Nikolai Berdyaev about Russian Nihilism
A nihilistic attitude of historical Orthodoxy towards the world
A nihilistic attitude towards man and the world on the soil of the religious attitude towards God – here is the pathos of Pobedonostsev, in common with the Russian state-governance, set within an historical Orthodoxy. … This spectral, this ghastly old man lived under the hypnotic power of evil, he believed infinitely in the might of evil, he believed in evil, but in the Good he did not believe. The Good he considered impotent, pitiable in its lack of might. … The devil rules the world, defines the course of universal life, penetrates into human nature right down to its roots; the good, the Divine do not possess any objective power, upon the good it is impossible to build life, with the power of good it is impossible to tie together any sort of historical perspectives … But this nihilism of Pobedonostsev, this atheistic attitude of his towards the world is not something by chance individual, connected with personal events in his life, this is a worldwide fact, a fact, lodged within the religious consciousness of historical Orthodoxy.
Orthodoxy does not believe in the religious ordering of human life upon the earth
Historical Orthodoxy has not manifest within itself the religious truth about man and the world, in it religiously is only an attitude towards death, not towards life. Orthodox Christianity is a teaching about individual salvation in Heaven, about the departure from the world, which is all infected by evil. In the ascetic consciousness there is no teaching about the meaning of universal world history, about the triumph of religious truth upon the earth. Orthodoxy does not believe in the Kingdom of God upon earth, only in Heaven does it expect it, and the earth it leaves to the devil. One only good deed can and ought to be done upon the earth – to hold back the course of evil, to halt it, to curb it by force, to freeze it down. And in Orthodoxy there is the teaching about the religious significance of the state, which the Church empowers, not to build the Kingdom of God upon the earth, but rather to restrain the kingdom of the devil, by force to stop the world from the ultimate catastrophe. The uniting of Orthodoxy with state absolutism came about on the soil of a non-belief in the Divineness of the earth, in the earthly future of mankind;
Orthodoxy gave away the earth into the hands of the state because of its own non-belief in man and mankind, because of its nihilistic attitude towards the world. Orthodoxy does not believe in the religious ordering of human life upon the earth, and it compensates for its own hopeless pessimism by a call for the forceful ordering of it by state authority.
Non-belief in the objective power of good upon the earth
Non-belief in the objective power of good upon the earth, non-belief in the meaning of world history, in the non-mediated might of God Himself within the earthly community, – this non-belief is also the basis of state positivism, the apotheosis of state authority. Catholicism likewise did not believe in the Divineness of mankind, in the might Divine within earthly human history, and it created a teaching about the arrangement of the earth under the assist of Papism. Papocaesarism and Caesaropapism, the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, and the Byzantine emperor, the Vicar of Christ, – alike they grew out of an unreligious, atheistic attitude towards earthly mankind, which cleaves to non-belief in God-manhood and in the God-manness of historical fates, in a non-belief in this, that Christ Himself wilt reign upon the earth (Chiliasm).
The official Orthodoxy he does not sense the image of God in man
For Pobedonostsev, as also for the official teaching of the Orthodox Church, everything in a fatal manner comes to ruin, to the triumph of evil; for Pobedonostsev, as in general also for Orthodoxy and official Christianity, eschatology is something foreign, there are no great historical tasks, there remains no place for historical perspectives, there is no meaning in the process of history, there is no awaited religious triumph in the end time, the victory of Christ upon the earth. Pobedonostsev has an hatred for life, he does not see the Divine in the world, he does not sense the image of God in man, and terrible to say, he learned this from Orthodoxy, it was from the official Christianity that he garnered his nihilism. This is something to ponder. I do not think, that with Pobedonostsev there was a vivid feel for Christ, he was infinitely remote from Christ, in his heart he did not know Christ; but the feel of Christianity, a closeness to the Church, a sincere attachment to its spirit was tremendous in him.
Christ is clouded over by the Church
Not only is Christ clouded over by the Church, but the Church itself is imperceptibly transformed … into a means for state control…
To reveal the truth about a God-Mankind
For Pobedonostsev there is no God-manhood, just as for him there is no historical Orthodoxy, for him there is only the inhuman God and the godless man, and for him Christ did not unite man with God. In God there is nothing of the human, in man – there is nothing of the Divine, of the Divine-human body, containing all the fulness of life, it is not and will not be upon the earth – all these negations are very characteristic for the historical Church, for the old religious consciousness. The truth of humanism is discovered in the secular culture, outside of religion and as it were contrary to Christianity, but ultimately this is the truth of Christ, the truth of the God-Man. The Kingdom of God upon earth is dreamy nonsense for people on the outside of a religious consciousness, and only a new religious revelation can bring to light both the truth of the dream, and its ruinous falsehood. To transform the revealed truth about the God-Man into the as yet unrevealed truth about a God-Mankind – here is the universal religious task, before which stands the contemporary world at the door aknocking.
The cosmic might of the truth of God is real
We believe in the objective, the cosmic might of the truth of God, in the possibility according to God to guide the earthly destiny of mankind. This will be the victory of the true theocracy, whether over a false democratism, – the apotheosis of the quantitative collectivity of human wills, or so also over the false theocraticism, – all that apotheosis of the human will within Caesaropapism or Papocaesarism. Christ cannot have human vicarage in the person of the tsar or high-priest. He – is Himself the Tsar and High-Priest, and He will reign in the world. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven”.