Isabela Vasiliu-Scraba, THERE IS NO PERFECTION IN THIS TRANSITORY WORLD (Nae Ionescu and Vasile Bãncilã)
“It’s not true that Nae Ionescu did not write. He did, and a lot of philosophy too, because whatever he may have been writing about was philosophy. […] There was an air of composed and resourceful force about him […] Never, and I mean never, was Nae Ionescu intimidated or at a loss; he was calm and self-assured, like a man who was aware of his resources and power of reply (here he even outran Iorga)”
Known and appreciated by his contemporaries on account of the depth, genuineness and beauty of his essays, generously published in the newspapers of the time, of all Nae Ionescu’s disciples and friends-since with time, those who had been his students and stayed around him would somewhat naturally become his friends-, Vasile Bãncilã had the honor to be present in the first volume of Nae Ionescu’s philosophical works as the author of the foreword. “I’ve long now deemed you as one of our two-three most brilliant essayists,” Lucian Blaga was writing to Bãncilã in 1934.
Making an attempt at sketching Nae Ionescu’s portrait, all the more difficult to achieve as around Nae Ionescu there would linger “a halo of mystery and excellence as a human being,” he highlights the Professor’s exceptional intelligence, “that was his most appreciated asset,” as well as “the strong feeling of his own ego, the strength of which was utterly interiorized and more often than not wrapt into smooth fluidities and into an undertone or transfiguration that would sometimes verge on Christian humility.” Aware that in time “was given the equation and drama of man’s salvation struggle,” Nae Ionescu also knew that, beyond organic time (the condition to achieve life), there is an atemporal perfection, with its own essences and wills, as Vasile Bãncilã put it, “static and eternal as it is alive. A bit from Plato, a bit from Parmenides, with a lot of Christian hue and high Christian-Orthodox precision.”
With Nae Ionescu, living and understanding the metaphysical values of existence were all the more remarkable as the spirit of the time, as early as then, tended to exclude any shade of transcendence as science and technology developed, prevalent becoming the flight from the real self, the refuge into the world of senses, into the relative and into the illusion that human beings are self-sufficient; or, in the field of culture, into shallow intellectualism and aestehticism, or in compemnsatory metaphysics, called by Bãncilã “surrogate metaphysics,” such as the absolute of the arts and the commentaries on the margin of science, made from the vantage of positivist relativism that proclaimed the subject-object sovereignty in cognition.
To Nae Ionescu, somehow following in Plato’s footsteps, the metaphysical research of reality did not mean making it poorer. On the contrary, it led to its strengthening through knowledge and understanding, which placed the true metaphysical cognition in the realm of “living experience.” There are in the real life “fix forms, identical to themselves,” said Nae Ionescu in his course of metaphysics he held in 1928-1929. However, their identity does not come from the forms of organization of the human mind; they belong to reality itself, they are the essence of reality, its structural principle of a spiritual nature. The organic understanding of reality may lead to a static valuation of the universe, and not a dynamic one as Aristotle stated. In this kind of metaphysical outlook on reality, Nae Ionescu could with good reason assert that the introduction of dynamism in the organization formula of reality becomes superfluous.
Essences prove to be subjected to the principle of identity,without becoming in this way material, or mere functions of our intellect, without being artificial constructions, but realities. No one has felt more powerfully than Nae Ionescu the permanent becoming and the fact that there is no perfection in this transitory world, that “fixity spells artificialization, death […] But beyond that, in the most real and ideal world, perfection is living at full throttle, it is the supreme act,” noted Bãncilã in his foreword.
In history, Nae Ionescu “saw particularly the ethnic community, the nation. And in metaphysics, especially God. Therefore, at the best of his ability, Professor Nae Ionescu was a servant of his nation and of Divinity. Could one have a loftier purpose in life?”
Polytheism, said Nae Ionescu in his 1936-1937 course of metaphysics, is precisely the life formula that illustrates the absence of a reduction of diversity to unity. Since, as God created man, “man starts there where begins his unity, where he lives his unity.”
At his last metaphysical lecture held in 1937 on the discourse on “unity”, Nae Ionescu interweaves-in the whole-making vision of the metaphysics of the being-that facet of metaphysics that we have called “Achille’s metaphysics.”
But, as Nae Ionescu’s thinking was alive by excellence, approaching new issues all the time, even at his last lecture, where he had developed his arborescent outlook on life, he left pending issues opened to subsequent meditations, “the need to achieve this unity,” along with the issue of the unity itself, seen at the limit between the realm of the real and that of logic, an issue he had highlighted at the very beginning of the lecture.
As an sustainer of a static outlook on existence, in a Parmenidian way no doubt, with Nae Ionescu the final interweaving of “Achille’s metaphysics” within the metaphysics of the being is as delicate as it is subtly achieved, with a thinking fineness that only Nae Ionescu could display before an audience made of students. This is, in broad lines, how this approach goes. God, as a limit of existence, is “something at the limit of existence and somethinh in which we find ourselves,” He is transcendence understood as unity. When man manages to live himself as unity, the unity he reaches is so extensive that, by living it, man lives and knows the unity of the world at the same time, or the world as unity, without ceasing to be a component of this unity. Man can succeed in overcoming his own limitations, as once proclaimed by divine Plato, through love, the only one to offer man the chance to become perfect (at human level). But Nae Ionescu was well aware that such a being grown complete is not self-sufficient, therefore lacking permanence.
Permanent are only “the moments of imbalance of the community a person belongs to.” And this, said Nae ionescu “is not theory, it is a historical fact.” The human communities that make the nations are the only ones that outrun the individual, while remaining “permanent existences in the long run.” That is why, to each person, the very reality of God acquires the limitation of the community they belong to: “If God can only be lived within a unity, then this unity of the community we belong to gives us the opportunity to live and communicate together, within God.”
The term designating the whole humanity is pure abstraction, while the human communities (called peoples, nations, or cities) are, according to Nae Ionescu, “natural facts.” This makes them be, each and every one of them, “an absolute conditioned by no one and nothing, save by its inner law.” That is why man, as a component of the world’s unity, cannot elude the very nation he belongs to.
At his lecture, Nae Ionescu told his students that “Orthodoxy is the faith in a real, living God, and Catholicism is the faith in an abstract God.” Orthodoxy cannot be, as the Catholic Church is, “transactional” for the very reason that it is something alive, a presence in the soul of the Orthodox Christian. From the religious standpoint, the Catholic formula of Christianity looked to him as being a “hybrid,” being made of Christianity plus the idea of Roman state. Orthodoxy is more pure, “because it does not contain heterogenous elements.”
According to Nae Ionescu, the static feature of Orthodoxy is illustrated in its essence by the Holy Spirit’s coming only from the Father, while “filioque” upheld by Catholics would be more than a doctrine aspect that differentiate the two Churches. The coming from the Father and the Son, observed with fineness Nae Ionescu in his lecture of the history of metaphysic of 1930-1931, evinces an altogether different theory of the judgment in logic: “all the Western dynamism is just another form of Filioque.”
In an article entitled …And He(Got) made Himself by himself a man (a human being), Nae Ionescu remarked that since the Renaissance on “man has stepped lower and lower into the world of things, losing contact with Divinity, to which he belongs nevertheless through his essence; he has done so to such an extent that even to high religious consciences the angel has become an ideal of perfectionism; while forgetting that, in a consistent Christian cosmology, angel and man move along different lines; the former is but an ideal of sublimating things; the latter is a step towards God.”
Today’s man is homo faber more than ever before. That is why, noted Nae Ionescu in another article (“Citizen” and “Man”) published in “Cuvîntul”, he is belittled, “mutilated in all his metaphysical and mystical élans.”
Striving to make a living, reacting like “domesticated robins”-as Bãncilã wrote following Nae ionescu’s line of thought-, city people have come to the point of underrating space, of perceving it as finite. (See Vasile Bãncilã, “Science and Metaphysical Spirit”, in the vol. The Celebration Spirit).
In his need of placing Nae Ionescu against the cultural background, Bãncilã reviews the spiritual renaissance moments of the Romanian culture. According to him, the first cultural renaissance, burgeoned in late 18th century and flourished through the following centuries, lasted up to the end of WW1. During that period “the concerns were history, philology and folklore,” and the Romanians’ ideals were “independence and national unity,” therefore “organic goals to the spiritual activities” (See Vasile Bãncilã, Theoreticism).
After Romania achieved its unity (1918), the second renaissance occurred, much deeper this time as it concerned the spiritual and metaphysical planes, at a time when the European spirit was undergoing a similar regeneration. The second renaissance, stresses Bãncilã, was brilliantly represented by “Vasile Pârvan and Nae Ionescu, of the ones that are now gone, by Lucian Blaga and Nichifor Crainic, of the contemporaries.”
During the interwar period, no one, not even those having the most variant political stands, would have even thought to exclude Nae Ionescu from the gallery of outstanding Romanian personalities as it happened when, far from Romania’s borders, its spiritual beheading was decided, by throwing the Romanian intellectual into prisons and by taking out the notable Romanian creations from the cultural flow. Or as it happens today, a decade after communism was overthrown, through an unfortunate continuation of the communist cultural policy (dealing with Nae Ionescu) by the same wel-indoctrinated satraps who, ever since their youth, have promoted, by any means at hand, an as low level of culture as possible.
After the reintegration war, starting 1920 when he was appointed assistant professor with the Bucharest University, “Nae Ionescu worked directly, through oral teaching, upon the young generation’s philosophical conscience […], breeding a thinking elite that was to soon stand out in journalism and in creating valuable works.” Knowing Nae Ionescu well, Vasile Bãncilã wrote in full-swing communist period how Nae Ionescu “was dedicated to his friends and students: he would work for them and offer plenty of suggestions. That is how he created a school, a trend, moulded disciples (even from outside the University)” (Efemeride naeionesciene). His disciples were highly gifted young persons, noted Bãncilã having in mind particularly Mircea Vulcãnescu and Mircea Eliade. Would have these young men stayed by his side for ten-fifteen years hadn’t Nae Ionescu been an unexhaustible philosophical force? Vasile Bãncilã asked himself, rhetorical of course, knowing the answer to this question much too well: “they had what to learn from Nae Ionescu at all times.”
“Initiated in the mysteries of mathematics,” Nae ionescu was “a great professor,” Bãncilã wrote, like so many others, adding: “as opposed to Blaga, who relied on books, like Wundt.”
Among the notes preserved in the archives of the Bãncilã family we also find a parallel drawn between several reputed professors of the Bucharest University. Nae Ionescu, Vasile Bãncilã wrote in his notes, “would come to his lectures casually, he would always sit down, speaking freely and systematically, in a most original way.” A opposed to Nae Ionescu, “Cãlinescu stepped into the hall like a primadonna confident in her voice and talent, without assistants. Vianu would drag along an army of assistants, speaking doctorially, choosing his words carefully. Nae Ionescu would always come alone, his hands almost at his back, displaying a sort of indifference (or pompous composure) or artlessness.”
In a short moment of optimism, coming from his generous nature, since the historical circumstances under which he lived after Romania’s repeated mutilations could not offer him any encouragement, Bãncilã wrote the following: “History will do him justice. Because Nae Ionescu was one of Romania’s most prominent minds, the most original Romanian figure in our contemporary history.”
During the period of spiritual effervescence that followed the reintegration of Romania within its natural borders, young Mircea Eliade also nurtured the conviction that “the genius always takes its revenge. Sooner or later, any personality comes to be properly understood and appreciated.”
Translated by Ileana Barbu