LEV SHESTOV \ Speculation and Revelation

Nikolai Berdyaev by Yury Selivestrov


Nikolai Berdyaev

Published in Sovremenniye zapiski, no. 63 (1938)


     Nikolai Berdyaev is undoubtedly the foremost of those Russian thinkers who have been able to obtain a hearing for themselves not only in their native country but in Europe as well. His works have been translated into numerous languages and have everywhere encountered the greatest sympathy and even enthusiasm. It will be no exaggeration if we set his name alongside those of the presently best known and most significant philosophers, such as Karl Jaspers, Max Scheler, Nicolai Hartmann, and Martin Heidegger. Vladimir Solovyov has also been translated into many languages (in German a comprehensive edition of his works has appeared), but he is much less known than Berdyaev and has never attracted the interest of philosophical circles. It may be said that in the person of Berdyaev Russian philosophical thinking appeared for the first time before the forum of Europe [1] or, perhaps, even of the whole world.

     In our Russian emigrant literature, however, Berdyaev is virtually unmentioned. In the fifteen years of his sojourn abroad he has published a whole series of outstanding philosophical works: Freedom and the Spirit, The Destiny of Man, The land the World of Objects, Spirit and Reality, and The New Middle Ages. Also, in the journal Put ("The Way") which he has edited, he has printed many longer and shorter articles on religious, philosophical, and social problems. Nevertheless, almost no one has ever written about Berdyaev in the Russian journals and newspapers. Why? It is difficult to say. In any case it is not because people did not value him or were not at all, or too little, interested in him. His themes and his approach to these themes could not but captivate even those who stand aside from philosophical and religious questions.

     Berdyaev's last book, Spirit and Reality, is, to a certain degree, a commentary on and a summation of everything about which he has previously written. But, as is always the case with him, each new book introduces something that was not contained in the preceding ones. Already in his previously published book The I and the World of Objects, something new is noticeable: earlier he spoke only of "gnosis," while here he speaks also of existential philosophy. The term "existential philosophy" was introduced by Kierkegaard. But it must be stated at once that Berdyaev, although he values Kierkegaard very highly, is so little interested in his philosophy that he says almost nothing about it. At times he even talks of it in a sharply rejecting sense. In The Destiny of Man we read, "In so ardent and significant a thinker as Kierkegaard is found an element of unchristian maximalism, a maximalism without grace that is opposed to love." Already from these words it is clear that, having appropriated the Kierkegaardian term, Berdyaev is least of all disposed to accept what Kierkegaard associated with existential philosophy.[2]

     Indeed, it could hardly have been otherwise. Berdyaev takes his philosophical genealogy from the renowned German mystic Jakob Boehme and, through Boehme, from German idealism. In this respect his last book is even more expressive than the preceding ones. At present striving for a return to Kant has clearly revealed itself in German philosophy: the writings of Jaspers, Hartmann, and Heidegger sufficiently attest this. Husserl himself, who appears to have been destined by fate to overcome the Kantian subjectivism, initiated this movement. Berdyaev's last book, which always shows a predilection for the ideas of Kant, is in this respect not inferior to the books of the German philosophers. Spirit and Reality attempts in a certain sense to repeat anew or in a different way the "Copernican feat" of the philosopher of Koenigsberg. The center of being must be not the object but the subject. "The mystery of reality reveals itself not in concentration on the object, but in reflection, which is directed to the act accomplished by the subject." This thought, which was always dear to Berdyaev, is carried through with special persistence in the last two books. Berdyaev hopes that in this way he will manage to free cognition from the principle of adaequatio rei et intellectus which arose out of Aristotelian doctrine and so shake off all the compulsion and constraint that burden the human spirit. We shall see that in this enterprise he had as little success as his inspirer Kant: compulsion and constraint adjust themselves no worse to the subject than to the object.

     This is so despite the fact that in his last book Berdyaev carries through with even greater persistence than before the idea of God-man which is so precious to him and in which he always perceived the most complete expression of Christianity. In Spirit and Reality that "new" thing of which I spoke is felt especially strongly. Until now Berdyaev has called Christianity "theocentric" or "Christocentric." Now he begins to speak of the pneumacentricity of Christianity. This, of course, does not mean that Berdyaev has renounced the idea of God-man. But it undoubtedly means that in the two-member formula "God-man" the emphasis is placed on the second member. This also, to be sure, is not entirely new for Berdyaev: as always, even in his early books, he concentrates all his attention on man. His philosophical evolution consists only in the fact that in the formula "God-man" the second member is ever more strongly and sharply emphasized and brought forward - and, of course, with the connection established by him, it is brought forward at the expense of the first member. So that in the measure that man grows and is enriched with independent content, God is correspondingly diminished and impoverished. He is impoverished to such a degree that the formula itself begins to lose its stability and threatens to be turned around: God-man is ready to be converted into man-God.

     I believe that I will be very close to the truth if I say that this possibility became a reality in the philosophy of German idealism (Kant's Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone). Of course, Berdyaev is far from this. But his enthusiasm for Kant, as well as the certainty that the way to truth goes through gnosis, makes him at times look at "free" German thinking almost with envy. "Even in the Gospel," he writes, "the purity of the revelation of the spirit is troubled by human limitation... The phenomenology of revelation should lead to the consciousness of the truth that to the spirit, that is to say, to freedom, belongs absolute primacy over all objectified being."

     Freedom - this also is one of the fundamental ideas of Berdyaev which is developed in all of his works with enormous passion and unfeigned sincerity. Here an ardent follower of Jakob Boehme, Berdyaev constantly talks about freedom. Like Boehme and the creators of German idealistic philosophy who were brought up on Boehme, he considers freedom as premundane, uncreated. Phenomenology, strictly speaking, has nothing to do with this: a century before Husserl introduced the word phenomenology, Boehme already spoke sufficiently about freedom and said that it was not created by God but is given to Him, as it is given to men. Schelling's famous essay on the nature of human freedom, which comes entirely from Boehme, proceeds from the idea that "the real living concept (of freedom) consists in the fact that it is a capacity of good and evil" ("der reale lebendige Begriff [der Freiheit], dass sie ein Vermögen des Guten und des Bosen ist"). Berdyaev asserts repeatedly that this essay by Schelling is the best that philosophy has contributed on the theme of freedom. Freedom is premundane, uncreated; at the same time it is the unlimited possibility of choice between good and evil. This, of course, can hardly be called a phenomenology of revelation, if one understands by revelation what we find in the books of Holy Scripture. There it is said neither that freedom is uncreated nor that it is the capacity to choose between good and evil. But neither Boehme nor the German idealists nor Berdyaev consider themselves bound by Holy Scripture, more exactly, they are far from the idea that revelation can be sought and found only in Holy Scripture. There is also another source of revelation, and we have already named it: gnosis. In The Philosophy of the Free Spirit Berdyaev speaks out in the most decisive way for that conception of freedom that Boehme implanted in German philosophy. I shall quote Berdyaev's own words, since his conception of freedom determines his whole philosophical tendency, or since - to express it in the old language of Belinsky - in it lies his pathos. In the face of the "brilliant dialectic" of Ivan Karamazov, Berdyaev without hesitation utters the following thoughts: "A man of Euclidean, completely rational intellect cannot grasp why God did not create a sinless, blissful world, incapable of evil and of suffering. But a good human world, a world of Euclidean intellect, would be distinguished from the evil world of God by the fact that in it there would be no freedom, freedom would not enter into its design, man would be a good automaton." And further: "The problem of theodicy can be solved only through freedom. The mystery of evil is the mystery of freedom... Freedom begets the good as well as the bad. That is why evil does not negate the existence of meaning but confirms it. Freedom is not created; that is why it is not nature. Freedom is pre-existent to the world, it is rooted in primordial being. God is all-powerful over being, but not over Nothingness, not over freedom. And that is why evil exists." And finally, "God is omnipotent in relation to being, but this is inapplicable in relation to non-being."

     I repeat: all these ideas belong to Boehme; they are also developed in Schelling's essay that was mentioned above. Berdyaev himself emphasizes this forcibly, in that he constantly refers to Boehme and Schelling. In the universe there is both something and nothing. The nothing is not absolute. Berdyaev distinguishes, again following Schelling, mê on from ouk on. Non-being is mê on, that is to say, although it is nothing, it is a kind of nothing to which enormous power is given over everything - both over God and men. In the face of Nothingness - which is also freedom - even the omnipotence of God must be limited. Berdyaev proclaims with all the eloquence of which he is capable, indeed almost with prophetic inspiration: "Creation must be based on bottomless freedom, which already before the creation of the world was contained in Nothingness; without it creation was not necessary to God." In conformity with this, "evil shows itself as the mover and instigator of the life of the world. Without evil the primordial paradisiacal condition of the first Adam would have remained for all eternity and the new Adam would not have appeared, the higher freedom and love would not have been disclosed. The good which conquered the evil is a greater good than that which existed before the appearance of evil." And "redemption is not a return to the paradisiacal state before the fall into sin; redemption is a passage to a higher state, to the disclosure of the higher spiritual nature of man." "The primordial creation of the divinized world would not have known freedom. The triumph over sin and evil is the divinization of the created world."

     If you were to ask Berdyaev whence he knows all this, he would calmly refer you to gnosis: all this is known to him from experience - not, to be sure, natural but "spiritual" experience. And he would refer to the testimony of the great mystics, primarily the German mystics - Boehme, Meister Eckhart, Angelus Silesius, Tauler, and others. But does experience really give "knowledge?" Kant himself, from whom Berdyaev learned so much, opens his Critique of Pure Reason with the words, "There can be no doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience... But it does not follow that it all arises out of experience." More than this: in experience as such there is still no knowledge. A new experience which abolishes the old experience or radically alters it is always possible. This applies in the same way to empirical experience as to that which Berdyaev calls spiritual experience, in which he sees a breakthrough from other worlds. Knowledge, every knowledge, every "gnosis" presupposes a formed experience - finished, final. All of the judgments of Berdyaev that have just been quoted can rightly be called knowledge precisely because this form - the form of universality and necessity - is undoubtedly inherent in them. "The good which conquered evil is a greater good than that which existed before the appearance of evil." If one takes away from this judgment its universality and necessity, he also takes away the compelling power connected with universality and necessity (it is all the same whether it came from the object or from the subject); it ceases to be knowledge. But meanwhile Berdyaev passionately fights in all of his books against this compelling power and refuses to it in the most decisive way the right to accompany and protect truth. He extols freedom as the supreme gift - to be sure, not of heaven, for freedom is really uncreated - but nevertheless as a gift, and in every kind of compulsion he is prepared to see and actually does see an infringement on the most sacred rights of man.

     But how would it be if one denied compelling power to the judgments uttered by Berdyaev? He asserts, "freedom is uncreated," "the good which conquered evil is a greater good than that which existed before the appearance of evil," without darkness there can be no light, etc. So Boehme believes, so also the German mystics believed. However, there have been, in fact, people who thought and spoke differently. Berdyaev refers to experience, to intuition, but we already know that experience does not guarantee truth; besides, if the experience of different people bears witness to different things, then how is one to know which experience reveals the truth? It is the same with intuition. Who has not referred to intuition, who has not spoken even of intuitus mysticus? Experience and intuition are obviously insufficient. When Spinoza was asked whence he knows that his philosophy is the true one, he answered, From there whence you know that the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. Berdyaev, of course, would not let this answer of Spinoza's pass: in it he would perceive rationalism.[3] But, then, what answer could he give? Or, to put it differently: How is it with the experience not of limited rationalists but of important, great geniuses, prophets and mystics - to whom belong, according to Berdyaev himself, Meister Eckhart, Tauler, Angelus Silesius, Jakob Boehme, and others? This is a question of paramount importance and requires thoughtful treatment.

     Let us take, for example, Meister Eckhart. He declares, You have been told that higher than everything is love, but I tell you that renunciation is higher than love. It is necessary to decide, to choose - where is the truth? There (i.e., with the apostle Paul) where love is placed above everything and, consequently, above renunciation, or where renunciation is placed above love? Or: the same Eckhart declares that God remained completely indifferent when He heard the groaning of His crucified son. And he finds that "this is good: renunciation is higher than love and mercy and sympathy." Higher not only for men but also for God. But Kierkegaard asserts that God suffered immeasurably when He heard the groaning of His son and was tormented in completely human fashion, just like Kierkegaard himself, when he had to break off with his fiancée, but immeasurably more. Or: Angelus Silesius and Meister Eckhart speak about the idea that Deitas is above God, or that God could not endure for a moment without man. Hegel places these ideas in the center of his religious philosophy; the German theologians (for example, the renowned Rudolf Otto) see herein a very profound insight, and Berdyaev himself, when he quotes in the original extensive excerpts from their works, thrills with joy, since he considers that here a breakthrough from another world takes place. But it is indubitable that if Pascal had had occasion to read the passages quoted by Berdyaev, he would have recalled the words of the Psalmist: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14). "Experience" here stands over against "experience." To which is preference to be given? And who is it to whom it is given to decide about these preferences?

     Berdyaev does not and can not raise such a question: the uncreated freedom revealed by phenomenology in primordial being does not permit an answer to it. But, meanwhile, in fact he cannot manage without an answer. He chooses that experience which for some reason promises more to him personally (more correctly: not he chooses the experience, but the experience chooses him) - and on this he constructs his gnosis. And in order to put an end to the tiresome questioning, he pleads that the experience favored by him testifies to a breakthrough from other worlds, while every other experience has to do, as he puts it, with the natural world. In this lies, if you wish, the attractive power of Berdyaev's writings. In opposition to Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche (to speak only of modern figures), Berdyaev does not like to linger on questions and to detain his readers on them - he always hastens to the answer which comes to him, as it were, of itself. He speaks only in passing about "the brilliant dialectic of Ivan Karamazov" (that is, about tortured children), but he is inexhaustible when he has to speak of methods of overcoming the difficulties and horrors of life. He even avoids the term "horrors of life" and never mentions irreparability. That is why his writings bear a didactic, edifying character to a significant degree, and it must be said that here, as if he had found his native element, he often reaches magnificent pathos. And the more inspiredly he speaks on themes of this kind, the more he becomes convinced that his words contain the only and final truth, that they bring news of a real breakthrough from other worlds, and that everyone who does not catch in them the highest truth thereby dooms himself to "eternal perdition."

     To be sure, against the idea of eternal perdition commonly adopted by theologians no one has risen up with such energy as Berdyaev. But on the other hand, how is it with people who remain indifferent toward the commandments that come to us from other worlds? In Berdyaev's book The Destiny of Man we read, "The moral consciousness began with God's question: Cain, where is your brother Abel?" It ends with another question by God: Abel, where is your brother Cain? We know what Cain answered God; he said: "Am I my brother's keeper?" But what can Abel answer God, even if one assumes that, in contrast to his brother, he turns out to consist of nothing but virtues. Freedom is irrational, is it not? "Triumph over dark freedom," Berdyaev writes in the same place, "is impossible for God, for this freedom is not created by God and is rooted in nonbeing." But how can one demand or expect of man that he do what God Himself cannot do. And, in general, is such a victory possible in our world or in other worlds? Can anyone do that which God cannot do? Berdyaev asserts that the God-man can do this. Whence does he know this? And why, if it is not given to God to overcome the freedom that was not created by Him, should the God-man (who is of the same essence as God) succeed in overcoming the freedom that was also not created by him? What "gnosis" here reveals the truth to us? If one were to rely on "knowledge" with its "possible" and impossible," then he would have to say about Christ the same thing that Berdyaev said about God: Not he created freedom, not he is to control and govern it. But such a test gnosis would not pass. It has grown quiet and no longer ventures to recall the uncreated dark freedom which it called news that broke through to us in the natural world from another, unnatural, spiritual world.


     But this does not mean that gnosis has given up its claims. It connects all of its claims not with God, and not with the God-man, but with man, who is compelled and ready to reckon with the "possibilities" established without him and not for him. That is why in Berdyaev ethics grows so greatly and finally dominates all of his thinking. To be sure, he speaks about a "paradoxical ethic" (such is the sub-title of his book The Destiny of Man).[4] But a paradoxical ethic does not cease to be an ethic, that is to say, it preserves both its autonomy and its imperativeness. About Berdyaev's ethic the same thing may be said that Deussen, who wished to bring Hindu thought together with European, said about Kant's ethic: In it man as Ding an sich dictates his laws to empirical man.

     I do not have room to expatiate here on Fichte's "ethical idealism." I shall only say briefly that Fichte's ethic not only does not overcome the Kantian principle, so act that in your action an obligatory principle of conduct for everyone should be expressed, but rather presupposes it. That is the reason for the imperative form: You ought to be you yourself. Why "you ought"? From whom does the order come? It is clear that ethics reserves the right to decide whether man has fulfilled his duty, whether he has been "himself" in the sense that it deems desirable - and in the first case it praises and in the second it blames him. Hannibal was undoubtedly "himself" when, following the unprecedentedly cruel and inhuman siege of Saguntum, after the exhausted populace of the city surrendered unconditionally, he handed the city as well as its inhabitants over to his ferocious soldiers, although he knew quite well that the soldiers would destroy the city and slaughter all to the last person: men, women, old people, and children. Also Titus, who acted in the same fashion with Jerusalem, was "himself." In the case of both their breasts swelled, as true conquerors, when they looked upon the brutalities of their soldiers. What, then? Must poor ethics also render praises to them? It is clear that neither Scheler nor Berdyaev will demand this of it.

     As far as Berdyaev himself is concerned, despite the fact that he speaks tirelessly of freedom and is deeply indignant at every kind of "compulsion," he cannot get along without the term "you ought," as he cannot live without air. He says, "Creative tension is a moral imperative and, moreover, in all spheres of life." Or again: "Man must always act individually and solve the moral task individually." In reference to Max Scheler and to Gurwicz's book on Fichte he says, "To be a personality to the end and not to change one's personality... is an absolute moral imperative." Berdyaev even considers it necessary to regulate everyday human life in its trivialities: "When you experience pleasure in the satisfaction of sexual passion or in eating, you ought to feel the poison therein... but when you experience the pleasure of breathing mountain or sea air or the fragrance of forests, here there is no lust." He says the same thing in regard to spiritual lusts, when he unmasks cupidity, ambition, etc. To be sure, Berdyaev is relatively lenient: Bernard of Clairvaux or Catherine of Siena were inclined to be suspicious even of the fragrance of the fields. But that is not the point. What concerns us now mainly and even exclusively is the strictly compelling character even of the paradoxical ethic. The "you ought" preserves in Berdyaev the same independence and power that have been characteristic of it since the most ancient times among all peoples and that were brought forward with such decisiveness by Kant in his Critique of Practical Reason.

     Of course, this does not go well with Berdyaev's general task: he would like that his ethic be Christian and that it be distinguished on principle from the pagan ethic. Such a distinction on principle he attempts to find in the notion that all pre-Christian and extra-Christian doctrines do not permit and do not accept the idea of "personality." But here he has to "stylize," for such an opinion does not correspond to historical reality. Both Greek philosophy and Hindu wisdom always move the idea of personality into the foreground, and with no less persistence than Berdyaev does. It is not without reason that Berdyaev himself sees in Stoicism an anticipation of Christianity.[5] The books of the Stoics were in fact the favorite reading of the early Christians. Seneca was zealously read by all, and Boethius' De Consolatione Philosophiae (Boethius was himself a Christian, but is silent about Christianity) even in the Middle Ages was the handbook of the monks. With even more justice it may be said that the idea of personality was always moved in Plato and Socrates to the first place. The idea of personality was the natural presupposition of their ethic. Socrates, who inherited the art of his mother, a midwife, assisted a man at the birth of his personality. In his speech in Plato's Symposium Alcibiades says that Socrates taught him "to be ashamed." That is, to distinguish between his empirical and his higher individuality - thus precisely that which Scheler and Berdyaev, Boehme and Schelling, call personality.

     I repeat, ethics at all times set for itself the task of liberating personality from the individuum. In this respect Hindu philosophy is not in the least behind European. The tat tvam asi and the aham brahman asmi (that, namely, "that thou art," - and "I am the All") not only does not encroach upon the idea of personality but the whole meaning of this famous saying consists precisely in that it vindicates, elevates and gives meaning to personality. The Hindus fight only against what they call ahamkara ("egocentrism," "egoism," egotism"), but Berdyaev himself after all calls down all kinds of thunder against egocentrism.[6]

     I think that Berdyaev knows this without me. If, for all that, in all of his books he so persistently awards to Christianity the right to exclusive possession of the idea of personality, apparently he does this only because the truth about the powerlessness of God to cope with that which was not created by Him, revealed by gnosis, imperiously demands of him that he await the overcoming of the evil reigning in the world not from God but from man. What man is able to do will be done: God (like morality) can only bless the deed of man, but man himself must destroy evil. In conformity with this, the fundamental task of philosophy (according to Berdyaev: Christian philosophy) is, in the first place, theodicy. It is necessary to show that God is not responsible for evil and did not wish it, that evil came into the world without the knowledge of God and will withdraw from the world without His assistance: God awaits from man (again like morality) the decisive word, a deed, an answer.

     The more the thought of God's powerlessness to overcome evil takes possession of Berdyaev, the louder his admonishing voice grows. Here is disclosed with special clarity what kind of perspectives gnosis opens to seeking and suffering mankind. Gnosis gives birth to theodicy: the knowing person becomes convinced that the chief, the most important thing in life is - "to justify God." But since every "justification of God" is inevitably bound up with the admission that evil came into the world independently of His will, all theodicies, no matter how little similarity they may have with each other, are compelled to proceed from the thought that God's possibilities are limited, and Leibniz, who called our world the best of all possible worlds, in this formulation gave the fullest expression to what is the very essence of theodicy. Thus, despite the venomous mockery of Voltaire, it must be admitted with Schelling that in his theodicy Leibniz did everything that a man is able to do who took upon himself such a risky task. The theodicy of Jakob Boehme and of Berdyaev, who follows him in all things, proceeds, as we have seen, from "knowledge" about the powerlessness of God and, in conformity with this, comes down to a selection of considerations which show that the world, even on the assumption of a powerless God, is nevertheless good. More than this: The world to a considerable degree is good precisely because God is not omnipotent and because Nothingness, freedom, which was not created by God but is nonetheless the source and necessary condition of everything good about which man can dream, found itself in the world through a play of chance.

     To be sure, freedom makes evil possible. But gnosis insists on its view: this possibility is in no way something negative but something positive. Berdyaev becomes almost horrified at the thought that man should be thrown into a world wherein there would be no uncreated freedom, which gives him the possibility of doing evil: then he would be "an automation of the good." He also "knows" firmly that fallen man, that is, man who has learned to know good and evil, is higher than man in the state of innocence, because more has been revealed to him. Even before that which Berdyaev baptizes with a philosophical term as "the dialectic of Ivan Karamazov, i.e., before Dostoevsky's story about tortured children - gnosis does not hesitate: yes, all this is undoubtedly evil but God can do nothing here. The children must be handed over to torture in order not to take away from the adults the possibility of choosing between good and evil and not to deprive them of premundane freedom. Berdyaev hears the voice of Schelling: "True freedom is in harmony with a holy necessity, since spirit and heart, bound only through their own law, willingly affirm what is necessary" ("Über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit," Werke, 7:391) - but he does not hear Dostoevsky's question: Why should one recognize this devilish good and evil if it comes at so high a price? He does not hear it not because he is an indifferent or callous man. On the contrary, all of his writings testify that he is unusually sympathetic. But the boy hunted down before his mother's eyes by the general's dogs is a "fact," and the little girl who cries helplessly "My God, my God!" is likewise a "fact." God cannot rescue the little girl, as He cannot tear the general's dogs away from the boy. This is "holy necessity": one must not encroach on "the freedom to choose between good and evil," fate's greatest gift to man. That is why Ivan Karamazov's stories are designated by Berdyaev with the brief, calming words "brilliant dialectic" and not only are not moved, as in Dostoevsky, to a visible position but are, as it were, hushed up.

     If Berdyaev, instead of praising "uncreated freedom," would dwell more on the terrors about which Dostoevsky tells us through Ivan Karamazov's mouth, everything would be radically altered. He would curse this freedom, as Karamazov and Dostoevsky cursed it; he would also curse the "knowledge of good and of evil" that is bound up with this freedom and in which speculative philosophy perceives the source of the highest spiritual values. At least he would then share Dostoevsky's suspicion that the "knowledge of good and of evil" in no way testifies to man's perfection and loftiness, but that one must see in it a fall and, indeed, a fateful one - what Dostoevsky (obviously under the influence of the story of the Book of Genesis about the fall into sin) expressed in the words "to recognize this devilish good and evil." But I repeat, Berdyaev does not and can not do this. Gnosis holds him firmly in its grasp and does not let him go. With "facts" one must not dispute, one can do nothing against them: the boy was torn to pieces by the general's dogs, the little girl was tortured to death by her fanatical parents. And God did not protect them: it is clear that He could not. And if we wish to "justify God," then there is only one way out for us: to concentrate all our intellectual and moral powers on showing that it is impossible for God to intervene and, through this, to persuade ourselves and others that this impossibility is good. For the general to be free, it is necessary (Schelling's "holy necessity") that the boy who was handed over by him to be torn apart by the dogs be without protection.

     We see that Berdyaev's theodicy and that of those from whom he learned follow the same path that wisdom among all people at all times has followed. The Stoic Cleanthes expressed this with words that, thanks to Seneca and Cicero, became widely known: "fata volentem ducunt, nolentem trahunt." Wisdom never went beyond the boundaries of that freedom which expressed itself in the joyful readiness to submit to the inevitable, for wisdom always based itself on gnosis, and where gnosis revealed "necessity" wisdom uncomplainingly set up its "you ought" and saw in this the essence of freedom. In ancient as well as in medieval and modern philosophy, freedom is not freedom to be in command of reality but only freedom to evaluate reality in this or some other way: he who bows down before necessity is led by fate, but he who does not bow down, who accepts necessity unwillingly, is forcibly dragged along by it. On this also is autonomous morality founded.

     All of Berdyaev's reflections on "the meaning of suffering" do not and can not arrive beyond the boundaries of that freedom which the sages of antiquity already knew and proclaimed. And in this freedom he sees the "illumination" that biblical revelation brought to men. But, I repeat and insist: Neither the Bible nor revelation needed this "illumination." The wisdom of all peoples and of all times already knew it - and not only among the Greeks but among the Hindus (indeed, even in Buddhism) nothing but this illumination is always the subject of discussion. If Berdyaev, however, very stubbornly denies that wisdom can arrive at illumination through its own means, as he also denies that the idea of personality was already fully worked out among the Greeks and Hindus, this apparently is to be explained by the fact that he would like to have as an asset of his philosophy not merely that which Holy Scripture brought.

     Berdyaev is a philosopher of culture, and his ardent devotion to the achievements of culture imperiously demands of him the acquisition of exclusive possession of all these achievements. We have seen how he avoided Karamazov's "brilliant dialectic." He could not bring himself to speak explicite of that which is disturbed Dostoevsky. Another case: his interpretation of the Book of Job. Quite like Kant (in his remarkable essay "On the Failure of All Philosophical Attempts at Theodicy") he sees in the Book of Job only a dispute between the much-plagued old man and his friends. The friends assert that Job is guilty and deserved all the misfortune that befell him - while Job protests and talks about his innocence. Everything ends with the intervention of God who, in this dispute, takes the side of Job and condemns his friends. But this dispute is really only one episode taken into the Book of Job. The meaning of the whole narrative consists in the very fact that Job, contrary to the commands of wisdom, refuses to reconcile himself to the horrors of his new existence and cannot do so, and that it is not so much with his friends that he argues as that he appeals to the Creator. Initially he restrains himself and declares at the first reports of the blows that overtook him - just as is proper for a wise man: "The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away." Expressed in the language of the Stoics or of Berdyaev, Job accepts misfortune in an enlightened way. But afterwards - and here the "Book of Job" really begins - he seeks for the return of what he has lost and manifests in his seeking the most extreme, unheard-of impetuosity and lack of restraint. The friends say of him: "He drinks up scorning like water" (Job 34:7). And what they say is, indeed, true! If Berdyaev's expression "a maximalism without grace" is rightly applicable to anyone, it is precisely to Job. Job does not accept edification, he does not listen to the voice of wisdom: he seeks the return of that which was taken away from him - his riches, his health, his children. And because his friends cannot give this to him and offer instead what men in such cases can offer - Stoic reflections on the theme "fata volentem ducunt, nolentem trahunt" (Job knew this without them and expressed it in the words "The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away") - and furthermore demand that Job should be satisfied with this kind of "freedom," a dispute arises between them. "You are all sorry comforters," Job says angrily, but his friends reproach him that he is not willing and not able, as is proper for a wise man, to endure sufferings in an enlightened way, to give them a meaning. And, of course, in their way they are right. In some ways they may have exaggerated: perhaps it would have been better not to speak to Job about his "guilt" - but human consolations very rarely keep within the proper limits.

     Let us recall what Vladimir Solovyov wrote about Pushkin and Lermontov: they were both guilty and deserved their fate. But I say once again: in the Book of Job the friends and their speeches are only an episode. The essential things in it are the speeches with which Job turns to God. And even more essential is God's reply. God recognized that Job was right - and he did this not with words but by giving back to him everything that he had lost. About this Berdyaev is silent, as Kant is also silent in the essay mentioned above: God's role for them comes down exclusively to a justification of Job before morality. Why do Berdyaev and Kant pass over in silence that God returned to Job everything that he had lost? Why do they limit the role of God to a purely moral influence? To this there can be only one answer: gnosis makes its right prevail; both Berdyaev and Kant know with certainty that God can cleanse Job before morality but that He is powerless to protect him from misfortune. In conformity with this, they are convinced that they have interpreted the biblical narrative - after having shortened (improved) it - in spirit and in truth, and that in general only an understanding of Holy Scripture in which nothing that offends our knowledge is presupposed is an understanding in spirit and in truth. Hegel expressed this in his religious philosophy in the following words: "The miracle is only a violence upon natural connections and thereby only a violence upon the spirit."

[1] His book The Philosophy of the Free Spirit (Fiiosofiya svobodnogo dukha) was awarded a prize by the French Academy.

[2] If my memory does not fail me, Berdyaev speaks in one of his essays or addresses about the lack of grace in Nietzsche's philosophy. In On the Destiny of Man he uses the expression "the unclear prophetism of Nietzsche." It is significant that Karl Jaspers, who values Kierkegaard's and Nietzsche's talents even more than Berdyaev, dissociates himself with similar energy from their ideas. Is this a coincidence - or is an influence to be seen here (Berdyaev studied Jaspers thoroughly)? In both cases the similarity is alike significant.

[3] Berdyaev even speaks of Spinoza's "limited rationalism," although it seems to me that this is a slip of the tongue. The word "limited" is very unsuitable for Spinoza, and it is not possible that so subtle a thinker as Berdyaev did not feel this. All the more so - since the central chapter ("Death and Immortality") of his book On the Destiny of Man is undoubtedly inspired by Spinoza's reflections on the theme of amor erga rem aeternam et infinitam and by his sentimus experimurque nos aeternos esse. "Eternal life," writes Berdyaev, "begins already in time, it can come to light in every moment, in the depths of the moment, as the eternally present. Eternal life is not the future life, but the life of the present, the life in the depth of the moment." A completely Spinozist thought. And, in general, all of Berdyaev's "paradoxical ethic," like Kant's ethic, is saturated with Spinoza's idea: beatitudo non est praemium virtutis, sed ipsa virtus.

[4] "Kant with his teaching about intelligible character and freedom was perhaps closer to the truth than other philosophers" (Spirit and Reality, p. 102).

[5] Ibid., p. 97.

[6] Very instructive in this respect is the book Westliche und Ostliche Mystik by Rudolf Otto, who has been mentioned above. Otto compares the mysticism of Eckhart with the mysticism of Shankara, the most remarkable of the Hindu sages (eighth century), and attempts to establish, on the one hand, a similarity and, on the other, a distinction between them. In the first he succeeds brilliantly: the similarity is truly striking. But no matter how much he endeavors to show the distinction, he arrives at nothing but the bare assertion that Eckhart's mysticism is determined "through the Palestinian-biblical ground on which it was raised." Palestine and the Bible are felt in Eckhart only in his style (which is really marvelous and has preserved the coloration and even the aroma of Palestine and the Bible). However, his ideas (for instance, that about which I have already spoken briefly above regarding Deitas, etcetera) he draws from the same source as Shankara - from a realm to which the voices that resounded in Palestine and were engraved in the Bible never reached and could not reach.

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