YEVGENY ZAMYATIN
ON REVOLUTION, ENTROPY, DOGMA AND HERESY

Today is doomed to die, because yesterday has died and because tomorrow shall be born. Such is the cruel and wise law. Cruel, because it dooms to eternal dissatisfaction those who today already see the distant heights of tomorrow; wise, because only eternal dissatisfaction is the guarantee of unending movement forward, of unending creativity. He who has found his ideal today, has already been turned into a pillar of salt as was Lot's wife, has already grown into the earth and moves no further. The world lives only by heretics: Christ the heretic, Copernicus the heretic, Tolstoj the heretic. Our creed is heresy: tomorrow is infallibly heresy for the today which has been turned into a pillar of salt, for the yesterday which has crumbled into dust. Today negates yesterday, but tomorrow is the negation of negation: always the same dialectical path, which carries the world into infinity along a grandiose parabola. Thesis yesterday, antithesis today, and synthesis tomorrow.

Between the old and the new, between tomorrow and today, there exists an eternal struggle. This struggle exists in all walks of human life—including science, and science too has its own tomorrow and today. Today consists of everything that has already been mastered, determined, generally recognized, and is considered to be incontestable and infallible. And this belief in their own infallibility sometimes makes the representatives of "today's" science a conservative element, retarding the never-ending movement of science forward. . . Even now, when science has adopted the correct view that everything which seems infallible is infallible only relatively, is infallible only today—even now traces of former reverence before dogma occasionally crop up. So recently. in our time, the miraculous properties of radium were discovered, which upset the seemingly most infallible scientific laws -- and in our time more than one orthodox scientist skeptically mocked the heretics who had encroached upon these still recently sacred foundations. And the world lives only through its heretics, through those who reject the seemingly unshakeable and infallible today. Only the heretics discover new horizons in science, in art, in social life: only the heretics, rejecting today in the name of tomorrow, are the eternal ferment of life and ensure life's unending movement forward.

Revolution is everywhere, in everything; it is infinite, there is no final revolution, no final number. The social revolution is only one of innumerable numbers; the law of revolution is not social, but immeasurably greater—a cosmic, universal law—like the law of the conservation of energy, of the dissipation of energy (entropy). Someday the exact formula for the law of revolution will be established, and in this formula nations, classes, stars, and books will be numerical quantities.

When the flaming, boiling sphere (in science, religion, social life, art) cools, the fiery magma becomes covered with dogma—a hard, ossified, immovable crust. Dogmatization in science, religion, social life, in the arts, is the entropy of thought. That which has become dogma no longer burns, it only warms; it is warm, it is cool. Instead of the Sermon on the Mount under a blazing sun, above uplifted arms and groans, a drowsy prayer in a splendid abbey; instead of Galileo's tragic "But nonetheless it revolves," calm calculations in the warm office of an observatory. On the Galileos epigones slowly, polyp-like, as corals, build their own edifice: this is the path of evolution, until a new heresy explodes the crust of dogma and all the most solid stone structures that have been raised on it.


All extracts are cited in and taken from The Life and Works of Evgenij Zamjatin by Alex M. Shane (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), pp. 23, 46, 47, 48.


 

The American Utopia by Eduard Batalov

Dystopia west, dystopia east: the vanishing of speculative fiction under Stalinism
by Erika Gottlieb

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress

Sciencfikcio & Utopia Literaturo en Esperanto /
Science Fiction & Utopian Literature in Esperanto:
Gvidilo / A Guide

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Select Bibliography

Offsite:

Zamiatin

Yevgeny Zamyatin FanSpace

The Works of Zamyatin

Quotehouse Authors - Yevgeny Zamyatin

Geometry.Net - Authors: Zamyatin Yevgeny


Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Coming Attractions | Book News
Bibliography | Mini-Bibliographies | Study Guides | Special Sections
My Writings | Other Authors' Texts | Philosophical Quotations
Blogs | Images & Sounds | External Links

CONTACT Ralph Dumain

Uploaded 29 July 2000
Last update 24 December 2015
Previous update 2 July 2010

Site ©1999-2015 Ralph Dumain