“Can we, the people of the end of the 20th century, hope that we will find the strength to overcome the crisis that threatens the destruction of European Christian culture?” – asks Piotr Kalinowski in his book “The Transition. The last illness, death and after.” In it, the Russian-born physician-surgeon deals with the human phenomenon and tragedy of death, examining the various religious teachings that attempt to “explain” it, and sourcing materials from medicine, physics, and chemistry, thereby attempting to overcome the opposition between religion and science.
“The whole life of man, private and public, is based on the belief in the immortality of the soul. This is the highest idea, without which neither man nor nation could exist.” ~ F. M. DOSTOEVSKY
Before our eyes, in the time of one or two generations, life on earth takes on a new appearance. Material success surpasses all imagination, but at the same time the spiritual life is extinguished. Material enrichment while impoverishing the spirit. Growth of knowledge with loss of wisdom. The main reason for the new image of life is the loss of faith in everything spiritual. This is a crisis of the European Christian culture. Is there hope?
This book is about the modern understanding of death. It has long been known that in order for a major scientific discovery to become available to the masses, at least two or three generations must change. This, of course, does not apply to some small technical improvement. But if today, one of the bright minds of humanity sees and understands something new, important for revising our entire understanding of the world and our way of life, then only our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be able to absorb the meaning and significance of this new thing.
Human thought is much more conservative and lazy than it is commonly thought. There are, of course, people with a lively mind, thinking with their own head, who will be able to immediately, from the first acquaintance, absorb the new knowledge or idea, or at least take an interest in it. But many just blindly, without much thinking or reflection, accept everything that is currently present in their time – its scientific and social theories, its morals, ethics and beliefs. Their understanding of the world is formed in school and university, through the newspaper and magazine, popular lectures, radio and television. Feeling at the level of the current age, they already know everything, do not need anything new, and accept the new and unusual slowly and with difficulty, only when it becomes impossible not to notice it.
We live in a very interesting and difficult time. Probably never before has there been such a predominance of the material over the spiritual. The world does not stand still. Even the philosophers of Ancient Greece knew that “everything flows, everything changes”, but never in the past have these changes been so deep and fast.
Something new is entering the world, not only the way of human life is changing, but also the people themselves. We are witnessing a phenomenal and rapid growth of material knowledge and capabilities, the assimilation and, one might say, the subjugation of the material world by man. But at the same time, spiritual values are lost, disdain for the spiritual world and withdrawal from it further develops and strengthens.
In a short time we have mastered the power of steam, electricity, the latent energy of the atom. We dominate not only the animal and plant world, but also the micro-organism world. Our medicine literally works miracles. We have begun the exploration of space. Our material successes are beyond imagination.
At the same time, spiritual life is extinguished and indifference, and sometimes even hostility to everything spiritual grows. Sometimes the completely lost faith is lost, not only in God and the immortality of the soul, but also in everything that is higher than matter. The norms of behavior given by all major religions are becoming a thing of the past. New norms are recommended and accepted, less strict and more pleasant than those with which we have lived for several millennia. People acquire more and more rights and less and less obligations.
Everywhere in the world freedom is dying – political, economic and personal. Freedom is needed by the individual to realize his higher spiritual creative aspirations. Creative freedom is not necessary for the use of material goods. There are many people who do not value freedom and do not need it.
In totalitarian countries, this or that form of slavery was introduced openly, often with the approval and even jubilation of a large part of the population. In countries that have not completely lost their freedom, almost all newly enacted laws increase the dependence of the country’s inhabitants on its rulers.
Life is easier without freedom. More and more people are sacrificing their freedom in exchange for a comfortable and peaceful life. They don’t have to make any decisions, less responsibilities, and even the education of their own children they can leave in the hands of the state.
It’s easy to live if you’re not responsible for anything, but then you lose the most important thing – life without responsibilities is always soulless.
The appearance of the person himself changes, the relationships between people change, as well as the people themselves. The deep bonds between men and women, between parents and children are being lost.
The most respected in human life has always been the family. In our time, families are breaking up fast. So-called “partners” change frequently. Contraceptives are used from the age of 14. Abortions are accepted by society as something quite natural. The young married couple is in no hurry to have children: first they need to ensure complete comfort, and children are a burden, new obligations, more difficulties than happiness and joy.
More and more men and women are gaining a wealth of experience in sexual intercourse without ever having experienced the feeling of true love. You must be able to receive pleasures without tying yourself to any obligations. We have stopped respecting ourselves and others, even our loved ones.
Our attitude towards work and creativity is changing. More and more people do not like to work. Work, even if it is creative, does not bring them joy. Every effort is unpleasant and seems unnecessary to them. Their lives are reduced to the incessant pursuit of entertainment and the pursuit of new and new pleasures, even if they are fleeting and useless. But a life devoid of inner content turns out to be unnecessary and empty.
Of course, not everything on earth is bad, there are also good things. There are many people who have found some support and have kept their peace of mind. They live humanly and work for their own good and for the good of others. But they are becoming less and less. Mudflow, vice, indifference to good or evil flood our planet. In the luxuriant flowering of material possibilities, we live in an age of moral degeneration and loss of spirituality. Love, concern for others, sincerity in relationships, honesty, human dignity are leaving the world. Life became lonely and cold.
Why? What happened to the people? The explanations, of course, can be different, but the main reason is obvious – it is the loss of faith in everything spiritual. If there is no immortality of the soul, then there is no soul at all, only a body, and then what is the meaning of my life on earth?
Well, if with death my existence ends and nothing will exist for me, nor will I exist myself, then why should I plan anything, work hard, try to create something new and permanent? In the name of what should I acquire new knowledge, cultivate new qualities in myself, why should I even think about the future? While I still have time I must take from life all that it can give me – I must eat, drink, love, get power and honors, etc. I don’t have to think about anything difficult and unpleasant, and of course, not to allow the thought of death. This is how modern people perceive life.
The entertainment industry is booming. Entertainment and escapism of all kinds are more abundant now than ever before. Perhaps during the decline of the Roman Empire there were as many.
However, this does not bring happiness, peace and balance. This is where alcoholism, senseless crime and suicide come from. And behind this is the deeply instinctive fear of death – not to remember it, not to think about it.
It is still impossible not to think about the meaning of life at all. Everyone, albeit from time to time, asks the question: “Well, what next?” How will it all end? And my children? What kind of world will our children live in?”
There have been periods in human history similar to our time. The exhaustion of life and the decay of morals, depravity and spiritlessness led to the loss of vital forces and threatened the people with destruction, degeneration or conquest by a less civilized but stronger and viable enemy. It is enough to read the Bible or the history of Rome to understand how or why great civilizations perished. The reason was the disease of the people – the loss of spirituality, after which inevitable destruction followed. It was not so much the vices and debauchery in themselves that were pernicious but rather the tolerance and indifference of the people to any vice.
The other extreme also happened in human history. Already on the edge of the abyss, the people found living forces within themselves and overcame the disease. Something new was entering the world. In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, prophets and saints called people to come to their senses and give up their wicked way of life. The statesmen heard their appeals, introduced laws severely punishing the spreaders of vice and were helping those who set out on the right path. There were enough people responding to the calls and the people were recovering their damaged vital forces. Night was changing to day again.
Can we, the people of the end of the 20th century, hope that we will find the strength to overcome the crisis that threatens the destruction of European Christian culture?
Not long ago, Solzhenitsyn published his appeal “Let’s not live with a lie.” Christian and other religions are still alive with their eternal, bright commandments. There are still numerous honest pastors of the Church, writers, scientists who call us to think, stop and draw conclusions. But the crumbs of truth sink into the mass of the most diverse and contradictory opinions and proposals on every issue. The television screens, the radio, the newspapers, the popular lectures – what are they talking about and what are they teaching all these means of brainwashing? Many lies, many invitations to pleasures, to all kinds of pleasures, and above all, such an amount of new and new opinions and “discoveries” that there is no possibility left for a person to think and direct himself in all this. The word is distorted and another meaning is given to it, often the opposite of the real one.
All this led to the fact that people got used to not believing anything except what they could verify with their five organs of perception. Fewer and fewer people believe in the “tales” of the immortality of the soul and the life of the soul after the death of the body. Modern mass man believes only in tangible reality, only in facts. He believes in science, or rather in what he considers to be science, he believes in nothing immaterial, and the requirements of religion for him are optional and meaningless. For him, the world is matter and, at that, unspiritual matter. What the Apostle Paul predicted is coming true: “A time will come when men will not endure sound teaching, but, led by their lusts, will gather for themselves teachers to tickle their ears” (2 Tim. 4:3). Humanity is moving down towards a bad end.
It can be said that unless a miracle occurs and something new and irrefutable emerges to make people reconsider their materialistic understanding of the world, then Christianity and the Christian way of life derived from it will soon disappear forever from the face of The Earth.
The Transition. The Last Illness, Death and After.” Pyotr Kalinowski