N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)
CHRIST AND THE WORLD
[Reply to V. V. Rozanov]
(1908 - #149)
(V. Rozanov is one of the greatest Russian prose writers, a genuine magician with the word.)1 V. V. Rozanov frightens Christians, both the old, and the new. They are embarrassed to have to ward off his blows, they consider him a very dangerous opponent of Christ, as though Christ could have dangerous opponents, as though the deed of Christ could be struck undeflectable blows. And Rozanov is an enemy not of Christianity only, not of “historical” Christianity, but first of all of Christ Himself. Christianity is not so repulsive for him, the whole of Christianity was a compromise with the “world”, within Christianity has become pervasive a principle of household management, within the elements of Christianity has coalesced a familial way of life, and Christianity has created the strangely-felt way of life of the white clergy, for Christianity has decided to eat its “jam-preserves”, to be fruitful with children, and it accepted within itself almost the whole “world”. Christ for Rozanov was worse than Christianity: Christ was pitiless towards the world, Christ was frightening with His world-denial. The whole of Christianity however has been humanly complaisant, condescending towards the weak, and Christianity within history did not pose so sharply the dilemma: “Christ” or “the world”; it adopted some from Christ and some from the world. And Rozanov is not so altogether hostile to the Christian way of life. To much of this way of life he is attached, his unctuous love for family grew out of this lifestyle. Rozanov is an enemy of Christ, and only the absence of genuine bravery compels him to mask this hostility and lead into error good people, who continue to think, that Rozanov demands merely the readjustment of Christianity, that his aims are reformational, that he is prepared to accept Christianity, but with reservations, with theatrics and jam-jelly, with the pleasures of the world. The times are so gone to ruin, that Rozanov appears as a reformer of Christianity, when in fact he is a terrible and implacable foe of the faith of Christ, more terrible indeed than was Nietzsche. A brilliant and charming literary talent, with boldness and a perceived concreteness in the positing of questions, a strong mystical sense -- all this is impressive in Rozanov, and he almost hypnotises amidst the reading of his articles. But he is not so terrible a devil, as they point him out to be. A philosophic and religiously bright consciousness without especial effect might find a tangle in the very setting forth of Rozanov’s theme, and this tangle is not by chance, not from some pervasive mental weakness of Rozanov, but rather a fatal tangle, ultimately in intent dispatched for ends such as Rozanov’s.
The theme of Rozanov, and to a remarkable degree also of “Novyi Put’” (“The New Pathway”), and both the former and the current “Religio-Philosophic Gatherings”2 -- was of Christ and the world, the relationship between Christ and the world. Rozanov with extraordinary talent and brilliance developed in his article, “Ob Iisuse Sladchaishem i o gor’kikh plodakh mira” (“On Jesus MostSweet and the Bitter Fruits of the World”), and it is this article chiefly that I shall address in the present (article) [reply]. From God there is the child-Christ and the child-world. Rozanov sees an irreconcilable hostility between these two children of God. For whomever Jesus is the sweeter, for that one the world is rendered bitter. In Christ the world is embittered. Those, who have come to love Jesus, have lost their taste for the world, all the fruits of the world have become bitter out of the sweetness of Jesus. All this was written with an amazing vividness, glaringly, boldly and at first impression dangerously. One mustneeds choose between Jesus and the world, between the two children of God. It is impossible to unite Jesus with the world, it is impossible to love them both at the same time, it is impossible to sense both the sweetness of Jesus and the sweetness of the world. The family, science, art, the joy of earthly life -- all these are bitter or tasteless for the one who has tasted of the heavenly sweetness of Jesus. In the marvelous expression of Rozanov, Christ -- is an one of a kind flower, and this means all the flowers of the world set in comparison with Him. In the “Imitation of Christ” is praised this sweetness of Jesus and the bitterness of all the fruits of the world. And in the “Confessions” of Blessed Augustine it is filled with a fondness for Christ and a dislike for the world. Rozanov himself does not like to dot the i, he is given to equivocation, and he never makes the decisive deductions, leaving it to the conjecture of the reader. But the dilemma is suchlike: if Christ is Divine, then the world is demonic, or if the world is divine, then Jesus is demonic. Rozanov is attached to the world with all his being, he loves in the world everything worldly, he feels the divineness of the world and the sweetness of its fruits. Jesus MostSweet became for him demonic, and the face of Christ -- darkened.
Rozanov’s settings of the question produce a very strong impression, whereas all the expressions of the apologetes of Christianity are but insipid and weak. Rozanov speaks concretely and at first glance clearly, he provides a feeling for the question in all its acuteness, he stuns and hypnotises. He is crude, when he drags a monk into the “theater”, but the monk actually is presented as hapless. The chatter of the official defenders of the Church is not convincing, and the impression remains with everyone, that Rozanov has proven, has graphically demonstrated the absolute opposition between Christ and the world, the absolute incongruity of the sweetness of Christ with the sweetness of the world. Christ for Rozanov is the spirit of non-being, the spirit of the diminishing of everything in the world, and Christianity -- is a religion of death, an apology for the sweetness of death. The religion of birth and life ought to declare irreconcilable war against Jesus MostSweet, as a poisoner of life, a spirit of non-being, the founder of the religion of death. Christ has hypnotised mankind, has inspired a dislike for being, a love for non-being. His religion has acknowledged as but solely beautiful -- dying and death, sorrow and suffering. Rozanov writes quite talentedly, he speaks very vividly, he says much that is accurate, but his very point of departure -- is false, and his very settings of the question -- are illusory and confused. Rozanov -- is an ingenious philistine, and his question ultimately is a philistine, bourgeois, everyday ordinary question, but formulated with brilliant talent. Rozanov also tends to strike hold with this, in that he bespeaks something close to the philistine heart, that the question about the sweet and the bitter fruits of the world grabs hold the attention with the bourgeois of this world, it throws into confusion the official Christianity, further still transported into philistinism. Rozanov’s family, jelly-jam, theatres, pleasures and joy of the felicitous life are acceptable and close to every philistine realm, which sees in this also the essence of this “world” and it is “this world” which would as it were be saved from the hypnosis of Jesus MostSweet. For Rozanov, being is what is, and the “world” is the sweetness of the lived life. This is very deep, in this -- is power.
Rozanov suggests, that every philistine-fellow knows, that the “world” is suchlike, he sense it as the bearer of the joys of being, with the family, the sweets, the adornments of life, etc. The philistine-fellow knows, but the philosopher does not know. The question about the world is very unclear and undefined, and in this passing off of the unclear and undefined in place of the clear and defined, the passing off of the sought for in place of the found -- lies all the slyness of Rozanov and the empowerment of all his whole secret. What is the suchlike world, and about what sort of world is it being spoken? What sort of content does Rozanov invest in the word “world”, and is this world the aggregate of empirical appearances or of the positive fullness of being? Is the world everything of the given, a medley of the authentic with the illusionary, the good with the evil, or only the authentic, the good? If the question about the world be taken as applying to the aggregate of everything empirically given, in which the sweetness of jelly-jam occupies the same spot as would also the sweetness of the greatest of artistic works, then this question for us is almost not worth the interest. The eternal in the world and the perishable in the world cannot be taken in the same regard, and the very settings of the question about the world without any differentiation of values is impermissible. Such a world is a “world” in parentheses. Our factually given and investigated world is a medley of being and non-being, of actuality with the illusory, of eternity with the perishable. What sort of world is Rozanov fond of, what is it from the world he would affirm, in what sort would live? I am afraid, that Rozanov demands from religion a factual mishmash of the genuine and valuable, all mixed up with the false and worthless. But the religious is not a question about the world, rather it is the question about the authentic, the real world, about the fullness of being, about the values of the world, about the extra-temporal, the imperishable content of the world. Simply to affirm “this world” -- means to affirm the law of decay, of servile inevitability, of necessity and sickness, deformity and falsification. The world lies in evil, but the positive fullness of being is a supreme value and good, and the valued and joyful in the world is an actual being. Rozanov can only succeed in standing afront the evil of this world, to deny this evil he cannot, to confront the results of this evil is beyond his powers. From whence is death, at the same time hateful to Rozanov and to all of us, from whence hath death come into the world and wherefore been taken hold by it? Does Rozanov consent to acknowledge death as an essential part of this world, which he so loves and which he defends against Christ? Not from Christ hath death come into the world: Christ came to save from death, and not to bear death to the world.
Christ came to separate the genuine and the valuable in the world from the false and the worthless, the Divine from the diabolic. Christ -- is the Saviour of the genuine world, that which is authentic and of the fullness of being, the Divine cosmos, wounded by sin, and not the inauthentic world, not the chaos, not the kingdom of the prince of this world, not the non-being. Christ hath judged the perishable, the illusory and chaotic world: the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world, and Christ taught not to love this world, nor that which is of this world. But worldly factuality is neither of this world, nor of that world, but a medley, an admixture of that other world with this, the wounded and sickened creation, both being and non-being, both the valuable and the worthless. Christ had to have come, since that the old world, the sinful world fallen away from God, had rotted, rust undercut all the foundations of the world, and anguish encompassed the world. The old immanent feeling for life, so captivating for Rozanov in paganism and Judaism, was conjoined together with a transcendent feeling. A tragic experience thus transpired always at the threshold of every religious turnabout. The old world, left on its own, could not save from the perishing, within this world it had not the power to save from the power of the all-encompassing death. Self-deification is ruination, the theosis or making-Divine by the Son of God is salvation. Rozanov desires an immanent salvation through the world and he repudiates the transcendent salvation as non-being and death, he sense the divine within creation, but he is deaf and blind to the tragedy, bound up in the rift betwixt the creation and the Creator.
Rozanov’s feeling for the world can be termed an immanent pantheism, in it is lodged a powerful primal-feeling of the divinity of worldly life, a non-mediated immediate joy of life, but very weak in it is the sense of the transcendent, quite foreign to him is a transcendent anguish and expectation of a transcendent exodus. Rozanovism is a peculiar mystical naturalism, the deifying of the natural mysteries of life. In the XX Century, during the sunset years of human history, Rozanov is living out the naturalistic phase of religious revelation, he thirsts for a world-wide historical childhood and naivete, and he fails to notice the senility and decrepitude of this restoration of the first days of mankind. Rozanov’s naturalistic pantheism is the senile lapsing into childhood with mankind. Only in deep old age can be remembered the days of childhood and youth, the relishing of past delights. And Rozanov, the mystic Rozanov, in whom there are ingenious insights, deifies the good and the joys of this life, he worships familial felicity, looking forward with a childlike enthusiasm to the sweetness of jelly-jam, and then imperceptibly taking a tumble over into an apology for his everyday ordinary aspect and philistinism. He identifies the world with the felicitous life of the natural familial sort. He wants as though ultimately to deify the life of the natural familial sort. But we have seen already, that this “world” so dear to Rozanov is all still subject to the law of decay, and Rozanov lacks the ability to repose such, as in death did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, blessing their posterity, in him there is not such a strength of the impersonal, fine indeed only for that world epoch; even he does not consent to live but in his posterity, and he is deeply caught up in the final phases of the worldwide religious revelation, and his blood is infected with Jesus MostSweet. A restoration never transpires as it was intended to be restored.
And as fine as the religion of Babylon was in its time (but for its time it was a poor one, since then already there were higher forms of religion), after Christ and the whole experience of modern history the restoration of the Babylonian religion is folly or child’s play. Historical science has sufficiently dissuaded us of the existence of a Golden Age, and the religious consciousness can see in the sweet remembrance of a Golden Age not some sort of earthly epoch in the past history of mankind, but rather a sense of its own extra-temporal and extra-worldly closeness to God, transgressed by sin. We have lost paradise, but this paradise was not Babylon, nor Judaism, nor paganism, nor overall any earthly past of mankind, as Rozanov is inclined to think, but rather the heavenly origin of mankind. Yet as we see, Rozanov is oriented not only backwards, he looks forward also and he conjoins with this the expectations of an earthly paradise in the future. Unexpectedly for him, he is prepared to give a mystical hue to the array of the Babylonian turret-tower, and he would justify the deification of the old natural world upon the social arrangements of the future. He imperceptibly approaches the pathos of positivism and greenly naive radicalism, and with rapid strides he gets almost to Pisarevism, but he remains an artist, not having been wrought an artisan.
Rozanov is a man immersed in being, in him there is an intense sense of a man immersed in life and with a very weak sense of person. Personal self-consciousness for Rozanov is almost entirely lacking, just as it tends to be lacking in modern man. Rozanov also therefore lacks the awareness of the tragedy of death, the tragedy of personal fate, the terror at the individual perishing. Rozanov has something in common with L. Tolstoy, in the feel for life, in them there is mutual aspect, in that they sense worldly life akin to the Old Testament manner. Just like Tolstoy, Rozanov facing the world unwraps “the child’s diaper with its green and yellow” and with this diaper he wants to conquer death and personal tragedy. The “Kreutzer Sonata” was only a revenge side of this diaper. Both L. Tolstoy and Rozanov arrive at a reinforcing of the everydayness, at a philistinism inconsistent with their religious searchings. Rozanov decides thus the problem of death: there were two men, and between them were born eight children, two die, but in the eight there is a triumph and life is increased. Salvation then from death -- is in the shattering of each being into a multiplicity of pieces, in a bad infinity, and consolation for the person -- lies in the disintegration of the person. Rozanov opposes to death not eternal life, not resurrection, but rather birth, the arising of new and other lives, and so on without end, without exit. But this method of salvation from the tragedy of death is possible only for a being, which senses the reality of the race and does not sense the reality of the person. This consolation tends to delimit human reproduction on a par with cattle breeding.
In the Old Testament and aboriginally-pagan racial mindset, the person was obscured, hardly awake from the sleep, into which its sin had cast it. The whole of world history was a gradual awakening of the person, and in our much troubled and much complicated epoch the person has awakened with a shriek of terror and helplessness, torn away from its racial aspect and only now able to attach itself to something new. Rozanov pulls the person backwards towards the racial element and he wants to convince the world, that to return is possible, that it is necessary but to renounce Christ, to forget Christ, that Christ is the culprit behind the hypertrophy by the personal by means of sensing, that if Christ were not, there would not be the tragedy of death, it would not be felt so sickeningly and the terror of death and destruction come but from a glance at the diaper, soiled in green and yellow. The world for Rozanov is the race and a living for the race, whereas the person is somewhere on that other side of the world, with Christ. The feeling of the person and a consciousness of its tragic fate -- is transcendent, it goes beyond the borders of that which Rozanov terms the “world”, and therefore so tragic and tormentive is its fate in this world.
But everything that has been of value, genuine within the history of the world, was transcendent, it was a thirst to go beyond the boundaries of this world, to break out from the restraining circle of immanence, it was an exit to another world, and the penetrating of another world into our world. The transcendent becomes immanent to the world -- here is in what lies the meaning of world culture. The whole of human creativity has been a troubling over the transcendent, over another world, and never has creativity been a reinforcing of the joys of the natural racial lifestyle, it was never an expression of the sufficiency of this life. Creativity has always been an expression of insufficiency, a mirroring of the torment of dissatisfaction with this life. It is not only art, philosophy, culture and all the creativity of culture which per se indicate the transcendent distress of mankind, but also love, sexual love, so very close and dear for Rozanov, standing at the centre of everything, -- this too has been a thirst for a transcendent egress, an unsettling desire to break free from the bounds of this world. Sexual love is already more, than this “world”, it is already a dissatisfaction with this “world”. And Rozanov himself acknowledges the transcendent character of sex.
To justify love, art, philosophy, all the creative impulses -- means also to reveal their transcendent character, to see in them the potential for an egress from this world. Family is still this world, it has delimited horizons, but love is already another world, it is an expanding of the horizons to infinity. Positivism is of this world, forever with delimited horizons, but metaphysics is of another world, it is remoteness. The immanent pantheism, towards which Rozanov gravitates, is likewise a poetised sort of pantheism, a peculiar perspective of a mystical positivism. The societal order of the human realm is of this world, and all this is a delimited horizon, but the vision of the unification of people within a Kingdom of God on earth is already of another world, the surmounting of every restriction. People love to talk about Greek culture and the affirmation of the world within it in contrast to a world negation within Christianity. But the greatest things in Greek culture -- were an egress from this world, a consciousness of the immediately obtaining world, it was already a path towards Christianity. The whole Medieval culture, rich with creativity, and full of beauty, was built upon a transcendent feeling. In this culture there was also love, with the cult of the Fair Lady, and art, and philosophy, and chivalry, and public festivity. Was all this, in light of Rozanov, an affirmation or a negation of the world? I include all these examples to effectively show all the shakiness of the settings about the “world”. That “world”, which Rozanov so frets about, does not at all exist.
To religiously justify history, culture, the flesh of the world -- does not mean to justify family, the racial lifestyle and “jelly-jam”. It means rather to justify the transcendent thirst as regards an other world, embodied within world culture, to affirm in this world a thirst for an universal exodus forth from the natural order of nature, of evil and decay.3 I am emboldened even to think, that between the world and the family, in the name of which first of all Rozanov rose up in revolt against Christ, there exists [a deeply irremedial] opposition. The family itself makes pretense to be the world and to live according to its own law, [the family] (it often) cuts man off from the world, not infrequently it deadens man for the world and for everything, that is created in the world. [Between the world and the family there exists quite greater an antagonism, than between the world and Christ. It has already been sufficiently demonstrated and shown, that nothing so gives hindrance to an universal sense of world life and the worldly ends of history, as the fortress of the racial family. And not only between the family and the world does there exist an opposition, the opposition exists also between the family and love, in the family love all too often becomes buried away.]
Every reinforced and delimited way of life is opposed to creativity, to the age-old antagonism with the universal and the worldwide. But Rozanov wants us to put the familial lifestyle before the universal, before the great world of God. The hostility of the racial lifestyle and the racial family to universal creative impulses does not require any especial proofs, the fact is all but evident. Here is why Rozanov’s “world” presents itself to me as a fiction, which seems clearly discernable for the common everyday consciousness. This “world” is an hodgepodge of being with non-being, and the religiously important thing is not the question about the “world”, but rather the question about worldwide historical creativity in this “world”, that of being. And the immanent religion of this world is but an apotheosis of philistinism, one aspect of which Rozanov comes nigh to. This “world”, taken in itself, is but only worthy of the fire, but in its history there is affirmed an other, a genuine world, in it there is a Divine-human connection, in it there are creative impulses towards the Divine cosmos, in it there is the universal path towards a new heaven and a new earth, in it there is deliverance from evil, and with these matters is connected the religious question about the affirmation of the world.
All more and more a degenerated monasticism denies not the world, -- this world via the smuggler’s pathway penetrates into the monastic lifestyle, there is much of the jelly-jam in the monasteries and little of the Gospel “mourning with ashes”, -- monasticism denies creativity, the penetration into this world of an other world, it denies the history of the deliverance from evil of this world. Monasticism has gotten mired down in this “world”, it has sundered its connection with the ascetic Christian mysticism; furthermore, the official Christianity has already become transformed into the lifestyle, of which there is much that is dear to Rozanov’s heart. But monasticism continues to deny the values of the world, it contemns creative impulses, it is hostile to deliverance from the powers of this world, it esteems the evil of the world and the justification of its existence. Monks, bishops, the princes of the Church, the historical masters over religion -- these (usually) are people of quite worldly a lifestyle, the established rulers of this world. We cannot believe, that these people are not of this world, and their seeming denial of the world is but one of the ruses of this “world”. And we [rise up] (are prepared to rise up) against the hierarchs of the Church, against the official Christianity, not in the name of the world, but in the name of an other world, in the name of creativity and freedom, in the name of the thirst to break forth from the bounds of this world, rather than to reinforce them. The worldwide historical significance of ascetic Christian mysticism -- is in a challenge to the whole natural order, a struggle against natural necessity, in the theosis-deification of human nature in union with Christ, in the victory over death. This asceticism of the Christian saints was not unintelligible or evil, it had a positive mission, it had cosmic consequences in the deed of the salvation of the world. But where now are the saints? Is it possible still in our time to speak about the existence of an ascetic mysticism? For us, the act of surmounting in Christian asceticism is not a denial of its great mission, it is not an acceptance of this world. The new religious consciousness affirms not this chaotic and servile world, but rather the cosmos, the sacred flesh of the world. The flesh of the world, that which ought to be sanctified, liberated and saved -- is transcendent, as much transcendent as also is spirit. This flesh is not material matter of this world, this flesh is manifest as a result of the victory over the burden and fetters of the material world. Chiliastic hopes towards the completion of history by a Kingdom of God upon earth, a sense-perceptible realm of Christ, is not the expectation of a kingdom of this world: chiliasm is not a kingdom of this world, but rather in this world. And with chiliasm is connected the world-historical resurrection of the flesh, a religious affirmation of the flesh of the world. What sort of flesh however is it that Rozanov loves, what sort of religion of the flesh does he preach?
The question about the origin and essence of evil for Rozanov is unresolved, and it is not even posited. Pantheism is always one-sided, it does not sense the tragedy of the world, enclosed in it is only part of the truth. If the world is so fine and divine, if in it itself there is an immanent justification, if there is unnecessary any sort of a transcendent egress from world history, then it is incomprehensible, from whence hath appeared the evil of this world and the terror of the here and now life. For Rozanov, evil is some sort of an unintelligible, an accident, a fatal mistake of history, going off on a false path. From whence is it that Christ appeared, from whence is the power, according to Rozanov, of His dark visage? Why does the religion of death have such an hypnotic hold over human hearts? Why does death mow down worldly life? Rozanov is unable to answer even one of these questions. He hides himself away from evil, within the joy of familial life, in the sweetness of being, and with jelly-jam he wants to sweeten the bitter pill of life. Rozanov cries out: I am fed up with tragedy, the sufferings have exhausted me, I want to hear nothing about death, I cannot take already the dark rays, I want the joys of life, I want only to accept the divine world. Overwhelmed by everything, all exhausted, there is nothing thou canst do, evil is actual, and not an hypnotic sleigh of hand. Sex, cries out Rozanov, -- here is salvation, here is the divine, here is the overcoming of death. Rozanov wants to set up sex in opposition to the Word. But sex is poisoned at its source, sex perishes and is subject to decay, sex is something dark, and only the Word can save him.
And if there be seen in Christ a dark principle of non-being, hostile to the divine world, then this is already a very profound failing of pantheism, this is a fracture, which pantheism cannot bear up under. But Rozanov is quite the mystic, he quite latches onto the Person of Christ, in order to explain rationalistically the mysterious might of this Person. Rozanov senses this irrational mystery. But the evil of the world -- is likewise an irrational mystery, and a pure pantheism comes to an halt before this mystery with a sense of helplessness and awkwardness. Rozanov says right out, that the religion of death has come from Christ. But let him also say right out, from whence the death has come, how can it be compatible with an immanently divine world.
The extolled “world” of Rozanov is a cemetery, in it everything is poisoned by a deadly venom. Rozanov wants in the cemetery to grow the flowers of divine life and to console himself with the fertility of the rotting corpses. Rozanov apotheosises the biological fact of birth, but the mystical enigma of life is contained not within the biological birth in time, it is connected with the mystery of death. Rozanov does not want as it were to see the duality of human nature, its belonging to two worlds, he closes his eyes to the opposition between the eternal impulses of man, between the potentiality of absolute life lodged within himself and the relativity of the here and now life of man, the limitedness of all here and now realisations. But religion does possess this metaphysical and anthropological taproot, within the duality of human nature there is rooted a religious thirst. The religion of Christ denies within this world its sense of limitation and servile bounds, denies it in the name of an absolute unlimitedness and freedom -- herein lies the meaning of the opposition. If Rozanov had a deep sense of person, a feeling for the tragic antinomy of each individual human being, he would then not have posed thus the dilemma: the “world” or Christ. Beforehand would have had to be posed the dilemma: the world or the person. In the “Rozanov world”, the person perishes together with all its own absolute potentialities. But Christ has appeared: in Christ the person is saved and there is realised all its own absolute potentialities, its filiation-sonship to God, wherein it is called to participation to Divine Life. Christ also is in this world, in which is affirmed the being of the person in the Divine economia. And therefore the dilemma -- “Christ or the world” is stripped of all religious significance, or else comes to assume a meaning other than Rozanov’s. True being is the person, and not the race, the true universal union of persons is the Divine-human Sobornost’, and not impersonal nature. To affirm the fullness of being in the world -- means to affirm an other, an authentic world, and not the natural order. But Rozanov does not believe in the supra-natural, he brushes off every distinction between a mystical sensation and an empirical sensation (this also is an immanent pantheism), and therefore the religion of Christ presents itself to him as an illusionary comfort, and not a real egress. I propose for Rozanov one question, upon which everything depends. Was Christ resurrected, and what then becomes of this dilemma, -- the world or Christ, -- if Christ was resurrected? Believing in the reality of the Resurrection, would he have suggested, that the religion of Christ is a religion of death? But Rozanov, together with all the rationalists and positivists, is compelled to see in the Resurrection only an hoax, merely a myth, and for him in Christ it is death that conquers, and not life. Herein however the struggle of Rozanov with Christ ceases to be mystically terrible. It would be terrible, if that while believing in the reality of the Resurrection, he nonetheless had the wherewithal to demonstrate, that the religion of Christ is a religion of death. That “real” social reforms are by far more effective for life, than the “illusionary” Resurrection of Christ, -- we have heard this from all the positivists and we are not in the least afraid of this. Rozanov imperceptibly tumbles down the slippery slope towards a vulgar positivism, the adolescent fuzz on the chin forces its way through for him [and the strange impression yields in him the youthful attraction with radical social ideas. The things, that Rozanov now speaks about, are things usually talked about at an incomparably younger age. Soon he will outgrow the honeymoon period of his romance with positivism and socialism, the consequent results of an irreligious European culture.]
[A former conservative, a reactionary almost, Rozanov, as a contributor to the “Russkii Vestnik” and the “Moskovskii Vedomosti”, has begun to flirt with revolutionary elements, and imperceptibly he has been reborn a radical. But his political uninformedness, I would say, ignorance almost, precludes Rozanov from getting a grasp on the existing political currents, he remains foreign to politics in the unique sense of the word. To the great chagrin of all those, who read this first-class writer, and hearken to his words, his physiognomy remains twofold, his radicalism seems wanting in seriousness, a caprice of his temperament. I think, that the attraction of Rozanov towards a social radicalism, his love for the “left” has deeper a root. Rozanov feels, that the workings of an immanent pantheism and a naturalistic mysticism can profit from the union of socialism with a degenerated religion, its union with the progressive social approach of this life. Socialism promises to enrich and to organise both the natural world and natural mankind. A pantheism of Rozanov’s type could enrich and poetise the prosaic setting of the social order, could perhaps inspire joy for the material life. His immanentist attitude towards this world and the joys of this life and his hostility towards the transcendent set him at one with socialism and even with positivism. But the “left” are such bunglers, that they have no desire to make use of Rozanov, and Rozanov continues to endure no little abuse from them: Rozanov, certainly, always remains the mystic, in him too strong is the direct immediate feeling, and he would never consent to be shuffled off to the kitchen, because of his extreme talent his spunk would always be more powerful than his silly “leftwardness”, his dilettante and trite radicalism. There is an authentic and deep radicalism, and the radicalism underlying Rozanov’s setting forth of the question of sex and the flesh is quite more genuine, more sincere and remarkable, than his flirting with the “left”.4]
There are merits to Rozanov in his criticism of official Christianity and official churchliness which as such are tremendous, while by his themes he has done a service to the new religious consciousness. (With an unusual radicalism, he has set before the Christian consciousness the question about its attitude towards the life of the world and in particular towards the source of life -- towards sex.) He has had a great influence upon Merezhkovsky and “Novyi Put’”, and he has all but set the themes of the “Religio-Philosophic Gatherings”. (He has done much for the betterment of the position of those born out of wedlock.) People are quite apprehensive of Rozanov, yet they are quite preoccupied with him, and his influence on the one hand has been beneficial and creative, but on the other -- harmful and quite suffocating. Rozanov has hypnotised everyone with his dilemma of “Christ or the world”, while all the same this dilemma that Rozanov posits, does not exist. It is generated by a confusion and obscurity of consciousness. The theme of Rozanov is very vital, very frustrating for official Christianity, for the church coffers, but Christ it does not touch upon, towards Christ it involves perhaps a weakness of consciousness, merely as in an eclipse. When Rozanov says, that Christian marriage does not exist, that the Church in effect sanctions against love, when he posits the question about the sacramental mystery of marriage thus, that if this sacrament genuinely exists, then in the Church there ought to happen the union of the sexes, -- in this he is empowered and radicalised, and has ingeniously made bold with what is important for us. The official Church cannot and has not answered Rozanov anything. But what has this religiously-pervasive question in common with the theosis-deification of this world, immanently assumed, with the attempt to defeat Christ by a lifestyle? The historical Church very much even acknowledges the familial way of life, and in general lives off of it, but the sacramental mystery of love it does not acknowledge, it does not see the transcendence of the mystery of marriage. The official churchly establishment is hostile not to this world nor to the manner of life crystalised within it, it is hostile to the cosmos, to the Divine flesh of the world, and in this is the tragedy of the Church. The Church as it were is hostile to the very idea of the Church as a cosmic organism. But there has been born a new religious consciousness, thirsting for a transfigurative flesh, and not the aboriginal flesh of old. The aboriginal, the pagan, perishable flesh continues by a stealthy path to live on in the Church, but the new resurrective flesh within it there is still not, it is not manifest. Rozanov pronounces his own judgement upon the Church as the representative of this old, pagan perishable flesh, which moreover also occupies too much a place in the Church. [Here is why the “Religio-Philosophic Gatherings” did not succeed thus in falling under the sway of Rozanov.]
Christ -- is the perfect, the Divine Child of God, the Image of the Cosmos. The ChristChild is the absolute norm for the world-children. In the Name of His Son, the Logos, God hath created the world, through the Son the world is filiated in sonship to God, it returns to the Father. Christ is the Divine Mediator between God and the world: if there were not Christ, then the world would not be the child to God, and the pantheists could not perceive even their own partialised truth -- the divineness of the world. Only the world, having accepted into itself Christ and having entered into Christ, only such a world is wrought into a child of God, and divine. This world is fallen away from God, and therefore it lies in evil, and therefore its divineness is fractured, impaired, and our world -- is but doubtfully divine. But the world retains a connection with God, and this connection in the mystical order of being is the Son of God, the God-Man, of God and of the World, the eternal Intercessor. This connection was incarnated within history in the Person of Christ. Through the God-Man, of-God-of-World -- the world becomes divine, is deified. Between Christ and the world there exists only what seems empirically an opposition, issuing forth from the weakness of the human consciousness, but underneathe it lies hidden the mystically-real union. Within the historical bounds of Christianity the conjoining of Christ and the world is insufficiently seen, inasmuch as the cosmic epoch of redemption has not been brought to completion. Only within the Divine dialectic of the Trinity is there ultimately perfected the conjoining of the world with God, only in the Church to come will the flesh of the world resurrect. In the Spirit disappears every opposition betwixt the two children of God, between the world-child and the ChristChild. Christ hath manifest Himself the God-Man, the Holy Spirit manifests God-manhood. In God-manhood transpires the theosis of mankind, the theosis of the worldly flesh. But the new sacred flesh cannot be the old pagan and perishable flesh, that about which Rozanov concerns himself: into the new world indeed will enter all the elements of our world, transfigured however, and nothing destroyed, but all enlightened. We look forwards, and not backwards, we look to the coming Kingdom of God, and not to a lost paradise of the past. We desire to be as though it were religious revolutionaries, and not reactionaries. [By a capricious historical irony, religious reaction sometimes is combined with a social revolutionary trait.] Rozanov strives not towards the realm of the Spirit, not towards the realm of God One in Trinity, but towards a realm of God the Father: the realm of God the Father cannot still yet be, it is incompatible with the mystical dialectic of the Trinity, ultimately co-uniting the Creator with the creature, and it would nowise differ from the atheism, from which pantheism is separated only by an elusive boundary.
In the world is being born a new religious spirit. This spirit is deeply connected with the very old, with that which was eternal in the old soul, but within it are being revealed new horizons. For the new religious outlook and consciousness, -- having lived through the whole experience of modern history with all the profound doubt and negation, the question about the Church has to be posited otherwise, than it was for the consciousness of old. We seek the Church, into which as it were has entered all the fullness of life, the whole worldly experience, everything of value in the world, everything within history that has been of authentic value. Beyond the walls of the Church nothing ought to remain, except non-being. The Church is a cosmic power, the deified soul of the world, and the Church is also the Divine world, the imperishable connection betwixt God and the world. Entry into the Church is also an entrance into the authentic world, and not a leaving and going out from the world. People of the old religious sensibilities and the old religious outlook go into the Church to save themselves from worldly life, to atone their sins accumulated in the world, but everything by which they live they then leave at the church-yard gate, everything that is most precious for them, most dear in their lives, all the creative impulses, [their fond dreams,] all the complexity of their experience, the whole path of world history -- all this does not enter with them into the Church, does not venture to go within. This dualism we can no more endure, this dualism has become godless, it deadens the religious life, it is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Within the Church there ought to be everything that is dear for us, everything that is precious for us, everything that is suffered by us in the world, -- our love, our thought and poetry, the whole creativity excluded from the Church for us by the old consciousness, all our great worldly people, all our anticipated hopes and dreams, everything, transcendent in our life and in worldly life. The Church ought to be the plenitude and fullness of life, the richness of being, and not a seminary priestmonk’s cowl, which those in power keep their hands upon. Dostoevsky and Vl. Solov’ev did more than anyone for the new religious impetus, and these were our greatest people, our teachers, but their religious soul was still half the old. Dostoevsky and Vl. Solov’ev were very complex people, having lived deeply through all the experience of modern history, having passed through all the temptation and the doubt, yet in them was accumulated much of the new riches. But into the Church they came as of old, all their riches did not enter in with them into the Church, all their experience did not render this Church more expansive and spacious, within the Church they but negated themself. The religio-philosophic system of Vl. Solov’ev is far broader than his churchly religiosity, in it there is the idea of God-manhood, but in his Church there is still not a divine-human life. Dostoevsky in his “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” reveals religiously the remote, he senses the unspeakable religious freedom, but he goes into the Church with a mindset closed to all horizons. Wherefore I think, that none of the existing historical churches is the universal Church, none yet contains within itself the fullness of revelation, but the world seeks for the Universal Church, it thirsts to devote its life to it.5
Rozanov says, that we are pantheistic with the idea of the Church, but that this pantheistic tendency has nothing in common with its immanent pantheism. The Universal Church, containing all the fullness of being, is the Church of God One in Trinity, the Church of the Holy Trinity; in it ultimately disappears the seeming opposition between the world and Christ. In the light of the new consciousness is born yet another dilemma: the Christianity of the official-chambers, or Christ. The Christianity of the official-chambers is the old world, the old lifestyle; Christ is a new world, contrary to every lifestyle.
(1944 unpublished redraft)
© 2002 by translator Fr. S Janos
(1908 - 149(4) - en)
KHRISTOS I MIR (Otvet V. V. Rozanov). Published originally in “Russkaya Mysl’” 1908, No. 1, p. 42-55; appearing then also in “Zapiski CPB religiozno-philosophskogo obschestva”, 1908, No. 1 (Klep. #149).
Included thereafter in 1910 book “Dukhovnyi krizis intelligentsii”, Spb, sect. II-4.
Reprinted by YMCA Press Paris in 1989 in Berdiaev Collection: “Tipy religioznoi mysli v Rossii”, (Tom III), ctr. 329-348, in the draft form of 1944 unpublished revision: [bracketed text] is 1944 deletions from 1908 original; (parenthesis text) is 1944 new inclusions to 1908 original.
1 trans note: This is the draft form text of Berdyaev’s 1944 unpublished revision:
[bracketed text] is of 1944 deletions from 1908 original; (parenthesis text) is of 1944 new inclusions to 1908 original.
2 (The Peterburg Religio-Philosophic Gatherings of 1903-1904 were meetings of Russian writers, religious seekers, together with hierarchs of the Church.)
[3 It suffices but to read through Justin the Philosopher, Ireneius of Lyons, and other apologetes and teachers of the Church, in order to perceive, how inaccurate is that viewpoint, which sees within Christianity an hostility to the flesh of this world. Christianity in particular has defended the flesh of the world and the earth from the spiritising negation by Platonism, Gnosticism, etc.]
[4 What I wrote initially was more than two years ago. Rozanov has since then quite changed, having returned to his original settings. And subsequent years have seen from him a series of brilliant, religiously penetrating articles.]
[5 By this, however, I certainly do not deny, that the path to the utmost fullness of the Universal Church lies through the sanctity of the historical churches, through their sacramental mysteries.]
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