Thanks, Dr. Berdyaev, for your profound insights.
The Problem of Man: Towards the Construction of a Christian Anthropology
1936 – #408
“In die Mitte der Welt habe ich Dich gestellt, damit Du frei nach allen Seiten Umsehen zu halten vermoegest und erspoehest, wo es Dir behabe. Nicht himmlisch, nicht irdisch, nicht Sterblich und auch nicht unsterblich habe ich Dich geschaffen. Denn Du selbst nach Deinem Willen und Deiner Ehre dein eigener Werkmeister und Bildner sein und Dich aus dem Stoffe, der Dir zusagt, formen, so steht es Dir frei, auf die unterste Stufe der Tierwelt herabzusinken. Doch kannst Du dich auch erheben zu den hoechsten Sphaeren der Gottheit”. Pico della Mirandola
“Nun siehe, Mensch, wie Du bist irdisch und dann auch himmlisch in einer Person vermischt, und traegest das irdische, und dann auch das himmlische Bild in einer Person: und dann bist Du aus der girmmigen Quaal und traegest das hoellische Bild an Dir, welches gruenet in Gottes Zorn aus dem Quell der Ewigkeit” Jacob Boehme
The problem of man appears indisputably central for the consciousness of our epoch. 1 It is aggravated by the terrible danger, which besets man from every side. Surviving with agony, man wants to know, who he is, from whence he came, whither he goeth and to what is he destined. In the second half of the XIX Century there were notable thinkers, who in surviving the agony thus introduced the tragic principle into European culture and who more than others set the stage for the posings of the problem of man, — and these were first of all Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard. There are two ways of viewing man — from above and from below, from God and the spiritual world or from the unconscious cosmic and tellurgic forces, lodged within man. Of those, who viewed man from below, perhaps the most significant were Marx, Freud and Proust among the writers of the last era. But an integral anthropology was not created, they looked at this or that aspect of man, but not the whole man, in his complexity and unity. I propose to examine the problem of man, as a philosopher, and not as a theologian. Contemporary thought stands afront the task of creating a philosophic anthropology, as a basic philosophic discipline. In this current M. Scheler was active and in this the so-called existential philosophy provides assist. It is interesting to note, that up until now theology has been quite more attentive to the integral problem of man, than has philosophy. At any rate, theology has an anthropologic part to it. True, theology has always brought into its own sphere a very strong philosophic element, but as it were along a smuggler’s trail and not consciously so. The virtue of theology consisted in this, that it posed the problem of man in general, in its wholeness, and did not investigate man only in pieces, dismembering him, as does science. The German Idealism of the beginning XIX Century, while it mustneeds be acknowledged as one of the most significant manifestations in the history of human consciousness, did not posit distinctly the problem of man. This is explainable by its monism. Anthropology coincided with gnosseology and ontology, man was as it were a function of the world reason and spirit, which also revealed itself in man. This was inpropitious for the constructing of a teaching about man. For specific problems of man, Bl. Augustine or Pascal are more interesting, than Fichte or Hegel. But the problem of man has become particularly urgent and tortuous for us because that we sense and we feel, in the experience of life and in the experience of thought, the insufficiency and lack of completeness of the Patristic and Scholastic anthropology, and likewise of the Humanistic anthropology, issuing forth from the epoch of the Renaissance. During the epoch of the Renaissance perhaps closest to the truth were suchlike people as Paracelsus and Pico della Mirandola, who knew about the creative vocation of man.2 The Renaissance Christian humanism surmounted the limitations of Patristic-Scholastic anthropology, but it was still connected with religious bases. In any case, it was closer to the truth, than was the anthropology of Luther and Calvin, negating man and denying the truth about the good in mankind. At the basis of the self-consciousness of man there were always two contrary senses — the sense of suppression and oppression and that of the rising up of man against this suppression, the sense of exaltation and power, the capacity to create. And it mustneeds be said, that Christianity gives justification both to the one and to the other of man’s sensations about self. On the one hand man is a being sinful and having need for the redemption of his sin, a being basely fallen, from which they demand humility, but on the other hand, man is a being created by God in accord with His image and likeness, God became man and by this raised up human nature, and man was called into a cooperation with God and to eternal life in God. To this corresponds the twofoldness of human nature and the possibility to speak about man in terms that are polar opposites. Christianity indisputably has liberated man from the power of the cosmic forces, from the spirits and demons of nature, making him subject directly to God. Even the opponents of Christianity are obliged to acknowledge, that it was a spiritual power, affirming the worthiness and independence of man, in spite of the great sins of the Christian within history.
When we stand afront the riddle of man, here then is what we ought first of all to say: man projects himself forth as a rupturing asunder within the natural world and he is inexplicable by the world of nature. 3 Man is a great marvel, the connection of earth and heaven, says Pico della Mirandola. 4 Man belongs to the natural world, in him everything is comprised of the natural world, to the extent of being physical-chemical processes, and he is dependent upon the lower stages of nature. But in him there is an element going beyond the natural world. Greek philosophy saw this element in the reason. Aristotle proposed a definition of man, as a rational animal. Scholasticism adopted the definition of Greek philosophy. Enlightenment philosophy drew from this its own conclusions and vulgarised it. But every time, when man has made an act of self-consciousness, he raises himself up over the natural world. The self-consciousness of man was already a surmounting of naturalism within the understanding of man, it is always a self-consciousness of spirit. Man is conscious of himself not only as a natural being, but also as a spiritual being. There is in man a Promethean principle and it is a sign of his God-likeness, for it is not demonic, as sometimes they tend to think.
But the self-consciousness of man is twofold, man is conscious of himself as both high and low, as both free and as the slave of necessity, belonging both to eternity and situated within the power of the death-bearing stream of time. Pascal with quite especial insight expressed this twofold aspect of the self-consciousness and self-awareness of man, since he was more dialectical, than is K. Barth. Man can be perceived, as an object, as one of the objects in a world of objects. And then he can be investigated by the anthropological sciences– by biology, sociology, psychology. Under suchlike an approach to man it is possible to investigate only this or some other side of man, but the integrally whole man, in his depths and in his inner existence, remains elusive. There is another approach to man. Man is conscious of himself likewise as a subject and foremost of all, as a subject. The mysteries about man are revealed within the subject, within the inner human existence. In objectivisation, in the hurling of man out into the objective world the mystery of man is obscured, and he realises about himself only this, that he is alienated from his inner human existence. Man does not belong wholly to the objective world, he possesses his own personal world, his own world outside the world, his own destiny incommensurate with objective nature. Man, as an integral being, does not belong to the natural hierarchy and cannot be constituted within it. Man, as subject, is act, he is a striving. In the subject is revealed the inwardly transpiring creative activity of man. Both alike mistaken is the anthropology that is optimistic, and the anthropology that is pessimistic. Man is something base and yet high, he is as nothing and yet great. Human nature is polarised. And if something be affirmed in man at the one pole, then this is compensated for by the affirmation of the opposite at the other pole.
The enigma of man posits not only the problem of an anthropologic philosophy, but also the problem of anthropologism or the anthropocentrism of every philosophy. Philosophy is anthropocentric, but man himself is not anthropocentric. This is a basic truth of existential philosophy in my estimation. I define existential philosophy as the opposite to a philosophy of objectification. 5 Within the existential subject is revealed the mystery of being. Only within human existence and through human existence is there possible the cognition of being. The cognition of being is impossible through the object, through the general concepts, ascribed to objects. This consciousness is the greatest conquest of philosophy. It might be said paradoxically, that only the subjective is objectively a matter, whereas the objective is subjectively a matter. God created only subjects, objects however are created by the subject. Kant expresses this in regard to his distinction between the thing-in-itself and the appearance, but he uses the poor expression “thing-in-itself”, which renders itself obscure for experience and knowledge. But authentically existential is Kant’s “realm of freedom” in contrast to the “realm of nature”, i.e. objectivisation in my terminology.
Greek philosophy taught, that being is correlative to the laws of reason. The reason can know being, in that being corresponds to it, reason has it hidden within itself. But this is only a partial truth, easily sought out. But there is a truth more profound. Being corresponds to an integral humanness, being — is humanised, God — is humanised. 6 And only therein is possible the cognition of being, the cognition of God. Without a correspondence to the human, the cognition of the very depths of being would be impossible. This is the obverse side of that truth, that man is created in the image and likeness of God. In the anthropomorphic representations about God this truth is affirmed often in a crude and unrefined form. Existential philosophy is based upon the humanistic theory of cognition, which ought to be deepened to the extent of being a theory of cognition of the theandric, the God-manly. The human-formliness of being and God is from below an evident truth, which from above reveals itself, as the creation by God of man in His own image and likeness. Man — is a microcosm and a microtheos. God is a microanthropos. The humanness of God is a specific revelation of Christianity, setting it apart from all other religions. Christianity — is the religion of God-manhood. L. Feuerbach has great significance for anthropology, and he was the greatest atheistic philosopher of Europe. In Feuerbach’s passing over from abstract idealism to anthropologism there was a great deal of truth. It was necessary to pass over from the idealism of Hegel to the concrete actuality.
Feuerbach was a dialectical moment within the development of a concrete existential philosophy. He posited the problem of man at the centre of philosophy and affirmed the humanness of philosophy. He wanted a turnaround to the concrete man. He was searching not for the object, but for the “thou”. 7 He taught, that man created God in accord with his own image and likeness, in accord with the image and likeness of his higher nature. This was the Christian truth turned inside out. To the end there remained in him a Christian theology, almost mystical. European thought had to pass through Feuerbach, in order to discover an anthropological philosophy, which German Idealism was in no condition to reveal.
But it cannot be halted at Feuerbach. The humanness or human-formliness of God is the obverse side of the Divineness or God-formliness of man. On either side of this is however the God-manly truth. But it is denied by the Thomist anthropology and by the Barthian anthropology, and also by the monistic humanist anthropology. Alien to Western Christian thought is the idea of God-manhood (theoandrism), which was given emphasis by the Russian Christian thought of the XIX and XX Centuries. The mystery of God-manhood is simultaneously contrary to both monism and dualism, and in it only can there be rooted the Christian anthropology. 8
The problem of man can be integrally posited and resolved only in light of the idea of God-manhood. Even within Christianity it is only with difficulty that the fullness of the Divine-human truth is accommodated. Naturalistic pondering has readily tended either towards monism, in which the one nature swallowed up the other, or towards dualism, under which God and man were completely cut off and separated by an abyss. The stifling of man, conscious of himself as a being fallen and sinful, can at the same time assume the form of both monism and dualism. Calvin was able simultaneously to interpret the limits dualistically and the limits monistically. Humanist anthropology, in acknowledging man as a self-sufficient being, was a naturalist reaction against the stifling of man in the traditional Christian consciousness. Man was debased, as a sinful being. And this has often produced suchlike an impression, that man in general is a degraded being. Not only from the sinfulness of man, but from the very fact of his creatureliness they deduced that the self-consciousness of man should be suppressed and debased. And from this, that man was created by God and does not possess in himself his own foundation, they made the inference not about the greatness of the creature, but about its nothingness.
Not infrequently is it heard, and the conclusion made, from both Christian theologians and simple pious people also, that God does not love man and does not want, that the purely human should be affirmed, He wants instead the abasement of man. And thus man abases himself, reflecting his own fallenness, and periodically he rises up against this suppression and abasement in proud self-exaltation. In both cases he loses the balance and does not attain to an authentic self-consciousness. In the dominant forms of the Christian consciousness of man, there was acknowledged exclusively a being to be saved, and not a creative being. But the Christian anthropology always taught, that man is created in his image and likeness to God. From the Eastern Teachers of the Church, St. Gregory of Nyssa did the most with anthropology, and he understands man first of all as in the image and likeness of God. This idea was quite less developed in the West. There was the anthropology of Bl. Augustine, and from this anthropology primarily and simultaneously was defined both the Catholic and the Protestant understanding of man, — almost exclusively this was an anthropology of sin and the saving by grace. From the teaching about the image of God in man, essentially, there was never made the ultimate conclusions. There were attempts to reveal within man features of the image and likeness of God: they discerned these features in the reason and in this they followed upon Greek philosophy, they revealed within the freedom that which moreover was connected with Christianity, they revealed in general these features within the spirituality of man. But never did they reveal the image of God within the creative nature of man, in the likeness of man to the Creator. This signifies a crossover to a completely different self-consciousness, the surmounting of the suppression and degradation. In the Scholastic anthropology, in Thomism, man does not appear as a creator, he is of a second-rate intellect, insignificant. 9 It is curious, that in the rebirth of Christian Protestant thought in the XX Century, in the dialectical theology of K. Barth, man is rendered a nullity, transformed into nothing, between God and man there opens up an abyss and in actual fact God-manhood becomes incomprehensible. The God-manhood of Christ remains sundered and for naught. But the God-manhood of Christ bears with it also the truth about the God-manness of the human person.
Man is a being capable of rising up above himself, and this rising up above himself, this transcending of himself, this going out beyond the encircling limitations of his own self, — is a creative act of man. In creativity especially man surmounts himself, creativity is not a self-affirmation, but rather a self-overcoming, it is ecstatic. I have already mentioned, that man as subject is act. M. Scheler likewise defines the human person, as a concrete unity of acts. 10 But the mistake of M. Scheler was in this, that he regarded spirit as passive, and life as active. Actually the reverse is true, spirit is active, and life passive. But the active can only be termed creative act. The very least act of man is creative and in it is created something not formerly existing in the world. Every live and warm relationship of man to man is the creativity of new life. And it is particularly in creativity, that man is in the greatest likeness to the Creator. Every act of love is a creative act. Non-creative activity is however essentially passive. Man can produce the impressions of great activity, he can make very active gestures, he can spread round about him loud motions and together with this all the while be passive, he can find himself in the grip of the powers and passions possessing him. The creative act is always the dominion of spirit over nature and over soul and it presupposes freedom. The creative act cannot be explained from nature, it is explicable but from freedom, it is always accompanied by freedom, which is not determined by any sort of nature, it is not determined by any sort of being. Freedom is prior to being, pre-being, it has its source not in being, but in non-being. 11
Creativity is a creativity from out of freedom, i.e. it includes in itself nothing of a determinising element, and it introduces also something new. They sometimes object against the possibility for man to be a creator on this basis, that man is a being that is sick and divided and impaired by sin. This argument does not have any strength to it. First of all, it would be completely correct likewise to say, that this sick, sinful, divided being is incapable not only of creativity, but also of salvation. The possibility of salvation is grounded in the grace sent to man. But for creativity also grace is also sent to man, it is given to him as gifts, genius and talent, and he hearkens herein to the inner calling of God.
It might moreover be said, that man creates, especially so, because he is a being sick, divided, and of itself insufficient. Creativity is similar to the Platonic Eros, it has its own source not only in wealth and abundance, but also in dearth and insufficiency. Creativity is one of the ways of the healing of the sick existence of man. In creativity is surmounted his dividedness. In the creative act man goes out beyond himself, he ceases to be absorbed by himself and to rend at himself. Man cannot define himself only in relation to the world and other people. From suchlike, he would not be able to find in himself the strength to lift himself up over the surrounding world and would be but its slave. Man ought to define himself first of all in relation to the source of his excelling, in the relationship to God. Only in turning to God does he find his own image, raising him up over the surrounding natural world. And then only does he find in himself the power to be a creator within the world. They might say, that man would be a creator even then, when he has denied God. This is a question of the makeup of his consciousness, sometimes very superficial. The capacity of man to raise himself up over the natural world, and over himself, to be a creator, depends upon facts more deep, than the human faith in God, than the human acknowledgement of God, — it is dependent upon the existence of God. This always it is proper to keep in mind. The fundamental problem of anthropology is the problem of person, to which also I shall move on to.
If man were only an individual, then he would not raise himself up over the natural world. 12 The individuum is a naturalistic, and first of all a biological, category. The individuum is indivisible, an atom. All the things of a relatively organised arrangement, distinguishing them from the surrounding world, like a pencil, a chair, a clock, a precious stone, etc, can be termed individuums. The individuum is part of a genera and is subordinate to the genera. Biologically one proceeds from the loins of natural life. The individuum is likewise a sociological category and in this capacity one is subordinate to society, one is part of society, an atom of the social whole. From the sociological point of view the human person, conceived of as an individuum, is presented as part of society and is indeed a very small part. The individuum retains its own relative autonomy, but all the same it dwells within the loins of the genus and society, it is compelled to consider itself as a part, which though it can revolt against the whole cannot set itself opposite to it, as an whole in itself. Person signifies something completely other. Person is of the category of spirit, and not nature, it is not subordinate either to nature or to society. Person is not at all part of nature or of society, and it cannot be thought of, as a part in relation to some sort of the whole. From the point of view of existential philosophy, from the point of view of man, as existential centre, person is not at all part of society. On the contrary, society is part of the person, merely its social side. Person is likewise not part of the world, of the cosmos; on the contrary, cosmos is part of the person. The human person is an essence both social and cosmic, i.e. it possesses a social and a cosmic side, a social and a cosmic makeup, but therein particularly it is impossible to think of the human person, as a part in relationship to a social or cosmic whole. Man is a microcosm. Person is an whole, it cannot be a part. This is a basic definition of person, though it be impossible to give any one definition of person, for it is possible to give an whole series of definitions of person from its various sides. The person as whole is not subordinated to any other whole, it is outside the relationships of genus and individual. Person ought to be thought of not as subordination to the genus, but in a correlation and community with other persons, with the world and with God. The person is not at all of nature and to it there can be ascribed no sort of categories, relating to nature. Person cannot at all be defined as substance. The understanding of person, as of a substance, is a naturalisation of person. Person is rooted within the spiritual world, it does not belong to the natural hierarchy and cannot be jumbled in together with it. It is impossible to think of the spiritual world, as part of the hierarchical cosmic system. The teachings of Thomas Aquinas are a clear example of the understanding of the human person, as a step within hierarchical cosmic system. The human person occupies a middle rung betwixt animals and angels. But this is a naturalistic understanding. It mustneeds moreover be said, that Thomism makes a distinction between the person and the individuum. 13 For existential philosophy, the human person has its own unique extra-natural existence, though in it there is a natural makeup. Person is contrary to thing, 14 contrary to the world of objects, it is an active subject, an existential centre. And this is only because the human person is non-dependent on the realm of Caesar. It possesses an axiological, a valuative character. To become person is the task of man. To define someone as a person, is a positive evaluation of a man. The person is not begotten of one’s parents, as is the individuum, it is created by God and creates itself and it is God’s idea about every person.
Person can be characterised by an entire series of signs, which between them are connected. Person is the unchanging amidst change. The subject of change remains one and the same person. For the person it is destructive, if it chills down, becomes stunted in its developement, does not grow nor become enriched, does not create new life. And likewise disastrous for it is, if the change in it is a betrayal, if it ceases to be itself, if it becomes impossible anymore to recognise the human person. This is a theme of Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt”. Person is an unity of destiny. This is its basic definition. Together with this, person is unity in multiplicity. It cannot be comprised of parts. It has a complexly manifold makeup. But the whole in it comes before its parts. The entire spirit-soul-bodily composition of man presents itself as an unique subject. It is essential for person, that it presupposes the existence of the supra-personal, that which surpasses it and to which it raises itself in its realisation. Person is not, if there be no being standing higher than it. Then there is only the individuum, subordinate to the genus and to society, and then nature would stand higher than man and he would be but part of it. Person can contain within itself an universal content and only person possesses this capacity. Nothing objective can contain universal content, for it is always partialised. There mustneeds be made a deep-rooted distinction between the universal and the general. The general is an abstraction and does not have an existence. The universal however is concrete and does possess existence. Person accommodates within itself not the general, but the universal, the supra-personal. The general, the abstracted idea, always denotes an intellectual culture of the idol and idolatry, of making person its own tool-implement and means. Such things as statism, nationalism, scientism, communism, etc, are always a transforming of person into a means and a tool. But this is never done by God. For God the human person is an end, and not a means. The general is an impoverishment, whereas the universal is an enrichment of the life of the person. The definition of man, as a rational being, makes of him an implement-tool of the impersonal reason, it is disadvantageous for person and does not discern its existential centre. Person possesses a propensity of feelings for suffering and for joy.
Person can be conceived of only as act, it is contrary to passivity, it always signifies a creative resistance. Act always is creative act, for passivity is not, as has already been said, a creative act. Act cannot be a mere repetition, it always bears within it something new. In the act always there is an excelling of freedom, which also bears forth this something new. Creative act is always connected with the depths of the person. Person is creativity. And as was already said, on the surface man can produce the impressions of great activity, he can make very active gestures, very loud motions even within, but in his depths be passive, he can altogether lose his personness. We often observe this in mass movements, both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, in the pogroms, in the appearances of fanaticism and zealotry. Genuine activity, defining the person, is activity of spirit. Without inner freedom, activity is rendered into passiveness of spirit, an inner determinism. Obsession, serving as a medium can produce the impression of activity, but in it there is no genuine act nor person. Person is resistance, resistance to the determinism of society and nature, an heroic struggle for self-definition from within. Person possesses a volitional core, in which every stirring is defined from within, and not from without. Person is contrary to determinism. 15
Person is pain. The heroic struggle for the realisation of person is painful. It is possible to flee pain, in having forsaken to be a person. And man too often does this. To be a person, to be free is not easy, but is difficult rather, a burden, which man ought to bear. From man ever and again they demand a renouncing of person, a renouncing of freedom, and for this they promise him an alleviating of his life. They demand from him, that he subject himself to the determinism of society and nature. With this is connected the tragedy of life. No man can consider himself a completed person. Person is not something completed, it has to realise itself, this is the great task put to man, the task to realise the image and likeness of God, to accommodate within oneself in the individual form the universal, the plenitude. Person creates itself throughout the expanse of the whole of human life.
Person is not self-sufficient, it cannot be satisfied with itself. It always presupposes the existence of other persons, the emergence from oneself to the other. Therein exists the opposition between person and egocentrism. Egocentrism, the immersion in one’s own “I” and the beholding of everything exclusively from the point of view of this “I”, the referring of everything to it, destroys the person. The realisation of person presupposes the seeing of other persons. Egocentrism however shatters the function of reality in man. Person presupposes diversity, the setting of a variety of persons, i.e. seeing realities in their true light. Solipcism, the affirming that nothing exists besides my “I” and that everything only is my “I”, is a denial of person. Person presupposes sacrifice, but it is impossible to sacrifice the person. It is possible to sacrifice one’s life and a man sometimes ought to sacrifice his life, but no one has the right to renounce his own person, everyone ought to in-sacrifice and through-sacrifice remain to the end a person. To renounce one’s own person is impossible, since this would signify a renouncing of God’s idea about man, in effect the non-realising of God’s intent. It is not necessary for person to be renounced, as an impersonalism might imagine, in regarding the person as a limitation, 16 but rather there should be renounced the hardened selfness in stirring the person to unfold itself. In the creative act of man, which is the realisation of person, there ought to occur a sacrificial pouring off of selfness, in defining a man from other people, from the world and from God. Man is a being in himself insufficient, dissatisfied but surmounting himself by his life in the most remarkable acts. Person is forged out in this creative self-definition. It always presupposes the vocation, the singular and unrepeated calling of each one.
It follows an inner voice, calling it to realise its own task in life. Man only then is a person, when he follows this inner voice, rather than external influences. Vocation always bears an individual character. And no one other can decide the question about the vocation of a given man. Person possesses a vocation, in that it is called to creativity. Creativity however is always an individual matter. The realisation of person presupposes ascesis. But it impossible to conceive of ascesis as an end, as something hostile to the world and to life. Ascesis is but a means, a drilled work-out, a concentration of inner powers. Person presupposes ascesis in that it is an intensifying and a resistance, a non-accord to be defined by nature or society. The attainment of an inner self-definition demands ascesis. But ascesis easily degenerates, it becomes transformed into an end-in-itself, so as to embitter the heart of man, and make him ill-disposed towards life. And then it becomes hostile towards man and the person. The needs for ascesis is not in denying the creativity of man, but for this, to realise this creativity. Person is diverse yet unified, unrepeatable, original, not the same as others. Person is the exception, and not the rule. We stand afront a paradoxical combination of opposites: of the personal and the supra-personal, of the finite and the infinite, of the unchanging and the changing, of freedom and of fate. Ultimately, there is a fundamental antinomy, connected with the person. Person ought the more to realise itself and no one can say of themself, that they are already fully a person. But for person to be able creatively to realise itself, it ought already to be, it mustneeds be this active subject, which realises itself. This creative act moreover is connected with the creative act in general. The creative act realises the new, something not formerly in the world. But it presupposes the creative subject, in which is given the possibility of self-determination and self-uplifting within creativity of the formerly non-extant. To be a person is difficult, to be free means to take upon oneself a burden. The easiest thing of all would be to renounce the person and to renounce freedom, to live under deteminism, under authority.
There is within man a sub-conscious elemental basis, connected with cosmic life and with the earth, a cosmic-tellurgic element. The very passions, connected with the natural-elemental basis, would seem to be the material, from which also are created the greatest virtues of the person. The intellectual-moral and rational denying of the natural-elemental within man leads to the desiccation and stoppage of the wellsprings of life. When consciousness chokes off and squeezes out the sub-conscious element, there then occurs a dividing of the human nature and its petrifying and ossification. The path of the realisation of the human person runs from the sub-conscious through the conscious to the supra-conscious. Simultaneously impropitious for the person is both the force of the lower sub-conscious, wherein man is wholly defined by nature, and also the petrifying of the consciousness, the locking off of consciousness, the closing away for man of the whole world, limiting his horizon. Consciousness mustneeds be thought of dynamically, and not statically, it can shrink or it can expand, it can hide away whole worlds or it can reveal them. There is no absolute nor impassable boundary, separating the conscious from the sub-conscious and the supra-conscious. That which presents itself to this median-norm consciousness, with which is connected the commonly-binding and the measure of law, is but a certain degree of petrification of the consciousness, relative to certain norms of social life and the sociality of mankind. But an egress from this median-norm consciousness is possible and with it is connected all the utmost attainments of man, with it is connected sanctity and genius, contemplation and creativity. Only therein can man be termed as a being which surmounts itself. And in this egress beyond the limits of the median-norm consciousness, of being drawn into the social ordinary, in this egress there is formed and realised the person, before which always there ought to be realised the perspectives of infinitude and eternity. The importance and the interesting aspect in man is connected with this opening up in him of the path towards the infinite and the eternal, with the possibility of breaking through. It is very mistaken a thing to connect person primarily with the limited, with the finite, with definition obscuring off the indefineable. The person is diversity, it does not permit of getting dissolved and mixed away into the impersonal, but it likewise is a stirring within the indefineable and infinitude. Wherefore only with person is there also a paradoxical conjoining of the finite and the infinite. Person is a going out from itself, beyond its limits, but not allowing of dissolution and being mixed away. It opens up, it permits within itself whole worlds and goes out into them, whilst remaining itself. Person is not a monad with closed-off doors and windows, as with Leibnitz. But the opened doors and windows never signify a dissolving away of the person into the surrounding world, never the destruction of the ontological core of the person. There is therefore within the person a sub-conscious foundation, there is the conscious and there is the egress to the supra-conscious.
Of tremendous significance for anthropology is the question about the relationship within man of the spirit to the soul and the body. It is possible to speak about the triadic makeup of Man. To present himself as man constituted of soul and body, while bereft of spirit, — this is a naturalisation of man. There undoubtedly has been suchlike of the naturalistic in theological thought, and it is for example characteristic to Thomism. The spiritual element was as it were alienated from human nature and transferred exclusively to the transcendental sphere. Man, constituted exclusively of soul and body, is a natural being. The basis for such a naturalisation of Christian anthropology appears to be in this, that the spiritual element within man cannot at all be posited alongside and compared with the soul and body element. Spirit cannot at all be set opposite soul and body, it is a reality of another order, it is reality in another sense. The soul and body of man belong to nature, they are realities of the natural world. But spirit is not nature. The opposition of spirit and nature — is the fundamental opposition, which namely is of spirit and nature, and not of spirit and matter, nor of spirit and body. The spiritual element within man signifies, that man is not only a natural being, but that within him there is a supra-natural element. Man unites himself with God through the spiritual element, through spiritual life. Spirit is not in opposition to soul and body and the triumph of spirit does not at all signify the negation or lessening of soul and body. The soul and body of man, i.e. his natural being, can be in spirit, brought into the spiritual order, spiritualised. The attainment of the integrality or wholeness of human existence also signifies, that spirit is possessed of by soul and body. Quite especially it is, that through the victory of the spiritual element, through spiritualisation is realised the person within man, there is realised his integral image. As regards the archaic and very ancient meaning of the word spirit (pneuma, rouakh), it signified breath and breathing, i.e. it had almost a physical meaning, and only later was spirit spiritualised. 17 But the comprehension of spirit as a breathing also signifies, that it is energy, coming into man as it were from an higher plane, and not from the natural substance of man.
Completely false is that abstract spiritualism, which denies the genuine reality of the human body and its belonging to the integral image of man. It is impossible to defend this dualism of soul and body, or of spirit and body, as sometimes they express it, and which derives from Descartes. This point of view has been abandoned by modern psychology and is inconsistent with the currents of contemporary philosophy. Man presents himself as an integrally whole organism, which includes soul and body. The very body of man is not a mechanism and it cannot be conceived of materialistically. At present there has occurred a partial return to the Aristotelian teaching about the entelechies (“innate-ends”). The body belongs inalienably to the person, the image of God in man. The spiritual principle vivifies both the soul and the body of man. The body of man can become spiritualised, can become a spiritual body, whilst not ceasing to be a body. The eternal principle within the body is not in its physical-chemical constitution, but its form. Without this form there is no integrally whole image of the person. Flesh and blood do not inherit life eternal, i.e. the materiality of our fallen world does not inherit, but the spiritising bodily form does inherit. The body of man in this sense is not only one of the objects of the natural world, it has also an existential meaning, it belongs to an inner, non-objectivised existence, it belongs to the integrative subject. The realisation of the form of the body leads to the realisation of person. This means precisely the liberation from the a rule of body, having subordinated its spirit. We live in an epoch, when man, and foremost of all his body, seem unsuited for the new technical means, conceived of by man himself. 18 Man is fragmented. But person is an integral spirit-soul-body being, in which the soul and the body are subordinated to spirit, spiritised and by this conjoined with the higher, the supra-personal and supra-human being. Suchlike is the inner hierarchy of the human being. The shattering or keeling-over of this hierarchy is a shattering of the integrality of the person and is in this ultimately its destruction. Spirit is not a nature within man, distinct from the nature of soul and body, but rather an immanently acting within it gracious power (breath and breathing), the utmost quality of man. Spirit manifests itself as the genuinely acting and creative in man.
Man cannot define himself only afront life, he ought also to define himself afront death, he ought to live, knowing, that he will die. Death is a most important fact of human life, and man cannot worthily live, not having defined his relationship towards death. Whosoever structures his life having closed his eyes to death, that one loses at playing the deed of life, even if his life were to be a success. The attainment of the fullness of life is connected with the victory over death. Modern people are inclined to see a sign of bravery and strength in the forgetting about death, and to them it seems a matter of indifference. In actuality the forgetting about death is not bravery and indifference, but vileness and superficiality. Man ought to surmount the living fear of death, for the dignity of man demands this. But a profound attitude towards life cannot be connected with a transcendent terror afront the mystery of death, as having nothing in common with a living fear. It is vileness to be forgetful about the death of other people, not only about the death of those close to one, but about the death of every living being. In this forgetting there is a betrayal, since all are responsible for all and all have a common fated lot. “The fated lot of the sons of men and the fated lot of living things — this is the same fated lot: as these die, so also die those”, — says Ecclesiates. The obligation in regards to the dead was most acutely sensed by N. Fedorov, who saw the very essence of Christianity to be in the “common task” of a struggle against death. 19 Without a decision about the question about death, without the victory over death, person cannot realise itself. And the attitude towards death cannot be twofold. Death is the greatest extremity of evil, the source of all that is evil, the result of the Fall into sin, in that every being had been created for eternal life. Christ came first of all to conquer death, to remove the sting of death. But death in the fallen world has also a positive sense, since as a negative pathway it serves to witness to the existence of an higher meaning. Endless life in this world would be bereft of meaning. The positive meaning of death is in this, that the fullness of life cannot be realised in time, in not only a finite span of time, but neither in endless time. The fullness of life can be realised only in eternity, only beyond the limits of time, because in time life remains without meaning, if it has not received its meaning from eternity. But the egress from time to eternity is a leap across the abyss. In the fallen world this leap across the abyss is termed death. There is another egress from time into eternity — through the depth of the moment, comprising neither a fragmented part of time nor subject to numeric quantity. But this egress is neither final nor integral, and constantly again one falls back into time. The realisation of the fullness of the life of the person presupposes the existence of death. Only a dialectical attitude is possible towards death. Christ by His death hath trampled down death, and therefore death has come to have also a positive significance. Death is not only the decomposition and annihilation of man, but also his ennobling, a sundering from the dominion of the ordinary. The metaphysical teaching about the natural immortality of the soul, based on the teaching about the substantiality of the soul, does not resolve the question about death. This teaching detours past the tragedy of death, the falling-apart and fragmentation of the integrally whole human being. Man is not an immortal being in consequence of his natural constitution. Immortality is attained by virtue of the spiritual principle in man and its connection with God. Immortality is an end-task, the realisation of which presupposes a spiritual struggle. This is the realisation of the fullness of the life of the person. The immortal is in regard particularly to the person, and not to the soul as a natural substance. Christianity teaches not about the immortality of the soul, but about the resurrection of the integrally whole human being, of the person, of the resurrection of the body of man also, as belonging to the person. Mere immortality is partialised, it leaves man fragmented, whereas resurrection is integrally whole.
Abstract spiritualism affirms only a partialised immortality, an immortality of soul. Abstract idealism affirms only the immortal ideal principles in man, only the ideal values, and not the person. Only the Christian teaching about resurrection affirms immortality as the eternity of the integral wholeness of man, of the person. In a certain sense it can be said, that immortality is a conquest of spiritual creativity, the victory of the spiritual person, endowed with body and soul, over the natural individuum. The Greeks considered man mortal, whereas the gods were immortal. Immortality at first was affirmed for heroes, demi-gods, the supra-human. But immortality always signified, that the Divine principle penetrated into man and was possessed of by him. Immortality — is Divine-human. It is impossible to objectify and render immortality into something natural, it is existential. We ought to get completely beyond the aspects of pessimism and optimism, and affirm the heroic efforts of man to realise his person for eternity, irrespective of the successes and defeats in life. The realisation of person for eternal life has moreover a connection with the problem of sex and love. Sex is an halfness, a fragmentedness, a non-fullness of the human person, an anguish of incompleteness. The integrally whole person is bi-sexualised, androgynic. The metaphysical meaning of love is in the attainment of the integral wholeness of person for life eternal. And in this is the spiritual victory over the impersonal and death-bearing process of natural-begetting. 20
The human person can realise itself only in community with other persons, in communality (Communaute, Gemeinschaft). Person cannot realise the fullness of its life while locked up within itself. Man is not only a social being and cannot belong entirely to society, but he is also a social being. Person ought to stand up for its uniqueness, its independence, its spiritual freedom, to realise its calling of a vocation within society in particular. It is necessary to make a distinction between communiality (communautй) and society. Community (communality) is always personalistic, it is always an encounter of person with person, the “I” with the “thou” in a “we”. 21 In authentic communality there are no objects, for the person another person is never an object, but is always a “thou”. Society is an abstraction, it is an objectification, and in it the person vanishes. Communality however is concrete and existential, it is outside of objectification. In society there is a conforming oneself into the state, and man enters into the sphere of objectification, he becomes abstracted from himself, he undergoes as it were an alienation from his proper nature. About this there was many an interesting thought from the young Marx. 22 Marx discerns this alienation of human nature in the economics of the Capitalist order. But in essence this alienation of human nature occurs in every society and state. Both existentially and humanly, the only community is the “I” with the “thou” in the “we”. Society, I grant, is in its form the objectification into the state, and it is an alienation, a falling-away from the existential sphere. Man is transformed into an abstract being, into one of the objects, set amidst other objects. This poses the question about the nature of the Church in the existential meaning of the word, i.e. as an authentic community, of the communality or Sobornost’ of the “I” and the “thou” in the “we”, in a Divine-human body, in the Body of Christ. The Church is likewise a social institution, acting within history, and in this sense it is objectivised and is a society. The Church was transformed into an idol, as is everything in the world. But the Church, in an existential and non-objectivised sense, is communality (communautй), is Sobornost’. Sobornost’ is the existential “we”. Sobornost’ rationally is not expressible in concept, is not subject to objectivisation. The objectivisation of Sobornost’ transforms it into a society, likens it to a state. Thereupon the person is transformed into an object, as found in the relation of the state towards its subjects, i.e. the very reverse of the Gospel words: “you know, that the princes of the nations rule over them and as mighty ones lord it over them, but amidst ye let it not be such”. Existential communality is communion, a true communism, distinct from the material communism, which is based upon an admixture of existential communality with an objectified society, coercively organised into the state. The society at the foundation of which would be posited personalism, the avowal of the supreme value of every person and of the existential relationship of person to person, such a society would be transformed into communality, into communautй, into true communism. But communality is unattainable by way of the compulsive organisation of society, and by this way may be created a more just order, but not the brotherhood of people. Communality, Sobornost’, is a society that is spiritual, which is hidden away for an externalised and objectivised society. In communality, the “I” with the “thou” in the “we” imperceptibly passes over into the Kingdom of God. It is not identical with the Church in the historical and social sense of the word. In the sphere, to which society belongs, there would most correspond to a Christian anthropological avowal of a system, that which I would term a personalist socialism. This system presupposes a just socialisation of the economic order, the surmounting of economic atomism and individualism, set amidst the acknowledgement of the supreme value of the human person and its right to the realisation of the fullness of life. But a personalist socialism itself and of itself does not however create communality, the brotherhood of people, for this remains a spiritual task. Christian anthropology is embedded in the problem of a Christian sociology. But the problem of man takes primacy over the problem of society. Man is not a creation of society in its image and likeness, man is a creation of God in His image and likeness. Man possesses within himself an element independent of society, he realises himself within society, but he is not wholly dependent upon it. Sociology ought to be grounded upon anthropology, and not the reverse.
The final, the ultimate problem, upon which philosophic and religious anthropology devolves is the problem of the relationship of man, of the human person to history. This is an eschatological problem. History is the fated-destiny of man. It is a tragic fate. Man is not only a social being, but is also an historical being. The point of the fate of history coincides together with my own human fate. And I cannot throw off from myself the burden of history. History is a creation of man, he consents to go the way of history. But together with this, history is indifferent towards man, it pursues as it were not human aims, and it is interested not by the human, but by the state, by the nation, by civilisation; it is inspired by power and expansion, and it makes common cause first of all with the average man, with the masses. The human person is trampled down by history. There exists a most profound conflict between history and the human person, between the ways of history and human ways. Man is drawn into history, he becomes subject to its fate and together with this he finds himself in conflict with it, he opposes to history the value of person, its inner life and individual destiny. Within the bounds of history this conflict is irresolvable. History in its religious meaning is movement towards the Kingdom of God. And this religious meaning is realised only when there is a breaching through of history by the meta-historical. But it is impossible for there to be situated within history a continuous Divine-human process, as for example Vl. Solov’ev sought to find, in his “Lectures on God-manhood”. History is not sacralised, the sacralisation of history is a false symbolisation, the sacral within history possesses a conditional-symbolic, and not a real sense. History in a certain sense is a non-succeeding to the Kingdom of God, it is a prolonging wherein the Kingdom of God is not realised, is not come. The Kingdom of God comes unperceived, outside the bombast and glitter of history. The transgression of history in tormenting the concrete man means also, that the Kingdom of God is not realised and so there is endured the immanent punishment for this non-realisation. Christian history happened only because that the eschatological expectations of the first Christians was not realised. The First and the Second Coming of Christ sundered, between them was formed historical time, which can be prolonged indefinitely. The task of history is immanently and inwardly unresolved. History does not have a meaning in itself, it possesses meaning only beyond its limits, in the supra-historical. And therefore inevitable is the end of history and a judgement over history. But this end and this judgement occur within history itself. The end is always nigh. There is an inner apocalypse to history. The apocalypse is not only the revelation of the end of history, but likewise revelation of an end and judgement within history. Revolutions are such an end and a judgement. Christian history has never realised true Christian personalism, it has realised the opposite. Christians were inspired not by sublime preaching, but by the power and glory of the state and nation, by the military will towards expansion. Christians justified oppression and injustice, they were inattentive towards the lot of the earthly concrete man, they did not consider the person to be of utmost value. And therefore Christian history had to end and have begun instead a non-Christian and anti-Christian history. And in this there was a great truth from the Christian point of view. There has been many a revolution within history, which was a judgement over the past, but all the revolutions were infected with the evil of the past. There has never been a personalist revolution, a revolution in the name of the human person, of every human person, in the name of the realisation of the fullness of life for it. And therefore the end of history is inevitable, the ultimate revolution. Anthropology is likewise the philosophy of history. The philosophy of history however is inevitably eschatology.
The philosophy of history is not so much a teaching about the meaning of history through progress, as rather the teaching of the meaning of history through the end. Hegel’s philosophy of history is completely unacceptable for us, it is impersonal, and it ignores man. And therefore inevitable was the revolt against Hegel by such people as Kierkegaard, and inevitable was the revolt against the world spirit for having transformed the concrete man into but its own means. Christian anthropology ought to be posited not only in the perspective of the past, i.e. oriented towards Christ Crucified, as up to the present has been done, but also to the perspective of the future, i.e. oriented towards Christ Coming Again, Risen in power and glory. But the appearance of Christ Coming is dependent upon the creative deed of man, it is prepared for by man.
The insufficiency and defect of humanist anthropology was not at all in that it emphasised man too much, but rather in that it insufficiently affirmed his finality of end. Humanism had Christian sources and at the beginning of the modern period there existed a Christian humanism. But in its ultimate developement, humanism assumed the forms of affirming the self-sufficiency of man. At the very moment when they proclaim, that there is nothing higher than man, that for him there is nowhere up to go and that he is sufficient unto himself, man then begins to take on and be subject to the lower nature. In its furthest developement, during the XVIII and XIX Centuries, humanism was forced to acknowledge man as a product of the natural and social mediums. As a being exclusively natural and social, as a creation of society, man is deprived of inner freedom and independence, he is defined exclusively from without, and in him there would be no spiritual principle, which should serve as the source of creativity. The acknowledgement of the self-emphasis and self-sufficiency of man is a source of the negation of man and leads invariably to the inner passivity of man. Man can be raised up only by the awareness, that man is in the image and likeness of God, i.e. is a spiritual being, exalted over the natural and social world and summoned to transfigure it and be master over it. The self-affirmation of man leads to the self-destruction of man. Suchlike is the fatal dialectic of humanism. But we ought not to deny every truth of humanism, as is done by many a reactionary theological tendency, but the rather to affirm a creative Christian humanism, an humanism that is theandric, connected with the revelation about God-manhood.
In what is the meaning of human creativity? This meaning is quite more profound than the usual justification of cultural and social creativity. The creative act of man essentially does not demand a justification, and this is an external positing of the question, for it justifies, and is not justified. 23 The creative act of man, presupposing a freedom external to being, is in answer to God’s call to man and it is needful for the Divine life itself, wherein man possesses not only an anthropogonic, but also a theogonic significance. The ultimate mystery about man, and which he is able to comprehend only with difficulty, is connected with this, that man and his creative deed have significance for the Divine life itself, they represent a fulfillment for Divine life. The mystery of human creativity remains hidden and unrevealed in the Holy Scripture. In the name of human freedom, God provides man himself the opportunity to uncover the meaning of his creativity. The idea of self-sufficiency, of the self-unperturbedness (Aseitas) of the Divine life is exoteric and ultimately it is a false idea, and it is substantially contrary to the idea of the God-Man and God-manhood. Through the God-Man Christ human nature is a communicant in the Holy Trinity and in the depths of Divine life. There exists a from-all-eternity humanness within the Trinity and it signifies also the Divine within man. The creative act of man therefore is a self-discovery within the fullness of Divine life. But not every creative act of man is such, for there can also be an evil and diabolic creativity, but it is always a pseudo-creativity, always oriented towards non-being. The authentic creativity of man is Christological, though this be not evidently perceived. Humanism does not comprehend this depth of the problem of creativity, it remains at the secondary. The Christian consciousness however, bound up with the social everyday ordinary in life, has remained closed off from the creative mystery of man, it was oriented exclusively towards the struggle with sin. And thus it has been up to the present. But the appearance of a new human self-consciousness within Christianity is possible. Anthropologic investigations ought to prepare for it from various sides. The traditional Christian anthropology, as also the traditional philosophic anthropology, both the idealistic and the naturalistic, ought to be surmounted. The teaching about man, as a creator, is a creative task for modern thought.
(K postroeniiu khristianskoi antropologii).
Journal Put’, Mar./Apr. 1936, No. 50, p. 3-26.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos
i “In the midst of the world hath I put thee, so that thou might freely look about all sides of the world, to keep hold of as thou art able and might use, as doth please thee. Neither heavenly, nor earthly, not mortal and also not immortal hath I created thee. For thou thyself in accord with thine will and thine honour wilt be thine own creator and fashioner and from the stuff that thou choose to form be thee free, from the lowest stuff of the brute-work to sink. But thou canst also lift thyself up to the highest spheres of the Godhead” Pico della Mirandola
ii “From no religion but the Christian is it known, that man is the most excellent creature and at the same time the most miserable”. Pascal
iii “Man, see now, how thou be earthly and yet also heavenly in one person put together, and thou bearest the earthly, and also yet the heavenly image in the selfsame person: and then art thou from the grimmest agony and bearest an hellish image on thee, which greeneth in God’s wrath from the agony of Eternity”. Jacob Boehme
2 Vide the brilliantly written, though also very incomplete history of anthropologic teachings: Bernhard Groethuysen: “Philosophische Antropologie”.
3 Vide the remarkable essay of Christian anthropology by Nesmelov: “Nauka o cheloveke” (The Science of Man”).
4 Vide Pico della Mirandola: “Ausgewaehlte Schriften”. 1905.
5 Vide my book: “I and the World of Objects” (trans. note: published in English under title “Solitude and Society”).
6 I. Kireevsky and A. Khomyakov had a presentiment of this truth, when they based knowledge upon the integrality and totality of the spiritual powers of man. There is an affinity to this in the existential philosophy of Heidegger and Jaspers, for whom being is known within human existence.
7 Vide L. Feuerbach: “Philosophie der Zukunft”.
8 Vide Fr. S. Bulgakov: “Agnets Bozhii” (“The Lamb of God”).
9 This hostility towards the understanding of man as a creator can be met with in the newest of Catholic books, in Theodore Haecker’s “Was ist der Mensch?”
10 Vide his book: “Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik”.
11 Vide my books, “Philosophy of the Free Spirit” (published in English under title “Freedom and the Spirit”, and “The Destiny of Man”).
12 Much of my thought about the person and the individual was expressed in my article, “Personalism and Marxism”, and likewise in my books, “I and the World of Objects” (published in English under title “Solitude and Society”), and “The Destiny of Man”.
13 Upon this in particular, J. Maritain insists upon.
14 This is a basic thought of Stern, who created a philosophical system of personalism, which however is not free from naturalism.
15 Le-Senne in his remarkable book, “Obstacle et Valeur”, opposes existence to determinism.
16 Thus thinks L. Tolstoy, thus thinks the Indian religious philosophy, E. Hartmann and many another.
17 Vide Hans Leisegang: “Der Heilige Geist”, 1919.
18 Vide my article “Chelovek i mistika” (“Man and the Mystic”) and the book of Carrel “L’Homme cet inconnu”. [trans note: this seems to be a misprint in original text for Berdyaev’s widely circulated 1933 Put’ article “Chelovek i mashina” (“Man and Machine”) — included in book “The Bourgeios Mind”, Ch. 2). Enigmatic also is Berdyaev’s citation of the French title of Alexis Carrel’s book, first published in 1935 in English under title “Man, the Unknown”; it was not published in French until 1937, the year after the present Berdyaev article.] .
19 Vide the book of N. Fedorov, “The Philosophy of the Common Task” (“Philosophia obschego dela”).
20 Vide my books, “The Destiny of Man” and “The Meaning of Creativity” (published in English under title “The Meaning of the Creative Act”), and also the article by Vl. Solov’ev, “The Meaning of Love”.
21 Vide my book, “I and the World of Objects” (published in English under title “Solitude and Society”), and also the book of Martin Buber, “I and Thou” (“Ich und Du”). [trans. note: “I” and “thou” and “we” are all non-object subject forms, in contrast to the object-forms of the “me” and “thee” and “ye/you” and “us”. It is an aspect of what in Hegelian Idealism is termed “bad faith”].
22 Vide K. Marx: “Der historische Materialismus”. Die Fruehschriften.
2 Volumes. See also A. Carnu, “Karl Marx”, and Lukas, “Geschichte und Klassen Bewustsein”. [In English, vide “The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, by Karl Marx”].
23 Vide my book, “The Meaning of Creativity. Attempt at a Justification of Man” (published in English under title “The Meaning of the Creative Act”).