Ethics: Origin and Development — Chapter 6 : Christianity-The Middle Ages -- The Renaissance

By Peter Kropotkin (1924)

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Revolt Library Anarchism Ethics: Origin and Development Chapter 6

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(1842 - 1921)

Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism

: As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From: Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "...all that is necessary for production-- the land, the mines, the highways, machinery, food, shelter, education, knowledge--all have been seized by the few in the course of that long story of robbery, enforced migration and wars, of ignorance and oppression..." (From: "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
• "Which side will you take? For the law and against justice, or for justice and against the law?" (From: "An Appeal to the Young," by Peter Kropotkin, 1880.)
• "The fatherland does not exist.... What fatherland can the international banker and the rag-picker have in common?" (From: "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)

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Chapter 6

 Photo by Kevin Harber, CC BY-NC-ND License

Photo by Kevin Harber,
CC BY-NC-ND License

Summing up the pre-Christian ethics of ancient Greece, we see that in spite of the different interpretations of morality by the Greek thinkers they all agreed on one point: they saw the source of morality in Man, in his natural tendencies and in his reason. They were far from having a clear idea as to the true nature of these tendencies. But they taught that, owing to his reason and owing to his social mode of life, Man naturally develops and strengthens his moral tendencies, which are useful for the maintenance of the sociality essential to him. For this reason the Greek thinkers did not look for any external, supernatural forces to come to the aid of Man.

Such was the essence of the teaching of Socrates, Aristotle, and partly even of Plato and of the early Stoics, though Aristotle already attempted to base morality on a natural-scientific basis. Only Plato introduced into morality a semi-religious element. On the other hand, Epicurus, possibly in opposition to Plato, advanced a new doctrine: a rational striving of Man toward happiness, toward pleasure, and he tried to present this search for happiness as the principal source of the moral in a thinking man.

Epicurus was unquestionably right in asserting that man's striving, correctly understood, for personal happiness, for fullness of life, is a moral motive force. And indeed, a man who fully realizes how very much sociability, justice, and a kind, equitable attitude toward one's fellow-men contribute to the happiness of each individual as well as to the happiness of society as a whole-such a man will not be unmoral. In other words, a man who has recognized the principle of equality and who has been taught by experience to identify his interests with the interests of all, unquestionably must find in such an interpretation of personal happiness a support for his morality. But Epicurus needlessly narrowed the actual foundations of morality in asserting that the rational search for happiness will by itself lead man to the moral attitude toward others. Epicurus forgot that no matter how great the tribute that Man pays to egoism, he still retains the habits of sociality; he also has a conception of justice which leads to a recognition, to some extent of the equality of men, and that there is, even in men who have fallen to a very low moral level, a vague conception of the ideal and of moral beauty.

Epicurus thus minimized the importance of the social instincts in man and helped man to put practical "reasonableness" in the place of Reason based on justice, which is the necessary condition for the progressive development of society. At the same time, he overlooked the influence of the environment and of the division into classes, which is inimical to morality when a pyramidal structure of society permits to some what is forbidden to others.

And indeed, the followers of Epicurus, who were fairly numerous in the empire of Alexander the Great and later in the Roman Empire, found a justification for their indifference to the ulcers of the social system in this absence of a moral ideal which would uphold justice and the equality of men as the aim of morality. 1

A protest against the social horrors of that time and against the decline of sociality was inevitable. And, as we have seen, this protest manifested itself first in the teachings of the Stoics, and later in Christianity.

In the fifth century B. C. there began the wars between Greece and Persia, and these wars gradually led to a complete decline of the system of free City-Republics of Ancient Greece, under which development. science, art, and philosophy reached a high stage of development. Then, in the fourth century B. C., the Macedonian Realm was created and the military expeditions of Alexander the Great into inner Asia began. Flourishing, independent democracies of Greece were then being converted into provinces subjected to the new, vanquishing Empire. The conquerors were bringing the slaves and the plundered riches from the East and at the same time introduced centralization and its inevitable consequences: political despotism and the spirit of plundering greed. And what is more, the riches imported into Greece attracted to it the plunderers from the West, and already in the third century B.C. there began the conquest of Greece by Rome.

Ancient Hellas, once a conservatory of knowledge and art, now became a province of a Roman Empire lusting for conquest. The beacon of science that had shone in Greece was extinguished for many centuries, while Rome spread in all directions its centralized, plundering state, where luxury of the upper classes was based on the slave-labor of the conquered peoples, and where the vises of the upper, the ruling classes, reached extreme limits.

Under such circumstances a protest was inevitable, and it came first in the form of echoes of the new religion -- Buddhism, which originated in India where a social disintegration similar to that of the Roman Empire was taking place, -- and then, about four hundred years later, in the form of Christianity, rising in Judea, whence it soon spread to Asia Minor, where Greek colonies abounded, and thence to the very center of Roman domination -- to Italy.

It is easy to imagine how deep an impression, especially among the poor classes, was produced by the appearance of these two teachings that have so much in common. Tidings of the new religion began to penetrate from India, its land of origin, into Judea and Asia Minor during the last two centuries before our era. There was a rumor that the King's son, Gautama, spurred by the need of a new faith, had parted with his young wife and with his palace, had thrown off his royal garments, renounced wealth and power, and become a servant of his people. Subsisting on alms, he taught contempt for wealth and power, love for all men, friends and enemies alike; he taught sympathy for all living creatures, he preached kindness, and recognized the equality of all classes, including the lowest.

The teaching of Buddha Gautama 2 speedily found numerous followers among the peoples wearied by wars and extortions and offended in their best feelings by the ruling classes. Gradually this teaching spread from North India to the south and eastward over the whole of Asia. Tens of millions of people embraced Buddhism.

A like situation arose about four hundred years later, when a similar, but a still higher teaching, Christianity, began to spread from Judea to the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, and then penetrated into Greece, and thence to Sicily and Italy.

The soil was well prepared for the new religion of the poor, who rose against the depravity of the rich. And then the vast, elemental migrations of entire peoples from Asia to Europe, which began about the same time and lasted for fully twelve centuries, cast such a horror over the minds of people that the need of a new religion became acute. 3

Amid the horrors that were then experienced, even sober thinkers lost their faith in a better future for humanity, while the masses regarded these invasions as the work of an Evil Power. The idea of "the end of the world" arose involuntarily in people's minds, and men the more willingly sought salvation in religion. The principal point wherein Christianity and Buddhism differed from all preceding religions was in the fact that instead of the cruel, revengeful gods to whose will men had to submit, these two religions brought forward-as an example for men and not to intimidate them -- an ideal man-god. In the case of Christianity the love of the divine teacher for men, -- for all men without distinction of nation or condition, and especially for the lowest, -- led to the highest heroic sacrifice -- to death on the cross for the salvation of humanity from the power of evil.

Instead of fear of a revengeful Jehovah, or of gods personifying the evil forces of nature, Christianity advocated love for the victims of oppression. The moral teacher in Christianity was not a revengeful deity, not a priest, not a man of the priestly cast, and not even a thinker from among the sages, but a simple man from the people. While the founder of Buddhism, Gautama, was a king's son who voluntarily became a pauper, the founder of Christianity was a carpenter who left his house and his kin, and lived as "the birds of heaven" live, in expectation of the approaching "Day of Judgment." The life of these two teachers was passed, not in temples, not in academies, but among the poor, and from among these poor and not from among the temple-priests came Christ's apostles. And if at a later date Christianity as well as Buddhism evolved into the "Church," i.e., the government of the "chosen," with the inevitable vises of all governments -- such development constituted a flagrant deviation from the will of the two founders of religion, notwithstanding all the attempts that were later made to justify this deviation by citing the books written many years after the death of the teachers themselves.

Another fundamental feature of Christianity which was the chief source of its strength was the fact that it advanced as the leading principle of man's life not his personal happiness, but the happiness of society, -- and consequently an ideal, a social ideal, for which a man would be ready to sacrifice his life (see, for example, the tenth and the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of St. Mark). The ideal of Christianity was not the retired life of a Greek sage, and not the military or the civic exploits of the heroes of ancient Greece or Rome, but a, preacher who rose against the abuses of contemporary society and who was ready to face death for the gospel of his faith, which consisted in justice for all, in recognition of the equality of all men, in love for all, friends and strangers alike, and finally, in forgiveness of injuries, contrary to the general rule of those times of the obligatory revenge for injuries.

Unfortunately, just these fundamental features of Christianity, -- especially equality and forgiveness of injuries -- very soon began to be toned down and altered in the preaching of the new religion, and teachings, very soon, in the time of the apostles in fact, became then were forgotten altogether. Christianity, like all other moral contaminated by opportunism, i.e., by the teaching of the "happy mean. And this process was made easier by the formation in Christianity, as in all other religions, of a group of men who asserted that they whose duty it wise to perform the rites and the sacraments, are the ones who preserve the teaching of Christ in all its purity and must wage war on the continually arising faulty interpretations of this teaching.

There is no doubt that this compliance on the part of the apostles has its explanation, in a measure, in the cruel persecutions to which the first Christians were subjected in the Roman Empire, -- until Christianity became the state religion; and it is also likely that the concessions were made only for appearance' sake, while the inner nucleus of the Christian communes adhered to the teaching in all its purity. And indeed, it has now been established through a long series of careful investigations that the four gospels that were recognized by the Church as the most truthful accounts of the life and of the teaching of Christ, as well as the "Acts" and the "Epistles" of the Apostles in those versions that have reached us, were all written not earlier than between 60-90 A. D., and probably even later, between 90-120 A.D. But even at that time the Gospels and the Epistles were already copies of more ancient records, which the copyists usually supplemented with legends that reached them. 4 But it was just during those years that there took place the most relentless persecution of the Christians by the Roman State. Executions in Galilee commenced only after the rebellion of Judah the Galilean against the Roman rule, 9 A.D., and later even more cruel persecutions against the Jews began after their uprising, that lasted from 66 to 71 A.D., and the executions were numbered in hundreds. 5

In view of these persecutions, the Christian preachers who them selves were ready to perish on the cross or in the fire, naturally made some minor concessions in their epistles to the faithful, perhaps in order not to subject to persecution the still youthful Christian communes. Thus, for example, the words, so glibly cited by the ruling classes: "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (St. Mark, xii, 17), may have gotten into the gospels as an unimportant concession, that did not affect the essence of the teaching, all the more since Christianity advocated renunciation of worldly goods. Furthermore, having originated in the East, Christianity was influenced by Eastern beliefs in one very important direction. The religions of Egypt, Persia, and India were not content with simple humanization of the forces of Nature, as was conceived by the Greek and the Roman heathendom. They saw in the universe a struggle of two equally powerful essences -- the Good and the Evil, Light and Darkness, -- and they transferred this struggle to the heart of man. And this conception of two antagonistic forces battling for supremacy in the world, gradually penetrated Christianity and became its fundamental principle. And then, for many centuries, the Christian Church, in order to annihilate with unspeakable cruelty all those who dared to criticize its henchmen, utilized to the full this conception of the powerful devil who obtains possession of the human soul.

Thus directly rejected the kindness and all-forgivingness which were advocated by the founder of Christianity and which constituted its difference from all other religions, with the exception of Buddhism. And more than that: in its persecution of its antagonists it knew no limit of cruelty.

Later, the followers of Christ, even the nearest, went even further on the road of deviation. More and more alienated from the original teaching, they came to the point where the Christian Church made a complete alliance with the rulers, so that in the eyes of the "princes of the Church" the true teachings of Christ even came to be considered as dangerous, so dangerous, indeed, that the Western Church forbade the publication of the New Testament in any other than the Latin language, utterly incomprehensible to the people, and in Russia, in the slightly more comprehensible old-Slavonic tongue. 6

But worst of all was the fact that on becoming transformed into the State Church, official Christianity forgot the fundamental difference distinguishing it from all the preceding religions except Buddhism. It forgot the forgiveness of injuries, and it avenged every injury in the spirit of Eastern despotism. Finally, the representatives of the Church soon became the owners of serfs equally with the lay nobility, and they gradually acquired the same profitable judicial power as the counts, the dukes, and the kings; and in using this power the princes of the Church proved to be just as vengeful and greedy as the lay rulers. And later, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when the centralized power of the kings and the czars began to extend over the states that were then forming, the Church never failed to help with its influence and its wealth the creation and expansion of this power, and shielded with its cross such beast-like rulers as Louis XI., Phillip II., and Ivan the Terrible. The Church punished any show of opposition to its power with purely Eastern cruelty -- with torture and fire, and the Western Church even created for this purpose a special institution -- the "Holy" Inquisition.

Thus, concessions to secular powers made by the early followers of Christ led Christianity far afield from the teaching of its Founder. Forgiveness of personal injuries was thrown overboard, like unnecessary ballast, and in this way was discarded that which constituted the fundamental difference between Christianity and all preceding religions except Buddhism. 7

And really, if we examine without prejudice not only the earlier religions but even the usages and customs of the earliest tribal mode of life among the savages, we shall find that in all the primitive religions and in the most primitive groups it was already considered, and is now considered, a rule not to do unto others, i.e., to men of the same tribe, that which you do not want done unto yourself. For thousands of years all human societies have been built on this rule, so that in advocating an equitable attitude to one's own people Christianity introduced nothing new. 8

As a matter of fact, in such an old monument of the tribal system as the Old Testament, we find a rule: "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." This is said in the name of God in the third book of the Pentateuch (Leviticus, xix, 18). And the same rule was applied to the stranger: "The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Leviticus, xix, 34). Similarly, the assertion of the Evangelists, so poetically expressed in the gospel of St. Mark (ch. xiii), that there is no higher merit than to lay down one's soul for one's 'people, even this appeal cannot be considered as a distinguishing feature of Christianity, because self-sacrifice for one's own people was eulogized by all the heathen peoples, and the defense of near ones at the risk of one's life is a common phenomenon not only among the most savage tribes, but also among most of the social animals.

The same is true of charity, which is often represented as a distinguishing feature of Christianity as contrasted with pagan antiquity. The fact of the matter is that even in the tribal system it was and still is considered a crime to refuse shelter to one of the same tribe -- or even to an unknown wanderer, -- or not to share a meal with them. I have already mentioned in the third chapter that an accidentally impoverished Buriat has a right to be fed in turn by each member of his tribe, and also that the Fuegians, the Hottentots, and all other "savages" divide among themselves equally every morsel of food given them as a present. Therefore, if in the Roman Empire, especially in the cities, such customs of the tribal system had actually disappeared, it was not the fault of Paganism but of the entire political system of the all-conquering Empire. I will remark, however, that in pagan Italy, in the times of Numa Pompilius, and then much later, in the days of the Empire, there were strongly developed the so-called "collegia," i.e., associations of craftsmen, known, in the Middle Ages, as the "guilds." These Collegia practiced the same compulsory mutual aid; on certain days they had meals in common, etc., which usage later became a distinguishing feature of every guild. Therefore, the question presents itself: was mutual aid truly alien to the Roman pre-Christian society, as is asserted by some writers, who point to the absence of statecharity and of religious charity? Or was 'the need of charity brought about by the weakening of the crafts organizations of the collegia as state centralization increased?

We must, therefore, acknowledge, that in preaching fraternity and mutual aid among one's own people, Christianity did not introduce any new moral principle. But the point where Christianity and Buddhism did introduce a new principle into the life of humanity was in demanding of man complete forgiveness for the harm inflicted upon him. Up to that time the tribal morality Of all peoples demanded revenge, personal or even tribal, for every injury: for murder, for wound, for insult. But the teaching of Christ, in its original form, rejected both revenge and legal prosecution, demanding from the wronged person a renunciation of all retribution" and complete forgiveness for injury, and not merely once or twice, but always, in every case. In the words, "Do not take vengeance on your enemies," lies the true greatness of Christianity.10

But the principal commandment of Christ, directing the renunciation of all vengeance, was very soon rejected by the Christians. Even the Apostles adhered to it in a considerably modified form: "Be not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but contrariwise, blessing," wrote Apostle Peter in his first "Epistle General" (iii, 9). But St. Paul merely hints feebly at the forgiveness of injuries, and even that hint is expressed in egoistic form: "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest (another) : for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself." (Epistle to the Romans, ii, 1). In general, instead of the definite commandments of Christ, rejecting vengeance, the apostles offer the timid advice to "postpone vengeance," and advise a general gospel of love. Thus, finally, vengeance through the courts. even in its most cruel forms, became a necessary essence ofthat which is known as justice in Christian states and in the Christian Church. It is significant that priest and executioner are together at the scaffold.

A similar fate befell another fundamental principle in Christ's teaching. His teaching was the teaching of equality. A slave and a free Roman citizen were for him equally brothers, children of God. "And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all," taught Christ. (St. Mark, x, 44). But in the Apostles we already find different ideas. The slaves and the subjects are equal to their masters ... "in Christ." But in reality the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul present as a fundamental Christian virtue the obedience of subjects to the established authorities as to God's anointed with "fear and trepidation," and the obedience of slaves to their masters. These two Apostles merely recommend to the slaveholders a more kindly attitude toward their servants, and not at all the renunciation of the right to own slaves, even in cases where the slave-owners happen to be "faithful and beloved," i.e., those converted to Christianity. 11

This advice of the Apostles could of course be explained by their desire not to subject their followers to the beastly cruelty of the Roman Emperors. But through preaching obedience to the beast-like Cæsars as to God's anointed, Christianity dealt itself a blow from which it has not recovered to this day. It became the religion of the State.

As a result, slavery and slavish obedience to the rulers, both supported by the Church, endured for eleven centuries, up to the first townsfolk and peasant uprisings of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

John Chrysostom, Pope Gregory, whom the Church called the Great, and various people whom the Church included among the saints, approved slavery, and St. Augustine even vindicated it, asserting that sinners became slaves in punishment for their sins. Even the comparatively liberal philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, asserted that slavery is a "divine law." Very few slave-owners set their slaves free, and some bishops collected money in order to buy the slaves their freedom. And only with the beginning of the Crusades could the slaves be liberated from their masters by sewing a cross to their sleeves and going to the East for the conquest of Jerusalem.

The Church was followed openly or tacitly by most philosophers. Only in the eighteenth century, on the eve of the French Revolution, were voices of the freethinkers raised against slavery. It was the Revolution and not the Church that abolished slavery in the French Colonies and serfdom in France itself. But during the first half of the nineteenth century, trading in negro-slaves flourished in Europe and in America and the Church was silent. In Russia the abolition of slavery, known as peasant serfdom, became an accomplished fact only in 1861. It was prepared for by the plots of the Decembrists in 1825 and of the Petrashevists in 1848, as well as by the peasant uprising of the 'fifties, reawakening in the nobility the fear of another Pugachev rebellion. In 1863 the abolition of slavery took place also in the "deeply religious" United States. After a bloody struggle with the slave-owners, the slaves were proclaimed free; they were given for their subsistence, however, not even an inch of the soil that they had cultivated.

Christianity proved impotent in the struggle against the greed of the slave-owners and the slave-dealers. Slavery endured until the slaves themselves began to revolt, and until the development of machine production offered the possibility of extracting more profits from hired labor than from the labor of the peasant serfs or the slaves.

Thus the two fundamental principles of Christianity -- equality, and the forgiveness of injuries -- were rejected by its followers and by its preachers. And fifteen centuries passed before some writers broke with religion and dared to recognize one of these principles, equality of rights, as the foundation of civic society.

Finally, it must be pointed out that Christianity had also con-firmed the belief in the devil and his hosts as the powerful rivals of the Good. The belief in the might of the Evil Power became especially strengthened at the time of the great transmigrations of the peoples. Later the Church fully utilized this belief in order to annihilate those "servants of the devil" who dared to criticize its leaders. More than that: -- the Roman Church even considered the Christian prohibition of vengeance as a mistake of a too kind Teacher, and it substituted for mercy its sword and its bonfires, to destroy those whom it considered heretics. 12

In spite of all the persecutions of the Christians in the Roman Empire, and in spite of the small numbers of the early Christian communes during the first few centuries, Christianity continued to conquer minds, first in Asia Minor, and then in Greece, in Sicily, in Italy, and, in general, throughout Western Europe. Christianity was a protest against the entire mode of life in the Roman Empire of that time, and against the ideals of that life, where the opulence of the ruling classes was based on the desperate poverty of the peasants and of the town proletariat, and where the "culture" of the well-to-do was limited to the development of the comforts of life and to a certain external elegance, with total neglect of the higher spiritual needs, both mental and moral. 13 But already at that time many felt dissatisfied with the refinements of the pleasures of the higher classes, coupled with the general degradation; and therefore, not only the poor whom Christianity promised liberation, but also separate individuals from among the free and the wealthy classes sought in Christianity a way to a more spiritual life.

At the same time, mistrust of human nature was developing. It had begun to manifest itself already in the Greco-Roman world of the time of Plato and his followers. And now, under the influence of the harsh conditions of life at the time of the great transmigrations of the peoples, in the face of the iniquities of Roman society, and under the influence of the East, pessimism began to develop; faith in the possibility of attaining a better future through the efforts of Man himself, was waning. The assurance grew of the triumph of the Evil Power on earth, and people willingly sought consolation in the faith in life after death, where there is to be no earthly evil or suffering.

Under such circumstances Christianity acquired greater and greater power over the mind. It is remarkable, however, that it produced no substantial change in the general mode of life. And indeed, not only did it fail to originate any new forms of life at all widely distributed, but it even became reconciled, like paganism formerly, to Roman slavery, to Norman serfdom, and to the abominations of Roman absolutism. The Christian priests soon became the supporters of the emperors. Property inequality and political oppression remained the same as before, and the mental development of society was considerably lower. Christianity did not develop any new social forms. And really, awaiting a speedy end of the world, it took little interest in such reforms, so that more than a thousand years elapsed before, from entirely different sources, new systems of life began to be developed in Europe in the cities that declared themselves independent, first along the shores of the Mediterranean, and later inland as well. In these new centers of free life, which resembled in this respect the free cities of Ancient Greece, there began also the revival of the sciences, which had suffered a decline from the time of the Macedonian and Roman Empires.

At the time of the Apostles, the followers of Christ, who lived in expectation of the speedy Second Advent, were chiefly concerned in spreading the teaching that promised men salvation. They hastened to spread the "happy tidings," and, if necessary, perished by the martyr's death. But as early as the second century of the Christian Era the Christian "Church" began to develop. It is well known how easily new religions split into numerous factions in the East. Every one interprets the new teaching in his own way and adheres fanatically to his interpretation. Christianity was also in danger of such a splitting into small parts, all the more because in Asia Minor and in Egypt, where it was rapidly spreading, it was being commingled with other religions: Buddhism and ancient paganism. 14 In view of this fact, from the earliest times the teacher of Christianity aimed to create in accordance with the ancient tradition, a "church," i.e., a closely associated group of teachers who were to keep the teaching in all its purity, or, at least, in uniform condition.

But with the development of the churches as the guardians of the teaching and of its rites, there came into existence, as in Buddhism, on the one hand the monastic institution, i.e., the withdrawal of some of the teachers from society, and on the other hand, there was formed a special, powerful caste, the clergy, and the rapprochement of this caste with the secular power grew steadily. In guarding what it considered the purity of faith, and in persecuting what it considered perversion and criminal heresy, the Church soon reached the limit of cruelty in its persecutions of the "apostates." And for the sake of success in this struggle, it first sought and then demanded support from the secular powers, which in turn demanded from the Church a benevolent attitude toward them and a support by religion of their tyrannical power over the people.

Thus the fundamental thought of the Christian teaching, its modesty, its "spirit of meek wisdom" was being forgotten. The movement which began as a protest against the abominations of the ruling power, now became a tool of that power. The blessing of the Church not only forgave the rulers their crimes, -- it actually even represented these crimes as the fulfillment of God's will.

At the same time the Christian Church used all its efforts to prevent the studying by the Christians of "pagan antiquity." The monuments and the manuscripts of ancient Greece, the only sources of knowledge at that time, were being destroyed, for the Church saw in them only "pride" and "faithlessness" suggested by the devil. This prohibition was so strict, and suited so well the general intolerant spirit of Christianity, that some of the writings of the Greek thinkers disappeared completely, and they reached Western Europe only because they were preserved by the Arabs in Arabian translations. Thus zealously, Christianity was stamping out the "Hellenic wisdom." 15

In the meantime, however, the feudal system, with its serfdom, which established itself in Europe after the disruption of the Roman Empire, began to disintegrate, especially from the time of the Crusades and after a series of serious peasant uprisings and of revolts in towns. 16

Owing to the intercourse with the East, and owing to the increasing commercial activity on sea and land, Europe gradually developed cities in which, side by side with the development of commerce, crafts, and arts, was developed also the spirit of freedom. Beginning with the tenth century these cities began to overthrow the power of their secular rulers and of the bishops. Such revolts spread rapidly. The citizens of the revolting cities drew up for themselves the "charters" or the "statutes" of their rights, and either forced the rulers to recognize and to sign these charters, or simply expelled their rulers and swore to observe among themselves these new statutes of freedom. The townsfolk first of all refused to recognize the courts of the bishops or of the princes, and elected their own judges; they created their own town militia for the defense of the city and appointed its commander, and finally, they entered into alliances and federations with other free cities. Many cities also liberated from the yoke of the secular and the ecclesiastical rulers the peasants of the neighboring districts, by sending the town militia to the assistance of the villages. Genoa, for example, acted in this manner as early as the tenth century. And gradually the liberation of the cities and the formation of free communities spread throughout Europe: first in Italy and in Spain, then in the twelfth century in France, in the Netherlands, and in England, and finally throughout the whole of Central Europe, as far as Bohemia, Poland, and even Northwestern Russia, where Novgorod and Pskov, with their colonies in Viatka, Vologda, etc., existed as free democracies for a period of a few centuries. In this manner the free cities were reviving the free political system, due to which, fifteen hundred years earlier, enlightenment had blossomed forth so splendidly in Ancient Greece. The same situation now repeated itself in the free cities of Western and Central Europe. 17

And simultaneously with the birth of the new free life, there began also the revival of knowledge, art, and freedom of thought which has received in history the name of "The Renaissance.

I shall refrain here, however, from an analysis of the causes which brought Europe to "renascence and then to the so-called "Epoch of Enlightenment." There are many splendid works about this reawakening of the human mind from a long sleep, and even a brief survey of them would lead us too far afield from our immediate purpose. Moreover, I should have to discuss much more fully than has hitherto been done, not only the influence exercised on the development of science and art by the discovery of the monuments of ancient Greek science, art, and philosophy, as well as the influence of the far voyages and travels undertaken in this period of trading with the East, the discovery of America, etc., but I should also have to consider the influence of the new forms of social life that developed in the free cities. Then it would also be necessary to show how these conditions of town life and the awakening of the peasant population led to a new understanding of Christianity and to the deep-rooted popular movements in which the protest against the power of the Church was blended with the striving to throw off the yoke, of serfdom.

Such uprisings spread in a mighty wave over the whole of Europe. They began with the movement of the Albigenses in Southern France in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Then, at the end of the fourteenth century, in England, there took place the peasant uprisings of John Ball, Wat Tyler, and of the Lollards, directed against the lords and against the state, in connection with the Protestant movement of Wickliffe. In Bohemia there developed the teaching of the great reformer and martyr, John Huss (burned at the stake by the Church in 1415), whose numerous followers rose up against the Catholic Church as well as against the yoke of the feudal lords. Then began the communistic movement of the Moravian Brothers in Moravia and of the Anabaptists in Holland, Western Germany, and Switzerland. Both these movements aimed not only to purify Christianity from the evils that had come to it owing to the secular power of the clergy, but also to change the entire social system to one of equality and communism. Finally, it would be necessary to dwell on the great peasant wars of Germany in the sixteenth century, which began in connection with the Protestant movement, -- as well as on the uprisings against the power of the Pope, the landlords, and the kings, which spread over England from 1639 to 1648 and which ended in the execution of the king and the abolition of the feudal system. Of course, none of these movements accomplished its political, economic, and moral aims. But at any rate they created in Europe two comparatively free federations -- Switzerland and Holland, -- and then two comparatively free countries -- England and France, -- where minds were already prepared to such an extent that the teachings of the free-thinking writers found numerous followers, and where thinkers could write, and sometimes even print their works, without the risk of being burned at the stake by the princes of the Christian Church, or of being imprisoned for life.

In order to explain fully the revival of philosophical thought which characterized the seventeenth century, it would be necessary, therefore, to trace the influence of these revolutionary popular movements together with the influence of the then newly discovered remains of ancient Greek literature, -- those works that are so easily discussed in all the histories of the Renaissance, with no mention made of the popular movements. But such an investigation in the realm of the general philosophy of history would lead us too far afield from our immediate purpose. I will therefore limit myself to pointing out that all these causes taken together helped to develop a new and freer mode of life. And by giving a new direction to thought they helped gradually the development of the new science which was slowly liberating itself from the wardship of theology; they helped the development of the new philosophy which was striving to embrace the life of all of Nature and to explain it on a natural basis; and finally, they helped to awaken the creative powers of the human mind. At the same time I shall attempt to show the ever-increasing prominence assumed thereafter in the moral field by free personality, which proclaimed its independence of the Church, the State, and the established traditions.

In the course of the first ten centuries of our era the Christian Church saw in the study of Nature something unnecessary, or even harmful, leading to conceit and to "pride," and pride was persecuted as a source of faithlessness. The moral element in men, asserted the Church, originates not at all in his nature, which can only urge him toward evil, but exclusively in divine revelation. Every investigation of the natural sources of morality in man was rejected, and therefore Greek science, which attempted to base morality on a naturalistic foundation, was categorically rejected. Fortunately, the sciences originated in Greece found a refuge among the Arabs, who translated Greek writers into their language, and who themselves contributed to our knowledge, especially about the globe and the celestial bodies, -- as well as mathematics in general and medicine. The knowledge of the moral was considered by Arabian science, as by Greek, a part of the knowledge of Nature. But the Christian Church rejected this knowledge as heretical. This situation lasted for over a thousand years and only in the eleventh century, when the town revolts began in Europe, did there begin also the free-thinking (rationalistic) movement. A diligent search was made for the scattered surviving monuments of ancient Greek science and philosophy; and from these sources geometry, physics, astronomy, and philosophy began to be studied. Amid the deep darkness that had reigned over Europe for so many centuries, a discovery and a translation of a manuscript of Plato or Aristotle became an event of world importance; it opened new, unknown horizons, it awakened minds, it revived the feeling of delight in Nature, and it aroused at the same time faith in the power of human reason, -- the faith which the Christian Church took such pains to discourage. From that time there started the revival, first of sciences and then of knowledge in general, as well as of the investigations into the essence and the foundations of morality. Abélard of the many sorrows, (1079-1142), early in the beginning of the twelfth century, dared to assert, in accordance with the thinkers of Ancient Greece, that man carries in himself the rudiments of moral conceptions. He did not find, however, any support for this heresy, and only in the next century did there appear in France the thinker Thomas Aquinas (1225-1278), who tried to combine the teaching of the Christian Church with a part of Aristotle's teaching. About the same time, in England, Roger Bacon (1214-1294) attempted at last to reject supernatural forces in the interpretation of nature in general, as well as of the moral conceptions of man.

This tendency, however; was soon suppressed, and it took the already mentioned popular movements, (spreading through Bohemia, Moravia, the lands now forming Germany, Switzerland, France, -- especially the Southern part, -- the Netherlands and England), -- it took hundreds of thousands of people who perished by fire and sword while their leaders were subjected to terrible tortures, -- in short, it took the tremendous upheaval that gradually involved the whole of Europe from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, before the Church and the secular rulers guided by it, permitted thinkers to speak and to write about the social instinct of man as the source of moral conceptions, and about the significance of human reason in the working out of moral principles. But even then Thought, freeing itself from the yoke of the Church, preferred to ascribe to wise rulers and lawmakers that which was formerly ascribed to divine revelation, -- until at last a new current of thought dared to acknowledge that the working out of the moral principles was the creative effort of all of humanity.

In the middle of the sixteenth century, shortly before the death of Copernicus (1473-1543), appeared his book on the structure of our planetary system. This book gave a powerful impetus to scientific thought. The book proved that the Earth is by no means situated in the center of the Universe, and not even in the center of our planetary system; that the sun and the stars do not revolve around the Earth as it seems to us; and that not only our Earth but also the Sun around which it revolves are mere grains of sand amid the infinite number of worlds. These ideas differed fundamentally from the teachings of the Church, which asserted that the Earth is the center of the Universe, and that Man is the object of special concern to the Creator of Nature. Of course the Church began to persecute cruelly this teaching, and many men fell victims of this persecution. Thus an Italian, Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), was burned by the Inquisition at Rome in 1600 for his work, "Spaccio della bestia trionfante," in which he gave support to the Copernican heresy. But the new tendency had already been set by astronomers, and in general there came a realization of the importance of accurate observation and of mathematical analysis, and of knowledge based on experiment, as contrasted with conclusions based on metaphysics. In Florence there was even organized an Academy "del Cimento," i.e., of experiment.

Soon afterwards, in 1609 and 1619, detailed investigations of the laws of planetary motion around the sun by Kepler (1571-1630) confirmed Copernicus's conclusions, and twenty years later the Italian scientist Galileo (1564-1642) published his principal works, which not only confirmed the teaching of Copernicus but demonstrated even further where physics based on experiment leads. For his adherence to the teaching of Copernicus the Church subjected Galileo to torture in 1633, and he was forced under torture to renounce his "heresy." But thought was already being liberated from the yoke of the Christian and of the old Hebrew teachings, and in the English thinker and experimenter, Francis Bacon (of Verulam) science found, not only a continuator of the bold investigations of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, but also the founder of a new method of scientific investigation -- the inductive method, based on the careful study of the facts of nature and the drawing of conclusions from these facts, as against the deductive interpretation of nature, i.e., on the basis of previously assumed abstract principles. More than that, -- Bacon outlined the essentials of the new science based in all its branches on observation and experiment. Already at that time there was serious unrest in England, which soon culminated in the revolution of the peasants and especially of the middle classes (1632-1648), ending in the proclamation of the Republic and in the execution of the king. And side by side with the economic and the political upheaval, i.e., with the abolition of the power of the feudal landlords and with the advent to power of the urban middle class, there was taking place the liberation of minds from the yoke of the Churches, and the development of a new philosophy, of a new interpretation of Nature, based not on mental speculations but on the serious study of nature and on the gradual development of life, i.e., evolution, which constitutes the essence of modern science.

Bacon and Galileo were the forerunners of this science which, in the second half of the seventeenth century, more and more came to feel its strength and the necessity of a complete liberation from the Catholic as well as from the new Protestant Church. For this purpose the scientists began to combine and to establish scientific "Academies," i.e., societies for the free study of Nature. The fundamental principle of these academies was experimental investigation, instead of the former logomachy. Such were the aims of the academies, that first originated in Italy, and also of the Royal Society which was established in England in the seventeenth century and which became the stronghold of scientific knowledge and a model for similar societies, established in France, Holland, and Prussia, etc.

This trend in Science naturally reflected itself also in the science of morality. Francis Bacon, a few years before the English Revolution, made an attempt -- a very cautious one, it is true -- to free from religion the question of the origin and the essence of moral conceptions. He dared to express the idea that it is wrong to consider the absence of religious convictions as detrimental to morality; he maintained that even an atheist may be an honest citizen, whereas, on the other hand, superstitious religion is a real danger when it undertakes to guide man's moral conduct. Bacon expressed himself very guardedly -- it was impossible to speak in any other way in his time, -- but the essence of his thought was understood, and from that time on the same idea began to be more and more loudly and definitely expressed in England and in France. Then the philosophy of Epicurus and of the Stoics was recalled, and the development of rationalistic ethics, i.e., ethics based on science, was begun in the works of Hobbes, Locke, Shaftesbury, Cudworth, Hutcheson, Hume, Adam Smith, and others in England and Scotland, and of Gassendi, Helvétius, Holbach, and many others in France. 18

It is interesting to note that the principal point in Bacon's interpretation of morality (which I have already pointed out in the second chapter) i.e., the fact that even among animals the instinct of sociality may prove stronger and more stable than the instinct of self-preservation, was disregarded by his followers and even by the bold advocates of the naturalistic interpretation of morality. 19

Only Darwin, toward the end of his life, ventured to repeat Bacon's thought on the basis of his own observations of nature, and he developed this idea in a few remarkable pages on the origin of the moral sentiments in his book, "The Descent of Man," (see above, Chap. II). But even now writers on ethics fail to stress this thought, which ought to be the foundation of rationalistic ethics, all the more because -- though in a less definite form -- it is suggested in the essence of all the teachings that sought the explanation of morality in the nature of man himself.

After Bacon, among the philosophers of the seventeenth century, the same idea was well understood and still more definitely expressed by Hugo Grotius in his work "De jure bellis," in 1625. After a few remarks on the Creator and his influence on the development of the moral conceptions, -- not directly, but through the agency of Nature, "though created by Him, but unchangeable and rational Nature," -- Grotius did not hesitate to acknowledge that the sources of "law" and of the moral conceptions so intimately connected with it, were: Nature, and Reason which interprets it.

He excluded religious morality and ritual regulations from the realm of naturalistic morality, and he occupied himself only with the study of the latter. By nature he meant human nature, and he denied that it is unable to distinguish between the right and the wrong, because man as well as animals has the instinct of sociality, which inevitably urges man toward the establishing of a peaceful mode of life with his fellow creatures.

In addition to his strong social tendencies, continued Grotius, man, due to his language, has the ability to derive general rules for the maintenance of social living, and the desire to act in accordance with these rules. This concern about society becomes the source of established customs and of the so-called natural law or the law based on custom. The development of these conceptions is also aided by the conception of the common benefit, -- from which is derived the conception of what is considered just. But it is utterly wrong to assert, he wrote, that men were compelled by their rulers to be concerned about the law, or that they were concerned about it merely for the sake of benefit. Man's nature impelled him to act in this manner.

"Because," wrote Grotius, "even among the animals there are some who, for the sake of their children or their fellow creatures, will limit attention to their own wants, or even forget self. This, in our opinion, is due to a sort of knowledge coming from without, and constituting the principle of such acts, since in other, simpler acts this instinct is not noticeable." 20

A similar tendency to do kind acts toward others is found to a certain extent among children. Sound reason also acts in the same direction (§ 9). "The natural law," wrote Grotius, "is a rule suggested to us by reason, by means of which we judge the moral necessity or the moral inacceptability of an act, depending on its agreement or disagreement with rational nature itself" (with the very nature of reason, § 10, I).21

"More than that," continues Grotius, "the natural law is so unchangeable that God himself cannot change it. For, though God's power is exceeding, it may be said there are things over which it does not extend." (Book I, chapter I, § 10, 5.)

In other words, on combining the teachings of Bacon and Grotius, the origin of the moral conceptions becomes clear, if we recognize the instinct of sociality as the fundamental trait of Man. This instinct leads to the development of social life, with some inevitable concessions to personal egoism. Social life, in its turn, aids the development of the conceptions of tribal morality, which we find among all primitive savages. Furthermore, in the field of life which shapes itself under the influence of the unquestionably strong instinct of sociality, there is a continual activity of reason, which leads man to evolve more and more complicated rules of life, -- and these in turn serve to strengthen the dictates of the social instinct and the habits suggested by it. Thus occurs, in a natural way, the evolution of what we call law.

It is thus clear that the moral nature and conceptions of Man have no need of supernatural explanation. And indeed, during the second half of the eighteenth century, and in the nineteenth century, the majority of writers on morality pointed to its origin from a two-fold source: the inborn feeling, i.e., the instinct of sociality; and reason, which strengthens and develops that which is suggested to it by the hereditary emotion and by the habits that have evolved into instinct.

Those, on the other hand, who insisted on introducing into ethics a supernatural, "divine" element, explained the instinct of sociality and the social habits of man by divine suggestion, completely ignoring the fact that the instinct and the habits of sociality are common to the great majority of animals. I will add here that we have now learned that the habits of sociality are the surest weapon in the struggle for existence, and for this reason they are becoming more and more strengthened among the social species.

The interpretation of morality given by Bacon and Hugo Grotius, however, unavoidably led to the question: on what does reason base its conclusions in evolving the principles of morality?

There are suggestions of this question even in Ancient Greece, and at that time it was given various answers. Plato, -- especially during the later period of his life, -- and his followers, in explaining the moral conceptions of man as due to "love" suggested to man by supernatural powers, naturally ascribed to reason a very modest place. Man's reason served merely as the interpreter of the "Reason of Nature," i.e., of the suggestions of the supernatural power.

It is true that the skeptical schools of the Sophists, and later Epicurus and his school, Helped the thinkers of Ancient Greece to rid themselves of this religious ethics. These two schools, however, as well as others that did not recognize the interference of the Supernatural Will (e.g., the Cyrenaics and the followers of Aristotle), while attributing great importance to reason, ascribed to it, however, a very limited role, namely, -- only the evaluation of various acts and modes of life with the purpose of determining which of them are a surer road to man's happiness. The moral mode of life, they said, is that which gives the greatest personal happiness, and the most contented condition, not only to a single individual, but also to all. Happiness is freedom from evil; and owing to our reason, by renouncing momentary pleasures for the sake of the more permanent, future joys, we can select in our life that which leads us most surely toward the state of mental equilibrium, to general contentment, to harmonious life in accord with oneself, and also to the development of our personality in accordance with its individual peculiarities.

This view of ethics, consequently, rejects the pursuit of justice, -- of virtue so -- called, -- for their sole sake. It pays but slight attention to life guided by the ideal of love, as preached by Plato. To Reason is ascribed an especially great importance by Aristotle. But he sees the activity of reason in sensibleness and prudence, rather than in bold decision of free thought. His ideal is "correct" thinking, the curbing of acts that man is ready to commit under the influence of strong emotion, and a will that keeps to the "rational mean" as determined by the nature of each separate individual.

Aristotle rejected metaphysics and took his stand on a practical basis, naming as the starting point of all activity the striving for happiness, self-love (egoism). The same point of view, even more pronounced -- was held, as we have seen, by Epicurus and later by his followers throughout five or almost six centuries. And from the time of the Renaissance, i.e., from the sixteenth century, this point of view was shared by a succession of thinkers, including later the Encycloædists of the eighteenth century, and our contemporary utilitarians (Bentham, Mill), and naturalists (Darwin and Spencer).

But no matter how great the success of these teachings may have been, especially at the time when humanity felt the necessity of being liberated from the yoke of the Church and was endeavoring to open new ways to develop new forms of social life, these teachings, nevertheless, failed to solve the problem of the origin of the moral conceptions of man.

To say that man always strives for happiness and for the greatest possible freedom from evil, is merely to utter the forever obvious, superficial truth, expressed even in proverbs. And indeed, it has been often remarked that if the moral life led man to unhappiness, all morality would have long ago vanished from the world. But such a generalization is insufficient. There is no doubt that a desire for the greatest happiness is inherent in every living creature; in the final analysis man is guided by this desire. But this is precisely the essence of the question that now concerns us. "Why, -- due to what mental or sense process, combined with some considerations which we call 'moral, '-- does man so often renounce that which would unquestionably give him pleasure? Why does he often suffer all kinds of privations in order not to violate his moral ideal?" But the answer offered by the aforementioned thinkers of Ancient Greece, and later also by a whole series of utilitarian thinkers, does not satisfy our mind; we feel that the case is not limited to mere prudent weighing of pleasures and to mere renunciation of personal pleasures for the sake of other stronger and more permanent joys. We feel that we have here to deal with something more complicated, and at the same time something more general.

Aristotle partially understood this when he wrote that a man to whom two alternatives are open, acts wisely if he adopts that decision which does not bring conflict into his inner self and gives him a greater satisfaction with himself. We strive for joy, honor, respect, etc., he wrote, not only for their own sake, but chiefly for the sake of the sense of satisfaction which they give to our reason. As we have seen, the same idea was repeated in a still better form by Epicurus. But if the part played by reason is accepted in this form, the question arises: "Just what is it in our reason that is satisfied in such cases?" And if the question is put thus, then, as we shall see later, the answer will necessarily be: "the need of justice," i.e., of equity. However, admitting that Aristotle and Epicurus did put to themselves this question, they gave no such answer. The entire structure of the society of their time, based as it was on slavery for the majority, -- the entire spirit of society were both so far removed from justice and from its inevitable consequence-equity (equality in rights) that it is quite probable that Aristotle and Epicurus had not even thought of asking themselves the question.

However, at present, when the day of the old philosophy is over, we can no longer be satisfied with the conclusions of these two thinkers, and we ask ourselves: "Why is it that a more developed mind finds greatest satisfaction just in those decisions which turn out to be the best for the interests of all? Is there not some deep-lying, physiological cause for this fact?"

We have already seen the answer given to this question by Bacon and then by Darwin (see Chap. II). In man, said they, as in all herding animals, the instinct of sociality is developed to such an extent as to be stronger and more permanent than those other instincts that can be grouped together under the common name of the instinct of self-preservation. Moreover, in man, as in a rational being that has been living the social life for tens of thousands of years, reason aided the development and the observance of such usages, customs, and rules of life, as led to a fuller development of social life, -- and as a consequence came the development of each separate individual.

But even this answer cannot completely satisfy us. From our personal experience we know how often, in the struggle between clashing impulses, narrowly egoistic feelings are victorious over feelings of a social nature. We see this in individuals as well as in entire societies. And we come, therefore, to the conviction, that if human reason did not have an inherent tendency to introduce into its decisions a corrective social factor, then the narrowly egoistic decisions would always gain the mastery over the judgments of a social nature. And, as we shall see in later chapters, such a corrective factor is applied. It springs, on the one hand, from our deep-seated instinct of sociality, as well as from sympathy toward those with whom our lot is cast, -- a sympathy developed in us as a result of social life. On the other hand, it derives from the conception of justice inherent in our reason.

The further history of moral teachings will confirm this conclusion.


1Guyau pointed out in his excellent treatise on the philosophy of Epicurus, that this philosophy in the course of a few centuries united many excellent men; and this is perfectly true. In the mass of humanity there is always a nucleus composed of men whom no amount of philosophizing, be it religious or utterly skeptical, can make better or worse in the social sense. But side by side with these there are masses of average people who are forever vacillating and forever fall in with the predominant teaching of the time. For this majority, weak in character, the philosophy of Epicurus served as the justification of their social indifference, The others, however, who sought for an ideal, turned to religion to find it. [For the reference to Guyau's work on Epicurus, see foot-note, page 104]. -- Trans. Note.

2The word "Buddha" means "teacher."

3With the end of the Glacial Period, and then of the Lake Epoch which followed during the melting of the ice sheet, there began a rapid drying-up of the high table-lands of Central Asia. These lands are now unpeopled deserts, with the remnants of once populous cities now buried in sand. This drying-up compelled the inhabitants of the table-lands to descend to the south, -- to India, and to. the north, -- to the low-lands of Jungaria and Siberia, whence they moved westward to the fertile plains of South Russia and western Europe. Entire peoples migrated in this manner, and it is easy to imagine what horror these migrations inspired in the other peoples who were already settled on the plains of Europe. The newcomers either plundered the native peoples or annihilated the population of entire regions where resistance was offered. What the Russian people lived through in the thirteenth century, at the time of the Mongol invasion, Europe experienced during the first seven or eight centuries of our era, on account of the migrations of the hordes that advanced, one after the other, from Central Asia. Spain and South France suffered similarly from the invasion of the Arabs, who advanced upon Europe from North Africa, due to the same causes of drying-up. (Of the lakes. Kropotkin's reference to the "Lake" Epoch -- a name not found in several standard works on geology-seems to refer to a subdivision of the late-Glacial (Pleistocene) Epoch, when lakes were drying up in parts of the "old" and the "new" world.] --Trans. Note.

4The evangelist St. Luke testifies to the existence of many such records in the opening passage of his gospel, (ch. i, 1-4) where he compiles and extends previous records.

5Disturbances in Judea began, apparently, in the very years when Christ was preaching. (See St. Luke, xiii, I and St. Mark, xv, 7).

6In Russia this prohibition remained in force up to 1859 or 1860. I vividly remember the impression produced in Petersburg by the first appearance of the New Testament in the Russian language, and I remember how we all hastened to buy this unusual edition at the Synod Typography, the only place where it could be obtained.

7There exists voluminous literature on the subject of the preparing of the ground for Christianity by the teaching of Plato, especially by his doctrines as to the soul; also by the teachings of the Stoics, and by some adaptations from earlier teachings. One may mention especially the work by Harnack, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentbums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten, 1902, [Leipzig, 2 vols. Trans., N. Y., 1908, 2 vols. (Theological Trans. Library, vols. 19, 20.)] -- Trans. Note.

8See, for example, the description of the life of the Aleuts, who at that time were still making knives and arrows of stone. (The description given by the priest, Venyaminov, later Metropolitan of Moscow, in his Memoirs of the Unalashkinsky District, St. Petersburg, 1840). See also the exactly similar descriptions of the Eskimos of Greenland, recently furnished by a Danish Expedition. [The Eskimo Tribes, by Dr. Henry Rink, vol. 11 of Denmark, Commissionen, for ledelsen af de geologiske og geografiske undersogelser I Grontand. Kobenbaven. (1887-1923).] -- Trans. Note.

9[Chapter xiii of St. Mark does not make this assertion, but Chapter viii of his gospel and a similar section of Matthew's account, conveys the same idea in words somewhat different from those Kropotkin uses in his paraphrase.] -- Trans. Note.

10In the Mosaic Law, in the aforementioned passage from Leviticus (xix, 18), we already meet with the words, "Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people." This commandment, however, stands alone and there are no traces of it in the subsequent history of Israel. On the contrary, in another passage, namely in Exodus, xxi, 21, it is permitted to strike with impunity one's slave or maid-servant, provided only that they do not die within a day or two, and finally, as among all groups still living according to the tribal system, in case of a fight "if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound stripe for stripe" (vv. 23 to 25).

11 "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well," wrote St. Peter when such beasts as Caligula and Nero reigned in Rome. (The First Epistle General of Peter, ii, 13, 14), And further, "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward," etc. (Ibid, 18-25). And as regards the advices that St. Paul gave to his flock, it is really disgusting to speak of them; they were in direct contradiction to the teaching of Christ. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God" . . . "He (the ruler) is the minister of God." (Epistle to the Romans, xiii, 1-5). He sacrilegiously ordered the slaves to obey their masters "like Christ"; at any rate, this is the statement made in his Epistle to the Ephesians, [vi, 51, which is recognized by the Christian Churches as the genuine Epistle of St. Paul. As to the masters, instead of urging them to renounce the labor of the slaves, he merely advised them to be moderate -- "moderating their strictness". Moreover, St. Paul exhorts to special obedience those slaves who "have believing masters...because they are faithful and beloved." [The first Epistle to Timothy, vi, 2; Colossians, iii, 22]; Titus, ii, 9, and iii, 1. [The translators have corrected several faulty references of the original.] -- Trans. Note.

12Eugene Sue, in his remarkable novel Les mystères du peuple: histoire d'une famille de prolétaires à travers les âges, gives a deeply stirring scene where the Great Inquisitor reproaches Christ for his error in being too merciful to men. As is known, Dostoyevsky, a great admirer of Sue, introduced a similar scene into his novel, The Brothers Karamazov. In order to realize fully to what an extent the Church interfered with the free development of Ethics, and of all the natural sciences, it is sufficient to survey the rule of the Inquisition up to the nineteenth century. In Spain it was destroyed only in 1808 by the French army, after having subjected to its judgment, and almost invariably to its tortures, in the course of 320 years, more than 340,000 people, among whom 32,000 were burned "in person," 17,659 "in effigy," and 291,450 were subjected to various tortures, In France the Inquisition was abolished only in 1772. Its power was so great that it made even such a moderate writer as Buffon renounce publicly his geological conclusions as to the antiquity of the geological layers, which he had expressed in the first volume of famous description of the animals populating the globe. In Italy, although the Inquisition was locally abolished at the end of the eighteenth century, it was soon reestablished and continued to exist in Central Italy up to the middle of the nineteenth century. In Rome, i.e., in Papal Rome, its remnants still exist in the form of the Secret Tribunal, while certain groups of the Jesuits of Spain, Belgium, and Germany still advocate its reestablishment. [The novel referred to here is in fifteen volumes; many of these have appeared in English, N. Y., 1910, etc.] -- Trans. Note.

13In recent times, especially in Germany and in Russia, the conceptions of "culture" and civilization are often confused. They were, however, clearly distinguished in the 'sixties. The term "culture" was then applied to the development of the external conveniences of life: hygiene, means of communication, elegance of house-furnishing, etc., while the term "civilization," or enlightenment, was applied to the development of knowledge, thought, creative genius, and striving for a better social system.

14 Draper, in his treatise, Conflicts of Science with Religion, showed how many elements were admingled to Christianity from the heathen cults of Asia Minor, Egypt, etc. He did not, however, give sufficient attention to the much greater influence of Buddhism, which to this time remains insufficiently investigated. [John Williams Draper, History of the conflict between religion and science. N. Y., 1875.] -- Trans. Note.

15The works of the great founder of Natural Science, Aristotle, became known for the first time in medieval Europe through the translation from the Arabian language into Latin.

16The Crusades caused vast movements of population. A peasant-serf who sewed a cross upon his sleeve and joined the crusaders became free from serfdom.

17There are many excellent treatises covering this period of history, but they are passed over in silence by our state schools and universities. The reader will find a list in my book, Mutual Aid, where there is also given a brief sketch of life in the medieval free cities.

18The remarkable work of Giordano Bruno, Spaccio della bestia trionfante, published in 1584, passed almost unnoticed. Similarly, Charron's book De la sagesse, published in 1601 (in the edition of 1604 the bold passage about religion is omitted) where the attempt was made to base morality on plain common sense, was not widely known, it appears, outside of France. However, Montaigne's Essais (1588), where variety of forms in religion is vindicated, met with great success. [In Bruno's Opere italiane, Gottinga, 1888, two vols. in one. And see Vincenzo Spampanato, Lo Spaccio de la bestia trionfante con alcuni antecedenti, Portici, 1902, Charron's De la Sagesse, Bourdeaus, 1601, reprinted Paris, 1797, three vols. in two. English translation, Of wisdome: three books..., by Samson Lennard, London, 1615; and by Geo. Stanhope, London, 1707, 2 vols.] -- Trans. Note.

19It is remarkable that Jodl, the historian of Ethics, who is very keen to note all new influences in ethical philosophy, also fails to give due credit to the few words in which Bacon expressed his idea. Jodl saw in these words the echo of Greek philosophy, or of the so-called natural law, lex naturalis (1573); whereas Bacon, in deriving morality from sociality, which is inherent in man as well as in the majority of animals, gave a new, scientific explanation of the primary foundations of morality.

20I quote from the French translation: De jure bellis. Le Droit de guerre et de paix, traduit du latin par M. de Cortin, La Haye, 1703. Préface, §7. [The first edition of this French translation appeared in Amsterdam, 1688; the 1703 edition is credited to M. de Vourtin, 3 vols. English translations: The rights of war and peace, by A. C. Campbell, N. Y., and London, 1901; and Selections, by W. S. M. Knight, London, 1922.] -- Trans. Note.

21 [Kropotkin gives the two possible interpretations of the clause.] -- Trans. Note.

From : Anarchy Archives

(1842 - 1921)

Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism

: As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From: Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "To recognize all men as equal and to renounce government of man by man is another increase of individual liberty in a degree which no other form of association has ever admitted even as a dream." (From: "Communism and Anarchy," by Peter Kropotkin, 1901.)
• "The fatherland does not exist.... What fatherland can the international banker and the rag-picker have in common?" (From: "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
• "The communes of the next revolution will proclaim and establish their independence by direct socialist revolutionary action, abolishing private property. When the revolutionary situation ripens, which may happen any day, and governments are swept away by the people, when the middle-class camp, which only exists by state protection, is thus thrown into disorder, the insurgent people will not wait until some new government decrees, in its marvelous wisdom, a few economic reforms." (From: "The Commune of Paris," by Peter Kropotkin, Freedo....)


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