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Nature. Knowledge. Intuition
In the works of Vladimir Solovyov

Mechanical thinking in Christianity

The mechanistic approach is one which takes different concepts in their abstract separateness and, consequently, analyses things under some particular, one-sided definition; and then contrasts them one with another in an external manner, or compares them in some similarly one-sided, although more general relation. In contrast to this, organic thinking regards every object in its many-sided wholeness and, consequently, in its internal bond with all the other [objects], which allows one to deduce from within each concept all the others, or to develop a single concept into the fullness of the whole truth. Therefore, one may say that organic thinking is evolutional, one which [unfolds ad develops, while the mechanistic (rationalist) approach only contrasts and combines. It is easy to see that the organic view which perceives or grasps the whole idea of an object, is really that mental or ideal contemplation which was discussed in the previous lecture. If this contemplation is united with clear consciousness [awareness] and is accompanied by reflection, which gives logical determinations to the contemplated truth, then we have that apperceptive thought which characterizes the philosophical creation; if, however, mental contemplation remains in its immediacy and does not clothe its images with logical forms, it appears as that live thought which is characteristic of the people who have not yet emerged from the unreflective experience in their common tribal or national unity; such thought expresses what is called the folk spirit, manifesting itself in folk-creation in art and religion — in the living development of language, in beliefs, myths, ways of life and traditions, in folk-tales, folk-songs, and so forth.

Thus organic thought (in general) in its two aspects belongs on one hand to the true philosophers, and on the other to (the masses of) the people. What concerns those who stand between these two [groups] i.e., the majority of the so-called educated or enlightened people, who are detached, as a result of a greater formal development of mental activity, from the direct people's view of life, but have not reached the integral philosophic reflection, they are confined to the abstract mechanistic thought which breaks up or differentiates (analyses) immediate reality — and this constitutes its significance and merit — but they are not in a position to give it a new, higher, unity and connection; and herein is its limitation.[7] Certainly it is possible (and in reality it often happens) that persons of this group, influenced in practical life by the ideas of other people's organic thinking in the form of religious beliefs,[8] in their own theoretical activity stand upon the point of view of abstract and mechanistic reason, as a result of which, of course, there develops a dualism and contradiction in their general world-view, more or less smoothed out or reconciled in an external manner.

[7] This capacity to analyse, which is necessary as a means or as a transition to the integral and reflective world-view from the instinctive folk-mind, is absolutely sterile and even harmful if one confines oneself to it. And it is this limitation which conditions the pride of the half-educated people (whose number comprises the majority of the learned specialists, who in our days understand little outside of their own speciality) — pride in relation to the `unenlightened masses submerged in superstitions', as well as in regard to the philosophers, devoted to 'mystical phantasies'. However, the significance of those groundless negators is as illusory as their knowledge is superficial.
[8] Speaking of religious belief as a product of organic thought, we must remember that this [type] of thought is based upon the contemplation of the ideal, which, as has been pointed out in the previous lecture, is not a subjective process, but the actual relation towards the realm of ideal things, or the interaction [between the actual and the ideal]; consequently, the results of this contemplation are not products of subjective, arbitrary creation, not inventions and phantasies, but are revelations of super-human reality, received by man in one form or another.

Such dualism naturally appeared in Christianity also, when the Christian doctrine, which belongs entirely to the domain of organic thought in both its aspects, became the universally recognized religion not only for the people and the theosophers but for the whole educated class of those days. Persons of that class naturally appeared in all grades of the Christian hierarchy; they sincerely accepted Christian ideas as the creed of faith, but because of their mechanistic mentality, were unable to conceive those ideas in their contemplative verity. Hence we see that many Fathers of the Church considered the Christian dogmas, especially the fundamental dogma of the Holy Trinity, as something which cannot be comprehended by human reason. To refer to the authority of these Church teachers against the assertion of the dogma of the Holy Trinity [discussed here] in the sense of the contemplative truth would be completely unfounded, since it is obvious that these teachers, being great in their practical wisdom concerning Church matters, or because of their holiness, might have been weak in the domain of the philosophical understanding; and, of course, they might have been apt to regard the limits of their own thought as the limits of the human mind in general. On the other hand, there were many real philosophers among the great Fathers of the Church who not only acknowledged the deep apperceptive truth in the dogma of the Holy Trinity, but even themselves contributed a good deal to the development and the explication of this truth.[9]

[9] This was asserted also by Hegel in his 'History of Philosophy'.

However, there is a certain sense in which we must acknowledge the triunity of God as completely inconceivable by [human] reason, and it is as follows: [the divine] triunity, being the actual and substantial [inter-] relation of the living subjects, the inner life of the extant One, cannot be covered, completely expressed, or exhausted by any defini-tions of the mind: [definitions] which by their very meaning, always express only the general and the formal but not the essential and material aspect of being; all the definitions and categories of reason are only the expressions of the objectivity or comprehensibility of being, but not of its own inner subjective being and life. But it is obvious that such incomprehensibility, derived from the very nature of reason in general as a formal capacity, cannot be ascribed to the limitation of the human reason; for every reason, no matter to whom it may belong, as reason is able to perceive only the logical aspect of what exists, its concept (in Greek, logos), or the general relation [of the particular] to the whole, but in no way that [particular] existing [entity] in its direct, unitary, and subjective actuality. Furthermore, from this it is clear that not only the life of the divine being appears in this sense to be incomprehensible, but the life of any creature [in general]; for no being [regarded] as such is exhaustively expressed by its formal objective aspect or by its concept; as an extant, it necessarily has its inner subjective side which constitutes the very act of its existence, in which it is something unconditionally unitary and unique, something inexpressible, and from this point of view it always represents something foreign to reason, something that cannot enter its sphere, something irrational.[10]

[10] Irrational not in the sense of being without reason but in the sense of not being subject to reason, incommensurate with it; for senselessness is a contradiction of concepts, [and] consequently belongs to the domain of reason, is judged and condemned by it; while that aspect of being of which we are speaking is outside the limits of reason and, consequently, can be neither reasonable nor senseless; in the same manner as, for example, the taste of lemon cannot be either white or black.

Thus Divinity in Heaven and a blade of grass on earth are equally inconceivable and equally conceivable by reason: one as well as the other, in its general being, as a concept, constitutes an object of pure thought, is wholly subject to logical definitions, and in this sense is fully intelligible and comprehensible for reason; yet both in their own being, as existent but not as objects of thought, are something greater than a concept, lie beyond the limits of the rational as such; and in that sense, [they] are impermeable or incomprehensible for reason.

Returning to the truth of the triunity, we must say that it is not only fully comprehensible in its logical aspect but that it is based upon the general logical form which defines every actual being; and if this form in application to Divinity seems to be more difficult to comprehend than when it is applied to other objects [of thought], this is not because the disine life in its formal, objective aspect is less subject to logical definitions than anything else (there is no ground for such supposition), but only because the domain of the divine being is not an habitual object of our thoughts. Therefore, for a better grasp of the form of the triunity, it is necessary to apply it to a being that is closer, more familiar to us than the divine being; having understood the general form of triunity in a finite being known to us directly, we can then without difficulty develop also those variations of the form [of triunity] which are conditioned by the peculiarities of that new content to which this form must be applied in defining the absolute being. In this respect, the analogies which point to the formula of triunity in the beings and phenomena of the finite world, have an actual value for the truth of the triunity of God, not as proofs of it — for it is proved or deduced in a purely logical way from the very idea of Divinity — but as examples which facilitate its comprehension. But for this purpose it is not enough to indicate merely the presence of a three-fold character coextant with [its] oneness in some object, as has been habitually done by the theologians who maintain the view-point of the mechanistic thinking (and it should be noted that such external analogies merely outlined the sup-posed incomprehensibility of this truth); for a real analogy it is neces-sary that triunity appear as an internal law of the very life of a being. It is necessary, in the first place, that triunity have an essential significance for that object, that it be its essential form, and not an external acci-dental attribute; and, secondly, it is necessary that in this form triunity follow from the unity and the unity from the trinity, so that these two momenti would be in a logical interconnection, would internally con-dition each other. Therefore the domain of spiritual being alone is suitable for such analogies, as one that bears the law of its life within itself. I have already shown above the general triunity in the life of the human spirit [taken] in its whole scope; deserving of attention are also other, more particular and definite, analogies in the same domain, [and] of these I shall here mention two.

The first was originally pointed out with full clarity by Leibnitz, and later on played a considerable part in German idealism. Our reason, says Leibnitz, necessarily represents an inner triunity when it reflects upon itself, in self-consciousness. Here it appears as three in one and one in three. Indeed, in reason which [in reflecting upon itself] recognizes or understands itself, the knower (subject) and the cognized (object) are one and the same, namely, one and the same reason; but the very act of cognition and consciousness, the act which unites the cognized with the knower (subject and object) is nothing other than the same reason in action; and, as the first two momenti exist only with the third one and in it, so likewise the third exists only in their presence and in them; so that here we actually have a certain indivisible trinity of one essence.

Another analogy, which is less known although it is still keener, is the one pointed out by St. Augustine in his Confessions. It seems that for some reason it has attracted much less attention than other examples of triunity in various objects, cited in abundance by the same St. Augustine in his book de Trinitate, which belong to the same external and irrelevant analogies of which I spoke above. In the Confessions, St. Augustine states the following: In our spirit we must distinguish its simple immediate being (esse), its knowing (scire), and its willing (velle); these three acts are identical not only by their content, in so far as the extant one knows and wills himself, but their unity goes far deepen each of them contains in itself the other two in their own characteristic quality, and, consequently, each internally contains already the whole fullness of the triune spirit. Indeed, in the first place, I am but not simply am — I am the one who knows and wills (sum sciens volens); consequently, here my being as such already contains in itself both knowledge and will; secondly, if I know then I know, or am conscious of my being as well as of my will, I know or am conscious of the fact that I am and that I will (scio me esse et velle); thus here also, in knowledge, as such, or under the form (in the attribute) of knowledge, both being and will are contained; thirdly and finally I wish myself yet not simply myself, but myself as existing and knowing, I will my existence and knowledge (volo me esse et scire); consequently, the form of the will also contains in its attribute being and knowledge. In other words, each of these three fundamental acts of the spirit is com-pleted in itself by the other two, and thus becomes individualized into a full triune being.

This consideration approaches the truth of the triunity of God very closely and can serve as a natural transition to the further development of this truth, namely, in regard to the specific individual relations of the three divine subjects to the single essence or idea, schich they actualize and in which they themselves become concretely realized.

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