Solipsism

…is the root of the western mentality, from top to bottom, it has directed the development of the culture from the beginnings to the present day, when it is now celebrated as freedom. But how free are we if we are ruled by our desires, our passions with all their failures? How true is it that “what seems right” is actually right? Someone without consideration of the other, locked in oneself with one’s own concerns exclusively, is no longer a person. They may be human, but personhood relies upon relationships with others. We are recognized as individuals only when we are more than one, and the differentiation between other persons then becomes not only possible, but celebratory. Unfortunately, this is no longer (if it ever was) a common theme amogst the masses. The western (as it surely is) drive to increase wealth and to impose its own brand of anti-person “freedom” has existed from the beginning of western history, with the mass migrations and barbarian incursions in late antiquity. This was later to explode and become established as the only acceptable method of societal interaction with the Crusades: the capitalism of petty princes trumped the economic stability (not stagnation!) of the humble Nazarene. Today we see the results: a “healthy” economy must always be growing, with God-cursed usury the effective measure of that health. “More for me is good for everybody” is the motto of modernity. It’s sickening. Western culture has managed to turn the wrong way at every turning point in its economic, philosophical, and religious development. That much is clear. There are some pearls in the mud, to be sure, but they are few and far between, from beginning to end.

All this is to say that I recommend the following enlightening reading:
Andrew Louth, Greek East and Latin West: The Church AD 681-1071
Aristeides Papadakis, The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy: The Church AD 1071-1453

These two books are volumes 3 and 4 in the series The Church in History, published by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. They are positively the best histories of the medieval period that I have ever read. These are not ecclesiastical histories stricto sensu. They describe, as the series title indicates, the Church within the flow of history. What is so vastly enlightening and breathtakingly refreshing about them is that they do not, to be frank, toe the party line of Catholicism. Punches are not pulled. The development of a cruel and ugly culture in western Europe is directly related to the development of Catholicism, or rather more particularly, the papacy (for the former would not exist without the latter). This may sound like some kind of trashy and ill-considered conspiracy theory, the wild ravings of some half-crazed wild-eyed Easterner who would also jabber about Freemasons and Jews. On the contrary, the history is excellently written and clearly elaborated from a viewpoint that is, while that of Eastern Orthodox scholars, decidely more objective than any other I’ve yet encountered. And I really don’t mean that to sound like “I’m Eastern Orthodox and I like my histories by Eastern Orthodox.” It’s not like that at all. These histories really are a great deal more objective, avoiding the glorification and focus on the papacy usually found in histories of medievel Europe, and returning focus to the wider Church with the other Patriarchates all covered, and the various heretical and schismatic groups described as they fade in and out of history. I would categorize this history as corrective rather than revisionist. All the information is available in other histories, though scattered widely in various publications of various ages, languages, and availability. Louth and Papadakis have succeeded in producing excellent and eminently readable collations of all these disparate materials.

As a reader, do not find yourself to be surprised to have a number of misconceptions of European history overthrown in reading these two relatively short books. They are that powerful, and that corrective. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

22 Replies to “Solipsism”

  1. It’s no surprise to those of us with facility in Russian. What is arising there is a synthesis of Christian theology with socialist economic thought and royalist culture and ethos. The reason that English-speaking Orthodox aren’t aware of it is because certain parties refuse to translate the good stuff… it’s the price we’re paying for having unwisely brought in the HOOMie gang and the Podmoshensky cabal.

    If you read either Fr Tikhon Shevkunov or Prof Natalia Narochnitskaya, both make the point better than SVS does… SVS has a Renovationist agenda, after all. In short, we owe NOTHING to the West… indeed, they took their system of laws and governance from medieval New Rome… why do the papists/Proddies persist in their “Byzantine” fantasy? Kev, I submit THAT is a FAR meatier question than “I’m Eastern (sic) Orthodox and I like my histories by Eastern (sic) Orthodox”. Don’t forget Khomiakov’s dictum, “The papists were the first Protestants” (that makes the so-called “Reformation” nothing but an intramural food fight).

    Russians are genuinely aghast at the so-called “teabaggers”… mostly, because they reject capitalism. Read the statements of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill… one notes a sympathy for socialism and an antipathy to oligarchic capitalism (for that is what we are talking about). Kev… all too many of our recent converts in the USA are members of the Suburban New Class… they won’t understand your (or my) argument… they are people “with broad lawns and narrow minds”. Expect MUCH schmutz in the commboxes. You aren’t stroking them, you’re not being “nice”, and you’re not telling them that they are the Great White Hope for the Future. Expect to have much filth tossed at you… don’t worry… I’m here (and Moses is sharpening up the harpoons in the backroom).

    I’ve got your back.

    Cheers,
    a puckish and ornery Vara

  2. I must say if are you vaunting the Russian Orthodox Church as some kind of paradigm, surely this institution was entirely complicit with and ruled by the Czar from the time of Peter, and as in the West the ‘real’ faith was continued in the monasteries, with the same pattern of sincerity collapsing to corruption. As Bakunin observed that ‘slaves of God, men must also be slaves of Church and State, insofar as the State is consecrated by the Church…and this truth Roman Catholicism alone amongst all Christian sects, has proclaimed and realised with absolute logic…and…is the only consistent, legitimate, and divine Church.’ So repent and get down with his Holiness.

  3. My, my, Mr Mitchell… you talk as though the Vatican of the Borgia popes or of Pio Nono didn’t exist. In any case, your diatribe is baseless and contentless… indeed, it is incoherent, so, it’s impossible to reply to. In short… Bakunin was no Christian. As Khomiakov put it so well, “The papists were the first protestants”. If the RCs are so holy… why the paedophilia? Well?

    Your serve?

    Vara the rock-ribbed Pravoslavnii

  4. Kevin, I too will eagerly join in your defense.

    I believe you are missing something, however. Of all the despicable spiritual deformations wrought by Western Civilization in its ascent to power, the worst has been its revival and continual affirmation of that famous command of Aristotle: ananke stenai! Halt before Necessity!

    In our politics, in our ‘religion’, in our cultural orientation, in our economics, and above all, in our philosophy, where sly advocates (Nietzsche’s words) who compete to justify an impersonal, all-powerful reason which has no need of men OR justification; in all of these, the tendrils of Necessity have strangled the Word. It is this Necessity which has dissolved both our freedom and our unity.

    In the words of the Russian-Jewish existentialist Lev Shestov:

    “Perhaps truth is by nature such that its communication between men is impossible, at least the usual communication by means of language. Every one may know it in himself, but in order to enter into communication with his neighbour he must renounce the truth and accept some conventional lie. Nevertheless the value and importance of truth is by no means lessened by the fact that it cannot be given a market valuation. If you were asked what is truth, you could not answer the question even though you had given your whole life to the study of philosophical theories.

    In yourself, if you have no one to answer, you know well what the truth is. Therefore truth does not by nature resemble empirical truth in the least, and before entering the world of philosophy, you must bid farewell to scientific methods of search, and to the accustomed methods of estimating knowledge. In a word, you must be ready to accept something absolutely new, quite unlike what is traditional and old. That is why the tendency to discredit scientific knowledge is by no means so useless as may at first sight appear to the inexperienced eye.”

    “Then, then—and this is most important of all—you will at last be convinced that truth does not depend on logic, that there are no logical truths at all, that you therefore have the right to search for what you like, how you like, without argument, and that if something results from your search, it will not be a formula, not a law, not a principle, not even an idea! . . . If that desperate struggle of man with God and the world were possible, of which legend and history tell — think of Prometheus alone — then it was for truth, and not for the idea. Man desires to be strong and rich and free, the wretched, insignificant creature of dust, whom the first chance shock crushes like a worm before one’s eyes — and if he speaks of ideas it is only because he despairs of success in his proper search.”

    This is the message that Orthodoxy must struggle to bring to the West, and it is not without sadness that I must agree that it has not been entirely receptive.

  5. I have read both books, and was impressed with them. I have recommended these books to non-Orthodox who show an interest in church history.

  6. Thank you for the link, Albion. It is a very interesting presentation, but one which misdirects the onus of corruption. It is the Eastern Orthodox Christian theological and philosophical base which is the older (an historically and intellectually verified fact), and the Latin which has introduced uncountable innovations that are directly antagonistic to the heritage of the Church (again, an historically and intellectually verified fact).

    Still, the presentation is correct in that the differences are insuperable. The only unification or reconciliation possible anymore will never be achieved in the corporate sense, but only in the repentance of the individual, who turns from the innovations of the Latins to the ancient Faith of the Apostles and Fathers, converting and becoming a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is something I wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend for all!

    1. Kevin,

      You mention, “Uncountable innovations that are directly antagonistic to the heritage of the Church.” Could you name but three, for I am but a layman and have not personally encountered a single one of your “historically and intellectually verified facts.” In fact, the Scriptures are an open and shut case for the truth of Roman Catholicism and if that is not enough we have the Infallible teaching authority of the Successor of St. Peter, Pope Eugene IV :

      “Firmiter credit, profitetur et praedicat, nullos extra ecclesiam Catholicam exsistentes, non solum paganos, sed nec Iudaeos aut haereticos atque schismaticos, aeternae vitae fieri posse participes; sed in ignem aeternum ituros, qui paratus est diabolo et angelis eius, nisi ante finem vitae eidem fuerint aggregati: tantumque valere ecclesiastici corporis unitatem, ut solum in ea manentibus ad salutem ecclesiastica sacramenta proficiant, et ieiunia, eleemosynae ac cetera pietatis officia et exercitia militiae christianae praemia aeterna parturient. Neminemque, quantascunque eleemosynas fecerit, etsi pro Christi nomine sanguinem effuderit, posse salvari, nisi in catholicae Ecclesiae gremio et unitate permanserit.”

  7. Here are merely three:
    1.) The Filioque: universally acknowledged to have been added to the Creed, and at first even rejected several popes, though now supported by them.
    2.) The “infallibility” of popes.
    3.) The Immaculate Conception.

    Your statement “the Scriptures are an open and shut case for the truth of Roman Catholicism” is simply not true. The idea is preposterous, in fact. And the continuation of the sentence in which it appears merely begs the question of papal infallibility.

    Anyhow, this is not the place where I give you a venue for your Latin ideas. Enjoy your own readers on your own site.

          1. In Christianity, Albion, there is no such thing. Such a role is claimed by Catholicism for the bishop of Rome, but that is irrelevant, for Catholicism’s heresies have set it apart from the Church. Its universal claims are simply that: claims.

  8. In Christianity, Kevin, there is no salvation outside the Holy Roman Catholic Church nor without personal submission to our Holy Father, the Pope. Your separatist claims are simply that : claims.

    Methinks when you boil all the fat away from your schism, all that’s left is the ancient serpents rebellious “Non Serviam!”

    1. Wrong, Albion. All those things you mention are elements invented by the Latins in their own backward recalcitrance toward schism. All of their development is historically documented. Your perspective may be properly “Roman Catholic” but it is the result of a series historical decisions which led the Latins into schism from the Church. Which is it? Is one to believe that the claims made by Latins now, seen in the clear light of history not to have existed and to actually have been spoken against, were present in the Church from the beginning? Or is one to believe the historical record and example of the majority of the Church which remained in orthodoxy and communion with one bishop of one of the Pentarchy’s cities falling into permanent heresy and schism, in a predictable and venal grab for power? The Church, the Body of Christ, remains where it was from the beginning. Rome left her!

  9. “As ye are children of Christ, so be ye children of Rome!” – Saint Patrick

    “The Roman Church cannot hold error even if an angel should come to teach it.” – Saint Jerome

    “It is given to the Roman Pontiff to tell the spurious and adulterated from the pure and orthodox belief, and to teach with alteration the faith of our forefathers. There is no one but the Pontiff to whom we can turn for help.” – St Basil the Great

    “I believe that the pillar of the Church is always solid at Rome.” – Saint Columbanus

    “The decrees of the Roman Pontiffs, standing upon the supremacy of the Apostolic See, are unquestionable.” – St. Isidore of Seville

    “As members of the Mystical Body of the Church, it behooves us to follow our head, the Roman Pontiff, who holds in trust the deposit of the Apostolic faith. From him we are to learn what we are bound to believe, to think, and to hold. By divine right, everyone bows down the head before him.” – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

  10. (Correction) “It is given to the Roman Pontiff to tell the spurious and adulterated from the pure and orthodox belief, and to teach ***without*** alteration the faith of our forefathers. There is no one but the Pontiff to whom we can turn for help.” – St Basil the Great

    1. Really, what of Pope Honorius? What of the several about-face changes on the Filioque? What about the fraudulent Constantinian Donations? What about the fraudulent quotations above? Nowhere does St Basil the Great say such a thing in his authentic writings, and it places all the rest of your quotations (conveniently unsourced) in doubt!

      But why should anyone expect reality from those who believe such foolish things?

      Take it elsewhere, Albion!

  11. These quotations come from the Apostolic Digest Complete and Unabridged by Michael Malone. They all have citations in his book.

    1. And yet they will not surprisingly reveal themselves as impossible to track down when going to the supposed sources. Such is the nature of the Latin schism and the mendacious nature of its supporters through the ages who do not scruple to invent sayings, alter manuscripts, and to twist all evidence to their own self-glorifying purpose. It’s utterly ludicrous and disgusting. Not only do they feel it necessary to pollute themselves with such sinful lies, but they even assert that their placing such filth in the mouths of the Fathers is a good deed. That’s just sick.

      Look up Pope Honorius and the controversy surrounding him. May it chip away at your Papism, to the salvation of your soul.

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