One of the most obscure philosophers and thinkers in the beginning of 20th century is Nikolay Berdyaev. Influenced by Dostoyevsky he was one of the first to launch critiques of mass society, technology and democracy. Persecuted by Russian authorities prior to revolution and the period after it, his innate disdain to any form of oppression caused him to run into exile. Since he always lived up to his ideals, he reminds us that we should not be shying away from battles but instead be brave and hold the torch of truth.
Kingdom of Caeser and kingdom of Christ
Why his ideals look so modern and can be applied in our turbulent times? Let’s delve into some of the topics he deals with. In one of his books he contrasts the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of Caeser. According to him, the rules and restrictions imposed by the state do not apply in the spiritual realm. Throughout history the institution of the Church often flirted with the government and the powers that be. However, that tandem always ends up with a disaster. Just think about the modern utopias that circulate the world and are subtly promoted by an unknown force – be it the ecological movement, socialism, statism or scientism. They are substituting the spiritual thirst with false promises and irrational myths. In Berdyaev’s mind the freedom of the individual is above all that sea of false roles because it does not come of this world.
Freedom as a concept
Freedom in this Russian writer’s thought is the essence of the human existence. Nothing can be above it, dogma and determinism are only mere shadows that objectify reality. Through creativity and originality one can bring Christ into the world. The internal struggle cannot be alleviated by possessions, society roles or political affiliations. They are not able to quench the thirst. Needless to say, Berdyaev challenges the stereotypes of the passive obedience to religious authority, God doesn’t give orders like some sort of tyrant. The only way to overcome the slavery of the material world is through transformation and love.
Perhaps Berdyaev was one of the first thinkers that foresaw the threat of technology to dehumanize our live and to keep us strictly in the realm of quantities. What has started as a process to provide aids in our daily life and expand our comfort, eventually turned against us. He even compares science and techniques to black magic. They submerge us into the lower spheres and binds us to the limits of dead matter. What is totally ignored is the soul which makes us special and distinguishes us from the rock or mineral. The machine is also a tool of the technocratic elite who deliberately organize the daily life. Transcendence is left behind and so is free will, but isn’t it time we step out of the circle?
Hope I got your attention, you can read some of his books which are really a true gem in our age of useless information glut.