N.  A.  BERDYAEV  (BERDIAEV)
 

THE  REVELATION  ABOUT  MAN
IN  THE  CREATIVITY
OF  DOSTOEVSKY

(1918 - #294)

                                                                  Thou didst take everything, that is unusual,
                                                                  conjectural and indefinite, Thou didst take
                                                                  everything that was beyond the powers of
                                                                  people, and there didst behave as though
                                                                  loving them not at all.
                                                                   Legend of the Grand Inquisitor

I

        Many a truth has already been written about Dostoevsky and much has been said about him, which has come to be almost banal. I have not in view the old Russian criticism, of which the article by N. K. Mihailovsky, "The Cruel Talent" ("Zhestokii talant"), might serve as a typical example. For the journalistic criticism of this type, Dostoevsky was completely unacceptable, and it had no clue to the revealing of the mysteries of his creativity. But people also of another spiritual dimension wrote about Dostoevsky, they were more akin to him, of another generation, those peering into the spiritual distances: Vl. Solov'ev, Rozanov, Merezhkovsky, Volynsky, L. Shestov, Bulgakov, Volzhsky, Vyach. Ivanov. All these writers each in his own way attempted to get to the bottom of Dostoevsky and to disclose the profundity in him. In his creativity they beheld the utmost revelations, the struggle of Christ and the Anti-Christ, of the Divine and the demonic principles, of the disclosing of the mystical nature of the Russian people, of the uniqueness of Russian Orthodoxy and Russian humility. Thinkers of the religious tendency saw the essential content of all the creativity of Dostoevsky in the singular revelations about Christ, about immortality and about the God-bearing Russian people and they bestowed his ideology a special significance. For others still, Dostoevsky was first of all a psychologist, disclosing the underground psychology. Dostoevsky had all of this in him. He was extraordinarily gifted, and from him there go many directions and each could be used by him for its own ends. The enigma of Dostoevsky can be approached from various sides. And I want to approach this enigma from a side, which has been insufficiently approached. I do not think, that the religious explanation of Dostoevsky, which has become dominant for us, has detected the most primary thing in him, that central theme of his, with which is connected his pathos. It is impossible within the limited expanse of an article to encompass the whole of Dostoevsky, but it is possible to take note of one of his themes, which suggests itself to me as central and from which he explains everything.

        Dostoevsky had one thing very inherent to him, an unprecedented regard for man and for his destiny -- here is where it is necessary to see his pathos, here is with what is connected the uniqueness of his creative type. For Dostoevsky there is nothing and naught else than man, everything is revealed only in him, everything is subordinated only to him. N. Strakhov, who was close to him, noted: "All his attention was directed upon people, and he grasped at only their nature and character. He was interested by people, people exclusively, with their state of soul, with the manner of their lives, their feelings and thoughts". In the journey abroad "Dostoevsky was especially occupied neither by nature, nor by historical memorials, nor works of art". And this is attested to by all the creativity of Dostoevsky. No one ever had such an exclusive preoccupation with the theme of man. And no one had such a genius for revealing the mystery of human nature. Dostoevsky was, first of all, a great anthropologist, an investigator of human nature, its depth and its mystery. All his creativity -- is of anthropological experiences and experiments. Dostoevsky -- is not a realist as an artist, he is an experimentator, a creator of an experimential metaphysics of human nature. All the artistry of Dostoevsky is but a method of anthropological searchings and disclosings. He is not only beneathe Tolstoy as an artist, but also in the strict sense of this word, he cannot be termed an artist. That, which Dostoevsky writes, -- is not a novel and it is not tragedy, it assumes no set form of artistic creativity. And this is ultimately some sort of a great artistry, wholly captivating, pulling one into its peculiar world, working magically. But it is impossible to approach this artistry with the usual criteria and demands. Nothing is easier, than to point out the artistic defects in the novels of Dostoevsky. In them there is no artistic catharsis, they are tormented, they always transgress the limits of art. The plots in the novels of Dostoevsky are improbable, the persons unreal, the collisions of all the influential persons at one place and at the same time -- with always the impossible tension, strained beyond the purposes of the anthropological experiment, where all the heroes speak with one voice, at times very vulgar, and with several places bringing to mind the crime novels of less than lofty quality. And it is only through misunderstanding of these novel-tragedies that they can seem realistic. In these novels there is nothing epic in scope, there is no depiction of manner of life, there is no objective depiction of human and natural life. The novels of Tolstoy, perhaps the most perfect of all those ever written, give the sensation, as though cosmic life has disclosed them, as though the very soul of the world wrote them. In Dostoevsky it is impossible to find such, as snatched from life, real people of flesh and blood. All the heroes of Dostoevsky -- are actually himself, the different sides of his particular spirit. The complexity of plot in his novels is a revealing of man in various aspects, from various sides. He discloses and depicts eternal elements of the human spirit. In the depth of human nature he reveals God and the devil and endless worlds, but always he reveals through man and from out of some sort of frenzied interest in man. In Dostoevsky there is no nature, there is no cosmic life, there are no things nor objects, everything is enveloped by man and the endless human world, everything is enclosed within man. Within mankind however there are at play frenzied, ecstatic, swirling elements. Dostoevsky exerts an allure, he pulls everything together into a sort of fiery atmosphere. And all else becomes insipid after one sojourns in the realm of Dostoevsky, he kills the taste for the reading of other writers. The artistry of Dostoevsky is altogether of a peculiar sort. He produced his anthropological investigations through artistry, whilst drawing on the mysterious depths of human nature. Within these depths always there is involved a frenzied and ecstatic whirlwind. And this whirlwind is a method of anthropological revealings. Everything written by Dostoevsky is of a whirlwind-like anthropology, everything there is revealed in an ecstatic-fiery atmosphere. Dostoevsky reveals a new mystical science of man. Access to this science is possible only for those, which have been drawn into the whirlwind. This is the path of initiation into the mystery-knowledge of Dostoevsky. In this science and its methods nothing is static, everything -- is dynamic, everything is in motion, there is nothing congealed or petrified or at a standstill, this -- is a torrent of red-hot lava. Everything is passionate, everything frenzied in the anthropology of Dostoevsky, everything goes beyond the boundaries and limits. To Dostoevsky was given to know man in his passionate, impetuous, frenzied stirrings. There is nothing of a noble aspect to the human persons revealed by Dostoevsky, none of that Tolstoyan nobleness, always detected at some static moment.

II

          In the novels of Dostoevsky there is nothing, save for mankind and human relationships. This has to be apparent for anyone, absorbed in the reading of these spirit-gripping anthropologic tracts. All the heroes of Dostoevsky only but visit with one another, they converse with one another, and they are drawn into the miring abyss of tragic human fates. The sole serious vital deed of the people of Dostoevsky is their mutual-relations, their passioned attraction and repulsion. It is impossible to find any other sort of "deed", any other vital array in this immense and endlessly manifold human realm. Always there is depicted some sort of human centre, some sort of central human passion, and everything rotates, revolves around this human axis. There is depicted a whirlwind of passionate human relations, and into this whirlwind is drawn everything, everything somehow turns round in a frenzy. The whirlwind of impassioned, fiery human nature pulls down this nature into the mysterious, enigmatic, unfathomable depths. It is there that Dostoevsky discloses the human infinity, the bottomlessness of human nature. But even in the very depths, and in the light of day, and in the abyss man remains, his image and countenance do not disappear. We take delight from the novels of Dostoevsky. In each of them is revealed an impassioned entry into inexplicable depths, an human realm, in which everything exhausts itself. Within mankind is revealed infinitude and fathomlessness, and there is nothing except man, there is nothing interesting besides man.

           Here for example is the "Adolescent" ("Podrostok"), one of the most genius-endowed and as yet insufficiently esteemed works of Dostoevsky. Everything revolves around the image of Versilov, everything is saturated by an impassioned relationship to him, by the human attraction and repulsion of him. The story concerns an adolescent, the illegitimate son of Versilov. No one is occupied by any sort of work, no one has an otherwise organic place in the established order of life, everything is off the beaten track, off the paths of orderly life, everything is in an hysteria and frenzy. Yet all the same there is the sense that everyone is at some immense deed, infinitely serious, and that they will resolve very important tasks. What indeed is this deed, what is this task? About it fusses the adolescent from morning til evening, whither it is that he hastens, and why has he not a moment of respite nor rest? In the usual sense of the word the adolescent -- is a complete idler, as is also his father Versilov, as also are almost all the active personages in the novels of Dostoevsky. But all the same, Dostoevsky gives the impression that an important, serious, Divine deed is transpiring. Man for Dostoevsky is higher than any deed, he is also himself the deed. There is posited the living enigma about Versilov, about man, about his destiny, about the Divine image within him. The resolution of these riddles is a great deed, the greatest of deeds. The adolescent wants to discover the mystery of Versilov. This mystery is hidden within the depths of man. All sense the significance of Versilov, all are struck by the contradictions of his nature, for all there is thrown into their gaze something deeply irrational in his character and in his life. The enigma of the complicated, contradictory, irrational character of Versilov with his strange fate, the riddle of an extraordinary man is for him a riddle about man in general. The whole complicated plot, the complex intrigue of the novel is but a means for the revealing of the man Versilov, for the revealing of complex human nature, about the antinomies of its passions. The mystery of the nature of man is disclosed most of all in the relations of men and women. And about love Dostoevsky happened to reveal something unprecedented in Russian and world literature, he had a fiery concept of love. The love of Versilov and Katerina Nikolaevna pulls in such an element of fiery passion, as nowhere and never existed. This fiery passion was concealed beneathe an outward appearance of calm. At times it seems, that Versilov -- is the Vulcan of yore. But this impresses upon us also all the more sharply the image of Versilov's love. Dostoevsky shows the contradiction, the polarity and the antinomy in the very nature of this fiery passion. Such a verymost intense love is unrealisable upon the earth, it is hopeless, desperately tragic, it begets death and destruction. Dostoevsky does not like to take man in the set living order of the world. He always shows us man in the desperately hopeless and tragic, in the contradictions, leading to the very depths. Such is the utmost type of man, manifest by Dostoevsky.

          In the "Idiot", perhaps the most artistically perfect of Dostoevsky's works, everything likewise exhausts itself in the world of fiery human relationships. Prince Myshkin journeys to Peterburg and at once he is caught up in the red-hot ecstatic atmosphere of people's relations, which takes hold of him completely and into which he brings his own tranquil ecstasy, evoking violent whirlwinds. The image of Myshkin -- is a genuine revealing of a Christian Dionysianism. Myshkin does nothing, just as with all the heroes of Dostoevsky, he is not bothered with having to order his life. The immense and serious living task, which was set before him when he fell into the whirlwind of human relationships, -- this is something pertaining to the destiny of every man, and first of all to two women -- Nasta'ya Philippovna and Aglaya. In "The Adolescent" everything is concerned with but one man -- with Versilov. In the "Idiot" one man -- Myshkin -- is concerned with everything. Both there and here transpires an exclusive absorption in the solving of human destinies. The antinomic duality of the nature of human love reveals itself in the "Idiot" at its utmost depth. Myshkin loves with a different love both Nastas'ya Philippovna and Aglaya, and this love cannot bring forth any sort of results. There is immediately a sense, that the love for Nastas'ya Philippovna is endlessly tragic and will lead to ruin. And Dostoevsky reveals here the nature of human love and its fate in this world. This -- is not a piecemeal and ordinary narration, but rather anthropologic knowledge, revealed through ecstatic immersion of man in the fiery red-hot atmosphere, shown in depth. A passionate, fiery connection exists between Myshkin and Rogozhin. Dostoevsky perceived, that love for a single woman not only separates people, but also it unites them, binds them. Otherwise, in other tones, this bond, this connection is depicted in the "Eternal Husband" ("Vechnyi muzh"), one of the genius-endowed works of Dostoevsky. In the "Idiot" it is very clearly apparent, that Dostoevsky was entirely interested not by the objective order of life, the natural and the social, he was not interested in the epic event, the stasis of living forms, of attaining and evaluating the ordering of life, be it familial, social, cultural. What interested him only were the genius-endowed experiments over human nature. Everything remains with him in the depths, not on this plane, where the apparent life is manifest, but in a completely different dimension.

         In the "Possessed" (or the "Devils", "Besy") everything is concentrated around Stavrogin, as in "The Adolescent" it was around Versilov. To define the relationship to Stavrogin, to resolve his character and his fate is a singularly vital matter, around which is concentrated the action. Everything is drawn towards him, everything is merely his fate, his emanation, effected from his demonic-possession. The destiny of man, issuing forth by his power into the infinitude of his yearnings, -- here is what comprises the theme of the "Possessed". The person, from whom the narrative proceeds, is totally absorbed by the world of human passions and the human demonic-possession, encircling round about Stavrogin. And in the "Possessed" there is nothing of value attained, no sort of building up, nothing of any sort organic realised in life. It is all indeed this riddle about man and the passionate thirst to resolve it. We are dragged into the fiery torrent, and in this torrent melt down and burn off all the congealed trappings, all the stable forms, all the chilled-down and established modalities of existence, impeding the revelation about man, about his depth, about his goings forth into the very depths of the contradictions. The depths of man for Dostoevsky are always shown as unexpressed, unmanifest, unrealised and unrealisable til the end. The revealing of the depths of man always leads to catastrophe, beyond the bounds and limits of the felicitous life of this world.

        In the novel, the "Insulted and the Humiliated" ("Prestuplenii i nakazanii") there is nothing, except the revealing of the inner life of man, his experimenting over his unique nature and human nature in general, besides the discovering of all the possibilities and impossibilities, situated within man. But the anthropological discovery in the "Insulted and the Humiliated" leads otherwise, than in the other novels, in it there is no such strained passionateness of human relations, there is no such revealing of a single human person through the human manifold. Of all the works of Dostoevsky, the "Insulted and the Humiliated" most of all brings to mind the experience of a new science of man.

        The "Brothers Karamazov" -- is the richest in content, abundant with thoughts of genius, though also not very perfective a work of Dostoevsky. Here again the problem about man is put into an impassioned and strained atmosphere of human multiplicity. Alyosha, -- least successful of the depictions of Dostoevsky, -- sees his singular vital task in having an active relationship with his brothers Ivan and Dmitrii, with the women connected with them -- Grushen'ka and Katerina Ivanovna, and to the children. But he is not bothered with building a life. Drawn into the whirlwind of human passions, he goes now to one, now to another, to attempt to resolve the human enigma. Most of all does the enigma of his brother Ivan intrigue him. Ivan -- is a worldly enigma, the problem of man in general. And everything, which in Dostoevsky is connected with Ivan Karamazov, is a profound metaphysics of man. The participation of Ivan Karamazov in the murder, done by Smerdyakov, -- this his other half, the stinging conscience of Ivan, the conversation with the devil, -- all this is anthropologic experiment, the discovery of the possibilities and impossibilities of human nature, its but with difficulty grasped, most subtle experiencings of an inward murder. Through a favourite device of Dostoevsky, Mitya is set betwixt two women, and the love of Mitya leads to ruination. Nothing that is possible is realised in the external order of life, everything possible transpires in the infinite, inexplicable depths. Dostoevsky thus also did not show the realising of a felicitous life by Alyosha, since indeed it was not very needful for the anthropological investigations. Positive felicity is given in the form of the discourse of Starets Zosima, and it is no accident that Dostoevsky has him die off near the very beginning of the novel. His further continued existence would merely have made maddening the revealing of all the contradictions and polarities of human nature. All the primary novels of Dostoevsky bespeak this, that what interests him only is man and human relations, that he but follows out human nature, and by his artistic-experimental method, so very revealing with him, he reveals all the contradictions of human nature, plunging it into a fiery and ecstatic atmosphere.

III

         Dostoevsky -- is Dionysian and an ecstatic. In him there is nothing Apollonian, there is nothing moderative or introduced within the limits of form. He is immoderate in everything, he is always in a frenzy, in his creativity all the boundaries are burst asunder. And a greatest trait in Dostoevsky mustneeds be seen in this, that in the Dionysian ecstasy and frenzy --  with him man does not vanish, in the very depths of the ecstatic experience the image of man is preserved, the human countenance is not rent asunder, the principle of human individuality remains as from the very day of its genesis. Man -- is not at the periphery of being, as he is for many a mystic and metaphysician, he is not a transitory appearance, but rather of the very depths of being, nigh off into the bosom of Divine life. In the ancient Dionysian ecstasy the principle of human individuality was snatched away and there transpired an absorption into an impersonal unity. Ecstasy was the way of extirpating all multiplicity within the unity. The Dionysian element was outside the human, and was impersonal. But not so for Dostoevsky. He is profoundly distinct from all those mystics for whom in ecstasy the countenance of man vanishes and everything dies away within the Divine unity. In the ecstasies and in the frenzies Dostoevsky to the end remains a Christian, since to the end for him man remains, his countenance remains. He is deeply antithetical to the German Idealist monism, which always purports for itself the Monophysite heresy, the denial of the autonomy of the human nature with its being swallowed up always by the Divine nature. Dostoevsky is altogether not a monist, he to the very end acknowledges a manifold of persons, the plurality and complexity within being. Characteristic for him is a sort of frenzied sense of the human person and its eternal, indestructible destiny. The human person for him never dies off within the Divine, into the Divine oneness. He perceives always the process with God concerning the destiny of the human person, and he wants to surrender nothing of this destiny. He ecstatically senses that man also survives, and not only God. He burns eternally with the thirst for human immortality. And he would sooner consent to the horrid nightmare of Svidrigailov about eternal life in the lower room with the spiders, than to the disappearance of man into an impersonal monism. Better hell for the human person, than unpersonal and unhuman bliss. The dialectics about the tears of a child, on account of which the world is repudiated, although put also into the mouth of the atheist Ivan Karamazov, -- all this appertains to the creative imagination of Dostoevsky himself. He appears always as the advocate of man, a proponent for his destiny.

         How profound the distinction between Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. In Tolstoy the human countenance sinks down into the organic elements. Multiplicity for him was merely modality, merely in the appearances of the organic array of life. As an artist and a thinker, Tolstoy -- was a monist. The facelessness, the roundness of Platon Karataev is for him the highest attainment. Man for him does not go into the very depths, he -- is always a phenomenon on the periphery of being. The question of man does not torture Tolstoy, only the question of God tortures him. For Dostoevsky however the question of God is connected with the question of man. Tolstoy is more the theologian, than is Dostoevsky. The matter of Raskol'nikov and the matter of Ivan Karamazov is a tormentive question about man, about the limits, set for man. And even when Myshkin sinks into a quiet mindlessness, it remains accurate, that the human countenance does not disappear into Divine ecstasy. Dostoevsky reveals to us the ecstasy of man, his whirlwind stirrings, but never and nowhere does man for him plunge away into cosmic infinitude, as for example, in the creativity of A. Bely. Ecstasy always is but a stirring in the depths of man. The exclusive interest of Dostoevsky towards transgressions was purely an anthropological interest. This -- was an interest in the limits and boundaries of human nature. But even in transgression, which for Dostoevsky always is frenzy, man does not perish and he does not disappear, but rather is affirmed and reborn.

        It is necessary still to stress one peculiarity of Dostoevsky. He is extraordinarily, diabolically skillful, his thoughts unusually acute, his dialectic terribly powerful. Dostoevsky -- is a great thinker within his artistic creativity, and foremost of all he is an artist of thought. From the greatest artists in the world as regards strength of mind, there might in part compare together with him only Shakespeare, also a great investigator of human nature. The works of Shakespeare are fully pervaded by an acuity of mind, -- of the Renaissance mind. The abyss of the mind, of a different but still more immense and pervasive aspect, is revealed by Dostoevsky. Merely but from the "Notes from the Underground" ("Zapiski iz podpol'ya") and the "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" is presented an enormous mental wealth. He was even too skillful for an artist, his mind impeded the attainment of artistic catharsis. And here it is necessary to note, that the Dionysianism and ecstacism of Dostoevsky did not quench his mind and thought, as often this occurs, it did not submerge the acuity of mind and thought into the mindlessness of a Divine intoxication. Dostoevsky the mystic, the enemy and unmasker of rationalism and intellectualism, adored thought, he was enamoured with dialectic. Dostoevsky presents an extraordinary manifestation of orgianism, of an ecstaticism of thought itself, he was intoxicated by the power of his mind. His thought is always whirlwind-like, orgiastically frenzied, but with this it does not diminish in strength and acuity. With the example of his creativity Dostoevsky showed, that the surmounting of rationalism and the disclosing of the irrationality of life is not invariably a diminution of mind, that the acuity of mind itself facilitates the revealing of irrationality. This original peculiarity of Dostoevsky is connected with the theme, that for him to the very end man remains, he is never dissolved into an impersonal oneness. Therefore he acutely knows the antithetical. In monism of the German type there is depth, but not an acuity, a pervasiveness of thought, yielding knowledge of antitheses, and everything instead sinks into oneness. Goethe was vastly endowed with genius, but it does not obtain to say for him, that he was vastly skilled, in his mind there was not the acuity, there was not the pervasive penetration into the antithetical. Dostoevsky always thought antithetically and by this he sharpened his thought. Monophysitism dulls the acuity of thought. Dostoevsky indeed always saw in the depths not only God, but man also, not only unity, but multiplicity also, not only the one, but also the antithetical to it. The acuity of his thoughts is in the polarisation of the thoughts. Dostoevsky -- is a great, a greatest thinker foremost in his artistic creativity, in his novels. In the journalistic articles, however, the strength and acuity of his thought was weakened and dulled. Within his Slavophil agrarian and Orthodox ideology is missing that trait of the antithetical and the polarity, disclosed within his mind acute with genius. He was mediocre as a journalist, and when he began to preach, his level of thought lowered; his ideas simplified. Even his famed speech about Pushkin tended quite to exaggeration. The thoughts in this speech and the thoughts in the "Diary of a Writer" ("Dnevnik pisatelya") are insipid and bland in comparison with the thoughts of Ivan Karamazov, of Versilov or Kirillov, in comparison with the thoughts of the "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" or the "Notes from the Underground".

         Many a time already it has been noted, that Dostoevsky, as an artist, was tormented, that in him there was nothing of the artistic catharsic-cleansing and egress. This egress has been sought for in the positive ideas and setting of belief partly in the "Brothers Karamazov", and partly in the "Diary of a Writer". This reflects a false attitude towards Dostoevsky. He is in anguish, but never does he remain in darkness, in despair. With him there is always an ecstatic egress. He pulls with his whirlwind beyond all the boundaries, he rends the limits of every darkness. That ecstasy, which is experienced during the reading of Dostoevsky, is an egress already by itself. This egress mustneeds be searched out not in the doctrines and ideological constructs of Dostoevsky the preacher and the publicist, not in the "Diary of a Writer", but in his tragedy novels, in that artistic gnosis, which is revealed in them. It would be a mistake to set forth a platform upon the not entirely successful image of Alyosha as a bright point of egress from the darkness of Ivan and Dmitrii and the earlier accumulated darkness of Raskol'nikov, Stavrogin, Versilov. This would be a doctrinal attitude to the creativity of Dostoevsky. The egress is without preaching and without moralising, in a great shining forth of ecstatic knowledge, in the very immersion into the fiery human element. Dostoevsky is poor in theology, he is rich however in his anthropological investigations. With Dostoevsky, only the question about man is profoundly put. Questions about society and the state were put by him, however, with not much originality. His preaching of theocracy is almost banal. But in him it is necessary to seek out his strength. The highest of all and first of all for Dostoevsky -- is the human soul, it stands greater than all the kingdoms and all the worlds, than all world history, than all the reknown progress. In the process transpiring within Mitya Karamazov, Dostoevsky revealed the incommensurability of the cold, objective, unhuman civil realm in contrast to that of the soul of man, the incapacity of the civil realm to penetrate to the righteous truth of the soul. But he poorly perceived the nature of the civil realm. Dostoevsky is regarded as a criminalist in terms of his themes and interests. He dealt most of all with the revealing of the psychology of transgression. But this is merely the method, by which he carries out his investigation into the irrationality of human nature and its incompatibility with any sort of ordered life, -- whether it be with any sort of rational civil realm, or with any sort of the tasks of history or of progress. Dostoevsky had a fiery religious nature and was a most Christian of writers. But he was a Christian first of all and most of all in his artistic revealings about man, and not in any sort of preachings or doctrines.

IV

         Dostoevsky wrought a great anthropological revelation, and in this mustneeds first of all be seen his artistic, philosophic and religious significance. But what was this revelation? All sorts of artists have depicted man, and many among them were psychologists. How subtle a psychologist, for example, was Stendhal. And Shakespeare revealed a diverse and rich human world. In the creativity of Shakespeare was revealed a dazzling interplay of human power, set free during the era of the Renaissance. But the revealing by Dostoevsky is incomparable with anyone or anything. Both in his raising of the theme concerning man, and in the means of its resolution for him, it is entirely unique and particular. He was interested by the eternal essence of the human nature, its hidden depths, which no one had ever gleaned. And it was not the stasis of these depths that interested him, but rather their dynamics, their stirrings that as it were in very eternity had transpired. This movement is totally inward, not subject to external evolution and history. Dostoevsky reveals not a phenomenal, but rather ontological dynamics. In the penultimate depth of man, in the abyss of being, -- there is not stillness, but rather movement. All the visual interplay of human passions and the appearances manifest by the human psyche is but at the periphery of being. Dostoevsky revealed the tragic contradiction and the tragic stirrings within the penultimate plane of the being of man, where it is immersed already within the ineffable Divine being, yet not vanishing into it. Too well known are the words of Mitya Karamazov: "Beauty -- this is a frightful and terrible thing! Frightful, since that it is indefinable, and it is impossible to define it, since God hath made it entirely an enigma. Here the shores coincide, here all the contradictions live together Beauty! Moreover I cannot bear it, that another, even more upright in heart a man and with a mind lofty, can begin with the ideal of the Madonna, and end up with the ideal of Sodom. More fearful still, is that the one with the ideal of the Sodomic in soul does not deny also the ideal of the Madonna, he is ardent in his heart, and in truth, in truth he is as ardent as in his youthful, innocent years. No, man is vast, too vast, I should judge". All the heroes of Dostoevsky -- are but he himself, various of the sides of his endlessly rich and endlessly complex spirit, and he always puts into the mouths of his heroes his own genius-endowed thoughts. And here it is indicated, that beauty, -- the highest form of ontologic perfection, about which in another place it is said, that it would save the world, -- here it presented itself to Dostoevsky as contradictory, twofold, frightful, terrible. He does not contemplate the Divinely tranquil beauty, its Platonic idea, he sees right down to its very end, to the utmost depths of its fiery, whirlwind stirrings, its polarisation. Beauty reveals itself to him only through man, through the vast, the too vast, mysterious, contradictory, eternal stirrings of the nature of man. He does not contemplate beauty in the cosmos, in the Divine world-order. Hence -- the eternal restlessness. "Beauty is not only frightening, it is also a mysterious thing. It is here that the devil and God do contend, and the field of battle -- is the heart of people". The distinction between "godly" and "diabolic" does not coincide for Dostoevsky with the usual distinction between "good" and "evil". In this -- is a mystery of the anthropology of Dostoevsky. The distinction between good and evil is peripheral. The indeed fiery polarisation goes to the very depths of being, and it is present to the very utmost -- in beauty. If Dostoevsky had revealed his teaching about God, he would then have been obliged to acknowledge a duality in the Divine nature itself, a furied and dark principle in the very depth of the Divine nature. He gives intimations of this truth with his genius-endowed anthropology. Dostoevsky was an anti-Platonist.

        And Stavrogin speaks about the various attractions of the two antithetical poles, the Madonna ideal and the Sodomic ideal. This is not a simple struggle of good with evil in the human heart. In this it is also a matter, that for Dostoevsky the human heart at its most primary basis -- is polarised, and this polarisation begets a fiery stirring, which does not permit of peace. Peace, having unity within the human heart, within the human soul, is seen not by those, which like Dostoevsky glance into the very depths, but rather by those, which fear to glance into the abyss and remain hence at the surface. With Dostoevsky to the very depths there was an antinomic attitude towards evil. He wants always to acknowledge the mystery of evil, and in this he was a gnostic, he did not push out evil into the sphere of the unknowable, nor did he discard it altogether. Evil was for him evil, evil blazed for him in the hellish fire, and he passionately strove for the victory over evil. But he wanted to do something with evil, to transform it into an handsome metal, onto an higher Divine being and by this to save evil, i.e. to genuinely conquer it, and not relegate it to the outer darkness. This -- is a profoundly mystical motif in Dostoevsky, a revelation of his great heart, of his fiery love for man and for Christ. The falling away, the separation, the apostacy never appeared for Dostoevsky simply as sin, this was for him likewise -- a pathway. He does not read morally over the living tragedies of Raskol'nikov, Stavrogin, Kirillov, Versilov, Dmitrii and Ivan Karamazov, he does not set opposite them any elementary catechism truths. Evil mustneeds be overcome and conquered, but it provides also an enriching experience, in division much is revealed, it enriches and provides knowledge. Evil likewise is a path also of man. And everyone, who has gone through Dostoevsky and experienced him, has recognised the mystery of dichotomy, has received the knowledge of the antithetical, is outfitted in the struggle with evil by a new mighty armour -- by the knowledge of evil, has received the possibility to overcome it from within, and not merely externally to flee from it and cast it away, remaining powerless in the face of its dark element. Man makes his way through the progression of the heroes of Dostoevsky and attains to maturity, an inner freedom in relation to evil. But in Dostoevsky there is a separation of the dual and inverted likenesses to illusory being, of rejects upon the path of development. Suchlike are Svidrigalov, Peter Verkhovensky, the eternal husband, Smerdyakov. This -- is but the chaff of straw, for they do not truly exist. These beings lead a vampire-like existence.

V

            Dostoevsky makes the first of his revelations about human nature, very substantially so, in his "Notes from the Underground", and he refines on these disclosures in the "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor". He denies, first of all, that man at the root of his nature strives for the advantageous, for happiness, for satisfaction, or that human nature is rational. Within man there is enclosed a demand for the arbitrary, for freedom in excess of any benefit, for an immeasurable freedom. Man -- is essentially irrational. "I should not at all be surprised, -- says the hero of the "Notes from the Underground", -- if suddenly from neither here nor there, amidst the universal future harmony there should arise some sort of gentleman, with an ignoble, or better to say, with a retrograd and sneering physiognomy, and with arms akimbo at his sides in reproach he would say to all of us: should we not shove aside for a time all this harmony, shove it underfoot, into the dust, solely with the purpose, that all these logarithms be dispatched to the devil, and so that we again may live by our own absurd will. (Italics mine. -- N.B.)  This would be still nothing, yet there is the rub, that indeed undoubtedly he would find followers, for thus so is man made. And all this from the emptiest of reasons, about which the mere mention could not seem to obtain: namely from this, that man, always and everywhere, whosoever he might be, might act thus as he wanted, and nowise thus, as reason and advantage should demand him; he might even possibly want that which is contrary to his own advantage, and sometimes even positively must. His own particular willful and free desire, his very own, even though it be the most wild caprice, his own fantasy, irritating sometimes even though to the point of madness, -- this here is that verymost allowable, most advantageous advantage, which comes under no sort of classification and from which all the systems and theories fly off to the devil. And from what have all those wise men assumed, that man has necessary some sort of normal, some sort of good-willing desire? From what have they assuredly imagined, that to man is necessary an assuredly prudent-advantageous desire? Alone necessary to man is only his own autonomous desire, whatever this independence might cost him or to what it might lead him". In these words is already given in rudimentary form that genius-endowed dialectic about man, which further on takes shape through the fate of all the heroes of Dostoevsky, and in a positive form finds its completion in the "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor". "There is only one instance, only one, when man can intentionally, consciously wish for himself the harmful, the absurd, even the most absurd, and it is namely: so as to have the right to want for himself even the most absurd and not be bound by the obligation to want for himself only the sensible. Indeed this most absurd, indeed this his caprice in actual fact, gentlemen, is perhaps the most advantageous of all for our brother from everything that is upon the earth, particularly in some other instances. And partly perhaps it is the most advantageous advantage even in that instance, where it brings evident harm and contradicts the most healthy deductions of our reasoning about advantages, since that in every instance it preserves for us that which is foremost and most dear, i.e. our person and our individuality". (Italics mine. -- N.B.)  Man -- is not arithmetic, man -- is essentially enigmatic and problematic. Human nature -- is polarised and antinomic to the very end. "What indeed is it expected of man, as a being, endowed with such strange qualities?" Dostoevsky gives blow after blow to all the theories and utopias of human felicity, of human earthly bliss, of the ultimate constructs of harmony. "Man desires the most destructive disputes, the most uneconomic nonsense, solely for this, to mix into all this positive felicity his own destructive fantastic element. It is particularly his own fantastic day-dreams, his own trivial absurdity that he wishes to assert for himself, solely for this, that he can affirm for himself, that people all are still people, and not some sort of forte-piano keys". "If you say, that also all this can be reckoned out according to calculations, about the chaos, and the darkness, and the curses, such that yet with the mere possibility of a prior calculation everything should stop and reason prevail -- then man would deliberately in this instance make himself mad, so as to be bereft of reason and to have his own way. I believe in this, I answer for this, since indeed the whole human matter, it seems, actually also consists but in this, that man should be constantly able to demonstrate for himself, that he is a man, and not a pin-tack". (Italics mine. -- N. B.)  Dostoevsky reveals the incommensurability of the free, the contradictory and irrational human nature in contrast to rationalistic humanism, with rationalistic theories of progress, with the ultimate goal of a rationalised social organisation, with all the utopias about crystal palaces. All this represents for him a degeneration for man, for human worthiness. "What yet herein would your will be, when the matter is reduced to calculations and to arithmetic, when only alone there will be twice two is four at the start? Twice two would be four even without my will. What indeed your will would become!" "Is it not therefore, perhaps, that man is so fond of destruction and chaos, in that he instinctively is afraid to reach the goals and finish off the built edifice? And who knows, perhaps, whether also every end on the earth, towards which man strives, is but to be comprised in this incessant process of attainment, or expressed otherwise -- in life itself, and not particularly in the actual ends which, reasonably, ought to be naught other than twice two is four, i.e. a formula, but indeed twice two is four is already not life, gentlemen, but rather the beginning of death". (Italics mine. -- N.B.)  Arithmetic is not applicable to human nature. Needful here is an higher mathematic. In man, taken deeply, there is an impetus to suffering, a contempt for felicity. "And why are you so firmly, so solemnly convinced, that only alone the normal and the positive, in a word -- only alone prosperity is advantageous to man? Might not reason be mistaken in the advantages? Indeed, perhaps, man might not love only the thriving. Might it not be, that he just as equally love suffering? Might it not be, that suffering for him be just as equally advantageous, as prosperity? And man is terribly fond of suffering, passionately so I am convinced, that man would never renounce authentic suffering, i.e. destruction and chaos. Suffering, -- yes indeed this is the sole principle of consciousness". In these amazingly keen thoughts of the hero from the underground, Dostoevsky posits the basis of his own new anthropology, which is disclosed in the fate of Raskol'nikov, Stavrogin, Myshkin, Versilov, Ivan and Dmitrii Karamazov. L. Shestov pointed to the immense significance of the "Notes from the Underground", but he investigated this work exclusively from the side of the underground psychology and by this he provided only an one-sided interpretation of Dostoevsky.
 
 

VI

           The postulate mustneeds be considered, that the creativity of Dostoevsky falls into two periods -- that of before the "Notes from the Underground" and that of after the "Notes from the Underground". In between these two periods there occurred for Dostoevsky a spiritual turnabout, after which there was revealed to him something new concerning man. Only after this there also begins the real Dostoevsky, the author of "Crime and Punishment" ("Prestuplenie i nakazanie"), the "Idiot", the "Devils", the "Adolescent", the "Brothers Karamazov". In the first period, when Dostoevsky wrote "Poor Folk" ("Bednye liudi"), "Notes from the House of the Dead" ("Zapiski iz mertvogo doma"), the "Insulted and the Humiliated", he was still an humanist, fine of soul, na?ve and not free of the sentimental humanism. He was still under the influence of the ideas of Belinsky, and in his creativity is felt the influence of George Sand, V. Hugo, Dickens. But even then already was disclosed the uniqueness of Dostoevsky, though he had not yet become fully himself. In this period he was still "Schiller". And with this name he afterwards loved to call the fine souls, bowing to everything "lofty and beautiful". Then already in the pathos of Dostoevsky there was a sympathy for man, for the humiliated and the insulted. But beginning with the "Notes from the Underground", man is perceived as knowing good and evil, and undergoing a divisiveness. Dostoevsky becomes an enemy of the old humanism, he becomes an exposer of humanistic utopias and illusions. In him conjoin the polarities of a passionate love for man and hatred for man, of a fiery sympathy for man and yet fierceness. He inherited the humanism of Russian literature, the Russian sympathy for all the neglected, the wronged and the downtrodden, the Russian sense of the value of the human soul. But he surmounted the na?ve, the elementary foundations of the old humanism, and there was revealed to him a completely new, a tragic humanism. In this regard Dostoevsky can be compared only with Nietzsche, in whom the old European humanism came to an end, and as regards the new there was set forth the tragic problem of man. Many a time this has been pointed out, that Dostoevsky foresaw the ideas of Nietzsche. They were both heralds of a new revelation about man, both were first of all great anthropologists, and the anthropology of both -- was apocalyptic, approaching nigh the extremes, the limits and the end-points. And thus, what Dostoevsky says about the man-god and Nietzsche about the ubermensch, is an apocalyptic thought about man. And thus is posited the problem of man by Kirillov. The image of Kirillov in the "Devils" is a very Christian, though angelically pure idea of the liberation of man from the power of all fear and the attainment of a Divine condition. "Whoso conquereth pain and fear, that one himself becomes God. Then is a new life, then is a new man, everything is anew". "Man would become god and transform the physical. And the world would be transformed, and matter be transformed, and all thoughts and sensations". "Everyone, who desires the chief freedom, that one ought to dare to kill themself Whoso dares to kill themself, that one is God". In another conversation Kirillov says: "He wilt come and the name for him will be man-god". "God-man?", -- questions Stavrogin. "No, the man-god, in this is the difference". With this opposing point of view they then make very evil useage of a Russian religio-philosophic thought. The idea of the man-god, manifest to Kirillov in its pure spirituality, is a moment in the genius-endowed dialectic of Dostoevsky, concerning man and his pathways. God-man and man-god -- are polarities of human nature. This involves two paths -- either from God to man or from man to God. In Dostoevsky there was not an invariably negative attitude to Kirillov, as would be to an expressedly anti-Christ principle. The way of Kirillov -- is the way of an heroic spirit, conquering all fear, striving towards the summits of freedom. Yet Kirillov is only himself but one of the principles of human nature, by himself insufficient, one of the poles of spirit. The exclusive triumph of this principle leads to ruin. But for Dostoevsky, Kirillov is an inevitable moment in the revelation about man. He was needful for the anthropological investigations of Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky had entirely no desire to spell out the morale about how bad a thing it is to strive after man-godhood. With him the immanent dialectic was always a given. Kirillov -- was an anthropological experiment purely up in the air.

         By theme and by the method of an immanent dialectic, Dostoevsky reveals the Divine foundation of man, the image of God in man, in the power of which not "everything is permissible". This theme about whether all is permissible, i.e. of what are the limits and the possibilities of human nature, persistently was of interest to Dostoevsky, and he returns to it constantly. This -- is the theme of Raskol'nikov and of Ivan Karamazov. Neither Raskol'nikov, a man of thought and action, nor Ivan Karamazov, exclusively a man of thought, were able to overstep the bounds, with all the tragedy of their lives they are forced to repudiate, that all is permissible. But wherefore indeed not permissible? Can it be said, that they took fright, that they sensed themselves ordinary people? The anthropologic dialectic of Dostoevsky suggests otherwise. Of the infinite value of every human soul, though it be the very least, of every human person he indicates, that it is not at all permissible, it is not permissible to scorn the human person, its conversion into a mere means is not permissible. The narrowed down of the scope of possibilities with him is drawn  from the infinite expanse of the vast possibilities of every human soul. A transgressive enroachment upon man is an enroachment upon this infinity, upon the infinite possibilities. Dostoevsky always affirms the Divine infinite value of the human soul, of the human person against every enroachment, simultaneously both against transgression, and against theories of progress. This -- is a sort of ecstatic sense of the person and personal destiny. It is admissible to think, that Dostoevsky was all his life most tormented by the question about the immortality of the soul. But the question about immortality was for him also a question about the nature of man and about human destiny. This -- was an anthropological interest. Not only the question about immortality, but also the question about God was subjected in Dostoevsky to the question about man and his eternal destiny. God for him is revealed within the depths of man and through man. God and immortality are revealed through the love of people, the relationship of man to man. But man himself is audaciously exalted by him, lifted to an extraordinary height. The little tears of a child, the weeping of children -- this is all a question about the human destiny, posited by love. Because of the fate of man in this world Dostoevsky was prepared not to accept the world of God. All the dialectic of Ivan Karamazov, and also other of the heroes, -- is his own especial dialectic. But with Dostoevsky himself everything is more complex and richer than it is for his heroes, he knows more than them. The chief thing that Dostoevsky finds need to search out is not in humility ("be thou humbled, haughty man"), it is not in the consciousness of sin, but in the mystery of man, in freedom. With L. Tolstoy, man -- is under the law. With Dostoevsky, man -- is in grace, in freedom.

VII

        Dostoevsky reaches the heights of his consciousness in the "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor". Here his anthropologic revelations find completion, and the problem of man is set forth in a new religious light. In the "Notes from the Underground" man was acknowledged as essentially irrational, problematic, full of contradictions, given to a thirst for the arbitrary and to a need for suffering. But there it was merely a tangled and subtle psychology. There had not yet obtained Dostoevsky's religious anthropology. It was discussed only in the Legend, narrated by Ivan Karamazov. It had become possible only after the lengthy and tragic path, traversed by man in "Crime and Punishment", the "Idiot", the "Devils", the "Adolescent". And it is very remarkable, that the greatest of his revelations was related by Dostoevsky through Ivan Karamazov, he expressed them not in the form of ideological preaching, but in the embellished form of a "fantasy", in which something ultimately glimmers forth, but the embellished aspect remains. Towards the end something remains twofold, permitting of contrary interpretations, for many almost dually ambiguous. And Alyosha is entirely right, when he exclaims to Ivan: "thy poem is a praise to Jesus". Yes indeed, the greatest praise, which was ever pronounced in the human tongue. The Catholic setting and expose of the poem are not substantial. And it is completely possible to dismiss the polemics against Catholicism. In this poem, Dostoevsky shifts his mystery about man close up together with the mystery about Christ. Dearest of all to man is his freedom, and the freedom of man is dearest of all to Christ. The Grand Inquisitor says: "Their freedom of faith was dearest of all to Thee even then, fifteen hundred years ago. Didst Thou not often then say: "I want to make ye free" The Grand Inquisitor wants to make people happy, organised and tranquil, he emerges as the bearer of the eternal principle of human well-being and organisation. "He holds it to the merit of him and his, that finally they have conquered freedom, and made it thus, that people should be made happy... Man was constructed a rebel; but really can rebels be happy?" And the Grand Inquisitor says with reproach to He that was manifest the bearer of the infinite freedom of the human spirit: "Thou didst reject the sole way, which could make people happy". "Thou didst wish to come into the world and Thou didst come with bare hands, with some sort of promise of freedom, which they, in their simplicity and their inborn rowdiness cannot even think about, which they fear and are afraid of, for nothing and nowhere would there be anything more intolerable for man and for human society than freedom!" The Grand Inquisitor adopts the First Temptation in the Wilderness -- the temptation with the loaves of bread, and upon it he wants to base the happiness of people. "Freedom and earthly bread sufficient for everyone is inconceivable". People "will be convinced, that they can never even be free, because they are weak, depraved, insignificant and rebels. Thou didst promise them heavenly bread, but how can it compare in the eyes of the weak, the eternally corrupt and eternally ungrateful human race, how can it compare with the earthly?" And the Grand Inquisitor accuses Christ of aristocratism, of a scornful neglect "for the millions, innumerable, like the sands of the sea, the weak". He exclaims: "or are only the ten thousand, great and strong, dear to Thee?" "No, for us the weak are also dear". Christ rejected the First Temptation "in the name of freedom, which He put above everything". "Instead of seizing control over the freedom of people, Thou didst increase it all the more for them! Thou didst take everything, which is extraordinary, conjectural and indefinable, Thou didst take everything, that would be beyond the power of people, and didst therefore act, as even though not loving them at all Instead of seizing control over people's freedom, Thou didst multiply it and enburden its kingdom of the soul of man with torments forever. Thou didst desire the free love of man, so that freely he should follow after Thee, charmed and captivated by Thee. In place of the harsh ancient law, with a free heart instead ought man to decide for himself henceforth, what is good and what is evil, having but for hand-guidance only Thine Image before him". "Thou didst not come down from the Cross, since that therefore Thou again desired not to enslave man by a miracle and Thou hast craved a free belief, not by miracle. Thou hast craved a free love, and not the slave-like raptures of the unfree before mightiness, once always terrifying him. But here also Thou didst adjudge too very highly as regards people, since ultimately, they are slaves". "Esteeming man so much, Thou didst act, as though ceasing to have compassion for him, since also Thou didst demand too much from him Esteeming him less, Thou wouldst demand less from him, and this would be nearer to love, since it would be easier bearing it". "Thou canst with pride point to those children of freedom, their free love, their free and magnificent sacrifice in Thy Name. But remember, that of them there were only several thousands, and indeed godly, but the rest? And in what are the remaining weak people guilty in, that they could not endure, what the mighty ones could? With what is the weak soul culpable, that it has not the strength to accommodate such terrible gifts? Art Thou indeed come really but to the chosen and for the chosen?" And then the Grand Inquisitor exclaimed: "we are not with Thee, but with him, herein is our mystery!" And he sketches out a picture of the happiness and contentment of millions of weak beings, deprived of freedom. At the end he says: "I did depart from the haughty and returned back to the dead for the happiness of these dead". For his justification he points to "the thousand millions of happy infants".

           In this genius-endowed metaphysical poem, perhaps the greatest of all written by mankind, Dostoevsky reveals the struggle of two principles in the world -- of Christ and of Anti-Christ, of freedom and of compulsion. The Grand Inquisitor speaks all the time as the enemy of freedom, scorning man, wanting to make happy though compulsion. But in this negative form Dostoevsky reveals his positive teaching about man, about his infinite worthiness, about his infinite freedom. That which was foreshadowed in negative form in the "Notes from the Underground", now in a positive form is revealed in this poem. This -- is a poem about the proud and lofty freedom of man, about the infinite height of his vocation, about the infinite abilities lodged within man. In this poem is situated a completely exclusive sensation of Christ. It is striking the similarity of the spirit of Christ with the spirit of Zarathustra. The Anti-Christ principle -- is not Kirillov with his striving towards man-godhood, but rather the Grand Inquisitor with his striving to deprive people of freedom in the name of happiness. The Anti-Christ for Vl. Solov'ev possesses features, akin to the Grand Inquisitor. The spirit of Christ values freedom more than happiness, the spirit of Anti-Christ values happiness more than freedom. The higher, the God-image worthiness of man demands the right to arbitrary freedom and to suffering. Man -- is a tragic being, and in this is a sign of his belonging not only to this, but also to another world. For a tragic being, containing infinity within him, the penultimate order, tranquility and happiness upon the earth is possible only by way of renunciation of freedom, of renunciation of the image of God within him. The thoughts of the underground man are transformed in the new Christian revelation, they proceed through the cleansing fire of all the tragedies of Dostoevsky. The "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" is a revelation about man, set into an intimate connection with the revelation of Christ. This -- is an aristocratic anthropology. The Anti-Christ can assume various and very contrary guises, from the very Catholic to the very socialistic, from the very much of Caesar to the very democratic. But the Anti-Christ principle always is hostile to man, destructive of the dignity of man. That blindingly inverted light, which falls from the demonic words of the Grand Inquisitor, comprises within itself more religious a revelation, than the discourse of Zosima, than the image of Alyosha. And herein it becomes necessary to search out the key to the great anthropological revelations of Dostoevsky, for his positive religious idea concerning man.

VIII

           The "soil" ideology of Dostoevsky himself, which he developed in his articles, situates his religious populism at variance to his unique revelation concerning man. Within his novels is hidden away a different ideology, with genius, a profound metaphysics of life and of man. Dostoevsky was a populist, but he never portrays the people. They comprise it exceptionally in the "Notes from the House of the Dead". But there also, it involves a world of criminals, and not the people in its everyday life. The stasis of the people, the peasant way of life, its being did not interest him. He -- was a writer of the city, of the city intelligentsia stratum, or of the stratum of the petty officials and citizens. In the life of the city, preeminently Peterburg, and in the soul of the citizen, alienated from the people's soil, he revealed an exceptional dynamic, and disclosed the limits of human nature. In a whirlwind of motion, at the limits are located also all those Captains Lebyakin, Snegirevs and others. Of interest to him were not the people intensely of the soil, the people on the land, with their way of life, the believers from the soil, the ordinary traditions. He always took hold of human nature poured forth into a fiery atmosphere. And he was uninterested, unneedful of the human nature chilled down, statically congealed. He was interested only by those split off, he loved the Russian vagabond. He revealed within the Russian soul the source of eternal stirrings, of wandering, seeking after the new City. As regards Dostoevsky, characteristic for the Russian soul is not the soil, not the sailing to firm shores, but rather the coursing of the soul beyond all the borders and limits. Dostoevsky displays an image of Russian man in his boundlessness. The soil existence, however, is an existence within boundaries.

           The creativity of Dostoevsky is in full not only a revelation about human nature in general, but also particular revelations about the nature of Russian man, about the Russian soul. And in this no one can compare with him. He penetrates into the profoundest metaphysics of the Russian spirit. Dostoevsky revealed the polarity of the Russian spirit as its profoundest peculiarity. What a distinctness there is in this Russian spirit from the monism of the German spirit! When a German plunges himself into the depths of his spirit, he finds Divineness in the depths, and all polarities and all contradictions dissipate. And therein it transpires, that for the German in the depths man is dissipated away, man exists merely on the periphery, only in appearance, and not in essence. Russian man is more contradictory and antinomic, than is the Western, within us is conjoined the soul of Asia and the soul of Europe, of East and West. This discloses great possibilities for Russian man. Man is less open and less active in Russia, than in the West, but he more complex and rich in his depths, in the inwardness of his life. The nature of man, of the human soul ought most of all to reveal itself in Russia. In Russia is possible a new religious anthropology. Separatism, the roving and wandering -- are Russian traits. Western man is more of the soil, he is more faithful to traditions and more subject to norms. Russian man is expansive. Vastness, unboundedness, unlimitedness -- is not only a material property of the Russian nature, but also its metaphysical and spiritual property, its more inward dimension. Dostoevsky displayed a dreadsome and fiery-passioned Russian element, which lay obscured for Tolstoy and the Populist writers. He artfully revealed within the cultural intelligentsia stratum that selfsame terrifying sensuous element, that among the people's stratum found its expression in the Khlysty. This orgiastic ecstatic element lived within Dostoevsky himself, and to the depths he was a Russian in this element. He investigated the metaphysical hysteria of the Russian spirit. This hysteria is from the formlessness of the Russian spirit, a lack of subjection to limit and norm. Dostoevsky revealed, that Russian man always is needful of mercy and is himself sparing. In the order of Western life there is a mercilessness, connected with the subjection of man to discipline and norm. And Russian man is more human than Western man. With what Dostoevsky revealed about the nature of Russian man, is connected both the greatest possibilities, and the greatest dangers. The spirit still has not attained mastery over the soul element in Russian man. In Russian man the nature is less active, than in West, but in Russia there is inherent a greater human wealth, greater human possibilities, than in the measured-out and boundaried Europe. And in the Russian idea, Dostoevsky saw the "all-humanness" of Russian man, his infinite expanse and infinite possibilities. Dostoevsky constitutes everything from the contradictions, just like the soul of Russia. The way out, which is sensed from the readings of Dostoevsky, is by way of an egress through gnostic revelations about man. Dostoevsky created an extraordinary type of artistic-gnostic anthropology, his method is one of drawing into the depths of the human spirit through an ecstatic whirlwind. But the ecstatic whirlwinds of Dostoevsky are spiritual and therefore they never shatter the image of man. Dostoevsky alone did not fear, that in ecstasy and boundlessness man would disappear. The limits and forms of the human person are always connected with Apollonism. With Dostoevsky alone the form of ma, his eternal image remains also within spiritual Dionysianism. Even transgression does not annihilate man for him. And death is not terrifying for him, since for him eternity always is revealed in man. He -- is an artist not in that impersonal abyss, in which there is no image of man, but of an human abyss, of human fathomlessness. In this he is foremost in the world of writers, of world geniuses, one of the foremost minds, as is seldom seen in history. This great mind was entirely in an active relationship to man, he revealed other worlds through man. Dostoevsky was like Russia, with all its darkness and light. And he -- is the greatest contribution of Russia to the spiritual life of the whole world. Dostoevsky -- is a most Christian writer, since at the centre for him stands man, stands human love and the disclosure of the human soul. He fully -- is the revelation of the heart of the human being, the Heart of Jesus!
 

                                                                           Nikolai  Berdyaev

                                                                                1918

  2002  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1918 - 294 - en)

OTKROVENIE  O  CHELOVEKE  V  TVORCHESTVE  DOSTOEVSKOGO. Published in Journal "Russkaya Mysl'", March-April 1918,  p. 39-61.

  Article subsequently reprinted and included by YMCA Press Paris in 1989 in the Berdyaev Collection: Tipy religioznoi mysli v Rossii, (Tom III),  p. 68-98.



- -: .

Return to Berdyaev Online Library .