Sep 14, 2014

Berdyaev and the Search for Truth

There is a Price to Pay for
Removing Organized Delusion

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

Berdyaev and the Search for Truth
Nicolas Berdyaev 

The universe is a creative process: it is unfolding yet, and its development obeys the Law of Symmetry and Equilibrium. One must therefore pay a karmic price for everything.

If one wants solidarity, one has to understand the mechanisms of its absence.  If we look for truth, we must challenge and defeat the procedures of self-perpetuating illusion. If you look for sincerity, you need to know and fight its opposite.

Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev was born on 18 March 1874, and died in 1948.   In “The Destiny of Man”, a book dedicated to Ethics and to the future of mankind, he wrote these extraordinary words: 

“Ethics has not paid sufficient attention to the monstrously big part played by falsehood in man’s moral and spiritual life.  What is meant here is not falsehood which is regarded as an expression of wickedness, but falsehood which is morally sanctioned as good. People do not believe that the good may be preserved and established without the aid of falsehood.  The good is the end, the lies are the means. In the nineteenth century Tolstoy, Ibsen, Nietzche and Kierkegaard passionately protested against the falsity of our moral life. The religious life of mankind, and perhaps of Christendom in particular, is permeated with falsity. ”

Nicolas (or Nikolai) Berdyaev explained:

“There is a kind of falsity which is considered a moral and religious duty, and those who reject it are said to be rebels. There exist social accumulations of falsity which have become part of the established order of things.  This is connected with the essential character of moral perception and judgment - with the absence of what I call first-hand moral acts.  Conventional, as it were, socially organized falsity clusters round all social groupings, such as the family, the class, the party, the church, the nation, the state. Such conventional falsity is a means of self-preservation for these institutions; truth might lead to their break up.  The conventional falsity of socially organized groups (I include among them schools of thought and ideological tendencies) deprives man of the freedom of moral perception and moral judgment.  The moral judgment is made not by a free personality in the presence of God [1] but by the family, the class, the nation, the party, the denomination, etc.”  [2]

These words raise a point that is decisive in theosophy. The karma of searching for truth includes the need to dismantle the hidden traps of organized delusion. One’s family may not be an exception to the rule, and Berdyaev confessed:   

“What an amount of conventional falsity accumulates in family life! And it is regarded as essential for its existence and self-preservation.  How many true feelings are concealed, how many false ones expressed, how conventionally false the relations between parents and children, husbands and wives often are! Hypocrisy acquires the character of a family virtue. What never finds expression in consciousness, or does so in quite a misleading and unintelligible way, is stored up in the subconscious.” [3]

The teaching is shared by modern theosophy. Personal existence and family life can be observed, understood and changed from within, with a gradual regeneration taking place under the silent guidance of eternal wisdom. 

As to the present churches and religious sects, they are often worse than useless to the evolution of human soul, as stated in the Letter 10 of “The Mahatma Letters”. And Berdyaev added on the same page: 

“Falsity has its own symbolism, and that symbolism is regarded as something good. When a lie acquires the character of a social symbol it is always regarded as good. It is considered evil only as it is individual. The social lies have come to be regarded as truths. Such lies are to be found in the socially organized judgments of all denominations - in the judgments of the Catholics about the Orthodox, of the Orthodox about the Catholics, of Christians about non-Christians and vice-versa. The amount of these lies is truly terrifying. It is almost impossible to get at the truth, at the pure, free, first-hand, original judgments.”  

Individuals of good-will can have the courage to look for truth and to provoke healthy changes in everyday life. The task ahead for them is to simultaneously defeat organized ignorance in themselves as individuals and in the groups to which they belong. 

The fall and destruction of illusions are taking place in their own rhythm during the 21st century.  Such a process is unavoidable. Although its speed is growing already, one can always help the process, and the task is worthwhile.


[1] The word “God” here does not make sense except if defined as “Universal Law of Justice”, “Higher Self”, or “one’s own conscience”. 

[2] “The Destiny of Man”, Nicolas Berdyaev, Harper Torchbooks, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1960, 310 pp., see pp. 160-161.

[3] “The Destiny of Man”, Nicolas Berdyaev, Harper Torchbooks, pp. 161-162.


On the difference between truth and falsehood in the esoteric movement, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.  Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.