Due to the totalitarian nature of communist monoideology in the Eastern Bloc countries, the rich treasury of Russian religious philosophy was repressed and locked to a wide readership. My interest in Russian religious philosophy and, in particular, my piety for this philosopher, called “the father of Orthodox ecumenism”, date back to that time.
On his deathbed in the estate of the Trubetsky princes, Solovyov asked his disciples and followers present to call a Catholic priest from whom to receive the last communion. Entering into intercommunion with non-Orthodox people, participating in worship services and sacraments outside the Orthodox Church, an Orthodox Christian condemns himself and is condemned by ecclesiastical law. In my opinion, however, the guardian of the ecclesial unity of the universal church, by accepting Catholic communion minutes before his hour of death and presenting himself to the Supreme Judge and Revengeful, wants to show that he is not afraid to experience God’s judgment in the afterlife. because he sincerely believes in the correctness of his views for overcoming the division of Christ’s Church. Moreover, in order not to cause confusion in the Orthodox circles during his lifetime, he did not allow himself to take this step, but did so only by crossing the border of his earthly existence. His ecumenism (the theory of ecclesial unity and reunion, of unity) is related to his epistemology (theory of knowledge).
As early as 1852, IV Kireevsky wrote a small but profound and unusually valuable article “On the Possibility and Necessity of New Principles for Philosophy”, which, together with his extensive letter to Count Komarovsky, undoubtedly became a cornerstone for the Russian national philosophy. Instead of knowing the truth through reason and the senses, separated from each other, as Western philosophers taught, he worked for the knowledge of truth through the act of the harmoniously united forces of man. Religious faith, so humiliated by rationalism, according to Kireevsky, has always been an act of “complete” and complete knowledge, and therefore higher than rational or any other knowledge. His theory of knowledge, so primitively meeting the needs of religion and offering joyful prospects to truth-weary humanity, was not fully developed because of his early death. The thoughts expressed by him fell on fertile ground and in various forms were repeated by later thinkers, among whom his most prominent supporter was the famous professor of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy VN Karpov. Undoubtedly a supporter of “comprehensive” knowledge is Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, as shown by the philosophical system created by him, whose task was the comprehensive synthesis of theology, rational philosophy and positive science, ie. the same task that Kireevski set out to do.
Here are the main provisions of Soloviev’s system. As an absolute Originator, instead of the abducted beings spoken of by the philosophy next to him, this Russian religious philosopher for the first time stands for a concrete Unified Spirit. The logical, necessary and absolutely complete course of world development is comprehended and, so to speak, justified by the ultimate goal – the restoration of the world in the universality of the Absolute Spirit. The last results of the synthesis thus outlined, according to Solovyov, must be the affirmation in the form of rational knowledge of their same features, which in the form of faith and spiritual contemplation have been affirmed by the great theological teachings of the East: “Thus, the latest philosophy with the logical perfection of the Western form seeks to unite the fullness of the content of the spiritual contemplations of the East – philosophy lends a hand to religion.”
Regarding moral activity, Vladimir Solovyov asserts that its subject should be a normal society, practically unified, in which everyone is a goal for the activity of everyone and everyone for everyone. The foundations of the desired system cannot be economic relations, as morally indifferent; nor the rule of law, which seems to us to be a panacea, because the law is concerned only with the borders and not with the purpose and content of human activity; a solid basis of human activity can be sought only in the mystical, i.e. the religious principle that makes man worthy of that name. The unity of spiritual love finds its realization and unquenchable fire in the spiritual union or the church, which in itself determines the unchangeable unconditional goals of human society. At the forefront of everything must be theocracy, in respect of which the state and the economic sphere represent a natural field of action and an environment embodying the higher principle.
In such a theocracy, spiritual and hierarchical authority and sacred traditions must not interfere with the space of thought and freedom of faith. Solovyov developed the idea of a universal church in which the three main currents — Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism — would bring in various elements of life that needed to work together. From the above it is evident how necessary for Soloviev’s system is the conviction of the divinity of the Unified Beginning. This beginning, as such, in his words, is known first of all through sensory experience and rational thinking. Thus, the basis of true knowledge should be the mystical or religious perception, which is the requirement of Kireevsky.
Almost every moment of his life Solovyov was enlightened by unquenchable faith or devoted to reflection on the works of faith. With his conviction, personal example, and constant correspondence between word and deed, the thinker ignited in his neighbors either faith itself, or at least a keen interest in it, a “feeling that became extremely rare and almost impossible after the long monstrous oppression of materialistic teachings over society ”.
Vladimir Solovyov gives us a talented critique of rationalism, although he does not offer a positive epistemological theory, although he builds his system on the principle of faith. His philosophical activity is significant for its remarkable depth of thought, the beauty of the exposition and the power of the religious “suggestion”, a talented popularization of theological and philosophical knowledge.
Every living being, according to Soloviev’s teaching, has two main categories: real subjective being and, secondly, the idea or objective essence that explains that being. But the real subject is threefold connected with his idea or objective essence: 1) through being itself; 2) through action, such as the discovery of this internal substance, ie. being; and 3) by the volitional act of enjoyment of being and action. These three types of being, inherent in the idea of every living being, are inherent only in the pure form of finite beings, whose being is a conditional and derived fact, under the influence of external constraints and justifies itself only in the unconditional being of God, the beginning. at all beginnings. God is the unconditional substance, ideal and reality of full existence. Therefore, in pure form, in fullness and simultaneity, without limitations, the trinity is inherent only in God; since He is all or absolute unity, He is unlimited by space; and, because He is the ideal and fullness of perfection, He is not limited by time, which determines the ultimate stages of development in beings. Thus the Persons or Hypostases of God represent neither individual parts of Him nor the fulfillment of periods of God’s existence. Applying the trinity of the ultimate being to the Eternal, it must logically inevitably be acknowledged that the second Hypostasis, directly generated by the first, serves God as an eternal expression or Word (Logos); and the third, proceeding from the first, already having manifestation in the Logos, affirms it, as the Divine will expressed and enjoying itself. Such are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, whose true divinity lies in their inseparability.
Note: Vladimir Solovyov compiled a philosophy based on Hellenistic philosophy (see Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus) and early Christian tradition with Buddhist and Hebrew Kabbalistic elements (Philo of Alexandria). He also studied Gnosticism and the works of the Gnostic Valentinus. His religious philosophy was syncretic and fused philosophical elements of various religious traditions with Orthodox Christianity and his own experience of Sophia. Solovyov described his encounters with the entity Sophia in his works, such as Three Encounters and Lectures on Godmanhood. His fusion was driven by the desire to reconcile and/or unite with Orthodox Christianity the various traditions by the Russian Slavophiles’ concept of sobornost. His Russian religious philosophy had a very strong impact on the Russian Symbolist art movements of his time. His teachings on Sophia, conceived as the merciful unifying feminine wisdom of God comparable to the Hebrew Shekinah or various goddess traditions, have been deemed a heresy by Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and as unsound and unorthodox by the Patriarchate of Moscow.
Photo: V. Soloviev, S. Trubetskoy, N. Grot, L. Lopatin, 1893