64 Spirituality Studies 9-1 Spring 2023 2 A Short Biography of Soloviev Vladimir Sergeevich Soloviev was born in Moscow on January 28, 1853. He was the son of Sergei Mikhailovich Soloviev (1820–1879), the famous Russian historian. Vladimir displayed his philosophical genius already as the university student with his 1874 master thesis Krizis zapadnoi filosofii: Protiv pozitivistov (Ru. The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against Positivists). He further elaborated his criticism of modern thought in the major philosophical works of his early period Filosofskie nachala tsel’nogo znaniia (Ru. The Philosophical Principles of Integral Knowledge, 1877) and his doctoral thesis Kritika otvlechennykh nachal (Ru. A Critique of Abstract Principles) defended in 1880. In his subsequent work, Soloviev became preoccupied with the ideal of the universal free theocracy, which he believed to represent the goal of the world’s historical development. With somewhat utopian fervor, he sought to promote religious progress in the society towards this ideal. In this effort, Soloviev became a vigorous advocate of the ecumenical rapprochement between the Christian East and the West. His major writings from this period were Velikii spor I khristianskaia politika (Ru. The Great Controversy and Christian Politics, 1883), Istoriia i budushchnost’ teokratii (Ru. History and Future of Theocracy, 1886), and the French title La Russie et l’Eglise universelle (Fr. Russia and the Universal Church, 1889). In the last decade of his life, Soloviev returned to his former interests in speculative philosophy. His major writing from this period is a systematic work on moral philosophy, Opravdanie dobra (Ru. Justification of the Good, 1896). However, Soloviev’s most famous work is his last publication written in the form of Platonic dialogs on the theme of evil and its ramifications in human history, Tri razgovora (Ru. Three Conversations, 1900), which ended with a short story about the coming of the Antichrist at the end of time before Christ’s Parousia. Soloviev in this work presented his final view on human history, in which the realization of God’s kingdom was to come not from a linear development into theocracy, but rather as a result of the apocalyptic struggle between Christ’s Church and the evil embodied by the Antichrist. 3 The Mystical Vision of Sophia in Soloviev’s Autobiographical Account A vision of Sophia, the personification of divine wisdom – the religious idea of paramount significance in Soloviev’s life and work – entered into his life with an extraordinary vision, first experienced at the age of nine. This fact is recorded by Soloviev in his autobiographical poem Tri svidaniia (Ru. Three Meetings), written shortly before his death in 1900. While the explicit sophiological themes are present in several works by Soloviev, and implicitly or as an inspiration are present virtually in all his work, his personal account of mystical experiences with Sophia is limited to this poem. According to Tri svidaniia, Soloviev’s first encounter with divine wisdom in the figure of a woman of exquisite beauty, which occurred while attending a church service on the feast of the Ascension in Moscow. In his poetic description, the figure of the woman was surrounded by unearthly light – “a golden azure” [4] she held a flower and nodded to him with a radiant smile. The vision that apparently lasted only for a short moment made the nine-year-old Soloviev oblivious to “earthly things” and filled him with a heavenly love (Soloviev 1966b, 81). The experience of the vision of Sophia repeated itself on two other occasions in the sequence of several months, when Soloviev was 22 years old. According to the poem, the second mystical vision took place in London, while Soloviev conducted research as a visiting scholar in the British museum on the sophiological texts in Gnostic and Mediaeval Latin manuscripts. This vision was the immediate cause for Soloviev’s abrupt decision to travel to the Cairo desert in Egypt, where his third and final mystical encounter with Sophia took place. This was Soloviev’s most extensive vision of Sophia. In the poem Tri svidaniia (1966b, 84), Soloviev described the content of his mystical experience in the following verses: What is, what was, and what will be were here Embraced within that one fixed gaze… I saw it all, and all of it was one One image there of beauty feminine… In this crucial text, Soloviev characterized his mystical experience of Sophia in terms of an all-embracing vision of unity. Everything was contained in his “one fixed gaze” of Sophia. All of reality was somehow related to this vision; he con-