A. Levintov

Dualistic Impressions of Culture

According to Russian philosopher and culturologist T. Ozerman, all diverse notions of culture can be reduced to only two, those being:

First and foremost, the concept of “culture” took shape in early Hellenic society as a “land cultivation method,” and in this concept the duality of culture was already established. On the one hand, just as anything else, a land cultivation method is translatable and interpretable – from one place to another, from one generation to another – as a collection and series of procedures and operations, as a technology. On the other had, the land cultivation method assumes a unique, a sacrally unique quality of each piece of land (land, truly mosaic, close to bodies of water, explored and settled by nomads from the north of the Black Sea after the Peloponnesian catastrophe). As a result, the land and its iconic and spiritual reflections – the “genius loci,” the “river nymph,” and the “tree dryads” - became the most important differentiating characteristics of the “com” and “dem,” formed in the early Hellenic period.

Local gods and spirits did not spread to other regions and thus culture as a method of land cultivation became a local constant.

In the logic of an active paradigm, culture exists as the set of norms describing any activity, norms that are historically transient and change according to the development of said activity. Under this logic, culture enters the reproductive process not only as a means of regulating activity, but also as a result of that activity.

Culture in the Reproductive Process:

Cultural Paradigms

-----N1----------N2----------N3------

\ / \ / \

-------------C1----------C2-----------C3----

Social Paradigms

Movement from N1 to C1 signifies the functioning of the norms of cultural paradigm N1 in social structure C1. It is natural that the cultural procession of norms of N1 is formed by prior social constructs and is passed on to the new social structure C1 by educational systems, laws, everyday stereotypes, commonly-accepted mores and behaviors. This procession may be accepted unconditionally and uncomplainingly, but more often it is understood as something “obsolete,” too conservative, too in need of change – ranging from an explosion of cultural nihilism to cautious attempts at modernization. The “terror of culture” that so frightened Nietsche is of an incomplete character and serves as a catalyst for movement from C1 to N2, the formation of a new cultural paradigm. Nonetheless, this “terror of culture” is much more powerful than the sexualized “terror of the subconscious” posited by Freud: in all their godlessness, even the criminal elements of a culture remain almost completely under the influence of its terror, penetrating new spheres and new planes in their own narrow realm of creativity.

The principle here is that the supplanting of cultural paradigms N1, N2 and N3 occurs according to the internal laws of said paradigms, independent of social change, while the exchange of social constructs C1, C2 and C3 also occurs as a result of their influence, independent of cultural setting. Cultural rules and regulations are independent of social rules and regulations. In this sense, the musical comedies of the 1930s and 1940s are indistinguishable as to their country of origin, popularity and audience satisfaction, whether they be German, Soviet or American. “Signs of the times” are understood as homogenous to all social groups of an era (for example, adobe construction) and completely opposed to the idea of culture entrenched in the “genius loci” and its inability to transcend.

In morphological hypostases culture functions as a restrictor of activity, a sign indicating the forbidden, a zone of taboo on activity and social intrusion.

It is essential to point out the practical impossibility of separating culture from its active and sacral components. In essence, this is a problem of the interaction between virtuosity and mastery in culture.

Virtue (spiritual honesty) is the complete component of culture, recognized not as an attained level of mastery and activity, but rather as an inspired receptivity and openness of culture to forces outside of social strictures, outside of time, but firmly local and focused on the place of descent of the Holy Spirit. There is an exact spatial certainty concerning the establishment on a high cliff of the tabernacle of the first priest Malkhitsedek, an act which transformed the pagan city of Salem into Holy Jerusalem. Also certain is the location of Mount Sinai, where Moses was given the Ten Commandments. The Gospel of Christ is described in topographical detail, yet we still are unsure of the date. Pyphia could prognosticate for Apollo only at Delphi (and we know what happened to Cassandra, who decided to betray Apollo and Delphi). The transposition of virtue in space is almost impossible, but we are easily persuaded to transpose it in time, because exact dating of immortal eternity is absurd.

The virtue of speech of the Old Testament prophets is asocial – no one listened to these prophets (just as almost no one, if we are to believe Heroditus, understood the prophecies of the Oracle at Delphi): they have their place, but they appeared at the wrong time. This surprising attribute of cultural virtue is bound to the mystery of anthropogenesis.

If we are to allow assumptions that humans are the product of their conscience (this idea proceeds from different approaches, but is discussed on singular basis by Lefevre, Borodai and Levintov), then, aside from certain bipedal components of this process, for example, ideas that spiritual choice fell upon a tribe of unnatural primates condemned to evolutionary destruction through intraspecies conflict (the entire history of humanity is an unending series of intraspecies conflict and struggle, and the human comedy undoubtedly should have ended in its first act with an ignoble fiasco), there is evidence of intervention by forces domestic and spiritual, forces that confined the fears of bipeds, condemned to extinction, to those places of emergence of virtuous discoveries, namely the Tree of Buddha, Sinai, and the Mount on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

In essence, the most powerful virtuous opuses became not only sources of further cultural interpretations (land cultivation methods), but also places of spiritual enslavement and the subjugation of earthly fears, elements, and geomancy. Not without reason are ancient figures such as Perseus and Christian supreme authorities such as the Virgin, St. Michael and St. George included among the chief “subjugators” of planetary energy flows.

The canon is the conditional measure of virtue, the recognition of Holy Inspiration. Virtue is measured in the universally spiritual expanse, accessible to all, but achieved by few.

Virtue, from the vantage point of society, which consumes culture, is imputed Truth, imputed through the virtuous figure, who honestly and inspirationally interprets Truth. Herein is based the sensation of miracle when the individual comes into contact with virtue (a miracle, according to theological tradition, is the shortest and most natural route between Truth and human being). Overwhelmed by the truth imputed to us, we first and foremost assess the virtuous figure as an interpreter of spirituality (the Divine game, inhuman force, supernatural influence, satanic designs, etc.).

Virtuosity (unique mastery) underscores the sociality of culture. The word “masterpiece” (principal creations) defined in Europe of the Middle Ages those advanced works of apprentices, works which were recognized by masters and expert craftsmen of workshops as being simultaneously masterful (in their proficiency) and unlike any previous work. Culture evolves and develops because of masterpieces that appear from time to time in a society and which become a point of reference and standard for subsequent generations. At the same time, this supplanting of norms does not mean the destruction or dismissal of previous norms, due to the principle of uniqueness of masterpieces. It would seem that no one has yet thought to hide away in museum vaults, devalue or discard the masterpieces of the Renaissance on the basis of the emergence of Impressionist masterpieces (nevertheless, in the first years of Soviet rule the Bolsheviks, in their criminal dealings, sold off the treasures of the Hermitage and other museums in the expectation of a new, proletarian culture. However, this exception is marked by its militarily anticultural, class and sociopolitical attributes).

The virtuosity of a culture is usually measured by class considerations: the quantity of followers and imitators, the front of references and interpretations, schools and students, critical response, etc. Virtuosity, unlike virtue, is formed in the sociocultural expanse.

The principle of virtuosity, so inherent to culture, has in science a limited range. Here the supplanting of paradigm unavoidably leads to obsolescence of knowledge, to the recognition of that knowledge as inaccurate and reconciled to disposal (such as Ptolomey’s astronomy, alchemy, and thermogen). Science retains its previous knowledge not due to its verity, but only to that degree to which science itself is a part of culture. One consequence of this is the demand of any scientific work to be a masterpiece (the demand is not only for novelty, but also for the validity and demonstrability of novelty), which has transformed science into a terrible weapon of human progress.

The duality of culture, its virtue and virtuosity, has its own distinct geographic hallmark.

In the majority of the world’s languages there exists the concept of “motherland” and “fatherland (or homeland).” More descriptively, the motherland of Robinson Crusoe was England, but his fatherland, his homeland, was that uninhabited island to which he brought civilization.

At the same time, attachment to the motherland in many ways stems from the virtue of culture, from the imputation of spiritual postulates and truths rooted in a particular place. A person experiences his own truth only in the motherland, as a rule, having a vague and murky understanding of the borders, size and features of this motherland (parental home, city block or village, city, country). Only upon arrival in another land does he sense its foreignness. Polls taken during regional and municipal research projects show that, in essence, each country and each city has just as many individualized borders as it does citizens who consider the territory their motherland and feel spiritually attached to it.

“Fatherland” represents an interpretation of virtuosity. “Fatherland” presumes responsibility. The borders of the fatherland are more clearly defined – by limits on activity, power, government, influence and understanding.

The differences between “motherland” and “fatherland” can be illustrated most vividly by the example of Catalonia. The spiritual features of this region exploded into the 20th century with Catalonian Modern. Over the course of several centuries spiritual energy and power of brilliance had gathered here. The Catalonia of the 20th century is the motherland of Gaudi, Miro, Casalsa, Dali, Picasso, and others who created masterpieces of architecture, art and music. To them, Catalonia is the fatherland, and they represent Catalonia in the history and culture of the world and humanity.

It is natural that the structures of “motherland” and “fatherland” greatly differ. The first is represented by iconic treasures, the second by the vestiges and consequences of our presence.

In various cultures and languages “motherland” and “fatherland” may be found in the widest proportion. Here are several examples (these data were obtained through a poll (taken 1996-98) of more than 100 students of Monterey Peninsula College. Data for Russia obtained from N.V. Zasorina’s Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary Russian\\Moscow, “Nauka,” 1969):

Country

“Motherland”

“Fatherland”

Germany

10

90

England

20

80

Latin American countries

20

80

Japan

30

70

US

40

60

Mexico

50

50

Afghanistan

50

50

China

60

40

Korea

60

40

Spain

60

40

Russia

85

15

Turkey

100

--

It is interesting to note that in countries with traditionalist cultures “motherland” enjoy wider usage than in those countries that have a steady, innovative culture, in which the usage of “fatherland” prevails.

Explored, settled and colonized lands (waters, space, planets) usually are perceived as “fatherland.” It can even be claimed that the expansion of borders and limits of inhabitable land takes place within the “fatherland” genre, that the lost motherland summons only nostalgia, a feeling of orphanhood and artificial existence outside the territory of the motherland.

The dualistic nature of culture is somewhat more visible in such a phenomenon of human civilization as a city.

A city is an ancient form of human settlement. In all their unbelievable variety of form – from country to country, nation to nation, century to century – cities have one quality that unifies the cave cities of the troglodytes with ancient Athens, ancient Salem-Jerusalem with eastern cities, Russian cities with the young cities of America. I speak of a certain source of illumination in the center, whether it be the fires of prehistoric humans or the lights of downtown Chicago. Around this central source arises a complex and, morphologically, highly diverse social apparatus, known as a “city.”

It is important to illustrate a few details of this central location.

First, it is vertically oriented, in order to reduce congestion below. Above, it is always in beautiful bloom, turned toward the sun: crosses, cupolas, skyscrapers, spires, the sparkling of lights. He who has seen the lights of a city at night from a mountaintop or through the porthole of an airplane cannot help but feel enraptured by the sight. This beauty cannot be experienced by those living in the city; it is not for them, it is for those, or Him, who is above.

Secondly, this verticality of the city relies on the “tetraksis” and the “trapezus,” the quadrangle, the protoplast and prototype of which was the sacrificial stone. Trapezoidal hills in the center of the city – this is the central hill of Athens, the Capitola of Rome, the Kiev Detinets, the Moscow Kremlin; King Solomon’s Tomb (and later versions) in Jerusalem has the same quadrangular form, China Towns have that same quadrangular (quadratic) structure. Precisely for this reason, these singular “centers of force” were chosen as altars (temples, shrines, sacral places), which were and remain geomantic nodes and centers for the emergence of Earth’s energy to the diurnal surface.

Thirdly, this vertical city structure has an artificial quality that contrasts with the surrounding natural landscape.

The spiritual virtue of cities, their openness to the universal spiritual expanse of space and Earth, the tension between these two poles, and city treasures, such as the mark of history left on the sociocultural expanse, compose a unified and artificial ensemble. In essence, a city possesses only artificial resources – intellectual, creative, spiritual, and sacral; religions and altars.

Like a tornado, a city seizes natural materials, not as sustenance, but for purely ornamental purposes. A tornado expends energy on its own vacuity, its own barometric gradients; a city is, by its very theatricality, in artificial contrast to its surroundings.

This image of a city enables the creation of a basic hypothetical model for the city of the future. If the “God for everyone” should be replaced by the “God for each,” then each individual will have his own personal city, virtual or materialized (the question of which is inconsequential).

The problem of the reproductive process in which culture is embroiled is that, patently, multiplication, reproduction, duplication of images, technologization and pervasive routine leave less and less room for virtue and virtuosity. Technologized infrastructure and technologized creation transform technology from an instrument into a stereotype and hindrance to a culture striving to exceed its bounds and limitations (and can exist by both using and overcoming technology). To the “terror of culture” has been added the concept of the “terror of technology,” which in and of itself is an independent engineering culture. The less room left in contemporary culture for virtuous and masterful works the more exalted the work, and the more exalted the victory of human over self.

This is similar to the environmental situation: the less pollution, the greater its toxicity, its danger, its malignance. The only difference is that the environmental situation seems absolutely hopeless, but culture seems to constitute our only hope.