“THE JEWISH CIVILISATION” v1

SYNOPSIS

of

“THE JEWISH CIVILISATION”

by

Feliks Koneczny

19 7 5 LONDON

Published by the Committee for Publication of Koneczny’s posthumous work, c/o J. Giertych, 175 Carlingford Road, London N15 ЗЕТ

 Koneczny

PUBLISHERS NOTE

The present publication is being made mainly for those English speaking readers who acquainted themselves with the book “On the Plurality of Civilisations” by the profound Polish thinker, historian and philosopher of history, Feliks Koneczny (1862-1949) which appeared in 1962 in London in English trans­lation, with an Introduction by Anton Hilckman and Prefaces by Arnold Toynbee and Jędrzej Giertych.

Arnold Toynbee wrote in his Preface about that book: “It is one of several mutually independent studies of the structure of human affairs on the largest scale that have appeared in different parts of the Western World within the last two generations. (…) Koneczny has discussed the fundamen­tal questions raised by the study of civilizations and he arrives at definite and valuable conclusions. (…) He approached his generalisations from the four standpoints of a student of East European and Central Asian history, a Pole, a Roman Catholic Christian and a Westerner. (…) It is fortunate that there would have been a number of thinkers wrestling with the same problem from different standing-grounds in time and space. It is also fortunate that one of these voices should have been a Polish voice, since Poland has a word to say to the present-day West”.

It may interest those who did read “On the Plurality of Civilisations” to know that Koneczny developed and enlarged the ideas contained in that book (which was publised in the original Polish in Cracow in 1935) in a series of further works. Some of these works, written in part during the Second World War and even after its termination, could not have been published in Poland. It was possible only now (in 1973 and 1974) to publish posthumously two of these books in London in Polish.

The book summarised here in the English language, “The Jewish Civilisation”, was written in the years 1934-1945. Its author was an author of an original concept of the development of human affairs throughout the ages. His main contributions are the observations that civilisations should be primarily classified on the basis of their attitude to ethics, that no one can be civilized in two ways and that while civilisations interact with each other they are intrinsically incapable of synthesis.

He considers the so called Latin civilisation as being out­standing and superior in many ways. According to it, ethics (spiritual forces) govern all walks of life, including affairs of state. Ethics is the source of laws which are formulated a post­eriori by representatives of the people on the basis of what they consider just and unjust, i.e. on the basis of experience. Thus physical forces (the state) are to implement the laws and not to formulate them. In other civilisations ethics comes from laws f ormulated a priori. Thus only in the Latin civilisation is opposi­tion to the state legitimate and considered moral. Latin civilisa­tion is outstanding in other ways also. It created the notion of a nation as a spiritual entity, making a distinction between citizenship and nationality. One can be forced by circumstances into the former, but not into the latter, allegiance to which requires a moral choice. Rome was the first to create a public law sharply and fundamentally separated from private law and thus only in the Latin civilisation is the development of a struc­tured society possible as distinct from non-differentiated human agglomerate. Consciousness and control over time is developed most in the Latin civilisation—it allows for the awareness of the tie between past, present and future, of the responsibility for heritage.

All countries which used the Latin language in Mediaeval times basically belong to the Latin civilisation, but Europe has been under the influence of other civilisations also. The Turanian (from nomadic Mongols) has settled in Russia—in it the leader is the source of all law and is above ethics. The Byzantine which has also inherited Hellenistic and Oriental traditions of pre-Christian times, has been in permanent struggle with the civilisation of Western Christianity and proved dominant in several European countries including Germany—in it the State is the source of law and thus politics is not subject to ethics. Finally, the Jewish civilisation has infiltrated the whole of

Europe and made its mark everywhere, In it the Scriptures and the commentaries to them are the sources of all law and ethics is double—one in relation to co-religionists and another in relation to gentiles.

Having formulated his concept on what civilisations are based and how they can be classified in his fundamental work “On the Plurality of Civilisations”, Koneczny went on to expound his views on the significance of ethics in building civilisations in “The Development of Morality” (Lublin 1938). Then he made a detailed study of two civilisations, the Byzantine and the Jewish and finally a major summary of all his thinking on the philosophy of history in the yet unpublished “Laws of History”.*)

*)“On the Plurality of Civilisations” is available in English for £4.00, “The Byzantine Civilisation” and “The Jewish Civilisation” are available in Polish for £6,00 and £7.50 respectively from the Committee for Publication of Koneczny’s posthumous work, c/o J. Giertych, 175 Carling- ford Road, London N. 15 ЗЕТ

Vol. 1

FOUR RELIGIONS

I. On Biblical sources

The Biblical studies of St. Jerome which produced the Latin version known as The Vulgate preceded the oldest known Hebrew version, the Masora on which the Protestant version is based. Not being a Biblical scholar himself the author uses the Vulgate as the more reliable version. The Roman Catholic Church believes the Bible was inspired by God but not dictated by Him, while Jews and Protestants prefer to consider it being literarily the word of God. Thus Rome allows and encourages critical Biblical studies <that question much of the historical and human content in the books. The author favours this approach.

II. Between monolatry and monotheism

All Semitic peoples had a common God (Elohim, Arabic EL) Creator of the world described in Genesis, but when the Jews speak of Jahwe they mean ithe god of Abraham and Jacob, an Israeli god who made a contract with his chosen people, the Jews, who promised glory to his people and wrath to their enemies and their gods. This god belonging to one people only is monolatrous and not monotheistic. The Bible is full of evidence that Jewish religious thought wandered between monotheism, monolatry and polytheism. The latter being of non-Jewish origin finally disappeared a century before Christ under strong pressure from the Prophets. Christianity accepted the monotheistic universal elements in the Old Testament while the Jewish civilisation is based on monolatry

III. Sacrality of civilisations

The two sacral civilisations, Brahmin and Jewish have never influenced each other, yet they have much in common (a priori reasoning, exclusiveness, ideas about impurity in flesh, suspicion of “lay” science) which would suggest that these characteristics are inherent in sacral civilisations. Sacrality cannot evolve, it must be based on immutable rules, and when it affects all the walks of life it results in stagnation. A Hindu walks, sits, drinks, eats, works and sleeps in a religious way — and so does a Jew. The Bible is full of “divine” rules concern­ing secular matters. Jewish Law is based not on experience (as in Rome) but on the Scriptures which are being continually studied to find answers to all questions. Thus Jewish ethics are based on Law and not the law on ethics. Exclusiveness relates ethics to the chosen people only. In dealings with non- Jews this code of ethics is not obligatory.

IV.Social structure

Originally among (the nomadic Jews the social structure developed naturally in response to external circumstances. However Moses fixed the structure sacrally, and from there on it is artificially being maintained against natural tendencies. The number of tribes, land sharing, inheritance rules, passing on of leadership, family structure and jurisprudence are all fixed permanently for all time. Two generations after David, their kingdom split into two, the role of kings declined and the prime authority moved to the High Priests (theocracy).

V. Diaspora in antiquity

First Israel and then Judea fell respectively to Assyria and Babylon, the Jews became dispersed and they learned how to trade from their conquerors. When allowed to return to Palestine by Persia’s Cyrus only few religious zealots did so, since life in the diaspora proved easier. Their remunerative involvement in international trade was to become permanent, first under Babylon, then Greece, the Arabs and finally in pro­gressive XIX cent. Europe. For demographic reasons emigra­tion became a permanent necessity which resulted in their penetration of all parts of the civilised world. With wealth came interest in universal knowledge, but contact with Greek and Egyptian monotheistic trends did not make them accept an universal God because the Jews were careful to maintain their monolatric exclusiveness. They accepted from universal knowledge only what could be related to the content of the Law. They became Hellenized only in language.

Wherever they settled, including ancient Rome, they were first admired for their monotheism and operativeness but soon when their monolatric exclusiveness was recognised they became despised for their hatred of the human race, for lack of in­ventiveness, for avoidance of taxes and military service, for bribery. Prosecutions followed. Jewish uprisings were always in defence of their right to sacral exclusiveness. After the des­truction of Jerusalem the daily prayer for return from the diaspora was introduced, but the diaspora itself is several centuries older. They entered all civilized lands, but they were never pioneers among the primitive people as were the Phoenicians, Hellens and Romans.

Monotheistic Jews accepted Christianity, and the Latin language. They were excluded from the monolatrous Greek speaking Jewish communities and prosecuted by them. The Talmud was developed to preserve the sacrality of Jews in the diaspora.

VI. Talmud and Karaism

The Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch while the Pharisees considered that tradition also held revealed truths and therefore they included among the Holy Books com­mentaries to the Law written between the 1st cent. B.C. and 189 A.D., known as the Mishna. Soon it proved insufficient and the commentary to the Mishna—the Gemara was written by rabbis, men learned in the Law. Mishna and Gemara constitute the Talmud. The Talmud was later commented upon, and the commentaries served as subject matter for further comments. In this way the Jewish learning developed with ages. Nothing new, but interpretations of the Law covering all situations in life always in the name oif the Law and under pain of sin.

The Sadduceic trend persisted, Karaites are those Jews who do not accept the Talmud, who base all commentaries on the Pentateuch only. They emancipated their women, par­ticipated in lay knowledge (under Arabs), frequently accepted

the monotheistic universality of the Arabs, used Arabic language, and thus were more widely read and became stronger while the Talmudists wrote only in Aramaic. When the Talmud­ists finally started to write in Arabic in the IX cent., the golden era of Jewish learning began. Being united they eclipsed the Karaites who had many sects using various interpretations of the Law. Vestigial Karaite communities still exist.

Polemics with the Karaites increased knowledge of the Law itself, which became obscured by the Talmud. Finally Maimo- nides justified and edited a simplified version of the Talmud, “Mishnetora” which omitted, without rejecting, much of the original. New commentaries multiplied and summaries developed. One of these was the Shulhan Arukh.

VII. Shulhan Arukh

The summary known as Shulhan Arukh became best known and generally recognised as obligatory for Talmudic Jews. It is by no means short nor is it devoid of the chaotic arrangement of the Talmud. Since it was translated into German it gives the best insight into Jewish thought. The author gives samples of its content — of the rules by which it requires observant Jews to live, very specific and very demanding, attaching to all functions a sacral significance. Even this summary of the Talmud contains several hundreds of thousands of rules. It is 1000 years younger than the Talmud, but still fully monolatrous.

VIII. Cabbala

Jewish thought, both monotheistic and monolatrous was based on creationism and successfully resisted the Asiatic emanatism with which it was frequently in contact. It was only at the turn of the IX and X cent, that neoplatonism instilled emanatism into Jewish thought. Messianic promises of the glory of Israel seemed far and unattainable with the multitude of sins the Talmud has specified, and therefore new ideas suggesting that the promises may come piecemeal in the form of miracles became attractive. Rule over matter through the intercession of evil spirits was a philosophy well received by the masses. Study of the divine significance of the Hebrew

alphabet, of the name of God — JHWH, of God’s attributes, became an occult science (practised also now by freemasons), Playing with holy letters, demonology, oaths, descriptions of God as well as gnostic ideas, created a complex system that was written down in the books of the Cabbala: Sepher Yetzirah and Zohar. The latter affected Christian thought. Some thought the “Cabbalistic trinity” represented a tendency towards Chris­tianity. Alchemists, and astrologists all dabbled in the Cabbala, which expanded beyond Judaism. Jewish astrologists, officially condemned for unorthodox practices, existed since Babilonian times and they flourished in XV-XVI cent. Muscovy as a cab­balistic sect.

The Messiah was assumed to come at some specified date after the fall of Rome (first imperial and later Christian). With each false prediction the date was moved forward on the basis of some new interpretation of the Hebrew letters. The Messiah was to be preceded by messianic men. Sabbatei Zevi (1626-76) who preached Cabbala without Talmud in Turkey, nominally accepted Islam but continued to have wide Jewish following and started a dynasty of messianic men that ended with Jacob Frank in XVIII cent. Poland. Cabbala was to find most devout and numerous followers in ХѴІП cent. Poland and Lithuania. Many undertook severe penance and prayed for the early coming of the Messiah. Salomon Maimon (1754-1800), a cabbalistic scholar wrote in German. The author gives examples of his muddled thinking.

IX Pilpul and Hasidism

Hasid means pious, and groups calling themselves so have been known since antiquity, but these have no historical link with the sect started by Judah Hasid in the late XVII cent. Poland. It is a branch of gnosis based on the wish to dominate supernatural forces and even to impose man’s will on God. It is a derivative of the Cabbala.

A century earlier Jacob the Pole developed a system of talmudistic contemplation coupled with certain body movements known as the “pilpul”. Hasidism incorporated it and expanded it. Prayer became a joyous function, with dances etc., leading to an ecstasis. This was a revival of ritual dances, which later included also women. God was credited with sexual dualism. Migration of souls was believed in.

In Lithuania, a centre of Hebrew scholarship, the Talmu­dists condemned the Hasidim who spread West. They dominated the Jewish communities in Poland proper.

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but no theology that would split them permanently. The only thing in common is the Torah annd the belief in Messianism. The chosen people were to propagate monotheism, but they discarded that duty and assumed that their mission was to dominate the world in the glory of Israel. This belief keeps them together.

X.  Facing Islam and Christianity

Christianity developed within the Jewish community and within its religion. It took much of the religious forms (liturgical etc.) as well as the Old Testament from Judaism, but this never served as a binding factor between the two religions. Converts among the Jews were few, and the early Christians were primarily Greeks or proselites from Hellenism. Thus much of the Christian spirit is of Hellenic origin. Rome in 63 A.D. distinguished Christians from Jews. Judaic roots in Christianity are easy to demonstrate, but Christianity also affected Judaism in such fields as eschatology or in enforcing monogamy. In reli­gious customs of late origin there are many elements in common testifying to mutal influences, but Judaism has never affected the substance of Catholic doctrine.

Islamic cult has much in common with Judaism — some of it is of general Asiatic origin, but other elements are of later origin and thus there must have been influences, These included memory of some common holy men, studies of God’s attributes, later abandoned by Islam etc.

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