The aim of this article is to compare the theological notion of human ‘personality’, which theologians and philosophers of the XX and early XXI century have been so much perplexed by, with the concept of ‘culture’. What is the relationship between these two concepts? What, if any, is the correlation between “culture” and “personality”? Is it possible to describe their synergy? In his work ‘Faith and Culture’, Archpriest George Florovsky asks the question: ‘Is culture necessary for the realization of a man’s personality or is it just no more than outer clothing, which is needed in some cases, but which does not belong naturally to the essence of human existence?’. In other words, could it be that ‘personality’ is so free and autonomous that its world is determined chiefly by some of its own inner factors, whereas culture is not a necessary element at all, but just an appendage to personal being? The problem can also be formulated in the reverse sequence: whether the genetic influence of a particular person, or a group of persons, over culture is considerable? And if it is, what are the actual ways and means of personality’s impact on culture; is it more of an external-aesthetic nature or can some ontological foundations of such a personal imprint can be pointed to?
It seems important for us to draw parallels between the notions of ‘personality’ and ‘culture’ in order to provide justification for their kinship, and to reveal the layout of their reciprocal influence. Certainly, definitions of ‘culture’ are numerous and diverse, as well as the fact that the understanding of ‘personality’ is fairly different in psychology, philosophy and theology. Nevertheless, both the etymology of the word ‘culture’ itself and its definitions by the best culture experts and sociologists bring us to an idea of the cognation of the notions of human culture and personality. For example, an outstanding sociologist of the XX century, Pitirim Sorokin, defines culture as ‘a super-natural phenomenon’, whereas a theological notion of human personality, as it is known, comes exactly to the irreducibility of personality to its nature. That is why V. Lossky, an outstanding theologian of the Russian diaspora, describes the notion of human person as a metaphysical one. Following ancient philosophers (such as Marcus Porcius, Cicero and others), modern philosophers speak of human culture as of one of the highest spheres of human activities: ‘Any culture (even material culture) is actually a culture of the spirit, any culture has a spiritual basis – it is a product of a creative work of the spirit over the elements of nature’. In this definition by Berdyaev the notion of culture is perceived as a product or a result of a сertain relation of the highest human powers and abilities to the elements of nature.
Culture in the most general sense can be defined as a relation or as a system of relations. But only personality can enter into relationship, if relation is considered in its deep ontological sense. If so, only that or those who express their relation – a personality or a community of personalities – can be carriers of culture. The Russian philosopher and theologian of the XX century, A. Losev, defines culture exactly through the concept of ‘relation’: ‘culture … is the relation of general and particular, or of general and single’, where relation is understood in a dialectical sense. ‘The term ‘commonality’ corresponds to the understanding of ‘culture’ much more than terms such as ‘idea’, ‘symbol’ or ‘value’, because each of them expresses only ‘separate aspects of ‘culture’’.
The concept of ‘commonality’ in its ontological meaning implies not just an association or a set of something or somebody, but communication of personalities. So any culture is a way to express relationship and a tool which its carriers use to communicate with somebody, with other personalities: God, another person or a group of people, and even with him/herself or with something else: the cosmos, nature and animals around them, cultural artifacts from other epochs, creative works of contemporaries, etc. Consequently, any culture should first of all imply and define the culture of communicating of personalities, both those who are its carriers and those who perceive it ‘from the outside’. True culture ought to be based on a correct understanding and feeling, whether that be less conscious and more intuitive, or vice versa, of a human personality and the laws of its being, its dynamics, its relationship both with other personalities, with the nature of the world and with human beings.
Thus, correct theological views on human personality may allow us to determine basic characteristic features of a true culture; the dynamism of human personality is the key to the dynamic nature of any culture. Culture can be identified as a specific way that human personality exists; it characterizes the life activity of the communities of human personalities, and of society as a whole. Culture cannot but express a personal way of human being.
The first conclusion we can make from the fact of the kinship between the concepts of ‘personality’ and ‘culture’ is that ‘any culture is religious in its basic meaning, even if its empirical content is outside religion’. Because ‘religion’ (the etymology of which comes from notions of ‘union’, ‘reunification’, and ‘the attitude of reverence’), is a concept that is associated, again, with relation; specifically, with the relationship between a human being and God. This means that religion, as well as culture, is a purely personal concept. That is why true culture cannot but be religious, and any culture that rejects personal relationship between man and his Creator, that rejects the congruityof human personality and the Personality of the Absolute God, eventually comes to negative dynamics, to a rejection of human personality itself or to a degeneration of this notion, and, consequently, inevitably loses its own ontological basis and degenerates itself. Hence, the meaning of the statement by one of the greatest Orthodox personalists of the XX century, Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) that, ‘through rejection of Christian personalism the de-humanization of the masses becomes inevitable’, becomes obvious. Unfortunately, this is exactly the way that Western European culture has been following in its development. And although an understanding of the unity of religion and culture is preserved on a subconscious level, on a conscious level religion and culture have begun to be considered as opposites.
Actually, the fact that the era which became a symbol of the gradual secularization and de-Christianization of European humanity, has been given the name of ‘humanism’ could be called an irony of history. The truth is that so-called ‘humanism’ was ‘unable to sustain personality’ because man alone ‘was its basis and its aim, its resources and contents were confined just to man’ and ‘liberation from God is an explicit or secret desire of multiple creators’of humanistic culture. And without the Personality of God, whose image and interlocutor Adam was intended to be, ‘human personality is devalued and ravaged, and person becomes a thing’ and appropriate culture of such a human is ‘materialized and mechanized’. That is why historical humanism in its deep essence is actually anti-humanism, as it is anti-personal, and the culture of humanism is in essence anti-culture, as it does not meet the vital demands which the human spirit requires from real culture, and, above all, because it does not solve the problem of life and death. ‘Culture that cannot comprehend death, cannot comprise the meaning of life’. And death cannot be comprehended within a psycho-biological conception of man, even if it is a sublime one. Only a genuine personalistic anthropology, based on the concept of the Personality of the Creator and of the God-man, allows us ‘to overcome death and mortality and provide for immortality’ and consequently to establish the authority of our personal power shaping the true culture. ‘Without solving the problem of what man is, it is impossible to build a truly human society’ and truly human culture.
Unfortunately, since the time when Boethius identified the person with the individual in the V century (‘The person is an individual substance of the rational nature”), Western thought has never ceased to construct its own culture on this basis. Humanism can be considered an inevitable religious-cultural consequence of the wrong anthropological model, the result of a distorted idea of human personality. Gradually minimizing the presence and importance of the Personal Absolute in human history, withdrawing God from direct communication with man, stating the divinity of man as a ‘thing-in-itself’, humanism could not have possibly preserved the genuine idea of personal being of the subject of its highest expectations – of man.
Human personality, according to Orthodox anthropology, possesses a mental-physical nature and is inseparable from this compound nature, so that it cannot be thought of as existing autonomously from it, despite not being a part of it. In the same manner culture also cannot be thought of abstractly or be separated from complicated human nature. Culture expresses certain relations through particular natural-physical manifestations, and, vice versa, it is intended to target a specific impact on the subjects perceiving these natural-physical manifestations, i.e. human personalities. Thus, culture can be thought of as a mediator in communication between personalities, even those separated by vast spans of time and space.
According to the investigations of modern sociologists, the basis for the main changes within the functioning of a particular socio-cultural system is concealed ‘in the entire set of its own actual and potential properties and its links with the other socio-cultural phenomena. All external forces (geographical, biological and even socio-cultural) should be considered, as a rule, only as minor factors, either undermining or facilitating the realization of the system’s potencies’. This practical scientific conclusion about the patterns in the development of socio-cultural systems indicates that their dynamics are caused much more by internal than by external factors. And this, in its turn, confirms culture’s property of being irreducible neither to its external attributes and manifestations nor to natural factors external to it.
Considering the irreducibility of human personality to its nature and the fact that it cannot be entirely expressed, we may state that any certain type of culture cannot be reduced to its material-cultural manifestations and artifacts. This statement means that in any culture there is some irrational residue. For example, if somebody managed to collect all the works, oral and written statements, for instance, of F. Dostoevsky, and conduct what would seem to be an exhaustive analysis, he still would not be able to draw some sort of final conclusion about this particular man’s Weltanschauung. New research can always reveal new features and aspects of a selected author’s creativity and hence of his unique personality and his world outlook. It is even more so the case for entire cultural epochs and periods, and the movements and tendencies of sub-cultures. This property of culture encourages us to constantly move ahead, to master new perspectives and spaces, to continuous development and enrichment of our personalities during the process of cognition. ‘Man as … a personality cannot be cognized by objectified external observation and analysis’. In the same way, the richer and the more authentic a culture is in its contents, the less it can be exhaustively analysed by rational scientific methods, and the more it will contain a non-trivial component capable of captivating and interesting human personality, perceiving its contents, and serving as a means of its progress.
The theological concept of human personality with respect to its irreducibility to nature provides an ontological background for personal freedom. The theological concept of freedom is far from being synonymous with freedom of choice, being closer rather to ‘freedom to be yourself’. ‘Personality can’t be subordinated to stereotypes …, only personality is free in the true meaning of this word’. Basing on this statement both kinship of the notions of ‘culture’ and ‘personality’, we can conclude that true culture can be created and developed only by such personalities which have been freely formed and which have established themselves in genuine freedom. In its turn, only true culture is capable of forming and developing personalities, who adopt it without any element of violence or suppression. Real culture, attracting individuals, contributes to the free disclosure of the abilities and talents potentially inherent in the soul, and simultaneously strengthens and deepens itself, incorporating the creative powers of its new bearers. So, arguing the reverse, any personality which is truncated, internally restricted and which suffers from complexes or highly depends on various external factors, will be unable to produce fully-fledged cultural phenomena. Any activity of a non-free personality leads to the creation of pseudo-cultures which cannot but enslave and deprive of creative freedom. All pseudo-culture can do is simply ‘clone’ individuals capable only of copying, replicating the behavioral circuits of the pseudo-cultures’ creators.
Holy Scripture encourages us to get to know the Truth, which ‘shall free’ us (John 8:32). Obviously, getting to know the Truth – the Absolute and Personal God – is a life-long process that every human personality is supposed to undergo. The freedom of created beings is not something immediately given in its implementation by the word of the Creator: ‘Let there be!’ – but something desired and aspired for. ‘A man who is ‘born into the world’ (John 16:21) possesses only potential freedom. By a Christian feat of his entire life he realizes this freedom to one degree or another’. That is why genuine culture is intended to create a favorable environment for the dynamic development of the freedom of the individuals adopting it. At the same time culture carriers should have a sober understanding of the non-triviality of the ways leading to such lofty goals, because real freedom can be achieved only through a process of free gradual cognition, alien to mutations or leaps. ‘God is supreme freedom’ and our encounter with Him ‘is certainly based on the act of freedom’; and ‘this is an organic process, not a mechanical one’.
On the other hand, any type of pseudo-culture tends to assess the ways and means of achieving spiritual altitude in a primitive way, subconsciously underestimating the value of freedom in the formation of human personality. Consequently it is always suggested that committing some magic ‘leap’ into ‘wellbeing’ can be achieved, given the performance of certain operations, more or less of a mechanical and magical character. The first suggestion of this ‘leap’ into divine being was heard by a man in Eden, spoken by the devil (Gen. 3:5). Instead of the systematic and smooth development of the progenitors’ personalities through the formation of primitive culture by communicating with the Absolute and with each other, which had been conceived by the Good God, there arises an utopian version of the ‘leap’ forward, which is doomed to failure. Our limited being is subject to change and ‘any attempt to fill it with the ideal content by means of force is transformed either into revolution, which is a violent and unnatural imposition of an “earthly paradise”, or to this or that kind of magical conception’. Both the artificial separation of culture from the created world, i.e. ‘a-cosmism’ and immersion into mysticism, and ‘naturalism’ with its utopian and mechanical deification of the world, are the two poles of the human spirit’s weakness seeking for an impatient leap-like break into imaginary paradise. These false ways are proposed instead of the authentic routine of shaping personality by a gradual transfiguration of nature, life, environment etc. These reflections bring us to the next property of the human person and consequently of culture: creativity.
Creative activity and self-expression are authentic properties of personality. Man is called to creative relation both with his Creator and with the entire created world because he is a rich icon of the Creator, who is Creator in the absolute meaning of the word, as He has brought His creation into being from absolute ‘nothingness’. Moreover, since we bear the image of God, precisely and above all in our personal way of being, the main possibility of realizing Adam’s creative potential lies exactly in the sphere of building personal relationships and, consequently, is directly related to culture.
True creativity is always inseparably connected with personalities – both of the creator and of those at whom his creativity is aimed. Most of the representatives of science could never understand creativity. And this is not surprising. To understand creativity one needs to understand consciousness…. If we had a deeper understanding of this category’, which is inextricably connected and sometimes even equated with the category of personality, ‘we would understand the similar quality of autonomy and the irreducibility of the category of creativity’. ‘All the plentitude of creative intentions is not only justified but is called to and required from us by the Savior’s words: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. For Christian consciousness creative activity should be based on moral creativity’. And its fundamental principle is love, openingin front of us ‘a boundless world waiting to be treated lovingly and creatively by us’’. True development of human personality and genuine progress of culture are both inextricably connected with free creativity. That is why genuine culture is, on the one hand, always created by creative people, and, on the other hand, it ever stimulates the development of real creative potential in its adherents, thus broadening the basis for its own future development. Creative cultural energy shapes a man as an integral being, including his unique personality as well as his natural composition. Moreover, the components of human nature, the body and the soul, and the environment around him are a kind of leverage by which creative cultural impact is transferred to a human personality. And, vice versa, we can consider ‘comprehension of a personality through its creative work, ... embodied in nature ‘heterogeneous to the nature of man’, and through more or less conscious creative behaviour expressed through its own nature during the process of personal communication with other people. In both cases this or that nature serves as a means through which both the conscious author’s ideas and intuitive feelings, characteristic of his personality, are conveyed to the perceiver. Hence, any human activity allows space for creativity starting from seemingly primitive everyday interaction with our relatives up to diverse artistic search and scientific investigation.
However, freedom, which is so characteristic for creativity, can be used in a wrong and erroneous way. The main criterion of the correct direction of the creativity vector consists in its constructiveness with respect to human personality. Obviously, a personality is being constructed (that is, being developed positively) when its properties and capabilities, which have been mentioned above as typical features of a God-like personality as well as of genuine culture, are being strengthened and deepened within it. It is clear that latent tendencies of certain cultural trends and tendencies do not become obvious immediately. It takes time to reveal the consequences of their influence over a man. Sooner or later, however, their fruits become apparent to those wishing to make an impartial assessment. Any culture, subculture, or cultural movement that inhibits the genuine creative principle in man, along with a defective understanding of the freedom, ineffability and religiosity of the human person, is, if not explicitly destructive, then at least harmful and stagnating. It is no coincidence that the ‘gnosiological creativity of sin is multilaterally manifested in philosophy, art, poetry, rhetoric, history, … in any skill and in all the sciences which are created by people enslaved by sin’. ‘“Culture” is a human achievement, it is his own deliberate creativity, however, implemented civilization often turns out to be hostile to human creative energy … In ‘civilization’ man is often alienated from himself, estranged and detached from the deepest roots of his existence, from his own ‘self’, from nature, from God’.
Since there are quite a few characteristic properties of human personality, the assimilation of them to a genuine human culture, which has been conducted in this article for some of them, could be continued. Furthermore, one could argue that the number of qualitative personal properties can be judged to be unlimited. Among these properties we have not named such ones as openness, uniqueness, integrity and so on. All these properties will naturally also have to be inherent to any genuine culture. However, we would like to finish our article with a brief reference to the general quality of personality – integrity, which simultaneously implies its harmonious unity and purposefulness. Anything which is whole cannot be a simple sum of its components. It should not be simply dividable into the parts it consists of. But at the same time it cannot but ‘be contained by each separate part in some way’. Integrity is akin to the organic notion of Church catholicity. The aim of a holistic personality is to build up a correct relationship with other personalities, including with its own ‘self’. Any culture which claims to be genuine must possess in certain measure and ever seek for more integrity. That means catholicity, harmony, purposefulness, and the progress of its own creators as well as its future adherents. Because it is obvious that a holistic human personality, ‘both bodily–biological and psychological, is never found to be in a static state, but finds its fulfillment in a dynamic way’.
We would like to conclude this article with the words of Fr. George Florovsky: ‘Only through perfecting a man can he become what he was intended to be, … to accomplish the deed established by God in His creative plan precisely as an assignment for man. … The cultural process which takes place in history correlates with the latest accomplishment, although in a sense which is so far undecipherable. We should beware of the exaggeration of human ‘achievements’, but should also beware of the minimization of the creative vocation of man. The destiny of human culture is not separated from the ultimate destiny of man”, the mystery of which lies in the likeness of man to his Absolute Personal Creator.
 G. Florovsky, Archpriest, ‘Faith and Culture, Selected works on Theology and Philosophy,’ S-Pb, RHGI Publishers, 2002, p. 652
 N. A. Berdyaev, ‘The Meaning of History,’ M., 1990, p. 166.
 A. F. Losev, ‘Philosophy of Culture and the Antique Period. Greek Culture in Myths, Symbols and Terms,’ Takho-Godi, A. A., Losev, A. F. Aleteja, S-Pb, 1999. p. 695.
 V. Zenkovsky, Archpriest, The Idea of Orthodox Culture. Collected Works. V. 2, p. 67.
 Sophrony (Sakharov), Archimandrite, Humanity and its History. The Mystery of Christian Life, 2009, pp.191-192
 T.S. Eliot, ‘Christianity and Culture,’ Harvest Book, N.Y., 1949, p.142
 J. Zizoulas, Metr. of Pergamon, ‘Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and Church,’ N.Y., St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993, p. 143
 Justin (Popovich), Ven., ‘Philosophical Precipices,’ ROC Press, 2004, p.199
 Ibid. p.203.
 Ibid. p.199.
 Justin (Popovich), Ven., ‘Philosophical Precipices,’ ROC Press, 2004; ‘The Agony of Humanism,’ p. 62.
 Sofrony (Sakharov), Archimandrite, 2009, p. 191.
 J. Zizoulas, Bishop, ‘Communication and Otherness,’ Continent, 1995, p.212.
 P. Sorokin, ‘Sociocultural Dynamics and Evolutionism, American Sociological Thought: Texts.’ M.: MSU Publishers, 1994, p.9.
 ‘Part of the nature of personhood is ineffability,’ Roger E. Olson, ‘Deification in Contemporary Theology,’ Theology Today, V, 64 (2007): 186-200, p.191.
 S. A. Chursanov, ‘Face to Face: The Concept of Personality in the Orthodox Theology of the XX century’: M: PSTSU Publishers, 2008, p.152.
 J. Zizoulas, Bishop, ‘Communication and Otherness,’ p. 212 – 226; see also J. Zizoulas, metr. of Pergamon, ‘Communion and Otherness,’ Sobornost incorporating Eastern Churches Review, 1994, p.17.
 Sophrony (Sakharov), Archimandrite, ‘The Sacrament of Christian Life,’ Holy Trinity-Sergius Lavra, St. John the Baptist Monastery, 2009, p.198.
 V. Zenkovsky, Archpriest, ‘The Idea of Orthodox Culture,’ Collected works, vol. 2, pp.78, 82.
 V. Zenkovsky, Archpriest, ‘The Traits of Utopianism in Russian Thought,’ Collected Works, Vol. 1, p. 217.
 A. F. Losev, ‘The Dialectics of Myth,’ Thought Publishers, Philosophical Heritage, v. 130, M., 2001, p. 223
 V. Zenkovsky, Archpriest, ‘The Problem of Creativity,’ Collected works, vol. 1, p. 93.
 C. Yannaras, ‘Personality and Eros,’ M.: ROSSPEN, 2005, p. 147.
 Justin (Popovich), Rev., ‘The Problem of Personality and Cognition,’ Collected Works, vol. 1, M.: The Pilgrim, 2004, p. 256
 G. Florovsky, Archpriest, The above mentioned work, p. 655
 A. F. Losev, ‘The Dialectics of Myth,’ p. 163
 C. Yannaras, ‘The Faith of the Church,’ M.: Religious Study Centre, 1992, p. 108
 G. Florovsky, Archpriest, the above mentioned work, p. 661