What is the right, and what is the left? Do they represent economic interests? Are they mere political designations? Might they signify metaphysical or moral doctrines? What if the answer is — all the above? What if left and right were grounded in two opposing cosmological ideas? (Cosmology being a theory or belief about the origin of the universe.)
Our right/left terminology originated during the French Revolution. The National Assembly, which initially worked to transform France from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, debated how much power the king should have. Those who supported the king sat to the right of the assembly’s president. Those who opposed the king, sat on the left. It was also noticed that those who supported Christianity and the Church sat on the right. Consequently the right was described as “the party of order” and the left was described as “the party of movement.”
Recently a left-wing scholar claimed that the distinction of left and right was invented to serve the right. He says the right continues to benefit from a system of labeling in which “right” is the opposite of “wrong.” After all, the left-hand path has often been synonymous with evil. Why, indeed, would anyone accept a “leftist” label? The “left” is not merely a direction. It signifies something harmful, menacing, or ominous. One of the original definitions of the word “sinister” is “on the left side.”
Given the association of the left-hand side with evil, it might appear strange that radical French revolutionaries, socialists and communists should have accepted the designation of “leftist.” Yet, the designation was accepted because it made so much sense. In wanting to overthrow the authority of the Church, the leftists accepted that they were the enemies of God (even if they did not literally believe in the existence of God). Therefore the leftist label had symbolic profundity in it. In opposition to established ideas of good and evil, the left was advocating a godless cosmology.
The notion that the universe simply exists, without a divine intelligence or divine ordering behind it, was questioned twenty-four centuries ago by Aristotle in his Metaphysics. It was Aristotle who argued that the physical universe was a sequence of cause-and-effect that could not be traced back through an infinite succession of ages. Therefore the material universe had a beginning. It was caused by something outside itself — something Aristotle called “the unmoved mover.” Christian cosmology profited from Aristotle’s Metaphysics, a teaching which was integrated into Christianity by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Later scientific revelations that the universe began in a Big Bang added weight to Aristotle’s argument.
The Christian/Aristotelian cosmology was dominant for many centuries. The idea of a created universe inspired reverential awe in the philosophers and schoolmen. Creation logically entailed the existence of a Creator and the concept of a divine moral order. Opposed to this moral order was the great serpent, known to Egyptian and Greek mythology as a creature of darkness, envious of the light — in Judaism and Christianity we find this serpent in the Garden of Eden, as the Dragon of St. John’s Revelation, as the rebellious angel of Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Mankind’s oldest and most profound thoughts on good and evil are found in these stories and their symbols (which are still valid today). Writing on the nature and origin of evil, Aquinas explained, “God’s activity is of two kinds: creation and governance.” Aquinas then suggested that God’s goodness is not contradicted by the creation of evil because “evil is subject to his governance.” Having power over the whole of creation, God allows evil to exist as part of a divine plan leading to a greater good.
This is where the plot thickens. Our latter-day political struggles are directly connected to old legends, cosmologies and theologies. Today’s political stage bears witness to a tremendous spiritual drama. The left has rebelled against centuries of religious and philosophical teachings — imitating the evil serpent-god of destruction (known to the Egyptians as Apep). Under an undisguised banner of sinisterism (i.e., leftism), the left proposes a metaphysical rebellion. If we examine the works of Marx and Engels closely, their revolutionary rhetoric is not merely against capitalism. Their rhetoric denies moral accountability to a higher power. It casts aside the problem of evil by denying the existence of God. The Communist Manifesto called for the eradication of all moral values.
Properly understood, therefore, left and right are not ultimately grounded in questions of class privilege or the economic exploitation of the poor. The class struggle theme, while belonging to the left, is actually a sub-theme. The left is focused on the negation of Aristotle’s metaphysics and the denial of our oldest stories and symbols (excepting the snake in the Garden). Here is an attempt to negate our religion, our morality, our customs, our poetry, our very souls. As the advocate of this negation, the left revolutionary advances a new kind of religion, a new idea of the cosmos (materialism) by way of nihilism; that is, belief in a world without God-given order, purpose, or divinity. The left’s method is to invert all the concepts that underlie civilization.
The war between left and right, therefore, derives from diametrically opposed metaphysical and cosmological ideas. The resulting conflict is nothing less than a religious civil war. As such, there could not be a more momentous clash of true opposites. Here we find a serious danger to mankind: the enantiodromia described by Carl Jung as —
the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.
Somehow we have fallen out of balance with ourselves, transmogrifying into our shadow opposite. Enantiodromia is typically associated with acute neurosis, foreshadowing a process of spiritual rebirth (as anticipated in the Revelation of St. John). The people of our time are increasingly neurotic, as shown by the epidemic of clinical depression and drug abuse. We are tending toward collective madness, clearly reflected in our politics.
The material prosperity of our civilization has distracted nearly everyone from the flowering of this aforementioned mass neurosis. We avert our eyes, but the present political hysteria, which builds on itself, cannot make a happy end. The socialist revolutions in Russia (1917), Germany (1933), China (1949), et. al., were only first rumblings. Our present-day politicians and opinion-leaders utter such abominations that surely, everything is flipping to its opposite as Jung suggested. We might agree that the very concept of existence is being inverted.
What really defines a leftist politician is not social democracy or revolution, but the willingness to kill or be killed for the idea of an uncreated universe without intrinsic moral order. The social scientist might say, in passing, that every new religion establishes itself by demonizing the old religion, and persecuting those who cling to it. But the careful observer sees that the new religion (of the left) differs from all previous religions on three critical points: (1) its cosmology implies nihilism; (2) its moral precepts are fraudulent; (3) its politics leads to killing and destruction; consequently, (4) nothing can be built on it.
Essentially what we have is a bulldozer made for leveling.
That which has a future is always connected to some deep current from history. The shallow eddies come and go, without lasting effects; but the deep currents carry us along.
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