Concerning Authority, Freedom and Humanness

Journal  Put’, mar-avr. 1936,  No. 50,  p. 37-49.

Concerning Authority, Freedom and Humanness

(1936 – #409)


I.  Reply to V. Lossky

“The Spirit breatheth, whence it will,
and its voice thou dost hear, and thou
know not, from whence it doth come
nor whither it doth go”.
from John 3:8.

We, evidently, belong to totally different spiritual worlds from V. Lossky than, I fear, even to different religions. In vain merely does he think, that he fully understands my setting, whereas I on my part do not want to understand the declarations of the Fotiev (Photiev) brotherhood. It is not so difficult to understand the declarations as being very far-flung and esteeming itself as preeminently traditional. The misunderstandings, however, of my point of view are already evident from the letter of V. Lossky. How can he in actual fact have understood my denial of the charism of power in that sense, that I should deny every manifestation of power, including being editeur of a Journal, though this power be of very small effect? A journal usually has this or some other drift of ideas and the editeur essentially has to manifest power of guidance in conformity with this drift. But my editorial power is roughly the same thing, as my power not to invite myself home persons of hostile a wont. Suchlike a sort of power is bereft of any sort of repressiveness. And otherwise I think, that for the defense of freedom sometimes it is necessary to recourse to force, e.g. for forestalling the victory of Fascism. Letters to the top church hierarchy concerning the hereticalness of whatever the views in this but instance would not be denunciatory, if the hierarchs were not to liken themself to “princes of peoples” and “magnates”, i.e. were not to possess a will to domination and rule, were not a ruling authority, capable of recoursing to repression. But the hierarchs of church quite readily are wont to liken themself to an army command, since sometimes also they tend to say: “we are the generals” or “we are the commanders”. The question about power of authority is basic. V. Lossky belongs to a generation, which is fond of power foremost of all. The world at present worships power and hates freedom. I am transfixed with contempt and disgust for this slave-like world and tend not to be shocked, that the greater part of mankind were to become such. And indeed it has always been such. Freedom is something aristocratic and only but few have loved and defended it. I well enough know, that our fallen world cannot go round without the grip of power, total powerlessness is possible only in the Kingdom of God. But the grip of power is nowise sacred a matter, it is of early an origin and relates to the sphere of sociology, not theology, it belongs to the lower, and not to the supreme stages of being. It has become totally impossible to employ quotes from the Apostle Paul, in which he asserts the Divine origin of the rule of authority and demands, that slaves should submit to their masters, whilst bestowing this with the character of Divine a revelation. The words of the Ap. Paul are not eternal truths and quite obviously are connected to the historical setting of the early Christians in the Roman Empire. That slaves ought to be obedient to their masters, this “truth” is of the same sort, as the “truth” of the catechesis of metropolitan Philaret concerning the sacredness of the right for serfdom, which was expunged from the catechesis after the emancipation of the peasants. And decidedly everything said about the rule of authority belongs to suchlike “truths”, very human, not Divine. V. Lossky and his like-minded sort, obviously, want not at all to see, that the creaturely limitation and depravity, which they are so insistent upon, also affects the rule of authority and its bearers. And even moreso it mustneeds be said, that in addition to the general sinfulness of human nature for the bearers of the rule of authority there gets added in moreover the “sin of power”, of the “lust for rule”. This transpires both within church and within state. Representatives of the rule of authority tend often to be the most distrustful of people, with them the consequences of the original sin of self-assertion, pride and the will to run things gets augmented by their position. All the history of the world teaches this. The rule of authority is a domination of man over man, inevitably passing over into violence and coercion. But spirit does not know of being the master, spirit is freedom. The imagining to oneself of God as the administrator of the world order, as a monarch, as a ruling power is a distorted human conception about God, clearly taken from the social relationships of people. To God is not applicable the category of a ruling power, since it is too lowly a category for God, and it is taken from the lower spheres of social life. God has no sort of ruling power, He has less power, than a policeman. God is endowed of strength of power, and not authoritative rule of power. The authoritative rule of power exists only because, that there is not the strength of power to take hold in the souls of people, to transform and enlighten them. Evidently, those of the same mind and feeling of heart with V. Lossky tend to confuse harmony and accordance with the rule of authority. But the most incomprehensible thing is their connecting of the knowledge of truth with the rule of authority. What can the knowing of truth have in common with the rule of authority? The whole of history teaches this, that the rule of authority has but wrought violence upon knowledge and has but distorted truth. The rule of authority has been guided by socio-utilitarian motives, by interests supportive of the rule of authority, and not by knowledge of truth, which always represents a danger for the established orders of the ruling authority.

V. Lossky demands a submission, an obedience to truth in contrast to the insistance upon one’s own, in his opinion, upon one’s own mere truth. Amidst this, evidently, he accuses Fr. S. Bulgakov of this, that he persists in the defense of his own truth. This is a very weak spot in the letter. Every genuine philosopher, every erudite man of knowledge upholds his understanding of truth nowise because, that it is merely his understanding, but because, that he is convinced of the truthful veracity of this understanding. Demonstrate to him the falsity of this understanding and he will have done with it. The obedience to truth for me is an absolute demand of knowledge, but the obedience is to truth, and not to ruling authority, not to ukaz decrees and injunctions, the obedience is to God, and not to men, not to human ruling authorities. A man, who would defend his own understanding of truth, exclusively because it is merely his own, would deserve banishment not only from church, but also from philosophy, from science, from the right to cognition. To struggle against a false understanding and application of authority in church can be in the name of truth, in the name of God. And the whole question is, who decides it, upon what side is the truth. V. Lossky and all the worshippers of authority are convinced, that there exists suchlike an infallible tribunal, which should decide, in what is the truth and on what side it is. But suchlike a tribunal does not exist, about this testifies the whole of history, suchlike an infallible tribunal Orthodox does not acknowledge, and even in Catholicism the admitting of suchlike a tribunal represents a vicious circle. There is no guarantee. In this is the mystery of Christian freedom. Patriarchs, popes, metropolitans, synods, and councils a thousand times have erred and their judgements then been overturned. To say however, that an infallible authority resides within the Church, as a whole, in churchly Sobornost’, means also to say, that an infallible tribunal does not exist and that suchlike is the nature of spirit and spiritual life in distinction to the life of the state, the lawful realm of Caesar. In the letter of V. Lossky there slips in an incomprehensible pretension to the infallibility of certain members of the Church. He has evidently in view the members of the Fotiev brotherhood. But such a sort of pretension does not merit even a rebuttal. But then too, the defenders of authority have always been such, always they have defended their own infallibility. The Orthodox Church does not know such a teaching, which would bestow the possibility of admitting infallibility to metropolitan Sergii or whatever the metropolitan. Truth, the essential truth namely, and not this or some other subjective opinion, demands freedom for its revealing and without freedom it is not disclosed to people. Without freedom there exists merely the useful lie, useful for the strengthening of this or some other authoritative lie. The teaching of Fr. S. Bulgakov concerning Sophia and kenosis whether true or mistaken cannot be decided whether by the ukaz decretals of metropolitan Sergii, in which he invests his disputable personal theological opinions, or less so even by the letters and declarations of the Fotiev brotherhood. And Fr. S. Bulgakov not only can, he must fight for his own understanding of Christian truth, he has the right to repudiate it only in the instance, if he himself, freely becomes persuaded of the mistakenness of this understanding. No one knows, what the churchly consciousness will acknowledge over the course of time as true or false, and perhaps the opinions of contemporary metropolitans or of members of the Fotiev brotherhood will be acknowledged not only as false, but also heretical. For this there have been no few examples from history. Churchly judgements frequently were later acknowledged as totally mistaken.

It is needful, finally, to rise up against that hideous distortion of the idea of freedom, to which the enemies of freedom avail themself. The modern world evidently has altogether lost the capacity to understand, what freedom is. Freedom is not pretension and a demanding by man, freedom is not a lazing about and dissipation in life. Freedom is not a demand put forth by man to God, but the rather, a demand put forth by God to man. Freedom is not a right, but rather an obligation. God demands this from man, that he be freed in spirit, and to Him is nothing needful, not issuing forth from freedom. Man himself however very readily tends to refuse freedom and is afraid of freedom, he prefers slavery, reckons it easier a thing. Freedom is not easy, it is terribly difficult, it is a burden, it is severe. In the modern world people are wont to refuse freedom and instead follow after an authority, a dictator, since they are afraid of the severity, the harshness, the burden of freedom. Freedom gives rise to suffering. And those afraid of suffering tend to renounce freedom and give in to authority and whatever perchance tyranny. It is authority namely that wants to create an easy life for people, to snatch away the burden, thus bribing people with this. And people commit an act of betrayal regarding the dignity of man. It is up to a man namely, in going the path of freedom, not to permit himself leeway, not to allow himself to become prodigal and recourse merely to an easy and pleasant life. It is freedom namely that demands a self-surmounting, just like creativity demands a self-surmounting. Creative freedom is an incessant transcending of man, a regeneration, an ascent. Life under authority and the rule of power however indulges the weaknesses of man, it bribes him, it demands not heroism, but instead obedience. Freedom reflects the maturity of man, and life of the mature however is more difficult, more severe, more answerably responsible, than the life of children. The refusal of freedom is a fear of responsibility, is a wish to pass it off from oneself onto others. Only slaves possess such an understanding of freedom, as a self-indulging, as a giving in to their own lower nature, as the temptation to do whatever one desires. People, consciously aware of the dignity and responsibility of man, understand freedom, as a severe imposing upon oneself of responsibility, as a demand for self-surmounting and ascent, as a consent to suffering in the name of the supreme dignity of man, as a struggle, which can demand heroism. Freedom is heroic a matter and therefore they love it not and fear it. All too often humility and obedience are employed to veil over a low cravenness of character and cowardice. Freedom is spiritual a matter, it is a disclosing of spirit in man and by this is set its terrible demanding for man. But people of slave-like instincts never grasp, that freedom is such, they will always tend to malign freedom. In the modern world with extraordinary force have awakened herd instincts, and the herd however does not know freedom. The Christian revelation is not oriented towards the herd, but to rather the human person, conscious of God-like a dignity. The sin is also in a renouncing of the dignity of freedom, a submitting to slavery.

I have still several remarks. V. Lossky says, that theologising ought to be apophatic. But his own theologising namely is nowise apophatic, it is kataphatic in a very bad sense of this word. V. Lossky as it were does not understand, that the transferring to God and of the relationship of God to man and the world of categories, taken from the social relationships of people, from the relationships of governance and the rule of power, is as such a denial of apophatic God-knowing, a denial of the mystery of Divine life, which cannot have semblance to the lowlymost human social activity. To ascribe to God something taken from the life of the state, from the kingdom of Caesar, is also very contrary to apophatic a method. If for God it be impossible even to say, that He is being, then even less so is it possible to say, that God is a ruling power of authority, that God is a monarch and that the relationship of God to man and the world is a relationship of the power of an authoritative ruler. When monarchy everywhere in the world will have vanished, then it would lose all real sense of thinking about God, as a monarch. Only in Divine love and sacrifice is caught a glimpse of the truth concerning God, highly surpassing everything, which might be imputed to Him from the base social and state activity. What is shewn is the humanness of God, i.e. that which is most Divine, most dissimilar to the inhumanness of the human world. God namely is of authentic humanness, whereas man tends to be frightfully unhuman and wants to impute his own unhumanness to God. I am very grateful to V. Lossky for his indulging me, as a person not clergyman, to express whatever the heretical opinions. But I do not presuppose to avail this indulgence. I presuppose to avail myself of my freedom for this, to seek and to defend Truth, though in this great quest by no means do I consider myself inerrant. I cannot refrain from saying, what indignation was evoked in me by the cited words of Met. Sergii as regards the aberration of Fr. S. Bulgakov. In those words there was something inhuman, Inquisition-like, not Christian, not Gospel-like, with a total absence of love and mercy. Met. Sergii, if he actually spoke the cited words, sets the Sabbath higher than man, i.e. defends the legalistic religion of the Pharisees. But to put the Sabbath higher than man is a betrayal of the commands of Christ. Christians have often become suchlike betrayers. Everyone for whom an ortodoks teaching stands higher than man and his human fate betrays the Gospel commands. The legalism within Christianity is a distortion of Christianity, a victory of non-Christian principles. There is nothing higher than the humanness, which likewise is the Divine, the testimony of the God of love and sacrifice.



II.  Reply to Archpriest Sergii Chetverikov

I quite esteem the critical letter to me by Fr. S. Chetverikov, as a voice of churchly spirituality, which has greater an existential significance, than the voice of official theologians. But the most recent letter has left in me a grievous impression, since it is in the forms of questions, which whether or not purposive of literary polemics, essentially would see me excommunicated from church for wrongful understanding as incriminating for me in many places in my articles. Fr. S. Chetverikov, obviously, totally fails to understand the irony of form, to which I recourse in many places within my articles. When I, for example, say, that to the “shopkeepers” and “consistory officials” are revealed mysteries of Orthodoxy, closed off and hidden to the intelligentsia sort, this is what I am wanting to say: here is something demeaning for Orthodoxy. This is a matter of irony. As regards “arrogantly prideful contempt”, Met. Sergii and quite many people of churchly a consciousness, esteeming themself Orthodox preeminently, speak with arrogantly prideful a contempt concerning the intelligentsia and they employ the word “intelligent” in disparaging a sense. This rouses me to indignation and evokes in me natural a reaction.1  Why about shopkeepers is it impossible to speak with contempt, but possible about the intelligentsia? I see a very great prideful arrogance and incredible scornfulness namely in their esteeming themself the humble bearers of an absolute and ortodoks churchly truth. The prideful arrogance of the humble is one of the temptations of spiritual clergy life. This nowise relates to Fr. S. Chetverikov himself. But many of the young chaps of our era have invested upon themself this pretension to be the bearers and proclaimers of absolute a truth. And upon this basis they employ the word “intelligentsia” in derogatory a sense. The erudite, seeking truths, are more modest and humble, less self-asserting, than these “humble” bearers of ortodoks a truth. I do not regard myself a bearer of absolute ortodoks a truth, whereas the zealous for ortodoxness consider themself such. It is more modest a thing to say — “this I say, this be my thought, with the help of which I attempt to discern and defend truth”, than to say — “this I do not merely say, this rather through me is speaking the church, the Holy Spirit, God”. The theological opinions of the hierarchs of the Church is not the Existent Truth. The arrogance of hierarchs, opining themself bearers of the conclusive Truth, is likewise an human, a purely human arrogant pride. In the world there tend not to be people more arrogant, than people of power. To accede is needful before Existent Truth, i.e. in the final end to accede to God, but not to people, abrogating themself identical with Truth. It is impossible to term pridefulness the indignation against untruth. Fr. S. Chetverikov reproaches me, for speaking unwontedly harsh about the Russian Church and its hierarchs. He counters me with Dostoevsky. But Dostoevsky was the one who said, that “the Russian Church is in a state of paralysis”. Dostoevsky wrote “The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor”, in which were said things far more acrid and more terrible concerning the principle of authority in religious life, and which he regarded as the temptation of the Anti-Christ. and this was nowise only regarding Catholicism, this is about every authority. About the low level of Russian bishops, which have been transformed into state officials, adorned with ribbons and stars, about the downfalling of Christian spiritual life into an official Orthodoxy, about the non-Christian character of all our churchly structure, about a total negation of Sobornost’ and much else — those among us who wrote the most harshly were Orthodox believers namely. Suffice it to mention I. Aksakov, whose articles regarding the church question within churchly consistories can produce impressions of a denial of Russian Orthodoxy. How the bishops have reacted to the starchestvo institution, the practice of recoursing to spiritual elders, this is something that Fr. S. Chetverikov, as a specialist on this question, knows better than me. The upper hierarchy have usually attempted to stifle the spiritual life, both in Orthodoxy and in Catholicism. When I wrote, that after the censuring of the whole of Russian religious thought of the XIX and early XX Centuries, there remains a “vacuous wasteland”, I posited this in limited a sense. It is perfectly clear, that I am speaking about a “vacuous wasteland” in regard to theological and religio-philosophic thought, and not in regard to religious life in general, which hardly indeed can be exhausted by thought and knowledge. Spiritual life is possible even without significant and creative thought. But in the ukaz decretal of Met. Sergii the discussion namely involves theological thought. Our official episcopal theologising is distinguished by an extreme scantiness, an absence of all creative thought, in it was not even anything specifically Orthodox, just the ordinary seminary scholastics. The squalidness of the official theologising is vividly illustrated by the critique of the teaching concerning Sophia by Met. Sergii and the Karlovtsi bishops. Fr. S. Chetverikov tends to simplify somewhat the question concerning the understanding of the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption and concerning Soteriology. He speaks about the spiritual experience, connected with sin, and salvation, and with the sacrament of the Eucharist, but this includes within it no sort of a theological teaching that covers these religious experiences. Fr. S. Chetverikov indeed, is aware, that certain soteriological teachings, having attempted to make sense of the mystery of the Redemption, tend to include within them an element demeaning to God. Thus, for example, the juridical theory of making recompense, in which and not without foundation Met. Antonii sees remnants of Roman and feudal concepts concerning honour. Fr. S. Chetverikov is oriented chiefly towards the ascetic holy fathers literature, towards the “Dobrotoliubie”. But the Greek Patristic thought upon the mystery of the Incarnation of God is otherwise, than Met. Sergii and the exclusively soteriological teachings tend to think. St Athanasius the Great conceives of the mystery of the Incarnation of God in the sense, that God became man, so that man might become divinised, deified. Herein also this is not a soteriological understanding. St. Athanasius posits this in physical (in ancient understanding) a sense, i.e. ontological, and not moralistic or juridical a sense, i.e. he sees in the Incarnation of God a new stage of the world-creation. The New Adam is also the new creation. It would be possible to mention further St Gregory of Nyssa and many others. A purely soteriological teaching views the appearance of Christ the God-Man instrumentally and by this diminishes the mystery of the Incarnation of God. Patristics has always been alien to the official Russian theology.

And now I turn to a chief and most delicate question. I am not convinced, that such a question can properly be put to a man. The question typically already consists with it seeking a reply under interrogation. Am I Orthodox, am I in the Russian Church? Sometimes I myself puzzle over this question, not because, that I inwardly have entertained thoughts on this, of who I am and where I am, — since scepticism is foreign to my nature, but the rather because, that I consider very dubious and disputable the word application of “Orthodox” and “Russian Church”. This is nowise so clear and simple a matter and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. If one posit formal a point of view, then namely I am in the Russian Church, whereas Fr. S. Chetverikov is not in the Russian, but rather in the Greek Church. But I do not think, that this formal side of the question will have interested him, and which I too regard as secondary. I shall speak very candidly, though this even prove inauspicious for me. I have to admit, that I have always more esteemed the appellation of Christian, than the title of Orthodox. The name Christian is more closely bound up with the primal-source and purpose of our faith, than the name Orthodox, which conveys formal a character, corresponding fully to the foreign word “ortodoks/orthodox”2 , and which can be applied as well to non-Christians. There can be orthodox Mahometans, orthodox Jews, and even orthodox Marxists, — this signifies the confessing of a considered-correct faith-teaching and yet says nothing about the content of this faith-teaching. Fr. S. Chetverikov, just like many Russian Orthodox people of moreso conservative a bent, quite esteem the national-historical tradition and organically they connect it with their own faith. Orthodoxy thus becomes a splicing together of Christianity with this national-historical tradition. Orthodoxy in this sense is an historical individualisation of Christianity, just as there exist other historical individualisations of Christianity. Such an individualisation itself per se is legitimate and can be to the enrichment of the spiritual life of mankind, but often it has become a distortion of the purity and universality of Christianity. The individual and the particular has passed itself off as the universal and all-general, and often Christian truth has gotten interlaced with pagan superstitions. And thus in Orthodox Muscovite Rus’ were many pagan elements. I have never felt any sort of affinity to this type of the Moscow manner of Orthodoxy with a state church, with cultic ritualism, with “venerable” Ivan the Terrible, or with the Domostroi [i.e. “Home-Disposition”], with its hostility to thought and to knowledge, a tediousness and total absence of freedom, spaciousness and distance. This world in its sources for me is connected with savagery and the fateful figure of Iosif Volotsky. Churchly nationalism has been a temptation within Russian Orthodoxy. Russian Christianity indeed stood higher during the Kievan period, during the period of the Tatar Mongol Yoke, and during the XIX Century at its spiritual summits. An answer to the question of Fr. S. Chetverikov for me is difficult, because that in all my being I am convinced, that Christianity constantly has gotten distorted within history, constantly an human tradition, connected with human limitedness and slave-like denigration, with human social interests, often of class, has been passed off as sacred a tradition, wherein the human has been passed off as being of God.

I always felt and considered myself within the Universal Church, and not specifically the Russian or Byzantine, and always I hoped, that the Universal Church would finally, moreso be manifest, than it has been up to the present within history. Always, from the first days of my awareness of myself as a Christian and up to the present day, I desired creative reform within the Church, always I believed, that within Christianity will ensue a new era. Therefore I never have been a conservative Orthodox and never reverted to that faith, which is reckoned a traditional “Orthodoxy”. Involvement with the history of Christianity has convinced me, that an invariable and once forever given, pure “Orthodox” churchly teaching is a myth and that it is least pure a matter, i.e. is quite most dependent upon social influences, upon historical epochs, upon the cultural level, upon the condition of human awareness. There is the eternal meta-historical Gospel basis and revelation, there is the eternal image of Christ, there is the breaking-through of another world into this world, the Gospel good-news announcing about the Kingdom of God, there is the eternal command of love for God and for neighbour, there are the sacraments. But the refracting of the revelation within the human element bears within it the imprint of an historical relativeness, as conditioned by the human subject. Theological doctrines and moral teachings tend to be dependent upon the philosophical currents of this or that era, and upon the moral level of people. Christianity within history is dynamic a process, an interaction, altering that human element, which assimilates the revelation. Within Christianity there exist various eras and varied problems are presented. In the Russian religious thought of the XIX and early XX Centuries obtained possibilities of creative reform in the Church, i.e. of bringing Christianity into correlation with the consciousness of the man of the XIX and XX Centuries. Christianity is nowise obligatorily bound up with archaic man, for this would be demeaning to Christianity. In Russian religious thought there were made efforts religiously, Christians pondered over the great experience of humanism. In Western Christianity this task was not so essential a matter, since there the initial Christian revelation fell upon humanistic a soil, in Russia however it fell upon the soil of age-old Russian paganism. The Catholic Thomists of our time speak about an integral humanism and this is considered fully “orthodox” a matter for them. With us, however, the word humanism is employed in a negative, almost derogatory sense. Not I myself merely, but also many of us, Russian Christians, have participated in the spiritual renaissance at the beginning of the century, have esteemed the integrality of the human and believed, that it is lodged within Christianity and issues forth from Christianity. The zealots of orthodoxness have always attempted to dissuade us of this and have argued, that the dear to us integral humanness is connected not with Christianity, but with an impious and godless humanism. They have attempted to persuade us, that Orthodoxy nowise affirms the utmost dignity of man and to this end they have recoursed to the ascetic literature. Bishop Theophan Zatvornik/Hermit thus has become reckoned the greatest authoritative spiritual representative of the XIX Century and always they have alluded to him, as an example of authentic a traditional Orthodoxy. In my own time I attentively did read him and was struck by the low level of his moral consciousness, in that it was oriented not towards God, but towards people, especially his social morals (I have in view chiefly not his “Path to Salvation”, but rather the “Outlines of Christian Moral Teaching”). St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, whom I have much read, stands immeasurably higher than Bishop Zatvornik in this regard, but he undoubtedly was under the influence of the Western Christian humanism. I was spiritually nourished upon the Russian great literature, nourished upon its extraordinary humanness, its Christian humanness, principally in L. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In the Gospel I imbibed and was nourished with humanness. The humanisation of personal and social life, the humanisation of nature, the humanisation of the very representations concerning God is a fundamental process of life and God also demands this of man. Unallowable, certainly, is a considering of Christianity as identical with humanism; this is a false humanism, asserting the self-sufficiency of man, but needful rather it is to derive humanness from the Christian teaching concerning God-manhood. And yet the moral consciousness of humanism in regard to human life is quite loftier than the moral consciousness of Theophan Zatvornik, moreso human and thus in this closer to the Gospel, to the primal wellsprings of Christianity. People of conservatively “orthodox” a mindset, esteeming themself as bearers of Orthodox truth, have defended the right to serfdom, to a despotic state, army and military, the death sentence and flogging, nationalism, total enmity towards other peoples and anti-Semitism, they have defended the injustice of man, have denied freedom of conscience and thought, have expelled from the Church all human creativity, have been cruel and pitiless towards man on the basis, that he is a sinner. Naturally preferable would be Khomyakov and Vl. Solov’ev, cultivating humanness in themself, than such teachers of Orthodoxy. Even in the starchestvo, the startsi-elders, which I much respect, there have been elements not standing at the heights of a Christian humanness. Thus, for example, the alarming approval by starets Amvrosii of the works of  K. Leont’ev, whom I am fond of because of his tragic fate, for his acuity of thought and about whom I wrote a book, but whose views cannot be acknowledged as Christian. I am convinced, that Christianity is revolutionary a matter, and not conservative. With the question about humanness is connected also the question over the eternal torments of Hell. On this question I wrote an entire chapter in my book, “The Destiny of Man” (“O naznachenii cheloveka”), where I attempted to reveal the complex dialectics of the problem of Hell. It is not so simple a matter to resolve the question by reference to the Gospel text. The Gospel speaks in the form of symbolic a language and in it Divine truth descends to human a level, to the language of the era. In the Gospel is employed the expression aeon, which sooner signifies an age, rather than eternity, can be interpreted as torments, continuing for an age of ages, i.e. for prolonged a time. A dogma about the eternal torments of Hell does not exist. It disturbs me, that churchly people, and theologians too with such satisfaction have accepted the teaching about the eternal torments of Hell and have so manipulated it. And this is because, that they have accepted inhumanness as an inseparable part of the official teaching of the Church. And still more on freedom and truth. I likewise think, that highest of all stands truth, and it is truth namely that I desire to strive for. But there exists a Christian Truth concerning freedom. Knowledge of the Truth gives us freedom, and such is one side of the question, but there is also another side — knowledge of truth demands freedom, without freedom truth is not given us nor has value. To God, to God namely, and not for man, nothing is of interest or needful without freedom. Truth and freedom are inseparable and it is impossible to deny freedom in the name of truth. The German Catholic, Father Lippert, writes concerning the Church: “the Church is quite moreso, than whatever the visible organisation, it is an actuality, which first begins beyond the visible manifestation; beyond the visible aspect of pope, bishops, monasteries, believers and church-buildings begins the initial first true actuality. There originates first the Church, where the organs of sense do cease. And originates thereof other-worldly”. Thus also thought Khomyakov concerning the Church. These are words I should want to repeat. And it is namely in this sense that I consider myself Orthodox and a member of the Church.

Nikolai Berdyaev.




©  2009  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1936 – 409 – en)

OB  AVTORITETE,  SVOBODE  I  CHELOVECHNOSTI.  Journal Put’, mar.-avr. 1936, no. 50, p. 37-49.

1 I recollect, that in past I tended much to criticise the traditional type of the intelligentsia and its world view, vide my book, “The Spiritual Crisis of the Intelligentsia”.

2 Translator note: “orthodox” in its generic sense implies “right-belief” (in Russian “pravoverie”) in contrast to the Russian word for religious Orthodox Christianity (in Russian “pravoslavie”, which implies “right-glory/doxology”). In Greek language the word “orthodoxia” preserves the New Testament times idiomatic nuance of “right-glory” (correctly translated in Church Slavonic by Sts Cyril & Methodios), — in contrast to its later generic nuance of “right-believers” vs “wrong-believers”, i.e. “heretics” far beyond mere Christian a scope. The term “ortodoks” in Russian tends to assume rather pejorative a tone, applied to narrow-minded zealots. To distinguish between these two words, this Berdyaev translator typically renders the word “pravoslavni” as capitalised word “Orthodox”, and the generic “ortodoks” as uncapitalised “orthodox” or “ortodoks”.