Journal Put’, Nov. 1929, No. 19, p. 114-116.
N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)NEW BOOKS:
A. K. GORNOSTAEV. PARADISE ON EARTH. Towards an Ideology of the Creativity of M. F. Dostoevsky. F. M. Dostoevsky and N. F. Fedorov. 1929.
(1929 – #348)
A. N. Gornostaev appears evidently to be a chief representative of the Fedorov current. In a recently appeared booklet, “Paradise on Earth”, he attempts to establish points of affinity between Dostoevsky and N. Fedorov. He wants to show, that in Dostoevsky there was already the fundamental idea of N. Fedorov, though insufficiently perceived. His argument is bound up with the death of Ilyusha and makes a connection with the boys in the “Brothers Karamazov” and with Alyosha going off for action in the world after his experiencing a birth into new life. According to the opinion of Gornostaev, the time at present is “dostoino”, i.e. “propitious”. Gornostaev attempts to formulate a fundamental theme of Russian literature and Russian religious thought: “The basic, the perhaps singular theme of Russian religious thought — is this, from whence has all originated and towards what will it have returned, this is the central axis point, around which has grown the impetus of motion — it is an ideational task, determining for itself the whole course of its development — wherein perhaps all of four words tend to signify it: “GOD’S KINGDOM ON EARTH.” (p. 17) or otherwise “Paradise on Earth”. For him, the greatest and most concise expression of this Russian theme and idea was in N. Fedorov with his “Common Task”, the project of an universal resuscitation of the dead. I would say, that the basic Russian idea is not so much a searching for paradise on earth, as rather the search for righteous-truth (pravda) upon earth. The search for the Kingdom of God is lodged deeply within Russian literature and Russian thought, and it frequently assumes Christian forms. In this is expressed the eschatologicism of the Russian religious type. N. Fedorov is indisputably a characteristic Russian thinker, and in him can be studied deep-rooted peculiarities of Russian religious thinking — sorrow over people’s grief, the search for a social just-truth and eternal salvation, the thirst for resurrection. A. Gornostaev however polemicises against Vyacheslav Ivanov, who in his article on Dostoevsky as regards the death of Ilyusha speaks about the immortality of soul and does not speak about resurrection in the flesh. He is correct, certainly, that Christianity teaches not so much about the immortality of soul, as rather about resurrection, though Dostoevsky himself constantly spoke about the immortality of soul, as a central idea of his. In the course of A. Gornostaev’s thought we find the same deficiencies and pitfalls, that N. Fedorov himself had. N. Fedorov was a thinker of genius and of audacity, but with him there was a weak sense of original sin and of evil, and upon this basis there was an extreme optimism and utopianism, there was a rationalistic faith in the possibility of a complete abolishing in world life the workings of forces irrational and mysterious, such as are not susceptible to regulation, there was a lack of understanding of the antinomic and paradoxical attitude of Christianity towards death, which is not only a final and definitive evil, but also a path of salvation (“having trampled down death by death”), i.e. an insufficient understanding of the mystery of the Cross and Golgotha. The idea of paradise upon earth is also the idea of a total rationalisation of world life. This — is a false utopian idea, the false allure of an unrealisable earthly happiness. The Kingdom of God presupposes a transfiguration of the earth and of the world, a new earth and a new heaven, for upon the old, the sinful earth, the Kingdom of God cannot be sustained. In the Fedorov idea of the resuscitation of the dead forebears there is an enormous and purely Christian truth, but he bestowed upon it the characteristic of an earthly utopia, reminiscent of the utopia of Saint-Simon, Foure and others like them. A. Gornostaev wants a real religious working, about which Russian literature prophesied, and he sees this real religious working in the common task of the resuscitation of dead ancestors. Still, does he stand upon the path of a real religious working? In actuality he but preaches an idea of a common task of resuscitation, whereas the real paths of a realisation of the working of this idea he does not demonstrate. And meanwhile this but remains at the stage of an influence upon consciousness and world-concept, i.e. it possesses no functionally working advantages over other ideological currents. For a moment however let us grant, that the project of N. Fedorov should have realised, that the dead ancestors become resuscitated, that universal life be restored. Would this signify the onset of a paradise upon earth, the realisation of the Kingdom of God? Why would a resuscitation of the dead signify a victory over original sin, a final overcoming of evil, where would be the guarantee, that the resuscitated would not begin anew to destroy each other and sow death? Fedorov’s project of resuscitation presupposes, as its religious and spiritual condition, that there be an universal unity of love, i.e. the victory over sin and evil. Resuscitation itself per se, its realisation by means of technology and science, could prove also to be a satanic design, i.e. a false urge to taste of the tree of life and to live eternally after the downfall through sin, against which the Lord warns in the book of Genesis. Yet certainly least of all was the intent of N. Fedorov satanic. But if it be ripped away from its religious and Christian basis, then it can become so. And Fedorovism at present in Russia can follow out a false path. Man is called to co-participate in the deed of the Resurrection, he is active, and not passive, in this is a truth of N. Fedorov, but the Resurrection can be realised only through the graced power of Christ and cannot for a moment be sundered off from it, otherwise it will be transformed into a sort of black magic. And the creative deed of man upon earth cannot be comprised merely of the effort at resuscitation, it is more manifold and extensive. And this creative deed of man also cannot be in the creation of a paradise upon earth, for paradise is not to be created by the creative effort of man. Paradise is a blessing and a gift from God. The path however of human creativity is tragic, it always presupposes a cross and suffering. A. Gornostaev shrinks down the Russian idea. His booklet and Dostoevsky and N. Fedorov is interesting and thought provoking, it is in line also to certain of the Russian currents and trends, but it is impossible to accept on faith the religious actions, to which it appeals. It remains enormously unclear, how to initiate the religious action, what it is that can be acknowledged as the start of the action, if from such action be disregarded the ideological preaching. The thoughts of A. Gornostaev merit a sense of sympathy, as a Russian searching for the realisation of Christianity within life, as a creative movement within Orthodoxy. The truth of Fedorov and Fedorovism consists first of all in this, that they do not limit Christianity to the deed of a personal other-world salvation, that they see within Christianity a deed both social and cosmic. And this is a Russian truth.
© 2003 by translator Fr. S. Janos
(1929 – 348 -en)
(NOVIYA KNIGI:) A. K. GORNOSTAEV. RAI NA ZEMLE. K ideologii tvorchestva M. F. Dostoevsky. F. M. Dostoevsky and N. F. Fedorov, 1929. Berdyaev BookReview published in Journal Put’, nov. 1929, No. 19, p. 114-116