Spiritual energy of the Russian word as a scientific challenge of humanitarian thought


The authors consider faith as a direct way to form spirituality of an individual and nation on the whole, as our main moral wealth. This problem is especially relevant in the modern world, since the most important words for national consciousness are now devaluating. The purpose of the research is to prove that the language, namely the word , has resources for creating and accumulating the spiritual potential of the native speaker. The research has been carried on the material of the Bible and the National Corpus of the Russian language (a subcorpus of literary texts published after 1950). The authors used the following research methods: the traditional general scientific methods of analysis, comparison, generalization and the new one - discourse analysis. In the course of the research two aspects of the indicated problem have been considered: the language is a spiritual essence; the word is a barometer of our understanding of the world. The study resulted in the following conclusions: the primary and the most important function of the language is the function of communication with God; the spirituality of the Russian people is formed and preserved thanks to the language, because the language contains deep transcendental meanings, almost inaccessible for rational comprehension. These meanings create and retain spirituality in the society and the individual, form the spiritual code of the nation; fulfil the sacred function of communication with God; reveals the great mystery of the world and the human soul at the same time. These provisions allow to outline the prospects for the future research within the framework of a new stage of the anthropocentric paradigm, which brings it closer to the theo-anthropo-cosmic paradigm as the paradigm of the future. In it, an individual begins to realize his place not above the world, but inside it.

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A person lives in the linguistic and cultural environment, a system of reference points through which a person learns about the world and himself. These landmarks are embedded in the language (Shaklein, 2010). The most important factor for the survival of society and man is not the economy or technical miracles, but the spiritual forces of the people. Their disappearance will inevitably lead to the death of the nation, regardless of its economic well-being. The scientists know it, so in the XXth century, M. Heidegger felt and described the corrupting effect of technology on culture. Even stronger is the main ideal of modernity – economic benefit, which changes national values.

It was only at the turn of the millennium that we realized that the spirit of the nation is largely based on the religion professed by the people. Faith, which is the direct path to the spirituality of a person and a nation, is our pride and glory, our main moral capital. If it is not taken into account, then everything ideal and creative in a person, everything moral, all the aesthetic ideals stored and transmitted to the next generations with the help of the language, is doubtful. That is why W. von Humboldt wrote: “In the language, the creative initial forces of man operate, his deep possibilities, their existence and nature cannot be comprehended, but cannot be denied...” (Humboldt, 1985: 113). This idea has found a place in the works of Russian philosophers. Thus, G. Shpet also wrote about language as a “spiritual activity”, “an immanent product of the spirit”, which constitutes the very nature of man (Shpet, 1999). Now there are works on the spiritual power of the word – by V.I. Postovalova (Postovalova, 2011), Vs.Yu. Troitsky (Troitsky, 2001), also (Buevich, 2014, 2017; Bugaeva, 2010; Gadomsky, 2005, 2008).

According to fideism (a worldview based on faith), science examines only facts, i. e. secondary manifestations, but it is not able to reveal the deep causes, which are subject only to faith, but even with its help, much is generally unknowable. For example, the mystery of the Divine Trinity, some of the Beatitudes, such as blessed are the poor in spirit, are unknowable to the human mind. M. Scheler argued that the spirit is the most important human-forming principle, and man himself is a spiritual being. His works also criticized Kant's concept of man where reasoning power is the leading principle. According to M. Scheler, the human personality is not a subject of reason and not a logical subject. It is neither “enscogitans” (thinking being) nor “ensvolens” (willing being), but “ensamans” (loving being) (Scheler, 1994).

According to the church fathers, man is the image of God (Geronimus, 2005; Evdokimov, 2003). According to the great philosopher and theologian P. Teilhard de Chardin, a person cannot exist independently of his soul, the soul exalts a person. Faith can make the human soul purer and exalt it, because, according to the Apostle Paul, “the righteous will live by faith” – there is confidence in that is invisible, incomprehensible[1].

The religious factor in national life is so important that without taking it into account, it is impossible to imagine the development and formation of culture as a whole (the word culture itself is associated with the word cult). So V.M. Shaklein, studying the linguistic and cultural situation in modern Russia, traces the evolution of the pre-Christian and Christian worldview (Shaklein, 2012). In recent decades, linguistics has increasingly focused on the study of religious and confessional elements in language; these are the works by V.I. Postovalova, Vs.Yu. Troitsky, A.K. Gadomsky, A.A. Buevich, E.V. Koreneva, and others (Buevich, 2014, 2017; Postovalova, 2011; Troitsky, 2001; Gadomsky, 2005, 2008; Koreneva, 2019). Moreover, scientists began to talk about the theo-anthropo-cosmic paradigm of knowledge, which is replacing anthropocentrism (Postovalova, 2011).

The aim of the research

The purpose of the article is to show that the spirituality of the Russian people is formed and preserved by the language, because there are deep transcendental meanings in the language that are almost inaccessible to rational comprehension, but are open for the representatives of the Russian linguistic culture. They create and maintain spirituality in society and in the individual.

Methods and materials

Deductive and inductive methods were used in the article, as well as such general scientific methods as analysis, comparison, generalization and modern discourse analysis. The material of the study was the Bible and the National Corpus of the Russian Language (a subcorpus of literary texts published after 1950).


The analysis of the spiritual essence of the national language in the refraction of FAITH resulted in the following statements:

  • language is the most important means of communication, but we forgot that communication with God should be in the first place. It makes a person cleaner, brighter and it is absolutely necessary for an adequate vision of the world. The communicative function of the language is secondary. The language is not very well adapted for communication: it has a lot of diffuseness, homonymy, polysemy, allegories. The primary and most important function of language should be the sacred function of Communion with God. Then much of the theory of language must be revised, since communication of a person with God and with other people work on different principles;
  • the spirituality of the Russian consciousness is closely connected with the language: the language contains transcendent religious meanings, which form the spirituality of an individual and transmit the spiritual code of the nation. When precepting a religious Word, a person feels a special energy, which is provided by the divine power in the Word. The anthropocentric paradigm makes a new turn, bringing it closer to the theo-anthropo-cosmic paradigm as a paradigm of the future, in which a person begins to see his place not above the world, but inside it;
  • in the function of Communion with God, the great mystery of the world and the human soul are revealed to man.


Language as a spiritual entity. The Russian language is multi-faceted and complex, extremely deep, which makes it inexhaustible in the choice of description aspects. In traditional linguistics, language is seen as a system of signs, and in recent decades as a tool of cognition, but the tradition has a vision of language as a spiritual entity. This can be confirmed by the thoughts of W. von Humboldt who argues that languages are tools making any activity is possible, and, first of all, spiritual activity. The scientist believed that languages are sources that feed culture with their intuitions, and, at the same time, the organs of awareness of these intuitions. After all, language, according to Humboldt – is “self-regulated, self-created and divinely free” (Humboldt, 2000: 16).

Language can form and create spirituality only if it has power and energy. And indeed, designating the world, the word seems to create this world, fixing it in itself. The word is a method of concentrating energy of the spirit, as stated by P.A. Florensky, it has an extraordinary suggestive power (Florensky, 1990: 263). Sergiy Bulgakov believed that the word not only has meaning, but also contains and conducts energy. The Russians have always believed in the special power of the word: “Life is transformed by the word, and life is assimilated by the word to the spirit,” Pavel Florensky wrote (Florensky, 1990: 252). Modern scientists confirm that any spoken word is nothing more than a wave genetic program that affects not only our lives, but also the lives of our descendants. For example, the laboratory of P.P. Garyaev in the Russian Academy of Sciences experimentally proved the influence of the word on peace as a state without war, which only word is able to restore[2]. This leads to the direct conclusion that the war of words (information war) is more terrible than the atomic war. It is impossible to imagine a more powerful despotism than the despotism of the printed word, which does not fly away after being articulated, but remains in the world. “The blow of the whip makes scars, and the blow of the tongue crushes the bones; many have fallen from the edge of the sword. But not so many as those fallen of the tongue”[3]. The Scriptures speak much about the power of words. In the Book of Parables, it is stated that a person binds himself with words: “You are entangled in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth”[4]. The greatest modern philologist and thinker S. Averintsev wrote: “We pray to you – the Word that originally exists with God”[5]. With the birth of Jesus Christ, a new era began, and the role of the Word increased: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God”. Remember that “In the beginning, there was the Word. The Word was with God. The word was God”[6].

According to A.F. Losev, the Word is the meeting place of God and the world (Losev, 1993). Hence it is possible to religiously percept the Word, when the words get much richer, because they include, in addition to the usual meanings, a special energy provided by the divine power in them. Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) wrote: in the Word “...God is present, as in a certain vessel – a precious vase full of fragrance… As divine energy, it comes from the Essence of the Deity and is divine in itself” (Sophronius (Sakharov), 1991: 22). So the word, in addition to its semantic and cultural energy, also has the energy of the spirit. The Bible says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat of its fruit”[7]. We are created by the Word, and the Word itself in us is the supreme gift of God.

The word in Orthodoxy is the creative co-action of God and man. It is not just a human product, it is “given from Above” (Sophrony (Sakharov), 1991). In the Russian language, there are quite a lot of words that have recorded and store the light of God and his energy: spirituality, luminosity, sparkle, the word-lightning, etc.

Very subtly, the power of the word was felt by poets, for example, M. Lermontov: “There is a power of grace in the consonance of living words, // And an incomprehensible holy charm breathes in them...”[8]. The poet sees the exposure of the deep mysterious meaning of the word, which is far from vague hints and incomprehensible slur. He speaks of a direct connection between the sound and the power that creates the “holy charm”. A. Bely compared the poetic word with the “blooming rod of Aaron” (the biblical symbol of God's choseness), i. e. he also pointed to its magical divine power[9].

The word is especially strong in the Liturgy, the Holy Scriptures, in prayers, etc. Developing together with the national consciousness based on the Christian worldview, the Russian language has absorbed the Orthodox culture and become an important element and building material. Many Russian words absorb religious meanings and store them from generation to generation. In other languages, this is less articulated. For example, the Russian spiritual expression Gospel is traditionally translated into English as good news; the Russian word honor also contains spiritual meanings. Although these meanings have disappeared from the modern language (compare honest man), but the meaning of honesty as holiness is preserved in the expression all-honorable fathers, in the proverb Honor gives birth to the mind, and dishonor takes it away. As we can see, the Russian language miraculously retains its sacred meanings.

E.M. Vereschagin studying the reflection of the religious knowledge in the Russian language at everyday level outlined that “the Russian language is so imbued with Orthodox reminiscences that if it is possible to speak of Russia as an Orthodox country with some reservations, then the Russian language, accordingly, should be spoken with the same reservations as the Orthodox language” (Vereshchagin, 2007). This is confirmed by a large number of set expressions with the word God, which fix the power and the all-seeing eye of God (God sees everything; There is God's judgment; fear God; You cannot escape from God's judgment; Without God there we'll get nowhere), his love for people (God loves humility; God pays for kindness; God does not forget those who respects parents), justice (We all walk under God; All are equal before God; He does not lose heart, who believes in God), severity (God has a lot of sticks). Expressions with the God component in Russian linguistic culture fix the correct behavior in the society: God is God, and don't behave bad yourself; Fear the Highest – don't say too much, Don't be afraid of anyone but God alone, and many others.

As dictionaries[10] show, in modern Russian, there are more than two hundred set expressions associated with the Bible: Man does not live by bread alone; the secret things become clear; The Deluge; a drop in the sea; Solomon's wisdom; especially many expressions from the New Testament: the left hand does not know what the right hand does (about modesty when doing good deeds); the spirit and letter of the law (a complete reproduction of something); alpha and omega (about the very essence of something); from Adam (from ancient times); to make (your) contribution; the voice of the crying in the wilderness; the wickedness of the day; he who has ears to hear, let him hear; a stumbling block; the kiss of Judas; the salt of the earth; the crown of thorns; the unbeliever Thomas; the daily bread, and many others. The names of weekdays in Russian are associated with the Holy Scriptures: Monday – the first day of the Lord's labors, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday – the second, fourth and fifth days respectively, Wednesday – the middle of the week, Saturday (from the Hebrew “Shabbat” – rest), Sunday – in honor of the resurrection of Christ. Such a key word for Russian culture as thank you is an abbreviation of “God save you”. With the word thank you, a person asks God to save the soul of his interlocutor.

We concluded that faith and language are intimately interlinked. First, faith is contained in the language itself: the first and main function of the ancient language was sacred, that is, for communion with God, and not for communication between people, as researchers write in textbooks on linguistics. Secondly, faith is represented by linguistic means. Faith is preserved in the language for centuries. The proverbs imply the infinity and eternity of the Lord: My age has passed, but the days of God have not abated.

The word as a barometer of our understanding of the world. In the modern world, words lose their depth. So, the word good (from the Greek καλός), meaning in the Church Slavonic language “perfect” (“a good preacher”) loses the universal depth and gets a psychological shade of spiritual quality. The word warm in modern language means “something between hot and cold, moderately hot”, and was previously understood as “very hot, zealous”. Now we need a special analysis to understand the expression “a warm protecterness”, referring to the Mother of God[11].

At the same time, we see how the words forming the spirituality of the people are degenerating or dropping out of language. For example, the word acerbate has already lost its meaning of “having endured evil”, it has become synonymous with embittered, i. e. bearing evil. The conjunction “in the sense of” now used in the meaning “that is” devaluates the deepest word meaning. In the last decade, the words conscience, grace, mercy, empathy, etc. are used less often. Elder Joseph said that when the word disappears it is not a tragedy, but always a loss of meaning and some special view of the world[12].

Therefore, if you replace sobornost with collectivism, and honor with prestige, as they now do in the media, then the spiritual meaning of these words is displaced. The divine height is also lost in the words welfare, well-being, where the first part carries the great philosophical meaning – good connected with the concept of grace, and this meaning was lost. In Christianity, God is Good (All-Good), and he gives good things to a person.

What is lost in these examples? The deep Christian meaning of the words. Our spiritless life has lowered them to the level of psychology. But without their sacred meanings, it is impossible to understand the great universal mystery of man and the world. If you replace conscience with consciousness, and love with sex, you destroy the original Russian values. The language disastrously quickly desacralizes. If our language was not so conservative, we would have already lost the most important concepts forming our spirituality – honor, duty, conscience, nobility, empathy, grace, knowledge of God, meekness, humility, miracle, etc. These concepts determine the most important principles for building our ideas about the world.

Many Russian words that refer to various mental states are deeply connected with the knowledge of God, for example, empathy as an unconditional acceptance and separation of the experiences, emotions and mental states of another person, is the union of one's own experience and the experience of another person, a joint experience. To experience it requires the ability to be in the other's shoes. Let us talk in more detail about compassion. The meanings of this word are based on Christian understanding of suffering as a moral feeling.

In modern language, empathy expresses one of the productive types of interpersonal relationships, on the one hand, and a moral attitude, on the other. By moral relations we mean the relation to the other as to oneself, and the relation to oneself as to the other.

Dictionaries of the Russian language give us the meaning of this word. Compassion is “suffering together, enduring together”[13]. Compassion, pity for another, pity for someone, sympathy; sympathy, empathy[14]. Compassion is empathy for the suffering of others, sympathy aroused by the grief, misery of another person. Synonyms for compassion are mercy, regret, pity, empathy, sympathy, sensitivity, cordiality, responsiveness, and sincerity. Moreover, they differ in semantic nuances: compassion, as the contexts show, in contrast to empathy, which mainly involves emotions, contains a desire to help.

Historically, attitudes toward compassion have changed. Ancient poets were entertained by the spectacle of suffering and blood during fence-plays. Only Christianity, with its special view of suffering, brought compassion into the world. Christ had a compassionate love for man, so he suffered for the mankind on the cross. Compassion is the true foundation of religion and the spiritual force that has inspired religion in all ages. According to Christian philosophy, through compassion, empathy, love for one's neighbor arises. That is why the verbs to love and to feel sorry for somebody (a synonym for compassion) have common roots, and in some Russian dialects to love and to feel sorry for somebody are still synonyms. “He says that he doesn't love her like that, that there is no compassion in him, there is ‘no such compassion’ ”[15]. Compassion for Russians is all-encompassing: “You can go far on compassion, even in love”[16].

There is still a wide range of opinions in the assessment of compassion. In contrast to the Christian teaching, I. Kant believed that compassion has a limited moral value, since, when sympathizing, a person also suffers. He wrote in “Metaphysics”: “...if the other suffers and his pain, which I am unable to eliminate, deeply affects me through the power of imagination, then we both are suffering, although the misfortune has befallen one. This gives a multiplication of misery in the world”, i. e. he denies compassion and mercy as necessary feelings for a person (Kant, 1965: 28). Empathy in itself for some Western thinkers is a passive and irrational feeling, blind and unreasonable, and therefore abnormal, even sinful: “Yes, compassion is a sin, a strange, even paradoxical sin”[17].

In European cultures, compassion is seen as a weakness and an opportunity to take on other people's misfortunes. By helping people, we try on the troubles that may befall us in the future. So, it is as if we feel sorry for ourselves beforehand. Having this in mind, we can understand why in some Western European languages, compassion has negative connotations: contempt in French, annoyance in German, ironic ill-will in English. It is also negatively evaluated in German culture: “Compassion is a bad companion, but it is even worse when it becomes the goal of the journey”[18]. E.-M. Remarque even believed that one should protect oneself from compassion, although this is difficult to do: “One can protect oneself from insult, but one cannot protect oneself from compassion”[19]. These connotations are shown in the associative dictionaries of these languages. However, there were thinkers in European culture who understood the true nature of compassion. For example, A. Schopenhauer considered compassion to be the basis of morality and argued that it helps to overcome egoistic aspirations (Schopenhauer, 1992: 17). A. Dante wrote that compassion is not a feeling; it is rather a noble disposition of the soul, ready to accept love, mercy and other virtuous feelings[20].

Compassion for Russians is a talent, a gift of God, which is given to a few. Here we see the strong influence of Christianity. Thus, I. Chrysostom said: “Compassion... is the gift of the Lord, which, when properly used, likens us to God himself”[21]. Both compassion and mercy – feelings of sorrow caused by someone's misfortune, grief; sympathy for someone's grief, and not necessarily the grief of a loved one.

From the point of view of a Russian person, we can even feel sorry for our enemy. That is why people differ in their confessions, but all people are similar in charity, and the manifestation of charity does not depend on the personal qualities of the object.

Compassion in Russian linguoculture is one of the main universal human emotions: “Compassion is the most important and perhaps the only law of existence of all mankind”[22]. But it is also a spiritual category, which is based on the moral: “True compassion begins only when you put yourself in the place of the sufferer in your imagination, and you experience real suffering”[23]. Compassion or pity differs from love in that it involves suffering. Compassion is the height of human morality[24].

So, compassion is a complex formation that has accumulated for centuries the essential signs of its existence in Russian culture, the most important of which are religious: thanks to compassion, empathy, love for our neighbor arises.

As we can see, the word contains both the genetic and spiritual memory of people. Even in the most ordinary words, the spiritual history of a person's connection with God is preserved. Thus, the words with the root -image- keep are connected with the Image of God, i. e. his image, icon. Therefore, it is so important to establish the Image of God in man, because man was created in the image and likeness of God, but then lost this similarity, iconicity (Irzabekov, 2007). Other words with this root also contain these meanings: ugliness is the loss of the image of God. Hence our desire for the archetype, original image is the way to preserve the Image of God (compare the concept of a primitive word of A.A. Potebnya). Therefore, being somewhere in the depths of the native language, all this is in us, because language is our “home of being” (Heidegger, 1993), it is the carrier and means of expressing the truth and the Divine will.

Is it possible to reduce spirituality exclusively to religious experience? This is scarcely true for people who have lived in atheism for almost a century. It seems that it is necessary to take into account not only the experience of theologians, but also the experience of psychologists (from L. Vygotsky to N. Bekhtereva), philosophers. Thus, according to Kant, the moral law within us, is the inherent human property of distinguishing between good and evil, the voice of conscience and the inner demand for truth. Introspection can reveal to a person his inner world where “the devil is really fighting with God”.


So, the Russian language is a spiritual reality. It preserves a disappearing spirituality that is transcendent in nature: it is connected mysteriously and incomprehensibly connected with another pattern of being. Only language can grasp it, though not fully.

This defines a new stage of the anthropocentric paradigm, bringing it closer to the theo-anthropo-cosmic paradigm of the future. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church said that any scientific construction, having man, not God in its center, is doomed. Consequently, in Western European philosophical tradition, anthropocentrism, with man as the main value, dominates (hence the emergence of “humanistic linguistics”, which studies “the person who speaks”), then in Russian tradition the highest transcendent value is God. In the near future, it will be supplemented with such an important value as the Cosmos (the Universe). The law of Unity and integral knowledge has already been discovered, and the whole Russian religious and philosophical thought of the pre-revolutionary period developed in this direction. Therefore, it is the Russian linguistic culture that is ready for such a combination of the Divine theory, the theory of language, the theory of man and the theory of the universe.

The language has deep, transcendent religious meanings. Their establishment and analysis will be the prospect of further research.


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About the authors

Valentina A. Maslova

Vitebsk State University named after P.M. Masherov

Author for correspondence.
Email: mvavit@tut.by

Doctor of Philology, Professor, Professor of the Department of Preschool and Primary Education

33 Moskovskiy Prospekt, Vitebsk, 210038, Republic of Belarus

Oksana V. Danich

Vitebsk State University named after P.M. Masherov

Email: odanich@mail.ru

PhD in Philology, Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Preschool and Primary Education

33 Moskovskiy Prospekt, Vitebsk, 210038, Republic of Belarus


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