(As Regards the Book of Prince Evgenii Trubetskoy
“The World-Concept of Vl. Solov’ev”)

(1913 – #170)

    Just like other cultural nations, we also have begun to have our own great figures. Vl. Solov’ev, not so long ago still a solitary and unknown, has come to be at the centre of spiritual attention. Around his enigmatic personality a sort of legend has formed. Around him they have begun to write much from various aspects. Soon there will be a whole literature concerning Vl. Solov’ev. And it is impossible not to acknowledge, that his spiritual influence has quite grown. The appearance of the two-volume work of Pr. E. Trubetskoy, “The World-Concept of Vl. Solov’ev” could not have been more timely. The work of Prince E. Trubetskoy should assume a foremost place not only in the literature regarding Solov’ev, but in general also a visible place in our religio-philosophic literature. Pr. E. Trubetskoy posits very deep-rooted questions of a religio-philosophic perspective, he sums up much and there is much to think about. But the interest towards an exposition, a criticism and estimation of the world-concept of Vl. Solov’ev does not appear predominant in the work of Pr. E. Trubetskoy. For him there is instead a yet greater interest in defining a particular world-concept in relation to Vl. Solov’ev. This is an essay of building an independent religio-philosophic world-concept on the basis of criticism of Vl. Solov’ev. Regrettably, Pr. E. Trubetskoy paints himself into somewhat too expansive an exposition of Solov’ev, the works of whom are accessible to all. In the book of Prince E. Trubetskoy there is first of all a strikingly translucid Apollonian clarity of thought and style. Nowadays they do not still thus write, in this old and fine manner of thought and exposition. Contemporary man is too complex and contradictory, and clarity has no effect on him. In the style of contemporary writing there has occurred a sort of fracturing of the soul, a sort of inconquerable and insurmountable antimony. I fear, that the clarity of thought of Pr. Trubetskoy obtains by a certain simplification of it, by the detouring of the themes of its shortcomings. Pr. E. Trubetskoy wants to cleanse Vl. Solov’ev of his contradictions, and by means of a clarity of philosophic thought and religious feeling to do away with the antinomy in Solov’ev’s world-concept. But is not all the genius of Vl. Solov’ev and all his charm connected with the insurmountable antinomy of his nature? Beyond the world-concept of Vl. Solov’ev lies concealed the mystery of his extraordinary and exceptional personality, exceeding everything written by him. Solov’ev himself always loved to efface and to mask the contradictions of his rationalist schemata by his dialectical metaphysics. He not so much revealed himself in his books, as that rather he concealed himself. But the deep religious antinomy in Solov’ev’s nature is impossible to be hid. The theoretical critique of Pr. E. Trubetskoy is brilliant and devastating for the dialectical and utopian constructs of Vl. Solov’ev, but his mistake is in this, that he is exclusively theoretical in his approach to Solov’ev. He does not present the riddles in his personality, though in these contradictions of the personality of Solov’ev — is the key to the understanding of the contradictions of his world-concept. True, the first chapter of Pr. E. Trubetskoy’s book is devoted to the characteristics of the person of Vl. Solov’ev and in it is a fine tracing out of individual traits. But this chapter, perchance for all the book, does not give answer to the looming question, who was Solov’ev in his inward being. Pr. E. Trubetskoy, finely aware of all the contradictions of Solov’ev’s system, evidently almost does not sense the deep-rooted contradiction in the person of Solov’ev: he sees only the by-day, the lucid, the Solov’ev striving the world summits, and he does not see the Solov’ev by night, by dark, knowing the abyss and failure. The strange irony of Solov’ev, about which Pr. E. Trubetskoy does not even once make mention, is that he remained under the imprint of something anguished, of something failed. The critique of Pr. E. Trubetskoy seems too rational, too much predisposed to the everything by-day. With this alone it is impossible to engage such figures as Vl. Solov’ev, K. Leont’ev, Dostoevsky, Gogol. Pr. E. Trubetskoy does not let remain any stone upon a stone with the Solov’ev theocracy. He brilliantly dealt with the entire wreck of theocracy, he investigated in it remnants of the ancient Old Testament theocracy, and of the papal theocracy, and of the medieval, and he demonstrated the contradiction within the very idea of a free theocracy. This critique of theocratic illusions mustneeds be acknowledged as a positive and indisputable service on the part of Pr. E. Trubetskoy. There can be no turning round towards the Solov’ev theocracy, just as there can be no turning round towards a Slavophil utopia. The awareness of Pr. E. Trubetskoy in this regard is already post-revolutionary, a surviving of great tribulations and tremours. But one question always nags at me, when I read this intellectual and talented critique of Solov’ev’s contradictions, and illusions and utopias. Where and when did there not exist the contradictory, the not crazy religious ideal of the transfiguration of life? Can it be rational, and clear? Upon a thirsting for the Christian transfiguration was always the imprint of the irrational antinomy of God and the world, of heaven and earth, the transcendent and the immanent, the non-antinomies of clear distinctions and the antinomies of inexorable reapproachements.

Pr. E. Trubetskoy finds the source of earthly utopias in a pantheistic reapproachement of God and the world, the other side and the here and now. The whole critique of Trubetskoy is directed at the eradicating of all traces of a pantheistic consciousness, all the foundations of the teaching about the Divinity of the present world. Pr. Trubetskoy in nuances glimpses pantheistic elements in the religious and philosophic consciousness of Solov’ev, and very carefully he does away with them. For him the whole of pantheism is a remnant of paganism and it engenders pagan imaginations about a Divine life upon the earth. Vl. Solov’ev was a gnostic, and his philosophy was close to that of Schelling in his final period. Trubetskoy wants to cleanse the Christian consciousness of Solov’ev from all gnostic mysticism and bring him nigh to an Orthodox theism. And with his critical blows he sets upon the teaching of Solov’ev about Sophia, in which he sees a complete triumphing of pantheistic gnosticism. For Solov’ev the soul of the world is substantially Divine, it is already Sophia. The world is a manifestation of Divinity. The world process is perfected in God. For Trubetskoy the world is external to the Divine, God is freed from the world and the world is freed from God. The world is not a manifestation of Divinity. The world process is completed outside of God. The soul of the world is not Sophia. Sophia is not in the world, but in God. For the world Sophia is only an ideal, an utmost norm, an ought. Divine energy does not pour about in the world. Obviously, every attempt to resolve the question about the relation of God and the world, and tied in with this that question concerning the issuance forth into the world of evil, has lying in wait for it two pitfalls — the pitfall of pantheism and the pitfall of dualism. The pantheistic tendency conceives the world to be in God and therefore sees evil in God. The dualistic tendency conceives of another god, in which to see the source of evil. The eternal contradictions of pantheism and dualism have never yet been rationally conquered. The error of Trubetskoy is in this, that he believes in the conquest of this contradiction by clear thought, in the rational resolution of this problem. He does not want to recognise the inconquerable antinomy of all religious thought. To wit simultaneously that it is true, that the world is in God, and thus also, that the world is outside of God, and that simultaneously it is true, that in God cannot be the source of evil, and thus also, that the whole world process, bound up with evil, is perfected in God. All thought about God dwells upon these contradictions, which arise from thought about the world and evil in the world and the opposition of the world to God, it dwells in contradiction and includes within itself both contradictory theses. Pantheism is at the one side, and in its pure and extreme expression it is a lie and a pitfall. And in suchlike pantheism there is no reconciling and imperishable truth, without which is impossible any sort of mysticism. A theism, which includes not within itself the truth of pantheism, leads along an inclined plane to Deism, to a sundering of the living connection between the world and God, to an affirmation of God altogether separate from the world, to God, not active in the world and not pouring through the world with energy. This pitfall of the tendency towards Deism exists also for Trubetskoy. Some sort of truth of pantheism is acknowledged by all the great mystics, by all the religious gnostics. This inevitable pantheistic moment, unsupported by some other principle, is not only in Vl. Solov’ev, but also in Schelling, in Baader, in J. Boehme, in Eckhardt, in Scotus Erigena, in Dionysios the Areopagite, Plotinos, and furthermore in Origen and St. Gregory of Nyssa. Theism, turned off from the truth of pantheism, is not mystical.

In his extreme distinction between God and the world, between heaven and earth, the transcendent and the immanent, Trubetskoy breaks with the mystical traditions. Truly so because, the mystical consciousness and the mystical feel for being always repose upon the endless proximity of the world and God, of the soul and God. Mystical experience has always been a removal of the opposition between the transcendent and the immanent. In mysticism God becomes immanent to the human soul and the soul of the world. Mysticism, in a certain sense, is always immanent, it is not reconciled with the transcendence of God for the human soul. Mysticism, in essence, abolishes the very distinction between the transcendent and the immanent, for it there is neither the transcendent, nor the immanent, and in the depths of spiritual life it surmounts this rational opposition. The defect in all immanentism is in this, that it affirms the immanent bereft of the transcendent, at the same moment when the surmounting of the transcendent is also a surmounting of the immanent, i.e. the surmounting of this very opposition. And thus too for all mysticism. Traditional theism affirms exclusively the transcendence of the Divinity, i.e. its remoteness from the soul. But the essence of mysticism is in this, to avow God as close and not remote, and to open up the path of communion with Him. If mysticism were an avowal of the transcendence of the Divinity and the inaccessibility of God for man, then the mystic ought to avow Spenser with his teaching about the Unknown. Christian mysticism is based entirely on the living-through by the soul of the immanence of Christ, on the revealing of Christ from within, as something very intimate to the soul. The Orthodox world is in turmoil over the dispute about the Name of Jesus. The Imyaslavtsi (“Name-praisers”) believe, that in the Name of Jesus, when it is pronounced within the Jesus Prayer, there is a real presence of Jesus Himself. In the Name of God is a real presence of the energy of God, which issues forth from God Himself. In this, Orthodox mysticism as it were acknowledges a partial truth of pantheism, wherein the energy of God pours forth about in the world, and in man the two worlds are united, and separation vanishes. The infinite expanse between the world and God, between man and God is the product of a more immature consciousness. In the days of the religious childhood of mankind the distance between God and the soul serves the aims of the education of man. But indeed positivism also is a product of this infinite distance between man and God. A more mature degree of spiritual consciousness diminishes the distance of God. There is a sensing and an awareness of God, as deeply profound and very intimately close to oneself. God no longer gives fright by His remoteness, His foreignness and externality. And Trubetskoy, certainly, avows, that in Christ God has become immanent to man and to the world. The Son of God enters into the soul of the world, into the earth and into man, and the earth and the world begin to be made Divine and conjoined to Divine life. In this indeed is the essence of Christianity. Christianity is also a lifting away of the opposition between the immanent and the transcendent. In Christ ultimately is revealed, that the image and likeness of God in man is his natural Divine-participatory communion of the Divine nature. In Christ man is filiated as a son to God and affirms his God-likeness. The revelation of the Trinitisation of the Divinity is already a dynamic, a process in the Divine nature. There exists a dynamic of relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The very creation of the world is already of a process within God, in an egress from the condition of repose, a creative process within God. Only a theism, which knows not the mystery of Trinitisation, would deny process within God and view God as a non-dynamic repose. The mystery of the Trinity is already the mystery of Divine Dynamic. The world process therein secures its reality, in that it is accomplished in heaven and in Divine life, and that in it is an absolute benefit and growth. The whole earthly process is illusory only for that false Platonism, which imagines the heavenly humanity as externally existent and complete, with the earthly humanity only repetitively gaining entrance to the perfective repose of the heavenly humanity. But the world is not completed and it is not shut tight, it continues in the creation of the Eighth Day, in it is the possibility of increase. And this increase is not only earthly, but also heavenly. Upon the earth, within mankind is continued for real the creativity of the heavenly, the Divine process.

Trubetskoy wants to save the free creativity of the new in the world and in mankind from that pantheistic negation, which would be the inevitable result of the substantial and natural divinity of man in the world. The world is external to the Divine and therefore by its free effort it ought to become divinised. But here it remains incomprehensible, what sort of path is it for the union with God? Trubetskoy takes great pains over the separation of God and the world, about the emphasising of the distance, but he does nothing by way of revealing the paths of union. As regards the metaphysics of Trubetskoy, there is not anything substantially-ontologic. There is only God and the Divine-substantial Being, and the world is outside the Divine. The world — is nothing, since everything outside of God is nothing. The human soul — is thus not substantial. If man were substantial, then essentially he would be divine. But man already mustneeds be substantial and he can become substantial only in God. Outside of God he is nothing. In a strange manner Trubetskoy connects the freedom of man with this, that he is not substantial. And particularly it is therefore, that since man is external to the Divine and not substantial, that he is free to become substantial and divine, and he is free also not to become so. But from whence indeed is freedom to be gotten hold of from nothing, from non-substantial being? How be it possible to avow freedom for someone, who is not yet, who yet ought to be? Be it possible to defend freedom and the self-sufficiency of the world and man by this, to negate for them all substantial being, to recognise them as being nothing? Can the gain be a religious profit so non-substantial, so non-existent, so nothing a being? Freedom is a substantial power, it is a self-determining of existents from within. Trubetskoy conceives of substance not dynamically, but statically, he does not want to see in substance an actual energy, and therefore he sunders apart freedom and substance. For him substance is perfect being, static, no longer active, since it is absolutely completed. But such substance ought to be altogether repudiated. Trubetskoy arrives at an affirmation of positivism for the created world, for human life upon the earth. Positivism also is externality to God, the non-substantiality of the world. Evidently, the deep-rooted mistake of the religious philosophy of Trubetskoy is in this, that for him only God is mystic, whereas created nature and man — is not mystic. But indeed there is a mysticism of created nature, a mysticism of the soul of the world and the soul of man, and within them are hidden great Divine mysteries. Trubetskoy indeed confesses an idealism, for which God is the norm, the ideal for the world. For him there is no cosmic hierarchism, mediating betwixt God and man. If Solov’ev can be accused of Schellingism, then Trubetskoy can be accused of Fichte-ism. By what indeed pathway is the world to enter into Divine life, to realise its norm?

Trubetskoy sees in the erotic of Vl. Solov’ev the source for his earthly utopias. Very consistently he lays waste all the erotic. He radically rejects the mystical sense of love. But there is eros not only for Vl. Solov’ev, but also for Plato, and for the majority of philosopher-mystics it was the uniter of two worlds. The dualism of Trubetskoy would destroy all the unification between the world Divine and the world earthly. Dualistic knowledge is negated in the creaturely, the earthly and the human, symbolic imaging-out of Divine activity. In this world there is no mystical translucency. But after his devastating of the mystical meaning of all the earthly embodiments, Trubetskoy ought to arrive at a certain difficulty. Rendered difficult for him is the question about the Church. In the Church he believes in nothing, and besides the Church he acknowledges nothing. But the Church ought also to seem one of the “earthly utopias”, that this is the ultimate recourse of that utopianism, which seeks the heavenly within the earthly, the Divine within the human, the other-worldly in the this-sidely. Trubetskoy ultimately to acknowledge, that upon earth, within earthly human history, that the Church also is an impossibility and an utopia, that it can appear only at the end of the world, only in the other-sidely. And as regards the Church he ought to affirm his idealistic thesis, i.e. to acknowledge it as being non-substantial, and as a norm, an ideal. I reiterate, that the critique of theocracy by Trubetskoy is excellent. But upon the path on which he stands, the critique of theocracy mustneeds also be extended to the Church, as upon an earthly utopian embodiment of the heavenly. He reduces the Church to the sacraments. But the Church has always striven to be more than the sacraments, it traverses the sphere of the earthly embodiment of the heavenly. The Catholic Church conceives of itself as a theocracy, the Kingdom of God upon earth. But the Orthodox Church also is not free of theocratic pretensions to order the world as regards itself. The separation of the Church from the state, which Trubetskoy desires, is also a diminution within the Church of earthly embodiments of the heavenly, a diluted churchly utopianism. Mustneeds there not be upon this path a refusal of embodiment of the heavenly into the earthly, until the very end of the world? Trubetskoy subsequently defends the secularisation of the whole of life and all of culture, and this mustneeds be acknowledged as very powerful on his side. It is necessary to renounce the lie and the sham of a Christian state, a Christian science, a Christian culture, etc, etc. The process of secularisation has an inner significance. But the whole of life and culture ought anew to become religious. Trubetskoy does not uncover the path to this, he does not point out the means for the spiritualisation of life. The Church also is the path of the making Divine the world. But in the metaphysics of Trubetskoy there is no place for the existence of the Church upon the earth. The Church as it were ought to remain in heaven. He demolishes all the earthly utopias, but together with this he demolishes also the Church, as resulting from an utopia. Trubetskoy points out the whole difficulty of the existence of a Christian dominion. There is only one Christian dominion — this is the domain of the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields. Freedom from care is the Gospel testament. But upon earth it is impossible to be free from care, it is impossible to live, as do the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, upon the earth it is necessary to be prudent of domain. How to get out of this? It is indeed impossible to put off resolution of the contradictions of life until the end of the world. Do they not take too lightly the burden of the religious antinomy of life? It is necessary to accept life to the end, sacrificially and tragically. There is already therein no justification for the religiously neutral, for an external to God sociability and an external to God culture. Trubetskoy was more in the right than Bulgakov, when he rejects dominion from a Christian point of view and does not reckon it a task Divine. Bulgakov indeed has transferred over upon heaven his own economics, his own sweat. But the truth of Bulgakov is in this, that he sees the tormentiveness of the religious problem of economics and he does not reckon it possible to remain on the soil of religious neutrality. It mustneeds be recognised, that religiously there is nothing that is neutral, there is nothing that is outside religion.

Trubetskoy is sympathetic to the world-concept of the Vl. Solov’ev of the final period, when he confessed a philosophy of the end. Only the philosophy of the end, according to Trubetskoy, is free of all the earthly utopias, and he senses the evil, which separates from God, the strange illusion. The disillusion, which Trubetskoy lived through under the influence of the Russian [1905] Revolution and the subsequent Russian reaction, strengthened in him a philosophy of the end. Trubetskoy became deeply disillusioned in Russia, and this disillusion made of him a pessimist, he lost faith in the earthly, in the possibility of good upon earth. The feeling of life became catastrophic. For a new life, for a transfiguration, for good it was possible to be arrived at only through the Cross. And Russia had to go through the Cross, in order to be reborn. Betwixt this life and life heavenly there lies the Cross. Trubetskoy was right in his objections against the Slavophil pagan vision, which declared the Kingdom of Christ in Rus’ without the Cross. But with Trubetskoy there is a deep contradiction. A philosophy especially of the end does not allow for anything neutral, outside religion, outside the Divine. The philosophy of the end itself signifies a crisis in everything neutral and the showing forth in everything of a religious depth, a separation into the spirit of Christ and the spirit of Anti-Christ. The philosophy of the end ought to become conscious of a world crisis of culture, its ultimate religious exodus. The philosophy of the end ought to proclaim forth the end of all the mode of existence outside the Divine, of all life outside the religious. Amidst this is how Trubetskoy wants to confess the philosophy of the end and together with this to affirm in very religious form an outside the Divine sociability and culture, an ordering of life outside the religious. He continues to believe in this, that everything outside the Divine is only but a step towards the other-worldly Kingdom of God. His philosophy of the end is the product of deep disillusions, and not of the immanent crisis of world life. He affirms the philosophy of the end not to the end and not for the end, but for a means, as an expression of the dualism of two worlds, as the distance between the world and God. But for the end the distance ought to be lessened. The anti-Christian results of world processes in the final end will not be neutrally-external to the Divine. The critique of Trubetskoy is powerful, but his particular attempt to justify the bold and active attitude towards life — is weak. It remains incomprehensible, why he in the end time period keeps faith in a neutral, and an external to God state, or economics, family, philosophy, science etc. All this is worthwhile as a philosophic means, but not as a philosophic end. For Trubetskoy there remains only one exit: complete renunciation of the world and monastic asceticism. But he does not wish this path, he holds out for a world external to the Divine, it becomes dear, the neutral and the positative become dear, philosophy and science become dear as distinct from theosophy, economics and the state become dear as distinct from theocracy. But philosophy and science, the state and economics ought to proceed through the Cross, through renunciation and sacrifice, so that the world might arrive at the new heaven and the new earth. But that everything should remain as before, and nothing change, the onset of the end would be to no effect and for nothing. The philosophy of the end remains a personal pessimism and disillusion, and not a new world epoch. The great service of Trubetskoy is that he leads to a clear positing of these themes.

But where indeed is God-manhood for Trubetskoy, where is the Divine-human organism and the Divine-human process? In the idea of God-manhood Trubetskoy sees a great truth of Solov’ev. But the idea of God-manhood — is not a separating of the world and God, a this-side and a that-side, but rather an unifying. The idea of God-manhood in particular excludes the neutrally-external to God. The union of the human and the Divine ought to be free and perfective. But in what does Trubetskoy see the religious significance of God-manhood? In this is the whole question. The idea of God-manhood demands acknowledgement of this, that from man there ought to be a positive gain in the Kingdom of God, that man ought to say his say in world life. The idea of God-manhood presupposes the freedom of man and his creative power. Man is not only properly such, but also actually, in him the divineness is inherent. Man’s externality to the Divine is but his falling-away from God, his sin, but in him there is not only the falling-way and sin.

How then to understand that catastrophic world-feeling, at which Trubetskoy arrives in following after the Vl. Solov’ev of the final period? Catastrophism is an end to the old Slavophil felicity and well-being, of which even Vl. Solov’ev was not free of, it is an end to all the utopian illusions, the illusions theocratic and social. But catastrophism is something immeasurably more; this — is a new world period, a religious revolution within the world, a shattering of the whole being and manner of religiousness, a shattering of the racial. In every catastrophic world-feeling there is not only the passing away of the old, but also the new that is born. What new is to be born in the world-feeling of Trubetskoy? He evidently does not expect anything religiously new. He restricts himself to the cleansing of the old Christian consciousness and the liberating of the sphere external to the Divine, into which recedes that racial-kindred manner of life of human society, which historically was interwoven with Christianity. But therein the catastrophism would seem not so much a religious manifestation, as rather social an one.

In sum total, the critique is of the religio-philosophical construct of Pr. Trubetskoy. Trubetskoy intended to build a world-outlook, completely free of any earthly utopias or illusions. Does he succeed in this? I think, that his negative critique is far stronger than his positive constructs. He actually shatters the utopia of the Solov’ev theocracy, and he gives final blows to the Slavophil nationalist illusions. But with Pr. Trubetskoy there remains yet one illusion, from which he cannot free himself. For the dualistic consciousness of Trubetskoy, the Kingdom of God, the Divine life is rendered an heavenly utopia — an unattainable utopia, since there are no sort of pathways to this other-worldly kingdom. The liberation from earthly utopias begets heavenly utopianism. Wherefore, truly, this is utopian, in that it is absolutely transcendent and other-worldly for human ability and creativity, and for it there are no here and now pathways. For utopianism it is characteristic, that religious life should be structured outside the realisable ideal. And for Trubetskoy the religious life is structured outside the Divine, outside the utopia of an other-worldly Kingdom of God. The Church itself becomes an utopia for Trubetskoy, it is not for him personal, but rather for him it is a religio-philosophic construct. The idealistic construct of Trubetskoy recognises the Church of God itself as an unattainable ideal, an other-worldly utopia. Not utopian, and free of heavenly utopianism is only that consciousness, which permits of active Divine energies in the world and allows for a path of the realisation of the Divine life here, just also as there, down below just like up above, wherein it removes the dualistic opposition between the here and the there, between that below and that above. Not utopian is the thought, which stands on the soil of rebirth into a new spiritual man, into a new creature both here and there, on the earth and in heaven. It is necessary to believe in the attainment of Divine life and the realisation of the Kingdom of God, in the immanent and the transcendent simultaneously, so as not to be doomed to an heavenly utopianism. The service of the interesting work of Trubetskoy is in this, that he has sharply set forth the problem of heavenly utopianism. But in the religious philosophy of Trubetskoy there is very weak a sense of the Russian searchings for the City to Come.

Nikolai Berdyaev


©  2000  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1913 – 170 -en)

O ZEMNOM I NEBESNOM UTOPIZME.  (Po povodu knigi Kn. E. Trubetskoy “Mirosozertsanie Vl. Solov’ev”). — Journal “Russkaya Mysl’”, sept. 1913, p. 46-54.