Nikolai Berdyaev's describes his philosophy of history as being a 'profound integration of my historical destiny with that of mankind which is so intimately related to me.' A Russian philosopher and contemporary of both Dostoevsky and Sergei Bulgakov, Berdyaev was witness to two world wars and three Russian revolutions-expelled from his country in 1922 for the incompatibility of his religious mysticism with the ruling regime. He saw man as concretely interdependent with history since the ''historical' is by its nature not phenomenal but deeply ontological. It has its roots in some deep primal foundation of being which it makes available for our communion and understanding.' Historical destiny is therefore revealed in the very depths of the human spirit and all historical epochs, 'from the very earliest to that at the topmost peak of modern history.' Aligning history more with myth than with the study of documents or monuments, Berdyaev emphasizes the creative nature of tradition and its ability to symbolize the historical destiny of whole cultures and civilizations. His discussions (initially given as separate lectures) include celestial history, the destiny of the Jews, Christianity and history, the Renaissance and Humanism, the advent of the machine, the disintegration of the human image, and the ancient religious-messianic notion of progress. Though the circular nature of Berdyaev's reasoning can be head-spinning, it is also deeply poetic, attesting to his importance as one of the great Christian existentialist philosophers of the last century. 224 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
In her brilliant new opening essay, Banerjee says of Berdyaev "he was never more than a curious but unwelcome guest in history. He fearlessly engaged it on the level of ideas while remaining alien to its means and ends, gifted with an incurable longing for transcendence." Witness to two world wars, Berdyaev observed the destruction of established cultures in the traumatic birth of new systems. Arrested on political suspicion-by Czarist and then by Bolshevik police--he died in exile in France in 1948, carrying forth his intellectual work until the end.
Berdyaev considered the philosophy of history as a field that laid the foundations of the Russian national consciousness. Its disputes were centered on distinctions between Slavophiles and Westerners, East and West. "The Meaning of History "was an early effort, following World War I, that attempted to revive this perspective. With the removal of Communism as a ruling system in Russia, that nation returned to an elaboration of a religious philosophy of history as the specific mission of Russian thought. This volume thus has contemporary significance. Its sense of the apocalypse, which distinguishes Russian from Western thought, gives the book its specifically religious character.
In order to grasp and oppose the complex phenomenon of social and cultural disintegration, Berdyaev shows that human beings must rely upon some internal dialectic. After the debacle of the war, the moment arrived to integrate Russian historical experiences into those of a Europe, which, although torn by schism, still claimed to be the descendant of Christendom. The book is remarkable for its powerful stylistic grace, and astonishingly contemporary feeling.