Monday, 7 February 2011

The modern nihilist cult of the rebel - Seraphim (Eugene) Rose

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Excerpted from Nihilism by Seraphim (Eugene) Rose, circa 1962. (Emphasis added by me)

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/nihilism.html

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Nihilism is animated by a faith as strong, in its own way, and as spiritual in its root, as the Christian faith it attempts to destroy and supplant; its success, and its exaggerations, are explicable in no other way.(...)

Nihilist faith is similarly a context, a distinctive spirit which underlies and gives meaning and power to Nihilist doctrine. (...)

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What, then, is the nature of the Nihilist faith?

It is the precise opposite of Christian faith, and so not properly called "faith" at all. Where Christian faith is joyous, certain, serene, loving, humble, patient, submitting in all things to the Will of God, its Nihilist counterpart is full of doubt, suspicion, disgust, envy, jealousy, pride, impatience, rebelliousness, blasphemy - one or more of these qualities predominating in any given personality.

It is an attitude of dissatisfaction with self, with the world, with society, with God; it knows but one thing: that it will not accept things as they are, but must devote its energies either to changing them or fleeing from them. (...)

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Nihilist rebellion, like Christian faith, is an ultimate and irreducible spiritual attitude, having its source and its strength in itself - and, of course, in the supernatural author of rebellion. (...)

The Nihilist rejection of Christian faith and institutions, then, is the result, not so much of a loss of faith in them and in their divine origin (though, no Nihilism being pure, this skepticism is present also), as of rebellion against the authority they represent and the obedience they command.

The literature of 19th-century Humanism, Socialism, and Anarchism has as its constant theme the non serviam: God the Father, together with all His institutions and ministers, is to be over thrown and crushed, and triumphant Man is to ascend His throne to rule in his own right.

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The Nihilist "revelation" thus declares, most immediately, the annihilation of authority. Some apologists are fond of citing "corruptions," "abuses," and "injustices" in the Old Order as justification for rebellion against it; but such things--the existence of which no one will deny--have been often the pretext, but never the cause, of Nihilist outbursts. It is authority itself that the Nihilist attacks.

In the political and social order, Nihilism manifests itself as a Revolution that intends, not a mere change of government or a more or less widespread reform of the existing order, but the establishment of an entirely new conception of the end and means of government.

In the religious order Nihilism seeks, not a mere reform of the Church and not even the foundation of a new "church" or "religion," but a complete refashioning of the idea of religion and of spiritual experience.

In art and literature the Nihilist is not concerned with the modification of old aesthetic canons regarding subject-matter or style, nor with the development of new genres or traditions, but with a whole new approach to the question of artistic "creation" and a new definition of "art." 

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It is the very first principles of these disciplines, and no mere remote or faulty applications of them, that Nihilism attacks. The disorder so apparent in contemporary politics, religion, art, and other realms as well, is a result of the deliberate and systematic annihilation of the foundations of authority in them.

Unprincipled politics and morality, undisciplined artistic expression, indiscriminate "religious experience"--all are the direct consequence of the application to once stable sciences and disciplines of the attitude of rebellion.

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Nihilist rebellion has entered so deeply into the fibre of our age that resistance to it is feeble and ineffective; popular philosophy and most "serious thought" devote their energies to apology for it. (...)

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But if "rebellion" is all the "natural man" may know today, why is it that the "natural man" of the Renaissance or the Enlightenment seemed to know much more, and thought himself to be a much nobler being?

"They took too much for granted," is the usual answer, and lived on Christian capital without knowing it; today we are bankrupt, and know it." Contemporary man, in a word, is "disillusioned."

But, strictly speaking, one must be "disillusioned" of an illusion: if men have fallen way, not from illusion, but from truth - and this is indeed the case - then profounder reasoning is required to explain their present "plight." That Camus can accept the "rebel" as the "natural man," that he can find everything "absurd" except "rebellion," means only one thing: he has been well-trained in the school of Nihilism, he has learned to accept the fight against God as the "natural" state of man.

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To such a state has Nihilism reduced men.

Before the modern age the life of man was largely conditioned by the virtues of obedience, submission, and respect: to God, to the Church, to the lawful earthly authorities.

To the modern man whom Nihilism has "enlightened," this Old Order is but a horrible memory of some dark past from which man has been "liberated"; modern history has been the chronicle of the fall of every authority. The Old Order has been overthrown, and if a precarious stability is maintained in what is unmistakably an age of "transition, a "new order" is clearly in the making; the age of the "rebel" is at hand.

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Of this age the Nihilist regimes of this century have given a foretaste, and the widespread rebelliousness of the present day is a further portent; where there is no truth, the rebellious will reigns.

But "the will," said Dostoyevsky, with his customary insight into the Nihilist mentality, "is closest to nothing; the most assertive are closest to the most nihilistic."

He who has abandoned truth and every authority founded upon that truth has only blind will between himself and the Abyss; and this will, whatever its spectacular achievements in its brief moment of power (those of Hitler and of Bolshevism have so far been the most spectacular), is irresistibly drawn to that Abyss as to some immense magnet that has searched out the answering abyss within itself.

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My comment: 

The problems of modernity - in its dominant form, the suicidal, self-hating, anti-human and almost all-pervasive ideology of political correctness - is mostly the product of generation upon generation of rebellious intellectuals - their pride, their self-assertion, their lust for power. 

(Sins not at all distinctive to intellectuals - but lethal when combined with the abstracting tendency of intellectuals, and doubly lethal when these same intellectuals have assumed rulership.)

At last these rebels have liberated themselves from all constraint of absolute reality - mainstream modern intellectual life is now underpinned by 'culture' which is underpinned by nothing - they are free to reject all previous generations and to reject all the rest of the world.

Yet in rejecting all reality they embrace purposeless, meaningless, totalitarian bureaucracy.

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Power to affect the world, to manipulate man, has become (merely) power to frame public reality.

Power to grow the economy has become power to control economic statistics.

Power to alleviate misery and cure disease has become peer review and consensus.

Power to predict has become the power to suppress dissent.

In sum, power over nature has been replaced by power over discourse.

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Thus nihilism destroys itself (of course!); thus the principle of universal and perpetual revolution leads to universal tyranny over not just bodies but souls (of course!).

Thus success (in any endeavor) becomes simply the ability to impose the assertion of success

Thus the 19th century's romantic anarchist rebel against God and conventions has become the 21st century's charismatic, emotion-manipulating figurehead of a crushing PC bureaucratic machine for macerating all human souls within reach - including, pretty soon, his own.

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