French Revolution: Why it failed. Why we still live in it…

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“Day of 21 January 1793 the death of Louis Capet on the Place de la Révolution” – French engraving [Source: Wikimedia]

“May my blood unite the French! I forgive all…”

The phrase was never completed. The guilotine fell and its thud ended the life of Louis XVI, giving its place to silence. For some seconds.

“Vive la démocratie”

Cheers echoed across Place de la Concorde after the execution. A king had fallen. Democracy was born.

But is that so?

Seeing things from a different perspective and with the advantage of historical distance from the actual facts, allows us to answer No to that question. Nothing is as it seems. The following text will try to clarify some of the biggest misunderstanding regarding the French Revolution and why we should really be interested in it, since it still affects us.

Louis XVI in early adulthood [Source: Wikimedia]

Why are we interested in this?

But why Harmonia Philosophica deals with this? This is a philosophy portal is it not? It sure is. However history is also part of us and it formulates our philosophy is ways we not even consider. Knowing our history and its implications is crucial in understanding the history of philosophy as well and, thus, philosophy per se! The French Reovlution is a very important chapter of modern European history which shaped the way we think. From the modern hate towards anything religious to the almost unconditional admiration of logic, many elements of modern philosophy are a by-product of the events which started in France in 1789…

What is the goal?

The events that led to the Revolution are documented in great detail by many writers. I will by no means try to document them again here. Anyone interested in the subject can find many great resources on the subject in books or in the Internet. The goal of this article is to go beyond the events and try to reveal the true nature of the Revolution and what it means, along with the effects it is having until to-day.

The sources

The sources used for this endeavour are the following:

  • Almbert Mathiez, The French Revolution.
  • Marilyn Yalom, Compelled to Witness: Women’s Memoirs of the French Revolution.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution.
  • Οι μεγάλες δίκες – Η δίκη του Λουδοβίκου ΙΣΤ’ (Greek).

By having these sources as a starting point one can easily navigate safely through the ocean of sources available on the matter. They provide an initial full picture of the Revolution from a philosophical, political and human perspective that will help the uninitiated quickly gain some valuable insights on this important part of our history.

The National Assembly taking the Tennis Court Oath (sketch by Jacques-Louis David) [Source: Wikimedia]

What did the Revolution accomplish?

Short answer: It managed to stir emotions and hatred.

Long answer: Read below.

Many people believe that the Revolution brought many innovations in the political scene of France and helped the state better organize itself so as to provide to its people freedoms they longed for. Yet, this is one of the biggest misconceptions regarding the French Revolution. Alexis de Tocqueville in his important book “The Old Regime and the Revolution” analyzed and showed how everything positive that we believe came from the Revolution was actually based on foundations laid by the Old Regime!

France failed to follow America’s example. The masses – who looked only to the egalitarianism they had learned from the revolution – turned to the state to support their expectations, making the latter the greatest threat to democracy. And as mentioned by Tocqueville  in his other great work “Democracy in America”, despotism is one of the potential problems that a democracy can have if it is not properly manipulated.

All that was left of the Revolution were deep divisions that exacerbated the pathology of the society inherited from the Old Regime: leveling down and extreme individualization were prevalent, eroding not only social solidarity but also the regulatory sense of public spirit. The era of the Revolution was characterized by an inadequate awareness of the value of freedom for a healthy political community.

The French forgot the importance of freedom and were content with equality. An equality under a ruler, which turned all visions of rights into a farce. The solution, according to Tocqueville, would be to further establish freedom in France. France, however, did not have the preconditions for a liberal state like America. The French attempted something no other nation had attempted: to cut themselves off from their history. Their success, however, was far less than we believe and as much as they themselves believed at the time of the Revolution. France could not escape its history, which haunted it in every manifestation of its new political reality.Although many believed the opposite, the Revolution took place in conditions of improved living conditions and expanded prosperity as a result of changes already conducted by the Old Regime. Almost everything (if not everything) positive that the revolution supposedly produced was in fact a consequence of the Old Regime. The centralization of administrative functions – which the revolutionaries considered to be their greatest achievement (although as the same time this centralization was said to have been one of its causes, because of the inequalities it reproduced) – has existed since the time of Louis.Administrative justice and the independence of the judiciary system are also products of the Old Regime that the Revolution overturned. The administrative revolution of reducing the unlimited powers of the prefect through the establishment of provincial assemblies had already taken place under Louis. (It is worth noting, however, that the incomplete implementation of the reforms in all cases, made the existing injusticies for those who were not happy with the fruits of these reforms more intense, resulting in increased dissatisfaction)

The excessive fragmentation of land ownership due to the abolition of slavery, which allowed the peasants to own land, had already begun long before the Revolution. For a long time the landlord of each area was not the one who actually ruled the villagers – in his place there were now (during the Old Regime) public officials. In general, the nobles had ceased to exercise power in the parishes and cantons – all that remained was their (often provocative) privileges.The equality that had been imposed from above by the Old Regime, became a beacon in the vortex of the chaos of the Revolution between a blind leadership and an enraged people. The administrative practices of the Old Regime, the society that emerged from them and the political modernity that shaped it after the Revolution, did not lead to freedom but to the authoritarianism of the Second Empire. The state and its structures as they were before the Revolution, were used after it. And that became the basis of the despotism that Tocqueville warned about.

All in all, Tocqueville managed to touch a very sensitive subject and tried to watch at the Revolution from a more objective point of view, away from fanfare of the type “Revolution changed everything” or “Revolution changed nothing”. His analysis was to the point and based on data of the Old Regime which where reviewed by Tocqueville himself. In that sense, this work is of extreme importance reminding us of the obvious: Nothing is born out of nothing. Even the most democratic revolution can have fruits which were planted during the previoud totalitarian regime…

All we need to do is stay humble and look at history with a more open eye.

Note: This work is based on the “Ελευθερία ως Μοίρα – Η αποτυχία της Επανάστασης” (Freedom as Destiny – The failure of the Revolution) work which is unpublished.

French Revolution [Source: Wikimedia]

Revolution and the ‘Philosophy of the New’

With the Revolution, people were found to hate the new because it is new or – vice versa – to love the new because it is new and only for that. And it is important to understand that with the Revolution, France went to the new by completely dissolving the old. Thus in the new situation it could not use what was useful to the Old Regime, as the general tendency was to question everything old. Old and respected traditions fell victim to a ruthless attack. The intellectuals, also blind, had convinced the people that religion (the pillar of old society) could not coexist with freedom.

This philosophy still affects modern way of thinking. By default what is modern is better than the traditional. By definition what is metamodern is better than what is modern. And the story goes on and on. Until we reach a dead-end. Not by reaching the end of the road but by not reaching any end! Modern man keeps on questioning everything and lives with a constant urge to ‘move forward’. Never feeling home, always pushing for something different, for something else.

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This is exactly the philosophy that Harmonia Philosophica warns its readers for years now. There is no way to reach your destination if your compass is always changing direction. There is an old saying in chess: “A bad plan is better than no plan”. The reason? Well, if you do not have a plan you simply make random moves (even moves which momentarily seem as good ones) which are incoherent with one another. A society cannot thrive with such random moves. A person cannot progress with constantly changing goals and ideals. Foundations laid on shifting sand as simply not foundations. It is hard to realize this, let alone correct it. Knowing though where this tendency of ours came from (i.e. the French Revolution and the hatred for the Old) could make the task of changing out set of mind more easy.

History is Philosophy and Philosophy is History in much more real ways than we can think of.

Conclusion

As in all things, perspective is important. If one sees the Revolution from aclose distance, we might see that at the end, the Revolution resulted in an even more authoritarian regime. If one however sees the picture from a larger distance, we can surely verify that the seeds of democracy had been laid but on a infertile soil. It would take many years for those seeds to actually produce healthy fruits, some of which we are only now starting to taste. We must take whatever is good from the Revolution but also try to dig out the weeds that started growing on Place de la Concorde that morning on 21 January 1793. As David Mitchell mentioned in Cloud Atlas “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future”…

Against Trump (but everyone else too). Why politics is dead.

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The recent coronavirus crisis revealed many things which remained safely hidden under the comfort of our everyday routine.

As usual, a crisis of such proportions exposes the real self of men (and women). And what emerged from those ICU beds, the agony, the fear, the irony and the disbelief (of those who do not believe in the virus – as if its RNA strands are part of a system of belief) was something ugly.

Starting with Trump, it was made evident beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is nothing beyond economy for the current president of the United States. And when we say nothing we mean nothing. There is nothing there. He only sees money and… well, more money. Nothing more. His decisions are dictated by money. He dreams of money. And that was why he was so much feeling outside his game during this crisis which hurt the most valuable thing of them all: the US economy.

That is why he decided not to close the country because “We never closed the country for the flu”. (But then measures were taken) That is why he insists day after day to announce when the country will open again, as if the lives of the Americans can be measured in dollars. (And as if he cannot print more money when he needs to) That is why in the midst of a global crisis he withdrew from the WHO on the basis on… how much the US pay to the organization. (By the way, leaving more room to the Chinese to make the organization more… Chinese – something for which Trump accused them in the first place)

These are just the latest signs of Trump seeing nothing more than money. He is now infamous for his ban of the largest Chinese mobile phones company, a move which no one could even consider even as a story for a fiction novel. Or for imposing tariffs on goods from China and Europe, making the world go back 1000 years in the world trade history where people used to pay taxes for every city they entered. Or for even considering decommissioning a US aircraft carrier because… it costed too much (!), ignoring years of US foreign policy and power projection strategies only to make the ledger look better. (No, Trump is not worried about global democracy, he is just worried about the ledger of his country; whatever you see as American power projection is a remnant of his predecessors)

Beyond economy, Trump is good at uttering great lines against political correctness (this is good), however only to gain votes and not out of any philosophical disposition against political correctness. And this is even worse than saying nothing.

But let us move on to the story and to the other protagonists of the US political scene. And while doing that, see the problem: That there are no other protagonists. Trump, with all his problems and misconducts, seems to be the best available choice. Not only from the Republicans but from the Democrats as well. Amazing as it is, there seems to be no contender to challenge him on equal terms on the politics scene. This does not imply that there are no people who are better than Trump as people, I am just saying that there are no politics better than Trump.

So here we are, facing the greatest problem of the philosophy of politics. Who should we vote?

The obvious answer would be “the least bad” (or ‘evil’, but evil is a heavy word; after all, it is just about money). But that is a bad answer on its own. Even if Trump looks better than the other current candidates, this does not justify his selection let alone praise for anything. He is a bad choice per se. Inherently. Essentially. And there is no way around that dead-end.

The last time people chose between the lesser evil in the Germany in the 1930’s things didn’t end up well. Politics should not be about imposing problems. It should be about proposing solutions to choose from. And when there is no solution evident, then solutions should be found.

But how can you find solutions in politics if politics is only about what to do and what to do not? How can you justify voting for one or the other when it all comes down to “Who gets things done”? Trump is good in US economy. Others are good at foreign policy. Others may be good at not jailing C-executives of foreign big companies (just saying). Would that suffice to choose who to vote? Whatever negative things one could say for Trump, he could easily say for other politics in the US for various other reasons. It is all a matter on where you stand politically, on what are your interests, on what things you are in favor of or against.

And right there, in the midst of the greatest dark, is when we will remember that there was once a bright light shinning in our life. A light we have forgotten because we chose to forget it. Philosophy used to play an important role in everyday life. People used to ask Why. (The important Why’s, not the type of “Why did we not have profits this year”) Now we just ask How. And our life is more successful than ever. And our life is empty. Because we have forgotten the most simple yet difficult teaching of philosophy: When the answer is difficult, perhaps the question is wrong. Politics is dead. Not because we killed it. But because it was never alive anyway. Don’t you see? The only cases when politics produced something useful was when they acted as non-politics.

And that is why Harmonia Philosophica will never write politics articles. Except to remind you that there is no need to be involved or be interested in politics. The real problems of the cosmos are problems with our very nature. Problems related to our existence. Problems stemming from our own Being as such. How can a politic ever answer these?

Who am I going to vote?

What a weird question.

For someone who is already running the world…

Why communism (and modern capitalistic society) is against Christianity.

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Photo by Spiros Kakos from Pexels

Many people confuse things which should not be confused.

Many people believe the first Christians were communists.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Christians believe in the after life and despise property because they are not materialists. Communists are based on materialism, they are atheists and are against property only because they want property.

Many people believe modern capitalistic society is against communism.

Again, nothing could be further away from the truth.

Study those two society organization systems carefully and you will see that their foundations are essentially the same.

Both of them call for having zombie-citizens, who do not think on their own. Both systems call for doing something here and now, in this world: Communism calls for revolution and producing for the state, capitalism calls for buying things and producing even more. Both systems adhere to the dogma of materialism.

This makes them have another thing in common: A deep hostility to anything Christian!

You see, those believing in Christianity believe in a place far away from here. Christians tend to give little consideration to the earthly issues that matter to those who see only matter. On the other hand, all other systems of thought since the Renaissance had one thing in common: Viewing man as something outside of the cosmos. Seeing the cosmos as something different from us. Believing man is the center of everything. Envisioning man as destined to rule that cosmos. This lust for control has poisoned our thought for many aeons now. And due to that lust, both capitalism and communism are deeply anti-Christian in every sense of the word.

The hero of Marx was Prometheus.

The same hero we admire.

Marx wanted to change things.

Change is the god of modern society.

Do not be fooled by differences in the surface.

The ocean below both systems is the same.

Dark and evil. Void and full of nothingness.

Rome was threatened by Christians due to the same reasons. Having a set of citizens who didn’t believe in ‘earthly’ things was a danger to the greatest earthly empire in the world. Modern materialistic empires feel the same threat.

Modern Christians will meet their fate sooner or later.

Death.

But what the adversaries of Christianity do not understand.

Is that Christianity was BORN through death!

Tutankhamun: Pharaoh of the stars… [An account on the de-evolution of leadership]

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Tutankhamun had an iron weapon thousands of year before the official “Iron Age” of Egypt. The known pharaoh’s iron dagger blade seems to have a meteoritic origin, according to a more recent study. (1 ,2)

Modern leaders like holding money and earthly power.

Old leaders liked holding heavenly power.

Old leaders liked holding (literally) the stars.

We end up in Earth.

But we come from the sky…

We must never forget that.

Against Enlightenment: The Enlightenment was not light. The Enlightenment is darkness.

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Since as early as 17th century – the era of René Descartes and Benedict De Spinoza – opposition to the church and faith in “logic” was starting to be the new fashion. [1] Later on, in an era of revolutions during the 1789-1848 period, the reaction to the secular powers became synonym to reaction to the church as well, since the latter had been closely related to the first for so long. [2] Finally and after many “battles”, science finally seemed to have “won”. Everyone cheered. Together with the democratization of the world, the rise of atomism and the obviation of the privileges of the few, the church was defeated. The masses had – at last – a saying in how things were going to be in the world. And it was going to be a “logical” world at last!

But…

Was the Enlightenment enlightenment or just a… blackout? How many times had the masses the correct answer to ANY philosophical problem? What will we see if we look at the history of human civilization? Did the world “suddenly” progress in the 19th century or did we progress thousands of year ago and ever since we are in a constant decay?

Ancient Greece: Man started to wonder about his existence. Philosophy was born, along with theatre, tragedy, arts, geometry. Man questions and tries to answer big metaphysical questions. Nature is in the center of human thought. Man simply participates in the marvel of existence.

33 A.C. A man died for the sins of all people. The world seemed to change. Love appeared for the first time at the very core of a new philosophical system. Man can be God. A new era seemed to emerge.

Temporarily. The years that followed humans forgot the teaching of this Man. And the world became darker and darker every passing minute… Rome fall from the barbarians. Constantinople fell from the barbarians. And later on was completely destroyed from the other barbarians of the East.

The remains of Christianism were strong enough to act as foundation of the European civilization [3], but not strong enough to withhold the tide of darkness stemming from the inner soul of the barbarians. The barbarians who never stopped worshiping the moon or the sun, instead of the light within our soul. A few enlightened (with the true meaning of the word) men continued to spread and live by the teachings of Jesus but few paid attention.

17th century. While science and logic were on the rise, few people noticed the deafening silence of one of the wisest thinkers of that time. Pascal [Blaise Pascal] stood silent and troubled [4] next to the hordes of people enthusiastically screaming “rationalism” with no one paying attention. The masses had already decided on the path they would follow…

18th century. The world’s first freemasons’ Grand Lodge was established. [12] The new religion without God demanded space. [13] Some enlightened people still advocated the logic of believing in God (e.g. Newton) but the many were already too excited to listen. Some few suggested there were limits to the all mighty logic (e.g. Kant) but even fewer listened. Philosophers keep talking about how everything must be based on logic and not faith. While science and logic set the foundations of their imperium, many cheered when Rousseau [Jean-Jacques Rousseau] talked against the church but few paid much attention when the same man spoke against science, as if it were the greatest evil of all times. [5] (this is why wise people should talk simply to the stupid, because the latter will use whatever they like and throw away the rest) Man was now considered as tabula rasa and should be taught nihilism, should be made to understand that he is just a gear in the vast mechanism of the soulless universe.

19th century. The era of revolutions against the establishment, part of which was the church. The era of optimism. The era of communism. The era of logic. Nietzsche [Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche] wrote that God is dead and everyone cheered. Few people understood that the great thinker wrote that phrase as a sad conclusion [4] and not as a triumphant cry for science, which he hated as much as he hated rationalism (he was the founder of irrationalism after all).

For sure the church made mistakes. But the mistakes were due to NOT following the teachings of Jesus and not because it did! Unfortunately few noticed that and the hordes of barbarians found saw a great opportunity to express their hatred and the “My arm aches, let’s cut the head” mentality prevailed. The City [Κωνσταντινούπολη] had fallen. The barbarians won. Now they were just solidifying their power. The poems of Marx to Satan and the image of Lucifer on the cover of the first Encyclopedia of Diderot clearly show the character of a heavily anti-Christianic era. The massive eugenics experiments of the West ling before Hitler (experiments which are actually continued until today), show that the barbarians have won. And the participation of the Clinton’s head campaign manager for the 2016 elections in satanistic dinners along with other prominent members of society, no matter how the establishment tries to disguise them as “art“, show that this era of darkness is here too stay. People is the new power. And the new power wants anything old destroyed. Not because it is wrong. But simply because it is old. God, the One, society are dead. Now the individual (or nature) is the new god.

Belief in the ability of human to control things. This was the main premise of magic. This is the main premise of science. The distance from Romanticism [6] to Marxism [7] is so small. When people can have more cars, why even bother listening to “crazy” people like Kierkegaard [Søren Aabye Kierkegaard] or Shestov [Lev Isaakovich Shestov]? The ideological victory of communism [8] established the destruction of the church and Christianity which so many regard as the “absolute evil”, while in fact it was the basis of the western civilization. Magic and the faith in imaginary things (e.g. parallel universes, fields [9] etc) won over the pure, primitive and all honest acceptance of one’s empirical data [10] (seeing the resurrection, experiencing miracles, feeling God, feeling that I exist as a conscious being, knowing that I have free will et cetera). Belief in a new system of ethics rose. A new system of ethics where man as an individual is the new god. The good of society or the cosmos seem irrelevant to the “freedom” of the individual. And of course with no one setting the foundations, each and every one sets his own. Belief in Logic returned. But people had forgotten that logic as founded by Aristotle supported the existence of a First Mover. Having forgotten how Christianity helped create universities as we know them today (part of which were many atheists, like Adam Weishaupt) and was the basis of Humanism in Europe, people “started” believing in the freedom of different opinion for the sake of… difference. But only if the different opinion was non-Christian. [read Religion and Science Unification – Towards religional science, Harmonia Philosophica for the fake cases of Hypatia and Galileo] The world started becoming more logical and we forgot that the most important things – love, emotions, fantasy, inspiration, acceptance, forgiveness, axioms, art, (autoanaphorical) consciousness, ethics, life itself – are not based on logic.

Everybody think that enlightenment showed the way to progress (a Christian idea by the way) through the return to the ancient Greek philosophers but no one wondered for the obvious: if the ancient Greeks had all the answers, then why did they have so much discrimination, oppression and problems? (not to mention… religion) Everybody think that enlightenment showed the way to freedom of the individual, but no one wondered for the obvious: freedom of which individual and from what? We are all part of the cosmos (One, God). How can we be free from Him? Everybody think that enlightenment showed the way to light. But since when does the lights of stars at night have logic? Everybody think that enlightenment rationalized everything. But what is the rationale behind a tear of love? Everybody thought that enlightenment proved to be the end of the “disease” of faith. But isn’t that what drives a scientist believe in the axioms he uses? And how bad is faith in your fellow human and in love? How much “proof” do we need to believe in it? The evolution of thought is a good thing. However, it should be gradual and controlled, under the rule of reason and good sense and not under the shouts of hatred of a social group (anti-Christians) against the others.

The masses won. And they imposed their own illogical logic as the only true logic. The world became cold again as it was in the beginning of civilization. In a forest illuminated by the moon again, man is free to do whatever he wants – but he is already dead inside.

Darkness engulfed the light.
And stole its name…

References

  1. Science and Religion – Some historical perspectives, John Hedley Brooke, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  2. The era of revolutions 1789-1848, E.J. Hobsbawm, National Bank Cultural Foundation, Athens, 2008. [p. 308-329]
  3. Middle Ages – An era of light! [Harmonia Philosophica]
  4. Papanoutsos, “Philosophical Problems”, Ikaros editions, second edition, Athens, Greece, 1978 [p. 213-215]
  5. Philosophy Wire: Science, Prometheus, Rousseau
  6. Romanticism – An illustration guide, Duncan Heath and Judy Boreham, Icon Books, 1999.
  7. Marxism – An illustration guide, Rupert Woodfin and Oscar Zarate, Icon Books, 2004.
  8. Why Communism WON after all… Why are YOU here today? Do you feel God? [Harmonia Philosophica]
  9. Zeus exists, so do atoms… [Harmonia Philosophica]
  10. Religion and Science Unification – Towards religional science [Harmonia Philosophica]
  11. Βυζάντιο – Η Χιλιόχρονη Ελληνική Αυτοκρατορία [Harmonia Philosophica]
  12. Freemasonry, Wikipedia
  13. The age of Enlightenment and Freemasonry, by W. Bro. Ronald Paul Ng

Important note: Even though it is true that generalizations are to be avoided, they are usually the only possible tool to use when one wishes to analyze and understand a field as broad as the evolution of human philosophical intellect regarding belief in God. Most of the times, the tree makes you lose sight of the forest. Anyone wishing to go deeper into specifics can start his quest from the Religion and Science unification – Towards religional science article or from the List of Articles of Harmonia Philosophica here and here.

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