The Human Dialectic of Absolute Premises: Christianity and Marxism
By Joe E. Dees
I. The Fundamental Contention
In the comparative analysis of two systems of belief, one immediately encounters problems as to the validity of one?s methodology. If the belief systems in question are not amenable to correlation, one has three choices: (1) to bias the analysis by assuming one belief system?s methodology over the other?s, (2) to render the analysis non-relational by choosing a methodology foreign to both, and (3) to beg the question by synthesizing the methodologies of the two systems prior to the comparative analysis.
Since a comparative analysis cannot take place without two distinct belief systems to compare, the question arises whether or not such an inquiry is possible. Certain pairs of systems, however, are indeed correlative and at the same time distinct. This occurs when two belief systems directly oppose one another; they are then relational as correlative opposites, and mutually contradict in their conclusions as a result of the operation of a single logic upon mutually exclusive premises. Two belief systems bearing this relationship may be viewed as thesis and antithesis and compared dialectically.
Such is the relationship between Christianity and Marxism. One asserts primordial Mind as the ground of being for the presence of matter, while the other asserts primordial Matter as the ground of becoming for emerging mind. One sees history as the temporal manifestation of transcendent intention, while the other sees it as the temporal evolution of immanent action. Both are absolutist, both are deterministic, and both accept deductive logic as valid and the principle of noncontradiction as sound.
If these are indeed systems of belief, the basic premise of each must lie outside the purview of knowledge. This means that neither premise may be undeniably demonstrable by example, nor may either be unequivocally denied by counterexample. Furthermore, induction proceeds from empirical data to statistically probable conclusions. The presence of a single measurable and repeatable datum would, due to their mutually antithetical nature, render one of the premises untrue while placing the other within the realm of probability, which is not belief, but statistical knowledge. Our two systems thus must be grounded upon absolute and not relative premises. This entails that neither premise may be statistically probable, in other words, neither may be either empirically verifiable or empirically falsifiable. This of course means that neither system may proceed from induction.
This is true of Christianity and Marxism. Our sciences, which proceed by induction according to the Verification Principle, are sciences of matter and energy. The sine qua non (condition in the absence of which they would not be what they are) of matter and energy is that they be sensorily perceivable phenomena. These immanent objects of perception are then measured by relating our perceptions of them to our perceptions of intersubjectively agreed-upon standards of measurement which are themselves physical. These quantified perceptions must then be amenable to repetition at will by means of any duplication of the conditions under which they appear. This method cannot be used to either verify or falsify the presence or absence of transcendent nonphysical Mind. Our sensuous perceptions, our technological augmentation of them, our devices of measurement, our method of repetition are all immanent and physical; they are categorically incapable of this task. We cannot prove God is anywhere, and neither can we prove that there is anywhere God is not. Induction is useless with respect to either Christianity of Marxism; the basic premise must be believed in, rather than known, and in either case, conclusions must follow by means of deduction from the basic premise, not induction from empirically obtained data. This explains why both belief systems accept the principle of noncontradiction as apodictically (self-evidently) true.
[/b]They both proceed by means of deduction from assumed a priori postulates.[/b]
What is this concept of Being, however, about the existence of which these two dogmas incessantly contend’ It is a concept of absolute Wisdom, Justice, Goodness, Beauty, Power and Unity existing both a priori to and simultaneous with the temporal universe. It is the concept of a universal Creator, Circumscriber and Subsumer who provides source, impetus and goal for every act, passion and inspiration, and in whom is found the purified synthesis of all that is, was and will be, the common essence of apparent multiplicity in space and time.
Capitalize any human virtue and it becomes an attribute of God, the Perfect Mind.
Ludwig Feuerbach’s analysis of humanity’s relationship to this concept proceeds according to the Hegelian dialectic. Declaring religion to be anthropology and its evolution to be the history of humankind, he states clearly and the three movements of this dialectic and what is being moved. They are:
(1) The animal, becoming human by becoming aware of the humanity emerging within it (which is part of it and yet still controls it), purifies and projects this awareness into an absolute and transcendent realm; emerging mind becomes crystallized in Mind, an Other Mind. This objectification of self as Other, Feuerbach contends, is necessary for the humanization of humanity in abstract terms.
(2) Now, however, nothing is left to the human. It has all been invested in the Other. Humanity finds that it has bankrupted itself by giving the Other all that was recognizable in it as more-than-animal. Humanity finds itself an object, having given its subjecthood away.
(3) Humanity now “really” emerges, or rather finally merges with itself. Seeing that it has alienated itself from its own soul, which it has called God, Humanity shreds the veil of self-delusion and reclaims its own heart from the transcendent altar-prison that it had itself built. This synthesis of animal and God becomes the new thesis, the thesis of the human.
However, the movements of the human dialectic are not at an end, Feuerbach notwithstanding. The God of Absolute and Perfect Mind has been disputed, true, and by a premise both as basic and as absolute. “God is” found itself facing “God is not”. But then, what is to be held holy? We must have some common unity or we must call ourselves nothing, and, for the great majority of us, that is existentially unbearable. But an understanding once achieved could not in good faith be forgotten, and once our eyes had been opened, we could not close them again. Personhood had been fragmented non-relational persons; what God could reclaim the altar, to replace the God whose throne humanity had usurped, the God whom humanity had conquered, and therefore lost?
The new God-concept was provided by Karl Marx, and was both as absolute as the old God-concept and antithetical to it. In fact, it was not addressed by the name God but by the name Reality. The geist of Apollo was met by the geist of Dionysius. Jesus? God was a God of Mind; Marx’s God was a God of Matter. Jesus? God inhabited our souls; Marx’s God constituted our bodies. The invisible God promising the invisible Heavens was faced with the visible God promising the visible Earth. Dialectical idealism was opposed by dialectical materialism, and contemplation by action. The doctrine of immanence as illusion was no longer an imperative, but an alternative; now another alternative existed; the doctrine of transcendence as illusion. The slave was to spend nights no longer in pursuit of a justification of slavery and the justification of self as slave in the higher order of things. Instead, both days and nights were to be spent correcting the injustice that forced the worker, the producer, and the priest at the altar of the Material God, into servitude for the sake of parasitic inferiors, the bourgeois masters.
Philosophy’s task was finished, and now its products must be implemented. There was work to be done. The thesis, Christianity, through Aquinas, Kant, Hegel and Feuerbach, had finally spawned its antithesis, Marxism.
II. The Church as State
During the first few hundred years after the life of Jesus, the thesis of God’s presence was accepted by many. These people worshipped first in secret, and oppression by a state (the Roman state) unified these believers in martyrdom and as conspiracy of clandestine religious communion. When however, Constantine the emperor of Rome accepted Christianity and proclaimed it the official religion of the Roman Empire, a unifying structure became necessary. Since the dominant structural model present at the time was monarchy, a monarchial form was adopted.
This choice fitted in very well with the idea of a sovereign God, and allowed the bishops of each area to speak for their people. Soon the bishop of Rome was recognized as Pope, and all Christians spoke with one voice. That voice, however, was many times not what many would have chosen; many times it spoke for itself and the people of Christianity were coerced into accepting the trappings of totalitarianism as incomprehensible to them, but ordained of God as the best way. God, after all, could not be wrong; God was Perfect Mind. But none of the elaborate ritual of the Roman Catholic Church, and none of its clerical hierarchy, were outlined by Jesus. It was created by the elite, and much of it for the elite. For instance, the people of the church have no say in choosing this elite; it is chosen by itself. Popes choose cardinals; when the Pope dies the cardinals choose a new one. Election and popular vote was never even considered as far as the laity were concerned; appointment by a superior was and is the method of clerical advancement. The only election is to the highest office, by those immediately beneath, and it is for life. Diplomatic ties with other sovereignties were formed with the intention of having the sovereignty of the Church recognized by the states, so that dual sovereignty was demanded of their people; allegiance to both King and Pope, and the Pope first. Vast lands and riches, the price of heaven, were amassed.
Salvation was bought and sold for what the buyer possessed, be it wealth or widow’s mite. Finally, a Pope granted himself infallibility when speaking ex cathedra, thus grounding totalitarian authority upon the declaration of the declarer.
There were difficulties encountered along the way. The Roman Empire fell. There was a great schism and the Russian and Greek churches broke away. The iron demands of conformity to the party line and subservience to the religious sovereign and his clerical nobility were refused by those who disliked what the Catholic Church had become.
Martin Luther sparked a Reformation that was actually a religious revolution; the Pope was denied sovereignty over both Protestants and Anglicans, who spurned Roman Catholicism’s claim to be the temporal arm of God. Monarchy was opposed by democracy, and conformity by freedom of religious choice. Now Christianity is a faith embodied in a multiplicity of expressions and the Roman Catholic Church, while still the largest voice, is one of many which people are free to choose to or not to heed in most areas. Only in a few countries is the manner of Christian expression not a matter of personal choice. It is significant to note that such freedom has never been given, only taken. Spain and Portugal, until recently authoritarian states welded to an institutional church, are the most recent to take such freedoms for their people, but only after the people took their freedoms from the state.
III. The State as Church
Marx, like Jesus, had not specifically outlined a form for Marxism to take. He had stated the purpose of his call for revolution, true; a communist economic system maintained for the fair distribution of the products of labor (goods and services), centrally administered and collectively owned. But the structures of responsibility, decision and communication had not been patterned out or their interrelations delineated. Jesus preached mutual love between people through mediation of Mind and Marx preached mutual service between people through implementation of Matter. Jesus assumes that upon the Apocalypse, which he expected soon, governmental forms would be unnecessary, and Marx assumed that upon the advent of communism that a temporary post-revolutionary organizing authority, the dictatorship of the proletariat, would quite voluntarily “wither away”.
The Russian Revolution took the Marxists by surprise. Marx was dead and could not lead; Lenin took command. He possessed a faith, the shambles of a monarchial system, and many millions of religious people.
He instituted a “dictatorship of the proletariat” modeled on the monarchial structure, abolished private property, purged the opposition, and installed himself as leader of a monarchial economic state. Successors were to be chosen by the majority vote of commissars that the previous leader appointed, and all members of the government were to be members of the one party allowed, the Communist Party. The Soviet government was built in the image of the Roman Catholic Church, and Lenin became its first Pope. The communist parties in other nations were required to accept the soviet party as absolute sovereign and not to be questioned. Things move more quickly these days, for thirty years after the Soviet republic was born Marshal Tito, the first harbinger of schism, appeared on the scene. Soon after, we had socialist as well as communist states, as we have predominately catholic and predominately protestant countries; the Socialist Reformation has taken place before our eyes, despite attempts by the Soviet Republic to repress same in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. It is significant to note that communists may form parties within socialist countries, but until recently, when the issue was forced, not the other way around. This is a duplication of the Catholic-Protestant paradigm of one-way (or predominately one-way) discrimination.
IV. Church-State vs. People
Both of these systems of belief, as practiced by their dominant organs, are monarchies - but not genetic ones. They are ideological monarchies. Neither has much use for the criticisms of philosophy, which they both distrust because they cannot control it. Both have three dogmas that correlate nicely. They are: (1) the Statement of Faith (Catholic - God is, and subsidiary dogma; Communist - God is not, and subsidiary dogma), (2) the Personal Admonition (Catholic - love others; Communist - labor for others), and (3) the Acknowledgement of Authority (Catholic - the church/Pope is infallible; Communist - the Party/President is infallible). One joins them only by publicly endorsing their doctrines, and advances by being perceived by one’s superiors as passionately conforming to them. The laity of each lack the power to dictate the course of church-state actions; power issues from the apex - the crowned head of the controlling minority of the ideological elite.
Each is plagued with the wide propagation of a more democratic alternative (Protestantism, Socialism), which it regards as an obstreperous and irreverent stepchild, for although each wants the world to accept its views, each also desires the final disposition of them. Dissent is either treasonous (contra people) or blasphemous (contra God); one punishes it directly in this life, one indirectly through disposition of a believed-in next. To join either is to forfeit it your rights. One is world negating the other is other-than-world negating. Each asserts that the only way to be truly human is to embrace its faith. Both have collectively deterministic views of history; one is determined by Mind (what happens is ordained of God) and the other is determined by Matter (the evolution of the distribution of material is the guiding force of history), and both culminate in utopia. Both have a person to worship and a book to read, and both have trained experts to communicate the orthodox meaning of each to the mass herds, and to denounce forbidden concepts and conceivers. The masses of each are constrained to take their words at face value, the words of ideologues commissioned to propagate the Faith.
That such similarities should manifest themselves in the relational structures between these belief systems and their respective social masses is not surprising. Correlative opposites mutually and symmetrically define from a neutral or uncommitted perspective; us-them only manifests itself after a Leap - in either direction. Marxism would have to have a governmental system of absolute authority from below to be in good faith with itself. Lacking time and a practicable paradigm from which to develop such a system, the closest available, complementary alternative was employed - a governmental system of absolute authority from above, the model of its ideological antithesis and methodological twin, Christianity. The adoption of this internal self-contradiction festered in the heart of the Soviet system, and in the end, facilitated its demise.
V. The Social Subsumption
Feuerbach’s work was brilliant and insightful, and at first one might suspect that Marx had betrayed him by placing the God of Matter upon the throne from which Feuerbach had only recently removed the God of Mind. Actually, Feuerbach had only dealt with one side of the question, and Marx embarked upon the first movement of the other side when he crystallized Matter into an icon. That Apollo had been given away, missed, and reclaimed by humanity we an incomplete resolution of the situation; the same dialectic had to be traversed in Dionysian terms. Chaos and Order are co-primordial, and neither can be apprehended absolutely by humankind, only believed in (a major problem in computer science is the inability to construct a truly random number generator; any pattern - including the Kantian categories of space, time and causality - necessarily begets pattern). At the same instant that humanity became aware of mind, that is, when humanity began to become human, humanity also became aware of body - a body that Marx had enshrined and thus stolen from them. The thesis of Jesus, the crystallizer of Mind, had been dialectically resolved by Feuerbach; who would resolve the Marxian thesis?
It has been done, by Friedrich Nietszche. The majority of his work concerns how humanity had divorced itself from its body. Nietszche missed this body, and reclaimed it in his monumental work THE WILL TO POWER. Nietszche did not write as Feuerbach did; he wrote not with the Apollonian clarity of the dialectic, but with the Dionysian passion of the hammer.
Feuerbach and Nietszche, the humanizers of Jesus’ God of Mind and Marx’s God of Matter, the Promethean reclaimers of Order and Chaos, formulated the restated thesis and antithesis of “God is” and “God is not”, which really said “Mindgod is and Mattergod is not” and “Mattergod is and Mindgod is not”. Their statements are, respectively, “Mindgod is human” and “Mattergod is human”. Now these must be combined into the next synthesis, the synthesis not yet widely spoken but of which the world is already implicitly aware. It is this: Mindgod and Mattergod are the thesis and antithesis which are synthesized in humanity.
This can be intuited even in Aristotles hylomorphic composition of the world, although he did not apply it to humanity. For Aristotle, things are contingent phenomenal syntheses of noumenal absolutes. So are humans, but incredibly enriched! Human contingency is the dynamic and never-completed synthesis of opposing absolutes, which itself can only apprehend in contingent terms, but in two opposing yet complementary directions. There are in constant interplay with each other and their names are intuitive right-brain synthesis into unity (from Matter to Mind) and intellectual left-brain analysis into multiplicity (from Mind to Matter). In these two modes of self-consciousness, which are synthesis reflecting upon analysis (which assumes the synthetic whole in order to analyze) and analysis reflecting upon synthesis (which assumes the analytic parts in order to synthesize), the former views their human conjunction as Mind ruling Matter and the latter views it as Matter ruling Mind. Each, like Jesus and Marx, Feuerbach and Nietszche, is partly right and partly wrong, for each focused on a single aspect of the human coin. Neither rules and both do, each by consent of the other. This is the paradox of contingency, which frees history from the determinism of either side alone while still allowing for the interplay of trends, and humanity from the imperative to follow one side of existence exclusively, while still leaving humanity its humanness. The bare existence or lack of same of either absolute is nonrelational to humankind, which is free for each of its individual members to subjectively and intersubjectively experience the plenitude of contingent synthanalytic existence.