- Hardcover: 296 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 30, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199892946
- ISBN-13: 978-0199892945
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers 1st Edition
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"a fascinating, mind expanding, highly informative magical mystery tour of a distinctive school of New Age thinking." -- ew York Journal of Books
"The Cosmists were a peculiarly Russian group: they were all very Russian, and they were also, frankly, peculiar. In The Russian Cosmists, George M. Young charts in detail the influences that shaped an unusual coterie of thinkers, and explores how the mystical and scientific offspring of this movement to conquer death and traverse the cosmos have reverberated from the late nineteenth century to the dawn of the twenty-first."--Michael D. Gordin, Professor of History, Princeton University
"George Young has given us a gift in this well-written and utterly engaging view of Russian Cosmist theories and their connections to the history of Western Esoteric thought. The book opens a doorway into another way of thinking that both challenges and expands contemporary perspectives on esotericism, magic, cosmology and 'active' evolutionary theory. The remarkable fact is that little of this material is recognized within the general history of esotericism and the Russian Cosmist perspective adds tremendous nuance and alterity to current paradigms. Not only is this a sweeping historical survey, it also offers a rich selection of primary sources, citations, and persons that demonstrate the unique conceptual scientific and mystical frame for much Cosmist esoteric speculation. In terms of Russian esotericism, it is a unique and rare publication and deserves careful study and assimilation. Highly recommended!"--Lee Irwin, Professor of Religious Studies, College of Charleston
About the Author
George M. Young is a Fellow at The Center for Global Humanities at the University of New England.
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Although a masterpiece of scholarship, The Russian Cosmists is also a joy to read. Young is a scholar who can also write!
Anyone with a serious interest in Cosmism or transhumanism will want to read this book.
Cosmism originated with Nikolai Fedorov (pronounced Fyodorov), a 19th century Russian intellectual and - some would argue - crank, who attempted to influence both Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Solovyov with his "Philosophy of the Common Task". Typical of Cosmist thought is a strong belief in "active evolution" and eternal progress through super-technology, the conquest of outer space and physical immortality. This is often coupled with quasi-spiritual ideas derived from Madame Blavatsky's Theosophy and garbled Orthodox Christianity. Thus, Fedorov believed in a general resurrection of the dead going back to Adam, but accomplished through an advanced technology, rather than by supernatural means. An interest in subjects considered heretical by establishment science, such as reincarnation or the search for Shamballa, is another defining trait. The prominent Soviet rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky semi-secretly harboured ideas similar to those of Theosophy, but expressed in pseudo-scientific language ("atom-spirit" for monad, "ethereal being" for Mahatma, etc).
With some notable exceptions, Cosmists broadly defined had an authoritarian political streak. Fedorov supported Czarist autocracy and longed for a time when all Earth would be under the suzerainty of a single autocrat and a single "Orthodox" Church. His geopolitics were "Eurasianist", pitting a continental-collectivist civilization against both the Atlantic West and the nomadic barbarians of the East. Tsiolkovsky believed that future human evolution necesserily means weeding out the weak and unfit. Modern Russian Cosmists are nostalgic about the Soviet era, especially the halcyon days of Stalin. This is richly ironic, since many of the original Cosmists were sent to the gulag or executed by Stalin's regime! Yet another defining trait of Cosmists seem to be their sheer personal weirdness. Let's be honest: Fedorov and many other luminaries mentioned in this volume were kooks, pure and simple. A psychologist would love to poke into the heads of these people, and might even discover a new syndrome or two!
"The Russian Cosmists" is an interesting book, but I sometimes get the feeling that the author attempts to find connections between thinkers that were really very different. In what sense is Vladimir Solovyov a "Cosmist", for instance? As the author points out himself, Solovyov argued against Fedorov's materialist-technological conception of the resurrection. On this point, Solovyov's ideas strike me as similar to Steiner's Anthroposophy or Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga, with humanity slowly evolving towards godmanhood through purely spiritual techniques. Apparently, the figure of the Anti-Christ in Solovyov's famous short story is to some extent based on (perhaps parodically) on Fedorov! And while the author does place Cosmism in an early 20th century Russian intellectual context, he says very little about the obvious parallels to Communism and fascism. Fedorov's ideas could also be seen as a particularly bizarre and self-conscious "immanentization of the eschaton", complete with faux references to Christianity and Orthodoxy. (Reverend Straik from C. S. Lewis' "That Hideous Strength" comes to mind here.) Indeed, Cosmism is probably best understood as a materialist or materialistic form of messianism, promising this-wordly salvation through science fiction technology.
But yes, the author is probably on to something important when he investigates the Cosmist-occult interface. It's difficult *not* to sound supernatural when proposing "naturalist" solutions to physical death, universal decay, etc. Arthur C Clarke famously quipped that a sufficiently advanced technology would look like magic to the uninitiated. Clarke's statement could be altered to state that a really advanced "technology" *would be* magic. Compare this to Steven Greer's UFO books, or the rather odd combinations of New Age and dreams of super-technology that were once popular on the alternative spirituality scene. Once again, I'm also reminded of C.S. Lewis' novel, where a group of scientists believe they have cracked the riddle of immortality, when actually their laboratory is under the control of supernatural demonic forces! It's almost as if religion forces itself on the Cosmists, but - unfortunately for them, and perhaps for us, too - it's the wrong kind of religion, a cult of the divinized Overman who extirpates the weak, or who graciously resurrects everyone in the name of a eternal Czarist autocracy...
Perhaps Solovyov was right. Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov really was the Anti-Christ.
Kenneth E. MacWilliams