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Kingdom of God will come Category: Judaism Jerusalem above chief joy

Judaism. National Character of the Jews
In the works of Nikolai Berdyaev

The historical originated in the Jewish people

Both the Hellenic and the Hebraic principles enter closely into the constitution of the European consciousness; their organic union in the Christian world had helped to inaugurate a new era. It is clear, I think, to any student of history that the Hellenic culture, world and consciousness were lacking in historical sense. …

… It was the Jews who contributed the concept of ‘historical’ to world history, thereby discharging, in my opinion, the essence of their specific mission. They were the first to conceive the world as historical fulfilment in contradistinction to the cyclic process of the Greeks. For the ancient Hebrews the idea of fulfilment was always closely allied to that of Messianism. The Jewish consciousness, unlike that of the Greeks, always aspired towards the future; it lived in the intense expectation of some great decisive event in the destinies of Israel and of other peoples. It did not conceive the destiny of the world as a finite cyclic process. For the Jews the idea of history turns upon the expectation of some future event which will bring with it a solution of history. …

That was the Messianic idea peculiar to the Jewish people. It constitutes their specific contribution to the history of the human spirit.

The philosophy of history is in its origins intimately allied to eschatology; and this helps to explain its rise among the Jewish people. Eschatology is the doctrine of the goal of history, its issue and fulfilment. …

The Jewish people were the first to have an inkling of a philosophy of history. But it was reserved for the Christian world to establish a real philosophy of history as a particular category of spiritual knowledge and Weltanschauung. Christianity blended in itself all the confessions of the world, the Hellenic as well as the Jewish, and it alone possessed that peculiar intuition of the ‘historical’ which was denied to the classical and even perhaps the Jewish worlds.

The Hindoo consciousness and destiny are the most unhistorical in the world. Their most profound elements are untouched by history. They had no conception of history or of the historical process; their spiritual life appeared to be, above all, an individual one, an individual spiritual destiny, in the depths of which the higher world and the Divinity are revealed in a particular form that transcends historical destiny. … Such then is the purely Aryan monism which we usually find opposed to the dualism of the Jewish and Christian consciousness.

The Hellenic world possessed no knowledge of freedom

Simply because, in my opinion, the Hellenic world possessed no real knowledge of freedom. Neither Greek religion nor Greek philosophy evinced any real sense of freedom. Submission to fate is the most characteristic feature of the Hellenic spirit. It had no conscious knowledge of freedom, that freedom of the subject to create history, without which neither its fulfilment nor comprehension is possible. … The Christian consciousness, resting on the Jewish in so far as the latter discovered the ‘historical’, revealed that freedom of evil without which it is impossible either to grasp or approach the historical process. For there could be no history without that freedom of evil which derives from the primal origins of human life, as there could be none without these dark origins themselves. A world without these conditions would be world without beginning, mere fulfilment, the perfect Kingdom of God, a perfect cosmos in the form of perfect good and beauty.

The messianic idea determines the historical drama of the Jewish people

The Jews played a decisive role in the formation of the historical consciousness. They were the first to introduce the principles of the ‘historical’ and a keen feeling for historical destiny into the life of mankind. I now propose to examine their destiny, its significance in relation to world history and its influence as an ineradicable and universal principle of specific function. The Jews have played an all-important role in history. They are pre-eminently an historical people and their destiny reflects the indestructibility of the divine decrees. …

… And, indeed, according to the materialistic and positivist criterion, this people ought long ago to have perished. Its survival is a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon demonstrating that the life of this people is governed by a special predetermination, transcending the processes of adaptation expounded by the materialistic interpretation of history. The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolutely peculiar conditions and the fateful rôle played by them in history; all these point to the particular and mysterious foundations of their destiny.

The history of the Jews is not only a phenomenon; it is also a noumenon in that special sense of the word to which I drew attention when speaking of the phenomenal-noumenal historical antithesis. I said that the historical not only represented man’s external relations, but that it might also reveal the very noumenon and essence of his being. The peculiarity of Jewish destiny consists in its incommensurability with either the pre-Christian or the Christian era. …

… The religious nature of the Jewish spirit contained a principle which was to determine its intensely historical character and destiny. A comparison between the Jewish religion and that of other pre-Christian pagan peoples confirms the contention that Jewish history represented the revelation of God in the historical destiny of humanity, while that of other pagan peoples represented the revelation of God in nature. …

Jewish religion is permeated with the messianic idea which is, indeed, its pivot. Israel lived in expectation of the Day of Judgment when it would abandon the sorrowful historical destiny which was the lot of its people, to enter upon a sort of all-illuminating world era. The messianic idea is the determining factor in the historical drama of the Jewish people.

… The Jewish people is by its nature an historical people, active and self-willed, but not possessed of that power of contemplation which is peculiar to the highest levels of Aryan spiritual life. Karl Marx, a very typical Jew, was still striving quite late in history to resolve the ancient Biblical precept of ‘earn thy bread in the sweat of thy brow’. Marxian Socialism, emerging from an entirely new historical background, reiterates the demand for earthly bliss. It is true that, superficially, the Marxist doctrine breaks away from the Jewish religious traditions and rebels against every sacred principle; but in reality the messianic idea of the Jews as God’s chosen people is transferred to a class, namely the proletariat. The working class now becomes the new Israel, God’s chosen people, destined to emancipate and save the world. All the characteristics of Jewish Messianism are applied to this class. The same drama, passion and impatience which had characterized Israel, the people of God, are here manifest. The Jewish people had always been God’s people, a people endowed with a tragic historical destiny. Before its God had been recognized as the unique God, Creator of the universe and Lord of all, He had been the God of the race, a national Deity. This association of the monotheistic idea with the national destiny of God’s chosen people was the factor that determined all the peculiarities and the specific characteristics of the religious destiny of the Jews.

This brings us to one of the aspects of the Jewish religious consciousness which particularly distinguishes it from the Aryan, and which exercised a determining influence in the history of the Jewish people. The Jews apprehended God transcendentally; they conceived a tremendous gulf between Him and man; and this made a face to face meeting with Him impossible without danger of death. The Semite looked up from below at God in His infinite height. But this remoteness from and awe of God, this transcendental consciousness of Him as within and above man, was of great moment in the birth of the historical drama. It set history in motion; and made for the sense of a dramatic relationship between man, the people and a transcendental God, and an encounter between the people and God on the highway of history.

Passionate dream of justice

The Jewish people in their primitive conception of life were obsessed by the passionate idea of justice and its terrestrial fulfilment. I believe that this other specific idea of the Jewish people, this demand for justice to be realized on earth together with this aspiration towards the future, predetermined the whole complexity of Jewish historical destiny. The Greeks, who were typical Aryans, had never been obsessed by the idea of justice. If it was not absolutely foreign to the Hellenic spirit, at least it was never more than a minor preoccupation.

… The Jewish religious consciousness was remarkable for its freedom from the idea of an immortal soul, which makes its appearance only in the very last stage of Jewish history immediately before the advent of Christianity. The Jews, indeed, were very late in arriving at the idea of personal immortality. In their conception of the relationship between God and man, God alone is immortal. To the Jewish consciousness the idea of man’s immortality seemed to imply an exaggeration of man’s significance. It only allowed the immortality of the people.

Renan, that brilliant but not profound writer, highly endowed with psychological insight but deficient in religious imagination, sums up excellently the characteristics of the Jews in his History of the Jewish People. This is perhaps his most interesting work, though it is marred by certain exaggerations and an insufficient comprehension of the Jewish destiny. In it, however, he very cogently remarks: ‘The ancient Semite repudiated as chimerical all those forms in which other peoples imagined their after-life. Only God was eternal; man lived but a span of years; an immortal man would be God. Man could only prolong his ephemeral existence for a short while in his children.’ I believe,—and for me this constitutes the key to the whole historical destiny of the Jewish people,—that the Jewish consciousness represents the union of the aspiration to realize justice and truth on earth with that which seeks to achieve individual immortality.

The dualism inherent in the Jewish messianic consciousness determined the fateful destiny of the Jews in so far as it combined the expectation of the true Messiah, the Son of God, Who was to appear among the Jews, and that of the false Messiah, or Antichrist. As a result of this dualism the Jewish people, with the exception of a chosen few made up of the Apostles and a few early Christians, did not recognize the true Messiah. They failed to recognize and repudiated the Messiah in Christ. …

… According to this idea justice must be realized in this world at any cost. As Renan has well said: ‘The Jewish thinker, like the contemporary nihilist, was of the opinion that the world had no justification if justice were not feasible in it.’

The Jews infused great energy into their historical life and endowed it with a religious significance. The Aryan peoples, on the other hand, were preoccupied with the problem of individual destiny. … The Greeks, even at the height of their spiritual life, had no religious consciousness of the significance of man’s historical destiny on earth. …

This peculiarity of the Jewish consciousness helps to explain the Judaic origins of Socialism as a definite universal historical principle.

Judaism is by its spiritual nature collective, whereas Aryanism tends to be individual.

The religious millennium which aspired towards the future in a passionate demand and longing for the fulfilment of the millenary Kingdom of God on earth.

The antithesis established between the historical immortality of the people, on the one hand, and individual immortality, on the other, is characteristic of the whole destiny of the Jewish people. Even the prophets who announced the Christian dispensation had no conception of immortality. The Jewish religion had no place for either mythology, mystery or metaphysics in the true sense of the word. … The prophetic character of the Jewish religious consciousness, which elevates it above all others, also explains its freedom from mythological elements. … that Judaism does contain a myth, — the eschatological myth which is admittedly concerned with the future and not the past. It forms the mystical foundation of the Jewish people and its history, and is peculiar to the Jewish consciousness.

The word myth, of course, possesses for me a real significance and is not in any way opposed to reality. This peculiarity of the Jewish consciousness helps to explain the Judaic origins of Socialism as a definite universal historical principle. Socialism is not a phenomenon peculiar to our time, although it has in our day acquired an extraordinary force and unprecedented influence over the entire historical field. … I believe that Socialism is based upon a Jewish religious principle, upon the eschatological myth and the profound dualism of the Jewish consciousness, which has proved to be tragic not only for the history of the Jews themselves but for that of all mankind. This dualism of the Jewish historical consciousness gave rise to the religious millennium which aspired towards the future in a passionate demand and longing for the fulfilment of the millenary Kingdom of God on earth, and the advent of the Day of Judgment when evil would finally be vanquished by good, and when an end would come to the injustice and sufferings common to the terrestrial destiny of mankind. This millenarianism is the original source of the religiously tainted Socialism. [A distinction must be made between Socialism as a religion and as a practical social movement defending labour and workers against capitalism. The second aspect is by far the more authentic.]

This can further be explained by the fact that Judaism is by its spiritual nature collective, whereas Aryanism tends to be individual. The alliance of the Jewish spirit with the destiny of the people, the inability to conceive individual destiny apart from the existence of the people or the destiny of Israel, the transference of the centre of gravity to an historical and impersonal national life, all make of the Jews a collective people. The Aryan spirit and culture, on the other hand, discovered for the first time the individual principle and exalted the individual spirit. The idea of both individual freedom and the sense of individual guilt were foreign to the Jewish spirit. For it the idea of freedom could only apply to the people; and its natural collectivism conceived guilt as the collective responsibility of the people before God. The demand that truth should be victorious at any cost on earth, the longing for truth and victory, for truth and justice, in the collective destiny of the people; all these formed the leading motive and spiritual principle behind the tragedy of Christ’s repudiation by the Jewish people.

6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

No other people in the world was ever so obsessed by the messianic expectation of the advent of beatitude, of God’s truth and Kingdom. It is true that there was another and aesthetical aspect to this messianic consciousness. It could also transform itself into the expectation of the Messiah as a terrestrial king who would realize the Kingdom, the national Kingdom of Israel, on earth, and thereby ultimate felicity. Jewish apocalypticism is full of such interpretations of the messianic consciousness. Renan says elsewhere: ‘The true Israelite is tom with discontent and obsessed by an unquenchable thirst for the future.’ This unquenchable thirst is the thirst for the advent sooner or later of the Kingdom of God on earth. Renan also says: ‘The Jew, unlike the Christian, is incapable of submitting himself to Providence. Poverty and humiliation are considered a virtue by the Christian; but the Jew regards them as a misfortune which must be combated. Abuse and violence are borne meekly by the Christian, but they revolt the Jew.’

This definition helps us to establish the distinction between the Jewish and the Christian consciousness. The latter proves altogether unacceptable to those Jews who have preserved their Hebrew characteristics. It also helps us to explain the revolutionary nature of the Jewish religious consciousness. The Jew easily becomes a revolutionary. For the Jews have always upheld the myth that history is founded upon the exploitation of man by man. … The idea of a terrestrial kingdom was to them not a worldly or secular idea, but a religious and theocratic one. This was largely due to the fact that they had but a comparatively vague notion of the temporal state in general and of a secular state in particular.

Christ did not fulfill the hopes of the Jewish people

The spiritual life of the Hebrew people was destined to culminate in the Coming of Christ and in His Crucifixion. Christ, however, did not fulfil its expectations of an earthly ruler who would realize the terrestrial kingdom of Israel. …

… Christ was repudiated because He died on the Cross instead of using His kingly power to banish evil and suffering and institute the reign of justice and beatitude. This gives rise to a remarkable paradox, to that antithesis which Léon Bloy, that remarkable and insufficiently appreciated French writer, who died recently, formulated in his Le Salut par les Juifs. He sums up the fundamental tragedy of the Jewish people as follows: ‘The Jews will be transformed only when Christ descends from the Cross, and Christ can descend from the Cross only when the Jews are transformed.’

The Jewish problem is therefore insoluble within the limits of history. Sionism is powerless to solve it. The Biblical issue continues to rouse passions even in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The material shackles binding both the Capitalism of Rothschild and the Socialism of Marx to this world are Jewish in origin, although they are not now necessarily connected with the Tews. It is an idea that arouses the most bitter strife and passion. The Judaic hostility to Christianity is not confined to Jews, for Jews themselves may be exempt from it. The religious fulfilment of Jewish destiny cannot justify any vulgar Anti-semitism. An ultimate solution of the Jewish problem is possible only on the eschatological plane. Such a solution will coincide with that of universal history. And it will represent the last act in the struggle between Christ and Antichrist. Therefore the problem of universal history cannot be solved without the religious self-determination of Judaism.

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