Solzhenitsyn, the Prophet
By Robert C. Cheeks
Eric Voegelin, Why Philosophize? To Recapture Reality!
Not too many weeks ago a book arrived which I immediately opened upon returning home from work. The cover page carried the distinct visage of a bearded, long-haired older gentleman who I at once recognized as Alexksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn. I flashed the book at she-who-must-be-obeyed (if I may borrow from Rumpole) and commented that Isaevich is, "...a great writer and philosopher."
Surely, I thought, my astute comment would impress the wife, an ardent student of C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Christian Theology.
"Indeed," she replied, "he is that, but he is first a prophet!"
Now that is something I hadn't considered, Solzhenitsyn as prophet. So as I read the book something the philosopher Eric Voegelin had written popped into my head. In his essay, Why Philosophize? To Recapture Reality! (Autobiographical Reflections, University of Missouri Press, 2006) Professor Voegelin argues that Solzhenitsyn found that Marxism had corrupted and degraded language to such a degree that the truth of existence was in question. Solzhenitsyn, then, resisted the deformations of Marxist dogma by embracing the "reality of Reason."
It was a very brave thing for Solzhenitsyn to do. He placed his life in jeopardy in his search for truth and he would pay an horrific price. But in all of those years spent in confinement, of one sort or another, he continuously wrote. He told us stories, "...in the tradition of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy," that explicate the age in which we live; its perversions and distortions that have disordered man's very existence.
The significance of Isaevich's work lay in the realization that "history is the process in which eternal being realizes itself in time and secondly, philosophy makes conscious the differentiated knowledge of the process."
God, then, is experienced at those moments when He "irrupts" in time and is "realized" in the "soul of the philosopher, the lover of wisdom, who desires eternal being and, in love, opens his soul to its irruption."
In the introduction of The Solzhenitsyn Reader the editors tell us of Isaevich's questioning unrest as a young communist that began his search for truth. It was a seminal noetic experience and culminated in an understanding of the Marxists' rejection of the Question. And, we can observe, in his writings, that he has avoided the "pathological derailment" as he seeks the truth of reality along the tension of immanent being and the divine.
Edited by Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Daniel F. Mahoney
Intercollegiate Studies Institute