Nikolai Berdyaev
1874 - 1948

Philosophy ... is the creative perception by the spirit
of the meaning of human existence.
-- Solitude and Society



Biographical Note
    by E. L. Allen
Brief Biography
    by Nino Langiulli

Berdyaev's Philosophy

Berdyaev Quotes
8th Day of Creation

Articles & Essays


Discussion List




On the "Third Epoch" or "Eighth Day of Creation"

Religious discussion centres upon the possibility of new revelation and a new spiritual epoch. All other questions are secondary. The new revelation is not at all a new religion, distinct from Christianity, but rather the fulfilment and completion of the Christian revelation, bringing it to a true universality. This we do not have as yet. But we cannot simply wait for the revelation of the spirit. It depends upon man's creative activity as well. It is not to be understood as only a new revelation of God to man: it is also the revelation of man to God. This means that it will be a divine-human revelation. In the Spirit, the divisions and contradictions of the divine and the human will be overcome, while the distinction between them will be maintained. This will be the crowning of the mystical dialectic of the divine and the human. (DH, 221)

The opening of a new epoch of the Spirit, which will include higher achievements of spirituality, presupposes a radical change and a new orientation in human consciousness. This will be a revolution of consciousness which hitherto has been considered as something static. The religion of the Spirit will be the religion of man's maturity, leaving behind him his childhood and adolescence.... (DH, 222)

In the religion of the Spirit, the religion of freedom, everything will appear in a new light: there will be neither authority nor reward: the nightmare of a legalistic conception of Christianity and of eternal punishment will finally disappear. It will be founded, not upon judgment and recompense, but on creative development and transfiguration, on likeness to God. (DH, 223)

The religion of the Spirit is the expectation that a new human and humane sociality will be revealed, radiating love and charity. It is also the expectation of the revelation of a new relationship between man and the cosmos, of cosmic transfiguration. The process of the decomposition of the cosmos ... is nearing its end. {but} least of all does this mean an optimistic concept of the destiny of history. The discovery of light does not mean a denial of darkness. On the contrary: before the advent of the epoch of Spirit man will have to pass through deepened shadow, through the epoch of night. We are living through the tragic experience of the de-spiritualization and devastation of nature, as it were, the disappearance of the cosmos (the discoveries of physics), the de-spiritualization and devastation of history (Marx and historical materialism), the de-spiritualization and devastation of the mind (Freud and psycho-analysis). The end of the war and revolution has disclosed terrible cruelty: humaneness is vanishing. It is as though the Creator has withdrawn from creation. He is present only incognito (a favourite expression of Kierkegaard). But all this may be understood as a dialectic moment in the revelation of the Spirit, and a new spiritual life. One must die, in order to live again. Man and the world are being crucified. But the final word will belong to the Resurrection. (DH, 224)

Christianity has always taught of the weakness and fall of man, of the sinfulness and weakness of human nature. At the same time, Christian anthropology recognizes the absolute and royal significance of man, since it teaches the incarnation of God and the divine possibilities in man, the mutual inter-penetration of divine and human natures. But for some deep reason, hidden in the secret of times and seasons, Christianity never revealed in its fullest what one might venture to call a Christology of man, that is the secret of man's divine nature, a dogma of man, analogous to the dogma of Christ. Christianity has revealed the nature of the Holy Trinity and the nature of Christ, but very little of the nature of man. ... And yet in Christian revelation the truth about man's divine nature is really only the reverse of the medal of truth about Christ's human nature. The Christology of man is inseparable from that of the Son of God: Christ's self-consciousness is inseparable from that of man. The Christological revelation is also an anthropological revelation. And the task of humanity's religious consciousness is to reveal the Christological consciousness of man. (MCA, 80)

God wisely concealed from man His will that man should be called to be a free and daring creator and concealed from Himself what man would create in his free courageous action.... The world has not yet seen a religious epoch of creativeness. The world knows only the religious epochs of the Old Testament law and New Testament redemption. (MCA, 100)

We are entering an epoch of a new spirituality, that will correspond to the new form of mysticism. It will no longer be possible to argue against a heightened spiritual and mystical life that human nature is sinful and that sin must first be overcome. A heightened spiritual and mystical life is the road to the victory over sin. And the world is entering a catastrophic period of choice and division, when these will be required of all Christians, an uplifting and intensification of their inner lives. The external, everyday, moderate Christianity is breaking up. But eternal, inward, mystical Christianity is becoming stronger and better established. And within mysticism itself a 'paraclete' type is beginning to predominate. The epoch of new spirituality in Christianity, can only be an epoch of a great and hitherto unheard of manifestation of the Holy Spirit. (FS, II,111)

We are standing on the threshold of a world-epoch of religious creativeness, on a cosmic divide. (MCA, 103)

We must have the virtue of living dangerously. The third creative revelation in the Spirit will have no holy scripture; it will be no voice from on high; it will be accomplished in man and in humanity - it is an anthropological revelation, an unveiling of the Christology of man. (MCA, 107)

The dawn of the creative religious epoch also means a most profound crisis in man's creativity. The creative act will create new being rather than values of differentiated culture; in the creative act life will not be quenched. Creativity will continue creation; it will reveal the resemblance of human nature to the Creator. In creativity the way will be found for subject to pass into object, the identity of subject with object will be restored. All the great creators have foreseen this turning-point. Today, in the depths of culture itself and in all its separate spheres, this crisis of creativity is ripening. (MCA, 120)

The world is passing through three epochs of divine revelation: the revelation of the law (the Father), the revelation of redemption (the Son) and the revelation of creativity (the Spirit). These epochs correspond to certain signs in the heavens. It is not given us to know the definite chronological limits of these three epochs: they are all co-existent. Today we have not fully lived out the law, and redemption from sin has not yet been completed, although the world is entering a new religious epoch. ... The three epochs of divine revelation in the world are the three epochs of the revelation about man. In the first epoch man's sin is brought to light and a natural divine force is revealed; in the second epoch man is made a son of God and redemption from sin appears; in the third epoch the divinity of man's creative nature is finally revealed and divine power becomes human power. ... The final mystery is hidden in this, that the divine mystery and the human mystery are one, that in God there is hidden the mystery of man and in man the mystery of God. God is born in man and man is born in God. The ultimate revelation of man means the revelation of God. (MCA, 320)

I am not at all an optimist. Rather I am inclined to think that we are entering an epoch of darkness and of vast destruction. (TR, 134)

... the beginning of a new epoch presupposes a change in human mentality, the liberation of man's consciousness from the power of "objectness". (TR, 134)

We are living in an epoch not only of the depression and shallowness of culture, in a godless epoch of little affairs on the plain, but in an epoch of the beginning of a new religious renaissance, a dawning new religious consciousness, which fascinates by its universal significance. (CE, 226)

The new religious consciousness thirsts for synthesis, for the conquest of duality for a higher fullness; it would contain what it formerly did not, unite two poles, two opposite abysses.... (CE, 226)

... the other world, the world of spirituality, the Kingdom of God, is not only awaited, it is constructed also by the creativeness of man, it is the creative transfiguration of a world which is exposed to the malady of objectivization. It is spiritual revolution. That other world cannot be established by human strength only, but also it cannot be established without the creative activity of man.

In a certain sense we may say that Christianity is ending and that we may expect a renaissance only from the religion of the Holy Spirit... (DH, 11)

The whole of Christianity was nothing other than a challenge to new spiritual birth, to the appearance of the new Adam. But instead of the new man, the signs and symbols of a new man were clothes upon the old Adam, the old man. (SF, 166)

Man stands before the abyss of being or non-being. And he cannot dominate this abyss by his own powers: he needs help from above. This is a divine-human matter. And if in our time the very existence of man is threatened, if man is being torn apart, this is just because he has depended only on himself and his own powers. Man is passing through what is perhaps the most dangerous period of his whole existence. But I do not think that man's fate is quite hopeless. This hopelessness is only here, not in the beyond. For we believe that the world's history will not go on endlessly, that the world and history will end. But this means that we do not believe in the possibility of a final solution in this world, on this earth, in this our time. ... But this should not hinder man's creative action, and his realization of justice here and now, for man's creative acts will affect the end itself. The end is a Divine-human matter. And the final word, which belongs to God, will include a word of man, as well. (CE, 324)

Last revised: February 22, 2008