Alexander Solzhenitsyn On The Spiritual Crisis In The West
"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 our attention totally on its pursuit. But even while it eludes us, the illusion of knowing it still lingers and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth seldom is pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter." – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, from his 1978 Harvard address called “A World Split Apart”.
Tomorrow, Tuesday June 8th, 2010, will mark the 32nd anniversary of the late Soviet dissident and Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s speech to Harvard University called "A World Split Apart." Throughout the speech Solzhenitsyn challenges the Western world’s view of itself, its despiritualized conception of freedom, and happiness, and its lack of courage, spiritual strength, and willpower. He also criticizes the coercive nature of Western political establishments, and the destructive role played by the conformist mass media.
Solzhenitsyn’s message was so dire that the press in New York and Washington castigated him, despite viewing him in great esteem before he made the speech. If he delivered the same speech today, in the era of Obama, and not of Carter, it is very likely that he would be disowned in the same manner by the press, and the President, and for the same reasons, because nothing substantial has changed in the political landscape in America in the last thirty years. Evil still runs the show; truths are still denied. In fact, in the post-9/11 world, his words are even more prescient. But, after three decades, it seems his calls for spiritual and moral renewal are finally being heard by the people of America, and the West.
Four years after Solzhenitsyn delivered his speech at Harvard, another writer, Günter Grass, expressed similar concerns about the moral and political direction of the West in Rome in a speech called "The Destruction of Mankind Has Begun." Inspired by Grass’s remarks, I tried my best to analyze, and answer his concerns from my perspective, as a 21st century blogger, in a post I wrote in November 2009 called "The Rebirth of Mankind Has Begun." I said:
A reborn Mankind would have to cleanse itself of evil, and not just the grand acts of evil that are committed by lonely tyrants, and giant bureaucracies, but the smallest concessions to evil’s demands that are made by individuals who forsake their own spiritual self in the hope of escaping their responsibility to do good.
By accomplishing a spiritual rebirth first, the mass of people in America and other Western countries would then be able to guide political and economic decisions towards a more just path. And a rebirth is not possible without the acceptance of the truth about serious political crises, the most important being the dubious project that is called the "war on terrorism", and do that requires courage, which Solzhenitsyn said Western political leaders currently lack:
"A decline in courage 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."
Facing the truth about 9/11, the collapse of the financial system, and other recent events, will take unbelievable and historical courage. These "big lies" and "mega crimes" must be addressed earnestly, and forcefully, and the war criminals, and lawbreakers must be put in prison, before a new political generation can set out to tackle the monumental problems of this age, such as the consequences of environmental devastation, the mass migration of human beings, food and water shortages, economic decline, disease, etc.
The mass media is silent on these matters because such revelations will cause people to reflect on their society and then seek to transform the current Western political system, and its debt-based monetary system.
Political truths cause profound social changes in society, even religious transformations, and because of that, they are never advertised in the mass media, and academic establishments. In his speech, Solzhenitsyn said that the massive flow of information in the Western media drowns out deep and honest reflection upon the sobering news of the day. He was aware of the harmful effect that gossip news and mindless chatter has upon public consciousness and morality, and he recognized this empty underbelly of the media even before the wide circulation of "Gotcha!" magazines, and Hollywood news shows.
The suppression of unfashionable facts by the media has led to the mass blindness of our age. The blockade of concrete and factual information has made public denial of certain truths to become normal, and such an unhealthy denial of reality allowed a state crime like 9/11 to be possible in the first place. And this endless denial has presented humanity a profound crisis, a crisis that many people from all kinds of educational backgrounds are seeking to understand and to grasp, because this crisis touches on all fields of thought, psychology, the social sciences, religion, anthropology, etc. In the field of action, politics, and journalism, are the two areas that this crisis will transform by the time of its resolution.
If the suppression of these truths were only media in origin, then that would be easier to deal with, but increasingly we find that the problem is not media censorship, but public denial. The majority of people can’t admit that the U.S government let 9/11 happen, or was involved in the attack in any manner, because such a realization suggest that the evil they’re supposed to be afraid of, and fighting, is not located in the huts and villages of Afghanistan, but in the concrete buildings of Washington D.C. To accept that evil lives in your own kingdom means that you are not protected by God. It is a deeply humbling experience.
Thus, people don’t even bother reading information that does not fit into their worldview. The censorship in our culture is more likely a result of popular mindlessness than it is a product of blanket government-corporate control of media participants and institutions. Sure, there are CIA-owned journalists who push official fantasies into the public arena, and repeat government lies, but that doesn’t explain the complete lack of coverage in the press about 9/11 truth.
As Solzhenitsyn explained it, the press in America is free to highlight, and write anything it wants, so as long as it is fashionable, and does not deviate from the current trends of thought, but that does mean that the public is free to read anything it wants. The decline of newspaper and magazine sales in the past two decades is a reflection of people’s growing realization that the press in the United States and the West is not serving them, but corporate and elitist interests. During this decline, the internet has become a new frontier in the media landscape. The web is really the wild, wild, west of information and news, and such openness has led to a massive political awakening in the people.
Solzhenitsyn on the conformist, and commercial nature of the press in the West:
"Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislative power, the executive, and the judiciary. And 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; 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 newspaper[s] mostly develop 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 giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to flock together and shut 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, to 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 a 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."
The internet has successfully negated the efforts by the corporate media, and the government’s intelligence services to suppress devastating information about the origins of the financial collapse, false flag terrorism, and the secret rule of governments by elitist interests. Also, the popularity of Democracy Now, Alex Jones’ radio show, and other truth-telling programs, reveal that people in North America are ready to hear the truth, and they can handle it.
But, the matrix of information that is the internet has also created a new problem, one that Solzhenitsyn saw clearly in 1978, and one that plagues us all, even the "awakened." Solzhenitsyn:
In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is.
It is tough to excavate through the news every day, and focus on the few important news stories. All the media rubble gets piled on top of each other, and reality gets lost in the shuffle. And people find it hard to speak to each other, across the info gap, because they are literally on different info wavelengths. Simply to talk to somebody about 9/11, and raise hair-raising evidence about the tragedy with the person, is a heroic act. The massive influx of information day in and day out paralyzes the psyche, so anybody who counteracts it, and then takes a step further to inform others, is a true warrior.
Solzhenitsyn on the fragile nature of modern Western societies, and the fight between good and evil:
"There are meaningful warnings which 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 unhealthy.
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 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?"
What’s so profound and great about Solzhenitsyn’s speech is its directness. He speaks to the soul. And I know exactly what he is talking about because little has changed on the surface in the last thirty-two years. The Western political elite are still morally and spiritually bankrupt, and with the exception of Dr. Ron Paul, and some other notable politicians, there aren’t any great statesmen around, not in the United States, Canada, or Europe. A lack of true political representation is recognized by a majority of the population, and yet public courage is missing, silent, or non-existent.
Solzhenitsyn’s remarks about the unhealthy nature of the social system, and the imminent reality riots in a period of electrical breakdown or social unrest couldn’t be more on the mark. And the presence of evil is so transparent, and in your face, that people are unable to move, and forcefully resist it. Something more serious than apathy is holding people back. On some level, people know what they’re up against, but they would rather deny the forces of evil exist than meet it head-on.
Solzhenitsyn warned that the West cannot survive if it thinks it can do a "little evil." Evil doesn’t need much space to move around and do its work. And without moral power, a civilization dies.
Solzhenitsyn on the importance of the moral principle in politics:
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.
After the collapse of one evil empire in 1989, all eyes in the world are set on Washington D.C. as the world awaits the collapse of another evil empire. And it will collapse, because as Solzhenitsyn says below, "The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections." The West suffers from a spiritual malaise, just as the Soviet System suffered such a fate under the Communist system, where God was not given his much deserved glory. And our lack of spiritual fulfillment is so great, and the need for transcendence is so gravely missing in our daily lives, that it’s almost a miracle that people haven’t already gone totally deranged. The spiritual crisis in the West is worse than the other political, economic, and environmental crises.
Solzhenitsyn on the spiritual crisis in the West:
"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 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 suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible — The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections."
Western Renewal, And A New Spiritual Ascension
According to Solzhenitsyn, the West is leaning towards a new phase in history, one in which physical and spiritual pursuits will be combined. As many other writers and prophets have said in the past, this new change in spiritual evolution will positively impact culture, politics, work, and other areas of life.
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.
Solzhenitsyn’s wisdom is surely needed now in the West, when state crimes, and state lies are denied, covered-up, and even justified. He began his speech, which is so profound on so many levels, with a special emphasis on the need for truth in public life, because he came face to face with officialdom’s lies in the Soviet Gulag, and knew how evil propaganda was. It is psychological torment. But he conquered it. And he wanted the West to conquer it as well. He touched a nerve in the psyche of the West, because he understood its ills and poisons too well, and people were not yet prepared to dig deep, and change. But hopefully people are ready to listen now, after thirty two years. Read the powerful speech in full.