Spiritual Crisis of Intelligentsia, II, 5.


Catholic Modernism and the Crisis of
the Contemporary Consciousness 1

(1908 - #151)


         When one scrutinises French culture, one is ever the more struck by it in the fragmentation, the disjointedness, the absence of a centre: there are no dominating thoughts nor thoughts, dominating over life, there is no singular and organic consciousness. The external ordering of life, an external national unity, a perfected mechanism of external culture is united with an anarchy of spirit, with a desolation of the popular soul. The French are orderly and content, compared to us. And for us, as Russians, unhappy and sick of soul, for us it is difficult to sense the vital soul of France. And in Paris there tends to be everything, along the various corners of the great city one can find, whatever interests him, whatever his soul desires. But these corners are broken away from the centre of life, one might have lived all one's life in Paris and not yet know anything about them. The inhabitants of Paris usually know only their own block they live on and know almost nothing of what is happening on the next block over. Thus also in the life of a spirit of what is happening on a block, and the people of a block know little about others. The French are very taken up with politics, each Frenchman reckons himself a great political expert and has his own plan for the saving of fatherland, and likewise the world. This -- is in all the city-clocks, this, -- is common to the life of France. There is still something else that is in common -- literature, quite morally vile novels, distributed in an enormous number of copies. Many think, that besides the novels and the politics, in France there is at present nothing, not anything inspiring in the politics and novels. This view on modern France is too generalised and too remote. From such a perspective one can discern only the general contours and it is impossible to catch sight of important details, the separate corners, in which transpires the crisis of the contemporary consciousness.

         At a distance it would seem to me, that in modern France there are no signs of a religious stirring, there is no sort of philosophic thought, that France is almost entirely positivist in outlook, at ease in the triumph of a spiritual philistinism. This is true only in part. In the crannies of French culture one can notice a philosophic and religious ferment, and the beginning somewhere of the crisis of positivism. There is at present in France the talented philosopher Bergson,2  a struggler against intellectualism, proclaiming a philosophy of action and opening the doors of his philosophy to mysticism and religion. Bergson has become all the more popular and the young hearken to him, he is strange, and at first glance in a completely incomprehensible manner he exerts an influence of two varied and contrary currents in French life: upon the Catholic modernists and upon the syndicalists. The neo-Catholic LeRoy [Le Roy, Le Roi, Edouard, 1870-1954] and the syndicalist Georges Sorel [1847-1922] have come out against Bergson's philosophy of action, against his anti-intellectualism. Yet however one evaluate this philosophy, it is impossible not to see in it a reflection of the crisis of positivism, a protest against the intellectualism, with which the old positivism infected the spiritual atmosphere.3

         There exist in France both the neo-Catholics, -- modernists, as they are wont to be called, and the neo-Protestants. They publish journals, they organise conferences, which are frequented, moreover, by a special public. There is a Social Catholic movement, which is grouped around the society "Sillon" and which is very energetic in its striving to unite the orthodox-sort Catholicism with democracy, a republic and social reforms.4  But the foremost place amongst these currents indisputably belongs to Catholic modernism.5  Modernism is a movement primarily mental, but it is closely connected with the crisis of Western Catholicism and the crisis of the contemporary European consciousness. And Catholicism and the contemporary consciousness -- are facts of first-rate importance within the developement of world culture. Modernism attracts to itself the attention of wide segments of society and has become the evil of the day thanks to a papal encyclical. A particular stir was created by abbe Alfred Loisy [1857-1940], who not long ago came out with a book entitled, "Simples reflexions sur le decret du Sainte-Office et sur L'encyclique". This book sold out in several days and caused an upheaval in the Catholic world. In this book Loisy and not without some pride says, that those, who now officially are called modernists, several years back were called Loisyites, and he attempts to give answer for the whole of modernism to the holy Roman inquisition and the pope, for their having in a most decisive manner condemned the modernists and all their books.

         In Catholic modernism there is many a varied shade, and Loisy justly protests against mixing up all the shades together under a general condemnation. But nevertheless there can be ascertained two basic currents within modernism: the one philosophic, the other exegetical. Social Catholicism with Marc Sangnier [1973-1950] at the head stands off to the side from modernism; modernistic doubts are foreign to this current, and it meets with more indulgent an attitude of the pope, despite its social reform tendencies.6  On the other side, the social aspirations are foreign to modernism, yet this is nonetheless a current, though in protest against intellectualism, which is primarily intellectual, and its sphere -- is the workings of consciousness. The modernism is an effort at uniting Catholicism with a new spirit, with the modern scientific consciousness, similar to how Sillonism attempts to unite Catholicism with modern democracy. In the words of Loisy, the modernists have therefore become modernists, because they -- are modern people, people of our era, because contemporary culture has entered into their very flesh and blood, because the very fiber of their being has become modern. And the Catholic Church continues to stand with hostile an attitude towards the spirit of the times, to find itself in an eternal opposition to everything modern, to philosophy, to science, to the progress of culture. The official philosophy of the Catholic Church as before remains the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and his intellectualistic scholasticism even in the XX Century continues to define the Catholic consciousness. The neo-Catholics, contaminated by the spirit of the times, have come to doubt Thomas Aquinas as a consummate master of religious and philosophic consciousness. Forsaken by the Catholics, the modernists have wanted to taste the sweetness of that freedom of investigation, which already long since was affirmed within Protestantism. But is it possible to remain good Catholics, having entered upon the path of free philosophising and free exegetics? The modernists seem to have two sorts of conscience -- a conscience Catholic and a conscience contemporary, and they are left swaying between two truths -- the truth of the Catholic Church, a truth they cannot disown, and the truth of modern philosophy and modern scientific exegetics, with which they are infected. Philosophic and exegetical doubts disunite the modernists, they have caught the sickness of the objections of the contemporary consciousness against faith, against miracles and against tradition. Thomas Aquinas provides no sort of saving from these doubts, he but intensifies and strengthens them. There is the need to get free of Thomas, in order to justify the Catholic faith in facing the contemporary consciousness. Together with this, against the modernists boils the old Catholic blood, they are caught up in a fight with all their essence against the Church and the pope, while the authority of the Church is dearer to them than Christ, and the church hierarchy they esteem as a great cultural historical power. In contrast to the Protestants, the modernist Catholics see in the Church the dynamic power of Christianity within history. The Church for them is a religious developing, a living history, and they justifiably want to turn backwards, to the Gospel and the first centuries of Christianity. This attachment of the modernists to the Church, this greater proximity for them to the Church, rather than to Christ, puts them in a tragic and inescapable position for a clash with the pope.

         The chief representative of the philosophical current of modernism at present appears to be LeRoy [Le Roy, Le Roi], author of the book, "Dogmes et critique", a student of Bergson, a sharp-witted metaphysician, subjecting the idea of dogma to philosophic analysis.7  Leroy contends philosophically against Scholasticism, against intellectualism in the investigation of dogmas, while the old rationalistic foundation of the Catholic faith he wants to replace with a new and voluntaristic foundation, and to arrive at a moral dogmatism, a teaching about dogma as a fount of action. The dogmas for LeRoy and the philosophers of modernism possess not a theoretical, but rather practical significance. It is clear, that herein the spirit of Kant wins out over the spirit of Thomas Aquinas. In this the modernists are fully modern, they fully reflect the spirit of the times and the contemporary condition of consciousness.

         The chief representative of the exegetical current in modernism appears to be Loisy, the author of serious investigations in Biblical and Gospel history, a Catholic priest, making bold to fight for the freedom of exegetics.8  Loisy is not at all a philosopher, he is an erudite historian of Christianity. He is a profound thinker, and with all his Catholic blood he differs from Harnack and has written an entire book against Harnack,9  but he does the same as does Harnack, and like the latter he lacks the ability to philosophically defend his faith. "Das Wesen des Christentums" of Harnack and "L'Evangile et l'eglise" of Loisy -- are two fundamental books, characteristic of Protestant modernism and of Catholic modernism. These are two answers to the doubts, evoked by the modern scientific spirit, the spirit of historical investigation, knowing no mercy, -- the response of a neo-Protestant, who loves Christ, and of a neo-Catholic, who loves the church. And neither of them believes in the God-Manhood of Christ, the one from a German Protestant sincerity and uprightness, the other from a French Catholic cleverness and sense for ambiguity. In absolute religious truth, in religious realism have alike experienced doubt both LeRoy with his voluntaristic philosophy, and Loisy with his erudite exegetics. The truth of contemporary philosophy and contemporary historical science has seemed stronger than the old religious truth, has seemed as though not dependent upon it neither in time, nor in science, nor in philosophy. Why however are LeRoy, Loisy and all these modernists so frightened of the spirit of the times, so passive in the face of the contemporary consciousness, so powerless to defend their faith against the pressure of scientific and philosophic doubts? Because their blood is too infected by the historical sins of Catholicism, they have been poisoned by the age-old hostility of the Catholic Church towards progress, towards science and philosophy. Those, for whom Thomas Aquinas has been the final word on human culture, the supreme word on science and philosophy, are objectively defenseless against the spirit of modernity, when they happen to doubt the absolute and final significance of Thomas. For those, who have imbibed into their own flesh and blood the idea of the absolute authority of the pope and with this idea have bound up belonging to the Church of Christ as dear to their heart, -- for these the freedom of the modern spirit holds especial temptation. modernity, the freedom of science and philosophy have opened up for the modernists that same seductiveness, which the forbidden beauty of a woman had for the medieval monk. Both Thomas Aquinas and Pope Pius X stand in the way of this wondrous beauty and they do not permit it, they threaten excommunication and eternal perdition. But is this woman so beautiful, is the forbidden modernity so attractive?

         In modernity, in the consciousness of modern man, long since already freed from both Thomas and from the pope, and indeed from all religion, there is occurring a crisis, the reverse of that which transpires with Loisy, LeRoy and others like them: modernity thirsts for faith, thirsts anew to discover the lost sanctity, to go along varied paths towards religious rebirth. The modernist Catholics are overdue in their attempts to unite Catholicism with the spirit of the times, the spirit of the times will soon move on and forsake those positions, upon which they intend to solidify their renovated faith. The modern Catholics want to reform and renew Catholicism with that modernity, which historically itself is a product of the sins of Catholicism and which from its new sins can be set free only by a new and fuller faith. It wants to replace the old Catholic intellectualism with a modern voluntarism and by this to breathe life into the decrepit Catholicism. But the contemporary voluntarism has become hopelessly blind, people come to it out of despair, having lost all faith and all awareness of the meaning of life.

         In essence, LeRoy has come to doubt on dogma, the modern consciousness hinders him to believe in dogma in the old way, he has sensed philosophic impediments, and the old Catholic philosophy cannot defend him against the spirit of the times. It is evident to everyone, that LeRoy has sincerely wanted to remain a good Catholic, fervently to be attached to the faith, but he is too "modern", his old religiosity is combined with a new irreligious consciousness, and this consciousness is terrified of the miraculous. In the contemporary consciousness of cultured European peoples lives the prejudice, that the impossibility of miracle has been proven and shown. LeRoy has had doubts first of all in the existence of absolute truth and in the existence of the organ for its apperception. In following the modernising philosophy LeRoy spurns any great and absolute reason, he renounces any legacy of the Logos, as revealed in the history of the human consciousness. The modern voluntarist Bergson is closer to him, than are the great philosophic traditions of the past, he has lost hold the thread, which stretches through the whole of world culture from Plato to Schelling. LeRoy is very sharp-minded a philosopher, but foreign to him are the testaments of a free knowledge of God. Together with this, LeRoy is impelled to break with religious realism, he fatally goes over to a religious symbolism. A man of the contemporary philosophic spirit, a follower of Bergson, though too a faithful son of the Catholic Church, he cannot realistically investigate the dogmas, he cannot affirm the higher reason within the dogmas. For LeRoy the dogma is not so much a fact of the mystical order, for real and apperceptive by faith, a real and objective fact dwelling outside man, as rather a subjective condition of man himself, his moral activity. The dogma is needed for activity, for the practical in the religious life. Pensee-action -- is here the basic word. The moral dogmatism of LeRoy is reminiscent of the practical reason of old Kant, though also LeRoy cannot be termed a Kantian in the precise sense of this word. Bergson and LeRoy, certainly, are bound up with the spirit of the Kantian practical reason, the Kantian voluntarism, but they are distinct from the German neo-Kantians, within their mindset is a national French particularity. All this current of the philosophy of action is akin to the spirit of the brilliant American philosopher and psychologist, James.10

         Kant left man facing a terrible abyss, having cut off the path to the apperception of transcendent realities. Absolute truth as a reality, according to Kant, is unattainable for man, religious realism has reached its end-point, and for hapless and helpless man there is left only the right of exerting the will, volitional activity, the moral activity to create for oneself a religious activity. The objectively lost faith needs subjectively to be recreated. The Christian dogmas, which earlier were perceived as a real and objective activity, for the modern consciousness -- are a lost paradise. But the need for religion has remained, it is needful to life, for morality, and there remains only the possibility to affirm the dogmatic actions, the dogmatic moral postulates. LeRoy is to much the Catholic, to formulate the condition of his consciousness such as I tend to formulate it, but the core of the crisis, which occurs with people like LeRoy, it seems to me however, can be expressed thus. Faith in the God-Manhood of Christ and in the Resurrection of Christ is needful to religious life, for moral activity, for contemplative practice. Indeed so. But is Christ really, mystically really the God-Man, was Christ resurrected, and the sins of the world redeemed and the world saved by the fact of the appearance of Christ, a fact, in its objectivity towering over not only all our human condition, but also over all this world? LeRoy as a good Catholic believes, that Christ -- is the Son of God and has risen in the Resurrection, but as a philosopher, as a "modernist", he is perplexed and unconvinced. The eternal reason and the temporal reason have become dissonant.

         Loisy, representative of the other current of modernism, in his reply to Harnack sets the Church higher than Christ. And this is quite characteristic for his Catholic blood. Christ is perceived only through the Church, Christ has passed over into the Church and as it were has become dissolved into it. It is impossible to feel Christ Himself, and a return to Christ would be a reactionary renovation. There remains only one path -- the furthermost developement of the Church itself. But Loisy is gripped by exegetical doubts, and Biblical criticism tempts him. History, i.e. scientific history, imperceptibly assumes for him the character of a supreme criterion. He thus often states, that he might be suspected of a twofold accounting, that as it were there exists for him two truths -- the one historical and scientific, the other religious and theological. In his latest book Loisy defends himself against this suspicion and straight-out says: "That, which is historically false, I account false everywhere".11  After this revealing acknowledgement, which clearly indicates, that exegetical doubts have gained the upper hand over his faith, he consoles himself and us with this, that "the legend or myth can denote its own religious truth, it can express a moral feeling". Bereft of objective truth, Loisy wants then to recreate it subjectively, as something morally necessary for life, for the practical.

         What sort of meaning do the exegetical doubts of Loisy possess? I understand still the philosophic doubts, but the doubts of historical investigation itself per se do not possess any principal significance for faith. It is possible philosophically to assert, that towards every religion, thus also towards Christianity, can only be one attitude -- the historical, that every religion is but an object of historical research. Then one would therein consciously and philosophically deny, that there is in man any organ for the apperception of the religious within history, except for scientifico-historical research. Harnack, a very remarkable, a very erudite specialist in Christian exegetics, has gotten himself hopelessly entangled in this regard. He has set himself the task, amidst the help of historical research and to which he ascribes the significance of a supreme criterion of truth, the task to determine "the essence of Christianity", which earlier he had defended religiously. There obtains a vicious circle: "the essence of Christianity" is the religion of Harnack, acquired by him through an unmediated and direct religious sensing, but the historical investigation, unaware of its religio-philosophic limitations, holds forth with the view, that it is defining the "essence", which for scientific investigation is always elusive.12  The position of Loisy is worse still. Harnack -- is a Protestant rationalist, he consciously confesses Christianity as a moral teaching; Loisy -- is a Catholic (though also a modernist), he has grown up attached to the Church such that no sort of exegetical doubts can tear him away from it, yet together with this he wants to transform the scientifico-historical research into a supreme criterion of truth. What however then happens with religious apperception, with a sensing of Christ as Saviour, a primal sensing, not dependent upon any sort of science, nor upon any sort of history! Harnack in his capacity of rationalist denies a real religious apperception, for him there remains only a moral religious feeling. Loisy as it were admits a religious apperception in regards to the Church but denies it in regards to Christ. Christ is surrendered into the hands of exegetical investigation.13  That which remains untouchable in Christ for historical investigation, then passes over instead into the Catholic Church, the dynamic power of human progress, which becomes higher than Christ, which outgrows Christ and perhaps also outgrows itself, as the modernists would have it. A more hopeless, shaky and ambiguous position, than this, upon which Loisy and others like him stand, is difficult to imagine. He does not believe in absolute religious truth, and in standing for the Church, he wants to resist the pervasive grip of relativism, the historical relativity of everything, subjected to scientific investigation. The reply of Loisy to the pope and the Holy Inquisition produces a distressing impression. There is the feeling, that the man has gradually lost his faith, but is afraid to admit this himself. It is incomprehensible, why he stands up for the Church, why he strives for a justification. Loisy has become vexed, and his tone is such, that it ill becomes those paltry people to judge about his erudite investigations. And moreover for an erudite man, an investigator of Christian history, there should be no need to squander time on explanations with the pope and the Catholic Church.


         The Russian religious searchings of every sort are very different from what we see in the Catholic modernism. The texture of our religious thought is altogether different. Christ is closer for our direct religious sense, than is the more external churchliness, our religious thought asserts an absolute truth, we aspire towards religious realism, and not a mere symbolism; for us the search for the City yet to come, -- the Kingdom of God on earth, is bolder, than it is in the West. Within Orthodoxy there was never that intellectualism, such as there was in the Catholic Scholasticism, and therefore there could not be such a motif of struggle against intellectualism, as there is with the modernists. For us there was no need to demolish the authority of Thomas Aquinas within religious thought. Closer to our blood is the mystical theology of Dionysios the Areopagite and Maximos the Confessor. Orthodox mysticism is pervaded by a spirit of supra-rationalism, to it is foreign both rationalism and irrationalism. The most remarkable Russian theologian-philosophers, Khomyakov, Vl. Solov'ev, V. Nesmelov, have brilliantly resolved problems, connected with disputes of faith and knowledge, they have bestown us a profound religious philosophy and they stand many heads higher than LeRoy and those like him. Khomyakov and Solov'ev have organically adapted the idea of absolute reason, as developed by German idealism, and have transformed abstract idealism into a concrete idealism, and it was amidst the course of the greater reason that the matter of faith was played out for them. Only the lesser reason, prevalent in contemporary philosophy and modern culture, has subjected to doubt the rule of faith and the reality of dogmas. Khomyakov and Vl. Solov'ev are from the philosophic school of the greater reason and have continued with the great traditions, which stretch from Plato, through the neoPlatonists, to the teachers of the Church, to the philosophising mystics, through such medieval geniuses of thought, as John Scotus Erigena, down to the German idealists, Hegel and Schelling. LeRoy and the modernists tend to ignore this great tradition, they are from the school of the lesser reason, from philosophic modernism, which has given up on the great traditions of the past in the name of the spirit of positivism. And the modernists have been quite much tempted by this spirit of modern philosophy, the spirit of the lesser reason. The modernists could learn much from Vl. Solov'ev, but they are not even familiar with the French book of Solov'ev, entitled "La Russie et l'eglise universelle", which was devoted to the question about the reuniting of the churches and shows also the attraction of Solov'ev towards Catholicism. They are too much Catholics and too much the modernists, to understand the great Russian theosophy.

         For the contemporary philosophic consciousness there exists only two points of departure -- intellectualism or voluntarism. Modern man is surrendered to either his own small human reason, or to his human will, in which he seeks salvation from rationality. The modern consciousness is fragmented apart, everything in it is dissociated, the organic centre is lost, and this centre can only be supra-human. Intellectualism and voluntarism, rationalism and irrationalism -- these are two sides of one and the same disintegration, of a sundering away from the supreme centre of being. The will affirms itself separately from the intellect, and the intellect likewise separately from the will, and both the intellect and the will affirm themselves fragmented off from the absolute reason, from the organic reason, in which the intellectual and the volitional are coalesced into an higher unity. The modernists are caught up entirely within the limitations of the antitheses of the contemporary consciousness, the will and reason for them are disunited, faith and knowledge are sundered apart, and the absolute reasonableness of the dogmas they do not see. They do not even suspect the possibility of that path, traversed by Russian philosophic and religious thought, the path of supra-rationalism. The dogmas are not theories, are not speculative teachings, -- in this LeRoy, certainly, is correct. He protests justly against the intellectualistic investigation of dogmas. The dogmas are facts first of all, facts not of the empirical, but of the mystical order. For LeRoy the dogmas have primarily a moral significance in life, they are necessary for actions, and appear as it were as practical norms. In the book of LeRoy there is a very interesting chapter concerning the Resurrection of Christ, in which he comes to a very characteristic conclusion. The dogma about the Resurrection means, that we ought to relate to Christ as to our contemporary. LeRoy many a time stresses, that in the capacity of a good Catholic he believes in the Resurrection as a fact, and he believes in all the dogmas. But the mystical sense of the Resurrection eludes him. Does he admit the cosmic salvific action of the Resurrection of Christ, as a victory over the primordial evil in the world, over death? With LeRoy the Resurrection is investigated in the sense of a subjective human relationship to Christ, and not in the sense of the relation of Christ to man and to the world. Moreover, in that the dogmatic-facts have an objective world significance, they disclose the relationship of the Divinity to the world, these dogma-facts lead thus to salvation.14  The dogma-facts are reasonable in the utmost sense of this word. The contemporary consciousness, towards which the modernists are so inclined, ignores the tradition of a free knowledge of God, the history of theosophy. The idea of reason, which can reconcile intellectualism and voluntarism, knowledge and faith, such as is connected with the teaching about the Logos, is quite foreign to the spirit of modernism and all the contemporary consciousness.

         Amidst the discernment of the higher reason, miracle is -- reasonable, the order of nature -- is unreasonable, madness. The connection of cause with effect in the natural order -- is absurd, irrationalised, this order of nature itself has appeared as a result of the falling away from reason, the irrationalisation of being. The kingdom of necessity is not the kingdom of reason, for reasonable and meaningful only is the kingdom of freedom.15  In this context it can be said, that in world life there was only one fact absolutely reasonable, absolutely meaningful -- the fact of the Resurrection of Christ. In this miraculous fact the world having fallen away from reason is returned to reason. The miracle of the Resurrection, having altered the order of nature subject to the law of corruption -- is meaningful, reasonable. When they speak about the incompatibility of miracle with reason, about the non-reasonableness and foolishness of giving credance to the miraculous, they are then judging with the lesser reason, with human judgement, which itself is non-reasonable, itself dissociated from the meaning of being. In the forefront of the contemporary consciousness of Europe there lives a legend about how there has been ultimately demonstrated and proven the incommensurability of the miraculous with reason, the impossibility and meaninglessness of the miracle. No one has ever proven anything like this and it cannot be proven.16  Positive science simply does not concern itself with this, for this is outside its competency and for it not of interest. Science but speaks about what is from a scientific point of view, within the bounds of the order of the laws of nature, with which it deals, and in which the miraculous is impossible and wherein miracle never occurs. But religion itself likewise asserts, that as regards the laws of nature the miraculous is impossible, that it is possible only as an alteration within the order of nature, only but within the order of grace. Supernatural powers however lay outside the perspective of science, and about them science can affirm nothing either positive or negative. Philosophy however has an interest in the question about the possibility of the miraculous, and it explores this question. But that philosophy, such as has posited at its foundation the idea of reason, can particularly admit of the miraculous. A philosophy of reason, continuing with the tradition of reason, building upon the teaching concerning the Logos, the ontological teaching about the meaning of being, permits of the possibility of miracle; whereas an irrational philosophy does not permit of this possibility, denying as it does the very idea of reason. Certainly, either Schelling or Vl. Solov'ev have moreso acknowledged reason and have proceeded from reason, than Mills or Cohen. The modern scientific critical philosophy has cast aside the idea of reason as something outmoded and unnecessary. Reason however is an idea ontological, and not merely gnosseological, it is connected with an acknowledging of the positive meaning of being, its supreme centre and its supreme purpose. The positivist, critical, scientific philosophy does not have the right even to speak about reason, and for it there is no sort of meaning in a discussion about the non-reasonableness of the miraculous. The contemporary consciousness denies miracle both in its heart and in its will, it is frightened of the miraculous, as by a devil. The question about the relationship between knowledge and faith within the contemporary consciousness is not only not resolved, it is not even posited.

         Science is a partial form of knowledge, not utmost and not ultimate, it is always directed to a delimited area, and in transgressing its bounds, it ceases to be science, and becomes a pseudo-philosophy and pseudo-theology. Thus, for example, with positivism, which expands its judgements beyond the bounds of scientific knowledge, and is hence a pseudo-philosophy, just as materialism can be termed a pseudo-theology. Faith includes within it a fullness of knowledge, it is not counter-scientific, but rather supra-scientific. The partial sphere of scientific knowledge does not negate religious faith, but the rather is made meaningful, and is led to a connection with the whole. The very object of scientific knowledge empirical nature, for religious faith is enlightened with the light of the supernatural. But faith cannot in any way stand dependent, nor can it in any sense be defined or delimited or negated by science. At the basis of knowledge likewise indeed resides faith. The world of knowledge and the world of faith obtain first of all for us as completely different orders, which can be and ought to be brought together on the same level, but upon the grounds of faith, and not knowledge. The question concerning the relationship of knowledge and faith stands very acute for the contemporary consciousness and for all forms of a modern religious movement. This is a matter for religious gnosseology, which has its foundations in the world of the developement of human self consciousness. But religious faith can never be dependent upon scientific knowledge or to any degree be negated by it, and thereupon thus collapses the very possibility of the exegetical doubts of Christ. The exegetical doubts are based upon this presupposition, that the faith in Christ can be considered dependent upon the scientific investigations concerning Christ and Christianity. This is but a partial aspect of the general question about the primacy of science within human consciousness. If science should be the sole criterion of truth, if science be not only science, i.e. a partial and delimited sphere, but should likewise include philosophy, and religion, i.e. everything, then there is no other sort of relationship to Christ, besides the scientific-historical, and it cannot be such. The idolatry afront science, the transforming of it from a part into the whole, from a subordinate function into a supreme norm, would lead to idols of a "scientific" religion. But, it would seem, philosophy ought to be philosophic, religion ought to be religious, and science ought only to be scientific, if the scientific be not the sole and supreme criterion. But now it is in vogue to demand a scientific basis not only in philosophy, but also in religion. It is a demand, striking in its absurdity. Our philosophy and our religion deny the primacy of science, philosophy for us has its own independent source, and religion stands uppermost. How indeed can we "scientifically" ground the basis of our faith and our philosophy? The "scientific" is a pseudo-theological idol in our era, and it is impossible "scientifically" to shatter this idol. There is a vicious circle here. Philosophically and religiously we affirm only the scienceness of science, and science itself we regard as a sphere partial and delimited. The right of a free exegetical research, which is so dear to Loisy, is a sacred right, but the fate of faith cannot in any sense be dependent upon it. The faith of Loisy himself is however quite vulnerable to the pressure of his particular investigations. Catholicism renders man helpless against the threats of freedom of investigation, since actually it denies this freedom and fights against it.

         Catholic modernism tends insufficiently to see, that in the world has coalesced a new consciousness, still quite newer than that, to which the modernists have gravitated and in which they see modernity, -- a religious consciousness. This consciousness is justified by an higher philosophy. But what however is it that transpires within contemporary philosophy? The voluntarism of contemporary philosophy (Bergson, James, and many a German) reflects the crisis of positivism, it exposes the impossibility of positivist intellectualism to suffice, stretching as it does to infinity the whole of human striving. Bergson has exerted an influence even upon the French syndicalists, who are cut off from the Marxist intellectualism and who thirst for a philosophy of action. In the syndicalist "action directe" there occurs a mysteried action, there is as it were a revelation, acquired by an effort of the will and unintelligible to the sidelines. Bergson, LeRoy and those like them in essence assert, that truth is born in action, that there is also a truth which is created by the will and is necessary for the will.17  This has analogy with the assertion of Marxism, in accord with which truth is but that which is necessary for the process of life, for action, within a given era for the proletariat -- the class mystique, which syndicalism developes further. Suchlike a philosophy is compelled to deny the reality and the presence of absolute norms in consciousness. If within consciousness the absolute be not really present nor appear as a source for truth, then there remains but to surrender oneself to the dark will, in the hope, that its efforts at action will lead to such results, which moreover might be termed truth. But this path leads from the false light of positivism to a total darkness, to a mystique of the blind. Action itself, the volitional effort itself can be accomplished only upon absolute grounds, in accord with a given revelation, a religious revelation within history and the natural revelation of reason and of conscience, then only is the action of the will purposive and leading towards light, to an absolute reality. The woeful aspect is in this, that the new voluntarism remains within the bounds of all that same rationalism, and the irrationalism is but an inverted inside-out rationalism. The sole light of reason, which permits of voluntarism and irrationalism, is all that selfsame old light of the lesser reason, all that selfsame rationalistic light. But this light cannot illumine other worlds, cannot extend into the religious sphere. The area of religion therefore remains unenlightened and is subject to danger on the part of the light of rational judgement, the light of science and philosophy. Faith is necessary for volitional life, for the practical, for action, but it is non-rational, it is shaken by the pressures of modernity, by the prevailing powers such as declared by an autonomous science and philosophy. That philosophy, which LeRoy and the modernists have seized upon, cannot justify faith, cannot open up into the possibility of religion and faith; this philosophy but lays bare the crisis of positivism and the crisis of Catholicism, nothing more.

         Catholicism has long already been tempted by the secret of the "Grand Inquisitor" in its hierarchy. I speak, certainly, not about this or some other pope as a man, nor about this or some other hierarch of the Church, but about the spirit of the papacy, about a deviousness, employed by the Catholic hierarchy. Pope Leo XIII was a remarkable man and a genuine believer, and Pius X is certainly a believer, but they both shield themself with a secret of cunning deviousness. This weakening of truth by the Catholic Church has found expression in modernism. The modernists are incapable of a bold breaking with the pope, since they do not believe in absolute truth, nor do they believe in the ideal nature of man. They are relativists too much, opportunists too much. The Polish modernist Marian Zdzekhovskii [1861-1938] put in the Moscow Weekly an article entitled, "The Modernist Movement in the Roman Catholic Church", in which he makes a strange admission, but very characteristic of modernism. M. Zdzekhovskii -- is a fervent modernist, he delights in the modernist books, he extols Loisy, he is most doubtful on the mindset of Catholicism, but at the end he suddenly declares: "The intervention by the church authority lays in the interest of the common good, and a precautionary encyclical on the part of the pope was rendered necessary. And it became apparent: Pius X had fulfilled his duty". In these strange words is expressed all the dual mindset of modernism. The modernists are in a struggle against themself, they are not convinced, that freedom will lead them to something good, they suspect themself of a lack of religious insight. It is impossible to permit children to be too mischievous, it can be permitted somewhat, but then it is proper to put a stop to it and if necessary punish, else then the mischief lead to woe. One might permit oneself philosophic and exegetical investigations in the spirit of modernity, but upon this path there is no absolute criterion of truth, and one might readily plunge into the abyss. Pope Pius X is left as the absolute criterion and he can save one perishing from the excesses of freedom even in an instance, where one has lost the faith in Christ. Freedom, it would seem, leads to a loss of faith in Christ, but the faith in Pius X remains and saves from perdition. The whole horror of Catholicism, its whole pitfall -- is in this substitution for Christ by the pope. Christ -- is freedom, whereas the pope -- is authority. The Catholic Church -- is too legalistic, too completed an edifice, too materially rooted. Catholicism takes from man the burden of freedom, in this is its power and in this is its horror. In the Orthodox Church there is not this material tangibility, not the legalism, in it the weakness has been in historical dynamics. In Orthodoxy no one knows precisely, where the voice of the Church is, and where the borderlines of churchly teachings of faith reside. Herein is a weakness of Orthodoxy, but herein likewise resides possibly its strength. In the legend of the "Grand Inquisitor", Dostoevsky with an unprecedented and extraordinary power grasped the mystery of the substitution for Christ by the pope, of freedom -- by authority. The modernists desire as though to get free from the temptation of the "Grand Inquisitor", but they have not the wherewithal, since they have no hold on a faith in absolute truth, in the salvific aspect of freedom, in a religious realism. Catholicism has excluded the path of freedom, has surrounded man with impediments, and the spirit of modernity -- modernism -- has excluded absolute truth, it has deprived the religious life of reality. The Catholic modernists only then will have the ability to prevail over the reactionary authority of the pope and the false hierarchy and realise their revolutionary strivings, when they become less the Catholics and less the modernists, when they first of all freely will have affirmed Christ in themself and freely sense themself members of the Body of Christ -- the Church. I believe, that this religious process can readily start from Russia, from its Orthodoxy.18  Within Orthodoxy has been preserved the sanctity of the Divine, though the human element has been weakly expressed. Within Orthodoxy there has not been the historical dynamics of the West, and this weakness can become a religious plus in that hour, when the exclusively human dynamics become meaningless and there begins a Divine-human dynamic in history.

         The religious tumult in Russia is quite more interesting, qualitatively higher, and more novel, than that in France and other lands. We have a greater boldness and sweep, a greater religious audacity. We have many an idea, we inspiredly demolish the old and prophesy about the new, but historical activity, the capacity for real action with us is so small, that it has become terrible. Our religious stirring is all still reminiscent of the conversation of Ivan Karamazov with Alyosha at the inn. And the impediments, which for us stand in the way for a rebirth of the Christian faith and the strengthening of a new religious consciousness, are altogether different from those in Western modernism. The chief hindrance -- is not in the consciousness, not in the intellectual spirit of modern science and philosophy, but in the will, the initiating element, in which has not yet occurred an ultimate choice of path. Our chief doubts are not exegetical and not philosophical, but moreso mystical. The Russian original philosophy does not posit any sort of impediments for faith. Almost all the Russian philosophers were believers, they conjoined knowledge with faith. The greatest Russian philosopher, Vl. Solov'ev, was a Christian philosopher and he provided a justification of faith better, than LeRoy gives now, or than the Scholastics gave formerly. Russian philosophy acknowledges the reasonableness of the Christian faith, it sees within Christianity the sole meaningful world-understanding, and alike foreign to it are an abstract intellectualism and an abstract voluntarism. The new religious consciousness ought to base itself upon the traditions of Russian philosophy, and not upon contemporary European philosophy. Bergson, James, Rickert and other modern philosophers -- are interesting and talented, yet they -- are symptomatic of the crisis of positivism, but they trouble not those who continue the deed of the worldwide revealing of the Logos and sense their bond with the great philosophers of the past.

         In the Russian religious tumult lies concealed an immediate sensing of Christ, and equally also the spirit, opposed to Christ. This vital feeling of Christ for us has not been killed by the historical Church, as it has in Western Catholicism, and therefore it can become a basis of religious renewal. In our religious searchings there is a very strong social impetus, which is completely foreign to modernism, in it there is a vital expectation of the Kingdom of God upon earth, the onset of a true theocracy. All the Russian God seekers, starting with Chaadaev, moved towards the universal Church, in which there would be the fullness of all and in which would be realised the Christian prophecies and promises. Chaadaev and Vl. Solov'ev -- our greatest religious thinkers -- had an inclination towards Catholicism. They believed, that within Orthodoxy obtains an absolute sanctity, the divine foundation of the Church, but within Catholicism they wanted to catch sight of that human constructive power, the historical power, which should realise the societal organisation of the Kingdom of God upon earth; within Catholicism they saw a means of transferring the Divine sanctity of Orthodoxy into world historical life. In an uniting of the churches, in the combining of the Eastern truth of Orthodoxy with the western truth of Catholicism, Vl. Solov'ev saw a way out into the Universal Church. The modernist Catholic movement has somewhat disenchanted us in this. In it is absent that social impetus, which attracted Chaadaev and Solov'ev. The official Catholicism however remains stagnant and reactionary, though all still quite mighty. Everything teaches us this, that the sanctity of the eternal, not the temporal, Orthodoxy, -- is the Divine basis of the Universal Church,19  ought not to be united with the social organisation of Catholicism, but rather with European culture and with a liberative societal humanism, wherein already has occurred the affirmation of the human element, of volitional human activity, so unattained by the Christian East. The crisis of the contemporary consciousness points towards this conjunction.

                                                            N. A. Berdyaev


©  2009  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1908 - 151(4) -en)

KATHOLICHESKII  MODERNIZM  I  KRIZIS  SOVREMENNOGO  SOZNANIYA. Published originally in periodical Russkaya mysl', sept. 1908, No. 9, p. 80-94, (Klep. #151).

Article was included and republished thereafter within the 1910 Berdyaev book, “Dukhovnyi krisis intelligentsii” (“Spiritual Crisis of the Intelligentsia”) (Klep.#4, Sect. II, Ch. 5). My translation is made from the 1998  Moscow “Kanon” republished edition of the “Dukhovnyi krisis intelligentsii”, p. 248-268, -- and whether this follows the pagination of the original 1910 text is not clear. I have not reproduced the scholarly footnotes of the 1998 editor, since my intent is to preserve and present the integrity of Berdyaev’s own original text; also as not to infringe copyright rights of the 1998 editor’s (V. V. Sapov’s) own work, at this interim point in time.

1 Originally published in "Russkaya mysl'", september 1908.

2 The chief work of Bergson -- is "L'evolution creatrice", in which he subjects evolutionary theories to a deep-thoughted critique.

3 Vide the recent book of the acclaimed philosopher Boutroux [Emil, 1845-1921], "Sciense et religion", in which is an entire chapter, "La philosophie de l'action".

4 Vide L. Cousin, "Vie et doctrine du Sillon".

5 I consider a most remarkable document of the life of a religious soul in France to be in the work of Huysmans [Joris Karl (Charles Marie Georges), 1848-1907], that hero and martyr of decadence, infinitely foreign to the modern triteness. Huysmans is more interesting and deeper than the "modernists".

6 Pope Leo XIII was an inspirer of Social Catholicism, and the cardinals -- colleagues of the deceased pope, up through the present support the Sillonists at Rome.

7 In France in the same direction have been active Blondel [Maurice, 1861-1949] and Laberthonnier [Lucien, 1860-1932], and in England Newman {John Henry Cardinal, 1801-1890], one of the chief inspirers of modernism.

8 Vide "Les Evangiles synoptiques", "Le quatrieme Evangile", "Histoire critique du texte et des versions de Ancien Testament" and other works.

9Vide "L'Evangile et l'eglise".

10 Vide William James, ""L'experience religieuse".

11 Vide "Simples reflexions", p. 62.

12 For me it is gnosseologically indisputable, that the religiosity of the object demands the religiosity of the subject. In this position is a limitation to every scientific investigation of religion. The mysteries of religion obtain only for a religious receptivity, and demand devotion.

13 The image of the Son of God manifest in history is apperceived through the sacred tradition of the Church, but the Church itself -- is a mysteried universal society of the living and the dead -- apperceived only mystically.

14 Vide the interesting book of Brilliantov, "The Influence of Eastern theology upon the Western in the Works of John Scotus Erigena" -- in which is accurately noted the objectively Divine character of the Eastern evangelisation and the subjectively human character of the Western.

15 Kant understood this in the strongest part of his philosophy, in the "Critique of Practical Reason".

16 N. Minsky in an article, "Absolute reaction" (in "Slovo") constructs his arguments against the possibility of miracle upon a naive confusion of reason with natural necessity. This is a typical point of confusion with the rationalists.

17 An analogous view can be found in Simmel [Georg, 1858-1918}and many other German thinkers.

18 In the mystical, and not in the historical sense of the word.

19 I believe, that this basis is common to both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, but the sacred within Catholicism mustneeds be sought not within the papacy as a social system.

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