And just so today Russian art stands between two styles. The primitive wooden
architecture with its steep eight-sided tent-roof (which extends from Norway to Manchuria) is impressed with Byzantine motives
over the Danube and Armenian-Persian from over the Caucasus. We can certainly
feel an "elective affinity" between the Russian and the Magian [approx. = Arabian, Jewish, early Christian – SV] souls, but as yet the prime symbol
of Russia, the plane without limit [See Vol. II, pp. 361 et seq. The lack of any vertical
tendency in the Russian life-feeling is perceptible also in the saga-figure of Ilya Murometz (see Vol. II, p. 131). The Russian
has not the smallest relation with a Father-God. His ethos is not a filial but purely a fraternal love, radiating
in all directions along the human plane. Christ, even, is conceived as a Brother. The Faustian [=
Western – SV], wholly vertical, tendency to strive up to fulfillment is to the real Russian an incomprehensible
pretension. The same absence of all vertical tendency is observable in Russian ideas of the state and property], finds
no sure expression either in religion or in architecture. The church roof emerges, hillockwise, but little from the landscape
and on it sit the tent-roofs whose points are coiffed with the "kokoshniks" that suppress and would abolish the upward tendency. They neither tower up like the Gothic belfry nor enclose like the mosque-cupola,
but sit, thereby emphasizing the horizontality of the building, which is meant to be regarded merely from the outside. When
about 1760 the Synod forbade the tent roofs and prescribed the orthodox onion-cupolas, the heavy cupolas were set upon slender cylinders, of which there may be any number 3 and which sit on the roof-plane.
It is not yet a style, only the promise of a style that will awaken when the real Russian
Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West
(vol. 1, p.201), “Apollonian, Faustian, and Magian Soul”
The inner history of the Magian religion ends with Justinian's time, as truly
as that of the Faustian ends with Charles V and the Council of Trent. Any book on religious history shows "the" Christian
religion as having had two ages of grand thought-movements 0-500 in the East and 1000-1500 in the West. [A third, "contemporary," movement should follow in the Russian world in the first half of the coming millennium.]
But these are two springtimes of two Cultures, and in them are comprised also the non-Christian
forms which belong to each religious development. [<p.161] [p.177>] But what
are the features, now, of the primitive religion of Merovingian times that foreshadow the mighty uprising of the Gothic that
was at hand? That both are ostensibly the same religion, Christianity, proves nothing when we consider the entire difference
in their deeps. For (we must be quite clear in our own mind on this) the primitive character of a religion does not lie in
its stock of doctrines and usages, but in the specific spirituality of the mankind that adopts
them and feels, speaks, and thinks with them. The student has to familiarize himself with the fact that primitive Christianity
(more exactly, the early Christianity of the Western Church) has twice subsequently become the
expression-vehicle of a primitive piety, and therefore itself a primitive
religion namely, in the Celtic-Germanic West between 500 and 900, and in Russia up to this day.
Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West
Spengler […] thinks the Russian culture is still defining itself.
Some confusion has arisen regarding Spengler's terminology, but he is clear in distinguishing the terms for the cultures themselves
as they exist in the world and the cultural "souls" that can be detected as organising patterns within their material
"bodies". Thus, the Arabian culture's soul is referred to as "Magian", the Classical as "Apollonian", and the Western as "Faustian".
[…] The concept of pseudomorphosis is one that Spengler borrows from mineralogy and a concept that he introduces as
a way of explaining what are in his eyes half-developed or only partially manifested Cultures. Specifically pseudomorphosis
entails an older Culture so deeply ingrained in a land that a young Culture cannot find its own form and full expression of
itself. This leads to the young soul being cast in the old moulds, in Spengler's words. Young feelings then stiffen in senile
practices, and instead of expanding creatively, it fosters hate toward the other older Culture. […] In Russia, Spengler
sees a young, undeveloped culture laboring under the Faustian (Petrine) form. Peter the Great distorted the tsarism
of Russia to the dynastic form of Western Europe. The burning of Moscow, as Napoleon was set to invade, he sees as a primitive
expression of hatred toward the foreigner. This was soon followed by the entry of Alexander I into Paris, the Holy Alliance
and the Concert of Europe. Here Russia was forced into an artificial history before its Culture was ready or capable of understanding
its burden. This would result in a hatred directed toward Europe, a hatred which Spengler argues poisoned the womb of emerging
new culture in Russia. While he does not name the culture, he claims that Tolstoy is its past and Dostoevsky is its
future. […] Closely connected to race is Spengler’s definition of a “people,” which he defines as
a unit of the soul. “The great events of history were not really achieved by peoples; they themselves created the
peoples. Every act alters the soul of the doer.” Such events include migrations and wars. For example, the American
people did not migrate from Europe, but were formed by events such as the American Revolution and the U.S. Civil War. “Neither
unity of speech nor physical descent is decisive.” What distinguishes a people from a population is “the inwardly
lived experience of ‘we’,” which exists so long as a people’s soul lasts. “The name Roman
in Hannibal’s day meant a people, in Trajan’s time nothing more than a population.” In his view, “Peoples
are neither linguistic nor political nor zoological, but spiritual units.” […] Examples of early
forms of modern caesaristic figures are for instance Hitler, Kennedy, de Gaulle, or Putin, who throughout his terms of presidency
enjoyed unparalleled levels of popularity within Russia thanks in part for his perceived role in defeating the Oligarchs by
exercising "formless power". Spengler predicted that a new culture would arise in Russia. He said it would include a third
great issue of Christianity based on the Gospel of St John, the first issue being the Magian, surviving to some degree in
the Orthodox Church, the second issue being the Faustian. Spengler writes about how the Western soul is dominated by the first
person perspective, and that even when we are doing good we can't help but be motivated partly by the desire to gratify our
own egos. He says the genuine Russian regards this as "contemptible vainglory". "The Russian soul, will-less, having the limitless
plane [= plain? –SV] as its prime symbol, seeks to grow up – serving, anonymous,
self-oblivious – in the brother world of the plane." Moderately informed observers may consider that events have refuted
this, that brotherly love had degenerated into cronyism and blat, that any widespread desire for selflessly serving others
has fallen to gangsterism. To some extent this has happened, but it’s not out of line with Spengler's predictions. He
mourned how that even by his day Russia had been unduly influenced three times by the West: by Petrinism which followed
from the decisions of "Peter the Great", by "Tsar Alexander" during the Holy Alliance, and by "Lenin". It is also totally
in line with his views on the exceptionally strong globalising power of western culture, thanks to its directional energy
and will to power, that Russia would later be heavily influenced by western materialism. Spengler describes how in a region
where a young culture is developing, those who are either members or under the spell of an older civilisation will often come
to dominate economic life. He talks about "the keen cold intelligence that confounds the wisdom of the peasant." But one who
has had dealings with several ordinary Russians, who can look beyond the admittedly widespread paranoia and distrust of the
west, can still detect the genuine Russian soul Spengler talked about, especially in the relatively selfless attitudes
of Russian women. Spengler claimed the Russian expression of universal love was most powerfully expressed in the work of Dostoevsky.
A contemporary example is the Russian story Night Watch, both a film and a book, where the sympathetic treatment of
both the good and evil protagonists is in line with universal love. A great new culture is still yet to emerge from
Russia, but there is no reason to suppose it will not happen, just as Spengler predicted.
Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Wikipedia (accessed 07 Dec 2008)
Spengler’s use of the term ‘soul’ is legitimate
because it is a convenient shorthand for invoking a more complex, subtle, dialectical, flexible, and constructionist understanding
of the factors, processes, and uncertainties involved: as you can see (emphases in third citation above are mine),
his Russia is still not fully defined, only half-formed, which is probably why he does not venture even to give it a (meaningful)
name (as opposed to a placeholder = ‘Russian’) by way of anticipation (rather than being a careless oversight
on his part). Moreover, his ‘soul’ is primarily a label for fundamental (i.e., pre- and trans-national) attitudes
and organizing patterns: Magian unites Jews, Christians, and Arabs within the Abrahamic monotheism rather than being demarcated
by nations or even races (Semites); Apollonian embraces both the Greek (anthropologically ‘differentialist’) and
Roman (‘universalist’) attitudes that are opposed in many respects, despite the latter borrowing culturally from
the former; Faustian isolates a ‘promethean’ historical consciousness that has shaped the modern (European) outlook
without in itself allowing us to distinguish between the opposed national characters of the English, French, Germans, etc.
If a national ‘soul’ manifests itself in the “inwardly lived experience of ‘we’,”
it would seem to be more relevant for the recent states of Europe (and for ethno-states like China and Japan) than for most
non-Western peoples who typically experience themselves as multiple, and often conflicting, we’s: Iranians as Muslims,
Persians and Shias; Hindus as Indians, Tamils, and members of a caste; Kenyans as Africans, Blacks, and members of a tribe;
and so on. The term ‘soul’ serves well to highlight that the binding force of a specific ‘we’ (e.g.,
Americans) is strong enough to resist, survive, internalize, and feed upon catastrophes like a revolution or generalized civil
war: these otherwise polarizing events are experienced, responded to, and (re-) articulated within a shared framework of values
(i.e., similar events might have had very different, even opposite, results among another people whose ‘we’ is
forged within a different matrix).
For Spengler this ‘soul’ does not preexist (like
some Jungian ‘archetype’ suspended from heaven) its eventual incarnation but is more akin to an Idea that emerges
to seize upon an otherwise unformed population to transform them into a distinct ‘people’ with a substantive role
in world-history (and who subsequently decay into a formless ‘fellaheen’ when they abandon this shared self-representation
). In the ‘half-formed’ case of Russia, we do not yet know for sure what this Idea might be even if the Orthodox
Church were to provide the core national institution that nurtures more generalized religiously inspired feeling of ‘brotherhood’
(as opposed to say ‘individual freedom’ in America) as the eventual transnational force of the emergent culture.
The problem is that Russians are a minority even within their own Federation, and, whatever its rallying potential, even a
more ‘enlightened’ Church could not, by itself, provide the basis for (even) Central Asian (let alone Eurasian)
solidarity. The very emphasis on horizontal brotherhood distinguishes Russian Orthodoxy from even its Greek cousin (let alone
the Latin Church) because it predates the Kievan Christianization and is anthropologically rooted in the kinship system, which
is a parallel (e.g. atheist Soviet) vector, however intertwined, of the national character. The promise of a new Russian
religion that Spengler repeatedly prophesizes for the first half of our new millennium is apparently contained within Orthodoxy
but destined to outgrow this womb when fertilized and quickened by other spiritual influences so as to embrace the vast Eurasian
expanse. The egalitarian impulse is at the root of both Buddhist renunciation (the monastic fraternity) and of Islamic society
(the politicized umma), and we are already witnessing diverse attempts at reconciliation and synthesis, e.g., Dugin’s
unifying Eurasian platform based on esoteric convergences.
On the surface, Russia seems to be torn between the opposed
poles of Europe and Asia, which is reflected in the Kremlin’s ongoing policy dilemmas that are still driven by the vicissitudes
of externally imposed geopolitics. But from a deeper (Mâdhyamika?) perspective, ‘Eurasianism’ seems to be the
continuing and paradoxical product of Westernized elites coming to valorize the East, and Asians (Buryats, Kazakhs, etc.)
‘Russifying’ themselves in order to further pan-Asian goals (e.g., Badmaev’s ‘conversion’ to
Orthodoxy gave him immense influence over the Tsar’s administration in St. Petersburg…). The Russian diaspora
that gave birth to the Eurasian idea were living in Europe and (re-) thinking the East (afresh) within-yet-against Western
categories, a spiraling dialectics that Dugin is himself caught up in when he relies on Spengler, Guénon, Evola, Alain de
Benoit, Huntington, etc., to formulate and propagate his understanding of Russia’s civilizational mission. Orthodoxy,
in so far as it embodies the deep religiosity of the Russian people, will serve to intensify this dialectic in so far as those
emerging out of its formal constraints will remain dissatisfied with the ‘Faustian’ (skepticism, individualism,
money-centeredness, etc.) temptations of the West and yet unable to commit to exclusively to any of the divergent traditions
of the East (Islam, Buddhism, Tengrism, etc.): they’ll have to fashion a collective ‘soul’ (without which
they’ll be simply continue reacting to American global initiatives…even and especially geopolitical) .
The new Petersburg will not reject the West after all these repeated encroachments but more likely assimilate, co-opt, and
The Mâdhyamika-Advaita notion of “two truths” empirical
(loka-samvrti) and metaphysical (pârâmârthika) was a ‘high point’ in Indian philosophy that satisfied
the intellectual probity and spiritual appetite of neither Buddhists nor Hindus for very long. Whereas the Mâdhyamikas simply
accepted the pre-existing Nyâya categories to account for the stability of (our experience of) the ‘outside’ world,
Dharmakîrti ‘deconstructs’ each of them systematically to show how they are ‘falsely’ derived from
and superimposed upon the bare fleeting empirical elements of sensory impressions (just as Laruelle ‘debunks’
Dugin by retracing his diverse threads to disparate even ‘foreign’ sources and showing how he weaves them together
into his ‘Russian soul’). The Pratyabhijńâ adopts and adapts this destructive ‘Buddhist Logic’ in
order to not just (re-) establish the existence of the Âtman but to demonstrate its dynamic, creative, and personal
nature. Resigning ourselves to two (contrary) truths is, for Abhinavagupta, evidence of sloppy, confused, and lazy thinking,
at least among his contemporaries (unlike those of Nâgârjuna, who did not yet have the conceptual tools available). The pernicious
results of such a (Shankara-style) ‘non-dualism’ (that neatly leaves the world of Mâyâ intact) can be readily
seen in the modern Advaitins, who no longer content with eking out a meager salary at BHU, have been charging hefty consulting
fees from American CEOs and investment bankers on how to attain enlightenment even feathering their beds with (other peoples’)
money (unfortunately, samvrti-satya seems to have caught up with them). Of course, Abhinava’s intention is to
show that individual (Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) ‘souls’ have no existence outside and independent of God
(as the supreme Self), but the arguments used all rely on the synthesizing power of the latter, which ties in very
well with your observations below.
If Russia needs to “work on herself,” would this
not be because, as Gurdjieff insists, we do not have a ‘self’ but are capable of making (= ‘constructing’)
one (which is what Dugin, mercifully, seems to have been doing over the decades…)?
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/Abhinavagu pta/message/ 178
http://svabhinava. org/EsotericPhil osophy/Dialogues /EvolutionIndian Philo/HinduBuddh ist-frame. php
I’ve left some points (Donskoi, Gumilev, etc.) for later,
particularly a pending conversation with Spengler on whether the American ‘soul’ is wholly distinct from its English
cousin or rather a ‘re-construction’ (reincarnation? ) of the latter…
P.S. Here’s the most recent instance of the difficult
‘geopolitical’ choices today confronting Germany, whose anthropological constitution (hierarchical, authoritarian,
unequal, etc.) is opposed to that of Russia:
http://www.stratfor .com/analysis/ germany_merkels_ choice_and_ future_europe
However (unlike Emmanuel Todd), I believe that opposites can
attract, complement, stabilize, and even nourish each other very well…
[Rest of this thread at Sunthar’s
response (19 December 2008) to Stuart at
RE: "How America Killed Itself" - "Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century" (Dmitry Orlov)]
From: Andreas Laban
Thursday, November 27, 2008 3:40 PM
To: [Sunthar V.]
Subject: Re: Between Orthodox Kiev, Western St. Petersburg,
and Asian Muscovy: does Russia have a (Christian) soul?
Well it's from Moscow, with [Dmitri]
Donskoi that the initial expulsion of the Tartars took place, to be finally completed under Ivan Groznyi.
But the reference-moment is to my view that of the final transmission of
the baraka, or so imagined to have occurred, under Ivan III. From the Kievan period is of course the
adoption of Christianity towards the end of the Xth century, the starting point, as well as the race-feeling of the inaugurating
moment with the Nordic-Slavic lineage of the Riryuk Dinasty: "Ziemlia nasha velika i obil'na, a poriadka v nei niet. Idite
kniazhits i vladiet' nami" runs the literary record fetishism and strong foundational appeal up to this day.
As for the big, enormous Russian soul, myth or not its operational
strength is unquestionable and even Spengler believed that given so many historical, racial, geographical, etc, peculiarities,
Russian would still play a major key role in the face of the inevitable Untergang des Abendlands. I
for one, suspect there is a chance to that through a sound Eurasianism and beyond. The preservation of essences (in spiritual
practices, literary and artistic matters at large) as a way of fighting all the filth of Modern times would be at the present
moment best represented by Russia.
Russian dialectics is quite different from that of Germany,
which is stuck in a paranoid geographical position and serious historical malaise [from having
lost face – SV]. Russian is a winner, going through dangerous paths and "working on herself". Eurasianism represents
to my view an enormous potential for a new world order, reflecting for sure even on those countries still in a process
of producing various levels of inner synthesis. Russia can act as a model, I see no other nation capable of playing now
I see the emergence of St Petersburg, besides its genial conception
and Grand Design, as a key factor in that dialectics; and the evil aspects of its westernization of Russia a sub-product,
for which Peter the Great should not be blamed, as the Traditionalist Dugin wants to.
That's the main aspect of the whole thing, the Middle Path,
to be able to grow and consolidate everything quite from the middle, between West - in its best aspects - and East. "Take
the Wisdom of East and the Science of West and Search".
If to have that definitive core is [for it] to be crystallized
to the point of stopping dialectics - not the least in the very Nagarjunian sense - then I prefer, from a geopolitical and
Weltanschauung "point of view" (sic) that things remain in this respect unsettled.
Are you not being a bit too Gumilevian in your approach to the
role of the "foreign" Byzantine element in the formation of the so-called Russian Soul. After all we are using terms here
in relation to historical contexts (ethos) and not in more absolute philosophical or even geo-ethnographical sense.
As for the non-soul, well I think we can leave that epistemological
assumption for a more reserved metaphysical realm (which sounds quite paradoxical here) and maintain the use of soul for a
more "terrestrial" one! Besides, we are supposed to contemplate the possibility of the existence of two truths:
Dve satye samupA´sritya ... Loka-samvrti- satyam ca
satyam ca paramArthatah...
To my knowledge, the Russian Eurasianists tend to privilege Muscovy (over Kiev)
as the point of departure for their (competing) syntheses precisely because that's where Asian (= Tatar) models and sensibilities
take hold of the collective soul:
· How 'unique' would the Russian soul now be—so as to legitimize an independent global
mission for this Third Rome—if Kiev had remained the primary center bereft of the competing civilizational vectors expanding
from Tatar Muscovy?
· Without the inquisitive, exploratory, self-critical Western receptivity diffusing via
St. Petersburg would the Tsarist imperialism been so welcoming of Buddhism to the point of the Lamas promoting Catherine the
Great as the [White} Târâ?
· Which is the 'true' Russian Orthodoxy: the 'inquisitorial' Reform Church (imperial 'Third Rome' modeled on Athens?) or 'Old Believers' (whose liturgy and creed has been subsequently vindicated as being more faithful to Byzantium)?
· Has (half-) pagan Dugin, the Guénonian, joined (the now 'rehabilitated' Old Believers
denomination of) Orthodoxy to better serve the future Russian empire (like Badmaev?) or to harness the Church towards a Traditionalist
· Why should the Orthodox worldview which was imported from Byzantium-then- Athens, be
considered any less 'foreign' to the Russian soul than the post-Enlightenment European outlook enforced upon the Slavs from
· Even if the pagan Slavs did not have a 'soul' before Christianity donated one to be 'saved',
does this mean that the Russian people did not already have a distinctive 'mindset' (that would have re-surfaced during the
atheist Soviet era)?
· Given that rival Eurasianisms are becoming the national ideologies of Kazakhstan (Gumilev
Institute), etc., what guarantee that the Russian 'imperial' configuration may not end up with an (at least partially) Islamic
or Tengrist soul?
· Since even the Kalmyk, Buryat, etc., Buddhists still adhere to the 'no-soul' (anattâ)
doctrine, will the fusion of Orthodoxy and Lamaism result in half the Russian soul simply disintegrating under the impact
of a critical 'wisdom' (prajńâ)?
It seems to me that the mode of resolution of the tensions between Kiev (now
in hostile NATO-oriented Ukraine…), St. Petersburg, and Moscow—even if we disregard more 'occult' action-at-a-
distance from Lhasa, Beijing, Tehran, Delhi, and even Washington D.C.—is not predetermined: the open-ended nature of
the ongoing attempts explains why Russia does not yet have a "fully formed civilizational core" and remains the hotbed of
so many competing versions of Eurasianisms.
[Rest of this thread at Sunthar V (Nov 26, 2008)
"Dorjiev's pan-Buddhism and Russian Eurasianism: towards a spiritually motivated 'geopolitics' ?"]
From: [Andreas Laban]
November 22, 2008 7:29 AM
To: Sunthar Visuvalingam
Subject: Competing Eurasianisms: Badmaev/Dorjiev, [Gumilev],
I fully agree with your analysis and standpoint except for the statement that Russia
doesn't have a full formed civilizational core - I think that the Kievan to become Rus(sian) core is already ethnographically,
psychologically and historically crystallized since the XIV century.
Of course when we think about Indian or Chinese civilizations the line of time
for "forming" a core is much longer, but as Henry Corbin says somewhere in his studies about Sohrawardi: "The time of the
soul is quite different from that of history."
[Response to Sunthar's post (Nov 20, 2008) at
"Competing Eurasianisms: Badmaev/Dorjiev, Gumilev, Panarin, Bagramov"]