That there is no truth; that there is no absolute state of affairs – no ‘thing-in-itself.’ This alone is Nihilism, and of the most extreme kind.
– Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power
Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age, by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose
In 1962, the young Eugene Rose undertook to write a monumental chronicle of the abandonment of Truth in the modern age. Of the hundreds of pages of material he compiled for this work, only the present essay, on Nihilism, has come down to us in completed form.
– From the back cover
Although he was not Fr. Rose when he wrote this work (he was still Eugene), this is how I will refer to him throughout my review of this book.
Nihilism, Fr. Rose offers, is the belief that there is no Absolute Truth; all truth is relative. The heart of this philosophy is expressed most clearly by Nietzsche and a character of Dostoyevsky: ‘God is dead, therefore man becomes God and everything is possible.’
Keep in mind, he wrote this before the nihilism of the 1960s came to full blossom – for which I will point to 1967 as the milestone year: the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album (which I label the start of their drug-induced era, whether or not they were taking hallucinogenics), and the release of the first Pink Floyd album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (who only had a drug-induced era).
Fr. Rose regularly turns to Hitler, Bolshevism (both Lenin and Stalin), and the Dadaist attack on art as examples of this nihilism. He looks at poets, revolutionaries like Bakunin, and what he labels “prophets” like Nietzsche. But he describes all of these as “the spectacular surface of the problem of Nihilism.” These are just extreme examples.
We have examples around us every day, in everyday people. Fr. Rose does not excuse them as innocent victims, because “No one, in the last analysis, serves Satan against his will.”
Nihilism has become so pervasive in our time (his time, almost sixty years ago), that there is no longer any front on which it may be fought. It is deeply engrained in the hearts and minds of all men living today; even those who believe they are fighting it are using nihilism’s own weapons.
Few of nihilism’s even most ardent opponents believe in the possibility that there is Absolute Truth – objective, unchanging Truth. Even many of its ardent opponents will lean on relative truth – some truths are better than others; some truths lead to less evil than others. We use arbitrary scales to judge the relative truth of different truths.
Some will perhaps object…that we have set our net too wide; that we have exaggerated the prevalence of Nihilism….
Article from LewRockwell