Father Pavel Florensky Monism Pavel Florenskii Russia Russian Culture and Thought Russian Orthodox theology Russian philosophy Russian thought Tselostnost'

Monism in Pavel Florenskii’s Thought — Excerpt from the Working Paper ‘Tselostnost’

by Gordon M. Hahn

The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming ‘Working Paper’ to be entitled approximately “Tselostnost’: Perceptions and Aspirations Regarding Integrality in Russian Thought, Culture, and Politics. The first part of this paper covers monism or ‘monist tselostnost‘ from Orthodox Christianity in Kievan Rus’ to philosophical idealism in 19th century Russia. Below is the working paper’s introduction, which provides the paper’s working definitions and an excerpt on monism in Pavel Florenskii’s thought.


Some two decades ago historian Richard Wortman published a journal article and then book chapter examining the role of the concept of unity or integrity (tselost’) in Russian political culture, concluding that Russia had a unique propensity to focus on unity. The study focused for the most part on territorial integrity and countering ethinic and religious divisions and somewhat less on the unity of power and authority in the person of the sovereign autocrat.[1] A group of Russian scholars critiqued Wortman’s journal article, and their comments were included in Wortman’s book at the end of the journal article-based chapter, raising some important issues. First, they noted, unity or integrity needs to be defined and categorized methodologically. In Wortman’s treatment was tselost’ “an instrument of contemporary scholarship,” “some original concept with historically fixed meanings that would evolve over time,” an “element of legal discourse, a cultural category, an ideological construct,” what precisely? Second, they suggested that study of the concept in pre-Petrine Russia “with its specific vision of wholeness” was in order. Comparatively, they asked: “How idiosyncratic was the concern of indivisibility and cohesion to the Russian empire?”[2] Wortman replied that tselost’ in his usage was a “cultural category” of “representation of the monarchy,” “one element of the political culture of Russian monarchy,” and “a principal symbol that infused the thinking of the monarch and his state elite.” Tselost’ was “more than a legal term” becoming a “a good in itself”[3] and took on a “sacral character…that lent it moment and significance, which may not have characterized other systems.” Wortman asks: “(I)n which (other states) did (tselost’) arise as a principal goal and symbol that address an ongoing problem, and persist from era to era?”[4] In sum, both Wortman’s article/chapter and the Russian comments point to the value of further research and elaboration on the hypothesis of an aspect in Russian culture we might tentatively label tselost’.

Some scholars, both Russian and non-Russian, have suggested and partially demonstrated a unity value, norm and/or aspiration in Russian culture and political culture. It might have been called ‘sobornost’, a religious form of communalism or wholeness posited by Russian thinkers in the pre-Soviet period or a new proletarian ‘kollektivizm’ promoted and supposedly extant in Soviet times. Sometimes these ideas refer to Russians’ prioritizing the interests of the family, group, enterprise or working collective, and nation over the individual and one’s own personal preferences and aspirations. Collectivity is said to trump (though does not necessarily eliminate entirely) individuality. Unity has been seen in and/or aspired and sometimes coercively applied to society (Orthodox sobornost’, communism’s elimination of class and ethnonational distinctions), state-society relations, Church-state relations (simfoniya), language (Pavel Florenskii), the world (Dostoevskii’s Russian universalism, Nikolai Berdyaev’s “world soul”), the universe (Russian cosmism), mankind and God (Vladimir Solovev’s “Man-God”), and God and all creation (‘all-unity or vseedinstvo).

This proposed ‘value’ or norm of unity can be interpreted as either a dominant strain in Russian thought and culture or when aspirational as a recessive strain in the same by which some Russians attempt to overcome a historical duality created by Russia’s eternally partial Westernization. The great American historian of Russian culture, James H. Billington, noted the role of the West in Russia’s persistent schism: “The Russian response to the inescapable challenge of Western Europe was split–almost schizophrenic–and this division has to some extent lasted down to the present.”[5] Martin Malia observed that “Russian Russia” (as opposed to the Soviet aberration) “since Peter the Great has generally moved toward convergence, however halting, with the West.” When institutions and culture at the divergent Western and Russian poles converge, “the West’s evaluation of Russia tends towards the positive; when these evolutionary paths diverge, Europe’s judgement veers toward the negative.”[6] Moreover, when the West’s assessment of Russia was negative and sometimes when it was not, the West interfered in Russia’s domestic politics, intervened military-politically, or outright invaded. Financing palace coups undertaken by one Russian faction against another, organizing proxy forces and false pretenders to the throne, and invasions by massive, often pan-European armies were among the West’s methods. Such Western action deepened the internal political and cultural divisions about the whether Westernization and closer relations with Western powers were in the country’s interest or constituted an existential security threat.[7]

As a result, Russian culture developed a duality or dual structure. The great Russian culturologist Yurii Lotman applied an interactivity model in theorizing about cultural development and change. For Lotman, national cultures and identities, including Russia’s own, develop not in isolation from, but largely in response to others. The “specific characteristic of Russian culture” at least until the end of the 18th century was its “principal polarity” and structural “dual nature.”[8] More recently, Vyacheslav Morozov concludes from his close reading of post-structuralist sociology and Russian cultural studies (kul’turologiya) that “the redistribution of power between the paired signifiers” – Russia and the West and their respective values – has been the engine of Russian cultural and historical evolution through the ages: “(P)recisely the complicated, ambiguous attitude of attraction and repulsion and the feelings of its own inadequacy and moral supremacy in relation to the West (although not only to it) over the course of centuries has comprised the main driving force of cultural dynamics in Russian society.”[9]

Russia’s polarity and duality evolved around paired opposites at various stages in its historical development: Orthodox Christianity – paganism; Orthodoxy – Catholicism (and to a lesser extent Protestantism); and from the late 17th century on, Orthodoxy – Western secularism and rationalism. In the early 17th century, an already predominantly Orthodox Christian Russia confronted infiltration by Catholicism and to a lesser extent Protestantism, including military intervention, then invasion by messianistic Catholic Poland-Lithuania and Protestant Sweden. This early 17th century conflict posed to Russians the question of whether the West was to function as Russia’s constitutive Other or would displace its Orthodox-based culture and identity. Peter’s refraction of the Western Enlightenment in Russia and his entry of Russia into Europe’s geopolitical great game suggested a choice in favor of the former. Whether one views Peter as the Great Transformer, the Anti-Christ Tsar, or simply the destroyer of the Russian tradition and its organic development – it is almost impossible not to view Peter’s choice as having deprived Russia of identity-formation significantly independent of at least reference, if not displacement to the West as its constitutive Other. Peter’s Westernization introduced a new duality, entrenching both Enlightenment and Orthodox values in the Russian identity and culture. For many Russians held tightly to Orthodoxy as one of the few markers setting themselves off from its constitutive Other’s rationalist religions with their logical proofs for the existence of God and the like. Moreover, the Europe of the Age of Reason and Enlightenment also proffered science and secularism in place of faith and superstition.[10]

During the last, modern period of Russian history, Russia’s turns to the new and rejections of the old coincided with alternating periods of traditionalist ‘pro-pochva’ (Russian native land or roots) and innovationist pro-Westernization sentiment. Beginning from Peter the Great’s displacement of Russian culture and identity by Europe standards, new pairings of Russian/Western antitheses emerged successively: Orthodoxy/secularism, the ‘land’/bureaucracy, peasantry/aristocracy, mysticism/rationalism, Slavophilism/Westernism, bourgeois capitalism/international communism. In several periods, the ruling regime itself promoted Westernism, provoking a Russian backlash. The Russian backlash produced a new metastable condition or ‘thesis’ – one partially old and new –  which again comes to viewed as the ‘old’ and in need of replacement by a new Westernizing thesis – with the West also having developed to something ‘new’ – and so on.[11] Despite the apparent tension and seeming potential for fundamental change, Russia’s dual cultural-identity structure has been “unified,” with limited change occurring only within this shifting but unchanging binary pochva/West structure for over three centuries. As Lotman observed: “Even in the changes (of cultural values), a lack of change (in the dual pochva/West structure) is observed.”[12] In other words, change in Russian culture and identity occur but only within, and in reference to their binary ‘Russia/West’ structure. Could the schizophrenic, dual, binary, bifurcated structure of Russian thought, culture, and identity have included a compensatory cultural strain, value, norm, and/or aspiration to reintegration?

With this hypothesis in mind, I attempt below to address the issues posed by Wortman’s work and his Russian commentators and complete subsequent partial work in this direction done by other Russian and Western scholars by anatomizing and dissecting a multifacted conceptualization of tselost’ or, preferably, tselostnost’. Although these words in Russian (and English) are significantly synonymous, tselostnost’ more than tselost’ in the Russian language denotes and connotes more aspects and concepts of unity, integrity, integrality, monism, and so on. Complete unity of any kind is, of course, impossible to achieve and illusory in any context, more an aspiration in culture and practice, rather tah achievable in the real world. Perhaps more than in most other cultures, Russian culture exhibits a strong inclination to proselytize and attain unity on various levels—the national, the global, and the spiritual. Here, I detail the value and aspiration to tselostnost’ in Russia’s general culture, religious culture, domestic political cultural, and national security culture reflected in such areas as theology, philosophy, literature, and political, economic, and social culture and ideologies.

I examine four basic kinds of tselostnost’ in Russia discourse and aspiration: monism, unity, sobornost’/collectivism, and universalism. I define ‘monism’ as aspiration or assumption in religious theology (Orthodox Christianity) and philosophy, including the truly formal philosophy that emerged in late 19th century Russia. Unity is more of a political concept most relevant to political culture and here is conceptualized as an aspiration or approximation of unity in society, politics, culture, ideology, even economics. Sobornost’/collectivism has political implications here, but it is primarily socio-cultural and centers around the subordination of the individual’s interests and preferences to those of the group, encompassing Russian ideas such as sobornost’, institutions such as the pre-Soviet village obshchina, and Soviet collectivism. Finally, universalism is an aspiration, sometimes informing practice, conduct, and even policy that seeks to increase the influence of one or more of the forms of Russian tselostnost’ to a culture or entity beyond those of Russia: to Slavdom, to the Orthodox world, to the Christian world, to Europe or the ‘West’, to all mankind, to the universe. We will encounter forms of tselostnost’ or the desire for it in Orthodox Christianity as embodied in the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), in the rejection by the ‘Old Believers’ of the ROC in 1666 when the Church attempted to reform ‘absolutes’ in its praxis, in Slavophile communalism, in Autocratic Absolutism, in Marxist-Leninist collectivism, in the dream of universal social justice, unity and brotherhood, in Russian formal philosophy, cosmism, and transhumanism.

It is important to note that the evidence I present for the existence and persistence of Russian monism, unity, universalism, and sobornost’/collectivism comes from Russians across history with a far better understanding of their own culture and the ‘Russian soul’ than the present author and this book’s readers. The 19th century Russian Slavophile philosopher Ivan Kireevskii offered an archetypical articulation of the Russian preference for tselostnost’ in its many aspects in regretting Europe’s “bifurcated spirit, bifurcated thought, bifurcated science” indeed the bifurcation of everything, contrasting it with Russia’s “overwhelming aspiration to integrality of being, internal and external, social and personal, theoretical and the everyday, the artistic and moral.” Kireevskii concluded that Russian culture’s integrality, its flourishing and decay depended on Russians’ spiritual aspirations to moral greatness and believers’ striving for sublime “original integrality.”[13]

Today, political scientist and culturologist Grigorii Tul’chinskii notes the continued prevalence of an aspiration “all-unity” (vseedinstvo) in Russian culture encompassing “cosmism, universalism, and collectivism.”[14] The Russian “cultural experience” in valuing unity, monism, universalism, and collectivism expresses an “all-unity” (vseedinstvo), essentially tselostnost’ or integrality: “an integral worldview and intuition, connected with a tense moral sense.”[15] The idea of “all-unity”, an “aspiration to integrality,” has been a leitmotif of Russian thought and culture from Kievan Rus through Imperal Russia, Slavophile thought (e.g., A. S. Khomyakov amd L. P. Karsavin) to the cosmism of N.F. Fedorov and personalism of N.A. Berdyaev. What might be better called an ‘intuition of tselostnost,’ in which “existence (social existence as well) in its full sense is thought of as perfect unity, a harmonic whole formed from diverse and inter-compatible components.”[16] Below, I address the cultural and intellectual strands of Russian tselostnost’ in some detail and discuss their relationship to other strand in Russian thought and culture such as ‘Russkaya Pravda’, transecendentism, maximalism, messianism, and cosmism.

Monism in Father Pavel Florenskii’s Theology and Philosophy

Father Pavel Florenskii (1882-1937) perhaps more than Russia’s 18th century scientist Mikhail Lomonosov deserves the moniker—Russia’s Leonardo da Vinci. Also, called the ‘Theologian of the Silver Age,’ Florenskii was the author of profound groundbreaking philosophical works, a symbolist poet of Russia’s Silver Age, a professor a Moscow Theological Academy, an astronomist, a mathematician, a physicist, an electrical engineer, author of a history of art, a musician, an inventor, and multilingual (Latin, ancient Greek, a majority of the European languages, and languages of the Caucasus, Iran, and India). Florensky circulated in many of the mystic religious and artistic circles that made the Silver Age: the God-seekers, the Religious Philosophical Society, the the Moscow Mathematical Philosophical Society, the Christian Brotherhood for Struggle, the journal Balans (The Balance), Mir Isskustva, and the Circle of Seekers of Christian Knowledge. He was friendly with Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, his wife Ziniaida Gippius, Grigorii Petrov, Aleksandr Blok, Mikhail Novoselov, and even the eccentric Vyacheslav Ivanov and Vasilii Rozanov, and many other major and minor figures in the Silver Age, the Russian Religious Rennaissance, and the Russian Orthodox Church reform movement at the Moscow Theological Academy, where he studied. For a period, his best friend was the poetic icon of the Silver Age, Aleksandr Belyi, later the God-seeking philosopher Sergei Bulgakov, who wrote a moving obituary to Florenskii’s life. After the revolution, he worked for the Bolshevik regime, doing yeoman’s work in electrification and mineralogy, including in a state-run research institute in Moscow dedicated to experimental electrical engineering, and many of his discoveries gained patents. Arrested and exiled in 1928 to Nizhnii Novgorod, Florenskii was released only to be arrested again in February 1933. In July 1934, he was sentenced to ten years in the Gulag. While incarcerated in the notorious Solovetsk Monastery labor camp, then prison in Russia’s far north, he was allowed to engage in scientific work beneficual to the state. Florenskii discovered a method for making iodine from seaweed. Transferred to a Leningrad prison at the height of the Great Terror in 1937, he was shot in a basement set aside by the NKVD for executions on 8 December of that terrible year.[17]

Except for Florenskii’s focus on defining the separation between Heaven and Earth, his Christian metaphysics and epistomology are imbued with monist tselostnost’. This is nowhere more evident than in his landmark theological and philosophical study Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny (The Pillar and Ground of Truth). For Florenskii and for much of Russian and Eastern philosophy “a basic and characteristic proposition” is that cognition is a two-way and all-integrating act. Echoing the Slavophile philosopher Ivan Kireevskii, he saw a synergistic, spiritual mutual connection, even creation between the cognizer and the cognized through God. “Cognition is the real emergence of the knower from himself or, what is the same, – the real entry of that which is cognized (known) into that which cognizes (the knower), – the real union of the cognizer and the cognized.”[18] Florenskii regarded the perception or representation, symbol, even the name of an object or entity to be that object or entity in different form, a view he derived from Orthodoxy’s belief about icons.[19] The perception of objects therefore became direct intuition or “direct contemplation of living reality as it is in itself.”[20] Every particular entity in Florenskii’s world possesses some form of unity. “(A) thing is characterized through its external unity, that is, through the unity of the sum of (its) attributes, while a person has its essential character in internal unity, that is, in the unity of the activity of self-construction.”[21] Examining contradictions and antonyms using Euclidean geometric formulas to elucidate human reason’s limited ability to know the Truth (Istina) and the Eternal, Florenskii developed a controversial “doctrine of the antonymic nature of Truth.”[22] “Both this and that are true, but each in its own fashion; reconciliation and unity are above reason,” Florenskii argued.[23] An implicit unity is contained in his assertion that a being finds itself through its negation: “‘A’ is in ‘not A’.”[24] Unity could be found only in Love and divine salvation, not reason: “True love is the renunciation of reason.”[25]

Florenskii’s theology reflected a complex, nuanced monism and cosmological integrality. Vseedinstvo was everywhere he looked. The “diversity of the universe, enclosed in unity, indicates a united, free, creative Will.”[26] The source of Truth is unity: “If there is Truth, then it is real rationality and rational reality; it is finite infinity and infinite finiteness, or, – to put it mathematically, – actual infinity; infinite, conceivable as an integral Unity, as a single, complete Subject in itself.”[27] Truth, Good, and Beauty are metaphysically one process, originating from one source: God.[28] For Florenskii, Truth (Istina), defined as action serving God or others, leads to unity, and sin and the absence of truth lead to disunity.[29] Anthropocentric and egoistic action goes against God and destroys unity: “Self-affirmation of the personality, its opposition to God is the source of fragmentation, disintegration of the personality, impoverishment of its inner life; and only love, yes to a certain degree, again brings the personality into unity.”[30] All love – plutonic, familial, and sexual – comes from God.[31] Sin causes the “soul to lose its substantive unity.”[32] “Chastity is simplicity, that is organic unity, or, again, integrity of the personality.”[33] Perversion and an absence of shame are “duality”, “non-unity, non-integrality.” [34] At the same time, sin also has unity if only imaginary in nature: “Sin is unstable in itself. The unity of impurity is imaginary, and the illusory nature of this false unity is revealed as soon as it is forced to come face to face with Good. Uncleanness is one – as long as there is no Pure One, but just the approach of the Pure throws off the mask of unity from it (uncleanness).” [35] “The providence of God and the freedom of creation, being antonyms, constitute one dogma – the dogma of God’s love for creation, which has its basis in the idea of ​​God-Love, that is, of the Divine Trinity.” [36] Bringing reason back in, seemingly, Florenskii regards the study of the “unity of creation” as “the precondition for science.”[37]

In his unfinished work “On the Watersheds of Thought,” Florenskii offers the ultimate statement of Monism in Christianity: “Jesus Christ, an individual, contains in Himself all other individuals, all are in Him, every action of ours, every judgement; the whole fullness of variety of that which was, is and is to come are contained in Him. Everything should be considered from the take-off point of Christ. This is in direct opposition to the Renaissance world view in that it has acknowledged primal metaphysical form as complex, whole, concrete.”[38]

Although Florenskii was critical of aspects of Slavophilism, he echoes its conceptualizations of sobornost’, in particular Khomyakov’s, in the terminology of his own ubiquitous tselostnost’: “Salvation is in consubstantiation (edinosushchii or ‘united essence’) with the Church. The highest, supra-peaceful unity of creation, united by the grace-filled power of the Spirit, is accessible only to those who are purified in triumph and humble. In this way, the ontological essentiality and objective significance of humility, chastity and simplicity are established as super-physical and super-moral forces that make, in the Holy Spirit, all creation the united essence of the Church.”[39] Of course, the unity of God, Creation, Being, and matter is a tenet of Judaism, Christianity as a whole, and even much theoretical physics and other science. Florenskii cites many sources from such predecessors in his ground-breaking Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny and other works. However, there is an all-pervasiveness of the theme of unity throughout Florenskii’s work even in his discussion of secular and non-cosmological issues is striking.

Florenskii was a leader of the mystical religious trend called ‘Name-Worshipping’ or ‘Imyaslavie.’ In Florenskii’s 1909 “The Universal Roots of Idealism” names are treated not as reflections or symbols of reality; they are part of reality or a reality unto themselves: “It is the thing itself. It, therefore, always is a name. The magic of action is the magic of words; the magic of words is the magic of names.”[40] In Orthodoxy theology, the name of God, like any icon, imparts divine energy, theophany, even direct revelation to the observer. The Name-Worshippers extended this concept to all names, which contained the presence of God’s mercy. Florenskii saw not only an interpenetration, interaction and integrality between the cognizer and that which he cognizes but also between symbols and that which they symbolized; thus, the name does not merely represent a thing, “it is the thing itself.” Similarly, the name or symbol became, for Imyaslavie, the different manifestations of one and the same “prime” object they “represent.” In short, the an entity and its name or symbol are integrated, united, whole, one. Florenskii and the ‘Name-Worshippers’ profoundly infuenced a group of Russian mathematicians, who achieved a major breakthrough in mathematical theory in the early 20th century which had stymied the then-world leaders in the field, the French. Thus, even in such a concretely rational science as high mathematics, Russians achieved remarkable success relying heavily on intuition, the “mystical and intuitional approaches connected to a religious heresy, Name-Worshipping.”[41]

Florenskii’s intellectual achievements and approach were rooted in his own, very Russian aspiration to ‘unity.’ He broke new ground in his linkage of religious questions to contemporary physical sciences and formal metaphysical philosophy for the first time. His vision was also typically Russian in its transcendentalism, addressing the “higher realms of being outside the boundaries of the human world.” His particular contributions to Christian philosophy in this regard are his “philosophy of consubstantiality” or integrated human-divine essence, raising for intuivitists like Losskii the research problem of “’personal ideas’ incarnated in angels and the geniuses of different religions.”[42] In response to Florenskii’s work, Losskii proposed developing “a theory about the existence of such superhuman personalities at all stages of the universe’s existence and God’s kingdom.”[43]

If Pyman is correct that Florenskii “was not a natural synthesis,” then he certainly acquired this tendency in profoundly and abundantly. Far outside the realms of religion and philosophy Florenskii found or pursued unity.[44] Married couples and friends became “one.”[45] The cover of a journal, in his view, should integrate the entire “spiritual form” of the entire edition.[46] Florenskii even found integrality in puppet shows: “The chorus of spectators are united by the puppet.”[47] For his unfinished major work, On the Watersheds of Thought, unfinished and another victim of the revolution, Florenskii envisaged a theological-philosophical study that he hoped would amount to a new uniquely Russian philosophy rooted in Russian Orthodoxy. It would be akin to a score of a multivoice symphony or more likely a Russian folk song; its structure he described in his usual monist key: “(E)ach voice more or less improvises yet does not break up the whole but, on the contrary, ties it in more firmly, for the common sound is knitted into one by every performer.” [48]


[1] Richard S. Wortman, The Power of Language and Rhetoric in Russian Political History: Charismatic Words from the 18th to the 21st Centuries (New York and London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019).

[2] Wortman, The Power of Language and Rhetoric in Russian Political History, p. 178.

[3] Wortman, The Power of Language and Rhetoric in Russian Political History, pp. 179-80. Wortman notes as well that although the concept was used in the Hapsburg monarchy, “it did prevent granting autonomy to national areas” or the emperor from conferring authority on a chancellor.” Wortman, The Power of Language and Rhetoric in Russian Political History, pp. 180-1. However, it should be noted that, as Wortman himself references in his article, Poland and Finland had autonomy within the empire. Also, as alluded to by Wortman, power was divided under the new 1906 Fundamental Laws, with some power being transferred from the sovereign to the government and Duma.

[4] Wortman, The Power of language and Rhetoric in Russian Political History, p. 181.

[5] James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture (New York: Vintage, 1970), p. 78.

[6] Martin Malia, Russia Under Western Eyes: From the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 12-13.

[7] Gordon M. Hahn, The Russian Dilemma: The West and the Making of Russia’s Security Culture, unpublished manuscript, available from the author’s archive.

[8] Yu. M. Lotman, “Rol’ dual’nykh modelei v dinamike russkoi kul’tury do kontsa XVIII veka,” in Yu. M. Lotman, ed., Istoriya i tipologiya russkoi kul’tury (St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo – Sankt Peterburga, 2002), pp. 89 and 103.

[9] Vyacheslav Morozov, Rossiya i Drugie: Identichnost’ i granitsy politicheskogo soobshchestvo (Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2009), p. 247.

[10] Lotman, “Rol’ dual’nykh modelei v dinamike russkoi kul’tury do kontsa XVIII veka.”

[11] Lotman, “Rol’ dual’nykh modelei v dinamike russkoi kul’tury do kontsa XVIII veka,” pp. 111-13.

[12] Lotman, “Rol’ dual’nykh modelei v dinamike russkoi kul’tury do kontsa XVIII veka,” p. 90.

[13] I. V. Kireevskii, “O kharaktere prosveshchenie Yevropy”, in I. V. Kireevskii, Estetika i Kritika (Moscow: Isskustvo, 1979), pp. 290.

[14] Grigorii Tul’chinskii, Politicheskaya kul’tura Rossii: Istochniki, uroki, and perspektivy (St. Petersburg: Aleteiya, 2018), p. 71.

[15] Tul’chinskii, Politicheskaya kul’tura Rossii: Istochniki, uroki, and perspektivy, p. 72.

[16] Tul’chinskii, Politicheskaya kul’tura Rossii: Istochniki, uroki, and perspektivy, p. 94.

[17] For a superb and moving English-language biography of Florenskii, see Avril Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia’s Unknown da Vinci (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010).

[18] Pavel Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny: Opyta pravoslavnoi teoditsiei v dvadtsati pis’makh (Moscow: Put’, 1914), p. 73.

[19] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, pp. 74-5 and 324-6.

[20] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 75.

[21] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 78.

[22] Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia’s Unknown da Vinci, pp. 76-7.

[23] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 160.

[24] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 47-8.

[25] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 168.

[26] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 281.

[27] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 43.

[28] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 74-5.

[29] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 159.

[30] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 173.

[31] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 159.

[32] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 174.

[33] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 180.

[34] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 182.

[35] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 183.

[36] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 278.

[37] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 279, see also pp. 280-5.

[38] Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia’s Unknown da Vinci, p. 126.

[39] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 343.

[40] Florenskii as cited in Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 549

[41] Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor, Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 2.

[42] N. O. Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel, 1991).p. 217.

[43] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 220.

[44] Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia’s Unknown da Vinci, p. 41.

[45] Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia’s Unknown da Vinci, p. 87.

[46] Regarding the journal covers, Florenskii wrote: “Even as the seed contains the whole lifecycle of the tree that will grow from it, so the cover should be the seed of the journal. Then it will function as a link between individual articles, allowably quite disparate if published separately, eben polemical. The thought ful observer will see in this the spiritual FORM of the journal in all its many-faceted content.” Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia’s Unknown da Vinci, p. 141.

[47] Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia’s Unknown da Vinci, p. 142.

[48] Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia’s Unknown da Vinci, p. 110.


  1. “Florenskii regards the study of the “unity of creation” as “the precondition for science”

    Theoretical physics is pointed in a direction that possibly backs his assertion up:


    “We discuss a possibility that the entire universe on its most fundamental level is a neural network…” -Vitaly Vanchurin

    I suppose it should not come as a surprise it would be a Russian that would explore physics in this direction. But should it be so shocking if it were to be discovered the Human brain simply mirrored (is an organic model of) the universe?

    But my own take would be the likely related fascination with unity in Orthodoxy has its roots in pre-Christian beliefs (noting the Orthodox church, unlike Rome, did not burn alive everyone manifesting intuitive intelligence resembling pagan beliefs. My observation, living in Serbia, is the Orthodox Serb villager is often pagan in custom if not name.)

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