Monism Russia Russian Culture Russian monism Russian monist tselostnost Tselostnost Tselostnost'

WORKING PAPER: TSELOSTNOST’ in Russian Culture, Politics, and Society (Part I “Monism”, Sections 1-2)


Sections 1-2: Monism from Orthodox Christianity in Kievan Rus’ to the Russian Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment

by Gordon M. Hahn


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 further work in this direction done by other Russian and Western scholars. I do this 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 a broader set of aspects or concepts such as unity, integrity, integrality, monism, and similar terms. Complete unity of any kind is, of course, impossible to achieve and illusory in any context, more an aspiration in culture and practice, rather than 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 spiritual or cosmological, the global or universal, the communal (that of the national and or confessional community), and the sociopolitical. So 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 posit four basic kinds of tselostnost’ in Russian intellectual and cultural discourse either in their extant and/or aspirational manifestations: monism, universalism, communalism (sobornost’/collectivism), and unity (sociopolitical). 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. 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. Communalism, represented by sobornost’ and 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, unity is more of a political concept—a social and political solidarity most relevant to political culture being an aspiration or approximation of unity in society, politics, culture, and ideology.

We will encounter these 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 Autocratic Absolutism, in Marxist-Leninist collectivism, in the dream of universal social justice, unity and brotherhood, in Russian literature, art, formal philosophy, and in intellectual movements such theosophy, Freemasonry, Slavophilism, the idealism and inturionaism of the Russian religious renaissance and philosophical awakening, cosmism, immortalism, futurism, socialism and communism, and contemporary transhumanism. Cultural and intellectual strands of Russian tselostnost’ are discussed in some detail as are their relationships to other strands in Russian thought and culture such as ‘Russkaya Pravda’, transecendentism, maximalism, messianism, and utopianism.

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] 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. The Moscow-born German social philosopher Karl Noetzel (1870-1945) asserted in 1919 that all Russian social movements have the unconscious purpose of rejecting abstract thinking in pursuit of a return to a past, lost, initial integrity or integrality in life experience and sensibility.[14] 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.”[15] 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.”[16] Russian tselostnost’ might can be 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.”[17]


Monism in Kievan and Muscovite Rus’

‘Monism’ is conceptualized here as an aspiration or assumption of existential and spiritual tselostnost’. Russian monism integrality is found in religious theology (Orthodox Christianity), various philosophies, including in formal philosophy that emerged in Russia only in late 19th century, as well as the arts, especially literature. Aspirational monism is a frequently encountered desire or yearning for integrality. At times monism has been treated by Russian thinkers as an accomplished fact. Monist tselostnost’ for the most part was established in Slavic and Russian thought and culture via Byzantine Greek or Eastern Orthodoxy Christianity, in which the unity of God, between God and mankind, and between the Heavenly Kingdom and creation (the universe, the world, nature, and man) were proselytized as a good, a condition of beneficial value to mankind, nature, and all existence.

Russian Theological Monism

For a millennium, Orthodoxy has shaped Russian culture in a myriad of ways, forming the foundation of Russian cultural traditions and guarding or limiting the effect of waves of cultural Westernization, intellectual rationalization, sociocultural differentiation, and cultural secularization. Much of Russian monism has its roots in Christian theology and holy books, in particular the Bible itself. For example, the Bible promises with the second coming “God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Therefore, elements of monism can be found Christianity and Western philosophy. But in Orthodox Christianity, in particular Russian Orthodoxy monism is found at every turn. There is only one true God, and even within the Trinity in the Russian tradition the God the Father supercedes and subsumes the Son, and Holy Spirit pervades both. In canonical chanting, the Holy Trinity is replaced by a Holy Duality with Christ merging with the Father becoming together the Great Sovereign or Lord (Gospod’), Tsar of Heaven (Vladyka Nebesnyi), the All-Possessor (Vsederzhitel’). This stands in stark contrast to the more equal status of the Trinity’s components in Catholicism and Protestantism where the three components of God are separate but united and more co-equal. Russian Orthodox Sunday services usually feature the same prayers and hymns, and any changes are determined by the priest. Worship is a collective rather than individual practice, proceeding in large groups.

The tension between aspirational monism and the material world’s atomization and fractiousness declared itself in pronounced fashion during the Great Raskol of 1666-1667, which saw Russian Orthodoxy split. Dissenting ‘raskolniki’ or schismatics, later called ‘staroobryadtsev’ or Old Believers, rejected changes to the historical unity of Orthodox praxis in its sacraments and prayers.

Monist Cosmology Among the Ancient Slavs and Early Christian Rus’

Central to Russian religious monism was a cosmology envisioning the unity of Heaven with Earth and God with Man. Russian religious theology, as inherited from Eastern Orthodoxy and grafted on to pre-Orthodox pagan beliefs claimed an inevitable, potential or already extant integration of Earth and Heaven. Thus, Russia’s less monist pagan experience came to be overshadowed by the more monist Orthodox Christianity in Kievan Rus and the formation of Russian culture overall.  Kievan Russians first expressed their attraction to Orthodox Christianity in terms of God’s presence on Earth.

Heaven-Earth Unity

Russian pagan beliefs provided perhaps some foothold for Eastern Orthodoxy’s growth of Heaven-Earth and God-Man unity. One of Russian paganism’s central beliefs was the Mother-Earth (Mat’-Zemlya) myth. Russian religious historian Georgii Fedotov noted that like a mother, the Earth, in the sense of soil or pochva in Russian – feeds a person in life and gives rest to a person after death and is the personification of kindness and mercy. “Mother-Earth was supposed to have a spouse – the celestial god of the Sun or the Thunder God,” representing a “marriage of the Earth with Heaven in Russian folklore.”[18] Fedotov suggests that the pagan Slavs’ Mother-Earth may have been their goddess and at one time considered the wife of one mythological ‘Yarilo’ or even their main pagan god, Perun’, the god of thunder.[19]

The 12th century Kievan Rus ‘Primary Chronicle’ relates to us how Kievan Rus prince Vladimir chose the “true” religion for the pagan Russians in the late 10th century. After seeing the lack of “glory” in German houses of worship and then beholding the beauty in Constantinople’s churches, the Russians concluded that there “God dwells there among men” and thus chose Eastern Orthodoxy. Vladimir then agreed to be baptized and began the process of the baptism of the Rus in 988, leading to the conversion of all the Russian principalities over the next few centuries, though not without some persistence of pagan resistance and influences. Encompassing the formative period of Russian Orthdoxy not only in Kiev but across all the pre-Muscovite Russian principalities from Novgorod/Ladoga in the north to Galicia in the south, from Volyn in the west to Murom in the east, Kievan Rus, “Kievan Christianity has the same significance for Russian religiosity that Pushkin has for the Russian artisitic awareness, the meaning of the image, the golden measure, and the heavenly path.”[20] The belief that God could dwell on earth opened the way to a belief in the unity of Heaven and Earth and God and Man.

Kievan Rus’s adoption of Eastern Orthodoxy incorporated elements of the pagan cult Mat’-Zemlya and related fertility rites into the idea of “universal motherhood” in the cult of the Virgin Mary ‘Mother of God’ (‘Bogamater’’, ‘Bozhemater’,’ ‘Bogaroditsa’) so robust in Russian Orthdoxy in comparison with Western Christianity, in particular Protestantism.[21] In this new reading, the Virgin Mary or Mother of God the Son (Bogomater’) was paired not with the land or soil that covers our planet Earth, but the global Earth as a whole. Kievan Rus Orthodoxy likely also grafted on to this pagan element its “classic Orthodox expression” representing the integrality of Heaven and Earth: “Heaven on Earth.”[22] Most clearly was the ‘end times’ Biblical myth of an apocalypse following the three-year rule of the Anti-Christ after which Christ’s second coming would ring in an eternal reign of Heaven on Earth. This integrality was persistently articulated in Orthodox rituals and other practices. In the ‘zhitie’ or biographies of saints from 5th and 6th century Palestine written by Syrians and Egytpians, ancient Rus’ borrowed the beloved definition of a saint: “Earthly angel and a heavenly person.”[23]

Eastern Orthodox icons did not just depict the integrality of Heaven and Earth; they were that integrality. Each icon was not just a representation or image of a saint, Christ, God, the Bogomater’, but the being the actual presence of the Divine and Heaven on Earth. Saints were actually present not only in both their relics but in their icons. Sacraments, sacred rituals and shrines imparted a stream of God’s grace (blagodat’) that purified and made godly a sinful world. “The Church turned into ‘heaven on earth.’ Thus, Heaven became available through material objects in addition to the sacraments and sacred things. “(I)t could not only be seen, but also “inhaled and tasted” through the churches’ and sacramants’ incense, candles, and the kissing of icons.[24] All the sacred painting of the Eastern Church, first embodied in mosaics and frescoes, later in the symbolic row paintings or ‘iconostasis’, can be interpreted, according to Fedotov, as a collection of “both Heavenly and earthly Churches” surrounding the ascending Christ, whose face hovers in the main cupola in Orthodox churches.[25]

In Kievan Rus’ Orthodoxy prominent preachers, such as 11th century bishop of Turov Kirill Turovskii, taught that each Christian must reject and indeed negate the material and sensual world mired in evil by adopting the monk’s life of complete asceticism in order to create the Kingdom of Heaven on this Earth. [26] Such teachings led to Heaven on Earth mythologies, popular among both elites and the uneducated but imaginative peasants, as discussed below. By contrast with this aspirational belief in the merging of Heaven and Earth in Russian Orthodoxy faith and culture, in Hinduism the separation of the divine and Earth are a given and carries no negative denotation or connotation. In some Hindu Vedic poetry, a god is even praised for separating ‘Heaven’ from the Earth.[27]

The zealotry of these early Russian dreams of a Christian world transformation yielded to rethinking over the centuries, leading to the teaching in the later Imperial era Church that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) constituted the Heavenly Kingdom on earth.[28] Over the centuries, the Russian Orthodox integral cosmology of ‘Heaven on Earth’ would help seed Russian soil for the rise of various utopian and messianic dreams.

God-Man Unity

The concept of Christ as the ‘God-Man’ overcomes the bifurcation of God as the divine universal and Man as flesh, as expressed by 21st century Russian philosopher A. P. Davydov, who “equates the aspiration to God with religious practice” or at least the source for the desire for religion.[29] But the idea of the unity of God or gods and Man has a long Russian tradition. Russian paganism saw mankind and man as equal and part and parcel of the natural world, “equal to the animal and plant.” “The fate of a person, an animal or plant merged into a single whole: they live and die together.”[30] With the rise of Kievan Rus’ and its Christianization, nature, God’s creation, is replaced by God in this integral relationship. In pagan times, Slavs also believed that the dead became minor gods, who were powerful enough to protect or harm the living, depending on the deceased’s character and the living’s sacrificial zeal.[31]

The first Russian historical document, the epistle of “Slova o Zakone i Blagodati” (“A Word on Law and Grace”), written in the years 1037-1050 by Kievan priest Illarion (Hilarion), is a panegyric to the unification of mankind in and through Christ with God. Illarion Kievskii’s significance for Russian religiosity and literature is difficult to overstate. He is “unanimously” regarded as the foremost theologian and preacher of both Kievan and Muscovite Rus and “stands at the very springs of original Russian literature.”[32] His prayers and teachings continue to influence Russian Orthodoxy. Illarion’s ‘Word’ was, in Fedotov’s words, “a theological hymn to salvation” on the “national theme interspersed with the great universal-historical picture of God’s redemptive Providence,” vividly expressing the “Russian national spirit.”[33] Illarion’s effort was rewarded by Prince Yaroslav the Wise with his appointment in 1051 as Kiev’s first metropolitan, the first Russian appointed to this post independently from Constantinople and thus uncanonically. Yaroslav’s conflict with Constantinople was a consequence of Kiev being at the apex of its power as well as the rise of a ‘national party’ in Kiev led by Illarion himself. Despite his stature, Illarion soon disappeared from the historical chronicles, and the Russian Church neglected the memory of Illarion as a historical personality, despite his having been one of the first and “most remarkable archpastors.”[34]

The gist of Illarion’s “Word” is that the history of God’s open relationship with mankind is divided into two periods. The first period begins with God’s handing down to Moses the Ten Commandments as the Law by which the world should live. This period ends and the second begins with Christ’s salvation of man through repentance and death on the cross. The second period will culminate with the world’s salvation through the universal acceptance of God’s grace through Christ. Illarion’s ‘Word’ praises the advent to the world of God’s Grace (Blagodat’) through Christ’s sacrifice and Christian faith in a “Single God” and “God United in the Trinity.” “Christ’s Blagodat’ embraced all the earth.”[35] In Illarion’s reading, grace allowed for the universalization of voluntary purity and the attainment of divinity, obviating the need for law and coercion. A seed of later Russian utopian messianism can be discerned in Illarion’s assertion that in the first period God’s chosen people is the Jewish nation, with its emphasis on Jewish law from the commandments handed down to Moses, but in the second God’s chosen people is the Kievan Rus’ and its role as God-bearing and grace-bearing people. As Fedotov notes, in Christian teaching blagodat’, in the sense of God’s help, was available to anyone who fervently entreated God, but “the idea of ​​a special vocation and special gifts was developed in Russia in connection with the national rather than the personal life.”[36] Indeed, as Illarion preached, God’s blagodat’ unites mankind and Russia in a single moment historically speaking: “(A)t a single time all our land glorified Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”[37] In this very monist statement we have a trinity of unities: time, the Russian land, and the Trinity.

Illarion’s other teaching emphasized the theological precept that the divine persons of the Holy Trinity were of common properties—that is, ‘consubstantial’ or ‘coessential.’ Although the Trinity was divided among its components, they and the Trinity as a whole were components of the One God. In Fedotov’s words, Illarion “does not mix the different and does not divide the one: The hypostases, according to Illarion, are one without mixing and are inseparable.”[38]

The continuing embeddedness of Illarion’s teachings in Russian culture can be seen in the fact that his ‘Word’ is still cited as authoritative by Russians on contemporary issues, including secular ones. Historian N. A. Vasetskii, one-time co-author with nationalist-populist leader of the misnamed Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovskii. Vasetskii argues that Illarion’s “Word” is not merely the earliest artifact of “Russian sociopolitical thought and culture” and “determined the basic meaning and values of Ancient Russian civilization,” but as well set the “worldview of the Russian superethnos for a thousand years forward.”[39] In arguing the contemporary neo-Eurasianist and Putin era Russian policy position that U.S. and Western neo-liberal hegemony internationally is undemocratic and a threat to traditional civilizations, in particular Russia’s own, Vasetskii asserts that Illarion’s “Word” introduced the idea of the equality of all nationalities, nullifying the idea of a “chosen people” and by implication any form of messianism. Extrapolating from Illarion’s “purely theological theme,” Vasetskii sees Illarion’s views as an implicit recognition of the righteousness of present-day Russia’s central foreign policy principle or goal: the “multipolarity of the world and civilizations.”[40]

Illarion and his important contemporary, Turov’s bishop Kirill, preached Christ’s unity. Whereas Western Christology regarding Jesus’s incarnation into the world settled on St. Leo’s teaching of Christ’s dual human-divine nature, Eastern and thus Russian Orthodoxy adopted St. Kirill Alexandriiskii’s concept of Christ’s integral, mostly divine essence (Edinosushchnost’), based on the teaching of 8th century Ioann Damaskin, who denied Christ’s human nature. Aleksandriiskii, came to be known as the father of this school of “monophysitism” (monofizitstvo), which often has been regarded as heresy in the West.[41] Thus, Illarion and especially Turovskii rejected Christ’s dual ‘god-man nature,’ emphasizing his integral, divine essence.[42] Thus, Orthodoxy held that a united God through an integral Christ had entered the material world, walking the Earth among mankind.

The reverse process in God-Man unification – mankind’s entry into the divine – can be seen in the Eastern and Russian Orthodox belief in the possibility of any person’s ‘deification’—becoming divine, godly, a saint through mystical contemplation in deep prayer and full-spirited engagement in the sacraments.[43] Those who already lived a life immersed in prayer, sacraments, and asceticism – monks – were equated with angels, since both were “united” by their obedience and selfless service to others.[44] The idea of raising mankind up to the level of God would become a secular philosophical belief in late 19th century Russian philosophical and revolutionary circles.

Muscovite Orthodox Monism

As Billington notes, the most important consequence of the Tatar-Mongol yoke over the divided, almost scattered Russian principalities was a new drive for unity.[45] The lesson that internecine infighting in Kievan Rus and the other Russian lands had brought ruin and subjugation to an infidel force was not lost and sparked a renewed push to unite all the Russias; this time not under Kiev in the southwest but under the new rising force of Moscow in the northeast. These lessons on the importance of unity and the catastrophes caused by disunity accompanied an ascetic monastic revival and Hesychastic theological awakening under the auspices of rising Muscovy. The monastic and Hesychastic movements reinforced Kiev’s Orthodox monism, which in turn complimented the push for national political unity.

In “one of the most remarkable missionary movements in Christian history,” some 150 new monasteries were established in and around Moscow and hundreds of miles to its east and north during the century following the early 13th century founding of the St. Sergius (Radonezh) Monastery in Zagorsk just outside of Moscow. The monastic expansion reached the islands of the White Sea with the founding of the famous Solovetsk Monastery in 1436 and the foot of the Ural Mountains. These monasteries were seen as “transitory places in man’s pilgrimage toward the Second Coming” that would united divine and material existence and became shrines because of the miracles attributed to their founding saints’ relics and remains.[46] Icons of the leader of this grand post-Mongol monastic movement and awakening, St. Sergius Radonezh, depicted him taming wild animals and foretold not just the Christian prophecy of the resurrection of the dead and universal salvation in Christ but a cosmological transfiguration of creation’s material being into the Kingdom of God. The monastic movement also produced a deluge of biographical ‘zhitie’ or lives of the saints, many of which foretold a unifying transfiguration of Heaven and the cosmos. The great hagiographer of the age, Epaphanius the Wise, wrote a panegyric to St. Sergius that established him as the “builder of Russia.” Famous for his humility (smirenie) and holiness (svyatost’), Radonezh became a mediator among warring princes in Moscow’s east, played a key role in Moscow’s rise to leadership among the Russian principalities, and by sending two monks to lead the troops and providing resources from his Zagorsk monastery Radonezh helped spark Moscow’s victory over the Mongols in the famous 1380 Battle at Kulikovo Field. Russians saw this victory as God’s intercession on behalf of fervent Christians over the Mongol-Tatar ‘infidels.’[47]

The influence of Eastern Hesychasm in 14th century Russia was a less vibrant reflection of the aspiration to unity with God present in ideas of the Earth’s transfiguration into, or unification with Heaven and Man’s divination through blagodat’ made possible by Christ’s incarnation into the human world. It proposed the possibility of an individual’s (and potentially all of mankind’s) direct contact with God through “inner calm” (hesychia) through silent prayer and the strictest asceticism (including fasting, darkness, holding of breath, and repentance). Purification was no longer thought to be achievable by the sacraments and distracting verbal prayer and was seen even to hinder communion with God. In this system, the intermediation of clergy and the Church’s hierarchical system became less central, even superfluous.[48] Through hesychia, a “true” monk, it was thought, could “gain a glimmer of the coming transfiguration of the cosmos” on his own.[49]

Under this influence, the new monasteries were founded. Devoted strictly to work and prayer, they were organized on a communal basis, presaging the social communalism of the peasant obshchina, communalist sobornost’, and Soviet collectivism, all discussed in later chapters. Monastic elders’ authority often exceeded that of the hegumen (leader of a small monastery) and archimandrite (leader of a large monastery) by virtue of their spiritual ‘energy,’ evidenced by their firm control over their physical desires, human emotions, and “spiritual clairvoyance,” all acquired by many years of asceticism and prayer. Such figures stood at the vanguard of the Orthodox community’s “accumulation of spiritual energies,” the new monasticism’s main task. These energies were thought to spread to the area around the monasteries where these holy monks wandered, becoming island sanctuaries of divinity that needed to be expanded across the sea of unclean forces on Earth in anticipation of the transfigurational second coming.[50] Thus, the Hesychastic idea of the material world’s divine transfiguration – the Earth or cosmos made Heaven – became linked with the millennial idea of the second coming of Christ, soon fostering end times prophecies.

Heavenly Cities

Religious songs in this period told of “’the communal church all transfigured’ atop a mountain,” recalling Greece’s Mt Athos.[51] This belief that there existed or the aspiration to establish ‘a shining grad (city) on a hill’ – a local transfiguration of the world – gave birth to several relevant myths and projects. Whether the mythical city of “Kitezh,” “New Jerusalem,” “Heavenly Grad,” or the “Kingdom of Heaven” on Earth, the idea was the same: the Unity of Heaven and Earth, God and Man, the spiritual and material bringing divine Utopia. The legend of the invisible city of Kitezh comes from an ancient chronicle of the same name written by an unknown author. The legend holds that the “shining” city fell undamaged to the bottom of Lake Svetloyar not far from Nizhnii Novgorod at the time of the first Mongol invasion in the late 1239 brought upon the Russians by God for their sins. Kitezh’s construction and history are tied by the author to several Orthodox saints, and the timing of the city’s descent into the lake waters saved it and its inhabitants from the “great crying” in other Russian cities under the Tatar yoke. Thus, the chronicle professes the sanctity of Kitezh and its inhabitants. “(G)uarded by the hand of God,” sunken Kitezh “became invisible through the prayers and requests of those who worthily and righteously fall before Him and who will not see the grief and sorrow brought by the beast-antichrist.”[52]

Similar myths of a secret or constructed ‘holy’ or ‘heavenly grad’ became widespread in 15th to 17 centuries. These myths culminated in the idea of a ‘New Jerusalem,’ embodied in the 17th century monastery of the same name, which proposed that all life would become a holy liturgy of worship and exaltation of God as in Heaven. The New Jerusalem Monastery just outside of Moscow (and recently renovated) was built by Patriarch Nikon and became his refuge in self-exile after he lost some favor with Tsar Alexei as the Old Believers mounted opposition to his reforms of Church doctrine and ritual in the 1660s leading up to the 1666-1667 Great Schism or Raskol. Nikon’s efforts to research the sources of mistranslations of Eastern Orthodoxy’s holy texts prompting the reforms had led to Greece and Jerusalem. This gave birth to the idea and place of a Russian ‘New Jerusalem’ as an alternative to the ‘Third Rome’ model for Moscow’s new theo-ideology. “(F)rom Zion came forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” wrote Nikon’s research agent to Mt. Athos Arsenius Sukhaov. Nikon called the Istra River along which he built his new monastery the Jordan and intended the monastery to be the seat of a “holy kingdom.” The bells, gates, and main cathedral were all designed on the model of Jerusalem’s Church of the Ressurrection housing the Holy Sepulcher. The Jerusalem church’s rites were incorporated into those of the New Jerusalem Monastery and its churches. Nikon hoped to cap off the reforms that sparked the Raskol by forming a theocratic Muscovite state to carry out his “plan for bringing heaven to earth in Muscovy.”[53]

Ironically, the idea tied to that of a ‘New Jerusalem’, an earthly holy ‘Grad’, God’s kingdom on Earth created through a human life filled with holy worship was also the “essence” of faith, practice and teleology among Nikon’s Old Believer or raskolniki (schismatics) antagonists.[54] More than the Church establishment or the tsar and his entourage, however, the raskolniki championed the ideology of Moscow as the ‘Third Rome’ – the last refuge of true Christianity on earth and the last hope for mankind’s salvation through the second coming, which they saw as imminent. Old Believers called Russia the Third Rome in its prayers at least up until the end of the 17th century. Theologian and philosopher Georgii Florovskii noted: “The dream of the schism was about a nearby City (Grad), about an earthly City… And history, it was believed, would realize a ‘Kingdom’ under a type of state such as Old Muscovy.”[55]

The myth of a sacred city on Earth or at least representation of the myth persisted into the 20th century. It is significant that modern cosmological movements envisioning the unity of God and Man – pre-revolutionary “prometheanism” and the “God-Builders” – included references to Kitezh. One example is Nikolai Rimskii-Korsakov’s 1907 mystical opera ‘The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh.’ Production of the opera would re-emerge from the depths of Soviet censorship in the brief religious revival among youth during the Khrushchevan thaw in the early 1960s.[56] Dmitrii Merezhkovskii (1866-1941), an Orthodox believer sympathetic to and influenced by the raskolniki and author of the important 1905 historiosophical trilogy Christ and the Antichrist: Peter and Alexei, was extremely popular in Europe and nominated ten times for the Nobel Prize in literature. In the novel, Peter the Great is the anti-Christ, and he and his son and the tsarevich Alexei are set in cosmological struggle over Peter’s Westernizing and secularizing reforms and the fate of Russia and the world. Alexei is convinced by Peter’s old Muscovite opponents and raskolniki that Russia is the ‘God-carrying nation’ and must be saved by overthrowing Peter. On the path of Westernization, Holy Russia will be condemned to ‘lose Christ’: “(E)ither Christ against reason, or reason against Christ.” There can be no third way. In Dmitrii Merezhkovskii’s trilogy Christ and the Anti-Christ: Peter and Aleksei, Anti-Christ Peter destroys his Old Believer tsarvich and son Alexei, but a group of raskolniki claim to find an earthly heaven in Russia’s far north — a Kitezh, Grad, or New Jerusalem – through the refuge of which the world can be saved from Peter and ‘reason’ for Christ. At novel’s end “Christ defeats the Antichrist.”[57] During some of Russia’s darkest days under the new Soviet monolith, in 1931-1939, the Russian émigré` journal ‘Novyi Grad’ invoked in its title the ancient ideas of ‘Kitezh’, Heavenly City, New Jerusalem, and the Third Rome. Its mission statement asserted Christian tselostnost’: “Only Christianity, not eclectically, but holistically asserts the equality of the whole and the part, the person, and the world, the Church and the human soul.”[58] Liberal and moderate Orthodox Russian thinkers of the emigration Georgii Fedotov, Fedor Stepun, Ilya Bunakov-Fondaminskii were editors, and like-minded Sergei Bulgakov, Nikolai Berdyaev and other prominent Russian thinkers frequently published on Novyi Grad’s pages.

Old and New Belief in the Raskol

The Raskol demonstrated the centrality of ritual sacrament in Russian Orthodoxy and the profundity of the disagreement between such ultra-traditionalists of Old Muscvovy — the schismatcs (raskolniki) or Old Believers (starobryadtsy) – and the establishment Church now regarded ironically as the ‘New Belief’ or Believers. The intensity of the Raskol’ also demonstrated the depth of the Russian aspiration to unity. Both the reforming Church elders loyal to Nikon and the schismatic raskolniki reacted violently, albeit in different ways, to the other—a measure of the sacred nature of historical, sacamental, and Orthodox assumption of the necessity of ‘unity in doctrine.’ The Church establishment declared the schismatics heretics for breaking the integrity of the Church community, cast an anathema upon them, and used the state apparatus to hunt them down. The raskolniki, in turn, abandoned the Church and the material world and wandered in search of Kitezh or some isolated lands where they could unifiy with God and Heaven.

Extending the monastic movement’s location of monasteries outside cities, the Old Believers moved to empty spaces in the Russian north, Siberia, and the Don, establishing hundreds of isolated communities or ‘skits’ of austere, ascetic devotion through prayer and new practices in the hope of establishing God’s kingdom on Earth or at least in search of transcending the material world. These skits produced offshoot cults – such as the Dukhobors (Spirit Wrestlers) and Molokans (Milk Drinkers), most of which, like the larger Old Believer community, saw Nikon’s reforms as evidence of the coming of the Anti-Christ or his arrival in the very person of Nikon. Often, the search for transfiguration or transcendence ended in a final leap to attain Heaven and God through purifying self-immolation.

Nikon and the establishment, on the one hand, and the Old Believers, on the other hand, also disagreed over theological questions regarding the unity of Christ and God and the unity of the Trinity. On the monist issue of a separation between God and man, heaven and earth (the cosmos), and the divine and the material, there was little disagreement. Both Nikon and the Old Believers’ leader, Novgorod Yurev Monastery archpriest Avvakum Petrov, believed in God’s presence in man and intervention on earth. Nikon drew from the Eastern Orthodox holy fathers’ ancient texts, such as the works St. Georgii of Nis, Ioaan of Damascus, and Ioaan Zlatoust. He saw man in the ancient Byzantine and Kievan monist tradition as “the crown of creation, a microcosm that contains everything that exists.” Mankind was originally created “to participate in God.” The world was cut off from God through man’s fall from grace through sin, but a reconnection with God lies in man’s freedom and self-determination. Nikon’s solution to the question of Man’s deification was his attempt to create sacred spaces for God’s presence on earth through icons and the aforementioned New Jerusalem Monastery) and other new monasteries.[59]

Avakuum did not write on high theology. He was “a preacher, not a philosopher,” who appealed to “the feelings, not the reason of readers.” At the same time, he also was steeped in the ancient Greek holy fathers and Kievan Orthodox teachings.[60] His belief in the Anti-Christ’s presence on earth and an impending apocalypse for which man needed to prepare through the cleansing fire of self-immolation reflect a monist belief. The revival of the 14-15th centuries’ practice of self-immolation emerged after the 1666 Great Sobor approved Nikon’s reforms and swept across Russia. The new self-immolations began to peak in 1675; one year before Tsar Alexei’s death and the succession to the throne by his son Fyodor, who died in 1682. Avvakum first endorsed self-immolation and other forms of corporal self-punishment in the late 1650s during his exile in Tobolsk.[61] Avvakum’s propaganda was mesmerizing and accessible to the illiterate peasants who heard it, and his writings retain their reputation as superb literature to this day. Thus, the raskolniki’s pamphlets rapidly circulated, were widely read, and had their effect.[62] They expressed a certain monism in articulating the propriety and even joy of submitting to torture: “Burning your body, you commend your soul into the hands of God.”[63] There was relief and salvation for the schismatics in a martyr’s death that would consume ‘unclean forces’ ubiquitous in the material world, preparing the way for the second coming. By the end of the century there had been anywhere from 9,000-20,000 self-immolations, tailing off by the mid-18th century.[64] Self-immolations continued sporadically and would end only at the 18th century’s end during the reign of Catherine the Great.[65]

The monastic movement’s hopeful pursuit of unity with God and Heaven and the Old Believer’s attempt to depart from the world, spiritually and even physically sandwiched chronologically another Russian Hesychast movement that sought direct contact with God through a more ‘positive asceticism’ presaging the Raskol. As the Church’s wealth and power grew in the post-Mongol period, a conflict over the Church’s growing materialism and involvement in the world intensified. The dispute between the Church establishment’s ‘possessors’ (stazhateli) and the non-possessors (nestazhateli) led the latter to break with establishment monastic life and seek isolated hermitages that were believed to be closer to, and even to bring one into direct contact with God and Heaven. The nestazhateli were led by two monks with ties to the Eastern Church’s remnants in the Mediterranean, Nil Sorskii (born Nikolai Maikov in 1433, died in 1508) and Maxim Grek (Maximus the Greek, 1470-1556). Both had traveled abroad and revised their theology in resistance to the Church’s property and worldly corruption. Sorskii, who began his religious vocation as copier of holy book texts and then entered the St. Cyril monastery near the White Lake (Belozersk) in the Russian north, became disenchanted with monastic life and so went abroad. He visited the Holy Land, Constantinople, and Mount Athos in northern Greece, where he learned Greek and studied the Eastern Orthodox monks’ practice of isolation and contemplation. Returning to Russia, he founded the first skit in Russia on the Sora river near Belozersk, proselytizing a strict ‘hermitism.’[66]

In ways, Sorskii’s belief system recalled the cult of striving for godliness through extreme humility (smirenie) and self-sacrifice for others widespread in late Kievan and early Muscovite Rus.[67] Sorskii’s starting point was not original; the world was the source of all evil, and therefore monks must reject the external world and turn inside to the soul.[68] However, based on his deeper understanding of Greek monastic hermitism than that predominant in the ROC and its missionary skits, Sorskii sought to turn away from the monastic focus on physical asceticism. Devotion was to be underpinned by a fundamentally more Hesychastic and quietist mental and spiritual pursuit of unity with God. Nil’s Hesychastism “had the disturbing effect of leading men to think direct links with God were possible.”[69] Sorskii’s vision was of a transcendental meditative life of silent prayer, more reminiscent of contemplative Buddhist philosophy, than the emerging Russian Orthodox ‘tradition.’ Rejecting the Church’s focus on external conduct, the struggle with ‘the flesh,’ various deprivations, fasts, supernatural feats of physical labor and discomfort, and constant manifestations of prayer, Sorski required that his hermits, monks, clergy, and simple believers live solely in mental and spiritual dedication to God through work on the mind and soul, obviating the body and its senses. The emphasis was less on the negative – the avoidance of food, pleasure, violating teachings and the like – and more on the positive assertion of the soul, eliminating the thought that transgression is possible not simply that of transgression itself. Before his death, Sorskii sought ultimate abnegation, rejecting the world of assertion. He told his small group of students and followers at Belozersk to throw his body in a ditch and leave it without any honors or ceremonies, saying he had avoided honors in life and must do so in death.[70]

Although the nestazhateli were defeated and left little mark on the ROC, just as their much more numerous Old Believer successors of sorts, the latter were eventually left alone in their distant strongholds and flourished religiously and economically. Both the ROC and its schismatic Old Believers would pursue tselostnost’ with God and Heaven by their own separate though similar and mostly unchanged theological and canonical paths into the 21st century. Three decades after the Raskol, Peter the Great’s reaction to the darkness and superstition of late medieval Russian Orthodoxy would subordinate the ROC to the new Imperial state and secularize Russian state and society, sparking a century of Russian enlightenment. However, the resulting aristocratic decadence, the growing power of the state bureaucracy, and the alienation of the small layer of educated, French-speaking society concentrated mostly in the new European-style city of St. Petersburg far from the poverty-stricken villages of the enserfed peasant Russian muzhik would produce a new raskol’ between Westernizers and Slavophiles. Nevertheless, Russian thought and culture continued to conjure new striving for integrality. The new monist trends of now mostly secular orientation no less than their predecessors imagined seemingly impossible dreams of transcendent tselostnost’, including that of God and Man, Heaven and Earth.


Monism in the Russian Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment

Throughout the Petersburg period (18th-19th centuries), Russian religious and secular culture prolonged the tendency to see or hope for a transfiguration of the godly into the material or of the material into the godly. With the Russian Enlightenment begun by Pether the Great’s reforms, religion became more secularized, new non-Orthodox Western religious influences entered the culture, and mystical reactions to secularization emerged promoting neo-monist religious and semi-secularized nascently philosophical perspectives. In much of Russian thought there persisted an “absence of clear separation between the absolute and empirical and the aspiration of Russian culture to the spiritualization and salvation of the material world and not salvation from it.”[71] As a result of the Russian Enlightenment, there came the secularization of Russian culture from the Petrine reforms forward and the appearance of the individual as a subject in the discourse. Nevertheless, the individual personality did not emerge as a fully separate, self-contained entity with defined borders but rather “directly connected with mankind, the world, and the cosmos.”[72]

At the same time, the secularization of Russian culture and the appearance of the individual as a result of the Petrine reforms led to new foci on Russian nationality and civilization and the place of the individual in society and society in the cosmos. Despite or perhaps because of these transformations, many Russians – in particular, mystics, ‘Slavophiles’, theologians, and ‘formal philosophers,’ and Westernizers who, for the most part, were socialists – were attracted to various forms of monism that sought to integrate the absolute and the empirical through spiritualization and Christian salvation from the materialist world and thought.

Monism in Russian Mysticism

Russian mysticism, which arose in response to the rapid Westernization during 18th century Russian Enlightenment, was the first secularized ideational trend to manifest monism. The mystical trend also was seeded from the West by German mystics such as the Silesians Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) and Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-89). Boehme was a Lutheran mystic and philosopher, and his ‘theosophy’ (the wisdom of God) was less philosophy than mystical theology. Through intellectual speculation and highly interpretive readings of the Bible, Boehme and his followers thought they could uncover the secrets of the universe – God’s wisdom – and turned to millennial preaching in the Baltic region that spread to the Russian north and Moscow. For Boehme, the entire universe and all its phenomenon, including human evil, were expressions of God’s wisdom. God did not intervene in the world, which he created from his own essence and being, but was omnipresent in it. All of humankind’s actions and feelings were manifestations of its longing for lost unity with God, which could be restored through the attainment of ‘divine wisdom.’ The aspiration to reunification is also reflected, according to the theosophists, in God’s own yearning for Sophia, who, according to Billington, was not only the idea of Divine Wisdom in Eastern Orthodoxy but also ‘eternal femininity.’ Before the fall, Adam (mankind) was fully unified with God and spiritually complete without sex. Reunifying with God, mankind would become androgynous, integrating the male and female into one.[73] As we shall see, these ideas would influence the philosopher-theologians of the religious renaissance during the Silver Age at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries.

A bridge between these two trends were the ‘Lovers of Wisdom’ (lyubomudrie), in which Boehme’s Russian translator and promoter former Encyclopedist and convert to mystical Christianity, Aleksandr Labzin (1766-1825) played a lead role. As a successor movement of latter stage higher order Freemasonry (see below), lyubomudrie defined truth as essentially God: “that original cause which gives movement to the whole of the universe.” Its philosophical inspiration, like much of that held by the later Slavophiles discussed in the next chapter, came from the romanticism of Schelling who argued for all of nature’s organic integrality through a vital “world soul.” In Billington’s view, Russians latched onto this worldview because Western philosophical materialism left unexplained a deeper reality: “the beauty and variety of the organic world, telepathy, and mesmerism.”[74] Boehme’s writings were extremely popular among the Freemasons, and so Freemasonry incorporated some of the theosophic mysticism of the period. The Silesian Freemason Quirinus Kuhlmann predicted the imminent return of Christ and “Adam’s forgotten life of paradise on Earth” and urged the abdication of Europe’s monarchs in preparation. He travelled to Moscow at the beginning of Peter the Great’s rule in order to establish an apocalyptical monarchy that would receive Christ and usher in a thousand-year reign on Earth under God’s Son. Gaining followers in the German quarter and at court in Peter’s new rationalistically geometric capitol, St. Petersberg, the Russian foreign office learned of Kuhlmann’s activity, and in October 1689 he was burned to death in a hut on Red Square.[75]

Kuhlmann’s followers kicked off a “vigorous sectarian tradition” second only to that founded in America by Central Europe’s rejected Protestant mystics. There were interconnections between the sectarians and Old Believers, and both were persecuted by Church and state. Unlike the latter, the former were uninterested in sacraments or even building churches. The Old Believers thought that heaven was now fully removed from corrupt man’s reach, whereas sectarians such as the 17th century khlysty (flagellants or sometimes called God’s people) and the 18th century Dukhobortsy (spirit wrestlers) and molokane (milk-drinkers) believed they could help to make it attainable once again. Sect leaders often proclaimed themselves God or a ‘new Christ’ with a biography curiously paralleling that of Jesus: born of a barren woman and crucified in the Kremlin. Like the train of false Dmitriis during the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century, a parade of new Christs emerged often supported by twelve ‘apostles’ as well as ‘angels’ and even a ‘Mother of God.’ The meeting places of ‘God’s people’ were called ‘New Jerusalem’ or ‘Mt. Zion.’ At these ‘rejoicings’ repetative, rythmic chanting and singing induced a semi-hypnotic, delirious spiritual ecstacy as a ‘pilot’ took them on a voyage to the divine world, a seventh heaven where people became gods. The climax came by way of accelerating circular ‘processions’ which culminated in mutual- and self-flagellation and the incantation: “I flagellate, flagellate, seeking Christ.” The Dukhbortsy, mostly former military officers disenchanted with the Russian Enlightenment and the official Church, endeavored to combat matter with divinity through asceticism, mediation, and moral pursuit. The molokane drank milk through Lent to demonstrate they were already drinking the purified milk of paradise. All the sects, including the last to emerge – the self-castrators – engaged in increasingly extreme action in rejection of the material world in order to advance to the spiritual.[76]

Although he interacted with the sects, writing a declaration of belief for the Dukhobortsy and music for milokane, Russia’s perhaps first speculative philosopher-theologian, Grigorii Skovoroda (1722-1794) was a sect unto himself. Of Cossack descent, Skovoroda was a loner, ascetic, and pursuer of ‘true wisdom.’ Educated in Kiev, he graduated and taught at the semi-Westernized Kiev Mohyla Theological Academy and was influenced by Stoicism and neo-Platonism. Like an ancient forest starets, he left Kiev and wandered around Russia begging for his keep and immersed in contemplation and reflection. He claimed that human happiness was only possible through deep introspection and a self-knowledge attainable only through a mystical, intimate relationship with God. In “haunting” poems and philosophical dialogues, such as his Dialogue of the Archangel Michael with Satan, he described the eternal conflict between the divine and matter, which could only be overcome – unified in divinity – by true wisdom. The attainment of wisdom required a “syncretic religion”; an idea captured in one of his dialogues, a conversation between “Man” and “Wisdom”:

Man:                Tell me Thy name, tell it thyself

For all our thoughts are corrupt without thee.

Wisdom:          I was called Sophia by the Greeks in ancient days,

And wisdom I am called by every Russian

But the Roman called me Minerva,

And the good Christians gave me the name of Christ.[77]

Oddly enough Vladimir Lenin – tsar of Russia’s 20th century secular but universalist, collectivist, and totalitarian religion – admired Skovoroda’s work and planned to build a monument to him in Moscow.[78]

            Skovoroda is probably superceded in the quest for the title of Russia’s first speculative philosopher by the far more rationalist and materialist republican ideologist Aleksandr Radishchev, who sentenced to Siberan exile by Catherine the Great for his treatise Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow. An outlier from the rest of Radishchev’s body of work, his On Man, His Mortality and Immortality reflects a monism limited by materialism and dualism. Radischev’s materialist ontology holds that everything we perceive exists independently from us and that all knowledge is acquired through the senses controlled by the physical brain. Radischev’s dualism actually leads to his semi-monism. After death, Radishchev reasoned, his bodily remains reintegrate with matter – ‘from dust to dust’ as it were, and his spiritual element, not his individual soul, fuses with the spirit of the universe. Radishchev denied the possibility of man’s individual immortality, life after death, but. Nevertheless tried to prove, to conjecture the possibility of individual immortality using works from Western and ancient Greek philosophy, including Karl Leibnitz’s idealism. In this argument the human soul is a form of simple matter that after death does disintegrate, losing its worldly individual existence, but aspires to perfection and acquires some form of corporeal existence superior to human matter in temporal existence. This suggests reincarnation and the possible evolution and eventual existence of a perfect being.[79]

Skovoroda and Radishchev are the fountainheads of “two mighty streams of thought” that fed Russian culture going forward. Skovoroda is the “precursor of Russia’s alienated, often monist metaphysical poets” from Fedor Tuitchev to the symbolists to Boris Pasternak and of “brooding” literary characters in works from Mikhail Lermontov to Fedor Dostoevskii, all discussed in succeeding chapters.[80] Radishchev is the wellspring of less, even non-monist trends such as the “civic poetry” of the Decembrists and Nikolai Nekrasov and literary heroes of Ivan Turgenev, Aleksandr Pushkin, and Leo Tolstoy (see Chapter 4). But he is also a source for the semi-monist human prometheanism and secular utopianism of the major Bolshevik Leon Trotskii and Bolsheivk fellow traveler Anatolii Lunacharskii (see Chapter 5). All of these successors of Skovoroda and Radishchev are discussed in following chapters.[81]

Monism in Russian Mystical Freemasonry

Freemasonry’s semi-religious based sociopolitical concerns manifested no small dose of monism. Nikolai Novikov (1744-1818) was the leading actor in this, the first secularized quasi-religion to penetrate Russia from the West.[82] Influenced by Protestantism and Catholicism, Freemasonry was at the least indifferent, at the most antagonistic to the ROC, from which it subtracted followers. Novikov and other Freemasons, especially those of its Moscow-based deistic wing (as opposed to its St. Petersburg-based rationalist wing), were inspired by Boehme’s theosophy, L. C. Saint-Martin, and the Martinism of Portuguese Martines Pasqually.[83] Brought to Russia from London by the Scottish dissident James Keith in 1728, Freemasonry’s deism, temples of wisdom, and sacrament-like rituals attracted disenchanted aristocrats torn between tradition and Catherine’s Voltairism such as the liberal Count Yurii Vorontsov the wealthy courtier and head of the St. Petersburg masonic lodges, Ivan Yelagin, a friend of Catherine the Great.[84]

Novikov, a prominent Moscow publisher, joined Masonry through Yelagin’s Petersburg lodge in 1775 and imparted a new energy, mystical aura, and secretive profile to Russian Freemasonry. Novikov along with the ascetic philosopher Johann Georg Shwarz (1751-84) and the poet and playright Mikhail Kheraskov (1733-1807) opened in 1780 the “secret, scientific lodge” ‘Harmony.’ They proselytized that faith and reason, religion and science, theology and philosophy were different approaches uncovering the same reality. Novikov held that man must use all of these to perfect himself and return to the “light of Adam” before the fall and exile from Paradise. Shwarz argued in lectures in Russian lodges and universities that reason is the first and poorest instrument back to the light. Second is feeling (the ascetic sense of the rose), and the third is revelation (the mystery of the crucifixion). He echoed Boehme; the cosmos was moving in triads towards perfection under the divine tripartite unity, the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God created the world out of his own inner essence as an “endless wish of his unfathomable will.” Man is a united triad of body, mind, and soul must perfect through inner cleansing, so God and man could progress to the final trinity of “the good, the true, and the beautiful.”[85] Shwarz’s thought reflected elements of Orthodox Christian doctrine and presaged not just Russian romanticism but also Russian theological and philosophical developments during the Russian religious renaissance and Silver Age of the late 19th and early 20th century, discussed in later chapters.[86]

            Higher order Freemasonry emerged from Freemasonry’s intermixing with German and Moravian Protestant Pietism, represented first and perhaps foremost by Ivan Lopukhin (1756-1816). Pietists preached a universal, ‘inner’ church, which blended well with Skovoroda’s sectarianism and Freemasonry. They shaped the spiritual transformation of Tsar Alexander I himself, as he struggled to liberate Russia and Europe from the revolutionary march of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Pietistic Moravian Brotherhood in particular penetrated Russia’s rapidly developing in its southern and eastern regions and concurred with mystics in higher order Russian Freemasonry of the need for a traditionalist alliance to counter revolutionary France. Lopukhin’s works gained great popularity in Russia’s Masonic lodges, and Alexander I, who had himself become interested in and tolerated Freemasonry, was intrduced to Lopukhin and sent him on an expedition to southern Russia to examine the expansion of sectarian religion there. Living among the Dukhobortsy, he declared them to be unknown saints. His inner church published a journal, Youth’s Friend, which was joined by Shwarz and Labzin whose journal, Herald of Zion, appeared in 1806.[87] Alexander I soon became deeply involved in Lophukhin’s brand of Pietism and Freemasonry and their universalist and often monist doctrine.

After Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in June 1812, Prince Aleksandr Golitsyin, perhaps Alexander I’s closest confidant outside the royal family, convinced the Russian emperor, who had been somewhat traumatized psychologically by the Napoleon’s invasion, to read the Bible as an aide in mustering a plan to mobilize the country. A recent convert to Lopukhin’s ideas and the inner church movement, Golitsyn, had undergone a spiritual awakening in the years leading up to the war. Moved at the same time by first by the Moravian Brothers at Sarepta, where he often took the mineral baths, he resigned as procurator of the Holy Synod, the state body that administered ROC affairs. Alexander I traveled to newly conquered Finland in summer 1812, visiting Protestant churches as he read Golitsyn’s personal copy of the Bible on his journey. He began to interpret the present day in terms of Bibilical events and attended prayer and Bible recitations in Golitsyn’s interconfessional chapel. Out of his own awakening, the tsar developed the idea of an inter-confessional brotherhood of Biblical Christians, the Holy Alliance, as a traditionalist bulwark in the name of reformed, liberal monarchies against any political resurrection of Napoleon, renewed Bonapartism, and revolutionism. The alliance’s proclamation to the Russian people described it as a “Christian answer to the French revolution.” The lead organization in the syncretic religious movement became the Bible Society, which came to Russia from Finnish Pietism and pietistic British Methodism. The tsar, now reading the Bible daily, and his brothers, the future Nicholas I and Constantine, became Society sponsors and Golitsyn its president in Russia.[88]

As the Russian army chased Napoleon and his dwindling troops out of Russia in the winter of 1812-1813, Alexander’s movements resembled, in Billington’s words, “an interconfessional religious pilgrimage.” On his way to battle Napoleon in Prussia, the Russian emperor visited the Moravian Brotherhood’s communities in Livonia and Saxony. In London, he attended Quaker meetings, and in Paris he held a mass with his entire officer corps on the spot where Louis XVI had been beheaded. Alexander now saw God’s intervention in mankind’s history everywhere: the defeat of Napoleon’s army in Russia was “the judgement of God”, his demise in Europe was “God’s redemption of Europe.” Russia’s leadership of the final coalitions that defeated Napoleon would see Russians hearing from mystical leaders predict, as Bavarian mystic Franz von Baader, did the end of the world in 1819 or 1836, with the heavenly millennium coming from the east with Alexander I at its head under God. In Russia, Alexander appointed Golitsyn minister of edication and spiritual affairs, and together they developed a massive program to expand interconfessional proselytization across the country under the auspices of the Bible Society, Alexander’s new “Lovers of Humanity” association, and higher order Freemasonic lodges, which were expanded into the provinces. Masonic hymns were composed and circulated widely that sung for the restoration of Paradise—that is, something very much like the divinization of the world – “when love illuminated with all its beauty and men lived in brotherhood.”[89] Kuhlmann was revered in the movement as its prophet, and Labzin wrote nine books on Boehme, published numerous other syncretic works, and was decorated by Alexander in 1816. The government program sponsored several journals, and Alexander was sponsoring subscriber to one, the aformentioned Herald of Zion. Its theo-ideology was as much monist as it was universalist. A special section of the journal established in 1817 was called Rainbow, a higher order Masonic symbol representing the broad spectrum of nations and faiths, “all formed from One True Light.” One syncretic verse ran in part: “The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fade.”[90]

Golitsyn’s ambitious policies provoked a backlash from the ROC that eventually put an end to the last period of innovation in Alexander’s reign. For his part, the emperor was faced with a potential revolt within the ranks of the young officers, who had marched through Europe, watered their horses in the Seine, and drank the wine of liberalism.[91] The revolt materialized in December 1825 when the Decembrists, as the rebels came to be called, attempted to exploit a political vaccum created by Alexander’s untimely and mysterious death and the confused succession process he left behind. His religious transformation in his last years gave birth to the legend that he feigned his death on a trip to the south in order effectively to abdicate the crown and disappear into the Siberian forest as the holy starets Fedor Kuzmich. Out of theosophy, Freemasonry, and mystical Pietism emerged strands of new mystical theosophy in the late 19th century represented by Madame Blavatskii and Georgii Gurdzhiev, discussed further below.

Monism and Late Russian Mysticism

A neo-theosophical mysticism and, of less interest to us, vulgar spiritism emerged on the eve of late 19th century Russia’s religious renaissance and artistic Silver Age, both of which were influenced by mystical theosophy and Freemasonry. Similar to other intellectual and artisitic trends in the period, it was influenced by Russians’ increased interest in Asia geopolitically, economically and culturally, a turn that even the Europe-obsessed Fyodor Dostoevskii made near the end of his life.[92] The major figures in the new theosophy were Yelena Blavatskaya (1831-1891) and Georgii Gurdzhiev (Gurdjieff) (1866-1949). Born Yelena von Hahn in Yekaterinoslav (today, Dnepr, Ukraine), she was the cousin of Russian Prime Minister Sergei Witte and married the vice governor of Yerevan Governate, Nikifor Blavatskii. Her family was close to the Golitsyns, some of whom were inclined to Freemasonry, and she was the spiritual teacher of Vladimir Solovev’s elder brother.[93] There is considerable debate about many details of her biography, even her precise whereabouts in the 1850s and 1860s. Apparently travelling widely during much of that period, she came under the influence of the Indian-Tibetan mystic Mahatma Moria in London in 1851, turning her towards mysticism. Returning to Russian in the late 1860s, as ‘going to the people’ movement of students proselytizing to the peasants and revolutionary terrorism were just developinh, Blavatskaya began conducting seances in a turn to the increasingly widespread and popular spiritism and mediumism of the day. In 1875, Blavatskaya founded the Theosophical Society with Henry C. Olcott and William Q. Judge in New York, as neo-theosophical mysticism was developing into a predominantly American movement. Hers was an esoteric theosophist mysticism modified for the most part by Buddhism and particularly Hindu Brahmanism, forming a syncretic fusion of elements from each of the world’s religions intended as a new universal mystical faith based on the study of “innumerable generations of enlightened, accumulated wisdom of the ages.”[94]

Blavatskaya claimed to hold “keys” to understanding the universe, revealing several of them in her magnum opus, Secret Doctrine, after having revealed the first key in her previous work. She was made aware of them through her knowledge of the 1,500 Hundu Upanishad texts, presumably familiarized to her by Mahatma Moria and, according to Blavatskaya, based on the study of “thousands of generations of seers.” [95] Although Blavatskaya considered the universe to be autonomous, possessing its own essence, and not created by the universal divinity, her Secret Doctrine is replete with monism. Unities abound: Unity of Life, First Rays from Unity, United Ancient Knowledge, Unity of Chaos and Spirit, and and All-Potential Unity. There exists “a universally diffused, omnipresent, eternal Deity in Nature” and а “united world spirit” (world soul).[96] “(T)here is but One Universal Element, infinite, unborn and undying.” “(A)ll the rest – as the world of phenomena – is but so many various differentiated aspects and transformations of that One, from the Cosmic down to micro-cosmic effects, from superhuman down to human to sub-human beings, the totality in short of objective existence.”[97] Noting that numerous belief systems postulate the unity of the supreme being or the “first light,” Blavatskaya postulates the “One” or “United” (Yedinoe) or Higher Force (Edinaya Vysshaya Sila). The ‘One’ pervades the spiritual and physical world and issues forth in the active phases of universe’s cycles of existence and destruction a “divine” “united ray” which divides into a multitude of rays which flow into the “one” or “united ray of life.”[98] Although man is said to have seven principles, the seventh is but the set or “unity of the first six.”[99] In the universe’s periods of dissolution (from Brahmin concept of pralaya) “all past, present, and even future mankinds and everything else as well will represent a single whole.” [100]

Gurdzhiev, of Greek-Armenian background born in Armenia, was a mystic, philosopher, spiritual teacher, writer, composer, and a Bolshevik-forced émigré. Like the neotheosophists, he was enthralled with Eastern religions and was an inveterate traveler, visiting Africa, the Middle East, South and East Asia and studying Sufism, Buddhism, and Orthodox Christianity. Like Blavatskaya he sought to sythesize Eastern and Western religion and philosophy towards the foundation of a synergetic new system of belief and thought. In his most important work, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson: All and Everything, Gurdzhiev’s cosmology of the universe and being is strictly monist, rejecting any and all separation of a transcendent God – the “Almighty Uni-Being Endlessness” (what he variously calls the “Most Most Holy Sun Absolute,” the “Megalocosmos,” and other names) – inaccessible to man and the cosmos after creation. In his theo-cosmology, all particles, entities and other sub-strata below the “all and everything” or “Megalocosmos” are united in the sense that “down to the smallest detail” they are “exactly similar…in minature to the whole of our Megalocosmos,” basically a restatement of the Christian belief that man is made in the image of God.[101] Gurdzhiev overcame the disconnect between God’s omnipotence and the seeming imperfections in his creation (evil in the world) by rejecting the former and treating the creation as an “actualization” (implying thereby an already existing potential) by the “Endless Uni-Being” (yet also called the “Endless Crreator”) and positing the emergence of “automatically arisen” entities appearing after the intentionally created.[102]

Blavatskaya’s and Gurdzhiev’s proteges and followers spun off new theosophist and mystical trends in Russia, testifying to the esoteric nature of the Silver Age. These proteges also expressed some monism. Student of Gurdzhiev, Pyotr Uspenskii (1878_1947) claimed man could achieve a higher conccsiouness through a “fourth way” beyond the ways of Islam, Christianity, and Asian religions. Like Blavatskii he offered “keys” to a deeper inner vision and “a new model of the universe.” Through his method one ostensibly could enter a six-dimensional realm wherefrom the seventh dimension of pure imagination could be achieved.[103] Lesser theosophists like the Rerikhs (Roehrichs) – the artist, archeologist, and philosopher Nikolai (1874-1947) and his wife Yelena (1879-1955) – a couple that was involved in other spiritist, Freemason, mystical and theosophical circles, later professed a perhaps narrow God-Man monism: “Where there is yoga, there is God.” [104]

Monism in Slavophilism

Slavophilism was a secularized reaction to the Westernization of the Petrine Enlightenment century. Focused more on Russian nationality, culture, and civilization than on Orthodoxy per se, it held that Slavs were by virtue of, in part, their Orthdoxy a separate, far more communal civilization than highly rationalistic Catholic and Protestant Western European civilization. The Slavophile movement included several thinkers whose works approached those of formal philosophers. This was particularly true of the movement’s progenitor, Ivan Kireevskii (1806-1856), and his prominent associate, Aleksei Khomyakov (1804-1860). Slavophiles were dissatisfied with the growth in Russia of Western rationalist and materialist thought as an ontological security threat to the integrality of Russian history and culture. The impact of Western rationalism and materialism at the time was striking in the burgeoning field of Russian philosophy, and both of these thinkers were widely read widely in both Western philosophy and traveled across Europe. They also read the Eastern and  Kievan Orthodox ‘holy fathers’ and rooted much of their thought in Orthodox theology, such that Kireevskii set the foundation of Russian formal philosophy proposing as its building blocks a Russian “understanding of the Holy Trinity.”[105] In their epistemology and philosophy of man, Slavophile and Orthodox-oriented philosophers countered individualism and rationalism with semi-monist ideas such as Kireevskii’s ‘tselnaya lichnost’’ (integral personality) and Khomyakov’s unity of several types of ‘reason’ in ‘vsetselyi razum’ (integral reason). Such efforts sought to reassert spirituality and intuition to its rightful place, in their view, in a Russian system of thought that was being torn from its moorings by the Western and then Russian ‘enlightenments,’ which emphasized strict positivism and hard science.

Reminiscent of Hesychists like Sorskii and prescient of Vladimir Solovev’s spiritual idealism and the Russian intuitionists (see Chapter 3), mankind, in these Slavophiles’ view, could only know the world fully through an inner search and acceptance of God’s blagodat’; reason, for them was of secondary component of man’s whole being and conciousness. Kireevskii’s critique of Western rationalism was based on the thesis that it threatened the “integrality” or wholeness (tselostnost’) of the spirit—the ‘integral personality.’ “Logical thinking, when separated from the other cognitive faculties,” asserted Kireevskii, “is a natural attribute of the mind that has lost its own wholeness.”[106] Abstract reasoning reduces mankind’s ability to directly perceive the truth by negating the intuition or “inner root of the understanding where all the separate powers fuse into one living and whole vision of the mind.”[107] Westerners had lost true Christian faith, according to Kireevskii, because “faith is not to be found in any of the disconnected cognitive faculties, it is not the prerogative of logical reason alone, nor of the voice of conscience, but embraces man’s whole personality and manifests itself only when inner wholeness has been attained and then only in proportion to the degree of this wholeness.”[108] In Russia, by contrast, there is “an aspiration to integrality, internal and external” and “continuous memory of the relationship of the temporary to the eternal and the human to the Divine.”[109]  

As Walicki notes, Kireevskii’s “understanding presupposes a vital and immediate (Walicki’s emphasis) connection between the knower and and the object of knowledge. By isolating the knower from reality and setting him up in opposition to it, rationalism casts doubt upon the reality and objective nature of the universe. True understanding, therefore, cannot be content to define relationships but must attempt to penetrate to the substantial essence of things, must be a kind of revelation or immediate cognition.”[110] In this way, Kireevskii’s epistemology is monist, presaging that of the early 20th century Russian Orthdox priest, philosopher, and perhaps penulitimate monist, Father Pavel Florenskii, who saw a cosmic unity of cognition between the cognized and cognizer (see below). Kireevskii contrasted the multiple personality or spirit of Western man with the integrality of Russian Orthodox believers, whose thought endeavors “to concentrate the separate psychic powers into one single power, to seek out that inner focus of being, where reason, will, feeling, and conscience, the beautiful and the true, the wonderful and the desirable, the just and the merciful—and the whole sweep of the mind—are fused together into one living unity, thus restoring the essential personality in all its primary indivisibility.”[111] A little like Florenskii, Kireevskii found tselostnost’ in many places: epistemology, reality, the relationship between religion and philosophy, and the unity in man of reason and intuition.[112] From the Slavophile’s philosophical concept of the integral personality, fortified and unified in an interconnected spirit or consciousness of multitudes under the spiritual Church, emerged the idea of sobornost’.

Khomyakov and Sobornost’

Frequent reference in ancient Russian texts to the idea of communality of “spiritual familial consensus” denoted in the words sobor (community or group) and sobornost’ suggests,  as Billington notes, some early importance for the concept, despite the Slavophiles’ later “romanticism” regarding the idea.[113] Sobornost’ like much of Slavophilism emerged as a countermovement to elite Westernization in search of native alternatives. Although Slavophiles and Westernizers both tended to be critical of the overall Russian condition of their time, the latter tended to be more condemnatory, often rejecting the continuing central role of autocracy and Christian Orthodoxy in society, which most Slavophiles accepted.  Whereas Westernizers regarded Peter’s domestic Europeanization efforts of Russia’s internal life as an unmitigated step towards a correct end, even if achieved by improper, specifically, autocratic means, Slavophiles tended to denigrate every aspect of Peter’s Westernization as not just political, but cultural collusion with an alien element. As Semyon Frank wrote in his 1949 article “Pushkin on Relations Between Russia and the West,” Westernizers agreed with the Slavophiles on one thing: they considered Peter’s reforms “inorganic, lacking any connection with Russia’s national spirit.” The caveat is that Westernizers saw this as unconditionally positive, seeking Russia’s full transformation into a European culture, while Slavophiles saw this almost exclusively as a negative, preferring the preservation of traditional Russian blagochestie and sobornost’.[114] Aleksandr Herzen pinpointed the core complaint of Slavophiles, Russian nationalists, and traditionalists against the first emperor: “Peter saw that there was only one salvation for Russia, to stop being Russian.”[115] Russian Slavophiles argued that Peter the Great’s reforms broke a more evolutionary course of development that would have yielded a more organic outcome for Russia based on its Orthodox Christianity, Slavic culture, and the peasant commune. The Slavophiles believed that Peter had torn asunder a uniquely Russian form of society, even civilization based on sobornost’, which could be translated in the Slavophilic sense as ‘organic human connectedness and collectiveness’—the free-willed unity of Christian believers, free of Western societies’ willful individualism and coercive restraint.[116]

The word ‘sobornost’’ is virtually untranslatable, a matrix of all-encompassing, inter-penetrating, all-unifying spiritual unity—in one word, perhaps, ‘communalism’ or ‘communitarianism.’ Slavophile thinkers in the 19th century, in particular Aleksei Khomyakov, who is credited with developing the modern version of the concept, championed sobornost’ as a phenomenon of interconnected spirit or consciousness engendered by received blagodat’ through Orthodox Christianity in the community of the spiritual Church. Khomyakov’s vision was also aspirational, as he saw it as a potential resource to be nurtured and deployed against Western rationalism and expanded universally.

We can delineate different types or degrees of sobornost’ in line with several of the kinds of tselostnost’. In some renderings, such as Khomyakov’s, sobornost’ is significantly monist, with great emphasis on unity between the Orthodox community or Church with God, Christ, Heavenly, divine grace (blagodat’). This vertical conceptualization of sobornost’ differs from horizontal visions which focus on lateral ties between members of the world community (universal sobornost’), the international Orthodox Christian community (Orthodox sobornost’), and the ROC and/or Russian nation or citizens/subjects (Russian sobornost’). Some treatments, such as in Dostoevskii’s views on sobornost’, certainly cover all the vertical forms and arguably could include monist sobornost’.The great Russian thinker Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948) limited sobornost’ to a Russian characteristic—an underlying force in Russian culture promoting familial, communal, and particularist values and behaviors and supplanting formal legality. However, he argued that it is “difficult to find” Khomyakov’s universalist and monist sobornost’ in the “historical Orthdoxy.”[117]

Khomyakov extended the prerequisite of monist tselostnost’ from the individual to the Orthodox community, making his sobornost’ as much monist as it was universalist. In his influential work, The Church Is One (Tserkov’ odna), Khomyakov argued: “The unity of the Church follows necessarily from the unity of God, for the Church is not a multitude of persons in their personal separateness, but is the unity of God’s grace, which lives in a multitude of intelligent creatures who have been subjected to grace. … The Church and its members by their inner knowledge of faith know the unity and immutability of their Spirit, which is the Spirit of God.”[118] Khomyakov also envisioned a certain unity of Heaven and Earth, God and Man through the spiritual Church: “The Church lives even on earth not according to earthly, human life, but by a divine life through grace. Therefore, not just each of its members, but all of (the Church) solemnly calls itself a saint.”[119] Khomyakov emphasized the role of the Church’s spiritual unity and that of its believers through God’s blagodat’, which, in the view of many Orthodox Slavophiles, facilitated the formation of a harmonic community of integral personalities. Father Georgii Florovskii noted the element of monism in Khomyakov’s concept of sobornost’: “In Khomyakov’s view the Church is, first of all, unity,–‘the unity of God’s grace, living in the multitude of rational creatures, submitting to grace.’ There two motives subsumed in this definition: ‘unity’ and ‘humility’ of a person.” “’Sobornost’’ for Khomyakov does not coincide in any way with ‘sociality’ or corporativeness. Sobornost’ in his understanding is not at all a human, but a Divine characteristic of the Church.”[120] Thus, God’s grace is embedded in an earthly institution, connecting God and mankind, the Heavenly Kingdom and creation. Writing in the 20th century, the Soviet émigré` endorsed Khomyakov’s sobornost’ as his consistent with his own and that of the traditional ROC.[121]

Monism extended to Khomyakov’s view of Church-state relations and his concept of their ‘symfoniya’ or mutual harmony. In this view, Church and state were not coequals, Rather, their cooperation should be based on the idea of the state as “the means for the fullest and easiest ushering in of God’s Church on earth.”[122] Khomyakov’s rejection of Protestantism was in good part based on his view of its rejection of various elements of the monist view: rejection of prayer for the dead and the cult of saints and an obsession of effective organization through decentralization rather than on both the tangible and intangible Church.[123]

Khomyakov’s theory of cognition and knowledge reflected a monist conceptualization of consciousness inextricably connected with the broader consciousness possible under sobornost’. According to Walicki, it “assumes that only the organic fellowship of sobornost’ makes true understanding possible,” overcoming the limits of free will and rationalism by way of the uniting power of faith and grace.[124] He seemed to anticipate in some ways the idea of collective consciousness. “The isolated individual,” Khomyakov asserts, “represents absolute impotence and unalleviated inner division.” The individual’s unification with the Church transforms one, in Walicki’s interpretation of Khomyakov’s idea of sobornost’, into “an organ of a consciousness transcending the individual (sobornost’ soznaniya).”[125] Truth then, “seemingly accessible to only a few, is in fact created and shared by all.”[126]

Since a truly sobornyi mankind had the potential under grace to achieve full knowledge of reality and truth, even such universalism implied monism in Christian theology’s view of mankind’s potential divinization. As Russian philosophy scholar Igor Yevlampiev notes this implicit monism, “this potentially perfected and absolute being, in essence, equal to God,” “this raising of man to God comprises the true content of Christianity for the majority of Russian thinkers.”[127] Orthodox Christian monist belief would be further developed in many subsequent Russian movements. Whereas Kireevskii pointed the way to a Russian philosophy and Khomyakov established the first rudiments of a Russian philosophical system, Vladimir Solovev – influenced by both Slavophiles, though an opponent of Slavophilism and of any nationalism or national religious theo-ideology – would establish a distinctly Russian and Orthodox-based Russian formal philosophy that was highly monist.


[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] Manuel’ Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianism: k ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, (St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg State University, 2005) [translated from Manuel Sarkisyanz, Russland und der messianismus des Orient: Sendungsbewusstsein und politischer Chiliasmus des Ostens (Tlibingen: J. C. B. Mahr, 1955)], p. 7.

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

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

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

[18] G. P. Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., in G. P. Fedotov, Sobranie sochinenii v 12 tomakh, (Moscow: ‘Matris’ Sam & Sam, 2001), Vol. 10, p. 25.

[19] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 25-6.

[20] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 367.

[21] James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture (New York: Vintage, 1970), pp. 20 and 365-6.

[22] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 43.

[23] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 111.

[24] Fedotov describes the religious experience: “This is not just crude materialism, as the majority of Protestants believe, – behind this object-oriented worship there is a world of higher experiences: fear, repentance, affection, gratitude, joy, the consciousness of one’s own insignificance and undeserving of God’s mercy. Like asceticism, the worship of shrines, the performance of rituals are a tool, albeit less perfect, of mystical life; they are not this mystical life itself, but its sparks, which can, although not necessarily at all, kindle the lamp of personal spirituality.” Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 43.

[25] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 83.

[26] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 131.

[27] Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History (New York: Penguin Books, 2009), p. 311.

[28] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 131.

[29] Tul’chinskii, Politicheskaya kul’tura Rossii: Istochniki, uroki, and perspektivy, p. 194.

[30] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 21-2.

[31] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 29. One example is the ‘domovoi’ or house spirit, usually a family male elder’s spirit. The domovoi could protect the home or play tricks or otherwise effect the lives on its inhabitants, and belief in this ‘mini-god’ lasted among Russian peasants into the 19th century.

[32] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 86.

[33] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 88 and 91.

[34] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 86.

[35] “Slovo o Zakone i Blagodati Mitropolita Illariona,”, last accessed on 31 July 2020. Fedotov’s summary of Illarion’s ‘Word’ notes: “God’s Plan, which chose and saved the Jewish people, having given the law through Moses, was revealed as Truth and Grace in Jesus Christ to all peoples, including the last of the called – the Russian people. From this point of view, the conversion of Rus comes to the center of the historical canvas traced in the New Testament.” Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 88.

[36] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 204.

[37] In addition to planting the seeds of various philosophical and theological tendencies in Russian culture, Illarion’s “Word” can be seen as having created certain archetypes and a counter-opposition between Jews and Christians that might have contributed to the rise of anti-Semitism in eastern Slavic, Orthodox Christian cultures. Thus, it notes “Jewish jealousy,” Israel’s “rejection” of Christ, among other things. “Slovo o Zakone i Blagodati Mitropolita Illariona.” “Slovo o Zakone i Blagodati Mitropolita Illariona.” A similar historical analysis that might have had such a negative impact can be found in the writings of the ancient Kievan preachers Kliment Smolyatich (Clement of Smolensk), a Russian from Smolensk appointed metropolitan in 1147, and Kirill Turovskii, the bishop of Turov at about the same time. See Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 77-8.

[38] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 87.

[39] N. A. Vanetskii, Sotsiologiya istorii Rossii: Bazoviye smysly i tsennosti (Zapiski sotsiolog) (Moscow: Akademicheskii proekt, 2019), pp. 36-7.

[40] Vanetskii, Sotsiologiya istorii Rossii: Bazoviye smysly i tsennosti (Zapiski sotsiolog), pp. 38-9.

[41] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 38-40.

[42] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 89-90. In Illarion’s other major work ‘Ispovedanie’ (Confession), he does delve into some duality, according to Fedotov. Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 87-8.

[43] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 42.

[44] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 132.

[45] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 14.

[46] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 52.

[47] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 52-3.

[48] In this way, Hesychasm presaged the ‘democratization’ of access to the divine that came with Protestantism in the early 16th century and Islamic jadidism that became widespread among the Volga Tatars and spread into Central Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

[49] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 51-2.

[50] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 53.

[51] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 52.

[52] “Legenda o Grade Kitezhe,” Elektronnaya biblioteka, last accessed on 28 August 2020.

[53] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 142.

[54] This was the view of late Imperial Russian theologian and leading historian of the ROC Anton Kartashev. A. Kartashev, “Smysl staroobryadstva,” in Sbornik statei, posvyashchennykh P. B. Struve (Prague, 1925), p. 378 and Georgii Florovskii, Puti russkogo bogosloviya (Paris, 1937), pp. 67-8, cited in Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianism: k ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, (St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg State University, 2005), p. 63.

[55] Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianism: k ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, pp. 63-4.

[56] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 580.

[57] D. S. Merezhkovskii, Khristos i Antikhristos: Pyotr i Aleksei, ‘Epilogue: Khristos gryadyashchii,’, last access on 19 August 2018.

[58] “Redaktsiya,” Novyi Grad, No. 1, 1931,, last accessed on 1 September 2020.

[59] N. V. Vorob’eva, “Svyatitel’ Grogorii Nisskii v nasledii Patriarkha Nikona,” Fundamental’ntie issledovaniya, No. 2, 2015, pp. 4537-4541,, last accessed on 27 October 2020.

[60] B. V. Tikhonova, “Uchenie protopopa Avvakuma I ‘vneshnyaya mudrost’,” Seriya “Symposium”, Filosofiya obrazovaniya, Vypusk 23, Sbornik materialov konferentsii (Saint Petersburg: Saint Peterburgskoe filosofskoe obshchestvo, 2002),, last accessed on 28 October 2020.

[61] N. M. Nikolskii, Istorii russkoi tserkvi, (Moscow: Politizdat, 1988), pp. 170-4.

[62] S. F. Platonov, Lektsii po russkoi istorii (Moscow: Vysshaya shkola, 1993), pp. 393-4.

[63] Billington, The Ican and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 157.

[64] Sarkisyants cites figures from 10,000-20,000 in the last decades of 17th century. Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianism: K ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, p. 67. Klyuchevskii reports Old Believer writings claiming that more than 20,000 self-immolated themselves in 1675-1691. Klyuchevskii, O Russkoi istorii, pp. 445-6 and 448-9. Nikolskii cites a figure of 9,000 “towards the end of the 17th century.” Nikolskii, Istoriya Russkoi tserkvi, p. 168.

[65] Nikolskii, Istorii russkoi tserkvi, pp. 174-6.

[66] Nikolskii, Istorii Russkoi Tserkvoi, pp. 97-104; Klyuchevskii, Kurs russkoi istorii, pp. 228-9; and Richard Pipes, Russian Conservatism and Its Critics: A Study in Political Culture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005), pp. 30-2.

[67] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 61 and 65.

[68] Pipes characterizes Sorskii’s ideas with those of 14th century English Protestant reformer John Wyclyffe. Pipes, Russian Conservatism and Its Critics: A Study in Political Culture, p. 30.

[69] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 61.

[70] Klyuchevskii, Kurs russkoi istorii, p. 228 and Nikolskii, Istorii Russkoi Tserkvi, p. 99.

[71] Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianism: k ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, p. 219.

[72] Sarkisyants, Russkii messianism, p. 102.

[73] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 310-11.

[74] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 311-12.

[75] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 172-3.

[76] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 174-9.

[77] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 238-40.

[78] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 242.

[79] Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University, 1979), pp. 50-1.

[80] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 241.

[81] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 241-2.

[82] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 51.

[83] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, pp. 19-20.

[84] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 245-6.

[85] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 249-50.

[86] In particular, Shwarz’s belief that art was closer than reason to the inner mystery of nature hinted at the symbolists deification of art. Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 250-1.

[87] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 276-80.

[88] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 280-3.

[89] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 282-4.

[90] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 284-5.

[91] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 286-94.

[92] Dostoevskii now saw Russia’s future to be in Asia. Dostoevskii, Dnevnik pisatelya, pp. 721-8.

[93] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 481. Vladimir Solovev himself was a critic of Blavatskaya’s version of theosophy. See Vladimir Solovev, “Retsenziya na knigu Ye. P. Blavatskoi ‘The Key to Theosophy’,” Russkoe obozrenie, No. 8, 1890, pp. 287-93,, last accessed on 12 November 2020.

[94] Ye. P. Blavatskaya, Tainaya Doktrina: Sintez nauki, religii i filosofii, Tom 1: Kosmogenez (Pasadena, Calif.: Theosophical University Press) translation of H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (London: Theosophical Publishing Company, 1888),, last accessed on 30 October 2020 (from here on cited as Blavatskaya, Tainaya Doktrina: Sintez nauki, religii i filosofii), p. 272.

[95] Blavatskaya, Tainaya Doktrina: Sintez nauki, religii i filosofii, p. 272.

[96] Blavatskaya, Tainaya Doktrina: Sintez nauki, religii i filosofii, p. 79.

[97] Blavatskaya, Tainaya Doktrina: Sintez nauki, religii i filosofii, p. 75.

[98] Blavatskaya, Tainaya Doktrina: Sintez nauki, religii i filosofii, pp. 214-16 and 222.

[99] Blavatskaya, Tainaya Doktrina: Sintez nauki, religii i filosofii, p. 232.

[100] Blavatskaya, Tainaya Doktrina: Sintez nauki, religii i filosofii, pp. 265-6.

[101] G. I. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson: All and Everything (New York: Penguin, 1999), pp. 759 and 775.

[102] Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson: All and Everything, p. 136.

[103] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 486.

[104] Alexandre Andreev, “Occultizm i mistika v zhizni I tvorchestve N. K. I Ye. I. Rerikh,” in A. I. Andreev and Dany Savelli, eds., Rerikhy: Mify i fakty, Sbornik statei (St. Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriya, 2011), pp. 57-107, at p. 57. Their ‘Agni-Yoga’ belief system, however, emerged only in America after their emigration from Russia after the revolution. Their search in the occult began in St. Petersburg in the theosophic and spiritism movements popular among the questing aristocracy in the Silver Age. Their Rerikhs were friendly and conducted seances at the home of the Nikolai Losskii, who would become a prominent philosopher of the intutionist school, discussed below. Theosophy and Freemasonry interlinks in Russia can be seen in the Rerikhs’ friends and relatives who were Freemasons. Nikolai’s uncle was prominent Freemason in a lodge in Riga, and Losskii was a Freemason. Yelena’s descendents included Napoleonic war hero General Mikhail Kutusov, who was also involved in Freemasonry. The Rerikhs thus became sympathetic to Petersburg Freemasonry and after emigration from Russia to the U.S. in the 1920s, Nikolai joined the Rosicrucian Society. Both experienced mystical events in their lives, and Nikolai was drawn to India as early as 1905 when he began producing a series of paintings with Indian themes. Becoming familiar with theosophy and Blavatskaya’s system through their friend, psychiatrist and theosophist Konstantin Ryabnin (1877-1956), they began studying her and other neo-theosophists’ works. Interest in the Rerikhs’ theosophy is very limited today but greater than in the pre-Soviet period, since ethey had still not delved deep into theosophy or developed their own vision until their emigration after the revolution. Andreev, “Occultizm i mistika v zhizni I tvorchestve N. K. I Ye. I. Rerikh,” pp. 60-7.

[105] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 23, citing Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v dvukh tomakh, vol. 1, p. 74.

[106] Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 101, citing I. V. Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v dvukh tomakh (Moscow: Put’, 1911), vol. 1, p. 218.

[107] Andrzej Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: A History of Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth Century Russian Thought, pp. 150-1, citing Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v dvukh tomakh, vol. 1, p. 249.

[108] Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: A History of Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth Century Russian Thought, p. 151, citing Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v dvukh tomakh, vol. 1, p. 275.

[109] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 22, citing Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v dvukh tomakh, vol. 1, p. 265.

[110] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 102.

[111] Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: A History of Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth Century Russian Thought, pp. 151-2, citing Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v dvukh tomakh, vol. 1, p. 218.

[112] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 16-18 and 31, citing Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v dvukh tomakh, vol. 1, pp. 31-2, 199, 249, and 272.

[113] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Intrepretive History of Russian Culture, 19, 635, fn 8.

[114] Frank, “Pushkin ob otnosheniyakh mezhdu Rossiei i Yevropoi,” p. 280.

[115] A. I. Gertsen, “Moskva i Petersburg,” Sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh, the Aacademy edition, volume 2, Stati i feletony 1841-1846 godov (Moscow: 1954), p. 35 quoted and cited in Riasanovsky, The Image of Peter the Great in Russian History and Thought, p. 138.

[116] For a good summation of the Slavophiles’ romanticism and brief against Peter, see Riasanovsky, The Image of Peter the Great in Russian History and Thought, pp. 143-4.

[117] N. Berdyaev, Russkaya ideya (St. Petersburg: Azbuka-klassika, 2008), p. 202 and Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretative History of Russian Culture, pp. 19 and 635 fn8. However, intuitionist philosopher Nikolai Losskii seemingly mistakenly regarded Berdyaev’s view of sobornost’ to be the latter’s ideal not an assertion about an already existing reality. Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 276.

[118] A. S. Khomyakov, Tserkov’ odna, sections 1 (‘Yedinstvo tserkvi’) and 3 (‘Tserkov’ Khristova na zemle’),

[119] Khomyakov, Tserkov’ odna, section 9 (‘Vera i zhizn’ v yedinstve s Tserkov’yu’).

[120] Prot. Georgii Florovskii, Puti russkogo bogosloviya, second edition (Paris: YMCA Press, 1981), pp. 266-7.

[121] Florovskii wrote: “The Holy Spirit does not descend to earth again and again, but dwells in the ‘visible,’ historical Church. And it is in the Church that He breathes and sends His rays. This is the fullness and conciliarity of Pentecost.” Prot. Georgii Florovskii, Sobornost’ Tserkvi: Bogochelovechskoe edinstvo i Tserkov’, first paragraph,, last accessed on 17 November 2020.

[122] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 25, citing Kireevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v dvukh tomakh, vol. 2, p. 271.

[123] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 39.

[124] Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: A History of Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth Century Russian Thought, p. 102.

[125] Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: A History of Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth Century Russian Thought, p. 103.

[126] A. S. Khomyakov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, fourth edition (Moscow, 1914), Vol. 1, p. 161.

[127] I. I. Yevlampiev, “Religioznost’ russkoi filosofii kak problema,” Voprosy filosofii, No. 1, 2012, pp. 117-28,, last accessed on 12 August 2020.


About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book: The Russian Dilemma: Aspiration, Trepidation, and the West in the Making of Russia’s Security Culture (McFarland, 2021). Previously, he has authored four well-received books: Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.

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