Cosmism is a philosophical theory that blends science, faith, and religious traditionalism. It is a theory that believes that the cosmos is self-existent and was not created by gods and emerged from the writings of Hugo de Garis.
Russian cosmism or Soviet Cosmism are other names for cosmism and they mean the same thing: a religious and philosophical theory that emerged in the early 20th century from Russian philosopher, Nikolai Federov and has to do with the origins and future of the human race. That is, Russian cosmism is a theory that combines ethics, science, and religion with the philosophy and history of the origin, evolution, and future of the cosmos and humankind as a whole. Nikolai Federov believed that humans should focus on how to cure death with the help of science and technology and that the universe is teeming with infinite resources and immortal life.
Cosmism emerged in Russia right before the Bolshevik revolution, also called the October revolution in 1917, and then grew through the 1920s and 1930s with its major aim to create new worlds. In the 1930s, cosmists were arrested and jailed under the rule of Stalin. Cosmism however, started to grow again and was especially propelled by transhumanist believers.
The theory of Cosmism is currently on the rise in Russia. A high number of the elite class in Russia have found an interest in cosmism which they see as their own and as a sort of response to the theory of transhumanism which is growing in western parts of the world. For clarity, transhumanism is a philosophical movement that encourages and welcomes the idea of enhancing the human condition with sophisticated technology.
Nikolai Fyodorov is sort of the father of Russian cosmism. His life and death have contributed greatly to the study and philosophy of cosmism. Fyodorov was born in 1829 and died at the age of 74 in 1903. He believed that humans could eventually use technological advancements to someday achieve universal salvation. He believed that advancements in science could be used to achieve immortality, revive ancestors, and take over the cosmos. He did not publish any books while he was alive but he held many teachings at the library where he worked, which Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky were a party to.
The major idea behind Fyodorov’s philosophy stemmed from the single most defining moment in his life: the death of his father and grandfather. If analyzed properly, Fyodorov’s theory can be seen as an attempt to repair the schism that opened up in him. In one of his theories, he says that humans need to extend themselves to other planets of the universe so that they can raise their ancestors from the dead and the ancestors can live on these new stars in peace. However, continuing to raise the dead will continue to lead to less space and therefore the answer to this dilemma is the death of death itself.
Some of the most notable immediate acolytes of Fyodorov are Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Vladimir Solovyov, and Vladimir Vernadsky. Tsiolkovsy was a protege of Fyodorov and was the forerunner of cosmonautics whose work led to astronautic theory in Russia. These three continued to pass down the work of Fyodorov, now mixed with some of their own theories to generations coming after them.
In the 1970s, the name ‘Russian cosmism’ was born thanks to a group of Soviet intellectuals who carried on the works and philosophies of those who came before them. From then on, there has been a gradual rise in the importance and recognition of Cosmism in Russia. For example, in 1994, the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, Vladimir Rubanov, who also happened to be the former director of the analytical department of the KGB recommended the use of Cosmism as the basis for Russia’s national identity. With the fall of the Soviet Union, Cosmists found it possible to re-connect religion and science as one.
Today, the only Country ahead of Russia in its grasp of cryogenic procedures is the United States. Russian cosmism differentiates itself from American transhumanism. In Russia, the major focus and the first bodies to be preserved by the cryonicists were parents and grandparents, which is an echo of Fyodorov’s teachings on the importance of family. As a matter of fact, some followers of Fyodorov even believe this to be wrong as they believe his teachings were of universal salvation, not a selective one where it is the rich that are catered for.
The Izborsky Club
This club can be seen as an extension and representation of Cosmism in modern-day Russia.
The Izborsky club is a large group of self-identified intellectuals, nationalists, and anti liberals who include journalists, philosophers, orthodox priests, politicians, clerics, ex-military, and entrepreneurs; founded in 2012. They are a conservative think tank group who are close to power in Russia who claim the school of thought and legacies of Russian cosmism as an inspiration for their group. At the core of the Izborsky group is an anti-Western agenda. Members of the club believe they must oppose Western models of development such as transhumanism, globalization, etc. there is an irony to this as some western thinkers see Fyodorov as a father and prophet of transhumanism. The Izborsky club, however, focuses on specific parts of cosmism, specifically the historical mission of a united and harmonious society of the Russian people. They define cosmism as a quest for the “spiritualization of humanity, guided by a literal interpretation of the biblical promises of resurrection.” To them, cosmism has become the basis for an ideology that merges religious conservatism and technological modernity to what they have named ‘technocratic traditionalism’. This ideology makes it easy for them to combine different facets of Russian history. Popular writer and editor, Alexander Prokhanov who was also the president of the Izborsky club, coined the expression ‘Cosmism-Leninism’ to claim that the theory or cosmism is what originated and led to the growth of Lenin’s industrialist utopianism. The majority of the scientific achievements supported by the club include space exploration, research on human capacities, arctic development, and submarine development. They see science as a way of achieving their goal which is ‘the Russian dream’ with cosmism as a guide for them.
Conclusively, Russian cosmism is very much still in practice and is proponent uphold it as a direct response to Western modernization and transhumanism.