Chronicles of the deconstruction of meaning

 

"When you think about it, Adolph Hitler was the first pop star."
(David Bowie)

 


Preface: about a telemicroscope

A year ago in the article ‘The Loss of Faith’ I was compelled to write concerning the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church quoting from the gospel of Matthew:
“…. you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.… you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.[1]
"At that time all the global and multilayered lies of the ROC MP[2] had suddenly assembled into a one coherent picture. Here was Patriarch Cyril uttering lies, delivering empty, false sermons – lying because he does not believe in God and a godless person is unable to squeeze out of himself anything but falsity about God even if tries hard. Here were non-believing Godless priests and bishops raising Eucharistic Cups while choirs sing “Receive the Body of Christ”. And here are followers ardently believing, first in the mighty power of Russia and only after that in a reduced version of Christ which fits their primary faith in the empire. The name of Christ is mentioned by them rarely now. Their congregations seem to believe that the most important thing is the correct conduct of the rituals: candles in the churches, national-Orthodox attributes while knowing almost nothing about Christ, His apostles, Christians of the first centuries. This horror fits well the contemporary ideology of the ROC MP which long ago ceased to be Orthodox and Christian but became instead “the Russian church”, the conductor of the state cult. A lie amongst which, by some miracle, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is still happening."

That article was a response to the murder of Fr Pavel Adelgeim, the last publicly visible priest of the ROC MP who followed Christ without compromise and dared to speak the truth plainly. His murder made a big impact in Russia and almost zero – around the world, even in the Orthodox Churches. It is not surprising; Christians are murdered every day around the globe. Murders (of Christians and non-Christians alike) are evil and I cannot say that the murder of Fr Pavel was “particularly evil”. Nevertheless, in my mind it stands out because of its gross symbolism, the symbolism of a grand metaphysical scale that makes the event relevant not just to the Russian Orthodox or Russian citizen but to all people. To me it was no less then a symbolic action of the universal evil which now choses to actualize itself in Russia. The evil spat out one of those few who clearly saw it rising and opposed it. Speaking the more understandable to the Westerner language, the last white knight was slain by the dragon; the kingdom is overtaken at last and the gates are opened wide; now nothing can stop the beast from leading its army into the world.

I wonder why the Hollywood movies about good and bad guys, good and evil witches etc are ever popular even in “the pragmatic and materialistic Western society” (a Russian cliché). Why the story about some hobbits taking an evil ring back to the evil fire to overthrow the evil king for the sake of the triumph of the universal good are met with enthusiasm by the adults who are prepared to play the movie roles and even wear “the one ring” (during specially assigned times) not fearing to seen as “ridiculous” but when a Christian dares to speak about the prince of darkness and good or fallen angels he become ridiculous in the eyes of the majority. To me it looks like the adamant refusal “to get real” and recognize a chronic failure of this world, despite all human effort, to be good or, using the more radical language of the Gospels, to admit that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one”[3]. It is such a Jungian case: an unconscious perception of the acting universal evil in the world is transferred into the safe frame of enacted games about good guys and bad guys. Hence I conclude that when a Christian speaks about the evil he is laughed at because he reminds the consciousness of the listener about that that was pushed far into the dark corners of the psyche. He is deadly serious about the evil; worse even, he often calls it not just “evil principal” or “dark force” but “Satan” or “demon” thus insisting that “the force” has the reality of the person. Such a clarity of definitions is not just annoying but crucial. I believe that the allergy for a clear language, especially when it deals with “difficult” matters like existential and metaphysical truth is one of the major factors in the current state, balancing-on-the-edge-of-the-third-world-war.

Yet, before getting on with the actual subject of these notes I, just like the fictional narrator of the novel ‘Doctor Faustus’ (with whom I feel right now a certain affinity), will introduce myself for the purpose of being as little misperceived as possible. This could be a very easy one-sentence task if we lived in the world where the words “I am a Christian, Eastern Orthodox, an iconographer and artist” meant what they were supposed to mean originally. It is not so in our world therefore I have to clarify that I indeed believe in Christ, Son of God and Son of Man as my personal Saviour and the Saviour of all humanity – literally.  From this main notion follows the conviction that a Christian cannot exist without the Church that is nothing less but the mystical body of Christ – again literally. Next – that an iconographer must be a practising Christian and know theology well. My last, relevant to this article, conviction is that humanity could never conduct its various atrocities without being inspired and aided by Satan who is a murderous force, the vacuum of despair, the spirit that is unable to act in the material world directly. He is a person though. After saying all this I must add that I reject neither psychoanalysis nor evolution or find quantum mechanics which I (as much as I am able to comprehend it) consider to be a mind blowing illustration of God’s activity or even a “scientific icon”. There is not the slightest contradiction in the facts above. Faith does not take anything away from a human being but provides the ability to perceive the world from an additional metaphysical angle, to see the hidden structures behind the visible. It is like a telescope and a microscope together that allows perceiving a current moment against eternity.


Some peculiarities of the Russian national consciousness

I was a teenager and a student of the College of Visual Arts when perestroika broke in so to me that time will remain for ever the time of fresh air, reading, listening and seeing the works of the authors prohibited before, and the first encounter with suppressed (effectively prohibited) until then Eastern Orthodox Christianity which resulted in my baptism. I am aware of the claims of others, that perestroika was experienced in a, similar to mine, romantic way only by the minority of Russians but it is hard for me to believe it. I think almost everyone had their share of the initial euphoria and hope. The empty shelves of the shops made a comparatively small impact on me unlike freedom, particularly the freedom of speech, therefore I cannot agree with those who condemn Gorbachev, for the semi-starvation or other misdeeds.

I can speak only for myself and for my circle but I have a strong impression that the consciousness of the Soviet nation before Gorbachev was idealistic or at least it was supposed to be such. The major official Soviet values were brotherhood, internationalism, peace, self-sacrifice for the better future of the generations to come. The desire to possess material goods was labelled as “vulgar”. Even if all that was just the official ideology I do not believe that it did not shape the national consciousness, to a various individual extent. Idealism had its Jungian shadow channelled into “the external and internal enemies”. During the years immediately preceding perestroika idealism was devoid of its initial brightness in the young USSR. In Brezhnev’s time it became rather dull and tired. Perestroika revived the national tendency to idealism and added to the Soviet values freedom of speech and faith. It ruined the security of the national consciousness by cancelling external and internal enemy and by revealing the gross crimes against humanity of the Soviet era. It also opened to the nation its culture in its fullness (via permitting us to read, listen, and view all that was prohibited before) and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the official faith of the state until 1917.

I remember perestroika as a very active time of many discoveries, very strong hope and the thirst for the meaning of life. I realize now that it was a perfect time for bringing the nation to Christ or at least to Christian values: the people had enough of fakes and were thirsty for the real thing. The unprompted revival of the ROC MP was such that it is often called “the second baptism of Russia”. A very important aspect of this was the genuine authority of the Church among people of all backgrounds and kinds; it was looked upon as a keeper of an ideal – the new ideal of the purity and truth. The nation, Christians and non-Christians began to believe, not necessary in Christ but in the existence of something worthy of faith at last. That is not to say that there were no people who could not care less about freedom and faith. They are not the critical mass in that what happened. The realm of the Spirit does not operate with the linear “more” – “less”, sometimes one or a few people can prevent the catastrophe.

The hope and faith did not appear out of nowhere and without a context. The context, which nurtured this national consciousness, was powerful: old cities and towns with their unique eclectic architecture, various arts, world famous literature, etc. Whatever failures perestroika had in the economy and in other respects, its humanistic ideas opened the door for the faith and were not alien or false in the context of Russian culture that was (at its roots) essentially Christian and European.

I cannot stress enough one important aspect of the drama: the severely bruised, traumatized, infantile, used to be managed and barely able to cope with the suddenly given freedom, nation and the part of it that attempted to hope and believe, in Christ or something more than this world. That “spiritual renaissance” was too genuine so it had to be dealt with.

 
“The freedom of capitalism”


We all knew that the bloody capitalists were only acquiring riches, drink, smoke cigars, and screwing. Thus Russia was given all those, in the form of new TV shows.

The state TV channels, which in the Soviet time had showed good quality movies and education programs, during perestroika – the masterpieces of the own and foreign cinematograph and other admirable things, suddenly began transmitting imported soap operas and extremely vulgar comedy shows interrupted by alcohol adverts and also tits, arses and sexual intercourses filmed in a way that is far from beautiful. It is true that vulgar humour and pornography can be heard and seen on the Western TV but not to the extent it has been done in Russia and certainly not on the state channels. I still remember my shock when I came back to Moscow after three years in Australia and switched the TV on. The people with whom I spoke shared my dismay. “Why do they do this, why do they show the adverts of beer (people are already drinking in the streets), why this stupid humour?” Some even said that “they” (probably the West or the state government which served the West) are corrupting the nation deliberately. Indeed, to the post-Soviets, not familiar even with erotic magazines, sex shops or cat houses all those new things felt like a rape at first. As for the humour it probably served to drop down the general level of the taste and culture, including the culture of the language which deteriorated very promptly.
The humour, alcohol and porn campaigns were aided by the occult. There came the endless shows of “clairvoyants”, “witches”, etc, again on an unprecedented scale. The printed mass-media also were stuffed with the adverts of the workers of the occult. The state TV channels, the state newspapers and magazines: occult, porn, idiotic humour and almost nothing else, just as someone deliberately tried to make out of the nation only idiots with a few primary instincts. Again I repeat: all those exist anywhere in the West but in a more logical proportion to other things.
 

The destruction of the culture and memory

My regular visits to my homeland were frequent enough to remember what I have seen during my previous visits and not too frequent to prevent me from seeing the new reality with the sharpness of a partial outsider. It was impossible not to see that the historical Moscow was the subject of systematic destruction.  The precious buildings of the 19th, 18th, even 17th centuries were destroyed or would be subjected to “restoration with demolition”. It was the new term that perfectly reflected the views of those who now ruled the city and the country, those who because of their lack of culture were unable to understand the difference, let us say, between the authentic architecture of  the18th c and its copy made with concrete. The destroyed buildings were of such quality that in any European city they would be doomed to be preserved and adored. They were preserved even in the USSR that destroyed quite an impressive number of the old masterpieces. It is not an exaggeration to say that the historical city of Moscow does not exist any longer. Tourists may see some separate old buildings, some new fakes but the architectural mass which makes a city a true old city is gone forever. Gone that living “history in stone” which was accessible to everyone and which generations of Russians have been absorbing unconsciously. Gone was the Moscow that poets had called “the heart of Russia”, which one must defend until the end. It disappeared in the most inglorious way imaginable. All but a few architectural enthusiasts barely paid attention (and some of those paid with their lives).

Others Russian cities shared the fate of Moscow to varying degrees. As somebody stated in his blog, “fake buildings – fake history – fake nation”.
 

The collapse of the last national myth

In the row of officially cultivated “red days of the calendar” Victory Day stood out as strikingly genuine. The red flags, the portraits of the Party leaders, demonstrations and parades on the 1st of May, 7th of November (Revolution of 1917) or 23d of February (The Red Army Day) were just the inevitable conditions of the life in the USSR. The 9th of May, the Victory Day in the War 1941-1945 was holy in people’s consciousness as the day on which the bloodiest war in history war finished and fascism was defeated by us. It was our victory over the universal evil on a scale unknown before. It did not matter that in our country were concentration camps for its own citizens or that the leaders of the USSR made that shameful agreement with the universal evil before the war came to our land. The defeat of that infernal ideology – the basis for the destruction of the whole nations “for the good” somehow overweights the straight-forward mass-murders and tortures of the GULAG, not in terms of the “more-less” impossible evaluation of the number of the lost human lives but because of the intuitive sense of a metaphysical evil far beyond human capacity. It must be added that at the time of the war, and for the decades after, the majority of the Soviets were unaware of the full scale of the atrocities done by its own state power on its own land. Unlike many, my grandfather knew about them. He fought the war and then, a few years later, spent seven years in the GULAG. Nevertheless, the Victory Day was holy for him, despite the way his own country paid him for the victory.

The 9th of May, despite the official parade on the Red Square, had a very private and sincere dimension of the personal loss, tears (“the celebration with the tears in eyes” sang the popular song) and quiet pride in our own nation. The attitude of the common people to their veterans was genuine reverence. I think the fact of victory gave the nation a new meaning for its existence instead of “building communism” which almost no one believed at that time. It was the ultimate fairy tale in which the good overthrows the evil, and we were the heroes, the saviours of humanity.

I do not know how and when exactly the major national myth began falling apart. I saw only the outer manifestations: the pseudo-veterans, obviously too young to be true, with almost hundreds of medals and orders on their chests; pathetic, unbearably vulgar, shows sponsored by the state government; the ribbons of the St George’s medal attached everywhere, from the cars to dog’s collars; the semi-naked stupid youths posing, as if for ‘Playboy’ in front of the war memorial, or on it, and so on.  I also read “Why does it happen? – why does the state promote such an attitude?” in the Russian blogs. Just like years ago I heard similar phrases about the alcohol adverts and the tits-and-arses. Ten or fifteen years ago a person who dared to put the ribbon of the colours of the medal onto his dog’s collar would be sworn at or even beaten up. Just like in a case with the historical architecture of Moscow or other Russian cities there was an enigmatic process of evaporation, dissolving, and swapping of straight-forward values (honour, beauty, goodness) with something minuscular, perhaps too minuscular, pathetic and vulgar to fight with. Who can take seriously a person who confronts a clown stating that his jokes are offensive? And is it not the sheer vulgarity of the jokes that must bring a clown down by itself eventually, without our participation?


Swapping the meanings

Although weakened by the corruption and the partial loss of cultural memory the national consciousness still could not be destroyed as long as it had something genuine to hold on. The national myth was hugely vulgarised and later utilised by the state government – the anti-fascist myth was turned into a tool of propagating fascism, that particular blurring of meaning will be addressed later in more detail. Russia still had the potential ideal in the ROC MP, the Church which was densely populated by KGB/FSB agents but still had some clergy who sincerely believed and followed Christ – that was the only thing needed not to allow the nation to descend into the blurred inferno completely. The ROC MP, with all its vices and outrageous compromises with the state still was the true church. The Soviet state government has dealt with it by opposing its ridiculous “cult” the socialist and communist ideology, by suppression, prosecutions or blackmailing into quiet collaboration. The current Russian state government came up with a far more sophisticated method: to make the Church its own via obliging it to proclaim aloud the values of the inferno presenting them as Christian teaching. If successful, the ultimate result of this method would be a complete loss of the ethical/ moral radar of the congregations and total decapitation of the Church and Christianity (literally removing it from its head – Christ) before the very eyes of the people. This is now accomplished.

I admit I do not know how to speak about those things. The words “corruption of the national consciousness by pornography”, “the destruction of cultural memory via destruction of historical buildings”, “the faithful clergy who serve as an counterbalance of the evil” etc do have a flavour of absurdity or cheep sensation. I have no idea how to express my sense of catastrophe otherwise then naming a few of the more absurd events which have no apparent connection with each other: the celebration of the anniversary of the concentration camps, the GULAG – not the memory of the prisoners but of the guards and the system; the spiritual leader of the ROC MP giving to the leader of the Communist Party, an atheist, the ROC MP order of honour for “outstanding achievement in defending the traditional national spiritual values” (read "Orthodoxy"); the making of our beloved saint St Seraphim of Sarov, the mystic and ascetic who taught that “the meaning of Christian life is to acquire the Holy Spirit” into the patron of the Russian nuclear missile forces and so on. The portraits of Stalin together with the icons including the icon of the last emperor Nicholas murdered by predecessors of Stalin; churches built in Lubianca, the FSB headquarters; the banners with the face of Christ in the hands of Russians fighting with the Ukrainian ‘fascists’. I type and I feel disgust, disgust with the events and with my powerlessness to deliver to the reader their significance. Indeed, the reader may just shrug his shoulders – “yes, it is absurd, strange, bizarre so what?” Where is the promised twist which makes all this the manifestation of the universal evil? Very well, let us move on to the evil at last.


The modern face of metaphysical evil

It is tough. It is so tough to describe it because it is so well-adapted to the modern human consciousness. It could not be otherwise though because the evil is not interested in being discovered. It is so easy for us to see it in the past: human sacrifices, the fires of the inquisition, the Holocaust of the last century, the nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc.

There is nothing like this for the eye to see in Russia today. Instead there is an “enigmatic Mr Putin” who from time to time sets up “the conflicts” occurring in neighbouring countries. The Russian state defines his activity as “peace making”. Then there is the church which preaches that the Russian Orthodox Christians must keep the faith, not to succumb into the evil temptations of this world, to defend our motherland and reject fascism. That does not contradict Christianity if one takes those words as they are supposed to be, “the faith” as faith in Christ, “evil temptation” as the attempt of the evil to move us to sin, “defend our motherland” as defending it if the enemy attacked us and threatened to kill us, and “fascism” as quoting Wikipedia, “Fascist movements share certain common features, including the veneration of the state, a devotion to a strong leader, and an emphasis on ultranationalism and militarism. Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation and it asserts that stronger nations have the right to expand their territory by displacing weaker nations.” But in its applied meaning the words mean: “the faith” – the faith in the superiority in our nation and our messianic role of the God-bearer; “evil temptation” – all evil temptations are coming from the West; which wants to destroy “Holy Russia”; “defend our motherland” – a preventive strike of the perceived enemy’s land; “fascism” – our name for the ideology of our current enemies. What is happening here is the swap of the meaning of the words. What such a swap brings about is a reality that fits perfectly with the Wikipedia definition of fascism. Russia calls Ukraine “fascist” and anyone else who supports it and no one addresses that contradiction.

That blurring and swapping of the meanings could not appear without precursors of course; the huge degree of lies present in Soviet propaganda and the selectivity of ethics and morals required by them prepared the fertile soil. By this point I hope the reader has formed some cloudy impression of the Russian nation’s past and of the current situation. I hope that the later appears to be more clouded than the former because that is the actual course of the events, onwards into the total incoherency. I wonder if it is becoming clear now where I am going – from the Russian fog to the Western one.

As far as I can judge, from the personal interactions with the locals and from the Western media, the West still very much wants to understand “who is Mr Putin”. To this want I can answer “Putin is you”. You invented post-modernism and we gave you its perfect incarnation. Don’t you recognize it?

The problem with post-modernism is that it makes any meaning relative via burying it in endless hypertext references. “As if”, “like something”. Everything is everything and everything is nothing and nothing is everything but never nothing. To speak clearly is “boring”, to talk about things seriously is “laughable”, to have firm convictions about something is “old-fashioned”. It seems that the major fear of the post-modern consciousness is to become an object of laughter, thus it laughs at everything in advance. A postmodernist resembles the mythological king Midas who turned everything he touched into gold with the difference that his devaluation of words and cultivated non-seriousness turns everything he touches into shit. If one looks at “enigmatic Mr Putin”, ROC MP and their followers through the prism of postmodernism their deeds begin making a perfect sense. Indeed, they managed to turn into shit or a fake the culture, the history, the life, the church, even Christianity. It is impossible to turn Christ into a postmodernist so He is left aside. Only postmodernists can set up the impossible “hybrid war”, call it “peacemaking” and show all world a middle finger. And only the postmodernists on the other side of the Russian border can follow the game repeating the names given, not seeing the obvious and willingly offering their backsides for sodomy. They know that “Russian postmodernists” laugh at them but, in a line with the post-modernist game, they refuse to take it seriously. They are powerless to name the evil which cannot be defeated without the “ridiculous” straight-forwardness of a fool.

“But where is that promised awful metaphysical evil, Satan?” – One may ask. It is here, dispersed and cracking in when the person deviates from their “yes meaning yes and no meaning no”. Satan is actually very subtle; he infiltrates the humane minds like syphilis into the brain, slowly leading the individual to accept the ideas offered by him as their own. In medieval times he looked like a beast with horns, later – as somewhat romantic Mephistopheles with the pen and ink ever-ready to sign the pact, now – as an empty postmodernist impossible to define, far more dangerous than the previous incarnations.

Here is an example to illustrate my point. Let us imagine a documentary of a straight-forward murder. And let us also imagine a post-modernist movie about the murder made in a non-serious way, perhaps in the new wave style of the sixties. In the first case a normal reaction is most likely to be horror, sadness, and a wish to punish the murderer. In the second it may be confusion, laughter or shrugging the shoulders. If some philistine exhibits a natural healthy disgust, with the fact of the murder and with how it was shown, he would be corrected and shamed: he must acquire some sophistication before reacting. Not only the natural sense of good and evil is corrupted in the hypothetical viewers but they in turn destroy it in others (the uninitiated) via denying them the adequacy and correctness of their reaction. The straightforward consciousness cracks, gives in and accept the roles (sic) of the game. Eventually it loses its ability to distinguish between good and evil and joins in with the propagators of blurred meanings and meaningless values. The second movie is the reality now. Unfortunately, the postmodernist viewers are unable to distinguish between the fiction and the reality. Probably only the end of the game will clarify their perception, most likely together with themselves being cleared off the face of earth.

I am aware of the fact that there are many other unwilling participants in the current game: naïve, scared, not wanting to know the truth, and so on. Some are too tired of all this. I myself have been growing increasingly tired watching the endless soap opera of the Ukrainian war because it did not make a logical = human sense. Now it does and I am no longer overthrown by the confusing, mutually contradicting, events – I understand the direction in which the driving force goes and the principles it uses. Its ultimate purpose, as ever, is the deconstruction of everything that is wholesome in human civilisation and the creation of a pure hell on earth. Before its weapon was the brutal murder of people, now it is the bloodless destruction of human minds. It is truly genius! – So subtle, so funny, so ridiculous. It is a kind of an analogy of “the clean bomb” – it destroys everything that makes a human being to be called “an image of God” but the shell of the human being remains, perfectly untouched and perfectly ready for evil.

The only piece of puzzle which I still do not understand is the position of the majority of the Eastern Orthodox Churches around the world. I wish I could ask their leaders the questions which trouble me. Do you see how the Eastern Orthodox Christianity is being perverted, turned into its parody, and used for these evil deeds? If you see that then why are you silent? Is it because you have also given themselves to the secondary values like national good or the good of the earthly Church leaving Christ aside? Surely you know as well as I do that putting these secondary values in the place of Christ invariably bring on the fall of those secondary values and the Church as well. It is becoming more and more shameful to define oneself as an Orthodox because thanks to the ROC MP the Orthodox are now associated with the soldiers shooting the civilians, waving banners with the face of Christ and shouting the slogans about Russian World and its battle with fascism. What is going on?

Do I need to make a conclusion? Which conclusion can the absurd story can have except ridiculous? I promised to speak about metaphysical evil and here it is. I see the unfolding mess as something that has certain parallels in apocalyptic visions. There are no predictions; we are not supposed to know the times but the sense of doom is present. Something much more serious than it wants to appear is rising. The demise of the ROC MP and the strange impotence of the majority of the Eastern Orthodox Churches to speak up are the necessary means for bringing the apocalypse a bit closer and so are the other components discussed before, together with the post-modern attitude to everything. Now we have the post-modern Russia with its new national faith, ‘Russian Fascist Orthodoxy’ against the old post-modern West which looks at Russia and sees nothing, understands nothing because it sees its own gross shadow (in a Jungian sense) or caricature, the ridiculous exaggeration its own postmodernism. The terrible power of the modern metaphysical evil is in the ridiculous miniscule and platitude nature of its parts. It is too absurd to be taken seriously. Surely it will decipitate by itself. It will not.

I do not have a universal recipe for how to withstand the metaphysical evil. Personally I believe that Christ who is the ultimate Truth is the only antidote to the poisoning of our consciousness but one must have enough guts to go for the ultimate uncompromising value. Or to simply admit own limitations and insufficiency for a start. The secular, less reliable, temporary alternative to Christ is simply seeing and speaking the truth. However, those are the highly private matters and changes which do not occur collectively, so as the corruption of our minds. And God has too much respect for human freedom to step in if He is not asked.

Hence I am saying for myself only: Lord, we again screwed up. We are hopeless, weak and pathetic without You. We poison everything we touch. Please, come.

 
2
6th of August 2014
 

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[1] Matthew 23:27-28

[2] Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate

[3] 1 John 5:19



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