Let me intoduce here one more jewel of Russian Sprituality and culture.
Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900) one of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century, was the founder of a tradition of Russian spirituality that brought together philosophy, mysticism, and theology with a powerful social message. A close friend of Dostoevsky, a Platonist, and a gnostic visionary, Solovyov was a prophet, having been granted three visions of Sophia, Divine Wisdom. He was also a poet and a profoundly Christian metaphysicist. His most important works include Lectures on Divine Humanity; The Justification of the Good; and War, Progress, and the End of History.
Soloviev had an intense connection to the Divine in the form of the feminine archetype of Sophia or Holy Wisdom. His writings had a strong influence on Russian Symbolist poetry and on Russian spirituality in general in the early 20th century.
Soloviev was born into the elite of the intelligentsia. His father was a prominent history professor at Moscow University and his mother was Ukrainian and related to the philosopher Hrihoriy Skovoroda. He was a gifted child and read extensively. When he was nine years old, in 1862, he had his first vision of Sophia (Divine Feminine), during an Orthodox church service. She appeared as a beautiful woman–“an image so radiant and powerful that he would come to pursue its meaning throughout his adult life.”
At the age of 13, Solovyov renounced the Orthodox Church and began a troubled exploration of the philosophies of materialism and nihilism. He initially studied natural history and biology at university, but his grades began to slip. He switched to studies in history and philosophy. Sometime around the age of 20, he “reconverted” to the Orthodox Church, and became a lay theological student and lecturer. He later traveled to London to do research among the religious and spiritual texts at the British Museum.
It was then, while studying in the British Museum, that Solovyov had his second encounter with Sophia, where he saw only her face. One day, when he was studying in the British Museum reading room, he had his second vision of her. This is his poem that records the event that was to suddenly changed the course of his life:
I said to her: O, blossom of a deity!
You’re here, I sense it–why haven’t you revealed
Yourself to my eyes since childhood years?
And no sooner had I thought this prayer
Than everything was filled with a golden azure,
And before me she shined once more–
But only her face–it alone. . . .
I said to her: your face has appeared,
But I want to have a look at all of you. . . .
“Be in Egypt!” a voice within me sounded.
To Paris! and a vapor carried me south.
My feelings didn’t even struggle with my reason:
Reason kept silent like an idiot. (Groberg, “Eternal Feminine,” 81)
He went to Egypt and Sophia once again appeared to him in the desert at dawn. This time she revealed herself to him fully, completely transforming him. She also showed him a vision of the Earth transfigured, all of nature, all things, unified within her form as the Divine Feminine.
“The tall thin Soloviev set out on foot across the desert for Thebes, dressed in his black frock coat and tall Victorian top hat. He apparently terrified a group of Bedouins who, he claimed, mistook him for a demon and captured him. They released him and he spent the night in the desert. He awoke to the scent of roses and had his third and last vision of Sophia:
And in the purple of the heaven’s splendor,
With eyes filled with an azure fire,
You looked like the first radiance
Of a universal and creative day. . . .
I saw everything, and everything was one thing only–
A single image of female beauty. . .
The infinite fit within its dimensions:
Before me, in me–were you alone.
O, radiant woman! In you I am not deceived:
In the desert I saw all of you. . .
Those roses will not wither in my soul wherever life’s wave may speed.
Only an instant! The vision concealed itself–
And the sun’s orb rose in the sky.
The desert was silent.
My soul was praying,
And the ringing of church bells didn’t cease in it. (Groberg, “Eternal Feminine,” 82-82)
It was this third and last vision of Sophia in 1876 that profoundly altered Soloviev and his philosophy. He regarded the first two visions as preparations for the ultimate vision in the desert. He considered himself a changed man.”
After his return to Russia, Solovyov briefly taught philosophy at Moscow University, but soon left because he disliked university politics. He then moved to St. Petersberg where he wrote and taught.
Solovyov taught an engaged Christianity of service and activism, in which the binding power of Sophia — the Mother/Wisdom/Love nature of God — could heal the world.
For Solovyov art could be a modern form of prophecy to bring greater awareness of this mystical unity to humanity.