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Isabela Vasiliu-Scraba

 

EVERY GREAT INTELLIGENCE SWINGS

BETWEEN RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY

(Nae Ionescu and Petre Țuțea)

 

"As compared to Nae Ionescu, Călinescu did not even exist. I knew him in person, I talked to him. He had as much philosophical vocation as a street sweeper. Călinescu was just a writer. In his time, Nae Ionescu had no match. He was himself. And exceptionally smart. At the meetings of the Criterion, Nae Ionescu stood out with a vengeance."

Petre Țuțea

 

            It was a big service that the short article on Nae Ionescu in George Călinescu's History of the Romanian Literature paid to the communist culture. A perfect illustration of the literary critic's desire to place himself at battle with a prominent man -be it on small topics, be it ONLY on petty topics-, at the standard of his person" *. It is no secret for anyone, and his work, no matter how well written, could not conceal that: once stepping in the realm of philosophy, for which he had no calling whatsoever, the "great" Călinescu became suddenly small, very small actually and very ill at ease, trying in vain to hide behind his skillful wording. What George Călinescu made of the "action" proposed by Nae Ionescu, "the program of which stays for ever open", one cannot tell. What understood others, less gifted at writing than Călinescu, we know too well.

            Before the anti-communist December 1989 revolution, at the head of the culturniks (well situated after the repeated purges of the Romanian culture of whatever placed it in danger of regaining the elitist aspect of a true culture), the Nae Ionescu "case" was shaking, magnetically attracted by two opposed poles, equally powerful. Should they ignore him with Călinescu's ignorance? Or should they ignore it cautiously, because that was the upstairs call? It was only after 1989 that their quandary was put an end to. At that point they had the full liberty to make their decision, to step beside the "giant" Călinescu that had reached until 1989 huge dimensions, to become they too, if not through anything else at least through this, "gigantic." Gigantically misinspired, of course!

            But the Nae Ionescu "case" has not been the only sensitive issue for them, but the Țuțea "case" as well. Since it has been clearly proved that none of the post-revolutionary changes has been harder for them to accept than accepting, be it only for two years, the bringing to the fore of a truly gigantic genius: Petre Țuțea.

            During the years they had found out that Țuțea "was entertaining with his shows" the people who used to go to the Writers' Restaurant, the culturniks still had a way out: they avoided the place. Otherwise the Party got angry. Or they took the risk of falling into one of the inconvenient categories of spectators, enumerated by Petre Țuțea while talking to a Securitate person: "At the Writers' Restaurant I meet all kinds of people: smart, imbeciles, writers, whores, and priests. How would I know to which of these you're talking to?"

            After December 1989, "suddenly finding himself with the loudspeaker of popularity in his hand"- as a culturnik was writing with idiotic envy in the magazine whose editor-in-chief he was**-, Țuțea, by his very person, would upset all their arrangements aimed at liquidating for good the great charismatic personalities. Wherever he might have been, in prison or in the street, philosopher Petre Țuțea would irrestibly attract everybody around him. This triggered the criminal punishment to solitary, while in prison, which made the poor man become excessively sociable, as he himself confessed.

            Had it been only the suffering they felt at seeing a brilliant mind, it would still have been bearable, since Petre Țuțea (1902- 3.XII. 1991), no matter how much genius he had or how clear had preserved his thinking, was getting to the end of the road, no work of his had been published, and his opinions, so out of the common, could be easily "adjusted" when publishing his interviews in magazines, or "edited" in the video recordings. To some, however, philosopher Petre Țuțea was downright unbearable, because no matter what he did he would carry Nae Ionescu along. As our culturnik put it, he was "invoking him obsessively."

            Oblivious of getting his friend out from under geological layers of calumnies, or himself for that matter, caring not that Nae Ionescu (1890-1940) had long left the realm of the living, Petre Țuțea dared recall (in public!) how impressed he had been by "the sound of the earth falling onto Nae Ionescu's coffin."

            According to Țuțea, Nae Ionescu was "the only Romanian philosopher that has access-without restlessness-to transcendence." He "settles not in immanence, but in transcendence." The life for life's sake experience that was brandished in relation to Nae Ionescu's thinking was to Petre Țuțea something more obvious and simple rather than action "with a program in white." It was the religious Christian life. The "Nae Ionescu" form of this experience, wrote Petre Țuțea in his Treatise of Christian Anthropology (1992), "must not be mistaken for the common Erlebnis, poetic or philosophic (Dilthey), placed by Rickert in the antichamber of cognition." Neither for the religious experience that was to be dealt with by the great philosopher of religions, Mircea Eliade. Because, due to the historical variableness that it implies, says Țuțea, the religious experience described by Eliade cannot "overcome the psychological and social side" (p. 317).

            "I was in Nae Ionescu's office when Eliade asked the former to allow him to publish a collection of articles on the latter's forthcoming birthday. And he agreed," recalled Petre Țuțea before the excited interviewers.

            According to Țuțea's sayings, he did not often attend Nae Ionescu's lectures. In exchange, he had called on the professor "about fifty times," at his villa in the Baneasa district, where they used to talk for hours on end.

            Petre Țuțea also told his audience-usually made of young people who had no inkling about such things- that Nae Ionescu "had a huge power of seduction...he was an overflowing intelligence...he was uncommonly intelligent...he was spontaneous. He would not prepare his lectures, he would just step into the lecture hall and begin speaking starting from a premise that he would subsequently demonstrate."

            Țuțea remebered having written seventeen articles for Cuvantul. And, more often than not, they would voice out opinions different from those of Nae Ionescu's. He was still impressed, after all those years, that Nae Ionescu had never turned down any of these articles. "Cuvantul," Petre Țuțea was telling his young interlocutors, "was the most intellectual newspaper in the country. Not anyone could have their articles published in Cuvantul." In contrast with Nae Ionescu's newspaper, Iorga's Neamul Romanesc "was rather ordinary," said Țuțea with good reason, too.

            Vasile Băncilă, a remarkable essayist himself, said about Nae Ionescu that he was "one of our prominent essayists," and "the greatest journalist after Mihai Eminescu -at a time when we boasted outstanding journalists." In Nae Ionescu' whole oeuvre one can easily detect a double dimension: philosophic and religious. According to Țuțea, "all exceptional intelligence would swing between philosophy and religion."

            In spite of the fact that he made -together with Noica, Eliade and Cioran- "a foursome of very close friends," Petre Țuțea saw himself "outside this context." From the viewpoint of intellectual endowment, Cioran appeared to him to be above Noica and Eliade, although, like no one else, philosopher Petre Țuțea had detected his weakneses and limitations. He would highly appreciate Cioran's literary vocation and his having become one of the notable French writers. To negotiate a career into the French culture by force of talent and intelligence is no trifle, Țuțea would tell the reporters from the various newspapers.

            In his youth, when he was "somewhat restless," expressing "in pamphlets, but not theoretically" his leftist stand, Petre Țuțea once asked Cioran: "Emile, what are we going to do about the forlorn people of the world?" He would recall the conversation after many years because he liked Cioran's answer: "Let's not confiscate God's attributes. Let us leave them to His care!"

            Upon meeting Țuțea in Berlin, where he was sent by Vaida Voevod for specialization, Nae Ionescu is said to have asked him: "Mr. Țuțea, still a leftist, are you?." Petre Țuțea answered: "No, not any more, I've evolved." Then, Nae Ionescu said: "Mr. Țuțea, this is not about evolution, this is about enlightening! The idea of evolution, associated to the spiritual phenomenon, is nonsense. The spirit does not evolve, it is as God created it! Essences don't change."

            Țuțea had met Noica at the editorial offices of the "Cuvîntul", headed by Nae Ionescu. "Both Noica and myself were granted the honor of being sent to prison," he told a reporter who inisted to make him speak about Noica, the philosopher that enjoyed largest coverage in the communist period. They had been friends, but not on visiting terms, as it was easy to understand for those who noticed Noica's fulfilment in the communist culture, while philosopher Petre Țuțea was prevented by any means to assert himself.

            He would console himself at the thought that Nae Ionescu- "a huge personality," as he never forgot to tell his audience-had not published books either, had not been a "fulfiled person" eiher from this point of view, and that he, Țuțea, in the absence of published works, had joined Nae Ionescu's family.

            "Ever since I got out of prison," said Petre Țuțea, "my house is searched periodically and I'm taken to the Securitate quarters for investigation [...]. The Securitate people told me: 'there is no trace of you left; we've taken care of that.' [...] I think I've written interesting things in the about one thousand pages they've confiscated from me during the searches, since I had some experience as a jailbird. I remember how nicely they would interrogate me: 'Spit it out, scum'... If anyone would have told me during the thirteeen years I spent in prison that I was going to be on TV some day, I would have laughed... I resented appearing on the screen, but I could not resist it..."

            It is hard to tell how much of it was mere stupidity, or sophisticated mockery, or pure cruelty in Vartan Arachelian's following sayings in the interview aired in the spring of 1990:

            "Mr. Țuțea, you've avoided editorial apparition..."

            "I have not..."

            "As far as I know, you have had no book published, have you?"

            With Romanians, Țuțea said, "stupidity is a crime since, as the saying goes,: 'You can gallop across Bucharest for two hours and fail to run into a nitwit.'"

            Exception from the rule were the representatives of the former communist regime, communism itself being deemed by Petre Țuțea as "a perpetual crime." After his release from prison, Țuțea had to survive, for two years, without any income. Afterwards, he received a ridiculous pension, to which Zaharia Stancu added a small amount from the Writers' Union, given that Țuțea had also helped the writers when he had been a director in the Ministry of Economy.

            While in jail, in order to remain "sovereign over his will," the philosopher had it that he was helped by God, since "surviving there, in prison, was impossible without His assistance."

            "The Macedo-Romanians," said Țuțea after his release from prison, "are not Romanians. They are super-Romanians! Absolute Romanians. They have been so oppressed and persecuted that they have acquired a national instinct much like that of hunted beasts. I spent time with Macedo-Romanians in prison. They are not humans, I'm telling you! They are demi-gods. They may have beaten them to a pulp, they would still say nothing. They were fantastic. They have an unparallelled strength!"

            Petre Țuțea, who had attended Nae Ionescu's brilliant lectures on the philosophy of religions, shared the opinions of the great philosopher Nae Ionescu on Othodoxism, Christianity and Protestantism, as well as those on the dissolution caused by the mushrooming religious cults, that Nae Ionescu would label as "protestantizing."

            "Nae Ionescu loved me very much," he recalled a few months before his death. "A generation spearhead," as he had once been deemed, Țuțea would say about himself that he would have liked to be a law maker, but he wound up a philosopher because "events have run him over but failed to crush him."

            He considered false the translation of the Heideggerian syntagm Sein ist mitsein as "being together." Petre Țuțea thought that there was another definition for that: "to be like That one," namely "man is made in the face and liking of That one."

            According to Țuțea, man cannot self-define themselves. Everything that is written in the autobiographies of great figures, "that the fools comment as they would be authentic and revealing testimonies as to their nature, actually reveal nothing. All that these people blabber about are memories or anxieties about bumping into perceptible things.

            There is no such thing as the autonomous man... About man we cannot say that he is, because when we add predicates we understand him no more and start placing him into a hierarchy. He is a philosopher, a scientist, a technician, a merchant, a peasant... We cannot tell HOW we are..."

            The Romanian philosopher enjoyed quoting an Indian, according to whom the Indians, through their mysticism, could deem themselves superior to the Europeans, but they were prevented to do so by "one who surpasses them, by Plato." He saw himself as a Platonician, and that's how he deemed Nae Ionescu, as a matter of fact.

            Plato, Țuțea said, is "the movement of the spirit inside eternity." "Would I try to think the Universe, I would move the Bible to the frozen universe of Plato's Ideas. This is what meditation is about. [...] Someone said that Palto was an avant-Christ. Actually, Plato is Europe's greatest thinker." Philosopher Petre Țuțea blamed the "philosophic dictionary of the Romanian Bolsheviks" for crediting Socrates with the possibility of self-cognition.

            He had read Plato from an upper level and noticed that in fact, beyond self-cognition, Plato saw Socrates' formula as an invocation of Divine help (see Plato, Charmides).

            Asked once what he thought of the Augustinian "interior intimo meo," Țuțea, in his unmistakable way, managed to illustrate the immanence of transcendence in a most suggestive manner: "More profound than us is God. And He is inside us. Symbolically, not in reality. God couldn't get inside a man's carcass even if that person were a Nobel prize winner."

            To his interlocutors, not exactly prepared to grasp Țuțea's philosophical subtleties, he would say, with the hope that maybe one of them would eventually understand him, that the modern nominalists have tried to lower the Platonic Idea, which is an archetype, to a logical concept. Namely to think Plato logically. "Nae Ionescu," said Țuțea, "did not put mere logic in studying Plato. He resorted to metaphysics, too. Because the Platonic Idea is a metaphysical principle, not a formally logic expression like a concept."

            He found the Platonic "myth of the cave" picture to be "the most glorious in the history of human thinking," because, in absolute agreement with Plato, Țuțea thought that man sees things "in image, in guessing, not in their depth." He found one more argument for this in the philosophic intuition of one of Eminescu's verses: "the eye lies and the mind cheats." He liked to remind those around him that the great historian Nicolae Iorga had said about Eminescu to be "the whole expression of the Romanian nation," and philosopher Lucian Blaga that "Eminescu represents the Platonic Idea of a Romanian."

            The undetermined endings of the Platonic dialogues made Țuțea highlight the deadlock Plato finds himself in at any time. And it is this that shows "Plato's genius as compared to Kant, who is less refined. Because Immanuel Kant thought he possessed solutions, while Plato realized that he didn't solve anything."

            He found the dialogue The Sophist  to be a masterpiece because Palto wrote there that God alone is the creator, while man can only be an imitator. "Whenever I read the word creation," said Țuțea, "literary creation, musical creation, philosophical creation, I choke with laughter."

            Somewhat in the line of Nicolae Iorga and Nae Ionescu, Țuțea spoke about the peasants' modesty , anonymous authors of masterpieces, modesty that he would further point out by placing it next to the stupid arrogance of the mediocrities in the communist culture. "The city person," said Țuțea, "scribble their names everywhere, on fences and on paper..."

            What actually brought to dispair the culturniks helplessly witnessing Petre Țuțea's ever larger post-revolutionary popularity were phrases like: "People used to do a lot of thinking in Romania,in my time...Now, there's nothing. As compared to the personalities bred by my generation...the people now are... promising...not one of them representative, though."

            In the time of his youth, said Țuțea, making things even worse, "people used to put more spirit in whatever they were doing...Today, they put more cunning instead." Or, cunning is a feature that animals possess too, Țuțea tried to leave no room for confusion, because cunning is an inner form of intelligence, it is instinct.

            Most probably with philosopher Nae Ionescu and his brilliant disciples in mind, Petre Țuțea said once in an interview: "a bright mind shows up...maybe more at the same time, that are anchored in the same ideal. And provided the ideal is masterfully represented, it becomes a moulder for the ones pursuing it. You have to accept the idea of model-people [...] Models melt into generations. Those who become models are decisive for the city, they create trends." The paradox is, Țuțea pointed out strongly enough, that peoples, large as they may be, become representative through a limited number of representatives.

            About Lucian Blaga he would say that "he was indisputably our greatest philosopher." As a profesor, though, Blaga "was much like Sombart, one of Europe's most reputed economists, whose students would not even listen to his lectures. Students used to doze at Heidegger's lectures, too," added Țuțea.

            "Now, Mircea Eliade was something! He had showed talent very early in his life," said Țuțea, not failing to mention the quality of being "praised by Nae Ionescu."

            Țuțea, like Nae Ionescu, did not think much of the apologists of the becoming. "They are bad historicizers," noted Țuțea, "who take consolation in becoming. We do become civilized, don't we? Or more learned. That is, we die just as goats do, only that it's no little thing that we have Immanuel Kant, Descartes, Newton, you name them, so many culture makers." In order to make his philosphic stand clear, Țuțea added: "But there is also Christ, the Christian religion maker." The apologists of the becoming won't heed this: "They're drowning in history."

            "There is now a severe shortage of personalities in Romania," Țuțea observed with deep sadness. "Noica led to no spiritual peak... He only left behind some individuals fit to be good assistants with the Philosophy Department, nothing more."

            "Today's generation is gloomy," Petre Țuțea would tell those crowding to listen to him, hoping in vain to hear, from him too, the same much trumpeted things about some contemporary writer. "But my generation did have creative figures," Țuțea pointed out to his audience.

            According to Petre Țuțea, "Genius is relief, novelty, invention, epoch making, and style. It is not necessarily intelligent, it is superintelligent.." A good illustration of these thoughts may be found in Țuțea' own words about Brâncuși, whom, with exquisite fineness, he defined to be "the first decadent peasant." While admiring Brâncuși's sculptures, Țuțea is said to have asked the former: "Maestro, how do you manage to avoid the decorative element in your simplifying geometrism?" As he was a Romanian peasant, clever and ingenious, Brancusi answered: "That's for the work to say, provided it speaks!" Țuțea asked him further: "What was the idea that underlied the Magic Bird?" Brâncuși answered, astutely: "That's no bird, man! What bird? In America they say it's a bronze!"

            Țuțea's commentaries makes one's delight: "A peasant like this is a decadent, my friend! Not even I had such ingeniosity, and I'm a philosophically educated person!" The catch of the story is postponed to enhance the effect. Brâncuși would have said next: "I polished the matter to find the continuous line and, when I realized I could not find it, I stopped. It was like an unseen person knocked me over the hands!"

            In sheer bewilderment, that he seemingly would have liked to pass on to his interlocutor, a bewilderment gone much beyond awe, Țuțea asked rhetorically: "Now, what do you say about that?"

            He would gladly impart with those who called on him the conclusion he had reached at the venerable age of eighty-nine: "Fools display a big reserve before those who speak in terms of faith and nation." Nae Ionescu, he used to tell his guests, "was a prominent patriotic figure." About Țuțea, his mentor thought he would be a leader, since he was so well trained in the art of governing. How could Nae Ionescu have guessed the betrayal of the West and Romania's fate after Yalta? How could he have imagined that so many creative urges would be annihilated with the imprisonment of the country's most notable intellectuals, with the diabolical spiritual beheading of Romania?

            When Țuțea was saying: "our passing away, most often at the right moment, is a sign of God's love for us," he was probably having Nae Ionescu in mind too, even though he had never come to terms with the idea that his friend would have died a natural death.

            As we have showed in the chapters dealing with his metaphysics, Nae Ionescu was endowed with an exceptional critical spirit, most inspiringly dubbed by a great speculative fineness. And yet, Nae Ionescu despised sterile philosophical speculation, idealism under all its forms. He deemed himself to be a "realist," and he thought Plato was a realist as well. Nae Ionescu's philosophical method was definitely a "descriptive" one, his interest lying not in the particularities of the facts as such, but in their general features. Even when Nae Ionescu saw the Romanian as "a learned peasant, imbued with faith," he did not make a mere speculation. Most likely, Nae Ionescu had raised to the rank of "basic element" a real thing that he had detected as soon as he had met the brilliant man that was Petre Țuțea.

            Honest as he was when disagreeing to Nae Ionescu's opinion on the Romanian peasant, it is precisely Țuțea that we identify in the traits of the Romanian peasant depicted by Nae Ionescu. Because Țuțea himself used to see himself, from a cultural viewpoint, as a European who had preserved unaltered the "spiritual foundation of a peasant from Muscel."

            Before summoning him to His realm, God granted Țuțea, while surrounded by young reporters, the joy of recollecting how much "he was praised by Nae Ionescu and Blaga." Well aware of what he was saying, Petre Țuțea wound up: "I think this is enough."

 

Translated by Ileana Barbu

______

 

            * Nae Ionescu, Între ziaristică și filosofie (Between Journalism and Philosophy), Ed. Timpul, Iași, 1996, p.135

            ** Valeriu Cristea, I've taken a walk to and fro through the epoch..., "Caiete critice", No. 4-5/1994, p.11.

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