On Sophiology and Russian Intellectualism

imageSt. John of Shanghai and San Francisco 1896-1966

A consequence of the fall of the Russian State was the arising of the Russian Diaspora. More than a million people were forced to leave their homeland and be scattered about the whole face of the earth.

A significant part of the Russians who went abroad belonged to that intellectual class which in recent times has lived by the ideas of the West. While belonging to the Orthodox Church and confessing themselves to be Orthodox, the people of this class in their world outlook significantly departed from Orthodoxy. The chief sin of people of this class was that they did not build their convictions and way of life on the teaching of the Orthodox faith, but rather strove to make the rules and teaching of the Orthodox Church conform to their own habits and desires. Therefore, on the one hand they were but very little interested in the essence of Orthodox teaching, often even considering the dogmatic teaching of the Church as being completely unimportant; and on the other hand they fulfilled the demands and rites of the Orthodox Church, but only in so far as this did not interfere with their more European than Russian way of life. From this comes their disdainful attitude towards fasting, their visiting of churches only for a short time, and this rather more for the satisfaction of aesthetic than religious feeling, and their complete lack of understanding of religion as the chief foundation of the spiritual life of man.

In the public realm this class likewise lived by the ideas of the West. Without giving any place at all for the influence of the Church, it strove to reconstruct the whole life of Russia, especially in the realm of State government, according to Western models. For this reason, in recent times an especially fierce battle was waged against State authority, and at the same time the necessity for liberal reforms and a democratic organization of Russia became as it were a new faith, not to confess which signified that one was behind the times… the intellectual class led Imperial Russia to its fall and prepared the way for the Communist power.

After the coming to power of Communism, the intellectual class was partially annihilated, and partially it fled abroad, saving its own life… Finding themselves abroad, the Russian people suffered great spiritual shocks. In the souls of a majority there occurred a significant crisis which was marked by a mass return of the intellectual class to the Church.

However, this positive manifestation also had its negative side. By no means all of those who returned to faith accepted it in all the fullness of Orthodox teaching. The proud mind could not agree that up to now it had stood on a false path. There arose strivings to make Christian teaching agree with the previous views and ideas of the converts. Therefore there was a whole series of new religious-philosophical currents, often completely foreign to Church teaching. Of these currents, especially widespread was Sophiology, which is founded on the recognition of the value of man in himself and expresses the psychology of the intellectual class.

Sophiology as a doctrine is known to a comparatively small group of people, and very few actually subscribe to it openly. But a significant part of the Intellectual class of the emigration is spiritually akin to it, for the psychology of Sophiology is the worship of man, who is no longer the humble slave of God, but is himself a small god who has no need to be blindly submissive to the Lord God. A feeling of refined pride bound up with faith in the possibility for a man to live by his own wisdom, is very characteristic of many people who are “cultural” in the modern sense, who place above everything else the conclusions of their own minds and do not desire to be in everything submissive to the teaching of the Church, looking upon it favorably in a condescending way…

In the future life the judgment will be most severe for those Russians who, being educated in superb colleges, become the fiercest enemies of Russia. One is forced to foresee already that in the future the Diaspora will give many conscious workers against Orthodox Russia, who will strive to make it Catholic or spread various sects, and likewise those who, while remaining outwardly Orthodox and Russian, will secretly work against Russia.

But Russia was founded on and grew through Orthodoxy, and only Orthodoxy will save Russia. (The Meaning of the Russian Diaspora)

 

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