RUS

MODELS OF TIME IN CHRISTIAN CULTURE (by ANATOLY V. ZHOHOV, Perm)

            Opening today’s discussion about the phenomenon of time, Pavel Pechonkin remembered, that today is the 100th anniversary of Eisenstein. And he said, that this is not by chance, it’s some sort of a sign. Moreover, today the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of prelate Philip, the Metropolitan of Moscow. That one, who was a contemporary of Ivan the Terrible, and who finally died because of him. Tatiana Daniliants  today also remembered that Boris Leman was a great fan of Eisenstein. Is it all by chance? Seems, that it is not. Our God-respecting ancestors loved to say that God puts meaning into everything that happens, there is nothing accidental in the world. Boris Pasternak also has similar lines:

«We walked in the forest, split and in pairs,

Suddenly someone remembered, that

Today is the sixth of August, according to the old calendar -

God’s Transformation...»

            And I suddenly remembered, that our forum is also happening on an unusual day. Today is the 19th of January, the Christening. And to my mind, this is really meaningful. Because, even if we’d hardly tried to remember some event in the Holy history which would so truly model time in the area of  Christian culture, we’d named nothing but the holiday of God’s Christening.   

            The holiday of Christening with all its traditions gives us a very bright and vivid model of time, as it is understood in Christian culture. For what is the Jordan? And what is water? We all know, that water is really an eternal symbol of rapidly flowing time, a symbol of moving substance, and so on. But Christ is something that always remains unchanged. And so Christ comes to the bank of the Jordan river, and asks John to baptize him. Actually, there was no need for Christ to be baptized in the Jordan. What did John call upon to? He called upon to repent, to change the direction of one’s spiritual movement. Repentance in Greek - «metanoja», that is «the change of mind». He called upon to change mind. Christ didn’t need to change his mind. However, did insisted that he be baptized by John.

            What signifies Christ’s entering to the waters of the Jordan river from the point of view of this sacral symbology? It signifies the presence and the introduction of eternity into the ever flowing time. Time and Eternity - that’s what symbolize the Jordan and Christ being baptized in the waters of the Jordan river.  It is not by chance, that this event is also called the holiday of Epiphany, when something eternal, stable appears to man in the time flow, something that cannot change no matter how man’s destiny turns out. And, speaking of time in Christian culture, it’s impossible not to mention an instrument, in which all the conceptions of time, models of time are represented in a very vivid way. This instrument is calendar. From one side, it’s a rhythm, from the other - a number. Moreover, calendar is always some memory. It is a deep man’s memory of his roots. Therefore we can say that’s it’s a rhythmic memory of mankind. Today I’d like to talk a bit about a very special calendar, used by the Orthodox Church. It is a Julian calendar. But before we start, I’d like to say several words about Christian culture itself. The previous lecturer said, that Boris Leman stuck to the world of the Old testament, but the world of the New testament was also close to him. He didn’t just know, he had a great passion for that deep symbology of the New testament. I remembered one more moment concerning all kinds of coincidences. Precisely one year ago, January 22nd, 1997, in Uspensky Cathedral in Moscow opened the Christmas educating lectures, where was present all the pedagogical and spiritual elite. I was lucky to attend these lectures, and I remember how deeply they impressed me.   This is one matter, when you take Christianity with all its traditions from one side, and when you are among the caste of scientists from the other side. But it’s an entirely different matter, when all the scientists, meeting with theologians, meeting with priests, thinking priests, start discussing ways and points of contact. And, really, this conversation about the documentary  inevitably touches the theme of devotion to the tradition of our culture. And this devotion should not necessarily be direct. Let’s take Pushkin’s  «Captain’s daughter»: although there are no signs of purely Orthodox cult, however, all the novel’s atmosphere is filled with this genuine Russian spirituality, orthodox spirituality. The same feeling you get from reading Losev, or Davidov, or Gaidenko, or Averintsev. No matter what they write about, you can feel this devotion to the roots of Christian culture. And there is sense is telling a little about what is Christian culture, and what is the reason of it’s attraction, and why it doesn’t fade.

            Vyacheslav Gutin mentioned in his report «Playing with beads» by German Gesse, and there is one part in this novel concerning Christianity. Joseph Kneht, being in the monastery, talking to father Jacob, finally discovers for himself a wonderful and striking thing, and that is Christianity, many times called exceeded and out-of-date, each time touches its roots and revives, just like Phoenix revived from ashes. And turned out to be ahead of all those brand new branches. There is some sense in paying attention to Gesse, because, as we know, he was also a brilliant specialist in oriental cultures, he wasn’t a fanatic of Christian culture, and nevertheless, Gesse  talks about this phenomenon of Christianity very definitely.

            Christianity and Christian culture possess, to my mind, features of some universality, it’s a highly integral culture, all-absorbing, all-uniting. From one side, one may try constantly connect and compare Buddhism and Christianity, Zaroastrism and Christianity, and so on, discovering new points of contact. But with all this Christianity is not just some conglomerate, not just a collection of all that’s arising in so-called «axial time». It was approximately, as you know, in the 6-5th century BC , when simultaneously and, as it may seem, independently from each other on Earth  appear the mightiest spiritual currents, whose existence is echoing up to our time. Christianity is not something that mechanically absorbs all that, Christianity is a phenomenon which is some strange, paradoxical way absorbs all that is yet to come, absorbs the Future. Christianity possesses some universal qualities that allow to absorb all these spiritual currents. And with all that Christianity has its own unique face. Not by chance, for example, such a specialist in the world religions as philosopher Hegel, classifying religions, regards Christianity as «an Absolute Religion», and gives his explanation. Because it is the only religion, where absolutely spiritual, higher and never-ending origin merges with conditional, ending, particularly concrete origin, merges as Christ with man. That is the never-ending and ending become one.

            Therefore turning to Christian culture must to leave a trace in a creative work of an artist, a writer, a musician, etc., for it is a culture as much integral as it is unique.

            Back to the  conceptions of time in Christian culture: we see here practically the same, that is the moment of uniting. From one side, in the conceptions of time in Christianity we see the traces of cyclic time of eternal return, indo-buddhist conceptions of time, and this is reflected in the yearly cycle of Christian holidays. From the other side, we see here the arrow of time, directed to one target, to the point «Omega», as it was called by Teilliar de Charden. Christ spoke of himself: «I am Alfa and Omega», that is the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. And in the Christian conception of time these two conceptions unite. From one side, it speaks of time as leading to the purpose, the sense, the higher value. For man it is time for salvation. And who is Christ himself? - the Savior. In this sense it is interesting to compare the salvation in Buddhism and the salvation in Christianity. Buddhist also speaks of  salvation, he tries to get free from the Wheel of San Sara, from the Wheel of births and deaths and  to immerse in nirvana, to something absolutely impersonal. Christianity also says that man, captured by time, which is distorted, must free himself, but here the salvation is joining the fullness of personal being. This is the difference, an essential difference. Salvation in Christianity is understood as  expansion of personality to the universal personality without losing some specific, personal, individual qualities.

            Speaking of different time conceptions, which are absorbed by Christianity, it comes to mind, that there are optimist and pessimist views on time. Let’s say, the indo-buddhist time tradition is very pessimistic in this sense. Now, according to it, we are leaving in the century of Kali Yugui, the iron century, when here and there we can see only degradation and decay. And if after the period of Kali Yugui the Golden Age returns, it will happen long after the existence of our Universe comes to an end.  Just like a poet said: «I am only sorry that neither me, nor you will live in that wonderful epoch». This is a pessimist view of time. In Judaic conception of time we can also see this pessimism. What is the basis of the Old-testamental view of time? There was a period of living in paradise, then a disaster happens, a sin, when man puts himself on pedestal and starts worshipping himself, that is he locks himself up in a his shell - this is what’s called a sin  - he tunes his back to the higher sense and turns to himself. The more - the worse. Therefore this conception of time is also deeply pessimistic. On the contrary - several optimistic time conceptions. For example, technocrats. They happily believe that the technical progress will finally lead to solving all the problems, that man will fly to other planets and spread out in the Universe, that all diseases will be defeated, etc. This is an optimistic variant. Or, for example, neospiritualists of all kinds and branches: theosophists, Rerikh’s followers, antroposophists, and so on. They also have quite an optimistic time conception. They say that the next epoch to come is the epoch of Aquarius, when man will incredibly expand his conscience, and so will come the Golden Age.

            Christian time conception cannot be referred neither to the first, nor the second. This is neither lighthearted optimism, nor pessimism. To understand its essence, it’s necessary to turn to some analogies, some models. And one of such analogies is icon, the top accomplishment of art, of church art.

            Regarding an icon, we can see a row of peculiarities, and based on that we may also make some conclusions about time conception.  

            First of all, there is such peculiarity about icon as the reverse perspective. When a person stands in front of an icon - not only he watches the icon, but also the icon, and the spiritual world watches the person through this icon. This reverse perspective regarding time is prompting that time has this peculiarity - the reverse flowing.

            Concerning this I remembered a part from Martin Heideggher, who said that time flows from the future. Florensky, in his brilliant work «The altar-screen», gives a vivid example of this reverse time flow - when at night a book falls from the shelf and hits the floor, and while it is happening, a man sees this dream, where he takes part in an anti-government action, a plot, which gets disclosed. This man gets arrested, a judge makes a long accusing speech, finally he is sentenced to death, he is put in front of the wall, he hears the gun shot (the book falls). It may take him a long while to tell about the judge’s speech, etc., but all this long dream - in just one instant.  This is an example of the reverse time flow which proves, that time really in some way flows from the future. Yet the blessed Augustin - he stood at the beginning of the philosophy of time, the philosophy of the History - said that the past, the present and the future should not be separated from each other. Separation causes terrible paradoxes and «dead ends», as we all well know. Remember the Eleats, who said that there is no time, and the movement cannot exist. Augustin admitted, that it is possible  to talk about the present past, the present present, and the present future. That is, the past, the present, and the future are confined in the present moment. I should say, that Augustin in his «Confession» dedicated the whole twenty chapters to the problem of time. The medieval thought, and the renaissance thought have added nothing essentially new to the meditations of Augustin on the nature of time.

            Really, there is a point of view in Christianity, that time in some way flows from the future. And this time is called «the blessed time». There is Chronos - the all-devouring god of time, and there is Cheros - the god of blessed time. In the previous reports I have repeatedly heard the thought that time may be spoiled and may be unspoiled, blessed time. Christianity talks about this blessed time, time of salvation, when the inner Chaos  opposes the Logos, the attempt, the man’s work directed to the creation of  some spiritual temple inside of him. For a temple is a great symbol, it’s a symphony of symbols, which is only a projection of this inner temple. When George Frezer said, that «all culture comes from the Temple», he meant some inner soul temple, something that is well-organized, something that I worked on, that I collected, etc. In this case time in Christian culture is regarded as blessed, directed to create.

            There is one demonstrative model of time, which can even be touched, and which is felt for centuries not only by the Christians, but also by the representatives of other religions. By the Buddhists, the Krishnaits, the Induists. It’s the beads. The beads is an extremely simple, but at the same time extremely capacious and impressive model of time. Particularly, the model of Christian time. What is the beads? From one side, in the beads we can only see beads - they are tied together on one thread - it is some kind of continuum, and from the other side, there are also time corpuscles. One corpuscle, another corpuscle - these seeds. Moreover, these seeds are sorted out in any religion, but not mechanically, it goes together with praying.

            For example, in the Christian tradition the famous prayer to Jesus is the central prayer for working with the beads. It is pronounced all the time by the representatives of Isikhasm.  Only eight words. But the whole libraries of literature are written about these words. «Lord, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, forgive me, a sinner». A man, sorting out the beads, not only on a mental level, but essentially and organically reveals the mystery of time. I should say, that the word «mystery» constantly sounds in Christian culture.  And not only time is meant, but first of all «the mystery of time». Mystery is something that cannot be solved, calculated on a rational level. It is something you may approach, admire and worship.

            This highly appreciating approach towards time is very typical particularly for Christian culture. So when a man is sorting out his beads, his puts his soul, some original purpose of existence into every word of his prayer to Jesus. And thus his organically becomes a part of the mystery of time.

         &am