FOOD FOR THOT DEPT.

Nikolai Berdyaev: On Slavery and Freedom

“We live in a nightmare of falsehoods, and there are few who are sufficiently awake and aware to see things as they are. Our first duty is to clear away illusions and recover a sense of reality.” — Nikolai Berdyaev

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874 -1948) was a Russian Christian universalist mystic and Christian anarchist political philosopher. My first encounter with Berdyaev was in a book titled Four Existentialist Theologians in the early 1980s after our return from Mexico. I recorded and eventually memorized this statement in my “quote book”: “Slavery is passivity. The victory over slavery is creative activity.”

While reviewing and discarding some papers I was reminded of Berdyaev and stimulated to see how much of his thought and writings were gathered on Wiki Quotes. If you are looking for a way to become acquainted with great thinkers of the past, Wiki Quotes might become as rewarding a pasttime for you as it has for me.

The following excerpts have been culled from the page on Berdyaev.

“Pain in the human world is the birth of personality… Already in the animal world individuality suffers. Freedom gives rise to suffering. One can lessen it if one refuses freedom.”

“Only the free man is a personality, and he is that even if the whole world should wish to enslave him.”

“Man, human personality (the individual) is the supreme value, not the community, not the collective realities which belong to the object world, such as society, nation, state, civilization, church.”

About Berdyaev:
It is difficult to fit the work of Nikolai Berdyaev into any neat category. The label that was used most frequently to characterize him was that of an “existential Christian philosopher” but … his voice is equally relevant to psychology and psychoanalysis and it also constitutes a uniquely original commentary on the very nature of the person in our postmodern world especially in relation to spirituality. — Renos K. Papadopoulos

Berdyaev lived through the Russian Revolution and those tumultuous times leading up to it with the idiosyncratic madness of the Tsar and Rasputin.. The following, titled The End of Time, was written in 1919.

“The whole economic system of Capitalism is an offshoot of a devouring and overwhelming lust, of a kind that can hold sway only in a society that has deliberately renounced the Christian asceticism and turned away from Heaven to give itself over exclusively to earthly gratifications. … It is the result of a secularization of economic life, and by it the hierarchical subordination of the material to the spiritual is inverted. The autonomy of economics has ended in their dominating the whole life of human societies: the worship of Mammon has become the determining force of the age. And the worst of it is that this undisguised “mammonism” is regarded as a very good thing, an attainment to the knowledge of truth and a release from illusions. Economic materialism formulates this to perfection when it brands the whole spiritual life of man as a deception and a dream.”

When years later Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was exiled to the States, he similarly excoriated the predominant American ethic, “I want what I want,” which Berdyaev also scratched at here:

“In order to be able to go on living it is possible that the bankrupt peoples will have to enter on a new path of self-denial, by curbing their covetousness and putting a check on the indefinite expansion of their wants, and by having smaller families.”

One last observation and a link to more:

“We live in a nightmare of falsehoods, and there are few who are sufficiently awake and aware to see things as they are. Our first duty is to clear away illusions and recover a sense of reality.”

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Nikolai_Berdyaev

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store