Sophia: Problems of Spiritual Culture and Religious Philosophy, 1923, p. 21-46.
(Regarding the Contemporary Crisis of Culture)
(1922 – #17 (60,1)
The school delineations of history into the ancient, the medieval and the modern, are becoming quickly outmoded and will be discarded from textbooks. “Modern history” is ending and there is beginning something unknowable, an historical epoch not yet named with a name. We depart from all the customary historical shores. This was acutely felt, with the onset of the world war. Then already to people the more far-sighted it became clear, that a return to that peaceful “bourgeois” life, which existed prior to the exploding of the catastrophes, would nowise occur. The tempo of historical changes: it is rendered catastrophic. And thus it always happens amidst the transitions to new historical eras. People, attuned to what is to come, long since already have sensed the onset of catastrophes and have seen their spiritual symptoms beneathe the external trappings of well-ordered and tranquil life. Events in the spiritual actuality tend to play out earlier, than in the external historical activity. In the soul of modern man something got shaken loose and into flux earlier, than the historical bodies were shaken loose and into flux. And thus, now that all the world is passing over into a state of flux, ought not to surprise those, who have been attentive to the stirrings of the spirit. In our days outwardly it would seem, that the old, the forever foundations of the European world have shaken loose. Everything in the European world is in an upheaval of displacement from its customary and ordered place. Nowhere and in nothing is there a sense of a firm footing of ground — the ground is become volcanic with eruptions possible everywhere both in a material, and in a spiritual sense of the word. The Old Light, central Europe, is being supplanted by a New Light, by the far West, by America, and by the far East, enigmatic for us, the almost spectral Japan and China. And inwardly, in the old Europe, arise elemental principles, unsettling the foundations, upon which rests its ancient culture, connected still with antiquity. It would be myopically near-sighted to deny, that Europe has facing it the undergoing of a crisis of culture, of world historical a significance, and the consequences of which will extend into the remote and unknowable future. It would be naive and shallow to imagine, that it is possible simply to get a firm restraining grip by external means on that destructive whirlwind process, to which our old sinful world has been subjected, and to return, with but smallish changes, to that old life, which we lived prior to the world catastrophes of the war and revolution. We enter upon a realm unknowable and unavoidable, we enter joylessly, without bright hopes. The future is dark. We can already no longer believe in the theories of “progress”, which so absorbed the XIX Century and on the strength of which would have to be begotten a future always better, more beautiful and more comfortable than the departing past. We are more inclined to believe, that the better, the beautiful and the consoling are to be found in the eternal, and not in the future, and that it was there also in the past, insofar as the past partook of the eternal and created of the eternal.
How does one make sense of this crisis of European culture, which long since already had started at various ends and which now is reaching its limit of outward expression? Modern history, having its conception during the era of the Renaissance, is ending. We are experiencing the end of the Renaissance. At the summits of culture, in creativity, in the realm of art and in the realm of thought long since already has been sensed the draining away of the Renaissance, the ending of an entire world era. The search for new paths of creativity has been also an expression of the end of the Renaissance. But that which occurs on the summits of life has also its own expression down lower. At the lowest levels of social life is being readied the end of the Renaissance. For the Renaissance signified an entire type of world perception and culture, and not merely one area of higher culture. Human life, and the life of peoples represents an entire hierarchical organism, in which are irreparably connected the higher and lower functions. There is a correlation between them, of what happens at the heights of spiritual life and in the lower levels of the material life of society. The end of the Renaissance is the end of an entire historical era, of the whole of modern history, and not merely of certain forms of creativity. The end of the Renaissance is an ending of that humanism, which served as its spiritual basis. The humanism was however not only a revival of antiquity, not only a new morality and the stirrings of science and art, but likewise a new sense of life and a new attitude towards the world, giving birth to the dawning of modern history and defining this history. Here though this modern new sense of life and the new attitude towards the world is coming to an end, exhausting all its possibilities. The paths of humanism and the paths of the Renaissance course towards their endpoint, there being nowhere further to go along these paths. The whole of modern history has been an inner dialectic of self-revealing and self-negating of those humanistic principles, which were lodged at its basis during its birth. The humanistic sense of life long since already has lost its freshness, it has gone old and can no longer be experienced with such a pathos of feeling, as during the days of the young turbulence of humanism. Within humanism have been discerned destructive contradictions, and a sickly scepticism has further sapped the humanistic energy. The faith in man and in his autonomous powers has become shaken. It was an impetus to modern history, but modern history has shaken this faith. The free rovings of man, knowing no sort of higher power, not only have not reinforced his faith in himself, but ultimately have weakened this faith and have shaken the awareness of the human image. Humanism has not reinforced, but has the rather debilitated man — such is the paradoxical result of modern history. In his self-assertion man has lost, and has not found himself. If European man had tended to enter into modern history, full of self-hoping faith in himself and his creative powers, if everything had seemed to him at the dawning of this history a matter of his artifice, to which he would set no bounds nor limits, then he is emerging out of this modern history and entering into an uncertain era in a great dismay, with a tattered faith in his own power and the might of his artifice, exposing the danger of ultimately losing the core of his own being a person. Man is emerging from modern history in not pretty a shape, and there is a tragic lack of correlation between its beginning and its end. Too many an hope have proven broken. The very image of man has gone murky. And spiritually sensitive people are wont to turn back to the Middle Ages, to find there the true foundations for human life and anew to rediscover man. we live in an era of spiritual decline, and not of spiritual ascent. We cannot repeat anew the words of Ulrich von Hutton [1488-1523], spoken by him at the dawn of modern history: “spirits have awakened, joyous to be alive”. The aim of modern history has not succeeded, it has not glorified man, as it sought to glorify him. The promises of humanism have not been fulfilled. Man has grown infinitely weary and is ready to consider every sort of collective, in which ultimately disappears already the human individuality. Man cannot endure his desolateness, his aloneness.
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In the Renaissance human powers were set free and their sparkling play created a new culture, formed modern history. The whole culture of that world era, which in the textbooks is termed modern history, was a testing of human freedom. The new man himself wanted to create and to order life without any higher help, without Divine sanction. Man got torn away from the religious centre, to which he had been subordinated during all his life in the Middle Ages; he wanted to go his own self-set, willful way. At the beginning of this path it seemed to the new European man, that for the first time was being discovered man and purely human activity, suppressed in the medieval world. And til now there are still many, blind in their humanistic faith, who are wont to think, that humanism at the onset of modern times has revealed man. but in our era, stressed out over all the contradictions of life and having delved into all its principles, some begin to understand, that in the self-conceit of humanism was a fatal error and self-deception, and that in the very primal basis of humanistic faith lay concealed the possibility of a self-negation of man and his downfall. When man tore himself away from the spiritual centre of life, he tore himself away from the depths and passed over onto the periphery. His removal from the spiritual centre has made man all more and more superficial. Having become bereft of the spiritual centre of being, man has lost also his own spiritual centre. Such a decentralisation of the human being was destructive of his organic order. Man ceased to be spiritual an organism. And then, at the very periphery of life, there arose pseudo-centres. The subordinate organs of human life and their subordinate functions, having freed themself from the organic connection with the true centre, then arrogated to themself being the centre of life. And from this, man has been rendered all more and more superficial. During the XX Century, at the height of the humanistic era, European man emerges already terribly empty and exhausted. He does not know, where is the centre of his life, and he has no sense of depth beneathe him. He consigns himself to trivial an existence, he lives as though in two dimensions, as an inhabitant of the surface of the earth, not knowing, what is over him and what is under him. And there is an enormous difference and an enormous lack of correlation between the beginning of the humanistic era and its end. At the very beginning of the free erupting of the powers of the new European man, it marked a splendid and unprecedented flourishing of human creativity. Never yet, it would seem, had man attempted such a creative ascent, as during the Renaissance era. Back then had begun the free creativity of man, his free artistry. But he was still nigh close to the spiritual wellsprings of his life, he had not yet withdrawn so remotely from them onto the surface level of life. The man of the Renaissance was twofold a man, belonging to two worlds. And this tended to determine the complexity and the richness of his creative life. It is impossible still now to posit the beginning of the Renaissance exclusively as a rebirth of antiquity and as a return to antiquity. In the Renaissance were quite many Christian elements and medieval principles. Even such a typical man of the XVI Century, as Benvenuto Cellini [1500-1571], a man of the latter portion of the Renaissance, was not only a pagan, but also a Christian. And therefore the Renaissance was not and could be totally pagan. People in the renaissance found nurture in the spirit of antiquity, they sought in it the wellsprings of free human creativity and images of perfective form, but they were not people of the spirit of antiquity. These were people, in the souls of which raged storms from the clashing of pagan and Christian principles, those from antiquity and those from the medieval. In their souls could not be the classical sereneness and wholeness, forever lost, and their artistry could not create fully finished, complete, classically perfective forms. The soul of Christian man had become infected with a sense of sin, a thirst for redemption and the striving for another world. This was a finish to the ancient, pagan world. And with an inner inevitability was the transition to Christianity. Within history is possible a revival, a reorientation towards past creative eras. But no sort of a revival can become a going back, the restoration of an old, already bygone creative era. The principles of bygone creative eras, to which the revivals resort, act in very complex a new medium, in very complex an interaction with new principles and tend to create types of culture dissimilar to the old types. And thus the Romantic movement at the beginning of the XIX Century was not a return to the medieval, and in it the medieval principles, towards which the Romantic turned, became refracted within the soul of man, in the experiencing of a complex new history, and produced results very dissimilar to the medieval. However much Friedrich Schlegel [1772-1829] may have recoursed to the medieval, he was very dissimilar to medieval man. Thus too, people of the Renaissance were not similar to people of the ancient world, to the Greeks and the Romans. The had the experiencing of the Middle Ages, they were baptised, and the water of Baptism could not be wiped away by any sort of recoursing to antiquity, by any sort of their superficial paganism. The paganism within the European Christian world could never become deep, it was always superficial. It could render complex the soul of European man, but could never create wholeness. And so complex was the soul of the people of the Renaissance, that they could not be rendered into good pagans. This duality and complexity of people of the Renaissance can be studied in the creativity and in the fate of a central figure of the Quattrocento — Botticelli [1445-1510].
The Renaissance began back in the deep Middle Ages and its first foundations were fully Christian. The soul of medieval man, a Christian soul, awakened to creativity. This creative awakening occurs already during the XII and XIII Centuries. It is marked by a fragrant blossoming of sanctity, an high ascent of the spiritual creativity of man. It is accompanied by a flourishing of mysticism and the Scholastic philosophy. The medieval rebirth created the Gothic and the painting of primitives. The early Italian Renaissance was a Christian revival. St. Dominic and St. Francis, Joachim of Flora and Thomas Aquinas, Dante and Giotto [di Bondone, 1267-1337] — this is already the genuine Renaissance, the rebirth of the human spirit, of human creativity, not having lost the connection with antiquity. In the era of the Renaissance, medieval and Christian, there was already a creative attitude towards nature, towards human thought, towards art — towards the whole of life. The early Renaissance in Italy — the Trecento [1300-1399] — was the greatest era of European history, the highest point of ascent. The arisen creative powers of man were as though an answering revelation by man to the revelation of God. This was a Christian humanism, conceived from the spirit of St. Francis and Dante. But the great hopes and prophecies of the early Christian Renaissance were not realised. Much in it was before its time. Man still faced a passing through a great dividedness and falling away. He had to put to the test not only his own powers, but also his own weakness.
The Quattrocento was predominantly an era of twofold a separation. And then occurred the stormy clashing of Christian and pagan principles, leaving its imprint upon all the creativity. In the creativity of the Quattrocento there was not a perfect conclusion, in it were searchings of stronger attainments. But there is a special fascinating aspect to this incompleteness and unconcludedness. The twofold separation of the Quattrocento speaks to the impossibility of purely a pagan revival within the Christian world. And the very unsuccess of the Quattrocento — is a great unsuccess. The formal attainments of the creativity of the Cinquecento [1500-1599], of the high Roman Renaissance, produce the impressions of greater completeness and larger successes. But this formal perfection and success — are illusorily classical. Nothing truly classical, fully complete upon the earth, is possible in a Christian world. And it is only by chance that all the creativity of the Cinquecento rapidly led to a moribund academism and decline. The twofold separation spiritually within the Cinquecento passed over into a falling away, into a deadening of the Christian soul. The humanists of the eras of the Renaissance did not break ultimately with Christianity, they did not come out against church, but they were religiously cool and indifferent people. their hopes were on a revealing of man, ultimately oriented towards this world and turning away from the other world. And they lost the depth. Man as revealed by them, the man of modern history, had no depth and was compelled to wander life on the surface. On the surface, free from the connections with the deep, he would test out his creative powers. He does much, but comes to exhaustion and a loss of faith in himself. Not by chance did human individuality in the XVI Century instigate and approve of terrible transgressions. humanism liberated human energy, but it did not spiritually elevate man, it left him spiritually empty. This was already foreordained in the very fundamentals of humanism. At the primal basis of modern history lay a rift of man from the spiritual depths, an estrangement of life from its meaning. There was a fatal lack of correlation between the doings of St. Francis and Dante and the doings of the XVI and XVII Centuries. The Renaissance created much that is great, it introduced many values into human culture. And yet however it did not totally succeed, its very task has proven impractical. The early Christian Renaissance did not succeed, and the late pagan Renaissance did not succeed. From the renaissance has proceeded the impetus of modern history. Within history there always occurs a tragic lack of correlation between the creative task and the factual realisation. In modern history has been realised something altogether different, than what the first humanists and the creative people of the Renaissance dreamt of. Did they think, that the consequence of their new sense of life, their severing from the spiritual depths and the spiritual centre of the Middle Ages, their creative beginnings — would lead to the XIX Century with its machines, with its materialism and positivism, with its socialism and anarchism, with the exhaustion of spiritual creative energy? Leonardo, perhaps, the greatest artist of the world — is a culprit in the machinisation and materialisation of our life, its loss of soul, its loss of higher meaning. He himself did not know, what he was preparing. The Renaissance, on the strength of its spiritual foundations, in its consequences had to undermine itself. The Renaissance set free the creative powers of man and expressed the creative upsurge of man. In this was its truth. still however it disconnected man from the spiritual wellsprings of life, it denied the spiritual man, who alone can be a creator, and it asserted exclusively the natural man — the slave to necessity. The triumph of the natural man over the spiritual man in modern history had to lead to the desiccation of creative powers, to the end of the Renaissance, to the self-destruction of humanism.
The Renaissance was a great commencing of the search for the free playing out of human powers. Man fancied, that perhaps the whole of life should become a matter of his artifice. Man had recourse to that nature, which in the Middle Ages he sensed as set in evil. He sought in nature the wellsprings of life and of creativity. And at the beginning of his turning towards nature he had a sense of nature as alive and inspiring. From nature was snatched away its curse. They ceased to fear its demons, which had so frightened medieval man. Modern man imperceptibly entered into the cycle of natural life. But he did not become united with nature inwardly. He spiritually subjected himself to its materiality, but remained disconnected from its soul. The Renaissance held concealed within it the seed of death, since at its basis lay the destructive contradiction of humanism, which exalted man, it ascribed to him immeasurable powers and at the same time it saw in him merely a limited and dependent being, not knowing spiritual a freedom. In having exalted man, humanism deprived him of God-likeness and enslaved him to natural necessity. The Renaissance, based upon humanism, revealed the creative powers of man as a being natural, and not spiritual. But natural man, sundered off from the spiritual man, does not possess an infinite wellspring of creative powers, he becomes drained and winds up on the surface aspect of life. This also finds expression in the final fruits of modern history, which have led to the end of the renaissance, to the self-negation of humanism, to the emptiness of the superficial and to having lost the centre of life, to the desiccation of creativity. The free play of human powers could not continue endlessly. And in the XIX Century this creative playing out already was ending, and there is no longer to be sensed a surfeit, there is felt a sparseness, with the difficulty and burden of life on the increase. The basic contradiction of humanism deepens and reveals itself across all the expanse of modern history. It leads to humanism passing into its opposite. The humanism of L. Feuerbach and Auguste Comte — preachers of the religion of mankind — possesses already little in common with the humanism of the era of the Renaissance. It goes farther, it deepens the basic contradiction of humanism, but in it there is no longer still a creative abundance of powers, and in it is felt the approach of inner catastrophe. The Middle Ages preserved the creative powers of man and prepared for their splendid flourishing in the Renaissance. Man entered into the renaissance with the medieval experience, with the medieval preparation. And everything authentically great in the Renaissance had a connection with the Christian Middle Ages. But now man is entering into an unknowable future with the experience of modern history, with its preparation. And he enters into this era not full of creative powers, as during the era of the Renaissance, but exhausted, debilitated, dispirited, empty. And upon this it is proper to ponder deeply.
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Humanism had its first, its most creative and splendid manifestation in the Renaissance. And the whole creative and humanistic era of history comes from the spirit of the Renaissance, can be termed Renaissance. In this, its first manifestation, humanism recoursed to the eternal sources of human creativity — to antiquity. But currently it is impossible still to think, that the creative disclosing of humanism within the Renaissance occurred from a return to paganism, from a pagan relapse within the Christian world. This — is a superficial and erroneous view. Humanism took nourishment from antiquity, but it was a new phenomenon, a modern phenomenon, and not of ancient history. The creative activity of man was already lodged within Catholicism. And all the great European culture, the Latin foremost of all, was at its basis a Christian and Catholic culture. It was rooted in the Christian cultus. Catholicism itself was already saturated in antiquity and having transformed it, it assimilated into itself the ancient culture. The ancient culture lived throughout all the Middle Ages within Catholicism and was carried over by Catholicism into modern times. Hence only did the Renaissance prove possible into modern times. And the Renaissance was not directed, as was the Reformation, against Catholicism. There was in Catholicism an immense human activity, it was manifest in papism itself, in the world power status of the Catholic Church, and in the creation of a great medieval culture. And in this, Catholicism was always distinct from Eastern Orthodoxy. Catholicism not only led man to heaven, it created beauty and glory also upon the earth. In this was the great secret of Catholicism: the striving for heaven and life eternal creates beauty and fashions might within the temporal earthly life. The asceticism of the medieval Catholic world was a fine preparation for creativity, it preserved and concentrated the creative powers of man. The medieval asceticism was a great school for man, it provided a great forging of spirit. And the European man of modern history lived, by what he had acquired in this school, and he owed it all to Christianity. No sort of new a spiritual school, forging and disciplining of spirit, would European man been able to have. He grew his powers, he applied himself and he exhausted himself. And if spiritually he remained alive, then it was thanks exclusively to the Christian foundations of his soul. Christianity continued to live on in him in a secularised form and did not permit him reaching the point of dissolution.
Humanism, at the onset of its appearance, was still nigh close to Christianity, and it drew upon two sources: from antiquity and from Christianity. And it was creative and beautiful as regards its results in the measure of its proximity to Christianity. When humanism became sundered from the spiritual depths and made its transition over to the superficial surface level, it began to degenerate. Humanism did not immediately begin to assert man without God and against God. Not such was the humanism of Pico della Mirandola and many of the theosophists of the Renaissance era. But in humanism was concealed already the seed of the falling away and apostacy from God, and from it sprouted that humanism of modern history, which now gives forth its final fruits — the negation of man. Only that humanism, which was lodged within Christianity and draws upon it whilst not disclosing to the end its revelation, — such affirms man and creates beauty. It only is connected with antiquity. Humanism, having broken away from Christianity, in the final end breaks away also from antiquity and is destructive to man twice over, severing both his ancient and his Christian groundings. This will become apparent as regards the final fruits of humanism. The sacred tradition of culture by a thousand threads is connected with the sacred tradition of the Christian Church, and a total break with this tradition leads to a downfall of culture, to a lowering of its quality. The exhaustion of the Renaissance in modern history, the weakening of its creative energy was through its estrangement both from Christianity, and from antiquity. And those partial revivals, which modern history knows of, were from a return both to Christianity and to antiquity. Modern European man lives by ancient and medieval principles, or he becomes exhausted, becomes empty and collapses. The twofold splitting of the Renaissance, an inner fracture, experienced by the man of the Renaissance, constitutes the theme of modern history. In it unfolds the self-destructive dialectic of humanism the affirmation of man without God, and against God, the denial of the image and likeness of God in man which leads to the denial and destruction of man, and the assertion of paganism against Christianity which leads to the denial and destruction of antiquity. The image of man, the image of his soul and body, was formed by antiquity and by Christianity. The humanism of modern history, having broken with Christianity, departs from the ancient foundations of the human image and shatters the human image. The Reformation was another manifestation of that process of modern history, which formed the Renaissance; it likewise was begotten by the humanistic movement, by the uprising of man in modern history. But the Reformation was formed by a different racial temperament, than was the Renaissance, formed by the temperament of the Germanic race, northern, remote from the sun, bereft of plasticity in artistic giftedness, but endowed with its own unique spiritual depth. The breath of modern spirituality was conveyed into European culture by the Germanic race. The Renaissance however was not an uprising and protest, it was creativity. In this — was the beauty of the Renaissance, in this its eternal significance. The Reformation however was moreso an uprising and protest, than religious creativity, it was directed against the primacy of religious tradition. The creative aspect was in the German mystic — a great manifestation of spirit, and not the Reformation, which proved religiously fruitless. There was in the Reformation initially much that was Catholic, it was a phenomenon within Catholicism. Luther was a rebellious Catholic monk, in him boiled Catholic a blood. And everything profound and genuinely religious in the Reformation was connected with the eternal truth of Christianity, was a thirst for the cleansing, the renewal and rebirth of Catholicism itself. There was with Luther a moment, one only moment of great truth. Rightful was his thirst for spiritual freedom. But in his denial he strayed from the path. The rebellion and protestation of the reformation engendered that process of modern history, which led to “enlightenment”, to rationalism, to revolution, to the contemporary positivism, socialism and anarchism. The “Enlightenment” of the XVIII Century was a far-removed offshoot of the Renaissance, a manifestation of the spirit of humanistic self-assertion. But in the “enlightenment” dries up the creative spirit, in it the Renaissance becomes desiccated. The rationalism of the XVIII Century — is a phenomenon deeply distinct from the creative era of the Renaissance, but genetically is connected with it. The Enlightenment is an inward punishment of the Renaissance, a retribution for the sins of humanistic self-affirmation, the sins of betrayal of the Divine wellsprings of man. thus, the Bologna school was an inner punishment of Michelangelo and Raphael, a deadening of spirit, lasting into the XVI Century. Upon these paths the creative spirit becomes desiccated. Savonarola also was concerned about the false paths of the Renaissance. The Renaissance creatively became exhausted, lost contact with the sources of its sustenance, but it engendered a stormy historical movement, in which there would no longer be so great a creativity. The French Revolution, the positivism and socialism of the XIX Century — all these also are consequences of the humanism of the Renaissance era, and the drying up of the creative spirit of the Renaissance. All this — was a transformation of humanism.
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By the time of the Renaissance there had accumulated a profusion of the creative powers of man. It produced a splendid blossoming and then was supplanted by the whole of modern history. Man was indebted to the medieval asceticism for this creative abundance. The powers of man had been preserved. But the man of modern history proved ungrateful to that spirit, which had guarded his powers. In modern history the creative abundance was expended and the powers of man became spent. It was fated for the European man of modern history to live out all the humanistic illusions to the end, in order to arrive at the height of the historical era at self-destruction, at a shaking to the very foundations of the human image. Everything compels one to think, that the earthly historical path of mankind is but a testing of the human spirit, merely the preparation for some other sort of life. All the accomplishments of history themself represent great unsuccesses. The Renaissance did not succeed, the Reformation did not succeed, the Enlightenment did not succeed, and there did not succeed revolution and the growth of its illusions based upon the Enlightenment, nor will there succeed the socialism emerging in the world. In the historical life of mankind there is never realised the goals that man has set himself. But there are created great values, which man has not consciously set himself. The Renaissance did not succeed, it did not achieve perfection and completeness in earthly beauty and earthly joy through a rebirth of antiquity. But it did create great values amidst its quite unsuccessful impressions of immortal beauty. Suchlike were the unsuccesses of the Quattrocento. From the Renaissance has derived modern history. But also the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution, and the positivism of the XIX Century, and socialism, and anarchism — all this was already a disintegrating of the Renaissance, a disclosing of the inner contradictions of humanism and a gradual impoverishment of the creative powers of man. The farther removed from the Renaissance that European man has gotten, the more his creative powers have dried up. His greatest upsurges have been connected with a return to the medieval, to the Christian sources, as for example, at the beginning of the XIX Century in the Neo-Romantic and Symbolist movements. There are strong grounds to think, that the creative powers of man can be revived and that the image of man can be restored only through religiously ascetic an era. Only such an era, returning to the spiritual wellsprings of man, can concentrate the powers of man and avert the dissolution of his image. For this, man has to arrive at the heights of his modern history, assaulted anew from all sides by the danger of being done in by demons. It is impossible to arrive at any sort of new Renaissance after the exhaustion and squandering of the spiritual powers of man, after the prodigal wandering the wilderness of being, after the shaking of the very image of man. If one offer an analogy, we then are approaching not to a Renaissance, but rather to the dark aspect of the Middle Ages and we shall have to pass through a new civilised barbarism, and a new religio-ascetic discipline, before there dawns a new era, of a yet unknowable Renaissance. But has already all thus passed away into historical life, that there will not anew awaken the creative powers of man directed at the other world? The powers of natural man are finite. The self-conceit of natural man leads to his downfall, since he abjures the wellsprings of life. Natural man, estranged from the spiritual man, creates an illusory life, he becomes captivated by illusory well-being. There mustneeds be admitted a law of life, that man in this finite and relative earthly life creates beauty and value only then, when he believes in another life — infinite, absolute, immortal life. An exclusive orientation of man to this finite and death-bearing life, in the final end saps the creative energy of man, leads to smugness and self-gratification, renders man empty and superficial. The true creator can only be the spiritual man, having his roots in the infinite and immortal life. But humanism has repudiated the spiritual man, has betrayed eternity for time and affirmed the natural man upon the finite surface of the earth. And the net result is this, that in having too high an opinion of himself, the natural man is defenseless against the natural elements and the spirits of the earth besetting him from all sides. The human visage cannot be guarded by the powers of the natural man alone. It presupposes the spiritual man. Without moments religiously ascetic, limiting and setting distance, subordinating the lower to the higher, the existence of the person is unthinkable. But modern history has been posited upon the illusion, that there is possible a flourishing of the person without these religio-ascetic moments. Modern history, in deriving from the Renaissance, has reflected the growth of individualism. But individualism has proven ruinous for the human individuality, destructive of the person. And we are experiencing a tortuous end of individualism, such as is bereft of all spiritual groundings. Individualism has desolated the human individuality, has made the person bereft of form and content, has disintegrated it. Suchlike are the laws of life: the human individuality is reinforced, flourishing and with content, when it admits of supra-personal and supra-human realities and values and subordinates itself to them; the human individuality is weakened, desolated and in decline, when it denies them. Individualism renders aimless all the directions of the will of the human individuality, as having no direction, no purpose. And to this void of content man has been brought by a false humanism; it has transformed the human soul into a desolation. But within humanism has been posited a great task, the great theme concerning man. This theme reveals itself throughout the tragic dialects of modern history. And the appearance itself of humanism cannot be considered purely a loss, purely evil. This would be static a view. The humanistic effort has also a positive significance. Man within his destiny had to undergo the experience of it. Man has had to proceed through freedom and in freedom to acknowledge God. In this — is the meaning of humanism.
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Those transformations of humanism, which occur in the second half of the XIX Century and early XX Century, represent an ultimate extinguishing of the Renaissance, the ultimate exhaustion of its creative powers. the free and dazzling interplay of abundant human powers comes to its end. The spirit of the Renaissance has followers no longer. Everything spiritually significant and creative at the end XIX and XX Century was oriented upon the religiously Christian wellsprings of man. The pagan currents of this period are superficial and in them it would be vain to seek the spirit of antiquity. Trans-cultural man is experiencing not a Renaissance, but rather a decadence. Decadence is one of the forms of a finishing off of the Renaissance. At the summits of the culture of modern history man has grown exhausted and broken, grown wasted under too complex a burden, stripped away from the religious centre of history. Man cannot endure the abject loneliness, into which the humanistic historical era has plunged him, — he becomes disoriented from this aloneness, he invents substitutes and surrogates for spiritual community and spiritual connections, creates for himself pseudo-churches. The extreme sociologism of world feeling and world awareness is also the reverse side of a profound lack of community, the profound aloneness of man. The inwardly disunited atoms attempt externally to unite with one another. The extreme sociologism, in its philosophic sense, is merely the reverse side of extreme individualism, the atomisation of human society. The human individuality arising in the era of the Renaissance lived still within organic spiritual entities and was nourished by them, it did not itself represent a broken away atom. It played freely and created, having still beneathe it a spiritual grounding. It did not cleave so tightly to socialness for the saving of itself from aloneness, from spiritual and material starvation. The socialness, transformed into a religion, represents an indisputable end of the Renaissance, the exhaustion of the human individuality, such as arose during the era of the Renaissance. Extreme individualism and extreme socialism — are two forms of the ending of the Renaissance. And in both one and the other becomes shaken the human individuality, grows dim the human image. Abstract humanism, severed off from the Divine groundings of life, from spiritual concreteness, has to lead to a destruction of man, of the human image. The human image, as in every authentic reality, obtains in but a spiritual concreteness, a conjunctedness, in which the Divine unity embraces within it all the human multiplicity, and it instead disappears when in abstraction, is torn away. The humanistic process in modern history reflects a transition of man from spiritual concreteness, in which everything is organically conjuncted, towards instead an abstracted rupturedness, in which man is transformed into an isolated atom. In this departure from concreteness towards abstractedness the man of modern history has hoped to receive his emancipation, to affirm his individuality, to discover creative an energy. Man desired to become free, to draw away from that grace of God, which restored the image of man and spiritually nourished it. Humanism is a denial of grace, a separation from grace. But only life manifest as concrete is in grace, life external to grace — is abstracted a life. Upon this basis arise all the illusions of humanism. That which has seemed to man as a liberation, as a finding of his individuality and creative energy, turns out rather to be an enslavement of his spiritual being to the natural cycle, and is a downfall of the person. This is ultimately to be sensed at the heights of the humanistic process in modern history. Humanism has dealt with man not concretely, not in his spiritual connections and conjunctive aspects, but abstractly rather, as a self-sufficing atom of nature. This path did not immediately obtain during the era of the Renaissance. But it has become all more and more evident across the span of modern history. This path inevitably has had to lead to an extreme individualism and an extreme socialism, as the two forms of atomisation, of the abstraction-derived disintegration of society and the person.
The two dominant figures of the thought of the modern era — Fr. Nietzsche and K. Marx, with acute a genius have been manifest as the dual forms within the self-negation and self-destruction by humanism. With Nietzsche humanism negates and destroys itself in individualistic a form, with Marx — in collective a form. An individualism that shoves all aside and also an abstracted collectivism are begotten of one and the same principle — the drawing away by man from the Divine basics of life, a falling away from concreteness. Nietzsche — was the child of the humanism of modern history and also its victim; he is a retribution for its sins. In the life’s fate of Nietzsche, humanism passes over into its opposite. Nietzsche senses man, as a shame and lowliness, he thirsts for the surmounting of mere man, his will is directed towards the superman. The morals of Nietzsche do not acknowledge the value of the human person, it breaks off with humanism, it preaches fierceness towards man in the name of the superman goals, in the name of the remote and distant, in the name of the heights. The superman substitutes in Nietzsche for the loss of God. He cannot and does not want to hold on with, as he entitles it, the human all too human. In the superman individualism of Nietzsche the image of man perishes. The image of man likewise perishes in the supra-human collectivism of Marx. Marx spiritually derived from the humanistic religion of Feuerbach. But in it, though in otherwise a manner, humanism passes over into its opposite, degenerates into anti-humanism. Marx sense the human individualness, as something deriving from the old bourgeois world, and he demands the surmounting of it within collectivism. The morals of Marx do not admit of the value of the human person — he makes a break with humanness, and he preaches fierceness towards man in the name of the collective, in the name of the coming socialistic Zukunftstaat, the coming future state of things. The collective substitutes in Marx for the loss of God. He likewise already cannot and does not want to hold on to man, to the human; in the collectivism of Marx, truly, there is something inhuman and contra-human, in it vanishes the human person, grows dim the human image. The collectivism of Marx does not admit of the human individualness with its infinite inner life, which the humanism of Herder and Goethe not so long still before had acknowledged and acclaimed. Marx — is a legitimate child of modern history the same, as is Nietzsche. And in both the one and the other transpires the end of the Renaissance, but differently. Nietzsche was oriented towards the Renaissance, he wanted to live the creative upsurge of the Renaissance, but he had passed already into a new dimension, in which there was already no returning to the basics of the historical Renaissance. Marx was ultimately repelled by the Renaissance, as being something from the “bourgeois” world, and he thirsted for a new realm, in which would be impossible such creative exuberance. Neither the matters of Nietzsche, nor the matters of Marx, have reflected a triumph of man, they were merely an exposure of humanistic illusions. After them has become impossible already the sentimentally pretty humanism, has become impossible already the emotional rapture with humanistic ideas, impossible the naive faith in humanness. Man likewise gets denied by Max Stirner, who inflicts strong blows on humanism. The average human realm, the realm of self-contented humanness will decompose and be overcome; there will emerge the end-points, the limits, the bounds of man will be transgressed. Upon anything human it will be impossible to hold on. Together with this, there ends also the Renaissance, which was a creative playing out of the powers of the average human realm, with the pretense to create a perfective, happy and beautiful life within humanistic a realm. This humanistic realm has been shattered by modern history. The broadening and spreading of the humanistic realm, its democratisation — is a fact fatal for its existence. Creative humanism can exist only in a small and select portion of human society. Thus it was also during the era of the Renaissance. The Enlightenment and Revolution have produced a levelling process within the humanistic realm and have prepared its inward disintegration. The Renaissance was based upon inequality and was made possible, by virtue of inequality. The thirst for equality, gripping modern mankind, reflects an ending of the Renaissance. this — is a matter of entropy, a turnabout, within social life.
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The end of the Renaissance is historically accompanied by the disintegration of the entire organism, of everything organic. In the Renaissance was still preserved an organic mode of life. Life still was hierarchical, as also is all organic life. Back then there had only still begun the process of secularisation which, in the final end, had to lead to the mechanisation of life, to a falling away from the whole organic order. At the beginning, during its first stages, this secularisation was adopted as a liberation of the creative powers of man, as joy at their free playing out. But the human powers, issuing forth from organic a condition, inevitably are made subject to mechanical a condition. This was not immediately apparent. For a certain while man lives in the illusions, that he is free from organic bounds and from being mechanically chained down. This interim period, when the modernly new European man senses himself free from the organism and not subject as yet to mechanism, holds sway during the historical Renaissance and its close during the XVII and XVIII Centuries. At the summits of European society play out human powers, torn off from the depths, but not yet with a sense of their subjection to a levelling mechanical aspect. But in Europe during the XIX Century occurred one of the most terrible revolutions, the likes of which have been most trying for mankind throughout all its history. Into human life victoriously entered the machine and disrupted all its entire organic rhythm. The machine disrupted all the age-old order of human life, the organic connection with the life of nature. The machinisation of life destroys the joyfulness of the Renaissance and renders impossible the creative exuberance of life. The machine murders the Renaissance. It readies the modern historical era, an era of civilisation. Culture, full of sacred symbolics, withers. People of the Renaissance did not know and did not understand, that they were readying in the world a triumph of the machine, that the ultimate egress from the Middle Ages had to lead to a realm of the machine, to a replacement of the organic order — by the mechanical one. The organic order of life is hierarchical, i.e. cosmic. In the cosmic organism the parts are subordinated to the whole, maintaining connection with the centre. In the organism the centre projects the goal of life to the parts. Every organism is an hierarchy. When parts separate themself from the whole and cease to serve the goals, situated in the organic centre, they imperceptibly subjoin themself to a lower nature. The era of the Renaissance took pride, in what it discovered not only in man, but also in nature. People of the Renaissance were oriented towards nature with favourable an attitude, they studied nature and copied its external forms; they ceased struggling against the sinfulness of nature, which people of the Middle Ages had waged. And the Renaissance orientation towards nature in its first period was accompanied by a rapture over natural forms and joyousness over natural life. But the soul of nature in its depths was not discerned by the people of the Renaissance, since in the Renaissance had not arisen the spiritual man, to whom only can be revealed the inner essence of nature, there had arisen rather the natural man, oriented towards the surface aspect of natural life. Only the few mystics and theosophists of the era of the Renaissance penetrated deeply into nature. In the Renaissance was begotten not only an artistic, but also the scientific-cognitive attitude towards nature. In this was an enormous significance of the era. And from which has come the historical triumph of science as regards nature, which prepared the way for the great technical discoveries of the XIX Century and led to a dominance of the machine over human life. The historical end of the Renaissance thus has proven incongruent with its beginning. The initial joyous attitude towards nature became reborn into an awareness of the inevitability of a grievous struggle with it by way of the machinisation of life. Our era already no longer imitates the forms of nature, nor seeks in them the forms of perfection, as did the era of the Renaissance, it instead leads a struggle against nature, it is inwardly alienated from it, nature is regarded by it as a dead mechanism, and it places the machine in between man and nature. The attitude towards nature by modern civilised man is also an ending of the Renaissance. The inner dialectic of the Renaissance towards nature leads to a self-negation of this attitude. The end of the Renaissance is murderous to nature, just as it is murderous to man. This — is an immanent tragedy of modern history, which has to be overcome. The machine was prepared for by the Renaissance, and the machine kills the renaissance, destroys the beauty of life, such as is given birth by the creative exuberance of human powers.
The consequences of the incursion of the machine into human life have proven incalculable. They have extended also into the spiritual life of man, upon all his creativity. Science and art have proven fascinated by the process of machinisation, upon them also is the imprint of that splintering of the organic wholeness, which the machine produces in all the spheres of life. Modern art in its most recent trends breaks with the Renaissance, since it ultimately also breaks with antiquity. In modern art, oriented exclusively towards the future and worshipping the future, they tend to be given over to a laceration of the human body and its eternal forms. In it ultimately perishes the human image. Futurism, which represents rather more serious a symptom, than might seem, destroys both the image of nature and the image of man, i.e. wants ultimately to abolish the effect of the Renaissance, which was all oriented to the eternal forms of nature and of man. Futurism represents an ending of the Renaissance. It is destructive of the accomplishment of Leonardo and Michelangelo. Futurism marks an ultimate breaking away from antiquity, from the principles of the eternal forms in art. The eternal perfective forms, sought by the Renaissance, have two sources: nature and antiquity. Futurism repudiates both and the other source. It seeks out its images of perfectness not in nature and not in man, but in the machine. Futurism is situated in the grip of a process of the machine-like calculation of every natural and human entity. The futurists are consumed with process, a concept of which they themself do not understand, since the level of their awareness and knowledge is too low. It remains indisputable, howsoever futurism be appraised, that the image of man, the soul of man and the body of man perish within futurist art, lacerated and torn by inhuman whirlwinds, from which remain mere scraps. The Cubism however of such a great artist, as Picasso, takes into account the human body and dissembles the artistic image of man. The futurist art, in which the trendy currents of tomorrow replace those of the present day, goes still further in the laceration of the human image. The solidly firm boundaries of all the natural forms are transgressed, everything passes over into everything, man passes over into inanimate objects; newspaper declarations, pieces of glass and footwear flash into every natural form and shatter it. The forms of the human body — are ancient forms, and their destruction is also an ultimate breaking with antiquity. Futurist poetry likewise decomposes the human soul, it inserts into the human soul those selfsame newspaper declarations, bits of glass and footwear, it enslaves the soul to the noise of automobiles and aeroplanes. The dissolution of the human soul had begun already in Impressionism. The soul of man has broken down into mere moments. Ultimately is lost the centre of soul. The self-affirmation of man leads to a perishing of the human image. Man becomes estranged from his eternal spiritual sources, he becomes subject to the pulverising grip of time. Futurism is begotten of man’s self-affirmation. But futurism represents an ending of humanism, its self-negation. In futurism man becomes lost to himself, ceases to realise his own uniqueness. Man dissipates off into the inhuman whatever masses. In futurism man becomes enslaved to inhuman collectives. And not by chance, futurism has proven akin to the most extreme forms of social collectivism. The process of being done with and dissolution of the Renaissance, the tearing apart and destruction of the human image can be observed in the creativity of A. Bely, one of the most remarkable artists of our era. A. Bely has an affinity with futurism, but in much he stands heads above all the futurists. In the creativity of A. Bely transgressed are all the natural boundaries, all the creative forms; in it man and the whole cosmos are blown apart by maelstrom whirlwinds. It is impossible to find the human images within this creativity. The human image becomes indistinguishable already from that of a lampshade, from that of the avenue of a large city; it sinks away into the cosmic infinitude. Characteristic of our era, the creativity of A. Blok is a transgressing and demolishing of all the ancient and Renaissance forms, it signifies a departing from nature, from man and from God. This — is an ending of the Renaissance, the end of the humanistic era. Contemporary art is all and all more caught up in this ending of the Renaissance, with the perishing of human and natural forms. Into it intrude barbaric principles, it rends and claws with barbaric sounds, barbaric gestures. The dynamism of this art tears at the cosmic rhythm. The positivism of the XIX Century was already an indisputable principle contributing to the end of the Renaissance. Positivism was begotten by the spirit of the Renaissance, but in it this spirit became exhausted. In positivism there is no longer the creative exuberance of knowledge, no joyful rapture in knowledge unwravelling the secrets of nature. Positivism is already a recognition of the limitedness of human powers, is a staleness regarding knowledge. For positivism the secrets of nature become shut. Positivism clips the wings of man. In the era of the Renaissance the knowledge of nature was the result of a joyful approach to knowledge. A typical man of the Renaissance was Pico della Mirandola — the direct opposite to all positivism. And the pathos of Leonardo was the opposite to positivism, but in it already was lodge the seed, from which positivism would grow. In all the areas of the Renaissance was borne the seed of its own perishing, its own end, dissimilar to its beginning, in the area of knowledge, just like it is everywhere. The positivism of A. Comte has two opposite sources, which from various sides are destructive to the spirit of the Renaissance: the rationalism of the Enlightenment and the spiritual reaction within the French Revolution. A. Comte was a distorted Catholic, a Catholic in reverse. In him are many medieval elements, in him occurs a return to medieval hierarchicalism, to organisation and authority; he wants anew to subordinate both knowledge and life to the human spiritual centre and to halt the intellectual anarchy of modern history. It is not by chance that A. Comte so highly esteemed J. de Maistre [1753-1821] and learned much from him. These medieval and religious, though in distorted a form, principles of the Comtean positivism did not become prevalent in the further developement of positivism and even were vexing for the positivists. But in the most “positivistic” of the elements of positivism they represent a reaction against the spirit of the Renaissance. Positivism quickly began to go into decline and evidenced the exhaustion of the creative principles of cognition. At present already it is impossible to seriously speak about positivism within philosophy. In European philosophy long since already holds sway not positivism, but rather critical philosophy, acknowledging Kant as its spiritual father. Critical philosophy can be investigated, as one of the latest phases of the Reformation. In contemporary German gnosseology the Reformation issues forth with its final, intellectually most refined fruits. If at the start of modern history, in the sources of the Reformation that there occurred an uprising of man, wherein man proclaimed his right to self-determination, then at the ending of modern history in the intellectual consequences of the Reformation man wants as though to be freed of himself in the process of cognition, to overcome himself, to rise above every anthropomorphism. Contemporary German philosophy in the figures of Cohen, Husserl and many others leads first of all to a struggle against anthropomorphism; it is contemptuous towards man, it sees in man the source of relativity and instability in cognition, it aspires to a non-human cognitive act. In critical gnosseology there is something reminiscent of Cubism, it likewise decomposes the organism of human cognition into categories, just like Picasso and others dissolve the human body into cubes. This is a process of analytic splitting apart and dismembering organic wholeness. The image of man perishes within critical gnosseology. It likewise itself signifies an ending of the Renaissance, in it likewise become exhausted and expires the Renaissance spirit of creative exuberance. And within cognitive knowledge, upon the paths of its autonomous self-determination and self-affirmation, man arrives at self-negation and self-destruction. Having lost the spiritual centre and the spiritual wellspring of his being, man loses also himself, his eternal image, he betrays himself into the grip of something non-human. In the medieval Scholastics it is far easier possible to find man, than in the gnosseological Neo-Scholastics. Contemporary gnosseologism — is the product of an era of spiritual decline. One and the same process of the self-destruction of man upon the groundings of humanistic self-assertion occurs everywhere. Within theosophy is dissolved, is dismembered and flattened down the integral image of man; it is betrayed away to rending by astral whirlwinds. Contemporary theosophy is hostile to man and his creative exuberance, in it there is nothing of the Renaissance. It likewise is destructive of the personal principle, just like positivism is destructive of it, just like the gnosseological criticism is destructive of it. Theosophy no more believes in the reality of the human person, than does the very typical materialistic naturalism. It is likewise a materialistic naturalism destructive of man, transferred over to the spiritual realms. Such theosophic figures of the era of the Renaissance, as Paracelsus, loftily exalted man and set before him creative tasks. But such theosophic figures of our era, as Steiner, though he also calls himself an anthroposophist, ultimately enslave man to a cosmic evolution, the meaning of which is incomprehensible, and the path revealable by it for the self-accomplishment of man is not a creative path. The theosophy is a denial of God, the anthroposophy is a denial of man. Man — is merely a passing transitory moment of cosmic evolution, he has to be surmounted. The theosophic trends of our era reflect the exhaustion and dying down of the creative exuberance of man. In them the human individuality is quenched and the free play of its powers ceases. Man loses his inward spiritual centre and instead seeks it in complex and disintegrative cosmic forces. The theosophic knowledge contemplates the corpse of nature and the corpse of man. All the prevailing intellectual life of our era stands under the standard of the ending of the Renaissance. The naturo-scientific character of education reflects a break with the Renaissance. Even the solidity of the Renaissance physico-mathematical world-concept of Newton has been shaken by modern physics. The teachings about entropy, about radioactivity and the falling-apart of the atoms of matter, about the law of relativity, represent a genuine physical apocalypsis.
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Characteristic to our era are socialistic tendencies. They pervade not only economic and political life, but also the whole of modern culture, all contemporary morality; they exemplify a particular feeling in life. Socialism is merely the reverse side of individualism, merely the result of the collapse and dissolution of individualism. Upon the paths of the atomisation of society lies in wait socialism, as an inner dialectical inevitability: a certain sort of principle has to lead to socialism. Both socialism, and individualism are alike hostile to an organic world-sense and world-perception. Socialism is merely a vivid symptom of the end of the Renaissance, within it ends the free play of the exuberant human powers of modern history. The human powers are connected and needfully subsumed to a centre, but the centre is no longer religious, but instead social. The pathos of the creative individuality is replaced by the pathos of a compulsory organised collective effort. The human individuality becomes subject to collectives, to the masses. The image of man is overshadowed by the image of the impersonal collective. In regard to every creative exuberance there is established suspicious regulation. The centre of gravity in life is transferred over to economics, whereas for the sciences and the arts, the higher creative culture, the spiritual values, everything gives way to “superstructures”. Man is transformed into an economic category. Socialism possesses humanistic a basis and humanistic a source; it is begotten of the humanism of modern history, it would have been impossible without the self-affirmation of man and without the transferring of the centre of gravity of life to human welfare. But within socialism the humanism comes nigh to self-negation. Man with his individual soul and his individual fate is subordinated to non-human collectives. The proletarian class consciousness is no longer humanistic, but rather an anti-humanistic consciousness. Man is replaced by the class. The value of man himself, of his individual soul and his individual fate is denied. Man is transformed into a means for the societal collective and its growth. Humanism gives birth to humaneness, as a special moral outlook. This humaneness was a moderateness within the human realm. It becomes dislodged within proletarian class socialism. Socialism reflects an end to humaneness, the exposure of its illusions. Socialism is an exposure of everything lofty, connected with humanism — the humanistic sciences and arts, the humanistic morals, the whole humanistic culture. Crumbled into ruins is the whole humanistic “superstructure” and laid bare is its basis, its foundations. This basis and foundation proves to be economics, class economic interests. And man, indeed, torn away from the spiritual centre and the spiritual wellsprings of life, has then a material basis of life and all his exaltedness — is a false exaltedness. Man dissolves into interests, the singular human nature — the humanness — vanishes, becomes stratified into class natures. Marx was right for the bourgeois European society of the XIX Century — in him the humanness, which Herder regarded as the goal of history, was subjected to dissolution, in him the economic basis plays too great a role, and the whole of higher culture too reminiscent of a “superstructure”. Economic materialism too passively reflects the condition of human society, its spiritual apostacy, its enslavement to the material side of life. This — is a self-dissolution of humanism, an ending of the Renaissance, the ruin of illusions, the illusions of a realm of “humanness”, the exposing of the impossibility for man to be a creator after he has torn himself away from God, has rebelled against God. As regards its cultural consequences, socialism represents an indisputable ending of the Renaissance. The spirit of socialism is a death of the spirit of the Renaissance. For socialism, human life is no longer still a matter of creative human art, the free play of exuberant human powers. The Renaissance — was aristocratic, it created themes, which were free from the oppressive necessity of life. for socialism, proclaiming a death sentence to all aristocratism, human life is a matter of grievous necessity and collective toil. In the socialistic order there does not remain any sort of a free creative exuberance, unregulated and not subordinate to the material centre. The Renaissance was a proclamation of the rights of man, of human individualness, first of all in the sciences and the arts, in the intellectual life, and then also in political life. Socialism opposes to the rights of man the rights of the collective, which is not humanness, and in which are delineated inhuman features. In the collectivism, to which humanism has arrived in its historical dialectics, there are abolished all the rights of man, there is abolished freedom of thought itself, from which began the Renaissance. All thinking is rendered compulsory and subject to the social faith-confessing centre, i.e. what occurs is a return to the Middle Ages, but already not on religious, but rather material a basis, on the basis of materialistic an anti-religion. The end of the renaissance signifies the exhaustion and destruction of the personal principle within human societies, the principle of personal creative initiative, personal responsibility, with instead a triumph of the collective principle. The end of the Renaissance is to be noted not only within socialism, but also within anarchism, no less characteristic of our era. Modern history, born of the Renaissance, is characterised by a rich flourishing of the state aspect; from this it is distinct from the Middle Ages, when the state awareness was weak. The medieval period was international, universal. The modern period — is a period of national states. At the basis of modern states rests an humanistic self-assertion of man, initially in the monarchies, then in the democracies. But the humanistic national states of modern history bear within them the seeds of self-negation. A purely humanistic rule by the people undermines the religious grounding of the state and creates the basis for its anarchistic collapse. Anarchism is an ending of the Renaissance era state. In anarchism occurs not only a self-negation of the humanistic state, but also the self-negation and self-destruction of the personal principle, the ultimate crash of individualism within its apparent extreme triumph. The personal principle has been very closely and inseparably connected with the state civil principle. In anarchism, however, there win out all the same collective mass elements, hostile both to the person, and to the state. The spirit of anarchism — is not creative a spirit, in it is a malicious and suspicious hostility towards all creative exuberance. Anarchism wants as though to destroy everything, such as was created by the Renaissance. In it is a retribution for the falsity of humanism. When the thirst for equality takes hold in human societies, — there is an ending of everything of the Renaissance, of all creative super-abundance. The pathos for equality is a pathos of envy towards foreign a being, towards different a being, is the impossibility to affirm a being in itself. The passion for equality is a passion for non-being. Modern societies are in the grip of a passion, which transfers the centre of gravity of life from a creative assertion of a being in itself into a jealous denial of being in an other. Suchlike only can be infirm a society.
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The Renaissance began with an affirmation of creative human individualness. It has ended with a denial of creative human individualness. Man without God ceases to be man — in this is the religious meaning of the inner dialectics of modern history, the history of the flourishing and ruin of humanistic illusions. Left alone to himself and inwardly empty, man is rendered a slave not to higher and supra-human, but rather to lower and non-human elements. The human spirit becomes quenched and in the grip of whatever non-human spirits. The formation of the religion of humanism, of the ultimate making a god of man and the human is also a beginning of the end of humanism, its self-negation, the drying up of its creative powers. The flourishing of humanness has been possible only as long, as man has sensed and conceived as set beneathe him and in his depths are principles loftier, than he himself, whilst he has not torn himself away ultimately from the Divine groundings. In the era of the Renaissance there was still with man this feeling and this awareness, there was not yet an ultimate rift. And European man across the whole span of modern history has not ultimately broken away from his religious groundings. Therefore also only has been possible humanness, has been possible a flourishing of human individualness and human creativity. The humanism of Goethe had religious a basis, it was bound up with faith in God. Man, bereft of God, is plunged into the impersonal and inhuman element, he is rendered a slave to an inhuman necessity. In our era there are no longer the free, the Renaissance-like playing out of human powers, which created Italian art, and Shakespeare, and Goethe. In our era at play are non-human powers, elemental spirits, oppressing man and darkening his image. Man now has not gotten free, but is rather fettered by inhuman elements and by their designs they entangle man. Man has received his form, his image through the actings of religious principles and energies. The chaos, in which the human image has gotten lost, cannot be overcome by human powers alone. The formation of the human cosmos has been likewise a matter of Divine powers. The man of modern history, towards its end having fallen away from the Divine powers and refusing their assist, falls anew into chaos, renders unstable his image, shakes its form. The creative energy of man does not become concentrated, but instead dissipated. The formation of a reservoir of creative energy presupposes a preservation of the forms of the human image, presupposes boundaries, distinguishing man from the formless lower stages. This reservoir becomes ruptured, and the creative energy from it gets poured away. Man becomes bereft of his forms, his boundaries, he becomes defenseless against the poor infinity of the chaotic world.
If we are experiencing the end of the Renaissance in the modern currents of art, in futurism, in the modern currents of philosophy, in critical gnosseology, in theosophic and occult currents, and finally, in socialism and anarchism, which occupy so dominant a place in the societal life of our era, then likewise we are experiencing it also in the religious and mystical trends. In certain currents the humanism inwardly decays and in this process of decay is also pulled in the image of man, the forms of man. In other currents the humanism gets surmounted by higher principles, and man seeks the salvation of his own image, of his forms, in the Divine groundings of life. But in both the one and the other instance the historical Renaissance ends and there occurs a return to medieval principles, at one point the dark principles of the Middle Ages, at another its luminous principles. In humanism there has been a betrayal of sanctity, and in this betrayal man is being paid back in his history, suffering one disappointment after another. There is now beginning a process of the barbarisation of European culture. After the refined decadence at the summits of European culture there had to occur an incursion of barbarity. And in this regard the world war will have had a fatal significance for the fate of Europe. Cultural and humanistic Europe has exposed and rendered itself defenseless against the inward and outward incursion of barbarity. The dull grumblings of a subterranean barbarity have long already been heard. But the declining European bourgeois society has done nothing for the saving of the old and eternal sanctities of Europe — it has lived unconcerned, reckoning upon an endless prosperity. The twilight of Europe is beginning. (Vide my article, “The End of Europe”, written in the year 1915 and appearing in my anthology of articles entitled, “The Fate of Russia”.) European societies are entering upon a period of senility and dotage. There can ensue a new chaos among peoples. There is possible a new feudalisation of Europe. In the history of mankind one cannot have progress exist along straight an upward line, a progress in which the people of the XIX Century so believed, to the extent that they could make of this faith a religion itself. In the history of societies and cultures are to be noted organic processes, in which there is a period of youth, followed by maturity and old age, there is a flourishing and then decline. We are experiencing not so much the beginning of the new, as rather the end of the old. Our era is reminiscent of the end of the ancient world, the fall of the Roman Empire, the exhaustion and desiccation of Graeco-Roman culture — the eternal wellspring of every human culture. The modern trends in art are reminiscent of the loss of perfective ancient forms and the barbarisation of that era. The social and political processes of our time are reminiscent of those processes, which occurred during the era of the emperor Diocletian, the processes leading to the feudal enslavement of man. The religio-philosophic and mystical searchings of our time are reminiscent of the end of Greek philosophy, and thence the mystical searchings — the thirst for an incarnated god, for the appearance of a god-man. Our era approaches spiritually nigh to that of the universalism and syncretism of the Hellenistic era. A great angst envelopes the better part of mankind. this — is a sign of the onset of a new religious era.
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Humanism has to be lived out to its end. Its paths are now passing, and it has to be surmounted. The inner, the self-destructive dialectics of humanism has provided enormous an experience to mankind. And a return to that rather more simple a condition, in which European man prior to the humanistic era of modern history was situated — is impossible. Modern history has rendered twofold, has aggravated and exposed everything in man. In this is its chief meaning, and not in the positive conquests and achievements. The searchings of modern history provide great a significance. In humanism something was opened, a great theme posited. Yet now is ending the life of man sundered off from the religious centre and inevitably there is a searching for a new religious centralisation of life, i.e. a spiritual immersion at depth. Man in all the spheres of his creativity cannot further remain on the surface level, on the periphery of being. He has to either begin movement into the depth, or ultimately become winded and empty. From the great upheavals and tribulations of our time has to occur a deepening. European man is being faced with an ultimate freeing from the illusions of humanism. It becomes already impossible to go the middle way. There is occurring a split into two opposing sides: upwards and downwards. By many indications we are approaching a new historical era. To an era, similar to the yet dark Middle Ages, to the VII, the VIII and IX Centuries, prior to the medieval rebirth. And many of us tend to feel ourself akin to the last Romans. This — is a noble self-feeling. Something of this feeling awakened also in the new Christian soul of Bl. Augustine, when danger threatened Rome, when the barbaric world burst forth. So also at present: many of us can sense ourself the final last and faithful representatives of the old, the Christian, European culture, threatened by great dangers both inward and outward. Through such a danger there is possible a new, though rather too barely civilised, barbarisation necessary to carry forth with the unfading light, as once it was carried by the Christian Church. Only in Christianity is ultimately revealed and preserved the image of man, the visage of man. Christianity has freed man from the demons of nature in the pagan world tearing at him, freed him from demonlatreia. Only the Christian redemption has provided man the possibility to lift himself up and stand on his feet; it severed man from the entrails of the elements of nature, into which man had fallen, to which he had become enslaved. the ancient world readied the form of man; in it awakened the creative energy of man, but the human person was still not freed from the grip of the natural elements, the spiritual man was not yet born. The second, the not of nature, but rather of spirit, birth of man has occurred in Christianity. And humanism received its true humanness from Christianity, it cannot find it only in antiquity. But humanism in its developement tore away the humanness from its Divine roots. And here, when humanism has ultimately torn man away from the Divinity, it has turned also against man, and has begun to destroy the human image, because man — is in the image and likeness of God. When man desired merely to be in the image and likeness of nature, only the natural man — he made himself subject to the lower elements and lost his true image. Man is anew torn at by demons, and he is powerless to withstand and resist them. The spiritual centre of the human person has been lost. In this turning of humanism against man — is the tragedy of modern history. In this — is the cause of the fatal failure of the Renaissance and of the inevitability of its end. People in our time are wont to say, that Christianity also has been a failure, has not realised its expectations, and upon this they base the futility and meaninglessness of a return to it. But the fact, that European mankind has not made a realisation of Christianity, has distorted and betrayed it, cannot be valid an objection against its truth and veracity. Christ also did not promise the realisation of His Kingdom upon earth, He said, that His Kingdom is not of this world, He predicted prior to the end a paucity of faith and of love. The untruth of Christian mankind is human an untruth, human a betrayal and failure, human a weakness and sinfulness, and not Christian an untruth, not an untruth of God. All the righteous indignation against Catholicism can be directed against Catholic mankind, but not against the genuine sanctity of the Catholic Church. Man first distorted Christianity, he besmirched it with his own failings, and then ultimately he revolted against it and betrayed it, blaming the Christian truth itself as responsible for his own sins and failings. The creative spiritual life is not a matter of God only, but also of man. To man has been granted great freedom, and it involves a great testing of the power of his spirit. God Himself as it were expects from man creative activity and creative results. But rather than this, than directing his creative image towards God and devoting to God of the free abundance of his powers, man instead has squandered and wasted his creative powers in self-affirmation, in a return to going in circles upon the periphery. In this there is much to be sad over. It seems, that the beautiful is fading and dying, that it is impossible still to have the free playing out of human powers, that the free human individualness is come to an end. But it would be shallow and cynical to surrender to grief. The capacity for a renewal of human nature — is infinite. But to believe in a spiritual rebirth of man and human creativity is possible now only through a deepening of Christianity, through an ultimate revelation of the image of Christ in man, through a fidelity to the Christian revelation concerning the human person. Within Christianity there has not yet been fully revealed its anthropology, its revelation concerning man is not yet concluded. In this is the meaning of the positing by modern humanistic history of the theme concerning man. But modern Europe has gone off afar in its betrayal of the Christian revelation concerning the human person and has surrendered itself to the lacerations of elemental tempests. And thus it has allowed within its culture a chaotic principle, which can plunge Europe into a period of barbarity. But no sort of tempests, no sort of chaotic elements can extinguish the light of the Christian revelation concerning God, concerning man and concerning the God-Man.The gates of hell will not prevail over it. And therefore the source of the light will abide, irregardless how great the manifest darkness. And we ought to sense ourself not only like the last of the Romans, faithful to the old and eternal truth and beauty, but also oriented towards the unseeable and coming day, when will rise forth the sun of a new Christian Renaissance. Perhaps, it will be in the catacombs and happen merely for few, perhaps, it will be only at the end of the times. To us it is not given to know. But assuredly we do know, that the eternal light and the eternal beauty are invincible against any sort of darkness and chaos. The victory of quantity over quality in this finite world over the other infinite world is always illusory. And therefore without fear and despondency we have to enter from the waning day of modern history into a medieval night. May there fade away the false and deceiving light!
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My theme is European, and not Russian. Russia has remained on the sidelines of the great humanistic movement of modern history. Within it has not occurred the Renaissance, the spirit of the Renaissance is foreign to Russian people. Russia, to a significant degree, has remained the East and remains the East even in our day. Within it has always been insufficiently revealed the personal principle. In it has not been the resplendid blossoming forth of the creative human individuality. But the Russian people have adopted for themself the final fruits of European humanism in the period of its self-dissolution and self-destruction, when it ultimately has become directed against the human image. And no other people has gone to such extremes and destructions of the human visage, of human rights, of human freedom. No other people has displayed such hostility towards creative exuberance, such malicious jealousy towards every flourishing of human individualness. In this is something terrible for us, as Russians. We are living through in very extreme a form the end of the Renaissance, not having experienced the Renaissance itself, not having the great remembrance of past creative profusion. The whole entirety of Russian great literature has not been Renaissance-like in its spirit; in it is not sensed a profuseness of powers, but rather the strain of sick a spirit, a tortuous search for salvation from ruin. In Pushkin alone has been something Renaissance-like, but his spirit has not prevailed within Russian literature. We now experience a futurism hostile to the Renaissance, not having experienced the creativity of the Renaissance; we experience socialism and anarchism hostile to the Renaissance, not having experienced the free flourishing of a national state; we experience philosophic and theosophic currents hostile to the Renaissance, without having experienced a Renaissance rapture of knowledge. To us has not been given to experience the joyousness of a free humanity. In this — is a peculiarity of the bitter Russian fate. But with us there has to be an anguishing over a spiritual deepening and the seeking of the Divine grounding of man and of human creativity. Is there possible for us a religious sanctioning of creativity, which in Russian religiosity never obtained? With this is connected the possibility of a spiritual rebirth of Russia. Can we, as Russians, be capable of at least sharing in a Christian Renaissance? But for this we would have to undergo a great repentance and cleansing, and by fire we would have to burn away the superstitions and idolatry of a false and rotting humanism in the name of the Christian idea of man.
N. A. Berdyaev
© 2012 by translator Fr. S. Janos
(1922 – 17(60,1) – en)
KONETS RENESSANSA. Written 1919 in Moscow; first published as booklet in Peterburg, Epoch, 1922 (Kl.# 17); subsequently included in the Berdyaev-editored anthology, SOPHIA: Problemy dukhovnoi kul’tury i religioznoi philosophii. — Berlin, Obelisk, 1923(Kl.#60); as the 1st article, p. 21-46. Republished in the anthology of N. Berdyaev articles entitled, “Padenie svyaschennogo russkogo tsarstva, Publitsistika 1914-1922”, Izdatel’stvo Astrel’, Moskva, 2007, p. 808-835.