The above warning was given to me when I first met Orthodoxy in 1986. Today [2009] it is even more perilous, even more difficult to find the Royal Path. For one thing there is a far greater abundance of misinformation. And many materials are missing, and other materials are being rapidly rewritten. For another thing there are fewer than ever guides remaining on the Royal Path, especially who speak English. Hopefully this website will be a place where Newcomers to the Faith can keep at least one foot on solid ground, while they are "exploring."

blog owner: Joanna Higginbotham


jurisdiction: ROCA under Vladyka Agafangel

who did not submit to the RocorMP union in 2007


18 February 2018

Correspondence from a reader - The Religious Thought of Vladimir Solovyov

Below is an email  from a blog reader copied here with only minor edits made by the writer.  The email is part of a conversation that started with the subject of a research paper done by an independent team on the true history of the OCA autocephaly.  http://rocorhistoryhtm.blogspot.com  Also I've included a short article written by the same writer on the westernized philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov.  His conclusion serves as a succinct danger warning for those wanting to follow the Royal Path.  All of this is right in line with the perspective of the old ROCOR and Fr. Seraphim Rose. ~jh


Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 3:58 PM
Hello Joanna,

By way of background, I became a convert to the Eastern Orthodox faith about six years ago, converting from Roman Catholicism. 

About a year ago, I had the time to study the period in Russian history known as the Russian Religious Renaissance (late 19th to early 20th century).  During that time, there was this weird religious philosopher, Vladimir Solovyov, who had a great influence on the so-called "Paris School” of theology which developed in the diaspora after the revolution.  Some of the Russian theologians got totally off base because of Solovyov.  The more conservative theologians from this time period advocated a return to the Patristics and traditional sources of Orthodox theology.  Two examples of the more conservative theologians were Georges Florovsky and Vladimir Lossky.  My conclusion is that Solovyov was an advocate for Roman Catholicism who sowed a lot of confusion among the Russian diaspora.  One of his books, Russia and the Universal Church, is basically a treatise on Roman Catholic ecclesiology translated into Russian.

Here are two wiki articles about these topics:

Here is a strange story for you.  For several years, I was floundering in the Roman Catholic faith and trying to find my way.  I stayed for a year in the 1980’s at a Catholic religious community called Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario.  The foundress was a Russian baroness who was baptized as Russian Orthodox but had Polish ancestry and became a Roman Catholic in the 1920’s.  Her name was Catherine de Hueck Doherty.  There is a priest from Madonna House who recently wrote some articles about Catherine Doherty’s connection to Solovyov and the Russian Religious Rennassaince. 

This article really helped me to understand some of the weirdness and strange ideas that I experienced at that community.  The foundress was a Russian woman promoting the idea that the Russian Orthodox should submit to the the Roman Pope.  She believed the delusion that the only issue separating Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxoy is the Papacy.  She also believed that Uniatism was a bridge for bringing the Orthodox “back to Rome”.  All of these ideas came from Vladimir Solovyov. 

Now comes the coincidence.  A couple of days ago, I came across a quotation from Fr. Seraphim regarding Catherine De Hueck Doherty.  Father Seraphim said something to the effect. "There is also a lady, Catherine de Hueck Doherty (in fact, she was born in Russia and became a Roman Catholic), who writes books about poustinia, the desert life, and molchanie, the silent life, and all these other things which she tries to put into daily life like you would have some fashion for a new candy. This, of course, is very unserious and is a very tragic sign of our times."*    This was a total vindication for me - I felt very relieved to hear those words because I had gotten mentally depressed during my year working at that community.  I always knew something was off with these people but I never understand their thinking until I made the connection between Catherine de Hueck Doherty and Solovyov.  And now, I found Fr. Seraphim’s words.  It was as though he was speaking to me. 

In the last few weeks, it seems as though Fr. Serpahim Rose has come into my consciousness and I intuitively began to realize his saintliness, wisdom and concern for the Orthodox converts in North America.  I now have his icon in my prayer corner and have been saying an akathist to ask his intercession to help me find my home in the Orthodox world of North America - to find the true Orthodox faith and to avoid the pitfalls of ecumenism, modernism and Western influences.  It seems as though Fr. Serpahim found me and reached out to me.  I have felt adrift recently and am very glad that he is helping me navigate through these choppy waters.  Through his help, I have come to believe that the root of ecumenism is a false ecclesiology and that we Orthodox need to study and hold onto the traditional Patristic teaching on the Church and how it is constituted.  The ecumenists are trying to water down the traditional Orthodox Ecclesiology though ambiguity and are subtly introducing a new inclusivist Ecclesiology that is not Orthodox. 

All I can tell you is that I have had to go through a lot of suffering before finding my way into the Orthodox faith.  In a few weeks weeks, I will celebrate six years as a convert to the Orthodox faith.  The time that I spent at Madonna House was a low point for me.  I have forgiven them and moved on but it was a beautiful surprise to read Fr. Seraphim’s opinion of their foundress.  It will take some time to find my home in the Orthodox world of North America.  I am a little bit scared because of the many different groups that have developed in the Russian and Greek traditions.  As you suggested, it makes sense for a person to take their time and look around.  Anyways, I thank you for corresponding with me over the past few days.  It has been helpful to me.

Best wishes,

A reader



The Religious Thought of Vladimir Solovyov 

Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (1853-1900) was a Russian religious philosopher of the late 19th century whose thought had a profound influence on many Russian thinkers of the early twentieth century, especially Segius N. Bulgakov and Pavel Florensky.1  Solovyov’s main influence on theology can be summed up as Sophiology or Sophianism, Ecumenism and the Social Gospel.  Although Solovyov’s writings are usually termed religious philosophy; his thought was speculative, syncretic and has been described as Gnosticism.2  In addition to his philosophical base, Solovyov was also known to have studied Kabbalism, occult practices such as seances,3 and theosophy4

1. Solovyov and Sophiology 

One of the most noteworthy ideas of Solovyov was his religious doctrine of Sophiology.  For Solovyov, Sophia was the personification of Divine Wisdom or the Divine Feminine principle.  Some later theolgians began to describe Sophia as the ousia (essence) by virtue of which the the three hypostases of the Trinity are held together in unity.  Solovyov’s influence on Sergius N. Bulgakov resulted in some of Bulgakov’s writings being condemned as heretical in 1935 by the Bishop’s Council of ROCOR.  The heresy was named Sophianism.

There was a so-called “mystical” element in Solovyov’s writings; he claimed to have had three mystical visions of the woman Sophia, the Incarnate Wisdom of God.  For Solovyov, Sophia was his muse.  In his poem, “Three Meetings,” he describes his visions of a beautiful woman, the divine feminine, Wisdom incarnate—Sophia—and her role in his philosophy of total unity. 5  The great Russian poet Alexander Blok, inspired by Solovyov, also wrote poetry dedicated to Sophia. 

2. Solovyov and Ecumenism

Another important aspect of Solovyov’s religious philosophy is ecumenism. The ecumenism of Solovyov has become very attractive to Roman Catholics and many books and articles allude to this aspect of his writings.6  Karl Stern considered Solovyov to be one of the precursors of modern ecumenical thought.7  Solovyov’s theocratic vision was that of a Russian nation integrated into the Roman Catholic Church.8  He considered the Russian Orthodox Church to be a severed branch of the Universal Church headed by the Pope.  This ecclesiology is known as the Branch Theory.  In his book, Russia and the Universal Church, Solovyov calls the Roman Pontiff, the wonder-working icon of Christian unity.9  However, it is evident that the ecumenism that Solovyov advocates is actually Uniatism i.e. people of Orthodox tradition joining the Roman Catholic Church while keeping their Eastern Christian rituals and rules.

3. Solovyov and the Social Gospel

Pavel Florensky once said, “Solovyov's whole creative career may be understood as a quest for social justice”.10  According to Solovyov, the Christian's task is to regenerate and transform social institutions and make them compatible with the Kingdom of God.11  Although such intentions are good, there is a modernist tendency to frame the whole of the Christian message in social justice terms.  Like many of his contemporaries, Solovyov was a committed socialist in hs youth.  The social element was always a strong theme in his writings.  Another one of his beliefs was that the Christian message needed to be put into a new and suitable form using contemporary knowledge and philosophy.12  Solovyov approached Christianity from without, not from within.13 

The social justice Gospel tends to focus on exterior transformation of the world rather than the interior life and our relation with the Holy Spirit.  The true Gospel instructs Christians to seek God within the interior Kingdom of the heart, “  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”14  The interior change of the human heart must come before the exterior changes to the world. 

Although Solovyov is touted in the West as the greatest Russian philosopher, his thought and writings may have negative implications for Orthodox Christianity.  He should be approached with caution by the Orthodox as his writings are complex and often speculative.  At the present time, Solovyov’s writings are more studied in the Western intellectual and religious millieu rather than the Orthodox world. 

1 See Wikipedia article, Russian Religious Renaissance 
2 Slesinski, Robert "Toward an Understanding of V.S. Solovyov's Gnosticism 
3 Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch, Divine Sophia: The Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov Rosenthal, Bernice G. Essay entitled: The Occult in Modern Russian and Soviet Culture 
4 Theosophy is a collection of mystical and occultist philosophies 
5 Giragosian, James G. Virginia Polytechnic Ph.D Thesis: Wisdom as Sophia: An Analysis of the Sophiologies of Three 19th-20th Century Russian Philosopher-Theologians 
6 An example is Van den Bercken, William: The Ecumenical Vision of Vladimir Solovyov.
7 Wild, Fr. Robert. article: Catherine Doherty and Vladimir Solovyov
8 Solovyov, Vladimir: Russia and the Universal Church
9 Wild, Fr. Robert. article: Catherine Doherty and Vladimir Solovyov 
10 Zenkovsky, V. A History of Russian Philosophy, Volume 2 , page 481 
11 Likoudis, James: Vladimir Solovyov, the Russian Newman on Christian Politics and Ecumenism

12 Zenkovsky, V. A History of Russian Philosophy, Volume 2 , page 481
13 Ibid, page 481
14 Ephesians 6:12 

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