Religion And Identity In Interwar Romania: Orthodoxism

In the two decades between the world wars the majority of Romanian intellectuals were engaged in a grand debate about what it meant to be Romanian and how national character determined social and political development.[1] The ideological commitments of the protagonists ranged from the extreme left to the extreme right in politics, from rationalism to mysticism in philosophy, and from capitalism to agrarianism in economics. The variety of ideas put forward knew hardly any limits, but two loose groupings of intellectuals are nonetheless discernible. One was composed of those who were certain that Romania was destined to follow the same path of development as Western Europe, while the other sought guidance in the autochthonous past. Contemporaries often referred to the former as "Westerners" or "Europeanists" and the latter as "traditionalists".At the heart of the polemics over national character and development (the two were never separate) was Orthodoxism. The proponents of this traditionalist doctrine argued that the teachings of Eastern Orthodoxy had permeated every facet of Romanian society and had shaped its form and determined its direction from the advent of Christianity in the Roman province of Dacia in the first century down to the nineteenth century, when the "massive intrusion" of Western influences interrupted this "natural," "organic" evolution, causing a deep crisis in the Romanian soul. The Orthodoxists, as they were known, insisted that only a return to ancestral, Orthodox spiritual values could relieve the century-long malaise which had weighed down upon Romanian society and had brought it to the brink of "chaos." They turned to the village as the locus of true spirituality and to the tillers of the soil as the preservers of ancient ethnic traditions. Not surprisingly, they condemned all the hallmarks of modern European society – its embrace of positivism in philosophy, its reliance upon science and the scientific method as a means to knowledge, its great urban centers, its heavy industry, its secular spirit, and its capitalist mentality – as destructive of the Romanians' primordial Eastern heritage. I The organized defense of "authentic" Romanian institutions and values went back to the 1860s, not long after the political union of the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, when a group of young intellectuals, fresh from studies in France and Germany, turned a critical eye on their country's social and cultural development. Through the Junimea (Youth) Society, which they founded in Iaşi in 1863, they promoted a new vision of the Romanian future. Drawing upon the historicist theories of German romantic philosophy and the evolutionist ideas of Herbert Spencer and others, their leading spokesman, Titu Maiorescu (1840-1917), literary critic and professor of philosophy, discerned in recent Romanian history a fateful turn away from the principles of "organic" development. He claimed that an uncritical imitation of Western European institutions had created a "paralyzing antinomy" between the form and the substance of existing Romanian institutions.[2] In an influential article he published in Junimea's literary and cultural journal, Convorbiri Literare, he complained that Romanians had borrowed institutions in every domain wholesale from the West, but such institutions were stillborn because Romanian society was unprepared to receive them. They were simply "forms without substance" (forme fără fond).[3] Maiorescu and his colleagues insisted that social institutions could never be the products of abstract thought, but could assume their proper form only gradually, over time. For them, society, like nature, was never "created," but was always in the process of becoming. Convinced that Romania was first and foremost an agrarian country, they could not foresee any significant shift away from the primacy of agriculture or any modification in a social structure composed of landlords and peasants. For them, the city and its preoccupations were alien to the substance of Romanian culture and sensibility,[4] and thus they sought the essence of the national character in the countryside. But they were not anti-Western or opposed to political and economic progress; what they sought, rather, was the evolution of Romanian society in keeping with its own intellectual and material capabilities.After the turn of the century those who decried the course of development modern Romania had taken concentrated their search for "genuine" Romanian values in the village. They had no doubt that "salvation" from the "anomalies" of modern Romanian society could be had by a return to its "original" spiritual sources. Constantin Rădulescu-Motru (1868-1957), philosopher and psychologist at the University of Bucharest, belonged to the second Junimist generation, but he went further than his mentors in making the village the heart of the national tradition. From German philosophy and sociology and his own Junimist forebears he learned to appreciate the superiority of "culture" over "civilization." He discovered the locus of the "organic" forms of social life, of "natural" links among members of the community in the archaic Romanian village, whereas he perceived only impersonal, "mechanical" relationships among the inhabitants of the growing urban centers. He had no doubt, therefore, that the future of the Romanian nation lay in the strengthening of its rural way of life. By the same token, he denied to the Romanians any aptitude for industry or large-scale commerce, finding them inherently incapable of the disciplined planning and work which lay behind the dynamic capitalist society of Western Europe. [5] Contemporary with Rădulescu-Motru's brand of autochthonism was Sămănătorism, for a time one of the most dynamic of the burgeoning agrarian currents in Romania. Like other traditionalists, the Sămănătorists (Sowers) were convinced that their people had been diverted by liberal, Western-educated ideologues onto a false path of development wholly unsuited to their historical experience and character. They denounced capitalism and the social and political institutions it had spawned as "unnatural implantations" into a traditional society, but they shied away from specific economic and social reforms. Instead, they proposed a kind of moral purging to be accomplished by the dissemination of a culture imbued with true national values as the surest way of solving social ills and of returning the country to its proper path of development. All these ideas found passionate expression in the voluminous writings of the historian Nicolae Iorga (1871-1940). He was unrestrained in his expressions of sympathy for the peasants because he thought their rural world was the place where the laws of evolutionary social change operated in their purest form. He admired the village as the preserver of a tradition nurtured through the centuries where change occurred with "full respect" for organic structures. All this he contrasted with the character of the modern industrial city, where cold, "mechanical" relationships created a sterile environment. For him, the city was the symbol of everything that had gone wrong in modern Romania, and he was at pains to show that something in the peasant's nature made it impossible for him to adapt to the new political and economic structures that had been created in the nineteenth century. He characterized the peasant's attitude toward the city as one of incomprehension, since he could not imagine why such large masses of people had come together in such an ugly place, making themselves miserable in the pursuit of money.[6]The institutions of the West and those relatively few Romanians, mainly middle-class entrepreneurs and intellectuals, who had adopted its ways, were not the only objects of concern to certain traditionalists. As their thought assumed an increasingly aggressive character at the turn of the century, they directed their hostility toward "foreigners" in their own midst. The term was often used in the nineteenth century to refer to Jews and made manifest the widely held view of them as outsiders who could never be assimilated into Romanian society. The origins of modern anti-Semitism in Romania may be traced back at least to the 1830s, when the steady immigration of Jews from Russia and Austria began. As their numbers and their prominence in economic life, particularly in the cities and towns, grew in the latter decades of the century, some traditionalists became increasingly violent in their writings against those they referred to as the "dissolving agents" of native moral and social structures. The two most prominent theorists of anti-Semitism of the period were Alexandru C. Cuza (1857-1947), professor of political economy at the University of Iaşi, and Nicolae Paulescu (1869-1931), professor of physiology at the University of Bucharest. Unlike many earlier writers who had seen the Jewish "threat" as primarily one of economic competition, they developed racial theories by which they sought to justify the exclusion of Jews from participation in Romanian political and civil society and, ultimately, to bring about their expulsion from the nation.[7] Their ideas were to have a strong influence in the interwar period. II In the years immediately after the First World War the insistence upon Romania's unique agrarian character and the search for authentic Romanian values in the countryside were overlaid by more general, European currents of thought opposed to the rationalism and scientific positivism of the latter half of the nineteenth century. The crisis of the European consciousness of the 1890s, which signaled a geological shift in patterns of thought and artistic expression and came to be known as "modernism," was shared by many Romanian intellectuals in the 1920s. If they were traditionalists, they found their own rejection of the values that had held sway for much of the nineteenth century fully confirmed. The war was responsible, for its cruelty and destructiveness had discredited reason and undermined the prestige of Western civilization. These intellectuals rejected the rationalism represented by Kant and his successors, who struck them as hopelessly out of touch with the real world. Instead, they turned for guidance to Nietzsche, whose anti-rationalism fascinated them; to Dilthey and Einstein, whose relativism converted them from Darwin's determinism; to Spengler, whose theories about the inevitable decline of civilizations, especially of the West, provided them with new analytical tools; to Ludwig Klages, who exposed the opposition between the soul and the mind; to Heidegger and his praise of nothingness as the only reality; and to Freud, who revealed to them to vast creative domain of the unconscious. Thus, everything appeared to these Romanian intellectuals to be in flux, to be temporary and unstable. Their anxiety at the transitoriness of things overwhelmed them at times, and their search for new spiritual values became an obsession. Many intellectuals eagerly embraced all things Eastern. A veritable wave of irrationalist and mystical ideas seemed to break across Romanian cultural life. These ideas came from Asia, especially India, but from Europe, too. Alongside Buddhism and Yoga, Christian and mystical philosophy, as expounded by the Fathers of the Church, by Kierkegaard and Berdyaev, exercised a profound influence on Romanian thought. For still other intellectuals, a fascination with the philosophy of the East reinforced their admiration for the Romanian village. They discovered striking analogies between the religious sensibilities and mental structures of these two seemingly diverse worlds. Their immersion in both cultures was like a return to the Rousseauistic vision of the healthy man of nature, uncorrupted by the vices of a cosmopolitan, rationalist civilization. At home, they discovered in Eastern Orthodoxy the eternal source of this simple, unspoiled way of life, and through an original fusion of Eastern Christian spirituality and the Romanian rural world they laid the foundations of Orthodoxism. III Orthodoxism of the interwar period was in many ways the heir to traditionalist currents of thought extending back to the middle decades of the 19th century that had opposed the relentless advance of Western political and economic forms and the assimilation of Western cultural values. It, too, stood for "authentic" Romanian values and an "organic" development of society rooted in the archaic, unspoiled village, and it criticized the contemporary civilization of the West as inimical to the native spirit. It thus represented an anguished response to the challenges of modernity. In the writings of some of its chief advocates Orthodoxism bordered on the xenophobic and the anti-Semitic. It thus carried forward and, to some extent, fused the tenets of Junimism, Sămănătorism, and the extreme nationalism espoused by Alexandru C. Cuza. But it also made an original contribution to Romanian traditionalism by placing Orthodox spirituality at the moral center of the new Romania. Before the First World War, religion, that is, Orthodoxy had not figured prominently in the polemics over national character and development. There was simply no need to cite Orthodoxy as a pillar of Romanianness, since the overwhelming majority of the population of the Old Kingdom (Regat) was Romanian and Orthodox. But the creation of Greater Romania at the end of the war with the acquisition of Transylvania, Bassarabia, and Bukovina and thus large ethnic minorities who were Roman-Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish seemed to many traditionalists to threaten the very foundations of Romania. Orthodoxy occupied a more crucial place than before as a mark of ethnic solidarity among Romanians; it became the means of distinguishing them and their "essence" from the "others" and their essences. Two distinct phases in the evolution of Orthodoxism need to be distinguished. The first, in the 1920s, was primarily spiritual and cultural as its leading theorists concerned themselves with the Romanian tradition and national character. The second phase coincided with the world economic depression and the inexorable swing to the right in politics in the 1930s. Many Orthodoxists now became openly chauvinistic and racist and were absorbed in politics, especially on the extreme right.The leading theorist of Orthodoxism was Nichifor Crainic (1889-1972).[8] As a seminary student and then at the faculty of literature and philosophy at the University of Bucharest before the First World War he had sought to give Romanian intellectual life a religious direction based upon a revival of Orthodox spirituality. After theological studies in Vienna, where he wrote a doctoral dissertation on the medieval German mystic, Meister Eckhart, he returned home convinced that the Orthodox faith was the only foundation upon which postwar Greater Romania could be built. He acknowledged his debt to numerous precursors, among whom he included Iorga and Cuza, but he complained that they had failed to accord religion the key place it deserved in their defense of specific Romanian values. He could cite only one person who had understood the "true heart" of Romanian autochthonism – Nicolae Paulescu – whom he praised for having demonstrated through the study of physiology how Christianity had imbued respect for tradition and love of nation with a consciousness of moral perfection.[9] Like many of his generation, Crainic felt a desperate need to provide the Romanian nation with a new ideal in order to fill what he perceived as a spiritual void in the postwar world. For him, that ideal could only be religious, since, as a practicing Christian, he was certain that spiritual rather than economic or political forces shaped the development of a people. Sensing that Romanian society lacked an "inner harmony" and was in the throes of a "general disaggregation" caused by the "cruel" pursuit of material goods, he made a strengthened religious consciousness the cardinal point in a reorientation of Romanian society.[10]Crainic elaborated the tenets of Orthodoxism in a series of articles which he published in the monthly Gândirea (Thought) one of the most influential literary and cultural reviews of interwar Romania, which he edited from 1926-1944. Gândirea was the organ of a circle of poets, novelists, and philosophers who shared a keen interest in speculative thought and mystical and religious experiences and sought inspiration for their own work in the autochthonous, archaic customs and mentality of the Romanian village. The Gândirea circle thus offered Crainic a congenial atmosphere in which to pursue his religious preoccupations, but the circle encompassed many intellectuals who differed significantly from him in their approach to creativity and their appreciation of the role of religion in the life of the nation. The Orthodoxism which he preached was thus by no means synonymous with Gândirism.[11]On the fundamental question of whether the Romanians belonged to the West or East, Crainic showed no hesitation, in the 1920s, in placing them in the East. He insisted that the sources of Romanian spirituality and, hence, the elements which defined the Romanian character, had originated in Byzantium. Thus, for him, the East meant Orthodoxy, which, he argued, had achieved its apogee in the Byzantine middle ages, an era he defined as the "brilliant synthesis" of antiquity and the Christian golden age preceding the Renaissance.[12]Crainic's warm embrace of the East was balanced by a total rejection of the West as a formative element of Romanian spirituality. He found every aspect of modern Western society and thought incompatible with the national character. Proclaiming the differences between the Orthodox East and Roman Catholic and Protestant West "insurmountable" and "eternal," he, like traditionalists before him, blamed the liberals of 1848 and their Westernizing successors for having forced Western ideas and institutions upon a society structurally incapable of assimilating them. In so doing, his argument ran, they had drastically changed the "natural course" of Romanian development by replacing with superficial imports those institutions which had grown out of the accumulated experience of the nation.[13] The results, he lamented, were everywhere to be seen in the "chaos" of contemporary Romanian society.Crainic found a theoretical justification for his hostility to the West in the antinomy "civilization" and "culture". Borrowing freely from Spengler, he accepted his thesis that the West (civilization), because of its embrace of scientism and materialism, had entered the period of old age and decline. He identified the distinctive sign of its crisis as the "world city," Berlin or New York, "centers of death," an environment of "unrelieved materialism" and "colorless internationalism" which deprived man of his creative senses, leaving him sterile, "without metaphysics."[14] Crainic accused the Romanian liberals of 1848 of having, in effect, introduced the spirit of the city into the world of the patriarchal Romanian village; they had imposed a polished civilization dominated by scientific positivism upon a culture of "primitive youth," delicate and almost childlike in its feelings, whose means of expression was religion. Thus, he saw the Westernization of Romania coinciding with the onset of the decline of the West, of a civilization in crisis, and attributed to this process the essential cause of the crisis in Romanian society. The only way out for the Romanians, he warned, was a return to the "native genius" and the autochthonous spirit," in other words, a revitalization of spiritual life based upon the Eastern tradition.The native genius, for Crainic, was synonymous with Orthodoxy. But he understood the latter term in a particular way. It did not refer to the official RomanianChurch, with which he was permanently at odds, but rather signified a fusion of the ethnic tradition and Eastern Christian spirituality. According to Crainic's often fanciful interpretation of Romanian history, the two elements evolved together, enriching one another. Ignoring history, he went so far as to claim that the Romanians had been born Orthodox Christian, since they had never undergone a formal, mass conversion as had the Slavs, Magyars, and Germans. Rather, he insisted, a fusion had occurred between Orthodoxy and the Romanian soul, and thus the Romanians had made their appearance in history purely and simply as an Orthodox people. Among the proofs he advanced was the inability of both Roman Catholics and Protestants to gain converts among the Romanians, a failure he attributed to the fact that Orthodoxy had not been imposed upon the Romanians, but was, rather, an inherent expression of their religious consciousness.[15] He had warm praise for the Sămănătorists for their emphasis on the vitality of the ethnic nation and the "spirit of the earth," but he complained that they had erred egregiously in treating the peasant as merely a creature of instinct. By placing man in the center of the rural world, they had depicted him as simply an "eruption of natural, elemental forces" and had completely ignored his religious consciousness. They had thus had a splendid vision of the Romanian earth, but had left out the heaven of Romanian spirituality.[16]Crainic was at pains throughout the 1920s to prove the inseparability of ethnicity and Orthodoxy. He defined ethnicity not in terms of geography or anthropological data but by expanding upon the myth of blood, speech, and earth, which constituted the tradition he had sworn to defend. Blood represented the ageless youth of the Romanian folk ballad; speech was the means of transmitting ideas, as blood transmitted life; and earth was the support for the perpetual flux of things, the base over which "the sea of blood and speech" (the Romanian people) moved back and forth. Then, there was Orthodoxy, which Crainic defined as the eternal tradition of the spirit which pervaded earthly experience and gave it meaning.[17] He used the Romanian Christmas carol (the colindă) to show how the two traditions had fused, for in it he discovered a specifically Romanian representation of Jesus, a Jesus not engaged in subtle doctrinal debate with the Pharisees, but moving among the common people, simple and good, like nature.[18]The ideal Romanian, the bearer of the nation's distinctive character, who emerged from Crainic's elaboration of Orthodoxism belonged to the village, not to the city. He was a peasant who worked the land and stood in an intimate "organic relationship with the land, and who interacted naturally and spontaneously with his fellow man. Above all, he was Orthodox, a quality, Crainic insisted, which was ingrained in the peasant's very nature. Here, in this noble rustic, contemplative and lacking the work ethic of capitalism, Crainic found the antithesis to the "bourgeois spirit" of the West, with its unrelenting rationalism and fanatical pursuit of worldly goods.Of Crainic's colleagues on Gândirea, none wrote with more authority on the theological aspects of Orthodoxism than Dumitru Stăniloae (1903-1993), a professor at the Orthodox Theological Academy of Sibiu in the 1930s. Like Crainic, he proclaimed the complete fusion of the ethnic and Eastern Orthodoxy in the Romanian soul. The Romanians, he thought, were, of all the Orthodox peoples, the ones most deeply imbued with the Orthodox spirit: not only had they been born Christian, but they had for centuries lived in isolation from other spiritual currents, which could have disturbed their Orthodox religious structure.[19] For him, Orthodoxy and the Romanian spirit were inseparable, since the former had incorporated the transcendent values of Orthodoxy into the most intimate aspects of everyday life. As examples, he cited the use of ordinary bread made by the people for the communion, the use of the vernacular in the liturgy, and the marriage of priests, which allowed them to sink deep roots in the community.[20] In order to explain how Romanian Orthodoxy differed from that of the Slavs, Stăniloae recognized "Latinity" as a significant component of Romanian ethnicity, but he insisted that Orthodoxy was the only element that sustained the Romanians' ethnic uniqueness.[21]Stăniloae, like other Orthodoxists, regarded the West as fundamentally different from the East. Citing Berdyaev, he insisted that the dominant force in Western spiritual life since the Renaissance had been the relentless secularization of man, which had resulted in the emergence of a utilitarian and hedonistic civilization. The West, he was convinced, had exhausted its moral strength and was sliding inexorably into the abyss. He warned his fellow Romanians against following the same dangerous path, along which the West had tried to lead them since the middle of the nineteenth century. He urged them instead, to perfect their "original powers" as indicated by the "Orthodoxy of their soul."[22]For Stăniloae, spiritual elements ultimately determined the character of a people. Like Crainic, he sought the constituent elements of Romanian spirituality in the village, in the religious beliefs, the moral conceptions, and the cultural products of its inhabitants. All these original facets of the Romanians' creativity, he argued, were permeated by Orthodoxy. Among the qualities which defined the Romanian soul he emphasized the sense of a mystical union between man and nature. He was struck particularly by the empathy the Romanian felt with organic nature – animals and plants – all those things created by God as manifested in the anonymous masterpiece of folk poetry, Mioriţa.[23] By contrast, he pointed out, Western Europeans treated nature only as material to be exploited because both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism taught that man was everything and other living things were nothing. But the Romanian, in Stăniloae's view, thought of nature as a distinct being and treated it gently and with respect, thus displaying the sentiment of "cosmic brotherhood" with which Orthodoxy had endowed him.[24] For Stăniloae, then, the peasant, living in harmony with his environment and touched by the eternal spirit of Eastern Orthodoxy, embodied all those moral and spiritual qualities that signified Romanian. There was no room here for the city. The true Romanian, he declared, felt no intimacy with the things created by man, and hence, he could not accommodate himself to the factory and the machine. IV Outside Crainic's immediate circle, Orthodoxism received a polite, even sympathetic hearing from those intellectuals who shared his hostility to positivism, science, capitalism, and cities. But they were not uncritical, and as time passed, they found Crainic's dogmatism a hindrance to their own understanding of the crucial moral and spiritual issues of the day. As gifted writers and thinkers, they were determined to pursue their own creative vocations free of ideological constraints. Crainic's closest ally was undoubtedly Nae Ionescu (1890-1940),[25] a professor of philosophy at the University of Bucharest and the chief theorist of trăirism, the Romanian variant of existentialism. He was one of the leaders of the anti-rationalist current in Romanian thought in the interwar period and exerted a decisive influence on the generation of intellectuals who began their careers in the later 1920s. He proclaimed the bankruptcy of positivism and insisted that the world was guided by forces intractable to man's cognitive faculties, that nature concealed within itself "latent virtues" whose operations were unpredictable, and that all life was a spontaneous gushing forth of the human spirit which reason was powerless to contain. For him, true reality lay in action, and his belief in the primacy of exuberant life over the intellect led him to religious faith. Only the existence of God and His intervention in phenomena, he taught, relieved the world of its character as an "absurd anarchy."[26] It was religion, or a "mystical attitude," then, that allowed man a "realist" comprehension of the world.[27]Ionescu found a refuge from the absurdities of the modern world in the Romanian village, for it was here that the soul prevailed over the mind and the Romanian peasant stood in direct communion with the true nature of things. Orthodoxy, he thought, had been primarily responsible for shaping the attitude of the Romanian peasant toward life and, thus, for creating a specifically Romanian view of the world. He traced the intimate relationship between Orthodoxy and the rural world back to the coming of Christianity to ancient Dacia in the first century, and he judged the influence of Eastern Christianity to have been so overwhelming that it became a part of the Romanians' very being, or, as he put it: "We are Orthodox because we are Romanian, and we are Romanian because we are Orthodox."[28] Comparing Orthodoxy and Catholicism, he insisted that they were not only two different confessions with two distinct doctrines and cultures, but were fundamentally opposed modes of existence. Thus, he concluded, Catholicism cold not penetrate the Orthodox world, and Orthodoxy could not proselytize successfully outside its own spiritual zone. They were mutually impenetrable; as organic forms of spiritual life they could be neither transmitted nor imposed. A Romanian therefore could not become a Catholic because he was not a product of those conditions that had given rise to Catholicism. Nor, it followed, could a Catholic or a Jew become a Romanian.[29] He called Orthodoxy a natural mode of being in the world, which one could not acquire.[30]This blending of ethnicity and Eastern spirituality led Ionescu to conclude that fundamental, unbridgeable structural differences separated the Romanians from Western society. He found in Roman Catholic and Protestant Europe the antithesis of Romanian peasant society. The West was individualist in social relations, rationalist in intellectual preoccupations, and bourgeois-capitalist in economic structures.[31] He stridently denounced the institutions of bourgeois Europe as artificial creations based upon purely "juridical" relationships between groups and individuals. The institutions of the Romanian village, on the other hand, he pronounced "organic" structures, which had preserved the Romanian's easy integration into nature and his community and had enhanced his receptivity to the mystery of existence. Such qualities, Ionescu insisted, explained why Romania could never become industrial: the Romanian lacked the spirit of calculation and the discipline of work which were the foundations of modern bourgeois-capitalist society.For Ionescu, then, the true Romanian belonged to the village, the center of Orthodox spirituality, and shunned the city with all its corruption of natural, spontaneous existence. He discerned a perfect fusion between the peasant and Orthodoxy,[32] and he made Orthodox spirituality the foundation of the "harmonious [Romanian] community of thought and deed."[33] V In the later 1920s a number of intellectuals, who styled themselves "the young generation" and were deeply influenced by Nae Ionescu, sought to escape the "frightening emptiness" of positivism and modern technology and to achieve a new "spiritual equilibrium." Nichifor Crainic discerned in their restlessness a confirmation of a "new orientation" in Romanian intellectual life and a "return to religion," and he opened the pages of Gândirea to them.[34] But this generation had its own agenda. Intent upon discovering the true coordinates of Romanian spirituality and eager to set Romanian culture on a new course, they did not join the Gândirea circle, but, instead, formed a loose association, called Criterion. Its members included Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), who was to become a renowned historian of religion; Emil Cioran (1911-1995), later the philosopher of man's tragic destiny; the philosopher Constantin Noica (1909-1987), and Mircea Vulcănescu (1904-1952), philosopher and sociologist.[35]The Criterionists enthusiastically embraced Ionescu's exhortations to experience life rather than reduce it to abstract formulas. Eliade, Cioran and others harbored no doubts that they were thus the missionaries of a new spirituality and the founders of new laws and customs. They read Swedenborg, Kierkegaard, Shestov, Heidegger, Unamuno, and Berdyaev; they were interested in orphism, theosophy, Eastern mysticism, and archaic religions; they spoke about the mediocrity of bourgeois existence and denounced materialism in all its forms. Their mission, as Mircea Vulcănescu defined it, was to "assure the unity of the Romanian soul," that is, to bring about the spiritual reconstruction of Romania, just as the preceding generation had accomplished the task of political unity.[36]Like Crainic and Ionescu, most of the Criterion