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Nicolas Berdiaev, Kingdom of Spirit and Kingdom of Ceasar

Nicolas Berdiaev, Kingdom of Spirit and Kingdom of Ceasar, transl. Vassileios Youltsis, Pournaras, Thessaloniki, 2002, pp. 241.

The Church’s existence in the world and its consequent theology is an enduring challenge for the human spirit. Thought and intellect struggle to find common ground of a philosophy beyond this world and the various intellectual trappings of the world and history, often framing high cultural forms but never addressing the initial antinomy. An antinomy, as understood and described by the great Russian Christian philosopher in his “essay” on “eschatological metaphysics” contained in the present volume.

This book contains a kind and dialectic of relationships between the “spiritual” and the “social”. An eternal problem which transcends, while at the same time contains, relationships of Church – State and which, in its various conceptualizations in the passage of history, was, a number of times, a measure of the understanding of Christian self-awareness.

For as long as history is plagued by the presence and action of evil and human civilisation does not pronounce the search for truth as its foremost quest, the kingdom of the spirit and the kingdom of Caesar will constitute two antinomic realities. The philosophical multiple vision, in its struggle to reveal the truth, rather confuses the issue further with its side philosophical views. The omnipotence of logic and the apotheosis of everything scientific constitute an ossification of life and a necrosis of the Truth, as triumph of the Spirit.

For the Christian experience the reality of the quest for the truth leads directly to the face of God and the spirituality that “deifies” humans. Humans and god, “the divine and the human” in a dialectic which purges all human-like forms of metaphysics and addresses itself to freedom for the construction of the kingdom of the Spirit.

The author looks carefully at the phenomenon of socialism and sensitivities for equality and social justice, but with a critical disposition towards the apotheosis of materialism, the worldly eschatology and the justification of cause and effectiveness, as advanced by the reality of Marxism.

The state and power function historically in Christian thought and the ecclesiastical reality in the form of primeval temptation. This has marked subjugation of the spirit and deprives humans from “seeing” God. This is the author’s most important critique of the modern world, with Marxist philosophy constituting its cutting edge. His call for a new mysticism, although not identical to the Christian call for the transformation of the world in Christ, neither with the Orthodox theological teaching of salvation and deification, would be wrong to be perceived as indecisiveness in the fields of theological narcissism and escape from reality.


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