Plato, part 3

plato2This time, Plato’s gaze is directed outwardly,
expressing the firm resolve to refashion the world.

(Continued from part 2.)

Plato is a spiritual writer. Perhaps that, more than his philosophy, explains his lasting role in history. He had a profound influence on world religion, and in a certain sense could be called the father of religious thought. At the very least, one could call him the first religious thinker — the priests of Leviticus don’t quite fit that description. Continue reading

Plato, part 2

SONY DSCMosaic believed to depict Plato’s Academy.
Found in the ruins of Pompeii.

(Continued from part 1.)

Plato never wrote out a full statement of his philosophy in any one place, and the literary aspect of his work makes it difficult to identify what that philosophy even was. In that respect, Losev did a great service just by concisely explaining it. I will therefore turn the floor over to him: Continue reading

Alexei Losev, “Plato” (1977)

platoBelieved to have been sculpted during Plato’s lifetime.
A portrait of cold, distant superiority.

It is easy to form a misleading impression of Plato. An American’s first encounter with Plato usually occurs in a freshman philosophy class; the assigned reading is almost invariably “The Republic,” which is presented as primarily a study of politics, a utopian tract describing the “perfect society” by direct analogy with works by social and ideological thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Plato’s take on it is supposed to be more radical and shocking, since he dares to criticize democracy, but then, clearly the most compelling way to prove the superiority of contemporary 21st-century society is by comparing it to Athens in 400 BC. Continue reading

Sergei Rachmaninov, part 2

rachmaninovconcertAt a concert during the late 1930s.

(Conclusion. Continued from part 1.)

St. Petersburg was decimated almost immediately after the Revolution, even before any organized revolutionary terror had time to start. The complex social roles that comprise any modern civilization become death sentences for their holders in the instant when the infrastructure sustaining them disappears. Lenin himself wrote to other revolutionary leaders, in May 1918, “Petrograd is in an unprecedentedly catastrophic situation. There is no bread. The last remaining potato flour and rusks are being distributed to the populace. The Red capital is on the brink of death by starvation.” The city was ravaged by epidemics of diseases like typhus, which by the early 20th century were becoming a thing of the past in major urban areas. Continue reading

Lyudmila Kovaleva-Ogorodnova, “Sergei Rachmaninov” (2015)

rachmaninovFor more photographs, see also,
the best Rachmaninov resource on the Internet.

We lead ourselves to believe that our time is somehow unique in how fast it moves — that the current pace of technological and societal “progress” has no precedent in any previous time period. This view artificially separates us from the past history of culture, by default implying that the latter has nothing relevant to say to us, and consequently should be forgotten. Continue reading

Fr. Seraphim (Rose), part 8

Fr. Seraphim (Rose) serving the Paschal Liturgy.

(Continued from part 7.)

In 1977, Fr. Seraphim was ordained a priest. This dramatically changed the focus of his life — he no longer had much time to theorize about the apocalypse or to partake of silent contemplation, but now devoted himself to the increasing numbers of pilgrims and converts that proved willing to come to remote Platina. He continued to work on The Orthodox Word, but never got a chance to finish Genesis, Creation, and Early Man, and did not write any other books beyond the three that we have examined. Continue reading

Fr. Seraphim (Rose), “Genesis, Creation, and Early Man” (2000)

genesis“Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.”

(Continued from part 6.)

Fr. Seraphim’s last major polemical work deals with the theory of evolution. If you have been with us this long, surely you can guess what his stance was on this issue; if not, this should clear up any doubt: “Evolution would never have been thought of by men who believe in the God Whom Orthodox Christians worship.” (Genesis, 485) You are free to walk away, if you wish.

Genesis, Creation, and Early Man could have been Fr. Seraphim’s most controversial, even best-selling book, but he never truly finished it. It was published posthumously. His text is pieced together from tape recordings, outlines, letters, and notes written at different times. Although the total length is rather imposing — over 1000 pages — about half of that consists of commentary and additional arguments by Fr. Damascene, and the remainder tends to repeat the same points, since originally they were made at different times to different people. Continue reading