuring (of machine, a chosen class, planetary social revolution). But the technology is situated in the service of either a chosen race or of irrational social instincts, and behind the technical constructs are hidden the irrational instincts of the Russian people. Communistic internationalism readily turns out to be a Soviet nationalism, and Stalinism is already almost nowise distinct from Fascism. And behind the appeal to make a planetary social revolution lies concealed a Russian messianism, the old idea of the world vocation of the Russian people. Nationalism is strange as a genuinely Russian tradition, but messianism is characteristic for this tradition. The whole Russian XIX Century was full of an universal mindset and this universal consciousness was by character Russian. Nationalism per se for us was something for the foreigner, of German origin. And Bolshevism is one of the transformations and deformations of the Russian idea.

      Modern nationalism is asserted against the background of an universalistic and planetary era, and this bestows it an especial alacrity. Nationalistic emotions, sometimes assuming insane forms, develope during an era, when any sort of an autarchy is no longer possible. European societies are reverting to polytheism after the already deeply changed consciousness of monotheism. But it is impossible to simply deny the modern nationalistic outlooks of the youth and the movements hallowed by them from the point of view of the state ideas of the Enlightenment philosophy of the XVIII Century and the already outmoded principles of the French Revolution. Keyserling does not tire recollecting this, that it is particularly the French, who are inclined to regard as universal the principles of French humanism, and who believe trustingly in the catholicity of the Latin reason. But we have entered into a different measure of being, into a world, which I have termed the "New Middle Ages". And to evaluate what is transpiring is impossible from the perspective of the relative and transitory principles of modern history, to evaluate it is possible only from the perspective of absolute and eternal principles. Such principles are embedded only within Christianity. Modern nationalism, the modern will to power clashes sharply with the absolute principles of Christianity. One mustneeds be clearly conscious of this. The opportunistic maneuverings of Christians is shameful. The desire to employ Christianity, as a tool for the affirming of national and state might, is far worse a matter from a Christian perspective, than would be outright persecutions against Christianity and religion. It properly befits Christians to lead an heroic struggle for the freedom of Christianity, for the freedom of the spiritual life, against the pretensions of the totalitarian state to nationalise spirit, conscience, thought. It is possible to nationalise and socialise only that, what a man possesses, his material property, but not that, what he is, not his person. It is impossible to shut one's eyes to the fact, that the social restructuring of societies, which irreversibly everywhere will happen, will actually be accompanied by a lowering of the level of spirituality. This also finds expression in a return to polytheism and polydemonism. And what foremost would initiate a spiritual renewal has to be the resolution of the elementary questions of human existence. But the spiritual struggle all the time will occur. The will to power itself per se is not evil. It is impossible likewise to admit of weakness and impotence as good. The positive fullness of being is power, is might, and it is needful to strive towards this might. But the whole question is in this, in what is to be seen this might. The modern will to power is not at all the will to a fullness of being, it signifies a terrible contraction and diminishing of being. The will, by which nationalism is propelled, is of suchlike a narrowing of being. The fullness of being always signifies, that in every one of its individualised steps there is contained universal content, as a positive quality.
 

                                                                               Nikolai Berdyaev.

                                                                                       1934

  2005 by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1934 - 391 - en)

MNOGOBOZHIE  I  NATSIONALIZM.  Journal Put', apr.-jun. 1934, no. 43, p. 3-16.


      1 Vide e.g., the generalised results of modern science concerning races in the book of Eugene Pittard, "Les races et l'histoire. Introduction ethnologique a l'histoire".



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