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The Spirit of Revolt: Nikolai Berdiaev's Existential Gnosticism
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is a study of the Russian religious philosopher Nikolai Berdiaev (1874-1948). The aim of the thesis is to re-examine the alleged gnostic subtext in Berdiaev’s thought by exploring a number of interrelated motifs in his world outlook, teaching on man and theory of knowledge. The method employed is a close reading of Berdiaev's philosophical and autobiographical writings. In order to establish which motifs should be examined, how they are to be understood and the manner in which they are interconnected, a scrutiny is made of Hans Jonas’s phenomenological elucidation of ancient Gnosticism. A synthetic conception labelled Jonasian Gnosticism is proposed as the interpretive framework, in order to provide a unitary and consistent heuristic tool with which to investigate the topic, and to distinguish the specific proposed representation of Gnosticism from other existing ones. A chapter is devoted to an analysis of the concept of gnosis as employed by Berdiaev. Another key notion taken from the Jonasian framework is that of demundanization, which denotes among other things a rejectionary attitude towards the world grounded in a negative experience of evil and suffering. Varieties of dualism as well as Berdiaev’s doctrine of the human spirit’s otherworldly origin and non-belonging in the world, constitute other issues that are examined. In addition, both Berdiaev’s assessment of historical Gnosticism and his view of a gnostic return in modern times are examined. The study demonstrates the complexity of Berdiaev’s attitude towards the classic Gnostics, and his attempt to denounce Gnosticism while at the same time making a case for a Christian gnosis. The results suggest both affinities and divergences in the relationship between Berdiaev’s thought and Jonasian Gnosticism. Even though the doctrinal standpoints diverge on crucial points, it is argued that a suggestive affinity nevertheless exists in the shared existential attitude towards self and world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2010. , 250 p.
Stockholm Slavic studies, ISSN 0585-3575 ; 39
Keyword [en]
Russian philosophy, Berdyaev, Berdiaev, Hans Jonas, Russian religious philosophy, gnosticism, gnosis, existentialism, gnostic return
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
Slavic Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-47137ISBN: 978-91-86071-60-8OAI: diva2:376017
Public defence
2011-01-15, hörsal 7, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2010-12-22 Created: 2010-11-29 Last updated: 2015-06-16Bibliographically approved

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Linde, Fabian
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