Saturday, July 25, 2015

Notes on Bulgakov, Part 1

From Bride of the Lamb.  I'll polish it in my review.

Bulgakov says he rejects pantheism and monism.  He makes several incisive criticisms against cosmic dualisms (the two creating entities annul one another).

Creation Out of Nothing

What do we mean by the word “nothing?”  Are we reifying “nothing?”  Bulgakov says there is “no extra-divine ground of creation” (Bulgakov 6).   We must distinguish two different types of “nothing:”
  1. pre-creaturely nothing, ontological zero. The negation of all being
  2. Ontic, creaturely nothing, me on. It is a mode of creaturely being.  

More on nothing (116ff)
  • nothing is no-thing, not just something.
  • Its existence can only be posited by extreme abstraction.  
  • All creation has a non-creaturely, creaturely character.  
    • The positive force of its being is the creaturely Sophia, which is the image of the divine Sophia (117).


Aquinas has a difficulty with calling creation “good.”  Rather, it is imperfect.  It is only one type of many possible worlds.  There is a non-correspondence between ideas and things, as the former is always larger than the latter.  The divine ideas are suspended in mid-air.  They aren’t entirely accidents, because God doesn’t have accidents, but to the degree that they actualize creation, they can’t be fully God, either.  

Creatio and God as Cause

Motion cannot be explained on the basis of the motion itself (???).  

“The strength of the causal series lies in its continuity” (35) and if a gap were introduced, it would fail.  And there is a gap between God and creation.  Both causality and mover belong to the world of unitary being.  “It is not possible to transcend the world.”  

But the Christian faith does not need any of this.  It has the doctrine of creation, which is personal and presupposes a personal God (37).  

Divine Sophia is the en-hypostatic life of the Trinity.  
  • It is the Divine World.
  • Not a hypostasis, but a hypostasizedness

Creation of the World

  • a self-positing of God (46).
    • But the world is not a piece of God.
    • Rather, Divine Sophia has a creaturely Sophianic mode of existence in which the world exists.
  • Divine Sophia exists in a dual mode
    • eternal (proper mode)
    • creaturely
      • contains multiplicity
      • relative nothingness
  • There can be no divine principle of existence which exists in the “nothing” (ouk on).  
    • “Nothing” is a modus of reality.  It cannot exist by itself and for itself.

Divine Prototypes
  • These are the plan of creation (55).
  • The problem Patristics faced with this was how to relate these prototypes, which were divine, to creation.  Bulgakov suggests Sophia is the relation.
  • Ideas are the “seeds” of being.
  • Creation

Temporality of Creation

What do we mean when we say that the world is created “in time?”  How do eternity and temporality interact without the former subsuming the latter?  Is the latter merely an illusion?
  • Temporality is not yet time; time is the mode of its existence (70).
  • Time is the abstract measure of temporality, but it is not the unique measure.
  • With respect to creation, we must not speak of the beginning of time (which is contradictory), but of the emergence of temporality.
  • Time is a relation within becoming.

Therefore, we say that creation is beginningless, but not eternal.    It can’t have a beginning in time since time, too, is created.  Therefore, we say that creation and time emerge from temporality.

The World Soul and its Hypostases

world soul: the creaturely Sophia (79).  It is here that Bulgakov’s project shines in all its brilliance but also threatens to come undone.  He admits that the existence of the world-soul marks a “loss of clarity” and one wonders if he is reverting back to Aristotle’s chain of being.  But it is a lively chain, for he assures us: “There is no place for dead matter in the world.”
  • We are speaking of the world soul, not the world spirit.  The difference between soul and spirit is that the soul is not hypostatic, whereas the Spirit is.  
  • The soul corresponds to the spirit’s nature.  It is the spirit’s hypostatizedness.
  • This is not Neo-Platonism, for he does not see the World Soul as a hypostasis.  
  • The World-Soul is a connected, multi-organic unity
  • It is the world’s inner entelechy which unifies.
  • Therefore, there is an “inner life principle” in the world.  If this were not so, then why would we enjoin creation to praise God if creation is merely dead matter?
  • It is the actualization of creaturely being (197).  The world-soul actualizes creation’s instincts for power.
    • In its proper being it is divided into heaven and earth


Angels are how God usually relates nature (199).  They are the bearers of the sophicanic prototypes of creation and the earth’s reality.  Creation arises through the elemental forces of the world soul but its formation presupposes angelic activity and participation (Rev. 7:1, 14:18; 16:5; and fight battles).

Angels are the sophicanic heaven of the world, the creaturely bridge between Divine Sophia and Creaturely sophia, metaxu.  Angels contain the assurance that creation is a ladder of life.

Main Point

The connection of God and the world is grounded in Sophianicity.  “The divine Sophia is one, though she has two forms of being” (223).  Bulgakov argues that the Western insistence on speaking of God as First Cause and creation as Second Cause has the effect of subsuming the latter under the former.  Rather, God is not the cause of the world but the Creator.
  • In the creation of the world God repeats or doubles his own Being.  This is the Divine Sophia positing the Creaturely Sophia’s mode of existence (222).
  • It is the self-repetition of the Divine Sophia.

Bulgakov thinks he solves the main aporia--that of divine and human freedom--in placing this interaction within the realm of creaturely Sophia (231).

The Church

Holds to a highly qualified apostolic succession (280-282).

The Eucharist
  • He suggests that Ignatius’s stringent appeal to the bishop suggests that his position is new and far from indisputable (284).
  • The initial emphasis was not on the Bishop, but on the koinonia.

History and Knowledge

  • mankind finds its unity in Adam and is the gnoseological subject, The Universal-I.  It is realized in the particular cognitive acts of individuals.  This is what Hegel was getting at when he said knowledge is social.  If knowledge is atomized, it can’t be transmitted.
  • If there is a transcendental subject, then there is a transcendental object.  This is the world in its integral unity, creaturely Sophia.

Expanding Being in History

We know from revelation that spiritual hierarchies participate together with man in the world.  “They act within the limits of the world.”  


What does Bulgakov mean by alluding to an “ontological hierarchy” in creation (53)? Elsewhere, he rightly rejects the Aristotelian chain of being.  I think he means something along the lines that creation is not a nominalistic bundle of atoms (a string of pearls without the string).  

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