KOGAION REVIEW
romanian literary monthly

~Artur Silvestri : The fable of the Lone Path . Elements of „apocrypha cultural history“

Towards the end of the year 2004, I thought of gathering several researches elaborated long time ago and therefore to form a sort of preliminary essay to some possible „elements of apocrypha cultural history“. The purpose of this action was not that of providing a savant bibliography with another title, bibliography that is already representative enough, but rather to show a way of looking at the mystery of survival of some cultures that, in a world that tomorrow might become disgustingly uniform, underlines still the right to variety, to the autochthonous answer, to the specific interrogation. By the nature of my major preoccupations, it was inevitable for me to reveal here „the Romanian case“ but, at the same time, I realized that this might become a model and an example of possible method when studying any culture of „Tiers-Monde“. Therefore, mutatis mutandi, these principles could be understandable and maybe they could help to the establishment of some potential solutions for Bucharest, Montevideo, Tunis or Delhi, meaning wherever the mechanisms presented here are found in various proportions.

The studies that form that small synthesis of cultural history were written and published in Romania between 1984 and 1989, in French, and they describe several „astral hours“ of literature at the Lower Danube (“the proto-Romanians“, „the Isihast Renaissance“ of the century XIV, the era of Brâncoveanu in literature and „the beginning of the prophetic Reconquist”). They represent fragments of a much larger research, but they have a certain autonomy of their own, and an existence of their own. Two of the cases are actually the first attempts (and the only ones at this time) of historiographical synthesis of the „definite period“ and, as a consequence, they have the value of „pioneer work“. The Romanian intellectual shall notice the cases where the conclusions of other savants are continued and to what extent they are developed and sometimes even surpassed. For the foreign savant, such themes certainly represent a strange matter. This potentially astonished attitude is first of all due to the method. In this work I tried to eliminate the „universalistic chronology“ and „the canonic periodization“ established by most of the „histories of various literatures“, (usually the European ones) and used, by extension and most of the times inappropriately, in the cases of all literary histories.

In my opinion, as regarding certain literatures (such as the Italian literature or the French literature), the concatenation of the „Middle Ages, Humanism, Renaissance, Baroque and Mannerism, Classicism. Encyclopedism, Romanticism and Risorgimento“ etc. is recommended because this sequence was actually ascertained with obvious proof in the regional evolution. The „extrapolation“ is not yet a solution because of the fact that, in other regions, including European regions, the chronology of the events, the ideologies, the style of the creation and therefore the local tradition established and active is different from the pattern and requires a whole different periodization, having a specific mark and even a mark of „localism“. In order to be able to assert, I chose four eras of the Romanian literature, quite different from the processes we have encountered within the so strict contemporaneity, within the French literature and within the west-European literature generally.

Another reason of astonishment is the cultural substance itself.

The very fact that in the Western part we do not encounter a Byzantine tradition (Christian-orthodox), with ebbing and flowing in the visual point of view, but constant at deep levels and even in a way of Tradition with a prevailing local content, that fact should make a difference and should be a good enough reason for a serious examination. There are not only distinctive tendencies and original works, but also literary trends with a certain specific features, such as the trend initiated by Brâncoveanu (between 1690-1725). Even the local, messianic Romanticism, appears from the previous era (century XVIII) of downturn to manuscript and monastery culture during the very period of the French Encyclopedia.

The secret sub-moon energy, the mysterious nets of which I tried to identify and to test, has a good explanation by the contribution of the Christian-orthodox, by the seeming but original Byzantine substance, because no matter if the Byzantine Empire was still standing or had fallen, as a metropolis or as symbol, its spirit had acquired con-substantiality in this space of Limes, which we might call a „parallel Byzantium“.

Furthermore, it is not only the Byzantine characteristic that must be underlined and revaluated. It represents the recognizable but very partial concept of a substance that, considering the large amount of features, it cannot be all comprised in this content, but only to a small extent, and it is barely included through a kind of similitude of common origin or by relation and conjunction of sub-levels that are barely encountered today. Under this historical layer, which still covers a nucleus of European features (core that is revealed, together with the Renaissance driven by the scholars who ran away from Constantinople, and which shall be shaped) there is a vague but very much alive layer, a certain mysterious „something“ that irradiates and commands, very often without a firm explanation, phenomena that seem non-canonic and maybe even incomparable.

Our people is actually very ancient, from very distant ancient times, so ancient that many times we cannot even identify our roots that can be distinguished with difficulty or sometimes we are not even able to see them, because of the fact that, we may not realize in that instant, our sight is too impatiently hurried or too cloudy.

It all begins with a mystery. Around 3500 B.C., to the east of the Carpathian Mountains, or maybe farther, a strange people decided to establish there, leaving behind a doubtful trace, a people that would express a culture of a miraculous coherence. Nothing of their unusual thinking remained in writing, but we can almost fully understand them by watching the establishment of this people. It was a musical, magical people, organized in some sort of ritual community, believing in the ever-lasting of the soul, sensing by a ritual rhythm and by tenses flowing from one another, winding beyond moment towards an infinity that comes back, repeats itself and re-composes itself, without losing the enigmatic substance during the flames. We find ourselves in the space of the horal phenomenon, in an indescribable world and which, in the absence of other identity, we could only name it as Cucuteni. After several centuries that can no longer be counted, these people of Cucuteni seem to disappear out of history as if they raised in the air and they left behind, in the layers of archeological digging, only a deep trace of fire and disaster, and just above it, you can see a line of black dark ceramics belonging to the rough and utilitarian substitutes. There are some who believe that one could recognize in the remains of the ceramic pots that were found in the west part China during the exact times when the people of Cucuteni seemed to have raised to heaven, their musical line eager for infinity and also the communion of the „hora“ that had been discovered in the Carpathian Mountains. But no matter if this is only pure fortuity, illusion or migration, the episode that seems to become a kind of symbol and that even becomes a history stereotype is still obvious. And that is because of the fact that, the same as during those times, every time a superior civilization is established or tries to set up and defines itself, a fracture comes along, a bad incident, the bad luck and the denial that we think is capable to destroy everything that had been built by effort or miracle. So here appears the curse of the violent interruptions that would force us to take everything back from the beginning and would force us to try to build again what had been built before or even to redefine ourselves as something that we had not been before, searching to find our identity. However, our catastrophist vision about ourselves, which confuses the superficial episodes with the major deep changes, must be not only corrected, but denied, because, in fact, watching all from the inside of the sequential rhapsodic moments, the catastrophic is not even confirmed. Otherwise we could not even explain an aspect that is not generally recognized although, around 800 B.C., the „Scythian“ Anacharsis of the Carpathians went to his contemporary Greece and advices the inhabitants of the towns where later Solon Socrates, Anaxagoras and Thales of Milet appeared, with the profound knowledge of a wise man whose great thoughts are still preserved.

In this world where Orpheus is believed to have lived with his music that made the stones rise from the ground, the people sang their hyperborean laws. And around the year 700 B.C., a mountain ruler appeared as if by miracle, whose speech we often do not understand although it is preserved and it is actually „working“. This Zalmoxis, who is thought to have gained his wisdom from his trips to Egypt and by assisting Pythagoras (“Creole“ legend, presenting in fact the illustration of culture by dispersion) and who appeared as if without history like the great public speakers although, without a doubt, he did not appear from nowhere. Suddenly we are in the world of zalmoxism, which represents a kind of impenetrable sapiential attitude, spiritualist anthropologic example, communion in a closed fundamental circle, rituals with a cosmologic sense and a method of preservation, all together religion. His counsels do exist although were not excerpted as Pythagoras’ thoughts, which were preserved in fragments. And once they are cleaned from the alterations of the apocryphal and corrupted transmission, they shall become pure understandable philosophy that preserves a lot of what we think the people of Cucuteni had passed on to us. A wisdom preserved in organizations by the eremites on the Sacred Mountain, which is translated in „vegetal“ institutions, in-vertebrate in the light of history and which explains the apologues of Dromichetes and the fable of Scorillo, the prestige of Deceneu, the secret monachism in the Carpathians and further on, after the so called „silent“ millennium, establishing some forms of Christian beliefs, which preserving the Getic substance, shall be considered as orthodox. And in fact they are orthodox, since the songs in the church and the communication through music are maintained at the Lower Danube by the bishop Niceta of Remesiana, author of the anthem „Te Deum laudamus“. It is impossible to identify how and to what extent this wisdom was kept away from the destroying forces, since not long before the year 1900, in Moldova, people were still talking about the „Solomonars“ who, as secret contemporaries, were repeating ritual gestures, which the peasants bashfully dared to evoke. But they were communicated almost two millenniums and a half before by Herodotus, and the persistency is doubtless. We find ourselves in a world of sub-moon continuity, maybe even heretical and definitely apocryphal, but confirmed by effects.

Hence, the great almost unseen nets of sapiential tradition and of oral transmission start appearing in places that seem to be (and sometimes they even are) out of time, belonging to a far away, intangible history, lacking interest to the sequence of rational and futile surfaces.

It is the space where we are, during St. Nicodim from Tismana (in the XIV century), during the time of Daniil Sihastrul — the counselor of ªtefan cel Mare, before the year 1500, and during the time of Grigorie Roºca, the bishop in the XVI century, during Paisie Velicikovski during the times of the French Encyclopedia, during Hasdeu, during Vasile Pârvan and during Nicolae Iorga, during the times that are closer to us, during the historical moment that comes before us. And all this springing from a long Homeric cycle of culture, spoken and communicated maybe not only by words but by a sort of pedagogical music that, before the half of the XX century, Lucian Blaga had called „mioritic space“, a well-known place where all forms of a spirit take shape without needing foreign recognition in order to exist.

The efforts of this fundamental layer are impressive and the power to revive imposes and shows a secret that has not yet been discovered. Here, towards the end of the XIX century, Mihai Eminescu was born as if from a stem of lily in a time when all seemed to settle more systematically than it had ever been possible, the eponym literary myth and maybe, if he had other fate than the one already given, he would have been the founder hero. Once Eminescu was born, the existential drama appeared. Some interpret this only as a reaction, an attitude of the native who responds to the Empires that meet above him and produce unpredicted earth crust movements, like real earth quakes; but this conclusion, although true, it is not complete. The truth is that Eminescu represents the idea of the native trying to express himself in the manner he is used to, which means according to the Tradition that defines him, and any correction, modification or digression is only interpreted as a distortion and a wound made in cold blood and in a useless reason. This fact illustrates, even if not very clearly seen, a degree of universality in reaction, which is discovered also during the time of the Persians, during Alexandru Macedon, Rome of the Caesars and during the time of the modern Caesars, who founded traditional, classic or contractual empires. This phenomenon has no boundary in time and space because it is appears any time the sedentary human being is oppressed by foreigners and is denied the right of freedom, the right of owning a certain place that was given to him by his God. This conjunction of the two realities brings about the fundamental separation elements: the two histories („the history of the invader“, which is written with a justifying myth, and the „history of the native“, which maintains, often without emphasizing it, her own pantheon); „the two cultures“, and „the two representations about the world“. No matter how unusual it may seem, the pattern repeats itself like a mythical scenario and preserves within some of the religious drama, like some sort of anthropological curse. On this mysterious epical background, the Reconquista appears very often and almost everywhere, with its will of re-conquer the Lost Country, with all its mechanisms that result from the occurred experiences. But here we are dealing with the great Shakespearean theatre, with episodes full of blood and huge merciless machineries. In the Romanian literature, these are represented by Saint Preachers Sofronie from Cioara and Visarion Sarai, described in Transilvania during the „illuminist“ century, who were thrown in prison and killed, Horea killed on the wheel (in the XVIII century), Tudor Vladimirescu, in 1821, killed and thrown in a well, the prophetic historian Nicolae Bãlcescu exiled and having his corpse spread, after the year 1850, in the cemetery of the poor in Palermo, Eminescu harassed and driven mad (in 1883), Nicolae Iorga, assassinated in 1940, Ion Antonescu judged as invader, shot and left without tomb. It was some sort of tradition of the cenotaph (of the symbolic tomb), impresses by the symbol of the universal destruction and of erasing any trace in order not to recognize anymore a certain aspect and not to mention it again. Even though, no matter how strong this magical conjuration would be, something can stop it if we understand better the fable of the lone path. This fable is rendered here together with some summary features.

Around the year 520 A.C., some scholars in „Scythia Minor“ (meaning in Romanian Dobrogea of today), came from the Left Pont to Constantinople and then to Rome in order to propose their solution as regarding the acceptance of the Christian doctrinal polemic related to monophysite. They were called „the Schythian Monks“ and their point of view must have been very unusual that had not been understood and had not been finally officially adopted. However, in a tacit way they have discovered traces in the canonic conclusion where, without declaring it, they must have found some purpose and some values. But the episode it worth being mentioned due to the fact that it illustrates a stereotype and even a scenario with a secret significance. This lucky instant, an instant of collective inspiration, bears within a symbolic fact and it be repeated under different shapes and sometimes even more intensely than during that long gone century. We find it repeated in the mail of Saint Nicodim from Tismana to the bishop Eftimie of Tîrnovo, regarding the angels revealed by Dionisie Areopagitul; in the epistle of St. Vasile from Moldoviþa to the bishop in Kiev; in the philosophy dissertation that Nicolae Milescu — the Sword Bearer writes for the use of Port-Royal (in the XVII century); in the conception of Dimitrie Cantemir who, by the „incrementa atque decrementa“ discovered Giambattista Vico, with his „corsi i ricorsi“. In his own way, Brîncuºi in Paris, was also „a Scythian monk“, bringing about an archaic solution form his Carpathians; and maybe even I.L. Caragiale, foreseeing the modern theatre, could be included in the same category. Eminescu himself, in 1880, by his still not well-known national doctrine would anticipate the more recent „tiers-mondist“ movements; G. Cãlinescu by writing the first anthropological history of a European literature, in 1941; Nicolae Iorga, who set the grounds of the Historiographical School from „Annalles“, the monk of Filota, the anthem writer of the XIV century translated in Venice, Ioan Cassian the initiator of the community life in the West in the IV century A.C., Dionysius Exiguus, the initiator of the Christian calculation of „this was after Jesus Christ“, in the VI century; Nicolae Grigorescu, the painter from Barbizon (in the XIX century), foreseeing the evanescent colours of the impressionists; Petru Movilã, the bishop of the XVII century, author of the orthodox „Belief Symbol“ in Iaºi”; they are all, in their own way, „Scythian monks“ by repeating the historical scenario and by their important attitude. They appear with an idea of losing the charade and therefore, with a solution that had not been previously foreseen showing the power of creating independently and unprovoked but also advising and teaching the others, by a unrecognizable diffusion even if stolen afterwards.

We find ourselves in the space of a sub-moon, unofficial and unrecognized culture — apocryphal culture — with prophetical characteristics, Tradition that cannot be counted as age and source, maybe even parallel with the second culture, which, being ratified, gains glory, although it often uses the ignored one and it marginalizes it by forgetting it. However, we are here in the middle of what one may call universality of essence, which shows that it is possible to create at a very high degree of generality without starting from the paths already confirmed, but by developing one’s own history of values expressed by the fundamental substance that does not depend on any confirmation or diffusion what so ever.

It is a fable that moves, an apologue that describes this paradox of the lone path in the „theory of sanctity“ revealed by Dumitru Stãniloae within these simple phrases full of essence, theory that simply cannot be rejected no matter what:

“Therefore, all saints are local by way of working together in a certain place, but they are universal for the universal belief that they serve in that particular place. From this point of view, there are no local and universal saints. They are all local for the people in a certain place to whom they serve throughout their lives by their actions and by their example, but they are all universal because this example is valid for the believers all over the world and it gives unity to all those who get to know them. They all receive the Same Christ that serves through their bodies and they are all the bearers of the Same Holy Ghost, even if the Holy Ghost communicating with them was also expressed in other language. They all belong by the Same Holy Ghost to the universal Church, who began and continues over the centuries, comprising different peoples (Acts 2, 3). The languages are different, but the souls are filled by the Same Holy Ghost“.

We find ourselves in a world that is not defined by „Urbi et Orbi“ but, for a more than adapted and more appropriate expression that surpasses the indistinctive time, by „Orbi per Urbem“, talking to the universe through the native language, through the spirit of the place.

January 5, 2005

In the Epiphany night, when the Heavens open.

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