“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” explained

This statement never made any sense to me until now.

During a time in your life that is physically very difficult- when you’re working hard and sleeping less and eating poorly or not at all- it is more important to be clean and sanitary than at any other time. This is because hygiene is primarily about avoiding diseases and infections, and you are more likely to suffer from these at times when your body is worn down and drawing on its last energy reserves. The body is unable to suppress even relatively weak viruses.

In the second volume of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn talks about a very strange, very rare sort of person he encountered in the camps who categorically refused to assent to any small erosions of the soul which the camps were designed to facilitate. In particular, he observes a man named Grigori Ivanoff (I think?) who refused even to steal any of the potatoes he was harvesting, despite his starvation and the prison camp culture of thieves, stool pigeons, and gangsters doing “whatever it takes”. The most innocent were always punished the most severely and cruelly, presumably because the zeitgeist of the endeavor was to destroy innocents in mass.

During his time at the camps, Ivanoff consistently chose the harder tasks and greater privations because he refused to compromise in matters of the conscience, which was seemingly the only way of preserving the body. And yet, he seemed to actually get stronger with time, as if his tiny bread ration had something extra in it. Solzhenitsyn establishes a pattern of such strange, phenomenal people with a few more examples, and wonders at it.

I believe the reason is the same as in the case of hygiene, except we replace “health” with “conscience”, “hygiene” with “absolute honesty and integrity”, and “physical trials” with “trials for the soul”. This seems to be because degrading the conscience eventually degrades the body, by adding strain to it in the form of cognitive dissonance, confusion, anger, and internal anguish. This phenomenon is not necessarily mystical in character- if a starving prisoner eats a child to save himself (many children were eventually born and raised within the camps, and became feral for lack of exposure to civilization), the nourishment may grant him an extra week at best. But the stain on his conscience has a real, appreciable cost. At difficult times, this additional strain will wear the murderer’s body down, perhaps pushing him over the edge into death.

And this is why we say cleanliness is next to Godliness. They are analogous. In fact, the only exception I can suppose between their perfect similarity is possibly in the relation of the soul to the body. If the soul leaves, the body dies. But if the body dies, the soul continues.

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12 Responses to “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” explained

  1. Alex says:

    “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

    Freedom is the ability to pre-determine the principles you hold that won’t be influenced by market factors:

    Since the point of marketing is to pump up the subjective valuation of your product, non-marketers need an excellent product, whereas marketers only need a poor product. Game, politics, corporatism, credentialism and warfare are all forms of market manipulation where inferior people jostle to inflate their subjective value.

    The problem is that people who let market factors make their decisions for them don’t have freedom and therefore don’t have a soul and don’t exist. They essentially become a black box where you input market data and get a response.

    • Heaviside says:

      A typical advocate for Liberalism would say that if you could indulge in the satisfaction of your subjective desires then eo ipso you would, so if you don’t then that must mean you can’t, and if you can’t then your opinion is irrelevant and just motivated by resentment and jealousy and frustration. If your subjective desires are different than what advertising would like to make them then all that is is a difference of taste, and what importance does that carry? For Liberalism, freedom is the freedom to indulge your subjective desires.

      • Alex says:

        When a modern liberal sees a negro going rioting, they don’t see someone who genuinely revels in mindless rape and destruction, they see someone who fucking loves science and dirty chai lattes but had the misfortune of being unedumafacted and being born a bad person. Nature Vs Nurture is irrelevant, because both factors are outside of the control the individual. This kind of selfish existentialist prison philosophy that justifies communism and liberalism (which is just communism applied to a wider range of personal properties) follows from the narcissistic desire to view everyone else as a worse version of yourself, lack of empathy and intolerance of diversity and low self-esteem.

      • Aeoli Pera says:


        Heaviside has expressed precisely this sentiment before, using terminology from Marxism. That is, liberals see negroes as potential bourgeoisie in need of a little instruction from themselves, the enlightened sort of consumers.

      • Aeoli Pera says:


        I think you are giving the typical advocate too much credit. I realize now that I was essentially advocating fascism in this post way back when: https://aeolipera.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/a-more-persuasive-argument-for-liberty/

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >Freedom is the ability to pre-determine the principles you hold that won’t be influenced by market factors:

      Sounds like you’re solidly on Team Calvin.

      >The problem is that people who let market factors make their decisions for them don’t have freedom and therefore don’t have a soul and don’t exist. They essentially become a black box where you input market data and get a response.

      Unless we assume strict determinism (which you have done), this is merely implied.

  2. Heaviside says:

    Filth is for shudras and other similarly pestilent types.

  3. j says:

    Absolutely beautiful.

    It is what it is m8.

  4. Reblogged this on Sub umbra alarum tuarum protege me and commented:
    My comrade at intellectual arms and sometimes collaborator in attempts to bridge the stubborn sane-insane dichotomy by transcending it to supersanity (in a right wing Christian, rather than lefty-hippy-pomoninny way) has written something that does just that. The lead of bitter outcastdom, obsessive cogitation, struggle with despair, and sifting through words and words and words, and endless henids doomed to perish before monadhood at last yields to the process of psychological alchemy and a brilliant, gleaming, golden insight is formed. This post is a must read, reread, remember, and completely integrate into one’s worldview kind of post.

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