Bulgakov’s Sophiological Conception of Creation

Robert Slesinski

If there is one constant theme pervading the entire philosophical-theological corpus of
Sergius Bulgakov (1871–1944), it is undoubtedly the “sophianicity of creation,” the fact
that the whole of the created order bears the imprint of Divine Wisdom or Sophia, and not
just in any passive sense, but in a truly active way with creation carrying within itself the
seeds of the progressive sophianization of the cosmic order itself. This thesis is already a
key idea in his relatively early work The Philosophy of Economics (1912) and then in the
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continuation of this study in The Unfading Light (1917). In fashioning his philosophical
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understanding of the economic sphere, Bulgakov directly acknowledges his indebtedness
to F. W. J. Schelling (1775–1854), writing that the “philosophy of the economy, as a
philosophy of objectification, must necessarily be a conscious continuation of the
philosophical work—the naturphilosophie of Schelling” (FKh 74). This observation
bears underscoring as Bulgakov’s ongoing sophiological enterprise cannot fully be
apprized apart from an appreciation of its philosophical roots in German idealism. As for
himself, Bulgakov would, however, insist that his teaching on Divine Sophia and Divine
humanity (Bogochelovechestvo or Theanthropy) enjoys a genuine patristic pedigree and,
Filosofiia khoziaistva. Chast’ pervaia: Mir kak khoziastvo (The philosophy of economics. Part I: The
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world as economics) (Moscow, 1912); reprint ed., Westmead, Farnborough, Hants, England: Gregg
International Publishers Limited, 1971. Henceforth FKh.
Svet nevechernii: Sozertsaniia i umozreniia (The unfading light: Contemplations and speculations)
2
(Moscow, 1917); reprint ed., Westmead, Farnborough, Hants, England: Gregg International Publishers
Limited, 1971. Henceforth SN. Bulgakov almost in passing (SN 354n) notes that this new work, though
formally not the promised second volume of FKh, does in substance complete the philosophical ideas of the
prior volume.
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indeed, has its dogmatic roots in Byzantium, which truly did bequeath a “hieroglyphic
sophiology” to Christian dogmatics. Appealing to Schellings’ philosophy of identity,
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Bulgakov appropriates to himself the thesis that the “universe presents itself, in light of
the philosophy of identity, as a stairway of degrees or ‘potencies,’ as an evolutionary
development, the general content of which is a manifestation of spirit” (FKh 62), further
defining the universe as “the self-disclosure of the Absolute, in which nature and spirit,
object and subject, are for ages identical” (FKh 63). Pointedly, he immediately adds that
the “self-contemplation of the Absolute reveals itself for us as the development of the
world. First, insofar as it is an archetype and first source, it is natura naturans [naturing
nature]; secondly, as natura naturata [natured nature], it is necessarily the generation of
the first” (ibid.). Developing this thought, Bulgakov makes a further appeal to Schelling,
noting that, at times the “natura naturans of Schelling is precisely the ‘world soul’ in the
nomenclature of the ancients” (FKh 65). In this fashion, the key for understanding the
regularity of nature and its cognizability comes to the fore: “…in the unity of the world
soul, of the universal subject-object, revealing itself in the process of life, the real link of
subject and object as established in every act of consciousness and will finds its
explanation” (FKh 66). For Bulgakov, in other words, the sophianicity of creation
manifests itself in the attendant sophianicity of the economic order itself wherein man
participates in the two worlds of Sophia and the empyreum, that is, in natura naturans
and natura naturata (FKh 141), and thereby facilitates the “inherent actualizing
power” (vnutrenniaia dvizhushchaia sila) (FKh 145) of economics that cannot but be of
Sergei Bulgakov, Sophia: The Wisdom of God (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Press, 1993; original ed., 1937):
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2.
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transformative import: “the end of economics is ‘supra-economic’” (tsel’ khoziatsva
sverkhkhozaistvenna) (FKh 155). In adopting Schellingism in this regard, Bulgakov
underscores a core idea of his own sophiology, namely, the fact that it is radically anti-
mechanistic in its very teleological casting. In his own words, “the battle of the
teleological principle with the mechanistic one, of freedom with necessity, of organism
with mechanism, is the battle of life and death” (FKh 41) itself. In this light, one can also
come to understand why nature needs the complement of human activity. Indeed,
Bulgakov affirms “nature without work, without a culture of work, is not able to manifest
all its powers, at least, in man, that is, to come out of its half-somnolent existence” (FKh
48). For Bulgakov, human creativity cannot but be sophianic (see FKh 139), but the
overriding metaphysical question before him remains the same: how are we to reconcile
Schelling’s ostensibly pantheistic conception of the Absolute as natura naturans or as the
world soul (the transcendental subject of the economy [FKh 138]) with the metaphysics
of creation of Christianity and, ultimately, with its metaphysics of human freedom? For
the moment, this question is just noted before a critique of Bulgakov’s position is
proffered.
Bulgakov makes a decided turn toward personalism in The Unfading Light.
Treating the nature of religious consciousness, he grasps the fundamental a priori truth of
religious experience, namely, that it presupposes a metaphysics of “Thou art” (Esi) (SN
15–17). In other words, the gift character of being is affirmed with the acknowledgment
that the human grasping of consciousness is essentially a response to an ultimate Thou,
the Creator of one and all. At the same time, a “lived unity” is experienced wherein one
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can “know God in the world and the world in God” (SN IV). What obtains, as it were, is
an experiential acknowledgment of a “Creator” as a “Source” of our being. The
concomitant intuition of creaturehood is clearly not a deduction, but rather a
philosophical casting of fundamental religious experience—of the religio, the bonding of
creature with Creator, of man with God.
The intrinsic linking of contingent creaturely being with its Absolute Source is the
thesis Bulgakov points to when he writes that “God is born with the world and in the
world; incipit religio” (SN 102). Expressed otherwise, “God is both the Who and What
for man; He is the Subject of revelation and at the same time its Object” (ibid.). But, at
the same time, a fundamental antinomy comes to the fore. The reality of God necessarily
escapes human categorization; God is essentially transcendent to our finite experience;
He is Totally Other. Thus, Bulgakov highlights the enigma that God is, at once, “Some-
thing” (Ne-chto) or “Some-one” (Ne-kto) and yet “No-thing” (Ni-chto) or “No-one” (Ni-
kto), all of which merely expresses the more basic idea that God is “Supra-
being” (Sverkh-bytie), i.e., a “Supra-thing” (Sverkh-chto) or a “Supra-one” (Sverkh-kto)
(SN 98–101). In scholastic terms, we are engaged in the metaphysics of act and potency
and the fact that God is Actus Purus (Pure Act) and cannot know any restriction
(potency). It is also in coming to terms with this antinomy that is itself an inherent
demand of creaturely being that the sophiological enterprise arises.
In the intuition of creaturehood, man does, indeed, grasp his reality and that of the
world as contingent or dependent and, thus, essentially relative; they stand in relation to
their Ultimate Source. Thus, Bulgakov states with insistence: “The world is in no sense
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God because it is creaturely-relative being: the creative fiat lies between it and God” (SN
148). In like fashion, he is able to articulate the sense in which “the world exists in God
and only with God,” the fact that it is “perfectly transparent for God.” This is simply
because “God would not be God, and the Absolute would not be absolute, but relative, if
it [the world] were alongside Him and thus outside of God as a ‘beyond-god’ or ‘against-
god’” (ibid.). In elaborating upon the intuition of creaturehood, the fact that creatures
necessarily stand in relation to a Creator, Bulgakov formulates a new antinomy, namely,
“the beyond-divine in the Divinity, the relative in the Absolute” (ibid.).
Nonetheless, in grasping that the world is a creation of God, the fact that “it is not
causa sui,” Bulgakov immediately adds that “at the same time one must not say that God
is the cause of the world since that would mean transforming the absolute into the
relative, having rendered the transcendent into an immanent-uninterrupted series of cause
and effect” (ibid.). For him, what is at stake here is the primal truth that God as the
Absolute is “pre-worldly” and absolutely free and independent from the world. Thus, he
writes “God is not the cause of the world, although He is its ground’ in this sense the
world is without cause” (besprichinen) (SN 149). Thus, a fundamental ambivalence in
Bulgakov toward the category of causality is seen to be at work. This issue will be
revisited in short order with the analysis of his final statement on God and creation as
given in his posthumously published The Bride of the Lamb.
4
Nevesta Agntsa (Paris: YMCA-Press, 1945); reprinted in 1971 by Gregg International Publishers Limited,
4
Westmead, Farnborough, Hants, England; Eng. trans. by Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids, Michigan’ Edinburgh:
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co./T & T Clark Ltd, 2002). Henceforth NA with pagination in parentheses
referring to the Eng. trans. and that in brackets to the Rus. original.
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As already mentioned, in his articulation of the metaphysical nature of the created
order, Bulgakov resorts to the personalist category of “gift.” Gifts are not mere entities
that can be understood apart from a giver and a recipient. Indeed, their intelligibility qua
gift necessarily presupposes some personal relation between one who gives and one who
is gifted. The gift-character of existence itself is affirmed by Bulgakov with his direct
words: “being does not belong to the world in all its immensity, but is given to it” (SN
176). In this way, we grasp how the phenomenon of creation cannot but be appreciated
except as an experience of relation. Creatural relative being is affirmed only in relation
to its ultimate ground in the Absolute. “In the idea of creation,” Bulgakov writes, “the
character of relation between the Absolute and the relative, the nature of the relative in
the Absolute, is disclosed” (SN 177). For him, this description goes beyond the terms of
causative explanation. Indeed, he states that “the idea of the creation of the world by God
does not pretend to explain the origin of the world in the sense of empirical
causality” (SN 177) for the simple reason that its “origin cannot be thought of according
to the category of causal linkage,” that is, in other words, “the world is not a
consequence, and God is not its cause” (SN 176). No, between the two one can only
posit—and acclaim—God’s “creative fiat” (tvorcheskoe da budet) (SN 177). The act of
creation for Bulgakov is not just one of the will alone, but in profound personalist fashion
is a manifestation of a “creative sacrifice of love,” being a true “Golgotha” for the
Absolute (SN 180) in which the “Absolute, without losing its absoluteness, deigns to be
relative,” thus rendering “man as a living icon of the Divinity” also a “god-world, an
absolute-relative [being]” (SN 179).
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The fundamental sophiological question remains the same for Bulgakov
throughout his examination of the question of creation and specifically creatio ex nihilo.
It is: “What is the world in God and what is God in the world?” (NA 33 [40]). Two
pitfalls bedevil any would be cosmology from the Christian dogmatic point of view. On
the one hand, Bulgakov notes, one must avoid the “Scylla of pantheism, in which the
world is in danger of sinking in the ocean of divinity,” and on the other, the “Charybdis of
abstract cosmism, in which the world’s being loses its connectedness with divinity” (NA
34 [41]). For traditional patristic and scholastic thought, the central category for avoiding
these pitfalls while at the same time connecting God with his creation has been, Bulgakov
rightfully observes, that of causality (prichinnost’) (ibid.). Yet, it is on this score that he
critiques traditional Christian thought, accusing it of availing itself of worldly,
mechanistic notions rather than personalist ones as indicated by divine revelation.
Indeed, rejecting the category of causality, Bulgakov posits the need for the category of
creativity alone. As he bluntly writes, “God’s connection with the world is creative, not
causally mechanical (prichinno-mekhanicheskaia) (NA 62 [71]). If the former is
“personalist,” the other is only “impersonal.” Or as Bulgakov himself puts it: “The
doctrine of God as the prime mover, or first cause, of the world is completely
unconnected with the divine Person […] The impersonal divinity can also be viewed
under the category of causality and motion. But God’s Person, who is a Doer, not a
cause, does not fit at all into this category […] A cause, like a mover, is always
mechanical; they are both subordinate to the mechanical law of the conservation of
energy” (NA 36 [43]). Given this understanding of causality, it is not surprising that
8
Bulgakov reproaches Thomas Aquinas’ teaching on creation for its “causal
emanativity” (prichinnaia èmanativnost’” (NA 27 [34]) and
“occasionalism” (okkazionalizm) (NA 29 [36]). Rejecting what he would label as
Aquinas’ “immanentist” conception, Bulgakov points us in another direction. He bears
quoting at length:
To determine the actual relation between God and the world, another category must be used, a
category for which there is no place in the immanence of the world. This category must be used to
perform the metabasis eis allo genos that preserves both the positive connection between God and
the world and the ontological difference between them. This category is not cause, or motion, but
creation (tvorenie) and createdness (sotvorennost’). God is not the cause, or mover, of the world.
He is the world’s Creator (as well as the world’s Preserver and Provider […]), and the world is
God’s creation. Philosophical and theological usage often does not notice the entire essential
distinction between these categories; on the contrary, creation and createdness are usually
understood to signify only a special form of causality, to correspond to a specific mode of the
latter. Translating the language of creationism into the language of causality, people say and think
that the createdness of the world signifies the world’s causal dependence upon God, whereas what
actually exists here is a difference that approaches oppositeness. Such a translation is
contraindicated already by the fact that, in his relation to the world, God the Creator is above and
outside the causality that exists in the world itself. In this sense, God is not the cause of the world
but its Creator, just as the world is not an effect of divine causality but God’s creation. God and
the world are not related as cause and effect by analogy to the mechanical causality of the world
(post hoc, propter hoc and causa aequat effectum [the cause equals the effect]. They are linked in
another way, by another connection… (NA 36–37 [44]).
Clearly, Bulgakov admits no personalist moment to causality, stating it is “dead,”
whereas, “creativity is alive and life-bearing” (NA 38 [45]). Denying “creative novelty”
to mechanical causality as it is “blind and empty,” he champions “creativity” as “guided
by a task, a goal,” curiously—and significantly—adding “it is exemplary (causa
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exemplaris according to the ill-chosen expression of scholastic theology),
entelechic” (ibid.). On this last note, a critique of Bulgakov’s understanding of causality
can aptly begin.
For starters, with his reductivist understanding of causality in terms of
“mechanical causality” he can only skew traditional Christian, but especially scholastic,
teaching on causality. Clearly, he does not understand that for the Scholastics creation as
an “action” is entirely sui generis; it bears no relation to mechanical, transitive action. In
creation, there is no “transference” of being; rather it comes about “intransitively” or, in
the understanding of Aquinas, it is a relation without motion. In his own words:
5
Creation places something in the thing created according to relation only; because what is created,
is not made by movement, or by change. For what is made by movement or by change is made
from something pre-existing. And this happens, indeed, in the particular productions of some
beings, but cannot happen in the production of all being by the universal cause of all beings, which
is God. Hence God by creation produces things without movement. Now when movement is
removed from action and passion, only relation remains […] Hence creation in the creature is
only a certain relation to the Creator as to the principle of its being (emphasis mine) (ST, I, q. 45,
a. 3c).
6
The last point bears underscoring as it would seem Aquinas and Bulgakov are much
closer to one another in thought than the latter would like to admit. Surely when he
affirms that God is the “ground” (SN 149) of the world, he is virtually saying the same
thing as Aquinas when he states that the Creator is the “principle” of the world’s being.
For this discussion, see esp. Kenneth L. Schmitz, The Gift: Creation (Milwaukee: Marquette University
5
Press, 1982): 18–19.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, 1981), vol. I, p. 234.
6
10
Of greater import for Bulgakov’s sophiology is the enriched sense of causality
that scholastic thought has been wont to stress. On this score, Bulgakov’s understanding
of causality seems especially impoverished. Although he is surely right in heralding the
Creator as no mere cause, but as a true Doer, he is remiss in not explicating how this
Doer is truly a Causal Agent. In this regard, special attention needs to be afforded the
principle of efficient causality. In the dogmatic teaching creatio ex nihilo, God truly is
the agency of creation; he is its efficient cause, but—this point is crucial—creation itself
bears no substratum in matter. In a word, by way of material causality, it truly is from
nothing. In line with Bulgakov’s own thinking, creation is, in other words, “a donation
7
from nothing.” The category of “gift” is, thus, a central one for fathoming the mystery
8
of creation. As there is no “ground” for receiving a gift in the recipient, the utter gratuity
of the gift of creation comes to the fore. But once it is given by the Giver an endowment
is placed upon the one who receives it. Totally unmerited, it still needs to be received.
This fact underscores the inherent reciprocity appropriate to gift-giving, even if a
fundamental disparity remains between giver and giftee. But, more fundamentally, the
gift (“creation”) mediates the co-presence of the giver (“Creator”) and the giftee or
recipient (“the creature”).
9
From this brief description of the inner dynamics of donation, one can readily
grasp how the act of creation is in point of fact an exercise in creative generosity.
Creatural dependence here is seen as absolute as it is utterly contingent upon a primal
See the discussion in Schmitz, 29.
7
Schmitz, 30.
8
For this discussion, see Schmitz, 44–57.
9
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generosity, which bestows being upon creation. Creative generosity thus serves as the
ground for two realities; it founds the absolute inequality between Creator and creature at
the same time that it serves as the ground for the being itself of the creature. But it is
10
only with the integration of the category of giving with the category of causality that the
true depths of their interconnection can be fathomed. The three metaphysical axioms of
causality only serve to bring this out. These treat the inner moments of agency,
11
similitude, and finality inherent to all causal action. The first regarding agency states that
omne agens agit inquatum est actu (every agent acts insofar as it is in act); the second
treating similitude or exemplarity affirms that omne agens agit sibi simile (every agent
acts so as to produce what is like itself); while the third brings out the teleological
dimension, namely, that omne agens agit propter finem (every agent acts for the sake of
an end).
In all this, there truly is a real trace of the creative, Causal Agent on the one acted
upon, the creature. They share a commonality, however unequal, in the act of donation.
Creation only serves to underscore the power of presence between the Creative Act that
gives and the act of being that is received. The glory of the Giver only finds its reflection
in the recipient creature. In the sophiological terms of Bulgakov, we can say that
creatural Sophia pre-exists in the power of Divine Sophia as Causal Agent. With the
Divine Ideas, the heavenly prototypes of creatural reality, God utters his creative word.
What is essentially predicated of God, the primary analogate, is predicated to the
Schmitz, 74.
10
For what follows, see Schmitz, 118–19, 124, 129–30.
11
12
secondary analogate, the creature, by participation. The perfections of the Creator are
truly present in their created effects. In this way, the Creator’s immanence to the created
universe is truly given an ontological grounding without detracting from the Creator’s
supra-eminent transcendence from the created order. Creatural act is truly reflective of
Divine Act, its exemplary cause, while at the same time it enjoys purpose; it acts toward
an end. It enjoys dynamic potency. In Bulgakov, this understanding is implicit to his
intuition regarding the “co-image-bearing-ness” (so-obraznost’) between Divine Sophia
and creatural Sophia, between the heavenly prototypes and their terrestrial counterparts,
meaning that “Divine Sophia as the all-organism of ideas is eternal Humanity in God as
the Divine prototype and foundation for the being of man.”
12
Now as for Bulgakov himself, owing to his limited understanding of the
metaphysical principle of causality, he can only reject this analysis as an instance of
univocation wherein by accepting the validity of the principle of similitude between
cause and effect God the Creator is merely rendered finite, temporal, and, thus, imperfect.
Ironically, one of Bulgakov’s own chief Orthodox critics, Nicholas O. Losskii (1870–
1965), faults Bulgakov precisely for this, namely, for the fact that his sophiological
exercise in cataphatic or positive theology cannot but fall into univocation. In his study,
The Teaching of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov on Total-Unity and on Divine Sophia, he pointedly
writes against Bulgakov for submitting God to the terms of a relation with creation:
It is asked: How is it possible to combine negative theology with positive theology, in which God
is thought of as a Person, as Mind, Love, etc., and even, on the basis of Revelation, as Three
Persons? The answer to this question is as follows: If the One God exists in Three Persons, this
Sergii Bulgakov, Agnets Bozhii (The Lamb of God) (Paris: YMCA-Press, 1933): 136. Henceforth AB.
12
13
means that the word ‘person’ is applied to God only by analogy—not by logical analogy according
to which two analogous objects have an identical aspect, but rather by metalogical analogy,
because there is not any kind of identical aspect between God and the world. The Supra-Being of
God and the being of the world are separated from one another by an ontological abyss. When we
speak about God as a Person, Mind, Love, we have in mind something Supra-Personal, Supra-
Rational, etc., which has in Itself that value, which we cherish in personhood, in mind, but to such
a degree, that it is incommensurable with our personhood, our mind, etc. In other words, even in
positive theology, we, strictly speaking, remain on the terrain of negative theology. Positive
theology is not anthropomorphism in the teaching about God.
13
In the terms of technical philosophy, Losskii is arguing from the stance of the
analogy of proper proportionality, which merely states that a similarity of relations
obtains between Creator and creature, wherein the relation between Divine Sophia and
God is analogous to the relation between creatural Sophia and man, with the latter being
only an infinitely imperfect imitation of the former. This type of discourse definitely
upholds God’s supra-essential transcendence from the world. But, at the same time, it
does little to explicate God’s active presence in the world as Provident Father and
Sustainer. Indeed, if left to itself, it can only ultimately lead to agnosticism and atheism
as no interrelation between creature and Creator could ever be legitimately entertained.
Only the analogy of intrinsic attribution as found in the language of the metaphysics of
efficient causality can account for the divine presence in the world. Only it can serve as
the key for unlocking the mystery of God’s immanence in the world or his co-presence
among created agents. It is the precise purpose of this extended discussion to show how
14
Uchenie o. Sergiia Bulgakova o vseedinstve i o Bozhestvennoi Sofii (South Canaan, Pennsylvania: St.
13
Tikhon Press, n.d.): 10–11.
For a detailed treatment of analogy in this regard, see Battista Mondin, S.X., The Principle of Analogy in
14
Protestant and Catholic Theology, 2
nd
ed. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1968), esp. 62–76, 98–102.
14
truly legitimate Bulgakov’s sophiological enterprise can be for deepening man’s
understanding of his own universe, both in its origins and in its final purpose. Indeed, it
can only strengthen Bulgakov’s own anti-mechanistic position and serve to foster an
organic conception of the universe. As he himself writes: “world causality is also goal-
conformity (tselesoobraznost’) and goal-causality (tseleprichinnost’) in world
being” (AB 153).
But if I end here on a philosophical note, I would be remiss not to point out the
true theological thrust of Bulgakov’s sophiological speculations. They are preeminently
Trinitarian in formulation. As for creation itself, in it, theologically speaking, we
immediately perceive the “supra-eternal interrelation” of the immanent Trinity with the
economic Trinity at work. In Bulgakov’s own words, “the creation of the world is
15
invariably interpreted in Christian dogmatics as the action of the trihypostatic God, being
in the Holy Trinity, an action in which it is necessary to distinguish the actions of each of
the hypostases—of the Father, the initial cause, of the Son as the formative
(zizhditel’naia) cause, and the Holy Spirit as the accomplishing cause” (translation mine)
(U 190 [222]). Curiously, but not surprisingly, Bulgakov avails himself here of the
16
category of causality. It is precisely on this score that an integration of scholastic
discourse with Bulgakov’s properly sophiological discourse can only be an enlightening
complementary exercise in thought. He may be more comfortable in the language of
Uteshitel’ (Paris: YMCA-Press, 1936); Eng. trans. by Boris Jakim, The Comforter (Grand Rapids,
15
Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2004): Rus., orig. 216; Eng. trans,
184. Henceforth U with pagination in parentheses referring to the Eng. trans. and that in brackets to the
Rus. orig.
The Jakim translation loses the parallelism of cause as he renders “formative cause” as “the demiurge.”
16
15
German idealism, but, then again, with it alone the pitfalls of this thought can only serve
to undermine his own profoundly Christian worldview.
17
This, for instance, seems to be the case in his conception of Sophia as “the world
soul, i.e., the principle linking and organizing world multiplicity,—natura naturans in
relation to natura naturata” (SN 223). In fashioning Sophia as the “world’s inner
entelechy” (NA 81 [91]), Bulgakov does not appear to consider that this conception may
be more impersonalist in character than his own stated personalist intentions should
admit. How does one, indeed, justify a central place for the individual human soul in a
world order fashioned as one all-organism? Is not the unique soul at the core of the
human person, the very ontological basis of personal freedom, inevitably swallowed up in
sophianic process? From my perspective—in true respect of Bulgakov—we need to enter
into productive (cataphatic) dialogue with him in this regard.


SUMMARY
With an understanding of the “sophianicity of creation,” one can grasp how the
act of creation not only imparts the imprint of Divine Wisdom (Sophia) on the whole of
the created order, but also bears the seeds for the progressive sophianization of the same.
In analyzing the datum of creaturehood, Bulgakov grasps what he conceives as the
fundamental a priori truth—the “Thou art” (Esi)—of religious experience that cannot but
As an example of this, I cite his statement “in the Absolute the distinction between God and the world is
17
disclosed; it becomes correlative to its very self as relative, as God is correlative to the world, Deus est vox
relative, and, creating the world, the Absolute posits itself as God” (SN 179). But is not God the Absolute?
Why, then, give priority to the notion of the Absolute over God himself?
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give rise to a metaphysics of donation that underscores the inherent gift character of all
existence. In fashioning his own understanding of the Creator as a Doer, he rejects the
applicability of the terminological framework of causality to elucidate the mystery of
creation. The point of this article, however, is to show how Bulgakov’s teaching on
creation is marred by a reductivist, mechanistic understanding of efficient causality and
how it can be corrected and deepened by incorporating into it the metaphysical axioms of
agency, similitude, and finality as developed in Scholastic thought.

121 Beaver Street Robert Slesinski
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