“If my efforts in this work are adequate to the task, I wish to make substantial intellectual contributions towards a clear description of how essential and profound a spiritual, philosophical and psychological relation exists, between characteristic highest (“vertical”) conceptions and aspirations – and tasks – of Mankind in America and Russia. The hope is that such understanding could contribute, essentially, towards a clearer, creative, and mutually-beneficial spiritual orientation – in thoughtful and heartful individuals of both nationalities – which might lead to a more conscious spiritual meeting of “Russian” and “American”; and thereby, possibly, promote an alchemical blending of the American Mind and Russian Soul, American Individuality and Russian Community. Such a greater clarity towards a greater spiritual realization, and more complete wholeness, in some men and women of each country, and thereby, perhaps, in portions of Mankind as a whole.” – the Author
Ex Occidente Lux – Thoughts from America’s Chrysopylae
Spiritually, and Practically Speaking
TO SPIRITUALLY-STRIVING AMERICANS:
The Spiritual Call in the “American Dream”,
and “We the People”.
West Needs East?
TO SPIRITUALLY-SEEKING RUSSIANS:
The Sophia, Lenin, and the Search for a New, Spiritual Russia
Too Old, Holy Russia?
East Needs West?
TO SUCH AMERICANS AND RUSSIANS:
East Needs West Needs East?
“...to sway the destinies of half the globe.”
Spiritual Mathematics: “American” + “Russian” => ?
THEIR SEARCH FOR MAN,
In Moscow: Slavophilism, in Boston: Transcendentalism...
Emerson, and Man as a Sovereign State
But the Slavophiles Said...
Kireyevsky’s Heart and Soul
Adam, in America and Russia
Emerson, Kireyevsky and Holy Russia
Crosses over Concord’s Hillside Chapel and Optina Pustyn Monastery
Transcension of Mind, Catharsis of Soul
...AND OUR SEARCH FOR SPIRITUAL SELF-RENOVATION AND “PHILADELPHIA”
Scientia + Fides => Sapientia
...and Spiritual Nationality.
Egoism, Communism and “Philadelphia”
IF “MAN HAS ON THE EARTH NO HOME...”
The Statue of Liberty’s Inner Light
The Uspenski Sobor of Russian Soul
Necessary Inner Wings
Addenda: “Warning to Russian Souls”
Notes and Thought Developments
With this preface written especially for the free, 2014 electronic version of his 1990 book, the author wanted to take the opportunity thereby provided to explain a bit to the reader (now reading sometime after this new, unrevised edition was published and released into the internet world) about how the author saw his younger work written some 25 years before 2014 – for he himself had definitely not stopped studying, growing, maturing, nor had he stopped his daily social and life observations and reflections, nor his experiences and travels, and this all not only of Russia and America. Additionally, the Russian nation of and to which in part he published his 1990 essay no longer existed.
Many completely unexpected yet deeply intriguing experiences in Leningrad and Moscow in the latter 1980s lead the author to seek readings on that theme often named the “Russian soul”, and when library research and a direct personal query to the head of a preeminent Slavic department in the USA indicated there was no such work per se, the author – then involved also in a wider spectrum of studies and lectures in what sub specie academiae is often called the “history of ideas” (evidenced in his public “Chrysopylae Lectures” given contemporaneously in California, and in part in apartments in Moscow and Leningrad) – decided to write towards making some greater sense of his experiences, discoveries, studies, and observations related to the differing American and Russian psyches (“national characters”), their traditions, histories of ideas, each societies’ “philosophies of man” (individually and socially), and all related to the shared “vertical” ideas of man present in the differentially-shared essential ideas of Christian “anthropology”.
When looking back some years after the 1990 publication, the author found a certain Romantic idealism present in the overall conception, structure and “hopes” of the work – recognizable as, to a degree, a period in his life and intellectual development, as well also influenced by the sunny “spiritually idealistic” context of conditions of the life, times and mind of California when and where it was written. Also, the limited then possible direct experiences in the USSR due to Intourist and visa restrictions had their influence on the breadth and depth – or perhaps lack thereof – of the author’s experiences and understanding of Russia and of Russians under those Soviet conditions.
For “Russia(n)” under late Soviet conditions – if only that which the author had the gain and gratitude to experience in what turned out to be the last years of the USSR – were very different from the social, psychic, cultural conditions that had gradually developed, that had revealed themselves, since the dissolution of the USSR, especially in the 10-15 years before this preface’s 2014 composition.
“Being determines consciousness” Marx wrote realistically – contradicting the philosophically high-flying Hegel. This was fully proved in history to anyone who lived or knew the life, emotions, mind and “atmosphere” of Russia in the late USSR, and was able to observe and experience the gradual but deep changes which social conditions brought about thenafter. To indicate this in just one once well-known way: though the topic of “inner freedom” was discussed consolingly deep into many nights of often smoky and inebriated “kitchen philosophy” gatherings in the USSR, it was – fully forgotten? little noted? – gradually “gone with the wind(s)” of greater external, outer, social-economic, etc, “freedom(s)” and changes, in at least metropolitan Russia, by the time this preface was written.
The 1990 book Towards the Spiritual Convergence of America and Russia: American Mind and Russian Soul, American Individuality and Russian Community and the Potent Alchemy of National Characteristics received little response – though the author did all that in the early 1990s was practically possible to bring it to the attention of all the major Slavic departments, institutions, libraries, scholars, from San Francisco to Boston to London to Munich to Moscow to Irkutsk to Vladivostok to Japan. It was not clear to the author why in the many years after its publication it received so little reply and response. Perhaps, he thought, in part this was because it was not written in or for the relatively closed world, intentions and goals of academia.
The unexpected interest and enthusiasm in 2013-14, followed by the unsolicited, generous transformation of the paper book version into this e-book, was the much appreciated, gracious, committed work of my Russian friend (who preferred to remain anonymous), who thereby helped bring this book out into this new, readable format in the recently-globalized internet era. Were it not for his interest and effort, this reissued 2014 version might not have occurred at all during the lifetime of the author.
Two or three minor, completely inessential, changes were made to the original book text; otherwise it was e-published in spring 2014, as it was originally, in 1990. Whatever changes there had been in Russia, and in the author’s knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, hopes and expectations since he wrote and published it in his late 30s, its structural ideas related to the commonly-derived, but contrasting, conceptions of “man” vis-à-vis man himself, his self in society, and the divine in man – evidenced in the contrasting but complimentary national branch-traditions of Transcendentalism and Slavophilism – have changed little. There were e.g. in the 19th century other such hopeful romantic idealisms and speculations of compatibly-contrasting social completions of “Russian” and European nationalities, by some Romantic writers, poets, philosophers, travelers; but this work, Towards the Spiritual Convergence of America and Russia, addresses a combination less often considered, certainly in the 19th century, of “American” and “Russian”. (One rare, early reader described it ca. 1991 as a “pioneering work” on these questions.)
At the time when this book was to be republished for free into the new internet realm, the author hoped that its ideas – though only a part of his past (cf. his American Reflections essays) and, at the time of this e-book, still ongoing interests and studies – would find some new interested readers, and provide at least ideas for reflection, study and further insights. It was written neither in nor for academic institutions, purposes or needs; it was written for those who seek knowledge and understanding related to its themes.
Man does not live by ideas alone. But the author hoped that the ideas in this work would help contribute to some sharing of clarifying insights. It may only consider a, perhaps, twelve of a full world/man-view, but its deeper ideas should relate to the others in so far as seriously thoughtful individuals attempt to make sense of themselves, their societies, and the(ir) world in the stream of human history.
One special note: The author was faced at its publication in 1990 with the necessity of being the editor of his own work. This was, and is, an impossible task (an author can hardly be expected to clearly see his own faults and weaknesses, for then a book would be written differently), and surely this book – as the author saw it in 1990, and still in 2014 – would have been improved had it been otherwise.
It is with some small lingering hope of interest, resonance and perhaps response in others that the author agreed to have Towards republished on the internet.
Stephen Ludger Lapeyrouse
This essay is dedicated, with gratitude and respect, to the memory of my father Reuben Ludger Lapeyrouse (1931-1965) and grandfather: Lawrence Ludger Lapeyrouse (1898-1985)
Man has on the earth no home, – but he does have wings to heaven.
I look for the hour when that supreme Beauty which ravished the souls of those Eastern men, and chiefly of those Hebrews, and through their lips spoke oracles to all time, shall speak in the West also.
О Russia, in sublime premonition,
A mighty decision you ponder,
What kind of Orient do you wish to be –
The Orient of Xerxes, or that of Christ?
“Russia is the only country which can and will redeem Europe – for the simple reason that toward all vital problems she assumes an attitude which is diametrically opposed to that of all European nations. Out of the depths of her unique suffering, and because of it, Russia is able to bring a deeper knowledge of mankind and of the meaning of human life to the other nations. The Russians possess the spiritual qualities required for this task, qualities that are lacking in every Western nation. “In its present form, the problem of East and West represents, at one and the same time, the great problem of the rebirth of humanity, the possibility of regenerating the West, a reminder of the necessity of reuniting a divided mankind and the task of creating the perfect type of human being.”
These thoughts were written at the edge of the journey of Western Man: the geographical, historical, mental, and spiritual West of the West. Chrysopylae, the Golden Gate, was named by the American John Charles Frémont, in 1846, as an intentional reminiscence of the Golden Horn (Chrysoceras) of Constantinople, to symbolically indicate a new passageway of the West towards the East. Here the West faces the peoples of the Far East; not only those evoked by such names as Beijing and Tokyo, but also Nikolai N. Muravyev-Amursky’s Vladivostok, with its own Golden Horn (Zolotoy Rog) and Eastern Bosporus. Man, leaving Europe, goes Westward and Eastward, and meets on the Pacific, the
Mediterranean of the Future, as Alexander Herzen ‘prohetically’ named it from nineteenth-century London.
From the Golden Gate of California, the Far West faces west over the Pacific to the Far East, including Siberia. As it was spoken in an address in San Francisco, during the First World War, on August 28, 1916, by Benjamin Ide Wheeler, President of the University of California Berkeley from 1899-1919:
...Now there are many who see and know that so certain as it is that the first four centuries of the North American occupation have been shaped in terms of its place on the Atlantic facing Europe, just so certain is it that its coming life and duty is to be shapen in terms of its place on the Pacific facing Asia.
The old world consisted in substance of the Orient and Occident facing each other over the great rent at Constantinople from the Black Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean. But the venture of Columbus in its final effects turned this old world inside out. The old world looked inward upon an island sea, where Europe faced Asia Minor, and the frontier citadel was Constantinople. The new world looks outward toward the great ocean, where America faces Asia, and the frontier citadel is San Francisco.
Or, as it was written in a poem by Walt Whitman in 1860:
Facing west from California’s shores,
Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound,
I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations, look afar,
Look off the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost circled;...
So as it once was, that it became proverbial, in that time when Latin was the language of the mind, to summarize the relation of East and West by the phrase Ex Oriente Lux; so I am mindful with this essay, to contribute towards substantiation of a new relation, expressible: Ex Occidente Lux. And though it is common, and appropriate, when speaking of the “Pacific Basin”, the “Pacific Rim”, the “Pacific Era”, and so on, to think predominately in terms of economic power and trade, international commercial and financial relationships, political and military alliances, and such; as the “light”, which towards the beginning of Western Man’s history was conceived to shine from the “Ancient Near East”, was a light of divinity, spirit, philosophy and culture, so would this my essay, at its best, add some small measure of oil, such as would contribute to a similar shining here at the West’s Chrysopylae. As it is succinctly summarized in the westward-looking University of California Berkeley’s motto: Fiat Lux: Let There Be Light. But whereas once the Light from the Ancient Near East was recognized to have devolved ultimately from God to Man; here, at “the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost/ circled”, the Light must be borne in and by men and women of Man, upwards to God.
Some, perhaps many, will find the thoughts of this essay – from the Chrysopylae of the Pacific – if interesting to historical curiosity, irrelevant or useless in regard to the practical problems of daily life, international relations, and so on. Such “philosophical speculations” may seem unreal, “idealistic” or “ethereal”, in relation to the complex, pragmatic social, political, economic realities and problems – even in regard to new possibilities and relations between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In some ways, this may be true enough. But these words were not written toward the worldly woes, or the mundane, “horizontal” identities of the people of Russia or America. This essay was written, rather, to their inner lives of heart, soul and mind, with which they, as human beings, must existentially and spiritually face the world – with its questions of life, death, evil and suffering; God; the meaning and purpose of human existence, etc, etc,... In short, it is in regard to the internal, the inner, “vertical” life of Man that these words would have their greatest intent.
I do not anticipate that this work will gain a large agreeable acceptance; for, rightly understood, it is deeply challenging to much of that which constitutes the current common intellectual and religious life of both America and Russia. It should be more strongly of interest to earnest, independent spirits, whose sensitivity, understanding, educational and moral stance, has them profoundly disturbed and concerned with the spiritual and intellectual problems of America, Russia and Mankind. If some few hundred souls in Russia find useful meaning, helpful insight and creative stimulation; if some several scores of individuals in America find these pages enlightening and nourishing; I shall feel that this labor has been justified, fruitful and successful. May it indeed, so be.
* * *
Though this work is written to both Americans and Russians; because of the great differences which exist in these two worlds, it was necessary to write introductory chapters which are directed to each people specially. Their inclusion, in the publication of this work intended for both languages, allows the thought and orientation expressed in those chapters directed to each people individually, to be read and considered by the other as well. It is my hope to be able to publish this work, in both countries, and in their respective languages, during the same general time period.
There is much now in development in many new, varied relations, between the USSR and the rest of the world – including especially Western Europe and America. Yet there is very little written material present which addresses the questions, which I here engage, in the direct and clear manner which seems to me so necessary and essential. So it is my hope, with this essay, to call forth important themes and ideas, before a thoughtful and heartful readership of Americans and Russians.
I do not intend, with this essay, to attempt to convert the skeptical. Rather, I hope to make some real, living contribution towards clarification and understanding – in the minds of those who know or sense, but perhaps do not fully recognize – certain of the real characteristic and spiritual differences between “American” and “Russian”. I will examine, in this essay, only certain aspects of all that which might be considered of this contrast Yet in regard to the questions, of the relation and contrast of the spiritual and psychological aspects of the “national characteristics” of both peoples, the material and ideas herein presented are certainly fundamental, and essential, for any educated grasp and understanding of this relationship. By examining portions of the intellectual and spiritual history of both nations, we shall be able to make a well-founded approach towards a more clear and conscious understanding of the history and current relations of American Mind and Russian Soul, American Individuality and Russian Community, and of the potent alchemy extant between these “national characteristics”. The ultimate goal is to promote a more fruitful, creative meeting and mixture, of these “characteristics”.
I do not intend, or wish, the contents of this work, to be in any way misconstrued, or mis-taken, as support for any sort manner or character, of national hubris, “nationalism”, chauvinism, or such. It is intended to be understood and embraced in direct and absolute contrast to any such attitudes and interpretations. The identification of peoples, their unique character, culture, soul, spirit, or etc, in some vain, arrogant manner, with the political nation-state and government has already been more than enough of a baneful influence on – and traumatic period of – human history, as that I would in any way want with this work, to further inspire any such tendencies. The sooner such identification is actually surpassed, by some living and more encompassing reality, amongst men and women of Man, the better it shall be far Mankind as a whole. Then Mankind shall only need to deal with the problem of “man’s inhumanity to man” and human “fallenness” as such.
* * *
This work in no way attempts, or pretends, to be complete or definitive; not even in regard to the topics, personalities and ideas which it directly considers. Rather, it is intended to be a substantial, serious, thoughtful consideration, contribution and provocation, towards further insight, thought, and understanding, by such persons as are seriously interested in these questions and themes.
Rejecting, unhesitatingly, as I do, any such mentally incestuous notion as “scholarship for scholarship’s sake”; I have nevertheless included rather fulsome material in the “Notes” (“footnotes”) section. Therein is to be found, not only standard references to the particular sources of quoted materials, or quotations which help support an idea, interpretation or point; but also, at times, substantial commentaries and thought developments, as I wanted to include in this work, but which, for various reasons, seemed to me more appropriate to include in a segregated section, rather than the main text I have, however, attempted to write this work in such a way, that the essay itself, may be read alone, independently and separately, from the “Notes”. But for those who wish to consider any or all of its ideas and thoughts more fully and deeply, the “Notes” contain not only additional developments of ideas and points, but also, in places, references to other works, quotes by other authors, directions for further consideration, and otherwise, such material as would lead toward deeper understanding, further study and the like.
* * *
I hope, with this essay, to place its ideas before a thoughtful reading public, with the hope that it shall stimulate further developed discussion, consideration and understanding of these important human problems and questions. Deeper, clearer and more penetrating understanding is certainly possible in these and related areas. So I intend this work to be a serious, substantial contribution towards such “dia-logue”; that through engaged thought and understanding, it will be possible to move more closely towards Truth in these and related matters.
The thoughts of this essay, and other related materials, were first delivered in private lectures in Moscow and Leningrad in 1987 and 1988 – especially around the time of the Orthodox Millennial Easter. They were also presented to small public audiences in northern California in conjunction with the journey of the then President of the United States to the Soviet Union in May of 1988. Seeking to reach a broader public, both in America and the Soviet Union, as well as to contact individuals with an especial interest and relation to these themes, I decided to adapt and submit them for publication in both countries; hence this long essay.
...We have never suffered like the rest of humanity, and have waxed fat without, as yet, having to consider the problems forced upon others, until we have ceased to believe in their reality. The dominant American note has been one of a buoyant and unthinking optimism. America is a child who has never gazed on the face of death.
...Are our letters and philosophy to remain the child until the Gorgon faces of evil, disaster, and death freeze our own unlined ones into eternal stone?...
But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model for my country [Russia], frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Weston system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive... A fact that cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West, while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe: during that time we have gone through a spiritual training far in advance of Western Experience. Life’s complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper and more interesting characters than those generated by standardized Western well-being.
What is the prevalent, popular image of the achieved “American Dream”, the successful, accomplished “good life”, in the United States of America? Is it not some variation on the image of living in a large, luxurious, private home, surrounded by land, lawn, and trees; with all the fashionable interior decorations, and inside and outdoor amenities – and servants – which make life easy, comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable; plus many of the various playthings and goods of leisure and entertainment such as a pool, boat, tennis court, etc, etc; plenty of food and clothes, etc, etc. And of course a good lucrative job – if one must work at all – which brings in, preferably, much more than enough money to support one’s “lifestyle”, and as much leisure and vacation time as possible.
Yet, what if an exhaustive concern with the successful acquisition of this “American Dream”, requires such labor, that it leads to psychic, spiritual, social and cultural impoverishment. What if the psychic and spiritual cost, to an individual – and society–, of the grand luxurious home and the materially-rich lifestyle in “this world”, is infinitely greater than the labor necessary to acquire the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars it requires to gain and maintain such “success”? What is the spiritual result, of the kind of activities, interests and involvements with life, pursued in such homes, in a nearly exclusive concern with an earthly-physical enjoyment of life, with little or no concern for inner development, soul refinement, self-education or similar? What if such worldly worry, commitment and involvement entails, that when one “passes” – as shall all flesh – from “this world”; that one finds oneself to live in some psychic shanty shack, in a spiritual slum in the “life beyond death”? An individual’s possessions, real estate holdings and properties are considered primary assets in this world; but how many Americans are sufficiently interested and concerned, so as to read Dante’s “real estate” prospectus concerning future “properties” in the spiritual worlds; and worry the inner possessions which they will or will not bear in themselves through the grave of death.
Americans build their “homes” on earth, with the materials of earth and nature. The “American Dream” is certainly not primarily sought in the “Kingdom of Heaven”, by way of soul and spirit. It exists, and is pursued in “this world”; this side of death. It is predominately, a “horizontal” conception; at least as it is commonly conceived. It is certainly not such a “vertical” conception of life as was present in Medieval Christendom. But it might be well, or better, if it were; if somewhat more grave consideration were given, as to how “homes” are built in that world, into which many sincerely hope and pray that they will someday journey in the “hereafter”. Is not the common ideal image of an accomplished ‘“American Dream’ come true”, some leisurely, pleasurable, materially plentiful, comfortable earthly life in some “paradise”, “Shangri-La”, or “Garden of Eden”? Is this not, generally speaking, the goal towards which many, many Americans – consciously or unconsciously – work and aspire; and which it is their desire to acquire and enjoy? (Many seem to have forgotten, however, a small aspect of the story of the Garden of Eden. For it is said to be guarded by an angel, – with a flaming sword. It is dismaying to consider how many imagine it as some place surrounded by a golf-course; or a peaceful, sensual life on an island filled with luscious fruits, and palm trees wisped by a gentle breeze.)
That “home”, which is the preponderate worry, labor and goal in America – and much of Western and human culture – is, indeed, an earthly home. It is certainly not the common conception, of the aspiration and goal of the "American Dream”, to imagine it as the psychic building of some spiritual estate of inner properties. Working and striving to live in some exclusive, luxurious residential area of our earthly civilization, is profoundly different from striving to build a satisfying home, to which the biblical inscription inside of the main reading room at the University of California Berkeley, gives indication:
Sapientia aedificavit szibi domum; venite comedite panem meum et bibite vinum quod miscui vobis
(Wisdom has built herself a house: ‘come and eat my bread, drink the wine I have prepared’, Proverbs 9:1 and 5.)
This concerns, rather, a very different, inner house, to have as one s life s goal!
Few have accused recent Americans of being too “medievally” preoccupied with life in the world to come. Our occupations are predominately with the “Kingdoms of this world”. Indeed, Americans have come to be known, characteristically, as concerned with an earthly, material life on earth. If long, hard and devoted hours of soul and spiritual labor is required for achieving a “high standard of living” in Heaven (there are, it seems, also other locations!); then America should perhaps seriously re-evaluate its “American Dream”, and the labor it directs towards such realization-especially if it is concerned with its spiritual economic (eco+nomy) future and security!
The loss of a deep, central spiritual (“vertical”) sense, labor, concern and evaluation of life – which is a characteristic not only of America, but also of expanding portions of the modem, “enlightened” world – has led to many of the misconceived excesses, which seem to have become commonly accepted as parts of our civilization, culture and daily lives.
Certainly the national government of the United States of America does not force us into some radical earthly secularly – as was, and is the case, undo aggressive atheist regimes. Indeed, it fundamentally leaves us free to worry, individually and as a people, our own personal “religious” concerns and beliefs:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;... Which has the effect that the spiritual achievement or failure, condition and future, of the United States of America, is the responsibility of the American people themselves. We shall soon see how such an idea, and ideal, is an original, vital, essential element of the idea and realization expressed in the term “American Dream”.
No government – however much it may successfully strive to solve the problems of human society and civilization – shall ever be able to solve the questions and problems of the meaning and purpose of life, and death. If we, in the USA, listen to “Washington” for such words of sense and truth, as can only be spoken by some living spiritual source; then we shall surely hear wrong counsel. The President of the USA is not, and should never be imagined as being, as he is sometimes called: “the spiritual leader of our nation”. He is a political head of state, in a nation which is, in origin and by nature, a worldly, secular state. We have no traditional spiritual leader in common, to which all our people give some fealty. In other words, the President speaks – though it seems perhaps a bit odd to use these ideas to express it – for a “kingdom” which is very much “of this world”. The office certainly does not pretend to “the Divine Right of Kings”. (Whoever is President, holds their own individual personal stance towards “the kingdom which is not of this world”.) It is disoriented, misconceived and deeply erred, to imagine otherwise. The President is, indeed, the leader of our nation; but he is most definitely not the Voice of God to America. We are not, here, in the United States of America, lead in our spiritual lives, by some King, Czar, Pope, Ayatollah or other spiritual leader, who is common to us all. (Though there is a great pluralism of religious leaders of many religions, in this country; we all partake of no one such leader, common to all.)
And here we come, face to face, with one of the deeper problems of the USA; the pluralism of “Gods”. We have, as a nation, people and culture, few commonly shared “ultimate truths” to our lives as Americans; unless you consider MacDonald’s hamburgers, baseball, television news, sit-coms and malls, or “your god”, as anything but shallow secular substitutes for deeply shared experience, ideas and ultimate values. Indeed, though our dollars, secular government, civic ceremonies and occasions, do often state, in one generally acceptable way or other “In God We Trust”; this is all fine, only so long as we does not inquire too clearly, just what each of us, amongst our millions, understand by “God”. So we maintain, politely and politically, our generic “God”, to bless and guide the public occasions of our state and society. And while this is, perhaps, “a necessity of state”, it is hardly an adequate relation of a society to “God”.
There is a tremendous need, and call, for a renewal of “moral values” in the USA in our time. But to the degree that such values are founded in and sustained by religious belief in “God” or other, we shall hardly be able to simply reestablish common religious values; for we do not have a common religion – not to mention the large quantity of secular agnostics in our society. Social, civic, humanitarian “morality” is about the most that can be commonly preached to all, in this secular nation. But it is doubtful – to this author at least – that any such revival of civic virtue and morality, will ever be an adequate substitute for religious morality and injunction; and thus this shall remain a continuing problem for America.
* * *
Americans, considered as a whole, are woefully ignorant of history, even their nation’s own. Government reports have documented these lamentable conditions, which have long dismayed and pained those sensitive, educated souls here, who revere truth and knowledge, understanding and mind, art and culture. The majority of people seem, as if, “engulfed” in some more or less solipsistic “present”; one in which only their own immediate experience, time and perspective, have any real meaning and value to them. A problem – reconsidered – by the American educator Benjamin Ide Wheeler, in an article, almost a century old:
Socrates, in the Phaedo, compares the people of his day, who thought their world about the Ægean to be the whole, to ants and frogs about a marshy pool. The ants and the frogs we have ever with us. They are the antiquarians of Copenhagen to whom Danish history is the history of the world. They are the school committee men who insist that Kansas schools should teach only Kansas history and Kansas geography and Kansas weather. They are the political historians who make the world start afresh with the Declaration of Independence. They are the financial experts who ignore the existence of international values. They are the three wisemen of Gotham who went to sea in a bowl. All those who do not know that the experience of the race is one continuous whole, in which dates and boundaries are only guide-posts, and not barriers, are the ants and frogs of Socrates. Without life perspective and historical per-spective there can be no sound political judgement, – least of all in these days, when mighty world forces are twirling the millstones of the gods, and the garnerings of the ages are pouring into the hopper.
Regrettably, in our time, it is not even possible to assume, that the “ants and frogs”, know of “Socrates”, not to mention the Phaedo. If it is somewhat more understandable that some such “otherworldly idealist” – as common understanding imagines Plato to have been – is poorly known by our worldly populace; perhaps it is not too much to expect that they know, or learn, somewhat more of the “idealistic” history of that “American Dream” towards which they devote so much of their lives in achieving. For, surprising though it may be to many, the apparent primary source in the twentieth-century, of this expression: “American Dream”, gives clear and challenging answers concerning the questions of the loss of a spiritual sense in society; the position of politics in relation to God; the decline and possible renewal of moral values. Yet the answers are not sought for in some great political or religious “father figure”, nor in some great utopian social scheme; they are not sought for in some shared “God”, or cosmology. The answers are sought elsewhere...
Of all that could be considered from American history (which seems so irrelevant to so many), let us consider this primary historical, literary source of the expression “American Dream”; and see, not only how well it is understood by us today, but also, what it says to and of our society.
The expression “American Dream” has, of course, many precursors and related conceptions – and not only in Western culture. The Puritans’ idea of a “citie on a hill” is one such important earlier relative. But the particular expression, “American Dream”, seems to have received its current, formal literary and intellectual “solidity” – and wide publicity – from a work by the American historian James Truslow Adams, in 1931. In his The Epic of America – which was published in what turned out to be only an early year of the Great Depression – the expression was taken out of whatever general colloquial use it may have had before and during that time, and placed solidly into the terminology and vocabulary of America’s intellectual life. In the “Epilogue” to his examination of American history, Adams wrote:
If, as I have said, the things already listed were all we had to contribute, America would have made no distinctive and unique gift to mankind. But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of a social order in which each man and woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth and position....
No, the American dream that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtless counted heavily. It has been much more that that It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which has slowly been erected in older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class. And that dream has been realized more fully in actual life here than anywhere else, though very imperfectly even among ourselves.
The American Dream is, states Adams,
a dream of a social order in which each man and woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable,.... This is an aspiration, a hope, a plan, a “dream” – an ideal, of a social order, a societal structure, a social environment wherein the individual human being should be able, as an individual, to freely live, think and act, in the world, in whatever they of their own capacities can, and of their own volition, would. But to James Truslow Adams, the “American Dream” was not and is not, realized by the mere successful acquisition of “material plenty”. Material plenty is the basis upon which the “American Dream” is to be realized:
Once the frontier stage is passed, – the acquisition of a bare living, and the setting up of a fair economic base, – the American dream itself opens up all sorts of questions as to values. It is easy to say a better and richer life for all men, but what is better and what is richer?
And how is this “better and richer and fuller” to be determined; one may inquire with Adams. We shall find that the answer to this question, which Adams – that individual who seems to have, as it were, “launched” this particular expression into the domain of serious public discourse – gave, is seriously deeper, more challenging, and demanding, than that which most of us imagine as an “American Dream” realized. It is, in essence, a spiritual challenge; but not to God, от Jesus, or the President...
When James Truslow Adams is describing what he considers to be unique of America before the world: the “American Dream”; his idea is, as I have mentioned, a modem American version of an idea which goes very far back into cultural, mythological and civilizational history. It is essentially, a modem, American, earthly, historical re-expression, of the ancient and perennial imagination of another, better world and life. The general idea of a dream of
a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man,... is widely held, in one way or other, in the mythologies of the world’s cultures.
But the idea of the “American Dream” has a special character and focus. It is a secular “dream”; of a social order which allows great worldly freedom. Other and older civilizations, Adams states, had “barriers” and “classes” which precluded, usurped or thwarted the free development of the “simple human being”. Here, in America, the individual should be able to develop freely, and fully, as, simply, a human being. We shall soon see just how crucial and important such development was, to his idea of the realization of the American Dream.
As Adams articulates the dream, and how it is to realized and maintained; he examines the condition of American society, historically and contemporarily, around him. The high, noble character of the “American Dream”, as he conceived it – and to which he helped give voice – begins to be revealed gradually, by that which he critiques of American society.
He laments, for example, how “business and money-making and material improvement” had come to be viewed as ends in themselves; and how the pursuit of such worldly accomplishments had come to be seen as “virtuous” in themselves. He castigates America for blind “unthinking optimism”; and for ignoring the darker and “sordid” realities of our history and lives. He denounces anti-intellectual tendencies amidst the culture; the predominance of a tendency towards quantity and material development, over quality and "spiritual values”; and how we forget the past, in our rush towards the future. Utilitarian tendencies in education; the dissolution of moral values; the stubborn attitude which looks at the world simplistically-avoiding rigorous examination of directions and goals; all receive his criticism.
He repudiates, especially strongly, the economic-business view of Man and society; wherein Man is considered and treated primarily as a “consumer”. He criticizes this misconception, in relation to the deeper questions of the nature of the human being.
If we are to regard man merely as a producer and consumer, then the more ruthlessly efficient big business is, the better. Many of the goods consumed doubtless make man healthier, happier, and better even on the basis of a high scale of human values. But if we think of him as a human being primarily, and only incidentally as a consumer, then we have to consider what values are best or most satisfying for him as a human being. We can attempt to regulate business for him not as a consumer but as a man, with many needs and desires with which he has nothing to do as a consumer.
He laments the growth of uniformity and timorousness in men – in contrast to the “strong individualism” required in earlier pre-industrial days; calling for an equivalent strength and independence today. He rejects the degrading influence, on independent, intellectual creativity and literary life, of economic motives and realities;
The theory of mass-production breaks down when applied to the things of the spirit, he wrote; for such leads to the degrading of needed standards for all of society.
A materially “high standard of living” – to use an expression which, I believe, is of more recent date – is only the basis upon which the “American Dream” to be realized. It is certainly not the end, nor the goal; not to James Truslow Adams, whose articulation of the expression helped crucially to launch it into the language of America’s twentieth-century selfconception. A materially “high standard of living” is the base upon which should be realized a “high standard of living” of person, in their own soul, mind, culture and, ultimately, spirit.
Above and beyond the mere economic base, the need for a scale of values becomes yet greater. If we are entering on a period in which, not only in industry but in other departments of life, the mass is going to count for more and the individual less, and if each and all are to enjoy a richer and fuller life, the level of the mass has got to rise appreciably above what it is at present. It must either rise to a higher level of communal life or drag that life down to its own, in political leadership, and in the arts and letters...
The point is that if we are to have a rich and full life in which all are to share and play their parts, if the American dream is to be a reality, our communal spiritual and intellectual life must be distinctly higher than elsewhere where classes and groups have their separate interests, habits, markets, arts, and lives. If the dream is not to prove possible of fulfillment we might as well become stark realists, become once more class-conscious, and struggle as individuals and classes against one another. If it is to come true, those on top, financially, intellectually, or otherwise, have got to devote themselves to the “Great Society,” and those who are below in the scale have got to strive to rise, not merely economically, but culturally. We cannot become a great democracy by giving ourselves up as individuals to selfishness, physical comfort and cheap amusements...The very foundation of the American dream of a better and richer life for all is that all, in varying degrees, shall be capable of wanting to share in it. It can never be wrought into a reality by cheap people or by “keeping up with the Joneses.” There is nothing whatever in a fortune merely in itself от in a man merely in himself. It all depends on what is made of each.
We cannot become a great democracy by giving ourselves up as individuals to selfishness, physical comfort, and cheap amusements. It is a question, says Adams essentially, as to what is a worthy, noble life, for the individual (as a human being) and society of the United States of America; and what are the higher values by which a society may live and thrive, and how are they to be determined. The answer to these questions, Adams answers so:
If we are to make the dream come true we must all work together, no longer to build bigger, but to build better. There is a time for quantity and a time for quality. There is a time when quantity may become a menace and the law of diminishing returns begins to operate, but not so with quality. By working together I so not mean another organization, of which the land is as full as was Kansas of grasshoppers. I mean a genuine individual search and striving for the abiding values of life.
A “genuine individual search and striving for the abiding values of life”. So that it is to the individual human being, and their striving, towards which Adams looks to determine the true and important values in life, and how the “American Dream” is to be realized. “If the American dream is to be a reality” we must strive as individuals for a higher “communal spiritual and intellectual life”. He states further:
I have little trust in the wise paternalism of politicians or the infinite wisdom of business leaders. We can look neither to the government nor to the heads of the great corporations to guide us into the paths of a satisfying and humane existence as a great nation unless we, as multitudinous individuals, develop some greatness in our own individual souls. Until countless men and women have decided in their own hearts, through experience and perhaps disillusion, what is a genuinely satisfying life, a “good life” in the old Greek sense, we need look to neither political nor business leaders....So long as we are ourselves content with a mere extension of the material basis of existence, with the multiplying of our material possessions, it is absurd to think that the men who can utilize that public attitude for the gaining of infinite wealth and power for themselves will abandon both to become spiritual leaders of a democracy that despises spiritual things. Just so long as wealth and power are our sole badges of success, so long will ambitious men strive to attain them.
This entire quote merits long and thoughtful consideration.
It is important to note, that, after Adams rejects leaders in politics and business, he does not then look towards some great religious figure, nor to any ready, utopian ideology of any sort; in order to help us to determine what is a “genuinely satisfying life, a ‘good life’ in the old Greek sense,...” He looks, rather, to the individual human being: the simple human being, who must search and strive to discern the better and richer life, and who must participate in raising “our communal spiritual and intellectual life”. The individual human being, who, in multitudes, must “develop some greatness in... [their] own individual souls”. This is the actual core idea, the spiritual core of the idea of the “American Dream” – by that person who helped definitively place the expression before American mind, and solidly into the language of the American people. It is a call, to the “simple human being” as such; that they develop “to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable”. And it is the fully developed human being, which, in multitudes, must seek to determine, “through experience and perhaps disillusion”, what is to be the “good life” in America.
We have a long and arduous road to travel if we are to realize our American dream in the life of our nation, but if we fail, there is nothing left but the old eternal round. The alternative is the failure of self-government, the failure of the common man to rise to full stature, the failure of all that the American dream has held of hope and promise for mankind.
Here Adams’ conception verges on a secular “religious vision” for America, and of the simple human being in America. His thought is not so much a description, as a call, an injunction, a summons to human beings in America. Hence, per Adams, the idea and realization of the “American Dream”, is inextricably involved with the lives of individual human beings-and with their own inner lives; their own spiritual lives and striving.
* * *
This is all quite far away from the general description of the current popular image of the ideal realization of the “American Dream" which we presented above. Whatever else might be said, the predominate, contemporary image of the ideal, successful life, and the ideal of the individual, here in America, is not that of some wise, learned sage. It is not the cultured, self-educated man or woman of letters and mind, soul and spirit, towards which our society aspires and labors, towards which it gives reverence and praise, and around which ù orients itself. It tends rather more to so view financially wealthy individuals, with “megabucks", a grand estate(s), material plenty and a glamorous lifestyle. This “rich” individual, is more the “role model", the pinnacle of “success”, for our society; die ideal is certainly not some gadfly sage, or Holy man.
Certainly, there are those for whom die first portrayed image of the achievement of the “American Dream" would not be considered full or complete, as to their conception of it. However, it is certain that few Americans are well-aware of the literary origin – or its actual content – of that dream about which so many talk, and towards which so many labor.
The term “American Dream" is certainly one of the more familiar and common expressions in use m America, which attempt to describe our life and society, at its best So that it is quite unfortunate – but very revealing – , that it is truthfully and well understood by so few. It is more than safe to say, that very few, if queried, would accurately imagine the original literary content, and injunction, which I have here recounted. The material aspect of the American Dream is well known, but not so… the spiritual call in the American Dream.
As Adams gave voice to it, the “American Dream" will not come true “unless we, as multitudinous individuals, develop some greatness in our own individual sorts." As he saw it, that which America “held of hope and promise for mankind”, depends on multitudinous individuals, who are willing to travel the “long and arduous road”, to ‘develop some greatness in their own individual souls’.
This is, essentially, a call and a challenge; towards an independent spiritual life. And it is another, deeper call to “We the People”!
Outer greatness and inner greatness. These are very far from necessarily being the same realization. As the much-castigated quote, above, from Solzhenitsyn’s speech at Harvard in 1978, indicates, some of the more deep and forceful Russians are well aware of this distinction. Even James Truslow Adams, in the Epilogue to his The Epic of America – published when Stalin had only been in full power for two years, and addressing America, from his perspective in America – presents an understanding which is complementary to Solzhenitsyn’s:
[People]...are beginning to realize that, because a man is born with a particular knack for gathering in vast aggregates of money and power for himself, he may not cm that account be the wisest leader to follow nor the best fitted to propound a sane philosophy to life.
We might immediately ask, what might such a “wisest leader” be like? Who could know and articulate such a philosophy of life? To cite Adams, if we are to find ‘wise leaders’ to “propound a sane philosophy of life”, we must look to those individuals, who have indeed “develop[ed] some greatness in [their] own individual souls”. Such persons are to help us discern what is the “good life”, what are the real values in life. The quote by Solzhenitsyn merits rereading; and meditation.
If it is still true and fair to say of America, as Adams did in 1931:
Are our letters and philosophy to remain the child until the Gorgon faces of evil, disaster, and death freeze our own unlined ones into eternal stone?; it could certainly not be said of Russia, that she “is a child who has never gazed on the face of death.” And it is here, I contend – in spite of however forcefully, critically or disparagingly such ideas may be rejected by intellectuals of America – that America, and the comfortable West, has truly important, real, essential, vital lessons to learn from the Russia and the European East, with its life experience, suffering, knowledge and wisdom, to which Solzhenitsyn gave voice before the Harvard elite. But that which the West might learn from this East, is certainly not such as will help it towards the acquisition of valuable real estate property and possessions in “this (horizontal) world”! But it might, indeed, deeply contribute, towards an understanding of an inner greatness, which verges closely onto the “vertical”.
The West needs the East! – even if it does not clearly recognize this itself. Perhaps, in some ways, it may need the East, in soul and spirit, just as profoundly as the dire conditions of material and practical need and life, in the European East, require real help, knowledge and assistance from the West.
* * *
On December 10, 1989, on the popular American television program “60 Minutes”, there was shown, for the first time, a filmed view of “Perm 35”, a labor camp in the Soviet “Gulag” system. Natan Sharansky, who had been incarcerated in this camp, gave comments and observations on the footage shown. At the conclusion of this rare film, when asked his thoughts of seeing again this labor camp, he stated to the interviewer Mike Wallace:
“Well, I’m afraid you will be surprised. I feel that I’m coming back to my alma mater. To the place where – well, an awful place, but there were so many – lots of good things were there, and so many–”
“Good things?” asked the interviewer.
“Good things. I mean, good things where you met so many good people. And some of the most interesting intellectual discussions which I had in my life were there. And evidently, to feel deeply, some of the fundamental things were there. Like ghosts who came from another life. In another sense, it would be useful for everyone to spend some days there–”
“You learned about yourself?”
“Yeah. You learn about yourself, about the man, about how important are things like love, like moral values, like the feeling that you have your people, your country with you. That’s something which you learn there, at this alma mater.”
Similar, thought-provoking descriptions are also to be found in the writings of others, who have gone through such experiences, as many would normally imagine as the maximum of unfreedom and trial: Soviet imprisonment.
In the...books of Solzhenitsyn, Panin, Shifrin, and Tertz, several continually repeated paradoxical statements immediately impress the thoughtful reader. All these authors agree that arrest, prison, and camp – simply to say, the loss of freedom – have formed the most profound and significant experience in their lives. The paradox is complicated by the fact that, although they underwent the most extreme spiritual and physical suffering during their imprisonment, they also experienced a fulfilling happiness, undreamed of by people outside the prison walls.
None of these authors had ever before experienced such powerful feelings of love, hate, or despair, such days and nights filled with the most profound questions concerning human life, nor felt so close to the essence of cosmic life. Thus their description of imprisonment are descriptions of an intense, concentrated life...a life, which despite all torment, was oddly precious.
...Experienced a fulfilling happiness, undreamed of by people outside the prison walls. It is safe to say that the inner experience, the meaningfulness and the “goal” of life, in a successfully achieved “American Dream” – as that is commonly conceived: with the “pursuit of happiness”, “enjoying life”, etc., – is dramatically other in character and reality, than that which these people experienced during some of the most precious moments of their lives. The best moments, of “happiness”, in such lives, are profoundly contrasting.
Consider how different are the insights to, and experience of life, in relation to a normal conception of a “meaningful life” in America – especially in a fulfilled “American Dream” – to:
Thus finding himself cm the edge of an abyss, a person, before complete destruction, begins to understand that nevertheless something exists which is not within the realm of the external, invincible forces. And even though all the rest can no longer be saved, resistance, fight and victory are possible in one way; in the preservation of the soul – or to put it another way, which is, however, exactly the same thing – in safeguarding one’s spiritual freedom and in resistance to evil and force. However, in order for this fight to be successful or even possible, one must renounce, beforehand, everything that the physical forces can take away.
“Only do not value life,” writes Solzhenitsyn, adding: don’t have anything, renounce even your own body....it is essential to renounce even those who are close to you – to renounce everything under the sun except the soul. And only through this complete renunciation does a person become free – only then, when he no longer has anything to lose.
And at that instant when this occurs, and the person becomes totally free, then in the experience of people who underwent this concentrated form of life, i.e., the maximum of nonfreedom, the most mysterious aspect of their trial occurs: some kind of all-powerful force appears in the depths of their soul.
One finds here, a completely different relation to one’s self, and life. It seems, almost, that it could be said, that one finds a difference so great as that between enjoying and suffering life. Such experiences of individuals, are not in any way that of any outer success, achievement or “greatness”. (Which are primary elements of the modem idea and experience of “happiness”.) Indeed, it is quite the opposite. Perhaps you might name this experience, in truthful symmetry – if from a limited perspective – an “American Nightmare”.
In the successful American Dream, the individual can often govern, control and order the world around them, in what is often truly an extraordinary amount of “freedom” of activity. In the other, one’s control is limited to one’s inner self. A maximum of outer freedom contrasts with an maximum of unfreedom.
The inner life, the integrity, the morality, the inner humanity of persons who went through such ordeals, was tried in the extreme. The respect, recognition, and audience, due such souls, is somewhat other in character, than that merited by “Hollywood Movie Stars”, globe-trotting rock musicians, multinational billionaires, and others of the world’s “rich and famous”. It is an obvious fact, that outer richness, does not necessarily entail, inner wealth and value. But it must be clearly recognized, that the first is predominately a “horizontal” accomplishment, while the latter is much closer to the “vertical” (e.g.“...such days and nights filled with the most profound questions concerning human life, nor felt so close to the essence of cosmic life.”) The strength, the inwardness, the inner greatness of those who survived such trials, with their integrity intact, is a kind which is so inward, so near to death; that it is probably amongst the closest to the edge, that die human being can experience life this side of death. It is a question of human depth; the inwardness of the human being in such an extreme.
Such extreme depth of (physical and inner) experience and suffering, is certainly not the goal of many; whether they desire the worldly American Dream, or not. Indeed, some deliberate desire for such a terrible “nightmare”, would seem to be somewhat malpsychic. But are we not spiritually mistaken, in not earnestly listening to those who have, indeed, already experienced the terrible “Gorgon faces of evil, disaster, and death”? Who have so deeply experienced the deepest questions of life and death, good and evil? Do not the best of such survivors, have tremendously valuable lessons to offer us, as to the relations of the spiritual and earthly in life? Of ‘this world’ and ‘that world’ ? Can we ignore those who have been so tested of “inner greatness” ? Can, and will, America, and the West, learn from the suffering, and the soul and spirit of Russia and the European East? Or does America naively dream, that life, world and reality, shall allow it to remain...
“...a child who has never gazed on the face of death.”
It was the Communists who sought to break the Russian soul in two; to separate the intellect from the heart. “Religion corrupts the mind,” proclaimed Stalin. “The state must liberate people from such superstition,” he decreed.
“It must be understood that the structure of the Russian soul is all its own and completely different from that of westerners. The more penetrating minds of the West realize this well enough, and are attracted by the puzzle it presents.”
Those who nobly bear “Russian Soul exist now – and shall for much time to come – in a tremendous tension, a great struggle between extremes, a profound contrast in their inner and outer lives, between “heaven and earth”, spirit and matter – between the solicitations and teachings of the Sophia, and “wisdom” of Marx and Lenin. Between the spiritual truths incorporated into the Uspenski Sobor, and those of the Mausoleum of Vladimir I. Ulyanov.
Inside of the Moscow Kremlin, the Italian Aristotle Fioravanti’s golden, heaven-arching domes of the Third Rome, bespeak the heights of spirit toward which the Russian Soul may strive. Aside Red Square, stands a very earthly counterpart, which has somewhat the form of an Euclidian geometric volcanic eruption. The Cathedral is closer to a calm, consoling breath of spirit; the other to an angry stone, exploding upwards, out of the earth.
The “Assumption of the Virgin”, to heaven and eternity, is represented in that structure in which all the Czars were crowned; in the other, a (partial) earthly physical corpse of the founder of the Soviet state has been embalmed and preserved for the earthly memory ‘of all time’.
The people of Russian soul, live, in their inner and outer lives, somewhere between the disparate opposition represented by these two extremes. Dimitri Karamazov felt himself to be a man tom, Orthodoxly, between the angel and insect in Man. Are not the people of Russian Soul stretched, as it were, somewhere between the spiritual heights, and sub-earthly depths, incorporated in these two structures?
The Russian Soul exists, I believe, somewhere between the inner heights of Sophia and the outer, worldly remains of Lenin. Seven decades after the triumph of the revolutionary – with his Western, profoundly secular doctrines – when now his earthly wisdom and accomplishment is in profound question and re-examination; perhaps it is again time, that the deep, religious, “Sophianic” aspect of Russian history and soul can be publicly considered, as fair and essential portion of the spiritual and intellectual worries and concerns of current and future Russia.
It was once said, that ‘if you scratch a Russian, you find a Tatar.’ Would it not be better – and more hopeful to the spiritual progress of Mankind – if it were now more truthful to say: ‘scratch a Soviet, find a Christian’? However that may be – and the reception of a film like “Repentance”, and the thought of someone like Nicolas Berdyaev, certainly gives one much cause to wonder – while Russia has been “Soviet” for seven decades; it has been Christian, in one way or other, for ten centuries. In other words, it has been officially an atheist state for only seven percent of its history since the mass baptism in Kiev in 988 AD. That leaves ninety-three percent of its past history, heritage and traditions influenced by Christianity. Statistics of spiritual history perhaps worth considering.
A militant earthliness did its horrible best, to destroy a perhaps too otherworldly spirituality. Now that the wearisome failure of this enforced communism – to achieve an earthly utopian brotherhood, “a heaven on earth” – is no longer an endangered, fear-filled “heretic”’s truth; it is time that Russia and Russian souls look wisely and clearly at the truths of heaven and earth, history and Man, spirit and matter, all from which they must learn.
They must somehow ‘come to terms’ both with the spiritual search for Sophia, and their agonized history of militant atheism; with, as one might indicate it, Vladimir S. Soloviev, and Stalin. It must seek to find some understanding of life as can explain both the best and worst of itself – to itself. Certainly Russia’s dramatic and traumatic contrasts, demand questions almost un-reasonably deep and real, of life and Man, history and society: questions far greater and more profound than any socio-economic-political order, or disorder, structure or restructure; theory or etc., shall ever be able to explain. It is a painful fact – which Russia faces in surfeit to many in the West – that the history of this people and country, cannot be understood, от heartfully accepted, without its being comprehended by some profoundly deep, wise and large conception of life, death, suffering and Man. No such adequate solution can be found amongst worldly, secular, “horizontal” wisdoms. The past seven decades of Soviet history, by themselves, are far too agonized – in heart and soul, body, mind and spirit; for the individual, the collective society and culture – as that they can in any way be adequately explained by some secular system or other. It is a fact of life, that Russia must come to some spiritual reconciliation and understanding with itself. Nothing less is sufficient to the human being – individually or collectively considered – to comprehend this agonized history, in a light adequate to a traumatized mind, and in a depth tolerable to a devastated heart.
Soviet Russia must look deeply into its own earthly and spiritual history, in order to come to such necessary accord with itself. Ultimately it must find such a comprehension as shall include and embrace both the ancient depths of its Christian heritage, the vehement materialism and atheism of Lenin, and the historical influence and impact of both.
And Russia, if it do so wisely, must not only accept and embrace material, worldly, practical help and guidance from the West; but also some intellectual and spiritual clarity – but only from the best of the West.
It shall not avail Russia ultimately or adequately – such is my contention – to attempt some simple return to, or reembrace of, its deep religious past. Though religious life in Russia shall – with freedom – certainly remain a popular, primary source of meaning and understanding of life; for the deepest and truest – and contemporary – of Russian soul, it is more towards a living, creative spirit, and inspiration, that they must turn.
“Old Holy Russia” was destroyed in “body”, even if it was able to survive, in inner and outer “catacombs”, in soul and spirit Yet a corpse can not be simply revived, to live as it once did; it can only perhaps, somehow, be born anew – “resurrected”. (But this, per Saint Paul, must be a new, risen “spiritual body”.) The people of Russia are no longer in the dreamy state of that “Old World” time. Unquestioning belief can not readily, or appropriately exist for such intellectual and mundane persons as much of life and world has forced most modem Russian men and women to become.
The best of Russia, and Russian Soul, should not rest satisfied with the religions which would only ‘bind them back’ to a sacred past They are too awake, too “modem” for dreamy mysticisms, sleepy ceremonies, passively accepted ancient rituals – no matter how profound in ancient depthfilled meaning and content they may have been – or be. For example:
On April 9, 1988, in the Academic Divinity School Chapel at the Alexander Nevsky Lavra of St. Petersburg (Leningrad), the Millennial Easter was celebrated, as it was in many places in the USSR. Some of the very many people who came to this special occasion to participate, did so with religious devotion and adhering belief in their souls; others came to observe out of mere curiosity or interest, hope, need, or... But it was clear to sight, that vary few of the people there, were able not only to escape, inwardly, from the very crowded conditions, but also to enter into the deep, religious mood and feeling which the ceremony should evoke. There was something fundamental, which, I believe, kept the people, crowded into that chapel, from the religious experience which presumably is still intended by the church ceremony. And that was the inner consciousness of the people. They were much too awake in their modern, daily inner and mental life, than in the appropriate moods and feelings of soul; they woe much too psychically detached, from this ancient ceremony, and its religious content, to actually enter, in their souls, deeply into the service. They could not really, inwardly, participate in this ceremony around them; because of the inner psychology which they themselves bore. Not only was the service arcane to most, in the procedures and acts of the ritual; but the full spiritual significance and symbolism was certainly only vaguely known. However they may have thought and felt about the service; the souls present, were certainly not able to enter clearly with their minds, and deeply with their hearts, into this Millennial Easter service. It took place outside of them; while it needed to occur, of course, also, inside of them, if it was to be a true “religious experience”. Yet, it was clear that these modem Russians, were certainly not soulfully, religiously engulfed by the special ceremony.
However profoundly needful the people of “Russia Soul” are, of the Resurrection of Easter, these people of Soviet Russia were not open in soul, with the feelings necessary to truly experience this ceremony. Whatever sacred origins may have been the ultimate source of such ritualistic, Holy Celebration; these modem souls were not of such mood and spirit as to enter immediately into its reality. But – it seems to me – these Orthodox forms were not “foreign" because they were in Old Church Slavonic. But rather because they were, and are, ancient – too old to make a readily comprehensible presentation to the modem mind and soul. It occurred around them; but for bow many could one say that, deep in their souls, they were intimate participants of this important ceremony? They could perhaps, at best, hope that the ritual might do something to them; but this is far from feeling the full religious meaning and significance, as a part of one’s own heart and soul. A few generations of a vehement, aggressive, secular, atheist state, seems certainly to have preponderated over the inner and outer mood, soul and culture, which would otherwise probably belong with somewhat greater presence, to a culture and people with ten centuries of Orthodox Christianity. (As one could perhaps say it, the heights of Sophia, had been obscured by the inner earthliness and “wisdom” of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Co..)
The contrast of such ancient ritual, religious belief and meaning, to the skeptical, detached, modern mind, was unintentionally acknowledged in San Francisco, California – at the Chrysopylae of the Pacific – during an Orthodox Service on July 7, 1989. Prince Vasili Romanov, a nephew of Czar Nicholas П, had died peacefully at age 81, on 24 June 1989, in Woodside California – not fifty miles south of the Golden Gate of California.
During the eulogy of the memorial service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, thoughts were expressed by the churchman which make this contrast clear. After reminding those present of the transitory character of all the things in this world, he spoke, approximately, the following words:
If there is not a life after life; if Vasili is not, right now, moving into a new life; then this ceremony [and here he included, by implication, much of life on earth] is meaningless. In these words, by this clear-minded Russian Orthodox Priest – who lead this service with rituals from very old and ancient sources – the contrast of reason, skeptical, earthly reason, and religious belief and faith, was brought into precisely clear relation. “Belief” was speaking to skeptical reason; saying, to such modern, mundane minds as most people in the West commonly bear, that even though you do not know, or, perhaps, even believe, that Vasili Romanov is right now, in fact, moving towards God’s heaven; if it is not indeed so – in spite of the fact that the surrounding skeptical culture and mind would doubt or deny this – then this ceremony itself, and all of life which suffers the reality of being a transitory fact in this earthly world (Sic Transit Gloria Mundi), is ultimately meaningless. Agnostic “reason”, when confronted and affronted (as Ivan Karamazov was) by the unavoidable death and suffering in life and human history, would rightfully conclude, that life is meaningless. If the beliefs of the Orthodox religion are not Realities, Truths – that there is in fact, a life after death: some continuance of earthly existence beyond the grave, some immaterial meaning and order – then earthly, secular, skeptical reason, is realistic in finding, life as it is, ultimately senseless. Such was the meaning, the unvoiced background of the churchman’s words.
At the Divinity School Chapel in Leningrad (originally Czar Peter the Great’s “Window to Europe”), at the Millennial Easter, it was presumed, that people would simply accept the ritual in itself – though few were inside of it, or it inside if them. In San Francisco, at the Far West’s Chrysopylae, the beliefs of Orthodoxy, as to the heavenly being of Man, and the spiritual background of human existence, were held in clear distinction, relation, and challenge, to the modem mind. If the “beliefs” of Orthodoxy do not have truthful realities, towards which they are held; then we are in fact, unreasonable fools, who here speak of Vasili Romanov’s “life after life”. Such was the unvoiced meaning.
There was not, in this ceremony at Chrysopylae – though its procedures and contents were as arcane and “foreign” (even in English) as were those of Leningrad’s Millennial Easter Service – the unconscious presumption that “belief’ alone, was present, or adequate, in those attending. Belief – however uncertain its contents might seem to reason – was distinguished from reason, in order that it could be asserted. The implication here was that belief was contrary to the prevailing opinions of reason.
Russian souls, in general, no longer do, nor easily can, dream inside of their religious past; this these two services make clear. The Russian people in Leningrad, were too “modem-minded” to readily and immediately enter into the old rituals and services of the Millennial Easter. Their hearts, minds and souls were filled with too much modem, secular (“horizontal”) content, thought, worry, and feeling, than that they could become easily ieoccupied with the appropriate (“vertical”) feelings, emotions and reverence. The Orthodox service for the “passing-on” of a nephew of the last Russia Czar of Old Holy Russia – in 1989, at the Far West’s Golden Gate – faced – with its necessary faith of old – clearly and directly, the skeptical, mundane reason of the West. Reason has its own view and truth in life; but belief asserted its own – however unreal or fantastic they may seem to reason.
Do we here find revealed, limits to which the mind of Man can strain? Is this meeting of science and the modem, secular mind, with an old religious faith, some ‘final dialogue’, in some final act of a script in the intellectual and spiritual history of Mankind? Do old faith and modem mind, here, face each other, for their “final words” to each other. Do we hear final statements, by the skeptical human mind and innocent heart?)
This religious faith of old will not do, by itself, for the modem mind and soul. It must, certainly, not be simply rejected. No, it must be learned from. But it is not adequate, appropriate or sufficient in itself. Not in the “Window to Europe”, nor at the far Western Edge of the West, is such old faith – with its ancient traditions, rituals and ways – in and by itself, immediate or adequate to the modem conditions of heart, mind or soul; culture, civilization, or society. The modem mind, by its very character, seeks to understand what it experiences and accepts. These ceremonies come from a time of Man and soul, too ancient to be im-mediately accepted. They must, at least, be mediated by the mind’s reasoning and understanding, before the awake modem soul can truly embrace them. The best of modern men and women of Man can not, and should not, allow, that the deepest questions, wonders and worries of life, are "answered", or assuaged, by forms, rituals and doctrines more akin to an earlier dream’s passivity. Such passive acceptance and belief is untimely, for the awake modem mind.
Answers to the questions of life must be clearly and consciously approached, recognized and embraced; such is this time, of self-conscious Man. Somehow, in a new way, science, modem earthly reason, and belief, must find a relation appropriate to the modem condition. This is the truthful, honest, dignified way, for modem man to live, and be, and know. What shall occur if men and women of Man, when they should be awake; attempt to return, spiritually, to sleep and dream...? Was Old, Holy Russia so enamored of its old holiness, that it could be awakened from this old dream, only by the secular violence of a successful Bolshevik Revolution? Has Russia, and the men and women of God in Russia, learned sufficiently, from the vehement earthliness of the first seven decades? Might Vasili A. Romanov have died peacefully in Russia, had not Old, Holy Russia slept so late, and dreamt so deep, in its ‘old dream’ of mind and soul? Is Russia’s future not related to a new spiritual awakening?
The wisdom and the comprehension of life, bespoken by the Orthodox Church, can, and certainly must, be earnestly considered and understood, by the modern mind. But the presumption that the modern mind and soul can merely accept, without question, any such host of rituals and services, is unacceptable and inappropriate to the consciousness of the our time. It is simply outdated; too old, for contemporary men and women of Man, to simply or naively accept rituals, forms and patterns, as if they were immediately comprehensible or experienceable. This they most certainly are not.
If it is the mind of science (scire-)which has helped to bring us into the awake, deliberate, and conscious experience of life and world, which is the common fact of our daily inner lives; then, this consciousness must needs also be applied to religion, and related to the great “cursed questions” of life. We cannot retreat into some earlier dream-state of innocent faith. Old Holy Russia should no longer be imagined as adequate to creative minds, hearts and souls of this time. As Medieval European Christendom has passed away; so has Old Holy Russia. Forever. And if, to Russia, the modem mind came later, historically; it is, nevertheless, just as impossible to return to that earlier mind and soul, as it would be to somehow truly revive, or reenter, into the time and mind of Medieval European world of Christendom.
It is contrary to the direction of life, as well as inappropriate and untimely, for Russia to try to return to these earlier conditions of mind, soul and culture (though the idea of the Easter Resurrection, and life after life, should forever receive serious meditation by the individual and society). It would certainly not lead well forward; were Russia to try to progress, without learning deeply from its own past experience. But it must also go forward, into a new spiritual life. The ancient truths of life and Man, as well as the rituals and doctrines of the Orthodox church, must be consciously recognized and understood – by the modern mind. But such a meeting must also be a surpassing...
Old Holy Russia can never be healthily revived. But a new, living, spiritual Russia can and must be sought. Yet Russia would be misled in assuming, that the prosperous “material plenty” of the West, is surrounded and interwoven by some such grand and profound wisdom of life, as is so necessary to the “Russian Soul’s” religious past, traumatic recent history, disoriented present, от spiritual task into the future. The West has certainly, deep and profound contributions to make, even to the potent spiritual future development of Russia. But this can come only from the very best of the West’s spiritual, intellectual and cultural history; and Russia should not await, and expect to find, any such special spiritual depth and substance, amidst the common contemporary culture and civilization of the West. (See Addenda.) Russia can look to the West for much; and perhaps from each distinct nation, culture and people, it can receive a slightly different contribution – be it practical, cultural, intellectual, spiritual. But it would be profoundly erred to imagine, that the slick and comfortable life in the West, is founded on, or surrounded by, some profound spiritual comprehension of life and death adequate to Russia’s needs. This it, most deeply, is not.
Do not presume, oh Russia, that just because the West has achieved such a “high standard of living” – in the earthly (“horizontal”) world – that it has also real, living answers to the (“vertical”) “cursed questions” of life, which the best of you seem, characteristically, to know and feel. For it does not also, have such a ‘high standard of soul, cultural or spiritual living’.
Accept from the West our practical ways, procedures and capacities; look to our political systems, and take the best that can be adapted to your own culture, history and character; embrace that of our economic systems as may help mollify your lamentable economic and material conditions; use the West’s achievements in science and technology: take from the West all that can help you to advance and progress. But never forget the great spiritual idea of Russia; nor imagine that the common West can adequately show you how to blend a “high standard of living” in regard to physical, mundane, earthly life and civilization, with some profound, creative, vital culture of soul and mind; or a wise orientation to the spiritual questions of life – far the individual, the collective, culture, or civilization: the complete inner and outer life of Mankind. If you merely follow the casual life in the West, with its spiritual agnosticism, its sensualism, its earthiness, even its religious ways; you will find no real, sufficient answers, or understanding, of that which made Old Russia “Holy”, and may make a new Russia spiritual. The common West, as it is, can simply not answer all the questions of life and death; economic and political order; social justice and civilization, in ways appropriate to all that which has made Russia unique. Open to the West; but strive wisely, to take only the best from the West – never forgetting the special character of Russian Soul and Spirit – that towards which only the very best of the spiritual and intellectual history of the West, can be of any real, healthful, creative contribution.
[Alexander Herzen] viewed the United States, with its emphasis on the individual, and Russia, with its emphasis on the collective, as diametrically opposed in their essential spirit and as bound to differ radically in their approach to the basic problems of mankind. He used the words “fateful antinomy” to describe the “individually atomized character of America, on the one hand, and, on the other, the amalgamation represented by the Russian commune”.
...To him, the problem of the future was not in choosing between individual freedom and socialism, but in reconciling the two and combining them in what he believed would be a higher type of society. No wonder, then, that he regarded the future roles of the United States and Russia in world history as mutually complementary rather than mutually exclusive, and saw the future relationship between the two countries as marked not by enmity, but by fruitful exchange and collaboration.
“The eastern and western understanding of the Christian conception of the dignity of man, builds a unity-in-contrast (“Spannungseinheit”) in which the two fundamental elements of the Christian ‘image of man’ are developed and unfolded fully into each of its parts. The Christian conception of man in the West (“Abendlandes”) tends toward individualism, bending toward an overemphasis of the rights of the individual, which in the end forgets God and fellow-men. The conception of man in the Eastern Church inclines toward an overemphasis of the sacramental community of the church and the even greater brotherhood of man, in which the individual gives up his own rights and self, in order to save others. This contrast in its secular form in the political arena is found in the contrast of Western democracy and Eastern communism...”
One a Saturday morning in May, of 1989, there was broadcast throughout the United States of America, on the independent “National Public Radio” program, an interview with a contemporary Russian writer who lives in Siberia – that region of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union most immediately associated in Western minds with Czarist and Soviet tyranny, oppression and cruelty.
From Siberia (Irkutsk), where sincere if naive Western imagination would tend easily to picture frigid, snow-bound vastnesses, with a harsh, difficult existence, and scattered villages peopled with the exiled, banished, imprisoned, suffering Russians; came the solid voice of Valentin Rasputin, himself one of a long line of creative spirits, who, by order of the state; or choice; or fate of birth, lived some of the most dear, deep and meaningful time of their lives, in this climatically harsh, unrelenting, beautiful region of the earth. He stated, unambiguously, his view, that the people and character of the West woe far more competently inclined towards a capable engagement with the material, practical matters of life and world, than the Russians would ever be. Such ‘practical reason’, science and so forth – required for material mastery, technological excellence and achievement – were not, he held, immediately or naturally inherent in the character of the Russian people; whom, he stated, were much more inclined towards a deep, soulful inner life. They would never quite ‘get it right’, with the practical, material life; whether they live in a time of perestroika and glasnost, or not.
It is a trait of our Russian character; we place our trust in writers. When our political leaders meet; it is writers, and not other politicians, who insure that they will speak well and intelligently. You Americans are more rational, and we are more sentimental. That’s why we have such an economy. And I don’t think we’ll ever get it just right. In this sense, we don’t work very well; but we can feel. Our nation has a different soul.
So spoke Rasputin from Siberia.
The interviewer categorized his thought, in her heartfully sympathetic summary, as sign of a rebirth of “Russian nationalism”, “patriotism”, and the like. And while both she and Rasputin criticized any arrogant, racist, “chauvinistic” attitude and interpretation of such ideas as he expressed; the concepts she used, in attempting to describe, to her Western audience, the thought of Rasputin, could as readily deaden as enliven them. For what Valentine Rasputin and others – both in contemporary and nineteenth century Russia – have meant – by whichever expressions or ideas essentially similar in content and meaning to “Russian Soul” – is a special, soul-filled inwardness of the human being, which is especially full in presence in the those people of Russia who bear it. The interpretive concepts of the interviewer were much too secular, too aseptically intellectual; too political and sociological; too “horizontal” – in a word, too “Western”. As George Kennan wrote, in a 1968 article, “Understanding the Russians”:
Russia remains today, more than ever, an enigma for the Western world. Simple American minds imagine that this is because ‘we don’t know the truth about it’. They are wrong. It is not our lack of knowledge which causes us to be puzzled by Russia. It is that we are incapable of understanding the truth about Russia when we see it....
...Soberly viewed, there is little possibility that enough Americans will ever accomplish these philosophical evolutions to permit of any general understanding of Russia on the part of our government or our people. It would imply a measure of intellectual humility and a readiness to reserve judgment about ourselves and our institutions of which few of us would be capable. For the foreseeable future the American, individually and collectively, will continue to wander about in the maze of contradiction and the confusion which is Russia with feelings not dissimilar to those of Alice in Wonderland, and with scarcely greater effectiveness.
If, indeed, the Russian Soul, like Russia, can be understood, as well as “believed in”; it is more likely rather to be embraced by such thoughts and words, feelings and literature, as could best be named religious, philosophical – spiritual. But so the Western interviewer did not speak...(or understand?, or see?)
* * *
Broadly, but truthfully – and painfully – speaking, the successful West is spiritually lost in the “horizontal” world; that world of matter and predictability, of comfort, pleasure, worry and concern, related almost exclusively to existence, experience, achievement and success in and of the mundane world. However otherworldly some ideas and ideals in the West may be – and in places, e.g. California, they can be quite fantastic–, they are seldom held with sufficient depth, integrity, strength and maturity of soul, as might allow them to truly lead a person, clearly, up and out of the “horizontal” into the “vertical”.
Contrariwise, though only briefly considered, the Russian Soul – evident in the eyes of an inspired countenance; noticeable in the enthusiasm of a voice; sensible in a person’s special presence; or in a deep, pure, human intimacy, in a conversation; in an almost religious reverence towards a great symphony, от in an uncanny intuitive sense of life – is somewhat more rather like a doorway into an inner ‘Vertical” world. As an Italian man once remarked to me, in a conversation on this theme (in 1987) beside the pond next to Novodevichy Convent in Moscow; “I have never seen such meaningful looks in my life.” It is a soul that is, initially perhaps, uncanny to the perceptive Westerner, as if having entered a strange new world, full of novelty and mystery. Strongly manifest, it calls the Westerner to deep self-examination and self-recognition – not always of favorable sight It can, in its fullness, help bring one uncommonly near to a real, alive questioning of oneself, human relationships, and the sense, meaning and purpose of life; the enigma of suffering, die reality of death; the question of God, and similar, often secreted questions of ultimacy to the human soul. Herein, in the un western, “vertical” inwardness of the Russian Soul, are gifts and presences of the inner life, which might be offered to the needy soul and spiritual existence of the West The below, by Walter Schubart, written in his 1938 work Russia and Western Man, can be safely applied, in general, to Americans, as well as to “Europeans”:
To Russians and Europeans mutually, each represents the ‘other’ world... When a European looks at the Russians and then at himself, he must inevitably appear to himself in a new light. Hence the inestimable value of such a comparison! By comparing himself with the Russian, the European is enabled to know himself through and through....things which had hitherto seemed to be a matter of course, now appear to him as oddities. Henceforth, the obvious becomes questionable. And all at once, the European sees that things familiar to him at home might be valued differently in other parts of the world....This acquisition of entirely new possibilities, standards of value and perspectives, paves the way for a self-analysis that may penetrate to the profoundest depths, and this new insight into the roots of our nature is the essence of spiritual renewal and the secret of rebirth. This is true in the case of both individuals and nations.
Such thoughts as these will be of no surprise, to those who possess a clear sense and understanding of the deeper currents of Russian and Western spiritual and intellectual history. But in the West, alas, especially here on this far Western Pacific Coast of America, the realities of such contrasting psychologies, if they are known at all, are rarely recognized with any more than some vague inarticulate sense, or, perhaps rather, “intellectually”, using that aspect of the human psyche which the westward-journeyed members of the nineteenth century Russian intelligentsia found to be so characteristic – and incomplete – of Western Man.
Certainly in America, the general intellectual and cultural life of the “melting pot”, is far from being conducive to the clarity, subtlety and sensitivity of soul, required to readily recognize the inner uniqueness of the Russian Soul. Such recognition seems, preponderantly, to depend on the degree, depth and awakeness of an individual’s world and self-awareness; their subtlety, consciousness and knowledge. As George Kennan described it:
...There will be much talk about the necessity for “understanding Russia”; but there will be no place for the American who is really willing to undertake this disturbing task. The apprehension of what is valid in the Russian world is unsettling and displeasing to the American Mind. He who would undertake this apprehension will not find his satisfaction in the achievement of anything practical for his people, still less in any official or public appreciation for his efforts. The best he can look forward to is the lonely pleasure of one who stands at long last on a chilly and inhospitable mountaintop where few have been before, where few can follow, and where few will consent to believe that he has been.
However this may be, it is certain that spiritually suffered, and otherwise, deep-souled individuals in America, and throughout the West, can surely see, and enter into the Russian soul; though the “clarity” of the experience depends on the individual.
It seems almost as if in fact insightful individuals of the nineteenth century, both in Russia and in Europe, were somehow very near to truth when, in their ‘‘philosophies of history”, they speculated on how the nations and peoples of the West and Russia, seem almost to have been providentially separated and developed, to realize differing inner and outer lives. Differing, that they might, in some future time, meet and join each other, as contrasting compliments, necessary completions to each other; both portions needed to complete the whole Man, the entire humanity of Man.
Considering the conditions of world power which existed after World War II, it is remarkable to consider the thought, from 1835, of Alexis de Tocqueville, who, in regard to America, the United States of America – perhaps following Crèvecoeur’s Letter XI in his important 1782 publication: Letters from an American Farmer – concluded volume I of his famous Democracy in America with a brief consideration of the destinies of America and Russia:
The Anglo-American relies upon personal interest to accomplish his ends and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of the people; the Russian centers all the authority of society in a single arm. The principle instrument of the former is freedom; or the latter, servitude. Their starting-point is different and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.
Later in the century Alexander I. Herzen held a similar understanding, developing it even more fully. The future power and conjunction of the United States of America and Russia required, he stated, no uncanny prophetic sense to recognize, for it was apparent in the facts and realities of the world and history. As he wrote in 1865:
The North-American States and Russia represent two solutions which are opposite but incomplete, and which therefore complement rather than exclude each other. A contradiction which is full of life and development, which is open-ended, without finality, without physiological discord – that is not a challenge to enmity and combat, not a basis for an attitude of unsympathetic indifference, but a basis for efforts to remove this formal contradiction with the help of something broader – if only through mutual understanding and recognition.
Beneath, however, the contrasts and complements of the American and Russian people – as well as those of other nations – as to their history, practical life, civilization and order, e.g. social organization, customs and mores, economic patterns and directions, political powers and structures and so on, lies the deeper, subtler psychological contrast, and potential relation..
This work attempts to give some orientation, clarification, and solicitation, for an independent renewal of the spiritual life of Man, in both America and Russia. In the materially-prosperous, but soulfully-lacking and spiritually-impoverished West (the USA and elsewhere included), and in the materially impoverished, but soulfully-rich and spiritually-potent Russian (and European) East, a new spiritual life is deeply needed by the human and inhuman conditions of our civilization, nations, cultures and time. In the United States of America, the “American Dream” requires, at its spiritual core, a free, independent activity in pursuit of the realization of “greatness” in the individual soul. In Russia, a vital spiritual presence and orientation, in the Russian Soul and culture, must lead Russia into her future – the spiritual core of the idea of the “Third Rome”, still calls her upward!
A recognition, reverence and realization of the spiritual, the “vertical”, in each society is needed. And though there is much more than enough, in each nation alone, to be accomplished in this direction; what if each nation’s unique characteristics, are indispensable for a complete spiritual development of the other?
National identity in our time, for the individual and collective, is so strong and pervasive a presence – in our psychologies, societies, cultures and intellectual lives – that we have lost much sight and sense of our common humanity. It is much more immediate in our time, to be a citizen of this or that nation, than to truly identify, inwardly, with Man, or Mankind as a whole. So it seems basic and fundamental, to our cramped, secular visions, conceptions and understandings of our civilization and historical time, to be an “American”, a “Russian”, a “German”; or a “Japanese”, “Australian” or whatever; and to think of, and understand other portions of humanity, with such identifications. This manifests, for example, now, in America; in an unconscious presumption, that there could be nothing we might learn from the Russians, whose political and economic (“horizontal”) system is such an obvious failure. But if one looks at humanity as a whole, then it might be asked whether an “American”, a “Russian”, or other, is not a certain, unique development of a portion of humanity; and that one part of Mankind, or other, might well have developed a unique, vital element in its own humanity, which is essential to Mankind as a whole.
In regard to America and Russia, what I am suggesting here, is that, while each nation has its own spiritual characteristics, tasks and burdens; there is present between them, a potential alchemical blending of the best of “Russian” and the best of “American” – not at all meaning thereby to exclude “mixtures” of Russian and American with the characteristic outer lives and inner psychologies of other nations – which could help to bring about a more complete human being, in regard to individual psychology and social community, and thence, possibly as well, affecting the broader cultural and intellectual life of human civilization. (Recognizing that such ideals can not be expected to be realized, easily, in any broader scale of humanity.)
Before it will be possible to try to say what such an alchemical mixture of American and Russian might mean, or how it might be effected; it is necessary that we attempt to gain some deeper insight and understanding of the contrasting psychologies, the differing “national characteristics”, of America and Russia. By selecting and examining certain fundamental portions of the intellectual and spiritual histories of both peoples; deep insight can be gained into these questions. By looking into the thought of clear, characteristic, “representative voices” of each country, we shall come to find intellectual foundation to better recognize, understand and articulate certain contrasting, yet complementary aspects of their national psychologies.
For America, the United States of America, we shall have Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) speak. (At the Washington Summit in December of 1987, Emerson was cited in the speeches of both then President Reagan and by then General-Secretary (now President) Mikhael Gorbachof.) For Russia we shall listen to the thought of the (so-called) “Slavophiles”: Ivan Vasilevich Kireyevsky (1806-1856) and Alexsei Stepanovich Khomyakov (1804-1860). By comparing their ideal conceptions of Man, we shall be able to gain insight into one deep and essential area of the contrasting, yet complementary national characteristics of “American” and “Russian”. If my efforts in this work are adequate to the task, I wish to make substantial intellectual contributions towards a clear description of how essential and profound a spiritual, philosophical and psychological relation exists, between characteristic highest (“vertical”) conceptions and aspirations – and tasks – of Man in America and Russia. The hope is that such understanding could contribute, essentially, towards a clearer, creative, and mutually-bentficial, spiritual orientation – in thoughtful and heartful individuals of both nationalities-which might lead to a more conscious spiritual meeting of “Russian” and “American” ; and thereby, possibly, promote an alchemical blending of American Mind and Russian Soul, American Individuality and Russian Community. Such a greater clarity and consciousness, in both countries, could thus possibly contribute towards a greater spiritual realization, and more complete wholeness, in some men and women in each country, and thereby, perhaps, in portions of Mankind as a whole.
It is deeply heartening and enlightening, to enter into essential aspects of the contrasting and complementary psychologies of the American and Russian people, by examining and comparing their respective intellectual and spiritual histories. The intriguing story is that, often during the same years (or very near in time) and, in all likelihood, wholly unknown to each other; in each separate country, great, definitive, essential acts and deeds were done by these creative spirits, these “voices” of each of their countries.
In Moscow, in the late 1830’s, where many of Russia’s “best and brightest” individuals were gathered in the cultured Elagin salon; Khomyakov, Kireyevsky and others, were, in readings and passionate discussions, articulating the fundamental ideas which were to distinguish Russia and “Russian”, from the nationalities of Western Europe which they had encountered in travel and study. These presentations and discussions were later recognized to have been a fundamental contribution to the intellectual foundations of “Slavophilism”.
While such ideas were developing in Russia; in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1837, Emerson spoke his great call, in “The American Scholar Address” – later to be described as America’s “Intellectual Declaration of Independence”. One year later – and within one year’s time of Khomyakov’s and Kireyevsky’s important presentations; yet completely separate in Moscow –Emerson gave what was, essentially, an even greater summons to America. This was his “Address to the Divinity Class”, at Harvard in 1838. Truthfully, this could be described as America’s “Spiritual Declaration of Independence”.
Emerson, Kireyevsky and Khomyakov attempted to voice the uniqueness and distinctiveness of their respective peoples, nations and psychologies, in contrast to Europe. Interestingly, they all reached backward into history, towards the highest conception of Man in the Spiritual and Philosophical History of Western Man – from which both of their nations, peoples and cultures were, as it were, late spiritual progeny. Yet while both – during the same period of the 19th century – reached back toward the highest idea as to the “spirit and nature of Man”; they emphasized distinct aspects; they looked from different perspectives; they stressed different portions of this highest conception of Man. Their understanding of the individual and the surrounding society; the relation of an individual person to himself, to Life, Death, God, etc., are contrasting – often in the most profoundly complementary ways. In these contrasting complements, one can find some of the needed, essential ideas, for understanding the spiritual, psychological, social and cultural relations of American and Russian, and attempting to consciously address the problems of the spiritual condition of Man in our own day and time. If we listen to what they said of us, and to us; we may be able to hear, vitally, of who we are; and how we might more consciously meet – and creatively act.
Let us begin with Ralph Waldo Emerson, who, even in a recent work by a prominent historian in the U.S., is described as the “quintessential American”.
The life and thought of Emerson could well be described as a search for the sovereign individual; or to use Emerson’s well known phrase “the infinitude of the private man”. Born as he was, about one generation after the “Declaration of Independence” and the successful American Revolution, in 1803, into a prominent New England ministerial family; by the time Emerson had reached 35 years of age, he had quit die ministry as incompatible with what he would bring to expression from his own inner life. So that, by the year 1837, when he addressed Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa Society, he had already been tested in “self-reliance”, before he gave his “The American Scholar Address”, one of the greatest definitive acts in America’s intellectual and cultural history, as well as an American contribution to that of Mankind. This “Intellectual Declaration of Independence” – as a later biographer, Oliver W. Holmes, was truly to name it – was essentially surpassed, or, perhaps better said, completed, one year later, in his “Address to the Divinity Class” of Harvard’s Divinity School, on Sunday, 15 July, 1838. It was a summons for the American man – or, more precisely, “Man” –  in America – to cast off his spiritual subservience and inner dependence on Europe and religious tradition, and to take his stand, independently, before human society, history, God, and the entire world. Neither Europe, nor its culture and tradition, were to be rejected. They were rather to be embraced; and surpassed.
Let us consider, directly, some of what Emerson stated in these two famous addresses; using, as seems necessary and helpful, rather fulsome passages from both of these speeches. For, conditions being what they have been during the past several decades in the Soviet Union, it seems safe to assume that Emerson’s thought is not widely or well-known there; if for no other reason than the inaccessibility and sparsity of his texts in the Russian language. For Americans, it is, regrettably, also appropriate to assume – for quite different, and often less noble reasons – little close acquaintance with his thought, or its content and significance.
Nearing the conclusion of Emerson’s “American Scholar Address”, he spoke the following:
Another sign of our times,... is the new importance given to the single person. Everything that tends to insulate the individual –to surround him with barriers of natural respect, so that each man may feel the world is his, and man shall treat with man as a sovereign state with a sovereign state – tends to true union as well as greatness. ...Help must come from the bosom alone. The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be a university of knowledges. If there be one lesson more than another which should pierce his ear, it is, the world is nothing, the man is all; in yourself is the law of all nature, and you know not yet how a globule of sap ascends; in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know all; it is for you to dare all. Mr. President and Gentlemen, this confidence in the unsearched might of man belongs, by all motives, by all prophesy, by all preparation, to the American Scholar. We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is already suspected to be timid, imitative, tame. Public and private avarice make the air we breath thick and fat. The scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant. See already the tragic consequence. The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself. There is no mark for any but the decorous and the complaisant. Young men of the fairest promise, who begin life upon our shores, inflated by the mountain winds, shined upon by all the stars of God, find the earth below not in unison with these, but are hindered from action by the disgust which the principles on which business is managed inspire, and him drudges, or die of disgust, some of them suicides. What is the remedy? They did not yet see...that if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him. Patience – patience; with the shades of all the good and great for company; and for solace the perspective of your own infinite life; and for work the study and communication of principles, the making those instincts prevalent, the conversion of the world. Is it not the chief disgrace in the world, not to be a unit; not to be reckoned one character; not to yield that peculiar fruit which each man was created to bear, but to reckoned in the gross, in the hundred or the thousand, or the party, the section to which we belong?
Let us consider more closely, that which should be especially recognized and remembered. First of all, and most obvious, is the centrality of the individual; an independent, even isolated entity – surrounded by “barriers of natural respect”, such that “man shall treat with man as a sovereign state with a sovereign state”. This individual must become somewhat of a ‘center of the universe’ – “a Man”, as one could say (adhering to the most profound philosophical, psychological and historical meanings here). The “American Scholar” has an historical necessity, so says Emerson, to become such an independent, self-guided, self-governed source, entity and presence. Joining past, present and future, he must be a “university of knowledges”; independent and sovereign, not only from the surrounding society, but also from the predominance of European cultures, traditions, ideas, etc. As the United States of America had declared and accomplished its political and national independence from Britain, so must the “American Scholar” – Emerson declared – achieve an intellectual independence and sovereignty from “the courtly muses of Europe”.
Emerson called for the American Scholar, the “sovereign state” man, to reject, to surpass, indeed, to redeem “the mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects”. As Emerson wrote elsewhere:
you will hear everyday the maxims of a low prudence. You will hear that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. ‘What is this truth you seek? What is this beauty?’ men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God has called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. Those who are influenced by the “stars of God”, must not be overcome by the worldly, mundane, temporal ‘‘principles on which business is managed”. The higher inner life must be held as their greatest task. Indeed, those who are shone upon by the “stars of God” have the task – as many “good and great” from the history of the world have similarly had – to help in “the conversion of the world”. This can be achieved not by some party, or mass collection of people of any sort; it can only be truly done – held Emerson – beginning with “a unit”, “one character” – the Individual. This individual man in America, must stand alone, independent and sovereign, before the humanity, nature and God, and “plant[ing] himself indomitably on his own instincts”, attempt to have “the huge world...come round to him”. So he conceived the “American Scholar”.
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One year after this “Intellectual Declaration or Independence”, in Emerson’s “Address to the Divinity Class”, to the graduating senior class of Harvard’s Divinity School, we move into a different context and atmosphere – an even more profound consideration of Man in the world. It is not one of Man standing up sovereign in America, before European traditions, ideas, society and history – a somewhat secular call for a worldly aristocracy of the mind (“Reason”) in America. It is a call for men and women of Mankind to be representatives of God on earth. We move here from a high scholarship of the mind, to a spirituality of the “Soul”. The cultured and independent ennoblement called for in an “American Scholar” – when realized in Emerson’s sense – is here surpassed by a summons to the humble dignity of the enthused man and woman of God. As will be evident in the following passage, it also is a “Declaration of Independence”; but one of spirit, declaring independence from old, imported religious forms and staid church tradition and doctrine.
It needs to be understood clearly, that when Emerson used the word “Soul” in this address, it had for him a much fuller and greater meaning, than merely the ‘middle-portion’: psyche (soul), of the tripartite anthropology of man, which consisted of body, soul and spirit – which can be found, for example, in Plato, St. Paul, or the Greek Church Fathers. It would be closer to Emerson’s conception, and usage, to understand by “Soul”, generally, the deepest inner core, or the highest aspect of the human being – that portion in Man, which is most closely akin to Divinity. More commonly it could be simply described as the spiritual aspect of Man. Emerson:
And now, my brothers, you will ask, What in these desponding days can be done by us? The remedy is already declared in the ground of our complaint of the Church. We have contrasted the Church with the Soul. In the soul then let the redemption be sought Wherever a man comes, there comes revolution. The old is for slaves. When a man comes, all books are legible, all things transparent, all religions are forms. He is religious. Man is the Wonderworker. He is seen amid miracles.... The stationariness of religion; the assumption that the age of inspiration is past, that die Bible is closed; the fear of degrading the character of Jesus by representing him as a man; indicate with sufficient clearness the falsehood of our theology. It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake. The true Christianity – faith like Christ’s in the infinitude of men – is lost None believeth in the soul of man, but only in some man or person old and departed. Ah me! no man goeth alone. All men go in flocks to this saint or that poet, avoiding the God who seeth in secret...They think society wiser than their soul, and know not that one soul, and their soul, is wiser than the whole world. See how nations and races flit by on the sea of time and leave no ripple to tell where they floated or sunk, and one good soul shall make the name of Moses, or of Zeno, or of Zoroaster, reverend forever. None assayeth the stem ambition to be the Self of the nation and of nature, but each would be an easy secondary to some Christian scheme, or sectarian connection, or some eminent man. Once leave your own knowledge of God, your own sentiment, and take secondary knowledge, as St, Paul’s, or George Fox’s or Swedenborg’s, and you get wide from God with every year this secondary form lasts, and if, as now, for centuries – the chasm yawns to that breadth, that men can scarcely be convinced there is in them anything divine.
Let me admonish you, first of all, to go alone; to refuse the good models, even those which are sacred in the imagination of men, and dare to love God without mediator or veil.
Herein is to be found a great call, a summons to the independent, individual spirit (“Soul”) in Man. To Ralph Waldo Emerson, the religion of “the Church” teaches that ‘God was; not is’; that events in the historical past of Mankind, are the soul’s sole hope and means of salvation. “Inspiration”, “the Bible”, “Jesus”, are past events, on which the solution and salvation of Mankind depends. All of this reveals to Emerson “the falsehood of our theology”, in which the past would predominate over Man; redemption can only be gained by a reverence and acceptance of these distant historical events and persons.
Emerson rejected this theology; as he had already similarly done, at age 29, in regard to the service of Holy Communion, in the liberal Unitarian church from which he withdrew. This withdrawal from the church was contrary not only to his family’s tradition, but also to his own personal education, which had directed him to the vocation of a minister. Going from the safe and settled vocation of a minister, Emerson, following his own inner necessity and truth, left the church, to move out, uncertainly, into the world, eventually becoming a “lay preacher to the world”.
Emerson heralds the spiritual individual in America, in contrast to the religion of society, the “Soul” of Man as superior to the outer forms and practices of religion. “They think society wiser than their soul, and know not that one soul, and their soul, is wiser than the whole world...None assayeth the stem condition to be the Self of the Nation.” A passive subservience towards the religious forms of “the Church” can lead, as Emerson sees it, to a condition of humanity, where “men can scarcely be convinced there is in them anything divine”.
The significance, the weight of what Emerson here stated must be clearly recognized. It is a tremendous call for men and women to step out, and away, from the religious traditions, doctrines and customs which bind them back to the past (religare). To reject any childlike passivity toward the past and the Church. It is a call to spiritual independence. The individual must stand alone; independently recognizing the divinity, the “infinitude” of their own “Soul”.
This is certainly no small or oblique intellectual position with which Emerson challenged these divinity students. It is a call to a profoundly deeper “theology” of Man. The furor which the address provoked in the surrounding society, is itself sufficient proof of its spiritually revolutionary character and challenge to America. But this “Spiritual Declaration of Independence” in America, could not be followed by some successful “revolution” in the outer, collective society; because it could only be realized inside the souls of individual men and women. Most of the religious leaders in the society around Emerson, rejected not only this ‘summons to divinity’, but the ‘theology of Man’ on which it was based. Nevertheless, to Emerson, the assertion of “the infinitude of men”, was the “True Christianity”. And this idea(l) became the central theme of Emerson’s own individual life, and his vocation as “lay preacher to the world” – and included his name amongst the spiritual biographies of those in human history who have embodied this ultimate challenge: the realization of divinity in Man. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his life and teaching, brought such a “Declaration of Spiritual Independence” to voice, before the young republic of the United States of America.
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Emerson did not find – though this is certainly not uncommon in history, for such a message as his – that his fellow countrymen, in any broader way, realized in themselves his intellectual or spiritual call – to themselves. Nonetheless, his summons to the mind and spirit (“Soul”) was, and still remains, one of the most profound conceptions, and injunctions, to men and women in the intellectual and spiritual history of America, and the United States of America. And while Emerson’s was not the only such voice in America, his was certainly among the greatest and clearest. Why else, in 1988, would the speech-writers of both the President of the United States and the (eventual) President of the Soviet Union, choose Emerson to add a philosophical ‘touch’ to their political worries and endeavors at their Washington Summit?
For purposes of this essay, it is appropriate to emphasize that the “self-reliance” of the individual – which was the соте of the message of Emerson (“the quintessential American”), both to the intellect and spirit of America – is an essential, historical part of one of the primary characterizations used to describe, distinguish and define “American”. “Individuality” and “individualism” are two of the most commonly employed terms used in attempting to distinguish “American” character, history and society. This is true in regard both to the individual person and the collective society – including the economic, political and cultural life, etc.
Emerson called America, intellectually, towards the life touched by “Reason”, not just “Understanding”; toward the participation of the individual mind in the “Universal Mind”. As he stated it, the American Scholar – “Man-Thinking”:
..is to find consolation in exercising the highest functions of human nature. He is one who raises himself from private considerations and breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts. He is the world’s eye. He is the world’s heart. He is to resist the vulgar prosperity that retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic sentiments, noble biographies, melodious verse, and the conclusions of history. Whatever oracles the human heart, in all emergencies, in all solemn hours, has uttered as its commentary on the world of actions – these he shall receive and impart. And whatsoever new verdict Reason from her inviolable seat pronounces on the passing men and events of to-day – this he shall hear and promulgate.
The idea and understanding of Man of Kireyevsky and Khomyakov is in certain ways, quite different. Consider for example, Ivan Kireyevsky’s important 1838-39 “Response to A.S. Khomyakov”, selecting that well-known portion, in which he described and critiqued the character of personality and society in the European West (This is considered to be one of the first “documents” of “Slavophilism”.)
The whole private and public life in the West is based on the concept of the separate, individual independence presupposing individual isolation, hence the sacredness of external formal relations, the sacredness of property and of conditioned decrees, which are considered more importantly than personality. Every individual, whether a private person, a knight, a prince, or a town is, within his rights, an absolute, unlimited personality issuing its own laws. The first step of every person in society is to surround himself with a fortress from within which he enters into negotiations with other independent authorities.
In this oft-quoted passage of Kireyevsky, it becomes immediately apparent just how deeply contrasting are the conceptions of Man to the “American Scholar” Emerson and the Russian “Slavophile" Kireyevsky. Emerson’s is an affirmation of individualism; though indeed, as I hope to have already made clear, “individuality” only in its highest, noblest sense. For Kireyevsky and Khomyakov, it is quite otherwise. They sought rather in the social being of man: the individual as an inseparable member of the community. Certainly, also to Emerson, the common, mundane condition of the isolated, ignoble individual, was as repugnant as it was to the Slavophiles. But in their search for a deep, true, noble conception and understanding of Man – individually and collectively considered – the “Slavophiles”, did not search in the direction of the “sovereign state” individual. They looked, rather, to those ideas which brought the individual human being into a wholeness of self, which was intimately bound into relationship with the community of which they were an essential member – the communal individual.
These “Slavophiles” rejected the “rationalized” character of the individual western psyche, as well as the rationally organized aspects of the social order in the Western countries. They searched back – not without some illusory nostalgia – into the historical past of “Holy Russia” for an understanding of the individual and social community, acceptable to their Russian souls. In the “integral personality”, exemplified par excellence in the idea of the “holy man”, and in the old Russian “obschina” and “mir” – influenced by the Russian Orthodox conception of both – they sought to articulate the character and ideal of the Russian people as to the individual and the collective. The individual could only fully realize his life, healthfully, and in fullness and truth, by living as a physical, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual member of a community. The “obschina”, with the “mir”, was an earthly, human example; “sobornost” (for Khomyakov) was an ideal, spiritual, somewhat “otherworldly” conception, of, essentially, the same goal: community. And it was in the community, and the communal individual, that the true way of living for the human being – whether earthly-human as in the “obschina” and the “mir”, or human-divine as in “sobornost” – was to be found. (More below on these.)
In their reaction to the secular “Age of Reason”, the Enlightenment in Europe, with its “rationalism” – which as they viewed it, not only isolated members of society from each other, but also dis-integrated the personality–, they sought for an idea of human wholeness and integrity which could be described as spiritual, religious. Here we have the “vertical” conception of the individual and the community. Both Kireyevsky and Khomyakov were, among other intellectual sources and cultural influences – including some directly from the West – strongly influenced by the Orthodox Christian conception of men and Man, which helped to bind their understanding (religion) into the deep past of “Holy Russia”.
Emerson, Kireyevsky and Khomyakov all rejected the mundane, common, “horizontal” life, culture and civilization of the Western European (or American, or ‘Westernized’ Russian.) We shall come to see how profoundly kin were, not only their reactions to the common inner and outer life of the individual and society, but also their conceptions as to the higher, spiritual being of men and Man.
First, let us consider more fully the thought of Ivan Kireyevsky in regard to his understanding of the individual human being. (Later we shall examine Khomyakov concerning spiritual community.) Kireyevsky had traveled, for just short of one year, to Europe in 1830. Originally he had planned a broad-ranging journey there during a four year period. But, for various reasons, he visited only German-speaking Central Europe, in what would be his only trip abroad. Yet, considering the personalities whom the young Kireyevsky encountered; we would need to describe this single trip to Europe as a rich one indeed. For, during his ten and one-half months in Central Europe, he was able, by attending lectures – and sometimes in personal meetings and relations – to experience, among others: Hegel, Schleiermacher, Schelling, Savigny, Karl Ritter and Oken. This time in the West would later help to substantiate his gradual, developing articulation of the difference of the West and Russia.
Contents of his later ideas can be found clearly present, for example, in his description of Schleiermacher. In a letter written on March 30,1830 – the same day on which he had heard a lecture by Schleiermacher concerning the Resurrection of Christ – he suggested, after noting his own lack of thorough acquaintance with Schleiermacher’s thought, the following:
...one may just as little deny his sincere devotion to religion as the philosophical autocracy of his mind. His emotional convictions were formed separately from his intellectual convictions; while the former developed under the influence of life, classical reading and studies of the Church Fathers and the Gospel, the latter grew and became ossified in the struggle with the reigning materialism of the eighteenth century. This is why he believes with his heart and endeavors to believe with his mind. His system resembles a pagan temple transformed into a Christian church in which everything external – every stone, every adornment – reminds one of idolatry, while the interior resounds with hymns to Jesus and the Mother of God.
Here we find, even in the twenty-three year old Russian Kireyevsky, a clear conception of the distinction of heart and mind, faith and reason; one, incidentally, which was also developed in Schleiermacher’s thought on religion. This difference, of “heart” and “head”, would continue to be an essential concern of Kireyevsky, throughout his life; constituting a principle element in his contrast of Western and Russian. As he later wrote:
Thinking, separated from the aspiration of the heart, is a diversion for the soul; it seems that the more profound and important such thinking is, the more essentially thoughtless it makes the thinker.
Generally considered, Ivan Kireyevsky returned to Russia disappointed with the Europe he had found; not only with the common middle-class way of life, and its culture, but also with some of the outstanding spirits and leading figures which he had encountered there. To him, gradually, the West came to be seen and understood, as a rationalized, ‘inorganic’, atomized, fragmented society and people. The autocracy of the mental, the rational life – a secular life in fact – he considered to be one of its prime psychological characteristics. His unresolved dissatisfaction with the West eventually led him to look more deeply into Russia itself, in his search for a healthier and more complete idea of the individual, society, and life. He did not have too far to look; for, during the mid-1830’s, and with the unexpected contributions of his devoutly religious wife, Kireyevsky gradually came into a deeper contact and understanding with Russian Orthodoxy, and its comprehension of Man. His wife – not surprised or uncomprehending of Schelling’s thought, which he exposed to her (though she had no personal interest, or education, in such Western philosophers) – told him that Schelling’s ideas were to be found, in essence, in the writings of the Church Fathers, which she knew well. He came eventually to study closely the thought of the Greek Church Fathers. Therein he found an understanding of the human being which was to him immensely more profound, truthful and satisfying than most of the ideas – or “incarnations” of Man and life – which he had encountered, or learned of, in Central Europe; especially all of those secular, “Enlightenment” (“Age of Reason”) conceptions, which were to be found permeating so much of the intellectual, psychological, literary and cultural life of the West – including the United States of America. Indeed, Kireyevsky came to develop a close personal relationship with Father Makarii of Optina Pustyn monastery. They both worked on translating writings of early Christian Church Fathers: St. Isaac the Syrian and Maximus the Confessor, et al, into Russian. In the Orthodox Church, and the writings of the Greek Fathers, he came to find a comprehension of the human being, which satisfied his heart, soul, and mind, as being the deepest, fullest, truest conception of the inner and outer life of Man.
Let us consider the ideas, which answered his needs. In St Isaac the Syrian (ca. 6th century AD) and Maximus the Confessor (ca. 580-662 AD) one finds, indeed, a profound and provocative conception of the human being. Reason, the Intellect, the Mind of Man – so much heralded and influential since the beginning of the “Age of Reason” in Europe, and which Kireyevsky had experienced in its impact on the intellectual life there – was, to them, a restricted, delimited, incomplete kind, and means, of knowledge, and being.
Though they lived in extremely different times and cultures, consider how contrary in epistemological essence, are the views of these Church fathers, to that of the Western philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) for example. Locke contrasted the ambiguity he considered to be inherent in any person’s “knowledge” derived from “supernatural light”, to the certitude of knowledge gained by the “natural light” of Reason, which, he held, all men shared. About this “natural light”, “Reason”, he wrote in his well-known Essay Concerning Human Understanding:
Reason must be our last judge and guide to everything. (It is interesting and telling, to at least mention here, that Locke, through Thomas Jefferson, directly influenced both the (political) Declaration Of Independence and the United States Constitution; including the idea of man and human society on which it is based.) To these two Church Fathers, in contrast, the entire human soul, especially the human heart, must be included in any attempt to achieve knowledge and Truth; or a healthy fulfillment and completion of the human being. Reason, only one important part of the human psyche, could not, by itself alone, achieve either true knowledge or human felicity. The whole, ennobled inner life of the human being must needs be employed.
The world-view of Locke is so very different from that of either of these two Fathers of the Church, that it seems perhaps rather odd to contrast their views of “Reason”. For central example, the “light” which the Fathers sought was not Locke’s “natural light”; their goal was the inner “supernatural light”, and all the experience of the divine, which Locke could only so tenuously and skeptically consider. But in fact, the profound and complete contrast, present, in these ‘‘philosophies of life”, makes abundantly clear the difference of a “horizontal” and “vertical” comprehension of Man, life and world. Thomas Jefferson could easily embrace Locke; but not Kireyevsky, or the Greek Church Fathers.
In his well-known short essay entitled “The Philosophy of I. Kireyevsky”, Henry Lanz writes of St Isaac, that “in his work on The Contempt of the World, [St. Isaac] maintains that wisdom [sapientia] is only attainable by a concentration of all the mental forces, and has its location, not in the intellect but in the heart (cor)”, the centre of the human psyche. In the same study, Maximus the Confessor is described as holding that
Reason...is merely the organ of knowledge, whereas the organ of wisdom is the whole soul. The true personal unity is the only element in which absolute truth can live and move. If perhaps the West is rather more interested in knowledge (scientia) than wisdom (sapiential); this would only further substantiate the differences of the Enlightenment philosophies of Man, which would tend to locate the “centre” of the human being inside of the skull, in the mind, in (natural) “Reason”; and religious anthropologies of Man which would locate such “centre” in the heart and soul.
Such ideas, which Kireyevsky wished to introduce to die Russian world around him – by helping to translate and publish them in Russian – contributed substantially towards his understanding and articulation of the human being. Thus, from this ancient source, as also from the personal relations Kireyevsky developed with Father Filaret of Novospasskii Monastery of Moscow and Father Makarii of Optina Pustyn, there was a strong influence of the Christian Orthodox conception of life and Mankind, which contributed to Kireyevsky’s “Slavophilism”. Even in his 1838-39 “Reply to Khomyakov” – a fundamental ‘document’ of Slavophilism – reference was made to St Isaac.
In 1852, for example, in a letter from Kireyevsky to Father Makarii, he wrote of the Greek Fathers in general:
In their pursuit of speculative truth, the Eastern thinkers pay attention chiefly to the right inward condition of the thinking mind; whereas the Western philosophers care more about the external connection of ideas. The former...seek an inner integrity of the mind, the centre of mental forces where all separate activities of the soul are united into a supreme living unity. The latter, on the contrary, believe that complete truth can be reached only by increased differentiation of the mental faculties.
In order to achieve this “inner integrity of mind”, Kireyevsky, concurred with the deeper Orthodox view that faith (in Greek: pistis; in Latin: fides) must be added, as a real vital presence in the human soul, to yield “believing reason”. In an oft-cited passage, he describes it so:
The chief characteristic of believing thought consists in the striving to concentrate all the separate powers of the soul into a single power, to seek out that inner focus of being where reason, will, feeling and conscience, the beautiful and true, the wonderful and the desirable, the just and the merciful – and the whole sweep of the mind – are fused into one living unity, thus restoring the essential personality in all its primeval indivisibility.
Here we have Kireyevsky, attempting to bring to expression a psychology of man with which he compared Russia, itself seen as fortunately permeated by Christian Orthodoxy, and the West, which had become lost (spiritually, psychologically, and socially) in the worldly rationalism which he and other Russians had experienced and recognized in Europe. His unflattering portrayal of the Weston psychology, in 1838-39 – which should be compared to the consideration of the state of Man in the introductory portion of Emerson’s American Scholar Address – was stated so:
Western man breaks up his life into separate aspirations, and although he brings them, by means of logical reason, into a general plan, just the same, every moment of his life he appears as a different person. In one comer of his heart dwells religious sentiment which he puts to use in the exercise of his piety; in another, separate, is the power of reason and practical common sense; in a third his endeavors to satisfy his sensual desires; in a fourth his moral concepts and love of family; in a fifth his self-interest; in a sixth enjoyment of aesthetic sense, and each of these separate drives is further subdivided, each of which expresses itself separately and all of which are connected only by the remembrance of abstract reason.
And as he saw Europe:
All the lofty minds of Europe are complaining about the present state of moral apathy, lack of conviction, general egotism, seeking a new spiritual force outside of reason a new spring of life outside calculation – in a word, seeking that faith that they cannot find in themselves.
Kireyevsky – and others – held that Russia bore this “new spiritual force”, the needed faith, which the West so deeply required for its inner and outer life. Here is articulated, again, the missionary responsibility of Holy Russia towards what they saw as the fallen, troubled, spiritually-lost West. Russia, in its uniqueness, must help redeem the West.
Kireyevsky did not simply reject the West; indeed, he revered it in many ways. But he did not feel that Western Man, Western society or Western civilization was a healthy example for Russia to try to follow. (Here he differed strongly, of course, from the so-called “Westerners” in Russia.) Russia must pursue its own unique historical direction of development. As a culture and civilization – with its own traditions, customs, moral order, its own history, and individual and social-psychology; it must look to itself for answers to the problems and conditions of man and civilization. Russia can learn, selectively, to benefit from ways in the West; but it must try to avoid the decay and degradation present in Western culture, morality and society, which they saw to be due to the lack of those very social principles which they claimed to find prevalent in their own culture and history (e.g. the traditional, communal “mir”).
The Slavophile image of society was deeply imbued with the Christian Orthodoxy of the East, from both the Second and Third Romes. This “vertical”-veridical comprehension of Man, society and life – one they held to permeate the best of the traditions, history and life of the people of Russia – contributed much towards distinguishing Russia from the West. In holding such a religious interpretive position, as an essential aspect of their idea of Russia’s uniqueness, the Slavophiles could not but find deep social malaise in the growing secularity in the life of the West.
It is important to recognize – especially in regard to the arguments in this work – that when Kireyevsky, and others with views similar to his, sought to define their uniqueness; they looked especially towards a tradition, a heritage of religion, which was itself much older than even the Slavic settlement of that region eventually called “Russia”. In turning toward the religious, the Orthodox life of “Holy Russia” – in attempting to define their distinctiveness from Europe – they were not embracing some merely racial, ethnic or national characteristics. They were reaching, for self-definition, into a religious, “vertical” comprehension of human existence; one which was far older than even their own peoples’ historical existence. In this sense they were – and so it was seen by some of them–, as “Holy Russia”, as Orthodox Russia, the special bearer of this profound religious tradition. By defining themselves with these ideas, which reached back beyond themselves into the deepest spiritual sources and heritage of Occidental Man, they were thereby binding their own souls, history, and future destiny, to that of all the other societies, civilizations and cultures whose spiritual traditions sourced in the same religion of Man as in Christianity. In this way they were (and are) relatives, kinsmen, to the secular heirs of Medieval Christendom, which faced them in the peoples and cultures of the nineteenth century West.
To the degree that “vertical” answers are sought – as they are in this work – in this hyper-“horizontal” age, we must consider how Russia, the peoples and nations of Europe, and the Americas, are kindred, spiritually, to this deep, common heritage of Man in Christianity.
It is quite interesting, and very meaningful, to recognize that, Emerson in America, and Kireyevsky in Russia, in their attempts to come to a deeper understanding of Man in their respective countries, both reached back (even during the same years of the 1830’s) into the early sources of their common spiritual heritage, and embraced and applied those ideas to express their own conceptions of Man. In Emerson’s famous “American Scholar Address” for example, in the introduction, he stated significantly:
It is one of those fables which out of an unknown antiquity convey as unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, the better to answer its end.
The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man – present to all particular men only partially, от through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state these functions are parcelled out to individuals, each of them whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But, unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters – a good finger, a neck, a stomach, and elbow, but never a man.
When one reads this description by Emerson of men of Man, one cannot but be readily reminded of the critique by Kireyevsky, Khomyakov and others, of the fragmented, disunified character of Western societies. Much of the modem history of the West was a seemingly almost deliberate move away from the “vertical”-religious world-view and society of Christendom, toward a more “horizontal”, earthly secularity. Emerson’s rejection of a life lived in exhaustive concern with the “horizontal”: “that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name”, is one of many pleas, by great personalities since the Renaissance, to maintain a sense of the spiritual amidst “modem”, mundane life. Emerson, Kireyevsky, Khomyakov, and many others, in various times and cultures, believed that the loss of a higher spiritual life in the individual, and the “vertical” dimension in society, could not but lead to an illness of the soul and a dissolution of society. The human being – individually and collectively seen – is such that he must have a higher meaning, a greater sense of existence. The absence of such, in the mind, heart or soul of a society, cannot but lead to ill. As Emerson stated it:
And what greater calamity can fall upon a nation that a loss of worship? Then all things go to decay. Genius leaves the temple to haunt the senate or the market. Literature becomes frivolous. Science is cold. The eye of youth is not lighted by other worlds, and age is without honor. Society lives to trifles...
* * *
The essential, pivotal question is: What is Man? What is the true inner identity of Man? A “risen ape”; a “fallen angel”; a tabula rasa; a reincarnating spiritual entelechy caught amidst an inner war of good and evil? If there is no creative God, heaven or ‘afterlife’; if there are in fact no “wings to heaven”; no other continuance or existence for man beyond that of the temporary, singular life which inevitably ends in some oblivion of death; if all the mythologies, religions and cosmologies, which reveal a deeply woven spiritual-earthly multifabric to life, are unreal fantasy; then indeed some “horizontal”, earthly identity of Man – perhaps some Darwinian, of even Deist, conception – is more than less adequate as scientific knowledge. (Humanism, no matter how noble, is still defeated by death.) But it was a “vertical”, a spiritual dimension, which Emerson and the Slavophiles asserted. Indeed, to them all, this idea of the “vertical”-veridical dimension of life, was the central axis round which all the life of Man, inner and outer, individual and societal, personal and historical, earthly and spiritual, was to be understood and evaluated.
Those who reject such a “vertical” evaluation of life – then or now – will of course, in essence, need to reject such philosophers as these, as fantasts; от, as the word is sometimes used, “idealists”. Both America and Russia, and all of Mankind – past, present and future – have souls that reject such “otherworldly” speculation as false and illusory. But the message of all three, Emerson, Kireyevsky and Khomyakov, was an expression of Man’s ultimate spiritual identity, and a call to its fuller realization – in the individual, the society, in temporal and material-earthly existence.
This call, and the world-view on which it is based for its substantiation and truth, is no less a question and challenge now, than when these three outstanding individuals themselves restated this deep perennial summons. If the “vertical” is fantasy, then this essay itself, is merely a fruitless, pitiful dalliance of mind – not to mention a fair amount of other material in the intellectual and spiritual history of Occidental Man – including of course, the thought, work and lives of Emerson, Kireyevsky and Khomyakov.
It is of great significance and meaning that Emerson uses the “old fable... that there is One Man”. For by doing so he brings the question of the identity of Man in America (and the American Scholar as “Man-Thinking” in America) into direct association with the deepest spiritual traditions and heritage of Occidental Man, of which the Russians are also progeny. Emerson, also, embraces an idea of Man in America which is far older, grander and deeper than America itself. It is not the American Man which Emerson heralds; it is the American Man. So that, this “quintessential American”, this author of America’s “Intellectual and Spiritual Declarations of Independence”, solicits for his use and meaning, an idea of Man which far surpasses in time and heritage, any temporary, historical, lesser conceptions of “American”. This is inherent in the two addresses of Emerson, from which citations above were made.
But we must understand more fully what Ralph Waldo Emerson meant when he thought of the inner constitution of this “One Man”.
The fundamental idea of Man which Emerson, and Kireyevsky and Khomyakov embraced – it also constitutes the core anthropology of Orthodox Christianity – was that Man was a potential God, a small god incarnate. Men and women of Mankind could participate in divinity; they could bring, as it has been described, “the spark of God”, within their selves, into bright realization. This is clearly and unambiguously expressed in the Orthodox Christian doctrine of deification, apotheosis. In Kireyevsky and Khomyakov, the idea of Man was basically influenced – if not principally determined – by this Orthodox anthropology. It is an idea which constitutes, essentially, the highest spiritual idea, and ideal, of Man in the history of the Occident It is the idea of Man “made in the image and likeness of God". This great idea, this tremendous ideal – which sources ultimately, in the historical record for Occidental Man, in the “wisdom of man” of Zarathustra – constitutes the intellectual and spiritual core of Emerson’s summons to Man in America. The ideal of Man to Ralph Waldo Emerson was not based on the Deist anthropology of Jefferson; it sources, ultimately, in what could be called the anthroposophy of Zarathustra.
While the idea of divinity in man is, of course, not historically unique to Emerson; it was uncommon enough, in the America of Emerson’s time, to have brought about much controversy in the society around him, into which it was spoken. In Russia, on the contrary, in “Holy Russia”, the idea of deification, was central to the teachings of the Orthodox Church; so that for this reason, Kireyevsky and Khomyakov were able, essentially, to embrace – from their own perspectives – this religious tradition and its teachings. As is written in a current, popular (English-language) study of the Orthodox Church:
The aim of the Christian life which Seraphim [of Sarov] described as the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God, can equally well be defined in terms of deification. Basil described man as a creature who has received the order to become a god....Such according to the Orthodox Church, is the final goal at which every Christian must aim: to become god, to attain theosis, ‘deification’ or ‘divinization.’ For Orthodoxy man’s salvation and redemption mean his deification.
Behind this doctrine of deification, there lies the idea of man “made according to the image and likeness of God”.
For Maximus the Confessor, for example, whom Kireyevsky helped to translate into Russian for the nineteenth century, this too was the ultimate goal of man: to regain the likeness of God (Khomyakov we shall consider in the coming section.)
For Emerson the situation was quite different. In the Protestant Calvinism, which pervaded, to various degrees, the doctrines of the various churches of New England – as well as the habituated customs and moral feelings, and the general social, cultural and intellectual world in which Emerson lived – the belief was less or more clearly and consciously present, that die Fall of Man (the “First Adam”) had irreparably damaged the “image of God” in Man. Individually and collectively – it was held – man could do little to repair this damaged divinity within. Hence, essentially, only through the past historical life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – plus the grace of God – could men and women of Mankind be “saved”. Concerning Calvinism:
Calvin maintained that if we are to state accurately what sin does to man’s use of his native talents, we must distinguish between man’s supernatural gifts, his abilities concerning heavenly things, and his natural gifts, his abilities concerning earthly things. The supernatural gifts comprise man’s ability to know God, to worship him properly, and to obey him inwardly as well as outwardly. However, we have been stripped of these gifts. The natural gifts pertain to matters of the present life, such as government, household management, all mechanical skills, and the liberal arts. Concerning these, said Calvin, our abilities have certainly not been destroyed.
Emerson could neither accept this, nor similar, modified conceptions of Man – Unitarian or otherwise – which surrounded him in the religious and intellectual life of New England. His was much closer, in certain ways, to the Orthodox, rather than to the Calvinist image of Man. As was expressed in the long quote in an earlier section, in Emerson’s “Address to the Divinity Class": it was such ‘false theology’, which brought souls to the point that they “can scarcely be convinced there is in them anything divine”. As one could say it: Emerson did not accept the idea of the irreparable damage to the image of God in Man. Emerson made plain, to the Harvard Divinity School class, his thoughts of the relation of God to Man:
Jesus Christ belonged to the true race of prophets. He saw with open eye the mystery of the soul... Alone in all history he estimated the greatness of man. One man was true to what is in you and me. He saw that God incarnates himself in man, and evermore goes forth anew to take possession of his World. He said, in this jubilee of sublime emotion, ‘I am divine. Through me, God acts; through me, speaks. Would you see God, see me; or see thee, when thou also thinketh as I now think’.
To Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jesus Christ was not Man’s soul’s sole salvation, but an example to the “Soul” (spirit) of Man; not some distant, omnipotent, savior divinity (e.g. “Apollo”), impossibly far beyond man’s highest capacities and deepest potentials. He was a brother to man. Emerson was not as enamored as Calvin as to the effects of sin. To Emerson there was no need of an intercessor between the “Soul” of Man and God – no need for a “Holy Father”, Savior, Lord, priest or pastoral authority, to guide the individual soul. That individual which is sovereign, must be the spiritual guide of their own selves:
That is always best which gives me to myself. The sublime is excited in me by the great stoical doctrine, Obey thyself. That which shows God in me, fortifies me. That which shows God out of me, makes me a wart and a wen.
So that, indeed, Emerson’s “Divinity School Address” – which brought him, in the newspapers, accusations of “infidelity, pantheism, and atheism” – was a “Spiritual Declaration of Independence” from the overlordship of religious “forms”, doctrines, and the ‘visible’, historical Church. This is unambiguously stated in his contrast of the “Church with the Soul”. Man in America – at least in its best representatives – must not be spiritually dependent and governed; should not accept being bound by the religion of the earthly, traditional Church. Man, for Emerson, can and should realize God in himself, by himself, in America. “...God is, not was...” spoke Emerson. Hence, apotheosis is, for Emerson, the greatest possibility, the greatest potential in the inner life of Mankind – also in America. However rarely realized this may be, this was his greatest calling.
I look for the hour when that supreme Beauty which ravished the souls of those Eastern men, and chiefly of those Hebrews, and through their lips spoke oracles to all time, shall speak in the West also.
This summons by Emerson, to the “Soul” in the West, is deeply kin to, yet nevertheless distinct from, the spiritual tasks as seen by Kireyevsky and Khomyakov. “Deification” was the goal of all three – Kireyevsky’s “integral personality” is ultimately derived from the idea of the fallen and restored “image of God” in Man: “restoring the essential personality in its primeval indivisibility”. Yet, while all three reached back into their common spiritual heritage, towards the idea of Adam, the Primal Man, the Cosmic Anthropos, the “One Man”; in order to articulate their own comprehensions of Man. Still, one can readily sense, in Emerson’s writing and thought, the broad waters of the Atlantic, as well as the lands of Europe, which lie between the sunrise lands of Occidental Man in the eastern Mediterranean, and his New World’s Massachusetts. The spiritual sources and original thoughts of “those Eastern men”, of the Ancient Near East’s lands and cultures, are much nearer to the Russians Kireyevsky and Khomyakov, not only geographically and historically, but also, of course, via the Wisdom of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. So that it seems – to this writer and others – as if, in some ways, the fogs and waters of the Atlantic Ocean, had somehow softened and diffused the articulation and expression of Emerson’s ideas-from his sunrise coast of the New World, America. America is much further spiritually West of the wisdoms of the Ancient Near East, than Russia. The Third Rome of Philotheos is in Moscow not Boston.
It is interesting, that both Kireyevsky and Emerson journeyed to Europe, partly to help themselves in a time of personal trouble and pain of heart For Emerson this was due to the early death of his young (first) wife; for Kireyevsky, it was from an unsatisfactory dissolution of a first love relationship. For both men, their journey was a rich experience; though they traveled in different regions of Europe. Emerson did not visit Central Europe on this trip; rather Italy, France and England. During his ten-month journey in Europe, Emerson, like Kireyevsky, experienced much of the Old World’s depth – and dearth. He conversed, likewise, with leading personalities; in his case: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle and William Wordsworth. As Kireyevsky left Central Europe more reconciled to his own Russia, Emerson returned to America in a renewed resignation to his own life journey, in the New World.
On board a ship on the Atlantic Ocean, in September of 1833, Emerson – three years after Kireyevsky’s journey to Central Europe – was returning from his first pilgrimage there. He wrote in his private journal, during the turbulent one-month sea voyage returning to America:
Back again to myself. – A man contains all that is needful to his government within himself. He is made a law unto himself. All real good or evil that can befall him must be from himself....The purpose of life seems to be to acquaint a man with himself. Two years later – with similar meaning – on March 23, 1835, Emerson wrote in his journal:
Alone is wisdom. Alone is happiness. Society nowadays makes us low-spirited, hopeless. Alone is heaven.
“Alone is heaven”. It would be difficult to find a more succinct summary of Emerson’s conception of spiritual individualism. Such an understanding and summons of Man remained the essential core of Emerson’s philosophy until the quiet end of his life. The point to recognize here, is that Emerson returned from the Old World to the New World – and to the young United States of America – more reconciled to his own individual self. Kireyevsky, coming from Czarist, post-Decembrist Russia, had seen the “present” in Central Europe, and returned to develop a renewed recognition and appraisal of Old Holy Russia’s past – and potent future. Emerson had come from the “future”, the New World of America, through the ne plus ultra of the Pillars of Hercules, and reviewed parts of the West’s own historical past in the Old World: Malta, Sicily, Rome (Pope Gregory XVI in the Sistine Chapel), Florence, Padua, Venice, Geneva, Paris, London, Edinburgh, Liverpool; thence returning to New York. He returned, reinvigorated, to embrace his own life in America, in his own “present”. The “past” [in Europe] was for Emerson instructive and informative, but essentially lifeless; the “present” to Kireyevsky was educational, but deadening; returning to a Russia whose deep past of traditions, customs and lore he soon came to herald. Emerson’s individualism could stand in the American “present” and live into the future; Kireyevsky’s rejection of Europe’s “present” with its psychic and social isolation, had him look into the past, towards the community, traditions and heritage of Old Holy Russia – and its potency for the future.
It is helpful, in order to understand Emerson’s thought – and much of America’s spiritual history – to consider in what other directions Emerson might have turned, during his lifetime, in the United States of America during the nineteenth-century, to come to a personal resolution with the deeper questions of meaning in life. New England, while it had some of the oldest transplanted customs, ideas and traditions from the Old World to the New, was not itself the revered, old sourceful site for most of them. Of course, the New World had its own story; but its intellectual life was essentially transported from the Old World ‘in the minds’ of the settlers and colonists – it was not one deep with its own philosophic age. The bulk of the religious ideas by which the colonists to the New World lived, had come from distant lands, from Jerusalem to Canterbury. The New World was religiously dependent on the Old; such traditions as it had, were, in the main, importations into a “strange new world"; they were not inherent to it.
Emerson did not find the vitality and immediacy, which his soul sought, amidst his New England surroundings. The United States of America was, by the time of Emerson’s maturation, safely established in its political independence from the Old World. However, Emerson was not satisfied. He thirsted for more spiritual content to ensoul the inherited religious forms; enthusiasm to inspire pastoral exegesis; originality and presence to enliven accumulated doctrine. Such he did not find around him. What he experienced in the pulpits of the churches – there where spiritual truth and moral challenge should have most been spoken – he described in a rather devastating, but caring critique, of contemporary “preaching”:
But, with whatever exception, it is still true that tradition characterizes the preaching of this country; that is comes out of the memory, and not out of the soul; that it aims at what is usual, and not at what is necessary and eternal; that thus historical Christianity destroys the power of preaching, by withdrawing it from the explanation of the moral nature of man; where the sublime is, where are the resources of astonishment and power...
I think no man can go with his thoughts about him into one of our churches, without feeling that what hold the public worship had cm men is gone, or going. It has lost its grasp on the affection of the good and the fear of the bad.
Emerson asks the students of Harvard’s divinity class concerning the religious life around them:
In how many churches, by how many prophets, tell me, is man made sensible that he is an infinite Soul; that the earth and heavens are passing into his mind; that he is drinking forever the soul of God? Where now sounds the persuasion, that by its very melody imparadises my heart, and so affirms its own origin in heaven? Where shall I hear words such as in elder ages drew men to leave all and follow – father and mother, house and land, wife and child? Where shall I hear these august laws of moral being so pronounced as to fill my ear, and I feel ennobled by the offer of my uttermost action and passion?
Emerson could not find the answers to these questions, in his New England surroundings; thus he turned to reliance on his own self, and the “Soul” of the individual. But a full response to Emerson’s questions could have been found – even during the time when he asked them – In Russia. Where, despite the partial subservience of Church to State, there was present the deep heritage of a spiritual conception of Man which we have considered above. Such plaintive questions as Emerson asked in America, could not have been so queried in Orthodox Russia. For the spiritual life which he solicited, could be found in Russia; at least, for example, in the lives and wisdom of the elders (starzi) of the monasteries of Holy Russia. Admittedly, it is doubtful that Emerson, the American, would have been contented with any sort of reclusive monasticism, any withdrawal from the world, into a cloistered, quiet, holy life devoted to God. Even a pursuit of deification would, in so far as it was a retirement from the life and activity – and sovereignty – of man and human society, not have been one which Emerson, as an American, could affirm without qualification. Emerson’s “Man" should not retire from the complexities and secularity of life and world to seek God; rather he should actively restore, and represent, God in life, and in the world of Man. Could Emerson, as Emerson, somehow have lived in Holy Russia, rather than New England, during the time of his life, he would certainly have had differing challenges to issue towards its religious life and traditions, not the least of which might have been to provoke it from “otherworldliness” and ‘God-reliance’. But that the religious life of Holy Russia, with its deep lineage back into Constantinople, Mt Athos, etc., was yet a living source of spiritual presence and wisdom, can be recognized by considering one single monastery: Optina Pustyn. For not only did Ivan Kireyevsky, his brother Peter, and Khomyakov, have close relations there during their lives; but also such leading spirits as Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Soloviev, N. F. Fedorov, and others of creativity and learning, had personal relations to this monastery – and its elders – which were vital to their inner lives. While these leading personalities of nineteenth century Russia held meaningful relations to the spiritual and religious heritage present in this and other monasteries, New England had no such “Optina Pustyn”, with its elders.
Dostoyevsky journeyed to Optina Pustyn in June of 1878, with the young Vladimir Soloviev, to visit the Staretz Ambrose Grenkov, to seek reconciliation in his life, with the deeply disturbing death of a young son (Alyosha). In America, perhaps the nearest equivalent to this journey by two of the ‘deepest and truest’ of Russia, was the gathering of many of America’s best (e.g. Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Hiram K. Jones, William T. Harris, and others) at the Concord School of Philosophy. A clear recognition of the difference of mentality and atmosphere of the Optina Pustyn Monastery and the summer gatherings at the Concord School of Philosophy would contribute profoundly towards understanding the difference and direction of the intellectual and spiritual life of Russia and America.
Consider, for example, how profoundly differing are the comprehensions as to the purpose and meaning of Mankind, in quotes pertaining to the inner life of the Optina Pustyn monastery and the Concord School of Philosophy. In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky partially renders in literature, his experience and understanding of this monastery, with its wise elders and holy life. "Father Zossima” (modeled partially cm Grenkov/Amvrosi) says of man:
Indeed many of the strongest feelings and movements of our nature we cannot comprehend on earth. Let not that be a stumbling block, and think not that it may serve as a justification to you for anything. For the Eternal Judge asks of you only what you can understand. You will know that yourself hereafter, for you will behold all things truly then and will not dispute them. On earth, indeed, we are as it were astray, and if it were not for the precious image of Christ before us, we should be undone and altogether lost, as was the human race before the flood. Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystic sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds. That is why the philosophers say that we cannot understand the reality of things on earth.
“The philosophers say that we cannot understand the reality of things on earth.” Here we have a philosophy of life and man, reminiscent, because related, to the European culture of Christendom, during the so-called “Middle Ages”. This is, unquestionably, a “vertical” comprehension of life and man. Compare this understanding of the meaning and purpose of life, and the mood and atmosphere of such thoughts, borne and held in the Optina Pustyn, to a well-written public recounting of the purpose of the Concord School of Philosophy from 1882:
‘It is high time [stated President of Princeton McCosh] that America should have a philosophy of its own,’ as it already has a literature, and art, and a history of its own. But this philosophy should not be merely derivative. All systems and methods should be candidly examined; and we should likewise look into the original undimmed source of all philosophies, viz., the mind itself. America should not adopt the old monarchical plan of enthroning one man and his system overall, but ought rather to develop a republic of philosophy, a federation of thought, diversity being reconciled in free but well-defined union. The school is in harmony with this object. Our national life, powerful, vast and complex as it is, moves so swiftly that it is apt to be unreflecting. Exactly what we are about, what is the value of our civilization, and toward what ideals we are working, are things not so clear as they might be, and there is great need of keener analysis and more careful thinkers to prevent our drifting blindly – to prevent that is not by obstructive conservatism, but by progressive comprehension. To educate for this purpose then, is another object of the school. In order to know what to teach and what to receive we must seek through philosophy the one central principle on which the world, the universe, rests. Then we have to trace this back again from that, through all its manifestations in religion, government, literature, art, science and manners. This is manifestly a large job, and the Concord School does not expect to carry it out so that it will never have to be done again, but rather to set people in the right path, so that they can keep on doing it forever. At a time when Germany itself is overpowered by the influence of MILL, SPENSER and DARWIN, and the genius of materialism is getting so strong a hold everywhere, it is interesting to And that the Concord School reasserts with breadth and penetration the supremacy of the mind. It is in accord with the insight of EMERSON in making personality, mind, the soul, the main thing for which all exists.
It should be understood that this interpretation of the ultimate meaning and purpose of the Concord School, and of philosophy in America – as was held by Princeton University President McCosh – would have been considered too prosaic and mundane by some of the other active participants of the school (including e.g. Emerson; Hiram K. Jones, a Christian Platonist, who helped found the school; Bronson Alcott, who lectured on mysticism, and on whose property the school gatherings were held). Yet such ideas, and description, could easily be spoken, and agreed to, by many, as a clear and accurate account of the substance and purpose of the “school”- and the character and purpose of philosophy.
A diversity, a pluralism of ideas, perspectives and “systems” were heard during the decade-long existence of the Concord School of Philosophy. These gatherings, for “instruction by conference and conversation in literature and the higher (i.e. idealistic) philosophy” (as the first circular described it), began their first session in July of 1879. It lasted five weeks, during which time were heard lectures and discussions on “Christian Theism, Speculative Philosophy, Platonic Philosophy, Political Philosophy”, et al. During the decade of its existence, the Concord School of Philosophy saw many significant and notable personalties from the intellectual world of America and elsewhere, and considered a wide range of subjects and themes. In addition to the persons already mentioned, the ten summers saw, as participants: Louisa May Alcott, William H. Channing, Frederick Hedge, Julia Ward Howe, George Howison of Berkeley, William James, Miss Elizabeth Peabody, Alexander Wilder (occultist, theosophist, friend of H.P. Blavatsky, and H.S. Olcott); Presidents of the Universities of Wisconsin, Michigan, Yale, et al; plus many professors from diverse colleges and universities. Other topics included Aristotle, “American Philosophy”, Dante, Dramatic poetry, “Fate and Freedom”, Fichte, Goethe, Hegel, Kant, Marlowe, Milton, Neo-Platonism, Nirvana, “Pantheism and Modem Science”, Schelling, Schiller, Schopenhauer, Scottish Philosophy, Shakespeare, “Space and Time”, Spencer and many others.
Yet, however learned and noble were the goals and activities of the founders and participants of the Concord School during the years from 1879-1889, the school’s inner life was one primarily characterizable as a pluralism of the mind; of that very mental life which Kireyevsky and other Russians had reacted to in Europe. It was predominately, in content, character, method and goal, an intellectual discussion; a comparison of ideas and “systems”; a contrasting of points of view; a “republic of philosophy, a federation of thought”. This is especially apparent when considered in relation to the “vertical”-veridical inwardness, the holiness, depth and purity, pursued by the genuine holy men in Russia’s monasteries – those spiritual sources toward whom Kireyevsky, Dostoyevsky, and many others, had turned for understanding, solace and wisdom. What is the most complete development of the human being? To this question, quite different answers would come from American and Russian “philosophy”.
The “Hillside Chapel”, built for the Concord School of Philosophy during the same year that Dostoyevsky was completing The Brothers Karamazov (1880, the year before his death), was topped by a small cross, on its simple wooden structure. But the inner life beneath it, was predominately one of the mind; especially in comparison to that of those deeply religious, seeking souls, beneath the Russian Crosses and Icons of Optina Pustyn Monastery. Yet still, it must be firmly recognized; many of the best, creative spirits of each country, sought spiritual sustenance, understanding, knowledge and wisdom, in that source which was their nations’ own. However profoundly different, in content, character and spirit, these two spiritual sources and styles were from each other, in themselves; each seemed, to most of those who participated in them, in each of their respective lands, more than less an inherent, natural, ennobled (and ennobling), complete and whole pursuit of the best and highest of the inner life of Man.
The contrast here is strong and pronounced, and since it can lead into deeper insight and broader understanding in regard to the history, reality and distinctiveness of American Mind and Russian Soul, let us consider more fully the two quotes above. Comparing the idea and philosophy of Man in each, will contribute much toward comprehending the difference of the predominately “horizontal” character of American mental life, and the “vertiсаl”-tending Russian soulful search for spirit.
The quote above, from The Brothers Karamazov, comes from “Alyosha Karamazov’s manuscript” of Father Zossima’s words. As the elder Zossima bespoke it: man’s true home is not on this earth; it is, rather, in the “higher heavenly world”. Indeed, even for the very inner life of man, "the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds”, and mankind can never come to a full understanding or peace with life in this earth, for “much is hidden from us”, and it will only be understood in the life “hereafter”, where man will be able to behold and understand from the “other worlds”. Here clearly, is a “vertical”, perhaps one could say, “theo-centric” comprehension of life and mankind. One that is in dramatic contrast to that one so well described by Princeton University President McCosh, regarding the Concord School’s life and purpose, as well as the role of philosophy in America.
In President McCosh’s description, there is no glimpse or sense of any other life – than that in this world. His entire conception stands without any conception of the presence or necessity of any life “hereafter”; of any divine, higher, inner life of man; or of any “Eternal Judge” above. All of his ideas exist, comfortably inbounded, within the “horizontal”; it is anthropo-centric, not theocentric; mundane, not otherworldly. With no Creator God considered in attempting to understand the meaning of life (“what we are about”), or the purpose and goal of human civilization and development (“what is the value of our civilization, and toward what ideals are we working”); some position to balance and contrast the “genius of materialism” must be held. And this is found in the assertion of “the supremacy of the mind”. A theocentric “old monarchy” of philosophy being presumably too severe and tyrannical for a “republic of philosophy, a federation of thought”; and the “influence of Mill, Spencer, and Darwin, and the ‘genius of materialism’” being, presumably, too anarchic, undignified and immoral; it is to the “personality, mind, the soul, the main thing for which all exists”, that one should look for a center and source in relation to which to understand life and human existence. It is not that the mind of Man has already simply made sense of life and this world; and is satisfied. The questions of life, and the necessity of their pursuit, are recognized and acknowledged. Man must, in order not to “drift blindly”, “seek through philosophy [read intellectual understanding] the one central principle on which the world, the universe, rests”. But, in the conception of man here assumed, this can be done only by and through “the original undimmed source of all philosophies, viz., the mind itself”.
Clearly here, the answers to the ultimate questions of life, world, and man, are to be sought for, in, and by way of, the mind of Man; no conception of a “precious mystic sense of our living bond with the other world” enters into such a “horizontal” anthropology. Even though McCosh, a Scottish Philosopher, cites Emerson as to the centrality of the “personality”, his thought hardly allows sufficient ‘height’ to include this Transcendentalisms idea of the “Soul”, with its relation to the higher life of spirit The “vertical” in Emerson’s conception of Man, is indeed a spiritual escape from the confines of an intellectual “horizontally” of this world; but Emerson’s mind was, and is, less common in America that McCosh’s. McCosh’s description of the inner content and purpose of philosophy, and the Concord School, is typical of an almost unconscious assumption, and tendency, in the intellectual life in America, that the thinking mind, is able, of itself, to fully understand the world, ascertain meaning in human existence, and give order and direction to human endeavor.
The idea of an intellectual "republic of philosophy, a federation of thought”, and a “horizontal” interpretation of the world, is very typical and characteristic of the intellectual, spiritual and cultural life of the USA – and much of the West. This is, predominately, a life and realization of the Mind of Man, living in the earthly, material world, which is here in nourishment Emerson’s summons, for the aristocratic “American Scholar”, and the dignified humility of a “newborn bard of the Holy Ghost”, is one clear voice of articulation, which calls individuals in America, to strive to escape from both the limitations and confines of the rational mind, and any exclusive and ignoble interests in the mundane world. This is certainly a call to “inner greatness”; and one of which James Truslow Adams was well aware. It is a call seen from within the American character, culture, nation and people – towards the highest spiritual achievements of Man in America. Without some such awe-filling central challenge and core, for the inner life (both of the heart and mind) of the individual, the society and the culture – around which they may orient themselves, with, at least, a humble agnostic reverence towards the ultimate, great questions and mysteries of life – a people and civilization shall surely dissipate into some essentially meaningless, earthliness of body, mind and soul. Such is a real spiritual dis-ease.
Of Russia, in the late nineteenth century, on the contrary, one could not say that there was present, among its creative, spiritually-tending individuals, the unconscious presumption, or strong, pervasive tendency, to imagine, that the mind of man, by itself alone, was adequate either for the inner life, or for an understanding of life and world. The Brothers Karamazov – In so far as it was (and is?) a work which is essentially characteristic of Russia, and Russian inner life – Is a good example, which makes abundantly clear the impossibility of any such interpretation. Indeed, the battle between the secular, agnostic mind of the West, and a struggle in the human depths of the Russian Soul for a true morality, is one of the central themes of this work. The struggle in the human soul is between the most noble and the most base impulses. In this inner struggle, the human soul may degrade or ascend. The ideal of man, for Kireyevsky and Khomyakov, bore their call for the purification, the catharsis of the soul unto spirit.
Not only did the Orthodox peasantry in pre-revolutionary Russia orient themselves around the “vertical”. The best spirits of Russia, called her to struggle upwards, to rise towards the greatest spiritual heights of which she was potent. But as we near the year 2000 A.D., if the Russian Soul was indeed “broken in two” by the vehement atheism of the Bolsheviks; then it must needs be maided by the Russians themselves. The reestablishment of a spiritual “center”, a “vertical”, in “post-communist” Russia, must – If it shall ever be – be a conscious and deliberate spiritual re-creation. If the recent decades of suffering of the Russian people has brought them, to willing some real individual and collective repentance, then perhaps the “old call” to Old Russia, upwards to spirit, shall now be heard anew. The introduction to the Vekhi essays of 1909, demand thoughtful reflection, in regard to such questions:
[it is] the practical primacy of spiritual life over the external forms of society, in the sense that the inner life of the individual is the only creative force in human life, and that it, and not the self-sufficient principles of the political order, is the only solid foundation of any social structure.
* * *
We must seek to learn, from the search for Man, by the ‘best brightest and truest’ of both America and Russia.
The criticisms and attacks on institutions, which we have witnessed, has made one thing plain, that society gains nothing whilst a man, not himself renovated, attempts to renovate things around him.
...you may compare objectively what is attained as science and philosophy in the European West with what appeared in the East, let us say in Tolstoy. One does not need to be a follower of Tolstoy, but one thing is true; in a book such as Tolstoy’s On Life you may read one page, if you understand how to read it, and compare it with whole libraries in Western Europe. And you may then say the following: In Western Europe one makes spiritual culture with the intellect; one chisels out certain details and puts them together to form something that is supposed to make the world comprehensible, and the achievements of Western European civilization in this respect will never be surpassed. But if you understand such a book as Tolstoy’s On Life, you will often find condensed into ten lines what in those Western European libraries it takes thirty volumes to say. Tolstoy says something with elemental force, and in a few lines of his there is the same amount of energy as in assembled in thirty such volumes....
This is only mentioned as a symptom of the future age when the spirituality of the East will unite with the intellectuality of the West From this union will proceed the age of Philadelphia.
Americans live so much of their inner lives ‘in the mind’, with rational, “common sense” thinking; with their full center of consciousness inside of their skulls, that it is (unconsciously) assumed that such a condition and manner of inner being is, as if, transnationally, transculturally and trans-historically inherent and “natural” to the human being as such. Even for those who would not concur with some high appraisal of the capacity and “supremacy of the mind”, either for reasons of religious belief, or some contrasting psychological interpretation of the human being, the preponderance of their inner life is still mostly lived, in thinking, in the rational mind. Indeed, many “Westerners” – be they North American, Western European, or Russian – might ask what else they might do; how else they might be!
What we are considering here, is not whether one holds a materialistic, humanistic-anthropocentric, religious-theocentric or spiritual conception of life, world and man. But whether, holding any of these “belief-systems”, one does so predominately, with the rational-intellectual-thinking mind. It is the psychology, the mentality – the manner of inner being – which is here essential, and in question; not the contents of the “belief-system”, be it a spiritual, anthropological or material one. For what Kireyevsky and kindred spirits were, in this regard, challenging, was not so much the philosophy or “belief-system”, held by some Western individual or other, but rather how it was held – the mode, the mentality, the psychology of the individual who “believed it", most often, with the rational mind. It was the predominance of the rational, conscious, thinking mind over the other sensibilities, forces, feelings, aspects, etc, of the human soul (psyche) and heart, which Kireyevsky, Khomyakov, Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Soloviev, et al, were challenging of the “Westerners”, be they European or Russian. Some special inwardness, in these and other Russians – and sensitive Europeans – found such “Westerners” to be incomplete, partial human beings; with an absence, rather than presence of soul. And, since “Westerners" were considered in comparison to the profound “vertical” conception and wisdom of life and man, which constituted the ideal core of Holy Russia, their incompleteness as human beings was viewed as being part and parcel of a secular-tending culture and civilization. Such a critique would obviously include, those philosophies and psychologies of man, be they from the Renaissance or the “Age of Reason”, which conceived man’s inner life to be centered, if not, at its best, limited, to the mind; with the outer life limited to the earthly “horizontal”. The “Slavophile” critique of Western Man can only be truly understood by recognizing that “vertical”, spiritual, Orthodox conception and comprehension of man, society and life which was the inner life which made Russia Holy.
The meaning of what Kireyevsky and others said, and are saying, to the “Westerner” – whether they be in nineteenth Berlin, Paris, London, Boston, or Moscow; оr in the late twentieth century, in the Soviet Union, or in some comfortable, academic American position, etc., etc., – is that the entire human soul, the whole inner life of man, with all its forces, feelings, capacities and aspects (especially the human heart) are requisite, not only for individual psychic as well as social health, but also for true knowledge and wisdom. (But not, and here is the deepest key – and the profound depth, in which they disagreed with Francis Bacon – with the unredeemed, “fallen” condition of Man.)
In the conception of man borne by the Orthodox Church – and bespoken as well by prominent nineteenth century Russians – faith (fides in Latin) is not some religious intellectual “belief-system” of ideas, to which one gives (questioning or unquestioning) intellectual assent. It is rather conceived (cf. e.g. Kireyevsky or V. Soloviev) as a living, inner presence, in and of the human heart and soul, toward aspects of life, meaning and being, which are beyond the common knowledge and experience, of the rational, earthly mind. Scientia is able to understand and manipulate the matters of the material world. It can also, especially when added to a scepticism of the heart, subjugate fides into an inner serfdom. Fides, by itself alone, may perhaps yield an innocent’s peace, a mystic’s otherworldliness or a holy foolishness. But fides alone, can be overpowered by the practical realities of matter and scientia. Yet only both, scientia and fides – and fides as a vital soul presence – can lead to illuminatory sapientia. In other words, the ennobled mind, a purified heart, the redeemed soul – and a repentant will – are requisite for real human knowledge and wisdom. The West’s scientia must be completed, indeed, redeemed from its one-sidedness. This, the Occident’s East, in Russia and Eastern Europe, could do by contributing a soul wholeness and a vertical conception of man. The Christian East’s fides must be incarnated into the realities of earthly life; this the accomplished West can do.
Whatever the differences and similarities were, and are, as to the details of die inner alchemy of man towards some “self-renovation”, completion, sapientia, or deification; for the American Emerson, and the early Russian Slavophiles, there is one essential and profound distinction which seems essentially and pivotally characteristic for each of these peoples. And that concerns the understanding and evaluation of the individual, in relation to the community, the society in which they live. If there would have been little disputation by Emerson with Kireyevsky’s goal of the “integral personality”; their recognition and appraisal of the individual stands in deep contrast. Yet, in Kireyevsky’s and Khomyakov’s highest conception of the individual vis-a-vis the community, lies a profoundly encouraging and enlightening complementarity to Emerson’s conception of the individual as a “sovereign state”.
Kireyevsky returned from Central Europe, as did a number of Russians, with experience of the isolation of the individual in the societies of the West He, and others, attributed this to the predominance of “rationalism”, in the inner life of the individual; as an organizing principle in society (“not community”); and, in complement to the primarily secular emphasis and interest in the life of “this world”, as the basis for a philosophy of man, society, civilization, nature, etc. Kireyevsky could hardly be accepting of a Jefferson; as he found even Schleiermacher incomplete.
Kireyevsky came to herald the idea of the Russian “obschina” and “mir”, and the deep soul which was common to all mankind, in regard to the realities of life, in this world, and the next The “obschina” was a small peasant community conceived to be “organically” ordered according to age-old customs, traditions, and religious Orthodoxy; it was not at all, some rationally organized society. It was, ideally, a community of shared land and property, customs, ways and manners, etc; in other words, a communal brotherhood. It was governed by the “mir”, a group of elders who settled controversies for the benefit of the entire community according to age-old customs, etc. Thousands of such communities were imagined to make Russia into one great community, one great “mir”. And it was this conception of community, and the whole, healthy individual in the community, which Kireyevsky embraced of Russia’s life and history, in order to describe a healthier individual and social order, than he had experienced in Central Europe. Community – organic, customary, traditional community – came to be contrasted to the rational individual and the rationally organized societies in the West Emerson had rejected common society in his embrace of the noble individual. And though both Kireyevsky and Emerson rejected a mundane, secular conception of man and society, for a “vertical” one; Kiryevsky called for a higher community.
What is very interesting to consider in this regard, is the early Slavophile Alexsei S. Khomyakov’s idea of “sobornost”; which he developed in contrast to the secular individualism of the West, as well as the Papal conceptions of the Church. It could be said that “sobornost” is the idea of community, developed to its greatest spiritual heights.
The “quintessential American” Emerson had written to himself: “Alone is Heaven”. Near in time, but far away in geographical distance, culture and setting, Khomyakov wrote quite otherwise:
The isolated individual represents absolute impotence and unalleviated inner division. The Truth inaccessible for an individual consciousness is accessible only to a combination of consciousness, bound together by love.
Individual thinking can be fruitful and powerful only in conjunction with a development of collective thinking, and the latter is possible only when the highest knowledge and the people expressing it are bound together into the whole organization of society by the ties of free and wise love.
For Khomyakov, clearly, the individual can only live fully, as a member of the community. The isolated individual is only a fragment of himself, and the community. As Andrzej Walicki describes it, for Khomyakov: “An individual can comprehend the truth only insofar as he is united to the church in loving fellowship and thus becomes an organ of a consciousness transcending the individual (sobornost’ soznaniia).”
The spiritual community: “sobornost”, is an idea closely kin to the idea of the inner, invisible church: the “ecclesia spiritualis” (to use a Latin expression for it). One might describe it as a Russian community of Philadelphie Pentecost. Indeed, Khomyakov’s idea of sobornost was directly influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as his own competent studies in the Bible (especially Saint Paul) and the early Church Fathers. The “sobornost” community was held by Khomyakov not merely to exist at any one current historical time, based on a heritage of doctrine and lore. Rather this community, the ecclesia was thought to extend through time; the inner spiritual life maintaining a continuity of consciousness, which came from the ancient past and extended into the future, in a moving presence.
Such ideas stand in great contradiction to the ‘wisdom’ of Emerson. This is evident enough by comparing them to Emerson’s ideas quoted in earlier sections. ‘Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string”, is a well-known phrase which Emerson wrote in his characteristic essay “Self-Reliance”. Emerson’s view of society – which is often quoted from his essay “Self-Reliance” – is dramatically, deeply different to that of his Russian contemporary Khomyakov:
Society everywhere is in a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of die other. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs. Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. .Nothing is at last sacred to you but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
As Emerson viewed ancient wisdom, tradition, the continuity of ü past, he wrote in the same essay:
Whenever a mind is simple and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away – means, teachers, texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into the present hour...If therefore a man claims to know and speak of God and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not.. Whence then this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul.
The strong contrast of Emerson’s “self-reliance” to Khomyakov’s “sobornost” is obvious. Below, we shall see how they are kin.
The highest ideal of man, for Khomyakov, was for the individuals of a community – in freedom, love and truth – to have their guiding spiritual representatives, let god speak through each of them, in a communal relationship. One isolated individual alone could, at best, be a partial, incomplete human being, with a limited knowledge of Truth, and a single inadequate voice for God. It was the spiritual community – those members of any entire society who are the true men and women of God – which was to constitute a chorus, a polyphony, a polyloguy of God’s Truth. As Khomyakov wrote:
All the life-giving capacities of the higher intellect (Razum) live and flourish only in a friendly communion of thinking beings. The lower intellect (Razsudok) however, in its lowest function, analysis, does not require this and becomes, therefore, the inevitable and sole representative of the thinking capacity in an impoverished and egotistical soul.
Clearly, for Khomyakov, individual or collective man, whether European, American or Russian, could function in the mundane world with the “lower intellect”; but the spiritual life in community only lives in the highest aspects of human nature, communally enjoined.
Both Khomyakov and Emerson strongly rejected the individual, social, and spiritual condition of the “egotistical soul”, which lived exclusively in the secular, mundane world by way of the rational “lower intellect”. Yet, while Khomyakov spoke unambiguously of the communal individual, be that of the earthly “obschina” or “mir”, or the spiritual “sobornost”; Emerson, just as firmly rejecting the common condition of man, called for the sovereign individual to stand alone before society, culture, history and God. In other words, for Khomyakov, the condition of the “impoverished and egotistical soul”, living in the “lower intellect”, is relieved by participation in the higher inner life, which can only be achieved in “a friendly communion of thinking beings”. But for Emerson, this condition is to be relieved by the solitary individual alone, reaching independently, for the higher inner life. They both conceive of an escape from the mundane condition of the “impoverished and egotistical soul”, into the “higher intellect” (Razum, Reason). But for the Russian Khomyakov, this can only be accomplished communally; whereas for Emerson, it is the solitary individual who must do this.
The American Scholar is, as “Man-Thinking” in America, to take such an independent stance before the world. And in the “Address to the Divinity Class”, Emerson told the students of divinity, not to be preachers of tradition, but to be “new-born bards[s] of the Holy Ghost”. The individual is to have a solitary relation to the higher inner life and the world of God; to be a “soliloquist” of God. This is a spiritual soliloquy for Emerson; for Khomyakov, it is a spiritual polyloguy that is essential. Here we have come to the deep kinship of the anthropologies, the “an-throposophies” of Emerson and Khomyakov. The spirit of God, the “Holy Spirit” (pneuma, spiritus) of God in Man, must – to both of these men – speak to, in and through Man. Yet in Emerson, the enthusiastic (en+theos) individual must speak, as an independent, solitary, sovereign individual, to mankind. As cited above from Emerson’s Divinity School Address at Harvard:
The true Christianity – a faith like Christ’s in the infinitude of men – is lost None believeth in the soul [“spirit”] of man, but only in some man от person old and departed. Ah me! no man goeth alone. All men go in flocks to this saint or that poet...They think society wiser than their own soul, and know not that one soul, and their soul, is wiser than the whole world.
For Khomyakov, no single, isolated individual is even capable, in separation from other devoted sons and daughter of God, to be but a broken, fragmentary portion of the Truth-in-sobornost As a study of the Slavophile idea of the person and society has it:
The Slavophile theologian Khomyakov defined “true Christianity” as “not an institution, not a doctrine”, but as a supraindividual spiritual togetherness (sobornost), the “living organism of truth and love”. The precondition of such a community of supra-individual consciousness is the in viable continuity of the Christian Church tradition, which presupposes a rejection of the autonomy of the individual reason.
The contrast and kinship here, is fundamental, and profound; revealing quite different spiritual paths, contrary historical directions and unique struggles, to come to an understanding of the relation of man to God, society, life and world. And is perhaps – as I hope now to clearly explain – potentially much more than historically interesting.
It is in die spiritual heights, in the highest aspects of Man, as conceived by Emerson and Khomyakov, that there is to be found the great kinship of their thought. Their evaluation of the individual human being, within the social order, reveals a deep contrast. Yet both base their thought on an idea of Man which has, essentially, the same spiritual source. So here we have, two leading representatives, from each of these separate and distinct cultures; who, wholly unknown to each other, become – contemporaneously – the voices of those conceptions of Man which each nation came to consider as most characteristic and unique of itself. And yet, in regard to their spiritual conceptions of Man, it could truthfully be said, that Emerson, Khomyakov, and Kireyevsky, are kin; related members of a common community; citizens of the same “spiritual nation” (natio). For, however much they may have differed biographically, and as Russians and Americans; in their philosophies of life, man and world, they commonly participate, essentially, in the origin and injunction of the highest conception of Man in the Western tradition: that in which Man comes originally from God, and can be a representative of God’s spirit (pneuma, spiritus) on Earth. Though in America, with Emerson, it is the enthusiastic (en-thusiasm) individual that is central; and in Russia, for Khomyakov and Kireyevsky, it is the enthusiastic, inspired community, which is so seen. In both countries, for those people in each nation who would orient and guide their lives by the spiritual, the “vertical” life in man, both have in common, as it were, the heritage of “the First Adam”, and the challenge of the Last. And in this way, they are not only kin in origin; but also in seeking the same destination, of spiritual citizenship – one which, ultimately, is that of the same otherworldly city.
While now, and certainly for much time to come, the identity and “nationality” (natio, nasci nat – be born) of the majority of each countries’ populace shall remain earthly, “horizontal”; those who rise up to complete the highest spiritual, the highest “vertical” call, extant in both of their lands, thereby seek a birth, a nationality, a citizenship, which transcends the earthly – being born of spirit into a higher community. Such “otherworldly” citizenship certainly requires real inner renunciation and redemption; and, as such, shall remain, unpopular in thought, and rare in deed. Nonetheless, such constitutes the highest ideals towards which each nation, in their respective spiritual histories – and highest “national” identities – would have men and women strive.
In regards to the spiritual life of the individual in the American Dream, as this was conceived and expressed by James Truslow Adams, he wrote:
[Emerson’s] insistence on values in life, culminating in the spiritual, is (me sorely needed in the America of our day as of his. We are, perhaps, further from the ideal he drew of the “American Scholar” than were the men of his own time.
And in regard to Russia, Vladimir S. Soloviev said it simply:
Holy Russia demands holy work.
And while all of this is, and shall be, seldom enough; it is only when individuals and communities, of Americans and Russians (and other nationalities), consciously recognize, and realize, their essential, common, spiritual heritage – back historically to their deepest common spiritual sources –, and lineage – through deep Christianity, and all the deeper currents of the philosophia perennis –, as well as their shared potential spiritual nationality, that a future spiritual convergence shall begin to be possible.
Such ideas and ideals, in our secular, “horizontal” time, are rarely known, poorly recognized, and seldom clearly voiced; especially since they ultimately require a birth, a “nationalism,” – indeed, rather, a laborious rebirth, a self-wrought renascence (re-nasci, rebirth), to a “nationality” (natio, birth) which is, essentially, “not of this world”. This is a “vertical”, not a “horizontal” citizenship; not an earthly, but a spiritual nationality.
If “the quintessential American” Emerson be true, in America, this higher spiritual nationality must occur in the sovereign individual. In Russia, through the voice of the Slavophile Khomyakov, this can only occur in a community of individuals. But for both, it is a higher, “vertical”, spiritual nationality. (Perhaps, in the greater scale of time, this will seem less “dreamy” a conception.)
For those whose hearts and minds are satisfied with an earthly, material, or simply skeptical, agnostic view and explanation of the meaning of life, man, civilization and world; the ideas of this work, while perhaps interesting to historical curiosity, are essentially useless, and fictional. This essay was written for others. For those souls who yearn for, sincerely seek toward, believe in, or – perhaps even – know, of the inner “vertical”, spiritual life of Man; and who want clearer understanding of the world in which we live.
Once, at the conclusion of a private lecture on this theme in Moscow, the author was asked by a learned, astute member of those gathered, to what degree the ‘noble individuality’ which Emerson had summoned, had been realized amongst the people in America. The heart and soul, the mind and spirit of men and women of Mankind, are the arena for a spiritual struggle. And the blood and gore of human history makes unquestionably clear, that this inner war is not confined to soul and spirit: “man’s inhumanity to man”. Is the idea of a sovereign, noble individual – as “American Scholar” or "holy bard" – who faces God, life and world, in strength and solitude, a common idea, ideal, and condition in the United States of America? The answer is similar as to whether the highest ideals of human brotherhood, collectivism and communism have been realized in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Yet there still remains – in spite of the answers here – at the spiritual-intellectual core of each nation’s attempt to understand itself (and their relation to human history, civilization, culture, life, etc.), their respective ideals of man, which lead out of the “horizontal” into the “vertical”. Selfish egoism must be viewed in contrast to the ennobled, benevolent, spiritual individual; state communism should be considered in contrast to the ideal of spiritual community: sobornost. When the necessary renunciative inner attitude; when the needed suffering and the willingness to sacrifice; when the requisite love; when these are clearly recognized, understandingly accepted, and soulfully embraced by many more of mankind than a few; then indeed, general history may make some truthful record of a real period of earthly “philadelphia”...(Perhaps one might describe such a possible time, using Russian terms, as a period of the “conscious ‘mir’”.) When many more sovereign individuals strive more for God, Truth, Knowledge, Wisdom and Purity, than for “land and money, place and name”. When many strive inwardly, for communities of spirit, to be the voice and life of God in mankind.... As Dostoyevsky described it in The Brothers Karamazov,
“...Believe me [said “the mysterious visitor”], this dream, as you call it, [of the Kingdom of Heaven]...will come to pass without doubt. It will come, but not now, for every process has its law. It’s a spiritual, psychological process. To transform the world, to recreate it afresh, men must turn into another path psychologically. Until you have become really, in actual fact, a brother to everyone, brotherhood will not come to pass.”
“It’s a spiritual, psychological process”. The individual and the community are both, essentially and ultimately, dependent on the inner life and activity of men and women of Mankind. At worst, the solitary individual may strive exclusively for the satisfaction of his own merely personal earthly, “horizontal” desires, needs, interests, whims, etc.. At best the solitary individual may strive and suffer for Truth, Knowledge, Wisdom; for self-perfection; social justice; God, etc.. In between, there is, of course, much variation; including the “horizontal” humanist, who may struggle, strive and suffer for noble causes of benefit to man and world. In what way, into what relationship, to what degree these two opposed strivings are realized in the individual, depends ultimately on the inner life of that single being. The highest goal conceived, is deification: the realization of the highest potential aspects of the human soul and spirit – even if this be in struggle with the wild beast in human nature. The worst realization of individualism is the completely selfish egoist, who lives totally for his own exclusive self-satisfaction, with no benevolent inner or outer concern or care for the internal or external life and well-being of others. Human history provides enough examples of both the best and the worst in humanity, and of course all in-between.
In ways similar to the individual, and also present in human history, a community can live with great truth, purity and nobility; or it can also degrade into some immoral, oppressive or anonymous collection. It is certainly true, that “no man is an island, entire of himself”; men and women of mankind all exist, both in their inner and outer lives, as individuals, and as participants in human community. But real community, true brotherhood cannot be externally compelled, or contrived. For in this way, it would not come from the inner being of men and women of humanity, which it by nature must; but would come from outside of man, making it, in fact, in-human. Certainly wretched caricatures of true human community – external, enforced “communities” – have been required by those who rule. Nonetheless, its true realization lies only in the heart, soul and act, of men and women of Mankind. In the late 20th century, much of Mankind is now painfully less naive, as to the reality and meaning of earthly, “horizontal”, enforced communism. Questions perhaps remain, whether mankind has fully completed its experiments with “vertical”, spiritual “communism” – spiritual community.
Sovereign, spiritual individuality is the burden and challenge of those who would strive (by cultural injunction, or personal necessity) to realize this in their lives. Spiritual community can also only be made actual, by those who would so strive for the “vertical”, the veridical, the spiritual in their hearts and minds, that they engage each other in true spiritual community. (The most sublime human realization here – and perhaps the highest goal and ideal of human community – is the ecclesia spiritualis in Pentecostal enthusiasm. One might describe it as “conscious sobornost”.) But would a sovereign, spiritual individuality, want to remain alone? Can a spiritual community be realized, if each member is inadequately developed as an individual?
* * *
Emerson recognized the “philadelphic” problem of the aloneness of the sovereign individual. And it is interesting to consider his thoughts towards some resolution here; especially, when, from our point of view, we consider how they relate to the spirit, soul and history of Russia. Emerson:
Tis worse, and tragic, that no man is fit for society who has fine traits...But there is no remedy that can reach the heart of the disease but either self-reliance or else a religion of love.
This “tragic” aloneness of true, inner nobility, which Emerson saw, was so unbridgeable to his experience and mind, that even the Civil War in the United States – which was fought over the question of an ancient social relation of man to man – was a “relief” to Emerson.
The relief with which Emerson welcomed the [Civil] war exemplified drastically the difficulty of discovering communities worthy of transcendent men. So long as Emerson still began with the ideal of the radically free individual, only something as apocalyptic and in its own way transcendent as war, could be a satisfactory symbol of community.
This indicates a virtual plea for human brotherhood. A “religion of love”, or war, were the extremes necessary, to Emerson’s mind, to bring sovereign, solitary individuals into deep, true, noble purposeful human community. But do we not hear a response in Russia, to this Emersonian “anguish” – concerning some real “philadelphia” – in that famous speech of Dostoyevsky, at the Pushkin Monument in Moscow, in 1880?
...the destiny of a Russian is unquestionably pan-European and universal. To become a true Russian, to become a Russian fully (in the end of all, I repeat), means only to become the brother of all men, to become, if you will, a universal man. All our Slavophilism and Westernism is only a great misunderstanding, even though historically necessary. To a true Russian, Europe and the destiny of all the mighty Aryan family is as dear as Russia herself, as the destiny of his own native country, because (Mir destiny is universality, won not by the sword, but by the strength of brotherhood and our fraternal aspiration to reunite mankind. ...And in course of time I believe that we – not we, of course, but our children to come – will all without exception understand that to be a true Russian does indeed mean to aspire finally to reconcile the contradictions of Europe, to show the end of European yearning in our Russian soul, omnihuman and all-uniting, to include with our soul by brotherly love all our brethren, and at last, it may be, to pronounce the final Word of the great general harmony, of the final brotherly love of all nations in accordance with the law of the gospel of Christ! I know, I know too well, that my words may appear ecstatic, exaggerated and fantastic. Let them be so, I do not repent having uttered them.
A “fragment” by Kireyevsky – though it cannot be accepted without an inclusion of the “vertical” – addresses itself to this problem of the individuality and the community:
Each moral victory in the secret depths of a single Christian soul is a triumph for the whole Christian world; each spiritual power which has been formed within a single human being invisibly attracts to itself and advances the powers of the whole moral world.
* * *
An exclusive striving for individuality, in contrast to the collective-even in the “vertical” – could lead to spiritual and psychic isolation, social malaise, anarchy of self and society. (Such an exclusive striving, in the “horizontal”, would lead, also, to the degradation of social morality and culture, and towards the hedonization of civilization.) The exclusive emphasis on the collective may – and history reveals this – lead to the desecration and deadening of the individual, as well as psychic and social totalitarianism.
The U.S A. and the U.S.S.R. (as well as all the world’s nations) face the problems and questions of the relation of the individual and the community (society); though of course they face them from differing directions. In both countries, however, the common primary direction of striving seems to be for the realization of “the good life”, of and for individual and collective man, in the earthly-“horizontal”. The “vertical” by nature requires struggle, renunciation, suffering, pain and sacrifice; which – since they were, are and shall remain, unpopular pastimes – make great demands of the very best of us. The countering, contrasting, transmutation and subjugation of egoism and (forced) communism, by and for some real achievement of philadelphic relations, in America, Russia, or elsewhere, shall depend, essentially, on the willed inner life of men and women of Man, as individuals, and as members of the human community.
After our purely intellectual culture, which is now developing in the direction of the abyss of intellect – and you will find this is the case in every field of life – there will come a time when man will be the slave of intelligence by which his personality will be submerged. Today there is only one way of preserving the personality, and that is to spiritualize it...
How much of the problems of American society, culture and civilization are explicable because we, as a people, and as individuals, do not truly live by and work for our highest and greatest inner lives? How many are present because we, loosing an adequate recognition, reverence or worry of the “vertical”, desire mostly a “horizontal” life of earthly entertainments, physical pleasures, and sensual comforts? (As James Truslow Adams warned us: “We cannot become a great democracy by giving ourselves up as individuals to selfishness, physical comfort, and cheap amusements...”) How spiritually lost is the mind, heart and soul of our cultural, educational and intellectual life, because our “heros”, “role models” and “famous personalities”, are more likely to be billionaire businessmen, rich and famous “movie stars”, rock musicians, physical athletes etc., rather than inwardly virtuous, self-educated and self-developed, noble Emersonian American Scholars; spiritually striving scientists; statesmen of the highest Platonic calling; sacrificial artists; et al?
Americans shall never live up to the greatest potential of Man in America, until such time as ennobled, sensitive, subtle, learned and compassionate individuals, are the vital exemplar around which we, as a society and as individuals, orient – with respect and reverence – the inner and outer lives of our selves, our culture and civilization. As we are now, we strive, predominately (often unconsciously), for some “horizontal” earthly success, rather than for an inner nobility, refinement and depth of soul; greater knowledge and understanding; or a true spiritual, “vertical” seeking, for a renewed relation of God and Man; etc.
Americans shall never fulfill their greatest potentials of the human being, until some sufficient number of men and women of Man, in America, realize, in themselves, that actual inner presence, represented by the radiant-crown of the Statue of Liberty! For it is only by striving, “as multitudinous individuals, [to] develop some greatness in our own individual souls,” that we shall be able to successfully achieve such inner radiance. As Emerson said it:
You will hear everyday the maxims of a low prudence. You will hear that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. ‘What is this truth you seek? What is this beauty?’ men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God has called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, ‘As others do, so will I: I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat of the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season,’ – then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have already died in a thousand thousand men.... Bend to the persuasion which is flowing to you from every object in nature, to be its tongue to the heart of man, and to show the besotted world how passing fair is wisdom....Why should you renounce your right to traverse the starlit deserts of truth, for the premature comforts of an acre, house and bam? Truth has also its roof and bed and board. Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread; and if not store of it, yet such as shall not take away your property in all men’s possessions, in all men’s affections, in art, in nature, in hope.
Such thoughts as these should move us all closer, towards a more sincere and serious attending of the spiritual call in the American Dream.
I only wish that I knew Russia, and Russian Soul, much more deeply, clearly and profoundly than I, at present, do. What I do know, for certain, is that it is, indeed, a unique presence – distinct and novel from the West I recall my third journey to Central Europe, many years ago. I was compelled to write to a close friend of mine in America, with some real disappointment: “I find no mystery here”. By which I meant to say that whatever “Old World” character, novelty, atmosphere, or mystery I had sought in Europe, I did not find it in the culture there. It was not only the very predictable Western character of the civilization and culture around me – including American pop music and slang; a result of World War II – which disillusioned me; it was the lack of some special, new presence which I sought, but came to recognize was hardly present. Such could not be said of Russia. For not only does the practical life present a greatly novel, unpredictable character to the Westerner; and not only is there truly a special soul and presence in well-meaning people there; but one can also sense an “atmosphere", something a slight bit uncanny, not quite tangible. The more sensitive, perceptive and thoughtful of the Westerners, will have noticed something of these. It is a simple fact, however much it may be denied, that there is a special soul to the people of Russia – possibly one in which they are kindred to other peoples of Eastern Europe.
What I would say to Russia, and Russian souls – wherever they are – has already, in 1948, been so well stated by the exiled Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev, that it seems best to let him speak:
One cannot imagine the future of Russia as determined and fatal; it depends on human freedom. One can foresee an extraordinary development in the economic and political force of Russia, and the birth of an American type of new civilization, dominated by technology and the thirst for earthly goods which, in the past, the Russian people lacked. But the will should be directed towards the creation of another future, where the social problem will be equitably solved, where the religious calling of the Russian people will manifest itself, and where the Russian people will remain faithful to its spiritual nature. The future also depends on our will power and our spiritual efforts. One must say the same thing for the whole world.
Or, as I might succinctly summarize my view, Russia must strive from Russian soul, deliberately upwards towards a purity in its relation to the Spirit. To say it another way, it must – at least in the “deepest and truest" of Russia – eventually come to consciously realize the spiritual essence of the “Third Rome", the Uspenski Sobor: the Woman Clothed with the Sun.
One can only hope that Russia, and the European East – through their painful story in the 20th century – shall somehow successfully have come to such sensibility, as to better solve the problem of the relation of spirit and civilization, of individual freedom and social order, than we have done in the West.
We have in this essay, glimpsed the spiritual challenges present, to both America and Russia; and we have considered the deep, historical, spiritual kinship of their highest conceptions of the origin, understanding and destination of Man. The American-Western emphasis on the Mind in the individual, is partially relieved by Emerson’s call towards the higher inner life. The agony of 20th century collectivism is potentially redeemed by the Russians Kireyevsky’s and Khomyakov’s call for a wholeness of heart, mind and soul in Man, bound in a spiritual and worldly community. Yet, it seems that neither of these, alone, is quite complete or adequate. But, a mixture, an alchemical blending...
If an ennobled individual could, as it were, blend Emerson’s mind and Dostoyevsky’s heart.... If a spiritual community could unite the independence of American individuality, with a Russian “Sobornost” of heart and soul... the “horizontal” earthliness of America and the West, and the inner spiritual “vertical” of the Russian and European East.... Such would seem to truly be, a potent spiritual alchemy!
If Man has, indeed, on the earth no home... If a “vertical” identity, is the deepest, truest and most lasting reality of Man... then a uniting, a mixture, a converging of the best spiritual, “national characteristics”, of America and Russia: Emersonian American Mind, Sophianic Russian Soul, Sovereign Individuality and a Sobornost Community, would seem useful, if not essential, for a spiritual spreading – in the individual, the community and Mankind – of necessary inner “wings to Heaven”.
The “Moscow Music Peace Festival”(1989) could not but be greatly disturbing to anyone who does not facilely believe that a sensualization of the soul is the best enjoyment possible for the human being; and that somehow still hopes for the spiritual development of Mankind. The film record of this rock concert revealed the seductive influence and impact which the semi-literate American “Rock Stars” can have on Russian youth. The below appeal, which was submitted for publication to many new, “liberal”-minded publications in the USSR and elsewhere – but was included in none – is my response to such spiritual sensualism. In a“free society”, spiritual degradation must certainly be a person’s right and option. But the youth of Russia , should not imagine that such leads to anything but spiritual nullity. The “Rock Stars” Billy Joel and Jon Bon Jovi, and their kindred spirits, are not in any serious spiritual sense, the best the West can offer to the East – even if they are the most popular. What Marxism did to the Russian social order, they certainly could help do to its spiritual life. I believe that free choice is necessary to the spiritual time and maturity of Mankind; but let it be no naive selection. It should also be conscious!
Here is the text as I submitted it in late August, 1989:
It was greatly disturbing and deeply disheartening to recently see, on a nationally televised evening news program in the U.S.A., on 12 August 1989, report of a “Heavy Metal” rock concert (of music groups from America) performing to a large enthusiastic crowd in Moscow. Such events are applauded in the Western news as positive signs of progress and liberalization (much like someone who has, unaware, a terminal disease; and is relieved to see similar symptoms appearing in the citizens of the surrounding society). The television reporter described it as a “Woodstock of Russia.” – a loose inaccuracy, referring to its approximate coincidence with the 20th anniversary of that ‘festival of adolescence’ (which was not permitted to be held in Woodstock, so that it actually occurred in Bethel, New York.)
This was, of course, not the first Western rock concert to be held, publicly, in Russia, since the ‘opening’ of Glasnost. And it was explained that this concert was somehow construed to be a promotion of ‘non-drug use,’ and similar noble notions of social salvation.
Yet the concert was still deeply disturbing to anyone who wants the best for and from Russia. Almost all manner of things “Western” have a “mystique” in the Soviet Union – so long closed to the West and suffering from suppression of its own true self-expression. And it is certainly not that such public events should be banned, for moral or state reasons. Nor is it surprising that some portion of any society would be so excited and interested in such an event. But what is disturbing and disheartening about this – and the author writes, knowing the life in the West, especially living in “hip” California – is the fact that the spiritual direction toward which such Western influences as “Heavy Metal” concerts, lead, and the type of enthusiasm they promote, move ultimately in the direction of, at worst, spiritual emptiness and nullity, and at best, a sensualization of the soul and spirit, in the individual, society and culture. Open freedom should be allowed to the people, and youth, and spirit of Russia – to experience and express what they wish and will. But there should be no naive consciousness – no unrecognized Western seduction – as to the spiritual content, meaning, direction and results of such activities (and other Western ways) due to the “mystique” of the West.
Old, Holy Russia was – perhaps unavoidably – destroyed: physically, culturally, socially and spiritually. And there is, it seems, much more excitement, enthusiasm (of a sort) and interest – especially among the young – in the rock concerts (and clothes, manners, etc.) of the West than in the old ways and life of Russia... How many people were more inwardly, personally, soulfully involved in this (crude) rock music concert of “Heavy Metal” (or other, less obnoxious concerts), in comparison to the celebrations and ceremonies of the Christian Millennium in Russia in 1988? What is the difference, in Russian soul direction, of the ‘inwardness’ (outwardness?) of this loud, “Heavy Metal” music, “enjoyed;” when compared to the inward experience of the audience, in November of 1988, in the Moscow performance of Vyacheslav Artyomov’s Requiem?
Oh Russian Souls, do not unconsciously accept and embrace the lifestyles, manners and ways of the West! The Russian philosopher Vladimir S. Soloviev once asked Russia:
What kind of Orient do you wish to be– /Thе Orient of Xerxes or that of Christ? The “Orient of Xerxes” – Stalin – crucified the “Orient of Christ”. This is now history. But if Russia is now repenting of Xerxes; does it prefer to be seduced by an ‘Occident of Sensualism’?
The West has immensely more of the earthly comforts, goods and commodities of life than Russians will have for a very long time to come. But does America for example offer a high and refined intellectual culture? A deep reverence for great literature, music, art and theatre? Do the physical comforts of life in the West form the practical basis for a deep soul culture and a profound inner spiritual life in the individual and society? Is there, in the West, a deep heartfelt impulse toward social brotherhood?
Do you imagine that the musicians of this, or other rock groups, have a passionate love and involvement with great literature and poetry? Are the rock-musicians, of the “Heavy Metal” music, inwardly troubled by the “cursed questions” of Dostoyevsky? Has Billy Joel ever read one single line, from one single poem, of Pushkin? LOOK at these Westerners oh young, youthful and naive of Russia; feel them. Do you imagine or sense that they know the answers to the real questions of life? Ask them what they know of Russian literature or poetry, Russian theatre... Or ask them to explain the deeper meanings of America’s Melville, Faulkner, Emerson or Thoreau! Or ask them to recite to you Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address!
If you imagine that these rock musicians are actually, in some way, noble, ideal models of mankind to emulate, you would be profoundly mistaken. Inquire of their inner lives: their greatest thoughts, deepest feelings, highest aspirations and goals. Consider their spiritual maturity, philosophical interests, etc. But do not let worldly financial wealth, glamorize from sight, inner spiritual poverty. A fabulously rich, shallow soul – is a fabulously rich, shallow soul. (If you prefer the shallows, then please, dive in!)
“Freedom of choice” is a much heralded reality in the life in the West, especially when compared to all but the most recent years of Soviet life. But Russia, ‘What kind of Orient do you wish to be – the Orient of Christ’?, Xerxes?; an ‘Orient of Earthly Sensualism’; or one of ennobled inner culture and human brotherhood? It seems that Russia does now increasingly have some freedom of choice. But do the Russian Souls want to unconsciously follow the West? (Fooled by a false gold due to the West’s “mystique”?)
The West can offer external physical pleasures and practical conveniences and comforts ad infinitum to Russia; but it would be dangerously presumptuous to imagine that behind this, is profound and refined inner life of mind, soul and spirit. Russia must bear her own inner life of soul and spirit as she embraces the outer, physical, practical offerings from the Western world. But it would be a great disaster for mankind – in both East and West – if Russian Souls, unconsciously and naively, accept the external material life of the West; and yet do not recognize that the inner life of soul, and all that which is unique of Russia (and which has manifest in her culture, history and tradition) must constitute the inner gifts which Russian souls can give to the West.
Accept from the West its external conveniences and practical capacities; but do not assume that they are accompanied by an adequate and healthy inner life of soul, spirit and culture. Russia must bring her own inner life to ensoul the outer Western ways. The world does not require a second America, nor another California. And it would be a great spiritual misdirection of Russia, if it were to follow, incautiously, the spiritually-lost lead – as exemplified in the “Heavy Metal” nullity – of the West. If this seems preposterous, seek out a Western visitor, and try to have a deeply human conversation... And while – someday perhaps – eating a McDonald’s Hamburger on Pushkin Square in Moscow, ask them of Pushkin, or Dostoyevsky, or V. Soloviev; or Poe, Thoreau or Emerson!...
“Oh Russia... what kind of Orient do you wish to be.....?”
The author is an independent scholar and historian of Occidental intellectual and spiritual history.
1. This proverb was sent to me, in a German version, by a Swiss friend who lives near Domach, Switzerland. I have been unable to locate a source for it. Back to text
2. From “Address to the Divinity Class”, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, 1968, p. 64-65. Back to text
3. This comes from Soloviev’s poem “Ex Oriente Lux”. Translation taken from Paul M. Allen, Vladimir Soloviev: Russian Mystic, p. 188. Back to text
4. From Walter Schubart, Russia and Western Man, (1938), p. 36-37.
That such an idea is not outdated, can be gleaned from an article of 1990 in The New York Review, by Timothy Garton Ash, “Eastern Europe: The Year of Truth”. He writes:
“...Do they [of Eastern Europe] come, as it were, like mendicants to the door, bearing only chronicles of wasted time? Or might they have, under their threadbare cloaks, some hidden treasure? Traveling through this region over the last decade, I have found treasures: examples of great moral courage and intellectual integrity; comradeship, deep friendship, family life; time and space for serious conversation, music, literature, not disturbed by the perpetual noise of our obsessively telecommunicative world; Christian witness in its original and purest form; more broadly, qualities of relations between men and women of very different backgrounds, and once bitterly opposed faiths: an ethos of solidarity. Here the danger of sentimental idealization is acute, for the privileged visitor enjoys these benefits without paying the costs. There is no doubt that, on any quantitative or utilitarian reckoning, the costs have been higher than the benefits. Yet it would be even more wrong to pretend that these treasures were not real. They were. And for me the question of questions after 1989 is: What if any of these good things will survive liberation? Was the community only a community of fate,...”
5. The “West” (occident – where the sun sets) most often represented death, matter, termination, apocalypse, and such, in those mythologies, religions and lores, closely related to the spiritual origins and history of Western Civilization. As that clear-minded scholar Ernst Benz wrote:
the journey towards the West is a journey towards Death, and the further West, the nearer to the inexorable End. See his “Ost und West in der Christlichen Geschichtsanschauung”, in Die Welt als Geschichte, 1 Jahrgang, 1935, vol. 6, p. 495. For considering the related ideas of the ‘‘Westward the Course of Empire”, and of translatio imperii (and -studii, and -sapientia), see Werner Goez, Translatio Imperii, 1958, and Rexmond C. Cochrane, “Bishop Berkeley and the Progress of Arts and Learning: Notes on a Literary Convention”, Huntington Library Quarterly, May 1954, Vol. ХVII, no. 3, p. 229-249. Back to text
6. Frémont: “Called Chrysopylae (Golden Gate) on the map, on the same principle that the harbor of Byzantium (Constantinople afterwards) was called Chrysoceras (golden horn). The form of the harbor, and its advantages for commerce,...suggested the name to the Greek founders of Byzantium. The form of the entrance into the bay of San Francisco, and its advantages for commerce, (Asiatic inclusive,) suggest the name which is given to this entrance.” From Frémont’s Geographical Memoir (1848). Cited in A Companion Guide to California, by James D. Hart, Oxford University Press, 1978.)
The name “Chrysopylae” was given also, to human edifices – actual gates – in areas directly influenced by the Greek language and culture. In the ancient city of Constantinople, and structures in Kiev and Vladimir, there are “Golden Gates”; and probably others in areas touched by Orthodoxy or the Greek language and culture. Frémont had learned Greek and Latin as a young student, and read with enthusiasm, at least portions of the tales of Homer.
7. Vladivostok (“Rule the East”): “In the summer of 1859 the general-governor of eastern Siberia, N. N. Murav’ev examined the bay from the cape of Povorotnoi (the turning point) to the Korean border, on the ship “America”. The bay was given the name “Peter the Great”. The squadron entered the bay on the southern extremity of the large peninsula, which struck the sailors as its most beautiful characteristic. The harbor in this bay was then named Vladivostok.
The Pacific Ocean is the Mediterranean of the future. In this future the role of Siberia, as a country lying between the ocean, south Asia, and Russia, is of extreme importance. It is understood that Siberia must extend down to the border of China. Cited in David Dallin. The Rise of Russia in Asia, 1949, p. 23; [Alexander Herzen, Polnoye Sobraniye Sochinenii (Lemke ed.), DC, 399-400; XII, 275]. (See also Notes 88, 89.) Back to text
The names of Muraviev, Putyatin, and their comrades are indelibly inscribed in history. They have built the pillars for a long bridge across the ocean. While in Europe somber funerals are being held and everybody has something to grieve about, they at one end, and the Americans at the other, are hammering together a new cradle!
9. Benjamin Ide Wheeler, “World Cities”, an address before the Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco on August 28,1916; printed in Wheeler’s The Abundant Life, p. 295-6. Earlier, in 1899, Wheeler had written:
The University [Berkeley] stands by the gates of that sea upon which the twentieth century is to see the supreme conflict between the two great world-halves. It is set to be the intellectual representative of the front rank of occidentalism, the rank that will lead the charge or bear the shock. In the Old World struggle between East and West, the Aegean was the arena and occidentalism militant faced east, orientalism west; in the new struggles occidentalism faces west, orientalism east. The arena is the Pacific. Cited in. Loren W. Partridge, John Galen Howard Howard and the Berkeley Campus: Beaux-Arts Architecture in the “Athens of the West”, 1978, p. 21.
10. Walt Whitman’s poem is entitled “Facing West from California’s Shores”; the remainder of this poem reads so:
For starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kashmere,
From Asia, from the north, from the God, the sage, and the hero,
From the south, from the flowery peninsulas and the spice islands,
Long having wander’d since, round the earth having wander’d,
Now I face home again, very pleas’d and joyous,
(But where is what I started for so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)
Back to text
11. “Ex Oriente Lux” is a proverbial expression of uncertain origin, meaning: “Light from the East” (orient – the east, where the sun rises [oriri, to rise]). I have been unable to locate – including with the help of prominent scholars – any study directly considering the origin and history of this Latin phrase. Perhaps it stems from the early “Middle Ages” – from the writing of some Latin Churchman (?) – when the ‘center of power’ had moved westward (into, and from the view of, the Latin world), and they, looking East, explained that the Light (of Christ and culture) had originated and come ‘from the East’. In any case, the term seems to have had a revival (?) of its use, in the 19th century.
12. The expression, of course, means “Light from the West”. (In a small biannual journal out of Great Britain: Shoreline, [No. 3, The Pacific Issue, 1989/90], in a short article entitled Ex Occidente Lux – Thoughts from Chrysopylae, I engaged this idea in a somewhat deeper way.) See also, especially, the lecture by Dr. Rudolf Steiner (6 Nov. 1921; Domach, Switzerland) entitled “The Sun Mystery in the Course of Human History – The Palladium”. Back to text
13. The University of California Berkeley’s motto Fiat Lux, Let There be Light, originates from the earliest period of this institution’s history; having been adopted by the Regents of the University in 1868, and changed from the Latin version into the English, on the University Seal, in the early twentieth century. Regrettably, however, the precise origin of the motto is not, and may never be, known to history. It was adopted on the recommendation of a special “Committee on the Seal”, for which, it seems, there are no extant records or minutes. (Private letter of March 31, 1989 from University of California Archivist) Hence the historical origins of the Westward-looking University of California Berkeley’s motto can only be speculated in regard to its authors), intention, meaning, alternative mottoes, etc.
The University of California Berkeley was intimately related, as an “Athens of the West”, with the “mythology” of the Golden Gate and its position at the far edge of Western progress, looking across the Pacific to the lands, peoples and cultures of the Far East. “Berkeley” received its name via Frederick Billings, who knew Frémont. He described the name as having come as an “inspiration” from the famous poem by the philosopher George Berkeley, well-known for its final stanza:
Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The first four acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama of the day;
Time’s noblest offspring is the last.
14. An examination of the origin and development of the idea of “light”, within the cultural history of Western Man, leads into very deep and essential themes; many of which are quite deeply kindred to this work – with its ultimate intent of bringing greater clarification into the mind of man, here, at this far western edge of the West, and elsewhere. The “light” needed at the far western edge of the West, is not to found in ancient sacred temples, oracular craters, or such – as was the case in the “ancient” time at the sources of Western Civilization. The light in this earthy, secular place and time, must be reborn in men and women of Man. Back to text
15. The concept “horizontal” is used here, and throughout this work, to indicate an experience, attitude, tendency, philosophy, idea or other, which would interpret, understand, embrace or accept any and all aspects of life and world as adequately recognized by ideas and realities which are purely earthly and secular. This idea of the “horizontal” stands in contrast to that of the “vertical”; wherein is to be understood an understanding of life, world, man, and so on, which requires or includes – as an essential, vital, necessary element – an interpretation with a spiritual or religious dimension. In other words, a “vertical” interpretation requires ideas and realities which are not present in the “horizontal” world. They could be generally contrasted as “earthly” and “spiritual”. The distinction will be further clarified in the content of the essay. Back to text
16. This will become evident in the main text section entitled “...and Spiritual Nationality.” below. Back to text
17. The first lectures look place in June of 1987 in the home of the daughters of the composer Scriabin in Moscow. While the lectures there, were presented to about 30-35 persons; other presentations were made to smaller gatherings of 7-15 people in both cities. Back to text
18. During 1988 lectures were held in California, in Santa Cruz, Mt Shasta, and the International House of Stanford University. Back to text
19. Readers who would like to comment may do so to the author at: email@example.com Back to text
20. James Truslow Adams, “Emerson Re-Read”, in Atlantic Monthly, October, 1930, p. 491,492. The reasons for which I chose this strong quote, by this American historian and journalist, will become clear immediately below. Back to text
21. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Speech to Harvard on its 327th Commencement, on June 8,1978. Quoted from Solzhenitsyn at Harvard, ed. Ronald Berman. Back to text
22. The expressions: “this world” and “that world”, refer, of course, to the idea of life in “this” earthly, incarnated, human world, in contrast to life in some other ‘heavenly’ or spiritual world: “that world”. The expression “this world” often alludes to the “ambiguities” and “uncertainties” – not the least of which are suffering, sickness and death – which it is viewed to bear, in comparison to “that world”, which is often thought of as a better, more lasting world, into which one passes after physical death, and wherein, so it is often conceived, are the lasting truths and realities, of which those in “this world” are but poor shadows, emanations or products. Humanity lives and struggles in “this world”, and from it dies into “that world” into which many of the religions, spiritualities, cosmologies and philosophies of humanity say the human being passes after death. When Christ said “My Kingdom is not of this world”, the profound distinction here was articulated in a way which would deeply impact and influence the spiritual, religious and intellectual history of all those cultures and civilizations affected by “Christianity”, including obviously Occidental and European Man. Back to text
23. The reference is, of course, to Dante’s Divine Comedy, and the “suburbs” and “subdivisions” of the “real estate” which he describes. It is more than safe to say that the location, cost and value of a purchase of property in this “landscape”, is hardly a developed common vital worry and concern in most people’s pursuit of the American Dream. Back to text
24. Here we glimpse, the relation of Wisdom (in Greek: Sophia) – rarely known in the West – to the human being. Back to text
25. Many of those who came to the New World – named after Amerigo Vespucci – were ultimately concerned with “life in the world to come”, i.e. after death from “this world”. The Puritans, for example, brought such a concern to early North America. Their psychology of man and evaluation of life, would seem quite sour and dour, compared to the 20th century’s very contrasting predominate image of the American Dream, and contemporary common ideas as to the meaning and purpose of life. From New England’s first Puritan settlers, to the enjoyment of a “cool” and “hip” California lifestyle, is much, much more than a geographical distance. Back to text
26. Economy comes essentially from Greek oikos, a dwelling place, and nomos, usage, law. So that eco+nomy is as much as to say “a system of laws of the dwelling, or house.” See Eric Partridge, Origins, a Short Etymological Dictionary of Modem English, 1983, pages: 176, 891, 920-1. Physical economy would apply of course to the physical world; spiritual economy would refer to the eco-nomos of the spiritual worlds. Back to text
27. Compare this with the quotes by Russians in the section “West Needs East?” below, as well as its Notes. Back to text
28. From the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Amendment I. Back to text
29. The idea of “The Divine Rights of Kings” derives ultimately from the early historical period of Western Civilization when the “king”, or the leader of a society, was viewed as a regent of God on earth; perhaps considered to be directly guided and/or inspired by God, or a God incarnate. This special relation of the ruler to the heavenly divine world was conceived to give the ruler a certain infallibility, wisdom and privilege, as to his rule and power. They ruled not only because they were so enjoined by God; but with divine assistance. So it was held; until the revolutions of the modem world disturbed these conceptions and social structures. Indeed, in Japan, the Emperor, who was conceived by most Japanese to have been born a God, died in January of 1989, with many people still so viewing him. Back to text
30. Before this work is completed, it should become clearer to the understanding reader, how the truly disheartening and disturbing attrition of civic virtue, and religious morality, in our society, could – at least “in theory” – become counterbalanced by a living, spiritual inner and outer morality; present, at least, amongst our “best and brightest”.
It is the belief of this author, that this nation, founded secularly in the Enlightenment, must someday, unavoidably, overcome itself, and its own history – as must much of the “modem” world; if it is to remain a viable entity in the greater scale of time. Otherwise it shall atrophy and die; just as empires and cultures have done throughout human history. It is probably inevitable; though certainly not inviable.
31. Numerous government reports on fields of knowledge such as history, literature, English language, geography, mathematics, science, et al., have – especially during 1989 – documented these meagre conditions. Back to text
32. Benjamin Ide Wheeler, "The Old World in the New”, in The Atlantic Monthly, (vol. 82), August, 1898, p. 145. Back to text
33. During the time when the author was completing this portion of the essay, on the occasion of a trip to a University of California bookstore, to purchase a copy of Sophocles’ Antigone; inquiry was made of a young employee, a female undergraduate student, as to where this work could be found. Her response revealed, that she had never heard of such a work. (Presumably, she was perhaps, somewhat more familiar, with the latest “feminist” critique of some aspect or other of societal oppression – ignorance excepted !) Back to text
34. It is perhaps impossible to determine the precise origin of the expression “American Dream”. Standard reference works suggest – often without citations – that it was (probably) used by the “Founding Fathers” of the United States republic. Others suggest its presence or precursors in Tocqueville. However that may be, it seems true to say that the expression was introduced, in the twentieth century, into the realm of broad public and intellectual discourse – with the meaning it more or less clearly bears today – by its use in a work by the historian James Truslow Adams (for which see main text below).
There are, and have been, of course, many differing views and interpretations of the idea and meaning of the “American Dream”. From the pre-Columbian search for the westward-laying mythical islands of Antiilia, to the modem cry for social injustice for “inner city” dwellers (as to their disadvantage in relation to approaching the realization of the American Dream), the image of a better, richer world has had many and great differences of understanding and interpretation. As James Truslow Adams himself wrote:
That dream was not the product of a solitary thinker. It evolved from the hearts and burdened souls of many millions, who have come to us from all nations. Cf. The Epic of America, p. 385.
Some may dispute that it is “fair” – considering the grand pluralism of the United States of America – to focus on one man’s conception of the “American Dream” – even if this individual does seem to have pivotally helped to place this expression into the collective discourse of America. It is the opinion of this author, however, that the actual contents of Adams’ thought – in relation to his “launching” of this phrase – is essential, pivotal, provocative, and necessary, for any broad-minded and deeper evaluation and understanding of the position and presence of the idea of the “American Dream” in relation to the spiritual and cultural history of the United States of America.
Even if it is impossible to say for certain, that James Truslow Adams placed this phrase before the American psyche and culture. His indisputable contribution to the idea (and use) of “American Dream”, touches, with such kinship, the deeper questions and queries as to the nature of Man in Western history, that it is important, for this reason alone, to seriously consider his thought concerning the “Dream”.
35. The biblical imagery of a “city on a hill” comes from Matthew 5:14. It was used by the Puritans. John Winthrop, Jr. wrote in 1630:
Men shall say of succeeding plantacions: the Lord make it like that of New England: for we must consider that we shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are upon us. [Cf., for example, Page Smith’s Killing the Spirit: Higher Education in America; p. 301.] Back to text
36. James Truslow Adams info Back to text
37. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America, 1931, p. 374-375. Back to text
38. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America, p. 377. Back to text
39. Most major cultures of human history have had some concept of a better, purer world, either from which the people came, or towards which they may go. Back to text
40. The pages of the critique, from which the following paragraphs come are: James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (1931), p. 375-379. Back to text
41. In recent times, for example, one is reminded of Ivan Boesky’s speech at University of California Berkeley where he said that “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”. Unfortunately, as I see it, he only served two years in prison for his illegal activities which amounted to a mere $200,000,000.00! Back to text
42. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America p. 378. Back to text
43. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America p. 379. Back to text
44. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America p. 380-81. Back to text
45. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America p. 381. Back to text
46. The Epic of America, p. 384. This description, by James Truslow Adams, of the relation of the spiritual life, to business and politics, is a subject which I am considering more closely in another essay. It is deeply kin to the idea of the “Three-Fold Social Order”, introduced by the Austrian Dr. Rudolf Steiner, into post-World War I Central Europe – when the social structure of “Old (dynastic) Europe” had collapsed, been destroyed or fundamentally damaged – in the hope of bringing new, creative ideas and impulses, into the then severely dislocated social order and civilization of the European nations, such as would lead to a spiritual renewal and re-ordering of society, wherein, especially, the spiritual life and values of Mankind would receive central evaluation, recognition and position. Back to text
47. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America p. 385. Back to text
48. See the first paragraph to ‘The Spiritual Call in the American Dream”. Back to text
49. Strange though it may seem, it is more that fair to say, that “glamour” is an unrecognized external form of degraded magic. Consider its etymology: Glamo(u)r was vogue’d by [Sir Walter] Scott for ‘magic, a magical charm’: on the basis of grammar in the sense usually attached to [the] obsolete gram(m)arye: ‘magic, occult science’, powers often, in medieval times, attributed to the learned.” Cited from Eric Partridge, Origins, a Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, p. 256.
A documentary on American-British relations indicated, unintentionally, a part of the story of “glamour”, by describing how the image of women being (physically) “glamorous” was transferred – with no conscious malintent, surely – from America to war-recovering Britain in the early 1920’s. One certainly does not need, in the twentieth century, to be “learned”, to be “glamorous”; but “glamour” certainly has a kind of power!
50. Certainly there are people who recognize, that the American Dream realized, means more or other than “material plenty” (“a mere extension of the material basis of existence, with the multiplying of our material possessions,” Adams). But however much efforts towards the artistic, the cultured, etc., are pursued in our society; they are seldom pursued, as some crucial element and necessity of human nature, or with the idea that they are the exemplar around which our culture should orient itself.
51. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America, p. 385. Back to text
52. From James Truslow Adams, “Emerson Re-Read”, in Atlantic Monthly, October, 1930, p. 492. Back to text
53. From CBS News, “60 Minutes” (transcript), Volume ХХII, Number 13 (Dec. 10.1989), “The Last Gulag”, p. 6-7.
“In the punishment cell, life was much simpler. Every day brought only one choice: good or evil, white or black, saying yes or no to the KGB. Moreover, I had all the time I needed to think about these choices, to concentrate on the most fundamental problems of existence, to test myself in fear, in hope, in belief, in love. And now, [in the West] lost in thousands of mundane choices, I suddenly realize that there’s no time to reflect on the bigger questions. How to enjoy the vivid colors of freedom without loosing the existential depth I felt in prison?” p. 422-23. Back to text
54. From Mihajlo Mihajlov, “Mystical Experiences of the Labor Camps”, in Underground Notes, 1976, p. 171. Back to text
55. Is not one a “happiness” of the “horizontal” life; while the other verges on the “vertical”. Consider some of the modem history of the idea and understanding of “happiness”:
“In the seventeenth – and eighteenth – century revolutions of life and thought, there are marked changes in the exploration and uses of the conceptions of happiness and pleasure...
56. From Mihajlo Mihajlov, “Mystical Experiences of the Labor Camps”, in Underground Notes, 1976, p. 178-179. (In the course of preparing this work for publication, it occurred to me how kindred is such an ‘inflicted’ experience, to chosen eremitic monasticism.) Back to text
57. While these words were being written, the battle for Bucharest, and the bloody civil war in Rumania was occurring. The football games seems to have been considered more important to be broadcast in America on television; but on one of the brief, hourly radio news reports, a story was reported, of a woman who – while crying uncontrollably because of the death of her fifteen year old son in the civil war – said that such sacrifice was necessary, if Rumania is finally to be free of the totalitarian regime. This bespeaks a painfully real, spiritual sense of the cost of “freedom”.
The people of Eastern Europe, who Solzhenitsyn included in his Harvard speech (see page 15), are now in a new move towards “freedom”; freedom in the social, political, economic and practical-material realities of life. Let us hope that the best people of these countries, maintain a clear, vital sense of inner freedom; as the realities of their outer lives, cultures and civilizations change. (I hope that I am among a host of “Westerners”, who are sincerely waiting to see what will develop, grow and emanate from this suffered East.)
On 16 January 1989 a documentary was broadcast on television entitled “Czechoslovakia; the Long wait for Spring”. Upon that program a woman described the condition of the younger generation as being one of “inner exile” – from their own lives and country. With the dramatic changes which have occurred “behind the Iron Curtain” in and since 1989, let us see what shall become of such “inner exiles” when they come home, to their own lives! And let us clearly listen to what they have to say!
58. If Americans – in the nation which describes itself as the leader of the “Free World” – do not, in and with their freedom, choose to deepen their lives, so as to be able to face the “Gorgons of evil, disaster and death”; it is this author’s opinion that, either it shall continue to send spiritual children “to heaven”; or that perhaps indeed the “Gorgons” will indeed someday “freeze our unlined ...[faces] into eternal stone”!
Americans “must”, in tremendous freedom, choose to face the “Gorgons”, which many others in the world have had as a fate inflicted on to them.
59. “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather”, November 29, 1989, was broadcasting from Rome, where President Gorbachof had traveled to meet with the Pope, and then to meet with President Bush in Malta. These words were spoken by CBS News Moscow Bureau Chief Barry Petersen to Anchorman Dan Rath»”. Back to text
60. These words of Nicolas Berdyaev will serve here to “document” the subtle but actual fact of the Russian soul. Though there are more that enough un-“penetrating minds of the West”, and literate “Westernized” Russians, that this will probably be disputed, the quotation by the earlier United States Ambassador to the USSR George Kennan (see pages 50-1) is a contrasting but complementary view of “Russian”. Back to text
61. The unique “Russian Soul” is a somewhat elusive reality; the contours of which are far from simple to articulate. And it does not exist, with the same fullness and nobility, in all. But any sensitive Westerner, who has somewhat more deeply experienced well-meaning, soulful Russians, will have been unable to miss its unusual, thought-provoking, heart-touching presence.
62. There will certainly come a time when even the ideological remnants of Marx and Lenin shall be overcome en toto. Socialism, of course, did not begin, nor does it completely fall, with them. “Philosophy” came to mean “Marxist-Leninist Theory” in the Soviet Union – at least until perestroika. But philosophy, in a land so spiritually bound to the being and idea of Sophia, must eventually become true philo-sophia. It is symptomatic of such conditions in the USSR, that a work entitled What is Philosophy? – published in 1985 – attempted to explain the origin of the word “philosophy” in the following manner: ‘The word ‘philosophy’ is made up of two Greek words: σοφία- love, and φιλία- wisdom and so means love of wisdom.” See G. Kirilenko, L. Korschunova, What is Philosophy?, 1985, Progress Publishers, p. 6-7. Back to text
63. The Uspenski-Sobor was held by the monk, Philotheos of Pskov, to be the “Third Rome”. Both the Church of Rome, the “first” Rome, and the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople – established by Constantine the Great as the New (Second) Rome; i.e. the center of political and spiritual power – had, to the views of the Russian division of the Orthodox Christian Church, fallen into heresy. And like the woman who fled into the wilderness in Revelations 12; Philotheos saw the Russian Church, having fled into the Wilderness from heresy, as the last refuge of the true, pure Christian faith.
The relation of Sophia (Zoe) Paleologos, niece of the last reigning Byzantine emperor, to the Italian architect Fioravanti, who, after having viewed the churches of Novgorod, Suzdal and Vladimir in Russia, designed and built the Uspenski-Sobor inside the Moscow Kremlin, is an important link here. This also established a mythical, historical link of the Second to the Third Rome (via the “First Rome”!). The non-political aspect of the idea of the “Third Rome” is seldom, in my opinion, sufficiently stressed, or recognized, in the numerous studies and articles which have been done on this subject. The political (“horizontal”) sense of this idea is considered to the detriment of the spiritual aspect, which itself relates deeply and profoundly to the relation of the “Sophia” in regard to Russia’s religious, cultural and intellectual past, as well as to its spiritual future. (See Note 66 below.)
Immediately proceeding the visit of the President of the United States (Reagan) to Moscow, and the Millennial celebrations of Christianity in Russia, in 1988, I had lectured to small, private audiences in Moscow and Leningrad on this theme of the Uspenski-Sobor, the Third Rome and the Sophia. When CBS (one of the major national television networks in the USA) began its special coverage of this historic visit, the “anchor man”, Dan Rather, began their week’s special broadcasts from Moscow, from Cathedral Square inside of the Moscow Kremlin. Dan Rather introduced the program by announcing that he was speaking from “the Third Rome”. Regrettably, of the many millions who saw this evening news of May 27, 1988, it is safe to say that extremely few had any idea, or notion, that very deep realities and issues were being, unintentionally, indicated by these words which he spoke.
64. The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, perhaps the most important church of pre-revolutionary Russia – and here not considering its themes and religious meanings – is not only a place of burial for Metropolitans and Patriarchs, but was the setting for the coronation of Grand Princes, Tsars and Emperors. The sacred act of “crowning” was originally felt to be a recognition and bestowal of wisdom and divine guidance, onto the head of the religious body or political state, that they might rule wisely and fairly, with divine inspiration and guidance.
65. See Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Part I, Bk IIІ, Chapter 3. Back to text
66. There exists a significant amount of written material on this elusive subject, dispersed in articles throughout many publications and languages. In regard to the special relation of the Sophia, to Russian religious and spiritual history, see, for example, Vladimir N. Iljin, “Die Lehre von Sophia, der Weisheit Gottes, in der neuesten russischen Theologie”, in West-Ostliche Weg, 1929; and L. Zander, “Die Weisheit Gottes im russischen Glauben and Denken”, in Kerygma und Dogma, Jahrgang 2, Heft 1 (1956), p. 29-53. For the Sophia in relation to Central and Western Europe, see Emst Benz, “Sophia-Visionen des Westens”, in The Ecumenical World of Orthodox Civilization, vol. III, Russia and Orthodoxy, ed. A. Вlane, p. 121-138; and Sigismund von Gleich, Die Inspirationsquellen der Anthroposophie, Kap. V: “Der Sophia-Impuls”, p. 27-32 [Mellinger Verlag Stuttgart; 1953,1981]. Back to text
67. Though I have been unable to locate a particular citation source for this phrase, I am certain that I have seen it included in some study or other of Russian history or character. It basically refers to alleged Asiatic/Oriental aspects of Russian character, history, social-political order, etc. The oven flourishing of interest and involvement in religion in the USSR – with the “liberalization” which began in the mid to late 1980’s – supports my alteration of the original expression. Back to text
68. The Slavophile Ivan Kireyevsky wrote, in 1852, at the conclusion of his important “On the Nature of European Culture and its Relation to the Culture of Russia”: “For, if ever I were to see in a dream that some external feature of our former life [Russia’s former culture and civilization], long since outgrown, had suddenly been revived and, in its former shape, become part of our present existence, I would not rejoice at such a vision. On the contrary, I would be frightened. For such an intrusion of the past into the new, the dead into the living, would be tantamount to transferring a wheel from one machine into another, of a different type and size: in such a case, either the wheel or the machine must break.” Quoted in Russian Intellectual History, ed M. Raeff, p. 207. Back to text
69. See 1 Corinthians 15:44. Back to text
70. Religion: “Probably deriving from, certainly very closely akin to Latin religare (stem relig-), to bind again, hence, intensive, to bind strongly, is religio (stem relig-), a binding back, or very strongly,...to one’s faith or ethic,...” From Origins, a Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, by Eric Partridge, p. 354. Back to text
71. As was reported in the San Jose Mercury News (California), on June 27, 1989: “A week before his death, his daughter asked how he was feeling, ‘Well, I’m not sure how I feel because I’ve never died before,...” Prince Vasili Romanov’s mother was the Grand Duchess Xenia, the sister of Nicholas П, his father was Grand Duke Alexander, the czar’s cousin. “His grandparents were Czar Alexander III and Empress Marie Fedorovna. His great-uncles were the kings of England, Greece and Denmark.” Back to text
72. Even in what was, in many ways, the spiritual core of Old Holy Russia, in the monasteries and hermitages, where the Orthodox emphasis on the heart over the mind, pure tradition, unconditional obedience, the denigration of the worldly ‘ego’, et al, are strongly held; there must be a new kind of spiritual awakening. As this chapter makes clear, I would suggest that this would be in the direction of an awakening of an active, conscious, independent mind in pursuit of truth, to supplement the heart’s quest of God. Back to text
73. See Note 140. Back to text
74. One could say that the East and the West must exchange the best which each bears, with the other. The materialism of person, culture, society, history, nature, philosophy, etc., of “Marx, Engels and Co." – even if adapted by Lenin or Stalin, or whichever so-called "Great Leader"– was profoundly far from being the best which the West could have given to Russia; or Russia taken. While the ideal of communal brotherhood, in itself, is great and noble; the twentieth-century’s history, and a terrible amount of human suffering and death, have revealed how realistic and beneficial such an ideal was – when it became an imposed ideology – for states and peoples to try to organize, live and grow by. An earthly, enforced “communism”, has been an unmitigated disaster for those cultures and peoples who have suffered it.
Each culture, in so far as it can learn and well gain from that of another nation, should strive to discern and embrace, only the most pure and noble which another nation bears. For in that such of each nation, sufficiently verges on the most essentially human – because it exists in relation to the purest humanity of that one nation and people – it thereby may be most potent of use, help, inspiration, reflection or creation, when embraced by some other “nationality”. This could be pictorially described – from the perspective of an individual human being, of some nationality – as an attempt to locate, view and orient one’s self, in regard to the constellations of the brightest clearest stars surrounding one, in other nation’s culture.
“Wisdom is by no means the same as intellectual development, and under the influence of their archangel the Russian people were in a certain sense intellectually held back. It is not their task to evolve clearly defined concepts but to ascend to the spiritual from depth of feeling. Clear concepts must come as a gift from the thinking of the West and that of Central Europe, trained for centuries in natural science. As the West has gained an understanding of nature, it must also learn to place the realm of spirit before humanity in clear pictures.
Karl Marx and V. Soloviev took very different concepts from their independent work in the British Museum. Back to text
75. Walter Schubart: “The West has endowed humanity with the most refined forms of technological development, of organization of government, and of systems of transport and communications, but it has robbed the human race of its soul. It is Russia’s task to give back to mankind its soul.” From Walter Schubart, Russia and Western Man, (1938), p. 36. Back to text
76. Alexander Kucherov, “Alexander Herzen’s Parallel between the United States and Russia”, in Essays in Russian and Soviet History, ed. J.S. Curtiss, p. 46-7. Back to text
77. Ernst Benz, Die Russische Kirche, p. 110. Back to text
78. It was the 27th of May 1989, on National Public Radio. Back to text
79. It hardly needs to be stated that not all people, even those who love Russia, would agree with this contention. To say it another way; both Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn are Russians, but they represent, contrastingly, secular and spiritual aspects of Russian character. Back to text
80. Nicolas Berdyaev:
Russia has never been able to accept humanistic culture as a whole, with its rationalistic consciousness, its formalized logic and formal law, its religious neutrality, and its secular middle-of-the-road tendency. Russia has never completely left the Middle Ages and the sacral epoch.
81. Cited in American Appraisals of Soviet Russia, 1917-1977, p. 342-343. It merits more than a little meditation, that George Kennan who vitally helped define the USA’s post-World War II idea of “containment” (“X”) of communism; freely stated, in a television interview, his deep love of Russian people and culture. He even mused on the question, as to whether, in some way or other, ‘in some other life’; he had not previously had relation to certain places in Russia, which touched his soul with such depth as to bring such wonderings. Back to text
82. It will perhaps quickly offend those who disagree; and easily console those who concur, to bring a quote by Solzhenitsyn, on the West:
Since I came to the West, it is interesting what I have noticed...in our society the relationships between people – this may surprise you – are warmer, more sincere, more unselfish than here [in the West]...partly because everyone in the West is free to arrange his own life. And with the decline of the religious principles on which Western society was founded, this leads to intensified activity by each person in his own behalf. In their tense struggle and competition people sometimes busy themselves too much with material matters, think too much about their narrow interests than about everybody, about society. Quotation from Dale E. Peterson, “Solzhenitsyn’s Image of America: The Survival of a Slavophile Idea”, in Massachusetts Review, Spring, 1978, p. 164. Back to text
83. From Walter Schubart, Russia and Western Man, 1938, p. 35-36. Back to text
84. From George Kennan, “Understanding the Russians”, (1969), in American Appraisals of Soviet Russia, 1917-1977, p. 344. Back to text
85. Herder, Franz von Baader, Ernst von Lasaulx, Vladimir Soloviev, et al. Back to text
86. See J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters form an American Farmer, (originally published 1782); Letter XI:
I received yesterday a letter from Philadelphia, by which I understand thee art a Russian; what motives can possibly have induced thee to quit thy native country and to come so far in quest of knowledge or pleasure? Verily it is a great compliment thee payest to this our young province, to think that anything it exhibiteth may be worthy thy attention” “I have been most amply repaid for the trouble of the passage. I view the present Americans as the seed of future nations, which will replenish this boundless continent; the Russians may be in some respects compared to you; we likewise are a new people, new, I mean, in knowledge, arts and improvements. Who knows what revolutions Russia and America may one day bring about; we are perhaps nearer neighbors than we imagine. (p. 189)
...in the neighborhood of our towns, there are indeed some intelligent farmers who prosecute their rural schemes with attention, but we should be too numerous, too happy, too powerful a people if it were possible or the whole Russian empire to be cultivated like the province of Pennsylvania. Our lands are so unequally divided and so few of our farmers are possessors of the soil they till that they cannot execute plans of husbandry with the same vigour as you do who hold yours, as it were, from the Master of Nature, unencumbered and free. Oh, America!” explained I, “thou knowest not as yet the whole extent of thy happiness: the foundation of thy civil polity must lead thee in a few years to a degree of population and power which Europe little thinks of! (p. 192; Penguin American Library, 1981) Back to text
87. Cf. Democracy in America, Vol. I, Vintage Books, p. 452. There are many editions of this work, in a host of languages. It was originally published in French, in Paris in 1835; this was followed quickly by an English translation. It would be interesting to know the precise origins of Tocqueville’s thoughts here; as it would be to compare his work to that of the Marquis de Custin on Russia. Back to text
Incidentally, there was no need for the gift of prophecy....We had only to look objectively at the whole world. America and Russia were the first to meet our eyes: Both countries abound in gifts, forces, flexibility, and a spirit of organization, and in persistence which knows no bounds; both are poor in their past; both began their march by breaking with tradition; both expanded across unbounded valleys seeking for frontiers; both countries advanced from opposite sides across immense spaces marking their way with cities, towns, villages, colonies, reaching the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, this “Mediterranean of the Future” as we once called it and as it was – to our great satisfaction – frequently referred to by American journals. Cited in Max Laserson “Herzen on Russia and America”, in The American Impact on Russia, ch. XI, p. 219. Back to text
89. “Alexander Herzen’s Parallel between the United States and Russia”, by Alexander Kucherov, in Essays in Russian and Soviet History, ed. J. S. Curtiss, p. 47; [Herzen, “Pis’ma k puteshestvenniku”s, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, ХVIII, 107-8.].
90. For one crucial example: The divisions of Europe, which began after Charlemagne, eventually lead to the fratricidal “World Wars” in Europe. Back to text
91. In no way does this work intend to be exclusive of other nations and cultures. The relation of the Russians, to, not only the United States of America, but also to Western, Central and Eastern Europe, is especially to be considered. For a serious recent consideration of this question – from a spiritual perspective which merits much more profound audience and consideration than it has received – of East, West and Middle-Europe – including other possibilities as to the impact which “Germany” might have had on European history, beginning in the nineteenth century, see Christoph Strawe, Der Umbruch in der Sowjetunion - Mitteleuropäische Perspektiven, 1988; especially e.g., p. 18, footnote 24. Back to text
92. I do not in any way wish to imply that this combination shall lead to some easy “utopian” solution of the problems of both nations and peoples; for impure human nature shall remain. Still, perhaps the complementary relation, could help towards “balance” in some vital, resolutive ways. Back to text
93. Michael S. Gorbachof spoke the following, at the Washington Summit, on Dec. 8,1987: “We can be proud of planting this sapling which may one day grow into a mighty tree of peace; but it is probably still too early to bestow laurels upon each other. As the great American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said; ‘The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it’.” Cf. The New York Times, Dec. 9, 1987. Back to text
94. Basic information on the “philosophies” and histories of “Slavophilism” and “Transcendentalism” can, of course, be found in any standard reference work. These labels apply to persons and ideas, which looked at their respective cultures and peoples during the nineteenth century, and attempted to give voice to a “national philosophy” which was, in the noblest sense, characteristic of each. Some of the crucial ideas of each, will constitute the substance of this work; though the reader would do well to additionally acquaint themselves with the general ideas and perspective which belong to each.
It is noteworthy, that, independently, they began, developed, flourished and declined during the same general period of the nineteenth century. And that the “best and brightest” of America and Russia, were either direct participants and contributors, or otherwise involved or affected by these philosophical directions.
95. This author has been unable to discover whether Kireyevsky or Khomyakov had any direct, or indirect, knowledge of any of Emerson’s writings. It seems somewhat more possible, historically, that they might have had some knowledge of his work; rather than that he would have known of theirs. Emerson’s Nature was published in 1836. His first series of Essays were published in 1841. A bibliography of American literature in Russia, in the nineteenth-century, indicates that Emerson’s first appearance in Russian translation was in 1847. (For Kireyevsky’s very critical opinion of general conditions in the USA, see Note 132.) Back to text
96. Some of the more well-known personalities who participated in the Elagin salon, at one time or other, were Gogol (where he read Dead Souls), Chaadayev, Herzen, Aksakov, Samarin, possibly Lermontov, et al. Cf. Peter К. Christoff, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Russian Slavophilism, A Study in Ideas, Volume II: I. V. Kireevskij, p. 88-89. Back to text
97. So described by Oliver W. Holmes in his biography of Emerson: Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1885. Back to text
98. So described by Oliver W. Holmes in his biography of Emerson: Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1885. Back to text
99. See section “Adam, in America and Russia” in main text. Back to text
100. The reader shall notice, that there is, in this essay, somewhat more use and development of the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson, than of the Slavophiles; and this for a couple of reasons. First, I write from an American perspective; with a greater feeling, familiarity and understanding of how Emerson stands in America’s intellectual, cultural and spiritual history. Russian readers will, I believe, be more familiar with the thoughts and ideas of their own history’s Slavophiles – certainly than many Americans. But, as they will most often be less familiar with Emerson; I am thus able to more substantially introduce him to them.
101. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Cycles of American History, 1986, p. x. Back to text
In all my lectures , I have taught one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man. Citation from Russel B. Nye, “The Search for the Individual: 1750-1850”, in Centennial Review, v. V, no. 1, Winter, 1961, p. 14. It is interesting to note that, at least in regard to the recent Soviet period of Russian history, the word “private” apparently has no ready, immediate counterpart, in current Russian language. Is this somehow valid for the individual person’s psyche, as well as for social conditions? Back to text
103. Attending this famous address were the President of Harvard University Josiah Quincy, Henry David Thoreau, James Russell Lowell, Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Oliver W. Holmes, and more than two hundred other members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, plus many undergraduate students. Back to text
104. “Self-Reliance” is the title of an essay which Emerson published in 1841 in Essays (First Series). It became one of his most well-known and oft-quoted. Back to text
105. See also “Adam, in America and Russia” in main text; especially pages 75-6, and Note 151. Back to text
106. See Note 100. Back to text
107. From “The American Scholar”, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, 1968, p. 47. Back to text
108. Citation from Oliver W. Holmes’, R. W. Emerson, p. 104 [R.W. Emerson, Complete Works, I, p. 186] Back to text
109. See Note 120: for Kireyevsky’s view, Note 205. Back to text
110. A very interesting and insightful lecture which deeply considers the tripartite conception of man (consisting of body, soul and spirit), was given in Berlin on 27 March, 1917 (amidst a lecture series) by the Austrian Dr. Rudolf Steiner – Goethe Scholar, Philosopher and Seer. Therein he spoke the following:
When we recognize that Western Christianity had of necessity to dethrone the spirit, innumerable questions of conscience and of epistemology are resolved. And this development led to the eighth Ecumenical Council of 869. This council laid down a dogma according to which it was contrary to Christianity to speak of man as consisting of body, soul and spirit, but truly Christian to speak of man as consisting of body and soul alone. The actual wording may not have been quite so explicit, but was later interpreted in this way. At first the Council simply stated that man possessed an intellectual soul and a spiritual soul. This formula was coined to avoid any reference to the spirit as a special entity, for the avowed object was to suppress all knowledge to the spirit. See Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, p. 25; and Otto Willmann, Geschichte des Idealismus, (1896), Bd. 2, p. 111.
111. Cf. Notes 154, 156. Back to text
112. From “Address to the Divinity Class”, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, 1968, p. 61-2. Back to text
113. See e. g. Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, vol. 2, p. 284. Back to text
114. Cf. Note 70. Back to text
From the mid-18th century to the mid-19th in American thought, therefore, the accepted version of the individual’s power to grasp and interpret God’s truth underwent a complete change – from Calvin’s dependence on the Bible and emphasis on the sovereignty of God, to deism’s grant to man of equal sovereignty in a universe of reason, to Channing’s transfer of sovereignty from Bible and church to man, and finally to the self-reliance of Emerson, Parker, and Thoreau. The line of thought moved from Mather’s distrust of man, to Jefferson’s qualified confidence in him, to Emerson’s and Jackson’s deep and abiding faith in his capacity to find and act upon divine truth. It was a long journey from John Cotton’s struggle with man’s inward dark angel, to Edward’s reluctant submission to God’s rule, to Emerson’s proud, confident “Know Thyself! Every heart vibrates to that iron string!” The 19th century’s deification of human nature reached its climax in the essays of the Sage of Concord. The American Scholar Address deified the Individual in art and intellect; The Divinity School Address exalted the Individual in religion; Self-Reliance granted each man the right and duty to find his own moral and ethical guides. From “The Search for the Individual: 1750-1850”, Russel B. Nye, in Centennial Renew, Vol. V, no. 1, Winter, 1961, p. 13-14. Back to text
116. Emerson wrote to Thomas Carlyle, on October 17,1838, concerning the reception of his address to the Divinity College:
The publication of my Address to the Divinity College...has been the occasion of an outcry in all our leading local newspapers against my ‘infidelity, pantheism, and atheism.’ The writers warn all and sundry against me, and against whatever is supposed to be related to my connection of opinion &c., against Transcendentalism, Goethe, and Cartyle (sic). I am heartily sorry to see this last aspect of the storm in our washbowl. Cf. Waldo Emerson, A Biography, by Gay Wallen, 1981, p. 322. Back to text
117. Below I compare Emerson’s concept of “True Christianity” with Khomyakov’s. See page 102. Back to text
118. The concept of “Individualism” was directly contributed to, in its modem sense, by Tocqueville in his Democracy in America. “It was in America that “individualism” came to specify a whole set of social ideals and acquired immense ideological significance: it expressed the operative ideals of late nineteenth – and early twentieth – century America (and continues to play a major ideological role), advancing a set of universal claims seen as incompatible with the parallel claims of the socialism and communism of the Old World. It referred, not to the sources of social dissolution or the painful transition to a future harmonious social order, but to the actual or imminent realization of the final stage of human progress, an order of equal individual rights, limited government, laissez-faire, natural justice, and equality of opportunity, and individual freedom, self-development, and dignity. Naturally, interpretations of it varied widely.” From ‘Types of Individualism”, in The Dictionary of the History of Ideas, vol. II, p. 596. Back to text
119. Cf. e.g.: “A Soviet View of Emerson”, in New England Quarterly, XIX, June 1946, p. 239; [Translated by Sidney L. Jackson from Istoria Filosofii, ІII, 498-504, Moscow, 1943]. This is, generally, a skeptical, Marxist view of Emerson’s Transcendentalism. Back to text
The scholar’s first duty, he [Emerson] pointed out, is integrity of his own mind, which, as Emerson had always preached, is but an extension of the Divine Mind. Gay W. Allen, Waldo Emerson: A Biography, 1981, p. 301.
121. From “The American Scholar”, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, 1968, p. 41. Back to text
122. I want to stress, here, that at this time, ca. 1838-39, the American Emerson and the Russian Kireyevsky, would certainly have had no knowledge whatsoever of each others’ lives, thoughts and activities. So that, it must be recognized, how, curiously, at almost the exact same time, these individuals, in their respective countries and lives, brought to voice, a distinct yet kindred articulation, of their respective countries’ highest aspirations and character! Back to text
123. Compare this characteristic Slavophile idea of Kireyevsky, to this essential quote of Emerson: “Another sign of our times,... is the new importance given to the single person. Everything that tends to insulate the individual – to surround him with barriers of natural respect, so that each man may feel the world is his, and man shall treat with man as a sovereign state with a sovereign state – tends to true union as well as greatness.” See fuller quotation in the main text section “Emerson, and Man as a Sovereign State” above. Back to text
124. It was written in ‘38, spoken in ‘39. Cf. Peter K. Christoff, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Russian Slavophilism, A Study in Ideas, Volume II: I. V. Kireevskij, p. 81,222 [Kireevskij Socinenija, I, p. 192-3]. Back to text
125. “Kireevskij’s new orientation was perhaps best exemplified in his contrast of the Western individualistic point of view, which he deplored, with the communal principle in Russian economic, political and social life.” Peter K. Christoff, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Russian Slavophilism, A Study in Ideas, Volume II: I. V. Kireevskij, p. 81-82. Back to text
126. On “Holy Russia”, see, for example, Alexander V. Soloviev, Holy Russia, The History of a Religious-Social Idea, The Hague 1959; and M. Chemiavsky, “Holy Russia”: A Study in the History of an Idea”, in American Historical Review, vol. 63 (1957-58) p. 617-637. This latter article also briefly considers the Third Rome idea; touching many of the deeper spirits of Russia on this theme, e.g. Khomyakov, Dostoyevsky,V. Soloviev, Berdyaev, et al. Back to text
127. Cf. Andrzej Walicki, “The Image of Personality", in “Personality and Society in the Ideology of the Russian Slavophiles”, in California Slavic Studies, vol. II (1963), p. 13-18. Back to text
128. “In ancient Russia the basic social unit was the village commune (obshchina), which was founded on the common use of land, mutual agreement, and community of custom, and which was governed by the mir – a council of elders who settled disputes in accordance with hallowed traditions and were guided by the principle of unanimity rather than the mechanical majority of a ballot. Society was held together by what was primarily a moral bond – a bond of convictions – that united the entire land of Rus’ into one great mir, a nationwide community of faith, land and custom.” See Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought, p. 96. Back to text
129. Khomyakov considered “Westernized” Russians to be “colonizers in their own country.” See Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought, p. 99. Back to text
130. Peter K. Christoff, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Russian Slavophilism, A Study in Ideas, Volume II: I. V. Kireevskij, II, p. 42. Back to text
131. Cited in Zenkovsky, History of Russian Philosophy, p. 218. Back to text
132. Kireyevsky held, at least at one time during his life, a very critical, extreme comprehension of life in the USA. In 1845 he wrote:
What a brilliant fate seemed to belong to the United States of America, built on such a rational base, after such an auspicious beginning! – And what came of it? Only the external forms of society developed and, deprived of the inner source of life, they crushed man under a surface mechanism. The literature of the United States, according to the accounts of the most impartial judges, serves as a clear expression of this situation. An enormous factory of inept verse...; a total insensitivity to everything artistic; a blatant contempt of all thinking not conducive to material gain; petty personalities without general principles;...
133. Cited in Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Bd. 5, “Licht”, s. 286; (Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, IV, ch. XIX, sec. 14]. Back to text
134. Jefferson’s “enlightened” view of the “vertical” in Christianity can be recognized by considering thoughts in the introduction to a recent edition of Jefferson’s own published extracts from the Bible.
Jefferson came of age at a critical point in the religious history of the Western world. By the middle of the eighteenth century the Enlightenment was in full swing in Europe and America. The Enlightenment was a highly complex movement but in general it represented a decisive shift, at least among the educated elite, from a predominately theological to a fundamentally secular world view....enlightened thinkers scorned metaphysical and theological speculation as useless and concentrated instead on the rational investigation of nature and society,... The rationalistic spirit that animated the Enlightenment brought it into conflict with organized Christianity, whose emphasis on the value of supernatural revelation, tradition and ecclesiastical authority was rejected by those who insisted that religion, like all other institutions, had to be justified instead on the twin grounds of reasonableness and social utility.(p. 4-5)
Having rejected the dogma of the Trinity as a logical absurdity that could not be reconciled with human reason, Jefferson then subjected the rest of Christianity to the test of rational analysis and concluded that its basic doctrines were simply unacceptable to an enlightened man living in the eighteenth century.(p. 5.) As Jefferson himself wrote:
the immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity, original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of hierarchy, &c, are
artificial systems, invented by Ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by any single word ever uttered by [Jesus] Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels, ed. D.W. Adams, p. 4-5,41-42. Back to text
135. These two Church Fathers lived in a very different time, mind and culture than Locke. It could perhaps be said, that they lived in a time of the setting sun of the sacral sapiential and gnostic traditions of the “Ancient Near East”. Locke lived more in the bight day time of the “natural light” of Reason; the “supernatural light”, which he considered, belonged to an earlier, almost forgotten day. There is more than a temporal or geographical “night” between St Isaac or Maximus and Locke; there is also an inner psychological, perhaps even a spiritual night. One which such persons as are labeled “Romantics” often sought, in thought feeling, intuition, and etc., to penetrate to, with the hopes of reviewing the earlier day’s light. (Confer section Ex Occident Lux...). Back to text
136. See Henry Lanz “The Philosophy of Ivan Kireyevsky”, in Slavonic Review, Vol. IV, No. 12, March 1926, p. 594-604. Back to text
137. From Henry Lanz, “The Philosophy of Ivan Kireyevsky”, in Slavonic Review, Vol. IV, No. 12, March 1926, p. 602.
138. Cf. Andrzej Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy, p, 153. Back to text
139. Henry Lanz “The Philosophy of Ivan Kireyevsky”, in Slavonic Review, Vol. IV, No. 12; March, 1926, p. 603.
140. It is worth noting, especially considering the strong, almost “religious” presence of Science in the modem and contemporary world, that the root of the term “science” is from the Latin scire, to know; Latin scientia. It is a kind of knowledge. Yet, that “science” was not always considered the highest kind of human knowledge, can be found clearly stated in this quote by St Augustine, in which he contrasts science and wisdom. He wrote:
If therefore this is the right distinction between wisdom (sapientia) and knowledge (scientia), that the intellectual cognition of eternal things pertains to wisdom (sapientia), but the rational cognition of temporal things to knowledge (scientia), it is not difficult to judge which is to be esteemed more and which less. Cited in An Augustine Synthesis, ed. Erich Przywara, 1958, p. 70; [Cf. De Trinitate, XV, 25].
(Both the words “conscience” and “conscious” are closely related to each other, and have scire as their main root. Cf. Eric Partridge, Origins.)
141. From Henry Lanz, “The Philosophy of Ivan Kireyevsky”, in Slavonic Review, IV, No. 12; March, 1926, p. 603-4 [Kireyevsky Works, vol. I, p. 201].
142. Quotation from V.V. Zenkovsky, History of Russian Philosophy, p. 216; [I. V. Kireevskij, Polnoe sobranie socinij (1911) vol. I, p. 275]. Back to text
143. Peter K. Christoff, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Russian Slavophilism, A Study in Ideas, Volume II: I. V. Kireevskij, p. 222; [Kireevskij, Socinenija, I, p. 210-211]. (Compare this critique of the western individual’s psychology, to Emerson’s of (American) society, in the section “Adam, in America and Russia” in the main text below.) Back to text
144. I must apologize to the reader, but I am unable to relocate the exact position and source of this citation. Back to text
145. For example: Dostoyevsky, V. Soloviev, Berdyaev, Solzhenitsyn.
My only wish is that those principles of life which are preserved in the doctrine of the Holy Orthodox Church should become part and parcel of thee beliefs of all estates and strata of our society; that these lofty principles, in dominating European culture, should not force it out but rather engulf it in their fullness, thus giving it a higher meaning and bringing it to its ultimate development; and that the integrity of being which we observe in the ancient should be preserved forever in our present and future Orthodox Russia. Quotation in Russian Intellectual History, ed. M. Raeff, p. 207. Back to text
147. Constantinople was considered the Second Rome, even by its founder, Constantine the Great. It was only with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, that the concept of Moscow as the Third Rome could flourish. See also Note 63. [The ‘reflections’ of Constantinople on “the Mediterranean of the Future”, the Pacific Ocean, was briefly alluded to in the introduction of work. See Note 8.] It is important to note, that the Slavophiles tended to embrace their own Russian Orthodox Christianity; not the Catholic or Protestant divisions, which were considered heretical, in one way or other, to the “pure” Orthodox faith. Back to text
148. From “The American Scholar”, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 31-32. Back to text
149. From the “Address to the Divinity Class”, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 61. Back to text
150. It could be said of Emerson, that his is a call for a striving towards a “verticality of the mind”, whereas Kireyevsky, Khomyakov, et al, present one which is rather a “verticality of the heart, or soul”. Back to text
151. While the etymology of “man” is still disputed by scholars, a serious theory derives it from the Indo-European root of sanskrit man-, to think; Greek, menos, mind, spirit; Latin mens, mind, mental; English mind. See Note 120. Back to text
152. See section “...and Spiritual Nationality.” Back to text
153. Cf. Genesis 1:26-31, 2:7-9. Back to text
154. The tremendous spiritual contributions and influences of this great, enigmatic, mythic figure, on the Old and New Testaments – and much else of the spiritual, philosophical, religious and intellectual history of not only Occidental man – are recognized, if debated, delimited and disputed, by serious scholars of Occidental Spiritual History. While much current interpretive opinion can refute, avoid, ignore, deny, calumny, etc., just about anything conceivable; the mystery and influence of Zarathustra, moves on through time, even into the current fascination with Siberian Shamanism, and the problem of atomic science. Back to text
155. It should be clear that the philosophical foundation of the American Revolution, with its Declaration of Independence, is based on a much more secular, “horizontal” understanding of man, nature and God, than Emerson’s “Spiritual Declaration of Independence”, with its “vertical” conception of the relation of Man to God. Emerson’s “United States Constitution” is ‘Self-Reliant’ Man. (Emerson spoke of the “moral constitution of man”. See Note 163) Hence, Emerson, here, is much closer to the Slavophiles than to Jefferson. Back to text
156. F. B. Sanborn, who was involved with the Concord School of Philosophy (cf. main text below) from its inception – he also edited a book of lectures, given at Concord: The Life and Genius of Goethe (1886) – wrote of Emerson, that he was
Persian rather than Greek, English or American. He was allied to the great Zorvester [Zoroaster-Zarathustra]... He was Oriental both in activity and repose. Similarly Dr. William T. Harris, founder of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, and co-founder of the Concord School, wrote of Emerson, that he “had done more than any other man to light up the past and the philosophy of the Orient beyond Judea.” See “The Concord School of Philosophy”, Austin Warren, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 2., 1929; p. 215. Cf. also Mansur Ekhtiar, Emerson and Persia, 1976. Back to text
157. “The first and greatest of the startsi [elders] of the 19th century was Saint Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833)...”; quoted from Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, p. 130. Back to text
158. Cf. Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church; Part 2, chapter 11: “God and Man”, (section 5: “Partakers of the Divine Nature”). Back to text
159. From The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (ed. Paul Edwards) Vol. 2, p. 8. Back to text
160. See Note 115. Back to text
161. See “Emerson, and Man as a Sovereign State” in main text pages 62-3. Back to text
162. From the “Address to the Divinity Class”, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 53-54. Back to text
163. It seems likely that Emerson’s thought, here, will be as well received and popular today, as it was during his own time today. But let us nevertheless make absolutely clear the distinctions. “…I regret one thing omitted in my late Course of Lectures [another set of lectures]; that I did not state with distinctness & conspicuously the great error of modern Society in respect to religion & say, You can never come to any peace or power until you put your whole reliance in the moral constitution of man & not at all in a historical Christianity. (The unbelief of man) The Belief in Christianity that now prevails is the Unbelief of men. They will have Christ for a lord & not for a brother. Christ preache(d)s the greatness of Man but we hear only the greatness of Christ.” From The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed., Edward Waldo Emerson, 1909; vol 5, Journal С; see March 5, 1838, p. 459. Back to text
164. From “Address to the Divinity Class”, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. L. Mumford, p. 55. [A “wen” is a benign tumor on the skin.] Back to text
165. From “Address to the Divinity Class”, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 64-65. It will be – if ever – a very different America, when such an ideal, is the highest, most central and revered goal, for individuals and the society of America. Such would be a “vertical”, spiritual leadership. This would come when America is a “vertical” society, not an exclusively “horizontal” one. Such would bring about the most profound realization of the “American Dream” imaginable. Back to text
166. There exists a vast amount of literature on this idea of Anthropos, the “Cosmic Man”, especially as a crucial component of the conception of Man in the Ancient Near East, itself the womb, the sunrise lands (orient), of the West (occident). Back to text
167. See Note 63. Back to text
168. Quoted in Bliss Perry, The American Mind, 1912, p. 210. Back to text
169. Quoted in Bliss Perry, The American Mind, 1912, p. 210. Back to text
170. Compare this idea of Emerson, with thoughts on “heaven” articulated by “the mysterious visitor”, in The Brothers Karamazov, when he is talking to “Father Zossima” (when he was a younger man).
For everyone strives to keep his individuality, everyone wants to secure the greatest possible fullness of life for himself. But meantime all his efforts result not in attaining fullness of life but self-destruction, for instead of self-realization he ends by arriving at complete solitude. All mankind in our age is split up into units....he [man] is accustomed to rely upon himself alone and to cut himself off from the whole; he has trained himself not to believe in the help of others, in men and in humanity .....Everywhere in these days men have ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort. But this terrible individualism must inevitably have an end, and all will suddenly understand how unnaturally they are separated from one another. See Part 2, Book VI, 1 (d). Back to text
171. The mythical limits, westward, of the ancient world: the Straits of Gibraltar as they are known today. Images of the Pillars of Hercules, seem to have contributed to the now well-known symbol of the United States dollar sign. Back to text
172. From “Address to the Divinity Class”, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 60. Back to text
173. “Address to the Divinity Class”, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 57. Back to text
174. It was during this same summer, that a special gathering took place in Concord, Massachusetts, of Dr. Hiram K. Jones (a Neo-Platonist), Emerson, Bronson Alcott, F. B. Sanborn, et al, which led to the foundation and beginning of the Concord School of Philosophy the next summer. Back to text
175. From The Brothers Karamazov, Part Two, Book VI, 2, (g). Dostoyevsky’s “vertical” comprehension of “thoughts” can be interestingly compared to that of Thomas Jefferson. As Jefferson’s idea concerning this was described in M. Curti’s Human Nature in American Thought:
thinking was ‘an action’ of a ‘particular organization of matter’ rather than an intangible supersensation or manifestation of the supernatural through mystical intuition or insight (p. 81). Back to text
176. This idea should be contrasted with that of Khomyakov which will be considered below. McCosh’s idea of this union would occur through mutual understanding and respect – an intellectual union. Khomyakov’s human union occurs through love and common faith. Back to text
177. From “The Concord School of Philosophy”, Harper’s Weekly, Volume XXVI, No. 1889(7), 1882. It is not completely clear, in this article about the Concord School, whether all the material quoted is McCosh’s own words, a restatement of them, or a description by the anonymous author of this article. However this may be, the essential meaning and significance, in regard to my argument here, remains the same. Back to text
178. “The Concord School of Philosophy”, Austin Warren, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 2 (1929) p. 202, et al. Back to text
179. “The Concord School of Philosophy”, Austin Warren, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 2 (1929). Back to text
180. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. wrote recently, in his The Cycles of American History, of Solzhenitsyn:
“...Solzhenitsyn’s faith is suffused...by the otherworldly mysticism of the Russian Church – a mysticism that reflected the political absolutism of Russian society. By Russian religious standards, earthly happiness is nothing compared to the divine judgement....
He comes, moreover, as a messenger of God. ‘Truth eludes us,’ he said at Harvard, ‘if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit.’ He has concentrated with total attention and does not doubt that the truth is his. But the notion of absolute truth is hard for Americans to take. If absolute truth exists, it is certainly not confided intact to frail and sinful mortals.
There is very much here for contemplation and insight. Back to text
181. However this certainly was true for some portions of the intelligentsia, e.g. Marxists, nihilists, materialists. Back to text
182. Not only did Ivan Karamazov’s mind break from what could well be diagnosed as a “Westen”-induced “brain fever”; but did Dimitri Karamazov, indeed, escape to America, rather than go to Siberia; he would surely have found, even the best and brightest at the Concord School of Philosophy, inadequate to his and Grushenka’s Russian souls. Back to text
183. Quote from Stuart R. Tompkins, “Vekhi and the Russian Intelligentsia”, Canadian Slavonic Papers, II (1957), p. 18. Back to text
184. Russia was what could be called a “vertically” oriented society, until the attempt was made, in the Bolshevik Revolution, to force Russia into a radical “horizontality”, which is a radical opposite of Hesychasm, for example.
185. Citation from J. Flanagan, “Emerson and Communism”, The New England Quarterly, 1937, p. 261; [From “New England Reformers”]. Back to text
186. From Rudolf Steiner, Lectures on the Apocalypse of St John, lecture of 24 June, 1908, Nürnberg. Back to text
187. A rather pathetic, and (at least, to date, still) bizarre indication of the conditions and attitude of presumptive reverence to the “head”, and the earthly mind, is revealed by a “medical procedure” in which people – with the requisite funds and desire – can undergo. People may have their entire bodies frozen, in such a deep freeze, that when in the future years – as stipulated in the contract which they sign with their ‘personal Cyrogenic specialist’– conditions of medical discovery and technology have reached the stage where life can be prolonged, or perhaps a special disease they have can be cured, they wish to be revived. (This could be decades into the future.) Some of these “patients”, as they are called, have only had their brains ‘saved’ for some future revival, later in time, on earth – presumably in some brain-vacated body! These clients are called “neuro-patients”. Their brains, with the protective skull included, are frozen for some possible future life. (Even to Timothy Leary, whose aging eyes reveal how many chemically-induced journeys he has made out of his mind (brain/skull), the idea of such preservation, to continue life as much and long as possible, seems very desirable. At present, he still graces California and America, in full, unfrozen body, with his wisdom and life experience, by a life on earth in his aging body. Noteworthy, that someone, who so often sought to escape out of the normal, rational mind, should be interested in remaining so incarnated.!) It would probably, rarely, if ever, occur to an American, to have their heart “frozen”, instead of the brain, for some future revival. (Presumably, it did not occur to those who preserved Lenin’s body, to extract and study the great man’s heart!) Most all of this presumes a profound, almost religious “horizontality”. Back to text
188. Francis Bacon, who accepted and utilized the “mythology” of the “Fall of Adam”, held that science was a way by which man could restore his ordained, pre-Fall “dominion” over nature. He held that, though man had also lost his purity of morality and “being” in “The Fall”; that it was not necessary for man, to regain his lost purity, in order to restore his rightful, God-given dominion over nature. It seems quite likely – especially looking at the degraded condition into which man’s science and technology has brought nature – that he was profoundly erred in this opinion; and that here we may look for a deep essential portion of the story of the oft-spoken disjunction, of man’s scientific (scire) and technological (techne) knowledge as having advanced further than his moral development. But my thesis here, is that this “disjunction” is deeper than commonly reasoned. Cf. William Leiss, The Domination of Nature, 1972, p. 48-57. and see Note 141. Back to text
189. A deep and interesting consideration of the biographical and “theoretical” relation of Vladimir Solovyov, to believe and faith, can be found in Heinz Mosmann, Wladimir Solowjoff und ‘die werdende Vernunft der Wahrheit’, Keime zu einer Philosophie des Geistselbst, Verlag Freies Geistesleben (Stuttgart), 1984. Back to text
190. I would appreciate some thoughts by my readers on this point.. Back to text
191. The presence of a deep inner “belief, of a vital, living “faith” (Greek pistis), in the fallen human soul, towards the heavenly world, may be one of the necessary elements in coming into a spiritual relationship with the Sophia. See Sigismund von Gleich, Die Inspirationsquellen der Anthroposophie, Kap. V: “Der Sophia-Impuls”, p. 27-32. Back to text
192. See Andrzej Walicki, “Personality and Society in the Ideology of the Russian Slavophiles”, in California Slavic Studies, vol. II.(1963), p. 7-13, wherein he considers the basic sociological distinction of “society” and “community”, in relation to the Slavophiles. Back to text
193. See Note 128. Back to text
194. Cited in A. Walicki, A History of Russian Thought, p. 102-3. [AS. Khomyakov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, (4th ed., Moscow, 1914) vol.. I, p. 161] Back to text
195. Cited in V. V. Zenkovskii, Russian Thinkers and Europe, p. 55. Back to text
196. Cited in V. V. Zenkovskii, Russian Thinkers and Europe, p. 54. Back to text
197. Cited in A. Walicki, A History of Russian Thought, p. 103 [A.S. Khomyakov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, (4th ed., Moscow, 1914) Vol. I, p. 283] Back to text
198. See Ernesto Buonaiuti, “Ecclesia Spiritualis” in Spirit and Nature, Bollingen, XXX, p. 213-250. In this article can be read much which has deep sympathy to the contents and direction of this essay. Meaningful associations can be found to the ideas of a “city on a hill”, Zoroastrian influence, the ecclesia camalis, St Paul, gnosis, metanoia, et al. Back to text
199. “Philadelphia” comes from the Greek for “brotherly love”. During one of the earlier summits between President Reagan and Gorbachof, a gift of a glass bowl, named “Philadelphia Bowl”, was given from the USA to the USSR. Back to text
200. Cf. Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, “Khomiakov on Sobornost”, in Continuity and Change in Russian and Soviet Thought, ed E. J. Simmons, p. 194-6. Back to text
201. Fran “Self-Reliance”, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 90. Back to text
202. From “Self-Reliance”, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 91-92. Back to text
203. From “Self-Reliance”, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 99-100. Back to text
204. The evaluation of the religious, traditional past is here characteristically contrasting to the Slavophiles. Back to text
205. Cited in V. V. Zenkovskii, Russian Thinkers and Europe, p. 54. Kireyevsky held to a similar “psychology” of the highest in man. “The nature of the reason...which is experienced in the highest development of inner spiritual intuition is wholly different in kind from that of the reason which limits itself to the development of external life.” Cited in Zenkovsky, History of Russian Philosophy, p. 218, [Cf. Note 120, and especially Note 140 wherein Emerson is considered.] Back to text
206. See Note 140. Back to text
207. From “Address to the Divinity Class”, in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Journals, ed. Lewis Mumford, p. 62. Back to text
208. For the larger context of the quote, see section “Emerson, and Man as a Sovereign State” in the main text above. Back to text
209. Andrzej Walicki, “Personality and Society in the Ideology of the Russian Slavophiles”, in California Slavic Studies, vol. II. (1963), p. 3. Back to text
210. Nation is derived from natio.
Latin natio, originally a birth, hence a creature’s entire offspring at one time, hence a clan’s offspring, hence a people’s, hence that people itself. See Eric Partridge, Origins, p. 428. Consider also the idea of the ecclesia spiritualis. Back to text
211. The New Jerusalem Back to text
212. And in this they are kin to all those nations, peoples and cultures which have a common spiritual heritage; though it must be admitted, that those men and women of Mankind, who Saint Paul described as those of “psyche”, shall relate to these ideas differently – in whatever culture – than those of “pneuma”.
“But regardless of these distinctions in nomenclature, we can, without the least violence to the historical facts, recognize many forms of ecclesia spiritualis not only in the Orphic-Pythagorean communities but also in all other communities built on mystical religions. They all reveal the characteristic traits of that ecclesia spiritualis which has been the great historical reality throughout the centuries.
These are the communities and conclaves of men who recognize a solidarity unrelated to race, to nation, land, blood, politics, class, or caste; who, on the contrary, find the basis of their solidarity in a common belief in transcendental values and in their of in divine grace…”
These “mysterious values” are much more closely akin to the “vertical”, and a vertically-sourcing morality, based on inner virtue, than the “horizontal”-secular criterion of “inalienable rights of man”, “universal human values”, or such. The later is a necessary secular equivalent of the former. Back to text
213. From James Truslow Adams, “Emerson Re-Read”, in Atlantic Monthly, October, 1930, p. 487. Back to text
214. Quotation in Paul M. Allen, Vladimir Soloviev: Russian Mystic, p. 189. Back to text
215. Among which are the wisdom, the Sophia of the prophetic seer Zarathustra (See Note 154.) The history of the “Sophia” can be traced back, looking at one aspect of this theme – that of spiritual psychology of the human being –, as far as the “daena” of the essential Zarathustran conception. (On this nascent concept of “daena” see, for example, H. S. Nyberg, “Die Religionen des Alten Iran”, in Mitteil, der Vorderasiat.-Aegypt. Gesellschaft, Bd. 43, (1938), p. 114-120.) [In my lectures in Russia, and California, during 1987 and 1988, which were the original presentation of many of the ideas and insights of this essay, I went into much greater depth of consideration concerning the question and theme of the Sophia. The audience for this story was much more subtle, profound and deep in Russia, than in this West of the West. And it is a deep and important spiritual characterization of the West, that the idea and theme of the Sophia is so little, and poorly, known – even in communities of those in California who conceive themselves to be deeply involved in “spirituality”.] Back to text
216. For an interesting introduction to the idea of the philosophia perennis, see for example, Charles B. Schmitt, “Perennial Philosophy: From Agostino Steuco to Leibniz”, in the Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. XXVII, no. 4, 1966; and Karl H. Dannenfeldt, “The Pseudo-Zoroastrian Oracles in the Renaissance”, in Studies in the Renaissance, vol. IV (1957). Back to text
217. Political, economic, social, cultural and religious “convergence” shall surely be more popular, possible and pursued. Such are obvious dynamics of relation in a increasingly interactive, interdependent world. But are, for example, American plutocratic economic structures, corrupted political power, inadequate and insensitive social bureaucracies; IBM computers; ‘God-Almighty’ dollars; MacDonald gamburgers and management techniques; Billy Joel rock concerts (or worse), and “historical Christianity” (Emerson), all – and the best – that the USA can offer to the body, soul and spirit of Russia? Back to text
218. See the fuller quote in “The Statue of Liberty’s Inner Light”, page 113. Back to text
219. The fuller dialogue between “the mysterious visitor” and Father Zossima as a young man goes:
“And we are all responsible for all, apart from our own sins. You were quite right in thinking that. And it is wonderful how you could comprehend it in all its significance at once. And in truth, so soon as men understand that the Kingdom of Heaven will be for them not a dream, but a living reality.”
“And when?” I [The young “Father Zossima”] cried out to him bitterly. “When will that come to pass? Will it ever come to pass? Is it not simply a dream?”
220. There is much appropriate talk in our society of the need for a renewal of “social values” – that neutered word for morality, which, presumably, was generally neutralized from our daily language, due to its direct associations with once-established religions of differing kinds. In a secular nation, with a legally-protected pluralism of ideas about “the ultimate questions of life;” some agreement must be had – some social common ground – about social morality. Though we have, indeed, our generic national “God”, in whom we trust; the cornucopia of views which fills this word, were they to be clearly and loudly voiced in their distinctiveness, might well lead us into some grand, anarchic, modem ‘holy wars’ of religion.
The name “God” can certainly be intimidating, even to those who have a diversity of religious views, or generally no religious views at all. But it is not necessarily adequate, to base a social morality, on a God which meets all of our societies human projections. Every society which we would call “civilized” – in some real sense or other, must have “law and order” to some minimal degree at least. But even a real “social morality” – ”social values” – which may or may not derive from a religious basis, does not necessarily engage the heart and soul of man. In other words, an outer social morality, while it is certainly essential for a sane, tolerable life in society, and may well be adequate and satisfactory for a society’s order, does not necessarily mean that there is morality present in the society. For there is outer morality – which can be like a sort of social law – and there is inner morality. If social renewal is based on outer social morality, this does not mean that the “dark side” of men and man – which reveals itself so dramatically in the current “immorality” of our civilization, which is so disturbing and shocking – is truly tamed. And the question is whether the attempt to revive outer social morality can ever really succeed. Laws can be instituted, prisons can be enumerated, police can be enhanced; calls for new values can be made by the leaders of our secular, political, intellectual and religious establishments. But these are all outer acts, not too different than trying to cage and control a wild beast. Such an animal can be made docile and governable; perhaps the wild beast can even be completely “tamed”. But if we control the latent and manifest “beast in man” by placing him in a “cage” of laws and punishments, social enculturation and pressure; are we not in essence treating the beast in man in the same way that we treat a wild animal? Certainly there are plenty of people, be they in religion, politics, psychology or anthropology, who have such a view of the reality of the inner life of the human being. Wild, dangerous animals – let there be no question – must be controlled; tamed, one way or other; but is this the reality for man as well? The call for a renewal of “social values” is as necessary for our civilizational order and social life, as it has been – in its preponderate content – inadequate to the reality of the problem. The beast – any period of human history, not only our bloody own, will show – must be controlled. But it is little more than “taming a wild animal”, the way man and his beast have been addressed concerning this problem. The only real, and lasting taming of the beast in man, must occur in the inner life, the heart and soul of man. If our best “role models”, our great or leading men and women, do not speak of this inner self-control? If all our talk, thought and worry focuses on the outer morality of society, and does not deeply address the true problem of inner morality; will the problem be solved in a way which recognizes and realizes man as greater than the beasts which we keep in physical, metal cages. Man, has an inner beast, which we allow, to freely walk the streets; that is, until some (outer) law is “broken”. But it is clearly impossible to govern all persons’ acts by laws, police and prisons, etc. Society rests upon a basis of presumed benevolent moral action by the majority. The problem is that the self-governance or social control of the beast in men and women of Man, seems to be inadequate to the task. Outer social morality is not adequate to the problem – though it is certainly necessary. The beast inside of man – even in the most “polite” of us – must be tamed by the individuals own self. It is manifestly inadequate to imagine that it is acceptable to allow an inner beast – wild and untamed – to roam loose and uncontrolled, inside of the private being of man; for the wild inner animal too obviously often escapes control...
No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main. John Donne, Devotions, Meditation 7: “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” This was cited also by President Gorbachof in his speech to the United Nations. Back to text
See two sincere men conversing together. They deport themselves as if self-existent. Are they not for the time two Gods? For every true man is as if he should say, I speak for the Universe... Cited in W.A. Clebsch, American Religious Thought, p. 101, [Emerson: Journals and Miscell. Notebooks: 4: 309]. Back to text
223. Cited in R. J. Wilson, ‘The Plight of the Transcendent Individual”, in In Quest of Community: Social Philosophy in the United States, 1860-1920, p. 13; [See Emerson’s essay “Solitude and Society”]. Back to text
224. Cited in R. J. Wilson, ‘The Plight of the Transcendent Individual”, in In Quest of Community: Social Philosophy in the United States, 1860-1920; p. 13. Back to text
225. From The Pushkin Speech, June 6, 1880. See The Dream of a Queer Fellow, and The Pushkin Speech, translated by S. Koteliansky and J. Middleton Murry, p. 57-58. In The Brothers Karamazov, in the thoughts on love, by “Father Zossima” (Part Two, Book VI, 2) can be found one of the deepest literary renderings, of a superlative “religion of love” (Emerson), as conceived in the Russian Christian world. Back to text
226. Ivan Kireyevsky, citation position uncertain. Back to text
227. We have considered this question of the striving to achieve “the good life” in the “horizontal”, in America, in relation to the common conception of the American Dream. You might could say that America is distracted from higher “vertical” pursuits by an over-abundance of “material plenty” in the “horizontal”; whereas Russia and the USSR are, understandably fixated here, due to sparsity. Such conditions, alone, would bring about differing developments of individual and collective psychology. Back to text
228. See Note 212. Back to text
229. From Rudolf Steiner, Lectures on the Apocalypse of St John, lecture of 24 June, 1908, Niirenberg. Back to text
230. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America, p. 380. Back to text
231. Citation from Oliver W. Holmes, R. W. Emerson, p. 104 [R.W. Emerson, Complete Works, I, p. 186] Back to text
232. Nicholas Berdyaev, “Russia and the Moden World Era”, in The Russian Review, 1948, p. 14 Back to text
233. In Central Europe, Goethe, for a great example, pointed a way for a higher, inner life for Man. Back to text
234. In a real way, one could view such an alchemical blending, in the individual and the community – and in the intellectual-spiritual understanding of both – as a reunion of the differing, severed Evagrian and (Pseudo-?) Macarian conceptions of Man’s relation to Divinity and Deification, i.e. in the Mind and Heart of Man! Back to text