By Albert George Alexander, Professor of English at Northwestern State College (1948 AD)
Apostolos Makrakis, philosopher, moralist, theologian, literatus, lecturer, was born in 1831 in Siphnos, a small island of the Cyclades, and died in Athens, December 24, 1905. After finishing his grammar-school curriculum on his native island, he entered the Greek National Training School at Constantinople, where he completed his studies and received his teacher’s diploma. He subsequently was elected head of the Greek Lyceum at Constantinople, and at once he launched upon a career of writing and teaching a new and original system of philosophical ideas and principles which have so far remained unexplored and unknown to the world in general, obviously as a result of envy and disapproval on the part of his Greek contemporaries. Very significant and illuminating, in connection, is the fact that although Makrakis’ “Philosophy” was published in Athens in 1876, no mention whatever is made of it in Dr. Frederick Ueberweg’s “History of Philosophy,” a contemporary work. To be exact, not until the twelfth and last German edition of “History of Philosophy” (Berlin, 1928) is any mention made of Makrakis’ “Philosophy and the Philosophical Sciences.” However, even there the depreciating comment is volunteered to the effect that Apostolos Makrakis was a mystic – a statement without foundation or reason, very conveniently contributed by Dr. Theophilos Boreas, Professor of Philosophy, University of Athens, and writer of the article for Dr. Ueberweg’s “History of Philosophy,” Volume five, under “Die Philosophie des Auslandes” And the cause for this was clearly neither fraternal love in the heart of Dr. Boreas, nor a fervent desire to augment the fame of Apostolos Makrakis, nor was it ignorance or misconception on the part of so erudite a Doctor of Philosophy; for the most casual reader of the work in question can distinguish between mysticism and machination.
But the vicissitudes of Apostolos Makrakis were more severe than the denial of the fame and recognition justly due him. On December 18, 1878, his School of the Logos at Athens was closed and its founder was cast into prison.
The above-mentioned institution was attended by three hundred resident (boarding) and outside or day-students under the direction and guidance of A. Makrakis and the teaching of nine instructors. The philosophical School of the Logos where he held free evening classes open to the general public, in which he taught the Holy Scriptures philosophically and theologically, and in which he wrote and lived together with his co-workers, was a large three-story structure and remained open until 1901. At the sale of the building by the owner, the Philosophical School of the Logos was transferred to another and smaller hall where it continued to operate until the end of his life. In the place of a dissolved organization, he founded the religious society John the Divine; the political society, The Great Constantine, acting then as senator from Attica; and finally, the political society Plato.
For three years he was cruelly persecuted by the governmental authorities and the Archbishop with view to his utter effacement through various charges followed by prison sentences and releases. Finally, he was condemned by the magistrate’s court on a heresy charge which he did not defend, to two years’ imprisonment on May 17, 1879. Upon appeal, he was tried again in 1881, and after an extended trial from February 10 to March 17, he was again given a similar sentence and thrown into prison with criminals for the discharge of his penalty. But the higher court reversed and set aside the decision of the lower court on June 13, 1881, restoring him to freedom on the same day, after which he was never again molested. But God recompensed him fully for his persecution in behalf of the absolute truth of Christ; for the fruits of his imprisonment are the interpretation of Revelation and of the entire New Testament, the completion and publication of his entire philosophical system and numerous other original writings as well as ten evangelical tours during the summer months from 1885 to 1894 throughout the provinces and districts of the country, in the course of which he preached the Gospel out in the open to great numbers of hearers. At his death, he was given a magnificent burial in the cathedral of metropolitan Athens. His casket was borne to the cemetery on the shoulders of his disciples in relays, followed by a vast crowd of people. Behind all came the empty hearse and one hundred and fifty empty carriages. Thus, we see that the inscrutable and humanly inconceivable ways of God brought forth rich fruit in the guise of philosophical and religious works at once breathing divine inspiration and emanating a heavenly light which disperses the shadows of ignorance, delusion, religious bigotry, and unbelief, and reveals God in His effulgent glory.
– ALBERT GEORGE ALEXANDER
By Constantine Andronis – Orthodox Christian Education Society
Apostolos Makrakis, born in 1831, was a Greek native of Siphnos, a small island amongst the group known as the Cyclades. After leaving the grammar school of his native place, he enrolled in the National Training School for Greeks in Constantinople, where he completed his education and was awarded a diploma as a teacher. He thereupon began teaching in Constantinople as the head of the Lyceum in that city. while still a young man, he commenced teaching and advocating a new and original view of things with which the world at large is as yet unacquainted. Gradually he unfolded to the people of Greece an entirely new and complete system of philosophy such as had never been attempted before. The novelty of his ideas and the startling nature of many of his analogies at once attracted attention, and before long he had a good many disciples. Through writings and public lectures his fame spread to Greece, and in the year 1862 he took up his residence in Athens, where he established a philosophical and educational institute styled the School of the Logos, in which he taught both philosophy and the usual college curriculum. After-a space of three years, however, the state closed the educational school by force and without due process of law on the pretext that his teachings were subversive to the state. He continued his school of philosophy, however, up to the time of his death, writing and speaking openly and without hindrance, although he was always looked upon askance by state officials on account of his depreciatory attitude towards royalty, and frequently assailed by the clergy owing to his exposure of the practice of simony.
His wisdom was preterhuman and assuredly the gift of God, as proved by his illuminating exposition of the profoundest mysteries of philosophy and theology, in both of which subjects he displayed an insight that was nothing short of marvelous. He cleared up many points which had never even been broached, much less understood by the ablest intellects of the ages, and explained the riddles of the Gospel where all others before him had failed. His diction exhibits a style that would do credit to a writer of fiction, and yet it partakes nowhere of the colloquial. Philosophy was developed in ancient Greece by Socrates, the greatest o[ ancient philosophers, and in Greece again it has been sublimed and perfected by Apostolos Makrakis, the greatest philosopher of all times. His interpretations of the Scriptures, too, while strictly in accordance with the views and doctrines of the Greek Orthodox Church, of which he was a member, excel those of all other religious teachers who preceded him, with the exception of the Apostles. In fact, whatever was the topic he chose, he always presented the reader with a clear picture of his mind, so that whether one were disposed to agree with him or not one could not fail to understand the subject in question. Certainly no one can accuse Apostolos Makrakis of obscurity of diction or of vagueness of conception. It is nevertheless to be regretted that, owing to a demand for precision, the charm of the original cannot be reproduced in the English translation. It is hoped, however, that the reader will find little or no difficulty in comprehending exactly what is meant in any particular passage, whether it be of a philosophical nature or not. A comprehensive digest of philosophy in general and of the philosophical system of Makrakis is contained in the Epilogue to his Psychology and Logic, and a general idea of his philosophy can be gleaned from a perusal of the resume of his works on pages 337-369.
But just as the ancient Socrates was misunderstood and disregarded, so was this modern Socrates, Apostolos Makrakis, misunderstood and disregarded in his native land by the powers in office, and by them woefully misrepresented to the people. The ancient Socrates was put to death bodily by the Athenians with a potion of hemlock; the modern Socrates was put to death morally by five chief priests of the Governing Council sitting in Athens in the year 1879 with a circular addressed to the people and asserting Apostolos Makrakis to be a heretic, the only reason for which assertion being the fact that he insisted that man is of a triune nature, or, as English idiom has it, tripartite. This simply means that man is composed of a body, a soul, and a spirit, and not merely or a body and a soul without a spirit, as is usually held in the Western Church.
As regards the Orthodox, or Eastern Church, the question had never been decided one way or the other, although it had been discussed long ago. It was therefore perfectly legitimate to assume that the Orthodox Church was not opposed to the view. Yet, because of the charges of simony brought by Makrakis against the clergy, this point of the tricompositeness of man was seized upon as an excuse for prosecuting him as a heretic and subverter of the state. While the ancient Socrates was accorded a trial and was condemned by virtue of the laws then in force after being allowed to offer a defense, the modern Socrates was denied a trial or even a hearing at which to defend himself against the absurd charges concocted against him.
Such all accusation, however, made in a mere circular, or general letter, is rather in the nature or a libel than of an accusation. The excuse for this libel and misrepresentation was furnished by his exposure of the clergy to censure for simony, and of the professors of: the university for atheism and error and misteaching. By conniving with the government then in power, they managed to have the philosophical school of the Logos closed illegally by the public prosecutor and its pupils dispersed by the police. The public prosecutor’s office had Apostolos Makrakis arrested five times on various charges, and finally succeeded in getting him sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for heresy.
Never before in the history of Greece is it recorded that a civil court tried a case of ecclesiastical heresy. Moreover, although the accusation brought against him was that of insulting and resisting the legal authorities, he was condemned for heresy. Because o[ the illegality of the sentence he appealed the case to the supreme court of Greece, known as the Areias Pagos, which absolved him of the charges under which he had been convicted and annulled his sentence. Thenceforth no one dared to prosecute him or to have him arrested, despite the fact that he kept on preaching and writing the same doctrines for twenty-five years thereafter.
During all this time he edited and published the Logos, a weekly periodical in which he freely discussed every phase and angle of his philosophy and religious views and voiced his protests against the scandalous conditions then obtaining both in the Church and in the University, and did not hesitate to criticize even the king. He also became a candidate for election to the office of deputy in the legislature of Greece, corresponding to what would be called a senator in this country, but was defeated. He died in peace in Athens on the twenty-fourth of December, 1905, and was buried in the Cathedral of the Orthodox Christian Church.
Makrakis has elevated philosophy above all other sciences, enduing it with unimpeachable authority and assigning it the task of bringing about universal unity of nations, continuous and perpetual peace, happiness, and the kingdom of heaven on earth. In spite of this, however, the clergy and the professors in his own country excluded his illuminating works from the public schools, and fanaticized the people against. for purposes of disparagement and libel. Owing to this but few have been enlightened or are being enlightened by the study of these learned works, many of which are now out of print and hard to procure. Now, however, that the most important of his works have been collected and the most important again of these have been translated into English, it is to be hoped that his philosophical genius and God-given light will soon permeate the minds of the leading spirits of this country, where there is no prejudice against new ideas and where new-comers are allowed the same rights as veterans.
In this country the name of Makrakis is still unknown. One may look for it in vain in all the encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries, philosophical treatises, histories, and works on religion; nowhere can there be found the slightest trace of either his name or his work, in the vast literature of the English language. Strange as it may seem, however, the new Spanish Encyclopedia, the largest work of its kind in the world, contains a fairly comprehensive article about Apostolos Makrakis, under the heading Makrakis. In the fifth volume of the last (twelfth) edition of Dr. Friedrick Ueberweg’s Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie his name is mentioned but only with the erroneous and gratuitous remark that he was a mystic, a statement due to the fact that the information was given by Dr. Theophilos Boreas, Professor of Philosophy in the Athens University and consequently an enemy of Makrakis. A biographical sketch and account of the work of Apostolos Makrakis is to be found in the New Greek Encyclopedia, a copy of which was exhibited at the world’s Fair of 1933 in Chicago. Although sufficiently comprehensive, the article in his encyclopedia is written by another professor in the Athens University and also colored with personal bias; it even goes so far as to represent Makrakis as having been a fanatic, superstitious, and disdainful of modern civilization, although the article as a whole is carefully veiled with an appearance of impartiality.
Anyone familiar with the works of Makrakis, whether in favor of them or not, can easily see from the article itself that the writer of it was ardently desirous of maligning and depreciating the character of Makrakis. Thus, in the very beginning it endeavors to mislead the reader by stating that Makrakis was a theologian and preacher, without even so much as hinting that he was a philosopher, not to say a philosopher of the highest and foremost rank. The natural inference to be drawn from this initial statement, then, is that Makrakis was nothing but an ordinary clergyman, whereas, in point of fact, he was not a clergyman at all. Similar falsehoods pervade the whole article, so that its sole value consists in the fact that it bears witness to the truth of Makrakis’ assertion that the so-called University of Athens is in reality a Perversity whose chief aim is to obscure and falsify the facts. The same professor, D.S. Balanos, also wrote a biography of Apostolos Makrakis, which was published in Athens in 1920 and also contained a bibliography of his works.
In conclusion, it may be said that the quickest and most reliable way to secure true information concerning the character and worth of Apostolos Makrakis is to read one of his works, and now that so many of them have been translated into English, it is to be hoped that this will soon be possible for any English-speaking person to do.