This lack of spiritual awareness has eviscerated what it means to be a human being, what it means to be a person, and what is means to have personality. Moreover, it has exenterated the essence of human community and communal human institutions and associations.
Personality not only forms one of the cornerstones of Nikolai Berdyaev's philosophy, but also serves as the bedrock of his metaphysical assumptions concerning the nature of God and freedom. In Slavery and Freedom, Berdyaev describes personality in the following manner:
... personality is defined above all not by its relation to society and the cosmos, not by its relation to the world which is enslaved by objectivization, but by its relation to God, and from this hidden and cherished inward relation it draws strength for its free relation to the world and to man.
The image of human personality is not only a human image, it is also the image of God. In that fact lie hidden all the enigmas and mysteries of man. It is the mystery of divine-humanity, which is the paradox that cannot be expressed in rational terms.
For Berdyaev, personality is defined by its awareness of and relation to God. Without this awareness and relation, personality ceases to be personality and becomes something else entirely:
Personality is a subject, and not an object among other objects, and it has its roots in the inward scheme of existence, that is in the spiritual world, the world of freedom. Society on the other hand is an object. From the existential point of view society is a part of personality, it is its social side, just as the cosmos is a part of personality, its cosmic side. Personality is not an object among other objects and not a thing among other things. It is a subject among subjects and the turning of it into an object or a thing means death.
According to Berdyaev, personality is a subject, while society exists in the object world. At the same time, society is a part of personality and this social side is important to personality. Nevertheless, society being a part of personality is very different from personality being a part of society. While the former is tenable, even necessary, the latter is neither and eventually leads to spiritual death. Though personality is a subject, it is also communal; more specifically, personality strives to form community and communion with personality beyond itself:
Personality is communal; it presupposes communion with others, and community with others. The profound contradiction and difficulty of human life is due to this communality.
Berdyaev touches upon something extremely important in the passage above. Personality, that part of our humanity that forms and is aware of our own spiritual nature and uniqueness, exists entirely as a subject. Furthermore, it is aware that its existence is "a higher value than the world order and the harmony of the whole, than abstract being." At the same time, personality seeks communion with others during mortal life, primarily within the framework of society, which exists in the object world. The difficulty Berdayaev refers to centers upon establishing this communion of subjects without allowing this communion or the personalities involved to slip down to the level of the object world.
At first glance, what Berdyaev proposes appears impossible, but if we consider his definitions of subject and object as aspects of consciousness, the communion of subjects in the object world moves from being something completely unattainable to something that is at least spiritually possible:
Personality contains the universe within it, but this inclusion of the universe takes place not in the sphere of the object world but in the sphere of the subject world, that is to say of existentiality. Personality is aware of itself as rooted in the realm of freedom, that is, in the realm of spirit, and from that source it draws the strength for its conflict and activity. This is the very meaning of being a person, of being free.
Berdyaev argues that personality can operate at the subject level in the object world as long as it remembers that it is rooted in the realm of freedom and spirit and as long as it does not surrender this subject level awareness of itself to the object world.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, modern people have lost all sense of personality - of their innate relation to God. As a result, they have lost all connection to themselves as subjects and all intuition of being rooted in the realm of freedom and spirit. In a nutshell, they have lost the very meaning of what is means to be a person and of what it means to be free. In Berdyaev's own terminology, they have allowed themselves to become objectified - to be relegated to the level of an object among objects, the level of a thing among things.
This process of objectification has immediate knock down effects on the communal presuppositions of personality. Instead of a communion of subjects - or a community of subjects in which society is a part of personality - the process of objectification has downgraded communal life to the level of objects in which personality is absorbed wholly into society and its object world.
By willingly and actively severing all meaningful connection to the transcendent, modern "natural" people have grounded themselves in atheism, leftism, and materialism. Without an awareness of their own intrinsic connection to the Divine, modern natural people have lost all sense of personality and have, thereby, lost all sense of what it means to live in freedom and in spirit - to live in the reality of Creation.
Berdyaev refers to this as objectification, the process through which subjects lose their sense of reality and begin to adopt un-real perceptions of themselves as merely objects. In The Beginning and The End, Berdyaev notes that "Consciousness not only orients us in the midst of this world, not only gives out light, but also creates a great quantity of illusions." The denial of personality - of the divine aspect of "natural man" - is a testament to the greatest illusion consciousness creates, and it is by this illusion that most contemporary people have to chosen to live.
Later in The Beginning and The End, Berdyaev states:
In objectivization we may find only symbols, but not basic realities. The objective spirit is only a symbol of spirit. The spirit is real. Culture and social life are symbolic. There is never reality in an object: in an object there is only a symbol of reality. Reality itself is always in the subject....
Modern people believe themselves to be subjects, but they without a belief in God, they have allowed themselves to become objects, and they live exclusively within the unreality of the object world.