From Ivan Kireyevsky’s On the Necessity and Possibility of New Principles in Philosophy (1856):
. . . [B]etween the time of Aristotle and the general submission of world culture to Christian teaching, many centuries elapsed, during which many different and contradictory philosophical systems nourished, consoled, and disturbed manís reason. Few of these systems, however, were characterised by extremes; in general, culture grew out of what was common to the extremes, out of middle ground. Between the Stoicsí virtuous pride and the Epicureansí sensual philosophy, between the alluring heights of the lofty mental constructions of the Neoplatonic school and the unfeeling, implacable, all-uprooting plough of scepticism, stood Aristotleís philosophy, to which menís minds constantly returned from extreme deviations, and which cast the logical snares of its impartial system into the most biased forms of thought. This is why it may be said that, whereas in the ancient pre-Christian world there were several different philosophies and several mutually contradictory sects, the vast majority of thinking humanity and all of cultureís moral and intellectual power belonged to Aristotle. Precisely what influence did Aristotleís philosophy have on culture and the moral dignity of man? The solution of the problem is important, and not only for past history.
It would seem the clearest and briefest answer to this question may lie in the moral and intellectual mood of the centuries when this philosophy dominated. The Roman citizen at the time of the emperors bore the living stamp of its principles. For the ultimate meaning of any philosophy lies not in individual logical or metaphysical truths, but in the relationship in which it places man with respect to the ultimate truth he seeks ó in the inner imperative to which the mind imbued with it turns. Every philosophy in the final stage of its development produces two results, or, more correctly, a single result with two aspects: the total product of thought and the preponderant imperative which derives from this product. The latter truth, which sustains the mind, points to the treasure which man will seek in science and in life. At the end of a philosophical system, between its primordial truth and its cherished goal, is not thought possessing a specific formula, but only, so to speak, the spirit of the thought, its inner power, its sacred inner music which accompanies all the stirrings of the soul of the man convinced by it. This inner spirit, this living force, is characteristic not only of higher, mature philosophical systems. A philosophical system belongs in the academic domain, but its power, its ultimate imperative, concerns the life and culture of all mankind.
However, one must admit Aristotleís philosophy, when it did not serve to support an alien system but acted independently, had a very lamentable influence on mankindís culture, an influence in direct contrast to the influence it exerted on its first student, the great conqueror of the Orient [Alexander the Great]. The striving for the better within the limits of the commonplace, for the reasonable in the everyday sense of the term, for the possible as determined by external reality, were the final conclusions of the kind of rationality suggested by Aristotleís system. There was but one pupil who did not find these teachings to his liking; all others found them perfectly congenial. It seems the more Alexander listened to them, the more energetically he developed his own original ideas antithetical to them ó as if in defiance of his teacherís counsel. It may even be that without the stimulus of prudent mediocrity, all the extremism of his imprudent genius would not have developed. But the remainder of humanity submitted to the influence of dry and abstract philosophy all the more willingly, because, in the absence of loftier convictions, the tendency towards the mundane and prudently commonplace automatically becomes the predominant characteristic of the moral world.
Aristotleís system broke the wholeness of manís intellectual self-consciousness and transferred the root of manís inner convictions from the moral and aesthetic sphere into the abstract thought of rationality. The means by which it sought to know the truth were limited to the logical activity of the intellect and to the detached contemplation of the external world. External existence and the expressible verbal aspect of thought constituted the only data from which it derived whatever could be derived by the logical concatenation of concepts, and one must admit it derived from them all that could be derived in this manner at the time. In Aristotleís view, reality was the complete embodiment of supreme reason. All the discord in the physical and moral world was only imaginary, and not only was lost in the total harmony, but actually provided essential tones for its eternally changing diapason. In his opinion, the world never had been nor ever would be better. It had always been sufficiently beautiful, for it had no beginning and would have no end. It would remain eternally whole and unchanged in its totality, while constantly changing and experiencing destruction in its parts. But he conceived this integral and satisfying world in the cold system of abstract unity. He saw the highest good in thought which comprehends this unity through the diversity of individual phenomena accompanied by an external life of contentment and tranquility, i.e., physical and intellectual comfort.
Aristotle said that only when manís worldly needs are satisfied can he begin to love wisdom, whereas the Stoics were convinced that only wisdom can free man from worldly wants and burdens. In Aristotleís opinion, virtue does not demand the highest realm of existence, but consists in finding the golden mean between evil extremes. Virtue derives from two sources: from the abstract deductions of the mind (which, being abstract, lend no strength to the spirit and have no essential compulsory force), and from habit (which is partly the product of the abstract wish to reconcile will and the dictates of reason, and partly arises from the accidental nature of external circumstances).
Obviously, this pattern of thought could produce very intelligent spectators among human beings, but only extremely insignificant men of action. In fact, Aristotleís philosophy had a destructive effect on manís moral dignity. By undermining all convictions which existed above the level of dry and abstract logic, it destroyed all motivations capable of elevating man above his personal interests. The spirit of ethics declined and the mainsprings of inner originality weakened. Man became the obedient tool of surrounding circumstances, the deliberating but unwilling result of external forces, intelligent matter obedient to the power of mundane motives: personal advantage and fear. The few examples of Stoic virtue are rare exceptions, striking contrasts to the general frame of mind, which confirm rather than deny the notion of the general absence of inner independence. For Stoicism could arise only as an intense contrast, a depressing protest, and a desperate consolation for the few in the face of the knavery of the many. Nevertheless, even those thinkers who did not exclusively follow Aristotle, and who only studied his system, unconsciously introduced the results of his teaching into their understanding of other philosophers. Thus, Cicero, in the struggle between the ruin of his fatherland and his own personal safety, sought justification for his pusillanimity in Plato. However, he only saw in Plato that meaning in accord with Aristotle. Thus, he consoled himself with the thought that Plato did not counsel useless resistance to force and intervention in the affairs of a senile people. Moral insignificance was generally stamped on everyone, and if, in the time of the Caesars, with the complete decline of manís inner dignity, external culture had been even more highly developed, if there had existed railroads and electric telegraphs and peksany [a type of artillery], and all the other discoveries which now subject the world to the authority of heartless calculation, it is difficult to say what would have become of poor humanity.
Such was the influence of ancient philosophy, primarily Aristotelian philosophy, on human nature. There was no salvation for man on earth. God alone could save him.
However, Christianity, which altered the spirit of the ancient world and resurrected the lost dignity of manís nature, did not unconditionally reject ancient philosophy. For the harm and falsehood of philosophy lay not in the development of the mind it produced, but in its final conclusions, which depended on the fact that it considered itself the highest and only truth, conclusions eliminated as soon as the noetic faculty recognised a superior truth. In Christianity, philosophy took a subordinate position, appearing as a relative truth; serving as the means for the confirmation of the highest principle in the realm of a different culture.
Although engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the falsehood of pagan mythology, Christianity did not destroy pagan philosophy; rather it took it and transformed it in accordance with its own superior knowledge. The brightest lights of the Church ó Justin, Clement, Origen (insofar as he was Orthodox), Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, and most of the great Holy Fathers upon whose work, so to speak, Christian teaching became established in the midst of a pagan culture ó not only were thoroughly versed in ancient philosophy, but utilised it for the rational construction of the first Christian gnosiology, which combined the development of science and reason into an all-embracing vision of faith. The true part of pagan philosophy, pervaded with the Christian spirit, was the intermediary between faith and external human culture. Not only while Christianity was still combating paganism, but in the whole subsequent existence of the East Roman Empire, we see that thorough study of the Greek philosophers was the common legacy of almost all Church teachers. For Plato and Aristotle could only be of use to Christian culture as great scholars; they could not endanger it as long as Christian truth occupied the summit of culture. For it should not be forgotten that, in its struggle with paganism, Christianity did not concede superiority in knowledge to it, but, permeating paganism, placed in its own service the whole intellectual activity of the world, past and present, to the extent to which it was known.
If there was any danger that a Christian people might deviate from the true teaching, the danger lay primarily in ignorance. The growth of rational knowledge, certainly, does not offer salvation, but guards against false knowledge. It is true that where the mind and heart have once been permeated by Divine truth, there the degree of learning becomes a side issue. It is also true that consciousness of the Divine is equally compatible with all stages of rational development. But, in order that Divine truth might permeate, enliven, and guide manís intellectual life, it must subordinate external reason to itself and dominate it, not remain outside its sphere of action. Divine truth must stand above other truths in the general consciousness as the sovereign principle pervading all culture. For each separate Divine truth must be supported by the like-mindedness of cultivated society. Ignorance, by contrast, keeps minds from vital intellectual interchange through which truth among men and nations is sustained, advanced, and enlarged. An ignorant mind, even when accompanied by the most righteous convictions of the heart, gives birth to irrational jealousy, from which in turn springs the deviation of both mind and heart from true convictions. . . .
In the Church, the relationship between reason and faith is completely different from their relationship in the Latin and Protestant confessions. The difference is this: in the Church, Divine Revelation and human thought are not confused. The boundaries between the Divine and the human are transgressed neither by science nor by Church teaching. However much believing reason strives to reconcile reason and faith, it would never mistake any dogma of Revelation for a simple conclusion of reason and would never attribute the authority of revealed dogma to a conclusion of reason. The boundaries stand firm and inviolable. No patriarch, no synod of bishops, no profound consideration of the scholar, no authority, no impulse of so-called public opinion at any time could add a new dogma or alter an existing one, or ascribe to it the authority of Divine Revelation ó representing in this manner the explanation of manís reason as the sacred teaching of the Church or projecting the authority of eternal and steadfast truths of Revelation into the realm of systematic knowledge subject to development, change, errors, and the separate conscience of each individual. Every extension of Church teaching beyond the limits of Holy Tradition leaves the realm of Church authority and becomes a private opinion ó more or less respectable, but still subject to the verdict of reason. No matter whose this new opinion might be, if it is not recognised by former ages ó even the opinion of a whole people or of the greater part of all Christians at a given time ó if it attempts to pass for a Church dogma, by this very claim excludes itself from the Church. For the Church does not limit its self-consciousness to any particular epoch, however much this epoch might consider itself more rational than any former. The sum total of all Christians of all ages, past and present, comprises one indivisible, eternal, living assembly of the faithful, held together just as much by the unity of consciousness as through the communion of prayer.
This inviolability of the limits of Divine Revelation is an assurance of the purity and firmness of faith in the Church. It guards its teaching from incorrect reinterpretations of natural reason on the one hand, and, on the other, guards against illegitimate intervention by Church authority. Thus, for the Orthodox Christian it will forever remain equally incomprehensible how it was possible to burn Galileo [Kireyevsky apparently confused Galileo with Giordano Bruno] for holding opinions differing from the opinions of the Latin hierarchy, and how it was possible to reject the credibility of an apostolic epistle on the ground that the truths it expressed were not in accord with the notions of some person or some epoch [a reference to Lutherís rejection of the Epistle of James].
But the more clearly and firmly the limits of Divine Revelation are defined, stronger is the urgency for believing thought [noesis] to reconcile the concept of reason with the teaching of faith. For truth is one, and striving for the consciousness of this unity is the constant law and the basic stimulus of rational activity.
The more free and more sincere believing reason is in its natural activities, the more fully and more correctly it aspires towards Divine truth. For the thinking Orthodox Christian, the teaching of the Church is not an empty mirror which reflects the features of each personality; it is not a Procrustean bed which deforms living personalities according to one arbitrary yardstick; it is rather the highest ideal towards which believing reason alone can aspire, the ultimate limit to the highest kind of thought, the guiding star which burns on high and, reflected in the heart, illumines the path to truth for reason.
But, in order to bring faith and reason into accord, it is not enough for the thinking Orthodox Christian to construct rational concepts in accordance with the tenets of faith, selecting the appropriate, excluding the offensive, and thus ridding reason of everything which contradicts faith. If Orthodox thinking consisted of such a negative approach to faith, the results would have been the same as in the West. Concepts irreconcilable with faith deriving from the same source and in the same manner as those compatible with it would have an equal right to recognition. Thus, the same painful dichotomy would occur in the very basis of self-consciousness and would sooner or later unavoidably deflect thought from faith.
But the main difference in Orthodox thinking is precisely this: it seeks not to arrange separate concepts according to the demands of faith, but rather to elevate reason itself above its usual level [move from dianoetic to noetic thinking], thus striving to elevate the very source of reason, the very manner of rational thinking, to the level of sympathetic agreement with faith.
The first condition for the elevation of reason is that man should strive to gather into one indivisible whole all his separate faculties, which in the ordinary condition of man are in dispersion and contradiction; that he should not consider his abstract logical [dianoetic] faculty as the only organ for comprehending truth; that he should not consider the voice of enraptured feeling, uncoordinated with other forces of the spirit, as the faultless guide to truth; that he should not consider the promptings of an isolated aesthetic sense, independent of other faculties, as the true guide to the comprehension of the supreme organisation of the universe; that he should not consider even the dominant love of his heart, separate from the other demands of the spirit, as the infallible guide to the attainment of the supreme good; but that he should constantly seek in the depth of his soul that inner root of understanding where all the separate faculties merge into one living and whole vision of the mind [integral knowledge].
And, for the comprehension of truth in this union of all spiritual faculties, the mind should not bring the thoughts present before it to a sequence of separate judgments by each individual faculty, attempting to coordinate their judgments into one common meaning. But, when the whole vision of the mind is complete with every movement of the soul, all its strivings should be heard in full accord, blending into a single, harmonious sound.
The inner consciousness, which forms the common life-forces in the depth of the soul for all the separate faculties of reason, is hidden from the usual state of the human spirit, but is accessible to the person who seeks it and is worthy of attaining the highest truth. Such consciousness constantly elevates manís very manner of thought and, whilst humbling his rational conceit, does not constrain the freedom of the natural laws of his reason. On the contrary, inner consciousness strengthens his independence and, meanwhile, willingly subordinates it to faith. Then he looks on all thinking emanating from the highest source of rationality as incomplete and, therefore, erroneous knowledge ó knowledge which cannot serve as the expression of the highest truth, although it might be useful in its subordinate position and might sometimes even be a necessary step on the way to other knowledge which stands at a still lower level.
That is why the free development of the natural laws of reason cannot be harmful to the faith of the thinking Orthodox Christian. He might be contaminated by unbelief, though only if his external indigenous culture were inadequate. He could not arrive at unbelief through the natural development of reason as thinking people of other confessions have done. His basic notions about faith and reason guard him against this misfortune. To him, faith is not a blind notion which is in the state of faith only because it has not been developed by natural reason, and needs to be elevated by reason to the level of rationality and broken down into its constituent parts as evidence there is nothing specifically in it which cannot be found could not be found without the help of Divine Revelation in natural reason. Neither is faith an external authority alone, before which reason is compelled to become blind. It is, rather, an external and an inner authority simultaneously; the highest wisdom, life-giving for the mind. The development of natural reason serves faith only as a series of steps, and going beyond the usual state of the mind, faith thereby informs reason that it has departed from its original natural wholeness, and by this communication, instructs it to return to the level of higher activity. For the Orthodox believer knows the wholeness of truth needs the wholeness of reason, and the quest of this wholeness is his constant preoccupation.
In the presence of such a conviction, the entire chain of the basic principles of natural reason [dianoia] which can serve as the point of departure for all possible systems of thought is below the reason of the believer [noesis], just as in external nature the whole chain of organic life is below man, who is capable of an inner consciousness of God and prayer at all levels of development. Standing on this highest level of [noetic] thought, the Orthodox believer can easily and harmlessly comprehend all systems of thought deriving from the lower levels of reason; he can see their limitations and their relative truthfulness. However, for the lower form of thought, the higher is incomprehensible and appears nonsensical. Such, in general, is the law of the human mind.
This independence of the basic thought of the Orthodox believer from lower systems which might reach his mind is not the exclusive possession of learned theologians, but is, so to speak, in the very air of Orthodoxy. No matter how undeveloped the reasoning faculties of the believer are, every Orthodox person is conscious in the depths of his soul that Divine truth cannot be embraced by considerations of ordinary reason and that it demands a higher spiritual view acquired through inner existence, not through external erudition. That is why he seeks true contemplation of God where he thinks he can find a pure whole life which would assure him the wholeness of reason and not where academic learning alone is exalted. That is why instances are very rare of an Orthodox believer losing his faith solely as a result of logical arguments capable of changing his rational concepts. In most cases, he is enticed, rather than convinced, by unbelief. He loses faith not because of intellectual difficulties, but because of the temptations of life, and he brings in rationalistic considerations only to justify the apostasy of his own heart to himself. Later, his unbelief becomes fortified by some sort of rational system which replaces his former faith, so that it then becomes difficult for him to return to faith without first clearing the way for his reason. But, as long as he believes with his heart, logical reasoning is harmless to him. For him there is no thought separated from the memory of the inner wholeness of the mind, of that point of concentration of self-consciousness which is the true locus of supreme truth, and where not abstract reasoning alone, but the sum total of manís intellectual and spiritual faculties stamps with one common imprint the credibility of the thought which confronts reason ó just as on Mount Athos each monastery bears only one part of the seal which, when all its parts are put together at the general council of the monastic representatives, constitutes the one legal seal of the Holy Mountain.
Therefore, there are always two activities combined in the thinking of the Orthodox believer. Following the development of his own understanding, he meantime follows the very manner of his thinking, constantly striving to elevate reason to the level at which it can be in sympathy with faith. Inner consciousness, or sometimes only a vague awareness of this ultimate limit which is being sought, is present in every exertion of his reason, in every breath of his thought; and if, at any time, the development of an original culture in the world of the Orthodox believer is possible, it is thus obvious that this peculiarity of Orthodox thought deriving from the special relationship of reason to faith must determine its predominant orientation. Only such thought could, in time, liberate the intellectual life of the Orthodox world from the distorting influences of alien culture and also from the suffocating oppression of ignorance, both equally odious to Orthodox culture. For the development of thought giving a particular meaning to all intellectual life, or, even better, the development of philosophy, is determined by the union of the two opposite ends of human thought, the one wedded to the highest questions of faith and the one where philosophy touches on the development of the sciences and external culture.
Philosophy is neither one of the sciences nor faith. It is both the sum total and the common basis of all sciences and is the conductor of thought between them and faith. Where there is faith but no development of rational learning, philosophy cannot exist. Where science and learning have developed but there is no faith or where faith has disappeared, philosophical convictions replace convictions of faith and, appearing in the form of prejudice, give direction to the thought and life of a people. Not all who share philosophical convictions have studied the systems from which they derive, but all accept the final conclusions of these systems, so to speak, on faith that others are correct in their convictions. Resting on these mental prejudices on the one hand, and stimulated by the problems of contemporary learning on the other, human reason gives birth to new philosophical systems corresponding to the mutual relationship between established prejudices and contemporary culture.
But where the faith of a people has one meaning and one orientation whilst the learning borrowed from another people has a different meaning and different orientation, one of two things must happen: learning will force out faith, giving rise to appropriate philosophical convictions, or faith, overcoming this external learning in the thinking consciousness of the people, will produce its own philosophy from contact with it, which will give a different meaning to external learning and will endow it with a different dominant principle.
The latter occurred when Christianity appeared in the midst of pagan culture. Not only science, but pagan philosophy was transformed into an instrument of Christian culture and was incorporated into the body of Christian philosophy as a subordinate principle.
As long as external culture continued to exist in the East, Orthodox Christian philosophy flourished. It was extinguished when freedom died in Greece and Greek culture was destroyed. But traces have been preserved in the writings of the Holy Fathers like living sparks ready to flare up at first contact with believing thought and again to ignite the guiding beacon for reason in search of truth.
Yet, restoring the philosophy of the Holy Fathers as it was in their time is impossible. Having grown out of the relationship of faith to their contemporary culture, it had to correspond to the problems of its own time and to the culture in which it developed. Development of new aspects of systematic and social learning also demands a corresponding new development of philosophy. But the truths expressed in the speculative writings of the Holy Fathers could serve the development of philosophy as a life-bearing embryo and a bright guiding light.
To counterpoise these precious and life-giving truths to the contemporary state of philosophy; to become imbued with their meaning as much as possible; to consider all questions of contemporary culture in relation to them, all logical truths acquired by science, all the fruits of the millennial experiences of reason acquired in its diverse activities; to derive general conclusions from all these considerations corresponding to the present demands of culture ó here is a problem whose solution could change the whole orientation of the culture of a people where the beliefs of the Orthodox faith are in disagreement with a borrowed culture.
The satisfactory solution of this great problem demands the concerted action of like-minded people. A philosophy which does not wish to remain purely academic and without influence, and which must become living conviction, must also develop from the living interaction of convictions striving for the same goal in various ways but with unity of purpose. For everything essential in manís soul is the result of social forces. Personal conviction must then encounter the problems of surrounding culture not in theory but in reality. For only out of real relationships with reality are thoughts kindled which illuminate the mind and warm the heart.
Even so, in order that we may understand the relationship which the philosophy of the ancient Church Fathers might have to contemporary culture, it is not enough to apply it to the requirements of our time. It is necessary to keep constantly in mind its connection to its contemporary culture to it in order to be able to distinguish what is essential in it from what is only passing and relative. At that time, the extent of the development of science and the character of its development were not the same as they are today, and the things that agitated and disturbed manís heart were not the same as those that agitate and disturb man today.
The ancient world found itself in an irreconcilable contradiction with Christianity, not only when Christianity was struggling with polytheism, but even when the state called itself Christian. The world and the Church were two opposite extremes which in essence were mutually exclusive, although outwardly they tolerated each other. Paganism was not destroyed with the coming of monotheism. It flourished in the structure of the state; in the laws; in the selfish, callous, coercive, and cunning Roman government, among officials insolently venal and openly deceitful; in the law courts, which were manifestly corrupt and capable of disguising flagrant injustice as formal legality; in the mores of the people, immersed in venality and luxury; in the Roman customs and games ó in a word, in the sum total of the social relations of the Empire. Constantine the Great recognised the government as Christian, but he was not able to reform it in the Christian spirit. Although physical martyrdom ended, moral martyrdom remained. The legal and public recognition of Christian truth was a great achievement, but the embodiment of this truth in the structure of the state required time. If Constantineís heirs had been pervaded by the same sincere respect for the Church, the East Roman Empire might perhaps have become Christian. Instead, its rulers were for the most part heretics or apostates who oppressed the Church under the guise of protection, using it only as an instrument of their own power.
Meanwhile, the very composition of the Roman Empire was such that it was hardly possible for its governing authority to renounce its pagan character. Rome represented a state authority in an abstract form. Below the government there were no people whose expression it might have been, with whom it could have been in sympathetic relations for the better development of the stateís life. The Roman government constituted the external and oppressive link between many different nationalities who were alien to one another in language and, additionally, whose interests conflicted. The strength of the government rested on the equilibrium of national animosities. The people were held together by force, but they were not united. Every expression of public and local spirit which is the food and sustenance of public morality, was repugnant to the government. The various peoples had their native countries, but the common fatherland had disappeared and could not have been restored except through inner unanimity of thought.
The Christian Church alone remained as the inner, living bond among the people. Only love for the heavenly kingdom united them. Only unanimity of thought in faith led them to a living mutual sympathy. Only unity of inner convictions firmly established in their minds could have led them in time to a better life on earth. This is why the longing for unanimity of thought and spirit in the Church constituted the full expression of the love of God, love of humanity, love of the fatherland, and love of truth. Between the citizen of Rome and the son of the Church, there was nothing in common. Only one possibility for social action remained open to the Christian, and that consisted of complete and unconditional protest against the world. The East Roman Christian could save his inner convictions only by sacrificing his public life. He achieved this by accepting martyrdom and by fleeing into the desert, by shutting himself up in the monastery. The desert and the monastery were, one might say, almost the sole area for the Christian moral and intellectual development of man. For Christianity, instead of avoiding intellectual development, incorporated it into itself.
As a result of this state of affairs, problems of the cultural life of the time could not be of social character; hence philosophy had to limit itself to the development of the inner contemplative life. Similarly, it could not embrace an interest in history, which rests on an interest in public matters. Moral issues affected philosophy only to the extent to which they were related to the inner life of the isolated individual. It was almost oblivious to manís external life and the laws of development of family, civic, public, and state relations. Although the general principles of these relations are to be found in the general philosophical concepts of man, they did not lead to systematic conclusions. Perhaps general moral concepts ó the less interference there was by transitory, worldly influences in monastic life ó were the more purely and profoundly revealed in the isolated intellectual life of the monasteries. But the inner purity and depth did not have that completeness of external development which another epoch and another state of external culture would have demanded of them.
In the questions of the inner contemplative life of those times, however, and in the problems of the socio-philosophic culture of our day, there is a common element: human reason. The nature of reason, considered from the eminence of a profound theology experienced in the highest development of inner, spiritual contemplation, manifests itself in an appearance entirely different from which it presents itself when limited by the development of external everyday life. Of course, its general laws are the same. But when reason is elevated to its highest level of development, it displays the new aspects and new faculties of its nature which shed new light on its general laws as well.
The concept of reason which has been elaborated in recent philosophy, and whose expression is to be found in the Schellingian-Hegelian system, would not unconditionally contradict the concept of reason which we notice in the works of the Holy Fathers if only it did not present itself as the highest instrument of cognition, and if, as a result of this pretension to the highest power of cognition, it did not limit truth to that aspect of cognition which is accessible only to this abstractly rational manner of thinking [dianoetic].
All false deductions of rational thought result from its pretension to the highest, complete cognition of truth. If it recognised its limitations and saw itself as one of the tools for cognition of truth ó and not as the only one ó it would present its deductions as provisional and referent solely to its limited point of view; it would anticipate other, supreme, and most truthful deductions from another, supreme and most truthful manner of thinking. Rational thought is accepted in this sense by the thinking Christian who, rejecting its ultimate results, can with greater benefit to his mental development examine its relative truth and accept as the lawful achievement of reason everything that is true and enlightening in the development of its speculations, however one-sided.
If, however, philosophical reason realised its limitations, it would, through its development within these limitations, adopt another orientation capable of leading it to fuller knowledge. But, awareness of its limitations would mark the death of its absolute authority. That is why it has always feared this realisation, the more so as it has always been close to it. It constantly altered its forms in order to avoid it. No sooner would its inadequacy be understood than it would evade this misunderstanding by mainfesting itself in another appearance, leaving its earlier form as a mere empty shell in the hands of its adversaries. Thus, in order to avoid charges of inadequacy, it passed from formal-logic proofs to experiential observations on the one hand, and to the inner consciousness of truth on the other, and called its earlier manner of thought dry and rationalistic, and its later ó rational. But, having also discovered the inadequacy of the new form in the course of its development, philosophical reason referred to it also as dry and rationalistic and proceeded to pure reason. . . .
Thus, reason, as understood by most recent philosophy, does not wish to be confused with logical understanding contained in the formal concatenation of concepts and impelled by syllogistic deductions and proofs. According to the laws of intellectual necessity, reason in its latest manifestation derives its knowledge not from abstract notions, but from the very root of self-consciousness, where existence and thought are united into one absolute identity. Its thinking process consists not of logical development set in motion by abstract speculations, but of dialectical development deriving from the very essence of the subject. The object of thought, confronting the mindís eye, transforms itself from form to form, from concept to concept, constantly acquiring a more nearly complete meaning. And as the mind concentrates on the subject of its thought, it discovers in it an inner contradiction destroying its former concept. This contradictory, negative concept confronting the mind also reveals its bankruptcy and discovers in itself the necessity of a positive foundation latent in it, which now appears as the union of the positive and negative categories into a single complex (the concrete). But this new concept in turn scarcely appears to the mind as the final result of understanding, when, in this pretension to ultimate independence, it now reveals its inadequacy and displays its negative side. This negative side once again brings out its positive, which is again subjected to the same transforming process until the whole cycle of the dialectical development of thought is completed, progressing from the initial principle of consciousness towards a general and pure abstraction of thought, which constitutes at the same time general essentiality. Then, by the same dialectical process, consciousness is given full content by the entire development of being and thought, [which are understood] as the identical phenomenon of a realised rationality and self-conscious essentiality.
But, having said its last word, philosophical reason at the same time furnished the mind with an opportunity to realise its limitations. The same dialectical process which had served reason in the construction of its philosophy was subjected to the same disintegrative assumptions, whereupon it showed itself to rational consciousness as solely the negative aspect of knowledge, comprising possible truth only, not actual truth, and standing in need of another form of thinking ó which would be the positively known, not the hypothetically known, and which would stand above logical self-development just as the really occurring stands above the merely potential.