Do you know what Nihilism is? Have you heard of it? What does it mean? This series is about Nihilism. To put it simply, I want to introduce you if you aren’t familiar with Nihilism. However, before I dig into the details there are a few precursors you should know. Nihilism has to do with religion or lack thereof. So if you are not religious or spiritual you might find yourself at odds with I’m saying. If you are religious, I hope you can empathize with the arguments I will make. All I’m saying is keep an open mind. It can be quite disheartening at first. Also its very a deep philosophical issue that is complicated. This series also marks the start of my expansion into other topics such as philosophy and theology. Fair warning, I want to break this up in a lot of smaller parts since it is complicated and without proper background, harder to understand.
Introduction to Nihilism
So you might be wondering what got me into this subject? Well, you can thank one of my good friends from a certain social media platform. He had me read a short book called NIHILISM : The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose. (Link Here, recommend you read it actually) In this short book, Rose writes a very detailed description of Nihilism. He tries to paint a picture through both historical references, philosophers and theological references. The book serves as a more of a warning than anything else. If you are religious, then its a warning that you should take quite seriously. If you are atheist then its probably of no concern.
One more thing before I tell you what Nihilism means, I want put all of this series in my own words. If I do use Seraphim Rose’s words I will quote him directly. Here we go: Nihilism is the belief and revolution to overthrow God in order to create a new human order, which replaces God or a ‘higher power’ with nothing. Yes, you have read me correctly. Now there is A LOT to unpack here. But let’s calm down and start with how father of Nihilism would define it. The father is none other than Friedrich Nietzsche. Rose quotes his definition verbatim:
That there is no truth; that there is no absolute state of affairs-no ‘thing-in-itself.’ This alone is Nihilism, and of the most extreme kind.
My understanding is that Nihilism can be separated 4 different stages. Nihilism has aspects in history, theology and philosophy. To be fair, its a large topic covering a lot of different disciplines. My forte is obviously history so I will focus more on that than the other two. I want to give a brief outline of the stages of Nihilism, in addition to one popular historical nihilist example. This outline will encompass probably all the parts of this series which could be anywhere from 5 parts to 10 parts. (I am writing about this for the first time so I have no idea how much I can write)
The outline starts with as Rose describes it will
characterize as “Nihilists” men of, as it seems, widely divergent views: humanists, skeptics, revolutionaries of all hues, artists and philosophers of various schools; but they are united in a common task.
The common task is to undermine God and promote the nothing. I suppose first, we have to talk about truth. Nihilism is as much about God as it is about truth. To be specific its about absolute truth. The absolute truth is knowledge that is presupposed. For example, like numbers and logic. Anything that is used for constructing beliefs in any given context but specifically for belief in a higher power. If you re-read the quote on Nietzsche, he says “There is NO truth”. The truth means as Rose puts it “defined as the dimension of the beginning and the end of things”. So in short Nihilism is the denial of truth. Of course there is a lot more to be said but for the sake of brevity in my outline, lets us move on towards the The Stages of the Nihilist Dialectic.
Denial of Truth: The Stages of the Nihilist Dialectic
There are four distinct stages of Nihilism. These are Liberalism, Realism, Vitalism and the Nihilist of Destruction. All the stages are in and of themselves related by their common task. However, as Rose points out, they can contradict and even fight against each other. I think he does a better job of describing it:
The single Nihilist cause is thus advanced on many fronts simultaneously, and its enemies are confused and deceived by this effective tactic. To the careful observer, however, Nihilist phenomena reduce themselves to three or four principal types, and these few types are, further, related to each other as stages in a process which may be called the Nihilist dialectic. One stage of Nihilism opposes itself to another, not to combat it effectively, but to incorporate its errors into its own program and carry mankind one step further on the road to the Abyss that lies at the end of all Nihilism.
I believe its logical that I would dedicate a part to each of these stages. Let us get just a taste of each, shall we?
- Liberalism: No, its not your typical or classical liberalism that we all know and hate. Liberalism, Rose describes as an passive nihilist. The liberal nihilist will be empty with little to no faith. The liberal nihilist sort of hides his intentions by proclaiming to believe in the truth. But the reality is that he typically is more concerned with worldly issues rather anything faith or higher power related. Liberalism is one of the more interesting stages, stay tuned.
- Realism: Might sound harmless. Nope, the realist-nihilist is more straight-forward rather than hiding or indifference, the realist will come down on side of full denial of truth. Rose puts it a lot better than me: “The motives of the Realist are, in fact, not pure: he claims to know what, by his own theory of knowledge, cannot be known”. In other words, the realist is very sure that there is no absolute truth and its no contradiction that he doesn’t know.
- Vitalism: The best way to describe Vitalism as Rose points out is in Mussolini’s and Hitler’s cult of activism and violence. It can also be seen in art, some artist try to channel a sort of pseudo-religious cult feel, almost like trying to substitute actual religion. Rose sums it up like this: “All of these Vitalist manifestations of the “religious impulse” share in common a hostility to any stable or unchanging doctrine or institution and a paramount concern with and pursuit of the “immediate” values of “life,” “vitality,” “experience,” “awareness,” or “ecstasy.” Absurdity is another feature of vitalism as well as searching for truth. The search for the truth but never finding it is a key part of all stages.
- The Nihilism of Destruction: This sounds like something straight out of a fiction book. But unfortunately this is the last stage. Its quite simply the end goal, the build up of all the stages. You start off at liberalism just passively ignoring truth, then pass into realist where you try to deny the truth and prove your denial. By the time you hit Vitalism, you have replaced any truth left with nonsense and absurd worldly ventures leading to nowhere. In this stage, you are just destroying anything that might resemble truth. Rose uses the father of Nihilism to help describe it: “Who wishes to be creative,” said Nietzsche, “Must first destroy and smash accepted values.”
The Religious Ramifications of Nihilism
The next logic step after going through stages would be to analyze the religious implications of such a revolution against the absolute truth. Rose does describe in great detail, the religious part Nihilism. If you aren’t familiar, basically nihilists and atheists are not mutual exclusively. In fact, most nihilists are satanists. If believe in god is light then satanism is dark. Furthermore, to describe faith in god, Rose uses common terms like joyous, certain, serene, loving, humble, patient. The opposite of these terms is used to describe the doubt of the nihilist: suspicion, disgust, envy, jealousy, pride, impatience, rebelliousness, blasphemy. This religious aspect leads to the question of: Is god real? Especially for atheists, this is where I would like to discuss TAG or the transcendental argument for god. This is what I envision as the antidote to this nihilist revolution.
I’m letting you know that I am almost certainly bias, and on the side of God. I’m a catholic. To be fair, Catholicism is tainted because of the split of the church in 1054, the western church being Catholicism and the eastern church being Eastern Orthodox. I recently learned that Orthodox is actually more pure in terms of beliefs. (Its not that important, but believing in any God is better than worshiping Satan. Also I’m no blind follower, I have my own skepticism of the church) So I will devote one post to this theology related aspect. I want reiterate that I’m not trying to evangelize anyone, I’m just putting out information, take it how you will.
All of posts will include some kind of historical reference, probably multiple ones. (Sorry this is so long! Last paragraph!) Quite a few paragraphs ago, I mentioned I would name an historical example of a nihilist. Perhaps the most famous one: Adolf Hitler. That’s right, ya boi Adolf is a bonafide nihilist. Why? Well aside from killing in the neighborhood of six million Jews and other undesirables, Hitler is also managed a few other feats of the nihilist flavor. I mentioned his cult of activism and violence in the stage of Vitalism. Hitler had a program called Blood and Soil. Simply put: Hitler envision a future for Germany that had German families settling what is now eastern Europe and part of Russia. He wanted to expand the German people eastward. The ultimate goal was to create a kind of utopia. The perfect place to raise a family, farm the land and ultimately build up Germany as the greatest nation to ever exist. German philosophers call the children of the people “soldier-peasants”. Of course, these families are pure of blood, meaning only German, no mixing allowed.
Hitler also wrote about this in Mein Kampf. Anyway, I hope your excited for this series. I am very excited. This subject of Nihilism is huge. I want to be very detailed and like I said before, its desirable for it to be all in my own words. The future posts will use a little of bit of Rose’s work and then I will interject my own analysis via my extensive historical knowledge into it.
INTO THE NOTHINGNESS!
God Bless. Thank you for reading!
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