The Two Concepts of Christianity

Journal Put’, dec. 1932, No. 36, p. 17-43.

The Two Concepts of Christianity
(Regarding the Disputes about the Old and the New

within Christianity).

(1932 – #379)

The two concepts of Christianity, which conditionally can be termed the conservative and the creative, tend to differ between them first of all by this, that the one admits the religious subject as unchanged, as immutable, whereas the other admits it as changeable, as mutable; for the one the religious subject is passive, for the other however it is active.1 With this is connected a basic problem of the philosophy of religion. The referring by conservatives to the absoluteness and immutability of revelation, i.e. of that which issues forth from the religious object, is unconvincing, in that revelation is twofold and presupposes not only the religious object, which is revealed, but also the religious subject, to whom is revealed. Revelation is likewise an event within man, a spiritual experience. And the religious subject herein can have varied an experience, varied a grasp of consciousness, varied a dependency upon the times, from social influences, from collective outlooks, varied a purgation and spiritualness. Revelation cannot in automatic and mechanical a manner act upon man, independent of that, what he is. Revelation changes man, but it also gets changed by man. Man is active in the assimilation of revelation. A Christianity exclusively conservative, conscious of itself as the solely ortodoks, is compelled to deny the changeableness and activeness of the religious subject, the limitedness and often muddying of revelation by the subject in his assimilation. The religious subject with an average-norm structuring of his consciousness is acknowledged as unaltered. Thomism with its philosophy of a common sense especially insists upon this. The teaching about the immutability of the religious subject, about the existence of an eternal natural order is adopted here from Aristotle. That, which they tend to term by the undefined and ambiguous word “modernism”, is nothing other, than an acknowledging of the mutability of the religious subject. Yet amidst this, the changeably mutable needs nowise invariably to be understood, as evolution. But by this is revealed a path for historical critique, for a sociological or psychoanalytical explanation of much, to which earlier had be bestown absolute a religious significance. The existence of an ideal “ortodoksia”, totally objective and independent of the subject, is an illusion, — it is based upon a faith of the immutability of the human nature, of assimilating revelation, a faith in this, that the religion, based upon revelation, cannot get constricted and distorted by influences and actions, such as issue not from the religious object, nor from God, but the rather from society, from the socially typical. The religious subject in actuality however is in need of a constant cleansing, not personal only, but also social, of a deepening, an in-spiriting, a liberating from the social impulses, distortive and limitative of revelation, the sub-conscious sexual cravings and especially the cravings for power. A conservative ortodoksia nowise itself accounts for the sociologically apparent role of the collective positings within religious life. When I read Bergson’s final book, “Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion” [Engl. title: “The Two Sources of Morality and Religion”], I was then amazed at the similarity of what he says about the two sources of morality and religion, with what I said in my book, “O naznachenii cheloveka” [Engl. title: “The Destiny of Man”]. And this not despite a fundamental difference between our world-views. Religion indisputably possesses two wellspring sources — the social, or as I expressed it in my book, the socially everyday typical, and the other revelation, as original an intuition, in which occurs a coming in contact with the mystery of being. In the religious life of human societies is reflected a sociological dependency of the religious subject. Within the religious consciousness are imprinted the social attitudes of people, the relationships of state and subjects, the instincts of tyranny, in it is possible to learn the varied forms of dependence experience by the religious subject, — slavery, fear, the affect of retributive vengefulness, assuming such a role in primitive times. There is herein partial a truth of Marx, of Durkheim, of Levy Bruhl and the sociological school, and likewise of Freud and Jung and the psychoanalytical school. Sociology is a matter of the laws, pointing to social dependence and the social stipulation within religious beliefs and institutions. The acknowledging of this truth can have cleansing and liberating a significance for Christianity. Thus therein would be a liberating of the consciousness from an absolutisation of the relative, of a distorting of the religious object by the religious subject. Such a liberating and cleansing significance for Christianity obtains also by historical critique, the critique of Bible. But sociologists and historians typically do not see nor want to know the other wellspring sources of faith and religious life, fail to see what is verymost. The inhuman aspects of the religious subject, with its ancient subconscious instincts, i.e. obtruding within it rather moreso than the elements of humanness, its murky muddying by the social slavery, the affects of fear and retributive vengefulness, all gets reflected in an inhuman understanding of the religious object, in a degrading anthropomorphism in conceiving about God. And thus only is it possible to understand the sense of many of the offensive and insultive positings about God in the Bible. The misunderstanding on this gave rise to the false teaching of Marcion and the Gnostics, for whom it concealed a just sense of indignation. The humanising of the religious subject leads also however to an humanising of the religious object. This is a fundamental religious process in the world. The religious meaning of this process, certainly, consists not, in that God is rendered more human and spiritual, in consequence of man’s having become more human and spiritual, but the rather in this, that the unseen activity of God upon man renders man more human and spiritual and so makes possible also a different understanding about God, less dependent upon the harsh and primordial affects and emotions of fallen man, the slave-like social relationships and attitudes, in which human life is immersed.
A conservative ortodoksia tends to deny this dependence of religious life upon the social everydayness, the earthly social relations of masters and subjects, the collective sub-consciousness, natal instincts. To it seems sacred that, what possesses purely a social, and not religious origin, rooted in the collective sub-consciousness. It is prepared to see a theophany manifesting the Divine there, where in actuality are operative the instincts of lust for power and economic interests. The Church is not only the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church is likewise a social institution, it is compelled to live and to act within the social everyday aspects. And in this its social side the Church is subject to collective social influences, it adapts to the social medium. The religious subject, living within the Church, is likewise social a man, guided by class and national and other instincts and interests. And therefore the religious subject, as social a man, renders the Church as a tool of his intents, of his position, of his class, nation, race. Church has constantly gotten mixed up in the political and national struggle. The religious subject can be caught up in obscurantism, can be situated in a very low level of conscious enlightenment. Personal asceticism, personal attempts at spiritual cleansing do not help, when what is involved is a social and intellectual obscurantism, the collective sub-conscious. Bishop Theophan Zatvornik (Recluse/Hermit) was an ascetic, he aspired to sanctity, he went the personal path of spiritual cleansing, but this did not prevent him from being an obscurantist in social morals, for he belongs to a very unlofty type of intellectual culture. It is quite impossible to understand the scandalous and tormentive aspects of churchly history, if one fails to clearly take into account, that church, as an institution and as a mode of being, is a sociological phenomenon and bears upon it the imprint of the limitedness and relativeness of all sociological phenomena. Spirit does burst through into the sociological empirical aspect of church, but always it becomes blocked and diminished. Yet quite more important still is the sociological pressure upon dogmatic consciousness itself. The social symbolics within religious life and religious thought are quite evident and in this is more strongly reflected the social activity, than is the spiritual activity. The very concepts about God, about the relationship of God and man, about redemption — all bear upon them the imprint of natally inherited social life, right down to the inherited concepts of revenge, reflected in teachings on redemption. And likewise, religious thought and religious life are full of sexual symbolics. Militant atheism in its anti-religious propaganda has typically exploited these sides of religious life. And every attempt of a conservative religious ortodoksia to ward off the thrust at this socially conditional and socially relative aspect of every historical religion merely reinforces the anti-religious and atheistic position. The prophetic side of religion tends to get free from this sociologically conditional aspect and its dependence — in this is the eternal cleansing significance of propheticism. Propheticism rises up in rebelling against the force of the social collective, such as is expressed predominantly in a shaman-priestliness and sacramentalism, rises up in the name of spirit. The gist of propheticism consists in this, that it signifies a break with the natally inherited splicing together and interweaving of revelation, with instead a bursting through from the spiritual world, apart from the sociological influences and sociological dependence upon the religious subject. The prophet is a man in the grip of spirit, and not the promptings of the social medium. The prophet rises above social wonts. And therefore only he can appeal to social a truth. Herein is fundamentally basic a conflict in the religious life of mankind. The original primal conscience, the original intuition, the original spiritual experience is a breaking through to the primal wellspring, is a standing before God, afront the mystery of being without social a mediation. By originality here mustneeds be understood not, that it perchance has no semblance to that of other people, but rather, that it has proximity to the primal wellspring, to the initial issuing forth, which is primordial.2 It is impossible to deny, that the religious life of the enormous mass of mankind is to a remarkable degree determined by social promptings, by inheritance, upbringing, habit, by national, class and familial imprintings, i.e. rooted within the collective subconscious. Man becomes a Mahometan or a Buddhist, an Orthodox or Catholic, a Lutheran or Calvinist, dependent upon whatever the land, nationality of family he is born into. This nowise decides nor even posits the question about the truth of a faith-confession, but this does evidence the sociological dependence of the religious subject. His faith too often gets explained by the sociological dependency, it does not shew itself a pure setting of the religious subject afront the religious object. It is likewise dependent upon the times, upon the eras.
The revelation of the religious object is grasped and expressed by the religious subject in only symbolic a language and is taken from the symbolics of this world, typically from the natally inherited social life. There are within Christianity two predominant types of symbolics — a juridical symbolics, directly derived from social relationships, and a biological symbolics, derived from vegetative life. When one conceives the relationship between God and man, as between a ruler and subjects, as the prohibited and the transgressing of the prohibited, as punishment and pardon, as ransom for total transgression etc — this then recourses to juridical a symbolics. Recourse is made to juridical a symbolics, when they think of the life of church, as an institution, regulated by law, when they compare it with a monarchical governing structure and liken the hierarchy to governing officials. When God however is conceived of, as the source of life, the bestower of life in abundance, when they speak about a new birth, about the old and the new Adam, when the life in Christ is likened to a vineyard vine, when church is termed the Mystical Body of Christ and likened to the growth of a tree, then recourse is made to biological a symbolics. Moreso deeper, moreso primary, certainly, is the biological symbolics, and not the juridical symbolics, such as is taken from the most sinful side of human existence. In Ap. Paul can be found both the biological and the juridical symbolics. And the juridical language of Ap. Paul has given rise to the construction of the juridical theory of redemption. In the Gospel itself, it tends to an indisputable predominance of the biological symbolics, the symbolics of life, of new birth, of sowing of seed, yeast leavening, the vineyard etc., though much also can be found reflecting the social relations of people. The symbolic language of the Gospel, to which recourse is had by Christ Himself, signifies an humanising of revelation, its coming down to the human level. Revelation always also involves an assimilation, an assimilation of revelation with the human language. The humanity of the Divine Word possesses not only a distortive, a limiting and lessening significance, but also a positive significance, since God has become man also. God having become man also — is a Christian mystery. And God having become man also signifies an entering of the Divine Word into the human social medium. The universality of Christianity is connected with this, that within the Gospel the religious subject, in facing the revelation of the religious object, has tended to obtain with a very elementary and commonplace, very average human a nature. The apostles were simple and average a sort of people, not people of lofty and refined a culture, merely but ordinary fishermen. The Son of God Himself in His human nature was a simple labourer, a carpenter. Peter, in acknowledging Christ as the Son of God, was very average a man with all the human weaknesses and foibles. It was namely the average, the ordinary, simple human nature that had to hearken to the Divine Word, to view the revelation of the Divine light. Suchlike an elementary social aspect for the religious subject had enormous and universal a significance, it signifies, that the path to salvation is revealed for all people, and not for the initiated only, thus surmounting the aristocratism of the ancient mysteries. In suchlike a way the social and civilisational demands for the instilling of Christianity were kept to a minimum. The symbolic language within the truths of Christianity is elementary and simple, in this is its eternal significance. This elementary and simple symbolic language is what signifies the humanity of the Word of God. But the Word of God brought into the social medium of mankind would thus have to exist within this collective medium, to be subjected to its constant influences, its impulses, reflective of its limitation and darkness. The religious subject would be hard put to make agonised efforts to return to the simplicity and elementalness of the Word of God, to break through to the primally initial revelation past its enslaving social and civilisational medium. And this will succeed only partially. Religion will become not only a spiritual, but also social phenomenon. The Incarnation will be not only a penetrating of the Divine and the spiritual within the natural and the human, but also a limitation and distortion of the Divine and the spiritual by the natural and human aspect. The weaknesses and foibles of the simple nature of Peter become weaknesses and deficiencies of the socially complexified nature of Peter within churchly history. And in religious thought, in religious life will be reflected the suppression, oppression, the slavery of man, as the reverse side of the appearances of the suppressed, the oppressed, the enslaved. The religious light, refracted within the darkness of the religious subject, will beget obscurantism, a love for the murky, as an enjoining for ortodoksness. And with this is connected the profound tragic aspect of Christian life.
It would be erroneous to think, that the religious subject conveys only the dark and the bad. From him [the religious subject] issues also a positive creativity in religion. The religious subject affects changes within the history of Christianity. Not always will the Christian revelation be assimilated by the human nature of Peter. Paul was already a man of different an human nature, he was not someone simple, he was a genius of a man, having introduced so much into the fate of Christianity, such that there has even been put the question, whether he indeed was the founder of Christianity.3 The Christian revelation further along would have to be assimilated by people of hellenised a spirit and hellenised a wisdom — Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Herein quite evidently the religious subject was otherwise, than in the Apostolic Gospel times. Amidst this, and completely irrelevant is the question as to whether it was better, but it was different. The truth of Christianity is one and the selfsame and continues to exist for all people, for the very simple, just like for the very complex in their culture, it is for every human soul. And in this there is a distinction of religion from philosophy, which exists comparatively for the few, but which also does not save. Across the span of the whole of the history of Christianity the religious subject becomes altered, complex, is enriched by new experience, undergoes the fate of the prodigal son, posits new problems and from this cannot but depend upon the perceptions and understanding of Christian truth. The religious theory of cognition cannot hold footing upon the perspective of a naive realism. Man remains man, in him there is an eternal basis, he is both the creation of God, bearing within him the image and likeness of God, and also a being sinful and fallen, he is twofold a being, lofty and lowly, in him is light and darkness, he is the point of intersection of two worlds. The fate of Job remains up to the present the fate of man. But man experiences ever all new and newer experiences, within him are begotten ever all new and newer problems. Man has to accept the truth of revelation, the light issuing forth from the religious object with all the fulness of his being, to accept it not only in the simplicity of his heart, but also with all the complexity of his mind, his reasoning. This also has transpired within the historical fate of Christianity. The distinctions of the eisoteric and the exoteric are eternal. And herein we see, that the nature of the religious subject, the nature of man, has been subjected to great changes in the period connected with humanism. Man has undergone a new and great experience, not only has it cultivated his mind, it has also deployed his soul, particularly altering and enriching his emotional life. I term here as humanism not the world-view, prevailing since the era of the Renaissance, which at present has become moribund and ultimately has outlived itself, but rather a revealing, amidst the complexifying and refinement of human nature, a discovery of all the creative powers of man. Humanism is not only a world-view, an ideology, a faith albeit a false faith, it is likewise a revealing of man, a testing of all the human possibilities. And here within the attempt of the revealing of man, of the opening up of the energies lodged within him, there occurs an essential altering of the religious subject. The experience undergone can lead to a falling away from the Christian faith. But a return to the Christian faith is possible only amidst the results of the experience undergone, which no sort of powers can blot out. To these results belong the positive revealing of humanness. The autonomy of reason from the era of the Enlightenment, not only the moreso superficial French form, but also the moreso deeper German form, both can and has to be surmounted by an higher stage. It is impossible to return to the eras prior to the autonomy of reason, to the old authoritarianism., This process mustneeds be thought of dialectically. It is totally impossible to repudiate the awareness of justness, the feeling of compassion, that humanness, which has been won by the humanistic process within man. God has to be accepted by man both by his reasoning sense, as revealed in the developements of philosophy and science, and by his searchings for social justice and his love for freedom and his contemplation of beauty. And this means, that for the Christian consciousness there is had at present a paramount importance for anthropology, the teaching about man, about the religious subject. The Patristic and Scholastic anthropology cannot be satisfactory for us, it was even not so much Christian, as rather Judaeo-Hellenistic, and it does not know the changes that have happened within man, does not know the modern experience. A return in anthropology to Thomism, or to the Patristics, bypasses and evades the questionings of the modern soul, does not answer to its torment. Anthropology of this sort is too rationalistic. Only now in the present has psychology been rendered possible. Within man has transpired a twofold process, both a process of cleansing from the old social strictures, from the slavery amidst the old social relations, from the rationalistic distortion of revelation, together with a process of a new befouling, of a befooling by new forms of social idolatry and a new rationalism. And therefore there obtains such a significance for knowledge of the collective subconscious, of social strictures and the socially conditional aspect within the religious consciousness and religious life. This knowledge can have liberating a significance. And we ought to believe, that all the essential changes in human nature, all its authentic humanisation, has occurred under the unseen activity of the Spirit of God.
In anthropomorphic representations of God there is an eternal truth, since man is in the image and likeness of God, and God has become man also, the Logos has become incarnated. But in religious thought and in religious life a bad sort of anthropomorphism has gotten mixed in, images of which are taken from civil life, based upon ruler and subjects, from criminal law, from false concepts about honour, about insult and the righting of an affront to honour by blood, and from the relational aspects in life regarding sex. Anthropomorphism fell into the grip of rational human concepts. The concept itself, regarding Divine justice, has lodged within it the bad sort of anthropomorphism, since in the formation of the human concept concerning justice no small role has gotten played by the transformed and sublimated subconscious affect of taking revenge. The anthropomorphism regarding God-knowledge has involved likewise a sociomorphism. Images derived from the social life of people have been transferred over to God, and the social symbolics have gotten regarded as the finalative ontological reality. The categories of the socially inherited aspects of life have gotten transferred over to the life of God and to God’s relationship to the world and to man. In such manner the finite and sinfully limited has been brought over into the infinitude of Divine life. The very relation to God, as to Lord and ruler, punishing the infractions of His will, is taken from the social relations of people and from the harsh, the underlying aspects enburdening the attitude. The affect of fear, carried over into the attitude towards God, is begotten of the natural and social insecurity of man, his constant dwelling under threat, its social worrying, its laceration by ancient instincts for tyranny. This fear has gotten mixed in with the mystical terror in facing the transcendent abyss, in facing the mystery of being, the Mysterium tremendum, which is actually a primal religious phenomenon. With the sociomorphism in religious thought and life, underlying the sociological interpretation, is connected the relationship between kataphatic and apophatic God-cognition. Kataphatic God-cognition has always proven pervaded by sociomorphic elements, whereas the apophatic God-cognition has gotten above and beyond them. And therefore the sociomorphic kataphatic God-cognition has to be acknowledged as eisoteric, it always involves a matter of the finite within God, and not the infiniteness of Divine life. The cleansing of the religious subject from sociomorphism, from the social strictures, from the social categories of ruler and subjects, from the ancient affects of fear, slavery, suppression, revenge, rooted in the collective subconscious, is a path of apophatic God-cognition. But this spiritual path is nowise a denial of revelation nor of God having become man also, i.e. of the possible proximity of God and man, of the humanness of God and the God-likeness of man, this is a path of cleansing and liberation from servile sociomorphism. The cleansing and liberation of the religious subject from the pressure of social mindsets signifies not the abolition of the Christian revelation, but rather a spiritual deepening in its grasp. The spiritual aspect in religion, the spiritualness in God-cognition is nowise a denial of the Incarnation, nowise a rejection of the corporeal, is not an abstract spiritualism, like the Hindu, but is rather first of all a rising above the social groundings of religion and the social limitings upon revelation. These social strictures, this bad anthropomorphism, tends to render Christianity on a par with the totemistic cults of primitive clans. But there is an eternal anthropomorphism, which not only cannot be surmounted and abrogated, but which ultimately ought to be deepened and revealed. It signifies an eternal Christian, a Divine-human truth about the humanness of God and the God-likeness of man. The very possibility of revelation, the possibility of an inward relationship between the religious subject and the religious object is bound up with this true anthropomorphism. There is likewise a relative and transitory anthropomorphism, connected not with the eternal and pure humanness, but with a temporal and transitory humanness, an humanness as determined by the social everyday ordinary, the social dependence, by the collective subconscious. And herein this anthropomorphism needs to be vanquished in the name of a cleansed humanness. This relative, socially conditioned anthropomorphism tends to remain there even in the life of saints, having attained to an high degree of spirituality. When Christianity gets understood, as a demand for the suppression and subjugation of man, then this, certainly, is the bad sort sociomorphism, reflective of the social relations of people, carried over into the relationship of God and man. The demand, however, of a cleansing, a liberating, of a creative ascent, of the transfiguration and God-likening of man, is free of this bad sort sociomorphism. The Sin-fall has been interpreted sociomorphically in forms of the old suppression, subjugation, the slavery of man. In Marx there was much that was accurate concerning this sociomorphic side of religion and this need nowise be cause for alarm. The pure humanness and spiritualness is a different side of obedience to the will of God.
The religious subject readily accepts the past, belonging to the temporal aspect, as the eternal. And the exclusively conservative, traditionalistic Christianity tends to think, that the past, the moreso ancient is already eternity itself, does not see the extents of the temporal, the transitory, and the decay in the past, whereas in the future it is inclined to see either a preservation of the past or a destruction of the eternal. But this is a false attitude towards time, a false understanding of the relationship between time and eternity. Eternity conquers time and therefore it not only ultimately does not perish, eternity enters into time. But the past is only a part of the ravagings of time and does not have primacy from the perspective of eternity in face of the future. Eternity has entered into the past and eternity will enter into the future or as otherwise might be said, that both the past and the future have their outcomes towards eternity. But both the past and the future all belong however to the ravagings of time. The fact, that something is a tradition of grandfathers and handed down from a greyed elder, itself per se is no guarantee of truth, though this tradition can, certainly, also be true. The newness of the future likewise is no guarantee of truth, and just like also the elderly past, in it there can be terrible falseness. But in the newness of the future likewise can be revealed and created truth and right, correlative to eternity. Christian conservatism, idealising exclusively the past, is based upon this, that every sort of change is the violating of an eternal order of things, a change for the worse, and not for the better. This is all based upon the presupposition, that there exists an eternal world-order, established by God Himself, an objectified order of things, issuing forth from the religious object. The religious subject ought thus to subordinate itself to this objectified and eternal order of things. If however he seeks to change it, he then falls into the grip of evil. But faith in the existence of suchlike an objectified and eternal cosmic and social order of things, not permitting of change, derives but from the condition of the religious subject, and is dependent upon a certain social medium and social relations, is situated in the grip of time, and not eternity. There do exist the eternal spiritual groundings of life, as determined by the religious object, i.e. by God, but there does not exist an eternal natural and social order of things, it changes and is created. The creativity of the new, the element of change is a basic sign of life. Life is creativity. Man, the religious subject is rooted in eternity, in the spiritual world and together with this he all the time constructs, creates, enriches himself, realises the fulness of life. And therefore the religious subject, man, is a religious paradox, a contradictory combination of eternity and time. To deny the future in the name of the past is erroneous thus the same, as to deny the past in the name of the future. Neither the past nor the future should be mistaken for eternity. That which is in it is from eternity, does merit preserving. But within tradition there is much of the ossified, relict of time, and not of eternity. Quite much within tradition possesses social, and not religious a source, is determined by subconscious social influences and outlooks of the religious subject. And tradition therefore is in constant need of cleansing, of spiritification, of being freed from the social everyday ordinariness of the past. A false understanding of Sobornost’ is also a comprehension of it, as a social collective, as the religious thinking of the average man from the socially ordinary. But there is possible, certainly, the understanding of Sobornost’, as a quality of spirit, as an inner universality of spirit. Society is subsumed to the law of the large number and therefore it quashes the individual aspect, cannot even note it. Religious life however is a matter involving first of all the individual aspect.
That which can be termed a false objectification in religion, is connected with the objectivisations and absolutisations of social strictures of the religious subject. This objectivism, smothering the spiritual life of the human person, is also simultaneously a subjectivism. A collective subjectivism, it derives not from the religious object, not from God, but rather from the religious subject himself, from society with its commands and prohibitions. Totemism likewise was an objectivism, but this was a social objectivism, it derived from the social strictures of the religious subject living in primitive clans. Getting free from the stifling and false objectivism in religion is namely also a getting free from the false subjectivism, from the objectivisation involving the social dependency of the religious subject. Suchlike false an objectivism has gotten asserted within theological thought. It found its classic form in Thomism. Within intellect was attempted to be found the objective. But the objective and generally obligatory character of the intellectual composite of the religious subject has social a source. Logic to a remarkable degree is something social, it presupposes correlation, it argues on behalf of others. The logicisation and rationalisation of religious truth involves likewise its socialisation, its readaption from the religious collective. But namely it is thus that the intellectual objectivism in religion reflects the subjectivism of the social collective. And therefore Thomism so esteems Aristotle and the philosophy of healthy reasoning. Even quite moreso innate for religious life are the social strictures in the theory of authority. The theory of authority seeks to have itself exalted above the caprice and subjectivism of man, seeks to be heard as the voice of God Himself, the religious object. But it is situated wholly within the grip of the human aspect, within the purview of the religious subject and its subconscious social strictures. The seeking for the criteria of truth within churchly authority differs from seeking the criteria of truth within the qualitative aspects of conscience and spirit altogether not in this, in that in the one instance the criteria be sought in the supra-human and non-human, but the rather in this, that the criteria be seen likewise within man, but in some other man, not in me, that authority be admitted as foreign an experience, foreign a thought, foreign a contemplation, not mine. But this means also, that authority possesses social a character, presupposes others, as the source of truth. It operates upon collective social strictures. Indisputable for my religious life is that a foreign experience, foreign thought, foreign contemplation has enormous a significance, for the religious subject cannot remain isolated and draw only from itself. Truth is acknowledged only within the context of society and interaction. But the foreign possesses significance for me only when it is rendered mine, innate, as my experience, my thought, my contemplation. The paradox of the life of the person consists in this, that it can reveal its own content, only by encompassing in it the supra-personal. But amidst this the supra-personal becomes also profoundly personal. The religious conscience is always profoundly personal, a foreign conscience cannot eclipse my conscience and cannot be for me obligatory, but within the personal conscience enters in immanently also the supra-personal conscience. There are herein no authoritatively-external relationships. The theory of authority is situated totally within the domain of the human, it comes from the religious subject and objectivises its life within time, it is a myth-creating of the collective religious subject, as for example, in papism. That which is presented as authority, issuing not from me, but from others, from the fathers, from the ancients, from hierarchs, from popes, is human an aspect, but at a certain degree of social objectivisation. My own opinion, my own declaration of conscience still does not attain to this degree of social objectivisation, it can later on attain to it and then become ancient, traditioned. The supra-personal, issuing from the religious object, can reveal itself both in my own conscience and in the conscience of others. God acts within the depths of the free conscience of man, in the depths of spirit. And the actings of God upon human interactions, upon the social organisms of people transpires through the immanent quality within the social aspect, of the community within the personal conscience, in the integrality of personal reason, and not through actions upon the social everyday aspect, upon the temporal objectivised social order, which distorts religious revelation by a bad sort sociomorphism.
It is namely because that the religious subject is subjected to social influences and becomes affected thereby, that Christianity within history has had to pass through a cleansing critique, and with visible a revolt against it. By tortuous and crooked paths the religious subject is cleansed from an interlacing of eternal truth with the temporal, transitory, relative, deriving from the strictures of the social everydayness, taken as a theophany. The religious subject is spiritised and humanised through the crises and catastrophes, which usually can produce impressions of the death of Christianity. Yet in the final end it can be admitted, that Spinoza also with his struggle against anthropomorphism, and the wicked mockeries by Voltaire, and the critique by Kant, and the dialectics of Hegel, and the anthropologism of Feuerbach, and the exposure of class lie by Marx, and biblical criticism, and the mythological theory, and the revolt against Christianity by Nietzsche, and the provocations by Rozanov were all an enriching experience, were a cleansing fire. Revolutions, howsoever dreadful, howsoever much having assumed an anti-religious character, possess also a cleansing character, they lift the quality of religious life. Christian anthropology, up through the present still insufficiently revealed and developed, ought to posit the question concerning the creative activity of the religious subject, who cannot remain passive. This activity of the religious subject signifies not only its negative social dependency, under the force of which it distorts Christianity in gratifying its racial, national, familial, class condition instincts and interests, but also its positive creative vocation, its positive social aspect. The life of the Christian world is Divine-human a process and within it man always introduces his own activity and creativity. The Christian truth has been revealed for every human nature, both the simple and elementary, but likewise also for the human nature complex and intellectually refined. And inevitable is the positing of the question concerning the Christian justification of the creative act of the philosopher, of the erudite, the artist, the moralist and social reformer, of the technology-builder. This creative act has not received justification in the acceptance of Christianity in the nature of Peter. The justification of the creative act of man in the various spheres of culture and social life has been rendered by its subordination to religion, to religious authority, to the religious act, as the chief, the primary and governing aspect over life. Amidst this, the creative act, as something cognitive, artistic, moral, social, technical has been regarded as something secondary and second-rate, in its significance, subordinate and ignored. Amidst the sharp distinctions between the “sacred” and the “profane”, the “profane” remains either altogether unjustified or possesses secondary significance. What it has led to is this, that the creative act of man in all its spheres has revolted against religion, as against a tyrant, and autonomously has attempted to assert its own worth and significance. Never would a creator and builder in spheres cognitive, artistic or social be reconciled to this, that his creative work is merely secondary, subordinate, merely permissible, bereft of higher worth. Religion cannot overtly subordinate to itself the creative life of man, as being the supreme hierarchical force. The justification of all the creative life of man is obviously possible only through the free revealing of the immanent religiosity of the creative act itself, which God awaits from man. Man has to as though freely surmise, what God expects from him. God acts in the world incognito, to use a favourite expression of Kierkegaard. And thus amidst the outward subordination of art to religion it would no longer still be possible to depict the tragedy of human existence, it would instead have proscribed to it to depict a felicitous religious outcome. The life of the artist himself represents a tragic conflict, but he would thus be refused depicting the tragedy of life in his creativity. We see suchlike a tragic conflict in the life of Racine, — he was the product of the clashing of his Jansenist consciousness with his creative spirit. He admitted it better to cease writing tragedy and to pass over from a secondary and dubious artistic act, in favour of a primary and undoubted religious act. We see the same in the life of Gogol. The teaching about the Sin-fall and a pseudo-ascetic metaphysics have been extraordinarily misemployed for a demeaning of man, for a denial of his creative vocation. And in this an enormous role, certainly, has been played by the collective social strictures, those reflecting the slavery of man, instincts of enslavement and instincts of servility. And everything, that frees man from slavery, favourable for the cleansing, spiritification and humanisation of Christianity, tends to get free from a false anthropomorphism and asserts a true anthropomorphism, revealing the God-likeness in the dignity of man. The basic fallacy of an exclusively conservative Christianity has been connected with the idea of creation as something finished and ended, the idea of an eternal and inalterable objective order of things, as regards the natural and social. In contrast against this fallacious idea stands not the idea of evolution, which is situated in the grip of a naturalistic determinism, but rather the idea of creativity, of the creative freedom of man, in his vocation called to continue on with and complete the world creation. The “Philosophy of the Common Task” of N. Fedorov is an example of an active Christianity, projective and victory-minded. In the outlook of N. Fedorov, man is called not to submit himself to the objective order of things, but rather to conquer and subdue it in the name of the general resurrection.
European humanism is undergoing a crisis and is apparently coming to an end. The humanistic ideology fails to affect the moreso youthful trends. Humanists produce the impression of people of a past and expired era. I myself have written much about this. But in what is the false within humanism, why has it become impotent, why is it experiencing a crisis and facing its end? The falseness and impotence of humanism nowise derives from this, in that it asserted the dignity of man and his creative calling, but the rather in this, in that it did so insufficiently, it repudiated the wellspring source of the dignity and creative vocation of man and in doing so it led to the demeaning and denial of man. Humanism has conveyed the meaning and value of life exclusively in terms of this visible world. Not to the reach of Heaven, not to the reach of God did it affirm the dignity and vocation of man, it began to deny God and therefore it ended up denying man also. A surmounting of humanism is needful in the name of man, in the name of his utmost dignity, and not as against man nor for his demeaning. And amidst this, the anti-humanistic trends of our era frequently signify a demeaning and denial of man, a dehumanisation of thought and life. Interesting and symptomatic in this regard is dialectical theology. In the trend connected with K. Barth are jumbled together reactionary and revolutionary elements. Barthianism is an acute and sharp reaction against humanism within Christianity. But this trend goes further and revolts against every connection and uniting of Creator and creation, against every attempt to bridge the transcendent abyss between God and the world, between God and man. This motif is a return to the source elements of the Reformation. It had within it determinative a reaction against the hellenist and humanistic elements within Catholicism. At present however it is determined by a reaction against the hellenic spirit and humanism within the Protestantism of the XIXth Century. But Barthianism comes nigh to a demeaning and abolition of man, of the human element within Christianity. For this current, there does not exist the mystery of God-manhood, the mystery of the affinity of the Divine and the human natures, which transpired within Christ and which ought to transpire within Christian mankind. With the Barthians there is a strong Old Testament biblical spirit, they confess a re-Judaeified Christianity. In this is the reactionary side of Barthianism. Man is merely sinner, he is not free spirit, in him has been destroyed the image and likeness of God and he is not capable of positive a creativity. The religious subject remains unchanged, he always is merely a manifestation of sin. But in Barthianism there is also a revolutionary side. This is in the cleansing crisis of the Christian consciousness. Like with Kierkegaard, Barthianism in revolutionary manner denies all the false theophanies in the world, it acknowledges the sinfulness of all earthly embodiments, the sinfulness within the life of church itself. With this is connected the eschatological aspect of Barthianism. And in this is moreso a revolutionary, than reactionary a motif. Christianity ought to be cleansed from false sacred embodiments, from regarding as Divine the natural, earthly and social aspects as to their sources, which time and again has been the cause of churchly conservatism. There are two sources to the reactionary-conservative Christianity — the demeaning and denial of man, of his freedom, of his independence and creativity, and the admitting as sacred and Divine, of what in the past is relative and transitory a matter for man, and which possesses social a source. Barthianism is reactionary in the first regard and revolutionary in the second. But what mustneeds be admitted is the supreme dignity, the God-likeness and creative vocation of man, his participation in the work of God and together with this to see the relative and transitory character of human actions, connected with social activity, i.e. never to regard as sacred the dogmatised reason, the tribe, class, state forms of social lifestyle, to not regard as identical with past realities the symbolics of human language, pervaded by natural and social strictures. And in this is all the difficulty.
The secret of the religious life lies in its twofold aspect, in its Divine-human aspect, in the encounter and co-uniting of the two. This mystery finds its perfect expression within Christianity, as the religion of the God-man and God-manhood. But this twofold aspect, the dual natures underlying the religious life presupposes the dynamicity, the actualness and alterability of the religious subject. Religious life and especially Christian life is impossible for oneself to imagine, as the standing of an immutable religious subject afront an immutable religious object. The religious process, which can be termed a primal religious phenomenon, is a dual process — the process of the birth of God in man and the birth of man in God, the revelation of God to man and the revelation of man to God. This is expressed also in the dogmatic symbolics of the mystery of two-oneness, the uniting together of the two natures without their mixing together or confusion. This twofold character of the religious process, this twofold aspect of the phenomenon itself of revelation begets also the tragic aspect of religious life. This tragic aspect is rooted in freedom. The dynamics of the religious life cannot but be tragic. The religious subject is situated within dynamic a process, after all that has been experienced and thought through over the course of centuries he has become changed in much, and in recoursing to the eternal truth of Christianity, he assimilates it anew. It would be a mistake to say, that the religious subject has assuredly improved, sometimes he has gotten worse, has lost his wholeness and power of faith. But in the best, the bright moments of his life he thirsts for a free encounter with God, he wants to see the Christian revelation cleansed and freed from the distorting social enticements, the racial and the national, the familial, of position and class, freed from the absolutisation of the conditional and transitory symbolics of human language and reason, from its false stabilisation. The religious subject proceeds through cleansing crises and revolutions. He not only is cleansed and liberated, but also creates. And herein is the paradox, to which we come nigh. Christianity will realise social truth and right only then, when it becomes free from enslaving social strictures and enticements. Christianity will realise social truth and right, will create a better life, when it ceases to be subconsciously a social religion, a religion inherited, of state, nation, class, rationalised and juridicised, when Christians hearken to the voice of God, and not to the voice of society, hearken to the voice of infinitude, and not to the voice of the finite. The admitting of the alterability of the religious subject is not only not a denial of the eternal truth within man, but it is precisely also a turning away from the transitory forms of society towards rather instead the inner, the eternal man, the revealing of whom is also verymost great a task.
Nikolai Berdyaev.

©  2011  by translator Fr. S. Janos
(1932 – 379 – en)
DVA PONIMANIYA KHRISTIANSTVA (K sporam o starom i novom v khristianstve). Journal Put’, dec. 1932, no. 36, p. 17-43.
1The expressions “religious subject” and “religious object” I employ in relative and conditional a sense. In the extreme depths God is not object and does not belong to the objectified world.

2Vide my book, “O naznachenii cheloveka” (“The Destiny of Man”).

3translator note: rather Nietzschean an insight in the critique of modern Christianity.