The fourth and final volume of Paradise and Utopia: The Rise and Fall of What the West Once Was, has recently been released by my publisher Ancient Faith Publishing.
The Age of Nihilism: Christendom from the Great War to the Culture Wars tells the story of how our civilization and its supporting culture, which once oriented the West toward a heavenly transformation of the world, reached a point of despair through secularization.
Continuing the narrative of The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, the new book describes the “specter of nihilism” which appeared in the West at the end of the nineteenth century, the very moment secularism seemed triumphant. Part one reflects on the way nihilism became manifested in the music of Richard Wagner (composer of the famous “Wedding March” and “Ride of the Valkyries”), the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (author of the claim that “God is dead”), the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud (with its degrading theory of the “Oedipus Complex”), and the painting of Pablo Picasso (which both documented and promoted the disintegration of the human image). It also presents the literature of Fyodor Dostoevsky (author of The Brothers Karamazov) as a powerful warning against secularization, though this warning was largely ignored until the specter of nihilism overwhelmed the West in the First World War.
Part two of the book tells the story of how three secular ideologies arose to exorcise the specter of nihilism, and how each ultimately failed to restore the linkage of heaven and earth once found in traditional Christianity. First Communism, then Nazism, and finally liberalism all tried once again to transform the world, but as ideologies they were counterfeits of true cosmological transcendence. Along the way, tens of millions of people in the West were killed through forced starvation (Communism), genocide (Nazism), and abortion (liberalism). Ideological world-building proved to be even more nihilistic than the secular humanism it tried to replace.
Part three reviews the failure of ideological world-building, focusing especially on liberal democracy in the West since the collapse of Communism (though an account of how the Soviet Union fell is also offered). As utopia became dystopia, existentialists, hippies, neopagans, and culture warriors all sought in vain to restore the dignity of humanity in a desecrated world. The narrative ends with the tragic outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine in 2022.
A conclusion to the book series offers a reflection on the fundamental tragedy of the rise and fall of what the West once was: That after the Great Division of the eleventh century, our civilization and its supporting culture progressively lost the capacity of repentance and the virtue of humility on which a healthy culture depends. The great counterfeit of paradise, utopia, became inevitable when heaven was removed from earth and mankind directed toward a merely promethean transformation of the world.
The book can be purchased through Amazon here. The entire four-volume series can be purchased at a discount here.
10 thoughts on “Volume Four Released”
I am SO excited to read this, I’m currently reading volume three. What great news near Christmas!
Congratulations and thank you Father Strickland! I still can’t wait to read th
Congratulations Father Strickland. I gulped all your P&U blog posts.
I am an audio book listener and was so happy to see that you released the first volume, which I heard in a week. I’m really looking forward and (sneakily) encouraging you to read the other three volumes when you have time:-)
And please do post the release of your audio books here on the website as I’m subscribed to it and will get instantly notified.
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I am glad the audio version of Age of Utopia was available. As it turns out, I have in fact already recorded Age of Division and Age of Utopia, and am awaiting the editor at my publisher to edit and list them. Age of Nihilism will soon follow!
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Dear Father John,
Your work is extremely valuable and important. Before discovering you, I felt like I am in a dream – not quite sure why everything is happening around me, but feeling that some church history from an Orthodox perspective could be the answer. But that’s not easy to find – not in a format that is easy to digest, yet clear and deep at the same time.
And then I found your blog and books. It was (and still is) like an awakening into the reality of the faith. It’s like the Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 2:-)
It’s like meeting your family – finding an old book containing a family tree, with family members and their stories. After this, the lives of Saints started to make much more sense, as well as the services, feasts, etc – as I started to understand the backgrounds of all these parts.
I think that every catechumen should at least read abridged versions of your books, if not the whole lot.
Thank you once again and God bless your work.
I am so glad the books have been interesting and helpful, Viktor.
What a journey you have taken me on through your books and podcast. I spent about a month in each book reading and rereading almost every line to make sure I didn’t miss anything. After the books, I started on the podcast episodes with oldest to newest and enjoyed every one. Thank you so much Fr. John, my life has been greatly enriched. I can’t wait to join you “next time”.
I am reading the book, and I am a bit confused. Were the three ideologies trying to replace nihilism, or further it in the world? Did they accidentally find nihilistic pieces in their tenets? Thank you very much, it has been a wonderful read.
Very good question. It is in my mind a rather complex situation. The three ideologies I write about were liberalism, socialism, and nationalism. Each originated during the nineteenth century as efforts to compensate for secular humanism’s failure to provide a transcendent anchor for Western culture and civilization (I discuss this development in part three of Age of Utopia). However, when secular humanism entered a crisis following the First World War (a crisis already foreseen by Nietzsche and others), each ideology morphed into a more distinct “world-building” effort to counter the rise of nihilism. So, each was a result of nihilism and at the same time an ambitious project to stave it off. Hence the confusing role of nihilism in what otherwise had originated as humanistic movements.
Quite an achievement. But it is a sorry tale … all these twists and turns, yet here we are, and the outlook doesn’t look good. I was interested to learn how Nietzsche had had such a profound influence on all sides. Even some Marxist intellectuals I learnt from this volume of yours were influenced by him, although on the face of it he wanted the opposite to what they said they did. And apparently he even had an influence on American Liberalism, through the Kaufman translations. An extraordinarily talented man to be sure but such a haunted and warped man with such an unfortunate legacy.
Hmmm … yeah. As you say in the podcast we’re now at the point where the Russian Federation has invaded Ukraine. It’s a train wreck in the making. And AFAICT that conflict was engineered by the US for its own agenda. Jamie Raskin openly said: “Russia is an Orthodox country with a traditional morality, and therefore must be destroyed.” I have to say I’m not convinced that the leadership of the RF really does care that much about Christianity, but the hostility from Raskin, and the rest of the US administrative state, to the thought that they might is deeply disturbing. Let’s all hope for peace.