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 Truth

There are two ways: one is that of the love of man, which wants to make men happy, to calm and organize them, to build comfortable housing for their neighbors where they will forget their irrational and tragic freedom, will renounce their right to absolute, supra-mundane truth. This is the way of the Grand Inquisitor. It leads to the ant-hill where there will be neither freedom nor personality. The other is the way of the love of God which wants to liberate men, puts truth and super-human values above prosperity and the ordering of life. This is the way of Him who came with words of boundless freedom, and was a reminder that God and freedom and truth are above the well-being and tranquility of men. And we must choose either the philanthropic way of well-being or the God-loving way of freedom.... (CE, 120)

It is not enough to accept Truth or God; the acceptance must be free. Freedom cannot be the result of compulsion, even of the compulsion of God. It is useless to expect freedom from an organized, harmonized, perfected order of living: this very order must be the result of freedom. (FS, I,187)

There is nothing higher than the search for, and the love of, Truth. (SC, 29)

Truth, the one integral truth, is God, and to perceive Truth, is to enter divine life. (SC, 29)

Proof is only the technique of the logical apparatus and has no relation to truth. ... You offer proof only to the enemies of your beloved truth, not to its friends. (MCA, 48)

So-called "public opinion" is based on conventional lies, and employs falsehood as a means of influence. Every social mode is a conventional lie. Falsehood is recognized as useful to support and organize human living together, and fulfils a social function. Herein is the tragedy of the problem of falsehood: pragmatically, falsehood justifies itself; while truth and right often appear dangerous and harmful. (DM, 174)

Truth may be dangerous to everyday life. Christian truth might even become very dangerous - might cause the collapse of nations and civilizations. Hence pure Christian truth has been distorted and adapted to man's everyday life; the work of Christ has been corrected.... (SC, 21)

Truth is not something given objectively, but rather a creative achievement. It is creative discovery, rather than the reflected knowledge of an object or of being. Truth ... is the creative transfiguration of reality. (TR, 14)

Truth is given, not for deposit in some safe place, but for realization in the fullness of life, and for development. (CE, 163)

Pure truth could burst the world apart. (SR, 57)

... original and authentic Christianity, based upon truth which had been neither objectivized nor socialized, would be a personalistic revolution in the world. (SR, 51)

Truth is spiritually revolutionary; so is spirit, although in a different way from that in which revolution is applied to politics. And objectivization weakens or even completely destroys this destructive, anarchic quality of truth, which is spirit, since spirit is the truth of being. Therefore the work of Christ was corrected and adapted to the level of millions upon millions of men. (SR, 57)

I wish to know, not actuality, but the truth about actuality. And I may learn what this truth is, only because in me, the knowing subject, there is a source of truth and because I may communicate with this truth. (BE, 48)

Truth has two meanings: there is truth as knowledge of reality, and truth as reality itself. (BE, 48)

Truth is the awakening of spirit in man, his communion with spirit. (BE, 48)

Where shall we seek criteria of truth? All too often men seek these criteria in what is lower than truth, in the objective world with its compulsions, seek criteria for spirit in the material world. And they fall into a vicious circle. Discursive truth can provide no criteria for final truth: it is only at the half-way mark, and knows neither the beginning nor the end. Every proof rests upon the unproven, the postulate, the created. There is risk, and no guarantee. The very search for guarantee is wrong and really means subjecting the higher to the lower. Freedom of the spirit knows no guarantees. The sole criterion of truth is truth itself, the light which streams out of it. All other criteria exist only for the every-day, objective world, for social communication. (BE, 49)

Truth is not so much liberation and salvation in this world, as it is liberation and salvation from this world. Full acceptance of the truth of the Gospel, consent to its actual realization, would lead to the destruction of the states, civilizations, societies organized according to the laws of this world - to the end of this world which in every way is opposite to the Gospel Truth: therefore men and nations have corrected the Gospel, filled it with 'truths' of this world which were really pragmatic, because they were false and adapted to falsehood. The recognition and the confession of truth is connected, not with usefulness and profit, but with risk and danger.... (BE, 50)

Truth is not of the world, but of the spirit: it is known only in transcending the objective world. Truth is the end of this objective world, it demands our consent to this end. Such is the truth of Christianity, freed of its social adaptations and deformations.... (BE, 72)

Truth is subjective; it is individual, and universal in its individuality.... (TR, 14)

All men are called to communion with Truth: it exists for the whole world. But it is revealed only under certain spiritual, intellectual and cultural conditions. When Truth as it is being revealed is socialized and applied to the average man, to the human mass, its quality is lowered, its depth disappears for the sake of accessibility to all men. (TR, 14)

Truth is not objective, ordinary reality, reflected in the knower and entering into him from outside, but rather the enlightenment, the transfiguration of reality: it is the introduction into the world's data of a quality, which was not there before truth was revealed and known. Truth is not conformity with what we call being, but rather the kindling of a light within being. I am in darkness and seek the light; I do not yet know truth but I seek it. By this very fact I affirm the existence of Truth and light, existence in another sense than the existence of the world's realities. My seeking is already the dawning light, and truth already beginning to reveal itself. (TR, 16)

Accepting truth is always a risk; there is no guarantee and there should be none. We find this risk in every act of faith, which is the disclosure of things unseen. Only the acceptance of things visible, of the so-called objective world, is without risk. Spirit always presupposes risk, from the viewpoint of the objective world which has us under compulsion. That absence of risk, which men often affirm in urging the acceptance of the Christian faith, which has taken the form of organized orthodoxy, is of a sociological rather than a spiritual nature, and is motivated by the desire to guide human spirits. (TR, 30)

Truth is spiritual and is life in the spirit. (TR, 31)

The discovery of Truth is a free act of the will, not alone an intellectual act; it is the turning of man's whole being toward creative values. The criterion lies in this very act of the Spirit. There is no criterion of truth outside of the witness of truth itself, and it is wrong to seek absolute guarantees, which always demean the truth. Such is the consciousness of man, at the border-line between two worlds. (TR, 31)

In the world truth is crucified. (DH)(CE, 213)

There is no criterion of Spirit outside Spirit itself: there is no criterion of Truth outside that Truth which is manifested in the Spirit. (TR, 48)

Truth cannot be blamed if it is distorted, betrayed, not realized in life. (CE, 247)

Last revised: February 22, 2008