Preot Nicolae Nicolescu, Biserica Sfantul Lazar, IASI, ROMANIA



Father Pavel Florenski's Theological and Philosophical Thought


Ever since the Saint Apostles, the Cappadocian Fathers, Saint Anastasios the Grea, Cyril of Alexandria, Saint Maxim the Confessor, Saint Gregory Palamas, the Holy Spirit has incessantly revealed, within the Church, minds and lives of profound thought and pastoral feeling true landmarks in the knowledge of and love for God.

Yet, there have also been destinies left in the shadows of history, among which we mention the disturbing life and work of Father Pavel Florenski (1882-1937).

He was born in Evlah, in the Caucasus, on January 9th, 1882, in a non-believing intellectual family. After living high school in Tbilisi, he attended the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Moscow. As a consequence of profound spiritual crises, a true inner revelation, he joined the pastoral Academy in Serghei Posad, defending the thesis "On Pastoral Truth" upon graduation. Later on, He extended his research and defended hid Ph.D. thesis "The Pillar and Foundation of the truth" on 19 May 1914 - touchstone in the theology and philosophy of the times.

Our approach falls into two fundamental perspectives: theodicy of the Pillar and anthropodicy "At the Limit of Thought", at the polarity and convergence axes of the two perspectives.

The structure of the thesis contains six chapters, which discuss the following issues:

  1. Father Florenskis theology viewed from three complementary approaches:

    1. The homoousios trinomial Trinity-Being-Communion;

    2. The pastoral binomial theodicy-anthropodicy;

    3. The trinomial connection: dogma-mystic-cult.

  2. Surpassing the philosophical speculation by experiencing the Supreme Truth -The Threefold-Hypostasis Truth.

  3. The cross-disciplinary feature of the theology philosophy in analyzing the theodicy concept and defining the term from a theological viewpoint.

  4. Eros and agape with the Fathers of the Church and the concept of love as construed by Father Florenski in its extension to the Three-hypostasis love and the insertion of several issues with concern to icon and Church as related to Gods Kingdom.

  5. Defining homoousios and homiousios.

  6. Philosophy and science (Mathematics). The ontology of Florenskis creation with the Embodiment of Meaning (the Logos) and the role of Symbol.

  7. Defining anthropodicy inside the cult act. The firmness of the defence of the believing truth versus philosophical speculation (mainly those of Kant).

  8. The cross-disciplinary feature philosophy-mathematics with its pillars for the theological thought within issues related to the current infinite, arythmology, monadology, and antinomic thought.

  9. Sophiology:

    1. Setting the limits between Florenskis sophilogy and the Essentialist sophilogical trend of Soloviov-Bulgakov;

    2. A challenge in building a bridge, from a convergent viewpoint, between metaphysics and theology (Florenskis personalism).

Finally, we consider it necessary to defend, to argue Florenskis contribution in defending the values of Orthodoxy, its novelty and topicality in the context of the contemporary theology and to distinguish theology from Soloviov-Bulgakov sophiological trend.


The keystone of the entire theological and philosophical thought and common root of Father Florenskis theology and philosophy is the Three-hypostasis Dogma, the Supreme Thruth, and the Threefold God in Person. The truth synthesized in the Unity and uniqueness is "the Self-contemplation by another into a Third: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit" [The Pillar, p. 49]. The Trinitarian God is self-evident in the substantial act of love, on ontological bases. The "The Trinitarian Unity" letter in The Pillar brings forth the concept of homoousios and Saint Athanasius the Great "the exclusive holder of religious consciousness with concern to the Holy Trinity dogma". Agreeing with the Fathers of the Church, Father Florenski states: "The hypostasis is the essence and means nothing else than the being itself". Of a Being means the concrete unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and not a nominal unity. Homoousios means ek ousias tou Patros (even thirty-five years after the Nicene Synod), whereas hypostasis is defined as the personal essence of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit [Ibidem, p. 53]. "All the power of the sacramental dogma is suddenly established by a single word homoousios, the concrete numerical unity, which one can show both the real unity and the real difference". [p. 54] <<The Trinity within Unity and the Unity within the Trinity. >>

The Unity of the Trinity is also a ultimate solution for the entire human philosophy and thought. Tertium non datur. It is either the Trinity or the hell of the egocentrism of knowledge outside God. The ever-Trinitarian Truth has in Itself the fundamental sacrament and permeates the world by the eternal divine light and the uncreated divine energies. This is the palamitic meaning, which construes the absolute character of Divinity and the distinction between the divine nature and the uncreated godlike energies, in the Trinitarian apophatism and the iconomic Trinity. Father Florenski leads his theological discourse toward the concrete "numerical identity", which determines the living person, out of the limits of the concept. In love as an ontological act, the person is contemplated in beauty. "When we love, we love through God and in God. He who has met the Trinitarian God who can love by true love". [The Pillar, p. 186], thus he becomes a creator just like Him, by self-abnegation and by himself. The I subject distinguishes himself and founds and relies upon himself as related to he or you. In the "Person and Communion" and " The Holy Trinity", the "sacrament of our salvation", the author approaches the role and the meaning of the communications between the Is by getting out of oneself and by logically overcoming the empty identity as well as the affirmation, contemplation, and relation of The Three in the absolute Unity. Father Staniloaie, while borrowing from Father Florenskis thought in his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, volume one, develops the act of the relationship of the being. The divine act of the being and the act-relation in the Holy Trinity Sacrament high above what the difference between unity and relationship means to us, mortals.

"To God, the mutual relationship is a being act of the eternal divine equality by which Paternity and Filiation shadowed by the Person of the Holy Spirit are both eternally different and reciprocal in the common act of relating a Person to the Other divine Person" (the inter-subjectivity and mutual replacement of the I's in the Structure of the Suprem love). Pursuing with his discourse on the subject of the Truth, by the number "three", Father Staniloaie - thought in the consonance with Father Florenski - concludes: "Persons keep themselves distinctive and in full communion in a simultaneous relation of The Three divine Persons: we-you, I-you, but I-you-you as well. The Third represents all that can be different from Them, the whole reality the Two can ascertain themselves by" [pp. 204-205].

Starting from this act-realtionship, The God-Creator can Only be Threefold, as creation is giving from oneself and self-abnegation and is defined as complete stability with the Creator Himself. A single-person God lacks creation, lacks loves, as He lacks communion just like the points which can give stability (identity to the geometrical plane only when three, not two or only one). It is only in Trinity that God secures perfect equilibrium in the active process of creation.


The concept of theodicy in the philosophical thought is opened with Leibnitz's work "Essays on Theodicy over God's Kindness, Man's Freedom, and Origins of Evil". Here Leibnitz correlates the issue of the origin of the evil with the relation between reason and belief. Leibnitz postulates the principle of the pre-established harmony, which nevertheless contradicts the ontological primary given with respect to man's freedom and responsibility.



The First Part of my Ph.D. thesis:
is published in the Romanian Journal "ORTODOXIA" - REVISTA PATRIARHIEI ROMANE, pp. 21-113, with the title:
In 1-2 /2003 number of the "ORTODOXIA" Journal  will apear the second part of the Ph.D. thesis.