Lucian Blaga
Philosopher and writer (1895-1961)

Lucian Blaga was the greatest philosopher in Romanian culture and one of the foremost Romanian and European writers of the twentieth century. Born in a family of priests from Lancrăm, near Alba Iulia, on 9 May 1895, heattended high school in Brasov (1906-1914) and completed his theological studies at Sibiu in 1917. Between 1917 and 1920 he studied philosophy at the University of Vienna, where he obtained his doctorate with a thesis on culture and knowledge. He imposed himself as an exceptional poet from the very first volume, in 1919, beinghailed by Nicolae Iorga as “Transylvania’s invaluable spiritual gift to Romania”occasioned by the Great Union. He worked for the Romanian diplomacy in Warsaw, Prague, Lisbon, Bern and Vienna and was elected as a member of the Romanian Academy in 1937. He was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cluj from 1939until 1948, when he was ousted by the new authorities and relegated to the modest position of a librarian. Up until the end of his life, in 1960, he could not publishany volume of poetry, drama or philosophy in Romania. The adverse fate from the aftermath of WWIIalso had devastating effects on theimpact of his work abroad. In 1956, at the initiative of several great personalities from Italy, France and the Romanian diaspora,he wasnonethelessproposed for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he could not receiveprimarily because the Romanian Academy of the time was opposed to this. The first translation of his philosophical work appeared in Italy in 1946, with a laudatory preface written by the philosopher Antonio Banfi, but the impact of the volume was minimisedby the effects of the War. The first compact collection of his poetic works published in a foreign language presented him as “one of the greatest expressionist poets’ in Europe” (Mágikus Virradat, Budapest, 1965). M.B.

Blaga’s foresight and parallel computing

The emergence of computers today was prepared half a century ago, and one of the concepts that enabled the development of computingmachinerywas Neumann’s ideaabout the sequence ofelementary operations,launched in 1945. These elementary operations can, according to a program, model any logical-mathematical operations. Sequentiality - a simplified concept, which was extremely fertile in the beginning - represented, in fact, a serious mutilation of human nature,which computing machines attempted to imitate. Passing from generation to generation, theevolution of computersled to the erosion of this concept, abandoning it consciously or not. A transition occurred fromstep-by-step or sequential processing to parallel,multiple processing. A computer of the1970s, IBM 360 or Felix 256 already evinced the implementation ofcertainnotions of parallelism. Today the concept of parallel computing is in full swing. What is, in fact, imitatedis man himself. But here is Blaga’s 1919 foresight which was put down on paper in 1946 and wastherefore contemporary with the by-now out-datedsequential concept: “He was proofreading the galleys. But he kept talking to me all the while, which made me wonder at the swiftness with which he actually managed to make the corrections. Simultaneously he also talkedto thetypesetterswho had been waiting for a few lines to fill in some gaps in the newspaper. Nicolae Iorga gave orders, corrected, lamented that one of his children was sick, wrote, joked, and talked to me. I felt as if I was in front of anindustry, which had switched on its autonomous subdivisions.”This image may be said to describe a present-day computer: an autonomous interface and memory units working in parallel with one or several central units, each with its own memory, processing several tasks at the same time - so much so that each user may have the impression that the computing “plant” is solely at his service. Blaga was concerned with the spirit of various ages, as wereRomanticism, Naturalism, Impressionism and Expressionism, and identified their key features in music, architecture, philosophy, painting, sculpture and science. Whereas his examination of the first three currents was conducted post-factum, all the data being available to him, in the case of Expressionism he worked in real time. It is worth noting that the pioneers of Impressionism, for instance, the philosophers E. Mach, H. Bergson, the poet Verlaine, the painter Monet and the composer Debussy, were not aware that they belonged to the same style. Their“outlook”was much more superficial. In most cases, the creators adopting a certain style belonged to the same period, which was imbued with a certain way of seeing and understanding the world. Still, only Blaga could see the German painter Matthias Gruenewald (1460-1528) as a precursor of Expressionism, and anartistic contemporary of Van Gogh’s. Today “Blaga” might radiograph the unseen essences of our time, the spirit of our time as sheer complexity, as a parallel, overlaying, integrative, comprehensive action and he mightcapture its essence in philosophy, science and the arts. The future was and is difficult to decipher, and we should only mention a few cases that are well known for their lack of vision: in 1933, Rutherford, whohad discovered the atom,denied the possibility of using atomic energy; Edison, the American inventor who is now acknowledged not so much as a “visionary” but as a merely famous man, exclaimed that “with the advent of the automobile, traffic accidents have come to an end”;an American expert argued, 6 years before the 1-millionth Ford car was released, that“it is a sign of mental backwardnessto imagine that there will exist horseless carriages”; andin March 1918, General Ferdinand Foch, the Chief of the Allied Forces on the western front, did not see the potential of aircraft serving as a weapon of the future, but only predicted their sporting future. True, in 1919 Blaga witnessed the“Iorga phenomenon”: he did not invent this phenomenon, but then others before him had also been confronted with it - and to no avail. To imagine the future,one must have an additional sense and be more than “prepared” in Eliade’s sense. Only thus, in a universal context, can one appreciate the value of Lucian Blaga’s philosophical works as a genuine synthesis. In this sense, it is perhaps not unreasonable to remember how the philosopher of culture saw Marxism in the terrible year 1944, whenTrilogia culturii (The Trilogy of Culture) was published: “Marxist theory on the primacy of the economic factor, tailored in the image and likeness of proletarian life from industrialcentres, might certainly have found some confirmation in the peasant life from the western world. In any case,regardless of its value as a principle, this theory is consistent with the existing status quo in the west rather than in the east. The Romanian peasant, to speak only about him,since he is closest to us, manifestspropensities that categoricallydisavow the primacy of economic interests...” O.C.

The Blaga case - a twofold shame

Although the communist authorities considered Blaga a reactionary,mystic, agnostic and irrational philosopher - to quote the epithets associated with the philosopher in Dicţionarul enciclopedic român (Romanian EncyclopaedicDictionary, 1962), in 1956 he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature by foreigners: Rosa del Conte and the expatriate critic, Basil Munteanu. The latter lived in Paris, where he had sought refuge on political grounds, while Rosa del Conte had connections with Romanian culture and civilisation, having written a book on Eminescu. Conte admitted that the idea belonged to Mircea Eliade. The literary authorities in the country did not supporthis candidature: on the contrary,they resorted to theservile agents of “Bolshevism” in Paris in order not to tarnish the immaculate proletarian conception of the world with the resuscitation of Blaga’s mysticism. If we were to remember only Vintilă Horea’s case (the Goncourt Prize), the Security did itsjob in Paris. The well-known literary prize of 1 million euros is awarded, in many cases, based on local,contextual and political reasons. For instance, a series of unknown authors, relatively relegated into oblivion in their country, havebeen awarded this prize with motivations like: “ in recognition of his importance as therepresentative of a new stage in fiction”(1916),“for the authentic manner in which he describes the life of our days”(1917),“for the fortunate manner in which hehas perpetuated the illustrious traditions of drama”(1922),“for the vigorous artistic mode through which he has developed the traditions of fiction”(1933),“for his vivid ethical force that has renewed the great narrative art”(1955),“for his poetry, which, in language, constitutes an example of high spirituality and artistic purity” (1956), “for the epic force with which he has depicted motifs and destinies in his country’s history”(1961) and so on. Thus, great writers such as Tolstoy, Chekhov, Caragiale,Istrati, Bulgakov, Rebreanu, Arghezi, Eliade, I. D.Sârbu, P.Goma and philosophers like Blaga or Noica - did not “come out”of the Nobel committee’s alembic! This manner of awarding this distinction is ultimately an attack on the memory of the man who only wanted to reward excellence. Could Blaga, who took a step forward from the childish and inoperative morphological conception of style (Alois Riegl, Leo Frobenius, Oswald Spengler, etc.) to the philosophy of culture, not have achieved in Romanian culture (poetry, drama, diary, philosophy) as much as various laureate, more or less important,writers have accomplished in Icelandic, Norwegian, Greek, Irish, Polish,French or English literature? But here is the direction Blaga imprinted to the knowledge of the culture phenomenon, as evinced by the following quotation: “The morphology of culture understandsthe intuition of space - first as a dominant, solely determining factor of symbolic power in a culture or a style. And second: as a creative act of conscious awareness. [...]morphological theory... is presented to us in other respects under an almost vulgar-naturalistic aspect... At the basis of the so-called specific spatial feeling of a culture or of a corpus of spiritual - individual or collective - creations, there lies, in our view, a certain horizon or perspective that the human unconscious creates as theprimary framework necessary for its existence. [...]Thus, all these factors, agents, potencies, determinants or whatever we may want to call them - 1) the spatial and temporal horizon of the unconscious, 2) the axiological emphasis, 3) the anabatic, katabatic (or neutral) attitude, 4) theformative aspiration - are grouped together, making up various constellations. These are the first-order factors that form the foundation of a style.” O.C.

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