Aspects of theology in the spiritual autobiography of Nicolas Berdiaev


“Although in his spiritual autobiography he does not develop the subject of political theology, unlike in some of his other works of other authors of this genre, Berdiaev offers some interesting elements related to it. His ideas can be connected with others from other of his works, in which he develops his philosophical way of thinking. Likewise, his spiritual autobiography is important for this topic, among others, because he often explains the genesis of his ideas and presents them in detail, highlighting their roots. Moreover, because of his way of seeing the eschatological dimension of society and because he puts forward an interesting conception about freedom and the superior nature of man, which comes from the theological world and which can be linked also with politics, he opens new bridges of investigation and dialogue. For these reasons, among other important ones, his spiritual autobiography must be rediscovered and fructified by contemporary scientific research.” 

Morariu, I-M., 2019, ‘Aspects of political theology in the spiritual autobiography of Nicolas Berdiaev’

 

By Iuliu-Marius Morariu* – Despite its importance for the understanding of ideas and the genesis of Nicholas Berdiaev’s works, his spiritual autobiography, written at the end of his life, has not been fructified enough by contemporary research until today.

Therefore, this research aims at bringing it into attention and emphasising the aspects of political theology it contains. The author investigates elements such as the philosopher’s eschatological notes, his conception about freedom and slavery or about the superior human condition, trying to see how they influence his representation of political theology. Moreover, he links his political and religious attitudes, in an attempt not only to identify the context in which his ideas regarding this topic were born and to find influences of the context in which he lived, but also to emphasise the contemporary dimension of his way of thinking and the place the topic holds in his spiritual autobiography. For this purpose, he also uses the works of the aforementioned philosopher, the book reviews and dictionary entries dedicated to his autobiography, as well as the books, articles and reviews dedicated to Berdiaev and his work, starting from his lifetime and up to these days.

 

For both the theological and philological space, the Russian Nicolas Berdiaev, an important personality, has left valuable works to posterity. Spirit and Freedom (Berdiaev 2009) and A New Middle Age(Berdiaev 2001), translated into 17 languages, are just two examples. Among the books that he published, an important, yet little1 fructified one is definitely his autobiography (Berdiaev 1992a,1998), a book that can clearly be considered unfinished (Vadimov 1998:9). Written as a philosophical book, which is also filled with information related to his spiritual life and his road to God, who represents the accomplishment of an eschatological freedom, Berdiaev’s autobiography is important for mystical spirituality, history, philosophy and sociology, among other topics.

Besides information on the inner metamorphosis of the author and on the history of Russia of his time, the work also contains interesting information on political theology. More than in the spiritual autobiography of Saint John of Kronstadt (Morariu 2018b:1–5), also a Russian author, or in the autobiography of the Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarsjkold (Morariu 2017:129–133, 2018a:1–5), in Berdiaev’s work we can investigate aspects related to political theology and to its meanings. This is not to surprise us if we take into account the fact that he comes from a space and a time when Tolstoy2and Dostoyevsky (Dostoievski 1997) were famous authors, that he was influenced by their way of thinking (Berdiaev 1992a) and also that the author was at first a Kantian Marxist (Audi 2015:97), being even imprisoned for his ideas (Bompiani University 2006:1187; Craig 1998:26). Still, it must be mentioned that despite the influences of the aforementioned writers, his own way of thinking is original and different from theirs, expanding on aspects like religion and spirituality and their relationship with philosophy or reality, which are just mentioned in the others works. Given the relevance of his ideas and the fact that, until now, this topic has not been investigated by researchers, we shall try, in this research, to present the main aspects of political theology that transpire from the spiritual–philosophical autobiography of the Russian author. To accomplish this task, we shall resort to other works that refer to such a topic, to the philosopher’s autobiographical works and to the writings dedicated to him throughout time.

See more: Morariu, I-M., 2019, ‘Aspects of political theology in the spiritual autobiography of Nicolas Berdiaev ’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 75(4), a5316. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i4.5316

* Rev. Iuliu-Marius is participating in the research project, ‘Political Theology’, directed by Dr Tanya van Wyk, Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria.

**HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies (HTS) is an acclaimed Open Access journal with broad coverage that promotes multidisciplinary, religious, and biblical aspects of studies in the international theological arena. The journal’s publication criteria are based on high ethical standards and the rigor of the methodology and conclusions reported.

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