Truth doesn’t need the lie in order to exist, it is fully autonomous, the cause and the source of all existence. Beauty doesn’t need ugliness in order to be perceived as such. Both the lie and the ugliness have one thing in common – they are parasites who in order to exist, completely rely on their hosts for food. Blind is the man who thinks that a lie leaves him unchanged. Every single lie is creating another bridge for a variety of spiritual parasites waiting to feast on the poor soul. And the new, the ugly man is born.
Excerpt from “Nihilism. The root of the revolution of the modern age” by Fr Seraphim Rose
“What, more realistically, is this “mutation”, the “new man”? He is the rootless man, discontinuous with a past that Nihilism has destroyed, the raw material of every demagogue’s dream; the “free-thinker” and skeptic, closed only to the truth but “open” to each new intellectual fashion because he himself has no intellectual foundation; the “seeker” after some “new revelation”, ready to believe anything new because true faith has been annihilated in him; the planner and experimenter, worshipping “fact” because he has abandoned truth, seeing the world as a vast laboratory in which he is free to determine what is “possible”; the autonomous man, pretending to the humility of only asking his “rights”, yet full of the pride that expects everything to be given him in a world where nothing is authoritatively forbidden; the man of the moment, without conscience or values and thus at the mercy of the strongest “stimulus”; the “rebel”, hating all restraint and authority because he himself is his own and only god; the “mass man”, this new barbarian, thoroughly “reduced” and “simplified” and capable of only the most elementary ideas, yet scornful of anyone who presumes to point out the higher things or the real complexity of life.
These men are all one man, the man whose fashioning has been the very purpose of Nihilism. But mere description cannot do justice to this man; one must see his image. And in fact such an image has quite recently been portrayed; it is the image of contemporary painting, and scuplture, that which has arisen, for the most part, since the end of the Second World War, as if to give form to the reality produced by the most concentrated era of Nihilism in human history.
The human form, it would seem, has been “rediscovered” in this art; out of the chaos of total abstraction, identifiable shapes emerge. The result, supposedly, is a “new humanism”, a “return to man” that is all the more significant in that – unlike so many of the artistic schools of the twentieth century – it is not an artificial contrivance whose substance is hidden behind a cloud of irrationalist jargon, but a spontaneous growth that would seem to have deep roots in the soul of contemporary man. In the work, for example, of Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon, Leon Golub, Jose Luis Cuevas – to take an international sampling – there seems to be a genuinely “contemporary” art that, without abandoning the disorder and “freedom” of abstraction, turns its attention away from mere escape toward a serious “human commitment”.
But what kind of “man” is it to which this art has “returned”? It’s certainly not Christian man, man in the image of God, for no “modern” man can believe in him; nor is it the somewhat diluted “man” of the old humanism, whom all “advanced” thinkers regard as discredited and outmoded. It is not even the “man” disfigured and denatured in the earlier “Cubist” and “Expressionist” art of this century; rather, it begins where that art leaves off, and attempts to enter a new realm, to depict a “new man”.
To the Orthodox Christian observer, concerned not with what the avant-garde finds fashionable or sophisticated, but with truth, little reflection should be required to penetrate to the secret of this art: there is no question of “man” in it at all; it is an art at once subhuman an demonic. It is not man who is the subject of this art, but some lower creature who has emerged (“arrived” is Giacometti’s word for it) from unknown depths.
The bodies this creature assumes (and in all its metamorphoses it is always the same creature) are not necessarily distorted violently; twisted and dismembered as they are, they are often more “realistic” than the figures of man in earlier modern art. This creature, it is clear, is not the victim of some violent attacks; rather, he was born deformed, he is a genuine “mutation”. One cannot but notice the likeness between some of these figures and photographs of the deformed children born recently to thousands of women who had taken the drug Thalidomide during pregnancy; and we have doubtless not seen the last of such monstrous “coincidences”.
Even more revealing than the bodies of these creatures are the faces. It would be too much to say that these faces express hopelesness; that would be to ascribe to them some trace of humanity which they most emphatically lack. They are the faces, rather, of creatures more of less “adjusted” to the world they know, a world not hostile but entirely alien, not inhuman but “a-human”. The anguish and rage and despair of earlier Expressionists is here frozen, as it were, and cut off from a world to which they had at least the relation of denial, so as to make a world of their own. Man, in this art, is no longer even a caricature of himself; he is no longer portrayed in the throes of spiritual death, ravaged by the hideous Nihilism of our century that attacks, not just the body and soul, but the very idea and nature of man. No, all this has passed; the crisis is over; man is dead. The new art celebrates the birth of a new species, the creature of the lower depths, subhumanity.
We have dealt with this art at a length perhaps disproportionate to its intrinsic value, because it offers concrete and unmistakable evidence – for him who has eyes to see – of a reality, which expressed abstractly, seems frankly incredible It is easy to dismiss as fantasy the “new humanity” foreseen by a Hitler or a Lenin; and even the plans of those quite respectable Nihilists among us today who calmly discuss the scientific breeding of a “biological superman”, or project a utopia for “new men” to be developed by the narrowest “modern education” and a strict control of the mind, seem remote and only faintly ominous.
But confronted with the actual image of a “new man”, an image brutal and loathsome beyond imagination, and at the same time so unpremeditated, consistent, and widespread in contemporary art, one is caught up short, and the full horror of the contemporary state of man strikes one a blow one is not likely soon to forget”