Russia's Mission to Save Christianity

22 mei 2024 | Robert Lemm

Vladimir Solovyov lived from 1853 to 1900. He was a friend of Dostoevsky, with whom he shared the view that Russia was called to save Christendom. Philosophy, metaphysics, science and religion form the fabric of his oeuvre. A small anthology of Solovyov’s work was published in Dutch in 1964 by Kruseman publishers in The Hague. In 2001 the monthly magazine ‘Katholieke Stemmen’ published, in its September-October issue, a translation of Solovyov's Legend of the Antichrist under the title ‘The Last Pope’. This is a remarkable prophecy that appeared in the year of his death.

In 2001, anthroposophist Ton Jansen wrote ‘Life and Work of Vladimir Solovyov’ in Light of His Philosophy of Love, which he self-published (Perun Books). In response, editor-in-chief Henk Rijkers of the Catholic Newspaper (Nov. 9 issue) noted: “The unity between the torn halves of the Church of Christ was very close to the heart of the Russian thinker Vladimir Solovyov. He devoted himself with heart and soul to a new unity.”

Russian leader Vladimir Putin and philosopher Alexander Dugin are fascinated readers of his work. Before turning to his remarkable prophecy, I will present an outline of the idea of that new unity that was originally written in French.

The Universal Church
La Russie et l'Église Universelle’ was not allowed to see the light of day in tsarist Russia because of censorship. And while reading, it becomes clear why. Because, according to Solovyov, the Church should be supranational; and the Russian Orthodox Church is national, and nationalism he considered a perversion, which on a small scale can be compared to individualism; for even though every human being is rightly an individual, he is also a member of a society and thus bearer of social responsibility. Applied to Christianity, however, we may say that there are no limits. The Gospel is meant for people everywhere, and the Church is called to propagate it. Therefore it should not be monopolised by a local government and a local culture.

In the Latin West, although the Church by tradition had a universal character, since the French Revolution of 1789 there had been a separation between Church and State, and this, at the hands of liberalism during the 19th century, would lead to the marginalisation of Christianity in most countries. In Russia, by contrast, the national Orthodox Church persisted as a pillar of the throne, as by birth defining the identity of every Russian. With the exception of the 70-year period of the Soviet Union, when the government suppressed the church and religion was presented by the communists as opium for the people. After the fall of the Wall in 1989 and the prestroika, the Orthodox Church regained its former status. Where Christianity was suppressed from above, it grew against oppression. In the West, people left churches voluntarily en masse since the 1960s.

The starting point of sound theology according to Solovyov is the Godmanhood. Solovyov explains in his book how making a separation between the "being God" and the "being Man" of Jesus Christ was at the cradle of pagan state power. Claiming that the Son is not of the same nature as the Father, or claiming that God was never flesh-and-blood man, are the two core fallacies during the earliest centuries of the Christian era. Solovyov is referring to Arianism and Gnosticism, respectively. According to the first fallacy, Jesus would have been only a prophet; in the second, the God of flesh and blood exists only in appearance, or only in our minds as an idea. By separating Father and Son, religion and the world each go their own way. How this separation worked out politically, the author demonstrates on the basis of the relationship between Church and State in the Byzantine Empire.

Solovyov insists that Church and State must operate in unison. Dostoevsky shows how this can also go wrong in the ‘Tale of the Grand Inquisitor’, which is inserted in his 1880 novel ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. In this book, the author has the liberal brother Ivan Karamazov say that Christ can only be imitated by a few. And the Grand Inquisitor has no use for the few. Let them go to the desert. The Grand Inquisitor deals with the many. The Gospel serves him to keep the crowd obedient. And so the amalgamation of Throne and Altar can lead to a degenerate theocracy.

The Orthodox of the East aimed for the political supremacy of the Byzantine Church. For administrative reasons, they cut ties with the Universal Latin Church. They were even willing to support heresies at home against the West. This occurred, for instance, in the seventh century during the movement of the iconoclasts, who rejected images of Christ, effectively denying his “Being Human”. They achieved exactly the opposite of what they intended, namely that their church became increasingly subordinate to the "state interest". Theological issues or disputes, insofar as they were not politically useful, did not interest the emperors of Constantinople. These were interested in order and peace and, above all, unity among the people. So the patriarch of the Orthodox Church had to comply with worldly authority. And Caesar used religion and its patriarch to sanctify his power. Leaving aside the extent to which that situation could give rise to what Dostoevsky shows in his story of the Grand Inquisitor, the fact is that Solovyov ideally insists on unity of spiritual and political power, on interaction between Church and State, on unity between soul and body, but in a universal, and not a national, sense.

What Solovyov has in mind is how in the Holy Roman Empire of the West both the pope and emperor bore their own responsibility, assuming that they worked together in harmony. That this led to tensions in reality, given, for example, the Investiture Controversy around the appointment of prelates and the secular interests of God's vicars on the one hand, and those of emperors and kings on the other, showed that even in the Catholic West, the struggle for influence of the two bodies was no different from what took place in the East.

It was precisely during the time of iconoclasm that the Byzantine Empire saw the birth and rise of Islam. And the caliph was both protector of the faithful, and head of state. Worldly and spiritual power were in one hand. Solovyov sees Islam's triumph as punishment for the Byzantine Empire's divided Christianity. Although relying on military aid from the West against the advancing Muslims, the nationalist Orthodox of Byzantium pushed through the separation from universal Rome. In 1053 the schism between East and West, the so-called Great Schism, took place and in 1453 the Muslim Ottomans entered Constantinople as victors.

On the other hand, in the West the establishment of a universal Catholic empire around the Frankish-Germanic axis ended in failure. The papacy decayed and against this, Protestant nationalism broke orbit with Luther in 1517 and with the secession of England under Henry VIII in 1535. Europe began to secularise, the Church gradually lost its control, and in the nineteenth century she was on the sidelines. And finally, the Church became toothless. Overwhelmed by the democracies, by liberalism and socialism and atheistic humanism, Christianity withered away.

The Russian elite, traditionally focused on Europe, on Paris, on art, civilisation and the latest fashions, was happy to let itself drift to what it saw as Progress in the West. But there were also Russian writers who opposed the Westernisation of their own identity. Against that background, some felt their country was destined to save Christianity for the West in an as-yet-undiscovered future. In Russia, the church may have been a national one, but rather a national one than a dying one.

The timeline
God has been working in History since Judaism, according to Solovyov. Through Christianity, which built on Judaism, time had acquired meaning in a chronological sense, through the succession of generations. In it, the Christianisation of Europe by the first missionaries, the papacy growing in centralism and the establishment of the Christian monarchy with succession were phases through which the Thousand-Year Kingdom of relative peace predicted in the Bible unfolded. It came to an end with the French Revolution of 1789. And after that, evil was given free rein as never before.

The European Union of our time is a recent version of the Tower of Babel, a purely economic project in which God and religion no longer play a role. It is a body without a soul, a decomposing corpse.

The separation of Church and State was not, as is often assumed, yet another sign of progress, but the beginning of spiritual and moral decay.

And so Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin could say that "Western Europe had chosen Satan" (interview in Forum for Democracy's youth magazine The Dissident, 2nd edition, June 2022).

Good versus Evil
In his book ‘The Justification of the Good’ (English translation The Justification of the Good, transl. Nathalie A. Duddington, with foreword by Stephen Graham), an essay on moral philosophy that also precedes his account of the Antichrist, Vladimir Solovyov again argues that Christian unity requires a universal church, adding that moral principle rests on connection between true religion and the politics derived from it. For just as we are members of a household, a family, a nation, so are we within the authority of Church and State; we have both a personal, and a social conscience. And here the extremes of nationalism - an excessive emphasis on one's own people at the expense of other peoples - and cosmopolitanism or autonomous world citizenship should be avoided.

Solovyov, apart from Dostoyevsky, was also a contemporary of Nietzsche. About him, he writes: "In his last works, that unfortunate one forged his vision into a furious weapon against Christianity, which he saw as something that only slaves could serve, the underclass, the simple stupid. Against that slave morality, he harboured the cult of life force, vitalism. But Christianity does have a message of strength, strength and beauty", and as a sign of this, Solovyov points to the Virgin Mary in her Magnificat: "My soul magnifies the Lord, whose arm elevates the humble and humbles the proud." The Mother of God is Santa Sophia, the Holy Wisdom who presides over the Universal Church. She is the one who crushes the head of the dragon, the apocalyptic Lady clothed with the sun, with under her feet the moon and above her head a wreath of 12 stars.

"My soul magnifies the Lord, whose arm elevates the humble and humbles the proud."

- Virgin Mary

In his essay, Solovyov calls Nietzsche "appallingly superficial" in his polemic with Christianity. "His claim to the title of antichrist would have been really comic if his life had not ended so tragically, for he lapsed first into delusions of grandeur and then into utter insanity." He was “the false strength of a dying patient.”

Nietzsche was to become the most influential philosopher in the 20th century. The mountain of books and dissertations on him is towering and still growing. His often repeated statement "God is dead" is not a critique to protect the true and good from those who had long since stopped caring about God in their minds but did not yet dare to say so because of their positions, but unmistakably forms the substance of his own later works. He cursed Christianity and won acclaim among academics, intellectuals, journalists, whom he would have otherwise scorned. Solovyov predicted the breakthrough of his thinking in the lower regions. It would become commonplace, regardless of whether people still knew him or had even read him.

In 1888, Nietzsche wrote his version of ‘The Antichrist’. In it, in his capacity as Übermensch, he sabres Christians as vile Untermenschen.

‘The Tale of the Antichrist’ by Vladimir Solovyov
Nietzsche's name does not feature in Solovyov's short book. What feature is the designation Übermensch predicted by the German philosopher. The 21st century has been seen as his era. So his characteristics will become manifest now, in our time, and it is surprising to note that. The Supreme Man presents himself in his "public life" as the new Christ, and moreover as the bringer of peace and prosperity. He is the founder of a European League of States in which wars are a thing of the past. In this, he gets support from Masonic Lodges, the military-industrial complex and the financial world. These make him a world ruler. People call him "the compassionate people's friend". Furthermore, he poses as an animal lover and a vegetarian. All political and social problems, he promises to solve. "All people are equal" is his watchword. Around him he has gathered a circle of neo-Buddhists and scientists who radiate their mysticism of Eastern wisdom and commitment to globalisation to all corners of the globe. Hunger is a thing of the past. The United States of America is his chief promoter. Finally, the combined governments appoint him emperor, with a pope named Apollonius beside him, who has magical powers.

In Solovyov’s narrative, the last true pope, Peter II, has fled Rome and has settled in St Petersburg. Around him, the last Christians have gathered. The vast majority of Christians in the world have joined the imperial Supreme Man with his humanitarian agenda. In Russia, meanwhile, a simple Catholicism has taken off, without much outward show. In addition, Protestantism has lost its sharp edges. The many millions of Orthodox pseudo-Christians have left the national Orthodox Church. Those who remain apart from the last Catholics and evangelical Protestants were the Old Christians of the Russian Church. This holy remnant is few in number but is growing in spirit.

The Antichrist in the guise of the globalising Caesar and his pope acting as sorcerer organise an ecumenical council in a temple in Jerusalem.  At that meeting, the Antichrist preaches the equality of all churches and the foundation of a world religion, in which members of all persuasions can agree. All people will become brothers and daughters of Elysium, reads the hymn of the new world citizens.

Representatives of the holy remnants from Russia have also travelled with the last believers to the council in Jerusalem. Greybeard John represents the Eastern Orthodox; Pope Peter II, the remaining Catholics; and Dr Ernst Pauli, the evangelical Protestants. When Patriarch John asks the emperor if he believes in Jesus Christ, urging him to profess the Creed, antipope Apollonius conjures an imposing nocturnal fireworks display from his sleeve. Patriarch John and Pope Peter are killed, Dr Pauli takes refuge in the desert near Jericho with the last believing Christians.

But suddenly in Jerusalem the Jews revolt when they discover that the emperor is not circumcised, so he could not possibly be the expected Messiah. Thereupon he and his false pope flee. The slain John and Peter - the two last witnesses from the Apocalypse, 11:1-14 – are resurrected from the dead, while a king Christ, dressed in purple, appears, in whom the remaining believing Jews recognise their Messiah. Together with the last Christians, they will reign with Him for 1,000 years.

The Universal Church comes back, the link between true religion, salvific politics, and Russia was the basis.

So much for Solovoyov's legend or story, succinctly summarised. Part of it is recognisable in our time, the last part is for the future.


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