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 Translation: I. A. Ilovayskaya
 WWW: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/solzhenitsyn/harvard1978.html

               Text of Address by
             Alexander Solzhenitsyn
     at Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises,
             Thursday, June 8, 1978

     I am sincerely happy to be here with  you  on
this occasion and  to become personally acquainted
with this old and most prestigious  University. My
congratulations  and  very  best  wishes to all of
today's graduates.
     Harvard's  motto  is  "Veritas."  Many of you
have already found out and others will find out in
the course of their lives that truth  eludes us if
we  do not concentrate with total attention on its
pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion
still  lingers  of  knowing  it  and leads to many
misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant;
it  is  almost  invariably  bitter.  There is some
bitterness in my speech today, too. But I  want to
stress  that  it  comes  not from an adversary but
from a friend.
     Three  years  ago in the United States I said
certain  things  which  at  that   time   appeared
unacceptable.  Today,  however,  many people agree
with what I then said...

     The split in  today's  world  is  perceptible
even to a hasty glance. Any of our  contemporaries
readily  identifies two world powers, each of them
already  capable of entirely destroying the other.
However,  understanding  of  the  split  often  is
limited  to  this  political  conception,  to  the
illusion  that  danger  may  be  abolished through
successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving
a  balance  of armed forces. The truth is that the
split  is  a much profounder and a more alienating
one, that the rifts are more than one can  see  at
first  glance.  This deep manifold split bears the
danger  of  manifold  disaster  for  all of us, in
accordance with the ancient truth that a Kingdom -
in  this  case, our Earth - divided against itself
cannot stand.

     There  is  the  concept  of  the Third World:
thus,  we  already have three worlds. Undoubtedly,
however, the number is even greater; we  are  just
too  far  away  to  see. Any ancient deeply rooted
autonomous culture, especially if it is  spread on
a wide part of the earth's surface, constitutes an
autonomous world, full of riddles and surprises to
Western thinking. As a minimum, we must include in
this  category  China, India, the Muslim world and
Africa, if indeed we accept the  approximation  of
viewing the latter two as compact units.  For  one
thousand  years  Russia  has  belonged  to  such a
category, although Western thinking systematically
committed  the  mistake  of denying its autonomous
character  and therefore never understood it, just
as  today  the  West does not understand Russia in
communist  captivity .  It may be that in the past
years Japan has increasingly become a distant part
of the West, I am no judge here; but as to Israel,
for instance, it seems to me that it stands  apart
from the Western world in that its state system is
fundamentally linked to religion.
     How  short  a time ago, relatively, the small
new  European  world  was  easily seizing colonies
everywhere, not only without anticipating any real
resistance,  but  also   usually   despising   any
possible values in the conquered peoples' approach
to life. On the face of it, it was an overwhelming
success, there were no geographic frontiers to it.
Western  society  expanded  in  a triumph of human
independence and power. And all of a sudden in the
twentieth  century  came  the   discovery  of  its
fragility  and  friability.  We  now  see that the
conquests proved to be short lived and precarious,
and  this in turn points to defects in the Western
view  of  the  world which led to these conquests.
Relations  with the former colonial world now have
turned  into  their opposite and the Western world
often  goes  to extremes of obsequiousness, but it
is difficult yet to estimate the total size of the
bill which former colonial countries will  present
to  the  West,  and  it  is  difficult  to predict
whether  the  surrender  not  only  of  its   last
colonies,  but  of  everything  it  owns  will  be
sufficient for the West to foot the bill.

     But the blindness of superiority continues in
spite  of  all  and  upholds  the belief that vast
regions  everywhere  on  our planet should develop
and  mature  to  the  level of present day Western
systems  which  in  theory  are  the  best  and in
practice the most attractive. There is this belief
that  all  those  other  worlds  are   only  being
temporarily prevented by wicked governments  or by
heavy  crises  or  by  their   own   barbarity  or
incomprehension  from  taking  the  way of Western
pluralistic  democracy  and  from   adopting   the
Western  way  of life. Countries are judged on the
merit  of  their  progress  in   this   direction.
However, it is a conception which developed out of
Western  incomprehension  of  the essence of other
worlds,  out  of the mistake of measuring them all
with  a Western yardstick. The real picture of our
planet's development is quite different.
     Anguish about our divided world gave birth to
the  theory of convergence between leading Western
countries and the Soviet Union. It is  a  soothing
theory which overlooks the fact that these  worlds
are not at all developing into similarity; neither
one  can be transformed into the other without the
use of violence. Besides,  convergence  inevitably
means acceptance of the other side's defects, too,
and this is hardly desirable.
     If I were today addressing an audience in  my
country,  examining  the  overall  pattern  of the
world's  rifts  I  would  have concentrated on the
East's  calamities.  But  since my forced exile in
the  West  has  now lasted four years and since my
audience  is  a  Western one, I think it may be of
greater interest to concentrate on certain aspects
of the West in our days, such as I see them.

     ...may be  the most striking feature which an
outside observer notices  in the West in our days.
The Western world has lost its civil courage, both
as  a  whole and separately, in each country, each
government, each political party and of course  in
the United Nations. Such  a  decline in courage is
particularly  noticeable  among  the ruling groups
and  the intellectual elite, causing an impression
of  loss  of  courage  by  the  entire society. Of
course  there  are many courageous individuals but
they have no determining influence on public life.
Political  and   intellectual   bureaucrats   show
depression,  passivity  and  perplexity  in  their
actions  and  in their statements and even more so
in  theoretical   reflections   to   explain   how
realistic,  reasonable  as  well as intellectually
and  even  morally  warranted  it is to base state
policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in
courage  is  ironically  emphasized  by occasional
explosions  of anger and inflexibility on the part
of  the  same  bureaucrats  when dealing with weak
governments  and  weak countries, not supported by
anyone,  or  with  currents which cannot offer any
resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed
when  they  deal  with  powerful  governments  and
threatening    forces,    with    aggressors   and
international terrorists.
     Should one point out that from ancient  times
decline  in  courage  has  been   considered   the
beginning of the end?

     When the modern Western States were  created,
the    following    principle    was   proclaimed:
governments are meant to serve man, and man  lives
to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example,
the American Declaration). Now at last during past
decades  technical   and   social   progress   has
permitted  the  realization  of  such aspirations:
the welfare state. Every  citizen has been granted
the  desired  freedom  and  material goods in such
quantity and of such quality as  to  guarantee  in
theory  the  achievement  of  happiness,  in   the
morally  inferior  sense which has come into being
during those same decades. In the process, however,
one psychological detail  has been overlooked: the
constant  desire  to have  still more things and a
still better life and the struggle  to obtain them
imprints  many  Western faces  with worry and even
depression, though it is customary to conceal such
feelings. Active and tense  competition  permeates
all  human  thoughts without opening a way to free
spiritual development.
     The individual's independence from many types
of  state  pressure  has  been   guaranteed;   the
majority of people  have  been  granted well-being
to an extent their fathers and grandfathers  could
not  even  dream  about; it has become possible to
raise  young  people  according  to  these ideals,
leading  them  to  physical  splendor,  happiness,
possession of material  goods,
money and leisure, to an almost  unlimited freedom
of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this,
why  and for  what  should one risk one's precious
life in defense of common values, and particularly
in such  nebulous cases when the security of one's
nation must be defended in a distant country?
     Even biology  knows  that  habitual   extreme
safety  and  well-being are not advantageous for a
living  organism. Today, well-being in the life of
Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious

     Western   society   has   given   itself  the
organization best suited to its purposes, based, I
would say, on the letter of the law. The limits of
human rights and righteousness are determined by a
system of laws; such limits are very broad. People
in  the  West  have acquired considerable skill in
using,  interpreting  and  manipulating  law, even
though  laws  tend  to  be  too complicated for an
average  person  to understand without the help of
an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the
letter of the law and this is considered to be the
supreme  solution.  If  one  is right from a legal
point  of  view,  nothing more is required, nobody
may mention that  one  could still not be entirely
right, and urge self-restraint, a  willingness  to
renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless
risk:  it  would  sound  simply absurd. One almost
never  sees  voluntary  self-restraint.  Everybody
operates  at  the  extreme  limit  of  those legal
frames.  An  oil company is legally blameless when
it  purchases an invention of a new type of energy
in  order  to  prevent  its  use.  A  food product
manufacturer  is legally blameless when he poisons
his  produce  to  make  it last longer: after all,
people are free not to buy it.
     I  have  spent  all my life under a communist
regime  and I will tell you that a society without
any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed.
But  a  society  with no other scale but the legal
one  is  not quite worthy of man either. A society
which  is based on the letter of the law and never
reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage
of  the  high  level  of  human possibilities. The
letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a
beneficial  influence  on  society.  Whenever  the
tissue  of  life is woven of legalistic relations,
there  is  an  atmosphere  of   moral  mediocrity,
paralyzing man's noblest impulses.
     And  it  will  be simply  impossible to stand
through  the  trials  of  this threatening century
with only the support of a legalistic structure.

     In today's  Western  society,  the inequality
has  been  revealed  of freedom for good deeds and
freedom  for  evil deeds. A statesman who wants to
achieve    something    important    and    highly
constructive   for   his   country   has  to  move
cautiously and even timidly; there are   thousands
of hasty  and irresponsible  critics  around  him,
parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he
moves  ahead,  he  has  to prove that every single
step  of  his  is  well-founded   and   absolutely
flawless. Actually an outstanding and particularly
gifted  person   who  has unusual  and  unexpected
initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert
himself; from the very beginning, dozens of  traps
will be set out for him. Thus  mediocrity triumphs
with  the   excuse   of  restrictions  imposed  by
     It  is  feasible  and   easy   everywhere  to
undermine  administrative  power  and, in fact, it
has  been  drastically  weakened  in  all  Western
countries.  The  defense  of individual rights has
reached  such  extremes  as  to  make society as a
whole  defenseless against  certain   individuals.
It  is time, in the West,  to  defend  not so much
human rights as human obligations.
     Destructive  and  irresponsible  freedom  has
been granted  boundless  space. Society appears to
have  little  defense  against  the abyss of human
decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty
for moral violence against  young  people,  motion
pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It
is   considered   to   be   part   of  freedom and
theoretically    counter-balanced  by  the   young
people's right not to look or not to accept.  Life
organized  legalistically  has  thus   shown   its
inability  to  defend itself against the corrosion
of evil.
     And what shall we say about the dark realm of
criminality  as  such? Legal frames (especially in
the  United  States) are broad enough to encourage
not  only  individual  freedom  but  also  certain
individual  crimes. The  culprit can go unpunished
or  obtain undeserved leniency with the support of
thousands  of  public defenders. When a government
starts  an earnest fight against terrorism, public
opinion  immediately  accuses  it of violating the
terrorists'  civil  rights.  There  are  many such
     Such a tilt of freedom in  the  direction  of
evil has come about gradually but it was evidently
born  primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent
concept  according  to  which  there  is  no  evil
inherent  to  human  nature;  the world belongs to
mankind and all the defects of life are  caused by
wrong  social  systems  which  must  be corrected.
Strangely   enough,   though   the   best   social
conditions  have  been achieved in the West, there
still   is   criminality   and   there   even   is
considerably  more  of  it  than in the pauper and
lawless Soviet society. (There is a huge number of
prisoners in our camps which are termed criminals,
but  most  of them never committed any crime; they
merely  tried  to  defend  themselves   against  a
lawless  state  resorting  to  means  outside of a
legal framework).

     The press too, of course, enjoys  the  widest
freedom.  (I  shall  be  using  the  word press to
include  all  media). But what sort of use does it
make of this freedom?
     Here  again,  the  main  concern  is  not  to
infringe  the letter of the law. There is no moral
responsibility  for  deformation or disproportion.
What sort of responsibility does a journalist have
to his readers, or to history? If they have misled
public  opinion  or  the  government by inaccurate
information  or  wrong  conclusions, do we know of
any cases of public recognition and  rectification
of  such  mistakes  by  the same journalist or the
same newspaper? No, it does not happen, because it
would damage sales. A nation may be the victim  of
such  a  mistake ,  but the journalist always gets
away  with  it. One may safely assume that he will
start  writing  the  opposite  with  renewed self-
     Because  instant and credible information has
to  be  given,  it  becomes necessary to resort to
guesswork,  rumors and suppositions to fill in the
voids,  and  none  of them will ever be rectified,
they will stay on in the readers' memory. How many
hasty,  immature,   superficial   and   misleading
judgments  are  expressed  every  day,   confusing
readers,  without  any verification. The press can
both  simulate  public  opinion and miseducate it.
Thus  we  may  see  terrorists heroized, or secret
matters,  pertaining  to  one's  nation's defense,
publicly  revealed,  or  we  may witness shameless
intrusion  on  the  privacy  of  well-known people
under  the  slogan:  "everyone is entitled to know
everything."   But   this  is  a   false   slogan,
characteristic  of  a  false era: people also have
the  right  not  to  know,  and  it is a much more
valuable  one.  The right not to have their divine
souls  stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A
person  who works and leads a meaningful life does
not  need  this   excessive  burdening   flow   of
     Hastiness  and superficiality are the psychic
disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere
else  this  disease is reflected in the press. In-
depth analysis of a problem  is  anathema  to  the
press. It stops at sensational formulas.
     Such as it is, however, the press has  become
the greatest power within the  Western  countries,
more  powerful than the legislature, the executive
and  the judiciary. One would then like to ask: by
what  law  has  it  been elected and to whom is it
responsible? In the communist East a journalist is
frankly appointed as a state official. But who has
granted  Western  journalists their power, for how
long a time and with what prerogatives?
     There  is  yet  another  surprise for someone
coming from the East where the press is rigorously
unified: one gradually discovers a common trend of
preferences  within  the Western press as a whole.
It  is  a  fashion ;  there are generally accepted
patterns  of  judgment  and  there  may  be common
corporate  interests,  the  sum  effect  being not
competition  but  unification.  Enormous   freedom
exists  for  the press, but not for the readership
because  newspapers  mostly give enough stress and
emphasis to those opinions which do not too openly
contradict their own and the general trend.

     Without   any   censorship,   in   the   West
fashionable  trends  of  thought  and  ideas   are
carefully   separated  from  those  which  are not
fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not
fashionable will hardly ever  find  its  way  into
periodicals  or  books  or  be  heard in colleges.
Legally  your  researchers  are free, but they are
conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no
open  violence  such  as  in  the East; however, a
selection  dictated  by  fashion  and  the need to
match   mass    standards    frequently    prevent
independent-minded   people   from   giving  their
contribution to public life. There is a  dangerous
tendency  to  form a herd, shutting off successful
development.   I  have received letters in America
from  highly  intelligent persons, maybe a teacher
in  a  faraway small college who could do much for
the renewal and salvation of his country, but  his
country  cannot hear him because the media are not
interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass
prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous  in
our  dynamic  era. There is, for instance, a self-
deluding interpretation of the  contemporary world
situation.  It  works as a sort of petrified armor
around  people's  minds.  Human  voices   from  17
countries  of  Eastern  Europe  and  Eastern  Asia
cannot  pierce  it.  It will only be broken by the
pitiless crowbar of events.
     I have mentioned a few trends of Western life
which  surprise  and  shock  a new arrival to this
world.  The  purpose and scope of this speech will
not  allow  me  to continue such a review, to look
into    the    influence    of    these    Western
characteristics  on  important  aspects  on  [the]
nation's  life,  such  as   elementary  education,
advanced education in [?...]

     It is almost universally recognized that  the
West  shows  all  the  world  a  way to successful
economic  development,  even  though  in  the past
years  it  has  been strongly disturbed by chaotic
inflation. However, many people living in the West
are  dissatisfied  with  their  own  society. They
despise  it  or  accuse  it of not being up to the
level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of
such  critics  turn to socialism, which is a false
and dangerous current.
     I hope that no one present will suspect me of
offering  my  personal  criticism  of  the Western
system  to  present  socialism  as an alternative.
Having experienced applied socialism in a  country
where  the  alternative  has   been   realized,  I
certainly  will  not  speak for it. The well-known
Soviet  mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the
Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant
book  under  the title Socialism; it is a profound
analysis  showing  that  socialism of any type and
shade  leads  to  a total destruction of the human
spirit  and  to  a leveling of mankind into death.
Shafarevich's book was published in France  almost
two  years ago and so far no one has been found to
refute it. It will shortly be published in English
in the United States.

     But should someone ask  me  whether  I  would
indicate  the  West such as it is today as a model
to  my  country,  frankly  I  would have to answer
negatively. No, I could not recommend your society
in  its  present  state  as  an  ideal   for   the
transformation of ours. Through intense  suffering
our  country  has   now   achieved   a   spiritual
development  of  such  intensity  that the Western
system   in   its   present   state  of  spiritual
exhaustion  does  not  look attractive. Even those
characteristics  of  your  life  which I have just
mentioned are extremely saddening.
     A  fact  which  cannot  be  disputed  is  the
weakening of human beings in the West while in the
East  they  are  becoming firmer and stronger. Six
decades for our people and three decades  for  the
people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have
been  through  a spiritual training far in advance
of  Western  experience.  Life's  complexity   and
mortal  weight  have produced stronger, deeper and
more interesting characters than those produced by
standardized Western well-being. Therefore if  our
society  were  to  be  transformed  into yours, it
would  mean an improvement in certain aspects, but
also  a  change for the worse on some particularly
significant scores.  It is  true, no doubt, that a
society  cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness,
as  is  the  case  in  our country. But it is also
demeaning  for  it  to   elect   such   mechanical
legalistic   smoothness  as  you  have.  After the
suffering  of  decades of violence and oppression,
the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and
purer  than  those  offered by today's mass living
habits,  introduced  by  the revolting invasion of
publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music.
     All this is visible to observers from all the
worlds  of  our planet. The Western way of life is
less and less likely to become the leading model.
     There  are  meaningful  warnings that history
gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are,
for instance, the decadence of art, or a  lack  of
great  statesmen.  There  are  open  and   evident
warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of
your  culture is left without electric power for a
few  hours  only,  and  all  of a sudden crowds of
American  citizens  start  looting  and   creating
havoc.  The smooth surface film must be very thin,
then,  the  social  system  quite   unstable   and
     But  the  fight  for our planet, physical and
spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a
vague matter of the future; it has already started.
The  forces  of  Evil  have  begun  their decisive
offensive,  you  can  feel their pressure, and yet
your  screens  and  publications   are   full   of
prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is  the
joy about?

     Very   well  known  representatives  of  your
society,  such  as  George  Kennan, say: we cannot
apply moral criteria to politics. Thus we mix good
and  evil,  right and wrong and make space for the
absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On
the  contrary,  only  moral  criteria can help the
West  against  communism's  well   planned   world
strategy.  There  are no other criteria. Practical
or  occasional  considerations  of  any  kind will
inevitably  be  swept  away  by  strategy. After a
certain  level  of  the  problem has been reached,
legalistic thinking induces paralysis; it prevents
one from seeing the size and meaning of events.
     In spite of the abundance of information,  or
maybe because of it,  the West has difficulties in
understanding  reality  such  as it is. There have
been  naive  predictions  by some American experts
who  believed  that Angola would become the Soviet
Union's  Vietnam  or  that  Cuban  expeditions  in
Africa  would  best  be  stopped  by  special U.S.
courtesy  to  Cuba.  Kennan's  advice  to  his own
country  -  to  begin   unilateral  disarmament  -
belongs to the same category. If you only knew how
the  youngest  of  the  Moscow  Old   Square   [1]
officials  laugh  at your political wizards! As to
Fidel Castro, he frankly scorns the United States,
sending his troops to distant adventures from  his
country right next to yours.
     However, the most cruel mistake occurred with
the  failure  to  understand the Vietnam war. Some
people  sincerely  wanted all wars to stop just as
soon  as  possible;  others  believed  that  there
should  be  room for national, or communist, self-
determination  in  Vietnam , or in Cambodia, as we
see today with particular clarity.  But members of
the U.S. anti-war movement wound up being involved
in  the  betrayal  of  Far  Eastern  nations, in a
genocide and in the suffering today imposed on  30
million people there. Do those convinced pacifists
hear  the  moans  coming  from  there?   Do   they
understand their responsibility today? Or do  they
prefer  not  to  hear? The American Intelligentsia
lost  its  [nerve]  and  as  a consequence thereof
danger has come much closer to the United  States.
But  there  is   no   awareness   of   this.  Your
shortsighted  politicians  who  signed  the  hasty
Vietnam  capitulation  seemingly  gave  America  a
carefree  breathing  pause; however, a hundredfold
Vietnam now looms over you. That small Vietnam had
been  a  warning  and  an occasion to mobilize the
nation's  courage.  But  if a full-fledged America
suffered  a  real  defeat  from  a small communist
half-country,  how can the West hope to stand firm
in the future?
     I  have had occasion already to say  that  in
the  20th  century democracy has not won any major
war without help and protection  from  a  powerful
continental ally whose philosophy and ideology  it
did not question. In World War II against  Hitler,
instead of winning that war with its  own  forces,
which  would  certainly  have   been   sufficient,
Western  democracy  grew  and  cultivated  another
enemy who would prove worse and more powerful yet,
as Hitler never had so many resources and so  many
people, nor did he offer any attractive ideas,  or
have such a large number of supporters in the West
- a potential fifth column - as  the Soviet Union.
At  present,  some  Western  voices  already  have
spoken of obtaining protection from a third  power
against aggression in the next world conflict,  if
there  is  one;  in  this case the shield would be
China. But I would not wish such an outcome to any
country in the world. First of all, it is  again a
doomed  alliance  with  Evil; also, it would grant
the United States a respite, but when at  a  later
date  China  with  its  billion  people would turn
around armed with American weapons, America itself
would fall prey to a genocide similar to  the  one
perpetrated in Cambodia in our days.

     And yet - no weapons, no matter how powerful,
can  help  the West until it overcomes its loss of
willpower.  In  a state of psychological weakness,
weapons become a burden for the capitulating side.
To defend oneself, one must also be ready to  die;
there is little such readiness in a society raised
in  the  cult  of  material well-being. Nothing is
left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time
and   betrayal.  Thus  at  the  shameful  Belgrade
conference   free  Western  diplomats   in   their
weakness  surrendered  the  line  where   enslaved
members  of  Helsinki  Watchgroups are sacrificing
their lives.
     Western thinking has become conservative: the
world situation should stay as it is at any  cost,
there  should  be  no  changes . This debilitating
dream of a status quo is the symptom of a  society
which has come to the end of its development.  But
one must be blind in order not to see that  oceans
no longer belong to the West, while land under its
domination  keeps  shrinking.  The  two  so-called
world wars (they were by far not on a world scale,
not yet) have meant internal self- destruction  of
the  small,  progressive  West  which   has   thus
prepared its own end. The next war (which does not
have  to  be an atomic one and I do not believe it
will) may well bury Western civilization forever.
     Facing  such  a  danger, with such historical
values  in  your  past,  at  such  a high level of
realization of freedom and apparently of  devotion
to  freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an
extent the will to defend oneself?

     How has this unfavorable relation  of  forces
come  about?  How  did  the  West decline from its
triumphal  march  to  its  present  sickness? Have
there  been fatal turns and losses of direction in
its  development?  It  does  not seem so. The West
kept  advancing  socially  in  accordance with its
proclaimed  intentions, with the help of brilliant
technological  progress.  And  all  of a sudden it
found itself in its present state of weakness.
     This  means  that  the mistake must be at the
root,  at  the very basis of human thinking in the
past centuries.  I refer to the prevailing Western
view  of the world which was first born during the
Renaissance  and  found  its  political expression
from  the  period  of the Enlightenment. It became
the  basis  for government  and social science and
could  be  defined  as  rationalistic  humanism or
humanistic  autonomy:  the proclaimed and enforced
autonomy  of  man from any higher force above him.
It  could  also be called anthropocentricity, with
man seen as the center of everything that exists.
     The  turn  introduced  by   the   Renaissance
evidently  was inevitable historically. The Middle
Ages  had  come  to  a  natural end by exhaustion,
becoming  an  intolerable  despotic  repression of
man's  physical  nature  in favor of the spiritual
one.  Then,  however, we turned our backs upon the
Spirit  and  embraced  all  that  is material with
excessive  and  unwarranted  zeal. This new way of
thinking,  which  had  imposed on us its guidance,
did  not  admit the existence of intrinsic evil in
man  nor  did  it  see  any  higher  task than the
attainment  of happiness on earth. It based modern
Western  civilization  on  the  dangerous trend to
worship  man  and  his  material needs. Everything
beyond  physical  well-being  and  accumulation of
material  goods,  all other human requirements and
characteristics  of  a  subtler and higher nature,
were  left  outside the area of attention of state
and social systems, as if human life did not  have
any superior sense. That provided access for evil,
of  which in our days there is a free and constant
flow.  Merely  freedom does not in the least solve
all the problems of human life and it even  adds a
number of new ones.
     However, in early democracies, as in American
democracy at the time of its birth, all individual
human  rights  were  granted  because man is God's
creature.  That  is,  freedom  was  given  to  the
individual conditionally, in the assumption of his
constant  religious  responsibility.  Such was the
heritage  of  the  preceding  thousand  years. Two
hundred  or  even  fifty  years ago, it would have
seemed  quite  impossible,  in  America,  that  an
individual  could  be  granted  boundless  freedom
simply  for  the  satisfaction of his instincts or
whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations
were  discarded  everywhere  in  the West; a total
liberation  occurred  from  the  moral heritage of
Christian  centuries  with their great reserves of
mercy and sacrifice. State systems  were  becoming
increasingly  and  totally materialistic. The West
ended  up  by  truly   enforcing   human   rights,
sometimes  even  excessively,  but  man's sense of
responsibility  to God and society grew dimmer and
dimmer.  In  the  past decades, the legalistically
selfish  aspect  of  Western approach and thinking
has  reached  its  final  dimension  and the world
wound  up  in  a  harsh  spiritual  crisis  and  a
political impasse. All the glorified technological
achievements  of  Progress, including the conquest
of  outer  space,  do  not  redeem  the  Twentieth
century's moral poverty which no one could imagine
even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.

As humanism in its  development  became  more  and
more  materialistic,  it  made itself increasingly
accessible  to  speculation  and  manipulation  at
first  by socialism and then by communism. So that
Karl Marx was able to say in 1844 that  "communism
is naturalized humanism."
     This statement turned out not to be  entirely
senseless.  One  does  see  the same stones in the
foundations of a despiritualized humanism  and  of
any  type  of  socialism:   endless   materialism;
freedom    from     religion     and     religious
responsibility,  which  under  communist   regimes
reach  the  stage  of anti-religious dictatorship;
concentration   on  social   structures   with   a
seemingly scientific approach. (This is typical of
the Enlightenment in the Eighteenth Century and of
Marxism).  Not  by  coincidence all of communism's
meaningless  pledges and oaths are about Man, with
a  capital  M, and his earthly happiness. At first
glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in
the  thinking  and way of life of today's West and
today's   East?   But   such   is   the  logic  of
materialistic development.
     The  interrelationship is such, too, that the
current of materialism which is most to  the  left
always ends up by being stronger, more  attractive
and  victorious,  because  it  is more consistent.
Humanism  without  its  Christian  heritage cannot
resist  such competition. We watch this process in
the  past  centuries  and  especially  in the past
decades, on a world scale as the situation becomes
increasingly  dramatic.  Liberalism was inevitably
displaced  by  radicalism,   radicalism   had   to
surrender  to  socialism and socialism could never
resist communism. The communist regime in the East
could  stand  and grow  due  to  the  enthusiastic
support   from  an  enormous  number  of   Western
intellectuals  who  felt  a kinship and refused to
see communism's crimes. When they no longer  could
do so, they tried to justify them. In our  Eastern
countries,  communism  has  suffered   a  complete
ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero.
But  Western  intellectuals  still look at it with
interest  and  with empathy, and this is precisely
what makes it so immensely difficult for the  West
to withstand the East.

     I am not examining here the case of  a  world
war  disaster  and  the  changes  which  it  would
produce  in  society.  As long as we wake up every
morning under a peaceful sun, we have to  lead  an
everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which
has already been under way for quite some time.  I
am referring to the calamity of a  despiritualized
and irreligious humanistic consciousness.
     To such consciousness, man is the  touchstone
in  judging  and  evaluating  everything on earth.
Imperfect  man,  who is never free of pride, self-
interest,  envy,  vanity,  and  dozens  of   other
defects.  We are now experiencing the consequences
of  mistakes  which  had  not  been noticed at the
beginning  of  the  journey.  On  the way from the
Renaissance  to  our  days  we  have  enriched our
experience,  but  we  have  lost  the concept of a
Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our
passions  and our irresponsibility. We have placed
too  much  hope  in  political and social reforms,
only  to  find  out that we were being deprived of
our most precious possession: our spiritual  life.
In  the  East, it is destroyed by the dealings and
machinations  of  the  ruling  party. In the West,
commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is
the  real  crisis.  The split in the world is less
terrible  than  the  similarity  of   the  disease
plaguing its main sections.
     If humanism were right in declaring that  man
is born to be happy, he would not be born to  die.
Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth
evidently  must  be of a more spiritual nature. It
cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It
cannot be the search for the best ways  to  obtain
material  goods  and  then cheerfully get the most
out  of  them.  It  has to be the fulfillment of a
permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey
may become an experience of moral growth, so  that
one  may  leave life a better human being than one
started it. It is imperative to review  the  table
of   widespread   human   values.    Its   present
incorrectness  is  astounding.  It is not possible
that  assessment of the President's performance be
reduced  to  the  question  of  how much money one
makes  or  of  unlimited availability of gasoline.
Only  voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise
man above the world stream of materialism.
     It  would  be retrogression to attach oneself
today   to   the   ossified    formulas   of   the
Enlightenment.   Social   dogmatism    leaves   us
completely  helpless in front of the trials of our
     Even if we are spared destruction by war, our
lives will have to change if we want to save  life
from  self-destruction.  We  cannot avoid revising
the  fundamental  definitions  of  human  life and
human  society.  Is  it  true  that  man  is above
everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him?
Is  it  right  that  man's  life   and   society's
activities  have  to  be  determined  by  material
expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to
promote  such  expansion  to  the detriment of our
spiritual integrity?
     If  the world has not come to its end, it has
approached  a  major  turn  in history,  equal  in
importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the
Renaissance.  It  will  exact  from us a spiritual
upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height  of
vision, to a new level of life where our  physical
nature will not be cursed as in the  Middle  Ages,
but,  even  more  importantly, our spiritual being
will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.
     This  ascension  will  be similar to climbing
onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth
has any other way left but - upward.

     [1]  The   Old  Square  in  Moscow   (Staraya
Ploshchad')  is the place where the [headquarters]
of the Central Committee of the CPSU are  located;
it  is  the  real  name  of  what  in  the West is
conventionally referred to as "the Kremlin."

Last-modified: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 19:50:04 GMT
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