Re: N. F. Fedorov reference

From: scerir (
Date: Thu Mar 01 2001 - 13:30:44 MST

Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov

Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov, an unassuming librarian at the Rumyantsev
Museum, having published not a single book during his life and denying the
right to sell his books, a Russian original and an eccentric, known but in a
very narrow circle, was a genius of a man. N. Fedorov -- is a Russian's
Russian, in him one can learn the uniqueness of Russian thought and Russian
searchings. Inherent to his life was a natural, undifficult asceticism and
unique righteousness. The most notable Russian people of his time spoke
about N. F. ecstatically and deferred before his person. Dostoevsky, not
knowing N. F. personally, writes about his "idea", that "in essence I am
completely in agreement with these thoughts. I perceive them as though they
were my own". Vl. Solov'ev, on whom N. F. had a tremendous and as yet
unstudied influence, writes to him: "I have read your manuscript avidly and
with delight of spirit... Your project (the discussion is about Fedorov idea
of resuscitation) I accept unconditionally and without any quibblings...
Your project is the first movement forward of the human spirit on the path
to Christ. I, on my side, can but acknowledge You my teacher and spiritual
father". Fet reports to N. F. the remark about him by L. Tolstoy: "I am
proud, that I live at the same time with suchlike a man", and added for
himself: "I know of no man, knowing You, who would not express about You
this sort of thing". L. Tolstoy defers before the moral figure of N. F. and
forgave him quite harsh rebukes. The friend of N. F., V. A. Kozhevnikov,
who wrote a book about him, says concerning him: "This was a man wise and
righteous, and those more close to him tend to add: this was one of those
righteous ones, who hold the world together". A fundamental idea of N. F.,
was a purely Russian idea of the responsibility of all for all, the idea of
the active participation of man in the matter of universal salvation and
resurrection. N. F. was sickened at the discord and non-brotherly
relationships among people. He was not at all a writer, nor was he a
philosopher in the usual sense of the word, and he never strove after what
is called "cultural creativity", -- he sought after the "deed" and the
 "task" of universal salvation. He himself is at the extreme opposite
antipode to individualism, and a peculiar collectivist. He had no interest
for the subjective world of the soul and is repulsed by the romanticism of
cultural people. N. F. is a mortal enemy of Capitalist society, as lacking
in kinship, grounded in discord, godless and anti-Christian, and in this he
is more radical than the Communists, which bear comparison with N. F. in
views on the bourgeoisie. The teaching of N. F. is first of all a calling
forth and summoning to an universal task, towards a religious organisation
of labour and the regulating of labour. He has no love for the teachings of
the privileged, separating thought from life, and he denounces the sin of
the falling-away of the Intelligentsia from the people. Completely foreign
to him is any theoretical philosophy, any contemplative metaphysics. His own
philosophy is projective and active. Philosophy ought not passively to
reflect the world, but the rather to actively transfigure and improve the
world. In this N. F. has a formal affinity with Marx. The separation of the
theoretical reason from the practical is a sinful downfall of thought.
Therefore he calls his philosophy "The Philosophy of the Common Task". Only
that philosophy is authentic and justified, at the foundation of which lies
a grieving over the sorrow and death of people. This grieving was to an
utmost degree in N. F. himself, and in this he stands at an extraordinary
spiritual height.

         For N. F., the sole and ultimate evil is death. Every evil issues
forth from death and leads to death. The worldwide struggle against death is
a task, set before mankind. N. F. frequently criticises the teaching about
progress, as comprising a religion of death. Progress arranges life for the
graveyard, upon the decaying bones of the ancestors, it is based upon a
forgetting of obligation in regard to the deceased fathers, it legitimatises
the devouring by the generation following of the generation preceding,
progress becomes reconciled with death and is contrary to the idea of
resurrection and resuscitation. The genuine vocation of man is the calling
to be a resuscitator to life. In the world-concept of N. F. there is an
unique combination of conservative and revolutionary elements. He wants a
radical turnaround of time from the future to the past, a victory over
death-bearing time. Man ought to concern himself not only over his
descendants, but also over his ancestors, he has an obligation not only to
his sons, but also to his fathers. Man is first of all a son, and N. F.
wanted as it were to reveal and affirm the sonship of man. The human son
ought to have memory and concern for the dead fathers, he cannot reconcile
himself with death. Christianity is the religion of Resurrection. And N. F.
speaks not only about the Resurrection (Voskresenie), but also about
Resuscitation (Voskreshenie). Man is called to an active preparation of the
universal Resurrection, and this means also, that he is called to
Resuscitation. People ought to unite themselves into a common task of
Resuscitation. N. F. is a terrible enemy of the Monophysite tendencies
within Christianity. For him it is not only God that is active, but also
man. In this is the meaning of the Christological dogma about God-manhood.
The separation of heaven and earth is a distortion of Christianity.
Christianity strives for the transfiguration of the earth, to a regulation
of world life, to the inclusion of reason and consciousness into the
elemental powers of nature, to the conquest of death-bearing nature by man
the resurrector. Faith in the active vocation of man for N. F. is connected
with a faith in reason, in science, in technology, in the possibility of the
regulation of the whole of nature. His thought possesses a cosmic sweep. In
nature rage irrational elemental powers, which leads to the triumph of
death. The victory over death is a victory over these unregulated elemental
powers through regulation, through the expedient activity of man. But the
regulation of the elements of nature for N. F. is not by conquest and
violence, it is not by force, but is rather the fulfilling of a sacred duty
afront the dead, before the fathers, and it is wrought not for the future
only, but also for the past, for the restoration of the dust of the
ancestors. The roots of Fedorov's idea of the regulation of nature differs
from the idea of the progress of civilisation. N. F. first of all is a
Christian and Orthodox. A godless science and technology can sow only but
death. The novelty of the idea of N. F., frightening to so many, is in this,
that he affirmed the activity of man as immeasurably greater, than that
which Humanism and Progressism believes in. The Resurrection is a deed not
only of God's grace, but also of human activity. The passive attitude
towards the elemental powers of nature and the death that is summoned forth
by them, he regards as the greatest evil. N. F. was original too as a
Slavophil and he acknowledged a great superiority of the East over the West,
but in no way was he an adherent of the Eastern passivity of man. In the
West man was more active, but this activity was a false activity. It was
expressed by the Western progress, which death rules in. Western
civilisation for N. F. is based upon citizenship, and not upon kinship. But
the citizens -- are prodigal sons, having forgotten their fathers. He is
likewise negative in regard to comradship, which is contrary to brotherhood.
Brotherhood presupposes sonship, which is a fundamental category in the
social thought of N. F. The true society is kinship and brotherhood, based
on sonship. The primal archetype of true human society is the Holy Trinity.
The whole world ought to be organised on the model of the Divine Trinity, an
Heavenly kinship. The peculiar social utopianism of N. F. consists in this,
that he believed in the possibility of a patriarchal and kindred sociality,
based on a cult of ancestors. He underestimated the power of evil and
discord in human society. He believed in an utopia of a Russian autocratic
monarchism, which should become worldwide and universal. The Russian
Orthodox tsar ought to rule all the natural world and stand at the head of
the son-resurrectors. This presupposes likewise an oneness of faith, on
which there is little basis to count on. N. F. was in essence antagonistic
towards the state and a citizen society. The human society ought to be
familial, and based on a common religious cult. He is an extreme enemy to
any sort of secularisation. Everything ought anew to become sacral. The wars
of nations, just like the struggle of classes, ought to cease, and the power
of a religiously united mankind ought to be turned into a war against the
elemental powers of nature and against death. The armies ought to be turned
towards the struggle against the elements of meteorological phenomena,
towards a conquest of the universe. But this presupposes the pacification of
mankind, the victory over the evil will within mankind.

         The "project" of N. F., which Vl. Solov'ev was entirely in
agreement with, was the boldest thing in all of Christian history: people
ought to unite for a common task -- the resuscitation of dead ancestors.
Christianity up to the present time has believed in resurrection, but never
did it make bold to speak about a resuscitation, about the activity of man
in the restoration of life to the fathers. N. F. demanded, that all the
whole life of people, the whole of culture, be transferred to the graveyard,
near to the dust of the ancestors. Alongside churchly liturgy there ought to
be an outside-churchly liturgy, the whole of life ought to become an
outside-churchly liturgy. The very division into sacral and profane ought to
be surmounted, -- all ought to be sacral. The originality of N. F. is in
this, that together with this he acknowledged the great significance of
science, technology and organised labour. He is hostile to a dreamy romantic
and mystical mindset. He wants it real, almost that it be a materialistic
resuscitation. The first condition of the common task of the resuscitation
of the dead ancestors appears to be a moral unifying of people, the ceasing
of discord and strife, the revealing of brotherly and filial live. This is
an obligatory spiritual condition, without which "the common task" is
impossible. Man ought spiritually and morally to be conscious of himself as
a resurrector, to be conscious of his obligation in regard to the fathers,
i.e. all dead mankind. The moral consciousness of N. F. is extraordinarily
lofty, higher than this consciousness no one yet in the Christian world has
risen, and it is immeasurably higher than that consciousness, wherein
Christianity is but a religion of personal salvation, a "transcendental
egoism". Each Christian ought to think about salvation, the restoration to
life, the resurrection of all, not only about the living, but also about the
dead, not only about oneself and one's children, but also about all the sons
of mankind. Man for N. F. is first of all a son, and therefore already a
father and brother. And he proposes to assert a cult of the "eternal
childliness" in place of the bad cult of "eternal femininity", in the name
of which according to N. F. has been created Capitalism, with its sense of
luxury and pleasure in life. For N. F. a masculine purity was
characteristic, the complete absence of decadence, which appeared in the
subsequent generation. But further on there occurs an even more problematic
and questionably provocative matter in the teaching of N. F. about
resuscitation. According to the teaching of N. F., resuscitation is to be
understood not only by the deed wrought by Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour,
and not only by the spiritual and moral effects of mankind, by human love
for the dead, but also by the scientific, technical and physical activity of
people. The life of people, transferred to the graveyard, ought to be the
experience of the restoration of the dust of the ancestors by the conjoint
efforts of religion and science, of the priest and the erudite technician.
He speaks further about physical-chemical experiments of resuscitation, that
produce an almost painful impression. The faith of N. F. in the power of
science and technology is unbounded, but the realisation of this power is
possible only under certain delimited religious and spiritual conditions.
Within the world-concept of N. F. there are strong elements of nationalism
and rationalism, which in him are reconciled with traditional Orthodoxy. He
underestimated the irrational powers in life and the irrational was for him
always an elemental evil, to be overcome by regulation, i.e. the
rationalisation of world life.

         Let us consider the most grandiose and dizzying idea of N. Fedorov.
In N. F. there was a completely original and unprecedented attitude towards
apocalyptic propheticism, and his teaching represents something completely
new within the Russian apocalyptic consciousness and Russian apocalyptic
hopes. Russian apocalypticism usually assumes a passive form. Russian man
awaits the end of the world, the coming of the Anti-Christ and the final
struggle of the good and evil principles. But he himself passively undergoes
the mystical winnowing of the Apocalypse. Such a passive apocalypticism was
in our schismatics, it was in K. Leont'ev and in Vl. Solov'ev towards the
end of his life. There draws nigh the end of the world, everything
disintegrates, the kingdom of the Anti-Christ approaches. Man does not have
the strength to oppose it. But the mindset of N. F. is completely otherwise.
He taught, that the apocalyptic propheticisms are conditional, they
represent only a threat. If mankind does not unite itself for the common
task of the resuscitation of the dead ancestors, the restoration to life of

all mankind, then there will ensue the end of the world, the coming of the
Anti-Christ, the Dread Last Judgement and eternal perdition for many. But if
mankind in love unites itself for the common task, to fulfill its duty in
regard to the deceased fathers, if it with all its strength devotes itself
to the deed of universal salvation and resurrection, then there will not be
the end of the world, there will not be the Dread Last Judgement and there
will not be eternal perdition for anyone. This is a projective and active
understanding of the apocalypse. It depends on man, for God's plan for the
world to succeed. Never yet within the Christian world has there been
expressed so bold and dizzying a thought about the possibility of averting
the Dread Last Judgement and its inevitable consequences through the active
participation of man. If what N. F. calls for were to be done, then the end
of the world would not transpire and mankind with a transfigurative and
ultimate regulation of nature would pass over directly into eternal life. N.
F. reveals eschatological perspectives, which never before found expression
in the Christian world. N. F. -- is a resolute anti-Gnostic, for him
everything is to be resolved not by passive thought and knowledge, but by
active deed. The apocalyptic and eschatological consciousness calls for a
deed, for action, for responsibility. If the end of the world is nigh, then
this ought also to evoke an unprecedented activity of man, an united effort
to avert the fatal end and direct the world towards eternal life. In this
idea there is an extraordinary grandeur and loftiness, to an extent to which
no one has ever risen.

          The Russian messianic idea of N. F. assumes a completely new form.
He believes passionately in Russia and the Russian people, in its singular
vocation in the world. In Russia is where there ought to begin "the common
task". Western Europe is too caught up in culture and progress. But culture
and progress have betrayed the deed of resuscitation, they go along the path
of certain death. N. F. did not survive up to the Russian catastrophe, in
which the Russian messianic idea was so terribly distorted. Russian
Communism is the opposite antipode of Fedorov's idea, since it made mockery
over the dust of the ancestors, and it is oriented exclusively towards the
future. Russian Communism, from Fedorov's point of view, is a religion of
death, but in it there is a feature of an ape-like affinity with Fedorov's
"common task" -- the uniting of people, regulation, directed to the common
welfare and earthly salvation, anti-individualism, a negative attitude
towards culture, towards the Intelligentsia, towards thought, having lost
contact with life, and activism and pragmatism. N. F. is extraordinarily
characteristic of the Russian idea and he awaits his own appraisal. The weak
side of the teachings of N. F. -- is his inability to see the irrational
freedom of evil in the world, his rationalistic-naturalistic optimism.
Therein is begotten his utopianism, so in character for Russian thought. In
actuality, the mystic is less utopian. N. F. sees in death -- the source of
evil, and in the victory over death -- the chief task. In this he is right.
But he understates the mystical significance of the passage through death,
as an inward moment of life, i.e. the salvific significance of the Cross and
Golgotha. We ought properly to welcome interest in N. F., the republishing
of his works and the developing of his ideas. But in our era he can also be
a false interpreter. The greatness of N. Fedorov is first of all in his
moral idea, in the sorrowing over the discord and misery of people, in a
call for human activity, and in the thirst for universal salvation and

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