Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Berdyaev on Nominalism
"Thought at the present time has become subject to the dissective influence of nominalism. In the consciousness of mankind, the ontological reality is decomposed and pulverised. This process also affects Church consciousness. And how often the most reactionary tendencies of Church thought have appropriated to themselves a nominalistic understanding of the Church. They have ceased to comprehend the Church integrally, as an universal spiritual organism, as ontologic reality, as the Christified cosmos. There has prevailed a differentialised understanding of the Church, whether as institution, as community of believers, or as hierarchy and temple. The Church was transformed into a curative establishment, in which they deal with individual souls for healing. Thus is affirmed a Christian individualism, indifferent to the fate of human society and the world. The Church exists for the salvation of individual souls, but has no concern for the creative aspects of life, for the transfiguration of social and cosmic life. Suchlike a kind of exclusively monastic-ascetic Orthodoxy in Russia was only possible, because that the Church entrusted all the organisation of life to the state. Only the existence of the autocratic monarchy consecrated by the Church made possible such Orthodox individualism, such a separateness of Christianity from the life of the world. The Orthodox monarchy upheld and guarded the world, and churchly order was also maintained by it. The Church was indifferent not only to the arrangement of cultural and social life, but also to the arrangement of churchly life, to the life of the parishes, to the organisation of a non dependent churchly authority. The existence of an Orthodox autocratic monarchy is the obverse side of monastic-ascetic Orthodoxy, of perceiving Orthodoxy exclusively as a religion of personal salvation. And therefore the collapse of autocratic monarchy, of the Russian Orthodox tsardom, implies substantial modification in Church consciousness. Orthodoxy cannot remain predominantly monastic-ascetic. Christianity cannot be reduced to the individual salvation of separate souls. The Church inevitably turns itself to the life of society and the world, and inevitably it needs to participate in the formation of life. In the autocratic monarchy, as a type of Orthodox theocracy, it was the angelic, and not the human principle, that reigned. The tsar, in accord with this concept is in essence of the angelic, and not of the human order. The collapse of Orthodox theocracy ought to lead to the awakening of creative activism of a very Christian nation, an human activism, for the formation of a Christian society. This turnabout should begin first of all with this, that Orthodox people make themselves responsible for the fate of the Church in the world, in an historical actuality, that they be obliged to take upon themselves churchly formation, the life of the parishes, a concern about the temple, and organisation of churchly life, brotherhoods, etc. But this change of Orthodox psychology cannot be restricted to formation of churchly life, it extends also to all aspects of life. All of life ought to be thought of, as churchly life. In the Church all aspects of life enter in. A turnabout is inevitable for an integral comprehension of the Church, i.e. for the surmounting of Church nominalism and individualism. The understanding of Christianity exclusively as a religion of personal salvation, the constriction of the scope of the Church to something existing alongside with everything else, -- when the Church is the posited fullness of being, would be also the source of the greatest disorders and catastrophes in the Christian world. The abasement of man, of his freedom and creative vocation, the inculcation of suchlike an understanding of Christianity, would also evoke the revolt and rebellion of man in the name of his freedom and his creativity. Upon that desolate spot, which would remain in the world to Christianity, the Anti-Christ would begin to build his own Babylonian tower and go far in its construction. Seducing the freedom of the human spirit, the freedom of human creativity would ultimately perish upon this path. The Church ought to guard itself from the evil elements of the world and the evil developements in it. But the genuine guarding of things holy is possible only under the admission of Christian creativity."


Some twenty years before Weaver went to work on the nominalists -- though about seventy after Peirce did -- Berdyaev wrote the above in "Salvation and Creativity," which probably found its way in some form or other into The Meaning of the Creative Act, which is, alas, unobtainable at the moment, at least in English. Am I wrong to see this essay, along with some early papers by Marcel and Jaspers, as one of the first stirrings of what would become known as Existentialism? (Richard Weaver the Existentialist, now that's a hoot! Though on second thought, he's not all that far from Marcel in some respects, is he?)

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