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VI ORIENTAL CHRISTIANITY

A beginning has barely been made with the research which would make it possible to say what influence the eastern Christian sects had on Brahmin, Buddhist and later Islamic sects, and in return what in these religions influenced the sectarianism of the eastern Christians.

On eastern ground Christianity loses immeasurably much, in particular its positiveness and organised character, the single exception being Catholicism, which did not, however, organise itself in the East and remains an imported plant there.

From the point of view of civilisation the very interesting Monophysite sect (which historically became African) acquired in the course of centuries numerous Byzantine, Coptic, Jewish and even pagan superstitions, including fetishism from half-wild Ethiopian and neighbouring nomads. Hierarchically the Ethiopian Church is dependent on the Coptic in Egypt, and as late as 1864 Coptic monasteries were furnishing eunuchs for Moslem harems. We shall not be surprised that in the course of their seven centuries’ rule these Copts reduced Ethiopia to a waste. The result was an amalgam of several different civilisations, mechanically superimposed on survivals of ancient Egypt, and all on the lowest possible level.627 In Africa, too, appeared the Donatist sect, laying the foundation of a fatal social revolution, which undermined Roman civilisation and made easier the Vandals’ work of destruction.

Asiatic Christianity was characterised by a submissiveness towards local civilisations which resulted in a strange Christianity, defective, truly crippled. Historically the most considerable sect in Asia was the Nestorian. In the eighth century it reached China, but did not last long; sinking culturally ever lower, it fell below the level of the Chinese intellect. Nestorians were of incomparably greater importance among the Turanians, in the Oygur culture and in the Mongol State of the Genghis Khans, several of whom were Nestorian. There were Nestorian as well as Catholic crusades for the recovery of the Holy Land. These same Christians were the most ardent supporters of the expansion of the Mongol Empire (they decided the battle of Legnica).628 In Kipchak there were also Nestorian rulers, and the great Tartar Khanate fell because of the rivalry of Islam, Yassak (Mongolian) and Nestorianism; finally Buddhism was victorious in Mongolia and Islam in Kipchak. The Nestorians were imbued in Turanian civilisation and the Oygur culture, adopted from the “blue” Mongols.629

At the Khan’s court, nomadic in summer, in winter at Saray, resided the permanent representative of Slavonic-Greek Orthodoxy, of the Metropolitan of “Kiev and all Ruthenia”, the so-called Bishop of Saray. It is a fact that at the Khan’s court Orthodoxy was not distinguished from Nestorianism and on the Orthodoxy side the error was never corrected. Nestorianism exerted considerable influence on this branch of Orthodoxy. Both faiths delight in the cult of St. Nicholas and points in the Orthodox marriage law for priests, the veal and other issues derive from Nestorianism.

Orthodoxy also stands from the point of view of civilisation close to Asiatic Christianity,630 and historically is not Ruthenian and Russian culture closely associated with Mongol and Turanian civilisations in general? Moscow adopted her ideas of the State from the Mongols, her administration from the Tartars and from Kazan the customs of her upper classes (the tyerem, etc.). Orthodox building derives from the Asiatic East.

On the other hand, Byzantine influences on Ruthenian-Russian Orthodoxy were weak, and on its concepts of State and spiritual life more tenuous still. It is an error to include Muscovy in Byzantine civilisation. In Turkey there was incomparably more of Byzantium than in Russia.

The nest of Byzantine influences was Mount Athos, with all its monkish anarchy. Lavra Petcherska in Kiev, from which at the beginning of the twelfth century came the so-called Chronical of Nestor, was a daughter-house. This Chronicle played a decisive role in the breaking-off of relations with Rome and the spreading of an elemental hatred to Latinity. From Athos came the skoptsy [castrates]; the first appeared in Kiev in 1004, and afterwards there were skoptsy who were bishops.631

Everywhere in the East the moral element is subordinated to material strength. In Byzantium, this is linked with the attribution of superiority to form over content, and accompanied by a strong impulse to uniformity; Byzantinism does not understand unity without uniformity. The Eastern Church quite lost the ability to understand trends towards differentiation within the framework of unity (hence only one religious order, the Basilian). The universality of Christianity is also differently understood: Catholicism aims at it in the name of a basic objective, despite variety in details, whereas the Byzantines understand all universality only as uniformity, as the absolute dominance of a certain type which may even employ force to strengthen its ascendancy.

Uniformity cannot be maintained without compulsion, and compulsion belongs to the State. In consequence everything is permissible to the State. A man was a free citizen under the Byzantine Emperor in so far as the authority of the State allowed. Society had no say in face of the authority of the State.

The Byzantine schism was affected by all this. The Church adapted itself slavishly to Byzantine civilisation after it broke unity with Rome, after it ceased to be Catholic.

There was a time when Byzantine civilisation covered Europe, reaching as far as Spain. Then came a return wave washing away the traces (mainly thanks to the Cluniac reforms), but a considerable part of Germany remained under Byzantine influences and a Byzantine-German culture was formed. A manifestation of this was the attitude of the Emperors to the Pope, particularly in the Italian campaigns, the struggle over investiture and most of all the so-called “Reformation”. Protestantism introduced a Byzantine hegemony of the State over the Church, even to proclamation of the principle cuius regio illius religio. A further consequence was Josephinism. Even German Catholicism was infected. A stage was reached when the State was openly deified.632

The history of Protestantism is at several points bound up with the history of Orthodoxy. On several occasions they stood together against Catholicism. The influence of the Reformation reached deep into Metropolitan Kiev and Orthodoxy was thoroughly confused by the “novelties”. When later the wave of the Reformation ebbed, the gentry of the Ruthenian territories did not return to schism, but were converted to Catholicism. After this came the grafting of Latin civilisation on to Ruthenia, a process which stopped at the Lithuanian-Muscovite frontier. On the other side of the frontier, a printing-press was destroyed in Moscow as “a work of Satan”. The clergy exerted themselves to this end through “popular” disturbances, out of fear that they might be compelled to read printed books. And then raskoł 633 with the purpose not to correct errors in texts hitherto used by the Church, to cross oneself with two fingers, to write Isus instead of Jisus, and lastly to be or not to be clean-shaven.

A new period of Protestant influences on Orthodoxy began in 1698, with the germanization of official Russia. The Tsar proclaimed himself head of the Church, secularised much and introduced the German “Synod” with Oberprokurator. A Protestant form of organisation was introduced into Orthodoxy, which theologically had nothing in common with Protestantism. An incurable dissonance necessarily developed.634

This series of facts shows that similarities and differences of faith even inside Christianity itself by no means bring in their train similarities or differences in civilisation. Theologically so close to Catholicism, Orthodoxy is, under the aspect of civilisation, even further from it than German Byzantinism. Nor does religious union mean a change in civilisation; religion is one thing and civilisation another.

Thus we see that Christianity does not constitute a kind of civilisation. If we compare the method of communal life of the Mongolian Nestorians, the Byzantines, the English and the French, we shall be hard put to it to find anything common to their civilisations.

The Byzantine Church determines civilisation to no small extent. In its canons there are fundamental ideas on the State and art. Byzantine Orthodoxy is from the point of view of civilisation closer to the Asiatic Churches than to the Catholic Church. From the point of view of religion how much closer to Catholicism is the Byzantine than the Calvinist, and yet if religion were as one with civilisation, the katsap from Tula gubernya must be closer to us in civilisation than the Vilno Calvinist.

In the branches of Oriental Christianity there are confessions, but there is no Monophysite, Nestorian, schismatic civilisation. Nestorianism shares the fate of Oygur, the Constantinople schism goes with Byzantine civilisation, and the Muscovy schism is rooted in Turanian civilisation. Eastern Christianity adapts itself to every kind of civilisation: the Christianity is as the civilisation is.

And now let us pass to Catholicism.





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