To most of our contemporaries, Christianity and humanism seem incompatible. Our Orthodox revival is pushing away from humanism and asserting itself as something that is the opposite of anti-Christian humanism. The defeat of humanism seems like a celebration of Christianity and vice versa. And in the age of its short but tumultuous existence, humanism was indeed a predominantly anti-Christian movement. As such, it emerged not only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when it became distinctly anti-Christian, but also in its very heyday, in the fifteenth century, when it revealed itself as a negative force. However, since humanism is originally a Christian phenomenon, we can and should also speak of Christian humanism. The anti-Christian moment does not necessarily enter into the content and essence of humanism. We must not forget that people like Pushkin and Dostoevsky were also great humanists.
What is humanism? Humanism places special emphasis on man – on the human person, on human creativity. This emphasis can be so strong that emphasizing the beauty and dignity of the human person, the power and importance of human creativity becomes a blow against God: man is opposed to God. Then humanism becomes ungodliness. However, humanism can also develop within the religious sphere of values, it can also exist in Christianity. Then this emphasis on man opposes man to the forces of nature, to the social order, which is built on the enslavement of the human person.
Speaking of humanism, we should distinguish between creative and charitable, altruistic humanism. Both are related to two different nuances in the understanding of the human person. It can be approached by affirming the strength, the beauty, the life of this person – such is the humanism of the Renaissance, or to treat man as a suffering and perishing being, to call for compassion, for love – this is charitable humanism, the humanism of compassion (“humanity”). Charitable humanism is not inherent in Renaissance humanism. The latter is cruel to man. However, France from the 1930s and 1940s, as well as Russia throughout the nineteenth century, created the literature of predominantly charitable humanism. Now that the struggle against humanism is being waged, the blows are being directed along both lines, both against the creative affirmation of the individual and against compassion for man. Our era is characterized as an era of the collapse of humanism. Indeed, the blows against humanism are pouring in from all sides. Religious and anti-religious currents unite in opposition to humanism. Humanism is undoubtedly dying, but its death is by no means a sign of the triumph of religion and Christianity. On the ruins of humanism, a culture that is anti-humanistic, anti-human, but ungodly is being established or is seeking to establish itself.
Modern civilization is permeated by anti-humanist principles. Their celebration lies in modern technology – they enslave the individual, complicate life indefinitely, unleash the forces of nature that previously served man, and now no longer want to obey him. In the technical progress of the nineteenth century saw a way to comfort, it was believed that thanks to technology life will become more comfortable and easier. However, technological progress has enslaved man to the machine, demanded a huge increase in his energy and hard work, brought growing madness to the pace, and turned the lives of both the proletariat and the capitalists into constant anxiety and tension.
Art is primarily a sphere of human freedom. In contemporary art, however, contempt for man is especially clear. In painting, this is manifested in the disappearance of the portrait. The humanistic age had no icons, and so the portrait was the highest expression of her picturesque ideal, her word for man. Portrait painting reached its ultimate perfection with Velázquez and Rembrandt. The classic portrait sought to unravel and reveal the most cherished, the deepest in man, to seal the human face in his individuality. The contemporary artist treats the face as “nature morte” – as boots, as a piece of meat, and the depth, the mental content behind the face is consciously denied, the face does not express anything – it is just a combination of planes and lines. In the modern search for painting there is a struggle against the plot, against the content, because the plot, the content are something brought by man, and the only theme of painting should be space and colors. Earlier in the center of the picture, in addition to the portrait, stood the man in his relationship with nature (the landscape), with the surrounding environment (genre), with history, and now – some extremely spatial forms without any mental content.
This struggle with psychologism is also going on in music. Old music sought to express moods, feelings. Now – in a musical work of a young artist to find traces of moods or feelings, it means that he is accused of reaction. Music wants to be a pure art of sounds and only sounds. It appeals only to the ear and to the realm of sound forms behind the ear, which may or may not be expressed mathematically, but are devoid of any connection with the feelings, joys and sorrows of man.
In philosophy, the struggle with man, known as the struggle against psychologism, began even before it penetrated the realm of art. With its greatest sharpness, this philosophical struggle against man was waged in philosophy by the so-called neo-Kantianism. Idealist philosophy seeks to exclude man, as a knower, and wants to build the world from knowledge itself, from its pure forms. In the quest to overcome psychologism – especially in the field of scientific creativity, there is a truth that no one denies. However, we must also admit that as a result of overcoming psychologism in the world, there is no room left for man. Nature, bypassing man, unites with the realm of ideas – immediately and closely the ideas have taken over the things and there is no place left for man. The soul has disintegrated into a number of autonomous spheres, objective values - moral, aesthetic, etc., and the human “I” has become problematic.
Modern man, especially the youth, is establishing himself in sports. It is believed that in sports you can see the strengthening of the body, the resurrection of the idea of harmonious development of the body. In reality, however, in sports, too, man is sacrificed. The driving motive in sports is far from the ancient ideal of a harmoniously developed body. Where the record reigns, there can be no question of harmonious development. The task of sports is to extract from the human body the maximum effect of energy in a certain direction – maximum jump length, endurance, etc. Here there is a strange correspondence with the factory, which also seeks to extract from man the maximum amount of muscle strength. To reach the goal, to set a record, a person is ready to mutilate himself. The human person is sacrificed to a random task, the interests of man are denied in the name of those of the team – the “team”, the “club”, etc. The fate of the athlete is deeply tragic – he, after all, is doomed to damage his health, to perish in reaching the record. We might think that athletes are overwhelmed by the thirst for glory… However, they are driven not by the motive of fame, but by the desire to achieve the objective goal. What is it that makes taking stratospheric flights, risking your life in car racing? This is not the motive of fame at all, but something else. Here, too, man finds himself subject to the elements – to speed, to space, to quantity in general.
One of the phenomena characteristic of our age is the darkening of love, or even the death of love – erotic love. Of course, the animal, the sensual in man has remained, but the admiration of the other’s personality, love, worship of the beloved or beloved, are absent. Not to mention romantic love. You don’t have to be a romantic to know and feel romantic love. Shakespeare was not a romantic and yet he wrote Romeo and Juliet. However, it is Romeo and Juliet who are impossible in our time. The explosions of passions that lead to crimes still happen today, but love as a service, as a feat, when all the forces of the soul are strained in the rise – it dies.
Orthodox asceticism speaks of three spheres in the human being – spirit, soul and body. Modernity is characterized by the death of the human soul – the death or extinction of the middle element in man, which is revealed mainly as an emotional, sentimental beginning. However, a number of other manifestations of man in the field of intellect and other psychic forces are connected with the emotional side. The volitional activity of man is rooted in the spirit; it is less related to feeling and therefore less endangered. What dies is the emotional-cognitive complex, ie the middle, mental sphere in man.
There is a sharp, extreme development of the poles: on one side is the gross one-sided development of the body, and on the other – the final development of the spirit. At the expense of perishing spirituality, not only materialism develops, but also spiritualism. For our time, the passion for sports is just as characteristic as the other hobby – clairvoyance, as the increase of all sorts of magicians and the development of occult teachings. Related to this is the enormous influence on the modern life of Hinduism, the spread of the practices of yogis and, on the other hand – the various systems for purely medical application of the culture of the spirit to the healing of the body. Almost all modern medicine is recognizing the importance of the spiritual principle and its use in the healing of the body. Modern man is not a slave to the body – he is aware of his power over the body and enjoys it. What used to seem like a miracle – the spirit of overcoming space, spiritual vision from a distance, etc., is becoming commonplace. A woman was recently reported to be able to receive radio waves without a device. The abundance of all kinds of healers, soothsayers, clairvoyants – all this testifies to the massive increase in the number of people with developed powers of spirit. Man becomes a spiritual-animal being without a soul – a terrible combination that opens the possibility of extraordinary deformities and perversions. The type of man-magician, with highly developed sensuality, serving only his passions and, at the same time, serving them with the means of his illegally developed spiritual life, is becoming a common phenomenon in our time.
And how is this gap between spirit and body expressed in Christianity? Christianity is a divine-human work and, therefore, cannot neglect the human soul. However, the signs of inhuman spirituality also penetrate the new Christian views, the various denominations. In Protestantism, this is especially evident in Bartianism. There is a very sharp antihumanism and even the beginning of inhumanity, the Calvinist beginning. Calvin was one of the implacable enemies of humanism. If we turn to the Orthodox community, it has long been felt that our Orthodox revival has turned in the direction of anti-humanism. Here are some examples. The struggle against psychologism is becoming more and more noticeable in Orthodox religiosity and not only in the field of philosophy. Many of us now do not tolerate singing and reading expressively. Of course, expressive reading is unbearable, but the struggle is not with it, but with even the slightest degree of expressiveness, with the presence of any personal lyricism, any personal experience in the nuances of the voice. Many are indignant if, during the Liturgy, the priest reveals his humanity with something, shows some of his own, personal religious inspiration. Everything must be enveloped in a coolness, imbued with dispassionate restraint, everything must be only an objective expression of an ideal being. Of course, it is impossible to demand that everyone and everything read with expressiveness, but when the fear of expressiveness leads to a wooden reading, this is a pronounced moment of antipsychologism. In prayer, human feeling must be heard, even if it is chastely muffled. Another example. I once happened to ask an acquaintance standing in line for confession which of the priests he intended to confess to. In a markedly cool way, he replied, “I do not psychologize the sacrament of confession,” apparently by psychologizing the establishment of a personal relationship between the clergyman and the confessor, ie, entering into communion with man, that is psychologism. Of course, in its gracious gifts, confession does not depend on the qualities of the priest, who is a human being, but it is still a long way from the fact that the presence of a personal moment in confession is considered non-religious, non-Orthodox – as my interlocutor replied . From this point of view, both tears and personal prayer must be expelled from prayer, in a word – everything that has a touch of personal, emotional and human. These motives are especially strong in Eurasianism. As a religious movement, Eurasianism is extremely interesting precisely because of its inhumanity. In religious life it chases away all excitement, rejects the melting of the soul, compassion and, in the end, remains only the magic of the sacraments, rites, sacraments. However, antipsychologism is found everywhere where religious life is built on constitutionality.
In the practice and ideology of modern monasticism, the main emphasis is not on the struggle against the flesh and bodily temptations, but on the struggle against the soul and the soul. If we compare the patriarchal sermon with the sermon of our contemporaries, it will turn out that for modern monasticism the soul is a far more terrible enemy than the body. On the body – on the contrary, they are ready to indulge, to provide some discounts. From the point of view of modern monasticism, bodily weaknesses are even of good importance, they can contribute to the development of humility. Carnal passions are no longer as dangerous as spiritual ones, because the human personality is rooted in the soul. This type of ascetic preaching also protects from the passions of love of neighbor, as if the main temptation for modern man lies here. The new ascetic piety shows a cruel character: it is ruthless towards both the soul and the human person. The preachers of the new Christianity speak with contempt of the “pink Christianity” of the past, of the Christianity of love of neighbor. The new Christianity must be mystically white or, which is the same – black, because on the tops the black color of monasticism must change to white. The human person must be sacrificed. It must be subjected to melting under high voltage, so that a spiritual being can be sculpted from it in a white flame – this is the meaning of the spiritual life in the understanding of modern asceticism. Such spirituality is indifferent to human misery. She knows almost no compassion. She considers the fight against the sources of suffering and social injustice to be non-Christian. On the contrary: the new asceticism affirms what love averts, as something spiritually valuable and significant. This asceticism affirms war, because it leads to the overcoming of humanism, of rosy Christianity: in a radical dichotomy, this war leads either to the clarification of the authentic nature or to destruction. Such asceticism is also very attractive to cruel aesthetes such as Konstantin Leontiev.
The modern ideal of Christianity is predominantly monastic. For him, the main meaning and content of spiritual work is overcoming the body and the soul in the name of the deification of the spirit. This ideal is also in secular use. Benevolence is widely read. They begin to become acquainted with Christianity, with Christ, not according to the Gospel, but according to Benevolence. In the interrelation between these two phenomena characteristic of modern religious life, we must take into account the decline of the Gospel and the rise of Benevolence. And this is the purest expression of antihumanism. Our Christian Student Movement was born from the study of the gospel, and it has carried the gospel to the world, but that is why it is “out of date.” This is the reason for the cool attitude of some church circles towards the Movement and, perhaps, for the failure of the evangelical circles. People of great spiritual experience and depth sometimes state that the gospel is not very deep and it is uninteresting that the content of the gospel sermon is so elementary that there is not much to study. Another thing is Benevolence. What is essential in the Gospel is not the teaching of Christ, for there it is given in the simplest possible, undiscovered form, but only the divine person of Christ living in the Church. Ascetic literature, including all that is essential to the gospel, conveys in an authentic, profound way the teachings of Christ, not this infant food, this verbal milk that is given in the gospel. Such an attitude toward the gospel, of course, does not spread without consequences — it obscures the face of Christ.
It can be argued that the image of Christ was sealed in Russian Orthodoxy as nowhere else – especially in the early days of Christianity in Russia. However, in the last decades the face of Christ has darkened there as well, and during that time it coincides with our contemporary Orthodox Church revival. Everything lives – and theological literature, and ascetic life, and mysticism, but not the experience of contemplation of the image of Christ. The God-man personality, which should unite everything in one, disappears from the experience of the Orthodox Church revival. Entire theological systems have emerged in which there is not a single chapter dedicated to Christ and redemption. And for many, the immediate consequences of this are the impossibility and futility of building a Christian life in the world. It seems that for the modern church revival there is only one way that has proved to be justified as Christian – and that is the way of monasticism, of separation from the world. In this way, collapses and death are possible, but this is the only way to true salvation, outside of which everything seems vague, doubtful.
We often say that the cessation of wars, revolutions, tragic conflicts of our time requires, above all, an inner, spiritual rebirth of man.
Note. A recording of an interview with the author, presented to the “Sunday meeting of the RSHD”; the text is also published in: Fedotov, G. P. Collected works in twelve volumes, vol. 4, M .: “Sam & Sam” 2012, p. 234-247 (in Russian).
(to be continued)