As cultural conflicts roil the world, the idea of a “clash of civilizations” has lately taken hold, with commentators from both East and West weighing the religious and
political disparities that affect global unity. For all its present currency and urgency, the idea is nothing new. In various contexts V. S. Soloviev (1853–1900), the most distinguished representative of nineteenth-century Russian religious philosophy, anticipated our current global dilemma by more than a hundred years. These essays, presented together for the first time in English, consider from a number of perspectives how a future clash of cultures between East and West threatens human progress toward the harmonic unity that, for Soloviev, represented the ultimate human telos.
The six essays comprising this book span Soloviev’s publishing career, beginning with “The Mythological Process in Ancient Paganism,” written at the age of twenty, and ending with “Muhammad, His Life and Religious Teaching,” which appeared four years before Soloviev’s death at forty-seven. Throughout, Soloviev grapples with commonalities and differences apparent in the moral frameworks of civilizations since antiquity; and in religious and cultural practices, from Europe through the Middle East to Asia. His probing of the sources of religious morality and political authority in human history reinvigorated Russian intellectual interest in the East/West question in his time—
and still resonates powerfully in our own.