From Volume 2 of An Introduction to Nineteenth Century Russian Slavophilism: A Study in Ideas, translator: Peter K. Christoff; revised, TRV
Not so long ago, the predilection for philosophy held sway in Europe. Even political questions were of secondary importance, subordinated to solutions of philosophical systems, borrowing from them their ultimate meaning and inner significance. But lately, the interest in philosophy has perceptibly diminished, and, since 1848, the relationship between philosophy and politics has completely changed. Now, political questions engage the attention of thinking people; philosophical works have almost ceased to appear; few are concerned with philosophical systems any more, and justifiably so. There is no room for abstract, systematic thinking within the narrow confines of today’s tremendous social developments, developments pervaded with universal significance and that follow sequentially with the speed of theatre sets.
Moreover, the philosophical development of Western Europe has reached such a degree of maturity that the appearance of a new system no longer agitates people’s minds as vigorously and as obviously as before; it no longer staggers people with the contrast between new conclusions and old concepts. The philosophical orientation towards autonomous rational thought which began in the West about the time of the Protestant Revolution, and whose first representatives in philosophy were Bacon and Descartes, has steadily grown and spread in the course of three and one-half centuries, sometimes proliferating into numerous separate systems, sometimes combining to produce their great summations, thus passing through all the stages of possible progress, and has finally attained the last, all-inclusive conclusion beyond which European man’s mind cannot aspire without completely changing its basic orientation. For when man rejects every authority except his abstract thinking, can he advance beyond the view which presents the whole existence of the world as the transparent dialectic of human reason, and human reason as the self-consciousness of universal being? Obviously, in this case, the ultimate goal which can be conceived by abstract reasoning separated from other cognitive faculties, is the goal he has been approaching for centuries, has now attained, and beyond which is nothing further to seek.
Lacking opportunity to move forward, philosophy can only expand in breadth, developing details and giving all individual disciplines a common basis. Therefore, we see that almost all contemporary Western thinkers, however they may differ amongst themselves, proceed from the same level of basic principles. Hegel’s followers speak in a more pedantic language; those who have not read him use a more everyday language; but almost all, even those who have not heard his name, express the principal conviction which is the basis and the final conclusion of Hegel’s system. This conviction is, so to speak, in the air of contemporary culture. Even though few works are published on philosophy, there is little debate on philosophical questions, and interest in philosophical systems has waned, we should not conclude interest in philosophical thought itself has diminished. On the contrary, more than ever it has penetrated all other spheres of reason. Every phenomenon in social life, every discovery of science, transcends in the mind the boundaries of its apparent sphere, and, joined to universal human problems, assumes rational-philosophical significance. The very universal nature of social developments contributes to this turn of mind. Interest in academic system-building is dead; however, greater are the efforts by which every educated person seeks to draw the guiding strand of his abstract thought through all the labyrinths of social life, through all the marvels of new scientific and scholarly discoveries, and through the infinite variety of their possible consequences. New philosophical systems are no longer appearing, but the supremacy of rationalism continues.
This rational thought, which received its final consciousness and expression in modern German philosophy, combines all phenomena of contemporary European culture into a single common character. Life’s every movement is permeated by the same spirit and every intellectual phenomenon prompts the same philosophical convictions. The discrepancies between these rational-philosophical convictions and the tenets of faith have caused several Western Christians to attempt opposing them with philosophical views based on faith. The most brilliant efforts of Western Christian thinkers have served only as additional proof of the lasting supremacy of rationalism. For the opponents of philosophy, in their efforts to refute its conclusions, are unable to detach themselves from the foundation from which philosophy naturally developed, and from which no other results could be obtained, without doing violence to that foundation. Thus, many pious men in the West, staggered by the irresistible tendency of thought towards unbelief, and wishing to rescue faith, completely reject all philosophy as something incompatible with religion, and condemn reason in general as something contrary to faith. But these pious men in the West fail to note that by persecuting reason they do even greater harm to religious convictions than the philosophers themselves. For what kind of religion is it that cannot stand in the light of science and consciousness? What kind of faith is it that is incompatible with reason?
Thus, it appears a believer in the West has almost no means of rescuing faith except by preserving its blindness, and by timidly guarding it against contact with reason. This is an unfortunate — but unavoidable — consequence of the inner dichotomy of faith itself. For whenever the teaching of faith deviates even a little from its basic purity, the deviation, growing little by little, cannot help becoming a contradiction to faith. The lack of wholeness and inner unity of faith compels one to seek unity in abstract thinking; and reason, having received equal rights with Divine Revelation, first serves as the ground of religion, and subsequently replaces it.
When I speak of the division within faith and of the abstract-rational basis of religion, I refer not only to the Protestant confessions, where the authority of tradition has been replaced by the authority of individual understanding. We see abstract reason as the very foundation of religious doctrine in the Latin confession no less than in Protestantism, despite that, in its struggle with Protestantism, the Latin confession denied rationalism solely on the basis of tradition. For it was only in its opposition to Protestantism that the Latin confession placed its tradition above human reason. However, on matters of faith in relation to the Church Universal, Old Rome gave preference to abstract syllogism over Holy Tradition, which is the repository of the common consciousness of the whole Christian world and holds it together in a living, indissoluble unity. Actually, this preference for syllogism over tradition was the only condition for the separate and independent rise of Old Rome. For how else could the Latin confession have become divorced from the Church Universal? It defected from it only because it wished to introduce new dogmas into the faith, dogmas unknown to Holy Tradition, born of arbitrary deductions of the logic of Western peoples. From this root comes the initial division in the very basic principle of Western religious doctrine, from which first developed Scholastic philosophy within faith, then the Reformation in faith, and finally, philosophy outside faith. The Scholastics were the first rationalists; their progeny are called Hegelians.
However, the orientation of Western philosophies differed according to the various religious confessions from which they arose; for every particular confession inevitably assumes a special attitude of reason towards faith which determines the particular character of the thought from which it derives.
The Latin confession separated from the Church Universal as a consequence of a deduction of formal-logical reason which sought a superficial connection of concepts and derived from it its conclusions about their essence. It was only such superficial reason, only this placing of syllogisms above the living consciousness of all Christendom, that could wrest Old Rome from the Church. Having deprived itself of the support of Holy Tradition and the common, unanimous sympathy of the Church, the Latins were compelled to seek support in some sort of theological system. But, since human reason — particularly the rationalistic type — may comprehend the Divine variously, according to each individual’s conceptions, and since the contradictions in theological arguments could no longer be resolved through the inner agreement of the whole Church — visible and invisible, the Church of all ages and all peoples — the unanimity of thought of the Western Christians had to be safeguarded by the external authority of the hierarchy. Thus, external authority, independent of any inner authority, became the ultimate basis of faith. Thus, the relationship between faith and reason assumed a character where reason had to submit blindly to religious doctrine affirmed by the external authority of the hierarchy. I say blindly, because no inner cause could be sought for a given theological opinion when the truth or falsity of opinion was determined by the arbitrary opinion of the hierarchy. Hence, we had Scholasticism, with all its speculative refinements, which sought endlessly to reconcile the demands of reason with declarations of the hierarchy, and in so doing consistently drifted from the demands of reason into a countless multitude of heretical systems and interpretations.
Meanwhile, leaving the ultimate decision concerning Divine truths to the reason of the hierarchy which acted without reference to tradition and the Church Universal, the Latins had to recognise its hierarchy as the source of all truth, and to subject the whole realm of human thought and the whole development of the mind in the field of science and social life to the verdict of the hierarchy. For everything is concerned to a greater or lesser degree with questions of Divine truth, and once the reason of the hierarchy transgressed the boundaries of Divine Revelation, what was to stop it? The example of Galileo is no exception; it expresses the constant law of the general relationship of the Western confessions to human thought. Therefore, the Protestant Revolution was necessary for reason to be rescued from complete blindness or complete absence of faith; it had to grow out of the same principle from which the Latins derived their right to reason’s uniqueness and universal interference. The only difference was this: the right of judgment over Divine Revelation, preserved in the [Western] tradition, was transferred from the reasoning of a temporary hierarchy to the reasoning of all Protestants. Instead of a single external authority equally binding on all, each individual’s conviction became the basis of faith.
This constituted the other extreme of the same deviation from truth. The boundaries between man’s natural reason and Divine Revelation were equally violated by the Latin and Protestant confessions, only in a different manner; thus their respective attitudes towards culture were different. In the former, the basis of faith was tradition subjected to the sole judgment of the hierarchy, which controlled the general development of reason with its arbitrary opinions and endeavoured to compel all thinking into a single arbitrary form. In the latter, all that was left of the tradition was the letter of the Scriptures, whose meaning depended on each individual’s understanding.
These two attitudes were bound to give birth to two entirely opposite intellectual orientations. Under the influence of the Latin confession, the mind had willy-nilly to reduce all its knowledge to one system. The main truth was given, the manner in which it was interpreted was determined, and many features of its relationship to reason were indicated; it remained only to bring the whole system of thought into agreement with the given concepts and to remove from reason everything which might contradict them. In contrast, Protestantism, besides the letter of the Scriptures, had for the guidance of the mind only the individual opinions of the reformers; opinions irreconcilable in their most essential principles: the basic relationship of man to God, the relationship of free will to grace and predestination, and other, similar rational attitudes of faith, were understood by the reformers in an entirely different way from the start. Thus human reason had to seek a common basis of truth outside the traditions of faith — within each individual’s thinking. It was thus necessary that rational philosophy should come into existence: not to develop existing truth further, not to become imbued with it, not to rise to its level, but above all to find it. Besides, not having a single and firm foundation for truth in faith, could man fail to appeal to thought abstracted from faith? The very love of Divine truth compelled him to seek a rational philosophy. If rational philosophy, developing outside Divine Revelation, enticed man into unbelief, the initial blame for this misfortune lies, of course, not with Protestantism but with the Latins, who, having the truth and being a living part of the living Church, deliberately broke away from it.
More concerned with superficial unity and outward dominion over minds than with inner truth, Old Rome preserved the monopoly of interpretation for its hierarchy; it could not act otherwise if it were to avoid dividing into a multitude of contradictory doctrines. The people were not supposed to think, nor understand the liturgy, nor read Holy Scripture. They could only listen without understanding and obey without questioning. They were considered an unconscious mass upon which rested the edifice of the Latin confession and had to remain unconscious in order for it to remain standing. Therefore, almost all independent thought originating sincerely and naturally within the Latin confession necessarily turned into opposition to it, which in turn rejected and persecuted almost all outstanding thinkers. Every stirring of the mind not in accord with the hierarchy’s arbitrary concepts was heresy, for its concepts, stamped with the hierarchy’s authority, officially penetrated all the spheres of reason and life.
In contrast, the Protestant Revolution was instrumental in the development of the intellectual culture of the peoples it rescued from the intellectual oppression of Old Rome, the most intolerable of all oppressions. This constitutes its chief merit: it restored to man his dignity and won for him the right to be a rational being. Nevertheless, there was no strength in this rationalism to steadily sustain it above the natural commonplace level. Torn away from sympathetic relations with the True Church, screened from such relations by Old Rome, the Protestant peoples saw nothing divine around them but the letter of the Scripture and their inner conviction. And, in their joy at being liberated from intellectual bondage, they overlooked the truth in the deified letter of the Scripture: that God not only brought to earth a teaching, but also established a Church to which He promised uninterrupted existence to the end of time; that He established His teaching within His Church, not outside it. Protestants saw nothing save falsehoods and errors between their time and the early Christian centuries. They thought that, despite the promises of the Saviour, the gates of hell had vanquished the Church, that the Divine Church was already dying, and that it was left to them to resurrect it upon the foundation of the Holy Scripture. However, the Holy Scripture, receiving no unanimous interpretation, acquired different meaning according to each individual’s views. Therefore, in order to find a common basis of truth not only in man’s reason in general, but necessarily in that part of reason accessible to every individual, Protestant-inspired philosophy had to limit itself mainly to the sphere of logical [dianoetic] reason, of which every person was equally capable regardless of his inner capacity and constitution. The coordination of all cognitive faculties into a single force, the inner wholeness of the mind essential for the comprehension of the whole truth — this could not be within everyone’s reach. Only reason — relative, negative, logical [dianoetic] reason — could be considered a general authority; it alone could demand from each individual the absolute acceptance of its deductions.
Therefore, we observe that rational philosophy developed almost exclusively in Protestant countries. For what is called French philosophy is, strictly speaking, English philosophy transferred to France when faith was in decline. Although Descartes was French, and though in mid-seventeenth century France almost all thinking people adhered to his system, by the beginning of the eighteenth century it had spontaneously ceased to be the commonly accepted view, so little did it conform to the special nature of the people’s thought. The change which Malebranche wished to make in it had even less stability. Meanwhile, for German thought, Descartes became the fountainhead of all philosophy.
France might have produced its own positive philosophy if Bossuet’s Gallicism had not been limited to diplomatic formality, but had developed more fully, more consciously, with greater inner freedom, and had freed cultured Frenchmen from Old Rome’s intellectual oppression before they lost their faith. The elements of this possible French philosophy were contained in what was common to the convictions of the Port-Royal school and the special opinions of Fénelon. For besides dissimilarities to the official concepts of Old Rome, a feature common to both was that they strove to develop the inner life in its depth and sought the living bond between faith and reason beyond the sphere of external linking of concepts. Port-Royal and Fénelon received this orientation from the same source, from that part of Christian philosophy they found in the ancient Church Fathers and was not included in Old Rome’s teaching.
Pascal’s thoughts could have been a fruitful embryo for this philosophy new to the West. His unfinished work [the Pensées] not only revealed new grounds for the understanding of the moral order of the world, for the comprehension of the vital relationship between Divine Providence and human freedom, but also contained profound suggestions in the direction of a different manner of thinking, differing equally from Latin Scholasticism and rational philosophy. If the sparks of his ideas had united in the common consciousness with those which inspired Fénelon — when, in defence of Guyon, he collected the teachings of the Church Fathers on the inner life — then from the combined flame there would surely have arisen a new, original philosophy which might have saved France from unbelief and its consequences. Of course, such a philosophy would not have been pure truth, since it would have remained outside the Church, but it would have come closer than any rational speculation. However, the machinations of the Jesuits destroyed Port-Royal and its group of recluse-thinkers. With them also perished the nascent, life-giving orientation of their thought. The cold, solemn logic of Bossuet failed to grasp what was vibrant and warm in Fénelon’s deviation from the official thought of Old Rome, and with self-satisfaction [Bossuet] invoked papal authority to compel him [Fénelon] to renounce his cherished convictions out of respect for papal infallibility. In this manner, France’s indigenous philosophy was stillborn, and educated French society, demanding some sort of intellectual relaxation, had to submit to Voltaire’s raucous laughter and to the laws of an alien philosophy, which was all the more hostile to French religious convictions for having nothing in common with them. In England, Locke’s system could still be somewhat reconciled with faith, under which it grew up; but in France, it assumed a destructive character and, passing from Condillac to Helvetius, destroyed the last vestiges of faith by its dissemination.
Thus, among those nations whose intellectual life was subject to the papacy, an indigenous philosophy was impossible. But, meantime, the growth of learning demanded thinking capable of comprehending and assimilating it. Between the thriving science of the world and the formal faith of Old Rome, lay a chasm the thinking Latin had to cross with a leap of desperation. Human reason could not always manage this leap, nor was it always in agreement with the conscience of the sincere Christian. Hence, rationalistic philosophy, born in Protestant countries, spread to Latin lands as well, permeating all European culture with one common character, and replacing the former unanimity of faith of the Western nations with the unanimity of abstract reason.
But man’s thought did not arrive at its final conclusion all at once. Only gradually did it cast aside all irrelevant data, finding them insufficiently reliable for the basic affirmation of the original truth. Initially, its activity split in two directions. Among Romance nations, which by their historical character strove to combine inner self-consciousness with external life, arose an empirical or sensuous philosophy, starting with separate observations and moving to general conclusions, deducing all the laws of being and thinking from the order of external nature. Among Germanic nations, which as a result of their historical distinctiveness bore within themselves the constant sense of the separation of external and inner life, arose the desire to deduce laws for external being from the very laws of reason. Finally, both philosophies merged into one intellectual view based on the identity of reason and being, developing out of this identity the form of thought which encompassed all other philosophies as separate rungs of an unfinished ladder leading to the same goal.
However, deriving from the totality of Western European culture and accommodating the general result of the intellectual life of Western Europe, contemporary philosophy, like all contemporary European culture, in its last flowering has been completely severed from its roots. Its conclusions have nothing in common with its past, towards which it maintains an attitude not of a culminating, but of a destructive force. Entirely independent of its past, it now appears as a new indigenous element and is birthing a new epoch in the intellectual and social life of the West. It is still very difficult to determine the true nature of its effect on European culture, for its characteristic influence is just beginning to be discerned; its ultimate fruits are concealed in the future.
Moreover, this new system has dominated earlier European philosophical convictions too briefly to give us the right to think its fundamental assumptions and its dialectical thought-process are the exclusive property of our time. In the general life of humanity, recent philosophy is not as new as is generally assumed. It is new for modern history, but for human reason in general it is familiar, and hence, the future consequences of its supremacy over the minds of men have already been more or less indicated. For the same spirit of thought dominated the educated world several centuries before the birth of Christ. Aristotle’s basic views — not those attributed to him by his mediaeval interpreters, but those which emerge from his works — are identical with Hegel’s views; and the manner of dialectal thinking which is ordinarily deemed the exclusive characteristic and particular discovery of Hegel was, even in the days of Aristotle, the unmistakable attribute of the Eleatic school. This is so true that, when we read Plato’s Parmenides, it seems that in the words of the student of Heraclitus we are listening to the Berlin professor himself, arguing that dialectics is the chief function of philosophy and its real goal. He sees in it a miraculous force which transforms every determinate thought into its antithesis, and from this he produces a new definition. He makes abstract notions about being, non-being, and becoming the foundation of the thinking process which embraces all being and knowledge. This is why the difference between the new and ancient philosophers is neither in the basic point of view attained by reason, nor in the special manner of thought discovered by the former, but entirely in the ultimate completeness of the former’s systematic development and in the wealth of intellectual acquisitions which man’s curiosity has managed to amass in the course of his two thousand year search. Now, reason stands on the same level — not higher — and perceives the same truth, not a more distant one. Only the contours of the horizon are clearer.
The Western mind seems to have a special kinship with Aristotle. Appreciation for his thought goes back to the birth of Western European culture. However, the Scholastics utilised his system merely as the groundwork for a new truth not directly derived from it, but taken by them from tradition. When, with the Renaissance, Aristotle’s unlimited authority declined, it seemed all appreciation of him would be forever lost. Europe celebrated its liberation from him with a certain enthusiasm, as a great and redeeming event for the human mind. Hegel travelled a different road, which stood outside Aristotle’s system, but nevertheless came to a meeting point with him, both in his final conclusion and regarding the relationship of the mind to truth. He constructed another system, but as Aristotle himself would have constructed it if Aristotle could have been reborn in our time and if, without changing the level on which human reason stood in his day, he could simply reduce present-day problems of thought to his point of view. Hegel’s pupils, replacing Aristotle’s terminology with their own, recognised in his system the faithful though incomplete reflection of their teacher’s system. The voice of the modern world echoed the world of the past.
Classical Greek philosophy originated not directly from Greek religious beliefs, but under their influence and parallel to them; it arose from their inner disagreement. The inner disagreement of faith necessarily led to abstract reasoning. Abstract reasoning and the tangible and active diversity of the contradictory teachings of faith, standing in essential opposition to each other, could be reconciled in the Greek mind only in the contemplation of the beautiful, and perhaps in the hidden meaning of the mysteries. That is why the Greek sense of the beautiful stands between the tangibility of Greek mythology and the abstract reasoning of Greek philosophy. To the Greek, the beautiful was the focus of all intellectual life. The unfolding of the meaning of the beautiful, one might say, comprises the whole essence of Greek culture, both inner and outer. But the limits of its development were contained in the very nature of the beautiful: the growth of one of its elements meant the destruction of the other. To the extent that reasoning developed, mythological faith weakened, and Greek beauty withered with it. For the beautiful, like the true, disappears in abstraction when it does not rest on the essential. Rising on the ruins of [mythological] beliefs, philosophy undermined them and thereby destroyed the creative wellspring for the development of Greek culture. Philosophy, initially the expression of Greek culture, at the stage of its full development became the contradiction of that culture, and though it still bore the outward signs of mythology, it actually had its own independent existence. It was born in and grew from Greek concepts, but in its maturity it became the legacy of mankind as the separate fruit of reason, maturing, and eventually separating from its natural root.
It may be said that the dominance of pagan beliefs over human thought came to an end with the last phase of Greek culture, not because believing pagans were no more, but because advanced culture now stood outside the limits of pagan faith, transforming mythology into allegory. Only cultural laggards (who were consequently impotent) could remain pagan; but as they developed they fell under the dominance of philosophy.
From this negative view, in the history of mankind, Greek philosophy appears to have been useful in educating the mind, freeing it from the false teachings of paganism and, through intellectual guidance, bringing it to that neutral condition in which it became capable of accepting a higher truth. Philosophy prepared the soil for Christian seed.
But, between the time of Aristotle and the general submission of world culture to Christian teaching, many centuries elapsed, during which many different and contradictory philosophical systems nourished, consoled, and disturbed man’s reason. Few of these systems, however, were characterised by extremes; in general, culture grew out of what was common to the extremes, out of middle ground. Between the Stoics’ virtuous pride and the Epicureans’ sensual philosophy, between the alluring heights of the lofty mental constructions of the Neoplatonic school and the unfeeling, implacable, all-uprooting plough of scepticism, stood Aristotle’s philosophy, to which men’s minds constantly returned from extreme deviations, and which cast the logical snares of its impartial system into the most biased forms of thought. This is why it may be said that, whereas in the ancient pre-Christian world there were several different philosophies and several mutually contradictory sects, the vast majority of thinking humanity and all of culture’s moral and intellectual power belonged to Aristotle. Precisely what influence did Aristotle’s philosophy have on culture and the moral dignity of man? The solution of the problem is important, and not only for past history.
It would seem the clearest and briefest answer to this question may lie in the moral and intellectual mood of the centuries when this philosophy dominated. The Roman citizen at the time of the emperors bore the living stamp of its principles. For the ultimate meaning of any philosophy lies not in individual logical or metaphysical truths, but in the relationship in which it places man with respect to the ultimate truth he seeks — in the inner imperative to which the mind imbued with it turns. Every philosophy in the final stage of its development produces two results, or, more correctly, a single result with two aspects: the total product of thought and the preponderant imperative which derives from this product. The latter truth, which sustains the mind, points to the treasure which man will seek in science and in life. At the end of a philosophical system, between its primordial truth and its cherished goal, is not thought possessing a specific formula, but only, so to speak, the spirit of the thought, its inner power, its sacred inner music which accompanies all the stirrings of the soul of the man convinced by it. This inner spirit, this living force, is characteristic not only of higher, mature philosophical systems. A philosophical system belongs in the academic domain, but its power, its ultimate imperative, concerns the life and culture of all mankind.
However, one must admit Aristotle’s philosophy, when it did not serve to support an alien system but acted independently, had a very lamentable influence on mankind’s culture, an influence in direct contrast to the influence it exerted on its first student, the great conqueror of the Orient [Alexander the Great]. The striving for the better within the limits of the commonplace, for the reasonable in the everyday sense of the term, for the possible as determined by external reality, were the final conclusions of the kind of rationality suggested by Aristotle’s system. There was but one pupil who did not find these teachings to his liking; all others found them perfectly congenial. It seems the more Alexander listened to them, the more energetically he developed his own original ideas antithetical to them — as if in defiance of his teacher’s counsel. It may even be that without the stimulus of prudent mediocrity, all the extremism of his imprudent genius would not have developed. But the remainder of humanity submitted to the influence of dry and abstract philosophy all the more willingly, because, in the absence of loftier convictions, the tendency towards the mundane and prudently commonplace automatically becomes the predominant characteristic of the moral world.
Aristotle’s system broke the wholeness of man’s intellectual self-consciousness and transferred the root of man’s inner convictions from the moral and aesthetic sphere into the abstract thought of rationality. The means by which it sought to know the truth were limited to the logical activity of the intellect and to the detached contemplation of the external world. External existence and the expressible verbal aspect of thought constituted the only data from which it derived whatever could be derived by the logical concatenation of concepts, and one must admit it derived from them all that could be derived in this manner at the time. In Aristotle’s view, reality was the complete embodiment of supreme reason. All the discord in the physical and moral world was only imaginary, and not only was lost in the total harmony, but actually provided essential tones for its eternally changing diapason. In his opinion, the world never had been nor ever would be better. It had always been sufficiently beautiful, for it had no beginning and would have no end. It would remain eternally whole and unchanged in its totality, while constantly changing and experiencing destruction in its parts. But he conceived this integral and satisfying world in the cold system of abstract unity. He saw the highest good in thought which comprehends this unity through the diversity of individual phenomena accompanied by an external life of contentment and tranquility, i.e., physical and intellectual comfort.
Aristotle said that only when man’s worldly needs are satisfied can he begin to love wisdom, whereas the Stoics were convinced that only wisdom can free man from worldly wants and burdens. In Aristotle’s opinion, virtue does not demand the highest realm of existence, but consists in finding the golden mean between evil extremes. Virtue derives from two sources: from the abstract deductions of the mind (which, being abstract, lend no strength to the spirit and have no essential compulsory force), and from habit (which is partly the product of the abstract wish to reconcile will and the dictates of reason, and partly arises from the accidental nature of external circumstances).
Obviously, this pattern of thought could produce very intelligent spectators among human beings, but only extremely insignificant men of action. In fact, Aristotle’s philosophy had a destructive effect on man’s moral dignity. By undermining all convictions which existed above the level of dry and abstract logic, it destroyed all motivations capable of elevating man above his personal interests. The spirit of ethics declined and the mainsprings of inner originality weakened. Man became the obedient tool of surrounding circumstances, the deliberating but unwilling result of external forces, intelligent matter obedient to the power of mundane motives: personal advantage and fear. The few examples of Stoic virtue are rare exceptions, striking contrasts to the general frame of mind, which confirm rather than deny the notion of the general absence of inner independence. For Stoicism could arise only as an intense contrast, a depressing protest, and a desperate consolation for the few in the face of the knavery of the many. Nevertheless, even those thinkers who did not exclusively follow Aristotle, and who only studied his system, unconsciously introduced the results of his teaching into their understanding of other philosophers. Thus, Cicero, in the struggle between the ruin of his fatherland and his own personal safety, sought justification for his pusillanimity in Plato. However, he only saw in Plato that meaning in accord with Aristotle. Thus, he consoled himself with the thought that Plato did not counsel useless resistance to force and intervention in the affairs of a senile people. Moral insignificance was generally stamped on everyone, and if, in the time of the Caesars, with the complete decline of man’s inner dignity, external culture had been even more highly developed, if there had existed railroads and electric telegraphs and peksany [a type of artillery], and all the other discoveries which now subject the world to the authority of heartless calculation, it is difficult to say what would have become of poor humanity.
Such was the influence of ancient philosophy, primarily Aristotelian philosophy, on human nature. There was no salvation for man on earth. God alone could save him.
However, Christianity, which altered the spirit of the ancient world and resurrected the lost dignity of man’s nature, did not unconditionally reject ancient philosophy. For the harm and falsehood of philosophy lay not in the development of the mind it produced, but in its final conclusions, which depended on the fact that it considered itself the highest and only truth, conclusions eliminated as soon as the noetic faculty recognised a superior truth. In Christianity, philosophy took a subordinate position, appearing as a relative truth; serving as the means for the confirmation of the highest principle in the realm of a different culture.
Although engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the falsehood of pagan mythology, Christianity did not destroy pagan philosophy; rather it took it and transformed it in accordance with its own superior knowledge. The brightest lights of the Church — Justin, Clement, Origen (insofar as he was Orthodox), Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, and most of the great Holy Fathers upon whose work, so to speak, Christian teaching became established in the midst of a pagan culture — not only were thoroughly versed in ancient philosophy, but utilised it for the rational construction of the first Christian gnosiology, which combined the development of science and reason into an all-embracing vision of faith. The true part of pagan philosophy, pervaded with the Christian spirit, was the intermediary between faith and external human culture. Not only while Christianity was still combating paganism, but in the whole subsequent existence of the East Roman Empire, we see that thorough study of the Greek philosophers was the common legacy of almost all Church teachers. For Plato and Aristotle could only be of use to Christian culture as great scholars; they could not endanger it as long as Christian truth occupied the summit of culture. For it should not be forgotten that, in its struggle with paganism, Christianity did not concede superiority in knowledge to it, but, permeating paganism, placed in its own service the whole intellectual activity of the world, past and present, to the extent to which it was known.
If there was any danger that a Christian people might deviate from the true teaching, the danger lay primarily in ignorance. The growth of rational knowledge, certainly, does not offer salvation, but guards against false knowledge. It is true that where the mind and heart have once been permeated by Divine truth, there the degree of learning becomes a side issue. It is also true that consciousness of the Divine is equally compatible with all stages of rational development. But, in order that Divine truth might permeate, enliven, and guide man’s intellectual life, it must subordinate external reason to itself and dominate it, not remain outside its sphere of action. Divine truth must stand above other truths in the general consciousness as the sovereign principle pervading all culture. For each separate Divine truth must be supported by the like-mindedness of cultivated society. Ignorance, by contrast, keeps minds from vital intellectual interchange through which truth among men and nations is sustained, advanced, and enlarged. An ignorant mind, even when accompanied by the most righteous convictions of the heart, gives birth to irrational jealousy, from which in turn springs the deviation of both mind and heart from true convictions.
Such was the case of the West before its defection. The ignorance of the peoples exposed their intellectual life to the irresistible influence of the lingering traces of paganism, which communicated to their thought the rationalistic nature of Old Rome’s superficial logical abstractness; this deviation of reason in turn compelled them to seek superficial unity in place of spiritual unity. Ignorance also enticed them into excessive jealousy of the Arians, so that, not satisfied with the rejection of the heresy, they created a new theological dogma of the Godhead [the Filioque] in direct opposition to the Arians under the influence of this same superficial logical thought — a dogma they regarded as true only because it was the direct opposite of one form of heresy, forgetting that the direct opposite of an error is generally not the truth, but only the other extreme of the same error. Thus, as a result of the Western peoples’ ignorance, their very striving for church unity divorced them from unity, and their very striving for orthodoxy caused them to break away from orthodoxy.
Of course, it was not ignorance alone that caused the West to separate from the Church. Ignorance is only a misfortune. Humanity could not be torn from saving truth without moral guilt. But the possibility and the basis of this guilt lay in ignorance; without it, even the popes’ love of power could not have succeeded. Only through the combined action of papal love of power and the ignorance of the people could the illegal addition to the Symbol of Faith come to pass; and this initial triumph of rationalism over faith, together with the unlawful recognition of the supremacy of the popes, is the permanent obstacle to the return of the West to the Church. But, having broken away, the Latin confession descended, as though sliding down a smoothed mountain slope, to all those deviations which continuously increased its alienation from the truth and produced all the destructive features of Western culture with all its consequences for itself — and for us. I say
for us, for the fate of all mankind is in a state of living and sympathetic reciprocity, not always noticeable, but real nevertheless. The defection of Old Rome deprived the West of the purity of Christian teaching, and, meantime, halted the development of culture in the East. What should have been accomplished through the combined efforts of East and West was now beyond the power of the East alone, which was thus condemned only to preservation of Divine truth in its purity and holiness without opportunity to embody it in the external culture of nations.
Who knows? Perhaps this external impotence of the East was destined to continue until another people, a nation enlightened by true Christianity, would grow and mature in place of declining Old Rome, when the West was separating from the East. Perhaps this nation was destined to arrive at intellectual maturity just when Western civilisation, by virtue of its own development, would destroy the power of heterodoxy and would pass from false Christian convictions to indifferent philosophical convictions, returning the world in due course to pre-Christian thought. For Christian heterodoxy is less capable of receiving the truth than a doctrine from which Christian conviction is entirely absent. In the latter case, there would exist at least the external possibility of true Christianity gaining supremacy over human culture. For there is no doubt that all actions and endeavours of private individuals and nations are subject to the unseen, barely audible, and often completely imperceptible current of the general moral order of things, which sweeps before it all general and particular activity. But this general order of things consists of the concert of personal wills. There are moments, there are situations, when the state of things is, so to speak, in balance and a single movement of the will can determine its direction.
The West faced such a situation at the time of its defection. For, although popular ignorance weighed heavily upon the actions of the popes, there is no doubt that the firm and decisive will of one of them at that time might yet have overcome the error of the people and might have preserved truth in the West. There was such a fateful moment, a moment in which the Lord seemed to place the fate of the whole world in the hands of one person. Had he been firm in the truth, the world would have been spared centuries of errors and misfortunes. Peoples would have developed in sympathetic communion of faith and reason, jointly destroying pagan remnants in the mind of man and in the life of society. The East would have given the West the light and strength of intellectual culture, the West would have shared with the East the development of public life; and everywhere culture would have been established upon the firm rock of Divine Revelation. The best spiritual forces would not have been wasted in useless upheavals, with the new evil of destruction demolishing the old evil of false construction. The flower of the nations’ manhood would not have perished from the deadly incursions of alien barbarians or from the unchecked oppression of internal pagan violence, which continued to triumph over the culture of the Christian peoples. Social life, developing harmoniously, would not have destroyed earlier acquisitions with every new success and would not have sought the ark of salvation in the mundane calculations of industry or in the starry-eyed construction of utopias. Universal civilisation does not rest on a dream or on an opinion, but on truth itself, which affirms it harmoniously and steadfastly. All this depended on one moment and was perhaps in the power of one man. But that man did not stand firm, and Western culture, deprived of sympathy for the Church Universal, was directed towards earthly goals. The Church in the East, incapacitated by the violence of still predominant paganism and deprived of the aid of its Western brethren, took refuge in the monastery.
Incidentally, it appears there was still another moment, in the sixteenth century, when the Western world could have returned. The writings of the Holy Fathers, brought from Greece after its fall, opened the eyes of many Europeans, showing them the difference between Christian teaching and that of Old Rome. Meanwhile, the abuses of the Latins reached such tremendous proportions that the peoples became clearly convinced of the necessity of reforming [what they perceived to be] the Church. But how to accomplish this reform, no one had yet been able to decide.
I am now studying the papal decrees, Luther wrote to Melanchthon,
and I find so many contradictions and so much falsehood that it is beyond my power to believe they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that we were to base our faith on them. After this, I shall take up the study of the Ecumenical Councils and will see whether the teaching of the Church should not be affirmed upon them in conjunction with the Holy Scripture (certainly bypassing the papal decrees).
If Luther had only remembered that fully one half of the world calling itself Christian recognised seven Ecumenical Councils, not sixteen [as did the Latins], and that this half of the Christian world was innocent of the Latins’ abuses which agitated his soul with righteous indignation, then perhaps, instead of composing a new confession according to his personal notions, he might have turned directly to the Church Universal. He might have still done this, because the convictions of the Germanic nations had not yet led them to a final decision, except to hatred of the pope and the desire to escape the arbitrary rule of Old Rome. All the nations which he had roused would have followed him, and the West could have again been united with the Church, especially since the remnants of the Hussite movement were one of the most important causes of Luther’s success, and the Hussite movement, as is well known, was imbued with recollections and reflections of the Orthodox Church [e.g., the Hussites did not use the Filioque in the Creed]. However, Luther refused to remind himself of the Orthodox Church, and studied not only the seven Councils, but all those the Latins called Ecumenical. As a result of this comparison, he wrote to Melanchthon:
I have been studying the definitions of the Councils. They also contradict each other like the papal decrees. It is obvious we have no choice but to take as the basis of faith the Holy Scripture alone.Thus, the Protestant Revolution was accomplished; its fate decided by a misunderstanding, whether deliberate or unwitting, God alone knows. When, in the seventeenth century, the Protestants addressed to the Eastern patriarchs an enquiry about faith, it was too late. Protestant opinion had already solidified and were aflame with all the heat of new convictions and new, untested hopes.
In mentioning these relations between the beliefs of an entire people and the accidental nature of the moral arbitrariness of private individuals, we are not deviating from our subject. On the contrary, we would obtain a false impression of the development of human thought if we separated it from the influence of moral and historical chance. There is nothing easier than to represent every fact of reality as an inevitable result of supreme laws of rational necessity, but nothing would so distort the actual understanding of history as these imaginary laws of rational necessity, which are actually only laws of rational possibility. Everything must have its own measure and its proper place. Of course, every moment in the history of mankind is the direct consequence of the preceding moment and in turn gives birth to the moment that follows. But one of the elemental forces of these moments is man’s free will. Failure to recognise this is to deliberately deceive oneself and substitute the external symmetry of the concept for the actual knowledge of the living truth.
From these two moments in the life of Western Europe — when it could have reunited with the Church but did not only because of the accidental action of human will — we see the culture of Western Europe, although completely different from Orthodox culture, is, nevertheless, not quite as far from it as it first appears. In its very essence lay the necessity of separate periods of development, between which it was free from preceding influences and therefore was capable of choosing between orientations.
If, however, at the beginning of the Protestant Revolution, two solutions were possible, after its full development there was no longer any way out except the one actually taken. Constructing the edifice of faith on the personal convictions of the people is like building a tower according to the notions of each worker. All that was common to believing Protestants were certain distinctive beliefs held by their first leaders: the literal reading of Holy Scripture, and natural reason, upon which the teaching of faith was to be erected. Today, one would hardly find many Lutheran pastors who would agree on everything in the Augsburg Confession, although when ordained, all promise to accept it as the basis of their religious doctrine. Natural reason, upon which Protestantism was to be affirmed, outgrew the faith of the people. Philosophical concepts increasingly replaced, and are still replacing, religious concepts. Passing first through the period of doubting unbelief, then through the period of fanatical unbelief, man’s thought finally went over to indifferent unbelief and together with it to the consciousness of an inner barrenness and the search for a living conviction, something which would bind man to man, not by means of cold agreement on abstract convictions, not through superficial connection of external advantages, but through inner sympathy of an integral existence pervaded by one love, one reason, and one aspiration.
But where can the West find these living convictions? To return to what it formerly believed is impossible. Forced conversions, artificial faith — these are like the attempts of some lovers of the theatre to convince themselves that theatre sets are reality itself.
Having shattered the wholeness of the spirit, and having left the highest awareness of truth to detached logical [dianoetic] thinking, man lost in the depth of his self-consciousness all connections with reality, and himself appeared on earth as an abstract being, as a spectator in the theatre, capable of equal sympathy, love, and aspiration for all things only on condition that he was free from anxiety and physical suffering. For the only thing his logical abstractness did not allow him to do was repudiate his physical being. Therefore, not only was faith lost in the West, but also poetry, which in the absence of living convictions became transformed into a barren amusement; and the more exclusively poetry sought imagined pleasure alone, the more tedious it became.
Only one serious thing was left to man, and that was industry. For man, the reality of existence survived only in his physical person. Industry rules the world without faith or poetry. In our time, it unites and divides people. It determines one’s fatherland; it delineates classes; it lies at the base of state structures; it moves nations; it declares war, makes peace, changes mores, gives direction to science, and determines the character of culture. Men bow down before it and erect temples to it. It is the real deity in which people sincerely believe and to which they submit. Unselfish activity has become inconceivable. Industry has acquired the same significance in the contemporary world as chivalry in the time of Cervantes.
Incidentally, we have not yet witnessed everything. One may say we are seeing only the beginning of the unlimited domination of industry and of the recent phase of philosophy. Proceeding hand in hand, they have yet to run the full course of the modern development of European life. It is hard to see what European culture may come to if some sort of inner change does not occur among the European peoples. It is obvious this possible transformation could consist only of a change in basic convictions, or, in other words, in the change of the spirit and orientation of philosophy, for this transformation now constitutes the entire focus of human self-consciousness.
But, as we have seen, the character of the dominant philosophy depends on the character of the dominant faith. Philosophy may not derive directly from faith; it may even be in contradiction to faith; but it is still born of the peculiar orientation of mind given it by the peculiar character of faith. The same intelligence which enabled man to understand the Divine also serves him in the understanding of truth in general.
Under the influence of the Latin confession, this intellect found expression in logical rationality which, however, acted only sporadically; it lacked the capacity to create its own unity, for the wholeness of its activity was destroyed by the intervention of external authority. Under the influence of the Protestant confessions, this rationality reached complete development in its separateness and, conceiving itself supreme in the completeness of its development, called itself
reason(die Vernuft), in contrast to its former fragmentary activity, to which it left the term
But for us, brought up outside the Latin and Protestant spheres of influence, neither manner of thinking could be completely satisfactory. Although we submit to Western culture — for we do not yet have our own — we can submit to it only as long as we are unaware of its one-sidedness.
In the Church, the relationship between reason and faith is completely different from their relationship in the Latin and Protestant confessions. The difference is this: in the Church, Divine Revelation and human thought are not confused. The boundaries between the Divine and the human are transgressed neither by science nor by Church teaching. However much believing reason strives to reconcile reason and faith, it would never mistake any dogma of Revelation for a simple conclusion of reason and would never attribute the authority of revealed dogma to a conclusion of reason. The boundaries stand firm and inviolable. No patriarch, no synod of bishops, no profound consideration of the scholar, no authority, no impulse of so-called public opinion at any time could add a new dogma or alter an existing one, or ascribe to it the authority of Divine Revelation — representing in this manner the explanation of man’s reason as the sacred teaching of the Church or projecting the authority of eternal and steadfast truths of Revelation into the realm of systematic knowledge subject to development, change, errors, and the separate conscience of each individual. Every extension of Church teaching beyond the limits of Holy Tradition leaves the realm of Church authority and becomes a private opinion — more or less respectable, but still subject to the verdict of reason. No matter whose this new opinion might be, if it is not recognised by former ages — even the opinion of a whole people or of the greater part of all Christians at a given time — if it attempts to pass for a Church dogma, by this very claim excludes itself from the Church. For the Church does not limit its self-consciousness to any particular epoch, however much this epoch might consider itself more rational than any former. The sum total of all Christians of all ages, past and present, comprises one indivisible, eternal, living assembly of the faithful, held together just as much by the unity of consciousness as through the communion of prayer.
This inviolability of the limits of Divine Revelation is an assurance of the purity and firmness of faith in the Church. It guards its teaching from incorrect reinterpretations of natural reason on the one hand, and, on the other, guards against illegitimate intervention by Church authority. Thus, for the Orthodox Christian it will forever remain equally incomprehensible how it was possible to burn Galileo [Kireyevsky apparently confused Galileo with Giordano Bruno] for holding opinions differing from the opinions of the Latin hierarchy, and how it was possible to reject the credibility of an apostolic epistle on the ground that the truths it expressed were not in accord with the notions of some person or some epoch [a reference to Luther’s rejection of the Epistle of James].
But the more clearly and firmly the limits of Divine Revelation are defined, stronger is the urgency for believing thought [noesis] to reconcile the concept of reason with the teaching of faith. For truth is one, and striving for the consciousness of this unity is the constant law and the basic stimulus of rational activity.
The more free and more sincere believing reason is in its natural activities, the more fully and more correctly it aspires towards Divine truth. For the thinking Orthodox Christian, the teaching of the Church is not an empty mirror which reflects the features of each personality; it is not a Procrustean bed which deforms living personalities according to one arbitrary yardstick; it is rather the highest ideal towards which believing reason alone can aspire, the ultimate limit to the highest kind of thought, the guiding star which burns on high and, reflected in the heart, illumines the path to truth for reason.
But, in order to bring faith and reason into accord, it is not enough for the thinking Orthodox Christian to construct rational concepts in accordance with the tenets of faith, selecting the appropriate, excluding the offensive, and thus ridding reason of everything which contradicts faith. If Orthodox thinking consisted of such a negative approach to faith, the results would have been the same as in the West. Concepts irreconcilable with faith deriving from the same source and in the same manner as those compatible with it would have an equal right to recognition. Thus, the same painful dichotomy would occur in the very basis of self-consciousness and would sooner or later unavoidably deflect thought from faith.
But the main difference in Orthodox thinking is precisely this: it seeks not to arrange separate concepts according to the demands of faith, but rather to elevate reason itself above its usual level [move from dianoetic to noetic thinking], thus striving to elevate the very source of reason, the very manner of rational thinking, to the level of sympathetic agreement with faith.
The first condition for the elevation of reason is that man should strive to gather into one indivisible whole all his separate faculties, which in the ordinary condition of man are in dispersion and contradiction; that he should not consider his abstract logical [dianoetic] faculty as the only organ for comprehending truth; that he should not consider the voice of enraptured feeling, uncoordinated with other forces of the spirit, as the faultless guide to truth; that he should not consider the promptings of an isolated aesthetic sense, independent of other faculties, as the true guide to the comprehension of the supreme organisation of the universe; that he should not consider even the dominant love of his heart, separate from the other demands of the spirit, as the infallible guide to the attainment of the supreme good; but that he should constantly seek in the depth of his soul that inner root of understanding where all the separate faculties merge into one living and whole vision of the mind [integral knowledge].
And, for the comprehension of truth in this union of all spiritual faculties, the mind should not bring the thoughts present before it to a sequence of separate judgments by each individual faculty, attempting to coordinate their judgments into one common meaning. But, when the whole vision of the mind is complete with every movement of the soul, all its strivings should be heard in full accord, blending into a single, harmonious sound.
The inner consciousness, which forms the common life-forces in the depth of the soul for all the separate faculties of reason, is hidden from the usual state of the human spirit, but is accessible to the person who seeks it and is worthy of attaining the highest truth. Such consciousness constantly elevates man’s very manner of thought and, whilst humbling his rational conceit, does not constrain the freedom of the natural laws of his reason. On the contrary, inner consciousness strengthens his independence and, meanwhile, willingly subordinates it to faith. Then he looks on all thinking emanating from the highest source of rationality as incomplete and, therefore, erroneous knowledge — knowledge which cannot serve as the expression of the highest truth, although it might be useful in its subordinate position and might sometimes even be a necessary step on the way to other knowledge which stands at a still lower level.
That is why the free development of the natural laws of reason cannot be harmful to the faith of the thinking Orthodox Christian. He might be contaminated by unbelief, though only if his external indigenous culture were inadequate. He could not arrive at unbelief through the natural development of reason as thinking people of other confessions have done. His basic notions about faith and reason guard him against this misfortune. To him, faith is not a blind notion which is in the state of
faithonly because it has not been developed by natural reason, and needs to be elevated by reason to the level of rationality and broken down into its constituent parts as evidence there is nothing specifically in it which cannot be found could not be found without the help of Divine Revelation in natural reason. Neither is faith an external authority alone, before which reason is compelled to become blind. It is, rather, an external and an inner authority simultaneously; the highest wisdom, life-giving for the mind. The development of natural reason serves faith only as a series of steps, and going beyond the usual state of the mind, faith thereby informs reason that it has departed from its original natural wholeness, and by this communication, instructs it to return to the level of higher activity. For the Orthodox believer knows the wholeness of truth needs the wholeness of reason, and the quest of this wholeness is his constant preoccupation.
In the presence of such a conviction, the entire chain of the basic principles of natural reason [dianoia] which can serve as the point of departure for all possible systems of thought is below the reason of the believer [noesis], just as in external nature the whole chain of organic life is below man, who is capable of an inner consciousness of God and prayer at all levels of development. Standing on this highest level of [noetic] thought, the Orthodox believer can easily and harmlessly comprehend all systems of thought deriving from the lower levels of reason; he can see their limitations and their relative truthfulness. However, for the lower form of thought, the higher is incomprehensible and appears nonsensical. Such, in general, is the law of the human mind.
This independence of the basic thought of the Orthodox believer from lower systems which might reach his mind is not the exclusive possession of learned theologians, but is, so to speak, in the very air of Orthodoxy. No matter how undeveloped the reasoning faculties of the believer are, every Orthodox person is conscious in the depths of his soul that Divine truth cannot be embraced by considerations of ordinary reason and that it demands a higher spiritual view acquired through inner existence, not through external erudition. That is why he seeks true contemplation of God where he thinks he can find a pure whole life which would assure him the wholeness of reason and not where academic learning alone is exalted. That is why instances are very rare of an Orthodox believer losing his faith solely as a result of logical arguments capable of changing his rational concepts. In most cases, he is enticed, rather than convinced, by unbelief. He loses faith not because of intellectual difficulties, but because of the temptations of life, and he brings in rationalistic considerations only to justify the apostasy of his own heart to himself. Later, his unbelief becomes fortified by some sort of rational system which replaces his former faith, so that it then becomes difficult for him to return to faith without first clearing the way for his reason. But, as long as he believes with his heart, logical reasoning is harmless to him. For him there is no thought separated from the memory of the inner wholeness of the mind, of that point of concentration of self-consciousness which is the true locus of supreme truth, and where not abstract reasoning alone, but the sum total of man’s intellectual and spiritual faculties stamps with one common imprint the credibility of the thought which confronts reason — just as on Mount Athos each monastery bears only one part of the seal which, when all its parts are put together at the general council of the monastic representatives, constitutes the one legal seal of the Holy Mountain.
Therefore, there are always two activities combined in the thinking of the Orthodox believer. Following the development of his own understanding, he meantime follows the very manner of his thinking, constantly striving to elevate reason to the level at which it can be in sympathy with faith. Inner consciousness, or sometimes only a vague awareness of this ultimate limit which is being sought, is present in every exertion of his reason, in every
breathof his thought; and if, at any time, the development of an original culture in the world of the Orthodox believer is possible, it is thus obvious that this peculiarity of Orthodox thought deriving from the special relationship of reason to faith must determine its predominant orientation. Only such thought could, in time, liberate the intellectual life of the Orthodox world from the distorting influences of alien culture and also from the suffocating oppression of ignorance, both equally odious to Orthodox culture. For the development of thought giving a particular meaning to all intellectual life, or, even better, the development of philosophy, is determined by the union of the two opposite ends of human thought, the one wedded to the highest questions of faith and the one where philosophy touches on the development of the sciences and external culture.
Philosophy is neither one of the sciences nor faith. It is both the sum total and the common basis of all sciences and is the conductor of thought between them and faith. Where there is faith but no development of rational learning, philosophy cannot exist. Where science and learning have developed but there is no faith or where faith has disappeared, philosophical convictions replace convictions of faith and, appearing in the form of prejudice, give direction to the thought and life of a people. Not all who share philosophical convictions have studied the systems from which they derive, but all accept the final conclusions of these systems, so to speak, on faith that others are correct in their convictions. Resting on these mental prejudices on the one hand, and stimulated by the problems of contemporary learning on the other, human reason gives birth to new philosophical systems corresponding to the mutual relationship between established prejudices and contemporary culture.
But where the faith of a people has one meaning and one orientation whilst the learning borrowed from another people has a different meaning and different orientation, one of two things must happen: learning will force out faith, giving rise to appropriate philosophical convictions, or faith, overcoming this external learning in the thinking consciousness of the people, will produce its own philosophy from contact with it, which will give a different meaning to external learning and will endow it with a different dominant principle.
The latter occurred when Christianity appeared in the midst of pagan culture. Not only science, but pagan philosophy was transformed into an instrument of Christian culture and was incorporated into the body of Christian philosophy as a subordinate principle.
As long as external culture continued to exist in the East, Orthodox Christian philosophy flourished. It was extinguished when freedom died in Greece and Greek culture was destroyed. But traces have been preserved in the writings of the Holy Fathers like living sparks ready to flare up at first contact with believing thought and again to ignite the guiding beacon for reason in search of truth.
Yet, restoring the philosophy of the Holy Fathers as it was in their time is impossible. Having grown out of the relationship of faith to their contemporary culture, it had to correspond to the problems of its own time and to the culture in which it developed. Development of new aspects of systematic and social learning also demands a corresponding new development of philosophy. But the truths expressed in the speculative writings of the Holy Fathers could serve the development of philosophy as a life-bearing embryo and a bright guiding light.
To counterpoise these precious and life-giving truths to the contemporary state of philosophy; to become imbued with their meaning as much as possible; to consider all questions of contemporary culture in relation to them, all logical truths acquired by science, all the fruits of the millennial experiences of reason acquired in its diverse activities; to derive general conclusions from all these considerations corresponding to the present demands of culture — here is a problem whose solution could change the whole orientation of the culture of a people where the beliefs of the Orthodox faith are in disagreement with a borrowed culture.
The satisfactory solution of this great problem demands the concerted action of like-minded people. A philosophy which does not wish to remain purely academic and without influence, and which must become living conviction, must also develop from the living interaction of convictions striving for the same goal in various ways but with unity of purpose. For everything essential in man’s soul is the result of social forces. Personal conviction must then encounter the problems of surrounding culture not in theory but in reality. For only out of real relationships with reality are thoughts kindled which illuminate the mind and warm the heart.
Even so, in order that we may understand the relationship which the philosophy of the ancient Church Fathers might have to contemporary culture, it is not enough to apply it to the requirements of our time. It is necessary to keep constantly in mind its connection to its contemporary culture to it in order to be able to distinguish what is essential in it from what is only passing and relative. At that time, the extent of the development of science and the character of its development were not the same as they are today, and the things that agitated and disturbed man’s heart were not the same as those that agitate and disturb man today.
The ancient world found itself in an irreconcilable contradiction with Christianity, not only when Christianity was struggling with polytheism, but even when the state called itself Christian. The world and the Church were two opposite extremes which in essence were mutually exclusive, although outwardly they tolerated each other. Paganism was not destroyed with the coming of monotheism. It flourished in the structure of the state; in the laws; in the selfish, callous, coercive, and cunning Roman government, among officials insolently venal and openly deceitful; in the law courts, which were manifestly corrupt and capable of disguising flagrant injustice as formal legality; in the mores of the people, immersed in venality and luxury; in the Roman customs and games — in a word, in the sum total of the social relations of the Empire. Constantine the Great recognised the government as Christian, but he was not able to reform it in the Christian spirit. Although physical martyrdom ended, moral martyrdom remained. The legal and public recognition of Christian truth was a great achievement, but the embodiment of this truth in the structure of the state required time. If Constantine’s heirs had been pervaded by the same sincere respect for the Church, the East Roman Empire might perhaps have become Christian. Instead, its rulers were for the most part heretics or apostates who oppressed the Church under the guise of protection, using it only as an instrument of their own power.
Meanwhile, the very composition of the Roman Empire was such that it was hardly possible for its governing authority to renounce its pagan character. Rome represented a state authority in an abstract form. Below the government there were no people whose expression it might have been, with whom it could have been in sympathetic relations for the better development of the state’s life. The Roman government constituted the external and oppressive link between many different nationalities who were alien to one another in language and, additionally, whose interests conflicted. The strength of the government rested on the equilibrium of national animosities. The people were held together by force, but they were not united. Every expression of public and local spirit which is the food and sustenance of public morality, was repugnant to the government. The various peoples had their native countries, but the common fatherland had disappeared and could not have been restored except through inner unanimity of thought.
The Christian Church alone remained as the inner, living bond among the people. Only love for the heavenly kingdom united them. Only unanimity of thought in faith led them to a living mutual sympathy. Only unity of inner convictions firmly established in their minds could have led them in time to a better life on earth. This is why the longing for unanimity of thought and spirit in the Church constituted the full expression of the love of God, love of humanity, love of the fatherland, and love of truth. Between the citizen of Rome and the son of the Church, there was nothing in common. Only one possibility for social action remained open to the Christian, and that consisted of complete and unconditional protest against the world. The East Roman Christian could save his inner convictions only by sacrificing his public life. He achieved this by accepting martyrdom and by fleeing into the desert, by shutting himself up in the monastery. The desert and the monastery were, one might say, almost the sole area for the Christian moral and intellectual development of man. For Christianity, instead of avoiding intellectual development, incorporated it into itself.
As a result of this state of affairs, problems of the cultural life of the time could not be of social character; hence philosophy had to limit itself to the development of the inner contemplative life. Similarly, it could not embrace an interest in history, which rests on an interest in public matters. Moral issues affected philosophy only to the extent to which they were related to the inner life of the isolated individual. It was almost oblivious to man’s external life and the laws of development of family, civic, public, and state relations. Although the general principles of these relations are to be found in the general philosophical concepts of man, they did not lead to systematic conclusions. Perhaps general moral concepts — the less interference there was by transitory, worldly influences in monastic life — were the more purely and profoundly revealed in the isolated intellectual life of the monasteries. But the inner purity and depth did not have that completeness of external development which another epoch and another state of external culture would have demanded of them.
In the questions of the inner contemplative life of those times, however, and in the problems of the socio-philosophic culture of our day, there is a common element: human reason. The nature of reason, considered from the eminence of a profound theology experienced in the highest development of inner, spiritual contemplation, manifests itself in an appearance entirely different from which it presents itself when limited by the development of external everyday life. Of course, its general laws are the same. But when reason is elevated to its highest level of development, it displays the new aspects and new faculties of its nature which shed new light on its general laws as well.
The concept of reason which has been elaborated in recent philosophy, and whose expression is to be found in the Schellingian-Hegelian system, would not unconditionally contradict the concept of reason which we notice in the works of the Holy Fathers if only it did not present itself as the highest instrument of cognition, and if, as a result of this pretension to the highest power of cognition, it did not limit truth to that aspect of cognition which is accessible only to this abstractly rational manner of thinking [dianoetic].
All false deductions of rational thought result from its pretension to the highest, complete cognition of truth. If it recognised its limitations and saw itself as one of the tools for cognition of truth — and not as the only one — it would present its deductions as provisional and referent solely to its limited point of view; it would anticipate other, supreme, and most truthful deductions from another, supreme and most truthful manner of thinking. Rational thought is accepted in this sense by the thinking Christian who, rejecting its ultimate results, can with greater benefit to his mental development examine its relative truth and accept as the lawful achievement of reason everything that is true and enlightening in the development of its speculations, however one-sided.
If, however, philosophical reason realised its limitations, it would, through its development within these limitations, adopt another orientation capable of leading it to fuller knowledge. But, awareness of its limitations would mark the death of its absolute authority. That is why it has always feared this realisation, the more so as it has always been close to it. It constantly altered its forms in order to avoid it. No sooner would its inadequacy be understood than it would evade this misunderstanding by mainfesting itself in another appearance, leaving its earlier form as a mere empty shell in the hands of its adversaries. Thus, in order to avoid charges of inadequacy, it passed from formal-logic proofs to experiential observations on the one hand, and to the inner consciousness of truth on the other, and called its earlier manner of thought dry and rationalistic, and its later — rational. But, having also discovered the inadequacy of the new form in the course of its development, philosophical reason referred to it also as dry and rationalistic and proceeded to pure reason. When Jacobi excoriated the narrowness of the theory of pure reason as expressed in the systems of Kant and Fichte, he learnt to his surprise at the end of his lengthy polemics, extending over many years, that everything he had said about reason should be applied to the understanding. The theory of Kant and Fichte proved to be rationalistic. The development of reason was to begin only with the system of Schelling and Hegel. In 1802, pointing to Schelling’s system, Hegel wrote,
Only now could, strictly speaking, the philosophy of reason begin, for the cycle of development of rationalistic understanding came to an end with Fichte’s system.
Thus, reason, as understood by most recent philosophy, does not wish to be confused with logical understanding contained in the formal concatenation of concepts and impelled by syllogistic deductions and proofs. According to the laws of intellectual necessity, reason in its latest manifestation derives its knowledge not from abstract notions, but from the very root of self-consciousness, where existence and thought are united into one absolute identity. Its thinking process consists not of logical development set in motion by abstract speculations, but of dialectical development deriving from the very essence of the subject. The object of thought, confronting the mind’s eye, transforms itself from form to form, from concept to concept, constantly acquiring a more nearly complete meaning. And as the mind concentrates on the subject of its thought, it discovers in it an inner contradiction destroying its former concept. This contradictory, negative concept confronting the mind also reveals its bankruptcy and discovers in itself the necessity of a positive foundation latent in it, which now appears as the union of the positive and negative categories into a single complex (the concrete). But this new concept in turn scarcely appears to the mind as the final result of understanding, when, in this pretension to ultimate independence, it now reveals its inadequacy and displays its negative side. This negative side once again brings out its positive, which is again subjected to the same transforming process until the whole cycle of the dialectical development of thought is completed, progressing from the initial principle of consciousness towards a general and pure abstraction of thought, which constitutes at the same time general essentiality. Then, by the same dialectical process, consciousness is given full content by the entire development of being and thought, [which are understood] as the identical phenomenon of a realised rationality and self-conscious essentiality.
But, having said its last word, philosophical reason at the same time furnished the mind with an opportunity to realise its limitations. The same dialectical process which had served reason in the construction of its philosophy was subjected to the same disintegrative assumptions, whereupon it showed itself to rational consciousness as solely the negative aspect of knowledge, comprising possible truth only, not actual truth, and standing in need of another form of thinking — which would be the positively known, not the hypothetically known, and which would stand above logical self-development just as the really occurring stands above the merely potential.
This consciousness of the limitations and the unsatisfactory character of the latest expression of philosophical thought now constitutes the highest stage of the intellectual development of the West. This is not the opinion of dilettantes in philosophy, not the outcries of people attacking philosophy from some tangential motivation; it is not even the judgment of people like Krause and Baader, who with their penetrating philosophical thought did much to help in the development of recent philosophy, but who did not command sufficient authority over men’s minds for their protest against its absolute truthfulness to be able to change the direction of philosophical development — they acted powerfully in another field which lies unseen between science and life, but none of them founded a special school of philosophy.1 The one-sidedness and unsatisfactory nature of rational thinking, and of most recent philosophy, as its fullest manifestations, were recognised and expressed with obvious and irrefutable clarity by the same great thinker [Schelling] who was first to create the latest philosophy and to elevate, according to Hegel’s confession, rational thought from formal calculation to essential rationality.
For the latest German philosophy is attributable to Schelling as much as to Hegel. It was begun by Schelling and was confirmed in its new foundation and developed in many of its separate elements by him, and he shared with Hegel the introduction of it into the general consciousness of Germany. Hegel, who was long reckoned a pupil and follower of Schelling, is responsible for the more detailed development of recent philosophy that embraces all branches of science and represents the completion of a system founded on an allegedly scientific basis. Schelling could the more clearly recognise the limitations of this philosophy because it was his own thought.2
Schelling’s authority and, even more, the obvious justice of his views with respect to the limitations of rationality, visibly shook the absolute confidence in the deductions of most recent philosophy in Germany and was one of the factors which accounted for the growing indifference to philosophy. Of course, there are still Hegelians, and they will exist for a long time, for the whole character of contemporary culture is in tune with their orientation. But when thought, at the very peak of its development, has acknowledged its inadequacy, a new orientation is possible. The majority making up the crowd may, for a long time, continue to hold obsolete views, but the conviction of the crowd cannot restore the earlier spark of confidence. The celebrated Erdmann calls himself the “last Mohican” among Hegel’s pupils. New celebrities in the field of philosophy are no longer to be seen, and they are hardly possible any longer.
But Schelling’s last system could not yet have an influence on men’s minds, because it combines in itself two antithetical aspects, one of which is almost certainly true, while the other is almost certainly false. The first, the negative, shows the inadequacy of rationality; the second, the positive, presents the structure of a new system. But these two aspects lack essential cohesion; they may be separated from each other, and perforce will be separated. Then the negative influence of Schelling’s thought will be incomparably stronger. Once he was convinced of the limitation of autonomous thought, and of the necessity of Divine Revelation preserved in tradition, and simultaneously of the necessity of living faith as the supreme rationality and as the essential element of cognition, Schelling did not deliberately turn to Christianity, but came to it naturally through the profound and correct development of his rational self-consciousness. For the possibility of the consciousness of man’s basic relationship to God lies in the very core of human reason, and in its very nature. Man’s thoughts may hover in abstract oblivion of its basic relationships only if it has broken away from this vital profundity or if it has failed to reach it. By virtue of his innate genius and the extradordinary development of his profound philosophical thought, Schelling is one of those beings who are born not once in centuries, but once in millennia.
But, in his search for Divine Revelation, where could he find its pure expression corresponding to his rational need for faith? A Protestant from birth, Schelling was, nevertheless, so sincere and conscientious in his inner convictions he could not fail to see the inadequacies of Protestantism, which rejected the tradition preserved in the Latin confession. He often expressed this view, with the result that, for a long time, rumours were rampant in Germany that he had gone over to the Latins. But he also clearly saw in the Latin confession the confusion of true and untrue tradition, of the Divine and the human.
Heavy must be the lot of the man who languishes in the grip of an inner thirst for Divine Truth, and who cannot find the pure religion which can satisfy this all-pervasive need. He has only one alternative: to seek out and obtain with his own powers from the confused Christian tradition whatever corresponds to his inner notion of Christian truth. A lamentable task — creating a faith for oneself!
Here, Schelling was guided not by speculative considerations alone, whose inadequacy he so clearly recognised. In addition to [studying] the Holy Scriptures, he sought support for his thought in the actual consciousness of God of all mankind, to the extent to which it preserved the tradition of the pristine Divine Revelation to man. In the mythology of ancient peoples can be found traces of a Revelation which, although distorted, had not been lost. The fundamental relationship of early man to God appeared in every nation in a peculiar, circumscribed form as humanity became divided into different groups in accordance with the branching out of the various peoples. This peculiar form of God-consciousness determined the very character of a people. But, inside all these more or less distorting limitations, there remained the unchangeable, permanent features of the general essential nature of Revelation. The agreement between these general inner, basic principles of each mythology, and the basic principles of Christian tradition, expressed for Schelling the pure truth of Divine Revelation.
Such a view of the history of human beliefs could be an extremely rich source from which Christian thought might draw, if the preliminary stages of that thought already rested on a firm foundation. But the vagueness of the preliminary conviction and the vagueness of the inner meaning of mythology, subject to the more or less arbitrary interpretation of the investigator, were the reasons why Schelling’s Christian philosophy was neither Christian nor philosophy. It differed from Christianity in its most fundamental dogmas, and from philosophy by the very manner of cognition.
Moreover, whilst asserting actual truth based not on abstract speculation, but on thought imbued with faith, Schelling paid no attention to that special character of the inner activity of reason which constitutes the essential attribute of believing thought. For the form of rational activity changes in accordance with the level to which reason is elevated. Although reason is one, and its nature is one, its forms of action are different, just as its deductions are different depending on the level on which it finds itself, and on the force which impels it and guides it. For this impelling and animating force derives not from thought confronting reason, but arises from the very inner condition of reason and moves towards thought, in which this force finds its rest and through which it is communicated to other rational beings.
This inner nature of reason ordinarily escapes the attention of Western thinkers. Being accustomed to abstract logical thinking where all knowledge depends on the formal development of the object of thought and where the whole meaning is absorbed by that inexpressible aspect of thought, they do not pay attention to the faculty of the soul which transcends the formal nature of logical concatenations, and which accomplishes the movement of thought and constantly accompanies it, being suspended, so to speak, above the expression of thought and communicating to it meaning incompatible with external definition and results independent of external form. Hence, Schelling sought the expression of religious dogmas in the writings of the Holy Fathers, but did not appreciate their speculative concepts of reason and the laws of higher cognition. Hence, the positive side of his system, lacking the inner character of believing thought, found little sympathy in Germany and finds even less in Russia. Russia might be enticed by the logical systems of alien philosophies which are still new for her, but with respect to the philosophy of the believer she is stricter than other European countries, having lofty examples of religious thought in the ancient Holy Fathers and in the great sacred writings of all times, not excluding the present. On the other hand, the negative aspect of Schelling’s system, embracing the inadequacy of rational thought, could scarcely be so impartially appraised in Germany, which is accustomed to its abstract and logical thought pattern, as in Russia where, after the initial youthful enthusiasm over an alien system, the Russian can return more easily to essential rationality, particularly when this essential rationality is consonant with his historical uniqueness.
Therefore, I believe German philosophy, in combination with the development which it received in Schelling’s last system, could serve us as the most convenient point of departure on our way from borrowed systems to an independent philosophy corresponding to the basic principles of ancient Russia culture and be capable of subjecting the divided culture of the West to the integrated consciousness of believing reason.
- Holibeus [Chalybäus] cannot be included in the category of philosophers opposed to the latest orientation of philosophy. For, although his principles are basically somewhat at variance with Hegel's view of the general laws of reason, these differences do not remove him from the sphere of rational, abstract thinking. Görres, who was one of the most celebrated followers of Schelling, and who went over from philosophy to faith, also could not exert any influence on the general development of the mind because his transition was accomplished not as a result of the correct development of consciousness, but as a result of his personal peculiarity and of extraneous influences.
- In his history of philosophy, Hegel indicates several differences between his system and Schelling's, but these differences belong to that period of Schelling’s philosophy when his thought had already begun to take another direction – which, incidentally, Hegel himself mentions. The only difference between Schelling’s first system and Hegel’s system is to be found in the method by which the basic thought is expounded. That inner contradiction of thought which Schelling presents in the combined manifestation of the two polarities and of their identity appears in Hegel in the consecutive movement of consciousness from one definition of thought to its antithesis. With respect to intellectual intuition of which Schelling spoke and which was not encompassed by Hegel's system, it may be said that it had no essential significance in Schelling’s first system either. Schelling mentions it, but he does not develop it. This was only a harbinger of the future direction of his thought.