OrthodoxChristianity.net
October 21, 2014, 03:30:01 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Reminder: No political discussions in the public fora.  If you do not have access to the private Politics Forum, please send a PM to Fr. George.
 
   Home   Help Calendar Contact Treasury Tags Login Register  
Pages: 1   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Enlightenment and the French Revolution of 1789-94  (Read 1785 times) Average Rating: 0
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Heorhij
Merarches
***********
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox
Jurisdiction: GOA, for now, but my heart belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Posts: 8,576



WWW
« on: December 15, 2008, 06:18:33 PM »

This topic just fascinates me.

How could it happen? I mean... here we have this nice old Europe. Yes, lots of people do not live the way they would like to live, both in material terms and in terms of human rights. But... this TOTAL dismantling of everything Europe stood on??? Red hats, dirty crowds raiding royal palaces, "re-naming of the calendar months from saints into vegetables" (V. Hugo), the cult of Supreme Being, mass executions, total suppression of human rights and dignity... and all that in some FOUR YEARS???

What was the role of the philosophy of Enlightenment in the French revolution? And was there really an "outside," non-European (Masonic? Messiano-Judaic?) influence? How important and decisive THAT was?

Thanks in advance for your insights and sorry if I did not formulate my question precisely enough.
Logged

Love never fails.
Bogoliubtsy
Archon
********
Offline Offline

Posts: 2,268



« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2008, 06:37:04 PM »

Great topic and one that fascinates me a great deal. You have to keep in mind that the French Revolution was really not a single event, but a series of events. In the summer months of July 1789 we saw the beginning stages of the first "part" of the revolution- the "respectable" one, based on enlightenment principles but controlled primarily by the Bourgeoisie. Then, in the weeks and years to follow (would take too long to list all of the particulars), we see a second revolution spring up- one led by "the populace", "the rabble", etc. So, in a sense the revolution was revolutionized. Combined with this was the twisting of the Rousseauist concept of "The General Will" as laid he lays it out in his Social Contract. Essentially, the general will is infallible and the individual must submit himself to it. This idea was taken up by Robespierre and directed his actions as head of the committee for public safety- essentially a committee that was to execute the orders of "the people" as interpreted by the committee itself. 

A short response paper I wrote several years ago sums up that "second revolution" within the French Revolution"

Prior to the popular insurrections which would soon shake Paris as well as much of France, the Assembly seemed confident that the revolution had come to an end. One hundred years of European enlightenment, some believed, would allow for the quick drafting of a constitution and the establishment of new era of popular sovereignty, with the King's position, though altered, still in tact. However, the populace, existing in a sphere far removed from that of the public, had another agenda which did not match that of the class of revolutionaries sitting in the Assembly. In the coming weeks, months and years, discord and uncertainty would sweep across France as revolutionaries struggled to remake France and establish a new order.
Robespierre, having rejected the call for order while pushing for a larger role of the populace in the revolutionary process, comes down on the side of the “people”, echoing while at the same time twisting the Rousseauist concept of the “collective will” as is exemplified in David's rendering of the Tennis Court Oath. However, like David's fictitious placement of characters in his work, Robespierre's understanding of the populace is not grounded in reality, but his own construct based largely on his own fantasies. Freeing himself of fear of the populace, a fear prevalent among his peers who have in mind a new rule by intellectual elites, Robespierre sets out to act as representative of, and co-revolutionary with, a people and culture which is undoubtedly totally foreign to him. In Robespierre's myopic assessment, France's problems do not lie in deep rooted economic problems, but in the schemes of the rich who brutalize France's working class for their own benefit. Though something of an outsider to the Assembly, Robespierre gains support after the failure of a war with Austria (which he had criticized) and skyrocketing prices. The ground is fertile for the ideologue Robespierre to obtain more power.
During the time Robespierre was able to exert his greatest influence over France, he sought to stabilize and at the same time work for the creation of a new order and a new man. In order to breathe life back into a France that was being de-Christianized and torn apart, Robespierre as well as David organized festivals and helped to create new religious forms. However, this religion would be earth based, and have the goal of creating “heaven” on earth. In essence, the were driven by utopian notions. This way of thinking would not find its death in the French Revolution, but would be more or less duplicated more than a century later in the Soviet Union with its goal of creating the “New Soviet Man” through transcending what was previously understood to be “human nature”. A task which was to be accomplished not through spiritual, but through earthly means. This can also be seen to a lesser extent in the German concept of the Übermensch.
No matter how much anti-clerical or anti-Christian sentiment had taken hold of France, it seems the people would still crave an outlet for expressing spirituality of some kind. Also, it seems a new national consciousness and identity had to be established in order for lasting peace to be a possibility. The revolution had shaken France deeply and, I believe, must have led to feelings of instability and uneasiness which could only be satisfied by ritual and “religion”. The religion of the revolution, of course, was secular.               The “Feast of Voltaire” was celebrated, presumably, in the place of another saint's feast day. New national heroes were created and the religious lexicon found its way into the speech of the revolution. In many respects the forms remained similar and most importantly familiar, but the goal changed. Despite these attempts at creating a stable new order, changes came.
Revolutionary fervor would not allow Robespierre and the Jacobins to sit comfortably in the Assembly. The September Massacre and Robespierre's “popular justice” drew criticism from the Girondins creating further divisions among revolutionaries. Riots in the coming months and a brutal insurrection by the sans-culottes, those separated by deputies but whose coming role is alluded to in the Tennis Court Oath, resulted in a purging of the Convention itself. Robespierre found himself against hardliners on the left, now labeling them enemies of the people and establishing a revolutionary army to root out opponents to his changing notion of “the people”. After the terror had subsided and the government had stamped out the popular movement and seized power, it was only a matter of time before a thinning of the ranks occurred. Robespierre was next, as his beaten body was carried through the streets of Paris by the populace he thought he knew so well. Perhaps the occasion of his death afforded him his first opportunity to get a true glimpse into the mind of the populace
Logged

"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist". - Archbishop Hélder Pessoa Câmara
Bogoliubtsy
Archon
********
Offline Offline

Posts: 2,268



« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2008, 06:44:06 PM »

I should also add that France went bankrupt financing the American Revolution. Turning to economic causes for a moment, this is what allowed for the collapse of the Ancien Regime. Throughout the French Revolution, even as it became more and more radicalized, the French looked to the Americans as the "first fruits" of the application of Enlightenment principles.


Also, to sum up my post above- the first movers and shakers of the French Revolution never envisioned or desired what was to come, but by then the floodgates were open.
Logged

"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist". - Archbishop Hélder Pessoa Câmara
Heorhij
Merarches
***********
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox
Jurisdiction: GOA, for now, but my heart belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Posts: 8,576



WWW
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2008, 06:46:44 PM »

Thank you, brother B.

But whence do figures like Robespierre come from? And why such a concentrated attack on the Church, on Christianity?

And why such a tremendous support by masses? Granted, there was also a conter-revolution, especially in Vandee, Brittany... but not nearly of the scale enough to squash the "revolutionaries."

I am sometimes thinking about peasants in Russia and Ukraine in 1917. They were (allegedly) so good and God-loving. But when the Bolshevik agitators came, they gladly listened to them and euphorically burned their landlords's estates (often together with the landlords and their families, including little kids).
Logged

Love never fails.
Justinian
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox
Jurisdiction: GOA
Posts: 176


« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2008, 06:59:22 PM »

Thank you, brother B.

But whence do figures like Robespierre come from? And why such a concentrated attack on the Church, on Christianity?

And why such a tremendous support by masses? Granted, there was also a conter-revolution, especially in Vandee, Brittany... but not nearly of the scale enough to squash the "revolutionaries."

I am sometimes thinking about peasants in Russia and Ukraine in 1917. They were (allegedly) so good and God-loving. But when the Bolshevik agitators came, they gladly listened to them and euphorically burned their landlords's estates (often together with the landlords and their families, including little kids).


I am confused about this. From my readings of the History of the Russian Empire, the Bolsheviks were suported by the illtelligentsia and the blue collar factory and industry workers, while the Whites and Monarchy supporters were made of peasants,aristocrats, and land owners. Hence why they had to move the imprisoned Royal family around quite a bit, from being fawned on by the peasant communty, but when they reached the Industrial town of Ekatinberg (sp?) they were jeered and tormented when they were took off the train by the factory working populace.
Logged

"All this indignation have I hurled, At the pretending part of the proud world. Who, swollen with selfish vanity devise: false freedoms, holy cheats, and formal lies, Over their fellow slaves to tyrannize." - John Wilmot
Heorhij
Merarches
***********
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox
Jurisdiction: GOA, for now, but my heart belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Posts: 8,576



WWW
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2008, 07:16:56 PM »

Thank you, brother B.

But whence do figures like Robespierre come from? And why such a concentrated attack on the Church, on Christianity?

And why such a tremendous support by masses? Granted, there was also a conter-revolution, especially in Vandee, Brittany... but not nearly of the scale enough to squash the "revolutionaries."

I am sometimes thinking about peasants in Russia and Ukraine in 1917. They were (allegedly) so good and God-loving. But when the Bolshevik agitators came, they gladly listened to them and euphorically burned their landlords's estates (often together with the landlords and their families, including little kids).


I am confused about this. From my readings of the History of the Russian Empire, the Bolsheviks were suported by the illtelligentsia and the blue collar factory and industry workers, while the Whites and Monarchy supporters were made of peasants,aristocrats, and land owners. Hence why they had to move the imprisoned Royal family around quite a bit, from being fawned on by the peasant communty, but when they reached the Industrial town of Ekatinberg (sp?) they were jeered and tormented when they were took off the train by the factory working populace.

My grandfather told me that in Summer 1917, when he was 13 years old, Bolshevik agitators came to his native village of Velyki Sorochyntsi and delivered speeches on the central square, near the village church, for several days in a row. No one shut them up, the villagers listened with great interest. Then the crowd sacked the estate of the local landlord, Malinka, and burned it to the ground.
Logged

Love never fails.
Bogoliubtsy
Archon
********
Offline Offline

Posts: 2,268



« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2008, 07:22:08 PM »

Thank you, brother B.

But whence do figures like Robespierre come from? And why such a concentrated attack on the Church, on Christianity?

And why such a tremendous support by masses? Granted, there was also a conter-revolution, especially in Vandee, Brittany... but not nearly of the scale enough to squash the "revolutionaries."

I am sometimes thinking about peasants in Russia and Ukraine in 1917. They were (allegedly) so good and God-loving. But when the Bolshevik agitators came, they gladly listened to them and euphorically burned their landlords's estates (often together with the landlords and their families, including little kids).

I could write much more and hope to in the future. Smiley
About Robespierre though: In my opinion he represents the fruits of the Enlightenment's triumph of reason over revelation- i.e. the power of the intellect over the power of truths revealed (not deduced) from religion. Robespierre and others like him became ideologues, solely relying on reason, ideas, etc., rather than experience. They envisioned a new world based on enlightenment principles, but those ideas existed almost exclusively on paper and in the minds of the philosophes. Their new faith based on reason, the inherent goodness of humanity, the notion of progress, etc. would transform the world if applied correctly. They took the ideas of the scientific method and applied them to all spheres of human existence. There is a book that can be read (in part) on google books called Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith by James Billington. I highly recommend the sections on both France and Russia. http://books.google.com/books?id=a4PRx21WVqMC&dq=%22fire+in+the+minds+of+men%22+billington+french+revolution&pg=PP1&ots=zTHMEgVKNE&source=bn&sig=c6udaWRt40bE2QdBPaekNOew5lg&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result

The attacks on the Church came because the Church was corrupt and a support of the state. Attacking the Church meant attacking one of those institutions that stood in the way of the triumph of reason, and thus, true freedom. I have much more to say about the changing role in religion in Europe leading up to the French Revolution, but will only post in by request. Smiley  Suffice is to say that the 30 years of religious wars that ended in the treaty of Westphalia in 1648 left many intelligent Europeans sick of the fruits of religion. The first "attacks" on the faith came from biblical exegesis of people like Richard Simon (a Catholic priest, no less) who wanted to get to the "truth" of the texts without the centuries of textual accretions, then we move on to other "religious" works that attempted to justify the Christian faith in the face of "threats" from science. Their intentions were good, but in the end their defenses relied on REASON to defend what is essentially a revelatory faith. From there their works were easy to dismantle by the enlightened secular and were exposed as superstition.  

The masses, it seems, responded more to the social and economic conditions of their day. Their response was "allowed" by the floodgates being opened by the first "enlightened" wave of the Revolution when some of the tamer revolutionaries incited the masses to help in the revolt. Once they began, however, it was difficult to contain them.

Logged

"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist". - Archbishop Hélder Pessoa Câmara
Heorhij
Merarches
***********
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox
Jurisdiction: GOA, for now, but my heart belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Posts: 8,576



WWW
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2008, 07:29:42 PM »

^^Thank you so much! I will read this book during the winter break.
Logged

Love never fails.
Bogoliubtsy
Archon
********
Offline Offline

Posts: 2,268



« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2008, 07:33:17 PM »

I should also add that there was a slow process of "de-sacralizing" the king that allowed for the authority of religion to be undermined. This took place on two levels- one was the level of the "official" enlightenment, the members of which we're familiar. There was also what is called "Grub Street"- those low level philosophes who couldn't make it into the official academies or intellectual cliques of the day, either because they weren't bright enough, or because the pool of qualified people was over-saturated. It seems hard to believe, but it was almost COOL to become a philosophe at that time. Those who didn't make it often took to printing libelous tracts about the king, royal authority, the Church, certain members of the aristocracy, etc. that saw wide circulation among those who could read. These are the nasty works that the average Frenchman would have read, if literate. With years of these kinds of tracts and sleezy books being read at the popular level, the king's authority and religious significance slowly eroded, making the populace's involvement in the revolution all the more likely. Keep in mind too that there were MANY riots of the populace in the years leading up to the revolution. What happened in 1789 was that royal authority was already partially undermined by the National Assembly on the "official" level, the masses were encouraged to revolt by some enlightenment thinkers as well as the low level slanderers on "Grub Street", combined with famines, high prices, and food shortages. ...as well as a tradition of rioting. This time though, the rioting didn't stop.
Logged

"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist". - Archbishop Hélder Pessoa Câmara
Heorhij
Merarches
***********
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox
Jurisdiction: GOA, for now, but my heart belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Posts: 8,576



WWW
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2008, 07:45:12 PM »

I should also add that there was a slow process of "de-sacralizing" the king that allowed for the authority of religion to be undermined. This took place on two levels- one was the level of the "official" enlightenment, the members of which we're familiar. There was also what is called "Grub Street"- those low level philosophes who couldn't make it into the official academies or intellectual cliques of the day, either because they weren't bright enough, or because the pool of qualified people was over-saturated. It seems hard to believe, but it was almost COOL to become a philosophe at that time. Those who didn't make it often took to printing libelous tracts about the king, royal authority, the Church, certain members of the aristocracy, etc. that saw wide circulation among those who could read. These are the nasty works that the average Frenchman would have read, if literate. With years of these kinds of tracts and sleezy books being read at the popular level, the king's authority and religious significance slowly eroded, making the populace's involvement in the revolution all the more likely.

That was also the case in the Russian empire of ~1912-1817. Rasputin gave a wonderful opportunity for numerous authors of sleazy tracts, pamphlets, false diaries and letters, cartoons, etc. By the time of the revolt of February 1917 (which some historians do not even call a "revolution," because it was more like a riot of angry women who wanted cheaper bread in St. Petersbourg) the mere word "Tsar" became a bad word, to a certain extent due to this flood of seedy literature.
Logged

Love never fails.
zoarthegleaner
Elder
*****
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox
Jurisdiction: ROCOR
Posts: 398



« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2008, 07:57:11 PM »

I should also add that there was a slow process of "de-sacralizing" the king that allowed for the authority of religion to be undermined.


A process begun in the west in 1075 when Pope Gregory VII refused to appoint King Henry IV's man to be bishop over Milan.  And so began the process of Western seperation of Church and State.
Logged

Courteous is my name,
and I have always aimed to live up to it.
Grace is also my name,
but when things go wrong
its Courteous whom I blame;
but its Grace who sees me through it.
Tags:
Pages: 1   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.18 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
Page created in 0.073 seconds with 38 queries.