19 The Moral Organization of Humanity as a Whole
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015Thomas Nemeth (ed.)Vladimir Solov’ëv’s Justification of the Moral Good10.1007/978-3-319-12775-0_20
Chapter 19 The Moral Organization of Humanity as a Whole
Old Bridge, New Jersey, USA
E] Many pages of what would become the last sections of this chapter in B and then in the 1899 edition did not appear as part of a journal article. In B, this, the 16th, chapter spans pp. 549–635.
To speak of the natural organization of humanity is to say that different human individuals and groups are naturally forced to interact so that their private needs1 and activities are2 counterbalanced leading, generally speaking, to the comparative improvement3 of the whole. In this way, the needs of shepherds and farmers, the militaristic spirit of national leaders and the greedy enterprise of merchants have created since time immemorial our worldly culture and advanced human history. This natural arrangement of human affairs, thanks to which individual aspirations lead to common progress, expresses a certain real unity of humanity. However, this unity is both internally and externally imperfect. Externally, it is imperfect owing to its factually incomplete character and internally because it is not the conscious and desired object of those individuals and groups concerned. In the non-human world, we find such solidarity, despite the intentions and desires of creatures, in the unity of the genus and in the development of organic species.4 To stop at this point5 would be unworthy of humans in whom objective and generic reason—the general predicate of nature—becomes the individual subject. What is demanded is the moral, conscious and voluntary organization of humanity in the name of and by virtue of the all-one Moral Good , and it became the explicit aim and purpose of thought and life from that moment in history when this Moral Good was revealed as unconditional and full. A unity in the Moral Good means not just participating and factually balancing aspirations and actions for a common outcome, but a direct community of people and groups engaged in a single-minded activity in order to attain a universal goal, viz., absolute perfection,6 which is understood and accepted by each as his and her personal goal.
With its task7 being the realization of the unconditional norms of the moral8 good, or active (practical) perfection, the moral organization of human life is defined in general as the process of improvement. Above all, there, then, arises with logical necessity the question: Who is improving? In other words, we have the question of the subject of the moral organization. We know that people do not exist in isolation and, consequently, are not improving.9 The actual subject of this process of improving, or of moral progress (like historical progress in general), is the single individual together with and inseparable from the collective person, or society. Just as not every combination of molecules forms an organic cell and not every group of cells forms a living creature, so not every assembly of human individuals and groups forms an actual and living bearer of the moral organization. In order for it to be such, i.e., in order for an assembly to become organically a moral individual, the collective whole10 must be no less real than it and in this sense equivalent and equal in rights. Such significance must be given to it and not be created by it.
The natural groups that really expand the life of the individual are: family, nation and humanity. These three abiding stages embody the collective human being . The corresponding stages in the historical order are: blood-relatives, the political nation and the universal spirit.11 The last of these can be revealed only with the spiritualization of the first two.12
Can the family form a part of the ultimate13 and universal moral organization? Is it not merely a transitional stage14 in the development of human life? Surely, the individual, at this given level with its egoistic desires for exclusivity is also a transitional stage,15 just as is the nation and even humanity itself. It is not a matter of idealizing and preserving some perishable aspect of one or another living being but of revealing and kindling the Divine spark hidden under this smolder. We seek what is of unconditional and eternal16 significance inherent within the conditional and transitional17 form and affirmed to be not only an unalterable idea but also the start of fulfillment, the first step towards perfection. We must understand and accept the positive elements of life in their relative and temporary18 manifestations as conditional data for the solution of an unconditional task. In the case of the family, these natural data are the three generations successively19 connected by birth: grandparents, parents and children. The continuity and the relative nature of this connection does not eliminate its triadic structure as an abiding norm. The members of the series on both sides—the great-grandfather and the great-grandchildren—do not represent any special independent aspect of the ideal family relationship.20 The highest task lies in spiritualizing the relative natural connection of the three generations21 and transforming it into the unconditionally moral. This is achieved from three sides: through the family religion, through marriage and through child-rearing.
The family religion is the oldest, most fundamental and strongest institution in humanity. It has outlasted the tribal way of life, has outlasted and is outlasting all changes be they religious or political. The object of the family religion is the older generation, the deceased fathers and grandfathers. According to the very oldest ideas, grandfathers certainly must be dead. This is so necessary that by a natural train of thought all who were dead, regardless of their age or sex,22 were called grandfathers (the Lithuanian-Polish word “dziady”23 is a quite archaic remnant or relic). It was considered an outrage, a violation of the religious and moral norm if the natural grandfathers happened still to be alive. The norm could easily be restored, however, through the voluntary sacrifice of the old man. The essential truth in this savage fact24 is the idea, or more precisely the two ideas, that: (1) The genuine object of human reverence and worship25 cannot be a being who possesses the same status as a human being, with the same needs and abilities. (2) In order to have a powerful and beneficial influence in the earthly realm, which is the way it should be for a higher being, such a being must remove oneself from this realm, relinquish one’s immediate, physical connection with it. In order to maintain the family devotion bestowed on the older generation in an era when force predominated, this devotion could not be connected with the spectacle of decrepitude and impotence. The elderly themselves understood this and with grateful wisdom in due time departed with their weakened life for another, a powerful and prophetic existence.
“The evening steals upon me,” king Bele said,
“The helmet now is heavy, and stale the mead.” 26
But lay us now, ye children, in two mound-graves.
Close where the blue gulf tosses its ceaseless waves.
When the moon’s pale beams the mountains and valleys fill,
And midnight’s dew is falling on grove and hill;
Then will we sit, O Thorstin, above our pillows,
And talk about the future, across the billows.27
Already in the pagan veneration of ancestors , the natural connection between successive generations tends to have a spiritual and moral significance. The complete realization of this religious connection with one’s ancestors becomes possible through the Christian revelation of the unconditional meaning of life. A spiritual interaction in prayer and sacrament is established instead of a material sacrificial feeding of the “grandfathers,” who for their part help with external matters. Both sides pray for each other; both help each other to attain the eternal good. Both have an unconditional interest in the soul’s salvation. Eternal memory ,28 peace with the saints, universal29 resurrection of life—these are the things that the present generation desires for the deceased, what it helps them to get, and in turn what help it expects for itself from the deceased. This mutual relation, passing into the sphere of the absolute good ceases to be self-interested and becomes purely moral, understood and realized as the perfect Moral Good.
Eternal memory certainly does not mean that people on Earth will eternally remember the dead as those who were but now are not. In the first place, it would not be so important for the dead, and secondly it is impossible, since humanity itself on Earth must not expect an eternal extension of its temporal existence if there is any sense in the world. We appeal to God, and not to people, for such eternal memory. Eternal memory means to abide in God’s eternal mind. To create an eternal memory of someone means to create that person according to his or her eternal idea, according to God’s eternal thought of him or her and affirm that person in the sphere of unconditional and immutable being. In contrast to everyday anxieties, this is eternal rest. Death in itself is not rest, and the dead among natural human beings can better be labeled restless (in French, revenants; in German, Poltergeister)30 than at rest. The rest for which we pray for our departed is dependent on God’s eternal memory of them. Affirmed as their unconditional idea, they have in it a solid, inviolable guarantee that the perfect31 moral good will ultimately be realized in the world and for this reason cannot be anxious about it. Although the distinction between the present and the future still exists for them, the future holds nothing doubtful and disturbing. It is separated from them only by a necessary delay, and they can already gaze at everything “sub specie aeternitatis.”32 On the other hand, for the dead in natural humanity the future still remains a formidable puzzle and mystery even though it becomes their main interest.
Then will we sit, o Thorstin, above our pillows
And talk about the future, across the billows.
Eternal rest is not inactivity. The departed are still active, but the character of this activity has essentially changed. No longer does it arise from an uneasy striving for a distant and incorrect goal but is done on the basis and by virtue of an attained and invariably abiding connection with the unconditional Moral Good. For this reason, action is compatible here with serene and carefree rest. Just as their beneficial influence expresses their moral connection with others in nature, with their living descendants, so in their blissful repose they are inseparable from others in God and in eternity. They are at rest with the saints.
Such is the norm for everyone. If everyone does not attain it, if not all who are dead are actually at rest and not all to whom eternal memory is sung turn out to be worthy of it before God,33 this does not change our religious attitude towards the “grandfathers,” which is the basis of family morality and through it of all morality. In first place, the actual fate of each34 of the deceased remains for us still only a matter of conjecture. In second place, with the greater probability of unfavorable assumptions our religious attitude takes on a different character and with it the accompanying feeling of pity here leads to it having greater spiritual influence. Finally, in third place if not35 the majority then certainly some of each person’s “grandfathers” do conform to36 the demands of “eternal memory” and “rest with the saints.” Consequently, apart from the other relations every person certainly has a generic, blood bond with the world of God’s eternity. In this fundamental respect, the family can have an unconditional significance for each of us. That is, it is the true completion (through an abiding past) of our moral personality.
On the other hand, however, the full life of our forefathers, even remembered by God, even those resting with the saints, depends upon the actions of their descendants, who create the earthly conditions that can advance the end of the secular process and, consequently, also the corporeal resurrection of the deceased. Each of the deceased is naturally connected with the ultimate humanity of the future through successive generations of blood relatives.37 Acting to spiritualize our corporeality and external, material nature, each of us fulfills our obligation with respect to our forefathers, paying our moral debt to them. Having received their physical existence and an entire legacy of previous history38 from their forefathers, a new generation carries on the work that in the end will create the conditions for a complete life also for the deceased. So, from this point of view the natural connection with previous generations, or the family religion of the past, is of unconditional importance; it is an expression of the perfect Moral Good .
The human job of spiritualizing our corporeality and material nature in general will exert a beneficial effect backwards onto the past. Only then will the goal be attained. The past will obtain39 its full reality only in the future. When this job is finished and the perfection of life is achieved, our spiritual and corporeal existence will fully imbue each other, the abyss between the visible and the invisible worlds will be completely eliminated and death will be impossible not only for the living but also for the dead. However, until then the struggle of the spirit with the flesh, its intensification and focus must be accepted as a prerequisite for this future perfection and as our present moral task. The way at present to resurrect the body is a subjugation of the flesh. A prerequisite for the full life is the suppression of the immensity of life, or asceticism. True asceticism , i.e., spiritual possession of the flesh leading to the resurrection of life, can follow two paths: monasticism and marriage. Concerning the former path, being primary and exclusive, we spoke in another place40; an explanation of the second path is part of the present argument.
Such an apparently simple relation, the physical basis of which appears already in the animal kingdom and even in the vegetable realm, is not without reason called a “great mystery.”41 It is taken as the permanent image, consecrated by the word of God, denoting the union of the God of Israel with the people, of the crucified Christ with the earthly Church, and Christ—the King of Glory42—with the New Jerusalem.43 If the veneration of one’s ancestors and religious interaction with them connects people with the Perfect Good44 through the past, then true marriage has the same meaning for the present, the middle period of life. It is a realization of the unconditional moral norm in the actual center of human existence. The opposition of the sexes, which in the world of pre-human organisms expresses only a general interaction between a formative and a formed life, between an active and a passive principle, acquires for humans a more definite and profound meaning. A woman, unlike a female animal, is not only the embodiment of a single passive-receptive side of natural existence. She is the concentrated essence of all of nature, the ultimate expression of the material world in its inner passivity, as ready to pass into a new, higher realm—to transition to moral spiritualization. The male does not represent here only the active principle in general, but is the bearer of human activity, properly speaking, determined by the unconditional meaning of life, which the female also shares through him. He, in turn, owes her the possibility of realizing this sense, the absolute moral good, in an immediate or most direct way.
The highest morality, starting from the unconditional principle and determined by it (which in theology is called “grace”), is not the destruction of nature but the imparting of actual perfection on it. The natural relation between man and woman has three aspects: (1) the material—physical attraction conditioned by the nature of the organism, (2) the ideal—the exaltation of spiritual feeling, which is called “amorousness,” and finally (3) the purpose of natural sexual relations, or its ultimate result, i.e., childbirth.
In a true marriage, natural sexual intercourse is not eliminated but transubstantiated. However, since this transubstantiation still has not become a fact, it is a moral task and the elements of a natural sexual relation are the data of this task. In this regard, of chief importance is the middle element—the exaltation, or pathos, of love. The male sees his natural complement, his material other—his wife—not as she appears to external observation and not as outsiders see her. He sees her in her true essence or idea. He sees her as she was intended originally to be, as God saw her from the beginning and as she ultimately should become. The woman—material nature in its highest expression—is here recognized, in fact, as of unconditional significance, and she is affirmed as a moral person, as an end in itself, or as a creature capable of spiritualization and “deification.” Such a recognition implies a moral obligation to act in order to realize in this actual woman and in her life what she should be. This corresponds to the special character of the highest feeling of love in a woman. She sees in her choice her genuine savior, who must reveal to her the meaning of her life and fulfill it.
Marriage remains the satisfaction of sexual need. It is just that this need concerns not the external nature of the animal organism, but humanized nature and its expectant deification. An enormous task appears that can be accomplished only by a continuous feat, which in the struggle against a hostile reality can be won only by passing through martyrdom.45 From this point of view, the satisfaction of a full life that includes corporeal sensuality is connected not with some prior lust, but with the subsequent joy presented by attained perfection.
Of course, in a perfect marriage the human being is, in the end, internally complete through a complete union with one’s spiritualized material essence, and external child-bearing is unnecessary and impossible. It is unnecessary, because the highest task has been fulfilled, the ultimate goal achieved. It is impossible, just as it is impossible that when two of the same geometric shapes are superimposed there is an ill-fitting part that does not align. The perfect marriage is the beginning of a new process, which does not temporally repeat life, but which renews it for eternity. It is impossible, however, to forget that a perfect marriage is not necessarily the initial condition46 of a moral union between a man and a woman, but only its ultimate result. It is impossible to assume this higher stage at the start and begin a construction with the roof, just as it is impossible to maintain that such a roof is also an actual house. A true human marriage is one that is deliberately directed towards the perfect union of a man and a woman, towards the creation of a whole person. However, as long as this is only intended and its very idea is not yet realized as fully complete, as long as it is still not released from the duality between the idea and material, empirical reality, which is opposed to the idea, external physical child-birth will appear as the natural result of an as yet unattained perfection and as necessary to its future attainment. It is clear that as long as the union of man and woman is not completely spiritualized, as long as its full expression remains only an idea and a subjective feeling and it continues objectively, now as before, to be as external and superficial as it is in animals, the result of this union can have no other character. However, given this imperfection it is just as clear that this result is of the highest desirability. For what the parents did not do the children will do. The external, temporal succession of generations exists, because marriage has not attained perfection, because the union of individual men and women is not sufficiently spiritual47 and full to restore internally in them the integral person in the image and likeness of God. However, this “because” turns out to be an “along with” and an “in order that,” namely in order that the task which has turned out to overwhelm48 this individual person (man and woman) was, nevertheless, indirectly realized by this person starting from him through a series of future generations. In this way, the inner complete character of the family as an end in itself is restored. The human being, even though imperfect, remains of unconditional value, and the solid connection between the temporal, living members of the series extending to eternity remains continuous.
As for the moral organization of humanity , with respect to the past the fact of heredity alone, i.e., of descent from a given line of ancestors, is insufficient. What it requires is an established and abiding moral connection with these ancestors, and this is accomplished in the family religion. Furthermore, the natural fact of sexual relations is at present insufficient for such an organization. It requires raising these relations to the level of a spiritual achievement, which happens in a true marriage. Likewise with respect to the future, children are important for the moral organization of the collective human being not only because they are a new generation with an unknown future ahead. In addition to the factual, external succession, an inner, moral succession is needed. It is not enough that parents produce children for the future. They have an obligation to raise these carriers and engines of the future to fulfill their particular world-historical task.
The natural moral feeling of pity , which forbids us from injuring our neighbors and which makes us help them, is naturally focused on those to whom we are closest and at the same time are most in need of our help, viz., on children. This connection, which in the family has a moral character as part of the natural life of the human being, has an unconditional importance in the family as the primary basis of a new, spiritually-organized life.
The moral significance of marriage lies in the fact that a woman ceases to be an instrument of natural instincts but is recognized as someone who is absolutely valuable in herself, as the necessary complement of an individual man to make him truly whole. The failure or inadequacy of a marriage in realizing this unconditional significance of human individuality forces the task to be transferred—to the children as representatives of the future. Our simple, natural49 pity for the weak and suffering offspring is connected with our worldly grief over the evils and distresses of life, with our hope that these new creatures will succeed in easing the universal burden and finally with our duty to protect them for this task and prepare them for it.
In the spiritually50 organized family, the relation of the parents to the children mainly has to do51 with the unconditional purpose of the human being. The goal of education is to connect the temporal life of this future generation to the supreme and eternal good common to all generations and in which grandparents, parents and children are inseparably of one essence52,53 with each other. For the Kingdom of God can be revealed and the resurrection of life accomplished only through eliminating the temporal decay of the human being whereby one generation excludes and displaces another from life. While on the road to this perfection, the moral connection between generations and our unconditional extra-temporal unity is maintained through the veneration54 of ancestors, on the one hand, and through the rearing of children, on the other.
There is a great dispute going on in us concerning whether time or eternity is stronger: the Moral Good or death? The Prince of this world55 says to us, “Your fathers, those through whom you received everything that you have, were, are and will not be forever. But then where is the Good? You are reconciled with the death of your fathers; you affirm it by your consent. You live and have fun, and those to whom you are obligated have vanished forever. Where, then, is the moral good? Where is the very start of piety? Where is gratitude, pity and shame? Are they completely defeated by self-love, selfishness, and sensuality?56 But do not come to despair. Surely such a condemnation of your life makes sense only in terms of the Moral Good, only under the assumption that the Moral Good exists, and precisely this assumption forms a fundamental error, namely that there is no Moral Good at all. If there were, then either your fathers would not have died, or you would not be able to find peace with their deaths. Now, it is clear that this Moral Good with its fictitious demands and standards of piety, shame and pity are nothing but an empty claim. If you want to live, live and forget about the Moral Good, since it has been devoured by death without leaving a trace. There is no more and will not be more….”—The Eternal One, however, says, “Your fathers have died but they have not ceased to exist, because the keys of life belong to me. Do not believe they have disappeared. To see them again bind yourself to the invisible true bond of the Moral Good. Honor them, pity them, be ashamed to forget them.” “An illusion!” the Prince of This Age57 again says. “Perhaps you believe in their hidden subjective existence, but if you yourself are not satisfied with such a counterfeit58 of life and hold to the full nature of the manifest, objective life, then, if only there is a Moral Good, you should not demand it for your fathers. But the manifest, objective existence—the one thing that is worth talking about—was lost by your fathers and will never be returned to them. Renounce the impotent Moral Good, this exhausting struggle with phantoms and live a full life.” However, the last word belongs to the Eternal One, who, without renouncing the past, all the more boldly appeals to the future: “The Moral Good does not depend on some measure of your power, and your weakness is not a sign of the impotence of the Moral Good. Indeed, you yourself are impotent only when you stop with yourself. That your life is incomplete is your own doing. In truth, everything is open to you. Live in everything, be one with yourself and your other, not only towards the past with respect to your ancestors, but also to the future. Affirm yourself in new generations in order that with your cooperation now they will see the world to that final state in which God will restore a full life to all—for new generations, for you, for your parents and their parents. By doing this,59 you can in fact at the present time show the absolute power of the Moral Good over time and death, not by idly denying them, but by using them for the fullest revelation of immortal life. Use your ancestors’ deaths to preserve through a religion of the departed a lasting pledge of their resurrection. Use your temporal existence in order that by giving it to posterity, by bringing the center of your moral gravity into the future, you anticipate and approach the final revelation of the Kingdom of God in this world.60
Even our conventional everyday morality requires that we pass down to our children not only the goods we have acquired, but also the ability to work to provide further for their lives. The highest and unconditional morality also obliges the present generation to hand down to a new generation a dual legacy: first, all the positive acquisitions of the past, all that we have historically accumulated and second, the ability and the willingness to use this fundamental capital for the common good, for a new approach to the highest goal. Such is the essential purpose of true education , which must be at once and inseparably both traditional and progressive. The division and opposition between these two producers61 of the true life—between the foundation and what is founded on it, between the root and what should grow from it—is equally absurd and deadly for both sides. If the old and good prevails but is no longer the real62 basis of the new and better, this means that the old has lost its life force. Seeing it as something finished and worshipping it in this form as an external object, we make religion into only63 a relic—a dead one to be sure but not one that works miracles. This is the fundamental sin of the current conservatism that seeks to replace the living fruit of the spirit with artificial preserves. To the extent that it is expressed in education, this pseudo-conservatism breeds people who are indifferent or hostile to religion. Faith cannot result from such education when there is already no basis for it. In fact, it is clear that exceptional zeal in the preservation of faith can arise only from a lack of faith among these zealots themselves. They would have neither the time nor the need to be so distressed or concerned for faith if they had lived by faith.
When tradition assumes the place of its object (when, for example, the traditional conception of Christ is preserved unconditionally but Christ’s presence as well as that of His Spirit is not felt), then religious life is impossible and all our efforts to arouse it artificially only expose the fatal loss all the more clearly.
However, can the life of the future arise out of a past that is really dead? If the connection between parts of time is really severed, what does progress mean? Who is progressing? Can a tree actually grow if its roots and trunk exist only conceptually while its branches and leaves alone enjoy genuine reality? Without dwelling for now on the logical incompatibilities of such points of view, let us confine ourselves to the ethical aspect of this matter. As a moral being, a person has an unconditional value. Our present condition, each of us taken individually, does not correspond (is inadequate) to this value. Hence, the moral task is to avoid separating oneself, one’s individuality and one’s existence from the unconditional moral good which lies in everything as a unit. To the extent that a moral creature is intrinsically connected with everything, it really does have an unconditional value and finds its dignity. In the temporal order, the “everything,” from which we must not separate ourselves and with which we unite ourselves, appears from two immediate sides: as our past and our future, as our ancestors and our descendants. In order to realize our moral dignity in time, we must become spiritually what we already are physically, namely, a link uniting and mediating the two. For this to happen, we must recognize those who have departed as an abiding reality and recognize an unconditional future for our ancestors. Although they have died, we must not consider them as finished. They are bearers of the unconditional principle, which must be fully realized for them as well. The departed, our ancestors, along with living in our memory of the past have a secret existence also in the present, and this will become clear in the future: They possess both a reality and a future.64
Only on this foundation is a genuine education possible. If we are indifferent towards the future of our ancestors, why will we care about the future of the next generation? If we can have no unconditional moral solidarity with those who have died, how will we get solidarity with those who certainly will die? To the extent that education essentially consists in passing moral obligation from one generation to another, the question is: What is our obligation, and with respect to whom are we to pass it down to our successors if our own connection with our ancestors is broken? Do we have an obligation to move humanity forward? What we have here, however, is only a play on words, because neither “forward” nor “humanity” has any real meaning. “Forward” must refer to the Moral Good, but how does it enter here if evil is posited at the start—the most elementary and indisputable evil of ingratitude towards our fathers, an acquiescence in their departure, a tranquil separation and alienation from them? And where is the humanity that our students and successors are to move forward? Did last year’s leaves, scattered by the wind and having rotted on the ground, together with new leaves really form a new tree? There is, from this point of view, no humanity at all; there are only generations of people succeeding one another on into the future.
If we must replace this external and constantly disappearing connection with an essential and abiding one, it obviously must be done in both directions. The form of time, which in itself is morally indifferent, cannot in essence determine our moral relations. No bargaining is possible here—there cannot be two unconditional principles of life. We must finally once and for all resolve for ourselves the issue: Do we recognize the unconditional significance of the temporal order of phenomena or of the moral order, i.e., of the intrinsic connection between creatures? With the first possible solution, with the disappearance of a real unity in a humanity that is incurably fragmented over time,65 there can be no common task. Consequently, there can be no obligation to raise future generations that will continue to carry out such a task. And with the second possible solution, education is inextricably connected to a veneration66 of the past that forms a natural complement to it. This traditional element in education conditions its progressive element, since moral progress can only lie in the further and better execution of the obligations that follow from tradition.
The same unconditional value of human beings (our ability to be bearers of eternal life and to partake in the divine completeness of being) that we religiously esteem in the departed, we morally teach to the next generation, affirming the connection between them as one that manifests itself through a triumph over time and death. Particular problems, such as the technique of educating, belong to a specific special sphere that we will not go into here. However, if pedagogy wishes to have a general positive principle that is morally indisputable and that conveys unconditional worth on its aspirations, it will find this in only one thing, namely, the inextricable connection between generations that support one another in the progressive fulfillment of one common cause—the preparation for the obvious Kingdom of God and the resurrection of all.67
The veneration68 of ancestors and the family upbringing based upon it vanquish immoral discord and reestablish moral solidarity among people over the course of time or in the succession of existence. It is a victory of the moral good over individual selfishness, an affirmation of the individual as a positive element in an abiding family union in spite of death and time. However, for it to be the foundation of a moral, and consequently, universal organization, for it to be the initial69 form of the unconditional and, consequently, all-embracing moral good, this union cannot be self-contained, closed and exclusive. The family is an immediate restoration of moral integrity in one fundamental respect, namely, a continuity over generations. This integrity, however, must be restored also in the order of a coexistence.
The linear infinity of the family can find its moral completion only within another wider whole—just as a geometric line becomes real only when taken as the edge of a plane, a plane being to a line as a line is to a point. And if a moral point—an individual person—has a genuine reality only as the bearer of a generic succession, then the entire line of this succession has its real existence only in connection with a number of collectively co-existing families, forming a nation. If we obtained all of our physical and spiritual properties from our fathers, then our fathers had them only through the fatherland. Family traditions are part of the national traditions, and the future of the family is inseparable from the future of the nation. This is why reverence for our fathers must pass into reverence70 for our fatherland, or patriotism, and family upbringing is linked with national upbringing.
The moral good, which by its essence is inexhaustible and non-envious, imparts to every subject of moral relations, whether individual or collective, its own intrinsic dignity and unconditional value. Therefore, the moral connection and the moral organization are essentially different from every other by the fact that each subject of a lower or, more precisely, narrower order, in becoming a subordinate member of a higher or broader whole, is not only not absorbed by it, not only retains his or her distinctiveness, but finds in this subordination the intrinsic conditions and external environment for realizing one’s highest dignity. Just as a family does not entail the elimination of individual members, but gives them a complete life within a certain sphere and lives not only by them, but also in them and for them, so precisely also the nation neither absorbs the family nor the individuals but fills their lives with content in a definite national form. This definite form, which makes up the proper meaning or positive quality of the nation, is represented, above all, by its language. A language is a definite expression, a special quality of universal reason, uniting those who speak this language without dividing them, however, from those who speak another language. For all languages are only special qualities of the all-one word. All are commensurate in it with each other or understandable by each other.
The multitude of languages in itself is something positive and normal no less than is the multitude of grammatical elements and forms in each of the languages. What is abnormal is only the mutual misunderstanding and the disconnection arising from this situation. In the sacred tale of the tower of Babel, heaven’s punishment (and along with it the natural consequence) for seeking an external and godless unity is a loss of inner unity and solidarity, expressed in mutually unintelligible sounds (which is possible even with an identical lexical structure). If the inner moral unity had not been lost, the differences in the languages would not have been a problem. They could have been learned, and there would have been no need to be scattered across the face of the Earth. The point, however, is not the creative emergence of languages, but their confusion. “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis XI: 7–9). It is clear that this tale does not concern the origin of the multitude of languages, since for there to be confusion, they must have already existed.71
The complete meaning of this ancient revelation, which is startling in its profundity, is understandable only by comparing the book of Genesis with the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts II: 1–11).
A unity in the true sense is realized in a multitude. Without eliminating it, a unity liberates the multitude from the limitations of exclusivity. Monolingualism through an act of God means intercourse and understanding between many separate and separated but not separating languages. This point, however, is not understood by the inventors and defenders of the various Volupücs and Esperantos, who consciously or unconsciously imitate those who built the Tower of Babel.72
The normal relation between languages is also at the same time the normal relation between nations (both concepts are expressed by a single word in Slavonic). The true unity of languages lies not in monolingualism but in an all-lingualism, i.e., a communality and understanding, the73 mutual penetration of all languages into each other while preserving the distinctiveness of each. Likewise, the true unity of nations is not some single nationhood, but an all-nationhood, i.e., the interaction and solidarity of all for the sake of an independent and full life for each.
When, having learnt another language, we understand a foreigner’s native tongue but which to74 us is a foreign language, we understand not just the meaning of the words spoken, but join with this individual, by means of speech, in a genuine communication of thoughts, feelings and aspirations. We clearly see that the actual unity of peoples is not limited to the unity of a single nationality. It is impossible to deny this fact, the fact of inter-lingual, international and, consequently, universal human communication. But is this communication only perhaps a superficial relationship without any real unity behind it? Many people think this way asserting that a nation is a real whole, whereas humanity is only a generic concept abstracted from interactions between separate nations that are essentially external to one another. Let us leave for metaphysics the question to what extent any interaction presupposes an essential unity of those who interact. For now, we will note that an attribute of precisely the interactions which appear between different nations or peoples belonging to different nations demand, independently of any metaphysics, that we assume at least between them the same real unity that is assumed within each nation between the people and groups that form it.
On what basis do we recognize nationality as a real force and a nation really as a single something and not a simple conglomeration of many human units? A question such as this but concerning the family is answered by reference to the obvious physical connection. Concerning a nation, we can point to three bases.
The presupposed physical connection, or the unity of its descent. This presupposition, however, has not only an equal, but an incomparably greater force with regard to humanity than with nationality. The original unity of the human race is not only a dogma of faith between the three monotheistic religions, but also the dominant opinion among philosophers and scientists, whereas the direct75 unity of physical descent within a nationality is, in the vast majority of cases, an indubitable fiction.
Language. The unity of a language connects those who speak it, but we also know that a difference in language does not prevent a unanimity in thought, an agreement in opinion and even a use of the same words. For a difference in language does not eliminate but manifests the single inner language undoubtedly common to all people, since all can, under certain conditions,76 understand one another whatever language they happen to speak. This is not a superficial result of external interaction, because what is mutually understood concerns not just contingent topics, but embraces the innermost content of the human soul. Consequently, this most profound and real foundation of life is based on a real connection and unity of all people. A difference in language is a difference in essential forms of mental life. This is important, since each of these forms represents a special quality of the soul. However, even more important is the content that each of them conceives in its own way and which is conceived by all. This content is not exhausted by one nor is exclusive of any. It is the positive and independent principle of the hidden unity and of an explicit unification of all.
A language is the deepest and most fundamental expression of the national character. However, just as differences in the characters of individuals do not preclude the real unity of a nation—which includes all the people with various characters—so the differences in the characters of nations cannot preclude the real unity of all nations in humanity—which is also a “character.”
History. If a nation’s history is the basis of national unity , then universal or world history is the foundation of a broader but no less robust all-human unity. Moreover, a nation’s history is quite inconceivable except as an inseparable part of universal history. Try to imagine Russian history as if the nation were totally independent. Even if we managed to eliminate every innocent claim concerning the Scandinavian origin of our state,77 it would still be impossible to deny that78 the baptism of the Rus by the Greeks brought our nation immediately into the sphere of international, supernational life. In itself, in terms of its content, Christianity is the absolute truth and is consequently superhuman and even more so supernational. From a purely historical point of view, it is impossible to trace it to any particular nationality. How can one separate the Hebrew wheat from the Chaldean and the Persian, the Egyptian and the Phoenician, the Greek and the Roman chaff? At the same time, without this national wheat and without the chaff from these other nations there would have been no Christianity as a positive revelation, and consequently the foundation of the Kingdom of God would not have been laid. However, regardless of the value of these national elements in the historical formation of the universal religion, new nations such as Russia, which appeared after Christianity had been established and which adopted it in its finished form as the definitive revelation of the highest unconditional79 Moral Good, cannot seek the genuine source of their lives in themselves. Their history can make sense only as the more or less perfect assimilation of the given, the more or less successful preparation for fulfilling the task Christianity has already supplied. Clearly, in this preparatory process a single Christian nation cannot and should not remain isolated, alienated and hostile towards other nations, for such an attitude is contrary to the very essence of Christianity. Moreover, it is impossible to prepare to execute a certain task while affirming something that directly contradicts its inner meaning. Russia resolutely affirmed its confession of Christian universalism when in the most important and glorious epoch of its new history it decisively emerged from a national seclusion and identified itself as a living member of the international whole. Only then was Russia’s national strength revealed in what is still up to now80 the most significant and valuable thing we have—not just for us but also for other nations. The beautiful blossom of our deep, thoughtful and tender poetry grew on the powerful stem of the “Europeanized” state that Peter the Great constructed.81 Russian universalism , which is as unlike cosmopolitanism as the language of the Apostles is unlike Volapük82, is connected with the names of Peter the Great and Pushkin. Who can mention others equal to these Russian national names!
Just as we individual human beings find the meaning of our personal existence in our families, in our connection with our ancestors and posterity, and just as the family has an abiding living content only in the nation and its national tradition, so a nationality lives, moves and exists only carried along by a supernational and an international environment. Just as an entire series of successive generations lives in and through the individual human being, just as the single nation lives in the totality of these families and acts through them, so humanity as a unit lives in the plenitude of nations and makes its history.
If a nation is an actual83 fact and not a generic concept, if the intrinsic, organic character of the connection binding nations to one another in universal history is also an actual84 fact, then humanity as a whole must also be recognized as such a fact. For actual,85 living organs can only be organs of an actual,86 living body and not of an abstract concept. Unconditional moral solidarity in the Moral Good, which connects human beings with our ancestors and our descendants, forming a normal family, connects us, via these original and immediate liberating ties, with87 the universal whole concentrated in humanity. The complete collective subject, or “recipient,”88 of the perfect Moral Good, the complete image and likeness of the Deity, or bearer of the actual moral order (the Kingdom of God) is humanity. However, as already mentioned, it is the very essence of the moral order, or moral organization, that each part or each member of the great collective human being participates in the absolutely complete whole, since we are necessary for this completion no less than it for us. The moral connection is a perfectly mutual connection. Just as humanity is inconceivable without the nations that compose it, the nation inconceivable without the family and the family without single individuals, so the reverse is also the case: The individual human being is impossible (not only physically, but also morally) outside the generic succession of generations. The moral life of the family is impossible outside the nation, and the life of the nation is impossible outside humanity.89 This truism was willingly and entirely accepted by all until recently. However, for some time now (for reasons which are still obscure to existing systematic philosophies of history) it has become customary, contrary to all logic, to separate its necessary apex from this truism and to express that the intrinsic dependence of a nation on humanity is a phantasy and a chimera. It is agreed that a bad son and a bad father, i.e., a man who does not honor his ancestors and does not care about the upbringing of his (physical or spiritual) descendants, cannot be a good patriot, and a bad patriot cannot be a genuine servant of the common good. The reverse order is also conceded, i.e., that a bad patriot cannot be a normal family man, and a bad family man cannot be a normal man. However, they do not want to recognize that the same solidarity between the various stages of moral organization does not allow a man who is indifferent to the one supreme good of all nations as a whole90 to be an actual, good patriot (and owing to this a normal supporter of family and of, finally, personal life). Yet, it is perfectly clear that if someone places the good of one’s own nation, taken separately without regard for others, as the highest good, then he, first, strips the Moral Good of its essential characteristic of universality and consequently distorts this very goal. In the second place, in separating the good of one nation from the good of others, he distorts the idea of the nation, for in reality they are connected in solidarity. In the third place, that such a person can serve only a distorted nation imparting a distorted moral good onto it follows from this double distortion. That is, he can only be serving evil, and in bringing only evil to his fatherland he must be seen as a bad patriot .
The moral good embraces all the particulars of life, but it itself is indivisible. Patriotism , as a virtue, is part of the general proper attitude towards everything, and this part in the moral order cannot be separated from the whole and be opposed to it. In the moral organization, one nation cannot prosper at the expense of others and cannot assert itself positively to the detriment or disadvantage of others. Just as the positive moral dignity of a particular person is known from the fact that one’s own prosperity truly benefits all others, so the prosperity of a nation true to the moral principle is necessarily connected with the universal moral good. This logical and moral axiom is grossly distorted in the current sophism: We must think only of our own nation, since it is good and therefore its prosperity benefits all. This either overlooks with striking flippancy or dismisses with striking impudence the obvious truth that this very alienation of one’s own nation from others, this exclusive recognition of it as the moral good par excellence, is already evil and nothing but evil can arise on the basis of this evil. There are two choices: Either we renounce Christianity and monotheism in general, according to which “there is none good but one, that is, God,”91 and instead recognize one’s own nationality in itself as the good, i.e., substitute it for God, or we must accept that a nation becomes good not simply by virtue of its given nationality but92 only by conforming to and being involved in the absolute moral Good. This is obviously possible only with a good attitude towards everything and above all, in the present case, towards other nations. A nation cannot actually be morally good as long as it bears malice or feels alienated from others,93 as long as it does not recognize them as neighbors, as long as it does not love them as it does itself.
The moral obligation of the genuine patriot is determined by this: to serve one’s nation in the Moral Good, or to serve the true good of the nation, which is inseparable from the good of all, or, what amounts to the same thing, to serve the nation in humanity and humanity in the nation. Such a patriot will find a positive, morally good side in every foreign race and nationality, and through it this patriot will connect this race and this nationality with one’s own for the good of both.
When there is talk of a rapprochement between nations, of international accords, friendships and alliances we must know, before rejoicing or grieving, the basis of the rapprochement or union. We must know whether it is morally good or evil. The fact of union alone says nothing. If the two—regardless of whether they be two particular individuals or two nations—are united in hatred of a third, the union is evil and a source of a new evil. If they are united in a mutual interest or by something beneficial to both, the issue remains open. For the interest can be unworthy, or the benefit imaginary. In such cases, the union of the nations in an unworthy interest or for an imaginary benefit—just as with particular individuals—cannot be morally good, something desirable for its own sake, even if it is not directly evil. Any union of peoples and nations can be positively approved only insofar as it contributes to the moral organization of humanity or to the organization of the unconditional Moral Good in it. We have found that the final subject of this organization—the real essence of the moral order—is the collective human being, or humanity, divided into its organs and elements—nations, families and individuals. Now, knowing who is morally organized, we must resolve what the organization is. That is, we must examine the question of the universal forms of the moral order .94
The proper or dignified human attitude towards the higher world, towards other people and towards lower nature is organized collectively in the forms of the church, the state and the economic society or zemstvo .
The individual religious feeling derives its objective development and realization in the (universal)95 Church, which is, therefore, organized piety .
From the point of view of religious morality, the human being lives in three different spheres: the mundane, or conditional (“this world”); the divine, or unconditional (the Kingdom of God); and that which is intermediate between them or which really connects them, the religious properly speaking (the Church).
To dwell permanently on the direct96 opposition between the world and the Deity, between earth and heaven, is contrary to sound religious feeling. Let us even suppose that we are sincerely prepared to look on the entire world as worthless dust. Surely, however, this dust is not afraid of our contemptuous gaze. It remains.97 But, then, on whom? If we say that this gaze remains on the Deity, this would obviously be profane. If we recognize the worldly dust to be only a phantom of our imagination, then our own self, which is subject to the tormenting nightmare of phenomena, and helpless before the phantoms it has created, turns out itself to be98 a worthless speck of dust which has from somewhere fallen into the eye of eternity and has hopelessly tainted its purity. This second view would be even more profane than the first. Since everything ultimately comes down to God, the more contempt we bear towards worldly existence, the more unworthy are our concepts of the absolute entity. When we declare that the world is a pure nothing, we lapse into extreme blasphemy, since all the evil aspects of existence, which are not eliminated by a verbal rejection, must be attached, then, directly and immediately to God himself. This dialectic cannot be avoided as long as we recognize only two opposing terms. However, there is a third, intermediary one. The historical sphere exists in which the worthless dust of the Earth is converted through skillful fertilization into the fertile soil of the future Kingdom of God.
Sound religious feeling demands not that we reject and do away with the world, but only that we not accept the world as the unconditionally independent principle of our lives. Being in the world, we not only must become99 ourselves not of the world,100 but as such we must act on the world so that it ceases to be from itself and becomes all the more101 from God.
The essence of piety at the highest level of universal consciousness lies in recognizing the Deity alone as having unconditional value. Only in connection with Him does everything else that is also capable of having absolute value indeed have such value102 though not in itself and for itself, but in God and for God. Everything becomes of worth through establishing a positive relationship 103 with the one worthy thing.
If all people and nations were truly pious, i.e., revered the one absolute Good, i.e., the Moral Good or God, as their own good, they would obviously be as one. Being as one, or in solidarity with each other in God, they would obviously live according to God. Their unity would be at the same time holiness. Present-day humanity, which is not focused and raised by the one absolute interest in God is willingly dispersed between many relative and disconnected interests. Hence, there is discord and division. Morally good actions cannot arise on the basis of an evil fact. This is why the activity of a divided humanity in itself can lead only to sin. Therefore, the moral organization of humanity must begin in essence with its unification and the consecration of its activity.
Perfect104 unity and holiness lie in God; discord and sin lie in secular humanity; union and consecration lie in the church, which reconciles and adjusts the divided and sinful world with God. But in order to unite and consecrate, the church itself must be one and holy. That is, it must have its foundation in God without regard for the disparate and sinful people who are in need of unification and consecration and, consequently, who cannot get it on their own. Thus, the Church in essence is the unity and holiness of the Deity, though not in itself but insofar as it abides and acts in the world.105 It is the Deity in its other, or the real essence of divine humanity. The unity and holiness of the church is spatially manifested as its universality, or catholicity, and temporally as the apostolic succession. Its catholicity (καθ’ öλον—according or conforming to the whole) lies in the fact that all of the church’s forms and activities connect individual people and individual nations with the whole of divine humanity both in its individual focal point, namely Christ, as well as in its collective circles, namely the world of ethereal forms, the departed saints who live in God and also the faithful who fight on earth. Insofar as in the church everyone conforms with the absolute whole, all are catholic. All exclusivity of race, individual characteristics and social position fall away in it. All divisions or separations106 fall away but all differences remain, for piety demands a unity in God, not as an empty indifference and meager monotony, but as the unconditional completeness of all life. There are no divisions, but there is still a difference between the invisible and the visible church. For the former is the hidden active force of the latter, and the latter is the emerging appearance of the former. They are united with one another but different in terms of their condition. There are no divisions, but there is still a difference within the visible church between the many races and nations in the unanimity of which the one Spirit testifies to the one truth and communicates the one Moral Good by various gifts and callings, albeit in various languages. Finally, there are no divisions, but there is a difference between a church of those who teach and of those who are taught, between the clergy and the nation, between the mind and the body of the church, in the same way as the difference between a husband and a wife is not an obstacle but the foundation of their perfect union.
The catholicity of the church is the fundamental form of the moral organization of humanity and is the conscious and deliberate solidarity of all the members of this universal body for the single unconditional107 goal of existence coupled with a full “division of spiritual labor,” of gifts and services, which express and realize this goal. This moral solidarity intrinsically differs by its conscious and voluntary character108 from the natural solidarity that we find between the various parts of a physical organism and also between the various groups of creatures in nature. It109 forms a true brotherhood in which lies positive freedom and positive equality for the human being. We, human beings, do not avail ourselves of our genuine freedom when the social sphere weighs down upon us as external and foreign. Such alienation is eliminated in essence only by the principle of the universal church, according to which each person must have110 in the social whole not an external limit, but an intrinsically complete freedom of their own. The human being, in any case, needs such a completion by the “other.” For owing to our natural111 limitation, we by necessity are dependent beings and cannot by ourselves or alone be112 a sufficient reason of our own existence. If you take away from any of us all that we owe to others beginning with our parents and ending with the state and world history, nothing would be left not only of our freedom, but also of our very existence. To deny this fact of unavoidable dependence would be sheer madness. Not having sufficient strength, we need help in order for our freedom to be realized and not merely a verbal claim. However, the help that a person gets from the world is only fortuitous, temporary and partial, whereas the help promised from God through the universal church is true, eternal and complete. Only with such help can we be really free, that is, have the strength sufficient to satisfy our will. Real human freedom is obviously incompatible with the necessity of what we do not want and with the impossibility of what our will demands.113 However, every desired object, everything that is good, is possible for us only on condition that we ourselves live and that those whom we love live. Consequently, there is one fundamental object of desire, namely, the continuation of life, and one fundamental object that is not desired, namely, death. However, all the help in the world proves114 to be inadequate in the face of this. The disaster of all disasters, death, proves to be unconditionally necessary, and the good of all goods, immortality, proves to be an unconditional impossibility. That is, we cannot obtain real freedom from the world. Only Divine humanity, or115 the Church, founded on an inner unity and a comprehensive combination of the overt and covert life in the realm of the Kingdom of God, only the Church affirming the essential primacy of the spirit and promising the ultimate resurrection of the flesh, reveals to us the sphere in which our freedom will be positively realized, i.e., in which our will will be actually satisfied. To believe or not to believe this does not depend on a philosophical argument. However, if the most perfect philosophy can neither provide nor erase faith, then the simplest act of logical reflection is sufficient for us to recognize that a person who wants to live but is sentenced to death cannot, seriously speaking, be considered free. Moreover, from the secular or natural point of view every person and all of humanity is undoubtedly in this position. Consequently, only in another, a super-worldly order, represented by the universal Church, can a person, in general, find positive freedom. Only in this way is positive equality possible for us.
The natural dissimilarity of people is as inevitable as it is desirable. For it would be very sad if all people were mentally and physically the same. The multitude of peoples would make no sense. Their direct equality as particular or separate individuals is quite impossible. They can be equal not in themselves, but only through their identical relationship to something other, general and higher. Such is the equality of all before the law, or civil equality. For all its importance in the realm of our secular existence,116 this equality by its nature remains only formal and negative. The law affirms certain general limits to human activity equally binding on all and each of us, but it is not part of anyone’s life; it does not provide essential goods117 to anyone and indifferently leaves to some its helpless nothingness, but to others it leaves all kinds of excessive advantages. Secular society can recognize the unconditional value of each person in the sense of an abstract possibility or fundamental right, but the realization of this possibility or of this right is given only by the Church, which really introduces each of us into the security of divine humanity. It imparts to each of us the absolute content of life and thereby equalizes everyone as equal finite quantities with respect to the infinite. If in Christ, as the apostle says, “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”118 and Christ lives in all who believe, then where is there a place for inequality? The introduction to the absolute content of life through the universal Church, liberating and equalizing all in a positive way makes of all believers a single unconditional solidarity or a perfect brotherhood.
However, insofar as this brotherhood, which is essentially perfect, was created at the start as something that temporally has become and is becoming, it requires corresponding forms for its divine-human connection with the past as such. It requires religious succession, or a spiritual patronymic. This requirement is satisfied by the last definition of the church as apostolic .
Since our lives proceed temporally, our dependence on the divine principle as a historical phenomenon119 must be temporally preserved and temporally transmitted. By virtue of this connection, our present spiritual120 life begins not with itself but with earlier or older bearers of the grace of divine humanity.121 The one, holy, collective (catholic) church is necessarily the apostolic church. An apostolate or ministry is the opposite of imposture. The ministry is the religious foundation of activity, and imposture is the anti-religious foundation. It is precisely in this that Christ shows the opposition between Himself and the lawless man (the antichrist): I came in the name of the Father, and you do not believe Me, but another will come in his own name and you will believe him.122 The original foundation of religion , namely, a pious recognition of our dependence on our forefather, finds its perfect expression in Christianity. “The Father hath sent me.”123 “The will of the Father which hath sent me.”124 The only begotten Son is, for the most part, a messenger, essentially the apostle of God, and, properly speaking, the most profound and eternal sense of the church’s vocation as apostolic (on which the other, the most direct meaning, viz., the historical, depends).125 “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”126 Born of Christ by word and spirit, the apostles are sent by Him for the spiritual birth of new generations in order to transmit continuously through time the eternal connection between the Father and the Son, the one who sends and the one who is sent.
The filial relationship is the prototype of piety , and the only begotten Son of God—the son par excellence—is piety itself incarnate as an individual. The church as the collective organization of piety must be entirely determined in its social system by him both in terms of its teachings and its rites. Christ as the embodiment of piety is the way, the truth and the life127 of his church.
The way of piety for all that exists (of course, except for the one First Principle and the First Object of all piety128) lies in proceeding not from oneself and not from what is lower, but from what is higher, older and comes before. This is the hierarchical way, the way of holy succession and tradition. By virtue of this, regardless of the external forms the order of the church government might take under the influence of historical conditions, the church’s strictly religious form of succession by way of the laying of hands always proceeds in an hierarchical order from the top down. Not only can lay people not ordain spiritual fathers, but the order of degrees in spiritual rank itself is also necessary so that only the highest order—the bishops—represent the129 active principle, bestowing consecration on the other two.