WAR, PROGRESS, AND THE END OF HISTORY, INCLUDING A SHORT STORY OF THE ANTI-CHRIST: THREE DISCUSSIONS
Is evil only a natural defect, an imperfection disappearing of itself with the growth of good, or is it a real power, possessing our world by means of temptations, so that for fighting it successfully assistance must be found in another sphere of being? This vital question can be fully examined and solved only in a complete system of metaphysics.
I began carrying out this task for those who are capable of contemplation,  but I soon felt how important the problem of evil is for everybody. Some two years ago a change in the tenor of my spiritual life, which there is no need to dwell upon just now, created in me a strong and firm desire to illumine in some clear and easy way the main aspects of the problem of evil, which must concern everybody. For a long time I was unable to find a suitable medium for carrying out my plan. In the spring of 1899, however, during my stay abroad, I spontaneously composed and wrote in a few days the first discussion on this subject, and on returning to Russia wrote the two others. In this way I discovered the literary form which this work assumes, and which provided me with the simplest medium for the expression of the thoughts I was desirous of communicating. This form of drawing-room discussion is a sufficient proof in itself that neither a scientifico-philosophical examination nor an orthodox sermon should be looked for in this work. My object in it was rather apologetic and polemic: I endeavoured, as far as I could, to set out clearly and prominently the vital aspects of Christian truth, in so far as it is connected with the question of evil, and to disperse the fog with which everybody seems to have been trying lately to enwrap it.
Many years ago I happened to read about a new religion that was founded in the eastern provinces of Russia. The religion, the followers of which called themselves "Hole-drillers," or "Hole-worshippers," was very simple; a middle-sized hole was drilled in a wall in some dark corner of a house, and the men put their mouths to it and repeated earnestly: "My house, my hole, do save me!" Never before, I believe, has the object of worship been reduced to such a degree of simplicity. It must be admitted, however, that though the worship of an ordinary peasant's house, and of a simple hole made by human hands in its wall, was a palpable error, it was a truthful error; those men were absolutely mad, but they did not deceive anybody; the house they worshipped they called a house, and the hole drilled in the wall they reasonably termed merely a hole.
But the religion of the hole-worshippers soon underwent a process of "evolution," and was subjected to "transformation." It still retained in its new form its former weakness of religious thought and its narrow character of philosophic interests, its former terre-a-terre realism, but it completely lost its past truthfulness. The "house" now was termed "the Kingdom of God on Earth," and the "hole" received the name of "the new Gospel," whilst the distinction between the sham gospel and the true one (and this is the most distressing fact about it), a distinction which is exactly similar to that existing between a hole drilled in a beam, and complete living tree -- this essential distinction was either neglected or confused by the new evangelists.
Of course, I do not assert a direct historical or "genetic" connection between the original sect of hole-worshippers and the teaching of the sham Kingdom of God and the sham Gospel. Neither is it important for my object, which is only to show clearly the essential identity of the two "teachings" with that moral distinction which has been stated above. The identity here lies in the purely negative and void character of both "doctrines." It is true, the "educated" hole-worshippers do not call themselves by this name, but go under the name of Christians, and their teaching is also passed as the Gospel, but Christianity without Christ, and the Gospel, i.e., the ''message of good," without the only good worth announcing, viz., without the real resurrection to the fulness of blessed life -- these are as much a hollow space as is the ordinary hole drilled in a peasant's house. There would not be any need to speak about this at all were it not for the fact that over the rationalist hole the Christian flag is flown, tempting and confusing many of the "little ones." When the people who believe and cautiously declare that Christ has become obsolete and has been superseded, or that He never existed at all, and that His life is a myth invented by Paul, at the same time persistently call themselves "true Christians" and screen their teaching of hollow space by distorted quotations from the Gospel, it is well-nigh time to put aside our indifference to, and our condescending contempt for, their opinions. The moral atmosphere is contaminated with systematic falsehoods, so the public conscience loudly demands that the evil work should be branded by its real name. The true object of polemics would in this case be not the confuting of sham religion but the showing up of the actual fraud.
This fraud has no excuse. Between me, as the author of three books, banned by the ecclesiastic censorship on the one side, and these publishers of numerous foreign books, pamphlets, and leaflets on the other side, the question of external obstacles for an unreserved frankness in these matters does not seriously arise. The restraints of religious freedom, existing in our country, cause the greatest pain to my heart, for I see and feel to what a great extent these external restrictions bring harm to and impose burdens not only on those whom they directly hit, but mainly on the cause of Christianity in Russia, consequently on the Russian nation, consequently, again, on the Russian State.
No external situation can prevent a man who is honestly convinced in his opinions, stating them fully. If it is impossible to do so at home, one can do it abroad, and no one has availed himself of this opportunity to a greater extent than the teachers of the sham Gospel have done when the matters concerned have been the practical questions of politics and religion. Whilst as regards the main, the essential question there is no need even to go abroad in order to refrain from insincerity and artifice: the Russian censorship never demands that anybody should pronounce opinions that he does not hold, to simulate a faith in things he does not believe in, or to love and revere what he despises and hates. To maintain an honest attitude towards the known historical Person and His Work, the preachers of hollowness had only one thing to do in Russia: they should merely have "ignored" Him. But here is the strange fact: in this matter these men refuse to avail themselves either of the freedom of silence which they enjoy at home or of the freedom of speech which they enjoy abroad. Both here and there they prefer to show their allegiance to the Gospel of Christ; both here and there they decline to reveal honestly their real attitude to the Founder of Christianity either by a resolute word or by an eloquent silence, i.e., to show that He is entirely alien to them, is for no object required and is only a hindrance in their way.
From their point of view the things they preach are of themselves clear, desirable and salutary for everybody. Their "truth" is self-supporting, and if a certain historical person happens to agree with it, so much is it the better for him, though this fact does not endow him with any special authority in their eyes, particularly when it is remembered that this person had said and done many things which for these people are nothing but a "temptation" and "madness."
Even supposing that these moralists in their very human weakness feel an irresistible desire to sustain their beliefs as well as their own "reason" by some historical authority, why, I ask, do they not look in history for another who shall be a more suitable representative? There has for a long time been one waiting for such recognition -- the founder of the widely-popular religion of Buddhism. He did really preach what they required: non-resistance, impossibility, inactivity, sobriety, etc., and succeeded even without a martyrdom to "make a brilliant career" for his religion. The sacred books of the Buddhists do really proclaim hollowness, and to make them fully agree with the new teaching of the same matter they would require only a little simplification in detail. On the contrary, the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians are filled and permeated throughout by a positive spiritual message which denies both ancient and modern emptiness, so that to be able to fasten the teaching of this latter to any of the statements taken from the Gospel or the Prophets it is necessary, by hook or by crook, to tear away such a statement from its natural connection with the whole of the book and the context. Whereas, on the other hand, the Buddhist "suttee" supplies whole masses of suitable parables and legends, and there is nothing in those books inimical in spirit to the new teaching.
By substituting the hermit of the Sacciah tribe for the "rabbi from Galilee," the sham Christians would have lost nothing of importance, but would win something very valuable indeed, at least in my eyes -- they would win the possibility of being, even while erring, honestly thinking and to an extent consistent. But they do not want this....
The hollowness of the teaching of the new religion and its logical contradictions are too apparent, and in this matter I have been satisfied to give (in the Third Discussion) only a brief, though complete, statement of their pronouncements, obviously contradictory in themselves and hardly capable of tempting anybody outside the hopeless class of people typified by my Prince. Should I succeed in opening anybody's eyes to the other side of the question and making any deceived but living soul feel all the moral falsity of this death-spreading teaching taken in all its entirety, the polemical object of this book would be fully achieved.
I am firmly convinced, however, that the exposure of an untruth made without reservation, should it even fail to produce any beneficent effect, still remains, apart from the fulfillment of duty it involves for its author, a measure of spiritual sanitation in the life of society, and brings useful results both in the present and in the future.
Bound up with the polemical object of these dialogues I also pursue a positive aim: to present the question of the struggle against evil and of the meaning of history from three different standpoints. One of these is based on a religious conception of the everyday life, which is characteristic of past times, and is given much prominence in the First Discussion in the speeches of the General. The other, representing the ideas of culture and progress as prevailing in our time, is expressed and defended by the Politician, particularly in the Second Discussion. Lastly, the third standpoint, which is absolutely religious and which will yet show its decisive value in the future, is indicated in the Third Discussion in the speeches of Mr. Z. and in the story by Father Pansophius. Personally, I unreservedly accept the last point of view. But I fully recognise the relative truth contained in the two others, and for this reason could with equal fairness express the opposing arguments and statements of the Politician and the General. The higher absolute truth does not exclude or deny the preliminary conditions of its realisation, but justifies, appreciates, and sanctifies them. If from a certain point of view the world's history is God's judgment of the world -- die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht -- this involves a long and complicated contest or litigation between the good and the evil historical forces, and this contest, to come to a final solution, must needs involve both a determined struggle for existence between those forces, and their greater inner, therefore peaceful, development in the common forms of culture. For this reason the General and the Politician are both right in the light of the Higher truth, and I could with complete sincerity place myself in the position of the one or the other. It is only the power of evil itself that is absolutely wrong, but not such means of fighting it as the sword of the soldier or the pen of the diplomat. These weapons must be appraised at their actual usefulness in the given circumstances, and that must be considered the better of the two whose use is more effective in upholding the cause of good. St. Alexis the metropolitan, when peacefully pleading for the Russian princes at the Tartar Horde, and St. Sergius when blessing the arms of Dmitrius of the Don against the same Horde -- both equally served one and the same cause of good -- that finds its expression in many various forms and fashions.
These discussions about evil and the militant and the peaceful methods of combating it, had to be concluded with a definite statement of the last, the extremest manifestation of evil in history, the picture of its short-lived triumph and its final destruction. At first I treated this subject in the form of a dialogue, as I had treated the other parts, and with a similar sprinkling of the jocular element. But friendly criticisms convinced me that this method of exposition was doubly unsuitable: firstly, because the interruptions and interpolations required by the form of dialogue tended to weaken the interest in the story; and, secondly, because the colloquial and particularly the jocular character of conversation did not accord with the religious importance of the subject. I recognised the justice of these criticisms and accordingly altered the form of the Third Discussion, introducing in it the reading from a MS. left by a monk after his death, of an independent "short story of the Anti-Christ." This story, which earlier formed the subject of a public lecture, created a good deal of bewilderment and confused comment on the platform and in the Press, the main reason for which appears to be very simple: the prevailing insufficient knowledge of the references to Anti-Christ contained in the Scriptures and in Church tradition. These give indications of all the main features of Anti-Christ such as the inner significance of Anti-Christ as a religious impostor, who obtains the title of the Son of God by "stealing" it, and not by spiritual self-sacrifice; his connection with a false prophet, wizard, who seduces people by means of real and false miracles; the obscure and peculiarly sinful origin of Anti-Christ himself, who secures his external position of a monarch of the world by the help of evil powers; lastly, the general development and the end of his activity. Other particulars, characteristic of Anti-Christ and his false prophet, may also be found in the same sources. We have there, for instance, bringing down fire from Heaven, murdering the two witnesses of Christ, exposure of their bodies in the streets of Jerusalem, and many others. To connect the events with each other and to make the story more speaking several details had to be introduced, partly based on historical conjectures, and partly created by imagination. On the details of the latter kind, such as the semi-psychic, semi-conjuring tricks of the great magician with subterranean voices, fireworks, etc., I placed, it hardly needs saying, very little importance, and I think was justified in expecting a similar attitude on the part of my "critics." As regards the other and extremely essential point -- the characteristics of the three impersonated confessions in the oecumenical council, this could be noticed and fully appreciated only by those of my critics who were acquainted with the history and life of the churches.
The character of the false prophet given in the Revelation and his mission, as clearly indicated therein, to mystify people for the benefit of Anti-Christ, made it necessary for me to attribute to him different prodigies of the kind that is peculiar to magicians and conjurers. It is known for certainty, dass zein hauptwerk ein Feuerwerk sein wird: "and he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men." (Apocalypsis, xiii. 13.) At present we cannot, of course, know magic and mechanical technique of these prodigies, but we may be sure that in two or three centuries it will advance very far from what it is now, and what will be made possible by such progress for a magician like ours is not for me to say. I have admitted to my story certain definite features and details only as concrete illustrations to the essential and fully-established relations, so that they would not be left mere bare schemes. The essential and the details should also be clearly distinguished in all that I say about Pan-Mongolism and the Asiatic invasion of Europe. But, of course, the main fact itself has not in this case the absolute certainty which characterises the future coming and the fate of Anti-Christ and his false prophet. Nothing has been taken direct from the Scriptures in describing the development of the Mongolo-European relations, though a great deal of it can be based on Scriptural statements. Taken in general, the history indicated presents a series of conjectures of the probable based on the actual facts. Personally, I believe this probability to be very near the certainty, and this appears so, not only to me, but also to many much more important personages. For the sake of coherency of the story, several details had to be introduced into these considerations of the coming Mongolian menace, for which I, of course, cannot vouch, and which, on the whole, were sparingly used. The thing of much greater importance to me was to make the picture of the coming terrific conflict of the two worlds as realistic as possible, and to show thereby the pressing necessity of peace and true friendship amongst all the nations of Europe.
If the general cessation of war seems to me impossible before the final catastrophe is over, I firmly believe that the closest friendship and peaceful cooperation of all the Christian nations and States is not only a possible but a necessary and morally imperative way for the salvation of the Christian world from being swallowed up by the lower elements.
So as not to make the story too long and too complicated I had to leave out another conjecture of mine which deserves a few words of explanation. It seems to me that the coming success of Pan-Mongolism will be greatly facilitated by the stubborn and exhaustive struggle which some of the European countries will have to wage against the awakened Islam in Western Asia and in the North and Central Africa. A greater part than it is generally believed will be played in that awakening by the secret and incessant activity of the religious and political brotherhood of "Senussi," which has for the movements of modern Mahomedanism the same directing importance as in the movements of the Buddhistic world belongs to the Tibetan brotherhood of "Kelani," in Lhasa, with all its Indian, Chinese, and Japanese ramifications. I am far from being absolutely hostile to Buddhism, neither am I particularly so to Islam. But a willful blindness to the existing and coming state of things is too readily indulged in by many people today, and I might perhaps have chosen for myself a more profitable occupation.
The historical forces reigning over the masses of humanity will yet have to come to blows and become intermingled with each other before the new head grows on the self-lacerating body of the beast: the world-unifying power of the Anti-Christ, who "will speak high-sounding and splendid words," and will cast a glittering veil of good and truth over the mystery of utter lawlessness in the time of its final revelation, so that even the chosen, in the words of the Scriptures, will be reduced to the great betrayal. To show beforehand this deceptive visor, was my highest aim in writing this book.
Concluding, I must express my sincere gratitude to M. A. P. Salomon, who corrected and supplemented my topographical data of modern Jerusalem; to M. N. A. Veliaminov, who communicated to me the story of the bashi-bazouk "kitchen," which he personally witnessed in 1877; and to M. M. Bibikov, who carefully examined the General's narrative in the First Discussion and pointed out some errors from the military standpoint, which have now been amended.
Even in this amended form, however, I still feel numerous defects of the work. But not less felt is also the distant image of pale death, which quietly advises me not to put off the publication of this book to an indefinite and little secure date. Shall I be given time for new works, I shall be given it for improving the old ones as well. If not -- the statement of the coming historical issue of the moral struggle has been made by me in sufficiently clear, though brief, outlines, and I publish this little work with the grateful feeling of a fulfilled moral duty.
This preface was originally published in the newspaper, Russia, under the title "On the False Good." When preparing "The First Discussion" for publication as a separate volume, V. Soloviev made in the text numerous corrections. In a fateful manner, however, one of these corrections has proved unnecessary. On the advice of his friends he struck out the words which seemed to bear too personal a character, viz.: "but not less felt is also the distant image of pale death, which quietly advises me not to put off the publication, etc." These words, which were only too soon justified, should remain in the amended text as it stands now.
1. The introduction to this work was published by me in the first three chapters of my "Theoretical Philosophy."