The end of our time

This book is the philosophical fruit of Nikolai Berdyaev’s first-hand experience of, and reflections on, the crisis of European civilization in the aftermath of the Great War and the Russian Revolution. Berdyaev tells us that the modern age, with its failed Humanism, is being replaced by a new epoch: “the new middle ages,” an epoch of darkness, an epoch of the universal night of history. Berdyaev asserts that this night is a good thing: in this darkness, which is a return to the mysterious life of the spirit, the destruction inflicted by the previous period of “light” will be healed: “Night is not less wonderful than day; it is equally the work of God; it is lit by the splendor of the stars and it reveals tous things that the day does not know. Night is closer than day to the mystery of all beginning” (pp. 70-71, present volume).

“The whole economic system of Capitalism is an offshoot of a devouring and overwhelming lust, of a kind that can hold sway only in a society that has deliberately renounced the Christian asceticism and turned away from Heaven to give itself over exclusively to earthly gratifications. … It is the result of a secularization of economic life, and by it the hierarchical subordination of the material to the spiritual is inverted. The autonomy of economics has ended in their dominating the whole life of human societies: the worship of Mammon has become the determining force of the age. And the worst of it is that this undisguised “mammonism” is regarded as a very good thing, an attainment to the knowledge of truth and a release from illusions. Economic materialism formulates this to perfection when it brands the whole spiritual life of man as a deception and a dream.

“Socialism leads to the same type of authoritarian state as Theocracy. … One must choose: either Socialism or liberty of spirit, the liberty of man’s conscience. … Socialism uses a “sacred” authority and establishes a “sacred” society in which there is no place for the “lay,” for the free, for choice, for the unrestrained activity of human forces.”


The End of Our Time (1919)

“Morally, it is wrong to suppose the source of evil is outside oneself, that one is a vessel of holiness running over with virtue. Such a disposition is the best soil for a hateful and cruel fanaticism. It is as wrong to impute every wickedness to Jews, Freemansons, “intellectuals,” as it is to blame all crimes on the bourgeoisie, the nobility, and the powers that were. No; the root of evil is in me as well, and I must take my share of the responsibility and the blame. That was true before the revolution and it is true still.”


The End of Our Time (1919)
Semantron Press, 2009

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev [Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Бердя́ев] (18 March 1874 {O.S. 6 March} – 24 March 1948) was a Russian Christian universalist mystic and Christian anarchist political philosopher.


George Bernard Shaw

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.

He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.

You will never have a quiet world until you knock the patriotism out of the human race. 

Man is the only animal of which I am thoroughly and cravenly afraid of.

Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.

If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not an example. 

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.

Between persons of equal income there is no social distinction except the distinction of merit. Money is nothing: character, conduct, and capacity are everything. There would be great people and ordinary people and little people, but the great would always be those who had done great things, and never the idiots whose mothers had spoiled them and whose fathers had left them a hundred thousand a year; and the little would be persons of small minds and mean characters, and not poor persons who had never had a chance. That is why idiots are always in favor of inequality of income (their only chance of eminence), and the really great in favor of equality.

Suppose the world were only one of God’s jokes, would you work any the less to make it a good joke instead of a bad one?

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. 

In Heaven an angel is nobody in particular.


“Egoism, self-seeking, self-conceit, pride, the will to power, hatred of others, violence, all become virtues when transferred from personality to the nation as a whole…National self-conceit and pride is a lie, just as much as it is by the way ludicrous and stupid…[nationalism precipitates] men into a fictitious and illusory life.”


“I see myself immersed in the depths of human existence and standing in the face of the ineffable mystery of the world and of all that is. And in that situation, I am made poignantly and burningly aware that the world cannot be self-sufficient, that there is hidden in some still greater depth a mysterious, transcendent meaning. This meaning is called God. Men have not been able to find a loftier name, although they have abused it to the extent of making it almost unutterable. God can be denied only on the surface; but he cannot be denied where human experience reaches down beneath the surface of flat, vapid, commonplace existence.”


“We’ve known for a long time that it was no longer possible to overturn this world, nor reshape it, nor head off it’s dangerous headlong rush. There’s been only one possible resistance: to not take it seriously. But I think our jokes have lost their power.” – Milan Kundera