Saturday, March 6, 2010

Solzhenitsyn to Harvard

I meant to post something on the structure of the book of Revelation but got waylaid by Solzhenitsyn's address to Harvard in the late '70s. Here's a bit of it:

"I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging and evaluating everything on earth. Imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.

It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times.

Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward."

I agree with the above, you may not, but I'd say it's interesting regardless. You can read the whole thing here.

God bless,



Anonymous said...

What a man. What is it about Russia that produces such minds? Dostoevsky was another brilliant Russian mind who cautioned us against ignoring the spiritual.

Russians are also chess player and logical thinkers, but I love how so many remind us that cold logic isn't everything.

I stumbled over this one awhile back"

“Nature cares nothing for logic, our human logic: she has her own, which we do not recognize and do not acknowledge until we are crushed under its wheel”
-- Ivan Turgenev

LSP said...

Great Turgenev quote - do you think the same kind of thing is applicable to God?

Couldn't agree with you more about Dostoevsky - he's been on my mind recently, especially viz. The Devils and parts of Karamazov...

God bless.

Anonymous said...

I don't know enough about Turgenev...

But when I read something like that I apply it to God. Not that God would crush us under his wheels, but there is a natural order to all He created. We can try to ignore it, but eventually the natural order will reassert itself, sometime with disastrous consequences.

Those parts of Karamazov should be required reading for High Schoolers

LSP said...

Thanks for that - I'd agree with you viz. 'natural order'.

Must read more Russians!

Chris said...

Great blog.

LSP said...

Thanks Chris, I appreciate that.

God bless.

Catosays said...


I hate to ask this but as General Election Day looms here in the UK, our MSM will shortly be subjected to a ban on reporting news from Afghanistan.

Bloggers over here will report anything the government wants hidden, so if you've got anything of interest to the British public, can you e-mail me?
The address is on the right hand side of my blog.

Thanks in anticipation.


LSP said...

Sure thing Cato.

Third News said...

"The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections."
It strikes me as this could have been written in 2013.

Contrariwise, I thought The Direction of the Press paragraph an interesting autopsy in faux naif thinking but for his Rolling Stone Dzhokhar Tsarnaev vaticination:

Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters, pertaining to one's nation's defense, publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.

Solzhenitsyn's fear of journalistic ananias ignored that a man's desire for freedom is twined with his God-given poiesis. Though unheard of in 1978, a citizen journalist was the agnogenic for equalizing the autocratic Fourth Estate.

LSP said...

Good Tsarnaev spotting; of course if we go to war in Syria the media will be idolising cannibals. Or something like that.