66 Spirituality Studies 9-1 Spring 2023 practices also seems to have brought undesired consequences: as he mentioned to his friends on more than one occasion, he suffered from demonic attacks. These experiences might have been hallucinations generated by his morbid sensitivity and neurosis, however, Soloviev was convinced that his perceptions of evil spirits had an objective basis (cf. Trubetskoi 1913, 20–21; Losev 2011, 440–442). Perhaps these eccentricities in Soloviev’s religious worldview originated in his deep sacramental spirituality, developed somewhat anomalously outside the context of liturgical piety. While he respected, venerated, and more regularly than not received the Christian sacraments as the efficient sign of Christ’s redeeming grace, he seemingly did not allow liturgical worship to inform his religious thought and practice. This by no means implies that Soloviev’s religious philosophy was not sacramental in the broad sense of the word. As Trubetskoi (1913, 22) has written, “It belonged to the fundaments of [note: Soloviev’s] worldview that the material world was not an autonomous and self-contained whole, but rather a sphere of manifestation and incarnation of spiritual forces.” For Soloviev, the world was a great sacrament, the efficient sign of the love of the Creator, the token of divinization, of the all-unity (Ru. vseedinstvo) already in progress, in the process of realization. Mediation between God and the world was for Soloviev linked with his vision of Sophia, and theologically, primarily depended upon the dogma of the incarnation; however, the paschal mystery did not receive appropriate attention in Soloviev’s religious philosophy. Thus, his apocalyptic reconstruction of his eschatological thought in the final work of his life was apparently due not only to the collapse of his theocratic theory, but also to his personal encounter with the powers of darkness, whose existence he had denied as a young philosopher. Another intriguing part of Soloviev’s sophianic spirituality was the role of women in his life. When asked whether he had ever been in love, and how many times, Soloviev answered, “Seriously – once; otherwise – twenty-seven times” (quoted in Lossky 1951, 89). The latter was a humorous reference to various fleeting romances during his life. In the first part of the answer Soloviev was most likely speaking of his long platonic relationship with Sofia Khitrovo, the adopted daughter of the Russian nobleman and writer Alexei Konstantinovich Tolstoi (1817–1875). Née Bakhmeteva, Khitrovo was born to Tolstoi’s wife Sofia Andreevna as a single mother. She separated from her husband Mikhail Aleksandrovich Khitrovo several years after their marriage, but they never officially divorced. Soloviev maintained a platonic relationship with Khitrovo for about a decade and devoted to her most of his poetry. Soloviev’s eroticism, however, was paradoxically intertwined with his high ideal of celibacy. He was in the most precise sense of the word a platonic lover of beauty; to him, the erotic drive was bound with an aesthetic contemplation of the ideally beautiful in an eternal embrace of divine love; thus, his amorous relationships always remained on the platonic level. In his experience of erotic attraction, Sophia, his only true beloved, seemed to merge her own beauty with the contours of an individual woman. In the end, however, his devotion to the universal ideal always prevailed over any special relationship he had with any woman. As Hans Urs von Balthasar has written (2004, 293), “Soloviev lived in an habitual state of ‘baptized Eros’ directed toward Sophia” – “despite occasional and impassioned relationships with earthly women, which remained, however, unrequited or unconsummated, signifying for him no more than transitory embodiment of his ‘secret mistress.’” 6 The Philosophical Conceptualization of Sophia in Soloviev’s Religious Thought In his religious philosophy, Soloviev conceptualized his mystical experience of Sophia into a unified representation of reality, which he called vseedinstvo (Ru. all-unity). He first introduced his concept of vseedinstvo in his dissertation on the Critique of Abstract Principles. In an entry for the Brockhaus– Efron Encyclopedia, Soloviev characterized vseedinstvo as a relation of a single principle to everything in a positive sense (in contradistinction to the abstract concept of being, derived negatively, by elimination of all aspects other the being): “the relation of an all-encompassing spiritual-organic whole to the living members and elements in it” (1966a, 231). Soloviev elaborated this philosophical idea from a contemplative, sophiological vision of reality as the universe of living and spiritual beings created by God with a specific purpose – the single principle to which everything is related – love. As Semion Frank (1974, 10) commented, “intuition of this unity determines the whole of Soloviev’s world-conception”. On the basis of his pivotal idea of oneness (Ru. vseedinstvo), Soloviev has at times been considered a pantheist thinker. According to Lev Shestov, Soloviev’s conception of all-unity was based on an abstract philosophical conception of God in the manner of Spinoza or various trends in German idealist philosophy (cf. Desmod 2000, 185–210). However, the