Eschatological Optimism: Origins, Evolution, Main Directions
Eschatological Optimism: Origins, Evolution, Main Directions
We remind you that you can support the project with a donate. A link to our group on VKontakte and the site will be sent to the chat. If you have technical problems, you can visit our group on VKontakte or re-enter the conference. During the lecture, you can ask questions via chat, and at the end of the lecture you will have the opportunity to turn on the microphone. Daria, the floor is yours.
Yes, thank you very much for the invitation. The sound is okay, I hope you can hear me. Today I would like to give a kind of an interactive lecture because all those theses and hypotheses, which I'm going to share, still seem vague to me. Therefore, they are rather such contours of thought, contours of a project, contours of a probable understanding of the historical and philosophical process. For this reason, I welcome questions during the lecture in the chat, I've opened it. I'm looking at it now, so you can directly ask questions and be active participants. Accordingly, your questions will to some extent guide me in my reasoning.
The topic of eschatological optimism is a rather dangerous and complex topic. It is dangerous because it has never been developed up to this point, it is fraught with many traps, many inaccuracies. When I was trying to prepare for today's lecture, I realized that although such a hypothesis of eschatological optimism can explain many historical and philosophical processes, give them content and additional dimensions, additional context and depth, there are still a lot of questions. So while preparing, I was constantly questioning myself and searching for contradictions. On the other hand, I thought that I have every right to bring this hypothesis to your discussion, because in the end, those doctrines that converge are always imperfect. Remember Jean Baudrillard wrote that passing away, one has to leave the world no less complicated than it was. Therefore, to a certain extent, there are some contradictions, difficulties, some imbalances, including the understanding of eschatology, for example, in antiquity and in the Christian context. I think that, on the one hand, this will complicate the current process of studying eschatological optimism. On the other hand, it will preserve the necessity of thought, preserve its living principle, preserve its living existence, its life.
To begin with, I would like to say that eschatological optimism can be considered from two points of view.
- - Firstly, it can be taken as a hypothesis for getting acquainted with the historical and philosophical process and regard certain thinkers as eschatological optimists. This will help to highlight the two following strands in their works. These are the recognition of the finiteness of the world that is given to us, relatively speaking the «finiteness of the illusion», and, despite this illusory nature and the recognition of the world given as absolutely illusory, some positive and volitional attitude towards this illusion. In other words, this is not just an awareness of the end, an awareness of an eventual death, an awareness of accepting this death into your life. This is also a moment of decision to resist it at the same time. This is a moment of such a radical transcendence, a radical «no» to this world and a radical «yes» to the world that is on the other side of the illusion. This is a hypothesis for reading the texts, i.e. in this way we can see how different thinkers highlight the finiteness of the illusion, a simulacrum of what surrounds us and a positive, volitional attitude towards the end of the illusion. We can approach the texts of almost all historians of philosophy, all philosophers in this way. Today, however, I will I will focus on Platonism, Neoplatonism, the Hegelian system, Nietzscheanism, and Charonism. As you see, it is even scary to list these schools of thought, to speak of a voluminous heritage of the historical and philosophical tradition. It goes without saying that each of these philosophers deserves a separate lecture or even a course. But today we will try to try to experiment in our short time allotted for the lecture and somehow address this issue.
- - Secondly, eschatological optimism can be understood not only as a hypothesis, not only as an interpretive grid, not only as a code for cracking this or that text, but also as a vital philosophical strategy. In fact, all the thinkers whom I have already mentioned today and whom I have just brought into the focus of our attention, they were eschatological optimists, in my opinion. Moreover, it was them who accepted the finiteness of the world along with this will to live. If you rememberm one of René Guénon's book ends with this formula (...... la fin du monde est comme la fin des illusions) «do not forget that the end of the world is nothing but the end of illusions».
Accordingly, eschatological optimism, in addition to being a code for some of the works that we will talk about today, is also a feasible philosophical strategy in life. We are already living in the era of the possible end of the world, of pandemic, of various natural and political, geopolitical and philosophical disasters, we have witnessed the arrival of a completely new element, this deterritorialized thinking. I mean the thinking of an object-oriented ontology. This is also, to some extent, the end of philosophy, the end of the world. Consequently, we are in need of a life strategy of eschatological optimism. What else can one do realizing that some mythical substance called «Coronavirus» is spreading around like a virus in such a rhizomatic way? In fact, now I am also isolating myself because of this phenomenon. That’s why eschatological optimism can also be the point, the starting point for living and for understanding the scheme of how one can survive. Survive and live with an orientation to something other than the given reality and illusory nature of the world.
Actually, now I would like to move on to the development of eschatological optimism. I want to start with Platonism. Then I'm going to reflect upon the experience of the philosopher's rupture and the experience of the political return to the cave. In the works of Plato, in particular, in Republic, one of the important things that struck me is the theme of the "unhappy philosopher." Unhappy from the point of view of delusion. If you remember the fourth book, there is one fragment saying that the philosopher will never be happy, he will be unhappy. But at the same time he will protect the entire Polis, he will guarantee happiness for all other social classes. Happiness won't belong to the class of contemplators because it would be much more pleasant for them to be left alone in contemplation of the highest world. On the other hand, philosopher's happiness will be in his unhappiness; and yet the whole Polis will be harmonious. The balance necessary for right living in this Polis will be achieved and observed. Actually, this is the first thing that is quite alarming in Plato's Republic. How so? Will the philosopher be unhappy? Yes, he will be unhappy, but from the point of view of a certain illusory nature.
The second point that is extremely important for analysis in Plato's Republic is the seventh book, the myth of the cave. I think I will not retell it, the listeners are all prepared, I think they are well versed in Platonism. Here, in the myth of the cave, I will briefly remind you what Polis means (an answer to Vladislav, Polis is the Greek state). As for the myth of the cave, when the philosopher leaves the cave, he breaks these shackles, rises through the ritual, rises through a procession that carries banners, some ritual figures. He comes out into the light and then has some kind of Theurgical, mystical experience of his awareness of what is actually authentic and what is not. In other words, he experiences a radical break with the reality that he took to some extent for reality. The reality that he left turns out to be illusory. After that, after his certain look at the other world, at the world of Good, the world of ideas, he is obliged to return to the cave. And as you remember, Socrates says that this is what distinguishes our philosopher from other philosophers. In any other Polis, the return would not be necessary, but in our Polis, he says to Glaucon, such a return is inevitable and essential. And this moment of returning to the illusion to create happiness in this illusion not for oneself, but for others - this is the moment of eschatological optimism. So, knowing that there, the space «there», the space «under», the space of the cave is the space of illusion. To return there and try to open the eyelids, to remove the shackles of the captives – this is to some extent what I call eschatological optimism. Again, this concept of eschatological optimism is rather poetic in nature. I do not pretend it to be a philosophical concept. It is rather such a metaphorical image that will make it possible to understand what paradigmatic points are there in the history of philosophy. Such eschatological optimism is a kind of metaphor that just describes, from my point of view, such a sad descent of a philosopher back into this world.
If we move on to a more interesting, hotter, even more mystical topic as Platonism of cataphatic and apophatic theology, we will also find the statement that God or the One is incomprehensible. Here I am already interpreting kataphatics and apophatics through the eyes of Neoplatonic school of thought, i.e., Proclus and his analysis of the commentary on Parmenides (the sixth book). In this book he analyzes cataphatic and apophatic theology. There he argues that cataphatic is the theology that speaks of the One, His predicates, raising each predicate to the highest degree, i.e., the most gorgeous, the most beautiful, the most intelligent. Apophatic theology speaks of the One, which is on the other side of everything (επικανε της ουσίας), on the other side of our world, on the other side of illusoriness. It cannot be described by any word, It is absolutely transcendent.
So, when we analyze the moment of the philosopher's return and his orientation into the world of the One, then the pair of cataphatic and apophatic theology is a kind of model of eschatological optimism. Optimism in this case will manifest itself through the acceptance of the possibility to speak about the One (i.e. cataphatics). We admit that the One can be something, some predicate in its utmost degree, the most beautiful. The Good is the most beautiful, the Good is the smartest. However, at the same time, we keep this apophatic aspect in mind, too. And this apophatic aspect reminds us that, at the same time, It is incomprehensible. So, there is a certain eschatology. I mean there is some moment of its closeness, finiteness, from the point of view that our mind can understand the One.
Let's move gradually to the Neoplatonists. I have already begun to move a little towards them through the location of the cataphatic and apophatic. In general, Neoplatonism in the history of philosophy, from my point of view, represents such an experience of epistrophê, the experience of reversion. Shichalin, a historian of ancient philosophy, had an example of dividing ancient philosophy into three stages which correspond to three phases in Neoplatonic philosophy, in the Neoplatonic triad. They are monê, proodos and epistrophê. Monê is the rest of the One in itself. Proodos is the procession of the One into the world, i.e. the creation of the world, in fact, as if this is the Divine cup. That is the cup of the One, which overflows. At this stage, the following process of the world creation takes place: the mind appears first, then the soul appears, then the cosmos appears. Accordingly, epistrophê is the experience of reversion. The experience of reversion of material, matter to its origins. It is an experience of ascent. This is the Neoplatonic triad that Yuri Shichalin applies to the process of historical philosophy. So, from this point of view, Plato for him is a point of mono-matus, which simultaneously contains everything, i.e. all doctrines, all possible trains of thought, all possible readings are embedded in it. If we read Plato, especially if we read him with a dramatic approach... I think that those audience of open lecture project Signum who heard Irina Protopopova, a wonderful Platonist, understand what I mean by the dramatic approach the reading of Plato's works. This means that Platonism comprises all the points. They can sometimes contradict one another. For instance, we can see both the recognition and denial of the One, as in Parmenides' work. Thus, virtually everything is deducible from Plato's teaching. Just as Neoplatonists are deduced from it, so object-oriented ontologists can be deduced from it. If we examine the second part of Parmenides' dialogue, where the One is denied and only the Many exists, we finally come to the Postmodern concepts. So, accordingly, Platonism is such a huge area, a platform, a myriad of movements. Procession in the historical and philosophical process, i.e. proodos, according to Shichalin, is interpreted as a fragmentation of Platonism. In other words, it is the removal of certain new disciplines, some concepts related to rhetoric, or logic from his corpus. This is such a fragmentation (with the possible exception of Numenius because this author is rather closer to the Neoplatonic tradition).
Hence, the third stage in the development of the history of philosophy, epistrophê, according to Shichalin, is the reversion to the second stage, i.e., procession. And here he claims that the Neoplatonists play a special role. They turn away from this fragmentation and try, within the framework of mystical experience, to reverse upwards, to the One. Accordingly, this development of Neoplatonic philosophy is the highest point in the development of the Platonic concept. Unlike even Plato, it has a clearer hierarchy. To some extent, even when we come across the works of Proclus Diadochus, we meet such a strict analytical thinking, in which some mystical higher Principle is considered to exist, and It dwells on the other side. By the way, this is a very interesting experience of reading Proclus. Try to read, for example, Wittgenstein first, then go to Proclus, and you will see that, in fact, their analytical works are quite similar. But Wittgenstein's statement "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent" comes from the positivist point of view. Whereas the same statement by Proclus is manifested from the standpoint of apophatic theology. Thus, the Neoplatonists excelled in systematizing Plato's discourse. Their experience of strange acceptance of the world is extremely important there. Plotinus, when he spoke to his students, confessed that he was very ashamed of being born, of this manifestation of the material. He said it was painful for him. At the same time Plotinus, if we carefully analyze his works, does not reject this manifestation of matter in the world. On the other hand, he considers that it is necessary in order to begin the ascent. To this extent, Plotinus is an eschatological optimist, too. I am manifested here. But this «here» is finite, this «here» is destructive, this «here» is perishable. It has the ability of perishing, as well as the ability of attracting and destroying. And this «here» is temporary. In ascension, by epistrophê («ascension» is a very important term for Neoplatonic philosophy), in this climbing up the ladder of virtues, up the ladder of sciences, or prayer offerings to the gods, at each level in Neoplatonism, there is a kind of clear attribution of God and this level. Namely, mind, henads, soul, space. This particularly distinguishes it from Plato. Each of these hypostases has its own god. Plotinus' consistent faith in the ascent is eschatological optimism. We are thrown into the world, but we can also use this thrownness as a chance. Thus, the liberation is necessary. The experience of a mystical exit from the contours of one's own finiteness is necessary. This mystical experience is the experience of theurgy, i.e., the experience of breaking with the individual, the experience of transition to the otherworldly realm. As you remember, Neoplatonic philosophy included both more rationalistic and more mystical schools. For example, the Pergamon school, whose member was the emperor Julian, was associated with regular mysterious experience inspired by the works of Eastern mystics and Hermes Trismegistus, etc. and, accordingly, hermetic works. This experience of rupture, mysterious one, the experience of one's own finiteness facing something unknown, which is infinite, is extremely important for Neoplatonism.
I would like to single out Hegelian philosophy as the next important phase in the consideration of eschatological optimism. Today we will not consider the whole complex of Neoplatonic influence on subsequent history and philosophy. Neither we will dwell upon the apophatic theology in the Christian theology of Dionysius the Areopagite. Basically, such problems as Christian mysticism, I think, are worth a whole lecture. We will not touch upon them today either, so as not to get confused. I'm moving on to Hegel to demonstrate what I take to be eschatological optimism in the Hegelian model, or system. Here, of course, the dialectic of the slave and the master and his formula «life as a way to endure death» is our focus of attention. In essence, to put it simply, there are two types of consciousness: the one of a slave consciousness and the one of a master. The master differs from the slave in that he takes the risk of facing death, while the slave gives up his freedom to the master because the master takes upon himself this encounter with death. Thus, this is eschatological thinking, and Hegel's eschatological optimism is directly connected with the concept of death and attitude towards it. A slave is not an eschatological optimist. Remember, Martin Heidegger had such an interesting formula that sounded like this: «The absence of eschatological thinking is a pure form of nihilism.» So, Hegelian slave doesn't have this eschatological thinking, i.e., he doesn't believe in finiteness, he refuses to deal with that finiteness, refuses to face death. He entrusts his freedom to the master, so that the master faces death for him. You know, it even reminds me a little of a modern human who, in fact, begins to trust the media to a greater extent, opens up to this media in order for it to shape him. In other words, «if they die from the coronavirus, then I'm also dying, as they say there; if they don’t die from it, then it's OK.» This can be found in the media and in the modern philosophy as well because, for example, the model of passive acceptance of matter, submission to it is also one of the options for discarding death. Acceptance of an object-oriented ontology is, in fact, connected to this slave consciousness to a certain extent. This is not a declaration of will, this is a declaration of postponing and entrusting matter the right to face death. Even so. Accordingly, the Hegelian system expressed in the formula «life as a way to endure death» is a foundation for this position of eschatological optimism. And in the Hegelian system, this is directly related to the concept of «master».
Next, let's move to Nietzschean philosophy, to Nietzschean nihilism and his understanding of human as an arrow that is thrown to the other side. In Nietzscheanism, it seems to me, this very cry of illusion, the cry of the last human, manifests itself most clearly and most desperately. As by a person who is not ready to face death. The last human blinks and says he's happy. Show us the rope dancer. At the same time, the superman is that volitional act that, starting from the shore of illusoriness, directs his volitional gesture, his intention towards another shore, the unknown shore. In fact, in this volitional decision, in this Nietzsche's identification of the volitional need to overcome the human, there is optimism to it, because there is no certainty where this arrow is flying, where it is directed, where it is looking. This is a gesture directed at nothing; a gesture that is directed to where there are no poles, no horizons, no parallels. Accordingly, in Nietzsche's works, eschatological optimism manifests itself, from my point of view, precisely in this acceptance of the illusory nature of the surrounding world, the illusory nature and complete insignificance of the last human who blinks. This human is staggered, and in this absolutely groundless, seemingly unjustified act of calling for departure and for shooting this arrow to the opposite shore. And no one knows what the opposite shore is, so this is some kind of volitional act of overcoming the finiteness of the illusion.
Then, I would like to move on to an excellent Romanian philosopher, whom I really appreciate. I am talking of Emil Cioran. He was close to Eugène Ionesco and to Mircea Eliade. Even when I read a short reference from a philosophical encyclopedia about him today, it said that he was influenced by the cultural pessimists, such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Klages. I enjoyed the notion of «cultural pessimism». Accordingly, the works of Emil Cioran are distinguished by their hopelessness. By the way, I would like to ask the audience members, who are listening to my lecture right now, to write it in the chat if they are familiar with Emil Cioran. I'm wondering because, for example, I first learned about him in France. I know that not so many of his works have been translated to Russian. Only Anathemas and Admirations has been translated, as far as I'm concerned. I see that the audience is not familiar with him. Have you ever heard about him? Got it. He is a Romanian nihilist, a rather frail man. His works are written as aphorisms, quite sad ones. I'm going to quote the one that was used in the announcement of my lecture. «On a gangrened planet, we should abstain from making plans, but we make them still, optimism being, as we know, a dying man’s reflex.» In fact, he had a rather interesting... Let me share this quote in the chat. He had a rather unusual life. He was actually brought up in a religious atmosphere and, at first, he was engaged in religious studies. Then his context has changed and he fell under the sway of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Klages, became a kind of nihilist, and survived the war. After that, he published several books, i.e., All Gall Is Divided, The Trouble with Being Born, and Anathemas and Admirations. All of them are written in an aphoristic style. His writing style is similar to Vasily Rozanov's. In Cioran's type of eschatological optimism, as it seems to me, there are two components. On the one hand, there are the acceptance of the illusory nature of this world, the acceptance of its finiteness, its absolute paradoxism and the absence of any way out of it. In other words, he writes that he exists in the world that is condemned. We are all condemned. We are all victims of this condemnation. There is no way out of here; no way up and no way down because «we are condemned and crucified on the cross of interpretation», Cioran wrote. But, at the same time, he says that optimism is a kind of a spasm, a spasm of the dying necessary in order to somehow maintain the status of this universe. He claims that this optimism actually constitutes the world being like the spasm of a dying man. However, these are actually the healthy manifestation and reaction to the meaninglessness of the world in which we are thrown. Cioran, in fact, does not have any religious aspect to his writing. There is no salvation doctrine that could change his concept and add some call to leave this universe, to make a volitional throw from this universe towards the Absolute. He lacks this transcendence. Nevertheless, he speculates on the crucial things: the illusory nature of the world, the absolute meaninglessness of everything, fatigue as a factor in human existence, and this optimism similar to the convulsions of a dying person. Therefore, Cioran, in my opinion, is an extremely important for understanding eschatological optimism. Actually, the concept of eschatological optimism came to my mind after I read Cioran in 2013 or 2012. Then I began to come across this hopelessness and the concept of finiteness along with the need for an optimistic, strong-willed attitude towards this end in other philosophical works.
Another work that is worth mentioning is in the work The Forest Passage by Ernst Jünger. I think you have seen its cover. In fact, it has been recently published in Russian during the pandemic, with brilliant comments by Alexander Mikhailovsky. I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with this book. It is an old text by Jünger, first published in 1955, where he focuses on the topic of "leaving for the forest." He says that a time is coming for a number of people when a human must break with the given, with such a certain hopelessness of the world around him. He is called to some resistance, to join the battle, to rise above the illusory reality that we witness. Jünger has such an accurate, interesting formula in The Forest Passage. I will quote it: "this is the forest rebel’s determination to resist, and his intention to fight the battle, however hopeless." He says that modern human is thrown into a space in which technology and matter basically destroy him. Such human loses his will of rebellion and sovereignty in the face of materiality and illusoriness. He goes on claiming that it is necessary to rebel against the modern world, to mount this reality, to subjugate it , to leave for the forest. By the way, what he means by “forest” is very interesting. He does not mean physical withdrawal into the forest. This is not some kind of guerrilla battle. Nor it is slipping into that space where this illusion does not reign. Because one actually has this illusion inside oneself. Forest is something different. It is all about being at the center of this illusory nature, at the center of the deceptive ultimate reality that absorbs a person through technology, through the so called Megamaschine, as Martin Heidegger could have called it and actually did. A human must grow a certain pivot, which will contrast the illusion and the world around him. This is the pivot of the rebellion, the pivot of leaving for forest. He has an interesting metaphor for the one who leaves for the forest - a metaphor of a Ship. When a Greek God Dionysus faces his enemies on the ship, he is, as it were, in essence a clash of two elements: forest (wooden ship) and water. He literally starts growing the forest on this Ship. Ivy blossoms, and this helps him defeat his enemies. Jünger uses this metaphor to emphasize the need for a human to remain in the reality where he is given, where he is manifested, where he is born. But at the same time, he is building up such transcendent volitional principle, which will reject this illusion and will break through and destroy it.
We certainly meet similar concepts in the traditionalists' writings. First of all, Julius Evola and his concept of "ride the tiger" and "differentiated man" come to my mind. This is the same idea that modern human needs, who, in fact, is heavily impacted by matter, by this technology that suppresses him, forces him to follow his own desires. The desires, which, actually, are invasive, other people's desires that the consumer society imposes. Human needs to subjugate this illusory nature. This illusory has to be overcome, to be subjected to an act of radical transcendence. So, a human finds himself, as it were, in this world. However, at the same time, the most important focal point of his perception, understanding, and awareness of this world is exactly this awareness of its finiteness and the lack of an ontological status for this illusion. Accordingly, there has to be a positive volitional attitude, a certain gesture of a sharp break with this illusion. Evola calls it la rottura del livello - "level breaking."
Thus, in a nutshell, if we consider those philosophers I discussed today, we can find this experience of eschatological optimism in all of their works. I would like to summarize what I mean by eschatological optimism. Today, we have examined various concepts from Plato to Julius Evola. Each of them is worth a whole lecture, but let's try to identify the basic criteria that can be traced in all these doctrines.
Firstly, eschatological optimism is associated with admitting that the material world, the given world, the world that we now accept as a reality is an illusory one. We are also aware of its finiteness. Secondly, we are optimistic about this finiteness. We do not resign ourselves to this finiteness. On the contrary, we speak of the need to overcome it. In various doctrines, this finiteness can be overcome in different ways. For instance, in Platonism, it can be overcome by turning to the otherworldly One, to the world, which is επική ουσίας (on the other side of essence), by taking the apophatic-mystery path. This optimism might be manifested in the political sphere. For example, as in Platonism, when the philosopher returns to the finite world in order to serve the non-finite, i.e., the infinite. In Neoplatonism, the experience of eschatological optimism means a gradual ascent along the hierarchy of virtues and systematization of the principles of the soul. One has to cultivate one's soul starting from the lowest virtues to the highest, and, having reached the highest virtue, to get out, as it were, from this finiteness of the world, through a theurgical, mystical act. The same goes for politics. In the political philosophy of Neoplatonism, which, by the way, is implicitly present in the later Platonists, and more explicitly present in the early Neoplatonists, and Plotinus, it is associated with political virtues. The latter cooperated with politicians. For example, the project of Platonopolis by Plotinus is incredibly interesting despite the fact that Plotinus seems to build upon this world and to repel this world. Nevertheless, he is constructing, or trying to construct an ideal kingdom. And Proclus worked with political advisers in Athens, for which, by the way, he was exiled. This demonstrates that, in Neoplatonism, this experience of eschatological optimism can manifest itself through the exercise of political will and political service. In the Hegelian system, the experience of eschatological optimism manifests itself through the concept of death and opposition to death within the framework of the logic of the Master. There we can find such an uncompromising “no” to death while going to the battle with death. On the contrary, the slave consciousness is precisely that of non-eschatological and non-optimistic nature, i.e. it is pessimism, but not eschatological pessimism. The very alternative to eschatological optimism, or rather its opposite is not eschatological pessimism, but this slave consciousness. According to Nietzsche, eschatological optimism is a concept manifested by this volitional ecstasy, exiting oneself, exiting an illusory reality. Cioran views this eschatological optimism as infinitely hopeless. At the same time, he perceives this optimism as the convulsion of a dying man, i.e. some experience of an ecstatic exit from the body, when a person is close to death, i.e. a sort of concussion. Accordingly, in the Evoloist doctrine, this optimism manifests itself through such a traditionalist manifesto of the level breaking, or the submission of matter to its own will, i.e. riding the tiger. The activities aimed at breaking the level, i.e. this limb, it obeys an act of will. As a matter of fact, Ernst Jünger also writes in his Forest Passage (the book I highly recommend reading) about this submission to “here and now”, i.e. being in the world. He doesn't mean leaving it, but rather being in it and submitting to it. These are the main points we have considered today.
I would like to end my lecture with the same quote by René Guénon "the “end of a world” never is and never can be anything but the end of an illusion."
And now I already see that there are many questions in the chat, so I will answer them one by one.
Question: Is a Christian attitude towards death a manifestation of a slave mentality? No, I don't think so. In fact, Christianity is inextricably linked with the Neoplatonic doctrine. Moreover, Christian apophatic theology, for example, was entirely based on Neoplatonic texts. It was Dionysius the Ariopagite who wrote in his treatise on mystical theology that we need to go beyond these cataphatic characteristics of God and to move to this apophatic contemplation. Basically, depending on the versions of Christianity, it can also be interpreted in different ways. If we are talking about a certain kind of sects or certain orders, there may be different doctrines. Nevertheless, Christian attitude, or, to some extent, Christianity itself is eschatological optimism. There is some acceptance of the end of the world, some recognition that everything surrounding us is not genuine, but we have forgotten the true world, we are expelled from there. At the same time, there is a certain need for such a positive volitional attitude towards the end of illusions. It seems to me that the ideal formula is the formula of the monks of Athos, authored by Silouan of Athos, “Keep your mind in hell and despair not.” This is such a state of mind when you are aware of death, but you do not despair. In this very act of not despairing a human is trying to save his soul, trying to pray to God for it to be saved. This means that he does not come to terms with death. Neither does he grant the decision about his death to anyone. This means that he accepts this death deep down inside, keeps his mind in hell and does not despair. This is my answer for the first question on the Christian attitude towards death and the manifestation of the slave mentality.
I read everything that was translated into Russian ... yes, in fact, Cioran's works were not published in Russia that much. However, I had quite a huge collection of his works in French. although it seems to me that Anathemas and Admirations is enough for to get to know his philosophy.
Someone mentions Hamlet. Yes, quite right. Indeed, there is such a thing, there is a similarity.
Breaking with the illusion of the world and jumping into the unknown is not accompanied by more fear and despair rather than optimism, is it? Yes, it is accompanied with these feelings, precisely. But this is another feature of eschatological optimism. On the one hand it is desperate; on the other hand, it still retains some hope for salvation. In fact, a jump is a decision to jump with the hope that there is something, but at the same time with the realization that it is not there. Cioran wrote about this jump into the unknown, accompanied by fear and despair, most accurately. Yes, he presents a more desperate version of it. The way the Platonists, the Neoplatonists, or Hegel saw it, this leap is rather accompanied not by fear, but by optimism. But these are also different versions of eschatological optimism; it can be various.
Question: In your opinion, is eschatological optimism inherent in Russian symbolist poetry? You spoke about Evola’s and Jünger’s understanding of the power of technology over man. The Russian poet Feodor Sologub has a poem The Devil's swing with pretty much the same idea. Yes, it seems to me that the Russian Symbolist poets felt it, too. I even had a lecture the other day when I talked about the influence of the Neoplatonic doctrine on the Symbolists and similarities between them. I mentioned the fact that they are permeated with the feeling of the loss of true reality, the loss of precisely the highest reality, and that they are dreaming, dreaming about it. You know, for some reason, I just remembered a Russian novelist and a Symbolist poet, Andrei Bely. He also has a touch of eschatological optimism. On the one hand, he was thrown into the world, and on the other hand, he harbored some hope that it is possible to escape it and that this world has to be fought. But it seems to me that he didn’t win this fight because in his novel, Petersburg, despair wins. This dark mystical, cybelic, space of the simulacrum city pierced by matriarchy wins. All in all, this is an interesting question to ponder over. Bely came to my mind first.
Question: As I understand it, eschatological optimism implies the necessary presence of reality that exists in parallel to the material world. Is eschatological optimism possible outside the system of Plato and Hegel, for example, with the rejection of God and the interpretation of reality as an illusion? Jünger's axis of retreat into the forest, for instance, implies that man himself creates the so-called second world. Is it a kind of an optimism for an atheist? Well, by the way, I’m not completely sure about Jünger here. In fact, in The Forest Passage he writes that religion also provides a different reality for a person to some extent. From my point of view, eschatological optimism is impossible if God or the One or some otherworldly principle is rejected. It can be called anything, but there has to be some transcendental Absolute. I believe that any model that lacks the Absolute, lacks this transcendent Essence, slips away. It collapses, and it already turns not into eschatological optimism, but into nihilism, into some kind of non-eschatological pessimism, I would say. That is for eschatological optimism, there must necessarily be another reality, which is connected either with God, or with the One, or with some other higher principle. Jünger, by the way, does not dismiss it.
Question: Hello, could you, please, tell where else in our life can we come across eschatological optimism? I would say in ourselves, when we live in the midst of a pandemic, we understand that we can die at any moment, but at the same time we build some internal existential defense against this pandemic. I am among the those who believe that COVID-19 exists, who take it for what it is. I see it in terms of some existential challenge, such awakening of human, some chance for the awakening of mankind. It seems to me that this eschatological optimism, if we read the works that I spoke about today in a right way, if we correctly think about our finiteness, if we understand death in a right way, if we develop a sense of the finiteness, of the illusory nature of our body and think about what is on the other side, then we will discover this eschatological optimism in ourselves.
Question: Can we study eschatological optimism in terms of politics? Yes, we certainly can. This was an example of such an eschatological optimist in power. It was Julian the Apostate, who, in fact, did not strive for power at all. On the contrary, he complained that he had to take the throne. Having become an emperor, he spent all his nights writing philosophical works and he was very indignant that he had to deal with some kind of political decisions. It was Julian, a Neoplatonist, who was an eschatological optimist. Eschatological optimism can also, for example, be recognizing that all elections or all political decisions are falsified, but, at the same time, continuing to vote. So, you understand that it will not be possible to make a difference, but you still go to vote, you still voice your position. Now I am talking more about the American elections, i.e. in general, the Americans have rather ... an archaic system ... with electors. Eschatological optimism in this case is when you understand that your decision will not greatly affect this illusion, but you still, out of some recognition of the need to cultivate political virtues in yourself, still go and vote. You understand that it is likely useless, but you continue anyway. Or knowing that your business is doomed, you still go for it. But certainly this decision must be caused by some higher motivation. It must be motivated by some transcendent guideline, or horizon.
Question: Is it possible to call the concept of the eternal return by Eliade eschatological optimism? I think it's quite possible.
The same goes for the Nietzsche's saying from Thus Spoke Zarathustra: “There are preachers of death: and the earth is full of those to whom desistance from life must be preached. Full is the earth of the superfluous; marred is life by the many-too-many. May they be decoyed out of this life by the "life eternal"! There are the terrible ones who carry about in themselves the beast of prey, and have no choice except lusts or self-laceration. And even their lusts are self-laceration. They have not yet become men, those terrible ones: may they preach desistance from life, and pass away themselves!There are the spiritually consumptive ones: hardly are they born when they begin to die, and long for doctrines of lassitude and renunciation." Well, first of all, when I spoke about eschatological optimism, I spoke about this doctrine of two people. The first type of people who ask to be shown a rope dancer, and another type of people who accept overcoming the illusion with a leap. Here Nietzsche can be read dramatically, so he can have internal contradictions, which is good, it means that his thought is alive.
Valentin wrote: Edgar Allan Poe is an eschatological optimist, too. His last book Eureka is about our tragic universe, the finality of which is identical to the disclosure of a prisoner in misfortune. Thank you for a recommendation, Valentin. I will definitely read it.
Question: What is the role of the radical subject in the concept of eschatological optimism? In essence, the radical subject is the bearer of eschatological optimism. Just as there is a differentiated Evolian man, so the radical subject is precisely the person who, in the absence of tradition, becomes the bearer of this tradition. This is the person who, at a time when there are no stars, says: "Arise, My Soul!" That is why, Elena, you have a very precise understanding. Eschatological optimism is closely connected with the concept of a radical subject. This is exactly what I wanted to mention, but I didn’t. You guessed it.
Question: What can you say about the works of Stéphane Mallarmé and Charles Baudelaire (The Flowers of Evil)? For me, this is also a kind of eschatological optimism. I have Baudelaire's book My Heart Laid Bare right here. It seems to me eschatological optimism is very much felt in this French decadence. Therefore, yes, in fact, exactly Baudelaire, well, to a greater extent, Baudelaire is such a representative of eschatological optimism.
Question: Thank you for answering the question, thank you for the lecture. How do you feel about eschatological pessimists who fanatically serve the forces of evil, darkness itself, and play their dirty tricks here on earth? Are they your enemies, or maybe you have a philosophical attitude towards them? I treat them with respect, because if a person chooses a volitional strategy, if he recognizes the finiteness of this illusion, or even plans to destroy this illusion, then I perceive this as an act of will. This is certainly valuable for me. However, I prefer to stick to eschatological optimism. Consequently, a positively volitional decision, an attempt to get out of this illusion in the direction of some ineffable Height, some abyss above - this concept attracts me much more, because in fact it seems that evil is easy to find and easy to see. Paradoxically enough, but, in order to see evil, you need to go up, not down. I mean evil and what is really scary, what frightens can be found at the top. Now I am speaking from the point of view of Christianity, certain Christian mysticism. Remember, most demons attack to monks and the clergy. It is they who experience the most terrible torment when they realize the power of their sin and the power of their fall. Imagine, Holy people who are tormented by demons, because when you go up, when you go in the direction of some Absolute. Then you understand how scary it really is and how much imperfections can be found inside you.
Question: Did Dmitry Merezhkovsky accurately portray the image of the emperor as an eschatological optimist in his novel Julian the Apostate? I think yes, this is such an image of an eschatological optimist. An absolutely desperate, unhappy person, who, in fact, becomes such a victim of a new world that will replace the beautiful world of Antiquity that is already fading.
Question: Are Gnostic systems more of an eschatological pessimism or an optimism? It’s hard to say about the Gnostics because initially I wanted to talk about them. Then I realized that I simply couldn’t embrace all the thinkers. Depending on what Gnostic model, it seems to me that Gnostics are eschatological pessimists, but, nevertheless, they can still have some kind of eschatologically optimistic pivot. We need to understand who exactly you mean. Only Valentine comes to my mind with his fragments of the Gnostics. It seems to me that he was quite a Gnostic eschatological optimist. Well, but Gnosticism definitely requires a particular attention. In this lecture, I mainly focused on Platonism. Therefore, I think that if I'm going develop the doctrine of eschatological optimism, at least if it seemed interesting and convincing, I will consider the Gnostics too. Thank you for the questions, dear listeners. Today you actually are the co-authors of my course. I'm interested in your reactions too. Then, of course, I will develop it and pay special attention to Gnosticism.
There is a question about my attitude to the philosophy of fantasy and whether it is worth looking for deeper meanings in Warhammer and The Game of Thrones. Oh, I didn’t even think about eschatological optimism in The Game of Thrones at all. Deep meaning must be sought everywhere, all the time and even in the surrounding reality because what you see is nothing more than the result of work of philosophical systems over the last three hundred years, if not four hundred years. It is worth it because the reality that we accept as genuine, for example, the pen in my hand and its existence... The existence of the pen is not visible now, but if I show it to you, its existence becomes visible. The fact that we believe in its existence is actually the work of a huge philosophical system of the Modern Age. If the ancient philosophers had seen it, they would have perceived it completely differently. They would have called it partially appearing to us, but not existing in reality. That's why, I think that you need to look for a deep dimension everywhere, including fantasy and The Game of Thrones, too. Watching The Game of Thrones, I prefer to consider the problems of geopolitical confrontation between the North and the South, the two models of civilization: civilization of Cybele and the civilization of Apollo. I interpret it this way, talking of the deep meaning. I don't know much about Warhammer - I haven't played this game.
Someone asks if is it possible to speak of eschatological optimism in terms of Gilbert Durand. Is eschatological optimism a manifestation of radical deurne under conditions of totality and finality of death? Consequently, eschatological pessimism is the position of a mystic nocturne, isn't it? Absolutely. It is a very precise definition, and that’s exactly what I mean. Elena has already noticed that a radical subject and eschatological optimism are related. If we remember the concept of a radical subject and its interpretation, there is also this radical deurne. Eschatological optimism is precisely the radical deurne. The models I talked about today, except maybe Cioran's one, are exactly the concepts of the radical deurne. This is a Platonic rebellion, Appolonism in relation to the given. This is a Neoplatonic rising of the deurnic sense as an experience of a break. This is Hegel with his acceptance of facing the Master’s death. This is Nietzscheanism - an arrow thrown to the other side. This is Evola, who defends Apollo and a truly radical solar transcendent deurne. This is Ernst Jünger, who, in my opinion, actually proclaims it being closely related to Evola; at least the book The Forest Passage seemed to me such a manifesto of la rottura del livello.
Question: Is it appropriate to attribute eschatological optimism to Pitirim Sorokin's sensate type and his concept of supersensory reality? Unfortunately, I can't answer you off the top of my head. I will check it out later and I will answer you in the next lecture. To be honest, I forgot Pitirim Sorokin's categorisation.
Question: Darya Aleksandrovna, in your opinion, does eschatological optimism mean facing the sacral or the profane? Is this poetic and philosophical doctrine aimed at overcoming the material and meeting with the Absolute? For me, eschatological optimism is a certain repulsion from the profane to the sacral, which does not necessarily involve facing this sacral. I mean, you may in fact read all the prayers, do a volitional jump to the other side, but not have this mystical experience. You may not expand beyond your borders, but at the same time you may do everything to expand beyond. An eschatological optimist is inevitably in the profane world, he is inside the givenness and in the illusion. Nevertheless, he is aimed at the sacred. It is unknown whether he can achieve the sacred or not; he goes to the other side and acts, and decides to go out to the other side, not knowing whether he will succeed or not. Here is the peculiarity of eschatological optimism, in its relation to the concept of a radical subject. It is a rather complex state: "I am here, I am in this reality, it is profane, it is a profane reality, and I am heading to what might not accept me." At your peril. It is far more interesting than being a non-eschatological pessimist.
Question: Could you tell us a little more about eschatological pessimism, is it completely opposite to optimism? This is a certain model, too. No, it is not completely opposite because it is eschatological, it implies the world as something finite and profane, but, at the same time, it claims that one should refrain from any action. In fact, such an eschatological pessimism is nihilism in its worst manifestation. It is nihilism as acceptance of this profane world and, to some extent, is the cooling of body. Such a sad understanding that everything is finite. By the way, Cioran is torn between eschatological pessimism and optimism. In some of his writings, there is a pivot of rebellion when he says: “Everything is meaningless, so I must nurture a resistance to this meaninglessness. Why? I don't know. It will be meaningless, but all the same, I must cultivate this principle in myself, I must nurture a resistance." Here, he seems to go from such a pessimism into optimism. But actually, I plan to work on this concept of eschatological pessimism, too. I think that within the framework of what we have discussed today, I will come up with a scheme for the lecture course. I will research into each of the thinkers whom I have named today from the point of view of eschatological optimism, if this topic really seemed interesting to you, if it seemed so peculiar, which would allow answering some complex existential questions. That is what I'm going to do. I'm going to explore the issue of eschatological pessimism, to find the answer to the listener’s question on Pitirim Sorokin. You can find me on Vkontakte as Daria Platonova and contact me, or you can ask the question during the next lecture. I also noted down the question about Gnosticism and its relation to eschatological optimism.
Question: Does an eschatological optimist have to wait for an external calling? No, he never waits for an external calling, he begins his way with an internal calling. This is what Heidegger called the “call of being”; or it may be some kind of existential call when a person faces death, or finiteness. This may be a call when he faces a coronavirus, either himself, or his loved ones who die of it. Or when he faces the realisation of this painful finiteness of everything around, such a distinctive call. This call should actually grow from the inside - it will never be external. However, if it is external, you will hear it only when you already have an internal calling. In fact, it works like a prophecy - you will be able to decipher it only when you are internally ready to do that. Otherwise, it will remain abstract to you. For me, by the way, it’s still a mystery how it’s possible at all in the Platonic Republic to have laws. In the fourth book Plato writes that these laws will be the laws of Apollo, but the laws of Apollo are the laws of Pythia, i.e. these are such koanic statements, prophecies that still need to be deciphered. Well, this has always been a mystery to me. If you have an internal call, if you somehow cultivate it in yourself, then you will hear an external call. The only thing is that you mustn't be passive in this sense, you must try different practices - religious, some kind of existential, attentive practices. For instance, try to pay attention to the world, to the books. If you don’t hear this call, just read books, the ones I have listed today: Platonists, Neoplatonists, Hegel, Nietzsche, Cioran, and Heidegger. Through these books, this call will appear. It is so fleeting; though it can linger in you. And if it lingers, then it would be wonderful.
One more question: Nietzsche has the idea of «eternal return». How is this compatible with eschatology? I would also like to dwell upon this question because it came to my mind too today when I was preparing for the lecture. I view eschatology not as a temporal finiteness of the world, but as its finiteness as an illusory, i.e. the world that is given to us is not eternal, that's what I'm talking about. Another world is eternal. It is the world of the One, the world of the Good, the Divine world, the other world, the world of the Will that is eternal. And finiteness here is understood as the finiteness of the world not as such, but of the profane world and of the illusory world. This was another important question to be answered.
Question: Is Nikolai Berdyaev an eschatological optimist? So, a quote from his work: “This world is not a space, it is a non-cosmic state of disunity and enmity, is an atomisation and disintegration of the living monads of the cosmic hierarchy. The true way is the way of spiritual release from the world, the release of the human spirit from the captivity of necessity. This shadowy world is the product of our sins." To some extent, yes, we can call him an eschatological optimist.
Question: It turns out that two opposite positions of eschatological optimism as a radical non-acceptance of death and dark and eschatological pessimism as a passive acceptance of death and agreement with dissolution into nothing somehow combine and have similar ratio in the end times. At first glance it is difficult to distinguish them, it reminds of the problems of the radical subject and his double. What do you think about it? This is a brilliant question! A very subtle understanding. Yes, it really looks like a radical subject and its double. I mean it seems to be the simultaneous acceptance of the profanity of the world, its finiteness, and then, in one case, this is the acceptance of a volitional decision to overcome the profanity of the world, in another, it is some kind of refusal to take any action. Yes, this is a very interesting topic. I am noting it down to also analyze it in the next lecture. I'm going to speak about the combination of a radical subject with eschatological optimism and pessimism.
Question: Is there any connection between Arthur Schopenhauer's idea of "world will" and eschatological optimism? If so, which one? Today I read Schopenhauer right before our seminar. I’m going to find this fragment. No, it was a fragment on cruelty that I have bookmarked. I remember had some acknowledgement that everything around him is meaningless, that it is a purely an act of will that creates space. In fact, it seems to me Schopenhauer, as far as I remember his work now based on ... I'll tell you which work I mean in no time.. On the Vanity and Suffering of Life. This is the recognition of the absolute absence of meaning in the reality around us, of the impossibility to speak about another reality, of the refusal to speak about that and ,at the same time, it is the constitution of the world of will. In my opinion, this is also the position of eschatological optimism.
Question: How does Dasein correlate with eschatological optimism? That's a tricky one. When Dasein exists authentically, then it is in a position of eschatological optimism. Death manifests itself to it. It faces Being. It realises the finiteness of the world. More than that, when Dasein exists authentically, at this moment it happens to be an eschatological optimist, i.e. this realisation of the profanity of the world around and of the need for a transcendent way out of this profanity - this is the authentic existence of Dasein. I’m also going to leave this topic for the next lecture. I didn't even plan to talk about Heidegger today so as not to overload such a contoured introduction to the topic of eschatological optimism. I promise that I will also spare a word for Martin Heidegger - either it will be a speech, or a short article, or a post on VKontakte on this topic.
Question: Is Lev Shestov an eschatological optimist? I don't remember well what Lev Shestov wrote, but what I remember... no, I can't say off the top of my head. It seems to me an eschatological optimist is such a very subtle definition, i.e., someone has elements of eschatological optimism, but this does not mean that he himself is an eschatological optimist. Take Cioran, for example. He has elements of eschatological optimism, but at the same time, he cannot be called an eschatological optimist at times. Sometimes he can already be called an eschatological pessimist. It is you, my listeners, who have also suggested this idea to me. I will also research into this issue.
Question: Is the opposition possible only in the aspect of eschatology of the object-oriented ontology? What does it mean? I don't quite get the question? Which of the oppositions? The opposition of what and what… Vladislav, could you expand on it a little bit?
Question: Daria Alexandrovna, excuse me, can I ask a question about your music experiments? Yes, feel free to ask.
Question: Is Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus evidence of eschatological pessimism? Yes, this is exactly the moment of eschatological pessimism. Yes, I think so.
Question: Does it mean that at the peak of the reaching a certain spiritual state as one ascends and transcends oneself, in essence human, the line between eschatological optimists and pessimists is blurred, where both in finiteness and in the face of infinite merge with nothingness? I would not say so because, in principle, the state of exit, the state of transgression can be quite similar, but at the same time, the experience of the exit of an eschatological optimist will end up with the unity with the Divine, the other world, with the Absolute. Whereas the experience of the eschatological pessimist will be the experience of a collision with nothingness. And in my opinion, here we are talking about different nothingnesses - nothingness from above and nothingness from below. Of course, it is very, you know, uncomfortable for me to talk about such questions because we have already crossed the border of mysticism. The mystics distinguish nothingness from above and nothingness from below. But I would answer you with precisely these words that the eschatological optimist has the goal of reaching the abyss from above, while the eschatological pessimist has the goal of some fall to this abyss from below. A willing fall, to some extent. I will figure it out when I analyze eschatological pessimism. I think that there is a need to devote a whole lecture to this, too.
Question: Are accelerationists eschatological optimists? It seems to me not. I think they do not associate finiteness with matter. They accept this matter, they live by its law. They accept the inevitability of the movement of this profane matter, so they cannot be classified as eschatological optimists.
Question: Can Søren Kierkegaard's «leap of faith» be considered as a sign of eschatological optimism? Yes, perhaps Kierkegaard has quite a few elements of this eschatological optimism. This despair that accompanies the sacrifice of the lamb, i.e., the Son, this awareness of the need to face death may be just the same element of eschatological optimism.
Question: Is Georges Bataille an optimist or a pessimist? I think he is an eschatological pessimist as he turns his gaze to the lower nothingness, to the lower abyss. I really like Bataille, all his Cycles and the treatises on inner experience, and his prose too where he analyzes mysticism and transgression. I think it is precisely eschatological pessimism.
Question: Daria, a few months ago I wrote to you asking to upload Mary Fuse to the Dasein streaming service. Should I continue? Yes, you should continue. There are some technical issues because I haven't found these records anywhere but on VKontakte. For now, you can use the Sound Cloud.
I think I can't answer more a couple of questions, because I am on a lock-down, unfortunately. I feel as if I am on the verge of eschatological optimism myself. Well, it seems that it is not COVID yet, so I’m a little bit in energy efficient mode today. I will have to be a super-marginal, unlike the summer stream, where we talked for 4.5 hours. I think, in spite of everything, after some time I will be able to record one more lecture. We have already agreed with Signum that perhaps this will turn into a cycle of lectures.
So, I am answering the last question. Question: How to distinguish upper nothingness from lower nothingness in the end of the days. Aren't these two abysses ultimately one? I think this question is actually so rhetorical. I'm afraid to take on the responsibility of answering it. It's impossible to claim that the upper nothingness is different and definable by such criteria, while the lower nothingness is definable by others. I think that it is somehow obvious. Apparently, a human will feel it, will understand it, or maybe he will remain in some illusion. So the question of how to tell the upper abyss from the lower abyss is the question that bothered many writers, authors, and philosophers. And I think not everyone has found the answer to this question.
Well, thank you very much, dear listeners. I would like to say how grateful I am for your support and for the fact that you have, actually, prompted me today to undertake such a serious exploration of eschatological pessimism. There are really many points in this doctrine that have not been developed enough, which need to be comprehended. I saved all the comments and questions you asked me and I will definitely work on them. You are welcome to contact me on Vkontakte. I thank Signum for organising the lectures. Everything is cool, I really enjoyed it. That is why, dear friends, I am very glad that you were watching and helped me today to actually understand eschatological optimism. You are very well-educated, so I will still have to prepare a lot for the next lecture. Thank you and have a nice weekend and a beautiful Friday evening. You still have a few hours before going to bed. I recommend reading for example, works of Julius Evola or Ernst Jünger's The Forest Passage.
Thank you very much, Daria, for agreeing to speak at our lecture hall. It was a really amazing lecture. I listened to in one breath. I hope that we will continue our collaboration. I remind the audience that our project is supported by you, by your donations and, of course, by our wonderful guests. I hope that you will continue to delight us with your visits on our platform. Many thanks to all, see you soon. A special thanks to you, Daria.
Thank you very much.
Hope we see you again.
Of course, it is inevitable now. Can we disconnect?
Translation: Sophia Polyankina, Diana Shakirtianova, and Daria Seregina. The Sun of the North translator's team.