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

Working Paper: TSELOSTNOST’ in Russian Culture, Politics, and Society (Part I “Monism”, Sections 1-3)

TSELOSTNOST’ IN RUSSIAN CULTURE, POLITICS, AND SOCIETY: Part I “Monism”, Sections 1-3: Monism from Orthodox Christianity in Kievan Rus’ to Philosophical Idealism in Nineteenth Century Imperial Russia

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] However, Orthodoxy, like Rome, would ultimately rejected the idea of edinosushchnost’ that a wholly divine Son of God crossed over the material world through a divine and human Christ, walking the Earth among mankind. This may be another source of Russian monism, for it can be argued that a Christ of dual divine-human nature is a more monist phenomenon than a purely divine Christ walking the material world.

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.


Monism in Modern Russian Theological and Philosophical Thought

The Russian enlightenment and anti-enlightenment in the 18th century gave birth to a great intellectual and cultural flourishing in the 19th century. The resulting ferment produced social, economic, and political transformations by century’s end—transformations that heralded the twilight of the old order and the rise of an undefined new one. The century would see the rise of what Russians call the ‘Great Russian Literature’, a religious renaissance, and an artistic ‘Silver Age’, all of which broke new ground in world artistic, religious, and philosophical culture. Monism survived and many ways flourished along the way, taking on new form and content. This was especially true in the renaissance of Russian Orthodoxy, in both its reformist and traditionalist trends, as well as in the arts, which often surpassed and created new trends across Europe’s art forms. The intermixing of religious and secular, Russian and European (and later even Asian) influences produced a more secular monism. Within religious monism, traditional Orthodox forms preserved their monism but shared the theological discourse with Chuch reformist, and even politically liberal movements.

Monism in the Russian Religious Renaissance and Philosophical Awakening

The second half of the 19th century from the coronation of the ‘Tsar Liberator’, Emperor Alexander II, was a period of deepening intellectual ferment, pluralism and, ultimately, division. An influx of new ideas and ideologies, the emancipation of the serfs and the formation of new elments in the social structure (raznochintsy or third rank, the emergence of a working class, and divisions within the intelligentsia) seems to have led to an even greater longing for tselostnost’ in religious and secular philosophy, the arts, politics, economics, and society. This invigorated the aspiration for monism in Russian thought and culture.

Despite Russian Orthodoxy’s early tradition of quasi-metaphysical cosmology, Russian formal philosophy did not develop until very late in the Imperial period. The synergistic and often transcendental cultural flowering in Russia straddling the very late 19th and early 20th centuries known as the Silver Age, aborted by World War I, the Russian revolution, and the victory of totalitarian Bolshevism, produced remarkable creativity among Orthodox theologians and philosophers. The Silver Age included not just a Russian formal philosophy and synergistic artistic trends such as decadence and symbolism but also a remarkable religious Rennaissance and reform movement. Steeped in Western secular philosophy and both Orthodox and Catholic Christian theology, Russian Orthodox-oriented thinkers created a robust strand of typically monist religio-philosophical thought with roots in the past and branches into the future of Russian and Soviet thought and culture.

Russia’s great philosopher-theologians of the era offered similar but nevertheless competing visions of, and for God-man relations, mankind, and Russia. The ‘God-seeking’ movement inspired by Vladimir Solovev’s mystical idealism produced or greatly influenced four overlapping successor trends: the philosophical-theological ‘sophiist’ idealists or ‘sophiology,’ the more political philosophical ‘Vekhi’ movement, the formal philosophical movement known as ‘intuitionism,’ and artistic-philosophical ‘symbolism.’ Traditional Russian Orthodox theology, which disagreed with but accommodated these movements by and large, persisted but had entered its twilight years in the homeland. In the end, as detailed in Chapter 5, positivism and dialectical and mechanical materialism mixed with these trends to produce a quasi-religious communism that included a cosmological teleology of a new world, even universe. Proletarian man and machine were to overcome nature, interstellar space, and death, even attaining Godhood in the ‘God-making’ movement popular among some revolutionaries and Bolshevik fellow travellers.

The God-Seekers

Vladimir Solovev

The late 19th century mystical idealist Orthodox Christian philosopher Vladimir Solov’ev (1853-1900), who another great Russian philosopher Semyon Frank regarded as Russia’s greatest philosopher, devoted his life to finding a direct path for mankind to God. Solovev once remarked: “The supernatural is the the only thing I believe in.” The great philosopher gave a series of famous lectures on bogochelovechnost` to large, enthralled audiences in St. Petersburg during the first half of 1878.[128] Solovev’s God-seeking (bogoiskatel’stvo) saw a spiritual unity between Heaven and Earth, God and Man, the spiritual and the material, among all mankind, and even in eternal time. He argued for a “Christian politics to bring the Kingdom of God to earth” for “all mankind as a single whole.”[129] This would fulfill the prophecy for, and aspiration of all things in the world to full tselostnost’. Solov’ev’s monist tselostnost’ found expression in his phrase ‘all-unity’ (vseedinstvo), a term he developed and which came into wide use in Russian philosophical circles.[130] Vseedinstvo came from the Holy Trinity, encompassing it and all of God’s creation, and was said to be made manifest by Divine Wisdom or ‘Sophia’ that permeates the Holy Trinity. Solovev placed an unprecendented emphasis on, and built a most complex cosmology around Holy Sophia. His ‘sophiology’ revived ancient Eastern Orthodox thought on the theme and elaborated upon the sophiology in the theosophy of Boehme. Solovev claimed to have had three visions of Sophia, about which he wrote a poem “Three Meetings”: the first at the age of nine, later one in the British Museum, and another in Egypt.[131]

Central to Solovev’s system of thought was the idea of the integral “God-Man” (“bogochelovechnost`’), God-human integrality through Man’s divinization, a continuation of the ancient Russian Orthodox idea of the ‘deification’ or ‘godification’ (obozhenie, obozhestvlenie) of mankind and the material world, a parallel to otserkovlenie of the state by the Church. Frank summarizes Solovev’s idea of “bogochelovechnost`,’ the core belief of the God-seeking movement: “The Bogochelovechnost` of Jesus Christ is the source of the potential bogochelovechnost` of a person. The triumph of righteousness and the promise of God in the manifestation of the God-man, Jesus Christ, is the embryo and the guarantee of аctually overcoming all enslavement and humiliation of man. This is not just a dogma of passive faith, but the goal of the universal creative activity of man.” For Solovev, man, “as a being rooted in God,” is “a participant in the universal cause of the obozhenie of mankind and the world.”[132] Christ was all of Christianity but not through his teachings so much as in the redemptive act of his human life and divine purpose on Earth, which reintegrated all existence by overcoming death and ending the mankind’s separation from God. Solovev’s idea of the vseedinstvo or ‘all-unity’ was closely tied Sophia – God’s ‘Divine Wisdom’ and “Eternal Femininity” – as the spiritual energy linking and permeating the Holy Trinity, God’s Kingdom, and his creation. Solovev expected that Russian Orthodox civilization would play a pivotal role in bringing vseedinstvo to the world by uniting Western European and Russian culture. Although developed furthest by Russian Slavophiles like Khomyakov, Kireevskii, and Dostoevskii, as well as by Solov’ev, a critic of the Slavophiles, such messianism, however singularly robust in Russia, was not unique to her. Poles had a similar belief about Catholic Polish culture, Vladimir Kantor notes, and thus manifest a similarly messianic tendency but one based on the nation’s democratizing role rather than a unifying one.[133]

Solovev’s own personality was a model of the Russian aspiration to tselostnost’ of various kinds, including vseedinstvo. Frank writes of Solovev’s “desire to discover an internal connection and interdependence where usually there is counter-opposition and conflict.”[134] For Solovev, as expressed in his 1890 messianist poem ‘Ex Oriente Lux’ (‘A Light fromt the East’), the “soul of the universe” and East and West find love and unity in “a light from the East,” Russia in Christ.[135] Aikhenvald expressed disappointment over Solovev’s penchant for lightness and humor in such a serious matter as philosophy.[136] However, as much as it might undermine the gravitas in one’s overall impression one takes from the body of the great pholosopher’s work, this side of Solovev is also an expression of Solovev’s integrality, which included the entire gamut of human thought, emotion, and experience on his palet, completing the array of spiritualism in his philosophy and Tyutchevian melancholy in his poetry.

Below I discuss the four overlapping schools of Russian philosophy inspired by Solovev’s ‘God-seeking’ thought: the philosopher-thelogian sophiism of Orthodox philosopher-theolgian priests Pavel A. Florenskii and Sergei N. Bulgakov; ‘Vekhi’ movement in the person of its leader the rationalist Christian existentialist Nikolai A. Berdyaev; the intuitionist idealism of prominent formal philosophers such as Semyon Frank, Lev P. Karsavin, Nikolai O. Losskii, and his son V. N. Losskii, Lev Karsavin, Aleksei Losev (omitted from the discussion below are inutitionists Sergei Hessen, Prince S. N. Trubetskoi and his brother E. N. Trubetskoi); and the symbolism of philosophers Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, Vyacheslav Ivanov and Vasilii Rozanov, poet Andrei Belyi and composer Aleksandr Scriabin.

Pavel Florenskii

Father Pavel Florenskii (1882-1937) perhaps more than Russia’s 18th century scientist Mikhail Lomonosov deserves the moniker—Russia’s Leonardo da Vinci. Also, called the ‘Theologian of the Silver Age,’ Florenskii was the author of profound groundbreaking philosophical works, a symbolist poet of Russia’s Silver Age, a professor a Moscow Theological Academy, an astronomist, a mathematician, a physicist, an electrical engineer, author of a history of art, a musician, an inventor, and multilingual (Latin, ancient Greek, a majority of the European languages, and languages of the Caucasus, Iran, and India). Florensky circulated in many of the mystic religious and artistic circles that made the Silver Age: the God-seekers, the Religious Philosophical Society, the the Moscow Mathematical Philosophical Society, the Christian Brotherhood for Struggle, the journal Balans (The Balance), Mir Isskustva, and the Circle of Seekers of Christian Knowledge. He was friendly with Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, his wife Ziniaida Gippius, Grigorii Petrov, Aleksandr Blok, Mikhail Novoselov, and even the eccentric Vyacheslav Ivanov and Vasilii Rozanov, and many other major and minor figures in the Silver Age, the Russian Religious Rennaissance, and the Russian Orthodox Church reform movement at the Moscow Theological Academy, where he studied. For a period, his best friend was the poetic icon of the Silver Age, Aleksandr Belyi, later the God-seeking philosopher Sergei Bulgakov, who wrote a moving obituary to Florenskii’s life. After the revolution, he worked for the Bolshevik regime, doing yeoman’s work in electrification and mineralogy, including in a state-run research institute in Moscow dedicated to experimental electrical engineering, and many of his discoveries gained patents. Arrested and exiled in 1928 to Nizhnii Novgorod, Florenskii was released only to be arrested again in February 1933. In July 1934, he was sentenced to ten years in the Gulag. While incarcerated in the notorious Solovetsk Monastery labor camp, then prison in Russia’s far north, he was allowed to engage in scientific work beneficual to the state. Florenskii discovered a method for making iodine from seaweed. Transferred to a Leningrad prison at the height of the Great Terror in 1937, he was shot in a basement set aside by the NKVD for executions on 8 December of that terrible year.[137]

Except for Florenskii’s focus on defining the separation between Heaven and Earth, his Christian metaphysics and epistomology are imbued with monist tselostnost’. This is nowhere more evident than in his landmark theological and philosophical study Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny (The Pillar and Ground of Truth). For Florenskii and for much of Russian and Eastern philosophy “a basic and characteristic proposition” is that cognition is a two-way and all-integrating act. Echoing the Slavophile philosopher Ivan Kireevskii, he saw a synergistic, spiritual mutual connection, even creation between the cognizer and the cognized through God. “Cognition is the real emergence of the knower from himself or, what is the same, – the real entry of that which is cognized (known) into that which cognizes (the knower), – the real union of the cognizer and the cognized.”[138] Florenskii regarded the perception or representation, symbol, even the name of an object or entity to be that object or entity in different form, a view he derived from Orthodoxy’s belief about icons.[139] The perception of objects therefore became direct intuition or “direct contemplation of living reality as it is in itself.”[140] Every particular entity in Florenskii’s world possesses some form of unity. “(A) thing is characterized through its external unity, that is, through the unity of the sum of (its) attributes, while a person has its essential character in internal unity, that is, in the unity of the activity of self-construction.”[141] Examining contradictions and antonyms using Euclidean geometric formulas to elucidate human reason’s limited ability to know the Truth (Istina) and the Eternal, Florenskii developed a controversial “doctrine of the antonymic nature of Truth.”[142] “Both this and that are true, but each in its own fashion; reconciliation and unity are above reason,” Florenskii argued.[143] An implicit unity is contained in his assertion that a being finds itself through its negation: “‘A’ is in ‘not A’.”[144] Unity could be found only in Love and divine salvation, not reason: “True love is the renunciation of reason.”[145]

Florenskii’s theology reflected a complex, nuanced monism and cosmological integrality. Vseedinstvo was everywhere he looked. The “diversity of the universe, enclosed in unity, indicates a united, free, creative Will.”[146] The source of Truth is unity: “If there is Truth, then it is real rationality and rational reality; it is finite infinity and infinite finiteness, or, – to put it mathematically, – actual infinity; infinite, conceivable as an integral Unity, as a single, complete Subject in itself.”[147] Truth, Good, and Beauty are metaphysically one process, originating from one source: God.[148] For Florenskii, Truth (Istina), defined as action serving God or others, leads to unity, and sin and the absence of truth lead to disunity.[149] Anthropocentric and egoistic action goes against God and destroys unity: “Self-affirmation of the personality, its opposition to God is the source of fragmentation, disintegration of the personality, impoverishment of its inner life; and only love, yes to a certain degree, again brings the personality into unity.”[150] All love – plutonic, familial, and sexual – comes from God.[151] Sin causes the “soul to lose its substantive unity.”[152] “Chastity is simplicity, that is organic unity, or, again, integrity of the personality.”[153] Perversion and an absence of shame are “duality”, “non-unity, non-integrality.” [154] At the same time, sin also has unity if only imaginary in nature: “Sin is unstable in itself. The unity of impurity is imaginary, and the illusory nature of this false unity is revealed as soon as it is forced to come face to face with Good. Uncleanness is one – as long as there is no Pure One, but just the approach of the Pure throws off the mask of unity from it (uncleanness).” [155] “The providence of God and the freedom of creation, being antonyms, constitute one dogma – the dogma of God’s love for creation, which has its basis in the idea of ​​God-Love, that is, of the Divine Trinity.” [156] Bringing reason back in, seemingly, Florenskii regards the study of the “unity of creation” as “the precondition for science.”[157]

In his unfinished work “On the Watersheds of Thought,” Florenskii offers the ultimate statement of Monism in Christianity: “Jesus Christ, an individual, contains in Himself all other individuals, all are in Him, every action of ours, every judgement; the whole fullness of variety of that which was, is and is to come are contained in Him. Everything should be considered from the take-off point of Christ. This is in direct opposition to the Renaissance world view in that it has acknowledged primal metaphysical form as complex, whole, concrete.”[158]

Although Florenskii was critical of aspects of Slavophilism, he echoes its conceptualizations of sobornost’, in particular Khomyakov’s, in the terminology of his own ubiquitous tselostnost’: “Salvation is in consubstantiation (edinosushchii or ‘united essence’) with the Church. The highest, supra-peaceful unity of creation, united by the grace-filled power of the Spirit, is accessible only to those who are purified in triumph and humble. In this way, the ontological essentiality and objective significance of humility, chastity and simplicity are established as super-physical and super-moral forces that make, in the Holy Spirit, all creation the united essence of the Church.”[159] Of course, the unity of God, Creation, Being, and matter is a tenet of Judaism, Christianity as a whole, and even much theoretical physics and other science. Florenskii cites many sources from such predecessors in his ground-breaking Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny and other works. However, there is an all-pervasiveness of the theme of unity throughout Florenskii’s work even in his discussion of secular and non-cosmological issues is striking.

Florenskii was a leader of the mystical religious trend called ‘Name-Worshipping’ or ‘Imyaslavie.’ In Florenskii’s 1909 “The Universal Roots of Idealism” names are treated not as reflections or symbols of reality; they are part of reality or a reality unto themselves: “It is the thing itself. It, therefore, always is a name. The magic of action is the magic of words; the magic of words is the magic of names.”[160] In Orthodoxy theology, the name of God, like any icon, imparts divine energy, theophany, even direct revelation to the observer. The Name-Worshippers extended this concept to all names, which contained the presence of God’s mercy. Florenskii saw not only an interpenetration, interaction and integrality between the cognizer and that which he cognizes but also between symbols and that which they symbolized; thus, the name does not merely represent a thing, “it is the thing itself.” Similarly, the name or symbol became, for Imyaslavie, the different manifestations of one and the same “prime” object they “represent.” In short, the an entity and its name or symbol are integrated, united, whole, one. Florenskii and the ‘Name-Worshippers’ profoundly infuenced a group of Russian mathematicians, who achieved a major breakthrough in mathematical theory in the early 20th century which had stymied the then-world leaders in the field, the French. Thus, even in such a concretely rational science as high mathematics, Russians achieved remarkable success relying heavily on intuition, the “mystical and intuitional approaches connected to a religious heresy, Name-Worshipping.”[161]

Florenskii’s intellectual achievements and approach were rooted in his own, very Russian aspiration to ‘unity.’ He broke new ground in his linkage of religious questions to contemporary physical sciences and formal metaphysical philosophy for the first time. His vision was also typically Russian in its transcendentalism, addressing the “higher realms of being outside the boundaries of the human world.” His particular contributions to Christian philosophy in this regard are his “philosophy of consubstantiality” or integrated human-divine essence, raising for intuivitists like Losskii the research problem of “’personal ideas’ incarnated in angels and the geniuses of different religions.”[162] In response to Florenskii’s work, Losskii proposed developing “a theory about the existence of such superhuman personalities at all stages of the universe’s existence and God’s kingdom.”[163]

If Pyman is correct that Florenskii “was not a natural synthesis,” then he certainly acquired this tendency in profoundly and abundantly. Far outside the realms of religion and philosophy Florenskii found or pursued unity.[164] Married couples and friends became “one.”[165] The cover of a journal, in his view, should integrate the entire “spiritual form” of the entire edition.[166] Florenskii even found integrality in puppet shows: “The chorus of spectators are united by the puppet.”[167] For his unfinished major work, On the Watersheds of Thought, unfinished and another victim of the revolution, Florenskii envisaged a theological-philosophical study that he hoped would amount to a new uniquely Russian philosophy rooted in Russian Orthodoxy. It would be akin to a score of a multivoice symphony or more likely a Russian folk song; its structure he described in his usual monist key: “(E)ach voice more or less improvises yet does not break up the whole but, on the contrary, ties it in more firmly, for the common sound is knitted into one by every performer.” [168]

Sergei Bulgakov

A thinker close to Florenskii’s soul and a fellow Name-Worshipper was Father Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944). He attended the Law Faculty at Moscow University and in 1901 became a professor of political economy at the Kiev Polytechnical Institute. In 1906 he became a lecturer at Moscow University but in 1911 resigned along with a group of other professors in protest against the Tsarist government’s move to restrict the autonomy of universities. He also served in the second State Duma instituted after the aborted 1905 revolution and reforms under the October Manifesto. Bulgakov initially was drawn to Marxism and studied political economy but soon rejected socialism, criticizing Marx for dividing mankind into “sociological groups” and thereby devaluing the individual. Under the influence of Vladimir Solovev he returned to Orthodoxy and became a priest in 1918.[169] Bulgakov’s innovative theology would later spark criticism from the ROC hierarchy both in Russia and abroad and from formal philosophers of a strong Orthodox bent such as Nikolai Losskii (1870-1965) and his son and theologian V. N. Losskii (1903-1958).[170] In 1922 the Soviet authorities deported hundreds of professors and intellectuals for adhering to ideologies incompatible with the dictatorship of the proletariat. Among them were Bulgakov, Nikolai Berdyaev, Nikolai Losskii, Semyon Frank, Aleksandr Il’in, Ivan Lapshin, and Lev Karsavin. Bulgakov, like Berdyaev and many other Russian émigrés, settled in Paris, published prolifically for decades under the Young Mens’ Christian Association (YMCA) and taught at the Paris Orthodox Theological Institute.  

Bulgakov’s system of thought stipulated a near complete unity of the “divine” and “created” worlds, since all existence was integrated into and infused by God. “The world exists in and by God, and there is and can be nothing that lies outside God.” In Bulgakov’s view, “the world is transparent for God, and it is penetrated through and through with divine energies, which form the basis of its being.”[171] The destiny of mankind and the world is full divinization and unity in God: “(T)rue religion can be based on the descent of the Divine into the world… and necessarily is a matter of blessing (blagodat’), supernatural and supra-worldly action of the Divine in man.”[172] Indeed, the created material world came directly from God, and the divine and material world were spiritually “one and identical in content (although not in being).”[173] However, mankind’s entry into the “sphere of God’s Kingdom” would come with its being “part of the Church” and a long historical process of gradual development.[174] Thus, Bulgakov stipulates the “unbreakable dual-unity of the transcendant and the immanent, the premium of the Absolute and the revelation of God in the world”[175]

At the same time that God is integral in his monism, mankind is more than Darwin’s evolved flesh from lower order flesh. It includes within itself all creation: “(Man) is all the animal kingdom (vsezhivotnoe) and contains in himself virtually the whole program of creation. In him one can find eagle-ness (orlinost’) and lion-ness (l’vinost’).”[176] Man is both а created and non-created being. This dualism, therefore, comprises an immanent Bogochelovechestvo that makes possible the divinization of life.[177] In Bulgakov’s Christology, Christ is both God and Man, incarnating in himself all cosmic existence, including all humanity, “except sin.”[178] The divine-human nature of the God-Man (Bogochelovek) could coexist with but not in sin. The God-Man’s incarnation incorporated Adam’s original sin, allowing for his death, but Christ’s divinity realized his resurrection and the redemption of mankind from human sin.[179]

According to Bulgakov, properly understood and practiced economic and productive activity divinizes the material world, perhaps binding the Heaven and Earth closer together: “In the economy, the world is dematerialized and becomes an aggregate of spiritual energies” and “(d)eaf and inert formless matter becomes transparent and spiritual…”[180] Also part of Bulgakov’s system of thought was “a philosophy of language and a theory of beauty and the cosmos as an animated whole.”[181] First made public in 1924, Bulgakov’s language philosophy held in the vein of name-worshipping, that, in Losskii’s words, “the real soul of a verbal sound is the thing itself.”[182] Bulgakov, perhaps more than his teacher Solovev and close friend Florenskii, developed the Christian ‘Sophia’ myth, ‘Holy Sophia’ or ‘Divine Wisdom’, in his theology.

The Sophia Myth and Theological Monism

In almost all teachings, Divine Sophia is closely intertwined with monist elements, being that she is said to possess and provide tselostnost’ to God and his creation. This is found in the teaching of the Eastern Church and developed in ROC teaching and by philosophers and theologians such as Solovev, Florenskii, and Bulgakov, among others. Many mystics and other thinkers, such as the German mystic Jacob Boehme in his ‘theosophy’, were drawn to the myth and were said to have ‘experienced’ Sophia’s presence. Even Tolstoy was drawn to the subject, as Florenskii notes.[183] The myth’s particular power in Russian Orthodoxy is rooted both in Eastern Orthodoxy’s teachings but seeded earlier by the Russian pagan goddess and later peasant mystical belief in Mat’-Zemlya (Mother Earth) cult. The Mother Earth cult was then reinforced by Christianity’s cult of the Virgin Mother of God (Bogomater’). This emphasis on a female godliness strengthened the Sophia cult in Russian religious culture.

Theologians like Solovev, Florenskii, and Bulgakov were intrigued by, if not enthralled with the Sophia myth. Sophia is described variously, ascribed many roles: mankind’s guardian angel, the Eternal Bride of ‘Logos’ (the Word of God), the primordial nature of creation, the creative Love of God.[184] In his work Russia and the Universal Church, Solovev expounded on Sophia, who “becomes incarnate throughout the whole universe” through “the trinitary Man, Messianic Man, the God-Man.”[185] Divine Sophia is also important in the similarly monist visions of cosmic tselostnost’ developed by his followers, Florenskii and Bulgakov.

Influenced by Solovev, symbolist poet and friend Aleksandr Belyi, and his own close study of ecclesiastical sources, Florenskii developed the former’s ideas further.[186] Sophia, in Florenskii’s system, “participates” in the vseedinstvo of God and his creation: “Sophia participates in the life of the Tripartite Deity, enters the Trinity depths and participates in Divine Love. But… she does not “form” the Divine Unity, she does not “create” Love, but only enters into the communion of Love.”[187] Unity (Edinstvo) permeates Florenskii’s discourse on Sophia:

“The love of God flowing in this Being (Sophia) is the creative act by which it receives: first, life, secondly, unity, and, thirdly, being; unity, being not a fact, but an act, is a mystical derivative of life, and being is a derivative of unity: true being is a substantial relation to the other and movement from oneself, both giving unity and arising from the unity of being. … This ‘Great Being’…is the realized Wisdom of God, הכְָמַה Hochma, Σοφία Sophia or Wisdom.

Sophia is the Great Root of the whole creation [cf. πάσα ἡ κτίσις (Romans 8:22), that is, the all-integral creation, and not just the whole, by which the creature goes into the Trinitarian life and through which it receives itself Eternal Life from the Single Source of Life; Sophia is the primordial nature of creation, 572) the creative Love of God, ‘which is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us’ (Romans 5:5).”[188]


“The Eternal Bride of the Word of God, outside of Him and independently of Him, she has no existence and disintegrates into the fragmentation of ideas about the creature; in Him, she receives creative power. One in God, she is plural in creation, and here she is perceived in its concrete phenomena as the ideal personality of man, as his Guardian Angel, that is, as a glimpse of the eternal dignity of the individual and as the image of God in man.”[189]

Avril Pyman’s summary of Florenskii’s “Christianization”[190] of the Silver Age cult of Sophia relays well the mystical wave, intimate friendships, transcendent comradery, and sexual longing and passion that filled the Silver Age and the Russian Imperial twilight and in which this great thinker lived out perhaps his best years. More importantly, it relays the presence of Sophia on earth in the life of mankind:

Florensky….had, since his first year at the Theological Academy, been intrigued by the idea of a Holy Being who manifests herself on the borderline between the spiritual and the material. It seemed to him that Sophia reveals Herself through human personality when the physical is illumined by the spiritual, just as She manifests Herself in the finest dust of the Earth’s atmosphere, illumined and coloured by the setting or the rising of the sun, and in the merciful azure whch cloaks the blackness of outer space. Following the mediation on the sanctity of the Created World, the ‘letter’ (chapter) on Sophia is at once a painstaking study of a difficult, elusive concept and hymn in its praise. It concludes with the thought of the significance of Sophia as a manifestation of the Spiritual in the material granted in ‘the sincere, personal love’ of two individuals who, thanks to the breakdown of the boundary between ‘I’ and ‘thou’, provide ‘that environment in which begins the revelation of truth’.”[191]  

            Florenskii’s friend, Bulgakov, like Solovev, said he had personal experience with Sophia’s spirit. One such experience came beholding the powerful beauty of nature in the Caucasus Mountains, another in the Sistine Chapel, and a third, as with Solovev, came in an art museum, Dresden’s Zwinger Art Gallery.[192] For Bulgakov, Sophia is not in everything but, as Losskii notes, “between” everything: God and the world, creator and creation, and so on.[193] Bulgakov writes: “The Angel of creation and the Beginning of God’s ways is St. Sophiya. She is the love of love. … Sophia is not just love but loves with requited love, and in this fact of mutual love she receives everything, is Everything.”[194] Sophia is vseedinstvo. She connects and unites everything:

“The ‘fourth hypostasis’ (Sophia), accepting the revelation of divine mysteries, introduces through itself and for itself a distinction, order, internal consistency in the life of the Divine Trinity, it perceives the single and whole deity as a triunity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As receiving her essence from the Father, she is the creation and daughter of God; as one who cognizes the Divine Logos and is cognizable by Him, she is the bride of the Son (Song of Songs) and the wife of the Lamb (New Testament, Apocalypse); as receiving the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, she is the Church and together with this she becomes the Mother of the Son, incarnated by the influx of the Holy Spirit from Mary, the Heart of the Church, and she is the ideal soul of creation, beauty. And all this together: Daughter and Bride, Wife and Mother, the trinity of Good, Truth, Beauty, the Holy Trinity in the world is the divine Sophia. The Second Hypostasis, Christ, is predominantly turned to Sophia, for He is the light of the world, He is all that was (Io. 1), and, perceiving the rays of the Logos, Sophia herself becomes Christosophy, the Logos in the world, and, like Him, is loved by the Father’s Hypostasis, pouring out on her the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”[195]

Bulgakov seemed to tie Sophia to the pagan Slavic Mat’-Zemlya and other pagan cults: “She is that Great Mother, who since ancient times tongues have piously honored: Demetra, Izida, Kibela, Ishtar.”[196]

If the embryo of the Sophia myth lay in pagan Slavdom, it survived the Bolshevik revolution among the lay symbolist poets—fellow travelers of the early Bolshevik regime. For example, symbolist poet Andrei Belyi frequently professed his faith in Sophia in his correspondence with his close symbolist friend and poet Aleksandr Blok.[197] In his eulogy of Blok at the Free Philosophical Society in 1921, Belyi invoked “world Sophia” but with a “human frame.”[198]

Nikolai Berdyaev and the ‘Vekhi’

A close friend and associate of Bulgakov was the prolific religious thinker and political-historical philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948). Like his friend and much of Russia’s intelligentsia and educated youth at the time, Berdyaev was drawn to socialism and Immanuel Kant’s thought and arrested for ‘conspiratorial’ activity in 1898. He soon turned to Solovev’s religious idealism and met Bulgakov. The two Solovevites departed for St. Petersburg in 1903 to establish the journal Questions of Life (Voprosy zhizni), which, with support from Nikolai Losskii, was allowed but survived just one year. The pre-revolutionary years saw Berdyaev publish a series of works, including The Philosophy of Freedom (Filosofiya svobody, 1911). As noted above, Berdyaev along with Bulgakov and more than a hundred other intellectuals were arrested and deported by the Bolshevik authorities in 1922 for views antithetical to the revolution. Berdyaev and the others continued to publish abroad; the flowering of Silver Age philosophy thrived in Paris, Berlin, London and other Western cities. First settling in Berlin and then moving to Paris, Berdyaev played a lead role in the Christian youth organization, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and its publishing activity, along with Bulgakov. He also edited the Russian-language, Paris-based religious philosophical journal Put’ (The Way) from 1926-1939, when wrote his most influential studies.[199]

In 1909 Berdyaev, Bulgakov, Semyon Frank, and Pyotr Struve, among others published the landmark ‘Vekhi’ (Signposts) collection of religious-philosophical and historical-philosophical articles on the state of Russian life, thought, and culture. This was followed by the 1923 publication of the Vekhi group’s no less influential collection of articles Iz glubiny (From the Depths). In his contributions, Berdyaev developed the idea of Russian messianism and its deleterious effect on a Russian intelligentsia. Thoroughly infused with the socialist ideas, the intelligentsia’s desire for simple absolute truths played a major role in the revolutionary outcome of 1917-1921 in Russia, in Berdyaev’s view.[200] His close associate, Semyon Frank noted that Berdyaev was “not a philosopher”, in the sense of a scholarly or ‘formal philosopher’ having a systematic and comprehensive explanation of the nature and existence of the world. Rather, he was a “real thinker” characterized by “truth-loving and internal independence” with “a multitude of new and original ideas.”[201]

In Berdyaev’s thought, eternal humanity exists in the divine, and therefore the divine exists in man. Any creative activity progresses mankind towards divine life. However, for Berdyaev, “(m)onism and all-unity are only possible at the end of this world, at the end of objectivization. In this world dualism remains in force.”[202] Monism was an eschatological reality, not a metaphysical one. Human life reaches its full fruition with death and the rebirth of the body in perfected form without gender characteristics, in a hermaphrodite form.[203] In Berdyaev’s thought creation also is a less unified process, and the unity that exists possesses less integrality. God created the subject (mankind), and the subject created the object (nature and universe) through his ‘fall’ and rejection of God, producing the material world with its inherent evils. The subject and object are distinct from each other, with nature being “the system of relations between objects,” leading to objectification, irrational freedom, and egoism in the world.[204] Objectification of the world becomes man cloaking his subjective feelings in concrete external forms and projecting them and construing from them objects, which again stand before hum forming a system of objective reality.[205] Thus, the material world of man and nature take on a life of their own, and God is not, for Berdyaev, all-powerful and all-knowing.[206] Individuals are isolated in a “lower sphere of existence” envisaged by Berdyaev as more distant from the higher form of the Divine.[207] Close unity (tesnoe edinenie) is only possible through “(s)piritual cognition” between subjects in a mystical experience in which “all is in me and I am in all.”[208] Nevertheless, as Losskii acknowledges, like the theologians Solovev, Florenskii, and Bulgakov, Berdyaev believed Christ redeemed the world, opening the path to its divinization in history.[209] Salvation is only attainable collectively, not individually,[210] and collective salvation just like all-unity comes only with the coming of Christ and God’s Kingdom.

For Berdyaev, the historical process is a battle between good and “irrational freedom” born in the objectification after the fall. Irrational freedom consists in mankind’s attempt to subordinate the objective, natural world without God’s assistance. Such freedom leads to chaos, represented well by revolution and its purely destructive function. Therefore, not one earthly project has been successful.[211] Divinization of the world is only possible through a freedom based in love for God, as revealed by Christ’s entrance into the tragedy of world history. Berdyaev attempted to demonstrate, in Losskii’s words, “the tselostnost’ of the historical process”[212] and thus found what he called “existential time,” in which God’s kingdom existed, to have “no distinction between past and present, beginning and end.”[213]

Berdyaev placed the highest value on the individual personality and his or her freedom rather than on the society, nation, or state.[214] However, he also believed, like Dostoevskii, Solovev, and the Slavophiles, that God had ordained Russia to unite the East and West.[215] He did so, despite his highly critical assessment of the state of Russian culture and society, particularly the intelligentsia, and their “irrationalism,” radical materialism, excess positivism, and “class proletarian mysticism” at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.[216] Berdyaev’s evolution into a strong proponent of the importance of free will and political freedom made him an outspoken opponent of Soviet power before and after emigration.

Berdyaev took the monism in Russian philosophy to have been inherited from the intelligentsia’s maximalism: “In Russian philosophy there are traits, which are native to the Russian intelligentsia—a thirst for an integral (tselostnyi) worldview and an organic merger of truth and good, knowledge and faith.”[217] He himself recommended ‘reforming’ the intelligentsia on the grounds of the very same “synthesis of knowledge and faith” and an “organic unification of theory and practice.”[218] Berdyaev’s search for the roots of ‘Soviet collectivism, which he saw rooted in various aspects and reifiying teachings of the intelligentsia, including those of socialists and Slavophiles. Tselostnost’ was an essential part of Russian culture and therefore a source of the rise of socialism in Russia. In particular, Berdyaev argued that sobornost’ was an underlying force in Russian culture promoting familial, patrimonial, and particularist values and behaviors as opposed to formal legality. It was Russian Orthodoxy’s and Russian culture’s answer to Catholic authoritarianism and Protestant individualism, to both of which it was opposed.[219] This aspiration for unity helped to facilitate Russians’ acceptance of socialist ideas such as the collective’s rights superceding those of the individual, just as the messianic idea of Russia as the ‘Third Rome’ transformed into communist international messianism and Bolshevism’s faith in ‘world revolution.[220] This was all the more facilitated as the intelligentsia “held sobornost’ dear but proselytized a philosophy in which there was no place for the sobornost’ of mankind.”[221] Berdyaev himself professed, if not a belief in sobornost’, a religious faith in an ultimate, more universal tselostnost’, emphasizing a politics and religious practice that would save the “world soul.”[222]

Monism in Russian Intuitionism

A Russian philosophical trend related to the Vekhi is ‘intuitionism’ (intuitivizm) developed originally by Nikolai O. Losskii and Semyon L. Frank, most prominently. Influenced by Solovev, the Russian personalist or “metaphysical idealist” philosopher Andrei A. Kozlov, as well as various Western formal philosophers, most notably Gottgreid Wilhelm Liebnitz (1646-1716), the movement’s adherents broke new ground in formal philosophy in line with the more mystical Russian tradition rooted in Orthodox theology.[223] Intuitionism advanced Russian monism on profound formal philosophical grounds. Losskii laid down its foundations, elaborating tselostnost’ in a gnosiology and cosmology inspired by Kozlov.

Andrei Kozlov

            Andrei Kozlov (1831-1901) was originally influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and Eduard von Hartmann (1842-1906), of whom Kozlov wrote a biography published in 1875, and later by Liebnitz’s personalist monadism as well as the ‘perspectivism’ of Gustav Teichmuller (1832-1888). Shortly after beginning to publish Russia’s first Russian philosophical journal in 1885, Kozlov suffered a stroke forcing him to turn inward. His meditations produced what he termed his philosophy of “pluralistic monism” or “pan-psychism.”[224] Kozlov’s Russian biographer, his illegitimate son, religious philosopher, and St. Petersburg University professor Sergei A. Askoldov (1871-1945) noted that the ideas of Kozlov and Solovev address “one and the same problem, approached from different ends, as it were.”[225] Kozlov’s system tended to skirt religion and Orthodoxy, in particular in comparison with Solovev. He argued against both the idealist emphasis on “pure being” and the positivist David Hume’s view of the mind as a “bundle of sense impressions” and divided consciousness into primary and complex consciousness. The former consisted of more than Hume’s sense impressions and included awareness of experiential content, one’s actions, and “I-hood” of one’s spiritual individual identity. The ‘I’ is a substantiated “simple, irreducible spiritual monad,” its complex consciousness the product of the I’s synthesis of experience, reason, and consciousness.[226] Kozlov furthered Liebnitz’s view of the afterlife and reincarnation. He argued that the body was an image or symbol of our ‘I’ that develops in us through our interactions with other substances or monads (beings and objects). Death is the end of one’s interactions with other monads, after which the ‘I’ interacts with spiritual monads and creates a new material form for itself corresponding to the I’s level of development.[227]

The spatio-temporal world for Kozlov was the product of the interaction of an infinite number of substantiated monadal spiritual beings, united or eventually to be united by the central substantiated being, that is – God. God is a real being, but the ‘I’ cognizes it as poorly as it does itself, a shortcoming to be overcome with development through reincarnation and the unity of all spiritual mondas.[228] The world and spatial ‘reality,’ as perceived by any individual ‘I’, are really symbols, respectively, of the sum of interactions between monads. Like space, time for Kozlov, is plurally monist and symbolic. Time represents the fact, as described by Walicki, “that substances, thought themselves unchanging, are variable and mobile in their nonessential attributes. The network of mutual relationships linking substances is nontemporal, but owing to the narrow grasp of our consciousness we cannot encompass that network as a whole; hence we move over it from point to point, thus arriving at the notions of ‘before,’ ‘now,’ and ‘after.’ The world evolves in a logical rather than a temporal sequence. Every moment of being is determined by all other points of the sequence within which the substance is developing, not excluding those which from a temporal point of view appear to be in the future (my emphasis).”[229] Hence, time is, in a sense, unified in Kozlov’s secularist monist system, as it is for many as noted above and below. The leading follower of Kozlov’s thought was the idealist intuitionist N O. Losskii.

Nikolai Losskii

Born in Vitebsk in 1870, Nikolai Losskii graduated from and became a professor in the Historical-Philological and Natural Sciences Departments of St. Petersburg University. In 1906 he published his most important work, The Bases of Intuitionism (Obosnovanie intuitivism). After his exile from Russia by the Bolsheviks in 1922, he settled in Prague and then moved to Bratislava in 1942 where he continued to publish and worked as a professor of philosophy until 1945. He then emigrated to the United States, where he was a professor of philosophy at New York’s Russian Theological Academy until his death in 1965.[230]

            According to Losskii’s epistomology, although a cognized object exists independently from the act of cognition, it becomes part of cognizing subject in the act of cognition. Thus, as in Kireevskii’s and Florenskii’s conceptualizations, the cognizer and cognized enter into each other, “joined directly by the consciousness of the cognizing subject.” “This kind of contemplation of other entities as they are in themselves, is possible because the world is a kind of organic whole, and the cognizing subject, the individual human ‘I’, is a kind of super-temporal and super-dimensional being, closely connected with the whole world.”[231]

The relation of the cognizing subject to other entities (objects and persons) in the world Losskii calls “gnosiological coordination” (gnoseologicheskaya koordinatsiya).[232] The logic of monism in Losskii’s intuitionism is represented by the tselostnost’ hidden in the empirical world and is discoverable through intuition, which brings full cognition beyond the limited form attained in sensual or mental experience through empiricism and rationalism. “External objects are coordinated with the cognitive personality in their integrality (tselostnost’), in all the endless multitude of their content, but all this richness of the object is connected with the human ‘I’ only unconsciously.” Consciously cognition of an object or entity is limited by human capacity and partial curiosity and interest; it is always “fragmentary.”[233] Again, cognizers “are not separate from each other, but identical, in other words, consubstantial. … As carriers of the creative forces, substantial actors are individual and independent, but as carriers of basic abstract-ideal forms they are identical and form a  single being; consequently, even in its own independent aspect they are mutually coordinated to such an extent that they secure the possibility of intuition, love, sympathy…, that is, the possibility of direct, intimate interaction.” “(A)ctors create numerous systems of spatial-temporal relations, which do not collapse into separate worlds, but comprise one united system of the cosmos. At the head of the system stands a highly developed substantial actor – the world spirit.” If interrelations in the spatial-temporal cosmos are conducted in antagonism among actors, this leads to various stages of decay but not destruction of the “system of cosmic unity.” Interaction in this system on the basis of “love and unity” brings the development of “absolute values,” an “(a)ll-encompassing absolute value” or the “absolute completeness (polnota) of life.”[234] This is not yet Losskii’s famous “divinization” (obozhenie) of life on earth, but it sets the stage for the next level addressed in his philosophical system.

According to Losskii’s “hierarchical personalism,” “the unification (ob”edinenie) of several actors that accept, in any case, some attraction to each other in order to carry forth together, are the means of achieving more complex stages of existence.” “Fine forms of such consubstantiation” arise as entities unite into single entities of a higher level of development, creating a “hierarchy of unities,” beginning from the atom and ascending to the universe. “Each successive stage of unification (unifikatsiya) possesses higher creative power than the previous stage and is headed by an entity at a higher stage of development,” which Losskii calls the “body” (telo) of this entity.[235]This “system of the world” comprising a “united system of the cosmos” cannot contain in itself the basis of its own existence.” This basis rests in a “principle” suggested by the structure of the world’s “system of relations” in which each level forms a ‘head’ embodying all of the level’s components into a single whole. At the highest level, the head is the ‘supra-cosmic principle’ of an all-unifying, single God. Philosophy reveals this single principle by way of “speculative meditation (umozrenie) on the world”— that is, “intellectual intuition directed at the world and which leads to mystical intuition, which is already directed to the other side of the world, to the supra-cosmic and metalogical principle.” Losskii asserts that the “supra-cosmic principle” gains the existence of the world neither through “dialectical development, or emanation, or some other type of relations…but through the mediation of absolute creation,…creation from nothing”…of  a perfectly new being, different from himself.[236] Here, Losskii is less monist than Solovev, Florenskii, Bulgakov, who, as noted above, asserted vseedinstvo, which would seem to evaporate in Losskii’s system after God’s creation of a separate entity, regardless of the potential for integration of God and Man in the heavenly kingdom. Nevertheless, as Losskii himself wrote, his intuitionist idea was “monistic” in its ontology “in the sense that it looks at all types of cognition as intuitive…as intellectual intuition or contemplation of the ideal foundation of the world, which imparts to it a systematic character.”[237]

Losskii then brings God into this heretofore purely philosophical metaphysics and is less original, restating views on God’s essence, the Holy Trinity, God and Man, God’s kingdom, and the material world proposed by his contemporaries in philosophy and theology introduced above. In this way, his work is more theological than that of his mentor Kozlov. Losskii states that mankind “discovers god as the absolute completeness of life”—terms similar to those used by Semyon Frank—in three hypostases, consubstantiated concretely in their complete mutual love.”[238] Thus, the Trinity is a tripartite yet single entity. Its “divine transcendence is inexpressible by any words or concepts.” God reveals himself not just as the absolute completeness of life, according to Losskii, but as the “highest, absolute, perfected” of values or “the supra-good” (sverkhblago)—“love, moral virtue, truth, freedom, the absolute fullness of life and being, and beauty.” Whereas “God in his tripartite life is the absolute completeness of being and the primary, all-encompassing internal value,” any entity created by God is given all the noted values necessary for attaining the absolute completeness of life and thus in itself “is also an all-encompassing and absolute value” (“but not a primary, all-encompassing internal value”). The ultimate value accessible through the universal practice of these sub-values is “the organic unity of existence and meaning.” This is Losskii’s “ontological theory of values.” Thus, God created a system of entities “capable of creating with his merciful assistance the highest good—the divine completeness of life—and Christ “unified human nature with his divine nature and God-Man (bogochelovek) appeared.” In this way, Christ’s incarnation is the embodiment of the potential for man’s “divinization” (obozhestvlenie), which is the “final goal of any person’s life” attainable by altruistic creation shorn of all egoism.[239]

Losskii’s vision, more religiously inspired than logically philosophized, attains high monism. “The sum of such divinized entities composes the special sphere of being—God’s kingdom.”[240] What ultimately is created by free, divinizing beings “should be fully compatible and sobornyi.” “Each member of the kingdom of God should make his own individual, special contribution to the “common creation” so their “activity will be mutually complimentary and create a united, exceptionally fine whole.” In God’s kingdom, beings have “spatial” not material “bodies,” composed exclusively of light, sound, warmth, and other sensual qualities embodying and expressing absolutely virtue spiritual content.” The transformation of the physical body manifests itself in a “spiritual-bodily whole.” These de-incarnated beings, ‘nebozhiteli’ (celestials or celestian beings), “are not isolated one from the other but mutually penetrate each other.”[241] The process of reincarnation into celestials and God’s kingdom through obozhestvlenie – that is, the complete unification of mankind and Heaven under God – through bodily humans’ abandonment of “egoism” is all mankind’s fate, according to Losskii, “sooner or later.”[242] Politically, he saw the Russian anarchist and socialist revolutionaries of his era as prime examples of an egoism in which the aspiration to perfection on earth violates “the hierarchy of values” – placing the struggle for perfection above love, absolute completeness of life, freedom, and beauty – and independently from God’s grace. These egoists’ pride, he argued, would lead inevitably to the failure of their historical project and hatred of God.[243]

Although Losskii’s intuitionism did not emphasize Divine Wisdom or Sophia, he supported the ‘sophiology’ of Solovev, Florenskii, and Bulgakov against criticism from the Moscow Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, asserting this teaching “will play a significant role in the further development of religious philosophy.”[244] In Losskii’s theo-cosmology, Sophia, like other angels and saints who help man on earth, assisted the Man-God, Jesus Christ, on earth. She is a “creative being,” the “world spirit,” who stands “at the head of the whole world after Christ,” as “his closest companion.” The Virgin Mary Bogomater’ is the incarnation on earth of Sophia, who in turn facilitates Christ’s incarnation as Man-God on earth.[245] Again, as Christ, Sophia makes the God-Man, Heaven-Earth, spirit-matter duality less bifurcated, more integrated. As such, the Sophia myth, far more robust in the Eastern and especially Russian Church in part by virtue of the Mat’-Zemlya myth reinforces the monism in Losskii’s thought as it does that of many of contemporaries.

Losskii reflected the monism in Russian culture and thought in his overview of the unique nature of Russian philosophy. He acknowledges the Slavophile contribution to the development of Russian gnoseology in Kireevskii’s and Khomyakov’s “integral cognition, i.e. cognition as organic all-encompassing unity.” In their view and Losskii’s own, only “an integral person” who has “gathered into a single whole all his spiritual forces – sensory experience, rational thinking, aesthetic perception, moral experience, and religious contemplation” – can begin through this “integral experience” to “understand the world’s true being and attain super-rational truth about God.” [246] This monist and intuitionist approach of Russian philosophy is so essentially a part of Russian thought that it even influenced Russian positivists and agrarian socialist revolutionaries like Pyotr Lavrov and Nikolai Mikhailovskii. According to Losskii, this monism in the instuitionists’ epistemology, related to God and his creation, led Russian thinkers from Danilevskii to Chernyshevskii to reject Darwinism’s view of “struggle for existence as a factor of evolution.” [247] Losskii’s displayed own philosophical ‘russkost’’ or ‘Russianness’ by noting both Russian philosophy’s   “desire for integral cognition” and declaring that philosophy’s “main task” is “to work out a theory of the world as a single whole, which would rely on all the diversity of experience,” “inevitably become religious” (Losskii’s emphasis), and “should be led by the principles of Christianity.” He invoked another Russian cultural trait – maximalism and self-sacrifice. Russian philosophers like Solovev, Florenskii, and Bulgakov “dedicated their life” to working out a comprehensive Christian worldview” and “(i)n this there consists a more characteristic trait of Russian philosophy.” [248]

In sum, Losskii is yet another Russian thinker, whose philosophy and mentality strives for monism. In him as in Berdyaev, we see monism based not just in the tendency towards tselostnost’ rooted in the Christian religion and its Eastern-Russian branch of theology but also in Russia’s emerging formal philosophy, albeit one dominated by theologians or deeply religious laymen. We see the same in his intuitionist colleague, Semyon Frank.

Semyon Frank

Born in Moscow in 1877, Semyon Frank studied in the Law Department at Moscow University and continued his studies in Berlin and Heidelberg, focusing on sociology and philosophy. Initially a Marxist, Frank turned to formal philosophy and religion. Converting to Russian Orthodoxy, the Jewish Frank became part of the Christian idealist movement in Russian formal philosophy inspired by Solovev. After Losskii, Frank made the greatest contribution to intuitionist trend. Exiled with his Vekhi and intuitivist colleagues in 1922, he settled in London where he died in 1950 after a prolific career. Frank’s most important publications are his 1926 The Russian World View (first published in German as Die russische Weltanschaung), his 1930 The Incomprehensible (Nepostizhimoe), both published in Paris by YMCA, and God is With Us published in London in 1946.[249]

Like other idealists influenced by both Western philosophy and the Russian tradition, Frank developed his intuitionism by first creating a theory of knowledge. His ontology brought Losskii and ‘Russian intuitionism’ to a monist crescendo in what Frank saw as a philosophy firmly embedded in Russian traditional emphasis on the spiritual in contrast to Western materialism, rationalism, and empiricism. In this way, there is a straight line connecting Russian ontology from Orthodox monism and the monist sobornost’ of Kireevskii and other Slavophiles to the intuitivists Losskii, then Frank. From the intuitionist view, Frank perfected Losskii’s intuitionism by completing its monist strain.

In Frank’s and other Russian thinkers’ view, Russian thought in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had produced a formal philosophy that was distinct but also completed Western philosophy by supplementing the latter’s physiological emphasis with the mystical Russian approach. Man is more than a sensory, physical being, he is spirit and soul: “Philosophy in its essence is not just science,…it is supra-scientific, intuitive, world-perceptional study, which consists in a very close familial tie…with religious mysticism.” If one speaks of philosophy in this broader sense, then Russian philosophy not only proposes an integral worldview in relation to existence but is itself integral. On the one hand, according to Frank, through its reliance on intuition, it “possesses a uniqueness and tselostnost’.” Moreover, it views Western European philosophy’s focus on the ontology of cognition and knowledge as of “secondary” importance, “schematic and slanted” from “full and living truth.”[250] Russian philosophy, says Frank, “to a far greater degree than the Western European is precisely a worldview theory, and its essence and basic goal never lie in the sphere of purely theoretical, dispassionate cognition of the world but always in the religious-emotional interpretation of life and that it, in this way, can be understood precisely from a perspective on the depth of its religious-worldview roots.”[251]

Frank asserts that Russian philosophy is predominantly universalist, collectivist—a “we-philosophy” not an “I-philosophy” as in the West.[252] In Frank’s view and that of the present author, the Russian approach is the result of Russians’ tendency to pursue transcendent truths to the ultimate questions and mysteries of mankind and existence, as reflected in Russian literature.[253] This tendency, this drive is the result of what can be called Russian transcendentalism and maximalism as well as of what Russians call “truth-seeking” (pravdoisкanie). From Kireevskii’s “zhivoznanie” or “life knowledge” as a path to “full” cognition and knowledge (predecessor to Losskii’s emphasis on life experience), based on the idea of the “integrality of life” evident in the work of another Slavophile Yurii Samarin, to Vladimir Solovev’s pivotal assertion that, in Frank’s summary, the “truth of being is concrete tselostnost’, which cannot be adequately presented either in a separate abstract principle, in knowledge, or in morality.”[254]

Instead of ‘abstract rationality,’ what is needed in Frank’s and other Russian idealists’ and intuitionists’ assessment is an integral metaphysical theory based on ‘being’ (bytie) rather than on the physical process of human cognition and knowledge. Frank argues for an integral metaphysics in the following way. The identity or definition of any ‘I’ distinct from all else means that all else is ‘not I.’ Therefore, the ‘I’ is incomprehensible without forming part of the complex unity ‘I + -I’. Thus, not just this relationship but both of its constituent parts are an inseparabe self-defining “metalogical unity.”[255] Similarly, the “Absolute” or God is a metalogical unity “upon which is erected the truthfulness of the laws of thought by which the definitiveness of forms of conceptual cognition are construed.” God also is “the unity upon which the material connection in cognition in all its inexhaustible completeness is constructed.” Echoing Solovev, the great mentor of his, the first generation of Russian formal philosphers, Frank averred: “In both these relationships, the Absolute is the absolute all-unity (vseedinstvo) and the unconditional primary unity of being.” And “absolute vseedinstvo of being is inaccessible for conceptual cognition, remaining outside its field of vision, but only because it itself is the primary conceptual cognition, or speaking in Kant’s words, the transcendental condition for the possibility of conceptual cognition.”[256]

Regarding epistemology specifically, Frank notes: “The meaning of cognition besides the act of cognition itself consists precisely in its transcendence and the immutability of its reality. Thus, there must be present internal evidence of being, without which the fact of cognition remains inexplainable. This internal evidence is precisely faith – not in the usual meaning of blind, unfounded admission but in the sense of a primary and completely direct obviousness, the mystical penetration into being itself.”[257] The Russian Frank turns Westerner Rene Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’ (‘cognito ergo sum’) on its head: One exists, therefore one thinks, cognizes, knows. Each object still before its ever being cognized is already in direct contact with those who among us might cognize it and is merged with our very being not just through interacting consciousness upon cognition but a priori in an all-encompassing and unified existence and being. Frank thus amended Losskii’s unique theory by replacing cognition and consciousness as the theoretical foundation with the logically intuitive implications of being. Losskii had rejected the view that the human mind or soul is a closed separate element, contained within itself like a vessel with a certain content separate from the ocean of being and life that ‘surrounds’ it and that it cognizes. In his epistomology, cognizing is a two-way street, even if only one entity is doing the cognizing—an interpenetration between cognizer and the cognized. Frank abandoned Losskii’s adherence to the centrality of cognition, positing a new metaphysics rooted in intuition by way of the primacy of being. Thus, intuition based on all of life experience superceded rationalism because being preceded cognition:

That which is directly obvious must not be at first manifested and conceived through something else; that which is based on itself and manifests itself through itself is being as such. Being is given not through consciousness and not as its objective content; to the contrary, since our ‘I’, our consciousness is nothing other than a manifestation, so to speak, a branch of being as such, then this being also completely expresses itself in us directly. There is no necessity first to ‘know’ something, to activate cognition in order to penetrate being; to the contrary, in order to know something, it is necessary first to exist already. Precisely through this perfectly direct and primary being any being is comprehensible. … (M)an knows only in so much as he himself is, and he comprehends a being not only through the ideal way through knowing and thinking but first of all must more really root himself in being so that comprehension is possible at all. From here follows the concept of life experience already considered by us as the basis of knowledge connected with ontologism. For life is precisely the real connection between ‘I’ and being, and at the same time ‘thinking’ is only the ideal connection between them.[258]

Challenging Losskii’s limiting interpenetration, intersection, integrality to the act, time, and place of cognition, Frank asserts that the individual being is rooted in the absolute unity of tselostnost’ or vseedinstvo:

… We in our being and through it are directly connected being as such, exist in it, and possess it directly – not through cognizant consciousness but through primary experience. If the external world and in general the sphere of the objective consisted of things completely separate from and alien to us, then we would never be confident that something is really and not just in the moment of cognition by us. But since each separate subject thinks only in the framework and on the basis of a united, all-encompassing being, being as such, i.e. that being which encompasses and penetrates all of us, then we possess in the consciousness of being as such, that which precedes each act of cognition and founds its meaning—an absolute guarantee of objectivity of our knowledge.[259]

Frank sums up his theory of integral being by returning to ‘religious ontology’, bringing God into his system explicitly: “The individualism of the subjective internal as well as the externally supra-individual objectivism are overcome here through absolute universal ontologism in that sense in which it sounds in Goethe: ‘Nothing is inside, nothing is outside—because that which is inside is that which is outside.’ Not a desire to God but being in God composes the essence of this religious ontologism.”[260] The universe is integral open sea of being, encompassing living and celestial beings in the waters of matter and spirit under God’s creation.

By comparing the Russian worldview’s emphasis on being as an integral foundation with its Western counterpart’s focus on cognition, Frank reflects the Russian orientation on fundamental integrality in contrast to the division and more ephemeral rootlessness of individual thinking and consciousness in the West:

The new West European person feels precisely like an individual thinking consciousness, and everything else is given only for this consciousness or perceived through it. He does not feеl rooted in existence or located in it, and his own life feels not like an expression of existence itself, but as another level (instantsiya), which contradicts existence, i.e., he feels, so to speak, a step removed from existence and can break through to it only by a circumvented path of conscious cognition.”

A completely different life sensation is expressed in the Russian worldview, which therefore aspires to a quite different philosophy. …To the Russian spirit the path from ‘knowing’ (cognito) to ‘existing’ (sum) always seems absolutely artificial; the true path for him leads, to the contrary, from ‘sum’ to ‘cognito’.[261]

…. The direct feeling that my being is precisely being and that it (my being) belongs to universal being and is rooted in it and that the complete life content of the personality and its thought as a type of its activity exists only on this ground—this feeling of being, which is given to us not externally, but is present inside us…, the feeling of the depth of our being, which is simultaneously objective, supra-individual, and self-evident, composes the essence of typical Russian ontologism. The latter, naturally, is reflected also in Russian religiosity or, probably, comes from it.… The main theme of debate between Catholicism and Protestantism did not touch the Russian consciousness not only as a consequence of some external historical circumstances; it remained and remains internally alien to him as a consequence of the strangeness of the very posing of the question. Russian religious consciousness never asked in what way a man can come to salvation: through internal form of thought and faith or external actions. Both parts of the dilemma, as it is presented, presupposes excessively external relations between man and God and the inappropriate separation between them. Neither the internal subjective human orientation to religiosity nor any actions of man are sufficient in order to establish an external connection with God; only God himself and he alone to the extent He takes in a man, if he enters into Him, can save him. The famous Augustinian-Pelagian debate about the relationship between grace and free will, which played such a large role in the history of Western church, also never seriously concerned Russian religious consciousness. For this debate is based on the well-known division and tension between man and God, between the subjective-internal-personal and the objective-external-supra-personal aspect of religious life, and precisely this tension is completely alien to Russian metaphysical sensibility. For the complete positive content of the personality takes place for him (a Russian) only from God alone and nevertheless is taken not as just an external gift but is absorbed internally.[262]

Thus, the Russian religious sensibility preconditioned that of Russian formal philosophy, such that both reject any division between man and God in favor of integrality, presupposing a human being’s unity with ‘universal being’ and the potential for any person to have a direct relationship with God and through salvation unification in his being in Heaven.

Once a student of psychology, Frank saw an attendant narrowness in the disposition in Western practice to ignore the breadth and depth of the human ‘soul’ and experience. He recommended Russian psychology incorporate the Russian worldview’s focus on tselostnost’. Empirical psychology in the West was “physiology,” “psychology without the soul,” and “a natural science, the study of external, sensory-object conditions and regularities of psychic phenomenon.” “The life of the soul is thought of as a small world somewhere inside the human body.” The object of study, man, “is seen as a miniscule part of the whole world.” In Russian psychology, as the previous quotations suggest, sensory-perception and brain functions should not matter as much as the ‘soul.’ Russian psychology, inordinately influenced by its Western counterpart, in Frank’s view, should apply the comprehensive Russian view of man as a “secret world of colossal potentially endless energies.”[263] Frank saw tselostnost’ in the form of a “cosmic essence of being”[264] expressed throughout Russian literature in the work of Pushkin, Tyutchev, and Dostoevskii, among others.[265] Logically, Losskii called both his and Frank’s philosophical system “integral intuitionism.” [266]

Other prominent religious-oriented Russian philosophers posited vseedinstvo and the transfigurative idea of God-Man integrality or unification in sometimes less formal philosophical terms. Conservative theologian Lev P. Karsavin (1882-1952) followed in the path of the Vekhi and intuitionists. He graduated St. Petersburg University, specializing in Western European medieval history, headed the university’s history department, and then was exiled in 1922, settling first in Kaunas and the Vilno as a university professor. Like his religious colleagues, Karsavin built his philosophy on Orthodox theology and the idea of unity in God, the Trinity, between God and his creation after the latter’s divinization, and in history. Epistemologically, he also concluded that cognizing subject and cognized object were a priori connected and not just in the act of perception. Karsavin built his philosophy on Solovev’s idea of vseedinstvo through the ‘absolute’ (God) and the formal philosophical idea of unity as apposite pairs of contradiction: “(T)he concept of true absoluteness as complete vseedinstvo and absoluteness (God, the Creator, the Redeemer, and Perfecter) with ‘another’, which was created by it from nothing.”[267] Karsavin pursued tselostnost’ relentlessly, conceptualizing four kinds or “significances of vseedinstvo” and four kinds of unity.[268] He asserted that ultimately mankind’s world “will become Godly (Bozhestvennyi) by way of a miracle.”[269]

Aleksei Losev (1893-1988), a convinced dialectician and name-worshipper, whose status as a monk was hidden until after the Soviet collapse, offered a “logical construing of eidos, (meaning) “the final logical form of a thing.” In his theory of language, which reflected his name-worshipping beliefs, Losev offered the monist vision of all creation being a name or word: “If the essence of a name of a thing is also a word, then that means the whole world and the universe are a name and word or names and words. The cosmos is a ladder of various degrees of literature (slovesnost’). Man is a word, the animal is a word, an inanimate thing is a word. For all this is meaning and its expression.”[270] The revealed final logical form of a thing is, in Losev’s system, a symbol: “An intelligent name of an object is also the object itself in its conceptual and actual aspects.”[271] Losev’s symbolism is part and parcel of the symbolist movement in the arts that flourished in Russia’s Silver Age, particularly in the written word (see below). There are many other examples from pre-revolutionary Russian formal philosophy where one can find elements of monism, but we might close with Dmitrii V. Boldyrev (1885-1920), who asserted in his Cognition and Existence that “everything exists in everything.” This was not so in his empirical time and place; he fell into the Bolsheviks’ hands in 1920 during the civil war and died from typhus in a prison in Irkutsk. Cognition and Existence, banned in the USSR, was published in Harbin in 1935.[272]

Some might ask whether after their deportations in 1922 the Vekhi, idealists, intuitionists, and other Russian thinkers who found themselves far from the homeland had any impact on Soviet or later Russian thought. After all, such émigré` writings were banned in the USSR, and work written in such a vein could bring a term in the Gulag. Perhaps based on such an assumption, these thinkers, with the exception of Vladimir Solovev, receive the briefest of mention in Andrzej Walicki’s excellent history of Russian thought.[273] But in fact, these thinkers began to have considerable impact in the USSR in the post-war years. Copies of their works published by the Paris-based YMCA Press were smuggled into the country reproduced for underground dissemination as ‘samizdat’ (self-publishing) until the perestroika era.[274] Their works are now published widely, easily can be purchased in bookstores or obtained in libraries in Russia, and accessed on numerous Russian websites. Most striking is that despite the many disagreements between many of the Russian theologians and philosophers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – often quite sharp, as between Berdyaev and Florenskii[275] – they all manifested some significant degree of monism.[276]

Monism and the Christian Liberals

Russia’s late religious renaissance included a marginal fusion of Christian and liberal thought that preserved traces of Orthodox or otherwise Christian monism. Although the monism in Christian liberalism was in most cases marginal, its presence nevertheless attests to the weight of monism in Russian culture, given its articulation in one of more secularized and Westernized sectors of Russian society.

A precursor to the late 19th century Christian liberals was Mikhail Speranskii (1772-1839), who at the century’s outset played the lead role in Alexander I’s early plans to free the serfs and institute a constitution. Speranskii underwent a religious transformation after his fall from power, as Alexander was forced to abandon his reforms because of the threat of Napoleon abroad and resistance form the bureaucracy and aristocratic, land-owning classes at home. Educated in the Theological Academy and a friend of the prominent Freemanson Ivan Lopukhin, he read the ancient Orthodox holy fathers and theosophists like Boehme and St. Martin and designed his reforms so as to institute a new Christian order, as he understood it. After being exiled in 1812 on the false charge of supporting Napoleon, Speranskii turned against the Church and became, according to Walicki, a “fanatical mystic,” presaging Alexander I’s own war-time spiritualization.[277] Speranskii’s early linkage between Christianity and attempts to rethink Russia’s political order presaged the Christian liberalism, expressed in the views of Sergei Bulgakov, Pyotr Struve, and Fedor Stepun, two of the most prominent among the very few Christian liberals in twilight Russia.

In the Silver Age’s post-1905 window of free speech under the October Manifesto regime, a civil debate between Christian and legal liberal philosophers broke out among that portion of the aristocracy and intelligentsia that remained Orthodox or religious in one form or another but were greatly influenced by Western thinkers. Earlier, Orthodox philosophers such as mystical liberal Vladimir Solov’ev saw the law as a stopgap measure to prevent “the world from turning into a hell” and establish a “certain minimal good” under a “Christian state” that Christ might greet upon the second coming and the “Kingdom of God.”[278] But by 1905, rational-legalists like Boris Chicherin insisted that religion or “morality”, on the one hand, and law and therefore politics and policy, on the other hand, were and should be treated as entirely separate spheres.[279]

In 1906, a discussion of this problem took place, in which Bulgakov, Struve, and Stepun, prompted by Bulgakov’s article “Religion and Politics” published in the weekly Polyarnaya zvezda, spoke in favor of an activist, pro-democratic Christian stance for the furtherance of man’s salvation.[280] Bulgakov called for religion to bring “the highest spiritual values” to political activity and the formation of a “party of Christ”. After the 1917 revolution, Bulgakov’s idea would be transformed to hold that Christianity was indeed a prerequisite for Russia’s democratic transformation. Pyotr Struve, an agrarian socialist-turned Christian liberal, countered by calling for the secularization of the idea of “God’s Truth” (Pravda Bozh’ya), asserting that not just the Christian but the “atheist,” “idealist and positivist” could share “a common politics having a single religious root.”[281] Reformist Christian philosophers, such as Yevgenii Trubetskoi, rejected Bulgakov’s call for a Christian political party. Trubetskoi asserted that the formation of a Christian party and politics would diminish the significance of Christ and Christianity, which is “outside and higher” than parties.[282] In this way, Trubetskoi drew a line between the realm of the divine and the tangible world.

Anti-Bolshevik émigré circles endeavored to preserve a Russian philosophical and political alternative to the Soviets based on Orthodox principles. Berdyaev reignited the polemics among émigrés, when he wrote that Christianity “had nothing in common” and “cannot provide a foundation for democracy.” The liberal Orthodox political philosopher Fyodor Stepun rejected Berdyaev’s “apocalyptic maximalism,” as Mikhail Vishnyak called it, as a rejection of all modern culture and the idea of freedom.[283] Stepun rejected all ideocracies (communist, fascist, racist, and Eurasianist) in favor of the “democratic parliamentarianism of Europe” even if it “is sliding into meshchanstvo,” that is, petite bourgeois lifestyle that eschews the Russian intelligentsia’s love of the pursuit of the great idea and utopia. Stepun affirmed democracy as “God’s confirmation of the free person,” “the religious basis of history,” and “a form of God-serving action.” “Democracy is nothing other than the political projection of this supreme human faith of the last four centuries.”[284]

Emigré religious philosopher and historian Georgii Fedotov took up the cause of democracy in 1933, analyzing the foundation of Christian democracy. Contrary to Trubetskoi, he asserted that democracy is “not kingdomlessness but the kingdom of God’s people.” The sovereignty of the people filling each individual is “the secularized reflection” of God’s Kingdom. The intuitionist Frank expanded on this theme after the Great Patriotic War, emphasizing that the “aristocratic dignity” of a person – and incidentally of any person as the first source of his existence (as a consequence of this, aristocratism also is the basis and the single correct basis of ‘democracy’, that is, universality of the high dignity of the person and the natural rights of all people) – is determined by his kinship with God.[285] In other words, God and democracy were inextricably connected, with the former being instrumental for the realization of the latter. In the thought of all these liberal Christians’ support for democracy was an implicit monism, acknowledging the interplay of God and Man while championing the importance of freedom for man’s salvation, resurrection, and ultimate divinization.

It would turn out that neither the intelligentsia, raznochintsy, nor the narod (the simple, ostensibly ‘God-bearing’ peasantry of Slavophile belief) shared this deeper interpretation of Christianity and democracy, and the Church itself had lost the people which had come to be symbolized by corrupt charlatans like Rasputin. The Russian people were not just illiberal, they “suddenly turned out to be un-Christian,” in Father Bulgakov’s words.[286] From its bosom burst forth a whirlwind of violence whipped up by the unevenly Westernized intelligentsia and raznochintsy with help from the equally unevenly Westernized aristocracy, disbalanced in favor of socialism, communism, and anarchism. Stepun, like Sarkisyants in his study on Russian messianism cited extensively herein, noted perceptively that the shallow, hollowed out nature of Russian peasantry’s religiosity – basically, its “godlessness” – mixed contrastingly with “religious stylistics” in the Russian revolution.[287] In those stylistics can be seen a new monism with a different form and content (see Chapter 5).

Traditionalist Church Theologian-Philosophers

The intuitionists, idealists, and Vekhi theologian-philosophers often found themselves at odds with the Church establishment. Several traditionalistic establishment-oriented and less intellectually adventurous clergymen than Florenskii and Bulgakov left their mark on Russian thought and religious culture, carrying forward the ancient theological monism. Foremost among these Orthodox traditionalists were Fathers Georgii V. Florovskii (1893-1979) and Vasilii V. Zenkovskii (1881-1962).

Florovskii was born in Odessa and graduated from Novorossiisk University in his home city, where his father was a priest and rector of the Odessa Seminary. He emigrated to Prague in 1920, where he wrote his Masters’ degree dissertation on Alexander Herzen and helped to found and then broke with the Eurasianist movement in the early 1920s. Because of the revolution and emigration, Florovskii lacked a formal theological education but steeped himself in religious and other literature and gradually reformed his worldview. Rejecting the speculative philosophy, in particular the ‘sophiology’ of Solovev, he evolved into a respected ‘patrolog’, a scholar of traditional patristics.

One of Florovskii’s early (1923) theological works reflects a rather standard Orthodox Christian monism (and references to the ancient ‘Holy Grad’ myth):

Only in the life-giving fullness of the Church, in the ‘fullness of Him who fills all things in everything,’ is the true unity of creation accomplished, predetermined ‘from the beginning,’ but revealing itself in time and gradually. That unity that will be fulfilled in the ‘last days,’ when ‘all will come to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, into a perfect man, according to the full age of Christ,’ will be transformed ‘into the freedom of the glory of the children of God’ when, ‘everyone, from small to great, will know the Lord’ and ‘every knee of the heavens, earth, and hell will bow before the name of Jesus.’ Our hope takes us beyond the bounds of history, as a painful change of birth and death: ‘not the imams of the present city here, but the one to come we seek’ – the City of the Lord, ‘the artist and builder of which is God,’ a new earth and a new heaven, miner of Jerusalem. ‘With the tea of ​​the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come’ – then God will be imagined in everything….[288]

In 1926 Florovskii took up a position of professor of patristics in the Prague Theological Institute, where Fathers Sergei Bulgakov and V. V. Zenkovskii also took up residence. There, while he supported his colleagues’ view that Russian Orthodoxy needed reinvigoration and that there was a need for interaction with Catholicism and Protestantism, he continued to reject Solovev’s philosophical idealism, supported by Bulgakov. In 1932 he entered into the priesthood and soon became Russian Orthodoxy’s metropolitan for Western Europe, moving to Paris, where he published his major works through YMCA Press close to the Vekhi. In 1948, Florovskii moved to New York to be a professor and later dean of the St. Vladimir Theological Academy. In the United States, he headed the National Council of Churches and taught at both Harvard and Princeton Universities. He died at Princeton in 1979.[289]

Florovskii’s work aimed in good part to refute various innovations in Russian theology, such as the incorporation of formal philosophy, spiritual idealism, intuitionism, and ‘sophiology’ practiced by Solovev, Bulgakov, and Florenskii. Instead, he promoted a return to traditional ‘patristics’ or the study of the ‘word of God’ contained in the Bible, the Gospel, and indirectly through the apostles and their immediate successors – the ‘holy fathers’ – of the traditional church as taught in Eastern Orthodoxy reaching back to Byzantium, Kiev, and pre-Raskol Muscovy. In his 1937 history of Russian Orthodoxy, Paths of Russian Theology, Florovskii sought to demonstrate that Russian theology’s “break with (Orthodox) patristism and Byzantinism was…the main reason for all the interruptions and spiritual failures in Russian development.”[290] For Florovskii, Russian vulnerability to confusion induced by Western influences, the uncanonical deviations in Orthodoxy introduced both by Patriarch Nikon and the Old Belief schismatics, Peter the Great’s Westernizing reforms, and the expansion of secular thought and values slowed Russia’s development and led to the tragedy of 1917. Interestingly, the preface to the post-humous second edition of his Paths of Russian Theology lauds the “tselostnost’ of his work and his very critical approach.[291]

As Florovskii’s disagreements with the philosophical idealism of Solovev and his successors suggest, Florovskii’s monism comes not so much from any original interpretation of Eastern Orthodox doctrine and theology but rather in his adherence to patristics and the basic cannon inherited form ancient Christianity, Constantinople and Kiev Rus as described earlier.[292] Thus, Florovskii eschewed the idealists’ ‘sophiology’ and in his Christology, although he maintained the unity of Christ, he limited it by asserting that upon entering the world Christ’s soul separated from his body, while his divinity remained with both his body and soul. In this traditionalist view, the “unity of the Spirit,” the “unity of Christ’s Spirit,” and its “immutable breeze of grace (blagodat’)” are central, of course.[293]

But distinct from Florenskii, Bulgakov, Losskii, and Losev, Florovskii saw God and his creation as distinct from each other and limits to any unification. On the central issue of Russian religious monism – God-Man unification – Florovskii, much like Berdyaev, taught that the unity of the divine and material (spirit and flesh) was made possible by Christ’s redemption, allowing for universal resurrection but only with the second coming of Christ and the descent of God’s Kingdom on earth. Salvation, however, was not universal, and could only come through an individual’s choice to seek God’s grace. God’s grace could create interaction between man and God, but man could not receive full union with God before the coming of God’s kingdom. Vseedinstvo before that was a myth fostered by secular metaphysics. In a 1928 article on theology, citing 14th century Church councils in Constantinople, he noted that, to be sure, man or “creatures (creations) of God” have access to God’s Divine energy and resulting “action” and “through this communion they come into genuine and perfect communion and unity with God and receive ‘divinization.’ However, being touched by “the natural and indivisible power and action of God,” receiving divinity is not becoming divine. God’s “essence” is “incommunicable and inaccessible” to mankind. “The action of God comes from his essence, but in proceeding forth it is not separated from it…does not violate his ‘natural unity.’”[294] In the same article, he reiterated the point repeatedly invoking ideas related to unity and “integral God,” though unrelated to God-Man unification. He cautioned that divinization does not mean that “the fullness of the Divine is in us.” Even “having become partakers in Divine ‘unity of love’ and wholly and entirely in contact with the integral God, assimilating everything Divine, the creation (person or matter) remains outside of God’s being.”[295] In sum, for Florovskii, tselostnost’ resided entirely in the Divine, not in God’s creation nor between God and his creation.

Vasilii Zenkovskii was born in Proskurov (Khmelnitskii), Ukraine and taught in Kiev University. He became influenced by Solovev and Bulgakov. After the revolution, he became minister of religion in the government of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskii. With the Bolshevik victory in the civil war, he emigrated and became a professor at Paris’s Orthodox Theological Institute, taking to the priesthood in 1942.[296] Zenkovskii acknowledges that in his youth he was influenced by Solovev’s teachings. Indeed, many at the theological institute in Prague where he, Florovskii, and Bulgakov found refuge from the revolution had ties to Solovev’s teachings.[297]

Zenkovskii’s critique of Solovev’s work is a good way to understand the former’s traditional monism so similar to that of Florovskii’s. Zenkovskii argued that the creator of the term vseedintsvo had followed in the steps of the “monism” first developed by the ancient Greek philosopher Plotinus (204-270) and handed down through ‘holy father’ Origen of Alexandria (circa 185-254), Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854) and, in particular, the Jewish Dutch enlightenment rationalist Baruch Spinoza.[298] This struck him as “strange,” since such monism is antithetical to “the ontological dualism so necessary for Christian metaphysics.”[299] For this reason and because Solovev had selected subjects of study “determined by a requirement to find the foundations of an integrated synthesis of religious, philosophical, scientific, and social thought,” he had tried but failed “to build a system of Christian philosophy.”[300] What “motives” lay behind Solovev’s “reception of the idea of ​​total-unity (vseedinstvo)?” First of all, Zenkovskii answered, was “a purely philosophical need to seek monism in constructions. Ontological dualism with particular insistence emerges from religious motives—the concept of ‘fear of God’ is a concept related to the knowledge of the distance between God and us, between God and the world. The obsessive idea of ​​monism, put forward in the order of philosophical thought, seeks at least a nominal elimination of ontological dualism…”[301] In other words, Solovev’s focus on philosophy rather than theology and presumably the holy texts had led him down the path to hypothesizing monism rather than a reliance on Christian ontology.

Of course, Zenkovskii’s claim to a Christian ontological dualism may be as overstated as Solovev’s vseedinstvo, since early Christian Orthodoxy also possessed monist tendencies, confined albeit to the realm of the Divine, rooted in the basic Christian canon at least on God and Man, Kingdom of Heaven and Earth, and the Holy Spirit’s unity (tripartite albeit), and so on. Under the “purely philosophical need to seek monism,” Solovev came to one possible logical conclusion – ‘one in all and all in one’ – in the here and now, having been prompted by the hypothetical possibility implied in elements of monism in Christian theology. Maintaining ontological dualism, Zenkovskii, like Florovskii, opts to take dualism to its own logical conclusion: “(I)n religiousness, consciousness is given to us to feel with the same power the closeness of God to the world and through which it is given also to realize their incomparability, the ontological diversity of their nature. Ontological dualism (of God and the world) is generally an imperative of religious consciousness, and the tendency of monism is not an imperative of reason, but its natural tendency and nothing more” (Zenkovskii’s emphasis).[302]

Arguing that Solovev’s metaphysics obviate the need for the fundamental religious concepts of Revelation and the Creation, Zenkovskii effectively exposes the contradictions in what he calls Solovev’s “bad theology” such as the coexistence of “the existing Absolute” (God) and “the becoming Absolute” (God’s creation): “(W)e read from Solovyov: ‘Our world is not some new one, absolutely separate from the divine world, and it is only another, inappropriate relationship of the same elements that form the being of the divine world.’ Solov’ev writes in a different way in another place: ‘Nature in its opposition to the Divine can only be a different position or permutation of essential elements that are substantively in the divine world.’ It is a strange theory of the world, which turns out to be just a bad copy of the divine – how the rejection of the idea of ​​creation in its serious sense avenges itself here!”[303]

            Zenkovskii also addresses the epistemology of Solovev’s successors. In taking on Solovev’s “utopia of integral knowledge” (tsel’noe znanie) which allows man “’the direct and closest connection with divine life,’” Zenkovslii rejects Nikolai Losskii’s “mystical intuitionism” as “the height of this mistaken theory.” Critiquing Solovev’s claim that to cognize or know any one object is to know everything because in one is contained all, he also calls Frank on the carpet for including the Absolute within the ‘all’ that supposedly can be known by cognizing any one object.[304] In a surprising departure from his traditionalism, Zenkovskii was influenced by Solovev’s teachings on ‘sofiinost’ or the problem of Divine Wisdom or Sophia did through the influence of Bulgakov. Zenkovskii wrote: “This ideal world invariably preserves the unity and integrity of the world, revealing itself in the inexhaustible power of the creative forces of nature. From an epistemological point of view, this doctrine of the Sophian basis of the world means that all our knowledge of the world rests, as Plato first showed (especially in the Phaedo dialogue), on the ability to ascend from the sensory surface of things of certain ideas to their ideal structure. According to the modern formula of Husserl, along with sensory intuition, we are characterized by ideal intuition, in other words, an intuitive grasp of the ideal side of reality.”[305] Thus, Zenkovskii not only takes Divine Wisdom far more seriously than does Florovskii, but also imbibed from Bulgakov an application of idealism and intuitionism to his theology and cosmology. To the extent the idea of Divine Sophia has been treated in theology typically as a force or energy uniting God and/or Christ with creation, Zenkovskii’s acceptance of sophiology represents a nod to monism. Such an orientation places Zenkovskii between Solovev and his successors, on the one hand, and Florovskii, on the other hand, on a spectrum of philosophical idealist-intuitionist monism and purely theological monism, respectively.

Other representatives of such semi-monism within the traditional ROC hierarchy include Metropolitan Antonii Khrapovitskii (1863-1936) and Bishop Feofan Vyshinskii; both covered extensively in Florovskii’s Paths of Russian Theology.[306] Khrapovitskii was a conservative who had approved Florenskii’s Masters Thesis but who then distanced himself from the maverick cleric and publicly condemned name-worshipping.[307] He counterposed the idea of mankind’s “united nature” to the ideas of “each personality as a finished, self-contained whole (microcosm)” and “a common human collective will, which is not from me, but in me, from which I cannot fully refuse but only partially and only with effort and struggle.” But full unity is possible only through salvation and divinization of redeemed souls and “not in the sense of harmony alone but in the sense of an essential, real unity similar to the unity of the Holy Trinity.” Something similar is only accessible in the “world of separation” through the experiences of motherly and spousal love.[308]

There were lay Orthodox conservatives who expressed the monist tendency as well. The publicist, literary critic, and philosopher Nikolai Strakhov, a physical scientist by training and a close friend of both Dostoevskii and Tolstoy, (1828-1896) criticized Hegelian dialectical materialism and Fuerbachian anthropologism propagated by Chernyshevskii and Pisarev precisely for their rejection of unity in the world. Also a religious man, Strakhov, like our Vekhi, theologian, and intuitionist philosophers, saw a world imbued with spirit and spirit imbued with God. He wrote in his 1892 philosophical work The World as a Whole:

The world is a single whole, that is, it does not fall apart into two, three, or even several entities connected independently of their own properties. Such a unity of the world can happen in no other way than by nature having been spiritualized, recognizing that the true essence of things consists in various degrees of the incarnation of the spirit.

The world is a coherent whole, that is, all its parts and phenomena are mutually dependent. There is nothing original in it, no special principles, no simple bodies, no atoms, no independent forces of different ages, there is nothing unchanging, existing by itself. Everything is dependent and everything flows, as Heraclitus once said.

The world is a harmonious whole, or, as they say, a harmonious, organic whole. … The world is a whole with a center, namely, it is a sphere, the focus of which is man. Man is the pinnacle of nature, the knot of being. It contains the greatest mystery and the greatest miracle of the universe.[309]

Thus, across the Orthodox Christian intellectual and political spectrum we find elements of monism to one degree or another in one form or another: God-Man tselostnost’, Heaven-Earth tselostnost’, Divine-matter tselostnost, world soul tselostnost’, and mankind-universe tselostnost’. These forms of monism also are to be found in the artistic renaissance that defined the Silver Age.


[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.

[128] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 466.

[129] S. L. Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie (Saint Petersburg: Nauka, 1996), pp. 182-5 and Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianism: k ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, p. 93.

[130] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 394 and 702, footnote 5.

[131] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 466-7. For Solovev’s poem “Three Meetings,” see Vladimir Solovev, “Tri svidaniya,”,, last accessed on 3 December 2020.

[132] From Semyon Frank’s 1950 article “Dukhovnoe nasledstvo Vladimira Soloveva” in Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 392-7, at p. 395. Our own contemporary Tul’chinskii notes the connection between Solovev’s concept and the ancient Orthodox idea of bogochelovechnost`. Tul’chinskii, Politicheskaya kul’tura Rossii: Istochniki, uroki, and perspektivy, p. 194.

[133] Vladimir Kantor, “Rossiiskie i polskie yevropeitsy: blizost’ i razlichie,” Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury (Moscow: Nauchno-politicheskaya kniga, 2013), pp. 466-78, particularly p. 470.

[134] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 394.

[135] V. S. Solovev, ‘Ex Oriente Lux’ (The Light from the East), From the End to the Beginnings: An Anthology of  Russian Verse,”, last accessed on 31 August 2020.

[136] Yu. Aikhenvald, Siluety russkikh pisatelei (Moscow: Respublika, 1994), pp. 371-2.

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

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

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

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

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

[142] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, pp. 76-7.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[158] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, p. 126.

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

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

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

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

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

[164] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, p. 41.

[165] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, p. 87.

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

[167] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, p. 142.

[168] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, p. 110.

[169] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 220-1 and 237.

[170] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 261-8.

[171] Sergei Bulgakov, Svet nevechernii: sozertsanie i umozrenie (Moscow: Put’, 1917), p. 148.

[172] Bulgakov, Svet nevechernii: sozertsanie i umozrenie, p. 151.

[173] Prot. Sergii Bulgakov, O Bogochelvechestve, Chast’ 1: Agnets Bozhii, (Paris, YMCA Press, 1933), p. 148.

[174] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 233, citing S. Bulgakov, Apokaliptika i sotsializm, p. 309.

[175] Bulgakov, Svet nevechernii: sozertsanie i umozrenie, p. 339.

[176] Bulgakov, Svet nevechernii: sozertsanie i umozrenie, p. 286.

[177] Sergei Bulgakov, O Bogochelvechestve, Chast’ III: Nevesta Agntsa (Paris, YMCA Press, 1945), pp. 159-62.

[178] Sergei Bulgakov, O chudesakh Evangel’skikh (Paris: YMCA Press, 1932), p. 89.

[179] Bulgakov, O chudesakh Evangel’skikh, pp. 89-92.

[180] Prot. Sergei Bulgakov, “Dusha sotsializma,” Novyi Grad, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1931, pp. 49-58, at p. 53.

[181] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 260.

[182] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 261.

[183] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 330.

[184] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 329.

[185] Vladimir Solovev, Russia and the Universal Church (London: The Centenary Press, 2017), p. 173.

[186] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, p. 81. Florenskii devotes the entire tenth of the thirteen “Letters” or chapters that comprise most of his magnum opus, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, completely to the St. Sophia myth. See “Pis’mo desyatoe: Sofiya,” in Pavel Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny. Opyta pravoslavnoi teoditsiei v dvadtsati pis’makh.

[187] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 349.

[188] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, pp. 325-6

[189] Florenskii, Stolp i utverzhdenie Istiny, p. 329.

[190] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, p. 97.

[191] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, p. 81.

[192] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 223-4.

[193] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 237.

[194] Sergei Bulgakov, Svet nevechernii: Sozertsaniya i umozreniya (Sergiev Posad, Moscow: Put’, 1917), p. 212.

[195] Bulgakov, Svet nevechernii: Sozertsaniya i umozreniya, pp. 213-14.

[196] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 238-9.

[197] For one indicative episode among the twelve mentions and discussions of Sophia in the Belyi-Blok correspondence, see Andrei Belyi’s “Kommentarii Andreya Belogo k pis’mo Bloka k Bugaevu ot 18 iyunya 1903” in Perepiska Aleksandra Bloka i Andreya Belogo, 1903-1919,,, last accessed on 25 September 2020.

[198] “Pamyat’ Aleksandra Bloka,”,, last accesed on 25 September 2020.

[199] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 268-9.

[200] Vekhi’s contents can be found in I. A. Isaev, ed., V poiskakh puti, (Moscow: Russkaya kniga, 1992), pp. 21-206. Iz glubiny can be found in I. A. Isaev, ed., Puti Yevrazii (Moscow: Russkaya kniga, 1992), pp. 27-310.

[201] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 586.

[202] N. A. Berdyaev, Тsarstvo Dukha i tsarstvo kesarya (Moscow: Respublika, 1995), p. 236.

[203] Nikolai Berdyaev, “Problema cheloveka,” Put’, No. 50, 1936, pp. 12-26.

[204] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 275.

[205] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 274.

[206] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 273.

[207] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 275.

[208] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 276.

[209] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 278.

[210] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 278-9.

[211] Н. А. Berdyaev, Smysl istorii: opyt filosofii chelovecheskoi sudby, vtoroe izdanie (Paris: YMCA Press, 1969), p. 237.

[212] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 288.

[213] Н. А. Berdyaev, Tsarstvo dukkha i tsarstvo kesarya (Moscow: Respublika, 1995), p. 263.

[214] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 278-9.

[215] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 285.

[216] See N. A. Berdyaev, “Filosofskaya istina i intelligentskaya pravda,” in Isaev, ed., V poiskakh puti, pp. 24-42, at pp. 27-31, 35 and 37-41 and N. A. Berdyaev, “Dukhi russkoi revolyutsii,” in Isaev, ed., Puti Yevrazii, pp. 67-106. In the former article published in ‘Vekhi’, Berdyaev’s first mention of God is “United God” (Yedinyi Bog). Berdyaev, “Filosofskaya istina i intelligentskaya pravda,” p. 30.

[217] Berdyaev, “Filosofskaya istina i intelligentskaya pravda,” p. 39.

[218] Berdyaev, “Filosofskaya istina i intelligentskaya pravda,” p. 41.

[219] Nicholas Berdyaev, The Russian Idea, (Emeryville, Calif.: Andesite Press, 2015), pp. 160-4.

[220] N. A. Berdyaev, Istoki i smysl russkogo kommunizma (Moscow: Nauka, 1990).

[221] Berdyaev, “Filosofskaya istina i intelligentskaya pravda,” p. 40.

[222] Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianism: k ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, p. 100.

[223] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 294-6. Other prominent Russian intuitionists were A. F. Losev, D. V. Boldyrev, S. A. Levitskii, and V. A. Kozhevnikov. See Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 289-347.

[224] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, pp. 394 and 396.

[225] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 394.

[226] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 395.

[227] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 396.

[228] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 184 and Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 396.

[229] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, pp. 395-6.

[230] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 289.

[231] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 290.

[232] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 290.

[233] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 291.

[234] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 295.

[235] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 296.

[236] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 296-7.

[237] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 432-3.

[238] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 296-7.

[239] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 298-9.

[240] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 299.

[241] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 300.

[242] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 305.

[243] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 302.

[244] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 473-4.

[245] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 307.

[246] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 470-1.

[247] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 471.

[248] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 472.

[249] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 308.

[250] S. L. Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie (Saint Petersburg: Nauka, 1996), p. 163. This publication includes but is not limited to Frank’s 1926 work of the same name.

[251] Frank includes an insightful discussion of the differences between Russian philosophy and, by implication, his and Losskii’s intuitionism, on the one hand, and British empiricism (represented by Francis and Roger Bacon, William Occam, and John Stuart Mill), French rationalism, and German positivism represented most notably by Immanuel Kant – the struggle against whose Kantism is a “constant theme” of Russian philosophy – on the other hand. At the same time, he notes the compatibility between Russian philosophy, on the one hand, and the German metaphysicians (represented by Johann Fichte, Frederick Hegel, Max Sheller, and Nicholas Hartman), and to an even greater extent German mysticism represented by Jacob Boehme and others, on the other hand. Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 164-7.

[252] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 179.

[253] Frank lists the following Russian writers as carriers of this pre-intuitionist literary tradition: Dostoevskii, Lermontov, Tyutchev, Gogol and early philosophy, reflected in Slavophilism and its “spiritual leaders Khomyakov and Kireevskii,” as well as in the thought of its opponent Pyotr Chaadaev, and the “genius thought of Konstantin Leontiev, Vladimir Solovev, and many others.” Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 163-4.

[254] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 167-8.

[255] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 60-1.

[256] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 62.

[257] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 168.

[258] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 169-70.

[259] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 172.

[260] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 173.

[261] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 169.

[262] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 172-3.

[263] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 174.

[264] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 176.

[265] See Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 175-6, 213-25, 247-76, 350-74, and 312-39.

[266] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 344.

[267] Lev Karsavin, Filosofii istorii (Moscow: ACT, 2007), internet p. 65,

[268] Karsavin, Filosofii istorii, internet pp. 8, 22, 37-8, and 50.

[269] Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianism: k ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, p. 26.

[270] Aleksei Losev, Filosofii imeni (Moscow: Akademicheskii proekt, 2009), p. 141.

[271] Losev, Filosofii imeni, p. 146.

[272] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 345.

[273] See Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to marxism, pp. xii, 392-4.

[274] Chrissy Stroop, “’A Christian solution to international tension’: Nikolai Berdyaev, the American YMCA, and Russian Orthodox influence on Western Christian anti-communism, c.1905–60,” Journal of Global History, Issue 2, Vol. 13 (2018), pp. 188-208, at p. 203.

[275] See Berdyaev’s sharp criticism of Florenskii for being an “Inquisitor” in N. A. Berdyaev, “Khomyakov i svyashch. Florenskii,” in P. A. Florenskii pro et contra (St. Petersburg: RKhGI, 1996), in particular pp. 380-1. Florenskii was critical of Slavophile Khomyakov’s work. See P. A. Florenskii, “Okolo Khomyakova,” Sоchinenie v 4-kh tomakh (Moscow: Mysl’, 1994-1999), Vol. 2 (1996), pp. 278-337.

[276] An exemplary disagreement existed between Florenskii and one of his mentors Metropolitan Antonii Khrapovitskii. Both men were Church reformers, but the latter rejected as heresy the name-worshippers, among whom was Florenskii. See Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, pp. 100-2.

[277] Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 74.

[278] V. S. Solov’ev, “Opravdanie dobra,” in V. S. Solov’ev, Sobranie sochinenii v 10-ikh tomakh, Vol. 8 (St. Petersburg: Prosveshchenie, b.g.), pp. 408 and 482, cited in Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, pp. 387-8.

[279] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 388.

[280] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, pp. 388-9.

[281] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 389.

[282] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 389.

[283] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 390.

[284] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 392.

[285] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 391.

[286] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 434.

[287] Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury, p. 433.

[288] Georgii V. Florovskii, “Dva zavet,” Rossiya i Latinstvo: sbornik statei (Berlin, 1923), pp. 152-76, p. 154.

[289] Florovskii, Puti russkogo bogosloviya, pp. v-vi and ix and Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 455-6.

[290] Florovskii, Puti russkogo bogosloviya, pp. xv.

[291] Florovskii, Puti russkogo bogosloviya, pp. xiii.

[292] Florovskii wrote several studies of the ‘holy fathers’ and their teachings. In addition to several other shorter works, examples include: G. V. Florovskii, Vostochnie ottsy IV-ogo veka: iz chtenii v Pravoslavskom Bogoslovskom Institute v Parizhe  (Paris: YMCA Press, 1931); Svyashenik G. V. Florovskii, Vizantiiskii ottsi, V-VIII vekov: iz chtenii v Pravoslavskom Bogoslovskom Institute v Parizhe  (Paris: YMCA Press, 1933); and Prot. Georgii Florovskii, “Ottsy pervykh vekov,” Vestnik pavoslavskogo khistianskogo dvizheniya, Vol. 145, No. 3, 1985, pp. 1-31.

[293] Florovskii, Puti russkogo bogosloviya, pp. 178-80.

[294] G. Florovskii, “Tvari i Tvranost’,” Pravoslavnaya mysl’, No. 1, 1928, pp. 176-212, at pp. 201-2.

[295] Florovskii, “Tvari i Tvranost’,” pp. 210-11.

[296] “V. V. Zen’kovskii,” Pravoslavnyi obrazovatel’nyi sait Omskoi Mitropolii,, last accessed on 28 September 2020.

[297] V. Zen’kovskii, “Ideya vseedinstva Vladimira Solov’eva,” Pravoslavnaya mysl’, No. 10, 1955, pp. 45-59, at p. 45.

[298] Zen’kovskii, “Ideya vseedinstva Vladimira Solov’eva,” pp. 48-50.

[299] Zen’kovskii, “Ideya vseedinstva Vladimira Solov’eva,” p. 48.

[300] Zen’kovskii, “Ideya vseedinstva Vladimira Solov’eva,” p. 46.

[301] Zen’kovskii, “Ideya vseedinstva Vladimira Solov’eva,” pp. 48-9.

[302] Zen’kovskii, “Ideya vseedinstva Vladimira Solov’eva,” p. 50.

[303] Zen’kovskii, “Ideya vseedinstva Vladimira Solov’eva,” p. 55.

[304] Zen’kovskii, “Ideya vseedinstva Vladimira Solov’eva,” p. 51.

[305] V. Zen’kovskii, “Preodalenie platonizma i problema sofiinoi tvarei,”, p. 8,, last accessed on 28 September 2020.

[306] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 473.

[307] Pyman, Pavel Florensky – A Quiet Genius, pp. 102 and 249.

[308] Florovskii, Puti russkogo bogosloviya, p. 429. As a solid traditionalist should, in Florovskii’s view, Khrapovitskii supports his ideas on unity with references to ‘holy fathers’ such as St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-395) and St. John Chrysostom (347-407). Florovskii, Puti russkogo bogosloviya, p. 430.

[309] N. N. Strakhov, Mir kak tseloe (Moscow: Airis Press, 2007), p. 10.


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.

1 comment

  1. Wanted to leave this remark before I continued reading (and lost it)

    “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”

    A reasonable person would not need be a Russian nationalist to arrive at identical conclusion

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