Author: Vladimir Karpets
Translator: Yulian Orlov
Source: pravaya.ru (8/11/2006)
Introduction by Pravaya.ru: Pravaya.ru will begin publishing selected lectures by V. I Karpets on the history of political theories that were read by mister Karpets in one of Moscow’s universities. The lectures will be published on the basis of transcriptions and will thus reflect the peculiarities of conversational speech.
The subject of this course on the history of political and legal theories is the study of the doctrinal foundations of state and law in their historical development. Here we ask ourselves the following question: does this historical development exist at all, or are we faced with a kind of conditionality which, strictly speaking, is not all that important? In relation to this, some authors, particularly Aleksandr Dugin in his “Philosophy of Politics”, identify three fundamental historical paradigms. However, what is a paradigm? This is a word that we will encounter often and which actually forms the foundation of our course. This term was first used by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato and was employed to designate the invisible yet true reality that lies behind phenomena. The original Greek word is παραδειγμα. ‘Para’ is that which is located behind, beyond. For example, if someone wants to say that some kind of knowledge is beyond science, they call it ‘parascience’. As a rule, this last word is used by us in a negative sense (for example, to designate some kind of parapsychology or something else of that kind), while the word paradigm is used neither in a negative nor positive context, but rather in a totally neutral one; that is to say, a paradigm is that which lies behind phenomena. I repeat that this term was first introduced by Plato, and I will ask you to fix your attention on this, as we will return to Plato many times. Thus, we first meet Plato here, and it is probably telling that it is precisely he who is the first figure we encounter.
Thus, it is as if there exist three fundamental paradigms. The first is the traditionalist paradigm. It operates based on the idea that history is absolute degradation. In other words, history and, correspondingly, time have a negative character. Once, at a certain (and this is already a weighty question in and of itself) fixed or unfixed historical moment, absolute unity, absolute harmony existed; some traditions called it the golden age, others the heaven on earth or paradise; what is more, the most radical traditions place this state entirely beyond time. Further, an event occurs, as a result of which the intrusion of a negative moment, a defacement, corruption, degeneration is completed (this is called primordial sin in the Christian tradition), as a result of which the flow of historical time begins. Properly speaking, this is the beginning of history. In this paradigm, history begins with sin and corruption; consequently, the path of history is a descending one, a path of degradation. All of history is degradation. On the one hand, such a pattern first appears in the Indian tradition, which speaks of manvantaras, that is to say cycles of the expansion and contraction of the universe; within each manvantara there exist yugas, that is to say eras, and in this case we find ourselves at the end of the last yuga, after which everything must collapse and a new manvantara will begin; only spermatic logoi will be left and nothing else. All of this will repeat in the next manvantara.
In the Greek tradition, such a conception of history was first articulated by Hesiod, who identified a Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, and a final Iron Age. If we take the viewpoint of the Greek tradition, we also find ourselves at the end of the last age, the Age of Iron. Although history recurs endlessly, there is only degradation and degeneration until the final turn. Strictly speaking, there is no hope. Correspondingly, the development of state and law is a continuous degeneration from those higher forms, forms which best safeguarded their ties to that state which is beyond time and is, properly speaking, called the tradition, or, as one of the most famous representatives of the traditionalist approach, the French thinker René Guénon called it, the integral tradition. This is the traditionalist approach towards time. The second approach is radically opposed to it. This approach can be provisionally called the progressive view. The progressive approach is actually the one we encounter the most in the modern world. However, we must remember that it is only around 300 or 400 years old. That is to say, it is a very great innovation. It properly appears in the era of the so-called Enlightenment; first of all, this is the French Enlightenment of the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century; it had its strongest manifestation in the era of the so-called French Revolution, which is often called ‘the Great’ in the modern world, but which in a Traditionalist point of view appears as something entirely contrary. We are speaking here, of course, of the bourgeois revolution of 1789-1793. It was followed by another bourgeois revolution: the American Revolution.
The progressive approach was concretely formed in the era of the French and American bourgeois revolutions. Although the preconditions for it did exist earlier (including in ancient times), and we find the roots of this approach in ancient Israel, Greece, and Rome. Nonetheless, this approach was solidified in a finished and coherent form only in the 18th century. It was purely optimistic. History was seen as a movement from something highly negative towards some kind of bright perspectives that will happen somewhere in the future. A development of the progressive paradigm of history was the so-called formational approach, which became most widely spread in the 20th century. It is known, for example, that it was Marxist theory that first advanced the concept of formations (although we will further say that Marx is also not such a simple figure, although his apologists and critics would like to believe the contrary to be true). But this we will save for later: we will say that we are speaking of the kind of Marxism which we learnt about in all our school textbooks and for the time being limit ourselves to this variant. According to it, history is seen as a gradual improvement, as a progressive change of societal and economic formations from less to more perfect forms. Correspondingly, the primordial form of society transitions to a slave-owning form, the slave-owning form to a feudal form, the feudal form to a capitalist form, and the capitalist form to, well, the highest stage of socialism which is communism or vice versa, that is to say that socialism is the first stage of communism, but these are specific details. What is more, the history of all humanity in general independently of concrete civilisations is seen in this vein.
Modern liberal philosophy emerges from the very same principle. This is why in our days all Marxists have changed into liberals with such ease . This is important to understand. We often hear today that communism forms one bloc and liberalism another. What is more, it is often said that Russia and, let’s say, China are communism, and that liberalism is everything that lies to the West of Russia, including the Ukraine. Actually, there is no opposition between communism and liberalism. There are only some disagreements between the communist and liberal parties in a certain period of Russia’s development; to be precise, in the 90’s. Now, by the way, there are less and less of these disagreements, and the communists and liberals practically form a unified oppositional bloc in modern Russia that actually opposes the historical Russia. However, these are questions of modern politics. We will not speak of them here. Paradigmatically speaking, the communist and liberal approaches are not different from each other at all. There is a very simple reason for this: because both of them assume a change of societal-economic formations; furthermore, these formations develop into better forms. The only difference is that Marxists call this better form communism and liberal post-history, as was done by, for example, Francis Fukuyama, an American of Japanese extraction whose book is called just that: “The End of History”. Or the famous Karl Popper or, for example, a very influential ideologue of modern globalism like World Bank president and simultaneously undoubted intellectual and erudite man Jacques Attali, who speaks of a “society of new nomads”.
In this case, that which communists call the ideal society in the face of communism is what those people [liberals – transl.] call the end of history, the post-industrial society, the open society, the global society, the society of nomads (the most original definition) and so on. Actually, the essence of these concepts is one and the same: development from the lower to the higher. Correspondingly, in the progressive paradigm the state is the absolute apparatus of violence (of which there should be less and less) and which should eventually make way for something new. In the communist perspective, this is societal self-rule, as is described by Lenin in his book “The State and Revolution”. In the liberal perspective, this is the open society, which in actual fact is not truly ruled by the state, but by transnational corporations (TNCs). In any case, there becomes less and less state as such in the liberal paradigm; however, (if we speak of the liberal paradigm), there are more and more rights. In the communist paradigm, the law dies off together with the state. However, these are actually but details.
Incidentally, when Stalin said in the ’30s that the path towards communism lied not through the dying off of the state but through its strengthening, he actually very decisively broke with both the liberal and communist paradigms and practically set out on a traditionalist path. We will speak of this repeatedly.
Finally, we come to the third paradigm of the development of history. It is a very interesting one. It has not always been examined and has often been ignored. Actually, it is implied in history ‘by itself’ as it were. In his “Philosophy of Politics”, Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin named this paradigm ‘permanentism’. This is a term he himself created, but it fairly accurately represents the essence of the matter. What does it mean? It means that nothing changes. As everything once was, so is it and shall it be. There exists a kind of reality that lies beyond (properly speaking there where paradigms are born), and there exists our manifested world in which essentially nothing changes. To what kind of philosophical teaching is this most of all related. To a teaching which we shall speak the most of in relation to the Middle Ages, although it was born in very deep antiquity. It is called hermeticism. This teaching is linked to the semi-legendary Hermes Trismegistus or Hermias the Thrice Greatest, a figure that is sometimes identified with the Egyptian Thoth, and is sometimes even seen as some kind of pre-Christian proto-image of the Christian Trinity. By the way, in ancient churches (including the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow), the image of Hermes Trismegistus was placed in the number of the so-called external wise men, alongside that of Plato. In other words, Christianity (full-fledged, medieval Christianity) rejected neither the teachings of Plato nor those of Hermes Trismegistus.
Hermeticism was generally known in history mainly for its relationship with medieval alchemy; however, this is but one of its manifestations, and, generally speaking, hermeticism is a fairly universal philosophical apparatus that can also be applied to the historical process. For example, it is written in the semi-legendary Emerald Tablet (which is attributed to Hermes Trismegistus) that: “As above, so below. This is the Miracle of the One”. In other words, essentially nothing changes, all is one. What was in the beginning will be in the end. By the way, it is precisely to this paradigm that the so-called civilisational approach that we often speak is related. It is precisely the civilisational approach that we juxtapose with the formational approach, both in its liberal and Marxist forms.
The civilisational approach was developed in special detail in the 19th and 20th centuries by Oswald Spengler, N. Ya. Danilevsky , Toynbee, our Eurasianists etc. In a certain sense, elements of the civilizational approach can even be found with Marx, as strange as this may seem. To be more precise, he thought that his formational approach could basically not be applied to Russia at all. We are wont to forget this, but Marx thought that his theory had no bearing on Russia at all, for Russia was a totally different civilisation. Marx’s hanger-on Friedrich Engels said that not one revolution in Europe and in the entire world could not be victorious while the Russian state still existed. That is to say, the founders of Marxism saw Russia as the main obstacle to their own theory and praxis. The Soviet Union (which was not Marxist at all) was a traditional Russian state (of the Muscovite or even the Horde type) that was lightly covered in a Marxist costume. Not to mention the fact that the main work of such a highly influential American political scientist as Samuel Huntington (who, needless to say, serves the interests of his own country, just as Popper did) is called “Clash of Civilizations”. Therefore, we can find the civilisational approach to history not just in the East, but in the West as well. It is self-evident that emphases are generally rearranged. But this is not very important for us. What is the conclusion that we come to if we operate under the auspices of a permanentist or civilisational plan? We conclude that nothing changes. If, therefore, shall we say that, in the case of the West and Western civilisation, something like the Habeas Corpus Act  and the droit de seigneur  have the same meaning-giving fact as the modern Western society with its financial nomads. In other words, these are singular individuals. This is what the individual is (‘unable to be divided further’, ‘in-dividual’), that is to say, we are dealing with a kind of atoms, an atomic society.
By the way, the theory of the atomic society in its most rudimentary form appears very far back with Democritus. In this sense, even the ancient Greek polis with its democracy and, let’s say, medieval Europe with its Habeas Corpus and the modern Western society of nomads headed by TNCs are manifestations of one order. Nothing changes. Everything is the same: as above, so below, precisely as Hermes Trismegistus said. We can also say the same in relation to, for example, Russia. Properly speaking, although they might have been ideologically different, the Muscovite ‘draught’ government  and the Soviet Union were nonetheless barely any different on a structural level. As far as Russia in its present broken, crushed, and scattered condition is concerned, then we see a very clear resemblance to the era of princely strife as well as to an even earlier era. It is interesting to note, that everything even repeats on a terminological level. For example, the word “наезд” [“raid”, “incursion” – transl.] can be found in old Russian sources with the very same meaning it has today. China is another example. The emperor was an ‘unmoved mover’ in the ancient Chinese state, and the leaders of modern China are in an equal state of non-doing. In the memoirs of Mao Zedong’s personal doctor (now living in Canada), we find that he lived in a palace and changed his concubines after every lunar phase. Or take Deng Xiaoping, a man who did not fulfil any duties in his state yet was nonetheless the unmoved mover of the reforms that lifted China to the second place in the world economy and that will soon bring it to the first place. In this case, the Chinese leadership is no different from the Medieval or even ancient Chinese emperors. That is to say, civilisation remains the same: as above, so below.
Essentially, time does not exist for the permanentist approach. However, we also cannot absolutise permanentism and, consequently, hermeticism. Here is why. If in the traditionalist and progressive approaches history changes into something else in some way or another, the permanentist approach, for all its attractiveness, [implies] a transformation into malevolent infinity. This is something like the struldbruggs, the so-called immortals who want to die but can’t from the second part of Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”. Sadly, the permanentist approach (which as a scientific apparatus teaches us more than any other, especially when compared to the progressive approach) suffers from this fateful flaw. It houses a struldbrugg.
We will now continue. Why am I sketching out some of these historical paradigms for you at all? Well, in a certain sense, this course will differ quite strongly from what is written in your textbooks on the history of political and legal theories. We will basically attempt to refuse a chronological approach, and we will transition more and more to paradigmatic approaches. Therefore, if we, for example, discuss the Middle Ages, we will each time speak of the relationship between that period and, say, the 20th century. What is more, our course will have a far more paradigmatic than a chronological character, although elements of the chronological approach will undoubtedly remain.
Thus, what is history? To a great extent, history has a conditional character. This is the root of the appearance of all kinds of new chronologies, each of which in a certain sense describes a certain reality; however, these chronologies nonetheless hold more answers than questions. To be more precise, the answers that the creators of these new chronologies propose are, truthfully speaking, nonsense. It is as if they say that the official chronology that is now in existence should be replaced by a new one that they apparently developed by counting stars or something and which, if it is applied, would clarify everything. This is nonsense. However, the questions they raise are very interesting. In particular, they objectively raised the question of historical cycles, cycles which so happen to entirely correspond with the permanentist approach. Why is it, for example, that the civilisation of Ancient Egypt (which they discuss a lot) typologically almost coincides with different eras in the history of the Ryurikovich dynasty? They think that this is because both civilisations are one and the same. Although the first part is true, they are not one and the same. These are totally different eras and totally different cultures; however, the very same paradigms manifest themselves within them. In other words, history is ontophany, that is to say, the manifestation, the revelation of being, which, naturally, reveals itself in a singular fashion. To come up with a new chronology for this is totally unnecessary, but it is necessary to understand, that as above, so below. This is the Miracle of the One. Thus, history (any history) does not demand answers from us, but questions. The ability to correctly pose a question means that you will receive an answer.
Generally speaking, from the perspective of the Christian worldview, the entry of Christ the Saviour, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, already marked the end of history. Why? Because the main event for which humanity existed, i.e. the Incarnation (later followed by the Resurrection of the Saviour) has taken place. Therefore, history as such, that is to say, as something detached and developing according to its own laws, could (from the Christian point of view) only exist in the unredeemed world, both equally in the pagan, manifestations sphere (this is the East and Hellenism) as well as the Judaic, Old Testament world. We really cannot examine concrete questions of a historical-religious (and actually theological) nature, but at certain points we will have to stop and examine them within the boundaries of our questions. Still, what type of worldview does Christianity belong to when considered within the framework of the duality that we discussed earlier? In other words, what actually is Christianity: a manifestationalist or a creationist worldview? Does it belong to the Eastern or Indo-European tradition, or does it nevertheless belong to the Judaic or (to use a now fashionable word) ‘Judeo-Christian’ tradition?
On the one hand, Christianity recognises the Old Testeament with all consequences that entails, including the idea of the creation of the world from nothing. On the other hand, the question of the relationship between God and man is radically inconsistent with Old Testament Judaic [theses]. As Saint Athanasius the Great said, “[The Son of] God became man so that man might become God” . This is impossible for something that has been created from nothing. The two fundamental ideas that lie at the foundation of Christianity absolutely do not correspond to the idea of a faceless, single God who is infinitely removed from man and creates an alien, lifeless world; these two ideas are the Incarnation and the Resurrection of the Saviour, the latter of which is even more unthinkable in the creationist consciousness. Finally, the third element that directly point to Christianity as a third way is the very idea of the Trinity, which has absolutely no resemblance neither to the ancient-Indian worldview with its metaphysics of principles, nor to Old Testament creationism.
So, what are we looking at here? In other words, within Christianity we see not just a manifestationalist picture, but a kind of supermanifestationalism, as not one of the Hellene or Aryan traditions go so far in their view of man as an element of the divine as to say that God Himself becomes man. What is more, he does not just become man, but also walks an earthly path, dies, and is resurrected. If we remember the manifestationalist (the Indian and Zoroastrian) worldview, we will necessarily remember that kings are generally speaking direct, including in a physical sense, descendants of the gods. Every man as such is god, and every man is god to a greater or lesser degree. Therefore, the divine is everywhere. As the modern Mari pagans say (who, in contrast to our ‘neopagans’ from the Literature Institute have kept their authentic tradition) “the forest is holy, the brook is holy, the raven is holy, the tree is holy” .
In the creationist worldview, everything is entirely reversed. Man is separated from the divine beginning by an utterly impenetrable wall. They [he and God – transl.] are entirely different things and there can be no contact at all between them. Within Christianity, we see an absolutely manifestationalist worldview, or even more: a supermanifestationalist worldview.
How can this be squared with the acceptance of the Old Testament? Here, a paradox rears its head. Within the Church and also within the world to the degree that it becomes part of the Church and becomes Christianised, the laws of manifestationalism and of the non-alien world reign, including, naturally, a most important political idea: the idea of the sacred kingdom. Simultaneously, in and over the non-Christian world (i.e. the world that is in sin, as the world was before the coming of Christ), Old Testament law holds sway, that is to say, creationist law. Thus, by simultaneously accepting creationism for the non-Christian world (the world without Christ) and manifestationalism (including the idea of the sacred kingdom) within the Church and the world (to the degree that the world is the Church), Christianity presents us with a third path, which is neither Hellenic manifestationalism nor Judaic creationism. I can recommend Dugin’s book “Metaphysics of the Gospel” on this subject. This is actually the source of the famous Christian postulate that “there is neither Jew nor Greek” . “There is neither Jew nor Greek” does not relate to the ethnic affiliation of man (as modern liberal theology very frequently states, including many who call themselves Orthodox). It is related to man’s metaphysical status. “There is neither Jew nor Greek” means neither manifestationalism nor creationism, neither the dissolving of man in the world nor his extreme alienation from it. This is what this famous formula of the Apostle Paul actually means. It indicates a third way that is pointed out to us by the very Trinity of God, a structure that has been accepted in Christianity and is inconceivable both in the metaphysics of the manifestation of the absolute (i.e. in the ancient Aryan world) as well as the alienated creation of the world from some alienated ‘four-letter’ thing, as is the case in the ancient Judaic world. Above all else, this formula contains a metaphysical hint of the third way, the third essence of Christianity as such.
If Christianity indicates supermanifestationalist principles within itself, it correspondingly cannot fail to accept the idea of the sacred kingdom, which is fundamental for political theories of a manifestationalist character. But what kind of sacred kingdom is this? It is located both within and outside of the world. “My kingdom is not of this world” , – the Saviour says in the Gospels. This means that it is not related to the fallen world in which the laws of the Old Testament are in force. It is located within man himself, but, in a certain situation that we will speak of later, it can also be manifested within the world: in the form of the Orthodox Kingdom or Empire. The very nature of the Christian Church is distinguished and removed from the Old Testament church, thereby emphasising that Christianity should not be identified with the Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Islam.
In the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews, it is said that the Christian priesthood is a priest in the order of Melchizedek. What does this mean? If we remember the Book of Genesis, before he meets the God of time (the ‘Four-Lettered’ One), Abraham makes a sacrifice to the king and priest of the Lord Most High who has a different name than the Four-Lettered One (El Elion) and also occupies a higher station than him. We are speaking here of Melchizedek, a priest-King. The very name Melkhi-tsedek means ‘Sacred King’ . We have spoken about how Melchizedek is identical to the king of the world or Manu of the Indian and Aryan traditions. Thus, Melchizedek is not the lord of time, but the lord of eternity: he is king and priest in eternity. It is in the order of Melchizedek that Christ creates the Christian priesthood, which what is more brings a bloodless sacrifice in exactly the same way that Melchizedek did: as bread and wine. Thus, Christianity distinguishes itself of the Abrahamic tradition while essentially drawing closely to the ancient Aryan tradition, though it also surpasses this tradition.
Simultaneously, as Christ Himself incarnated within the Jewish people, Christianity forms as it were a link between the higher and the lower, between the most ancient, primordial, Hyperborean tradition and the second tradition, the Abrahamic, Atlantic, Western tradition. In other words, it is through Christ that a link between the metaphysical East and metaphysical West manifests itself. This is the source of the metaphysical relationship between law and anomie in the New Testament. I ask you to pay special attention to this. Anomie is the absence of the law. To translate it as ‘lawlessness’ is incorrect, because the word ‘lawlessness’ has a negative meaning, while anomie is entirely positive. Perhaps it could be translated as ‘supra-nomie’. Anomie is the absence of the law. In the epistle of the apostle Paul, it is said that “for the law having a shadow of good things to come” ; that is to say, the law has ended. This is a very important moment: with the resurrection of Christ, the law as such ended, it ceased to exist, it lost its meaning. On the other hand, the beneficial qualities of man (which are located outside of the law) are moved to the forefront: these are qualities such as peace, love, continence, and meekness, of which it is said that “against such there is no law”. That is to say, the absence of the law in the highest meaning of the word is accepted as the norm. Simultaneously, a highly paradoxical, shall we say, dialectic makes itself known. The thing is that the first Christians expected a very fast return of Christ (His Second Coming). However, because of reasons that are unknown to us, this did not occur in the first century of Christianity. Thus, Christianity was faced with the need to exist within this truly fallen world, a world that was seen either as subordinate to the Old Testament (the Judaic world) or as Hellene (pagan and polytheistic).
In this situation, the question of the nature of power in this world arises. That is to say, this is primarily the question of the nature of power in the Roman Empire, as Christianity appears within its boundaries. Christianity’s appearance within the Empire was covertly seen as a prefiguration of the future symphony of powers, of the future Christian empire. In other words, from the very beginning the Christian Church aspires to the Christianisation of [the] Empire. While not acknowledging the law in a Judaic sense, the first Christians simultaneously had an entirely different relationship to the laws of the Roman Empire. Properly speaking, the foundation of Christian political theory can be found in the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians, where the concept of the “what withholdeth”  (Greek “katechon”). What does this concept mean? The Apostle Paul speaks about how at the end of the world (the end of the world, the day and hour of which we cannot know and a description of which is given in the Apocalypse of saint John) will not come while the “what withholdeth” or katechon exists. As long as he is not removed from the centre, the end of the world will not come. However, when he is removed, the lawless one will appear : that is to say, the one that the Church identifies with the antichrist. He is not above the law as Christ is, but explicitly “lawless”. This lawless one will appear in the world and manifest out of the mystery of lawlessness, which is already at work.
In this case, “lawlessness” is not interpreted as anomia in the Christian sense, but as lawlessness in a negative sense, as a corruption of human nature. We should not so much relate the word ‘corruption’ to this in its most commonly used sense, but, above all else, to the rule of this alienated principle, the alienation of man from God. We will return to this and discuss how the term lawlessness was interpreted in different eras. Lawlessness and anomie in a positive Christian sense are totally different things. Thus, the man of lawlessness will not appear while the what withholdeth exists. Properly speaking, the first Christians saw the Roman emperor as the what withholdeth (this has been recorded by Saint John Chrysostom). Why is this so? Because the lawless one must appear in the world as a man who copies and imitates Christ in every way and might even try to pass himself off as His descendant. Simultaneously, he must appear in the guise of a world king. The Apostle Paul says: “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God”. On the one hand, he is king of the world; on the other, he is the world hierarch of some kind of unified religion. The holy fathers presumed that he will appear in the earthly Jerusalem and come from one of the tribes of Israel, or, to be more precise, from the tribe of Dan. Therefore, as long as Roman power exists, or, as John Chrysostom put it, the “power of the strong Romans” exists, the man of lawlessness will not appear in the world. This is the source of the first Christians’ recognition of the Roman emperors, however cruel and harsh they may have been towards the Christians themselves.
This is an interesting problem. On the one hand, the Roman emperors subjected the Christians to all kinds of suffering; there have never been as much martyrs as during the Roman Empire. On the other hand, those very same emperors were seen by the Christians as the what withholdeth and were the subject of their prayers. Why is this so? Because the Roman emperor, whoever he may have been and whatever he may have done, is not the lawless one that must appear at the end times, he who will mark man with his own seal, thereby robbing man of his inner freedom. External freedom is of no importance at all to the Christian. However, the seal of the Antichrist that is mentioned in the Apocalypse primarily robs man of his internal freedom. That is to say (and using a modern expression), it zombifies man, and though the emperors may have put them to death, they did not rob Christians of their internal freedom. In other words, there is a difference here between external and internal freedom.
Thus, external freedom has no value at all to the Christian. This is very important. The first Christians acknowledged the Roman emperors and prayed for them because external freedoms and personal rights had no value at all to them, while the lawless one will rob man not of his external freedom; it is possible that external freedom will most likely flourish under him, and he might finally create a society of human rights. On the other hand, man will be robbed of his internal freedom during his rule. Sects are a component part of the modern world (‘New Age’). The consumer society is also a component part. The very principle of capital (capital on top of capital with the expropriation of capital) would also be a typical manifestation of lawlessness from the point of view of the first Christians, just like, for example, the banking system. The Church canon forbids the principle of the accumulation of capital from nothing, ex nihilo, which would also mean the alienation of capital from labour. In principle, the Church should live by the work of its hands. According to the Kormchaya Kniga , the priest should feed himself from the donations of his parishioners. Today, this is not the case. The clergy receives a salary, just like civil servants do; this system appeared in the times of Peter I. A lot is happening nowadays. We are today facing postmodernity, post-culture… In a certain sense, we could even say that we are today seeing post-Orthodoxy. We would most likely have to go and learn from the Muslims, at least on the issue of resisting the temptations of the modern world. But this is another question entirely.
So, the relationship of Christianity to the Roman state. The Roman state is that “what withholdeth”. The acceptance of the Roman state was to the Christians simultaneously the acceptance of Roman law and [Roman law], which is entirely natural. It is precisely for this reason that internal Church law was built by the Church Fathers on the basis of Roman law, and Church law was built from the very beginning according to the same principles as Roman law. This is a source of strength, but also of weakness; weakness in the face of the “spirit of this age”. In the early Christian community, there was no property at all. By this I mean the principle of equal (in this case spiritual) punishment for equal sins, the principle of justice: this is the principle of equitas, the principle of the formal equality of subjects within their acts etc. The strength of this system, however, is that within the Church itself, people were not treated differently according to their social or any other differences. If the emperor converted to Christianity and violated some kind of canons, he would be forced to undertake the same sort of penance as any other person. In a later era, our Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich (the Terrible) was banned from Communion until his very death for breaking canonical marital law; however, this did not prevent his being the recipient of royal honour as an “living image of the very King of Heaven” (saint Maximus the Greek) . In this sense, the principle of equitas was taken by the Christians from Roman law precisely because they lived in the Roman Empire and, correspondingly, adopted a great deal from imperial law.
Together with Christianity and at times in close interaction with it, there existed another worldview which is commonly called Gnosticism. What is this movement? Gnosticism could be called negative creationism. Very frequently, the Gnostics themselves were members of the first Christian communities. Properly speaking, the entire history of early Christianity is the history of the separation of Orthodoxy (and this Greek word is translated precisely as православие [lit. ‘correct-belief’ – transl.]); that is to say, the separation of the correct-belief from Gnostic heresy. Thus, Gnosticism is negative creationism. What does this mean? This means that on the one hand, the world is seen as created; according to the Gnostics, however, it was created by some kind of negative principle or Demiurge. This Demiurge was identified by the Gnostics with the Four-Letter God of the Old Testament. The most famous Gnostic is Marcion (end of the 1st – beginning of the 2nd century), who proposed the wholesale removal of the Old Testament from Christian teachings. This is a very radical point of view, which was later rejected by the Church. It was rejected, mainly because it is impossible to describe the state of the fallen world without the Old Testament. Marcion, on the other hand, demanded the rejection of the Old Testament on the basis that it describes the creation of the world by the evil Demiurge. In other words, the Four-Letter God of the Old Testament was for the Gnostics strictly speaking nothing else but the adversary of the human race, i.e. Satan himself. To put it bluntly, according to the Gnostics, the world was created by Satan. Another Gnostic movement was called Ophitianism – serpent-worship. That is to say, if the world had been created by the evil Demiurge, then, correspondingly, all negative characters of the Old Testament (beginning with the serpent who appeared to Eve in Paradise and ending with the Cainites, Sodomites etc.) had (according to the Ophites) all been slandered, while it were exactly these images from the Old Testament that ‘represented’ the image of the God Most High (El Elion).
All ‘positive’ characters of the Old Testament, on the other hand, were the carriers of the spirit of this evil Demiurge. This is a very logical and coherent conclusion: if the world has been created by an evil principle, then, consequently, the entire meaning of the Old Testament had to be flipped, minuses had to be turned to plusses. On what basis? On the basis of the evil that rules the world. Something that is alive cannot exist without devouring another living being. The world is ruled by a total lie, and the primary carrier of this lie is the Old Testament. As a rule, Christ was acknowledged by the Ophites, but He was not seen as the Son of God (in that he was not the Son of the Old Testament God). According to the majority of the Gnostics, Christ never incarnated at all, and is nothing but a kind of spirit who can be known within oneself. That is to say, they generally rejected the incarnation of God and his appearance as a man, as man by himself is evil and God could not incarnate in evil. However, there are special pneumatics who can receive a spark from the God Most High, and this spark can save them from the fallen world. They entirely reject the world as such.
This is the most interesting conclusion: the so-called real world, the world within matter, is seen by the Gnostics as an evil as such; consequently, they consider the only task of man to be liberation from this evil. There are two paths to affect this: the first is absolute asceticism, i.e. entire asceticism up to the mortification of the flesh. Incidentally, some sects who claimed direct descent from the Gnostics (for example, the Medieval Albigensians [more commonly known in the West as Cathars – transl.] practiced the ritual mortification of the flesh, the so called endura, i.e. death by starvation. Thus, the first path is radical asceticism. We also knew such a movement in the 17th century: the “Kapitonovschchina” , which took place before the Raskol and which also included ritual self-mortification by hunger. In a sense, even the self-immolations of a few Old Believer confessions are also in a fashion related to these concepts. We could also include the Skoptsy. These examples all have one thing in common: the vivification of the Divine spark within oneself. The more the flesh is mortified, the more this Divine spark is vivified. It turns into a flame. Yes, yes, precisely like this: “One spark will start a flame” . That is to say, the Gnostic turns into a totally different man. He is not resurrected in the Christian sense, he is transfigured without a resurrection, when he is still alive. This is ‘right-handed’ Gnosticism.
On the other hand, there also existed a ‘left-handed’ Gnosticism, something entirely opposite. It had the aim of passing through all stages of evil in order to finally vanquish it within oneself and definitively free the Divine spark. This path presumes self-liberation through the perpetration of all sins and crimes that exist. Examples of this path are also telling: we could point out Gilles de Rais (famously known as Bluebeard) as an example; at the very least, the influence of left-handed Gnosticism is clear here. That is to say, to pass through all kinds of evil, perversion, sadism or masochism, torture, and all else that is needed to finally free oneself. There are no guarantees of any kind here, because this is actually a desperate jump into nothingness. Because man dies anyway, he is doomed in any case to dwell in the lower worlds; therefore, there are no guarantees. The logic here is as such: get involved in a fight, and then see what is going to happen. The impossible is inevitable.
Something else is of interest here. From the point of view of political-legal theories, a very important concept is hidden in Gnosticism. If the world is the creation of the evil Demiurge, correspondingly, all worldly political and legal institutions are evil. This is clear. This primarily has a bearing on man’s political-legal institutions. All of them are evil. Correspondingly, it is the task of the Gnostics to re-create this world. In other words, the re-creation of the world presupposes what would later receive the name ‘permanent revolution’. This is the root of the idea of the permanent revolution, an idea that we find with Marx, Trotsky, and, properly speaking, in all revolutionary ideas of the 19th and 20th centuries. By the way, we also encounter it in occult Nazism. De-creation and re-creation. “We will destroy this world of violence / Down to the foundations, and then / We will build our new world. / He who was nothing will become everything!”  This is an entirely Gnostic idea. We are dealing with on the one hand a left-wing version of revolutionary ideas (communism), and on the other hand a right-wing version of revolutionary ideas (National-Socialism). This must be understood: National-Socialism has the same Gnostic roots as Communism. I ask you to pay special attention to this. Socialist and communist ideas have no relation to economic materialism. For them, economic materialism was simply a means to awaken this spark. All communist ideas primarily carry within themselves this sub-foundation. Properly speaking, the Gnostics were the first socialists and the first communists, and in a most radical form at that.
Of course, a pure Gnostic should not aspire to power. A pure Gnostic will destroy the world for the sake of its destruction. But here we find a lacuna. The human element that remained within them truly did lead to communities of these Gnostics to try and rule the world. Properly speaking, all manner of secret societies that are constantly active in history trace their roots to Gnosticism. [A question from the audience: “the Freemasons?”]. Of course, they too. What is more, there are two movements in Freemasonry. On the one hand, we have ‘irregular’ Freemasonry: this form is a raw descendant of Gnosticism. This is the so-called Egyptian Rite. On the other hand, we have the so-called regular Scottish Freemasonry. It aspires to a maximal conservation of existing institutions. In contrast to the Egyptian Rite, it has Protestant roots. The fact is that, that Freemasonry initially existed in a form that is different from its current one. It initially was a community of builders of Gothic cathedrals. Actually, it was purely pagan and Hermetical-alchemical. It followed Hermetic and alchemical ideas under the cover of Catholicism. This is the first consideration we have to consider. On the other hand, Biblical ideas start to enter Freemasonry in the 17th century, immediately resulting in the birth of two movements: the irregular, Gnostic group (this is the Egyptian Rite) and the so-called Scottish Rite, which aspires to the conservation of existing rituals. Therefore, Freemasonry is generally a fairly diverse system, although it ultimately is unified. That is to say, it contained both this irregular, revolutionary movement and an extremely conservative party. Properly speaking, Biblical ideas enter Freemasonry only in the 16th-17th centuries, and through England at that. Therefore, we must differentiate medieval Freemasonry from the phenomenon that we encounter today: they are two entirely different things. It appears that Medieval Freemasonry has bene entirely lost, although some seem to know of it; Fulcanelli, for instance . But I digress.
Thus, early Christianity was formed in opposition to (and at times in interaction with) Gnosticism. Many Gnostic ideas entered the Christian canon in a softened form. However, the Christian canon itself was formed only when the Roman state itself became Christian. If the power of the Roman emperors was considered by the Christians to be indispensable even before this very same Empire converted to Christianity, and if the Christians marked off the Kingdom which is not of this world and, consequently, existed as a Christian community (outside of the state), then after the Edict of Milan of Emperor Constantine (272-337) and after the even later First Ecumenical Council, everything changes. To put it in a modern and purely political way, Christianity moves from a left-wing to a right-wing discourse. The same thing happened with Marxism, which changed when it transitioned from Lenin to Stalin, although this comparison is lacking in many ways. In this period of around 50 years, the empire still exists as a unified whole, with only the capital changing. Thus, after the Edict of Milan of 313, and later after the conversion of Constantine the Great himself to Christianity, the Empire enters the Church. The Christianisation of the Empire takes place. What are the reasons for this? There is a historical point of view, according to which Constantine realised that Christians already constituted the overwhelming majority of the Empire’s population, and there is no reason for an Empire to fight its own population. On the other hand, there are two other versions that describe the reasoning behind Constantine’s conversion.
The first version holds that Constantine fell severely ill and summoned a Jewish doctor, who told him that he could only be cured through the use of infant blood. Constantine gathered infants from over the entire empire and prepared all of them to be sacrificed. However, seeing the tears of their mothers, he rejected the cure. Having rejected it, he saw a cross and understood that he should convert to Christianity, and that the blood of infants symbolised communion with the holy Mysteries of Christ. After he converted to Christianity and partaken of the Blood and Body of Christ, he was healed. This is one version. It is primarily dominant in the Western Church and described in the Catholic Golden Legend.
The second version, which, by the way, does not contradict the first, is primarily dominant in the Eastern Church. It describes how Constantine saw a cross carrying the message in hoc signo vinces [in this sign you shall conquer] in the heavens during the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, a sign that pushed him towards converting to Christianity. However, it must be said that (at least, according to the Eastern version) Constantin was actually baptised only at the very end of his life, when he was on his deathbed.
Thus, we are here faced with a purely positivist historical point of view and two ecclesial ones, one Eastern, one Western. It is here that the most important political idea of Christianity as a legal, imperial discourse is born: the idea of the city of Rome as the guardian of the Christian faith. Later, the New Rome (Byzantium) and the Third Rome (Muscovite Rus) will spring forth from this idea. That is to say, Rome unites within itself imperial power and the Christian katechon. However, the city does not simply become katechonic. It becomes exclusively katechonic. As a result, as Christianity within the Church accepts a supermanifestationalist image (it also does this in relation to sacred power), so too does it treat empire and imperial power, creating such a high conception of imperial power that it is alien even to the ancient Persians with their sacred power of their kings, which was called khvarenah and referred to a special, visible royal grace. The Orthodox Emperor becomes the animated image of the Heavenly King Himself. From that point onward, the idea of empire and the idea of the Church have been indelibly linked to each other; separating them is impossible. Properly speaking, there is only one Empire, just as there is only one Church. This is the most important provision of the entire post-Constantine history of the Christian world. That is to say, the idea of Christianity presupposes the idea of empire and imperial power. If in the first Christian communities the idea of the worldly Kingdom and Divine Kingdom were separate from each other, in the Christian Empire (be that the First, Second or Third Rome) they are united. The idea of the sacred monarchy is lifted to heights that were never before seen, neither in India, nor in Persia, nor in China.
: Karpets makes a difficult to translate pun here. The verb used, перестроиться, shares the same root as the word perestroika, the reforms that saw many hard-line communists transform into liberals overnight.
: Nikolai Yakovlevich Danilevsky (1822 – 1885) was a Russian sociologist and geopolitician. His most famous book, Russia and Europe, proposed a historiographical scheme that envisions history as a chain of civilisations that are born, live, and die, much like living organisms.
: Habeas Corpus is a legal recourse that allows a prisoner or detainee to demand a court session to see if his or her detention is lawful.
: The droit de seigneur [lord’s right], also known as the ius primae noctis [right of the first night], is a supposed right that allowed feudal lords to have sexual relations with subordinate women, especially on their wedding nights. Historians dispute whether it actually existed.
: The word ‘draught’ is a translation of the Russian tyaglo [тягло], a system of taxation and other duties that saw widespread use in Medieval Rus.
: From his sermon “De incarnatione Verbi” (in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 25 p. 192).
: The Mari are a Finno-Ugric group living in the Volga River region. The Mari faith referred to by the author is based on the veneration of a pantheon of deities while recognising the dominant position of the Great God (Kugu Jumo). It has seen a revival after the fall of the Soviet Union.
: Galatians 3:28. This and all further Bible quotations are drawn from the KJV.
: John 18:36.
: A more correct translation would be ‘king of righteousness’.
: Hebrews 10:1.
: 2 Thessalonians 2:6.
: The translator has chosen to translate the word беззаконный as ‘lawless’ and беззаконие as ‘lawlessness’. The KJV uses the term iniquitous, which does indeed carry the sense ‘lawless’; however, as this sense is somewhat archaic and is mostly used in fixed expressions (e.g. ‘den of iniquity’), lawless and lawlessness have been chosen as more modern replacements.
: The Kormchaya Kniga (Book of the Helmsman) is an Orthodox nomocanon (collection of Church law) that was adopted by all of the Slavic Orthodox Churches.
: Saint Maximus the Greek (1475 – 1556) was a Greek monk, scholar, and public figure who became an active religious reformer in sixteenth century Russia. He eventually fell out of favour with both the tsar and the clergy and spent a large part of his life in exile in various monasteries.
: Starets Kapiton (end of the sixteenth century – somewhere in the middle of the seventeenth century) was a monk who first became known as a critic of what he saw as decadence in Russian society. Later, he became drawn to the Old Believers and emerged as one of the fiercest opponents of the reforms of patriarch Nikon. Karpets mentions him here as Kapiton is often mentioned as the ideological originator of the Old Believers’ proclivity towards self-immolation; however, there is little to no evidence for this claim. In addition, he practiced an extremely strict form of asceticism which in a certain sense resembles that of the Cathars.
: This phrase is drawn from the poem “Струн вещих пламенные звуки” (“The fiery sounds of prophetic strings”) by Decembrist poet Aleksandr Odoevsky (1802-1839). It became one of the leading slogans of the Russian revolutionary movement.
: These lines are from the Russian version of the Internationale (re-translation mine).
: Fulcanelli (date of birth and date of death unknown) was a French alchemist and esoteric author whose precise identity is still hotly debated. He first rose to prominence in the 1920s with the publication of his work Le Mystère des Cathédrales (The Mystery of the Cathedrals, co-authored with his student Eugène Canseliet). Fulcanelli was a prominent figure in French esoteric circles until disappearing after World War II, although Canseliet claimed to have met his master one last time in 1953.