Edith Stein

Vladimir Soloviev and Edith Stein

Vladimir Soloviev and Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) strike a chord of similarity when it comes to their respective missions in life. Both philosophers saw their mission as being a reconciliation of systems, and this is what makes their works so attractive to me. They strove to reconcile whole systems, not to reduce each to its lowest common denominator. Both philosophers wanted to see each system retained in its respective wholeness, as opposed to creating something compromised. Edith Stein sought to advance truth while Soloviev sought to advance true justice, and both philosophers sought to make their goal more accessible to others.

The two have other similarities despite surface differences. Edith Stein was a Jewish German Philosopher who converted to the Catholic faith (and later executed at Auschwitz). Soloviev was a Russian Orthodox who converted to Catholicism, but only after losing his faith for a while through German rationalism. Both knew that what they had (Phenomenology for Stein, Orthodoxy for Soloviev) was good, but that it could be developed to its fullness only through the Catholic philosophical and theological system.

Soloviev’s mission was the reconciliation of the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

“The Blessed Virgin appeared to him three times during his life and set him upon his life’s mission. This mission, which gradually unfolded for him, was that of the reunion of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church.”

~Soloviev, Vladimir. Russia & The Universal Church . Catholic Resources. Kindle Edition.

Stein’s mission was the reconciliation of her mentor Edmund Husserl’s modern day Phenomenology with the medieval scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas.“Potency and Act is the second of three works in which St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross set out explicitly to relate the phenomenology of her teacher Edmund Husserl and the scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas.

She saw this project as her ‘proper mission,’ her ‘life’s task.’ She not only ‘contrasted’ the two philosophies but ‘fused’ them into her own ‘philosophical system,’ a search for perennial philosophy, ‘something beyond ages and peoples common to all who honestly seek the truth.’

“~ Edith Stein. Potency and Act (The Collected Works of Edith Stein) (Kindle Locations 64-67). Kindle Edition.

Soloviev saw the ancient heresies of the East as imperial weapons used by Byzantium Emperors succeeding Constantine to wage war on Christ as He is represented through the visible Church in Rome. This is why eastern heresies such as Gnosticism, Nestorianism, Arianism, Monophysitism, Iconoclasm and the like ravaged the Church and the Catholic orthodox faithful for centuries. Eastern Emperors found heresies useful in combatting Rome, their chief rival for the remnant of the Roman Empire.

Stein reflected on the truth she had discovered and found that by first embracing that same Church in Rome, she could safely fuse modern day philosophy with that of the ancients.

Soleviev and Stein both found the fulfillment of their respective “missions of reconciliation” only through the unifying, universal lens of Catholicism. For his part Soloviev found the earthly representation of the incarnation visible as the Church in Rome with the Pope as the Peter for any given age. For her part Stein declared “this is truth” after reading St. Teresa of Avila’s writings which began her journey to that same representation of the incarnation on earth. They were drawn to the Church in Rome and believed that truth (Stein) and justice (Soloviev) could be found only through submission to that incarnation, the Church, by the submission of the intellect (Stein) and the submission of the social and political order (Soloviev) to it.

Through these reconciliations, they lead us to unified wholeness of intellect and social order rather than divided compromise.

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