In this excellent video published by the Clarion Project in December 2015, Raheel Raza, president of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, talks truthfully about radical Islam.
(Hat-tip to our Facebook commenter, Darryl Kerney)
Today in our Pages section (see the top of our margin), we post a review by Jillian Becker of How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman.
Here is part of it.
Bart D. Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God is a formidable challenge to Christian belief. It stands to his credit that he pursued his researches to the point where he changed from a believing Christian into an “agnostic”. (I put the word in quotation marks because I think the word as applied to religious belief is a cop-out, an intellectual bromide. If you do not believe there is a god, whether your unbelief is weak or strong, you are an atheist.)
An enormous amount of what he says fits with what is known and makes good sense. But in one vital area he goes wrong. He goes wrong because his perspective is Christian – even though he no longer thought of himself as a Christian when he came to write the book. He was not able to free himself sufficiently from the Christian viewpoint because he could not totally shrug off his Christian indoctrination.
Where is it that he goes wrong? ? He traces the vital beginning of the process of Jesus becoming God to the first, Jewish, followers of Jesus. That is the core of his thesis. And, interesting as his book is, generally well-researched as it is, it fails to make its case; because the author has not understood who the earliest followers of Jesus were and what they believed about him.
There is convincing evidence that the man whose Greek biographers called by the name Jesus (and we must call him that for want of knowing what his birth name was) did exist in the province of Judea between the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, and that he was a rabbi with a burning (fanatical, even insanely fanatical) desire to bring about a new Kingdom of God, like the one he and his nation believed had been the free and glorious kingdom of David and Solomon. He prophesied that the “Son of Man” – or the Messiah, the Annointed One – would come and effect this wonder, and he even came to believe that he was that “Son of Man”, that Messiah, himself.
Now let’s look at more of the probable story from a non-Christian (and unbelieving) standpoint.
Jesus’s gesture of attacking some Roman soldiers, along with a couple of his followers armed with two swords – one of them used to slice off a Roman’s ear – did not bring the result he expected. He had convinced himself such a move on his part would be the signal to God to start the series of earth-transforming miracles that would destroy the Roman Empire and bring back the freedom and glory of the Jewish people. The Romans arrested him, brought him to a cursory trial, and condemned him to death by crucifixion – the punishment prescribed for insurrection by Roman law. The punishment was duly carried out. (As Ehrman says, the body was probably flung on the ground somewhere to be devoured by birds and worms and scavenging beasts.)
His little circle of close followers, shocked, terrified, and grieving, fled from Jerusalem to save their own lives, but returned after a while and were to be found among the numerous sects and factions of perfectly orthodox Jews who lived there and carried out their obligations under the law in and to the Temple. They could not bear to give up their idea that Jesus was the Messiah. And as he had not succeeded in doing what a Messiah had to do, they trusted that he would soon return and complete his task. They even sent out missionaries to preach to dispersed communities of Jews and their hangers-on of “God fearers” that Jesus was the risen Messiah and he would return in glory to save the Jewish nation.
Now we come to the tricky bit. Did they then believe that Jesus had come back to life after his execution? Yes. So to them he was still alive? Yes. Did they believe that he had suspired not just in spirit, but in his body? Seems very likely that they did. And this would not have been strange among the Jews of the time. Every sect and party, every faction and movement, religious and political, except one – the Sadducees, the party of the royal priests – believed in the bodily resurrection of the dead. The general resurrection (the dogma ran) would occur at the end of days. But Jesus’s resurrection, his disciples believed, would be sooner than that – very soon. And they might well have pictured him returning in clouds of glory, descending from the sky and instantly causing the political liberation and resultant spiritual renewal of Israel.
Did they then believe that he was, or became after his death, or perhaps had always been God, or a god, or “the [unique] Son of God” – no. If they had believed any of that they would no longer have been Jews. But doesn’t the idea of his return in clouds of glory and descending from the sky imply divinity? Yes. And Ehrman argues well that there was precedent in the Jewish religious annals for an orthodox belief that (a) there were beings other than God himself in the divine sphere who were thus themselves divine – angels, seraphim, cherubim; and (b) that men had been raised to the sphere of divinity and – it could be argued – shared in the aura of the divine. It is even true that the Hebrew word for God – Elohim – is a plural. And that Psalm 82 speaks of creatures on earth being “gods”. He cites the (apocryphal) books of Enoch and The Wisdom of Solomon for the strongest evidence to support his contention that, while Jehovah was believed by the Jews to be the chief God, there were many lesser gods in Jewish scriptures.
Fine. But now we come back to what the followers of Jesus believed. First of all, who were they? At one point Ehrman calls them “illiterate peasants”. Well there he is probably wrong. For one thing, Jewish boys (most if not absolutely all) were taught to read so that they could read aloud a portion of the law when they turned thirteen. Secondly, there is nothing to say that either Jesus or his followers were uneducated men or even poor men. (The Christian tradition that Jesus was a carpenter and the apparent son of a carpenter has no basis in any discoverable historical fact. The family could have been well-to-do. There were means to support him as a rabbi – a voluntary teacher of the law – in his last year or two.) The disciple Matthew (not to be confused with the name attached to one of the gospels) was certainly literate, being a tax collector.
If Ehrman is right that they were mostly illiterate peasants, then the chance that they would have known anything of the apocryphal books of Enoch are remote, and virtually nil that they could have known of The Wisdom of Solomon – written in Greek – or the works of their contemporary Philo of Alexandria in Egypt.
And even if they were literate, as they almost certainly were, they were not scholars or theologians. There is no way they would have been able to argue for the existence of lesser gods, even if they knew Psalm 82 off by heart. They would have been taught that “God is One” – the central tenet of Judaism. So Ehrman’s sophisticated arguments from esoteric and academic sources for the possibility that they could believe Jesus was or became a god, are inapplicable to them. …
Today we have posted the last essay, number 18, in the series by Jillian Becker titled The Darkness of This World.
Find it in full under Pages in our margin.
Here is part of it:
America the Last Best Hope?
A multitude of enlightened Europeans cultivated reason, and built a culture that was innovative, prosperous, powerful, and humane. Other Europeans wanted to destroy all that, and succeeded. Rebels from and against the prosperous educated classes – philosophers and poets, artists and politicians – taught generations to intoxicate themselves with fantasies of destruction, spoliation, and atrocity that could, and at times did, inspire real events of vast horror, suffering, and death. From each of them Europe seemed to recover for a while. But at the time of this writing, the rebels have triumphed. The dark vision prevails. Europe is rotten. Multitudes of Europeans, seeing nothing in their culture worth preserving and no point in its survival, reluctant even to beget children, are yielding to immigrating hordes of aliens from the Third World who lust for conquest and are governed by laws devised in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula in the Dark Ages.
So must the greatness of Europe be altogether lost? Surely not! Surely in the states of America, united on Enlightenment principles of liberty, reason, tolerance, and participatory government, European civilization will be preserved and enhanced? There where every citizen is free to pursue his own happiness, to hold property securely, to have his say in a government of limited powers, the United States will continue to prosper and advance? America, it is said, is a forward-looking “can do” society – innovative, prosperous, powerful and humane. “The last best hope of earth.” [As President Lincoln said of his country in a message to Congress on 1 December, 1862.]
And for a while yet it may continue to be so. But the seed of the evil flowers of the culture – Marxism, political sadism, and most potently poisonous of all, the political philosophies of the New Left – have found as fertile soil in America as in Europe.
The mainly bourgeois “anti-bourgeois” terrorist groups that rose with the “sixty-eight” protest movement in America, did evil just as intentionally as their European counterparts. And went in for the same posturing and frivolity. The US was at war in Vietnam, and the anti-draft demonstrations on university campuses gave a serious aspect to the American rebellion, but the war and the draft were pretexts rather reasons for it, as two leaders of the young radicals, Peter Collier and David Horowitz, confessed years later in their book – the best I have found on the subject – Destructive Generation: “The war in Vietnam was a gift of chance that allowed radical leaders to convince others of a need for a social apocalypse and of the necessity for their destructive strategies.”
These authors, long since cured of the romantic radicalism of their youth, look back and “wince” at the “homemade hankerings for Armageddon”. The Sixties, they write, was a time of “monumental idealism”, when “dewy-eyed young people in the throes of a moral passion … sought only to remake the world”. They would do this by destroying “the evil empire of ‘Amerika’” and freeing “the captive peoples of the world”. It was a time, they say, “when innocence quickly became cynical “ and “when a gang of ghetto thugs like the Black Panthers might be anointed as political visionaries”.
The Black Panthers and many of the “dewy-eyed” rebels intended to do what they fully recognized as evil in pursuit of their ideals. For instance, a man known as J. J. – a member of the white middle-class group that became the terrorist organization called Weatherman and later Weather Underground – was notable for “his [drug augmented] high energy, his nonstop, almost demonic chatter, his ability to carry listeners with him by the sheer force of his words rather than their depth”. And J. J.’s idea “was not to create a perfect state operating by the clockwork principles of Marxist law but to promote a chaos that would cripple America and ultimately cast it into a receivership that would be administered by the morally superior Third World. Unafraid to pursue his theme to its logical end, J. J. would add that people shouldn’t expect the revolution to achieve a Kingdom of Freedom ; more likely, it would produce a Dark Ages.” J. J. “[laid] out the ‘White Devil’ theory of world history. ‘We’re against everything that’s “good and decent” in honky America. … We will loot and burn and destroy. We are the incubation of your mother’s nightmares!’”
As in West Germany, France and Italy, the terrorist bombers of America demanded their rights under the law that they broke, mocked, and abominated. “Despite their incessant complaints of police brutality, Sixties radicals lived for the most part in a no-fault system, demanding their constitutional rights at the same time as they were abusing and denouncing the Constitution. They knew they had the option, which many of them ultimately used, of diving back into the System [and their comfy bourgeois lives] when they tired of being extrinsic. (For this reason New Leftism, although discredited in politics, continues to thrive in the ‘academic work’ of former radicals who returned for postgraduate degrees to the universities they had earlier tried to destroy.) It was an example of the cynicism that marked the decade – counting on the fact that America was exactly the sort of flexible and forgiving society they were condemning it for failing to be.”
The evil was done not only to shock their bourgeois parents, as their drugs, promiscuous sex, and bombs were meant to do and did, but for a very much higher good, of course. The very much higher good: “social justice”; “ending oppression” in the forms of “ racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, “classism”, “imperialism”, “colonialism”; all of which required the destruction of “the capitalist system”.
Most of them did not, however, describe themselves as Communists. Without reading the works of Marx, or of Marxists, Trotskyites, or New Left political philosophers, they all – in harmony with their European counterparts – looked forward to a political apocalypse; a revolution that they considered themselves to be hastening, that would change everything and replace the earthly Hell of oppression and social injustice with a Heaven of … something yet to be defined.
Collier and Horowitz write of “the decade’s transcendental conviction that there was something apocalyptic lurking behind the veil of the ordinary, and that just a little more pressure was needed to pierce the last remaining membrane – of civility, bourgeois consciousness, corporate liberalism, sexual uptightness, or whatever else prevented us all from breaking through to the other side”. And: “Again it was that hunger to reach the apocalypse just beyond, the essential act that would make them real revolutionaries.” And “the Weatherpeople, like all parvenus, spent considerable time working on a genealogy that would connect them with noble [sic] forbears: Russian narodniki and European anarchists, Cuban fidelistas and Vietnamese guerrillas.”
A work of fiction that impressively conveys the real evil of the 60s rebels is American Pastoral by Philip Roth. A percipient discussion of it and the issues it raised was published in Commentary magazine by Carol Iannone. I summarize the plot and quote her most illuminating comments relevant to my theme:
An only child – cheerful, affectionate, charming as a little girl – of a business man who in his youth had been an athlete and a Marine, and his beauty queen wife, grows up to be “overtaken by the 60s”, sets a bomb in a post office and kills a local doctor. She goes underground and kills three more people in another bombing.
“In his manly way” (Carol Iannone writes) the father “ tries to see where his own responsibility lies for what has happened to his much loved daughter … only to be forced again and again to confront the blazing chaotic irrationality of it all. What he cannot understand … is her hatred of America. ‘How could she “hate” this country when she had no conception of this country? How could a child of his be so blind as to revile the “rotten system” that had given her own family every opportunity to succeed? To revile her “capitalist” parents as though their wealth were the product of anything other than the unstinting industry of three generations …’”
“The 60s, in brief, are not just about the bomber young and their war with ‘Amerika’; in the 60s, ‘the indigenous American berserk’, have entered the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, touching everything and everyone with their ‘mockery of human integrity, every ethical obligation destroyed’.”
It entered the academies, and through them the mind of the nation, until the counter-culture has become The Culture. Collier and Horowitz write: “[N]owhere is the entrenchment of the Sixties mentality more complete or more destructive than in the university. That the Left should now dominate the academy involves a savage irony, of course. It was only after failing in their intent to burn down the university in the Sixties that radicals decided to get on the tenure track in the Seventies. Unimpeded in their long march through these institutions by fair-minded centrists of the sort they themselves now refuse to hire, these Leftists have brought a postmodern Dark Age to higher education – “deconstructing” objective truths to pave the way for chic academic nihilism: creating a curriculum of contempt for American history and culture; and transforming many classrooms into chambers of inquisition and indoctrination.”
The demonic achievements of the rebels were crowned by the election, in 2008, to the presidency of the United States of one of their own: Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a 60s counter-culturist mother and an African father who was both a Communist and a Muslim; and was associated eventually in the son’s mind with “colonial and imperial oppression” of his ancestral land, Kenya, when it was under British rule.
President Obama acceded to the White House with all his ideological baggage intact: the credo of the New Left plus admiration of Islam. And this at a time when Islam was becoming the main enemy of the Western world, practicing terrorism on a large scale, waging open warfare in the Middle East, and launching a migrant invasion of Europe that European governments allowed, encouraged, and all too willingly submitted to. Obama’s policies facilitated the European calamity, and he took steps to help Islamic Iran, which constantly reiterates its intention to destroy America and conquer the non-Muslim world, to become a nuclear power. He has lowered America in the eyes of the world. He and his minions treat the Constitution with contempt.
In the universities the counter-culture has become the orthodoxy. A majority of instructors indoctrinate students rather than educate them, teaching them what to think rather than how to think. Some Leftist representatives in Congress have passed a resolution to curb free speech. And the spirit of free enterprise, which made America rich and mighty, has been all but crushed by tyrannical regulation. Wealth has been taken from those who have earned it and given to those who have not. In short, the New Left has triumphed – though without attaining its heaven on earth.
Can the harm it has done be undone? At present the dark stream of unreason flows strongly. The resistance to it should be the vigorous self-interest inherent in human nature, the desire in most of us to succeed; and the lure of science, technology, all they give us for the betterment of our lives. Only as long as free personal endeavor and innovation continue to characterize America, will there be hope – if not the last, certainly the best – for our splendid civilization to survive in this, our only world.
… its declarations of war.
The West does not want to listen.
This must-be-watched video was published in June, 2014, by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute).
After the jihad attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, will the West start listening? (We doubt it.)
Mumin Salih, an apostate from Islam who lives in Britain, comments accurately, at Islam Watch, on the jihad and Europe’s capitulation:
The West has committed suicide; the lethal pill was swallowed by the post war generation of Europeans. The so called “baby boomers” inherited treasures of wealth, culture, freedom and unsurpassed civilization, earned by their fathers and grandfathers. The rich inheritance didn’t come cheaply but at the cost of millions of lives that were sacrificed by the previous generations. All the baby boomers needed to do was to enjoy those treasures and pass them on to the next generations; a task they could have done effortlessly, but they didn’t. The result is what we see today, a Europe [of] nations ashamed of their culture, identity and history.
And Obama would have America follow Europe’s lead into self-destruction.
“The US and Cuba are no longer enemies or rivals but neighbors. And it is time to let the world know that we wish each other well,” said Stupid Traitorous Secretary of State John Kerry as the U.S. flag was raised in Havana, Aug, 14, 2015.
“We won the war!” Raoul Castro cried triumphantly.
A bitter and infuriating development for refugees from the tyranny of the Castros’ Communist Cuba, and surely for all right-thinking persons everywhere!
For them, Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban refugees, spoke.
The Hill reports:
Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday blasted President Obama’s “dangerous” twin outreaches to Iran and Cuba, which he called symptoms of a broader policy of “weakness and concession”.
“The concessions to Iran and Cuba both endanger our nation,” the Florida Republican and presidential candidate said in remarks at the Foreign Policy Initiative.
“I believe they represent the convergence of nearly every flawed strategic, moral and economic notion that has driven President Obama’s foreign policy, and as such are emblematic of so many of the crises he has worsened around the world.”
The remarks came as American diplomats were preparing to raise their flag above the U.S. Embassy in Havana for the first time in more than five decades.
And Humberto Fontova, writing at Townhall, tells this story:
“I see that the flagpole still stands,” said a choked-up General Douglas MacArthur on March 2, 1945 as he entered devastated but liberated Corregidor. “Have our troops hoist the colors to its peak, and let no enemy ever haul them down. “
A U.S. Army sergeant named Manuel Perez-Garcia was on Luzon during that victorious flag-raising. Perez-Garcia was born in Cuba but immigrated to the U.S. after Pearl Harbor to join the U.S. Army and volunteer for combat. At the time of that flag-raising he’d fought almost constantly for 14 months, through New Guinea and the southern Philippines. His purple hearts, Bronze Star and Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster said something about his role in that victory for freedom. We can only imagine how he felt when he finally saw his beloved stars and stripes fluttering over Corregidor.
Upon the Communist invasion of South Korea in June of 1950, Manuel Perez-Garcia rallied to the U.S. colors again, volunteering for the U.S. army again at age 41. It took a gracious letter from President Harry Truman himself to explain that by U.S. law Manuel was slightly overaged but mostly that, “You, sir, have served well above and beyond your duty to the nation. You’ve written a brilliant page in service to this country.”
Mr Perez-Garcia’s son, Jorge, however, was the right age for battle in Korea and stepped to the fore. He joined the U.S. army, made sergeant and died from a hail of Communist bullets while leading his men in Korea on May 4th 1952.
When Manuel Perez Garcia was 51 years old, the Castro brothers and Che Guevara were busily converting his native country into a Soviet satrapy riddled with prison camps and mass graves. So Manuel volunteered for combat again. Like most of his Cuban Band of Brothers he fought to his very last bullet, inflicting casualties of 20 to 1 against his Soviet armed and led enemies. That bitter and bloody battleground is now known as The Bay of Pigs.
When the smoke cleared and their ammo had been expended to the very last bullet, a hundred of them lay dead and hundreds more wounded, after their very mortars and machine gun barrel had almost melted from their furious rates of fire; after three days of relentless battle, barely 1,400 Cuban freedom-fighters – without air support (from the U.S. Carriers just offshore) and without a single supporting shot by naval artillery (from U.S. cruisers and destroyers poised just offshore) – had squared off against 21,000 Castro troops, his entire air force and squadrons of Soviet tanks. The Cuban freedom-fighters inflicted casualties of 20 to 1 against their Soviet-armed and led enemies. But to hear Castro’s echo chambers in the mainstream media, think-tanks and academia, Fidel was the plucky David and the betrayed invaders the bumbling Goliath!
The battle was over in three days, but the heroism was not.
Now came almost two years in Castro’s dungeons for Mr Perez-Garcia and his captured Band of Brothers, complete with the psychological torture that always accompanies communist incarceration. During these months in Castro’s dungeons, the freedom-fighters lived under a daily firing squad-death sentence.
Escaping that sentence would have been easy, as Castro’s KGB-trained torturers “explained” almost daily: simply sign the little paper confessing they were “mercenaries of the Yankee imperialists” and go on record denouncing the U.S. In other words: publicly spit on the U.S. flag. In other words, the same stunt half of Hollywood pulls for the sake of publicity, these men could have pulled to save their lives.
None buckled. None even wobbled. None of these “men” (actually, some were as young as Audie Murphy had been upon trying to enlist in 1941) signed the document – nor uttered a word against the Stars and Stripes.
And I stress: these men were convinced that going on record trashing the U.S. would save their lives. After all, during these very months Che Guevara’s firing squads were murdering hundreds of bound and gagged Cubans weekly, and for “crimes” much less offensive than those of these men and boys.
The Cuban freedom-fighters stood tall, proud, defiant, and solidly with their commander, even sparring with Castro himself during their televised Stalinist show trials. “We will die with dignity!” snapped freedom-fighter commander Erneido Oliva at the furious Castroites again, and again, and again. To Castroites, such an attitude not only enrages but baffles.
Manuel Perez-Garcia passed away in Miami at the tender age of 102 in 2011. Today his ashes along with those of his son rest in Arlington. Maybe he’s lucky not to witness his beloved flag raised in Castro’s Havana, within walking distance of political prisons and torture chambers, a smirking Che Guevara mocking it from banners and murals in every direction.
For Manuel Perez-Garcia and his Band of Brothers that flag [the Stars and Stripes] symbolized victory and freedom.
In Havana today it symbolizes U.S. surrender to the Stalinist cowards who destroyed and defiled their homeland, and craved to nuke their adopted one.
“When at the Bay of Pigs we were abandoned, we were sad,” says Che Guevara’s captor Felix Rodriguez, who today serves as the President of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association. “And now we feel abandoned again, betrayed by the President.”
We would only disagree with Marco Rubio’s statement of condemnation so far as to contend that Obama and his gang – especially traitorous Kerry – who so incredibly govern the United States, are not “making concessions” to their country’s enemies out of “weakness”, but pressing aid and comfort upon them out of passionate ideological affinity.
Today we have posted essay number 14, Mystic Communism: Georg Lukács, in the series by Jillian Becker titled The Darkness of This World (Part 2). (Find it under Pages in our margin.)
Here is part of it. We hope you won’t neglect the footnotes (not added here). They are laden with information.
Georg Lukács (1885-1971)
Georg Lukács was the quintessential revolutionary romantic of the twentieth century, longing to avenge his inner desolation on the civilization that nurtured him. And as an active participant in two revolutions and two despotic regimes, that is what he did.
With this essay we come to the nub of the whole series. Like all the other self-absorbed intellectuals we have talked about, fictitious and real, Georg Lukács advocated the doing of evil as the necessary means to a higher good. But unlike the others, he found himself actually in possession of the power to harm and destroy other lives, and he used it with passion and pride.
He was born in Budapest in 1885. The son of a banker ennobled by the Emperor of Austro-Hungary, he was nurtured in luxury. In his late teens he started writing professionally, reviewing plays for a small circulation periodical. He promoted the staging of avant-garde drama. He also tried to write plays, but without success. He realized and accepted that he “would never be a producer” and regretted that he “was no writer” – by which he probably meant a writer of plays, novels or poetry.
In fact he wrote prolifically. His first book, Soul and Form, appeared in 1910; a collection of essays mostly in literary criticism. Their dominant themes are art, Romanticism, longing, God, love, death, and bourgeois life. The volume was greeted with critical acclaim. No less a judge of literary merit than Thomas Mann – who was later to be the most insightful and devastating critic of Lukács’s character – praised the work as “beautiful and profound”.
One of the essays is about some German and Swiss writers who, Lukács allows, created admirable works despite being bourgeois. “The bourgeois way of life signifies only a denial of everything that is beautiful, everything the life-instinct longs for”, he states with conviction.
This was not the disdain of the aristocrat for a class beneath him. (The von Lukács family, for all its wealth and title, would in any case have been classed as haut bourgeois rather than true nobility.) Nor was it (yet) a revolutionary’s contempt for the established order. It was the romantic artist’s repudiation of the average and ordinary. Lukács deemed himself an artist because, he wrote, “the essay is an art form”, and essays such as his could be “intellectual poems”.
He concedes that a degree of genius is to be found in the works of those ordinary bourgeois men who were nevertheless writers. “This bourgeois way of life,” he wrote, “has no value whatsoever, in itself. For only the works which it brings forth confer value upon a life lived within such a framework and within such a form.”
What makes a life bourgeois, Lukács explains, is “first and foremost by the exercise of a bourgeois profession”. (One of the writers he examines earns his living as a judge, another as a clergyman, another as a government clerk. Lukács himself had no need to earn a living.) “A bourgeois profession,” he goes on, “as a form of life signifies, in the first place, the primacy of ethics in life”. These ethical men “do their duty”. The characters in the stories of one of them are “incapable of evil”; there is “no real sin” in their world. But that, to Lukács, far from being a fine thing, is a fault. The artistic achievement of these merely ethical men is, he declares, “great after its own fashion”. But he himself valued the aesthetic far above the ethical. The highest art could not be achieved by a person who binds himself to duty, but only by one who is capable of sin, intimate with beauty, and whose life-spirit longs for … the unreachable. For years his life-spirit burned with longing, seeking what it could not find; the search, and its frustration, being the tragic fate of such a soul as his.
“This longing is more than just something waiting for fulfillment, it is a fact of the soul with a value and existence of its own; an original and deep-rooted attitude towards the whole of life, a final, irreducible category of possibilities of experience,” he wrote. Such a soul “will always long for something he can never reach”.
In 1911, Lukács wrote a story titled On Poverty of Spirit. It is told in the form of a letter from a woman to the father of a young man who has killed himself. She recounts a conversation they had two days before his death, about the suicide of her sister, who had been the young man’s lover. He talks at length about his ideas and feelings, for the most part philosophically, but he does state plainly that he is guilty of her death “in the eyes of God”, in that he failed to “help” or “save” her. One can discern through the thicket of beautiful profundities, that he had refused to marry her because he wanted to dedicate himself wholly to his work as a writer. Furthermore, “she had to die so that my work could be completed – so that nothing remains in the world for me except my work.” But after all the argument about it and about, Lukacs wants us to understand that the young man did the right thing when he shot himself, because of his guilt and for other sound, if rather obscure and certainly long-winded, philosophical reasons.
On Poverty of Spirit was written after – and about – the suicide of his own lover, Irma Seidler, whom he had not married, being dedicated to his work as a writer. She had married someone else, had not been happy, and had drowned herself. The story he wrote was a confession of his guilt. But he himself did not do the right thing. It was enough that his alter ego did it in the story: the brilliant young man tragically performing an extreme act of penance in fiction rendered it unnecessary for Lukács himself to perform it. Besides, what he, the author, did was something better, higher: he gave the episode a “form” as a work of art. When Lukács spoke of “form” he meant art – always expecting the word to resonate in the minds of his cultured readers with Plato’s theory of “Forms” or “Ideals”. To him, a work of art was a revelation, or representative, or reminder of the “noumenal” reality that – so Plato and Kant have convinced Middle European intellectuals – lies behind, beyond, above this “phenomenal” world in which we live.
When he wrote Soul and Form, Lukács believed that the two worlds were irreconcilable; that a soul belonged to one or the other. (He does not say, but almost certainly knew, that in the creeds of the old Gnostic cults, the souls of the “Perfects” or “Pneumatics” belonged to a transcendent world, while the souls of the common “Hylics” were bound to the earth). His own soul – he knew – belonged to the higher, better, mystical world, the world of “essences”; the unreachable world. Here in this world, “abandoned by God”, he felt he was a stranger, an alien on earth; that humankind did not belong here; and that there was “an antagonism between the soul and the world”. That is what he meant when he asked rhetorically- cried out, so to speak, in his writing – “How can one bring essence into life? How can life become essential?” For years he searched for an answer. Morbidly pre-occupied with death, tragedy, and the condition of the human soul – above all his own – he wrote: “Man is abandoned to immanent meaninglessness.” He longed for “an extinction of selfhood” through “complete absorption of the ego into a higher being”.
Often he conjectured that the only answer was in death, and he brooded on suicide. He declares in Soul and Form: “Life is without value, without significance, and we [presumably he and all those who suffer the same spiritual anguish] would be ready to consecrate it every moment to death.”
His was an intensely religious temperament, but he was drawn neither emotionally nor intellectually to any organized religion; not to the Judaism of his ancestors, nor to Christianity – though his parents had him baptized in the Lutheran church in 1897 so that he could attend a good Lutheran school.
Karl Jaspers – later a famous philosopher – met Lukács in Heidelberg in 1913 and had no difficulty recognizing the nature of his contemporary’s mystical beliefs. He records: “Many came to Heidelberg [University] who were men of letters and potential candidates for Habilitation. Among them was Georg von Lukács from Budapest and Ernst Bloch from Mannheim. … At that time, they were Gnostics who shared their theosophical fantasies in their social circles.” It is probable that Lukács simply announced to Jaspers and all the company that he was a Gnostic. He was calling himself a “gnostic activist” in his writings years before he became in any way active in public life.
By “gnostic” he meant possessed of that intuitive knowledge which is a special gift to the specially gifted. What he intuitively knew which the ordinary (bourgeois) person could not know in the same way, was that there was a higher better world, the “intelligible” world: the “essential” world; the “noumenal” world. What he meant by “activist” is less clear. He seems to have meant that he not only thought philosophically that there is a higher better world, but that he also felt it. The activity was not muscular but emotional. It was not worked out by the intellect but immediately known by “intellectual intuition”, through which one might become “good”.
Become good? But had he not rejected ethical behavior? Certainly he had – and by “goodness” he did not mean anything so bourgeois as ethical behavior. He expounds his idea of what goodness is in Poverty of Spirit:
“Prince Myshkin [hero of Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot] and Alyosha [hero of Dostoyevsky”s The Brothers Karamazov] are good; what does that mean? … [T]heir knowledge [gnosis] became realized in deed, their thinking left the purely conceptual realm of knowledge, their view of mankind became an intellectual intuition: they are Gnostics of the deed.” … “Goodness is the miracle, the grace, and the salvation. The descent of the heavenly realm to the earth. … It is an abandonment of ethic. Goodness is not an ethical category; you’ll find it in no consistent ethical system. And with good reason. Ethics is general, binding, and far removed from men; it is the first – the most primitive – exaltation of mankind over the chaos of everyday life; it is man’s moving away from himself, and from his empirical condition. Goodness, however, is the return to real life, man’s true discovery of his home.” … “Goodness is madness, it is not mild, not refined, and not quietistic; it is wild, terrible, blind, and adventurous. The soul of the good one has become empty of all psychological content, of grounds and consequences; it has become a pure white slate upon which destiny inscribes its absurd command to be followed blindly, recklessly, cruelly to the end.”
In the First World War, Lukács was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian armed forces; but he dodged the draft with the help of a certificate from Karl Jaspers (who was a qualified doctor and psychiatrist), and through the use of his father’s connections – the calling in of a favor owed to the banker by a personage close to the royal and imperial government. Duly declared unfit for active service, Lukács did his patriotic duty as a letter censor in Budapest for a few months in 1915.
It was after the war, when his country was in the abjection and disorder of defeat, that he found the answer to his spiritual search, a solution to his loneliness, despair and longing. He recognized that the “higher being” into which his “ego” might be “absorbed” was the International Communist movement. In December 1918 he joined the newly formed Hungarian Communist Party.
The commitment of his soul to the Party was no less religious for being political. He saw Communism as a cure not only for his own discontent – his despair, or loneliness, or Faust-like boredom with the contemplative life – but for everyone else’s too. He assumed that everyone suffered from the same malaise as he did. As a general social phenomenon he called it “alienation”, and declared it to be the result of capitalism and the bourgeois order. Communism, he believed, was the salvation of all mankind, provided only that each soul had faith enough and submitted utterly to its church. …
Jillian Becker July 19, 2015
Colonel Richard Kemp, formerly Commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, deplores the abandonment by the Western world of the values that made it strong and great, and explains why he admires and defends Israel. (We have a difference of opinion with him over the expression “Judeo-Christian values”, but heartily agree with everything else he says.)
Nearly a hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire was brought to an end when the German-Turkish alliance was defeated in the First World War. Its former territories in the Middle East became independent states or temporary mandates of European powers.
Efraim Karsh, reviewing a new book* on the subject, corrects errors of fact on which its author relies – and which have been all too generally accepted.
The corrections are important, so we reproduce the entire article:
A century after the catastrophic blunder that led to the destruction of the then longest-surviving empire on earth, culpability is still ascribed to the European powers. Rather than view the Ottoman entry into the First World War on the losing side for what it was – a failed imperialist bid for territorial aggrandizement and reassertion of lost glory – the Muslim empire has been portrayed as the hapless victim of European machinations, driven into the world conflict by overbearing powers eager to expedite its demise and gobble up its lands.
Emblematic of the wider tendency to view Middle Easterners as mere objects, whose history is but a function of their unhappy interaction with the West, this conventional wisdom has proved remarkably resistant to the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans is no exception to this rule.
To begin with, in an attempt to underscore the Ottoman Empire’s untenable position on the eve of the war, Rogan reproduces the standard depiction of the protracted period preceding the empire’s collapse, or the Eastern Question as it is commonly known, as the steady European encroachment on Ottoman territory. “The looming prospect of a European general war”, he writes, “raised the imminent threat of a Russian annexation of Istanbul, the straits, and eastern Anatolia – and the ultimate dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire among the Entente Powers. France was known to covet Syria, Britain had interests in Mesopotamia, and Greece wished to expand its grip over the Aegean.”
Reality, however, was quite different. Far from setting their sights on Ottoman lands, the European powers had consistently shored up the ailing Muslim empire for well over a century, saving it time and again from assured destruction – from Muhammad Ali’s imperialist bid of the 1830s, to the Balkan crises of the 1870s, to the Balkan war of 1912–13. And it was none other than Russia that acted as the Ottoman Empire’s latest saviour, halting its former Bulgarian subject at the gates of Istanbul, not once but twice: in November 1912 and March 1913. Several months later St Petersburg joined London and Berlin in underscoring “the necessity of preserving the Turkish Realm in its present form”.
All this means that by the outbreak of the Great War, the Ottoman Empire was scarcely a spurned and isolated power in danger of imminent destruction. Rather, it was in the enviable position of being courted by the two warring camps: the German-Austro-Hungarian Central Alliance wished its participation in the war, while the Anglo-French-Russian Triple Entente desired its neutrality. So much so that on August 18, 1914, less than a month after the outbreak of hostilities, the Entente’s ambassadors to Istanbul assured the Grand Vizier of the empire’s continued survival were it to stay out of the war, while the British Foreign Secretary vowed the preservation of Ottoman territorial integrity “in any conditions of peace which affected the Near East, provided she preserved a real neutrality during the war”. Five days later, at Ottoman request, the three powers put down this pledge in writing.
Had the Ottomans accepted this guarantee and kept out of the war, their empire would have readily weathered the storm. But then, by the time the Entente made its far-reaching proposal, Istanbul had already concluded a secret alliance with Germany that had effectively transformed it into a belligerent. This, nevertheless, didn’t prevent it from maintaining the false pretence of neutrality vis-à-vis the Entente, or even feigning interest in joining its ranks, while at the same time laying the groundwork for war and exploiting Berlin’s eagerness for the immediate initiation of hostilities to extract substantial military and economic benefits.
Preserving the myth of immaculate Turkish victimhood, Rogan claims that “the Ottoman leadership had no wish to enter a general European conflict” and was grudgingly driven to the German embrace by the Entente’s indifference, if not hostility, to its predicament. His proof is the supposed French rebuff of an alliance proposal, allegedly made during a visit to Paris in July 1914 by the military leader Djemal Pasha, as well as the British requisition of two warships commissioned by the Ottomans. “The British decision to requisition the ships was treated as a national humiliation in Turkey and ruled out the possibility of any accord between Britain and the Ottoman Empire”, Rogan writes. “The very next day, 2 August 1914, the Ottomans concluded a secret treaty of alliance with Germany.”
The problem with these well-worn stories is that there is no shred of evidence of Djemal’s alleged overture (its only mention is in his memoirs, written after the war and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire with the clear aim of exonerating himself from responsibility for this calamity), while the requisition announcement was made on August 3 – a day after the conclusion of the secret Ottoman-German alliance.
But even if the announcement had been made a few days earlier, it would have made no difference whatsoever for the simple reason that the terms of the Ottoman-German alliance had already been agreed on July 28. Moreover, it was the Ottomans rather than the Germans who had opted for an alliance within days of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 – weeks before the outbreak of hostilities; who were the driving force in the ensuing secret negotiations; and who largely prevailed over their German counterparts in deciding the alliance’s broad contours. As Kaiser Wilhelm ordered his more sceptical negotiators: “A refusal or a snub would result in Turkey’s going over to Russo-Gallia, and our influence would be gone forever … Under no circumstances whatsoever can we afford to turn them away”.
The truth of the matter is that the Ottoman Empire was neither forced into the First World War in a last-ditch attempt to ensure its survival, nor manoeuvred into it by an overbearing German ally and a hostile Entente, but rather plunged head on into the whirlpool. War, for the Ottoman leaders, was not seen as a mortal danger to be averted, but a unique opportunity to be seized. They did not seek “an ally to protect the empire’s vulnerable territory from the consequences of such war” but a powerful underwriter of their imperialist ambitions; and apart from their admiration for Germany and their conviction that it would ultimately be victorious, the Entente had less to offer by way of satisfying these ambitions, first and foremost “the destruction of our Muscovite enemy to obtain a natural frontier to our empire, which should include and unite all branches of our race” (in the words of the Ottoman declaration of war).
Just as the fall of the Ottoman Empire was not the result of external machinations but a self-inflicted catastrophe, so the creation of the modern Middle East on its ruins was not an imperialist imposition but the aggregate outcome of intense pushing and shoving by a multitude of regional and international bidders for the Ottoman war spoils in which the local actors, despite their marked inferiority to the great powers, often had the upper hand.
While Rogan occasionally alludes to this reality, these allusions are far too sparse and timid to break from the standard misrepresentation of the post-war regional order as an artificial Western creation. He aptly notes that “the map drawn by Sykes and Picot bears no resemblance to the Middle East today”, yet reiterates the standard depiction of the agreement as a colonial imposition rather than a British effort “to reconcile the interests of France with the pledges given to the [Arabs]” (to use Albert Hourani’s words), or indeed – the first-ever great power recognition of Arab right to self determination (well before President Woodrow Wilson turned this principle into a driving force of international politics). He similarly observes that Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia (or the Hijaz, as it was then known) “achieved independence within frontiers of their own devising”, yet parrots the conventional wisdom that the imperial powers outlandishly “imposed the borders and systems of governments of most states in the region”.
In fact, most states in the region were established pretty much as a result of local exertions. The modern state of Iraq, to give a prominent example, was created in its present form (rather than divided into three states in accordance with the existing realities of local patriotism and religious affinities) on behalf of Emir Faisal of Mecca and at his instigation, while Jordan was established to satisfy the ambitions of Faisal’s older brother Abdullah. Likewise, the nascent Zionist movement exploited a unique convergence of factors to harness British support to its national cause, to have this support endorsed by the international community and incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, and to cling tenaciously to these achievements until their fruition in the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948.
Eugene Rogan acknowledges that “the borders of the post-war settlement have proven remarkably resilient”. Yet he fails to draw the selfevident conclusion that this state of affairs reflects their congruity with local realities, instead echoing the common refrain that ascribes the region’s endemic volatility to the supposed dissatisfaction with these boundaries.
Had this actually been the case, Arab leaders would have seized some of the numerous opportunities they had over the past century to undo the post-Ottoman order and unify the so-called Arab Nation; and they could have readily done this by peaceful means rather than incessant fighting. But then, violence has hardly been imported to the Middle East as a by-product of European imperialism; it was a part of the political culture long before. And if anything, it is the region’s tortuous relationship with modernity, most notably the stubborn adherence to its millenarian religiously based imperialist legacy, which has left physical force as the main instrument of political discourse to date.
But to acknowledge this would mean abandoning the self-righteous victimization paradigm that has informed Western scholarship for so long, and treating Middle Easterners as equal free agents accountable for their actions, rather than giving them a condescending free pass for political and moral modes of behaviour that are not remotely acceptable in Western societies. Sadly, The Fall of the Ottomans signals no such paradigm shift.
* The Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan. The review first appeared in the Times Literary Supplement and was reprinted in the Wall Street Journal.
“Liberation theology” is the child of the incestuous marriage of Christianity and its secular offspring, Marxism.
Reports from the Vatican suggest that Pope Francis is warming to it – a volte-face of Papal policy towards it ever since its birth in South America in the middle of the last century. This report comes from the left-leaning Guardian:
For decades, Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest, was treated with suspicion and even contempt by the Vatican’s hierarchy, which saw him as a dangerous Marxist firebrand who used faith as an instrument of revolution. …
Which is exactly what he was and what he did.
But when the 86-year-old Peruvian arrives in Rome this week as a key speaker at a Vatican event, he will be welcomed as a guest, in a striking show of how Pope Francis – the first Latin American pontiff – has brought tenets of this sometimes controversial movement to the fore of his church, particularly in his pronouncements against the blight of poverty and the dangers of capitalism.
He has not noticed that only capitalism raises people by the million from poverty.
In its height in the late 1960s and 1970s, liberation theology– a distinctly Latin American movement – preached that it was not enough for the church to simply empathise and care for the poor. Instead, believers said, the church needed to be a vehicle to push for fundamental political and structural changes that would eradicate poverty, even – some believed – if it meant supporting armed struggle against oppressors.
In Nicaragua, priests inspired by liberation theology took an active part in the 1979 Sandinista revolution against Anastasio Somoza’s rightwing dictatorship. The philosophy also influenced leftist rebels in Mexico and Colombia, where one of the main guerrilla factions was led for nearly 30 years by a defrocked Spanish priest, Manuel Pérez. …
“He [the present Pope] was very critical of the liberal Marxist version of liberation theology,” said Austen Ivereigh, who has written a biography of Pope Francis. “At that time, you had leftwing movements in Latin America but in fact these were middle-class movements, which he believed used the poor as instruments. He had a phrase he used – that they were for the people but never with them.”
But since his election as pontiff in 2013, Pope Francis’s insistence that the church be “for the poor”, and his pointed criticisms of capitalism and consumerism have gone a long way to rehabilitate the liberation theology movement and incorporate it within the church. Experts point, too, to Francis’s decision to name Oscar Romero, the iconic Salvadoran archbishop who was assassinated by rightwing death squads in 1980, as a martyr as another sign of the resurgence in liberation theology…
The Vatican itself has not formally embraced liberation theology. Even xc himself has denied that his appointment as prefect by Pope Francis – which was seen in some circles as a triumph of liberation theology because of Müller’s relationship with Gutiérrez – represented the “opening of a new chapter” following the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict.
Liberation theology was invented, named, and funded by the KGB, according to one of its defecting agents. Damien Thompson reports – and comments with some skepticism which we do not share – in the (UK) Spectator:
The respected Catholic News Agency has published an interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former general in Romania’s secret police who was one of the Eastern Bloc’s highest-ranking defectors in the 1970s. In it, he says that the Soviet Union – and the KGB in particular – created liberation theology, the quasi-Marxist movement that flourished in Latin America from the 1960s to the 1990s and is still a powerful influence on the Catholic Left.
The interview provides fresh evidence of the infiltration of liberation theology by Russia – a subject Catholic liberals would much rather not discuss, just as they don’t want to know about the heavy Soviet investment in CND (the British campaign for nuclear disarmament). …
I don’t believe that the KGB ‘created’ a movement as complex as liberation theology and I’m far from convinced that its name was dreamt up in the Lubyanka.
But Pacepa … makes detailed claims that the Soviets kick-started, funded and moulded liberation theology … He cites as one of his sources Aleksandr Sakharovsky, the Russian agent who set up Romania’s secret police agency. Pacepa describes him as his ‘de facto boss’ in the 1950s. Sakharovsky later became head of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB.
Here are the key quotes from the interview:
The birth of Liberation Theology was the intent of a 1960 super-secret “Party-State Dezinformatsiya Programme” approved by Aleksandr Shelepin, the chairman of the KGB, and by Politburo member Aleksey Kirichenko, who coordinated the Communist Party’s international policies. This programme demanded that the KGB take secret control of the World Council of Churches (WCC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and use it as cover for converting Liberation Theology into a South American revolutionary tool …
The KGB began by building an intermediate international religious organization called the Christian Peace Conference (CPC), which was headquartered in Prague. Its main task was to bring the KGB-created Liberation Theology into the real world.
The new Christian Peace Conference was managed by the KGB and was subordinated to the venerable World Peace Council, another KGB creation, founded in 1949 and by then also headquartered in Prague …
During my years at the top of the Soviet bloc intelligence community I managed the Romanian operations of the World Peace Council (WPC). It was as purely KGB as it gets. Most of the WPC’s employees were undercover Soviet bloc intelligence officers … Even the money for the WPC budget came from Moscow, delivered by the KGB in the form of laundered cash dollars to hide their Soviet origin. In 1989, when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, the WPC publicly admitted that 90 per cent of its money came from the KGB.
And now the bit that will really wind up Catholic liberals:
I [Pacepa] was not involved in the creation of Liberation Theology per se. From Sakharovsky I learned, however, that in 1968 the KGB-created Christian Peace Conference, supported by the world-wide World Peace Council, was able to manoeuvre a group of leftist South American bishops into holding a Conference of Latin American Bishops at Medellin, Colombia. The Conference’s official task was to ameliorate poverty. Its undeclared goal was to recognise a new religious movement …
True to the chief pretense of each parent, the priests of both the South American Church and the Kremlin claimed that the intention of liberation theology was to stand with the poor and oppressed. Its theologians declared that the cause of all poverty and oppression is capitalism, and Christians must work to replace capitalism with socialism.
The man whom Pope Francis is now welcoming to the Vatican, Gustavo Gutierrez of Peru, wrote in his book A Theology of Liberation: “The goal is not only better living conditions, a radical change if structures, a social revolution; it is much more: the continuous creation, never ending, of a new way to be a man. A permanent cultural revolution.” Gutierrez struggles manfully through some 300 pages to reconcile the Christian idea of salvation of the individual soul and its reward in heavenly bliss, with the Marxist insistence on collective salvation through revolution and the reward of an egalitarian society on this earth. He does not succeed. Whether he is aware of it or not, the Christian idea is totally overwhelmed and replaced by the Marxist idea. Liberation theology takes more after one parent than the other.
Liberation theology allowed the numerous leftist revolutionary organizations that arose in the last century in South and Central America (Argentina, Peru, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatamala, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia)*to claim religious vindication, and carried the blessings of the revolutionary priests when they – the terrorists -went about their savage business of murder.
Pope Francis’s understanding that the South American liberation movements were “middle class”, was not unfounded. Intellectuals – priests and writers – not only inspired them, but led them. Three bibles of the liberation theology movement are:
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
- For the Liberation of Brazil, by Carlos Marighela
- Love in Practice: The Gospel in Solentiname, by Ernesto Cardenal
The most enlightening descriptions of what actually happened in a central American country when terrorist insurrectionists, inspired by liberation theology, clashed with a government and its military, are to be found in Sweet Waist of America: Journeys Around Guatamala, by Anthony Daniels. Although the author is uncompromising in his condemnation of the rebels and their methods, he also indicts the government and its forces. Both sides committed atrocities.
*** A list of the “guerrilla movements” in these countries can be found here.