Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Nikolai Berdyaev, fully Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev, also spelled Nichlas Berdiaev

Russian Theologian and Philosopher

"A man who is possessed by fear always begins to persecute."

"Conscience is the spiritual, supernatural principle in man, and it is not of social origin at all. It is rather the perversion and confusion of conscience that is of social origin."

"All mysticism teaches that the depths of man are more than human, that in them lurks a mysterious contact with God and with the world. The true escape from oneself, form one’s self-imprisonment and separation from the world, is hidden within one’s own self, rather than outside."

"Every moral act of love, of mercy, and of scarifice brings to pass the end of the world where hatred, cruelty, and selfishness reign supreme."

"Heaven is not a remote, transcendental and unattainable sphere; it is a part of the inmost depths of our spiritual life."

"Belief in God is belief in the highest Truth and Right, exalted above the wrongness of the world. But this Truth demands the creative participation of man and the world. But this Truth demands the creative participation of man and the world. It is divine-human; in it the ideal humanity operates."

"God has laid upon man the duty of being free, of safeguarding freedom of spirit, no matter how difficult that may be, or how much sacrifice and suffering it may require."

"Man... is destined to realize his potentialities in eternity, in conditions far more real than those which have so far hemmed his efforts."

"In Godmanhood human freedom unites with the divine freedom, the human image with the divine image. By inward experience and inward living of freedom the light of that Truth is attained."

"It is a prejudice to believe that knowledge is always rational, that there is no such thing as irrational knowledge. Actually, we apprehend a great deal more through feeling than by intellection."

"Man, desiring no longer to be the image of God, becomes the image of the machine."

"Pain in the human world is the birth of personality, its fight for its own nature."

"Not from anything in the world would I be free from God; I wish to be free in God and for God. It is needful that my passion for a freedom without bounds should involve a conflict with the world, but not with God."

"Man’s greatest duty is to love God: that is the first commandment. The second is to love his neighbor. And it is possible for two creatures to love one another only because God exists and is their common Father – it is the divine image and likeness that is loveable in our fellow-men."

"Spirit is man’s whole creative act. Spirit is freedom, and freedom has its roots in the depths of pre-existential being."

"Spirit unites itself upwardly to soul and transfigures it. The distinction between spirit and soul does not imply their separation."

"The dignity of man and the dignity of faith require the recognition of freedom to choose the truth, and freedom in the truth. Freedom cannot be identified with goodness or truth or perfection: it is by nature autonomous, it is freedom and not goodness."

"The good may prove to be a hidden form of evil. The evil may prove to be a new and not yet recognized form of good."

"The political organization of the state rests both on force and on faith."

"Time exists because there is activity… Time is the product of changing realities, beings, existences."

"The world is full of wickedness and misery precisely because it is based on freedom – yet that freedom constitutes the whole dignity of man and of his world. Doubtless at the price of its repudiation evil and suffering could be abolished, and the world forced to be “good” and “happy”; but man would have lost his likeness to God, which primarily resides in his freedom."

"True liberation comes through grace and not through free will."

"We can exist only in progress toward another world; we are not fixed in a permanent position within a crude and self-sufficient universe; we dwell in the midst of mystery."

"Man is not only of this world but of another world; not only of necessity, but of freedom."

"In art there is liberation. The essential in artistic creativity is victory over the burden of necessity. In art man lives outside himself, outside his burdens, the burden of life. Every creative artistic act is a partial transfiguration of life."

"The question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question."

"There is a tragic clash between Truth and the world. Pure undistorted truth burns up the world."

"All the tensions and contradictions in life are, and ought to be, reflected in one’s philosophy, and one should not attempt to compose them for the sake of neat philosophical construction. Philosophy cannot ever be divorced from the totality of man’s spiritual experience, from his struggles, his insights, his ecstasies, his religious faith and mystical vision."

"The human spirit is in prison. Prison is what I call this world, the given world of necessity."

"Utopias are realizable, they are more realizable than what has been presented as 'realist politics' and what has simply been the calculated rationalism of armchair politicians. Life is moving towards utopias. But perhaps a new age is opening up before us, in which the intelligentsia and the cultured classes will dream of ways to avoid utopias and return to non-utopian society, to a less 'perfect', a freer society."

"Every single human soul has more meaning and value than the whole of history."