Russia and GHD

by Andrea Elizabeth

I received notification over the weekend of the revival of the GHD (God, History, and Dialectic, by Dr. Joseph Farrell) group discussion when a contributor posted that a new book is out, which is

released by Foundation Encyclopedia Dialectica [F.E.D.], entitled —

A Dialectical “Theory of Everything” — Meta-Genealogies of the Universe and of Its Sub-Universes:A Graphical Manifesto.

It seems from his description that it is a materialist, scientific, mathematical explanation. I suppose if one can get good enough algorithms, one can predict and explain and manipulate anything. This leaves out spiritual intervention or causes of course. But are these interventions exceptions? I don’t intend to go there at present. Instead it has revived my interest in Dr. Farrell’s book. I am in the process of getting our pdf copy deactivated from the computer my kids use during school and reactivated to this one. Right now I am able to get the free sample chapter, that is also available from the “Read First” tab on the GHD site.

In the introduction, Dr. Farrell makes some intriguing claims about the different theological developments in the east and west:

Christian theology has left an indelible imprint, a presupposition, which
permeates the “popular historiographical consciousness” of the Second(Western)
Europe, with its persistent division of History into the tripartite scheme delineated by
various sigla: “Ancient History, Mediaeval history, Modern History” or “Classical Ages,
Dark or Middle Ages, Modern Age” being the two most popular. The origin of this
discernible form is, not surprisingly, the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — or
rather, the dialectically formulated and deconstructed “Trinity” of the post-Augustinian
Christian West. This Augustinian-Trinitarian civilization, which in these pages is
designated “The Second Europe”, was erected on the foundation of the Orthodox and
Eastern Europe, which is similarly designated “the First Europe.” The basic thesis of
these essays is thus that there are Two Europes, Eastern and Western, First and
Second respectively, and that both are the effects and consequences of very different
and ultimately contradictory theological presuppositions and methods. These essays
argue that these different and mutually exclusive presuppositions and methods have
permeated every facet of legal, social, and cultural conventions. But to say this is to say
nothing new, nor terribly original, and certainly nothing terribly upsetting to the
“multiculturalist” or “Judeo-Christian Conservative.” The thesis of the Two Europes is
explored in these essays from the presupposition that the Western, Second Europe is
derivative and aberrant.

Lest multiculturalists or conservatives still misunderstand, this may be plainly
stated: these essays argue that The First Europe is “first” in the sense of cultural primacy
and that it is therefore the canonical measure of Christian civilization. That the Second
Europe came eventually to regard itself as the canonical measure of Christendom, with
all the tragic implications that this pretense engendered, is, in large measure, the task of
these pages to elucidate. When the main thesis of this work is posed in this manner,
certain obvious questions and dilemmas present themselves, with the First Europe and
Russia in the foreground, exposing the insufficiency of any merely secular, political,
economic or sociological approach to a historiographical analysis of the crisis. Why is
this so? It is so because Byzantium and Russia function as mysteries even to the
modern exposition of Mediaeval History in textbooks, textbooks which continue to treat
of both entities as separate phenomena from each other, and more importantly, from
“Europe”, meaning “Western Europe.” Why the separate treatment? Because having
assumed its own cultural canonicity, the historiography of the Second Europe cannot
contend with the sharp and cumbersome edges that Byzantium and Russia offer for
analysis; they cannot be squeezed and moulded into the paradigms appropriate to
Western European Scholasticism or feudalism. One well-known textbook on Mediaeval
History summed up this attitude by treating of Byzantium in a chapter entitled “Europe’s
Neighbors”. But the real problem is that Byzantium and Russia expose the inadequacy
of the Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern” tripartite paradigm of the Second Europe’s
historiography, for in the Western sense, Russia has no ancient history, and an arguable
case could be made that it is only just beginning to have a “modern” one. It has no
“ancient” history in even a sense that would be recognizable to a subject of the
Byzantine Empire, for prior to its conversion to Orthodox and East Roman Catholic
Christianity rather than to the West Roman and Latin, it possessed no high literary
culture at all. Russia possessed nothing analogous to the classical pagan inheritance
possessed both by Byzantium and the Latin West. Hence, Russia’s very existence and
history as a nation is more intimately bound up with Christianity than any other.
Orthodoxy was both father, mother, and mid-wife to Russian nationhood. If Russia
therefore be an enigma or a mystery or a riddle to the Second Europe, it is not because
Russia is Russia but because it is Orthodox. We now draw nearer to the task of these
essays, for they do constitute an attempt to do Orthodox theological historiography, or
perhaps even an Orthodox version of the great “philosophies of history” of the Hegelian
Geistesgeschichteschule, or at the very least, an attempt to outline the necessary form
that such an analysis must take.

[emphasis mine]

If Russia is at its core orthodox, I want to study Russian culture more. Being raised with its vilification during the Cold War, I have some obstacles to overcome. I am very attracted to the Russian Orthodox Church which has (many say) the reputation of being the artistic appex of Orthodoxy in iconography, hymnography, and praxis, with its roots firmly established by its Greek missionaries, who are said to possess the theological appex of Orthodox expression. But to say Russia as a nation is orthodox, seems to ignore somewhat the division between Church and State. I don’t think the same divisions that we are used to existed in Byzantium (the first Europe) however. Ivan the Terrible, though pious in many respects and the builder of St. Basil’s Cathedral, is still terrible in many other ways. Peter the Great, though the son of a very pious man, as I’ve recently been told, secularized Russia a great deal, as did Katherine. To me at this point, Russia seems to be a combination of passionate intensity, very deep spirituality, and great intelligence, all perhaps influenced by Orthodoxy (and perhaps the Mongols, whom I’d also like to know more about, or even Germanic invaders), but not yet perfected by it.