Napoleon: the incarnated Mind

Hegel, having picked up the baton from the “age of reason and enlightenment”, created the philosophical system of “objective idealism”. In doing so, he believed that was the end of it, and Nature’s deified Mind would only be embodied in his philosophy, and the Prussian constitutional monarchy would remain the implemented ideal social order. True, he once called Napoleon the “World Spirit on horseback”, but that was rather a “figure of speech”. Being an objective idealist, Hegel could not imagine that the supreme expression of “Spirit” was going to by neither his philosophical teaching, nor the Prussian constitutional monarchy, but exactly a specific human being. The point is that God is basically a person, who yearns not only to become aware of Himself, but, ultimately, to incarnate Himself. So, the matter here could not limit itself to the emergence of Hegel’s “Logic”, as well as a rational state structure. Incarnation has its own logic, which, in this particular case, showed in an attempt to assert the religious cult of Reason, and, ultimately, resulted in the deification of an individual person. This person’s name was Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleone Buonaparte (this is how he was called in the local dialect of the Italian language) was born on August 15th , 1769, into a large noble family in the Mediterranean island of Corsica, which was actually an independent state at the time. His father was a lawyer and diplomat, and, in general, the second-ranking man in the island. However, Corsica was conquered by the French later that same year.

Napoleon’s father promptly insinuated himself into the new authorities’ confidence, thanks to which he managed to send his two elder sons to France for education. Moreover, Napoleon was right away intended for a military career, while his brother was supposed to be a priest.

At a military college, Napoleon carried himself independently, was unsociable and avoidant, as he considered the French the occupants of His homeland. His fellow students had no special liking for the arrogant outlander, either. Mathematics and ballistics came easier to him, than humanities.

Anyway, Napoleon read heavily since childhood. Mastering French enabled him to hugely expand his reading. Travel and history books carried Him away. This youth did not ponder long over whose pattern to build his life upon. Alexander the Great and Julius Cesar had always been His idols. Following their example may well have awakened his interest in philosophy. At least, he was bound to know who Alexander’s educator and who Cesar’s assassin had been (meaning respectively Plato’s pupil Aristotle and the stoic Brutus).

The young Napoleon’s advances were so impressive that he, having won the relevant contest, matriculated at the Royal Cadet School in Paris. His love of reading did not show any sign of abating: now he would not only read, but take detailed notes while reading.

In 1785, his father died. Napoleon graduated from the Cadet School before the appointed time. At the final examinations, his high level of knowledge was certified, in particular, by an outstanding French mathematician, physicist, and astronomer, P.-S. Laplace. That same year, Napoleon started his military service as a lieutenant. A huge share of His salary would be sent to His mother. Besides, He had to take care of His 11 year-old brother. In those hard times of his life, French enlighteners Voltaire and Rousseau, and also tragic dramatist Corneille became His favourite authors. But the most profound impact was made on him by Goethe’s novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, which Napoleon read over and over again.

In 1788, an episode took place, which could have changed the course of world history. During just another Russo-Turkish war, Napoleon attempted to enlist in the Russian army. However, according to the then-existing rules, foreigners accepted into the Russian armed forces had to be lowered in rank. This could not suit an ambitious Napoleon.

He unreservedly welcomed the French Revolution that broke out in 1789. He was in his native Corsica, when the news reached him. Siding with the revolutionary France, He fell into disagreement with the local authorities, who, again, insisted on the island’s independence. Pressurized by the separatists, he, together with the family, left the island. This is how Napoleon’s width of views showed: He discarded his childish, parochial fancies for the sake of the lofty ideals of freedom, equality, and brotherhood. It was not only ambition that he was guided by.

In 1793, troops led by Napoleon gained a splendid victory over the British forces, which fought on the Royalist side. By a clever manoeuvre, they were dislodged from the city of Toulon. For this victory, Napoleon was promoted to brigadier general. He was 24 then.

In the meantime, the Revolution’s hidden motive was laid bare in France. A new religion was proclaimed there, “the cult of Reason”. That was a more serious bid, than just “philosophical idealism,” showing that God was no more content with only becoming conscious of Himself as the Mind of Nature. And even this rather full-fledged religious cult was still a too remote embodiment of the Deity. A certain Human Being was needed, Who would become the personification of this cult.

After the Thermidorian coup, Napoleon fell into disgrace because of his connections with the Jakobins. Yet, he was soon called up again to suppress a royalist rebellion in Paris. Having brilliantly coped with the task, Napoleon was promoted to general of division and appointed Commander of the Interior.

In 1796, Napoleon got married to a daughter of a general executed during the Jacobin dictatorship.

That same year, he was sent to Italy. French troops under the command of Napoleon freed a considerable part of this country from Austrian rule. The French would rarely outnumber the enemy in manpower or arms, and their victories in Italy could largely be accounted for by their martial, revolutionary spirit, but, most of all, by Napoleon’s generalship.

Napoleon’s popularity started to worry the French authorities. They would like him to protect French interests somewhere further away. Then, sorting Great Britain out was on the agenda. To weaken the enemy, it was decided to capture Egypt. And this is where Napoleon was sent to.

But Napoleon did not fight long in Egypt. He was made uneasy by the alarming dispatches from other fronts, as well as by the exacerbated situation in France itself. Support from the army had already been secured for him by then, so he decided it was time for him to “cross the Rubicon”. In 1799, he suddenly turned up in Paris, dispersed the “incapable” state government bodies, and became the country’s de-facto ruler. In historical science, this event has commonly been interpreted as the end of the French Revolution. In reality, however, the Revolution, in Itself, is only a stage in God’s attempt to incarnate Himself. Each great revolution is crowned with the deification of the leader, which is always fraught both with internal dictatorship and external expansion.

In 1804, Napoleon declared himself emperor. This move scared some of his admirers away from him – they failed to conceive the religious background of what was going on. They would tend to think of Napoleon as just an outstanding person, who was supposed to implement the lofty ideals of “reason and enlightenment” (for example, such was Beethoven’s attitude). Therefore, having declared himself emperor, Napoleon acted even modestly. Verily, He was although “historically limited”, but still the actual embodiment of God, that is, of the deified Mind of Nature.

Napoleon’s dictatorship was not power for power’s sake. First of all, it was aimed at gaining political and economic stability in the country. But its innermost purport was to preserve the achievements of the Revolution. After lawlessness inherent in absolute monarchy, relationships between people were now built on the basis of Natural Law. The new legal order was enshrined in the Napoleonic “Civil Code”.

Then Napoleon continued his campaigns abroad to share with other nations the ideals of freedom, equality, and brotherhood, which had prevailed on the French soil. Certainly, somewhere deep inside he could not but feel some discomfort, because, for all that, he remained an absolute monarch, a usurper at that, and, in relation to other peoples, an occupant. On occasion, he had no aversion towards using purely feudalistic methods of capturing foreign lands, for example, by “dynastic marriage”. In particular, he twice made a proposal of marriage to Russian female august personages, but was refused both times (incidentally, the same trick worked with an Austrian princess). At the same time, Napoleon’s above-noted unscrupulousness in the methods employed was, again, not an end in itself, but, as the saying goes, “for the good of the cause”. However, his true mission remained for him as incomprehensible, as is everything in this world, until being viewed “sub specie Dei”.

By 1811, the bulk of Europe was “enjoying freedom” within a single French Empire. Yet, Napoleon’s star, having reached its zenith, began to decline. Possibly, at bottom, Napoleon could feel it. But, like any ruler who has stayed in power for too long, he lost the sense of reality. He started making desperate moves to perpetuate his power (these moves, however, did not go beyond Napoleon’s fulfillment of his mission). In 1810, in order to provide Himself with a successor, he divorced with his 1st, infertile wife, and contracted matrimony with the Austrian emperor’s daughter. This marriage, however, was received in France without enthusiasm, and the fate of “the Eaglet” born of this marriage would be unenviable. The campaign of 1812 in Russia proved fatal for Napoleon. The worn-out remainder of his troops, diluted with unseasoned reinforcements, suffered a crushing defeat in the “Battle of the Nations” near Leipzig in 1813.

The disgraced Napoleon attempted to commit a suicide. But the poison, which he had long been carrying with him, did not take effect, and Napoleon kept alive. He abdicated the French crown and was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba. Still, this exile was far from being tantamount to imprisonment. The island was transferred to his possession, and he retained the title of emperor (within the island’s limits). Moreover, he was allowed to have a miniature army as his “lifeguard”.

Most of the time, he would be absorbed in deep reflection. Little by little, he got engaged in beautifying his mini-empire. He would receive local peasant petitioners and tried to carry out some reforms, in particular, to improve agricultural practices. He would be visited by his friends, relatives, notably, by his mother, and also, perhaps, the only woman, who would stay true to Him to the end, the Polish countess Marie Walewska. Having abdicated as the emperor of the Great France, he still remained a living personification of Nature’s Reason, from which rank nobody could demote Him. With peripheral vision, Napoleon kept on following the developments on the mainland.

In the meantime, the things on the mainland were taking a turn for the worse. The Bourbon dynasty was restored to the French throne. Along with them, feudal lords were returning, who had been deprived of property and privileges during the Revolution. Napoleon could not just look on how His life’s work was going to rack and ruin. In 1815, Napoleon, accompanied by a small detachment, landed on the French coast. Government forces, sent to stop him, went over to his side. In a few days, he was already in Paris, welcomed by rapturous crowds.

In contrast to the French, the rest of Europe was not so happy about Napoleon’s “Second Coming”. The heads of state gathered at the Congress of Vienna declared the recalcitrant Corsican an outlaw and started mustering forces for a decisive battle. Soon, the Battle of Waterloo took place, which Napoleon lost.

Nevertheless, Napoleon’s defeat was far from devastating, and not only in purely military terms. The principles of philosophical idealism, the tenets of the religion of Reason, which Napoleon personified, had already been deep-rooted in the European social life and were set to spread all over the world. This is how a powerful new ideology asserted itself, namely, “liberalism”. That was a force to be reckoned with, and which could protect itself, when necessary. The Bourbons, restored to the French throne, could be no more the sole rulers of the country.

As to Napoleon, He surrendered to the discretion of the British authorities and was exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean. He was given prisoner of war status, not that of political refugee, and His incarceration conditions were, as Napoleon put it, “worse than in the cage of Tamerlane”. However, He tried to retain His presence of mind. The fallen Idol, again, turned to writing, which He would find time for in his early years (after all, Napoleon was the author of novels, pamphlets, and even of the philosophical treatise “The Dialogue on Love”). At St. Helena, he dictated his “Memoires”.

Napoleon’s admirers did not abandon attempts to set the kingly prisoner free and recreate the “Napoleonic Empire” now in Africa, now in America. But this time, Napoleon’s guard was impenetrable, and all those attempts proved unsuccessful.

In the meantime, the Image of Napoleon was being increasingly idealized. It was being endowed with the characteristics of a romantic hero. Being associated with it, there were such motifs as: loneliness, not being understood, rebelliousness, expulsion, escape, etc. Napoleon’s fate became a source of inspiration for such poets as Byron and Lermontov. Even for the classical Pushkin, watching the unharnessed element of the sea awakened the memories of both Byron and Napoleon, as the two men of genius, after the departure of whom “the world grew empty”.

Napoleon passed away on May 5th, 1821. He had wanted to be buried on the banks of the Seine. But the British authorities decided to bury him at St. Helena. It was not until 1840 that Napoleon’s remains were allowed to be taken to France. In the end, his tomb was placed at Paris’s Les Invalides. It is noteworthy that the material for the tomb was provided by the Russian emperor Nicolas I. Apparently, robing the propagator of freethinking in Karelian porphyry made the tyrant feel safer.

So, what conclusions can one draw from the deification of Nature’s Mind and Its subsequent incarnation? What new features does this Attempt add to the Image of God being painted? Apparently, It reveals “enlightenment”, “educatedness”, and “preferring Law to willfulness” in the Divine Person.


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