Berdyaev is ranked among the foremost Christian philosophers of the twentieth century. Although his early philosophical leanings were toward Marxist materialism, his mature thought is primarily concerned with the possibilities for human freedom and creativity in a Christian context. Berdyaev viewed history as a manifestation of God’s plan for the ultimate perfection of humanity. He thus interpreted the biblical fall as humanity’s descent into objectification and the end of history as the inauguration of a divine kingdom that would transcend the limitations of objective, material reality. Berdyaev’s concern with individual freedom led to his critiques of Marxism, capitalism, socialism, and other developments in modern history that he considered profane and dehumanizing. His moral system, in addition, is based on the Christian ethic of redemption, in which evil must be overcome and material restrictions surmounted so that a kingdom of God founded on love and compassion might be created.
Berdyaev was born in the town of Lipky, near Kiev, on March 6, 1874. His parents were of noble birth — his mother was a Russian princess and his father a military officer who saw to it that his son joined the Corps of Cadets as a youth. Showing little interest in a military life, Berdyaev later attended the University of Kiev, where he embraced Marxism and became involved with the Social Democrats. In 1898 Berdyaev was expelled for his connection with the Marxist revolutionary movement and two years later was banished to Vologda in northern Russia until 1903. The following year he married Lydia Troucheva and moved with her to St. Petersburg. By this time Berdyaev had broken with the Marxists and embraced Christianity, becoming a lifelong member of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Over the course of the next two decades, Berdyaev undertook an intense study of philosophy and rose to prominence among the intelligentsia in St. Petersburg and Moscow. In 1920, three years after the Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia — and in part due to his youthful socialist leanings — Berdyaev was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow. In 1922, however, he was again exiled, this time for his public criticism of the new Soviet regime, and in September of that year he left Russia for Berlin, where he founded the Academy of Philosophy and Religion. His stay in Berlin was brief and lasted only until 1924, at which time he moved to Paris to continue his literary activities. That year Berdyaev realized fame in Europe with the publication of Novoe srednevekov’e(The End of Our Time). In 1925 he founded the periodical Put’ (“The Way”), which he edited until 1939. Over the course of these years in Paris his fame grew into international prominence. During World War II his writings stirred some antipathy among the occupying Nazis in France, but he was never arrested. Following the war, Berdyaev was awarded an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University. In 1948 he died of a heart attack in Paris.
The Problem of Man was written in 1936. I was drawn to it by its discussion of person in Christian anthropology.
Quotations Introducing The Problem Of Man
“In the midst of the world hath I put thee, so that thou might freely look about all sides of the world, to keep hold of as thou art able and might use, as doth please thee. Neither heavenly, nor earthly, not mortal and also not immortal hath I created thee. For thou thyself in accord with thine will and thine honour wilt be thine own creator and fashioner and from the stuff that thou choose to form be thee free, from the lowest stuff of the brute-work to sink. But thou canst also lift thyself up to the highest spheres of the Godhead”
Count Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (24 February 1463 – 17 November 1494), Italian Renaissance philosopher.
“From no religion but the Christian is it known, that man is the most excellent creature and at the same time the most miserable”.
“Man, see now, how thou be earthly and yet also heavenly in one person put together, and thou bearest the earthly, and also yet the heavenly image in the selfsame person: and then art thou from the grimmest agony and bearest an hellish image on thee, which greeneth in God’s wrath from the agony of Eternity”
The problem of man appears indisputably central for the consciousness of our epoch. It is aggravated by the terrible danger, which besets man from every side. Surviving with agony, man wants to know, who he is, from whence he came, whither he goeth and to what is he destined. In the second half of the XIX Century there were notable thinkers, who in surviving the agony thus introduced the tragic principle into European culture and who more than others set the stage for the posings of the problem of man, — and these were first of all Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard.
There are two ways of viewing man — from above and from below, from God and the spiritual world or from the unconscious cosmic and tellurgic (vocab: Of or relating to Earth; terrestrial) forces, lodged within man. Of those, who viewed man from below, perhaps the most significant were Marx, Freud and Proust among the writers of the last era. But an integral anthropology was not created, they looked at this or that aspect of man, but not the whole man, in his complexity and unity. I propose to examine the problem of man, as a philosopher, and not as a theologian. Contemporary thought stands afront the task of creating a philosophic anthropology, as a basic philosophic discipline. In this current M. Scheler was active and in this the so-called existential philosophy provides assist.
It is interesting to note, that up until now theology has been quite more attentive to the integral problem of man, than has philosophy. At any rate, theology has an anthropologic part to it. True, theology has always brought into its own sphere a very strong philosophic element, but as it were along a smuggler’s trail and not consciously so. The virtue of theology consisted in this, that it posed the problem of man in general, in its wholeness, and did not investigate man only in pieces, dismembering him, as does science.
A Short History Of Dealing With The Problem Of Man
The German Idealism of the beginning XIX Century, while it needs be acknowledged as one of the most significant manifestations in the history of human consciousness, did not posit distinctly the problem of man.
This is explainable by its monism. Anthropology coincided with gnosseology (the philosophy of knowledge and the human faculties for learning) and ontology, man was as it were a function of the world reason and spirit, which also revealed itself in man. This was inpropitious for the constructing of a teaching about man. For specific problems of man, Bl. Augustine or Pascal are more interesting, than Fichte or Hegel. But the problem of man has become particularly urgent and tortuous for us because that we sense and we feel, in the experience of life and in the experience of thought, the insufficiency and lack of completeness of the Patristic and Scholastic anthropology, and likewise of the Humanistic anthropology, issuing forth from the epoch of the Renaissance.
During the epoch of the Renaissance perhaps closest to the truth were suchlike people as Paracelsus and Pico della Mirandola (See Quotation above) , who knew about the creative vocation of man. The Renaissance Christian humanism surmounted the limitations of Patristic-Scholastic anthropology, but it was still connected with religious bases. In any case, it was closer to the truth, than was the anthropology of Luther and Calvin, negating man and denying the truth about the good in mankind. At the basis of the self-consciousness of man there were always two contrary senses — the sense of suppression and oppression and that of the rising up of man against this suppression, the sense of exaltation and power, the capacity to create. And it need be said, that Christianity gives justification both to the one and to the other of man’s sensations about self.
Christianity’s Justifications of Man
On the one hand man is a being sinful and having need for the redemption of his sin, a being basely fallen, from which they demand humility, but on the other hand, man is a being created by God in accord with His image and likeness, God became man and by this raised up human nature, and man was called into a cooperation with God and to eternal life in God. To this corresponds the twofoldness of human nature and the possibility to speak about man in terms that are polar opposites. Christianity indisputably has liberated man from the power of the cosmic forces, from the spirits and demons of nature, making him subject directly to God. Even the opponents of Christianity are obliged to acknowledge, that it was a spiritual power, affirming the worthiness and independence of man, in spite of the great sins of the Christian within history.
Viewing the Riddle
When we stand afront the riddle of man, here then is what we ought first of all to say: man projects himself forth as a rupturing asunder within the natural world and he is inexplicable by the world of nature. Man is a great marvel, the connection of earth and heaven, says Pico della Mirandola. Man belongs to the natural world, in him everything is comprised of the natural world, to the extent of being physical-chemical processes, and he is dependent upon the lower stages of nature. But in him there is an element going beyond the natural world. Greek philosophy saw this element in the reason. Aristotle proposed a definition of man, as a rational animal. Scholasticism adopted the definition of Greek philosophy. Enlightenment philosophy drew from this its own conclusions and vulgarized it. But every time, when man has made an act of self-consciousness, he raises himself up over the natural world. The self-consciousness of man was already a surmounting of naturalism within the understanding of man, it is always a self-consciousness of spirit. Man is conscious of himself not only as a natural being, but also as a spiritual being. There is in man a Promethean principle and it is a sign of his God-likeness, for it is not demonic, as sometimes they tend to think. But the self-consciousness of man is twofold, man is conscious of himself as both high and low, as both free and as the slave of necessity, belonging both to eternity and situated within the power of the death-bearing stream of time. Pascal with quite especial insight expressed this twofold aspect of the self-consciousness and self-awareness of man, since he was more dialectical, than is K. Barth.
Another Approach To Man
Man can be perceived, as an object, as one of the objects in a world of objects. And then he can be investigated by the anthropological sciences– by biology, sociology, psychology. Under suchlike an approach to man it is possible to investigate only this or some other side of man, but the integrally whole man, in his depths and in his inner existence, remains elusive. There is another approach to man. Man is conscious of himself likewise as a subject and foremost of all, as a subject. The mysteries about man are revealed within the subject, within the inner human existence. In objectivisation, in the hurling of man out into the objective world the mystery of man is obscured, and he realizes about himself only this, that he is alienated from his inner human existence. Man does not belong wholly to the objective world, he possesses his own personal world, his own world outside the world, his own destiny incommensurate with objective nature. Man, as an integral being, does not belong to the natural hierarchy and cannot be constituted within it. Man, as subject, is act, he is a striving. In the subject is revealed the inwardly transpiring creative activity of man. Both alike mistaken is the anthropology that is optimistic, and the anthropology that is pessimistic. Man is something base and yet high, he is as nothing and yet great. Human nature is polarized. And if something be affirmed in man at the one pole, then this is compensated for by the affirmation of the opposite at the other pole.
The Enigma Of Man
The enigma of man posits not only the problem of an anthropologic philosophy, but also the problem of anthropologism or the anthropocentrism of every philosophy. Philosophy is anthropocentric, but man himself is not anthropocentric. This is a basic truth of existential philosophy in my estimation. I define existential philosophy as the opposite to a philosophy of objectification. Within the existential subject is revealed the mystery of being. Only within human existence and through human existence is there possible the cognition of being. The cognition of being is impossible through the object, through the general concepts, ascribed to objects. This consciousness is the greatest conquest of philosophy. It might be said paradoxically, that only the subjective is objectively a matter, whereas the objective is subjectively a matter. God created only subjects, objects however are created by the subject. Kant expresses this in regard to his distinction between the thing-in-itself and the appearance, but he uses the poor expression “thing-in-itself”, which renders itself obscure for experience and knowledge. But authentically existential is Kant’s “realm of freedom” in contrast to the “realm of nature”, i.e. objectivization in my terminology.
The Obverse Side Of The Truth “Man Is Created In The Image And Likeness Of God”
Greek philosophy taught, that being is correlative to the laws of reason. The reason can know being, in that being corresponds to it, reason has it hidden within itself. But this is only a partial truth, easily sought out. But there is a truth more profound. Being corresponds to an integral humanness, being — is humanized, God — is humanized. And only therein is possible the cognition of being, the cognition of God. Without a correspondence to the human, the cognition of the very depths of being would be impossible. This is the obverse side of that truth, that man is created in the image and likeness of God.
In the anthropomorphic representations about God this truth is affirmed often in a crude and unrefined form. Existential philosophy is based upon the humanistic theory of cognition, which ought to be deepened to the extent of being a theory of cognition of the theandric, the God-manly. The human-formliness of being and God is from below an evident truth, which from above reveals itself, as the creation by God of man in His own image and likeness. Man — is a microcosm and a microtheos. God is a microanthropos.
The humanness of God is a specific revelation of Christianity, setting it apart from all other religions. Christianity — is the religion of God-manhood. L. Feuerbach has great significance for anthropology, and he was the greatest atheistic philosopher of Europe. In Feuerbach’s passing over from abstract idealism to anthropologism there was a great deal of truth. It was necessary to pass over from the idealism of Hegel to the concrete actuality.
Feuerbach was a dialectical moment within the development of a concrete existential philosophy. He posited the problem of man at the centre of philosophy and affirmed the humanness of philosophy. He wanted a turnaround to the concrete man. He was searching not for the object, but for the “thou”. He taught that man created God in accord with his own image and likeness, in accord with the image and likeness of his higher nature. This was the Christian truth turned inside out. To the end there remained in him a Christian theology, almost mystical.
European thought had to pass through Feuerbach, in order to discover an anthropological philosophy, which German Idealism was in no condition to reveal. But it cannot be halted at Feuerbach. The humanness or human-formliness of God is the obverse side of the Divineness or God-formliness of man. On either side of this is however the God-manly truth. But it is denied by the Thomist anthropology and by the Barthian anthropology, and also by the monistic humanist anthropology. Alien to Western Christian thought is the idea of God-manhood (theoandrism), which was given emphasis by the Russian Christian thought of the XIX and XX Centuries. The mystery of God-manhood is simultaneously contrary to both monism and dualism, and in it only can there be rooted the Christian anthropology.
Monism And Dualism
The problem of man can be integrally posited and resolved only in light of the idea of God-manhood. Even within Christianity it is only with difficulty that the fullness of the Divine-human truth is accommodated. Naturalistic pondering has readily tended either towards monism, in which the one nature swallowed up the other, or towards dualism, under which God and man were completely cut off and separated by an abyss. The stifling of man, conscious of himself as a being fallen and sinful, can at the same time assume the form of both monism and dualism.
Calvin was able simultaneously to interpret the limits dualistically and the limits monistically. Humanist anthropology, in acknowledging man as a self-sufficient being, was a naturalist reaction against the stifling of man in the traditional Christian consciousness. Man was debased, as a sinful being. And this has often produced suchlike an impression, that man in general is a degraded being. Not only from the sinfulness of man, but from the very fact of his creatureliness they deduced that the self-consciousness of man should be suppressed and debased.
And from this, that man was created by God and does not possess in himself his own foundation, they made the inference not about the greatness of the creature, but about its nothingness. Not infrequently is it heard, and the conclusion made, from both Christian theologians and simple pious people also, that God does not love man and does not want, that the purely human should be affirmed, He wants instead the abasement of man. And thus man abases himself, reflecting his own fallenness, and periodically he rises up against this suppression and abasement in proud self-exaltation. In both cases he loses the balance and does not attain to an authentic self-consciousness.
In the dominant forms of the Christian consciousness of man, there was acknowledged exclusively a being to be saved, and not a creative being. But the Christian anthropology always taught, that man is created in his image and likeness to God. From the Eastern Teachers of the Church, St. Gregory of Nyssa did the most with anthropology, and he understands man first of all as in the image and likeness of God. This idea was quite less developed in the West. There was the anthropology of Augustine, and from this anthropology primarily and simultaneously was defined both the Catholic and the Protestant understanding of man, — almost exclusively this was an anthropology of sin and the saving by grace.
The Likeness Of Man To The Creator
From the teaching about the image of God in man, essentially, there was never made the ultimate conclusions. There were attempts to reveal within man features of the image and likeness of God: they discerned these features in the reason and in this they followed upon Greek philosophy, they revealed within the freedom that which moreover was connected with Christianity, they revealed in general these features within the spirituality of man. But never did they reveal the image of God within the creative nature of man, in the likeness of man to the Creator. This signifies a crossover to a completely different self-consciousness, the surmounting of the suppression and degradation. In the Scholastic anthropology, in Thomism, man does not appear as a creator, he is of a second-rate intellect, insignificant. It is curious, that in the rebirth of Christian Protestant thought in the XX Century, in the dialectical theology of K. Barth, man is rendered a nullity, transformed into nothing, between God and man there opens up an abyss and in actual fact God-manhood becomes incomprehensible. The God-manhood of Christ remains sundered and for naught. But the God-manhood of Christ bears with it also the truth about the God-manness of the human person.
The Creative Act Of Man
Man is a being capable of rising up above himself, and this rising up above himself, this transcending of himself, this going out beyond the encircling limitations of his own self, — is a creative act of man. In creativity especially man surmounts himself, creativity is not a self-affirmation, but rather a self-overcoming, it is ecstatic. I have already mentioned, that man as subject is act. M. Scheler likewise defines the human person, as a concrete unity of acts.
But the mistake of M. Scheler was in this, that he regarded spirit as passive, and life as active. Actually the reverse is true, spirit is active, and life passive. But the active can only be termed creative act. The very least act of man is creative and in it is created something not formerly existing in the world. Every live and warm relationship of man to man is the creativity of new life. And it is particularly in creativity, that man is in the greatest likeness to the Creator. Every act of love is a creative act. Non-creative activity is however essentially passive. Man can produce the impressions of great activity, he can make very active gestures, he can spread round about him loud motions and together with this all the while be passive, he can find himself in the grip of the powers and passions possessing him. The creative act is always the dominion of spirit over nature and over soul and it presupposes freedom. The creative act cannot be explained from nature, it is explicable but from freedom, it is always accompanied by freedom, which is not determined by any sort of nature, it is not determined by any sort of being. Freedom is prior to being, pre-being, it has its source not in being, but in non-being.
The Problem Of Person
Creativity is a creativity from out of freedom, i.e. it includes in itself nothing of a determinising element, and it introduces also something new. They sometimes object to the possibility for man to be a creator on this basis, that man is a being that is sick and divided and impaired by sin. This argument does not have any strength to it. First of all, it would be completely correct likewise to say, that this sick, sinful, divided being is incapable not only of creativity, but also of salvation. The possibility of salvation is grounded in the grace sent to man. But for creativity also grace is also sent to man, it is given to him as gifts, genius and talent, and he hearkens herein to the inner calling of God. It might moreover be said, that man creates, especially so, because he is a being sick, divided, and of itself insufficient.
Creativity is similar to the Platonic Eros, it has its own source not only in wealth and abundance, but also in dearth and insufficiency. Creativity is one of the ways of the healing of the sick existence of man. In creativity is surmounted his dividedness. In the creative act man goes out beyond himself, he ceases to be absorbed by himself and to rend at himself. Man cannot define himself only in relation to the world and other people. From suchlike, he would not be able to find in himself the strength to lift himself up over the surrounding world and would be but its slave.
Man ought to define himself first of all in relation to the source of his excelling, in the relationship to God. Only in turning to God does he find his own image, raising him up over the surrounding natural world. And then only does he find in himself the power to be a creator within the world. They might say, that man would be a creator even then, when he has denied God. This is a question of the makeup of his consciousness, sometimes very superficial. The capacity of man to raise himself up over the natural world, and over himself, to be a creator, depends upon facts more deep, than the human faith in God, than the human acknowledgement of God, — it is dependent upon the existence of God. This always it is proper to keep in mind. The fundamental problem of anthropology is the problem of person, to which also I shall move on to.
If man were only an individual, then he would not raise himself up over the natural world. The individuum is a naturalistic, and first of all a biological, category. The individuum is indivisible, an atom. All the things of a relatively organized arrangement, distinguishing them from the surrounding world, like a pencil, a chair, a clock, a precious stone, etc, can be termed individuums. The individuum is part of a genera and is subordinate to the genera. Biologically one proceeds from the loins of natural life. The individuum is likewise a sociological category and in this capacity one is subordinate to society, one is part of society, an atom of the social whole.
From the sociological point of view the human person, conceived of as an individuum, is presented as part of society and is indeed a very small part. The individuum retains its own relative autonomy, but all the same it dwells within the loins of the genus and society, it is compelled to consider itself as a part, which though it can revolt against the whole cannot set itself opposite to it, as an whole in itself.
Person signifies something completely other. Person is of the category of spirit, and not nature, it is not subordinate either to nature or to society. Person is not at all part of nature or of society, and it cannot be thought of, as a part in relation to some sort of the whole. From the point of view of existential philosophy, from the point of view of man, as existential centre, person is not at all part of society. On the contrary, society is part of the person, merely its social side. Person is likewise not part of the world, of the cosmos; on the contrary, cosmos is part of the person.
The human person is an essence both social and cosmic, i.e. it possesses a social and a cosmic side, a social and a cosmic makeup, but therein particularly it is impossible to think of the human person, as a part in relationship to a social or cosmic whole. Man is a microcosm. Person is a whole, it cannot be a part. This is a basic definition of person, though it be impossible to give any one definition of person, for it is possible to give an whole series of definitions of person from its various sides. The person as whole is not subordinated to any other whole, it is outside the relationships of genus and individual. Person ought to be thought of not as subordination to the genus, but in a correlation and community with other persons, with the world and with God. The person is not at all of nature and to it there can be ascribed no sort of categories, relating to nature.
Person cannot at all be defined as substance. The understanding of person, as of a substance, is a naturalization of person. Person is rooted within the spiritual world, it does not belong to the natural hierarchy and cannot be jumbled in together with it. It is impossible to think of the spiritual world, as part of the hierarchical cosmic system. The teachings of Thomas Aquinas are a clear example of the understanding of the human person, as a step within hierarchical cosmic system.
The human person occupies a middle rung betwixt animals and angels. But this is a naturalistic understanding. It must moreover be said, that Thomism makes a distinction between the person and the individuum. For existential philosophy, the human person has its own unique extra-natural existence, though in it there is a natural makeup. Person is contrary to thing, contrary to the world of objects, it is an active subject, an existential centre. And this is only because the human person is non-dependent on the realm of Caesar. It possesses an axiological, a valuative character. To become person is the task of man. To define someone as a person, is a positive evaluation of a man. The person is not begotten of one’s parents, as is the individuum, it is created by God and creates itself and it is God’s idea about every person.
Person Is A Unity Of Destiny
Person can be characterised by an entire series of signs, which between them are connected. Person is the unchanging amidst change. The subject of change remains one and the same person. For the person it is destructive, if it chills down, becomes stunted in its developement, does not grow nor become enriched, does not create new life.
And likewise disastrous for it is, if the change in it is a betrayal, if it ceases to be itself, if it becomes impossible anymore to recognize the human person. This is a theme of Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt”. Person is a unity of destiny. This is its basic definition. Together with this, person is unity in multiplicity. It cannot be comprised of parts. It has a complexly manifold makeup. But the whole in it comes before its parts. The entire spirit-soul-bodily composition of man presents itself as an unique subject. It is essential for person, that it presupposes the existence of the supra-personal, that which surpasses it and to which it raises itself in its realization. Person is not, if there be no being standing higher than it. Then there is only the individuum, subordinate to the genus and to society, and then nature would stand higher than man and he would be but part of it. Person can contain within itself a universal content and only person possesses this capacity. Nothing objective can contain universal content, for it is always partialized.
There must be made a deep-rooted distinction between the universal and the general. The general is an abstraction and does not have an existence. The universal however is concrete and does possess existence. Person accommodates within itself not the general, but the universal, the supra-personal. The general, the abstracted idea, always denotes an intellectual culture of the idol and idolatry, of making person its own tool-implement and means. Such things as statism, nationalism, scientism, communism, etc, are always a transforming of person into a means and a tool.
But this is never done by God. For God the human person is an end, and not a means. The general is an impoverishment, whereas the universal is an enrichment of the life of the person. The definition of man, as a rational being, makes of him an implement-tool of the impersonal reason, it is disadvantageous for person and does not discern its existential centre. Person possesses a propensity of feelings for suffering and for joy.
An Activity Of Spirit
Person can be conceived of only as act, it is contrary to passivity, it always signifies a creative resistance. Act always is creative act, for passivity is not, as has already been said, a creative act. Act cannot be a mere repetition; it always bears within it something new. In the act always there is an excelling of freedom, which also bears forth this something new. Creative act is always connected with the depths of the person. Person is creativity.
And as was already said, on the surface man can produce the impressions of great activity, he can make very active gestures, very loud motions even within, but if, in his depths be passive, he can altogether lose his personness. We often observe this in mass movements, both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, in the pogroms, in the appearances of fanaticism and zealotry.
Genuine activity, defining the person, is activity of spirit. Without inner freedom, activity is rendered into passiveness of spirit, an inner determinism. Obsession, serving as a medium can produce the impression of activity, but in it there is no genuine act nor person. Person is resistance, resistance to the determinism of society and nature, an heroic struggle for self-definition from within. Person possesses a volitional core, in which every stirring is defined from within, and not from without. Person is contrary to determinism.
Person is pain. The heroic struggle for the realization of person is painful. It is possible to flee pain, in having forsaken to be a person. And man too often does this. To be a person, to be free is not easy, but is difficult rather, a burden, which man ought to bear. From man ever and again they demand a renouncing of person, a renouncing of freedom, and for this they promise him an alleviating of his life. They demand from him, that he subject himself to the determinism of society and nature. With this is connected the tragedy of life.
No man can consider himself a completed person. Person is not something completed, it has to realize itself, this is the great task put to man, the task to realise the image and likeness of God, to accommodate within oneself in the individual form the universal, the plenitude. Person creates itself throughout the expanse of the whole of human life.
Person is not self-sufficient, it cannot be satisfied with itself. It always presupposes the existence of other persons, the emergence from oneself to the other. Therein exists the opposition between person and egocentrism. Egocentrism, the immersion in one’s own “I” and the beholding of everything exclusively from the point of view of this “I”, the referring of everything to it, destroys the person. The realisation of person presupposes the seeing of other persons. Egocentrism however shatters the function of reality in man. Person presupposes diversity, the setting of a variety of persons, i.e. seeing realities in their true light.
Solipcism, the affirming that nothing exists besides my “I” and that everything only is my “I”, is a denial of person. Person presupposes sacrifice, but it is impossible to sacrifice the person. It is possible to sacrifice one’s life and a man sometimes ought to sacrifice his life, but no one has the right to renounce his own person, everyone ought to in-sacrifice and through-sacrifice remain to the end a person.
To renounce one’s own person is impossible, since this would signify a renouncing of God’s idea about man, in effect the non-realizing of God’s intent. It is not necessary for person to be renounced, as an impersonalism might imagine, in regarding the person as a limitation, but rather there should be renounced the hardened selfness in stirring the person to unfold itself. In the creative act of man, which is the realization of person, there ought to occur a sacrificial pouring off of selfness, in defining a man from other people, from the world and from God. Man is a being in himself insufficient, dissatisfied but surmounting himself by his life in the most remarkable acts.
Person is forged out in this creative self-definition. It always presupposes the vocation, the singular and unrepeated calling of each one. It follows an inner voice, calling it to realize its own task in life. Man only then is a person, when he follows this inner voice, rather than external influences. Vocation always bears an individual character. And no one other can decide the question about the vocation of a given man.
Person possesses a vocation, in that it is called to creativity. Creativity however is always an individual matter. The realisation of person presupposes ascesis (vocab: strict self-discipline or self- control, as for religious or meditative purposes). But it is impossible to conceive of ascesis as an end, as something hostile to the world and to life. Ascesis is but a means, a drilled work-out, a concentration of inner powers. Person presupposes ascesis in that it is an intensifying and a resistance, a non-accord to be defined by nature or society. The attainment of an inner self-definition demands ascesis. But ascesis easily degenerates, it becomes transformed into an end-in-itself, so as to embitter the heart of man, and make him ill-disposed towards life. And then it becomes hostile towards man and the person. The needs for ascesis is not in denying the creativity of man, but for this, to realize this creativity.
Person is diverse yet unified, unrepeatable, original, not the same as others. Person is the exception, and not the rule. We stand afront a paradoxical combination of opposites: of the personal and the supra-personal, of the finite and the infinite, of the unchanging and the changing, of freedom and of fate. Ultimately, there is a fundamental antinomy, connected with the person. Person ought the more to realize itself and no one can say of themself, that they are already fully a person. But for person to be able creatively to realize itself, it ought already to be, it must be this active subject, which realizes itself. This creative act moreover is connected with the creative act in general. The creative act realizes the new, something not formerly in the world. But it presupposes the creative subject, in which is given the possibility of self-determination and self-uplifting within creativity of the formerly non-extant. To be a person is difficult, to be free means to take upon oneself a burden. The easiest thing of all would be to renounce the person and to renounce freedom, to live under determinism, under authority.