Gerhart Niemeyer is distinguished visiting professor of political science at Hillsdale College. A native of Germany, he was educated at Britain's Cambridge University and at the universities of Munich and Kiel in Germany. After coming to the U.S. in 1937, Dr. Niemeyer taught at Princeton University from 1937 to 1944, at Oglethorpe University from 1944 to 1950 and as a visiting professor at Yale University, Columbia University and Vanderbilt University. He taught at the University of Notre Dame from 1955 to 1976.
Dr. Niemeyer served as a foreign affairs officer for the U.S. Department of State from 1950 to 1953 and had assignments with the USIA in Japan in 1970 and in Turkey in 1972.
His books include An Inquiry into Soviet Mentality, An Outline of Communism, Deceitful Peace and Between Nothingness and Paradise.
Philosophy of history is a concept coined by Voltaire, who can be said to have originated this form of consciousness in the middle of the eighteenth century. From the beginning, philosophy of history had an anti-theistic character. The tableau of world-immanent developments and evolutions which Voltaire constructed was meant as a substitute for the concept of Providence that still had dominated Bossuet's Histoire Universelle. We have Voltaire's word for it: "Let us respectfully leave the divine to those who are its keepers, and attach ourselves solely to history." 
After Voltaire created the first model of what he called history en philosophe, his successors, with Hegel and Marx at their head, went even further in deliberately making of philosophical history an alternative to religious faith. They relied on history to provide man with a destiny and a goal, and the goal, both of time and in time, served as a replacement for all moral values. The philosophy of history, therefore, cannot be understood properly except in terms of its negative relation to Christianity. That is not the same as a negative relation to religion. Philosophy of history is not in itself hostile to religion.
First, among the great systems of philosophy of history constructed between 1750 and 1850 there are a few in which a deist god figures as the absentee landlord of Nature. Second, at least two of these systems of history, those of Saint Simon and Auguste Comte, supplemented the scheme of successive ages of history with a newly invented civil religion expressly designed to displace Christianity. Third, in Hegel's system, history figures as a kind of biography of the Absolute Mind, which is Hegel's formula for god, no longer "the maker of heaven and earth" but rather a god coming to be himself through the development of human consciousness. Philosophy of history, then, far from being anti-religious, pretends to the status of an "ersatz religion," a new religion proposed to take the place of faith in God, the Father of Jesus Christ.
Philosophy of history is a form of the loss of reality. "Loss of reality," a concept coined by Eric Voegelin, has a profound meaning in the context of Voegelin's philosophy of consciousness, a meaning which it would take too long to explain fully at this point. As I am going to steer this paper in the direction of empirical evidence, I hope that the phenomena will speak for themselves and illustrate the concept.
At this point I should like to remark only that the sentence "philosophy of history is a form of the loss of reality" can be taken in two meanings. First, it can mean that philosophy of history is a symbolic form giving expression to the experience of having lost consciousness of reality. In other words, human beings, feeling themselves threatened by a sense of sliding into nothingness, grab hold of history in a desperate effort to construct some meaning of human existence and to save themselves from dying by boredom, or melancholy. Second, the sentence could mean that the construction of a philosophy of history in itself entails a deliberate contraction or reduction of reality, so that the reality that goes into the image is less than the full reality. Let us, for the time being, dwell on this second meaning.
Let me describe a few varieties of the "loss of reality" as a function of the partial destruction of reality by the philosopher of history. The construction of history en philosophe, as Voltaire named it, relies on a more or less arbitrary selection of facts. Voltaire expressly stated that he obtained something like a unified picture of history only as he chose from the record "what is worthy to be known" and "what is useful," 2 and that only by so choosing could he make "out of this chaos a general and well-articulated tableau." 
Likewise Friedrich Schiller, who in 1789 gave a lecture on universal history at the University of Jena, remarked that the record of past events showed wide and obvious gaps, but rejoiced in this as an advantage to his enterprise, since it allowed him to fill the space between the fragments using materials of his own imagination. Only in this way, he said, would he be able to arrive at a totality of universal history that had the quality of "concealing the narrow boundaries of birth and death," in other words, "expanding his brief and oppressive existence into an infinite space, and to merge the individual into the species," i.e. into a man-made ersatz immortality. Voltaire and Schiller thus knew that their constructions contained no more than fragments of reality, combined with products of their own fabulation. The result, part fact and part fiction, nevertheless claimed to be the whole of reality, so that the reduction of reality was undertaken deliberately by the authors.
A reduction of a different kind stems from the selection of one causal factor as a key to the entire course of history. After Voltaire, philosophical constructions of history confined themselves to efficient causation as the propellant of change and progress, rejecting the other three of Aristotle's causes, above all, final causes. This, in itself, is a reductive idea, claiming exclusive reality only for what can be explained as the effect of efficient causation. Besides, the selection of one causal factor as containing the key to the knowledge of history reduces other causal factors or aspects of existence to an inferior grade of reality or to unreality.
We refer, by way of example, to Marx's German Ideology. The single and permanent cause of history, Marx says there, is the change from one mode of economic production to another. "Morality, meta-physics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain their semblance of independence. They have no history, no development…"  This, of course, is Marx's vaunted correction of Hegel, who had attributed history exclusively to the developments of human consciousness. Marx, then, reduces consciousness to a derivative of economic factors which alone have the character of historical reality. Hegel's selection of consciousness as the sole factor of history, however, is no less a reduction than Marx's selection of economic structures, for Hegel reduced God to his incarnation in human affairs and to the evolution of human consciousness.
Incidentally, the fallacy of Marx's reduction shows up only a few pages after he had proclaimed it, when Marx, having said that there was only the history of modes of economic production, introduces the history of the class struggle, which obviously pre-supposes some degree of an autonomous consciousness, the proletariat's consciousness "of its historic mission, as mentioned later in The Communist Manifesto.
The problems stemming from Marx's approach to history are immediately evident: the reduction of history to the succession of modes of economic production resulted not only in the neglect of political order by the socialists, but in their demonstrated inability to construct anything like a political theory, as becomes clear when one looks at the frantic but unsuccessful efforts of Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev to arrive at principles of political order, on the basis of Marxian premises. It just could not be done.
A third variety of reduction stems from the concept of a goal, in the form of a future society in space and time, a society that would constitute a full, harmonious, and perfect human existence. Incidentally, this idea of a goal is what distinguishes philosophy of history from a philosophy of process. The latter, a doctrine about change as such, requires no goal concept. To refer again to Marx, his teaching on revolution as "the locomotive of history" does not require the idea of a culmination, a final goal. Revolutionary change could be expected to go on indefinitely. That would be a philosophy of process.
Marx, however, postulated an end to this process, by introducing into his series of revolutions one revolution that differs from all the others. The proletariat, unlike all other revolutionary classes, has no property of its own, so that its victory will mean the end of all class societies and the end of the class struggle. This means, of course, that Marx attributes to that socialist society a quality of being which he denied to all previous societies. To use the language of Parmenides, only in the socialist future can Marx find being (or "issing"), so that by comparison all previous ages must be seen as nothing but "coming-to-be," provisional and instrumental existence.
This differentiation of societies corresponds to a similar image of man, in the Marxian mind. Marx believes that the reality of man is wholly dependent on the social conditions. In any one of the societies prior to the final socialist society, then, man is not man. Marx sees man as separated from his own essence, separated from his fellow beings, and from himself, a mere fragment of a man, a being wholly determined in its existence, like an animal. That means, among other things, that all of man's attempts to know himself cannot be anything else but speculations on the utopian future, that neither the present nor the past can give us any clues about our own humanity.
An interesting confirmation of the loss of reality can be found in the concept of a spark of reality having persisted through all the past dark ages. Auguste Comte, who divided history into the theological, the metaphysical and the positivist age, the latter being his concept for the society of the imminent future, attributes to the past a weak trace of inchoate positivism mixed both with the theology of the first and the metaphysics of the second age, and accounting for the forward momentum.
A similar concept is that of the so-called fore-runners of communism, such men as Spartakus, John Ball, Thomas Muentzer, Jean Meslier, and Morelly. If we look at these concepts we find that the past is not depicted as either society, or man, in an embryonic or inchoate stage of early development. Rather, it is only a tiny little spark, a segment of the whole, that is considered real because it prefigures the future, meaning that all the rest of the past does not have the character of even inchoate reality.
It will have become clear that philosophy of history, far from philosophical in character, is an enterprise of modern myth-making. The totality of history, made imaginatively out of fragments of facts, and assertion of causes has the character of a myth. Certainly the alleged goal of history, to occur in space and time, as the fulfillment of human destiny, is a myth. The human agency or enterprise through which this denouement is to be brought about, has likewise mythical character. The philosophy of history transgresses the bounds of genuine classical philosophy both in front and in back, ex-pressing its meaning through images of speculation which pretend to historical reality. This brings up the problem of the difference between ideological myths serving as the "cause" of movements and the myths that have ordered civilizations.
Sacred myths of all cultures acknowledge the givenness and mystery of the reality in which humans participate. By the naming of the gods and the telling of mythical stories they seek to grasp the relatedness or unity as well as the fittingness of the parts in the whole. Whatever is experienced is thus accounted for. There are the life processes of generation, decay and renewal, the returning cycles of growth, seasons, days, and nights. There is man with his powers of speech, arts, and action, the mysterious terminals of his birth and death, the struggle of good and evil in his life. There are human societies with their hierarchical order, the ups and downs of their existence, their endurance through changing generations of individual members. The cosmos is full of wonders, and thus full of gods, as Thales put it.
The myth-making mind neither denies nor destroys the experienced reality and man's participation. His myths subtract nothing that is experienced, and they contribute the communicability of meaning, through stories, and rites. They fully acknowledge the facts of reality, its tangibilities, visibilities, usabilities, terribilities, together with the partly hidden wherefores and uncertain wheretos, the uncanny powers and unstable frailties of reality.
This kind of mythical fabulation does not have the character of willful fantasy, and thus can provide for a rational being a basis of operation in a cosmos which man acknowledges not to have made himself. It furnishes the human mind with a hypothetical order of the cosmos and existence which makes sense and thus supports thought, and also serves man's practical needs as effectively as did the explanation of the pump through the notion of horror vacui. Sacred myth, then, is fabulation in the attitude of deference to, and full awareness of, the reality that is not man-made and in which man experiences himself as participating.
We have already seen that the myths created by the philosophy of history imply a loss of reality, to a large extent through a willful intellectual destruction of reality, a contraction of its scope and character. At the beginning of this lecture, I allowed for the possibility of an original experience of lost reality to which these myths might seek to give expression. Such experiences were indeed recorded in the 17th and 18th centuries. One thinks of Pascal's horror of "the infinite immensity of spaces…which know me not."
Undoubtedly there must have been countless cases of a loss of faith, of the resulting disorientation and confusion, during the Enlightenment. One might look on philosophy of history as possibly the expression either of such lamentable and lamented experiences of a reality lost, or maybe of the jubilant experience of a new reality having been found. There is some evidence of the latter, as when Feuerbach's assertion that gods were the projections of man's own noble attributes to some phantasmal set of beings, touched off a wave of enthusiasm among young Hegelians. One also recalls the atmosphere of religious awe gripping the audience at Hegel's lectures, or the lectures of Hegel's successor, Professor Gans.
Precisely this evidence, however, tells us that what we have here are secondary experiences, i.e. experiences touched off by the contrivance of ideas rather than primary experiences of reality. In other words, if we look for evidence of a newly discovered reality—symbolization of both experiences in and through ideologies, we find that actually the series is reversed.
Pascal, who did have an experience of cosmic loneliness, reacted by regaining his Christian faith. Voltaire, who rejected Christianity, never seems to have had an experience similar to Pascal's. In Voltaire's case his formula "the human mind, left to itself," 7 is an axiom of his philosophy of history and, as such, a deliberate and aggressive choice rather than a primary experience. It suggests that philosophy of history does not have the character of a remedial system to comfort man as he feels left to himself. Rather, it begins by creating the position of "the human mind, left to itself," and then begins the enterprise of drawing philosophical and historiographical results from its own creation.
The replacement of Providence by efficient causation, of a self-enclosed human mind for a participating soul, of human self-salvation for divine salvation, all bear the stamp of grim and combative eristic rather than of jubilant discovery. In other words, a new reality was not discovered in the soul's experience but rather defiantly made up of deficient parts and, with full knowledge of the deficiency, passed on as if it were the whole. The experience followed from the astonishing success of the trick, rather than from meditation preceding it. Or, to put it in other words, the experience was a response to the artifice of a system, rather than to a manifestation of reality.
Philosophy of history, as a system, is a whole consisting of three parts: the fixed element in it is a permanent causal factor alleged to bring forth the succession of history's phases; the variable element is the utter plasticity of man seen as a function of progressively higher social arrangements; the third element is neither variable nor fixed but rather an anticipated product of human making: the future utopia.
Once this kind of thinking is around and accepted as if it were reality, it touches off its own experiences. The experiences are roughly two: the jubilant lust of apparently limitless power, and the complaint of abysmal alienation. The lust of power manifests itself in the intellectual postulate of "certain knowledge" replacing the former uncertainty of faith and the fuzziness of moral philosophy. Hegel triumphantly proclaimed "certainty of knowledge" as the attribute of his speculation, replacing Plato's "love of truth." Feuerbach's bid to "take back" from a non-existing deity the noble attributes which in truth are man's own implies the same character of certain possession. "Certainty:" Marion Montgomery muses, "the death of love, and so of poetry, since it is the death of the possible or probable. Certainty destroys wonder, desire, joy, sorrow—those inclinations swayed from love to love." 
The resulting lust of power, or lust of certain possession, eventually found its supreme expression in the phrase "God is dead." One should note that in Nietzsche's Froeliche Wissenschaft this formula is embedded in philosophy of history, as manifested by the following sentences: "We have killed him - you and I! We all are his murderers!" The murder is an historical event, dividing a before from an after. Thus philosophy of history shifted the order of human action from the truth of goodness to the goal of history, or, as Camus put it, "from vertical to horizontal transcendence." 
The "horizontal transcendence," history's utopia, appearing as the highest product of human salvific enterprise, entailed the corresponding depreciation of the past and the present. Man's sense of uncertainty made a roundabout turn. It used to be that from the past there came a sense of solidity and direction. The common-sense man is "a boatman," who "moves intelligently forward as he looks backward,"  to use the words of John A. Mackay.
The lust of power and certainty, however, now flamed up over the prospect of a salvific future, to be built by human forces and efforts. Consequently, the future was invested with certainty, while past and present were subordinated to that future not only as prolegomena, but also as antitheses. It is instructive to find Marx praising his "forerunner," Fourier, not for any of Fourier's constructive ideas, but rather for Fourier's scathing and, indeed, total criticism of the present, which implies a similar disdain for the past.
The curious result of this reversal of certainty is the loss of that history which philosophy of history sought to construct. The future, which has not yet occurred, governs the ideas of the present and the past. So the past, no longer providing a solidity of background, becomes infinitely malleable, subject to re-writings, deletions, additions, whatever is needed to justify the movement toward the utopian future. Similarly, the present is described as nothing but darkness inhabited by monstrous human types.
However, the future, which alone is supposed to shed light, actually recedes further and further as the years go by in unmitigated bleakness.
Something similar happens to the concept of man. The concept of human nature does play, or is meant to play, a central role in the philosophy of history, depicted as the movement toward the ultimate realization of human nature. First of all, however, man's coming-to-be in the course of historical ages requires the concept of man's infinite malleability, through changing social arrangements. Second, since the present, as Ernst Bloch put it, is darkness wholly unintelligible, and the past is utterly lost, no experience is available to tell us about human nature.
To put it in other words, a concept of human nature could only be drawn from the future utopia. That utopia, however, has not yet occurred, and, what is more, such ranking Marxists as Lenin and Ernst Bloch consider the real possibility that it may be missed. Thus the entire three-partite system fails to fit reality, to explain reality, to draw meaning from reality. On the contrary, it finds itself in open conflict with reality on three of four fronts.
Its myths neither support nor are supported by man's existence, man's experience of the limits of birth and death, man's experienced transcending of his natural existence, man's depth of memory, man's sense of being. Instead, the myths of philosophy of history go together only with the human will to power in its Promethean defiance of the divine.
It is because of their perennial conflict with human experience and reality that these myths have been surrounded with intellectual and physical means of enforcement. They have been converted into dogmas, in open contradiction to their own claim to constitute a "science." Dogmas do have their place in human affairs, but are wholly out of place when the matter supposedly is science, empirically founded and based on strict logic. The rigid dogmatism of an ideology presenting itself in the language of science thus insults the critical sense of even the man in the street, whose day-by-day experiences give the lie to those dogmatized myths. The myths, however, the less tenable they are, are all the more tenaciously enforced, imposed, and inflicted as the monopoly of truth. For by their own destruction of past and present, and of the concept of man, they have opened up behind and around them the abyss of nothingness and the corresponding anxiety of alienation.
These myths are deliberately accepted only by a minority. To the others who still continue to be guided, more or less, by common sense, the dogma of history that is no history constitutes a web of lies. Russia has become a country deprived of its history. On this condition, Solzhenitsyn remarks as follows:
One cannot help fearing that the abnormality of the conditions which underlie the study of Russian history, similar to a general displacement of geological strata, creates…a common systematic error, as mathematicians would say. The error displaces and distorts all the results of research. The abnormality I speak of lies, first of all in a paradox: the fact that the country studied is your contemporary - it leads a real and stormy existence - and yet, at the same time, it behaves like the archeologist's prehistory: the spine of its history has been fractured, its memory has failed, it has lost the power of speech. It has been denied the possibility of writing the truth about itself, to tell honestly how things are, to discover itself. 
Solzhenitsyn points here to a condition affecting scholarship, which he has tried to counteract by his own scholarly novels on Russia's history, as well as by his Gulag Archipelago.
In the life of the ordinary citizen, however, this same "displacement" manifests itself as the necessity of lying in order to live:
The permanent lie becomes the only safe form of existence, in the same way as betrayal. Every wag of the tongue can be heard by some-one, every facial expression observed by some-one. Therefore every word if it does not have to be a direct lie, is nonetheless obliged not to contradict the general, common lie…But that was not all: Your children were growing up!…And if the children were little, then you had to decide what was the best way to bring them up; whether to start them off on lies instead of the truth (so that it would be easier for them to live) and then to lie forevermore in front of them too; or to tell them the truth, with the risk that they might make a slip, that they might let it out, which meant that you had to instill in them from the start that the truth was murderous, that beyond the threshold of the house you had to lie, only lie, just like papa and mama. 
Summing it all up, Solzhenitsyn adds: "And the lie has, in fact, led us so far away from a normal society that you cannot even orient yourself any longer; in its dense, gray fog not even one pillar can be seen." 
"Russia is a country that has officially been deprived of its history." This sentence is not a metaphorical statement but a fact of life in Russia. One piece of evidence is the list of official textbooks that have been issued for use in schools at the university level. The first is a book on political economy: that, according to Marx, is the essential though truncated reality of man. A second textbook is called Marxism-Leninism; it contains the communist ideology and the ideological version of society. Its companion is a textbook on Marxist philosophy, presenting dialectical materialism, the only philosophy taught in Soviet Russia. Then there is the history of the CPSU, in other words, a history of the Party in lieu of a history of Russia: Russia had history only until 1917, then its place was taken by the history of the Communist Party numbering less than five percent of the Russian people. The last textbook is called Scientific Communism; it surveys on the one hand, the forerunners of the Communist Party in the past of Western civilization, and, on the other hand, the problems of the transition from capitalism to communism, especially the transition of the present phase of socialism to the final phase of communism, in the Soviet Union. This last book, then, puts the CPSU, the Communist Party of Russia, in the framework of a wider past and a universal future, attributing all dimensions of history exclusively to the communist enterprise.
Russia as an agglomeration of people without history. What does that mean in day-by-day reality? Solzhenitsyn tells us:
In half a century we have not succeeded in calling anything by its right name or thinking anything through…For decades, while we were silent, our thoughts straggled in all possible and impossible directions, lost touch with each other, never learned to know each other, ceased to check and correct each other. 
It is in Russia, however, that a movement has begun to which we must attribute the quintessential character of a recovery of history in our time. It is a movement composed of intellectuals to whom the Western world refers by the belittling name of "dissidents."
The movement owes its cohesion to the catalytic effect of Solzhenitsyn 's publications. Solzhenitsyn has also coined the appropriate descriptive title of the movement, the name of his lead article in From Under the Rubble: "As Breathing and Consciousness Returns." In what way is consciousness returning to this increasingly articulate group of Russian writers and thinkers? Solzhenitsyn again is the one who provides the answer, through the whole of his work and life. Neither his life nor his work are governed by a note of dissidence, which has a chiefly negative connotation. Solzhenitsyn's achievement is, above all, to have re-gained, in experience, thought, and word, the reality of man, God and history.
The experience came as he began to accept the hardly imaginable degradation of his existence in prison camp and, simultaneously, to re-discover his own humanity in the surrounding humanity of all others, his own torturers included. Under conditions of near-annihilation he learned to be grateful for the tiniest manifestation of life, so that, years later, he could sincerely write: "Bless you, prison, for having been in my life."  The experience revealed to him, all at once, both man and God, the re-discovery of God occurring in the same motion of his soul as the re-discovery of human reality.
What followed upon that experience was hard intellectual work: "As breathing returns after our swoon, as a glimmer of consciousness breaks through the unrelieved darkness, it is difficult for us at first to regain clarity of vision, to pick our way among the clutter of hurdles, among the idols planted in our path."  "The rubble" is ideology, the willed falsehood of consciousness, which to remove is tantamount to the recovery of history. "Our present system," writes Solzhenitsyn of Russia, "is unique in world history, because over and above its physical and economic constraints, it demands total surrender of our souls, continuous and active participation in the general, conscious lie."  Hence, he concludes, "the absolutely essential task is not political liberation, but the liberation of our souls from participation in the lie forced upon us."  This lead article in From Under the Rubble is a profound criticism of Sakharov, who, far more than Solzhenitsyn, deserves to be called a "dissident," a man who differs with the Soviet rulers on policy but is not deeply concerned with what his soul participates in. Solzhenitsyn's critique is hard and inexorable: "No one who voluntarily runs with the hounds of falsehood, or props it up, will ever be able to justify himself to the living, or to posterity, or to his friends, or to his children." 
The problem, as Solzhenitsyn sees and describes it, emerges with life-and-death urgency in Russia, but is a concern of the entire modern world. In the West, it is no less the burden of foreign policy than it is in Russia the burden of false participation. The political dimension of the problem turns out to be secondary to the religious aspect, and the latter turns out to be a revelation to those who have lived in the man-made hell of Gulag Archipelago. Thus the Russians have the advantage over us of having suffered more deeply, and having reaped from their suffering the experienced ripening of their souls.
The movement began, in Russia, in the personal experience of sundry prisoners. It took on the shape of a group movement with the publication of Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, which appeared as a bright light in the darkness of Soviet life. Solzhenitsyn has neither in Russia nor abroad tried to form anything like a political conspiracy. His endeavor is to induce others to join in "the return of consciousness." Hence the publication of the volume From Under the Rubble, a book that relates itself to the 1909 publication called Vekhi (Landmarks), and, like Landmarks, is a joint publication of a group of authors. Solzhenitsyn also is a contributor to Kontinent, a periodical publication edited by Vladimir Maximov. All these, and other works, address primarily Russians but at the same time also the non-Communist world. Among these writers, Solzhenitsyn is the one person fully aware of that and how his breathing and consciousness have returned, and that that return to reality is the recovery of history. Without any trace of vanity, but in deep seriousness, he can state: "History is us - and there is no alternative but to shoulder the burden of what we so passionately desire and bear it out of the depths." 
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