_ Henry Norman Spalding (using the pseudonym «by an English Eurasianist»). «Russia in Resurrection. A summary of the views and of the aims of a new Party in Russia». Part Three: Eurasian Russia. Chapter III. Religion and Society in Eurasianism. London, 1928.
Part Three: Eurasian Russia
Chapter III. Religion and Society in Eurasianism
The Truth of God, man and Nature
“The Russian people,” says Dostoievsky, ” live entirely in Orthodoxy and in the idea of it. Outside Orthodoxy, there is nothing in them; they have nothing and need nothing, for Orthodoxy is everything ; it is the Church, and the Church is the crown of the edifice, and that to all eternity. No one who does not understand Orthodoxy will ever understand the Russian people.” The Eurasians are Orthodox Christians ; what does Orthodoxy mean to them?
No industrial or political measures, however admirably devised, will suffice of themselves to secure the highest happiness of a nation ; these must all rest upon, and be informed and transformed by, the spirit of true religion. “The life of Russia must be brought into channels where it will be reconciled with the everlasting Truth of God. Thus out of the chaos of the Revolution a way will be found that will lead her to a glorious and happy future. And this way is to be found by acquiring and concentrating on spiritual values, which will throw their beneficent light on all phases of human existence.” So wrote the Eurasians when summarizing their principles in 1925. Other men have built, or attempted to build, their States upon the proposition that “All men are free and equal”, or upon “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”, or upon “material culture”. The Eurasians build upon the love of Truth that is in the Russian heart. Hence to the Legal State or State of Right (pravo) of the West they oppose what they call the State of Truth (Pravda,) meaningby that, not indeed a State where positive law is unnecessary (on the contrary, they intend that a reign of law shall prevail in Russia as it has never prevailed there before), but a State in which the driving or motive power is the desire of its citizens to know and love the Truth. Such a State would be, as they term it, an “Ideocracy” — a society governed, not primarily by any individual or class, whether monarch, aristocracy or people, but by an Idea, that is, by that aspect of the Truth which the citizens can apprehend. This view of the relation between Truth and the State explains why in the opinion of the Eurasians the Church, regarded as the whole people thus striving to comprehend the Truth, can never be regarded as a power standing alongside or in competition with the State or with any other human organization. Charles Bourgeois sums up their views by saying: “In the relations of the Church with the State there can be neither concordat nor clericalism nor separation, as these are all systems in which one power is set against another power. The Church ought to remain in her own sphere, which is the whole of existence, and ought never to become a partisan. Her true part is to allow liberty to every social organization, and even to create this liberty in the case of organizations that have not yet reached it to draw them towards it simply with the spirit of love that lives in her. Government receives from the Church the power of developing its own profound nature, which is religious; but it develops this nature by acting along its own lines, not by following authoritive directions dictated by the Church.” S.L. Frank well sums up the views of the Eurasians with regard to the relation between society and Truth when he says: “The service of the Truth, of the Absolute Good” (for the two are the same), “and the loving service of men that comes out of this service, are the only absolute principles of human existence.”
And what is the service of the Truth? Reason— the mind and heart of man— and the Gospel answer with one voice that it is the knowledge and love of God and of the two less perfect forms of Being, inanimate Nature and conscious spirit; in a word, the understanding love of the whole Universe or Cosmos, the whole of Being. ” Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbour as thyself “—and also Nature, as the Gospel clearly implies. Upon the “new commandments” of the Gospel the Eurasians desire to build the new Russia. Thus they hope to realize more and more closely the true object of the State, which is the Kingdom of Heaven, the society of those who, in the old Russian phrase, “serve God and man” — in a word, who love the Truth. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth.”
It will be well briefly to consider how religion, thus conceived, forms the ferment of daily life and culture of industry and politics, art and science, family life and education ; how it unites the Orthodox Church, not by the bonds of dogma and authority, but by a free knowledge and love of Truth ; how it turns the eyes of Russia forward towards an oecumenical civilization that shall be a true Kingdom of Heaven on earth ; and how, finally, it gives a meaning and purpose to the existence of the whole Universe.
In industry and politics, culture and education
First, then, in the words of the Manifesto, “religion is the ferment of the nation’s life.” Every action is religious; there is nothing a man can do that has no bearing on religion. Religion permeates every branch of human activity — economics and politics, culture and education, and so on. The whole organization of the State — all its life and work — can be and ought to be a means towards spiritual development. When a man does wrong, he ought to realize that he is not merely injuring himself materially, or even society materially; he is offending against the spirit. For instance, murder and other crimes are offences, not primarily against the law of the land, but against the principles of religion — the love of God and of our neighbour. On the other hand, good work is not directed solely or principally to a material end; it has also a spiritual end. In a society inspired by the love of Truth, a man ploughs and sows, not merely that he may eat and sell, but that he may live to the glory of God; another builds a road, not merely that he may earn a living or even build a good road on which men may travel safely, but that society may go upon its ways to the glory of God. Thus the making of a living, and all other activities, should be permeated, not only by material, but by spiritual conceptions. This is in exact obedience to the injunction of St Paul when he says: “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” and of Spinoza when he says that we should look at things “in their eternal aspect (sub specie aeternitatis)”. In the Middle Ages this way of looking at all the activities of life was common. Now only the memory of such an attitude survives in the West — as, for instance, in grace before meals, or in Harvest Thanksgivings, or in fishermen’s services before they put out to sea. Ordinarily such an attitude seems to the man of the West merely ridiculous; a man works to make a living or to accumulate more and more wealth, not to serve man, and still less often to serve God. Just in so far as this is the case the man of the West cannot give a reasonable answer to the questions: “Why am I living? Why am I trying to do something? And this is because he has substituted relative for absolute principles — merely economic values for the Truth of God. The Eurasians perceive that this is alien to the Russian spirit. “Ours,” they write, “is an entirely religious culture, and it is in religion that we see carried to their highest powers all those feelings that make us what we are.” All this applies alike to industry and politics, to art and science, to the life of the family and of the school.
I. The spirit of the Gospel must permeate the whole life of the State — all industry and all politics. “The first task confronting the Eurasians (they wrote in 1925) is to reconcile the principles of religion with everyday life.” And so their method of reform is not, like the Bolsheviks’, class hatred and class warfare, but conciliation and goodwill. They call alike upon employers and employed to show unselfishness and an imaginative understanding of each other’s needs. Property, whether land or capital, they hold to be, not a sacred right, but a sacred trust, to be used in the service of the common good. “In the opinion of the Eurasians,” wrote P. N. Savitsky in 1925, “the extraordinary technical and practical achievements of modern Europe have been bought at the heavy price of a spiritual and moral decadence. The German-Hungarian scientist Kautz in the nineteenth century compiled a number of extracts on economic questions from the literature of ancient China, the Pentateuch, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle and the works of some of the mediaeval theologians, which showed that the writers all conceived of the economic side of life as subordinate to religion and morals. The new economic philosophy of Europe has abandoned these principles. It substitutes economics for everything else and thinks of regulating life, civilization and government on a purely economic basis. It would be madness to argue against the enormous importance of economics in human existence. But political economy cannot become the ruling factor; it must be treated as it was by the theologians, scientists and philosophers of the past. In our days political economy has become a sort of militant economism or crude materialism, striving to solve the problem of existence with insufficient attention to spiritual and moral values. This militant economism is historically allied with atheism, as the mediaeval conception of the economic problem was with Theism. Atheism and socialism have been imported into Russia from the West the methods of Russian Communism are those of French Syndicalism, the doctrines of Marx came from Germany. Out of our Revolutionary and Communist experience we deduce one great truth: atheistic communities, non-religious systems of government must be firmly rejected; no healthy human society can be founded without a close union between God and man.” The Manifesto says: “The rejection of capitalism by the Eurasianists is based on the moral supremacy of spirit over matter. The capitalistic system fundamentally denies such supremacy, and is therefore considered by the Eurasians as a sign of degeneracy in the culture of modern Europe. In their view the economic policy of the State should be based, not on the possibility merely of accumulating wealth, but on the principle of the service of every citizen to the community as a whole.”
Again, the Eurasians mean to govern, not like the Bolskeviks by terror, but with the consent and the co-operation of the people; and they know that government, however well-intentioned, and the Decrees of Soviets, however wise, cannot succeed, unless the people be enlightened and public-spirited. Their principle of the equality of races in the pursuit of their own development, and their policy of peace, justice and co-operation in the society of nations, are simply an endeavour to realize “peace on earth among men of goodwill”. They know that material welfare in all its forms depends upon spiritual welfare: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you.” As they say in their Manifesto: “It is indispensable that the State should be favourably disposed towards and should collaborate with every religion professed by the peoples of Russia, as understanding that religion alone can be the true basis of social relations, which must be permeated by the spirit of love” (in its widest aspect for God as well as for man) “and by a steadfast regard for the dignity of man.” Only by the love of man for man, in Russia as in every other country, can economic and political problems be solved — work, need and reward brought into due relation, freedom secured, and class, racial and national animosities appeased; only so can the brotherhood of man at home and abroad become a reality. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” — that is the fundamental condition of a healthy State.
2. In the second place, the spirit of the Gospel must pervade all culture in the narrower sense of the word — art and science, all creative work in general. The Eurasians are fond of saying that “religion is the ferment of culture”. And this is so, not only with the religion of those who call Christ Lord, but with every religion that has any element of Truth in it. For instance, Mohammedanism permeates the culture of the Kirghiz and Buddhism that of the Kalmuks. Both religion and culture must be free to develop together.
The greater part of Russian literature and art, like the greater part of the literature and art of the world as a whole — that of Greece, of India, of the Buddhists, of Byzantium, of the Middle Ages — is directly inspired by religion. The art of Russia arose in Byzantium and shares the spirit at once of Byzantine and of Asian art. That is to say, it is primarily the expression, not of Nature as observed by the senses, but of an idea conceived by the mind and expressed in forms more or less Natural. Thus the Buddhist represents by the seated Buddha the idea of Nirvana — the Great Peace that is above the reach of sorrow; the Hindu by the figure of the many-armed and dancing Shiva, the dancing joy of the soul that loses and finds itself in God; Byzantium, and through her Russia, by what seem to Western eyes the stiff and other-worldly outlines and facial expressions of Christ and Virgin and Saint depicted upon the ikons, the Truth of the spiritual world which the world of Nature conceals. The Eurasians have a very keen appreciation of the spiritual values of Russian art. In the same way the legends of the Russian peasant are true, not necessarily to Nature or to history, but to the spirit; as when he declares that the Christ is today wandering as a Pilgrim through the now nearly pilgrimless lands of Russia, and can sometimes be heard knocking for admission upon the windows of his cottage; or that St Sergei’s relics, removed by the Bolsheviks from their shrine, have on account of men’s sins gone down deep into the earth but will presently return, as he himself in his lifetime returned to his monastery when his brethren repented of their wickedness. This feeling for the inner meaning or truth of things and persons and events is a marked feature of Russian literature also. Yet the Russian is likewise keenly alive, as his pictures and ballets and stories show, to the beauties and wonders of Nature to her magnificent forms, to her splendid and daring colouring — as well as to the outward play of character and manners. No doubt the highest art is the expression of great ideas in forms that are also true to Nature and to life, as in the case of Leonardo’s greatest pictures and of Shakespeare’s tragedies. By combining her grasp of great ideas with her vivid apprehension of Nature and life, Russia may in the future produce art and literature of the very highest kind, so blending together into a perfect whole the characteristic excellences of both Asia and Europe.
Then again the Eurasians look for a further enrichment of the spiritual life of Russia by a wider and deeper appreciation of Nature on her own account. The Russian has always felt his oneness with the world about him — the seemingly infinite world of forest and steppe and sky ; his great saints and spiritual leaders have emphasized man’s unity with Nature. Again, the Eurasians realize, as a great part of scientific Europe has not yet adequately realized, that Natural science, which explains so much, can by no means explain everything, but on the contrary itself needs explanation: “the era of rationalism (they wrote in the Preface to the first volume of the Periodical) gives place to an age of faith”, when it is acknowledged that it is futile to attempt to solve by scientific means the ultimate problem of existence.” But they also realize that, as soon as the place and significance of Natural science in the rest of knowledge is understood, it will, far from being an enemy to religion, prove a true servant, alike by purifying it of elements of superstition and therefore of weakness, and by more fully revealing the infinite wonder of the world. “Empirical science,” they write, “is the development of our knowledge of God’s creation, continually showing us new and new aspects of the Holy Wisdom of God.” Finally, they perceive that Nature, in whichever of her three aspects — her beauty, her law, her infinity — she may be regarded, is the symbol of the Infinity of God; and they remember the words of Jesus written on an Egyptian papyrus “Cleave the rock, and there thou shalt find Me; lift the stone, and there am I.”
3. In the third place they believe that the spirit of the Gospel must inspire the life both of the home and of the school. Hence, unlike the Bolsheviks, they believe in the sanctity of marriage and of the family; in the atmosphere of a Christian home the love both of God and of man arises and increases in health and vigour. And they see that nothing is so important as a right education — an education which, whether liberal or technical, youthful or adult, shall be directed to the love of Nature, man and God; education in the Truth is the greatest task of the future. Modern European states have, under the inspiration of Machiavelli, tended to base their greatness upon armies; more recently they have perceived that civilization must rest upon education — Prussia, the Bolsheviks, Fascist Italy are in their several ways cases in point. But these states, following the ideals peculiar to them, and the states of the West in general, have tended to direct education too much toward military efficiency, or national glory, or a soulless commercialism; the Eurasians will try in school and college to foster the enjoyment of the more spiritual objects which appeal so keenly to the Russian mind. They have not yet formulated their educational schemes in detail. But they will lay stress on the neglected geography and history, art, literature and philosophy of Russia herself, with special emphasis upon her religious teaching ; they hope also and expect to witness and encourage a world-wide renaissance of interest in the varied cultures both of East and West — of China and India and Persia, as of Greece and Italy and the English-speaking peoples. With these ends in view they desire to assist exploration, excavation, research, and special schools of history, language, literature and so on; as well as to build and endow universities where the spiritual riches of Europe and of Asia may be placed within reach of Russian and foreign students alike — believing that so may be raised up teachers and rulers who will carry forward the Eurasian tradition in school and State and Church, both in Russia herself and throughout the world.
In the Church: Sobornost and Theosis
But Truth does more than affect the lives of individuals, however profoundly. It unites them together, and that in three ways: as a body of believers who love It in freedom, and because they love It love each other as equals — this is what Russians mean by “Sobornost —universality”; as participants in an “oecumenical civilization” in which the various national and religious cultures may each find scope for development in harmonious understanding of and sympathy with the rest; and as members of a Cosmic Sobornost in which all Nature and all spirits may be united in freedom by love to God and His Truth and so to one another. These facts determine the Eurasians’ conceptions of the Church on earth, of Russia’s part in a world-wide civilization, and of the meaning of the Universe itself.
What is Sobornost — universality? It is a difficult conception to grasp fully, but it seems to mean three things: Truth is revealed directly to the soul of man, which receives It through the free activity of its own powers of understanding and love, and not through the medium of dogma and authority imposed from without; next, in the measure in which men receive the Truth they are equal, whether lay or clerical, simple or learned, humble or highly placed, white or coloured, acting singly or in association; last, those who love the Truth are inevitably compelled by that fact to love one another, and are thereby united one to another in the Truth. In a word, the Church is free before the Truth; it is the whole people; it is united by love. Liberty, equality, fraternity — France is to be congratulated upon the instinct with which she chose the watch-words of her Revolution; Orthodoxy adds that the condition on which they can be realized is that men should know and love the Truth.
First, then, the Truth Itself — in Its perfection the Eternal, the Infinite, the One — is known to human minds only in part, as they by the active power of their knowledge and love are able to receive it. It is gradually revealed through the Gospel and through what the Orthodox Church calls Tradition, of which the principal example is the Nicene Creed; but even the Gospel and the Creed are not the Truth until their meaning is received into the mind and heart of the individual man and woman. “Nothing is so characteristic of Orthodoxy,” writes L.P. Karsavin in an unpublished letter, “as its refusal to admit of a merely abstract Truth. The Truth which embraces and contains everything that is true cannot be exhausted or even expressed by formulae; these only serve to describe or symbolize it. Even the definitions of dogma given in the Nicene Creed ” (“the symbol”, as the Russians significantly call it) presuppose that they must be understood by each individual in the right way.” “It is (he says) because the Eastern Church is imbued with the spirit of Sobornost that she is free and in no way a Church subject to outward authority, as is the Church of Rome.” The thought of the Eastern Church is therefore Greek in its freedom as in its substance and as the power of the human mind grows stronger, as its insight deepens into the surrounding mystery of Nature and of spirit, human and Divine, Orthodoxy will be able to use its liberty to take to itself more and more of whatever is true in whatever form it may please God to reveal it — whether as a further unfolding of ancient doctrines, or as a granting of new light from quarters of the heavens hitherto little regarded. As the Eurasians wrote in the Preface to their first book: “With the majority of Russians the Eurasians see the Church revived by a new quickening of the Grace of God they see it acquiring anew the prophetic language of revelation and of Holy Wisdom.”
In the second place, the Church consists of the whole people — of the laity quite as much as of the clergy, of the humblest peasant equally with the Patriarch, of persons of the most diverse character, attainments and types of culture, of the State and of every other social organization; because every individual and every group of individuals is destined by the law of man’s nature to be religious — that is, to draw towards and to be united by knowledge and love with the Truth. Every soul, even the most foolish or sinful, must inevitably strive to gain this Truth, which alone can give it satisfaction and make it what it was destined and desires to become. As Khomiakov puts it, the Grace of God is given even to those who are unsubmissive and do not use it, but they remain outside the Church. Every Truth-loving man and woman is thus part of the Church; the bishops and other clergy are at best merely important members of it. Even an Oecumenical Council (as Khomiakov points out) derives its authority, not from the clergy, but from the people. “In order that a Council should be recognized as Oecumenical,” writes Karsavin, “it is necessary that the Church should recognize it as such; but the Church is not the same thing as the clergy or as the three or four hundred bishops attending the Council — it embraces the whole people. As the Eastern Patriarchs wrote to Pope Pius the Ninth in 1848: In the Eastern Church neither the Patriarchs nor the Councils have ever been able to introduce anything new, as the depositary of the faith is with us the body of the whole Church, that is to say, the people itself.”
Lastly, when men love any spiritual object in common they are bound by that love to love each other; it is a common interest and pursuit that makes and keeps men friends. Or to put it the other way round, Truth, being One, unites individual with individual, however much they may seem to differ, and so forms any lasting union or society, and above all, the Church, which thus becomes the Body of Christ, Who is the Truth. In Khomiakov’s words, “The unity of the Church is the necessary result of the Unity of God, because the Church is not a sum-total of persons in their separate individualities, but the Unity of God’s Grace abiding in the body of reasonable song. True prayer is true love. When you pray, it is the Spirit of Love that prays in you.” And in turn men’s love for one another enables them to love Truth the more. The Eastern Patriarchs in the Letter to the Pope already mentioned themselves said that “the knowledge of Divine Truth is given to the spirit of love which unites Christians, and has no other guardian than this love itself “.
“The Truth develops Itself in men and so makes them Divine.” The end of man is to become like God. The Western Church, concentrating its attention on the sin of man, preaches a doctrine of salvation, of escape from sin to righteousness; the Eastern, concentrating on the Truth of God, preaches the older and more positive doctrine of Theosis, deification — the transfiguration of the human to the Divine, of man to the likeness of God. Plato, the great forerunner of the thoughts of the Eastern Church, spoke long ago of the aim of man as “to be made like unto God”; and, carrying on his thought into Christian times, Athanasius has said “God hath become man that we might be made Divine,” and Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Four Fathers of the Eastern Church: “God united Himself with our nature, in order that our nature might be made Divine through union with God.” The Son of God himself said to the sons of God “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Human nature is made for perfection ; and perfection means likeness to God — likeness to His Wisdom and Love, in so far as the finite can be like the Infinite. Theologians of Eurasian sympathies, such as Karsavin and Arseniev, have not failed to emphasize this tremendous truth, so congenial to the character of their countrymen. Nourished for nine hundred years upon the Gospel, the Russian has long striven to attain the Divine life. He can now see it in greater fullness, with a richer significance: the goal of the long process of the evolution of life, the true Overman, is this Godlike, this Divine man; on the other hand, just as Nature is the symbol of God’s Infinity, so man and every other living, conscious spirit, having in him this potentiality of likeness to God, becomes a symbol of the Personality — of the Wisdom and Love — of God himself: “Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto Me.”
In an oecumenical
But Truth is not only universal (soborny), but oecumenical; it permeates society, not only from the top to the bottom, but through the length and breadth of the whole earth. Hence the Eurasianits look forward to the coming of an “oecumenical civilization “. They have two countries — Russia and the world.
What do they mean by an “oececumenical civilization”? First, they hold strongly to the principle of “the sacredness of human difference”, and therefore are apostles of freedom and tolerance. Truth, they perceive, is many-sided; it must be approached, therefore, by many avenues. What is true of individual men is true also of nations and races and creeds — each looks upon a corner of the heaven that no other eye beholds. Every state is founded upon some idea, bad or good, or group of related ideas: Bolshevism upon the supreme value of material wealth, the British Commonwealth upon the ideas of “liberty, justice, fair play and love of peace”, China upon Confucius’ five relationships, India upon the doctrine that all things are God, Russia upon the love of God and man commanded by the Gospel, involving the ideas of the supremacy of spirit over matter and of racial brotherhood. And, every state, nation or race, small or great, has its special mission to mankind — its individual service to render, its particular contribution to make to the varied unity of the whole; true patriotism consists of the endeavour to fulfil this mission, the glory of a nation in its accomplishment. Hence the policy of the Eurasians in their relations with foreign nations, like their racial policy in Russia itself, is directed, not to a standardized internationalism, but to “the creation of a supernational regime on national basis”. Their principle is unity, not uniformity; and in the development of diverse cultures harmoniously united they foresee an oecumenical civilization that will be a true Kingdom of Heaven.
But (in the second place) since Truth, though many-sided, is also One, it is as important to recognize its Unity as its diversity, to see the consistency of the Whole equally with the multitude of the parts. To become so absorbed in the part as to mistake it for the Whole is in fact a very dangerous error. It is a danger for Europe that her absorption in secular interests has detached her from the religious basis of culture; the relatively slight interest which the East takes in Nature is a danger too. Different types of culture and civilization are called to supplement each other; their free and “symphonic” union will produce an oecumenical civilization. But how can races and nations each pursuing its own particular revelation of the True and the Good come to understand one another — for only so will they understand the Whole, and even (since the part is affected by the Whole) that element of the Whole which is specially their own? The Eurasians believe that here Russia has, under Providence, a very special part to play. For as the child of Europe and Asia, whose home stretches across both Continents, whose blood derives from both sources, whose spirit inherits some characteristics of both parents, understanding and speaking (as it were) the language of each, Russia is better qualified than any other country to become the interpreter of each to the other — to speak to the materialism of the West of the spiritual riches of Asia, to stiffen the other-worldliness of Asia with the ethical and material achievements of the West. West needs East and East needs West; Russia—Eurasia is the bridge whereby the soul of the one can reach the soul of the other. Especially is this the case after the terrible experience through which she has just passed: Russia, crucified upon the cross of Communism, is a martyr nation; perhaps for that very reason, taught by her suffering, she is called upon to become a “Messianic nation” — to “give new life to sick humanity, to reanimate it by union with the Divine Principle”.
And this unity between people and people, culture and culture, can be attained only within the fold of the Gospel. The Gospel (the Eurasians believe) contains within itself all Truth, or (what is the same thing) all Good. The great religions of Asia, in so far as they are true, embody, though in part only, the Gospel: Confucianism the harmony and order of its sonship and brotherhood, Buddhism its loving pity and saving power, Hinduism its all-pervading spirituality, and so on. “They are not enemies of Orthodoxy, rather they are seeking in the Gospel for the true religion for which they are made; and still more, in the primacy which they accord to religion in their conception of society, a remarkable affinity is found between their ideas and those of the Orthodox Church.” The Christian Churches of the West, on the other hand, hold (though infirmly) that part of the Gospel which is hidden from these communions — the Reason of God made manifest in the man Jesus, the Anointed Ruler of Mankind; and in the West there is in turn some feeling out for the spiritual riches both of Orthodoxy and of Asia. More than any other religious community in the world the Russian people shares the knowledge of both, and to them falls in special measure (though by no means exclusively) the duty and the privilege of interpreting and revealing the one to the other, and so of bringing all together within the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ.
The Transfiguration of the Cosmos
Lastly, Truth, and the love of It which is religion, are not bounded even by the whole earth; the idea of Sobornost, with the companion idea of Theosis, can be extended to the Cosmos, the Universe itself.
All the parts of the Cosmos may be united with each other and with the Whole through the power of an understanding love. “The Eastern Church,” says Arseniev, “does not concentrate her aim only upon God and the individual soul, as is the case in some of the Protestant sects. For her, too, this individual soul and its relationship to God constitute the most precious, the essential sacredness of religion. But this communion of the soul with God is not a dialogue, but a mighty harmony of many tones, a great organism, a powerful kingdom, a comprehensive brotherhood, a Church of God into which the individual is caught up as a member of the whole body, and which expands and grows into the infinite until it embraces, not only all mankind but the whole of creation, the whole Cosmos, in a kingdom of eternal life. It is a Cosmic, an oecumenical conception.” A soul that truly knows and loves embraces Being in all its forms — Nature and spirit as well as God; by its love it becomes one with them. Dostoievsky through Father Zossima expresses this wonderfully “Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the Divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. There is only one means of salvation, then take yourself and make yourself responsible for all men’s sins; that is the truth, you know, friends, for as soon as you sincerely make yourself responsible for everything and for all men, you will see at once that it is really so, and that you are to blame for every one and for all things. You cannot then be a judge of any one. For no one can judge a criminal until he recognizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps is more than all men to blame for that crime. When he understands that, he will be able to be a judge.” And love unites the soul not only with the seen, but with the unseen world. This is especially the case in the Eucharist — a mystery which the Russian soul is more than content to receive as a mystery, without dogma. Throughout the three great Liturgies of the Eastern Church the earthly congregation is made to feel that it is part of that vaster Congregation which praises God in the Heavens, and which with the consecration of the elements in the hearts of the worshippers descends with Christ to the Church below. There are not two Churches, Khomiakov says, the Church that we see and that which we cannot see: there is only one Church, in spite of the seeming division. Only from the human point of view can one admit this division into the visible and the invisible Church; her unity is real and absolute. The Church unites the living, the dead, and the unborn, as well as souls who have no life on earth.” And this Church is united by love; rites are precious symbols of unity, unity of spirit and doctrine, “but the crowning glory of the Church is love.” For those whose hearts can truly love “all (says Father Zossima) is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending”. Tolstoi has drawn such a character in the peasant-soldier Karatiev. “His life, as he looked at it, had no meaning as a separate life. It had meaning only as a part of a whole, of which he was at all times conscious.”
In this way the Cosmos itself (many Orthodox Christians think) is destined by the Eternal Love to Theosis — to transfiguration to the likeness of God ; and so will at last escape from all evil and be finally restored to everlasting happiness. The All-Wise and All-Loving may indeed inflict awful and pro-longed suffering, to save from the awfulness of sin; but that punishment should be eternal, and so devoid of redemption, is inconsistent with the notion of a Perfect Being. There cannot both be a God Who is Perfect Love and a hell whose gates never open. Therefore Origen and Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor were right when they declared that all evil, suffering, hell, are destined by the Mercy of God to pass away; that the sinner too will turn from his sin and join in the universal Sobornost; that there will be a Final Restoration of all things (Apokatastasis ton panton), in which the whole Cosmos will be transfigured, will by knowledge and love have grown like unto God, and so will have attained that vision of and union with Him and His two symbols, Nature and spirit, which is perfect and unshakable joy.