Journal  Put', sept. 1932,  No. 35,  p. 56-68.

N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)

THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION
OF THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD  1)

(1932 - #377)

     Everything in the contemporary world is situated under the sign of crisis, not only the social and the economic, but likewise also a cultural, but likewise also a spiritual, everything has become problematic. This is moreso acutely obvious in Germany, and about this much gets written. How ought a Christian to relate to the agony of the world, how ought one to regard it? Is this only a crisis of a world external for the Christian and anti-Christian, having betrayed the Christian faith, or is this likewise a crisis of Christianity? Christians also share in the fate of the world. They cannot purport the view, that within Christianity, within the Christian world everything is just dandy and that nothing in the world irritates it. And upon the Christian world, upon the Christian movement there falls heavy a responsibility. Upon the world is being wrought a judgement, and it is likewise a judgement upon historical Christianity. The ills of the modern world are connected not only with the falling away from Christianity, with a chilling down of faith, but also with the age-old ills of Christianity on its human side. Christianity is universal in its significance, and everything is situated within its orbit, nothing for it can be fully on the outside. Christians ought rather to perceive the spiritual condition of the contemporary world from within Christianity itself, to define, what the crisis of the world signifies as an event within Christianity, within the Christian universality. The world has come into a frightful condition, no longer within it are there firm institutions, it is living through a revolutionary epoch both outward and inward, an epoch of spiritual anarchy. Man lives in anguish (Angst) more than ever before, under an eternal threat, he hangs suspended over an abyss (the Grenzsituation of Tillich). Modern European man has lost the faith, which he tried in the last century to substitute for the Christian faith. He believes no longer in progress, in humanism, in the saving power of science, in the saving power of democracy, he is conscious of the injustice of the capitalist order and he has lost confidence in the utopia of the contemporary socialist order. Modern France is afflicted by cultural scepticism, and in modern Germany the crisis dispels all values. The whole of Europe is shaken by the unbelievable events happening in Soviet Russia, under the grip of a new faith, a new religion, hostile to the Christian religion. Characteristic to contemporary Europe is the rise of new forms of pessimistic a philosophy, in comparison with which the pessimism of Schopenhauer comes off as comforting and innocent. And thus there is the philosophy of Heidigger, for whom being as regards it own essence is fallen, but from no one is it fallen away, the world is hopelessly sinful, but there is no God, the essence of being in the world is anxiety. Reigning over the mind of the modern average European is the melancholy, gloomily tragic Kierkegaard, his teaching about Angst has been rendered very popular, it expresses at present the condition of the world, the position of man. Meanwhile most interesting and remarkable is the trend in theological and religious thought known as Barthianism, which is under the grip of an exclusive and acute feeling of the sinfulness of man and the world, and Christianity Barth tends to understand exclusively in eschatological terms. This current is a religious reaction against the liberal humanistic, romantic Protestantism of the last century. There is likewise a reaction against liberalism, romanticism, modernism to be found in Catholicism, which they attempt at present to save from modernist dangers and to reinforce by a return to Thomas Aquinas. Thomism is not only the official philosophy of the Catholic Church, it has become likewise a cultural trend and has taken hold among Catholic youth. But both Barthianism and Thomism negate man. The gravitating towards authoritarianism and towards the restoration of tradition is the obverse side of the anarchy and chaos of the world. Within Western Christianity there has become weakened the faith in man, in his creative power, in his aspect in the world. In the social-political movements prevail principles of coercion and authority, with a diminishing of the freedom of man -- in Communism, in Fascism, in National Socialism there triumphs a new victory of materialism both economic and racial. Man as it were has grown tired of spiritual freedom and is prepared to renounce it in the name of power, with which to order his life, both inward and outward. Man has grown tired of himself, of man, has lost the confidence in man and wants to leap off to the supra-human, even though this supra-human be a social collective. Many of the old idols have been toppled in our time, but many new idols have likewise been created. Man is so constituted, that he can live either with a faith in God, or with a faith in ideals and idols. In essence, man cannot consistently and ultimately be an atheist. Having fallen away from the faith in God, he falls into idolatry. We can see the idol-worship and the fashioning of idols within every sphere -- in science, in art, in statecraft, and in national and social life. And thus, for example, Communism is an extreme form of social idolatry.

     For the contemporary European all faith has weakened. He is more free from optimistic illusions than the man of the XIX Century, set facing the bare, unadorned and severe realities. But in one regard modern man is optimistic and filled with faith, and this is his idol, to which everyone offers sacrifice. We herein come nigh to a very important moment in the spiritual condition of the contemporary world. Modern man believes in the might of technology, of the machine, and sometimes it would seem, that this is the one thing, in which he still believes. And there seems to be a very serious basis for his optimism in this regard. The dizzying successes of technology in our epoch is a genuine marvel of the sinful natural world. Man is shaken and crushed by the might of technology, making all his life topsy-turvy. Man himself has created it, it is the product of his genius, of his reason, of his inventiveness, it is a child of the human spirit. Man has succeeded in unlocking secret powers of nature and using them for his own ends, of introducing a teleological principle into the activity of mechanical-physical-chemical powers. But to master the results of his work man has not succeeded. Technology has come to seem more powerful than man himself, it subjugates him to itself. Technology is the sole sphere of the optimistic faith of man, his greatest achievement. But it brings man, however, much grief and disappointment, it enslaves man, it weakens his spiritualness, it threatens him with ruin. The crisis of our time is to a remarkable degree begotten by technology, which man lacks the strength to deal with. And this crisis is first of all a spiritual one. It is important for our theme to emphasise, that Christians have proven to be completely unprepared for an appraisal of technology and the machine, for an understanding of its place within life. The Christian consciousness does not know, how to relate to the tremendous worldwide event, connected with the introduction into human life of the machine and technology. The natural world, in which man was accustomed to live in the past, no longer still seems to be in the eternal order of things. Man lives in a new world, altogether quite different from that in which the Christian revelation occurred, in which lived the apostles, the teachers of the Church, the saints, all with which the symbolism of Christianity is connected. Christianity was very representative of a connection with the land, with a patriarchal order of life. But technology has torn man away from the soil, it has with finality destroyed the patriarchal order. Christians can live and act in this world, in which everything is incessantly changing, in which there is naught yet stable, by virtue of the customary Christian dualism. The Christian is accustomed to live in two rhythms, in the religious rhythm and in the worldly rhythm. In the worldly rhythm he participates in the technisation of life, religiously not sanctified, and in the religious rhythm however, on a few days and hours of his life, he withdraws from the world to God. But it remains unclear, what religiously this formed anew world signifies. For a long time they regarded technology as a most neutral sphere, something religiously indifferent, something furthermost removed from spiritual questions and therefore something innocent. But this period has past, though not all have noticed it so. Technology has ceased to be neutral. The question about technology has become for us a spiritual question, a question about the fate of man, about his relationship to God. Technology has immeasurably deeper a significance, than ordinarily is thought. It possesses a cosmogonic significance, it creates a completely new actuality. It is a mistake to think, that the actuality, engendered by technology, is the old actuality of the physical world, a reality, studied by mechanics, physics and chemistry. This is an actuality, which did not exist in the history of the world until the discoveries and inventions, made by man. Man has succeeded in creating a new world. Within the machine is present the reasoning power of man, within it operates a teleological principle. Technology creates an atmosphere, saturated with energies, which earlier were hidden within the depths of nature. And man has no assurance, that he is in a condition to breathe in the new atmosphere. He was in the past accustomed to breathe a different air than this. It is still inexplicable, what this electric atmosphere, into which he is cast, will produce for the human organism. Into the hands of man technology puts a terrible and unprecedented power, a power which can be to the destroying of mankind. The first tools, found in the hands of man, were relatively playthings. And it would be possible to regard them still as neutral. But when such a terrible power is given into the hands of man, then the fate of mankind depends upon the spiritual condition of man. One already destructive aspect of technology is war, threatening almost cosmic a catastrophe, and it posits the spiritual problem of technology quite acutely. Technology is not only the power of man over nature, but also the power of man over man, power over the life of people. Technology can be converted into service to the devil. But therein especially it is not neutral. And especially in our materialistic times everything acquires a spiritual significance, everything is set beneathe the standard of the spirit. Technology, begotten by spirit, materialises life, but it can also indeed assist in the liberating of spirit, of liberation from the bounds of materio-organic life. It can enable also an in-spiriting.

     Technology signifies the transfer of the whole of human existence from the organism to the organisation. Man no longer lives in an organic order. Man is accustomed to live in an organic connection with the soil, with plants and animals. The great cultures of the past were still surrounded by nature, they loved their gardens, flowers and animals, they had not yet broken asunder from the rhythm of nature. The sense of the land begat a tellurgic mysticism (Bachofen has remarkable thoughts about this). Man came from the soil and he returns to the soil. With this is connected a profound religious symbolism. The vegetative cults have played a tremendous role. The organic life of man and of human societies presented itself as a life similar to that of plants. Organic was the life of the family, of the corporation, the state, the church. Society had resemblance to an organism. The romantics at the beginning of the XIX Century ascribed an especial significance to the organism and the organic. From them comes the idealisation of everything organic and hostility towards the mechanical. The organism is born, and not made by man, it is begotten by nature, by cosmic life, in it the whole is not composed merely of parts, but rather precedes the parts and determines their life. Technology tears man apart from the soil, carries him across the expanses of the world, and gives man the sensation of earth as a mere planet. Technology radically alters the attitude of man to space and to time. It is hostile to any organic embodiment. In the technological period of civilisation man ceases to live amidst animals and plants, he is flung into a coldly-metallic medium, in which there is no longer any animal warmth, no warm-bloodedness. The might of technology bears with it an enfeebling of cordiality within human life, of cordial warmth, coziness, lyricism, sorrows, always connected with the emotion of soul, and not with spirit. Technology kills everything organic in life and sets it under the standard of the organisation of the whole of human existence. The inevitability of the transition from organism to organisation is one of the sources of the contemporary crisis of the world. It is not so easy to be torn asunder from the organic. The machine with a cold ferocity rips the spirit from its intertwined organic flesh, from vegetative-animate life. And this expresses itself first of all in the weakening of the soul-emotive element within human life, in the dissociation of integral human feelings. We are entering upon an harsh epoch of spirit and technology. The soul, connected with organic life, has proven very fragile, it shrinks back from the fierce blows which the machine inflicts upon it, it flows with blood, and sometimes it seems, that it is dead. We perceive this as a fatal process of technisation, mechanisation, the materialisation of life. But spirit can oppose this process, can master it, can enter into a new epoch of being victorious. This is the fundamental problem. The organisation, into which the world is passing over, the organisation of the enormous human masses, the organisation of technical life, the organisation of economics, the organisation of scientific operations etc, is very burdensome for the soul-emotive life of man, for the intimate life of the person, and it begets the inner religious crisis. Elements of organisation have existed since the very dawn of human civilisation, just as always there have existed elements of technology, but never has the principle of technical organisation been so dominating and all-extensive, always there remained much of the organic and vegetative condition. The organisation, connected with technology, is a rationalisation of life. But human life cannot be ultimately and without residue rationalised, always there remains an irrational element, always there remains a mystery. The universal principle of rationalisation receives its just reward. Rationalisation, bereft of any higher spiritual principle, begets irrational consequences. And thus in economic life we see, that rationalisation begets such an irrational manifestation, as unemployment. In Soviet Russia the rationalisation of life assumes forms, reminiscent of collective madness. Universal rationalisation, technical organisation, the spurning of the mysterious foundations of life, beget a lost sense of the old meaning of life, and anguish, and the tendency towards suicide. Man is attracted by the technics created by him, but he himself cannot be transformed into a machine. Man -- is the organiser of life, but he himself in his depths cannot be the object of organisation, within him himself there always remains an element of the organic, the irrational, the mysterious. The rationalisation, the technisation, the machinisation of the whole of human life and of the human soul itself cannot but provoke a reaction against itself. This reaction existed during the XIX Century. The romantics always protested against the might of technology, the dissociating of the organic wholeness, and they appealed to nature, to the elemental foundation within man. A strident protest against technology was made by Ruskin. He did not want to reconcile even with the railroad and he journeyed in a carriage parallel to the rail tracks. The romantic reaction against technology is understandable and even indispensible, but it is impotent, it either does not decide the problem or it resolves it too easily. To return to former times, to the organic lifestyle, to the patriarchal relationships, to the old forms of the familial economy and handicrafts, to the life with nature, with the land, with plants and animals, is impossible. And indeed this return would be undesirable, for it is connected with an exploitive use of people and animals. In this is the tragedy of the position. And it remains but for spirit creatively to define its own relationship towards technology and towards the new epoch, to master technology in the name of its own ends. Christianity ought creatively to define an attitude towards the new actuality. It cannot be too optimistic. But it also cannot run away from the human reality. This presupposes an exertion of spirituality, an intensification of the inner spiritual life. Soul-emotive sentimentalism within Christianity has become already impossible. Soulful emotionality cannot bear up under the harsh reality. Indifference is possible only for the hardened, the obdurate spirit. Spirit can be an organiser, it can master the technical for its own spiritual ends, but it would have to resist itself being turned into a tool of the organising technical process. In this is the tragedy of spirit.

     Another side of the process, engendering the modern crisis of culture, is the entry of tremendous human masses into culture, of its democratisation, happening upon very wide a scale. In culture there is a principle that is aristocratic and a principle that is democratic. Without the aristocratic principle, without qualitative selection the loftiness and perfectness would never be attained. But together with this, culture has expanded its scope, and involved with it are altogether new social strata. This is an inevitable and just process. The culture of our time has lost every organic integral aspect of wholeness, every aspect of hierarchy, in which the upper reaches sense their own unbroken connection with the lower reaches. In the cultural elite of our era there has disappeared the consciousness of service to a supra-personal value over and beyond oneself, of service to a great goal. The idea of service in general tended to weaken in the era of the Renaissance, with its oppositely dominant liberal and individualistic ideas. The understanding of life as service to a supra-personal value is a religious understanding of life. This understanding however is not characteristic of the modern makers of culture. It is striking that the idea of service to a supra-personal value has been rendered godless. The cultural stratum of contemporary Europe possesses neither a broad nor deep social basis, it is torn asunder from the masses, which claim all ever greater and greater an allotted weight in social life, and in the doings of history. The cultural stratum, humanistic in its world-outlook, is powerless to give the masses the ideas and the values, which should inspire them. The humanistic culture is a fragile thing, and it cannot withstand the great mass processes, which beset it. The humanistic culture is compelled to become contracted and isolated. The masses readily assimilate for themself the vulgar materialism and the outward technical civilisation, but they do not assimilate for themself the heights of spiritual culture, and they readily cross over from a religious world-outlook to atheism. And to this end they enable the grievous associations, connecting Christianity with the ruling classes and with the defending of an unjust social order. Myth-ideas hold sway over the masses, beliefs either religious or beliefs social-revolutionary, but cultural humanistic ideas do not hold sway. The conflict of the aristocratic and democratic principle, of quality and of quantity, of height or of breadth is unresolvable upon the basis of an irreligious humanistic culture. In this conflict the aristocratic cultural level frequently feels itself as dying off, and doomed. the process of techinisation, mechanisation and the process of democtratisation of the masses leads to the degeneration of culture within the technical civilisation, inspired by a materialistic spirit. Driving the soul out of people, turning people into machines, and human work into merchandise is a result of the industrial capitalistic order, in the face of which Christianity has become perplexed with confusion. The injustice of the capitalistic order finds its just chastisement in Communism. The process of collectivisation, in which the human person vanishes, happens already within capitalism. Materialistic Communism seeks but to bring this process to completion. This posits for the Christian consciousness in all its acuteness the social problem, a problem moreso of justice, moreso of the human social order, the problem of spiritising and Christianisation of the social movement and the working masses. The problem of culture is at present a social problem and on the outside it is insolvable. The clash of the aristocratic and democratic principles is solvable only upon the groundworks of Christianity, since Christianity is both aristocratic and democratic, it affirms the nobility of the children of God and it summons upwards, to perfection, to the utmost quality, and together at the same time it is oriented towards everyone, to every human soul. It demands an understanding of life as service, as service to a supra-personal value, to that which is valued above and beyond oneself. The fate of culture is dependent upon the spiritual condition of the working masses, upon whether they be inspired by the Christian faith or by atheistic materialism, and also upon this, whether technology becomes subject to spirit and spiritual values or whether ultimately it becomes the lord over life. It is quite pernicious a thing, when Christians assume a pose of reaction against the movement of the working masses and against the achievements of technology, in place of this they ought to inspire and ennoble the processes transpiring in the world, and subordinate them to higher values.

     With the growth of the might of technology and with the mass democratisation of culture is connected a fundamental problem of the crisis, especially disquieting for the Christian consciousness, -- the problem of person and society. The person, aspiring towards emancipation, all more and more proves to be smothered by society, by socification, by collectivisation. This is the result of "becoming emancipated", of the technification and democratisation of life. The industrial capitalist order already, basing itself upon individualism and atomism, has led to a stifling of the person, to impersonality and anonymity, to the collective and mass style of life. Materialistic Communism, having arisen against capitalism, ultimately does away with the person, dissolves it away into the social collective, and denies the personal consciousness, the personal conscience, the personal destiny. The person within man, which in him is the image and likeness of God, is dissociated and disintegrated into its elements, it loses its integral wholeness. This can be observed in contemporary literature and art, for example in the novels of Proust. The processes, occurring in modern culture, threaten the person with ruin. The tragic conflict of person and society is unresolvable upon a basis outside the religious. The world, having lost its faith and become de-Christianised, either isolates the person, alienates it from society, immerses it within itself without the possibility of an exit towards supra-personal values, towards association with others, or ultimately it subjects and enslaves the person to society. Only Christianity in principle resolves the tormentive problem of the relationship of the person and society. Christianity values first of all the person, the individual human soul and its eternal destiny, it does not admit of a relationship to person as merely a means for the ends of society, it acknowledges the unconditional value of every person. The spiritual life of the person unmediatedly connects it with God, and it is a limiting point to the power of society over the person. But Christianity calls the person towards a communion, towards a service to a supra-personal value, towards the uniting of every I and thou into a we, to communism, but totally contrary to the communism materialistic and atheistic. Only Christianity can defend the person from the ruin threatening it, and only upon the groundworks of Christianity is there possible the unification of the person with others in a communion, in a sociality in which the person is not done away with, but the rather realises the fullness of its life. Christianity resolves the conflict of the person and society, which has created a terrible crisis, by means of a third principle, supra-personal and supra-societal, in God-manhood, in the Body of Christ. The religious problem of the person and society presupposes the resolution of the social problem of our epoch within the spirit of a Christian personalist socialism, which adopts all the truth of socialism and repudiates all its falsehood, its false spirit, its false world-outlook, which denies not only God, but also man. Only then can there be the saving of the person and a qualitative culture, an utmost culture of spirit. We have no grounds for great optimism. Everything is too far gone. The hostility and hatred is too great. The sin, the evil and injustice hold too great a victory. But neither the setting of the creative tasks of spirit, nor the fulfilling of duty ought to depend upon instinctive reflex, called forth by the formidable powers of evil, that resist the realisation of truth. We believe, that we are not alone in this, that in the world are active not only the natural human powers, both good and evil, but that there are also supra-natural, supra-human, graced powers, assisting those who do the work of Christ in the world, and in which God acts. When we say "Christianity", we speak not only about man and his faith, but also about God, about Christ.

     The technical and economic processes of modern civilisation turn the person into their own tool, they demand from it an incessant activity, making use of each moment of life for activity. Modern civilisation negates contemplation and threatens to completely shove it out from life, to make it impossible. This will mean, that man ceases to pray, that he will no longer have any sort of relationship to God, that he will no longer see beauty and unselfishly know truth. The person is defined not only in relation to time, but also in relation to eternity. The actualism of modern civilisation is a denial of eternity, is an enslavement of man to time. No one instant of life thus is of value in itself, nor has relationship to eternity or God, every moment is but a means for the one following, needing all the more quickly but to pass away and be replaced by another. The exclusive actualism of suchlike a sort changes the relationship to time -- there occurs an acceleration of time, a mad chase. The person cannot hold on amidst the flooding current of time, in this actualisation of each moment, it is unable to think about matters, it is unable to conceive of the meaning of its own life, since meaning is always revealed in relation to eternity, and the flood of time is of itself incomprehensible. Indisputably, man is called to activity, to work, to creativity, he cannot only meditate. The world is not merely a stage-show for man, a spectacle. Man has to transform and organise the world, to continue on with the world-creation. But man remains a person, the image and likeness of God, and will not be transformed into a mere means of an impersonal animate and societal process, only in this instance -- if he is the point of intersection of two worlds, the eternal and the temporal, if he acts not only within time, but also contemplates eternity, if he inwardly defines himself in relation to God. This is a fundamental question of the contemporary actualist civilisation, the question about the fate of the person, the destiny of man. Man cannot be only an object, he is a subject, he possesses his own existence within himself. Man, transformed into the tool of an impersonal actualised process within time, is already no longer a man. The social collective might think it so, but not the person. In the person there is always something independent of the flood of time and of the social process. The smothering of contemplation is the smothering of an enormous part of culture, with which is connected its summit and blossoming -- mysticism, metaphysics, aesthetics. A purely at work actualist civilisation transforms science and art into a mere accommodation of the productive technical process. We see this in the intent of Communistic Soviet culture. This is a deep crisis of culture. The future of man, the future of culture depends on this, whether man should still want for a moment to be free, to consider and think about his life, to turn his gaze towards the heavens. True, the idea of labour and a labouring society is a great and fully Christian idea. The aristocratic contemplation by a privileged cultural class, freed of participating in the labour process, frequently became a false contemplation, and in such a form it has scarcely any place in the future. But every working man also, every man has a moment of contemplation, immersed within himself, of prayer and praise of God, of the beholding of beauty, of an unselfish appreciation of the world. Contemplation and action can and ought to be combined in the integral wholeness of the person, and only their conjoining affirms and strengthens the person. A person, totally dissipating oneself in activity, in the temporal process, becomes exhausted, and the flow of spiritual energy within ceases. Amidst all this, the activity usually is understood not in the Gospel manner, not as service to neighbour, but as service to idols. The liturgical cycle of religious life is unique a combination of contemplation and action, in which the person can find for himself a wellspring of strength and energy. We are at present at a fatal process of the degeneration of the person, itself always an image of utmost being, -- but reformed anew into the temporal collectives, with demands of an endlessly growing activeness. Man is a creative being, an image of the Creator. But the activeness, which modern civilisation demands from man, essentially, is a denial of his creative nature, and therefore it is a denial of man himself. The creativity of man presupposes the combining of contemplation and action. The very distinction between contemplation and action is relative. Spirit is essentially active, and in contemplation there is a dynamic element. We come nigh the final problem, connected with the spiritual condition of the contemporary world, to the problem of man, as a religious problem. Since the crisis of man occurs within the world, it is not only a crisis within man, but is also the crisis of man himself. The utmost existence of man is rendered problematic.

     The crisis of man mustneeds be understood inwardly as a Christian one. Only inwardly can Christianity understand what is happening. In modern civilisation has been shaken the Christian idea of man, which still has its remnants in humanism. At the basis of Christianity lies the God-manhood theandric myth (the word "myth" I employ not in the sense of being opposed to reality, but on the contrary, "myth" corresponds more to reality, than does "concept") -- the myth about God and the myth about man, about the image and likeness of God in man, about the Son of God having become Man. The worthiness of man is connected with this. The plenitude of the Christian Divine-Human revelation has only with difficulty been assimilated by the sinful nature of man. And the Christian teaching about man has not been sufficiently developed, has not been manifest in life. And therefore inevitable was the appearance of humanism upon the basis of Christianity. But further on the process became fatal in its consequences. There began a destroying both in mind and in life of the integral wholeness of the God-manhood Christian mythos. At first, repudiated was the one half -- the myth about God. But there remained still the other half    the myth about man, the Christian idea about man. And we see this, for example, with L. Feuerbach. He repudiated God, but there remained with him still a god-likeness of man, he enroached no further upon man, just as there did not infringe those humanists, for whom the nature of man remains eternal. But the destruction of the Christian theandric myth went on further. There began the destroying of the other half -- the myth about man. And thus there occurred an apostacy not only from the idea of God, but also from the idea of man. Upon man enroached Marx, upon man enroached Nietzsche. For Marx already the highest value is no longer man, but rather the social collective. Man is supplanted by the class, and a new myth is created about the messianism of the proletariat. Marx is one of the departures from humanism. For Nietzsche the highest value is not man, but rather the super-man, the higher race, and man ought to be surpassed. Nietzsche is another departure from humanism. And in such manner transpires the repudiation of the value of man, of the ultimate value, as esteemed by Christianity. We see this in such social manifestations, as racism, Fascism, Communism, as an idolatry nationalistic and an idolatry internationalistic. We enter upon an epoch of civilisation, which denies the value of man. The supreme value of God was denied even earlier. And in this is the essence of the modern crisis.
 The processes of technification, the processes of society swallowing up the person, the processes of collectivisation are bound up with this. All the heresies arising within the history of Christianity, all the fallings-away from the fullness and the integral wholeness of truth always presented important and significant themes, which were not resolved and have to be resolved from within by Christianity. But the heresies, begotten by contemporary civilisation, are altogether different, from the heresies of the first centuries of Christianity, -- these are not theological heresies, these are heresies of life itself. These heresies witness to this, that there are urgent questions, which Christianity mustneeds answer inwardly. The problems of technology, the problems of a just organisation of social life, the problems of collectivisation in their relation to the eternal value of the human person have not been resolved by Christianity in Christian a manner, in the light of the Christian Divine-Human truth. The creative activity of man in the world goes unsanctified. The crisis, occurring in the world, is a reminder to Christianity about its unresolved tasks, and therefore it is not only a judgement upon the godless world, but a judgement also upon Christianity. The basic problem of our day is not the problem about God, as many tend to think, as often many Christians tend to think, in calling for a religious renewal, -- the basic problem of our day is first of all the problem of man. The problem of God is an eternal problem, it is a problem in every time, it is always the first and the final, but the problem of our time is the problem of man, about the salvation of the human person from disintegration, about the vocation and destiny of man, about the deciding of the basic questions of society and culture in light of the Christian idea concerning man. People have turned away from God, but by this they have subjected to doubt not the worthiness of God, but rather the worthiness of man. Man cannot hold on without God. For man God also is that utmost idea of reality, constructed by man. The obverse side to this, likewise, is that man is the utmost idea of God. Only Christianity holds the resolution to the problem of the relationship of man and God, only in Christ is the image of man preserved, only within the Christian spirit are there created both society and culture, non-destructive to man. But the truth has to be realised in life.
 

                                                                                                Nikolai Berdyaev.

                                                                                                    1931

  2009 by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1932 - 377 - en)

DUKHOVNOE  SOSTOYANIE  COVREMENNAGO  MIRA. Journal Put', sept. 1932, No. 25, p. 56-68.


   1 Report read in May 1931 at a session of the leaders of the World Christian Federation in Bad Bol [alt. Bad Boll, Goeppingen, Germany].




 

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