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October 23, 2006 (the date of publication in Russian)

Vitaly Averyanov

THE DECLINE OF EUROPE: POST-CHRISTIAN CULTURAL STANDARDS

European integration coincides with ascent of humanitarian ideology, alien to Russia and other world's cultures

The discussion of Russia's integration into Europe, frequently raised in the political establishment of Moscow, is mostly focused on development of mutually favorable economic connections and a deeper economic intercourse. The most heated debate is dedicated to common standards in the joint energy system. On this background, it is especially obvious that other aspects of integration are being overlooked.

For instance, the basis of values, which a long-term cooperation is going to be built upon – beyond quite superficial concerns of business reputation – is remaining unclear. Bare business pragmatism is not workable, as the definition of "reliability" essentially considers not only accuracy in implementation of contracts, not only their formal juridical impeccability, but also the mutual comprehension of partners, their spiritual accord, their alikeness in a direct and implicit sense.

Many representatives of Russia's political elite prefer to pull on blinders: their personal thrust towards Europe rests upon a simple desire to arrange their everyday life in a way that in Russia, it would be "as comfortable to live as in Western Europe". However, this motivation is sufficient neither for integration nor for an independent state policy.

Such people are too numerous in the ruling class of Russia, and the gap between this class and the nation as a whole is spectacularly expanding. As a matter of fact, the nation does not blend with the Western community for a lot of reasons, and this is true not only if applied to the poorer classes but eventually to the "new Russian elite" as well – as not the whole "new Russian elite" is prepared for a choice of cultural apostasy.

Meanwhile, the West's public psychology is undergoing a significant shift, the meaning of which can be discerned only in a long-term perspective. One of the trends in this epochal shift is expressed in revision of European history and reassessment of its cultural roots. In case Russia decided to use its status of a "part of Europe" to get involved in the process of synthesis of new spiritual and humanitarian standards of the West, it would become an insurmountable obstacle for their implementation. This fact is well illustrated with the content of the novel European ideology of "alternative history", which is gradually gaining popularity. In case it prevails, spiritual tension between the West and Russia, as well as between the West and other cultures will greatly increase.

Today's most popular symbol of alternative history thinking is Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code and Ron Howard's screen version of the book, released in spring 2006 with a great scandal.

Actually, Brown's detective story does not contain anything essentially new in ideas. Intellectual campaigns of the second half of the XX century, purporting rehabilitation of "alternative scientific" forms of knowledge, as well as neo-spiritualist and magic writings, are of a much larger interest. However, this thick layer of Western literature, designed for "esoteric education", does not belong to the genre of mass culture.

In this sense, The Da Vinci Code is rather an echo of an earlier intellectual fashion. Not surprisingly, a direct prototype was found: a research of M. Bagent, R. Lee and G. Lincoln, entitled Holy Blood and Holy Grail, originally published in 1982. This book, as well as relevant "scientific investigations", today enjoys a wave of re-editions. In Russia, this theme is dominated by EXMO Publishing House which issues a special series dubbed "Masteries of Ancient Civilizations: A Documental Thriller". This series was opened exactly with the book of Bagent, Lee, and Lincoln. Like in the West, the sales of those books have sharply increased after the release of Howard's movie.

This literature does not contain any scientific discoveries or real revelations. What we are dealing with is ideology: that is, a combination of well-known facts, garbled with certain conjectures and interpretations, and lined in accordance with novel suggestions and schemes of good and evil (in with the Good and the Evil may literally change places, as compared to the

traditional view).

Some critics believe that the alternative historical literature and argumentation is produced by modern Freemasons. If that is true, we would have to admit that the intellectual horizon and competence of Freemasonic authors, from the standpoint of knowledge, is not very high. This is especially obvious for Russian middle-age readers, who have enjoyed a high culture of magazines and libraries, being acquainted also with the writings of Russian conspirologists of the 1990s, such as Platonov, Dugin and Vorobievsky, – who don't yield to their Western colleagues, and often exceed them.

The masterminds of alternative history seem to have a significant influence, or even intellectual power in Europe. Still, this potential is restricted to a certain extent with some deeply embedded criteria of morality, conservative view on Christian values, and what is left from authentic religious faith. While on the level of everyday life and behavior Europe has largely surrendered to counterculture, some resistance can be still discerned on the level of symbols and historical heritage. Unlike Russia-produced samples of the Anatoly Fomenko type, the Western self-styled science of alternative history is an element of a broader ideological campaign, with a purpose which is not visible on the surface. Most probably, we are dealing with a whole range of objectives.

Moreover, it is possible that today's experiments are just a certain probe of public sentiment, a durability test for traditional culture and the people's adherence to "good old" patterns regarding morality and authorities. If that is true, the experiment should be recognized as successful on the level of mass psychology. A scandalous advertising campaign has contributed to this success – including loud protests and public disapproval from Catholic, Orthodox, and Moslem authorities, as well as national censoring services; in particular, the movie was not allowed to broadcast in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and later in Belarus and Azerbaijan.

Polls, conducted in a number of states, revealed that The Da Vinci Code has changed attitude towards Catholicism in a large part of the spectators. Traditional views on Christ himself have been affected as well. Britain's Telegraph has calculated that two thirds of the British, who have ever read Dan Brown's novel, believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child. That is the impact of a single book and a single movie. What result could be expected from a whole industry of alternative history and relevant reassessment of values? Freemasonic or not, the experiment on mass psychology is definitely successful.

With its zero scientific and theological value, "alternative history" represents interest not per see but as an index of the commitment of those forces which intend to complete Europe's secularization. Exactly those forces have practically sabotaged the essentially harmless reference to Christianity and God in the text of the European Constitution. The energy and accord of anti-Christian forces in the effort against the so-called "concessions to Vatican", demonstrate that a kind of a "Priory of Zion" or an entity with similar commitment has actually won the ideological debate within the EU bureaucracy. On the other hand, Europe is heterogeneous, and the increase of traditionalist, conservative, and nationalistic sentiment in European policy is also obvious.

This upsurge of "rightist" views in Europe is recognized by its ruling class as a serious challenge. Not surprisingly, the theme of Opus Dei (catholic organization), raised in Brown's movie, represented an artistic discredit of this institution. With the ascent of Pope Benedict XVI, the Roman Catholic Church underwent a shift to the "right", towards Opus Dei's conservatism. Today, even Germany, with an especially large Protestant component (as well as in the Scandinavian countries and France), is hesitating: Angela Merkel is today ready for certain concessions to the new Pope.

The success of Opus Dei on the community level proves that the inevitable success of the "alternative history" ideologues may be doubted. Years ago, Opus Dei's members occupied most of the key positions in the government of Spain, and promoted a very successful reform of theological schools. Since that time, Opus Dei's colleges have been internationally educating lots of highly professional secular specialists, who married, made splendid careers, and – that is important – also helped to promote other Opus Dei postgraduates. This solidarity, along with the secrecy of membership, has brought specific fame to Opus Dei, often dubbed since as "white Masonry".

Shortly before the beatification of Opus Dei's founder Enrico Balaguer in 2002, a massive smearing campaign started in mass media. Journalists were trying to discredit not only Balaguer's personality as such but also the operations of Opus Dei's banks, as well as their common life, publishing photos of a leather scourge which the members allegedly torment themselves. The anti-Balaguer campaign was especially massive in Germany. The Catholic organization was described as a sect, even of a totalitarian type. Journalists were especially focused on the particular provision, demanding that the numeraries (Opus Dei members who give an oath of celibate) succeed their property to the organization.

On the background of this campaign, Brown's anti-Opus Dei motives don't seem anything unusual. Still, the bestseller and its screen version have elevated the subject on a qualitatively different level, actually creating a new alarmist myth about the ominous "white Masonry" and "revival of inquisition".

One more purpose of the analyzed campaign is definitely demolition of the Christian view of the Messiah. The whole cycle of "alternative history" production, wherever it concerns the personality of Christ, persistently, though implicitly, conveys the idea that the "forgery", which allegedly happened with the foundation of the Christian Church, was based on the postulate of Jesus' divinity. As the authors of Holy Blood intone, the new religion "was designed predominantly for the Romanic or Romanized audience, supposed to portray all the events in a view, favorable for Rome, and unfavorable for the Jews... the Romans have got used to "deify their leaders, like Cesar, and Jesus was to be deified to be equal to them. That was performed by Apostle Paul. (...) His might, his greatness, and his miracles were supposed to become competitive with the deities which he was supposed to replace". These suggestions remind of Soviet-time lectures on "scientific atheism", as a new version of a popularized Ludwig Feuerbach. Not surprisingly, one later finds a number of parallels with Oriental deities, "an innumerous row of emerging and vanishing Gods", as the authors write. Echoing the arguments, well known to the former Soviet citizens, the authors concentrate on the "similarity of legends about birth of the God from a virgin", migrating from one Oriental religion to another, etc., etc.

The Holy Blood series itself, in its turn, actually represents a moderated version of old leakages over "The Liar from Galilean", "whose time has passed", which is an argument for the Freemasonic origin of the book.

The anti-Christian sentiment of "alternative history" is enhanced by the authors each time where they mention Jews and Judaism. This is a certain "sacred cow" which the authors have mounted. Probably hoping to achieve Jewish support for their ideology, they demonstrate excessive fervor to elevate Jews under any possible pretext.

The authors of "alternative history" have foreseen the European integration long before it started, describing the spiritual parameters of the future all-European culture. In their view, a confederation of "theocratic United States of Europe" would have not just a secular power but a power authority physically replacing the Holy See (they just forgot to describe the mechanism of the proposed power transition).

The features of the new spiritual and humanitarian standard, sought by relevant ideologues, could be hardly deduced directly from the Holy Blood series or from The Da Vinci Code. Still, the book contains a reference to a historical analogue, a model of an ideal state, favored by the esoteric masterminds of Europe – namely, the medieval Provence in the period of the reign of the Albigensian (Cathar) heresy.

Though adequacy of parallels might be questioned, the features indicated by "alternative historians", as compared with the novel trend of Western spiritual life, really produce a déjà vu effect. The Albigensian Languedoc is described as a sort of a humanistic idyll, where religious tolerance flourishes along with a refined courtois culture; ancient languages, as well as the Cabbala, hermetic sciences and magic practices, are freely taught in schools. The Cathars represented a network of religious sects, reminding of today's church networks of the United States. The heretics have abandoned Catholic commandments, neglected church sacraments, established their own male and female priesthood, and preached sexual morals of their own, which differed among the sects.

At the same time, all of the Cathars denounced childbirth, and intentionally reduced the birth rate by means of contraception and abortions. The inquisition insisted that the Albigensian sect widely practiced sexual perversion.

Definitely, a more profound insight in Languedoc's history would reveal details, hardly matching into the ideological concept of Holy Blood. Still, a country of courtois love and a new ecclesiastical synthesis emerges in this context as a major victim of medieval totalitarianism – a community of martyrs in religious books of "alternative history". In terms of content, the heresy is close to original Manicheism. Some "alternative historians", describing the "genocide" of the Cathars by the Roman Church, extend their heritage to the orders of the Templars and Rosicrucians, and later in a number of Freemasonic orders, waging a clandestine war against Catholicism and the Holy Roman Empire, promoting Luther's reformation and the ascent of liberalism in the XX-century Europe.

Summarizing these observations, we arrive to a conclusion that the spiritual and humanitarian standard, emerging in today's West, is designed as a mixture of mystical and occult traditions, prepared for the future "esoteric transformation of the human". The central intention of the anti-Christian ideologies, as well as Marxism before, is to transform the human, to synthesize a new type of personality. In accordance with this objective, a lot of things which had been rejected in Europe with disgust and fear for centuries, have become today acceptable, common and "domestic". Eventually, the "real Messiah" of the esoteric authors is supposed to emerge as a copy or clone of a common European. The "mass culture human" recognizes him in his own vice, in a narcotic trance or a sexual orgy, in all kinds of artificially synthesized exotic feelings. Under the guise of science and even faith (a more "scientifically substantiated" faith), the anti-Christian argumentation is likely to be gradually refined, in order to launch a sweeping offensive on the secular culture. In any case, the soil is well prepared.


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