The figure of Vl. Solov’ev remains for us quite enigmatic, and his image is twofold. He evokes towards himself a twofold attitude, he charms and he repulses. We sense his immeasurable, his prophetic significance as an event, an event in Russian life and in the life of the world. It suffices but to glance at his face, to get a feel for all his unusualness, his strangeness, his uniqueness. But for the vexed and the critic there is the challenge of his philosophic-theological tractates. It is discomfiting to find in a mystic a rationalistic manner of writing, a sort of glibness, a dullness of contraction, the absence of acuity and the paradoxical. Everything is too smooth, felicitous and schematic in the philosophising and theologising of Vl. Solov’ev. But indeed the religious life is essentially, and first of all antinomic. And the paradoxality of philosophising is perhaps an accurate reflection of the antinomic in religious experience. Solov’ev wrote thus, as though the unknown were of the abyss, he did not know contradictions, and everything was for him felicitous. But we know, that Vl. Solov’ev was profoundly a mystic, that he was antinomic in his religious experience, paradoxical in his life, and that for him things were not felicitous. We know, that there was a by-day and a by-night to Solov’ev. It becomes quite clear for us, that in his philosophic-theological schemata Solov’ev obscured rather than revealed himself. It is necessary to seek out the genuine Solov’ev in separate lines and between the lines, in particular verses and small articles. His genius is most of all reflected in his verses, in his “Legend about Anti-Christ”, in such surprising articles, as “The Meaning of Love” and “The Poetry of Tiutchev”, and from his larger works as in “The History and Future of Theocracy”, — of one extraordinary, penetrating, altering to the utmost limits the schemata into mystical insights. The largest, the most famed works of Solov’ev as regards philosophy, theology, and the journalistic — are brilliant and talented and serve their various ends, but they are not of the same genius and they do not speak about things ultimate, they rationally obscure the irrational mystery of the life of Vl. Solov’ev.

In the figure of Vl. Solov’ev there is strikingly one contradiction, which for him is fundamental. Within him there was a sort of aethereal quality, a detachment from all the matters of life. He was not sprung up from the earth, he was not organically connected with it, he was not rooted in the soil. He was from elsewhere, a newcomer from other worlds, in everything almost foreign, to nothing and to no one was he of kindred blood. How earthy, and organic, and of the soil and emergent from the depths of the bosom of Russian life and Russian history stands forth Lev Tolstoy, in comparison with the newcomer and wandering stranger Vl. Solov’ev, for whom it is not possible always even to say, whether he is Russian. And while here in Tolstoy the anarchist negates everything historical, organic, kindred, of the soil, while he renounces his ancestral inheritance, he casts a challenge to that, begotten of the bosom of his native earth. But Solov’ev justifies and provides a basis for everything, for everything he finds a place: whether for the state, for nationality, for war, for everything, and for everything. He accepts the ancestral precepts, he wants to be true to these precepts, and neither to rebel nor to break from them. In “The Justification of the Good” he attains to virtuosity in this justification of everything, that organically was created by history, in the safeguarding of all the historical entities. And it remains enigmatic, why such an aethereal, a non-earthy man not of the soil should justify and safeguard everything historic, sprung up from the soil, connected with the land. Motifs both rational and irrational interweave mysteriously within the person of Vl. Solov’ev.

There were several periods in the life and creativity of Vl. Solov’ev. And the final period is keenly distinct from the preceding ones. In the first period, when Solov’ev wrote his large and greatest systematic and philosophic and theological treatises, he was very much the gnostic-idealist and his Christianity was optimistic and rosy. Solov’ev did not yet sense all the terror and all the power of evil, he did not see the tragedy, connected with evil. He conceived of evil too rationally, not mystically, he expounded on evil gnostically, he did not penetrate down to the ultimate mystery of evil, the evil unfathomable, without foundation, irrational, incomprehensible, engendered of freedom. It seems furthermore, that for Solov’ev evil was but of the lack of understanding, an insufficiency of perfection, a mistaken consciousness and hence easily overcome. Characteristic of this period was “The Lectures on God-manhood”, wherein the matter is a very scholastic, rationalised mysticism, in which the theory of the progress of mankind is with genius interwoven with the mystical idea of God-manhood, and providing as it were a theological interpretation of optimistic progress. In “The Lectures on God-manhood” everything is too felicitous, there is not the tragic end, there is no dismaying anguish afront finality. The optimistic attitude towards evil permeates all the first period of the creativity of Solov’ev. In this period rational philosophy and rational theology predominate over the mystical. Solov’ev brings into Christianity both humanism and progress-ism, he enriches human consciousness with the progressive humanism of modern times. And he believes in the easy attainment of Christian righteous-truth upon the earth, in human life, he believes in a Christian politics and he appeals to it, he constructs a theory and its practice of a Christian progress towards the good. He underestimates the power of evil and sin. But life dealt Vl. Solov’ev blow upon blow, wound after wound, it shattered all his rosy hopes. Evil avenged itself on him for insufficient attention and acknowledging of it. The isolation of Vl. Solov’ev in this world grew all the more and more. With no one and with nothing was he able to unite himself. In the middle period of his life he devotes himself primarily with militant journalism, in which he struggles with empirical evil. In his final period of life, when Solov’ev returned again to his basic religio-philosophic themes, he is captivated by an apocalyptic terror of the end, he is engulfed by the terror of the growing power of evil and the approaching ultimate embodiment of evil. He senses the failure of history within the dark abyss, and there perishes his rosy faith in the possibility of Christian politics, in the realisation of the truth of Christ on earth, in theocracy. The very idea of God-manhood was shaken, and in this idea a transcendent Christianity was separated off from the immanent humanism. For this period the most characteristic work was the “Three Conversations”, with its “Legend about Anti-Christ”. Solov’ev proceeds through to an apocalyptic consciousness, and he posits eschatological problems. We shall see, that also the fundamental problem for Solov’ev of East and West is different for him in the different periods. And it ought always to be remembered, that just as there is a Vl. Solov’ev both by day and by night, so also there is a Vl. Solov’ev of the first period and another of the final period.

Quite extraordinary within Solov’ev, ingrained, threading through the whole of his life, — is his sense of oecumenicity, his universalism. There is in him no sort of individualism, no sort of particularism. Any sort of sectarianism and splitting-away were contrary and foreign to him. Vl. Solov’ev never was able to belong to any sort of school or party, nor to any current or circle. Russian life and thought of the second half XIX Century does not know of another, so oecumenical and universal a man, for whom always there but existed Russia, mankind, the world soul, the Church, God, rather than just circles and trends. The oecumenicity and universalism of Solov’ev have led to this, that to the present day they do not know what camp to dispatch him off to. They dispute, about whether Solov’ev was a Slavophil or a Westerniser, whether Orthodox or Catholic, whether a conservative or a liberal. In actuality he was first of all an universalist, filled with an oecumenical feeling, and in this was all his uniqueness. Solov’ev was neither Slavophil nor Westerniser, neither Orthodox nor Catholic, since he dwelt his whole life genuinely within the oecumenical Church. He lived in unity with the spirit of the world, like a true knight, he wanted to set it free from captivity. 1  The saying of Dostoevsky, that Russian man — is preeminently the all-man, most of all applies to Solov’ev. This Russian anguish as regards all-mankind, as regards oecumenicity, leads to the positing of the problem of East and West. The problem of East and West, the problem of re-uniting the two worlds in a Christian all-unity, in God-manhood, — is the fundamental problem for Vl. Solov’ev, tormenting him all his life. But with this is also the greatness of Solov’ev, in this also is his significance, that the problem of East and West — that this is not only his fundamental problem — this is a fundamental problem of Russia, a problem not only of the Russian philosophy of history, but also of Russian history. The Russian national self-consciousness was begotten in the positing of the problem of East and West. And over the course of the whole XIX Century Russian thought struggles over this problem. Even the fact alone, of the struggle of Slavophilism and Westernism, with which Russian literature is filled, as well as Russian philosophy and Russian social-thought, — testifies to the centrality of this problem. Slavophilism was the first experience of national self-consciousness and of our national ideology. The Slavophils posited the problem of East and West as foremost a religious problem. Russia — is the Third Rome. This proud awareness courses through almost all of Russian history. And in the XIX Century, the century of self-consciousness preeminently, in the person of its greatest thinkers and doers Russia pondered the awareness of itself as Third Rome. With the problem of East and West is connected Russian messianism, which assumes various forms. Russian messianism for Solov’ev was connected with the anguish over the re-unification of the Church. In this re-unification, Solov’ev sees the great vocation of Russia. Having started out with the Slavophils, with Dostoevsky, he here fundamentally parts from them.

Vl. Solov’ev gained wide reknown in the capacity of a critic of Slavophilism, as an exposer of Slavophil sins, as a champion of nationalism. His “National Question” was read more than his other books and gained him great popularity. In the “National Question” Solov’ev — is a Westerniser. And his Catholic sympathies strengthened all the more his Westerniser reputation. Yet in everything — Solov’ev was a Slavophil in his sources. From the Slavophils he received his themes, his faith in the great mission of Russia. In accord with the Slavophils he set at the centre of everything the Christian faith, the religious motif he made the stirring motif of all his thought. The Slavophil problem of East and West became his fundamental problem. The Slavophil negation of “abstract principles” and the affirmation of the life of the spirit was placed by Solov’ev at the foundation of his own world-concept and his own attitude towards life. As regards emergent ideas, as regards themes and motifs, Solov’ev belongs to the Slavophil current in the history of our thought. In the Russian Westernism these themes do not exist. Russian messianism always indeed assumes a form of Slavophilism, even though it bear a Westernist tint. For Solov’ev it was a domestic quarrel with the Slavophils, as to what he should do. On the pages of Aksakov’s “Rus’” emerged Solov’ev with his new understanding of the vocation of Russia. He was a new consciousness within Slavophilism, a new developement within Slavophilism. And if there had not occurred this advance of Slavophilism in Solov’ev, then there would have occurred the gradual dying and decay of Slavophilism. In the personage of its own faithful epigonal descendents Slavophilism declined, and it developed only further in Dostoevsky and Vl. Solov’ev, in whom survived everything, that in Slavophilism had been great and vital. But nonetheless it mustneeds be said, that Solov’ev’s consciousness is profoundly distinct from that of the Slavophilic, that the problem of East and West was decided by him otherwise, and that the Russian messianism in the person of Solov’ev entered into a completely new phase. The attitude towards the West and towards Catholicism with Solov’ev was completely otherwise, than with the Slavophils. He is closer to Chaadaev. The Slavophils looked on the East, on Eastern Orthodoxy, on Russia, as the possessor and preserver of Orthodoxy, the fullness and the wholeness of Christian truth. In the West, in Catholicism, they saw only the betrayal of Christian truth, only the breaking up of the spiritual wholeness, only rationalistic dissection. For them there was no need of an unifying of the world of the Eastern-Orthodox with the Western-Catholic, since in Orthodoxy was the fullness of truth, and in Catholicism only a deviation from this truth. Only in the Orthodox East, in Russia, was there possible the supreme type of Christian culture. Western culture — was anti-Christian, rationalistic, and hence false and in decay. There was nothing for us to learn from the West. The Slavophils understood Russian messianism in this sense, that only with Russia stood a great future, as the sole Christian land. For them the Russian nation was a chosen people of God, and their messianism brings to mind the times of the ancient Hebrews. Slavism will supersede the Western cultures, which are inclined towards collapse and becoming decrepit. It is proper only to speak about the re-unification of Catholicism with the Orthodox Church, the return of the prodigals to the bosom of the Church. In the West there are no self-sufficient principles, having significance for the fullness of truth. The Eastern-Christian world presented itself for the Slavophils as already that of all-mankind. Vl. Solov’ev sensed the danger of the Slavophil national self-affirmation, and he saw, what such self-satisfaction led to. He saw, that the fundamental error and the one-sidedness of Slavophilism was concealed in its false attitude towards Catholicism, in churchly particularism and nationalism. The jumbling together and identification of the Orthodox Church with Russian nationalism seemed to him improper. He saw great truth in Catholicism and he felt anguish as regards Catholicism. For him the problem of East and West became the problem of the unification of the two one-sided truths into an higher fullness, mutually-fulfilling. The great mission of Russia — was to overcome by love and self-renunciation the sin of the thousand-year rift of East and West, to conquer the enmity, and moreover of everything else impeding the work of Christ on the earth. Solov’ev always posits the universal Logos in contrast to the force of the national element. And churchly nationalism and particularism is always the result of the resurgence of the national element — the feminine element, over the universal Logos — the masculine principle.

A great truth of Vl. Solov’ev is in this, that in his anguish regarding Western Catholicism he thirsts for the Church to be free and militant. He awaited the active relationship of the Church to history and to social matters. The activeness of Catholicism captivated him and the passiveness of Orthodoxy repulsed him.

But afront the jaws of the dragon
Thou didst realise: cross and sword — be one.

Holy war was near to the heart of Solov’ev. With great power he justified the religious and moral meaning of war. But the “sword” — is a symbol of war not only in the strict sense, it is the symbol of everything militant, of every militant struggle with evil and the militant defense of truth. In Solov’ev there was the knight-chivalrant, and the insufficiency of the knightly-chivalrous spirit in the Orthodox East tormented him. With his usual penchant for schemata Solov’ev sees in the East the prevailing of God without man, and in the West the prevailing of man without God. This happens already from out of the pre-Christian separation of East and West, but it left its mark also on the division of Christianity, Eastern and Western. In the East and in Christianity there remained the prevailing of the Divine over the human; in the West — it was the prevailing of the human over the Divine. But the religion of Christ is the perfect union of the Divine and the human, it is the religion of God-manhood. Solov’ev sensed the Monophysite slant of the East and he was distraught by this. He thirsted for the fullness of the Christian truth about God-manhood, about the perfect transforming of the human will to the will of God, about the perfect theosis or deification of the human. This union of the human and the Divine, which transpired within the Person of Christ, should transpire also within mankind. Christ — is the God-Man, and the Church — is God-manhood. Before Christ the world made its way towards the God-Man, after Christ the world makes its way towards God-manhood. Christianity saves not only individual souls, but mankind and the world as well. It seemed to Solov’ev, that in the West, within Catholicism, the idea of God-manhood was more clearly expressed, than in the East. The churchly organisation of Catholicism seemed to him adapted for the active Divine-human process of history. Solov’ev was captivated by the anthropologism of Catholicism, by the humanism of the West. The passiveness of the East, the complete absence of human activeness result in Byzantinism, in the Russian Old Ritualism, but indeed also Russian Orthodoxy, nationalism and particularism, to the subjugation of the oecumenical Church to the state and the national element. In the East Solov’ev sees exclusively a contemplative-prayerful religiosity, whereas in the West it is active-working. In the East there is no such organisation of the Church, there is not such an unity of the Church, without which there is impossible the active and militant realisation of the truth of Christ on the earth, in the earthly history of mankind, and there is impossible the Divine-human process. In the West, in Catholicism there is this oneness, there is this organisation, which all the more attracts Solov’ev to it, and persuades him of the truth of Catholicism. Peter, the rock of the Church, is necessary for the Kingdom of Christ. And Solov’ev bows down before the Peter of the Catholic Church, before the Roman first-priest, before the active-militant hierarchic order of the West. Resolutely and triumphantly Solov’ev repudiates the Slavophil and national-Orthodox attitude towards Catholicism as heresy. The opinion of theologians — is not the opinion of the Church. The Church oecumenical yet therefore cannot condemn Catholicism as heresy, since after the splitting of the Church there were no more oecumenical councils.

But the fundamental mistake of Solov’ev was in this, that he assigned too great a significance to the agreements of churchly governance, to the formal talks of the Russian Synod and the Russian government with the Vatican. For him the unification of the Eastern and Western Churches was first of all the unification of a Christian tsar with a Christian high-priest, a theocratic union of realm and church. He worked out a project of union. In his French book, “La Russie et l’eglise universelle”, Solov’ev defends papalism with the usual Catholic arguments, which can be found by those fond of Catholic theology. The only original thing was in this, that these arguments were made by a Russian. In this book, Solov’ev shows himself essentially an adherent of the medieval papal theocracy. 2  In this book, remarkable as regards its pervasive oecumenical spirit, is the disagreeably striking abundance of the scholastic, the scholastic schematism, the scholastic formalism. The very hierarchical structure of the Church he understands too formally, he compares too much its powers to those of the state. The Catholic tendency, in regard to equating the Church with the state, existed also in Solov’ev. In the depths of his mystical experience Solov’ev was a member of the Church oecumenical, he was both Orthodox and Catholic, and he strove for the Church to come. But in the superficiality of his consciousness and in his practise he was an uniate, i.e. an adherent of formal negotiations and agreements. And foremost of all he wanted a formal co-subjugation of the Church to an Orthodox pope, a vicar of Peter. For him, the oneness of the Church oecumenical was connected with the formal subjugation of the churchly hierarchy to the pope. He went astray in the conception of the Church as priestly authority. The letter of Solov’ev to bishop Strossmeier is especially characteristic for its uniate tendencies. In this letter he writes, that in the Russian nation the pope would find a pious nation. But Khomyakov was right, that an unia in the Church is impossible. An unia, regarded as formal negotiations and agreements, with reciprocal concessions and pretensions to receive as much as possible the more for oneself, is possible only in politics, only in the relationships between states, and not within the Church. No sort of political connivings are proper in the life of the Church. There is nothing in the Church to concede away, the Church — is one. Strictly speaking, it is not possible to speak about the re-unification of the Churches, it is possible only to speak about the re-unification of the two human worlds, the world of the Eastern-Christian and the world of the Western-Catholic. The Church — is one, and is the fullness thereof. The divisions and the non-fullness are but of people, only but human history. And the division separating apart Orthodox and Catholic mankind is an human sin, a limitedness that is human. But the redeeming of the human sin and the overcoming of human limitedness is not to be gained by formal unias, by negotiations and agreements, by mutual concessions or reciprocal pretensions, only but by a transformation of the mutual attitudes of the two Christian worlds within the very deeps of the religious experience. Khomyakov was right, repudiating the unia, but he was not right in his dislike for the Catholic world, in his human one-sidedness and limitedness. The oneness of the Church, as the Body of Christ, does not possess formal tokens, and the Church never was disunited nor can be disunited. The one Church is both in the East and in the West. Only people are divided, and people ought to be re-united. But Solov’ev inclined towards the Catholic formal understanding of the oneness of the Church and therefore he was compelled to admit, that Orthodoxy is schism. Khomyakov more accurately viewed the essence of the Church and he was correct in his repudiation of the unia. But his harsh attitude towards the Western Catholic world was a religious sin, his defect. Solov’ev inaccurately looked at the oneness of the Church and he was not right, in allowing for the possibility of an unia. But his loving attitude for the Western Catholic world was his great truth. Vl. Solov’ev was right in this, that he acknowledged the possibility of dogmatic developement, that he saw a Divine-human process with the Church. For him the Orthodox perfection has not yet occurred. It would be almost a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to affirm, that the Orthodox perfection has occurred, that religious developement has reached its end, that there is nothing more to await. In this is the great significance of Solov’ev. He saw within Christianity not only the priesthood, but likewise prophecy and the kingdom. In this he is far off ahead in comparison with the Slavophils. With all his being, Solov’ev was pervaded by Christian prophecies about the City of God, the Coming City. In this he was the new man, the man of a new religious consciousness.


The Church will be re-united only through the mutual love of the Orthodox world and the Catholic world, only through the mutual striving and reciprocal pervasion of the two types of religious experience. It is in mutual love, and not in formal agreements, that the true re-union of the two Christian worlds will be accomplished. In each Orthodox and in each Catholic, with love not only for their own world, but also the other world, with a feel for the oecumenical brotherhood in Christ, with the surmounting of one-sided self affirmation, the Churches will re-unite, the Church oecumenical will triumph. It is in the mystical churchly depths, and not upon the superficiality of agreements of churchly powers that authentic re-union will be accomplished. But for this re-union it is not necessary to forsake the native Church of one’s fathers, so as to change one’s confession of faith. In this also is included a worldly task, that the Orthodox from within Orthodoxy should love Catholicism and acknowledge the truth of Catholicism, so that then it be wrought Catholic in relation to Orthodoxy. The going over from Orthodoxy to Catholicism cannot be a triumph for the Church oecumenical, in this there is no re-union. The going over of Russian Orthodox to Catholicism does not address the resolution of the problem of East and West, it always impedes and would blur the very problem, it would debilitate the consciousness of Russian messianism. Vl. Solov’ev was too inclined to go over to Catholicism, although a Catholic he never was. But this tendency to resolve the great problem, so rightly tormenting him, by a going over into Catholicism, distorts the whole Solov’ev matter. It is true, he speaks not about the annexation of the Eastern Church to the Western, rather instead about the re-unification of the Eastern and Western Churches. But he is always tempted by Catholic formalism in his understanding of the oneness of the Church, and by Catholic imperialism in his understanding of the hierarchic structure of the Church. At the basis of this temptation is a true thirst to behold the Church militant. But the times and seasons ensue when the militancy ought to become otherwise, and new. The indeed great truth of Solov’ev remains his genuine love for the Western-Catholic world, for the entire other half of the Christian world. This love, the feeling of brotherhood, the feeling of the oneness of Christian mankind, — to our woe, rarely is it met with in the Russian Orthodox world. With this love of his, Solov’ev does far more to re-unite the Churches, to resolve the problem of East and West, than by his projects of formal agreements and negotiations, than by his uniatism. The mystic and the scholastic-rationalist struggle eternally within Solov’ev.

Vl. Solov’ev nonetheless did not go sufficiently deep into the problem of the separation of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, he did not get down to the final, the mystical level of experience of East and West. Indeed, the sources of the separation of the Orthodox East and the Catholic West, and their mutual re-union, mustneeds be sought out not in dogmatics nor in churchly organisation, but in the depths of the religio-mystical experience. The study-manuals of dogmatic theology and canonical rules are unable to provide anything for deciding the problem of East and West. And the debates of official Orthodoxy and official Catholicism on the basis of dogmatics and churchly administration hold little value. Not from hence is light gained. The differences in dogmatics and church organisation — are secondary, they are by-products, these differences issue forth from differences in religious experience, in the primordial mystic communion with God. The Orthodox world and the Catholic world are so estranged and they so poorly understand each other not because, that the filioque clause separates them, or purgatory, or the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, or the pope, but because their religious experience is deeply divergent, because these worlds have different attitudes to Christ, because of Orthodox mysticism and Catholic mysticism, i.e. the mysteried tap-roots of religious life, are deeply divergent. Solov’ev was little interested in Catholic mysticism, and it held no attraction for him. What attracted him most of all in Catholicism was the hierarchic churchly structure, and papism, as an active organisation, suitable to the struggle for the truth of Christ upon the earth. In Solov’ev nowhere is it possible to find an attentive penetration into the mystical in Catholicism, into the unique life of Catholic saints. And too, Solov’ev poorly understood and little valued the Eastern ascetic mysticism. When Vl. Solov’ev speaks about the Orthodox East, there is no indication of the countenance of St. Seraphim of Sarov, that summit-point of Eastern Christianity, and key to the riddle of the mystical mission of Orthodox Russia. Quite moreso is Solov’ev taken up with the improper relationship of church and state in Russia, the passivity of the Orthodox hierarchy, etc. But indeed the Catholic West — is not only the militant hierarchical structure of the Church, it is not only Peter, it is not only in power, rather, this is also St. Francis of Assisi, St. Theresa, this is also the “Imitation of Christ”, mystical sensitivity, romantic hunger, stigmata and sweet rapture over the Lord’s sufferings. And the Orthodox East — is not only the passivity of the churchly hierarchy, the Byzantine subjugation of the Church to the state, conservatism, the impeding of God-manhood upon the earth, rather this is also St. Isaac the Syrian, St. Makarios of Egypt and St. Maximos the Confessor, this is the valiant and white mysticism of St. Seraphim, this is the deification-theosis of human nature from within, a mystical fullness. It definitely mustneeds be said, that in the mystical problem of the reciprocal relationship of the Orthodox East and the Catholic West, Solov’ev relied too much on the political aspect and he pursued values too merely public. In his book, written in the French language and intended for the Western world, Solov’ev failed to show to this other world the holy things of the Orthodox East, with which only could there be connected the world mission of Russia. His characterisings of the Orthodox East are almost exhaustingly extracts from I. Aksakov, with excellent exposures of the ulcer of our churchly structure, and indeed his particular exposures of our improper relationship of church and state. It is possible to conceive, from the reading of this book, that the Orthodox East consists only in improper relationships of church and state, as the consequence of the breaching of hierarchical subordination to the pope of Rome. In what consists the uniqueness of the religious path of the East, Solov’ev gives no indication. From this book of Solov’ev, the West does not learn, in what consists the mission of Russia, nor in what is the great purpose of the Orthodox East. Within Eastern ascetic mysticism Solov’ev sees something India-like, almost yoga-ism, i.e. a deviation from the Christian religious experience.

He failed to appreciate the holy things of Orthodoxy, he did not understand, that in the Orthodox East, in the lives of the saints, in the individual mystical experience there is done the work of God, from which will come the transfiguration of the world. Solov’ev is a thousand times right in his exposures of our ulcerous church structure, the false relationships of church and state, the un-Christian nature of our national self-smugness. But there are things incomparably far deeper, connected with the resolution of the problem of East and West, and Solov’ev failed to touch upon them in his book, “La Russie et l’eglise universelle”: he did not tell the West the truths of the East, without which the world cannot come to its graced end. It is necessary to go deeper into the mystical separation of Catholicism and Orthodoxy and therein also to search out the sources of the discord and the possibility of reconciliation.

In the West, in Catholicism — God is an object, external to man and over man. Man is drawn outwards towards God, and yearns for Him. In this yearning is an hunger and a languishing. This being drawn outwards is sensed in the architectural style of the Gothic. In the Catholic temple man is so drawn upwards, towards God, that in the actual temple it is cold. Christ — is the object in Catholicism, the object to be in love with, the object of imitation. Catholic mysticism — is sensual, in it there is a blazing, a rapture with passions, a pining with delight, a swooning. Human nature comes out of its languor in accord with the Divine nature. The receiving of stigmata — is thus characteristic for Catholic mysticism. The imitation of the Lord’s sufferings, the being in love with Christ — all this is possible only then, if Christ be an object, outside of man and over man, the object of yearning, not inwardly innate. The Holy Grail Chalice is characteristic of Catholicism and the romantic longing. Catholic mysticism is an hunger and a passionate yearning. The sensuousness of Catholic mysticism is particularly evident with St. Theresa. There is something feminine in Catholic mysticism. Almost all the Catholic mystics and saints speak about a sweetness, about a fatigue, almost about a sweet-suffering religious experience in imitation to Christ and love for Christ. This hunger, this striving, this being drawn out upwards gives birth to creativity, it creates the beauty of Catholic culture. The mystical experience of Catholicism — is anthropologised, within it strains and vibrates the human element, man is drawn towards the object of his love — to God, and therein reaches an ecstasy of intoxication, of passion. In the Catholic mystic there is a being fired up and at the same time there is a coldness, there is passion and at the same time there is discipline, there is a strangely combined ecstatic intoxication and severe discipline. In the Catholic temple there is sensed cold and longing, in it there is much of the human and there is also the departing of everything human upwards, towards God. There is never the feeling, that we remain in the temple with God, Who has come down for us, wherein we draw warmth from this. God has not come down for us, rather we ought to be drawn up to Him, in the manner that the Gothic temples stretch upwards. There is this Gothic in all of Catholic mysticism, in every dimension of the religious experience of the West. Out of the Gothic religious experience was begotten all the Western Catholic culture. All the great accomplishments of Western Catholic culture, all its captivating beauties are created by the passionate striving of man upwards, by a Gothic manner of being drawn out upwards. Within the very structure of the Catholic religious experience there is a dynamic process, directed outwards, towards the object of the yearning. This is an experience of the empty-hungering of man, of a longing love for an object. This a creative and dynamic love. Without it there would not be all the richness of God’s world, of God’s artistry. From it came the activeness of the West, the anthropologism of the West. The West was never religiously satiated, and always it longed for the chalice of the Holy Grail with the Blood of Christ. The West never advanced from Christ, as an inner fact of mystical experience, it did not proceed forth from the givenness of the Divine, it lovingly yearned for Christ, it climbed from man upwards towards God. Already with Blessed Augustine it is possible to find this type of religious experience, this anthropologism and psychologism, this loving passionateness. In the West, in Catholicism there was always not so much a marriage-like coming together of man with God, as rather just the being-in-loveness of man. And the great mission of the Catholic West, perhaps, consisted in the uncovering of the mystical truth about the being-in-loveness as a creative power. This being-in-love fashioned Western culture, and with it is connected the knight-chivalrant power of the West. The knights in love went on crusade and created beauty. The military power of the West and the creative culture of the West reflect a particular religious experience, in the relationship to God as object.

In the Orthodox East there was a different religious path, a different mystical experience. In the East, and in Orthodoxy — God is a subject, and from within man. It is there that God comes down to man and man receives Christ within himself. In Orthodoxy man does not stretch himself out towards God, but rather stretches himself out before God. In an Orthodox temple God makes His way down to the people, and therefore in this temple it is warmer, than in the Catholic temple. Within Eastern Orthodoxy there is not that being-in-love with Christ, there is not that being in imitation to Christ, since that Christ is not an object, but rather subject, an inward fact. Orthodox mysticism is not sensuous, but rather primarily volitional, and within it there is a characteristic spiritual sobriety. In Eastern Orthodox mysticism, the Divine is an issuing-forth, coming from within, and is not an object yearned and longed for. For Eastern mysticism, a characteristic idea is that of theosis, the deification of human nature from within, the pathway of receiving Christ within oneself. In Eastern Orthodoxy there is not that romantic longing, begotten of mystic hunger, within it rather there is a mystical satiation. In the Christian East the activeness is directed inward, upon the illumination and deification of human nature, and not externally, not upon creativity of culture, nor upon a place in history. The history of the East does not know the knightly chivalry of the West, but rather instead the valour and activeness are transferred over into an inward spiritual activity, not visible at the surface of history. Inwardly, in its type of communion with God, the Eastern mysticism is more masculine, whereas the Western is more feminine. The Eastern type of religious experience is not conducive to creativity, to creative activeness within history, since that everything is directed into the inward ordering of man in relation to God, to the creativity of a new nature in Christ. The East is less anthropologised than is the West, in the East the Divine is preserved, while the human however is not objectified within the dynamic of the historical. St. Seraphim of Sarov — was not a great creator, but rather a great creation by God, a great fact of being, a great vital attainment. In the East there is a deeper structuring of the relationship of man to God, and herein are all the great attainments of the East. The West is strong in relation to the world and to man. Therein is attained creative culture, which is weak in the East. Eastern Orthodox mysticism is not a being-in-love, but rather marriage-like, a marital union of man and Divinity. In the Eastern theosis there is realised a marital-like mystery, human nature from within is pervaded by the Divine. In this is the great truth and the great mission of the East. Only the Orthodox East preserves the mystical mystery of union with God, i.e. the principle of the transfiguration of the world. In the West God remains quite external to man. The mystical plenitude of the East deifies human nature, but this Christian deification has nothing in common with Indian pantheism, with the annihilation of person, in it rather person is saved. The mystical hunger of the West creates great culture. In the East there are not the historico-cultural dynamics, but rather the dynamics of an inward communion with God. Being in love would seem to be more dynamic, more creative, than being married. The mystical experience of being in love has its own great mission and its own particular creative achievements. But the mystical experience of marriage has no less a great mission, and in it is a particular inward dynamics. Gothic culture — the culture of being-in-love creativity, with it is connected the historical path of the West. The Eastern, the Russian culture — is a culture of Divine marital-union, and with it is connected the historical path of the East. The historical destiny of the Orthodox East is defined by its relationship to God, as to a subject. For the mysteried purposes of Divine Providence the religious life of mankind split onto two experiences and two pathways. Both experiences and both pathways have their own mission and they complement each the other. It would be impious, it would be godless to say, that truth is exclusively here or exclusively there. In the house of our Father are many habitations. These varied experiences and varied pathways remain within the bounds of oecumenical Christianity, of the one Church of Christ; the enmity however and division are but an human limitation, only historical relativeness. Why in the East there was relationship to God as to a subject, and in the West as to an object, — this is a mystery not given us to comprehend, a mystery of the freedom of man and the grace of God. But to comprehend these different experiences and to overcome the enmity in our varied pathways, we both must and should.

Vl. Solov’ev acknowledges the great mission of Slavism and Russia, he was a philosopher of Russian messianism. Everything, that was creative and remarkable in the history of the Russian thought of the XIX Century, was connected with an acknowledgement of the mission of Russia. But faith in the world mission of Russia presupposes faith in the truth, preserved in the depths of the Russian spirit, which Russia is called to relate to the world. This truth can be only but a truth religious, a truth Christian, a truth of the mystical experience of the Orthodox East. About the existence of this great religious truth, which the West alters all more and more, is witnessed to by the Russian great literature. The whole of the creativity of Dostoevsky is a document of the Russian soul, a disclosing of its religious torment. Everyone in Rus’ is tormented by the question about the religious meaning of life, God torments from the early years right up to the grave. All the spiritual energy of Russians goes inward, into the inner relationship of man to God, and not matters external for them, there does not remain for them the powers for historical activeness, for the practical ordering of life, for cultural developement. Even politics for us takes the form of visionary exaltations and religious maximalism. This might betoken bell-tollings for the future of Russia. But it is impossible not to see the unique religious character of Russia. Vl. Solov’ev devoted all his life to the ultimate religious questions, to Russian questions, and all his life he dreamed about an organic religious culture. But within everything however in the religious constructs of Solov’ev, in his schema, in his rational mindset, there remains almost no place for a self-sufficient mission of Russia. A great service of Solov’ev was in this, that he revolted against the Slavophil limitedness, he surmounted the Slavophil self-smugness and the Slavophil nationalism, with love he turned towards the West, to the Catholic Church. He demanded of Russia Christian love and Christian self-denial. In him the Slavophil consciousness became dynamic, and not static. He called Russia to an awareness of its sins and to repentance. The terming of Russia as Third Rome for Solov’ev was interlaced with a sense of the sinfulness of Russia and with the calling to repentance. In this he was right. In this we ought to go beyond Solov’ev and accept his tradition in regard to the Catholic West, and not the Slavophil tradition. Russia ought to acknowledge its sins, to repent, to renounce its national self-satisfaction and national chauvinism. This is a preparatory stage, an inevitable asceticism and purification for a great and positive work in the world. What does Russia bring to the tragedy of world history, what sort of truth does it relate to the world? This truth ought to be positive and creative, it cannot be exhausted by repentance alone, by the overcoming of sins alone. The truth of the Third Rome, the truth of Russian messianism cannot be exhausted by a reunification with Catholicism, by a subordination of our churchly structures to the pope. The truth of Russia cannot be merely the acknowledgement of the truth of Catholicism. In this instance Russia will have a world mission, if it bears into the world its own truth, a truth unknown to the West, and preserved only in the East. If Russia cannot live and realise its purpose without the truth of the West, so then also, the West cannot do without the truth of Russia, the truth of Eastern Orthodoxy. The very positing of the problem of the East and the West presupposes a reciprocal completing of the two experiences and the two pathways. Russia bears forth the holy things, without which the goals of world history are not to be realised. Solov’ev, certainly, was filled with these messianic hopes, but in his concepts, with the building of schemes and formal agreements, he went astray in acknowledging the sole tasks of Russia to be the subordination to the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church. But Solov’ev does not consist merely in his rationalistic schema and formal constructs, there is incomparably more to him. And the final period of his life bespeaks this. The very fact of the existence of Vl. Solov’ev, his very being was a tremendous dynamic in deciding the problem of East and West.


In the final period of his life, his attitude to the problem of East and West also changed for Vl. Solov’ev. All the creativity of Solov’ev of this period is without that rationalistic hue, which was so disagreeable in the periods preceding. The Solov’ev of this period is filled with an apocalyptic terror before the growing powers of evil. He no longer constructs schema so sweet and optimistic, he makes prophesies. There was potentially always within Solov’ev a prophetic awareness, and he always affirmed the prophetic side of Christianity, but only at the end of his life did the prophetic irrational conquer within him the reason of this world. He makes bold to write his “Legend about Anti-Christ”. In this tale each utterance possesses a deep and singular meaning, it is filled with symbolic realism. The prophetic power of the “Legend about Anti-Christ” already is evidenced and will prove itself all more and more. But how frustrated are all the rosy hopes of Solov’ev, what a failure there is of the Divine-human process upon the earth! In the “Legend about Anti-Christ” there is chiliasm, there is the thousand-year reign of Christ, but it does not have a connection with history, it is not so much the favourable result of history, as rather the radical repudiation of history as evil. For Solov’ev the very idea of God-manhood was shaken. He ceased to believe in the Divine-human work upon the earth. If he began by under-estimating the power of evil, then he finished by being quite terrified by the power of evil, which took its revenge on him for ignoring it, and he sensed, that it was not the kingdom of the truth of Christ, but rather the kingdom of the lie of the Anti-Christ — which is the chief result of the historical process. With his prophetic feeling he sensed the approach of the end of history. Eschatological themes became fundamental for his prophetic awareness. In the “Lectures on God-manhood” there was no actual eschatology, the Divine-human process was too felicitous. But now, in the “Legend about Anti-Christ”, the problem also of East and West is presented by Solov’ev in a new light, in an apocalyptic consciousness, in a consciousness of the end of history. Solov’ev loses faith in the good, the Divine-human, Christian works in history. He no longer believes that the re-unification of the Churches, the cherished vision of all his life, will transpire within the bounds of history. In the “Legend about Anti-Christ”, the re unification of the Churches will occur beyond the bounds of history, it will occur in a supra-historical process, on an apocalyptic plane. The unification of the Churches and the chiliastic Kingdom of Christ — are transcendent, and not immanent to history. Earlier on for Solov’ev, chiliasm had been optimistically transferred into the historical processes of mankind, and it was an immanent thing for him that within history would be realised the re-unification of the Churches, that the truth of Christ would triumph upon the earth in a theocracy. But now the chiliastic moment is pessimistically detached from history, and rendered transcendent, and theocracy is no longer presented as attainable within earthly history. The idea of theocracy falls apart for Solov’ev. It began to disintegrate already then, when he wrote his “National Question” and by his liberal journalism he unmasked the lie of nationalism and reactionary statecraft. At the end, the imperial function of theocracy passes over to the Anti-Christ. The kingdom is already no longer the Kingdom of Christ, but rather, that of the Anti-Christ.

Terror afront the Anti-Christ re-unites the Churches, beyond the bounds of history. Herein Solov’ev more profoundly grasps hold the sanctity of Orthodoxy. The mission of the Orthodox East, unclear for him within the bounds of history, became clear for him beyond the bounds of history, within eschatological perspectives. It became clear, why the Orthodox East had preserved the sanctity of Divine truth. In the several lines of the “Legend about Anti-Christ”, Solov’ev better grasps the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, than he did in his large philosophic-theological tracts. Starets Ioann (John) — is the final and blest result of the Eastern Orthodox religious path. Just indeed as Pope Peter II — is the final and blest result of the Western Catholic religious path. In the very names there is already the sense, that for Solov’ev Orthodoxy is preeminently the Christianity of John, and Catholicism — the Christianity of Peter. Starets Ioann is bestown by Solov’ev with a mystical clearness of vision. Emerging from the depths of the Orthodox East, Starets Ioann is the first to recognise the Anti-Christ and name him. All the mystical experience of the Eastern Church with the elders on the heights of their summits results in that utmost foresight, that ultimate perspicacity, which recognises the Anti-Christ in the world. Without the Christianity of the East the Anti-Christ cannot be recognised. In the West there would not be this power of Johannine perspicacity, for not such is the path of the West. In the East, little active in history, there burns an apocalyptic consciousness of the end. Pope Peter II only actively anathematises the Anti-Christ, and in this bespeaks the militant spirit of Catholicism, but in the recognition of the Anti-Christ he follows after Starets Ioann. The mystical clear-vision and perspicacity of Starets Ioann is a sacred thing of the East, the truth of the East, and it is not dependent on the hierarchical subordination of Starets Ioann to Pope Peter II. Starets Ioann and Pope Peter II are reunited,, in already having recognised the Anti-Christ and having anathematised him. Here Solov’ev attains to genius, and to truly prophetic foresight. How much more profound the images are of the last elder of the East and the last pope of the West, than is all the scholasticism of his French book. Only in his new, his apocalyptic consciousness, is Russian messianism grasped by Solov’ev.

The apocalyptic terror at the approaching end was connected for Vl. Solov’ev with terror at an Eastern-Mongolian threat. The problem of East and West presented itself before him in all its fullness, and this problem included not only Russia and the West, not only Orthodoxy and Catholicism, but likewise also the Far East, Mongolianism. The role of the Mongol East in the historical destinies of mankind usually is too lightly ignored, and the Far East forgotten. The stirrings of the Mongol Far East, which Vl. Solov’ev calls Panmongolism, were for him a foreboding of God’s judgement, directed upon the apocalyptic destiny of mankind.

Panmongolism. Though wild a name,
But to me melodious it to hear
As though in foreboding filled with
The judgement great of God…

For Christian Russia and Christian Europe, as chastisement for sin, for betrayal of Christ and the Christian revelation about man, — there threatens Panmongolism, that of the Far East, til now aslumber, the East, by us forgotten. For Russia Solov’ev’s verse, “Panmongolism”, has already proved prophetic, for in it was predicted the Japanese War and the defeat of Russia. I think, that this is not the full extent defining the prophetic forebodings of Solov’ev. In the pending dangers of Panmongolism there is a mystical anxiety, a presentiment of the end. But the great significance of Panmongolism is first of all in this, that by it is sharply put the question: what intends Russia to be, a Christian land, an organic part of the Christian all-humanity, or a borderland and un-Christian East? Whether Russia should preserve the Christian revelation about person or betray it and suborn it to the Eastern-Mongolic element of impersonality? Only a Christian Russia, united with a Christian Europe, can have the strength to repel a Panmongolism. The Eastern-Mongolic element of impersonality has penetrated also into Western civilisation under the form of a leveling Americanism. The Far East and the Far West coincide. The problem of the Orthodox East and the Catholic West is decided in the problem of the relationship of a Christian all-humanity, of a true Christian revelation about man and humanity, towards the non-Christian humanity, either not having accepted the Christian revelation or having betrayed it. The Christian Churches, or more accurately, the two Christian worlds, conjoin in the external danger of the impersonal element of the East and the internal danger of the impersonal element of an anti-Christian civilisation. Afront Russian messianism there stands Solov’ev’s question:

O Rus’. In foresight august
Thou with proud thought art taken;
What sort the East intendest thou to be:
The East of Xerxes or of Christ?

The danger threatens Russia to become the East of Xerxes, if it conquers not within itself the Tatarism, i.e. the element of the Far East pervasive in its depths. With the Christian and the cultural surmounting of the Tatar element and the Far East is connected first of all the altering of the attitude towards the Christian West. Christian Russia ought to surmount the hostility and rather to love the Christian West, to behold the one truth of Christ, the truth of the oecumenical Church, both in Orthodoxy and in Catholicism. The oecumenical Christian culture ought to be contrast opposite to every, whether external or internal, Tatarism, Mongolism, and impersonalism, whether barbaric or civilised. Against the anti-Christian spirit, Starets Ioann acknowledges the truth of Pope Peter II, who in turn follows after the clear-vision of Ioann. Panmongolism serves to the re-uniting of East and West.

Vladimir Solov’ev — was a prophet of a new religious consciousness, an apocalyptic consciousness. In light of the new consciousness he prophesies about Russian messianism, he continues the work of Dostoevsky. For the scholastic-formalist consciousness the mystery of the re-unification of East and West was obscured, and it is clarified only for the apocalyptic consciousness. Solov’ev prophetically overcomes both Slavophilism and Westernism. The problem of the prophet — was fundamental within the life of Solov’ev. All his life he sensed himself fulfilling a prophetic function, rather than sacerdotal. He was the potentialised prophet, the prophetic spirit tormented him, and all his whole being was oriented towards propheticism. Towards the end of his life this took an extreme form and led to a dangerous bent. But it is impossible to understand Solov’ev and all the works of his life, if one were to view his teachings about the prophet, as contrast to the high-priest and tsar, as merely his usual penchant for schema. The whole of the religious world-feeling of Solov’ev was such, that the Christian religion had for him not only the sacerdotal side, but also the prophetic side. He always lived in a prophetic spirit, but this spirit only towards the end of his life was fully manifest and given expression. Vl. Solov’ev stands at the borderline of a new cosmic religious epoch. He sees already the rosy dawn. And the tragedy of his life was a tragedy of the cosmic heights. He sensed, just like Dostoevsky, and like all the heralds of Russian messianism, that Russia stands at the centre of the world, that through it the world advances towards a new cosmic epoch. Not in vain is the image of Sophia the Wisdom of God preserved primarily in the East, in Orthodoxy. In his feeling for Sophia, his feeling for the cosmic within Christianity, Solov’ev had a greater connection to Eastern Christianity than he himself realised. And in this feeling of the world soul, of eternal femininity, he belongs to a new religious consciousness. But the apocalyptic consciousness of Solov’ev was too biographic and therefore it was tinted in too pessimistic a light. Indeed within the apocalyptic consciousness there should be the revelation of a new earth, a new Jerusalem, the City of God, and this joyful expectation should conquer in us the terror at the approaching kingdom of the Anti-Christ; Dostoevsky more profoundly than Solov’ev sensed this joy of the new land, the City of God. But with genius in his “Legend about Anti-Christ” Solov’ev reveals the immeasurable freedom in Christ, and the great vocation of Russia, as the repository of Orthodoxy, and he sees it first of all in this, that it relate to the world the mystery of freedom.

Catholicism identifies the Church with a city of God, with a realm upon the earth. This tendency further still comes from Blessed Augustine, who recognised the Church as the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth. The whole of papism arose out of this confusion of the Church with a city, a realm. This pretension to be the realisation of the City of God, the Kingdom of Christ within the Church, the hierarchic churchly structure, impedes within the Catholic world the engendering of the apocalyptic consciousness of the City-to-Come, and obscures the prophetic future. The Catholic world does not seek for the City-to-Come, it has its own city in the hierarchic structure of the Church and in its pretensions to be the kingdom. But sacerdotal hierarchism is an hierarchism that is angelic, and not human. It is impossible upon sacerdotal hierarchism alone to construct the kingdom based on God-manhood, for in it there is still yet no anthropologic revelation about the City. Therefore the pretensions of the Catholic priesthood to be the kingdom of a Divine humanity upon earth beget a demonic deviation, for it creates an order not Divine-human, but rather angelo-beastly. Orthodoxy has not confused its kingdom with the City, for Orthodox hierarchy had not the pretensions to be an human kingdom, and in Orthodoxy was no sense of having realised the City. Therefore in the Orthodox East it is easier to have a thirst for the City-to-Come, an apocalyptic consciousness. For us the prophetic spirit is greater, than in Catholicism. And the prophetic spirit of Solov’ev was not a Catholic spirit.

Dostoevsky, in his “Brothers Karamazov”, through the lips of Paisii and from the bosom of Orthodoxy, prophesies about the Church as kingdom, as the City of God. “From the East this land will be radiant”. The whole of the life of Solov’ev and all his creativity were strivings for the City-to-Come, for a new earth. Afront the prophetic fact of his being, the failings of his consciousness become as naught. The appearance of Vl. Solov’ev in our life instructs us and draws us to follow after him. But our following after him ought not to be static, but rather dynamic, upon the path of resolving the problem of East and West.

Nikolai Berdyaev


©  2000  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1911 – 53 – en)

PROBLEMA VOSTOKA I ZAPADA V RELIGIOZNOM SOZNANII  VL. SOLOV’EVA. Berdyaev article contributed to the Solov’ev Anthology-Sbornik entitled, “O Vladimire Solov’eve”.  Publishing House Put’, Moscow, 1911, p. 104-128.  Sbornik is republished also in 1997, izdatel’stvo “Vodolei”, Tomsk.

Reprinted by YMCA Press Paris in 1989 in Berdiaev Collection: “Tipy  religioznoi mysli  v  Rossii”, (Tom III), ctr. 214-241.

1 Vide as regards this the article by A. Blok, “The Knight-Monk” (“Rytsar monakh”).

2  In a certain unpublished letter to L. P. Nikiforov, Vl. Solov’ev writes: “About my French books I can inform you nothing. Their fate is of little interest to me. Albeit in them was nothing the contrary to objective truth, but that subjective state of mind, those feelings and expectations, with which I wrote them, with me are already out-lived”.