Excerpts from Herman Hesse’s “Narcissus and Goldmund” (1930)

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“And so,” he concluded violently, “what is this world in which we are made to live? Is it not hell? Is it not revolting and disgusting?”

“Certainly, that’s how the world is.”

“Ah!” Goldmund cried with indignation. “And how often you told me that the world was divine, that it was a great harmony of circles with the Creator enthroned in its midst, that what existed was good, and so forth. You told me Aristotle had said so, or Saint Thomas. I’m eager to hear you explain the contradiction.”

Narcissus laughed. “Your memory is surprising, and yet it has deceived you slightly. I have always adored our Creator as perfect, but never his creation. I have never denied the evil in the world. No true thinker has ever affirmed that life on earth is harmonious and just, or that man is good, my dear friend. On the contrary. The Holy Bible expressly states that the strivings and doings of man’s heart are evil, and every day we see this confirmed anew.”

“Very good. At last I see what you learned men mean. So man is evil, and life on earth is full of ugliness and trickery—you admit it. But somewhere behind all that, in your thoughts and books, justice and perfection exist. They exist, they can be proved, but only if they are never put to use.”

“You have stored up a great deal of anger against us theologians, dear friend! But you have still not become a thinker; you’ve got it all topsy-turvy. You still have a few things to learn. But why do you say we don’t put justice to use? We do that every day, every hour. I, for instance, am an abbot and I govern a cloister. Continue reading

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Marx’s Capital (Vol. 1, 1867)

“In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific enquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the material it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest.”

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On the Creeping Return of Stalinism

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Aleksandr Yakovlev, the “Godfather of glasnost,” in a speech in 1990:

“[Gorbachev’s decrees rehabilitating victims of terror from 1920-50s] are in my view acts of repentance. When we say that we are rehabilitating someone, as if we are mercifully forgiving him for the sins of the past, this smells of cunning and hypocrisy. We are not forgiving him. We are forgiving ourselves. It is we who are to blame that others lived for years both slandered and oppressed. It is we who are rehabilitating ourselves, not those who held other thoughts and convictions. They only wanted good and freedom for us, and the leadership of the country answered with evil, prisons and camps.

As we breathe the air of freedom, it is already becoming difficult today for us to remember what happened in the distant and not so distant past. There were hundreds of thousands of brutal trials, people who were shot and killed, people who killed themselves, people who did not even know what they were charged with, but who were destroyed…

For us, they are not a reproach but a harsh reminder to all those who still have a yearning nostalgia for the past, for those who would turn everything back to the fear… I want to pay special attention to the tragic fate of our peasantry, which paid the price in blood for the criminality of the Stalinist regime. This is not only an unprecedented reprisal against the peasantry, which disrupted the flow of the society, but it also brought the development of the state into crisis. History has never known such a concentrated hatred toward man.”

from David Remnick, Lenin’s Tomb (1994) 

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1974 Essay – “Live Not By Lies”

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Solzhenitsyn penned this essay in 1974 and it circulated among Moscow’s intellectuals at the time. It is dated Feb. 12, the same day that secret police broke into his apartment and arrested him. The next day he was exiled to West Germany. The essay is a call to moral courage and serves as light to all who value truth.

At one time we dared not even to whisper. Now we write and read samizdat, and sometimes when we gather in the smoking room at the Science Institute we complain frankly to one another: What kind of tricks are they playing on us, and where are they dragging us? Gratuitous boasting of cosmic achievements while there is poverty and destruction at home. Propping up remote, uncivilized regimes. Fanning up civil war. And we recklessly fostered Mao Tse-tung at our expense—and it will be we who are sent to war against him, and will have to go. Is there any way out? And they put on trial anybody they want and they put sane people in asylums—always they, and we are powerless.

Things have almost reached rock bottom. A universal spiritual death has already touched us all, and physical death will soon flare up and consume us both and our children—but as before we still smile in a cowardly way and mumble without tongues tied. But what can we do to stop it? We haven’t the strength?

We have been so hopelessly dehumanized that for today’s modest ration of food we are Continue reading

Excerpt – The Confessions of St. Augustine

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“I panted after honours, gains, marriage; and Thou deridest me. In these desires I underwent most bitter crosses, Thou being the more gracious, the less Thou sufferedst aught to grow sweet to me, which was not Thou. Behold my heart, O Lord, who wouldest I should remember all this, and confess to Thee. Let my soul cleave unto Thee, now that Thou hast freed it from that fast—holding birdlime of death. How wretched was it! and Thou didst irritate the feeling of its wound, that forsaking all else, it might be converted unto Thee, who art above all, and without whom all things would be nothing; be converted, and be healed. How miserable was I then, and how didst Thou deal with me, to make me feel my misery on that day, when I was preparing to recite a panegyric of the Emperor, wherein I was to utter many a lie, and lying, was to be applauded by those who knew I lied, and my heart was panting with these anxieties, and boiling with the feverishness of consuming thoughts. For, passing through one of the streets of Milan, I observed a poor beggar, then, I suppose, with a full belly, joking and joyous: and I sighed, and spoke to the friends around me, of the many sorrows of our frenzies; for that by all such efforts of ours, as those wherein I then toiled, dragging along, under the goading of desire, the burthen of my own wretchedness, and, Continue reading