Excerpt from: Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition

31. From Filioque to Humanism

The Creator of all creatures begat a Son, and sent forth of Himself the comforting Spirit: through the Son He created all creatures that are, and quickened them all through the living Spirit.'

Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham, The Life of St. Cecilia,
written c. 990. (Skeat, Vol II. p. 365.)

One of the great myths of Church History is without doubt the notion that a Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity took place in 1054. That a Schism took place is of course fact. But the date of 1054 is the date of nothing more than a symbolic event. We must first understand that the separation of Eastern and Western Christianity was not an event, but a process. Moreover, this process began at the summit of Western society and its consequences only gradually spread downwards. As the English proverb says: 'A fish always stinks from the head'. But when did the process of Schism begin? And when did it end? To these questions we shall now attempt to reply.

We believe that the Schism process begins at the end of the 8th century among a select few at the Court of Charles the Great, Charlemagne. It began with the revival of pagan Roman knowledge, of the Judeo-Babylonian legacy of Rome. In the sin of pride, Charlemagne wanted to set up a new Roman Empire in the West. All Western rulers have since tried to do the same, but all their Empires, like Charlemagne's, have fallen, because they lacked God's blessing in their pride. To renew the Roman Empire Charlemagne had first to reject the Christian Roman Empire, Romanity, whose capital was in New Rome, the City of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantinople. Ideologically this was possible by reviving the pagan or classical Roman system of thought. This meant, in other words, reviving rationalism, the use of the human reason, the syllogism and dialectic, what St Paul calls 'fleshly wisdom' (2 Cor. 1, 12). The knowledge and the use of this logic came to Charlemagne's Court above all from Spain, where it had been learnt from Jewish thinkers who had preserved the legacy of Roman and Greek pagan philosophy. The head of Charlemagne's school, Alcuin, sums up best the nature of this rationalism in his work on the Holy and Undivided Trinity: 'Only the subtlety of categories can shed light on the profoundest questions concerning the Holy Trinity'. The uses of such rationalistic techniques eventually led, in the late 11th century, to a new culture, a new way of thinking. They led to:

The rejection of theology in favour of philosophy.

The rejection of monasticism in favour of scholasticism.

The rejection of monasteries in favour of universities.

The rejection of the Gospel in favour of pagan writers.

The rejection of cultivating the heart in favour of cultivating the intellect.

The rejection of ascetically-won grace in favour of intellectually-won learning.

The rejection of the knowledge of the world to come by the Uncreated Light in favour of the despair of the graceless knowledge of the fallen world here and now.

Ultimately it is this graceless and godless rationalism that built the modern world as we know it, from the Atomic Bomb to the IBM computer.

Through this rationalism, wisdom, which is the harmony of knowledge and faith, gave way to godless science. Wisdom, Who rode on the back of an ass, gave way to 'the pride of life' (1 John 2, 16), but 'the foolishness of God is wiser than men'. (1 Cor. 1, 25). For in rationalism, these reasonings of the fallen, human mind, one finds not God, but psychology, a reflection of the self, and all the demonic impulses to which the fallen mind is prone. The theology of the rationalist is only the psychological extension of the self, a god built in one's own fallen image. Thus, in the Middle Ages, the Western mind saw God as a stern, vengeful, feudal baron. In the Renaissance, Michelangelo portrayed Him as a sensuous, fleshly deity. The 18th century 'Enlightenment' depicted Him as a god of Reason, the expression of deism. Today, if the West says that God does not exist, it is simply because He does not exist in the mind of 'modern' man. This does not mean His objective non-existence, it simply means that 'modern' Western man has succeeded, after centuries of efforts, in chasing God from his mind. Man feels abandoned by God - but this is only because man has abandoned God, not because God has abandoned man.

The rationalism that began at the end of the 8th century with Charlemagne had spread by the 11th century to Rome (which until that time had refuted it) by means of German Popes. From here on the separation of Western Christendom from Eastern Christendom became inevitable. And, unfortunately, the East did not pay great attention to this at the time. Firstly, the West was populated by perhaps only 10 million, whereas the Eastern capital, Constantinople, had itself a population of 1 million. And then also only a minute fraction of the Western population knew anything about philosophy and categories and rationalism. Only a minute fraction had even heard of the new, rationalistic doctrine, called the 'filioque'. The East, moreover, had little appreciation of rationalism, which the Fathers of the Church had long ago overcome. Viewed from the East, the events of 1054 seemed to be just another barbarian revolt in distant provinces. As soon as a Roman Pope could be appointed, the whole issue would die down and the Roman Christian Commonwealth, Romanitas, could be made whole again. Although it was not understood at the time, in fact the events of 1054 were the beginning of a final struggle between Jerusalem and Babylon, between Christian and Neo-Pagan. It would lead sacral, peasant kingdoms, with their unity of Church, Monarchy and Nation, firstly into feudal tyrannies, lastly into secular, urban demagogueries. Christian Roman architecture would give way to the Gothic masons' rationalist domination of the world. The squat, Pre-Romanesque, expressing the Incarnation of God on Earth would give way to the Gothic spire yearning skywards in search of God no more on Earth: the appointment of His 'Vicar' in Rome was proof of it.

Behind all these changes and the date 1054 itself, lay the culmination of all the consequences of rationalism. This was and is the speculation of the filioque. It was and is the filioque, the statement that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father, that locked up the Holy Spirit between the Father and the Son. In human terms, it locked up the heart, the receptacle for grace, between the reason and the body. By divorcing man from God in this way, by distancing the Holy Spirit from the Earth and putting Him where the Gothic spires pointed, in the empty sky, the Holy Spirit was put beyond man's reach. Thus man was deprived of grace, as well as of the principle of authority and unity in the Church. The only solution was to replace the Holy Spirit with a human institution.

The error of giving all power and authority to one individual is that eventually everyone will claim the same. This is exactly what happened in the West with the Reformation, with Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, Henry VIII and umpteen others. In secular terms this dilution of power was reflected in the rule of the masses, democracy; in philosophical terms, this is man-worship, humanism.

Humanism is the religion which states that man is the measure of all things, that he is independent, autonomous of God. Instead of glorifying God, we glorify man and his rational faculties. Man is put in the place of God. But reason is not the source of Truth, merely the receptacle for its expression. And this was precisely the error of the thinkers who had gathered at the Court of Charlemagne. Thus another thinker of the 9th century, Erigena, wrote: 'For those who seek seriously and strive to discover the reason for all things, all the means of reaching a pious and perfect doctrine reside in the science and discipline of philosophy'. 'We must only adopt the opinions of the Fathers if with them we need to strengthen our arguments in the eyes of those who reason poorly and thus yield to authority rather than reason'. 'True reason, since it relies on its own strength, has no need whatsoever to be strengthened by any authority'. Reason, as the philosophers of Charlemagne, did not understand, because of their self-deluding pride of mind, is but the receptacle of Truth. The source of Truth is the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, 'Who proceedeth from the Father' according to the Gospel. But the rationalists, through the filioque, had distanced and removed the Spirit of Truth, fixing Him between the Father and the Son.

Humanism is driven on by a spiritual force which strives to incorporate itself into fallen man and change the world after its own patterns. Humanism preaches the worship and glorification of man in his Fall, in his sin. Man has been flattered into thinking that, despite the Fall, despite his sin and his fallen and sinful reason, he can still reason aright. The worship of fallen man is thus actually in part the worship of sin. This is why modern man has been able to empty his mind and heart of God - he has put sin in the place, the only place where God cannot abide. Thus, absurdly, he has become an atheist, an 'agnostic', he has grown 'grace proof', locked in the bubble of his own egoistic godlessness, his own self-worship. And he finds himself lonely and lost in a meaningless universe.

Humanism is then ultimately the mocking of demons over fallen man. So the Russian writer, Gorky, wrote: 'Man, whose name has so proud a sound'. This is the rasping laughter of devils as Stalin extinguishes 70 million human-beings and Hitler tens of millions of others - all in the name of man - and humanism. Humanism is the end-result of the Schism, of rationalism. But it is also the beginning of something else, the mystery of iniquity, the Antichrist, Who comes in place of Christ and so against Him. But Antichrist and all his hordes and minions do not see that they have lost - for the last word in human history will be the Word of God. 'Come, Lord Jesus!'

October 1990

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