Дата публикации: 29 августа 2021
Автор(ы): Yevgeny CHELYSHEV
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №4, 2010, C.64-69
Номер публикации: №1630230006

Yevgeny CHELYSHEV, (c)

by Acad. Yevgeny CHELYSHEV, RAS adviser


Vladimir Sergeevich Solovyov (1853-1900), Russia's great philosopher. As Moscow University Professor Lev Lopatin (1855-1920), his contemporary and an eminent scholar of the day, has put it, Solovyov means as much for Russian letters as Pushkin does. "Solovyov's lifework takes in the multifaceted cultural wealth of the Silver Age," says Dr. Piama Gaidenko, RAS corresponding member, a woman scholar who studied his heritage at a later date. Indeed, that was a man of extraordinary talents and enormous spiritual, intellectual vim. His creative activity was truly versatile and multidimensional as a poet, critic and publicist, all in one. He translated Plato, Vergil, Schiller and Kant. His range of interests embraced such matters as the history of dogmas and religious doctrines, ethics, aesthetics and politics, too. The philosopher's mystic ego amazed his contemporaries who espied something prophetic in it.




They who knew Solovyov and got in touch with him—and there were a good many people like that—recall him as an exceptional and outstanding man with an air of enigma about him, who could even communicate with the other world, too.


Such kind of mysticism was worked a good deal. Yevgeny Trubetskoy, a Moscow University professor, a public per-sonality and publicist, and a close friend of Solovyov's, his disciple and follower, was most eloquent: "I have never happened to encounter a man like him, neither before nor afterwards, one who made you feel he was communicating with the other world; meeting him eye to eye many a time, I have experienced a sense of trepidation that sent my heart thumping once I saw Solovyov perceiving something, but I dared not ask what in particular." (1913).

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His laughter was proverbial. "One has talked volumes about Vladimir Solovyov's laughing, I think that would be enough for an anthology with physiological, psychological and metaphysical chapters," says Irina Rod-nyanskaya (2006), a Solovyov scholar who cites different shades of perception what concerns this salient feature of Solovyov's.


"Both in his private life and in his looks Solovyov was highly original," says Anatoly Koni, an eminent lawyer and public figure (elected in 1900 to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences honoris causa). "Prominent above his gaunt and seemingly frail body, clad poorly and skimpily and often out of season, was his head, with rough braids of graying hair, a head that made an irresistible impression, with its high noble forehead and wondrous deep-blue eyes that mirrored the depth of his soul, and incessant workings of his thought. The lower part of his face lacked the spiritual verve of the upper, buried as it was under his thick moustache and beard... Feeble, poor as a church mouse having neither house nor home, he had to keep himself warm, both literally and figuratively, at the alien hearth and home, often in want of bare essentials because of his outgoing kindness and gullibility, and attitude to life around him... He worked hard in his last years, having neither calm nor rest, frittering away his health, spreading himself thin, and having no thought of the morrow. Ruthless to his own self, he distilled it into the bright, warm light of his mind. Still and all, no one could expect it to go out so soon, so prematurely..."


As Vassily Rozanov (1856-1919), an eminent prose writer and philosopher, saw it, Solovyov was "unable to live on idle"; that was the characteristic trait of his personality. Rozanov went on by recalling what Solovyov once said about himself being not one little bit a philosopher. "He seemed to regret that," Rozanov continued. "He was somewhat reckless and impetuous like the cavalry is, compared with the rather slow and circumspect infantry or artillery. He was a skirmisher, a pioneer in everything. He had begun many things, but failed to cope, or even turned back. But even if his 'endings' were of no avail, his sallies, his 'spadework', his 'first steps' were bright and needed to his homeland, and brought fame to his name."


Prof. Lev Lopatin, in his reminiscences about Solovyov, pointed to the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of his nature "both in thought and in life" which he, Lopatin, found "quite natural" for the philosopher's ego.


The same idea was echoed by the poet Alexander Blok in his commemorative article "Knight and Monk" (1910): he spoke of the dichotomy of Vladimir Solovyov, all too eager to scotch evil.




Small wonder that this truly enigma of a man has been the object of scholarly discussion for more than a hundred years now. In this article we shall not look into the system of his views but rather, proceeding from what other Solovyov scholars and poets had to say about Solovyov, try to pinpoint what made this philosopher and his creations stand out, and assess his contribution to Russian culture.


Solovyov is "the founder of Russian religious philosophy", according to Sergei Khoruzhy (1994). "His works that in many ways determined the level of Russian philosophical culture of the late 19th century and its specific content—a philosophy that in the 20th century became known as the 'Russian idea'—were condemned offhand by the Soviet Marxist science for their idealism and fideism*, and were no longer published in our country. Today, reading into his works again and again, we find the range of basic problems and issues vital to the spiritual fabric of life," says philologist Ascold Muratov, who in the 1990s prepared one of the first collections of the philosopher's works for publication and wrote a prefatory article to it.


In his Book About Vladimir Solovyov the philosopher and theosopher Nikolai Berdiayev (1874-1948) had a remarkable lot to say. "What is most unusual in Solovyov and what was the guiding line running all through his life was his ecumenism, his universalism... One does not know yet what camp is he to be assigned to. One still keeps arguing whether he was a Slavophil or a Westernist, an Orthodox Christian or a Roman Catholic, a conservative or a liberal. Actually, however, he was a universalist full of ecumenical sensuality, herein lay his originality... He lived in unison with the soul of the world and he, like a true knight, wanted to free this soul from captivity. What Dostoyevsky said about the Russian being predominantly a universal All-Man holds for Solovyov best of all. But what makes Solovyov great and significant is that the problem of the East and West was not his problem alone, it was Russia's problem first and foremost." Concerning the widespread view of Solovyov as a Westernist, Berdiayev had this to say: "Solovyov was a Slavophil in his roots... As a Slavophil he placed the Christian faith above all, he made religious motif the driving force of his thinking."


His name is often associated with the Silver Age, a brilliant, Renaissance-like epoch of resurgence a quarter century long at the most, between the reign of Emperor Alexander III late in the 19th century and the revolutionary turmoil of 1917; perhaps the most creative age in Russian history. Such is the gist of the view voiced in 1993 by Professor Vadim Kreid of the University of Iowa, a Slav scholar.


Dr. Piama Gaidenko stressed this point: Solovyov takes in the entire palette of the Silver Age and its culture. One feels the "influence of Western metaphysics, German idealism above all". Likewise present



* Fideism (Lat. fides, or faith)-a doctrine substituting faith for knowledge.-Ed.

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in him is "the Slavophil desire to turn back to the Christian sources and build philosophy on a religious foundation, marry it to divinity". One "also finds mystic and occult motifs rooted in gnosticism and enhanced—at the turn of the 20th century in particular— by the apocryphal literature craze and the interest in Russian sectarianism..." Nonetheless, in Dr. Gaidenko's opinion, Solovyov the philosopher, Solovyov the poet, and Solovyov the publicist has evolved into a trend-setter-at any rate, in what we call Russian religious philosophy.




To get down to the heart of the matter in so far as Solovyov's philosophic, theosophic and aesthetic views are concerned, it would be proper at this point to cite what Dr. Viktor Bychkov, a philosopher researching in the history of aesthetics, said in 2005. "The image and the idea of Divine Sophia (Wisdom) is yet another mythologeme significant for the aesthetic consciousness of the Silver Age, one that permeated the entire creative work (both philosophical and poetical) of Solovyov. Proceeding from the personal mystic experience of his youth, he perceived the biblical image of Wisdom as a cosmic personalistic creative substance esoteric to reason and antinomian* in essence. Sophia appeared in his mind both as the world's cosmogonic soul and as an enchanting image of the divine womanly source; she also appeared as the divine substance that attained to her consummate embodiment in humanity as the pinnacle of creation. Sophia is a great, regal and womanly being different from God and Christ and Mother of God and angels: she is the true, pure and complete humankind, the supreme and all-embracing form and the living soul of Nature and the Universe, eternally united and always uniting with the Godhead, and uniting to Him all things essential." As Acad. Yuri Stepa-nov, an eminent Russian philologist, said in 1997, "... Sophia acquired both a conceptual content and a poetical image enchanting a whole Pleiad of poets... The Eternal She-Companion, as Solovyov calls her, emerged later in Alexander Blok in the image of the Fair Lady and in the image of Russia."


Some scholars detect striking coincidences in the biographies of Vladimir Solovyov and Friedrich Nietzsche. "Both suffered deeply for not being understood by the society they lived in. Both were loners with no families and children of their own. Both had no roof over their head, and all through their short life they kept wandering seeking shelter here and there, in one or in another country. Their well-nigh simultaneous demise (with just one month apart) is yet another conundrum, a mystery rooted in the cause-and-effect of cosmic evolution." Such is the view of Dr. Lyudmila Shaposhnikova,



* Antinomian-of the doctrine that faith alone, not the obedience to the moral law, in necessary for salvation.-Tr.

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an Indian philosophy scholar (2001). And according to Dr. Viktor Bychkov, Solovyov's death "on the threshold of the new 20th century carried the same esoteric and symbolic meaning for Russian culture as did the death of F. Nietzsche the same year [1900] for 20th-century Euro-American culture".


We might as well add here that in his young days Vladimir aired remarkable ideas about India's religious-philosophical thought. Like this one: "The Platonic system is the first well-nigh complete metaphysical system to appear in Europe... Greek philosophy begins from the sophists and Socrates... The gist of their teachings comes from eastern religious systems. Far earlier than our philosophy there had existed whole systems in the Far East [i.e. in the Orient.— Auth.], many of which have come down to us. We know about the high intellectual level of the Hindus. Their metaphysical systems make up something integral, complete. This is an intellectual world, and the discovery of this world is now more important than was the discovery of America in the 15th century...


"... In its substance the philosophy of Plato is the same thing, only in the palate of the Hellenic genius. Christianity had the same groundwork, though with the addition of certain historical facts. And last, the new Western philosophy comes to the recognition of the selfsame truths which a thousand years ago [rather, thousands of years ago.— Auth.] were being professed on the banks of the Ganges." These thoughts about the continuity and synthesis of religious-philosophical ideas of the East and West were uttered in the lectures that Solovyov read in Moscow at the higher women's courses on January 14 (28 by the Gregorian Calendar), 1875.




Speaking about Solovyov's role for the religious-philosophical and social thought of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, his scholars stress his contribution to the poetry of the Silver Age. "Solovyov's poetic influence is more imperceptible and subtle, but in the same breath deeper and more solid than his purely philosophical influence," says Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944), a Russian philosopher and theologian. The same subject is broached by Vassily Rozanov: "I suppose that poetry was his most intimate forte... He is kind of anonymous in poetry; he breathed free and easy in its vague, weird sounds. He loved poetry as one loves freedom, and he loved it also as a beautiful form, for an aesthetic ideal was strong upon his soul."


His theosophical and, certainly, his poetic works are considered a seeding-plot of symbolism. Any significant poet of that age comes to this or that form of spiritual insight. Vadim Kreid lists a cohort of Russian poets who followed Solovyov in his mystic searchings: Alexander Blok, Andrei Bely, Valery Bryusov, Maximilien Voloshin, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Konstantin Balmont, Igor Severyanin... The ties of the Silver Age with esoterism are truly a boundless subject. The deeper we go into it, the more successful we are in finding explicit answers to the epoch's aesthetical and historical riddles. The American scholar sees some dedicatory knowledge in symbolism as a whole, the same symbolism without which there would have been so many single authors but no integral epoch, for thousands and thousands of its contradictions.




This is true indeed: familiarizing himself in 1901 with the works of Vladimir Solovyov, the great poet and symbolist Alexander Blok was caught in the spell of his magic. It was a crucial event to Blok—he felt he had discovered his spiritual forerunner. He saw the light of Solovyov's soul searchings, and he came to grasp the mystic ambience of the time. This way Blok drew upon Solovyov's world perception with its inherent dichotomy that became part and parcel of the poet's works. A good deal has been written about the influence of Solovyov's poetry on Blok. This is what Zinaida Hippi-us, a Silver Age poetess and writer, said in her article "My Lunar Friend" (1922). "As Solovyov's disciple and admirer, Blok was all turned to his teacher's dim providence: to his verses in which 'She', the 'Maiden of the Radiant Gate', enters the stage."


With regard to the way Solovyov influenced Blok, an émigré Russian scholar, Yefim Etkind (1918-1999), agrees with Hippius concerning the essential difference between the two; in his turn, Kornei Chukovsky (1882-1969), a well-known literary critic and man of letters, spells it out: "For Vladimir Solovyov the worldly was cursed once and for all, and could not be transfigured into anything else, while Blok in all his creations /.../ would transfigure the worldly again and again. Not only speaking about the transfiguration of the world, he did transfigure it creatively."


The cycle of works that Blok created in 1901 and 1902— Verses About the Fair Lady—which he considered the pinnacle of his lifework—is infused with the mystic experiences and images in the Solovyov tradition.


George Niva, a contemporary Swiss scholar in Russian philology, says Alexander Blok owes much to Vladimir Solovyov whom he worshiped and from whom he often borrowed lines for epigraphs to his own verses. Blok, says George Niva, placed the first book of his Collected Poems above the rest of his writings. In his diary of 1918 he recalled the circumstances of his private life prior to the publication of his first collected works. In 1901 and 1902, during his strolls in St. Petersburg streets, he was haunted by one and the same She-vision, and in Her he recognized the captive World Soul. The poet spoke about the great significance of Vladimir Solovyov's poems to him: "By springtide I started stroll-

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Vladimir S. Solovyov. A portrait by llya Repin, 1891.


ing near the isles and out into the field beyond Staraya Derevnya [Old Village on the city's edge], and there they came, something that I defined as Visions (sunsets). All this is there in Vladimir Solovyov's poems, a book that my mother presented to me as a gift on Easter the same year."




Sifting what his friends, acquaintances, colleagues and so many scholars had to say about Solovyov, we have searched high and low trying to find some hard bits of evidence pertaining to his self-identification, what he thought about the meaning and goal of his life. It would be in place to quote from Irina Rodnyanskaya's study: "Writing in T.L. Sukhotina's album, Solovyov made this answer about the goal of his life, 'I won't tell you'." Still earlier, in his salad days, Solovyov wrote to another young lady that "... his goals were crazy and had but little in common with ordinary human plans. Those were Messianic-transfigurative goals giving place in time to Messianic-enlightening and socioprophetic objectives. As a vehicle of a spiritual mission (and he could not but feel like that), Solovyov had never been quite free and self-definitive with respect to what was 'most significant in life' (this is how he describes in his notes to Three Appointments his visionary meetings with Tsarina, the revelation of heavenly Eros). Freedom comes here in the liberal garb of half-faith and half-jest that by its very ambivalence abolished any oaths and any incantations, leaving just the same a loophole for their coming to be... mystery was simply bound to turn into fun. A visionary, setting out for the Thebaid desert for a revelation, and wearing a top hat, loose cloak and flimsy shoes-such kind of self-portrait cuts a funny figure, funny for the prototype himself."


All of his work is permeated with the idea that human essence could be fathomed through religious experience only. Solovyov was dead certain about that. "The human personality could freely unite with the divine beginning from within only because in a sense it is divine itself or, rather, privy to the Godhead." Therefore further headway of Solovyov scholarship, as we see it, largely depends on collaboration of secular scholars and theologians.


At this point we would like to cite a cogent passage from Dr. Zinaida Subbotina's study on Vladimir Solovyov's contribution to Russian letters of the Silver Age ( The Problem of Man in Russian Idealistic Philosophy; Moscow, 2004).


"Solovyov has the honor of creating the all-embracing and circumstantial philosophical system which, in the opinion of many scholars,... is equivalent in its significance to other philosophical systems conceived by such outstanding representatives of classical German idealism as Immanuel Kant, Johann Fichte, Friedrich Schel-ling and Friedrich Hegel. He had a substantial impact

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on the Weltanschauung of many Russian philosophers of the idealist trend, who actually recognized him as the patriarch and head of the Russian philosophical school."


Dr. Subbotina thinks highly of the philosopher's contribution to Russian belles-lettres as well. "Solovy-ov's poetry, whose imagery expressed his philosophical views, had inspired several generations of Russian writers as a model for emulation... The high-assay romanticism, aesthetic refinement and artistic elegance remarkable for the spiritual quests of the Russian Silver Age owe a good deal to the impact of Solovyov who, in his verses and poems, and in philosophical works sang praises to Sophia impersonating the true wisdom, loving kindness and everlasting womanhood."


Vladimir Sergeevich Solovyov died when he was only 47 years of age. According to another prominent religious philosopher, Sergei Trubetskoy (1862-1905), "this was a great Russian indeed, a brilliant personality and thinker not accepted and not understood in his lifetime in spite of his overwhelming success". In his funeral oration the writer Vassily Rozanov described Solovyov as a "wanderer". "He was a wanderer in his intelligence and in his ideas, a wanderer even in so far as his way of life and living accommodations were concerned... He has emerged as the brightest light of our philosophical and theosophical thought over the past quarter century... Oh, from how many passions and mistakes he could have kept me off, how greatly he could have expanded my political and religious horizons!.. He was a publicist sincerely and ardently in love with Russia."


Vladimir Kuzmin-Karavayev (1859-1927), an eminent public figure and military lawyer, appraised Solovyov as follows:


"To him there were no partitions among people—neither religious nor tribal, neither social nor economic-no partitions in personal contacts either. The range of his acquaintances is staggering both in sheer numbers and in infinite diversity. He had true friends both among the Orthodox clergy and among the Roman Catholic patres, and among the faithful Hebrews—in high-society drawing-rooms, in literary quarters and in asylums of the 'déclassés'. He demonstrated it was possible to live in love towards all people irrespective of their descent, faith, and social or property status... In his dealings with everybody he invariably remained true to himself, an interesting and brilliantly witty collocutor, and a kind, amiable and delicate man."

Опубликовано на Порталусе 29 августа 2021 года

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