Thoughts on Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
Throughout the past year I have been fascinated with Russian Philosophy, Theology and Literature. This new realm has opened my eyes to the vast array of beautiful artistic and intellectual expression I never imagined existed. After reading some books over the past year I stumbled across the enigma of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov. He has evoked extreme reactions from various people within contemporary Orthodoxy. Fr. George Florovsky has criticized him, and somewhat rightly so, as lacking any Christology within his dogmatic writings. What's worse is that he is considered one of the most important proponents of Sophiology, (what appears to me as) a loosely defined concept, something derivative of Parmenides 'being,' a synthesis of reactionary Russian philosophy and Hegelian idealism. In an introduction to one of his articles in a book edited by Alexander Schmemann it reads: "His theological teaching, however, raised violent objections, both inside and outside the Institute [St. Sergius, Paris]. Some of his doctrines were condemned as heretical by synods of bishops in Moscow and in Yugoslavia, and his theological system as such has scarcely had any followers among Orthodox Theologians." (Ultimate Questions: An Anthology of Modern Russian Religious Thought
, p. 298.) Strangely enough, what exactly Sophiology is and what Fr. Bulgakov's 'heretical ideas' are, are somewhat obscure to say the least. I have attempted to sift through the voluminous corpus of literature on Sophiology to no avail. Although, I admit, partly due to time constraints and a general frustration with numerous ambiguous concepts, I haven’t put the time really needed into such an endeavor. Some interesting books and articles are: The Bride and the Lamb
and Sophia, the Wisdom of God: An Outline of Sophiology
, both by Fr. Bulgakov, Dc. Dr. John Chryssavgis' article on Sophiology in Diakonia
2001, and Frederick Copleston's book Russian Religious Philosophy
. The founder of Sophiology is widely considered to be Vladimir Soloviev who happens to be a controversial figure himself (having communed with Catholics and claiming to have mystical visions of the anthropomorphized Sophia in the British Museum and elsewhere). Nevertheless surrounding all this strangeness Fr. Bulgakov does have his admirers, some who claim that he even radiated with uncreated light when he died. I must also confess that I found his "history of a conversion," extracts of which appear in History of Russian Philosophy
by Nicholas Lossky, to be quite inspiring. Does anyone have any input on all of this Bulgakovian confusion? It's hard enough understanding what the Church has laid down as dogma, let alone those places where she has 'passed over in silence' to use a Wittgensteinian phrase. Comments? Thought? Further elucidation?