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Why should Laos be saying all this in an article entitled 'Civilisation Clashes'? His argument is that this development of the Greek philosophical tradition by the Cappadocian Fathers was barely known or understood within the Western tradition which, on the basis of an initial misunderstanding of Platonism as teaching the primacy of ideas, went on to try to prove that the whole cosmos, divine, human and material, is bound by a necessary logic which can be understood and taught (we may remember Stephen Hawking's declaration that if Relativity and Quantum theory could be reconciled then we would know the mind of God).

Through the collapse of the Western Empire, Western Christianity was cut off from the great debates in which Eastern Christianity, and the fundamental dogmas of the Christian faith, were hammered out. As we have seen, a new church with different intellectual preconceptions developed in the West, more or less independently of its own supposed patriarch, the Pope, still for several centuries part of the Eastern system. The theologians of this new development, lacking access to much in the way of Greek resources, either classical or Christian, turned to the man they took to be the most distinguished of the Latin Fathers, Augustine of Hippo - whom Laos calls 'Holy Augustine', as he is often referred to in Orthodox commentaries, by those who do not regard him as an outright heretic, as 'Blessed Augustine'. He is only rarely (and recently, by the more 'ecumenically' minded tendency) styled 'Saint' Augustine.

For Laos the basic, or a basic, flaw in Augustine's understanding of Greek philosophy, pagan and Christian, was to draw a sharp distinction between sensuous knowledge - reality as perceived through the senses - and supersensuous knowledge, which in this world could only be known not by direct experience but by a process of reasoning: 

'The starting point of the Augustinian thought is a distinction between the sensible and the intelligible worlds, and, from this distinction, it arrives at the conclusion that the soul knows bodies only through an inward experience, called ratio, independently of the body, and that man’s salvation consists in the soul’s elevation into the intelligible world. In his treatise De Libero arbitrio, Holy Augustine defines ratio as the logical process according to which the intellect discerns and connects the objects of knowledge. In addition, Holy Augustine discerns two functions of human reason: ratio superior and ratio inferior. According to Holy Augustine’s De Trinitate (XII), ratio superior discerns ideal reality in and through the human soul and underpins the knowledge of truth, whereas ratio inferior uses the senses in order to look outward on the world of sense objects and cannot lead to truth ...

'The Latin Church Fathers’ educational background was focused on Roman Law, whereas the Greek Church Fathers’ educational background was focused on Greek philosophy. Thus, the Latin Church Father’s way of theologising was conditioned by their legalistic mentality, and they were primarily treating Christianity as a practical system for organising and instituting people’s life, whereas the Greek Church Fathers’ priority was the ontological perfection of man, or deification ...

'Both Boethius and Holy Augustine interpreted Aristotle’s general concepts (universals) as if they were Platonic ideas (i.e. like entities totally distinct from the material world), and they interpreted Plato’s ideas as if they were logical essences (i.e. like logically self-subsistent entities), which was absurd ... 

'In fact, Aristotle’s logic is not limited to abstract systems of formal logic, but it is primarily concerned with the human logos’ potential to comprehend and express an external spiritual reality, specifically, the logos of the cosmos. In contrast to the Greek term logos, which refers to an experiential understanding of truth through participation/sharing (Greek: methexis), the Latin term ratio means the individual ability to syllogistically achieve a comprehensive, exhaustive understanding of truth.

'In his Scriptum super libros sententiarum and in his Summa theologiae, Thomas Aquinas argues that there is only one type of truth (the truth of ratio), thus uniting Holy Augustine’s ratio inferior and ratio superior into a unified, hierarchical rational system. In other words, according to Thomas Aquinas, given that there is only one type of truth, knowledge originates in Holy Augustine’s ratio inferior and culminates in Holy Augustine’s ratio superior.'


I may have predisposed the reader against Laos by referring earlier to his admiration for Adam Weishaupt, founder of the Bavarian Illuminati. He explains this on his publisher's website by saying:

'My role models are persons that have chosen to live the life of a philosopher without losing sight of their historical responsibilities as “political animals”, according to the well-known Aristotelian terminology. Only such a person can follow the path of the Kairological Qabalah. In the field of Western esoteric fraternities in particular, my favourite role model is Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Bavarian Illuminati, because he attempted to live simultaneously the life of a philosopher and the life of a social and political activist, thus setting new examples in the history of Western esotericism.'

Laos's 'Civilisation Clash' essay is divided into two parts. The philosophical argument I have just tried to summarise continues through the Realist/Nominalist dispute up to a discussion on 'Modernity' where he argues that:

'The modern West – having been severed from its classical philosophical roots, from the genuine Christian ethos, and from the tradition of the Christian Roman Empire, which was founded in Constantinople, on 11 May 330, by Emperor Constantine the Great – produces and globalises chaos, destruction, and war ...'

I don't intend here to follow him into this subject in detail but his broad argument is that the source of the problem is the Western preference for abstract ideas over concrete, experienced reality. Here he comes close to Dugin and his three political theories (Liberalism. Communism, Fascism). The abstract ideas in question include economic determinism, which he (Laos) traces back to the French physiocrats, class, race, nation. He suggests that by contrast, in the Greek tradition, following the major innovation introduced by the Christian Fathers, the main emphasis is on the Person, the hypostasis. We may remember that the 'subject' of Dugin's Fourth Political Theory is Heidegger's Dasein. There is however a rather startling departure from Dugin when, among the people responsible for a Western-inspired subversion of Islam he cites René Guénon. Anyone who has read my piece on Dugin in the first Heidegger Review will know that Dugin rates Guénon if anything even higher than Heidegger.

Although I have no difficulty accepting the critique of 'the West' I am not convinced by the argument that Orthodoxy could do better, though I haven't yet seen it developed sufficiently as an idea to feel I can really engage with it. As I see it, Orthodoxy inherited an already constructed, already theorised political system - the Roman Empire. The law codified by the Christian Emperor Justinian was for the most part the already existing pre-Christian law. When the Roman system finally collapsed, Orthodoxy, outside Russia, came under an alien Muslim political principle. In Russia the characteristic political figure of the period in which Orthodoxy was free to develop was Ivan the Terrible. From the early eighteenth century, as we have seen, it was in chains under the system introduced by Peter 'the Great'. Laos himself gives an unappealing pictures of the politics of Greece, at least with regard to the Church, once it was liberated from Muslim rule.

In the peculiar circumstances of the West, however, where the imperial power collapsed in the fifth century but the patriarchate remained, the Church was more or less obliged to develop a political competence and therefore a political theory. First the papacy had to theorise its own position as one of suzerainty over peoples who had never been fully part of the old order. Then the new imperial system of Charlemagne had to theorise its own position with regard to church affairs in reaction to but without explicitly repudiating the authority of the Patriarchate. Certainly the Western political theory, Catholic and Protestant, can be criticised but the only political standpoint readily available to Orthodoxy is the old Empire and that cannot be restored regardless of the hopes Dugin and Laos may have vested in Vladimir Putin. I am open to persuasion but for the moment I see nothing, or very little, in Orthodoxy that would be helpful for the development of a political theory. The point about the Person/hypostasis is that it has its destiny in Eternity. That, and that alone (and it seems to me to be quite sufficient) is the concern of the Orthodox Church. It does have the political implication that members of society have something to aim for that is higher than politics. And it has the possibility of producing, in the words of John Romanides quoted at the beginning of this article 'normal citizens with selfless love dedicated to the radical cure of personal and social ills.'