Bishop Alexander of the Russian Orthodox church
Note: The world’s foremost plane designer makes a plea for spiritual rather than material power as the great need of our day. Mankind, he says, is now passing through a crisis of unprecedented depth and magnitude. The main cause can he traced to a deep inner dislocation in the moral and spiritual sphere of existence. This work discusses the nature of the great disturbance and its inner cause, and shows the way out.
Mr. Sikorsky opens with an original and interesting study of Christ in the wilderness when He he was tempted by the Devil three times. There a decision was made for good against evil, for the spiritual rather than the material. The author draws a very apt parallel in history and shows how again and again mankind has chosen the material when confronted with a decision. If, he says, the world is to be controlled by spiritually dead men, it is as if an unconscious crew were placed at the controls of an airliner.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” —Matthew 4:1.
“And He was there in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan...” — Mark 1:13.
WE ARE LIVING in one of the darkest periods of human history. In spite of the great progress in science and industrial civilization, ethical standards are being lowered with catastrophic rapidity among nearly all so-called civilized nations. As an inevitable consequence of this, modern civilization has established a dreadful all-time record. During the short period of time between 1914 and 1945, the number of human lives destroyed by the two great wars and the Red Revolution will in all probability exceed the figure of one hundred million. The material wealth now available in the hands of mankind is much greater than at any other epoch and yet the number of women and children starved to death by planned, or at least preventable, hunger and pestilence during this time is undoubtedly also greater than during any other thirty or even any hundred years of human history. Scientific knowledge and the general literacy level were never as high as they are now among the white races. Yet seldom, if ever, was the white man so blindly and destructively misguided as during the last thirty years.
Professor P. Sorokin characterized the situation in the following powerful lines:
“At the present time neither the innocence of children, nor the white locks of venerable old age, nor the tenderness of girls and women are spared. If anything, they are the main victims of war, revolution, crime and other forms of violence. The civilization that before 1914 boasted of its humanitarianism and sympathy, in contradistinction to the alleged cruelty and inhumanity of the Dark Ages, has degenerated into something so base and brutal that it exceeds the alleged cruelty of the barbarians... No more complete and tragic bankruptcy could be imagined.”
In the face of these disturbing realities, it appears right to pose the question whether this tragic process can be regarded as the labors preceding the birth of a bright new era of peace and well-being, or whether it is a symptom of a deep spiritual downfall which will cause further turbulence and, unless checked by a radical change of the ideological tendencies and leadership, may bring the collapse of the white man’s civilization, in spite of all its achievements.
In meditating over the inner nature and causes of the great disturbance, an outstanding Russian writer, D. Merejkovsky, posed the question: “In what respect is our time unique?” and he replied, “In the encounter of the great religious truth with the great religious lie. Now, lie and truth grasp each other in such mortal encounter as never before.”
Approaching the subject from a different standpoint, the German writer-philosopher, Oswald Spengler, commented as follows:
“... The last decisions are taking place, the tragedy is closing. Every high culture is a tragedy. The history of mankind as a whole is tragic. But the sacrilege and catastrophe of the Faustian civilization are greater than all others, greater than anything ...Eschylus or Shakespeare ever imagined. The creature is rising up against its Creator...”
In describing the modern era, Spengler repeatedly calls it the Faustian civilization. Reduced to its very essentials, the classical tragedy of Goethe can be summarized as follows: Doctor Faust — a learned man of high intelligence and will power — makes a pact with the devil, in order to gain domination over men and nature. Having thus acquired the power, Faust proceeds to use it for the satisfaction of his own sensual and intellectual desires, and for the realization of an ambitious, vast and novel humanitarian project that is intended to furnish happiness to millions.
The inner meaning of this great tragedy undoubtedly reflects a set of directive ideas of progress which, during the latter decades, have steadily increased their influence over individuals and masses to the extent of justifying Spengler’s term, “the Faustian civilization.” The complete power over men and nature to be utilized for brave, humanitarian objectives, is accepted and welcomed, while the reciprocative pact with the evil by which this power was to be gained is considered a meaningless allegory or completely ignored.
The idea of Faust is to some extent a repetition on a small scale of the one that was recorded in the Gospel as the story of the temptation in the wilderness, which reads in part as follows:
“And the devil . . . shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world and . . . said unto him, all this power will I give thee ... if thou, therefore, wilt worship me” (Luke 4:5-7).
Christ rejected this proposition. Modern civilization in the majority of its influential leaders either roughly rejects Christ or politely ignores Him, meanwhile accepting more and more the very principles which He condemned and rejected.
In view of this, it appears desirable to review some of the ideas directly and indirectly inspired by the Gospel story of temptation.
The description of the encounter in the Wilderness is very short; it takes about a minute to read. It may well be supposed, however, that only the high points of the proposals were recorded. In Mark 1:13, we read, “And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan.” In Luke 4:2, we read, “Being forty days tempted of the devil.” This latter text precedes the account of the three propositions. Therefore, there is every reason to consider that the discussion, or the inner meditation, over the fundamental principles actually took many days and was much more detailed.
This strange event recorded in three out of four Gospels is very important. As there were no witnesses in the desert, the story and even the expressions might well have been those used by Christ Himself when He told it to His disciples. The word “temptation” indicates that the suggestions may have been tempting; in other words, must have included the element of interest or attractiveness. If this were not the case, then the story would be an account of a discussion or an argument, and the term “temptation” would be out of place. The meaning of the event and the ideas discussed can be analyzed from the three following standpoints:
1. Christ was all alone in the desert. The form of the Devil is purely figurative in referring to weaknesses which were present in the human part of His nature. According to this interpretation, the story must be understood as describing how Christ conquered and subdued all lower physical and intellectual elements that were present in the human part of His being.
2. Christ was all alone in the desert. The term “Devil” would still be taken in a figurative way, but would represent the sum total of mankind’s weaknesses. The infinite sympathy of Christ would cause in Him a profound desire to relieve the suffering of mankind in this life on earth even at the cost of some compromise. The conflict of this desire with the realization of His heavenly mission may have justified the use of the term “temptation.”
3. Finally, the record in the Gospels may be understood literally, in which case, according to the Gospel text, the initiative and wording of the three questions would actually belong to this evil ideological adversary of Christ.
A brief review will disclose the weakness of the first of the above-mentioned assumptions. The story of the Gospel tells first of hunger and bread. I know a man who fasted forty days for scientific and medical purposes. In a number of cases ordinary men could resist hunger by will power, even when food was available. While, obviously, it is difficult and involves suffering, hunger and the resulting desire to turn stones into bread would hardly have been a question of temptation to Christ.
The second temptation includes the suggestion, “cast thyself down” from the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem. In line with the basic assumptions of the first viewpoint, the interpretation could be as follows: Tired out by physical privations and still more by the realization of His immensely difficult mission, superhumanly heavy responsibility and inevitably tragic end, the Founder of Christianity may have wanted a divine sign that would confirm His heavenly credentials.
I had the good fortune to visit this desert. An interesting detail is the large number of smooth flat stones that resemble cakes of bread. In general, the place is an impressive but gloomy wilderness, situated on a plateau, bordered by a sheer drop of rocks that separate it from the Jordan Valley. Many canyons cut into this desert, often several hundred feet deep. By contrast, the pinnacles of the faraway temple of Jerusalem assume a very modest height; and there would be no reason to transfer the attention to Jerusalem if the personal feelings of Christ were the subject of discussion. Therefore, a different explanation is needed.
The third temptation suggests to Christ the idea of accepting the crown of all the Kingdoms of the earth. To many ordinary people, the idea of being a king appears glorious and attractive. Many individuals, who combine great energy and ambition with mediocre ethics, have a lust for power and are ready to sacrifice anything to get it. This, however, is not the case with good moral men. In the past, the best rulers considered their position as one of heavy responsibility and, in many cases, desired to be relieved of this burden. Thus, it would be impossible to consider, that becoming king of one or several earthly kingdoms would have such personal attractiveness to Christ, that it would justify the use of the word “temptation.” Therefore, the first of the suggested explanations does not appear to be satisfactory. However, the full meaning of the word “temptation” should not be rejected, because there is no doubt that this term was used advisedly in the Gospel. Dostoyevsky, in one of his greatest and truly inspired pages, makes a conjecture about the meaning of the temptation in the desert.
Dostoyevsky makes the following introductory remarks to his story: “If it were possible to imagine, simply for the sake of argument, that those three questions of the dread spirit had perished utterly from the books, and that we had to restore them and to invent them anew; and to do so had gathered together all the wise men of the earth — rulers, chief priests, learned men, philosophers, poets — and had set them the task to invent three questions, such as would not only fit the occasion, but express in three words, three human phrases, the whole future history of the world and of humanity — do you believe that all the wisdom of the earth united could have invented anything in depth and force equal to the three questions which were actually put by the wise and mighty spirit in the wilderness? For in those three questions the whole subsequent history of mankind is, as it were, brought together into one whole, and foretold; and in them are united all the unsolved historical contradictions of human nature.” 
In the first part of this work, an attempt has been made to discuss the ideas which form the background of the Story of Temptation. Some of the thoughts expressed are inspired by Dostoyevsky’s “Legend of the Great Inquisitor.” Be it remembered that, according to the Scripture, the idea, initiative and wording of the proposals belong to the Devil, for the Gospel explains that Christ was only replying. This may be considered as justification for the form in which the ideas are presented in the next three chapters.
And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. — Matthew 4:3.
AND THE DEVIL spoke to Him as follows: “Now that You have spent many days in the wilderness, You feel the suffering caused by privation and hunger. Of course, with the superhuman power of Your nature You can stand it even unto death. But think about a weak human being trying to endure such suffering, or even a much greater one. Think of a famished mother whose suffering is made more intense by the crying of her children who beg endlessly, ‘Mother, I’m hungry; Mother, give me some bread, give me something to eat!’ The father, half starved and unable to walk a long distance, went away a few days ago taking with him all he had left of his tools and worn-out clothing, and also a knife. If he finds bread somewhere, he will beg on his knees to have all his belongings exchanged for it, but if he cannot obtain it that way, then he will kill in order to get it because the crying and begging of his children are still ringing in his ears. . . . What do You think will keep these parents from getting desperate and acting accordingly?
“I understand Your saying that their sufferings are temporary; that all they have to do is be patient and pray and, if God still lets them die· from hunger, His word will call them to a happier eternal life. This promise and hope will be sufficient for thousands of Your followers and they will give You reason to be proud of them. They will stand hunger and privation, persecution and death, praising Your name for their liberty and promised everlasting Glory.
“But these would be the exception, these powerful and proud ones. What about the rest of humanity, the weak and sinful millions of ordinary human beings, who stretch their hands to You, but who will never be strong enough to renounce decisively the earthly bread in favor of the heavenly? Have you no pity for them and their sufferings? Is it really true that You care for only the powerful and courageous, Your elect ones, and that You have no sympathy for the whole multitude of ordinary men and women; no pity for the millions of defenseless children who are and always will be hungry in every corner of the earth? Many have tried to improve the situation. All have failed. If one can succeed, it is You. You can purge the world from the sufferings of hunger, once and for all, liberating the masses of mankind, good or bad, Saints and Sinners from the terror of hunger for themselves and their children. Because if You are the Son of God, You can even command these stones to become bread!
“More than that, if You provide them with bread, You will at once get the obedience of the vast majority of mankind, because there is no more powerful argument than bread. Feed them and they will run after You and listen to every word of Your teaching and will accept it and repeat it to others. They will always be obedient for fear You might take Your hand away and withhold their bread.
“This is sound advice based on knowledge of human nature and directed by sympathy for these unfortunate creatures. . . . It is as I expected, You are refusing my advice; You want men still to have their chance to decide freely the most important moral and spiritual questions; You do not want to hire followers by feeding them; but I warn You that in rejecting bread You destroy the most important foundation You could have placed under Your work.
“Centuries will go by and mankind will raise a new leader who will reject You with Your teaching. Men will run after him and glorify him, saying that here is finally the true Saviour, who will give us bread and prosperity. Of course, he will never feed them. More bitterness and hatred, more hunger and murder will come out of this, because men will always be hungry and destitute even if riches lie all about. Never will they be able to divide the things peacefully and justly among themselves. After all, they must not be blamed, because that is the way they were made and always will remain. God created them mutineers, although He also made them slaves.
“Look around at these dull gray rocks. Do you blame them for not being made of pure gold or crystal? There are men whose consciences are as clear as crystal and who have a golden heart, but they are rare exceptions. God spread them among men as He spread the few precious stones among the masses of bulky, worthless gray rocks. The trouble you see is, that while the masses are for the most part bad and sinful and always will be, yet they feel and suffer. Now tell me, who among men has the wisdom and power to remove hunger? Is it not the fundamental source of worry, suffering and death, the primary cause of strife among men and of wars among nations? If You cannot name such a man, and if You really love or, at least, pity mankind, how can You limit your mission to talking and refuse to act?”
Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is wnt-ten, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. — Matthew 4:5-6.
AND THE DEVIL spoke to Him as follows: “... Now let us leave alone the senseless, gray masses of humanity and think about the men with the fire of faith and noble idealism in their hearts. You speak about brotherly love; why then are You deliberately planning to introduce painful misunderstanding and hatred among good people who are living in mutual respect and love? Let us imagine just one case while, of course, there would be thousands. We both can envisage the future well enough to see clearly how things might happen.
“Consider the old priest of Emmaus: a real puritan in the highest sense of the word, a faithful servant of God, a true religious leader of the village; a loyal guardian of sacred books that are entrusted to him, whose every sentence, every word he knows and remembers. He looks somewhat severe, especially in the synagogue when he explains the Commandments of God. But he has a good heart and, while not wealthy, he will never let a man in real need go away without food or help. He is loved and respected in the whole community, but most of all among the members of his own large family. He has several sons and daughters who, all except one are already married and have children of their own. The elderly patriarch loves all his family, but is particularly attached to the youngest, who is a really fine and nice fifteen-year-old boy. The old father recognizes his son’s good qualities and he also knows that the youngster respects and adores him.
“The rest of the sons have their own families and occupations, so it is this younger one who usually accompanies his father on the trips to Jerusalem which the elderly priest makes from time to time, to get instructions from the Sanhedrin and even sometimes to have the honor of celebrating in the services in the very Temple of Jerusalem. While they are walking alone slowly along the road, the old priest tells his son about Israel, about the inspired holy Prophets and the great Kings, about the glory and splendor of old, free Jerusalem.
“The life of the old priest is, in general, happy except that there is one deep, permanent wound in his heart. It is the shame and plight of Jerusalem and of the elected people who are under the burden of the Gentile oppressors. Any incident, which aggravates this condition, wounds him deeply. The youngster could well remember many such cases. The last time was when his father had participated in a religious procession in Jerusalem. In the early morning, before sunrise, a group of priests were devoutly carrying a large, old sacred chalice through nearly deserted streets. At this early hour few men followed the solemn, silent procession. While they were turning from King David Street toward the Temple, they met a band of Roman soldiers of the Foreign Legion. They were wandering back to their encampment outside the Damascus Gate, after having obviously spent the night in a drunken orgy in one of the taverns on Bethany Road. They stupidly glared at the procession, until one of them took a dinar from his pocket and raising it in his hand, promised it to the first who could throw a clod of clay in what he called the big soup kettle. The reply was a burst of loud laughter and in the next moment several clods from the dusty, wet road were flying through the air. Some fell into the sacred chalice.
“The few participants in the procession stood for a moment motionless in horror and rage; they looked instinctively at the High Priest who walked close behind the chalice. They understood at once the barely noticeable sign that he made with his hand, as a command to remain quiet. The elderly High Priest appeared undisturbed and only the men close to him could see that the blood drained from his face and that tears coursed down his wrinkled cheeks.
“The affair had ended in the usual way. As soon as the government offices opened, the enraged priests arrived in the Pretoria, but learned that Pilate was away. They succeeded with difficulty in approaching some of the military commanders, but each one said that the guilty soldiers must have been from some other detachment. Towards evening the priests, tired and discouraged, returned to the Temple court. Pilate came back two days later. An audience was granted, the Roman Governor received the priests very cordially, but again there were no results. When they insisted that the blasphemer must be severely punished, the Governor replied that while he agreed that the soldiers had behaved in a stupid and highly objectionable manner, after all, no one was killed or injured, no property was stolen and he saw no reason to stir up trouble when the times already were serious enough. There was a silence until the High Priest said, ‘Your Excellence, if the head of my son were crushed with a stone, I would be less injured than when I saw mud thrown in the sacred chalice.’ The Governor replied that while he sincerely regretted that the Honorable High Priest took the incident so seriously, yet he could not change his decision.
“Besides the unsatisfactory discussions with the arrogant Roman functionaries, the priests had a most difficult and urgent task to perform during those two days. As soon as the procession had reached the Temple, the High Priest had called the other priests and the elders and instructed them to remain in or near the Temple day and night and to do all in their power to prevent an outburst of revolt at that time. The Roman garrison, he said, was larger than usual; a disorderly, unorganized revolt would be crushed, thousands would be killed and in the inevitable general pillage the sacred objects and books of the Temple, and even the Temple itself, might be destroyed. The High Priest understood the situation and foresaw the events very clearly, for during the whole evening and late in the night there was a multitude of people around the Temple and in the courts of the priests. Pilgrims, salesmen, and even beggars, arrived in unusual numbers requesting audiences and the priests were busy receiving them. Of course, once the doors were closed behind them, the salesmen and beggars became messengers and representatives of various outlying groups, even gangs of bandits. Some of them politely, others boldly, requested the priests to declare a holy war. From some outwardly humble tradesmen, as well as from notorious bandits, came the same questions: ‘If this insult is not enough, then what eke do you need? How long will the priests order us to wait?’
“After the two sorrowful days in Jerusalem, the priest of Emmaus and his boy had gone home. They walked in silence, for a long while until finally the elderly priest started to talk to the boy, at first with sorrow but then, gradually, with more cheerfulness and hope. He told the youngster that the time was indeed a dark one, that Israel was abused and insulted, but the God of Israel, promised to send them the Messiah, the Saviour, who would save the chosen people from His enemies, who would avenge the insults and would restore the throne of His father, King David, to all its glory and power. Then God would show to Israel His appointed One, as He had done when He appointed Moses and King David to lead the children of Israel out of bondage and danger. Then his son would see how happily the whole people would stand up, reunited as one man to fight for the beloved Son of David. The old priest concluded with hope and emotion. If only he could be alive when the Messiah King came, how happily he would give all he had, how readily he would dedicate all of his sons to His service. Even the beloved younger one could serve the Messiah and, if necessary, die for Him, when He would wage the Holy War to restore the throne and power and glory of His father, King David.
“When the old priest completed his inspired talk, the boy kissed his hand and said that he thanked God for giving him a father who could direct him towards the highest and noblest and who would teach him to serve God.
“Let us imagine that a year has gone by and the young son of the priest of Emmaus is returning home after a long stay with an uncle in Magdala on the lake of Gennesaret. After the greetings, his first words were, ‘Father, thank God, we have found the Messiah; I saw Him, I heard Him speaking!’ ‘My son, you mean this carpenter from Nazareth? He is no Messiah; He is an impostor!’ ‘No, Father, you are not right in censuring Him. He is the Messiah. When He speaks, you feel that what He says is heavenly truth; no man has ever spoken as He does.’
“ ‘My son, I am not interested in what He says. When the true Messiah comes, He will act and not just speak. The Holy Scripture tells us that the Messiah will be the Son of David. That means being blessed by God, He will act in the same noble, courageous way in which David acted. Remember, when David heard Goliath insult Israel he spoke very little but his attack was terrific; and, with the help of God, he killed the enemy and routed their whole army. That is what David did during his whole life; he kept his enemies in abeyance. No one dared to insult the people of Israel. The Holy City of Jerusalem was free and respected. This is what the true Son of David will do when He comes. Did this carpenter do anything, which could even remotely compare with these glorious acts? Our need is so great now, for we are enslaved and insulted all the time. What did He do when mud was thrown into the sacred chalice? Nothing. He never did anything; He was not even interested. Read the holy books and you will see that Moses and David and Elias and Samuel all found the courage to defend the honor of Israel because they were true messengers of God and He gave them power. This man is a faker and impostor!’
“ ‘Father, the high priests have incited you against Him. They hate Him and want to kill Him because He denounced their unholy, luxurious living and their hypocrisy.’
“ ‘My boy, I forbid any one to speak in my presence about the high priests of God without respect; but I love you and I want to explain to you how wrong you are. Such criticism is only the talk of irresponsible dreamers. The clergy Of Jerusalem and particularly the high priests are rendering a delicate, difficult and most valuable service to Israel. They have kept the mob from starting a stupid premature revolt; by patience and diplomacy they obtain concessions from the Roman executives. Of course, they require funds to run the various offices of the Temple, to support the Seminary for Rabbis, to maintain communication with Jewish immigrants abroad, to entertain and, perhaps, even to bribe the Roman rulers. You are wrong about the causes of their hatred towards your carpenter. Remember the rough hermit who was preaching and baptizing on the shores of Jordan a while ago? He, too, denounced and criticized the priests and for a while had a popular following, for the mob always loves to hear the wealthy abused. Yet the priests simply ignored him; I never heard any one of them suggest his arrest or execution, because he started in the right way by declaring that he was not Christ and not a prophet. But this man is different; His followers declare Him to be the Messiah yet He declines to give openly a sign or to perform a true miracle to prove His identity. Men talk and argue about it and there is perplexity, demoralization and dissidence at a time when unity, mutual confidence and obedience to the high priests — the only national leaders who are left — are so badly needed.’
“ ‘But, Father, He made signs; He performed numerous miracles! True, He does not want them to be known and usually forbids the people to talk about them, but I heard from witnesses whom I trust that He recently raised from the dead the daughter of a ruler of a synagogue in north Galilee.’
“ I, too, heard of that, my son. There was so much excited talk about this case that the elders in Jerusalem sent a scribe to make an impartial investigation. It was found that while this was happening there was no one in the room except the parents and His closest associates, and it was also definitely proven that your carpenter admitted Himself that the girl was not dead but sleeping. The girl was ill and unconscious. By hypnotism or in some other way He woke her up and that is all. But if you, my son, have faith in the word of God, then take the sacred books and read what a true miracle is; read how Moses, acting by the power of God, could make the whole land in Egypt tremble; how he caused a complete darkness for three days to cover the land; how he lifted up his rod and smote the waters in the river in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants; and all the waters in the river were turned into blood; how the fish died and the river stank and the Egyptians could not drink water in the whole land. Read how Moses slew all of the Egyptian first-born during one night. Read how he commanded the waters of the Red Sea to swallow the Pharaoh with all his army and fighting chariots. And when he commanded this, he did not ask if the Pharaoh believed that Moses could do it. Joshua did not ask the people of Jericho whether they had faith that he could crush the walk of their city. He commanded and the walls fell at once into the dust and the children of Israel, shouting “Glory to God,” rushed in and killed every man, woman and child in the town. Such were the miracles that were done by the leaders of Israel when they were truly appointed by God.’
“ ‘Now compare such awe-inspiring, divine miracles with the petty magic tricks of your faker and see for yourself the difference! But I see now that He is more harmful and dangerous than I even suspected. I was told so by many of the elders and high priests in Jerusalem and I see now they were right. Old Hannah has started collecting signatures on a petition that the deceiver be put to death, and on my next trip to Jerusalem I will sign it.’
“The boy has listened with deep emotion, maintaining a calm and respectful demeanor. But when he heard the last words, he jumped to his feet and with clenched fists shouted, ‘Don’t you dare do that!’ The old priest shudders, and turns white. He remains silent — motionless for a few moments; and then slowly says, ‘You dare to raise a hand to your father! Go, you are no longer my son! Go, and never come back!’ The boy turns and goes un-seeingly out of the door.
“He goes through the village, hoping no one will stop him or speak to him, and turns up toward the deserted hills on the northern side. He wanders there aimlessly until it becomes completely dark. At first he is so stunned that only gradually the realization comes to him of the terrible thing that has happened. He has insulted his father. Finally, late in the night, not exactly knowing why or for what, he returns to his father’s home and quietly climbs over the fence into the little garden. He does it easily in the darkness because he knows every stone and tree. He himself has planted most of them under the instructions of the old priest. The house is dark except the main room. He peers inside. There sits his father with his untouched porridge before him. A small oil lamp throws a little light on the face of the old priest. He looks many years older. His face bears no trace of anger, only bewilderment and a deep sorrow. The boy watches him sadly; he looses the latch to rush in, to throw himself on his knees and ask forgiveness.
But at that moment a thought flashes through his consciousness: ‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother. . . .’ The boy turns away. This time he will not come back.
“The old priest spends a sleepless night. See how the next morning, with trembling hand, a crushed man finishes a letter to the Sanhedrin asking to be released from his duties as priest. How can he teach other men when he has failed with his own son.
“But that is not all. The snake of suspicion and misunderstanding has crept into the loyal family. The eldest son, a staunch supporter of the old priest, has a young wife and child. They have lived in the harmony of sincere love and understanding, both inspired by the same religious and patriotic ideas. They have both hoped and prayed for the coming of the Messiah Saviour who will liberate Israel from bondage and restore the Kingdom of David. But a few weeks ago she, out of plain curiosity, went to hear the new teacher. And now all is changed. Her interest and confidence in the ideas of the husband and the old priest, even in the teachings of the religious leaders of Israel, are gone and replaced by some strange, nebulous ideas. The husband has tried with patience to persuade her, to prove his case by referring to his father’s sermons, to texts from the Scripture, but all was in vain. To his deep sorrow, he realizes that he has now with him a woman who can cook, and keep the house in order and remain obedient, but whose spiritual understanding and confidence are gone. The distressed man knows whom to blame.
“The old priest assembles his children together and, in a sorrowful voice, tells them what has happened. The eldest son speaks, ‘God bless you, Father, you were right! When this deceiver is put to death, I hope to be there to cast the first stone!’ The distressed young man aims these words at one person in the room more than the others, and she understands. She stands up saying, ‘Cursed be the day when I became the mother of your child,’ and turning leaves the room silently. Another family is broken.”
When the Devil spoke again, he said, “We have looked at only one instance; there will be thousands and not among those millions who have no understanding of Your message, but among the best, the elect, who do not live by bread alone, but who have faith, who are ready to sacrifice themselves for their ideals.
“Now tell me why do You want so cruelly to bring disaster upon these people who have done You no harm? You can see the future and know that all I have said is true. You even admitted it Yourself when You said, ‘Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. For from henceforth . . . the father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter. . . .’
“You will teach love and in the meantime deliberately spread hatred. When a boy comes to ask You for guidance, You will refer him to the commandments of Moses; You even will repeat that he must honor his father and mother, but the next moment You will tell him to disobey and hate his father and mother if they are not Your converts. . . .
“There is no need to prove all this, for You admit it Yourself. Now why do You plan deliberately to bring this division and hatred, when You can so easily bring understanding and love? To reunite fathers and sons, priests and people, all Jerusalem and the whole of Israel around You, they having accepted You unanimously, You do not have to change one sentence, one single word in the message that You are planning to deliver.
“The people of Israel have at present no country of their own, no independence; all that keeps them a separate entity is their religion. Therefore, the sacred books are the highest authority, and they give numerous accounts of impressive miracles. You will see that these were not modest healings of people already having faith. They were astonishing miracles demonstrated to multitudes of people assembled to witness them, often in spite of or even because of the absence of faith. When Pharaoh declined to trust his heavenly mission, Moses did not lose much time in verbal argument but frightened the whole land of Egypt from one end to another by a series of stupendous miracles.
“Read the sacred Scripture and You will find a number of such stories. You know that most of them are fictitious, but the faithful ones believe them to be literally true, and therefore they will consider it a sin against God to trust and obey someone who claims to be a messenger from God and yet will not use his power to serve his nation. You have the superhuman power and You can command nature to obey. Why don’t you assemble a large crowd in the temple of Jerusalem, ascend to the pinnacle, step off it, and, while the Angels, visible or invisible, hold You there high in the air over the sacred place, proclaim Yourself to be the Messiah, the Son of David. Then descend solemnly in the midst of the people, for it is written concerning the angels that: ‘In their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone!’
“It is all so simple. Within an hour all Jerusalem would be delirious with joy and happiness. Men and women, elders and children singing Hosanna and praising God, would embrace each other in the streets. The priests and elders would humbly approach You saying, ‘Master, forgive us for we knew not what we were doing; we humbly beg You to give us Your orders so we will know from now on what to teach to the children of Israel.’
“This day — the greatest in the history of Israel — would be spent in the wildest joy ever seen on earth. The people would carry Your disciples on their shoulders in processions throughout Jerusalem. The wealthy would forgive their debtors and would share their riches with the poor. Personal feuds would be forgotten, the bandits and robbers would come to You saying, ‘Master, forgive us and permit us to fight and die for you.’ And you would see and feel that You had caused the greatest outburst of happiness and good will among men which the earth had ever seen!
“Now think of the simple, good individuals. For example, consider the family of the Rabbi of Emmaus and what will happen there if You follow my advice. The old man will plan happily to go the next day with his boy to Jerusalem to see You, the Messiah. In the modest home a few streets away the older son, holding both hands of his young wife, will tell how glad he is that she is right; that nothing more is left that can separate them and they will both glorify, worship· and obey You because God Himself proved You to be the Messiah, the Christ.
“These last pictures are perfectly possible. Their coming about is up to You. At present, the good, hard-working man and his young wife are still standing over the cradle of their child; united by mutual love and confidence. The old priest, who has spent his life serving God, as well as he knows how, and the good boy just entering maturity, are still lighted by mutual love and devotion. Unnecessary division and hatred have not yet crushed the modest happiness and peace of these simple, good-hearted people. Would You deliberately bring upon this family and upon thousands of others the curse of division and hatred, or will You have mercy on them?”
Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him au the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me. — Matthew 4:8-9.
AND THE DEVIL spoke to Him as follows: “Having openly and solemnly proclaimed Yourself Messiah and King of Israel and having confirmed Your claim by a Divine miracle before the multitude, You will have started the fulfillment of Your mission in the right way, on a world-wide scale. Of course, the very day You take the title and power of the Son of David, You will learn of the limitations of this power. Before You have time to forbid it, You will find that no Romans have been left alive in Jerusalem, and the liberating revolt will spread over Palestine like a prairie fire through dry grass. Of necessity, You would find Yourself leading, or at least sending, the enthusiastic, victorious legions of Israel to liberate the promised land and next to conquer the world for the Messiah. But why not? You don’t seem to object when people call you the Son of David. Have you ever openly condemned or even criticized Moses or King David? Yet most of their lives were spent in waging wars in order to create and maintain the free Kingdom of Israel. If what they did was bad, why don’t You condemn them? And if it was good, why don’t You follow them?
“This war would involve very little bloodshed, but would bring by far the greatest glory to Israel and the greatest blessing to the whole of mankind. The Israelites always were brave warriors. Their determination is already strengthened by oppression and insults, but if the Messiah would only bless them and promise eternal heaven to those who would die for Him in battle, they would go out and conquer the world for Him. Each man would be stronger than ten of the enemy. There would be little real fighting because the world would be conquered not so much by the sword as by the message of Your preachers. In Rome, for example, there is a huge army of slaves and proletarians. What have they to defend, except their chains and poverty? If they were to hear of a King who calk the rich to share their wealth with the poor, who obtains deliverance for the captives and who, besides that, promises and has the power to give eternal blessing to His followers, and eternal torture to the non-believers, they would deliver the centurions with tied hands, and, with shouting and singing, would happily lay down their swords at Your feet.
“There is no need of my persuading You further on this subject. You know as well as I do that You simply have to stretch out Your hand and take the crown and power of the Lord of the World. In doing this, You would need no help from me. True, You would have to learn to have more mercy and tolerance for men. Not for the pure and perfect angelic beings who exist in the pages of some religious books, but for men and women as they really are, as they were created by God and molded by the surroundings arranged for them by their Creator.
“Look at the sandals on Your feet, how worn and stained they are; offer them to some one arrayed in his best and he would throw them away in disgust. Yet they were made of the fresh aromatic bark of a palm tree and when You first had them they were pure and clean. But You put them on Your feet and walked over dirty roads, trampled by the herds of cattle. Now they look just as one would expect, considering the hard life they have led.
“Now the responsibility for the misery of unfortunate humanity is unjustly placed on Adam, Eve and the apple. It cannot be assumed for a moment that with His infinite wisdom the Creator could not have foreseen in advance the results of this threefold combination before having started the process. And if He knew in advance that the results were not going to be satisfactory to Him, then the Creator, with the infinite power at His command, should have devised and used some other method.
“In the town of Jericho behind the bridge, is a cheap saloon, patronized by soldiers and various wandering rogues. A child was born in this saloon a few days ago to the dishwasher girl and she does not even know for sure who was its father. The child did not participate in the design and creation of either the sun or the stars, or of the saloon; the child was just as much to blame for the saloon as it was for the sunspots. But his health, character and personality will be influenced by such parts of the Universe of God as surround him, mainly by the saloon and the poor, defenseless, despised dishwasher girl who brought him into the world. He had no part at all in the creation of Adam and Eve, or in their having eaten the fruit, contrary to the command, but of course in accord with the expectations of the Omniscient who planted the tree for this very purpose. Disregarding the question of elementary justice, it is hardly necessary to place the blame on the tiny shoulders of the child for the forbidden fruit having been eaten. Because when he completes his education in the saloon, he will have acquired enough sins of his own without inheriting them from others.
“This is true for the whole of humanity. Of course, every child doesn’t come into this world in such an environment, but his chances for saintliness and purity of heart may not necessarily be better in a palace than in the Jericho saloon. Neither this child, nor the rest of mankind is responsible for the successful or unsuccessful experiments which the Creator made thousands of years ago when He caused the human race to spread along the surface of the earth.
“You see now, this mankind is contemptible and Sinful, but made up of miserable creatures, who, with their nature and surroundings as they are, will never be any better. It is useless to send them preachers who will curse sin and promise that a loving God created for them a perpetual hell torture to supersede their earthly misery. What mankind needs is true sympathy and real help here on the earth. I never suggested You changing one word in Your doctrine and message, but I insist that in order to help mankind, in order really to unload the unbearable burden of suffering and at the same time open wide the way for quick spreading and accepting of Your own teaching, You must and can change their surroundings and conditions of life, before attempting to change their souls. As ruler of the World, You would have the power to do it.
“I understand that the crown of the King would press Your head harder than the one of thorns! And the dictatorship of the world might be a heavier burden of responsibility than the weight of a cross. But think what You could do for mankind. No one has ever had the opportunity to dry so many tears, to prevent so much bloodshed, to eliminate so much suffering as You. Indeed, I repeat, this course is far harder than the alternative. You speak of love towards men, but You are already tired and disgusted by men as they are and You exclaim, ‘How long will I suffer you?’ You are ready to shirk Your responsibilities towards mankind, even by way of martyrdom in order to return to the calmness, purity and splendor of Your heavenly palace. You expect to use martyrdom as an excuse for deserting the earth, but remember, Your death will bring nothing new. Thousands upon thousands of men, youths and maidens of tender ages have had sufficient courage to suffer and die for some ideal. Certainly, with Your superhuman power, You will be able to do what so many humans have done with their humble forces. Your true martyrdom — Your heroic deed that no one else can do would be to endure this earth in order to introduce lasting happiness for mankind.
“There never has been such an outstandingly favorable political situation and probably never will be in the future. Because of this unusual chance You would not even need to resort any more to public miracles to save mankind from its sufferings and to arrange its earthly existence.
“The people of Israel would be Your faithful messengers. Their burning faith would be aroused and strengthened immensely by the arrival of their Messiah King, so passionately and eagerly awaited for a thousand years. In Your hands they would be the brains and soul of the Kingdom. While the huge structure of the Roman Empire would be its physical foundation, its enormous wealth, if properly handled and distributed, would provide food, clothing and shelter to every man, woman and child in the world. The result would be a vast laboring population, reasonably well-trained and law-abiding; and excellent, refined upper classes possessing knowledge in science, the arts and administration to a degree never before obtained.
“There would, of course, be resistance and antagonism from wealthy aristocrats, the clergy and governing element. Therefore, a certain amount of extermination would have to be performed in the same wise and practical way in which Moses ordered the slaughter of forty thousand defenseless women and children who were taken prisoners. Few of these measures would be required, because You would have the faithful, enthusiastic support of the several million Jews, and the loyalty and thankfulness of large masses of proletarians and former slaves. No one could seriously dispute Your authority! And You could make Your state a true blessing to humanity. The main duty of a king is the appointment of his ministers, governors, high priests and judges. It does not take much time, but it is also the hardest work for humans, because a good sovereign is often worried lest he may appoint a clever flatterer to a responsible position where he can do irreparable harm before the King learns about it. No one could ever do this work as well as You can, because for You the heart of a man is an open book. With vast resources, honest administration and un-equaled prestige and authority, You could chase hunger, poverty and need away forever. Your mysterious, superhuman personality, seldom if ever seen by the vast majority of the population, would be surrounded by an aura of Divinity. Your word or law would be accepted and obeyed without a trace of hesitation or criticism.
“I understand that You attach importance to Your message and You want it to be disseminated among mankind. If You depart from the earth and leave Your message in the hands of a few poor men, it will be several centuries before it is circulated and it may be badly distorted. If You accept the Crown and use Your administrative mechanism, synagogues, churches and schools, You may broadcast Your message within a decade to all of mankind. There would be no mistakes in the transmission or interpretation because a special government bureau composed of wise, well-educated men would handle the preparation of texts, establishment of dogmas, translation and distribution of information approved by You.
“All this would tend to solidify and unite Your subjects of all different races and nations. The enormous authority concentrated in Your hands would make war impossible; it would be only a question of time until all countries are absorbed by Your Kingdom. With wars abolished and with huge resources accumulating in Your treasuries, You could spread undreamed prosperity over the face of the earth. There would be no more reason for envy or fighting when every one could have all he needs. When, within three or four decades, all this is firmly established You could depart from the earth in a noble, honorable way. The Divine Empire will continue in Your absence on the solid foundation of religious dogmas and civil laws, which You would have established. The documents bearing Your own signature would be preserved as a sacred treasure and would protect Your empire from dissidence and strife.
“Now see for Yourself what the course of the history of mankind will be if You reject the Crown. Your preaching will cause division and unrest among the people of Israel. Your attacks and insulting criticism of the high priests will make Your early arrest and execution inevitable. A handful of Your followers will carry on and Your message will gradually spread and gain momentum, but will take centuries instead of a decade to become available to the masses. Meanwhile, thousands of Your followers will suffer martyrdom for their new faith. You can be proud of these heroes who will stand persecution and death to glorify Your name and to earn heavenly reward for themselves. But look beyond, when Your religion finally has gained the upper hand, You will see more torture and murder: this time the torturers, not the martyrs, will claim to be acting in Your name and for Your glory. They will be sincere, too, because this will be the way they understood Your teaching which You dropped without definitely outlining a single dogma, without writing or signing a single line. The message will seem so short and incomprehensible that they will start borrowing other ideas from old books and their own, and interpret it all to their satisfaction.
“You teach the rich to give away their wealth to the poor. It is indeed a wonderful rule. The rich themselves will repeat it, only they will never do it. You teach a man to turn the other cheek to the one who struck him. This, too, will be repeated by millions, but will never be followed on this earth. You severely denounce the high priests of Israel, but do You think for a moment that Your own priests will be any better after their first flush of enthusiasm in the new faith is over? You want man to accept Your message completely, freely, of his own volition on the basis of its Divine truthfulness. You do not want to bribe him with bread or frighten him with a miracle or impress him by the immense authority and supreme splendor of a Divinely supported throne. It is in the name of this spiritual freedom of will that You are ready to trade the Crown of a King for a personal Calvary and immense Calvary for mankind. You know that a handful of strong and courageous men will follow You and will bless Your name for this freedom, but as for the whole mass of mankind, they will always be frightened by this spiritual freedom which they do not understand and do not want because they are weak and wicked.
“While in the name of this freedom You are ready to reject the Crown and power of the Caesars, Your own followers will seize eagerly all political influence and administrative power on which they will be àble to lay their hands. When they succeed, as they eventually will, all trace of spiritual freedom will be wiped out. The heavenly free ideas of Your message will be dragged down to earth, buried deep in a stony grave of soulless dogmas and men will be frightened into accepting them by their fear of torture in this life and of eternal hell fire in the next. Instead of a palace of harmony and brotherly love, they will build in Your name a new Tower of Babel, losing the ability to understand one another as the building progresses. Finally, being unable to work together any longer, they will leave the building unfinished and separate into huge groups. Some will shout to the others: ‘Your religion is all wrong and your miracles are fake. Drop it all and come to us, for we alone have His true religion and our miracles are real, our interpretations and dreams are divinely inspired.’ But the others will shout back: ‘No, you are wrong; your faith and dogmas and miracles are a mockery of the devil; only our faith is true; we alone can speak in His name; we alone can address God as our Father; drop your foolish faith, burn your temples and come to worship in ours, or else we will come and make you do it perforce!’ With Your name on the banners and rage in their hearts the two masses will throw themselves one against the other into a holy war, fighting, smashing, burning and killing.
“For many centuries it will go on this way. There will be no peace, only temporary armistice in which to make more swords and to grow more men for the next killing. With the continued strife and division, there will always be bitter need and hunger and suffering. A vast river of tears and blood will never dry out. The turbid waves flowing for centuries will gradually extinguish the Divine flame of Your message on earth.
“Men, exhausted by endless wars, injustice and suffering, will finally reject Your whole message. Many good and well-meaning ones will remember the tragic, stubbornly repeated mistakes and cruelties of Your followers caused by the vague and insufficient instructions left them. Well-meaning men will call the rest of humanity together under new banners on which Your name will no longer be written because they will ask with bitter disappointment, ‘Where is the bread and liberty and peace and love which He promised? Reject Him and all His teachings outright; you yourselves now see that His message failed to help you. We do not need Him any more. Our science will create wonders that will eclipse and outshine all that He has ever done. We will reject prejudice and fears, and being guided by our own wisdom and knowledge, we will reconstruct the earth, feed the hungry, dry out the river of tears and blood forever and build a palace of peace, prosperity and happiness.’
“With enthusiasm in the new faith, they will unite and after having burned Your temples they will start erecting another Tower of Babel. This new one will again not be finished and will crash down into dust with greater disaster than any of the previous ones. The rivers of tears and blood will swell until their waves break over the shores and spread over the surface of the whole earth. With all their human wisdom and science men will never be able to prevent this supreme disaster or even to foretell it before it is too late.”
And the devil concluded: “But You and You alone have the Divine Wisdom to foresee the whole course of human history, and You alone have the superhuman power to prevent the centuries of misery and bloodshed and the supreme, final disaster. In order to avert it, You must accept the power and responsibility of the Dictator of the World.”
And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it,
Saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee. . . . And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. — Luke 19:41, 42, 43, 44.
THERE IS NO doubt that the character of the mission of Christ and its influence on the destinies of Israel and of the whole world, and not personal feelings and desires, formed the subject of the mysterious discussion in the wilderness. The deeply important ideas or the story of the Temptation reappear in many parts of the Gospel. They may be recognized in the second part of the Lord’s Prayer as shown in the following table:
Give us this day our daily bread.
Command that these stones be made bread. Matthew 4:3
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Led Tempted Devil
Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Matthew 4:1.
For thine is the kingdom.
And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Luke 4:5.
And the power and the glory forever.
And the devil said unto Him, all this power will I give thee, and the glory of them. Luke 4 : 6.
The first offer of the Temptation suggested bread by a miracle as a means of gaining control over human masses. It is interesting to note that when Christ actually used his power in order to feed a human multitude in the desert, the immediate result was His recognition as the Messiah by thousands of men and an attempt to “take him by force, to make him a king” (John 6:14-15).
Besides its vast general significance for all time, the Temptation of Christ also had its direct local cause and meaning. It was a period of unrest preceding the great rebellion against Rome. There were growing discontent and agitation among the more active elements of the Jewish people. Finally, the revolt broke loose. But due to the absence of a leader who could inspire confidence and unity, it ended in tragic failure because of the suicidal fight between the different revolutionary groups, which caused the major part of the extremely heavy losses and broke from within the backbone of the sedition. The fanatical power behind this uprising was, however, so great that, in spite of disunity and mismanagement, the rebels defeated the Roman army a number of times and it took three years of hard efforts of leading Roman generals finally to crush this rebellion.
The objectives of this revolt were not limited to liberation from Roman power. They included the ambitious urge to conquer and dominate the world under the command of a leader who was expected to appear at the right moment. Flavius Josephus, the historian and eyewitness of these events, wrote: “What did most elevate them [the Jewish rebels] in undertaking this war was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings; how about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.”
Such hopes were deeply rooted in the popular mind and were encouraged not only by prophecies but by historical facts as well. A slave boy, Joseph, became the virtual dictator of Egypt, where he had transformed the native population into slaves of the state and arranged a privileged and prosperous position for the Jewish immigrants.
Another popular case was the story of Mordecai, who succeeded in becoming the Prime Minister of Persia, where he created a safe and honorable position for his people and arranged the killing of some seventy-five thousand men who were hostile to the Jews.
Most of the people considered these achievements to be the will of God and believed that when the Messiah came He would act in a similar way, only more gloriously and on a much vaster scale, bringing an unprecedented triumph to the chosen people.
Did not the prophet Isaiah write: “And they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders . . . they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet . . . Thy gates shall be open continually . . . that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. . . . Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shall suck the breast of kings: and thou shah know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer. . . .” (Isaiah 49:22,23 and 60:11,12,16.)
Of course the Bible also includes many statements of a completely different nature. There are a number of wonderful prophecies which describe the true Divine Messianic ideology with such striking inner truthfulness that they were quoted even by Christ Himself.
It must be recognized that among the Jewish people and in the Old Testament scripture there were two opposed lines of thought about the Messiah — the one which really foresaw Christ and His message of truth, good will and eternal salvation; and the opposite which expected an earthly dictator who would conquer, terrorize, dominate and exploit other people for the glory of Israel as well as for the eventual advantage of those other nations. The Temptation in the wilderness was essentially a suggestion of a compromise between the two points of view, a compromise, which, besides influencing the whole future course of history, could have prevented the then impending disaster of the Jewish nation.
However, in this fundamental question Christ recognized not human discord, but conflict between the ways of heaven and hell. He refused to make the slightest compromise and, in fact, greatly sharpened the conflict. The sword of division which Christ said would separate father from son and mother from daughter was first of all the result of this interpretation of the Messiah and His Mission.
At that time these questions had not only an abstract religious, but mainly a direct political meaning, because the general situation in the world appeared to encourage the most ambitious hopes. When Joseph took control over the Egyptian Empire he did it single-handed, because he could expect no assistance from his countrymen who were then weak and insignificant in number. But now there was a powerful, resolute nation, several million strong. The people were aroused by the insults of the unfriendly and tactless Roman governors, and large groups became possessed by a revolutionary spirit. They had fanatical faith that the approaching struggle was the one predicted by the prophets and approved by God. They were ready and eager to fight, to avenge the insults they had suffered and to re-establish and expand a glorious national kingdom.
The Roman Empire at that time, while immensely wealthy, was corrupted and weakened from inside. In view of these factors it is clear that the power over the earthly kingdoms mentioned in the Story of the Temptation was not just a figurative expression; it was a reference to a definite political possibility that might well have come to pass if Christ had accepted a compromise between His eternal objectives and the passionate desires of the majority of the Jewish people, who waited and hoped for the Messiah, the Son of David — in other words, a king and a conqueror.
Disregarding any considerations of a religious or supernatural order, I am convinced that the unparalleled personal influence of Christ, the formidable, fanatical aggressive forces which the impending rebellion placed at His disposal, and the general situation in the weakened and demoralized Roman Empire offered excellent opportunity for the creation of a powerful independent state. The situation and background were much more favorable than the factors on which Mohammed successfully founded his empire six centuries later.
The crown and recognition as Messiah the king were offered to Christ. But He refused to accept them. However, He offered His spiritual leadership to the whole Jewish nation, but this offer was disregarded (see Luke 13:34).
Explaining the nature of this conflict, the late Metropolitan Antony of Russia wrote the following lines: “There is another truth that remained unnoticed by the Bible students, namely, that the Hebrew Revolution was very intimately connected with the earthly life of Christ, the Savior, and determined, of course, as a result of particular Divine sufferance, several events of the Gospel; it will be seen later that the revolution was the main cause of the popular hatred that arose against Christ and that brought Him to the Cross.”
I am convinced that this explanation is correct. The offended self-esteem of the Pharisees and chief priests and the treachery of Judas were only secondary contributing factors. The real cause of the tragedy was the irreconcilable conflict between the Divine ideology of Christ and the supremely evil spirit of the impending revolution.
The dramatic inner greatness of this conflict must not be underestimated. Christ requests supreme self-sacrifice, including life, if circumstances warrant, but it must be recognized that His adversaries who eagerly shouted “crucify Him” were also ready to sacrifice their own lives; only they were willing to die, not for the eternal ideals of good will and truth, but for the passion of hate, revenge and the urge for dominating the world.
I believe that the use of these evil passions as means intended to serve patriotic or idealistic ends is referred to as the worship of the devil; it represents the most dangerous of all evil temptations. The true Mammon, for the triumph of which even unselfish and apparently good men are willing to disregard the fundamental commandments of God and are ready to lie, hate and kill, can be better identified with the lust for political domination than with desires for personal wealth or pleasure. The most shameless deceptions and the most formidable outrages and mass murders can be traced much more to evil ideological causes than to any individual sin or crime.
The men responsible for the crucifixion of Christ were not drinkers, gamblers or pleasure lovers. They were church-going, Bible-reading puritans or fanatical rebel patriots. The future St. Paul may have been among them or, at least, in sympathy with them. I also believe that Judas betrayed Christ not for the thirty pieces of silver but for reasons which he considered patriotic because he recognized that Christ condemned and jeopardized the passionately desired rebellion by insisting on the spiritual instead of the political meaning of the idea of Messiah, by spreading division and by lowering the fighting spirit in the face of the approaching uprising.
Judas was among the twelve men elected by Christ. He remained with his Master during all the years of preaching, except for the last few hours. He participated in the intimate discussions and saw the miracles. It is impossible to consider that the eternal ideals and personality of Christ had no meaning for him. They undoubtedly had a meaning for him and for many others. But winning the rebellion had to come first.
I must stress that the divine personality of Christ and the eternal meaning of His sacrifice are not being discussed in this book, which deals not with what Christ did or said, but mainly with the evil deeds and ideas which He condemned and rejected.
In one of the most dramatic and severe statements of the whole Gospel, when the adversaries of Christ said, “. . . We have one father, even God” (John 8:41), Christ replied:
“Ye are of your father the devil, and lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).
When the adversaries of Christ replied, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil,” they insulted Christ and rejected His teaching, not from a personal but from a national and religious standpoint. And they finally remained in the Temple, while Christ was actually driven out. A careful reading of this whole discussion plainly indicates that the object of the controversy was not at all connected with questions of any individual human sins against the law or traditional morality; it was definitely a conflict of opposite national and religious ideologies. In His severe and crushing censure, which will thunder through the ages until the end of time, Christ condemned men with such aspirations, as being followers of the Devil. Christ defined their ideas and longings as being the lust of the Devil, which He characterized as murder and the supreme lie; the latter being stressed and repeated several times.
The conclusion of the discussion is given in John 8:59.
“Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”
Following their Master, the disciples continued to oppose and condemn the oncoming revolution. In the first epistle of St. Peter, we read: “. . . Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme, or unto governors ... as free, and not using your liberty as a cloke of maliciousness. ... Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (chap. 2:13, 14, 16, 17).
In St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, we read: “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour (chap. 13:5, 7). These lines were written about a decade before the rebellion.
In the second epistle of St. Peter, which apparently refers to tribulations of such nature, we read: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities... for when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error... While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (chap. 2:9, to, 18, 19).
Flavius Josephus records as follows the first acts of another Simon, the great leader of the rebellion, which took place at the very beginning of the Revolutionary War.
“He [Simon, the Son of Gioras] proclaimed liberty to those in slavery and a reward to those already free, and got together a set of wicked men from all quarters. . . . Simon got a great number of those that were fond of innovations and betook himself to ravage the country; nor did he harass only the rich men’s houses, but tormented their bodies, and appeared openly and beforehand to affect tyranny in his government.”
I am convinced that the severe censure included in the epistles was addressed mainly to revolutionary agitators and not to ordinary sinners. However, even if this conclusion should be questioned, still the position of the disciples with respect to the revolution was well defined by their instructions to honor the king, obey the governors, pay taxes and so forth.
Although on a limited scale, the Palestine rebellion may be regarded as one of the most dreadful tragedies known to history. Of the million and one-quarter men in Jerusalem at the beginning of the siege, only ninety-seven thousand remained alive after the Romans captured the city. By far the greater part of the slaughter and of the incredible agony was inflicted by the Jewish revolutionaries themselves and only a smaller part by the Romans.
The character of the active elements in this unfortunate uprising may be seen from the following lines recorded by an eyewitness: “These men, therefore, trampled upon all laws of man and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers. . . . Their inclination to plunder was insatiable, as was their zeal in searching the houses of the rich; and for murdering men, and abusing of the women, it was sport to them.”
The historian describes in the following lines the terrible suffering of the population of Jerusalem while the Romans were still far away, and it is a moving account.
“And now as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities, that they wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to be delivered from their domestic miseries. The citizens themselves were under a terrible consternation and fear . . . nor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places; and the heads of the robbers, although they were seditious, one against another, in other respects, yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans.”
The rebels repeatedly attacked each other by penetrating into the sections controlled by opposite revolutionary groups; and on many occasions fighting took place inside the temple of Jerusalem, which was occupied by the zealots and Idumeans of John of Gishcala. As a result:
“Dead bodies of strangers were mingled together with those of their own country . . . and the blood of all sorts of dead carcasses stood in pools in the holy courts themselves. And now, O most wretched city, what misery so great as this didst thou suffer from the Romans, when they came to purify thee from thy intestine hatred! For thou couldst be no longer a place fit for God.”
Finally, a strong Roman army approached Jerusalem and encircled it with a ring of fortifications. After several weeks of fierce fighting, the Roman Commander Titus made a reasonably generous proposal of peace, promising to spare the city and to return the Temple to the people. His appeal included the following severe censure of the rebels: “And what do you do now, you pernicious villains? Why do you trample upon dead bodies in this Temple? And why do you pollute this holy house with the blood of both foreigners and Jews themselves? I appeal to the gods of my own country and to every god that ever had any regard for this place, for I do not suppose it to be now regarded by any of them.”
The foreigners referred to by Flavius and Titus were not the Roman soldiers. They were numerous Idumean bandits, whose presence in the city was due to the following event: Long before the approach of the Roman army the moderate groups, supported by the majority of the population of Jerusalem, aroused to extreme indignation by the brutal violence and the desecration of the Temple, got together and, after a bloody battle that lasted for several days, succeeded in beating the radicals, who finally ran away and entrenched themselves behind the high stone walls surrounding the Temple. In order to save the Revolution, the rebels called in gangs of well-armed Idumean bandits and with their help succeeded in defeating the moderate groups and organizing afterward a great massacre, in which tens of thousands of Jews were killed. Almost all the priests of Jerusalem were murdered at this time, including the high priest Hanan, whose father so actively participated in causing the crucifixion of Christ.
The proposal of peace made by Titus was rejected by the rebels with insults and mockery. Fierce fighting continued and increasingly cruel acts were committed by both sides. Hundreds of Jewish prisoners were crucified every day by the Romans in front of the city walls.
Meanwhile, the situation inside Jerusalem became one of indescribable horror. With the city surrounded, and most of the provisions deliberately destroyed long before in the civil war between the opposed revolutionary factions, the hunger became terrible and the population was dying in shoals. Groups of zealots continued to search the houses, torturing men in order to force them to give up whatever was left of their food. Burial of the dead was impossible and bodies lay everywhere, in the houses and on the streets. Thousands of corpses were thrown from the walls of the city, and when sallies were made, the men had to march over piles of dead bodies. The stench became so unbearable that the Romans were in some cases forced to move their lines farther away from Jerusalem, while inside the city there was hunger, rage, desperation and madness. In spite of all the disasters, some of the Jews preserved the fanatical faith that Jerusalem and the Temple were under the protection of God and, therefore, could not be conquered or destroyed.
The rebels continued to fight for a while with a mad, superhuman courage, but their resistance finally started to crumble.
In August 70 A.D., the Romans forced their way into the city and, after long and desperate fighting from street to street, they succeeded in breaking into the Temple and, while the battle was raging outside and inside, they set the holy house on fire. The destruction of the Temple completed the physical and spiritual collapse of the rebellion.
Flavius Josephus, who witnessed these events, concluded his description in the following sorrowful lines:
“As for the seditious, they were in too great distress already to afford their assistance (towards quenching the fire); they were everywhere slain, and everywhere beaten; and as for the great part of the people, they were weak and without arms, and had their throats cut whenever they were caught. Now round about the altar lay dead bodies heaped one upon another, as at the steps going up to it ran a great quantity of their blood. . . .
“This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”
After the destruction of Jerusalem, the remaining part of its population was gathered together by the Romans inside the walls of the burned temple. Those who were weak or old were slaughtered, while the remaining men, women and children, numbering ninety-seven thousand, were sold into slavery or sent into various cities of the East, where they were burned alive or killed in other ways in the circuses for the amusement of the local population that was mostly hostile to the Jews. As a consequence of this rebellion, a wave of massacres and persecutions spread over several surrounding countries, inflicting heavy injury on the station and economic opportunities of the Jews living outside of Palestine.
It appears certain that this tragic uprising caused permanent harm to the Jewish nation, and to mankind in general. It is, therefore, important to understand its nature and causes. The rebellion was not inevitable. A number of other nations remained peaceful in their lands under the same Roman domination. Several of them, including France and Germany, eventually easily regained their independence during the fall of the Roman Empire and continued to grow in their territories until they became prominent world powers. It would undoubtedly be the same with the Jewish nation, had not this dreadful calamity destroyed the very flower of the nation, together with the splendid thousand-year-old capital — the traditional religious and intellectual center. Had it not been for this rebellion, the Jewish nation would undoubtedly have remained for the most part united in their own land and would gradually have created a powerful independent state, whose territory might well have extended from Egypt to the Black Sea and from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. The country, situated on the cross-roads from Europe to India, China and Australia, would have been prosperous and powerful, with Jerusalem becoming one of the leading cities of the world. If the Christian leadership had remained there, it would have become the indisputable center of Christianity, exercising an immense religious and political influence over the whole Christian world. The catastrophe, which destroyed this opportunity, may well be considered as one of the greatest calamities not only for the Jewish nation but for the whole world as well.
The writer is convinced that the brutal Cessius Florus, the benevolent Agrippa and the wicked Simon Gioras and other leaders, were all only actors, who were either pushed aside or rode the crest of some all-powerful wave. The true forces in this tragedy were those two opposed charges of formidable spiritual energy that faced each other during the Temptation in the wilderness.
As a result of a profound and painful analysis, and a direct encounter with evil and its manifestations in the earthly process during the Temptation in the wilderness, Christ stated in His message the two sharply and fundamentally opposed ideologies or principles of life. A powerful and aggressive faction of the Jewish people, although not the majority, which at that time had gained control over national affairs, definitely rejected the principles of Christ and accepted the opposite ideology. This was the actual cause of the tragic outburst of agony and self-destruction. Therefore, the warning of Christ that the failure of the people to recognize Him as their spiritual leader would bring on disaster and the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44) must be understood in a literal way as defining the direct cause of the catastrophe.
IN MEDITATING over the causes of the Palestine tragedy, Flavius Josephus correctly named the intestine hatred, which like some dreadful spiritual cancer inflicted a deep inner injury, long before the approach of the Roman army. Indeed, spiritual evil is always present in earthly life. But it is usually counteracted by the forces of goodness and truth, and this is what makes life and the true advancement of mankind possible. However, sometimes evil overcomes this resistance. When this happens it brings terrible disturbances, which may inflict lasting and even irreparable harm. I believe that, in general, the spiritual status of humanity may then be compared to the physical condition of a man who has been bitten by a rabid animal. For days or weeks he may feel well, but unless he uses in time the life-saving serum, the deadly infection will progress and finally will bring an outburst of terribly painful agony followed by death.
While the eternal mystical meaning of Christ’s message and sacrifice, and of original sin, are not discussed in this study, yet, with respect to earthly realities, it is right to state that religious idealism and particularly the Christian faith provided the most powerful life-saving serum, which protected men and nations from the deadly effects of the sinister spiritual evil that is always present and ready to strike, as soon as moral vigilance relaxes.
The advent of the modern era saw the gradual weakening of religious influence, until it nearly disappeared from the earth. Accordingly, spiritual evil succeeded in gaining unprecedented predominance and to a large extent legalized, on a world-wide scale, its principles and means.
The above statement can be illustrated by a vast volume of evidence, such as the overabundance of hate in modern life. Hate is blind and is, therefore, inevitably physically dangerous to a multitude of innocent human beings, and it is spiritually destructive to men who are steadily harboring it. The unprecedented volume and intensity of hate in modern life are obvious. It is already known that the Twentieth Century has established an all-time record as the bloodiest among some twenty-five centuries of reliably recorded history.
Deeply discouraging rapid changes are also noticeable with respect to human liberty. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the boundless value of individual freedom was taken for granted by all better souls in the world, and was largely respected by the governments of all leading nations. Besides the freedom of religion, speech, and press, it included the fundamentally valuable human freedom of home, initiative, work, travel, emigration, and so forth. The miraculous progress in science and industry, in mental and material standards of living was due first of all to the free activities of free men. During the last quarter of a century, this freedom was completely extinguished in several countries, and badly curtailed in many others.
There is another factor in modern life, which is less apparent than hate, violence and assault on liberty, but is just as tragically significant. A wise Christian of olden time when asked, what is the first rule of Christian life replied, “Never lie to any one and particularly not to yourself.” In striking contradistinction to the above, modern life is lately based on frantic self-deception and on calculated deception of the less intelligent majority of human masses. The casual amateurish lies of the past are now superseded by a real science of misinforming the unintelligent.
As a result of all this, honest exchange of opinions and intercourse between groups and nations became difficult. Words, promises and solemn obligations become corrupted and meaningless, leaving intimidation, coercion and violence as the only convincing arguments in the intercourse between groups and nations.
Commenting on the present situation of the world, Professor P. Sorokin wrote the following significant lines:
“A limitless relativism was introduced into the world of moral values, whose arbitrariness engendered conflict and struggle. This, in turn, produced hatred; and hatred led to rude force and bloodshed. In the chaos of conflicting norms, moral values have been more and more ground to dust; they have progressively lost their binding power and given way to rude arbitrary coercion. The pathos of binding Christian love has tended to be supplanted by hatred — the hatred of man for man, of class for class, of nation for nation, of state for state, of race for race. As a result, might has become right. Bellum omnium contra omnes has raised its ugly head. These are exactly the conditions we face.”
Among the number of remarkable prophecies of Dostoyevsky, there is one which reflects well this situation. In the novel, Crime and Punishment, we find the following vision of the main hero Raskolnicoff:
“... He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except a very few persons. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these beings were spirits endowed with intelligence and will. Men who accepted them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible. . . . They did not know how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite. . . . There were conflagrations and famine. All men and things were involved in destruction. The plague spread and moved further and further. . . .”
In the face of modern realities this prophecy is no longer strange or incredible. The infiltration of spiritual evil predicted by Dostoyevsky manifested itself in a catastrophic downfall of moral culture, amidst an accelerated and miraculous progress of science and industrial civilization. Merejkovsky correctly traced the causes of the crisis to the abandonment of religion. He posed the question to the white people, “Is it true that Christianity became for you a myth?” And he remarked, “Be careful, because in this case you yourself are liable to become a myth.” Indeed, the fundamental commandments of the Christian and of other great religions, were seldom followed to any appreciable degree even in the past, but they were accepted as supreme goodness and truth and their guiding influence was, therefore, immense.
Lately this situation has changed. At present a number of intellectual and political leaders of mankind all over the world, either openly declare or silently take for granted that the fundamental ideas of Christ are wrong and that the opposite ones are right and should be followed.
The two opposing ideologies, which are now in sharper conflict than ever before, may be denned as follows:
The high points of Christian ideology include salvation by way of truth, love and free consent. In deepest inner contrast with the above, the high point of the opposite ideology may be determined as salvation of mankind by way of a “temporary” use of deception, hate and coercion.
The consequent and growing deep discord can be recognized in a number of instances which follow. Christ stated, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). In absolute contradiction to the above, a principle accepted on a vast scale by modern leadership is to hide the truth, in order to curtail or destroy freedom.
The whole Gospel message warns against undue attention to and worry about the future course of life on the earth, and stresses the importance of this day and of eternity. Contrary to this, modern leadership mangles and poisons the living generation and disregards eternity in favor of a fanatical, idolatrous devotion to some future economic and social accomplishments on the earth.
The Gospel message stresses the infinite value of each individual human life, placing supreme emphasis on the spiritual side of it. Modern thought rejects the value of individual life and spiritual personality in favor of some dehumanized and despiritualized social order of the future.
Examples of this nature could be extended almost indefinitely; and it must be borne in mind that these are not secondary features but the very fundamentals, which control the leading ideologies and consequently determine the course of events.
Mr. William G. Bullitt, the former American Ambassador to France, stressed this aspect of the conflict. He wrote: “The deepest moral issue of the modern world is the issue of man as a son of God with an immortal soul, an end in himself, against man as a chemical compound, the tool of an omnipotent state, an end in itself.” This formidable spiritual conflict is now raging all over the world with the latter ideas gaining predominance everywhere.
This ruling idea, which largely replaced faith in God and consequently undermined respect for the dignity of the individual man, is faith in a new formidable super-Moloch, a new universal social order introduced and enforced by a world state. This supreme idea, almost religiously venerated, is believed by the most aggressively active part of mankind to insure a new brave world of unprecedented general well-being, progress and glory. It is expected to succeed where all religions, including the Christian, have failed.
In attempting to foresee the outcome of this movement and the probable general course of historical events for the next century or so, it is of interest to review certain ideas of a few great men.
This evidence is important, particularly when it is taken into consideration that a part of the prophetic statements, which will be mentioned, have become fulfilled already in our time. The super-sensitive intellect and intuitive perception of truly great men can feel and recognize impending disturbances like the wonderful radar, which can detect realities that are completely beyond the faculty of apprehension by ordinary human sense or the logic of the intellect.
Heinrich Heine foresaw the impending disturbance almost a hundred years ago when he wrote the following lines:
“Then, the fearful wheel would start to move again, and this time we should see an antagonist appear who might well be the most terrible of all who have yet entered the lists with the existing order. . . . Communism is the secret name of the dread antagonist, setting proletarian rule with all its consequences against the present bourgeois regime. It will be a frightful duel. How will it end? No one knows but gods and goddesses acquainted with the future. We know only this much: Communism, though little discussed now and loitering in hidden garrets on miserable straw pallets, is the dark hero destined for a great, if temporary, role in the modern tragedy, and who only waits for his cue to make his entrance. . . . What should be the end of this movement? ... It would be war, the ghastliest war of destruction — which would unfortunately call the two noblest nations of civilization into the arena, to the ruin of both: France and Germany. England, the great sea serpent, always able to crawl back into its vast watery lair, and Russia, which also has the safest hiding places in its vast fir forests, steppes and icy wastes — those two, in a normal political war, cannot be annihilated even by the most crushing defeats. But Germany is far more gravely menaced in such cases, and France, in particular, could lose her political existence in the most pitiful manner. “That, however, would be only the first act of the great melodrama, the prologue, as it were. The second act is the European and the World Revolution, the great duel between the destitute and the aristocracy of wealth; and in that there will be no mention of either nationality or religion: there will be only one fatherland, the globe, and only one faith, that in happiness on earth. Will the religious doctrines of the past rise in all countries, in desperate resistance — and will perhaps this attempt constitute the third act? Will the old absolutist tradition re-enter the stage, though in a new costume and with new cues and slogans? How could that drama end?
“I do not know; but I think that eventually the great sea serpent will have its head crushed, and the skin of the Northern bear will be pulled over his ears. There may be only one flock then and one shepherd — one free shepherd with an iron staff, and a shorn-alike, bleating-alike human herd! Wild, gloomy times are roaring toward us, and a prophet wishing to write a new apocalypse would have to invent entirely new beasts — beasts so terrible that St. John’s older animal symbols would be like gentle doves and cupids in comparison. The gods are veiling their faces in pity on the children of man, their long-time charges, and perhaps in worry over their own fate. . . .”
The first part of this prognostication is now already fulfilled with a fairly good degree of accuracy. The second part, namely, a materialistic world revolution that would result in the creation of a super-totalitarian world state headed by one man is definitely under way. Heine uses vivid figurative language to indicate that this future world state headed by a dictator with an iron staff will bring an incomparably greater disaster than any turbulence previously experienced by mankind on the earth.
Commenting on the nature of the present disturbance and on its probable outcome, the modern Chinese writer-philosopher, Lin Yutang, wrote the following lines:
“We have covered some important ground, ignoring the swine-and-slop economic statistics of a thousand postwar plans, revealing their utter futility in preventing World War III, and relating the present world chaos to the disintegration of moral values and ideas in the modern world. ... It seems that this cynic generation of power politicians and intellectual critics, struck by an invisible malady, has lost the capacity for love and the courage to hope. ... I have tried to show that war is inseparably related to power politics, power politics to the naturalistic view of human society, and the naturalistic view of human society to the influence of scientific materialism and determinism upon the human studies and modern thought. ... At the cost of repetition, I must say that materialists must continue to fight wars eternally. Materialists cannot end wars or devise a peace. They have not no brains for it. ... The world shall progress from power to greater agglomeration of powers, from conflict to greater conflicts. . . . There will be rebellion of the masses and bloodshed, and a tyrant shall take the place of the oligarchs, when they are exhausted after fighting the masses and fighting among themselves. For after every revolution and period of chaos appears a tyrant. After the oligarch nations shall have exhausted themselves in a series of wars, a world tyrant, bidding for the support of the masses, shall arise and dominate the world. Is this a prophecy? No, it is a warning.”
In a most interesting book that was printed before the beginning of the Second World War, H. G. Wells foresees the following consequences of this conflict:
“The world emerging from the next great war, then will be a tougher world, more disunited than ever, abounding still more in concealed aims and secret preparations and the fears and suspicions they engender. What eke can it be? More and more will the world be for the tough, for the secretive, the treacherous and ruthless . . . there will be less freedom of speech, less opportunity to speak freely, far more fear and far more danger of frantic mass impulses.”
Wells predicts some brief periods of peace and rest, but his sharp intuition and understanding of the general trends clearly indicate to him the sinister darkness ahead. On the last two pages of this prophetic book we find:
“Mankind which began in a cave and behind a windbreak will end in the disease-soaked ruins of a slum. What else can happen? What other turn can destiny take?
“If Homo sapiens is such a fool that he cannot realize what is before him now and set himself urgently to save the situation while there is still some light, some freedom of thought and speech, some freedom of movement and action left in the world, can there be the slightest hope that in fifty or a hundred years, after he has been through two or three generations of accentuated fear, cruelty and relentless individual frustration with ever-diminishing opportunity of apprehending the real nature of his troubles, he will be collectively any less of a fool? Why should he undergo a magic change when all forces, within him as without, are plainly set against it?
“There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the order of nature has any greater bias in favor of man than it had in favor of the ichthyosaur or pterodactyl. In spite of all my disposition to a brave looking optimism, I perceive that now the universe is bored with him, is turning a hard face to him, and I see him being carried less and less intelligently and more and more rapidly, suffering as every ill-adapted creature must suffer in gross and in detail, along the stream of fate to degradation, suffering and death.”
V. Soloviev, an outstanding Christian philosopher of the nineteenth century, discussed the approaching great disturbance in his last work, The Three Discussions. He begins the introduction by the following lines:
“Is evil only a natural defect, an imperfection disappearing of itself with the growth of good, or is it a real power, possessing our world by means of temptations, so that for fighting it successfully assistance must be found in another sphere of being?”
The introduction further includes the following prediction:
“The historical forces reigning over the masses of humanity will yet have to come to blows and become intermingled with each other before the new head grows on the self-lacerating body of the beast: the world-unifying power of the Antichrist, who will ‘speak high-sounding and splendid words,’ and will cast a glittering veil of good and truth over the mystery of utter lawlessness in the time of its final revelation, so that even the chosen, in the words of the Scriptures, will be reduced to the great betrayal. To show beforehand this deceptive visor, behind which there is hidden an evil monster, was my highest aim in writing this book.”
H. G. Wells foresees the impending danger and correctly associates it with the curtailment of liberty and the predominance of the “tough, secretive, treacherous and ruthless.” This may well be understood as a general moral downfall of human leadership.
The other three authors foresee the establishment of a totalitarian world state headed by a tyrant who will appear after an extremely turbulent period of world wars. Soloviev designates him as the Antichrist. But whatever term is used, it must be recognized that the idea of a ruthless super-totalitarian world state headed by a godless dictator is no longer an abstract conception of the Christian theology. It is a plain historical possibility of the near future.
Indeed, the major part of mankind does not want a world state in the form of a universal totalitarian tyranny. What they want and expect is a benevolent and liberal association of peace-loving nations that will prevent war and promote general well-being. However, the predominant ideologies and, consequently, the general trend of events do not leave much hope for such outcome. In fact, behind the confusingly complicated course of events, the tempting promises of pious daydreamers, and the dense smoke screen of misleading slogans and statements, there definitely appears the specter of a tyrannical super-totalitarian world state. It is already possible to recognize its fundamental working principles.
The first of them will be “bread”; however, not merely as help for the destitute, but mainly in the form of universal control over the necessities of life for all, as means of supreme physical intimidation and coercion. The second principle will be the overstressing of the personalities of leaders. As time progresses, any criticism would be forbidden and later intense propaganda would create a sort of halo around their nearly superhuman power and authority. The third principle is the unrestricted use of deception, coercion and violence on an unprecedented scale, which means a complete moral downfall or, figuratively, worship of the devil. This is the general direction in which our civilization is now moving.
The latter phase of this discussion is in need of further clarification. There are undoubtedly a number of sincere, well-meaning materialist-radicals who are aroused by the numerous injustices of the present order of things and who earnestly strive for a radically novel social order which, according to their hopes, will protect the underprivileged and will promote peace and general well-being. The ideas of God and the devil have no reality for them except as an outlived superstition. What sense does it make to connect their beliefs and acts in any way with the idea of worship of the devil, even if the fanatical devotion to their ideals would compel them to use deception and commit or approve acts of extreme cruelty and violence?
The connection between aggressive radical materialism and extreme evil, while outwardly inconceivable, is, nevertheless, intimate, near the deep roots of the subject. In order to understand this connection it would be necessary first to recognize the full meaning of the term “worship” as it must be applied to this case.
Worshiping means rendering honor, respect; it means accepting confidently, unconditionally and uncritically the ideology of the object of worship as being right and worthy. This being the case, the worship of God and Christ or of the devil essentially means accepting the ideology and fulfilling to the best of power and ability the desires and commandments of the authority that is being worshiped. In this respect the worship of any being or ideal is similar.
Another important phase of the subject is, however, radically different in different cases. In the worship of God and Christ the fundamental meaning is the literal one. It is the conscious recognition and faith in the living reality of God and Christ now and forever. It is an intense desire to remain connected by the spiritual radio of faith and prayer; it is the hope of a more complete relationship after the end of this temporary and preliminary life.
In absolute contradistinction to the above, the fundamental meaning of worshiping the devil is the figurative and not the literal one. It does not require any recognition of reality and calls only for the acceptance of ideological principles of which the main ones are lies and murder. A man may never think about the devil; he may be a good puritan; more than that, he may be a devout servant of some high humanitarian or patriotic idea; nevertheless, he may be a follower of the devil in the full meaning of this term, if he confidently accepts and promotes the fundamental working principles of mystical evil as being right.
To confirm this conclusion it is desirable to reanalyze the meaning and circumstances of the powerful and significant statement of Christ recorded in Chapter 8 of the Gospel of John. The tragic conclusion of Christ’s mission on the earth was approaching. Christ was firm in the spiritual, eternal interpretation of His Messianic mission. His adversaries rejected and condemned His stand as being harmful for the success of the passionately desired revolution. They insisted that national political objectives must come first. During a sharp controversy they said: “We have one Father, even God,” to which Christ replied: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth . . . for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:41, 44).
The term “Father” was used by both parties of the above controversy, obviously not to designate a parent or even creator. It designated the authority whose ideological commandments were accepted and followed. “And the lusts of your father ye will do.” The word “Father” is extensively used in the Gospel to designate God and it is taken for granted that the normal obligatory relationship of man with his heavenly Father is worship. It is this very kind of relationship which this severest Gospel sentence indicated as existing in that case with respect to the devil.
And yet the group of men who insulted Christ and finally drove Him out of the Temple by threats of violence had certainly no idea of serving or worshiping the devil. Their proud claims of being the posterity of Abraham and of having “One Father, even God” must have been sincere.
It would be right to state that the devil is best pleased and served by men who follow his principles and deny his existence. A number of inspired ideas of outstanding great men point in this direction. Dostoyevsky once stated:
“The devil has two cunning and deep ideas: The one is to persuade men that he does not exist; the other is to arrange mankind in such a way that not a single heart and intellect would rise above the uniform mass.”
A talented modern Russian author, Ivan Lukash, disturbed by the horrors of the Communist Revolution, wrote the following lines:
“The devil is a murderer, an extinguisher of the spirit and of thought, a snake that is stinging life. . . . The devil is the dead matter, the dust of the earth that is choking the spirit, that is destroying by his lies in the name of matter, in the name of corrupting flesh, the eternal word and thought... Oh, I understand what means the devil. It is the inspiration crushed beneath the dead bulk of the earth; it is the disfiguration of the human image. . . . Humanity has not the snout of a swine that is digging into earthly rot and carrion. Humanity has a stellar image of the Son of God. ... I understand that matter is always struggling with thought, that the masses of burned-out slag are choking the universal fire, but I do not understand all this rabble, all the servants of earthly matter whoever they are — professors, false prophets, revolutionaries who like blind mice want to replace the principle of eternal life in the spirit by the principle of eternal death in the matter.”
For centuries inspired artists represented the devil in the form of a grotesque human figure with a clever, cunning face, with horns, hoofs and a tail. This obviously allegoric image represents by physical features what should be understood as moral and spiritual characteristics. It conveys the idea of a total moral downfall back to the beast, from one end to the other. The presence of intellect makes the downfall infinitely greater, because cruelty and shamelessness in the animal are innocent and because the animal can be cunning but does not know a deliberate lie.
The above considerations permit one to understand better the significant and precise meaning of the Gospel sentence, “If thou wilt fall down and worship me.” The ideology of spiritual evil is of such nature that its worship or unconditional acceptance of its principles are impossible, unless preceded by a total moral downfall.
As a reward for worship, the devil offered the power over all kingdoms of the world and claimed to have the authority to assist in gaining such power. I believe that besides the figurative, this sentence has also a certain mysterious direct meaning.
Christ stated that the devil is a liar and a murderer.
Dostoyevsky refers to him as the dreadful and wise spirit of self-destruction and non-existence. In the invisible spiritual aggression that is waged by the evil influence, physical murder is only a by-product, a secondary consequence; the main objective being the spiritual degradation and subsequent ruin of an eternal human personality. Reduced to the very essentials, the main pattern of such tragedy is the following: boundless lies are to be used to cultivate hatred, which in turn is directed to promote murder. In order to incite hatred successfully, one must steadily cultivate it in himself. This process is in absolute contradiction to all fundamental requests of religious idealism. Therefore, in order to obtain the maximum of success, man has to reject all moral principles, all higher idealism, disconnect himself completely from higher realities and consequently extinguish the spark of higher, potentially eternal, life within his own personality. Such move is possible; it represents a supremely tragic act of spiritual suicide.
It corresponds to the fundamental idea of Goethe’s Faust, which in turn reflects a long-established idea that man can get help from evil power in return for his soul; in other words, by sacrificing his eternal life.
The assistance that can be rendered by the evil mystical power does not assume direct material form. It is essentially a sort of powerful inspiration which, however, influences only the lowest, most evil passions and, first of all, hatred. It gives superhuman intensity to hatred and enables the “possessed” man to exercise exceptionally powerful influence and to contaminate other human beings with his own evil passions. These other ones being blinded by hatred may lose the ability to listen to reason or even to their own conscience and may become an obedient, but blind and brutally destructive force which may choke, crush and destroy any opposition in the path of the “possessed” leader toward the passionately desired position of authority.
This process may represent the quickest short cut towards the conquest of power. Inevitably it is tragically destructive physically to a multitude of innocent human beings and even more destructive spiritually to the active participants. Being started by lies, it has to be fed by more lies to maintain hatred to the living and by slander to justify the murder of the ones that were already killed. The supremely evil process becomes self-generating in power and violence and carries multitudes of human beings down towards physical or spiritual ruin.
It is obvious that the influence of the mystical evil in such cases cannot be detected by a material human intellect or by materialistic science. The nature of the process can be dimly perceived only by way of religious intuition. Even then it is impossible to understand the mysterious course of such process and detect at what point the vibrations of personal hatred of an individual man became synchronized with and began to draw energy from the boundless reservoir of mystical evil power. Least of all is the nature of the process suspected by the “possessed” among the leadership and the more active elements of such movement. They invariably attribute their exceptional power and energy in the ways of lies and murder to their own intellect, courage and resourcefulness and consequently their pride and assuredness grow boundlessly, bringing further endless calamity to multitudes of other human beings and final spiritual ruin to themselves.
The deeply intricate subject of this discussion calls for some further explanation. The stars and the sun, the mountains and valleys and seas, the forests and flowers all are matter, all were created by God and are good and beautiful. Lower and higher animals and mankind have all their legitimate purposes of existence in the general scheme of things, although this purpose may be beyond our understanding. How, then, could be justified the conjectures that matter in itself is bad and that radical materialism carries inevitably seeds of supreme evil?
A logical analysis of this question is vast and intricate, but a brief review of the high points may furnish at least some indications that may be of interest in connection with the main subject of this work.
WHEN A SAVAGE was asked, “What is evil?” he said, “Evil is if some one should steal my wife and cattle.” When asked, “What is good?” he replied, “Good is if I will steal some one’s wife and cattle.” This philosophy of the anonymous savage was probably misquoted or invented, but the principles, which it outlined so clearly, are unfortunately more and more becoming the guiding rules of our civilization. Professor Sorokin remarked with scientific precision: “A limitless relativism was introduced into the world of moral values whose arbitrariness engendered conflict and struggle.” While the novelist, Ivan Lukash, stated, “There is no evil deed that would not have been done . . . not the meanest violence, murder and sin that would not become known. . . . Every borderline between good and evil, between God and Satan become erased.”
This reference is now largely true for a substantial part of the world. I am convinced that if reliable history shall exist five hundred years from now the historian will refer not to the Babylonian or Egyptian Empire, or the medieval ages, but to the Twentieth Century as being the most destructive and cruelest period of history, because facts and figures will amply justify this. In spite of the crudeness of life and general illiteracy, the moral principles of good and evil were not disregarded in the past to such an extent as they are now.
The connection between the living religious idealism and the possibility of a reasonable and peaceful Me is undeniable and understandable. The splendor of spiritual truth and of the moral principles, which it imposes, was revealed in full by Christ. But part of this truth and the superhuman authority from which it radiates were known and recognized long before, and had immense influence on the life of ancient peoples and on their ideas about good and evil.
A Pharaoh of ancient Egypt ordered for his tombstone the following inscription of his greatest achievement: “During my administration the infantry and cavalry lived peacefully in their homes. The bows and arrows were stored in the armories and remained unused.”
Indeed, there were wars, cruelty and internal trouble, particularly during the latter period of the empire, and the kings were glorifying their conquests; but during early periods of the history of ancient Egypt and Babylon, uninterrupted peace with friendly cultural and economical relations lasted for centuries. Gustave Jequier, professor of Egyptology of the Neuchtel University, made the following comments about the general state of affairs:, “It is difficult to understand how the Pharaohs of the ancient empire were able to maintain such brilliant prestige and to accomplish such important work without an army. It is a remarkable demonstration of the excellence of a wise and honest government and of the moral authority of its sovereigns.
Mankind has never been able to abolish war. However, the influence of religious idealism, particularly Christian, remained a powerful factor which has tended to reduce the cruelty and ravages of war, and to protect the weak and defenseless in general. In Europe, during the tenth century, an attempt was made to establish what was known as the “Peace of God” (Pax Dei). Its aim was to protect ecclesiastical buildings, clerics, pilgrims, women and peasants from the ravages of war. Another step was the “Truce of God,” initiated by the Synod of Eine in 1027. Accordingly, all warfare was suspended from noon on Saturday until dawn on Monday.
“These various restrictions, as well as the economic conditions of the period limited the ravages of war. So much so that in the present age of unlimited destruction, the following ordinances of Henry V of England — not exactly a mild warrior — sound foreign to our ears:
‘That no manner of man be so hardy as to go into any chamber or lodging where any woman lieth in childbed, in order to rob her, or pillage any goods belonging to her refreshing, nor make any affray whereby she or her child be in any disease or danger.
“That no manner of man be so hardy to take from no man going to the plough and harrow, cart, horse, nor ox nor none other beast belonging to labour without payment and agreement.
‘That no manner of man beat down housing to burn, nor no apple trees, pear trees, nuts, nor no other trees bearing fruit.’ “
Around the year 1000, the Russian ruler, Prince Vladimir, under the influence of Christian faith, introduced reforms with a view to humanizing the codes of punishment, and went so far as to abolish completely the death penalty. As brigandage increased, the bishops came to him and asked, “Why don’t you execute the bandits?” To which the Prince replied, “I am afraid to commit a sin.” Finally, he was reluctantly forced to reintroduce the death penalty again. Nevertheless, this attempt, which was probably the earliest in Europe, illustrates the noble humanitarian ideas that were the direct consequence of Christian faith. Throughout the ages this influence was immense.
When Ivan the Terrible, who was considered the crudest of the Russian Tzars, went into the Moscow Cathedral after one of his purges, the Metropolitan Philip denounced his acts in the presence of the multitude and denied him communion. On a similar occasion, a ragged, barefoot monk called Teddy, much respected by the populace, approached the Tzar on the street and offered him a piece of meat. The surprised Tzar said that it was Lent and that he could not eat meat, but the monk severely replied, “You do not eat meat, but you drink human blood.” The Tzar became enraged by this insult, but from the surrounding dense crowd came numerous voices. . . . “Tzar, you may put us to death but do not touch Teddy, because he is a man of God.” And the all-powerful autocrat was forced to let the monk go. These incidents demonstrated the firm recognition of moral law, which inspired spiritual leaders and was powerfully reflected in the reaction of popular masses.
In view of this, the sporadic outbursts of cruelty were frequently interrupted by extended periods of mercy, when Ivan himself would in repentance attend long church services, reading the names of his victims and praying for them. As a result, during forty years of administration of Ivan the Terrible, only sixty thousand men, possibly even far fewer, were put to death. This is insignificant compared with the formidable massacres committed by the Nazi and Communist dictatorships. And yet Ivan, who ruled Russia from 1544 to 1584, during a turbulent period of transition and growth, with resistance and conspiracy inside and a powerful coalition of enemies outside, had good justification for his claims that his ruthlessness was needed to protect the unity of the nation and to promote its glorious future.
Indeed, in reviewing almost any historical period, it is possible to find records of hundreds of brutalities committed in spite of, and sometimes even because of, the influence of organized religion. However, a sensible and well-informed person would unmistakably recognize that during the same period thousands of potential brutalities have been prevented by the influence of religious idealism. Throughout the ages, the guiding rules of human conduct imposed mainly by religion have remained the foundation of human society. While trespassed upon a countless number of times, they nevertheless remained immensely influential because their truthfulness and goodness were never questioned. Only in our time has radical materialism, in its final logically developed form, rejected these principles as being bad and proclaimed the opposite ones to be good.
Nietzsche, who is sincere and from his standpoint idealistic, recognized correctly the final logical conclusions of extreme materialism. The conscious acceptance of these principles inevitably brought the German philosopher in sharpest conflict with the very fundamental principles of religious idealism. In The Anti-Christian, Nietzsche writes: “What is good? Everything that arouses in man the feeling of power, the desire for power, power itself. What is bad? All that results from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling of growing power. . . . Not contentment but the urge for power; not peace in general, but war. . . . The weak ones and the unsuccessful must perish. This is the first rule of our love for man. And they must be helped in that. What is more harmful than any vice? Active compassion for all unsuccessful and weak ones — Christianity. . . . The great lie about immortality destroys every kind of reason, every kind of naturalness in the instincts.”
It must be borne in mind that if the fundamentals of materialism are considered right, then Nietzsche, Marx and Lenin are right, while all fundamental ideas of the Christian faith are wrong and their influence is harmful for the progress of mankind. The correctness of this conclusion can be demonstrated by a brief review of the contradictory opinions about the living world around us and the nature of the process, which brought it into its present stage.
If we were to select among the highest kind of animals, the most intelligent eagle, elephant, dog, ape or lion, we should recognize that while they differ in details, yet, generally, they may be considered as being on a definitely comparable level of intellectual abilities and qualifications with the whole line of intelligence, running down from this level across the same and other kinds of living beings, little by little, with no gaps, down to the most elementary submicroscopic creatures.
Beyond the upper end of this gradually ascending line there is an immense empty gap, the only one in the whole living line, on top of which there is man. The existence of primitive savages does not challenge this conclusion. It is known and has been proven that if a few newly-born babies should be taken from the primitive savages and from the highest apes and given the care of good families and the best education, some of the savages may develop into scientists and into noblest men, while all apes will remain apes and can get no nearer to civilization than a zoo.
There is a difference between the intelligence of an ape and that of a cat or rabbit. There is also a difference between the intelligence of an ape and the intelligence of Newton or Abraham Lincoln. Are the two differences of the same or of a different nature? Is the whole difference the result of the extra two pounds of brain tissues of substantially identical chemical content or is it something else? Why is there this immense gap between the intellectual and spiritual personality of man and the intelligence of highest animals, when there are only very small steps all the way further down along the line of different living creatures?
In what follows are outlined a set of answers to the above-mentioned question, from two radically opposed points of view. The religious explanation of the existence of man and of the immense gap that separates him from all animals is that man was created as such by an act of God. A fundamentalist may insist that some six thousand years ago God modeled a statue out of clay and breathed life into it. Another way to express it, which I believe is closer to reality, is that a few hundred thousand or even a few million years ago, Divine Providence, in a mysterious way which is unexplainable and unimaginable, inserted a spark of divine spiritual life of higher order in a lower form of earthly material which may well have been the living body of some appropriate animal. This all-powerful mysterious spark of higher spiritual life carried with it boundless possibilities of ascent and used the material body as a carrier, and gradually transformed it into a potential Newton, Raphael or Rachmaninoff. More than that, it carried the possibility of developing a spiritual personality that may be worthy and capable of surviving the disintegration of the body and of ascending into higher and infinitely more brilliant grades of life.
These immense opportunities, however, carried with them moral responsibilities. Animals live on a lower plane; their behavior is directed by lower animalistic laws. Ideas of good and evil, of sin and lying, do not exist for them. They are innocent. For man, these ideas are the morally obligatory conditions of his ascent. This being the case, religion asserts firmly that the appearance and ascent of man in the past, and consequently the future ascent of individuals and of mankind in this life and beyond it, are definitely conditioned on the acceptance and the following of higher moral and spiritual rules and principles.
The materialistic concept is, of course, radically different. According to it, man is an animal which for some reason developed a brain about two pounds heavier than the average for this size of beast. The extraordinarily quick ascent of man is explained as a result of casual interplay of soulless natural forces, mainly in the form of a process of natural selection and the survival of the fittest.
So far as I know, no really convincing explanation has been proposed to account for the immense gap between man and all the rest of the animal kingdom. The best that could be offered appears to be the following: After having made a start somehow, and after having learned to make fire and to inflict fear and dreadful pain, man progressed so rapidly that he quickly left behind all his former relatives. Having acquired fire and crude weapons, man recognized for the first time his supernatural powers and, guided by an instinct for domination, destroyed all his closest neighbors in the line of ascent.
A new, turbulent, although indefinitely long period followed, with men fighting for domination over the whole animal kingdom and fighting among themselves. Those who had more strength and courage, more cunning and cruelty, would kill the weaker men, together with their old wives and small children, and would enslave the healthier young wives and girls. Only the cleverest, strongest and crudest survived and continued to reproduce posterity. This process gained power and momentum, and real mankind appeared on this planet.
Enlightened religious thinking may accept the outward aspects of the gradual, although exceptionally rapid, development of man. It may accept the fact that the struggle for existence had certain biologically favorable consequences. But it will deny outright that the above-described process automatically produced a man out of an animal.
Religion firmly states that man was created by God under the conditions and for the objective of higher moral and spiritual development, which alone can make even this life worthy and reasonable, and may open the way into a boundlessly happier future existence: the most elementary moral rule being, “The strong must not offend the weak.” Materialism states that man elevated himself by displaying greater aggressiveness, cunning and cruelty than other animals. These factors determined his ascent from the animal grade and they alone, if used outright with no restrictions, will enable man to make the next great step in his further progress. There is no future life and no foundation for moral principles, because only the animalistic laws are real. The only worthy objective is the new man, liberated from the fear of sin and from the bondage of moral restrictions; and the first rule is, “The strong must dominate or kill the weak.”
Oswald Spengler outlined as follows the moving principles of primitive man during the most active periods of ascent:
“Man . . . with unrestricted sense of power in the fist habituated to deeds, a foe to every one, killing, hating, resolute to conquer or die. . . . Nothing here ... of the toothless feeling of sympathy and reconciliation and yearning for quiet. But instead of these the full pride of knowing oneself feared, admired and hated for one’s fortune and strength, and the urge to vengeance upon all, whether living beings or things, that constitute if only by their mere existence, a threat to this pride.”
The above description is not representative of the life of modern primitive people. In general, they probably fight not more than their white brothers, and in many cases they are very peaceful. It is difficult to establish to what extent the above description is correct with respect to the prehistoric pioneers of human progress; but this is not important. Much more important is the fact that a substantial part of advanced modern materialism regards these ideas as the working principles that were mainly responsible for the initial and greatest step ever made in progress. They believe that only working principles and means of a similar nature can enable collective man to make the next truly great step in further progress.
Most average non-believers do not yet recognize these principles. They take for granted, due to the age-old inertia of traditions, a number of purely religious moral principles. And they mostly fail to recognize that the removal of their religious foundation will inevitably cause the disintegration of all these moral principles. There are, however, a number of influential materialists who consciously recognize these principles, and with almost religious enthusiasm are planning to reconstruct the world on this new basis.
The prophetic genius of Dostoyevsky foresaw correctly the meaning of the materialistic ideology, the gradual crystallization of its logical conclusions and consequently the practical form, which its aspirations would inevitably assume. The ideology and conclusions are presented in the form of a brief study composed by a young idealist-materialist who is greatly concerned with the destinies of mankind. He writes in part as follows:
“As soon as men, all of them, have denied God — and I believe that that period, analogous with the geological periods, will come to pass, the old conception of the universe will fall on itself. . . . And what’s more, the old morality and everything will begin anew. Men will unite to take from life all it can give, but only for joy and happiness in the present world. Man will be lifted up with the spirit of divine titanic pride and the man-God will appear. From hour to hour extending his conquest of nature indefinitely by his will and his science, man will feel such lofty joy in doing it that it will make up for all the old dreams of joys of heaven. . . .
“The question now is, is it possible that such a period will ever come? If it does, everything is determined and humanity is settled forever. But as, owing to man’s inveterate stupidity, this cannot come about for at least a thousand years, every one who recognizes the truth even now may legitimately order his life as he pleases on the new principles. In that sense all things are lawful for him. What’s more, even if this period never comes to pass, since there is anyway no God and no immortality, the new man may well become the man-God, even if he is the only one in the whole world; and, promoted to his new position, he may light-heartedly overstep all barriers of the old morality and of the old slave man if necessary. . . . Where I stand will be at once the foremost place. . . . All things are lawful and that’s the end of it! . . .”
The plan for organizing humanity on the basis of the above principles is given by another of Dostoyevsky’s heroes, one of the leaders of a revolutionary movement. In his introductory remarks, “he admits that his theory includes contradictions, that having started with the idea of complete individual liberty he finally arrived at the conclusion that unlimited despotism was a necessity and the only method by which human society could be arranged in a reasonable way. He suggests as a final conclusion the division of mankind into two unequal parts: one-tenth to enjoy absolute liberty and unbounded power over the other nine-tenths. The others have to give up all individuality and to become, so to speak, a herd, and, through boundless submission and by a series of regenerations, attain primeval innocence, something like the garden of Eden. They’ll have to work, however.” The author of this plan takes for granted that he and his associates will be among the rulers and not among the “herd.”
Ideas of this nature may assume very different forms, ranging from idealistic day-dreaming about universal well-being and harmony, to a satanic lust for boundless domination through any evil means whatsoever. But the true foundation remains substantially the same. If there is no God and no immortality, then the ascent of man from the lower grades of life — in other words, the greatest step in progress — was brought about by the energy and cunning of some specimen or groups which exceeded the rest of the animals in the ability to deceive, frighten, enslave or kill other living creatures. Why then should not a similar process permit man to make the next step from the present human society up to some more advanced stage? Why should not a ruthless and intelligent minority trap the rest of mankind, slaughter all the unruly ones and frighten the rest into absolute subordination? Once this is done, it would become possible to introduce real peace and order for the first time on the planet.
Men might for a while resent the loss of freedom, but they would be instructed from early childhood that they must for their own good obey absolutely and adore the wise minority, this true collective intellect of the human race that directs it for the benefit of all.
With all wars, revolutions and economic chaos permanently eliminated, with boundless resources and complete freedom of action, the superhuman governors of the world would be able to rearrange and reconstruct the whole planet. Gardens of paradise would spread over former deserts. Immense palaces of incredible beauty would replace the slums and tenements. Science and engineering, supplied with abundant materials and labor, would create wonders of comfort, health and amusement that would exceed the wildest dreams, making in the long run life easy, interesting and happy for all.
Whether an achievement of such nature would justify the extermination of hundreds of millions of lives, the immense amount of human suffering and the complete destruction of individual liberty is another question. But what are the chances of a lasting and stable success for such an undertaking? I believe that the following considerations may suggest an answer to this question.
Matter in itself is good and may be beautiful. The same is true of physical life of all grades. There is a worthy general objective and meaning in their existence. There is a set of fundamental natural laws whose origin is intellectually unexplainable and whose existence religion attributes to Divine Providence.
Each branch of realities is in itself good, but Divine Providence requests further development and ascent within the ranges of opportunities of each grade. This may be considered as one of the major higher fundamental laws of God. Therefore, a marked descent almost invariably represents a failure, a degradation, and involves the danger of loss of opportunities, of degeneration and extinction. Not matter, but the cause or force, which resists the ascent and promotes descent and degradation, may be designated as evil. On the physical plane of existence death represents the extreme and, for the individual case, final degradation. It is a descent from a higher grade, of the living being into the lower grade-that of dead matter. When the mysterious force, which determines the ascent departs, the rest, the corpse, at first looks about the same and has the same weight, form and chemical composition. And the materials are largely the same as those of which the beautiful rivers, trees and flowers are composed. But it represents a downfall and the otherwise beautiful materials quickly become supremely ugly and repulsive. Not only all opportunities of the former higher grade of existence, but even the stability and attractiveness of the lower level are lost.
From that point on, this discussion must step sharply up into a sphere, which is totally beyond the recognition and understanding of materialism. Religious thought proclaims that man is not a super-beast, but a living being of a higher grade of life; that his qualifications, governing the miraculous ascent, are the consequence of the presence of the supremely mysterious higher spiritual life which is living spiritually in his physically living body, in a way somewhat analogous to the presence of lower but still mysterious life in what otherwise would be the dead bodies of animals.
The presence of spiritual life is unnoticeable just as the presence of physical life is in itself unnoticeable. We can observe only the consequences and manifestations of it. Spiritual life needs attention; it needs the exercising of its miraculous powers, of which the greatest is the mysterious contact with eternal higher realities — prayer. It needs conscious inner protection by act of will, to avoid being choked by excess of lower interests and evil passions. If neglected and strangled, it may reach a state of unconsciousness and, in extreme cases, may become extinct. In the latter case, the human being may even enjoy the feeling of a total freedom from moral restrictions. His intellect may sometime develop a sort of super-activity because certain spheres of it, which otherwise are in the service and under the direction of higher life, will be free for other interests.
Such a human being would be right in believing that there is no difference between him and other animals except for larger volume and. slightly more complicated structure of brain tissues. But he would be wrong in considering himself a product of natural ascent from the animal level. He is a result of a supremely tragic downfall from a higher to a lower grade of life. These lines must not be understood as including the remotest degree of criticism. I do not criticize radical materialists. A number of them may be good and sincere, yet they may be spiritually dead men. I said “may be” because I am convinced that many of them, possibly the majority, are not dead but have their spiritual life inoperative in a state of deep unconsciousness. Many of them may become awakened and may join the spiritually living in the final attempt to save mankind at the critical hour.
However, it can be stated definitely that mankind being controlled and directed by spiritually unconscious or dead men would be in the position of a rushing airliner with an unconscious or dead crew in the control cabin. Such leadership cannot create reasonable and stable forms for the existence of a human society. All higher conceptions, which are of definitely spiritual origin, such as love, truth, honor, freedom and compassion, would inevitably lose all binding power, all living reality. They would remain only as dead empty shells in the stockroom of collective memory. The terms would be extensively used but they would reflect lifeless forgeries urgently produced by the intellect, which, when deprived of the guidance of religious idealism, becomes hopelessly ignorant and impotent with respect to these subjects. Irrespective of any intellectual theories, statistical plans, brilliant new schemes, and so forth, the organization will, at first, assume an extremely stiff form and then will inevitably disintegrate amidst an unspeakably dreadful catastrophe.
A most fatal satanic forgery stands behind the supreme temptation, which a large part of mankind is now ready to accept. The godless man cannot develop into a superman. He may only develop into a super-beast and as such he will inevitably exterminate himself.
At the risk of repetition, I want to stress again that no matter how tempting and promising, or how well supported by theories and statistics, all new political, economic and social arrangements of the world are only the creation of human intellect, just as aircraft or radio. An efficient airplane can render more beneficial services to mankind or it can spread more dreadful destruction. A perfected radio can broadcast more clearly good will and enlightenment, or it can spread more effectively pernicious lies and hate. In a similar way, a more advanced political and economic order may bring greater justice and well-being or may become an instrument of boundless oppression and misery.
There are numerous defects and injustices in the present organization of mankind, which can and must be eliminated. In improving the situation, science and human intellect are capable of performing a miraculous work, provided only that they are guided and directed by intellect of the higher order — spiritual wisdom. Without such guidance, science and intellect are absolutely blind and completely unreliable. The ideas of good and evil do not exist for them. They will serve each of them with equal readiness. Science may create a miraculous life-saving medicament or a most dreadful poison gas with equal willingness; it does not care.
I also do not claim that earthly organized religion has no defects. In fact, in only a few instances have human weaknesses and mistakes been so apparent and harmful as in the organized church. I do not mention the casual selfishness and hypocrisy of some of its servants; but even among the well-meaning throughout the ages there has frequently been a tendency to become scribes and to bury the miraculously and superhumanly free, divine truth under the weight of petrified theology and dogmas. They have frequently resisted the highest manifestations of free thought in science and even in truly spiritual religion. The scribes or organized religion in ancient Egypt resisted bitterly what I believe was the greatest spiritual message before the Christian — the words of Pharaoh Aknaton. Other scribes helped to condemn Christ to death and still others of a similar nature quickly reappeared in His own religion. Finally, the organized church is responsible for a number of cruelties.
Having admitted the liabilities and mistakes of the earthly church, we must, nevertheless, recognize that the benefits of its guiding influence have been incomparably greater. Stating it briefly, religion was the foundation of all the great cultures which ever existed; and the Christian religion was by far the major force which preserved immensely valuable remnants of the Roman and Greek civilizations, which inspired men during dark periods and which stands behind everything that is lasting, valuable and worthy in the white man’s culture. Religion inspires not weakness, but supreme power and courage. From the lowest to the highest ranks of the church there have come during all times an uninterrupted stream of faithful heroes who have rendered immense services to the life and true progress of mankind — in many cases at the cost of sacrificing their own lives.
In the majority of truly important historical achievements, religious idealism inspired the greatest men in their greatest acts. Such was the case with the Pilgrim Fathers, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The United States of America, with its freedom and its unparalleled spiritual, intellectual and even economic success, would not be in existence without the powerful influence and guidance of religious idealism.
A successful struggle for the establishment or preservation of liberty is impossible without a sufficiently powerful influence of religious idealism and, consequently, truth, compassion and honor. Without them, it inevitably degenerates into a brutal sedition of slaves which can bring only misery and greater slavery.
Religion is now as much alive as ever and it has not failed mankind. It is mankind which is abandoning religion and which will bear the tragic consequences of this desertion.
Nazism and Communism with their active ideological relations in other countries and their collective offspring — the Second World War — are only the first manifestations, the early gentle flowers of radical intellectual materialism at work. The real fruits are still to come.
Nietzsche accuses religion of destroying the naturalness of instincts. He is right; religion accepts this blame in full and is proud of it. Lenin has written, “We must fight religion; this is the A, B, C, of the whole materialism and consequently of Marxism.” An admirer of Lenin comments: “Lenin passionately hated religion.”
A life-tune friend of his and a stout supporter, Maxim Gorky, writes:
“Lenin is a man of exceptional power ... a man of talent, he has all the qualifications of a leader, including the necessary absence of ethics, as well as a purely lordly ruthlessness with respect to the life of the popular masses. Life in all its complexity is unknown to Lenin; he does not know the popular masses, never lived with them. But he learned . . . how to get these masses enraged, how to infuriate their instincts.”
Lunacharsky, who was Secretary of Education in the Soviet Government for many years, wrote:
“What we want is hatred. We must know how to hate, for only at that price can we conquer the universe ... all religions are poison. They intoxicate and deaden the mind, the will, the conscience . . . our task is to destroy all kinds of religion, all kinds of morality.
Lenin himself stated:
“The dictatorship of the proletariat is nothing else than power based upon force and limited by nothing — by no kind of law and absolutely no rule.”
In striving to illustrate correctly this part of the discussion, I have chosen mainly the ideas of Lenin as stated by himself or his close associates, because Lenin is the leading originator and most successful exponent of fully developed radical materialism in action. Other materialistic leaders were only unsuccessful imitators. The achievements of Lenin will form a turning point in the history of mankind. Whether they will contribute to unprecedented progress and well-being or accelerate a supreme catastrophe is, of course, a different question.
If Marxism or any other form of atheistic materialism is accepted as guiding ideology, then these men are right. They declare themselves to be materialists and they act in accord with principles and realities which materialism recognizes. Inherently and instinctively, materialism does not want, does not trust, and does not respect any moral principles, laws, rules or agreements. It passionately wants and trusts only power based on the force of rigidly regimented masses and limited by nothing. Deception, hunger, fear, hate and brutal coercion, are the main tools, which it recognizes, trusts and uses expertly. Its passionate urge for power is in turn inseparable from “the urge to vengeance upon all, whether living beings or things, that constitute, if only by their mere existence, a threat to this pride.”
When organized materialism “exterminated” in one stroke several hundred thousand Jews in one country or several million dissatisfied peasants in another, it acted in logical accord with its principles. The extermination was carried out in an orderly and scientific way. In both cases, a large number of heads were spared, not because they were better or less guilty but because their muscles or skill could be utilized to some advantage.
It must be recognized and understood that there is no ground for criticizing or condemning such acts unless the whole foundation of radical materialism, including the whole set of its working principles, is rejected and condemned. If this is not to be the case, then the reoccurrence of such events on a gradually increasing scale will, of course, be inevitable.
To complete this outline, it is of interest to review again some of the ideas of a prominent and sincere non-believer. H. G. Wells was undoubtedly a man with a great and keen intellect and an outstandingly brilliant prophetic intuition, which enabled him to foresee a number of discoveries and events with remarkable precision. As early as 1914, prior to the beginning of the First World War, he predicted the use of atomic bombs and the terrible devastation which they will bring in a world war. He described the characteristics of a helicopter as if he had flown one.
In his book, The Shape of Things to Come, published in 1933, Wells describes a world state ruled by devoted radical materialists which is to come during the second half of the twentieth century, after a chaotic period which is to follow the Second World War. According to this book, printed in 1933, the war was to start on January 4, 1940, as a conflict between Germany and Poland over Danzig. Wells foresees that the government of the World, which he calls the “Tyranny,” would enforce the re-education of mankind along the lines of an intellectual materialistic ideology. It would combat and destroy all opposition by the use of spying, provocation and terror. It would stamp out all religion, arrest all priests and punish the parents who would teach religion to their children. Finally, after the year 2000, the new order would become established and mankind would reach a condition of permanent peace and of a much greater well-being than it had ever experienced before. The conclusion of the story is optimistic and full of hope for the happy future of mankind.
During the next few years, Wells’s outlook apparently underwent a radical change. Instead of being hopeful, it became grave and pessimistic. Some of the predictions, which he made during this last period, were already mentioned on certain pages of this work. They were confirmed in a more definite and even solemn way in a small book entitled, Mind at the End of Its Tether, which Wells wrote shortly before his death and which was the last message this remarkable man left to mankind. In the preface Wells states: “So far as fundamentals go, he (H. G. Wells) has nothing more and never will have anything to say.”
The following few quotations will give the high points of this intensely interesting small book.
“The writer (H. G. Wells) finds very considerable reason for believing that . . . the end of everything we call life is close at hand and cannot be evaded. . . . He will do his best to indicate why he has succumbed to so stupendous a proposition. ... A frightful queerness has come into life. . . . Hitherto events had been held together by a certain logical consistency, as the heavenly bodies as we know them have been held together by the pull, the golden cord, of gravitation. Now it is as if that cord had vanished and everything was driving anyhow to anywhere at a steadily increasing velocity. . . . The writer is convinced that there is no way out or around or through the impasse. It is the end.”
Like any other human being, H. G. Wells may be mistaken in his prophecy. Nevertheless, a great many of his predictions became fulfilled with remarkable accuracy. Therefore, the last one, which he stressed with such firm and grave seriousness, cannot be disposed of too lightly. What kind of a menace has he discovered with his exceptionally sharp and penetrating intuition?
I am convinced that what he recognized and understood was the total, final and hopeless bankruptcy of radical materialism. This fundamentally correct conclusion combined with the realization that radical materialism is on the march to gain unlimited, total power over the destinies of mankind forced on him the recognition of the inevitable tragic outcome of such an event. As a non-believer, he had no recourse to the light of Divine guidance. Consequently, he explored eagerly, passionately and desperately the realities and opportunities available to the material human intellect alone in forestalling the sinister catastrophe that is rapidly moving on. And as long as he considered the force of human material intellect alone, he came to a definitely correct conclusion that there is no way out or round or through the impasse. It is the end.
The Christian philosopher Merejkovsky, who also believed that the world is moving towards supreme catastrophe, remarked that the Romans derived the world “religion” from the word “relegare,” which means to connect, to reunite. Accordingly, religion is the main force, which reunites men into a society. If this reuniting power is removed the society of men disintegrates; instead of a living body it becomes a dead “mass.” It is not without reason that atheistic socialism uses this word to designate human multitudes. Wells had said more than he expected when he mentioned “the golden cord of gravitation which had vanished.”
The guiding, pacifying and reuniting power of religion was gradually losing influence for a long time. Lately on the territory of the Communist dictatorship it became violently driven out by forgeries, mockery and brutal violence. Accordingly, the reuniting influence which inspired good will, forgiveness, tolerance, sympathy, truthfulness, and other high guiding impulses started to vanish from life. It had to be replaced by fear and brutal coercion, which in turn promoted hate. Hate creates an urge for revenge, which in turn has to be suppressed by greater fear and more brutal coercion. Thus a stage is reached when terror can no longer be discontinued.
An organization of this nature can hardly be called a human society. In spite of the outward aspect of firm solidity it is a dangerously unstable order which inevitably assumes the shape of two sharply disunited groups; a minority armed to the teeth by all instruments which modern science devised to coerce or destroy the bodies and minds of men and a disarmed majority, a mass whose hate and urge for revenge must be constantly kept in check by fear. The status has a deeply demoralizing influence on both the rulers and the silenced regimented masses and creates the danger of a violent chain reaction of hate against brutality. In a way similar to the interaction of materials inside the atomic bomb — the process becomes very rapid when sufficiently large masses are combined into a unit. Therefore, if the united world will assume such structure, as it may, an explosion would become inevitable within a few decades. The violence of such an explosion would be incomparably greater than anything which mankind has ever witnessed.
The writer has given considerable thought to the probable shape of events that can be expected if the world becomes reunited under the power of a totalitarian radical, materialistic dictatorship. Some of the ideas expressed, as well as the final outcome, may be considered as certain. The number of other details are merely conjectures and should be regarded only as one of the possible courses of intermediate events.
It is absolutely certain that such a state can only be a dictatorship headed by one man — some future super-Stalin or super-Hitler. It is probable that after a turbulent period of relentless fear, frustration, hunger, bloody disturbances and possibly a full-scale atomic war, the advent of a supreme leader, who will promise lasting peace, food, and wonderful planetary achievements, may be welcomed by great numbers everywhere as the only way to save the world. Scientifically planned propaganda, with extensive use of the radio and perfected television, would tend to surround the personality of the supreme leader with an aura of superhuman power and goodness. It would place the blame for the past disasters on the evil schemes of religion and capitalism, and would insist on the total extermination of both for the lasting benefit of the working masses. For a couple of years, at the beginning, large sections of mankind, although destitute and hungry, might feel better, being inspired by the bright promises of lasting peace and great benefits that will come after the completion of one or two world-wide five-year plans.
Immense, supremely ambitious projects of unifying and rearranging all economic life, irrigating and repopulating deserts, erecting immense power stations, industrializing all farming in the form of huge government-operated syndicates, unifying under strict control all schools, press, radio and television, and so forth, would be inaugurated. With wonderful future benefits promised for all, the magnificent and daring projects would inspire and encourage the ruling class and temporarily capture the imagination of large multitudes among human masses. In order to assure an efficient and orderly progress of work, the government would establish a number of regulations and prohibitions to enforce morality and sanity. It would display interest in the health and orderliness of the population. However, the governmental care would inevitably assume the form of the attention, which a landowner gives to his cattle. Of course, he wants to see them healthy and contented, but the real objective will always be the yoke, shearing and skinning.
So the period of bright hopes would soon be superseded by sorrowful and next by tragic disappointment. An immense, soulless bureaucracy would grow like a sinister cancer on the body of mankind. The ruling party would quickly become a sort of super-nation while the rest of mankind would be silenced and regimented for compulsory labor.
There would gradually be an increasing separation between the international ruling bureaucracy and the whole mass of men. The growing tension and bitterness of the deceived, oppressed, disarmed and silenced, would generate resentment and fear in the privileged ruling groups. In order to increase its grip over the population, the government would introduce a growing number of restrictions, questionnaires, permits regulating food, work, clothing, housing, travel, and so forth. It would all be motivated by the idea of sharing with the underprivileged and by the promise of wonderful future achievements. But man would come to feel like a fly in a spider’s web that is being helplessly enmeshed by the sticky thread. The people would gradually recognize that the main objective of the arrangement would not be to feed the hungry but to starve the disobedient, in gross and in detail, to silence the slightest criticism of the new order, and, in general, to uproot and destroy all freedom as it had never been destroyed before.
The absence of religious idealism, the immense power and the absolute monopoly of the press, radio, television and movies and, therefore, total absence of criticism, would have a deeply demoralizing effect on the new ruling class. Even the best of them, while day-dreaming about the happiness of future generations, would cynically disregard the dreadful physical and mental misery of millions of real human beings whom they would consider as living inventory, as part of the materials to be utilized in their planetary undertakings.
Under the pretext of improving and re-educating the human race, there would be an unprecedented administrative intrusion into the home, family and all branches of life, particularly of the intellectually and spiritually higher men. Various pseudo-scientific attempts would be made to assort, breed and grow human beings like cattle.
Gradually, the tension would increase; spying, persecution, provocation and terror would expand, while aircraft and the crudest instruments of mechanical warfare, monopolized by tyranny, would be used against the continuous outbursts of desperate sabotage and revolt, whenever starvation failed to act quickly enough. The complete absence of any land of refuge, to which one could escape from sinister oppression and where one could voice a protest, would increase the hatred and despair among millions of men.
Under the impact of the supreme tragedy, a growing number of men would recognize the truth and turn back courageously and resolutely to a burning religious faith. The government would react by proclaiming this to be supreme treason against united mankind and its splendid future. It would insist that the safety and wonderful future of the laboring masses of the world called for unlimited worshipful devotion to the collective intellect of mankind as personified by the supreme leader and his administration. Unprecedentedly violent persecutions would follow, with the government trying to exterminate all the faithful. However, while utterly defenseless and powerless politically, the Christian and other faiths would survive, because the multitude of martyrs would be replaced by new converts.
Aside from the minority that would find consolation in burning religious faith, an increasing number of men would come to the conviction that life had lost all value and all worthy meaning. In the atmosphere of all-penetrating suspicion, spying, boundlessly cynical official lies and dreadful brutalities, all higher feelings and idealism would be ground to dust. Only flaming hate and the urge for revenge would accumulate to an extent and sharpness that were never known before.
Acts of desperate sabotage, arson, terroristic revenge and local outbursts of revolt would increase. The secret police would react with unspeakable brutality and mass terror. Countless thousands of innocent people would perish, but every real fighter killed would be replaced by two new terrorist-rebels, because hate and the urge for revenge would increase boundlessly and because life would no longer be worth living anyway. The terrorist-avengers would have learned travesty and conspiracy. Their attacks would be treacherous and cruel. They would make use of chemical and biological poisons, and even of atomic bombs, disregarding the thousands of innocent victims, because respect for human life would have vanished. Suicide and the widespread discontinuance of child bearing among the majority of families in the cultured nations would assume the proportions of a major epidemic.
The gradual, hopeless deterioration of the whole order and the growing fear of catastrophic general disintegration would finally shatter even the morale of the bureaucracy and of the higher government circles. The ruling party would become perplexed and infuriated by the spectacle of its hopeless and disastrous impotency to save the situation in spite of the formidable power at its command. Being unable and unwilling to recognize that the cause of the catastrophe lies in themselves and in their fundamentally evil materialistic ideology, the leaders will place the blame for the disaster on sabotage and conspiracy. They will increase boundlessly the mad, worldwide witch-hunt against all “enemies of the working masses,” including various “heretics” from among their own ranks. Therefore, the continuous mass terror among the population would become reflected in vast purges throughout the personnel of the world bureaucracy and even among the membership of the ruling party.
Rage among the deceived, regimented and enslaved human masses would accumulate until it could no longer be restrained. Then an all-crushing outburst of desperate violence would destroy world tyranny by exterminating the bitterly hated new ruling-class at the cost of destruction of a large part of mankind and of final ruin of the Western civilization. The rest of the human race might be driven to degeneration and extinction as a result of unrestricted use of atomic, biological and other new weapons during the final outburst of the suicidal, worldwide civil strife. Or, they might again resume the painful process of building up another civilization out of the ashes and ruins of the present, provided true religious idealism returned to the earth. However, the predominance of the white man would be finished. The new leadership would have to appear from other races, probably the brown or the yellow.
IN DISCUSSING what can be done to forestall this danger, it must be stated first that there can be no hope whatsoever that materialism itself might become milder and develop some worthy new idealism of its own. A spiritual corpse can only be subject to decay. It cannot become alive again, except if called back to life by a Power of higher order. The world can be saved only by a sufficiently powerful and vast religious and moral revival.
The inner meaning of this revival is beyond the scope of the present work and the competence of its author. It is, however, possible to discuss certain outward aspects, certain principles and decisions that could contribute towards forestalling the disaster.
The extreme seriousness of the situation must be recognized as a reality confirmed by facts and figures. It must be understood that the brief period of thirty years from 1915 to 1945 witnessed the greatest moral and cultural downfall in human history. The number of lives lost in war and revolution in Europe during these thirty years was several times greater than the total for the preceding thousand years. The number of victims who were deprived of liberty or put to death in brutal governmental persecutions exceeds by far the worst records of the Dark Ages. Slavery and tortures were re-established as a normal part of life in a major part of Europe. Absence of ethics, unspeakable cruelty and brutality were introduced in warfare, as well as in regular administrative procedure, on a large part of the globe. The process is obviously spreading and gaining momentum. It must be acknowledged and checked before it is too late.
The dangers that must be recognized and the ideas that must be promoted are briefly the following. The world is now ruled by such a volume of lies, self-deception and bad will as never before. There must be a general return to greater truthfulness, to respect for the freedom and dignity of man, to active compassion for the sufferings of defenseless men, women and children of all nations, now living. All this must be definitely considered of greater, more immediate and more lasting importance than any plans for loading with benefits the as yet nonexistent generations to come.
The ambitious projects for this future paradise are a false justification of evil and a true encouragement of the deceptions and unspeakable cruelties, which will remain the supreme disgrace of our civilization. The very idea of a whole class or race or nation, whether Jewish or German or other, being guilty and deserving misery and slavery must be rejected and condemned as being wrong in fact, sinful morally and dangerous with respect to inevitable historical consequences. The only chance of saving the situation may be found in a forceful attempt at making a new start “with malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.”
The above statement is one of the greatest and noblest ever pronounced by a human leader. It cannot be disposed of as a generality, because it is clear and definite, even though it is immense in the message which it conveys. Its meaning is concentrated in the last of the three statements because the first two, as well as a multitude of other guiding rules, are only applications of the last fundamental principle. Indeed, every human leadership as a rule declares that it acts “with firmness in the right.” However, the rest of the sentence, particularly with respect to the recent tragic decades, would have to read, “as our intellect, poisoned by fear and hate, gives us to see the right.”
The wise and noble sentence of Abraham Lincoln represents an ideal which cannot materialize in full in this world, but the principles which it expressed so clearly and forcefully were never so thoroughly disregarded as they were in our time in the totalitarian mass murders and concentration camps, in the Morgenthau plan, in the atrocity of mass expulsions, and in a number of other recent decisions and acts which determined the course of events and consequently carried mankind to the edge of a precipice.
The world can be saved only by a forceful ideological reorientation. Abraham Lincoln’s declaration may well be taken as a guiding light, as an ideal, and utmost effort can and should be made to approach this ideal as closely as our moral courage, forces and general circumstances will permit us to do. The vigorous attempt to reconstruct the society of men and of nations along these higher and nobler principles is difficult and dangerous. But the alternative is not even dangerous — it is fatal.
There is still hope, but if humanity should insist on following the present evil trends, then the process may reach an irreversible stage. In this case, all that would be left for men who realize the truth would be to face the inevitable outcome with dignity and courage.
REDUCED TO their very essentials, the three proposals to Christ’s Temptation in the Wilderness represented a plan of establishing domination “over all kingdoms of the world” by way of —
Controlling all food;
Capturing the imagination of men by an open display of superhuman power;
And by “worshiping the devil.”
The last, essentially a figurative expression, means temporary use or justification of lies and murder, which the Gospel designates as the foremost desires of the devil. I am convinced that, in this particular case, the above expression referred partly to the approval and use of the fanatical, formidable potential forces of the impending Jewish rebellion as a first step towards the conquest of supreme power. This authority over all kingdoms was to become an instrument for the loading of mankind with benefits and spreading quickly the gospel message. One of the consequences would have been the prevention of the Jerusalem disaster, by discharging in some organized and politically useful way the fanatical energy of the impending revolt. I believe that this last consideration more than any other explains the use of the term “temptation,” because the people and the City of Jerusalem were dear to Christ and he undoubtedly wanted to save them from the disaster which He foresaw and predicted with such striking accuracy.
Christ rejected the proposals and attributed their authorship to the devil. A fanatically aggressive fraction of the Jewish people rejected Christ, accepted in full the evil temptation, and gained for a brief period control over the earthly destinies of Israel.
It is tragically significant that during the thousand years preceding this event, the Temple of Jerusalem, this main symbol of national spiritual life, while damaged or burned sometimes by hostile invaders, was never desecrated by the Jews. But during that unfortunate revolt the most active elements of the people brutally drove religion out of the Temple and established headquarters for the meanest violence in the very heart of it. Within the next few months the Temple, the city and some ninety-five per cent of the population of Jerusalem perished, amidst one of the most dreadful catastrophes, which the world has ever seen.
During all subsequent historical time the active leadership of mankind never rejected, but also never accepted in full, that evil temptation. Injustice, wars and violence have existed always, but the frequency and intensity of disturbances were always counteracted by religious idealism, which inspired honor and mercy. Only in recent times our Faustian civilization seems to approach the full unreserved acceptance of the evil temptation.
The sad consequences of it are already amply demonstrated by the character of major events. Honor disappears in warfare. Wisdom and mercy in dealings with a conquered adversary are at a vanishing point. The respect for freedom, truthfulness and higher idealism are steadily melting away. The process is more brutal in some countries; it is slower and gentler in others; but it is in progress almost everywhere, spelling doom to the very fundamentals of democracy. On the contrary, power based on the force of regimented masses and limited by nothing is steadily gaining predominance everywhere. Not the cause but a consequence of this process is manifested by total wars, total revolutions and totalitarian states. The word “total” stands in all cases openly for unrestricted ruthless brutality and secretly for unrestricted deception.
Accordingly, the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, striving for “malice toward none; with charity for all,” is openly or secretly driven out, is mocked as reactionary, as a survival of the “horse and buggy” era. Aggressive fanatical forces are trying to substitute for it everywhere an advanced, streamlined government of power-thirsty bureaucrats, by deception and coercion over a regimented people. As the binding influences of honor, mercy and other moral principles continue to disintegrate, the process advances and gains momentum: the final destination being a single universal government of the evil, by the evil, and for the evil. Such an outcome within the next few generations, by way of World Wars III and IV, combined with some kind of a world revolution, may be considered inevitable, unless the now predominant ideological trends are radically changed. Indeed, a world state of this nature cannot last long. But it also cannot cure itself of the supreme evil, which will form its very foundation. It will inevitably disintegrate amidst the greatest catastrophe which this world has ever seen.
Such appears to be the probable outcome. But the testimony of religious faith, having accurately foretold the possibility of a universal catastrophe of this nature, nevertheless confidently foresees behind it the victory of light, life and truth. The Gospel states and faith recognizes that there is always a worthy and lasting meaning behind the whole process of earthly life. Indeed, a human society or civilization that would recklessly assume a disinterested position in the supreme encounter between truth and lies, between God and Satan, would condemn itself to ruin. But the significance of the whole process of life, including its splendid future in this or in a higher order of existence, would of course remain intact.
All religious evidence as well as a deep intuitive conviction make us conclude that the triumph of darkness, which may descend on the earth, will not be a lasting one. Inner forces of true life, this divine flame in the hearts of men, may vigorously assume sufficiently active leadership and may save the situation and possibly even prevent the impending downfall of the white race. If this should happen, then the miraculous achievements of modern science and industry, instead of being a dreadful Frankenstein monster, may become the faithful servant of mankind and may bring an era of unprecedented success and well-being. On the other hand, if mankind should fail to forestall the disaster, it could mean only a violent but comparatively short process of the self-destruction of an empty civilization, and possibly of the race that recklessly ruined the very meaning and objective of its existence.
Beyond such a universal catastrophe, we may still confidently hope for the resumption of life in this or in a higher order, which, nevertheless, would be related to, would be a continuation of, the present life of the human race, taken in its higher reality and eternal meaning. I am convinced that in the final plan of God, the power of life and truth is infinitely greater than the sum of evil. I believe that the immensity, orderliness and beauty of the visible heaven-universe are but a dim reflection of the magnificence and harmony of the all-conquering, eternal, living universe of higher order. Whatever evil may come to us in this life is trivial when measured against the greatness, power and splendor of the material and spiritual universe. Our concerns sink into insignificance when compared with the eternal value of human personality — a potential child of God who is destined to triumph over lie, pain and death. No one can take this sublime meaning of life away from us, and this is the one thing that matters.
 P. Sorokin, The Crisis of Our Age, pp. .230, 231.
 D. Merejkovsky, The Mystery of the Three, p. 9.
 Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics, p. 90.
 Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, “The Legend of the Great Inquisitor.” Ô. Ì. Äîñòîåâñêèé, Áðàòüÿ Êàðàìàçîâû, Ëåãåíäà î Âåëèêîì Èíêâèçèòîðå
 For further discussion of this analogy see I.I. Sikorsky, The Message of the Lord’s Prayer.
 Flavius Josephus, Book IV, p. 253 (Edition 1820).
 Christ the Savior and the Hebrew Revolution, p. 7 (Russian) .
 DeQuincey in his book, Judas Iscariot, explains the act of Judas in a similar way. (See “Judas Iscariot” in the Encyclopedia Britannica.)
 Book IV, Chap. IX and Book II, Chap. XXII.
 Ibid., Book IV, Chap. VI, p. 780.
 Ibid., Book V, Chap. I.
 Ibid., Book V, Chap. I.
 Ibid., Book VI, Chap. II, p. 838.
 Ibid., Book VI, Chap. IV.
 Ibid., Book VII, Chap. I.
 Book V, Chap. I.
 See comparative statistical data in the Crisis of Our Time, by P. Sorokin, pp. 212 ff.
 P. Sorokin, The Crisis of Our Age, p. 161.
 Pp. 550-551.
 Merejkovsky, The Kingdom o/ the Antichrist, p. 25 (Russian).
 Life Magazine, Sept. 4, 1944, p. 109.
 Heinrich Heine, Works of Prose, pp. 136-138.
 Lin Yutang, Between Tears and Laughter, pp. 184, 212, 213.
 H. G. Wells, The Fate of Homo Sapiens, pp. 298, 299, 307, 308.
 Soloviev, War, Progress and the End of History, p. 32 of the Author’s Preface.
 Ivan Lukash, The House of the Dead, pp. 141, 142.
 Ivan Lukash, The House of the Dead, p. 83.
 Gustave Jequier, The History of Egyptian Civilization (French), pp. 135-136.
 Maj.-Gen. J. F. C. Fuller, Armament and History, p. 54.
 Fr. Nietzsche, The Anti-Christian, pp. 2, 54.
 Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics, pp. 42, 43.
 F. Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, pp. 688, 689.
 F. Dostoyevsky, The Possessed, Part II, Chap. VII.
 Pharaoh Aknaton, whose ideas of God as a loving Father were exceeded only by the message of Christ; the author of a wonderful, inspired hymn which in all probability was the original version of Psalm 104; a great humanitarian who promoted merciful laws and strove to protect the underprivileged. Lived about 1350 B.C. (Reference: The Life and Times of Aknaton, by Arthur Weigall.)
 Works, Vol. XIV, p. 70.
 From an editorial in the No. 1 1930 issue of the magazine Bezbojnik (The Godless, Moscow).
 From the book, The Red Parnass, p. 102, which includes articles of several authors.
 F. I. Miles, Russia and Palestine in Prophecy, p. 22.
 Lenin’s Complete Works, Vol. XVIII, p. 361. (See also Religious Persecutions in Russia, Documents and Facts, Geneva, Corraterie, 13, March 1930.)
 H. G. Wells, The World Set Free, pp. 218 ff.
 Pp. 1, 4, 5.
 From Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
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