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Bulgakov. Absolute Subject Category: Theosis Bulgakov. Ousia and Hypostases

God. Trinity. Ousia and Hypostases
In the works of Vladimir Solovyov

God is the extant One

God is the extant One, that is to say, to Him belongs being. He possesses being. But one cannot just be, only be; the assertion I am, or this is, necessarily raises the question, what I am, or what this is. Being in general connotes, obviously, only an abstract conception, while actual being necessarily demands not only a definite extant-one as the subject of which it is said that it is, but also a definite objective content, or essence, as the predicate which answers the question: What is this subject, or what does it represent? Thus, if in the grammatical sense the verb 'to be' forms only a link between the subject and the predicate, then logically also being can be thought of only as the relation of the extant one to its objective essence or content — the relation in which it asserts, posits or manifests this (its) content, this (its) essence, in one way or another.[3] Indeed, if we supposed a being which in no way asserts or established any objective content, which does not represent anything, which is not anything either in itself and for itself, or for anyone else, then we would have no logical right to acknowledge the existence of such a being; for in the absence of all actual content, being would become but an empty word, by which nothing would be meant, nothing would be asserted; and the only possible answer to the question: What is this being, would be nothing.[4]


[3] Those expressions in which the verb to be itself seems to take the part of the predicate, namely when the mere fact of existence of something is asserted, are not in contradiction with the above statement. The fact is, it is but a manner of expression for an abstracting thought, and it is not intended then to express the full truth of the object. Thus, for example, if I simply say: The devil exists, or There is a devil; then, although in this instancy I do not say what the devil is, yet I do not mean to say that he is not something; also, I by no means assume here that he only is, or is only a being, a subject without any objective qualitative definition, without any substance or content; I simply do not dwell upon the problem of essence or content, but limit myself only to pointing out the existence of that subject. Such expressions, thus, represent only an omission of the real predicate, but in no way its denial or identification with existence as such.
[4] Hereof consists the deeply-correct meaning of the famous paradox of Hegel, with which starts his 'Logic': namely that being, as such, that is to say, a pure, empty being, is identical with its opposite, or nothing.

Participation in divine life

All or the unity of all — all-unity — comprises the proper content, object, or objective essence of God.

In other words, in that first status only, as the extant One, is God actual; whereas His content — all or the universal essence — exists only in a latent state, potentially; although [it is] also present here, for without it, as we have seen, the extant One Himself would be nothing, i.e., would not exist.

In order that it be actual, God not only must contain it in Himself, but must assert it for Himself, i.e., He must assert it as the 'other one' [His antipode], must manifest and actualize it as something distinct from Himself.

The being of God is the establishment or the positing of this content, of this essence; and in it, the assertion of Him who posits, or the extant One.

We have three relations or three states of the absolutely-extant [regarded] as determining itself in relation to its content:
1) It is posited as possessing this content in an immediate substantial oneness or indifference with [regard to] itself — it is posited as the one substance, essentially containing all in its unconditional power.
2) It is posited as manifesting or realizing its absolute content by contra-posing it to itself, or detaching it from itself by the act of its own self-determination.
3) It is posited as preserving and asserting itself in its own content, or as manifesting itself in the actual, mediated, or differentiated oneness [which is now its unity] with this content or essence, i.e., with all — in other words, as the one which finds itself in its 'other one', or [the extant one] eternally returning unto itself and in itself subsisting.

If, thus, God as the extant one cannot represent being in general only, since that would have meant that He has nothing (in die negative sense), or simply that He did not exist at all; and if, on the other hand, God as the absolute cannot be merely something, cannot be limited by any particular definite content: then the only possible answer to the question, What is God, appears to be the one already known to us, namely, that God is all; that is to say, all in the positive sense, or the unity of all comprises the proper content, object, or objective essence of God; and that being, the actual being of God is the establishment or the positing of this content, of this essence; and in it, the assertion of Him who posits, or the extant One. The logical necessity of this proposition is evident. If the divine essence were not all-one, did not contain all, then something existant could, consequently, be outside of God; but in such a case God would be limited by this being, external to Himself: God would not be absolute, i.e., He would not be God. Thus the assertion of the all-unity of God does away with the dualism which leads to atheism. On the other hand, the same assertion, establishing in God die whole fullness or the totality of all being as His eternal essence, has neither the incentive nor the logical possibility of connecting the divine being with the particular conditional reality of the natural world; consequently, that assertion does away with the naturalistic pantheism, which understands under the [term] 'all' not the eternal fullness of the divine being, but only the aggregate of natural phenomena, the unity of which it calls God. Finally, as we shall presently see, our assertion of God as the all-one does away with the idealistic pantheism [also], which identifies God as the extant One with His objective idea.

Indeed, if all represents the content or essence of God, then God as the subject or the extant One, i.e., as the one who possesses this content or essence, is necessarily distinguished from it; as we have to distinguish in every being it itself as a subject from that which forms its content, which is asserted or expressed by it or in it — we have to distinguish 'the expressor' from the expressed, or Himself [the subject] from His own [the subject's attribute]. And a distinction is a relation. Thus God, as the existant one, is in a certain relation towards His content or essence; He manifests or asserts it. In order to assert it as His own, He must possess it substantially, i.e., [He] must be the whole or the unity of the whole in an eternal inner act. As the unconditional beginning, God must include or contain all in Himself in uninterrupted and immediate substantial unity. In this first status, all is contained in God, i.e., in the divine subject or the extant One, as in its common root; all is engulfed or immersed in Him as in its common source; consequently, here, all as totality is not distinguished actually, but exists only as a possibility, potentially. In other words, in that first status only, as the extant One, is God actual; whereas His content — all or the universal essence — exists only in a latent state, potentially; although [it is] also present here, for without it, as we have seen, the extant One Himself would be nothing, i.e., would not exist. In order that it be actual, God not only must contain it in Himself, but must assert it for Himself, i.e., He must assert it as the 'other one' [His antipode], must manifest and actualize it as something distinct from Himself.

Thus we get the second mode, or the second status of the extant One; that all or the universal content, that proper essence of God, which in the first status or in the first mode (manner) of existence was contained in a latent state, only as potential, here, in this second mode [of being] comes forth as a certain ideal actuality; if in the first state it was hidden in the depth of the subjective, unmanifested being, here it is set forth as an object.

This object cannot, of course, be external to the divine subject. Since the latter, in the capacity of the absolute, cannot have anything outside of Himself, it is only His own inner content, which He through His own internal action distinguishes from Himself as from the extant One, segregates Himself, or objectifies it. …

Thus the second state or the second mode of being of the extant One is but a different expression if that which is already in the first. But in the first state that which is being expressed, i.e., the absolute content as the totality of all essential forms or the fullness of all ideas, appears only internally, in the positive possibility or power of the absolute subject, and consequently has only the essential, not the actual being, since all actuality belongs here to this unconditional subject, or the extant One in His immediate unity. He, as the one, is here a pure act, pure unconditional actuality, about which we can get a certain knowledge when — abstracting ourselves from all the manifested, already formed content of our external and internal life, abstracting ourselves not only from all the impressions, but also from all the feelings, thoughts, and desires — we gather all our forces in a single concentration of immediate spiritual being, in the positive power of which are found all the acts of our spirit, and by which is defined the entire circumference of our life. When we plunge into that mute and immovable depth from which the muddy stream of our actuality takes its beginning, without violating its chastity and peace — in that generic source of our spiritual life, we inwardly come into contact with the original source of the universal life, come to cognate God essentially, as the primordial beginning or the substance of all: we come to know [then] God the Father. Such is the first image of the extant One, the reality of Him alone. In order that not only He Himself as the subject, but also that of which He is the subject, i.e., the whole fullness of the absolute content might receive the same actuality and from potential become actual, a certain act of self-determination or self-limitation of the extant One is necessary. Indeed, outside of God, [regarded] as the absolute, there is not, and cannot be, anything unconditionally independent, anything that from the beginning might have been His 'other one', which would have determined the extant One from outside of Him: therefore, every definite being [existence] can be primordially only an act of self-determination of the absolutely-extant One. In this act, the extant One on one hand contrasts himself; sets forth Himself in contradistinction with his own content as its 'other one', or as an object — this is the act of self-differentiation of the extant One into two poles, one of which expresses the unconditional oneness, while the other one expresses the 'all', or plurality; on the other hand, through his own self-determination the extant One receives a certain active force, becomes energy.

In fact, if the extant One were only in the first states i.e., if it were only an unlimited and consequently indifferent act, it would not be able to act; for then it would have no real object for which the (being in itself actuality) would appear as a positive possibility or force. For every action by its own meaning is a unity of force and actuality, or a manifestation of its own inner actuality, as force, on its 'other one', or for the 'other one'. And since outside of God there is nothing, and His object is contained in Himself, then His action is not a determination of the other by another [of one antipode by another antipode] but self-determination, i.e., the segregation from Himself of His own content, or the objectivization of it through self-limitation in its immediate, unlimited, or purely-actual being. As the absolute, Divinity cannot be only an immediate act, it has to be a potentiality or power also; but, as contained in the absolute, this power is only its own power over itself, or over its own immediacy. If a limitation by another contradicts the conception of the absolute, self-limitation not only does not contradict it, but is directly demanded by it. In fact, in determining itself and thereby actuating its own content, the extant, obviously, not only does not lose its own actuality, but on the contrary realized it fully, becoming actual not only in itself, but also for itself. Since that which God actualizes in the act of His own self-determination — all, or the fullness of everyone — is His own content or substance; then, also, its realization is only the full expression or manifestation of that being to whom this content or substance belongs, and who is expressed in or by it in the same way as the subject is expressed by the predicate. Thus, returning to our illustration, the poet who fully gives himself to creation and, so to speak, translates his own inner life into objective artistic creations, not only does not lose his own individuality through this, but on the contrary, asserts it in the highest degree and realizes it more completely.

The absolutely-extant which itself is not subject to any determination, determines itself by manifesting itself as the unconditionally-one through the positing of its 'other one', or its content, i.e., all: for the truly one is that which does not exclude plurality, but on the contrary produces that plurality in itself and yet is by no means changed by it, but remains what it is, remains one and thereby proves that it is unconditionally one — one, that is to say, by its very being, whose oneness cannot be taken away or destroyed by any plurality. If the one were such only because of the absence of plurality, i.e., if it represented a simple lack of plurality, and, consequently, with the appearance of the latter would have lost its character of oneness — obviously that oneness would be only accidental, and not unconditional; plurality would have had power over it, it would have been subordinate to plurality. The true unconditional oneness is necessarily stronger than plurality, excels it; it can prove or realize this superiority only by generating or positing in itself actually all plurality, and constantly triumphing over it: for everything is tested by its own opposite. In the same way our spirit also is truly single not because it would be deprived of plurality, but, on the contrary, because it manifests in itself an infinite plurality of feelings, thoughts, and desires, and at the same time always remains itself and communicates the character of its spiritual oneness [unity] to the whole natural element of the plurality of [its] manifestations, making it [that plurality] its own, belonging to it [to the spirit of man] alone.

In its other one, the extant remains what it is; in plurality it remains one. But this identity and this unity necessarily differ frem that identity, that oneness, which are represented by the first status of the extant: there it is immediate and indifferent — here, it is already asserted, manifested, or mediated, passed through its own antithesis, i.e., through a differentiation, and thereby strengthened (potentiated). Thus we here meet a new, the third, state or mode of the absolutely-extant — [one in which it has] the aspect of a finished, completed unity: or the absolute which has asserted itself as such.

Thus we have three relations or three states of the absolutely-extant [regarded] as determining itself in relation to its content. In the first it is posited as possessing this content in an immediate substantial oneness or indifference with [regard to] itself — it is posited as the one substance, essentially containing all in its unconditional power. In the second, it is posited as manifesting or realizing its absolute content by contra-posing it to itself, or detaching it from itself by the act of its own self-determination. In the third, finally, it is posited as preserving and asserting itself in its own content, or as manifesting itself in the actual, mediated, or differentiated oneness [which is now its unity] with this content or essence, i.e., with all — in other words, as the one which finds itself in its 'other one', or [the extant one] eternally returning unto itself and in itself subsisting.

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