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Russian Religious Humanism and Orthodox Christianity

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The Eastern Orthodox Churches hearken back to the original forms of worship; for example, the Nicene Creed is viewed as created at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, in contrast to the Roman Catholic church, which uses the Nicene creed with the addition of the phrase 'and the Son' (see Filioque clause). This change is one of many causes for the Great Schism formalized in 1054 by simultaneous proclamations of "Anathema" from the collegial leadership of the Orthodox Churches in the East and the Bishop of Rome in the West. This emphasis on the use of the original "creed" is shared today by all Eastern Orthodox churches.

While some Eastern Orthodox Christians churches consider Roman Catholics to be heretics, the majority consider them in schism. Here is an interesting BBC interview by  Rowan Williams about Russian culture and Orthodox church (in Russian, see below) and Dostoevsky.  Short summary of ideas in English can be found in Telegraph note . The Catholic Church considers the Eastern Orthodox to be in schism and therefore not in full communion with the Holy See.

The Archbishop of Canterbury discusses a literary passion

Where Rowan Williams meets Dostoevsky

"The current rash of books hostile to religious faith will one day become an interesting subject for some sociological analysis. They consistently take a view of religion which, if taken seriously, would also evacuate a number of other human systems of meaning, including quite a lot of what they unreflectively think of as science. They treat religious belief almost as an aberration in a field of human rationality: a set of groundless beliefs about matters of fact, resting on - at best - faulty and weak argumentation. What they normally fail to do is to attend to what it is that religious people actually do and say - and also to attend to the general question of how systems of meaning actually work."

"Terrorism, child abuse, absent fathers and the fragmentation of the family, the secularisation and the sexualisation of culture, the future of liberal democracy, the clash of cultures and the nature of national identity - so many of the anxieties that we think of as being quintessentially features of the early 21st century are omnipresent in the work of Dostoevsky, his letter, his journalism and above all his fiction. The world we inhabit as readers of his novels is one in which the question of what human beings owe to each other is left painfully and shockingly open and there seems no obvious place to stand from which we can construct a clear moral landscape. Yet at the same time, the novels insistently and unashamedly press home the question of what else might be possible if we saw the world in another light, the light provided by faith."

  • Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction is published by Continuum at Ł16.99
  • And in Guardian (You can listen the whole interview):

    Rowan Williams talks Dostoevsky with Stuart Jeffries

    Link to this audio

    The Archbishop of Canterbury will face questions for only half an hour. So there won't be time to ask him about gay bishops, his touching fondness for early Incredible String Band songs or eyebrow grooming.

    Instead, we must focus on his book Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction. It's a learned literary-theological study that suggests not only do the great Russian's novels have a kenotic dimension (kenosis, roughly, is the spiritual emptying of one's will to become receptive to God) but also stresses what Russian Christianity inherited from the apophatic tradition (apophasis, roughly, is an inductive technique used by eastern Christians to demonstrate God's existence). So I scratch the question about who would win a beard-off between him and Dostoevsky.

    Instead, I ask why Rowan Williams took three months off last summer to write this book. What is the relevance of Dostoevsky for us Mammon-obsessed westerners in a credit crunch? And is the book the archbishop's riposte to all those monsters of triumphalist atheism such as Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling and Christopher Hitchens?

    Before the archbishop can answer, we have to hurry through Lambeth Palace's corridors for the photo-shoot in the chapel. As we go, Williams tells me he was hurt by the Guardian review of his book in which Andrew Brown wrote: "I wondered whether I was struggling through the worst prose ever written by a poet. [The archbishop has published several collections of poetry.] Sometimes the thought disintegrates entirely, like a jellyfish dropped in a jacuzzi."

    "He thinks I struggle with my sentences," says Williams. "Which is true, I do." He shrugs and throws me a hapless Norman Wisdom smile. This is classic Williams: accepting the wound rather than replying in kind. If it's any consolation, I tell Williams as we enter the chapel, I liked the book and am planning to re-read The Karamazov Brothers as a result. "Oh good," says Williams, mugging like an ecclesiastical Frankie Howerd. "That's reassuring." Sarcasm from an archbishop - this is a career first.

    Later in his study, he explains why he cast off his duties to write about a Russian novelist. "Both my predecessors have taken short periods of sabbatical and the general feeling was that before we got into the run up to the Lambeth Conference it might be quite a good idea to take some time out. I'd been reading around Dostoevsky for years and I thought, 'OK let's give myself a task and write the book.'"

    This underplays Williams' lifelong interest in Russian spirituality. He wrote his doctorate on Russian Christianity. Before that, Williams became obsessed with the religious themes of Dostoevsky's The Karamazov Brothers, which contains an episode he thinks was formative for his faith. In the Grand Inquisitor episode in Dostoevsky's masterpiece, Ivan Karamazov imagines Jesus's second coming. Christ has made his earthly return to 16th-century Seville at the inquisition's height. He does not stop the burning of heretics but is arrested for performing miracles and tomorrow morning will burn himself. The Inquisitor tells Jesus in his cell that the church has made humanity happy by hoodwinking it with miracle, mystery and authority. Christ, by contrast, offered the masses not happiness, but a more frightful gift, their freedom. The Inquisitor explains that the Son of God is too reckless a character to have around risking the church's good work.

    Admittedly this Inquisitor episode is Ivan's atheistic fantasy, but shouldn't Christ have challenged the inquisitor? Shouldn't he have behaved more like Christ in the Bible, who threw the moneylenders out of the temple? "If you pressed Dostoevsky on that he might have said: 'When Jesus starts throwing the Inquisitor out, Jesus becomes the Inquisitor himself.'" Instead, arguably, Jesus follows the more difficult path: that of clasping even those you might be expected to detest most to your heart. It's a path, we'll see, that Williams follows himself.

    Why was the moment when Jesus, perhaps out of compassion for the tormented Inquisitor, kisses the man and then is allowed to slip from his cell into the Seville night, possibly never to be seen again, so important for Williams? "Dostoevsky has no easy answers, but what struck me when I first read the Grand Inquisitor episode was there is absolutely no form of words that can give a solution to suffering. Absolutely none. That's why what ends the arraignment of the captive Jesus by the Grand Inquisitor is silence - and then Jesus kisses him. When I read it I had the dim sense that there was something very important in that what you look for in faith is not solutions but a certain relationship." And that's why Dostoevsky's appeal has endured for Williams: he offers no closure, no authorial master-voice, but an endless dialogue where no one wins the argument but everyone is connected. In the book, he writes that Dostoevsky's fiction is like divine creation, "an unexpected unfolding with no last word". That might make divine creation sound akin to natural selection, but it's how Williams sees God's universe.

    Throughout the book Williams stresses Dostoevsky's contemporary relevance. "I first read Devils [Dostoevsky's novel about a revolutionary cell led by a cynical manipulator] in about 1971 and one thing I remember very vividly still is that the depiction of radical students' meetings was horribly recognisable. The kind of arguments, the personalities, the obsessional quality of it.

    "In Devils you have a reduction of politics to management, and the giving-over of that management to people who have no moral hinterland. It rings a few bells in the contemporary world, because the person who emerges triumphant from that dreadful book is the manipulator-in-chief. When you don't have real shared values, real common goals in society, how do you avoid politics falling into the hands of the person who can push the most right buttons, but who has no particular goals or aims?" As the archbishop speaks, I can't get David Cameron's image out of my head.

    Dostoevsky is renowned for his remark, "Without God, everything is permitted." Does the archbishop agree? "He's saying not so much that without God everyone would be bad, as without God we have no way of connecting one act with another, no way of developing a life that made sense. It would really be indifferent whether we did this or that. And it's that sense of God being part of what you draw on to construct a life that makes sense."

    I take that to be a "yes", not least because Williams writes in the book, glossing Dostoevsky: "Only love directed towards the transcendent can generate effective unselfish love in the world." Is that his view? "At the end of the day, yes it is because I believe that's how the universe is. I believe that God has made the world such that this is what we're for. Even when [people] reject that at the ideas level, they can sense that's how it is, they can act as if there were an infinite. That's one of the things that keeps the world going."

    But the apparently barmy faith-based ethical systems in Dostoevsky, which Williams takes seriously, seem to make moral life unworkable. For example, I was struck by the way he treats a notorious deathbed scene in Karamazov where a character called Markel tells his mother: "Everyone is responsible for everyone in every way, and I most of all." I tell the archbishop that when I studied philosophy, this was held up as an absurdity by my teachers. How could one devise a practical moral system based on the impossible demand of being responsible for every one? "You're right - the way Markel talks about responsibility for all, it's not a practical programme. I don't think it's meant to be. In the long run Dostoevsky's world is one in which what's bad and destructive for Sri Lanka or Burundi or Guatemala is bad for humanity. Because there is this call to live your way into mutuality, there are no bounds to that."

    Williams says the doctrine of personalism that underscores much of Dostoevsky's work is important in this regard. What is personalism? "It's a tradition in Russian philosophy, hugely powerful, from Dostoevsky's friend Solovyov right through to some of the underground Russian writers of the Soviet days and a lot of the emigres. You have to have a way of telling the difference between a person and an individual. An individual is someone who occupies space. To be a person is to be someone who hears and answers, to be someone who doesn't occupy a territory but much more a place in a network.

    "Personalism says the human enterprise is about those exchanges and relations whereby we build one another up, we take responsibility for each other's flourishing." He takes this as key for Christian ethics. But is it also important as a critique of selfish western individualism right now? "Anything that challenges the idea that the primary imperative is always going to be the protection of my territory is bound to be."

    Recently, Williams cited Karl Marx in his critique of selfish capitalism. It was, to say the least, unexpected.

     "The idea that most struck me when I read Marx years ago was that unbridled over-ambitious capitalist ventures would lead you - in the jargon - to reify money. It's treated as though it has a life of its own and Marx is pretty sharp on that. He saw the capitalist error as rather like what he would see as the religious error - treating something as though it had a life of its own. For Marx, God is just a function of how we relate to each other, money is just a function of how we relate to one another. Now obviously I think he was wrong about God, but some of the things he said about money were right. He just put his finger on that temptation to treat what's actually within our reach and agency as if it's outside."

    The blurb says this book should be heartening to Christians. Is it? "I hope it encourages them to be aware that there are writers and thinkers who've plumbed the depths, who've looked at humanity in its shadows as well as its triumphs, but who still think it's worth sticking with the Christian gospel."

    Christians may also find encouragement from Williams' preface, which argues all those recent books hostile to religious faith will be tomorrow's sociological curios. He's presumably talking about Dawkins, Grayling and Hitchens. But aren't they thinking you're the sociological curio? "They undoubtedly are. The answer is not to say, 'Let's once and for all have the religious reply to it,' it's to go on patiently saying, 'Look, what is it that Christians who are not cheap or trivial are saying?' and work from there rather than the surface level.

    "In The Idiot, Prince Myshkin says, 'When I hear atheists talk about Christianity, I don't recognise what they're talking about.' I often feel when I read Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens that this isn't quite it. I thought it might not do any harm to put down a marker about that and say: 'Here is a form of Christian engagement with the world and with the complexities of human experience that may be radically wrong but is not cheap or glib and any critique has to deal with this just as much as it has to deal with a southern baptist.'"

    He also tilts in the book at the pretensions of science, and by extension scientists such as Dawkins:

     "Science is a set of brilliantly successful methods producing brilliantly successful hypotheses about how things work. What it's not is a picture of reality. It will give you a very significant purchase on reality. But it's not an ethic, not a metaphysic. To treat it like that is a kind of idolatry."

    Our half-hour is up. As he signs my copy of his book, Williams tells me he invited the philosopher AC Grayling, baiter of the faithful, to the launch party. "I tell Williams that the last time I spoke to Grayling he was just about to publicly debate with Rabbi Julia Neuberger the motion We'd Be Better Off Without Religion. He won. "Oooh," says Williams, going all Frankie Howerd again, "I bet God's worried. 'Damn, I'd better retire.'"

    As he escorts me from his study, he tells me he admires Dawkins. "There's something about his swashbuckling side which is endearing." He invited atheism's high priest and his wife to a Lambeth Palace party last year. "They were absolutely delightful." Again, classic Williams: the better man being nice about his foe. There's nobody he won't clasp to his bosom. It can only be a matter of time he goes on the lash with Hitchens.

    But the real reason the Dawkins were invited is unexpected. "My son wanted to meet Mrs Dawkins." Why? "She was in Doctor Who." Really? "Oh yes. She played an assistant when Tom Baker was the Doctor." For a moment the archbishop looks like a greying sci-fi nerd. He would definitely win that beard-off.

    • On the web Listen to Rowan Williams talking to Stuart Jeffries

    Here is BBC interview (In Russian):

    Би-би-си Культура Роуэн Уильямс Я подумывал перейти в православие

    Архиепископ Кентерберийский Роуэн Уильямс в своей резиденции - Ламбетском дворце - ответил на вопросы корреспондентов Русской службы Би-би-си Натальи Рубинштейн и Лиз Барнс, а также директора Всероссийской библиотеки иностранной литературы в Москве Екатерины Гениевой.

    Би-би-си: Как вы заинтересовались русской культурой и, в частности, Достоевским, о котором вы написали книгу?

    Роуэн Уильямс: Интерес к русской культуре вообще и к Достоевскому в частности возник у меня еще в отрочестве после исторических фильмов Эйзенштейна "Иван Грозный" и "Александр Невский". А потом я надолго погрузился в русскую музыку. Позже я открыл для себя Достоевского и русскую литературу. В студенческие годы, когда я изучал теологию в Кембридже, я прочел многих русских философов и богословов. Всех важнее для меня стал Владимир Лосский, и я посвятил ему свою докторскую диссертацию. Такая вот длинная история у моего интереса к России.

    Би-би-си: Вы выросли в Уэльсе. А говорите ли вы по-валлийски?

    Р.У.: У нас дома говорили по-валлийски. Родители и бабушка с дедушкой переходили на родной язык довольно часто. Я не так хорошо говорю, как они. Но литературная традиция для меня важна не меньше, чем для них.

    Би-би-си: А сколько вообще вы знаете языков?

    Р.У.: Я читаю на девяти или десяти языках, но говорю только на трех.

    Екатерина Гениева: Почему вы решили именно сейчас написать книгу о Достоевском? В чем ваше послание нашему веку?

    Р.У.: С тех пор как вышла моя книга, меня спрашивали не раз: с какой стати современным людям сегодня читать Достоевского? В смысле - зачем его читать на Западе. Почему его читают в России - вопрос другой. Но только отчасти другой. Я бы на оба эти вопроса ответил так: Достоевский дважды представил нам образ мира, в котором отброшена твердая шкала ценностей и главным стала человеческая воля. А человеческая воля - вещь странная и дикая. И если она ничего не знает выше себя самой, и ничего, кроме себя, не любит, она превращается в разрушительную силу.

    Сперва Достоевский показал нам это на примере одного человека, ставшего преступником, - в "Преступлении и наказании". А потом он показал нам, как это происходит, когда в развитие действия включается некая политическая составляющая. Это - в романе "Бесы", самом, на мой взгляд, тревожном, полном смятения, его романе. И мне кажется, нам стоит спросить самих себя: как это приложимо к нашему собственному обществу.

    Индивид, живущий без любви, не знающий ничего, кроме себя самого, никому, кроме себя, и не будет нужен. А политика - если речь идет только о власти, о борьбе, соперничестве, завоевании - она становится смертоубийством. Достоевский метил сразу в две цели - в индивидуализм и в коллективизм, в ложный индивидуализм и в ложный коллективизм. Достоевский страшно неудобный автор для всякого политика, хоть для левого, хоть для правого: он неизменно сдирает всякую самонадеянность. И это, по-моему, важно.

    Е.Г.: Вы выбираете Достоевского как своего внутреннего собеседника? Он ведь настолько непохож на вас.

    Р.У.: Проблема личности Достоевского - проблема очень серьезная. В одной рецензии на мою книгу особо подчеркивалось, что Достоевский в своих журнальных и публицистических выступлениях - это совсем не тот диалогический и полифонический автор, какого мы знаем по романам. Напротив, Достоевский-публицист крайне нетерпим и фанатичен.

    Я вот, знаете, иногда спрашиваю сам себя, хотел бы я оказаться в поезде с Достоевским в одном купе? Но Достоевский подтверждает собою ту истину, что великий художник всегда на порядок больше собственной человеческой личности. Художник всегда шире того, что он знает или думает, что знает. У Достоевского-журналиста были ясные ответы на все вопросы. И он с презрением и издевкой расправлялся со своими оппонентами. Его пером водила ярость.

    Но, создавая роман, он не мог удержаться в рамках прямолинейной однозначности. Он слышал все многоголосие мира, он оркестровал полифонию. Это и отличает настоящего художника. И я думаю, что никакой художник не может быть сведен к его человеческой сути в узком смысле слова. Я вот только что закончил читать очень важную книгу о Шекспире покойного английского критика Тони Наттолла "Шекспир - мыслитель". В этой книге Наттолл все время показывает нам, как и что Шекспир думает в процессе творчества. Он не формулирует мысль, чтобы потом воплотить ее в драматическом герое. Нет, он мыслит, созидая. И Достоевский-романист делает точно то же самое.

    Би-би-си: Ваша книга в оригинале называется: "Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction" (что дословно можно перевести как "Достоевский: язык, вера и вымысел"). Как бы вы перевели название на русский?

    Р.У.: О, это трудный вопрос! "Language" в заглавии для меня означает "дискурс", то есть весь процесс беседы и обмена мнениями. По-русски можно было бы сказать "слово", в том значении, в котором французы сказали бы "parole". За одним произнесенным словом всегда встает другое. И в процессе беседы в конечном счете наступает новый момент в отношениях. Я поставил на обложке книги эти три слова вместе, отчасти потому, что убежден: если вы поняли, что именно делает Достоевский как автор вымышленной истории, то вы поймете и то, как он понимал природу художественного слова. А, поняв, как он понимал природу слова, вы узнает кое-что и о вере.

    И для Достоевского, как и для меня самого, в конце концов открывается слово Божие. В последнем пределе наша связь с Богом, состоит в том, что Бог оставляет свободу человека в его собственных руках и дозволяет ему поступать по воле его. Я думаю, что мои размышления и представления во многом базируются на том, что я в течение многих лет читал у русских философов. Я, конечно, в книге часто ссылаюсь на Бахтина, но за Бахтиным есть еще и Лосев, замечательный и очень-очень сложный автор, а за ним, как кто-то уже указал, просматривается Выгодский. Language - язык; слово всегда развернуто, всегда открыто. Когда я впервые стал читать Лосева, я был восхищен у него ассоциациями с некоторыми философами византийской традиции, утверждавшими, что сущность действий Бога может быть нами понята через слово Божие. Вот все это, возможно, и заложено в названии книги.

    Би-би-си: Как вы представляете себе аудиторию, которой ваша книга окажется близка?

    Р.У.: Я об этом написал в предисловии. Я обращался вовсе не к одним специалистам по русской литературе. Я думал о читателях, интересующихся литературой, искусством романа, творческим поиском. Я хотел таких читателей, которые могут задуматься: нет ли в самом процессе художественного творчества чего-то, что некоторым образом проливает свет на то, как действует религиозная вера. И что интересно, некоторые здешние рецензенты подхватили этот намек, и отметили, что можно больше узнать о вере и религии, наблюдая за работой творческого сознания, чем из чтения иных богословских книг.

    Би-би-си: Кто вам близок из русских православных мыслителей?

    Р.У.: Я уже говорил о Владимире Лосском. Много лет он был в центре моих исследований. Вообще мое особое восхищение вызвали авторы серебряного века и религиозные мыслители этого периода. Я очень интересовался, например, Флоренским. Но также и Сергеем Булгаковым. Несколько лет назад я опубликовал о нем книгу, с приложением ряда его ранних работ в своем переводе.

    Я и сегодня считаю, что, при всех эксцентрических особенностях его мышления, отец Сергий Булгаков был один из величайших умов этого века. Кто еще, кроме него, мог писать на литературные темы, рассуждать о Достоевском, и одновременно писать по экономическим вопросам, и затем о Ницше и философии Ницше, и тут же об истории мистицизма, как Западного, так и восточного - и переплавлять все это в единую картину методом его собственного синтеза? Это был гигант.

    А в то же время - я знавал нескольких людей, которые знали его лично - человек огромной личной твердости, ясности и цельности. Так что к отцу Сергию Булгакову я возвращаюсь постоянно. И Лосского я продолжаю перечитывать. У меня есть много его неопубликованных работ, на которые я опирался в своих исследованиях. Флоренскому посвящено мое новое исследование, еще не законченное. И очень интересным для меня было появление нового поколения молодых русских интеллектуалов в 1980-90-е годы, людей, которые открыли для себя этот мир и, можно сказать, вросли в него. И среди них фигура огромного масштаба - отец Александр Мень, сумевший предложить нам свое собственное видение.

    Би-би-си: Вам никогда в голову не приходило самому перейти в православие?

    Р.У.: Приходило. Я действительно подумывал об этом, когда был молод. Но я также чувствовал, что в таком шаге таится некоторая опасность. Скорее всего, мне на самом деле очень хотелось стать русским! Но поскольку я урожденный валлиец, это было трудновато. Так что можно считать, что это была попытка разобраться в себе, познать самого себя.

    Е. Г.: Кто из героев Достоевского вам особенно близок?

    Р.У.: Я думаю о тех героях Достоевского, в которых я вижу светлое начало. Это герои непростые, неоднозначные. В некоторых из них свет проступает совершенно неожиданно, непредсказуемо, наперекор всему. Во многих отношениях для меня важнейший герой - Зосима, но я думаю и о Соне из "Преступления и наказания".

    Странная вещь происходит у меня с романом "Идиот". Там, по моему мнению, все герои тяжко травмированы, все до одного так глубоко ранены, что невозможно увидеть светлое начало. И поэтому "Идиот" для меня самый болезненный и мрачный роман. Сравните с "Бесами", где свет исходит из самых, казалось бы, неподходящих людей, но светлого там больше, чем в "Идиоте".

    Би-би-си: Что вы думаете о сегодняшних делах - русских и православных?

    Р.У.: Мы поддерживаем постоянные отношения с Русской Православной церковью. Но я чувствую, что внутри самой православной церкви ощущается напряжение. В ней есть люди, которые хотели бы воспользоваться всей полнотой возможностей, открывающихся в нынешнем более подвижном обществе, хотели бы переоткрыть заново то, что было заложено традицией. А с другой стороны, есть настороженность и подозрительность ко всему зарубежному, даже если это зарубежная православная церковь. И эти две силы внутри православной церкви, мне кажется, в настоящий момент резко противостоят друг другу. Человеку со стороны очень трудно говорить об этом. Но нам, друзьям Русской православной церкви, бывает больно видеть растущие в ней противоречия и разногласия. Я надеюсь, что в русской церкви победят отвага и доверие, глубоко, в сущности, ей присущие, и позволят отнестись к чужому или иностранному без страха и предубеждения.

    Би-би-си: Чувствуете ли вы, что хотели бы что-то привнести из православия в жизнь англиканской церкви как архиепископ?

    Р.У.: Есть две вещи, которые я очень хотел бы ввести в англиканскую философскую традицию. И первая из них - различение индивида и личности, которое глубоко разработано в русском персонализме, в частности, в трудах Владимира Лосского. Мы чаще говорим об индивидах, и не очень-то задумываемся в каких отношениях индивид находится с личностью. Индивид - часть рода, биологический или социальный атом. Личностью он может стать в ходе свободного волеизъявления, в познании себя, в развитии, в познании Бога.

    Когда я преподаю, или когда проповедую, мне приходится довольно часто разъяснять это простое обстоятельство: сам по себе индивидуум - еще не личность. И люди говорят: "О! Почему же я никогда прежде не думал об этом? Почему никто не сказал мне этого раньше?" Вот это тот элемент, который мне хотелось бы внедрить в англиканское сознание. А другой - но он, конечно, связан с первым - касается самого смысла существования церкви. Церковь отнюдь не просто место большого скопления народа; церковь ведь и есть то место, где развиваются связи и взаимоотношения, позволяющие индивиду дорасти до личности.

    Эту тему развивали не одни только православные авторы, хотя именно они ее начали на пороге XX века, но ее продолжили французские философы, да и американские тоже. Я вот знаком с греческим митрополитом Иоанном Зизиуласом. Он тоже разрабатывал эту тему. Но я думаю, митрополит Иоанн согласился бы с тем, что его собственное богословие стоит на плечах предшественников, таких как Лосский или Флоренский. Так что вот эти вещи мне хотелось бы внедрить здесь через преподавание и проповедь. Да ведь и то, что я написал о Достоевском - это все о том же.

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    [Apr 19, 2017] What would Jesus disrupt? Clearly the banks. He would be all about debt forgiveness.

    Notable quotes:
    "... Cynicism does derive from Socrates; from that part of the Socratic approach that questions community norms so aggressively that they have to kill you to shut you up. As for Socrates, so for Jesus. ..."
    "... What would Jesus disrupt? Clearly the banks. He would be all about debt forgiveness. ..."
    "... I believe Lambert's point was exactly that: that the money-changers should be thrown out of the temple; that Blankfein is not doing "God's work"; that the whole article was a depiction of the deliberate debauchery of the Christian message by conflating it with material enterprise. That article in the links was a spiritual horror show. ..."
    "... Has someone written a good book on the history of usury? When did it become acceptable in the Christian dominated US? Islam bans it. Shakespeare talked about it. Our founders lamented their usurious debts. Think I read somewhere that the Zionists pledged, after WW2, to get out of banking altogether? ..."
    Apr 19, 2017 |
    PhilM, April 17, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    "What have I to do with thee, woman?"

    Christ was apparently a true cynic. See the wikipedia article on Cynicism before judging that; it's not original with me. Cynicism was open in its denunciation of all human convention. Nevertheless, it was non-violent, so "bringing a sword" means not the waging of organized war, but rather is a metaphor of conflict between those who support conventional morality and those who support the Cynical way of life; if indeed those were Jesus's words (if there were any words of Jesus, for that matter), as they are mostly incompatible with the rest of his speech.

    Cynicism does derive from Socrates; from that part of the Socratic approach that questions community norms so aggressively that they have to kill you to shut you up. As for Socrates, so for Jesus.

    It's amazing the doors that open onto the understanding of Christianity once its Cynical features are recognized, and the neo-Platonist frosting that was applied by Paul, and the forces of order later on, is demoted. The cake is actually quite inspirational; the frosting, pretty revolting. But the natural selection of ideas, that process which favors the survival of ideas that enhance power and authority, has decisively suppressed the Cynical core.

    UserFriendly , April 17, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    What would Jesus disrupt? Clearly the banks. He would be all about debt forgiveness.

    AbateMagicThinking but Not money , April 17, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Re: What would Jesus disrupt? (just the question, not the linked article)

    Wasn't there something about money changers in the temple? My view is that Forex is the great threat to whatever commonwealth anyone lives in – if not now, sooner or later. Always cheaper elsewhere.

    So I reckon Jesus would disrupt the system of foreign currency exchange. I imagine that something more turbulent than disrupting the equilibrium of Forex trader's desks would be involved. Now, that would be a miracle!

    PhilM , April 17, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Jesus rendered unto Caesar those things which are Caesar's. He was getting the money-changers out of the temple, not getting rid of them altogether. The spiritual path is not material, or military, it is in the mind and the soul. People cannot pursue a material, political, or social agenda of any kind, even one of redistribution, and still be truly "Christian," as Christ would have had it. They must give all they have and find their way in poverty. They must abandon judgment of the actions of their fellows. Just as Diogenes lived in a barrel, but did not much care about the decor of the Athens' St Regis lobby one way or another.

    Ultimately the message was that to be poor and angry is to be a slave twice over; to be poor and happy is to be free of the chains of both wealth and resentment. Hence also the point that the poor are always with you; that has come up often here, and the real message is missed: that the most important thing is not necessarily to help the poor, but to be among them: to eliminate concern for material things from life entirely. The same goes for pain; turning the other cheek is not metaphorical; it is a statement that suffering imposed by others has only the meaning one gives it, and to deny that meaning is to deny them power over your mind.

    I'm not saying that all of that is right, or even arguable; I'm just saying that I think the philosophical basis of it should be considered more profoundly, and given more respect, than it often is, when it is used for political polemic.

    I believe Lambert's point was exactly that: that the money-changers should be thrown out of the temple; that Blankfein is not doing "God's work"; that the whole article was a depiction of the deliberate debauchery of the Christian message by conflating it with material enterprise. That article in the links was a spiritual horror show.

    HopeLB , April 17, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Has someone written a good book on the history of usury? When did it become acceptable in the Christian dominated US? Islam bans it. Shakespeare talked about it. Our founders lamented their usurious debts. Think I read somewhere that the Zionists pledged, after WW2, to get out of banking altogether?

    [Apr 17, 2017] Ostara, Ishtar And A Happy Easter Walk

    Notable quotes:
    "... Just as the day of rest was a spiritual discipline that demonstrated there is more to life than production and consumption - and so was a threat to every narrative of power and control... ..."
    "... The spring festival was originally a fertility celebration, so the bunnies connection runs deep. And shallow. ..."
    Apr 17, 2017 |
    Ostara, Ishtar And A Happy Easter Walk

    Easter echoes the eons old human festivity to celebrate the March exquinox (in the northern hemisphere) and the arrival of spring. The dark and cold days of winter are gone. The bright time of fertility has come.

    Today's fertility symbols of Easter, the egg and the hare, relate to the old Germanic fertility goddess Eostre (Ostara). Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess of love, stepped down into the underworld of death but was revived. The Christian resurrection of Jesus is probably a transformation of this older hopeful tale.

    When the Christian message spread from its eastern Mediterranean origin its incorporation of old local gods and fables helped to convert the multi-theistic societies to the new monotheistic * believe. The gods of the pre-Christian religions were not completely discarded but their tales transformed to support the new united message the Christian preachers were spreading.

    But whatever. - It is spring, the darkness vanishes and it is my favored holiday. This year the Julian and Gregorian calendars coincide. We thus follow the Russian Barbarians and wish us all

    Happy Easter

    Faberge egg with spring flowers and music box- bigger

    Please join me, v. Goethe and Dr. Faust in our traditional Easter Walk:

    Look from this height whereon we find us
    Back to the town we have left behind us,

    Where from the dark and narrow door
    Forth a motley multitude pour.

    They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
    They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.

    For have not they themselves arisen?
    From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
    From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
    From the confinement of roofs and gables,
    From many a cramping street and alley,
    From churches full of the old world's night,
    All have come out to the day's broad light.
    How it hums o'er the fields and clangs from the steeple!
    This is the real heaven of the people,
    Both great and little are merry and gay,
    I am a man, too, I can be, to-day.

    * The Christian Trinity , the three aspects of the one God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a doctrinaire addition of the 4th century. It just adds an explanatory layer on top of the Abrahamic core of the monotheistic Christian message.

    Glorious Bach | Apr 16, 2017 7:41:48 AM | 1

    Hope, always hope--even in this dreariest of mean times.
    Jen | Apr 16, 2017 7:52:22 AM | 2
    Happy Easter to all and may we celebrate more Happy Easters to come!

    Thanks B for reminding us that as long as we continue to celebrate Easter and remember what it represents, we are also celebrating hope, the possibility of renewal and setting humanity on a path towards peace and away from greed, violence, exploitation and lack of care for our fellow humans, animals and other travellers on this planet.

    John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 8:15:44 AM | 3
    Actually the Trinity was one of the earliest pantheistic traditions incorporated and the most foundational to Christianity, as it incorporated the Greek Year Gods, essentially past, present and future. (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
    A good book on the subject;
    John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 8:19:09 AM | 4
    Of course, the Catholic Church, as the eternal institution, didn't really care for a foundational concept of renewal and did its best to fudge the message. Which they did a good job of, resulting in the need for Luther to push the reset button.
    John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 8:27:01 AM | 6
    Then again the essential fallacy of monotheism is that absolute is basis, not apex, so a spiritual absolute would be the essence of sentience, from which consciousness rises, not an ideal of wisdom and judgement from which it fell. The new born babe, not the wise old man.

    It's just socially effective to assert the laws are given, rather than emergent with the processes they describe. The assumptions are still deeply embedded in western culture, even if the folk concepts have faded.

    Frosty | Apr 16, 2017 8:55:06 AM | 7
    sonnet 114

    Or whether doth my mind, being crowned with you,
    Drink up the monarch's plague, this flattery?
    Or whether shall I say, mine eye saith true,
    And that your love taught it this alchemy,
    To make of monsters and things indigest
    Such cherubins as your sweet self resemble,
    Creating every bad a perfect best,
    As fast as objects to his beams assemble?
    O! 'tis the first, 'tis flattery in my seeing,
    And my great mind most kingly drinks it up:
    Mine eye well knows what with his gust is 'greeing,
    And to his palate doth prepare the cup:
    If it be poisoned, 'tis the lesser sin
    That mine eye loves it and doth first begin.

    William Shakespeare

    fast freddy | Apr 16, 2017 9:11:27 AM | 8
    Christianity proclaims that it is righteous and it is at war with (battling) ALL the other religions which are deemed to be (at best) false. The adherents to these other religions are misled (at best) or evil. Christianity says that it cannot tolerate (must destroy) evil. Accordingly, one day the king of Christianity will return to rule the world.

    Islam offers up the same story.

    What a perfect formula we have for fomenting war. Inspiring youths to kill for their (faith) religion.

    Religion is a fundamental component in the justification of mass murder. It's been used this way for centuries and it has not ebbed.

    les7 | Apr 16, 2017 12:24:55 PM | 11
    Just as the day of rest was a spiritual discipline that demonstrated there is more to life than production and consumption - and so was a threat to every narrative of power and control...

    So the resurrection is a symbol that the alternative narrative of the Kingdom of Heaven does triumph over the fear and death we all live in. Not only does the Kingdom of Heaven out-survive death, it transforms it. The resurrection narrative does not defeat the powers of this world through conflict. It 'outlives' them, most especially with those eternal qualities of mercy, forgiveness, life, light, and yes, love.

    May we all celebrate this day and the lives of those who have pointed us all to a life of wholeness.

    thank you b, for this site and for your work to host it.


    John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 1:08:03 PM | 14

    Lol. The spring festival was originally a fertility celebration, so the bunnies connection runs deep. And shallow.

    Piotr Berman | Apr 16, 2017 1:11:18 PM | 15
    I checked and indeed, you can find Russian greeting cards "Happy Easter", but that seems to be copied from the West. More standard is to greet people on that day with words "Christ has resurrected", and post cards have those words but there are also other, less religious versions. From Holy Internet: " Traditional Easter greeting is Христос воскрес! (Christ is risen!) and the response is Воистину воскрес! (In truth He is risen!) ".
    smuks | Apr 16, 2017 1:43:24 PM | 16
    There was a nice cartoon in the paper yesterday:

    A muslim couple walk past a shop, there's eggs & stuff and a big sign reading 'Happy Easter'.
    One of them to the other: 'From what I understand, some rabbit was born to them...'

    Happy Easter!

    John Merryman | Apr 16, 2017 2:29:48 PM | 17
    I think the next phase change of human evolution will involve a switch back from the linear, growth oriented view of the last several thousand years, to a more cyclical, thermodynamic conceptual foundation.

    For instance, we think of time as the point of the present moving past to future, but the reality is change turning future to past. Tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth turns. Events have to occur, in order to be determined.

    Alan Watts used the example of a boat and its wake, as analogy, in that the wake doesn't steer the boat, the boat creates the wake. Events are first in the present, then in the past.

    This makes time an effect of activity, similar to temperature, color, pressure, etc.

    If you consider the actual, physical manifestation of time and history, this concept on which human culture is based, it is residue in the present state. What is measured as time; duration, is the state of the present, as events form and dissolve.

    The overwhelming physical reality is the thermodynamic convection cycles/feedback loops in which we evolved. They underlay all aspects of biology and civilization. Right now, you might say we are at the crest of an enormous wave and it's mostly foam and bubbles, with a massive undertow.

    fast freddy | Apr 16, 2017 2:52:32 PM | 19
    Something biblical for Christians to ponder:

    Everyone whom had died remains dead and knows and senses nothing.

    There is NO afterlife for ANYONE without the second resurrection which you await.

    There is no purpose for a second resurrection if everyone who has died gets a free pass to a glorious afterlife.

    Check it out.

    Curtis | Apr 16, 2017 7:15:24 PM | 23
    The Christians of the Middle East must be very resilient to withstand the onslaught.

    james | Apr 17, 2017 12:24:33 AM | 24
    thanks for the easter reminder, amidst everything else that is being focused on.. new beginnings which we surely do need... looking for new leaders to pave a new direction here at this moment and don't see anything on the horizon yet..
    Curtis | Apr 17, 2017 12:44:41 PM | 31
    It's shameful what has happened to Christians in the Middle East. In the west, I've only heard the Catholics say anything about this.

    Chomsky on Religion


    Noam Chomsky discusses religion and terrorism at his MIT office on April 23, 2010.


    No, he is actually an atheist. He is telling history of the liberation theology, which though a religious movement, was based on extreme pacifism & empathy for the poor & suffering (Jesus Christ's original teachings). He is talking about how Christianity was hijacked by the rich in 3rd century and exploited to suit their own agenda at the expense of the poor. If someone talks about a good aspect of religion, it doesn't automatically mean he is a moron. I am agnostic atheist & agree with him.


    i'm going off hitchens bit by bit. he doesn't have half the skill of observation this man has. it was reading hitch 22 that started my disenchantment. there's a slight clumsiness in his use of english that reveals a lack of sensitivity: not a lack of facility, by any means; simply a lack of poetic flair. but worst for me was the way he talked about that kid who was killed in afghanistan. it was so gushingly full of praise that it felt like a campaign speech - an emblem of jingoism.

    [Dec 08, 2011] molitva-pered-vladimirskoj-iko

    О спасении державы Российской и утолении раздоров и нестроений

    Утоли шатания и раздоры в земли нашей, отжени от нас зависти и рвения, убийства и пианства, разжжения и соблазны, попали в сердцах наших всяку нечистоту, вражду и злобу, да паки вси возлюбим друг друга и едино пребудем в Тебе, Господе и Владыце нашем, якоже повелел еси и заповедал еси нам.

    Помилуй нас, Господи, помилуй нас, яко исполнихомся уничижения и несмы достойни возвести очеса наша на небо. Помяни милости, яже показал еси отцем нашим, преложи гнев Твой на милосердие и даждь нам помощь от скорби.

    [Dec 08, 2011] Политика и спасение души

    Православие и мир

    Вторая (оборотная) часть проблемы состоит в том, существует ли такая форма политического режима или государственного правления, которая в большей степени, нежели остальные, может способствовать спасению души? Вопрос этот весьма и весьма дискуссионен. Отмечу лишь один его аспект, точнее, одну опасность. Очень часто человек или группа людей, стремясь найти и воплотить в жизнь идеальную, с их точки зрения, форму правления, приходят к тому, что пытаются построить Царство Божие на земле. С начала истории человечество сталкивается с подобными попытками: от возникновения учения о тысячелетнем Царстве Христовом на земле (хилиазм) и ряда феодальных монархий до общин анабаптистов, от псевдоматериалистических (а на самом деле утопистских) социальных режимов до современного общества потребления. Такие попытки в корне расходятся с евангельским посланием, которое бескомпромиссно говорит о том, что на этой земле никакие политические, общественные или экономические инициативы не могут изменить того факта, что мир во зле лежит (1 Ин 5:19) и Царство Мое не от мира сего (Ин 18:36). Известный русский философ Владимир Соловьев говорил, что государство не может привести людей в рай, но оно должно стараться удержать их от падения в ад.

    [Feb 05, 2011] Zhuravli/Cranes

    [Jan 07, 2011] Russian Christian Songs

    [Jan 17, 2009] Videoclips

    [Dec 27, 2008] Lord, have mercy!

    [Dec 27, 2008] russian polyphonic chants (XVII c.)

    [Dec 26, 2008] NEVA ENSEMBLE singing two Russian Orthodox songs - Decor St Petersburg - Russia Church Храм Спаса на Крови - ''Our Savior on Spilled Blood''

    Christmas in Moscow

    [Dec 23, 2008] Chesnokov, great Russian Church composer (1877-1944).

    [Dec 22, 2008] Rachmaninov's church music

    [Dec 21, 2008] Miller

    [Dec 2, 2008] Russian polyphonic chants

    [Dec 1, 2008] The Nicene Creed sung by Orthodox Church Choir (NJ)

    [Feb 07, 2007] -- Online Bookstore

    Logos based in the Netherlands is an online Orthodox bookstore having as its mission to provide a full spectrum of Orthodox Christian materials in four languages, namely in English, French, Dutch and Russian.

    During the last years it became more and more apparent that Orthodox Christianity is increasingly spreading around Western Europe and other Non-Orthodox countries of the world. Unfortunately, much of the immense amount and depth of Orthodox materials remains virtually inaccessible to the majority of readers in Western parts of the world. This is due to the fact that the books are printed by many different and often small publishers in different countries and are being distributed in limited amounts.

    Logos would like to provide the opportunity to have full access to such materials and to allow the interested to read, watch and listen the Orthodox materials in his or her native language. Therefore, the future plans of the bookstore are to add more languages to the bookstore's catalogue. In this way the growth of the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Church according to the Orthodox Christian tradition through the written word as well as icons and liturgical songs will be made more accessible.

    A significant part of the profit from the bookstore sales will be used for the development of Orthodox Christianity in Western Europe and in particular for the development of the newly acquired Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam. The information about the church can be found at

    [Feb 07, 2007] Orthodox Christian morality today -- Commentary on moral issues

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    Dostoevsky Language, Faith, and Fiction by Rowan Williams review Non-fiction book reviews - Times Online

    Orthodox Music

    Russian Orthodox Choir, Sacret Russian singing Chesnokov's Gabriel Appeared

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    Bless the Lord O my Soul

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    Vechnaya Pamyat (Eternal Memory)

    God, save thy people!

    The Twelve Brigands

    Do not reject me in my old age by Pavel Chesnokov

    God, save thy people

    Verily, he is worthy

    God Save The Tsar

    How Glorious is Our Lord in Zion

    We Praise Three

    Be Glorious Russian Land

    Panichida The Male Choir of St. Petersburg (Russia)

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    Classic books:

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