We want to say that it's the theological study of the twentieth century (one paragraph of this work, it might Be argued, equals one volume of other theological works). It was created, conceived, designed and performed by Fr. Pavel Florensky, polymath -- astute as a mathematician, physicist, semiotician, theologian, art historian, engineer, priest and poet, who opens his title page with a quote from Gregory of Nyssa: ''Knowledge becomes love.'' Standing as the most elaborated work of Russian Symbolist theology, The Pillar & Ground of Truth is a series of dialogues (or perhaps prose poetry) seeking to justify the possibility of ascertaining divine truth in this sinful world. ''The whole book can be considered an exploration of the epistemological, ontological and moral implications of two central Christian doctrines - Trinity and Incarnation'' (from the Introduction). Applying his universe of knowledge to his general theme (''living religious experience as the sole legitimate way to gain knowledge of the dogmas'') Florensky examines this through ''an ever growing ball of threads of contemplation, a clot of penetrations, ever congealing, ever intruding into the essence of the subject studied...an aggregate of the processes of thought which mutually reinforce and justify each other.'' (!) In a spiritual mood, with extensive reference to patristic tradition (''only by passing a damp sponge over the ancient writings can one wash them with living water and decipher the letters of the church literature'') this creative reading of life in liturgy (''the heart of human activity'') connects with Solovyov, Berdyaev, Shestov, Bakhtin and many others. Allowed to teach at Moscow University even after the Revolution, dressed in his priestly cassock, eventually his eminent reputation in physics and mathematics was not enough, and he was imprisoned and executed, a faithful martyr of the Church. Patrick Henry Reardon in a recent review said ''while this book is recommended with enthusiasm, the prospective reader is warned to gird his loins for some tough going, for this is a most challenging work. All together, the book is more than 600 pages long, with refinements of thought lodged in nearly every line, and it will not yield its riches in a single reading.'' Might we add that the book contains 1056 footnotes and 30 addenda? Passing over one paragraph on one page in the book finds the names Tchaikovsky, Edgar Allan Poe, St. Maximus the Confessor and Dostoevsky... are you ready for this? 595 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Pavel Florensky--certainly the greatest Russian theologian of the last century--is now recognized as one of Russia's greatest polymaths. Known as the Russian Leonardo da Vinci, he became a Russian Orthodox priest in 1911, while remaining deeply involved with the cultural, artistic, and scientific developments of his time. Arrested briefly by the Soviets in 1928, he returned to his scholarly activities until 1933, when he was sentenced to ten years of corrective labor in Siberia. There he continued his scientific work and ministered to his fellow prisoners until his death four years later. This volume is the first English translation of his rich and fascinating defense of Russian Orthodox theology.
Originally published in 1914, the book is a series of twelve letters to a "brother" or "friend," who may be understood symbolically as Christ. Central to Florensky's work is an exploration of the various meanings of Christian love, which is viewed as a combination of "philia" (friendship) and "agape" (universal love). Florensky is perhaps the first modern writer to explore the so-called "same-sex unions," which, for him, are not sexual in nature. He describes the ancient Christian rites of the "adelphopoiesis" (brother-making), joining male friends in chaste bonds of love. In addition, Florensky is one of the first thinkers in the twentieth century to develop the idea of the Divine Sophia, who has become one of the central concerns of feminist theologians.