The Russian Review/Volume 1/May 1916/Where Is the End?
Where is the End?
By Prince G. Lvov.
Prince Lvov is the head of the All-Russian Zemstvo Union, the splendid organization that carries on the work of mercy in Russia to-day, the results of whose activities were set forth in the March issue of The Russian Review. The following article was written by Prince Lvov for the Moscow "Russkiya Viedomosti."—Ed.
The War's conflagration shows no signs of abatement. The flames of ferocity are burning brighter and redder, covering larger and larger portions of the sky, throwing its sparks farther and farther around, kindling new conflagrations on every side...
The end of the War is not in sight.
Millions of the strongest and the best of men have been swept away. Such energy and strength have been expended as might have lasted for decades, or perhaps even whole centuries of peaceful life. Colossal wealth of nature, priceless achievements of human genius, great enough to have lasted for many generations, have been destroyed. And still there is no end in sight. This ruthless destruction, this merciless demolition, have, naturally, given grounds for considering this cruel War as likely to last until utter exhaustion, and the measure of this exhaustion is the only gauge of its probable duration.
But is this so? Is it possible that men are fighting simply for the sake of fighting, for the sake of destruction, demolition, with complete prostration as the end? Is it possible that this incredible exertion of all the powers of the civilized Western world, that all these incalculable sacrifices are nothing but an act of suicide on the part of humanity? Is it possible that the world is straining its utmost powers merely in order to become exhausted and desolate? Is it possible that there is no supreme creative power behind this dreadful tension?
The end of the War is not in sight because only now its real causes are beginning to be visible from beyond the clouds of dense smoke. Only now is it becoming clear that the War may last as long as it has already lasted; that it may stop, and begin again, but it cannot end with the mere victory of one set of destructive forces over another, or with their exhaustion. It can be brought to a close only by bringing to their highest tension the creative spiritual forces which alone are capable of solving the problems that beset the nations of the West. Only now does it become clear that the War was caused, not by any lust for territorial expansion on the part of any particular nation, not by the ambition of any particular nation to gain world mastery. All this is but the outward manifestation, the physical expression of the spiritual meaning of this War. Its very height of tension has made it evident that it began, and will end, not on the physical plane, not upon the fields of battle, not in any decisive conflicts, but upon the plane of the loftiest spiritual endeavor, in a victory of the spiritual forces of the highest order. Cannon and machine-guns will not decide this struggle: they are themselves but the weapons of the higher spiritual contending forces. The War will end when means will be found for a re-creation of the old life, when the colossal power of man's spiritual forces will be applied towards the creation of a new life.
As with a heavy curtain, the War has separated the old life from the new. Whenever and however it end, it is certain that the old order of things has come to an end, and that a new order is coming in. Even now, in the midst of the mortal struggle, we can already perceive the currents of the new life. Creative energy lives side by side with destruction, just as young life springs up side by side with death. It does not die away, does not become extinguished on the advanced positions. On the contrary, it is there that it really springs into being. The hands are besmeared with blood, the face is black with powder smoke, yet within the soul, the fire of love for the native lands burns brighter and brighter, and calls on to creative activity. In the army, as in a storage battery, accumulates the energy of new life; the thunder-storm of war charges the air with the ozone of spiritual power. When the armies come home, they will be borne along by mighty wings. Behind them will be not the few years of war, but centuries upon centuries of old life; before them will burn the rising sun of a new spiritual realization.
Timid, lowly souls tremble before the awful mirage of the future upheavals, in which they behold the destruction of their personal prosperity. But the bankruptcy of their sordid materialism will be as nothing compared with the changes that will take place in the human soul. Changes are inevitable. Most probably they will reduce to naught all the transformations of the past. They will change radically the conditions of the life of man, raise human life to a height before unknown. Yet the transformation that will take place in the soul of man will be a thousand-fold more significant. It will create a new earth and a new heaven.
It becomes clearer and clearer that changes in the life of man are inevitable, but they will be brought about not as a result of any military operations, but by virtue of the internal changes in man that are bound to take place after the War. They will elevate his intellectual level. The beginnings of the new order are already in evidence. Is not the general frame of national mind already different? Is not the atmosphere about us charged with the energy of new life? We are bothered by the black spots upon the cinematographic ribbon of the events that are flashing by. But when we examine them more carefully, we realize that the black spots are only upon the ribbon. The rich soil, caressed by the bright rays of noon-day sun, produces useful vegetation side by side with the weeds. The high and the low exist together in nature, but under the influence of civilization, the higher displaces the lower. So, in human life, the lower forms always prove to be merely the degenerating and deformed sides of real life.
The highest possible tension of the spiritual forces of mankind will put an end to the horrors of war, will bring the strife to a victorious close. And if the end of the great struggle lies outside the sphere of war, if it is rooted deep in the consciousness of man, then the responsibility for it must be borne not by the external forces, but by the conscience of every one of us. We must all strain to the utmost all our spiritual powers, and direct them towards the creation of a new consciousness, a new conscience, a new life.
Let the conscience of each one of us flare up within us. As a powerful star dominates the midnight sky, let our conscience dominate our soul, let it rule over all our cares and interests, over all our life, over all our actions and deeds. Let us not be satisfied with merely discharging our duty; let us not shift the responsibility to others. There is something more lofty and sacred than duty and responsibility. Let there dwell in our hearts, throughout the coming years, the feeling of an uplifting joy in anticipation of the new, bright life.
Let everyone of us hold firmly in his hands the most sacred standard of humanity, let him not extinguish within his bosom the lambent flame that calls us to a triumph of good over evil.