Here in France I have just finished giving a course at the European Peace Museum, which has taken place weekly this Autumn term. The theme was as follows: French And European Philosophical Thinkers And The Paths To Peace
Each week we have covered a different topic in this overall subject. It was a kind of crash course on French intellectual history, looking at the contributions made by significant French thinkers over the centuries towards the idea of peace, from different angles, different paths. It seemed to me an appropriate course to run from here, since we are establishing a new Pan European Peace Museum in this central part of France, which has already attracted visitors from across Europe, including the UK.
Totally unbeknown to me, at the same time, the Community of St Egidio was organising in Germany a gathering on on 11 September, on the exact same theme of PATHS TO PEACE in which World Council of Churches president for Europe and Archbishop emeritus Dr Anders Wejryd reflected on the times when churches have been able to make a difference by getting people to actually change politics and priorities, along with many other speakers at “Paths of Peace,” an international interreligious meeting of dialogue and prayer for peace held in the German cities of Münster and Osnabrück. The gathering explored topics such as eco-justice, terrorism, prayer, healing, children’s rights, and migration, among others. Speakers included the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb; Rev. Dr Chris Ferguson, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches; and Angela Merkel, chancellor of the German Federal Republic. Another speaker was Dr S.L. Gandhi of the Anuvibha Jain organisation in Jaipur who was due to come and visit the European Peace Museum afterwards.
So that was an auspicious sign of synchronicity. My course started on September 25th and took place as follows.
French And European Philosophical Thinkers And The Paths To Peace
September 25th – Ancient Celtic Gaul and the Druid paths to peace
October 2nd—Bodin, Montesquieu, Saint Simon, Pierre Lerroux, Raymond Aaron and the Political thinkers’ path to peace
October 9th – Pascal, Descartes, Marie Curie and the Scientific Paths to Peace
October 16th – The French Jewish heritage and the Qabalist Path to Peace
October 23rd – Sartre, Camus, Heidegger, Hadot and Philosophical Paths to peace
October 30th – Postel, Doinel, Papus, Guenon, Faivre and the Esotericists’ Path to Peace
November 6th – Montaigne, Racine, George Sand, Proust, Victor Hugo and Literary Paths to Peace
November 13th – The Lodge of the 9 Sisters and the Freemasonic path
November 20th – Henri Corbin and the Islamic and Sufi path to Peace
November 27th – Monnet, De Rougemont and the pan-European path to Peace
December 4th – St. Bernard, Abelard, Teilhard de Chardin, Lanza del Vasto and the Christian Theological Paths to peace
Each week was set around the idea of “paths to peace” and was offered in the spirit that peace is a complex, multidimensional and therefore multidisciplinary task to track down. There is far too much “un-peace” in the world, not least in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Palestine/Israel.. and even closer to home, in the streets of many European cities.
I did a lot of work in researching each topic, although I was also able to draw on a lifetime’s prior research in studying these subjects and writing about them for many years. Since it is very topical at the moment, I thought I would upload to my blog the talk I gave no November 27th about the intellectual history of the European Union – who were its architects, and what did they think they were doing ? Everyone who studies the matter agrees that the founders of the European Union were primarily concerned to create an international system of interlocking relationships in Europe so that a major European war would no longer be possible. It was a “functionalist” creation, inspired by David Mitrany and other intellectual giants, to prevent the violence that had bedevilled European international relations ever since the 100 years war, or Caesar’s invasion of Gaul, from recurring, or the Greek civil war of the Peloponnesian war in which Athens and Sparta fought each other with furious violence, as recounted by Thucydides the Greek historian. In the 20th century, two vast European civil wars had dragged the whole world into joining in and countless millions had been killed,
Although not perfect, and like any political organisation, in need of constant improvement and constitutional adjustment to take account of new realities, the basic ideas are sound, and the fundamental architecture has served its purpose well. It has indeed prevented a recurrence of major wars in Europe since it was created (although it has failed to prevent the wars in former Yugoslavia or in Ukraine). Instead of walking away and committing Brexit (which should really also be called BREAKUK since it would lead directly to the breakup of the UK) I have instead called for the UK to remain and to help transform the European Union’s institutions along more popular and democratic lines, that the people of Europe can see it is actually working for them, and not against them.
Among the reforms I have proposed are two of special significance:
- No European Union civil servant or bureaucrat should be paid more than the salary of the lowest paid Prime Minister of the member states of the European Union
- The European Union should create a new outreach service, separate from its Foreign Ministry, called the EUROPEAN UNION MEDIATION SERVICE, which would have legal and intellectual autonomy as an agency of the European Union, with the sole aim of bringing about peace through mediation in states neighbouring the European Union, and in member states of the European Union itself.
Both of these ideas are sound, realistic, feasible and would restore quite a lot of credibility to the European Union if adopted.
But in order to reformat the EU, and to convince enough people who are dissatisfied with it to remain within and not to commit BREKUK / BREXIT, it is important that we all understand exactly where, how and why it was created. There is a woeful ignorance about the history of the EU and this is partly because the history of the EU is simply not taught in British schools. My own mother, Eileen Daffern, once worked for the University of Sussex European Studies Department, to create a course, including an A level in European Studies, for British Schools, but the project was never completed, and to this date you cannot study the history of the European Union in the British educational system until you reach University, and then only if you are reading a degree which includes this topic.
So, to make up for this lacuna, here then is my lecture on the history of the European Union as a path to peace, which I hope listeners will find of interest.
If the European Union was intended as a path to peace, why then is the UK about to get off the path and enter the bramble patch ? Do we really want to become the 52 state of the USA, the most heavily armed and most militaristic nation in the history of the earth, which has fought a total of at least 105 official wars since it came into being in 1776 ? This does not include unofficial and intelligence wars in which the USA has been intervening behind the scenes, in a proxy fashion. In neither world war one nor world war two did the USA come to support the UK immediately, only after it was in their own declared self interest. France however, on both occasions, was supporting the UK from the start. in world war one the USA didn’t join until 1917, and in world war two not till December 1941, which means that for the whole of the Battle of Britain, when UK cities were being blasted by the German air force, the USA was continuing as a neutral, and continuing to trade with Germany. Even Russia has a better track record of being an ally of the UK than that, since Russia fought alongside UK in the Napoleonic Wars, in the First world war, and eventually, in world war two. If anyone wants a list of the wars the USA has fought cine coming into being you can find it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States
Rather than continuing down the BREAKUK-BREXIT path, it is my earnest hope, as I have said previously in this blog, that the UK will rethink and decide to remain in the UK. The tactical politics of how that might happen are interesting, but certainly, the current cabal of right wing conservatives currently running Westminster and destroying the UK will need to be replaced with centrist, intelligent, pro-European thinking people, similar to the Clegg-Cameron coalition that governed the UK prior to current debacle. Theresa May has made the worst job of being a prime Minister for a very long time, and her inability to respond to my own letters in any coherent or intelligent form, is simply indicative of a wider listening difficulty.
The late Mark Williams, who tragically died in October 2017, would have supported this analysis 100% and were he still alive he would have been sitting in the class, listening to this lecture and taking notes. The fact that he is dead means that I dedicate this lecture to his noble memory. May he rest in peace, but may the cause he fought for in his last year of life, the reversal of Brexit-BreakUK, succeed in turning around the ship of state into less choppy waters.
There is another footnote to add here: after giving this talk, I was researching for the final talk in this series, about the history of Christian thinkers in France and their paths to peace, and was looking into the history of Christian idealism in France. I wondered about the French Hegelian tradition, what had happened to it ? I knew about the famous lectures given on Hegel by Kojeve, and I knew that they had gone down as something quite extraordinary in French intellectual history, to which many of the greatest French philosophers had come along to listen to. But here is what I found out about Kojeve: Christian idealists: He was born Aleksandr Vladimirovič Koževnikov in Russia to a wealthy and influential family. His uncle was the abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky, about whose work he would write an influential essay in 1936. He was educated at the University of Berlin and Heidelberg, Germany. In Heidelberg he completed in 1926 his PhD thesis on the Russian religious philosopher Vladimir Soloviev’s views on the union of God and man in Christ under the direction of Karl Jaspers. (I also talked about Jaspers in my final talk in the series). The title of his PhD thesis was Die religiöse Philosophie Wladimir Solowjews (The Religious Philosophy of Vladimir Soloviev). Early influences included the philosopher Martin Heidegger and the historian of science Alexandre Koyré. Kojève spent most of his life in France, and it was from 1933 to 1939, that he delivered in Paris a series of lectures on Georg Hegel’s work Phenomenology of Spirit. This I knew already. Some of Kojève’s more important lectures on Hegel have also been published in English in the now classic Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, in 1947. His interpretation of Hegel has been one of the most influential of the past century. His lectures were attended by a small but influential group of intellectuals including Raymond Queneau, Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, André Breton, Jacques Lacan, Raymond Aron, Roger Caillois, Michel Leiris, Henry Corbin, Jean Hyppolite, and Éric Weil. His interpretation of the master–slave dialectic was an important influence on Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage theory. Other French thinkers who have acknowledged his influence on their thought include the post-structuralist philosophers Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. In addition to his lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, Kojève’s other publications include a little noticed book on Immanuel Kant, and articles on the relationship between Hegelian and Marxist thought and Christianity. His 1943 book, Esquisse d’une phenomenologie du droit, published posthumously in 1981, contrasts the aristocratic and bourgeois views of law. Le Concept, le temps et le discours, extrapolates on the Hegelian notion that wisdom only becomes possible in the fullness of time. Kojeve also wrote a study of pagan philosophy in Esquisse d’une histoire raisonnée de la pensée païenne, which covers the pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, and Neoplatonism. This is interesting because in this talk, I also explain how the forced conversion of pagan philosophical intellectuals to a form of church-state Christianity, was a result of an intellectual error, based on fear, which had profound consequences in European intellectual history. I also explain how St Augustine converted from Manicheanism to Catholic Christianity out of fear, since Manicheans had been threatened with the death penalty just before he “converted”. This is never revealed in all the voluminous studies of Augustine that praise him as the “greatest of Christian thinkers”. In fact, as I explain in this talk, he had a negative impact on the history of the European mind. This is terrain that Kojeve also explored in his own writings, although whether he knew much about Gnosticism, Pelagius, Druidry and Manicheanism, remains to be uncovered. Certainly Hegel was very familiar with such advanced esoteric studies and included them in his magnifience synthesis of philosophical ideas.
Recently, three more books have been published by Kojeve: a 1932 thesis on the physical and philosophical importance of quantum physics, an extended 1931 essay on atheism (“L’athéisme”), and a 1943 work on “The Notion of Authority.”
What I had never realised before was that after World War II, Kojève worked in the French Ministry of Economic Affairs as one of the chief planners of the European Common Market. Kojève was an extraordinarily learned man. A polyglot, he studied and used Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Latin, and Classical Greek. He was also fluent in French, German, Russian, and English. Kojève died in Brussels in 1968, shortly after giving a talk at the European Economic Community (now the European Union) on behalf of the French government. So it means that I ought to have added Kojeve to my account of the spiritual and intellectual origins of the European Union. Here is a picture of his grave, in Brussels, which is where he was living and working when he died.
So the question really is – do we in the UK, and throughout Europe want to keep this extraordinary European Union in being, and transform it from a prevoyance of peace, into an actuality of international peacemaking, or are we happy to let Brexit/BreakUK go ahead, and gradually watch as neo-nationalist movements replace the genuine cosmic internationalism that the best European minds have advocated since Plato proposed the Republic of Philosophers, the Stoics posed their idea of the Cosmopolitics of the City of the Gods or the Druids wandered far and wide from Ireland to the Balkans in peace ? Do we want Cosmopoliticians like Kojeve and Monnet, or do we want petty nationalists running Europe ? At least once you’ve listened to this talk, you will know what’s at stake in the business of BREKUK-Brexit.
Listen, and enjoy… The other lectures of this series, including the last one of French Christianity and philosophy, will eventually make their way onto the new Global Green University website.