Theological Origins of the Kiev Psychological School

16 апреля 2021

Citation: Aleksandr F Bondarenko., et al. “Theological Origins of the Kiev Psychological School”. EC Psychology and Psychiatry 10.3 (2021): 24-28.

Theological Origins of the Kiev Psychological School

Aleksandr F Bondarenko*, Natalia A Kucherovska and Svetlana L Fedko

Kiev National Linguistic University, Department of Psychology, Kiev, Ukraine

*Corresponding Author: Aleksandr F Bondarenko, Kiev National Linguistic University, Department of Psychology, Kiev, Ukraine.

Received: December 29, 2020; Published: February 26, 2021

Ethical experiences are a traditional subject of Russian psychology, which has been repeatedly noted by researchers of the history of Russian psychological and philosophical thought [2,3,19,23]. In this sense, the study of the early stages of the development and presentation of ideas about higher mental functions in the academic environment of the first half of the 19th century, in particular, in the activities of the professors of the Kiev Theological Academy and the Kiev University of St. Vladimir, is of great scientific interest. The very names of the professors of these higher educational institutions of the largest university center of southern Russia inspire respect, because they constitute the true treasury of Russian theological, philosophical and psychological thought of the first half of the 19th century: Innokentiy Borisov (1800-1855), Peter Avsenev (1810-1852), Vasily Karpov (1798-1867), Ivan Skvortsov (1795-1863), Orest Novitsky (1806-1884), Joseph Mikhnevich (1809-1885), Dmitry Pospekhov (1821-1899), Sylvester Gogotsky (1813-1889), Pamphil Yurkevich (1827-1874).

What are the origins of this problem, and the enormous influence with which both Russian democrats of the 19th century and psychologists of the Soviet period fought so persistently, for whom, with a few exceptions, this bright page of Russian psychological thought did not even exist?

In our opinion, the answer to this question is that the representatives of the bright galaxy of these thinkers not only were not reckless epigones of German classical philosophy, although they knew it perfectly, but moreover: they acted as its reasoned critics, without separating rational thinking from higher feelings and paying great attention to experimental psychology, in relation to which abstract reasoning, not supported by «experience», i.e. experimental data were perceived as divorced from the life of reasoning. But even more important is the position of I. Mikhnevich, brought to the rank of a world outlook, that «blind is the faith in which there is no knowledge, but not far-sighted and that knowledge in which there is no faith”.

The fact is that these thinkers, teaching at the Kiev Imperial University of St. Vladimir and the Kiev Theological Academy, proceeded from the tradition of Orthodox theological thought, reflected in the writings of Anthony the Great, Macarius the Great, Abba Zosima, Maximus the Confessor, John Climacus, Gregory Palamas, Ephraim the Syrian, which are characterized precisely by the unification, synthesis of mental and moral experiences, the general purpose of which is the moral improvement of a person. So, according to V.N. Karpov, professor of the Kiev Theological Academy, rationalism in the spirit of Kant for our compatriots is an alien worldview, contrary to the Orthodox faith and the Russian mentality. Without denying the importance of the experience of European philosophy, he believed that on the Russian spiritual soil, fed by the tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy, consistent rationalism has no future. The Eastern spiritual tradition requires that the mind and heart should not be swallowed up by one another, but redouble their interests, developing in constant connection with each other as organs of faith. “Society, time, sciences — authorities, of course, are great: Tamerlans, Neroes, Hegels, Machiavelli and Robespierres relied on them with equal right. How many, in the name of modernity, nationality and even education, there have been and are taking such measures to improve a person, which did not improve, but in fact actually ruined him” [11, p. 218-219]. “Countless phenomena of the moral world” — this is, according to the thinker, “the immeasurable field of self-knowledge” [ibid, p.191].

The very names of the courses taught in the first half of the 19th century at the Kiev Theological Academy speak for themselves: «Moral Anthropology», «On Man», «Guide to Experiential Psychology», «Moral Purpose of Man», etc.

The important ethical concepts «conscience», «good», «grace», «good», «Christian love», and on the other hand — «sin», «evil,» selfishness «,» passion «- these are the poles in which teaching was conducted and the meaningfulness was carried out both in theological, and in psychological and philosophical discourses. It is this theological and ethical tradition that can explain the subsequent vector of development of psychology at the Imperial University of St. philosophy and, of course, psychology [16]. In the textbook «Guide to Experimental Psychology» (1840), among the highest sensations («excitations») of a person, Professor O. Novitsky singled out direct (pure) and mediocre (mediated) sensations [16, p. 304], and feelings — practical and theoretical… Among the latter: “Theoretical self- excitation is directed towards the truth, and practical — towards goals or the achievement of what should be. Therefore, practical feelings are selfish, while theoretical ones are disinterested” [ibid. P. 314-315]. Above all, by its nature and its foundation, the author puts religious feeling, by which he understood “the action of the Divine itself in the human spirit, the reflection in our Self of His essential Omnipresence” [ibid., P.336]. “Religious feeling is called reverence, moral — conscience” [ibid, p.337]. Moreover, what we think is extremely important is the judgment of O. Novitsky, according to which “All moral rules and regulations are secondary thoughts extracted by self-deepening from moral feeling as an ideal feeling of goodness” [ibid., P. 341.] What striking contradiction is this judgment of an Orthodox author with the well-known position of Z. Freud about the «Super-I» as an extremely rationalized source of moral attitudes and prohibitions! Hence the main conclusion of the thinker: “The task of freedom is to transform the nature of man into character, to elevate his innocence into morality” [bid., P.399].

From 1834 to 1859, logic and psychology at the Kiev University of St. Volodymyr was also taught by Ivan Skvortsov, who, being a Doctor of Theology, before that, from 1819, was a professor at the Kiev Theological Academy. Let us clarify at the same time that the Kiev Theological Academy was opened in 1819, and the Imperial University of St. Vladimir — in 1834. I. M. Skvortsov continues the line of the importance of morality for anthropology, as a natural theological basis of psychology and philosophy understood by him. In Notes on Moral Philosophy, published in 1869 on the basis of manuscripts of the 1831-1835s, as well as in the records of I.M.Skvortsov’s diary, published in the collection of works of the Kiev Theological Academy in 1864, he indicates: “… one should be attentive to the voice of conscience and try to strengthen and purify moral sensations in oneself more and more” [91, p.34]. At the same time, the moral feeling is understood by him as an innate quality together with love for life, a tendency to community, a sense of truth, while upbringing can only strengthen and weaken it, but cannot give it or take it away from a person [ibid, p.34]…

Professor of the Kiev Theological Academy and the Imperial University of St. Vladimir, theologian, psychologist, student of I.M.Skvortsov P. 3. Avsenev (from 1844 — Archimandrite Feofan) {1810 — 1852) argued that phenomena of an ethical order are reflected in the mirror of conscience, together with that, it is the duty of every person to strive for a clear conscience, a high prototype of the soul [see. 17].

It should be noted that the theologian scientist showed a special interest in psychology. This is evidenced by the collection «Psychological Notes», in fact, a course of lectures on experimental psychology, published after the death of the author in 1869. As noted by Yu. T. Rozhdestvensky: «The specified collection of lectures, which were read by the author at the KDA for ten years, and gave the basis for historians to qualify, and not without reason, P.S. Avsenev as» the founder of «psychological science within the walls of the Kiev Theological Academy» [16, p.52]. The question naturally arises, in what way the problem of ethical feelings is revealed in the works of the “founder of psychology at KDA”?

P.S. Avsenev believed that a person is free in his inner experience, he himself makes a choice in favor of good or evil, but the consequence of these actions is our ethical experiences, a conscience in which we feel approval of good deeds and internal repentance for the evil that has been done. The same idea was developed by a student of P.S. Avsenev, the publisher of his lectures, professor, head of the Department of Psychology of the Kiev Theological Academy D.V. Pospekhov (1821-1899), arguing that with the help of conscience, a person throughout his life must repeatedly repeat the primary act ethical determination for the good, and noting the general nature of the experiences of conscience, which are characteristic of everyone, without exception, regardless of the moral development of a person. From his point of view, actions against the dictates of conscience are actions against one’s spiritual purpose, a three-sided disharmony with oneself, with the world and with God.

Investigating the psychological views of the professor of the Kiev Theological Academy the Imperial University of St. Vladimir S. S. Gogotsky (1813 — 1889) on the problem of ethical experiences, in our opinion, it is necessary to note, first of all, the scientist’s contribution to the development of psychological science. According to modern research in the field of the history of psychology, S.S. Gogotsky formulated a statement, new for that time, that psychology is a kind of unifying element between natural science and ethical sciences, since it uses the methods and techniques of these areas of knowledge, and most importantly, with the help of such a combination depicts the natural transition of man, created by nature as an instrument of bodily inclinations and passions into a being conscious and morally self-governing [21].

SS Gogotsky noted: psychology “… stands at the borderline between natural science and ethical life. Explaining the gradual development of the manifestations of our inner life, from their lowest state, when they are still intertwined and still closed by multifaceted physical conditions to the highest mental and moral perfection” [5,6].

It should be noted that the provisions of S.S. Gogotsky about the development of human sensations lies the principle of historicism. In his works, the author considers a gradual transition from low (in the author’s terminology, bodily-mental) to higher, or spiritual sensations. The author understood the inner sensation as a pleasant or unpleasant for us modification in our own inner state of health or mood, in which, his very pleasure or unpleasantness is an internal direct assessment of what enters our consciousness and draws our attention [4-6].

At the same time, the author emphasized the special importance of higher sensations in the moral life of a person. From his point of view, bodily-mental sensations that originate from perceptions, communicated by the sense organs or organic causes in the human body without moral development and without transition to the sphere of higher feelings, keep a person only in the degree of animal life of gross arbitrariness and passions, and intensify in it is only of an instinctive nature.

The next stage in the development of sensations is, according to the convictions of SS Gogotsky, the highest, moral, spiritual feelings of a person. The author noted that the transition to this sphere of sensations is possible under the influence of special educational measures, a detailed description of which we find in the scientist’s psychological and pedagogical works. According to the author, it is precisely the higher sensations that are called upon to be pacifying and fundamental principles in the endless modifications and collisions of human life.

They are based on the possibility of the emergence of religious feelings. The author substantiates this position: “… in the search for aesthetic beauty, the power of the ideal principle is already assumed, visible only in parts in artistic creations, over inert material material; the search sensation of truth, as a really-existent in a continuous change of phenomena, already presupposes in it fortune-telling about the beginning of originality, finally, and the search for moral feelings of perfection, already presupposes in it the still unclear idea of an all-perfect being, setting the goals of being for all living things. In a word, three other higher feelings already assume a common, inherent in us and ruling them sensation of being, protruding beyond the phenomena we observe, in which the main reason and meaning of all life” [5, p. 13].

The works of a prominent representative of Russian science P.D. Yurkevich (1827-1874) became a kind of answer to the questions posed about the ethical phenomena of a person’s mental life, in particular his feelings and experiences, and, more broadly, the self- determination of domestic science in the context of its own spiritual tradition. As noted above, many authors of the period under consideration, by us, tried to interpret ethical issues in the mainstream of the ideas of Kant or other representatives of German classical psychology, while encountering obvious difficulties dictated, first of all, by the contradictions arising from the clash of different cultures, and ideas emanating from them. about duty or moral law. In the anthropological concept of the heart, the fundamental ideas of which are set forth in the work «The heart and its meaning in the spiritual life of man, according to the teachings of the word of God» (1860),

P.D. Yurkevich focused on the impossibility of explaining the phenomena of mental life from the point of view of self-law, the autonomy of the human mind «The law for mental activity is not considered the power of the mind as its invention, but belongs to man as ready, the unchanging God-established order of the moral and spiritual life of man and mankind, and besides, it belongs, according to the apostle, in the heart as the deepest side of the human spirit» [18].

The question of the ethical phenomena of a person’s mental life can be properly posed and resolved only if the ethical (practical) philosophy masters the content of views on the essence and significance of the human heart, which is in sacred books and in the works of spiritual writers. These beliefs, contrary to the opinion of their various interpreters, that they saw in the doctrine of the heart nothing more than a random image of words, are distinguished by a certain clarity, and the reasoning contained in them, expressed consistently and strictly and leave no doubt about their thoughtful logic and evidence, — noted scientist [18].

According to the Bible, writes P.D. Yurkevich, the heart is the bearer of bodily forces, the focus of spiritual spiritual life, cognitive actions, and the moral life of a person. From the author’s point of view, the heart is not one of the sides of the spirit, but an expression of the deepest basis of its being. Note that in the works of the scientist, the concept of «soul» and «spirit» are synonymous. However, such teaching, continues P. D. Yurkevich, does not agree with the provisions that are developed by modern psychology, focuses on natural- scientific models of explaining the nature and characteristics of mental activity, in particular, the provisions on the dependence of a person’s cognitive acts on the state of his nervous system or its individual organs. And since cognitive acts (ideas, thoughts) have a head as their organ, psychology, in full accordance with this fact, came to the conclusion that thinking is the true essence of the human soul, its spiritual foundation. Hence, will and feeling turned into involuntary and accidental modifications of mental processes (thinking), lost their originality and real meaning [18].

From the point of view of P. D. Yurkevich, reducing the essence of the soul to the function of thinking, this psychology itself closes the possibility of explaining the problem of free will, moral dignity and human actions, directly arising from heart motives, and not from the logical necessity of duty and cold consciousness of what is happening. By denying a person the freedom to choose and assess the situation, such a psychology dooms a person to «stupid» obedience to circumstances, in fact, contradicts the Christian view of man as a bright and reasonable being. Such psychology not only condemns a person to an indifferent and joyless existence, but also deprives him of the feat of creation. Meanwhile, according to P.D. Yurkevich’s remark, a person experiences a moral attraction to a person both in order to receive inner excitement from his opinion, to nourish and educate his soul with them, and in order to, in turn, open his soul to him, your thoughts, desires, joys and sufferings. Here we have the so-called sense of humanity, which gives human race a special, higher significance among other creatures, and which weakens the action of hostile forces.

Thus, there is every reason to believe that in the works of representatives of university and theological thought of higher secular and religious educational institutions of Kiev in the first half of the 19th century, the foundations of the psychology were laid, which in the 20th century, regardless of the 1917 catastrophe in Russia, found its face in the form of the ethical personalism of Max Scheler and Emmanuel Mounier, was developed in the works by Karl Jaspers and Albert Schweitzer and, finally, in our time, finds its adherents and successors in Russian psychology and psychotherapy.


  1. Bondarenko AF. “Tongue. Culture. Psychotherapy: collection of scientific articles”. Kiev, Department, (2012): 334-339.
  2. Bondarenko AF. “Psychological assistance: theory and practice”. Kiev: “Osvita of Ukraine” (2007): 145-159.
  3. Gogotsky SS. “A short overview of pedagogy (from lectures at the University of St. Vladimir and at the women’s higher courses)”. Issue Collection of lectures by former professors of the Kiev Theological Academy, Archimandrite Innokenty, Archpriest I.М. Skvortsova,
  4. Wundt V. “Ethics. Study of the facts and laws of ethical life”. [trans. with it.]. SPb: “Russian wealth”, (1887): 452. first. Kiev (1882): 147.
  5. Gogotsky SS. “A critical review of M. Troitsky’s composition “German Psychology in the Current Century. Historical and critical re- search with a preliminary outline of the successes of psychologists since the days of Bacon and Locke”. Kiev: V.A. Menchits, 2nd Edition (1877): 156.
  6. Gogotsky SS. “Psychology program: in 2 editions (from psychological lectures at the University of St. Vladimir)”. Kiev, university print- ing house (1881): 131.
  7. James W. “Psychology”. Per from English. I. I. Lapshin, — St. Petersburg. Publishing house: Soikin (1896): 410.
  8. Zenkovsky VV. “The problem of mental causation”. Kiev: V Type. Impr. Univer. St. Vladimir (1914): 435 p.
  9. Karpov VN. “Introductory lecture to psychology Christian reading” 2 (1862): 189-229.
  10. Karpov VN. “On self-knowledge Wanderer” 1 (1860):17-34
  11. Kavelin KD. “Psychology Tasks: Considerations about the methods and program of psychological research”. St. Petersburg: F. Sush- chinskogo Printing House (1872): 239.
  12. Linitskiy PI “On freedom of will. Philosophical and sociological studies”. К 1 (1907): 48.
  13. Linitskiy PI. “Christian morality”. Proceedings of the Kiev Theological Academy 2 (1905).
  14. Novitsky OM. “Guide to Experienced Psychology”. Kiev (1840): 504.
  15. Pospekhov DV. “The moral purpose of a person”. TKDA.t.2.Kiev (1891): 353-394.
  16. Rozhdestvensky YuT. “Kiev school of academic psychology of the first half of the nineteenth century”. Kiev, “Gnosis” (1999): 214.
  17. Collection of lectures by former professors of the Kiev Theological Academy, Archimandrite Innokenty, Archpriest I.М. Skvortsova, P.S. Avsenev (Archimandrite Feofan) and J.K. Amfitheatrova, published by the Academy on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary (1869): 363.
  18. Skvortsov IM. “Notes on moral philosophy”. Works in 2 volumes, volume 1, Kiev, Dragomanov NPK, (2014): 120-185.
  19. Troitsky MM. “The Science of the Spirit: General Properties and Laws of the Human Spirit”. Volume 2, Op. M. Troitsky, M: N.A. Abrikosov (1882): 320.
  20. Yurkevich PD. “The heart and its meaning in the spiritual life of a person, according to the teaching of the word of God”. Kiev: Publish- ing house: journal “Works of the Kiev Theological Academy” (1860): 118.
  21. Yaroshevsky MG. “The history of psychologists from antiquity to the middle of the twentieth century”. Study guide, M (1996): 416.

Подписка на новости

Присоединяйтесь к электронной рассылке и получайте оповещения о мероприятиях и новых материалах на сайте.

© 2013—2023 Профессор Бондаренко Александр Федорович все права защищены