Berdiaev : the end of Europe

http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1915_195.html

« The visionary dream about world unity and world dominion — is an age-old dream of mankind. The Roman Empire was the greatest attempt at such unity and such dominion. And every universalism is bound up even at present with Rome, as a concept spiritual, and not geographic. The present-day world war, which is spreading all over and threatens to engulf all lands and peoples, would seem deeply contrary to this old dream about world unity, about a single world governance. Such a terrible war, it would seem, is destroying the unity of mankind. But this is so only for the superficial glance. From a perspective at greater depth the world war to the ultimate degree has brought into sharp focus the question concerning world order upon the earthly globe, about the expanse of culture upon all the surface of the earth. The present historical period has similarity to the era of the great transmigration of peoples. There is the feeling, that mankind is entering upon a new historical and cosmic even period, amidst some sort of great inevitability, completely unforeseen by any of the scientific prognoses, meanwhile toppling down all the doctrines and teachings. And it demonstrates first of all, that the ancient, the irrational and indeed primitive instincts are stronger than all the modern social interests and humanitarian feelings. These instincts, rooted within the obscure wellsprings of life, win out over the feeling of bourgeois self-preservation. That, which seemed to the consciousness of the second half of the XIX Century to be the solely essential things within the life of mankind, have proven all to be merely at the surface level of life. The world war tears away this surface skin of the civilisation of the XIX and XX Centuries and reveals the deeper layers of human life, it sets loose the chaotically irrational within human nature, covered over only outwardly, but nowise changed within modern man. The social question, the struggle of classes, the humanitarian-cosmopolitanist socialism etc, etc, all that which not so long ago seemed still singularly important, and in which they saw the only possible future, now fades into the background, gives way to deeper interests and instincts. Into the foreground move questions of nation and ethnos, the struggle for dominance of various imperialisms, all that, which had seemed overcome and left behind by cosmopolitanism, by pacifism, by the humanitarian and socialistic teachings. The eternal bourgeois and socialistic world has proven phantasmic, a mere abstraction. Within the fires of this terrible war have been burnt up all the doctrinalisings and there has been melted away all the fetters, latched upon life by the teachings and theories. The instincts of nation and ethnos in the XX Century have proven to be mightier than instincts social and of class. The irrational has proven stronger than the rational within the most bourgeois and well-organised of cultures. The struggle of ethnos, the struggle of national dignities, the struggle of great empires for might and dominion is essentially supra-national. Here the dark will for the expansion of the supra-personal life wins out over all personal interests and plans, it capsizes all the individual perspectives on life. How many individually unrewarded go the sacrifices that are demanded by imperialistic politics or the struggle for national worth. And in our epoch there is the displacing of instincts by still stronger instincts, upon which stand the imperialistic and national struggle. The instincts particular to life, of the egoistic family, the philistine, are won out over by interests of national life, of historical and world life, by instincts of the glory of peoples and states….. »

http://www.berdyaev.com/

 

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