Isabela Vasiliu-Scraba

(Romanian philosopher and essayist, b. July 2, see  http://isabelavs.blogspot.com )


at “2 VII” (the Two Iulias Hasdeu Mystic Castle)

by Isabela Vasiliu-Scraba

“To Eastern Europeans, beauty is not an aesthetic hazard, but a transcendental support” Virgil Ierunca (1920-2006) noted in his Paris diary (for March 22, 1960). That would precisely be the case of the architectural significance that reveals itself to the casual visitor of the enigmatic or mystical castle (built at Campina in Romania by Prince Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, a “homo universalis” whose intellectual history is so amazing that a little part of it can be mentioned here (see also Mircea Eliade, Despre Eminescu şi Haşdeu/On Eminescu and Hasdeu, Iasi, 1987 and C. Poghirc, B. P. Hasdeu,Lingvist şi filolog/ Linguist and Philologian, Bucuresti, 1968).

Carrying a sustained correspondence with western scholars of his time, but also with astronomer Flamarion and the famous spiritist W. Crookes, taking an equal interest in humanistic studies, religion, philospphy, and occultism (see Hasdeu, Sic cogito, Bucureşti, 1990, postfaţă de M. Neagu Basarab), Bogdan P. Hasdeu (1838-1907) was a Romanian philologist of world repute (the first to discover and formulate the law of word circulation in a language). From 1874 he had been a professor of comparative philology at the University of Bucharest and in 1882 he became a member of the Parisian “Société de Linguistique.” This proeminent philologian also was the recipient of the Romanian Academy award for his work Cuvente den bătrâni /Words of Our Forefathers (1878-1881), a study of the Romanian language of the 16th century, based on religious and legal texts.

Prince Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu worked between 1881 and 1898 on a great entreprise, the first of its kind, titled Etymologicum Magnum Romaniae, in which each monograph-like entry revealed the meanings aquired by a word throughout its history. He was also an outstanding historian (head, from 1868 of the State Archives) and a visionary of the unified Romania within its natural borders, an event that was to be fulfilled in 1918. He published three volumes of Historical Archives of Romania (1864-1868), the monograph on the ruler of Moldavia, Ioan Vodă cel Cumplit/ John the Undaunted, the History of Religious Tolerance with the Romanian People, as well as his fundamental work, The Critical History of the Romanians (1873).

In the opinion of competent judges, Hasdeu was the most remarkable thinker and scholar of his time, being concurrently an ethno-psychologist, philosopher, poet, dramatist, editor and translator of historical documents, a political journalist and magazine founder. He became a member of the Romanian Academy before turning thirty-one. He also occupied in turn the office of judge at the tribunal of Cahul (since 1945 a town in today’s Republic of Moldova), held a professorship in constitutional law at the universities of Iasi/Jassy and Bucuresti/Bucharest, and an MP representing the city of Craiova.

He was a polyglot and a man of “frightening erudition”, according to Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), the reputed historian, comparatist and philosopher of religions, who in 1937 edited and prefaced two volumes of Hasdeu’s Works.

Beginning with 1888, Prince Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu (who was related to Stefan Petriceicu, ancient king of Moldavia) began building two mystical monuments: Julia’s Tomb in Bucharest, a fine construction looking like a Greek temple, without compromizing its uniqueness, and at Campina the Castle of the two Julias. Upon the completion of the two enigmatic edifices, B. P. Hasdeu was invited by architect Ion Mincu to join the Romanian Society of Architecture as an honorary member.

Between 1888 and 1891, B.P. Hasdeu had the Little Temple built in Bucharest for his brilliant daughter Julia, who could read at two, write at four, graduate from the high school at twelve, master the English language to the point of reciting from Shakespeare, along with the German, and the French ones. When, together with her mother, she went up to Paris to pursue her studies, she astounded her teachers with her erudition and intelligence. Alas, the only child of the Hasdeus passed away at nineteen, struck down by tuberculosis.

Very much like Victor Hugo (1802-1885), the Romanian scholar turned to spiritism. Hasdeu’s experience convinced him that “spiritism is not a distinct faith, nor is it something new”: its dogmas (to be found in every religion) “are rooted in people’s heart since the beginning of mankind.” (Sic cogito, Bucureşti, 1990)

Between 1893 and 1896, he had the 2nd of July Castle built in Campina, which was seen by many as the most astounding and mysterious building in Romania, replete with still unravelled symbols and significancies. As of 1897, the reputed philologist left Bucharest to live in Campina, plunging himself in writing, studying, and taking part in séances of spiritism within a group formed of a metropolitan bishop, three generals, and a professor.

After his daughter’s demise, Hasdeu turned her tomb into an altar, having had built in the Bellu Cemetery of Bucharest the enigmatic monument on which are engraved the following lines that reveal the occult source of the plan of the whole work: “This Templu Spiritis (/Temple of the Spirit) was erected by the will of God with the strict observance of the plan drawn up in detail by Iulia Hasdeu”. One of the legends of the place tells that on moonlit nights, one can see on the central alley of the Cemetery a barefoot girl, with long hair, floating rather than walking, vanishing at dawn into the Mausoleum of the Hasdeu Family. The rumor also has it that at Campina, a tune played on the piano can be heard from the “Big Temple”, that is from the uninhabited “Castle of the two Julias”, Hasdeu’s wife and daughter shared the same name <IULIA>, having been born on the same day of July 2 – “iulie” is the Romanian word for “July”.

The “Templu Spiritis” (a gem of architecture guarded by two Egyptian sphinxes holding the Earth made of white marble, with the five continents and five colored stones locating Bucharest, Rome, Paris, London and San-Francisco, with its clock measuring eternity) invites the passers-by to “tarry for a while,” to experience the awareness of the surrounding reality. Inside the edifice a scholarly atmosphere is created by Iulia’s desk, a bookcase reminding of the ones in the ancient temples, a mechanical piano, and a small suspended altar slab on which rest three busts: Jesus Christ, Shakespeare, and Hugo. Right at the entrance, on either side of the descending nine-step stair, the 12 religious, moral, social and philosophical laws are engraved in marble, under an octagonal star.

Beyond the many encodings that make it a book of signs, the elegant construction of Iulia’s Tomb induces to the visitor (through the harmony of forms, but also through numberless details endowed with an occult meaning) a feeling of inner balance and soul uplift. This may be the reason why some writers called it the “Poetry Tomb”.

Had Leibniz lived in the East, wrote religious thinker Nae Ionescu (1890-1940), on December 25, 1931, he “would have attached to his monads a window opening onto the divine.”

Indeed, the opening of a window towards transcendence seems to be the ultimate aim of the monuments built by B.P. Hasdeu, both edifices enclosing an expanding space. With many significant details shared by the “Smaller Temple” of Bucharest with the “Bigger One” at Campina, both buildings also carry echoes of the Pythagorean mystique of numbers.

Into the Castle of the two Iulias, whose princely grandeur makes it look bigger than it actually is, the visitor gets through a door carved in a block of stone finding herself or himself inside a hall of parallel mirrors where (amongst others) stand the statues of the four Evangelists. According to legend, the   massive granite door would open by itself on New Year’s Eve. The heraldry of the royal Hasdeu family is engraved on the outer side of the door, where there are also two inscriptions. One is: “Pro Fide et Patria”. The other, borrowed from Galileo, “E PUR SI MUOVE” has a profounder meaning since it does not refer to the revolving door, but to the partaking of the mystery of the Resurrection, of experiencing the divine as real and near at hand.

The visitors kneeling before the Cross of Resurrection (the Great Crucifix placed at the very core of the mystical 2nd-of-July Castle) are likely to enjoy spiritual enlightenment through the “movement” of their soul, which have a latent possibility to   partake in the “divine Light of the Grail.”

As if through the pupil of a huge eye –inscribed in a triangle–, the sun at noon sends its rays through a window located above the head of the statue representing Jesus Christ. According to a legend, during WWII, the Germans tried to unstuck that statue of polychrome wood from its base, but failed as if they were struck by some mysterious force.

Playwright I.L. Caragiale visited the Castle of Campina, inaugurated on July 2, 1896. He wrote about this in the daily Epoca: “while kneeling before the Savior, you can see His Divine Head haloed by the sunlight shimmering down through a window (…) at which, my illustrious host drew my attention to the fact that the pillar supporting, in the middle of the Dome, the stairs going up to the gallery, represents, together with them, a large CHALICE: above it, rising to the sky, detached from pain, stands the radiant figure of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Should we consider that what is generally depicted as “real world” is but a multitude of possible worlds, some actualized, some latent (since the very valorization of the world as “real” induces the splitting of the real/the actual through the possible), nothing prevents us from trying to leave aside, for a while, the perspective created by the world of scientific theorizations and take a glimpse of the world of affective values and soul urgings, therefore of the actualization of that possible world “created” by the soul.

In Phaedo, Plato explains the immortality of the soul by resorting to the Pythagorean theory of similarity that tends towards similarity (simile simili cognoscitur). The soul, as the principle of human life can only be a part of endless life, not a part of its opposite. The body alone is mortal, while the immortal soul is meant to inhabit another body. Reminiscence would also evince the immortality of the soul, but also the fact that the soul (as “the principle of life”) lies at the foundation of human life as well as at the foundation of the human ability to acquire knowledge. Aware of the good and beauty of the phenomenological world, the soul recollects the divine Beauty, contemplated before her embodiment. As it is the principle of life and of religious knowledge, the soul stays unitary.

Mircea Vulcanescu (1904-1952) notices that in the Romanian language the word “ins” (a synonym for individual), derived from the Latin “ens” gave a concept close to that of the existent and subsistent being “in se” and “per se,” which does not point to some intention of rendering things absolute by detaching the “ins” from the world they live in, but evinces the stable aspect of the being in contrast with its changing appearance (Concrete Existence in Romanian Metaphysics). This is grasped even more clearly in the philosopher’s writings about the meaning of “being”. To Mircea Vulcanescu, “being” is the bond of the individual with something that it is not; “being” is the background against which the individual projects itself in the perspective of the total being, along the thread of the life (ibid).

Unlike the Christian outlook of the Romanian philosopher for whom God himself is an “ins” walking and acting in the world that He himself has created, Plato separates the divine world from the world of the senses (the phenomenological world) with the suggestive image of the dark cave outside which rules the supreme Good.

Plato’s theory of the human soul, in its above-mentioned variant, appears as suitable to those wisdom-seekers who end up in contemplating the divine world of the Supreme Good, refusing to get involved in the affairs of the City. After revealing the myth of the cavern, the Greek philosopher says precisely about these very few adventurers who dare step out of the closed space of the cave that they should be forced to get into politics for they would never do it of their own free will (see Politeia).

But since man lives among his fellowmen within the community of language and destiny of their country, beside the possibility of immortality of a philosopher’s soul, Plato (as an admirer of Homer) devised yet another variant of the theory about the immortality of the human soul, in which the latter appears to have two parts. In Politeia, the rational part, the seat of the intellect would have a counterpart. This is the part that governs generous passion, altruism, the spirit of sacrifice, bravery in the fight against the country’s enemies.

One may infer from here that the immortality reached by the soul of a wise man that nourished the rational part, the intellect (‘nous’=reason) has a different origin than the immortality of a brave warrior, such as Achilles. This ontological outlook was embraced also by Nae Ionescu’ metaphysics, as I showed in the volume in which, dealing with his philosophical thinking, I had distinguished between “Achilles’ metaphysics” and “Ulysses’ metaphysics” (see Isabela Vasiliu-Scraba, The Two Aspects of Nae Ionescu’ s Metaphysics, Ed. Star Tipp, 2000).

Inclined towards the world of affective values and religious aspirations, in his Campina Castle of the two Iulias, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu has engraved in stone twelve laws, grouped according to four domains: religious, moral, social, and philosophical. Certainly, to some, the discussion about the way the scholar (living in a Romantic age in point of style and sensibility) came to “discover” these laws during séances of spiritism would be more thrilling. As far as we are concerned, we believe that beyond the way they were communicated to him, the laws as such are more interesting and worth searching. We say this because the 12 laws seem to be related to a large extent to the Platonic vision established down the line of ancestral traditions.

The domain of the moral would have as its first commandment: “Love and serve thy nation”. It makes one think back to Achilles’ immortality, illustrating the fate of the heroes. As we have seen, the bravery of the young men that give their lives for their country is dealt with in the dialogue Politeia. Here, the Greek philosopher endows the soul with a rational part and a non-rational part. The immortality of the heroes would be secured by the separation, within the non-rational part, of a seat of noble passions (bravery and altruism). For the rest, the non-rational and mortal part of the human soul hosts the seat of animal instincts.

In the tables of the 12 laws engraved by the romantic thinker at the Castle of the two Iulias (2VII), to the domains of religion, morals and philosophy could be attached the first variant of the Platonic theory of the soul, in the light of the relation between the human soul and the divine world of Ideas. As to the social domain, the variant based on the unity of the human soul applies only to the extent that laws 7, 8 and 9 refer to the behavior that the one who loves wisdom should evince towards themselves and towards the others.

Here are the three religious laws. The first: “Believe in God”; the second: “Believe in the immortality of the soul”; the third is informed by the presupposition of the memory that endures along the various embodiments of the soul, although its phrasing evinces rather the occult aspect, taking into account the practice of spiritism: “Believe in the gift of communicating with the departed ones”.

The social laws, in positions 7, 8 and 9 are the following: “Be honest to thyself so that others honor thee”; (8) “To be able to honor thyself, be honest to the others”; (9) “Honor work, for work is life”.

As to the philosophical domain, the three laws would be the result of the limitations inherent in the human reason. The first points out to the flimsiness of idealism that breaks with the world as it is given to man, designating the primacy of the perceiver: “You know the facts, you know the truth”. The second warns against the danger of skepticism of an intelligence that believes in nothing, highlighting the self-dissolving capacity of lucidity exercised in vain: “When you refuse to believe, you cannot see”. The third law is circumscribed to that oracular formula that seems to hide a threat: “The guarantee brings about bad luck”.

On the temple of Delphi, the seventh formula seems to be an urge (Do not reveal to others what you know), accompanied by a warning: Once you get to know something, beware of sharing it with others, or bad luck might befall you.

On the Castle of the two Iulias, the third philosophic law runs like this: “Seeking proof, you find negation”. He who in philosophy will not let themselves be convinced by evidence belongs to the kind of the negator that Plato had in mind in his dialogue Parmenides (134 e- 135 b) when he tackled the issue of conveying the philosophical truths included in the theory of Ideas (see Isabela Vasiliu-Scraba, The Platonic Mysticism, Ed. Star Tipp, 1999, pp. 268-279).