LEV SHESTOV \ Speculation and Revelation

Vladimir Solovyov by Yury Selivestrov


The Religious Philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov

Quam aram sibi parare potest, qui Rationis majestatem laedit?

- SPINOZA, Tractatus theologico-politicus

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance, and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.

- HEBREWS 11:8

Published in Sovremeniye zapiski, nos. 33-34 (1927-28).


     Vladimir Solovyov was one of the most fascinating and gifted Russians in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. At the same time he was also one of the most original. To be sure, in the initial years of his literary activity Solovyov was under the influence of Slavophile teachings. But what independence and what courage must a Russian writer at the end of the 1870s, when the passionate prophetic speeches of Pissarev, Dobroliubov, and Tchernishevsky had not yet ceased to be heard and the dominant influence among almost all thinking people in Russia was Mikhailovsky, have had in order only seriously to listen to the voices of the brothers Kireevsky and Khomyakov, not to speak of learning from them. Even the Slavophiles Solovyov followed not as disciples usually follow their teachers. He accepted them insofar as he found among them that highest truth in the search for which he saw the meaning and destiny of his life. But he turned away from them just as decisively when his conscience demanded it. People called him a deserter, a traitor. Both enemies and friends were angry with him.

     Naturally, in Solovyov's own lifetime he was not appreciated according to his deserts. His significance became noticeable only after his death. It was only around 1900 that people began to read and study him. A Solovyov school arose, although it must be noted that even those among his pupils and admirers who were most indebted to him rarely recall him and, although they repeat his ideas, they prefer not to mention him by name. Why such a thing came about - this is not the place to discuss this matter. We must turn to a consideration of what Solovyov's life-task amounted to.

     While the Slavophiles were already interested in religious questions and endeavored to create a religious world view, Vladimir Solovyov, nevertheless, may and must be regarded as the first Russian religious philosopher. He did not come to religion from philosophy but from religion to philosophy. There can be no doubt of the fact that all of Solovyov's thinking, all of his spiritual being, from his earliest youth, strained toward God. The period of "atheism" that he also, as is known, did not manage to escape lasted only for a very brief time in his case. Even as an atheist he was never satisfied with that limited positivism which his contemporaries, the young people of the 1870s, so easily acquired from the then widespread "fat magazines;" or literary journals. Already as a gymnasium student he became engrossed in reading Spinoza and Schopenhauer. Then he proceeded to the German idealists and began to study the ancients. His first works, The Crisis of West-European Philosophy and Criticism of Abstract Principles, attest to the fact that Solovyov, although then only a little more than twenty years old, was at home in all the domains of philosophical knowledge.

     In his first book Solovyov consciously set himself the task that became the goal of his life: the creation of a religious philosophy. Attempts to create a religious philosophy in Russia did not begin with Solovyov. If you please, in a certain sense, every philosophy wishes to be a religious philosophy. The great philosophers of antiquity - Plato and Plotinus, even Aristotle and the more important representatives of Stoicism - always strove, when they spoke of the sources, the principles, the roots of things, not only to explain the world or the universe but also to "give them a meaning," i.e., to demonstrate that the world is more or less directed, organized, and created not through the accidental caprice of blind powers but through a supreme principle before which ordinary human consciousness, feeling its limitation, joyously and reverently bows down. Even the materialistic teachings of antiquity contained in hidden form such an "idealistic" assumption. Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, in which the systems of Democritus and Epicurus are set forth, is animated by high religious pathos. Lucretius not only describes and explains; he celebrates and extols. His poem is a passionate, inspired hymn. Some of our contemporaries, who will not or can not relinquish the materialistic world view, sincerely envy antiquity and await from the new poesy a repetition of Lucretius' feat. They are convinced that the moment is already near when religion finally and forever will merge with philosophy, for the source of the last and highest truth always was and will be the same.

     Indeed, can we think otherwise? In the Middle Ages, as is known, there existed the theory of a double truth, the truth of revelation and philosophical truth. Today, however - after Descartes and Spinoza, after Leibniz, Kant and Hegel - who will venture to rehabilitate medieval theories? The opposite, rather, is the case: we are inclined to think that even the medieval monk-philosophers invented this theory only in order to liberate "free thought" from the yoke of the church and that the double truth appeared to them also, just as it does to us, as a scandalous absurdity.

     If, however, that is so, why, we ask ourselves, must there be a religious philosophy? And what need is there to create a religious philosophy when we already have ordinary philosophy? There would still be some sense in talking about a philosophy of religion, that is, in summoning religion to the tribunal of philosophy, to that tribunal before which, according to the conviction of the philosophers, everything that exists in the world is obliged to appear, in order to obtain justification and even permission for existence. Reason calls right, beauty, goodness to account; religion, if it wishes to preserve itself, is obliged to justify itself before philosophy, to demonstrate that it came into being on a legitimate basis.

     In reality, would it not be natural to ask, Whence does religion or do religions take their truth? But once this question is asked, there must consequently be someone (or something) who answers the question. And still a second "consequently": the answer of the unknown judge may be twofold. Perhaps he will justify religion as he has until now justified beauty, goodness, truth, But perhaps he will condemn it. It surely means nothing that Cicero already proclaimed that up until now no people has ever been encountered, even among savages, that has not had a religion. This is only a fact; but through facts things are not justified. Up until now there has also been no people that has not carried on war: Does this say anything in favor of war? If religion could not think up anything else in its defense, then its cause would be hopelessly lost. And further: if it should rely on its social significance and say that it ennobles people, that it beautifies life, etc. - this would also be of little use to it. To say nothing of the fact that not all would agree with this - recall the same Lucretius with his "tantum religio potuit suadere malorum" - one can reply to it that there are many different ways to ennoble people and to beautify life and that, therefore, at best, it would be permitted to maintain its subordinate and dependent position and that only temporarily.

     In short, once religion must justify itself, once a judge turns out to be over it, its case is in a bad way. The same thing may and must happen with it that happened with metaphysics. So long as it did not occur to metaphysics to seek legitimate justification for existence, it lived - whether badly or well. However, hardly had Kant persuaded it to appear willingly before the tribunal of reason when it immediately was deprived of all rights to existence. Mathematics, the tribunal decided, has rights, mathematical natural science likewise has all rights, even empirical science was permitted to continue its existence, but metaphysics was condemned once and for all and - irrevocably.


     We shall have occasion later to speak of Kant and of those methods that he used in order to drive metaphysics outside the boundaries of philosophy. The fate of metaphysics is, indeed, far more closely connected with the fate of religion than people commonly think. In the meantime let us now return to Solovyov. It will seem strange to many and many will even become indignant; nevertheless, I must say at once that Solovyov, setting himself the goal of creating a religious philosophy, lured religion, without himself being aware of it, into the same trap into which Kant once lured metaphysics and, in this way, against his own will, placed himself on the side of him whom he considered the worst and most irreconcilable enemy of mankind - him whom many people before him, and he himself, called the Antichrist. This seems incredible, but it is so, and one must say it aloud and reflect upon it.

     To all appearances, Solovyov himself toward the end of his life, if he did not recognize this consciously, felt it in the depths of his soul. His last work, Three Conversations, testifies sufficiently to this - for one who is willing to accept testimonies. Outwardly Three Conversations is directed against Tolstoy, who is represented in the form of one of the interlocutors - the prince - as the unquestioning follower of the Antichrist: at the reading of "Stories about the Antichrist" the prince cannot bear it and goes into hiding. In actuality Solovyov, in his last work, as in his earlier ones, polemicizes against Tolstoy's "teaching." Nevertheless, that to which Solovyov objects in Three Conversations and with which he struggles in the work is, in equal measure, the teaching of Tolstoy and his own teaching. Neither Solovyov nor those who followed him (and all the Russian religious thinkers, without exception, followed him), wished to speak of this, or they did not suspect it. They knew that Solovyov did not like Tolstoy and always disputed with him, and from this they concluded that the two men taught different things - just as from the fact that Solovyov praised Dostoevsky they concluded that Solovyov and Dostoevsky were like-minded. Both conclusions alike are erroneous. Read Solovyov's three addresses on Dostoevsky - you will find that not a word in them is about that for which Dostoevsky fought throughout his whole life. In Dostoevsky only those ideas interest Solovyov that he himself suggested to him and that Dostoevsky more or less successfully developed, but always as a disciple, chiefly in the Diary of a Writer. Dostoevsky's own visions, on the other hand, frightened and repelled Solovyov just as they did all other readers. A fact of extraordinary significance: Solovyov, who was so close to Dostoevsky in his lifetime, after his death hardly recalls him at all. He delivered, as if out of duty, three solemn orations on Dostoevsky - the first at his funeral and two others at the immediately following anniversaries of his death - and then forgot about him entirely and buried him, as it were, for the second time.

     But how often Solovyov speaks of other, less important representatives of Russian literature - of Fet, Polonsky, Maikov, Alexei Tolstoy - and he speaks of them with love, with tenderness, and with the fine understanding of the connoisseur. Of these he had something to say, with these he gladly associated. But Dostoevsky he did not need; Dostoevsky hindered him, stood in his way. In general, everything that was most remarkable and original in Russian literature repelled and, as it were, offended Solovyov. He also passed over Gogol, as if Gogol had never lived in Russia. Only Pushkin and Lermontov did Solovyov not pass over. Apparently it seemed to him that here a passing over would not suffice, that he must do something more than pass over them. On Pushkin he wrote several times, and to Lermontov he also devoted a very long essay. But now, when I must briefly tell what Solovyov wrote about them, I do not know how to do it. Were I to tell the truth, it would turn out that I would insult the memory of the deceased, whom I, even though I did not share his views, have always revered and loved deeply. But I must speak - it cannot be helped. For in Solovyov's essays on Lermontov and Pushkin are disclosed most fully what tasks "religious philosophy" is compelled to set itself and who the judge by whose verdict human destinies are determined is.

     In these essays Solovyov endeavors to speak not in his own name, in the name of the living and feeling person: this, indeed, is forbidden to the philosopher in the strictest fashion. He wishes only to be the transmitting instrument, the mouthpiece through which the truth that always remains equal to itself and that is unchangeable reaches men and the world. It was thus that the ancients taught people to philosophize; thus that Spinoza taught in modern times, and after Spinoza the great representatives of German idealism. There is an eternal truth to which it is given to judge both the living and the dead, and over which there is not and cannot be any judge. How, then, did this truth judge Pushkin and Lermontov?

     Pushkin, as is known, perished as a young man from the bullet of d'Anthès; Lermontov died a similar death. Solovyov raises the question: Why did the great poet die prematurely? He has no doubt that such a question is appropriate. He also has no doubt that this question must be addressed to truth and that we are obliged to accept the answer of truth, whatever it may be, beforehand with that readiness with which inanimate objects submit to the external influences that work upon them. And when truth proclaims to him that Pushkin perished because his moral qualities did not correspond to the poetic gift allotted to him by God, it never occurs to him to object, to protest, to become enraged. It seems to him that this is exactly what he, what all men, need. The entire essay sets itself the task of persuading the reader of this. It ends in the following way: "Here is Pushkin's entire fate. We must, to be honest, recognize this fate as, first of all, good, because it led man to the best goal - to spiritual rebirth, to the highest and only worthy good; but, secondly, we must recognize it as rational, because it has attained this best goal, in the given situation, through the simplest and easiest, i.e., the best means... .But if this is so, I think it would be better for us to substitute for the dark word 'fate' the clear and definite expression 'divine providence'."

     Man has succeeded in putting in the place of the dark word "fate" the bright term "divine providence." Is this not a triumph of religious philosophy? And is it not worthwhile, for the sake of such an enormous achievement, to give up Pushkin and Lermontov and Gogol and everything that the great Russian literature has brought us?

     Let us leave this question aside for the time being. For the present only one thing has become indubitably clear to us. Fate cannot bear Pushkins and Lermontovs but it solicitously protects murderers, D'Anthès and Martinov (both reached a great age), and Solovyov calls such a fate both good and reasonable. It is not enough for him to call such a fate good and reasonable. This would be only philosophy. It is necessary to raise it still more in dignity - to call it "divine providence" - for only then will ordinary philosophy become religious philosophy.

     Who invested Solovyov with the power to change the name of fate, which he considers good and reasonable, to "divine providence"? About this he says nothing - and why should he? To him was given the honor of seeing divine providence with his mortal eyes - what more can anyone desire? It would, however, be erroneous to think that Solovyov learned with his own mind to penetrate the mysteries of providence and to see the invisible. Already before him in philosophy people were able to do this. His "Pushkin's Fate" is composed according to the pattern of a chapter of Hegel's History of Philosophy, which also carries a corresponding superscription: "Socrates's Fate." But Hegel fulfilled his task much more delicately and with far greater mastery. He does not accuse Socrates, he even speaks of the tragedy of Socrates, although, had he wished it, he would easily have been able to find sufficient material for an accusation. One could, for example, say that Socrates was too arrogant and self-assured a man, that he behaved provocatively before the court, or something of this kind. And, in fact, it was so. But Hegel realized that he ought not to speak this way and that essentially it is not even so important whether Socrates was guilty or not guilty, since, strictly, philosophy has nothing to do with Socrates. Philosophy of history, which seeks to discover the reason and meaning of history, needs only to reveal the ideal mechanism of the process of development. Socrates lived precisely at that moment when the time came for one social order to pass over into another. Both the earlier and the new order had their meaning, and that the one order had to replace the other also had its meaning. The old held out, the new advanced. Naturally, the clash of the two orders could not do without a victim: you cannot make omelets without breaking eggs. One of these victims was Socrates, who personified the new order. He could not but perish, but this was not a great misfortune, for the meaning of being does not lie in individual persons and their success or failure but in the general process of development. For the general process of development, however, the death of Socrates could not be a hindrance. And, indeed, the whole point here is that the process of development should proceed without impediment.

     We see that Hegel coped with his task more successfully than Solovyov. He also grasped the mystery of fate, which, had he wished, he might rightly have called "good" and "reasonable" and could even, on his own authority, have renamed "divine providence" (all this he did - but in other works). He got rid of Socrates without betraying him and left him the right to honor and respect. He could not save him from death, nor could he persuade good and reasonable fate to make something that had once happened not to have happened. Philosophy, as is known, does not pursue the impossible and is not obliged to do so - but Hegel at least obtained from fate the right to praise Socrates.

     It would seem that for Solovyov, too, once he decided to imitate Hegel, it would have done no harm to plead with good and reasonable fate in behalf of Pushkin. Like Hegel, he was obviously convinced that there was no possibility whatever of wresting Pushkin from the hands of death, that fate itself, God Himself, even had they wished it, would have been unable to abrogate what had happened, so that Pushkin, once he was wounded, was finished. But, we ask ourselves, what prevented him, following Hegel's example, from showing at least last honors to the great Russian poet? And also from demonstrating that when Pushkin was killed, this was something that had to be (the proposition "was wirklich ist, ist vernünftig," "what is real is rational," is the basic thesis not only of Hegelian but of any philosophy that seeks only the possible), that therefore his fate was both reasonable and good, that providence itself, God Himself, ordered that Pushkin be killed - not however, because Pushkin was bad, but because it was necessary for the triumph of the higher order, etc.

     Of course, Solovyov could have done this, but obviously he did not wish to. It was not enough for him to find a simple "why"; he wanted to condemn and punish Pushkin. In fact, listen carefully to the sense of his argumentations: Pushkin was a great poet, but he was hot-tempered, uncontrolled, too passionate, i.e., in Solovyov's view, not a sufficiently moral person. But if this be so, then he was guilty and deserving of death. Had the opposite been the case, had he been a mediocre poet but a very moral person, then one would have been able to stand up for him; but now that is not possible. So Solovyov thinks, and such thoughts he ascribes to good and reasonable fate, and even to providence. Solovyov, of course, is free to think as he pleases. But wherefore, by what right, does he ascribe his convictions to the Supreme Being? Whence does he know that before the Last Judgment poetic genius is valued less than the middle and even the high virtues? Solovyov, of course, could not know this. Had he wished to be truthful, he would have had to speak otherwise and say, I personally value the virtues so much that no kinds of genius can replace them for me, and therefore I am not sad but rather rejoice over Pushkin's fate; it will be a lesson to other geniuses. But philosophers are not satisfied with such modest assertions. For Solovyov also this was too little; he demanded the supreme sanctions - those of reason, of the good, of God Himself. And in order to obtain his desire, he sets his own reason, his own conception of the good, in the place of God without the slightest hesitation. And he calls this religious philosophy.


     It is enigmatic, incomprehensible, but it is so: Solovyov, just like Tolstoy, did not like Pushkin and was at enmity with him. But Tolstoy was at enmity openly, while Solovyov was so secretly. Apparently what irritated both Solovyov and Tolstoy most in Pushkin was his truly royal trust in life, a trust that is encountered so rarely among people, and his love for the universe. In the Bible it is related that God, having created man, blessed him. When you read Pushkin, you think at times that the words of this blessing, forgotten by all, have come back to us or that, to put it in his own words, "he brought us some heavenly songs like a kind of cherub." Pushkin rarely turns his glance backward, rarely tests, rarely interrogates. He moves forward freely and boldly, without thinking about the future. And not because he thinks little: none of the Russian writers knew how to think so deeply and intensely as he, and Solovyov was certainly very far from the truth when he tried to prove that one must seek beauty in Pushkin but go elsewhere for "thoughts" or "ideas." Nevertheless, Pushkin's thinking followed an altogether different path than that thinking which Solovyov esteemed.

     Already in his youth, when Pushkin wrote his Boris Godunov in imitation of Shakespeare, he approached the most difficult enigma of life. And then - to mention the first that comes to mind - his Mozart and Salieri, The Bronze Horseman, "Pique Dame," the fragment of Faust and - finally his Stone Guest. The legend of Don Juan is the most difficult theme that was ever set before poets - and I say without hesitation that in all of world literature no one has dealt with it so well as Pushkin. I say further: all probability indicates that Pushkin's Don Juan was hated more than all others by Solovyov. If he himself had had to undertake this theme, he would very likely have written the same thing about Don Juan that he wrote about Pushkin or Lermontov, that is, that Don Juan perished through the verdict of good and reasonable fate or through the will of divine providence, because his moral level did not correspond to the gifts allotted to him by nature. Or, like Alexei Tolstoy, he would have "ennobled" the legend and portrayed Don Juan ad usum delphini. One must suppose that he would have judged in the same way about Mozart: Mozart was an "idle playboy," but is it proper for a genius to be idle and also a playboy? All probability indicates that Solovyov thought about Mozart just as he thought about Don Juan. Can one who summons fate and even God before the judgment of his "good" really "think" otherwise?

     Undoubtedly there was such an essential difference between the "thinking" of Pushkin and the "thinking" of Solovyov that one must very likely agree that Pushkin was not a "thinker" in the sense that Solovyov gave this word. And, then, since all of Russian literature, beginning with Pushkin's contemporaries Lermontov and Gogol, and ending with our contemporaries Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, followed in Pushkin's footsteps, he had to renounce it. In imitation of Plato, Solovyov banished the poet from his state and condemned everything that Russia bequeathed of its literature. "Beauty" he still found in it, but for "thought" he went elsewhere. Where did he go? And what did he find?

     We have already seen that Solovyov's "Pushkin's Fate" is written on the model of Hegel's "Socrates's Fate." An even greater influence was exercised on Solovyov, as well as on the Slavophiles, by Schelling. Solovyov's first large work, his master's dissertation (The Crisis of West-European Philosophy) is, to a considerable degree, a repetition of what Schelling taught. Even the title of the book is almost borrowed: Schelling constantly talked about a "Krisis der Vernunftwissenschaft," Solovyov about a crisis of West-European philosophy. The basis of the book was the conviction that philosophy, in the sense of abstract, exclusively theoretical knowledge, has completed its development and gone over irrevocably to the past. To be sure, Solovyov connects this conviction of his not with what he found out from Schelling but with what he learned from Kireevsky - at that time Solovyov wished to think that Russian philosophical thinking would emancipate itself completely from European paths and follow its own, still untrodden by anyone. Solovyov's dreams, however, were not destined to be fulfilled. Or, to put it better - they were actually fulfilled: Russian philosophical thinking raised and solved in its own fashion, with a hitherto virtually unprecedented boldness, a whole series of questions about which only a few in Europe thought or wished to think. Solovyov, however, did not even guess that this was philosophy, that this was thinking. Despite all his talk about "crises," he was firmly convinced that one must think as the recognized European authorities thought. We recall what he said about Pushkin. It seemed to him that if you wish "to think," if you seek the final truth, then you must do something quite different from what Pushkin did. This means that one must inquire not as and not where Pushkin inquired and, consequently, that one must also receive quite different answers.

     But meanwhile Russian philosophical thinking, which is so profound and so unique, obtained its expression precisely in belles-lettres. No one in Russia thought so freely and masterfully as Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Tiutchev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy (so long as Apollo did not demand the holy sacrifice from him, Tolstoy "thought" just like Solovyov), and even Chekhov (Solovyov does not mention Chekhov by name even once). But Solovyov took no heed whatever of them. What is more, he did everything he could to extinguish living and original Russian thought. If among us to the present day even the most ardent admirers of Dostoevsky find and appreciate in him only old Slavophile commonplaces, it was undoubtedly Solovyov who began this. His example infected and seduced all who came after him. Through concerted efforts the Russian "thinkers" removed Dostoevsky from the Russian reader.

     What state of affairs have we here? Why did Solovyov, the avid seeker after truth, turn away from his own, from his kin? Why did he trust in Spinoza and Kant, Hegel and Schelling - he who, when still in his youth, so proudly proclaimed that Western philosophy had gone over irrevocably to the past. Obviously his Criticism of Abstract Principles alone did not suffice for breaking free from the power of the "eternal" truths that are rooted in us. Kant wrote The Critique of Pure Reason, which was to have shown that he had awakened from the dogmatic slumber. But though the critique was written, the slumber remained a slumber and the dogmas remained dogmas. Schelling, in his battle against Hegel, attempted to create his own positive philosophy which, in contrast to and as a complement of the negative (rational) philosophy, he designated by the promising name of "philosophy of revelation."

     But was this really a philosophy of revelation? And did Schelling really overcome Hegel? He scolded him rudely, indecently. He noticed with great perspicacity all the weak passages of the Hegelian argumentation. But deep inside, in the secret places of his soul, he envied Hegel grievously and painfully. And he did not envy his enormous success and fame, as many, even of his admirers (for instance, Eduard von Hartmann), think. He could forgive him success and fame. The horrible thing was that Schelling, despite his scolding and sharp critique, was inwardly persuaded that there was not and could not be any philosophy except that which Hegel had created. Plutarch reports that Brutus, although he killed Caesar, both during Caesar's lifetime as well as after his death was crushed and destroyed by Caesar's spirit. So it was also with Schelling. He accused Hegel of having robbed him, called him a conjurer and charlatan who adroitly, so that others might not notice it, threw objects that had been previously secreted by him into an empty hat, and so on. But he only talked thus; in reality he dreamed of one thing only - like Hegel, to create a philosophy that would be Selbstbewegung ("self-movement") - it makes no difference whether of the concept, of the spirit, or of anything you please, as long as it would be Selbstbewegung, that is, movement that is not determined by anything except the laws of its own nature. Hegel - even if Schelling's critique was correct, even if he did not really succeed in deriving the world and the universe from the "self-movement" of the concept, even if he in fact, like a dexterous conjurer, showed what was not - Hegel, nevertheless, philosophized bona fide. He carried out his role conscientiously not only for the public but for himself, and if he deceived all so skillfully it was only because he managed to deceive himself. Of course, from being, which is equivalent to non-being, becoming can in no way be derived, and still less is it possible to derive any definite, concrete object from becoming. It is also impossible to derive the dogma of the incarnation of Christ in a dialectical way. Hegel, however, did derive it and in such a way that he himself obtained full satisfaction, and his listeners felt that in Hegel philosophy obtains its final and definitive completion. His conscience was clear, he went his way cheerfully and spoke as one who possesses power.

     Schelling, on the other hand, never believed in his philosophy of revelation and did not like it. For him this philosophy was something like a mariage par dépit. That is why he spoke loudly, but inconsistently and stammeringly, with caution, and always resorted to that dialectic which he mocked in Hegel but which was the sole object of his desire to the end of his life. He attempted, altogether like Hegel, to "derive" the dogma of the Trinity from a concept - namely, from the idea that in God there is something else other than God, His nature (Solovyov, in his book Russia and the Ecumenical Church reproduces Schelling's argumentation and, on the way, at the same time, also derives the filioque). But Hegel "derived" easily and freely, while Schelling only pretended to derive. Thereby the gloomy mood of the Schelling of the "second period" is accounted for. He had everything that a man needs for "happiness." He had family, means for living, health, and occupation - and even great success. But nothing made him happy. The spirit of Hegel crushed and annihilated him even after Hegel's death. He spoke in his lectures about revelation, but his soul yearned for a dialectically grounded philosophy, for that which Hegel had in his lifetime and which he took with him into another world after his death.


     The Slavophiles transplanted Schelling on Russian soil, transplanted him intact, as he was - with that feeling of reverent devotion with which people in Russia always related toward foreign growths. Kant was criticized, Hegel also was criticized a great deal, but Schelling was loved and admired. The "philosophy of revelation" captivated inexperienced Russian thought in such a way that it soon began to appear to Schelling's Russian disciples that it was only by a strange misunderstanding that he was reckoned among the Germans and those born in the west; it appeared to them that he was always one of their own, that he was a Russian and one who grew up in their native east. And at the present time those Russian writers who are to a greater or lesser degree connected with Slavophilism still repeat Schelling's thoughts, without even naming him, but either in their own name or in the name of Kireevsky. This appears to them more natural and even closer to the truth.

     Solovyov also acted thus. Schelling had so entered into him that Solovyov lost, as it were, the capacity to distinguish himself from him. Also that duplicity which, as I said in the preceding section, hung over Schelling's philosophical thinking entered fully into Solovyov. Solovyov also placed the philosophy of revelation on his banner but, like Hegel, created a dialectical philosophy. The difference consisted only in the fact that Schelling was conscious of this duplicity, that he wished to get rid of it and could not, and that it always poisoned his existence. But Solovyov suspected nothing. It seemed to him that everything had to be so, and that if Schelling was angry with Hegel this was only a vexing misunderstanding on which it does not pay to reflect. The idea of a "philosophy of revelation" captivated Solovyov as if it were revelation itself, and it in fact replaced revelation for him, without his noticing it, as the rational replaced the real for Hegel.

     Philosophy gained from this; the enviable possibility of understanding and explaining everything presented itself. And since always and in everything the invisible figure of Schelling gave him support, overcoming, if not for himself then for others, the inward difficulties of the unrealizable task, Solovyov "constructed" his "religious philosophy" without special tension and without doubt and struggle. Only toward the very end of his life, when he looked back on what he had done, did he begin to experience an uneasiness that, at first glance, is not to be justified by anything. He threw himself into his Apocalypse and began his Three Conversations with their crowning History of the Antichrist. And even though it is impossible to be fully certain that the work is directed against himself (according to the outward exposition, it is directed against Leo Tolstoy), one can nevertheless say that between Three Conversations and what Solovyov had written earlier lies an abyss that is not to be filled up by anything. Had Solovyov lived a few years longer, he would very likely have realized this himself, and he would even perhaps have found sufficient courage openly to confess it. But perhaps he would have hidden it from himself and, like Schelling, carried his mystery off into another world.

     Three Conversations is mainly a polemical work. It is directed against people "From whose point of view what they preach is in and of itself understandable, desirable and saving for everyone... Their truth is supported by itself and if a certain historical person is in agreement with it, so much the better for him; but this still cannot give him the meaning of a supreme authority for them, especially when the same person has said and done much that for them is both temptation and madness." (Vladimir Solovyov, Collected Works, 8:456, Russian edition). Who, then, are these people for whom that which they preach is understandable, saving, and desirable in and of itself? And can it really be otherwise? Must that which a person preaches really be incomprehensible and undesirable and disastrous in and of itself? And this "in and of itself" - what meaning do these words have? Finally - the last question: Against whom are Solovyov's accusations directed? According to the sense of Three Conversations, the accusations, as I have just said, are directed against Tolstoy. But does Solovyov himself not really do the same thing? Do not his Justification of the Good, his Studies in Theoretical Philosophy, his essays on Pushkin, Lermontov, Spinoza - to mention only the works of his last years - really have as their task to build up a religious philosophy, that is, to show that what is told about in the books of Holy Scripture can and must be justified by reason - in other words, that it is desirable, saving, and understandable in and of itself? Just read these lines: "The capacity based on the very nature of reason and the word to grasp the all-unified and all-unifying truth has worked in many different ways in various peoples separated from each other, having gradually formed a human realm on the ground of animal life. The final, definitive essence of this human realm consists in the ideal demand for a perfect moral order, i.e., in the demand for the Kingdom of God. By two paths has the human spirit approached the Kingdom of God and the ideal of the God-man - through prophetic inspiration among the Jews and through philosophical thinking among the Greeks." Who wrote this? You will, of course, say Tolstoy, for here is everything that inspired Tolstoy when, having finished his sacrifice to Apollo, he began to think like all. First of all, that which is comprehensible, desirable and saving in and of itself. Then, the identification of the moral order with the Kingdom of God. And, finally, the conviction that prophetic inspiration and philosophical thinking lead to one and the same goal.

     However, this was written not by Tolstoy but by Solovyov (The Justification of the Good, in his Collected Works, 7:200, Russian edition) who on the spot also gives (in a note) his assertion a brief historical-philosophical basis. "These two ways," he writes, "the biblical and the philosophical, coincided in the mind of the Alexandrian Jew Philo who, from this point of view, is the last and most important thinker of the ancient world."

     The Alexandrian Jew Philo, it is true, ought not from any point of view to be called the last, and even less so, the most important thinker of the ancient world. The last great thinker of antiquity was Plotinus, who lived almost three hundred years after Philo. Philo in general was not a thinker at all but simply a pious and very learned Jew upon whom fate laid a perhaps not too enviable but enormous historical mission that he fulfilled with total conscientiousness. He was the first who proclaimed the idea that now inspires Solovyov and Tolstoy, and that, from the moment when the Bible became the property of the people of Greco-Roman culture, bestowed direction and form on the thinking of virtually all educated people: Greek reason, or the Logos, led the Hellenes to the same thing that was revealed to the Jewish prophets. Philo even asserted that the Greek philosophers derived their wisdom from the Bible - in this form his thinking became acceptable even for his strictest fellow-believers.

     In fact, however, the meaning of what Philo taught was altogether different. He grew up among Alexandrian Greeks and was educated on the Hellenic traditions. He did not doubt in the least the truths that Greek philosophy, based on reason, had obtained - he was fearful only that the religion of his fathers, the religion of revelation, might appear insufficiently perfect and lofty iii the eyes of educated people. Hence, he invented the special method of the so-called allegorical interpretation of Holy Scripture with the help of which everything in the Bible that did not conform to Greek wisdom was to be understood in such a way that it no longer offended Greek reason and conformed fully to its high demands. To put it more simply: Philo called Holy Scripture before the tribunal of Greek truth and rid himself of everything that this tribunal rejected in it as senseless and immoral. This meant in Philo, this also means in Solovyov, that the human spirit approached the idea of the "Kingdom of God" by "two paths" - through prophetic inspiration among the Jews and through philosophical thinking among the Greeks. To be sure, Solovyov adds that "for the realization of the ideal demand of a perfect moral order," something is still required. "The highest task of man as such (of pure man) and the purely human sphere of being consists in gathering the universe into the idea; the task of the God-man and the Kingdom of God consists in gathering the universe into reality." And, apparently, even more strongly: "The Kingdom of God does not abolish the lowest types of being through its occurrence but sets each of them in its appropriate place - no longer, however, as separate spheres of being but as spiritual-physical organs of the assembled universe, indissolubly unified through unconditioned inward solidarity and interaction; this is why the Kingdom of God is also a universal resurrection and restoration of all things (apokatastasis panton)."

     A reader who is in a hurry, who grasps the words but does not notice the competent efficiency of the tone in which they are expressed, will say that for Solovyov as well as for Philo the two ways - the way of prophetic inspiration and the way of philosophical investigation - coincided. If, however, these lines had caught Dostoevsky's eye, he would probably have said something else - or he would have suggested to the author that he read those pages in his "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" in which it is related how people bring him their bread, but he, who cannot prepare bread or in general anything else, limits himself to giving his blessing to what has been made by others. And, indeed: the "all-unified and all-unifying truth," the "perfect moral order," the "spiritual-physical organs of the assembled universe, indissolubly united through unconditioned inner solidarity and interaction" - all these are ideas gained through ordinary human understanding. In Holy Scripture there is no trace of such words: the language of the prophets, psalmists, and apostles is a completely different one, and their thoughts are quite different. What has prophetic inspiration to do here, and to what purpose has Solovyov mentioned it? Obviously only one thing is demanded of the prophets: they are to recognize and sanctify that which others have done without them and instead of them. This means, to speak in Solovyov's words, his "truth is supported by itself" and "is understandable, desirable and saving in and of itself." True, he does not make use of the philosophic method of allegorical interpretation (more correctly, he makes use of it only rarely), but this does not hinder him in the least from seeking and finding in the Bible that which he learned from the ancient and modern philosophers (the idea of "all-unity"), or, as he prefers to express himself, that which agrees with his reason and his conscience (Tolstoy also refers to his reason and conscience). This is what is called philosophy of religion: religion, that is, the truth that has been revealed, must justify itself before a human tribunal.

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