Sergius Bulgakov defended himself against accusations of Gnosticism with the simple statement, that is definitive of his work, that he in no way endorsed dualism. His utilization of philosophy has one overriding point, the point of his work – the antinomies (giving rise to Gnostic dualism and monism) which present themselves in philosophy are characteristic of the sinful human predicament. Philosophical antinomy expresses the antagonism, alienation, agonism, and violence which poses itself in the human condition (human wisdom) as ground. Gnosticism is a case in point of the human problem. His work is the resolution, not only to the Gnostic dilemma, but to the human dilemma (represented by Gnosticism) – namely, that beginning with the world, irresolvable contradiction and dualism (giving rise also to monism) are the result. This is the tragedy of philosophy, but the tragedy of philosophy is the tragedy of the human condition. Understanding the scope of the problem Bulgakov is addressing may be the prerequisite to trusting his orthodoxy, even in those daring passages which an uncharitable reading might consign to Gnostic heresy.
What we learn from Bulgakov, is not that Gnosticism per se is the human problem, though Gnosticism or some form of proto-Gnosticism or Gnostic-like understanding (the term may have limited usefulness) is the primary heresy the early church confronted and which much of the New Testament is written to combat. To call this heresy Gnosticism may be not only a historical inaccuracy but a delimitation of the human problem, which the various Gnostic cults represent, but which they in no way exhaust. To imagine that it is Valentinian Gnosticism that is the source of Hegelianism, Russian Sophiology, or simply modern tendencies, is to get the cart before the horse. Gnosticism is a case in point of the dualism which inevitably attaches itself to human thought, and Bulgakov is addressing this larger problem. He understands the problem is not simply philosophical, but pertains to events like the Russian Revolution, to world war, or to the unfolding of world history. His vision is that the pervasive manifestation of the human problem is addressed at its root in the work of Christ and the Church: “The truths contained in the revelation of Divine-humanity, particularly in its eschatological aspect, are so unshakable and universal that even the most shattering events of world history, which we are now witnessing, pale and are nullified in their ontological significance in the face of these truths insofar as we perceive these events in the light of that which is to come. And that which is to come is the Church in its power and glory, together with the transfiguration of creation.” Dualism is not simply the problem posed by the abstractions of philosophy, but these abstractions articulate the moving force, the “shattering events” of world history,” which are nullified in the revelation of Divine-humanity. The philosophical arena is the prelude to theological insight in its articulation and demonstration of the problem.
Thus, Bulgakov begins his work on eschatology and ecclesiology by describing the problem inherent to taking human wisdom as an end: “it is first necessary to exclude two polar opposites: pantheistic, or atheistic, monism on the one hand and the dualistic conception of creation on the other.” The nature of Sophia or wisdom in its created form, divine-like as it is, thus gives rise to the characteristic forms of human religion, philosophy, and psychology. Human identity is through sameness (monism) and difference (dualism), and these do not really constitute two alternatives, as every thesis/antithesis is aimed at its synthesis. Monism, in its materialistic form would resist (obliterate) the spiritual, and in its spiritual form it would deny materialistic reality. “On the other hand, dualistic atheism is a kind of subjugation to satanism, where the prince of this world, the black god, pretends to occupy a place alongside God.” Avoiding these two extremes defines Bulgakov’s project.
Created Sophia alone, and in his estimate philosophy only has this resource, cannot account for the world and God. The Greek philosophical effort is aimed at providing an independent integrity for the world, “where the world can find existence for itself alongside God’s absoluteness. The world does not want to become nothing in the face of this absoluteness, but instead seeks its own something. It finds this something in a kind of anti-god or minus-god.” There is a reification of the nothing, from out of which the world was created, or in Platonic terms the chora is the eternal ground of the world.
To posit a god alongside God, or an absolute alongside the Absolute is, in Bulgakov’s estimate, clear nonsense. “Every system of dualism falls apart from internal contradiction, is ontological nonsense, which one does not have to take into account in the general problematic of the world. It is impossible to accept that God exists and that, alongside Him and besides Him, there exists a pseudo-divine principle, a “second god,” expressly directed at the world.” While religion and philosophy built upon dualism can be dismissed, what is undeniable is the goal of finding a place for the world and the problematic this poses, even for Christian theism. The tendency in overcoming dualism is to return to various forms of monism – proclaiming there is nothing outside of the world or that there is nothing existing alongside God (discounting the reality of the world). This is the problem Bulgakov addresses, which accounts for his unique approach in describing the God/world relation as that found in Creator and creation.
Either the world directly has its being in the divine act of creation or it is imagined to have its being in nothing (the contradictory impossibility implicitly posed in Platonism):
The world relates to God not as equal to Him, not as a mode of being coordinated with Him, but (if one can say this) as a heterogeneous mode of being. The world is created by God; it is His creation. The world’s existence is a special modality of being. This being is one; it is precisely divine being. And for the world there is no other ground, or “place,” of being except this createdness by God, except this special mode of divine being. And the fact that the world is created out of nothing means only that the world exists in God and only by God, for the world does not have within itself the ground of its own being. In itself, the world is groundless; it is established on top of an abyss, and this abyss is “nothing.”
The created being of the world is not a fact available in the world but only through Christian revelation. Platonism has no answer as to how the “ideal, intelligible ground” of the world is connected to the world. At least, this is the Aristotelian critique of Platonism, but Aristotle then posits the unconditional eternality of the world and his Unmoved Mover as impersonal force. So the choice is a Platonic dualism or an Aristotelian monism.
Aristotle makes the supreme principle of the world, the prime mover, so transcendent that it appears to be separated from the world, above it. But at the same time, this principle is only the world, although taken to its highest power. Aristotle’s theology therefore has a cosmological character, and his cosmology passes into theology. Strictly speaking, his theocosmism has a real place neither for God nor for the world, because it does not really distinguish between them. The world continues into God, so to speak, and God descends to the world, is immanent in it, as its (impersonal) foundation.
Depending upon one’s preference, Aristotelianism amounts to either a dualism between a distant God and the world or a monism in which the world includes its cause. Aristotle’s Sophiology “is a doctrine of divinity without God and apart from God, of divinity in place of God, in the capacity of God.” Platonism divides created and uncreated Sophia and Aristotelianism allows for ambiguity. Bulgakov concludes:
Thus, all that both Plato and Aristotle (each in his own way and in his own language) have to report about the divine or sophianic foundation of the world is true as an intuition of human philosophy. However, this foundation remains uncomprehended and unexplained in its special nature as Sophia or divinity in relation to God. Sophia is directly equated with God here, and sophiology is considered to exhaust both theology and cosmology. Plato and Aristotle are both sophiologists, but they are unable to complete their sophiologies in a theology. Indeed, they do not even have a theology. In this they are burdened by the limitedness of paganism.
The project of Bulgakov’s Sophiology is to “overcome the world’s isolation” while still distinguishing the world from God. The danger is the world will be lost in pantheism, in which God is everything, or God will be lost in the world (“abstract cosmism”).
Thomism and various trends in scholastic and patristic thought turn to the Aristotelian notion of causality (to attempt to cross this bridge), positing God as first cause or prime mover and the world is what is moved. But the unmoved mover reduces to contradiction as causality causes and is caused and a mover moves and is moved and the unmoved mover is neither moved nor moving. Causality and motion “both belong to the world of uninterrupted, unruptured, unitary being, continuous in motion and in causal connection.” Cause and motion do not transcend the world. The first cause is part of a causal chain, supposedly linking God and the world, yet we do not encounter God in the world or as part of this causal chain. Either God is erased as part of a causal chain, or there is an infinite gap between God and the world. Laplace proposes there is no gap and no need for the hypothesis of God in the causal chain, and inasmuch as God is simply first cause in a series this must be true – God is not needed.
God, however, is not simply the “cause” of the world but its creator, and this is quite different, in that he stands outside the being of the world. The world is not God and God is not present as part of the being of the world. To project the being of the world upon God, a bottom-up apologetic, inevitably reduces God to part of the furniture of the world. He is simply another link in the causal chain, and if the chain is long enough, God need not be posited as its end. Creator and creation speak of a very different sort of God/world relation. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the visible came from the invisible” (Heb. 11: 3). Causality and motion are visible aspects of the being of the world and they do not touch upon divinity or reach the notion of creation and Creator.
The Creator is a person not merely an impersonal cause, yet the Aristotelian notion taken up by Thomas displaces God with the mechanism of cause and motion. “But God’s Person, who is a Doer, not a cause, does not fit at all into this category.” The Creator-creation relationship, inclusive of the fact that God sustains the universe, sets God outside of a cause and effect or mover and motion sort of mechanics. Causality is impersonal and “dead” where the creativity bringing forth creation is “alive and life-bearing” and, far from the blind emptiness of causality, it is guided by a person and this person is working out creative goals. Creation has a telos that pulls it forward and not simply a blunt cause that pushes it along.
God’s life, or who God is, is the creative force behind creation. God’s life extends into the very breath or life at the center of the universe. And here Bulgakov makes a clear departure from Thomism and much of western theology, in that he pictures creation as an essential part of God. God is not by chance or accident Creator, but Creator is God’s nature.
The roots of the world’s creation lie in God’s eternity. It is usually considered that the world’s creation is something nonessential, additional, and as if accidental in God’s being. It is thought that God did not have to become the Creator, that He does not need the world, that He could remain in the solitude and glory of His magnificence (cf. Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics; see above).
Along with this notion, that God became the creator at some point in time, there is not only a positing of a time before time, but the posting of a difference between God’s freedom and any “necessity” coordinate with his nature.
In Thomism creation is not a necessary part of God’s nature, but Bulgakov suggests this leads to contradiction in that “all such attempts to measure God’s being by time, namely before and after creation, or to define different modes of necessity and freedom in God, as well as their degree, are exposed as absurd, as contradicting God’s eternity and unchangeability. In general, the intention, in God Himself, not only to distinguish but also to separate and even to oppose God in Himself and the Creator is wholly fallacious. God’s all-simple essence is one and unchanging, and if God is the Creator, He is the Creator from all eternity.” God is, as part of his essence, Creator and this means creation is included in God’s life. Creation from nothing indicates creation’s ground in the life of God. While creation may have its own sort of created being, the divine life and being are its ground. The world does not simply exist alongside God, though God has granted the world its own autonomy, but this autonomy arises directly from the work of God and arises from the intra-divine life. In turn, God is not limited by the world but who he is extends into the world.
Thus, God is both God in Himself and the Creator, with a completely equal necessity and freedom of His being. In other words, God cannot fail to be the Creator, just as the Creator cannot fail to be God. The plan of the world’s creation is as co-eternal to God as is His own being in the Divine Sophia. In this sense (but only in this sense), God cannot do without the world, and the world is necessary for God’s very being. And to this extent the world must be included in God’s being in a certain sense. (But by no means does this inclusion signify the crude pantheistic identification of God and the world, according to which God is the world and only the world.) 
Necessity and freedom are not opposed in God, but are inseparable. On a human scale, we come to total freedom, not through resisting the will of God, but by submitting to this will, as this is the fulfillment of our nature. This “necessity” is freedom, and there is no antagonism or contradiction. So too, the divine nature exercises total freedom by acting in accord with this nature, thus there is not a distinction in God, as he naturally is, and God as Creator. God could no more not create than he could not be God. It is his nature to create. “For this reason, we must consider inadmissible and contradictory the anthropomorphic principle that God “freely” (i.e., in the sense of the absence of necessity, not compulsory but inner necessity, of course), or accidentally, as it were, created the world, and that the world therefore did not have to be created.”
This does not mean that creation “completes God” or that the world is divine in a pantheistic fashion.
The Divine Sophia exists in a dual mode: in her own mode, which belongs to her in eternity; and in the creaturely mode, as the world. Only such an identification of the two modes of Sophia, with their simultaneous differentiation, can explain why, although God is the Creator, this does not change his divinely sophianic being or introduce in the latter a non-divine or extra-divine principle.
Creation is founded on the wisdom of God, and this wisdom or Sophia, as in Christ, has both its created and uncreated mode. “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth” (Proverbs 8:22-23). Wisdom, eternal and uncreated, first puts forth its energy in creation, then becomes incarnate and created. This wisdom is both “from everlasting” or from out of eternity, and then, in subsequent verses, it is conceived or given “birth” (ESV), or “brought forth” (NRSV). As the NRSV translates it, “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.” God creates from out of himself, or to say the same thing, from out of nothing. Divine Sophia is the mode in which creation was brought forth and it is through this wisdom that the divine foundation is provided, but this ground in eternity is not itself divine.
In this sense, creaturely being exists alongside God and not in God. Being is conferred by God onto the world, and thus is laid “a foundation for being in itself.” As Bulgakov puts it, “The trihypostatic God has the divine world in and for Himself. But the being of this divine world contains yet another mode of its being in itself: as content that is independent of its belonging to God.” There is a hypostatic Sophia (joined directly to divinity), and a non-hypostatic Sophia granted being in itself.
Christ is the ideal (telos) of creature and Creator brought together, and Christ’s incarnation is the dynamic goal being worked out (it is in process) in all of Creation. Creation has its own “temporal-creaturely being” and is in the mode of becoming, but this is not alien to the divine foundation, though it is distinguished from the unchanging Being of God. In creation’s being completed the creaturely Sophia is taking on her identity with Divine Sophia.
Bulgakov resorts to a psychological picture of this process. He pictures the I, in language that resembles Freud’s fundamental fantasy, as imagining itself without origin and as self-positing. This has a double sense, in which the self-positing I simply calls upon its own sophianic resources, and reduplicates the fall – or the attempt to have life within itself. As Bulgakov points out, the I is confronted with limitations, and thus its creaturely and divine likeness contradict one another. This contradiction is resolved only where the creaturely consents to being completed in the divine likeness – the universal consent given in Christ.
Divine and creaturely Sophia are joined perfectly in Christ: “Revealed in this world are the same words of the supra-eternal Word that make up the ideal content of the Divine Sophia, the life of God: ‘All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1: 3).’” The life of the Word in the Spirit pervades all of creation – giving being to the Word and through him being to the world. “One and the same Spirit of God gives them being. It is necessary to affirm and understand with all one’s power this identity of the divine and creaturely world, or (what is the same thing) the identity of the Divine and the creaturely Sophia, in their essence, and thus the eternal, uncreated, divine foundation of the world in God.” This is not Gnosticism, Platonism, Aristotelianism, or Thomism, but is explanation of how Christ saves, reduplicating the hypostasis of the first born in the extended family of God.
 Fabian Linde, The Spirit of Revolt: Nikolai Berdiaev’s Existential Gnosticism (Stockholm University, Stockholm Slavic Studies 39, 2010) 106.
 See the work by Richard Lee May, Gnosticism and Modernity: An Archaeology of the Influence of Valentinian Gnosticism on Modern Systems of Thought Through the Theological Theme of Sophiology (unpublished Dissertation, Canterbury Christ Church University, 2015).
 Sergius Bulgakov, The Bride of the Lamb, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition) Introduction.
 Ibid, 3.
 Ibid, 5.
 Ibid, 6.
 Ibid, 7.
 Ibid, 11.
 Ibid, 11-12.
 Ibid, 14
 Ibid, 35.
 Ibid, 35.
 Ibid, 37-38.
 Ibid, 44.
 Ibid, 44-45.
 Ibid, 45-46.
 Ibid, 46.
 Ibid, 46.
 Ibid, 63
 Ibid, 63.
 Ibid, 48.
 Ibid, 88-89.
 Ibid, 50.
 Ibid, 50.