3/7 – Vladimir Ern’s Philosophy of Eros and Logos (Excerpts from Ern’s Struggle for Logos)

January-February 2016 / Book Reviews

Vladimir Ern

Vladimir Ern

Vladimir Ern

Translator’s note: Russian culture cannot be fully comprehended without rediscovering its sacred roots in the form of sophisticated and advanced Integral philosophical systems, often known as Russian religious or spiritual philosophies.

What follows are some striking excerpts from Vladimir Ern (1882–1917), a noteworthy Russian philosopher and passionate defender of Eros and Logos who is relatively unknown in the West. His thoughts on both Eros and Logos synchronize with Ken Wilber’s Integral philosophy in many ways, especially as regards to the feeling of Eros and also to the tonality and intensity of Wilber’s thought as passion. This is one more source that helps us to situate our contemporary Integral thought within a larger context of the historic genesis of humanity, and point out towards what, as Ern would probably explain, is the tonic nature of Integral thought, the intensity of its burning. Furthermore, this kind of knowledge is not passed through generations and lineages in a linear fashion—it is a kind of insight-based gnosis that seems to erupt into our worlds, and bring us into a state of incessant awe and admiration for the divine life we’re given.

All the following excerpts are translated from Vladimir Ern’s book Struggle for Logos (1911). The Russian text was taken from the contemporary edition (Ern V. Bor’ba za Logos. G. Skovoroda. Zhizn’ i ucheniye [= Struggle for Logos. Grigory Skovoroda: Life and teachings]. — Minsk: Harvest, Moscow: AST, 2000). These excerpts are given here only to provide a brief taste of the intonation of Ern’s passionate philosophy of Eros and Logos. — Eugene Pustoshkin

Struggle for Logos – A few excerpts

In order to allow the reader an easier understanding of the essence of the articles collected in this book I will shortly explain what I understand by the word logos and why in publishing my book I give it a bellicose title: struggle.

For me, in the word logos are united all features of the philosophy which has been thoroughly forgotten by modernity and which I consider the only true, healthy, and needed. Λόγος is a battle cry which calls philosophy to turn from scholasticism and abstractness towards life, while not raping life with schemes, but, on the contrary, being attentive to it, becoming an inspired and sensitive interpreter of its divine meaning, its hidden joy, its profound tasks. If rationalism is the title for the kind of philosophy which consciously chooses ratio as an organ of its inquiry—that is, formal reasoning dissociated from the fullness and infinite diversity of life—then one is allowed to use logism for naming that kind of philosophy which negates rationalism at its root, which chooses Λόγος for its organ of apprehension—that is, it chooses reason which is not abstracted from the living and specific actuality but is compassionate towards it and immanently pervasive in it. Logos is the deepest root unity of the knower and the known, it is the unity of the cognizer and the objective meaning that is being cognized. The truth of this primordial unity was discovered by the great Hellenic philosophy and with memorable force upgraded towards a new stage of consciousness in the profound contemplation and deepest interior experience of Christianity. In developing particular aspects of a logistic understanding of the world I, therefore, consciously define my philosophy as a Christian philosophy.

This explains now why logism is something that we have to struggle for. Highest values, most sacred things provoke most exacerbate struggle. The spirit of self-asserting pride, the spirit of our times and of majority always rebels against the mysterious truth of Word’s embodiment. Rationalism deeply rejects all the sanctities of logism, and it seems that never in the entire history of the world has rationalism become such a huge historic force as in our time. In order to carry the sanctities of logism through the structure of modern-day thinking one has to lead a struggle for life or death; one has to use the weapon of steel-hulled and inexhorably sharpened logic.

This is why the pathos of struggle permeates the whole book. “Call death out to a fatal battle.”[1] Had I not seen death and the greatest spiritual danger in rationalism—this idol of modernity—I would not have fought against it so insistently and pertinaciously. But, I think, a sensitive ear, through the exasperation of this “logical” struggle, would be able to hear very different motives that fueled my philosophizing: my faith and my love. (Pp. 3–4)

All true philosophy contains in itself, in one inseparable unity, two sides: Eros and Logos. As for Logos, we saw that pragmatism lacks it. There is no greater sin that pragmatism suffers from than the absence of Logos which is so thoroughly forgotten by the whole new philosophy. That’s where the contradiction of pragmatism stems from—the fruitlessness of its ideas, the absence of theoretical creativity… and its eclecticism.

But philosophy lives not through Logos alone. Philosophy is love of “wisdom,” its thirst, seeking, and not just “calculation” of arguments, not mere classification of reasons. A truly philosophic soul is enthralled with passion, παθος, which Plato with unforgettable power identified with love drive, with Eros. The pragmatic inclinations of [William] James are full of this Eros, and, even though they lack Logos, they are fulfilled with philosophic pathos, inspired with the noble force of pure, unselfish, and altogether not pragmatic seeking. It is precisely this hidden force that James enchants and conquers with, a force of which he is probably not conscious; it is this force that, however strange it would seem, determines the contradictory and diverse nature of his standpoints. It is thanks to the power of Eros that is contained within him that James cannot satisfy himself with any single point of view that exists in his consciousness. As he stands on one point of view, he immediately feels its insufficiency and hastily runs towards another—and in this running around, in this incessant chase after truth is the entire allure of James.

Eros that drives James has created the most valuable traits of his entire spiritual appearance: first, it is the sharpened and refined critical sensitivity to conditioned and schematic nature of that view of the world which is given by natural sciences; and, second, it is his huge mystical experiencing of the infinite significance of the world—the unfathomable seriousness of life.

In the philosophic climate of our time which became so have because of scholastic evaporations of empiriocriticism, Cohenianism, Rickertianism, and immanentism, Jamesian pragmatism must be cherished as a fresh stream of clean air. It could be that he has played a great role of not just some sort of air sanitizer. It could be that he is to deeply plow up the soil, mellow the ground and prepare contemporary thought for new sowing of Truth. One could say only one thing: pragmatism itself, due to absence of Logos in it, cannot become the sower.

Eros in its drive to give birth and create can be inseminated only by Logos. And it is only Logos that can respond to all those velleities and yearnings that fill James—this noble soul of pragmatism. (Pp. 26–27)

Λόγος as a divine principle, in order to be comprehended by human consciousness, presupposes that dynamic theory of knowledge which finds its summit in the pragmatics of the Christian feat. In completing this feat we see the uttermost meaning of saints. But any, even most remote or most proximal, consciousness of Λόγος necessarily requires an extraordinary intensity of personal life, some heightened ontologically living self-awareness. The wisdom of the Word cannot be given outside of a person. It discloses itself through the person and in the person. Any assimilation of Λόγος is, therefore, related to the interior struggle, the freely-chosen feat, the intensity of which drives things into motion, and through this motion the deepest and usually hidden sides of the spirit are revealing themselves.

This helps us to understand the third bright and major feature of Russian philosophical thought. It is that which can be called personalism of Russian philosophy, that is an emphasized significance of the personalities of its authors and creators.

Grigory Skovoroda, this “theomant” filled with sacred fire (as Hâjdeu and archangel Gabriel call him), is much more important and much bigger his profoundly original and remarkable philosophical works. Pecherin and Gogol haven’t written a single “philosophical” treatise, yet Pecherin’s life is so permeated with such huge thought, such conscious idea, that the philosophic importance of this life exceeds the entire volumes of his most brilliant works. The last years of Gogol’s life, in which his religious drama is played out (and the roots of this drama can be found in his entire life), are full of enormous philosophical depth. The substance of his thought has not changed a bit. Thought remains to be thought, no matter whether it is forged in “a slow fire of theoretical reflection” or, soaked in blood, is painfully excavated from the most profound depths of the soul. Those can be called self-satisfied who think that thought is real only behind the work desk. When the Word permeates the within and takes possession of the entire fullness of human experiences, it expresses itself not through pen or mouth only, but through divine depth and the pain of seeking which are equal to the significance of thought—they individualize this thought and drive the entire life of the chosen individual.

Unlike what rationalists think, this does not obscure thought but brings more depth to it; it doesn’t wither but grows.

Pecherin and Gogol have never written anything “philosophic.” Dostoyevsky and Solovyov have written many volumes of pure genius. So what? Both the personality of Dostoyevsky and that of Solovyov tower over all their creations, remaining to be inexhausted, still keeping the mystery which cannot be contained in any words and which can be hinted only through the word of a poet or artist.

To evaluate Russian philosophic thought only by looking at what is said and written, without taking into account the abundant overtones of mysteries and hints that permeate it, is like evaluating a statue (that is only in the beginning phases of being made) according to its visible form and the quantities of metal which are contained within it, ignoring the humongous size of the unseen intent and the richness of potentialities which are awaiting it.

Personalism of Russian thought has essential, not random character. Mysteries of Existence are disclosed in the depths of personality. Basically, the Divine Word, permeating the entire human being, cannot wholly express itself in that which does not compose the totality of the human being—i.e. in consciousness. Consciousness, even creative and genius one, in some senses suffers from aphasia, for quietude can be expressed with no sound and silence is broken with a spoken word. But silence is not broken with a feeling and reticence is kept in action. That is why it is not enough to know what Gogol, Dostoyevsky, and Solovyov wrote and said, it is important to know what they experienced and how they lived. The outbursts of feeling, instinctual movements of will that stemmed from the ineffable depth of their silence are needed not just for a simple psychological interpretation of their personality (for completeness of their biography, so to say), but for an immersion into the logical composure of their ideas. For a rationalist, presence of experience or individual tonality of thought is a characteristic of psychologism, i.e. of obscurantism and slavery of thought. For a “logist,” the lower, underground floor of personality, its irrational foundations which have roots in the depths of the Kosmos are filled with the Word, that is Λόγος. The surface-ground logos, the one which is manifest in words, is incessantly fueled with the underground logos that is unmanifest; and personality, which in its summit reaches the above-ground logos, in its mystical foundations is profoundly immersed into the darkest depths of Existence which are potentially thoroughly “logical,” thoroughly soaked with the potential of Logos, for “apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.”

Logos, by reconciling the truth of extreme and absolute individualism with the essential universalism (an organic mesh of these two extremes is absolutely impossible in rationalism), requires substantial attention not only to the thought which sounds through words but also to the silent thought of actions, movements of the heart, to the silent thought which is hidden in the complex and dynamic pattern of an individual face.

So, these are the three features that originally characterize Russian thought: ontologism, essential religiosity, and personalism.

In the history of modern philosophy and in our contemporary times Russian philosophy has found its special and exceptional place. (Pp. 92–95)

1911

            Translated from Russian by Eugene Pustoshkin

 

[1] Here Ern refers to a famous line from Vladimir Solovyov’s poem “Three Heroic Deeds” (Tri Podviga). — Translator’s Note.

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