Modernism has produced many thinkers since the days of Illuminism but the 19th century produced three very influential minds that laid the foundations of the many revolutions that shook the world in the 20th century.
One could write a treatise on each one of them. In fact, many books were written about these three men. The question remains: Why are they so important?
Let us begin with Karl Marx: In a recent edition of the series Uncommon Knowledge, Dr. David Berlinsky passed a jocular and brutally concise judgment: “Marx is kind of a windbag. Let’s agree on that.” Yes, I can agree with the celebrated mathematician, and I can add more.
The inventory of desolation left by Marxist experiments around the world grows daily. One can certainly agree that Marxism turned out to be a devastating tool to ruin the life of millions. The nations that formed the defunct USSR, plus China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and others have seen their economies and civil liberties evaporate under Marxist rule. Singapore, one country that abandoned Marxism in the 1970’s after a decade of Marxist misery, turned out to be one of the bright stars of capitalism and is now one of the most prosperous countries in the world.
What Marx proposed was a utopia that ignored all we know about human nature. After destroying hundreds of millions of lives and ruining many prosperous countries, Marxists ideas survive only in some feeble minds, and in the lounges of some old academics in the West but I repeat myself.
The Theory of General Relativity came many decades after Darwin’s theory on the origin of species. Today we refer to it as “General Relativity” since advancements in technology have helped confirm Einstein’s magnificent intuition. Not so with the ideas put forward by Darwin in his book On The Origin of Species.
When Darwin wrote his influential book, he had only a very limited idea of what a cell was. He certainly did not know how the RNA/DNA processes worked. One fundamental thing that Darwin ignored completely was a very important piece of information that science was to find many decades after Darwin died: the age of the universe.
Early in the 20th century, the Russian scientist Alexander Friedmann and later, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the Universe was expanding. Others calculated the rate of expansion and eventually the approximate age of the Universe was estimated to be about 13.5 billion years. That seems like a very long time and yet, even that enormous amount of time, is now deemed insufficient for Darwin’s theory to work.
Further discoveries in biology and genetics have determined that the number of proper mutations that must happen for Darwin’s theory to have a chance to succeed, are so staggering that they approach impossibility. Darwin’s theory runs out of time.
Physicists, astronomers, biologists, are finding out that the universe seems to be “set up” very precisely to host life. Contrary to what happened to Einstein’s General Relativity, the Darwinian theory about the origin of species, not only remains a theory but is increasingly considered by many to be a bad theory.
Sigmund Freud is sometimes rightly credited with many original insights but the central theme of psychoanalysis, that the psyche is the field where various impulses interplay resulting in the character of a human being is no longer considered valid. Long before the publication of the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1985) by neurologist Oliver Sacks, a number of neurological conditions continue to be discovered that are not the result of psychological trauma, but have their origins in the malfunctioning of various areas of the human brain. More and more universities are trying to decode the electrochemical activity of the brain itself to diagnose certain disorders.
Freud was certainly a pioneer in his field but his conclusions — or the popular interpretation of his conclusions — bear some responsibility on the disastrous moral state of the world. Mental infirmities are on the rise since the advent of psychoanalysis, not the other way around.
The common thread
These men are the gods, the intellects behind a Weltanschauung, the philosophy behind the Modernist world view. I hope I can build my case clearly here.
Darwin, a new Moses of sorts, re-writes the book of Genesis, altering the story of humankind. After Darwin, man no longer sees himself as fallen from a golden age, a paradise. Mankind is not the special creation of the Divinity anymore. We are not fallen from perfection but emerging from the swamp, molded by blind forces we cannot possibly control. Consequently we are left orphaned in a vast and dark universe where the prevailing principle is no longer divine love but the brutal, unmerciful competition for survival. Darwin offers us a new origin but also a new terrifying future, and a moral vision where there are not Ten Commandments but One: survive at any cost.
St. John the Divine is replaced by “St. Karl the Material Man” presented to us in the person of Marx who re-writes the Apocalypse as a vague but enthusiastic utopia. He unveils a brilliant imaginary future that necessitates the destruction of the present to be born. His “New Man” opposes the “Son of Man” — man is no longer a creature with a divine future, struggling to achieve the perfection of Christ. No, man is a self-forged creature subjected to enormous economic forces he has to conquer and dominate by destroying all elements of the Divinity present in the human soul. In the Gospel According to Marx, to become the New Man we must abolish man as he presently exists.
Freud is the final anti-redeemer. Christ came to take the sin of the world by sacrificing himself. Christ eliminates sin and all its ugly consequences from the root. Freud eliminates sin by removing natural guilt. He re-defines all the ugly consequences of sin as objectives. In Freud’s “heaven” all carnal desires are fulfilled, all moral constraints are unnatural trauma. Freud’s “heaven” looks suspiciously similar to Hell.
The twilight of Modernism
We seem to be living in an era not much different from the fall of the pagan Roman Empire. The long twilight of the pagan gods preceded the decline of Rome by a few centuries. In the same manner, as these gods of Modernism lose their luster, they announce the end of the world vision they helped to create.
Darwin, Marx, and Freud provided the intellectual mortar to build the materialistic world of Modernism. The Modernist project is by definition opposed to the Christian order. Modernism and Christianity are like the proverbial matter and anti-matter, they cannot mix. One has to survive and the other has to perish.
We Christians have read the book and we know how the story ends.
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of His mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2: 7-8)
The words of St. Paul not only predict the emergence of this anti-Christian force; the apostle also prophesies that the very appearance of that power will be a sign of the impending judgment of the world by Christ.
The “breath of His mouth” is Christ’s word. When God in Genesis breaths life into Adam, the man becomes a living soul. In our day we have that “breath” in the form of the teachings of Christ, preserved by the Church through the ages. Jesus Christ breathes eternal life in His Church by means of his words. (John 6:60-71, see 6:68)
Perhaps it is time to ignite the fire that the first Christians lit to conquer the Roman Empire. In fact, it is high time to bring back the Gospel in all its marvelous depth to wake up the world to the reality of Christ. He is the One who will send all these false gods (and the desolation they bring) into oblivion.