N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)
SPIRITS OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
(1918 – #299)
We are lost. What are we to do?
Into the field the devil evidently doth take us,
Spinning us round and round every which way.
A terrible catastrophe has happened with Russia. It has fallen into a dark abyss. And for many it begins to seem, that the unified and great Russia was merely a phantasm, that in it was not an authentic reality. Not easily is detected the connection of our present with our past. The expression of face for Russian people has quite changed, in some few months it has been rendered unrecognisable. At superficial a glance it would seem, that in Russia has happened a turnabout unprecedented in its radicalism. But deeper and more pervasive a perception would tend to discern in Russia the revolutionary spirit of old Russia, of spirits, long since detected within the creativity of our great writers, of devils, long since already having taken hold within Russian people. Much of the old, the long since familiar appears merely under a new guise. The lengthy historical path leads to revolutions, and in them are discernable national particulars even then, when they inflict a grievous blow to the national might and the national dignity. Each people has its own style of revolution, just as it has its own conservative style. The English Revolution was national, just the same as the French Revolution was national. In them can be recognised the past of England and of France. Each people makes its revolution with that spiritual baggage, which accumulated in its past, it carries over into the revolution its own sins and vices, but likewise also its own capacity for sacrifice and for enthusiasm. The Russian Revolution is anti-national as regards its character, it has turned Russia into a breathless corpse. But in this also its anti-national character is reflected national particulars of the Russian people, and the style of our unhappy and ruinous revolution — is Russian a style. Our old national ills and sins have led to revolution and have defined its character. The spirits of the Russian Revolution — are Russian spirits, though used also by our enemy to our doom. Its phantasmic aspect — is characteristically Russian an obsession. Revolutions, transpiring upon the surface plane of life, never essentially change nor alter anything, they merely uncover the ills, hidden within the organism of the people, and anew they rearrange all the same elements, and the old images appear in new dressings. Revolution to a remarkable degree is always a masquerade, and if the masks be stripped off, one can then meet up with the old recognisable faces. New souls are begotten only later, after a profound regeneration and pondering of the experience of the revolution. On the surface everything seems new in the Russian Revolution — new expressions of face, new gestures, new costumes, new formulas dominate life; those, who were below, have come out on top, and those who were on top, have fallen below; holding power are those, who were the persecuted, and persecuted are those, who held power; slaves have become boundlessly free, and the free in spirit are subjected to violence. But try to penetrate beneathe the surface coverings of revolutionary Russia into the depths. There you will recognise the old Russia, you will meet with the old, the familiar faces. The immortal images of Khlestakov [Gogol’s “Revizor”, alt. “Inspector General”], Peter Verkhovensky [Dostoevsky’s “Besy” — “The Possessed”, alt. “The Devils”] and Smerdyakov [Dostoevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov”] at every step are to be met with in revolutionary Russia and in it they play no small a role, they have vaulted to the very heights of power. The metaphysical dialectics of Dostoevsky and the moral reflection of Tolstoy define the inner course of the revolution. If one look deep into Russia, then behind the revolutionary struggle and the revolutionary phraseology it is not difficult to discern the Gogolesque snouts and mugs. Every people at whatever the moment of its existence is still living in various times and in various centuries. But there is no people, in which have been brought together such different ages, which have so combined the XX Century with the XIV Century, as has the Russian people. And this contrast of differing ages is the source of the unhealthiness and hindrance to wholeness in our national life.
To great writers are always revealed images of national life, images having significance both essential and non-transitory. Russia, as discerned by its great writers, the Russia of Gogol and Dostoevsky can be found also in the Russian Revolution, and in it you run afoul of basic values, as foreordained by L. Tolstoy. In the images from Gogol and Dostoevsky, in the moral evaluations of Tolstoy it is possible to seek for the enigmas of those calamities and misfortunes, which revolution has brought to our native land, the knowledge of the spirits, possessive within the revolution. With Gogol and Dostoevsky there were literary perspicacious insights, ahead of their time. Russia revealed itself variously to them, their literary efforts differed, but both with the one and with the other there was something truly prophetic for Russia. Something pervasive in its very essence, in the very innermost nature of Russian man. Tolstoy as artist is for our purposes not of interest. Russia, as revealed in his great artistic ability, tends within the Russian Revolution to decompose and die. He was a literary artist of the static aspects of the Russian lifestyle, that of the nobility and the peasantry, whereas the eternal however revealed itself to him, as an artist, only in the elementary national aspects. Tolstoy was more cosmic, than anthropogenic. But in the Russian Revolution there was revealed, and in its own way there triumphed, another Tolstoy — the Tolstoy of moral values, with Tolstoyism as characteristic for Russian world-concepts and world-views. Many are the Russian devils, which revealed themself to Russian writers or obsessed them, — the demon of lies and substitution, the demon of equality, the demon of disgrace, the demon of denial, the demon of non-resistance and many many another. All these — these nihilistic devils, have long since been tearing at and lacerating Russia. At the centre for me stand the perspicacious insights of Dostoevsky, who prophetically revealed all the spiritual groundings and moving principles of the Russian Revolution. I begin however with Gogol, whose significance in this regard is less clear.
I. GOGOL IN THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
Gogol belongs to the most enigmatic of Russian writers, and still little has been done for an understanding of him. He is more enigmatic than Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky himself did much by way of revealing all the contraries and all the abysses of his spirit. It is apparent, how the devil is at war with God in his soul and in his creativity. Gogol however hid himself and took to the grave with him the whatever unsolved secret. There truly in him is something vexing. Gogol — is the sole Russian writer, in whom there was a taste for the magical, — he artistically bestows credence to the active workings of the dark and evil magical powers. This, actually, came to him from the West, from Catholic Poland. A “Terrible Vengeance” is replete with suchlike magical an aspect. But in more subtle forms this magicism is there also within “Dead Souls” and “Revizor”. Gogol was quite exceptional in his powerful sensing of evil. And he did not find the consolations, that Dostoevsky found in the image of Zosima and in the attachment to Mother-Earth. With him there is not at all those glued leaflets, nowhere a salvation from all the demonic grimaces surrounding him about. The old school of Russian critics failed totally to sense the horrid aspect in Gogol’s artistry. And indeed where could they have gotten a feel for Gogol! Their rationalistic enlightenment guarded them from perceiving and understanding such horrid aspects. Our critics were too “progressive” of an image of thought, they did not believe in the unclean spirits of evil. They wanted to utilise Gogol only for their own utilitarian-societal aims. They indeed always utilised the creativity of the great writers for utilitarian-societal preaching. The first to have sensed the frightful aspect of Gogol was a writer of different a school, of different sources and of different a spirit — V. V. Rozanov. He is not fond of Gogol and writes about him with evil a feeling, but he understood, that Gogol was an artist of evil. And here is what first of all mustneeds be ascertained — the creativity of Gogol is a literary artistic revelation of evil as a principle both metaphysical and inward, not of evil societal and outward, such as might be ascribed to political backwardness and lack of enlightenment. Gogol was not given to see images of good and artistically render them. In this was his tragedy. And he himself was frightened by his exclusive seeing of images of evil and the monstrous. But that which derived from his spiritual crippling tended to issue forth in the acute aspect of his artistry of evil.
The problem of Gogol was addressed only by that religio-philosophic and artistic current, which assumed significance among us at the beginning of the XX Century. It had been the accepted thing to read Gogol as the founder of the realist trend in Russian literature. The strangeness of Gogol’s creativity was explained away exclusively, in that he was being satirical and that he depicted the falseness of the old Russia under serfdom. They tended to look at everything extraordinary in Gogol’s artistic mannerisms. And yet in Gogol’s creativity they saw nothing problematic, because in general they tended to see nothing as problematic. To the Russian critics all seemed clear and easy to explain, all was rendered simple and cramped down towards an elementary utilitarian aim. It truly can be said, that the critical school of Belinsky, Chernyshevsky, Dobroliubov and their successors had in view the inner meaning of Russian great literature and they lacked the ability to evaluate its artistic revelations. There had to happen a spiritual crisis, there had to be shaken all the foundations of the traditional intelligentsia world-view, in order for the creativity of the Russian great writers to be revealed anew. Then only was there rendered possible an approach to Gogol. The old view on Gogol as a realist and satiricist demands a radical review. Now already, after all the complexifying of our psyches and our thought, it is quite clear, that the view of the literary old-believers on Gogol fails to get atop the Gogol problem. To us it seems monstrous, how they could see realism within “Dead Souls”, a work incredible and unprecedented. The strange and enigmatic creativity of Gogol cannot be relegated away as a social satire, exposing the times and transient vices and sins of pre-Reform Russian society. Dead souls do not have an obligatory and inseparable connection with the serf-era way of life, not the Revizor Inspector General — with pre-Reform officialdom. And now at present, after all the reforms and revolutions, Russia is full of dead souls and inspectors general, and the Gogolesque images have not died, have not faded away into the past, as have the images from Turgenev and Goncharov. The artistic modes of Gogol, which least of all can be termed realistic, and which represent unique an experiment, dismembering and distorting apart the organic wholeness of actuality, reveal something very essential for reforms and revolutions. That inhuman boorishness, which Gogol espied, is not merely a product of the old order. not explicable by reasons social and political, on the contrary, — it tended rather to beget everything, that was vile in the old order, it imprinted itself upon the political and social forms.
Gogol as an artist was ahead of his time in anticipating the modern analytic trends in art, evidenced in connection with the crisis in art. He was a predecessor to the art of A. Bely and Picasso. In him were already those perceptions of actuality, which led to Cubism. In his artistry is already the Cubist dismembering of the living being. Gogol already saw those monstrosities, which Picasso artistically later caught sight of. But Gogol introduced a deception, since he veiled over his demonic content with a laugh. Of the newer Russian literary artists after Gogol, a most gifted one of them — is Andrei Bely, for whom ultimately the murkiness of the image of man has become submerged in the cosmic whirlwind. A. Bely does not see an organic beauty within man, just as Gogol does not see it. In much he tends to follow upon the literary artistic methods of Gogol, but he does tend also to make quite new achievements in the area of forms. Gogol had already subjected to analytic dismemberment the organically whole image of man. With Gogol there are no human images, there is only snouts and grimaces, only the monstrosities, similar to the habitual monstrosities of Cubism. In his creativity there is a killing off of man. Gogol had not the ability to provide positive human images and he suffered much over this. He tormentedly sought for the image of man and he did not find it. On all sides formless and unhuman monstrosities surrounded him. In this was his tragedy. He believed in man, he sought for the beauty of man and he did not find it in Russia. In this was something unspeakably tormentive, this could lead to madness. In Gogol himself there was a sort of spiritual disjointedness, and he bore within himself some sort of unsolved secret. But it is impossible to fault him for this, that in place of the image of man he instead saw in Russia Chichikov, Nozdrev, Sobakovich, Khlestakov, Skvoznik-Dmukhanovsky and suchlike monstrosities. His great and implausible gift was to reveal the negative sides of the Russian people, its dark spirits, all that which in it was inhuman, distortive of the image and likeness of God. He was terrified and wounded by this unrevealedness of the human person in Russia, this abundance of the elemental spirits of nature, in place of people. Gogol — was infernal the literary artist. Gogol’s images — are shredded bits of people, and not people, they are the grimaces of people. It is not his fault, that in Russia there were so few images human, genuine persons, so many lies and pseudo-images, false substitutes, so much ugliness and more ugliness. Gogol suffered terribly from this. His gift of insight into the spirit of triteness — was woesome a gift, and he fell victim to this gift. He discerned the intolerable evil of triteness, and this haunted him. With A. Bely the image of man is also lacking. But he belongs already to a different era, in which faith in the image of man has become uncertain. This faith was still there in Gogol. Russian people, intent upon revolution and putting great hopes in it, tended to believe, that the monstrous images from Gogol’s Russia would disappear, when the revolutionary storm would cleanse us from every defilement. In Khlestakov and Skvoznik-Dmukhanovsky, in Chichikov and Nozdrev they saw only images of old Russia, the results of autocracy and serfdom. In this was an error of the revolutionary consciousness, incapable of penetrating into the depths of life. In the revolution has been revealed all that selfsame old, eternally-Gogolesque Russia, the unhuman, semi-beastly Russia of vile mugs and snouts. In the insufferable revolutionary triteness there is an eternally Gogolesque aspect. In vain have proven the hopes, that the revolution would reveal in Russia the human image, that the human person would rise up to his full stature, with the collapse of the autocracy. Among us they were too accustomed to put the blame on the autocracy, all the evil and darkness of our life they wanted to impute to this. But by this they cast off from themself as Russian people the burden of responsibility, and inclined themself to irresponsibility. There is no longer the autocracy, but the Russian darkness and the Russian evil have remained. The darkness and evil are lodged down deeper, not in the social externals of the people, but in its spiritual core. There is no longer the old autocracy, but autocracy as before rules in Russia, as before there is no respect for man, for human dignity, for human rights. There is no longer the old autocracy, the old officialdom, the old police, but bribery as before is a basis of Russian life, its underlying constitution. Bribery has become more widespread, than ever. A grandiose profit is to be made off the revolution. The scenes from Gogol are being played out at every step in revolutionary Russia. There is no longer the autocracy, but as before Khlestakov pawns himself off as an important official, and as before all tremble before him. There is no longer the autocracy, but Russia as before is full of dead souls, and as before there is a marketing with them. Khlestakov’s audacity at every step that he takes is to be felt in the Russian revolution. But now Khlestakov has risen to the very summit of power and has far more a basis, than of old, to say: “the minister of foreign affairs, the French ambassador, the English, the German ambassador and I”, or: “and curious a thing how they happen to be looking for me in the vestibule, when I am not yet even awake: counts and princes jostle and flutter about there, like bumblebees”. The revolutionary Khlestakovs with great plausibility could say: “who’s in charge of this place? Many of the general sort appear to be volunteers just starting out, but it depends, it could be, — no, just consider… There’s no other way — it’s up to me. And at this very moment down on the streets are couriers, couriers, couriers… imagine it for yourself, thirty-five thousand couriers!” And the revolutionary Ivan Aleksandrovich then takes over the managing of the department. And when he passes by, “tis simply an earthquake, all tremble and shake, like leaves”. The revolutionary Ivan Aleksandrovich grows irritated and shouts: “I have no love for joking, and I’m warning all in the back about it… I mean it! There’s no one I won’t see… I’m everywhere, everywhere”. We hear these Khlestakov tantrums every day and at every step. All tremble and shake. But, knowing the history of the old and eternal Khlestakov, in the depths of their souls they expect, that the gendarme will come in and say: “On orders just arrived from the Peterburg official, he demands to see you at once”. The fear of counter-revolution, pervading the Russian revolution, also bestows the Khlestakov character a revolutionary impertinence. This constant expecting of the gendarme exposes the illusory and fraudulent aspect of the revolutionary attainments. But there is no mistaking the externals. The revolutionary Khlestakov appears but in a new costume and calls himself otherwise by different a name. But he essentially remains the same. The thirty-five thousand couriers can be the representatives of the “Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies”. And this changes nothing. At its core rests the old Russian lie and deception, long since espied by Gogol. Estrangement from the depths renders all movements too facile. In the presently prevailing and ruling powers there is little, just the same of the ontological, of the genuinely existing, as there was in Gogol’s Khlestakov. Nozdrev says: “This is the boundary! Everything, that you see along this side, — all this is mine, and even along the other side, all that forest out there of bluish a tint, and everything that is beyond the forest, — is all mine” [“Dead Souls”, Ch. 4]. In large part the adaption to the revolution has something of Nozdrev to it. The mask replaces the person. Everywhere are the masks and the two-facedness, the grimaces and the scraps of a man. An incorrigible falseness of being rules the revolution. All is illusory. Phantasmic are all the parties, phantasmic all the authorities, phantasmic all the heroes of the revolution.
Nowhere is it possible to sense a firm footing, nowhere is it possible to catch sight of clear an human face. This phantasmic aspect, this non-ontological aspect is begotten of falsehood. Gogol revealed it within the Russian element.
Chichikov as before rides the Russian land and deals in dead souls. But he rides along not slowly in the carriage, instead, he dashes about in courier rail-cars and everywhere dispatches telegrams. The selfsame element operates a new a tempo. The revolutionary Chichikovs buy up and resell non-existent riches, they operate with fictions and not realities, they transform into a fiction all the whole economic life of Russia. Many of the degrees of the revolutionary authority are totally Gogolesque in their nature, and in the enormous masses of ordinary people they meet with Gogolesque a response. In the revolutionary element is detected a colossal swindling knavery, dishonesty as a sickness of the Russian soul. Our whole revolution seems to represent an haggling over the people’s soul and the people’s dignity. All our revolutionary agrarian reform, the SR and the Bolshevistic, represents an official meddling and hindrance. It operates with dead souls, it derives the people’s wealth upon an illusory, unreal basis. Within it is the Chichikov audacity. In our heroic summertime of an agrarian revolution there was something truly Gogolesque. There was likewise no little of a Manilovschina [from character Manilov, cf. “Dead souls”, Ch. 2] during the first period of the revolution and during the revolutionary provisional government. But “Dead Souls” possesses also a profound symbolic meaning. All the ugly mugs and grimaces along the Gogol line are manifest basically of a deadening numbness of Russian souls. The deadening numbness of souls makes possible the Chichikov resemblances and encounters. This prolonged and lengthy numbed deadening of souls is sensed also in the Russian revolution. And therefore possible within it becomes this shameless haggling, this naked deception. The revolution itself per se did not create this. The revolution — is a great manifestor, and it manifested merely that, which lay concealed in the depths of Russia. The form of the old order held in check the manifestation of many Russian traits, kept them within the limits of restraint. The downfall of these old time-worn forms has led to this, that Russian man is ultimately proven to be unruly and stark nakedly shown to be so. The evil spirits, which Gogol caught sight of in their static form, have broken free and are having an orgy. Their grimaces evoke a shuddering in the body of suffering Russia. For the Khlestakovs and Chichikovs there is now an even greater scope of opportunity, than there was in the time of the autocracy. And a becoming free of them presupposes a spiritual regeneration of the people, a turnabout within it. The revolution has not produced such a turnabout. A true spiritual revolution in Russia would involve a liberation from that deceitful lying, which Gogol saw within the Russian people, would involve a victory over that illusory and substitutive aspect, begotten of the deceitful lie. Within the lie there is a facile irresponsibility, it is not connected with anything substantial, and upon lies can be constructed very bold revolutions. Gogol revealed dishonesty as an age-old Russian trait. This dishonesty is connected with the failure of the developing and revealing of the person within Russia, with the stifling of the image of man. With this also is connected the inhuman triteness, with which Gogol overwhelms and smothers us and with which he himself was overwhelmed. Gogol saw into Russia more deeply than did the Slavophils. He had a strange sensing of evil, which the Slavophils lacked. In the eternally Gogolesque Russia the tragic and the comic are interwoven and intermixed. The comic appears as a result of confusion and substitution. This confusion and interweaving of the tragic and the comic is there also in the Russian revolution. It is all based upon confusion and substitution, and much in it therefore assumes the nature of a comedy. the Russian revolution is a tragi-comedy. This – is the finale of the Gogol legacy. And, perhaps, the most gloomy and hopeless thing in the Russian revolution — is the Gogolesque aspect in it. What there is in it from Dostoevsky bears more glimmerings of hope. But Russia mustneeds get free from the grip of the Gogolesque ghoulishness.
II. DOSTOEVSKY IN THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
If Gogol set within the context of the Russian revolution is not at once directly apparent and the very positing of this theme possibly evokes doubts, then in Dostoevsky nevertheless it is impossible not to see a prophet of the Russian revolution. The Russian revolution is impelled by those themes, which Dostoevsky had a premonition of and which with genius he put in sharp contrast. Dostoevsky had the ability to reveal in depth the dialectics of Russian revolutionary thought and to derive from it its final conclusions. He did not stay merely at the surface level with the socio-political ideas and constructs, he penetrated down into the depths and uncovered the metaphysics underlying the Russian revolutionary aspect. Dostoevsky discovered, that the Russian revolutionary aspect is a phenomenon both metaphysical and religious, not merely political and social. And thus religiously he succeeded to grasp the nature of Russian socialism. Russian socialism involves the question, does God exist or not. And Dostoevsky foresaw, how bitter would be the fruits of Russian socialism. He laid bare the element of Russian nihilism and Russian atheism, a thing quite unique, and dissimilar to that of the West. There was with Dostoevsky a gift of genius in revealing the depths and discerning the final limits. He never remains at the middle, never halts merely dwelling upon the transitory conditions, but instead always pushes towards the finalative and the ultimate. His creative artistic act is apocalyptic, and in this he is — truly a Russian national genius. The method of Dostoevsky is different, from that of Gogol. Gogol was more perfected the literary artist. Dostoevsky was first of all a great psychologist and metaphysician. He reveals the evil and the evil spirits inwardly within the soul-emotive life of man and inwardly within his dialectics of thought. The whole entire creativity of Dostoevsky is an anthropological revelation — the revelation of the human depths, not only the soul-emotive, but also the spiritual depths. To him are revealed those human thoughts and those human passions, which represent not merely the psychology, but rather the ontology of human nature. In Dostoevsky, as distinct from Gogol, there remains always the image of man and there is revealed the inward fate of man. Evil does not ultimately destroy the human image. Dostoevsky believes, that by way of inner catastrophe, evil can make the transition over to good. And therefore his creativity is less frightful, than the creativity of Gogol, which leaves almost no kind of hope.
In Dostoevsky, the greatest Russian genius, it is possible to study the nature of human thinking, its positive and its negative polarities. The French — are dogmatists or sceptics, dogmatists at the positive polarity of their thought and sceptics at the negative pole. The Germans — are mystics or criticists, mystics at the positive pole and criticists at the negative. The Russians however — are apocalyptic or nihilistic, apocalyptic at the positive pole and nihilist at the negative polarity. The Russian instance — is very extreme and very difficult. The French and the Germans can create culture, since culture can be created both dogmatically and sceptically; it is possible to create it also mystically and critically. But it is difficult, very difficult apocalyptically and nihilistically to create culture. Culture can have at its depths the dogmatic and the mystical, but it presupposes, that beyond the median vital process is admitted something of value, that it possesses a significance not only absolute, but also relative. The apocalyptic and nihilistic self-derived feeling casts aside all the average median vital process, all the historical steps, has no wish to know of any sort of values of culture, it aspires towards the end, the limit. These two opposites readily transfer each into the other. The apocalyptic easily transitions into nihilism, can prove nihilistic in regard to the greatest values of earthly historical life, to all culture. Nihilism however can undetectedly take on an apocalyptic hue, can appear as a demanding of the end. And with Russian man, so shifting back and forth and entangled are the apocalyptic and the nihilistic, that it becomes difficult to distinguish these polarly opposed principles. It is not easy to determine, why Russian man is wont to negate the state, culture, native land, normative morals, science and art, why he demands an absolute impoverishment: whether from his apocalyptic or his nihilistic aspect. Russian man can wage a nihilistic pogrom like an apocalyptic pogrom; he can lay himself bare, tear away all the veilings and stand naked as it were, since he is a nihilist and denies everything, and since also, because he is filled with apocalyptic presentiments and anticipates the end of the world. In Russian sectarians the apocalyptic is interwoven and compounded with nihilism. The same thing occurs with the Russian intelligentsia. The Russian searchings for the truths of life always assumes an apocalyptic or nihilistic character. This — is a profoundly national trait. This creates the grounds for confusion and substitutes, for pseudo-religion. In Russian atheism itself there is something of the spirit of the apocalyptic, totally dissimilar to Western atheism. And in Russian nihilism there are pseudo-religious features, a sort of religion in reverse. this tempts and leads many into error. Dostoevsky revealed down deep the apocalypticism and nihilism within the Russian soul. And therefore he also guessed, what sort of character the Russian revolution would assume. He perceived, that revolution would not at all signify for us, what it does in the West, and therefore it would be more terrible and more extreme than Western revolutions. The Russian revolution — is a phenomenon on religious a basis, it is a deciding of the question about God. And this mustneeds be understood in more profound a sense, than is conceived in the anti-religious character of the French revolution or the religious character of the English revolution.
For Dostoevsky, the problem of the Russian revolution, of Russian nihilism and socialism, as a religious problem essentially — involves the question about God and about immortality. “Socialism is not only the workers question, or of the so-called fourth estate, but is predominantly an atheistic question, the question of the modern embodiment of atheism, the question of the Babylonian Tower, constructed not in the name of God, not for reaching heaven from earth, but rather for the contraction of heaven onto earth” (Brothers Karamazov”). It can even possibly be said, that the question on Russian socialism and nihilism — is a question apocalyptic, oriented towards the all-destroying end. Russian revolutionary socialism has never thought of itself as transitional a condition, as a temporary and relative form in the building up of society, it has always thought of itself as ultimate a condition, as the kingdom of God upon earth, as the solving of the question of the fates of mankind. This — is not an economic and not political a question, but rather a question of spirit, a religious question. “And indeed the Russian boys up til now, what about them? Here, for example, in a local wretched tavern, here they tend to come, seated off in a corner…What are they deciding? The issues of the world, no less: is there a God, is there immortality? And for those not believing in God, well, these talk about socialism and about anarchism, about the redoing of the whole of mankind along new a form, all indeed the same result, all the same questions, only with different a conclusion”. These Russian boys never have been capable of politics, of constructing and building up societal life. Everything has gotten jumbled up in their heads, and having repudiated God, they refashioned God out of socialism and anarchism, they wanted to rework the whole of mankind into new a form and in this have seen not relative, but rather absolute a task. Russian boys have been nihilistic-apocalyptic. They started it, having the endless conversations in the wretched taverns. And it would have been difficult to believe, that these conversations about replacing God by socialism and anarchism and the reworking of the whole of mankind into new a form could become a defining power in Russian history to shatter apart Great Russia. The Russian boys long since already have proclaimed, that everything is permitted, if there is no God and no immortality. Bliss upon earth would remain then as the goal. Upon this basis also has emerged Russian nihilism, which to many naive and well-intentioned people has seemed innocent and cute a phenomenon. Many even saw in it a moral truth, though distorted by mental error. Even Vl. Solov’ev did not understand the dangers of Russian nihilism, when he jokingly formulated the credo of the Russian boys in suchlike a manner: “Man is descended from the ape, therefore, let us love one another”. Dostoevsky tended to penetrate deeper into the secret corners of Russian nihilism and he sensed the danger. He revealed the dialectics of Russian nihilism, its hidden metaphysics.
Ivan Karamazov shews himself a philosopher of Russian nihilism and atheism. He proclaims a revolt against God and against God’s world out of very lofty motives — he cannot reconcile himself with the tears of a tormented innocent child. Ivan puts Alyosha a question very acute and radically so: “Tell me straight out, I implore thee, answer: imagine, that thou art building up the edifice of human fate with the aim at the final end to bring happiness to people, to finally give them peace and tranquility, but for this it would have to be needful and inevitable to torment of all only one tiny creature, this child here beating itself with tiny fist upon the breast, and upon its unavenged tears set the foundation of this edifice; would thou consent to be the architect upon these conditions?” Ivan posits here the age-old problem as regards the price of history, about the acceptability of those sacrifices and sufferings, by which are bought the creation of states and cultures. This is preeminently a Russian question, an accursed question, which Russian boys have brought out against world history. In this question has been lodged all the Russian moral pathos, sundered off from its religious sources. Upon this question has morally been based the Russian revolutionary-nihilistic revolt, which Ivan also proclaims: “In the final result this world of God’s — I do not accept, and though also I know, that it exists, I do not accept it at all. It is not God that I do not accept, it is the world created by Him, God’s world that I do not accept and cannot consent to accept”. “For what purpose is it to recognise this devilish good and evil, when it involves so much? Indeed the whole world of knowledge cannot then stand up to those tears of a child to dear-God”. “I renounce entirely the higher harmony. It is not worth the tiny tears of that one tortured child, beating its breast with its little fist and praying in its fetid hovel with its unexpiated tears to dear-God… I don’t want, that they should suffer more. And if the suffering of children goes towards the filling up of that sum of sufferings, which be necessary as the price for truth, then I declare beforehand, that all the truth be not worth such a price… I don’t want the harmony, out of love for mankind I do not want it… And indeed they have valued the harmony too dearly, we cannot at all afford the price of entry. And therefore I hasten to return back my ticket for entry… It is not God that I do not accept, but rather only the ticket to Him that I most respectfully return back”. The theme, presented by Ivan Karamazov, is complex, and within it are interwoven several motifs. Dostoevsky from the lips of Ivan Karamazov pronounces judgement upon the positivist theories of progress and upon the utopias of a coming harmony, erected upon the sufferings and tears of prior generations. All the progress of mankind and all its perfect arrangement stand for nothing as regards the unhappy fate of each man, his final death. In this is a Christian truth. But the acute question, posited by Ivan, nowise consists in this. He presents his question not as a Christian, believing in a Divine meaning to life, but rather as an atheist and nihilist, denying a Divine meaning to life, seeing only absurdity and untruth from limited an human perspective. This — is a revolt against the Divine world-order, a non-acceptance of human fate, as determined by the design of God. This — is a dispute of man with God, a refusal to accept suffering and sacrifice, to grasp the meaning of our life as atonement. The whole course of revolt in the thoughts of Ivan Karamazov is a manifestation of extreme rationalism, is a denial of the mystery of human fate, inscrutable within the bounds and limits of the estrangement within this earthly empirical life. To rationally grasp within the limits of earthly life, why an innocent child should be tormented, is impossible. The very positing of such a question — is atheistic and godless. Faith in God and in the Divine world-order is a faith in the deep and hidden meaning of all the sufferings and tribulations, having fallen to the lot of every being in its earthly wanderings. To wipe away the tiny tears of the child and ease its sufferings is a deed of love. Yet the pathos of Ivan is not in love, but in revolt. In him there is a false sentimentality, but not love. He is in revolt, because he does not believe in immortality, because for him all consists in this meaningless empirical life, full of suffering and grief. A typical Russian boy, he has mistaken the negative Western hypotheses for axioms and has put his trust in atheism.
Ivan Karamazov — is a thinker, a metaphysician and psychologist, and he provides a deep philosophic grounding to the troubled experiences of an innumerable number of Russian boys. the Russian nihilists and atheists, socialists and anarchists. At the core of the question of Ivan Karamazov lies a sort of false Russian sensitivity and sentimentality, a false sort of sympathy for mankind, leading to an hatred towards God and the Divine purpose of worldly life. Russians all too readily become nihilistic rebels out of a false moralism. The Russian takes God to task over history because of the tears of the child, returns back the ticket, denies all values and sanctities, he will not tolerate the sufferings, wants not the sacrifices. Yet he however does nothing really, in order to lessen the tears, he adds to the quantity of flowing tears, he makes a revolution, which is all grounded upon uncountable tears and sufferings. Within the nihilistic moralism of Russian man there is no moral forging of character, no moral austerity in the face of the terrors of life, no capacity for sacrifice nor disavowing of the arbitrary. The Russian nihilistic moralist thinks, that he loves man and sympathises for man, moreso than does God, that he will straighten out God’s design for man and the world. An incredible pretentiousness is characteristic of this emotional type of soul. From the history, over which the Russian boys have taken God to task as a result of the tears of the child and the tears of the people, and out of their excited conversations in the taverns was born the ideology of the Russian revolution. At its core lies atheism and a disbelief in immortality. The disbelief in immortality begets a false sensitivity and sense of sympathy. The endless declamations about the sufferings of the people, about the evil of the state and culture, grounded upon these sufferings, issued forth from this God-contending source. The desire itself to ease the suffering of the people was proper, and in it can be discovered the spirit of Christian love. But this also led many into error. They failed to notice the confusions and substitutions, situated at the core of Russian revolutionary morals, with the Anti-Christ temptations set within the revolutionary morals for the Russian intelligentsia. Dostoevsky did take note of this, he revealed the spiritual substrate of the nihilism, preoccupied with the welfare of the people, and he predicted, to what the triumph of this spirit would lead. Dostoevsky understood, that the great question concerning the individual fate of each man is decided completely otherwise in the light of religious awareness, and that in the darkness of the revolutionary consciousness, is a pretension to become a pseudo-religion.
Dostoevsky revealed, that the nature of Russian man is favourable a soil for the Anti-Christ temptations. And this was a genuine revelation, which also made of Dostoevsky a seer and prophet of the Russian revolution. To him was given an inner vision of the spiritual essence of the Russian revolution and Russian revolutionaries. The Russian revolutionaries, the apocalypticists and nihilists by their nature have succumbed to the temptations of the Anti-Christ, who wants to make people happy, and they thus had to lead the people tempted by them to that revolution, which has inflicted a terrible wound upon Russia and has transformed Russian life into a living hell. The Russian revolutionaries wanted a worldwide turnabout, in which would be burnt away all the old world with its evil and darkness with its sanctities and values, and upon the ash-heap would be substituted a new and graceful life for all the people and for all peoples. Upon lesser than worldwide an happiness, the Russian revolutionary could not reconcile himself. His mindset is apocalyptic, he wants the end, he wants the finishing off of history and the inception of a supra-historical process, in which will be realised a realm of equality, freedom and bliss upon earth. And this allows for nothing transitional nor relative, no sort of steps of developement of awareness. Russian revolutionary maximalism is also an unique, and distorted apocalyptics. Its reverse side always manifests itself as nihilism. The nihilistic destroying of all the manifold and relative historical world inevitably spreads also to the absolute spiritual foundations of history. Russian nihilism does not admit of the very source of the historical process, which is lodged within the Divine actuality, it rebels against the Divine world-order, in which history takes shape with its steps, with its unavoidable hierarchical aspect. In Dostoevsky himself there were temptations of Russian maximalism and Russian religious populism. But in him there was also a positive religious power, a power prophetic, helping him to reveal the Russian temptations and unmask them. The “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor”, as related by the Russian atheist Ivan Karamazov, is in its power and depth comparable only with sacred writings, and it reveals the inner dialectics of the Anti-Christ temptations. The fact, that Dostoevsky gave Catholic a guise to the Anti-Christ temptations, is inessential and has to be ascribed to its defects and weaknesses. The spirit of the Grand Inquisitor can appear and can act in various guises and forms, is capable to utmost a degree of re-embodiment. And Dostoevsky distinctly understood, that within revolutionary socialism the spirit of the Grand Inquisitor is active. Revolutionary socialism is not an economic and political teaching, is not a system of social reforms, — it has pretension to be a religion, it is a faith, in opposition to the Christian faith.
The religion of socialism in its following after the Grand Inquisitor consents to all the three temptations, rejected by Christ in the wilderness, rejected in the name of the freedom of the human spirit. The religion of socialism consents to the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptation of the social miracle, the temptation of the kingdom of this world. The religion of socialism is not the religion of the free sons of God, it renounces the birthright of man, it is a religion of the slaves of necessity, of the children of dust. The religion of socialism speaks with the words of the Grand Inquisitor: “All will be rendered happy, all the millions of people”. “We shall compel them to work, but in the hours free from toil we will arrange their life like child’s play, with childish songs, a chorus, with innocent dances. We shall absolve also the sin, for they are weak and lacking in strength”. “We shall give them the happiness of the weak-powered beings, as also they were fashioned”. The religion of socialism says to the religion of Christ: “Thou art proud of Thine select ones, but Thou hast only the select, but we will comfort all… With us all will be happy… We shall convince them, that only then also wilt they become free, when they renounce their freedom”. The religion of socialism, just like the Grand Inquisitor, reproaches the religion of Christ for having insufficient love for people. In the name of love for people and a sympathy for people, in the name of the happiness and bliss of people upon earth, this religion rejects the free, the God-imaged nature of man. The religion of heavenly bread — is an aristocratic religion, — is a religion of the select, the religion of “the tens of thousands of the great and strong”. The religion, though, of “the remaining millions, numerous like the sands of the sea, the weak” — is a religion of earthly bread. This religion has inscribed upon its banners: “feed them, and then ask virtues of them”. Dostoevsky with genius foresaw the spiritual foundations of the socialistic anthill. He religiously perceived, that the socialistic collectivism is a pseudo-sobornost’, a pseudo-communality, a pseudo-church, which conveys with it the death of the human person, such as involves the image and likeness of God in man, and is thus a killing of the freedom of the human spirit. Dostoevsky spoke very powerful and fiery words against the religion of socialism. And he also sensed, that for Russians socialism is a religion, not politics, not a matter of social reforms and upbuilding. That the dialectics of the Grand Inquisitor can be applied to the religion of socialism, and were applied by Dostoevsky himself, is evident from this, that many of the revolutionaries of his tend to repeat the train of the thoughts of the Grand Inquisitor. The same was said also by Peter Verkhovensky, and on the same basis was constructed the Shigalev aspect. These thoughts were there already with the hero of “Notes from the Underground”, when he spoke about “the gentleman with a derisive and retrograde physiognomy”, who would topple over all the coming social felicity, all the well-constructed anthill of the future. And the hero of “Notes from the Underground” sets in opposition to this socialistic anthill rather instead the freedom of the human spirit. Dostoevsky — is a religious foe of socialism, he exposes the religious lie and the religious danger of socialism. He is one of the first to have sensed within socialism the spirit of the Anti-Christ. He understood, that in socialism the spirit of the Anti-Christ seduces man under the guise of good and of love for mankind. And he understood, however, that it is easier for Russian man, than for Western man, to succumb to this temptation, to be seduced by the twofold image of the Anti-Christ as regards the apocalyptic aspect of its nature. The hostility of Dostoevsky towards socialism nowise signifies, that he was an adherent and defender of whatever a “bourgeois” order. He further on uniquely confessed an Orthodox socialism. But the spirit of this Orthodox socialism has nothing in common with the spirit of revolutionary socialism, is the opposite to it in everything. Grounded in the soil and unique as a Slavophil, Dostoevsky saw in the Russian people an antidote against the temptations of the revolutionary and atheistic socialism. He confessed a religious populism. I tend to think, that all this religious-populistic, soil-Slavophil ideology of Dostoevsky was part of his weak, rather than powerful side, and was in contradiction to his foresights of genius as an artist and metaphysician. At present it can straight out be said, that Dostoevsky was mistaken, that in the Russian people there has not proven an antidote against the Anti-Christ temptations in that religion of socialism, which the intelligentsia has imparted to it. The Russian revolution has ultimately shattered all the illusions of a religious populism, as well as of every populism. But the illusions of Dostoevsky himself did not hinder him from revealing the spiritual nature of Russian religious socialism and predicting the consequences, to which it would lead. Within the “Brothers Karamazov” is provided the inner dialectics, the metaphysics of the Russian revolution. In “The Possessed” is provided an image of the realisation of this dialectics.
Dostoevsky revealed the obsessiveness, the element of demonic possession in the Russian revolutionaries. He perceived, that within the revolutionary element what was active was not man himself, that what impelled it was not human spirits. In these days with the revolution having been realised, when one happens to read through “The Possessed” (“Besy”), one then tends to shudder. It is almost incredible, how it could have been possible to have foreseen and predicted all so much. In a smallish city, on outwardly small a scale long since already the Russian revolution was played out and had its spiritual primal-foundations revealed, its spiritual primal-images presented. The Nechaev affair served as a source for the plot in “The Possessed”. Our leftist circles have tended to see in “The Possessed” a caricature, almost a lampoon on the revolutionary movement and revolutionary figures. “The Possessed” was included on an index of [forbidden] books, condemned by the “progressive” mindset. To grasp all the depth and truth in “The Possessed” was possible only in the light of a different mindset, that of a religious consciousness; this depth and this truth tend to elude the positivistic consciousness. If this novel be viewed as realistic, then much in it is inaccurate and does not correspond to the activity of that time. But all the novels of Dostoevsky are inaccurate, they were all written via a depth, which it is impossible to catch sight of at the surface level of actuality, they were all prophetic. And they mistook the prophetic for a lampoon. At present, after the experiencing of the Russian revolution, even the foes of Dostoevsky have to admit, that “The Possessed” — was prophetic a book. Dostoevsky perceived with spiritual a sight, that the Russian revolution would namely be such and could not be otherwise. He foresaw the inevitability of the demonic-possession within the revolution. The Russian nihilism, active within the Russian Khlysty element, could not but be a devil-possession, a frenzied and circular whirling. This frenzied circular whirling is also described in “The Possessed”. There it occurs in a small town. Now it occurs throughout all the vast Russian land. And there has begun this frenzied circular whirling from the same spirit, from these same principles, from which it came into that same small town. Now the purveyors of the Russian revolution have declared to the world a Russian revolutionary messianism, that they will bring to the peoples of the West, dwelling in a “bourgeois” darkness, light from the East. This Russian revolutionary messianism was discerned by Dostoevsky and perceived by him as a negative variant of the positive, as a distorted apocalyptics, as an upside-down and turned around variant of a positive Russian messianism, not actually revolutionary, but the rather religious. All the heroes of “The Possessed” in this or another form preach a Russian revolutionary messianism, all of them are obsessed with this idea. With the vacillating and equivocating Shatov are shiftings about between a Slavophil consciousness and a revolutionary consciousness. And the Russian revolution is full of such Shatovs. All of them, just like the Shatov of Dostoevsky, are deliriously ready to cry out, that the Russian revolutionary people — is a God-bearing people, but in God they do not believe. Certain of them would want to believe in God — and cannot; for the majority however it would suffice, that they believe in a God-bearing revolutionary people. In Shatov as the typical populist there transposes revolutionary elements with reactionary “Black Hundredist” elements. And this is characteristic. Shatov can be both an extreme leftist and an extreme rightist, but both in one and the other instance he remains a lover of the people, a democrat, believing first of all in the people. The Russian revolution is full of such Shatovs; in all of them one cannot figure out, where their extreme leftist and revolutionary aspect ends and where begins their extreme rightist and reactionary aspect. they are always enemies of culture, and always they destroy the freedom of the person. This however they assert, that Russia is higher than civilisation and that no sort of law need be written for it. These people are ready to destroy Russia in the name of Russian messianism. Dostoevsky had a weak spot for Shatov, he sensed within himself the Shatov temptations. But by the power of his artistic foresight he rendered the image of Shatov repulsive and negative.
At the centre of the revolutionary demon-possession stands the image of Peter Verkhovensky. This also is a chief demon of the Russian revolution. Dostoevsky in the image of Peter Verkhovensky uncovers a still deeper level of revolutionary devil-possession, actually veiled over and invisible. Peter Verkhovensky could have had more noble a look. But Dostoevsky tore away from him the veils and laid bare his soul. And thereupon the image of revolutionary devil-possession was presented in all its ugliness. He is all atremble in shuddering from demonic possession, which draws all into a frenzy of circular whirling. He is everywhere at the centre, behind all and everything. He — is a devil, pushing everything and with his hand in everything. But he is also himself devil-possessed. Peter Verkhovensky is first of all a man totally empty, in him there is no sort of content. The demons ultimately have taken hold in him and have rendered him their obedient tool. He ceases to be in the image and likeness of God, in him is lost already the human visage. His obsession with a false idea has made of Peter Verkhovensky a moral idiot. He has become obsessed with the idea of a worldwide restructuring, of a worldwide revolution, he has fallen for a tempting lie, has allowed the demons to take hold his soul and has lost the elementary distinction between good and evil, has become bereft of spiritual a centre. In the figure of Peter Verkhovensky we meet with a person already disintegrated, in which it is no longer possible to discern anything ontological. He is all lie and deception, and he leads all into deception, wrought into a realm of falsehood. Evil is a lying fraudulence of being, pseudo-being, non-being. Dostoevsky showed, how a false idea, seizing hold the entire man and driving him into demonic-possession, leads to non being, to the disintegration of person. Dostoevsky was a great master in exposing the ontological consequences of false ideas, when they have taken complete hold upon a man. What sort of an idea is it that has completely taken hold of Peter Verkhovensky and brought him to the disintegration of person, transforming him into a liar and sower of lies? This is all the selfsame basic idea of Russian nihilism, of Russian socialism, of Russian maximalism, all the selfsame infernal passion for a worldwide leveling, all the selfsame revolt against God in the name of a worldwide love for people, all the selfsame replacement of the Kingdom of Christ by the kingdom of the Anti-Christ. There are many suchlike demoniac Verkhovenskys in the Russian revolution, they everywhere attempt to pull things into the demonic whirling motion, they feed the Russian people on lies and drag it toward non-being. Not always do these Verkhovenskys get recognised, not everyone has the ability to see at depth, behind the veilings. The Khlestakov revolutions are more easy to distinguish, than the Verkhovensky ones, but these too not everyone does distinguish, amidst the throngs exalting and crowning them with glory.
Dostoevsky foresaw, that the revolution in Russia would be joyless, frightening and gloomy a thing, that there would be in it no rebirth for the people. He knew, that Fedka the convict would play no small role within it and that the Shigalevschina, the Shigalev aspect, would win out in it. Peter Verkhovensky has long since already revealed the value of Fedka the convict for the doings of the Russian revolution. And the whole triumphant ideology of the Russian revolution is the ideology of the Shigalevschina. It gets frightful our days to reread the words of Verkhovensky: “Our teaching in essence is a negation of honour, and the revelation of his right to be dishonourable is the easiest of all ways to win over a Russian man”. And the reply of Stavrogin: “The right to be dishonourable — yes, this will have everyone come running to us, none will hold back!” And the Russian revolution has proclaimed “the right to be dishonourable”, and all everyone has gone running after it. And here no less important are the words: “Socialism among us is spread primarily by means of sentimentality”. Dishonour and sentimentality — are the fundamental principles of Russian socialism. These principles, discerned by Dostoevsky, are also triumphant in the revolution. Peter Verkhovensky saw, what sort of role in the revolution would be played by “pure swindlers”. “Well, perhaps, this is a fine bunch of people, at times very profitable, but on them much time gets wasted, and demands a vigilant eye”. And further on P. Verkhovensky ponders on the factours of the Russian revolution: “The chiefmost force — the cement, binding it all together, is shame at having an opinion of one’s own. How powerful this is! And this is with one who has worked, this is one who is the “dear chap” so given to toil away, that he has not a single idea of his own in his head! Aught else they would consider shameful”. This was a very profound and penetrating insight into revolutionary Russia. In Russian revolutionary thought there was always “a shame at having one’s own opinion”. This shame among us was imputed to the collective consciousness, a consciousness regarded higher, than the personal. In the Russian revolution there has been ultimately extinguished every individual attempt at thinking, the thinking was rendered completely impersonal, relegated to the masses. Read the revolutionary newspapers, listen to the revolutionary speeches, and you will receive a confirmation of the words of Peter Verkhovensky. Regarding someone who has so toiled away over it, that “not a single idea remains in their head”. Russian revolutionary messianism leaves it to the bourgeois West to have one’s own ideas and opinions. In Russia all has to be collective, of the masses, impersonal. Russian revolutionary messianism, is Shigalevschina. The Shigalev aspect impels and directs the Russian revolution.
“Shigalev looked, as though he expected the destruction of the world, and not at some indefinite when according to prophecies, but quite definitely, say the morning after tomorrow, at exactly ten twenty-five”. All the Russian revolutionary Marxists tend to look, as Shigalev looked, all await the destruction of the old world the day after tomorrow, in the morning. And that new world, which will arise upon the ruins of the old world, is a world of Shigalevschina. “Starting from unlimited freedom, — says Shigalev, — I conclude with a limited despotism. I adduce, moreover, that except for my decisive societal formula, there can be no other”. All the revolutionary Shigalevs speak thus and act thus. Peter Verkhovensky formulates the essence of the Shigalevschina to Stavrogin: “To level the mountains — is a fine thought, not ludicrous. Education is not the needed thing, enough of science! Even without science there is enough material for a thousand years, but the needed thing is to build obedience… The thirst for learning is already an aristocratic thirst. Just a bit of having a family or love, and here already is a wishing of private property. We will kill off that desire; we will allow drunkenness, slander, denunciation; we will permit unheard of depravity; we will extinguish all genius in its infancy. All to a single denominator, total equality… Only necessary is the necessary — herein is the catchword of the earthly globe henceforth. But necessary is a knuckling under; about this we shall concern ourselves, as rulers. With slaves there have to be rulers. Total obedience, total lack of person, but once in thirty years Shigalev allows also for a convulsion, and all suddenly will begin to devour each other, up to a certain point, naturally, so that things not become boring. Boredom is an aristocratic sensation”. With these stunning and prophetically forceful words Dostoevsky through the lips of P. Verkhovensky reduces it all down to the course of thought of the Grand Inquisitor. This demonstrates, that in “The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” Dostoevsky to a remarkable degree had socialism in view. Dostoevsky uncovers all the phantasmic aspect of democracy within the revolution. No sort of a democracy exists, there rules instead a tyrannical minority. But this tyranny, unprecedented in the history of the world, will be based upon an overall compulsory leveling. Shigalevschina is also a frenzied passion for equality, pushed to its end, to its limit, to non-being. Unchecked social dreaming leads to a destruction of being with all its riches, in its fanatics it degenerates into evil. Social dreaminess is nowise innocent a thing. Dostoevsky understood this. The Russian revolutionary socialistic dreaming is also Shigalevschina. In the name of equality, this dreaming would seek to destroy God and God’s world. In this tyranny and this absolute leveling, which will be the crowning point of “the developing and deepening” of the Russian revolution, will be realised the golden dreams and visions of the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia. These were dreams and visions about a Shigalevschina realm, much prettier to imagine, than has proven in actuality. Many naive and simple of soul Russian socialists, in dreaming about a social revolution, tend to get befuddled by the triumphant shouts: “Each belongs to all, and all to each. All are slaves and equal in slavery… The first step is a lowering of the level of education, of science and talents. The high level of science and talents is permitted only to the higher in aptitude, and unnecessary are the higher in aptitude!” Dostoevsky was more perspicacious, than were the acknowledged teachers of the Russian intelligentsia, he knew, that the Russian revolutionism, the Russian socialism in the hour of its triumph would have to end with these Shigalev outbursts.
Dostoevsky foresaw not only the triumph of the Shigalev aspect, but also of the Smerdyakovschina, the Smerdyakov aspect. He knew, that there would arise in Russia the lackey who in the hour of great danger for our native land would say: “I detest all of Russia”, “I not only have no wish to be a military hussar, but I wish, on the contrary, the abolition of all the soldiery”. To the question: “And when the hostiles arrive, who will defend us?”, the revolting lackey replied: “In 1812 there was the great invasion of Russia by the French emperor Napoleon I, and a good thing if then these same French had subdued us: an intelligent nation would have subdued an extremely stupid one and annexed it to itself. There would even have been an altogether different order of things”. Defeatism during wartime is also a manifestation of Smerdyakovschina. The Smerdyakov effect has led also to this, that the “intelligent nation” of the Germans is subduing the now “stupid” nation of the Russians. The lackey Smerdyakov among us was one of the first internationalists, and all our internationalism has received a Smerdyakov engrafting. Smerdyakov declared a right to be dishonourable, and behind him have flocked many. How profound of Dostoevsky this was, that Smerdyakov should be the other half of Ivan Karamazov, his reverse image. Ivan Karamazov and Smerdyakov — are two manifestations of Russian nihilism, two sides of one and the same essence. Ivan Karamazov — is the lofty, philosophic aspect of the nihilism; Smerdyakov — is the lowly, its lackey aspect. Ivan Karamazov at the summits of intellectual life had to go and beget Smerdyakov at the base levels of life. Smerdyakov also brings to realisation all the atheistic dialectics of Ivan Karamazov. Smerdyakov — reflects the inner core of Ivan. In all the masses of mankind, the masses of the people, there are more Smerdyakovs, than Ivans. There triumphs in the revolution the atheistic dialectics of Ivan Karamazov, but Smerdyakov brings it to realisation. This he did through a practical conclusion, that “all is permissible”. Ivan sins in his thought, in spirit, Smerdyakov accomplishes it in deed, he embodies the idea of Ivan. Ivan commits parricide in his thoughts. Smerdyakov commits the parricide physically, in actual fact. An atheistic revolution always commits parricide, always denies the fatherly bond, always breaks the connection of son with father. And it justifies this transgression on the basis, that the father was very bad and sinful. Such a murderous attitude towards a father is always Smerdyakovschina. The Smerdyakov aspect is always a final manifestation of boorishness. Having committed in fact, that which Ivan committed in thought, Smerdyakov asks Ivan: “You yourself all the time then said, that everything is permissible, so why are you now so anxious?” This question by Smerdyakov to Ivan gets repeated in the Russian revolution. The Smerdyakovs of the revolution, having realised in deed the principle of Ivan that “all is permissible”, have the basis to ask the Ivans of the revolution: “Now why are you so anxious?” Dostoevsky foresaw, that Smerdyakov bears an hatred towards Ivan, while educated in his atheism and nihilism. And this is playing itself out in our own day between the “people” and the “intelligentsia”. The whole tragedy between Ivan and Smerdyakov was unique as a symbol in revealing the tragedy of the Russian revolution. The problem over the issue, whether everything be permissible for the triumph of the good of mankind, stood already before Raskol’nikov. The elder, starets Zosima, says: “Truly they have more of a dreamy fantasy about them, than do we. They think justice will be set up, but having spurned Christ, it will end with this, that the world will be drenched in blood, for blood calls for blood, and he that taketh up the sword doth perish by the sword. And were it not for the promise of Christ, they would then destroy each other even right down to the last two men on earth”. These words — are prophetic.
“People will join together, in order to take from life all, that it can give, but assuredly for the joy and happiness of this one only present world. Man will exalt himself in a spirit of a would-be godly and titanic pride and there will appear the man-god… Everyone will recognise, that he is entirely mortal, without resurrection, and he will accept death proudly and calmly, like a god. From pride he will understand, that it does him no good to complain over this, that life is but a moment, and he will love his brother without need of any reward. Love will suffice only for the moment of life, but already the consciousness alone of its momentary aspect will stoke up the fire of it such, as before previously it was spread on hopes beyond the grave and endless”. It is the devil speaking these words to Ivan, and in these words is revealed Dostoevsky’s tormented thought, that love for people can be godless and of the Anti-Christ. This love lies at the basis of revolutionary socialism. An image of this godless socialism, grounded upon the Anti-Christ type of love, is put forth by Versilov [“Podrostok”]: “I imagined for myself, that the fighting will have ended and the struggling wound down. After the cursings, the mud-slinging and jeers that will have settled in a calm, and people will have been left alone, like they wanted: the great former idea has forsaken them; the great source of strength, up til then having nourished and warmed them, has departed, but this was already as though the final day of mankind. And people suddenly will have realised, that they have been left altogether alone, and at once they will feel a great sense of being left orphaned… The people thus orphaned will at once nestle closer and more fondly together; they will as it were grasp hands, understanding, that now they alone only comprise all each for another! There will have vanished the great idea of immortality, having to be replaced… They will have become fond of the earth and life unrestrainedly and in that measure, in which gradually they will have become aware of their own temporary and finite aspect, and already with an especial, already not with the former love… They will awaken and hasten to kiss greeting each other, in haste to love, conscious, that the days are short, that this — is all, that remains for them. They would work each for the other, and each would bestow his goods to all and by this alone be made happy”. In this fantasy is revealed the metaphysics and psychology of a godless socialism. Dostoevsky depicts the manifestation of the Anti-Christ love. He understood, better than anyone, that the spiritual basis of socialism — is a denial of immortality, that the pathos of socialism — is the desire to set up the kingdom of God upon earth without God, to bring about love between people without Christ — the source of love. And he thus reveals the religious lie of humanism in its limited forms. Humanistic socialism leads to a destroying of man in the image and likeness of God. It is directed against the freedom of the human spirit, does not tolerate the testing of freedom. Dostoevsky with an as yet unprecedented acuteness posited the religious question concerning man and posited alongside it the question concerning socialism, as regards the earthly unification and arrangement of people. He discerned this as an encounter and a confusing of Christ and the Anti-Christ within the soul of Russian man, of the Russian people. The apocalyptic aspect of the Russian people also renders this encounter and this confusion particularly acrid and tragic. Dostoevsky had presentiment, that were a revolution to happen in Russia, it would then occur via the Anti-Christ dialectic. Russian socialism would prove apocalyptic, and contrary to Christianity. Dostoevsky foresaw it farther and more profoundly than anyone. But he himself was not free from the Russian populist illusions. In his Russian Christianity there were sides, which provided a basis for K. Leont’ev to term his Christianity as rosy. This rosy Christianity and rosy populism was most of all bespoken in the images of Zosima and Alyosha, images impossible to be termed as fully successful. The great positive revelations of Dostoevsky obtain by negative a path, by way of negative an artistic dialectic. The truth, expressed by him concerning Russia, is not the sweet and rosy truth of a love and worship of the people, this — is instead a tragic truth, a truth concerning the Anti-Christ seductions of an apocalyptic people in its spirit. Dostoevsky himself was tempted by a churchly nationalism, which impeded the Russian people from emerging out onto the world stage. Dostoevsky’s worship of the people suffered its crash within the Russian revolution. His positive prophecies did not transpire. But there do transpire his prophetic foresights of the Russian temptations.
III. L. TOLSTOY WITHIN THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
In Tolstoy there was nothing prophetic, he had presentiment of nothing and he predicted nothing. As an artist, he was oriented towards a crystalised past. Within him there was not that delicacy of perception for the dynamism of human nature, which to a supreme degree Dostoevsky had. In the Russian revolution there triumph not the literary insights of Tolstoy, but rather his moral values. L. Tolstoy, as a seeker after the truth of life, as a moralist and religious teacher, is very characteristic of Russia and of Russians. The Tolstoyans, in the narrow sense of the word, following the doctrine of Tolstoy, are few, and they represent insignificant a phenomenon. But Tolstoyism in a broader, non doctrinal sense of the word, are very characteristic of Russian man, and determinative of Russian moral valuations. Tolstoy was not a direct teacher of the Russian leftist intelligentsia, his religious teaching was foreign to it. But Tolstoy reflected and expressed a peculiarity of the moral habits of a large part of the Russian intelligentsia, perhaps too, even of Russian man in general. Yet the Russian revolution tends to manifest its own unique triumph of Tolstoyism. Imprinted upon it is both a Tolstoy Russian moralism, and Russian amorality. This Russian moralism and Russian amorality are interconnected and are two sides of one and the same impairment of the moral consciousness. This impairment of the Russian moral consciousness I view first of all as a denial of personal moral responsibility and personal moral discipline, in a weak developement of the sense of duty and the sense of honour, in the absence of awareness of the moral value of the selection of personal qualities. Russian man does not sense himself to a sufficient degree morally involvable, and he little esteems the qualitative aspect of person. This finds its expression, in that the person senses himself submerged within the collective, the person remains as yet insufficiently developed and conscious. Such a condition of moral consciousness gives rise to a whole series of pretensions, in the orientation towards fate, towards history, the rule of authority, cultural values, unadmissible for the given person. The moral outlook of Russian man is characterised not by an healthy involvement, but rather by sick pretension. Russian man fails to sense an inseparable connection between rights and obligations, obscured for him is both the consciousness of rights, and the consciousness of obligations, he flounders within an irresponsible collectivism, in the pretension for all. For Russian man the most difficult thing of all is to sense, that he himself — is the blacksmith forging his own fate. He has no love for qualities, uplifting the life of the person, and does not love power. Every sort of power, uplifting of life, represents for Russian man something morally suspicious, moreso evil, than good. With these peculiarities of the moral consciousness is connected also, that Russian man views the values of culture as morally suspicious. Towards the entirety of higher culture he puts forth a whole series of moral pretensions and fails to sense a moral obligation to create culture. All these peculiarities and impediments of the Russian moral consciousness present a favourable ground for the arising of the teachings of Tolstoy.
Tolstoy — was an individualist, and very extreme an individualist. He was quite anti-societal, and for him societal problems do not exist. Tolstoy’s morality is also individualistic. But from this it would be a mistake to conclude, that Tolstoy’s morals rest upon a clear and firm consciousness of the person. Tolstoy’s individualism is decisively hostile to the concept of the person, just as always transpires with individualism. Tolstoy fails to see the human countenance, knows not its visage, he is all submerged within the natural collectivism, which presents itself to him as life divine. The life of the person does not seem to him to be the true and divine life, this — is the false life of this world. A true and divine life is a life impersonal, general life, in which have vanished all qualitative distinctions, all hierarchical scales. The moral consciousness of Tolstoy demands, that there should be nothing greater than man as an autonomous and qualitative being, and there should be only an all-common unqualitative divinity, equalising all and everything in the impersonal divinity. Only the total annihilating of every personal and diversely-qualitative being into an impersonal unqualitative all-commonness represents for Tolstoy a fulfilling of the law of the Master of life. The person, the qualitative is already sin and evil. And Tolstoy ultimately would want to destroy all, everything that is connected with the person and the qualitative. In him this was an Eastern and Buddhist sort of outlook, hostile to that of the Christian West. Tolstoy renders himself a nihilist out of moral zeal. His moralism is truly demonic and is destructive of all the richness of being. The egalitarian and nihilistic passion in Tolstoy impels him to the destruction of all the spiritual realities, of everything authentically ontological. The unrestrained moral pretentiousness of Tolstoy renders everything illusory, it casts under suspicion and subverts the reality of history, the reality of church, the reality of state, the reality of nationality, the reality of the person and the reality of all supra-personal values, the reality of all of spiritual life. Everything seems to Tolstoy as morally reprehensible and impermissible, everything based upon sacrifices and sufferings, towards which he exhibits a purely animal-like fear. I know of no other genius within world history, to whom was so foreign the totality of spiritual life. He is totally immersed in the corporeal — the emotive, animate life. And the whole religion of Tolstoy is a demand for suchlike an all-common mild beastliness, free from suffering and of contentment. I know of no one in the Christian world, to whom was so foreign the very idea of redemption, so uncomprehending of the mystery of Golgotha, as was Tolstoy. In the name of happy animal-like a life he repudiated the person and repudiated every supra-personal value. Truly however, the person and supra-personal value are inseparably connected. The person only therefore also exists, because that in it is the supra-personal content of value, in that it belongs to hierarchical a world, in which exist distinctions and a scale of the qualitative. The nature of the person cannot put up with a jumbled confusion and unqualitative leveling. And the love for people in Christ is least of all a matter of suchlike a jumbled confusion and unqualitative leveling, it is infinitely deeper an affirmation of every human countenance in God. Tolstoy failed to know this, and his morality was of a lower sort morality, the pretentious morality of a nihilist. Nietzsche stands infinitely higher, has more spiritual a morality than Tolstoy. The alleged loftiness of Tolstoy’s morality is a great misconception, which has to be exposed. Tolstoy in Russia hindered the engendering and developing of the morally responsible person, he impeded the selection of personal qualities, and therefore he proved an evil genius for Russia, a seducer of it. In him occurred a fatal encounter of Russian moralism with Russian nihilism and there obtained a religio-moral justification of Russian nihilism, which seduced many. In him the Russian populism, so fateful for the destiny of Russia, received a religious expression and moral justification. Almost all the Russian intelligentsia have admitted Tolstoy’s moral values as very lofty, to the far extent of which a man might ascend. They have further reckoned these moral values as even too lofty and therefore they reckoned themself unworthy of them and incapable to ascend to their lofty height. There are but few who call into doubt the loftiness of Tolstoy’s moral consciousness. And simultaneously with the acceptance of this Tolstoy moral consciousness, it leads by it to pogroms and the destruction of the greatest sanctities and values, of the greatest spiritual realities, the death of the person and the death of God, inverted and converted into an impersonal deity of the average sort. There has with us not yet been scrutinised with sufficient seriousness and depth the tempting falsity of Tolstoyan morals. The antidote against it would have to be the prophetic insights of Dostoevsky. The Tolstoyan morals have emerged triumphant within the Russian revolution, but not by those idyllic and love-abundant paths, proposed by Tolstoy himself. And Tolstoy himself, actually, would have been horrified by this embodiment of his moral values. But he was desirous of much, too much of that, which is happening now. He conjured up those spirits, which rule the revolution, and was himself obsessed by them.
Tolstoy was a maximalist. He repudiated every historical precedent, he did not want to allow for any sort of stages within historical developement. This Tolstoyan maximalism exists within the Russian revolution — it is impelled by the destructive morals of maximalism, it breathes hatred towards everything historical, and in a spirit of Tolstoyan maximalism the Russian revolution has wanted as though to rip each man out of the world historical wholeness, to which he organically belongs, to transform him into an atom, so as to plunge him abruptly into the impersonal collective. Tolstoy repudiated history and historical tasks, he renounced the great historical past and did not want a great historical future. The Russian revolution has been faithful to him in this, it represents a cutting off from the historical legacies of the past and the historical tasks of the future, seemingly intent, that the Russian people not live historical a life. And just the same as with Tolstoy, in the Russian revolution this maximalist repudiation of the historical world is begotten of a frenzied egalitarian passion. Let there be an absolute leveling, even if it be a leveling right down to nothingness! The historical world — is hierarchical, in it — are distinctions and distances, in it — are qualitative variances and differentiation. All this is so odious for the Russian revolution, just as it was for Tolstoy. It has wanted as though to create a world dull and grey, all-alike, simplified, bereft of all qualities and all beauties. And Tolstoy taught this as an higher truth. The historical world is disintegrating into its atoms, and the atoms compulsively unite into an impersonal collective. “Without annexations and indemnities” is also an abstract negative of all positive historical tasks. Yet truly indeed all historical tasks presuppose “annexations and indemnities”, they presuppose the struggle of concrete historical individualities, they presuppose the composing and dissolution of historical entities, the flourishing and decay of historical bodies.
Tolstoy managed to engraft into the Russian revolution an hatred towards everything historically individual and historically manifold. He was an expression of that side of the Russian nature, which sustained an abhorrence towards historical power and historical glory. In an elementary and simplistic manner regarding this, he was accustomed to moralise about history and to transpose upon historical life the moral categories of individual life. By this he morally subverted the possibility for the Russian people to live historical a life, to fulfill its historical destiny and historical mission. He morally prepared the historical suicide of the Russian people. He clipped the wings of the Russian people as regards being historical a people, he morally poisoned the wellsprings of every impulse towards historical creativity. The world war played itself out lost for Russia, because in it took hold the Tolstoyan moral attitude towards war. Tolstoy’s morals disarmed Russia and betrayed it into the hands of the enemy. And this Tolstoyan non-resistance, this Tolstoyan passivity enchants and attracts those, who sing hymns to the accomplishing by revolution of the historical suicide of the Russian people. Tolstoy was also an expresser of the non resisting and passive side in the character of the Russian people. The Tolstoyan morals has debilitated the Russian people, deprived it of valour within a severe historical conflict, but also has left it remaining with an untransfigured animal-like nature of man with merely the most elemental of instincts. It has killed in the Russian brood the instinct for power and glory, but has left remaining the instinct for egoism, envy and malice. This morality is powerless to transform human nature, but it can weaken human nature, bring it into decline, sap it of the creative instincts.
Tolstoy was an extreme anarchist, an enemy of anything to do with the state on moral-idealist grounds. He repudiated the state, as based upon sacrifices and sufferings, and he saw in it a source of evil, which for him led to coercive force. The Tolstoyan anarchism, the Tolstoyan hostility towards the state likewise has prevailed among the Russian people. Tolstoy proved an expresser of the anti-state, anarchistic instincts of the Russian people. He provided those instincts with a moral-religious sanction. And he is one of the culprits in the destruction of the Russian state. Tolstoy likewise was hostile to all culture. Culture for him was based upon untruth and violence, in it the source of all evils in our life. Man by his nature is essentially good and decent and is inclined to live according to the law of the Master of life. The arising of culture, just like the state, was a downfall, a falling away from the natural divine order, and hence a start of evil, of violence. Totally foreign to Tolstoy was a sense of Original Sin, of radical evil for human nature, and therefore he felt unneeded was a religion of redemption, and he did not understand it. He was lacking in a sense of evil, since he was also lacking in a sense of freedom and the autonomy of human nature, he lacked a sense of the significance of the person. He was immersed in an impersonal and non-human nature and within it he sought for the sources of Divine truth. And in this Tolstoy proved to be a wellspring source for all the philosophy of the Russian revolution. The Russian revolution is hostile to culture, it seeks to revert the life of the people back to a natural condition, in which it sees an unmediated truth and bliss. The Russian revolution seeks as it were to destroy the whole of our cultural segment, to drown it within the natural darkness of the people. And Tolstoy is one of the culprits in the destruction of Russian culture. He has morally subverted the possibility for cultural creativity, has poisoned the wellsprings of creativity. He poisoned Russian man by a moral reflection, which has rendered him powerless and incapable for historical and cultural activity. Tolstoy — is a genuine poisoner of the wellsprings of life. The Tolstoyan moral reflection is a genuine poison, toxic, destructive to every creative energy, and undermining as regards life. This moral reflection has nothing in common with the Christian sense of sin and the Christian demand for repentance. For Tolstoy there is neither sin, nor repentance, for the regenerating of human nature. For him there is only a debilitating and graceless reflection, which is an obverse side of the revolt against the Divine world-order. Tolstoy idealised the common people, saw therein the source of truth and he deified physical toil, in which he sought salvation from the meaninglessness of life. But in him there was a disdainful and contemptuous attitude towards all spiritual toil and creativity. All the acrid Tolstoyan criticism was always directed against the cultural segment. These Tolstoyan values likewise have won out in the Russian revolution, which extols to the heights the representatives of physical toil and disdains representatives of spiritual a toiling. The Tolstoyan populism, Tolstoy’s denial of a division of labour is posited as a basis of the moral judgements of the revolution, if one can speak about its moral judgements. Tolstoy has indeed no less a significance for the Russian revolution, than Rousseau had for the French revolution. True, the violence and bloodshed would have horrified Tolstoy, he presented the realisation of his ideas by other paths. But Rousseau also indeed would have been horrified by the doings of Robespierre and the revolutionary terror. But Rousseau nevertheless bears responsibility for the French revolution, as does Tolstoy for the Russian revolution. I even tend to think, that the teachings of Tolstoy were more destructive, than were the teachings of Rousseau. Tolstoy did this by rendering morally impossible the existence of Great Russia. He caused much in the destroying of Russia. But in this suicidal deed he was a Russian, in him was expressed fatal and woesome Russian features. Tolstoy was one of the Russian seductions.
Tolstoyanism in the broad sense of the word — is an inward Russian danger, assuming the guise of a lofty good. Only but inwardly destructive of Russian strength can be this seductive and false good, a pseudo-good, this idea of a graceless sanctity, a pseudo-holiness. The tempting aspect in the Tolstoyan teaching is a radical impulse for perfection, for a perfect fulfilling of the law of the good. But this Tolstoyan perfection is so thus destructive, so nihilistic, so hostile to all values, so incompatible with whatever the creativity, because this perfection — is graceless. In the sanctity, to which Tolstoy aspired, there was a terrible gracelessness, a God-forsakenness, and therefore this — is a false, an evil holiness. A grace-endowed sanctity cannot commit such acts of destruction, cannot be nihilistic. In genuine saints there was a blessed aspect of life, there was mercy. This blessed aspect of life and this mercy were there first of all in Christ. In the spirit of Tolstoy, however, there was nothing of the spirit of Christ. Tolstoy demands an instantaneous and total realisation of the absolute, of the absolute good in this earthly life, subject as it is to the laws of sinful nature, and it fails to take into account the relative, is destructive of everything relative. He thus sought to tear away every human being from the world totality and plunge it into the void, into the nothingness of a negative absolute. And absolute life is rendered into but an elementary beast-like life, transpiring in physical toil and the satisfying of the most simple needs. In such a negative absolute, desolate and nihilistic, the Russian revolution also seeks to plunge all Russia and all the Russian people. The ideal of a graceless perfection leads to nihilism. The denial of the rights of the relative, i.e. of all the manifold aspects of life, of all the steps of history, causes in the final end a separation from the sources of absolute life, from the absolute spirit. As a religious genius, the Apostle Paul once perceived the whole danger of allowing Christianity to become transformed into an apocalyptic Jewish sect and he instead led Christianity into the currents of world history, having acknowledged and religiously sanctioned the right of relative steps. Tolstoy first of all was in revolt against the work of the Apostle Paul. All the falsity and phantasmic aspect of Tolstoyanism tended with an inevitable dialectic to unfold within the Russian revolution. In the revolution, the people is living out its seduction, its errors, its false values. This is much instructive, but this instruction is bought at too dear a price. It is necessary to get free from Tolstoy as moral an instructor. The overcoming of Tolstoyism as such represents a recovery of spiritual health for Russia, its return from death to life, to the possibility of creativity, the possibility of fulfilling its mission in the world.
Russian man is inclined to experience everything transcendentally, and not immanently. And this can easily become slave-like a condition of spirit. But in any event, this — is an indicator of insufficient spiritual courage. The Russian intelligentsia in its enormous masses never conceived for itself as immanent — the state, the church, the fatherland, the higher spiritual life. All these values seemed to it transcendentally remote and evoked in it hostile a feeling, as something foreign and threatening. The Russian intelligentsia never experienced history and historical destiny as immanent to itself, as its own particular affair and therefore it led the process against history as against an act of violence being committed upon it. The transcendent experiences in the masses of the people was accompanied by a feeling of religious blessing and submissiveness. And thereupon was possible the existence of Great Russia. But this transcendent experiencing has not passed over into an immanent experiencing of sanctity and value. All has remained transcendent, but it evokes towards itself no longer a reverent and submissive attitude, rather instead an attitude nihilistic and rebellious. The revolution is also a debilitatingly catastrophic transition from a reverent veneration of the transcendent, over to a nihilistic revolt against the transcendent. An immanent spiritual maturity and liberation via the revolution is not attained. Too many have tended to see in the immanent morals and the immanent religion of L. Tolstoy the onset of a spiritual maturity. But this has been a terrible error. In actuality, the immanent mindset of Tolstoy was a nihilistic negation of all those sanctities and values, which earlier had been venerated as transcendent. But this is merely a return to the initial slavery. Suchlike a revolt is always a slave’s revolt, in it is no freedom nor sonship to God. Russian nihilism is also an incapacity immanently and freely to experience all the riches and values of God’s world, an inability to sense oneself in a filial relationship to God and possessing all the legacy of world history and of kindred history. The Russian apocalyptic aspect frequently involves the fervent expectation of a miracle, which somehow should halt life of this alienation from all the riches and surmount the debilitating transcendent rift. Whereof the creative immanent developement becomes so difficult for Russians, since their sense of historical succession is so weak. There is a sort of inner sickness to the Russian soul. This sickness has terrible negative consequences, but in it is revealed also something positive, inaccessible to Western peoples of more immanent a tendency. To Russian great writers were revealed abysses and limits, the likes of which remain hidden for Western people, moreso restricted and restrained by their immanent emotive discipline of soul. The Russian soul is more delicately sensitive to mystical wisps, it meets up with spirits, which stay hidden from the staid Western soul. And the Russian soul succumbs to temptations, readily falls into confusion and gets taken in by substitutes. It is no accident that the forebodings of the Anti-Christ — is a Russian foreboding chiefly. A feel of the Anti-Christ and the terror over the Anti-Christ has been there in the Russian people, down at the bottom and with Russian writers, at the very summit of spiritual life. And the spirit of the Anti-Christ has tempted Russians such, as never it has tended to tempt Western peoples. In Catholicism there has always been a strong sensing of evil, of the devil, but almost no sensing of the Anti-Christ. The Catholic soul has tended to represent a sort of fortification, defending against the Anti-Christ waftings and seductions. Orthodoxy has not transformed its soul into such a sort of fortification, it has left it more openly vulnerable. But the apocalyptic aspect is experienced by the Russian soul passively, and not actively. Active weapons for struggle against the spirits of the Anti-Christ there are not, these weapons have not been made ready. There has been no armour, no shield and sword, no knight’s forging of the soul. The Russian struggle against the Anti-Christ is always a withdrawal, an experience of terror. And too many, not having withdrawn from the seductions, have instead succumbed to the seductions, have gotten mixed up, have been taken in by the substitute. Russian man is situated in the grip of a false morals, a false ideal of the righteous, perfect and holy life, which has weakened him in the struggle with temptations. Dostoevsky revealed this false morality and false sanctity and predicted their consequences. Tolstoy however preached them.
Russian revolutionary morals represents quite unique a phenomenon. It was formed and crystalised among the leftist Russian intelligentsia over the course of a series of decades and happened to gain prestige and allure among broad circles of Russian society. The average man of the Russian intelligentsia was accustomed to bow before the moral image of the revolutionaries and their revolutionary morals. He was ready to admit himself unworthy of the moral heights of this revolutionary type. In Russia there took form a special cult of revolutionary sanctity. This cult has its saints, its sacred tradition, its dogmas. And for a long time every doubting of this sacred tradition, every criticism of these dogmas, every non-reverential attitude towards these saints led to an excommunication, as exclusion not only on the part of the revolutionary societal opinion, but also from the side of the radical and liberal societal opinion. Dostoevsky fell victim to this ostracisation, since he first saw into the lie and substitution in revolutionary sanctity. He perceived, that revolutionary moralism has as its reverse side a revolutionary amoralism and that the seeming semblance of revolutionary sanctity with that of the Christian is a deceptive resemblance of the Anti-Christ to Christ. The moral degeneracy, with which the 1905 revolution ended, inflicted somewhat a blow to the prestige of revolutionary morals, and the halo of revolutionary sanctity became tarnished. But the actual healing, on which some had hoped, did not occur. The sickness of the Russian moral consciousness was too prolonged and serious. The healing can ensue only after the terrible crisis, when the whole organism of the Russian people will come close to death. We live during days of this almost mortal crisis. Now even for people half-blind much is more apparent, than after 1905. Now “Vekhi” would not be met with in so hostile a manner in the broad circles of the Russian intelligentsia, as happened in the time, when it appeared. Now even those begin to admit the truth of “Vekhi”, those who formerly reviled it. After the demonic coursing of the revolution, the sanctity of the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia does not come off so canonically indisputable. The spiritual recovery of Russia mustneeds be sought in an inward exposing of this revolutionary pseudo-sanctity and getting free of its bewitchment. Revolutionary sanctity is not a genuine sanctity, this — is a fraudulent sanctity, a deceptive semblance of sanctity, a mere substitute. The outward persecutions, instigated by the old powers against the revolutionaries, the outward sufferings, which they happened to undergo, much enabled this deceptive and seeming appearance of sanctity. But in the revolutionary sanctity there has never occurred a true transformation of human nature, a second spiritual rebirth, a victory over inward evil and sin; never within it have been set tasks of the transformation of human nature. Human nature has remained the same old thing, it has dwelt in slavery to sin and wicked passions and has sought to attain to a new and higher life purely by external and material means. But a man, deluded with a false idea, is capable of enduring outward deprivations, want and sufferings, he can be ascetic in this not because, that by the power of his spirit he overcomes his sinful and servile nature, but rather because, that obsessed with a single idea and a single purpose it crowds out for him all the richness and multiplicity of existence and renders him impoverished in nature. This — is a graceless asceticism and a graceless poverty, a nihilistic asceticism and a nihilistic poverty. The traditional revolutionary sanctity — is a godless sanctity. It is a godless pretension to attain sanctity via the human alone and in the name of the human alone. Upon this path becomes crippled and stumbles the image of man, since the image of man — is the image and likeness of God. The revolutionary morality, the revolutionary sanctity — is profoundly the opposite of Christianity. This morality and this sanctity make pretense to substitute in for and to replace Christianity, a Christianity having its faith in the filial sonship of man to God and in graced gifts, gotten for man through Christ the Redeemer. Revolutionary morality is hostile to Christianity the same, just like the Tolstoyan morality, — one and the same lie and switching poisons and saps the strength in both. The deceptive externals of the revolutionary guise of sanctity has been sent the Russian people as a temptation and a testing of its spiritual powers. And Russian people herein have not held up under this testing. Honestly attracted by the revolutionary spirit, they do not see the realities, they fail to discern the spirits. the deceptive, fraudulent and twofold images tempt and entice. The Anti-Christ allures, the Anti-Christ morals, the Anti-Christ sanctity all influence and entice Russian man. For Russian people, spiritually captivated by the revolutionary maximalism, there are peculiar experiences, very akin to Jewish apocalypticism, that apocalyptic aspect which was surmounted and overcome by the Apostle Paul and the Christian Church. The victory over this Judaic apocalyptic aspect also rendered Christianity a world historical force. Russian apocalypticism includes within it the greatest of dangers and temptations, it can direct all the energy of the Russian people onto a false path, it can hinder the Russian people from fulfilling its vocation in the world, it can render the Russian people into a people non-historical. The revolutionary apocalyptics sidetracks Russian people from the realities and precipitates them into a realm of phantasms. Getting free from this false and unhealthy apocalyptics does not mean the destroying of all the apocalyptic consciousness. In Russian apocalyptics lie concealed also positive possibilities. In the Russian revolution are being extirpated the Russian sins and the Russian temptations, things discerned by the Russian great writers. But great sins and great temptations can only be with a people great in its possibilities. The negative is a caricature of the positive. The Russian people has fallen low, but in it lie concealed great possibilities and to it can be revealed great distances. The idea of a people, the intent of God concerning it remains there even after the failing and fall of the people, having betrayed its aims and subjecting its national and state dignity to utmost humiliations. A minority can remain faithful to the positive and creative idea of the people, and from it can begin a renewal. But the path to renewal lies through repentance, through an awareness of sins, through a cleansing of the spirit of the people from spirits demonic. And the thing first of all necessary is to begin to discern spirits. Old Russia, in which there was much evil and ugliness, but likewise also much good and beauty, is dying away. The new Russia, born of its death pangs, is still enigmatic. It will not be such, as the figures and the ideologues of the revolution imagine it to themself. It will not be uniform in its spiritual visage. In it will be more harshly divided and opposed the Christian and the anti-Christian principles. The Anti-Christ spirits of the revolution will beget their dark domain. But the Christian spirit of Russia also has to manifest its strength. The power of this spirit can operate in the minority even if the majority falls away from it.
N. A. Berdyaev
© 2009 by translator Fr. S. Janos
(1918 – 299 (57,1) – en)
DUKHI RUSSKOI REVOLIUTSII. Article originally published in periodical “Russkaya mysl'”, jul. 1918, p. 39-73 (Berdyaev’s last article in this Moscow-Peterburg journal); (Klep.# 299). Simultaneously included the same year in the anthology by various authors of articles concerning the Russian Revolution, entitled “Iz glubiny. De profundis”, Moscow-Peterburg, Russkaya mysl’, 1918, 273 p.; text subsequently reprinted by YMCA Press, Paris, 1967, 333 p.; (Klep. # 57,1). Article recently republished in the Berdyaev anthology tome of articles entitled, “Padenie svyaschennogo russkogo tsarstva: publitsistika 1914-1922”, Astrel’, Moscow, 2007, c. 775-807.