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”…

Is Christianity against knowledge? (Yes and No!)

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Many have wandered whether religion and Christianity in particular is against knowledge. Not because of it being related to the “dark” Middle Ages (a story which has been discredited a long time ago by Harmonia Philosophica; read the relevant article “Middle Ages – An enlightened era“) but because of the famous story of God forbidding Adam to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This story, along with the hostility of the church against enlightenment (something which is completely justified; read the relevant article “Enlightenment was darkness” in Harmonia Philosophica), has made many people wander whether the church has any dogmatic stance against knowledge per se.

The short answer: Yes. But only because it values knowledge!

Let me explain my self. Knowledge is something which for millennia was held in very high esteem. And for that reason it was kept away from the majority of the people who were not worthy of it. This was not only a church thing. Think of Pythagoras for example. His students had vows not to reveal anything they learnt to the non-worthy on the penalty of death. Think of the alchemists, who encoded everything they wrote so that they don’t fall into the wrong (not worthy) hands of the people outside their closed cast.

Harmonia Philosophica in general is a testament to that belief. Its articles are written in such a way that they draw people away and which seem to convey nothing more than a vague hint to what they were meant to convey.

The Fathers of the Church have explained that eloquently: God doesn’t forbid Adam from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil for no reason. He does so because Man is not yet mature enough to handle this knowledge. If we had the patience we would be allowed to eat from the tree; we are part of God Himself anyway aren’t we?

So the church doesn’t want to forbid knowledge in general. But it wants to impose respect to knowledge as such. Knowledge is not something you read in Wikipedia (Read the articles in Harmonia Philosophica by the way against Wikipedia). Knowledge is something which you should earn with sweat and huge effort. As Buddhism says, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”.

And we are certainly not ready.

Education and knowledge without ethics generate monsters. Remember, Mengele the “Angel of Death” had two PhDs. (Read the relevant articles “The source of ethics” and “Against the fallacy of education as a source of ethics“).

Don’t worry.

You will soon eat from the tree of knowledge.

For now you just have to compromise.

Come on.

Eat a banana.

And some day, if you are a good boy, Pythagoras will speak to you…

Only to tell you not to speak.

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.

Photos, inspiration and other information at…

Middle Ages – An era of light!

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Many people refer to the Middle Ages as a “dark” era.

But take a look closer. Why do they say that?

The main reason is that during these ages research in sciences like mathematics, geometry, astronomy et cetera was not so intense as, e.g., in the era before Christ.

But is that really bad?

Do we need cold geometry more than divine inspiration? Do we need raw mathematics more than the acknowledgement of our higher essence? Do we need astronomy more than a reason to look at the stars?

It is true that Christianism brought a change in philosophy. And for many years people were busy with analyzing this new philosophical system and its implications. Christianism elevated humans to the higher spiritual realm to which they belong. It helped people see that they are not just animals. It helped people realize their true potential, see their soul, understand their esoteric divinity. It taught people look after the eternal life more than profits here and now, making them less materialists and more… well, humans. (during the Middle Ages all people were taught to seek the ‘necessitas’ – every quest for things beyond what is necessary was condemned)

Why is that “darkness”? Why does research in more humanistic issues is “bad” and does not constitute “progress”?

Why is the Enlightenment… “light”? Don’t forget that history is written by the winners. And the winners in this case were crude enough to verify their win by naming their era with a name which is synonym to Light!

Middle Ages had Aristotle as a reference point. How ridiculous is to have it characterized as ‘darkness’ by the era which follows… Dawkins? Why is the belief that many people today have to the Random (everything happened… because!), the purposeless (there is no purpose anywhere in life), the mechanistic (we are just machines doing what our genes tells us to do), the unconscious (consciousness is just an illusion, we are just computers) “light”?

Take a look again.

Dark. Light. Light. Dark.

Famous misunderstandings

Middle Ages have been falsely related to many things…

  • No, the Galileo case is not what is seems. Neither is the Hypatia case. Read my article here for more on these false stories…
  • Witch hunting was initiated by the church has been supposed to cost the lives of millions of women who burned at the stake. True? False. The most accurate number of people accused of witchcraft is about 40,000 and one third of them were men. And they were most probably hanged rather than burned alive. The church had nothing to do with these persecutions. [Witchfinders, 2005] [The book of general ignorance, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson – Το βιβλίο της Ολικής Άγνοιας, Τζον Λόυντ & Τζον Μίτσινσον] Using such arguments is deeply flawed and hypocritical. Not only we must recognize that in general all the past societies were more violent because of their structure, imagine what we could say about the Middle Ages if it had millions of dead like the ones our “enlightened” centuries have (see World Wars, atheistic regimes that kill millions, eugenics, etc.).
  • People in the Middle Ages believed the Earth was flat. True? False. Besides some people before Middle Ages who were not actually related to the church (Lactantius, Cosmas Indicopleustes – see here), the idea of Flat Earth was popularized much after that era. In 1828, American writer Washington Irving (author of Rip Van Winkle) published a book entitled The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. It was a mixture of fact and fiction, with Irving himself admitting he was ‘apt to indulge in the imagination’. This book spread the wrong perception that people back then thought the Earth was flat. What is more, Samuel Birley Rowbotham (1816–1884) – an English inventor and writer – wrote Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe in 1864 and through this work the idea was made famous. [The book of general ignorance, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson – Το βιβλίο της Ολικής Άγνοιας, Τζον Λόυντ & Τζον Μίτσινσον] So it was the 19th “scientific” century and not the “dark” Middle Ages who brought forward this ludicrous idea…
  • The Middle Ages has brutal punishments for criminals: Nothing can be more misleading. Everything must be analyzed within context. Yes, people in the past was more raw and that applies for every age in the past! However note that during the Byzantium age there was a great reform of criminal punishments so as to better define them and make them more humane. Yes, the punishments still were harsh, but these punishments were mainly inherited from the previous non-Christian regimes. [Ιστορία Δικαίου, Σ. Τρωϊανός, Ι. Βελισσαροπούλου-Καρακώστα, Δ’ Έκδοση, Νομική Ββιλιοθήκη, Αθήνα, 2010]

Related books

  • The Byzantine Millennium, Hans-Georg Beck
  • Medieval Civilization, 400-1500, Jacques Le Goff

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