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Articles by Nicholas Berdyaev

Translated by Fr. Stephen Janos

Chronological Coding by Year of Initial Publication and T. Klepinina Assigned #

1920 - 1929

"The Problem of East and West within the Religious Consciousness of Vl. Solov'ev"


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"The End of the Renaissance"


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"The Pre-Death Thoughts of Faust (O. Spengler)" [1922-#059]

"The fate of Faust is the fate of European culture. The soul of Faust is the soul of Western Europe. This soul was full of stormy endless strivings. In it there was an exceptional dynamism, unknown to the soul of antiquity, to the Greek soul. In its youth, in the era of the Renaissance, and still earlier in the Renaissance of the Middle Ages, the soul of Faust sought passionately for truth. They fell in love with Gretchen and for the realization of his endless human aspirations it entered into a pact with Mephistopheles, with the evil spirit of the earth. And the Faustian soul was gradually corroded by the Mephistophelean principle. Its powers began to wane. What ended the endless strivings of the Faustian soul, to what did they lead? The Faustian soul led to the draining of swamps, to the engineering art, to a material arranging of the earth and to a material mastery over the world.... And draining the swamp is but a symbol of the spiritual path of Faust, merely a sign of spiritual activity. Upon his path, Faust passes from a religious culture over to an irreligious civilization. And in this irreligious civilization the creative energy of Faust becomes drained, his endless aspirations die."

"The End of the Renaissance" [1922-#17-60.1]

"The school delineations of history into the ancient, the medieval and the modern, are becoming quickly outmoded and will be discarded from textbooks. “Modern history” is ending and there is beginning something unknowable, an historical epoch not yet named with a name. We depart from all the customary historical shores. This was acutely felt with the onset of the world war. Then already to people the more far-sighted it became clear that a return to that peaceful 'bourgeois' life which existed prior to the exploding of the catastrophes would nowise occur. (In) the tempo of historical changes, it is rendered catastrophic. And thus it always happens amidst the transitions to new historical eras. People, attuned to what is to come, long since already have sensed the onset of catastrophes and have seen their spiritual symptoms beneath the external trappings of well-ordered and tranquil life. Events in the spiritual actuality tend to play out earlier than in the external historical activity. In the soul of modern man something got shaken loose and into flux earlier than the historical bodies were shaken loose and into flux. And thus, now that all the world is passing over into a state of flux, ought not to surprise those who have been attentive to the stirrings of the spirit."


"The 'Living Church' and the Religious Rebirth of Russia# [1923-#060.2]

"Two sorts of people are doomed to a lack of understanding concerning the essence and the meaning of the Revolution — the externalistic revolutionaries and the externalistic counter-revolutionaries. Both the one and the other, bereft of freedom of spirit, cast about upon the surface aspect of the revolutionary process and in the grip of evil passions; and both the one and the other believe that the Revolution will destroy the old life and build a new life. The external revolutionaries think that the Revolution will destroy the old, the ugly and evil life, and make for a new, beautiful and good life. The external counter-revolutionaries think that the Revolution will destroy the old, beautiful and good life, and make for a new, an ugly and evil life. Some sense themself as builders of a new life, others the restorers of the old life. This is a self-deception, an illusion, arising from concentrating our gaze upon the surface superficiality of life. The inner meaning of the revolutionary process is altogether otherwise...."

"Murky Figures (Reminiscences of A. Bely Concerning A. Blok)" [1923-#060.3]

"The unfinished reminiscences of Andrei Bely concerning A. Blok read with a gripping interest. Though at the center of these reminiscences stands the figure of A. Blok, they are immeasurably broader in their scope. And the theme of these reminiscences is very profound. This is a theme about far-sightedness; things beheld at the beginning of the century by the souls of the poets, alert to the coming and prophetic in disposition. And it is possible still further to delineate this theme: the revelation concerning the Sophia of Vl. Solov’ev, of A. Blok and A. Bely, and the relationship of these revelations to the presentiments of the coming revolution. "



"The Jewish Question As a Christian Question" [1924-#301]

"When I read the collection of articles, “Russia and the Jews," I sensed acutely the deep tragedy of the self-consciousness of Russian Jews who love Russia, who do not love the Russian Revolution, and who desire to be Russian patriots. There is much in the thoughts of this collection with which I disagree, but I esteem the effort of the group united in it to affirm the innate worthiness of Russian Jews beyond the exploiting of the Revolution in the interests of Judaism. This leads to thoughts about the deep, hopeless perhaps, tragedy of the Jewish question. Anti-Semitic currents among Russians, in Russia and beyond its borders, grow with elemental force and assume forms with a characteristic Russian frenzy. The hour may come when this anti-Semitism develops into wild and bloody violence, when the hapless Russian people, divided and decimated by the Revolution, for their sufferings and decimation might fiercely take revenge upon the Jews, placing upon them the whole blame for their misfortune."



"Spiritual Tasks of the Russian Emigration ('From the Editor' Preface to Journal Put')" [1925-#302]

"The Russian dispersal represents a quite exceptional and singular phenomenon in history. As regards its dimensions, this phenomenon can only be compared with the Jewish Diaspora. Outside the native-land, the Rodina, there have been displaced millions of Russian people of very diverse social segments, professions, and intellectual trends. In its composition, the Russian emigration is very complex and very different from the emigration in the era of the French Revolution. To it belong the frightened and angry common folk. But to it belong likewise our highest cultural stratum, the blossom of Russian culture, of Russian writers, scholars, painters, artists. An enormous number of Russian youth, having passed through the Civil War, is dispersed throughout all the world to work in the factories and to study in the highest institutions of learning in Western Europe. It is difficult to imagine for oneself a greater historical tragedy, than that which the Russian people experience."

"The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Caesar" [1925-#303]

“'Render the things of Caesar unto Caesar, and the things of God unto God.' This eternal Gospel truth ought to be understood dynamically, and not statically. The difference and the delimitation of the two kingdoms remains eternal, but the relationships between the two kingdoms within the history of Christianity do not remain inalterable; they change at various stages of Christianity. Christianity does not know petrified forms which might define for always the Christian ordering of the kingdom of Caesar. One only doth dwell unshakable. Christianity does not deny the kingdom of Caesar whether it be mechanical or revolutionary. It recognizes it as a particular sphere of being, distinct from the kingdom of God, but necessary too for the ends of the Kingdom of God. The Church of Christ has its own particular foundation, independent of the elements of this world; it lives according to its own particular law of spiritual being. But the Church of Christ at the moment of its appearance was surrounded by the elements of this world and was compelled to live in a pagan state, which fiercely persecuted Christians. The 'kingdom of Caesar' does not signify a monarchy. It is a figure designating the kingdom of this world, the order of sinful nature. A democratic or socialistic republic in the same degree is the kingdom of Caesar, just like a monarchy. And the question about the relationship of the Kingdom of God to the kingdom of Caesar is at the same time a question about the relationship both to the monarchic state and to revolution."

"Neo-Thomism" [1925-#304]

"Catholicism, despite the apparent static aspect of its dogmatic system and its stubborn resistance to all the intellectual movements of modern times, is endowed with a great mental energy by which it all ever and again creates in its bosom an intellectual renewal. Not so very long ago there was a sensation created in the Catholic world by the modernism movement, which wanted to reconcile the Catholic world with modern science and modern society, and in struggling against the Scholastic rationalism it attempted to push forward, based on the irrational philosophy of Bergson. Blondel, Labertonier, LeRoy were the chief representatives of philosophic modernism in France and they remained faithful to Catholicism even after the censure of modernism by the Vatican, in contrast to A. Loisy, who gave up on Christianity altogether. But the modernist movement, in which there were also positive elements, distressed not only the Vatican and evoked reaction against itself by not only the official churchly powers, it distressed also the Catholic philosophic mindset and it evoked against itself the whole intellectual movement which can be called NeoThomism."

"The Idea of God-manhood in Vl. Solov'ev (On Occasion of 25 Years from Day of Death)" [1925-#307]

"All more or less acknowledge that Vl. Solov’ev was a most significant Russian thinker. But in the current generation there is no gratitude for his spiritual exploit; there is neither understanding nor esteeming of his spiritual manner. And indeed it mustneeds be recognized, that the manner of Vl. Solov’ev remains enigmatic. He not so much revealed himself in his philosophy, his theology and his publications, as rather that he concealed the contradictions of his spirit. There is a Vl. Solov’ev of the day and another of the night. And the contradictions of the Solov’ev of the night are only in externals to be reconciled to the consciousness of the Solov’ev of the day. About Vl. Solov’ev it might just as truly to be said that he was a mystic and a rationalist, an Orthodox and a Catholic, a churchly man and a free gnostic, a conservative and a liberal. The contrary tendencies claim him as their own. But he was in life and he remained after death both a solitary and misunderstood."


"Salvation and Creativity (Two Understandings of Christianity)" [1926-#308]

"The correlation between the ways of human salvation and the ways of human creativity is very central, very tormenting, and a very acute problem of our age. Man perishes and he has a thirst for salvation. But man is also by his nature a maker, a creator, a builder of life, and the thirst for creativity cannot be extinguished within him. Can man be saved and at the same time create; can he create and at the same time be saved? And how to perceive Christianity: is Christianity exclusively the religion of the salvation of the soul for life eternal, or is creativity of a higher life also justified by the Christian consciousness?

"The Nightmare of an Evil Good (I. Ilyin's book Resistance to Evil by Force)" [1926-#312]

"We rarely happen to read so nightmarish and troubling a book as the book of I. Ilyin, “About the Resistance to Evil by Force.” This book is capable of inspiring a genuine disgust towards the “good;" it creates an atmosphere of spiritual asphyxiation, it falls back upon the torture-rack of a moral inquisition. The stifling suffocation by the good was there also in L. Tolstoy, an inverted likeness of which appears in I. Ilyin. And L. Tolstoy could inspire a repugnance towards the good. A “gentleman of retrograde and mocking physiognomy” would inevitably spring up from the Dostoevsky underground in order to topple over the infernal normativism and moralism of I. Ilyin and put a stop to the asphyxiation made in the name of good. No sort of life can flourish in this realm of a suffocating, inquisitorial good. Such a sort of demonic good is always a moral distortion. In vain does I. Ilyin think that he has attained to that spirituality, that renunciation and cleansing from the passions, which gives the right to speak from the visage of absolute good."

"BookReview: New Books about Jacob Boehme" [1926-#316]

"Jacob Boehme is one of the greatest geniuses of mankind, but of geniuses little accessed, remaining in the shadows. Only but few read him and whole eras tend to forget him. The spiritual atmosphere now at present has begun an era favorable for a rebirth of interest in Boehme. Moreover, in the year 1924, was the tricentennial of his death, and in Germany several new books about Boehme appeared. A trait of Germans is the honoring of their great people. Yet there is little that is fine written concerning Boehme. Though the books of [Emile] Boutroux and [Werner] Elert have to be acknowledged as not bad. For long a while within modern thought J. Boehme has tended to remain obscure and forgotten. The arising of the spiritual interest in Boehme is connected with the names Saint-Martin and Fr. Baader. Schelling too in his final period, the period of the Philosophie des Mythologie and the Philosophie der Offenbarung [Philosophy of Revelation] to a remarkable degree was influenced by the spirit of J. Boehme. Hegel acknowledges J. Boehme as an originator of the lineage of modern philosophy and holds him in high esteem. Jacob Boehme has to be indisputably acknowledged as the greatest Christian theosophist (employing this term not in the modern vulgar, but in its old noble, sense) and the greatest mystic of the gnostic type."


"The Scientific Discipline of Religion and Christian Apologetics" [1927-#318]

"Our Orthodox apologetics has always been rather backwards and less worked through than the apologetics of the Christian confessions of the West. Our apologetics lacked an alertness to the mental and spiritual temptations of their times. They were refuting materialism, when it was that Kantianism held sway with minds; they refuted Kantianism when theosophy and pseudo-mystical currents had begun to take hold upon minds; they thundered at L. Tolstoy when the moral consciousness was enthralled instead with Nietzsche. The Russian Orthodox, protected by the state and the bundled-up in the flesh of a stable lifestyle, were not wont to show any great sensitivity to the intellectual movements in the world. They did not have to engage in the fights which Western Christianity had to deal with. The weaponry was not hammered out, since it was needless to fight. But now Russian Orthodoxy enters into a completely new era, when Russian Orthodox people in all regards would do best to arm and prepare themself for battle."

"A Consideration Concerning Theodicy" [1927-#321]

"European Christian mankind has been involved here already for half a millennium in a peculiar process with God. Inside the Christian world there has been scepticism, agnosticism, unbelief, atheism--all core symptoms of an inner justifying process with God. This process is the torment over the problem of theodicy. But if this justifying trial-court process be conducted, then there ought to be that one with whom this process deals with. An absolute, an ontologically reasoned-out atheism is impossible. Atheism is a struggle with God, an opposition to God, an anti-theism, the impossibility to be reconciled with deistic theology. Only at the surface would it seem that atheism is the outcome of mental efforts, preventing faith in God, that it is the product of either philosophy or science. If however it be viewed at depth then it mustneeds be acknowledged that atheism can never be begotten by theoretico-cognitive doubts nor grounded upon logical arguments. Man arrives at atheism (via) practical-vital grounds, and atheism is the manifestation from a spiritual and moral order. The phenomenon of atheism signifies either a debasement of spirituality or a false direction of spirituality."

"A Conference in Austria" [1927-#323]

"On 30 April to 6 May in the Austrian mountains occurred the Southeastern Conference of Christian Youth under the auspices of the World Christian Federation. I was quite pleased that I happened to attend this conference, and the days spent there remain one of the pleasant memories in my life. I saw throngs of a great number of fine and sympathetic people, the likes of which one rarely chances to meet in life. And these fine and sympathetic people, belonging to tens of various nationalities and to three faith-confessions, came together amidst a beautiful natural setting. Upon the mountains lay snow, and in the mountain valley the trees were in full bloom. The general mood of the conference was cordial. Russian congresses, comprised of only Orthodox people, sometimes become difficult to take. In them is sometimes found spiritual fractiousness. The interacting of various nationalities and faith-confessions created moreso a pleasant atmosphere, since the will was directed towards unity."

"Book Review: Death-Idolatry (N. Fedorov theme)" [1927-#xxx]

"The publisher of this extraordinarily interesting booklet has declared: The religious stirring within the territories of the U.S.S.R. are set in a framework amidst which every uncovered teaching not approved by the censor has no sort of chance of appearing in print. Such a situation leads to the recourse of hand-written distribution of the relevant works. The work printed below belongs to the number of suchlike in particular a collection. We cannot but have a special interest for religious thought inside Russia. Every disclosure of this thought is so fraught with difficulty that it assumes a special value. The not-large and anonymous booklet, “Death-Idolatry” [“Smertobozhnichestvo”] received by us by roundabout paths witnesses to this, that the Russian religious stirrings have been permeated by the ideas of N. F. Fedorov, a man of genius and a bold thinker, til now little known and appreciated."


"The Metaphysical Problem of Freedom" [1928-#329]

The problem of freedom can be approached from various angles and it is bound up with all the philosophical disciplines. I am compelled to limit my theme to a consideration of fundamental aporia difficulties, to which the positing of the problem of freedom leads. But first of all it is necessary to establish the relationship of my theme to the traditional school question about freedom of will. When the question about the freedom of will is dealt with, primarily psychologically and ethically, then the question about freedom is not posited in all its depth and its very settings presuppose the decision that freedom is a choosing of the will. The teachings about freedom of the will, theological and philosophical, were searchings in a utilitarian regard to the problem, and with a practical intent to demonstrate the moral responsibility and chastisement of man. The freedom of will was quite necessary for criminal law, just as it was necessary for the foundation of retribution beyond the grave. It is worthy of note that extreme adherents of the freedom of will frequently have been enemies of the freedom of spirit, the freedom of conscience. Luther, however, based religious freedom upon a radical denial of freedom of will. The problem of freedom is of interest to me outside of these utilitarian vexations. It is the problem of the freedom of spirit as a principle inherent in the primal-basis of being."

"Three Jubilees: L. Tolstoy, H. Ibsen, N. Fedorov" [1928-#333]

"This year [1928] there occurs the century-mark from birth of three men of genius: L. Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen and N. F. Fedorov. Whatever the differences between them, what unites them is their radicalism and maximalism of thought and their singular hostility to the bourgeois world surrounding them. All three were spiritual revolutionaries, although they had little in common with the vulgar socio-political revolutionism."

"New Book: Marcionism" [1928-#336]

"Thought hostile to Christianity is becoming focused, refined. It assumes new forms, less coarse. It resorts to new methods of struggle. We see this as regards the 'Christianism' series, which is put out as a publication of Rieder under the editorship of Couchoud. In this series came out also the book of Couchoud himself, 'Le mystere de Jesus,' in which is denied the historical existence of Jesus Christ. Concerning this book, brilliant in form, I have already written in Journal 'Put'' in my article 'The Scientific Discipline of Religion and Christian Apologetics.' We have at present before us the books of Delafosse concerning the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul with translated text. The books of Delafosse, just like the book of Couchoud, just like all the series, cannot be numbered amongst truly objective scientific investigations."

"Obscurantism" [1928-#337]

"There are grounds to think,that we are entering into an era of obscurantism. And quite possibly this is a phenomenon not only Russian, but also worldwide. Obscurantism flourishes quite the same whether it be among the Soviet Communists or amongst the emigres. The modern emigre youth is in the grips of a 'gnosomakhia' heresy, with a fear of knowledge and a hatred for gnosis, both philosophical and theological. The process of a mental “simplistic perplexity” (an expression of K. Leont’ev) is making quick strides forward. From Russia have been banished almost all the philosophers. In Italy the Fascist young people have made a veritable pogrom on the libraries about Benedetto Croce, a quite notable Italian philosopher. The most churlish obscurantists in the emigration are taken up with an inquest into 'heresy' wherein everything of creative and independent thought appears to them under the guise of heresy. This phenomenon could use a closer look. What is this obscurantism, what is it with its psychology?"


"BookReview: Concerning Sophiology (Bulgakov)" [1929-#343]

"There has come out the third part of the dogmatic trilogy of Fr. Sergii Bulgakov, Jacob’s Ladder (Lestvitsa Iakovlya). The first two parts were devoted to the veneration of the Mother of God, 'The Unscorched Burning Bush' ('Kupina Neopalimaya'), and John the Baptist, 'Friend of the Bridegroom' ('Drug Zhenikha'). All three parts are in essence devoted to a revealing of the teaching about Sophia, about the Wisdom of God within creation. It is impossible not to sympathize with the attempts at creative theologizing by Fr. S. Bulgakov, and his intense thought. The thought of the Orthodox East for too long has been situated in a condition of slumber, from the XIV-XIX centuries. Only in Russia, in the XX century, did there cease the condition of unthinking and awaken creative religious thought, moreso the rather religio-philosophic, than theological. The theological efforts of Fr. S. Bulgakov bears to a remarkable degree a character visionary and experiential, and this is not the rational academic school sort of theology."

"The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge: On the Scales of Job: A Peripateia of Souls" (L. Shestov) [1929-#346]

"The brilliant book of L. Shestov contains an inaccurate sub-title, 'A Peripateia of Souls.' L. Shestov is no psychologist and he has little interest in the diversity of individual souls. He is a man caught up with a single idea, a one-track soul, and therefore he tends towards a twofold division of the world into his own and the foreign world, in which everything gets jumbled together into one. For him and intimate to him, beloved by him, are Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Luther, Pascal, Plotinos, all who perfectly resemble each the other and experience one and the selfsame tragedy. L. Shestov cries out against the 'universal,' the “general.' Yet all the time and everywhere he himself sees but the 'universal,' the 'general.' He fails to individualize, to note the manifold diversity. He is interested with only his own one theme. It even is impossible for him perchance to turn attention to other themes, to perspectives such as may be foreign to him. With this is connected the difficulty of philosophic dialogue with L. Shestov, but with this is connected likewise his most significant quality."

"Book Review: A New Book about J. Boehme: La Philosophie de Jacob Boehme (A. Koyre)" [1929-#347]

"It has to be considered remarkable that at the Sorbonne has appeared an extensive dissertation concerning Jacob Boehme. Originally the only people to have written about Boehme were those inwardly sensitive to him — religious philosophers, theosophists, mystics; and indeed they generally wrote little. The book of A. Koyre bears a different character. This is a scientific book. For Koyre, Boehme is merely an object of scientific investigation. His book is endowed with great scientific merits. The author did everything possible, and even the impossible, so as to get down into an unfamiliar world of the vision and world of thought of a great Christian theosophist."

"Book Review: Paradise on Earth: Towards an Ideology of the Creativity of M. F. Dostoevsky, F. M. Dostoevsky and N. F. Fedorov" (A. Gornostaev) [1929-#348]

"A. N. Gornostaev appears evidently to be a chief representative of the Fedorov current. In a recently appeared booklet, 'Paradise on Earth,' he attempts to establish points of affinity between Dostoevsky and N. Fedorov. He wants to show that in Dostoevsky there was already the fundamental idea of N. Fedorov, though insufficiently perceived. His argument is bound up with the death of Ilyusha and makes a connection with the boys in the Brothers Karamazov and with Alyosha going off for action in the world after his experiencing a birth into new life. According to the opinion of Gornostaev, the time at present is 'dostoino,' i.e. 'propitious.' Gornostaev attempts to formulate a fundamental theme of Russian literature and Russian religious thought: 'The basic, the perhaps singular theme of Russian religious thought is this, from whence has all originated and towards what will it have returned, this is the central axis point around which has grown the impetus of motion — it is an ideational task, determining for itself the whole course of its development — wherein perhaps all of four words tend to signify it: 'GOD’S KINGDOM ON EARTH,' (p. 17) or otherwise, 'Paradise on Earth.'"

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