The Second Independence, 1926

There is a technique of the life of the matter and a technique of the life of the soul. One is the result of scientific findings and inventions based on precise and universally valid laws; the other is the result of long-wearing inner experiences of man with himself, with others, of the group with groups – a decantation of life trialed across centuries under the imperative of religious belief and race-bound temperament. The technique of material life, scientific and thereby objective, pertains to the external realm and is aimed at conquering nature, appropriating her goods and turning them to the use of mankind. Modern machine-ism is its most impressive aspect and, concurrently, the epitome of the totality of its products that make up European civilization. Indifferent to race distinctions, faith, geographical latitude differences, its expansive tendency resides in rendering everything uniform. A machine retains validity anywhere. Where there is none, material necessity requires it. Backward countries are termed notably countries without machines. Civilized countries are those where machine-ism reaches its maximum development. American civilization is unequaled in this. The issue of civilization resides in the issue of the machine. When we and similar countries say 'Europeanization', we thereby understand civilization, i.e. primarily: industrialization. Given that the benefits of material technique are beyond debate, who would favor the slushy road of a countryside over the asphalted pavement, or the stagecoach over the automobile and the rush-light over the electric bulb? Traditionalism would, in this acceptation, be anachronistic. Nonetheless, traditionalism is not a force opposing civilization. Traditionalism is the technique of soul's existence within a nation. The technique of animated existence constitutes the culture of a people – i.e. that particular way of being, thinking and feeling, speaking and worshipping, hoping, and even of dying. It is an elaborate sublimation over centuries and millenniums, tested by the forges and torrents of history, determined, one way and not another, by an inner fatality of blood and creed, race, and religion. Civilization renders uniform; culture differentiates. One train will make the Englishman and the Indian travel in the same manner; but cultural differences will prevent them from communicating alike. Establishing an inter-conditioning ratio between culture and civilization is a difficult undertaking. Americans took European civilization to its climax and became brilliant with a Baedeker culture. In the shadow of their huge factories, the to and fro of religious sects documents the crisis of a soul that has to date not succeeded in creating an equilibrating form of culture. India, by contrast, has created a culture, a life wisdom, without tasting the benefits of the machine. England, France, and Germany have a culture doubled by civilization – a fact that typically triggers confusion when speaking of one and meaning the other. In each of these countries, we find a European civilization of the 'matter'; however, there is still a French culture in France, an English culture in England, a German culture in Germany. From the confusion of the two concepts for such distinct realms sprang the tendency to forge a universal culture across race and faith that should uniformize the soul as civilization had leveled matter. And thus, in the realm of speech the language of Esperanto was concocted, whereas theosophy was introduced to religion – two artifices that stand precisely proof to the fact that creating a universal culture is not a realistic option. When impressionist criticism's lampoonist, Mr. Eugen Lovinescu, attempted systematizing his wealth of knowledge in a History of Romanian Modern Civilization and wording the genetic laws therefor, the previously underlined confusion croaked in his ear like a bird of ill-omen. This confusion followed him in its fatality throughout his three little volumes. It is true that at the onset of the third one – somewhat brought to reason by the exact objections brought unto him – the historian of the first two brochures, now a theoretician, sees himself compelled to write: "As at the basis of the History of Romanian Modern Civilization we had laid a distinction between culture and civilization so firm and akin to the one of C. Rădulescu-Motru, it follows sine qua non that we have only made reference to the totality of material conditions of Romanian life therein." Thus, point-blank: only to the technique of material life, to civilization. Nevertheless, this deliberate distinction is naught but a brief showering of snow amidst the confusion that resumes its place, compact and omnipotent. Mr. Eugen Lovinescu possesses a spirit endowed with what he terms 'plasticity', ascribing this feature to the Romanian nation. Wax is plastic: one shapes it to one's own liking. A plastic soul would, therefore, mean a soul vexed by a chameleon-like characteristic that borrows forms following an external and exclusive determinism. From the same lump of wax one can mould, at times a cat, at times a dove, at times a small demon. This extraordinary plasticity, accredited to the Romanian people, is necessitated by Mr. Lovinescu to ground on its waxen softness a law designed to elucidate the entire secret of our civilization: the law of imitation. I wouldn't know the extent to which the Romanian people be plastic. If plasticity be its dominant feature, this means that what we are dealing with is a nation completely devoid of a personality of its own. Such a nation is flaunted by Mr. Lovinescu's petty books: a people created in the shape and resemblance of his own person. Therefore, Mr. Lovinescu is essentially plastic. As a youth, he had read diverse short stories and written in the manner of short stories; then he stumbled across theatre and wrote sketches in the way of plays; whereupon he read novels and wrote in the manner of novels; then he read impressionist criticism and wrote in that way; and, of late, he has read a handful of sociology treatises and has dumbfounded us with his new calling as a social scientist. Out of his last reads, he has particularly enjoyed Gabriel Tarde's law of imitation. In sociology, there are many other laws. Mr. Lovinescu, inspirited, chose to favor this one, as it brought along a confirmation of plasticity in its entirety of hypostases to that date. By the law of imitation, everything receives an explanation. Mr. Lovinescu muses at the genesis of the Romanian civilization and, notwithstanding, applies the miracle law to Romanian culture. The discerning spirit molded after Mr. C. Rădulescu-Motru, the plastic wax of the new-born sociologist, melts instantly in the continual confusion: culture in civilization, civilization in culture, imitation in civilization, imitation in culture. Let us proceed by quoting: "On any geographical latitude, we are being wittingly served entirely by the latest inventions of mechanics or findings of medicine: we do not, therefore, re-enact the stages of evolution, but in a consistent update with the most recent stage in science, without any toil, we benefit from the accumulated results of other peoples' work. The same applies in the propagation of ideas or of artistic forms: we do not reconstitute the thought of ancient philosophers, as much as we do not imitate old epics." That is to say that we are only retracing the thought of contemporary philosophers and that, in art, we are only imitating the modern epics, as it were! Specific, Mr. Lovinescu applies imitation to Romanian literature "with the necessity of an ineluctable law" and finds that the imitation in question "was sudden and holistic". That is to say, in culture, akin to mechanics, "we benefit from the accumulated results of other peoples' work". The confusion is clear. Mr. Lovinescu had set out determinedly to bring in effect the law of imitation as to the totality of living conditions in Romanian life, i.e. the phenomena pertaining to civilization, and finds himself perpetually proclaiming the cultural phenomena as imitation. On page 76, he purports this very manifestly: "Not only do the institutions and political principles propagate by imitation, but also: the forms of art." So be it! Let us, in our leniency, overlook Mr. Lovinescu's quintessential confusion and linger for a while in the realm of art-bound imitation. Let us bear in mind the following: imitation is, in Mr. Lovinescu's eyes, an ineluctable necessity, an inexorable law, and, as it is a law, it holds valid anywhere, anytime. Dura lex, sed lex! An art phenomenon, once set in motion, falls into the swirl of universal imitation and repeats itself ad infinitum. Let us consider Leonardo da Vinci's La Gioconda. "With the instantaneous circulation facilities of our times", says Mr. Lovinescu, "the power of publicizing imitation has become virtually unlimited." That is to say that the post office, the telegraph, telephone, radio, the dailies, all announce that La Gioconda, as an artistic phenomenon, has come about. In a flash, all the painters and employed brush-holders in the world start copying it, all photographers start photographing it, all lithographers start lithographing it, all cinemas start running it, all trains, ships, and plains start freighting and circulating it frantically over the entire earth globe. In a few days, La Gioconda has transfigured the planet with her beautiful face produced billion-fold. As the law of imitation is a law, it follows that the art phenomenon La Gioconda repeats identically, with the same artistic value and at the same price as the unique copy that came out of Leonardo da Vinci's hands. Otherwise, if these unlimited imitations do not have the same value as that unique original, it follows that the Gioconda phenomenon does not repeat itself identically and, therefore imitation stands to forfeit its quality of inexorable law. The truth is that, in spite of billions of virtual imitations, there is only one La Gioconda, unique, housed at the Louvre, thus one in the universe, playing the same unparalleled and enigmatic smile on her lips, equanimous in front of eternity and Mr. Lovinescu's ineluctable needs.But the law of this honorable man, if applied to the realm of culture, plays a number of pranks on our… theoretician. Let us quote one. At a given moment, Mr. Lovinescu verifies and exemplifies imitation by the Gothic style. Born in the bed of the Seine, the presence of this current can be traced back in France, England, Germany, Spain, and Italy, Sweden, Poland and Hungary. There it stops. Full stop! Why does the Gothic style stop there? Why has it not ventured any further? The law of imitation, leveling and universal – why has it not pushed it further into Russia, into the Romanian Principalities, the Balkans, into Asia Minor, Egypt? What kind of law is this that suddenly halts at the Polish and Hungarian border and, although spurred and goaded by Mr. Lovinescu as if it were a treasured Rocinante tied to his fate, it – the law – refuses to take a step further and cross the borderline. For, verily, this was one frontier where the Gothic style stopped – akin to the waves crashing against a dike… the borderline had been drawn by one single word that divided Europe in half: Filioqus! And even if, during the Middle Ages, the access roads so heartwarmingly conjured up by Mr. Lovinescu as seemingly taking his law everywhere, even if they had been a thousand times better than today, the Gothic style would have still not stepped one inch beyond the boundaries of the Filioque dogma. Apart from this spiritual realm, such an invasion was opposed by a different world, another dogma, a different way of plastic expression. The Eastern Church dogma, the Byzantine style. Behold how the universality law of imitation in art is shattered to the ground at a very first attempt to apply and verify it. If we added the national perspective to the religious one, the boundaries that resist universality become manifold. Akin to the dogma, a nation creates a style of its own drawn from its specific sensitivity and from the inventiveness of its spirit. This style gains in depth and amplifies throughout the centuries, and varies in the way of detail with the époque and the creator's personality – under preserve of its fundamental, original character; this, by virtue of a discipline of spiritual continuity, i.e. the discipline of traditionalism. Civilization renders uniform; culture renders distinct. And a national culture is merely insomuch a valuable and prestigious conglomerate as it succeeds in bringing in a flavor of its own, a perfume, a special tone that makes it unique in the choir of other national cultures. If in the civilization of the 'matter', imitation is a necessity, in culture it translates into the spiritual death of a people. Making imitation the generating principle in art, the law of culture becomes tantamount to legalizing the death of spirit. Imitative by instinct, only an ape's brain could spin such a law. This is done by Mr. Lovinescu with an unperturbed serenity. We have dwelled on the grave error, as no-one before who has referred in eulogistic terms to the political, social, and economic reforms of the 1848 Revolution, has been tempted to dogmatize the error and showcase it as the inexorable destiny of Romanian culture. Mr. Lovinescu has, and he covers his dilettantism under the false coating of sociology. Sociology is a developing science. Its axioms, relative and contradictory, have, notably at this stage, a provisional character. If in a science such as biology, Leclerc du Sablon ventures out to mention the incertitude of biological laws, we are all the more in the right to receive the relative laws and contradictory statements of sociologists in a reserved manner. The so-called laws on the makeup and mechanism of a society, the social scientists themselves, with justified scientific probity, declare valid only for the past, but not for the future of society. If a scientific law has permanent validity, this fact in itself helps us understand, after such declarations, how few of the hypotheses and theories of sociology have acquired a law status. But a hardened forty-eighter and a propagator of its spirit, Mr. Lovinescu has been seduced by the criterion of "benefit, without any toil, (…) from the accumulated results of other peoples' work" and has embraced it blindly as the sole law of Romanian culture, Trade's imitation. It is described as a plastic phenomenon. Around this law he concocted the following doctrine: Romanians are a purely Latin people (in this, Mr. Lovinescu is not a revolutionary anymore, but an anachronous epigone of the old-school Latinists, lagging behind the scientific amendments brought to the theory of race purity. N. Iorga and V. Pârvan trace, at the origins of our people, the indigenous Thracian component plus those Italic ploughmen infiltrated long before Trajan's all-too celebrated colonists.) Therefore, a people of noble Latin extraction, we were planted here, in a "geographical position", "historical conditions", and amidst a "religion" "altogether hostile to our intimate structure". For these reasons we have not been able to yield anything, did not mean anything – until 1848, that is. What would, according to Mr. Lovinescu's doctrine, be a holistic approach? To be done with this Oriental exile, to abandon this Romanian soil, so antagonistic to us (in Mr. Lovinescu's Latinist vision, every Romanian is the equivalent of a banned Ovid wishing himself back to Rome), let us cast off history, consequently, our ancestors, deny Eastern Church, consequently, our soul, and move somewhere on the soil of classical Latinism. Oh, such a beauteous dream! Albeit, even Mr. Lovinescu observed that the solution was somehow abstract. Whereupon he resorted to a more modest option: let us then stay here between the Carpathians and the Pontus Euxinus, but let us efface everything that has been Romanian history, faith or culture, then proclaim a revolution and, in embracing the law of imitation, start a new, European, i.e. Latin, life after the Parisian model. 1848 is the marriage of the Romanian nation with the Latin spirit. Since then, our destiny of "imitation in its integrality" can be traced back. For this doctrine, summed up with the utmost thoroughness, we have proclaimed Mr. Lovinescu a corruptor of the young Romanian generations, if only the compliment would not induce him to self-flatteringly deem himself as Socrates reborn – that is, if someone took that seriously. But Socrates was too wise to advocate the nullity of spirit and parasitic loathing – even if he himself, at times, would have graced Alcibiades with his presence at his supper-time bouts. Entirely revolutionary, the Lovinescan doctrine is anti-traditionalist: it advocates tabula rasa. Traditionalism seems to be a "sociological impossibility", as long as it is not grounded upon a "certain past" and on a Classic époque. The same doctrine that perceives revolutionarism as an imitation of present-day Europe ("synchronism"), equally erroneously perceives traditionalism as an imitation of one's national past. And, as our past is "Romanian-Slavic-Byzantine-Turkish-Phanariot", its imitation means committing a crime against pure Latinity! Nevertheless, traditionalism in culture is not conceived in a stereotyped way. It is not a perpetual standstill. Culture is a continually expanding organism, rooted in the marrow of the people, its canopy extending in the air of epochs. The sap has the same qualities: the atmosphere is changing. Traditionalism is the inner discipline that guides this growth. However propitious or not the atmosphere, the organism – flourishing or recoiled – preserves its fundamental characteristics that lend it specificity. A man more or less resembles another but anthropology, in studying the shape of the skull, establishes an average type for each family or race. Traditionalism is, in fact, this bone structure that preserves a unity in characteristics in order to shape an entire culture. In the liberal apparition of cultural phenomena, it maintains a continuity of their affiliation. In the ever-lasting reincarnation of the generations, the traditionalist doctrine conceives the collective "self" of a nation as washing like an amplifying vital torrent, a living upsurge preserving an incessant consciousness of its being. What is our so-called national consciousness, if not a symbiosis of past and present, of historic incarnations and the present reincarnation, wherein they find themselves? According to this perspective, traditionalism appears, unlike its picture by amateur revolutionaries as a static, lifeless force, with its back turned against the future, as a living, dynamic force that arisen from the ages makes torrential headway towards new forms created that should befit their being optimally. As an artistic realm, it does not impose templates, but it teaches about the solidarity of the creative type with the collective soul, uncovering its sources of autochthonous inspiration. Let us not forget: the grandest revolution in Romanian art has been carried through by a traditionalist: Mihai Eminescu! Was he a Romantic? – He was. This was the atmosphere of his time. But do we not hear the echo of Romanian history in his memories? Do we not see our folkloric myth transfigured by his vision? The life of the centuries, compacted into words – this do we not recognize as if present in one apotheosis, in his language culled from everywhere? Don't we feel a rivulet from the indigenous depths sipped into his inspiration? Eminescu entered the stage in full revolutionary upheaval. It is in the tension of his counter-revolutionary thought that the entire national body seemed to convulse, injured and bullied by the forty-eighter reforms. The Revolution seemed an undertaking antithetical to his indigenously authentic work. In the face of peril, he seemed to attract the essence of the nation itself, wording itself through the mediation of his genius with a power and a brilliance yet unknown. An acumen of thought and beauty rose massively in the face of revolutionary void, in the face of that tabula rasa desired by the Europeanizing ape. And now a question arises naturally: in our cultural creation, shall we guide ourselves after Eminescu or after Lovinescu? After ourselves or Europe? The discipline of traditionalism or the "law of imitation"? We saw: one meant life in continual creation; the other – abdication, annulment, syncope, death. But to repeal suspicions over a blinded fanaticism, we will let one great "Latin" answer – a great writer, a European whom our Europeanists, poorly informed, have fiercely embraced as a hierophant of the culture of imitation: Miguel de Unamuno. In 1906, Unamuno lashed at the issue of Spain's Europeanization, of her modernization, in circumstances nearly identical to our own. They had their Europeanists, too, who pined for the appetite of Paris and, on the rugged Iberian cliffs, fancied themselves as exiles. There were artists that would have given an eyetooth for the French aesthetics; symbolists that deemed themselves decrepit from absinth – the consoler of Verlaine, free-thinking teen spirits for whom the irony of Anatole France epitomized the supreme embodiment of wisdom. "Nothing produces a more terribly grotesque effect" – says Unamuno – "than to find myself in the company of such individuals, usually Frenchified specimens, who proclaim themselves emancipated from every tyranny, enamored with freedom, strong spirits, sometimes anarchists, very often atheists…" An admirer of African sternness that had forged the thought of one Augustine or Tertullian, Unamuno opposes the French spirit, a polisher of "common feelings and of common thoughts", to the "impassioned and arbitrary" spirit that has signified the glory of mystical Spain. The law of imitation? Here is how he stigmatizes it: "The curse of the one who tries to shape himself after another is that he ceases to be his own self, without succeeding to become what he took for his paragon, and that he thus is nought any longer!" Imitation annuls creative personality. To salvage this personality, Unamuno favors the barbarity of his own people over the polished French aestheticism: "If we are Barbarians, why then do we not feel and proclaim ourselves as such, and if it comes to singing our griefs and comforts, why then do we not sing them in the letter of Barbaric aesthetics?"(Vérités arbitraires) Barbaric aesthetic? That is to say, an indigenous aesthetics. This is what traditionalism covets. Gândirea (The Thought), VI-th year, 1926, no. 1, February, pp. 1-5

by Nichifor Crainic (1889-1972)