The Short History of the Antichrist: part 1

As I promised in my last post, here is a new translation of the full chapter of Vladimir Solovyov’s chapter “The Beginning of the Short History of the Antichrist”, from his book-length work Three Dialogues on War, Progress, the End of Universal History, and the Beginning of the Short History of the Antichrist. I’ve included the last section of the chapter on the End of Universal History, as it describes the origin of the final chapter in the manuscript of an Orthodox monk.

The following is essentially my tweaking of an English translation from 1915 of the book, done by Alexander Bakshy. The changes are more extensive than a word here and there, but they’re not so extensive as to call it fully a new translation. As usual, I seem to start off more cautiously, and have ended up making more changes further along. The second part will follow later in the day.

One thing you’ll notice is that most people are probably familiar with an edited version of this tale, one which excludes quite a bit of it, actually. Solovyov was surprisingly perceptive. In this history, Solovyov, who didn’t live to see the dawn of the twentieth century, rightly pegged it as a century of war and social disturbance. His description of the imperial designs of Japan are shockingly close to the reality of Japan’s plans in World War II. This first section, setting the stage for the history of the Anti-Christ proper, is also quite obviously built upon a biblical foundation, and is as much a part of The Short History of the Antichrist as the latter part of the chapter. It’s a fascinating tale, and I hope it will be even more well-appreciated and more well-known, as it is difficult to come across the full text in English.

The entire book is depicted as a dialog between several characters, and the text is laid out like that of a play, with each character’s lines and actions separate. It’s not a common format anymore for even novels with extensive dialogue, but he wrote it, of course, in 1899-1900, it being one of his last works. Enjoy!


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From THE END OF HISTORY

POLITICIAN. Now that we have safely come to the conclusion that neither those atheists and infidels, nor such “true” Christians as our Prince, represent the Anti-Christ, it is time for you to show us his real portrait.

MR. Z. You want rather too much, your Excellency. Are you satisfied, for instance, with a single one of all the innumerable portraits of Christ which, you will admit, have sometimes been made even by artists of genius? Personally, I don’t know of a single satisfactory portrait. I believe such is even impossible, for Christ is an individual, unique in His own kind and in the personification of His essence—good. To paint it, a genius will not suffice. The same, moreover, has to be said about Anti-Christ: he is also an individual, singular in completeness and finish, a personification of evil. It is impossible to show his portrait. In Church literature we find only his passport with a description of his general and some special marks . . .

LADY. No; we do not want his portrait, God save us! You had better explain why he himself is wanted, what his mission is, and when he will come.

MR. Z. Well, in this respect I can satisfy you even better than you expect. Some few years ago a fellow-student from the Church Academy, later made a monk, on his death-bed bequeathed to me a manuscript which he valued very much, but did not wish, or was not able, to publish. It was entitled, “The Short History of the Anti-Christ.” Though dressed in the form of fiction, as an imaginary forecast of the historical future, this paper, in my opinion, gives all that could be said on this subject in accordance with the Bible, with Church tradition, and the dictates of sound sense.

POLITICIAN. Is it the work of our old friend Monk Barsanophius?

MR. Z. No; this one’s name was even more exquisite: Pansophius, he was called.

POLITICIAN. Pan Sophius? Was he a Pole?

MR. Z. Not in the least. A son of a Russian parson. If you will permit me to go upstairs to my room I will fetch the manuscript and then read it to you.

LADY. Make haste, make haste! See that you don’t get lost!

(While Mr. Z. was out, the company left their seats and walked in the garden.)

POLITICIAN. I wonder what it may be: is it my eyesight that is getting weak, or is something taking place in nature? I notice that in no season, in no place, does one see those bright clear days which formerly used to be met with in every climate. Take today: there is not a single cloud, and we are far from the sea, and yet everything seems to be tinged with something subtle and imperceptible, which, though small, destroys the full clearness of things. Do you notice this, General?

GENERAL. It is many a year since I began to notice it.

LADY. Last year I also began to notice, and not only in the air, but in the soul as well, that even there the “full clearness,” as you style it, is no longer to be found. All is seized with some uneasiness and some ill-omened presentiment. I am sure, Prince, you feel it too.

PRINCE. No; I haven’t noticed anything particular: the air seems to be as usual.

GENERAL. You are still too young to notice the difference, for you have nothing to compare with. But when one remembers the ‘fifties one begins to feel it.

PRINCE. I think the explanation first suggested was the correct one: it is a matter of weak eyesight.

POLITICIAN. It is hardly open to argument that we are ever growing older. But neither is the earth getting younger, so that our mutual fatigue now begins to show itself.

GENERAL. I think it is even more likely that the Devil, with his tail, is spreading fog over the world. Another sign of the Anti-Christ!

LADY (pointing to Mr. Z., who was coming down from the terrace). We shall learn something about this presently.

(All took their seats, and Mr. Z. began to read his manuscript.)

THE BEGINNING OF THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE ANTI-CHRIST.
Pan-Mongolism! The name is savage,
But it pleases my ear immensely,
As if it were full of forebodings
Of the great destiny appointed by God. …

LADY. Where is this motto taken from?

MR. Z. I think it is the work of the author himself.

LADY. Well, we are listening.

MR. Z (reads). The twentieth century A.D. was the epoch of the last great wars and revolutions. The greatest of those wars had its remote cause in the movement of Pan-Mongolism, which originated in Japan as far back as the end of the nineteenth century. The imitative Japanese, who showed such a wonderful cleverness in copying the external forms of European culture, also assimilated certain European ideas of the baser sort. Having learned from the papers and text-books on history that there were in the West such movements as Pan-Hellenism, Pan-Germanism, Pan-Slavism, Pan-Islamism, they proclaimed to the world the great idea of Pan-Mongolism; that is, the unification under their leadership of all the races of Eastern Asia, with the object of conducting a determined warfare against the foreign intruders, that is the Europeans. As in the beginning of the twentieth century Europe was engaged in a final struggle against the Moslem world, they seized the opportunity to attempt the realisation of their great plan—first, by occupying Korea, then Peking, where, assisted by the revolutionary party in China, they deposed the old Manchu dynasty and put in its place a Japanese one. In this the Chinese Conservatives soon acquiesced, as they understood that of two evils the less is the better, and that “family ties make all brothers, whether they wish it or not.” The state independence of old China already proved unable to maintain itself, and subjection to the Europeans or the Japanese became inevitable. It seemed clear, however, that the dominance of the Japanese, though it abolished the external forms of the Chinese state organisation (which besides became palpably worthless), did not interfere with the main foundations of the national life, whereas the dominance of the European Powers, which for political reasons supported Christian missionaries, would have threatened the very spiritual basis of China. The national hatred in which the Japanese were formerly held by the Chinese developed at a time when neither one nor the other knew the Europeans, and in consequence this enmity of two kindred nations acquired the character of a family feud and was as unreasonable as it was ridiculous. The Europeans were unreservedly alien, nothing but enemies, and their predominance promised nothing that could flatter the national ambition, whilst in the hands of Japan the Chinese saw the tempting bait of Pan-Mongolism, which at the same time made more acceptable to their mind the painful necessity of assimilating the external forms of the European culture. “Will you understand, you obstinate brothers,” the Japanese urged them repeatedly, “that we take from the Western dogs their weapons, not because we like them, but so as to beat them with their own devices? If you come out to join us and accept our practical guidance, we shall soon be able not only to drive out all the white devils from our Asia, but also to conquer their own lands and establish the true Middle Empire all the world over. You are right in your national pride and your contempt for the Europeans, but you should keep these feelings alive not only by dreams, but by sensible actions as well. In these latter we are far in advance of you and have to show you the ways of mutual benefit. If you look around you will see yourselves what little gains you have obtained by your policy of confidence in yourselves and mistrust of us—your natural friends and protectors. You have seen how Russia and England, Germany and France nearly divided you up amongst themselves, and how all your tigerish schemes could show only the harmless end of the serpent’s tail.” The sensible Chinese found this reasonable, and the Japanese dynasty became firmly established. Its first care was, of course, to create a powerful army and fleet. The greater part of the Japanese troops were brought over to China and served as a nucleus for the new colossal army. The Japanese officers who could speak Chinese proved much more successful instructors than the dismissed Europeans, whilst the immense population of China, with Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet, provided a sufficient supply of good fighting material. It was already possible for the first Emperor of the Japanese dynasty to make a successful test of the power of the new Empire by driving out the French from Tonkin and Siam, and the English from Burma, and by adding to the Middle Empire the whole of Indo-China. His successor, Chinese on his mother’s side, combined in himself Chinese cunning and tenacity with Japanese energy, agility, and enterprise. He mobilised a four-million army in the Chinese Turkestan, and whilst Tsun-li-Y amin, his Prime Minister, was confidentially informing the Russian Ambassador that this army was intended for the invasion of India, the Emperor with his immense forces suddenly invaded Russian Central Asia, and having here raised against us all the population, rapidl y crossed the Ural Mountains and overran Eastern and Central Russia with his troops, whilst the Russian armies, mobilised in all haste, were hurrying to meet them from Poland and Lithuania, Kiev and Volhyn, St. Petersburg, and Finland. Having no ready plan of campaign, and being faced with an immense superiority in numbers, the fighting qualities of the Russian armies were sufficient only to allow them honourable defeat. The swiftness of the invasion left them no time for a proper concentration, and corps were annihilated one after another in desperate and hopeless battles. The victories of the Mongols also involved tremendous losses, but these were easily made good with the help of all the Asiatic railways, while the Russian Army, two hundred thousand strong, and for some time concentrated on the Manchurian frontier, made an abortive attempt to invade well-defended China. After leaving a portion of his forces in Russia, so that no new armies could be formed in the country, and also to fight the numerous bodies of franc-tireurs , the Emperor with three armies crossed the frontiers of Germany. Here the country had had sufficient time to prepare itself, and one of the Mongolian armies met with a crushing defeat. At this time, however, in France the party of belated revanche acquired the power, and soon the Germans found in their rear an army of a million bayonets. Finding itself between the hammer and the anvil, the German Army was compelled to accept the honourable terms of peace offered to it by the Chinese Emperor. The exultant Frenchmen, fraternising with the yellow men, scattered over Germany and soon lost all notion of military discipline. The Emperor ordered his army to cut up allies who were no longer useful, and with Chinese punctiliousness the order was exactly carried out. Simultaneously in Paris workmen sans patrie organised a rising, and the capital of Western culture joyfully opened its gates to the Lord of the East. His curiosity satisfied, the Emperor set off to Boulogne, where, protected by the fleet that had come round from the Pacific, transports were speedily prepared for ferrying his army over to England. He was short of money, however, and so the English succeeded in buying him off with a sum of one milliard pounds. In a year’s time all the European States submitted as vassals to the domination of the Chinese Emperor, who, having left sufficient troops in Europe, returned to the East in order to organise naval expeditions against America and Australia.

The new Mongolian yoke over Europe lasted for half a century. In the inner forms of life this epoch was marked by a general confusion and deep mutual permeation of European and Eastern ideas, providing a repetition on a grand scale of the ancient Alexandrian syncretism. The most characteristic facts in the practical walks of life were three: the great influx into Europe of Chinese and Japanese workmen and the consequent acuteness of social and economic problems; the continued activity of the ruling classes in the way of palliative attempts in order to solve those problems; and, lastly, the increased activity of secret international societies, organising a great European conspiracy for expelling the Mongols and re-establishing the independence of Europe. This colossal conspiracy, which was supported by the local national governments, in so far as they could evade the control of the Emperor’s legates, was organized in masterly fashion and was crowned with most brilliant success. An appointed hour saw the beginning of a massacre of the Mongolian soldiers, and of annihilation and expulsion of the Asiatic workmen. Secret bodies of European troops were suddenly revealed in various places, and a general mobilisation was carried out according to plans previously prepared. The new Emperor, who was a grandson of the great conqueror, hurried from China to Russia, but his innumerable hordes suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the All-European Army. Their scattered remnants returned to the interior of Asia, and Europe breathed freely again. The long submission to the Asiatic barbarians due to the disunity of the States, which troubled themselves only about their own national interests, was now over, brought to an end by an international organisation of the whole of the European population. As a natural consequence of this fact, the old traditional organisation of individual States was everywhere deprived of its former importance, and the last traces of ancient monarchical institutions gradually disappeared. Europe in the twenty-first century represented an alliance of more or less democratic nations—the United States of Europe. The progress of material culture, somewhat interrupted by the Mongolian yoke and the war of liberation, now burst forth with a greater force. The problems of inner consciousness, however, such as the questions of life and death, the ultimate destiny of the world and mankind, made more complicated and involved by the latest researches and discoveries in the fields of psychology and physiology—these as before remained unsolved. Only one important, though negative, result made itself apparent: it was the final bankruptcy of the materialistic theory. The notion of the universe as a system of dancing atoms, and of life as the result of mechanical accumulation of the slightest changes in materia, no longer satisfied a single reasoning intellect. Mankind had outgrown that stage of philosophical infancy. On the other side, it became equally evident that it had also outgrown the infantile capacity for a naive, unconscious faith. Such ideas as God, creating the universe out of nothing, were no longer taught even at elementary schools. A certain high level of ideas concerning such subjects had been evolved, and no dogmatism could risk a descent below it. And though the majority of thinking people had remained faithless, the few believers had of necessity become thinking, thus fulfilling the commandment of the Apostle: “Be infants in your hearts, but not in your reason.”

At that time there was among the few believing spiritualists a remarkable man—many called him a superman—who was equally far both from infantile intellect and infantile heart. He was still young, but owing to his great genius, at the age of thirty-three he had already become famous as a great thinker, writer, and social worker. Conscious of the great power of spirit in himself, he was always a confirmed spiritualist, and his clear intellect always showed him the truth of what one should believe in: good, God, and Messiah. In this he believed, but he loved only himself. He believed in God, but at the bottom of his heart he involuntarily and unconsciously preferred himself to Him. He believed in good, but the all-seeing eye of the Eternal knew that this man would bow down before Evil as soon as it bribed him—not by a deception of senses and base passions, not even by the bait of power, but only by his own immeasurable self-love. This self-love was neither an unconscious instinct nor an insane ambition. Apart from his exceptional genius, beauty, and nobility of character, the reserve, disinterestedness, and active sympathy with those in need, which he evinced to such a great extent, seemed abundantly to justify the immense self-love of this great spiritualist, ascetic, and philanthropist. Did he deserve blame because, being, as he was, so generously supplied with the gifts of God, he saw in them the signs of Heaven’s special benevolence to him, and thought himself to be second only to God himself? In short, he considered himself to be what Christ in reality was. But this conception of his own higher value showed itself in practice not in the exercise of his moral obligation to God and the world, but in seizing his privilege and advantage at the expense of others, and of Christ in particular.

At first he had no ill-feeling towards Christ. He recognised His Messianic importance and value, but he was sincere in seeing in Him only his own greatest precursor—the moral achievement of Christ and His uniqueness were beyond his pride-clouded mind. He reasoned thus: “Christ came before me. I come second. But what in order of time appears later is essentially of greater importance. I come last at the end of history for the very reason that I am most perfect. I am the final saviour of the world, and Christ— he is my precursor. His mission was to precede and prepare for my coming.” So thinking, the superman of the twenty-first century applied to himself everything that was said in the Gospels about the Second Coming, explaining the latter not as a return of the same Christ, but as a replacing of the preliminary Christ by the final one—that is, by himself.

At this stage the Coming Man presented few characteristic or original features. His attitude to Christ resembled, for instance, that of Mohammed, a truthful man, against whom no charge of fraudulent intent can be brought.

Yet in another way this man justified his prideful preference of himself to Christ. “Christ,” he said, “preaching and practicing moral good in life, was a reformer of mankind, whereas I am called to be the benefactor of that same mankind, partly reformed and partly incapable of being reformed. I will give all men what they need. Christ, as a moralist, divided men by the notion of good and evil. I will instead unite them by benefits which are as much needed by good as by evil people. I shall be the true representative of that God who maketh His sun to shine upon the good and the evil, and who maketh the rain fall upon the just and upon the unjust. Christ brought the sword; I shall bring peace. He threatened the earth with the dreadful Day of Judgment. But I will be the last judge, and my judgment will be not only that of justice, but also of mercy. The justice, however, in my judgments will not be a retributive justice but a distributive one. I shall judge every man according to his due, and shall give everybody what he needs.”

In this magnificent spirit he now waited upon a clear calling from God to take upon himself the work of saving mankind, for some obvious and striking testimony that he was the elder son, the beloved first-born of God. He waited and sustained himself by the consciousness of his superhuman virtues and gifts, for he, as was said, was a man of irreproachable morals and exceptional genius.

Thus this just but proud man waited for the sanction of the Most High to begin his saving of mankind, but he could see no signs of it. He had passed the age of thirty. Three more years passed. A thought suddenly flickers into his mind and a heated trembling pierces him to the core. “What,” thought he, “what if it is not I, but that other … the Galilean. If He is not my forerunner but the true one, the First and the Last? But then indeed He must be living….Where is He? What if He suddenly comes to me … here, now? What will I tell Him? I would have to kneel down before Him like the basest foolish Christian, like some Russian peasant who mutters without understanding, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ or grovel like a Polish countrywoman! I, the shining genius, the superman! Never!” And then, instead of his former rational and cold reverence to God and Christ, a sudden terror was born and grew in his heart, followed by a burning envy consuming all his being, and by a burning, breath-taking hatred. “I, I, and not He! He is not among the living, and never will be! He did not rise, not rise, not rise! He rotted, rotted in the tomb, He rotted like the lowest….” And, his mouth foaming, he rushed in convulsive movements out of the house, through the garden, and ran along a rocky path covered by the dark gloomy night.

His rage calmed down and gave place to a despair, dry and heavy as the rocks, gloomy as the night. He stopped in front of a sharp precipice, from the bottom of which he could hear the faint sounds of a stream running over the stones far below. An unbearable anguish pressed upon his heart. Suddenly something stirred within him. “Shall I call Him? Ask Him what I am to do?” And in the midst of the darkness a pale and grief-stricken image appeared to him. “He pities me! No, never! He did not rise, not rise!” And he leapt from the precipice. But something firm like a column of water held him up in the air. He felt a shock as if of electricity, and some unknown force hurled him back. For a moment he lost consciousness and came to kneeling a few paces from the edge of the precipice. Before him was a being outlined with a misty phosphorescent light, and its two eyes pierced his soul with their unbearably sharp brightness.

He saw these two piercing eyes and heard some unfamiliar voice coming from inside or outside him—he could not tell which—a toneless, constrained voice, yet distinct, metallic and completely heartless as from a gramophone. And the voice said to him: “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased! Why did you not seek me? Why did you revere that bad one, and his father? I am your god and father. But that other, the beggar, the crucified one—he is a stranger both to me and to you. I have no other son but you. You are the only one, the only begotten, the equal of myself. I love you, and ask nothing from you. You are already beautiful, great, and mighty. Do your work in your own name, not mine. I harbour no envy of you. I love you. I require nothing of you. He whom you regarded as God demanded from His son the ultimate obedience—even to death on a cross—and He did not help Him there. I demand from you nothing, and I will help you. I will help you for your own sake, for the sake of your own dignity and excellency, and for the sake of my own disinterested love of you! Receive my spirit! Just as my spirit gave birth to you in beauty, so now it gives birth to you in power.”

With these words of the stranger, the mouth of the superman involuntarily opened, the two piercing eyes came very close to his face, and he felt a sharp, icy stream enter into him and fill the whole of his being. At the same time he felt in himself unprecedented strength, vigour, lightness, and joy. At the same instant the luminous image and the two eyes suddenly disappeared, something lifted him up in the air, and brought him down in his own garden, before the doors of his own house.

The next day not only the visitors of the great man but even his servants were startled by his strange, inspired appearance. They would have been even more startled could they have seen with what supernatural speed and ease he was writing, locked up in his study, his famous work entitled, The Open Way to Universal Peace and Prosperity.

The previous books and the public activity of the superman had always met with severe criticisms, though these came chiefly from men of exceptionally deep religious convictions, who for that very reason possessed no authority, and were hardly listened to when they tried to point out in everything that the Coming Man wrote or said the signs of quite an exceptional and excessive pride and conceit, and a complete absence of true simplicity, frankness, and sincerity.

But now with his new book he brought over to his side even some of his former critics and adversaries. This book, composed after the incident at the precipice, evinced a greater power of genius than he had ever shown before. It was a work that embraced everything and solved every problem. Here were combined a noble respect of the ancient traditions and symbols with a bold and thorough radicalism in the sphere of social and political problems, an unlimited freedom of thought with the most profound appreciation of everything mystical, an absolute individualism with an ardent fidelity to the common good, the most lofty idealism of guiding principles with a perfect definiteness in practical necessities of life. And all this was blended and cemented with such artistic genius that every thinker and every man of action, however one-sided he may have been, could easily view and accept the whole from his particular individual standpoint without sacrificing anything to the truth itself, without actually rising above his ego, without in reality renouncing his one-sidedness, without correcting the inadequacy of his views and wishes, and without making up their deficiencies. This wonderful book was immediately translated into the languages of all the civilised nations, and many of the uncivilised ones as well. During the whole year thousands of papers in all parts of the world were filled with the publishers’ advertisements and the delight of the critics. Inexpensive editions with portraits of the author were sold in the millions of copies, and all the civilized world—which by now meant nearly all the globe—resounded with the glory of the incomparable, the great, the only one! Not only did nobody raise his voice against the book, but on every side it was accepted as the revelation of the entirely complete truth. In it all the past was given its full and due justice, all the present was appraised so impartially and thoroughly, and the happiest future was brought near in such a convincing and practical manner that everybody could not help saying: ” Here at last we have what we need. Here is the ideal which is not an Utopia. Here is a scheme which is not a chimera.” And the wonderful author not only impressed all, but he was agreeable to everybody, so that the word of Christ was fulfilled: “I have come in the name of the Father, and you accept me not. Another will come in his own name—him you will accept.” For it is necessary to be agreeable to be accepted.

True, some pious men, warmly praising the book, had been asking why the name of Christ was never mentioned in it. But other Christians had rejoined: “Glory to God! In the past ages everything sacred has already been tainted enough by uncalled zealots so as now to make a deeply religious author extremely careful in these matters. Since the book is imbued with the true Christian spirit of active love and all-embracing goodwill, what more do you want?” And everybody agreed with this.

~ : To Be Continued : ~

6 Replies to “The Short History of the Antichrist: part 1”

  1. Kevin,

    Very interesting post. I have not been active in reading blogs for the past two weeks because of my work on the Self-Study, but I had to read your post. I will be waiting for the second part of your post.

    Claude Mariottini

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