by M.-M. DAVY

Translated from the French by LEONORA SIEPMAN



First published as NICOLAS BERDIAEV L'MOMME DU HUITIEME JOUR by M.-M. Davy rlammarion, fiditeur 26 rue Racine, Paris


© For this translation in English


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I am only a seeker after truth and a rebel who desires freedom from the bondage of life to things, objects, abstractions, ideologies •nd the fatalism of history.

(Dream and Reality, p. 322)

Man is the dominating idea of my life—man's image, his creative freedom and his creative predestination.

(Solitude and Society, p. 202)


Thanks are due to Sheed and Ward Ltd. for permission to use quotations from Donald Attwater's translation of Dostoievsky: An Interpretation by Nicolas Berdyaev; also to Donald Lowrie for quotations from his translations of The Meaning of the Creative Act and The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar by Nicolas Berdyaev which were published by Victor Gollancz, Ltd.




















Iam in love with that quality of life which transcends life . . .

(Dream and Reality, p. 231)

When I look back at the men I have been fortunate enough to niccl and get to know, I can think of none whose inner self seemed 10 wide open to the transcendent as Nicolas Berdyaev. And more than that; he was a man on whom the mark of the Divine had been indelibly imprinted from childhood. He was inhabited by a presence, and his look, his thought, his very voice, bore witness to the mystery within him.

At tea-time in the dining-room of his house at Clamart,where we used to have those little Russian meat pies (piroshki) he was lo fond of, I often heard him speak of "God's fools", and he would enthusiastically relate anecdotes in which the supernatural played • key part.

When I asked him if he was one of "God's fools" he smiled tnd answered that they no longer existed, but that he was one of llirir descendants.

Let there be no mistake about it:

The difficulty with which traditional Christians are faced is not how to defend the idea of God and of his providence in the world. Sometimes I cannot help thinking that they are, in fact, endeavouring to defend and to justify not God but evil.

(Dream and Reality, p. 299)

I am not setting out here to describe all Berdyaev's thought, buf only its essentials, combining it with numerous quotations to put the reader in direct contact with it. One such quotation from Uerdyacv's work on Dostoievsky might equally well be applied to die present volume:



Nor can it be said that I tackle my subject from the psychological angle, that my intention is to draw conclusions in the psychological order. No . . . my aim is to display Dostoievsky's spiritual side.

(Dostoievsky, p. n)

To understand Berdyaev's thought one needs to feel a certain kinship with it, which means that one's Being must be turned towards the Light.

M.-M. D.




In Russia the land gives freedom.

(The Russian Soul)

"I have always been truly Russian," Dostoievsky told Maykov, but his words might have been spoken by Berdyaev, who dearly loved his country. The Russian landscape, with its plains stretching away to infinity and its lack of well-defined contours, may be likened to the soul. "The vital fluid of Russia," said Berdyaev, "spreads out across the plains and flows away to the infinite."

Russia's outward aspect corresponds with an inner reality; the immensity seems to express a yearning for the Beyond, suggestive of some mysterious knowledge acquired in the way described by Gregory of Nyssa: "There is only one manner of knowing—to reach out ceaselessly beyond the known" (In Cant. Horn., i). Through the immensity of his country the Russian aspires to the unknowable, sensing like Milosa, "distance calling to distance". The horizon has a boundless quality akin to eternity:

The soul is drawn to infinite flat distances and is lost in them. . . The soul... of the Russian is apocalyptic and fluid by "build" and inclination, ever gliding towards the beckoning horizon, especially to that far one which seems to hide the end of the world.

(Dostoievsky, p. 162)

Before those endless vistas man might well feel frail and in-lipnificant if they made him conscious of his body, but, instead, like speaks to like—the boundless landscape before his eyes to that unbounded unknown land, the terra incognita within him. The



infinity of his inner self unfolds and all becomes vast, to use an expression beloved by Baudelaire which aptly describes the Russian plain as well as the Russian soul and places them in the dialectic of the Within and the "Without, assigning them to an "elsewhere" which no barriers can confine.

The west, with its frontiers and boundaries giving the impression that the land has been parcelled out, symbolises organisation and stability, the feeling of belonging to a nation and submitting to discipline. During his first weeks in the east the visitor may feel a nostalgia for the west but when he gets home again Europe with its partitions seems unbearable, almost suffocating. Russia is the east:

The sun rises in the east, and from the east comes the light of every religion . . . The east is the land of revelation ... It is closer to the source, the genesis, of all life; it is the realm of life's genesis, for in the east God spoke directly to man, face to face . . . That, then, is Russia, the Christian east.

(The Russian Soul)

Berdyaev contrasts Russia with Europe:

The land is an element of the Russian spirit ... In Russia the land gives freedom . . . Man does not possess the land, he is possessed by it. The Russian people believe with a primitive intensity in their land, in its power, its fertility. They believe it is unconquerable ... In Europe the primitive life-force seems to have been exhausted as a result of over-intensive cultivation combined with an exaggerated exteriorisation of man's inner strength and too perfect an organisation.


The Russian people's love of their land is not exacerbated nationalism but, rather, a Messianic consciousness of nationhood. And with their nomadic spirit their love for it extends beyond Russia; they love Europe, they have a feeling of kinship towards the whole world. Europe and Asia together embrace every Christian and pagan trend in their distinctive form of universalism. The Russian people, "the God-bearers", as Dostoievsky calls



them, never lose this universal quality; in them the outlook of the Hebrew people has been revived (cf. Dostoievsky, p. 170).

In The Origin of Russian Communism Berdyaev reflects upon his country's fate in the different phases which led to communism and in Dream and Reality he described the atmosphere in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century; people were thinking, arguing, dreaming, struggling. A new age was on its way.

There were but few classes in old Russia—a small cultured elite and the common people. In the nineteenth century the intelligentsia was torn between Czarism and the people, sometimes lupporting the powerful state and sometimes the powerless masses.

The intelligentsia was not composed solely of intellectuals and icholars but was more a kind of sect with its own customs, morals and view of the world. All its members looked alike but were recruited from every social level. Redishchev, prototype of the first eighteenth-century intelligentsia, came under the influence of Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau, and was eventually condemned to death for denouncing the humiliations inflicted upon the masses, but his sentence was commuted and he went into exile in Siberia.

Berdyaev was harsh in his judgments on a section of the intelligentsia—rootless, godless, divided against itself—while the common people "knew life's immediate truth" and could perhaps justly be called "the salt of the earth".

By the eleventh century Russia had assumed the form of an immense, unbounded peasant country, enslaved, illiterate, but with its own popular culture based on a faith, with a ruling noble class, idle and with little culture, which had lost its religious faith and its sense of nationality; with a Czar at the top, in relation to whom a religious belief was retained . . . (The Origin of Russian Communism, p. 17)

In their search for justice and freedom the common people came up against authority but, as Berdyaev wrote, "justice did not exist



in this Great Empire". The nobility stagnated in ignorance while men of culture were isolated.

A few years later a wind of change began to blow, bringing with it humanism. Russia or, rather, the Russians of Kiev, of the Tartar period and the Muscovite period of Peter the Great, really represented a very old civilisation. From the fourteenth century its schools of painting and architecture had been outstanding, yet it had never known a period comparable with the Renaissance. In place of an official humanism it offered a humanism founded on love of all things human. The individual suddenly became aware of what he was and could become. A new idea of man arose, with consequences both intellectual and spiritual:

To us self-consciousness meant revolt against the actual facts around us, against imperial Russia.

(id., p. 22)

The Decembrist uprising against serfdom and autocracy was suppressed; Nicholas I had its main leaders executed and the others sent to Siberia. Henceforward

. . . everything tended towards the growth of schism and revolution. The Russian intelligentsia was definitely shaped into a schismatic type. It will always speak of itself as "we"; and of the State, of authority, as "they".

(id., pp. 24-5)

Social reforms were planned and though the people were still reduced to serfdom Russians could be found who enthused over Saint-Simon and Proudhon, who read Hegel and Schelling. German romanticism and idealism had so potent an influence that they were virtually assimilated. Berdyaev compares the esteem in which German thought was held by the Slavophils with the exaltation of Plato and neo-Platonism by the Church Fathers. The Hegelian system operates at two levels—the religious and the social and the Slavophils accepted the influence of western thought while rejecting its bourgeois civilisation and money-grubbing. The most cultured among them had doubts about their



own country: how could they live "in an uncouth society, under a despotic government which kept a tight grip on its humble, ignorant people"? Dreams of social change began to take shape.

Chaadayev, a convinced westerner, spoke of the Russian people's mission and went so far as to speak of their "potentialities". The imperial Government, displeased by bis independent spirit, declared him insane and placed him under medical surveillance. But that did not silence him: he produced his Madman's Apologia which was based on the principles of Russian Mcssianism. That one example is enough to show the climate of opinion.

Although the Russian genius, whether philosophical or literary, came under European influence, it remained none the less bound to its own soil, faithful to its strong taste for freedom and things Spiritual. That is why there was little groping in the dark; a movement would suddenly appear with extraordinary explosive force; literature, poetry, music, philosophy—all found their way into the world, all found their expression in some truly Russian form. Pushkin originated a method of writing in which Russian thought was reborn in all its richness and independence, its inspiration and strength, but this poet of imperial Russia also wrote revolutionary verse extolling the freedom for which so many were hoping. Though closely bound up with religion, Russian ph ilosophy was essentially anthropocentric; it dealt primarily with the real nature and destiny of man. Hence the importance given to history, to eschatology and to value-judgments based on history.

In his History of Russian Philosophy Zenkovsky dwells on these different points and one of his introductory remarks is particularly noteworthy. Starting from anthropocentric philosophy he asserts that theory cannot be separated from practice and quotes Mikhailovsky, drawing attention to the unusualness of the word "truth" (pravda): "Every time I think of the word 'truth' I cannot help admiring its strange inner beauty... I think that only in Russian are truth and justice defined by one and the same term, and that they fuse into one great whole." Russian philosophy was



a philosophy of the spirit which was at the same time a philosophy of life. Russian literature played its part in the search for truth and justice; it was dedicated to the service of humanity, moralising in tone and frequently religious in sentiment. For Gogol art itself had a social mission.

Thinkers, philosophers, writers and poets—all were ceaseless questers. They had none of the bourgeois easy conscience; they sought, not to produce pleasure or distraction, but to stir men's minds. There is a kind of uniquely Russian temperament, which finds expression in a positive or negative dualism and, although it goes to both extremes, is never satisfied or reassured. A westerner seldom questions the value of civilisation; a Russian, within the terms of his own yardstick, may have doubts about it.

In Russia there was a seed of revolt born from a new consciousness; it might even be said that a religious consciousness appeared. Whether in philosophy, literature or poetry, thinkers sought the good of mankind, sought to restore human dignity to the humblest moujik, to overthrow despotism, to play their part at the birth of a new dawn.

The revolution was being planned, and in a kind of strange vision men shared the same presentiments. They voiced an appeal to the future. Berdyaev quotes a poem written by Lermontov in 1830 in which he foresaw the Revolution nearly a century in advance:1

Russian writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries felt themselves over an abyss, they did not live in a stable society, in a strong fixed civilisation. A catastrophic outlook became characteristic of the most notable and creative Russians. . . An eschatological structure of spirit was built up in Russia, and, facing the future, faced it with forebodings of catastrophe, and the development of a particular mystical sensitiveness.

(id., p. 84)

In this pre-revolutionary atmosphere educated men realised they had no roots. The old Russia was gradually dying while the 1 The Origin of Russian Communism, p. 80.



west created and fomented most of the new ideas. And yet, although Russia came under western influence, it was destined to remain closer to the west in its aspirations than in its achievements.

The influence of the west upon Russia was absolutely paradoxical; it did not graft western criteria upon the Russian spirit. On the contrary its influence let loose violent, Dionysiac, dynamic and sometimes demoniac forces.

(id., p. 85)

Two Russian writers were to have a decisive effect on Berdyaev —Dostoievsky and Tolstoy—and from the former he seems to have received a spiritual graft.

With him everything is steeped in a molten, fiery atmosphere, everything is in violent movement, nothing is fixed or finally shaped. Dostoievsky is a Dionysiac artist.

(id., pp. 85-6)

Dostoievsky's questioning revolved around the problem of man and his place in history. His views on anthropology and his sense of history exerted lasting ascendancy over Berdyaev's mind:

Tolstoy and Dostoievsky were possible only in a society which was moving towards revolution, in which explosive materials WCTC accumulating. Dostoievsky preached a spiritual communism, the responsibility of all for each: that was how he understood Russian sobornost,1 his Christ could not be adapted to the standards of bourgeois civilisation. Tolstoy did not know Christ; he knew only the teaching of Christ, but he preached the virtues of Christian communism; he rejected private property; he rejected all economic inequalities. The thoughts of Dostoievsky and Tolstoy are on the verge of cschatology, as is all revolutionary thought.

(id., pp. 87-8)

The quality I have already spoken of is found in Dostoievsky: he reflects the spirit of the Revolution in the prophetic current running through his work, yet in some ways he remains a conservative. The majority of Russian thinkers have this Janus aspect

1 The inward, organic and harmonious aspect of Catholicity.



and even Berdyaev was not exempt. The soul of old Russia and the spirit of a new, still dawning, Russia confronted each other and intermingled. Sometimes one of them flared up at the other but neither won a decisive victory. Such a situation is always uncomfortable; it lacerates a people; still worse, it divides them against one another; they are at cross-purposes with existence and they suffer.

The same tragedy affected Tolstoy, whose mind dwelt on the cosmos rather than on history, although at the personal level he was historically committed.

. . . Tolstoy certainly was a revolutionary, one who exposed the injustices of life . . . Positively, Tolstoy was opposed to communism; he did not accept violence; he was the enemy of all government and rejected the technique and rational organisation of life; he believed in the divine basis of nature and life; he preached love, not hate. But negatively he was a forerunner of communism.

(id., p. 86)

Such a duality is tragic. To those who are unfamiliar with Russian thought of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Ber-dyaev's youth, his bold, rebellious nature, his hopes, his ideas on life after death and on the meaning of man, must all remain incomprehensible. To blame him for the contradictions of thought and attitude inherent in his emotional, highly-strung and sometimes bellicose temperament would show proof of ignorance. They are undeniable but typical of a certain period; they are found in all men who try to shake off slavery, turning hopefully towards a future of freedom. It is the choice that is important—the choice between truth and existence. Some men accept falsehood because it would be impossible for them to repudiate the ideas by which they live, but others, more finely tempered, keep faith with truth and surmount the contradictions, though well aware of painful opposition.

Such men fiercely want freedom but do not want it won through hatred and blood, for the sons of the Kingdom of God



arc children of peace. A spiritual revolution can be achieved through love but it presupposes a degree of awareness which most men do not possess. So the Russian revolution, like others, had to be brutal, committing atrocities, killing or exiling ill-Itarred supporters of the old regime and innocent people alike. From time to time the concern for truth and justice, which can never completely disappear from the soil of Russia, springs up when least expected, for in Soviet Russia as in the old Russia, extremes are always meeting, as Berdyaev observed: genius and laintliness with their opposites, evil and the lowest human in-Htincts.

Wounds were exhibited, the veil covering beauty or ugliness was rent apart; the very flavour of Russian literature, both old and new, made this clear. The average man who liked a quiet life and never asked fundamental questions detested Russian thought, while those whose life was a tragedy, who accepted the strangeness of the human condition, who were tortured by insoluble problems, found no answer there—they refused ready-made answers—but found stimulating food for the spirit.

In this emotional and tragic atmosphere Berdyaev was born, grew up, worked and struggled. Born in Kiev in 1874 of aristocratic parents he was descended on his father's side from a long line of generals and Knights of St. George. His mother was born Princess Kudashev, granddaughter of the Countess of Choiseul, and came from a western family of Polish and French stock. He was a day-boy at the Cadet Corps school before going on to the university and discovered his vocation as a philosopher while still a child, remaining faithful to it always, though his interest was aroused by everything to do with man in the grip of life's tragedy. 1 Ic was present in the spirit at every world event; the smallest injustice wounded him, man's exploitation of man seemed to him unbearable; oppression born of false ideas about society and religion aroused his indignation and distracted him from his own research, while all his life his absorbing creative vocation con-flirted with his commitment to the struggle for freedom:



I was torn between a violent urge to pursue my intellectual battles and carry the fight into the enemy's camp, on the one hand, and moral and intellectual compassion, on the other . . . All my differences and dissensions from individual people as well as from religious, social and political movements had their origin in the matter of freedom. The struggle for freedom was for me not primarily a social struggle but one which concerned men standing over against society.

(Dream and Reality, pp. 32, 49)

Alain wrote to Simone Weil in exactly the same way: "To my mind indignation alone can distract you from your mission." These words could well apply to Berdyaev. Both writers were cruelly torn away from their work because they loved truth, freedom and justice; because they loved mankind they wanted to change the world.

Berdyaev was positively obsessed with the search for truth and justice in the special sense in which they should be understood in Russian thought. Indeed we may well ask whether he was not sometimes a victim of his own enthusiasm in having too often to choose between alternatives and a prey to his generous nature or, rather, to his faith in man's destiny. The problem is more complex: he was always clear-headed and his difficulties arose not from his enthusiasms but were the effect of the sinful world in which he was struggling. It is normal that anyone who wants to be free to work for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven should meet opposition and apparent setbacks. These did not really affect him; they were the price to be paid for an idea which must some day triumph but which people were not yet sufficiently mature to accept and live by.

He was to suffer oppression under two opposed governments— Czarist and Soviet—and added to these was the power of the official Orthodox Church. Having left the aristocratic world of his own free will he felt himself alone and came out of his solitude "to find his way into revolutionary society". But at the same time he questioned his motives:



What struck me above all was the prospect of a spiritual revolution : a rising of the spirit, of freedom and meaning against the deadly weight; the slavery and meaninglessness of the world. Actually, I was not much of a political revolutionary, and displayed little activity in this respect.

(id., p. 108)

Politics disgusted him and seemed "one of the most fruitful means for objectivation to take effect in social life". Yet he did not abandon them:

. . . my dislike of politics did not lead me to a withdrawal from the world into some blissful ivory tower: I desired the overthrow of the old order, with all its fictitious political values, and the building up of a new one upon its ashes, which would eliminate, or at least reduce, the ruthless power of politics over the heart and mind of men . . . Now it is only the revolution of the spirit which has any creative power, even though it may not be primarily concerned with raisons d'etat, conventions and objective morality, revolutionary and counter-revolutionary alike . . . And yet every liberation embodies a truth and contains a promise of true freedom.

(id., pp. 109-110)

His own revolutionary feelings rose against the sometimes reactionary character of the revolutionary movement, against a bourgeois spirit similar to that found in the class-consciousness of ihr proletariat today. Opponents are apt to take on the colour of those they are fighting against.

Hut the paradox of Berdyaev can best be explained by the fact that lie was a rebel who refused to accept the world as it is and could not submit to any authority which trammelled his spiritual freedom; he was a committed man because of his love of freedom, his compassion for those who were deprived of it and his faith in the future, but something inside him refused to let him surrender himself completely; he belonged to another world, the world of eternity. In such circumstances a man "lends himself" to a cause with absolute sincerity, accepting danger, sacrificing himself,



even offering his life; but some secret part of him—his awareness of which depends on the degree of his insight—is not sacrificed or offered, and cannot die.

At one of the literary gatherings arranged in St. Petersburg by Radicals and Marxists he received the unpleasant impression that it was all unnatural and artificial, and later on, whenever he had occasion to be involved with any society, whether already established or just being formed, he felt the same sensation:

I felt an urge, familiar to me before, to withdraw into myself: I seemed to lose for a moment the taste for social intercourse, for large numbers of people, for too close contacts with the political stage and political organisation.

(id., p. 126)

Such is the strange destiny of men whose true significance escapes this fallen world. Although Berdyaev was keenly aware of his own role, his revolutionary period left its mark on him as well as the memory of it, as of a "first love".

The revolutionary period through which I passed in my youth had a great influence on my moral development. Revolutionary convictions and the whole revolutionary "atmosphere" gave rise to a peculiar mood and a peculiar attitude in regard to the future and the adversities, trials, and sufferings of the present. I did not persist in this frame of mind, but its effect on me was lasting and consisted in a kind of resilience and tenacity. It may be of interest that it is precisely the revolutionary rather than the Christian period in my life which produced these qualities in me ... I accustomed myself to the thought that prison, exile and, generally speaking a life of endurance awaited me. . . My convictions, however, never induced me to become a professional revolutionary. For this I was, admittedly, too much of a theorist, a philosopher in the stricter sense of the word, and an ideologist.

(id., pp. 113-14)

Like Alain, he felt an aversion not only from military men but from politicians, lawyers and teachers; to have a fixed role in society, to belong to the bourgeoisie—that disgusted him:



I was . . . convinced that the bourgeois spirit is no mere sociological phenomenon characteristic of capitalist society . . . but, in fact, may attend socialism and communism, Chistianity and Orthodoxy alike.

(id., p. 115)

Gradually Berdyaev built up his revolutionary ethic. Deeply influenced by Kant and German idealism he read Mikhailovsky, who, like Alexander Herzen, valued personal freedom in socialism but whose philosophy Berdyaev considered rather weak.

Marxism was born towards the end of 1890 and represented the highest cultural level of the Russian intelligentsia. Berdyaev's own Marxist period was brief and he remained clear-sighted and critical throughout it. In a moment of self-questioning he explained his position thus:

The Marxist movement of the late nineties was born of a new vision: it brought with it not only emancipation from the routine of populism, but also a purpose and a new conception of man. It had, furthermore, a distinctly higher intellectual and cultural standard than most of the preceding movements. Marxism, at that juncture, was in fact a signal for the spiritual as well as social liberation of man. What attracted me most of all was its characteristic appreciation of the moving forces below the surface of history, its consciousness of the historic hour, its broad historical perspectives and its universalism. The old Russian socialism seemed provincial and narrow-minded in comparison.

(id., p. 117)

The new human awareness sought by Berdyaev demanded a social and religious upheaval only to be achieved by revolution, and he saw Marxism as the tool for breaking with a past that was over and done with. He showed no naivety in his opinion of Marxist theory, drawing attention to its exaggerations, lies and brutality, but, despite its errors or beyond them, he retained his faith in the future. It would be wspng to consider such optimism ingenuous, though it is true that some of the greatest minds have



been ingenuous because their certainty about timeless reality is unaffected by the movement of historical events. Such men are strangers to the chicanery of those dedicated to politics or social ramifications and the compromise with principles that these may well involve.

Both Berdyaev and Simone Weil reacted to Marxism in a way that needs explanation. The only reason why materialism did not immediately provoke their violent disapproval was that they placed it within its own limits, neither of them expecting it to produce anything on the level of reality—of spiritual values. "Materialism takes all into account except the supernatural,"1 wrote Simone Weil. That is no small omission, for the supernatural is all-embracing and transcendent. Without the supernatural the universe is nothing but matter; yet to describe it thus is to apprehend but a small part of it.

That materialism destroys human freedom and dignity is not at all surprising, but the attitude of an ideology which boasts of its religious and spiritual values while protecting some classes and abandoning others to their fate, exercising its power over men's minds as well as their bodies—that is intolerable. It turns God into a potentate and man into a worshipper of idols. Nothing is worse than the sacred made profane or the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Berdyaev and Simone Weil could not bear the prostitution of the mind or the lower forms of religion which degenerate into fanaticism and lust for power. Neither of them had any illusions about Marxism: they sifted its truths from its errors by judging it against the background of how it in fact works.

They were both conscious of history and saw that, whether men like it or not, it continues on its course and that nothing could stop the march of socialism throughout the world. Teilhard de Chardin saw that the world was evolving in that direction and, incidentally, aroused a great deal of futile argument over his convictions.

During the Russian revolution Berdyaev consistently and 1 Berdyaev would not have used this term.



constantly preached freedom, and was naive enough to think he would be listened to. But he had few followers. In every age, whether under fascism or communism, people are very willing to follow a leader who relieves them of responsibility, but if a lover of wisdom and justice makes them masters of their fate they become anxious and suspicious of him for offering them freedom.

Yet in spite of opposition Berdyaev gave lectures and collected round him young men from the universities and the working classes. From his travels abroad he brought back social-democratic literature in the false bottom of his suitcase. It was a period of exaltation for him.

But he was eventually arrested and spent a few days in prison for taking part in a students' demonstration in Kiev. Then later, in 1898, he was expelled from the university and again imprisoned, but soon exiled to the province of Volgoda for three years. Here lie wrote his first book, on subjectivism and individualism in social philosophy, in which he already showed the "personalism" that was to become an essential problem for him. Holding firmly to Kant's idealism and never sympathising with Hegelianism he develops the theory that beauty and goodness are dependent not on the social environment but on "transcendental consciousness", and condemns man's exploitation of man among the bourgeois classes:

This idea provided the basis for my theory of the messianic calling of the proletariat; for the proletariat is free from the sin of exploitation, and its social and psychological condition enables it to receive and bear witness to truth. I viewed the working-class as embodying, as it were, the proximity, or even the identity, of man's psychological condition with the transcendental consciousness.

(id., p. 123)

Berdyaev had no totalitarian leanings, and his contact with Marxism shaped his inner development by making him more aware of his own spiritual demands. A "new world of beauty" opened for him where he experienced the Beyond, the tran-



scendental. At that time he was reading Ibsen, Dostoievsky, Tolstoy, and becoming more keenly aware of himself, of his personal destiny. It was a spiritual crisis rather than a religious conversion which made him leave a movement not altogether in tune with his own ideas and his search for truth. Gradually he abandoned what he called the "earthly" philosophy of the left-wing intelligentsia.

After his exile he went through a period of depression but the "little" revolution of 1905 produced a new spiritual reaction in him; he was a true revolutionary, but a spiritual revolutionary, a "mystical anarchist", to use his own expression. His anarchism was based on metaphysics and tinged with mysticism, yet it was not that of the St. Petersburg literary circles, which he found indifferent to truth and human welfare:

The slogan adopted by the mystical anarchists was "non-acceptance of the world", and they claimed to be the champions of complete freedom of the spirit from all external conditions. I need hardly say that the cause of mystical anarchism was profoundly congenial to me . . . Freedom, unconditional and uncompromising freedom, has been the foun-tainhead and prime mover of all my thinking.

(id., p. 158)

But the atmosphere of St. Petersburg suffocated him. Although he had founded and was presiding over a religious and philosophical society, its members now seemed to him to lack any philosophical understanding and be interested only in the literature of aesthetics. So he left the capital to spend a winter in Paris and on his return to Russia went to live in Moscow where he attended many meetings and read the Slavophils. Khomyakov aroused his greatest interest because his idea of freedom as the basis of Christianity and the Church had special significance for him. The February revolution plunged him into desperate loneliness; the intellectual revolutionaries were trying to become members of the provisional government, an attitude which he found insufferable. He became a prey to conflicting sentiments of anger and serenity,



accepting responsibilities for which in some cases he was ill-fitted; but then his true vocation asserted itself and he refused them:

As a result of a number of circumstances I found myself for a short time a member of the Council (Soviet) of the newly proclaimed Republic (pre-Parliament)—a position which, so far as I was concerned, seemed almost grotesque.

(id., p. 226)

At the beginning of 1918 he wrote his Philosophy of Inequality, which later he was to judge harshly, finding it unjust as well as untrue to his deeper convictions:

I defended the evident truth that the only source of true social equality is to be found in a recognition of the dignity and worth of the human person.

(id., p. 227)

Soon afterwards work in the public services became compulsory for a time and while Berdyaev himself had to clean the railway track his wife and sister cleared away the snow. I remember his sister-in-law, Genia, telling me about their active life in those needy days and I have always wondered how that little woman with her tiny, aristocratic hands could have gripped a shovel.

Berdyaev was not upset by manual work; he felt it to be just, though sometimes badly organised. But then it was the period of near-starvation, of search-warrants, of fuel-shortages; he broke up his oak tables and chairs to burn in the stove. Although he could ruvc nothing published he went on writing as well as doing his best for writers who were imprisoned.

After the storm came the calm and in 1920 he was appointed Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University for a year. He was thus able to give free expression to his thoughts and inevitably criticised Marxism, in addition founding and running the Free Ac adcmy of Moral Science, which existed up to the time of his departure from Russia. On orders from the Cheka he was



questioned from time to time, but so sincere and courageous were his replies that, although both the Cheka and the O.G.P.U. arrested him several times, he was always released. He describes his interrogation by Dzerjinsky, who founded the Cheka and whose name struck terror into the heart of every Russian. On this occasion Berdyaev was taken from his cell at midnight and spoke for more than half-an-hour, giving reasons for his religious, philosophical and moral opposition to communism. At the end of it Dzerjinsky set him free on condition that he did not leave Moscow without permission, and arranged for a soldier to take him home by motor-cycle.

In 1922, after spending the summer in the country, Berdyaev went back to Moscow, his flat was searched in the middle of his first night there and he was arrested, kept in prison for a week and then told he was to be exiled.

My own banishment was based not on any political but on ideological grounds. When I heard of the decision, I was overcome with grief and bitterness: as I have said, I did not want to emigrate, and the prospect of merging with the Emigre world filled me with something like horror.

(id., p. 239)

Two months later he left his country by ship in a group of some sixty-five exiles and went to Berlin where he met Max Scheler and Keyserling. His stay there served as an introduction to western life and two years later he went on to Paris. From then onwards until his death there was to be nothing but exile. He might well echo Mischa Karamazov's words on emigrating to America to avoid imprisonment: "I'm not emigrating in order to have a happy life ... I love Russia." And Berdyaev might have added these further words of Mischa's: "Everyone is guilty towards everyone else", which are echoed in his own avowal:

Bolshevism came into existence in Russia and was successful because I am what I am, because there was no real spiritual strength in me ... Bolshevism is my sin, my failing. It is an



ordeal inflicted upon me; the sufferings which Bolshevism have caused me are the expiation of my failings, of my sin, of our common failings and of our common sin.

(The End of Our Time)

Berdyaev often used to talk about his beloved Russia to close friends; to other exiles he seemed a communist, but to the extreme left-wing French he remained an exile from Soviet Russia, while to his friends he represented Holy Russia. Sometimes he used to say jokingly that because he was so devoted to Russia perhaps the French would refuse to keep his dead body. I could not attend his funeral (which was on a Good Friday) because I was in Budapest, but someone who was there told me that when the coffin was being lowered the grave was found to be too short and the grave-diggers had to lengthen it.

I have written in some detail of Berdyaev's position in the development—intellectual, social and political—of Russia, for his attitude helps us to understand not only his character and temperament but also the direction of his spiritual destiny.

Because he was "committed" it is essential to explain what he thought of the changes which occurred in Russia. It must be remembered that he spent five years under Soviet rule, remaining true to himself, a sad onlooker while other men betrayed themselves and were even transformed in their appearance. His judgment of the situation shows his clear-sightedness and, despite his impassioned nature, his strict impartiality:

I did not conceal my attitude to communism. Indeed, I waged an open war against its spirit, or rather against its hostility to the spirit ... I was convinced that the guilt and responsibility for the horrors of the Revolution lay above all on the men of the old regime, and that it was not for them to sit in judgment on these horrors. Later I came to realise that the leaders of the Russian renascence, of whom I was one, also had their share in the guilt of the hostile attitude of the Russian Revolution towards spiritual values: we were guilty of social irresponsibility, of softness, self-sufficiency and pseudo-aristocratism. The



supreme responsibility, however, lies with historical Christianity and with Christians, who have failed to fulfil their duty.

(Dream and Reality, pp. 228-9)

The lines which follow are the most important. Berdyaev's views never changed on this subject:

Communism was for me from the very start a challenge and a reminder of an unfulfilled Christian duty. Christians ought to have embodied the truth of communism: had they done so, its falsehood would never have won the day. Throughout my exile in the west this conviction was the dominant idea behind my social activities. Communism marked a crisis of Christianity as well as of humanism.

(id., p. 229)

Throughout his life he remained absorbed in the problem of Russian communism in its national and international aspects, but above all as an historic phenomenon heralding the end of an age:

Revolution is a small apocalypse of history, judgment within history . . . Within the individual life of man an end periodically comes, and death, for resurrection into a new life ... In revolution judgment is passed upon the evil forces which have brought about injustice, but the forces which judge, themselves create evil; in revolution good itself is realised by forces of evil, since forces of good were powerless to realise their good in history.

(The Origin of Russian Communism, pp. 34-5)

When Berdyaev left Russia at the age of 48 he had written several books on the philosophy of religion, had been a party-leader, founded an academy and done a great deal of lecturing; his name was known throughout the country. Twenty years later his ideas were to be talked of in America, Asia and Africa as well as Europe. Only in one country—his own Russia, did they seem forgotten, and he suffered bitterly because of it.1 His position

1 During the recent International Exhibition in Moscow some friends assured me they had seen on the Russian literature stands a number of his works alongside those of Dostoievsky, and they are now to be found in all krge Russian libraries.



vis-.\-vis the White Russian Emigres was always uneasy because he never agreed with their views and condemnation of Soviet Russia.

Despite the sadness of exile and his beloved country's ignorance of his writings he retained his affection for Russia, closely following the course of events there. During the war he added an epilogue on those years to his autobiography:

The invasion of the Russian land by the German armies shook me to the depths of my being. I felt that my Russia was exposed to mortal danger ... I never lost faith in the invincibility of Russia . . . My inborn patriotism, of which I have already spoken above, reached an extraordinary intensity. I felt myself one with the successes and failures of the Red Army.

(Dream and Reality, p. 317)

And the following lines will prevent any misunderstanding:

I saw no reason for changing either my attitude to the major issues of communism or my basic "Soviet orientation". So far as international relations were concerned, I continued to regard the Soviet government as the only representative national government, even though I did not approve of its policy in some respects.

(id., p. 320)

It should be mentioned that the expression "Soviet orientation" must be understood to mean opposition to Czarism and not acceptance of Soviet doctrine. That, then, was Berdyaev's attitude to the old Russia and to Soviet Russia. His sense of justice made him rise in revolt against the Czarist regime, while as a Marxist he rebelled against the materialism of the Soviet system, and although he was sympathetic to Orthodoxy he could not stand its sectarianism and opportunism.

Old Russia, with its grandeurs and miseries, with its enslaved populace, suffered not only from economic and social troubles but was hidebound by the Orthodox Church, which had its own grandeur and misery, and injio way lost its appeal when persecuted.



Berdyaev can only be understood against the background of a universal religion because his spiritual development was outside all Orthodoxy in the narrow sense of the term, although its main lines accord with the eastern version of a religious cult—not tied to Rome or Geneva, or to Athens as opposed to Jerusalem. Orthodoxy was born in Jerusalem and belongs to Alexandria and Byzantium; hence its basically eschatological character, its theology of the Holy Spirit, its emphasis on freedom, the Transfiguration and the Resurrection.

Only the vast land of Russia, with its universalist religious beliefs combining the western with the eastern, could produce a man so passionately devoted to freedom.



Orthodoxy has an unswerving belief that divine energy can be transfused into the life of this world and of humanity.

(The Russian Soul)

Wlicn Berdyaev said, "The religious question has been a source of continuous chagrin for me", he spoke for the soul of old Russia as well as for himself. A single sentence sums up his own feelings and those of his countrymen:

God can be denied only on the surface: but he cannot be denied where human experience reaches down beneath the surface of flat, vapid, commonplace existence.

(Dream and Reality, p. 185)

In old Russia people were fond of lighting tiny oil lamps in front of the icons to symbolise their heart whose ardent flame would never die, even when faintly flickering.

Dostoievsky's world provides a true picture of Russian religious feeling, a mirror reflecting every type of person—the weak, the religious, the atheists, the rebels and those possessed of the devil. The relationship between God and man is so profound that to lose touch with God is to lose touch with oneself, and, in the same way, to lose touch with oneself means to withdraw from God. God's mystery can be found among the people, for he is faithful to his own origin; and they even have a presentiment of "the Holy obscurity of God". In spite of their failings the people always remain God's people.

Spiritual men like Makar Dolgoruky, the pilgrim in The Adolescent, Archibishop Tikhon in The Possessed, Zosima, the monk in The Brothers Karamazov, and his disciple, the gentle



Aloysha—such men illuminate the world with the light of their spirit; Makar showing the divine mystery in every tree and every blade of grass, Zosima telling of his brother Marcel who asked the birds for pardon because Nature does not stop at man—from one end of the world to the other all is interdependent and interrelated. Inanimate things also share in God's love; every created thing, down to the humblest leaf, sings his glory. Gentle Aloysha so loves truth that in his eyes it assumes a religious quality and the wisdom of these spiritual men is founded on the nearness of eternity, in which they are living.

The attraction of the idea of God for the people of Dostoievsky's world should perhaps be mentioned. Often some depraved or drunken character in his books will suddenly speak of Him with such an acute sense of His existence and presence that the reader is abruptly brought face to face with an unexpected illumination; for instance, the legend of The Grand Inquisitor, which is a defence of Christ, is told by the rebellious atheist, Ivan Karamazov.

It was because Russia was an Orthodox country that Dostoievsky could write, "all Russia hears the call of the Orthodox faith and looks towards the light that comes from the east".

The religious energy of the Russian spirit possesses the faculty of switching over and directing itself to purposes which are not merely religious, for example, to social objects. In virtue of their religious-dogmatic quality of spirit, Russians—whether Orthodox, heretics or schismatics—are always apocalyptic or nihilist. Russians were true to type, both in the seventeenth century as Dissenters and Old-ritualists, and in the nineteenth century as revolutionaries, nihilists and communists. The structure of spirit remained the same. The Russian revolutionary intelligentsia inherited it from the Dissenters of the seventeenth century. And there always remains as the chief thing the profession of some orthodox faith; this is always the criterion by which membership of the Russian people is judged.

(The Origin of Russian Communism, p. 9)

The theme of Moscow as the third Rome (after Rome and Byzantium) appeared in literature following the fall of the



Byzantine Empire, and Philotea recorded its grandeur in a letter to Czar Ivan III. Berdyaev wrote on the same subject: "The Moscow autocracy will be formed under the banner of the Messianic idea; the Messianic role of the Russian people is bringing forth a nationalist Church." While realising that Russia was profoundly Orthodox Berdyaev fought against all nationalistic pretensions, saying that nationalism was a betrayal of Russia's uni-vcrsalist role in the world. It struck him as ridiculous for any nation to try to appropriate God to itself, and the doctrine that Clod revealed Himself only to the Israelites before Christ's coming seemed to him no longer credible; the diverse forms of religious life were all paths leading up towards Christian revelation; Christ's coming was an answer to the hopes of all religions and Christianity was the fulfilment of all the prophecies. On this point Berdyaev is at one with Simone Weil when she speaks of divine truth as made manifest gradually, asserting that all the evidence agrees and unexpectedly confirms the Christian faith instead of undermining it.

In differentiating between natural and revealed religions Berdyaev preferred the terms religions of nature and religions of the spirit, believing that all marked stages of revelation corresponded to humanity's degree of religious awareness. Their difference exists on the plane of the natural world and the spiritual world. The revelation of God is not

a transcendent event taking place on the objective and natural plane of reality, nor is it an illumination from without. It is on the contrary something which transpires within us, a light springing up in our inmost depths, a fact of the spiritual life which has no connection with exterior realities.

(Freedom and the Spirit, p. 90)

Revelation is spiritual and through it the spiritual world becomes one with the natural world. The distinction between what comes from without and springs from within is removed; thus God revealed Himself to Moses in.the depths of his spirit, and it is in the depth of his spirit that Berdyaev can be called Orthodox.



Although Orthodox in spirit he remained outside any religious community while regarding the Orthodox Church with respect and affection. If he had been a Catholic he would have been considered a heretic, but the Orthodox Church, recognising his genius, his sense of the divine and the spiritual element he could bring to the Church itself, regarded him as a philosopher, albeit an unruly one.

During the war I met several Orthodox monks who were his wholehearted admirers, whereas theologians, principally laymen, protested vehemently against his ideas. He may not have liked theologians but they disliked him even more.

He never called himself a religious man and we shall see why; in this he showed his usual honesty and closely followed his own changing religious beliefs. During his childhood religion was scarcely mentioned, for at the end of the nineteenth century it was more alive among the masses than among the aristocracy. His father, on the other hand, had spent his childhood in a monastic atmosphere and reacted violently against it, becoming a follower of Voltaire.

After much soul-searching Berdyaev decided he was a Christian:

I can remember no event in my life which could be described as a "conversion", to which western Christians attach such great importance. But there must have been a moment when I became conscious of myself as a Christian, even if I am not able to relate it to any particular day in my life ... I do not call this experience a sudden conversion, although it happened at a time of intense spiritual conflict, because before it I was neither a sceptic, nor a materialist, nor an agnostic; and because thereafter the conflicts within me did not vanish. I knew no time of enduring inner peace and went on labouring under the pressure of tormenting problems.

(Dream and Reality, p. 176)

He often refers to his religious progress: There was, however, some hidden process going on within me



as yet not susceptible of expression, but pointing towards a deeper appreciation of the religious element.

(id., p. 162)

And he has definite views on the varieties of Christian religion:

I am not a theologian ... I speak with the voice of free religious thought ... I have read a great many theological works and tried to discover and determine for myself the nature and essence of Orthodoxy as well as of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Numerous and varied contacts with the spiritual world of Orthodoxy and with the representatives of Orthodox thought have served to deepen and widen my understanding of Orthodox teaching. As a result I was led to the conclusions that Orthodoxy is less susceptible of definition and rationalisation than either Catholicism or Protestantism. For me this was significant of greater freedom, and hence evidence of the preeminence of Orthodoxy. I cannot, in all conscience, call myself a typical "orthodox" of any kind; but Orthodoxy was nearer to me (and I hope I am near to Orthodoxy) than either Catholicism or Protestantism. I never severed my link with the Orthodox Church, although confessional self-satisfaction and cxclusiveness are alien to me.

(id., p. 177)

11 is preference for Orthodoxy lay not in the fact that it was the cult of his country but his spirit found in it an absence of legalism and could thus search for the truth more freely. Elsewhere1 he has written of it in glowing terms, but his main points are perpetually recalled throughout his writings. To understand his approach to Orthodoxy we must refer to them, particularly as the creed is little known in the west. When in Europe he met many Catholics and Protestants, but his faith did not waver; he remained an Orthodox Christian.

The Orthodox Church does not attempt to proselytise, has no

militant activities and suggests a way of life rather than of thought.

Despite its period of servitude to the Great Byzantine and Russian

empires it to some extent escaped'eontamination by the temporal

1 In an article entitled "The Truth of Orthodoxy". (French only.)



power for an obvious reason: it is an inner life rather than an indoctrination, a tradition rather than an authoritarian society. Hence its lack of external structure, dogmatism or legalistic severity, which astounds many western minds. But its greatness lies mainly in its changeless tradition, which is very close to primitive Christianity. It has been less disturbed by the play of history than would have been a more exteriorised Church forced to reckon with the changing world. Its heretics are not those who follow doctrines which it considers false but the faithful who are willing to lead a spiritual life that is a lie. Its authority rests in its whole congregation.

Orthodoxy ignores the Schoolmen: it has not had to "baptise Aristotle", as Laberthoniere put it. The Holy Scriptures suffice for it and it knows nothing of rationalism. It maintains that it is a Trinitarian religion and the vital element in its theology is religious experience. It knows nothing of the opposition between the natural and the supernatural; God's grace shows His action in the created world—by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Orthodoxy separates God and Nature, the Kingdom of God from Caesar's realm . . . The divine energy acts in man in a hidden manner. The created world cannot be said to be the deity nor even divine, nor can it be said to be outside the divine. God and the divine life in no way resemble the created world or natural life, and no analogy can be drawn between them. God is infinite while natural life is finite and limited. But divine energy overflows into the natural world, affecting it and illuminating it.

(cf. The Truth of Orthodoxy)

Orthodox thought is profoundly cosmic: Christ resurrected is a cosmic Christ. Hence its dynamic quality and the importance it gives to inner freedom. Its gaze is fixed not upon Christ crucified but on Christ risen. The legalistic idea of redemption is completely foreign to it,

Christ's coming is of cosmic and cosmogonic importance because it signifies a new genesis, a new day of creation. The



thought of eastern patristic philosophy centred on "Theosis", the process of man and the whole created universe becoming divine. Salvation was precisely this process, and it applies to the whole cosmos.


The Orthodox Church awaits a new religious event in the universe, such as the coming of the Holy Spirit or the New Jerusalem, and its concern with things spiritual, while giving it a quality of incompleteness, turns it towards the transfiguration of the cosmos by the whole creation.

God's creatures give their response to Him because they are free, while authoritarianism tends to separate the religious community from the individual. But unity must be achieved and the Church could not accept slaves, for God speaks only to free men.

True freedom of religious consciousness is found not only by one free personality isolating itself and proclaiming its individuality, but on the contrary ... in a personality that is supra-personal in the unity of the spiritual organism, which is the body of Christ, that is to say, His Church.


It is difficult to see how Berdyaev could have drawn inspiration from any other form of religion than the Orthodox Church. True, he was only on its periphery, but was not excluded from it and in spirit he did belong there. His basic theme accorded perfectly with Orthodox thought: from the eschatological point of view anthropology leads to its natural conclusion—sacramentum futuri. Those words are not his but he believed that the whole creation would be fused in the Kingdom of God. "Eschatology," writes Paul Evdokimov, "as an existential dimension of time is inherent in history; it gives us a mystical understanding of first and last things and thus assumes the immanence of Paradise and the Kingdom of God."1 The Church Fathers always bear in mind— even after the Fall—man's first destiny, that is, his condition in the

1 Orthodoxy. (French only.) L'Orthodoxie, NeuchStel-Paris, 1959, p. 59.



Garden of Eden which is like a force of gravity drawing him towards his true destiny. In Orthodox thought hope and even a certain impatience for Christ's Second Coming are always apparent in the liturgy of waiting and expectancy.

Berdyaev was familiar with this attitude both because it was inseparable from Holy Russia and because of the importance given to the Greek Fathers whom, incidentally, he frequently quotes— in particular, Gregory of Nyssa, named "Father of Fathers" by the Second Council. Because it looks towards the future, Orthodoxy leads to unity and, despite the revolution, Dostoievsky's remark in his Journal in 1881 remains valid: "Some people imagine that the Russian masses are simply atheists. Their mistake lies in not recognising the Church in the people. I do not mean the buildings or the clergy; I am not speaking of our Russian 'socialism'. . . the aim of which is an oecumenical Church, uniting all peoples and existing on this earth, in so far as the earth can contain it. I am talking of the ceaseless aspiration of the Russian people towards the great universal and fraternal union in the name of Christ. . . The Russian people's socialism does not consist in communism or outward mechanical forms; they believe they will be saved in the end only by a World Union in the name of Christ."

In an article written in 1945 Berdyaev himself confirmed the meaning of those words: "Soviet Russia masks the eternal Russia . . . The Russian people are the most community-minded in the world." The French are too individualistic to grasp easily the significance of a person's role in the community.

Berdyaev always hoped for an oecumenical Church but this is only possible if the various religions give primacy to the spirit; so long as they are social organisms, tossed hither and thither by the course of history, there can be no communion among them. Unhappily every formal religion is bound to be a social organism. Berdyaev never raised his voice against any religion or Church as such; he reproved them only for their materialistic aspect, because that is a betrayal of Christ. It was through love of God and respect for human dignity that he could not accept the socialisation of



Christianity. With all his might he wished it to have "a new and creative life" which would be eschatologically true to the Messianic idea. Commenting on the Lord's Prayer he wrote:

"Thy Kingdom come" signifies that the Kingdom of God is not yet in the world, that we only await it, and move towards or away from it.

(Dream and Reality, p. 205)

At the time of the revolution Berdyaev thought Orthodoxy would go through a period of purification and then issue victorious from persecution; but this did not happen, at least during the years preceding his exile. He soon saw that efforts in this direction were not pursued for long and the setback caused him much sorrow. Under the Czarist regime he had been at odds with the sectarianism of the official Church, which was closely connected with the temporal power and equally despotic. When the monks on Mount Athos were persecuted he wrote an article against the Holy Synod for which he was found guilty of blasphemy and would have been exiled to Siberia if the outbreak of war had not suspended such sentences. After that painful experience it saddened him to see the vain efforts of true Christians during the revolution.

As we have already noted, the beginning of the twentieth century produced a genuine renascence in religious philosophy in Russia; alongside the political and social revolution there was a spiritual development among Russian thinkers which led to a "new religious consciousness" at the expense of historical Christianity, and at first took the form of a deepened spirituality with the rejection of hypocrisy and Pharisaism. The search for truth was shown in a willingness to be "engaged" and "disengaged"—"disengaged" from dross and deception, "engaged" in favour of sincerity, rejecting a degraded world, turning towards light and beauty. In The Origin of Russian Communism Berdyaev wrote that "the revolution burst upon the history of Christianity like a judgment on it—on Christians; -on their denial of Christ's teaching, on the mockery they had made of Christianity".



While the new Christian consciousness was being born Ber-dyaev explained his position vis-a-vis religious and philosophical circles:

I found myself almost automatically in the position of a "left-winger", a "modernist" and an extreme representative of the "new religious consciousness", notwithstanding my sincere desire to share in the life of the Orthodox Church.

(Dream and Reality, p. 164)

Servility among writers aroused his vehement protestations and still more did the attempt to create a dependent church:

I resented all their attempts to create a bogus, sectarian church, and I refused to accept their version of the "new religious consciousness" as an invitation to produce new sacraments.

(id., p. 163)

Unhappily the idea of a new religious consciousness, more genuine and purged of past errors, was not uniformly accepted. When the Church was being persecuted priests who were true to their faith were prepared to die for it but others compromised with the new authorities. Former servitude to the temporal power was replaced by an equally tragic prostitution of the soul which grieved and disgusted Berdyaev. When he was last interviewed by the O.G.P.U. before his final exile he met some priests in the waiting-room who belonged to the reformed Living Church.

It was a rather unseemly and painful sight. My negative impression of the Living Church was confirmed when I learned that its leaders were engaged in ... informing against the Patriarch . . . This was, to put it mildly, a dubious way of bringing about the reformation which I myself desired.

(id., p. 140)

But official religion remained outside all these problems and there were no reforms within the Church.




This brand of conservative religion ... is being encouraged by the Soviet government.

(id., p. 324)

Introduced by his friend, Bulgakov, to Orthodox circles he again felt a spiritual malaise. In old Russia the monks were responsible for a considerable amount of spiritual guidance; monasteries and deserts were places of pilgrimage. Berdyaev speaks of his painful experience on a visit to the Zossimov hermitage where the startsy (holy men) failed to win his admiration and seemed to him to have too much authority. His reaction to Hindu mahatmas was the same.

Only one member of the secular clergy, Father Alexis Meche-voy, regarded as a starets because of the quality of his spiritual life, had a salutary effect on him, not as a counsellor but through the spiritual discussions they had together. He also came into contact with what he called "Russia's vagabonds", Christ's fools, the God-seekers, among whom he discerned prophetic gifts and deeply religious lives passed in poverty, detachment and simplicity of heart. For his most vital religious or, rather, mystical discussions he was indebted to an illiterate farm labourer who often came to see him and talked to him through part of the night. This simple man's spiritual experiences were remarkable and astounded Berdyaev, who compared his utterances with those of Meister Eck-hart and Jacob Boehme, summing him up as "the most remarkable man I have ever met".

Throughout his life, from childhood onwards, he discussed religion, but seldom with priests. The clergy wanted at all costs to safeguard their authority, their strength and their power, while on his side Berdyaev made some harsh remarks showing his attachment to a free form of Christianity that could not be represented by priests who were virtually civil servants.

My strong and inborn aversion against clericalism seemed ineradicable, and I was never able to overcome my misgivings vis-a-vis the clergy.

(id., p. 167)



But his anti-clericalism was not of the usual type; in fact, he was not really anti-clerical; his position was worse, because his indignation arose from a love of truth and freedom, and his faith and love of Christianity made him reject the falsities which had arisen in the course of its history. We shall return to that in connection with his alienation from religion and this is not the moment to cavil about the justice of his feelings or the violence of his attitude. Suffice it to hear him say:

I am not a heretic and no sectarian, but a believing free thinker.

(id., p. 185)

At the same period he fought the religio-philosophical sects with equal keenness; and when occultism was flourishing he turned away from it; like theosophy and anthroposophy, it was too cos-mocentric to retain his interest.

Although he delved ever more deeply into religious philosophy his position with regard to formal religion never changed; he always adopted what he called a "supra-denominational" attitude, preferring that description to "inter-denominational". As a complete nonconformist he was isolated, but he could not think otherwise; he felt compelled to be completely faithful to what he considered the truth—which he found constrictive and, incidentally, painful. Therein lay the drama of his religious life; the easy thing would have been for him to desert his own particular approach to God. Sometimes he was more anxious than really upset, as the following passage shows:

The drama of my religious life appears to me as pre-eminently the drama of man and his creative vocation ... I do not doubt the existence of God; but I have known moments when my heart and mind were overwhelmed by the terrible thought that the current notion of this relationship may be right—the notion, namely, of God as master and man as serf, of ruler and subject. If this be so, then all is lost, and I am lost too. If this be so, then nothing remains for me but the gaping abyss of nothingness.

(id., p. 205)



The nightmare grows confused and this cry of unrequited love bursts forth from the depths where few men have descended: "Man does not understand God".

That is the tragedy of Berdyaev's religious life—the conflict so succinctly presented in The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov. According to this there are two universal and contradictory principles, "freedom and constraint, belief in life's meaning and the denial of this belief, Divine Love and purely human compassion, Christ and anti-Christ". The Grand Inquisitor considers freedom to be a heavy burden for humanity, whose shoulders are too weak to bear its yoke. Out of compassion he wants to force men to obey him for, deprived of leadership, they become dazed; they do not want to accept responsibility; they find freedom an intolerable form of suffering so that it is a relief to submit to authority. The Grand Inquisitor's compassion is born of a lack of faith in men; he has no respect for human dignity and treats them as children who should be guided towards their destiny. Berdyaev's whole life, thought and work were a struggle against this view:

Man prefers peace and even death to freedom of choice of good or evil. . . The Grand Inquisitor says that people "look less for God than for miracles".

(Dostoievsky, p. 191)

Faith in man and faith in God were for him two opposite poles of the same belief; to doubt man was to doubt God, and vice-versa. When the Grand Inquisitor witholds from man the possibility of becoming divine, that is, of a Higher Life, it is because he denies God. He prefers humanity's fictitious happiness to its grandeur. He wants to "organise universal harmony" outside the reality of God and His Presence in man. And so, in the legend, Christ, bearing freedom, faces the Grand Inquisitor, who offers servitude and tries to win men over with his air of assurance. Christ remains silent because "effective religion cannot be expressed in words; the truth about freedom is inexpressible".

Berdyaev firmly refused to recognise the Grand Inquisitor,



relegating him to Satan's realm and remaining faithful to Christ. Throughout history men have been divided into two opposing forces—the slaves of a false Christ, who may be compared with the anti-Christ of future ages, and the disciples of Christ who assert their right to bear the weight of human responsibility. Between the two there is an unceasing struggle, both claiming the same Master. One side serves a still-born Christ, the other, the God of Eternal Life. At the end of his autobiography Berdyaev reviews his past with poignant sincerity:

As I look back on my spiritual path I do not discern any experience which could be properly described as a "conversion". I know of no point in my life at which I underwent a decisive crisis, partly perhaps because my whole life was a series of continuous crises . . . Once I was shaken to the depth by the thought that the very search for meaning would render life significant. This insight marked a true inner revolution. This was the conversion to the search for Truth. Henceforth I was convinced that there is no religion above Truth and the awareness of this supremacy of Truth has put a lasting stamp on my spiritual and intellectual development. This "spiritualism" became the ground and framework of my whole philosophical attitude. As I understand it, however, the word spiritualism does not denote any philosophical or mystical or, indeed, any occult school of thought, but an existential awareness. I came to believe in the primary reality of the spirit at a level which is deeper than, and transcends, the sphere of discursive reasoning.

(Dream and Reality, pp. 78-9)

My life has been anything but a work of art. Neither was I ever able to play with it. I have held to life with no support save a bare search for a truth wholly and utterly unlike the world and with no other passion save the passion for freedom which dissolves the congealed and petrified moves of life and conscious-


(id., p. 315)



It is very important to recognise the fact that only the eternal is real.

(The Divine and the Human, p. 156)

"An essential man" is like the eternal Which changeth not with the external.

This couplet by Angelus Silesius, while reminiscent of Boehme, is no less applicable to Berdyaev.

What is an "essential man"? He is one "whose spirit has made a breach", to use Boehme's phrase, so that he can receive the light beyond compare that enables him to enter a new time and a new space, to escape from purely temporal time and to have his being in eternity. By the same token the "essential man" begotten by eternity is a man of light and a place of metamorphosis.

First of all the meaning of the word eternity must be remembered so that it is not misused; in Hebrew it is derived from the verb alam, meaning "hidden". Eternity must not be considered as a negation of time, either beyond time or before time; it is related to time as is the infinite to the finite. We can become conscious of the infinite only through the finite, and eternity can be perceived only within time although it is outside time. According to Berdyaev the paradox of time and eternity concerns both the world's and personal destiny. Eternal life does not mean future life beyond the grave but "this life, in the depth of the moment when the rupture with time occurs". Eternity belongs to the transfigured world which we can enter without the need for physical death. Here we are teminded of the expression used by Novalis in writing to Wolman, when he said that he felt



the birth of the eternal within him. To reveal the eternal within one—that is to hasten the advent of the spirit in time.

"Spirit," says Berdyaev, "leads a higher qualitative existence than the body or the soul" (Spirit and Reality, p. 5). The old conception which we find in the Schools of Alexandria and which was revived in the Middle Ages, particularly by William of St. Thierry, has permanent validity. For Berdyaev the primacy given to body, soul or spirit does not correspond with three successive stages which men should go through; it does not imply a corporal, psychic and spiritual nature. "It does imply that man's soul and body can participate in a new and higher order of spiritual existence" (id., p. 6). Thus the body and soul are spiritualised and man passes beyond the natural order to that of freedom.

Spirit is, as it were, a divine breath, penetrating human existence and endowing it with the highest dignity, with the highest quality of existence, with an inner independence and unity.

(id., p. 6)

There is no opposition between body, soul and spirit, no conflict between time and eternity. To understand Berdyaev's thought here it is as well to recall his theory of time, which he considered of great importance, in common with Bergson and Heidegger who made it the pivot of their philosophy.

Man's destiny is fulfilled in time which, when divided into past, present and future, is discontinuous and disintegrated. It is the product of objectivation; everything in it is extrinsic, unreal and illusory. This is the degraded time of our world of nature, but it can be transcended. Berdyaev talks of cosmic and historic time as belonging to the world after the fall; only existential time belongs to the spiritual life, and he maintains that its measurement depends on the tension and intensity of the subject. Thus existential time occurs in the inner self; that is why the "essential" man lives in the depth of his being; he draws strength from it and his inner senses are enriched. Berdyaev speaks of a subtle sense of



smell which in his own case allowed him to distinguish human beings, since the soul gives out its scent in nauseous waves or sweet perfume.

While the conflict between the inner and outer self does not completely disappear it is at moments transcended, and when difficulties arise they do so not at the ordinary human level but on quite another plane, never reached by the average man.

The tragedy of an "essential" man has nothing to do with obstacles resulting from external circumstances or day-to-day events. It is entirely different; it lies in the ceaseless conflict bet ween the finite and the infinite, and comes from the new dimension brought into existence by the emergent spirit. The "essential" man lives in a temporal world but the treasure within him draws him towards another world by its mysterious weight. Berdyaev always felt his affinity with the spiritual, from the day he was born:

The first response to the world of a creature who is born into it is of immense significance. I cannot remember my first cry on encountering the world, but I know for certain that from the very beginning I was aware of having fallen into an alien realm.

(Dream and Reality, p. i)

He was never firmly rooted in this world; his real roots were elsewhere:

I am aware of my self as a point of intersection of two worlds; while "this" world, the world of my actual living, is known to me as unauthentic, untrue, devoid alike of primacy and ulti-macy, there is "another world", more authentic and more true, to which my deepest self belongs... I have fought battles with the world, not as a man who desires or is able to conquer and subjugate it to himself, but as one who seeks to emancipate himself from this world.

(id., pp. 20-1)

All his violence and quarrels were due to this wish to emancipate himself from the world.



Nothing can rescue the world from its state of estrangement except God. The revolutionary and anarchic in me are intent on subverting the whole configuration of this alien world.

(id., p. 314)

Those who are isolated by their knowledge seem to withdraw into proud solitude. As Baruzi says in his study of Angelus Silesius, "It is a sign of mediocrity to want other people to resemble oneself." The "essential" man would like everyone to attend a festival in celebration of humanity. Berdyaev had no regard for his detractors; only pity for them might momentarily attract his attention; if he turned his eyes towards them it was with a look of appeal—the appeal of love freely given—and invitation.

An "essential" man feels the sense of mystery; eternity is his country and mystery his element—only there can he live and breathe. But he never apprehends mystery face to face; while he thinks he is reaching it, it is retreating and he has to advance yet farther. Mystery is an appeal, an invitation. At the very moment when he believes it is within his grasp it recedes, forcing the pursuer to cover still greater distances in his efforts to reach it.

A true realism and a true idealism issue from the recognition of mystery beneath and beyond this world; it is the attitude of him whose eyes do not tell him what they know or do not know. He who knows no mystery lives in a flat, insipid, one-dimensional world. If the experience of flatness and insipidity were not relieved by an awareness of mystery, depth and infinitude, life would no longer be livable.

(id., p. 310)

An "essential" mans shows signs of religious experience in the etymological sense of the word, not necessarily connected with any particular form of faith and perhaps not dogmatical. In Boehme's words, "a saint has his own church within him", but without discussing saintliness one can say that there is a spiritual community in an "essential" man. His religious experience, essential and occurring at great depth, is akin to revelation. And here arises a delicate point which needs precise explanation.



Berdyaev considered that historical revelation symbolised spiritual mystery. Spiritual revelation occurs in the spirit, the secret inner self; it does not disclose new truth but explains the truth. The dry seeds of truth—to use Nietzsche's phrase—open, \ producing communication and nourishment; the corn yields its substance when the husk has been ground. The law is not rejected but transcended, for the letter is worth nothing compared with the spirit. In this way a personal revelation—which may be called a spiritual experience—resembles a prophetic inspiration, an inspiration about a known truth; the exoteric meaning of the truth was already known but now its esoteric meaning is revealed.

Among the French this immense receptiveness towards the ) divine—which seems to be innate—is seldom found; it is basically foreign to them in this form because it contains a primitive, instinctive element, an inner depth which is congenitally nearer to the Russian and German temperaments. Meister Eckhart, as well as Bochme and Angelus Silesius, knew this experience, but that of St. John of the Cross was of another kind.

All Berdyaev's experiences belonged to his religious life and took the form of a personal revelation occurring at an innermost depth. External events were echoed on a mysterious plane, indescribable but real, and all the more real for being incommunicable to anyone who has never known a revelation of that kind resounding through his inner universe. It could never become a subject for teaching or even for relating as a fact or an incident. It can be discovered and put to the test by the change in the subject who benefits from it, or by his approach, but it can only be described with images borrowed from the language of symbolism.

Berdyaev refers without bombast to two of his own experiences. He was in the country one evening in summer when the clouds were banking up at dusk and suddenly "an inner light shone forth . . .".

A symbolic dream was bound to^be full of significance for him.



I saw an enormous, almost boundless square, in the midst of which were standing wooden tables covered with rich food, and benches drawn up to the tables. Here an oecumenical council was to be held. I approached the tables and wanted to sit down on one of the benches, in order to take part in the business of the council and enter into communion with others who were about to confer and among whom I recognised many of my Orthodox friends. But wherever I tried to sit down I was informed that it was the wrong place, or that no place had been provided for me. I then turned round and saw at the very limit of the square a bare and rugged rock. I went towards the rock and began to climb it; but my very first efforts to do so showed the awful difficulties which were to attend my ascent. I kept on succumbing to weariness and exhaustion, and I saw my hands and feet covered in blood. Having reached a certain height, I looked round and, to the side and below me, I recognised a winding, tortuous road, up which a great number of people were making their way. With agonising efforts I continued to struggle up the rock. At last I reached the summit. And then I suddenly saw in front of me the figure of Christ crucified, his side pierced and blood flowing from the wound. I fell at his feet utterly exhausted and hardly conscious. Then I awoke, stirred and shaken by this extraordinary vision.

(id., p. 183)

When he related it Berdyaev said he felt unworthy of this "sublime" dream which exactly reflected his spiritual life.

As an "essential" man he thirsted for the truth but he blazed his own trail, and the only star he followed was that which shone from within himself. He was clearly and profoundly influenced by Nietzsche, Boehme, Angelus Silesius and Dostoievsky; indeed they might be called his kindred spirits, for those who find themselves on the same plane of perception receive the same illumination and, without knowing one another, they can express the same thing. Should we try to compare him with other writers who had a passionate desire for knowledge, Paracelsus and Pico della Mirandola are two who come to mind.

He is certainly reminiscent of Dostoievsky and the German



thinkers mentioned, but the reason they find an echo in him is that he belongs to their spiritual family, just as in the common consciousness there exist identical reactions, similar behaviour and an almost unique climate which corresponds to a spiritual attitude. Moreover, Berdyaev would never submit to authority, his vocation was much too personal for him to accept any outside authority and he found his inner voice the best guide. Listening to his inner self he heard the Logos, as did Dostoievsky, of whom he wrote.

There is a dash of the spirit of Heraclitus in him; everything is heat and motion, opposition and struggle. For Dostoievsky ideas are fiery billows.

(Dostoievsky, p. 12)

Speaking of himself he wrote:

The moments of greatest exultation in my life are devoid of all adornment, of all frills and furbelows, and their closest symbol is to be found in a bare flame. I feel most akin to the element of fire . . .

(Dream and Reality, p. 27)

The "essential" man is sorrowful for two reasons which are apparent in Berdyaev's works, nor can those who knew him deny the fact. Because he is free from traditional ideas such a man undergoes structural changes which make him ill-adapted to the world where most men live and have their being. The presence of an "essential" man upsets them, pains them; that is why such a man has no protection against a hostile world which rejects him.

. . . life in its actuality often reminded me also of a dream, sometimes of a nightmare, illumined only by occasional flashes of daylight.

" (id., p. 310)

In the second place the discovery of Truth, by ceaselessly demanding the renunciation of previously accepted ideas, creates an isolation which produces an appalling mental vertigo. There is no



way back and, added to the insecurity born of meeting the unknown, the blinding light of Truth as it flashes through the spirit may lead to death or tragic lack of balance. To a certain extent Nietzsche succumbed to this, while Schiller's young hero died because he had unveiled the idol of Sais. Thus the "essential" man's existence is an adventure; to quote Berdyaev, "Faith in the invisible and mysterious reality is a risk: you have to hurl yourself into the mysterious abyss."

There is no external guarantee, no convincing proof is offered; one's lower intelligence seems to vanish. The "true meaning of the world" is revealed to the man who accepts the paradox, the contradictions, preferring madness to this world's wisdom. The spirit is born and a new world opens before it; it communicates with the divine, the human spirit with the divine spirit, "like calling only to like".

Despite his highly-strung temperament and hypersensitivity Berdyaev faced his destiny with the sense of balance found in a trapeze artist, who must never let his attention wander: sure-footed and in perfect control, he accomplished the climb with no roped companion to help him. He never looked back to the past but kept his face turned towards a present which through his dynamic spirit included the future as well.

The painful awareness of living in the fallen world, yet belonging to another one, of having a body and soul that subjected him to necessity, yet being quickened by a spirit that was eternal, might at times seem to lead nowhere. To face such a strange destiny the "essential" man requires unswerving courage and a will of iron. True, he is not attracted by or interested in events in illusory time, but he must pretend to be like other men if they are to find his company bearable.

At the Cadet Corps school Berdyaev felt himself different from other boys of his age and tried to hide his strangeness. He was fond of his family and his solicitude for them was exemplary, although he had no family feeling as far as his own life was concerned. He was affable and lively without throwing himself into



the usual kind of humdrum relationships, but his whole energy was absorbed in his creative life and he found the small material incidents of day-to-day existence utterly boring. "My greatest sin has probably been my inability and refusal to bear the burden of the commonplace, that which constitutes the very stuff of life'; or to see light through the unspeakable darkness of the commonplace," he admitted in his autobiography (id., p. 24). He had his inner struggles when in his youth he was much admired by the opposite sex for his handsome, aristocratic looks. "Women have always shown greater regard for me than men; but their love cast a shadow over my youth." Yet they remained his best confidants. For him the flesh was neither "sinful" nor "holy", so that the fight against it and its temptations seemed to him both false and unreal; the renunciation of sexual life depended on the orientation of consciousness and on the spiritual attitude. The temptations of the spirit had to be actively fought against and, incidentally, were liable to appear in carnal form. He felt an uncontrollable revulsion against erotic disclosures. At the same time he had to fight against what he called his "Stavrogin side". As he explains, "I secretly relished this identification." What were these traits which he discerned in himself?

Stavrogin in The Possessed—like Prince Myshkin in The Idiot and Versilov in The Adolescent—never seeks out anyone yet all three of them exercise a hold over everyone whose path they cross. Their presence is unsettling, stimulating, awakening; they influence others and do so unconsciously. Stavrogin's appearance was irresistible—dark-haired with a pale, aristocratic countenance, elegant and self-assured. Every time people met him they saw something strange and indefinable in his face; perhaps they had not noticed it before, or was there a light in his eyes born of some new knowledge?

Although Berdyaev got the better of his over-seductive Stavrogin side he did not have to change his appearance; even if he had wanted to it would have been impossible, for the gleam in Stavrogin's eyes born of his new knowledge was also to be seen in




Berdyaev. All who knew him were struck by the animation in his face, by his luminous features and in particular by his eyes. Every time people met him, before a word was spoken, they felt to their astonishment the presence of some new thought within Berdyaev, perhaps not new as a subject for contemplation, but elaborated so that it produced fresh enlightenment.

I can see Berdyaev again at Clamart, in his house in the Rue du Moulin-de-Pierre, coming down the stairs which led from his study to the dining-room, wearing a black velvet beret, the lower /- part of his face hidden by a scarf, for he had a horror of draughts. The visitor's attention was first caught by the velvet beret, next moved to his long grey hair and then settled on his eyes—eyes whose look of violence had gradually been toned down by gentleness, although the violence could suddenly reappear in the heat of an argument; otherwise there was no sign of it. Yet those eyes, which he said gave very good sight, showed evidence of another vision: when I saw them I always used to think that the Prophets of Israel must have had a similar look, as of a man inspired, a visionary who, while engrossed in his inner life, was at the same time yearning for the future; a look haunted by a presence like a spirit made visible in the form of a dancing flame. Age could not dim the beauty of his look nor extinguish its vivacity. Besides, it is a fact and verifiable that the eyes of a spiritual man even in old age retain a dazzling look of youthfulness, composed of spontaneity and talent.

I continue to regard myself as no more and no less than a youth. And even on looking in the mirror I can see behind the features of an aged and time-worn face the form of a youth. Each one has his characteristic and enduring age; I am still the dreamer, the enemy of "reality" of my youth.

(id., p. 311)

Berdyaev was tall and athletic in build although of frail health, and his presence emanated dignity. Nothing about him was vulgar or even slightly commonplace. When he talked his deep voice brought out the best in the listener; his presence alone bore one



beyond one's normal limits, bringing new dynamism to the spirit and changing time's rhythm; all seemed to be quickened by him.

He gave the impression of someone tall, not overpowering but stimulating, like the sight of a snow-topped peak in the mountains. If I had to find someone to compare him with I should immediately think of Father Teilhard de Chardin, who created a similar effect on people, though he had an air of delicacy, almost of tenderness, which was quite foreign to Berdyaev, who gave more an impression of majestic simplicity when one was near him, like a tree upright between earth and sky, battered by the wind yet firm as a rock. He did not invite confidences; his very presence drained away all inessentials and, strangely enough, when near him, people were taken out of themselves and felt a strange happiness. But was it really happiness, the mysterious feeling in the depth of your being which you wished would last for ever? Something inside you came to life. It might be said, in the words of Novalis, that "the Divine Child within you stirred". You felt in some way transfigured and wanted to live in that state always, then die in serenity.

During the war I often went to luncheon or tea at Clamart on Thursdays and despite my dislike of cabbage dishes—which I never dared to disclose to Berdyaev—and despite the temporary feeling of fatigue induced by them, I used to walk or drive away slowly when I left him, for it seemed that with every yard which I put between us I ran a greater risk of losing that paradisial feeling I had momentarily attained. It was like a pilgrim's progress through an illumined country.

During the war a friend whose husband was ambassador to the Holy See used regularly to give me tea and sugar for Berdyaev, because living was rather difficult for him at that period. He got only occasional food parcels from America and just then financial difficulties were added to the complications of obtaining enough food, but he continued to invite his many friends to meals and shared the little he had with oriental generosity.

On Sunday afternoons French friends would gather round the



large table with Russian imigris, and among them would be writers like Jacques Madaule, Jean Danielou and Stanislas Fumet. Metaphysical discussions started straight away and Berdyaev argued with passion; when opposition became too lively he would find himself at a loss for the right French word and resort to Russian. Sometimes his Russian friends were in such a hurry to speak that they did not wait for one another to finish his sentence. There would be nothing but a jumble of words, then Berdyaev's voice would dominate the tumult; his tone became imperious, his friends winced. Those who did not know Russian —and I was one of them—could easily believe that the speakers were at loggerheads, so violently did they argue. But suddenly peace would be restored and Berdyaev would say something humorous in French, summing up the conversation or the passing quarrel over a religious or philosophical point—for of course it had all been about ideas.

Once, when Berdyaev was staying in London with some friends we both knew, we talked until three o'clock in the morning. As I had a motor-car I wanted to drive him home, and since I knew London as well as I knew Paris it was not a difficult journey, but something, either tiredness or absent-mindedness, stopped me from getting there. When we had driven along the same streets several times in the same direction two policemen began to take an interest and stopped us. After questioning us they put us on the right road, which as a matter of fact we had completely lost. When dawn came (it was in the spring), having arrived outside Berdyaev's address in Gloucester Road we continued to sit in the car talking. Half buried under a rug in a little Peugeot 202 Berdyaev was as lucid as he had been earlier in the evening, but when I left him at his front-door I felt I ought to apologise for keeping him up all night. He burst out laughing and said, "You don't know the Russian temperament; we're never worn out. We're always ready to argue and we sleep when we have time for it." Just as I was going to drive away he made a little sign to me; I thought he was waving good-bye but, realising that



he wanted to attract my attention, I let down the window without getting out of the car. "We'll go on with this conversation", he said, "we've just started. I haven't explained to you yet ..." I didn't hear the end of the sentence. Not having a Russian temperament, despite my love of ideas and my affection for him, I was overcome by tiredness and could think of nothing else but getting back to my room in Cranley Gardens and going to sleep.

hi his autobiography Berdyaev talks of the meetings at La Fortelle. We went there for symposia with the de Gandillacs, the Jean Hyppolites, the Madaules, the Burgelins, Jean Wahl, Marcel More and Masson-Oursel. Leopold Senghor came to several of our meetings, so did Lanza del Vasto. Among other friends who should be mentioned were some Orthodox and Catholic priests. I remember a famous discussionbetweenBerdyaevand Father Fessard about hell. We all revolved round him and we all loved him.

Yet this fascinating man was utterly lonely despite his wife, Lydia, whom he deeply loved and whose presence soothed him, and despite his sister-in-law, Genia, whose hands seemed made for silks and satins but who used them uncomplainingly to do the cleaning and cooking, meanwhile continuing her metaphysical conversation. Yet, in spite of these two women—the latter of whom survived him—he remained a lonely man. His solitude did not alarm him but it was like a wound:

. . . even while aware of my solitude and painful estrangement from the world. Sometimes I have prevailed over my loneliness; at other times I would experience untold joy on returning to it, as if I had come home from a foreign country to my own native land . . . The experience of solitude and anguish is hardly conducive to high spirits and jocundity. To be solitary is not to be able to comply and to come to terms with the world. . (id., pp. 35-7)

He was never in harmony with his social environment, indeed it was in the company of others that he realised the depths of his solitude. Yet he seemed to be very active, giving lectures, attending meetings, enjoying discussions.



But the feeling of distance, the knowledge of having come from some other world, to which I would return, never left me.

(id., p. 35)

His existence seems to have been lacking in human warmth because of the isolation inseparable from such a destiny. "My religious life," he wrote, "has led me through what seemed to be a stony, waterless desert." He felt the lack of God's Grace: "I suffered drought and knew what it was to be abandoned. But," he added, "there were also moments when I was uplifted."

The path of an "essential" man leads through a succession of deserts and oases, sometimes he feels abandoned, at other times filled with Grace; the darkest night is followed by the brightest day, starvation by satiety. Of himself he said, "I am only a passerby", and the words he used of Dostoievsky are equally applicable to himself, "He's a Russian wandering about in the world of the spirit."

Thus in the view of this temporal world an "essential" man might seem to be suffering from some disability as he travels alone through the various stages of deprivation. But it would be an entirely wrong view; the life of the spirit cannot adapt itself to the world of phenomena which, according to Berdyaev, is responsible for curbing freedom. Entirely different from each other and incapable of reciprocal action, the spirit and the natural world cannot meet on any external plane; only in "the ineffable depth are the world and its illusions merged into the spirit". That was what Berdyaev meant when he wrote: "I desired to find a way out into the open, to be present in the world and to make the world present within me" (id., p. 308). When the spirit is born in man he finds himself in communion with the universe:

The whole universe dwells within, and is personified by, man, and nothing should be regarded as external to him. But the phenomenal, empirical world, as in fact it presents itself to me, is not my own; on the contrary, it impinges on me from without and is intent on destroying me, and I am not the micro-cosmos I ought to be. Man's actual condition is such as to make



the intensity of his self-awareness a measure of his enslavement to an alien world; and he revolts against this world.

(id., p. 308)

Hence we can understand that, although solitude is sometimes painful, the "essential" man is never abandoned. In a certain way his cup is full to overflowing, so that he does not feel the need to be known and loved; he is sufficient unto himself. For him the ordeal is to abandon the creative act—even for a few hours; his escape is within, not without, yet, as we have seen, because he loves man and God, he wants to share his treasure.

It was in this sense that Berdyaev said his thought was not understood; but he did not blame his readers or listeners for their ignorance; instead, he blamed himself; because of contradictions and paradoxes his difficulty in explaining essentials in clear terms seemed to justify lack of interest on the part of others.

Shestov, whom Berdyaev considered his best friend, his only truejrienc^,stigmatised dull minds which could not grasp the meaning of the paradoxes and contradictions in a man with heightened consciousness who denied that twice two is four— that is to say, who was beyond the ordinary logic of the everyday world: "People are shocked when I give two contradictory judgments simultaneously. They insist that I reject one of the two, or that out of respect for the conventions I don't give them at the same time. But there is this difference between such people and myself: while I am frank about my contradictions they prefer to hide theirs from themselves."1

Shestov's words might well apply to Berdyaev, or at least to those who try to show up the contradictory statements in his work. Certainly his language is not always easy to understand without a similar mental attitude. He has often been accused of repeating himself, of going back to the same subjects—freedom, the creative act, human personality—and never getting away from them. It is true that he was obsessed with the problem of

1 Leon Shestov, Revelations of Death: Dostoievsky and Tolstoy. (French only.) Paris 1923, pp. xii-xiii.



man's destiny, so he naturally returned to it again and again. But his thought matured between each of his books and, to quote Heraclitus: "Those who go down to the same rivers bathe in water that is ever renewed."

No one could be indifferent toBerdyaevortohis works; people came from everywhere to see him and his name was as well-known to eastern as to western thinkers. Yet there remains the problem of his solitude, which was in fact so tragic that it cannot be broached without feeling puzzled, almost losing one's bearings. At moments it is best to bring it out and give it a sidelong glance so as not to go mad or give way to the temptation of suicide.

This was the problem; most men lead an existence into which the essential does not enter; the external world satisfies them; they have no feeling for true beauty, no ears or eyes for it. Things seen satisfy them and the unseen holds no attraction for them. For the more gifted of them intellectual or metaphysical discoveries remain outside their ordinary lives. Seekers after truth are very few and far between, so that belief in its reality is based on faith rather than certainty. Mediocrity is man's daily bread and well it suits him. He feels no need for other food and treats those with other appetites as weird or mad.

A muffled groan rose from the depths of Berdyaev's soul as he wrote:

Communion with others is indeed a very special source of religious knowledge; and it belongs to religious life that man, partaking of it, shall overcome his isolation and enter into communion with his fellow-men. Nevertheless I have experienced particularly great difficulties in this respect, even though I never wished to remain self-enclosed in an attitude of unrelieved loneliness.

(Dream and Reality, p. 186)

Everyone lucky enough at some time in their life to meet men who love wisdom observes that they are extremely alone. The "essential" man finds that he has a compelling need to communicate his thoughts; otherwise he would be like a tree laden with



fruit—by virtue of its sap, but even more by the free gift of sun and rain—which nobody comes to pick when it ripens; or like the winds of spring laden with golden pollen but with no flowers to waft it into. He is a man in whom God's seed has ripened, yet no one is at hand to receive the life-giving crops that pass before their lips and eyes. Of course he is free to talk to the desert air or be consumed by the fires which burn within him; but love for humanity forbids him to remain silent or, rather, the flames which engulf him obey their own dictates—they must shine forth as light or warmth.

An "essential" man suffers both from the fallen world and from man's blindness. In speaking of Dostoievsky Berdyaev at one point said:

His work is a veritable "feast of thought" and those who will not sit down to table, because their sceptical minds deny the usefulness of all thought, are self-condemned to a diminution and dulling of their own spiritual experience.

(Dostoievsky, p. 12-13)

The wonder is that such beings, seekers after truth, can clearsightedly continue to love man instead of despairing of him, can even serve him and believe in him. It is true that their faith in man is bound up with thek faith in God, but the contrary would be equally correct: their faith in God is not unconnected with their faith in man.

Sage and saint alike carry a sun within them, while ordinary men prefer the external sun. In The Possessed man is compared with chaos, that is, a lack of order, and the dimension of the "eternal" is destroyed. Dostoievsky described them as "men of straw", who form part of our existence, turning their backs on eternity, they are, satisfied with the temporal world. They are perturbed to meet on their path a "wanderer into eternity" who discerns the temporary nature of this world, for they cannot bear others to disturb their sleep. Moreover, their mediocrity is infectious.



That is why Berdyaev protected his inner world. He called himself a "rebel, but a humble one", indifferent to fame.

Human appreciation struck me as touching only the superfluous levels or the outer shell of my thoughts without ever reaching the real core.

(Dream and Reality, pp. 26-7)

He felt that praise hampered his freedom and disliked the idea of supporters or disciples; they might hem him in:

The true spirit of freedom seems to me to be linked with anonymity . . . My inner world has the likeness of a desert, a wasteland bare of all but stark and solitary rocks.

(id., p. 27)

Whence comes this striking self-portrait:

I am profoundly susceptible to the tragic in life, which issues from my intense awareness of suffering in the world and in human existence. The element most congenial to me is the dramatic. I have never been able to achieve any harmony and balance between my spiritual and emotional life, and the spiritual always predominated over the emotional . . . My spirit was whole, but my soul was sick. I have never been conscious of any instability or uncertainty of thought or division of will in myself, but I have been frequently conscious of emotional confusions and indecisions . . . My quick temper was only one of the many symptoms of these shortcomings.

(id., p. 28)

Such a man needed solitude, isolation and dreams; and his reserves of affection were bestowed on animals. "That is the opposite of solitude," he said, and talked to them in the same way that Meister Eckhart spoke to the stones for lack of listeners and because the whole earth must turn towards the transfiguration.

The spiritual experience of an "essential" man is not the end of a more or less lengthy evolutionary process but the result of a clash, a series of collisions which break through the different



levels. Each time an "essential" man suffers a shock, in some mysterious way he "contacts" the end of the world and the transfigured world becomes his native land. Thus he brings the old world to a close and begins the new. (Cf. The Beginning and the End, p. 251.)




The mystery of... the interior life of the divine mystery is the need which God feels for his other self, of one who loves and is beloved, of (lie love which is realisable within the Trinity in unity, which exists both above and below, in heaven and on earth.

(Freedom and the Spirit, p. 191)

Apart from the experience of the Beloved there can be no proof of the existence of the One who loves, for He does not force the Beloved to recognise Him. The Beloved is free to testify to the presence of Him who loves or to deny it.

The mystery of the Loving One and the Beloved is the mystery of God and man, the inseparables who are at the basis of Ber-dyaev's ideas on man:

When I became conscious of myself as a Christian, I came to confess a religion of God-manhood.

(Dream and Reality, p. 18)

God cannot be conceived of in the abstract independently of man, and man cannot be envisaged in the abstract without God. That is why the traditional proofs of God's existence are worthless—arid scholasticism, linguistic philosophy or playing with concepts does not lead to God. There is no place for rational concepts in connection with God; ontology is challenged.

OHicinl religion was obsessed with the consciousness of sin and thus unable to understand man's true nature, so it seemed to Hndyaev. "There docs not exist as yet a real religious and metaphysical anthropology. Neither the anthropology of the Fathers,



nor scholastic anthropology, nor yet that of the humanists can satisfy us" (The Divine and the Human, p. no).

But "affirmative" theology predominates in the academic sphere, and it is a rationalist and anti-symbolic theology, for it admits the possibility of attaining a perfect system of divine knowledge by means of positive statements. It understands the Divine Being in a naturalist sense, for it conceives its reality as similar to that of the nature of the world, and regards God as being and not non-being. It refuses to see the "super-being" of divinity, and it denies its unfathomable mystery. Affirmative theology is the theology of the finite and not the infinite ... Its affirmative definitions borrowed from the natural world are transferred into the divine world. It takes symbols for realities.

(Freedom and the Spirit, p. 68)

Before the unfathomable mystery of God "negative" theology resorts to symbols; it knows the uselessness of any attempt to define God. "It is opposed," said Berdyaev, "to the naturalisation and rationalisation of the Divine Being" (id., p. 68).

Yet "negative" theology runs the risk of not surpassing the highest forms of abstraction and detachment; and here the theory of Plotinus is significant. Berdyaev regretted that the Council of Chalcedony had not touched on the anthropological aspect of the God-man revelation which it dealt with; this vital problem had been insufficiently considered as a dynamic force and remained open. Doubtless theologians and Christian philosophers would have needed some of the courage which had been wanting for centuries past if they were to clarify the close relationship of God and man in a concrete and vivid way. It had always been evaded or put badly and wrongly interpreted; so that a serious gap existed which was bound to have a harmful influence on Christianity and on man himself. Atheism and the refusal to pay heed to God or to spiritual man were doubtless the consequences of that defect.

Religious thought has often strayed into paths which could lead to neither divine nor human reality. The God whom official theology tends to construct has no profound relationship with



men; he is turned to stone and man is humiliated. Meister Eckhart mentions something of this kind when referring to the endless twaddle talked about God.

Berdyaev could not recognise God as described by official western theology; such a God was a stranger to whom he could not talk; He seemed lifeless, a dead God deserted by man because no relationship with him was possible.

Yet for Berdyaev Christianity was conscious of the profound mystery of the relationship between God and man and was alone in revealing God's humanity completely and inwardly: "The basic and original phenomenon of religious life is the meeting and mutual interaction between God and man, the movement of God towards man and of man towards God" (id., p. 189).

Since affirmative theology seemed ossified, and negative theology, although more acceptable, presented certain dangers, where, then, lay the path leading to the mystery of divine life? There could be only one way—that of spiritual experience, which alone was filled with life and beyond all classification, definition or abstraction. And it was not the product of imagination; it was based on reality—on the fact that God and man are related.

The first point to be stressed lies in the relationship of the One who loves and the Beloved—of God and man. The bonds between them are close, and nothing can break them.

God-manhood embodies the unity and interaction of two natures, divine and human, which are one but unconfused.

(Dream and Reality, p. 182)

Thus there is no question of man's choice with regard to God; instead it is his self-knowledge which leads him to God. If man becomes aware of himself, if he grows to know himself, he can no longer deny God's existence any more than his own.

Self-knowledge, which is considered the fount of all knowledge in the various philosophical systems as well as traditionally, is thus essential. "Let men know thajt they are men" is written in Deuteronomy XV, v. 9, thus echoing the "Know thyself" of the



Delphic oracle. In every epoch, and especially in the Middle Ages with what Stephen Gilson called the "Christian-Socratic" method, followed by St. Augustine's noverim me, noverim te, self-knowledge has always been the first step towards a knowledge of God.

Even though the problem of man's self-knowledge may always have been referred to, most of the time it was not precisely stated, and Berdyaev's originality lies in having posed it in a way which, without being completely new, may seem to us a fresh approach, for we had forgotten how dynamic were the ideas of the early Christians, which are still reflected in twelfth-century thought.

The first step in man's self-knowledge is found in the doctrine set out in the book of Genesis and adopted by the theologians— that man was created in the image and likeness of God.

For Berdyaev, God's image is at the centre of anthropology:

The only theory that is eternal and unsurpassed is the Jewish-Christian view of man as a being created by God in His own image and likeness.

(The Destiny of Man, p. 49)

Because he is made in God's image man is predestined to theosis. Gregory Palamas believed man's function was not to reflect the Light but to be the Light, and St. Basil went so far as to say, "Man is a creature who has been ordered to become God." Further, the Psalmist declared explicitly, "Ye are Gods" (Ps., LXXXII, v. 6). Thus man has two aspects, the one human, the other divine; one is relative, the other absolute; one belongs to this fallen world and exists in time, the other belongs essentially to him and therefore is not granted by God's Grace.

Man, then, is a magical icon, but a living one; made in God's image he—like the icon—is the outward sign of an unseen reality. He bears witness to God's presence and the gaze of those who contemplate him is drawn on beyond him. As he looks forward to Christ's Second Coming he holds himself ready for the Kingdom of God on earth. On the subject of icons the Council of



860 declared: "They tell in colour what books fail to tell in words and they bring us into God's presence." Man expresses this by his very creation, being made in the image and likeness of God.

The divine is a constituent element in man since he—like Christ —has two natures, the divine and the human, whose union creates the personality. The fusion of the two natures in God and man does not remove the distinction between them.

The image of the human personality is not only a human image, it is also the image of God. In that fact lie hidden all the enigmas and mysteries of man. It is the mystery of divine-humanity, which is a paradox that cannot be expressed in rational terms. Personality is only human personality when it is divine-human personality. The freedom and independence of human personality from the world of objects is its divine-humanity. This means that personality is not formulated by the world of objects but by subjectivity, in which is hidden the image of God.

(Slavery and Freedom, p. 44)

To understand that quotation it should be remembered that Christ is the Absolute Man. The historical event of His incarnation was not the beginning of His existence, for He has eternal life. Here we find an echo of the first verses of the Gospel of St. John, and we may also call to mind Boehme's words in the Mysterium Magnum: "God is made man in Christ alone."

The process of becoming a human being is outside the objective world; it is subjective, inspired by God's image, and its source of energy is unique. Only in so far as he is free, personally and subjectively, does man appear authentic, existential, possessing his eternal source in God.

Therefore no causal principle or determinism can intervene, neither—as Berdyaev emphasises—can any system of pantheism, monism or dualism belonging to theological rationalism grasp the divine-human mystery.

Human grandeur and dignity consist in possessing God-manhood; man's existential unity is the result of his divine-human quality and without it he is no longer one with his reality.



True human-ness is likeness to God; it is the divine in man. The divine in man is not the "supernatural" and it is not a special act of Grace; it is a spiritual principle which is in man as a particular reality. In this lies the paradox of the relations between the human and the divine. In order to be completely like man it is necessary to be like God. It is necessary to have the divine image in order to have the human image. Man as we know him is to but a small extent human; he is even inhuman. It is not man who is human, but God. It is God who requires of man that he should be human.

(The Divine and the Human, p. no)

Man's divinity is the source of his freedom and, as we have seen, it is through this that he resembles God, through this freedom, says Berdyaev, which is a duty towards God rather than a right to be claimed.

Although the divine image is a perpetual subject for discussion Berdyaev's interpretation of it obviously differs from the current explanation given by western thinkers who, as we know, always tend to stress man's sinful nature, and religious works only corroborate this. If we try to compare Berdyaev with an author who influenced him we are led to St. Gregory of Nyssa, who based his conception of freedom on man having been made in God's image.

Humanity, Berdyaev tells us, is divine-humanity; in realising the image of God in himself man realises the human image, and in realising in himself the human image he regains the perfect image of God (Cf. id., p. no).

The vital point which must be emphasised at the risk of repetition is this: through the divine image man becomes man. This truth cannot, of course, be expressed prosaically, but only through symbols which, said Berdyaev, enable us to penetrate, or at least to perceive, the meaning of a mystery which enters man's consciousness solely in a "spiritual and existential experience".

The expression of this mystery presupposes a dualistic moment, an experience of the process of transcendence, of falling into an



abyss and escaping from that abyss. The divine is that which transcends man, and the divine is mysteriously united with the human in the divine-human image. It is for this reason only that the appearance in the world of personality which is not a slave to the world is possible.

(Slavery and Freedom, p. 45)

Man possesses God's image within him, but it is not always alive, for his animal nature occupies a greater place than his God-manhood and therein lies his complexity or, rather, his tragedy. Because of his two natures the world and God confront each other in him, and thence are born human contradictions.

God is freedom achieved while man is freedom in course of achievement. In order to meet the difficulties which constantly assail him and try to reduce him to slavery, man must constantly recall his divine-human image.

The Church Fathers and mediaeval writers who studied the subject sought the divine element in man; so did Berdyaev, and once again he agreed with the answer given by St. Gregory of Nyssa:

Through spirit man becomes a divine image and likeness . . . and through it man can ascend to the highest spheres of the Godhead. Spirit is man's whole creative act. Spirit is freedom, and freedom has its roots in the depths of pre-existential being.

(Spirit and Reality, p. 33)

The primacy bestowed on the spirit does not exclude the body and soul from the divine image, but the spirit as a divine element is not debased in man. On the contrary, his body and soul, because they belong to the alien world, have to regain spiritual life and the spirit can aid them in this step, so that both of them share in its Light and are transfigured by it.

When Berdyaev opposed spirit to nature he explained that he did not mean nature in the sense of plants and animals, but objec-tivated nature which has no relation to existential, subjective nature. Man's spiritual victory is a victory over objectivated nature.



Thus the divine image in man is like a seed which contains growth and fecundity within it; it is as alpha to omega—whence its eschatological aspect.

Man is by no means a completely finished product. Rather he moulds and creates himself in and through his experience of life, through spiritual conflict and through those various trials which his destiny imposes on him. Man is only what God is planning, a projected design.

(Freedom and the Spirit, p. vii)

Man must carry out the design and pursue God's work in him; that, as we shall see, is his response to God. The Beloved cooperates with Him who loves but, to take part in God's movement within him, the Beloved must become aware in his inner being of the presence of Him who loves.

The drama of love between Him who loves and the Beloved, between God and man, takes practical shape—through the presence of the divine image—in "the birth of God in man and of man in God", such is the mystery of God's love for man and man's love for God. "The coming of Christ, the God-man, is a perfect union of these two movements, the realisation of unity in duality, of the divine-human mystery" (id., p. 189).

As Angelus Silesius put it in his Der Chembitnische Wandersmann, man becomes a new Bethlehem—the cradle of Christ. The dual birth of God in man and man in God belongs to eternity: "Before I existed I was part of God's life." Here we come to the subject of the creative act which will be discussed in the next chapter. Ber-dyaev questioned Boehme on the mystery of God's birth in man and says of him:

Boehme's main importance is that he introduced a dynamic principle into the conception of God after the domination of Greek philosophy and mediaeval scholasticism with their static conception; in other words, that he saw an inner life in God, a tragedy applicable to all life.

(Mysterium Magnum)



For Boehme, as for Berdyaev, to know God was to see Him born in his soul; knowledge of Him is therefore an event within the Being (id.); an event which is never-ending. Here we touch on anthropology's basic theme—God-manhood—which Berdyaev expressed thus:

. . . the two-fold, divine-human mystery of Christ—the mystery of the birth of God in man and of the birth of man in God. God has need of man, of his creative response to the Divine


(Dream and Reality, p. 181)

The unity of the God-man is absolute; God cannot live without man and man could not live without God. Berdyaev refers to the words of Angelus Silesius on this subject and finds them a provocative yet apt description of the relationship of God and man in its perfect unity:

I know that without me God cannot exist for a single second. If I cease to be, then He too must necessarily cease to be.

This quotation meant so much to Berdyaev that he took it as the epigraph for his work on The Meaning of the Creative Act and quotes it again in his autobiography, adding that it "is the mystery of love, He who loves has need of the Beloved".

God is not born in man once for always, he is reborn at every moment, and the spiritual man becomes ever more profoundly conscious of this. Man, in whom God is born, perceives that God is a natural part of him, and God, in whom man is born, well knows that His creature is descended from Him.

Fish live in water, plants in the earth,

Birds in the sky, the sun in the firmament;

And for Jacob Boehme the Heart of God is his natural element.

Those lines written by Silesius and quoted by Berdyaev at the beginning of his study on the Mysterium Magnum may be applied to every man in whom God is born. God's birth in man is like the blazing sun: it illumines his heart and thus it becomes the



Light of the World. For, even though man is made in the image of God and is spirit, subjective and free, he is still a microcosm, an epitome of God.

The word "microcosm", often found in Greek and Christian thought, is used in a special sense by Berdyaev; microcosmic man does not mean that he is identified with one part of the universe; he reveals the whole universe—not quantitatively but qualitatively; as a living organism, he belongs to "a higher sphere in the hierarchy of nature" (The Meaning of the Creative Act, p. 70).

Again because he is a microcosm he bears within him the world's enigma; to understand the universe we must therefore know him; that is why all knowledge of the universe starts with self-knowledge.

The universe may enter into man, be assimilated by him, be attained and known by him only because in man there is the whole component of the universe, all its qualities and forces—• because man is not a fractional part of the universe but an entire small universe himself. Perceptive endosmosis and exosmosis are possible only between the microcosm and the macrocosm.

(id., p. 59)

Man and the cosmos are not like a dwarf and a giant; they are equals fighting side by side, exchanging forces, living together in friendship or enmity. According to the nature of their relationship man becomes a source of light or darkness, of growth or divergence. He alone "is responsible for the whole structure of nature and whatever takes place in man affects the whole of nature" (id., p. 70).

When man becomes aware of himself he realises the importance of his responsibility.

The degree of responsibility for this death-bound condition of nature depends upon the degree of freedom and upon the hierarchic place in the cosmos. Man is most responsible and stones the least responsible.

(id., p. 70)



Man's relationship with nature, according to Berdyaev, is on two planes—the one is objectivated, the other takes part in the transfiguration. Man's fall and consequent loss of freedom has placed him in slavish dependence on "the lower spheres of the hierarchy of nature".

Having by his fall and enslavement brought death and mechanisation into nature, man encountered everywhere the resistance of nature's dead mechanism and became a slave of natural necessity.

(id., p. 71)

Then we come to these lines, which are of considerable importance and show Boehme's influence upon Berdyaev:

Stones, plants and animals control man as though they were taking revenge for their own lack of freedom. This resistance, this power of the petrified parts of nature, is the source of man's sorrow and his need—man, the dethroned king of nature. The poison from the dead bodies of those ranks of nature which have been done to death have caused death to man himself, forced him to share the fate of the stones and the dust.

(id., p. 71)

Man can drag nature down with him in his fall, enslave it and then be enslaved by it. If he frees himself from that slavery and seeks transfiguration, then nature, given life and freedom by man shares in his Light. Only man, said Berdyaev, can remove the spell from nature and give it life again, for it was he who bound nature and condemned it to death. Man cannot be divorced from his cosmic destiny:

Man must give back spirit to the stones, reveal the living nature of stones, in order to free himself from their stony, oppressive power. There is a heavy layer of dead stone in man, and there is no other way of escaping from it than by liberating the stone itself.

(id., p. 72)

Thus man's attitude to nature is a djial one: he contemplates the unseen through the visible and he helps to liberate the universe.



The relationship between Him who loves and the Beloved continues. We can say that in a way man becomes the conductor of an orchestra, of a choir singing in the cosmos. It is he who decides the key of the choral symphony celebrating God's love for the Beloved.

Nature holds up her wondrous mirror—an object of meditation for Christian mystics in all ages and especially favoured in the twelfth century—for the Beloved to look into. Although ob-jectivated nature does not bear witness to the invisible, yet sky and earth, plants and animals, are symbols of the inner world. Here again Berdyaev closely follows Boehme, for whom "the entire outward and visible world and its essence are no more than a sign or indication of the inward and spiritual". The visible is but one form of being for the invisible; "the unapparent and the inconceivable give birth to the apparent and conceivable" (Mysterium Magnum}.

When nature recognises its Master in the Beloved it leaps towards him, thus making him a bridge between the seen and the unseen. So Angelus Silesius could write:

If the Creator be within thee, then all will pursue thee, Man, angel, sun and moon, air, fire, earth and stream.

Thus the Beloved becomes a Saviour, through whom He who loves is loved. For Berdyaev, to accept his responsibilities meant to penetrate the factual world and abide by it.

A spiritual man has to stay in the centre of the spiritual world and not on its fringe, for the centre is unity and the rest, multiplicity; the centre is subjectivity and the rest, objectivity. Instead of fleeing from realities and shutting himself up in an abstract world, a spiritual man is constantly facing up to it. (Cf. The Beginning and the End, p. 243.)

Man's infinite spirit claims an absolute super-natural anthro-pocentrism: he knows himself to be the absolute centre—not of a given, closed planetary system but of all planes of being, of all worlds.

(The Meaning of the Creative Act, p. 76)



Berdyaev believed man to be the absolute centre of the cosmos, whose duty was therefore to set himself and nature free, and he should do this through self-knowledge—the beginning and the end for man. Self-knowledge is centred on the presence of the divine image with him which, even if it seem inconstant, is in truth a dynamic, unchanging reality, divine in origin and purpose. Man is indeed neither God nor, like Christ, the Son of God, but because he is part of the mystery of the nature of the Trinity, he acts as an intermediary.

Science is powerless to discover the metaphysical meaning of this earth; geology, astronomy and philosophy admit their incapacity; only anthropological philosophy and mysticism can supply the answer. If microcosmic man is the intermediary between God and the cosmos it is:

because the absolute nature of the God-man . . . man's higher consciousness of himself as a microcosm is a Christological consciousness. And the Christological consciousness of the new Adam surpasses the self-consciousness of the first Adam: it marks a new phase in the creation of the world.

(id., p. 78)

To Berdyaev the fact of Christ's appearance in the world is the basic fact of anthropology. A higher anthropological consciousness is possible only in Christ and through Christ:

In Christ God becomes a person and man becomes a person.

(id., p. 78)

It is thus that the Beloved discerns the countenance of Him who loves.

In these pages on the subject of Him who loves and the Beloved some readers may think they can discern a vulgar enthusiasm in the quotations. Berdyaev's feelings may appear childish as well as extraordinary, since they are rare today. But such a judgement would be wrong; when Berdyaev spoke of God and man he did so with a fervour and spontaneity that matched his own spiritual



state. He was never carried away by his own words or, if he was, his words would spring from a metaphysical source. Silesius was annoyed at being dubbed "an enthusiast", and Berdyaev, if we have given him that label, would doubtless have looked at us rather sadly, realising that it is only the poverty of our spirit that excludes us from sharing in the relationship between man and God.

The meeting between Him who loves and the Beloved can only be perceived through a personal spiritual experience as real as it is incommunicable. To deny it or smile at it only shows one's ignorance. He who holds himself aloof will never become the Beloved.

That is why Berdyaev could write these words with their hint of sadness: "It sometimes seems to me that my world is not that of other men and that my God is not theirs."



Some have called me the philosopher of freedom . . . I do indeed love freedom above all else. Man came forth out of freedom and issues into freedom.

(Dream and Reality, p. 40)

The drama of my religious life appears to me as pre-eminently the drama of man and his creative vocation.

(id., p. 205)

Berdyaev's life and thought were based on freedom; his whole philosophy rests on freedom and his spiritual experience was the discovery of freedom.

This subject, so vital to Berdyaev, is difficult to write about, not because it is complex but because it is profound. Then another difficulty arises, connected with Boehme's terminology as often referred to by Berdyaev. The words Boehme used are not easy to express in another language, as can be seen from translations of Berdyaev's works.

As Koyre has justly said in his book on Boehme's philosophy, his thought does not constitute a doctrine; it is not expressed in terms of concepts but is "a vision of the world expressed by Boehme in symbols which contain ah1 the 'clarity' of the tangible world but at the same time all its obscurity . . . these symbols are themselves as obscure and 'mysterious' to the mind as the Mysterium which they are supposed to elucidate."1 The reason for my wish to be accurate lies in the importance Berdyaev gave to the subject of freedom and of the creative act which forms the nucleus of his anthropology and his vision of the world. Koyr^'s 1 Paris, 1929. (French only.)



interpretation is extremely valuable, for he approaches Boehme as a philosopher and not merely as a translator. As I have said, Berdyaev devoted two of his works to Boehme, in both of which he tried to retain the essence of Mysteriutn Magnum.

True freedom is often confused with pseudo-freedom, which is really only a form of slavery. Man must rise up against false freedom in the same way that he rebels against false holiness. Often freedom and holiness only cover up their oppo-sites. Berdyaev believed that freedom alone could be made sacred for not only is it willed by God but "God is truly present and operative only in freedom" (Dream and Reality, p. 40).

Contrary to ordinary opinion, men do not love freedom; they prefer to submit to authority, to obey orders and leave others to take care of their fate and bear the burden of their responsibilities. It is enough to remember the meaning of The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, which I have already discussed, to understand that freedom is a terrible burden and a sore trial for most men. For that reason Berdyaev makes freedom an attribute of the aristocracy. Most men disclaim it.

"I look at myself as pre-eminently an emancipator," he said of himself. His independent nature and rejection of authority, even his personality—all redounded to his undying love of liberty. Yet revolt must not be confused with freedom, although in a way they are allied when the revolt is against some form of slavery. It was in the name of freedom that Berdyaev rebelled against the Czarist power, rejected Soviet materialism and expressed his indignation at the secularisation of religious life. These conflicts were based on his claim for personal freedom in the face of authority, and his love of it prevented him from exercising authority as well as refusing to submit to it. For that reason a professorship seemed to him incompatible with his true vocation. Speaking of Peguy he recalled his secret passion for anarchy, and he might well have applied the description to himself.

True freedom is on a metaphysical plane which excludes its classic acceptance as free will; to identify the two only confuses



the issue. Berdyaev considered that for utilitarian and pedantic reasons too much importance was given to free will, and that freedom arising from indifference, as in freedom of choice, could not satisfy the spirit. He could justifiably say in his own case that he had not "gained" freedom; it appeared to him "as the initial, primary reality, as the a priori of existence" (Dream and Reality, p. 48). Speaking of his wide reading and its effect on him he explains that:

... all these influences and stimuli were received in freedom or, even more, were the outcome of the exercise of my own freedom. I cannot think of any intellectual influence which has not been assimilated by me in the very depths of freedom and self-determination. I have never complied with any philosophical tradition, and I am one of the most untraditional philosophers.

(id., p. 49)

He rejected any truth suggested by an outside source if he did not consider it as such. Even if what he thought true was judged false he would not follow other people's opinions. He compared the Moscow trials of the veteran communists with ecclesiastical trials similar in form; in both cases freedom was flouted and the truth could not emerge, for it can only be known through freedom.

For Berdyaev, "to become truly free meant to enter the spiritual world; the spirit alone is free, in it is freedom's source, thus freedom is the freedom of the spirit" (cf. Freedom and the Spirit, p. 121).

But there is an opposition between freedom and the natural order, for it would be vain to seek freedom in the natural world: "My own nature cannot be the source of my freedom."

One after the other Berdyaev eliminated Buddhism (cf. Spirit and Reality, p. 108) and Greek philosophy (id., p. 109). The various religions have not delved deeply into the problem of freedom; no theology had provided an answer to k. Berdyaev named Boehme, Nietzsche and Dostoievsky as being among the philosophers or



thinkers who understood its mystery, and Boehme was the most important because, like Berdyaev himself, he approached the mystery from the angle of evil, which is one of the most intense forms of anguish suffered by man in a world plunged into dissension (cf. The Divine and the Human, pp. 90-1).

The development of consciousness produces the "unhappy consciousness", as Hegel called it, and from this unhappiness man attempts either to return to the subconscious or to attain the superconscious. In the face of evil he is apt to lose his integrity and be disrupted. Berdyaev observed (cf. Spirit and Reality, p. 112) that the development of consciousness and of spirituality are not one and the same thing. Only the spiritual life can conquer evil, and thus man is led to reflect upon it. What is it? Whence does it come? How can the freedom of evil be studied?

Religious philosophy has raised the problem of evil, but a rational approach fails to discover its origin, for evil is a mystery, so it cannot be considered in conceptual form; only myths and symbols can explain it:

Evil is entirely irrational and without foundation, quite undetermined by any purpose or reason. It is useless to inquire into the origin of evil, because it is engendered by the world of necessity in which everything is subordinated to causality. But evil is initially related to freedom rather than to causality. It seems paradoxical, but there is an affinity between evil and spirit. They have a common attribute in freedom, although evil, of course, is destructive to both spirit and freedom.

(Spirit and Reality, p. 113)

To say that freedom is the cause of evil would be to recognise that evil has no cause: "in this case freedom does mean absence of cause." It is only at a later stage, in its consequences, that evil submits to the power of causality. In other words, "evil may be a cause, but it has itself no cause":

Freedom is ... an irrational element. It engenders evil as well as good without any discrimination, content simply to engender. A rational definition would only kill freedom. That is known



as a definitive conception. Thus evil is born of freedom, it has neither cause nor foundation.

(id., pp. 113-14)

God allows the chaos which results from evil and which is, as it were, a "risk" without which man would not be completely free. Here Berdyaev agrees with St. Gregory of Nyssa, who in The Creation of Man says that man discovers the meaning of existence through his experience of evil.

So for Berdyaev there were two mysteries—freedom and evil, and it must first of all be admitted that evil is irrational, then we see that it is necessarily allied to irrational freedom which cannot come from God because of that quality. In common with Boehme, Berdyaev considered that irrational freedom was not created but preceded Being and is infinite and ever-increasing. Thus it belongs to the original darkness. Boehme and Berdyaev speak of darkness and light, both in a positive sense: darkness is opposed to light and born simultaneously with it.

If irrational evil is related to irrational, uncreated freedom, it follows that the element of darkness existed before Being and only its existence can explain the world and history.

Berdyaev considered the Jewish consciousness responsible for the revelation of the freedom of evil in Christian thought:

For there could be no history without that freedom of evil which derives from the primal origins of human life, as there could be none without these dark origins themselves. A world without these conditions would be world without beginning, mere fulfilment, the perfect Kingdom of God, a perfect cosmos in the form of perfect good and beauty. But the history of the world did not originate in this perfection, but rather in the freedom of evil.

(The Meaning of History, p. 30)

To understand the meaning of the freedom of evil it must be seen in the light of the Creation. Boehme's view, which— Berdyaev said—evolved very gradually, had the advantage that it conceived the mystery of the creation of the universe to be a



human and divine tragedy, while traditional theology, because it is too closely linked to Greek thought, ignores the dynamism of the Bible, presenting us with a static, self-sufficient God and an arbitrary form of Creation. Man created free would have rebelled against God and dragged all nature down with him in his fall.

Such a doctrine could never solve the problem of the freedom of evil, whereas Boehme's thought did throw light upon it by appealing to the Indeterminate, which preceds Being and which he called Ungmnd, as did Berdyaev after him.

The term as used here means "groundlessness" and describes the Absolute-in-itself regarded outside its manifestations—the eternal, nameless silence. Ungmnd is not "Being"; because of its negative aspect, it is more correctly "not-Being".

Koyre, in his interpretation of Boehme's use of the term says that it "expresses first and foremost the idea that the Absolute is not only the creative source, absolute and final, of the universe, but that it is 'in itself something . . . the essence of which does not destroy itself by its creative activity". To illuminate this difficult conception which appears in Boehme's thought and later in Berdyaev's, Koyre compares Ungmnd with the germ in a seed which is "absolute" in that it contains within it all its future growth, but is as yet nothing, although it possesses the source of its own fecundity. Ungmnd might thus be considered a potentiality or force which will expand. Berdyaev found the doctrine of Ungmnd inseparable from his view of freedom: "I myself am inclined to interpret Ungmnd as absolutely original freedom, not even as neontic freedom determined by God."

Ungmnd is dynamic, infinite and free; it appears as a display of force produced in God Himself; thus in the creative act the movement of Ungmnd converges with that of God.
But the term Ungmnd remains obscure in meaning despite all efforts to clarify it, the reason being that it cannot be interpreted conceptually, but only symbolically, as a mystery. Similarly God cannot be interpreted conceptually; knowledge of God is not rational but symbolic. Every symbolic expression can contain



apparent contradictions and in fact does contain them, but they are no more than tentative approaches, successive stages, methods used—and the only ones available—in the attempt to grasp and embrace the mysteries. The process belongs to apophatic theology, intuitive and visionary. No one who wants his approach to be rational can fail to be puzzled by such an attitude, which is at once methodical and unmethodical. But to understand Berdyaev at this point it is vital to remember that "freedom is not created or determined by God, it is primordial . . . God the Creator is all-powerful over Being . . . but He has no power over non-Being, over the uncreated freedom which is impenetrable to Him".

In The Destiny of Man Berdyaev emphasises that the Divine Nothing cannot be the Creator of the World and refers to Meister Eckhart's and Boehme's beliefs, saying: "Out of the Divine Nothing, the Gottheit or Ungmnd, the Holy Trinity, God the Creator is born. The creation of the world by God the Creator is a secondary act" (The Destiny of Man, p. 25).

Berdyaev returned to this argument while studying the problem of freedom in his autobiography, and explained the views he had already expressed in his work on Boehme as well as in The Destiny of Man. While still upholding the interpretation given in the Mysterium Magnum he defines his personal position thus:

The only conception of freedom which I found satisfactory was that of Jacob Boehme, whose writings I came to appreciate more and more, and about whom I later wrote a number of essays. I do not claim to be true to Boehme in every respect, but I regarded his teaching concerning Ungmnd as susceptible of my own interpretation, and I identified it with primordial freedom which preceded all ontological determination. According to Boehme this freedom is in God; it is the inmost mysterious principle of divine life; whereas I conceived it to be outside God, preferring, as I do, not to speak of the unspeakable and ineffable apophatic mystery of God's life.

(Dream and Reality, p. 99)

For Berdyaev, as for Boehme,*"Man is the child of God and the child of freedom". God and man are at the heart of a tragedy



which gives rise to evil and suffering, and it is on that plane that the dramas of God and the drama of man are enacted, and in them God and man are inseparable—it cannot be too often repeated; hence these words:

God longs for His other self, His friend: He wants him to answer the call to enter the fullness of the divine life and participate in God's creative work of conquering non-Being.

(The Destiny of Man, p. 25)

The fact that God longs for His other self, for the free response to His love, shows not a lack of his plenitude but a superabundance; this perfection is a life expressed in movement (cf. Freedom and the Spirit, p. 191).

The Absolute in its manifestation is an object of will. In wishing to know and perceive itself the indeterminate Absolute is both informed and expressed by the divine will, which is in God but is not God: "It is but one moment, one stage or phrase in the non-temporal evolution of the Divine Life. It is neither the drama of that Life nor the whole of it."1

And so we are led to the important fact that "God does not answer His own call; the answer is from freedom, which is independent of Him" (The Destiny of Man, p. 25).

Obviously, therefore, to consider the Creation as an arbitrary act of God is to exteriorise it in some way, and, according to Boehme and Berdyaev, it starts with " the inner life of the Divine Trinity". Because of this the problem of evil seems extremely serious in relation to freedom. The Indeterminate is not unaffected, it suffers tragically before the Light; thus ensues the combat between Darkness and Light. Berdyaev quotes Boehme as saying: "Removed from nature God is a mystery, that is to say, in Nothingness; for outside nature there is nothingness, that is to say, there is the eye of eternity, the unfathomable eye which dwells nowhere andsees nothing, for it is the Indeterminate; and the eye is a will, that is, a desire made manifest, to find Nothingness."

1 Cf. A. Koyte, id.



Commenting on those words Berdyaev explains that for Boehme the Indeterminate meant both nothingness and freedom —potential freedom. "Freedom is like Nothingness but out of it comes Something." Therefore "the freedom of the Indeterminate is neither darkness nor light, neither good nor evil. Freedom dwells in darkness and thirsts for light. And freedom is the cause of light."

On the basis of these quotations and the accompanying interpretations we may summarise the problem of evil and freedom before discussing the effects of the rupture between God and man.

The only explanation of evil is found in uncreated freedom; in other words, God did not create freedom for, if He had done so, freedom would be good, since God is freedom and love. The tragedy of history is bound up with this irrational principle which accounts for the struggle between light and darkness, and that is why Berdyaev believed "there would be no universal history without the freedom of the human spirit, history being the revelation of the spiritual nature of the world and man" (The Meaning of History, p. 37). Divine-human as it is, the historical process presupposes a profound clash and interaction between God and man.

At the start of the world's history there was a rupture between God and man which occurred before the beginning of the cosmic process and is symbolised in Adam and Eve's sin. Berdyaev presents a similar picture:

The Fall of Man did not occur in this phenomenal world nor in this time. On the contrary the reverse is the case, for this phenomenal world and its time are a product of the Fall. Therefore, the way man takes, the path which decides his destiny cannot be simply the one which he follows in this world and in this world aeon.

(The Beginning and the End, p. 241)

History does not unfold "like a manifestation of the exterior world of objects", but begins and ends in "the depths of spiritual and divine life" (The Meaning of History, p. 48).



As to what was the original sin, suffice it for us to know that it was a rupture; it would be wrong to reproach Berdyaev for failing to explain in more detail what it was. It cannot have been disobedience for God is not a despot who imposes His will on man, and to imagine that it was an act of insubordination against the Divine Will would be an idea only fit for slaves. Original sin belongs to the inner dialectic of human freedom which is capable of committing evil. Thus for Berdyaev the devil did not intervene; the devil for him was not the opposite of God but "a reality of spiritual experience, of the path along which man goes" (The Divine and the Human, p. 88). Satan symbolises "a reality of a spiritual order... he is only a manifestation of irrational freedom at the highest spiritual levels" (Freedom and the Spirit, p. 163).

Uncreated freedom occurs as infinite energy endlessly expanding and renewing itself so that the creation of the world reveals the creation which occurs in God and in uncreated freedom. The earthly drama appears to symbolise the heavenly drama, the terrestial symbolising for Berdyaev eternity, as also for St. Gregory of Nyssa. The relationship between the two dramas, terrestrial and heavenly, pre-supposes movement by God.

In God there is a creative dynamic process which is accomplished in eternity. This must not be understood as meaning that God depends upon the world and the process that goes on in the world, but that the process which goes on in God, in eternity, not in time . . . and it is on this account only that what happens in the world and in man acquires an eternal meaning.

(The Divine and the Human, p. 47)

Through this process which occurs in God man learns the meaning of his true vocation and sees a new aspect of himself which he must discover alone—his creative nature. The Scriptures are silent about this: "the enigma of man's secret" must be solved by man's consciousness :

If the ways of creativeness were indicated and justified in the Holy Scriptures, then creativeness would be obedience, which is to say that there would be no creativeness. . . The fact that



the mystery and the ways of creativeness are not revealed in Holy Scripture is an evidence of the all-wise esoteric of Christianity . . . God awaits from man an anthropological revelation of creativity; in the name of man's God-like freedom, God has hidden from him the ways of creativeness and the justification of creativeness . . . Creativeness is a work of man's God-like freedom, the revelation of the image of the Creator within him.

(The Meaning of the Creative Act, pp. 97-8)

It is because man is free that he can comprehend his creative-ness, and it is because he is spiritual that he is at once free and creative. In Berdyaev's view this mystery was not revealed through the Father or the Son, but through the Holy Spirit. The ancient world awaited the Redemption; when Christ died and rose again a new age began but still man did not exercise his creative powers. With the Holy Spirit a new Being was born, and that is why Berdyaev called this revelation "anthropological".

Man's creativeness continues God's creative work and does not only include science and the arts but goes far beyond them, for they may be forms of obedience, whereas man's creative force accepts no restraints:

Just as bloody pagan sacrifice was merely a foreshadowing of the world's true redemption through Christ's sacrifice on Golgotha, a foreshadowing which did not attain true redemption, so man's creative efforts, which have brought into being the values of culture, have been up to now only a foreshadowing of a true religious epoch of creativeness which will realise another sphere of living.

(id., p. 103)

And so three revelations succeed one another—the Father is revealed in the Old Testament, the Son in the New Testament, and they are followed by creative man, whose revelation is the consequence of "the cosmo-anthropological" revelation, which is essentially religious and is the response to man's new consciousness.

Here we are reminded of Joachim de Flore's "Eternal Gospel"



and Father Baader's commentaries on the "Three Testaments", which correspond with three historical periods illustrated by Merezkovsky in The Mystery of the Three. The First Testament deals with God's religion in the world, the Second Testament of the Son is God's religion in man, that of God-manhood, and the Third is God's religion in Humanity, that of God-Humanity. The Father is incarnate in the Cosmos, the Son in the Logos, and the Spirit in the union of the Logos with the Cosmos—in theo-anthropology.

Berdyaev observed that the third revelation has no Holy Scripture:

It will be no voice from on high; it will be accomplished in man and in humanity—it is an anthropological revelation, an unveiling of the Christology of man.

(id., p. 107)

The third revelation is given by man; in the first phase God is transcendent, in the second he becomes immanent and in the third man offers his response to Him.

Berdyaev in no way minimised the fact of the redemption but it represented for him only one aspect of Christ—His suffering as the Son of God, whereas there is another—His future appearance in glory. The mystery of the redemption and the mystery of the Creation are different stages in the same religious drama. The progress of Christ and man leads to a discovery in which man's freedom, his human dignity and his sense of responsibility are all involved.

If man were to refuse to be creative he would be driven to a second Fall. To expect God to provide the third revelation, which is made manifest as a form of creativity, would be a refusal to recognise the reality of man's dialogue with God and his role in the cosmos. The new man must accept his vocation and assume his creative responsibility:

The fall of the first Adam was a necessary cosmic moment in the revelation of the new Adam. This was the way to a higher



completeness by means of a falling apart. . . The fall of Adam did not mean deciding the fate of the world; this was merely tempting a youth. The first Adam was not yet a part of the divine mystery of the Trinity through the Absolute Man and hence did not yet know his creative freedom; he was only at the first stage of creation.

(id., p. 149)

Having reached the creative stage man has no need to abjure the ethics of the Law or the Redemption, particularly since they prepare the way for and are fulfilled by the ethics of creativeness. And so the third revelation crowns the two preceding it. The law and the Redemption bring forth the new age in which an essentially different religious experience takes shape:

Creativeness is neither permitted nor justified by religion— creativeness is itself religion. Creative experience is a special kind of experience and a special kind of way. . .just as religious as is prayer or asceticism. Creativeness is the final revelation of the Holy Trinity—its anthropological revelation.

(id., p. no)

For long periods the world has not been aware of this truth; man's weakness has been stressed and not the grandeur of his creative power. Today his true nature is becoming clear and it is creative because "it is the image and likeness of God the Creator" (id., p. no).

It is imperative to bear in mind that human creativity is not a claim or a right on the part of man, but God's claim on and call to man. God awaits man's creative act, which is the response to the creative act of God.

(Dream and Reality, p. 208)

Creativity in that sense could not exist without the real world, yet it is not entirely determined by the world, for it contains an element that could not come from without.

Man awaits the birth of God in himself, and God awaits the birth of man in Himself. It is at this level that the question of creativity arises.

(id., p. 209)



The conditions inherent in the fallen world seem to be opposed to human creativity and man is in danger of confusing it with the products of inspiration and knowledge—a melody, a poem, a picture, a book or a piece of sculpture are objects of a greater or lesser perfection, but they remain relative in character. Berdyaev gives a prominent place to art because, when authentic, it has a cathartic and liberating effect. Indeed all cultural creativity is important and a normal attribute of men living in civilisation, but it bears no resemblance to the beauty and profundity of the true creative ecstasy which looks towards the end of the world and moves on an eschatological plane. The transfiguration wrought by human creativity has a duty to bring forth a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Man lives in a world which has lost its sense of direction and forgotten its real origins. He is surrounded by frontiers and cannot attain the perfection to which he aspires. All-important for him are his love of eternity, his yearning for the unseen, his faith in the spirit and his suffering, which takes the form of an unutterable pain due to living in a strange world, hedged in by boundaries and deprived of beauty. Man who is born of the spirit is bitterly aware of the prison that holds him and the chains that bind him.

It seems, too, that one of man's greatest sorrows, dedicated as he is to eternal life, is to see how little can love and creative freedom be shared with others. The man who is enamoured of freedom endures mortal solitude as well as grieving to see all those who prefer slavery to freedom.

The bounds set by the world in which man lives must not be allowed to slow his footsteps or hinder his quest, for he knows that:

Those (cultural) objects are symbols of reality rather than reality itself. . . are evidence of the painful disparity between the creative impulse and its partial and fragmentary embodiment in the objective world.

(id., p. 214)



Then he asks this profoundly important question: "Is it possible to pass from symbolic to realistic or transfiguring creativity?" And he goes on to say:

We must not understand creation to mean a kind of process of moral perfection . . . The current Christian attitude to the problem of creativity wavers between asceticism, which is hostile to the world on the one hand and, on the other, an attempt to give a religious dressing to, or to justify and even to sanctify, the social and cultural habits of this world.

(id., p. 216)

Berdyaev considers both attitudes misguided. The world should not be considered evil and treated with contempt or hostility, nor should social habits be held sacred. There seems only one way that is right, that which starts from the world's reality and "aims at a real, not only a nominal and symbolic, transformation of this world". Berdyaev's knowledge of humanity and the inhuman character of man could not lessen his certainty of man's vocation; nothing could shake his faith in human destiny because it was "founded on the uttermost depths of metaphysics". "I never went back," he said, "on my faith in the creative vocation of man" (id., p. 216).

Among writers who devoted attention to the subject of the transfiguration of the world Berdyaev discusses Nietzsche and Ibsen as well as his own compatriots Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoievsky, all of whom were intensely aware of the human predicament and understood that the individual could never be self-sufficient. "God-manhood" being the basic principle of anthropology.

Now the transfiguration of the world presupposes its end, or at least the end of the world as we know it. A New Heaven and a New Earth imply a complete transformation, so the creative act, by which the change will be wrought is always concentrated on the end of a specific world and because it looks beyond those bounds it is eschatological. Berdyaev believed that the creative age was at hand; indeed, for a time he even thought it immanent, but



the war, the Russian revolution, various coups d'etat and the inter-war years gave him the feeling that he lived in a catastrophic era ushering in a period of peace, of dehumanisation before the reign of order, of darkness before the dawn. He denounced what he called "history's hideous comedy" acting out the prologue to a new age. Of those long tragic years he said, "I tried to make men human in the most inhuman of ages." For him the world's transfiguration did not depend on progress or evolution; he was against evolution and refused to adopt the expression "creative evolution" used by Bergson. He thought that history's only value was to signpost the future; real life was outside its scope. There are "creative impulses", moments of light and darkness, turning points in history, and Berdyaev refers to new aspects of the universe, the discovery of new worlds. The "creative impulses" characterised by the eruption of freedom are already seen in the rejection of necessity and social routine. Ultimately the creative act knows moments of creative ecstasy and contemplation—not passive but profound and therefore active contemplation. Through it man is immersed in another world beyond objectiva-tion, penetrating existential time. And through the change thus wrought in him he is filled with creative exaltation and communes with the unseen which is his inspiration.

Thus the aesthetic contemplation of natural beauty is more than a state: it is an act, a breaking-through to another world ... A poet who is possessed by his vision of beauty is ... engaged in an activity whereby he creates. . . the image of beauty.

(id., pp. 220-1)

Creative exaltation is also beyond time; it belongs to eternity where God and man meet. The revelations of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit through human creativity succeed one another within time and within man, but Berdyaev believed that the bounds of these different periods could not be fixed and that none of them was lived right through to its end, for each would have entered a new dimension before achieving its perfection.



... in the third epoch the divinity of man's creative nature is finally revealed and divine power becomes human power. The revelation about man is the final divine revelation about the Trinity. The final mystery is hidden in this, that the divine mystery and the human mystery are one, that in God there is hidden the mystery of man and in man the mystery of God. God is born in man and man is born in God. The ultimate revelation of man means the revelation of God. Not only is God in man but man is the image of God; in him divine development is realised.

(The Meaning of the Creative Act, p. 321)



Mystical experience is a triumph over creatureliness.
(Spirit and Reality, p. 136)

I believe in the existence of a universal mystical experience and a universal spirituality.
(Dream and Reality, p. 83)

In the doctrine of God-manhood the seen and the unseen are inseparable. The distinction remains clear, but the union between the divine and the human is complete, and to Berdyaev the profoundly mystical nature of Orthodox thought on gnosticism was all-important.
The term "mysticism" can give rise to difficulties because in the west it is often used in a pejorative sense. In Orthodox thought the mystical life is deprived of emotional content: there is no dramatisation of Christ's human suffering, no sensitive devotion, no appealing imagery.

The mystical life is directed towards the mystery of God and man, in whom the spirit has come to life. Mysticism is a spiritual path leading to contemplation and comprising doctrine as well as experience; through meditation it arrives at "inspired and intuitive" knowledge. It is at the heart of Christianity, of the Christian drama arising from the conflict between the spiritual life which is not of "this world" (for the spirit is precisely "that which is not of this world") and the need for the spirit to descend into this world without inhabiting it.

... the spirit is shed abroad in the world, only to leave it again, and then to descend once more, taking upon itself a symbolic form within the world.
(Freedom and the Spirit, pp. 32-3)


The tragic contradiction in Christianity affects every man in whom the spirit has been born; he is in the world but is not its slave; he shares men's destiny, living in the world but not a prey to it. Through his second, his spiritual, birth, man becomes aware of his lifelong tragedy. Berdyaev writes of the mystery of Christ's life which must be experienced in the secret depth of one's being:
Christ must be revealed in the interior life of the spirit before He is revealed in the external world of nature and history. Without the inward and spiritual acceptance of Christ the truths set out in the Gospel remain unintelligible facts of the empirical, exterior world.
(id., p. 34)
Berdyaev recognised the "flesh" of Christianity as well as its spirit; he did not think of it as an abstraction but as a living thing whose flesh is illumined by the spirit. Mysticism belongs to Christian reality, to its deepest life, and is basically undeniable. The mystery of the Christian revelation is beyond sectarianism, rationalism, or even metaphysics:
It is the mystics who have given expression to the mystery of the divine-human life, and its ways and ends. The experience of the saints gives to us a deeper understanding of human personality than the whole of metaphysics and theology put together.
(id., p. 39)
Still more, the spiritual life alone gives immortality:
The natural man, the psycho-corporeal monad, does not possess immortality as an inherent quality. Only spiritual life merits immortality, for only spirit possesses the quality of eternal life.
(id., p. 40)
Thus immortality cannot be conceived without the divine, the impulse of the divine spark in man:
All mysticism teaches that the depths of man are more than human, that in them there lurks a mysterious contact with God


and with the world. The true escape from oneself, from one's self-imprisonment and separation from the world, is hidden within one's own self, rather than outside.

(The Meaning of the Creative Act, p. 296)

Man has always been regarded is his two aspects—the outer and the inner. The outer man is seen at a casual glance and suffices for some people; it generates affection, passion and jealousy. The other aspect is only revealed to the person who goes beyond appearances in the belief that what is essential appertains to mystery and must be approached in the correct manner, with respect, contemplation and love. Most men hope to be diverted by the company of others, but those who seek the infinite approach it in the silence of timelessness, for to draw near to mystery is to stand on the threshold of eternity.

The man who rejects mystery lives in the sphere of idolatry with all that it entails of egotism, disaccord and the finite, whereas he who turns towards the mysterious reality, after a somewhat painful process of purification, finds harmony and unity. The mystery concealed in man is related to his inner self. As the epitome of the world and of God man has a secret bond with both; and it is through his inner self that he is spiritual, and only mysticism can apprehend the mystery of his relationship with them.

Mysticism gives vitality and spirit to the sources and the roots of all religious life. Mysticism is the essential basis of all religious consciousness; the hidden source of religion in the world. Religion carries over into life and consciousness what has been immediately experienced in mysticism . . . The dogmas stiffen and become deformed into external authority when their mystical sources are closed.

(id., p. 297)

Mysticism that wanders from a spiritual plane is betraying its true vocation.

Mysticism "gives vitality ... to religious life", yet religion often appears hostile to mystics. Berdyaev talks of this contradiction, which should be considered at different levels; the history of



religious thought quickly convinces us of that. During his life a mystic's experience seems disturbing; he tears aside veils which are reassuringly opaque and enjoys untrammelled freedom from the herd. The need to adapt ourselves to humanity demands a certain degree of mediocrity and we often give first importance to outward forms because it is easier:

Only thus can we understand the tragic quality of Christianity throughout history . . . We may say of Christianity that it is the most mystical religion in the world and with equal truth that it is a religion not at all mystical.

(id., p. 298)

Berdyaev observes how some theological systems are tempted to oppose nature and Grace; sometimes spirit seems lacking in independence and is completely bound up with the soul, forming part of nature, while at other times it is attributed only to the Divine Being and appears to be the Grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Too often it finds itself rejected from man's inner depths. To consider man as uniquely psycho-corporeal is, according to Berdyaev, to imply the duality of the Creator and creation, of the state of Grace and the natural state. That attitude rejects the reality of the divine image in man.

Sometimes indeed, we get the impression that official theology and the precepts of the Church refuse to consider man as a spiritual being at all, and thus guard him against any temptations towards spirituality. "Natural Christianity" is even recognised as being truer and more orthodox than the Christianity of the spirit. To be conscious of oneself as a spiritual being is to challenge the accusation of pride; on the other hand, to recognise oneself as unworthy to possess spirit or spiritual life is to qualify for a tide to humility . . .

(Freedom and the Spirit, p. 29)

It thus seems that spirituality is reserved for saints and ascetics; any spiritual life outside the Church is suspect, and this Berdyaev found most disquieting. The Church is indulgent towards the weaknesses of the soul but remains implacable towards spirituality



when outside its authority, thus justifying its distrust, or even condemnation, of spiritual reformers as well as philosophers, poets and Christian mystics whose personal spiritual life perturbs it. "This was the origin of a kind of Christian materialism and positivism, Christianity being proclaimed as a religion of the soul and not of the spirit" (id., p. 30). Berdyaev called it exoteric Christianity, not to be dismissed lightly but, rather, deepened by esoteric Christianity as by a light shining from within to illuminate the exterior.

If we may so put it, the "carnal" element represented by exoteric Christianity is not less real than the "spiritual" element, for they reflect symbolically and to an identical degree the true realities of the spiritual life and its divine mysteries.

(id., p. 35)

Raymond Abellio makes the happy suggestion that the purpose of the esoteric is to bring light to the darkest places, "to explore and experiment with our inner darkness".

Berdyaev often complained that Christianity ascribed too little importance to the role of the Holy Spirit; that the spirit was still "incarcerated" in the soul and that men failed to realise that all spiritual life had its roots in God and the Holy Spirit. He realised that the Church's fears were sometimes due to displays of false spirituality, but its prudent—sometimes all too human—attitude to man and to the reality of the divine in him seemed strangely negative. Because it is personal, private, any spiritual experience is apt to be suspect. The danger of heresy hovers over mysticism, which is always accused of potential "deviationism".

I can only become aware of spiritual life through my own experience and, if I deny it or declare it to be the product of my imagination or autosuggestion, the reason is that I have not experienced it. Spiritual life can only come from meditation and to try to hem it in is to let it escape. It cannot be attained by discursive thought or through external data. That is why the existence of spiritual life cannot be proved to a man who would deny the reality of his own existence. There can be no restrictions;



and similarly God's reality cannot be proved to a man who has not experienced the divine.

Spiritual life is an extra-objective reality, it is not determined by time, space or matter, it is an ideal reality as compared with that of the objective world, it is the reality of "initial" life.

(id., p. 13)

In spiritual life there is neither object, nor subject reflecting the object; for all is identified with it. We should not be surprised when the average man impugns spiritual experience, even though his denial of it is without significance; living only in the natural world he does not go beyond its bounds and he speaks in the light of his own knowledge, which lies within the frontiers of psychology and does not extend beyond the world of the soul but remains subject to the laws of the natural world where there is no real life; for everything is situated in time, space and matter and nothing is known of the mysterious depths where the spirit reveals itself. On this level the soul and God Himself are as real as is the material world. God, then, is inert substance; and because of this the soul, the world and God are separated; an impassable abyss divides them. In the corporeal and psychic world all is disrupted; in so far as I feel the pain of my isolation or am rent by the sorrow of separation, I can realise that I belong to the natural world, in which case spiritual experience "becomes impossible, for it can only exist when man is regarded as a microcosm in which the whole universe is revealed and in which there are no transcendent limits isolating man from God and from the world". If this reality is accepted there can be no inner solitude; the divine world is one, embracing the whole in a movement which is life itself.

Spiritual life is lived outside time, space and matter, although it is bound to them as symbolic images of the interior divisions of spirit.

(id., p. 41)



One might imagine spiritual life to be abstract, but nothing is more concrete than the true spiritual life; and abstract spiritual life would be imperfect. Detachment, asceticism and purification are paths which it is necessary to follow but they do not point out the ends where one should stop. Spiritual life takes into consideration the reality of the natural, psychic and psychological world and this reality has its own symbols, it is the reflection of its internal self, which it does not falsify. Thus "the flesh is the incarnation and symbol of the spirit"; and not to be discredited by it; spirit is not opposed to flesh but accepts it freely and transfigures it, for spirit is not only freedom: it is also love and hence union; it is the bridge between God and the world. Because of its love it does not forsake nature and mind, its purpose is to spiritualise them.

Love of nature, whether of the animal, vegetable or mineral world, creates a communion with it and proves itself a spiritual experience. The experience of love and the contemplation of beauty lead man back to the cosmos, just as the transfigured cosmos goes back to man. There has always been ambivalence within Christianity, particularly with regard to mysticism, and Berdyaev, who was not the first to notice it, distinguished between the Church of Peter and the Church of John:

The Church in its world-historical action and its necessary adaptation to the level of humanity has been pre-eminently the Church of Peter, from whom the priestly succession derives. From Peter comes the tradition of Judaeo-Christianity. The Catholic Church openly recognises itself as the Church of Peter, but the Orthodox Church also accepts the succession from Peter. Peter was the apostle of the average level of humanity . . . The saints and the mystics have been the living bearers of the Johannine tradition.

(The Meaning of the Creative Act, pp. 298-9)

Berdyaev attached great importance to this distinction which, indeed, merits it. Throughout the history of religion there have been periods in which the cult of St. Peter predominated and



others in which many mystics owed their inspiration to St. John. It would be intensely interesting to make a study of religious history from the aspect of the mystics,1 placing them in a context where it would be easy to discern the primacy given to St. Peter or St. John. Of course there is some overlapping, but at times one saint predominates at the expense of the other, and the two tendencies in the same religion correspond with the soul and the spirit: the psychic and the spiritual. Man's creative act, because it is of the spirit, belongs to the realm of St. John.

The result of the contrast—it might be called the struggle— between the two forms of Christianity is decisive and Berdyaev, in speaking of religious estrangement, often reverts to this point, which may be summarised as being the socialisation of the spiritual as opposed to personal spiritual experience. They are poles apart, with no connection between them, not only dissimilar but utterly unrelated. The religion of love must be developed in the world; "it must be the religion of measureless freedom of the spirit":

The Church of love is the Johannine Church, the eternal, mystical church, bearing within itself the fullness of truth about Christ and about man.

(id., p. 335)

True spiritual life, with its impulse towards the future and the transfiguration—that is to say, the coming of a New Heaven and a New Earth—leads to prophecy and gnosticism, whereas socialised spiritual life is spiritual in name only; by keeping to the letter, the ethics of the law, it becomes despiritualised. Socialised spiritual life is constantly menaced and its attempts to manifest itself are jeopardised by the incidence of history with the resultant confusion seen among Christians today because values are being overthrown. On the other hand, spiritual experience is never in question because it is not affected by time; with its understanding never dimmed it cannot grow old or be ill-adapted to any period

11 am engaged in a work on "The Mystical Adventure".



of history. In other words, while the different forms of religion may seem outworn without their sacraments, spiritual experience, because it is bound up with things sacred, is not subject to decay; it belongs to eternity. Religious forms laicised through the disappearance of their sacramental aspect become secularised, whereas spiritual experience is never profaned by laicisation.

The socialisation of spiritual life is a permanent temptation in Christian history. Since the second century A.D. freedom of personal spiritual experience has been bitterly fought against, and from time to time when the mystics raised their voices attempts were made to silence them. Yet there will always be men of inspiration who are faithful to Christ's message and accept taunts, censure and sometimes death, in the spirit of the Beatitudes.

Berdyaev attached great importance to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness as described in Matthew, IV, v. I, and Luke IV, w. 1-13, when He thrice resisted temptation, whereas "historically Christians have succumbed to this temptation". The temptation resisted by Christ but succumbed to by most Christians is a symbol of the socialisation of spiritual life.

This vital problem in Berdyaev's work—vital also for Christianity and for Christians—clearly consists in the opposition between personal spiritual experience and socialised spiritual life, which is religion's worst enemy—the worst because it eliminates both God and man; it is at one and the same time deicide and homicide, turning man into a robot and God into the mere creation of a robot.

Henry Corbin states the problem well in an article entitled "The spiritual struggle of Shi'ism", which appeared in Eranos Jahrbuch (1962) and is based on the main themes of Berdyaev's work, The Beginning and the End. He quotes from this and aptly illustrates the consequences of socialising religious experience, suspecting that there is "a secret and fatal connexion between the advent and demands of fides historica and preparations for an age of historical materialism" (p. 78). The grave import of his statement is obvious; all true religion is bound to be mystical, and to oppose



mysticism is to betray religion. The mystic—and the prophet as well—can but decry the socialised spiritual life.

It is in this context that the terms "prophesying" and "gnosticism" can be used in connection with Berdyaev's thought, and here special care is needed on the part of the reader if he is not to misunderstand him. As Andre Neher explains in L'Essence du Prophetisme1 the concept of prophesying must be dissociated from that of prediction, although in the present-day sense of the term the prophet predicts. But his vision is not necessarily of the future; it has a value of its own; what the prophet discloses "is not the future, it is the Absolute. The prophet satisfies the longing for knowledge, not knowledge of tomorrow, but of God".2

We find this type of prophecy, for instance, in the twelfth century monastic visionary, St. Hildegard, who in his very first vision heard God's voice telling him to "unveil the mysteries". Here we have a charismatic activity connected with giving information, and in that sense Berdyaev was a prophet; he frequently referred to the state of ecstasy in which he wrote— meaning illumination, knowledge, "unveiling". Ultimately prophesying and gnosticism are one.

When a western philosopher or theologian calls Berdyaev a "gnostic", more often than not he is using the term in a pejorative way, or at least indicating some reservations and casting suspicion on Berdyaev's Orthodoxy. The same reproach was levelled against Simone Weil, and the truth is that gnosticism is very difficult to understand, while ignorance is frequently at the basis of the abuse hurled at it.

Although in a certain sense Berdyaev can be called a gnostic his thought is quite unconnected with the gnosticism of the first centuries after Christ; Manichean dualism was completely foreign to him, as was pantheism. He did not oppose light to darkness in the manner of dualism, nor knowledge to ignorance, spirit to

1 Collection "Epimethee", Paris, 1951, p. i.

2 See my Essai sur la Symbolique romane, new edition, Part I, Ch. I.



matter. I had many opportunities to discuss this subject with him, and besides, he himself wrote that "the carnal world is a symbolic world . . . We live in a second world, a reflected world". Everything—man and the world—is looking towards the transfiguration; the soul is not imprisoned in matter; there has been no "fall" from the light; there is no "illuminist" aspect in Ber-dyaev's thought. His gnosticism is akin to Boehme's and has affinities with the Cabala, consisting precisely in the knowledge of things unseen, which is the esoteric aspect of true religion. There is always the progress from the letter to the spirit, from the ethics of the law to creative ethics.

He believed gnosticism to be necessary on the ground that it provided the sole means of assuring the future of true Christianity. The gnostic has immediate spiritual experience, so that he can aptly be called a "spiritual man" or a "man of the inward self". The difference between "spiritual" and "psychic" in gnosticism is valid because it does not attribute dualism to Christianity but only maintains that it is on two planes—one of outward observances and the other penetrating, through love, the mystery of knowledge. Such knowledge is not extrinsic to the Old and New Testaments; it is found, for instance, in St. Mark and St. John, and the following verses will suffice to prove it; "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without all these things are done in parables" (Mark IV, v. n). St. John alludes to the Divine Light "which the darkness heedeth not" (I, v. 5) and says that Christ spoke to the Samaritan woman of "the true worshippers (who) worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (IV, v. 23). St. Paul refers to the knowledge peculiar to "spirituality", the Divine Spirit illuminating the human spirit. And Jean Baruzi, in the work I have already quoted, calls this Pauline gnosticism the "new plasticity of Being". Metamorphosis through rebirth of the nous (meaning here thepneuma) is understood by Baruzi to mean man's progress from the carnal to the psychic and then to the spiritual (cf. Rom. XII, v. 2). "The man who attains the spiritual state



develops what will one day be his 'spiritual body'... St. Paul and those like him attain a kind of new birth of their being."

Such was Berdyaev's gnosticism; it aimed at the vision of God and signified the awakening of the spirit in man. Thus gnosticism is an existential attitude. Spiritual man does not differ basically from psychic man, for everyone is virtually spiritual, but there are few gnostics, because few men are willing to live within the Christian paradox and because official Christianity has always tried to frustrate the search for knowledge.

The gnostic—whose spiritual body grows by the aid of the light of the knowledge which modifies his Being—has an eschato-logical outlook in the basic sense of the word, meaning concerned with last things and so with the Beyond, which is unique not because it is outside time and belongs to a higher world but because it concerns the world in transformation. Seen in this way salvation means the progress from the carnal to the spiritual world. The spirituality and eschatology of St. Paul and St. John form the basis of Orthodox religion, as Berdyaev often repeats. Whether of man or cosmos, there is an anxious period of awaiting the creation with a profound impatience which the gnostic feels intuitively in the depth of his Being. Mystics and gnostics know that Christ's mission was to reveal to the world the vigilance needed during its wait, as though on watch through the night for a sign of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. And that demands intense spiritual activity, for the period of waiting, once completed, ensures the glory of man and the cosmos, restored to their true destiny.

Such a movement means the end of the world, of which I have already talked, and the end of man—which we shall now briefly consider. Death in this sense is called by Berdyaev "the greatest miracle in the world". On the natural plane death objectifies and temporalises Being; in effect, it marks the culminating point of existence, for it is a sign of our depth, of our link with that eternity which perpetually induce^ within us an anguish near to yearning. Death was sanctified by Christ and thereby also



conquered: "The whole of this world must be made to pass through death and crucifixion, else it cannot attain resurrection and eternity" (The Destiny of Man, p. 252).

Berdyaev writes so beautifully of death that his words go beyond its anguish to become a poem in praise of eternity. It is true that eternity is faintly seen in time, but man is always in danger of again falling victim to this world's vanities and thus becoming disintegrated; so in this sense death may be said to restore his integrity. Through death man receives the supreme revelation and communes with life's deepest mystery. In so far as he frees himself from everyday existence death's terrors fade; although it may remain terrifying in illness or through fear of accident, it is met with more serenity in war or by martyrs to a faith or an idea:

Life, not in its weakness but in its strength, intensity and superabundance, is closely connected with death . . . This is revealed in love which is always connected with death. Passion, i.e. the expression of the highest intensity of life, always holds the menace of death. He who accepts love in its overwhelming power and tragedy, accepts death. He who attaches too much value to life and avoids death, runs away from love . . .

(id., p. 254)

Berdyaev seldom addresses the reader, but here he does so with exquisite simplicity:

Treat the living as though they were dying and the dead as though they were alive, i.e. always remember death as the mystery of life and always affirm eternal life both in life and in death.

(id., p. 254)

Whence the ultimate end to which ethics must lead; it is addressed to all men, the living and the dead. Berdyaev is thinking of liberation through "the creative act of all who are suffering torment, whether temporal or 'eternal' for, until they are freed, God's Kingdom cannot come", meaning the victory over



"eternal hell". "The 'good' do not condemn the 'wicked' to hell and enjoy their own triumph, but descend with Christ into hell in order to free them" (id., p. 293). Here we are far from the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas when he spoke of the "good" and rejoiced that divine justice is meted out to the "bad"—a theory which rightly offends many Christians. So Berdyaev falls back upon docta ignorantia, for "the 'wicked' cannot be made 'good' in our sense of the term. They can only be won by the transcendent good, i.e. brought into the Kingdom of Heaven which lies beyond good and evil" (id., p. 293).

Heaven and hell are an inward part of human existence, symbols of spiritual experience. "Hell is a denial of eternity—the impossibility of having a part in it and entering eternal life. There can be no diabolical eternity: the only eternity is that of the Kingdom of God" (id., p. 269).

To experience hell, the hell of rejected evil, is to emerge into paradise. "A foretaste of paradise is given us in ecstasy, in which time, as we know it, is rent asunder, the distinction between good and evil disappears, all sense of heaviness is gone and there is a feeling of final liberation" (id., p. 289).

Mystics and gnostics help to transfigure the world and prepare for the advent of the Kingdom of God, into which they already penetrate for fleeting moments. Their mission—like that of every Christian—is to awaken the spirit and thus assist the work of the Holy Spirit. Such liberation is a form of Wisdom.

We must remember that the word "Spirit" is feminine in the Semitic languages and that in the Jewish school at Alexandria Christ's Mother is likened to Wisdom or the Sophia, that is, to the world's outermost sphere.

Here again Berdyaev draws inspiration from Boehme, for whom the Sophia is symbolised by eternal womanhood, eternal virginity. Womanhood has two aspects—the celestial and the earthly, while man is considered as originally androgynous. Berdyaev explains Soloviev's idea of Sophia but finds it inadequate because for him Sophia was "the beauty of the created".



"The Sophia represents man's purity, integrity, chastity and virginity; qualities which inhabit the whole of creation in so far as it can be transfigured. The Virgin—the Sophia—has flown up to Heaven but her image is reflected on earth and attracts it towards Her" (Study of Boehme: Mysterium Magnum).

Those who know, that is to say, gnostics in the sense already explained, contemplate here on earth the reflected image of the Sophia, meditating on it the more intensely because their clear, intuitive gaze tears away the veils hiding the divine vision.

In The Revelations of Death: Dostoievsky, Tolstoy,1 Shestov speaks of men who possess "their own knowledge, singular, unjustified, unjustifiable", because "they have been visited by the Angel of Death who is entirely covered with eyes and when he sees that he has come too soon, that a man's term is not yet over, he does not take away his soul or even reveal himself to it, but leaves him one of the numberless pairs of eyes with which his own body is covered. And then—in addition to what other men see and what he himself sees with his natural eyes—the man see things that are both new and strange".

It seems that Berdyaev was visited by the Angel of Death and one may wonder at what moment he came and left "those mysterious eyes". Doubtless during one of the creative ecstasies— fleeting but vivid—which abolish time and penetrate into eternity—that eternity which Berdyaev yearned for and made us love.

And here once more we are led into a paradox—for the Angel of Death is the Angel of Life.

1 Paris, 1925, p.6. (French only.)





Philosophy is the inner perception of the world through man.

(The Meaning of the Creative Act, p. 60)

I described myself as an existential philosopher—a natural outcome of my original and fundamental concern for men.

(Dream and Reality, p. 218)

These pages might well be entitled "Personalist Philosophy" or even "Existentialist Philosophy", but it seems more in keeping with Berdyaev's thought to adopt the tide, "Philosophy of Conflict", which he himself used in his autobiography. The term "conflict" denotes combat, passion, tension; it gets rid of systems and doctrines; in short it is allied to revolt and implies a dynamic, concrete quality. Now philosophy, in Berdyaev's view, is the investigation of concrete men, of human beings, "of human existence, human destiny and human purpose" (Solitude and Society, p. 19).

His philosophy is certainly a combat—with the "world-as-it-is", with superficial everyday existence, with its constraints, its violence, and its institutions, whether religious, political or social; he denounces conformity, both in civilisation and in history:

I fought for ... freedom in the very midst of the Marxist world, just as I fought for it amidst the Russian Orthodox.

(Dream and Reality, p. 92)

In Slavery and Freedom he describes the philosophical path he followed, while The Beginning and the End is his basic work on metaphysics. He was a spiritual man-before all else, impervious to the seductions of the Athenians; and, although he was captivated



by Kant as a seeker after knowledge, he was not really a disciple of any philosopher. He certainly read a great deal—Marx and Hegel in particular, when he was young—but his reading did not influence his philosophical approach; he was far too independent to bind himself to any one system. Despite his frequent references to German idealism he declared himself unaffected by it and, although at one period he was influenced by Boehme, he later diverged from him. As an existentialist he leaned towards St. Augustine, Pascal and Nietzsche rather than Heidegger or Jaspers. Kierkegaard's style irritated him and he found his philosophy "expressionist".

Berdyaev called himself an isolated philosopher and it was not only due to his independent temperament that he was never a disciple; there was an even more important reason—his habit of thought. Everything in him surged up from his inner self and was in some way bound up with his personal experience; an ordinary conversation, a novel or a film might provoke him to meditation. His philosophy was essentially alive; there was nothing artificial about it, nor was it something external, not completely a part of him. His thoughts were always related to his life and sometimes reflected its changes, but the basic characteristics never altered.

Its main themes—apart from those I have already mentioned (freedom, creativity, evil, anthropology)—were concerned with time, history and the human personality. Now these subjects can really be reduced to one, and that is—man.

Man is the dominating idea of my life—man's image, his creative freedom and his creative predestination.

(Solitude and Society, p. 202)

It was always with man as the point of departure that he considered the various systems and doctrines, and he was convinced that no philosophy, sociology or religion had ever given pride of place to man.

Berdyaev gave his allegiance to truth alone, adopting an identical attitude to the authors he read or to political movements



or religions. He picked out what he thought true and rejected what he judged false, each philosophical system being critically examined in turn.

To take some examples: Greek philosophy, according to Berdyaev, leads to monism and thus destroys freedom; Plato progressed from the theory of knowledge by means of concepts to knowledge through myths. Ontology, as a static and monistic branch of metaphysics, destroys the individual, since "the personality is outside Being and opposed to it". The God of ontology is an empty abstraction—the farthest limit of "objectifying" thought. Berdyaev called such rigid determinism, based as it is on the idea of Being, "naturalist metaphysics" with "nature" used here in the sense of necessity and Being considered as object. The concept is a generality and at the same time an abstraction; but man wants to apprehend the concrete-particular and the concrete-universal (cf. Spirit and Reality, p. u). As the concept is static it can apprehend nothing alive, so truth escapes it. Cut off from all communication it thus seems both a prison and a limitation (cf. Solitude and Society, p. 63). German idealism seemed to Berdyaev to lead to the identification of the subjective and the objective, of the outward and the inward. Feuerbach, Marx, Fichte and Nietzsche were judged to be anti-personalist because they maintained that the universal Ego triumphs at the expense of the personality, whether in the case of a social group or a superman.

Descartes with his famous cogito ergo sum deduced the Ego's existence from something other; Berdyaev retorts, "It is not true to say 'I think, therefore I am'; but rather, 'I am surrounded on all sides by impenetrable infinity, and therefore I think' " (Solitude and Society, p. 87). In pre-Kantian philosophies reason appears to be its own slave; despite its efforts it cannot attain reality; thus alienated it creates the world of phenomena, and thence the world of necessity, by projection.

Berdyaev's reflections on philosophical theories and systems led him to the choice between two philosophies, one which gives



primacy to Being over Freedom and the other to Freedom over Being (cf. Spirit and Reality, p. 65). On the one hand, Being, on the other, Freedom—we know where Berdyaev's sympathies would lie.

While he was still very young he became aware of his vocation as a philosopher and at the age of fourteen, when choosing the books whose authors and titles attracted him in his father's library, his attention was claimed by Voltaire, who asserted the right to freedom of thought. At that period Berdyaev also read with passionate interest Hegel's Phenomenology of the Mind and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, of which he later wrote that

Kant provided me with something that underlies my fundamental philosophical attitude . . . My consciousness awoke with the realisation of the distinction, or rather the radical difference between the realm of phenomena and the realm of "things in themselves", between the order of nature and the order of freedom; it also awoke with the realisation of the truth that man is an end in himself.

(Dream and Reality, p. 93)

Yet, when young, he had written an anti-Kantian essay called The Morality of Duty and the Morality of Desire in which he protested against the enforcement of morality as contrary to human freedom; he refused to make vows or take oaths, whether monastic, marital or legal, on the ground that they were an attack on freedom.

His attitude with regard to morality, of which I have already spoken when explaining his behaviour as a young man, is of interest in connection with his philosophy, and the following statement is significant:

I could never understand why and how a man who has transgressed a universally binding law of morality, which is in any case not in the least interested in the destiny of the concrete, living human being, should be regarded as a reprobate and an outcast, I am inclined to think that the reverse is true, that the guardians of the universally binding law, whoever or whatever



they may be, are utterly immoral, and are the true candidates for hell, whereas the outcast and the reprobate is the moral man, because he has fulfilled his sacred duty of lawlessness.

(id., p. 95)

Where morality was concerned Berdyaev was a revolutionary; he struggled to transform life through love of man and of freedom. What interested him was not the world as it is, but its destiny: "My philosophy has never been 'scientific', rather, it was prophetic and eschatological in manner and orientation" (id., p. 91).

He thus belongs to the world of tragedy, because for most men true wisdom will always be madness: to refuse to accept the world as it is and labour for its transfiguration—that was bound to make him hated, distrusted and rejected.

The philosopher's situation is truly tragic in face of the almost universal hostility directed against him.

(Solitude and Society, p. 3)

Philosophy is assailed on two sides—by religion and science, the first being the more violent of the two because its hostility comes from the fact of theology possessing its own brand of knowledge, and here Berdyaev reminds us of the cruelty meted out to philosophers by theologians in the Christian and Arab worlds. As soon as philosophy begins to prophesy it comes up against religion, while on its scientific side it is apt to be at loggerheads with science as such. But philosophy cannot be separated from religion and thus finds itself at grips with two opponents, both trying to curtail its independence:

The man who sets out in quest of truth, and who finds himself face to face with the divine mystery, not only often cries in the wilderness, but also leaves himself open to attack by the pontiffs of both religion and science. This situation is implicit in the very nature of philosophy and constitutes its inherent tragedy.

(id., p. 23)



Berdyaev accepted his destiny as a philosopher, although sometimes he has been dubbed a thinker rather than a philosopher. In France, when they want to muzzle a learned man or diminish his influence, they label him vaguely as a "thinker", which only shows their own powerlessness, at least in the realm of the spirit.

A man who belongs to no school of philosophy is suspect and, unless he founds his own system, he is considered worthless. If, like Pascal, he cares only about the basis of philosophy he is considered an innovator. Berdyaev, who was in full possession of his faculties all his life—for old age never impaired them—is one of the greatest of spiritual philosophers, his work will endure because of its quality and the correspondingly high level on which it places him; it will always retain its freshness because its deals with man as he really is, unaffected by progress or new discoveries. In it present and future generations can find the meaning of freedom—which is undoubtedly what modern men most lack.

Berdyaev approaches the problem of knowledge as a free man and a liberator:

Once aware of my vocation as a philosopher I never experienced any doubts as to its validity.

(Dream and Reality, p. 86)

Knowledge liberates; said Berdyaev; it is "the struggle with the finite on behalf of the infinite"; it destroys pseudo-mysteries bom of ignorance, and turns to the essential mystery:

. . . There is a mystery before which we pause because our knowledge has acquired depth. God is Mystery, and the knowledge of God denotes a participation in a mystery which, in consequence of such participation, becomes even more mysterious.

(id., p. 90)

Philosophical knowledge depends, in Berdyaev's opinion, on the extent of experience, which includes the various contradic-



tions in existence and demands an all-embracing vision, that is to say, a spiritual vision, at its very source. Berdyaev's philosophy involves the whole of man's Being:

. . . philosophical apprehension is a spiritual act which involves not only intellection, but also the concentration of the totality of man's spiritual forces, of both his voluntary and sentient being.

(Solitude and Society, p. 15)

Knowledge creates a relationship between men, establishes a point of contact; while objective knowledge ends in communication because it belongs to the impersonal world, existential knowledge, on the contrary, presupposes the human personality and leads to communion:

Objective knowledge derives from the social sphere, whereas existential knowledge derives from the sphere of communion.

(id., p. 62)

When studying the problem of communication by one consciousness with another, which is one of the basic philosophical problems, the difference between communication and participation should be remembered. Participation alone is real, communication is merely symbolic, dependent as it is on outward signs. As Berdyaev observed, customs and usages, politeness and amiability, do not imply prior communion; their conventional quality places them in the objective world. We see people around us but we know nothing about them besides their external appearance. Their psychic life, on the other hand, can be grasped immediately.

The intuition of another Ego's mental life is an undeniable phenomenon liable to occur only when a Being or an existence is envisaged as an Ego or a Thou, and not as an object.

(id., p. 109)

When confronted with an object my Ego remains solitary; there is no need to emerge and go towards the Thou, but



... in the presence of another Ego, which is also a Thou, it emerges from its solitude in an endeavour to achieve communion. The intuition of another Ego's spiritual life is equivalent to communion with it.

(id., p. 109)

The Thou must not be reduced to an object if it is to be known, for once the Ego is objectified it escapes, it seems to vanish through lack of contact. To apprehend the Thou entails a movement towards it which is always a form of love. It is because of my outburst of feeling towards the other that his countenance lights up so that I see there his soul's secret, gladly bared to a friend. The human countenance reflects the mystery of existence and is intimately related to the problem of the personality.

Like a beam of light from the mysterious world of human existence, which reflects also the divine world, it invariably breaks the spell of the objective world.

(id., p. 166)

Communion implies reciprocity in love, erotic or friendly, for

love is intimately related to the personality and is the means by which the Ego emerges from its self-sufficiency in quest of another Ego as opposed to another impersonal or collective Self. But the Ego is only an embryonic personality; to become one in reality, it must commune with the Thou and the We. It is this communion of personalities longing to be reflected in one another which confirms the personality.

(id., p. 114)

The Ego's sole desire is to expand towards the Thou; it leans towards it, aspiring to communion, and any reserve on its part is an expression of its solitude and isolation; it adopts a defensive attitude to shield itself from brutal contact with objects. If the Thou is absent then the Ego, deprived of love, meets only with a stone-cold reception, so it instinctively withdraws to protect itself from the impact. Thus the absence of the Thou sends the Ego into retreat, but as soon as it acquires knowledge it emerges



from seclusion, watching for an opportunity to meet the Thou and observing the signs that announce its presence. There are two aspects of knowledge; the first concerns "the relationship between the informed Ego and Being"; real solitude ends when the knowing subject communes in the mystery of existence. The second aspect concerns the relationship between the informed Ego and other Egos, the multiple world of men and society. Solitude is intensified as "the Ego falls into the objective world", and knowledge leads to insuperable contradictions:

The idea of God is the only solution capable of effectively resolving these often intolerable contradictions. God is precisely the coincidentia oppositorum.

(id., p. 118)

Berdyaev attached great importance to what St. Nicolas of Cusa called the coincidentia oppositorum, saying that it presupposes a quality; it cannot be the exclusive product either of the object or the subject.

The conjugal essence of knowledge is theandric; it has both a human and a divine aspect.

(id., p. 118)

One might say that man has to choose between fidelity and adultery in that He who loves and the Beloved are inseparable in the mystery of their union.

Objectivation eliminates God and man, replacing them with the impersonal and general, which must then be "transfixed" by a cognitive act. When generalities have been abolished, the personality emerges and is united with other personalities in communion.

Because of the limits of our world, dualism may seem insurmountable, but it comprehends transcendence, which is "the principle of authentic life" whereby this restricted life vanishes, enabling us to enter a higher sphere:

Transcendence is the very essence of love. Man is impelled towards it by his poignant sense of solitude in an ice-bound



world of objects and by his need of communion with the Other Self.

(id., p. 120)

In this connection Berdyaev speaks of sexuality as a profound mystery; even in an overwhelming love like that of Tristan and Iseult solitude and yearning are not completely banished. Although sexual union ends desire, it does not necessarily vanquish solitude; indeed, it may intensify it:

As a biological and social phenomenon, sexuality is objective, and therefore incapable of completely allaying solitude.

(id., p. 119)

That is why Berdyaev considered that the physical union of the sexes and the institution of the family, while they may allay and diminish the sense of solitude, cannot permanently vanquish it. Hence:

Only God is capable of overcoming solitude .„ .

(id., p. 122)

The evil of solitude belongs to the philosophy of existence, as well as being part of the problem of "the evil of time" to which I have more than once referred, mainly as a defection from the eternal.

Time is an evil, a mortal disease, exuding a fatal nostalgia. The passage of time strikes man's heart with despair, and fills his gaze with sadness.

(id., p. 134)

Berdyaev asks, "Wherein lies the root of time's evil and its accompanying nostalgia?" It lies in the fact that man finds it "impossible to experience the present as a complete and joyful whole", for our joy is tempered by the past and threatened by the future; and time's flight makes every feeling momentary. Berdyaev distinguishes between men of the past and of the future,



adding a third category—men of eternity, of whom there are too few, but

for them time will change in dimension and become eternity.

(id., p. 136)

Here, we come to existential time, which is outside cosmic and historical time; it alone belongs to eternity, so that Berdyaev could say in one sense that: "Time is the greatest of metaphysical mysteries, it is a continual paradox" (Dream and Reality, p. 281).

According to Heidegger "anxiety makes Being temporal" and for Berdyaev only the creative act frees man from time. Memory —considered as an eternal ontological principle whose function is to unite time's different aspects—rebels against time, whence arises the distinction in the dual nature of the historical process—the conservative aspect, looking back to the past, and the revolutionary aspect, facing towards the future; from these history is born.

Berdyaev was always interested in the philosophy of history and in 1919-20 he published the lectures he had given at the Free Academy of Moral Science in Moscow under the title of "The Meaning of History". A few years later he became severely critical of this work, finding it inadequate in some respects and explaining in a preface the essential points which needed more emphasis. These included the conflict between the individual and history as well as his objection to any idealisation of history that might make it sacrosanct.

In Russia national consciousness has always been based on research into the philosophy of history, and Berdyaev talks of discussions among Slavophils in Russia and Europe, the west and the east, in which Schelling's ideas played an important part, but eventually, without rejecting them, he cut loose from them.

He distinguishes "the historical" from "historicism", not only differentiating between them but opposing them to each other. The first contains its own mystery while the other has none. Jean Lacroix in Histoire et Mystere1 has shown how insistence on

1 Paris, 1962. (French only.) I



historicity may lead to historicism, an interest in time at the expense of eternity produces time without depth because eternity has fled from it. Mystery alone can give a vertical dimension to time; if it lacks depth it lacks quality.

History has a metaphysical basis; since man's heavenly destiny foreshadows his earthly life, Heaven does not only mean "an inaccessible sphere" but is also the most secret part of our spiritual life.

The metaphysics of history . . . implies . . . insight into the depths and very essence of history; it implies the discovery of history in the reality of its inner life, drama, movement and fulfilment.

(The Meaning of History, p. 42)

Thus the historical process cannot be pictured as an external phenomenon: it begins and ends in the Absolute, the inner spiritual life.

Metaphysics and history are united through Christ, with whom earthly history becomes an episode in celestial history. All profound spiritual experience reveals the fundamental bond between history and metaphysics, but only as an authentic personality can man experience this revelation.

Self-realisation is a process of permanent autocreation, an elaboration of the new man at the expense of the old.

(Solitude and Society, p. 200)

The "new man" is freed from the evil of time. In Berdyaev's words, "personality is eternal"; it is unique and therefore irreplaceable, but it is constantly changing since its contradictions have to be overcome: it both rejects time and needs it for complete self-realisation.

Personalism was never far from the forefront of Berdyaev's thought^ as can be realised from his writings as well as from his friendship with Emmanuel Mounier and his contributions to the review Esprit.



Personalism affirms the love of a concrete and living being, of a Thou, as opposed to the love of "goodness" or of an abstract idea.

(id., p. 196)

His "Meditation on Personality" in Solitude and Society is one of the most significant of his writings. He discusses there the basic problems such as man's response to God, for to speak of man is to speak of God; he also reminds us that Feuerbach hoped to progress from the idea of God to that of man while Nietzsche tried to go from man to superman. In both cases man was merely a means of transition.

It is imperative to understand once more that the rediscovery of man will also be the rediscovery of God. That is the essential theme of Christianity. The philosophy of human existence is a Christian, a theandric philosophy. Truth is its supreme criterion. But truth is not an objective state, nor can it be apprehended like an object. Truth implies above all man's spiritual activity. Its apprehension depends on the degree of community between men, on their communion in the spirit.

(id., pp. 202-3)

This community is like a symphony (sobornost) in which each man retains his own choral part.

Berdyaev's life was spent on a long road of philosophical development while he remained faithful to his first intuition about man as a microcosm, "the destiny of the subject in which there stirs and throbs the whole universe . . . bears witness to the meaning of its own and the world's existence". And again in his own words:

Truth is God who transcends all things, and yet reveals himself to man, in man and as man.

(Dream and Reality, p. 107)

In Towards a New Epoch Berdyaev devoted a chapter to Sartre and existentialism. Although he protested against Sartre's beliefs as set out in his published works he was in sympathy with such



existentialists as Pascal, Kierkegaard, Shestov and Gabriel Marcel, (v. The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar.) He felt that Pascal and Dostoievsky saw the highest and lowest in man, but Sartre and Freud only the lowest. And he added that man is a free and creative personality who is revealed only in his depths.

No existential philosophy is so totally "committed" as Berdyaev's—committed on the subjects of God and the world: "An existential philosopher should be aware of an identity between his thinking and his personal and the world's destiny" (Dream and Reality, p. 103). Such existential philosophy is un-romantic but, if one wants to label it, it certainly can be called Christian:

Modern philosophy ... is to a very large extent a product of the Christian era, the principal evidence for which is the fact that its central position is occupied not by the cosmos, as in ancient philosophy, but by man.

(id., p. 104)

There are many existential philosophies, but Berdyaev's is original in its depth. Existence is considered in its most profound aspect, to which very few men have access, let alone the ability to grasp this ultimate aspect.

Berdyaev felt that man possesses a mysterious core, a kind of point which lies at his uttermost depth and that if he can reach it he will gain a new dimension. It lies beyond all contradictions, all quality; beyond the inner and the outer, beyond light and darkness, life and death, male and female. Existence—in its depths —belongs to eternity because it is "transcendent".



Spirit is . .a qualitative changing of the data of the world, it is creative energy which transfigures the world.

(The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar, p. 32)

The world is moving through darkness toward a new spirituality and a new mysticism . . . It will be at once more involved with the world and more free from it.

(id., pp. 181-2)

For Berdyaev the problems of our time were man, his freedom and his creative activity. Modern man has experienced every paradox of existence, his knowledge has increased and he has learnt that humanism is not enough. His tragedy is to have broken away from his spiritual "centrality"—with strange results: he has been uprooted from his inner depths and brought to the surface. Deprived of his profundity his vision has changed as well as his desires. Without his "centrality" he has seen what Berdyaev called "false centralities" looming up within and around him, such, for instance, as the vacuity of the modern European. If there is a new renascence it will never be a return to the past, for that is beyond recall. The men of the Renaissance possessed the creative strength of the Middle Ages, but modern man, having repudiated everything, is virtually a new species, deprived, so Berdyaev thought, of his "spiritual organism" and lacking any faith, including faith in humanity. His outlook has changed and he worships different idols. Goethe's humanism seems out-of-date, for man has grown tough; he is caught up in the cogs of a brainless social machine for an elite who no longer have any refuge and are being massacred by collectivism.



Berdyaev described this dark period in The End of Our Time and Towards a New Epoch. He was not pessimistic because he never lost his faith in man, despite the prevailing chaos which he denounced so strongly.

For Boehme, whom Berdyaev was so fond of quoting, "darkness is not the absence of light but the terror that comes from the blinding light". And that is why with his prophetic vision Berdyaev, although he knew the anguish of yearning for eternity, was never a prey to despair, even when he wrote: "Who believes in the force of the spirit? Do Christians? . . . Truth must out: the overwhelming majority of men, and among them the Christians, are materialists. Not, mark you, materialists in their doctrine, but in their life" (Towards a New Epoch, p. i).

He based his judgment of our age on that undeniable fact; not only was the worship of money and power—economic or military—to be condemned but the consequences of the almost universally prevalent mentality had to be faced. "Those who have too much faith in spiritual force cut a foolish figure. People simply laugh at them." In a materialistic world "spiritual" people are gradually ousted; there is no more room for them; they stand for old-fashioned values. It is not surprising, in view of the importance given to economics and to things concrete, that materialism holds sway among Marxists, but when it reigns as master the situation is more serious for the majority of Christians. Communism's detractors are sometimes as materialist as its opponents, the only difference being their hypocrisy and good conscience; for there is nothing to choose between them as far as fanaticism and propaganda methods go. As an example Berdyaev quotes those German Christians who considered themselves true Christians while sympathising with the Nazis.

The Church's alliance with the State is no new event; what is new is the present condition of the Christian conscience which allows it to make increasing use of financial power. "Men are possessed of the devil of the will to power and it drags them down to destruction" (id., p. 6).



Berdyaev describes true Christianity as "radically" opposed to the worship offeree: "God compels nobody, allowing man even the freedom of denying Himself. He looks only for a free response . . . The spirit does violence to nobody . . ." (id., p. 6).

The force represented by true Christianity is opposed to the worship of material force. To choose strong men and conquerors is anti-Christian and reminiscent of cattle-breeding: it is a denial of God's image in man.

The will to power is always a form of atheism. The will to power is the will to murder. Every man who aspires to achieve a condition of power for himself is a murderer and ought to be judged as such. (id., p. 9)

In that statement Berdyaev echoed Simone Weil, an unbaptised Jewess who throughout her life showed a Christian spirit which many Christians have forgotten and which Berdyaev never ceased to proclaim with the accents of a visionary.

It must be admitted that on the religious, social and personal level we have lost the sense of such teaching as Pascal's or Kierkegaard's. By its fall from the realm of freedom to that of necessity Christianity no longer means adventure and danger. Christ's message never changes but men have scoffed at it. The Gospel, read upside down, has become comfortable. And "right-thinking" people can find even in the Beatitudes truths which they falsify into nourishing food for themselves. So the well-fed bourgeoisie feels safe and sound, but if it collapses that will not affect the truth of the message which it has made the mainstay of its power—God's message which is only for the humble and meek, the poor and the pure in heart. What Pascal said about some of the Jesuits in his day could nowadays be applied to numerous Christians: "The Jesuits have tried to unite God with the world and have only earned the contempt of both."1 We cannot speak of God's contempt, but the world's contempt should be remembered, for it is shown towards the man who is a party to such


1 Pensees.



casuistry. Contempt exists only when respect is lacking; heroes are sometimes hated but never held in contempt, nor is the man who offers his life to bear witness. Thus the Christian who no longer bears witness is not hated but merely held in contempt.

We have adapted God to ourselves but God does not cut in on a game of concepts. We have given Him various names, but God is outside our systems, our factions, our ambitions. We have made Him into "a God Who does not upset our daily life" and we make use of a God in Whose image we have ceased to be, although He is in our image—a God made with grains of sand by the decaying power of our false selves, a God moulded by the hands of men who have ceased to be His creatures because they have prostituted themselves to a world they have degraded.

If we ask whether the world is condemned to destruction and the spirit mortally sick, Berdyaev answers that the power-worshippers do not have the last word in the conflict between might and right, that the assassin is not victorious:

I believe in the possibility of a transformation in the structure of consciousness, in a revolution in consciousness, a revaluation of values and a spiritual re-education of man. Then at last to a different level of consciousness a different universe can be presented.

(id., p. 13)

These words do not derive from a naiive optimism or absurd idealism but from Berdyaev's confidence in the present and the future, born of his faith in God and man. His ideas on anthropology cannot be falsified by historical events. Man need only become human again in order to be saved.

Berdyaev discerned that the cause of the dehumanisation of life lay in scientific and technical achievements which had destroyed man's inner self and extinguished his emotional life; he had become a prey to his own discoveries. The old order has been replaced by a form of slavery and he needed time to realise how he had been degraded before he could rebel against modern instruments of slavery.



Everything in the contemporary world bears the hallmark of a crisis, cultural and spiritual as well as social and economic; everything has become a problem.

(The Bourgeois Mind)

As I have said many times at the risk of repetition, man cannot put the clock back. To retrace his steps would lead to a dead end; he must face up to the age into which he is born. What Berdyaev called "the new consciousness" is part of a special type of existence and undoubtedly the most difficult obstacle will be the fear of the unknown, a fear which the routine-lover finds it hard to overcome.

But we cannot speak of "the new man" because he does not really exist; as a technician, a fascist, a communist, man is only showing different aspects of himself, just as there was once the mediaeval man and the romantic man. Human types vary in the course of history but man remains man under different guises in all his various stages.

We live in an age of socialisation which will be followed by a movement towards individualism but, if the process is hindered man will be in danger of ceasing to exist as a personality. This fear, which Berdyaev expressed in The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar, has doubtless struck terror into all of us. He refused to give pride of place to the group and society at the expense of the individual and joined Gabriel Marcel in protesting against what he called "the degraded group", as witnessed in "the fascination of crowds"—the sensation of power felt by individuals when in a large assembly.1

The disappearance of personality is possible and may entail the death of God, the end of the human-divine contact, the loss of communion among men, the disintegration of "community" in favour of the group. That is the new malady threatening men in capitalist as well as socialist countries; and, though the means may vary, the end is the same. It is a severe malauy, but it will be only

1 "Pessimism and eschatological consciousness" in The Living God by Simone Weil. (French only.)



temporary, like a passing scourge that can never gain a permanent hold. Nowadays plague, cholera and other terrible sufferings which decimated men appear in new forms, attacking the human spirit, the personality. The clear-sighted man may glimpse the void awaiting him but, if he becomes a machine, a cog, a number, he will be transmuted into a shadow, an animated corpse, and his existence will become a living death.

Technical knowledge has uprooted man from the soil and radically changed his attitude towards space and time ... In the age of technical civilisation man has ceased to live among animals and plants; he has been hurled into new surroundings, cold, metallic, lacking animal warmth and red-bloodedness.

(The Bourgeois Mind)

Man can be spiritually disturbed by machines, for the soul contracts when the physical organism is uprooted. The rationalisation of life leads to imbalance and sometimes to spiritual or religious crises, with consequent mental confusion, depression, anxiety and even suicide. Man no longer recognises himself and wonders where this group-madness is leading. Yesterday's beliefs are rejected today, and what he considers to be the truth flickers and fades in his mind. Adrift, he seeks anything to cling to, but finds no refuge and is helplessly tossed hither and thither. He feels mentally bruised and broken and is demoralised as though overtaken by disaster; nothing seems left to give him security of any kind—intellectual, religious, moral or social.

Modern man, at least western man, is also in danger of being deceived by his affluence into mistaking the means of existence for its ends; he no longer thir^ after the things of the spirit. Yet Berdyaev believed the need for them would return, transformed and intensified by temporary absence. For man thus revivified work would be all-important, but its dignity must be restored and exploitation ended. That would only be a beginning; a new and just social order would be built on freedom. He remembered past conflicts caused by poverty, insecurity and old class prejudices— conflicts illustrated by the tales of Antigone and Creon, Romeo



and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, and he observed that prejudices based on the social order were still too glaring to allow man's inner tragedy to be seen.

The bitter contemporary social struggle prevented man from discovering his true destiny, but if only he could be calmer the strain he felt would be eased. Not that all problems would thus be solved; man must turn his eyes towards freedom, whose meaning he is likely to forget since civilisation tends to degrade science and art by placing them at the service of technicians. In his present lethargy man might become incapable of distinguishing the true from the false.

By expending himself entirely in temporal activity man becomes empty and his source of spiritual energy dries up.


So the idols he has temporarily made his gods must be dislodged and overthrown; he must reclaim himself from being the "impersonal instrument" he has been turned into; having abandoned the search for truth in favour of the utilitarian and profitable he must communicate anew with his own upsurging life-force. Only then will he rediscover his creative freedom and perceive his human destiny, whose tragedy lies within his own"centrality".

All the tragedy of life arises from the conflict of the finite with the infinite, of the temporal with the eternal, from the lack of harmony between man as a spiritual being and man as a thing of nature, living in a natural world . . . And the greatest, the final tragedy is that of man's attitude toward God.

(The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar, p. 174)

It is an illusion to see tragedy in 'death-bearing time'. Whether he likes it or not, whether he accepts it or rejects it, the eternal always continues to exist in man despite his contempt for it; that is but a passing phase which leads him astray but cannot destroy him. Social revolutions are as necessary as the crises of adolescence: out of them and in spite of them there emerges a



worthwhile result. The only disaster is to confuse God's kingdom with Caesar's.

Berdyaev thought that the new age was turning not towards God, but towards man, yet, paradoxical as that may seem, by turning towards man it is turning towards God, who will rise from the uttermost depths of the human mystery, God who waits for recognition and suffers ignorant idolaters to mask His image.

Having abandoned God modern civilisation is now abandoning man, and that is the essence of today's crisis.

(The Bourgeois Mind]

Modern man feels that he is divided between two worlds—the communist and capitalist blocs—and must choose one or the other. But he is mistaken. Berdyaev proposed a third choice, the only valid one, calling it "religious socialism, socialism with a spiritual basis". Communism does not defend true human values and capitalism, also, is a deception. So man does not have to choose between these two alternatives; it is the third—the only spiritual path—which leads to the transfiguration of the world. As long as man remains haunted by the nightmare of two blocs confronting each other, so long will his war-psychosis continue.

The new man advances towards unity through creative freedom. All Berdyaev's life and work are an example to modern man; he was a philosopher in the real sense of the word— preaching, prophesying, arguing, he was trying to free man from his slavery. He fought bitterly and rebelled against all present-day causes—political, social, economic and religious—of man's estrangement from freedom. "How rare are those who realise that the future depends on human freedom," he wrote in The Bourgeois Mind.

Perfection is what he urged us to pursue, the perfection which already exists potentially in man and which, once attained and realised places him where he owes it to himself to be—as the sun in the centre of the universe.



In every truly creative genius there has been the sainthood of the creative epoch . . . (which) can be recognised and canonised only in the revelation of creativeness. Genius is the sainthood of daring rather than of obedience.

(The Meaning of the Creative Act, p. 173)

Led by Berdyaev or, rather, following in his tracks, courageous men who long for freedom will live out their destiny, no matter what or whence the opposition—political, social or religious. Such men belong to the new age; sons of freedom, they belong to "the Creation of the Eighth Day".

The positive, creative purpose and content of freedom could not yet be conceived at that stage of creation, the seven-day stage, since in creation there had not yet been revealed the Absolute Man, the Son of God, the revelation of the Eighth Day.

(id., p. 147)

The cosmos awaits the liberation of the Absolute Man who will prepare the way of the Future Christ. "The Absolute Man, the God-man, is the Logos, the Sun of Creation" (id., p. 80).


I have tried to set down the essence of Berdyaev's thought without attempting any criticism. A radiant countenance does not need to be obscured. It is sufficient unto itself.

I realise that to some people the religious nature of his philosophy may seem to belong to a past age, but I believe that as a philosopher, prophet and visionary Berdyaev speaks to all who are turned towards the Light, hoping to respond to their tragic destiny and through their creative freedom to play their part in the transfiguration of the cosmos.

This approach brings a parting of the ways. There are some who on meeting Berdyaev's work will hear the cry of Mischa Kara-mazov echoing in their consciousness: "Aloysha . . . I have found a new man within me; a man has been reborn in my soul. I tremble lest the man reborn in me should abandon me."

Others will turn away, seeing only paradoxes and contradictions. "In those eyes shining with a strange light men look for signs of madness so as to be justified in denouncing him."1

St. Macarius alludes to the "spiritual sensation," which relates neither to the psyche nor to the emotions; it means to experience the divine. When reading Berdyaev's works this mysterious experience is easily understood but it was still easier to understand when approaching the man himself. It has nothing to do with following him or imitating him. Freedom is a conquest; no one can offer it as a gift.

In his autobiography he had written that the contents of his books implied a new consciousness. That is the consciousness of the Eighth Day which prepares for the coming of a New Heaven and a New Earth:

1 Shestov, La philosophic de la tragedie. Paris, 1926.



A human being is required to perpetuate creation, his work is, as it were, the eighth day task; his destiny is to be lord and master of the earth.

(Man and the Machine)

Berdyaev symbolises the Man of the Eighth Day.

In the Gospel of Thomas (log. 23) we read, "There is a light within a man of Light and he illuminates the whole world". Only if we love the Light can we discern a "Man of Light". So, to the text from the Gospel these lines from Angelus Silesius may be added:

Who can see him?

The heart that has eyes and is vigilant.




1909 Another joint work included his article "Political and Philosophical Truth", an attack on atheism among the intelligentsia.

1910 Visited Florence and Rome with his wife and sister-in-law, Genia Rapp.

Worked at his book, The Meaning of the Creative Act. His article against the Holy Synod, "Killers of the Spirit", led to a law-suit but he escaped banishment owing to the war.

1912 The plan for his book The Destiny of Man suddenly came to him while he was watching a Diaghilev ballet.

1913 Spent the winter in Mme. V. S. Grinevich's house.

1916 First important work, The Meaning of the Creative Act.

1917 The October Revolution.

His sister-in-law, Genia Rapp, came to live with him and his wife.

1918 Wrote The Philosophy of Inequality towards the end of the year.

1919 Imprisoned several times.

Founder and Director of the Liberal Academy of Moral Sciences in Moscow which existed until his exile three years later.

1920 Professor of Philosophy and History at Moscow University.

1922 Exiled on ideological grounds. 1923-4 Lived in Berlin.

1925 Moved to Paris where he became friendly with and invited to his flat many French and foreign writers, including Jacques and Raissa Maritain, Stanislas Fumet and the Abbe Laberthonniere.

During this period he lectured a great deal in various countries—Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Switzerland.

1926 Edited a new monthly journal, Put.



1935 Began attending the annual Decades (lo-day Symposia) at Pontigny.

Over the next ten years, in addition to lecturing to Russian tmigrts circles, he used to go to meetings held by Emmanuel Mounier, editor of the review Esprit and its contributors, and by Marcel More, as well as lecturing at the Religious-Philosophical Academy and the Colloque de la Fortelle.

1937 Descartes Congress in Paris.

1940 Left Paris for Pilat, near Arcachon.

1942 Underwent a serious operation.

1944 Important lecture on "Russia's View and Germany's".

1945 Death of his wife.

Member of editorial board of new series of publications, Cahiers de la Nouvelle Epoque, with M.-M. Davy, Jacques Madaule, Andre Philip, D. Verderevsky and C. Vilcovsky.

1947 Received honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Cambridge University.

Addressed the Rencontres Internationales de Geneve.

1948 24th March, died suddenly at his desk.

After his death his sister-in-law sent his Russian-language MSS to the Archives Museum (Pushkin's House) in Moscow.



English translations of works by Nicolas Berdyaev:

The End of Our Time. Sheed and Ward, 1933.

Christianity and Class War. Sheed and Ward, 1933.

Dostoievsky. An Interpretation. Sheed and Ward, 1934.

The Bourgeois Mind. Sheed and Ward, 1934.

The Russian Revolution. Sheed and Ward, 1935.

The Fate of Man in the Modern World. S.C.M. Press, 1935.

Freedom and the Spirit. Geoffrey Bles, 1935.

The Destiny of Man. Geoffrey Bles, 1935.

The Meaning of History. Geoffrey Bles, 1936.

The Origin of Russian Communism. Geoffrey Bles, 1937.

Solitude and Society. Geoffrey Bles, 1938.

Spirit and Reality. Geoffrey Bles, 1939.

Leontiev. Geoffrey Bles, 1940.

Slavery and Freedom. Geoffrey Bles, 1943.

The Russian Idea. Geoffrey Bles, 1947.

Towards a New Epoch. Geoffrey Bles, 1949.

The Divine and the Human. Geoffrey Bles, 1949.

Dream and Reality. Geoffrey Bles, 1950.

The Beginning and the End. Geoffrey Bles, 1952.

The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar. Gollancz, 1952.

Truth and Revelation. Geoffrey Bles, 1953.

The Meaning of the Creative Act. Gollancz, 1955.

Untranslated Works (all in Russian):

Subjectivism and Individualism in Social Philosophy. St. Petersburg,


The New Religious Consciousness and Society. St. Petersburg, 1907. Philosophy of Freedom. Moscow, 1911.



A. S. Khomyakov. Moscow, 1912.

The Philosophy of Dostoievsky. Petrograd, 1922.

The Philosophy of Inequality. Berlin, 1923.

Collections of Essays (in Russian):

Sub Specie Aeternitatis. Philosophical, Social and Literary Essays. St. Petersburg, 1907.

The Spiritual Crisis of the Intelligentsia. Essays in Social and Religious Psychology. St. Petersburg, 1910.

The Crisis of Art. A Collection of Articles. Moscow, 1918.

The Fate of Russia. Essays on the Psychology of War and Nationality. Moscow, 1918.



Allen, E. L., Freedom in God. A Guide to the Thought of Nicolas Berdyaev. New York, Philosophical Library, 1951.

Catalfamo, G. B., Il metafisico della liberta. Messina, Ed. Ferrara, 1953-

Clarke, O. P., Introduction to Berdyaev. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1950.

Geaver, George, Nicolas Berdyaev. Plymouth, U.S.A., 1950.

Julien-Cain, Lucienne, Berdiaev en Russie. Paris, 1962.

Lampert, E., Modem Christian Revolutionaries. Nicolas Berdyaev and the Middle Ages. London, Clarke, 1945.

Lowrie, D. A., Rebellious Prophet. A Life of Nicolas Berdyaev. New York, Harper, 1960.

Porret, Eugene, La philosophic chretienne en Russie, Nicolas Berdiaev. Neuchttel, 1944.

Schultz, B., Die Schau der Kirche bei Nicolas Berdiaev. Rome, Orientalia, 1950.

Segundo,J.-L., Berdiaev. Aubier, 1963.

Spinka, Matthew, Nicolas Berdyaev. Captive of Freedom. Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1949.

Stople, S., Nicolas Berdiaev. Ide och debatt. Stockholm, Bonnier, 1946.

Vallon, M. A., Apostle of Freedom. Life and Teachings of Nicolas Berdyaev. New York, Philosophical Library, 1960.



Abellio, Raymond, 96

Alain, 12, 14

Angelus Silesius, 39, 42-4, 68, 69, 72,

74, 134 Antigone, 128 Augustine, St., 64, no

Baader, Father, 86 Baruzi.Jean, 42, 102 Basil, St., 64 Berdyaev, Lydia, 51 Bergson, Henry, 40, 90 Boehme, Jacob, 35, 39, 42-4, 65, 68, 69,71, 72, 75-83, 102,105, no, 124 Bulgakov, Serge, 35 Burgelin, Pierre, 51

Chaadayev, 7 Choiseul, Countess of, 11 Corbin, Henry, 100 Creon, 128

Danielou, Jean, 50

Descartes, in

Diderot, 5

Dolgoruky, Makar, 25, 26

Dostoievsky, 9, 18, 25, 26, 32, 44, 45,

52, 55, 77, 89, 106, 122 Dzerjinsky, 20

Eckhart, Meister, 35, 43, 56, 81 Evdokimov, Paul, 31

Fessard, Father, 51 Feuerbach, in, 121

Fichte, in Freud, 122 Fumet, Stanislas, 50

Gandillac, Maurice and Genevieve,


Gilson, Stephen, 64

Gogol, 8, 89

Gregory of Nyssa, St., 3, 32, 66, 67,

79, 84 Gregory Palamas, 64

Hegel, 6, 78, no, 112 Heidegger, 40, no, 119 Herachtus, 45, 54 Hildegard, St., 101 Hyppolite, Jean, 51

Ibsen, 18, 89 Iseutt, 118, 129 Ivan III, Czar, 27

Jaspers, no Joachim de Flore, 85 John, St., 65, 98, 99, 102, 103 John of the Cross, St., 43 Juliet, 129

Kant, no, 112

Karamazov, Aloysha, 26, 133

Karamazov, Ivan, 26

Karamazov, Mischa, 20, 133

Keyserlmg, 20

Khomyakov, 18

Kierkegaard, S0ren, no, 122, 125



Koyre", Alexander, 75, So, 82 Kudashev, Princess, u

Laberthoniere, 30 Lacroix, Jean, 119 Lermontov, 19 Luke, St., 100

Macarius, St., 133 Madaule, Jacques, 50, 51 Marcel (brother of Zosima), 26 Marcel, Gabriel, 122 Mark, St., 102 Marx, no, in Masson-Oursel, 51 Matthew, St., 100 Maykov, 3

Mechevoy, Father Alexis, 3 5 Merezkovsky, Dimitri, 7, 86 Mikhailovsky, Nicoks, 15 Milosa, 3 More, Marcel, 51 Mounier, Emmanuel, 120 Myshkin, Prince, 47

Neher, Andre', 101 Nicholas I, Czar, 6 Nicolas of Cusa, St., 117 Nietzsche, 43,44,46,77, 89, no, in,

121 Novalis, 39, 49

Paracelsus, 44

Pascal, no, 114, 122, 125

Paul, St., 102, 103

Peguy, Charles, 76

Peter, St., 98, 99

Philotea, 27

Picodella Mirandola, 44

Plato, 6, in Plotinus, 62 Proudhon, 6 Pushkin, 7

Rapp, Genia (Berdyaev's sister-in-law), 19, 51 Redishchev, 5 Romeo, 128 Rousseau, 5

Saint-Simon, 6 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 121, 122 Scheler, Max, 20 Schelhng, 6, 119 Schiller, 46 Senghor, Leopold, 51 Shestoy. Leon, 53, 106, 122 Soloviev, Vladimir, 105 Stavrogin, 47

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre, 16, 49 Tikhon, Archbishop, 25 Thomas (the Gospel of), 134 Thomas Aquinas, St., 105 Tolstoy, 9, 10, 18, 89, 106 Tristan, 118, 129

Vasto, Lanza del, 51 Versilov, 47 Voltaire, 5, 28, 112

Wahl.Jean, 51

Weil, Simone, 12, 16, 27, 101, 125 William of St. Thierry, 40 Wolman, 39

Zenkovsky, 7 Zosima, 25, 26



Absolute, the, 64, 82, 120; — indefinable, 80; — made manifest, 82 Act, Creative, 99. See Creation Anthropology, 61-2, 73, 89, 126. See Philosophy

Beauty, 90, 98

Berdyaev, Nicolas: character and temperament, 21, 41-2, 46-7; appearance, 47-9; independence, 45, 76, no; rejected all authority, 13; education, 28; love of Russia, 3-4, 21-3; attitude to revolution, 18, 21-2; imprisonment, 17; interrogated, 19-20; exile, 18, 20; opinion of politics, 13; opinion of Marxism, 15-16; ethics of revolution, 13, 15; reading, 18, 44, no; friends, 49-51; love of truth, 36, 45-6, 110-11; love of freedom, 13, 1-7> 75-7; attitude to Orthodoxy, 29; religious problem, 25, 38; tragedy of religion, 37; anti-clericalism, 35-6; religious discussions, 35; an isolated philosopher, no; personal drama, 14, 36, 45-6; vocation, 46; was he a gnostic? 101-3; prophet, 101; spiritual man, 109; spiritual experience, 43-4; belonged to the world of tragedy, 113; compassion, 13; solitude, 51-2, 56; his presence, 48-9; free man and liberator, 114

Body: relationship with soul, 40; spiritualised —, 40, 102-3; the

spirit does not exclude the —, 67;

— and soul, 67. See Spirit, Soul Bourgeoisie: spirit of the —,13

Choice, 117

Christ, 85-6, 92-3, 120; mystery of His life, 93; His message, 100, 125; temptation, 100; Second Coming, 64, 131; Absolute Man, 65; man made in His image, 73, God-man, 73. See Trinity, God

Christianity, 92, 95-6; religion of the soul, 96; reality of—, 125; its flesh, 93; its spirit, 93; official —, 103;

— of St. Peter and St. John, 98-9; living —, 93; — and the Holy Spirit, 96; — and mysticism, 98-9

Church, 95-6; — of St. Peter and St. John, 98; authority of the —, 95-6; allied to temporal power, 124

Civilisation, 129

Coinddentia oppositorum, 117

Communication, 54; — between consciousnesses, 115

Communion, 115-16

Community, 121

Consciousness: — of self, 70; religious —, 33-4; — of man, 70; unhappy —, 78; new —, 127, 133; common —, 45

Contemplation, 90, 92

Cosmos, 72-3, 86; transfigured —, 98; — awaiting liberation, 131

Creation, 82, 84, 89, 95; creative impulses, 90; man's creative vocation,



89; creative freedom, 129; creative activity, 123; — and freedom, 75; creative act and eschatology, 89; symbolic —, 89; — of transfigured life, 89; mystery of—, 86; creative act, 89-90, 119; human —, 87; cultural —, 88; creative exaltation, 90; man's creativeness continues God's creative work, 85; creative responsibility, 86; awaiting the —, 103; — of seven days, 131

Death: culminating point of existence, 103; beyond anguish, 103; physical —, 39; — and serenity, 104; Angel of Death, 106

Destiny: — of the subject, 121

Devil, 84

Divine: — element in man, 65-8; human — contact, 127; development of — in man, 91; — and human duality, 65-6; — Nothing, 81; — source of freedom, 66. See Man

Drama: earthly —, 84; terrestrial and heavenly —, 84

Ecstasy, 90, 101

Eschatology: creative act and —, 89. See Time

Esoteric: — Christianity, 96; — aspect of true religion, 102

Essential man: definition of—, 39; his life, 52; his tragedy, 41; his difficulties, 45-6; his suffering, 55; his solitude, 53; sense of universality,


Estrangement: religious —, 99. See Creation

Eternity, 82, 88, 90, 106; meaning of word —, 39; eye of—, 82; threshold of—, 94; relation to time, 39, 104; eternal life, 39

Ethics: — of Law, 87, 102; — of creativeness, 87; creative —, 102;

— of the Redemption, 87

Evil, 77-8; its gravity, 82; irrational, 78-9; chaos caused by —, 79; freedom of—, 78-80; explanation of—, 83; problem of—, 82 Existence, 122; paradoxes of—, 123 Existentialism, no. See Philosophy Experience: human —, 120; spiritual —, 42-3, 56, 63, 97-9, 120; — of the divine, 97, 133; — of the mystics, 95; religious —, 42-3,100,

— of love, 98; — of the Beloved, 61; mysterious —, 133

Fool, God's, ix, 35

Freedom, 66; importance of—, 75; man's —, 84,112,123; — in course of achievement, 67; — and creation, 75, 84; religion of —, 99; — and the social order, 128; — and spirit, 98; creative —, 88, 130, 133; false —, 76; — and holiness, 76; — and God, 76; — not loved, 76; true —•, 76-7; — and free will, 76-7; — of choice, 77; its mystery, 78; — and light, 83; — and evil, 78-80; irrational —, 78-9; — and Nothingness, 83; — belonged to original darkness, 79; uncreated —, 79, 81, 83-4; — independent of God, 81; metaphysical basis of history, 83;

— is a burden, 76; neontic —, 80;

— arising from indifference, 77;

— is a conquest, 133

Gnosticism, 99, 101-3; Pauline —, 102; — is an existential attitude, 103; the gnostic and the spiritual body, 103; gnostic intuition, 103; gnostics and mystics, 103, 105; — and knowledge, 106; prophecy, 101


God, 61, 66-7, 92, 97; uselessness of traditional proofs, 61; — of ontology, iii; — in official theology, 62; mystery of—, 82; spiritual life in —, 96; — and man, 61; freedom to deny —, 125; — awaits recognition, 130; — is freedom and love, 83; — longs for his other self, 82; birth of man in —, 68; speaks to free men, 31; a static —, 80; dramas of— and man, 82; faith in —, 126; unity of the God-man, 69

Grace: and nature, 95

Heresy, 96

History, 83; tragedy of —, 83; of Christianity, 100; of religious thought, 98-9; conformity in —, 109; historical process, 119-20; religious — from aspect of mystics, 99; value of—, 90; revelation and —, 83; historicism, 119-20; conflict between the individual and —, 119; metaphysical role of—, 120; hideous comedy of—, 90

Holy Spirit, 95-6

Humanity, 66, 86, 95; knowledge of —, 89; dehumanisation, 90, 126; divine-----, 66

Idols, 129

Image, divine, 66-8, 95; its dynamic

reality, 73; its realisation, 66; its

presence, 68, 73 Immortality, 93 Inspiration, 100

Intuition, 121; — and vision, 81 Inner man, 40, 94, 97, 122

Justice, 12

Knowledge, 114; — and ignorance, 101; — creates a relationship be-

tween men, 115; spiritual men's

knowledge, 102; self----, 63-5; the

Ego and —, 116-17; — and experience, 114; objective —, 115; — of God, 64, 69; — by means of symbols, 66, 80; — of humanity, 89; isolated by —, 42

Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, 26,

37-8, 76

Liberation, 105, as a form of Wisdom, 105; — of man from slavery, 130

Life, 97; psychic —, 115; spiritual —, 93, 96-100; deepest —, 93; real —, 90; religious —, 95; eternal —, 39. See Eternity

Love: — and spirit, 98; religion of—, 99; — and the mystery of knowledge; 102; — of nature, 98; experience of—, 98; — between Him who loves and the Beloved, 68. See God

Machine, 128

Macrocosm, 70

Man: — his creative power, 87; his destiny, 130-1; Absolute —, 131; child of God and freedom, 81; his vocation, 84, 89; — made in the image of God, 64-8, 70, 95; degraded —, 127; his dignity, 65; — and freedom, 85; — and God, 63; birth of — in God, 68-9; God's birth in — like the sun, 69; God and — are inseparable, 82; — is an ikon, 64; his love of eternity, 88; — conductor of an orchestra, 72; microcosmic, 70, 73; — and the cosmos, 70; — inseparable from his cosmic destiny, 71; gives life to nature, 71; dragged nature down in his fall, 71; the outer and inner —, 94: — carnal, psychic and spiritual,





102; — co-operates with God, 68; revelation by —, 86; — liberates the universe, 71; modern —, 128, 130; — must face up to the new age, 127; prey to his own discoveries, 126

Marxism, 124. See Berdyaev

Mediocrity, 42, 54, 95

Microcosm, 70, 97,121; microcosmic man as intermediary, 73

Morality, 112-13. See Berdyaev

Mystery, 94; — of Christ's life, 93; man and —, 94; — is an appeal, 42; reality of—, 94; mysterious depths, 97; — of knowledge, 102; — of the Kingdom of God, 102; — of freedom and evil, 79; — of creation, 79, 86; — of the Loving One and the Beloved, 61; — of the Redemption, 86; mysterious core, 122; depths of human —, 130; sense of —, 42; mysterious weight, 41; — never apprehended face to face, 42; unveil the mysteries, 101

Mysticism, 92, 94, 101; directed towards mystery, 92; spiritual path, 92; experience of —, 92, 94, 96; — gives vitality to religious life, 94; — and inner life, 94, 98; — belongs to Christian reality, 93; — in Christianity, 99; voice of—, 100; religious history from the aspect of the mystics, 99; Christian mystics, 72

Nature: — and Grace, 95; existential —, 67; — brought to life by man, 72; man's relationship with —, 70-I; mirror of —, 72; symbol of the inner world, 72

Original sin, 84

Orthodoxy, 92; — and Russia, 12,26-32; what it is, 30; during the Revo-

lution, 33; cosmic aspect, 30-1; its anthropology, 31;—and Berdyaev, 29 Outer man, 94

Personality, 120-1; human —, 65; danger of disappearance, 127; claims of— versus power, 76; — is eternal, 120. See Philosophy

Philosophy: — is a combat, 109; — and religion, 113; — and science, 113; theories and systems of —, in; philosophical knowledge, 114; Greek —, in; German idealism, in; personalist —, 109, 120; anthropological —, 73; existential —, 109, 121-2; — of history, 119; religious —, 78; — involves man, US

Prophecy, 99, 101; meaning of —, 101; prophetic vision, 124; prophetic inspiration, 43

Prophet, 101; discloses the Absolute, 101

Religion: — of love, 99; — without sacraments, 100; secularisation of religious life, 76; laicisation of religious forms, 100; lower forms of —, 16; natural and revealed —, 27;

— of the spirit, 27; — question, 25, 35-6

Revelation, 85-7; the third revelation, 86-7; historical —, 43; personal —, 43; comparable with prophetic inspiration, 43; spiritual —, 43

Revolt, 8, 109; — must not be confused with freedom, 76

Russia: immensity of its plains, 3;

— and Europe, 4; Russian humanism, 6; literature, 8, 11; writers, 9; intelligentsia, 5; extremes meet, 11; Russian people, 32; reforms and


revolution, 6, 8, 18, 90; Russian communism, 22; cosmic aspect of thought, 10; an Orthodox country, 26; Holy Russia, 21; — involved in history, 119

Seen and Unseen, 92

Sexuality, 118

Social habits, 89

Socialisation, 127

Socialism, 130

Solitude, 53-4, 116-18; inner —, 97

Sophia, 105-6

Soul, 67, 95, 97; its weakness, 95;

— and spirit, 99; body, — and spirit, 40. See Body, Spirit

Spirit, 95-8, 105; — come to life, 92;

— born in man, 52,93; relationship with the soul, 40, 67, 99; —, soul and body, 40; — bound up with the soul, 95; — relationship with body and soul, 67; man's creative act is of the —, 99; — and nature, 67; — of Christianity, 93; Berdyaev Orthodox in —, 27; primacy bestowed on —, 67; highest quality of existence, 40; eternal —, 46. See Body, Soul

Spiritual: thirst for —, 128; personal

— experience, 99-100; — plane, 94; — life, 95-8; spirituality, 124; its socialisation, 99-100; — body, 103; — man, 103; — birth, 93. See Spirit

Subjective, 64; existential, — nature, 67; centre of the spiritual world is subjectivity, 72

Testament, 85-6

Time, 90, 97; evil of—, 118, 120;

— without depth, 120; death-

bearing —, 129; existential —, 40, 119; rupture with —,39; new — and new space, 39; connected with eternity, 39-40; paradox of— and eternity, 39; no conflict between — and eternity, 40; advent of the spirit in —, 40; creative exaltation beyond —, 90. See Eternity

Tragedy: of an 'essential' man, 41; world of—, 113

Transfiguration, 98-9, 102, 113;

— of the cosmos, 98, 133; man looking towards the —, 71, 102;

— of world, 39, 89-90, 105, 130; participation in —, 71

Trinity: the revelation of the Father,

the Son and the Holy Spirit, 90;

mystery of the nature of —, 73.

See Christ, God Truth, 12; discovery of—, 45-6, 77;

seekers after, 54

Ungmnd, 80-1

Unity, 94

Universe, 70; its liberation, 71

Unseen, the, 92

Value: human —,130 Vision of God, 103

Wisdom, 105, 113; sage and saint,


Work, 128

World, 89, 92,97; its limits, 97; — of the soul, 97; its enigma, 70; natural —»97-8; divine —, 97; transformation of—, 103; higher —, 103; end of —, 88, 103; temporal —, 41; inner —, 72; — and history, 79; fallen —, 88; — which has lost its sense of direction, 88