The Transfiguration Of Romania, 1936

excerpts Chapter II: The Romanian Adamism  Oh God! What have we been doing for a thousand years?! All our life, ever since a century ago, is nothing but the process through which we realized we actually did nothing… the comparison with what was accomplished in other countries only revealed the void of our past and the inexistence of our culture. If Ortega y Gasset considers that Spain, since its beginnings, lives in a continuous decadence, then what can we say about Romania, which was born into historical life only when the others were beginning to fade away? For a thousand years history has unfolded independently of Romania: a thousand years of sub-history. When conscience was born within ourselves, we didn't register along with it an unconscious creation process, but a century-long spiritual sterility. While the great cultures face the man with creation out of nothingness, small cultures face the man with the nothingness of culture. Historically speaking, we have lost a thousand years, and biologically speaking we haven't gained anything. Such a long vegetative state if it hasn't entirely consumed our nation's vital substance, then it definitely didn't strengthen or energize it in any way. Romania's past doesn't flatter me at all and I am not particularly proud of my ancestors who, lacking self-pride, were capable of sleeping so long while waiting for freedom to arrive. Romania has a purpose as long as we begin to construct it. We must create it from within in order to be reborn in it. The creation of this country should be our sole obsession. Every man who wants or who is called to play a prophetic role in Romania's life must be convinced that in this country every gesture, every action, every attitude is an absolute beginning, that there are no continuations, revivals, guidelines or directives. For what must be done no one precedes us, no one urges and no one helps us. Other people have lived their beginnings naively, unconsciously, without thinking, waking up form the sleep of the matter into historical life though an insensitive process, with a natural evolution, with an imperceptible slide. We, on the other hand, know and we must know that we are about to begin; we are compelled to have the lucidity of life's beginnings, the live, reflected conscience of the aurora. Our waking up to life coincides with a dilatation of the perspective, which other peoples only experience in their twilight. This paradox is inherent to peoples that come into being while others die, whose eyes only perceive the light while others become larger so as not to be blinded by darkness. If we don't have enough strength in our conscience in order to guide our fragile life, we will never make history. If we don't exploit the strange paradox of our "history", we will be lost. Each and every one of us is like Adam. Or maybe our particular situation is even worse, because we don't have anything in our past to be regretful for. Everything must be begun, absolutely everything. All we have to work with is the future. Adamism in culture means the fact that every spiritual, historical and political problem appears for the first time, that everything we live is determined in a new world of values, in unrivaled order and style. Romanian culture is an Adamitic culture, because everything that is born in it is unprecedented (in a pejorative sense, as well). Each of us re-enacts Adam's history, the only difference being that he was banished from paradise, while we were woken up from a deep historical slumber. As much as we'd like to ease ourselves with the condition of our existence through the cruel, miserable circumstances of the times – the barbarian invasions, the Turkish and Hungarian occupations, the Phanariot domination… we still won't succeed. History is only an explanation, not an excuse. Our ancestors didn't love us enough, because they shed so little blood for freedom. We are a country of riots. A people with a freedom instinct must prefer suicide to slavery. In order for a country to open up a path in the world, all means are justifiable. Terror, murder, bestiality, treachery are petty and immoral only in decadence, when they protect a void of content; if on the other hand they help ascension they are virtues. All victories are moral. The Salvation of Romania – these are its virtues and its hidden possibilities. What we were is but an illusory support. We mustn't be so cowardly as to invent ourselves a past. I love the history of Romania with a heavy hatred. Just as there are people who acknowledge themselves, and reach a certain level of self-consciousness late, in maturity, there are also countries that only discover themselves after biologically having consumed a great part of their existence. Romania is a biologically mature country, which cannot afford to live in spirituality, in its naïve manifestations. Spiritually, Romanians have never been children, and they never will be. Our first historical step must coincide with a maturity statement of the spirit. Romania has been able to vegetate for centuries, because the sub-historic level knows no imperialist exigencies of the spirit. From now on it doesn't have anymore time. It is either historical transfiguration or nothing. Most of the cultures have their own childhood; they are familiar with the glorified forms of the spirit, they reach grandeur in naivety. The only path left to us, in order to reach a historical level, is to explode with all our substance, in an effort of spiritual maturity. We should rise to an historical order, with everything that individualizes the essence of our being, with the unconsumed reserves of a people, from the perspective of which we should perceive in our horizons, the contours of a great nation, or at least the will for assertion of a nation. All that we haven't lived so far in our spiritual life should find a form of expression and accomplishment; and all the reserves that should have been consumed in the course of time, should be channeled into the will for power. Our mission should be an act of infinite revenge. And in our passion for creation, we should punish ourselves for our historical slumber. Romania's situation resembles that of Russia. Russia suddenly entered into history in the last century. The first generation of intellectuals definitely left a mark on its cultural style. And now the leap into history, without the obvious continuity of a cultural tradition, demanded the determination of the direction and the finality of national life. The entire past century was nothing but a debate on the issue of the Russian mission. The messianic thought was the expression of its waking up from its historical sleep. The absence of logic of the Russian becoming was the reason that determined the irrationalist vision in the philosophy of Russian history of the past century. In such a vision, history can have finality without the immanence of the Logos. Russian messianism borrowed from Hegel only the pathos and the monumentality of the historical vision, without accepting the rationalism of its dialectic. The dynamic and finalist vision without a rationalist perspective is in fact a characteristic of all great messianic cultures. Russian anomalies are, on an incomparably more reduced plane, ours as well. In our case, it was only after the war and especially in the last years that the problem of Romania's mission, that is its supreme and ultimate obligation towards its essence, became urgent. A people without a mission not only doesn't deserve to live, but has absolutely no meaning. What undeniably exists in Romania is the messianic aspiration, but there is no determination of the content of this mission in public consciousness. Myths are only in an embryonic state. In order for a nation to sense the feeling of its own inward dilatation, these myths must be brought into its consciousness; the sense of its mission should be explicitly determined. This mission should contain such a great projection of self-pride, that the immeasurable of the vision would maintain a mystical atmosphere. A messianism without mysticism is empty and useless. Only then will Romania have a purpose in the world, when the last Romanian will acknowledge the specificity and the uniqueness of the Romanian condition. What myths did our political life brought to life so far? When there weren't platitudes, there were empty abstractions. Romanian democracy didn't even create the citizen's conscience. Romania needs exaltation going as far as fanaticism. A fanatic Romania is a transfigured Romania. The fanaticization of Romania is the transfiguration of Romania.  Romania is geography, it's not history. Does anyone understand this tragedy? A country is valuable only when it becomes a problem for others, only when its name represents an attitude. We all know what France, England, Italy, Russia and Germany mean, but none of us knows what Romania stands for. We don't know what Romania is, but we know perfectly well what Romania is not. And specializing in its absences, I have discovered the infinite that it needs in order to become something. Day and night Romanians discuss about Romania. But I must confess that I have discovered too few for which this is a serious problem, a creed and a destiny. Once too often you meet a mediocre vision of Romania and this lack of a national prophetic voice seems to be one of the flaws of our nationalism. Will we remain doomed to reconstruct the paths of the others, will we be satisfied with a biological purpose, will we remain only a people? In history there is no Romanian nation yet, because for a thousand years we haven't disturbed at all the world's peace, and today we are scared of the global restlessness, instead of increasing it. Rather than being a "wise" nation, I choose collapse. The future will show how much we will deny our useless perseverance. Chapter V: The world of politics I A society abandoned to itself, not granting to the state more than a juridical significance, quickly losses its center, its core. It becomes anti-historical and centrifugal. The fatal consequence of every consequent democracy is social atomism. Society is dissipated into individuals, scattered, without any adherence to a common purpose. These are societies structurally incapable of being democratic. Just like the case of Russia, where the society immediately loses its freedom because it organically lacks an interior limit. That is why Bolshevism unifies two extremes in a synthesis intelligible to the Western world: extreme democracy and autocracy. Democracy has certain psychological presuppositions that aren't present everywhere. And where they don't exist, it is not creative. In England and France it created an entire historical style, and if you were to steal away the democratic age from their national existence, you would fall upon an amazing void. On the other hand, democracy wasn't suitable for Germany. Except for the authoritarian state, that Formlosigkeit of the German soul, sinks all the way to the bottom. It never had a heroic age of democracy. In comparison to Germany and Russia, Romania's democracy is more natural, even though democracy has never given consistency to our country. The merit of democracy in Romania is to have provoked a superficial outbreak of energy, to have created a series of political illusions in every last citizen. It is commonplace, not an imperative, to say that in the future democracy must be destroyed in order for Romania not to disappear. We shouldn't be surprised by those who, out of an ill-understood nationalism, consider the introduction of democracy in our country as an unparalleled misfortune. A people oppressed for a thousand years needed democracy as a vital necessity. Democracy offers a breath of fresh air to the individual, not to the nation. After such a deep darkness, Romania didn't need an acceleration of its historical rhythm; what it needed was an aeration of the individual, a free and arbitrary movement, the entire fantasy and whim that represent the indisputable charm of this regime. If we had entered an authoritarian regime after a millennial tyranny, we would have all become idiots, official automatons, Balkan numbskulls. It is true that through democracy Romania has stretched itself so much that it has become elastic, being pulled by the first newcomer. It was fate that had it this way. It was fate if Romania didn't create a purpose and a collective appeal in the world, that it remained a provincial country with a popular culture and collective poverty. Our only hope is that a dictatorship could cut some corners. A dictatorship is absurd and criminal, unless it cuts corners. I see dictatorship as a permanent revolution. But it is creative only if it is popular. That is what distinguishes it from Caesarism and tyranny. What is a popular dictatorship as opposed to these two phenomena? Their differences derive from the different relation between the political man and a collectivity. And this relation is determined by the specific ideas which it represents. Popular dictatorships are rising against tyranny and Caesarism. They are grounded both in a historical necessity, as well as in the consent of the masses. They are not only requested by the internal logic of the evolution of cultures, but also by the social conditions, the collective and national aspirations. Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini rose to power due to a convergence of elements belonging to the fate of the respective countries, not due to a coincidence of events. These dictatorships are not established in order to save a culture from rottenness, but in order to give access to a great political power and to raise the historic level of the respective culture. What concerns us is the importance of the popular dictatorship within the small civilizations. It is the only way in which they can put an end to their inertia. A collectivity wants itself to be dominated, because on its own it cannot create anything. Whatever solution we would seek for Romania, it's impossible to see it getting rid of its century-old groping around, except through a dictatorial regime. And by dictatorship I understand a regime that gives birth to an exceptional fever in Romania, and that tends to bring up to date its latest possibilities. Democracy has squandered too much energy without any national goal. A dictatorship on the other hand, should put the country under a press. Nothing should remain unexplored and not capitalized upon. Romania's march into history should resemble a string stretched to paroxysm. We should be a threat that grows with every step. We should come closer to the world and the world should know that we are drawing closer. The effort that must be demanded from this country can only be compared to the effort that the Bolsheviks demanded from Russia. A country rises through renunciations, infinite renunciations. If all of us suffered for Romania with a passion that represented ardor and grief, I don't know where this country would plunge and how many corpses would be left behind. I can only see Romania's destiny as filled with pathos. For the countries left behind there is no salvation in a normal rhythm. Nothing can be done with the politicians that flatter the collective indolence. "The politician" in a democracy that raises money to a rank of divinity and considers the country nothing more than a trampoline, doesn't have a ruler's qualities or a mystical aura. Democracy is too little mystical and too much rationalistic. How far we are from its heroic age! The ideological fever that was disseminated all over Europe is exhausted and only void and not important schemas have remained, giving birth to a true theoretical compassion. Within our nation, democracy led to a plurality of divergent formations that deprive the national evolution of a convergent meaning. Universal vote and parliamentarianism have conceived the nation as an amount, i.e. quantitatively, whereas it is concrete and qualitative in its entirety, and can never be expressed through democratic arithmetic. A nation is always more than its individuals. Democracy has made a resultant out of it. In reality, individuals are the results of the nation. Countries without a historical axis lose their contour through democracy. This is the situation of Romania. It never had a shape of its own, and democracy didn't provide it with one. There is too much politics and too little history in Romania. The trouble with the democratic regime is that inside it the political man cannot do anything. And what can he do when ascension in democracy is based upon a chance, and power has an ephemeral duration?! All dictatorships have a crucial, serious character. Isn't it characteristic that most wars are waged by dictatorships? Excessive tension and the abnormal rhythm find a way out of tyranny only in war, giving birth to revolution. In the democratic period of a country, a revolution doesn't have a great purpose, neither a monumental dimension; only if it smashes the tradition of a tyranny, does it receive a character of historical turning point. Nations are historical. Can we make history? We can, but only within the limits of our destiny. And could we jump over our destiny? We could, if only the leap would be sealed in our fate. Will it be? Here is where Knowledge ends and Hope begins… I don't think that I don't believe in Romania. II Romania's luck is that world history doesn't have a convergent flow and doesn't evolve in continuous progression. If humanity's evolution was comparable to a stream, it would be impossible not to lose ourselves in it and to be found again. All the values would add up, and the current cultural level would be so high, that a country like Romania could not participate in any conceivable way. Western culture, the only one that matters for our future orientation, doesn't contain all the values that have preceded it. According to the stupid conception of the mono-linear progress, the present historical moment should contain everything that has been previously unfolded, being at the same time an advantage in an ascendant totality. History can neither be compared to a stream or to a chain. It has its specific growth, irreducible to organic or mechanic concepts. That is why it is so difficult for us to understand history, even though we live in it and we ourselves are, at least up until a certain point, history. Through introspection we understand some secrete reasons and we remain disarmed while facing the facts. Self-knowledge doesn't reveal the structure of the concrete evolution. Every time we search for an antipode to the mobility of historical life, we cannot find anything else but the system. Rigidity and logical consistency, valid in a world of forms, are not revealing in a world of contents, that is history. The system starts from premises, history starts from the irrational. The logic remains within its limits, in the transcendence of its forms, in its sterile adherence to evolution. History represents, on the contrary, a continuous oscillation between irrational and conscience, which is rather picturesque, and almost always tragic. The idea of uninterrupted progress brings too much logic to evolution and makes too much a system out of history. And then, who has enough ingenuity so as to believe that the simple fact of evolution is sufficient for automatically displaying superior characteristics if you had by chance have been born later? The idea of continuous progress is the expression of such a vulgar optimism, that it doesn't even deserve to be brought into discussion. Besides technology, it constitutes a degraded moment of the spirit. But technology represents a phenomenon parallel to culture. It develops according to its own law, in an irrefutable progress; there is no progress in feeling, in thought, in vision. The train or the plane haven't made us more sensitive or more profound. They have only changed our rhythm. Anyone who could compare our living feeling to that of Egypt during the construction of the pyramids, would show us an infinite contempt. The slaves of the pharaohs, who knew nothing, had a far more acute sense of eternity than our scholars, who know everything without actually knowing the essential. I could make a concession to a subtle optimist, regarding the extension of the idea of progress. Still it is impossible to find the least application to the feeling of life. This one, the only one that matters, doesn't win anything through the passing of time, and doesn't become deeper through the complexity of the forms of the civilization. History represents an amount of irreducible totalities. Could anyone still sustain Greece's superiority over India, or the superiority of the Occident over Greece? There is no use for a hierarchy among great cultures. Irreducible grandeurs don't presuppose a hierarchy. It appears as obvious and exciting when referring to small cultures as opposed to great ones. Their differences become accentuated and lend meaning to the idea of progress, to the detriment of smaller cultures. The fascination exercised upon us by the Western world is a visible and repeated proof of our inferiority and the awareness thereof. If it represented the present state of affairs of the entire history, the road that we were supposed to take to go there would have been so long, that we would have never been able to accept getting at least closer to the end of it. A humanity that would evolve according to the vision of continuous progress, would forever cast us at its periphery. For Romania, history represents Western culture, and it cannot represent anything else. That is how we adjust to reality. Its level seems somewhat accessible to us. A historical world, whose entire present would rise right under our eyes, would completely puzzle us with its infinity. There is a compulsory historical level. A country that would indulge only in developing its ethnical originality cannot effectively participate to the writing of history. Taking this path a country becomes picturesque and interesting, like Hungary for example, not a nation and definitely not a great power. Hungary will be remembered by history only because it stubbornly refused to give up its primary characteristics. It is an original country, but it is unsuccessful historically speaking. Romania cannot become a reality by stubbornly clinging to its basic characteristics. Our popular culture is common to Southeastern Europe. Its differentiating elements don't make up an amazing originality. Our folk music and poetry didn't succeed in attracting the world's attention as a profound and original phenomenon. Our merit compared to the other Balkan peoples is that we are the fittest for spiritual forms, because in the Balkans, the Romanian is the least peasant of all. Although we didn't create in culture, it still befits us. The rest of the Balkan area seems to prove a cultural inefficiency that justifies its peripheral renown. A national revolution that would attempt to bring the Romanian back to himself, to his spiritual premisses, to his ethnic origins, would bring Romania back from its superficial drive for modernity and cut its wings. Romania is not an original country. It becomes again a historical zero, returning to its origins. The sustained fever of modernization (in all domains) is our only salvation. The Romanian is not interesting spiritually. Why then should he care about his quasi-orientalism? What would become of a profoundly original – ethnically speaking – country like Russia, if it had been through an ill-understood revolution, only to return to muzhiks? People would have forgotten all about Dostoyevsky and would have thought of Mongolia in return. We will have to defend Romania from its peasants, which only means saving the peasantry from poverty and misery. Every stage of our revolution will have to have as a result our integration in history. If we won't succeed to make our present sensibly felt in the universal rhythm, there is no point in trying anymore, because every human group can achieve an approximate existence. The past and the present of Romania exist only through our good will. Will our future be born out of our excitement? If not, we should bury our souls in Romania of Never. We don't have the right to live each age as if it were a sealed world. If we don't want to be the slaves of history anymore, that is if we want to surpass the condition of the small cultures, we must follow our final purpose as if it were an obsession, in order not to be undermined by Romania's constant tendency: inertia. For France, classicism or the Enlightenment, with all their political and economic implications, were round ages in themselves, closed worlds, inhabited with naivety and with the illusion that their values were absolute. Had anyone thought during the reign of Louis XIVthat France should aspire to other values, other than those it was living in? Did the Renaissance, at its peak, conceive an escape from itself, did it need another age? In a great culture, each and every age is a historical perfection. This is valid also for the ages of decadence. Great cultures die by themselves. Ranke's statement: "Jede Epoche ist unmittelbar zu Gott" doesn't apply to us. Even with all our long-life process, we will barely succeed in winning that immediate eternity, which imprints evolution with an absolute feeling. Ranke was against those who affirmed that an age appears in order to give birth to another, and that there would be hierarchies among nations and ages. He thinks that everything historical has a personal value, worth studying just like any other. That much neutrality towards historical diversity is too much. There are privileged ages, as well as mediocre ones. The objectivity that equalizes them would be theoretical vapidity or science. The scientific curiosity of a historian studies Romania and France with the same passion! How little are we though, as compared to France! We exist less. Concrete and actual history is a bonus. And now let's get back to Romania and see how it can stop being but a shadow of universal history. What misery surrounds this country, so that instead of a heroic ethos, with everything that it involves as horror and bestial passion, we have diluted our blood and sweetened our passions with a delusive yearning, whose soporific virtues have inebriated our feelings in excess? The monotonous overflow of this yearning, apparently an elixir for broken hearts, in fact a sleep-inducing attraction for inert souls, is throbbing in the eyes of the Romanians, and especially in our songs, with an insinuating insistence. Who ever had the opportunity to hear, in Saxon villages in Transylvania, a group of Romanian country lads singing doinas in the twilight, wasn't spared the suffering of the crushing contrast between the constructive massiveness of the town and those extended lamentations, which are so incompatible with civilization, with constructive effort. The contrast must not be explained through our organic difference from Transylvanian Saxons, but through the incommensurable cultural distance of our popular essence. We still cannot appreciate the leap we have made with the help of our cultivated strata of society.There is so much feeble squandering in our yearning, so much renunciation in the face of space and time, and so much captivity in the breath of the heart, that one cannot stop wondering what sadness this poor people has seen, that it yielded to itself so unrelentingly. If we remove the lamentations from our folk poetry and music, we are left with a lyrical hopping, without any sign of originality. We would have been so far today if the infinite of this yearning had taken the form of a heroic expansion of the soul, if we had rolled with enormous enthusiasm over our own ruins! Our yearning represents a negative rapport with the world; it is a lazy, horizontal slide, or a minor undulation on life's mobile surface. Heroism is the ascension of the spiral, the sinuosity of heights. Through our yearning we express more than the uncertainty in the fluctuations of a moment and the call towards the vague. Why do we feel this yearning? Ask any Romanian and he will not be able to explain this infinite in his soul. The problem is that in a Romania shaken by dictatorship and collective enthusiasm, the negative infinite of this psychology should be converted into the positive infinite that is heroism. The gentleness and the prolonged dreaming that waves in the length of time and the stretch of space must "rise" in ardor and fanaticism. The road that the Romanian soul must tread, in order not to become torpid and wrapped in shadows, is the road from the negative infinite of our yearning, to the positive infinite of heroism. This is Romania's psychological problem. A political movement doesn't need "generous ideas" in order to be successful and effectively accomplished. It is enough to cultivate heroic ideals and to capitalize on the fanatic possibilities in man. A country like Romania is too primitive to afford the luxury of "generous ideas", which are inherent to countries with a certain amount of interior elegance. Too generous ideas, without a basis in the immediacy of life, weaken the blood and give a chlorotic aspect to nations. Emasculation through ideological excess is a frequent phenomenon in peoples' lives. Then they begin to be affected by a physiological and historical paleness. Ideas that do not adhere to the concrete life of a people swerve it from its historical direction. That is why every ideology that doesn't engage its vital energies is dangerous. The extreme right and the extreme left have proven themselves so creative, because they have always appealed to a volcanic ethos, they didn't captivate through ideas, but through mysticism. The fact that the right emphasizes the political and the left emphasizes the social doesn't prove anything concerning the origins of their dynamism. The crowd loves to be whipped and fanaticized. Then ideas… dawn on people. I wrote these digressions in 1935-1936, when I was 24 years old, out of passion and self-importance. From everything I have published in Romanian and in French, this text is perhaps the most passionate and at the same time the most foreign to me. I don't find myself in it, even though the presence of my hysteria back then seems obvious. I thought that my duty was to suppress a few pretentious and stupid pages. This edition is the final one. Nobody has the right to change a thing. Paris, 22nd of February 1990

by Emil Cioran (1911-1995)