George M. Young. The Russian Cosmists : The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers. — New York, 2012

The Russian Cosmists : The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers / George M. Young. — New York : Oxford University Press, 2012  The Russian Cosmists : The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers / George M. Young. — New York : Oxford University Press, 2012

The Russian Cosmists : The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers / George M. Young. — New York : Oxford University Press, 2012. — X, 280 p.



Preface ix
1. The Spiritual Geography of Russian Cosmism 3
General Characteristics 4
Recent Definitions of Cosmism 7
2. Forerunners of Russian Cosmism 12
Vasily Nazarovich Karazin (1773–1842) 12
Alexander Nikolaevich Radishchev (1749–1802) 14
Two Poets: Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (1711–1765) and Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin (1743–1816) 14
Prince Vladimir Fedorovich Odoevsky (1803–1869) 16
Aleksander Vasilyevich Sukhovo-Kobylin (1817–1903) 17
3. The Russian Philosophical Context 21
Philosophy as Passion 21
The Destiny of Russia 22
Thought as a Call for Action 24
The Totalitarian Cast of Mind 25
4. The Religious and Spiritual Context 27
The Kingdom of God on Earth 27
Hesychasm; Two Great Russian Saints 28
The Third Rome 32
Pre-Christian Antecedents 33
5. The Russian Esoteric Context 36
Early Searches for “Deep Wisdom” 36
Popular Magic 38
Higher Magic in the Time of Peter the Great 39
Esotericism after Peter the Great 43
Theosophy and Anthroposophy 44
6. Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov (1829–1903), the Philosopher of the Common Task 46
The One Idea 46
The Unacknowledged Prince 51
The Village Teacher 55
First Disciple; Dostoevsky and Tolstoy 60
The Moscow Librarian 68
Last Years: Askhabad; The Only Portrait 71
7. The “Common Task” 76
The Esoteric Dimension of the “Common Task” 76
Fedorov's Legacy 87
8. The Religious Cosmists 92
Vladimir Sergeevich Solovyov (1853–1900) 92
Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov (1871–1944) 108
Pavel Aleksandrovich Florensky (1882–1937) 119
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Berdyaev (1874–1948) 134
9. The Scientific Cosmists 145
Konstantin Edouardovich Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935) 145
Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (1863–1945) 155
Alexander Leonidovich Chizhevsky (1897–1964) 163
Vasily Feofilovich Kuprevich (1897–1969) 171
10. Promethean Theurgy 177
Life Creation 177
Cultural Immortalism 179
God Building 180
Reaiming the Arrows of Eros 182
Technological Utopianism 185
Occultism 187
11. Fedorov's Twentieth-Century Followers 193
Nikolai Pavlovich Peterson (1844–1919) and Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov (1852–1917) 193
Svyatogor and the Biocosmists 197
New Wine and the Universal Task 200
Alexander Konstantinovich Gorsky (1886–1943) and Nikolai Alexandrovich Setnitsky (1888–1937) 101
Valerian Nikolaevich Muravyov (1885–1932) 208
Vasily Nikolaevich Chekrygin (1897–1922) 214
12. Cosmism and Its Offshoots Today 219
The N. F. Fedorov Museum-Library 219
The Tsiolkovsky Museum and Chizhevsky Center 223
ISRICA—Institute for Scientific Research in Cosmic Anthropoecology 224
Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev (1912–1992) and Neo-Eurasianism 226
The Hyperboreans 229
Scientific Immortalism 231
Conclusions about the Russian Cosmists 235
Notes 243
Bibliography 261 
Index 275




This study began some years ago, in 1964, in a Yale graduate school seminar on Dostoevsky taught by Robert Louis Jackson. As I recall, ten or twelve of us were in the seminar, and early in the term Professor Jackson gave us a list of some ten or twelve topics for weekly reports. We chose by our order in the class roll, and I watched in dismay as one after another all the best “Dostoevsky-and” topics were chosen: Bakhtin, Vyacheslav Ivanov, the Elder Amvrosy, Dickens, Pushkin, Images of Childhood, the Ideal of Beauty. When the choice reached me, as last in the alphabet, two topics were left, neither of which I had ever heard of. So, having no idea what I was in for, I chose Nikolai Fedorov. The first information I found about him came from a footnote to Dolinin’s edition of Dostoevsky’s letters, and reading that footnote again and again I began to think to myself: this is a big idea! When the week for my report came, I gave it and have been thinking and writing about Fedorov and topics related to him since.
This study presents several corrections and a great many updates, and is an adventurous outgrowth of my 1979 book, Nikolai Fedorov: An Introduction. When I wrote that work, I was not a proponent of Fedorov’s teachings but admired the strength and boldness of his philosophical imagination. Over the years, my attitude to Fedorov’s ideas has not changed significantly, and in writing the present book I find that I view the thoughts of most of the other Cosmists much in the same way I view Fedorov’s: hugely fascinating, inspiring, stimulating, but not ideas I would insist that friends and readers drop everything to live by. Mental health warning: fascinating as they are, at least to me, all the Cosmists were and are highly controversial—some would say even kooky—thinkers, recommended for mature audiences only.
In mechanical matters, the translations are mine unless otherwise noted. In the notes and bibliography I have used a standard system of transliteration, but in the body of the text I have used familiar English spellings rather than consistent transliterations for certain Russian words and names. In quoting other commentary in English, I have used that authors spelling of Russian names instead of changing them to be consistent with my spellings.
Over the years, many people, some no longer alive, have supported and helped my writing in general and my work on Fedorov and the Cosmists in particular. I would like to express my gratitude to all of them, but will mention only a few teachers, colleagues, friends, and editors: Gale Carrithers, William Blackburn, Reynolds Price, Fred Chappell, Wallace Kaufman, Robert Louis Jackson, Victor Erlich, Richard Gustafson, Rene Wellek, Michael Holquist, John Dunlop, Gordon Livermore, George Zimmar, George L. Kline, William F. Buckley, Jeffrey Hart, Peter Jarotski, Walter Arndt, Robert Siegel, James Tatum, Charles Stinson, Anouar Majid, Matthew Anderson, Susan McHugh, Lee Irwin, Maria Carlson, Kristi Groberg, Bernice Rosenthal, Betty Bland, Richard Smoley, John Algeo, David London, Svetlana Semenova, Anastasia Gacheva, Valery Borisov, Julie Scott, Steven Armstrong, Cynthia Read, and Ben Sadock. I am grateful to the University of New England librarians for help in research, and to the Center for Global Humanities of the University of New England for generous financial assistance to complete research and writing. Most important of all to me over these many years has been the love and support of my wife Patricia, son Roy, daughter Susannah, and son–in–law Patrick. Always in my mind, I wish to dedicate this book to the memory of my parents, George and Mary Ella Young, and my sister Patricia Pryor.




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