LEV SHESTOV Introduction






life in Russia

life in Europe



Leon Chestov
The life and thought of Lev Shestov
by Bernard Martin

* Philosopher *

Lev Shestov (1866-1938) belongs to the small company of truly great religious philosophers of our time and his work deserves the closest attention of all who are seriously concerned with the problems of religious thought.

Unfortunately, Shestov's stature has not hitherto been generally recognized nor has his work been widely studied. Even in Europe - where his genius was acknowledged by such figures as Nikolai Berdyaev and Sergei Bulgakov in Russia, Jules de Gaultier, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and Albert Camus in France, and D. H. Lawrence and John Middleton Murry in England - he did not enjoy any great popularity in his lifetime and now, a quarter of a century after his death, his writings are little read. In America his name is practically unknown to the general public, and even many professional philosophers and theologians are unacquainted with his work.

It is regrettable that this is so, and yet the fact itself is hardly surprising. Shestov established no school and had no real disciples [1] to carry on his work. He did not believe that he had created any clearly defined, positive body of philosophic or religious thought that could simply be handed on to students, to be expounded and taught. Whatever insights or wisdom his own life-long spiritual striving had brought him could not be transmitted by intellectual processes to others; their appropriation of his existentially acquired "truths" could come about only through the same kind of intensive personal struggle and search on their part. But perhaps an even more important reason for the relative obscurity into which Shestov has fallen is the fact that he is stubbornly and unrelentingly anti-modern. The gods of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century man - science, technology, the idea of inevitable historical progress, autonomous ethics and, most of all, rationalist systems of philosophy - were for him idols, devoid of ultimate meaning but terrible in their potentiality for destruction.

It is Shestov's revolt against scientism and philosophic rationalism, a revolt carried on with immense polemical passion and extraordinary dialectical skill, that has drawn attention to his work but at the same time repelled most readers. Some, to be sure, have found that what Shestov has to say is extremely important and worth listening to. His diatribes against the untested assumptions of rationalist metaphysics and positivist science, as well as his superb and penetrating analyses of the singular, the inexplicable and the extraordinary in the human psyche, made a profound impression on at least a few of the important figures of the French Existentialist movement who were developing their philosophical outlook just at the time when his works were appearing in France. Albert Camus, for example, has noted the intensity and concentrated power of his work in this connection.
Shestov ... throughout a wonderfully monotonous work, constantly straining toward the same truths, tirelessly demonstrates that the tightest system, the most universal rationalism always stumbles eventually on the irrational of human thought. None of the ironic facts or ridiculous contradictions that depreciate reason escapes him. One thing only interests him, and that is the exception, whether in the domain of the heart or of the mind. Through the Dostoevskian experiences of the condemned man, the exacerbated adventures of the Nietzschean mind, Hamlet's imprecations, or the bitter aristocracy of an Ibsen, he tracks down, illuminates, and magnifies the human revolt against the irremediable. He refuses reason its reasons and begins to advance with some decision only in the middle of that colorless desert where all certainties have become stones.[2]
For Shestov, however, his rebellion against rationalism and scientism was only, as Camus recognized,[3] a preliminary step. It was a clearing of the way for his bold and fervent affirmation, in the mature and final phase of his life, of the truth of the biblical message. Only a reappropriation of the faith of Scripture - which proclaims that man and the universe are the creation of an omnipotent, personal God and that this God made man in His own image, endowing him with freedom and creative power - could, Shestov came to believe, liberate contemporary humanity from the horrors of existence. But such faith, in the face of the mechanist and rationalist assumptions underlying modern scientific and philosophical thought and now entirely dominating the mentality of Western man, is attainable only through agonized personal struggle against what has come to be regarded as "self-evident" truth. Shestov undertook to show the way by his own battle against the self-evident. With a mastery not only of the entire Western philosophic tradition but also of modern European literature, he used his vast erudition, as well as the ardent passion of his entire being and his extraordinary literary talents (D. S. Mirsky says of Shestov's writing that "it is the tidiest, the most elegant, the most concentrated - in short, the most classical prose - in the whole of modern Russian literature.")[4] to forge a blazing indictment of rationalist and scientist metaphysics in order to regain for man what he considered the most precious of human gifts: the right to God and to the primordial freedom which God has given man.

American and British readers, to whom the life and work of this great Russian Jewish thinker are now virtually unknown,[5] can profit from becoming acquainted with him. For, as William Barrett has said of Shestov's work, it "can show us what the mind of western Europe, the heir of classicism and rationalism, looks like to an outsider - particularly to a Russian outsider who will be satisfied with no philosophic answers that fall short of the total and passionate feelings of his own humanity."[6]

* Life in Russia *

Shestov was born Lev Isaakovich Schwarzmann on January 31, 1866 (February 13, according to the old Russian calendar) in Kiev, where his father, Isaak Moisseevich Schwarzmann, a wealthy merchant and manufacturer, had established a large textile business known throughout southwest Russia. In his youth, spent with two younger brothers and four sisters in a large house in the Podol quarter of Kiev, Lev Isaakovich received instruction in Hebrew and Jewish literature from a tutor engaged by his father. The father himself, while generally regarded as something of a free thinker by the more orthodox Jews of Kiev, was a lover of Hebrew literature and had a strong loyalty to Judaism and Jewish tradition. At one time there was talk of expelling him from the Kiev synagogue for his alleged blasphemies and for his irrepressible tendency to joke about the narrow-mindedness of his fellow Jews, but Isaak Moisseevich is reported to have said, "At the time of the high holidays, when they carry the scrolls of the Torah into the synagogue, I always kiss them." The young Lev Isaakovich - his brother-in-law, Herman Lowtzky, tells us [7] - delighted in hearing his father repeat stories and legends from ancient Jewish literature.

In order to obtain for their son the privileges accorded educated Jews by the Tzarist government, his parents enrolled Lev Isaakovich in the Gymnasium of Kiev but, after becoming involved in a political affair, he had to leave. He finished his Gymnasium studies in Moscow, whereupon he entered the university there, studying first under the Faculty of Mathematics and later under the Faculty of Law. After a run-in with the notorious Inspector of Students, Bryzgalov, Shestov was obliged to return to Kiev, where he finished his studies in 1889 with the title of Candidate of Laws. In his university days he was primarily interested in economic and social questions and, while studying in Moscow, wrote a lengthy paper on the problems of the Russian worker with the subtitle "Factory Legislation in Russia." His doctoral dissertation at Kiev was concerned with the condition of the Russian working class. Though accepted by the University of Kiev, the dissertation was suppressed by the Committee of Censors in Moscow as revolutionary. Hence Shestov could not become a doctor of law. He was inscribed on the official list of advocates at St. Petersburg but never practiced the legal profession and later lost most of his interest in the law.

To the Schwarzmann home in Kiev in the early 1890's, attracted by the young Shestov's brilliance, came many of the leading intellectual figures of the city. As his lifelong friend Bulgakov wrote:
In the hospitable Schwarzmann home at Kiev one could meet many of the representatives of the local intelligentsia, as well as writers and artists from the capital passing through Kiev. People gathered there to exchange ideas and to listen to music. Life at that time (I am speaking of the 1890's) still flowed equably and calmly, but only up to 1905, when, after the revolution, there broke out in Kiev one of the first pogroms, which we felt in all of its tragedy. In those years I had, along with Berdyaev, to struggle with the local representatives of positivism and atheism in defense of a religious outlook. Shestov was in sympathy with us, though he did not himself participate in the discussions. From Kiev our group moved north, and our ties with Shestov were continued and consolidated in Moscow. In the midst of new literary, philosophic and religious movements, Shestov remained his old self, with the same paradoxical philosophy, and invariably loved by all...[8]
After finishing his studies at the university, Shestov entered his father's textile firm. Though bored by business affairs, he managed to acquire enough skill in merchandising and accounting to stave off the bankruptcy then threatened by his father's overextension of the firm's credit. At the same time he maintained his literary interests and began to write for the avant-garde press of Kiev. He published several articles, including an essay on the work of Soloviev and one entitled "Georg Brandes and Hamlet,"[9] which was to serve as the basis for his first book.

Having put the family business on a firm footing, Shestov turned its management over to his brothers-in-law and younger brothers, and in 1895 went to Rome.[*] There in 1896 he married a young medical student, Anna Eleazarovna Berezovsky. [**] Two daughters were born of the marriage, Tatiana in 1897 and Natalie in 1900. In 1898 Shestov and his wife moved to Switzerland where Anna finished her studies under the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Berne. At this time Shestov considered pursuing a career as a singer but, according to his brother-in-law Lowtzky, a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and Gabriel Fauré who became an eminent musicologist, Shestov's teacher ruined his splendid singing voice. This did not, however, destroy his interest in music. Music and poetry (though he was not satisfied with his own attempts at writing verse) continued to be his major interests. The French poets - Musset, Baudelaire and Verlaine - were great favorites of Shestov's at this period, but he soon abandoned poetry and music for what Plato called "the highest music" - philosophy.

In 1898 Shestov returned to Russia for a brief stay in St. Petersburg. Here he became part of a circle of talented young writers and artists, including Dmitri Merezhkovsky, Vasily Rozanov, Nikolai Berdyaev, David Levin and Sergei Diaghilev, the great creator of the modern Russian ballet. Diaghilev welcomed Shestov as a contributor to the noted journal Mir Iskusstva (The World of Art) which he was then editing.

Shestov had brought back with him two completed book manuscripts. The first, Shakespeare and His Critic Brandes, was published in 1898. In it he attacked the positivism and skeptical rationalism of the famous Danish critic and essayist in the name of a vague moral idealism. The second, Good in the Teaching of Tolstoy and Nietzsche: Philosophy and Preaching, which appeared in 1900, was characterized by a very different outlook. Shestov's first reading of Nietzsche had been a shattering intellectual and emotional experience. He was greatly moved by the paradoxical ideas of the solitary German thinker and prophet. In his volume comparing him with the Russian writer, Shestov contrasted Nietzsche's supposedly cruel, unpitying and amoral philosophy with the pretentious moralistic preaching of Tolstoy. The book's closing lines express the central idea that came to dominate all of Shestov's later thought and writing:

"Good - we now know it from the experience of Nietzsche - is not God. 'Woe to those who live and know no love better than pity.' Nietzsche has shown us the way. We must seek that which is above pity, above Good. We must seek God."

Shestov's profound interest in Nietzsche inspired a third book comparing the German philosopher with Dostoevsky. This volume, entitled Dostoevsky and Nietzsche: The Philosophy of Tragedy, was published in St. Petersburg in 1903 and enhanced the author's growing reputation as a creative and original thinker. The systematic presentation of ideas, however, was growing burdensome to Shestov. In his next volume, The Apotheosis of Groundlessness, published in St. Petersburg in 1905, he turned to the aphoristic style which remained one of his favorite literary forms throughout the remainder of his life. This was a book containing over 160 brief essays, some no more than a paragraph in length, dealing with philosophy, science and literature. Shestov here revealed himself as a keen satirist and polemicist, a master of the ironic style and of the indirect mode of discourse that characterizes much of Kierkegaard's writing.

Though at this time Shestov had not even heard of Kierkegaard or of what a few years later came to be called Existenz-philosophie, it is interesting to note that The Apotheosis of Groundlessness already adumbrates a number of the chief characteristics of existentialist thought. It contains not only a vigorous attack on the speculative metaphysics of the neo-Kantian and Hegelian idealist variety that dominated European academic philosophy at the time but also a radical challenge to the pretensions of scientific positivism and its basic assumptions, namely, the principle of unalterable regularity in the sequence of natural phenomena and the idea of causal necessity that is supposed to govern them. Shestov further denied the value of autonomous ethics and passionately insisted on the need for subjectivity and inwardness in the search for truth. In this book he also displayed a profound appreciation of those unique insights in the work of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Ibsen which later critics were to regard as distinctively "existential."

The Apotheosis of Groundlessness was not warmly received either by the general public or by the author's friends in the literary circles of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Though the classic simplicity of Shestov's language and his stylistic brilliance evoked widespread admiration, the Russian public by and large saw in the book mere libertinism and sarcasm. Even the critics emphasized its apparently nihilistic message and strongly decried its anti-rationalism; only a very few - among them Shestov's friend, Berdyaev understood the significance of what he was saying and recognized the promise implicit in the book. However, in all fairness it must be admitted that The Apotheosis of Groundlessness is largely a negative work. Shestov was merely beginning his struggle against the ideas dominating European thought which he felt had to be overcome in order to provide room for what was later to be the chief burden of his positive message - the reality of the living God of the Bible and the possibility of the restoration of human freedom through religious faith.

The Apotheosis of Groundlessness was translated into English by S. S. Koteliansky and published in London and New York in 1920 under the title All Things Are Possible. In his foreword to this edition, D. H. Lawrence said of Shestov:
"Everything is possible" - this is his really central cry. It is not nihilism. It is only a shaking free of the human psyche from old bonds. The positive central idea is that the human psyche, or soul, really believes in itself, and in nothing else.

Dress this up in a little comely language, and we have a real new ideal that will last us for a new, long epoch. The human soul itself is the source and well-head of creative activity...No ideal on earth is anything more than an obstruction, in the end, to the creative issue of the spontaneous soul. Away with all ideals. Let each individual act spontaneously from the forever-incalculable prompting of the creative well-head within him. There is no universal law. Each being is, at his purest, a law unto himself, single, unique, a Godhead, a fountain from the unknown.

This is the ideal which Shestov refuses positively to state, because he is afraid it may prove in the end a trap to catch his own free spirit. So it may. But it is none the less a real, living ideal for the moment, the very salvation. When it becomes ancient, and like the old lion who lay in his cave and whined, devours all its servants, then it can be dispatched. Meanwhile it is a really liberating word.[10]
Lawrence declared that what Shestov had rendered explicit in The Apotheosis of Groundlessness was just what had been implied in the work of the great Russian novelists, namely, a rejection of and rebellion against "the virus of European culture and ethic" that had worked in the Russian soul "like a disease." Shestov, he suggested, in "tweaking the nose of European idealism," was expressing the last prenatal struggle of the real Russia about to be born and presently engaged in "kicking away from the old womb of Europe."[11]

In the years preceding the First World War Shestov made his home alternately in Russia and in Switzerland or Germany. From 1908 to 1909 he and his family lived in the German university town of Freiburg and from 1910 to 1914 in the Swiss town of Coppet on Lake Geneva. These were for Shestov years of continued literary and philosophical study and writing. In 1908 his book Beginnings and Endings, containing two perceptive essays on Chekhov and Dostoevsky as well as a number of striking aphorisms, was published in St. Petersburg. Three years later, in 1911, another book, Great Vigils, appeared.

Beginnings and Endings was translated into English and published in 1916 in London under the title Anton Chekhov and Other Essays and in Boston under the title Penultimate Words. In his introduction to the English version John Middleton Murry, writing under the deeply felt impact of the war in which Europe was then embroiled, insisted on the need for men to "learn honesty again: not the laborious and meagre honesty of those who weigh advantage in the ledger of their minds, but the honesty that cries aloud in instant and passionate anger against the lie and the half-truth, and by an instinct knows the authentic thrill of contact with the living human soul." [12] Murry suggested that the work of Shestov could well teach such honesty. He noted the deep passion, the courage, the authenticity, the rebellion against tyranny and dogmatism and the refusal to be deceived that motivated both Shestov's personal reflections and his criticism of other men's ideas. Shestov, he declared,
is aware of himself as a soul seeking an answer to its own question; and he is aware of other souls on the same quest. As in his own case he knows that he has in him something truer than names and divisions and authorities, which will live in spite of them, so towards others he remembers that all that they wrote or thought or said is precious and permanent in so far as it is the manifestation of the undivided soul seeking an answer to its question.[13]
In 1914 Shestov felt the need to return to his homeland and again immerse himself in the life of the Russian people. He went with his wife and children to Moscow, where they lived through the stormy years of the war. Anna Eleazarovna, who had passed her state medical examinations in Moscow in 1905, worked in a hospital and their daughters attended secondary school. The war brought him one great personal sorrow when, in 1915, his handsome and gifted illegitimate son, Sergei Listopadov, was killed in action. Shestov traveled to the front to trace him but his mission was unsuccessful.

During the war years Shestov remained largely indifferent to political controversies. He continued his writing, working on a book which was to be called Potestas Clavium and which was dominated by the religious interest in the direction of which his thought had been increasingly turning. He also maintained contact with a group of philosophers and writers including Chelpanov, Gershenson, Bulgakov, Lurie, Berdyaev and Ivanov.

* Life in Europe *

The democratic revolution of February 1917 left Shestov unaffected, but when the Bolsheviks seized power in October, life in Moscow became precarious. Shestov and his family fled to Kiev, which was not yet under Communist rule and there, in January 1919, he finished Potestas Clavium. By this time Kiev, too, had acceded to the Soviets, and the authorities refused permission to publish the book unless the author added an introduction - be it only half a page - defending Marxist doctrine. Shestov stubbornly refused and the volume never appeared in Russia. Despite the disfavor in which he stood with the authorities, Shestov was permitted to teach and in the winter of 1918-19 gave a course of lectures on Greek philosophy at the People's University of Kiev. During this period he also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Simferopol. A growing discontent with the Bolshevik regime, however, finally led him to the decision to leave Russia. In the fall of 1919 he and his family began a long and difficult overland journey with stops at Rostov, Yalta and Sevastopol, where they boarded a French steamer with visas obtained by an older sister who lived in Paris. After visiting the home of the Lowtzkys in Geneva, they arrived in Paris in 1920, where a large colony of Russian émigrés had settled and where the Shestovs were to live for the next ten years. During this period Shestov resumed his quarrelsome but enduring friendship with Berdyaev, who was later to call him "one of the most remarkable and one of the best men it was my fortune to meet in my whole life." [14]

When Shestov first came to Paris he was virtually unknown in French literary and philosophical circles. But in 1921 he wrote a brilliant article commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of Dostoevsky's birth. When it appeared in La Nouvelle Revue Française, a number of distinguished French philosophers and men of letters became aware of Shestov's existence and recognized the originality and profundity of his thought. This article, "La lutte contre les évidences," was combined in 1923 with one on the late work of Tolstoy called "Le jugement dernier" under the title "Les révélations de la mort" and published in book form in Paris early that year. A few months later a remarkable essay commemorating the three hundredth anniversary of Pascal's birth appeared in Paris as a small book entitled "La nuit de Gethsémani."[15] On the strength of these essays Shestov was invited to contribute to the Revue Philosophique by its well-known editor, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, who for many years published his articles and papers.

The middle 1920's brought Shestov increasing fame not only in France but throughout Europe. In addition to continuing his research and writing, which had for some years now been concentrated on the Bible and on an intensive study (he called it a "pilgrimage through souls") of the work of such great religious thinkers as Plotinus, St. Augustine, Spinoza, Luther and Pascal, Shestov taught at the Institut des Etudes Slaves and served as a lecturer in the extension division of the Sorbonne. He also joined the Academy of Religious Philosophy which had been founded by Berdyaev in Berlin in 1922 with the help of the American YMCA and transferred to Paris in 1925. The YMCA Press, of which Berdyaev was the director, published several of his books, and a number of his essays appeared in the Russian-language periodical Put, also sponsored by the YMCA. With the financial support of his friend, Max Eitingon, Shestov undertook in 1926 the preparation of a complete edition of his works in French. Though sales were small, his works were thereby made available to interested readers everywhere on the Continent.

The German Nietzsche-Gesellschaft, recognizing his stature, elected him its honorary president, along with Thomas Mann, Heinrich Hilferding, Heinrich Wolfshagen and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and in 1926 published a splendid German translation of his Potestas Clavium. Under the auspices of the Nietzsche-Gesellschaft Shestov was also invited to lecture in Berlin, Halle, and Freiburg. Invitations from other countries as well came to him, and he addressed philosophical meetings in Prague, Cracow, and Amsterdam. In Amsterdam Shestov met Edmund Husserl, with whom he maintained a close friendship for some years. Though they differed radically in their philosophical orientation and sharply attacked each other's point of view, they had a profound respect for each other. It was at Husserl's home in Freiburg that Shestov, when he came to the German university town to lecture in 1929, met Martin Heidegger. When Heidegger left the house after a long philosophical discussion, Husserl urged Shestov to acquaint himself with the work of Kierkegaard, hitherto entirely unknown to him, and indicated that some of Heidegger's fundamental ideas had been inspired by the Nineteenth-Century Danish thinker.

Shestov plunged into a study of Kierkegaard and immediately recognized that he had found a deeply kindred spirit. His own thought, influenced by his reading of Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Pascal, Luther and, above all, the Bible, had for a long time been moving in the very directions in which, as he now discovered, Kierkegaard had preceded him.[***]

The rejection of Hegelian idealism as mere word-play of no ultimate significance to the living individual; the insistence that man's salvation lies in subjective, rationally ungrounded faith rather than in objective, verifiable knowledge; the awareness that the root of sin is in man's obsession with acquiring knowledge through the exercise of reason and through empirical procedures; the conviction that science and speculative philosophy have not, despite their inordinate pretensions, liberated man but served rather to destroy the freedom with which God had originally endowed him; the unshakable belief that for God - the God of the Bible, not of the philosophers - "all things are possible" and that indeed it is just this boundless possibility that constitutes the operational meaning of the reality of the living God of Scripture - all this that Shestov found in his reading of Kierkegaard had already been for some time his own passionately held convictions. To be sure, there was much here that did not please him - Kierkegaard, he felt, did not go far enough and at crucial moments had "lost his nerve - but, on the whole, he found him deeply congenial.

The fruit of Shestov's study of the founder of modern religious existentialism was one of his finest works, Kierkegaard and Existential Philosophy: Vox Clamantis in Deserto, published in France in 1936 by a committee of eminent French and Russian émigré men of letters organized to honor the author on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.

That year also saw the fulfillment of one of Shestov's long-cherished dreams. At the invitation of the Cultural Department of the Histadrut, he traveled to Palestine, where his grandfather lay buried on the Mount of Olives, to deliver a series of lectures. His appearances in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa evoked an enthusiastic response from audiences who recognized the aged Shestov as one of the great Jewish philosophers of the century.

Shestov's home in Boulogne-sur-Seine, where he moved in 1930, was the meeting place of a considerable number of distinguished representatives of the French as well as the Russian émigré literary and philosophical worlds, but he had few intimate friends or genuine disciples with the exception of Benjamin Fondane,[****] a talented young Rumanian Jewish poet and essayist with whom he became acquainted a few years after settling in Paris. Fondane was to be Shestov's most appreciative pupil and closest confidant during the last years of his life. The notes he kept of his meetings with the philosopher and his correspondence with him provide valuable insights into Shestov's intellectual interests and motivations. They were found among Fondane's papers after his death at the hands of the Nazis in the gas chambers of Birkenau in 1944.[16]

Shestov's last years were shadowed by the approach of war, but he continued his work until the very end. He had finished the manuscript of his major work, Athens and Jerusalem, in the spring of 1937 at Boulogne-sur-Seine and had personally supervised the preparation of French and German translations of the Russian text. The German language edition was barely published in Graz and distributed to libraries throughout Europe before Hitler annexed Austria.

The summer of 1938 was spent in Chatelguyon which had been Shestov's much loved vacation home for a number of years, but he went there a tired and sick man and returned to Paris in the fall already mortally ill. Despite his illness and fatigue, however, Shestov persisted in the last weeks of his life in working on an article on Husserl who had just died and, when he was too tired to write, whiled away the hours by reading Indian philosophy. On November 14 he was taken to the Boileau Clinic in Paris and there, six days later, died peacefully. At his bedside was an open Bible and the Deussen translation of the Vedas open at the chapter "Brahma als Freude" where he had underlined the following passage: Nicht trübe Askese kennzeichnet den Brahmanwisser, sondern das freudig hoffnungsvolle Bewusstsein der Einheit mit Gott. [Brahma as Joy. It is not somber ascetism that marks the sage but joyful anticipation of union with God. - AK] He was buried in the mausoleum of the new cemetery at Boulogne-Billancourt, where his mother and brother lay, on November 22, 1938.

* Nightmare *

In his last years Shestov brooded incessantly over what he called, in a letter to Bulgakov, "the nightmare of godlessness and unbelief which has taken hold of humanity." He was convinced that only through "the utmost spiritual effort," as he termed it, could men free themselves from this nightmare. His own life was concentrated on a passionate struggle against the "self-evident" truths of speculative philosophy and positivistic science which had come to dominate the mind of European man and made him oblivious to the rationally ungrounded but redeeming truths proclaimed in the Bible. This struggle is most fully reflected in his last and greatest book, the monumental Athens and Jerusalem, on which he worked for many years and completed just a year before his death.

Athens and Jerusalem is the culmination of Shestov's entire lifetime of intellectual inquiry and spiritual striving. It brings together all the diverse strands that had appeared in his earlier writings. His largely negative work of thirty years before, such as The Apotheosis of Groundlessness, may be regarded in retrospect as prolegomena and preparation for the positive message of the great work on which Shestov's permanent fame as a religious thinker will undoubtedly rest. In it he set himself the task of critically examining the pretension of human reason to possession of the capacity for attaining ultimate truth - a pretension first put forth by the founders of Western philosophy in Athens two and a half millennia ago, maintained ever since by most of the great metaphysicians of Europe, and still defended by many philosophers today. This pretension, he concluded, must be firmly rejected. Reason and its by-product, scientific method, have their proper use and their rightful place in obtaining knowledge concerning empirical phenomena, but they cannot and must not be allowed to determine the directions of man's metaphysical quest or to decide on the ultimate issues - issues such as the reality of God, human freedom and immortality.

The scientists and most of the philosophers, Shestov repeatedly insists in Athens and Jerusalem as well as in some of his earlier works,[17] have been concerned with discovering self-evident, logically consistent, or empirically verifiable propositions which they take to be eternal and universal truths. For them, man is merely another link in the endless chain of phenomena and lives in a universe totally governed by the iron laws of causal necessity. They assume, whether they say so explicitly or not, that human liberty is largely an illusion, that man's freedom to act and his capacity for self-determination are sharply limited by the network of unchangeable and necessary causal relationships into which he has been cast and which exercise an insuperable power over him. Consequently, the path of both virtue and wisdom for man, they believe, lies not in useless rebellion against necessity but in submissive obedience and resignation.

European man, according to Shestov,[18] has languished for centuries in a hypnotic sleep induced by the conviction that the entire universe is ruled by eternal, self-evident truths (such as the principles of identity and non-contradiction) discoverable by reason, and by an everlastingly unalterable and indifferent power which determines all events and facts. This power is commonly known as "necessity." God Himself, for a thinker like Spinoza, has no power to transcend the necessary structures that express His being. And Spinoza is only the culmination of the mechanistic philosophy that has dominated European metaphysics since Aristotle. To be sure, there have been solitary figures here and there, Shestov points out,[19] who have protested against the pretensions of reason and its self-evident truths and have stubbornly refused to accept the dictates of the natural sciences concerning what is possible and what is impossible, but theirs were voices crying in the wilderness." Tertullian's was such a voice, and so also was St. Peter Damian's. In modern times, Shestov declares,[20] it is Dostoevsky who, in his passionate Notes from the Underground, has presented the strongest and most effective "critique of reason." The world as logic and science conceive it, governed by universal and immutable laws and constrained by the iron hand of necessity, is for Dostoevsky a humanly uninhabitable world. It must be resisted to the utmost, even if the struggle seems a senseless beating of the head against a stone wall. Shestov finds an immense nobility and heroism in the cry of Dostoevsky's protagonist in his Notes from the Underground:
But, good Lord, what do I care about the laws of nature and arithmetic if I have my reasons for disliking them, including the one about two and two making four! Of course, I won't be able to breach this wall with my head if I'm not strong enough. But I don't have to accept a stone wall just because it's there and I don't have the strength to breach it.

As if such a wall could really leave me resigned and bring me peace of mind because its the same as twice two makes four! How stupid can one get? Isn't it much better to recognize the stone walls and the impossibilities for what they are and refuse to accept them if surrendering makes one too sick? [21]
To resist the self-evident truths of science and philosophy, to stop glorifying and worshipping them, however, is not necessarily an exercise in futility. If man will attend to the ancient message of the Bible, Shestov maintains, he will find there a conception of God, of the universe and of himself that not only lends meaning to such resistance but also makes of it the first and most essential step in becoming reconciled with God and regaining his freedom. For the Bible, in opposition to Western science and philosophy, proclaims that God is the omnipotent One for whom literally nothing is impossible and whose power is absolutely without limits, and that He stands not only at the center but at the beginning and end of all things. God, according to the Bible, created man as well as a universe in which there is no defect, a universe which - indeed - He saw to be "very good." Having created man, God blessed him, gave him dominion over all the universe and bestowed upon him the essentially divine and most precious of all gifts, freedom.

Man is not, unless he renounces his primordial freedom (as all men, in fact, tend to do in their obsession with obtaining rational explanation and scientific knowledge) under the power of universal and necessary causal laws or unalterable empirical facts. Unlike both traditional philosophy and science, which have sought to transform even single, non-recurring facts or events into eternal and unchangeable truths, the Bible refuses to regard any fact as ultimate or eternally subsistent but sees it rather as under the power of God who, in answer to man's cry, can suppress it or make it not to be. For biblical faith, knowledge - whether it is concerned with what have been called "truths of reason" or "truths of fact" - is not, as it is for traditional philosophy and science, the supreme goal of human life. Against their assumption that knowledge justifies human existence, the existential philosophy which takes its rise from the Bible will insist that it is from man's living existence and experience that knowledge must obtain whatever justification it may have.[22]

There can be no reconciliation, Shestov contends,[23] between science and that philosophy which aspires to be scientific, on the one side, and biblical religion, on the other. Tertullian was right in proclaiming that Athens can never agree with Jerusalem - even though for two thousand years the foremost thinkers of the Western world have firmly believed that a reconciliation is possible and have bent their strongest and most determined efforts toward effecting it. The biblical revelation not only cannot be harmonized with rationalist or would-be "scientific" metaphysics but is itself altogether devoid of support either from logical argument or scientific knowledge. For biblical man based his life totally and unreservedly on faith, which is not, as has often been suggested, a weaker form of knowledge (knowledge, so to speak, "on credit," for which proofs, though presently unavailable, are anticipated at some future time), but rather a completely different dimension of thought. The substance of this faith, emphatically denied both by science and philosophy, is the daring and unsupported but paradoxically true conviction that all things are possible. Shestov was haunted for years by the biblical legend of the fall. As he interpreted it, when Adam ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, faith was displaced by reason and scientific knowledge. The sin of Adam has been repeated by his descendants, whose relentless pursuit of knowledge has led not to ultimate truth but to the choking of the springs of life and the destruction of man's primordial freedom.

According to Shestov, speculative philosophy beginning in wonder or intellectual curiosity and seeking to "understand" the phenomena of the universe, leads man to a dead end where he loses both personal freedom and all possibility of envisioning ultimate truth. It is, in a sense, the Original Lie which has come into the world as a consequence of man's disobedience of God's command to refrain from eating of the tree of knowledge. Its narrowness, its lack of imagination, its preoccupation with "objectivity" and its wish to extrude from thought all human emotion, its conviction that there is nothing in the world that is essentially and forever mysterious and rationally inexplicable, its refusal even to entertain the possibility of a universe in which the rules of traditional logic (such as the principles of non-contradiction and identity) do not hold sway - all this condemns it to sterility. If philosophy is to serve the human spirit rather than destroy it, it must - Shestov maintains [24] - abandon the method of detached speculation and disinterested reflection (what Husserl called Besinnung); it must become truly "existential" in the sense of issuing out of man's sense of helplessness and despair in the face of the stone walls of natural necessity.

When philosophy becomes, as it must, a passionate and agonized struggle against the self-evident, necessary truths that constrain and crush the spirit, when it refuses, for instance, to refrain from drawing any distinction between the propositions, "the Athenians have poisoned Socrates" and "a mad dog has been poisoned" and to regard both with the same "philosophic" indifference - then it may make man receptive to the supernatural revelation of Scripture and to the possibility of redemption that is to be found there. "Out of the depths I cried unto Thee, 0 Lord" and "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" - the experience reflected in these agonized cries of the Psalmist, Shestov maintains, must be the starting point of true philosophy.

When his philosophy has taught man to reject all veritates aeternae as illusions, to confront unflinchingly the horrors of his historical existence, to experience his despair authentically and without evasion, to realize his mortality and his insignificance in a universe that seems bent on his destruction, then it may perhaps succeed in preparing him for that act of spiritual daring which is faith and which can bring him to the God who will restore to him not only a center of meaning for his life but also his primordial freedom. As Shestov states it in Athens and Jerusalem:
...to find God one must tear oneself away from the seductions of reason, with all its physical and moral constraints, and go to another source of truth. In Scripture this source bears the enigmatic name "faith," which is that dimension of thought where truth abandons itself fearlessly and joyously to the entire disposition of the Creator: "Thy will be done!" The will of Him who fearlessly and with sovereign power returns to the believer, in turn, his lost power: "...what things so ever you desire...you shall have them." (Mark as :24) [25]

Faith, for Shestov, is audacity, the daring refusal to accept necessary laws, to regard anything as impossible. It is the demand for the absolute, original freedom which man is supposed to have had before the fall, when he still found the distinction between truth and falsehood, as well as between good and evil, unnecessary and irrelevant. Through faith, Shestov seems to suggest, man may become, in a sense, like God himself for whom neither intellectual nor moral grounds and reasons have any reality. "Groundlessness," he writes,
is the basic, most enviable, and to us most incomprehensible privilege of the Divine. Consequently, our whole moral struggle, even as our rational inquiry - if we once admit that God is the last end of our endeavors - will bring us sooner or later (rather later, much later, than sooner) to emancipation not only from moral evaluations but also from reason's eternal truths. Truth and the Good are fruits of the forbidden tree; for limited creatures, for outcasts from paradise. I know that this ideal of freedom in relation to truth and the good cannot be realized on earth - in all probability does not need to be realized. But it is granted to man to have prescience of ultimate freedom. Before the face of eternal God, all our foundations break together, and all ground crumbles under us, even as objects - this we know - lose their weight in endless space, and - this we shall probably learn one day - will lose their impermeability in endless time.[26]
But Shestov's God - the God of whom the Bible speaks and before whom all human foundations crack and crumble - is not the God of Spinoza or of Kant or of Hegel. Against all metaphysical and rationalist theologies, Shestov declares, "We would speak, as did Pascal, of the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the God of the philosophers. The God of the philosophers, whether He be conceived as a material or ideal principle, carries with Him the triumph of constraint, of brutal force." [27] The God of the Bible is not to be found as the conclusion of a syllogism. His existence cannot be proved by rational argument or inferred from historical evidence. "One cannot demonstrate God. One cannot seek Him in history. God is 'caprice' incarnate, who rejects all guarantees. He is outside history, like all that people hold to be to timôtaton." [28] How shall one arrive at this Deus absconditus, this hidden God? "The chief thing," says Shestov, "is to think that, even if all men without exception were convinced that God does not exist, this would not mean anything, and that if one could prove as clearly as two times two makes four that God does not exist, this also would not mean anything." [29] To the complaint that it is not possible to ask men to take a position which negates a universal conviction of the race and flies in the face of logic, Shestov replies "Obviously! But God always demands of us the impossible .. . It is only when man wishes the impossible that he remembers God. To obtain that which is possible he turns to those like himself." [30]

Shestov suggests, as we have already indicated, that modern man can perhaps reach the God of the Bible only by first passing through the experience of his own nothingness and by coming to feel, as did Nietzsche and others, that God is not. This feeling is a profoundly ambiguous one, capable of leading men in diametrically opposite directions.

Sometimes this is a sign of the end and of death. Sometimes of the beginning and of life. As soon as man feels that God is not, he suddenly comprehends the frightful horror and the wild folly of human temporal existence, and when he has comprehended this he awakens, perhaps not to the ultimate knowledge, but to the penultimate. Was it not so with Nietzsche, Spinoza, Pascal, Luther, Augustine, even with St. Paul? [31]

Our task, if we would enter upon the road which leads to true reality and ultimately to the God revealed in Scripture, consists "in the Psalmist's image, in shattering the skeleton which lends substance to our old ego, melting the 'heart in our bowels.'" [32] Experiencing the abyss that opens before him when all his laws, his "eternal truths" and his self-evident certainties are taken away, the desperate soul feels that "God is not, man must himself become God, create all things out of nothing; all things; matter together with forms, and even the eternal laws." [33] When he has experienced this complete abandonment to himself and to boundless despair, then a man - as such irreconcilable enemies as St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and Luther, the renegade monk, both have testified - may, through faith, direct his eyes toward ultimate reality and see the true God who will restore to him the limitless freedom with which he was created and again make all things possible for him.

Man, Shestov concludes, must choose: Athens or Jerusalem. He cannot have both. Athens - with its constraining principles, its eternal truths, its logic and science - may bring man earthly comfort and ease but it also stupefies, if it does not kill, the human spirit. Jerusalem - with its message of God and man for both of whom nothing is impossible, with its proclamation that creativity and freedom are the essential prerogatives of both the divine and human - terrifies man, but it also has the power of liberating him and ultimately transforming the horrors of existence into the joys of that paradisiacal state which God originally intended for His creatures.

* Faith *

Shestov has been dismissed by some critics as a wild irrationalist, a willful protagonist of the absurd, who wished to abandon reason entirely in order to make room for a trans-rational revelation. But the case is hardly so simple as this. His polemics against scientific knowledge and reason, as even the most superficial reading of his work reveals, are themselves peculiarly lucid and rational. They are also based on a masterful knowledge of the entire Western philosophical tradition. Shestov, as Athens and Jerusalem and his other books powerfully attest, was completely at home in the thought of all the great European philosophers from Heraclitus to Husserl. Furthermore, given his predilection for irony and overstatement and his proclaimed intent forcibly to awaken his readers, to drive them through shock out of comfortable ruts into new and unfamiliar paths, it may be doubted that he meant categorically to reject objective knowledge, i.e., logic and science, as such. His real concern seems to have been rather to emphasize that these are hardly the unmixed blessing they have commonly been taken to be and that they assuredly do not exhaust the possible approaches to truth. What they tend, rather, to do is to lead those who concentrate on them away from the ultimate reality given in revelation.

In addition to the partial and preliminary truths of science and logic, Shestov wished to make it clear, there are infinitely more significant "personal" and "subjective" truths which can neither be objectively demonstrated nor empirically verified, and among these are the biblical affirmations concerning God and human freedom. If the latter are declared absurd before the bar of reason and experience, then the truths approved by these judges are themselves foolishness before God.

What Shestov was fundamentally concerned with doing throughout his lifetime was to criticize the timidity and lack of imagination of traditional philosophy, with its view that metaphysical truth flows solely from obedience and passive submission to the structures of being given in experience, and to insist instead that ultimate reality transcends the categories of rationalist metaphysics and scientific method and that the truth about it is to be discovered through the untrammeled soaring of the spirit and through daring flights of the imagination. It may be said that so to insist is to abandon philosophy for poetry and art, but Shestov himself always maintained that philosophy is indeed, or rather should be, more art than science.

Shestov criticized science because it subordinates man to impersonal necessity. But it is fairly clear that he did not mean to question the preliminary value and significance of scientific knowledge in everyday life. What he insisted, rather, was that the limits of science must be clearly understood and that the scientists and the would-be scientific philosophers must not pretend that their essentially "soulless and indifferent truths" [34] alone will satisfy the ultimate needs of the human spirit. More than anything else Shestov was troubled by the tendency of the scientists and the rationalist philosophers to bless and glorify their "constraining truths." Granted that there is a great deal of physical constraint in the world, why must man worship and adore it? Why should he not rather fiercely resent and ceaselessly challenge its authority? To sing praises not only to that measure of necessity and constraint that obviously exists but to go further and maintain that everything in the universe is necessarily and eternally as it is - this tendency of rationalist thought, he contended, does the greatest violence to the spirit. Furthermore the belief, inculcated by scientism and rationalism, in an eternally necessary and unchangeable order of things is, in a sense, a "self-fulfilling" conviction. Men who accept it will do nothing to affirm even that degree of creative freedom which they have within the limits of natural necessity, much less expand it; and their freedom, as well as their capacity for attaining that realm of authentic being which - Shestov believed - lies forever beyond "reasonable explanation," will consequently atrophy and disappear. That true, existential philosophy must be a continuous and agonizing struggle against constraint, against the immoderate pretensions of the logically self-evident, against the deliverances of common consciousness, is one of the dominant as well as one of the most valuable motifs in Shestov's thought.

Shestov also performed a useful service in forcibly and repeatedly drawing our attention to the fact that not all questions are of the same kind.[35] A physical question such as "What is the speed of sound?" differs essentially and in kind from a metaphysical question such as "Does God exist?" Against the positivists he maintained that questions such as the latter are genuine and, indeed, of ultimate importance, but that their significance lies precisely in the fact that they do not admit of ordinary answers, that such answers kill them.

In the specifically religious thought of his mature and final period, Shestov seems to have been motivated basically by an unremitting awareness of what Mircea Eliade has appropriately called "the terror of history." He was obsessed by the fact that Socrates, the best and wisest of men, was poisoned by the Athenians and that, in the understanding of historicist and rationalist philosophies, this fact is on the same level as the poisoning of a mad dog. The despair which an awareness of the terror of history entails can be overcome, he concluded, only through faith. In this he was in complete agreement with Eliade who has written:

Since the "invention" of faith, in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word (for God all is possible), the man who has left the horizon of archetypes and repetition can no longer defend himself against that terror except through the idea of God. In fact, it is only by presupposing the existence of God that he conquers, on the one hand, freedom (which grants him autonomy in a universe governed by laws or, in other words, the "inauguration" of a mode of being that is new and unique in the universe) and, on the other hand, the certainty that historical tragedies have a trans-historical meaning, even if that meaning is not always visible for humanity in its present condition. Any other situation of modern man leads, in the end, to despair.[36]

Faith in God was, for Shestov, the ultimate source of man's deliverance from despair and the guarantee of his own freedom in a universe all of whose energies seem bent on denying it. Such faith, he held, as we have seen, lies beyond proofs and is in no way affected by logical argument.[37] In this he was surely right. Like Kierkegaard, he recognized that faith can no more be destroyed by logical impossibility than it can be created by logical possibility. If faith is not pre-existent, if it does not precede all of a man's reasoning and argumentation, then these will never lead him to God. Scripture itself, he pointed out, does not demand faith; it presupposes it.[38]

But the question may be raised - How is faith obtained? By man's own wishing and striving for it? Though Shestov's definition of faith as "audacity" seems to suggest that it is produced by an affirmation of human will, he plainly denied that man can by himself obtain faith.[39] Faith is a gift of God, a manifestation of His grace. Echoing the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination and applying it to faith, Shestov seems to have believed that it is mysteriously given to some and denied to others by God. Even one to whom it is given may, of course, reject it, but none by his own unaided endeavor can obtain it. Must it be sought in order to be found? Yes, according to Shestov. The first movement of faith, he wrote, involves "a spiritual exertion" [40] on the part of man and, as we have already heard him say, "to find God one must tear oneself away from the seductions of reason."[41] Man must begin by questioning all laws, by refusing to regard them as necessary and eternal. But whether Shestov believed that even this can be done without the grace of God is something that is not altogether clear.

For modern man - Shestov, as we have seen,[42] suggested - God may perhaps be reached only by first passing through the experience of despair, through a sense of utter abandonment. But if one feels that "God is not, man must himself become God, create all things out of nothing; all things; matter together with forms, and even the eternal laws" - what guarantee is there that this will not end in pagan titanism? Is there any assurance that man will not arrogantly put himself in the place of God, or that he will go beyond self-exaltation and recognize God as his own and the universe's Lord and Creator?

Indeed, Shestov himself seems at times to blur any ultimate distinction between God and the individual who is in the condition of faith. Through faith, he appears to have believed, man becomes - in an important sense - like God. For the man of faith, too, "all things are possible," and this, according to him,[43] is the operational definition of God.

Has this notion of radical, unlimited freedom, this conception that all things may become possible for man, any validity or significance? We may agree with Shestov that science and rationalist philosophy have, indeed, often exceeded their proper bounds and manifested an unjustified tendency to pronounce arbitrary judgment over what is possible and what is impossible. We may agree also that science has deliberately overlooked "miracles" and willfully ignored much that is fortuitous, extraordinary, and incapable of being assimilated into its accepted categories of explanation. But does this entitle us to go to the opposite extreme and deny, as Shestov at times appears to do, that there are any norms, principles or laws governing the phenomena of the universe? Shestov may also be right in holding that scientific knowledge has often tended to enslave man or at least diminish his freedom to act, and we may concur in his suggestion that, by transcending science and returning to the biblical outlook, man may find the scope of his liberty greatly enlarged and discover that many things he formerly believed impossible are quite possible. But does his freedom thereby become, as Shestov seems to believe, absolute and unlimited? Faith, he claims, gives man absolute freedom. But how? By what means does faith produce this astounding result? And can Shestov, or anyone else who accepts the literal truth of the promise proclaimed in Mark XI, 23-24, point to anyone either in the past or present in whom this promise has been fully actualized? And furthermore, should he not in all fairness have conceded that while science (or rather, an excessive worship of science) may have at times enslaved man, it has also given him a greater measure of power over nature and thereby broadened the range of his freedom?

Faith, Shestov maintained, results in the liberation of man not only from all physical compulsion but also from all moral constraint. In faith man, to employ the terminology of Nietzsche, moves "beyond good and evil." He is freed from subjection to all ethical principles and moral valuations, and returns to the paradisiacal state in which the distinction between good and evil and between right and wrong is non-existent. But, granted that man's awareness of moral distinctions imposes heavy burdens upon him and restricts his freedom, is a return to the condition of Adam before the fall possible? And granted also that the God of the Bible is degraded and, indeed, denied if He is reduced to the position of guarantor of bourgeois morality, with the selfishness and cruelty that it has often served to cloak, can it be denied that the biblical God is in fact represented as a Lawgiver who has a moral will for man and that man's freedom in the Bible is understood as his capacity to respond affirmatively or negatively to God's call? Aside from the question whether he has, in his concept of "moral freedom," fairly portrayed the character of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of whom he purported to speak, it may be asked of Shestov whether it makes any sense to assert that man can live entirely without ethical norms or principles. Or was it, perhaps, his belief that a life "beyond good and evil" cannot be lived in man's present existence but only in some transcendent realm? On this he is not clear. In any case, the tendency to formless anarchism that is to be discerned in his friend Berdyaev and that seems to have been part of the mental furniture of a good many other Russian thinkers and writers of his time did not leave him untouched.

For all its ambiguities, exaggerations and inconsistencies, Shestov's work remains of vital contemporary significance. Here was a thinker thoroughly schooled in the Western philosophical tradition who rejected that tradition with passionate intensity when he discovered the deadly threats to the human spirit implicit in it and who, in the style of the prophet, not the theologian or religious apologist, summoned men to turn away from Athens and seek their salvation in Jerusalem.

Not only to the irreligious and non-religious man of the Twentieth Century, but also to him who claims to live by the faith of the Bible yet whose understanding of that faith has inevitably been encumbered and distorted by centuries of rationalist philosophical and theological commentary, Shestov offers a fresh appreciation of the terror and promise of the biblical message. In his own lifetime his was "a voice crying in the wilderness," but it is time that this voice be heard again.

Bernard Martin

Western Reserve University
January, 1966

Section titles, bold type and asterix notes are mine - AK.

[ Bernard Martin ]
At the time of publication of Athens and Jerusalem (1966), Bernard Martin was Abba Hillel Silver Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. He has served as an army chaplain in Japan and as a rabbi in Champaign, Ill., Chicago, and St. Paul, Minn.
Beside his translations of L.Shestov, Bernard Martin has also published The Existentialist Theology of Paul Tillich (1963), Paul Tillich's doctrine of man (1966), Prayer in Judaism (1968), Contemporary Reform Jewish thought (editor, 1968), Great twentieth century Jewish philosophers: Shestov, Rosenzweig, Buber, with selections from their writings (editor, 1969), History of Judaism (in collaboration with Daniel J. Silver, 1974).

[1] With the exception of Benjamin Fondane who, because of his own early and tragic death, did not - as he might otherwise have done - succeed in publicizing his master's work.

[2] Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, New York, 1955, Vintage Books (originally published in France in 1942 by Librairie Gallimard), p.19.

[3] Ibid., pp. 24-28. Camus here discusses what he calls Shestov's "leap" towards God, a leap which he himself rejects as an "escape" from an authentic awareness of the reality of the absurd.

[4] History of Russian Literature (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, Fifth Printing, 1964), p.426.

[5] Though three of his books - All Things Are Possible, Penultimate Words and Other Essays (or, in the London edition, Anton Chekhov and Other Essays), and In Job's Balances - were translated into English and published in America or Great Britain, they seem to have made hardly any impact when they first appeared many years ago and have long been out of print.

[6] Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (Doubleday and Company, Garden City, New York, 1958), p.14.

[7] For the facts of Shestov's life I have relied on Lowtzky's article "Lev Shestov As I Remember Him" published in Russian in the review Grani, No. 45 (1960) and No. 46 (1961) in Frankfurt-am-Main and on personal conversation and correspondence with Shestov's daughters, Madame Natalie Baranov and Madame Tatiana Rageot of Paris.

[8] Sergei Bulgakov's "Elements of the Religious Outlook of Lev Shestov" in Sovremenniye Zapiski, No. 68, Paris, 1939. Written on the occasion of Shestov's death.

[9] Published in the journal Kievskoe Slovo on February 22, 1895.

[*] Shestov had a nervous breakdown and went abroad to get away from the pressures of business which conflicted with his intellectual aspirations.

[**] Shestov had to hide this marriage from his family even when the children were born - because his father would not have admitted that his son should have married outside Jewish religion.

[10] All Things Are Possible, Robert M. McBride and Co., New York, 1920, pp.10-11.

[11] Ibid., p.9.

[12] Penultimate Words, John W. Luce and Ca., Boston, 1916, p.xi.

[l3] Ibid., p. xiii.

[14] Quoted in Donald A. Lowrie: Rebellious Prophet (New York: Harper, 1960), p.34.

[15] All three essays are included in the collection entitled In Job's Balances, translated by Camilla Coventry and C. A. Macartney and published in London in 1932. In Job's Balances also contains important essays on Plotinus and Spinoza as well as fifty-two trenchant aphorisms on philosophy, science and religion collected under the heading "Revolt and Submission."

[***] "The second anecdote is less well-known, and concerns a meeting between Husserl and the Russian-French quasi-Jewish existentialist Lev Shestov, recounted in Shestov's reminiscences written upon Husserl's death.[cf. Speculation and Revelation] Shestov had written some of the first essays on Husserl in French, in 1926 and 1927. They were trenchant critiques which made an impression upon Husserl, and the two had several personal conversations throughout the late 1920's and early 1930's. In the course of one early conversation, as Shestov was explaining his project of an existentialist theology grounded in Dostoyevsky's rejection of rational constraints upon faith, Husserl demanded "with enigmatic insistence" that Shestov read Kierkegaard. Husserl's exclamation, according to Shestov's testimony and witness, was not the calm recommendation of a man who simply knows something about another field, but the outburst of a man who had a passionate relationship with Kierkegaard's work, and who in other conversations spoke of his own thought in terms of Kierkegaard's "either/or." Shestov was never quite able to reconcile this personal meeting with Husserl's rationalist writings, but testified that they were indeed unified in the name "Husserl", and this unity was for Shestov the central enigmatic legacy of Husserl."
Reported by M.Kavka in Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory.

[****] To learn more about Benjamin Fondane see this French [site].

[16] Fondane's manuscript Sur les rives de l'Illisus, containing accounts of his visits with Shestov, has not yet been published in full. Some excerpts appeared in the June 1964 issue of Mercure de France under the title "Rencontres avec Léon Chestov." [has been published since under that title - AK.]

[l7] Especially the essays and aphorisms in the collection entitled In Job's Balances.

[18] See the essay "Science and Free Inquiry" which serves as the Foreword to In Job's Balances, especially pp. xxv ff. Cf. also the first part of Athens and Jerusalem, entitled "Parmenides in Chains," see [AaJ].

[19] See [AaJ].

[20] See [AaJ]. Cf.In Job's Balances, pp.34 ff.

[21] Notes from the Underground (translated by Andrew R. MacAndrew, The New American Library, 1961), p.99.

[22] See [AaJ].

[23] See [AaJ].

[24] See [AaJ].

[25] See note 23.

[26] In Job's Balances, aphorism [40]

[27] See note 23.

[28] In Job's Balances [see]

[29] See AaJ, aphorism [59].

[30] Loc. cit.

[31] In Job's Balances, p. 141.

[32] Ibid., p. 230.

[33] Loc. cit.

[34] So he calls them in Athens and Jerusalem. See note [23]. In In Job's Balances Shestov insists that, though it has given us many gifts, science cannot give us ultimate truth for - in refusing to recognize the unique, the unrepeatable, the fortuitous - it has turned away from the realm in which real truth lies. "There is no need to renounce the gifts of the earth but we must not forget heaven for their sakes. However much we may have attained in science, yet we must remember that science can give us no truth because, by its very nature, it will not and cannot seek for the truth. The truth lies there where science sees the 'nothing,' in that single, uncontrollable, incomprehensible thing which is always at war with explanation, the 'fortuitous.' " p.193.

[35] See AaJ, aphorisms [6],[60].

[36] Cosmos and History (Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1959), pp. 161-62.

[37] See AaJ, aphorism [24].

[38] See [AaJ].

[39] Loc. cit.

[40] In Job's Balances, aphorism [49]

[41] Italics mine - B.M.

[42] See [above].

[43] See [AaJ].

(c) This text appeared as Introduction to Bernard Martin's translation of "Athens and Jerusalem", Ohio University Press, 1966.

Orphus system