Friday, October 17, 2008

Truth and Revelation by Nicolas Berdyaev

Truth and Revelation (New York: Collier Books, 1962 [tr. R. M. French]) by Nicolas Berdyaev

Be advised that just because I read and post these ideas, does not mean I agree with or endorse them (a proviso that holds for all the books I cite here).

p. 8 …it must be remembered that man has been the one and only organ which revelation has used in order to reach man. … It is not upon revelation that man passes judgment so much as upon his own human reception and understanding of revelation.

9 God is that which cannot be expressed. … And of that which cannot be expressed there cannot be any doubts. There can be doubt only of what is expressed.

13 Existentialism may be defined … as a philosophy which will not accept objectifying knowledge.

14 Existence (Existenz) is not essence, it is not substance, it is a free act.

15 There can be no causal relations between God and man. There is nothing which God determines. God is not a power "outside" and "above."

18 Man is a tragic being for the simple reason that he finds himself placed on the frontier between two worlds, a higher and a lower, and he includes both worlds in himself.

20 Unlike Kant's thing-in-itself, transcendental man operates in this world, he reveals himself in every great creative man…. Transcendental man does not evolve, he creates.

23 Truth is always supernatural, its very meaning is that the spirit has risen above the natural.

26 Truth is primary, not secondary, that is to say it is not conformity with something else. … Truth is not a reality, nor that which corresponds to a reality. … Truth does not face a ready-made reality outside itself, it is the creative transforming of reality. … Truth means change, it is the transfiguration of reality.

28 Truth is communal….

29 I am in darkness and I search for light; as yet I do not know the truth and I am seeking it. But by this very fact I am already asserting the existence of Truth and light, though their existence is of another kind that that of the beings of the realities of the world. … My search is already the light…. Truth is value… truth is spiritual, it is the process of instilling spirit into the world of reality.

30 Truth is God… truth is human. The knowledge of God is a human thing.

32 Pragmatism is highly optimistic and fails to see the tragic fate of truth in the world. … In reality there is a pragmatism of falsehood, the lie is often useful to the organization of life…. The supporters of pragmatism very often accept the useful lie as truth.

33 To long after pure truth which nothing suppresses, however distressing it may be, is to reach out towards the divine. … The attainment of truth assumes fearlessness…. Truth is the voice of eternity in time….

34 Truth is not something which is of service to the world….

35 [in Marx's materialism and Leninism] Truth is known in praxis. … Truth ought to contribute to the victory of socialism. That is the only truth which is acknowledged and valued, just as that is the only freedom which is acknowledged and valued.

36 [in Marxism] …any conclusions whatever may be drawn so long as they are serviceable at a given moment…. Is Marxist truth merely a reflection and expression of the struggle of the proletariat against the capitalist system and the bourgeoisie––simply a useful weapon in the conflict?

Cf. pp. 79–80 in J. Ratzinger's The Nature and Mission of Theology

38 …Nietzsche's philosophy… was a philosophy of values whereas Marx's was a philosophy of well-being. … But in turning truth into an instrument of the will to power, he [Nietzsche] does in actual fact lapse into pragmatism and regards truth as that which is serviceable to the process of life. He does this in spite of the fact that he hated the idea of "the useful," which he justly looked upon as a very anti-aristocratic and most plebeian conception. Supramundane truth is just that––and it must not be perverted to the service of the processes of life, or the will to power.

39 The importance of Nietzsche is immense in that he understands truth dynamically….

40 Truth serves no man, and nothing; it is they who serve it.

43 The knowledge of truth is attained by the aggregate of the spiritual powers of man and not by his intellectual faculties only. … Truth is free and a matter of the will; it is not simply an intellectual act, it is the turning of the whole human being in the direction of creative value.

44 …the very recognition of the material world as capable of being known assumes an elementary act of faith…. There is a certain naïveté in supposing that the objective existence of matter can be scientifically proved. … A decisive "no" is faith to the same extent as a decisive "yes," and the very denial assumes and assertion….

45 Man is by nature a creature that believes…. I am affirming truth, even in the event of having no desire to hear anything about the truth.

46 Man should be ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of the truth, but Truth is often bitter to the taste and he frequently prefers some deceitful illusion…. At times it may even be that such deception takes a form which leads him in the pride of his heart to cast away every consolation that the Truth bestows and to regard a state of despair as the attainment of the highest Truth.

51 Christian truth cannot be made to depend upon historical facts…. As Kierkegaard was fond of saying, God is in the world incognito. … Revelation is always at the same time some measure of concealment.

52 Revelation cannot be something which is finished, static….

54 An exclusively apophatic understanding of God… [amounts to a] confusion between Gott and Gottheit….

56 The revelation of a suffering and yearning God is higher than the revelation of a God whose satisfaction and sufficiency in himself. … God does not act in power but in humanity. … The degrees of revelation correspond to the degrees of correlation….

57 The ancient biblical idea of God can hardly be in harmony with our religious thought.

58 Feuerbach was half right. … Sociomorphism has entirely distorted the idea of God.

59 In relation to the world God is freedom and not necessity, not determination.

60 …final truth lies with mysticism rather than with dogmatics.

63 There is no criterion of the Truth outside the Truth. … the very concept of pure act ought to be abandoned as belonging to an outworn philosophy.

72 Freedom is more primary than being and it cannot be determined by our being….

73 Tragedy in the Christian world is the tragedy of freedom, not the tragedy of fate.

74 Christian metaphysics ought to be in the first place a philosophy of history.

75 No revelation ought to lay claim to finality and completeness, it goes on to the end of the world.

82 It is man that makes history, history is not a phenomenon of nature….

83 To a notable degree history is a history of crime, and all the dreams of idealists about a better state of society have ended in criminal deeds. … History is a horrible crime.

84 I ought not to regard anything as entirely outside myself. I too am answerable for the act of Cain.

85 Nothing in history ought to be regarded as sacrosanct….

86 …sacred history does not exist…. History must either be entirely repudiated, as it is in Indian thought and by Schopenhauer and, with particular consistency, by Leo Tolstoy, or it must be received into oneself while one makes an effort not to be infected by the evil of it.

87 Hegel's freedom is the freedom of the universal and not of the individual. In the last resort it is the universal spirit which is free and not of the individual, who is offered as a sacrifice to the universal spirit. It was against this that Belinsky protested and at a still deeper level Dostoyevsky and Kierkegaard.

88 I call freedom empty when it is unaware of resistance…. Freedom demands sacrifice and self-surrender. Self-assertion is the last thing it is.

89–90 history is by no means a rational process in which the progressive triumph of reason comes to pass. Volcanic and irrational forces are at work in it, and they are at times concealed and suppressed. But from time to time they break out in wars and revolutions. … The great experiment made by the Russian people displays the irrationality of the rational.

95 It does not become Christians to be self-satisfied and to despise those to whom the problem of God is a torment. It certainly does not become them to despise Nietzsche….

97 But there is no sense at all in which God is a cause. He causes nothing and determines nothing.

97–98 …out-and-out consistent godlessness does not exist. Man is more inclined to be an idolater than an atheist. … He deifies the most diverse objects, he deifies the cosmos, man and humanity, he deifies society, the State, abstract good or justice or science ,he deifies race, nationality or class, he deifies a particular social order, socialism, and he makes a god of his own godlessness.

99 The arguments for atheism which are derived from the natural sciences are just as weak as the arguments intended to support belief in God which are based upon those same natural sciences. Christian apologetics which seek to ward off the attack of the natural sciences upon belief in God are very feeble and out of date. Arguments from the natural sciences may be entirely ignored.

100 A historical biography of Jesus cannot in actual fact be written and the Gospels cannot be acknowledged as historical documents. But that only proves that the reality of Jesus Christ is borne witness to by the faith of the Christian community, and that outside that community it is a reality of history which is scarcely noticeable.

101 [Marcion's heresy was ethically motivated, insofar as he was gravely disquieted by the evil in the world; could the creator of such a world be worshiped as the true God?]

102 Out of a desire to destroy suffering and to construct a world in which suffering may not exist, he may be the cause of immeasurable suffering, but that, of course, he regards as only for the time being. This is the fundamental moral inconsistency of the atheistic revolutionary.

103 The godlessness of Marx is derived from Feuerbach, that is from Feuerbach's idea of the alienation of human nature in religion.

104 [by suggesting an inner drive to the material forces that shape society and man, Marxism ascribes rationality and creative efforts to matter, which means that a rational principle is inherent in matter; in such wise, Marxism fails to be a thoroughgoing atheism, in the sense that it denies every sacred or divine principle as such]

105–106 Nietzsche's is "a tragic godlessness" … The murder of God was also the murder of man. Nietzsche's atheism was not in the least a humanist atheism. … There was no element of Marcionism in him. He repudiated the Christian God rather because he brings consolation and happiness. Christianity gives a meaning to suffering and that Nietzsche could not endure. To him it meant the denial of the tragic principle. He wanted suffering and he did not want consolation. But the Christian theme is still there in Nietzsche. He was a man whom Christ had wounded. This passionate foe of Christianity was nearer to it than Goethe who wished it well.

109 [For Heidegger] Being is fallen and guilty in its structure. This is catholic theology without God. It is a very pessimistic philosophy, more pessimistic than Schopenhauer's.

111 To Sartre the freedom of man is connected with godlessness, to him God is an enemy of human freedom. He regards himself as a more consistent atheist than are the Marxists, for they acknowledge that there is a meaning in the historical process and look to it for support. In spite of their materialism, they believe in the triumph of social reason….

113 Traditional theology has never been the theology of the Holy Spirit.

115 All intellectual proofs for the existence of God are bankrupt; they belong to the world of thought and they stay there.

121 It must be said to the credit of Russian philosophical religious thought that it has always reacted vigorously against the forensic interpretation of Christianity and of Redemption.

123 The Eucharistic Sacrifice ought to be entirely freed from traces of the forensic interpretation. … The idea of predestination is indissolubly connected with the juridical way of understanding Christianity and it loses all meaning if another way of interpretation is adopted.

128 Christianity is a religion of social and cosmic transfiguration and resurrection. This has been almost forgotten in official Christianity.

131 The Roman Catholic Church, which has been very fond of frightening people with hell in order to keep souls in submission….

133 To him [Bulgakov] an eternal hell means the failure of God. It is the defeat of God by the powers of darkness.

134 …the significance of the historical Gospels is not absolute.

148 The whole cosmos, the whole creation, is included in Spirit and it is only within the Spirit that there is any cosmos.

149 It is very important to understand the difference between symbolization and objectification. Symbolization always provides signs of another world. It does not remain closed within the circle of this world.

152 The era of the Spirit [or the third revelation] can be nothing but a revelation of a sense of community which is not merely social but also cosmic, not only a brotherhood of man, but a brotherhood of men with all cosmic life….

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