Re: Chapter Three - The Seventh Proof
I am pleased that KindaSkolarly is responding on these earlier chapters of Master and Margarita, as it reminds me to also look again at the discussion. Here, in this satirical ‘proof of the existence of God’, it is interesting to consider this comparison you raise to the Apocalypse. I’m sure that Bulgakov felt that Russia was experiencing a type of apocalypse with the Bolshevik plague of devils. I also think you are on to a good point about the imagery; just as the early Christian church faced severe persecution and so had to limit its public documents to cryptic code, so too the White Russians like Bulgakov knew that honest statements of truth are deadly.
The old communist anthem The Internationale includes the line “reason in revolt now thunders”, making the central propaganda point that communism is on the side of logic while fascism promotes reactionary obscurity. That claim breaks down when we see that “reason” can be twisted into the “logic” that if we “expropriate the expropriators”, as proposed in the toxic Marxist jargon, then everyone can be rich. No matter that this “reason” ignores the real analysis of wealth creation; when a myth appears attractive to a mass audience on purely emotional grounds of resentment and envy, then saying it is “reasonable” only adds to its allure and power.
This same logic applies to the atheist argument that God does not exist, for which Lenin and Stalin were probably the top practical advocates, by murdering tens of thousands of priests, banning Christmas, and turning cathedrals into stables. Their League of the Militant Godless did not restrict their methods to polite Kantian syllogisms, but involved gross intimidation and suppression of any public expression of religion.
Perhaps Bulgakov’s seventh proof, that the existence of the devil proves the existence of God, really means that when a society allows aggressive lostness to take control, it is handing the keys of the kingdom to Satan, and that belief in God, including respect for tradition and authority, is a valuable bulwark against such insane delinquency.
The ambiguity in Kant’s position on religion is interesting. He was pilloried by the pious as the ‘all-destroyer’ for his observation that the Five Ways of Saint Thomas do not constitute a formal proof of the existence of God. Aquinas said that if we can imagine a perfect being, that being must exist because existence is better than non-existence. On the logical surface that is an absurd argument, and Kant dissected it with the formal observation that existence is not a real predicate. Others have said the spirit of Aquinas is more about resources for contemplation than about logical empirical arguments about what entities exist. There is a political trickery involved in the Enlightenment critique of Thomism. The Enlightenment philosophy of the eighteenth century which gave rise to Marxism was directed more against the stagnant economy produced by monasticism, and instead advocating robust science as the primary route to truth. This mockery of the sacred in the name of reason proved sadly superficial, as it degenerated into a tool in the hands of Stalin to destroy religion.
I am sure many pious preachers over history have agreed with the devil in this assessment of the wickedness of modern secular philosophy. Piety intrinsically involves humility about the capacity of reason to explain reality, whereas Kantian philosophy opens the path to maximising the role of reason in society. While on the face that seems an admirable objective, the dialectical materialist degeneration of Kant’s pure brilliance led in turn to Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, as the increasingly grotesque devolutionary mutant product of the original high ideals of a logical society.
Further to your point on Kant’s naïveté, his belief was that our minds structure our reality and experience. This belief, as interpreted in the fetid claws of Lenin and Stalin, became ‘democratic centralism’, the dictatorship of the Bolshevik clique, dressing up mad tyranny as representing the poor, deprived and oppressed workers of the world, consigning millions to the gulag.
The magical realist novel creates its own satirical laws of nature, including that the devil can appear as an urbane foreigner on the streets of Moscow. It is entirely a parable. If there were real evidence that the devil is a conscious entity who makes accurate predictions then modern knowledge of physics would be somewhat discombobulated. The only proof outside the story here is that the Leninist contempt for religion, which prompts Berlioz to express such disdain about the devil, leads to bad consequences for society.
Yes, Karl Marx presented himself as the prophet of a communist utopia, imagining that equality, if not freedom, could be produced by abolishing private property. There is a strong element of self-fulfilling momentum in such views, which serve as hypotheses to be tested in a petri dish like Russia. Sadly, an inevitable mould rapidly killed that dream.