Journal Putí, oct. 1928,  No. 13, p. 19-36.

N. A. BERDYAEV  (BERDIAEV)
 

OBSCURATISM

(1928 - #337)

I.

       There are grounds to think, that we are entering into an era of obscurantism. And quite possibly, this is a phenomenon not only Russian, but also worldwide. Obscurantism flourishes quite the same whether it be among the Soviet Communists or amongst the emigres. The modern emigre youth is in the grips of a "gnosomakhia" heresy, with a fear of knowledge and an hatred for gnosis both philosophical and theological. The process of a mental "simplistic perplexity" (an expression of K. Leont'ev) is making quick strides forward. From Russia have been banished almost all the philosophers. In Italy the Fascist young people have made a veritable pogrom on the libraries about Benedetto Croce, a quite notable Italian philosopher. The most churlish obscurantists in the emigration are taken up with an inquest into "heresy", wherein everything of creative and independent thought appears to them under the guise of "heresy". In the Russian emigration the play, "Woe from Wit", is being played out and Famusov comes out on top, investigating the "Farmazons" everywhere. This phenomenon could use a closer look. What is this obscurantism, what is it with its psychology. The very term obscurantism is of comparatively recent origin, it was coined by the "enlightened" of the XVIII Century and originally it signified an opposition to rationalism, to the rationalistic enlightenment. For people in the mold of P. Miliukov, the whole Russian religious-philosophic movement of the beginning XX Century would be considered obscurantist. The Russian "enlightener" Pypin, in spite of all his esteem for the merits of N. I. Novikov, regards him and the other Masonic mystics to be obscurantists in terms of their basic mindset. They considered Schelling an obscurantist in his final philosophic period. This terminology for us, ultimately, is inapplicable, and we are inclined to see in such an "enlightenment" strong elements of obscurantism. In the "enlightenism" there never was a genuine enlightening of the mind.

        First of all, it mustneeds be declared, that obscurantism is not simply a factual ignorance and lack of enlightenment. Obscurantism is not a phenomenon of nature. With the ignorant and unenlightened man there can be a thirst for knowledge and an esteem for knowledge. And likewise still it is impossible to term as obscurantist the naively ignorant one, who lives a vegetative life and for whom there has not yet been born a cognitive reflection. Obscurantism is already a reflection over knowledge and enlightenment. Obscurantism is a principle, a primary attitude towards knowledge and enlightenment, and not a factual condition. Whereas the obscurantist masses be always darkly ignorant, the obscurantist ideologues and leaders can be intelligent, learned and enlightened people. Obscurantists are moved by instincts and emotions, but the obscurantist ideology can be the product of an intense activity of the mind and knowledge. The ideologues of obscurantism for themselves might be or not be obscurantists, but they are obscurantists for others. Here we meet with a basic feature of obscuratism. Obscurantism is a social phenomenon, and not individual, and amidst this it is socially aggressive, on the offensive. If whatever the man denies knowledge and intellectual culture for himself, and yet amidst this is passive in relation towards others, towards society, then it is impossible as yet to call him an obscurantist. But it is possible to term obscurantist the principled, offensively-aggressive struggle against free knowledge and creative intellectual culture. Obscurantism is a social fear of the light, a social love for darkness, as being itself good, and the danger of light as being evil. Obscurantism on principle is the conviction, that light, that free thought, philosophy, intellectual creativity leads to social evil and social ruin, to the destruction of church, state, the family, private property, to heresy, to revolution. The mental obscurantist can avail himself of free thought, of philosophy, of intellectual creativity, but from this he draws negative social inferences. Obscurantism desires to hold the masses in darkness in the name of their salvation, for the averting of perdition. The activeness of intellectual obscurantists always presupposes the passiveness of stupid obscurantists. And this is simultaneously true regarding both the "rightist" obscurantism and the "leftist" obscurantism. The "rightist" leaders of obscurantism, -- Magnitsky and Pobedonostsev likewise need in the masses darkness and mental passivity, just like the "leftist" leaders of obscurantism -- Lenin and Stalin. Pobedonostsev was personally quite more enlightened, more cultured and learned a man, than was Lenin, but for the sociology of obscurantism he provides an analogous example. Both Pobedonostsev and Lenin alike were afraid of the light of the mind, of knowledge, of mental activeness and creativity, as being threats of social ruination for the masses, as impediments to their social salvation, although they tended to see the actual perishing and salvation in quite opposite principles. The obscurantists of the "right" even now fail to understand, that the terrors of the Revolution were begotten by that lack of enlightenment and ignorance, which they themselves held so dear.

        At the basis of obscurantism lies always a sense of panicky fear, of terror, fright, suspicion and mistrust. And this fear is not personal only, but is unfailingly social. Honest obscurantism is a soul-emotive structure, begotten by a falsely-directed need for salvation and fear of perdition. Amidst all this is a lack of distinctness, in what they want to save and what sort of perishing they are afraid of. Obscurantism can alike be begotten of the fear of the perishing of the soul for eternal life, a panicky fear of the eternal torments of hell, the fear of the perishing of the state and the social order, just like also the fear of the collapse of the Revolution or of Socialism. Obscurantism is a dreadful contraction of the extent of consciousness in consequence of an obsessive fear of the collapse of whatever the value considered uppermost and singularly so, together with a constant pathological distress over its saving and preservation. The fear of revolution and the fear of counter-revolution alike makes people into obscurantists. An exclusive absorption with the saving of monarchy and private property, or alternately with the victory of the Revolution and the Communist order alike makes for obscurantists, it darkens the consciousness and deprives one per se of the capacity for thought. Fear is not favourable for the revealing of truth. The obscurantist always is situated in a condition of mistrust and suspiciousness, absorbed with an impending danger, be it the danger of a worldwide revolutionary "Jew-Masonic" conspiracy or a worldwide counter-revolutionary conspiracy of the bourgeoisie. The social obscurantism of the conservatives and reactionaries likewise is begotten by the fear of revolution, just as the social obscurantism of Robespierre or Lenin and Dzerzhinsky was begotten by the fear of counter-revolution. The French Revolution executed Lavossier and declared his learning unneeded for it, out of the fear of counter-revolution. And always obscurantism is bereft of the capacity for free and objective thinking, of knowledge for its own sake. Obscurantism cannot simply be identified with the reactionary trend. All the fanatics of revolution become obscurantists in accord with their spiritual type. Obscurantists always adopt forceful and coercive social measures for the averting of ruin, for he saving of what they believe in. The obscurantist has the feeling of being in a time of a pestilential epidemic. Everything has to be subordinated to the struggle against the terrible sickness, there is no time for free thought, for knowledge of its own accord, for spontaneous creativity. Aggressive social obscurantism sees for itself the life of society as the assuming of a militant posture, it always senses itself as a militant front, positioned forth against the hostiles. For the obscurantist there is never time for free thought, for knowledge, creativity, always there is never time. Free thought, knowledge and creativity give rise to "heresies", from which there is the threat of the collapse of society, or the ruin of some value which alone is essential. The Russian nihilists and socialists were obscurantists, they were fearful of free thought, philosophy, the creativity of culture, as being hostile and dangerous for the liberation and salvation of the people, as impediments to the making of the revolution, as deflections from the sole thing needed. The exclusive absorption in the sole idea of the salvation of the people and the fear behind the realisation of this idea, the fear of hostile forces, is what makes for obscurantists, makes for a contraction of consciousness, and it quenches the freedom of spirit. Thus also the panicky fear of eternal perdition and the eternal torments of hell, the thirst for the salvation of the soul, as a singular goal, is what makes people into obscurantists. And thus too the exclusive absorption of consciousness towards the overthrow of Bolshevism makes for obscurantists.

        I participated 18 years back at Moscow in a certain gathering, at which was discussed the question about the expansion of course offerings at the spiritual academies [i.e. upper level seminaries], and about the introduction into the plan of offerings of a comparative history of religion and a large quantity of philosophical subjects. Certain of the participants, especially the now deceased V. A. Kozhevnikov, defended just like I did the significance of a comparative study of the history of religion, as in general also the significance of the scientific disciplines and philosophy. Present at the gathering was a bishop, then rector of the Moscow Spiritual Academy, a man of the strict monastic-ascetic type, who said: what is with this science and philosophy, when the discussion involves the eternal salvation, or the eternal perdition, of the human soul. He, certainly, was in principle an obscurantist out of the fear of eternal perdition and the thirst for eternal salvation. For him nothing else existed. Such was the obscurantism of Archimandrite Photii. The Communists too -- are typical obscurantists, since they are obsessed with fear of the collapse of the Communist Revolution under the powers of a counter-revolution, and they thirst for its salvation on a worldwide scale. They therefore likewise cannot tolerate free science and free philosophy, just like the bishop, whose words I mentioned. Light and thought are distracting and hinder the saving from ruin whatever be the sole and utmost value. The evaluations of the obscurantist are always utilitarian, and he will not tolerate the free investigation of truth. In our own day the obscurantism of the Russian emigre youth is defined by its basic passion -- the fright over revolution as a perishing, a thirst for a being saved from revolution. All other values are subordinated to this passion, and there remains no place in the soul for free thought and free knowledge. The Russian counter-revolutionary youth, having grown up in the Civil War, not having received the normal mental and educational training, tends to imagine that the errors of the Revolution were begotten by free thought, by free knowledge, by the "heresies" of the mind. This youth also does not suspect, that the Russian Communist Revolution was created typically by obscurantists, who pursued philosophy back then when they were in the underground, but forbidding it now when they are in power. Both revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries customarily are copies of each other. The counter-revolutionary generation of emigre youth is afraid of and hates freedom, while simultaneously in the Russian Communist Revolution there is an utmost denial of freedom. It likewise sees "heresies" in free thought and knowledge, just like the Communists, who tolerate only thought and knowledge, as regulated by the central organ of the Communist Party. It likewise denies the creative values of culture, the same as the Communist generation denies them. And completely the same has to be said also of the Fascist youth of Western Europe. All this is a consistent and homogenous sociological phenomenon, a phenomenon of barbarisation and intellectual democratisation, into which tend also the reactionary circles, a phenomenon of intellectual obscurantism, the denial of an hierarchy of values. The counter-revolutionary youth is incapable of conceptualising the cause and meaning of the Revolution, it relates emotionally to it exclusively. The pre-revolutionary order of life seems to it a lost paradise, though at the same time, it was the evil and injustice of this order also that produced the Revolution.

II.

         Obscurantism tends to be dogmatic and orthodox oriented, and this feature is connected with it social aspect. Obscurantism desires the welfare and salvation of the social collective and in the name of this it demands a dogmatic orthodoxality, the struggle against the heresies of free thought and free knowledge. I use dogmatism here in the sense of a certain psychical structure, and not the confession of churchly dogmatics. It is possible to firmly confess the dogmas of the Church and be in this regard fully Orthodox and together with this not possess a dogmatic structure of soul, to be very free in one's thought and perception, to have a creative spirit and admit the sphere of the problematic. The obscurantist can be very poorly read in dogmatics, he even customarily knows nothing about Christian dogmatics and does not understand the mystical and metaphysical aspect of dogmatics, but he considers it possible to root out and denounce heresies. The very process of thinking he regards as an heresy. Every creative movement in knowledge presents itself to him as dangerous, as ruinous in its consequences. The attitude towards problems of cognition for him is exclusively a matter of militant policing. The obscurantist is always the inquisitor. He demands coercive measures for putting limits to cognition. Even young people, -- completely unread in dogmatic questions, things which first of all necessitate study, -- reckon possible to engage in the unmasking of "heresies". Thus, for example, in the Russian emigration there is the laughable denunciation by the obscurantist-minded youth of the "heresy" of Sophianism. The problem of Sophia is very complex and subtle, graspable by but few people, altogether incomprehensible even for the greater part of the clergy, but the youths, knowing nothing and mixing up Sophia as signifying a feminine name, reckon it possible to detect the "heresy" about Sophia. And this monstrous phenomenon is spurred on by the old way-guides of obscurantism. Typical as obscurantists, quenchers of light and quenchers of thought in our day are the "Karlovtsi-ites" and those grouped round them. If one were to inquire of a modern obscurantist, what it is that he calls "heresy", then he would be compelled to answer, that by "heresy" he calls that, which led to Bolshevism and that which impedes the struggle against Bolshevism. This certainly is a completely novel understanding of heresy within the history of churchly consciousness, but in it there is disclosed the social nature of the orthodoxy involved in the detecting of heresy, -- the fear of the perishing of the collective, which is esteemed as the highest value. It is completely the same way that the Communists understand heresy, and for them vitalism in biology or idealism in philosophy is an heresy, threatening the ruin of the Soviet order. Amidst this, our rightist obscurantists likewise understand nothing in Christian dogmatics, just as the Communist obscurantists understand nothing in Marxism. And indeed, obscurantism does not demand understanding. Obscurantism is a proclivity of will, and the less enlightened it is by thought, the better. The obscurantists in the emigration are gripped by a Mason-mania, but they have not the slightest shreds of familiarity with Masonism, a phenomenon very complex and complicated, demanding of a serious objective study. But the obscurantist Mason-mania is not a phenomenon of thought and knowledge, it is emotively volitional. The darkness and ignorance are reinforced by the will and they intensify the emotional aspects. The obscurantism of the masses is always an emotional volitional revolt of the dark baser elements of being against the rights of intellect and knowledge. It always is a disregard towards the intellectually venerable. Obscurantism by its nature is anti-hierarchical, it does not recognise a mental hierarchy, it neither respects nor esteems the intellectual heights, it equates on the same level the intellectual and the stupid, the talented and the ungifted, the learned and the ignorant. In the final end it surrenders power over the world to the dark mobs and casts down the intellectually and spiritually aristocratic. The Russian Black Hundreds and the Russian Bolsheviks in their constituent masses belong to a kindred type of soul. Both with the one and with the other there is a black envy and hatred towards intellectual uplift, towards creative ascent, towards the qualities of spirit. Theological obscurantism stirs itself with an impotent envy towards those, who discover a capacity for theological creativity. The rightist obscurantists assert, that they also are defenders of the hierarchical principle in the Church and state. But this their hierarchical principle is esteemed under the condition that it be made impersonal, unqualitative, thoughtless and in principle a spiritual obscurantism. Clericalism always is obscurantism. Obscurantism altogether can neither comprehend nor accept an hierarchy of qualities, an hierarchy of thought and spirit. In this regard it is something leveling and democratic. It represents that aspect of dogmatics and orthodoxy, which equates to the very lowest and dark, bereft of all thought and creativity. Obscurantists do not understand the great humility of knowledge, the humility before truth, before which the will and the passions fall silent. The obscurantists are incapable to think "individually", they think "collectively" and they always speak not for themselves but for the collective. They deny the mind, thought, knowledge under the guise of the collective, from the perspective of the social self-preservation of this collective. The obscurantists however that are intellectual, clever, knowing and knowledgeable never appear as obscurantists in their own regard and for themselves, they are obscurantists only for others, only in their orientation towards society. Amidst this they distinctly understand, that they are compelled to rely upon the dark masses, upon the ignorant and those incapable of articulate thought in the collective. Why has Russian obscurantism so grown and spread? This can scarcely be explained by any quantitative growth of stupidity and ignorance. There was enough of that even formerly. The reason for the deluge of obscurantism has to be sought out in this, that everything has gone out of its hierarchical position and one is compelled to occupy oneself with things, that one is unsuited to be occupied with. A man may have been a governor or chief of police, a government or district chief, a division general or the captain of a dragoon regiment. If he were stupid and boorish, these traits then did not especially stand out and strike the eye, when he occupied his place and his hierarchical position. From him they demanded some definite and defined deed, but they did not demand of him decisions on world questions. Now this selfsame man, having lost his position, has become a public figure or even thinker perchance. He is compelled to judge about Sophia, about Masonism, about the social question, about the Kabbalah and about the ways of saving Russia and the world. As a result there obtains an aggressive obscurantism. Another man may have been a machinist or locksmith, a clerk or a veterinarian, a cabman or petty accountant. When he was in his habitual place, his ignorance and limitedness did not hit the eye nor bear an intrusive character. But now this selfsame man is forced to decide questions of world politics, to build plans of a social construct on a planetary scale and even to determine the course of enlightening the country. Again there obtains an unenlightened and extremely intrusive obscurantism. Howsoever paradoxical it may seem, but the deluge of obscurantism obtains not from insufficiency of deliberation, but rather from a superabundance of deliberation about those abstruse questions, by those out of place and altogether unfit to deliberate about such questions.

        Characteristic for obscurantism is a denial of problematics. Nothing appears problematic for the obscurantist, he has a ready answer for everything. He has always in his pocket a small catechism, which is moreover a small encyclopedia, in which it is possible to find the resolution of all questions. The very possibility of having to posit problems, the resolution of which demands intense creative thought, represents heresy for the obscurantist. The Christian obscurantist likewise regards all questions in Christianity to have been resolved, he does not foresee that new questions may arise, in the same way as the Communist obscurantist, who regards all questions to have been resolved within Marxism and does not allow for new questions to be put forth. The problematics, the intense creative thought directed towards its resolution, is also that which most of all frightens the obscurantist. In his mindset, questioning the good of something is not allowable. Obscurantism always wants "to provide in Voltaire a sergeant-major". And obscurantism hates philosophy most of all and is deathly afraid of it. Obscurantists in every period of time have incited persecution against philosophy. The Russian obscurantists of the era of Alexander I and Nicholas I sought to hunt down philosophy and forbid its teaching, and they would consent only to this, that a "sergeant-major" should teach philosophy. And in 1850 Shirinsky-Shikhmatov abolished the teaching of philosophy in Russia. The obscurantists already were agreeable to allow the positive sciences, physics and chemistry, since with them were connected discoveries providing conveniences for life, which the obscurantists nowise would want to refuse. But philosophy also is a sphere of problematics primarily, it is a free searching for truth. The Soviet Communist obscurantism likewise hunts down philosophy and entrusts its teaching to "sergeant-majors", just like the obscurantism of the era of Nicholas I, which now within the emigration seems to many to be a golden age by virtue of loss of memory and the savagery of hurt from the Revolution. The Orthodox obscurantism especially hates religious philosophy, and evidently even prefers positivism. Religious philosophy is free, it appears full of the problematic, and consequently it would seem, full of the heretical.

       Our hierarchs of an obscurantist mindset always hounded and oppressed Russian religious thought. They hounded Khomyakov, Bukharev, Vl. Solov'ev, Nesmelov. Metropolitan Philaret himself was stifled. It was easier to get in print the works of Belinsky, Chernyshevsky, Pisarev, than the theological works of Khomyakov, or than other creative religious thought. The Orthodox persecutors of Russian religious thought were themselves distinguished by the utmost lack of giftedness, by creative impotence and incapacity for thought. A subliminal hatred towards foreign creative thought always was one of the impulsive motifs of obscurantism. A man always wants to stand out at something and to be higher than others. Lacking the possibility to prevail in the light, he falls back on this, to prevail in the dark. Philosophy is a sphere of free creative thought preeminently, it does not tolerate slavery. And thus it is natural, that against it preeminently should be directed the hatred from obscurantism. Philosophic thought is aristocratic, it is accessible but for few. And therefore it evokes the spiteful feelings of the obscurantists, who represent the social collective and allow only that, which is useful and saving for the social collective. Vl. Solov'ev gives a very simple answer to the question, whether philosophic knowledge be necessary for the Christian. Certainly, it is not necessary for those, who have no mental aptitudes, no need of knowledge, just as art is not necessary for those, who lack artistic feeling and aesthetic needs. There are no disputes on this. To be saved is possible both without philosophy and without knowledge. But the question is in this, whether it be necessary to save but the bones and shreds of being or the integrally whole image and likeness of God in man. The mind also was wrought by God the Creator and upon it also lies the imprint of God, a reflection of the Divine Logos. The human mind is disfigured and impaired by sin, it demands enlightening, but an enlightening and not an abolishing. Stupidity cannot in any instance be a sign of God-likeness, and in the plan of the world creation it was not included. Stupidity -- is sinful, it is a distortion of God's creation. Stupidity is the occupying of a wrongful hierarchical position. One could pen an investigation about "stupidity, as a factour of the world process". This theme relates entirely to Original Sin. All the positive spiritual powers of man demand enlightening, hence also the powers of mind, the cognitive gifts. In the Gospel and in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul it constantly speaks about talents, about gifts, which ought not to be buried into the ground, which mustneeds be returned to God many times over. This also is a justification of the creative vocation of man, which likewise nullifies the obscurantism within Christianity. Man ought to serve God with all his gifts, both the gift of mind and of knowledge, having been called to bring light into the world.

III.

         It is impossible to deny, that the obscurantist mindset has played no small role within Christianity. The danger of obscurantism stalks eternally the Christian world. And it exists to a powerful degree in our own day. The metaphysical cause of Christian obscurantism lies in a false interpretation of the Biblical account about the Fall, the Fall-into-Sin. The prohibition to taste of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is understood, as a forbidding of knowledge, as a censuring of the inquisitiveness of the mind. The temptation of knowledge is also a Gnostic temptation, a temptation of forbidden knowledge. There is hence made the conclusion, that all knowledge, philosophy, the inquisitiveness of the mind, is from the serpent. Humility demands the renouncing of knowledge, of philosophy, of the inquisitiveness of the mind. Every judgement and deliberation represents a sin. The imperative of religious obscurantism is -- do not judge, do not deliberate, posit no sort of problems, and therein regard, that everything has been resolved for thee by external authority. Such an obscurantist understanding of Original Sin as it were finds its confirmation in the struggle of the Church against Gnosticism. Gnosticism also was a temptation of knowledge, condemned by the Church. The Church thus would seem to affirm the truth of agnosticism. The obscurantist understanding of Orthodoxy, to which many inclined in the XIX Century and again incline in the XX Century, encounters an insurmountable difficulty in the existence of the Patristic Fathers, and especially the Greek Teachers of the Church. They least of all can be considered obscurantists, they were men of intellectual judgement and intellectual deliberation, men of knowledge, they were philosophers, and people of high mental culture. Obscurantism rests exclusively upon the ascetic literature for monastics, and not upon the classical Patristics, which soared to the utmost heights of mental insight. Eastern Patristics especially is intellectualised, and set beneathe the influence of Neo-Platonism it demands enlightening of the mind. A fundamental mistake of obscurantism consists in the confusion of true and false knowledge, of the enlightened and the fallen mind. For obscurantism all knowledge is false, every mind fallen. The mind, knowledge, is always from the serpent, from the devil, and not from God. And thus it would seem that God demands from man non-knowledge, boorish ignorance, lack of thought and stupidity. In actuality the path of the serpent, the path of the forbidden fruits of the knowledge of good and evil is also the path of the lower, the false, the rationalistic knowledge, enslaving spirit to the creaturely natural world in opposition to the higher, the true, the enlightened knowledge in God, in the Divine Light, the intuitive cognition of the world and God. The knowledge from the serpent is a loss of freedom of spirit. Such a false knowledge is manifest not by science about nature, but a wrongful philosophy. God demands from man an enlightened mind, an intuitive cognition, a Divine sagacity, surpassing the wisdom of this age. Hence also there are two understandings of enlightenment -- the false rationalistic enlightenment, the enlightenment of the XVIII Century, cutting man off from the sources of being and the meaning of being, and that other understanding -- the true, spiritual, integral enlightening, the in-lightening, uniting man with the sources of being and the meaning of being. Christ is the Logos, the Meaning of the world. And this Logos, this Meaning, cannot demand lack of thought and ignorance. Christianity demands from man the attaining of a Christly mind and through this the higher knowledge. In vain do the obscurantists think, that they stand for humility, while at the same time always assuming that the adherents of knowledge and mental enlightenment are lacking in humility. It is obscurantism namely that is lacking in humility, it is a condition of self-smugness within its darkness and a conscious preference of darkness over the light. Obscurantism is the non-desire to humble oneself before the infinitude of light, knowledge, mind, the awareness of one's smallness before the endless task, obscurantism is a desire for non-perfection, a non-desire for movement towards the heights, the absence of awareness of its own ignorance and insufficiency of its attainment. The typical obscurantist is a self-smug man, who in essence thinks, that he knows everything, he has no desire to humble himself before knowledge, he desires neither enlightenment nor any in-lightening and he actually impedes the in-lightening and enlightening of others. The obscurantists need first of all to arrive at a condition of humility, to get out of their state of self-smugness, to arouse in themselves the thirst for infinite perfection. Man ought to humble himself before the infinitude of knowledge, the infinitude of the tasks of life.

      The struggle against the inhuman obscurantism within Christianity, just also as against the godless obscurantism within the negative "enlightenmentism", is one of the great tasks of our time. The lights in the world can become extinguished. It is a terrible mistake to think, that the condemnation by the Church of the Gnostics signifies the condemnation of every gnosis. The reverse side of the obscurantist condemnation of every gnosis within Christianity results in the development of a falsely-named and indeed anti-Christian gnosis, which has become very popularised in our day within Theosophy, in occultism, in varied forms of a false mysticism and a false rationalism. With this false, this anti-Christian gnosticism, it is impossible to contend against by measures of banning, of cutting-off, of forceful forbidding. And indeed in the Christian world there are no longer already any implements for cutting-off  and forceful forbidding. The development of the false gnosis signifies, that a true gnosis is not developing. Within Christianity likewise there ought to be revealed the true gnosis in opposition to the false gnosis, the true theosophy in opposition to the false theosophy, just as there ought to be revealed truly the Christian resolution of the social question in opposition to the false resolution of the social question in atheistic socialism. When Christianity fails to positively decide whatever the vital questions, then the resolution of such is undertaken by anti-Christian powers. It is impossible to oppose false knowledge by means of no knowledge, by means of ignorance, it can only be opposed by authentic knowledge. Agnosticism namely also renders Christianity powerless in the struggle with Gnosticism. It is time already to cease talking about whatever the sort it be of a simplistic Christianity, the Christianity of the simple baba. Such a Christianity at present is a myth. Such was not the Christianity of the Cappadocian Fathers. And we have come upon an era of Christianity mentally complicated, which is the reverse side of the mental simplification of the anti-Christian world. All the external sanctions ought to be lifted from thought and knowledge. Thought, knowledge -- are free as regards their nature and they tend to wither under force. But within thought itself, within knowledge itself there will blaze up a new light, there will ensue a shining-forth. Upon the immanent paths of knowledge there will be perceived the limits of mind, the limits of knowledge, and rationalism will be overcome. And the consciousness of these limits is a consciousness not of the chopping asunder of knowledge, not of its lessening, but on the contrary, an upsurge and expansion of it, within the context of  the docta ignorantia. The consciousness of the limits of mind is an in-lightening of mind, is the attaining for itself of an higher mind. There is possible an infinite gnosis, but the infinite movement of cognition presupposes always a consciousness of the limits of cognition, it presupposes the consciousness of its own non-knowledge, a cognition of the infinitude of task, of problematics, of the infinitude of the creative process, of infinite in-lightening, of necessity of faith for knowledge, an orientation to the meaning of the world and the source of life. In accord with our Christian faith the end purpose of worldwide human life is an in-lightening, the transfiguration, the theosis-deification of all the positive powers of being, in which number also the powers of mind and cognition, i.e. the struggle against the sinful obscurantism of world life.

                                                                         Nikolai  Berdyaev

                                                                                    1928

©  2001  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1928 - 337 -en)

OBSKURATIZM. Journal Putí, oct. 1928, No. 13, p. 19-36.




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